Sunday, November 9, 2014

Birdman, Leviathan, The Big Screen

There’s nothing like seeing an amazing moving.  Nothing like sitting in a dark theater, immersed into another world.  Images, sounds and words, pushing you farther and farther back in your seat.  Or pulling you to the front of your seat.  Someone’s visions burning bright. Seeing that brilliance unfold before you.

On the other hand, there’s nothing more frustrating than seeing some mediocre piece of crap.  How many people did it take to make that?

Last week I saw two great films.  Two in one week, that’s pretty good.  Renews your faith in the cinema.

Birdman.  Brilliant.  The Writing. The Camerawork. The Acting. The Score.  A drum score!!!! Wow. Who would have thought of that?  The acting! Everyone is talking about Michael Keaton.  He’s great.  Deserving of all the praise. But how about Edward Norton? Steals the show. The camerawork is insane.  It’s no gimmick.  It creates a dizzying universe, a world spiraling out of control.  Camerawork that throws caution to the wind, necessitates fearless performances from the actors.   A universe where editing won’t save you or hide subpar moments.  The writing.  I was letting out the occasional belly laugh…while the rest of the audience remained silent.  So many great lines.  One of the best films ever about artistic ambition and artistic insecurity.  Mamet-esque. Altman-esque. PT Andersen-esque. Gilliam-esque.

I worry about a world without theaters.  A world where we only see movies on our tvs and our devices.  Some movies need a big screen, better allowing you to sink deep into the images.  On the small screen it’s too easy to get distracted, especially if the movie is slow or challenging.  In the theater, you’re not going anywhere.  You’re not checking your phone. You’re not logging onto IMDB to see who that bit player is, or what the running time of the movie is, or what the reviewers are saying.  You’re in the theater. You have no choice but to surrender. 

Which bring me to Leviathan.  A doc.  On a fishing boat. Poetic. Experimental. Vérité. No interviews.  Nary a word.  Just beautiful visuals. Abstract visuals. Very long shots. Very, very long shots. Long shots that are hard to read.  Water on the lens. Distorting the images.  Lots of sound.  An industrial score. A mechanical score.  Cold. Menacing.  Brutality on the sea.  A critique? A reflection of life as it is?  However you interpret it, I found it fascinating. Energetic. Daring.  Would I have lasted through the first shot, had I been watching it on tv, at home?  I’m not sure. But in the darkened theater, on the big screen, I was mesmerized.

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