First Friday Films | Take Six

First Friday Films Take Six
Series, mini-series, seasons, trilogies, ensembles, and my longed-for epic! Finally!

Elvis: The Mini-series
I've been eyeing this film in Redbox for a while, but never quite get around to renting it. Being that Jonathan Rhys Myers is in it (head over heels in love) and I was not immediately persuaded tells you how little I care about Elvis Presley. I should have known, however, that Jonathan's Midas touch could make a film about paint drying worthy of an Oscar (or Emmy, in this case). He was completely transformed and it was honestly incredible how perfectly he nailed the mannerisms, the accent (from his native Irish to American English to Southern drawl...), the dancing. Oh my my, the dancing. I have to say I felt a bit like a 50s school girl watching him and felt a bit more sympathetic to the Elvis fanatics.

This was my first exposure to Elivs's life story and I'm glad I watched it. It was interesting and totally news to me. In a Google photo search for pics of Jonathan (always a pleasurable experience) I came across an Entertainment Weekly review that absolutely hated the film because it "brought nothing new to the table." Well, for someone who doesn't live and breathe Elvis trivia, I found plenty to like. And Elvis aside, let's be honest, I'm glad I watched four hours of Jonathan twitching both his hips and beautifully full lips...

Blade I...and Blade II...and Blade Trinity
Welcome to the world of vampire cult films and B-rate SciFi. Wowzah. I've always been curious about this series and remember it coming out at roughly the same time as The Matrix films. I was far far too busy obsessing about The Matrix to bother with vampires. Having watched all three Blade films within a week's time I can't help but think that the Blade people share my obsession with The Matrix. There were very similar gravity-defying martial arts sequences, long black trench coats, and heros with little to no dialogue...and yet in my world Neo remains much cooler than Blade.

Blade I is totally messed up. Blade II is better than the first. Blade Trinity seems to be the only one of the three intended for megaplex popularity and felt too glitzy to hold the original grit of a cult classic. Looking back on the three in total, even though I had a hard time watching Blade I and thought it was totally disgusting (minus yummy Stephen Dorff, because I'm still not over the "Cryin" music video), in terms of vampire B-films, it was much better than Blade Trinity.

Harry Potter series-to-date
Before you pass horrified judgment, keep in mind that without television or commercial radio it's not difficult to believe that I've ignored the entirety of the Harry Potter craze. I wasn't as oblivious to Harry Potter as I was to High School Musical (which is to say I'd at least heard of Harry Potter), but I'd still never read a single book or seen so much as a preview for the movies until a couple weeks ago. With my new found crush on jailbait Zac Efron, my 35-year old Daniel-Radcliffe-Obsessed friend found her perfect opening to continue my pop culture crash course. We watched the films back-to-back and I caught up on the series in three days. I'll probably read the books eventually, but the movies suffice for now.

Films 1 and 2 were cutesy and trite and set up the story well enough, but weren't terribly compelling. As the story progresses you can see J.K. Rowling progressing as a writer and constructing better stories...which in turn makes for better movies. By the time film 3 hits it's like out of nowhere. It's difficult to consider films 1 and 2 as even being part of the same series. For one, Daniel Radcliffe begins his journey to hotness with flying colors by film 3 and I feel like less of a pedaphile. Also, films 3 through 5 aren't afraid to be dark. It's like films 1 and 2 were apologetic for being about underage wizards and then they get over it and own their dark creepiness. I mean, it's no Blade-trilogy-darkness, but they do get better and better. I *loved* film 5 and I'm actually looking forward to seeing the last few in the theatre. I'm also looking forward to seeing how they make an increasingly strapping Daniel Radcliffe look an innocent 16. And no, the photo has nothing to do with Harry Potter. Daniel in Equus. You're welcome.

Friends, season 10
Yup. Just finished it. Nope. Not kidding. I stopped watching television before the series finished and so I never knew how it ended until a few weeks ago. Do Rachel and Joey really hook up? What about the veritable institution that is Ross and Rachel? Monica and Chandler are trying to get pregnant, what ever happened there? Phoebe can't marry David, Mike is so much better for her. Such burning questions left unanswered...for years and years!

I was a huge Friends fan and watched faithfully every week. It's a formulaic sitcom but they nailed it for what it was. The characters were perfect in and of themselves and the groove with everyone combined was seamless. Over the past few years I watched seasons 6 through 9 on DVD but life happens and I never got around to season 10 until right now. Gotta be honest, cried a bit at the finale. She got off the plane! Yay!

I'm Not There
Wow. So I can't imagine the research Todd Haynes had to drown himself in to pull this off. What an innovative way to tell the life story of a total enigma: seven different life stages, seven different personalities, seven different actors. Heath Ledger (more on him later) knocked it out of the park, of course, as "The Restless Lover" Dylan. Cate Blanchett. OMG. I realize that at least one a month I freak out about her in this blog, but seriously, she's so perfect I can barely stand it. Everything she does is beyond top notch. She sets her own bar and that bar is vastly beyond anything even the best movies can attempt. If she's in a movie for ten minutes, it's her movie. Unbelievable. She was "The Innovator" Dylan who plugged in at Newport and spiraled into drugs and depression. Christian Bale. He was "The Prophet" Dylan in his early folk days and also "The Spiritualist" Dylan in his late '70s come-to-Jesus phase. And might I add, if there were ever a rival to Cate for my ultimate devotion, it may just be Christian Bale. He played two different Dylans and, of course, in true method acting Bale form, he transformed into two completely different people.

Lars and the Real Girl
I've gushed about Cate and Christian...but I cannot in the slightest ignore the tour de force that is Ryan Gosling. I have friends who aren't exactly rabid about indy film and who don't feel an absolutely overwhelming need to own every. single. Ryan Gosling film and watch each of them 107 times...and they came away from this movie in a quiet state of reverent awe. Behold, the power of Ryan Gosling.

From the super indy United States of Leland to the gritty Half Nelson to the glossy Hollywood Fracture...he can do no wrong and there is no one in young Hollywood who could pull off a love story with a blow-up sex doll. No one. I wager that even lame twelve-year old boys who might wander into this movie expecting a raunchy laugh would leave with the same reverent awe as my friends did. He is so absolutely perfect and he carries the entire film (even next to Emily Mortimer, who I love!), making it sweet and sad and beyond sincere. It's magic.

The Laramie Project
What a gem. This is one of those impulse library rentals that interested me on title alone and proved to be a diamond in the rough. This is one of the best movies I've seen in a long time. The Tectonic Theater Project (based on NYC) traveled to Laramie, Wyoming not long after Matthew Shepard was murdered. They interviewed hundreds of people and recorded/transcribed each of the interviews. They gave the town a chance to talk privately and openly about the incident that shook them to their core and brought them into a harsh national spotlight. The theatre company took these interviews to the stage in New York and Moises Kaufman made a documentary-style film version in 2002 (opening night Sundance selection).

The film version is by far the largest ensemble cast I've ever seen...and I like ensemble movies and make a point to seek them out. The special features highlight the fact that no one was paid to make this film, the actors donated their time because they wanted to be part of this incredible work. I had forgotten how powerful that moment in our history was. I was a senior in high school when it happened and I can remember where I was when I first heard the story. I had also forgotten that Russell Henderson (one of the two boys who tortured, beat, and killed Matthew) was LDS. Lovely. And people ask my why, as a Mormon, I volunteer with Equality Utah and fight for gay rights. My work may or may not move our society forward, but perhaps I can at least balance out the impact of assholes like Russell. This coming fall marks the 10th anniversary of Matthew's death and the fight for a fair America is far from won.

There Will Be Blood
Dude. If you've seen this movie, you know the feeling in the moment when it ends abruptly, the screen goes black, and you sit slack jawed and sucker punched, "Dude..." Incredible. Why can't all movies be this stellar? This movie deserves every. single. ounce. of praise it's receiving. Daniel Day-Lewis is mind blowing. I heard him interviewed on NPR and he told the story of how he created his character Daniel Plainview. I praised Christian Bale's mastery of the method, but I think Daniel Day-Lewis may be the ultimate master of our time. He went into character three months prior to filming and lived every breath as Plainview. He would work for hours each day, speaking into a tape recorder, trying different voices, inflections, tempos for his voice and every so often the tape was shipped off to Paul Thomas Anderson (Punch Drunk Love, Magnolia, Cigarettes and Coffee) for feedback. The first fifteen minutes of the movie have no dialogue whatsoever. The moment Daniel Plainview speaks, you are completely transfixed. It's a singularly distinctive voice.

Daniel Day Lewis has been mind blowing for quite some time, so let's not forget to talk about Paul Dano. Dude. He's toe to toe with Daniel Day-Lewis and he more than holds his own. His two exorcism scenes are still haunting me, no pun intended. Amazing. And the score?! Ohhhh the score. There are no words, you just have to hear it.

J.J. Abrams fans? Anyone? The Lost pilots? MI:III? Hand-held cameras running through the streets of New York for two hours? Anyone? I bloody loved this movie. Let me clarify that statement by saying that the script is average, the acting is 50/50 good and poor, the plot is trite...but none of that matters. The film making is so innovative and fresh and interesting that I gladly laid aside the fact that the narrative was sort of lame.

You're dropped into the middle of a story with no explanation and you either pick up the narrative and the characters or you don't. You're led through the entire movie by a handheld camera of a party-goer who is filming goodbye footage for a friend who's moving over seas and it never once lets up and gives you a moment's rest with a still cam. Not once. Brilliant. There's nothing like that outside art house theatres and I think it's awesome that this movie has such a wide release. NPR hated it and the reviewer pulled some ridiculously lame "burning buildings and New York being terrorized...too soon" crap.

I have a handful of dorky film maker friends who prattle on and on about the creature creation and forms and models and the tradition of monster movies with respect to the sanitized American approach and the true-to-form Japanese style and on and on and while I don't necessary follow their conversation with any personal investment, when I see King Kong and then I see Cloverfield, I completely understand the difference...and long live the Japanese monster movie, might I add.

Brokeback Mountain
I was as shocked as everyone to learn that Heath Ledger died. He was my age and it's so difficult to deal with the death of young people, let alone young people who are so talented and had so much of the world in front of them. There's never been a Heath Ledger movie I didn't enjoy, but last night I watched my favorite. You can't help but think of Michelle and Matilda Rose. It's so sad. He was such a gentle, beautiful person. Daniel Day-Lewis, speaking of, is quoted as saying that Heath inspired him to keep acting. Wow.

Republicans fall in line...

Gorgeous. Gaudy. Glittery.