Author Topic: 1990s US Bracket: Verdicts  (Read 467119 times)

jbissell

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Re: 1990s US Bracket commentary
« Reply #1060 on: August 17, 2008, 09:23:15 PM »
Malcolm X (1992) vs. American Movie (1999)

This was an interesting pairing because both films address the concept of the American Dream, albeit from vastly different approaches.  Malcolm X is all about how this dream can never be realized for a certain group of Americans until the biases of others are dropped. American Movie shows that it's possible to chase one's dream, even if the chances of attaining it are slim to none.

Let me start off by saying that I have seen American Movie many times, but this was my first go round with Malcolm X.  While I always wanted to see Malcolm, I really was in no hurry due to the length and my limited interest in biopics.  Obviously, the odds were against Spike and Denzel.

Malcolm X
My knowledge of the life of Malcolm X is fairly limited, just the general knowledge one picks up about him in your basic high school or college US history course.  I'll admit that I was somewhat expecting the film to be 3 hours of preaching about how the white man is the devil. The first thing that I must address is the performance of Denzel Washington.  This is the best performance I have ever seen from him.  From hustler to convict to reformed man to leader to independent thinker, I believed in him every step of the way.  Minor touches like the way he adjusts his speech patterns when addressing a black audience and a mostly white college audience were especially nice.  Angela Bassett, Albert Hall, Al Freeman Jr., and Delroy Lindo all deliver memorable supporting roles.  Even Spike Lee (who usually annoys me in his other roles) does a fine job. The relationship between Malcolm and Betty was touching, especially after his break with Elijah Muhammad when his life was consistently in danger.  As I said earlier, part of me was expecting a lot of white devil talk and, yes, that is very present in the middle of the film; however, Lee is not afraid to turn a judgmental eye on the Nation of Islam and its leaders. This is especially apparent when Malcolm's blind following of Muhammad is destroyed by claims of illegitimate children and an eye-opening pilgrimage to Mecca. Malcolm returns with a softened rhetoric, one that acknowledges the need of all races to work together to achieve peace.  Despite its length, I think Spike did a great job with the pacing of the film; there really was no point where the story dragged. Unfortunately, the ending of the film (after the eulogy) with the schoolkids celebrating Malcolm X day by standing up and saying "I'm Malcolm X" was a little too heavy-handed regarding his legacy for my liking. Overall, this is one of the best biopics I've seen.

American Movie
There's one scene early on in the film where Mark Borchardt is working on the casting for Northwestern and he says "They're making a mockery out of my words. This whole thing is turning into a theatrical mockery".  I think this quote perfectly sums up the feelings of many regarding the motives of Chris Smith in his making of this documentary.  I was in the film club at my high school for two years (right when this film was released) so this movie really hits home for me.  I wasn't the kid who had any great film aspirations (I just had several horrific film deaths, seems like horror is the preferred route for the DIY-ers), but I certainly knew several guys who believed they were destined for greatness.  Although I haven't seen any of them since I graduated high school, I could easily see one of them becoming a Mark Borchardt-like character, which really allows me to empathize with him and his struggles.  I think that Chris Smith feels the same way and that his purpose in making American Movie was not to exploit someone that most would consider a loser for laughs, but to present the story of a man whose life is given meaning through the chasing of his dream.  Mike Schank is fantastic, but the real scene stealer for me is Mark's Uncle Bill, who continues to finance Mark's projects even though he'll never make back any of his money and always serves as the voice of reason (although I don't think it's always intentional). One of my favorite scenes is when Mark is trying to put one of the actor's head through a cupboard door but it won't break.  It's a perfect example of the futility of the whole project.  I wish the DVD had Coven as one of the extras, I'd love to see what it actually looks like. (It also loses points for reminding me of the Packers winning the Super Bowl in '97)

EDIT: I'm blind, Coven is on the DVD.

My verdict: This is a real tough decision. If this was based on which film is more re-watchable, I'd go with American Movie, simply because it is half the length and has a lot more laughs.  Ultimately, I'm going to have to reward Spike Lee for tackling an epic biopic and actually pulling it off.  Malcolm X moves on to the next round.

« Last Edit: August 17, 2008, 09:59:19 PM by jbissell »

skjerva

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Re: 1990s US Bracket commentary
« Reply #1061 on: August 17, 2008, 09:26:14 PM »
fantastic write-up
But I wish the public could, in the midst of its pleasures, see how blatantly it is being spoon-fed, and ask for slightly better dreams. 
                        - Iris Barry from "The Public's Pleasure" (1926)

jbissell

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Re: 1990s US Bracket commentary
« Reply #1062 on: August 17, 2008, 09:32:17 PM »
Thanks! It was actually pretty fun, I haven't had to do any decent writing in two years.

pixote

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Re: 1990s US Bracket commentary
« Reply #1063 on: August 17, 2008, 09:47:41 PM »
As much as I appreciated that writeup, my only response is:

GO, PACK, GO!

pixote
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

roujin

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Re: 1990s US Bracket commentary
« Reply #1064 on: August 17, 2008, 10:31:40 PM »
Lost Highway vs. Twelve Monkeys

uhh... what just happened?



Lost Highway (David Lynch, 1997)

Major Flaws: It's David Lynch. His films are crazy and weird and operate on their own dream logic. This really isn't a flaw but I think I can only enjoy this tense, nightmarish vision up to a point. I'll expand on this if need be.

Major Attributes: It's David Lynch (did I steal this from someone :D ). His films are crazy and weird and operate on their own dream logic. I don't think that's what makes this film remarkable though. The man can do creepy better than just about anybody else. I kept playing the first Mystery Man scene over and over again and it kept creeping me out so much. I also loved all the noir stuff even though I haven't seen many of those type of films. If nothing else, the film has given me one of my new all-time favorite sequences which not only proves that Lynch can do more than just weird, it proves that he can do pure cinema as the best of them (all while setting up Arquette as an awesome femme fatale).



It's a trip but it's one well-worth taking.



Twelve Monkeys (Terry Gilliam, 1995)

Major Flaws: There's a point in the story when everything that's going to happen becomes all too obvious. I felt that the story required something more ambigious. Or maybe that's just Lost Highway influencing my tastes. Also, I didn't think Brad Pitt was very good.

Major Attributes: Mostly, I just thought the film was a lot fun. I loved the plot and the idea more than anything else. Sure, the acting was fine (Willis is pretty great) but what really sticks to you is the vision of the world that Gilliam conjures.

Yeah, I'm looking forward to La Jetee.

Ultimately, I like the films more or less about the same just for completely different reasons. I enjoyed the plot for Twelve Monkeys a lot but I also had a lot of fun with all the crazy shit happening in Lost Highway. Uh, well...

Lost Highway to the next round.

More pictures and youtube clips needed!
« Last Edit: August 17, 2008, 10:33:36 PM by roujin »

pixote

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Re: 1990s US Bracket commentary
« Reply #1065 on: August 17, 2008, 10:39:40 PM »
I need to go watch Lost Highway now so I can be fully justified in my contempt of you.

That's right.  Contempt.  Like that film by your favorite French director.

pixote
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

roujin

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Re: 1990s US Bracket commentary
« Reply #1066 on: August 17, 2008, 10:42:26 PM »
Low blow :(

pixote

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Re: 1990s US Bracket commentary
« Reply #1067 on: August 17, 2008, 10:44:25 PM »
On second thought, I should go watch 12 Monkeys again so I can make a strong case for resurrection.

pixote
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

roujin

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Re: 1990s US Bracket commentary
« Reply #1068 on: August 17, 2008, 10:49:41 PM »
It's definitely a worthy film!

skjerva

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Re: 1990s US Bracket commentary
« Reply #1069 on: August 17, 2008, 11:10:51 PM »
nice write-up, makes me want to revisit LH, great still and clip.  i'm sure you made the right choice here (though i haven't done 12 for ages), i have a feeling i'd be happy with pix making a strong case for it
But I wish the public could, in the midst of its pleasures, see how blatantly it is being spoon-fed, and ask for slightly better dreams. 
                        - Iris Barry from "The Public's Pleasure" (1926)