Project 101

Dan attempts to watch 101 movies in 12 months

Archive for February, 2009

#24 Burn After Reading

Posted by Dan on February 12, 2009

burn_after_readingYou can usually pick a Coen brothers movie from a mile away, and this one is no different. In fact, you could probably pick this from 5 miles away. Mind you though, I’m still undecided on whether or not this is a good thing. When you’re a filmmaker, you can either keep making the same type of movie again and again and get accused of just churning out the same photocopy on film again and again, or you can finally do something different, and get accused of selling out – I mean, shit, just ask Kevin Smith. I guess the secret is finding something to churn out time and time again that’s actually good. And as much as I’d hate to admit it, the Coens have probably found it. But, this isn’t an essay on the Coen brothers (although I would love to write one).

One of the things I love about a movie by the Coens’ is that they almost have a celebration of the ordinary. There’s usually themes of average people, even losers, who manage to think that they’ve made it big, that they’ve hit some deep hardcore problems. It was evident in one of my favourite movies ever, The Big Lebowski, and it reeks here.

Burn After Reading has an amazing cast – Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, John Malkovich, as well as some cult favourites like the always-amazing JK  Simmons. It’s kind of hard to go into the a simply synopsis of the movie without writing for pages and pages, but needless to say, if you’ve liked previous Coen movies, you’ll like this one too. There’s some kind of sick fascination that I have with watching idiots get in over their head, and just witnessing the painful scenes that play out – kind of like in the original version of The Office. I can only watch a couple of these shows in a row because it’s so awkward. This is similar – it’s so hilarious, yet oh so painful to see these idiots (well, mainly Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand’s characters) who think that they’ve stumbled on some high-class military FBI secrets. But really, it’s just a book that Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) has written about his life working in the FBI, which is nowhere near as insightful as it could be.

It’s one of those great movies that has lots of characters with seperate storylines that always seem to end up being the same storyline with the same characters. The plot twists are ridiculous to the point of hilarity, and at times you just have to accept that what you’re watching really is happening. It’s only during the last few minutes watching JK Simmons sum up what you’ve ultimately just watched, that makes you realise how stupid the events that have just unfolded have been – but it’s an amazing ride that’s definitely worth a second visit.

I give Burn After Reading 4 out of 5 hard-bodies.

Rather than give the usual quotes from the movie, I’ll give you an excert from a great article I read about the movie:

Pitt, who plays a particularly unintelligent character in Burn After Reading, said of his role, “After reading the part, which they said was hand-written for myself, I was not sure if I should be flattered or insulted.” Pitt also said when he was shown the script, he told the Coens he did not know how to play the part because the character was such an idiot: “There was a pause and then Joel goes…’You’ll be fine.'”

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#23 Seven Pounds

Posted by Dan on February 8, 2009

sevenpoundsOne of my favourite shows on TV at the moment is House. It’s a quality show and everything about it I love. I find it fairly hard to fault anything about that show. However, the one annoying thing is that I can never remember when it’s on tv, so I end up usually missing the first 10 minutes, which means that I end up spending the majority of the episode trying to work out what happened, and it kinda ruins it for me. Seven Pounds is the movie equivalent of this.

Seven Pounds is the story of Ben Thomas, who works for the IRS, and uses his ability to garner people’s details to track them down and help their lives in some way. Ben has an obsession with improving the lives of these 7 people that he tracks down, and it’s only as the movie progresses that it comes out why he’s helping them, and how exactly he’s helping them. I don’t really want to give away too much of the movie, because part of the joy of the movie is just the way it gives away a little bit more about the movie. The start of the movie makes no apologies for the way it just jumps right into the movie, and it doesn’t dumb things down at all. It’s a confusing way to start things, but after a while, it does start to work.

The best way to watch this movie is to simply just let it happen. Don’t try and be one of those people that tries to work out how the movie is going to end. I hate those people. Especially in this movie – just let it happen, allow yourself to become slightly confused at some parts, and by the last 30 minutes or so, there’s that big “ooOOOOoooooh, NOW I get it” moment, and then everything starts to fall into place rather nicely.

Seven Pounds is a great movie, and I’d definitely recommend it. It does tend to try a little too much to be a bit of a tear-jerker at the end, which I don’t think quite pulls it off as much as it thinks it does. But then again, one of my friends that I saw it with started getting teary, so maybe I’m just a heartless bastard.

I give Seven Pounds, 4 pounds out of 7.

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