Saturday, May 23, 2020

Cinema in Quarantine: Strange Bedfellows

Last week I watched a few different films, did some cleaning and baking, and deactivated my Facebook account because a break was needed (STAY HOME/WEAR A MASK). The funny thing about these three films is that they relate really well to the stack of books I'm reading right now, hope to have those finished next week sometime.

The 39 Steps, d. Alfred Hitchcock, 1935

A man in England gets drawn into some espionage stuff; danger unfolds.

This was probably one of my least-remembered Hitchcock films; I read the book some years ago and didn't remember much from that, either. Now that I'm a more mature person with fewer interruptions, I thought I'd give it all another go as this was the first selection on Netflix's Criterion Collection (disk). It took two separate viewings for me to really get into it, but was worth it in the end because I really appreciated the second. I got to enjoy the little moments that felt very Hitchcock: slow, moving camera to show suspense through varying POVs, the strength of the musical numbers (orchestral, whistling, wavering between the jaunty situations and announcing peril), and sly, witty banters between the principal characters, Hannay (Robert Donat) and Pamela (Madeleine Carroll).

There's a neat little moment that fans of the Chicago St. Patrick's Day parade scene from The Fugitive will recognize about midway through, and the ending, though subtle, is one of my favorite wrap-ups of a mystery story, ever. It's a smart and fun, but have some caffeine and keep the subtitles on. If you don't keep on top of what's being said, you're apt to tune out.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, d. Guy Ritchie, 2017

The son of a murdered king draws a magical sword out of stone; danger unfolds.

This has got to be one of the most underrated films of the last decade. The only complaint I have about it is that I wish it was either longer or done as a trilogy or series. So much happens that's amazing and impressive but is presented as exposition or an afterthought that really leaves one wanting more (Uther Pendragon and Merlin, to name a couple), and the end scene especially hints at more shenanigans in the future, but whatever. As an action film with supernatural elements, it still gets everything right. The banter and nicknames are great (use subtitles), the fight choreography is amazing, and the music on this one (composer Daniel Pemberton) is absolutely among the best in soundtrack history.

I know people will come after me about Hunnam, but I'm sorry, I love the guy. He does in this what he mostly always does--looks amazing and does great physical acting while his supporting cast does most of the emotional heavy lifting. The accent in this is decidedly better than the Jax Teller we all came to love (and cringe at), and no weird swaggering around, so bonus. I'll also say that it was this film that took him up a level as an actor, and that he's only gotten better in everything he's done, since, so I think del Toro and Ritchie have both brought about positive effects in CH. Take a look:

Django Unchained, d. Quentin Tarantino, 2012

A former slave joins forces with a German bounty hunter in effort to locate his wife; danger, disgusting racism, and extreme violence unfold.

I saw this in the theater when it came out and had a hard time with it. It was put together well, amazing aesthetic, performances, and music as all of Tarantino's films, it's just . . . difficult to watch and difficult to talk about, too. I hated DiCaprio as Calvin Candie the first time around, this time I wasn't bothered by his performance as much, I just was uncomfortable with pretty much everything going on, as was meant to be the point, clearly. No matter how idiotic the Klansmen plantation owners are shown to be (which is very), we're still watching idiotic Klansmen and plantation owners commit violent, dehumanizing acts, and it's troubling enough to be sickening. I guess what I'm trying to say is, as competent a film as it is (these types of things indeed happened, and as Rod Serling once said, we shouldn't look away), I couldn't be entertained by it, even as a sort of get-what-you-deserve fantasy tale like Kill Bill or Inglourious Basterds. There's just too little distance between how racism was portrayed or acted upon from this film compared to the enslavement that this film is about; the fact that the same words are still being uttered by racists and many of the same violent actions are still happening today in 2020 is ridiculous and horrifying. I agree that we shouldn't look away, I just don't know how a conversation about this film should go, considering.

I very much enjoyed Django (Jamie Foxx), I loved his lines, his attitude toward the racists, the bounty hunter outfit and hat, and his tear-assing around bareback on the horse after the exchange with the Australians. More than anything else, I loved his words to his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) when the two finally reunite: