Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Hopper #5

A small group of films today. Just two, but ones that are quite different and have very little in common other than the fact they both are on celluloid. These also come with different experiences while I watched them, with one being good and other being abysmal. 

The sad truth is that if you have a bad experience while watching a movie, it will color the outlook you have on the film. For example, I was deathly ill when I first watched “Fight Club.” I tried to pay attention to this complex web of subplots and metaphors, but all the headaches, runny noses and cough syrup made me woozy and sleepy. Much of the film was lost on me. 

To this day, “Fight Club” is a strange piece of work that escapes me and have yet to give it another try, all because of the experience I had with it. Thinking about the movie only revives unpleasant memories that are best left forgotten. This certainly isn’t the films’ fault, but it is something that cannot be helped.

With that said, let’s take a look at...

“Thor: The Dark World” (2013)

A word of advice: If you can help it, avoid going to a movie that you know will gross a lot at the box office on opening weekend. Or at the very least, go see it during the theater’s least busiest hours.

Opening weekends tend to drag out the people who have little respect for those around them. They go see movies like “Thor: The Dark World” intent on having a good time with their buddies, but believe that they’re the only ones in the audience that matter. They’ll speak as loudly as they want, text on phones even after the film has started, constantly leave to refill their popcorn and soda and even whip out the e-cigarette. 

That is the curse of opening weekend. You bring so many people of different creeds and backgrounds together that you’re bound to have some who lack proper theater etiquette and ruin the whole experience for everyone.

Because these people forget that film is an experience. Not just a source of entertainment, but an intimate moment between you and the world of cinema, as you witness the unbridled power of the moving picture. It captivates and enthralls you, makes you feel like you’re a part of their world. 

To see the glimmer of a smart phone out the corner of your eye takes you out of that moment. Once you’re out of that moment, it’s hard to get back into it. Especially when the same people keep doing it constantly. 

If it seems like I’m rambling on about this subject, its only because I am. If you came to read about my thoughts on “Thor: The Dark World,” I apologize. As I write my thoughts and experience with the movie, the only thing that comes to mind is how rude and irritating the people in the audience were.

Also that it needed more Loki. 

The few scenes that deterred me from those sitting across from me as they drew another smoke from their e-cigs were the ones that featured Loki (Tom Hiddelston), the Asgardian god of trickery, as he does a great many things, including mess with his brother Thor (Chris Hemsworth), get revenge on those who have wronged him, save the universe from the Dark Elves alongside Thor and secure his rightful place as the ruler of Asgard.

When Hiddelston is on screen, you can tell he is having a blast. His energy shines through every time through the simplest gesture or smile, which makes Loki the character that I want to root for. 

“Thor: The Dark World” builds off of Loki’s character through “The Avengers” and focuses on his downfall, but also the reasons for why Loki chose to attack Earth in that film. In “The Avengers” his reasons weren’t fully explained, but here we get a better idea through Hiddelston’s interactions with his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins).

The true shining moments are when his sense of humor is exposed. There’s a scene where Thor breaks Loki out of prison and Loki believes he should be disguised. Being the god of trickery, he can make himself or others look like anyone he wants. Hijinks ensue, Thor gets a new look and another Avenger is thrown into that mess.

Overall, while there were parts of “Thor: The Dark World” that I enjoyed, the experience of watching it was diminished by those around me. Unfortunately, that is what I will walk away from this movie from. Not remembering the action sequences or the comedy, but the lack of respect and etiquette on opening night (and Loki).

Final Grade: N/A

“12 Years A Slave” (2013)

When this film ended, I was reminded of a quote that filmmaker and illustrator Don Bluth once said about putting terrifying imagery in children’s movies, “As long as you have a happy ending, you can put anything in front of a child and they’ll be fine.”

While “12 Years A Slave” may not be terrifying and certainly not a children’s film, that quote still rung in the back of my mind. 

This is a film that doesn’t shy away from showing the brutality and harsh world of being a black slave during mid-1800s America. We see every last detail of the world that Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) lives when he is kidnapped from his home in New York and sold as a slave in the South. Solomon fights to survive every day, as he deals with whippings, unforgiving overseers, incompetent slaves and backstabbing from everyone around him. 

This attitude of savagery and cruelness is constant throughout the film, as it should be. We are meant to sympathize with Solomon and his struggle to endure that which he wasn’t supposed to be apart of. 

It is not until a traveling carpenter, Bass (Brad Pitt), comes to town that this consistent stress is alleviated. He seems a man far ahead of his time, who sees that white men and black men are equal in the eyes of god and that slaves are more than just property, much to the chagrin of Solomon’s master, Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender). 

This leads to the climax and resolution of the film, which is quite possibly where Don Bluth’s quote resonates with me. It speaks volumes about not only Bluth’s work as a filmmaker, but also the impression “12 Years A Slave” leaves me with.

While I may not fully agree with Bluth’s feelings about terrifying imagery being coupled with a happy ending, this kind of philosophy does leave the audience with an impact. To see our protagonist triumph after all that has happened to him and to reclaim that which he lost makes his victory all the sweeter. It is a simple yet effective way to make us care and appreciate the main character.

On top of that, “12 Years A Slave” is superb from a technical standpoint. I found myself being impressed constantly by the cinematography and sound work. Many shots of the film will go uninterrupted by edits and linger on the full affect of scenes, such as Solomon being whipped or nearly hung to death. 

There are also many scenes that lack music and instead focus solely on sound effects. The rustling of leaves and sloshing of mud is often more effective than an entire orchestra, especially with so many scenes taking place in the cotton fields or on a ranch. 

Overall, “12 Years A Slave” is an impressive piece of work, with wonderful sound design, cinematography that matches the longing and hopelessness of the situation, underscored but captivating acting by Ejiofor and Fassbender and mood and atmosphere that never lets up. A depiction of slavery that is honest and unmerciful, even if it’s not always fun.

Final Grade: B+

This guy is not amused by those who text and smoke during the movie...Do not upset him.

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