Four Movies, Five Days

Which really isn’t that many, I know. I mean, I used to love cueing up the whole STAR TREK series, watching them back to back. Anyway, all over the spectrum here:

SYNECHDOCHE, NEW YORK. Free screening with Charlie Kaufman there for the Q&A. Which was great. Or, great if you like watching somebody writhe under a series of ridiculous questions. But he handles them well, seems like a good guy. And, as for SYNECHDOCHE, I don’t know. I mean, I was all over BEING JOHN MALKOVICH and ADAPTATION, and ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND was fun, in that good HEAVEN CAN WAIT way. And this one, it has all the trappings, for sure — the intelligent kind of slapstick Kaufman’s known for — but . . . it’s kind of like if you give David Lynch just free rein to make a movie about making movies, you get something like INLAND EMPIRE. Which I thought was great, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve been sold on Lynch for a long time now, so am maybe not the best critic. SYNECHDOCHE, though. For the first fifty minutes or so, it’s great, is all kinds of fun. Even though, sure, you can feel the narrative kind of holding its breath, getting ready to spool out into the comic unknown. But then the story, it starts getting just so nested. Which again, I mean, I worship at the PKD altar, I cut my teeth on Barth; nesting’s what it’s about. The problem here, though, I think it’s that we get that initial carpet pulled out from under our feet — whoah, this is all kind of a play? reflections of reflections etc? — but then the narrative stops escalating. Or, the development, it’s all horizontal. There’s no more carpet to deprive us of. The same way THE MATRIX blew us away, thereby kind of dooming the next two if they didn’t do the same thing, so the first half of SYNECHDOCHE sets the second up to fail. Not at all sad I went, though.

SAW V. I was there first showing, opening day. In spite of how the fourth had kind of just been burrowing between the lines of the third and second, all that. It was kind of fun. I remember catching three down in Austin, I think, opening day again, all by myself, and when it was over the packed house just started clapping. And that’s got to be the most sincere form of appreciation: showing it when nobody’s even there to hear. This one, though, well, nobody clapped. It’s not bad, though, but, it wasn’t a packed house either. Me and maybe four other people. I mean, right here in Halloween season. Don’t know what gives. Anyway, Mike Bracken really says all what needs saying about Saw V, so go there for a full review. I will say that the last scene, it almost redeems the whole movie. For me anyway. But there’s a lot of disconnects, sure, and, to be honest — and this can’t be what anybody wants in a horror audience — I was actually kind of getting heavy-lidded during all the flashback-between-the-scenes stuff. I just wanted more spike masks clamping shut, pretty much. That electricity bath was a pretty good set-up, though. I did appreciate that. Just not quite enough to start clapping.

THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN. This is primo Clive Barker. I’d put this one up there with LORD OF ILLUSIONS and HELLRAISER, I mean. And he didn’t even direct. Anyway, there’s not a thing wasted in this movie. It’s wicked. And I don’t think I’ve said that in about eighteen years now, and even then I was making fun of some girl in the food court probably. But MEAT TRAIN, it’s so satisfying. And it’s not just gore, either. It’s an initiation story. A slow, conscious descent into the underworld. Not of the big city, but of the species. Very, very cool, and wonderfully acted — that guy I know only as Will from ALIAS — but more than that, I’d put the decaptiation/POV shot early on up for coolest horror shot of the year. I’ll watch this one over and over. Maybe even today. Still no clue in the world why this didn’t get wide release. But then I don’t know why ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE didn’t either. The world’s a freaky, mixed-place, I suppose. But if it keeps kicking out movies like this, that I can get to anyway, then I figure I’ll hang around.

HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3. When I first heard Zac Efron was playing Ren in the FOOTLOOSE remake, I was kind of sickened. Not because of him, but because I didn’t see where FOOTLOOSE could be improved any. After HS3, though (that’s what the cool guys are calling it), I think he’ll bring something to the role. He carries this, I mean. And the writers, the directors, they all know what they’re doing. The whole time sitting in that theatre, I was thinking GREASE, I was thinking FOOTLOOSE. And, okay, there’s no cigarettes, there’s no chicken fights on tractors, there can never be another Ariel, but all the other elements are there, and it’s good enough. I really liked it, I mean. Not a single negative thing to say. Or, positive, even: that script, it’s a good model on how to write a movie. Really, and maybe this is the Disney influence, but the story, the careful way it developed, all the attention paid to subplot and minor characters and bringing it all together at the right place, it felt like an animated movie. And those usually have just a whole crew of people behind the pen, vetting every frame, as it’s so so expensive. Worth it too, though. For this one, for HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3, I would have paid full price. ( and don’t confuse my praise with that nostalgia the third in a trilogy can evoke — honestly, I don’t remember the first two so much. I’d guess they were inferior to this one, though. By far. Just too bad a lot of people are going to duck it on the brand alone, never get to taste that unironic goodness, those pure emotions we all wish we would have had in high school )