Movie Autumn: Catching Up With Culture

One of the most particular aspects of being a fully-graduated adult with a “big kid” job is that I suddenly, for the first time in my life, have quite a lot of free time without the threat of papers or compelled readings to distract. One aspect that didn’t change after I graduated was that I was still the “guy who never gets movie references, because he never sees them.” These circumstances, combined with the magic of modern technology, quickly spiralled into a Netflix-fueled movie watching project. Attempting to combine Sci-Fi, Quirky Humor, and Obscure Films, the following are the films and series that I am now “culturally aware” of.

(I’ve also done some sort of star system. One star is “terrible” and 4 stars is “most amazing thing in my life”)

Battlestar Galactica (Re-imagined Series) **

I was disappointed after watching BSG. This was not Science Fiction as I knew it, but a CGI-riddled drama that just happened to be set in space. This show had a dystopic future with no real backstory, gratuitous violence and sex, and a complete disdain for technology. Telling question to ponder: how many times did you see the engine room of a ship in this series? Or perhaps how often they discussed some science-related question? The answers are “twice” (briefly) and “never.” Farscape is a much better series than this crap. BSG has an identity crisis: Is it a SciFi? No. Mainstream drama? No. Religious exploration? No. Then what is it?

Battlestar Razor ***

I liked this film. Since this is a movie-length feature, I’m classifying it as a separate entity than Battlestar Galactica. It features Ensign Ro from ST:TNG! The same issues with the BSG series appeared here as well, but it at least touched some darker themes that didn’t hold any punches when comparing the decisions of Admiral Cain. Her tactical strategies and abandonment of civilians to their fate offer an excellent counterpoint to Adama’s constant campaign to somehow not act like a military dictator, even though he clearly was.

Flame and Citron ****

“Flame and Lemon” is a modern-day Danish film that combines the ethical considerations of Denmark during World War II with a unique brand of Film Noir. An absolutely amazing film that starts with clear-cut battle lines and ends in something much more subtle and nuanced. As two assassins work to eliminate Nazi supporters, they find themselves betrayed by everyone around them. Highly recommended; excellent film style.

Inglourious Basterds ***

One of the traits that I hoped my star system would exhibit is that by glancing at a film, I’d remember if I would want to watch it again. Since 3-4 star films I consider “would watch again without hesitation” whereas 1-2 are “maybe in a few years.” I was initially going to rate this two stars until I remembered that scale: I would watch it again, and soon. Tarantino’s tribute to spaghetti westerns, a brilliant performance by Christoph Waltz, and plot twists that only Quentin can dream of, this is an excellent film. Faults? Brad Pitt’s character was uninspiring and overdone.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou ****

Bill Murray is a comedic genius: I absolutely cannot get enough of his understated brand of humor. Combined with Wes Anderson’s quirky brand of humor, this is a film one needs to watch multiple times before truly appreciating it.

Fantastic Mr. Fox ***

Another three-star film? Dang, I’m being generous tonight. Talking woodland animals conspiring to steal chickens, football-playing beavers, and Bill Murray (his voice added that third star to this film), make this a fun family-friendly film that can be appreciated by everyone.

Playtime **

A film that reaches for greatness and falls somewhat flat. While Tati is spot-on in many of his representations of modern-day life, the plot is drawn-out, the art is almost too inspired, and by being too arts-y, it fails to be a film worth watching again. Worthwhile to see one time through, but no more.

Stalker ***

A zone exists on Earth where no human activity can survive for long, and the entire area was suddenly abandoned due to an unspecified disaster. Sound like something? This remarkable film was made years before Chernobyl as it charts the progress of a “stalker” as he guides his clients to a special room within The Zone.

The Darjeeling Limited ****

Beautiful cinematography, astounding sets, and a plot that will want you watching it over and over again, I can’t get enough of The Darjeeling Limited.

Pulp Fiction ***

I might have been spoiled by viewing Kill Bill 1/2 multiple times before Pulp Fiction, but I was disappointed. It’s clearly an experimental film, but the plot wasn’t as tight as Kill Bill, even if the premise is that the movie is a “pulp” fiction story. Three stars for the characters and iconic scenes.

Black Dynamite *

For a humorous film, I wasn’t laughing that often. While a parody of 1970’s movies, I don’t think I’ve actually seen that many 1970’s movies to get half of the jokes and references.

Speed Racer ***

It has stupid kids, monkeys, and weird kid-friendly scenes. Despite those flaws, this is a fun-filled and beautiful movie that even manages to throw in a twist into the otherwise predictable plot. It didn’t hurt matters the Lewis Prothero’s actor is one of the main characters, and his voice fills in the third star.

Nirvana: Unplugged in New York ****

The Unplugged in New York concert by Nirvana is one of my favourite albums, and is full of amazing performances by Cobain. The DVD version of this amazing concert is even better than the flat album: his emotions carry through in a way that just sound cannot.

Grindhouse: Death Proof ***

Not many directors can get away with spending an hour creating characters through dialogue before suddenly killing them off. Tarantino manages to do it, and do it well.

Suggestions for what I should see next?

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