Renewing the old quick takes brand to take on a couple of films I felt compelled to talk about, but couldn't find my way into entire reviews.
"Bombay Beach" (***1/2)
Directed by Alma Har'el
I've gotta say, I would've been much happier checking this out on the big screen than via Netflix on my laptop, but I was happy to see it at all. It's wonderful to see a documentary so distinct and fully formed without the use of conflicting voices and talking heads. Never once bringing attention to itself in its depiction of people who are fearful and wary of the world beyond Bombay. It's at times quite lovely, warming, and playful even, but not at all romantically so. That's in no way meant as a stab, as this film wallows in desolation of both landscape and humanity. At times a bit aimless, but so is the subject. You never question it, and instead just sit in an odd and indistinguishable sense of dread.
"Boogie Nights" (****)
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
It wasn't my first time on the "Boogie Nights" rodeo, as I'd sat through it on my rundown of Paul Thomas Anderson's filmography. The man certainly has some idea of what he's doing, and he doesn't lay himself in the same place as he was before. Showing the drastic decline of a period in the pornographic film industry, not to mention a change in historical mindsets, the film dabbles stylishly with enthusiastic comedic temptations in the first hour, but really kicks into gear as the film heads into second act. The moment we transition to the 80s, that is the moment we see the true stripes of who Anderson is as a director. The man figures out ways to shock the viewer without doing so inorganically. This film knows how serious it is, and never engages too high or low on the spectrum.
"The Wrestler" (****)
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
I don't often watch a genuinely great film with my family, and this was no exception as they were constantly leaving a room due to Aronofsky's brutally affecting "The Wrestler". In hindsight, probably not the ideal choice for a pre-Thanksgiving gathering, but I could've chosen much less suitable films. I figured for a moment that this would be easier to swallow than "Black Swan", but in all honesty, Aronofsky pulls off a much more soul-shattering effort here than he's ever done. It's not a film of the confines of the mind, but the immediate struggles of the body as related to the spirit. Along with Aronofsky's controlled focus on the intentional devastation of its lead character, Mickey Rourke lands a performance moored gut-twistingly in stubbornness rather than nobility. Aronofsky has never had a problem making the tough choices to his characters.
Directed by Johnathan Levine
This is what comes of truly illogical amounts of hype surrounding a film. I'd understand that for a more rollicking film, but for something this laid back, the hype kind of ruined my belated experience. From the opening of the film on, we immediately got the idea that everything is going to be just fine. And then we find out that he has cancer, which should be a more major dilemma for him, but it somehow isn't. Humor is used not just to avoid the tragedy of it partially, but entirely. The acting is fine, and I can't really complain about it. Joseph Gordon-Levitt brings the same charm as he always has, and Angelica Huston was surprisingly strong here at times, but it ultimately just did not affect me as it did so many others. My mind wanders back to the feelings I received from "X-Men: First Class" and "Deathly Hallows: Part 2". Are we all seeing the same films here?