Thursday, February 16, 2006

At the Movies

The last three movies I've seen: Grizzly Man, The Machinist, and Curious George.

I think my head is about to explode.

A bizarre documentary, an atmospheric horror film, and a children's cartoon are strange sauce when stirred together in short order.

This is the point where I find a common thread in the three films to set this whole column up. I've got nothing, though, unless I can find a character in Curious George who was insane.

Grizzly Man is a Werner Herzog documentary about Timothy Treadwell, a grizzly bear "activist" who lived among the bears in Alaska for twelve consecutive summers. His own documentary footage is the foundation for the film, and it's riveting. He was a rank amateur, to be blunt, and his willingness to sit within mere feet, or, in some cases, even touch grizzly bears is both inspired and insane. He uses a nearly sing-song voice that would be more at home on Sesame Street than in the Alaskan wilderness, which makes his footage even more surreal.

If you think this is a documentary about grizzly bears--it's not. It's more a self-study in mental illness and delusion, which becomes more and more apparent as the film progresses. Sometimes it's painful to watch.

In the end, and in one of the darkest comic moments in the history of the galaxy, he was eaten. By a grizzly bear, of course.

The Machinist had a brief period of notoriety when it was revealed that Christian Bale lost over sixty pounds (down to 120, believe it or not) to play the role of Trevor Reznik, a man who hasn't slept for a year. The reviews were middling, but as a study in psychological horror I think it was much better than that. This is one of those movies that will age very, very well, and ten years from now it will be more well-regarded than it is now. It's full of haunting images and moments that stick with you after the film is over, unsettling moments that have a patina of dread.

I am so full of shit. I can't believe I just typed "patina of dread."

This is a creepy, unnerving movie, best watched in the dark, in a quiet house. The unwinding of his sanity is exceptionally well-done, and Bale is brilliant.

"Mommie, Curious George is coming to a theater near you starting February tenth," Eli 4.6 said last week. Eli is a fan of Curious George, and so are we, so we all went to the movies last Friday and saw it together.

I'm not sure anyone could have done a better job of adapting the Curious George stories into a feature length cartoon. Will Ferrell does the voice of Ted (the guy in the yellow hat), and he's outstanding. He's extremely funny without having to be over the top. The story is well-written, there's plenty of humor, some of which is really clever, and the visual style of the cartoon is very bright and appealing. Plus the soundtrack is particularly noteworthy--it's by Jack Johnson and fully worthy of being listened to on its own.

Eli 4.6 was highly entertained, and so were we. When the movie ended, we were walking out and Gloria said "Honey, do you have your elasmosaurus?" He did, and as we walked past the movie screen he saw that his head was casting a shadow (with the light from the projector). He was a few feet past the screen when he said "Hey! I've got a great idea!" and ran back through the line. Finally stopping, of course, to hold up his elasmosaurus, which cast an ominous and spectacular looking shadow on the white screen.

Then he roared.

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