Movies Other People Liked and I Didn’t
by Thomas Priday
“ALIENS” (1986) To me “Aliens” is one extremely violent, protracted attack on the senses, as surviving space explorer Sigourney Weaver again confronts the spiny, slithering creatures who killed her buddies in the original film. Weaver’s best-known role as Ellen Ripley proves how movie-star col doesn’t always sustain interest in a dated movie. Years later, it’s mostly an art-direction and FX landmark. Count me out of the fan club for this one.
“AVATAR” (2009) The money is on the screen in “Avatar,” James Cameron’s mega-3-D, mondo-CGI, more-than-a-quarter-billion-dollar baby, and, like the Hope Diamond waved in front of your nose, the bling is almost blinding. A thousand years from now scientists will know Cameron was no auteur.
“BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN” (1925) Great as it undoubtedly is, “Battleship Potemkin” is not really a likable film; it’s amazing, though—it keeps its freshness and its excitement, even if you resist its cartoon message. The director Sergei Eisenstein opened up a new technique of psychological stimulation by means of rhythmic editing—montage. The Odessa Steps sequence, the most celebrated single sequence in film history, has been imitated in one way or another in countless television news programs and movies with crowd scenes; it has also been parodied endlessly. Too bad it lacks any emotional discharge.
“LÉON: THE PROFESSIONAL” (1994) Besson’s mix of sadism and obscurity creates an interesting premise. But, if I’m being brutally honest, “Léon: The Professional” hardly feels like something new. It would be hard to imagine an American film more squarely in the European “art” tradition than this, yet it plays like Spielbergian mawkishness—a budding man’s “Taxi Driver.” (I can already tell if Tyson Carter reads this he’ll want me in his next Face Off battle.)
“SCHINDLER’S LIST” (1993) The aesthetic and moral failure of “Schindler’s List” is a matter of misplaced emphasis. A dramatic representation of Hitler’s crime should leave us shaken and humiliated on behalf of our species for the Holocaust raises the most serious questions about our collective sanity, to say nothing of our moral quality. Hollywood’s “reenactment,” however, chooses to concentrate on an atypical good deed. It is years since I have seen a film of such importance. Maybe that’s why I dislike it so much.
“THE AVENGERS” (2012) Much ado about nothing.
“UN CHIEN ANDALOU” (1928) A landmark of early avant-garde cinema. Impatient with the polite cinematic surrealism of artists like Man Ray, Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali wanted to stir things up and create “a despairing, passionate call to murder.” Indeed, the images in “Chien” horrify even today, most notably the notorious eye-slashing scene near the beginning of the film. Many of the images seem to spring directly from Sigmund Freud’s writings on sexual anxiety, such as breasts that mysteriously turn into a buttocks or a disembodied limb discovered by an androgyne, while others remain willfully obscure. Though the plot as such ostensibly concerns two quarrelling lovers, Buñuel and Dali gleefully destroyed all temporal and spatial continuity and systematically dismembered all forms of linear narrative and thought. Instead, meaning is created through visual associations, giving the film a thoroughly nightmarish quality. If you couldn’t tell, I actually quite liked this film!