Day 138: At The Movies With Stace

Last night, I ate a swede. Swede (n): like a potato, but about 47 times more bland. Not even I can get 500 words out of this boring ass vegetable, so I’m moving swiftly along to the films I’ve seen in the past few days. Cable has been a Godsend for my movie watching (although less so for my social life).

Vertigo (1958) I am almost a complete novice when it comes to Hitchcock. I think the only film of his I’ve seen is The 39 Steps (great film by the way, go and watch it now). Vertigo I found on the whole to be rather engaging. Engaging despite a problem I find increasingly common when I watch old movies, which is a complete lack of sympathy for any of the main characters. Not that this is restricted to just old films, mind you, but I find myself feeling it more when there’s a (multi)generational gap involved on top of inscrutable characters.

What I find weird is that I am a pathological, dyed-in-the-wool hopeless romantic, and yet one of the best ways to take me out of a movie is when two people catch each others’ eyes across the room and fall instantly in love, completely turning their lives upside down and engaging in absurd and destructive behaviour on the basis of this feeling. I mean, I have personally experienced the insanity of falling in love with someone so fast as to cause whiplash, and yet for some reason I still recoil when I see it in a movie. It seems so…unreal. I think another factor is the Production Code; when we’re talking a Hays Code-era film, modesty dictates that all we see these people do is have an innocuous five minute encounter at a train station or something, and then all of a sudden BAM, instant and eternal love. You have to read a LOT of subtext into these moments when they aren’t allowed to show what would really happen, but a lot of the time, for me, they don’t entirely earn the trust it takes to believe that these people could feel so deeply for no apparent reason.

I have dramatically wandered from the point now, so back to Vertigo, like I said apart from my inherent problems with two people chancing upon one another and falling desperately in love for no reason, it was a pretty good film. Maybe it went about half an hour too long, but it’s also possible that it was late and I was tired. The plot and the turns therein were really well done. Both of the leads were exceptionally good in their roles. I have a soft spot in my heart for middle aged Jimmy Stewart, and Kim Novak was just brilliant as that ethereal, mysterious, flaky creature. Another thing I was really impressed by was the photography. The use of shapes and patterns when shooting the buildings and the scenery…I’m not well versed enough in filmmaking to properly articulate this point, but the way it was shot really added to the tone. I wouldn’t mind watching it again sometime in the future to better absorb all of the details.

Now You See Me (2013) Is a film about magic. Magic is about illusion, deception, trying to sell you something that isn’t really there. The film itself is a bit like that. Lots of quick cuts, massive amounts of bells and whistles, and a sharp, jerky flow that makes you feel like you never stay in the same place for too long. You’re never quite sure of where you’re supposed to be looking, where the “real” trick actually is. All that illusory production, combined with the charisma of Woddy Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo et al. make for a deliciously fun time. The breakneck pace never lets you stop to think about all of the plotholes you pass along the way, which is key to a good popcorn movie. The final reveal (this kind of movie always needs a final reveal) is underwhelming for both it’s predictability and for how unsatisfactory it is in resolving a lot of the plot. But I suppose again, in that way it is an apt mirror to the magic it portrays: magic is never as fun after they explain how the trick is done. The best part is watching the magic unfold in front of you and wondering how on earth it could possibly be done. And in that way the film delivers in spades because the first two acts with the bulk of the tricks were enormous fun to watch. To put it this way, there is going to be a sequel, and when I feel like turning my brain off I will watch the hell out of it.

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