Saturday, February 12, 2011

Days 173-175: Into the Wild, The African Queen, L.A. Confidential

Okay, so I'm behind, but I'm not as behind as you'd think. 175/250 is actually pretty damn good, and I have more than 75 days left to watch the remaining 75 movies on the list. I'm going to roll these three movies into one post not for any good reason besides saving time. I have a lot on my plate right now, and it's the reason I've watched some movies that I haven't gotten around to blogging yet.

Last Saturday I took in a double feature of on-list movies, starting with Sean Penn's 2007 masterpiece Into the Wild. Starring Emile Hirsch as "Alexander Supertramp," an Ivy-educated upper class white kid who decided that becoming a lawyer wasn't what he wanted to do and started living off the land. It's not Man vs. Wild romanticism; it's raw and visceral and real, even while its brimming with life. Hirsch gives an unbelievable performance, and so do all the people who he encounters on his odyssey – even Vince Vaughn. What I liked best, though, was the moral ambivalence of the whole thing. Is it right to burn your money and shed the trappings of phony society to live in the wilderness like man did in his glorious past? Well, maybe, but – spoiler alert – sometimes that means you starve to death, and what the fuck does that accomplish? It's a relatively simple film that still leaves you thinking. Deserves its place.

After I finished up Penn's film, I threw on The African Queen, a movie whose Humphrey Bogart coolness was relatively offset by its Katharine Hepburn melodrama. I'll make no apologies for not being a fan of Ms. Hepburn's work, but this was her at her least distracting. Bogart plays "crusty but benign" to perfection, and Hepburn is – gasp! – decent, stupid, unchanging voice and all. For taking place almost entirely on a boat and featuring no characters of consequence besides the two leads, it's surprisingly not claustrophobic at all and maintains a rather breathtaking feel throughout. It's not my favorite Bogey flick, but it is pretty much a masterpiece of classic Hollywood economy. Deserves its place.

Then earlier this week I watched L.A. Confidential, which I'm pretty sure is my favorite cop movie now. I don't pretend to be a fan of crime dramas. I like The Departed less than everyone else (though I still like it) and I won't even give any others the time of day. That was until I saw this movie. It's tongue-in-cheek about its genre but still manages to take it seriously. It's noirish without being neo-noir, and it winks at noir while embracing it. It's headlined by three amazing lead performances and, ironically, a lesser supporting role which won it one of its few Oscars in the year of Titanic. Quite simply, I loved it and have no problem recommending it to fellow movie buffs who could care less about cop pictures because if it changed my mind, it could change anybody's. Deserves its place.

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