Saturday, February 26, 2011

Days 176-179: Princess Mononoke, Modern Times, Metropolis, Gladiator

Thus continues my new "watch a few movies in a week or so and then blog 'em all at once" format:

Princess Mononoke was my least favorite Studio Ghibli film on the list (the others being the masterful My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away and Grave of the Fireflies), but it was still pretty damn good. It found a middle ground between Hayao Miyazaki's lighthearted kids' movies and Isao Takahata's dark, bleak hellscape in Grave that was at times disturbing and at others enchanting. And special props to Billy Bob Thornton's voice acting in the English dub that sold me on the film hook, line and sinker when he gave his, "These days, there are angry ghosts everywhere" monologue.

Modern Times started out promising but ended up boring, like most Chaplin pictures. It's another that I can "appreciate" more than I can enjoy. Not much to say about it. That Little Tramp sure gets into some wacky antics.

Metropolis is the film from this post that left the biggest mark on me. I saw it at the IU Cinema with live orchestral accompaniment, which is absolutely the way silent films should be seen. It was the most complete cut of the film that exists, which unfortunately still means there's some footage missing, but it felt complete. The first forty minutes or so had me extremely worried that it was going to be dull, but it really turned things around with its intermezzo, which saw personifications of Death and the Seven Deadly Sins doing all kinds of crazy shit and led to insane scene after insane scene, impressive not only for their scope and ahead-of-their-time special effects but for how well they hold up as exciting, provocative scenes nearly 100 years later.

Gladiator was the last film I watched for this portion of the list. Kind of a head-scratcher that it somehow won Best Picture, but it was an entertaining modern-day take on Spartacus with a solid lead performance from Russell Crowe and an unremarkable secondary one from Joaquin Phoenix. I dunno, the fight scenes were all really cool and it tugged my heartstrings a bit during the ending, but damn, I can't believe it's the 98th best movie of all time according to IMDb users and the best movie of 2000 according to the Academy. Had a good time watching it, but I'm confident now in calling it overrated.

In the next hunk of the list, expect reports on Pan's Labyrinth, Avatar, Cool Hand Luke and God knows what else. Until then, enjoy the Oscars tomorrow, everyone!

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