Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010) by Dusty Somers
When I told my wife I wanted to see Cave of Forgotten Dreams, she asked me incredulously, "You want to see a 3-D movie?" The reaction was understandable. My dislike of the gimmicky technology reaches Roger Ebert levels of curmudgeonly.
Cave of Forgotten Dreams is the latest documentary from Werner Herzog, and it wouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who knows my movie tastes that I'd be all about seeing it. But I surprised even myself with my appreciation for Herzog's functional use of 3-D. The film explores the Chauvet caves in southern France, where the earliest surviving cave paintings were recently discovered.
Because the caves were sealed in for so long, the artwork on the walls is pristine, and the film's immersive exploration of the environment transports you to what seems to be another world altogether. The 3-D defines the spatial qualities of the caves in a way that dramatically enhances the viewing experience.
During the film, I found myself removing the glasses during talking head segments where 3-D is pretty pointless, and I still had the slight 3-D headache afterward, but I was more than happy to be proved wrong about 3-D's usefulness. Just don't expect me to see the next Pixar movie in anything but glorious two dimensions.
The Happening (2008) by Amanda Salazar
Whenever I mention this film to anyone they have a very strong negative reaction. I on the other hand, really liked this film and for the film that no one expected me to like it has to be M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening.
In this modern horror film, the environment has turned against humanity and starts killing off people by having them kill themselves. Now I am not saying that this film is without flaws (Mark Wahlberg's acting for instance) but it is fascinating in so many ways. Just the fact that the disease that is spreading is self-inflicted suicide is creepy, uncomfortable, and original. From the first death with a hairpin to wall jumping and glass cutting, Shamalan places the viewer in the front row to deaths that are intimate and you know that this is not a voluntary thing, making it even more disturbing. The villain is much like that of Hitchcock's The Birds, where nature takes a mysterious and evil turn, something that cannot be easily explained or defeated.
This Happening isn't a perfect film but I enjoyed it and will stand by it even when people would expect me to sway the other way.
Something's Gotta Give (2003) by El Bicho
I am typically not a big fan of predictable Hollywood fare and next to tragedies nothing is more predictable than the romantic comedy formula: Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl, Boy gets girl back. So imagine my surprise when I enjoyed Nacny Meyers Something's Gotta Give.
The film stars Diane Keaton, as Erica, a playwright who gets into a love triangle with highly successful entrepreneur, although we never see him at work, Harry Sanborn (Jack Nicholson) and Dr. Julian Mercer (Keanu Reeves). What makes the situation complicated is Harry used to date Erica's daughter Marin (Amanda Peet) and Julian is Marin's age.
In spite of my problems with the plot, which there were quite a few, I thought Something's Gotta Give worked well as a romantic comedy. It had many funny and charming moments. The interaction between Jack and Diane are the best scenes in the film. Although there's not a great deal of depth to their characters, they perform well with what they have and are very good together. It's too bad that this is the first film since Reds that they got to act together. It was also refreshing to see old people being romantic and sexual. Jack has passed the point of being believable with young, good-looking women so I hope this trend of his continues.
Places In The Heart (1984) by Shawn Bourdo
This is really difficult because I have to get into the minds of other people. Lots of other people. And most people who know me would have a hard time imagining a movie where I didn't find at least something to like. I am fluent in so many genres of films, from countries all over the world and regardless of age. There are folks that don't like subtitled films or cartoons or silent films, etc. And those people might find one film to like in that area. I'm cut from a cloth that is pretty flexible with his "likes".
The best choice that comes to mind is a film I saw when I was a Junior in High School. Certainly, at the time, I was obsessed with foreign and arty films along with teenage comedies and blockbuster action films. It was the height of Spielberg films and fun independent films were starting to make a splash when I went to go see a little dramatic film called Places In The Heart. You wouldn't have picked me for a fan of this Sally Field-dominated film. I hadn't had much to do with her since Smokey & The Bandit. The film set in small town Waxahachie, Texas in the Depression has every trigger for a boring film. It's got poor folks living on the farm, a single widow, a blind John Malkovich and a black drifter played by Danny Glover.
The film teeters on sappiness from the first scenes. There are plenty of dramatic shots and pretty stereotypical Southern Gothic characters drawn from Faulkner and Steinbeck and O'Connor stories. Throuch it all - there's heart. And that's what caught me and still does when I think about it. None of the actors give their most outstanding performances in their roles - but most would go on to have amazing performances later in the decade - Sally Field stands out of all of them as overacting the most. And yet it earned her an Oscar. But the male characters - Glover, Malkovich and a good role by Ed Harris - help keep the story from drifiting into too much sentimentality.
I'm still struck today by the quiet power of the church choir. That choir bookends the film - giving it the proper introduction and then reminding us where we came in when it is time to finally move on. There are plenty of religious symbols through the film - see every scene with Malkovich - but it doesn't come off as preachy. It's certainly a film that few might guess that I've even seen, let alone that I'm a huge fan.