Sunday, May 30, 2010

Couch Potato Film Recommendations

Netflix is a wonderful thing, it allows me those opportunities to pay very little for renting mail-in movies as well as streaming capabilities.  Having received so many movies via United States Postal Service, I have thought many times about posting movie recommendations/reviews for any and all films I see from Netflix.  Thus begins my very first installment of the Couch Potato Film Recommendations.....

Recommendation #1 - Network
Directed By Sydney Lumet 
Written By Paddy Chayefsky

Plot: In 1975, terrorist violence is the stuff of network nightly news programming and the corporate structure of the UBS television network is changing. Meanwhile, Howard Beale, the aging UBS news anchor, has lost his once strong ratings share and so the network fires him. Beale reacts in an unexpected way, making claims that shoot the networks ratings up unexpectedly high. CEO's and other people in charge take advantage of Beale's new found insanity and keep him on the air, giving him his own show where rabbles on about the "truth" of an uncivilized world. We then see how this affects the fortunes of Beale, his coworkers (Max Schumacher and Diana Christensen), and the network.   

This film had one of the more intelligently written scripts I've ever seen in a film before.  I thought "Doubt" was one of the best literary scripts in the history of film, but Paddy Chayefsky just proved me wrong.  Interestingly enough, this movie pushed the major boundaries of it's time, being the first film to use what we refer to as "adult language" as consistently as it did.  No film at this time used swearing NEAR as much as "Network" did.  I would even argue that Sidney Lumet's 1976 hit film would rival our more modern films on the number of swear words used.

Now don't let the fact that the swear words are being paraded around like a bunch of circus clowns turn you off to the film; Network's researched & literary qualities bring you head first into the inner workings of network television and just how stressful and competitive of an environment it can be.  The film itself has a religious tone to it, (not in the theological sense mind you) arguing that people are like mindless zombies who will believe anything as long as the visual and literary rhetoric of the program hits at the heart of the viewer's values and needs.  

If you have an itch to watch something fun and new, but not mind-numbingly stupid, Network would definitely be worth your time.  With powerful performances by a well established cast, this movie could go down on your "I have to own this" list.

Recommendation #2 - Baraka
Directed By Ron Fricke
Written By Constantine & Genevieve Nicholas

Plot: Without words, cameras show us the world, with an emphasis not on "where," but on "what's there." It begins with morning, natural landscapes and people at prayer: volcanoes, water falls, veldts, and forests; several hundred monks do a monkey chant. Indigenous peoples apply body paint; whole villages dance. The film moves to destruction of nature via logging, blasting, and strip mining. Images of poverty, rapid urban life, and factories give way to war, concentration camps, and mass graves. Ancient ruins come into view, and then a sacred river where pilgrims bathe and funeral pyres burn. Prayer and nature return. A monk rings a huge bell; stars wheel across the sky. 

I had heard some fairly interesting "verbal" reviews about this movie from people I know, ranging in all different types of opinionated jargon.  Some hated it, some loved it, but never was there a person who claimed to be in the middle; it was all or nothing.  Being a student of cultural studies and sociology, you'd think I would have sought this film out...But I never did.  Luckily, one of my wife's history buddies owned it, and we took a night to watch it in it's entirety.

I had no idea, going into it, that the film itself was lacking 100% in any verbal communication or script, with exception to a tribe spouting out verbiage that sounded more like random, incoherent words that only held significant meaning to that specific tribe.  Everything else, was visualized beauty that only nature could bring you.

The cinematography ranged from tribal forest lands to citywide, industrial and mechanically operated civilizations.  There is no narration, so I wouldn't qualify this as a documentary, nor would I classify it as a typical movie either.  This is purely an art film which shows the vast diversity of the world and its non-unified order.

If you are unable sit through a film with no dialogue and no action scenes, you might want to skip out on this.  But if you need a nice, relaxing film to watch where you need not worry about talking and have conversations with friends during it's duration, with beautiful scenery and music, you might give this film a shot.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great addition to the blog Jimmy!

    Good reviews too - look forward to see what you take a look at next!