February, believe it or not, was quite a revelatory month for me. Not only did I have the pleasure of attending a pair of advance screenings for two of this year’s more respectable mainstream offerings, but I was able to expose myself to more of what I’ve been meaning to watch for quite literally the better part of a decade, more specifically Terrence Malick’s unabashedly gorgeous Days of Heaven and the latter part of Wong Kar-wai’s collectively stellar filmography. It just wouldn’t be a month’s worth of movie-watchin’ without its fair share of misfires however, and this time around, said atrocities were borderline offensively unwatchable as Michael Sucsy’s The Vow and Neveldine & Taylor’s Ghost Rider sequel stood tall as early contenders for 2012’s absolute worst.
Agree or disagree, I can’t really complain seeing how I quite literally see everything for free (oh the perks of the job), so it’s all a matter of whether or not I’d like to grace the general public with my musings on a particular film, for better or for worse. As always, enjoy, and feel free to strike up a conversation if you feel the need by posting a comment or two! On a side note, keep an eye out for Reel Time‘s second film journal for the month of February, of which will document the staff’s top five favorite first-time viewings coupled with a brief blurb about their absolute favorites.
As one of the more renowned visual storytellers of his generation and beyond, Terrence Malick reigns supreme within his self-made, singular niche. With his second full-length feature, the auteur’s overt fondness of breathtaking locales and essentially exploiting them for cinematic artistry’s sake does wonders for such a narratively sparse effort, even though there’s a requisite amount of human emotion paired with a titular hot-headed farm laborer’s scheme to have his girlfriend marry a wealthy landowner for periodic prosperity’s sake. All things considered, the sheer sense of beauty coinciding with the film’s lush cinematography overpowers just about everything else in terms of actual substance, utilizing stunning images of vast, seemingly endless landscapes that permeate the production at regular intervals, ensuring us that the film as a whole relies heavily on its panhandle setting to help guide it through to its relatively somber yet gratifying conclusion.
David Mackenzie’s ambitious existential drama thrusts its central characters into the midst of a burgeoning global epidemic that’s slowly ridding the populace of their senses. Preceding each sensory loss with overblown yet undeniably appealing widespread emotional meltdowns, the film manages to remain insightful in its ruminations on humanity as McGregor and Green exhibit more than palpable chemistry as a couple struggling to stay together amid the worsening contagion.
The first of two animated features to grace this list, Studio Ghibli’s beautifully rendered adaptation of Mary Norton’s “The Borrowers” is above average in every way you’d expect it to be. Lush color palettes and a simply stunning vision of this age-old classic permeate the proceedings, pairing wonderfully with its lighthearted, yet appealingly and periodically touching screenplay, ensuring that The Secret World of Arrietty is as accessible and openly whimsical as it is appealing to the masses; not just little children.
When it comes to contemporary anime, you’d be hard-pressed to carry on a conversation without any mention of Hayao Miyazaki and his beloved brainchild Studio Ghibli. Thankfully, a recommendation from a friend led me to the renowned writer/director’s spiritual successor Momoru Hosoda, of whom presents us with an animated feature so whimsical yet mature in its sensibilities that it easily coasts past more recent live-action efforts. Focusing on naive schoolgirl Makoto as she inadvertently acquires the ability to (quite literally) leap through time, Hosoda’s masterful coming-of-age tale is as unique conceptually as it is periodically soul crushing, solemnly following our female lead as she slowly realizes the repercussions of ceaselessly and inconsiderately bounding back and forth through time and space. With said consequences becoming increasingly dire and emotionally resonant, their presentation further solidifies The Girl Who Leapt Through Time as a remarkable, not-quite-family friendly affair.
Tony Kaye’s latest is both an appealingly bleak character study and equally distressing examination of an inner-city school’s crippling downfall in relation to an emotionally numb substitute teacher’s inability to overcome his past demons. The less-than-prolific auteur’s remarkable direction remains the high point of this poignant, often depressing yet authentic look at such a damaged individual, exuding moments of sheer hopelessness as Brody’s Mr. Barthes instinctively distances himself from everyone as mild outbursts illustrate the frustration coinciding with his condition. For those of you looking for something more upbeat, I highly suggest you look elsewhere, as this artfully constructed and assuredly understated drama certainly doesn’t opt for the easy way out in relation to its central character’s salvation and hard-hitting commentary on the true, unflinching nature of humanity and our nation’s education system as a whole.
Total number of films watched (including re-watches): 19
Other first-time viewings (in alphabetical order): 2046 (Kar-wai, ’04), Chronicle (Trank, ’12), The Exorcist (Friedkin, ’73), Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (Neveldine & Taylor, ’12), In the Mood for Love (Kar-wai, ’00), My Blueberry Nights (Kar-wai, ’07), Reprise (Trier, ’06), Safe House (Espinosa, ’12), Show Me Love (Moodysson, ’98), The Vow (Sucsy, ’12), Wanderlust (Wain, ’12), The Woman in Black (Watkins, ’12)