Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Weekly Roundup; Movies 03//01 to 03/07

One of the greatest things about having cable, as I mentioned last week, is the ability to watch movies that have been eluding me thus far. The thing is, I don't have netflix, and I don't have an active account at ANY rental place. True, most of the movies are repeated ad nauseum, and many channels insert commercials, but for someone trying to fill in the blanks of his movie knowledge, something like TCM, or even AMC, is an indispensable aid. A quick note; if you're the sort of person to be bothered by spoilers, you may want to watch the movies first.

The Ox-Bow Incident
Rating: 5

I think it's due to the fact that my idea of the 40s and 50s is so informed by the squeaky clean television shows of that era, but I am constantly surprised by the amount of cynicism, despair and overall bleakness that can seep into some of these films. Sure, I expect grimy atmospheres and unhappy endings when it comes to film noir, but when I'm watching a black and white western with Henry Fonda and Colonel Potter from M*A*S*H, well, I expect things to be a little sunnier. And so I'll freely admit to being surprised by the places this film went, and up until final showdown I expected rational shot to win out. Of course, that would have softened to impact and completely gone against whole focus of this film, which is about a trio of farmers accused of murder and cattle rustling and eventually hung by an impromptu, illegal posse.

Duck, You Sucker(AKA: A Fistful of Dynamite)
Rating: 4

This is typically the period I tend to associate with anti-heroes and unhappy endings; the sixties and seventies, and the revisionist westerns of Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah. This film may not be as grand and epic as The Good, The Bad & The Ugly or Once Upon a Time In The West, and it may not be as tightly woven as A Fistful of Dollars, but this is still a superior western. James Coburn plays an IRA member fleeing his own memories of being a revolutionary in Ireland who crosses paths with Rod Steiger's Mexican bandit. Steiger wants to utilize Coburn's skills with explosives to aid in robbing a bank, but Coburn seems to have other plans. This fits in nicely with Sergio Leone's other westerns, which seem to be the type of westerns David Mamet grew up on. Full of two-fisted action and ironic plots twists and double crosses galore. It's interesting how the film shifts it's idea of who the hero is. James Coburn, who seems to want to aid in the Mexican revolution, is also happy to remain in the shadows while manipulating Steiger, who wants nothing more than to steal a lot of money, into becoming a hero of the people.

Extras- The Extra Special Series Finale
Rating: 5

It's time for another credibility-shattering admission. I'm actually afraid to publicly state this, so fervent is the following Ricky Gervais has accumulated. But, wait for it... I actually prefer the American version of the Office to the bone-dry original. I know, this goes against everything pop culture holds to be true, and don't get me wrong, I like the original, and have mighty high respect for Gervais for getting there first, but I still like Steve Carrell and Co. better. I think it's because the British version of The Office is too realistic. The humor is buried beneath layer after layer of soul crushing depression, and I'm more often than not depressed rather than amused.

Extras, Ricky Gervais' follow up series(which aired on HBO) had much of that same attitude, showing how demeaning and soul destroying Hollywood can be, with the emphasis on failure instead of success. It's also odd that when the main character finally does get success, things only get more depressing. Andy Millman has success, but not respect, and although he's generally a good man, he never knows when to stop talking, and all of his faults are magnified for the entire world to see. The second(and final) season of Extras really veered into darkness, with some HIGHLY uncomfortable moments.. For most of this feature length finale, I thought I had misread the last regular episode, which hinted at some brightness in store for it's main characters. Andy Millman leaves his highly successful(but artistically hollow) television show, only to find there aren't a lot of offers for him, which leads to some embarrassing guest spots on trashy BBC shows, and, at the height of indignity, a spot on Celebrity Big Brother. Where it goes from there, however, was a nicely emotional capper to this TERRIFIC series. I'll stop talking about it for now, but I would recommend it to everyone reading this.

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