Derelict Junction

Providing missile launch codes for foreign cryptographers everywhere.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Top of your Netflix lists, people!

A study in pacing.
Pacing in the movies is one of those things that, when done right, you never think about. It's kinda like trying to strangle someone, but not letting them realize it. Hitchcock knew this, and it's the common thread in all great thrillers. Here are two DVD recommendations, both with marvelous pacing:

In the same vein as Memento and Requiem for a Dream, The Machinist is a gritty psychological thriller that clearly outlines what could happen when you combine faulty neuro-wiring and insomnia.

If you've heard about this film at all, you've probably heard of lead actor,
Christian Bale's weight loss. Before anyone goes and sees the muscular version of Bale in the new Batman movie, check out the emaciated, 119 lbs. version in The Machinist. -A spectacle that director Brad Anderson spent many scenes showcasing.

In the "special features" section, Bale explains that the script described his character as "a walking skeleton", and he merely complied. Can you imagine the look on the screenwriter's face when he saw Bale on the set for the first time? When asked how he dropped so much weight, his answer was simple, "'Stopped eating." According to IMDb, he lost the 63 lbs. on a diet of
salads, apples, chewed gum, smoked cigarettes, and nonfat lattes. As unimaginable and dangerous as that sounds, visually, it's stunning.

What the film lacks by Hitchcock over-influence, like its overly-dramatic music score, it clearly makes up for in the performances and the visuals. Someone once told me that Scorsese's Raging Bull was a visual masterpiece because you can stop the it at any scene and appreciate the rich composition of the frame, as if it were photograph (cue Def Leppard music right... now!). The Machinist is the same way. In a very Fincher-esque way, the characters blend in with the gritty environment, beautifully composed while always seeming natural. -I would assume, incredibly difficult to achieve.

[A little aside here, on current man-crush recipient, Christian Bale. I don't have incredibly high hopes for his new movie, but here's a few things that have got me interested in Batman Begins: -directed by Christopher Nolan of Memento fame (after first, Requiem for a Dream director Darren Aronofsky and then David Fincher pulled out), -the cast includes Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Rutger Hauer and Tom Wilkinson, -Nolan made the crew watch Blade Runner for inspiration, and -making their feature film acting debuts - former lead singer of the band James, Tim Booth, and former coked-up baseball star, Dwight Gooden (we should all win prizes if we actually recognize them). All that just might make me forget that douchebag scientologist, Tom Cruise, jumping on Oprah's couch whenever Katie Holmes is on screen.]

Very minor spoiler alert: Also, to any Total Recall geeks out there who just can't get enough of watching Michael Ironside get his arms amputated, let me just say, you will not be disappointed by The Machinist.

If you don't know anything about this movie, try watching it without reading the synopsis on the case. No big deal if you do, but I was just wondering if I would have liked it even more if I didn't already know the specifics of the plot. It's nothing that isn't revealed 20 minutes in, but I think it might be even more thrilling if you didn't already expect the revelation.

Much like The Machinist, Primer is beautifully paced. It amazes me that a genre like the scientific thriller, which is usually dominated by big-budgets and special effects, can be done so superiorly on a small budget by a first-time director (Shane Carruth, who's definitely got "the goods", as they say).

Without talking about the subject-matter, I'll note that it won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival last year, if you're down with that.

So before this summer's block-busters come out, check out these two small-potatoes films. Then just sit back and try to figure out just what those huge Hollywood budgets were actually spent on.

For a further, relatively outdated, look into my cinema psyche, check out this ancient link on YMDb:
http://www.ymdb.com/user_top20_view.asp?usersid=8203

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