Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Inherent Vice

Inherent ViceThe Gist: A private investigator who regularly operates under the influence of a lot of drugs is pulled into the investigation on the disappearance of a former girlfriend who was linked to a married, rich developer, who also disappeared.

I was looking forward to this movie for two reasons. First, it stars Joaquin Phoenix, whom I admire highly as an actor. Second, it’s directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, a director whose work I’ve admired since he first burst onto the scene with the very original Boogie Nights. He followed that with Magnolia, which wasn’t universally well received, but I liked it very much. Then came Punch-Drunk Love, which was so good it made me appreciate Adam Sandler, and There Will Be Blood, which is artistically impeccable and a good story overall.

I haven’t seen The Master yet, his follow up, but his latest, Inherent Vice, shook my admiration for Anderson to the very core.

Flanking Phoenix is a sprawling cast of marquee names (actors like Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Owen Wilson, Reese Whiterspoon, Martin Short, Martin Donovan, Eric Roberts, Maya Rudolph, and Jena Malone) and a well written screenplay (hell, it was nominated for an Oscar!!) and yet I found it to be the best cure for insomnia…

Perhaps the material it’s based on is complicated to adapt into a movie and/or would not impress me either, or I just didn’t understand the subtleties of the period. All I know is that I constantly found myself rewinding because I had dozed off, even though I wasn’t tired and was looking forward to watching a movie. That rarely, if ever, happens to me, so it’s never a good sign.

The Bottom Line: I found this movie boring, needlessly complicated, and tough to get through. In spite of my admiration for the director and several of the actors involved, I would definitely not recommend it to anyone. Unless you have trouble sleeping…

Grade: 2

Night Will Fall

Night Will FallThe Gist: Towards the end of World War II, the Allied troops finally gained access to the Nazi’s concentration camps and the magnitude of the horrific deeds perpetrated against the Jews was revealed. The footage recorded at the time was never distributed widely because of political reasons, until now.

This is the only documentary attributed to Alfred Hitchcock, who helped putting it together.

The Bottom Line: Another damming condemnation of the horrific acts of the Nazis following Hitler’s orders to round up and annihilate the Jewish people. While there isn’t a lot of new evidence regarding the scope of the brutality, a reminder of what happened only a few decades ago is always a good thing. It’s also interesting to see how much the German people were (or tried to be) oblivious to what was going on just outside their doorsteps.

Grade: 8

Monday, September 14, 2015

Tales of the Grim Sleeper

Tales of the Grim SleeperThe Gist: This documentary follows the investigation into notorious Los Angeles serial killer the Grim Sleeper , who is suspected of killing over 100 women in the city’s South Side.

It was shocking to see how poorly the police handled the whole investigation and how the killer was pretty much allowed to carry on killing without much interference.

The documentary really resonated with me because of all the attention institutionalized racism has gotten in the last few months thanks to the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Before police’s brutality measures, ingrained racism, and total disregard for the lives of minorities in general and black people in particular were brought to the general public’s attention I would have thought a lot of what is said to be fed by paranoia, but now I know better. 

Unfortunately, black people are right to be afraid of interacting with the police in the US, and I would definitely give our kids the same kind of advice, to call us before they call 911.

The Bottom Line: A very interesting documentary that efficiently shines a light on how differently the authorities would have treated this case if the victims had been white women instead of black women. I’m not giving it a higher grade simply because it ends rather abruptly, without letting us know the current status of the trial against the killer.

Grade: 7