Half Nelson (2006)
Sure—it’s an interesting premise handled in a sort of low-key, seemingly “authentic” way. I feel like just going off the Wikipedia summary (“The story concerns an inner city middle-school teacher who forms a friendship with one of his students after she discovers that he has a drug habit.”) one expects either a crude, Bad Teacher-esque comedy or a super maudlin inspirational drama, whereas the actual movie is just, like, these people living their lives, making some questionable choices, dealing with the consequences, whatever. The relationship dynamic between Dan (Ryan Gosling) and Drey (Shareeka Epps), the teacher and student, is pretty fascinating, although often hard to watch in how inappropriate it is (although, thank god, not in the expected “teacher fucks student” way); in particular, the climactic scene where Drey ends up selling drugs to Dan is super effective.
I think there’s a niche subgenre of films involving Lonely Dudes with Cats that contains at least this and Inside Llewyn Davis–there must be others, but nothing comes to mind. It’s a v specific mood/aesthetic that I probably want to see more of.
The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)
Beautiful and emotionally affecting and totally earns that 140 minute runtime, which I initially found a bit discouraging.
Casting Dane DeHaan as the child of Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes is, like, pretty questionable, and at some point their actual kids irl are going to grow up and be like, “wow, that is not us at all,” but on the other hand: an excuse to see Dane DeHaan in a really solid movie in the sort of troubled young man role he excels at.
Dirty Dancing (1987)
Who knew this was a movie about abortion?
Only God Forgives (2013)
Super dumb and kind of boring and the whole time one is just sort of waiting for there to be…more to it, and yet at the same time: AMAZING. I don’t even know how to rate it. It is the most Nicolas Winding Refn. Neon and electronic music and right angles and lots and lots of stillness punctuated by sudden bursts of violence. It was hilarious to watch with closed captioning, since there’s so little dialogue that it feels like the majority of the subtitles are just [blood spattering] followed by [electronic music plays], which: an accurate summary of this movie, because like what else actually happens? What is the plot? Who are the characters?
Also, seems like a waste of Ryan Gosling; he’s really good at being blank-faced, but I think part of his main appeal in movies is in the breaking of the blank face, the anticipation/tension derived from waiting for the facade to break; maybe that’s just coming off of Half Nelson and The Place Beyond the Pines, which really excelled in choosing when to break the character’s intensity by having him crack a smile or giggle or whatever. But no such luck in Only God Forgives, where everyone is just serious all the time.
Still, so many beautiful shots through doorways. A coffee table book of stills from the movie would probably be better than the movie itself.
Inherent Vice (2014)
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008)
The idea of a rom-com with a period setting and this cast (particularly Amy Adams and Lee Pace) seemed appealing, but the tone did not work for me at all. The farcical aspects kind of undercut the real tragedy and emotions going on with the Frances McDormand character, I think. There’s something off about the movie playing her eagerness to eat–and then disappointment when she clumsily drops her food or has it taken away or whatever–for laughs, even as it becomes clear that she’s like…legitimately homeless and remembers rationing from WWI?
War on Everyone (UK 2016/US 2017)
Super disappointing after The Guard and Cavalry.
There are a few funny interactions–the sort of classic McDonagh discussion of intellectual topics by people you wouldn’t expect to be discussing those topics or some really well-placed instances of profanity–but it just doesn’t come together. There’s a lack of cohesion to the point where like—why bother trying to have a plot at all? And the relationships don’t necessarily feel super organic (esp. the uniting of the Alexander Skarsgard/Tessa Thompson characters, as hot as both actors are) or lived-in, so ultimately, I don’t know, there’s a sense of emptiness to it that I don’t think is intentional.