Monday, November 14, 2011

Twitter movie reviews: 1 year, 100 movies, 140 characters each

Over the past year, I've been tweeting movie reviews.  I've tried to do this after every single movie I've seen, either in the theater or on video.  I also covered a couple of the anime series I watched. I'm guessing I've captured about 70% of my consumption. Not bad, I don't think.

Each review fits perfectly into a Tweet... including the movie title, date, and any punctuation, each one is 140 characters long, no more, no less. The biggest liberties I've taken are the use of ampersands, and the use of the final period, both of which I considered optional. Again, I think I've done pretty well here, managing to get most of the reviews sounding pretty natural while staying within that character constraint.

Below I've compounded my first 100 Twitter movie capsules! Have fun browsing through. You'll notice the format is a bit different at the very beginning (i.e. at the very bottom)... it took me a week or two to settle on the final structure. So, from this past week to more than a year ago, here's my year in Twitter movie capsules:

-91 - 100-

Antichrist (2009) - Harrowing, sinister, & extremely transgressive, a merciless escalation of pain, captured by a viciously invasive camera.

Jigoku (1960) - A treatise on the inherent irredeemability of all men, leading to a descent into Japanese Hell, an eternal tortured bad trip
Hellboy II (2008) - Mignola's lovable brute, transplanted from M.M.'s gothic ruins into Del Toro's carnival of the baroque gilded grotesque.

Season of the Witch (2011) - History? Fantasy? Horror? Still, it's fun watching Perlman and Cage talk trash and fight in barbarian costumes.

Silent Hill (2006) - a wild industrial body-horror throw-down, undermined by some sloppiness, but redeemed by the boldness of its execution.

Wicker Man (1973) - Weird: a story of deception and man's murderous delusions, gilded in a folksy erotic giddiness that's hard to reconcile.

The Machinist (2004) - A tense, jarring psychological echo chamber; the twist isn't as important as the preceding journey of paranoid denial

Strange Days (1995) - A portrait of disconnected people adrift in a world at war, that makes a case for both its destruction and its rebirth

Robocop (1987) - An epic, disjunct hybrid of retro futurist fantasy and gory nihilistic brutality, & a paean to the moral purity of machines

Legend of Hell House (1973) - Offers up an interesting conflict between New Agey science and New Agey spiritualism. Atmospheric, but clunky.

-81 - 90-

I Can See You (2008) - Plays like a twisted wet-dream-turned-nightmare. An uneven, head-trippy romp that shows both inexperience and talent.

Road to Perdition (2002) - Shows the 1930's as a Bauhaus machinist future, its men guided by hard sentimentality & puritan sense of purpose.

Zodiac (2007) - A smart, breathless account of an amateur, willing to reach deep into a dangerous animal's den, even when its handlers balk.

Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales (2006) - A masterpiece of elegant abstraction and subtle storytelling. Blew me away. Esp. the last three ep's

Dead Leaves (2004) - A hyperactive acid-trip anime that becomes a test of patience. Mesmerizing, if you manage to sync up with its insanity.

Elfen Lied (2004) - An apparently cutesy shojo anime subverted by extreme emotional & physical violence. Sailor Moon by way of Takashi Miike

Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 (1988) - Ups the ante on the first film, and comes with the same nightmare fuel set-pieces, but maybe shows too much

Winter's Bone (2010) - The paranoia of a noir, the harrowing grit of Southern Gothic, with just enough love & heroism to keep us sympathetic

Sling Blade (1996) - A movie that fit together perfectly; wouldn't have felt so brutal if it weren't so deadpan, quiet, gentle, & vulnerable

The Beach (2000) - Uneven plotting, at times comical writing, but some earnest sentiment and intense moments between the volatile bohemians.

-71 - 80-

Hellraiser (1987) - Gruesome, thematically focused, unflinching & disturbing at all the right moments. Brilliant, extreme, deservedly iconic

From Beyond (1986) - A parade of semi-human creatures and depravity; provides a great character in the young scientist tortured by the abyss

The Beyond (1981) - Mysterious, relentless, & revolting, full of cheesiness and horror tropes, but redeemed by an epic nihilistic conclusion

Wild Blue Yonder (2005) - Hypnotic at times, definitely a uniquely fuzzy-headed experience, but could stand to be a little bit more focused.

Fear[s] of the Dark (2007) - An eerie and bold psychological study, but not too scary, except Richard McGuire's section, which blew me away.

Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me (1992) - Full of Twin Peaks' enigmatic forces, but more grounded in the main character's troubled hopelessness.

Doctor Zhivago (1965) - A bitter, disillusioned family and political saga with a storybook veneer; stark, beautiful, and surprisingly cruel.

Goodbye, South, Goodbye (1996) - Thoughtful, evocative family crime drama, with a deadpan realism that makes the plot almost indecipherable.

Black Hawk Down (2001) - Gritty, star-studded, shows through audience identification that patriotism is inextricable from vicious bloodlust.

Nietzsche & the Nazis (2006) - Plus side: It's available on Netflix Instant. Minus side: it's a philosophy PhD talking for 3 hours straight.

-61 - 70-

The Sacrifice (1986) - A dreamy meditation on hopelessness and the tragedy and ecstasy of unrepayable grace; muffled, breathless, & hypnotic

Dust Devil (1992) - A parched, haunting, culturally-informed supernatural thriller with touches of abstraction; dense with subliminal power.

General Orders No. 9 (2011) - luminous feature-length meditation on the death of the natural soul of the South; uneven, sometimes beautiful.

Pistol Opera (2001) - spastic Frankenstein of a trippy samurai crime film; loosens up your brain for 70 mins, then attacks it in the finale.

Tree of Life (2011) - Nostalgia and intimacy mustered in service of a heroically ambitious effort. I need another viewing to fully absorb it

Pale Flower (1964) - Japanese sharp-eyed neo-noir, excellent high-contrast camerawork: a disciplined yakuza hitman is devoured by his vices.

Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) - A compelling saga of perseverance and surrender, although undermined by its one-sided cultural perspective

Bridesmaids (2011) - Funny at times, but tired with crassness. A few lovable central characters allow it to squeak by as amusing & endearing

Nights of Cabiria (1957) - Cabiria was perfect as the jester maiden centerpiece of a storybook tabloid Rome, pregnant with her joy & tragedy

Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) - Effectively tense, but could have used better characters to root for (Wilson was the charismatic exception).

-51 - 60-

Thor (2011) - An epic grade-B movie, full of pomp, that always seems to be smirking itself; yet, the father/brother/son conflict rings true.

Unbreakable (Shyamalan, 2000) - A simple, focused narrative construct, with the intensity & tonal commitment necessary to keep me hooked in.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) - An opera of slow revelations, of tragic loss & partial recovery of the soul, against an endless desert backdrop.

Your Highness (2011) - Fun, vacuous vehicle for Danny McBride's crude sense of humor. Props to Courtney, one of the greatest sidekicks ever.

Inferno (1980) - Dario Argento weaves a demented doomsday tale of supernatural forces. Full of slow, lurking suspense & unhinged set-pieces.

13 Assassins (2011) - A samurai adventure hijacked by bleak, bloody, degrading medieval brutality. A tortured, vicious, un-heroic hero story

Wild at Heart (1990) - Flailing, fragmented, and twisted, but fairly straightforward compared to Lynch's later films. And Nic Cage nails it.

The Bird People in China (1998) - poignant, lyrical film about the smallness of human lives against the enduring stories of cultural memory.

Night of the Hunted (1980) - surreal, chilling, & sexual: intriguing, but annoyingly close to depicting actual mental illness as evil force.

Vampyres (1975) - A sometimes-silly erotic horror film that still manages to create a compelling setting and a sense of sensuality and dread

-41 - 50-

Cache (2005) - Unsettling, deadpan thriller, very modern in sensibility, clamped over issues (political, social, moral) that go a mile deep.

Midnight Cowboy (1969) - Voight and Hoffman in a platonic romance that competes with Taxi Driver for urban grit, but remains human in scope.

Barry Lyndon (1975) - never seen somebody balance epic romance with dry amusement like Kubrick. Oh, and the photography is beyond brilliant.

The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea (1976) - a meditation on love, the sublime, & self-destruction in the shadow of an endless ocean

Annie Hall (1977) - Heartfelt, inventive, distinguished by its lovable cynicism. Has the inscrutable touch of a brilliant emerging filmmaker

The Holy Girl (2004) - a subtle story: childhood faith and adolescent sexuality meet adult perversion. Cinematography you could get lost in.

Do the Right Thing (1989) - A rare film, both warm and cynical: jovial camaraderie, barely suppressing an undertone of reactionary violence.

Restrepo (2010) - Walks a gritty knife-edge between callous and sentimental. An eye-opening window into the way war reshapes the human mind.

The Mist (2007) - A menacing build-up overflows into an epic, devastating climax. The muscular apocalyptic paranoia is vintage Stephen King.

The Iron Giant (1999) - Luminous animation, with the kind of charm you expect of an old movie. A feat of imagination, flawlessly translated.

-31 - 40-

Time of the Wolf (2003) - Harrowing vision of an untamed, barren world - but with a touch of gentleness & determination. My favorite Haneke.

Tenebre (1982) - A respectable work of art, with some genuinely terrifying and surreal sequences, locked in a swinging new-wave time capsule

28 Days Later (2002) - Brilliant because it succeeds in being methodical, sympathetic, & character-driven first, and only then a horror film

Emperor of the North (1973) - Both gritty and magical, the roughest railroad-weary fairy tale I can imagine. Full of great 1930's shit-talk.

Kwaidan (1964) - four sad, claustrophobic ghost stories, staged in small expressionist spaces that feel like the inside of a disturbed mind.

Harakiri (1962) - a film that's slow-burning, but genuinely angry, culminating in a burst of violence in the face of silence and oppression.

Red Desert (1964) - A movie of modernity as emotional paralysis & lethargy. Haunting, in its way: stifling, neurotic, & visually captivating

Black Swan (2010) - Beautifully-lensed, unbalanced film of the torturous process of relinquishing control; striking in its fixated restraint

Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) - oblique and callous; a strange puppeteer's parade of dead souls on a jaunt through the real world

Come Drink With Me (1966) - The over-the-top theatrics make this 60's kung-fu classic a curiosity; the sick female heroine makes it awesome.

-21 - 30-

The White Ribbon (2009) - A knot of malice gathering slowly on an historical stage; this makes its relative banality strikingly suspenseful.

My Young Auntie (1981) - goofy theatrical kung-fu, like Crouching Tiger meets Three Stooges. This genre has a tone that's truly distinctive.

Chungking Express (1994) - A fluid tale of love losing itself in a big city. Delicate, meditative story with razor-sharp and dynamic visuals

The Exterminating Angel (1962) - surrealism made suspenseful, addictive, & captivating; evokes giddy helplessness, like temporary paralysis.

Samurai Rebellion (1962) - Quiet & relentless; dripping with the angst of a mannered political society barely suppressing its violent urges.

Lone Wolf & Cub 2 (1972) - Fragmented, less scenic, with a heavy emphasis on explosive violence - balanced by surprisingly poignant moments.

Lone Wolf & Cub 1 (1972) - Striking mix of feudal Japanese atmosphere and 70's exploitation violence; definitely feels like a genre classic.

Venus in Furs (1969) - Great film. A sexually-charged near-death fever dream, endearingly self-important, but chilled out enough to earn it.

The Last Winter (2006) - A good psychological/suspense/madness horror movie, undermined by fragments of a bad monster movie late in the game

Solaris (1972) - Lots of exposition, but a well-wrought love story, subverted by the unease of loving a facsimile of reality... all in space

-11 - 20-

Night and Fog (1955) - Resnais contrasts concentration camps with post-war ruins. Full of images that tore me apart. Difficult but profound.

Onibaba (1964) - Dark, sinister, beautiful footage in the reeds. Barely supernatural, but full of a sense of menace lurking just offscreen.

Pineapple Express (2008) - Like a conversation with a stoner... You could get caught up in it, or just caught in it. Franco made it worth it

Flesh and the Devil (1926) - Epic tale of love and loyalty; an intriguing, endearingly maudlin romanticization of desire and self-deception.

L'avventura (1959) - a mellow, melodramatic journey through the sad, guilty process of forgetting a lost friend & lover; captivating visuals

Last Year at Marienbad (1961) - alluring recursive mystery, illusions of depth crafted from surface reflections; already a personal favorite

Visions of Light (1992) - A film giving a voice to the image-makers; for such a history of experimentation, it's almost too straightforward.

To Live and Die in LA (1985) - Heavily dated style & music, but the cynicism, hung over the traditional buddy-cop framework, is cutting-edge

Ivan's Childhood (1962) - A dreamy, powerful, ethereal war film on par with Malick's Thin Red Line; also, a pure cinematography masterpiece.

The Last Command (1928) - Slippery, self-conscious, and layered; big ideas for a silent movie, making it (arguably) an early postmodern text

-1 - 10-

The Devil's Backbone (2001) - A historical horror fable, with attention to the microcosmic effect of terror and tyranny in an enclosed space

The American (2010) - Lonely thriller for action fans who want something unusually beautiful and meditative - intelligent & easy on the eyes

Code Unknown (2000) - Cryptic multi-threaded film from Haneke -- makes me feel like I'm missing something very important & should dig deeper

Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001) - A messy (revisionist) historical action mystery with intriguing gothic stylings. Superficial but satisfying

The Mission (1986) - All-star cast of brooding men makes epic adventure feel strong & sincere, but I feel like it could have used more drama

Late Spring (Ozu, 1949) - slow drama chronicling the tensions within a family, reflecting social change; a sublime cinematic zen meditation.

The Killing (Kubrick, 1956) - Jim Thompson's brilliant writing, plus twisted loyalties and tragic betrayals, make for a palatable retro noir

The 400 Blows (Truffaut, 1959) - Frank and melancholy saga of youth inadvertently gone wrong; charmingly sentimental, stylish in its honesty

The Piano Teacher (Haneke, 2001) - Twisted, cynical, and insightful -- a film whose perversity makes more sense than we might like to admit.

Heat (Michael Mann) - A+ blend of epic & personal, heightened by intense, unsentimental depiction of violence. Subjective,realistic,powerful


Evan Tucker said...

The 400 Blows
Annie Hall
Do The Right Thing
Bridge Over the River Kwai
Midnight Cowboy
Discreet Charm of the Bourgoisee
Late Spring

Least Favorites:
Wicker Man
Road to Perdition
The Tree of Life
Lawrence of Arabia

14 character reviews :)

366weirdmovies said...

Beautifully precise, insightful assessments, haiku-like in their firm artificiality; concision is itself an underrated virtue, but this scheme goes even further

Jesse M said...

Thanks, 366! Great to hear from you. Love your reviews and your list. It's become a partial guide to my recent Netflix choices.