Since I made the potentially ruinous (financially anyway) decision to subscribe to Netflix, I've watched several movies lately. Say! Why don't I list a few and comment on them?
First up, the Charlie Kaufman-penned Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which stars Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet as former lovers-turned-patients of Lacuna, an institution which performs specialized brainwashing on their subjects, effectively wiping their minds clean of any memory that they wish to let go of. When the film begins, self-absorbed, socially awkward misfit Carrey (a thankfully mugging-free performance) wakes up, impulsively and uncharacteristically decides to blow off work and take a train out to the beach- why he doesn't know. When he gets there, he meets a free-spirited, eccentric young lady named Clementine, the two strike up a freindship which becomes a relationship...and then, suddenly, it's much later and Carrey discovers that she's not only left him but doesn't even remember him. Turns out she underwent the Lacuna process, impulsively of course, and when Carrey finds out he decides to undergo the same. But, of course, complications ensue. Which is not to make this out to be a farce or a comedy- far from it- it's one of the more relentlessly downbeat films I've seen in a while, even though there are laughs to be found, mostly courtesy of the somewhat less than professional staff of Lacuna. There's a lot of emotional longing and bittersweet sadness in this film. What made it most memorable were the scenes within Joel's mind during the treatment, as he realizes what is happening and decides he doesn't want to forget Clem after all, and his struggle to hold on to his memories of her. And it's the completely believable (within a completely unbelieveable premise) relationship between the two polar opposites, thanks to the excellent performances by the leads, that holds this together. And knowing Kaufman, that was his intent. Many people absolutely loved this film, and I can see why, but it didn't resonate with me as strongly as it did with them. Perhaps if I was coming from a different background- young, single, having been through a couple of failed relationships maybe- I would find something to latch onto...but as a 40-something, in a longtime relationship-type I couldn't. That being said, I suppose I can empathise with the desire, as can (I'm sure) we all, to be able to completely erase bad memories from one's mind. Be that as it may, I thought it was clever and imaginative (the script more than the kinda pedestrian direction- Michael Gondry is no Spike Jonze), par for the course for Kaufman, whose Being John Malkovich I liked a lot but whose Adaptation not so much; well acted- the supporting cast, which included Kirsten Dunst and Elijah Wood, was great- and while it sometimes threatened to be too clever for its own good (another Kaufman pitfall), I liked it just fine.
Others I've seen lately include the two films I wrote about a few days ago, and Teacher's Pet, which I saw in the theatre last year and rented so my wife could see it plus I've already written about it and I refuse to do so again...so next up is Bubba Ho-Tep, truly one of the most wacked-out flicks ever conceived by the mind of man. As with Eternal Sunshine, I'm sure most of you know the plot already- elderly Elvis, the real King, traded places with an Elvis impersonator back in '77 to get away from the burden of his fame, with a written contract enabling him to return if he so desired...but he never used it- in fact, it was destroyed in a barbecue grill fire- and didn't care much until he fell off a stage a la Zappa in 1972 and broke his hip...which landed him in a Texas nursing home where he's been ever since, lying in bed, contemplating his life with no small amount of regret and dealing with a troubling growth on his John Thomas. This particular nursing home, however, just happens to be the feeding grounds of an ancient Egyptian mummy, recently released when a van containing his freshly-stolen-from-a-traveling-exhibit remains crashed into a nearby river- and who makes regular visits to the nursing home and sucks the souls out of the residents in order to survive. Elvis, along with an African-American man who claims to be John F. Kennedy (Elvis: "No offense, Jack, but President Kennedy was a white man". JFK: "They dyed me this color! That's how clever they are!"), figures out what is happening and sets out to combat the evil mummy and save the home. Now this could have been extremely smirky and stupid, but to the filmmakers' credit they dare to play this straight, and as a result let the inherent humor of the thing come out- an uncommon and far more enjoyable tack to take. Of course, this sort of a film would never be mentioned for consideration, but Bruce Campbell deserves some sort of Academy (or at least Golden Globe, fer chrissakes) recognition for his absolutely dead solid perfect portrayal of Elvis. He gets the voice and mannerisms of fat Vegas Elvis down to a tee, and is gifted enough as a comedic- not to mention action- actor to bring out the best in the part. Ossie Davis is also very understated and solid as JFK as well. Even though there are some draggy spots and the ending kinda fizzles, director/scripter Don Coscarelli (working from a short story by Joe R. Lansdale), keeps things moving along nicely and doesn't let this devolve into some sort of Saturday Night-alumni style smirky shenanigans. This guy respects the King, baby, and it certainly shows. Aw, heck- you knew I would like this- it's right in that Buckaroo Banzai ballpark. See this movie! You won't be sorry!
I've got several more to comment on, but I'm tired of seeing this post in my draft stage so consider this part one of a series with goodness knows how many sections. Coming soon, my thoughts on Cold Mountain, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Men Are Such Fools (with Priscilla Lane and Humphrey Bogart!), and others.