September 12, 2010

Getafilm Gallimaufry: Animal Kingdom, Get Low, Let Me In or Leave Me Out, & Perfect Song #8

[This series includes scattered thoughts on various movie-related topics. I was looking for a word that started with the letter "g" that means collection or assortment, but lest you think I'm some elitist wordsmith, know that I'd never heard of "gallimaufry" and I don't even know how to say it, but it was the only other option the thesaurus provided aside from "goulash" (too foody) and "garbage" (no).]

Animal Kingdom (A)

Aside from being among the best indie movies of the year, David Michôd's Animal Kingdom is also the Feel Bad Movie of the Year. It's not graphic, it's not lewd, and it's not even particularly violent, but you become so intimate with the cold, calculating, evil characters that you just want to shower immediately afterward. I haven't been this disgusted walking out of a film since Boy A, another excellent movie that not coincidentally deals with trust, regret, family, and crime.

Stories about criminal families are nothing new, but Animal Kingdom boasts such a crackerjack script and stellar cast that you don't even realize you've heard this story before (it helps that the actors are unfamiliar to American audiences). I was a big fan of the stylistic flourishes (understated use of slow motion, haunting music, etc.) and undercurrent of unpredictability, and well, I'll just say it: if Animal Kingdom were made by a veteran American director like Scorsese, it would be a shoo-in for a Best Picture nomination.

But, if David Michôd's future films are anything like this (Animal Kingdom was his feature directing debut; he also wrote the upcoming Hesher starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt), he'll likely end up at the Oscars some day soon anyway.

Get Low (B)

In a year that hasn't featured much to speak of in terms of acting (granted, the awards season is only beginning now), Robert Duvall has to be considered the early front-runner for Best Actor in Get Low. He may be temporarily upstaged by some other award-worthy performances this fall, but Duvall will turn 80 in January, and if this is his last great performance after four decades of Oscar-nominated work, you have to think the members of AMPAS will award him with a token of appreciation and respect.

And, if they don't, Get Low will possibly go unrewarded in total. It's an interesting premise and features great acting even aside from Duvall (particularly from Bill Murray and Sissy Spacek), but the whole didn't quite equal the sum of the parts for me. It lagged at times on the way to a surprisingly anticlimactic ending, and overall I don't expect it will remembered for much aside from Duvall's performance.

Remaking Let the Right One In

Have you seen the trailer yet for Let Me In, Matt Reeves' remake of the terrific 2008 vampire/coming-of-age drama Let the Right One In? If not, check it out and answer me this: is Let Me In a shot-for-shot remake or what?

It's apparent to anyone, and frame-by-frame comparisons at UGO and io9 confirm it basically be true, at least as much as the iconic scenes are concerned. So the question then returns to early last year when the remake was announced: what's the point of it?

Matt Reeves told CinemaBlend earlier this year: "I related to the bullying and being a childhood of divorce and growing up in the 80's. And I think it comes down to, in terms of doing the remake, what your intentions are and whether or not you’re interested in running roughshod over something or whether you’re trying to bring something of yourself to it, and being committed to and respecting where it comes from. And I have such tremendous respect for that story and at the same time it so resonates with me personally."

Resonated with him personally? Just the bullying and divorce, or the vampires, too? Odd, but not as curious as his claim that Ajvide Lindqvist, the author of the original "novel", told Reeves the book was his "autobiography".

Moving on, Reeves explained what he's added to the original film: "...what I was interested in is if we’re going to take the film and put it in an American context, then the sort of tract housing, the planned community thing it makes total sense, but America in the 80's and America now is very different. It is sort of a godless suburbia and if I were a 12-year-old kid and I were harboring the thoughts that Oscar has because the brutality of his life, and I sort of imagined killing my enemies and vicious thoughts, I think that in American context, oh there was the big, Reagan was talking about the 'evil empire' at that time, that the evil was outside of us. And I became very drawn to the idea that evil is within us and that whole thing."

Nice try, but I'll believe that the next time I see a vampire. The undeniable truth about this remake is all about subtitles. Americans are unable to watch subtitled films for fear of having their brains even passively stimulated, so Hollywood is taking a cash cow and milking it for a few more million English-speaking dollars. Look for Let Me In to open huge and Let the Right One In to fade away, appreciated only by "snobs" like me.

Perfect Song, Perfect Scene #8

Date with Latrell, White Chicks (2004): "A Thousand Miles" by Vanessa Carlton


  1. Early word from the festival rats is that Let Me In is faithful to the original while also managing to stand up as a film in its own right.

    I remain skeptical.

  2. "It's not graphic, it's not lewd, and it's not even particularly violent, but you become so intimate with the cold, calculating, evil characters that you just want to shower immediately afterward."

    Aye Dan, I couldn't agree with you more, and I'm completely with you on that "A" rating. This is clearly one of the best inde films of the year, and the second Australian film in this genre to hit the mark over the past months. (The other is THE SQUARE.)

    Oddly, GET LOW has lost some luster with me since I saw it. Seems like it was modeled after other films, though as you say, Duvall is magnificent, and is surely headed for an Oscar nod.

    Like Craig I am very skeptical over this LET THE RIGHT ONE IN remake.

  3. Daniel, your comments about what makes Animal Kingdom so graphic even without being graphic are right on! The viewer is certainly thrown in with these characters too close for comfort - especially with Pope, who is the year's best villain so far! This movie is definitely an A. I posted some observations about this one along with the story of taking my mother to see it - but the gritty, intimate nature of it was not her cup of tea.

  4. Craig, I did catch wind of that out of TIFF (the remake was also featured in the NYT fall movie preview today with the bizarre title, "Chilling Enough to Deserve a Remake"); Reeves recycles his answers) but I still haven't heard anyone explain the point of the remake to my satisfaction. So what, he copies it shot for shot with the kids speaking in English and it works? It looks cool? Am I supposed to be impressed by that? I can't believe I'm saying it, but I guess I would be more likely to see it if Reeves had made more changes and messed with the story. Why would I want to watch the same movie twice?

    Sam, isn't it interesting that The Square (which I still need to see) and Animal Kingdom share producers/directors/actors (I can't remember which exactly). Very promising work out of Australia this year, though I still need to see Hester and Bran Nue Dae. And Get Low, well as I say it didn't strike me for much more than Duvall's performance, but it wasn't by any means a worthless movie.

    Hokahey, I've had your post saved to read and now will make sure to do so. Pope - ugh, really from his first moment on screen I was uncomfortable, but after I while I could barely tolerate his presence. What an absolute menace!


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