Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Spock's Jungle, Terran and Oedipal Fever

The Oshima and Karlson retrospectives are in full swing at the PFA. Another Hole in the Head is entering its second week at the Roxie.

However, I've been busy with other films.

Star Trek directed by J.J. Abrams; (2009) - Official Website
Easy Virtue starring Jessica Biel, Kristin Scott Thomas & Colin Firth; (2008) - Official Website
Inglorious Bastards starring Bo Svenson and Fred Williamson; (1978)
Psych-Out starring Jack Nicholson, Dean Stockwell, Susan Strasberg and Bruce Dern; (1968)

I was all over the City. Star Trek at the Balboa, Easy Virtue at the Landmark Embarcadero, Inglorious Bastards at the YBCA and Psych-Out at the Red Vic.

Star Trek is a major hit so I don't need to add much to the chorus. I enjoyed it but am a little disappointed that they rendered the original TV and movie series an alternate reality. Damn time travel; it's Star Trek writers' cocaine. How many times has the crew of the Starship Enterprise gone back in time? Some parts of the plot were silly but they did some interesting reinterpretations of the old familiars. Uhura is more accomplished and self-confident and Sulu is more masculine or de-Asianified (i.e. not hewing to the Asian male stereotype). Zach Quinto plays Spock half and half. He captures a lot of Nimoy's mannerisms but his Spock embraces his human side (as well as Uhura's human side) more openly. Come to think of it, Spock is quite the hypocrite; he hauls Kirk before the disciplinary board for "cheating" on the Kobayashi Maru exam but he's a Starfleet instructor having a relationship with his student.

Zach Quinto and Zoe Saldana in Star Trek

Easy Virtue screened at the 2009 San Francisco International Film Festival and the Mostly British Film Series at the Vogue. I had been looking forward to it for a few months. Based on a Noël Coward play set in the 1920's, the film is ostensibly a cutting satire on elitism and sexism in post-WWI British society. Viewed through the 21st century commercial cinematic prism, the film is primarily a vehicle for Jessica Biel and Kristin Scott Thomas to trade barbs and match wits. Biel holds the moral high ground especially given modern attitudes but I thought Scott Thomas gave the stronger performance. The film was uproariously funny for the first 3/4 but tacks on a serious ending that seems out of place. Kris Marshall as Furber adds to the pantheon of great deadpan performances by actors playing the butler. Kimberley Nixon as Biel's childish, cruel and morbid sister-in-law also stood out.

Kimberley Nixon, Kristin Scott Thomas and Katherine Parkinson (left to right) in Easy Virtue

I don't have much to say about Inglorious Bastards. I wasn't too impressed and wonder what Tarantino sees that I don't. I thought the film looked like a cheesy 70's action film. The special effects reminded me of a cross between an episode of The A-Team and those 1960/70's horrorfests that used squib bullets with unrealistically pink blood.

Psych-Out wasn't very good either but as a Hippie era touchstone, it was fascinating. Jack Nicholson wears a ponytail and Bruce Dern looks like Jesus. Susan Strasberg looks like she is 35 years old (she was 29 at the time of the filming) but is playing a 17 year old runaway; Nicholson looks like he's 40 (he was 31). Stockwell looks pretty much the same. Anyway, the plot involves Strasberg looking for her brother in San Francisco (Haight-Ashbury to be specific). Seeing the film in the same area where it was filmed added to the experience (like seeing Milk at the Castro Theater). The plot is just an excuse to film some exterior shots of San Francisco, espouse Hippie credo and for Stockwell to point out the shortcomings in Nicholson's character (and by extension the whole "turn on, tune in and drop out" lifestyle). I found it interesting that Nicholson beds the underage Strasberg and nothing is made of the statutory rape. Stockwell only criticizes Nicholson's promiscuous ways not his choice of underage sex partners. Of course, Stockwell later drops acid with Strasberg so he wasn't in a position to criticize. Incense and Peppermints (one of my favorite songs from the era) was on the soundtrack.

Jack Nicholson and Susan Strasberg in Psych-Out

No comments: