Noah -2014-

Image

Directed by Darren Aronofsky. 138 mins.

Worth my time? Yes. (Seen at AMC Promenade 16, Woodland Hills)

After his relatively small-scale The Wrestler and Black Swan, Aronofsky has returned to the batshit crazy epic storytelling he demonstrated with The Fountain almost a decade a go. Like its spiritual successor, Noah is going to be divisive. This film doesn’t simply go off the rails ­– it was never on the rails in the first place. I loved The Fountain, and while Noah doesn’t ascend to its level, you’ll like it if you’re willing to roll with it.

From what I’ve read online, many viewers, religious and secular alike, take issue with the bizarre creative license that Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel take with the story of the Flood as told in the Book of Genesis. The most infamous deviation from the source material has been the film’s inclusion of the Watchers, more commonly known as “the rock monsters.” I have no idea why folks are dwelling on this one point.

First of all, the Watchers are awesome. I was sympathetic to their plight, an impressive achievement considering that these characters are literally made of stone. The team at Industrial Light and Magic deserves props for successfully bringing these dudes to life so well.

Secondly, this is a fucking adaptation of the fucking story of Noah’s fucking ark. This is one of the weirdest stories ever to come out of the ancient world, and it’s the Watchers that break your suspension of disbelief? Fuck off, you’re just looking for something to whine about.

The film is flawed, to be sure. Noah’s shift to psychological-thriller territory in the third act is an interesting narrative choice, but the film still feels a half-hour too long. Still, there’s a lot to like here. There’s plenty of eye candy ranging from Griffithian wide shots to the Requiem for a Dream-esque rapid-fire montages which cover the stories of Creation and the Fall. And per usual, Clint Mansell’s score is damn good.

(Seen and written on 2014-04-02)

Slaughterhouse Five -1972-

Image

Directed by George Roy Hill. 104 mins.

 Worth my time? Yes. (Watched on DVD)

 A nutty, nearly-great piece of New Hollywood. I somehow made it through fours years of UC Berkeley without reading Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, so I went in blind.

 SPOILER ALERT: The eponymous slaughterhouse doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time.

 The biggest draw is editor Dede Allen’s seamless transitions between moments in the life of Billy Pilgrim (Michael Sacks), a World War II veteran who spontaneously “time-trips” between his childhood, his death, and into eternity. Sacks’ performance isn’t all that compelling (there’s a reason the dude quit acting and now works on Wall Street), but Pilgrim’s life has lots of great moments – which is pretty much all that makes life worth living. Hill (and Vonnegut, I suppose), beautifully illustrate humanity’s tendency to progressively envelope itself in memories and fantasies as it ages.

 I’d love to watch a Slaughterhouse Five / Johnny Got His Gun double-feature since both of them deal with dissociative veterans. Also, the overlapping timelines and juxtaposition of similar events demonstrate that The Fountain, Cloud Atlas (I wish that film was half as good as its trailer), and a gazillion other movies owe a debt to Slaughterhouse Five.

 (Seen and originally written on 2013-07-09)