Friday, September 3, 2010

A Guilty Pleasure; An Old Favorite--Thursday Journal

Two recent viewings from my personal DVD Vault:

The 2007 thriller "Disturbia" appealed to me on many levels, to my complete surprise, and delight.

Those who check in here regularly know that my taste in film is toward more esoteric, obscure, retro and socially significant works.  I generally avoid films that are marketed as mindless social lubricant to a more frivolous mindset.  Some may find my own favorite films irrelevant....or that I'm out of touch for scorning the latest technologies.

But in spite of its obvious pitch to the sex-and-horror teen market,  I found "Disturbia" a really effective mix of the standard teen love-and-buddy story and stalker-thriller. 

What sets "Disturbia" apart is its heart.  It finds human relationships important, and honestly explores the troubles and psyche of an extremely likable, good-hearted, sometimes goofy teen named Kale (Shia LaBeouf) who suffers the painful loss of his father and finds himself confined to house arrest after assaulting his teacher.

In a clever mix of "Rear Window" and "Silence of the Lambs", this kid enlists the help of his best buddy and the new girl-next-door to expose and thwart a possible serial-killer  who lives across the street.  It's all absurd, but the screenwriter mines it for its human elements, and creates some wonderful set-pieces in the romance and action departments.

(I was completely won over when Kale expresses admiration for his girl Ashley (Sarah Roemer) by confessing the beauty he found in her while "spying", including the fact that she reads books, not just fashion magazines, but "substantial books.")

The direction is smart and effectively keeps the action within the house and the boundaries within which our hero must restrict himself to or be arrested.  Credit to the art directors for creating a detailed and authentically suburban milieu within the house and outside of it; to the cinematographer who covers the action with lots of movement and elaborate, seamless lighting design; and the film editor for achieving clean pacing and using exquisite closeups.

Shia LaBeouf is also terrifically watchable, and won me over with his mischievous boyishness and surprising depth of emotion.  Carrie Ann Moss is so believable as a reasonable mother coping with her husband's death and the repercussions felt by her son.  Moss is so straightforward that we never doubt her love for her son.  And David Morse radiates the evil of Hannibal Lecter, alternately bland and sinister.

The violence is cartoonish and startling but not explicit, and elicits the gasps of the funhouse.  It's a solid little movie that will not go into the annals of the classics,  but will be worth bringing out again as Halloween approaches.

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Next evening I reveled in Martin Scorsese's "Mean Streets", and remembered what it was I found exciting about Scorsese so many years ago when he (and I) discovered the possibilities in the medium of film.

This was a product of the early 1970's when movie audiences accepted a film that was content to observe human behavior and needed no artificially imposed plot, no pandering or lame jokes or tidy endings.

Scorsese was experimental in his camera movements and film speed, color and ambient sound and music.  The score, in particular, has a bite that "American Graffiti", blandly nostalgic, lacked.  "Mean Streets" plays like a dry-run for the more polished "Goodfellas".

Robert DeNiro burst into stardom with this film.  (A year later he would win an Oscar for his portrayal of a young Vito Corleone in "The Godfather Part II".)  It is so clear, watching this, that Scorsese could push his own boundaries and turn up the intensity when he had DeNiro as a collaborator.  They brought out each others best strengths, and enhanced them, to maximum effect.  DeNiro's appearance in common comedies and weak dramas, and Scorsese's reliance on the puppyish Leonardo DiCaprio, make me long for the old dynamic duo and the horrific magic they created together, unforgettably, in this film, "Taxi Driver", and "Raging Bull".

When I first saw "Mean Streets" I was, at the time, shooting and cutting my own movies on Super-8 Film stock--the same kind used in the credit sequence.  Still one of my favorite credit sequences, and a highlight of "Mean Streets".  Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. Have never seen Mean Streets (soon, probably), but I LOVE Disturbia. How can I *not* love a movie that introduced me to Viola Davis? Glad you appreciate it, too :)