20 September 2010

September 20th

Lil K-Stein
Halloween 2010 didn't really get started for me until I cracked the seal on my giant tub o' decorations after work today.  Lil K helped me unpack when she wasn't distracted by the Halloween episode of Dora the Explorer playing in the background.  Sweet Nyarlathotep, Dora's voice is annoying.  How do other parents stand it?  Got no one to blame but myself for that, though, since the episode was on Lil K's Halloween gift.

I also whipped up my traditional Halloween candy mix: a massive trick-or-treat bag filled will with all of the important Halloween food groups (you know: peanut butter cups, chocolate bars, Bottle Caps, M&Ms...).  Thanks to the numbers printed on the candy bags, I was able to add them all up this year: 445 pieces of candy.  Damn.  Still, estimating 75 calories per fun-sized piece, eating the whole bag would only add 9.5 pounds to your body or so (assuming my math is correct).  That doesn't seem so bad, now does it?  Even if it were, I've got friends to help with the eating and trick-or-treaters to give handfuls to.

Se7en (1995) directed by David Fincher
Like swimming in a dirty puddle for two hours, but one with a beautiful rainbow of oil floating on top.  I'm glad the Fox execs pissed Fincher off so badly during the filming of Alien3.  I'm thinking this anger gifted Fincher with the proper hunger to tear into his follow-up project with the obsessiveness, technical prowess and eye for detail we've come to expect from him.

As many times as I've seen this movie, I can't believe I've never picked up on the connection between John Doe and Somerset before. Doe is Somerset's dark mirror.  Both well-educated men are upset by the apathy they see -- to sin for Doe and to crime for Somerset -- and both fight that apathy in the only ways they can.  Despite his continual protests throughout the movie, everything Somerset says about himself and his impending retirement is a lie.  He does think "picking up the pieces" matters.  Mills was right on target when he tells Somerset in the bar: "I don't think you're quitting because of these things you say.  I think you say these things because you're quitting."  In the end, in the face of Doe's monstrous evil, he finally realizes that he can't leave the fight.  Like Doe, who couldn't ignore the sin he saw everywhere, that's just not the way Somerset is built.  That I never noticed this before makes me feel like an idiot.  "'The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.' I agree with the second part."

Howard Shore's music for the film is absolutely perfect.  Shore's not one of those composers where you'd rush out to buy the CD soundtrack for your car.  You're not going to be whistling his themes to yourself like you would with a John Williams score. What Shore always excels at is creating a music mood that supports and enhances everything on the screen without ever overpowering it (take notes, Danny Elfman).  It's particularly effective during the finale, in which his music slowly ratchets up in tempo and volume, enhancing the tension of that scene much beyond what it would've been with, say, a violin-screechy Bernard Herrmann score.

Both my favorite serial killer movie of all time and, still, Fincher's best work. (10/10)

Saw (2004) directed by James Wan
The last time I watched Saw I compared it to Se7en, so it felt like a logical follow-up for tonight.  It comes off worse with the immediate comparison.  It easy to tell that Saw was heavily influenced, in part, by Se7en.  Jigsaw is a preacher in the same manner as John Doe, and both like to force their victims to kill themselves or others.  The films share a certain grimy aesthetic; the bathroom the men are locked in could easily be a side room in Doe's apartment.  The serial killers come out on top in both films with their pursuing detectives completely defeated.  And, hell, Det. Tapp even uses the same style of notebooks that Doe used for his journals.

It wasn't a bad movie premise at its heart: "what if we got to spend some time with one of John Doe's victims as they struggled to make their choice?"  It's an interesting idea to explore with plenty of possibilities for pathos courtesy of the trapped men.  However, I don't think this was meaty enough of an idea to built a whole movie out of.

I couldn't find it in me to care about the slowly unraveling mysteries behind Adam and Lawrence's connections and Lawrence's martial troubles.  After a while, the constant flashbacks into back-story just felt like padding.  Maybe they were.  I haven't see the original short Saw film, but I have a feeling it didn't include an adultery subplot.  Similarly, I couldn't find it in me to care about the detectives in the film, either.  They both seemed like unfleshed-out archetypes of detectives and not fully-developed people.  Danny Glover, in particular, gives a terrible performance as a man obsessed with solving the case.

The film's origins as a short and a near-direct-to-DVD movie are never really overcome, making the movie feel cheaper and more rushed and not quite as polished as I would've liked. I am looking forward to seeing where the sequels take this story, however, as I can't imagine what else they can do with it for six more movies outside of having Jigsaw preach to more victims. (6/10)

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