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Old September 26 2012, 09:31 PM   #1051
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Re: Movies Seen in 2012

144. 12 Monkeys (B+)
145. North by Northwest (A)
146. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (B+)
147. Bottle Rocket (B)

12 Monkeys remains a solid time travel movie, with a good cast all around (Christopher Plummer, Frank Gorshin, and David Morse are all in small, but essential roles). Not too long ago, I argued that this wasn't really Terry Gilliam's film, and he does spend much of the special features stating that he was a gun-for-hire. Nevertheless, I think there are more than a few sequences which show off his visual style both in terms of production design and photographic choices (the early mental institution scenes are reminiscent of Brazil, for example). I don't think this is a superior version of Chris Marker's original short, but it shouldn't be dismissed as something lesser than the original.

North by Northwest remains a joy and, for my money, is probably Alfred Hitchcock's best movie (although there are other candidates for that spot such as Psycho and Rear Window which are also superb; I wouldn't rank Vertigo as his very best, but it's also excellent). Cary Grant is perfectly cast in his last role for the director (thankfully James Stewart, who lobbied for the role, wasn't chosen). The music score is perfect. The dialogue is as sharp as ever, and for a movie of this period, pretty explicit. I've seen it so many times that I know every plot point and twist, but it was refreshing to see it with an audience who wasn't so familiar with the material.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is a film I've never loved (Capra was always a bit of a sentimental filmmaker for my tastes, although this film does sneak in a surprising amount of cynicism here), but always admired (and, oddly, only seen on the big screen; this is the third time I've seen it projected). Stewart and Arthur are quite good, and the supporting cast (especially Claude Rains) is perfect for the material. Some of the rear projection makes the movie feel a little cheap, but I suppose most of the budget went to elaborate reproductions of the senate and the surrounding area -- and, boy, do those sets look terrific. The way the script keeps avoiding naming Jeff Smith's state is a little awkward, though. I understand the reasoning -- he could be from any state, at least any state "out west" -- but it gets a little silly the more ways they find to avoid saying it.

Bottle Rocket might be Wes Anderson's best film that I've seen so far (which is everything, I believe, except for his most recent movie). It displays a lot of his usual themes and ideas (young, privileged white men who are a bit naive or crazy) as well as most of his signature visual style, but never to the excess of his later work. Luke Wilson is quite good in the lead, which only makes his current career as cell phone spokesman all the more disappointing (yes, he's still making films, but not of the same profile as those of his brother Owen Wilson, who is also good here). Poor Andrew Wilson didn't make it for whatever reason, but he's fine in a small role here. The story is a bit thin, but this is mostly about the characters, who sustain the film's disciplined 91 minutes.

Theatres: 48+2
Home Video: 90+1
Computer: 9
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