10 Movies I Changed My Mind About

I hated Pulp Fiction the first time I saw it.  The first Tarantino movie I’d ever seen was Kill Bill: Vol. 1, which is a decidedly gorier and altogether more accessible movie for an eighth grader (technically I wasn’t legally “mature enough” for either by the MPAA’s standards), although I was the only one in my grade who seemed to enjoy it.  When I watched Pulp Fiction for a second (and a third and a fourth ad infinitum) viewing, it gripped me like few other movies had before or since.  To this day it is still one of my all-time favorites.

Movies, especially great ones, often change from viewing to viewing, not because they are different but because we are.  Though we now live in an age of Rotten Tomato blurbs and aggregated consensus, a critic’s most valued possession is still their written voice.  With every review now posted quickly and then archived online, conversation on most movies usually peaks quickly when they are first released, and then dissipates just as fast.  The only time afforded to looking back is the annual “Best of the Year” cluster fuck.

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REVIEW: Melancholia

Melancholia
Directed by: Lars von Trier
Written by: Lars von Trier (screenplay)
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland and Alexander Skarsgard

When Lars von Trier announced “No more happy endings,” after the premiere of his last film, Antichrist, people were a little dismayed.  Had any of his movies actually had a happy ending in the traditional sense?  Bjork dangling from a rope at the end of Dancer in the Dark, an entire village (and America by extension) facing a woman scorned at the end of Dogville, a man walking through the woods and then being overcome by persecuted female ghosts (or something like that) in Antichrist- he’s not exactly Disney material.

His latest, Melancholia, certainly contains a grim conclusion whether or not you subscribe to the “more” part of his proclamation.  This is a film in which the world ends and everyone on it perishes, but not before a young woman succumbs to crippling depression during her wedding.

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If they were in television… Lars von Trier

Notable films: Europa, Dancer in the Dark, Antichrist, Dogville, Breaking the Waves, and The Idiots.

Famous for: Shocking his audience, controversy, female lead performances, depressing idealism, anti-religious undercurrents, beautifully unique visuals, low budget hand-held camera angles, talking about his fears and emotions, and refusing to watch his own movies.

Hypothetical title: Heaven’s Highway

Hypothetical premise: After being set up for a misdemeanor and kicked out by her polygamist family, lonely widow Gretchen kills her abusive father and flees her small west-coast mountain town.  Emerging from the mountains a completely new person, she begins rebuilding her life for herself, learning her sense of individuality and coming into her own.  However, the past catches back up to her, and she is soon on the run from the law as well as her haunting, abusive past.  She begins seeing delusional crimes committed in everyday life, mimicking both the ones her father did and the way she killed him. When the police catch her, there is no proof that her father was the patriarch of a repressive polygamist regime because nobody in it will talk but her.  She is sentenced to life in prison, but commits suicide after reflecting on how good her life was for those few months.

Cross between: Thelma and Louise, Dancer in the Dark, Big Love, and Dogville.

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ARCHIVE REVIEW: Antichrist

Antichrist
Directed by: Lars von Trier
Written by: Lars von Trier
Starring: Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg

Much has been made of this visually striking, grotesquely dark film from Danish auteur Lars von Trier.  The rumors are true, almost all of them.  There is a talking fox.  There is a gruesome climax filled with not one, but two, genital mutilations.  If the latter doesn’t draw in today’s torture porn crowd, it’s only because the barbarity doesn’t fall within the tight moral coding and sugar-coated bloodbath of the Saw franchise.

Von Trier likes to think of himself as above mere mutilation for the sake of it, but viewing this film as a tale with morals when the content is so morally reprehensible creates kind of a paradox.  His film is at times visually striking, and at times brutally unwatchable.

It begins with a beautifully filmed yet tragic slow-motion black and white sequence of a couple (William Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg) making love while their son sneaks out of his crib and plummets out a window to his death.  Mr. von Trier is not above starting out his film with the most cliche form of tragedy: kill the kid.

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