September 22nd, 2012

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End of Watch

When I realized I was gonna have a completely clear weekend, I played some schedule Tetris to figure out what movies I could best see when and where. Highest priority was The Master and End of Watch, and I realized that the Fenway would be the most convenient. Added bonus, it'd be a chance to maybe hang with my long lost roomie who I've hardly seen since we moved to different addresses. I texted her my plan. Her response was that she was busy with work, but would try and make it happen, especially if the movies were anything like 21 Jump Street, our previous outing. I responded that they were more on the dramatic side, but that Watch did have gorgeous guys playing cops. That sold her, at least for the one movie.

I have a cousin who's a cop. I couldn't help but think of her throughout the whole \m/ movie. The opening lines sounded like the police pride posts that populate her page on Facebook. I was hooked. Upon leaving the movie, the roomie's comment was that she loved the film, especially because the cops were shown in a good light instead of dark and corrupt like you typically see in Hollywood. I couldnt agree more.

The film follows a pair of police partners, played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena, thru their LA beat over the course of a few months. There were some flaws with the set up. It was presented as a sorta "found footage" type, with Gyllenhaal's Taylor recording their day to day for a film project. Most of it was believably from his cameras, but there were definitely a lot of shots that weren't. Not a big deal, but for someone like me who can get caught up on insignificant details, it just bugged me. The film class was also a sorta throwaway excuse for the footage. There were only like two lines of dialogue about him studying, and the timeline seemed to span way longer than a semester. Those are really more nitpicks. The more glaring flaw for me was that there wasn't much plot or thru-story. It was mostly small vignettes of their watch on various days, with a bit of a rushed timeframe. While some of the stories were connected to build up to the climax, it felt like random snapshots. They were all absorbing, but I didn't get that feeling that pulls you to keep watching, wanting to know how things are gonna conclude.

But none of that really mattered. Ultimately, this was about the characters, and they were fantastic. Jake Gyllenhaal is waaaaay up on my list of fave actors (and this time 3 weeks from now I'll be stage door stalking him in NYC after seeing him in If There Is, I Haven't Found It Yet). He adds a special charm and sensitivity to the tortured tough guy thing. The heart of the movie was rising star Michael Peña. He just exuded such dedication to the force, to his partner, to his wife. This was a guy you wanted to have watch your six, and they are both men I would be proud to serve with, well if I had any interest in serving. The force also had a couple of bad ass women officers. America Ferrera was unrecognizable and absolutely stunning as a cop. The way she could hold her own mouthing off against the bad guys was impressive and intimidating. Her partner was Magic Mike's Cody Horn. My initial (and admittedly sexist) reaction was, really? Two girls as partners? But seeing these two girls together, ain't nobody gonna \m/ with them. We also had Anna Kendrick as Gyllenhaal's love interest. She's just a bubbly burst of energy, adding a touch of light fun to the film with each of her scenes.

Anyways, the characters were so strong that once we did get to the film's climax, it really was edge of your seat, heart pounding, worried about what's gonna happen next. Even if the structure of the film didn't adequately provide buildup, the actors were able to carry it to that point giving a very moving and satisfying end. To reiterate something that I'd previously stated, I very much appreciate that these cops were genuine good guys. I felt strongly enough about that that the first thing I did when I got out of the movie was post on my cop cousin's wall and encourage her to check out this movie.

End of Watch - \m/ \m/ \m/ \n
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The Master

I'm not even sure how to write this one. I include Paul Thomas Anderson on my list of demigods. I dont worship him as much as I do Quentin Tarantino, but he's on the next tier. Magnolia is one of my all time favorite movies. Really, Magnolia is reason enough to wanna see everything this man has ever made. Toss There Will Be Blood into the mix, and I'm salivating just thinking of work from this man. Unfortunately, there's a couple of downsides to this. One is that it means I go into his movies with unreasonably high expectations. The other is that I forget that Anderson's work takes time to process (no pun intended for those who have seen The Master).

I was kinda disappointed at first that I wasn't quite getting this movie, but then I remembered that's how it typically goes. I did not enjoy ...Blood on the first viewing. I'd especially thought the I drink your milkshake scene was dumb. But after chewing on it for a while, I absolutely love that movie, and that scene in particular is iconic. Hell, I even have a tshirt with those lines on it. As far as Magnolia, I do remember being struck by it immediately, but it wasn't until reflecting on it today that I realized I really did not understand half of it. I did think the whole everyone-is-connected thing was incredible, but I'd missed most of the coincidence thing (even though that frames the film) and I had no \m/ clue what was up with the frogs. My point is, it's not without precendence for me to miss the point of a PT Anderson movie, at first.

The Master is sorta known as the Scientology movie that's not really about Scientology. What I mean by that is that it's about an organization, The Cause that has more than coincidental similarities to some of our favorite Hollywood stars' belief system of choice. Our lost soul, Joaquin Phoenix, finds his way to our L Ron Hubbard type, Philip Seymour Hoffman, a writer/scientist/doctor/leader of the masses. It took a while to get there. A LOT of time was spent in establishing our lost soul as being incredibly lost. But we were also establishing that this clearly is PT Anderson film. I got more invested in it once we started to see inside The Cause. But even then, it wasn't quite what I was expecting.

While I may not be too sure of what profound meaning was behind everything, what was undeniable was the incredible performances. No surprise that Hoffman was phenomenal. That man can do no wrong in my eyes. He's someone whose Academy Award I consider to be an award for his career, not a specific performance. This movie is further proof he deserves it. But the one I was really struck by was Phoenix, particularly with his physicality. Between the weight loss and the slouch he was an entirely different person than I remember him as. Granted, my strongest memory of him is from Gladiator. Here he was also someone you felt sympathic for and disgusted by, a very delicate balance. Amy Adams also turned in an against type performance. I'm so used to seeing her as cute and bubbly, not reserved and serious. It was interesting, and I loved watching her.

Still, I'm not quite sure what to make of this movie. Today I think it was slow and drawn out. Maybe in a few days or after another viewing I'll see it's subtle brilliance that I love about Anderson. Here's hoping.

The Master - \m/ \m/ \m/