I have been watching a lot of movies lately. It feels like I'm getting back into the swing of things. Yesterday afternoon, I watched Vanilla Sky
for the first time with James, and later on I went to see Let the Right One In
with a bunch of friends. They don't seem like comparable films, but I am going to compare them anyway, because the biggest most noticeable thing about both of them is that there are plenty of things that do not work, and the question becomes whether or not I will still enjoy the movie in spite of these little failures. I guess the successes must outweigh such things. And, I haven't done this in a long time, but I think this may be the occasion for a list.
1 - Eroticism.
First, two pictures, one from each film, and then we can discuss.
I rarely, if ever, find myself wanting Tom Cruise. Apparently, I only want him when he is insane, judging by the fact that I was strangely in love with him when I saw Eyes Wide Shut
last spring, and he's a little crazy in that too. Anyway, bravo to Cameron Crowe's casting director, because Penelope Cruz and Tom have such great chemistry that it made me a little jealous. Ok, more than a little jealous. Every scene between them was so sexually charged. I mean, obviously the one the above shot is from. But even just conversations - it all felt so intense, and the feeling of intensity heightened the overall intensity of the movie, which was really great. Also, Jason Leigh was too awesome, and every time he had a scene I got very excited.
On the other hand, some chemistry feels incredibly forced. I did not believe it when anyone interacted in this movie, let alone the two main characters. All of it was very forced. I've never seen a Swedish movie before (and let me tell you, sitting in the basement theater of my local art house theater watching a Swedish vampire movie made me feel like the most pretentious person to ever have lived), so maybe that has something to do with it? I have no idea. I want to give this movie credit for...well, what I'm not sure. The relationship between Oskar and Eli just felt inauthentic to me. The way the movie ended, in spite of being understandable, was totally unjustified by what I had seen of their relationship up to that point. I was really just left confused. All of it just felt cold.
2 - Visuals.Vanilla Sky
has probably one of the most disturbing images I've had to think about in awhile, and something about it felt so Shakespearean - the scene in the club when Tom Cruise is dancing with his mask on backwards. As if he was Two-Face's coin, or some strange being halved while remaining whole. I was seriously bothered by it, had a nightmare about it last night, the whole nine yards.LTROI
tried really hard to build tension, having things come to a head slowly, but maybe it was too slow, because I didn't feel like I was being held in suspense. Also, the special effects were really poorly done - cats that looked like Puss in Boots from Shrek, a pillar of fire that the actors didn't seem able to act against effectively, and Eli drifting down from a jungle gym slightly slower than a normal person would fall (a la Twighlight
, which I really did not want to be reminded of, even though I haven't had the displeasure of seeing it). Any moment when they tried particularly hard to freak out the audience, I felt about to laugh. In fact, I think I laughed more often than I was scared. Was it intentional? I have no idea. I can't speak Swedish. Maybe all of it was a joke.
There were a lot of shots I thought were particularly beautiful, but then I realized that the majority of those shots were landscapes, and it isn't the most difficult thing in the world to frame a bunch of snowy buildings in a way that makes them eye-catching. And besides the landscapes, everything else looked like it was slightly out of focus. I took a lot of time wondering whether it was a period piece because everyone was dressed like it was 1979, but it was so unclear that I eventually gave up.
3 - Plot.
I have problems with the Matrix-type resolution Tom Cruise gets at the end of Vanilla Sky
, not only because it is a too-perfect way to wrap up the story, but also because I saw it coming early on and wanted him to figure things out for himself without having to be told the play-by-play from a source that I don't even really trust. And the confusion between dreams and reality got a little heavy-handed as the movie went on, which disappointed me, because it was a really fun concept to play with. However, at least the movie tries to answer all your questions effectively. The same can't be said for everybody who makes a movie.
Especially not the filmmakers who thought that throwing a vampire into the mix who absolve them of having to explain anything. Homosexual overtones? Nope, not gonna cover that. Why Eli needs someone to help her survive when she seems quite capable on her own? Not explained. The 50's-style gang of school-children who seemed destined to grow into the thugs from A Clockwork Orange
because of their strange unmotivated sadism? Who knows why they exist. Everything felt like it was set up as walls for the characters to crash their way through and not even turn around to survey the damage. Whenever anything new was brought up, I found myself sighing, because I figured it wouldn't be resolved, and I was right pretty much every time. I mean, maybe I asked for all of it by buying my movie ticket. But someone really should have warned me about how dissatisfied I was going to be with how they chose to handle the story. I was glad that the rules of vampirism weren't laid out in black and white as they usually are, but there weren't any rules to the film really, which made it difficult to think within the confines of the film - it was a story with too many factors and not enough guidance from the filmmakers in how to deal with said factors.
4 - References.Vanilla Sky
brings in a painting in an unpretentious way. Bravo for giving a famous piece of art a very special place in the movie. And then there is the decidedly less classy reference. When I hear (or in this case, read) the line "squeal, piggy, squeal", I automatically think of Deliverance
. It doesn't matter that I have not seen that movie. It just cannot be said without being a reference. And for some reason, that line and variations on it kept popping up all over the place in LTROI
. It was distracting and unmotivated and obviously, like most everything else in the movie, never explained.
So which one did I like better? I'll tell you in another life, when we are both cats.