What I am Watching: Match Point, Crawl, and Midsommer

I had a bit of time to watch some movie this weekend. Below you can read some quick reviews or you can click on the link below and listen on YouTube where I go a little more in-depth.

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Match Point (2005)

I am a huge Woody Allen fan, but for whatever reason, I skipped this movie when it came out. This weekend I was invited to a talk on the movie, so decided that it would be a good time to catch up on a film that many have raved about over the years.

A young tennis-instructor falls in love with his soon-to-be brother-in-law’s wife. He then must decide how to manage this crisis in the best way he knows how – is he feeling lucky?

Match Point is certainly an entertaining flick, and I could definitely see where it got its mass audience appeal – it’s very streamlined, it doesn’t have the usual Allen wordy dialogue, and it replaces Allen with a cast of young beautiful people, most notably,  Scarlett Johansson.

I enjoyed the movie throughout, but my main issue with it is that it does tread on a lot of usual Allen ground, thematically. He mainly plays with his two main themes, one, that life is a fluke and that all is left to luck and chance, and, two, dealing with falling in love/lust with someone the male protagonist either should not or cannot have. Allen has made dozens of movies that rely heavily on these two notions, going as far back as Play it Again, Sam.

Perhaps, for those who are not as familiar with Allen’s work (and given his drop in the box office and quality in the years preceding this film, it is quite possible) this movie stands out as something new and fresh. For those who are already fans, it may come as a bit of a retread on old themes – it just happens to be an exceedingly well put together retread.

Match Point is worth a watch for anyone, like me, who had been putting it off.

 

Crawl (2019)

A heavy storm brings a bunch of alligators to shore in Florida but a daughter decides she wants to stay back and find her missing father.

This movie was two steps removed from Sharknado, except that I think it would not have known how to balance the “it’s so bad it’s good formula” as well as those movies do. What keeps Crawl a neck’s length above water is its two leads, Kaya Scodelario, and Barry Pepper. Together they form a father and daughter dynamic duo.  There is an attempt at adding a bit of “daddy-issues” drama in their relationship, but I am glad that that took all but 5 lines of dialogue to resolve before letting them go into survival mode together.

I only wish the movie had been a bit gorier. Its last act actually amps up the intensity level to the point where it should have been at the start. Still, the pacing is pretty great and the actors manage to play well in the absurdity of it all. This is not Jaws, but it is a decent summer popcorn flick that has a lot more fun with itself than last year’s mega-water-predator movie, Meg.

 

Midsommer (2019)

A group of college students and “the girlfriend” are invited to go to their friend’s village in Sweden for the Midsommer festival. Bad things happen, because why wouldn’t they?

I liked this movie a lot more than Hereditary, which made me want to scratch my eyeballs out in absolute boredom. Ari Astor has proved that he knows how to play behind the camera. He sets up beautiful shots and knows how to drive us along in his spiraly visions like a master. His main issue for me is that he is an idea-guy, and idea-guys don’t always know how to create tension and a great story.

Midsommer, at its core, is a pretty simple tale, yet Mr. Astor insists in dragging it out for two-and-a-half hours.  While his better focus on the central idea made it easier to get through this movie than the jumbled bunch of ideas in Hereditary, it still left me sort of empty at the end. All of these characters were mere caricatures. I did not care if any lived or died, nor did finding out any of them had died carry any meaning for me after the film finished. In short, Ari should watch more Woody Allen and learn that plot alone is not what drives a film.

In short, idea-people are great – George Lucas is a great example of an idea-man. The problem with idea-people is that they often need a good editor or story-person alongside them to show them what makes good drama – internal and external conflict, character developments and arcs, and the tension built from those elements. Only the main character has a bit of a cathartic awakening at the end of this movie, and even then it is mostly drug and cult-induced – so does it really count?

Midsommer could have lost 40 minutes of its runtime and still have managed to tell exactly the same story, but then perhaps it would not have been considered an “artsy masterpiece” for its long lingering shots of Swedes standing and sitting and sitting and standing and then standing and sitting again.

I am happy guys like Ari are around, though. As much as I did not like Hereditary, I saw enough in it to appreciate that the guy has talent, and this movie was certainly an improvement. Him, along with Jordan Peele, are pushing the bounds of horror and drama and doing interesting work regardless of whether they hit or miss.

Midsommer is worth the watch. It may even leave a mark on you, it left me with nothing, but at least I stuck through it to the end relatively intrigued by what I was watching. I can only see this young writer/director improving and honing his craft in the next few years.

Despite enjoying this movie a bit more, I will give this guy a plug, as I really thought his views on the movie were pretty funny.

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