Thursday, September 20, 2012

Metropolitan, War of the Arrows, Withnail and I

Metropolitan, by Whit Stillman, 1990

Holy cats, guys, I think I've finally found my Whiteness Threshold.  I'm a dedicated Wes Anderson fan, I listen to and enjoy Vampire Weekend, and I say things like "holy cats", so I'm pretty white, but I think Whit Stillman's Metropolitan may have been too white for me.  It's a pretty good movie, I guess, but I just couldn't relate.

Metropolitan follows the lives of a group of rich New York college kids who are a part of the debutante society.  They meet up on weekends and talk about intellectual bullshit (and it's pretty bullshitty, they're college freshmen after all) and basically act like people I could never have a conversation with.  The main character is a kid named Tom, who has hit a financial rough patch with his parents' divorce, and is hanging out with these snobby types even though he's poor.  He's just as pretend smart as the rest of them, though; one of my favorite jokes was when he quotes a criticism on Jane Austen and the girl who likes him, Audrey, asks if he's ever even read the book.  He admits that he hasn't.  In fact, he doesn't read books at all, only criticism.  That way he can get the story and a point of view on it.

Anyway, I'm just giving the movie a hard time.  Objectively speaking, Metropolitan is a good film.  And the characters actually do grow on you as the story progresses, though I still constantly found myself thinking, "do people REALLY talk like this?"  Whit Stillman is kind of gently making fun of kids like this (with a name like Whit Stillman, I assume he was once one of them), and showing that for all their intellectual and cultured talk, they're really just teenagers and they have no real life experience or wisdom to back up their ideas.  I actually would like to see Stillman's film The Last Days of Disco.  Even though I'm sure everybody still talks like this, the subject matter interests me.

War of the Arrows, by Han-Min Kim, 2011

With The Hunger Games and The Avengers and Brave all out this year, bows and arrows sure are popular.  Well, South Korea got the jump on our little trend and made a huge historical epic last year with more arrows than you can shake a bow at.  This movie has more bows and more arrows than all three of those movies COMBINED.  Not only that, but people get shot with said arrows in every imaginable way.  In the arms, in the legs, in the chest, you name it.  Necks.

War of the Arrows isn't all just arrows.  There is also WAR.  And also a brother forming a ragtag group to rescue his kidnapped sister and ward off an invading army.  It's really cool.  The story is engaging, the action is awesome, the characters are likeable.  These are all icing on the cake, though, because what I'm most excited about is the arrows.  The only way this movie could have been better is if the main character had a talking arrow who helped him aim or something. 

Anyway, I know this review is really short and one-note, but I liked War of the Arrows a lot.  Totally worth your time.

Withnail and I, by Bruce Robinson, 1987

Withnail and I is one of the strangest films I've seen in a while, and followers of this blog might know that I watch a lot of strange films.  It's the story of two struggling actors in London in the late 1960's.  Withnail (Richard E. Grant) is a hard livin' type, pretty much a drunk, always raging at the world.  "I" (Paul McGann, AKA the 8th Doctor) is the sort of complacent second fiddle who always goes along with Withnail's schemes and worries himself to death all along the way as they get into deeper and deeper trouble.

There's not really much more of a "story".  It's just a ridiculous, darkly comedic, and weirdly enjoyable chain of events.  They go to get money from Withnail's rich, gay uncle, wind up stealing his car and the keys to his country house.  They end up stranded there with no money.  Then the gay uncle turns up and tries to seduce "I".  And so on.

Withnail and I kind of reminds me of the Coen Brothers' cult classic The Big Lebowski.  Both have lots of non sequiturs, a seemingly-but-not-really random story, and indefinable in terms of genre.  I was also pleasantly surprised to see Ralph Brown, the aging concert promoter guy (or whatever, I haven't seen it in many years) in Wayne's World 2.  He's basically playing the same guy in this, and he's just as hilarious.

I (me, not the character) thought Withnail and I (the character, not me) was really enjoyable, but maybe I didn't get it.  I'm sure it had some deeper meaning in there, there was definitely some commentary on the end of the 60's.  I might have to watch it a second time and see if there's anything I'm not picking up on.  Even if there isn't, it's a pretty great movie.

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