Monday, August 24, 2009

District 9 + (500) Days of Summer back to back

One of my favorite things about watching movies is the fact if you like a particular genre you can watch wildly different films in a row and enjoy them both. A few nights ago I did just such a thing. I saw a 7.15 screening of the science fiction thriller District 9 with Tim and when it ended, I went across the street to see the romantic comedy (500) Days of Summer with Sarah. These two films would seem to be at opposite ends of the movie spectrum and while that is true on the surface--they have one major element in common that make them a great double feature: they are both good movies. If the movie is going to be good, it doesn't matter if you watch it with one or two other films. Good movies are always a rewarding experience, no matter when or where.

I had high hopes for District 9 and it did not disappoint. The film's early portions uses the technique of faux documentary to set up the back story--1.5 million aliens from another planet live in the shanty ghettoes of Johannesburg, South Africa after their ship comes to a stop above the city. They've been there for twenty years and the locals are sick of them so a forced relocation is about to begin. The documentary follows this relocation until the story flips into a more traditional narrative with a South African and a couple of the aliens. I was pretty happy when the documentary portion ended as it is difficult for me to get emotionally attached to characters when that tactic is employed.

There's so many good things about District 9--the infection story, the crazed Nigerian gang in the slums, the apartheid connection, the science fiction aspect of aliens + space ship + technology, the story of human becoming alien and aliens wanting to get home. All of it good. The film is blessed with some amazing editing that allows it to piece together multiple stories in a lot of formats. District 9 gets better as the film goes along and when films pick up steam to deliver wonderful, powerful endings, that's a good movie. District 9 delivered a great ending.

What better way to follow up a dark, futuristic and violent science fiction film than going to see an indie romantic comedy? (500) Days of Summer is a sweet, smart, romantic ode to love, the loss of love and just being with another person. The story jumps all over the place in the relationship between Summer (Zooey Deschanel) and Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as we see their good, their bad and in between from the very start. The narrator warns us--this might not be the happy ending kind of love story that is a pre-requisite in most Hollywood romantic comedies and the narrator is largely right.

I loved the non-linear aspects of the script. The film is well-written, witty and Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel have a great chemistry and deliver nice performances as the star crossed couple. I loved the use of split screen a few times and the musical number was one of the most joyous scenes I've seen in a film all year. This scene filled me with happiness as I watched it. I was envious of Gordon-Levitt's endless supply of cool ties too.

Wild genre jumping won't work every time like it did with District 9 and (500) Days of Summer--you have to make sure you are in the mood and the films are both worth seeing. This time doubling up worked for me. One night, two great movies that made me feel a diverse stream of emotions. As we drove home I just felt so love with cinema and that is a magical feeling.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

sj gets a full name....sd

Ryan said...

District 9 felt like it would be a better video game than a movie. I enjoyed it-I mean I was definately entertained...I guess I shouldnt have except much more. I did like some of the choices like not becoming preachy or too sentimental (although it got close) and was confused by some other choices-when did it stop becoming a fake documentary?...but I was BLOWN AWAY by the Special Effects. You know we've come a long way when you dont really think about the CG-it's just there, a part of the world. That's how I felt with Benjamin Button too.

500 days of Summer I was afraid of being a catchy, indie, cool, sentimental phase of a film (like Garden State)-and although it also got close to that-I felt like it was told in the best way it could have been told. Nothing spectacular or new insights, but it felt like a memory. I also am a sucker for films that take advantage of the medium-500 days definately did so. It couldnt be any other thing, like a play or book (poosibly) etc-except the VISUAL film that it was...

my 2 cents

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