Friday, April 6, 2012

Double Feature Friday: Leo Edition

The latest trend in Hollywood is re-releasing older films in 3D: Star Wars, Jurassic Park, etc. But it's the re-release of Titanic (James Cameron, 1997) that has the world a-buzzing. Yes, it's been 15 years since every girl in America postered their bedrooms with Leonardo DiCaprio photos from Bop -- that is, with the exception of your humble blogger, who so maturely referred to him as "Leo DiCraprio" and loathed his effect on heterosexual women. Now that I'm not a 10 year old girl, I can admit that Leo has come a long way and proven himself as a strong (but accent-challenged) actor. To atone for my childhood snobbery, here's a double feature starring the man himself.

Film noir may be considered outdated, but Shutter Island (2010, Martin Scorsese) helped reposition it as a viable subgenre of psychological thrillers. All of the classic noir tropes appear: detectives, a disappearance, a whodunnit mystery, and a haunting damsel. The film is set on an isolated Massachusetts island in the 1950s, which allows Scorsese to incorporate the costumes and libations integral to film noir. DiCaprio also gets to use his famous Boston accent as Detective Teddy Daniels, but don't let that scare you off!

Shutter Island

Scorsese definitely wants what he wants in a picture, and stunning cinematography is high on the priority list. The film is filled with rich wide shots to convey the maddening isolation of the island. Every wave, tree, and piece of rocky coast appears to be its own character, intensely and beautifully detailed. This is a stunning contrast to the inside of the island's mental hospital: each room is practically monotone, from the walls and decorations to the characters' wardrobes. Instead of the wide establishing shots, the hospital features sharp angles, strange cuts, and uncomfortable close-ups. The soundtrack also mirrors Teddy's descent into madness: the gradual crescendo into hysteria features the perfect combination of John Cage, Gy├Ârgy Ligeti, and Krzysztof Penderecki that would make any person question his or her sanity. While the actual storyline leaves a bit to be desired, the strong performances, brilliant cinematography, and masterful soundtrack more than make up for it.

But what's a DiCaprio marathon without Inception (2010, Christopher Nolan)? Perhaps DiCaprio's largest cultural touchstone since Titanic, Inception combines his prowess at brooding with enough action to make a film that appeals to quite a wide demographic. The elaborate, mind-bending plot pushes the ensemble cast to the limit, from romantic interpersonal conflict to physically decaying dream worlds.


Of course, we all know Inception is great. Nolan made sure that it was all anybody talked about in 2010. What makes it truly fabulous is that it beckons repeated viewings. Every screening makes you ask, "What was that? Did that make a noise? I forget where happened there. Did it drop?" That kind of staying power elevates a good film to a great one.

And with that, I am going to plop down a hefty fee to see Leo in 3D. It's the least I could do after my childhood campaign against his career.

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