2005 Project Batch 6: Match Point, Sin City, and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

I’m having so much fun watching all the movies in this 2005 Project, I hope you’re having fun reading these write-ups.

MatchPointposterMatch Point (Directed by Woody Allen)

The first time I saw this, I was thirteen years old. It was my first Woody Allen. I knew at the time (as I do now) that it was a weird place to start, but I loved it nonetheless. The second time I saw it, it was in my Theater 101 class. We were talking about modern interpretations of what constitutes “tragedy”. There was a lot of talk about luck, punishment, and Dostoyevsky.

This is my third time watching the movie, and the time I’ve enjoyed it the least. I still think it’s a pretty good movie, I just don’t love it like I used to. I won’t lie and say that this is not influenced by the fact that I’ve since watching ‘Crimes and Misdemeanors’, which this movie resembles a lot. The themes are similar, but to be honest, I prefer ‘Crimes’s exploration of guilt more than I do ‘Match Point’s exploration of luck (it just isn’t as interesting a topic).

What ‘Match Point’ does wrong is that it over-explains its themes, especially in the hallucinatory sequence towards the end. What ‘Match Point’ does well, is present us with a Woody who can still flex certain unexpected muscles. It might seem like faint praise to like ‘Match Point’ because it’s so different to Woody’s other movies, but it kind of is the reason why I like it.

Also, Matthew Goode is so cool. We need more Matthew Goode in our movies.

SinCItyposterSin City (Directed by Robert Rodriguez “and” Frank Miller)

How come ‘Sin City’ was greeted with a fairly positive reception back in 2005, and its sequel, ‘Sin City: A Dame to Kill For’ was outright despised when it came out last year? After rewatching ‘Sin City’ (which I thought was ok on its original release), I can only conclude that critics and audiences were responding mostly to its visual style (which was a novelty at the time), and were turning on the blinds towards its ridiculously backwards ideologies.

Yes, on the one hand our internet culture has (thankfully) evolved in a way where a movie as misogynistic as this one can no longer be released without a thousand think-pieces criticizing it. On the other, more people should’ve complained back when it premiered.

Frank Miller is a terrible writer, and ‘Sin City’ shows why translating a comic book verbatim to the screen is a bad idea. You know what they say, “everything works on paper”, but Miller’s prose cannot survive a journey to the movies. I am just not patient enough to deal with two hours of righteous, old, white, tough, invincible, brooding, anti-heroic men. This is male fantasy bullshit both its in sexual politics and its violence (I can’t believe how many people are stabbed, sliced, or shot in the dick).

That being said, there are some bright spots. I particularly enjoy Brittany Murphy, who seems aware of how ridiculous the words she’s saying are. And particularly great is Mickey Rourke, who takes the whole thing seriously and gives into a fascinatingly problematic and fucked up character.

MelquiadesEstradaThe Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (Directed by Tommy Lee Jones)

‘The Homesman’, the second feature directed by actor Tommy Lee Jones is one of the best movies I saw last year. Despite it being absolutely amazing, not many have even heard about it. The same can be said for ‘The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada’, which was Jones’s first feature, and despite winning two awards at Cannes (actor for Jones, screenplay for Guillermo Arriaga), didn’t get much attention when it was released stateside.

Both movies are very similar in structure. They’re both revisionist westerns, and they both center on two opposing characters going together on a mission that has an ending more melancholic than satisfying. But the things they have to say about the Western -which is the genre best suited to represent America and its history- are quite different.

At the center of ‘Melquiades Estrada’ is the relationship between the United States and Mexico. Jones’s character, Pete, is American, and his buddy Melquiades (Julio Cedillo) is Mexican. Melquiades gets killed, and its up to Pete to fulfill the promise of taking his body south of the border to his family.

The big symbolic element here is Melquiades himself, or actually, Melquiades’s corpse, which Pete treats with a love and devotion that has only been seen… well, in any two male characters who bond in a Western. -With Brokeback Mountain, and now this movie- was 2005 a banner year for pointing out the homoeroticism in the mythical American West? In any case, there has to be some sort of symbolism in an American carrying and caring for the corpse of an undocumented Mexican worker.

You shouldn’t doubt the symbolism is there, because like I said before, the movie was written by Guillermo Arriaga, the unsubtle man responsible for writing ’21 Grams’ and ‘Babel’. Luckily, this is his best screenplay. lt’s not flawless (we spend more time than necessary with certain supporting characters), but it’s slick and ripe for interpretation.

Jones is a great actor (and he gives one of his best performances here), but he is an equally great director. He should make more movies, and more people should see and analyze ‘The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada’.


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