So, finally getting the blog rolling again. Welcome back old friends and hello to any new ones! Just for anyone new reading, my blog isn’t meant to be a review or a critique of the films I’m watching - just a place for me to put my dumb thoughts on each movie.
The first movie on my list was 25th Hour (2002), directed by Spike Lee. It stars Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Anna Paquin - I was not expecting the latter two. The film follows Norton as Monty during his last 24 hours before heading to prison for eight years. I hadn’t seen the film before, and I loved how the time constraint gave you such a perfect slice of life for Monty as he wraps up his business and says goodbye to people in his life. Everyone knows that he won’t come back from prison as the same person that he was before he went in, so emotions are running high. At times Monty is angry (his rant against every person he has ever encountered is just his own anger at himself, projected), and other times, afraid (see: when he has his friend beat him up to “look ugly” going into jail. I thought that Norton did a fantastic job conveying all of these emotions, and he goes some deep places with them. I like Norton - I think he’s a little underrated, but there are a lot of movies that I really love his performances in.
One obviously memorable scene is a long rant that Monty goes on in front of a mirror, railing against every race and person he has encountered in his life. Finally, he ends on himself - the one who he is truly angry with, projecting his own self-hatred on everyone around him. Here’s the thing that jumped out at me after watching. One one hand, we have thousands of movies about men doing all kinds of things as all kinds of the characters. But, on the other hand, we live in a culture where men are often pressured to hide their emotions, to “man up.” So, watching that rant and the introspection it led to, to see a man so in touch with his emotions, was kind of cool. I admire that the character was able to admit his anger at himself - I know from experience, that’s not an easy thing to do.
The movie was about two hours long but it doesn’t drag. There are a lot of great side characters that I enjoyed and while they were pretty well fleshed-out in the movie, could easily have had their stories expanded on. There’s so much color to the film, it was easy to dive into the movie’s world and really live there. It feels very strongly of 2002 but it doesn’t feel ‘dated’ watching it now. It’s more like a little trip back in time, if that makes any sense.
I think anyone watching this movie today will see that 9/11 was fresh on Spike Lee’s mind - as it was for everyone at the time. The film starts by showing the missing towers, and their absence is felt strongly in the film. I was in sixth grade when 9/11 happened, and even though I flew on planes before 9/11, it’s hard to remember what that was really like before. It’s hard in general to remember what things were like before, to be honest. I would be curious to hear from someone older than me and get their take on the film - someone who had an adult understanding of the event. I wonder if this film would remind them of some of their own feelings after the attack. For me, I could see the filmmaker processing the event through his work, but I couldn’t personally relate to how heavy that realization must have been after 9/11 - that realization that nothing would ever be the same.
After the movie was over (and I took a nap), I read Ebert’s Great Movie essay. Toward the end, he brings up the fact that Spike Lee is known as a great director, but often, his skills with style are ignored. I have to admit that I agree - I’ve always known he was a director to pay attention to, who said important things with his art, but I never really focused on his cinematography, his style, his camerawork. I mostly paid attention to the message and characters - as though he was more screenwriter than director. As Ebert points out, his style is subtle but present, always nudging your eye along. I think that going forward, I’m going to try to pay more attention to his style when I watch his films.
Overall, I really enjoyed this movie. It captivated me and I got lost in the rich lives of these characters. I almost felt like I could really feel the weight of what Monty was going through, a testament to Spike Lee’s great storytelling. I’d be really interested to hear any thoughts that you have about the film if you’ve seen it.