Reel Life #33: Lawrence of Arabia, Being John Malkovich, and Synchronic

This week had me revisiting another David Lean classic before going slightly off the rails (yet again).

Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962)

Lawrence of Arabia is a fairly common pick when discussing what the greatest British film of all time is. Having seen The Bridge on the River Kwai the previous week, I was definitely looking forward to seeing what this sprawling epic had to offer, and it did not disappoint. This also marked Peter O’Toole’s first appearance in cinema. It was very ambitious of him to begin his career in the lead role of a film with such a grand sense of scale, but he proved to be more than up for the task. The film was also fairly ahead of its time in how it depicted the First World War in a time when the Second World War dominated the cultural conversation. Check it out if you haven’t already; it’s considered one of the best films of all time for a reason.

Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonze, 1999)

When looking up information for this film, I learned that one of its producers was Michael Stipe of all people. That’s certainly something I wouldn’t have called.

Anyway, Spike Jonze may not have the most extensive filmography out there (or at least in terms of directorial efforts), but he sure knew how to make a good first impression. His genre defying black comedy about an unemployed, standoffish puppeteer who finds a portal leading to actor John Malkovich’s head is certainly one of the most unique films out there. Really, I can think of only one other film that managed to run with such a premise, but I can’t reveal its name because that would be a major spoiler (all I’ll say that it was released in 2017 and if you were paying attention to the acclaimed films from that year, there is a 99% you’ve seen it). I feel that film was actually the superior take on what Mr. Jonze was going for, but this one is definitely worth looking into, being surreal, yet not to the point of incomprehensibility.

Synchronic (Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead, 2019)

Have you ever seen one of those films that you realize the instant it’s over, you’re probably not going to remember it in the long term? That’s how I felt after watching Synchronic. Don’t get me wrong; it has an interesting premise, being about a man using a time traveling drug to rescue his co-worker’s daughter. If that sounds interesting to you, it is, unfortunately, not as good as it sounds. Like a lot of films involving time travel, it’s not really consistent about how it works; especially given that the main character has far fewer problems using the drug than the people in the opening, who are effectively your standard horror-film opening kill fodder. Synchronic is perfectly serviceable as a curious rental watch, but otherwise, you can pass on this one.

5 thoughts on “Reel Life #33: Lawrence of Arabia, Being John Malkovich, and Synchronic

    • Indeed it was. Mr. Jonze really has a knack for out-there premises, and he seems to be consistently on point. A bit of a shame he doesn’t make films more often, although I guess that’s better than being Paul Schrader and having the quality of his work boil down to the luck of the draw.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Out of the big-budget 60s films I’ve seen, the ones I remember best are Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago. Obviously same director and an overlapping cast, but they both had that great epic feel. These would be great to see on a big screen.

    Being John Malkovich is also on that to-watch list I have, since I’ve always heard good things, and I like the bits of Spike Jonze’s work I’ve seen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I still need to see Doctor Zhivago at some point. And that, my friend, is the power of David Lean. His is a standard I think more filmmakers should strive for. Granted, I can definitely see the appeal of a more stripped-down approach, but I think in the long term that it taught too many budding filmmakers to get complacent. As it stands, I find certain video games tend to scratch that itch today’s films usually aren’t.

      All I can say that when you eventually get into Being John Malkovich, you are in for quite the trip. The only other Spike Jonze film I’ve seen is Her, which I felt was a much more interesting take on what Ex Machina was going for (on top of being released a year earlier). It’s interesting because Spike Jonze and Alex Garland spawned from the indie scene, but even before I learned that Being John Malkovich was an indie film, I always felt the former is far more talented than the latter. Then again, the thing to keep in mind is that Mr. Jonze debuted in 1999 when the indie scene was still a fertile breeding ground for talent and ambition (Pulp Fiction debuted five years earlier while Memento was only a year away) whereas Mr. Garland debuted in 2014, which was when filmmakers began losing their claim to the artistic high ground to other mediums.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: February 2021 in Summary: A Return to Form | Extra Life

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.