Thursday, December 23, 2010

stop making sense



The first pleasure I experienced watching THE BLACK SWAN was to see THE TREE OF LIFE trailer on the big screen. I heard that they filmed it with IMAX cameras with every intention of releasing it in that format. Right away this dude in front of me started to throw out lame one liners much to the excitement of his friends. His punch line for that trailer: “more like tree of death.” So I knew right away that fuck head was going to feed off his lame friend’s enabling laughter during the feature as well which made me immediately angry. Sure enough FH went through his repertoire of witless zingers throughout the already hilarious film and I swear that I came close to punching his temple.

I’ve aired out my grievances about Darren Aronofsky in previous posts but in the process got myself really excited about this film. The film is a mostly successful mosaic of seemingly every film ever made about the world of classical ballet which includes SUSPIRIA, THE RED SHOES, THE COMPANY as well as other films about highbrow stage entertainment and even lowbrow (Showgirls anyone?). We are introduced to the mild mannered Nina, a pedant dancer with a timid disposition. She lives with her mother and rarely gets out. In other words she’s a sheltered adult that eats, drinks, and breathes the ballet. She has been chosen by the company director to play the Swan Princess in their upcoming rendition of Swan Lake. In order to “perfect” this role she must embody both the lightness and the darkness and “transcend” her own meek tenets. This means that she has to go nuts.

This is where the film becomes a lot of fun. My only wish is that Aronofsky went even bat shit crazier, abandoning lame sight gags involving mirrors and seeing oneself on other people’s bodies. The best spooks come from a nail filer and a little touch yourself time in bed. During the masturbation scene I jumped nearly out of my seat. It’s one of the best scares I’ve encountered in some time, a truly inspired trashy moment. The film has been considered awards bait since its release but I think it’s better to go into this thing with a lowbrow sensibility. This is a horror film first and foremost. I hate it when critics say shit like “it’s THE RED SHOES meets REPULSION” but this film really is a mishmash. It works as a derivative work, wearing its long list of influences proudly on its sleeve and rejoices in its lack of constriction. As a genre hybrid it goes where it pleases freely.

One element that helped me enjoy this film was my constant state of alertness following an unexpectedly violent skin peeling scene. The director knows that sudden graphic violence early on makes the filmgoer alert and paranoid. What better state of mind would one ask for when watching this movie? I have been battling an infected wisdom tooth making the entire right side of my jaw feel like complete shit and I find that I’m extremely sensitive to violent imagery when I’m experiencing pain. A few other scenes made me cringe and crawl and this is something I’ve come to expect/look forward to from the director. ---- that awful scene in REQUIEM where the kid sticks the needle in his infected arm will haunt me for a long time.

Natalie Portman really helps legitimize this film. I was concerned for Nina’s well being just enough to want her to get her shit together. It was smart to keep most of the film in tight locations, to sit with her in her room and to dance with her at the practice space. Her obsession with Lilly is odd, it seemed more like an excuse to have a girl on girl scene with two beautiful actresses. I suppose you could chalk it up to Nina getting in touch with her black swan but it seems like a stretch. I'm not complaining. All of the performances were great and the score by Clint Mansell (spelling) was relaly effective. He also did the score for MOON.

My two friends hated this film claiming that it was “too predictable” and I agree with them. The film would have been a lot better if things were a little more cryptic. It’s really frustrating considering the fact that some of those silly sight gags took away from what little mystery the film had. Upon meeting Lilly we realized that a black swan approached, why did we need to see her face become Nina’s? It was a poor choice. But still I stand behind this movie because I had a blast at it. I loved the schizoid finale, especially the final line which aptly sums up Nina’s conquest with three words.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

free the artist, lock up the fake


EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP is as much about the hype machine as it is about art. Street artists are cool. I’ve always been a fan, not always a fan of the actual art as the guts and passion required to be one of the crew. This film follows around a guy who follows around street artists. He’s a groupie who in a surprise turn of events becomes an art sensation/hack. John, the F FOR FAKE comparison is fair and I agree that Welles’ film is ten times the achievement. I liked EXIT, I liked how frustrating it was in its final stretch. Watching Mr. Brainwash sweep a bunch of art fans (because let’s face it Warhol was right, art truly IS anything you can get away with) off their feet was as sad as it was to see this year’s Grammy nominations. Perhaps it’s even sad to see how many fans this film has acquired. I don’t know. Hype is depressing. It’s always debatable, always worthy fans of contrarians. It was funny seeing the veteran street artists, all who borrow from each other just enough to be considered unique, get all hot and bothered by this buffoons quick transformation into a rich “artistic genius.” I smell more than a couple of fakes.

John, I don’t share your beef with the music featured in THE FIGHTER. I liked it. Scratch that. I didn’t like it, not because I don’t like loud anthems playing during a montage but because I don’t know why the film saw fit for a montage in the first place. David O’ Russell’s THREE KINGS used similar sonic techniques to a much better effect. The problem here is that this film’s strength lies in its grittiness. I hesitate to call it realism simply because I’m starting to hate that term, but everything from the sweat to the blemishes cries out for us to buy it not as a spectacle but a document. It works as such and much better than Aronofsky’s THE WRESTLER, a film that also struggled as it shifted the two aesthetics. I think the performances are great and I would say that these are the sole reason to check this film out. I loved the random comedic moments and I often fell hard for some of the sappy stuff. I don’t think Walberg handles those as well as he should but I thought he did a fine job. I would agree with you that the film is a disappointment albeit one that’s also fairly spectacular. It’s nice to rave about Bale. I also loved the opening credits where the camera followed the brothers mounted on a dolly. The music there really elevated that scene.

I'm sorry John that I didn't like WISE BLOOD. Parts of it reminded me of THE APPLE DUMPLING GANG.

I’m really sad to hear that Jafar Panahi has been imprisoned for six years and banned from film for 20. I have only seen two films by the man and I can honestly say that both are absolute masterpieces. He is man dedicated to his aesthetic and if I was ever tempted to use the word realism it would be in reference to his films. He seems to have a way in making interesting, entertaining, and powerful character studies that sometimes feature up to twenty characters. What I like most about him is his compassion towards even the “bad” guys in his films. Let’s hope that the sentence is somehow stopped and that not only will this man be saved from six years of time away from his wife and daughters but also that we selfishly will be able to see his next masterpiece. Don’t take my word for it. Check out what David Bordwell has to say: http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/?p=11408

I don’t mean this as a backhanded compliment but Matt Zoller Seitz deserves to be known for his video essays. They are great. Here’s his year in review:

Monday, December 20, 2010

top eleven films about showbiz



Alright, I’m going to keep this top ten nonsense going. John, don’t chicken out anymore. You are the guy who had KING OF KONG on his top ten war movies list. Be creative. In anticipation of BLACK SWAN, which as Ben pointed out will be playing in Bingo starting Wednesday, I thought we could do a top ten films about showbiz. The criteria is that the films have to deal with stage, film, comedy, or ballet. I left out writing and music because those could potentially be lists of their own. Eight out of the ten picks are pre-1960s. I had to leave off some great films, some perhaps need another viewing. I don’t want to write an honorable mentions list. Instead I want to say that I love Robert Altman’s THE COMPANY and consider myself a fan of THE RED SHOES. Both films look at ballet differently, Altman with realism in mind while Powell and Pressburger attempted the art becoming reality angle. It sounds as though Aronofsky is going for a hybrid of the two. I don’t consider myself a SUSPIRIA fan, I’m secretly ashamed of this.

The stage is a lucrative subject for many great films including Howard Hawks’ TWENTIETH CENTURY and Douglas Sirk and John M. Stahl’s separate versions of IMITATION OF LIFE. Hawks went the comedy route while Stahl and Sirk went melodramatic. Many of the films on my list are about the theater which is funny considering that the two mediums sometimes seem at odds with one another. Films about film are going to continue to be made and most will be cynical since it’s a topic close to the hearts of the those behind the pad and camera. Fellini’s 8 ½, Paul Thomas Anderson’s BOOGIE NIGHTS, Tim Burton’s ED WOOD, and David Lynch’s MULHOLLAND DRIVE barely miss the list. Each film takes a different approach to the material. Anderson goes with the GOODFELLAS technique while Burton makes one of the better biopics in the history of the genre. Lynch makes the quintessential Lynch movie and so does Fellini. I need to see INLAND EMPIRE.

1. TO BE OR NOT TO BE: perfect.
2. STAGE DOOR: some of the best insults ever heard in a film.
3. THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL: suave and swift picture that could have been a chore in lesser hands.
4. SULLIVAN‘S TRAVELS: make em laugh
5. SINGIN IN THE RAIN: make em laugh
6. THE KING OF COMEDY: make em laugh.
7. CHILDREN OF PARADISE: three of the fastest hours I’ve spent in front of the television.
8. ALL ABOUT EVE: released the same year as BAD/BEAUTIFUL, ridiculously entertaining.
9. LIMELIGHT:
10. LOLA MONTES: it’s easy to see why Kubrick adored Ophuls. Shot in wide Cinemascope with some of the most lush Technicolor ever seen, this is supposedly Andrew Sarris’ favorite film of all time.
11. BROADWAY DANNY ROSE: Woody Allen’s best film in my opinion.

I'm positive that I've forgotten some. Let me know what I'm missing.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

top ten criterion continued

Got a big house show coming up this Saturday and I’m getting really anxious. So maybe this post is my way of exorcising my fear and angst. I love the Criterion collection as much as any film fan. They are the best, hands down the best. So doing this list is really unfair and silly but I’m still going to do it. As John pointed out, the films that Criterion choose to release are all there for a legit reason even if I don’t particularly like or understand them. John, I think you should make the list with that criteria in mind. You have three films from the looks of it, go with it. My criteria is that there is no criteria. Read on and find out what I mean.

Chasing Amy: I haven’t even seen this film but I haven’t liked a single Kevin Smith film and I have a hard time believing that this film is somehow going to change my mind. Sorry Ben, I’m going to watch it just to be fair but if there is a theme here it’s honesty, even if that honesty makes me look like an idiot.
Spartacus: Great film, but wasn’t it distributed by Universal? Kubrick had a few MGM films, why not release those? THE KILLING never got a good dvd release. Get on it Criterion!

The Killers (1962 version): I love the Siodmak film but can’t get into the Siegel picture. The disc however is worth it because it has Tarkovsky’s short film which blows away anything else on the disc. So I guess I should take this film back.

Contempt: I’m stressing out about this pick. First off, I don’t like going after Godard. The guy has accomplished more in his life than I ever will and he’s continuing to shake things up now. I love his spirit and most of his films but this picture, which is one of the most beautiful films to look at ever, spends too much time in the presence of a whiny couple. You have Fritz Lang and some of the best location spots since BONJOUR TRISTESSE and you decide to spend that much time in a lousy hotel room with a pair of snoots? I don’t know. A lot of smart and respectable writers love this film, I probably should read what they have to say and then see the film again.

The Darjeeling Limited: I can’t claim to be a Wes Anderson hater. I am a fan of all of his films but this one fell apart in its final twenty minutes. It’s funny because I know that John considers this his favorite Anderson film. I love the short that preceded it HOTEL CHEV, but this film presents an interesting dilemma. Anderson’s films automatically end up in the collection and I’m not sure why. His first two films released by Criterion (Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums) were both Touchstone films. The collection probably felt that his aesthetic is one that deserves the Criterion treatment. I can’t say that I disagree and I can’t wait for FANTASTIC MR FOX but why not give another director the same treatment? There are plenty of current filmmakers as well as older underappreciated ones that could use a boost.

The Man Who Fell to Earth: I don’t know many directors as distinct as Nicholas Roeg. His style is as distinctive it gets. I love WALKABOUT and DON’T LOOK NOW but for some reason his vibe didn’t work for me in this film. It annoyed me.

Equinox: I was really excited to see this film when I saw the cover. I then read that the same special effects dudes behind STAR WARS and VIDEODROME were involved and I rented it immediately. I was disappointed. It was wacky, and I like that, but I couldn’t keep track of the story. Perhaps that was my fault but I’m too stubborn to give it another look.

Modern Times: just kidding.

The Ice Storm: John hates Ang Lee. Ok, maybe he doesn’t hate him but he’s under whelmed by CROUCHING TIGER and not on talking terms with THE HULK. I happen to be one of the BROKEBACK fans so I can’t say that I totally dismiss the director. He has a great eye and can tell a story but I haven’t seen too many filmmaker’s successfully tackle suburban misery and THE ICE STORM is no exception. It’s a lot better than LITTLE CHILDREN, MY LIFE AS A HOUSE, and AMERICAN BEAUTY but it still bums me out.

Wise Blood: John, I feel bad about this one because I know you are a fan and part of me wonders why I’m not right there with you. I love Flannery O’Connor and John Huston but this film really didn’t do much of anything for me. It felt like an R-rated Disney made for television feature and it had some of the worst music I’ve ever heard in a film. Scold me brother.

I have been sensing that Criterion has struck a deal with IFC Films because we’ve seen the release of CHE, ANTICHRIST, SUMMER HOURS, A CHRISTMAS TALE, STILL WALKING, HUNGER, and other recent films distributed by that company. I like the idea so far because I happen to like all of those films but what happens to stinkers like THE KILLER INSIDE ME or uneven shock fests like ENTER THE VOID? I’d really hate to see KILLER get the red carpet treatment. Can you imagine THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE’s cover art? That’ll be hilarious!

scott pilgrim vs the world



There are works of art that give me a headache simply because I visualize the amount of talent it must have taken to undertake these projects. There are bands that play 5/24 time signatures, Thomas Pynchon’s and Arthur C Clark’s, and filmmakers who have much more time and energy, not to mention focus and brain capacity, to put together something dense and hyperactive. I’m a fan of simplicity but I can appreciate the other side of the creative spectrum if it’s done right. I never saw Edgar Wright as a blast beat director, his previous films moved quickly and smoothly and certainly used more shots than your typical comedy. SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD is one the most hyperactive, creative, exhausting, exhilarating, precious, and befuddling films that I’ve seen in some time.

On one hand I have to tip my hat to the guy, this film must have taken miles of storyboarding and months of editing. Like Fincher’s THE SOCIAL NETWORK and essentially every late 30s early 40s screwball comedy, the jokes fly by quick and often. It runs nearly two hours but it still feels like a jack in the box. I laughed quite a bit and had to pick my jaw up off the ground regularly but felt as though the pace, as marvelous as it was, sort of eclipsed the love story. The film is so sarcastic (successfully sarcastic) that the tender moments felt as though they needed a punch line that wouldn’t come. This is also the film’s charm, the relentless jokes written and spoken by characters and invisible narrators alike. You have to keep in mind the fact that Wright hasn’t made a film exclusively about love between a man and a woman. His other two films (the great SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ) dealt with platonic adoration, both films starring Simon Peg and Nick Frost.

side note/interruption----- I’m sure folks are tossing the word hipster around in reference to this film. Fuck em. That word’s actual meaning (if it ever had one) has expanded beyond anything definable. We are all hipsters to some hipster.

I haven’t read the graphic novel but I often felt as though Wright had taken some inspiration from Craig Thompson’s BLANKETS. Some of the wintry walks and late night make out sessions gave me a Thompsonesque vibe. I dug it. But at the same time I think this romance becomes problematic as we learn more about Ramona. I didn’t want Scott to be with Ramona, Knives was the better gal in my opinion. I liked Ramona just fine, but there was something dangerously familiar about her and the way she treated our dirt bag hero. I felt that the film missed the point, Scott’s infatuation with the girl that barely wants him throws everything else in a whack. The film had a poignant point somewhere in there, something about the way our pride causes us to desire those who will eventually hurt us which in turn causes us to hurt those who truly appreciate us for who we are. Did any of that make sense?

But even as I rooted for Knives I couldn’t believe that Wright and company convinced me to accept he finale despite my personal reservations. The bottom line, if there is one, is that the film is constantly inventive even if it’s occasionally annoying. From the hilarious appearance of the Universal symbol to the Vegan jokes you can see that Wright and company wanted this thing to be the comic book film to end all comic book films. It’s not, comic book films aren’t going anywhere but this picture is a breath of fresh air as far as I’m concerned. The genre needed a kick in the ass, it’s a shame that it received poor box office returns. Hopefully a dvd revival is in its future.This picture has enough ideas to satisfy a dozen films and Wright understands that if you are going to blend genres, ideas, camera techniques, and reality itself you got to go off the grid. In other words Wright handles the material like a champ, he’s an antsy auteur but a damn good one.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

holy shit!

top ten criterion instant whatchamacallits

John, where the hell do I find a list of the Criterion films available on Instant Watch? When you let me know how to find that I’ll make my list. I’m really happy that you love IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE as much as me. I agree that it may just be the best film to deal with adultery ever and any film that uses that many Nat King Cole numbers is ok in my book. STAGECOACH is certainly one of the best westerns ever. I can’t believe you were able to see it on the big screen. Eat my shorts. THE SEVENTH SEAL is my first experience to foreign art house cinema (Aguirre being the second). I don’t get the anti-Bergman crowd. I have never felt as though he’s a wallowing director. There is a strange joy that I can’t put my finger on, something vibrant in his work.

I rented THE OTHER GUYS on Tuesday. I thought it was alright. The wife jokes were easily the highlight (that “I’m going to break your hip” line brought down the house) while the relentless pop culture references nearly sunk the picture. Still my laughter is the best judge of a comedies character and I laughed more often than not.

I am also a Cassavetes fan, my favorite is easily SHADOWS. I have A CHILD IS WAITING (Available on Instant Watch) but haven’t seen it.

I just found Ben’s link, I’m a dingus. Here are my top ten without explanation (maybe later) all number ones:

The Grand Illusion: I have so many Renoir films to see and I’m excited about that.
Umberto D: The best film about a man and his dog even if that that’s not what this film is actually about.
A Woman is a Woman: Godard has never been better in my opinion.
Ugetsu: Mizoguchi was probably my best discovery during my 40s/50s marathon.
Shoot the Piano Player: The best sophomore effort ever?
The Earrings of Madame de….: My favorite Ophuls pictures thus far. Another great film about adultery.
Stagecoach: Second only to THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE.
The 39 Steps: My favorite of Hitch’s Britain pictures, though I have a lot still to see.
Shadows: Arguably the best debut ever.
Vampyr: Second only to ORDET.

Making this list got me thinking that Criterion has always been the paramount (no pun intended) of dvd release. In honor of their greatness I thought we could make a list of worst Criterion releases (can’t include any Michael Bay pictures). The rules: any film that is currently available. Go at it boys. Ps, you both owe me a greatest remakes list pronto.

Monday, December 13, 2010

prodigal sons



PRODIGAL SONS is about identity and transition. The film begins with a premise interesting enough to carry the film along. The director, Kimberly Reed, was formerly a man and a star quarterback to boot. We follow her to her high school reunion, nearly all of her classmates are aware of the transformation but very few have laid eyes on her. I sat admittedly fearful of what uncomfortable or hostile drama awaited. In my judgmental mind these were Red State bigots, guilty until proven innocent and to my delight Kim was greeted with acceptance and excitement. Shame on me, though part of me still wonders what was left on the editing table. But just when I thought this would be a film about sexual identity the camera began to shift it's focus suspiciously towards Kim’s adopted brother Marc. He suffered a brain injury via a car accident and is emotionally, mentally, and physically scarred as a result. He is an intense person, able to erupt at any moment, there is no doubt that he feels left out as the only adopted member of the family. Ever since the death of the father (a good man) the family is struggling to remain a unit because of Marc. They have a hard time getting together for simple functions, some members resist out of fear but in Kim's case it has a lot to do with fear of herself. We learn more and more about Marc and Kim, where they came from and why that keeps them from getting to where they need to be.

Both individuals are fascinating. Kim is terrified of Paul (her former name and self), she is true believer in the idea that her surgery was a form of rebirth. You almost get the sense that she hesitates to say I in the past tense, it’s almost as if by acknowledging that Paul and Kim are the same person she will be forced to go back to a life of repression and shame. Marc is haunted by failure and the idea that he is the only sibling that doesn’t share the family blood. His secret is too good to give away, I’ll just say that it warrants a few clips of F FOR FAKE to pop in from time to time. He looks a lot like Black Francis and has a musical gift, two of the film’s most beautiful scenes look on while he plays the piano. He has a hard time with Kim’s choice. There are terrifying scenes where he becomes violent, works himself into a fit of rage by focusing in on Kim and their little brother who happens to be gay. The film isn’t just a collage of dramatic incidents, it has a purpose and allows that purpose to reveal itself. It would have been a good enough film if it was exclusively about gender identity the addition of Marc’s story takes to that next level. I agree Ben that this film is essential viewing.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

ko

I’m distracted while writing this. FANTASTIC MR FOX is on HBO and I can’t stop looking up. Willem Dafoe is my favorite voice performance. Good job Willem but in the end it was just a dead rat in a pale behind a Chinese Restaurant. What a great film.

John, I read you words on release dates and all that Americentric guff. Actually it’s not guff at all and I pretty much agree with everything you are saying. I’m stickin to my ways. I’m stubborn. I would add something to your post however. A festival debut is not typically the final version of the film. For instance, the movies that debut at Cannes, Venice, Toronto, and Berlin are usually a few edits away from completion. So I guess I could use that lame excuse to justify my upcoming lists. I miraculously didn’t kill myself after reading your post.

My friend Mike worked Harpur Film Society. I feel bad because I only went to see OLD JOY there. THE SOCIAL NETWORK is an impressive film though I agree that it’s a genuine bummer. I have learned not to trust my first viewing of a David Fincher film. ZODIAC rewards me more and more with each viewing.

I’ve heard it said quite often but I have to be the contrarian of the bunch and admit that THE THIN RED LINE is actually my favorite Malick film.

The diet pills were certainly the most haunting part of REQUIEM. That last shot of Ellen Burstyn is terrifying. Honestly dude, I think you’re right. Round one Ben.

Check out PRODIGAL SONS if you get the chance. It’s a lovely film.

Friday, December 10, 2010

just in case

you guys have bad taste in music:



and



and make sure you get the new Kanye record.

top ten remakes



John came over a few hours ago and we talked over Henry Hathaway briefly. We are both fans but John was debating whether or not to see his version as well as read the Charles Portis novel before seeing the Coen brother’s film. I think it’s safe to say that any western fan is salivating right now. But in honor of that film I thought I would do a top ten remakes list and take plenty of liberty doing so. We get a ton of remakes and reboots every year making some wonder if Hollywood is running out of fresh material. Duh. Of course they are. They are also running out of balls and you can expect to see plenty more, especially in the horror genre. Most remakes suck as a rule of thumb. Viewers who walk in with trepidation are doing themselves a solid. So for those of you who hated THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT as much as me here are a list of films that did it right (even better in some cases) the second time around.

The Top Ten Remakes:

1. El Dorado: This film didn’t have much pressure in 1967 to live up to the legend of RIO BRAVO. At that time the 1959 masterpiece was barely recognized as passable by cinephiles. Thanks to the Cashier crew, Robin Wood, Andrew Sarris, Manny Farber, Jonathan Rosebaum, Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, Dave Kehr, and pretty much anyone else interested in film history, RIO has been granted the status it obviously deserves. But when will its sequel get the same red carpet treatment? Soon I hope.

2. His Girl Friday: I’m sad that you don’t love this film John. My wife is sorta with you on that. I think it’s one of the best screwballs around and another reason to put a Howard Hawks film on this list. I was tempted to add RED RIVER as a remake of MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY but I thought that might be a bit too much. I’m thinking about doing another list of films that deal with newspaper syndicates, look for this film near the top of that.

3. The Departed: It certainly seems hip to take potshots at this film simply because it won best picture. But I’ve seen it a fair share of times and I still think that it’s one of the better crime thrillers in recent years. The pace and dialogue are Hawksian so it fits on this list for that reason alone. His remake of CAPE FEAR just missed.

4. The Thing: Carpenter loved Hawks. We know this. I wanted to be a dick and add ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 but I thought that two RIO BRAVO remakes might be a stretch. What I love about this film is the attention to atmosphere, the way the base becomes more and more enclosed and the way the creature gnaws away at the collective camaraderie. This is anti-Hawks in a way. He would never let the conflict divide the tribe. The special effects are lightning in a bottle. I’ll never forget the now infamous scene where the doctor uses the pads.

5. Colorado Territory: Raoul Walsh remade his own HIGH SIERRA as a western more or less. I just saw Fritz Lang’s YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE and found that same theme of “once a criminal always a criminal” lingering throughout. All three films have the tragic lover, though Ida Lupino is lucky enough to walk away with her life. Walsh is one of those unsung classicists whose time is long overdue.

6. The Magnificent Seven: I love John Sturges. His remake of Akira Kurosawa’s most famous Samurai epic made the Japanese director proud. He presented Sturges with a samurai sword. I like that story.

7. The Man Who Knew Too Much: Hitchcock, McCarey, Walsh, and Haneke all remade their own films. Why? I don’t know maybe they thought they could do it better the second time around. I can’t speak for the original British film but this 1956 film is one of the most gorgeous Technicolor/Widescreen Vista Vision films in existence. He would later make VERTIGO with the same toys, perhaps to a greater effect.

8. Rio Rita: This is the biggest cheat on the list. I’m not sure how this Abbott and Costello vehicle is related to the previous films with the same name but I’m going to run with it if for no other reason that I want to throw another shout out its way.

9. 35 Rhums: 2009 was certainly the year that international directors taught our boys and girls a thing or two about how to make a family film. I’m not talking about family films in the sense that the content pleases the secret league of parents over at the MPAA (it didn’t even get a rating) but rather that it deals with family in an unobtrusive fashion. While films like REVOLUTIONARY ROAD (I still dig the performances), PRECIOUS, LITTLE CHILDREN, and MY LIFE AS A HOUSE see the unit as an excuse to throw in a little incest, teenage prostitution, cancer, coat hanger abortion, and castration Claire Denis, Olivier Assayas, Hirokazu Koreeda, and Henry Selick focused on the smaller turmoil and still managed to keep their films entertaining and hard. Denis remade Yasujiro Ozu’s LATE SPRING more or less, a story about a single father and his daughter. With Denis you are always on guard, she has the potential to shock you worse than you could ever imagine. Here she takes a subject matter that I don’t pretend to understand and somehow makes it relevant.

10. Scarlet Street: Fritz Lang’s remake of Jean Renoir’s LA CHIENNE (The Bitch) finds Edward G falling hard for a no good chiseler. When he officially loses it he stabs her beneath the blankets in one of the more grisly death scenes of the 1940s. I love the finale where he walks through the street during the Holiday bustle trying to get the passerby to believe that he is guilty of murder. He has got to be one of the only noir heels whose fate is mental torture caused by guilt rather than death or jail time.

Honorable Mentions: Cat People, Mogambo, Halloween II (Rob Zombie), Imitation of Life, Insomnia
King Kong, Nosferatu, Ocean’s Eleven, Piranha 3-D, An Affair to Remember, The Fly, Manchurian Candidate, Ben Hur, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Cape Fear, Solaris, A Star is Born
They Drive By Night, Twelve Monkeys, Welcome to Collinwood, Willard.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

top ten non-animated feature length disney pictures


I just finished the stellar EVERYONE ELSE, look for it on my 2010 top ten list whenever the hell I finish that.

John, in honor of your list and the TRON sequel thingy I thought I’d make a top ten list honoring feature length non animated Disney films. I have to admit that your friend’s wife’s words about animation really depressed me. What a sad quote. I was raised on stupid “brain cell killing” cartoons. I’m not going to make a top ten list but simply add to your list the following: Darkwing Duck, Ren and Stimpy, Gargoyles, He-Man, Dennis the Menace, Bonkers, Dino Riders, Tale Spin, Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers, all of the Hannah Barbara goodies, Denver the Last Dinosaur, Pirates of Dark Water, Garfield, Gummy Bears, X-Men, and The Real Ghostbusters. I don’t want those brain cells back, you can keep em.

The Top Ten Disney Non-Animated Feature Lengths:

1. The Straight Story- I still think this is my favorite Lynch film.

2. Old Yeller: Some of the best relationships I’ve ever had were with dogs. If you don’t know then you don’t know.

3. Swiss Family Robinson: I always wanted to be have a tree house like that. I have to admit that I can’t stand the book.

4. Journey of Natty Gan- I like how Disney somehow incorporated a wolf into a story about a tomboy looking for her out of work father during the great depression. I thought the girl was Michelle Monaghan. Look for a really young John Cusak.

5. Return to Oz- Honestly it would be higher if I had actually seen it as a kid, though I‘m positive that I‘d be scared shitless. The lack of nostalgia didn’t stop me from falling for this one. I could have sworn that it was directed by Terry Gilliam or perhaps William Cameron Menzies.

6. Flight of the Navigator: Remember Max’s little creature collection? I was actually scared of that scene. I just found out that Paul Reubens did that voice. Wow!

7. The Parent Trap: Let’s get together. what do you say?

8. The Black Hole: If you are planning to do hallucinogens to just 1 Disney feature length film make it THE BLACK HOLE.

9. Cool Runnings: I miss John Candy.

10. Mary Poppins: My wife loves this film. I have never fallen too hard for it but I can appreciate it just fine. That “Feed the birds Tuppence a Bag” ditty scared the shit out of me. I have always been terrified of old women which is sort of sad considering that the song is meant to instill compassion.

I also like and considered: Greyfriars Bobby, Big Red, The Incredible Journey, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, A Tiger Walks, Million Dollar Duck, Pete’s Dragon, Tron, Never Cry Wolf, Benji the Hunted, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Honey I Blew Up the Kids, The Rocketeer, A Far off Place, Holes, D3, Sky High, and Bridge to Terabithia.

I can smell my parents VHS tapes now. Let’s keep these top ten lists coming John.

real quick

I haven't had a chance to read thoroughly through your post Ben but I wanted to quickly note that I also love HALF NELSON. I was lucky enough to play the Binghamton premiere at Spool and Shareeka was there. I met her and have kept some lazy correspondence since, she's a real nice person. I lover her performance. I also love Gosling's and I specifically remember her fielding questions after the film ended. One extremely ignorant man noted that the drug dealer's portrayal was "too lenient." Her response was something along the lines of have you ever been a poor black man in Brooklyn? He was of course speechless and she continued saying that some occupations are unpleasant and straight up wrong but that doesn't mean that the person involved is as easy to write off. I thought HALF NELSON did an excellent job of making us squirm and love in equal measure. Why hasn't Shareeka been in more films?

I saw her at a party about a year ago. We sat in a corner while a bunch of stupid college kids played beer pong and we talked movies. She was so excited because she had wrapped up the latest Wes Craven film (My Soul to Take) and she thought the world of the director. She's down to earth but I can't help but feel as though she should be on the A-List.

farewell to a friend

On Tuesday night at 10:37pm a great friend of my family, specifically my little brother, passed away after complications during surgery. I know it’s a temptation to lament someone even if he/she doesn’t deserve it and I’m ok with that. Respect for the dead isn’t disingenuous only because death wakes us up to how petty our grievances can be. But I don’t have to lie when I say that Nick was a great guy, a humanist and a tough kid who fought through leukemia for the better part of 3 years now. I posted about him when we first learned of his illness and I saw him on a regular basis since. He would come to our shows and talk to as many people as he could meet. He loved to get to know people, he loved to make them feel as though they were being heard. He had a strong faith and a wonderful partner to help him even when his dad passed away suddenly only months after he learned of his sickness. He was one of the few “religious” individuals who made the whole idea of a God seem appealing. His joy and his fight got the attention of those of us who have grown weary. I believe that he’s in a better place and I just thought I’d tell you about him. He was 22 years old when he left this world. He was a hell of a guy.

Monday, December 6, 2010

johnny to's vengeance



I’m in love. Johnny To’s VENGEANCE gets just about everything right. The film boasts at least four gorgeous action set pieces. The first takes place at a campground, the second a staircase, the third in a field with giant paper scrap bales, and the fourth in the middle of the city. The plot is simple and pure, a father seeks revenge after his daughter is gunned down by three members men. The father swears vengeance but doesn’t know his way around Hong Kong so he hires three men (whom he witnesses killing a gangster’s cheating mistress and her lover) to help him find the men responsible. The men are Triads and we find out later that their boss (or perhaps occasional employer) is responsible for the father’s grief. We are unaware of their history but it becomes evident that they are friends. Very soon after being hired by Costello (the father as played by Johnny Hallyday) they begin to like the man and Hawksian camaraderie ensues.

When the men first encounter the gunmen they are having a picnic with their family. The men are aware of what awaits and are relieved to find their foes are honorable enough to wait until their wives and kids pack up and leave, it’s during this shootout that we first realize that Costello has a little memory is not all there. He messes up a golden opportunity to vanquish two of the Triads. The next time the men encounter each other the three friends execute the killers with a taciturn efficiency. At this point each man has no choice but to shoot their way out. VENGEANCE is content to be the best neo-noir around, no reinvention just cold hard aptitude.

To is old school, he’s not ashamed to nod to Peckinpah, Aldrich, Boorman, Hawks, Leone, Walsh, Melville, and Lang. He loves his band of outsiders enough to give the three hoods a swan song deliberately reminiscent of THE WILD BUNCH and VERA CRUZ. The three men face death like Holden, Borgnine, and Oates laughing and riddled with bullets. The man ultimately responsible for all this bloodshed lives to face off against Costello, though their dance is anything but a fair fight. He has about fifteen men to stand between him and the angry father. Rest assured that To handles this final skirmish exquisitely. This is easily one of my favorites so far in 2010.

1948: year in film



1948, the final year in my crazy obsessive marathon was aptly the hardest to rank. I am happy that this shebang is over, but I’m also extremely stoked that I was able to do it. Maybe I’ll try the 30s at some point.

Joseph Cotton’s Eben Adams conjures up a friend while walking in Central Park, someone to keep him company and assuage his loneliness. He is a poor man, a starving artist who gets a slight break after winning the affection of an elderly gallery owner sympathetic to his scrape. He has also worked out a deal with a local Irish bar/restaurant owner, paint a mural and eat and get wasted for free. These temporary respites are nice but it’s Jennifer Jones’ Jennie that truly puts an end to creative impotence. This muse becomes more than company, but an addiction he seeks to arouse inspiration. On top of this he is beginning to fall in love with a girl it becomes more and more apparent is actually an apparition. Eben paints her and witnesses the recreation of various significant events in her life, including her death. Eben’s need to create is somberly in step with the reality that his portrait’s fruition amounts to the end of his most meaningful relationship. I can speak on behalf of creative inertia, it’s a lot like that feeling of inadequacy that leads to sorrow. To be dry is to be empty and a sudden surge of vision is like tall glass of water. Director William Dieterle’s PORTRAIT OF JENNIE miraculously explores both the nature of art and obsession in 86 minutes.

I’m not sure if I’ve told this one yet but the first film I remember seeing was ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN on a VHS taped for me by our neighbor Fran Fitch. My dad told me “this movie has three monsters: Frankenstein, a werewolf, and Dracula” which had me a little worried but he assured me that it would be alright by adding that “it’s really funny.” He forgot to mention the invisible man as voiced by Vincent Price, smoking a cigarette and scaring the shit out of Bud and Lou. I remember a lot of things about the movie, one of them being that Wilbur Grey’s brain is arguably a downgrade from the monster’s. It’s hard to argue that the duo had their fair share of duds, though I would be the first to admit that I even love the stinkers (A&C Go to Mars, Mexican Hayride, Meet Captain Kid, Lost in Alaska), but I think they often transcended their own silliness especially when coalescing genres. These guys understood their purpose very well, they were around to make people laugh for 70 minutes, no pretensions just relentless comedy. I suppose that I can’t be trusted, I’m a fan and I’m willing to entertain the idea that my love is blind. At least I have John’s kids to back me up.

I was waiting for the slip up when watching John Ford’s FORT APACHE. By slip up I mean the moment when duty overcame morality, where the military’s hallowed reputation superseded the Native American’s right to fight for what was rightfully their’s, or the moment where Ford over-sentimentalized death on the battlefield. I’m happy to say that I don’t think that moment ever came, note the word “think.” This film, as well as all of the other films on this list for that matter, came after a major war that happened to end controversially to say the least. The film is more concerned with a high ranked official who ignores the advice of wiser men in order to service his ego and his bigotry than with whether or not it was right to continue to take land and resources from America’s inhabitants. Henry Ford’s unlikable Colonel Owen Thursday is stubborn to until death, taking many good men along with him after tricking Cochise to return to America only to insult and declare an extremely ill advised war. Pride certainly comes before the fall, though in Colonel Thursday’s case it took a long time for that fall to arrive. I know that it irritates some but I’ve always been a fan of Ford’s Irish American horseplay, especially when it means that Victor McLaglen is going to get shit faced. That’s the odd thing about a lot of Ford films, there is a sense of family and unity that apparently never existed on many of his sets. It’s also odd to hear that Fonda’s character is perhaps the closest to his actual personal life (at least that’s what Peter Collier said). But when you see the dance sequence or the scenes where the new recruits get bullied around by the old Irish lushes you can’t help but smile. As boisterous as they seemed I tend to believe that Ford wasn’t simply beating his cast and crew into submission but weeding out those who couldn’t handle is asshole tendencies. Perhaps I’m idealizing the director.

Am I a schmuck for liking the hell out of Frank Lloyd’s MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY? Who cares. RED RIVER, the film that sparked John Ford to say about John Wayne “I didn’t know the son of bitch could act,” is a loose adaptation of that story with Captain Bligh and Fletcher Christian instead driving cattle. Actually the other notable difference is the surrogate father/son angle which concludes with one of the better fistfights in movie history. I understand the John Wayne haters but I don’t ever see equate that public figure with the characters that he created. I remember hearing someone (I think it was Scorsese) talk about the true talent of Wayne being that he didn’t have much range or imagination so he basically became the same character in every film thrust into new situations. The person said that his greatest talent was to make us want to watch that character over and over without getting tired or bored of the persona. Hawks, along with Ford and Hathaway, got the best out of that character and I suppose that you could make a good argument that this film was the best Wayne film of the 40s (perhaps FORT APACHE, THE QUIET MAN, and THEY WERE EXPENDABLE being the closest rival).

I have been to many a party where someone starts talking Nietzsche never expecting them to strangle me and stuff me in a trunk. The pretentious killers in Alfred Hitchcock’s ROPE have taken their professor’s teachings on the Ubermensch, Beyond Man, or “superman” theory a bit too seriously. They believe that killing their classmate is an affirmation of their superiority, taking the Nazi view on master race and applying it to rich pseudo intellectual snobs over their poor stupid peers. The two murderers are implicitly gay and I really like what Fernando Croce had to say about this decision “ Hitchcock is more interested in examining the way violence erupts out of oppression than in using gays as convenient shorthand for boogeymen.” This film marked the first collaboration between the director and Jimmy Stewart (this being the same year that Kurosawa and Miffune teamed up for the first time) and it’s shot deliberately in one take style. This isn’t to suggest that the film is one take but that each take lasts long enough to keep us immersed in the action and contained in the suspense. We are trapped in the house and only able to escape briefly with each cut. The room is the scene of the crime as well as a party hosted by the killers where the trunk will serve as a table to serve their guests. As their professor begins to discover their ghastly deed he must also come to grips with his influence on the deed itself. Brandon is pleased with his work of art while Phillip fears getting caught and just may have gotten a case of the late conscience. For Hitch you have to wonder if the technique here is a gimmick only because he was getting so good at directing films without constraints that a little creative impairment would seem fit for the occasion. In the end I don’t think this is the case, the film’s aesthetic fit’s the atmosphere of the story and ROPE breaks free. This is after all a film about the dangers of repression.

I know that TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE is about greed but it’s also about spending too much time with your friends. What happens when you enclose yourself with your buddies for ten months, all of you working on a similar goal, a goal that if successful will equally reward each of you? Well, madness I suppose. Madness caused by not only greed but paranoia. Paranoia caused by too much sunlight and not enough decent food. Throw in some murderous bandits and a dead man with a family and you have yourself a real fallout. Bogart plays “the worst shit you ever saw” better than you might expect. He was really good at being cool and perhaps disturbingly efficient at playing slimy. But to say that his eventual mutiny is something that exists solely because of greed is to ignore the reality of becoming business partners with someone you hold in high esteem. It’s not only the business that corrupts but the close proximity, the way we start to treat each other when we feel the weight of reliance. The final scene reminds us that even the most lucrative financial efforts are dwarfed by our insignificance. This isn’t to say that we are worthless, that life is meaningless, or that we should just give up. Instead it reminds us that the world has been here well before us, that gold has been mined and cashed many times before, and that ten months alone with anyone can drive you nuts. John Huston is a master, albeit one that I don’t always enjoy. This picture never loses sight of fact that it’s an adventure, it never takes a break, it’s always moving. It’s near perfect.

Seeds of doubt grow and grow until something hideous blooms. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about love, friendship, or even business arrangements. The mind is the best place to nurture this little idea, it’s roots tear through flesh not in the sun but rather in the pitch dark. Composer Rex Harrison’s mind is being torn to shreds when he learns that his wife (Linda Darnell) might have slept with his assistant. As he begins to give heed to these rumors, started by his chinwag brother in law, he begins to imagine how he is going to handle the situation. Each imaginary scenario reveals a different side of our composer the first being a vicious throat slitter, the second a empathetic ninny, the third a loser in an ill advised game of Russian roulette. Each scene is matched up with symphonic arrangements by Rossini, Wagner, and Tchaikovsky. I can’t even begin to understand why Preston Sturges chose these specific overtures, but my experience with the whip smart director has me convinced that it’s all pretty complex. UNFAITHFULLY YOURS is a late masterpiece that walks the finest line between sorrow, satire, horror, and romp. The finale has Harrison bumbling around his apartment making a mess whilst trying to work a Simplex Home Recorder. I guess the question that lingers after we are assured of the wife’s innocence is whether or not you buy her excuse, I do but at this point the roots of doubt run deep.

Max Ophul’s aesthetic must have been at odds with the Hollywood system of the 40s. His type of language with the camera takes patience, not only from pushy producers keeping a careful eye on the budget but also on audiences who were accustomed to stationary shots. His shots coasted carefully in and out of beautiful and calculated rooms full of people who moved on cue as if they were dancing, his tracking shots are the longest I’ve encountered in any films of the 40s or 50s thus far. We’ve grown accustomed to this today, perhaps because of Stanley Kubrick (one of Ophuls’ greatest admirers) and Andrei Tarkovsky but you forget that Hollywood films of that decade were under serious time constraints. LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN was no exception but that didn’t stop Ophuls from attempting a three minute tracking shot following Joan Fontaine out of her carriage, into an opera house, and up the stairs to her love. This single shot required a lot of extras and a lot of preparation, it had producer John Houseman sweating beads. This is a meticulous film from the performances to the set design, everything frame is rich with sinuous detail. The story works as well, a letter from a dying woman sparking a trip back in time to recall a tragic tale of love unrequited. Audiences, Houseman, and critics didn’t get it, they were too impatient but time settled the score. Ophuls and lead actor Louis Jordan were sold out by their producer after the film tanked and Ophuls would only go on to make 2 more films in America. I guess we’ll have to do a top ten romances soon, I’m pretty sure that two 1948 films would make it.

One of the best films that I saw during “movie club” was Abraham Polonsky’s brutal FORCE OF EVIL. It’s your classic morality tale with a finale similar to BLAST OF SILENCE, a body in the bay with snow falling all around it. This time it’s the body of one of the only truly voices of reason, the brother of the mob lawyer. I don’t have much to say about this film right now, I’ll write more someday.

THEY LIVE BY NIGHT is certainly one of the best debuts I’ve ever encountered. I could talk about GUN CRAZY, BONNIE AND CLYDE, BADLANDS, or THIEVES LIKE US but I’ve already tread that doomed path. This is the gentlest of the bunch, the most compassionate and understanding. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone considering that Nicolas Ray was the director. He cared about his characters, especially the young and troubled ones. Of course, the problem with code enforced films is that you know what’s going to happen to anyone who commit’s a crime. Either they get locked up or shot down and if you are aware of Ray’s works you know that he’s not that interested in the first option. So when people use the word tragedy you have to know that Ray’s hand was forced a bit although one has to wonder if he wasn’t drawn to the noir prototype. “This boy and this girl were never properly introduced to the world we live in.”

I think I had the wrong idea about OLIVER TWIST. I don’t know why but I was thinking musical with singing orphans and none of that sounded appealing so I put it off. Shame on me. First of all the story was written by Dickens, easily one of the greatest, and second it was directed by David Lean whose GREAT EXPECTATIONS gave me a similar surprise. What can I say, the guy knows how to adapt Dickens. I don’t know if this film is officially considered one of his “little more personal” films but if so that’s complete horse shit. The sets are ridiculous! By the finale where Bill and Fagin get their comeuppance there must be a thousand extras. I have to admit that my stomach was all knots at the point where Oliver falls in with those two assholes. He was so close to deliverance only to be snatched up and thrown back into the trench to be put to work. I guess there was some controversy over that beast growing between Fagin’s eyes, fair enough. If you are willing to put that aside I think you’ll have a pretty hard time denying Lean’s film at least some respect. I loved it, couldn’t take my eyes off it. Couldn’t even fall asleep, which always seems to happen when a start a movie after work. I just sat there, pupils fixated on the screen. Lean often has that affect on me.

MOONRISE caught me off guard, completely off guard. I’m ashamed to admit that this film marks my foray into the great Frank Borzage. It opens with a man being hung and a baby crying with a doll in a noose outside of his crib, very similar to the opening of Charles Laughton’s NIGHT OF THE HUNTER. The child grows up to a be a man whose anger erupts at the mere mention of his deceased father, these outbursts cap in an intense fight between Dan and his archrival. The fight takes a turn for the worse when the snobby adversary brings a large rock to a fistfight forcing Dan to defend himself. To further complicate things, Dan falls hard for the guys girl. Like father like son, or so we think. The film is rich with supporting characters including Dan’s friend Negro Mose (the great Rex Ingram), his grandmother (Ethel Barrymore, a compassionate sheriff (Allyn Joslyn), and the local mute (Henry Morgan) who Dan looks out for. It’s these characters, much like the residents of Bedford Falls, that help Dan become a man in a finale that had me tearing up. One of the best images would be that of the dog that discovers Dan near his father’s grave. The dog, if I’m not mistaken, is the same dog that he kicked upon the discovery of the corpse. It was this senseless action that clued Ingram’s Mose to Dan’s guilt, “you never kicked one of the dogs.” The dog is calm and Dan has made peace with himself, the two reunite like old friends. It’s a moment of transcendence and a beautiful way to start my relationship with Borzage.

Kurosawa’s DRUNKEN ANGEL was subject to American censorship following WWII. We were occupying Japan and this meant that their films were subject to our “moral” suggestion. At the center of the town is a nasty bog, poisonous and probably responsible for the outbreak of tuberculosis that Doctor Sonada is seeing in his local patients. When he treats a stubborn gangster for a gunshot wound to the hand he discovers it yet again. The gangster is played by the great Toshiro Mifune and this film is the first of their sixteen collaborations. This is the film where Kurosawa said he discovered himself because it was HIS picture. He said that he was unable to control Mifune, which scared him but he realized that to smother that vitality would be a mistake. The doctor was not originally supposed to be a drunk but Kurosawa decided that he needed a defect and chose alcoholism. The director was fed up with the “whitest of white or the blackest of black” and went for grey. The doctor’s dedication to the young Yakuza is more complicated than you would expect, calling it a friendship would be a stretch, but both are fiercely loyal to the other when the going gets tough. Kurosawa’s next film, the brilliant THE QUIET DUEL, was another doctor picture this time starring Mifune as the physician. I can see why the director considered this film his moment of self discovery.



The best films of 1948:
1. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (John Huston)
2. Moonrise (Frank Borzage)
3. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (Charles Barton)
4. Portrait of Jennie (William Dietrele)
5. Unfaithfully Yours (Preston Sturges)
6. Red River (Howard Hawks)
7. Letter from and Unknown Woman (Max Ophuls)
8. Force of Evil (Abraham Polonsky)
9. Oliver Twist (David Lean)
10. Rope (Alfred Hitchcock)

11. Fort Apache (John Ford), Drunken Angel (Akira Kurosawa), They Live by Night (Nicholas Ray)

Honorable indeed: 1948 is rare because I think that I could actually continue the list beyond even 15 selections. I would like to say that the ten slot should include THE PALEFACE, LADRI DI BICICLETTE, THE RED SHOES, and KEY LARGO. I still laugh throughout Norman Z. McLeod and Frank Tashlin’s THE PALEFACE. I remember my brother and I used to fall on the ground when he encountered the medicine man. Perhaps the sole reason for not including LADRI DI BICICLETTE is that I haven’t seen it recently, in other words I’m not refuting its stature just a little hazy on the details. THE RED SHOES is beautiful, absolutely stunning. KEY LARGO is a great film, especially if you are getting together with some friends who like to drink rum. I remember watching this film with jalapeños and chips, doing shots, and gawking at Lauren Bacall. Some of my friends were thrown off by Lionel Barrymore’s kind character, he wasn’t the Mr. Potter that they had grown to loath.

Other films that deserve a nod are THE FALLEN IDOL, THE NOOSE HANGS HIGH, and THE LOUISIANA STORY.

I’m sort of glad that I didn’t see: The Naked City, The Secret Beyond the Door, Raw Deal, Berlin Express,,State of the Union, Sorry Wrong Number, The Search, The Pirate, Les Terrible Parents, Macbeth,
Ladies of the Chorus, Homecoming, A Foreign Affair, Fighter Squadron, The Emperor Waltz, Call Northside 777, Anna Karenina, Arch of Triumph, and Act of Violence--- only because I would have to worry about where to rank some of them.

Great year. Great marathon. The end.

ass to ass

I think I may have been too hard on Zack Snyder’s WATCHMEN. I read it for the first time only a few month before and loved most of it, I can’t remember what disappointed me most. It was hard to pinpoint what left me cold, or was it lukewarm? Snyder, like Aronofsky, is a visual maestro, a young director who may seem more artisan than auteur. But then again, I think both dudes get shit on too much for getting so much attention from “fan boys.” I’ve seen Snyder in interviews and I guess, like Tarantino, publicity doesn’t do him many favors. He’s not a chatterbox like Quentin but he’s got a frat boy swagger that tempts me to take him less seriously. Just goes to show how much politics enters into the equation. Our internet age has given us too much access to the men who create, I wonder how much we pay attention to the art. I guess my biggest question before even seeing the film was whether or not Snyder could handle this material. Moore doesn’t make it easy for him.

Like I said, the visual accomplishment is untarnished. He replicates the graphic novel meticulously, a lot of storyboarding I’m sure. The casting is a weird. I would think that you could get a better cast with this material. I am one of the few who actually liked the sex scene, it was just crazy enough for me. After 300, another graphic novel, Snyder made strides with the blue screen aesthetic. But I guess I was with those who secretly wished that a nut like Gilliam would take the reigns. Perhaps it would be less exciting visually but the anarchy would have survived. Snyder’s WATCHMEN is readymade for the audience that awaited it. The problem I had and still have is that the mystery is nonexistent. For those who haven’t read the book there is little question as to who is behind the mayhem. The subtraction of the octopus is another sign of the producer’s lack of faith in Moore’s source material.

I have to agree with Orson Welles, MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW could make a rock cry. I don’t think a film like this would get made today. We don’t want to hear about the downfall of the family (and no I’m not talking about the family as defined by neo-conservative quacks) as nursing homes are stock full of parents who will live out the rest of their days alone with strangers. McCarey is a man with conscience and a wonderful director without a flashy visual style.

THE FOUNTAIN is definitely worth a second look. I was writing my thoughts with very little preparation, I honestly don’t remember much about the film other than being floored by the visuals and by Mogwai. I have to admit, and perhaps I should be scolded for this, but I haven’t been blown away by Rachel Weisz so this may contribute to my lack of love for her character. Maybe it was the hair (just kiddin).

REQUIEM is no joke. Like I said, I think the characters could have been stronger but this film is the still, for me, the best evidence that he has greatness hiding somewhere. But I HAVE seen these characters in my life, I know them well and this film has done a lot to dissuade a lot of my friends who like drugs to stay the fuck away from the brown sugar.

By the way, AI and FIGHT CLUB are great and I also began to take film, specifically criticism, a little more seriously. AMERICAN BEAUTY has always been a thorn in my flesh.

I also saw the bootleg trailer for TREE OF LIFE and I got goose bumps as well. This looks amazing. Big surprise.

As for classic movie recommendations start with the obvious directors like Truffaut, Hitchcock, Ford, Hawks, and Tarkovsky and then see if you can discover other great directors in the process. I made top ten lists for every year from 1940-1959 (I’m posting 1948 today) so I obviously recommend all of those films.

I love zombies.

Fuck, Max, Weisman, and, his, comma, splice.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

year in film: 1947



Monsieur Verdoux contributed to Chaplin’s decision to flee the States for Europe. The title character marries and murders rich women to support his wife and son. For him murder is “a logical extension of business” which ultimately leads to his final denouncement of a society that justifies mass war and the empowering of dictators and I have to admit that I was a little turned off by this scene the first time I saw this film. I believe that I misunderstood the intent because I was hearing it from the wrong perspective, as a justification for Verdoux’s actions rather than a condemnation of the very things that seem to assure him that murder is justified when the going gets tough. Part of me wonders what this film would have been if Welles had directed it and also what the lack of political interpretation would have done to lift or sink this film. But herein lies the film’s strength and it stands on the shoulder’s of a great artist and his desire to help people see and connect with one another. At the same time this IS a comedy and Chaplin should be credited as a trailblazer for using such grim material to draw out laughs although it seems that audiences certainly weren’t ready for it. One of the greatest joys of Chaplin’s talkies is the mixture of the two schools of film thought, the one that speaks through movement and the one that speaks with words. Chaplin undoubtedly surprised many in proving that he was indeed a master at both. With time comes vindication.

Shoot the piano player. Henri Georges Clouzot has been a discovery since starting this project, his WAGES OF FEAR and LES DIABOLIQUES easily made their respective top ten lists while LE CORBEAU landed on the honorable mentions. He knew how to make us squirm, he was a master of toe curling suspense (I would say white knuckle but my preferred form of stress release is the white toe knuckle kind). He learned much about storytelling while in Sweden battling tuberculosis, five years in bed with nothing but books to keep him company. So far my favorite film would have to be his Christmas noir QUAI DES ORFEVRES. For starters it’s his most benevolent film, giving each character a fair shot at humanity and finding something unassailably good beneath their morally trodden husk (minus the dirty old man). Jenny and Maurice are a turbulent married couple, Maurice justifiably cautious when his flirty wife disappears for sudden “appointments.” Call her what you want but Jenny’s love is unquestionable and her fidelity, which we are led to doubt, is restored right in the nick of time. There are two other memorable/great characters in this whodunit, one a former Foreign Legion veteran turned Detective (show stopping Louis Jouvet) and Jenny’s friend/secret admirer Dora. The two share a great line towards the end of the film “You and I are two of a kind, we never get lucky with women.” Though things tie up almost too conveniently, Clouzot understands that this is a character study before it’s a mystery. It was his comeback after being banished from filmmaking for four years due to his collaboration with Continental Film, a German company. Rene Clair, Marcel Carne, and Jean Cocteau fought on his behalf and his first film back was this. Touché!

I’ve come to associate Carol Reed with his post war efforts only because I have a limited knowledge of his work. I’ve seen THE FALLEN IDOL and THE THIRD MAN and was delighted to see his NIGHT TRAIN TO MUNICH this past summer. I suppose I have to out myself in admitting that his most famous film is still my favorite but I’m four films deep and I’m starting to be able to identify him by style as well as influence. ODD MAN OUT is about a man on the run, injured and becoming increasingly absorbed in the city he is hiding out in. His injury is severe enough to flip the hourglass and James Mason is up to that challenge. The day after watching this film I cut my finger badly while doing the dishes, the injury wiped me out physically and mentally. I was thinking about infection and whether or not I had hit a nerve, meanwhile my finger hurt and my endorphins were being used up fast. I ended up seeing a doctor who assured me that I would be ok but advised stitches. A small injury like that is nothing compared to a gunshot wound and Reed makes sure that we the viewer begin to feel the fatigue that Mason’s character felt. Being injured and on the run is no joke and being in love with the guy doing the running is no joke either. One of the best aspects of the film is the haunted conscience of the Mason’s character. He realizes that his cause is not greater than the life of a bystander, even if that bystander has pistol. Without this I would have to wonder if the film was a bit misguided. The ending really won me over (not that I didn’t like this movie before that point) despite the feeling that I had seen this exact scenario over and over again (Colorado Territory, Gun Crazy, Bonnie and Clyde, etc), perhaps it was the snow. A piece of friendly advice, don’t get shot while robbing a mill in Belfast.

While Orson Welles was unable to direct one of his heroes in a dark serial killer comedy he still managed to find time to don an Irish accent and become Rita Hayworth‘s lapdog. The film was a freebee for a Harry Cohn who had saved Welles’ ass by sending 55 grand to buy costumes for an expensive stage production of AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS. ---- it’s a shame that Welles’ wasn’t able to direct the film version of this play as it seemed to have been given an Orson Welles’ makeover. THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI is twisty, full of betrayals and betrayals upon betrayals. Welles’ caught some flack for this as Cohn hated the picture which led some to wonder if he cared about the film at all (apparently not even he could explain it to Cohn). I guess the question is whether or not the film needed to be this complicated and I can’t really say either way. It is convoluted in ways that seem reckless, the murder plot alone is weird enough not to mention the butler/private investigator or the back story. But it’s those bizarre touches that set this film apart from the rest of the noir heap, which was especially lucrative in 1947 (Odd Man Out, Out of the Past, Kiss of Death, Body and Soul, Nightmare Alley, Quai des Orfevres, Brute Force, Dark Passage, Desperate). Like Chaplin, the film’s commercial shortcomings led to a big studio shunning that lasted until 1958. It’s sad but also a bit uplifting to those of us trying unsuccessfully to make something extraordinary.

Another twisty noir film with a double crossing femme fatale, this time it would be Robert Mitchum falling for Jane Greer’s lies. How in the world he fell for Kathie after knowing what she did to her former hubby (one of the great discoveries of this entire project Kirk Douglas) is beyond me but this is noir after all and where would the genre be without doomed protagonists with a bad case of smoke in the eyes? I guess part of the difference here is that Jeff decides to try and set things straight despite the promise of a happy life amongst good people in a small working class town. The similarities to David Cronenberg’s masterpiece A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE really caught me off guard at first, the intro had me and my brother both thinking of Mitchum’s character growing old with Virginia Hudson and having a family only to find his past knocking at his door years down the road. But Jeff faces his former employer and is surprised to find himself forgiven only to be swept back up into his unhealthy fling with Kathie. When things go wrong this time Jeff finally decides to do the right thing and we all know where that road ends. Jacques Tourneur may have not received due credit for his “supernatural” films but at least he had this film to get his name rumbling around in certain cinema discussions.

I suppose I can’t really speak for or against the charge often associated with Jules Dassin that he gave up his integrity for ART. I’ve seen NIGHT AND THE CITY and BRUTE FORCE so my impressions of him have been good thus far. It didn’t surprise me to find out that Richard Brooks penned BRUTE FORCE, it focuses rather conveniently on the rights of the prisoner many of which are locked up for unjust reasons. You’ve got the evil captain of security (Hume Cronyn), the kindly doctor (Art Smith), the wise old inmate (Charles Bickford), and the young hero (Burt Lancaster) all archetypes for what we know and see today in prison dramas. This film true punch doesn’t come as much from the then topical “even prisoners need a break” message as much as the loutish violence and intensity that bubbles up once the prisoners begin to act upon their nature. We know the brutality that Lancaster and his buddies are capable of when they take care of the stoolie who sends him to solitary confinement. That scene, shot almost as if it was a musical number, reminds the viewer that the captain’s venality will not go without bloody reprisal. By not reducing the prisoners to helpless victimized tots Dassin is able to muster up a believable reckoning where the spilling of blood is some sort of act of redemption akin to many Aldrich action pictures. I have yet to see one of his “art” films but he really had something here.

The film teeters on the edge of insanity, sweating and walking as close to edge until it finally topples over both figuratively and literally. By looking at any given frame you already know that the film is among the most lush ever shot in Technicolor. Almost everything you see was created on a set which leads me to believe that this must have been one huge set. Deborah Kerr is one of the great unswerving actresses always immersed in her character’s impossible predicament and willing to act with such straight faced intensity that she must have elicited some charges of pretentiousness. But when acting in a film about nuns on the brink of insanity you need a disciplined actress to lead the way. Jean Simmons’ first appearance brings an exciting energy to the picture and that wave only gets better with the appearance of Sabu as the general who falls for her. Part of the frustration in anything dealing with abstinent characters is their unswerving dedication to a strict religious code, their inability to break free from their calling even as the potential for love presents itself. Paul advised us to consider the cost of love and specifically marriage and even went as far as to suggest that an unmarried person is anxious only for God while the rest are divided in their passions. This film contemplates the cost of being anxious for God as well as being affected by high altitude. I never sensed a patronizing disdain for the nuns although I would argue that Bresson’s DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST was far more compassionate in its portrayal of a tortured person of God. The directing duo simply chose an atmosphere and stuck to it and the results are incredibly effective.

Delmer Daves decided to try something new here to separate itself from other film noirs. The entire first third of the film is shot from a first person POV perspective, it only switches once the character has emerged from plastic surgery. It’s not the first film to try this subjective gimmick out but I would argue that it’s the best. I recently saw ENTER THE VOID (it’s interesting that Noe looked to LADY IN THE LAKE rather than this film) and while the camera has been given a more flexible range of movement I still prefer Sidney Hickox’s (White Heat, The Big Sleep, Colorado Territory) work here. I think that a lot of people don’t give this film much love or attention because it was one of the Bogart/Bacall pictures amongst some giants (Key Largo, The Big Sleep, To Have and Have Not). The supporting performances are really good here specifically Agnes Moorhead and Tom D Andre as a taxi driver who has a skill at reading the human face. His cameo is essential to the film. This film differs from most noirs in that the main character isn’t in his predicament because of anything he did wrong and in that truth he shares more in common with Hitchcock characters than down and out guys like Mitchum’s Jeff or Welles’ Michael. John, I remember my first day at ACHIEVE you showed the original 3:10 TO YUMA which got me thinking about directors like Daves who seemed only a few notches away from ranking with the best. I don’t think there is anything to feel ashamed about if you are a Daves, Lewis, or Robson. Being unsung is a good thing.

I wrote about THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY here:
http://poopnoises.blogspot.com/2009/04/my-essentials-secret-life-of-walter.html
While it may be a personal choice, one that owes a lot to nostalgia, I stand behind this film.

Has anyone coined the term chase noir? I think I just did. It’s not that clever and it doesn’t really roll off the tongue that smoothly but what the hell. Of course a lot of folks, myself included, have come to know/celebrate Anthony Mann for his incredible contribution to the western genre from 1950-1958. Only after starting these lists did I pay any attention to his other great achievement to the crime/noir genre starting with DESPERATE and moving along smoothly with films like SIDE STREET, THE BORDER INCIDENT, and RAW DEAL. Like DARK PASSAGE Steve Brodie’s character is battling with external turmoil due to being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Wrongly accused and hunted by the real bad guys, he and his pregnant wife get brief glimpses of a tranquil existence if only they can escape their dilemma. These short moments of peace make the interruptions all the more excruciating and Mann works this shoestring picture the way a master should, fooling the audience into not realizing the budget constraints rather than martyring himself and accepting a lousy product. Brodie’s character is an interesting postwar hero treated with disdain and contempt by both the law and the criminals. It’s almost as if he is a man left on his own. What a strong statement, one that isn’t any less valid than the overall theme of THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES. I make no apologies for loving that Wyler film but I also respect Mann for using the noir genre to get the same point across, that we abandon soldiers upon their return home. Mann proved himself here and went on to become one of the best.

Not a single film on this list that doesn’t belong.



The Best films of 1947:

1. Qua Des Orfevres (Henri Georges Clozout)
2. Pursued (Raoul Walsh)
3. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Norman Z. McLeod)
4. Monsieur Verdoux (Charlie Chaplin)
5. The Lady From Shanghai (Orson Welles)
6. Desperate (Anthony Mann)
7. Dark Passage (Delmer Daves)
8. Odd Man Out (Carol Reed)
9. Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur)
10. Black Narcissus (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger)

Honorable Mentions: Brute Force, Unconquered, Nightmare Alley, Miracle on 34th Street, The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap, One Wonderful Sunday.

Haven’t seen: Kiss of Death, Lured, The Red House, Daisy Kenyon, T-Men, Ramrod, Possessed, Railroaded!, Crossfire, Gentlemen’s Agreement, Born to Kill, Woman on the Beach, Mad Wednesday
The Red House, The Unsuspected, The Record and Tenement of a Gentleman, Pitfall and
A Double Life.

Friday, December 3, 2010

poppin capsules

Adam Sandler’s take on Capra’s MR DEEDS made me laugh occasionally (I find farting and falling hilarious). It’s funny because the entire story exists to build up this character’s supposed everyman upstanding morality (small town Sarah Palin shit), meanwhile Sandler’s Deeds can’t help beating the living shit out of people for making fun of him. I guess us normal rural boys can’t help ourselves, we just gotta get into fights with those who threaten our intelligence. I'll bet this movie is a Tea Party fave.

BOARDWALK EMPIRE is still the best. Next Sunday is the season finale. I really hope this series survives at least five seasons.

THE WALKING DEAD is really good, I really liked the last episode. I love how this series takes the time to allow for empathy for the walkers. There was a beautiful scene where one of the characters waits for her sister to turn. The process is slow and suspenseful as opposed to sudden and jolty, the sister is given time to reconcile and say goodbye before putting a bullet where it belongs. I’m watching a film right now called PONTYPOOL, it’s really weird but I kinda like it.

I didn’t like the latest episode of MOGULS AND MOVIE STARS, I’m starting to become less interested in the moguls specifically. I think the 60 minute limit is really restricting the series because they are seeking to look deeper into an entire decade leading the program to look deeper into obvious films, which is fine, minus the fact that I already know most of what they are trying to teach me. I’ll keep watching but my excitement went down considerably.

I’m not sure what I think about WILD GRASS. I like its attitude and its poised eye but after a while I didn’t really care what was about to happen. Alain Resnais is a director that I am not very familiar with. I’ve seen NIGHT AND FOG, which was horrific (I guess I mean that as a compliment) and I’m well aware of his good reputation. I’ve heard a lot of people calling this film cute and I think that’s a shallow assessment. The popping colors and whimsical humor were accompanied by a lot of scary insinuations, perhaps Georges had a violent past that may or may not have been discovered by the authorities (I tend to think that his condition is undiscovered because the police don’t seem to take his stalking seriously). The open ending is funny, the zipper was a good touch and the farmer’s daughter’s final words are great though I’m not going to pretend to know what they mean. It was nice to see a lot of Desplechin regulars, I don’t think that was an accident. My only problem with the film was that it didn’t have that lasting effect that I had hoped for. It was amusing enough and I could easily say that I liked it but I’m disappointed by how quickly it left my mind. That could be because my mind space has been heavily occupied by music lately, either way it’s certainly worth a watch.

Never let a missionary into your dwelling place if you are planning on milking a civil war for your own power and profit. General Yen found this out the hard way though he took it with stride, a little sip on some poisonous tea and away he went. THE BITTER TEA OF GENERAL YEN is a weird movie but I dug it. I always cringe a little when I see white actors portraying minorities, and Nils Asther is no different. I don’t understand why a studio had such trouble actually casting a Chinese actor for General Yen. Were they afraid of the love story? Probably, and if so LAME. Regardless Asther does a fine job in the role and it was great to see Stanwyck in her early acting years, only slightly less confident at her craft. She is able to make her character’s moral dilemma seem real which is a lot to ask of an actress considering the unlikelihood that she would fall in love with a megalomaniac within a few days of being held captive in his lair. Capra doesn’t shy away from the General’s questionable military tactics (shooting soldiers to conserve food) and yet isn’t eager to reduce him to a cackling madman. Some of Yen’s insights cut deep which in the end makes it easier for the viewer to understand his magnetism. One great thing about 1933 is that most films were shown on a double bill which meant that brevity was a must.

Speaking of brevity, ZERO FOR CONDUCT was something like 47 minutes long. Watching it I couldn’t help but wonder how many times the young Truffaut had seen and been inspired by Jean Vigo’s boarding school fantasy. I think that 47 minutes is enough to consider it a full length feature so it will be eligible for my list whenever I get around to it. Oh yeah, it’s awesome by the way.

Truffaut may have also been into Lubitsch’s DESIGN FOR LIVING, a bohemian threesome comedy written by Noel Coward. I couldn’t help but think JULES AND JIM and even THE DREAMERS while watching it. This film doesn’t stand up to the likes of HEAVEN CAN WAIT, THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER, or TO BE OR NOT TO BE but then again not too many films do. I have always had a problem with the two guys battling over one girl scenario, it doesn’t really speak to me. I would never let the girl have that much satisfaction at my expense, but with the Lubitsch touch it makes a little more sense to me.

HALLELUJAH I’M A BUM is one of the strangest films I’ve ever seen. It’s also one of my new favorite musicals and an early frontrunner for best film of 1933. The film celebrates being down and out, views money as a distraction from the pure things in life (nature, friendship, singing). It must have been some breath of fresh air in those economic times, it filled these figurative lungs in our own version of the depression. Find a way to see this movie as soon as you can.

I never realized that James Whale’s THE INVISIBLE MAN was so good. In fact, I would say that outside of his BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN it’s the best of the Universal monster alumni. The first key to Whale’s success is a constant feverish sense of humor. After a while you will feel as though you have taken monocane yourself, you may even start to skip down the street singing with only your pants on. You root for Claude Raines as he tries unsuccessfully to find “the way back” even as he kills a train full of men, women, and children. The special effects are great, I don’t think many filmmakers today could pull it off. I’m not sure how they did all of it, I guess Raines would wear a velvet suit against the velvet wall when taking off his shirt and pants. This is another short film, one that doesn’t waste a single frame. I’m debating how highly it deserves to be ranked.

I want to elaborate a little more on why I don’t consider myself an Aronofsky fan yet. Visual flair is important, it’s a part of the craft that I find gets brushed off by a lot of people. We’ve seen more and more visual creativity onscreen as the digital age has emerged. The ability to bring an image to life has become easier and therefore more and more films are being overlooked, at least critically, because of this. Aronofsky’s second and third films were visionary in that sense, he was unique amongst his peers. I think that the amount of “all style and no substance” complaints thrown his way made him want to tell a simple story visually and instead focus on Rourke’s character for THE WRESTLER. I actually missed some of the eye popping visuals from his previous film and I thought that mimicking the Dardenne’s “film the back of people’s head” approach was disappointing. But he made narrative strides with that film, he found simple ways to illicit a feeling. He made good use of the mise en scene in that film and kept a lot of the scenes refreshingly low on dialogue. Rourke did a lot of his best acting with his face and Aronofsky’s lingering camera was perfect in times of sorrow, often times of loneliness. But the two relationships with his daughter and with Marissa Tomei’s character took me out of it. The “realism” had me invested enough to feel dejected when the melodrama seeped in. I’m a fan of melodrama (a big reason why I’m so excited about BLACK SWAN) but I think that he should have stuck to his guns. Hopefully he just goes bat shit for BS, haha get it?

I like the guy. I consider him a director worth paying attention to. I DO hope that he eventually adapts a screenplay or hires a co-writer to keep him from his own worst tendencies.

Sci-fi might just be the new western, which is sad news for me. Speaking of which, have you seen the trailer for COWBOYS VS ALIENS? It actually looks pretty cool.

I also realized that the name of my last post is “I Can’t Wait” which is also the name of an Old Dirty Bastard song that I’ve been really into lately.

I guess THE TREE OF LIFE trailer is going to be preceding BLACK SWAN!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

i can't wait!

BLACK SWAN has my attention as well. However, I can’t claim to be a lover of Aronofsky. I haven’t been able to fully surrender to any of his films which makes me sad considering how effectively he leads me into his visual landscapes. He is undeniably talented, a whiz kid amongst his peers, but his storytelling is, for me, problematic. I remember I was on tour the first time I saw REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, we were crammed into an apartment in Ohio depressed and overwhelmed by both road fatigue and the film itself. I thought it was visually flawless, perfectly capturing the highs and lows of being stoned. I understand that the purpose of a film like this is to drag you to the depths and hold you there long enough to scare the shit out of you in order to teach you but I felt that Aronofsky’s characters didn’t feel like actual characters but rather vessels to deliver a brutal (and probably necessary) lesson. I like it but I sort of think I’m supposed to love it.

THE FOUNTAIN is beautiful to look at, I hear that he created the CG backdrop by taking pictures and film of Petri dishes with various organisms. This was another film that I liked enough but felt that anything short of love would be just a hustle. I loved the Mogwai score but had a hard time caring about the female character which sort of made it hard to get emotionally involved as much of the film’s desired impact comes from the heartache experienced by us when we realize that she is terminally ill. Still, I think this is my favorite film by him thus far.

THE WRESTLER was the closest I’ve come to loving one of his films and consequently I felt such a huge disappointment by certain narrative decisions (as well as casting) that I ended up sort of disliking it altogether. The film is ¾’s masterpiece but there is just enough shit beneath the fingernails to bring the whole ship down. Rourke was amazing and I found myself way more interested in his character’s daily routine than his melodramatic relationships. The whole father/daughter plot fell flat for me and the finale failed as well. The thing is that I felt the scene where he sits and signs autographs got most of the point across just fine. He was going for a Dardenne feel but couldn’t commit to it enough to keep the aesthetic in line with the story.

That being said, I can’t wait for BLACK SWAN. I think this is going to be the film that solidifies his status, at least if it’s as wacky as it seems. I liked hearing comparisons to THE RED SHOES, REPULSION, and SHOWGIRLS but those are expected. You don’t get many ballet films. So given that fact you can also expect to hear a bit about SUSPIRIA and THE COMPANY as well. ALL ABOUT EVE is another one that will come up in reviews. My hope is that he embraces his kitsch enough to run wild with it. It looks amazing. I hope I can join you Ben and we can start an Aronofsky fan club.

instant viewing and welcome

John, I’m not sure that I agree with you about the amount of classics available through netflix. I’ve been able to stream a lot of films via instant viewing. I’m not sure about the 1920s but the 40s and 50s offered a large selection. Criterion has allowed a lot of their films to be viewed instantly and I’ve taken advantage of this as well. I also have the capability of watching these films through the Wii which is a lot better than sitting behind the computer for a couple of hours. All in all I’m not really a huge advocate, nor am I a naysayer.

Welcome Ben! I am about to read your posts. I’ve been really busy writing an album and it has kept me from paying attention to much else. Film Club is fun, especially the debates.

I haven’t given up on Jason. He takes his time. Nothing wrong with that.

2010 has a few prospects still ahead, I’m looking forward to BLUE VALENTINE, TRUE GRIT, THE FIGHTER, and BLACK SWAN. I’ll write more after I read some of Ben’s blog.

I also hope to have some capsules soon. I have seen a good number of films that I haven't talked about.