Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Saturday, January 27, 2007
TerrorStorm: A History of Government-Sponsored Terrorism (2006)
Starring: Alex Jones
Directed By: Alex Jones
Overview: A historical introduction into government-sponsored terrorism through false flag operations invites us to consider the unthinkable: 9/11 was masterminded by its own government.
Acting: The way this narrator/director speaks is one third 'unfunny, immaturely sarcastic, anger-management-needing bitter humour', one third 'assumption of the audience's utter moronic stupidity', and one third 'crazy ranting conspiracist madman'. I don't like this guy. He often alienates those he interviews by belittling them, he not only narrates the 4th amendment while we see the words onscreen, but then he repeats them with his point bold and highlighted in red, while reading them slowly and loudly like you would to a 'special child'. Besides that, everything he says makes me doubt the facts he's spouting. Nothing I like better than watching a documentary and taking notes just to see if they're lying to me.
Cinematography: The advent of ease-of-use technology combined with the growing amount of online animation archives has finally culminated into one man being able to make a movie with one finger. Say what you will about how great technology is, when you can whip up two hours of footage from free stuff online, it doesn't make it glitzy, it makes it gaudily distracting, almost like the visual will make up for the rest of the crap. I hate movies shot like music videos. Just because you say the word 'medicine', it doesn't give you free reign to have pictures of bacteria flying all over the screen. God, talk about A.D.D. editing.
Script: "I agree that we should give up liberty for freedom." - Fruit market clerk at Tube Station after London 07.07.05 bombing.
What more poignant a quote could there be to clearly illustrate the problem? Shocking. The best thing said in this whole film. Of course Alex Jones goes and uses that clip three times, then has a discussion with people about how liberty and freedom are the same thing, then talk about how people aren't 'getting it'. Alex, if you're trying to convince your audience, play the soft sell, they already have your video in their DVD player. That's more than half the battle, stop yelling already. Constant references (and I mean at least eight) to Orwell's 1984 doesn't make you a prophet, it makes you annoying, and comparing George Bush to Hitler is a child's gambit. Try not sounding like such an infantile lunatic. Silence speaks volumes... so shut up.
Plot: The theory is chilling. Period. If it's true, I'm shocked. The problem is that it's so unbelievably delivered that one is made to doubt not only the big conspiracy from the very beginning, but all the factual lead-in about false flag operations and government moles and whatnot. What I find most interesting about the theory that 'not only did we know about the 9/11 attacks but American Black Ops actually planned it' is that I've heard the scientific arguments before, I've read about thermite put into the concrete pillars, none of this is new to me. What Alex Jones brings to the table is mad-dog ranting serving only to dissuade me from listening. Oh and repetition is the worse time-filler, short is good. An hour and fifty minutes, not so much.
Mood: What a big effin' joke. Could you be more opinionated, please? When I watch documentaries I like to at least pretend there's another side to the argument. When I first heard Alex Jones in A Waking Life, he was a boisterous, blustering, complacency-hating left-winger who had a nice little speech, and it was inspiring. Here he dominates over the whole production... Hell, he even insinuated himself in every category of my review! Son of a douche! Not the kind of film that drew me in. In fact I kept turning it off when I'd had enough of his gravelly, yelling-too-much voice...
Aftertaste: Well if anyone knows how to do a better at making someone look like a whacked-out lunatic than a hoarse fat dude with a bullhorn, let me know, because I'm sure the CIA is taking notes. They must love what this guy's doing for National Security.
Friday, January 26, 2007
Family Plot (1976)
I think Duncanson would agree, this is not the best example of 'artistic and dynamic marquis'
Genre: Comedy Thriller
Starring: Karen Black (Five Easy Pieces; House of 1000 Corpses) Bruce Dern (Monster; The Great Gastby)
Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock (Rear Window; Strangers On A Train)
Acting: Individually, Karen Black, Bruce Dern, Barbara Harris (Freaky Friday), and William Devane (Marathon Man) are accomplished enough actors, so what's wrong with this picture? I could only say that Hitchcock himself is to blame for... not 'poor performances', but for uninspired characterization that made this more of a 'people working on a movie set', instead of the immersive storytelling this was meant to be. Ouch...
Cinematography: I've grown to love Hitchcock is my own way. Really, I have. I don't mean to leave off his career on a sour note, but by the same right, how can a man who's directed such haunting scenes in the past make another film rife with danger, yet not make those several moments chilling? Am I right in remembering that he was ill at this time? What could have been a terrifying nosedive down a mountain was turned into a comic-strip account of rubbery cartoons bumbling down the road. All that was missing were bleeping and boinging sound effects. Why Hitch? And why not make all the other potentially terrifying scenes funny too, at least to keep it consistent? Professionally shot yes, but was Hitch in a hurry?
Script: I am a fan of Quentin Tarantino, writer of films in which swear words are meat and potatoes. That having been said, I found it so strange and unusual that Alfred Hitchcock would allow any expletives in his films. Maybe it's a sign of the times. Call me old fashioned but I don't think swearing in Hitchcock, makes for good Hitchcock. Blah, this movie just smells like an old boat. Even the potentially most interesting moments, those 'psychic chanellings', were there to explain plot rather than being an exercise in unique flourish.
Plot: Family Plot, as in areas reserved for familial graves, and also as in 'machinations of related people', how witty. If the story was half as witty as that title, this movie would have been twice as good. This predictable film not only doesn't leave any questions unanswered, but they're so nicely bundled in a package with each answer sporting a nice little bow. To think that the Master Of Suspense had any part in this story completely lacking emotion and truth makes me wonder how much he sold out for his shiny new contract. It's like he sat there and corrected little things along the way, knowing the film was a lost cause. Must be nice having such a professional technician on a set.
Mood: It's good to know that Alfred Hitchcock has not forgotten his roots. By that I mean when something is coined as being 'Comedy', Hitchcock does as he did so many years ago with such films as Champagne and Rich And Strange, namely throwing in one passably quirky scene, and maybe two laughs, and slapping 'Comedy' on the Marquis. It's good to know how this felt like those old stinkers from way back, when he had no creative control. This is so without the Hitchcock feel, that I felt gypped.
Ugh, rather than inspiring comedy, this still just makes me mourn the last work of a great director.
Aftertaste: No, I didn't find it that bad, and maybe I'm grading too hard because it's Hitchcock, but much as it was with Jamaica Inn, I found that this movie didn't look like it was directed by anyone with a vision, anyone special, or anyone who cared about leaving a deep mark.
If it's one thing I've learned about Hitchcock, it's that his best movies have his signature on them. Family Plot is just a film with is name signed at the bottom.
As for final thought about my study of Hitchcock, the biggest thing I've learned from his career overall, it's that you have a limited amount of time to make a limited amount of film. Choose wisely, leave a mark that defines you. Make something that people will call yours rather than being 'master of none'... er, even if he was the Master Of Suspense...
Thursday, January 25, 2007
The Independent Filmmakers Co-operative of Ottawa Winter Gala 2007 Announcement
Ryan Handoyo – 1506.2201.Riverside
Pascal Aka – Weed Commercial
Paul Gordon - The E. I. Life
Christopher Redmond - Written in Stone
Daniel Cardinal - THEY COME AT NIGHT
Deny Trudel - Skins & Rubbers
Pixie Cram - Pepere’s Chairs
Bridget Farr – All I Ever
Ben Hoskyn - Sun Pushing Shadows
Jean-Claude Batista - The Competitive Edge
Deniz Berkin - The Closed Door
Joey Abboud - The End
Paul Crivellari - No. 81
Petr Maur - Oh My
This year's films are edgier than ever. Come see for yourselves! Mix 'n' Mingle with the filmmakers at our after-mixer at the Bay Street Bistro (160 Bay Street) just steps away from the National Archives. Tickets are $12. Tickets can be purchased in advance at IFCO’s office (Ste.140 – 2 Daly Avenue), or the Arts Court front desk (2 Daly Avenue). You can also purchase tickets at the door.
ShowTime is 7:00pm.
Starring: Clara Bow (Wings), Antonio Moreno (Creature from the Black Lagoon)
Directed By: Clarence G. Badger
Overview: When the new department store owner finds himself smitten by a sales girl, he find that she's got 'IT', that quality that makes men bend over backwards and submit to her will. Love is never as easy as that...
Acting: So it's been a while since I've watched a silent film, given the Hitch-fest and all the television I've been watching, and I feared that I had 'moved on' so to speak, thinking that I might wish for the colour and the sound that I have again grown to expect in my film experiences. As I watched It, I realize why I've seen so many silent films, even though they may not be in the Great and Magnificent 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. When they're this well-acted, they tell the whole story, subtext and all, with vivid clarity. Now I know why of all nicknames Clara Bow was called 'The It Girl'. Wow. What awe-inspiring performances by everyone.
Cinematography: 1927 was a time of pretty intensely realistic filmmaking, which basically means that sets were often on location, like out at sea on a yacht with a ukulele, or at the fair on rides, or in the department store overloaded with customers and props. This isn't high-art or a visual spectacle or anything but the quality of the visuals can compete even today, intertitles, flapper hats and all.
Script: "So you're one of those Minute Men - The minute you know a girl you think you can kiss her!"
What is the worst part of a Romantic Comedy? Some would say its predictability. Others, like myself, would say 'the route that its predictability takes'. When one commits to writing a Romantic Comedy, they commit themselves to 'The Formula'. What they shouldn't commit themselves to is creating drama from improbable situations that could be resolved simply through explanation. To write a story full of plot holes for the simple sake of making the end more climactic is a sin, and for as much as It is the predictable Romantic Comedy it claims to be, anyone would do well to learn the lesson of scriptwriting the 'misunderstanding as plot device' from this piece. Aside from that, there's even real humour, and not the corny Harold Lloyd stuff of puns and similes, I mean genuine timeless laugh-out-loud moments.
Plot: The twist, the thing I found strange and unusual about this film isn't in the plot, it's in the feminism. Given the day and age, Clara Bow was probably one of the least reserved individuals in film, and that quality made her quite popular indeed, not to mention the stunning smile that could light up a whole room, not in a graceful way, more like a dizzying, disco-ball party kind of way. Her energy combined with the heavy focus on her perspective of 'The Chase' makes this an interesting film historically and culturally, besides being plain old fun.
Mood: The wonder that comes from being immersed into a day and age so apart from your own and understanding its cultural issues, stigmas and nuances so perfectly can either be attributed to the genius of my intellect and adaptability to foreign concepts, or, more probably, the creators' ability to tell a tale with such vivid attention to detail with a story so timeless that its viewers universally understand its unfolding. Too bad the skill was used for just a Rom-Com.
Aftertaste: The greatest risk (besides traumatization) with watching anything is that it will bore you and be a waste of time. When you compound that with a silent film of an era you've never known, along with the quality of some film prints, you're really risking things by watching silent cinema. Agreed, it's a tough call. Perhaps this isn't the best example of storytelling, given the confines of the Genre, but it's really great for understanding the socio-cultural dynamic, if I would hazard a guess at how it was back then.
Cujo (1983) * Favorite Review *
Starring: Dee Wallace-Stone (The Howling; E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial); Danny Pintauro ("Who's the Boss?")
Directed By: Lewis Teague (The Jewel of the Nile; Navy Seals)
Overview: Dogs die when locked in hot cars. Cujo, Stephen King's rabid St-Bernard, is getting even on all those dog owners with some poetic vengeance.
Acting: Whether they have starred for years in "Who's The Boss?", or if they're merely a talentless tertiary character that casting chose because he was their best friend's actor-hopeful cousin, the victim of rabies, if left untreated will develop encephalitis, which is a lovely little condition that causes brain damage when the brain swells inside the skull and eventually kills the victim, even if they're super-well trained dogs.
Cinematography: Those infected with rabies start developping symptoms between two and eight weeks. Sometimes they'll see a scene with the world artistically spinning or sights mimicking Hitchcock's down-low or high up camera angles, but usually they'll just see the world as most people do, with the occasional vicious attacks, leaving their victims bloody dead, or bloody afraid, though always professional, if a little dated.
Script: The victim of a rabies infection will tend to say things like "Ow, my brain's leaking out of my ears," or "did you see that huge monster bite the hell out of me? I bet I've got rabies", you know pretty inventive stuff. Stories like 'I'm having an affair' and 'you have to go out of town to deal with a PR fiasco' aren't really good things to talk about when a dog is trying to eat your face.
Plot: Rabies treatment in humans no longer involves painful injections into the abdominal wall, though a victim will indeed receive immunoglobin and a vaccine, on the first day, and another vaccine on the 3rd, 7th, 14th, and 28th day after that first shot. Some people might think that long, perhaps even as long as Girlfriend Of Squish found this 93 minute film, or as she put it, "alright now, I get it, kill something".
Mood: The mood of those infected with rabies vary depending on the symptom present: the furious stage is known for displays of irritability, restlessness and aggression, which many people will feel as they watch this film's sub-plots unfold without any resolution, even though the book wrapped everything up quite nicely, thank you. There is also a paralytic stage, where foaming at the mouth occurs due to localized paralysis of the throat and face, causing the inability to swallow, and eventually respiratory paralysis, which of course leads to death. I can at least say that this probably won't happen to audiences watching Cujo, mainly because of the cute kid and the occasional scary moment.
Aftertaste: No one wants rabies, that much is clear, but we all wouldn't mind seeing someone with rabies to satiate our bloodlust. This movie is like that. Not in a Lars Von Trier or silent Era Film mood? Well switch to the On Demand channel and let yer woman pick something, though I'd have gone for Rocky myself... I think I also learned the lesson that after a dinner out at a fancy sushi place, no matter what you watch, it'll probably be satisfying, especially with a glass of wine in your hand.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
Genre: Drama Fantasy Thriller
Starring: Ivana Baquero, Sergi López
Directed By: Guillermo del Toro (The Devil's Backbone; Hellboy)
Overview: A young girl goes to live with her pregnant mother and a military captain in Franco-ruled Spain. Amidst the oppression of the people, the girl finds herself in a fantastical world where she quests to be a fairy princess.
Acting: I've said recently that there are some films that need constant defence rather than evaluation, and you won't find Pan's Labyrinth to be the kind of film that has critics debating it's worth. In fact, some reviews are almost too easy to write because I'll just be saying what everyone one else has. We have some great talent here, and the film runs as smoothly as this praise of it will. For you sick freaks out there, you'll like the Fascist Captain the best.
Cinematography: This is what draws people out. This is what will make the Lowest Common Denominator forgive the subtitles. They'll be so impressed with that eyeball-handed monster and the faun and the frog and the fantasy of it all, that they won't think reading a chore. What their kids might not like is all the gore, like when, early on, the Captain punches a dude in the face until it's mushy. Course, I'm not a kid, so party on. You don't need me telling you this is impressive... I don't even know why I bothered.
Script: Speaking of subtitles, I remember once going into a chain video-rental place with my selection when the clerk reminded me that there were subtitles in it with the question "Do you still want it?". My reply of "Of course, how many people actually say no to that?" was retorted with an astonishing "About half." And this is Canada, where we pride ourselves in our ability to read. I expected poetry in Pan, but all I got was well-written declarations of fact and opinion.
Plot: What makes this story great is the context. A young girl dreaming of a fantastical world while brutality encroaches upon her, keeping the story rooted in mature-sized terror rather than playing up the beauty and magic of everything... that's what makes this film entertaining for the realists among us. Though, I would have liked just a touch more fantasy and less fascism, I wouldn't have minded a longer movie to accommodate both.
Mood: The first complaint I have about this film are the odd moments that were worse than a guided tour for its exposition. We have a servant who is shown to have a concealed knife on her person, not once but twice. Thanks for reminding me how she'll be using it as a weapon at some point - twice. Then there's the most harrowing fantasy scene of the whole film: with such warnings as "Don't eat a thing, your life depends on it," you'd really think there would be a better way to rouse the sleeping beast than going and doing the very thing you were expressly told not to do. All the 'real moments', those 'above ground' times with violence and torture taking place, they were rich in period and oppression and iron-fisted evil. It's fantastic. As for the fantastical quests themselves, I'll admit they weren't the grand expressions I hoped for, gorgeous as they were.
Sweet evil Spanish dictators. Why are dictators always so well dressed?
Overall Rating: 84% (A-maze-ing Enough)
Aftertaste: None of the dozen of us who went to this doubted how good this would be and none were disappointed, so as reviews go, you'd do well to see this, but to Hell with IMDB's Top 250. I've been watching this movie on that list since Thursday where it was #125. I thought this was very impressive for a movie that had only screened at festivals. Tuesday morning it's #100, and #90 by the afternoon. Right now it's sitting at #88. Hardly. Who pays who to create accounts and click 'best movie ever'? I'm not buying it.
Dead Man (1995)
Genre: Adventure Crime Drama Western (USA, Germany, Japan)
Starring: Johnny Depp (Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride), Gary Farmer (The Score)
Directed By: Jim Jarmusch (Mystery Train, Broken Flowers)
Overview: An accountant from Cleveland moves out to the Wild West. When he shoots a man, he ends up on the run where an Indian named Nobody nurtures him back to health.
Acting: Johnny Effin' Depp, sure he's had his misses (Cry-Baby, Nick Of Time) but I haven't seen any of them, and my record is still clean. That having been said, you know this guy makes wicked awesome films, and Jarmusch is perfect at guiding them along. After this, Gary Farmer is one of my new favorite native actors, and he's been in quite a bit. Add the likes of Iggy Pop, Crispin Glover, Billy-Bob Thornton, Lance Henriksen, John Hurt, Gabriel Byrne and Michael Wincott, and we prove that this is a director who not only can wrangle up some good talent, but keep them reins tight.
Cinematography: Filmed in glorious black and white, you'll appreciate the way the old West seems more real this way, almost like looking at an old picture. Besides having the costumes just right and the wilderness as impressive as ever, we have some pretty cool action and some intense cinematic style that frankly makes me wonder why he didn't do this sort of thing more often. The best Jarmusch film out there for the visuals that I've seen so far.
Script: "That weapon will replace your tongue. You will learn to speak through it. And your poetry will now be written with blood."
This movie is full of awesome stuff like this. Not only is this filled with both literal and figurative poetry, but I was genuinely astounded at the depth of understanding I had for each character. Writers would do well in learning the lesson of how to create characters that become richer with every word, rather than scenes that simply banter their way to the end. .
Plot: The simplest stories can be the strongest. This is not some twist-rich story full of intrigue and double-crosses. It's the common story about a man who commits himself to a new life, when right away happenstance interferes. His meek character must change quickly in the face of these harsh challenges that he faces, but they aren't insurmountable. It's one man against the limited few that chase him. It's brilliant in its simplicity, as rather than bogging us down with events, we can focus on character. It's great.
Mood: The opening scene on the train shows our hero amongst wild men. We learn before he even arrives that his transformation must be quick. Stepping off the train we see his astounded by the muddy filth of the streets, the sinful filth of the rugged men that surround him. The realistic style of the fights he gets into and the almost supernatural way he adapts to the changes are what make this film so great. Add to this the chiaroscuro style of filming and we have the entire gamete of art covered, creating a deep and meaningful film, as well as a comment on our darker history.
Overall Rating: 92% (Knocks You Flat On Your Ass)
Aftertaste: I have no idea what happened to Jim Jarmusch in the four years between Night On Earth and this. It's like he became an entirely different director. From two films about short stories with very little plot, to this deep tale of fate, rebirth, and spirituality. I have two more films to watch of his to complete my study of his works, and after having seen this and Ghost Dog, I'll tell you I'm completely stoked.
This post is part of the Jim Jarmusch Blog-A-Thon. For a complete list, visit Sujewa.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Cannes International Advertising Festival 2006 (2006)
Overview: The 2006 selection of the world's funniest and most important commercials of the year.
Over the holidays, I was expressly avoiding film for fear of having to set aside valuable time reserved for www.filmsquish.com to write reviews. I remedied the need for visual stimulation by watching TV. Vegging in front of the tube for a 44-minute hour is the easiest way of passing movie-reserved time, but only served to make me realize just how much I hate television.
For about a year now, my television habits have been reduced to The Weather Network, and Rogers On Demand. That means that my patience for television advertising has been replaced with, as Girlfriend Of Squish will attest, rage-filled, three-minute rants. Don't even get me started on advertisers digitally inserting product placements for shows now in syndication, like Friends.
I hate television because I hate commercials. I hate commercials because - simply put - slave-owning companies I wish would die try to sell me crap I don't need and bring this world one step closer to the brink. That's why I found it strange to be sitting there at a 116-minute advertising extravaganza for the third year in a row even though it didn't impress me the first or even the second time.
Given this growing hatred of The Corporation, I certainly had apprehensions of attending the Cannes International Ad Festival 2006, but let me be the first to tell you how impressed I was this year. First of all, they fixed the biggest problems with the previous years' presentations: they didn't show the same commercial three times as before, and it didn't end as abruptly as in previous years. I have a few recommendable favorites, yes, but rather than drone on about those, I'd rather rant about the ad that disturbed me the most: Smooth E Babyface Foam, a facial cleansing product from Thailand.
This is a 4-part comedy drama where an Asian tomboy hunts after her favoured pretty boy. Though the actual product placement was humourous (a tribute / satirization of the American 50s billboards with a motionless smiling woman holding the product next to her face in an extreme close-up), the undercurrent of this ad is disturbing in cultural context. Yes, the fact that the ideal of beauty being sold will get you the man you desire is bad enough, but that's to be expected. What's truly unnerving is that this Asian commercial is so completely Americanized that besides having the 'ideal model' as close to American as an Asian could be, we have the title of the Thai product in English, which serves not only to add poignancy to the name of the item, but helps create an English language culture in a country an ocean apart... and I thought mourning chopsticks was worthwhile... talk about homogenization.
And you can finally watch back, (Big) Brother!!
Overall Rating: 82% (It Cannes And It Does)
Aftertaste: Now you know what leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. Advertising. So go enjoy this. Those of you in Ottawa reading this still have until February 1st to check it out. This event attracts lost of people, so show up early!
Monday, January 22, 2007
Robocop 2 (1990) * Favorite Review *
Starring: Peter Weller (Shadow Hours; Naked Lunch), Tom Noonan (Mercy Seed; Manhunter)
Directed By: Irvin Kershner (Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back; Never Say Never Again)
Acting: If it's one thing I've realized after two years of writing reviews, it's that the preconception of a film will often guide many people to conclusions enough that they need be addressed by the critic before the critic can be taken seriously. Robocop 2 is such a film that deserves more consideration in defence than in actual evaluation, and knowing that this director's high points include Star Wars and James Bond, well, that's enough to hold up for itself. Some of you may say that Peter Weller isn't the best actor out there, but at least he was the original Robocop, and he did a great job in Naked Lunch. As for Tom Noonan, it was nice seeing a little known actor that I've really grown to like in such a prominent role, even if it wasn't the career builder it should have been for him. Screw you guys, this was great, especially considering the year it was made.
Cinematography: The best thing about this movie would be the budget. Admittedly these types of action flicks full of guns and goons will invariably have said goons using said guns on bullet-proof behemoths, and yes you might even say that seven shootout scenes might even be too much. What you can't say is that stop-motion animation isn't cool. Yes, they used it in the original Robocop, and they keep it up in the sequel. Sweet memories of the days of Sinbad fighting skeletons and sea monsters! It's not low-tech, it's retro-cool, and hey there's even these P.O.V. shots where you see green targeting screens and directives scrolling by. What else do you WANT?!
Script: "Jesus... had days like this."
This screenplay was written by Frank Miller. This screenplay was written by Frank Miller. I wrote that twice because I also found it hard to believe. Yeah, the guy who wrote and co-directed Sin City. In fact, his original plot for Robocop 2 was made into a 9-issue comic series. And you know what else? I'm going to read it, just to spite you hater bitches. This movie's script has a lot of plain old obvious dialogue, but there's some pretty awesome tongue-in-cheek wit that keeps this movie OUT of the cheese category - keeps this movie OUT of the cheese category.
Plot: "DIRECTIVE 245: If you haven't got anything nice to say don't talk."
Mood: Screw you guys, this was a great time. What makes this movie this much fun is the social commentary as expressed through the commercials, think Starship Troopers. The first has a business man who changed data companies to save money. Due to slow service, he lost the account, and proceeds to kill himself as the camera zooms in on a picture of his daughter. The second add shows how 'since the ozone layer is gone' SPF 5000 is the way to go, and shows a model covering herself in a thick blue goo as she sits relaxing by the pool. Little comedic moments like all the failed attempts at newer model Robocops prove that this film doesn't take itself anywhere near seriously, and the comedy abounds.
No, shut up. I don't care what you think, it's not a bad movie.
Ok I DO care what you think... leave a comment.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Nocturne (1980) & Image of Relief (1982)
Starring: Yvette, Edward Fleming, Kirsten Olesen
Directed By: Lars Von Trier (Dogville; Breaking The Waves)
Overview: Easter Eggs on a compilation of Lars Von Trier's Apocalyptic Trilogy include his first made in film school, as well as his graduating production.
I'll tell you that even my budding filmmaking knowledge began with experimental film, and for as much as you might think it easier to do, as they need not have a narrative, a plot or even sometimes a purpose, they are certainly a deep trek into the learning process, and can teach more things more quickly, as long as we're willing to spend the money and risk failure. Art students have the great benefit of being guided through the learning process of more technical aspects of a medium, while using it to take us to a personal place limited only by the artist's ideas, creativity and their wallet. For this reason, watching the introductory independent works of established filmmakers makes a lot of sense. You learn applications of ingenuity, of artistic manipulation over the technical all while, hopefully grasping the technical challenges that those new to the field have faced. Call it a tutorial.
Friday, January 19, 2007
Starring: Jean Servais, Carl Möhner (Sink the Bismarck!)
Directed By: Jules Dassin (Night And The City; Thieves' Highway)
Overview: A gang of hard-boiled ex-cons perfectly concoct a brilliant jewellery heist, but to err is human...
Acting: Jules Dassin, after a quick perusal, turns out to be one of the best, if not THE director of the French Film Noir. More interesting is that he was a Russian-Jewish American who left America when accused of being a communist, and consequently blacklisted. For Francois Truffaut to say that the best Film Noir he'd ever seen is Rififi, well that's enough to make me recommend it to even the Film Noir-curious. Then there's the actual cast. Imagine the perfect face of a villain, then watch this. Freakish how that's the EXACT face you were picturing for the bad guy, eh?
Cinematography: Film NOIR, and by Noir I mean dark settings with trench coats and fedoras, bejewelled bleached blondes in smoky gin joints singing about the rough and tumble men they associate with. Men who linger about darkened alleys, drive boats and shoot gats. It's like a total rip off of every Film Noir cliché that exists, except he was probably out there inventing it.
Script: This is the kind of writing that needs no explanation. It's a tale with few twists, and by that I mean the motivations of these characters are so well laid-out and rooted in the genre that you know innately where this is going to go, in the best way possible. No surprises means you know the characters. Cynical outlooks and paranoia speak volumes. When words are exchanged though, those of you who speak French will appreciate the ultra-50s slang of it all.
Plot: Film NOIR, and by noir I mean a bleak, surly, anti-hero tale where the guy we follow has maybe an ounce more likeability than anyone else, a touch more ethic, a sliver more nobless. A heist story that appropriately shows the quick wit of professionals while still focussing on the consequences of human frailty, that's nothing to complain about. When I say classic film noir, it implies tragic ends, but don't be so sure... or maybe I'm just saying that to keep you guessing. Either way, the good guys are bad, the bad guys are evil, and that's what makes it worth the trip.
Mood: Early in this story we have a scene where our anti-hero, after having done his bit in prison, comes back to find his old lady at a fancy club, letting a man pay for her evening. Our hero stands there, looming, telling the man to leave. The woman is taken into a room, and made to give him all her jewellery, and her mink coat. "I never forgot you!" she pleads. He beats her with a belt for her lack of loyalty. Call me a misogynist but I don't know a better way to introduce a character than by this trial by fire. After that, you know who this guy is. He doesn't need any more back-story than that.
Aftertaste: Half way through I said, "I don't know if it's the wine, but is this the best Film Noir I've ever seen?" In the end, as stories go, the answer was 'almost', but the characters are ultra-rich in the genre, morbid as it is. Why this isn't in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die is beyond me. What irks me is that something crappy took its place, I'm sure, yet this is film history here. Whatever.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Look at all the Hitchcock fans fleeing the theater en masse!
Genre: Crime Thriller Drama
Starring: Frederick Stafford (The Battle of El Alamein), Dany Robin
Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock (Vertigo; Psycho)
Overview: A French ambassador finds himself embroiled into Russian-American Cold War politics. With threats of double agents and Cuban missiles pointed at America, those politics may become all too deadly.
Acting: I will admit I dreaded writing this review for so long that I think I blocked out most of it. Frenchmen speaking English with French accents bug me, that's my cross to bear. Black spies so super-hip that they border on the 'sploitation cool, but not on purpose, they kick ass. This movie should have been about him. The best roles in this are the tertiary little guys. Why God? Why?! Ambassadors turn out to be boring people, and their wives too whiney for their own good.
Cinematography: Again I'm trying to think of unprofessional or ultra-bland moments. None. Now I'm trying to think of interesting and cool moments: the black guy (below) trying to sneak off with some top secret documents. That scene was great, full of suspense and intrigue! Then there's... er... yeah.
Script: The best dialogue took place during the ten minute scene (again, below) where there was no speaking. Ouch. It's not like the dialogue didn't serve to explain essential elements or carry a hefty weight of character behind them, but talk about uninspired. Why bother picking up something like this? How does it work? Hitchcock snaps his fingers and says, 'bring me five political intrigue scripts!' then blindfolds himself and pins a contract on one? ICK.
Plot: Do you know how hard it is to write a thrilling and exciting Overview for a movie full of old men talking shop in back rooms? Political thrillers bore me, turns out. They aren't exciting. Bond is interesting, and Syriana was great, but when you have Cuban missile crises AND people playing both sides of the espionage coin, why on earth would I want to explore a disgruntled ambassador's wife thinking about leaving her husband? Why do I care about whether or not he's cheating on her? Why did you waste my time with minutia when you could have been focussing on global politics? Who planned this spin on the story?!
Mood: I think I'm sick of writing this. I'm just glad some Cubans got beat within an inch of their life, it makes for added realism.
Dexter: Season 1 (2006)
Genre: Crime Drama Series
Created By: James Manos Jr. ("The Shield")
Overview: Sociopath, blood fetishist, serial killer. Who'd be a better edition to the Miami P.D. crime lab?
Acting: Michael C. Hall is a very convincing homosexual, so much so that I was surprised to discover he's straight, he understands sociopathic behaviour well enough to make ME understand sociopathic behaviour, and does such a great job as would carry the show all by his lonesome. What truly makes this series a treasure is that he carries no one. All the characters are well-rooted in their motivations to the point that we hate everyone for the right reasons, except for Angel, who everyone seems to know is just a loveable guy. Deep characters make for great stories.
Cinematography: The curse of television is the Lowest Common Denominator Factor, or pleasing all of the people some of the time, rather than some of the people all of the time. I'll give it this though, as it was with "Six Feet Under", they use unique angles and lenses, well-planned colour co-ordination, sets and lighting effects that prove this show to be quite stylized, not to mention the occasional wicked GCI. I'd even go as far as saying 'Artsy'.
Script: I can't remember a TV show that had the main character as a serial killer, but I would hazard that if "Dexter" was not handled this sensitively, it wouldn't have succeeded as well as it did, much less have been picked up by a network, progressive as it may be. The season's opening episode shows Dexter at his bleakest, more a killer than a cop, and I'll admit that for as much as I was sold enough to try a couple more episodes, Girlfriend of Squish was concerned that it would stay too rooted in the darkness of this man. What happens instead is a rich back-story where Dexter's foster father, knowing that he's sick and different, decides to teach him a code of survival. This code and Dexter's witty and often double-entendre inner and outer monologues are what make this show intelligent. Besides that there's tons of humour and a few inspirational speeches, all bases covered. This is some of the best television out there.
Plot: And what else do we have besides a killer who works as a CSI? We have the primary plot of Miami PD chasing down another serial killer, The Ice-Truck Killer, who leaves NO blood at the scene, who bundles up the dismembered pieces all nice and in interesting locales. As it is with a TV series we also have all the secondary character subplots, and of course Dexter's new relationship and an exploration of his past tie up all the loose ends. terrifically done. A series based on a series of books can't make a show mess up too much. It's all about planning.
Mood: The show's opening credits is chock full of extreme close-ups of a Dexter's 'morning ritual': slowly carving and juicing a blood orange, cutting himself shaving, frying up ham, grinding coffee, flossing and tying his shoes like a garrotte, and pulling a shirt over his face with a particular asphyxiative tone. This intro is the perfect was of describing the show. There's a constant undercurrent of fear and doubt amoung the viewer, an innate apprehension towards Dexter's acts. Even when doing nothing sinister, Dexter has a sinister air. When he smiles it's for the wrong reasons, and as we grow to learn about him it takes time for us to acclimate ourselves to his way. In fact if it weren't for his backstory, I don't think he'd receive any sympathy at all. This way of telling the story is the best way of doing it, because otherwise we'd be leaving with a 'aw shucks he's such a nice killer'. I'm glad no one went that way.
Torn Curtain (1966)
Starring: Paul Newman (The Hustler; Cool Hand Luke) Julie Andrews (Victor/Victoria; The Princess Diaries)
Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock (The Pleasure Garden; The Lady Vanishes)
Overview: A rocket scientist defects to East Germany to finish his research on a missile defence system. When his fiancée secretly follows him, she adds a few too many complication to his plans.
Acting: Typecasting sucks. From Mary Poppins to The Sound Of Music you got yourself a double-edged career-nailer. You nail yourself into the roles of 'Singing Goodness Personified', but at the same time you're hammering the nails into that cross of predetermination. I doubt you'll ever see Pesci in a feel-good musical, and you know what, I think he's fine with that. Sadly even me with my well-developed right brain cannot pierce the logical defiance of these previous roles of Julie Andrews. I can't put her in this place of intrigue. I can't see her playing secret spy in Berlin because every time she opens her mouth with her eyebrows raised I'm expecting her to sing about how the hills are alive with the sound of goose-stepping... no matter how awesome Paul Newman is.
Cinematography: Hitchcock's a dumbass for using crappy sets even as late as 1966. STOP IT. Maybe I'm too much a fan of the Dogme Project, but there's a minimal accepted amount of quality that must be expected from a Hollywood production at this point in film history. With a single scene, Hitchcock manages to kick a hole in my enjoyment by recreating a set up on a hill, the scene where Paul Newman explains a secret to his wife. In films like Suspicion and The Trouble With Harry, it was quaint, almost endearing. At this point I'm sick of crappy painted backdrops, especially when Hitch does nothing to make the rest of the movie escape the budding style trends of the disco 70s. Ack.
Script: Maybe I waited too long to review this one too but I recall nothing special. One thing I've come to expect of Hitchcock, is that scripts aren't usually his strong suit.
Plot: Subplot-introducing minor character studies of weirdoes do nothing for me unless it's David Lynch doing it. The crazy Berliner lady (seen below) did nothing more than lengthen the story, try to add a (failed) comedic element, and was most likely nothing more than a healthy hunk of propaganda, used to show how people hate living in East Berlin, and how communism drives people crazy. Man, It thought Hitchcock had more integrity, but he seems to sell out often. Now as for the story it's pretty involving and has a nice twist, but I wouldn't say it's worth hemmin' and hawin' about.
Mood: The best part of the whole thing is when Paul tries to escape from his 'bodyguard' (read: tail) to meet a contact named Pi. The unfolding of the perfect timing of suspense and adrenaline-pumping action that ensues is very reminiscent of the crop-duster scene of North By Northwest. It's slow, it's messy, there's threats everywhere to everyone, and you don't quite know where it's going to go. At the same time, Hitch knows how to make it just long enough without getting boring. This scene proves that this is a Hitchcock film, but it was really the only moment worth mention. That my friend, is crap.
Aftertaste: I couldn't get over how much Paul Newman stole the show on this one. He's amazing, and it's the first time Girlfriend of Squish ever saw him, or as she referred to him as 'Oh the salad dressing guy?!' Heehee!