Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Contempt

I watched this on Bravo back during the year I lived with my parents before I moved to New York. For a number of months, I think I watched a movie a day. I didn't have much else to do.

I loved this back then and was blown away by how amazing it looked on the small screen. Obviously, it looks even better on the big screen. In fact, every single image is perfect. Over the years, I'd only remembered the many brilliant moments and had sort of forgotten some of the other moments. I did like this upon re-watching it but I do think that I might have overinflated how great I thought the movie was over the last twelve years.

Still, I'm glad I saw it again. The tone of the film is great. Godard knew he was the shit and wanted to show that to everyone. Snotty, brilliant, arrogant, all of Godard's foibles are encapsulated in this film. Jack Palance is awesome. Fritz Lang is hilarious. And nothing gets more perfect than Brigitte Bardot's ass which is more than heavily featured in this film. A true work of art. As I said, every single image is perfect.

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
1963
Film Forum

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Smithereens

This movie has so much going for it. New York in the early 80's! A killer soundtrack of the Feelies and Richard Hell! Richard Hell himself stars in the film. But the disparate great parts never coalesced into the great film that I wanted.

Granted, there's more than enough fun stuff to see this movie if you get the chance. But the main character (a prissy social climbing little wannabe punk rocker) is just so incredibly annoying that it is hard to fully embrace the movie.

Still, everytime the camera pans the burned out empty lots of 1980's New York and the Feelies soundtrack kicks in, all sins are forgiven.

Seidelman went on to direct Desperately Seeking Susan, a movie that SHR has informed me also features Richard Hell.

Directed by Susan Seidelman
1982
Showtime

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Spirited Away

Listmaker Trivia Question:
What do Roger Dodger, Talk to Her, Late Marriage, Morvern Callar, The Pianist, and What Time is It There? have in common?

Answer:
They all were ranked higher on my 2002 movie list than this absolute masterpiece of a movie. What was I thinking? Granted, I really liked the movies listed and I also think that What Time Is It There? is one of the best movies of the decade but number 7 on the list? After Roger Dodger? What?

This movie really is perfect. It has absolutely no flaws whatsoever. Every moment is magical. Every single frame! I don't even feel like mentioning any of them because I might not ever stop writing this post. And if you haven't seen this yet, you should stop reading this post right now and go rent it.

This was the third Miyazaki film we watched in my class and even Girl Who Likes Sparkly Clothes but Hates Hillary Clinton who hated the other two didn't complain too much about this one.

I've seen this movie three times now and want to watch it again right now. Can Miyazaki ever top this?

When I compile my best of list for this decade, this is a shoo-in for the Top 10. How could it not be?

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
2001, U.S. Release: 2002
DVD

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sons of the Desert

A kid in my class brought this in for the class to watch. I've got to admit - I'm not sure that I've actually ever seen a whole Laurel and Hardy film before.

It was pretty damn good. A little corny at times in a way that the silent films of the 20's aren't since they didn't have enough dialogue to be that corny. Still, there are some really funny moments in this movie. The kids really liked this and laughed aloud quite a bit. It's fun watching these kinds of movies with kids as they yell at the screen and make predictions.

I'm ready for more Laurel and Hardy.

Directed by William Seiter
1933
DVD

Monday, April 21, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

I was disappointed with this movie when I first saw it nineteen years ago and I'm still a bit disappointed by it. It is fun enough at times but I much prefer The Temple of Doom to this one. Sure, that one had some dumbass parts but the action scenes were the bomb! This one was so jokey to the point of silliness. Oh look, Indy gets Hitler's autograph! Oh look, Indy was named after the dog! Oh look, he gets so frustrated by his dad! Oh look, that's how he got his scar back when he was River Phoenix. Please. Too much zany shit for my tastes.

This clearly was supposed to be the tonic for the sinister tone of The Temple of Doom's heart ripping scene, etc but this movie went way too far to the attempted lighthearted side. And the Holy Grail/ knight part was so darn hokey. I really hope the upcoming one is better than this one.

Directed by Steven Spielberg
1989
DVD

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

I hope this is a hit. I love Jason Segel with all my heart. First Seth Rogen, now Jason Segel. Will Martin Starr be next?

Yes, the movie dragged a bit. And no, it isn't as good as The 40-Year-Old Virgin or Knocked Up, but who cares? Yes, it was a bit cartoonish but it was damn funny at times. For the record, Veronica Mars is not pretty but the other love interest in the film was definitely easy on the eyes. Rudd was good. Jonah Hill was annoying.

I love the three movies a year from the Apatow factory. This one was a bit lightweight but when you put out fun movie after fun movie, they can't all be Superbad.

And for the record, the Jason Segel naked scenes were not nearly as funny as the penis shots in Dewey Cox.

I wonder if Apatow is even going to try to put out a movie that even attempts to really give a female perspective on relationships. Perhaps Paul Feig should get all the credit for doing such a good job with that aspect on Freaks and Geeks?

Directed by Nicholas Stoller
2008
Cobble Hill Cinemas

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Billy the Kid

A documentary about a high schooler having a hard time fitting in. The boy, Billy, is an impressionable kindhearted loner. He wanders around his town in Maine pondering life. He gets good advice from his mom. He rocks out to some rock. He tries to woo a girl in town. He talks to some younger kids who don't quite know what to make of him.

All in all, the movie is pretty interesting. It is shot in a cinema verite style which adds and detracts. I liked the way some of the scenes unfold in a leisurely pace. I would have liked the film a bit more if I had a bit more context on the way some of the people in the town think about Billy. Obviously, he doesn't really fit in but a little context would have gone a long way. How much did the cameras change the way people interacted with him? My guess is that the people were a little nicer to him than they would have been without the cameras rolling.

After the film was finished, Billy was diagnosed with Asperger's. However, this fact isn't even mentioned in the credits. I guess Venditti wanted to simply tell his story within the few days she filmed his life and not give any sort of prologue or epilogue.

SHR was bored.

Directed by Jennifer Venditti
2007
Cinemax

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Wristcutters: A Love Story

I really liked the concept of this movie. It is set in a similar world to ours but everything is just a little bit worse and no one smiles because they can't because is populated with people who have committed suicide. Visually, the setting reminded me of a cross between a run down Eastern European town and West Texas. People make idle conversation by inquiring how each person "offed" themselves. It is the best pickup line ever.

Patrick Fugit slits his wrists and dies and then is stuck with an annoying roommate who hassles him to sit while peeing and to stop eating his cottage cheese. It turns out that his ex-girlfriend killed herself a month after him. She was the reason he killed himself! So he sets off with some friends looking for her.

Basically, the film kind of devolves into a familiar indie "quirky" road movie but there are still many good moments.

First of all, Tom Waits is in it. He wasn't even that good but I love watching Tom Waits in movies.

Secondly, as I said, the concept is so much fun.

Third, I love some of the little touches of the crappy world they live in like being stuck with clunky cars and terrible cassette boomboxes that eat all of your tapes.

Fourth, Shannyn Sossamon, welcome back to my life!

Fifth, I really liked that the music played by characters in the movie were by artists who had also offed themselves like Joy Division and Del Shannon.

Sixth, I dug the ending. It reminded me of the brief live action scene in La Jetee that is completely startling after watching minute after minute of still photos. If you see this film, you'll see what I mean.

Unfortunately, the movie just isn't as good as I wanted it to be. It dragged a bit even though it is only 90 minutes long. And Will Arnett was horribly miscast and was very annoying. And I like Will Arnett!

Directed by Goran Dukic
2007
DVD

Monday, April 14, 2008

Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind

The second of the Miyazaki trilogy that we watched in my classroom.

This one prompted Girl Who Likes Sparkly Clothes But Hates Hillary Clinton said that this one was so bad that it made Castle in the Sky look good in comparison and she hated that movie.

I probably slightly preferred Castle in the Sky to this one even though the giant bugs were pretty damn cool in this movie. Starship Troopers meets Princess Mononoke. Still, neither one this or Castle in the Sky are even close to being as good as some of my Miyazaki favorites.

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
1984
DVD

Sunday, April 13, 2008

I Think I Love My Wife

I like Chris Rock. I like Eric Rohmer. How could a Chris Rock adaptation of Rohmer go wrong?

Well, this movie didn't exactly go wrong. It just never went right. It does have its moments. And it does feature both Omar and Bunk from The Wire in one scene each. But overall, it just never really said what it wanted to say in an interesting or plausible enough fashion to actually be good.

Directed by Chris Rock
2007
HBO

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Escape From Alcatraz

Hell yes!

Just as good as I was hoping it would be. What's not to like?

Alcatraz!
Sadistic wardens!
Don Siegel!
Clint!
Awesomeness!

Directed by Don Siegel
1979
Cinemax

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Chop Shop

I wanted to like this more than I did. It looks amazing. The acting is very good. It had elements that reminded me of the television show City of Men and the movie Raising Victor Vargas, both of which I really like.

It takes place in the automotive wasteland of Willets Point in the shadow of Shea Stadium - a setting, which of course, I absolutely loved.

But there are just so many implausible plot developments that didn't feel right. They felt lazy and not organic to the way that things would have gone in real life. For example, if this kid was so damn street smart AND so protected by so many of the folks at Willets Point, why wouldn't anyone have helped him get his money back after getting ripped off buying a food truck from his friend's uncle - a man who worked with everyone else in the area. I don't want to get to into other plot development misfires here for the vast majority of the people I know who have not seen this movie but I think you get the point.

For a movie that is supposed to be gritty and real, these sorts of mistakes in the screenplay are bad ones. That being said, I'm happy I saw this film and I look forward to watching Bahrani's previous film Man Push Cart.

Directed by Ramin Bahrani
2008
Film Forum

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Mother, Jugs, and Speed

Forget The Godfather. Forget Jaws. Forget Taxi Driver.

This movie, THIS MOVIE is the best film of the decade. That's right. Mother, Jugs, and Speed: Best Film of the 1970's.

Picture this brilliant concept: DC Cab meets The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, sprinkle in some Larry Hagman as a womanizing crazy man, Raquel Welch as a feminist with big juggs, Bill Cosby with a pottymouth and a heart of gold, an African-American ambulance company, Harvey Keitel, Dick Butkus, and LQ Jones and you begin to get the picture. This movie can not be beat. Completely nuts. Completely nuts! What the hell was going on in the mid 70's?

I'm not sure if my favorite Cos moment in this movie is the drunk driving, the honking at nuns in the intersection to scare the shit out of them, or the getting back massages from vibrator wielding hookers. Oh wait, I guess this is a pretty obvious choice, isn't it?

Directed by Peter Yates
1976
Cinemax

Thursday, April 03, 2008

In the Valley of Elah

After sitting through the crap known as Crash, I never would have thought that I would ever like a movie directed by Paul Haggis. But color me surprised.

Even after many good reviews and the positive review from Josh, I was still a bit skeptical about seeing this movie. Sure there are a couple annoying Haggisisms in this movie (teaching the "ignorant" immigrant maintenance guy how to properly hang the American flag only to come back later to the same setting where the immigrant has now learned to respect the flag only to have a surprise in store for him) but they are minor transgressions. In fact, the final scene that I referred to in the previous sentence is actually pretty damn ballsy for a mainstream film. Did the studio really think a movie like this would make any money?

The film is based on a true story of a father of a soldier played by Tommy Lee Jones, a former military man himself, who begins to investigate the disappearance of his son shortly after his return from Iraq. Jones is on a roll these days. Every movie he is in, he is splendid. In fact, with a lesser actor this film might have been too full of Haggis crap. But Jones carries the film beautifully.

A sidenote about this film:
It is the second 2007 film that features both Jones and Josh Brolin which is interesting to me in and of itself. But the more interesting aspect of this is that in both films (this and No Country for Old Men) neither actor ever appears together on screen. I'm not sure why I find that so interesting but I do. I really really do.

Directed by Paul Haggis
2007
DVD

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Babel

I avoided seeing this in the theaters because it reminded me too much of Crash. I should have known better than that though. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu had also directed Amores Perros, a movie that I really liked. Clearly he was no Paul Haggis.

I was very pleasantly surprised by this movie. It isn't great by any stretch but it is highly watchable and never dull even though it is two and a half hours. The stories were interesting, the cinematography was stupendous, and I really had no idea where some of the stories were heading. Rarely do I see a movie that I thought would be so predictable that has me scratching my head wondering how the stories will wrap up.

That being said, the last thirty minutes aren't as satisfying as I hoped it would be. Some of the messages are a little too "messagey" - get it - no one speaks the same language, literally and figuratively thus leading to misunderstandings! Hell, the one story (the one in Tokyo) that didn't involve a mashup of different cultures featured a deaf girl who used sign language to communicate - get it - a different language!

A couple other things of note:
1. Brad Pitt looks so incredibly haggard in this movie.
2. Rinko Kikuchi was, um, how do I say this - beyond hot! Am I a dirty old man?
3. This and the previous year's The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada both feature a dude masturbating outdoors who gets disrupted before hitting paydirt. Then said horndog makes someone else pay by shooting something else off - but this time with bullets thus setting the whole darn plot in motion. An odd coincidence.

Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
2006
Showtime

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Breaking Away

Cutters!

After recently seeing Slap Shot for the first time, Hot Tub Eric e-mailed to make sure that I had seen this movie. Somehow this one had also eluded me. So I rectified the situation real quick.

This movie was so much fun. Daniel Stern, Dennis Quaid, Jackie Earl Haley, Paul Dooley... And the Beck lookalike star who was never seen again was also great as well.

I could have watched those scenes at the quarry on an endless loop. This movie makes me nostalgic for this era of movies. They definitely don't make them like this anymore.

So do you think Cutter Dykstra was named after the Cutters?

Directed by Peter Yates
1979
DVD