Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Ghost Writer

Are the rave reviews of this movie coming from reviewers sympathetic to Polanski's legal plight? Because I can't think of any other reason.

Sure, the film looks absolutely stunningly gorgeous. But the plot is equal parts implausible and confounding yet also obvious and silly. I prefer my current events films to be less overtly realistic than this one. In the Loop is great because it clearly is about Iraq yet it is far enough removed from reality that it doesn't have to hit the viewer over the head like this one does. Oh look - Haliburton. Oh look - it's Condoleezza Rice. Blah.

The suspense was never as suspenseful as it should have been. The thrills were never as thrilling as I wanted them to be. And the twists were either not plausibly twisty enough or too grade school twisty. As Marc pointed out, this was no Three Days at the Condor.

Marc came to see this movie with Jim and me. He never goes to movies. I'm afraid that seeing this movie will turn him off from going to see more. Although since this movie, he's already seen The Green Zone and we're going to see Greenberg tonight.

Don't get me wrong - this movie isn't terrible by any stretch. It was entertaining enough. But nothing special at all.

Directed by Roman Polanski
2010
BAM

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Prowler

I can honestly say that I've never seen a movie quite like this before. Is it film noir? Is it melodrama? Is it a character study of a deranged man? Is it an anti-police picture? All of the above?

The first half plays like a standard film noir plot (young tart married to old fart takes up with a younger man and the old fart bites it) but then the second half goes haywire.

There's a ghost town, there's campy relatives, receptionists with funny accents, a tricky home birth, and a doomed scramble up a pile of salt. What else could you possibly want in a movie?

This movie isn't on DVD and hadn't been shown in a 35mm print in 30 years. Good stuff.

And more importantly, this was only my second visit to Film Forum since the arrival of Double Trouble. The first showing was for a movie that wasn't popcorn material. This movie was made to be viewed while eating some popcorn. Film Forum easily has the best popcorn of any movie theater I've ever been to. I bought a large so I could bring home half of the bag to SHR. She was grateful.

Directed by Joseph Losey
1951
Film Forum

Friday, March 26, 2010

Ponyo

Jeremy ended his review of this film with this statement, "I have yet to find one [a Miyazaki film] that didn't leave me stunned by the animation, amazed by the story and overjoyed by the journey." That is exactly the way I feel about Miyazaki films as well.

However, this one felt a bit slight to me compared to his last two films. No matter - I'm still glad I saw it. The animation blew me away but the story dragged a bit. Still, the animation is so mindboggling and the world Miyazaki creates is so wondrous that this movie is still well worth watching.

There are truly breathtaking moments in this film - especially the scene with Ponyo running atop the waves as they crashed upon the narrow road. I liked that Ponyo's dad could have been auditioning for the Japanese version of The New York Dolls.

Perhaps I just couldn't give this movie enough of a chance because I'm so sick of The Little Mermaid story having had to sit through the Disney version dozens of times when my little sister watched it. Thanks Amy! You ruined a Miyazaki film for me!

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
2009
Blu-Ray

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Taste of Cherry

I always equate this movie with first moving to New York. It came out in the spring of 1998 and I loved it. During my first few years in New York, I went to well over 100 movies a year in the theaters. That included a number of films from Iran which was in the midst of a great run of filmmaking. It is because of that fact that 12 years later, the likes of Chris Larry and especially my dad still ridicule me for liking movies from Iran. As in, "Oh you didn't like (500) Days of Summer? Maybe you would have liked it more if it was from Iran and had subtitles."

I've seen a few films from Iran over the years that I'm pretty sure the naysayers would actually like - (Crimson Gold being the first one that comes to mind) but this one would not be one I'd recommend. It is slow and way too Iranian to recommend. It probably has elements of everything that people who like to make fun of recent foreign films in it.

That doesn't mean that the movie isn't absolutely amazing and completely memorable though. It's about a man who has decided to kill himself. He spends the day driving around a village on a hillside looking for someone to assist him. His plan is to take an overdose of pills after nightfall while sitting in a hole that he has dug at the bottom of a hill. All he asks is that whoever helps him will come the next morning to check on him. If he is dead, he wants the person to bury him. If he is alive because the suicide was unsuccessful, he wants the person to help him out of the hole. For this service, he is offering a good deal of money.

Obviously, he has a difficult time finding anyone to help him out. The movie consists of three major sequences - the first one is a conversation he has with his first passenger - a soldier on leave. The second is a seminary student who tries to persuade him not to kill himself. The third is a a taxidermist who agrees to help him. Because this movie is all artsy fartsy and FOREIGN, there is no satisfying conclusion to the film. But the ambiguities make the film that much richer and satisfying. I love this movie on its own terms and I love it for nostalgia purposes - New York City 1998 baby!! Or at least my 1998.

Directed by Abbas Kiarostami
1997
TCM

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Point Break

How did I make it to 2010 without seeing this movie before? Crazy right? Why didn't I see this back in '91? A quick look at some of the movies released that year show that I saw some good films but also a whole hell of a lot of crap like Robin Hood, The Addams Family, and Naked Gun 2 and 1/2. Yet I couldn't find time to see this gem? I wish I could go back in time and slap my 18-year-old self upside the head.

Then again, I'm not sure I would have enjoyed this quite as much if I had seen it when it was originally out. Part of the fun was how over-the-top early 90's silly this movie is. It did not disappoint on that front.

Yes, it was a bit long in the first half but when it kicked in, it kicked the door in! 100% adrenaline!

Some things I loved --

1. Patrick Swayze's hair.

2. John. C. McGinley

3. The shootout where Anthony Kiedis's foot bites it. It was his foot, right?

4. The character name Johnny Utah is one of the best names in cinema history.

5. The scene where Keanu shoots his gun into the air in exasperation. Brilliant.

6. They played a Love song which then unfortunately turned into a Jesus Jones cover.

7. The opening credits with the guns and the surfing. As Sean would say - so extreme!

8. The ending is perfect. I wanted to stand up and cheer but I had had a little too much to drink.

9 SHR's brisket that we ate while watching. So delicious.

Speaking of Sean, I love that the line from this movie "Utah get me two" lent itself to his production company.

I need to see this movie again though because there was so much chatter involved that I think I missed at least 1/3 of the lines. No matter - Double Trouble will love this movie one day.

I need to see Hot Fuzz again.

I still can't get over that the director of this movie went on to win Best Director this year. Crazy.

Nothing against Con Air and Independence Day and other big Hollywood flicks that came after this but they just don't make them like this movie anymore. No irony or anything - just pure over-the-top action, slo-mo, and adrenaline. No navel gazing, no indie stars like Steve Buscemi or nebbish Jews like Judd Hirsch. Just pure awesomeness.

Thank you Sean for making this happen!

My favorite exchange:
Bodhi: [getting ready for their next robbery] 90 seconds Johnny. That's all I ask for, just 90 seconds of your life Johnny, that's it. This is our tatic, is we strike fear. Once you get them peeing down ther leg, they submit. Also about fear, fear causes hesitation, and hesitation, causes your worst fears to come true.
[hands Johnny a shot gun]
Johnny Utah: I can't do this.
Bodhi: Yes you can, who knows, you might like it.
Johnny Utah: Bodhi, this is your fucking wake-up call man. I am an F, B, I, Agent!
Bodhi: Yeah, I know man. Ain't it wild? That's what makes it so interesting. You can do what you want, and make up your own rules. Why be a servant to the law, when you can be it's master?
Grommet: Fuckin' a!
Nathanial: I love this job.

And maybe my favorite line:
Listen you snot-nose little shit, I was takin' shrapnel in Khe Sanh when you were crappin' in your hands and rubbin' it on your face.

Actually this one is pretty good too:
22 years. Man, L.A. has changed a lot during that time. The air got dirty and the sex got clean.

Or this?
NO! No no no no no no NO! Let me tell you what you've produced... Over the last two weeks, you two have produced exactly squat! SQUAT! During which time the ex-presidents have robbed two more banks. Now for Christ's sake, does either one of you have anything even remotely interesting to tell me?
[brief pause]
Johnny Utah: I caught my first tube today... Sir.

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
1991
DVD

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Postman Always Rings Twice

Yet another classic noir that I had originally seen at Film Forum. I really can't get enough of film noir and would gladly watch one everyday.

This one is hard to beat for pure pulp factor. This film sets the bar high for the luridness of it all. The femme fatale, the drifter, the narration, the world will crush you no matter what you do theme. I love it.

While this film doesn't necessarily have other aspects of some of my favorite noirs like nonstop one liners and tons of darkness and shadows, it has more than enough going for it. Like Lana Turner's legs for one. The drunk driving "accident" for another. Or how about the shifty defense lawyer? Or the nonstop double entendres? This is the film that keeps on giving.

One of my favorite lines:
Cora: It's too bad Nick took the car.
Frank: Even if it was here we couldn't take it, unless we'd want to spend the night in jail. Stealing a man's wife, that's nothing, but stealing a man's car, that's larceny.

Directed by Tay Garnett
1946
TCM

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Singin' in the Rain

What is there to say about this movie other than that is a classic? I love the plot of silent film stars trying to make the transition to talkies. Gene Kelly is amazing. Debbie Reynolds is great. Donald O'Connor is the glue. Jean Hagan as the ditzy blonde Lina Lamont is hilarious. And I haven't even mentioned the dancing.

The songs are good, the dancing is amazing, the sets are bursting with color. And then there's the scene with Cyd Charisse. Sigh.

SHR didn't care for it too much though. Maybe she never got over the fact that for all of these years she thought the entire movie was set in the rain while Gene Kelly sang in it.

Directed by Stanely Donen
1952
TCM

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sweet Smell of Success

Even though I like making lists, I've always been afraid to make my all time favorite movies list. Too much of a commitment. Too much pressure. What if I forgot one? But I can definitely say that if I were to put together a list of my top 25 films of all time that this would be in it. I've seen it a number of times now and I love it each and every time.

Burt Lancaster plays a Walter Winchell type gossip columnist (J.J. Hunsecker) who controls who's in and who's out in New York City. He is a powerbroker of epic proportions. Tony Curtis plays a sleazy press agent, Sidney Falco, desperate to be in Hunsecker's good graces. Hunsecker has an unhealthy obsession with his younger sister. He doesn't like her new jazz playing boyfriend so he enlists Falco to find some dirt on the boyfriend in order to break up the relationship.

Pretty much every single line of the film is quotable. In fact, this is the movie that the characters in Diner constantly are quoting to each other. New York City circa 1957 is just as much a key character in the film as are the main players. In fact when I think of this movie that's what comes to mind. Sleaze, greed, great lines, the evil Lancaster, the conniving Curtis, the great jazz score, and the gorgeous black and white cinematography of New York City of the late 50s. Absolutely stunning. One of my favorite lines is when Lancaster breathes in the New York air before getting in his car and remarks, "I love this dirty town."

Some of my favorite lines:
It's a dirty job, but I pay clean money for it.

Hunsecker: You're dead, son. Get yourself buried.

Hunsecker: Everybody knows Manny Davis - except Mrs. Manny Davis.

Sidney Falco: If I'm gonna go out on a limb for you, you gotta know what's involved!
J.J. Hunsecker: My right hand hasn't seen my left hand in thirty years.

Steve: Mr. Hunsecker, you've got more twists than a barrel of pretzels!

J.J. Hunsecker: Son, I don't relish shooting a mosquito with an elephant gun, so why don't you just shuffle along?

Sidney Falco: The cat's in a bag and the bag's in a river.
J.J. Hunsecker: I'd hate to take a bite outta you. You're a cookie full of arsenic.

Leo Bartha: [to Sidney, of JJ] Tell him that like yourself, he's got the scruples of a guinea pig and the morals of a gangster.

The list goes on and on. In fact, just reading these makes me want to see the movie again right now. Absolute perfection.

On another note, Sujan didn't like it much and mentioned that she was surprised by how much I did. Sorry honey!

Directed by Alexander MacKendrick
1957
HBO

Friday, March 12, 2010

Seven Days in May

I saw this years ago at Film Forum but didn't realize until about 20+ minutes in that I had seen it before. No fault of the movie though - I just have seen too many damn movies in my day.

First of all, I think I'm becoming completely obsessed with Burt Lancaster. He's such a badass! In this film, he plays General Scott - a general plotting a coup at the end of the week. It seems that he's pissed at the president (Frederic March) for signing a nuclear treaty with the Russkies. He is convinced that this spells an upcoming apocalypse. There are many subtle clues (including coded bets on the upcoming Preakness) and other assorted intrigue.

His trusted aide (Kirk Douglas) becomes suspicious and lets the president in on his suspicions. Things play out in a realistic and fascinating fashion even if sometimes the speeches become a little too preachy. But then again - it works in a 1964 kind of way. I highly recommend this if you haven't seen it.

Directed by John Frankenheimer
1964
TCM

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Killers

The first 10 minutes of this film are incredible. Easily one of the best openings in movie history.

Two strangers come into a diner looking for "The Swede" in a very History of Violence kind of way. They take the owner, chef, and patron hostage until they cough up the whereabouts of the man in question - Burt Lancaster in his film debut. They go looking for him but not before one of the hostages is able to warn him.

Surprisingly, The Swede doesn't care that the men are looking for him and seems resigned to his fate. The rest of the film is told through flashbacks while insurance investigators try to piece together the story.

While the rest of the movie doesn't quite live up the glorious beginning, it still holds its own. If the remaining 90 minutes were as good as the first 10 minutes, this would be the best film noir ever!

The remake of this film from 1964 is pretty darn good too.

Robert Osborne mentioned in his introduction on TCM that that this was Ernest Hemingway's favorite film based on his writing. However only the first part is based on one of his short stories - I need to track that story down.

Line of the movie: "Don't ask a dying man to lie his soul into Hell" which was uttered at a key dramatic moment.

And oh yeah - Ava Gardner is scrumptious.

Directed by Robert Siodmak
1946
TCM

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Notorious

I feel like such a jerk for not absolutely loving this movie but so be it. I was a little bored. There were definitely good moments but I just couldn't get into it.

Don't get me wrong though. Cary Grant was fabulous. Ingrid Bergman was scrumptious. And Claude Rains was evil.

But my mind wandered throughout. There was some espionage. There was some sultry goings-on within the limits of the production code. There was definitely some interesting stuff going on but the suspense never built to a fever pitch like I was hoping it would. I'm fully willing to give this another shot someday since it is supposed to be a classic but my first viewing left me feeling a bit letdown.

What am I missing?

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
1946
TCM

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Battle Royale

Josh had a few people over a couple of months ago to do dude things. You know drink some beer, order in some Chinese ... um, watch a foreign film.

But before you scoff too much, this isn't just any foreign film.

It is an over-the-top crazy foreign film.

Things are out of control in Japan. Kids just can't be subdued. They are bad, bad, bad. So the adults create a way to keep them under control. The adults create the Millennial Reform School Act which in effect forces 44 9th graders to an island where they are forced to kill each other for a new reality television show. They each are given a weapon and sent off. Only one can survive. May that be a lesson to you bad youngsters!

Super violent of course. Super fun of course. But also surprisingly full of teenage angst and melodrama as well. I can honestly say I haven't ever seen a movie like this before - that is at least since The Running Man.

Directed by Kinji Fukasaku
2000
Download

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Fantastic Mr. Fox

SHR and I saw this movie months ago but for some reason I've been reticent to write about it. Sometimes this happens to me when I'm completely in love with a movie. And I was completely in love with this movie from beginning to end.

It was a brilliant move on Anderson's part to adapt a fairly slight Roald Dahl book in order to give himself plenty of room to add to it so he could officially put the Wes Anderson stamp on it.

We had just been burned a few weeks before by the quite disappointing Where the Wild Things Are. I also was fairly disappointed in Wes Anderson's previous film. In my review of The Darjeeling Limited from October 2007, I wrote "Maybe Anderson needs to adapt someone else's work. This is the third straight movie about the same thing. How about a genre piece in the way that the Coen Bros. do it. A Wes Anderson crime flick filtered through Godard's Breathless anyone?" I also wrote, "And that reminds me of another problem with Darjeeling. Too many men. No major female characters. Anderson does a great job directing and writing parts for women. No dice in Darjeeling though."

It is astounding to me that Anderson had to make an animated film to create his most real characters in years. This movie corrected both of my criticisms of Darjeeling. While I couldn't have guessed in 2007 that his genre piece would be an animated film, he did exactly what I was hoping for when I wrote my previous review. Also, Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep) is the best female character Anderson has written since The Royal Tenenbaums.

In the comments section of the previous review, Mitch wrote, "My main problem with the last two Anderson movies is that most of the characters are really unsympathetic if not just plain unlikeable. I enjoyed the sequence with the car in New York more than most of what happened in India, and wished it had come earlier in the movie so I could actually care about the brothers instead of just feeling like they were a collection of meticulously-designed hairstyles and wardrobes disguised as characters.

The pins and badges in "Rushmore," art on the walls of the Tenenbaum house and even the jumpsuits in "Bottle Rocket" were quirks that seemed to enhance their stories and make them feel more complete, but lately things like Steve Zissou's specialty Adidas sneakers and the designer luggage in "Darjeeling" have felt more showy and distracting than anything else."

Exactly! And again, it took an animated film to knock Anderson out of his comfortable world of preciousness. It took him making a movie based on a kid's book to be less annoyingly twee. Sure the sets and design in this film were meticulously crafted and brilliant but they complemented the movie rather than being the main part of the movie.

I remember talking to Eric Bachmann years ago about the difference between the songwriting of his band, The Archers of Loaf, and Polvo. He said that Polvo wrote the music first and then as an afterthought added the lyrics. He said that he tried to think of how the two would work together as he wrote songs. This analogy doesn't fully work of course because I love both the Archers and Polvo but I do feel like Anderson's last two films were all about the set design first and then the characters and dialogue were added later as an afterthought. While adding the words later can work for a band like Polvo, I don't know if it works quite as well for a screenwriter. Fantastic Mr. Fox was created with the design and the dialogue together. Or at least it felt like it was.

I loved the intricately designed sets and characters. I loved how the fur on the foxes moved. I loved how the whole endeavor felt very late 60's Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. I was critical of the cliche of slo mo scenes set to the Kinks from Darjeeling but every song in this was perfect. In particular, the I Get Around segment during the chase scene was AWE-SOME.

I loved Whackbat and wish that I could play it. Is there any better line in a movie this year than "Basically, there's three grabbers, three taggers, five twig runners, and a player at Whackbat. Center tagger lights a pine cone and chucks it over the basket and the whack-batter tries to hit the cedar stick off the cross rock. Then the twig runners dash back and forth until the pine cone burns out and the umpire calls hotbox. Finally, you count up however many score-downs it adds up to and divide that by nine."

I loved the Clooney. I loved the rivalry between Ash and Kristofferson. I loved Willem Dafoe as the Rat, Bill Murray as the Badger, Owen Wilson as the the Coach and Jarvis Cocker's song. I loved the relationship between Mr. and Mrs. Fox. I loved the Wes Anderson theme of strife between father and son and also how it didn't completely overtake the whole movie.

I loved the adventure. I loved the scenes of digging underground in order to show off the Wes Andersony set pieces. I loved Boggis, Bean, and Bunce. I loved the liberal use of the word cuss and Murray's liberal use of it. Hysterical.

I loved the way Anderson recorded the voices in the "field" rather than in the studio. I'm not sure I would have been able to put my finger on why I loved the way everything sounded if I hadn't known that fact going on. I think I would have just intuitively known it sounded great and more "real" than other animated films. A brilliant idea.

All in all, I can't believe how great this movie was and how full of joy and charm it was. I can't wait to see what Wes Anderson does next.

I also can't wait to get this on DVD and watch it over and over with Double Trouble once they are a little bit older.

Play whackbat online.

UPDATE:
1/3/11
SHR and I watched this with the boys a few weeks ago. They had no idea what was going on since it's not really a kid's movie, let alone a movie for toddlers. But they sat on the couch and didn't take their eyes off of it during the three sittings it took for us to finish it. Consider this their first real movie.

Directed by Wes Anderson
2009
Court St.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Away We Go

I'll say this about Away We Go - at least it is better than the previous film from Sam Mendes, Revolutionary Road. But then again that isn't saying much.

I couldn't tell if this was supposed to be a comedy or a drama and I don't think it knew itself. Obviously it was trying to be both but it straddled the line too much and ended up not really working on either end. On the comedic side, it felt like a boring ripoff of Flirting With Disaster. As a drama, it strained way too hard.

I didn't really have much desire to see this but I was curious. Sean and Rebecca loved loved loved it. Erik saw it at BAM based on their recommendation and hated it so much that he sent them mean texts while watching it. A few others I spoke to really enjoyed it and others hated it. I wanted to like it but was also pretty sure that I wouldn't. I was also interested to see if it was worse than (500) Days of Summer. It isn't.

You'd think that I'd like this movie based on the theme of how one's life is about to dramatically change because of a baby. I can relate (times two). SHR and I also have discussed moving - just like the couple in this film. The idea of driving around looking for a place to settle is one that interests me. But the movie just doesn't work for me.

John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph are fine in their respective roles. But the people they come across are so incredibly irritating (for the most part) in a horribly unfunny way. Plus, I felt like a large percentage of the dialogue in this movie is stilted and not realistic. Real people don't talk like the characters in this movie. I mean, I guess Dave Eggers and his wife do but no one else does. Real people don't find themselves hanging out in a bathtub with their sister discussing life's big adventures. That scene was as annoying as the first date at IKEA scene from (500) Days of Summer.

So while I didn't hate it as much as some, I can't even remotely recommend this film. And while we're at at - how about some fun ripping of it?

From Jeremy's review, "The movie went from enjoyable to tolerable to unbearable in three acts. First time parents and people in the midst of a move are under enough stress without having to suffer as many fools as these two did."

Snippets from the NY Times review, "The smug self-regard of this movie takes a while to register, partly because Ms. Rudolph and Mr. Krasinski are appealing and unaffected performers and partly because the writing has some humor and charm. The opening scene, which finds the couple in bed, is disarmingly sweet and candid in its depiction of the sexual rapport of longtime lovers. There is real intimacy and affection between them, which is wonderful until, before too long, it becomes as insufferable as the songs by Alexi Murdoch, which similarly wear out their rueful, faux-naïve welcome.

To observe that they inhabit no recognizable American social reality is only to say that this is a film by Sam Mendes, a literary tourist from Britain who has missed the point every time he has crossed the ocean. The vague, secondhand ideas about the blight of the suburbs that sloshed around American Beauty and Revolutionary Road are now complemented by an equally incoherent set of notions about the open road, the pioneer spirit, the idealism of youth."

How about this one from my friend Vanessa on my 2 star Netflix review, " I don't know anyone like these people and hope to God that I never do."

And my absolute favorite - from Matt Army's status update when the movie came out, "Matt hates the modern yuppie and their inability to realize that they are the modern yuppie. Does "Away We Go" look good to you? Yuppie!"

To which Chris Larry responded, "Oh please, I guess guilty as charged under that retarded definition. Whats the next windmill? On a side note: I escaped yuppiehood to see Hangover monday....good times...def Old School 2."

I'm so glad I saw this movie! The commentary about it is A+ material even if the movie treads along in C territory.

Directed by Sam Mendes
2009
DVD

Thursday, March 04, 2010

The Limits of Control

I liked this so much more than I thought I would. I read many mixed things about it so I was a bit afraid to see it. But I really really liked it. Apparently most people don't feel the same way. I posted a 4 star review on Facebook and all but one person completely disagreed with me on it.

Jason wrote, "Two out of five for me. Maybe I have a short attention span for shiny suits and awful fake tai chi."

Shawn wrote," i'm with the wheel and jason on this one. about halfway through i started thinking it was never going to end. enough with the matchbooks, enough with raincoat girl, enough with the paintings in the museum (even though those might have been my favorite scenes.)"

Well Shawn might be with the wheel but I'm with Jeremy. This movie is awesome!

I loved the repetitiveness. I loved the daily schedule of tai chi, waking up next to a beautiful naked woman who he refused to sleep with (no sex while working), 2 espressos in 2 cups at the same outdoor cafe, the visits to the art museum, the exchanging of matchbooks. I loved that every scene began with the new character asking The Lone Man if he spoke Spanish.

Who cares if nothing is ever really explained? It doesn't matter. This is a perfect example of of Jarmusch taking a genre piece and bending it to his own will. Sure - it might not be as good as Dead Man or Down by Law but who cares? Sign me up for anything Jarmusch does.

Some thoughts:
- Reminded me a bit of Godard's 60's gangster flicks - just an extended riff and homage to a great genre but done all auteur style. What else is there to add to the genre other than to add your own unique touches to it? If Jarmusch doesn't want to explain any of the narrative to the audience, who cares? Down by Law was a prison escape movie without a drop of suspense. This film is a crime/gangster/espionage/Hitchcockian type piece without any suspense or explanation.

Or how about the Blonde's explanation? Speaking of which, how great was Tilda Swinton in her one scene? Anyway this is what she had to say to the Lone Man while sitting at the outdoor cafe before the transfer of matchboxes.
Are you interested in films, by any chance? I like really old films. You can really see what the world looked like, thirty, fifty, a hundred years ago. You know the clothes, the telephones, the trains, the way people smoked cigarettes, the little details of life. The best films are like dreams you're never sure you've really had. I have this image in my head of a room full of sand. And a bird flies towards me, and dips its wing into the sand. And I honestly have no idea whether this image came from a dream, or a film. Sometimes I like it in films when people just sit there, not saying anything.
And then she referenced one of my favorite Orson Welles films, The Lady From Shanghai, and how it didn't make sense and then there was a big scene in a hall of mirrors. That's enough of an explanation for me about this movie. Nothing really made sense but who cares? The whole thing is one big hall of mirrors.

- Wow, every woman in this was amazingly beautiful.

- I loved the philosophical riddles and discussions about the universe.

- Was the scene on the train more of an homage to Strangers on a Train or The 39 Steps, what with the windmills looming out the window?

- I can't get enough of the tracking shots of passing scenery that Jarmusch films. He does it so well in so many movies.

- I loved the line that the naked woman in The Lone Man's bed utters in complaint to him, "No guns. No mobiles. No sex." What do you do?

- The score was fantastic.

- It is interesting that Jarmusch followed one of his more accessible films, Broken Flowers, with this quite oblique one.

About halfway through, I e-mailed Jeremy to tell him how much I was enjoying the film. I loved this insight from him, "it reminds of what balgavy said about david lynch movies having their own internal logic and even if he didn't understand them he felt comfortable in lynch's world." The beauty of this statement is that I can't even remember a time when Marc would say something like that.

I also liked how Jeremy ended his review, "Was it a comment on the nature of reality? An exploration of the randomness of the universe? A Hitchcockian thriller with none of the thrills? Anyone?"

Directed by Jim Jarmusch
2009
DVD

Lorna's Silence

I had really high hopes for this film after absolutely loving their last film. Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed. This movie is definitely pretty good but not close to L'Enfant.

Like L'Enfant, this film delves into the seedy underworld. Lorna is a young Albanian immigrant in Belgium who wants money to start a snack bar. Through her boyfriend, she ends up agreeing to help the Russian mafia for the money. The plan - marry a junkie so she can get her citizenship. Then when he inevitably dies, she's already a citizen. Then she will be free to marry a Russian mobster who wants to emigrate to Belgium. The problem arises when the junkie decides to get clean and the Russians decide to murder him. Wow, this sounds like it could be an episode of Damages!

As I write about this, I realize that maybe I did like this movie quite a bit. Damn those high expectations! On its own, this movie is in fact quite good. But L'Enfant completely blew me (and Jeremy) away. It was so tense and unyielding. This film isn't quite like that. There's a little bit of room to breathe in this one. Who would have thought that would be a bad thing?

I did like seeing the main guy from L'Enfant as the junkie though.

To sum up:
Good movie + Unreal expectations = Begrudging acceptance of high quality.

Directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
2008, U.S. Release: 2009
DVD

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Zombieland

I love zombie movies. I love zombie parody movies.

Unfortunately, this is no Shaun of the Dead. The tone is never really funny enough or scary enough. It sort of exists in a netherworld of This is entertaining enough to keep watching.

That is for one segment - the Bill Murray cameo. Hilarious! Every moment of it is comedy gold. In fact, I'd gladly watch that part 6 times in a row rather than watch the whole movie one more time. If you haven't seen this movie, just seek out that 10 minute or so part. I nominate it for Best Short of 2009!

Let's see - what else?
Woody Harrelson is fine I guess in a Woody Harrelson kind of way.

Jesse Eisenberg was too nerdy and annoying. I want him to play more of a jerk like the one he played in The Squid and the Whale again.

I don't think I like that girl from Little Miss Sunshine much.

Emma Stone is hott!!

I did like all the rules that Eisenberg's character came up with to survive zombies. I do like me some lists.

Directed by Ruben Fleischer
2009
DVD

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

A Single Man

The themes of this movie are very interesting. The plot is fascinating. The script works for the most part. Most of the acting is good to great. And the direction is often very good. So why didn't I absolutely love this movie?

The film is about a gay English professor, set in 1962, who has been grieving over his partner's death months earlier in a car accident. He can't share his grief with anyone other than his friend Julianne Moore who quite fancies Firth herself.

The movies begins after he has decided to commit suicide. The movie takes place on the day that he plans on killing himself in the evening.

Positives:
Colin Firth

Colin Firth's glasses.

The fantastic house that Colin Firth lives in.

The relationship between Firth and Julianne Moore. I loved the scene where she was putting on her makeup to pretty herself up for her evening with Firth. I also loved the dance scene between the two of them.

The themes of fear and paranoia leading to us giving up our civil liberties felt very 2009 not 1962. I guess those themes are timeless, huh?

The handwringing over society's loss of manners. It's been a long road down, hasn't it?

The comedy of the scene where Firth goes over different ways to kill himself so as not to leave a mess.

I didn't mind Jon Hamm being the other voice on the phone when Firth finds out that his partner has been killed in the car accident. The way that Firth keeps a stiff upper lip even when he finds out that he's not allowed to go to the funeral is heartbreaking.

The whole hating on the boy next door stuff

The discussion with the girl next door at the bank.

Ginnifer Goodwin from Big Love. I love her.

Firth getting caught staring at the family next door while on the can and then getting busted for watching.

The first scene where Firth dreams how beautiful the car wreck of his partner must have looked.

Negatives:
Some of the scenes especially in the first half was just way too stylized. The black and white flashback scene with Firth and his boyfriend reminded me of an early 90s Obsession for Men ad. And the color of the film stock dramatically changing based on Firth's mood didn't do that much for me.

Every single person that Firth came across in the movie was so incredibly hot that it was kind of distracting. That is, except for the gay Spanish hustler that he meets at the convenience store. That part needed to be played by a sizzling hot dude.

The movie made it seem like it was the easiest thing in the world to have gay sex in 1962. All you had to do was get out of your car and you could find some action. Jamie pointed out that the scene where Firth meets his boyfriend was so easy that it was ludicrous.

The college kid that Firth befriends ruined a lot of this for me. The actor didn't pull the role off for me. What was his motivation? Adventure? Sex? Being a good samaritan? I didn't get where he was coming from and I didn't buy it. Since this part of the film ended up being so incredibly important, Ford needed to cast a better actor. I guess he was too busy casting the most beautiful people in the world rather than looking for good actors?

I guess the ending worked but it also felt a bit silly.

I'm quite interested to read the book. Apparently the whole he's going to commit suicide at the end of the day aspect of the movie isn't in the book so I'd like to see how that works since it plays such a key aspect of the plot of the movie. Plus maybe I can understand the college boy a bit better if I were to read the book.

Directed by Tom Ford
2009
BAM

Monday, March 01, 2010

Bronson

What a disappointment. After watching the first two parts of the Pusher trilogy, I was super excited to see this. But I was equal parts bored and annoyed with it.

Bronson tells the true story of England's (supposedly) most famous criminal. The man has spent 34 years in prison - 30 in solitary confinement. Born Michael Peterson, he morphs into the character Charles Bronson in his mind because Bronson is a badass.

Some of the scenes are interesting but the whole thing is way too self conscious and stylized for me. And the monologue scenes in front of an audience drove me crazy.

Screw this - I should have finished the Pusher trilogy instead.

I did like his awesome 'stache though.

Directed by Nicholas Winding Refn
2009
Blu-ray