Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Separation

For years, my interest in Iranian films (mostly from the 1990's) has been fodder for jokes from the peanut gallery led by Chris Larry and my dad. Anytime, I didn't like a movie that much, my dad would remark, "I bet you would have liked it if it had been in Farsi."

I saw this film with Matt Moline who had no knowledge of the Chris Larry ridicule of all things Iranian (cinematic wise at least) based, But still, he knew. He just knew! The first thing he said when the movie was over was something to the effect of "Wow, Chris Larry would have loooved that movie."

But even though Matt was kidding, there really is nothing to dislike about this movie. The haters need to stop hating! Think of this is as the Iranian Kramer vs. Kramer and you get the idea. Then again, I haven't seen that movie since when it was in the theaters (speaking of which, why were my parents taking me to see that movie when I was six-years-old?) so I don't remember that much about it. But I would guess that it didn't involve all the intricacies that this film does with ease.

There's a bit of a Rashomon kind of thing where you aren't sure quite who to believe as events unfold. All of the characters are well-written and three dimensional. It starts as a simple story of a marriage in trouble but it is also about familial responsibility, tension between the classes, a father-daughter relationship, the Iranian court system, sexism in Iranian society, and religion. But it never feels didactic, preachy, or (most importantly) boring. It is entertaining and downright captivating from the first frame to the last. This is a shoo-in for Best Foreign Language Film and should have been nominated for Best Picture outright.

Directed by Asghar Farhadi
2011
Film Forum

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Elite Squad: The Enemy Within

Bart was right to describe this film as City of God meets The Wire. Obviously, this film doesn't quite reach the same dizzying heights as either of those endeavors but what does? But it isn't a stretch to say that people who like either of those would also like this film quite a bit.

This is a great sequel and does what good sequels should do - it expands the scope of the first one by quite a bit. The first film mostly focuses on one unit of the police - the special operations unit BOPE. This one is about BOPE as well but it extends the focus to citywide corruption.

The violence is just as harrowing as the first one and even more depressing. Hell, the whole thing is kind of depressing. But at the same time, there are plenty of thrilling cinematic moments that lessen the sting. And for good measure, the film features the best prison riot this side of Oz led by a menacing gang leader played by Seu Jorge.

Full Disclaimer:
This past Tuesday with Bart got messed up because Sam & Otis refused to nap the day before. We reconvened the next night so this is officially a Wednesday night with Bart.

Directed by José Padilha
2010, Year of U.S. Release: 2011
Netflix Streaming

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Bill Cunningham New York

Until I saw this movie, I've got to admit that I didn't really pay that much attention to Bill's photos in the Sunday Times. I always would give it a cursory glance before powering onto something else in the paper.

I didn't quite get the brilliance of the photographs until I understood the brilliance of the man himself. Whether or not you know anything about the man or not, this is a must see documentary. It's so good that I wanted more. I could have watched at least another thirty more minutes of the man in action. He's a relic of another era - a New York treasure. And I can't believe I didn't know anything about him until now.

Plus there are at least two or three people in this that deserve their own movies.

I just wish someone could convince the man to wear a helmet while riding his bike from event to event.

Check out out the trailer and you'll be hooked.


Directed by Richard Press
2011
DVD

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Manhattan

This is one of those movies that I pretty much know every line to but it doesn't matter because every line and every moment is worth watching over and over again.

I hadn't seen this film in at least ten years but my love for it came rushing back pretty quickly. It was fun watching it with Sujan who had never seen it before. It was interesting watching it shortly after watching the PBS doc about Allen where he talked about how he didn't really like the film that much. And despite how much I love it, I can kind of see why. It looks great, yes. And the Gershwin score is something else. But the characters really aren't terribly likable. And the story is pretty pedestrian (at least that's probably what Allen was thinking at the time) especially when sandwiched between Interiors and Stardust Memories.

But he's wrong - this really is one of those great films from his classic era. And while it still makes me cringe to think that his 42-year-old character is dating a 17-year-old girl (especially with the knowledge of later events) it still somehow works due to the incredible performance by Mariel Hemingway. And that ending gets me every time.

And is there any other movie that makes New York look so great? I'd love to watch this back to back with Taxi Driver to really get the full flavor of 1970's New York.

Directed by Woody Allen
1979
HBO

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

I know a movie is good when I'm pretty confused most of the time but I'm still really into it. That was the case with this film. I love good spy movies. I love spy movies set during the Cold War. I miss those days. Bring back the Soviet Union. Today's terrorists are so boring as a plot device.

I suppose I should read some of John le Carré's books considering how much I liked the vibe of this endeavor. I hear the first movie based on this book starred Alec Guinness. I love that guy. I should see that too.

I also didn't realize until I was writing this that the guy who directed this directed Let the Right One In. I knew I liked the look of this film for a reason.

Who wants to rent Spies Like Us with me soon?

Directed by Tomas Alfredson
2011
Times Square 25

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Out of Sight

I hadn't seen this movie in 14 years. What the hell? 14 years? Where does time go? And I'm embarrassed to admit that when I look at my 1998 Best of List, this movie wasn't even in the Top 15. But somehow There's Something About Mary was. Yikes.

Anyway, I was surprised by how much I remembered about it. It's a fun time. I'd like to see Jackie Brown again but I can't imagine that Tarantino found a way to beat Soderbergh on the Elmore Leonard front. I haven't read the book on which this was based, but Soderbergh really nailed the essence of Leonard pretty well. Makes me even more sad that he didn't get a chance to direct Moneyball. He would have made a movie more similar to Michael Lewis' book than Bennett Miller did.

The film felt dated in a good way. Clooney was Clooney but younger. It looked great, was scored great, and was paced great. Just an all around good time. And I'm also proud to have gotten the reference to Three Days of the Condor that Jennifer Lopez made in the trunk of the car that I didn't get the first time I saw this movie.

Oh 1998, where have you gone?

Directed by Steven Soderbergh
1998
HBO

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Dead Alive

How the hell had I never seen this before? This has got to be one of the craziest movies I've ever seen.

It reminded me at first like Sam Raimi directing a remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Then it felt like a fun homage to the first Evil Dead. Then the non-stop goo fest reminded me of Drag Me to Hell. It was so melodramatic at times that it felt like a zombie Douglas Sirk movie. The score and some of the 50's aspect reminded me of Twin Peaks. There was a bit of Child's Play in here as well with the baby zombie. In general, it reminded me of some of the out of control low budget 80's horror films that I loved to watch when I was 14 - unfortunately I can't even remember any of the titles.

It got to the point that the gore seemed so neverending that I just had to tip my hat to the genius of Peter Jackson. It was so gory in a ridiculously fun way though. There need to be more movies made like this now. The world would be a better place.

At one point, I wanted to write down some of my favorite gory moments but then I would have missed another one.

Was it the baby in the blender? Or the zombie with the lightbulb head? Maybe the delinquent who kept getting torn to shreds? Or maybe the nurse with the head that hung on by a thread? Or the guy who just had part of his head that kept getting kicked all over the place? It's hard to beat the preacher with the lawnmower.

But I guess it had to be dear ol' mom. She was the only one of all the zombies that devoured a dog.

I need to watch this movie again. Right now.

Directed by Peter Jackson
1992
Blu-ray