Thursday, November 29, 2012

Music on my mind (again)

terrific cover of a terrific song.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Last Few Films I've Seen, November Edition

1. Lincoln (2012)- A law room procedural with a musty made for TV history documentary feel. Daniel Day Lewis is really good, but Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner seem much more preoccupied with creating grand moments and Oscar bait than a lived-in, intellectual dissection. And it seems to me Lincoln only sulked around and told stories.

2. The Seventh Cross (1944)- A terrific film of two halves. The first part is a tense and dirty road movie in which an escaped Jewish prisoner (Spencer Tracy) desperately tries to seek refuge from his Nazi captors. Once under roof, the film plays out like a film noir as old friends could become betrayers and every shadow looms with danger. Directed by Fred Zinneman, its an unheralded classic.

3. Electric Dragon 8000 Volts (2000)- Whew.... watching a Sogo Ishii film is always an endurance test and this one is no exception. Filled with chaotic images and an aggressive (almost nauseating) soundtrack, two electricity filled men (due to childhood accidents) meet and duel it out for supremacy. Running a scant 50 minutes, the length is perfect for this steam punk effort.

4. The Babymakers (2012)- Partly a Broken Lizard team comedy, I'm beginning to wane on their output. Despite getting to watch a scrumptuos Olivia Munn, there's little else to delight here.

5. 360 (2012)- Fernando Meirelles' modern remake of "La Ronde" deals with so many unbelievable moments of human connection that I began to wonder if the whole thing was a comedy... least of all a beautiful young girl (Maria Flor) being attracted to weirdo Ben Foster in an airport.

6. The Wide Blue Road (1957)- Gillo Pontecorvo clearly understands and loves the working class. This drama follows a young Yves Montand and his lifestyle defying the local Coast Guard in favor of dynamite fishing. Italian neo-realism at its finest, even if the proletariat point of view is a bit much at times.

7. Flight (2012)- It's rereshing that a main character in a Hollywood film is so uncompromisingly addicted and complex, but that's the portrait we get of Denzel Washington's pilot in "Flight". If only the film would have gone to other such uncompromising heights instead of the junkie with a heart of gold and a John Goodman performance that borders on loony tunes.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Cafe de Flore

Jean-Marc Vallee’s “Café de Flore” juggles two seemingly unconnected story lines for a good portion of 90 minutes before allowing their unlikely symmetries to collide in unexpected and moving ways. Beginning in Montreal in the current moment, we meet Antoine (Kevin Parent), a successful DJ and happily living with a beautiful woman and his two young daughters. We’re then introduced to Jacqueline (Vanessa Paradis) in what we think is 60’s Paris due to the clothes and cars. Immensely loving of her down-syndrome afflicted son Laurent (Marin Gerrier), this thread focuses solely on Jacqueline as she faces more difficult times as Laurent grows up and makes friends with another child in school. Writer-director Vallee spins both of these tales in an increasingly frenetic and symbolic method of cutting, anchoring the action in not only the various manifestations of the title song, but in the terrific music of The Cure, Sigur Ros and Pink Floyd. As “Café de Flore” makes connections between past and present, it threatens to spin out of control, but Vallee and his impressive cast hold things together, splicing images together in unique and portentous ways that add depth and complexity. Without spoiling too much, “Café de Flore” would make for a splendidly low-fi Parisian antidote to “Cloud Atlas”.


 Sam Mendes “Skyfall” is certainly a schizophrenic example of the Bond franchise, and I have mixed emotions about it. First, the good. This is the first Bond film in memory that embraces its classicism and then continually tries to subvert that classicism. The set piece in Shanghai, for example, is probably one of the most thrillingly conceived and flawlessly executed in the franchise’s history… notable not only for Roger Deakins ultra-clean cinematography (just look at the division of colors and layers as his camera floats above the city’s highway and canal system) but in the way he films its ultimate silhouetted fight between Bond (Daniel Craig) and an assassin embraced against neon lit signs and glass doorways in one single, patient zoom. It’s as if Wong Kar Wai was given access for a few minutes. Javier Bardem, as one of the most over-the-top Bond villains ever (?) is given a grand entrance in long take and with a biting monologue in tow. “Skyfall” is also dark… a characteristic that’s been welcome since Craig’s own entrance to the franchise in “Casino Royale”. But while all of this takes on a compellingly modern feel for the 45 year old series, “Skyfall” ultimately is a Bond film, which encompasses the sporadic bedding of every beautiful woman and car chases that end up on the rooftops of train carriages. Ultimately, it’s a film I enjoyed watching but became relatively meaningless the minutes the lights came up, which makes for one of the most frustrating things to write about a film. It’s good, but not great.

The Sessions

Ben Lewin's "The Sessions" takes an extremely uncomfortable subject- man confined to an iron lung- and infuses it with warm humor and strong characterizations. As disabled poet Mark O'Brian, John Hawkes turns in another great performance. Based on a true story, "The Sessions" observes O'Brian as he searches to lose his virginity. Enter a sex therapist (Helen Hunt) who meets with him for 6 sessions, exploring his sexuality and enabling him as a real human being. Touchy as the subject may be, "The Sessions" walks a fine tightrope between intelligent reactions and believable connectability. And while Hawkes and Hunt are the central characters, I was fully blown away by actress Moon Bloodgood as the young assistant to O'Brian. Her performance is tremendous as she tries to stay stoic against a very confusing relationship. The film revels in a few missteps towards the end (it actually feels abrupt when the credits roll) but it's a nice compliment to Hawkes resume and one that will surely garner him an Oscar nomination.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Posters I Love

Over the last few months, I've been bidding (and mosly winning) on original movie posters. I'm running out of wall space. The most recent addition.... original 1978 Italian poster for "The Deer Hunter":

And I just missed out on an original Godard poster from "A Woman Is A Woman". Those French New Wave posters are the most expensive, but god do they look incredible!

Sunday, November 04, 2012

DVD Shout Out- Oslo, August 31

The cinema landscape is full of recovering addict stories- some are languid and woozy (no pun intended) while others focus on the post recovery stages of admittance and penance. In Joachem Trier's "Oslo, August 31", we meet Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie) in a depressed state. One of the opening images shows him filling his jacket pockets with rocks and feebly attempting to drown himself. He, and the film, are clearly not in either aforementioned stage of recovery. Anders returns to his rehab house and prepares himself for a day of leave in which he has a job interview set up. From there, the camera dutifully embeds on his shoulders as he visits old friends and haunts, leaves regretful phone messages to an ex-girlfriend and nervously tries to avoid slipping back into his habitual routines.

Joachem Trier's sophomore film is spectacular for the way in which it takes an ordinary subject and weaves a devastating tale. It's also a very personal film. It's not long into the film that Trier adds voice overs of unnamed people recalling the various pleasurable memories of growing up in Oslo, Norway. It feels like an old fashioned novel as memories marry against the image of a bustling but quaint cityscape. And into this city ventures Anders. We desperately pull for Anders to come out unscathed from his inner demons. He's not a bad person.... he's just incredibly confused and damaged. He first meets up with an old friend, now happily married and domesticated with children. They take a walk and the friend senses some inner turmoil in Anders. Anders refuses a beer and we cheer a little. Next, he shows up to his job interview, but self destructs when the managing editor begins to inquire about the few missing years in his portfolio. It's at this point that "Oslo, August 31" turns a bit darker in its voyage with Anders. He shows up a party and makes a move on an old girlfriend. She rebukes him and the heavy drinking starts. He leaves with another old friend to go bar hopping. Here, he connects with a beautiful college student and they all end up, at dawn, skinny dipping in a pool. Anders sits on the edge of the pool, the young girl urging him to come in, that "Oslo, August 31" reaches a fever-pitch of psychological tension. I was basically screaming at the image, imploring Anders to jump into the pool with the girl (Ingrid Olava) and detour his highwire act of sobriety versus addiction. But, writer-director Trier has other elements in mind. Like the melancholy voice overs earlier in the film, happiness is such a fleeting gesture.