Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Just the Same but Brand New



Jacob's Ladder (1990, Adrian Lyne)

If you're frightened of dying, and you're holding on, you'll see devils tearing your life away. If you've made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the Earth.

This entire movie hangs on that quote. It's strangely profound especially since it simultaneously gives you insight to our protagonist and forwards the plot by leaps and bounds. Adrian Lyne is a very smart man. He strays away from making a straight up "bad-trip" film which I've read time and time again in reviews for this. There's too much strength in the performances and writing for this film to be pigeonholed in some lame phrase that, to me, demeans the power and effectiveness of the picture. Tim Robbins gives quite the performance that ranges from shockingly crazed to extraordinarily heartbreaking. There's talk here and there of the whole movie being a dream or, should I say, hallucination. Lyne's directorial poweress is why this is so up in the air and I totally admire that but the ending and the film, itself, are definitely one thing to me; And that's why I love it so much. I can't sit here and argue with someone on what actually happened and come out fully right. A personal film, through and through, whether it be your perspective or Adrian Lyne's. That's the mark of something great.


Monday, February 22, 2010


The pain that sets in me when I see the lack of postage here really breaks my heart but I've been so goddamned lazy.

...and I still am right now. So...*DRUMROLL*





Hey, how smart do I sound up there? I mean, that took up a good chunk of my time, right?

Fuuuuuuuuuuuu-. I'll get back on track soon enough.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989, Peter Greenway)

So, when exactly do I stop being blown away by every other film I watch now? I've seriously been on the hottest of streaks in the past week and a half. I'm not complaining but mannnn. It's intense. *breathes* Okay, so THIS film now. I've heard about this from a fellow film fan who went ape-shit over it when he first finished it. I had heard about it before but his enthusiasm shot it straight into my radar. Still kinda reeling from it but it goes without saying that I was not expecting such a bold, artistic, and uncompromising film such as this. Peter Greenway is the kind of auteur that reignites my love as film as art. His heavy stylistic choices are so artificial and theatrical but in the best way possible. He mirrors the story's arc and character dilemma's with artificial light, extravagant costumes and outrageous sets. Some people can't get past his indulgences and I can see why but it just blows my mind that someone isn't immediately sucked in this grisly and insanely beautiful story. I especially like the people who complain that this is boring which dumbfounds me too. Okay, so I only mentioned that last bit so I could include this little bit of genius I found on IMDB from some user: "If this movie "bored you to tears", what do you do to stay awake during sex?".

I've read from many a review that this film is heavy on the political parable which I honestly didn't see when I watched it. Though, the "parable" is drenched in the movie's themes which I definitely did see so maybe I did see it inadvertently...? I give myself too much credit... Back on track: The whole Thatcherism angle that Greenway supposedly symbolizes with the four titular characters is an interesting and very convincing one especially when you look at Greenway's background and thinking but I don't feel like it's needed to understand the greatness of the film. Like I said before, the political parable he's going for is so loose in it's execution that it doesn't strangle you with it's grip. I, personally, was sucked into the story at a surface level from beginning to end. Sure, Greenway's portrayal of wastelessness, greed, gluttony, lust...Ok, can we call this film Se7en. Maybe? Oh, me. What a funny guy I am. Too funny. All I'm saying is the story, characters, dialogue, performances, intense cinematic formalism and beauty is more than enough to make you fall head over heels with this film. If that doesn't work, you always have Helen Mirren to fall back on.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Breaking The Waves (1996, Lars Von Trier)

Oh, Von Trier. I think I'd be a bit scared to be your wife(because that's totally possible) since you'd probably torture me for 3 months on end just to show me the beauty of life. Ah, I'm not trying to turn into the Cannes Ecumenical Jury here with my remarks but the man could totally make a case for intense and brutal misogyny if he wasn't so goddamn genius in his approach to his characters, stories, and ideas. I agree with what one reviewer said about Breaking the Waves: "It is the easiest thing in the world to do ... move people by destroying something beautiful." So, I don't agree that it's easy, per se, but he wasn't wrong about how powerful it is to see something SO beautiful being destroyed. Lars von Trier knows this, too, and rings as much drama as he can out of it. I can't even express my emphasis with that last sentence. Dogville and Breaking The Waves are pretty much the definition of human suffering. Okay, I'm being over-dramatic only because I'm simplifying those two great films into narrow categories of some weird and endless exploitation which they clearly aren't. Oh, yeah. THE MOVIE. Let's get to that.

You can't start talking about Breaking The Waves without first mentioning the raw and fearless performance of Emily Watson. She makes this film. Her sweet naiviety and uncompromising devotion to faith and love makes YOU immediately fall in love with her. To see her spiral down like she does is all-at-once heartbreaking and sometimes reassuring in a strange way. Heartbreaking needs no explanation is you've seen the film but the reassuring probably does. I don't revel in watching Watson in intense pain. I'm no Von trier(oh no he didn't!). I kid. I find her complete obedience to her faith to be a wonderful sub-textual commentary on religion, itself. I consider this film more visceral and concerned with human emotion when it comes to it's style but it's Von trier so you know there's something always sneaking in the background. The idea of Bess finding God, literally, within herself is so poetic and a great contrast to the rigid, unforgiving, and machismo-ruled religious world that she grew up with. So, this film makes parallel points about unyielding devotion whether it be to love or faith. It's rare to see a character like that and even rarer to see her not treated like a complete idiot. You can question her actions for days and days but her motives were as pure as anything you can think of. She knew that and a certain someone knew that, too. Those bells don't get rung for just anybody.



Crazy Heart (2009, Scott Cooper)

A story of a down and out drunk, acted tremendously by Bridges, who pretty much has to lose everything to gain everything back.


Blow Out (1981, Brian De Palma)

One man's race to uncover a conspiracy (and murder) that could help him overcome his guilt from past mistakes. Brian De Palma fills this with reference after reference to other films but that doesn't stop this from being one of his greatest and most original works.


Witness (1985, Peter Weir)

A slick dramatic thriller that hops from genre to genre without losing any of the core essentials that made each scene better than the last. One of Harrison Ford's best performances.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Killer of Sheep (1977, Charles Burnett)

I have to go along with the general consensus of complete bewilderment that this even exists in the first place. The fact that it's so artistically confident and uncompromising is yet another astounding thing to behold in this neorealist classic. Charles Burnett is a real talent. Scrounging up money from work weekends to make something so honest and (forever) relevant is a true underdog story. It's disheartening that this was unavailable for, literally, decades due to music copyright. Films this good should not be stuffed away somewhere just because a couple of popular songs are featured in it. Infuriating.

Anyway, let's get to the meat of things. Can I get to the meat of things with this? How do you explain a "feeling"? I'm not so sure I can. Well, that's what this film is. FEELING. The feeling of inadequacy, guilt, love, loneliness, passion. It's all here. It's all here without a hint of falseness or pretension. At times, it felt like I was watching a documentary. I say that without discrediting Burnett's directorial talent because them man is full of it. There are many reasons to love this film but there's one thing that sets it apart from most other films like it. Simply, it just IS. Don't look for over-wrought depictions of ghetto life as hell. This film isn't a guilt trip. It's not a shocking expose on african american life in the 70's. It's an honest and deeply felt look into the lives of people that happen to be living in this part of the world. So, yeah, it is the ghetto but you soon realize that these people end up no sadder or happier than any other class of people. Sure, they're limited, financially, but you couldn't measure the amount of life that imbues them all.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (1958, Richard Brooks)

What fluff. Tennessee Williams is extremely hit or miss sometimes. Mostly miss. His flair for the dramatics is either completely amateur or really only meant for the stage. His work was deemed as "daring" because it dealt with risque issues like suicide, addiction, frank sexuality but he confronts those issues as if he's getting paid to endorse them. These characters dance around these oh-so-hot topics instead of the other way around. There's the alcoholic, the unloving father, the cheating wife, etc. It goes on and on like a merry-go-round of false emotion and boring declarations.

Richard Brooks adds zero to the play he helps adapt. "Oh, so you guys can memorize a script? hey, I think I know how to push record on this camera, too! YAAAAAY LET'S MAKE A MOVIE!!!!". The actors try their best to ring some truth out of the material. Notice how I said "try" because they mostly fail at those attempts. I have to give some credit to Burl Ives who manages to elevate his cliched sub-plot into something a little worthy of watching. The rest of the cast are forced into unconvincing southern accents while having to bark things like Big Daddy, Sister Mother, Big Mother, Gooper, MAGGGGGGGIIIEEE!!!! "I thought the inclusion of the ridiculous names would add to the southern charm and authenticity that I was reaching for." GREAT JOB, WILLIAMS. It really worked! No, really. This is everything I hate about hollywood film making. Tiresome and one-note characters slogging their way through predictable material with a ton of audience coddling at the end.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Holy Mountain (1973, Alejandro Jodorowsky)

A surrealist and often humorous take on the socioeconomic state of the 70's that's also a how-to-guide on how to turn your excrement into gold. njwhufhweafu.hbWIL888` I can't review this. JUST WATCH IT. This video explains it better:


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Scenic Route (1978, Mark Rappaport)

I knew when I started this that it would probably be unlike anything I've ever seen. I was right. Did that affect my viewing at all? Well, yes and no. I did expect certain things from this film but that made the more unexpected aspects of it so much more sweeter. Mark Rappaport instills the same technique that makes me love cinema so much in the first place. The courage and talent to take the mundane and ordinary and make it extraordinary.

It's such a touchy subject with film fans, in my opinion. There are the more left-field lovers of cinema that will totally embrace this but most will shut it down immediately with multiple claims of pretension. It pains me sometimes that people won't accept something just because it deviates from the norm. That's the thing, too. The plot in The Scenic Route would almost be too normal if delivered in any fashion other than Rappaport's. He supplies the film with life. Whether it be his incredible use of insightful voice-overs, his insane production design, or his dubious use of symbolism. Something is always there to divert the banality and melodrama of the story even when you feel like he completely revels in it. Did I even mention the "Dr. Love" dance sequence? I think he knew I really liked that song. That's the only explanation.


Fists in the Pocket (1965, Marco Bellocchio)

So, yeah. Get read for screencap overload. Couldn't help myself. This was me holding back, too.


Review may come later when I'm not so overwhelmed.


Deconstructing Harry (1997, Woody Allen)

Let's "deconstruct" this film. Ah ha. Ah ha.

The plot of Wild Strawberries

+ the style and arc of

+ Woody Allen's usual self-deprecation (Maybe even more so this time...)

= Deconstructing Harry.
Spice it up with some Breathless-esque cuts and you got yourself a recipe for one of the greater "later" Allen films.


I feel like posting every fantasy clip in the film but I'll restrain myself and just give you this: