Monday, August 31, 2009

RECENT WATCHING week of august 31st

in between watching an entire season of mad men, i found time to watch a bunch of movies as usual.

MOBY DICK (1956)
typical dull 1950s adventure adaption. this needed more special effects and a less crappy looking whale but gregory peck was pretty good as always

not a comedy. not in the least. a decent drama/coming of age movie but a bit disappointing. jesse eisenberg continues to prove he is the poor man's michael cera and kristin stewart continues to prove she cant act.

innocent cute mexican movie from last year about a heist to rob a rich jerk; similar to the failed TV show knights of prosperity (quality show btw). enjoyable watch with some some twists, laugh, and good acting

fascinating doc about the army taking senator joseph mccarthy to trial after he pressured the army to give special treatment to a member of his investigative staff. a scary and interesting look at the tail end of mccarthyism

danish miniseries directed by enfant terrible lars von trier before directed before dogme 95. a spooky and affecting hospital comedy/horror/drama

cute and at times, clever indie comedy with emily blunt and amy adams running a crime scene clean-up service. often entertaining but nothing special

a derek jarman experimental film that features tilda swinton. fascinating. ill talk about jarman after i watch a few more of his movies

Sunday, August 30, 2009

summer of quality

last summer, we had some pretty good movies grace the multiplexes. there was dark knight, wall-e, tropic thunder, iron man and possibly some other things that i am forgetting. those movies are still pretty good but i think given the crop of films this year, i think we can officially call the 09 blockbuster season the SUMMER OF QUALITY!

it started off early, with a little bit of STAR TREK, a movie that for all intents and purposes should have sucked. there were so many things about the movie that were ridiculous--the plot, the time travel spocks, eric bana's performance to name a couple things. i still cant say for the life of me what star trek was actually about. i vaguely remember bits and pieces of a plot but the visuals and the acting (thanks simon pegg) made it work. i am by no means a JJ abrams fan. in fact, i didnt like cloverfield, lost, mission impossible, alias, and most likely his bar mitzvah haftorah portion if i heard it but i liked star trek and his uniquely fresh, humourous, and stylized delivery.

then there was UP. if you didnt like this movie, you have no soul. nuf said.

at least this point, THE HANGOVER and (500) Days of Summer came out. i never saw them but for all intents and purposes, i heard they were excellent. ill include them and confirm their quality in a later blog posting. however, their proposed later exclusion from this list would NOT result in the label of SUMMER OF QUALITY being revoked. good, now that we got that out of the way...

some time passed and DISTRICT 9 was unleashed on an unsuspecting public. i initially didnt know what this movie was about, i just knew i wanted to see it. it just looked interesting and going in, i expected it to be a comedy, maybe even an indier men in black. who knows!? who is neil bloomkamp? dont know. dont care. take me to the AMC. what i discovered is that it was 3 fantastic, distinct movies in one with different tones, feelings, and styles. the first 30 minutes was a documentary, sort of like THE OFFICE does south africa. we learn that aliens came to earth, their ship got stuck, and humans herded them into camps in south africa and that they need to be moved to other camps using sketchy government practices. this portion of the film is not very subtle and is clearly a parallel for apartheid. regardless, the script was clever and the message was very well delivered. then, it turns into a horror film when the protagonist of the film gets doused with magic alien juice and begins turning into an alien himself. cue makeup, blood, and squishy noises. then, for the final part of the film, everything goes all action-ey with explosions and gun battles. the horror squishy sounds give way to klabloo-ey. in short, we have a very unlikely and suprising best picture candidate and a great new director to watch with excitement.

not but one week later, the best film of the summer (IMHO) came out. finally, quentin tarantino's long promised INGLORIOUS BASTERDS was unleashed on a very suspecting and ready public. the result was an action/comedy/war movie that pleased everyone including the tarantino haters. come oscar time, brad pitt is likely to be nominated and christoph waltz is going to win best supporting actor. yes, win. for the third year in the row, we have another unforgettable villian in hans lamda (the other two are of course anton chigurgh and the joker). also, tarantino will most likely receive a director and a screenwriting nod. with this, he proves again that he is one of the best directors working and also one of the most underrated. yes, i said underrated. somehow, people keep expecting tarantino movies to suck. every film that comes out is going to be the one that finally exposes him for the fraud he is. because resevoir dogs, pulp fiction, jackie brown, and both kill bills were total flukes. right? um...yeah. and sorry if people didnt get grindhouse. it wasnt supposed to be oscar worthy; it was supposed to be a shlocky 70s b-movie a la vanshing point or duel and as that, it succeeds.

like it or not, tarantino has mushed a bunch of different genres together and created something totally different and yes, unique. he is one of few american directors who is a true matteur en scene. in other words, you know when you are watching a tarantino film. there are other unique directors out there like scorsese and wes anderson (thanks brett for reminding me) but for now at least, tarantino is the most exciting.

as a whole, this was a wonderful to end the summer of quality.

or is it? i saw JULIE AND JULIA last night. wait, before you assume ive gone crazy and loved a chick flick, hold off. i liked this film though i was frequently bored and felt a bit meh at the end. BUT this was a nora ephron movie. despite her lazy, indistinguishable style of direction, meryl streep's versatility and amy adams, in her perpetual likeability, made this movie work. anytime i can watch a film so obviously chickey and romancey and not want to stab myself in the eyes is incredible. thus, i will include this in the summer of quality.

unfortunately, this movie made me self concious and sad about my blog. ive been writing this stupid thing for 3 months and no one has sent me any DVD box sets OR offered me a movie deal. maybe i should make these postings more interesting, accessible, spell checked, and grammatically correct. eh, fuck it. me write good. bye bi.

Monday, August 24, 2009

like watching paint dry without the thrill of closure

this evening, i watched HOWARDS END. wow. ive seen some outstandingly boring movies in my day but this one is EPIC. i knew this would be boring going into it but i couldnt even comprehend the sheer dullness of it. just to clarify, this is the 1992 merchant/ivory film with anthony hopkins, helena bonham carter, and emma thompson. yeah, thats a damn good cast and they arent wasted. in fact, they perform their roles perfectly. after all, this is an EM Forster novel. twilight, it aint.

however, howards end was so boring that it seemed like it was trying to alienate the audience. 90 minutes in, the characters kept on prattling without a raised voice or anything to break up the monotony of subtle british attitudes. i felt like ismael merchant was saying, 'youre still watching up? alright, lets take out the any of sly comedy of manners bits.'

2 hours in, i was loading the dishwasher and realized that i never wanted michael bay to take over directing a movie so much. in his um...unique hands, the movie would not have ended with a sweeping shot over the grounds of howards end.

and um...megan fox would replace emma thompson...and helena bonham carter...and anthony hopkins. now THAT i would watch.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

RECENT WATCHING week of august 22nd

one of the more unique war movies ive ever seen. stuart cooper along with kubrick's DP made a film out of 30 minutes of new film and 60 minutes of war footage supplied from the english imperial war museum. fascinating though a little boring at times

samantha morton's best role and her career has been filled with some amazing ones. i loved this bleak, scottish drama that is as dark as the drama is terse. wonderfully subtle with great director from lynne ramsay but this is morton's show

tom wilkinson's performance was not short of breaktaking. its too bad the rest of the film was dull and pretentious. i dont see what the big deal was. i really dont.

another imamura nikkatsu from the 60s but this one wasnt nearly as good as the films from the pigs and battleship box set that came out earlier this year. i was mostly bored with this but thought the pervision and social commentary was pretty bold for '66.

the only feature film by french commercial/advert director remy belvaux before he commit suicide. this is a curious picture about a documentary crew filming the actions and crimes of a surreal killer. a blacker than black comedy of manners (does that sense?) and a curious watch but definetely didnt need to be feature length as presented.

this is a german (duh) psychological drama/thriller about 20 average people who volunteered to take part in a simulated prison experiment for 4000 marks. 12 are guards and 8 are prisoners and shenandigans ensue in this sharp and well done film.

alright...thanks all for now. district 9 and inglorious bastards coming soon

can nick and nora's infinite playlist be officially declared THE hipster film of the 00's?

as an unapologetically indie hipster originally from NYC, it is no shock that i love NICK AND NORA'S INFINIET PLAYLIST. after watching it a second time, i only have more appreciation for this wonderful little gem of a film. perhaps its the NYC oriented soundtrack of vampire weekend, the national, bishop allen (granted, they took their name from a street in central square in cambridge, mass), and we are scientists, whose song afterhours so well permeates the feel of the film. perhaps its a great, subtle (of course) but also sometimes heartfelt and dramatic performance from michael cera and a suprisingly heartfeltkat dennings! OR its the supporting cast and numerous cameos from andy samberg, john cho, and seth myers. yes. its all of these things and of course, the seemingly endless number of new york indie landmarks. this is the new york city of my youth with the bowery, mcarren park pool, crash mansion, and a quick shot of katz's for those who enjoy the jew food (me...even though there are way better delis and katz is definetely now more touristy than anything else).

this film will always be intrinsically linked to the time and era. after all, michael cera, skinny jeans, and hoodies are pretty much standard issue indie fashion now. its for all these reasons, this film should be considered the benchmark for late 00's. much like how john hughes films captured the essence of loner/geek culture of the 80s, nick and nora does so for the geeks now.

im really suprised that this film hasnt really found much of an audience yet because it really is such a sweet fim. i think in due time nick and nora will develop a legacy. people need some time to latch on to the essence. stylistically, the film is shot a little darkly and in soft colors which is not unaccessible. the camerawork is almost a bit cameron crowe-like and even maintains the naviety and the innocence of his films. given that crowe's films take a while to find their niche, it follows that nick and nora need a couple years to win over more fans.

until then, ill enjoy the tweedom of it and kat dennings little erratic head bobbing when michael cera asks if its her dad's studio...

btw, where's fluffy isnt a real band. so all you stupid faux indie jerkfaces claiming that you love them...i know its a lie.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


as a diligent and dedicated filmie, its a yearly tradition to see all the critically hailed films of the previous year. and since i have no connections in the movie business and have a full time job unrelated to film, this is usually completed some 3 years after the year in question. since lately i have been watching things that have been collecting dust on my netflix instant queue (ill get to you eventually in the bedroom), i finally saw the french thriller TELL NO ONE.

since you people apparently like it when i describe the plot and not just link IMDB, the film is a murder/mystery. basically, man's wife is murdered. 8 years later, man receives mysterious message from supposedly dead wife. meanwhile, bodies are discovered on his property and husband becomes a murder suspect. cue intrigue, suspense, and twists.

i was all ready to review this movie but the following link was sent to me:

this articles details kitten huffing and while completely made up, it is making me laugh a hell of a lot and i am finding it very distracting to continue writing.

ok, we shall press onwards.

tell no one won a crapload of cesar awards and is all ready to remade into a medicore american film.

so, why was it so great? first off, the soundtrack was brilliant and consisted of mostly american R&B songs from the 60s save for one important U2 song. it really sets the mood and the ambiance beautifully. second, the flashbacks were perfectly orchestrated and despite flipping time periods a few times, all remains easy to follow and completely succinct. third, the genuine love story between the two leads was fantastic. in short, it was a perfectly executed and realized mystery thriller action film a la Taken.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

did i actually enjoy risky business?

holy shit. i think i actually really enjoyed RISKY BUSINESS. i was going to slap it into a recent watching blog entry but i realized that it was way too interesting to NOT write about.

risky business is of course, tom cruise's breakout role. he stars as a straight laced teen caught up in a frenzy of sex and hijinks when he gets a call girl (with heart of gold) and ends running a brothel in his house to pay for repairs to his father's porsche he incurred whilst trying to get a crystal egg back from said call girl with heart of gold. (its an 80s comedy, of course its plot is ridiculously convoluted). sunglasses, bob seger, booger from the nerds movies, rebecca demornay's breastsm, and balki from perfect strangers all costar.

this wasnt a good movie. not by any means. it was a seminal 80s film though. the term seminal 80s film means that good taste does not apply. these films are supposed to be cheesy and have generally awful acting but should be at least enjoyable to watch (kelly lebrock in weird science was robotic even for a robot!). its like the rest of the world in the 1980s said to the US, 'dont worry about acting well, we will take it from here.' (comedy at least).

why did i enjoy risky business? i think it comes down to two things:

- curtis 'booger' armstrong
- the 'hey! turning my house into a brothel is totally making money' montage sequence
- rebecca demornay sex scenes, which i will sub-break down into the two

sex scene 1 - she enters the house
awesome things:
- the wind machine blown curtains (seriously, was that a tornado going on?)
- the fact that if not for tom cruise, it could very well be the red shoe diaries

sex scene 2 - the subway fuck scene
awesome things
- was that in the air tonight by phil collins that set the mood?
- seriously, is that a song about a child drowning another child to get hot young people fucking?

in each scene, there is ever present moaning saxophone which was perhaps the #1 most aphrodisiac between the years of 1978 and 1991. when i was being conceived i can only hope that there was a live saxophone player playing passionate whole notes in the background.

i am continually amazing by which films end up leaving an impact. perhaps im not the elitist i thought i am.

i guess sometimes you just need to say, 'what the fuck.'

Saturday, August 15, 2009

This week's recent watching

i watch a lot of movies. too many to write up individual blog entries and for the most part, i cannot come up with inciteful things to say for most of them. so here is a recap of my recent watching.


stunning direction and cinematography but a lack of consistent action and wonder mires these two late fritz lang "masterpieces." while worth watching, i prefer moonfleet or any of his late period nors over this

i could have this and the above a joint film entry but i wasnt blown away by any of them or have any strong opinions. this film is an interesting early post WWII german film indicting the crimes and attrocities of the nazis. definetely interesting from a historical point of view

what the name, it was written and directed by michael ian black and while not up to par with his comedy in general, its a decent and often funny rom com. i think if they gave him more reign over the script and casting, it could have been better

as frustrating and unsatisfying as the book. this isnt a bad thing. i just want to see what happens next. probably the weakest of the potter films but in all, this is just a set up for the last one

strong performances from penelope cruz and ben kingsley in this indie drama but the film itself is really dull and drags incredibly.

documentary about animator robert crumb. he is weird. the doc gets this message across pretty well though nothing earth shattering.

nikita malakhov's interesting reimagining of 12 angry men changes the tone of the original film/play. instead of 1 man arguing for a guy's innocence, it appears that the jurors are grasping at straws and believe some far fetching things to be convinced of a chyechan teenager's innocence. interesting film that deserved its oscar nomination

in the past ive rented every asian horror movies that appears on netflix. with this film, i think im going to stop that practice. this was a complete waste of time

im 30 minutes into this 70s car film with jeff bridges and im profoundly uninterested. yet another highly questionable choice on the new york best of list

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

90s indie films...or whatever man, im totally not even trying to make a movie right now

ever since i started blogging my various movie adventures, ive been trying to group films into themes so i can discuss them together. upcoming, i have rohmer's comedies and proverbs to talk about and i plan on getting into early godard masterpieces. before the frenchness takes back over, i wanted to write about richard linklater's SLACKER and noah baumbach's KICKING AND SCREAMING

NOTE: the aforementioned kicking and screaming is a comedy-drama from 1995 about young people drifting aimlessly in their post college grad years, not the crime against soccer will ferrell movie.


these two films were pretty important in terms of the 'quirky indie dramedy without a plot' genre and like the mumblecore movement of today's indie films, the early stuff wasnt that great (IMHO). first off, i downright hated slacker. of course, i didnt really care for waking life either and only kept watching because of the amazing visuals. i guess that the stream of conciousness conversations are a bit too much for me. of course, i loved coffee and cigarettes (all the vignettes! esp the ones involving wasabi peas) so maybe i just need them to be interesting. i pretty much forgot every line of the film save for the scene about madonna's pap smear (that was awesome) and the opening scene where i didnt realize that it was 100 minutes of random conversations. for a supposedly intensely quotable film, i am devoid of snooty lines to drop into my daily life to sound elitist.

i liked kicking and screaming a little better as it was sort of about something. granted, the film took the narrative of random conversations but at least there was academic snootiness and some wit to go about. plus, it had eric stoltz right after his 'sleep with me' days which reminded me of the conversation he has with tarantino regarding top gun as a film about gay subculture---but i digress. again. i digress a lot dont i?

noah baumbach went on to make some good films though i never really found him as brilliant as others. margot at the wedding was ok and i sorta liked the squid and the whale. he is the even more thinking man's wes anderson (which makes sense given that they work together). of course, richard linklater is one of the most respected indie directors working today (though in my mind his image took a beating over the bad news bears remake).

come to think of it, im not entirely sure it was tarantino and stoltz that had that conversation after all...


this week's STRONG BAD EMAIL discusses the differences between indie and independent film. it is SPOT ON and heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelarious

Monday, August 10, 2009

why do i bother with horror films?

i know im going to be disappointed. i am consistently heartbroken by everything in american horror films. the giant plot holes, the horrible acting, the anti-scares, and the overall mehdome associated with it. i didnt know that MIRRORS was based on a K-horror film. if i did, i never would have watched it in the first place as i have no strict no remakes policy.

this lump of crap was directed by alexandre aja, who did haute tension, a movie i couldnt stand and the 2006 remake of the hills have eyes, the only film that was bad enough to give me a migraine.

what was wrong with this? besides keifer sutherland's interesting take on 'acting'...

horror film set up the scares. we all know when something scary is going to happen. what i like about asian films is that they dont do it as much. something spooky and creepy will happen and you will be like, 'holy crap! that was scary! whoa!' american films will go, ' it comes...this is going to be freaky...wait for it...BAM! oh yeah. bet youre pretty scared now!' by the end, no one is shocked and im just a little dead inside.

also, in asian cinema, the ghosts are usually just misunderstood beings crying out and they get turned into crazy blood machines in american versions. in mirrors, said machine is a schitzophrenic girl who communicates through mirrors and other stuff happens. bleh.

yeah, i DVRd this and even a brief nude scene from amy smart couldnt make this not a total waste of time.

the power of czech surrealism

why does the best surrealism of the second of the 20th century come from czechaslovakia? there is vera chitlova's landmark film, daisies, a scathing political endictment done with clever sophistication with tongue firmly in cheek. then there is 'an investigation of a party and its guests,' passer's intimate lighting, numerous films by jan svankmayer, and dusan makavajev was next doorin hungary doing his crazy thing. VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS isnt as good as some of the above stuff but its still visually arresting.

unfortunately, i cant remember any specifics right now. crap. this is a waste of a blog least it had a good title. i know the basic premise was girl gets magic earrings and for 7 days, everyone and their preist try to seduce her. the film was based on a fairy tale and certainly looked cool. oh man. i really dropped the ball on this one

carlos saura and spanish film in the 70s

i dont know much about spanish film from the 70s but i know that it was an interesting time. franco still heavily censored the filmmakers and the wacky comedy of pedro almodobar was still years away. what resulted was dreamlike and ethereal films of victor erice and carlos saura. CRIA CUERVROS is a good example of the films i see as typical of 1970s spain. in english, the title is raising ravens, an idiomatic expression for misteaching your children or opening a pandora's box. the plot is very much centered around that. at the beginning of the film, we see a child sort of witness her father killed and the ghost of her mother guiding her. her and her two sisters go to live with her aunt as she continues to get visits from her mother. it is a film about growing up in a dysfunctional situation but making the most of it. the remarkable thing about cria is how remarkably subtle the message is. we would only how tortured the child (her name is ana, and is played by ana torrent) is due to flash-forwards from her as an adult talking about the time.

maybe i am grouping this victor erice and spirit of the beehive because ana torrent was in that too and also had elements of fantasy in it. either way, i didnt care for beehive but i did enjoy cria.

grantd, the film was slow and i was bored a bit during the middle but i was pretty entranced by the visuals. i am really glad torrent has continued to have such an amazing career as she was talented beyond her years in this and beehive, for the matter. definetely worth a watch

Sunday, August 2, 2009

more recent watching

touchez pas au grisbi: fantastic french noir by jacques becker. outstanding comeback role for jean gabin...may get a full writeup soon

the haunting in connecticut: not awful, not that great...the most you can ask from an american horror film

while the city sleeps: awesome fritz lang/dana andrews film noir from the 40s

ashani sanket: satyajit ray film about the indian's government man made famine of the 40s? powerful but a bit dull

a tale of springtime: boring eric rohmer film from his comedies and proverbs series

a great day in harlem: awesome documentary on a photo

bottleshock: well intentioned film about the early days of cali wine but ultimately not satisfying and makes you crave wine

cria cuervos: interesting spanish from the 70s...ill probably write this up. not amazing but a somewhat fascinating film

maybe i shouldnt watch films i loved twice...

kon ichikawa's THE BURMESE HARP struck a chord with me immediately. it is a beautifully shot, intense, and well acted Japanese anti-war film from the 50s. the film centers around Mizushima, Shoji Yasui, a soldier who stumbles upon a loot while fighting in Burma. he learns to play it and his music inspires his unit but his convictions keep him from going home and he remains in Burma to live as a monk.

when i first saw it, i was floored by its intensity. i had just seen ichikawa's mesmerizing fires on the plain which was one of the darkest war films ive ever seen and a powerful statement on war in general. harp was a pleasant surprise after seeing fires and the visual imagery remained with me for a couple years. when it popped up on ifc, i DVR'd it to watch it again.

unfortunately, it didnt have nearly the same effect on me as it did the first time. i find that this is an occasional problem and has prevented me from watching certain films twice. i really want to watch lilja-4-ever and make way for tomorrow again but im afraid that a second viewing would take away the magic from the first watching. i would already know what was going to happen and some of the power would be removed.

granted, ive rewatched most of kurosawa and bergman's films and my appreciation of them has only grown. while i still maintain that the burmese harp is an outstanding film, it might not have been as brilliant as the first time i watched it.

the first impression of a film is important to me and

dont rate a movie before youve seen it...

when i started ticking movies off the list of bests website a years ago, i ticked off some films and rated them as 'worth or not worth consuming' before i had actually seen them. i didnt want to bother watching deliverance or the elephant man. as it turns out, i had confused the elephant man with mask (which i still maintain im not going to bother with) and deliverane with a gay porn (there is only one scene of sodomy! not the whole thing). when THE RIGHT STUFF popped up on the theyshootpictures top 1000, i ticked it as not worth consuming. i reasoned that i watched it at some point or at least parts of it. i had not. and when i watched it today i realized that the entire simpsons episode where homer goes into space was a big homage to it. in reality i confused the right stuff as a movie about dancing or music not a sweeping biopic of NASA from its infancy to the first space missions. im glad i finally watched it. it was quite good. the source material was a thom wolfe book, who is definetely one of my favorite authors of all time. and the film was a bit long, it was without a question worth consuming.

i learned some things about the space program

a. not all the monkeys sent it space were killed. one came back!
b. the eary astronauts were hot shot flyboys
c. ed harris probably never had hair

what did i learn about the movie the right stuff?

a. it was a film about music, dancing, or sports
a part 2. it is not a film about new kids on the block
b. not all epic movies from the 80s were duds
c. oh oh ooooooh oh oh oh oh oooooooh oh ...the right stuff

so, i learned a lesson today about life and about the space program. successful day overall