Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Day 1: London

ive been up for a while. 40 hours or so. i just got from dinner with zoey and the cath and fading fast. however, i am going to try to write a lil sumpin' up about this lovely day 1 of london. traveling a red eye overnight goes in several different stages:

- on the flight, not sleepy gives way to boredom which gives way to periodic sleep
- seriously, im like a cat. i tried to fool myself and intentionally didnt watch movies on the in flight entertainment dealie so i can be bored and sleep. it sorta worked. i figured watching TV shows was a good compromise (flight of the conchords, spaced, and peep show -- 90m. crap)

- next, off the plane there is a feeling of disorientation most of the time. when us americans travel to other countries and suddenly its a day later and there are foreign languages all over the place, its a little disorienting. when going to england, everyone just sounds polite. god bless that accent. too bad its not scottish

- arrival into center, reinvigorated. i prefer to brush teeth, wash face, carry on semblage of normalcy which works until the day is a few hours and the first of many crashes begin

alright now, what i did in between crashes?

1. went to westminster abbey: saw a lot of tombs, took the audio tour. when i was there in january, i didnt have much time and had to bust on through without actually observing much. having seen it for 2 hours i can assure all of you that it is not a waste of time or money and charles darwi is buried there!? WTF!? see christians, evolution founder in church. teach it to students. suck it.

2. went to buckingham palace. this may not seem like a big deal and it really isnt but its only open 2 months of the years for visitors. after all, the queen is probably having crazy sex orgies -- randy old girl. yeah, that place may not look like from the outside but inside its definitely a bit impressive, what with the rococo frescoes, guilded EVERYTHING, and rubens paintings scattered about, its definitely a site to behold.

ok, that is day 1. tomorrow is day 2. there will bemore things and hopefully less traveler's GI issues

Monday, September 28, 2009


for the next couple weeks i am going to be blogging about my vacation to the UK for 2 weeks. ill include thoughts, observations, ideas, sights, meals, drunken exploits, and other things that will occur to me in my whirlwind 15 day trip.

so stay tuned and relax, i might even slip some movie stuff somewhere in the fray.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

when the highest a movie can achieve is a tinge above mediocrity

FLASH OF GENIUS is a biopic about of a man named Dr. Robert Kearns, the man who invented the intermittent windshield wiper. the movie stars greg kinnear in the titular role and he does it with style and substance. in fact, kinnear may be one of the most charming and likeable actors today and his presence takes a film to new highs. this movie is mostly about patent law and a court case to determine if ford stole his inventions. that being said, its not going to be a thrill a minute exciting rush of awesomeness. john grisham it ain't.

flash of genius is ok but it had the potential to be so much worse. a world where every story deserves a movie sounds intriguing but unfortunately, that would result in a lot of boring films being thrust out. while the story of bob kearns is interesting, it isnt the most fascinating subject matter. kinnear is the real hero of this movie. he sells his role and plays it with conviction and heart. it is thanks to him that the movie is the greatest it can possibly be.

i watched this with moderate interest with occasional folding of laundry and lazy web surfing and by the time the film ended, i was sorta glad i watched this flick. i also realized that there was nothing i would improve upon. the highest aspiration for what this can be was attained; a decent, sometimes dull, vaguely unmemorable film. so congrats to all involved for making a passable film about something that for all intents and purposes should have been dull beyond words.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

RECENT WATCHING 2nd Half of September

ive been busy and would like to blog a few of these things, especially in some of sort of film noir round up, but is a recap of my recent watching i dont feel like expounding on full time

MAN'S CASTLE - a suprisingly well done exercise in early sound film (1933) directed by early american master frank borzage and starring a young spencer tracey and loretta young, two stars who will obvious do much better. this early work is a nice indication of things to come for all

MONA LISA - the breakthrough film by famed irish director neil jordan (the crying game), this one stars bob hoskins, robbie coltrane, and a particular bad ass turn by michael caine. its a noir-ey, twisty crime film that is filled intrigue and whatnot. hoskins in crime movies is pretty much always a must watch

CARL TH DREYER: MY METIER - a criterion doc on the life and unique style of the great danish direcor carl theodor dreyer (passion of joan of arc, ordet). very surprisingly, this was very poorly done and not terribly informative. dreyer was a fascinating personality and this doesnt do him justice.

COUP DE TORCHON - i was shocked i enjoyed this film. i normally find french post new waver bernard tavarnier's to be incredibly boring but this one was exciting and sorta felt like claude chabrol instead. a young and oft naked isabelle huppert stars in this thriller of a serial killer/moralist living french occupied algeria prior to the breakout of the war.

A COLT IS MY PASSPORT - one of the films in the newly released Nikkatsu Noir collection from Eclipse; this is a tarantino esque noodle western from the 60s (...japan). not much of a cohesive or interesting plot, but this had great music and some cool camera work

GENERAL IDI AMIN DADA - a 90 minute interview with general idi amin and a profoundly interesting look into a charismatic and completely insane director. i can honestly see how the people of uganda were so taken with him. he is so swarthy and well spoken cannibal!

THE NAKED AND THE DEAD - this is a gritty war movie from the late 50s that seemed like it would be pretty ahead of its time. however, now it just looks like every 'war is heck' overlong films from the 50s. by no means bad but by no means interesting

RANCHO NOTORIOUS - fritz lang's worst film. i cant even remember if i wrote about this already. lets just say that germans probably the best choice to direct pleasant western flix

THE LONG NIGHT - now this is one hell of a film noir! starring henry fonda and directed by the great anatole litvak, this dark tale tells in flashback the events that led to the murder of a magician (wonderfully played the always entertaining vincent price). dare i say this is "smoldering?" an absolute must watch for noir fans!

SCANDAL SHEET - '...she didnt get married, she got murdered.' yup,, another smoldering film noir from the 50s. though not as good as THE LONG NIGHT, this is still a pretty entertaining flick. broderick crawford plays a tough as nails newspaper editor with something to hide and john derek is the rookie with a nose for the truth. OOOH! directed by phil karlson who also did...

THE PHENIX CITY STORY - ive been wanting to see this one for a while but was very disappointed with the true crime feel of the film. that genre is really hard to pull off and unless its in the ultra auteur hands of sam fuller to jules dassin, it just comes off as boring. and this unfortunately is really dull.

THE HUMAN CONDITION TRILOGY - will blog about this VERY VERY soon..

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

the hit or miss films of Eric Rohmer

eric rohmer is one of the last living directors of the french new wave and alongside claude chabrol and jacques rivette, represent the last link to the golden age of cinema in france. rohmer, like chabrol and rivette have had incredibly prolific careers that have consisted of some masterpieces and some uninteresting stuff.

in terms of rohmer specifically, one of my movie 09 goals was to watch more rohmer. i watched every film in his comedies and proverbs trilogy where i will quickly summarize:

Comédies et Proverbes (Comedies and Proverbs):
1981 La Femme de l'aviateur (The Aviator's Wife) — good, flirty, idealistic, and at times humourous films
1982 Le Beau mariage (A Good Marriage) — cant remember anything about it...must not have been very good
1983 Pauline à la plage (Pauline At The Beach) — fantastic! will discuss later!
1984 Les Nuits de la pleine lune (Full Moon In Paris) — meh
1986 Le Rayon vert (The Green Ray/Summer) — i saw this a while ago and consider this a worthy entrance into rohmer's catalog though not deserving in they shoot picture's top 1000 films of all time
1987 L'Ami de mon amie (My Girlfriend's Boyfriend/Boyfriends and Girlfriends) — worst of the bunch but not horrible

last week, i watched A SUMMER'S TALE (CONTE D'ETE) and absolutely loved it. this was a part of his his series of films; the seasons series.

plot: musician falls goes to south of france to meet girlfriend who doesnt show up. he falls in love once and then again. there is a romance, melancholy, and music; all the things i love in life.

the common link Summer's Tale and PAULINE AT THE BEACH is Amanda Langlet, the cute, intellectual, and engaging star of Pauline and Summer's Tale. In each of them, she plays a wise beyond her years teen confused by love and baffled by relationships. she has an incredible charm, sophistication, and spunk that is decidedly french but not the somber sort exemplified by sandrine bonnaire.

its movies like pauline and summer's tale that make me wish i was a french teen in the late 80s/early 90s. i totally want to hang out with french hipsters in skinny jeans listening to british music. i started that sentence quite genuinely but now it seems really silly. ok, i will change that too. i wish i was french and had a time machine to go back 20 years. i already have the hipster, jeans, and music part taken care of. on a related note, i did put this lego version of the eiffel tower together in the last few days.

so yeah, in summation, rohmer has some pretty good films and in the spirit of echoing past blog sentiments, know your movie type.

im sorry but this movie isnt for you.

i am (attempting) writing to an audience of mostly cinephiles; hard core movie fans who view movie watching as something other than a way to pass the time. ive discussed here in the past about movies as entertainment vs movies as fun vs movies as experiences. movies, like life experiences, may not always be good or fun, but sometimes, one profits from them anyway. is anyone going to walk away of Schindler's List saying, 'DUDE! THAT AWWWWE-SOME! the explosions were fuckin fantastic! and those naked chicks!" i hope not. or if they do i hope im around to blog about it after. regardless, it was a movie that was meant to be experienced in all of its gory, graphic, and sad detail. no, a movie like this is not meant to be fun.

with a somber, well publicized film about the holocaust, its easy to know that if you like movies for a bit of good times, you may want to give ole Schindler's List a miss. With other movies, its not as clear. This morning, i was listening to the OPIE AND ANTHONY show who were looking at a list of the top 50 best movies of the aught's from the I HEART CHAOS blog. on that list were the usual suspects (amelie, downfall, lord of the rings, beautiful mind) but there were odd and contraversial choices as any good list has -- namely, the twilight samurai (which i have yet to see!), southland tales, and SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK.

while i definitely question the inclusion of southland tales, synecdoche was the one that O&A particularly beat up on. they never heard of it and one of their callers called it 'shit' and 'boring.' i really wanted to call and tell them this wasnt a movie made for mass consumption and they shouldnt even try to comprehend it. this was not a movie made either for them or a majority of their listening audience. snooty? yes of course. true? i think so.

synecdoche, if you havent seen it, was a very challenging film to watch by any stretch. it was almost 3 hours long and begins with complicated premise: theater director gets a grant and builds a scale replica of new york in a warehouse in order to put on a play about his life. so, we are already into the realm of conceptual art which is hard enough for anyone to follow. then, as the story wears on and the play becomes part of his life, replicas of new york are being built inside the warehouse as the story of his life develops in real time. so, at any given moment, there are numerous actors playing the director, stars, publicists and then actors are hired to play the actors and so on. more models are being built and the play of his life merges with his actual life. the ending is sad, beautiful, poignant, and a little bit tragic as the warehouse play goes on continually for decades.

this isnt exactly transformers. synecdoche is a midfuck of a film about obsession, self delusion, and subtle captures the stages of life in a literal and figurative sense. to put it simply, this was not a movie made for the masses; much like how bride wars, matthew mcconnaughey movies, and tyler perry things werent made for me.

so, unless you enjoy hearing yourself complain or take to the internet to do so, before launching into a diatribe about a movie you hated and think if you were really the target audience. and THAT is why i am never going to write anything about high school musical. that shit scares me. the acting is like silent movies with talking

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Mel Ferrer: The Luckiest Actor in Film History

MEL FERRER is probably not a household name unless youre a cinephile or an audrey hepburn fan. however, during his nearly 50 year career on film and stage, he worked with such great directors as jean renoir, king vidor, reiner werner fassbinder, anthony mann, and fritz lang and kissed some of the most beautiful leading ladies of the 20th century (marlene dietrich, audrey hepburn, leslie caron). and oh yeah, he was also on falcon crest.

was mel ferrer a good actor? no. he lacked any sort of talent or charisma and despite his many leading roles, he is the most boring and uninteresting actor that has ever lived.

as i watched the decent but unmemorable fritz lang western, RANCHO NOTORIOUS, i really took a good look at mel ferrer's performance. not only was he bad and completely unemotive, but when he was on screen, i thought of things i could due to kill time before the scene was over. writing this blog was the top thought.

who was mel ferrer? he was born extravagantly wealthy and bedded and married audrey hepburn. yes, THE audrey hepburn. they stayed married for 14 turbulent years and during their marriage, she made all of her greatest films and a bunch of crappy ones too. the crappiest of which, GREEN MANSIONS deserves a special mention. mel ferrer directed this debacle in which hepburn as a wild jungle woman who gets seduced by an adventurer played by anthony perkins (the star of psycho...yes). i think harvey fierstein would have made a more convincing adventurer than the mild mannered, effeminate perkins.

during their marriage, perkins also roped hepburn into starring in king vidor's disasterous, horrific, nearly unwatchable take on war and peace. this film featured henry fonda as a pierre and ferrer as prince andrei, two roles that should have been either reversed or recast, as both actors were woefully miscast. has anyone out there read war and peace? the casting was one step up from casting robin williams and billy crystal. it was a film of the highest cringe values.

still, hepburn made funny face, roman holiday, sabrina, a nun's story, wait until dark, breakfast at tiffany's -- all of her famous ones -- during this period. it seems that her only missteps were on ferrer's recommendation. so basically, hepburn became a star despite ferrer's best intentions.

mel ferrer was a tall strapping good looking guy but that should only take an actor so far. the fact that he kept getting decent work for 50 years is a complete mystery. maybe people owed him a lot of favors or he talked his way into roles. either way, his fame was completely undeserved.

sadly, mel ferrer passed away last year but he paved the way for actors to be getting good work despite lacking talent. just throwing it out there, but i think chris evans, channing tatum, and paul walker, and countless others need to send a thank you card to mr. ferrer's estate for making it possible for them to be incredibly rich. send some flowers too.

Friday, September 18, 2009

quick linking note

im going to be bloggin a bit this weekend on various crap but i just wanted to let you all know that i am now officially part of the LARGE ASS ASSOCIATION OF MOVIE BLOGS aka LAMB.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

thanks folks!

nothing really much to talk about on the movie watching front that i am not going to write about in larger scale but if you havent seen misaki kobayashi's HUMAN CONDITION TRILOGY rent or buy it IMMEDIATELY! this film is without question one of the most powerful war films ive ever seen.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

subversive cinema -- unexpected part 2

the day after i wrote my subservsive cinema blog entry, i saw THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PYJAMAS and knew i needed a second part. basic plot courtesy of IMDB:

Set during World War II, a story seen through the innocent eyes of Bruno, the eight-year-old son of the commandant at a concentration camp, whose forbidden friendship with a Jewish boy on the other side of the camp fence has startling and unexpected consequences.

so this is a holocaust movie and i am going to say something i rarely say about holocaust movies:


this was a shmaltzy, stupid, uneccessarily melodramatic, completely implausible, waste of time. INGLORIOUS BASTERDS is closer to the truth and more plausible than this piece of crap.

on the acting side, it starred david thewlis, remus lupin from the harry potter movies amongst other good films. he was sorta in cruise control for this one. on the other hand, vera farmiga is in it. she broke through with a great performance in the departed and has gone on to star in such films as joshua, feast of love, orphan, and this, so she pretty much used up all about that scorsese karma.

anywho, movie itself:

this subject matter of this film was dramatic enough: young boy discovers horrors of nazis. cheap sentimentality doesnt need to be poured on. the holocause was so horrific and shocking that the slightest bits of subtlety is enough to make the audience feel sickened and find humanity in the story of the struggle that the jewish people faced.

as a jew, this movie offended me. it painted a way more sympathetic portrait of nazis than i would like. second, it insulted the technical abilities of the nazis and the intelligence of the jews.

in the climax of the film, the german digs a tiny hole in a couple minutes thereby breaking into the concentratio camp

needless to say, how unrealistic is this? you dont think that some of the jews in the camp would take advantage of this obvious design flaw? argh!

so there is no reason for a holocaust film to be subversive. the sympathy is there and doesnt need to be played up. just think of schindler's list. was that played up in the least? no. the images told the story without a need for overdramaticizing.

the one thing i can say in favor of the film was that it was only 85 minutes long. guess they ran out of sugar

i would like to say more but im afraid i would offensive and thereby get banned from blogspot. disagree with me? think im a fascist? im worse. im a critic and a snooty blogger with poor grammar. go fuck yourselves.

RECENT WATCHING 1st Half of September

i have not been watching very many movies lately as i have been getting caught up in burn notice, mad men, and true blood. also, im 1/3 of the way through masaki kobayashi's 9 1/2 hour human condition trilogy and im working on another entry on 1960s japanese films from the bold and daring nikkatsu studios. ive also been travelling. why am i apologizing? i watch too many freakin' movies as it is? btw, i was at ATP (all tomorrow's parties music festival ny) that had film showing and i saw jim jarmusch walking around. my jaw dropped and i just wanted to run up to him and make fishing with john and down by law references with a sprinkling, 'mothafuckin ghost bustin bill murray' thrown in. i didnt see any of the films (only 1 i hadn't seen, HAUSA, which will end up in here eventually). anyway, here is a quick summary of the movies i saw that arent going to get full entries

ive now seen both of lynne ramsay's feature films and think we are in desperate need of another film from her. while this one was simply ok, her style is unmistakably unique, daring, thoughtful and brilliant. she is the best filmmaker in the british isles.

i recommend renting the criterion release which features three of her short films, kill the day, gas man, and little deaths, the latter of which is superb!

a fine methodical cold war drama from the 60s with richard burton and claire boom, directed by martin ritt. at times a bit plodding but burton was pleasantly restrained and was quite good

i am grouping these fine superior 1950s film noirs by fritz lang and tay garnett (resp) because i DVR'd them thinking i hadnt seen them before. turns out i did and i enjoyed them so i watched them again. you should watch them

in this lil cin verite number from the 70s, steve mcqueen (the ultimate king of cool) plays a rodeo champ. sam peckinpah directed this and like most of his films, i thought it was dull and didnt care for it but every steve mcqueen is worth watching. so cool.

solid early work by sam fuller, one of the greatest directors of all time. this was about the newspaper industry around the turn of the last century. not a spectacular film but fuller's stye is remarkably unique. not sure how he made turn of the century new york noirish. great score as well

yeah, thats it...SERIOUSLY!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tokyo! and the lost art of the portmanteau film

the portmanteau film is an anthology of short films all around a similar theme by different directors. the wiki entry is HERE. they were really popular in the 60s and 70s and the french new wave and the italian neorealists embraced them and created some very interesting works like 'Six in Paris' and 'Il Baccaccio.' In fact, Truffaut's follow-up to the 400 Blows and Antoine Doniel's second film was a short in one of these omnibus films (Antoine and Collette). lately, they have been making a bit of comeback due to the success of excellent Paris, Je T'aime and its most likely successfully follow-up New York I Love You.

TOKYO! is probably the most unique portmanteau film to be released since the french new wave. the 3 directors are michel gondry (you know him, hes a genius), leos carax (lovers on the bridge), and joon-ho bong (korean director of the host and the excellent memories of murder). each of them have a unique and quirky style and have made some fascinatingly unique films and each of their shorts combine to create a sometimes bleak, funny, and critical view of humanity, japan, and life in a big city. i dont feel like going into the plots right now because im waching mad men and its a good episode but trust me, this is a definite need-to-watch is only for the last few minutes of gondry's entry.

on another note, its really nice to see leos carax direct another film. he made an amazing movie called les amants en le pont neuf which starred juliette binoche. it was a dazzling and quirky anti-love story among homeless people. it FLOORED me. then he made a controversial film called pola x and that was it for 9 years. he needs to make more movies. this is a nice start.

btw, TOKYO! is coming to netflix instant on october 1st so make sure to watch it then if not sooner!

cinema subversive

movies tell a story and try to get their point across in an efficient and timely manner. we watch them to learn, feel, or experience an emotion felt by the onscreen forces. some films are more powerful than others and go to extremes to get their message through with varying degrees of success. i am going to compare 2 movies that cannot be any more different: EDEN LAKE (2007), another entry into the ever expanding torture porn genre though this one is english so a warm welcome to the UK into the fray! the other film is ONE FOOT IN HEAVEN (1941), a religious melodrama starring fredric march. neither of these films are terribly remarkable or memorable but each have an interesting brand of subversion worth analyzing in light detail.

EDIT: torture porn refers to a genre of film that combines torture and horror in such a gory detail that it could be called porngraphy. the prime example of this type of film is eli roth's hostel.

eden lake concerns an attractive young english couple who go to place called 'eden lake' (come on, there is no way a place named eden lake but be anything other than horriffic. there is no screamville or terror lake FFS?) for a weekend of romance and an attempted marriage proposal. through a series of wacky mishaps, they end up on the shitlist of a local gang of teenagers led by a total lunatic. what follows is violence, capture, torture, escape, torture, blood, etc. what separated this from other attractive couples in trouble movies that came before it? well, if you saw funny games not much but if you didnt...


the guy (oh btw michael fassbender plays him) dies at the hands of the kids and the girl (didnt catch her name) tries to escape and ends up accidently in the house of the kids parents who at that point didnt know what their chitlins were up to. one of the kids dies and the parents take revenge on the girl after the kids make up a story. like funny games, there is no payoff and retribution for any of the characters. evil wins and that is the end of it. there isnt a glossy victory and justice is not served. and for that reason, the film is intentionally unsatisfying. also like funny games, the director suggests that the audience is watching to see people getting tortured, maimed, but eventually win against the bad guys. by making the ending so bleak, he is saying, 'you wanted torture. well, here is an implausible but unsatisfying ending ya sick fucks'

why subversive? because its giving the viewer an anti-torture porn movie in the shade of torture porn. get it? its a statement against violence that uses violence and takes away any glamour associated with the genre. pretty young girls are killed by ugly foul mouthed teens who get away with it. sub-v-sive? i think so.

the other film, ONE FOOT IN HEAVEN is subversive and obvious in nature. this is a big giant screaming film that smacks you in the smack and begs you to join the christian faith. plot is simple: a doctor to be is touched by the hand of god, leaves practice, and becomes a minister all in the course of an afternoon. his new wife of course joins him without a peep (ahhh olde time housewives). what follows is one hour and fifty minutes of how awesome christians are. the husband and wife never have quarrels or even interesting discussions like nick and nora in the thin man movies. this movies paints the christian religion as a be all and end all problem solver. the only person in town who doesnt go to church is the dentist who is an atheist but is quickly turned around by a miraculous sentence. i understand at the time it was made that people needed religion to turn to when the war loomed on the horizon though this was made before pearl harbor but i would have expected more from director irving rapper who did the outstanding now, voyager (with bette davis). this is a film that could have treated with dignity and respect (fred niblo's ben hur from 1925 did a great job!) perhaps they could have showed religion as something more than the ultimate placater. this is a film without conflict which is a shame. my father in law who is a minister thought this was ridiculous as well

why am i making such a big deal out of this movie and why did i even watch it in the first place? it was the new york times top 1000 films of all time and there is absolutely no reason this should be on there. however, i watched and noted it for its subversive material and got a blog entry out of it so there ya go. seriously, at this point the only reason im still on the new york times best of 1000 is to finish in its ridiculous mediocrity.