Saturday, November 28, 2009

revisiting bergman

a few months, i revisited my first moment film snobbery and recently, i decided to continue my trip down memory lane. ingmar bergman and the seventh seal was the first art house movie i saw and from that moment i was hooked. i gobbled up bergman like leftover stuffing and soon i saw his entire catalog. over the years, i rewatched virtually all of his movies and maintained that i still love him. however, i realized i hadnt watched the original 5 hour versions of SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE or FANNY AND ALEXANDER; two of his most legendary works that when broadcast on PBS brought bergman back into the american movie going mind.

after watching versions that are some two hours longer than the movie releases, i was left wanting even more. scenes from a marriage is such a painful, excrusiatingly honest piece of film-making that it hurt me to watch at times. the story is very simple, two people's marriage is set up, ended, and somewhat reconciled many years later. the dialogue is so honest and real that it hardly seems like a movie. the arguments the two leads have resonates with married folks of all ages. btw, the two leads are erland josephson and liv ullman, two of bergman's regulars and its hard to believe that this was their first movie in which they shared more than a scene together.

for every bit as stark as scenes was, FANNY AND ALEXANDER is a lush, vibrant, and beautifully done masterpiece of a film. if scenes was a chamber drama, this was an epic. the film is about the ekdahl's, a family of actors whose patron dies suddenly leaving the theatre and family without a leader. fanny and alex, the two children, then have to live with a bishop who marries their mother in a house of strict punishment and complete religious piety. in the film version, what is most interesting is the depiction of the bishop. in the film version, he appears more evil but in the TV version he just appears to be very strict and unfair.

without question, my favorite part of any bergman movie is in fanny. not when uncle carl farts out a candle though that is pretty awesome. no, i am talking about the magic jew. erland josephson (again!) plays the said magic jew who is able to transport the goyem by shouting towards the heavens into a chest and then make them disappear. its an awesome scene and intentionally magically and mysterious. the film after all, is considered a fantasy.

both of these films were amazing outstanding works of art and if youre going to give them a watch, i recommend the original TV versions. they give you more incite the characters and to the story. and after all, more bergman is always gooder!


many consider this italian drama to be the best contemporary mafia film in recent history. released last year to tremendous accolades it was among the critical highlights of 2008. frankly, i dont see the big deal. it was well shot but i was frequently bored.
now were talkin'! this charming french comedy from the late 60s with michel simon is a sweet life affirmed comedy set against...nazi occupied france? told from the POV as a child in hiding, its really a sweet film about a boy and a rascist old man who acts as his surrogate grandpa in a time of instability.
Roman's polanski's 1981 period piece based on thomas hardy's classic movie tess of the d'ubervilles. boooooooooooooring. 3 hour period pieces are not my thing.
a movie made for the brothers and sisters tired of the man. melvin van peebles blaxploitation classic is legendary for its unapologetic depiction of race relations and unsimulated sex. the story behind this movie is just as interesting as the film itself. an odd curiousity, not a bad watch from a historical perspective.

generally, im a fan of 80s/90s japanese comedies but this one fell flat. very flat. perhaps it was a bit too dry and a little too satirical for my american eyes.

wow! what a jarmuschian film! that beind said, this is jim jarmusch's new movie and there is no mistaking it whatsoever. a bit like dead man in its obscurity but with a better delivery, control is mysterious and existential to a T. also, its got tilda swinton and bill murray in small roles. DONE

american b horror movies are getting good and with the runaway success of paranormal activity, i hope that this trend will continue. the lost is an above average unsettling horror flick from 06 and begins with a nude erin brown aka misty mundae followed by some unique direction and creepiness. what else do you need?

i hope to dedicate a whole blog to this but for now ill say that there is one of the best films of 09 ive seen. it is intensely well written and informative. porn star sascha grey delivers a magnificent performance that is subtle, realistic, and understated. i really have become to expect a lot from steven soderbergh.

the director of this film denys arcand is the greatest quebecoise director in history. his films jesus of montreal and the oscar winning barbarian invasions are masterpieces. this is not. its not bad but plays like woody allen lite. unless you want to watch a bunch of intellectuals talk about sex 90 minutes, id give it a miss

let no one say that i am not a rex harrison fan but this 1944 drama from the same text as the king and i is incredibly wince worthy rascist. harrison is no thai king and while i always enjoy a little irene dunne, i maintain that the 1950s musical is far better

peter o'toole in his prime highlight this delightful satirical english comedy from the 70s. the film is a bold statement on the uselessness of the british monarchy and is a scatching political indictment. all of the acting in this top notch and makes you wonder why o'toole hasnt won an oscar yet!

speaking of actors in their prime, this 1980 walter matthau political comedy is also pretty damn top notch. centered an embittered ex-FBI agent, he sets out to make fools out of the entire department. funny and charming as ever, matthau is simply a joy to watch.

we go back to 1929 for a look at a classic silent film that has held up very well. this tale of revenge, jealousy, and murder (most foul) stars anne mae wong, the first american asian star and some other people. its a shame wong isnt a bigger name as she was extraordinarily beautiful and charismatic. this is one of her best performances.

i just finished this one! i love early jimmy stewart movies and this 1940 drama is unheralded treasure of a film. directed by the great frank borzage, storm is about a german family who struggles against the early reign of hitler. one of the first anti-nazi films, the film makes a powerful statement and could be considering a polarizing piece of media in terms of american involvement in the war.

yeah, this is the mouse with big ears movie with matthew broderick as said mouse. im not sure why i watched this. it looked cute. it was boring. i dont think it was meant for people who watch the mortal storm.

if zoey deschanel keeps making movies where she sings, im going to watch every movie she makes. singing aside, this was actually not a bad watch. jim carrey goes rubber faced again and i think i missed that. all in all, not a bad way to kill 90 minutes.

another best of 08 film getting a dvd release. unlike gomorrah, this is an intense film. first time director steve mcqueen (not bullitt) packs an intense punch in this political drama. stark, bleak, and effective cinema verite, this is a dark film but tells an important story.

WHEW. caught up. there are probably more films in there but these are all i can track

Saturday, November 14, 2009

what are my least favorite criterion collection films?

every week on here, i usually post something praising the criterion collection for their awesome awesomeness. ive seen 94% of the collection and will complete it by the end of the next year. though ::SHOCK:: there have been criterion films i didnt like and some that i flat out hated. here is the list of films i flat out hated.

many consider this 1989 wim wenders film as one of the greatest movies ever made. i dont get it. its not bad perse but i found it incredibly dull and the fuzzy lens seemed a bit soap opera-ish

another "classic" that i just dont care for. i normally like spanish films from the 60s but i just found it boring though i always enjoy me some ana torrent regardless of how old she is (6-60, she can act!)

i normally love twisted depictions of sexuality and this S&M/WWII fetishistic movie should be right up my alley. but no, i hated it; almost to the point of anger and migraines. charlotte rampling was never so dull

i am referring to the original 1997 norweigan film though i also really didnt like the remake. i love stellan skaarsgard but this story, execution, and style seemed meh and boring.

the ultimate sleep aid. this was PAINFUL to watch. so boring. so very boring. it was like masterpiece theater! thats the idea though, right?

one genre that i normally never seem to enjoy is early 70s B movies. they just feel to trashy and weird. this is a fine example of a B movie that is just bad.

i hate john woo. ive never liked anything hes done. why would i like his hong kong actioner stuff? end of story

paul morrissey's 70s sexploitation "classics" were produced by the greatest art hack that ever lived -- andy warhol. i dont see the redeeming value of either of these.

an italian horror/drama/thriller done very smooth and sly though its not very good. this director never really did anything more interesting than this either.

director rene clair is considered one of the greatest directors of the first half of the 20th century and i never saw the big deal. some have said chaplin stole from him (which he did...a bit) but i think clair first stole from chaplin. still, didnt think this film was terribly funny

while im all about having kristy macnichol in the collection, this sam fuller directed tepid race drama is too heavy handed for serious watching.

why criterion? why?

the second most boring in the collection, this tale of a boy in a coal mining family in 1970s quebec is about as fascinating as it sounds.

thats it actually. these were the only films i gave 1 star to on netflix! i hate 13/502 films. not bad.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Steamy Foreign Sexual Awakening Dramas

that is what netflix claims to be a favorite genre of mine. well, that is certainly more detailed than 'independent' or 'drama.' despite briefly considering myself a pervert (i am), i started to look over some of the selections on it. of those, i was most intrigued by MAN, WOMAN, AND THE WALL. the plot is as follows: man moves into apartment and discovers that his neighbor is a possibly hot woman and begins to listen to her through their paper thin walls. in his mind, he imagines her looks, actions, what her apartment looks like, and her life in general. through some lite stalking, he tracks her schedule and is able to figure out where she works and actual begins to develop a real friendship with her as he continues to listen to her through the wall. meanwhile, the girl's boyfriend is a far creepier stalker who videotapes her in her apartment and makes voice masked harassing phone calls. the woman meanwhile has two stalkers only her neighbor has her best interests in mind and also comes off as one of the nicest and best intentioned stalkers ever. he might be the first truly sympathetic stalker character.

in many ways, id compare this to a low budget version of copolla's masterpiece 'the conversation,' with gene hackman. through technology, its possible to invade personal space like never before and some good could come of it. while man woman and the wall is not nearly as good as the conversation, its still an excellent film.

as the neighbors begins to fear the woman's boyfriend, there is a slow transition to actually help her get out of her relationship and not to necessarily be with him. he is a shy man and is torn between the woman he wants her to be and who she actually is.

also, as the film progresses, the inventions his mind created for her change to reality and less sexualized. eventually, she is simply another woman, granted a beautiful woman. its interesting that two different actresses play the neighbor; one that his mind created and one that actually lives there (after he discovers where she works). the first one is obviously more beautiful and porn star hot (surprise, the actress is actually a porn star!) but the neighbor in actuality is pretty damned hot too. the film would have been more real if the actress wasn't that good looking and perhaps a little more plain.

either way, this was 83 minutes of consistently interesting watching. thanks a lot netflix and i look forward to more "Steamy Foreign Sexual Awakening Dramas." While im at it, perhaps ill watch more "Visually Striking Dark Dramas," "Suspenseful Movies Based on Real Life,"and "German Shit Porn" i mean..."Movies of the 1920s to Watch Instantly"

RECENT WATCHING 1st Half of November

oh my blog. oh my sweet little blog how i miss thee. there are so many ive wanted to write about but havent had the time or energy to do so. im going to write a real entry in a bit but just for my cataloging purposes, i want to summarize what ive watched recently (quite a few things!) that havent moved me enough to warrant a blog or their own.

i was never really that moved by apocalypse now and barely reacted to it though found it interesting from a historical kind of view. however, after seeing the documentary on the horrific making of, im amazed that it got made. so, i appreciate the movie more but am still left unimpressed by it in the end.

yet another highly questionable choice on the new york times top 1000 movies of all time list. this american film from the early 90s is about a woman who goes out west to make a new life and does. she endures hardship yadda yadda. this sucked. it was dull and poorly acted and profoundly uninteresting. NEXT

laurent catant's award winning biopic won heaps of awards last year and deservedly so. it is the essentially true story of a french teacher (who plays himself) and given that the story is based on his memoirs, there are buckets of truth in the film. its gritty, interesting, and plays like a good documentary. i was genuinely moved by this film

john's woo actioner from the early 90s stars chow yun fat and features the kind of stylized action that woo has become a joke for. yeah, i never liked john woo. i always thought his type of action films ushered in era of filmaking without substance. the plot of this is a bit more complex than that of face/off but it the sidegun battles were still wasted on me.

i was sick last week and i packed together a bunch of random films into 3 days. this was among the more random choices ive selected. based on the contraversial erotic novel of the 20s? 40s? 60s? the story of o is about a strange sex cult where sex is the sexiest and sweetest taboo. many have considered one of the most influential erotic films of all time and i can see that. however, it still doesnt make for very good watching for um...long periods if ya get ma drift! HAR

mind you, this is not the 1997 full length sling blade but the short film that inspired the movie. billy bob thorton plays OF COURSE the loveable karl childers, everyone's favorite biscuit loving lunatic murderer/misunstood manchild. an interesting watch as a supplement to the brilliant full length version. also, molly ringwald's in this! and its only 25 minutes long so you can watch it while your lawnmower is getting repaired at bill cox's outfit.

the randomness continues. this iranian film from ten years ago (told ya. its random) is a heartbreaking and painful watch, as are most iranian films (duh) but its also a superbly shot and wonderful story about a blind child and his struggle to be treatment as an equal and seen as a viable human in the eyes of his father. judging from its cinema, i think the country of iran needs a hug and a kitten to play with. HOWEVER, it has a happy ending (kind of)

im not watching this yet; im about halfway so note that my opinion might chance and if its does, ill repost. however, so far, i am very unimpressed by this. i remember that in '95, when it wasnt included in the oscar nominated documentaries (it was shut off), it was a huge controversy. i agree with the academy. its boring and definitely overlong. but that might change

the original, a tale of two sisters is one of my favorite horror movies of all time. the original korean film from a couple years ago was an astonishing, almost revelatory, horror/psychological thriller and beloved to me. so, when i heard that there was a remake, i of course wanted to write angry letters and plead with the directors not to make it. because im a masochist, i watched this and discovered the biggest shock of all; that i thought the remake was pretty good. dont get me wrong, its completely lacking the atmospheric tension and creepiness that made the original so brilliant but the remake works. i am going to credit the excellent cast, particularly the talents of emily browning, elizabeth banks, and david strathairn. yeah, im shocked. ok. now im going to write an actual blog on a single movie.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


like most weeks, i watch movies. here is a recent rundown of things that have appeared on my screen that didnt make enough of a mark on me to warrant its own blog entry:

CRIMINAL LOVERS - this french francois ozon dark twisted thriller from 1999 isnt as affecting and unique as swimming pool or under the sand but it definitely has its most moments of sexual power plays and murder. im a huge fan of ozon and his unique style but this one didnt really jump out at me. still pretty good though

LITTLE DORRIT - with no disrespect to the great derek jacobi and alec guinness, this was dull. this 1988 adaption of dicken's little dorrit is painfully slow and very uninteresting. without question though, both actors still deliver fantastic performances in this 6 hour borefest.

SOUTH PACIFIC - having seen this classic rogers and hammerstein revival on broadway a few months ago, i was curious to watch the original film version from the 50s. directed by josh logan, who directed the original show on broadway, it was an honest and direct adaption from the stage complete with the same wonderful songs (some enchanted evening, gonna wash that man right outta my hair, bali hai etc). acting was kinda meh but the broadway cast spoiled me a bit

ATANARJUAT (THE FAST RUNNER) - well. this 2001 film was shot on digital video, is 3 hours, and filmed entirely in innukitit (the innuit language of northern canada). that being said, it was pretty good. with all these things going against it, the fact that it was an interesting revenge tale means it was pretty outstanding. i need to give major to lead actor Natar Ungalaaq. he is completely naked running through the canadian snow and glaciers for about 10 minute running from people trying to kill him. that being said, his penis looked TINY especially after falling in ice cold water. its not a fair statement on him due to shrinkage but man, it take guts to be out there that naked and that cold. or perhaps it takes bal---nevermind.

THE UNINVITED - the version i watched tonight from the 2009 horror film; a remake of the superb korean film 'a tale of two sisters,' one of my favorite films of all time. what suprised me the most about this is that i didnt hate it. in fact, i kinda liked it though it was not nearly as good as the original. however as far as remakes go, this is probably among the best. the cast of david strathairn (sp?), emily browning, and elizabeth banks really sold it though. so yeah, this is definitely a pleasant surprise.

NIKKATSU NOIR BOX SET - this 5 disc collection of rare crime noirs from 60s japan has a few real gems. nikkatsu is a studio in japan which in the 60s was known for putting out edgier fare to connect with younger audiences looking to break from the japanese film traditions of ozu and kurosawa. basically, these films are japan's attempt to make their own stylized film noir a la the US and france. of these rusty knife and cruel gun story are a bit underwhelming. a colt is my passport looks pretty damned cool and has a quentin tarantino-ish feel to it though is more style than substance. the two true gems of this collection are i am waiting and aim at the police van which i will go into more detail below.

- I AM WAITING is a superior film noir about a washed up disgraced boxer, a mysterious dame with a sordid past, and a cafe where people go who have nothing left. this is a film that could stand up to any film noir, japanese, french, or american. definitely recommend for fans of the film noir genre

- TAKE AIM AT THE POLICE VAN was directed by the japanese noir master seijun suzuki and was a superb, intense, and twisty noir thriller. i see a lot of parallels between melville and sam fuller in this film. suzuki was definitely one of the finest cutting edge directors in japan at the time and in this early work, it shows how great he would become

Sunday, November 1, 2009

revisiting my VERY first memory of film snobbery

when i was 12 years old, my friend justin and i were driven to our local video store to rent a movie. my choice was BARTON FINK. it was 1992 and i was reading 'entertainment weekly' like it was the bible and i read great reviews of fink and that it had won the palm d'ore at cannes. so i rented it and of course i didnt understand it. the film was a mediation on the dangers of pursuing cash windfalls rather spiritual and creative fulfillment. at the same time, it was a scathing indictment of creativity and how its stifled, inspired, clogged, and sold as commodity. barton fink is probably one of the more unaccessible coen brothers movies so this was definitely a little heavy for a 12 year old.

when my mom picked me up from justin's house, i told her we rented barton fink. she asked what would ever inspire me to rent it. i told her it won the big prize at CAN-NEZ (yes i pronounced it CAN-NEZ). this was my earliest memory of being a film snob.

and that was the last time i saw the movie until last week. because im into silly completionist tactics, i marked it as seen on 'lists of bests,' crossed it off the 'they shoot pictures' top 1000 spreadsheet, and gave it 2 stars on netflix but i had never ever seen the movie.

i actually liked the movie but not a lot and feel that my 2 star rating was a bit premature. i mean, i was 12. in reality...i gave it THREE STARS! however, i can walk away from the movie feeling good knowing that i watched, understood it, and even when i was 12, wasnt enthralled with it. in reality, its probably one of my least favorite coen brothers movies. im not sure it should have won anything at cannes (pronounced kahn. or sorry KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN! yup, i just threw in a cheap, unrelated, and nonsensical star trek reference FTW. the 12 year old michael would be proud.