Monday, January 16, 2012
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Monday, November 23, 2009
If you care about Paul Schrader or his film Mishima : A Life in Four Chapters, there is only one place you need to be going for the rest of 2009, and that place is Crips and Mutes, the blog of film blogger Krauthammer.
Paul Schrader did much more than just right the script for Old Boyfriends, so go on over to Krauthammer's today and learn something. And bring your boyfriend.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Thursday, November 05, 2009
Monday, November 02, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
So, what does it all mean? (The movie, that is.) A Serious Man is the Coen's headiest film to date, and I'm not just saying that because it's been rattling around my noggin for days. There are many interpretive avenues to travel down: there's the one that obsesses over the use of Surrealistic Pillow; the Jewish one; the one about logic & probability. But, for me, it seems that the domestic issues of family and marriage that exist in A Serious Man have never been so vivid in a film of the Coens since Raising Arizona. The Gopniks are a two kids/two car family with the makings of a clan that might just live in the same subdivision as Kevin Arnold and Winnie Cooper. Larry's son signed up for the Columbia record club, his daughter wants in the bathroom, and his wife wants a divorce. None of this is his fault, of course ("I didn't do anything", he repeats). But as Larry reprimands a Korean student of his by referencing the laws of action and consequence, we know that he's partly at fault for it all.
Thankfully, we're not back in the braindead Sam Mendes/Alan Ball suburban warfare territory here. No. As the Coens accentuated the close living quarters of H.I. and Edwina's trailer in Raising Arizona to reflect the good-Earth nature of those characters, so too here does the Gopniks's house reflect a protective nature that Larry steadfastly strives to provide. Sure, Larry can come off as a sheepish lion when he lets another man talk him out of his own house, or when he backs down from a neighbor who is planning to encroach onto his property, but Larry's motivations are his kids and his home. This is evident in the way he let's himself get pinballed around by his synagogue's three elusive rabbis for the endgame benefit of finding a pathway to stability for his family.
But the dark horse in this whole scenario is The Gopnik Family's relative, Uncle Arthur (bravely played by Richard Kind). Introduced to us early as a comedic foil - the reason Larry's daughter can't get in the bathroom is because Arthur is constantly inside, draining his sebaceous cyst - Arthur is, in many ways, at the heart of A Serious Man. In fact, he drives the climactic scene between him and Larry that takes place at an empty motel pool (drained, just like his cyst). Larry has been so consumed by the griping and gritting and grinding away of his own misfortunes, that he never took a breather to step back and gain perspective. Especially from the perspective of Arthur. Yes, Larry admires the fact that Arthur "never complains" but, in truth, Arthur is really a specimen that's at the the butt-end of life's most appealing physical qualities. He's hairy in gross places, flabby, has terrible posture, dumpy, and has an ugly face. Thus, he's an extreme outcast, envious of Larry's ability to create a family. But when Arthur confesses this to Larry point blank, it goes over his head. He's unawakened.
Of course, Larry may still be too distracted by the way his rival, Sy Abelman, has moved in on his wife. Like Arthur, Sy was not blessed with the most attractive of features, but he exudes a convincing spiritual confidence that makes up for it. Subconsciously, Larry admires him. It's not because Sy is able to catch the attention of his wife, so much, but that Sy is able to ride on such a calm wave of life. He walks and talks and maneuvers like he's figured it all out. Revealed in a dream, Sy is the ideal of "a serious man" in Larry's mind. Forget all that math and physics mumbo jumbo that Larry throws up on his classroom chalkboard like territorial gang graffiti, because Sy's already the owner to life's answers. He even slams Larry's head up against the chalkboard for good measure. Cuz, really, what's Schrodinger's cat gonna do for you once the doctor calls with bad news?
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Eh... maybe it's just me...
Or... I know! It was that Etch-A-Sketch portrait of Mao that I was thinking of! (framed in RED dontchya know!!)
And then, of course...
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
You knoooow, this TOERIFC thing we do is really like putting on a day long master's class in cinema for free. It's like your college film courses to the 9th power. So, if you want to learn about movies and don't have the tuition for NYU, or wherever, you really have no excuse, because we are offering it up for free. You're welcome.
(Above banner by Greg @ Cinema Styles)
Saturday, October 17, 2009
As soon as you can accept that the monsters or "wild things" represent the individual characteristics that make up the prepubescent milkshake that is Max, images of the kid with giant furry puppets start to emit a much grander significance. To watch Max speak up and out to the monsters as they surround him, or to see him leading a charge of all through the woods, is akin to a child's self-discovery of his or her own vulnerabilities and strengths. During a daytime nap, the monsters dogpile each other and form a mountain of mumbling, snoozing bellies, paws, and snouts over Max. Underneath this protective mound, Max huddles, bonding with the most independent and mature of the beasts, KW. The way KW stands apart from the group (she arrives late it greeting Max) as the most aware and accepting of Max's true nature, reveals her to be the stand-in for Max's real life mother.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
[NOTE: This is where the blogger gives himself a strict 10 minutes to rattle off whatever about a movie he just saw that he doesn't feel deserves a thoughtful edited review but still feels the need to feed the animals anyway. Quality is of no concern.]
I hate this movie. I hated this movie. How can I have end up hating something so much that contained so many people I liked? Maybe it was an elaborate prank for Ricky Gervais to come to the states and make a terrible movie here with a bunch of famous comedians the way a bunch of famous comedians took his great BBC show and made it into some crap sitcom on Thursday nights. But The Invention of Lying is so mean and smarmy and meeeeeh and nasty and terribly made that I think Gervais may have spent the last of any Hollywood capital that he had. Heck, he's good at directing half hour TV shows, but he's abysmal at making a feature length film. Another example of why the two forms differ quite a bit. So, what's this all about anyways? I ran into a buddy at teh gym that told me The Invention of Lying was "anti-religious", so I had that in my head as I went into the theater. Well, it definitely is. Maybe more accurately anti-Christian than religion as a whole. I mean, two Pizza Hut boxes are stand ins for the Ten Commandment tablets. And look, I'm a non-believer, a former Catholic that just doesn't buy it anymore, but I still don't care for snoots running around acting like they are smarter than the lads behind them just because that lad believes he's going to heaven. There's a way to be critical and comedic about religion and still be not such a prick. So, is The Invention of Lying arguing that our society would function better if we all indeed spoke our minds and never uttered a falsehood? Because, in the end, even though lying is bad and religion is lying and everyone else in the world except Ricky Gervais and his kid are dimwits, well, he still ends up as the king of the hill with the hot housewife making him supper in a mansion with tons of money. So, he gets his egotistical superiority and the babe with the toned calves. He even makes her serve him while she's about to burst with a baby. What a punk. But seriously, the sweetest moments this movie contains are based on the reality of bending the truth to either spare someone's feelings or prop them up. But, if as were led to believe in the end, that that's all bullshit, then what the fuck?!?! Is this then the most cyncical, misanthropic, spiteful film to ever hit the megaplexes?? Ricky Gervais... what the hell are you doing?? My guess is that the message is mixed and comes out with a bitter face because, well, comics are bitter, but also because this is a half idea that got the money to be made into a movie. It's really annoying too. The hole gag/hook of the film starts to grate about 10 minutes in and when Garner and Gervais are at a dinner table and the cute Martin Starr walks up and even HE is irritating, well, it's time to leave. Of course, I didn't leave, because I never leave. I don't give up.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Sometimes watching a movie can assist you in quickly moving another movie that was hanging around in your subconscious limbo to its rightful resting place. This is what taking in Revanche did for me over my indecision about Lars Von Trier's Antichrist. Seen in the middle of a twenty-eight film viewing hurricane, I initially left the screening of Antichrist sure that I despised it, but unable to shake its lingering impact on me. Since both films tackle the emotions of resolution (albeit it very disparate ways), it was quite easy for me to leave the screening of Revanche knowing, for certain, that Antichrist is garbage. Provocative and well shot garbage, but garbage nonetheless. That's definitely not to imply that a vengeance film which travels down a separate path than Revanche does is worthless. Not at all. For instance, I find the anger in The Brave One and Dead Man's Shoes to be quite convincing as a nod towards something harrowing about humanity. Lars Von Trier, on the other, still needs to discover the "H" word before commenting on it.
Thursday, October 08, 2009
Maybe it's because we're in an era where the well-produced/well-recorded album (Fleet Foxes, Veckatimest, Wolfgang Amadeaus Mozart, Bitte Orca) takes top critical billing, but, for whatever reason, with every passing year Times New Viking put out another album and none too many people ever seem interested.
Or, maybe I'm just a sucker for scuzz-rock trios that appreciate melody. Believe it or not, the below song is probably their most "produced" recording:
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Monday, October 05, 2009
It's a bit disconcerting when a film that runs only eighty minutes long must rely on recycling its own devices and jokes. The way the block letter "rules", that Columbus abides by, pop up on screen in real time is cute, as is Tallahassee's Twinkie obsession, but much like the fervor that is established in Zombieland's opening and credit sequences, these tropes wear thin quickly. I suppose this could all be a set up for numerous sequels that will unravel a wider, more interesting landscape and story much in the way REC 2 did with the way overrated REC, but that kind of TV serial planning really irritates me. If your film demands a sequel, then great, but make each one substantial, please. If you're just gonna trickle out your thoughts and plot and art, then please stay planted in TV land.
Thursday, October 01, 2009
******Kaifeck Murder (Esther Gronenborn)
I hate to say it cuz I wanted to like it, but watching Kaifeck Murder was like watching a screener that had snuck its way through the festival programming road blocks. Now, no programmer is perfect (see whoever green lit The Human Centipede), but this was a pretty easy one to weed out. Kaifeck Murder's plot becomes convoluted not out of complicated predicaments but out of "huh???". Or, maybe it was because it was German. For all you TOERIFC alums, Franken from Black Book has a cameo... well, not the character, the actor.
Kenny Begins (Carl Astrand & Mats Lindberg)
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Attack of the Robots from Nebula 5 (Chema Garcia Ibarra)
Next Floor (Denis de Villeneuve)
Danse Macabre (Pedro Pires)
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Cropsey (Barbara Brancaccio & Joshua Zeman)
An interesting enough piece of low-budget journalism that attempts to get at the truth of five or more missing children that became alleged murder victims around 25-30 years ago in Staten Island. Brancaccio and Zeman truly seem to be hunting for the facts and not out to exploit tragedy for "the sensational documentary"'s sake. Still, there's something wrong when a Geraldo Rivera piece - that is used within Cropsey for some frightening exposition (truly frightening... sickening even) - is more interesting that the doc that's enveloping it.
****** Mandrill (Ernesto Diaz Espinoza)
Ernesto Diaz Espinoza and his crew may be the most exciting new Latin American filmmakers going. In short time, they've - on modest budgets - made three well measured and breezy feel-good action hero flicks. After seeing their martial arts film, Kiltro, I knew it was only a matter of time before the studly Marko Zaror would cross over into Hollywood stardom. Well, that's already on its way as we were host to some early footage of the Mirageman remake (retitled The Defender, for some reason). I admit that Mandrill does go a little limp after a first half that's frontloaded with its brightest ideas, but seeing as how this was the first time they've screened the film for an audience, perhaps this version of Mandrill is still a work in progress. Highly enjoyable, nonetheless.
OK. So, through no fault of Metropia, I kind of hit the five day wall at this point and slid down into my chair relying on only the arm rests to keep me from sliding to the ground in glorious full-fetal nap position. Luckily, later in the night, I caught a brief second wind, but Metropia suffered for my red eyes, I won't deny that. With that disclaimer, I still wasn't feeling this animated film. Europe in the near dystopian future where the corporations blah blah blah..., and the media blah blah blah..., and the brainwashing blah blah blah... . Not that those topics are unimportant, but Christ, give it a unique spin, please. The programmers played an old Brazil trailer beforehand as a good-natured and appropriate lead in, but little did they suspect that being reminded of Brazil right before seeing Metropia was only going to shine the light on the latter's flaws.
Wow. What to say about Stingray Sam? I surely wasn't expecting this to be the funniest movie of Fantastic Fest before walking into it, but man oh man was it ever the most oddball-weirdo-nutball hilarious film I've seen in quite some time. Since the festival brings in people from across the globe, it's often telling to gauge audience responses based on geographic origin. I say that, because my perception is that Stingray Sam possesses a goofball humor to it that is distinctly American. Most of our European and Asian guests didn't seem to connect with it. Director, actor, writer, everyman, Cory McAbee talked about the political aspects of his work, and boy was it refreshing to hear an artist understand the difference between creating propaganda and letting politics influence your fictional art. I think this guy may be too smart for Hollywood to ever understand. A sad shame, because he's immensely talented... and a total freak!
****** REC 2 (Paco Plaza & Jaume Balaguero)
I wasn't too hot on REC, so I wasn't expecting to be too high on its sequel. While, mostly, that is true, I do think that REC 2 is a superior film to its predecessor. For one, the camera work is cleaner and single shots last for a much more extended and fluid period of time. Also, Paco Plaza & Jaume Balagueró's inspired idea to jump to a "helmet cam" periodically gives the film time to breath and gain some much needed punctuation that was lacking in the first. There's also a spiritual/possession element in the sequel that wasn't sound in the first. Because Plaza and Balaguero have matured as filmmakers, and because their original film has now been given space to stretch out its story (I would imagine a REC 3 is in the works...), the REC franchise has instantly become more interesting than I ever thought it could be. Props to Plaza and Balaguero for keeping their film under 90 minutes once again. Though the hands are much more steady this time around, there's only so much hand held one can stomach.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Buratino, Son of Pinocchio (Rasmus Merivoo)
Filled to the rim with inspiration, the sparkly Buratino, Son of Pinocchio ultimately has too many cross-wired problems to commit to the ambitions that it hints at in its first ten minutes. The intro - a baby hungry woman sings to the stars about wanting to be with child and gets her wish via a splinter that magically flies into her womb and sprouts a baby Buratino - is fun, wicked, and wise, but too quickly Buratino, Son of Pinocchio simply feels like a short film tacked on to a half done feature. Director Rasmus Merivoo discussed the difficulties in logistically pulling off an Estonian/Russian co-production, and, sadly, that is reflected on the screen. But props to Merivoo for standing by his efforts. His humility was refreshing. Merivoo knows he loves making movies, and he knows he didn't make a strong one here, but such is the process.
Down Terrace (Ben Wheatley)
If Fantastic Fest generally offers up films dealing in the physically extreme, Down Terrace was an alternative to that from the emotional department. Where, at first, it seems like a dark comedy out to debunk the myth of the sexy gangster lifestyle, Down Terrace turns on a dime and becomes something much more confrontational. A wave of shocking hard violence challenges the audience to question the laughter we were enjoying previously. Is this another winning British class conscious comedy, or the exploration of the sociopath gene being passed on from one generation to the next? Not sure yet, but I know this debut feature by Ben Wheatley engrossed me, and I expect it to be spilling out into some small run theaters very soon. Look for the performance of newcomer Robin Hill. He may be Britain's next big thing.
The House of the Devil (Ti West)
District B13 : Ultimatum (Patrick Alessandrin)
Sunday, September 27, 2009
****** Fish Story (Yoshihiro Nakamura)
Until I could check the director's resume afterwards, I thought maybe I was watching another film by the director of Linda Linda Linda. Like that under appreciated film, Fish Story rides the wave of a catchy song for its entirety. It has to be a good song, because the fate of the world is resting on its shoulders. Sounds ludicrous, and it is, but in the way that many Japanese filmmakers are able to stretch the unimaginable and impossible into the heartfelt and triumphant, Fish Story will have you smiling (and maybe crying) as its encore takes into the credits.
Morphine (Aleksey Balabanov)
The director of the grim and brutal Cargo 200 returns with a creaky and stylized period film about Russian small village medicine, malpractice, and misappropriation. There is something interesting about the way Balabanov narrowly goes about dissecting the past of his country, but - like Cargo 200 - there is a cracked heaviosity to it that just rubs me raw. The last shot seems to be channeling the ticklish tough times of Sullivan's Travels... before our guy blows his head off. Meh.
Breathless (Ik-June Yang)
I initially thought this film was overlong, but then perhaps it needed to be so we could marinate with the character of gangster debt collector Sang-Hoon long enough to see his whole picture. Breathless is reminiscent of Kim Ki-Duk's Bad Guy, but with depth and a wider range of notes. Slow reveals give the audience a wider scope of characters that pretty much walk the same lines throughout. Since family drama is at the core of this emotional film, I suspect Hollywood may scoop this one up for a remake. Try to see this version before that happens.
****** Bronson (Nicolas Winding Refn)
I wasn't expecting this. I'd read what Bronson was about, but watched no trailers. What I saw was a artful rendering of chiseled masculinity more in line with Derek Jarman than any kind of Guy Ritchie-ness. I was pretty much blown back. Refn has an intelligent eye and a playful palm for setting up scenery. Tom Hardy must have been a joy to photograph. Puffed-up Greek physique and all, the man delivers a performance from his toes to the skin of his head. I think I saw spit exit his mouth about twelve times during the film.
****** The Human Centipede (Tom Six)
After a solid day that consisted of three strong films, I made the mistake of choosing to see this piece of garbage. By far, The Human Centipede is the worst film I've seen all year. I have no idea why the programmers of Fantastic Fest decided to program this outside of the fact that it "pushes the envelope". Well, if you want your envelope pushed, you can always debase yourself at the easy click of a mouse. When I'm in the theater, I want to see a film. (Actually, I don't even want to say that this film pushed any envelopes... because that could be interpreted as a compliment, something that The Human Centipede should never receive by any fair-minded person). The worst student film ever conceived of is more watchable than this! Come back Macabre, all is forgiven. You are a masterpiece next to The Human Centipede, 2009's biggest piece of shit.