Friday, February 15, 2008

Pretentious Mobsters, Travelers, and Secret Agents

I've decided to just start doing mini write ups in groups of three just because I like the format better and it makes me feel like I wrote a lot when I havent written almost anything.

Little Odessa (1995, James Gray) - *1/2

Sometimes when I look back on old posts I get a feeling that I might be too kind and easy towards movies. I feel like I should be more strict but when I look at the movies that I watch and rent I like to think that I rent according to my taste, I rent and buy movies that I have liked or have a feeling that I will like. I feel that I got my taste pretty much down and even when I venture off and rent a film that I have never heard of before there is always a small root that appeals to me and that is why I take a chance with them. I like to think that most of the time I am right and the film ends up good.

So..after watching and really enjoying We Own the Night I did my I-just-finished-watching-a-movie-routine of going to IMDB and checking out what other films the director, writer, or actor have doneor are doing. Through this I found Little Ordessa.

My thought process went a little bit like this:

" its a crime drama....looks dark...mid 90s and indie...hmm...I'm not a fan of those...oh but it stars Tim Roth? Tim Roth in a crime drama by the guy who did We Own the Night? I am sold"

I expected a gem and found a huge misfire. Little Odessa suffers from the same thing that I feel most indies from the 90s suffered from and while reading Down and Dirty Pictures it seems that I am not the only one who has a problem with this subgenre. They all try so hard to be dark and moody (Things to do in Denver While You're Dead, ) , be quirky (Party Girl, Living in Oblivion, Welcome to the Dollhouse), or represent generation X and freeload off of the Slacker/Clerks vibe (Empire Records). I hate them all and I think that they have aged worse than films from the 80s. They just feel extremely pretentious to me and never sincere.

I'm currently in the middle of Down and Dirty Picture by Peter Biskind (my favorite writer maybe ever and I also like to name drop books I'm ready because I am cool like that...lulz) and there is a quote from Soderbergh when hes talking about Sex,Lies, and Videotape which I feel sums up this 90s indie boom perfectly. He says something along the lines of "I look back on that film and just see a student film where the director is trying to say so much" and that line describes Little Odessa.

It feels like a student film where the director is hammering you away with his brilliance and awesome screenwriting. Maybe I sound like a dick right now but if you were to see this film then you will know what I am talking about. It just feels unpolished, amateurish, and rough but what is annoying is that the film tries to pull it all off as polished, slick, and just as good as the crime films of the 70s. I realize that I am now rambling but I will just say that all of this might excusable because of it's an indie and a debut film but the plotholes that this film takes just for the sake to create melodrama and "deepness" in its theme is just too bad and obvious for me to like. The director is also able to bring out an uneven performance from Tim Roth and that is just inexcusable and close to impossible I think. I am very happy that Gray "grew up" and can now do a film like We Own the Night.

Man..I really did go on a mini rant now that I look back. I feel like backspacing all of this and just putting "it sucks" but I will just end it now with....."it sucks"

Into the Wild (2007, Sean Penn) - ****

I am going to make this one short and use the easy way out by saying that everything that could be said has already been said. I was blown away by it and it would go into my top 5 without a doubt. The direction and writing by Sean Penn is outstanding and the performances by the entire cast are perfect. Holbrook also deserves all the praise he has received and was actually able to break my heart. I was also surprised that the film turned out to be nothing like how it was marketed as.. This is not the hip "fuck the system" movie it was made out to be. It's a much more joyful and beautifully tragic road film than anything else. I was surprised by how much I really loved it.

Also...Zach Galifianakis...what the hell are you doing in this? That was just out of nowhere and hilarious. Thank you, Sean Penn.

The Silencers (1966, Phil Karlson) - Dean Martin Cool

A very,very,very,very cool 60's spy comedy staring Dean Martin as a part time secret agent and a full time ladies man. I was reminded of Danger: Diabolik during the film with it's tongue in cheek style, colorful sets, jazzy score, and uber coolness. I enjoyed every single second and can't wait to see the rest of the series. that Dean Martin riding a gun?

And now I am officially up to date. Finally.

Lawyers, Sex Dolls, and a Schizo

Michael Clayton (2007, Tony Gilroy) - ****

This seems to be the love/hate film of the moment along with Juno most likely due to the high praise that both films have received and some people thinking that they don't deserve the praise. I belong to the group of people that believe that Clayton deserves all the praise it has received. It really is one of the most rewarding watches that I have had lately and I admire how the film has the balls to alienate it's audience through out most of the film while everything falls into place and by the final minute everything makes sense for a very "fuck yes!" type of ending.. As much as Diablo Cody's script is the favorite to win the Oscar for best original screenplay, I think that Gilroy deserves it. This really is a perfectly crafted film. I cant wait to rewatch it again while knowing how everything will play out. Oh, and Wilkinson is worthy of the praise and nomination that he received. He makes a role that could have easily been over the top very human and "makes" the film. Very,very,very solid film.

Lars and the Real Girl (2007, Craig Gillespie) - ****

There are certain films which I cant help but enjoy, love, and give 4 stars to even though they may have some minor flaws and this is mostly due to me just being too touched by it to deny it anything less than 4 stars. I go with my heart in these cases and this is exactly what happened with Lars and the Real Girl. I really fell in love with this one and it's overall sweetness and good vibes that it throws at you. Gosling knocks it so out of the park that it is ridiculous and this performance further proves that he really is the next best thing. It may not be the best film of last year but it is one of my favorites.
Clean, Shaven (1995, Lodge Kerrigan) - uh....woah...

A couple of years ago I rented a film named Keane just because I didn't have anything in mind to rent and it looked like it might be good. It turned out to be one of the most haunting and tragic films that I have stumbled upon and it is one of those films that I try to pimp out as much as possible when ever there is an opportunity to do so. I still don't know why the film doesn't have more of a cult following. A couple of months ago I decided to check out what other films the director had done and through there I was happy to find that his debut film was a criterion release and also a favorite of John Waters. So, I put it on my queue and played the waiting game because of it's wait status and now about 5 months later I have seen it and part of me wishes that I hadnt.

I dont get disturbed by movies all too easily. I really cant think of too many movies off the top of my head that I have seen past the age of 10 that have really and truly disturbed me while watching them. I think Henry and Paradise Lost would be the closest ones that I can think of but other than that...nothing. Well, that has now changed. Clean, Shaven is one of the most if not the most disturbing film that I have yet to see. This film is on a whole other level of fucked upness and after watching it I can really see why it is easy to compare it to Repulsion or Eraserhead.

After one of the most shocking and demented openings I have ever seen to a film we are treated to a 77 minute dark journey into the mind of schizophrenic man and the detective who is trying to catch him. Telling why he is trying to catch him would ruin the "fun". This all plays out while we mostly find ourselves follwoing the schizophrenic man on a quest to find something..telling would spoil it once again. This really is one of the films were it is better to not know what you are getting into and just having to embrace yourself for the ride.

I dont know what else to say. I am currently waiting on a friend of mine to watch it that way we can discuss it because this is also one of those kinds of films where despite it's creepiness and disturbing tone, there is a ton more going on underneath it and as soon as the credits roll you want to turn to your side and ask a person "So....what did you think about that scene where _____ ?"

I was shocked, intriqued, puzzled, and during one particular scene literally acting like one of those oh-so-5 minute ago reaction videos to 2girls1cup The scene I am talking about will never leave my memory and is easily the most. I also just want say that the use of sound in this film is brilliant and one of the best uses for it that I have yet to see.

I really don't know what to think of it all. I hate it when people are quick to jump to a conclusion to such a challenging film upon first viewing but even after seeing it a 2nd time with an excellent commentary track by Steven Soderbergh (who is a huge fan and produced Keane) and the director..I still don't know. It's been a couple of days and I have thought about it some more...and still I don't know what to make of it. I feel that it really is a brilliant film but is on a level where your brain struggles to wrap around all of it and it's many layers and to me that is a mark of an outstanding film.

This is also one of the best debut films that I can think of as well. A true one-of-a-kind film that is a must see.I think that even if you end up hating it, you will not soon forget it.

I also love this oh-so-great teaser/trailer for it. Check it out.

And just because Lodge Kerrigan is the man...check out the trailer for the very overlooked Keane, which is not only overlooked but features one of my favorite performances ever by Damien Lewis. You can already see his greatness in the 2 minute trailer. I just have to pimp it out some more.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Every movie I have seen in the past couple of weeks and a couple of sentences about them. Part 5

Hopefully just one more part after this one. I am a movie watching machine lulz.

Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964, Bryon Haskin) - ****

Very colorful and very fun. Thats all I have to say and I feel that sentence sums it up perfectly. It's also pretty great that criterion released this one.

Sidenote: I really love that "This film is Scientifically Authentic" on the poster.

Pepe Le Moko (1937, Julien Duvivier) - ****

My friend Dan over at The Public Enemy summed this one up perfectly with another simple sentence "It's like The Third Man mixed with Casablanca" and that really is a great way to put it. Jean Gabin is ridiculously pimp as a master criminal and Lucas Gridoux is just as great as the inspector trying to catch him. The interactions between them are the true highlights of the film from a film that has many. It really is just a perfect film.

Point Blank (1967, John Boorman) - ***1/2

This was a film which took me by surprise. I was expecting an excellent crime/revenge film from what I had read about it and I instead got the most non-French-French-New-Wave film that I have yet to come across. Its a bit puzzling at first and you dont really know where it's going but once it gets on its way it is excellent. Although I really did love its new wave influence and how it wore it on it's sleeve, I did feel cold and unattached towards the final act. I also felt that a film that is a huge build up to the revenge climax that it was a little bit disappointing when it finally came. I felt that the journey to it was a hundred times better than the actual final destination. I am interested in rewatching this one in a couple of years or months just because I would be interested in seeing how the film will play out once I know what I am getting into.

Sidenote: Now that is one badass poster.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Every movie I have seen in the past couple of weeks and a couple of sentences about them. Part 4

...and even one more..
I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With (2007, Jeff Garlin) - ***1/2

It's easy to see why people are quick to compare this one to Woody Allen, I think the comparison is a compliment and it fits perfectly. Jeff Garlin has created a very personal, intimate, and even a bleak film that at times you cant help but be charmed by it because you know what you are watching came directly from the heart. It's a small, short, and sweet film which just flies by. I really enjoyed it and was surprised at it's honesty towards the lives of the characters and life. I wish romantic comedies could be more like this than whatever bullshit comes and goes in theaters. It's a great small film that deserves the small acclaim it has received.

The Age of Innocence (1993, Martin Scorsese) - **** (MASTERPIECE)

My love towards this film is extreme. It is ridiculously excellent and it now easily rests among the best from Scorsese that I have seen so far. Why this film doesn't get talked about is beyond me. It may easily seem like its very un-Scorseseish but if you only take a moment to look a tiny bit deeper, it is as Scorsese as Goodfellas is. The long tracking shots, the tension, the bleakness, the punk rock editing tricks...its all there and used in the most subtle but excellent way. If you can not tell...I absolutely fucking love this one. What else can I gush over? I guess I can praise Daniel Day-Lewis' incredible performance. It's easy to compare his performance to Scorsese's direction. You might think that he is solid as always as the role of a man in love with another woman in a time when such a relationship was forbidden but it also doesn't take too much time to notice how many layers of emotions he keeps hidden right under the surface, but keeps it to a level where it is noticeable enough for the viewer but not the characters around him. It is too good for words. The way he nervously laughs and smiles while talking to his forbidden love is some of the finest acting I have yet to see and when the film finally gets going and the heartbreaks begin to cant help but feel broken too because of his acting. This is easily one of the most criminally overlooked, underrated, and underwatched films I have ever come across. I only pray, wish, and hope that Criterion will one day release this film or at the very least that people will discover it sooner or later. It really is as much a masterpiece as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas are.

We Own the Night (2007, James Gray) - ***1/2

...and speaking about overlooked films, We Own the Night might be THE most overlooked film from 2007. I think this is mainly due to the coincidence of coming out one year after The Departed and on top of this the marking for it buying into the "The Departed Jr." image and marketing it like that. It's a shame that it will have to live in The Departed's shadow for now, but for those who take a chance on it, it will be a great surprise. I was incredibly surprised by the film that I found. This is a very slick and dark crime film that has a couple of stellar scenes that are not only stellar but also stunning. This is also not without the help of the very solid supporting cast and direction but also mainly due to the superb acting by Joaquin Phoenix. Fuck Walk the Line, this is the kind of performance which he should be raved about for. He absolutely knocks it out of the park and delivers the most overlooked performance in the most overlooked film from last year. Sure, it may be a genre film with genre cliches but its a great entry into the genre.

One more part will hopefully be coming up and I will finally be caught up.

Every movie I have seen in the past couple of weeks and a couple of sentences about them. Part 3

...and even more...

Death Sentence (2007, James Wan) - **1/2

There comes a point while watching Death Sentence that you just become frustrated with it. This isn't because the plot is confusing or because the film just throws you off, it's because there are such outstanding moments scattered through out the film that you just wish that everything surrounding these moments were as good. Sadly, they are not. As bad the dioulouge, music, and sometimes the acting may be, it still doesnt take away from these small bursts of greatness. I belong to the small little group that believes that James Wan has a lot of potential to become a good director and there are enough moments during Death Sentence which confirm this. Still, though, this goes into the pile of movies that could have been so much more.

The Fearless Freaks (2005, Bardley Beesley) - ***1/2

Despite me ranking Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots as one of the greatest albums that I have yet to hear, I am a little bit ashamed that I don't own every Flaming Lips album and that I dont follow the band at all. So, while watching this 2 hour in depth rockumentary about the band from their days of playing football in their backyard, to their early sucess, to their drug problems, and even to the sci fi film that they are in the process of making in their backyard, when the film finished I felt like I really understoof what they are all about and why they are in fact so good,unique, and interesting in the first place. While looking for a picture of the poster I found a perfect sentence which sums up why the documentary is great " is a nice example of what a rock documentary can be when it treats the people like people and not icons."

Wayne Coyne's hair - ****

Two-Lane Blacktop (1971, Monte Hellman) - ***

I don't know what exactly I was anticipating from this "road film" but it definitely was not this. I was excepting something...less..I don't know...different. By this I mean that Two-Lane Blacktop on the surface may look like it's going to be road or even a chase film from the 70's but it doesnt take too long before you realize that you jsut stepped into a film that is at the same in the genre yet completely out of it. While talking about this film with a friend I described it as "it's like a chase film by Jarmusch" and my statement still stands. Everything is stipped to it's most minimal core. There are long streatches of silence, the "chase" plot plays second fiddle to minimal character interactions, which all play together to the over all minimal story. The characters dont even have names. Yeah, it's that minimal. I'm sure there might be some thematic elements that I may have missed and I'm more than sure that there are a lot of people who would laugh at me thinking that there isnt much there but I just cant see the big picture. I feel out of the loop with this film. Still, I have to admit that I was constantly engaged with the film and I still think about it. It's a challenging film and it definitely left an impact on me. I just wish it could have been a nicer impact than the cold one that I received.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Every movie I have seen in the past couple of weeks and a couple of sentences about them. Part 2

..and so it continues...

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007, Andrew Dominik) ****

This one is easily my 2nd favorite film of last year. Everything from the themes that it explores about fame and the mythology that coems from it, to the excellent score by Nick Cave, to the gorgeous cinematography by Roger Deakins, to the overall outstanding directing by Dominik. Everything is pitch perfect. I wish I could just dive in right now and keep on writing about how much I was blown away by it but I find it hard to do. This is one of those kinds of films that you want to talk to someone about who has seen it as well. That way you can both go "How awesome was that scene where _____ ?!" and become fanboys over it. 2 things that I didnt mention about the film earlier were: 1) The so very awesome cast that includes some inspired casting (James Carville?!?!?!) as well as actors who never seem to get their due (Sam Rockwell, Paul Schneider), Brad Pitt (of course) and even some cool little cameos (Nick Cave ftw) and the 2nd thing that I did not mention earlier is the greatness that is Casey Affleck as Robert Ford. I never ever expected to be such a huge fan of the guy but he has given two of my favorite performances from the past year with this one and Gone Baby Gone. He really knocks this performance so far out of the park that it is just ridiculous. Sadly, the all too subtle performance has been overlooked, but what DDL is able to do with a shout, Affleck is able to do with a whisper. He absolutely nails the performance and makes the film as solid as it is. It really is one of the best films from last year and one the best films this decade has given us so far.

Helvitica (2007, Gary Hustwit) **1/2

I originally gave this documentary about the history of the helvitica font 3 stars but its been about 2 or 3 weeks since I saw it and I dont remember much. It's interesting and you learn something new, but that's about it.

Breakin' (1984, Joel Silberg) dope.

I have long heard of this now cult classic but never saw it until one fateful night. This movie is so unintentionally hilarious and gay that it is outstanding. I laughed almost non stop and it felt like it only lasted 10 minutes. I can't wait to see the sequel.

RocketMan (1997, Stuart Gillard) lulz

I think I might have found my favorite poster of all time. I also watched this one fateful night and it turned out to be all about the lulz. Thats all I have to say.

Varan the Unbelievable (1958, Ishiro Honda) ***

Pretty much a by the numbers, but still awesome, monster movie from the studio and director that brought you Godzilla. I really don't have much to say other than I loved how they defeated the monster and that it contained enough monster rampage for me to enjoy myself. If you're a fan of the genre, you will enjoy it too.

EDIT: After posting this entry I found out that the RocketMan poster is squished between the two Breakin' clips. I actually think it looks much better this way. The impact it has is powerful.

Every movie I have seen in the past couple of weeks and a couple of sentences about them. Part 1

I keep saying to myself that I want to write something out about ever film that I have seen from the past couple of weeks, but I finally came to conclusion that is just a dream, it is impossible to do now. Well, I guess it is possible, but it would take too long and I have become lazy lately when it comes to this blog.

So, I am just going to list every movie that I have watched lately and what I thought. Hopefully, this will catch me up and I can continue to do a write up for each movie I watch. I hope to do this in two or three parts today.

In the meantime...

Beach Red (1967, Cornel Wilde) ***1/2

I really love criterion for a lot of reasons but I think the top reason is that through their reelases, I am able to discover filmmakers that I might have not discovered otherwise. I recently saw and loved The Naked Prey, so I was quick to get a hold of the director/stars follow up, Beach Red, and it was almsot as good. Beach Red is like a glorious B movie with hints of French New Wave sparkled through out. It's a very interesting war film that is sadly knocked down a couple of notches thanks to some very wooden acting. Still, though, the film is quite fascinating at times with the odd (read, artistic) steps it takes.

Rocket Science (2007, Jeffrey Blitz) ***1/2

Once Rocket Science was about 30 minutes in, I was reminded of another film that was born through Sundance, got a ton of buzz at Sundance, came out in theaters and flopped, and then came out on dvd with little attention. The movie i am talking about is Thumbsucker. I was reminded of this film because both Rocket Science and Thumbsucker seem to have suffered from Sundance and the marketing angle that they received thanks to their "indie cred". I remember renting Thumbsucker because of all the buzz I remember reading and only because of that. I hated the marketing angle of making it seem quirky, hip, and youthful and I expected to hate the film. Instead, I got a very intimate film with some dark comedy and memorable characters in a film that was not as pretentious as the marketing made it seem. the same exact things goes for Rocket Science. I remember the grand buzz, then I was surprised by the very mixed and reviews, and then even more shocked when reviewers wrote it off as Wes Anderon lite, or a film that tried too hard to be quirky. Bullshit. This is still the film that people fell in love with at Sundance and I can see why. Sure, it does have it's moments which do come off seeming a little bit too quirky or hip for it's own good, but despite these 5 minutes or so, the film is really great. It's overall dark and depressing tone is refreshing and it's honest portrail of characters that could have easily become cartoons is also great. I really enjoyed it and was surprised by it. I hope it finds its audience one day. The same goes for Thumbsucker.

Miss Julie (1951, Alf Sjoberg) ****

This is another title that I think I might have never watched if it wasnt for Criterion. I absolutely lvoed this film and it felt like it only lasted 10 minutes. I love movies that are sexual without ever being sexual at all and Miss Julie is a great example of this. The films basic premise of a forbidden love between a high class woman and her servant at first sounds like it might be some overblown melodrama and soap opera theatrics, but I didnt feel that it was that at all. Instead, I was surprised to find a film which had such rich characters and such rich interactions between the m to match that I just fell in love with it. It also had a couple of memorable sequences which played around with what cinema can do which I also loved as well. Great stuff. It's Before Sunrise before Before Sunrise...and thats a lot of befores.

Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965, Norman Taurog) ***

Over the years I have come to the conclusion that I have a giant soft spot for deliriously campy films, but to my knowledge I think everyone does, right? So, it comes to no surprise that I am actually a fan of the Avalon/Funiecello films. I love how they are the last dying grasp of innocence from the 60's and I love the not-so-hidden sexualness to it all. Plus, it's too much camp to handle at times. So, in this non-beach entry to the series, Vincent Price is a mad flamboyant scientist who is producing hot robot girls in bikinis in order so that they can get married to rich men and then take away all their money. How awesome is that? If you are able to buy into it all and enjoy the film with the mindset of the times that it came out is very awesome. Vincent Price is having the time of his life, the visual style is all over the place, and it's so insanely whacky that it feels like a live action cartoon. I'm a fan of the genre, so I liked it. Hell, I even like Gigdet...and yes I know that is pretty gay.