Monday, June 23, 2008

1070 - Carnal Knowledge

The fact that this film was deemed controversial when it was first released is just awesome. It shows how amazingly far we've come in what we deem over-the-top now. Sad maybe.
I saw this film a number of years ago and re-watched it after having recommended it to a producer as a potential reference for a film we're developing. Might be the wrong film to use as a reference, but I'll be damned if it still isn't a great one.
It's not surprising at all that this film was originally intended to be a play. There are so many fantastic lines and dialogues, but what's so great about this film and Mike Nichols as a filmmaker in general is that he really knows how to make dialogue cinematic. There are three separate shots/sequences where we sit on one character while the scene takes place around them, out of the frame and we just watch how they react/interact. It's fantastic and says so much about what's going on at that current point of their relationship with these people.
Jack Nicholson and Art Garfunkel are really great here as two friends that age together. The aging is actually quite impressive and they look like they've aged twenty+ years by the end of it all.
Candice Bergan s wonderful in a really calculated awkwardness. The stand-outs in this film are Nicholson and Ann-Margaret though. Anytime they are on screen together you're peeled, and not just because Ms. Ann shows her goods several times, but their relationship, it's tragic dynamic is just impossible to look away from.
I can see this film being a hard one to digest for some, but it's so layered in ideas and thoughts and sexual politics. I'm glad I revisited it.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

1069 - The Stone Angel

I remember having to read this book in high school, and that's honestly all that I remember about it. I remember that the main characters name was Hagar and that her father bought a Stone Angel for her mother's grave. That's all I had going into this film. Which, sometimes, is a good thing. Gives you a little perspective.
Let's get something out of the way. The performances in this film are pretty solid. You can't say much about them. Christine Horne practically steals the film as Young Hagar, despite the fact that they let her play the character long past her age range. Not her fault though and she did a wonderful job. If they did it properly they would have had a third actress for the middle aged sections. Oh well.
Despite getting second billing in most advertisements I think Ellen Page has... maybe... five minutes of screen time in this. Maybe a few more. Am I a lover of Ellen Page? Yup. Should she have been in this film? Probably not. Again, she does wonders with her film, and I felt more for her character than I did for most of the others (which says something since I mentioned she's barely in it). First off she can't reign in her kind of old soul and the character she played seems far less intelligent than she's capable of showing. I won't go into too further detail in fear of ruining anything to do with the plot.
So my biggest beef with this film is that I never get a chance to care for these characters. We're running around all over the place, and it's great. I totally get a sense of what happened in her life, the tragedies, the lovely bits, but did I get a chance to care? No. Was that intentional? I don't know. Maybe. The only time we get close is when she's with Leo played by "Tell Me You Love Me"'s Luke Kirby. It's the only time I really felt two characters in this film really connected. There's some very small moments between Dylan Baker and Ellen Burstyn, but they're few and far between.
Entertaining enough, but I think the main problem is in that, and this film is not alone in this, is that it falls into that "well it was in the book" justification that a lot of adaptations try to cling to. After this conversation I started poking at some of the weak areas and a friend kept saying, "It was like that in the book" which just makes me think - if you love the book so much, why bother making a film of it? Leave it as it is. Unless you think you can enhance it, make it bigger and better, what's the point?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Top Ten Criterions

I've by no means seen the entire Criterion Collection, or even a dent of it, but of the ones I have seen, these are some of my favorites:


Beauty and the Beast

This film is inventive as all get-out. It's really something special, the production design and inventive use of people as props is something that's gone by the wayside with CGI. There's something to be said for a hallway full of just people's arms holding candles. The story, of course, is one that will stand the test of time, but this production of it is quite unique. I don't own this DVD, but I should...

Bed and Board

You can easily watch this film without having seen the others in the Antoine Doinel series, as it keeps you up to speed with everything that you need to know. When this film is lovely it's outstanding and when it's not, it's a bit heartbreaking. There's so many wonderful moments and easily my favorite Truffaut film that I've seen.

F For Fake

Love it, love it, love it. Sooo good. It's Orson's free form documentary and it's a trip. If you're at all into con-men or people trying to pull something over on someone else than this is the film for you. It's got a great visual style and energy. It's a little masterpiece, and the DVD set comes with a great documentary that shows how awesome-crazy Orson was.

Love in the Afternoon

OK. I'll admit that I haven't gotten all the way through my Eric Rohmer box set, but I saw this film long before that ever came out, before the Chris Rock remake (still curious to see that). It's just a really good film and explores something simple, but universal for not only men, but women too I think. It's a slow film, but it's just got some simply lovely things going on in it. (I still prefer the alt title, 'Chloe in the Afternoon')


I'm a big fan of Hitchcock generally, and like Rohmer, I own a lot of Hitchcock films and have watched.... most of them... This is by no means my favorite of his films, but it's a really great haunting love story, beautifully shot.

Scenes From a Marriage

My entry into Bergman was through Woody Allen. This is easily my favorite of his films, despite my enjoyment of a great deal of his pieces. The sequel to this "Saraband" is an awful mess and really doesn't do this piece justice. I loooooove Liv Ullmann. She's beautiful and smart and sexy. If I could ever find a leading lady like her I would never ever write for anyone else. That's probably not true, but I think she's wonderful. I've still yet to watch the mini-series full length version. I should get on that...

Sullivan's Travels

The film that makes you realize why you should really make films. I don't own this. I really should. I don't want to ruin it, or it's ending, but it's just fantastic.

Tanner '88

A very cool little experiment and one of Altman's most interesting projects (to me). A young Cynthia Nixon and an interesting statement on politics. The follow-up film that was made years later was OK, but it didn't capture what this did.

This is Spinal Tap

So goddamn funny. I could just fill this blurb with quotes. Full of wonderful subtle sight-gags. It's like there's something new to catch each time you watch it. There's probably a lot of really bad mockumentaries that got made because of this film, but I don't care. It's just sooooo good. You can't not listen to the commentary where the cast does it in character: practically like watching a sequel to it.

Tokyo Story

I have a shit load of Ozu films that I bought after watching this, and I haven't watched any of them. I'm really horrible about that. This film hypnotized me. Some people say that it's slow as hell, but I don't find that. I really adore it. The older couple is so heartbreakingly real. I'd like to do a film like this one day, simular story. I think it's just as relevant today.

1068 - Ghostbusters II

When this film is working it's really really working, but when it delves into cheesiness, it kind of goes a little bit too far.  What makes these films work is their ability, or perhaps Bill Murray's ability to not talk them too seriously.  
I love that at the beginning of this film they've been through the ringer and are completely out of the favor of the masses.  Reduced to performing at birthday parties for the spare cash.
The cast is really stellar.  Murray and Weaver are a really cute couple in this and I suppose the film could have used a little more tension between them but I'll let it slide.  Annie Potts has a real sexy/geeky thing going on in a Janine that is quite a bit funkier from the last version.
I love that NY's negative vibes have been feeding into this evil goop and that's what's making the evil Vigo resurface.
I'm really looking forward to the video game this fall that's supposed to act as what the third film would be if it had ever been made.
On a whole it's still not better than the first, however there's some smarter, funnier moments here than in the first, not counting one-liners.
Fun film, good sequel.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Bully (Wii)

I just finished playing this game last night. It's pretty sweet. To give you a quick summary it's Grand Theft Auto in a prep school, but the prep school is like the old-school Australia, back when it was a country that only criminals got shipped to. Who are you up against? EVERYONE! Which at first is a pain in the ass since you're trying to learn the game controls and avoid getting your ass-kicked at the same time.
It's smart too. For weapons you have a sling-shot, itching powder, stink bombs, etc.... There are classes that are mini-games, but also help you to upgrade skills, etc...
To regenerate your health you either drink soda or kiss girls. As the game progresses more girls become interested in you.
The story and world of the game are quite big, it's taken me over a month to complete the game, albeit I've only played it here and there - but I'd say that there's easily 40+ hours of game play in here. The characters are great and the dialogue is pretty well written for a video game. Some of the tasks are a bit repetitive but not so much that I wanted to stop playing. Wii isn't known for it's graphics, but they're fine here, and there's no lag except when changing some locations (you get used to it). My biggest complaint, but it's a nice realistic touch, is that it's time sensitive in that there is a real time in the world. If you stay up to 2am you automatically pass out from fatigue whether you're in a mission or not.
If you like first-person games I'd recommend it. There's a multi-player option but I haven't toyed with it yet.
Here's a link to the trailer for the game, since that's what originally got me interested. I think that there's actually a movie or TV shoe in here.

Monday, June 16, 2008


the following films were watched between Aug 5th & Nov 12th, 2004:

151. Unbreakable
152. The Manchurian Candidate (2004)
153. Collateral
154. Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
155. Kill Bill Vol. 1
156. Kill Bill Vol. 2
157. Office Space
158. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
159. Open Water
160. Love Actually
161. Hold That Ghost
162. The Girl Next Door
163. Le Divorce
164. Dummy
165. Truth in Advertising
166. Dogville
167. Hero
168. Vanity Fair
169. Jersey Girl
170. We Don't Live Here Anymore
171. Napolean Dynamite
172. Rounders
173. Empire of Dreams
174. Mr. & Mrs. Smith (Hitchcock)
175. The Forgotten
176. Shaun of the Dead
177. Sky Captain & The World of Tomorrow
178. The Station Agent
179. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
180. Coffee & Cigarettes
181. Maverick
182. La Dolce Vita
183. North By Northwest
184. Fahrenheit 9/11
185. A Woman Under the Influence
186. Short Cuts
187. The Shawshank Redemption
188. Love Me If You Dare
189. The Godfather Part II
190. Twelve Monkeys
191. Team America: World Police
192. Garden State
193. I Heart Huckabees
194. After Hours
195. The Player
196. Birth
197. Ray
198. The Big Empty
199. The Barenaked Truth
200. The Incredibles

Sunday, June 08, 2008

1067 - The Oh in Ohio

I was blown away by how much I liked this movie. I was honestly just expecting to like it, but it's a great great little film. It's a sex comedy that's about.... wait for it... sex. Not in the way other films like to pretend that they are about sex. This one actually deals with some sexual issues, but in a very light, but enjoyable way.
The cast is stellar. Paul Rudd, whom I always like, is really great here as a biology teacher in need of a shake up, and then finds a student who wants to 'save him'.
Danny DeVito has this great part as an unlikely love interest who I dare women not to fall in love with. I've always like him, and he's a charming little bastard here. Hell, if I was a woman, I'd 'swim in his pool'.
And then there's Parker Posey, who is just great in almost everything she does, but brings a real human element to moments that could just go way over the top. She knows when to go for it and when to hold back.
The highlight of this film though is the story. It's really smart and well crafted. It's engaging and keeps you going. I highly recommend it. There feels like there's a scene missing from one of the sub-plot stories, but other than that it's practically a perfect little film. Liked it a lot.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

1066 - Loves of a Blonde

I don't think there's a Milos Forman film that I'd seen that I hadn't liked. He's done, Man on the Moon, The People Vs. Larry Flint, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, just to name a few. His filmography is quiet small considering how long he's been working, but he's definitely a quality over quantity kind of guy.
I had heard about this film years ago but it was recently talked about in Criterion's new top ten section that they have on their website. I think I might make my own at some point and post it here on my blog. I've by no means seen as many Criterions as I should have, in fact there's a great number sitting on my shelves that I've never even seen. But enough about that...
For me when I watch a film like this it really helps me to put it into a context. In it's time period this film was amazing and evocative compared to what was going on in American cinema at the same time. Communism was strong. A lot of these people came from working out of the threatre and so they weren't the most visually stunning films at first.
The film is heavily improvised. Apparently Forman was working with several non-professional actors, and was worried that if they had the script before hand than they'd be practicing at night or on days off and suddenly would start to be directing by family and friends, which would mess him on up when they were on set, so he avoided it. It gives the scenes this wonderfully realistic quality and they all feel like real people, but it does tend to make the scenes go on a bit longer than they really need to.
The performances are wonderful. Hanah Brejchova is like a Czech version of Drew Barrymore. Face, body language. They two could easily play sisters.
Despite it being slow there is a lot to like in here. Some really wonderful and funny, heart-breaking, honest scenes. This is by no means a laugh out loud riot fest, but it's worth watching most certainly. The characters are wonderful and really interesting. I need to revisit some of the more recent Forman films. I like him.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

1065 - Bandits

I came about watching this film tonight for two reasons:
1) My wife wanted to watch something 'fun' and this was the first thing I could think of because of...
2) 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' has been stuck in my head for weeks, and I can't think of that song without thinking of Cate Blanchett in this film.
This film is a lot of fun, and when it's working it's really working. It has one of my favorite Billy-Bob Thorton performances. He doesn't get enough credit for being as versatile as he is. Just watch this film, then Sling-Blade, than Monster's Ball and you'll see exactly what a gem he is.
This film has an almost perfect beginning and end but it has a horrible lull in the middle that, doesn't quite kill it, but keeps it from being the amazing film that it started out to be. That and there's a few logic holes that really really bother me, but I can let it by. The film is smart and lighthearted with a good plot to carry along the story of these misfit bandits.

1064 - A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints

This has got to be the first auto-docu-drama I know to exist. I suppose that Adaptation and The Kid Stays in the Picture count, but they didn't direct the stories as well. I wanted to see this film based on the trailer that I'd seen some time ago. The performances looked amazing and I'm a fan of both Shia and Downey Jr. The story in and of itself, while amazing, isn't anything ground breaking. Dito (the filmmaker) does these little moments where the characters introduce themselves and tell you what they think about themselves. I actually kind of liked it, not sure if it fell in the right place in the film, but it was an interesting choice that I think worked on some level. There's a few other techniques that he used such as throwing excerpts of dialogue up on the screen, which I don't think worked.
We all know this story. Kid grows up on the wrong side of town, runs away only to have to face the demons of his past some day. Like I said, I know it's a true story, which is part of what makes it a cliche. The story itself, while specific to a unique individual, is just OK. The performances and character interaction is what makes this film more interesting.
I think it's worth a rental if you're into these actors. Rosario Dawson, who I don't really have a strong feeling for or against, is really great here, even if it is a little much to expect the audience to believe that her and Robert Downey Jr. are around the same age. Check it out if you like these kind of pseudo-coming-of-age-growing-up-on-the-rough-side-of-new-york stories, if not, don't bother.