Happy New year from Mind Of A Suspicious Kind
In case you never heard of him, Bronson was imprisoned for armed robbery, his original sentence was supposed to be 7 years but because of his absurdly violent behaviour in prison- especially to the staff- he extended that stay to 34 years. All of this without killing a single person and for the majority of that stint being placed in solitary confinement.
I guess calling this movie art would be like calling a movie like 'A Clockwork Orange' art. They are both violent, nihilistic and rebellious- yet they both share an artful side that makes them singular art. Nicholas Winding Refn has made something that cannot help but grab your attention for its fist bloody 92 minutes. & what to make of Tom Hardy's incredible performance as notorious British prisoner Charles Bronson, this is the kind of performance inspired by Daniel Day Lewis' in There Will Be Blood- It's intense and incredibly cinematic in its unblinking harshness.
His performance is a classification of the 'Theatre of The Absurd' which doesn't at all undermine its prowess. Although many critics and bloggers -including myself- will call this movie such names as "intense", "intolerable", "violent" & " bloody", it is first and foremost a goofy -albeit violent- form of theatre -such as it is presented- with centerpiece after centerpiece and a very much episodic structure. In other words, it is the work of a filmmaker that frankly does not give a damn about how the movie translates to the mainstream, just as long as his vision stays intact with the finished product.
Looking at the recently released Film Comment and IndieWire critics polls, notice a movie that you've probably never heard of called The Headless Woman. Its roots reside in Argentina- which is director Lucrecia Martel's home country. His new film demands to be payed attention to, there is attention to detail like not other I've seen in a while.
Maria Onetta plays the titular character & she has just had a car accident. She stops her car for a second, looks back and see far away a dog lying motionless in the street. She continues driving and -at least based on this viewer's assumption- gets a kind of Amnesia that puts us in the same position as herself, not knowing exactly who is who. Not just that but she believes she might have struck a person in that very same accident.
If you think it's complicated, it's much more than you think. There isn't much story here, it's all about character and the social status of Argentina and The headless woman's guilt and isolation to come to peace with has just happened to her. The smallest details to reveal anything or everything come and go in the blink of an eye and I was awestruck at how such simplicity that can be so engrossing, especially on a tiring night such as when I saw it.
I remember thinking "man there's so much stuff to take here" & that's the kind of feeling this might have of many. Although it is told in such simplified terms, it is far from being simple. It asks -make that demands- for you to pay attention to its serene beauty and Onetta's incredible performance, which suffice to say is so good it will likely get ignored come Oscar time.
I'm about to wholeheartedly recommend this movie but be forewarned it is as artsy as anything around and will definitely not be as adored by everybody. It's a certain kind of film for certain kind of people, I guess I just was one of those certainties.
I would rather not go into detail and instead say I was sadly struck with the news of her death. Watch her as Eminem's love interest in 8 Mile or in Robert Rodriguez's Sin City or even the misbegotten Spun and you will catch the fearlessness and infitie possiblities that were vanished away today.
George Clooney`s character in Up In The Air fires people for a living.
He doesn`t seen to mind it and has a real charm when doing it, which says a lot about his performance given our hard times with the economic structure and the countless layoffs happening everywhere. Not only does Clooney succeed in capturing his character but he does it in such a loose, Cary Grant like feel.
Jason Reitman -the director of this movie- has made a relevant film for our times, dealing with many themes and emotions. It helps Reitman has a stellar cast including Vera Farmiga -as Clooney`s love interest- & Anna Kendrick as his assistant. This is a screenplay filled with good air and good vibes and looks like it was made by real pros that want to infuse as much heart.
Of course the performances are top notch but the real grabber is Reitman`s screenplay -second best to the Coens`A Serious Man this year- which grabbed my attention from start to finish. There are surprises that completely caught me off guard and will likely do the same to you.
Reitman mixes footage of emotional real life employees that lost their job, with a great montage of a wedding ceremony all the way to an exuberant surprising mix of revelations at its climactic end. It all seems out of place but it works and puts Up In The Air right up there with the best movies I`ve seen this year.
Watts and Harring go crazy love in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive
01. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch)
There is a dreaminess to Mulholland Drive-and come to think of it, to many of the movies on my list. It is a first rate example of what sound and image can convey in a limitless array of hypnotic sequences that -at first- seem out of place to one another but emerge as a togetherness that is quite unseen in some of Lynch's movies (Twin Peaks & Lost Highway). What I got from Mulholland Drive was that movies can be fearless & movies can challenge its audience in -oh my gosh- thinking. Its Heroine -or should I say Anti-Heroine- played by an incredible Naomi Watts gets lost in a nightmarish world filled with Sex and murder, a world only Lynch could come up with in his own brilliant lunacy. A world that is so dreamy, in fact too dreamy, that you can't help but think there is darkness and it is actually a nightmare. It is Lynch's best movie and the one that tops the decade.
02. There Will Be Blood (P.T Anderson) The first time I saw There Will Be Blood, Paul Thomas Anderson's nearly 3 hour epic on Greed and Religion, I was pummeled by its narrative. One viewing wasn't enough to take in its brilliance and so now with a few viewings under my belt, I still haven't taken in everything. There is the brilliant -almost silent- sequence that opens the movie, there's the amazing oil rig explosion, the church baptism & of course the bowling alley finale. Daniel Day Lewis' -in a performance of incredible depth as Daniel Plainview- is a monster of cinema, a man that would use his own son to get what he wants and he does. The time and place being portrayed are the beginning's of capitalism and the beginning of money hungry greed and religious fanaticism. In other words, it is the end of innocence and the start of a revolution that still rules America.
03. History Of Violence (David Cronenberg)
Of all the nerve. How could Cronenberg make a movie condemning violence in our society and proceed in showing explicit violence? Because he is David Cronenberg and he can do whatever he wants to do. Not just that but -and this is a kicker- he is testing our limitations for violence and wants to piss us off. Viggo Mortensens' Tom Stall is a man that has had a violent past he'd rather forget but the violence inside him - and inside us- cannot let go of the its urges to be aggressive, to be sexual and to be violent. Cronenberg suggests it is in our DNA and always will be. Tom's wife has an itch for it too, she has perversely violent sexuality that turns him on and -oh just admit it- turns us on too. Especially that cheerleader dress. Cronenberg made the almost equally impressive Eastern Promises this decade but A History Of Violence is where he brings it home.
04. No Country For Old Men (Joel Coen) Of all the nerve, to end a movie when you least expect it with no resolution and so abrupt. That is what some people thought of the Coens' masterful No Country For Old Men. Let them talk, but for us it is essential Coen, a dive into humanity as a never better Josh Brolin is chased by evil incarnated in the form of Anton Chigurh (pronounced Sugar) played by Oscar winner Javier Bardem. It is a trip in hell and an unforgettable journey that focuses on evil and its many surprises. It reminded us of early Hitchcock, with its tightly nit suspense and its play on audience. It is storytelling that cannot be matched by anyone and a reminder that the Coens this decade -with O Brother Where Art Thou, The Man Who Wasn't There & A Serious Man- were up to serious business.
05. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy (Peter Jackson) To put all three movies together is to showcase just how imaginative and relentless Peter Jackson's movies were. They sent us back every year to see what would happen next and made us cautious as to not read any spoilers or read any reviews before actually watching it. It is THE best 10 hour movie this decade or any has ever produced. Its sound design, cinematography, music and costumes are first rate but its Jackson -an adventurous poet- that does the impossible by bringing intimacy and heartbreak to a movie with such an epic scale as Frodo and Sam try to put the ring out of evils reach. A movie as relevant for our times -especially in a decade ruled by evil fanaticism in the media. These movies are to be treasured and will be for many decades to come.
06. Memento (Christopher Nolan) This classic thriller directed by Christopher Nolan tells its narrative backwards. That's its grip and that's what makes repeated viewings so rewarding, especially given the fact that Nolan infuses every scene with an urgency that is rare in Hollywood or independent film. What Nolan made with this 2001 movie, is the most audacious and influential movie of the 2000's as Guy Pierce's amnesiac Leonard Shelby roams around looking for his wife's killer not noticing it is his bare hands that might have done the deed. Many directors -including Irreversible Gaspar Noe- tried to rehash the magic of Nolan's leap to original thought, but none have been able to create the thought and feeling of Leonard Shelby's voyage through hell. The Prestige & The Dark Knight were great but Memento is essential Nolan.
07. Cache/Hidden (Michael Haneke) Haneke had a bold vision and he put it up front on the screen for everybody to look at it. Just like almost every movie on my list, Cache plays with your head and rewards repeated viewings (and just like my other movies on this list, it is actually about violence). I love it because it plays with your head and makes you pay attention to every scene, trying to find clues and trying to deconstruct the puzzle. It is not just about violence but about voyeurism -a debated subject this decade. Haneke means to shock you and he does, it's a delicious setup for a finale that -as the American Beauty slogan once stated- demands you to Look Closer. I have looked closer and found things that bear such resemblance to our society and culture, it hurts and this is a great movie.
08. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki)
Having seen Spirited Away numerous times and seeing how it has translated over the years on DVD to its audiences only reinforces the fact that it is an animated classic. Creepier than The Wizard Of Oz & as an awe inspiring as any of Hayao Miyazaki's movies. The story is richly told and layered with enough beautiful hand drawn that animation freaks will giggle in excitement. My take on the movie? forget about the story and get immersed into a world you have never and will likely never adventure to again.
09. Children Of Men (Alfonso Cuarron)
Here's a movie miracle that grows on you and is the definition of great storytelling. Alfonso Cuaron -him again- made a sci fi movie for our times and a movie that can rival almost anything sci fi of the past 3 decades. It is a film that has built up an audience since its release in December 2006 and has become one of the crowning achievements of the decade. With its handheld camera and its long takes, Children Of Men -like many of the movies on the list- was a social message for a better future and a stop to the broken promises of our government and its people. It is about the last child on earth and the first child on earth, the first sign on optimism and the last. Here's to a better decade in society and to the movies that give us reason to think and act.
10. Dancer In The Dark (Lars Von Trier)
Another movie that ticked off a lot of people. Lars Von trier pummeled Bjork with her role as a going-blind steel worker that gets taken advantage of by everybody around her in jolly America. Talk about the American dream, this is what Von Trier thinks of it & it's a brutal, cross cultural nightmare. It is demanding, infuriating and not for the timid minded. Bjork vowed to never act again after this movie, claiming she'd rather please the ears than the eyes. To tell you the truth, watching this movie I understand why. It is a courageous, demanding high wire act that possibly took a lot out of her. It's our loss that she no longer acts but our gain that she at least made Dancer In The Dark. A bold, visionary masterpiece.
11. Y Tu Mama Tambien (Alfonso Cuarron) Two horny teenagers convince a hottie adult to join them on a road trip to an invented beach called "Heaven's Mouth" -love that name- and in the process garner a new perspective on what sex is and what it should be like. The sexiest movie of the decade. Alfonso Cuarron's erotic road trip was the best foreign language movie because -well- it was fun, heartbreaking and thoughtful. The plot is simple and -on paper convulted- but Cuarron infuses movie magic in its every frame, he doesn't put down his characters. This is one of the most honest portrayal's of sex I have ever seen on film, a portrayal that I doubt Hollywood can ever have the guts or rebellious thoughts of producing. For Cuarron (Children Of Men), Y Tu Mama Tambien is where it all started and it all came together.
12. The Departed (Martin Scorsese) Martin Scorsese decided to go back to the gangster genre that made him with classics such as Mean Streets, Goodfellas & Casino. In doing so, he made a movie that was indisputably entertaining and provided some much needed Hollywood relief from the slack indie film was carrying. A never better Leonardo Dicaprio and Matt Damon, face off in a duel that switched identities, kills of almost everybody on screen and features Jack Nicholson holding a dildo at a movie theatre. what more do you want? Scorsese's decade also featured Gangs Of New York -another great movie- but The Departed was his classic as well a deserving Oscar winner for Best picture.
13. The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky)
Mickey Rourke poured heart and soul to his role as The Wrestler. Don't mind the bragging from some people claiming that he was playing himself and it was an easy stretch. the emotions he brings are tantalizing as well as heartbreaking, for the facts given below. Sure he might be playing himself but sometimes it's harder to play yourself than somebody else, are you still with me? It does also help that surrounded bu a great cast, including Marissa Tomei as his stripper love interest and an immensely talents director called Darren Aronofsky, a man so talented I disliked his much overrated Requiem For A Dream this decade but couldn't wait to see his next project. Topping The Wrestler will be a hell of a challenge.
14. City Of God (Fernando Mereilles) Mereilles made this Brazilian Gangster classic on a thin stringed budget, who cares. He makes a crime movie that is as scary as it is a penetrating look inside kid gangsters. A movie influenced by Scorsese but with a style reinvented all its own. To watch a kid shooting another kid on the streets of Rio, is to think of the immense amount of violence happening around us that is unprinted and unheard. It is this kind of movie that brings social relevance to a story and a case that has been denied accessibility by the mainstream media in North America and Europe. There's already been numerous copies of City Of God but none better- as is always the case, first time was the charm.
15. Borat (Larry Charles) This is far and away the funniest movie I have seen the last 10 years. I remember going to an advanced screening and having as much fun hearing people's reaction to it than as watching the movie. Which isn't a bad thing, it's a social satire and hearing a reaction to it is very important. The thing that got me about this movie is how some of the people laughing were actually laughing at themselves and their bigotry without even knowing it. It was a film aimed at bigotry in our society and it came in the form of a Kazakhstani man dressed up in the cheapest suit you can find at the salvation army. It was also the most quoted movie I have witnessed in many years, Yagshemash & chinqwi will forever be ingraved in my head. I like !
16. Sideways (Alexander Payne) Paul Giammati is the best actor around to player a loser or a schlub. To some that would an insult, but I really do mean it as a compliment. The acting Giammati does here is magical and very much in vein French cinema- in its free styled substance and reality. In Alexander Payne's classic, two best friends- one about to get married and the other single- embark on a road trip that to wineries across California and end up going through a series of mishaps that are both hilarious and significant to their steps of growing in a far gone adult world. Payne is a master at these sort of movies, the men in his movies are scarred but real, funny but sad & Sideways is the best example of Payne at his finest. I cannot wait for his next middle aged schlub.
17. Old Boy (Chan Woo Pak) Here's a movie that got better in stature & featured THE best ending of any movie this decade. An ending that gave whiplash to its audience and disgusted them in the process with its main hero's relation to incest. It's another journey through hell that beings in an astonishing manner and ends in an astonishing matter. It's a classic of Asian cinema because of its highly stylized direction and its too cool for school plot that reveals no cartoonish relativity but immense human feeling.
18. Mystic River (Clin Eastwood) Of all the great Eastwood's this decade -Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino & Changeling- Mystic River stands above the rest because of its story that is relatable to almost anyone who has lost a loved one. It's a movie that tests the boundaries of friendship and family but also features Sean Penn's greatest performance -as a man overcome with grief by the loss of his daughter- and is a mesmerizing whodunit that had me guessing til the very end. Also memorable for Tim Robbins' turn as a pedophile and Kevin Bacon as a detective.
19. WALL-E (Andrew Stanton)
If there ever was an animated movie that was as socially important as WALL E, I haven't seen it. It's far from just a kiddie movie, its themes are dark and involving. Take for instance its plot, which has Earth practically left behind because of environmental breakdown and all of its population living in Space, binging on food and as overweight as we've ever been. In the middle of all this is a sweet love story between two robots, a love story that has the kind of heartbeat and reality that movies involving two human beings cannot come close to achieving.
20. The 25th Hour (Spike Lee) Just like all of the movies listed above, The 25th Hour is ambitious, messy and drunk on its own daring. It is the perfect example of the 21st century movie this decade and the reason why Spike Lee is still a relevant force in Cinema. Edward Norton's character has one day before he goes to prison -for who knows how long- and he spends it rekindling with friends, lovers and trying to find out who snitched him out to the police. It's a movie that gives you a lump in the throat by and -as Bruce Springsteen's The Fuse plays in the end credits- makes you believe you have seen something memorable and profound. Here's to more of these in the new decade.
23. Minority Report (Steven Spielberg)
24. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry)
25. Lost In Translation (Sofia Coppola)
Coppola came out with an incredible movie about friendship and love in a foreign country. Critics celebrated her vision and -in turn- made expectations for her following films almost unreachable. That's how good this movie is. A never better Bill Murray falls for a beautiful Scarlet in the beautiful wonder of Japanese culture and amicability. Coppola makes us wonder what will happen, right up til its finale frame- which ends with a whisper that is never heard or revealed in the crowd.
26. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee)
Ang Lee brought visual poetry to a movie that was as influential as any other this decade. The poetic martial arts he created had a key impact on the way martial arts was gonna be viewed for the following 10 years. Lee's picture is as much a landmark in that department as The Matrix was 1 year prior. A Classic of foreign cinema.
27. Bowling For Columbine (Michael Moore)
Moore took huis camera and went on a road trip to American manners as he interviewed gun nut after gun nut in this extraordinary documentary -his best- about America's passion about gun control. The result was incendiary as well as a new classic in the form. Moore has made bigger, more expensive docs but none more brave and entertaining than this dynamite movie. A classic that will likely get shown in High School & Colleges for years to come- most because this debate is only peaking and about to blow up even more. 28. Amelie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet) 29. The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan) 30. O' Brother Where Art Thou (Joel Coen)
It's hard to imagine but I've seen more than 800 movies this past decade- So you can see my conflicted decision choosing just 20 in my list of the best this decade. Many will argue with this list but isn't that the point? I made it for -above all else- debate, because it is quite clear that we have been showered with great stuff this decade. Possibly the best decade since the 1970's- where stuff like The Godfather & A Clockwork Orange got released and influenced a whole new generation.
I chose the 20 movies with one question at hand, will they stand the test of time? My answer to all of these is a resounding yes, yes & -wait for it- yes. The reasoning was simple. They are rebellious and unlike anything you have seen before. i.e. Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood is a flawed movie but it is perhaps the most ambitious of the bunch & was solidified by its rebellious spirit and its no mercy filmmaking.
This was a decade in which we saw a new breed of filmmaking and -with that- the movies were not afraid to take risks because -more than ever- audiences warmed up to them and wanted to view something more than just a raunchy teen comedy or a past its prime action flick. It was the Decade in which we were introduced to Nolan, Cuaron, Aronofsky, Mereilles, Bird, Greengrass, Gondry, Coppola, Inarittu, Field & Stanton.
It was a hard decision but 20 was the proper number, any more and I'd be delving out of my goal for timelessness. The rankings could change over the next few years but for now this a definitive account of the movies that shaped, influenced and touched me over the past 10 years. It is a list driven by an artistic point of view and I hope you debate it to pieces cause -as you know- that can only be good for my ego. Here are the 30 classics of the decade & be forewarned for the occasional odd title here and there (that only means you got to rent it)
Paranormal Activity (B+) is a fun time @ the movies. No need to reveal this cheapie's secrets, just go and see it. Made for a measly 30,000$ budget, it captures the kind of imagination horror movies have been missing in recent years, sure it looks a bit like The Blair Witch Project but just like that former movie it has imagination to spare and doesn't rely on any special effects to creep its audience out. It's a breath of fresh air in an industry polluted by mindless and overdone product. I love how it plays with your imagination til the very end & how the filmmakers had the courage to stick to a non conventional style and go with it til the every end. This is definitely not Hostel or These Hills Have Eyes- It is not at the least bit gory and fries your nerves in eloquent sand surprising ways. That's right, I mentioned Hostel and Eloquent in the same sentence.
There's a stunning scene midway into Jim Sheridan's new opus Brothers (C+) in which a war veteran (Tobey Maguire) comes back from a scarring stint in Afghanistan, shattered and filled with blood in his hands. There is reckless danger in the bags under his eyes and he has lost an immense amount of weight. It all amounts to a breakdown of shattering intensity that ends with his pointing a gun to his wife, brother and -ultimately- to himself. It is THE scene of the movie as well as one of the most truthful and shattering accounts of what it is to come back home after having done bloody sin overseas. Brothers -sadly- cannot live up to the hypnotic intensity of this scene throughout its running time and sometimes feels maudlin & out of sync.
Before the aforementioned scene there is an abundance of by the books storytelling that only results in -for the most part- predictability and a sense of deja vu. Jake Gylennhall plays the brother of the war vet, who falls for his wife -Natalie Portman- while everybody believes the former has died. Are you still with me? Brothers was called the best movie of the past 20 years by David Letterman this week on Late Night- Hell, its not even the best movie released this week. Its cliches are too plenty to be accoladed on any sort of best of list & although there are powerful moments, it cannot fulfill the expectations that came before it and the starry cast and director involved in an ultimately forgettable project.
Nicolas Cage raises hell as a corrupt, drug using lieutenant in Werner Herzog's remake (B+) of the 1992 Abel Ferera masterpiece. I'd call it a slight remake, because apart from the title there aren't many similarities. Although just like its predecessor, its a hell dream made in the fiery furnaces- with a knockout performance by Cage (So good and risky, he won't get nominated for an Oscar at year's end). Watch Cage Rape a girl he stops for heroine possession, watch him hallucinate about Iguana's, watch him randomly blurt out obscenities & watch him -above all- give a hell raising performance in a movie that has plot as a secondary intention & over the top lunacy as its foremost.
Cage's Lieutenant is seen injuring his back at the movie's start- which leads to a hard addiction to painkillers, which eventually leads to other pills. The Lieutenant goes into a trip from hell there on in and becomes out of control with his actions & limitless assault on society. It's a comedy, one in which Cage walks around a torn down New Orleans in search of a soul and taking care of his hooker/girlfriend. This is not for everybody and be forewarned of the non linearity of Herzog's manners with the screenplay at his disposal. This the kind of stuff that rattle the most timid of souls but for the rest of us, it is a film worth seeking- as fiery, dangerous & rebellious as any out there right now.
Naomi Watts (Mulholland Drive)
Naomi Watts (21 Grams)
Halle Berry (Monster's Ball)
Bjork (Dancer In The Dark)
Laura Linney (You Can Count On Me)
Diane Lane (Unfaithful)
Kate Winslet (Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind)
Maria Bello (History Of Violence)
Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone)
Sally Hawkins (Happy Go Lucky)
Continuing with my recap of the decade is another list. This time Actresses are featured and there wasn't an abundance to choose from. Once more-women were limited in original, exciting roles & instead were overshadowed by male leads. The fact that this is happening in Hollywood, especially to women over 40 is disturbing, especially given the fact that most great actresses seem to disappear from the overall consensus once they reach that age. That is a crying shame considering Laura Linney, Diane Lane, Maria Bello and Amy Ryan -all featured on my list- hit 40 this decade, yet still gave immensly powerful performances that will likely stand the test of time.
Actress of the decade? Naomi Watts- with two knockout performances in two drastically different movies. One playing a suicidal dreamer & the other playing a mother succumbed to grief. The most surprising performance would be Bjork with Dancer In The Dark- in which her blinded character is taken advantage of her livelihood at every turn and given a true perspective of the demonized side of America. Bjork & Naomi Watts had roles that most actresses could not find this decade- filled with rage, originality & sheer boldness.
Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)
Daniel Day Lewis (Gangs Of New York)
Javier Bardem (No Country For Old Men)
Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain)
Paul Gamatti (Sideways)
Sean Penn (Mystic River)
Steve Buscemi (Ghost World)
Daniel Day Lewis (There Will Be Blood)
Adrien Brody (The Pianist)
Ben Kingsley (Sexy Beast)
Here's a list I was looking forward to making and in deciding which of the ten I would choose, I knew I wouldn't be able to rank them in any way shape or form. So here -immensely thought out might I add- is the ten best Male performances I have seen this decade. Notice the omission of Heath Ledger's Joker and instead the inclusion of his gay cowboy in Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain (overrated by the way). That's right, I chose the cowboy over the clown -which should not discount just how good he was in The Dark Knight- I prefered the risk & heartbreak he brought to the former rather than the latter. Chances are you might not have seen some of these acting landmarks, I reccomend you seek them out. Sometimes a performance is worth the watch alone. Notice Daniel Day Lewis occupying two spots on the list & they are very well merited if you've seen his performances as Bill The Butcher & Daniel Plainview. He IS the actor of the decade and has achieved the impossible by topping his incredible performances of the 90's (In The Name Of The Father, The Crucible). Notable Omissions that I hate leaving out; Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt, Forest Whitaker in The Last King Of Scotland & Thomas Haden Church in Sideways.
The Road (3.5/5) can only be described as Apocalyptic. Its subject is so vast and ambitious but its resonance is that of the love between father and son. The world has reached an Apocalyptic state and not many are left- Food is in very short supply, animals are completely extinct & those that are alive have become Cannibals, in search of next prey.
Sidibe as Precious Jones with Lenny Kravitz?
This movie will likely get nominated for many Oscars and possibly win a few in the process but is it that good? My answer would be no. Sometimes expectations rattle a movie before you watch it and this is a good case of it. No matter what people say, Precious is not worth the advance hype it is getting. Don't get me wrong, there are powerful scenes in it and an incredibly intense & scary performance by Monique -that's right Monique- but I'm not about to warm up to a movie that likes to push your buttons and demand you to immediately love it. That's what Precious is to me- A film so full of itself that it demands, no make that begs, for you to fall in its shocking traps.
Its story is that of immense trauma. Clarice 'Precious' is an obese black girl that gets verbally abused by her mother and raped by her father, in turn she ends up mothering his two kids & tries to get out of the place she most hates, home. There's a cameo by Mariah Carey- as a social worker- that cannot get passed the fact that you are watching Mariah try to act & there's also a kind of unusual focus on 'Higher Learning' as precious tries to cope with education and the hard knock life. It's staggering stuff & -at times- very powerful and real. The scenes of abuse are hypnotic because of how well staged they are by newcomer Lee Daniels, who's a natural with the camera and invokes flashbacks that have Precious dreaming of walking the runway one day as a beauty queen.
I can think of numerous critics participating in the backlash of the film- most notably Glenn Kenny, who's refusal to even see it, is a clear indicator of the intense debate that will likely rage on once Awards time comes along this January. Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe plays Precious and don't be surprised if she becomes the front runner for this year's Best Actress race -along with An Education's Carey Mulligan. It's her first movie role and -as much as it sounds cliched and repetitive- she was born to be Precious Jones. It's one thing to be on camera and expose yourself and all your flaws but what Sidibe does is play a role that is so demanding and crucial to the heart of this preciously flawed and relentlessly assaulting film.
David Stairharn in George Clooney's Good Night And Good Luck
No kidding then, that whenever a said cinematographer or director has a chance to shoot in black and white, they make sure smoke is in the air & is clearly seen. B &W goes along great with smoke, thus it is a rare sight to have a film noir from the 40's with no smoke whatsoever. Have you ever seen one without it? Name it and I shall pull my claim. Especially THE film noir of all film noirs Double Indemnity, which climax's with a wounded character getting one last smoke from a partner he betrayed.
One last smoke in Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity
Even more extreme is Jim Jarmusch's rather ill fated Coffee & Cigarettes- which was an experimental pleasure when it appeared 5 years ago in theatres. The premise was simple- short stories, told in Black and White, which involve characters smoking and drinking coffee on screen, while having oddly uninvolved conversations about philosophy and life in general. Did it work? I don't think it did, in fact it was a real bore but it was rather beautifully shot and had scene after scene of glowing smoke mixed with the rust of drinking of a cup of coffee.
Renee French in Jim Jarmusch's Coffee And Cigarettes
What's the point of this post? Well, it's definitely not gonna win a Nobel Prize, nor will it live on as one of my better exercises in Film but look at at those pretty pictures with all the smoke in glorious Black and White- doesn't it make you want to grab one and just read a book with a nice cup of coffee? If the answer is yes, I rest my case. If the answer s no, you are very strong willed. Now on with the show.
Billy Bob Thornton in the Joel Coen's The Man Who Wasn't There
Maribel Vardu in Alfonso Cuaron's mesmerizing Y Tu Mama Tambien
1) Y Tu Mama Tambien
Every year comes a time to bitch about the Oscars and their idiocies- this year bitching has started early with the announcement of the viably selected documentaries up for this year's Best Doc award. What's Missing? Anvil, a rock doc -about a down and out band- so good it is bound to end up on my ten best list by year's end. The fact that they have snubbed it proves how irrelevant their methods are and how unlikely they will actually honor the right movies when nomination time comes in January. Another unjustifiable snub is James Toback's Tyson-which just like Anvil, has the kind of rebellious spirit the Academy pussies out on.
Robot love in Andrew Stanton's WALL E (2008)
Although this list will be updated if the critically acclaimed Fantastic Mr Fox is as good as some critics/audiences claim it is. This is THE list for now, which contains 5 Pixars and goes to show the dominance it has sustained throughout the decade in Animation. Only two -Monster Inc. & Up- do not make list & they are both highly recommended on my part. Although Pixar has had an amazing run, they did not produce the best animated movie I've witnessed in a theatre this decade- that honor goes to Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away, which brought dark, original wit to an almost simply conventional story on paper. Notice I say on paper, because Miyazaki's masterpiece is far from simple- in fact it represents no conventionality shape or form to its competitors.
2) Wall E
5) Les Triplettes De Belleville
Here's the first of what will likely be a weekly segment as a sort of 'wrap up' to the past decade of cinema. I'm starting it off with documentaries & I probably wouldn't have done it if it were the 90's, mostly because Doc's came out booming this decade and made many Hollywood movies feel shameless and meaningless. Their bravura and rebellious spirit brought back a kind of rule breaking intensity that many movies have been missing and looking for.
Of course, THE prime boomer of this movement is Michael Moore -Whose Bowling For Columbine tops my list & whose first two movies this decade showcased what would be an influential take on the genre. I also cannot ever forget an extraordinary achievement called Capturing The Friedman's, which has not been seen by many, but those who have were left shaken by Andrew Jarecki's camera and instinctive drama. Ive suggested Capturing The Friedman's to a bunch of friends and they all had the same reaction afterwards- That of awe inspiring anger.
1) Bowling For Columbine
2) Capturing The Friedman's
3) Etre Et Avoir
4) Fahrenheit 9/11
6) The Cove
7) Anvil: The Story Of Anvil
8) Grizzly Man
9) The Kid Stays In The Picture
10) Super Size Me
There ya go, 10 movies with 10 very different subject matters and all as relevant today as they were the week they got released. I'll be back next week with The best in Animation & boy was it an amazing decade for that also with some marvelous, original & incendiary stuff coming out from -of all places- Hollywood.
...And although it is the center image and theme of this fascinating & original movie- which I just finished watching on glorious Blu Ray in a paramount theatre- One image is as powerful and immensely moving as the image above. It is that of Charles Kane standing isolated, rejected and near the end of his sad/epic life. His eyes watered and ready to explode with tears that he's been keeping for 60 years of his life.
In which I half ass an assignment & come up with something genuine/ my first -and last- compliment to fox news
People’s dependence on newspapers is shrinking & there is the overall attitude that it is becoming less and less relevant to actually sit down and read a newspaper. What with the high influence of Online media -including blogging- that’s taking over & those very same newspapers going into this fad by opening up their very own website where you can -oh gosh- read the paper for free, online at the comfort of your own home. Not only are newspapers giving us free readings online, they are also going into the trend of blogging which gives their writers more independence to voice their opinions and share their thoughts on a breaking news story. The ifs and buts of the whole idea of online news seem to be shrinking and the attitude amongst our generation is that ‘hey if I can get it for free online’ why should I pay for it outside? - ahhh purists must be mad as hell and can't take it anymore.
Forget about what I just said for a moment and look at how closely but surely Contemporary News Media is starting to get shaped in the 21st century as an online induced hot bed of information. It's not just that independent news outlets -such as bloggers & alternative media sources- are gaining a bit more recognition because of people’s disgust towards biased information being perpetrated in mainstream outlets such as Fox News or -hell- the New York Post. Fact of the matter is at the end of the day people will want a different source of news and not just the biased, corporate based info they are getting through mainstream outlets. Furthermore, the rise of blogging has -more than ever- given people their own voice to shout out they ain't gonna take it anymore, it is a reassembling of cultures and ideas that come together to give a new perspective on what one might and should think in any given circumstance.
It is a refreshing perspective on where we have come from and the shambles that have angered many while watching a news program that -shall I say- never gives all the details necessary in spite of what has actually happened. Hey listen, it happens to the best of us- we are so concerned these days with getting the defining truth of an event that we sometimes forget that there never really is one truth to an argument & that an opinionated debate is always the way to go, of course a media source such as The New York Times or any other newspaper cannot really rely on debate and -sometimes- just have to give the news in a ‘straightforward’ fashion to us but that’s where the blogging comes and the infinite astonishment that ‘hey there’s someone out there that has opinion ! & there’s someone out there that sees this situation in a differentlight’ that’s where it all comes together and you start to realize why blogging is a universal and conceptually real argument for contemporary news media.
From all I have stated so far it is clear that I am wagging my finger at the media for its own downfall and I will not refrain from mentioning it again that I truly believe this to be the case, especially when you take all the arguments I have pointed out in here & when you look at the way news is reported. It is their own demise and their own falling traps that have given them a sort of wake up call to liven up and start being more relevant- or at least they are trying to do that. Compare what is happening now to 10 years ago when the internet wasn’t half the force it is today- it is a powerful medium that has changed our courses of actions, awaken us to the temptation that there actually is a lively voice out there for news and it’s not just the usual bullshit that has turned the medium into a zombie like force.
It turns out that that voice is the people and the people’s voice is a powerful thing, full of ideas and writings actually conceived by human hands- compared to the controlled hands of what we call the man -err- should I say the Mainstream. Blogging is -and has- always been an alternative to our own universe of simplified and dull information. It is a lively concept that has scared the be Jesus out of every media imaginable and in doing so has rewritten what we perceive as Contemporary news media. Because it is a person writing and because that person is writing about something that might have been deemed to harsh or risky by the contemporary mainstream media, makes it all the more relevant, no matter how biased the article might be- because listen I won’t lie, when you’re dealing with a blogger there will be a bias because it is his or her opinion.
Which will make me conclude in a -how shall I say this- risky manner & state that although it is biased and although it is a preposterous account of what the media should be like, the reason why a successful media outlet such as fox news is -shock- successful might be because of the opinions and alternative universe it gives to its viewers compared to the stale and utterly by the numbers one of something like CNN or MSNBC. Fox has been deemed biased, been deemed loud and has had controversy lying all over it because of its right wing and thoroughly controversial agenda. Know what? That’s how blogging is and for all of its flaws and all of its nihilistic points of view at least its got style & has something that most news outlets out there don’t have- Balls.
Set in 1987 Romania, where Abortions are illegal to the communist regime. A friendship is tested as a 5 month pregnant girl wants an abortion and gets it through the help of a loyal friend that would almost do anything to assist her. The abortionist is a sleazy fella that gets paranoid by almost any movement or word said. the scene is as tense and revelatory as any in the film and is in fact the whole centerpiece that bring A and B together. Mungiu comes out as a singular director operating with no strings attached and evolving a master at his craft in more ways than one. You'd think that what is actually being watch is a documentary and not a fictitious movie. Mungiu pursues the virtues of what it is to live- love, happiness, death & panic, sheer and utter panic. That panic is the unsettling truth that reigns among this compulsively watchable movie's running time.
There is however one scene that is so absurd and so overdone that it almost ruins the film- but doesn't. It's a scene that has the main character sitting on a dinner table silently as the people around her jabber along and in the process annoy the viewer. It's a sort of experimental scene to try and convey a time and place and -suffice to say- suffocate the viewer with cringing suspense of what is the aftermath of a girl that is sitting alone in a hotel room, after having had a stressful abortion. It is almost impossible to describe Mungiu's film and its affects in a movie review, it is best to be watched and carefully constructed in a way that it lingers in your head long after its final scene has finished and you are left completely stunned and needing air, because you have just witnessed 100 minutes of pure and utter life on the screen. This is art.
It's been a while I haven't written about him and now is I guess the best time, considering he's edited my new reviews for this week's The Concordian, which can be read HERE & HERE. First things first, this is a bit less enraging than what he did a month ago in a post I will refrain from posting again, due to my highly hidden anger. The only unholy edit I can think of this time around is putting the word Masterfully in my review of L'affaire Farewell, which is far from Masterful filmmaking and -in fact quite conventional in its storytelling. Given the tone of my review it is however solid stuff. Anywho, you can read my stuff in the links above- two interesting french movies that I reccomend if they every play in your area and that should be coming out in Montreal in the following week. Both featuring solid central performances and both quite different from each other- One slapstick/ One political thriller.
Adolescence is at the heart of Andrea Arnold's Mesmerizing Fish Tank (4/5) - a British film that justly won the Jury Prize at Cannes this year and has been flooded with praise in the British Press since its release there in September. A release date is planned in early 2010 for the U.S and Canada and I suggest that despite its frankly original & curiously vague nature, you seek it out. At the heart of the movie is a central performance of incredible magnitude by newcomer Katie Jarvis, who plays Mia, a troubled & isolated teen in the slums of British property that everything and anything she touches turns into trouble. Mia lives with her already improper little sister and her sexually open mother. Their relationship is sparse and troubled in ways that I would call this family dysfunctional with a capital D. Trouble keeps coming when mom brings in a guy that Mia ends up having the hots for and -in turn- oh never mind, watch the movie.
The reason why such a simple movie is getting all its high praise -deservedly btw- is due to director Arnold springing surprises that keep you on interested for the movies whole 100 minutes, there are no missteps and every scene in perfectly fit in as to advance the characters and storyline. I was reminded of early Truffault with Antoine Doinel replaced by a female version of his and the mother as repulsive and real as that very movie. High props go to the entire cast for a movie that -as simple as it is- brought it in ways no other mainstream movie can. This is an original work of art, simple yet very refreshing. Fish Tank has been nominated for 8 British film awards- among the other nominess for Best Picture include Dunccan Jones' great Moon, Lone Scherfig's An Education & Armando Lanucci's satiric In The Loop.
..Only the french. Ever heard that expression? I'm sure you have & I'll add that only they can make stuff, that is far beyond hollywood's reach look so -How should I say zees- 'artistique'. I'm gonna watch two french movies tomorrow and have the reviews published in next week's The Concordian. I'm expecting lots of nudity, overdone mannerisms & -How can I forget this- a slice of ze baguette with lots of fromage and vin. To say this post is ridiculous would be an understatement but I couldn't help myself in what is essentially a slow moving day that had me rewatch Orson Welles' 1958 classic Touch Of Evil- which includes Charlton Heston in a thin mexican moustache, what's not to love?
I am so used to watching one ambitious film after the next that I never really stumble upon stuff from the mainstream or from Hollywood. On Friday I went with my Girlfriend to see Love Happens- which was just plain bad. I didn't know Hollywood had it this bad in making a simple Rom com that tries to tug @ the heartstrings. I had no idea that such a lazy script could exist and that such inessential direction was out there. Then I came to the horrible thought that maybe -just maybe- there are more movies out there such as this one & that I am just not seeing them for the sole reason that I am not interested & would rather check out strange, non mainstream fare. To tell you the truth I saw a movie called Love Actually 6 years ago that was actually -shock- a decent romantic comedy from the Hollywood machine & one that made money because word of mouth spread out that it was actually good.
All this is in some shape or form relates to this year's (500) Days Of Summer, which -unlike Love Happens- was fresh air & portrayed a relationship in a truer, more realistic way than anything else out there. Take everything I have just said and put into account that the two best movies I`ve seen so far this year -The Hurt Locker & An Education- you have likely never heard of them or even read about them anywhere or seen a movie commercial. Such is the sad state of film today. Take into consideration a scene from Love Happens- which finds Jennifer Aniston falling for a widowed man played by Aaron Eckhart, as a form of self theraphy Eckhart decides to release caged doves that he and his wife had through many yers of marriage. The scene is so clumsy and infuriatingly bad that you cannot believe it actually happening & you wonder who wrote this stuff.
I`m actually quite happy that I went through this entire post without uttering a single swear word or angry grammar mistake. If anything, it`s shown you that -yes- I do give chances to Hollywood stuff that`s out in the multiplex and that -no- I am not yet impressed and will furthermore concentrate on scattered more unfindable fare that`s out there at the moment. Just my 2 cents of course.
- ► 2016 (698)
- ► 2015 (37)
- ► 2014 (35)
- ► 2013 (65)
- ► 2012 (58)
- ► 2011 (47)
- ► 2010 (116)
- Almodovar and his 'Broken Embraces'
- Dedicated to Mr. Fox
- Charles Bronson & The Art Of Violence
- Martel's The Headless Woman
- Brittany Murphy RIP
- An Image- Guess the film?
- Coen Brothers take on Jewish eccentricities
- 'Up In The Air'
- Twenty Best Movies of The Decade
- If it's still playing..
- "Brothers" & "Bad Lieutenant- Port of Call New Orl...
- '00-'09: Ten Performances (Actress)
- '00-'09: Ten Performances (Actor)
- "Where The Wild Things Are"
- McCarthy's universe in "The Road"
- Precious: Based On The Novel "Push" By Sapphire
- Coffee & Cigarettes
- Best Of The Decade: 2000-2009: Foreign Film
- Anvil & its Oscar snub
- Best Of The Decade 2000-2009: Animation
- 'Badgers ? We don't want no stinkin' badgers'
- Best Of The Decade 2000-2009: Non-Fiction
- The Concordian- 'Antichrist'
- Rosebud this & Rosebud that
- In which I half ass an assignment & come up with s...
- 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
- My infamous editor- Part Deux
- "Fish Tank"
- ▼ December (13)