'Artful distastefulness'

Although already on DVD, there's a new Blu Ray release of Snakes On A Plane. See it only if you want to laugh your ass off at the sight of a snake biting the dick off a poor man or the sight of watching Sam Jackson spurt out 'I'm sick of these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane'. This is a film that belongs in a genre I like to call 'Cinematic Retardation'. Every scene and every damn line is so overblown and so bad that you can't help but feel a little iffy & entertained by its delightful distastefulness. It's been 3 years since I've seen the film - I haven't remembered much- and to tell you the truth writing about it doesn't necesarilly make me want to watch it again. But I just wanted to let you know there is a crowd out there for this type of movie and there are people that will buy the disc when it comes out today. I'm not one of them but if this movie is ever on television on a night in which I'm extremely bored & inebriated, I will unashamedly watch it.

Also out on DVD and Blu Ray today is the immensely insulting excuse for an Indie Dramedy Away We Go, which oddly enough was directed by American Beauty's Sam Mendes -who's been on a slow decline ever since that Academy Award Winning movie came out exactly 10 years ago. In fact His first 2 movies are still his only great ones -I'm also counting Road To Perdition which features one of the best Paul Newman Performances ever !- and I was not very impressed with Jarhead or Revolutionary Road, which contained too much self importance for there own good. Come to think of it, Away We Go as lots of self Importance going for it & I do not mean that as a compliment. On a positive side there's Steven Sodebergh's raw & hilarious The Girlfriend Experience -starring porn star Sasha Grey- and The 70th Anniversary Edition of The Wizard Of Oz (which was reviewed right Here for the NYFF).

Polanski Arrested

I'm not entirely happy as to what has just happened to Roman Polanski- he has been in exile for close to 3 decades now but for fucks sake give it a rest. Is it really that hard? Anyways Here's the NEWS STORY. Maybe a little justice will be rewarded in the coming days between French and American Governments. If anything, I'm pissed at the fact it was Swiss authorities that brought him in. What the fuck do they have to do this with any of this? This is mind boggling stuff and even more so due to the fact that Polanski was trying to Legalize his way back to the U.S with his lawyer. I know this isn't the last we hear of this story- just like it isn't the last we hear of the Innocent Texan that was executed not too long ago right before later evidence would find him almost entirely not guilty of the crime he committed. Please don't get me started on that one.

*I'll be back on Tuesday with a recap of the year so far & an unusually late review of Kathryn Bigelow's Hurt Locker (which corresponds quite well to the hellish circumstances of war). I haven't had the time to post as much lately because of the beginning of the semester but I'm planning on writing a little bit more in October- especially with the Film Fest happening and an unusually high number of quality movies to come. Have a good sunday !*

NYFF & Nouveau Cinema

The 47th Annual New York Film Festival Opens its doors this week. It's one of the few Film Festivals that I can actually attribute a love to- in that it has no prizes and proclaims that the movies themselves are the prizes. Amen to that and Amen to the fact they will be screening Lee Daniels' Precious, Pedro Almodovar's Broken Embraces & Lone Scherfig's An Education- All of which will be reviewed in the next few weeks & all of which have been well received in festival circuits this year. If you want more coverage of the fest you can politely follow Glen Kenny in the following LINK.

The Local 39th Annual Fesival Du Cinema et Nouveau Media in Montreal will be screening those three movies as part of their rich selection of movies this year. The program was announced this past week and has me itching to get my pass to what is THE real film fest of the city -Take note I have politely decided not to take a stab at the other World Film Fest. just because it is too much of an easy target. Other films being screened include Lars Von Trier's decaying Antichrist & Catherine Breillat's Blue Beard.

An Image 09/23/09

One of the most beautifully photographed movies I have ever seen. Bernardo Bertolluci's masterful & political The Conformist/Il Conformista.

A visionary decade/ An Animated recap

With the release of Entertainment Weekly's 20 best animated movies- I've decided to chime in on what I think is an interesting list. First off any list with Spirited Away & Wall-E is on the right track. Then I see titles like Coraline, Ghost In The Shell & Waltz With Bashir- not impressed. Where's Richard Linklater's groundbreaking Waking Life or the underrated Pixar, Ratatouille? Then again this list-like any other- will spark debate over its merits and selection. The best animated movies like the ones I'm about to list below have a maturity that can please both adults and kiddies alike. I'm reminded of that scene in Shrek where Donkey and the Ogre make fun of the King's hmm how shall I say this, size. A risky joke that only an adult audience could get.

The past decade has been astoundingly rich in animation and has given me the urge to compile my first -of what would be plenty- 'List Of The Decade'. If I had to choose ten distinctive titles that have advanced the animation form, I'd choose -in no particular order- Richard Linklater's groundbreaking Waking Life, Nick Park & Peter Lord's Chicken Run, Andrew Stanton's Wall-E & Finding Nemo, Brad Bird's Pixar treats The Incredibles & Ratatouille, Andrew Adamson & Vicky Jensen's Shrek + two foreign films- Sylvain Chomet's sublime Les Triplettes De Belleville & The best Animated movie I've ever seen -drumroll please- Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away.

As if you'd really care..

About the decadent gutter that is Canadian Cinema, I refer you -more specifically French- Canadian readers to a few reviews I've written for The Concordian the past week. One is an insipidly bad Film Noir called Detour (easily one of the worst movies I've seen all year) & the other is an amicable but slight movie called Un Cargo Pour L'Afrique. Reviews can be found Here and Here. Take note, I do not like my editor for he has peer edited a chunk of the profanities I intended to use in these reviews. Another example concerning the joy's of being a blogger.

The Greatest Ending? -An Image(s)-

Reading Glenn Kenny's blog a few days ago- I was struck by his review of Resnais' upcoming Wild Grass (which I will definitely catch up with at the upcoming Festival De Nouveau Cinema here in Montreal.) Most notably this sentence taken from his thoughts:

'Resnais' Wild Grass is a whacked-out masterpiece with an ending worthy of the final minutes of 2001 and/or the last chord of 'A Day In The Life'.

Which got me thinking. Is 2001: A Space Odyssey. the best ending I've ever seen? I think it is. It's such a masterful mindfuck of an ending that I do actually believe its astonishing last 20 minutes are in fact the work of a madman, genius & the unlikely fact that something as awe inspiring will never be filmed again (by the way yes I do believe that last chord of The Beatles 'A Day In The Life' is also triumphant). 2001's final images have long gone into cinematic history- It's the ultimate WHAT THE FUCK!? moment. A clash of ideas and visuals which only a man like Stanley Kubrick could pull off.

The fact that it's still a highly complicated ending that incites debate 40 years after its initial release is astounding. The images seen as an astronaut gets 'lost in space' & finds a new dimension 'out there' is remarkable and -as said before- cannot be duplicated. I must also mention how a movie 4 decades old such as this one is still regarded for its influential trippiness & visionary vision to this day.

The unexplainable should be used in describing what happens in the film's second half yet many people forget just how groundbreaking the film's first half was in terms of visual effects. This was Stanley Kubrick, a man that shocked the world with Dr. Strangelove and Lolita, taking on a slowly paced science fiction project. Not much happens in the first half, just a slow burning tempo that enrages and infuriates many viewers. We know something bad is going to happen yet we can't begin to grasp what Kubrick has in store for us.

A seminal film that even bewildered Woody Allen back in 1968, 2001 had many haters and still does - I cross them all the time. Allen described how he just did not get it at first and yet his appreciation of the film evolved with his three-time watching experience. Which is no surprise given that many of Kubrick's films, especially beginning with Dr. Strangelove or 2001: A Space Odyssey, are said to be multi-layered. You like them better with each repeated viewing of it and you succumb to Kubrick's artistic bravura. I don't think I've heard of a Kubrick film that was an easy watch. 2001 is the most uneasiest of all watches, it ravages the soul with fury and a new way of seeing the world.

It has been duplicated but never replicated. Many filmmakers have tried to master and catch the trippy magic of what Kubrick did back in 1968 yet none of them really fully got it. Kubrick tried to envision a new way of seeing the world. A new dimension that was never revealed to us before and all done in an oddly realistic way and that can never be taken away from us.

'The Wizard Of Oz' @ NYFF

'Lovingly restored and entirely remastered, with six times higher resolution than standard DVD' The Wizard Of Oz will be closing out the 47th annual New York Film Festival in a special way this month. A festival which will include new stuff like Lars Von Trier's puzzling Antichrist, Pedro Almodovar's Broken Embraces & Festival Favourite Precious. Know what? Chances are none will be better than Victor Fleming's 1939 classic featuring a Dorothy trying to imagine there truly is 'no place like home'. Some complain the movie hasn't aged well -no kidding, its 70 years old- but it's still got a bigger heart than any other movie out there. Childhood memories flood my brain whenever I think of this cherished classic & its undeniable influence among young and old.

all around will also be pleased by its new crisp restoration and its -still- unexpected flow to Pink Floyd's The Dark Side Of The Moon. It's so deliriously joyful that I'd go as far as calling it a campy delight- meant as a compliment of course. The sheer fact that a movie this old is still getting fans of all generations and ages alike is remarkable- I cannot think of another movie that has had this much of a following over 7 decades ! Its imagination is one of a kind with its talking lions, singing munchkins, flying monkeys & green faced witch- stoners rejoice ! An Image that will always resonate with me is that of Dorothy saying farewell to her friends as she finally finds her way home & seeks a better life in Kansas. Tapping her shoes and repeating 'There's no place like home'. So good.

'Antichrist'/ 'Hunger'- McQueen & Von Trier's Shocking Tendencies

I've had time to reflect upon Lars Von Trier's frustrating Antichrist & have arrived at this conclusion: It is the work of a man that doesn't know what he wants and the work of a man that doesn't give a crying fuck what his audience wants. That isn't necessarily a bad thing- but in his case it is. If Von Trier has given us some of the best movies of the past 20 years (Breaking The Waves, Dancer In The Dark), he doesn't succeed in bringing his artful resonance to this one. The movie was booed at Cannes and still has no distributor- I can definitely see why. The story revolves around a couple that has lost their child- they retreat to the woods as a form of therapy and instead find there is spiritual evil in their surroundings. Willem Dafoe and the incredible Charlotte Gainsbourg play The nameless couple- only referred to in the credits as HE and SHE.

I wouldn't want to spoil what happens next- especially since that's the reason why this movie is selling out festival circuits around the world & was the first movie to sell out at this month's Toronto Film fest. The curiosity of moviegoers all around the world is overwhelming and they want to know exactly what happens in the movies last 20 minutes- which involves some of the weirdest most brutally violent acts I have seen in a while. I won't give anything away and don't really think it's a big deal. Some have said Von Trier has lost his head & others have quietly stated that it is just a minor work in a great director's career. The movie shocked me, infuriated me and annoyed me. It is NOT a great movie and is -in fact- a true disappointment. This time Von Trier's Ego has gotten the best of him but his ambition is nevertheless highly imaginative.

One of the rare finds of 2009 has got to be Steve McQueen's Feature directing debut Hunger. A powerful, shocking statement on Prisoners of war. Set during the IRA and British conflict in the 80's and having to do with the Hunger strike of IRA prisoners. It's highly reminiscent of Guantanamo Bay, in its depiction of the brutality happening inside the prison as guards beat upon prisoners. It's also an artistic triumph punctured by McQueen's ability to get you into his unique and original set up.

McQueen started off as a minimalist artist in art galleries and only during the past year went into feature film- I recommend he stays there, this is where he belongs. Some of the influences you see in Hunger vary from director to director- especially Stanley Kubrick, who's minimalism is definitely not hidden in his reputation. I was affected by Hunger's shock value & its no holds barred filmmaking. Like any great movie in these dog days of summer, it's hard to find -because of its rebellious & independent roots- but if you can get your hands on this one you won't be disappointed by its bravura and staggering reality. Hands down one of the best movies of this or any year.

The Beatles & Cinema

With last week's subsequent re-release of The Beatles' entire remastered discography & my constant listening of their incredible Abbey Road during the past few days- I am reminded of the way The Beatles have been portrayed on celluloid. Especially Across The Universe, a mauling disappointment from 2 years ago that -yes- brought upon a new generation of fans but had a very limited storyline set during Vietnam protests in the late 60's. I've always been a fan of Julie Taymor's- a visionary filmmaker that deserved a better script than the one note final product she got. I cannot finish this rant without mentioning the awkward cameo by Bono that portrays -of all people- The Walrus and butchers a beautiful Beatles Song. If Across The Universe is not a good movie, A Hard Day's Night -released in 1964 & inspired by the cinema verite doc Lonely Boy- has aged tremendously well and shows the band in the middle of a true hysteria of screaming fans.

DePalma (3 Movies)

It's a DePalma kind of week in New York, with a Blogathon hosted by Cinema Viewfinder. I'll join the party by chiming in a bit on Brian DePalma and his endless, messy ambitions. I`m gonna name my 3 favourites of his in a sort of mini essay that will contribute to what Tony Dayoub is doing over there at Cinema Viewfinder. DePalma is one of the more polarizing filmmakers around- one day he makes an incredible piece of filmmaking such as the 3 listed below and then the next he pulls out a Mission To Mars or the unwatchable Femme Fatale.

His best movie- (1) Blow Out- is a smart, hallucinatory take on voyeurism & is more relevant now than it ever was 29 years ago. John Travolta with his sound equipment evokes to me an image of what DePalma can do truly do with cinema- it's his only perfect movie and succumbs to the Hitchcockian tradition in the best of ways. It's also the best Joh Travolta performance I've ever seen -safe from his Pulp Fiction comeback- in fact I think Blow Out is far superior work than his trashy Dressed To Kill, which has the kind of kitsch overcooked superficiality I despise in the some of his other movies.

(2) Carrie does not have that- from the get go you know it's a horror delight, featuring the greatest prom scene carried out on film. Sissy Spacek is the perfect match to DePalma's weird ways- her face is not that of supermodel & very much out of sync from DePalma's usual choice of females. DePalma has the tendency to overstylize everything & bring a sort of what I`d like to call `Hitchcockian queerness` to it all. This is one of the rare times that DePalma takes a back seat and paves the way to a towering performance. There's an abandon in the filmmaking that I don't think DePalma ever achieved again- a fearless, joyous abandon that makes you realize how talented the man truly is.

2 predictable choices that will likely solicitate yawns but the third one is a less conventional choice. It isn`t the towering Pop of The Untouchables or the overrated assault of Scarface. My third choice is (3) Carlito`s Way, a personal favourite that is everything his 1983 Scarface was supposed to be. Sean Penn is amazing -tell me when he isn`t- & the overall excitement is palpable. It`s pure DePalma with a story that grabs you as if -Taking a cue from the honorable Glenn Kenny- you`re being cuckolded. I guess we can end this mini essay with that.

On a night in which I cannot sleep, I am reminded of Detective Dormer -played by Al Pacino- in Christopher Nolan's Insomnia. A man that cannot sleep in an always sunny Alaska & a man that clearly doesn't want the light at the end of the tunnel. The movie is a fever dream of elegance and reminiscent of a time when I actually cared a lot more about film and believed in the fever pitch of a dreamlike setting. Detective Dormer is lacking the sleep he needs and still believes in catching a killer on the loose. Pacino's Dormer ends up shot at the movie's conclusion & as he's slowly dying he whispers 'Let me sleep' to his co-officer. How perfect is that?

Protest at TIFF

If only these supposed protesters -which include Jane Fonda, Ken Loach & Danny Glover- would understand that just because this year's program is showcasing Israeli movies does not mean it is supporting a certain cause or subject. The idiocy and utter ignorance is horrific and furthermore proves the confusion that people have had on this conflict. On a side note, this will probably be the only time Jane Fonda's name will be mentioned on this blog- enjoy it while you can Ms. Fonda.

Talkin' about the Toronto Film Fest, I got a sneak peak the other day at a popular ticket at the 2009 fest. The first movie to sellout and possibly the most controversial one- Lars Von Trier's Antichrist. My thoughts on this incendiary movie tomorrow. In the meantime here's the controversy I wrote about in June- Click Here.

Five that changed the 80's

Platoon (1986)
Dir. Oliver Stone

This is Easily Oliver Stone's best movie & possibly the greatest ever made about Vietnam- yes even better than Apocalypse Now. Platoon is a masterpiece because it sets you right there, right into Vietcong and right into the hellfire that took countless lives. It justly won the Oscar in 1987 and provided a whole new voice for the veteran- Oliver Stone would never again be as relevant.

Blowout (1980)
Dir. Brian Depalma

Ever heard of this one? Time to find out. John Travolta and Brian DePalma team up for a movie about political conspiracies and the importance of sound. It''s by far DePalma's best movie and put's his other flawed stuff to utter shame. An underground classic.

Raging Bull (1980)
Director: Martin Scorsese

What more can be said about Scorsese's Masterpiece Raging Bull- featuring an astonishing performance by Robert Deniro. As many people have already stated Deniro doesn't play Jake La Motta.. he IS Lamotta. He portrays a man that was as violent outside the ring as he was inside. A noteworthy scene is the one where Jake believes his brother -Joe Pesci- slept with his wife. Violent consequences ensue but more importantly guilt that will stay with Lamotta for a lifetime.

Blue Velvet (1986)
Director: David Lynch

I can talk for hours about what Blue Velvet means to me and what the hell it's about- cause no matter what I say, someone will always have a different interpretation of the film. It's twisted, perverse but incredibly surreal and dreamy- I still discover new things every time I see it & there's something very entrenching in watching Dennis Hopper's psycho Frank listening to Roy Orbison's In Dreams. A fitting song & one hell of a movie.

Do The Right Thing (1989)
Director: Spike Lee

Ya dig? Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing is the most powerful cinematic experience I've had in my lifetime. There's no telling how great and how involving the movie is- you need to see it for yourself. It still socially relevant and shocking to this day. His take on Racism in America is as scathing and real as ever. With a violent and uncompromising finale. Here are more thoughts.

The Cove -Redux-

If you still haven't seen The Cove- see it ! It's a thrilling documentary about Dolphin slaughtering in Japan. My review can be found here & judging by the following link, it sure looks like the movie has stopped the slaughtering for now.
Yesterday, O’Barry returned to Taiji for the start of the dolphin killing season, but this time, he says, “there were no dolphin killers in sight.” Granted, this time he came with a small entourage of international journalists, including members of the Japanese press, so only time will tell whether the practice is over for good. But like Super Size Me (which seemingly got fast food restaurants to offer more healthy choices on their menus), and An Inconvenient Truth (which injected global warming into the mainstream discussion in a big way), the makers of The Cove can feel proud that at the very least several dozen dolphins are alive today thanks to their efforts.
I couldn't be happier and think this doc is mandatory viewing. I'll be back on Tuesday with My thoughts on 2009 so far and Review of Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker. Til then Have a great Labour Day Weekend !

How To Stop Worrying & Love The Bomb- 'In The Loop' & Miyazaki's Ponyo

You gotta love the British. Their humor is so dry that I sometimes feel the air suction right out of my mouth. Ah to be british and to have his/her picture in the 'British Book Of Smile'. But seriously, it's traditional humor- going way back to the Monty Python days of the late 70's. Like any British comedy, Armando Lannuci's In The Loop is not for every taste. It's a political satire that is so quick and so witty that you cannot get every zinger in one viewing. In The Loop pokes fun at the ineptitude of our governments, it's a dark satire about a society that leaves control over the hands of buffoons. The premise is simple-& might I add relevant to our times. The American & British governments in the film work together to wage war on an unnamed middle eastern country, They are very lost in their attempt & are mixed about the entire issue.

If anything, In The Loop's style is reminiscent of The Office. With its handheld camera, witty dialogue & quirky/awkward cast of characters, In fact, I expected Steve Carrell to pop out and utter one of his uselessly clever 'Office' one liners. Sadly, that did not come to fruition but what I did see onscreen was the sharpest political satire Ive seen in ages & a tasty perfomance from peter Capaldi as a foul mouthed British Director of communications. It's very hard to find this film- since its on limited release- but seek it out.

I said it before and I'll say it again, were living in the Golden Age of Animation. Stuff released by animators during the past decade puts supposed 'auteuristic' filmmakers to shame. The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Belleville Rendez-Vous, Waking Life, Wall-E, Ratatouille, Shrek, Chicken Run, the recent Up & -Best of all- Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away are all very adult and very real. Miyazaki's new -and final?- movie just came out and its a doozy. Safe for a predictable and unsatisfying ending this one has visuals that will marvel even the oldest of adults. The one thing I love most about Miyazaki is that his animation is hand drawn- No computer effects, no 3D, no CGI- just art created by hand & the visuals he creates here are astonishing. I don't think Ive seen a more thrilling animated sequence this year than when Mother and Son drive along the highway as a storm follows their track. Manhola Dargis has a more complete review of the film at the L.A. Times- Well worth a read.

Cinephilia West Exhibit

An exciting Polish exhibit filled with creatively artful reinterpretations of movie posters. It's happening at a London exhibit. Why go all the way there when you can just take a look at them HERE via the magical world of the internet.

Runaway Dream

This is one of the stronger movies I've seen this year. It's simple yet utterly groundbreaking. Never has a movie been made about Dominican ball Players. I've always wondered how Dominicans pave their way to the Majors & how they are discovered in such a small country. Sugar will surely be touted as a 'Sports Movie' but it isn't- it's an immigrant story set in a Baseball environment. Filmmakers Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck made Half Nelson in 2006 - A movie that showed promies but felt amateurish and didn't succeed in its believability. This movie feels more real & more vital in its depiction. It achieves a kind of transendence that is very rare in movies today- in fact the last 20 minutes are as good as any movie ive seen this year (And yes I'm even Including Inglorious Basterds' hilariously bloody 'Death To The Nazi's' climax). Part of the reason this movie is so damn good is its screenplay written by Bolden & Fleck but there's also an amazing performance by newcomer Algenis Perez Soto as the titular character- his performance is so good that he's probably gonna get ignored come Oscar time and that's the best compliment I can ever give an actor.

An Image 09/02/09

Bill The Butcher, surrounded in Martin Scorsese's Gangs Of New York. A flawed but unequivocal masterpiece that had mostly mixed reaction when it came out in 2002. I loved the ambition Scorsese brought to it all but -most of all- I adored Daniel Day Lewis' Incredible performance as The Butcher himself. He's more than likely my favourite actor working today- watch him in Nicholas Hytner's Adaptation of Arthur Miller's incendiary play The Crucible. He defines the word electric.

From Word To Image

I'm sure you've heard the saying 'The book was so much better than the movie' or better yet 'They should have never made it into a movie'. Very common happening, mostly beccause it speaks the truth. Almost every Novel that gets translated into a film is mediocre in comparison to its Litterate counterpart. Why? Well maybe it's because a book has much more time to develop its story & its characters that you get to know them a little better. Watching The Time Traveller's Wife this past weekend I was struck at how uninvolving it was and how mediocre its character development tended to be- and I had heard great things about the novel. Ask any fan of the novel and they will tell you they loved to read it but despised watching it. It's not just character development it's also the fact that some stories are just not meant to be made into film- case in point is Brian DePalma's disastrous Bonfire Of The Vanities or Roger Avary's unwatchable The Rules Of Attraction. Both novels were written in ways that celluloid could not describe, both were stylistically groundreaking and both were fit for the medium of word and not image

It's very simple, no Direcor can recreate what was already great because what the director does is essentially interpret someone else's art- looking at it that way, you can understand why there are so many dissapointing translations on screen these days. Looking back, I cannot for the life of me think of 10 movies that were better than their Novelistic counterparts- Jonathan Demme did it in 1991, turning Thomas Harris' Trashy novel into the classy Silence Of The Lambs, Stanley Kubrick turned Stephen King's straight laced The Shining into his own nightmarish dream, Francis Ford Coppola took Mario Puzo's The Godfather and created the best movie I have ever seen. Kubrick pissed Stephen King off so much with his 'interpretation' of The Shining that a decade later King decided to make his own version vying to remake 'everything differently'. Writers are just so damn hard to please.

Liam Neeson & his gun?

I was pleasantly surprised by Pierre Morel's excitingly brain dead Taken. That's right I liked something that was completely devoid of logic and -in fact- very brain dead. It's a revenge story. Shoot me, Im a sucker for revenge stories done this well and this pulp shiveringly excitable. Liam Neeson's daughter -that's right Liam Neeson- is kidnapped on vacation in France and sold as an underground escort whore. Ok im done writing this review cause there's no point in persuading you guys that Alfred Kinsey himself can actually be an action star. Word of mouth is contagious on this one and is the sole reason I ended up watching it and giving it a shot. Watch it & be the judge of what is surely one of the better action movies of 2009.