Mais Oui..

..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?

A look at mainstream infamy

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.

Want something scary for Halloween?

Trick R Treat is THE movie this Halloween season. Forget about the 256th Saw movie and catch this movie asap. Just don't go looking for it in theatres- especially since the movie was moved from its original theatrical release to a straight to DVD route. why? I'm without answer, so are fan boys online -whom have been drooling and praising over this movie the past week. The movie's distributor -Warner Brothers- will likely suffer from having pulled this highly entertaining movie from theatres but will likely get muchos benefits from a sparse dvd release. Make no mistake about it- Trick R Treat is camp but it's a campy blast, filled with one liners that will likely be uttered in halloween's to come.

I won't give away the juicy details -4 interlocked horror stories-but I will mention there's something highly amusing in watching a deranged, hobo looking Brian Cox fighting a Halloween demon called Sam or watching a virginized Anna Paquin reveal a part of herself she's always been ashamed of or -better yet- Dylan Baker as a highly sadistic dad that is out for blood on Halloween night. Baker & Cox gives the best performances in a movie filled with humor and shock-the fact that these 2 talented actors are in it is reason enough to watch this movie. I can see myself watching these tales every Halloween and so will the viewer.

'The Searchers' Revisited

Watching a newly restored Blu-Ray of John Ford's The Searchers at the cinema the other night convinced me it was the best movie of 2009, too bad it was released 56 years ago and features a mostly passed-on cast. Its images stay in you head, especially that of an isolated Wayne getting the door shut on him as his silhouette lingers in the background. The image of isolation and unresolved rejection is painstakingly restored in what is a masterful movie of colour & sound.

What struck me most about Ford's movie are the hints of prejudice that flow in around and of Ethan- a man that cannot stand the Comanche, but is forced to suck it up and, in subtle ways, repent. Ford uses Ethan, but more importantly Wayne, as the anti-hero and does not give him the redemption he deserves in the movie's climax. Others would like to disagree with me but it is clear throughout that -although he is glorified at times- Ethan is a flawed man with misbegotten ambitions. He wants to save his captured niece from the Indians but he also wants to kill her because her mind has been warped by the Comanche and she is a "lost cause." His fellow searcher, Martin, does everything to prevent this from happening.

Although this is a great movie, one of the greatest ever made, the one complaint people always have about it is the comic relief that happens in spurt. There are two dim witted fools. I was not bothered by it, although I did have a beef about the subplot involving Martin marrying a Comanche. Even with these flaws, Ford's colours and textures resonate throughout and make for a wildly significant ride.

Whenever I gather around a list of my favourite movies- The Searchers always comes into the equation, resonating near the top. It is an epic that Time Magazine once called 'the most influential American movie'. I don't know if it is, could be, but what I do know is that watching it again the other night I was reminded of its textures, form, societal prophecies which was akin to seeing something a landmark exposed in cinematic imagery. A feeling that's been missing for quite some time.

An Image 10/19/09

'Here's lookin' right at ya' (The Great Train Robbery)
When movies actually got people in panic terror, circa 1903
The good old days he? When a man shooting at a screen could cause havoc and cahos in a movie theatre- when film was just beginning and you could truly feel the shot coming right at ya. How the times have changed & for good reason.

In response to Obama's Nobel Peace Prize

"He became the first African-American president in a notoriously racist country, which has given hope to oppressed peoples throughout the world.While campaigning for and after winning that job, took the opportunity to tour the world expressing his ideas and beliefs about equality, race, mutual respect, honoring each others' histories, appreciating cultural differences; understanding that one country is not automatically better than any other but that we all have important and legitimate ideas to bring to the table, and knowing that to move forward in a positive direction we must do our level best to use diplomacy to work together in peace. He has stuck firmly to these notions and continues as an excellent example of thoughtfulness and reason as the leader of, arguably, the world's most powerful state or, as the Nobel committee more succinctly put it, for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples"

-Clara Sturak

"Anvil" & "Sin Nombre"

Two movies -one Canadian & one Mexican- try to be a breath of fresh air from the hollywood junk we are used to in theatres. Both are coming out on dvd this Tuesday and both are worth seeking out. If you are tired of the consumer junk polluting the cinemas, this post is for you.

Anvil ! : The Story Of Anvil (4/5) is the kind of documentary I love recommending to people that still think it's a worthless format or -even worse- a boring one. Anvil is neither one of these commodities, in fact it's better than anything coming out on dvd this week. The fact the self titled Metal band has been around for close to 3 decades and have inspired the likes of Lars Ulrich and Slash is astonishing- what's even more astonishing is how unknown this band really is. The struggle and courage to carry on and live the dream is a somewhat repetitive theme in the film- which is a kind of real life based Spinal Tap, without the atrociousness & implausibility of course. The Canadian based band is seen going on a worldwide tour where they end up performing -in some instances- to just about 5 people in the crowd. To say this movie has the Rock And Roll spirit is an understatement, Singer Lips and Drummer Robb are not just looking for fame- they are driven by the music and want to spread the word around. It's a shame not many people will catch this heartbreaking and hilarious gem- due to the fact it is so small and so rebellious in its filmmaking. Seek it out and spread the word.

Also out is Sin Nombre (3.5/5), a devastating road movie from Mexico that tells the story of a Teenage gang member that wants out &--in the process- meets a young Mexican girl who wants out of the country w/her father & uncle. On a train they try to reach the border illegally & meet unfortunate circumstances in the process. The movie packs so much in so little time that there really is no room to breathe, in fact there is a reminescent feel to it following such films as Maria Full Of Grace & the more recent Sugar. No worry, Bravely directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga- it's a bold statement on the poverty and gangland that always seems to be around in Mexico. If the ending seems pat and predicatble the rest of the film is fascinating wildride into the Mexican outland- go for it.

Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker"

Now if only every war movie were quite like this one. Yes. It is exhausting. Yes. It is flawed. But is it something to behold in its tightly nit suspenseful sequences, carefully drawn character sketches & Immensely powerful impact that doesn't hit you til the film is done. I'm gonna refrain from what others have done and not call Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker a masterpiece- instead it is as relevant and as poignant as any movie we will likely see this year. It is also the best movie -fiction or non- to be made about the current war in Iraq. A war that is starting to look more and more like Vietnam more than 4 decades ago. The fact that this was directed by a woman is even more astonishing, she has better visual technique than any of the supposed male action directors out there. Bigelow stages every single action sequence as if it were her film's last and the overall impact she gives because of the time she takes gives the film a kind of Western-like feel that makes it feel unforgettable and unvarnished from reality.

The film hits rough patches that don't quite gel with the rest of the sequences & you better get used to watching a plot free movie- then again, there's so much to be had here that it's automatically forgotten once the next action set piece hits. I was struck at how rich & unambiguous her film was. By the end of it, we get to know our three soldiers -including an incredible performances by Jeremy Renner- & you come to the infuriating thought that war is a clueless consequence but a heroic one at that- fuelled by naturally drug induced testosterone. The film opens with a quote that says 'war is a drug' a quote that fits the movie's central character quite well, as his adrenaline and visceral like being takes over any kind of anxiety. Ms. Bigelow has done herself proud and I wouldn't be surprised if we see her honoured by the Academy this year.

"An Education" into making a great movie

There are only 3 months left to the 2009 movie season and -as far as I'm concerned- Hollywood hasn't churned out many great movies, here's one; Lone Scherfig's An Education will renew your passion for film. I wasn't bored by a single one of the 95 minutes I saw and -trust me- that's high praise these days. There is an almost typical naivete to Jenny -incomparably played by Cary Mulligan- as she meets the first love of her life David, a Jewish fraud artist that Jenny sees as the perfect man. David is played by the always reliable Peter Sarsgaard & the character is so well thought out that one might wonder how such a humane character can also be so conniving & -oh boy- thoughtful.

What works so well with Nick Hornsby's screenplay is the way it avoids the usual cliches that usually drown this type of film. I was struck by the number of times I thought 'oh no it's going that direction' & then it goes the other way and surprises us. Buzz has already been talked about on Mulligan's performance, so much so that I won't take much time on it and just say that it is an exceptional one- deserving of all the awards that will likely come her way in the next few months. Jenny isn't exactly a victim in the mess she gets herself into, if anything, she is going through a learning experience that even school cannot dare give her- As Lisa Schwarzbaum pointed out in her review, Jenny could easily be the main character in The Beatles' She's Leaving Home, a song that aptly describes a time when innocence and truth came out for so many women -and- men.

The crisis Jenny goes through in this exceptional movie is a universal one that -sadly- every female had to go through in the early 60's. A decade that would change all that and would quickly position woman's rights as -almost equally-powerful & relevant as men's. Alfred Molina Plays Jenny's Dad and he is as confused as she is about her future. He wants his daughter to have the education she so richly deserves & go to Oxford but he knows that a man like David is an even better choice, because it is a more plausible and successful option than having a diploma & being a woman in the 60's. The film comes out in November, I advise you seek it out.

The Polanski Dilemma

Has there been a more politically polarizing film figure than him this year? I am not writing this to state an epic opinion or to share a belief. It's just that it is so easy accusing someone that sides with Polanski as being Pro Rape or Anti Judicial System. Fact of the matter is very simple -at least on my part it is- Should he be found viably guilty for what he's done? of course, rape should never happen & is a serious cause for consequence But of course, and I know you saw this coming- it's been 30+ years and I'm sick and tired of hearing about Polanski. Mind you, some people don't even realize that he's already spent jail time for his crime and that the reason he escaped The U.S was because of the biased treatment he was getting over there. Mind you, He settled into France where 'Les Artistes' are championed & seen as heroic, no matter how corrupt or devious they are.

I do think people are defending him solely based on who he is and -not to mention- all the excessively devastating things he's gone through in life-Having his pregnant wife murdered by Charles Manson, escaping a Nazi concentration camp during WW2 & Having his mother killed in the Holocaust (Yikes, talk about Psych 101.) I'm gonna refrain from talking about this case again & let you decide your own opinion. It's a tricky thing talking about it - especially with everyone up at arms & coming up with all sorts of clueless conclusions. Yes, that's right, clueless. Let's all settle down here and talk about movies instead of sending out threatening letters to people who voice an opinion such as fellow writers Sasha Stone or Glenn Kenny. That's what pisses me off, not the fact that Polanski is currently in jail but the fact that we cannot even voice our opinions without being scolded and personally attacked.

"Bright Star" & Abbie Cornish

Since this will most likely be THE period piece of the year, I decided to take a look at `Bright Star` tonight & what I found were 2 great performances and great direction muddled by a fairly standard screenplay. Don't get me wrong- I love movies like these, in fact I'm a sucker for Jane Campion's great The Piano or James Ivory's haunting The Remains Of The Day. Both these movies had something that Bright Star lacks, a sense of urgency and uncanny originality that would set them apart from the others. Campion herself directs this movie and she does one hell of a job, setting a slow paced but effectively drawn out mood that -for the most part- had me at hello. The reason I'm writing this review is not for Campion, it's actually for relative newcomer Abbie Cornish who plays Fanny Browne -forbiddenly in love with poet John Keats- and one hell of an actress. She exudes passion and her final scene is incredibly real and stunning. I'm betting she gets an Oscar Nom come January & if she doesn't- then I'm gonna call it a major steal.

Some of you might Remember Cornish as Michelle in Stop-Loss or her small part in Ridley Scott's A Good Year. Those movies didn't showcase her talent enough and shadowed her behind other great actors- Bright Star is her chance to shine & boy does she ever. It`s the best female performance I`ve seen all year. The passion she brings to this movie is astounding. From the many different dresses she wears on screen to the beauty & romance she exudes with her counterpart -an impressive Ben Wishaw- there`s something exciting in discovering an actress blooming and lifting up a somewhat ordinary film. I don`t need to tell you Cornish does that and then some.

Thoughts on Letterman & his past

What I saw last night on Letterman was unlike anything I have seen on the format that we all know to be called Late Night Television. A grown man -TV host David Letterman- admitted to having sex with his staff & went on to recount the bizarre extortion/blackmail he has gone through during the past few days. It is not secret that I am a fan of Letterman and his -shall I say- chronically eccentric comedy & to tell you the truth my reaction to all this is not as layered and complex as others make it out to be. So what if he had sex with his staff? Is he not allowed to? I think it's more shocking that he was extorted to the point where he was fearing for his family's 'safety and well being'. Since this is a mostly cinematic blog and I rarely talk of the dying breed known as Prime Time Television- I do have to say that I am an avid fan of David Letterman & it is one of the few shows left that I actually have a chuckle at every so often. Below is a kind of greatest hits to Letterman's shining -or awkwardly hilarious- moments of glory.

Edit-& I do find it kind of smarmy- whatever that means- that right wing media is ahving a feast on this, especially Drudge, because there really isn't much substance here to garner any controversy or -as the french say- Scandale to the whole affair.

In which he takes the joke known as Paris Hilton & tortures her poor bubble gum soul to the point of sheer exhilaratingly hilarious cringe worthiness. So much so that Hilton ends up having watery eyes & proclaiming that Letterman is making her 'sad' by not leaving alone her stint at the 'slammmer'. This is one of the great interviews of the past 20 years, can't miss.

Ah yes, the days when Maddonna was all over the news & fucking every possible basketball player alive. Letterman does the same thing he did to Hilton; mocks and chuckles at our supposed societal 'Role Models' & inflicts insult after insult to prove his point. Mind you, lowkey inslut after lowkey insult. Another essential Letterman interview.

'Il Ne Reste Rien A Faire'

I don't really know how to explain the finale to Francois Truffaut's Les Quatres Cents Coups- mostly because this is an instant where images are much more powerful than words, but here goes nothing. All throughout the movie you witness the Anti Hero -a boy named Antoine- running from the law. The final scene, shot in a limited few takes has Antoine running away from reform school. You're not sure where's he's headed, with the police on his back & his parents as uncaring as any. The movie starts taking a melancholic but pessimistic turn as you realize where he's going is in fact nowhere- because there's no where else to go. In these final 5 minutes, we are witness to so many things that originate with isolation and the toll it takes on children. Doinel's only real escape in life was the cinema and the poignant last shot of the film does not demean this fact & you are asked with the same question the protagonist is asking- what's next?

Edited 5pm; I didn't intend this be a review of the film, just a snippet of what I consider to be an amazing/abrupt ending to such a unique and groundbreaking film. I do want to pinpoint a noteworthy addition to this whole piece and its the way his parents are portrayed in the film. Everyone has their own ways of looking at their caring for Antoine but what Truffault tends to repeatedly show -in a very low key way- is how they are partially responsible for his demise.