I haven’t posted anything in the last two weeks and for that I apologize. Recently I’ve become much busier than I was throughout the summer. This has led to some complications when it comes to writing pieces for this website. At this point I can’t really determine whether I’m going to be able to consistently update this or not considering how I barely have time to watch movies at all, let alone write something about them. So what I’ve decided to do is that for the duration of September I won’t be posting anything on here. By the end of the month I should be able to determine how I can make this work. Thanks and hopefully I’ll see you in October.
Fifteen Criterions That I Wish Were Real
The Criterion Collection is responsible for releasing some of the highest quality DVDs and Blu-Rays available today. One of my favorite parts of their products are their awesome covers. While browsing around the internet today I came across a website called Fake Criterions that, as the title suggests, makes fake criterion covers for films that have yet to be released by the collection. I ended up looking through all 68 pages of its incredible content and got an idea. Below are fifteen of the fake Criterions that I saw that I wish would actually be released by Criterion.
2001: A Space Odyssey
The monolith, the red circle of HAL in the “o”, the sci-fi font, the perfect screenshot. No better way to capture the film.
Somehow manages to capture the beauty of a Terrence Malick film. Also a remastered blu-ray version of this be incredible.
The Criterion collection needs some Paul Thomas Anderson. Also the cover is an excellent color scheme applied to the opening shot of the film. It feels 70’s.
Perfect. It is perfect.
All of the best shots showcased on one incredible cover.
Simon Pegg is a stone cold badass. That is all.
I’m Not There
Interesting coloring plus all of the major characters shown on one cover. No other way to describe it except awesome.
Lost In Translation
No shot better captures the entire essence of the film than the shot shown here.
The perfect image to capture the eery and weird feel of this film.
Considering how they have essentially every other Ingmar Bergman film in the criterion collection it’s long overdue that they add Persona. As for the cover there is no better way to showcase this film than by using just still shots of the excellent cinematography.
The collection is clearly lacking in Scorsese and what better film to help with that problem than Raging Bull?
Probably my favorite cover on the list.
The more Kubrick in the collection, the better.
There Will Be Blood
That red bowling combined with the shot Daniel Day-Lewis is pretty dark and haunting.
The Tree Of Life
A beautiful film like this deserves to be released on a beautiful Criterion blu-ray.
Finally I’ve saved the best for last. An extra cover that I found too spectacular to ignore:
Just about as good as the film itself.
Top 10 of the 2000’s
For a while I’ve been considering listing the ten best films of each decade and decided to start it off with the most recent. Keep in mind that I haven’t seen every film released in-between the years 2000 and 2009 so this list is made up of the ten best films released in that span that I have seen. Here they are:
10. Waltz With Bashir directed by Ari Folman
Waltz With Bashir is, without a doubt, the best animated film that I have ever seen and quite possibly the finest documentary that I have ever seen. It takes elements of both these styles of film and combines them in such a way that leaves you in awe of what you are watching on screen. It illustrates the horrors of war using some of the most beautiful animation I’ve ever seen while still managing to contain your interest with the actual story-lines. The film is made up of a series of vignettes and testimonies that range from beautiful to horrifying but always keep you captivated. It is a unique film I would not only list as one of the best of the 2000’s but also as one of the best I’ve ever seen.
9. Brokeback Mountain directed by Ang Lee
I challenge you to find a more heartbreaking love story than that of the two cowboys Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist. This is a film that is perfect in every department. The direction by Ang Lee is masterful, the cinematography is beautiful, and the acting is extraordinary. The work on display here by the late Heath Ledger is some of the finest acting that has ever been captured on film and will soon be held as one of greatest performances of all time. This film is nothing short of perfection.
8. The White Ribbon directed by Michael Haneke
This is a film that stays with you long after the credits has stopped. Through immaculate direction, beautiful cinematography, and a variety of haunting performances filmmaker Michael Haneke managed to create one of the most unforgettable films of the 21st century thus far.
7. Hunger directed by Steve McQueen
The first time I watched this I was left sitting, unable to move, and shaking. This is the film that has probably had the most direct affect on me emotionally. It is beyond brutal and at times it is hard to witness, but by the time you make it to the credit’s you’ll have witnessed something incredible.
6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind directed by Michel Gondry
A man’s memories of his ex-girlfriend are being deleted and he attempts to save them by traveling through his subconscious. Only Charlie Kaufman could craft a story like this and manage to make it so extraordinarily well done. Utter brilliance.
5. American Psycho directed by Mary Harron
My love for American Psycho is unending. Hell, it’s the inspiration for the name of this website. Full of insanely quotable lines, fantastic acting by Christian Bale, one of the most fascinating characters of recent years, and it makes me laugh with every viewing. I’m happy to call this one of the best films of the 2000’s.
4. Mulholland Drive directed by David Lynch
I’ve seen this film four times. Four times. I still have no idea what the hell happened. Doesn’t stop the film from being perfect though.
3. Synecdoche, New York directed by Charlie Kaufman
Charlie Kaufman’s directorial debut is what Roger Ebert called the best of the decade and it comes very close to being the same for me. A perfectly complex screenplay, a excellent leading performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman, and a wonderful ensemble cast featuring the brilliant work of Michelle Williams, Catherine Keener, and Tom Noonan. These are a few of the reasons why I consider this film to be a masterpiece and one of the greatest films ever made.
2. There Will Be Blood directed by Paul Thomas Anderon
What is there to say about this film that hasn’t already been said? Daniel Day-Lewis delivers the best performance of his career, the decade, and maybe of all time. Paul Thomas Anderson is a cinematic master who, in this film, created one of my favorite characters of all time. This film drinks my milkshake every time I see it.
1. Werckmeister Harmonies directed by Bela Tarr
There are no words I can use that would properly describe the brilliance of this film and the profound affect it has had on me. It’s something that you just have to see yourself. This is the true definition of the term masterpiece.
There you have it. Would any of these be on your list?
Excellence in Direction #3: The 400 Blows
The other day I had the pleasure of watching François Truffaut’s 1959 film The 400 Blows. The film itself is extraordinary and without a doubt one of the finest I’ve ever seen and this can be illustrated through it’s many flawless scenes. The thing that makes a great film is when every scene is just flawless. You can try and find some type of flaw, whether is be in the cinematography, the acting, the writing, etc but you never can find something to complain about. For me, this was the case with The 400 Blows.
François Truffaut is a filmmaker that I have yet to explore in detail but just from his work in this film it is clear that he has great talent behind the camera. One of the best examples of his is this films final scene. When taken out of the context of the film this scene may just appear to be a series of shots showing a young boy running, but if you have just spent the last hour a half witnessing this boys troubled adolescence then it means so much more. As I said before, every element of this scene is perfection. The only difference is that rather than focusing on writing and acting this is more about aesthetics . The cinematography is excellent, the music is wonderful, and when it all comes together it creates one of the finest ending shots I’ve ever seen.
Warrior is a film that holds nothing back as you witness the colliding lives of three estranged members of a family as issues, both new and old, arise. The story follows three main characters. These characters are brothers Tommy and Brendan Conlon and their father Paddy. This film follows the brothers separate struggles, both of which lead to the Sparta MMA competition in Atlantic City. Tommy is a bit of a drifter who reunites with his father after a number of years and seeks him out to be his trainer so he can win this competition. He isn’t really given any motivation to win and really he doesn’t speak that much, but when he does you can sense everything you need to know about him. The other brother, Brendan, a high school teacher, has a wife, two little girls, and a home that’s about to be foreclosed on. He attempts to bring in some money to stop this by participating in small fighting tournaments which end up getting him suspended from the school that he works at. This leaves him only one option: to participate in this mass fighting tournament that could get him five million dollars quickly. It isn’t a very complex plot-line but it’s executed very well.
The thing that really keeps this film afloat is the relationships between the three leads and the performances that make them feel so real. The oldest brother, Brendan, is played by Joel Edgerton who really surprised me with his stellar performance. His greatest scene in this film comes in the ring against his brother and he conveys such great emotion through his face in that moment and it really left me astonished. The anguish and hesitance in that moment pains his character so much and it shows. The younger brother, Tommy, is played by the always excellent Tom Hardy in one of his best performances. Tommy is the more complex of the two characters and his extra backstory makes for a multi-layered performance. Tommy is a man full of shame, regret, and, more than anything, sheer anger. Tommy is not proud of what he has done in his past and he takes this shame and turns it into this animosity towards the world. It’s clear that the events through his childhood shaped this quiet figure that you are watching on screen, and this is all able to be inferred through Hardy’s incredible portrayal that adds something more to the character.
Then third major character is Paddy Conlon, the father of the two brothers played by Nick Nolte. This is the real standout performance in a film full of standout performances. What Nolte achieves here is nothing short of spectacular as the formerly alcoholic father who has managed to reform his life by getting sober and finding Jesus. This character in itself sounds like a bit of a cliche but in the context of this film it is anything but that. Nolte inhabits the character with a blend desperation, power and humility that results in one of the best performances of last year. Paddy regrets what he put his children through and even with his changed nature he knows that they won’t accept him. The most heartbreaking scenes in the film occur between him and either of his sons as he begs to be an important part of their lives, and they just deny him anything. There is one scene in particular where he shows up in from of Brendan’s house to tell him about how he just reached his 1000th day sober in attempt to prove that he’s changed. Rather than doing anything resembling some type of acceptance he just denies his father any access to his life. Nolte’s frailty in this is scene is truly marvelous, as is his entire performance.
At this point I think I’ve established that the acting is strong enough to carry this film but there is more to it than just the performances. The director Gavin O’Conner really did a great job capturing the atmosphere of the films surroundings. Take, for example, the fights at Sparta. Everything from the energy in the crowd to the commentators, cameramen, and every other aspect of the experience is accounted for. When this all comes together it manages creates a series of very well-shot scenes with a great atmosphere. There’s also one other scene that I have to praise the director and the several editors for. It is a law in sports movie that they have to have a training montage that gets the viewer excited for what’s to come, and this film has one of the best training montages that I have ever seen. Due to the split story-line (One for each brother) there are two entirely different training regiments being done. In this one several minute segment you get to see each of them train and during these training clips you also get to see essentially ESPN clips regarding MMA and the upcoming Sparta event. It is extraordinarily well done and one of my favorite scenes in the film.
All in all Warrior is a one of the best sports films to be released in the last several years. It is an engaging story filled with remarkable acting and great writing. Well worth the watch.
The Art of Stand-Up Comedy
When properly executed, stand-up comedy routines can become some of the most entertaining experiences one can have. In order for it to reach that peak level of quality it has to contain of the usual factors that makes comedy great. What you like is subjective but, in my mind, for a comedy routine to be successful it’s humor has to be clever. It has to be something that original and hilarious. No one is going to laugh at something thats already been repeated. What this results in is that all of the true top-tier comedians are just great story-tellers with a twist. Today, rather than watching films, i decided to watch three comedy specials. One entitled Talking Funny which consisted of four of todays greatest comedians (Louis C.K., Ricky Gervais, Jerry Seinfeld, and Chris Rock) talking about comedy as a whole. The other two were both acts by Louis C.K. One was called Shameless which was my favorite of the two, and the other was called Chewed Up. I’m going to give brief reviews on each of them while touching on what made them funny.
Talking Funny manages to be both incredibly entertaining and very interesting. It may just be me but I was truly fascinated by the differences and similarities between how each comedian created and crafted their final acts. This may not seem very interesting but each of these men’s natural comedic gifts allow it to be so much more than just explanations. This is just a conversation. There is no interviewer, no questions, no real topics. All there is are four drastically different personalities bouncing off of each other.
Between discussions of the mechanics of what makes stand-up routines there are plenty of amusing anecdotes and revisited jokes supplied by each of the comedians. Some of the jokes that were talked about I had never heard before which added a new level of entertainment to it. One of my favorites was Louis C.K. delivering one of Chris Rock’s jokes which was “When white people are rich, they’re just rich forever and ever. But when a black guy gets rich it’s just countdown to when he’s poor again.” It’s all just really funny stuff.
This special combines the humor of a stand-up routine, the information of a documentary, and the casual-ness of a regular conversation. All together it is an incredibly entertaining little film.
Shameless by Louis C.K.
I’m tempted to review these next two comedy specials simply by copying down the hilarity of Louis C.K. Word for word. That is how good his bits are. His delivery and his personality clearly add something to the bits but when it comes down to it he just has incredible content. Louis C.K. doesn’t really tell jokes, per se. Instead he just talks about all the (usually shitty) things in his life and dissects parts of them until somehow through his comedy magic they become hilarious.
One of my favorite examples of this is one of his first bits where he’s talking about his friend who instant messages him. His friend is on a plane and Louis tells him he hopes the plane crashes. The guy tells him to take it back and Louis says “Fuck you, I hope it crashes”, and the friend replies asking him how he would feel if the plane crashes and Louis says “That would be amazing. To know that I can crash planes. I’d happily give your live for knowledge of these powers.” It’s just simple things like that. He starts the bit talking about how stupid instant messages are, transfers to talking about an argument with his friend, and ends with rooting for a plane to crash and for his friend to die. None of these topics are naturally funny but he seems to have a natural ability to make it hilarious.
The entirety of the act is at the highest caliber when it comes to his routines, but that doesn’t mean that everyone will enjoy this. He really doesn’t have any boundaries t all when it comes to his content. He talks about everything and he talks about them with brutal honest. It’s one of the many things I love about his act. I get that there are many people that find him too vulgar but for me it is all perfection.
Chewed Up by Louis C.K.
The first few minutes of this performance wasn’t really something I found entertaining and is probably the only reason why I consider this to be the worst of his that I’ve seen. He opens up talking about the word faggot and its multiple meanings. How he used it as a kid for just someone being annoying or just “being a faggot.” This was one of his few bits that I didn’t really find that entertaining. It certainly had moments where it reached proper C.K. caliber like him watching two guys blow each other and how he would never call them faggots unless one of them took the dick out of their mouth and said something like “People from Phoenix are Phoenisians.” I’ll admit it. That line made me laugh pretty hard, but overall it was hardly comparable to his the rest of the special. Consider it a blemish on an otherwise flawless piece.
I may be considerably biased when it comes to reviewing Louis C.K.’s stand up but I really just love his act. Like I said earlier: comedy is subjective. For me as long as the comedy is like this I will always laugh hysterically.
Excellence in Writing #2: The Great Dictator
To this day Charlie Chaplin’s speech as The Barber at the end of his film The Great Dictator stands as not only one of my favorite scenes of all time, but also as the most moved I’ve ever been by a scene in film. What the speech encapsulates is an essence of hope and goodness in a world full of evil men. A hope that, at the time it was released, was scarce because of the acts of the wretched and the unkind. Whether they be evil men masquerading as helpful hands (politicians) or just downright evil men who are committing atrocities (Adolf Hitler) is irrelevant. All that really matter is that humanity must never give up on being kind and helping each-other, no matter how much evil there might be.
The thing that really stands out to me about this speech is just how accurate it is over seventy years after it’s original 1940 release. Everything that Chaplin wrote is just as relevant today as it was then, and that is because the speech will always relate to humanity and society all throughout time. In the face of evil there will always be men who will stand up for the kindness of the world,and that is exactly what is shown here.
This clip and it’s meaning can stand alone as it’s own entity, but when put into the context of the film and the character it becomes all the more meaningful. This is a man who has persecuted by a dictator and his drones for something he couldn’t control. This is a man who has faced down evil and intolerance but still believes in a better tomorrow. To me there is nothing more beautiful than this scene and it is one of the many reasons why I consider The Great Dictator to be one of the finest films of all time.
This is a speech that was written with passion and belief behind it and it shows:
What Chris Marker’s short film La Jetée manages to achieve in just 28 minutes of Black & White still photographs with voiceover narration is nothing short of miraculous. This film quite literally bends the ordinary method of storytelling used in film. Rather than utilizing the “moving pictures” aspect of cinema it tells its story with beautifully shot still photographs of the scenes and the characters which is accompanied by one of the most beautiful film scores I’ve ever heard and excellent narration provided by Jean Negroni.
The thing that really drew me into this film was the images used to illustrate the story. Not only are the images in this film beautiful but they are also astoundingly efficient in conveying the story and triggering a reaction in the viewer. The best example of this in my mind was when the main character referred to only as “The Man” is first being experimented on by “The Experimenter” and you see a series of still shots showing his head reeling back in anguish which is accompanied by the constant sound of his heartbeat rising. This scene was just as haunting as any regular scene would be, if not even more haunting due to the score and the Black & White photography.
The story of this film explores the concept of time travel in a post-apocalyptic world. It follows the story of “The Man” as he grows from a boy in the time leading up to World War lll to a man being held in a post-apocalyptic prison led by scientists. In this post-apocalyptic world the only human survivors are referred to as “The Victors” and they live underground in order to avoid the radioactivity above. The scientists in this underground prison are attempting to travel into either into the past or the future in order to find a way to same the human race which they claim is doomed. All of the prisoners they test on either die or go mad. That is, until they test on the main character.
The Man has greater mental images of his past which makes him the more able applicant for such tests. Eventually after great suffering he is sent back with the memory of a woman’s face he saw at the airport just before witnessing a man’s death. He becomes close with “The Woman” who he only sees when he is sent back which ranges many years in time. Their relationship grows even with this oddity in his visits and they explore together. They experience life and they create memories for The Man. Eventually events transpire that am I not going to ruin but it results in an excellent conclusion that ends a beautiful, haunting, heartbreaking, and sometimes terrifying film.
I can not write much about this film considering the fact that I don’t think I truly understood what it meant. This is a perfect film that in my eyes demands repeat viewings. This was my first foray into the world of Chris Marker after hearing about his death about two weeks ago, and it was an astounding journey.
Boy Wonder applies a darker formula to the modern day vigilante superhero trend that has become popular in movies today (Kick-Ass, Super). The thing about those two films is that they were clever, entertaining, and all around quality films. Boy Wonder doesn’t attempt to be like those films. It’s more like Christopher Nolan’s Batman series with its dark and dramatic undertones. The problem with that is that the writing and the performances in this film simply cannot support any type of heavy drama, and end up resulting in a lackluster film.
At a young age Sean Donovan watched his mother get murdered about a foot in front of him, and he has spent all of his life since then in a state of shock which has culminated in psychopathic behaviors. Sean wants justice and, more importantly, vengeance. Vengeance against the scum who have managed to hurt people and get away with it which is, oddly enough, exactly what Sean does throughout the entire film. My first problem.
My second problem comes from the character of Sean and his progression and interactions. Sean kills with no remorse and never feels any grief over his actions thereby solidifying the fact that he must be a psychopath. Right? Well if this is the case then why didn’t the writers embrace the fact that they were creating a highly deranged mentally ill character? Rather than continuing with him being a cold killer they decide to put him in a variety of situations where he “experiences” emotion. There are two that stick out to me the most. The first is when he’s sitting on a bench talking to his new friend Detective Ames (A hotshot new homicide detective) and he’s explaining why he can’t move on about his mother. I don’t know if they wrote it this way or Caleb Steinmeyer was unable to convey this properly but it seemed like he was trying to cry or express sadness in some way. I got that he was trying, but he wasn’t very successful. That is how I would sum up his performance. He never successfully conveyed anything but anger in any part of the film except the ending. This comes to my next problem: the acting.
The acting in this film is terrible, excluding the last twenty minutes of the film. In fact for everything regarding this film you should exclude the last twenty minutes of them film as they are infinitely better than the rest of it. All of the lines are delivered without the smallest bit of conviction. This can be applied to all of the actors excluding Bill Sage as Seans father and Chuck Cooper with a very small part as the leader of the homicide department and Sean’s first real helper, Billy. Allow me to talk about Billy for a moment. Billy was the only one helping Sean, he was his friend, and yet they chose to give him the smallest of parts and make his character an asshole. I still have no idea why they chose to do this as they could have made him the one who attempts to save Sean which would’ve worked much better.
Anyway, the delivery of all of the lines is wooden which can either be attributed to the lack of talent in the actors or the generally stale dialogue. All of these characters are in these huge emotional situations whether they be divorce that the writer just seemed to throw in to add more drama, and then left them all unexplored. This left the film entirely overcomplicated with unnecessary story-lines. There is no better example than that of Detective Ames with her divorce and loss of custody. You see her child once and yet it’s brought up at least five times or more. I feel like it was supposed to add importance and to highlight her sacrifice, but I think I was too distracted attempting to use my decoder ring to figure what emotions the characters were feeling. This shouldn’t be a 90 minute film, it should be a two and a half hour film with ample time to explore the group of supporting characters and their personal stories. Either that or they shouldn’t have mentioned them at all.
At this point I think i have touched on all of the problems I had with the film (Writing, acting) so now let me touch on the positives. The setting and the cinematography is great. It has the very dark gritty feel down correctly it just has nothing to support the aesthetics. Finally comes the one thing that made this film somewhat worth watching: The finale. Without spoiling anything the finale of this film is excellent. The last fifteen minutes are when Sean really snaps and just goes on a type of vengeance-induced psychotic rampage that wraps itself up with a true ending. It doesn’t attempt to fix anything or make it any less depressing. It just happens, and I congratulate the writer for doing that.
Overall it was a mess of a film that I strongly disliked. The worst I’ve seen in a while.
The Sound of Music #1: I’m Not There
Welcome to The Sound of Music! This is a new series that I’m starting that focuses on my favorite uses of music in film. I love music, and nothing gets me more into a film than a director using music to enhance the impact of a scene or making a scene that suits its music perfectly. Here’s the first edition of the series:
I’m not there is a film that creates it’s best scenes through the way it utilizes the songs of Bob Dylan, and there is no better example of that then the scene that revolves around “Ballad of a Thin Man”. The origin of the song was that Bob Dylan hated the press and wrote this song about the interviewers who frustrated him so much. At the point in the film where this song is used Cate Blanchett’s character, Jude, is being interviewed by Keenan Jones. The conversation they have accurately portrays word-for-word an interview that Dylan actually had with a reporter from Time magazine. It really highlights the mystery of Dylan as a man and as an artist. The conversation between Jude and Keenan gets to the point where Jude leaves the car out of anger, yells at Keenan, and leaves. It is then that my favorite scene in the movie begins.
What follows is quite possibly my favorite use of music in film. Ever. At some point I plan on analyzing this scene, shot-for-shot and attempt to unveil the meanings of every surreal aspect of this sequence, and that will take a very long amount of time. This is because director Todd Haynes created every shot with a purpose. Not only does the plot relate to the lyrics but also what is happening on screen relates to the lyrics. It’s like a music video interrupts the film but still manages to continue the plot. It may not work for everyone, but it certainly worked for me.
Allow me to present this flawless scene featuring Ballad of a Thin Man performed by Stephen Malkmus & The Million Dollar Bashers: