'The Cove' & Japanese ignorance



Sometimes you forget just how important art can be. It can transcend all other things and provoke you in unimaginable & curious ways. Of course I'm not talking about Transformers 2- far from it. One of the best movies Ive seen all summer is a documentary about a dolphin slaughterhouse in Japan. Any Hollywood movie can have the biggest budget in the world but try to beat the guerrilla filmmaking thrills of Louie Psihoyos' The Cove- which ends the summer movie season on a glorious & important note. The fact that close to 23,000 dolphins are slaughtered every year at a remote cove near the isolated Taiji waters is appalling, what's even more appalling is the fact that nobody knows about it & just how dangerous it is to our societal welfare. Putting their lives on the line a team of trained rebels -including Richard O'Barry-manage to sneak cameras & mics into the restricted cove to uncover the brutality that happens there every day. Barry -who trained Flipper in the 60's- has regret and anger towards the bloodshed & does his bloodsoaked best to send out a message to the people. All were left with is its climax-a scene of startling brutality that has the power to provoke change & spark out the message. God Speed.

'Wendy & Lucy' -Nothing but Everything-



Ive seen Wendy And Lucy twice now & I am quite convinced there is no movie out there like it. Whether you should take this as a compliment depends entirely on your own taste in general. The plot is simple. Girl loses dog in the middle of nowhere, girl looks for dog. That's it, that's all. It's not just a simple movie it's minimalist stuff reminiscent of the French new wave of the 60's. The girl-Wendy- is played by Michelle Williams & what a performance it is. It's a crying shame nobody is talking about how good she is in this film & only refer to her as the Dawson's Creek girl or Heath Ledger's wife. She doesn't have much dialogue- her performance is almost entirely silent yet she speaks so much with just a gesture or two & she possibly has the best closeups Ive seen in a very long time.

This is one of those instances where I can use the term 'nothing happens but everything happens' because that's it in a nutshell. Many will hate the movie just for the sole reason that nothing happens- well maybe that's the point. Its relevance is quietly affecting- Williams' Wendy is stranded in a middle of nowhere America that cannot help you because they need help themselves. With no economic growth & no future in hand, the America portrayed by director Kelly Reichardt -who did Old Joy- is with no promise, no futility & no optimism. There are scenes of startling beauty in this 80 minute film & Ill be the first to admit that some of it drags. You see, whenever a director experiments or tries to make a highly original piece of work such as this one, there will be faults. No matter, it's quite a feat to have this movie around- especially in the MTV age of fast cutting & what I refer to as ADD type editing. In fact Id love for our school systems to purposely attach students by the chair and make them watch this film- it'd be quite the arduous trip for their warped little minds.

An Image 08/31/09



'Maurice Pialat's remarkable 1979 picture Passe ton Bac d'abord...'
Thanks to Glenn Kenny for the absurdist and le indeniable Francais.

Etc, Etc, Etc



A slow week. Although A.O Scott has a Look at a criminally underrated movie from the 90's called Gattaca- I wouldn't go as far as calling it masterful but it's an often forgotten movie & deserved a much better fate upon its intial release. Starring Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman. The idea that in the future when a baby is born you can automatically tell -by DNA Sample- the baby's fate and future medical breakdown. An interesting concept about destiny and the basis of work.

Another noteworthy -but random- note comes from singer/songwriter Bruce Springsteen that's about to celebrate his 60th birthday in September. Here's a great video I found that's already gotten more than 2 million hits on Youtube- It' called Fire & was filmed at Neil Young's annual Bridge Benefit in 1986.

An Image 8/25/09


Eva Green In Bernardo Bertolluci's The Dreamers. I dig. I love its French snobery & full of itself attitude. It's a movie that's definitely aged quite well- judging by the number of fans it is gaining year by year.

'Inglorious Basterds' Redux

Since its the most talked about movie of the weekend- I want chime in some more on Tarantino's WW2 Bloodfest. First off -after having seen it a second time- the flaws stick out more. The dialogue is stretched out, the narrative is uneven, It's too long & there isn't much substance. This is still an entertaining movie made by a man that can't ever make a dull movie but we had the right to expect much more from Tarantino. His real comeback was -and still is- Kill Bill. I'm sure QT fanboys will go all medieval when they read this. Now on with the show.

Random thoughts..



'If your words are less important than silence, then keep quiet'

How fitting a quote to explain Laurent Cantet's new movie The Class - Winner of the Palme D'or at Cannes in 2008- which portrays the french school system in a realistic and incredibly fascinating way. It's french director Laurent Cantet's 5th film and his best one since 2002's L'Emplois Du Temps. It reminded me of my own high school days- the different people, the troubling differences, the classroom vibe and the amount of knowledge one can learn by just listening. The students are played by real students, the teachers are played by real teachers but even more impressive the atmosphere feels real. In fact it's quite possibly the best teacher/class movie Ive ever seen & has a documentary style feel to it. I was reminded of a french documentary I saw many eons ago called 'Etre et Avoir' which dealt more with primary students but had the same attention to detail as Cantet's film.

Whereas the horrendously graphic House On The Left also has its release. I panned the movie a few months ago and you can check that out in the following Link. It's a timely reminder that finding bad movies is more common than finding good ones. Also out is Greg Motolla's slight but loveable Adventureland (Review), Tony Gilroy's Twisty but flawed Duplicity (Review) & The Indie Comedy Sunshine Cleaning (Review). Another random thought comes from Inglourious Basterds, which finished first at the box office this weekend. Writer Peter Travers has a nice little poll happening at RollingStone.com asking which is your favourite Tarantino character & since I cannot stop posting link after link- here's Christopher Nolan's newest film in Glorious HD, Inception.


Happy Monday ! & For you..



She can create time & space
I describe her warm embrace
Her soft skin that needs no cream, no light
Her lips that hypnotize at sight
Her wide green eyes that shine
Because she's mine, I walk the line

So I wait for her call
'Cause the rain is about to fall
Instead I walk with her to the park
I hold her close, I feel a spark
Through her eyes I could see
As we walk past the cedar tree

How it was all meant to be
How It all meant to me

'Inglourious Basterds'



Quentin Tarantino has never made a dull movie. It's as simple as that. Even his weakest one- Death Proof- has scenes that any director only dreams of achieving in a career of film. Tarantino's newest baby -Inglourious Basterds- has all the traits we've come to expect from the bad boy of American cinema. The numbered chapters, cool as ice dialogue & highly over exaggerated violence. It's also overlong, preachy, cartoonish and over the top. Know what? I don't care, what we see ain't boring and sure as hell will wake you up. This isn't Pulp Fiction- still his best movie- but what is these days? Yea, that's what I thought. Just the fact that the movie features a Nazi Baseball bat Killin' Jew -played by Eli Roth- called 'The Bear Jew' is reason enough to recommend Tarantino's over indulgent talky gore fest. I laughed, I cringed & I listened to it's 153 diabolical minutes- take away half an hour and you got something even more satisfying. 5 Chapters (1 mediocre one) & Tarantino having a hell of a ball. The fact that he actually tries to get away with killing Hitler and hundreds of other Infamous Nazi's is hysterical and I couldn't have laughed harder at its 'Piece de resistance'- which involves cinema's revenge on the Nazi's in a hellfire of explosion and brimstone. The excess is too much and at times you wonder what exactly is the point, this is not as triumphant as Kill Bill or as Brazenly alive as Reservoir Dogs- but it is Tarantino and he's always a welcome figure. Glenn Kenny has an interesting Analysis of the film over at his blog- he states that a standard movie must usually have 30-40 'proper' scenes and that this one only has 16.

Slapped with a European 18



Link. Almost nothing gets an 18 rating in Europe, I figured this one would (and it did). This being the case, a North American release would be highly unlikely anytime soon- which is a shame, considering this one has me intrigued in a very curious & pereverse way.

'District 9' -The story of Jekyll and Hyde-



First things first, I'm not big on Sci-Fi. Sure every once in a while we get a movie that defies the genre and transcends its roots, such Minority Report & Children Of Men but for the most part, I'm indifferent to spaceships, futuristic toys & the sudden urge to run away from things. Which is why I was indifferent to watching District 9- produced by Peter Jackson- which has been getting surprisingly positive feedback from audiences and critics- not to mention its 30 million dollar box office opening this past weekend. Directed by South African newcomer Neil Blomkamp, I was highly impressed by its social relevance and the mirrored reflection it takes on the South African Apartheid & not to mention Acting newcomer Shartlo Copley, exceedingly good as a man infected by an alien transformative virus.

The first half completely floored me, I was wondering 'what the hell is going on here' ? which is always a good thing as far as I'm concerned, meaning a movie has caught you off guard and gotten you intrigued by its concept. What I didn't like was the last third of the film- which changes from the first half's social consciousness of integration into another run of the mill action blockbuster. Don't get me wrong, this is not a bad movie- but if only it would have stuck to its original roots and layed down the action a little less. Its first 90 minutes are a solid foundation to build upon with undeniable shades of the world we live in but its last 20 turn into a Transformers type of movie, which -as far as I'm concerned- is never a good thing. This is not a mixed review but call me disappointed.

Attention Chan Woo Park



A 17-year-old Brazilian schoolgirl stunned cops by admitting a serial killing spree that started when she was just 15. She was held on Monday for knifing 30 men to death. She told detectives she wanted to confess before she turned 18 and could be tried as an adult reports Fox News. The girl – who can't be named as she is a minor – said she began targeting men in her home city of Sao Paulo, Brazil "for money, revenge and justice." She bragged to police,: "I don't have enough cour-age to hold a gun — but I can hold a knife." But police are still unclear about what drove her to keep on killing. Sources said one theory is she was hired by gangland bosses as an assassin because she was so innocent-looking. The teenager's sensational confession came after she was arrested over a Sao Paulo street fight.

This taken from The Times Of India and further proof that our society has managed to outdo itself on a daily basis. On a side Note, having Chan Woo Park direct a story based on this would be just awesome. My review of District 9 should be up shortly.

In honor of the 'man'..


Joaquin Phoenix, circa 2009 & heavily bearded.
This Link in case you're lost, dazed and confused.

'Pill Poppin eccentric bearded man'



James Gray's heartbreaking Two Lovers is out on DVD. Here's my review, posted a few months back. It's worth watching alone for Joaquin Phoenix's grandiose -supposedly final- screen performance (before he became the titular man of this topic) & the always reliable Gwyneth Paltrow as his subjective muse. It's easily Gray's best and most mature film and one of my favourite movies this year.

Also out is the Mike Tyson documentary which had its premiere at Sundance and got released in April. With any documentary in which the main subject narrates, there are biases and there are missteps but Tyson is worth a look because of curiosity alone and for the way he shrugs off his marriage abuse and rape accusations as if they could never have happened. It also somehow manages to have the viewer sympathize with Iron Mike in his search for a 'what the fuck does my life mean' ideal. A worthy rental & something that gives new meaning to the phrase 'There's always two sides to a story.

Tarantino on Scorsese



In which Quentin Tarantino talks of an interesting mythic rumor concerning Scorsese and the making of his masterful Taxi Driver. I've always heard of this legend but never really knew if it was fact or fiction and I still don't. Taxi Driver is one of those films that grew on me as the years went by, my first impressions of it were very minimal and unimpressive but there's something dark and sadistic about the underworld portrayed by writer Paul Schrader- so much so that many years after having seen it, I think it might be his best film. The finale is also the stuff of legend- in which you are not entirely sure if what you have just seen actually happened or was a dream reality thought out by Deniro's Travis Bickle. The influence is still there- read my review of May's Observe And Report, which has similar themes to Taxi Driver. Talkin about Tarantino, I should have my review of Inglorious Basterds up at some point next week.

Image 8/18/09





Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away is too good to be true. Quite possibly the best animated movie I have ever seen. Think The Wizard Of Oz meets Twin Peaks and you'll understand what kind of trip it is. Miyazaki has always had a way of telling a story in his own, uniquely imaginative way. Here he encompasses all the promise he first brought in his earlier films and knocks all of those out with this one, a story that encompasses the same themes he's worked with since the beginning of his career -friendship, love, dreams- and make his grand opera out of sheer wild lunacy. Chiiro, the film's heroine, is a little girl that gets lost and swept up into a furiously colorful but dark world that has the most creatively imaginable characters you have ever seen in an animated movie. The way Miayazaki uses colors here is extraordinary, especially when you find out that he still animates his films the old school way and with as little special effects machinery as possible. It's a beautiful work of art that rightly gets name checked in any animation student's book. I can guarantee you've never seen anything quite like this one. It's very dreamy- right up my alley- and features scene after scene of Ecstasy and inventiveness. Every director is known for a certain movie or creation. Miyazaki will always be known for Spirited Away.

Dedicated to a special someone


Iris, Claude Monet 1900

'Stupid is as stupid does'

In the world of film there are idiots and then there's New York Press critic Armond White. The past week, people are finally giving time & day to criticize a man that has denounced every form of art released in film today and championed the bonheadedness of Michael Bay and Tyler Perry. His latest endeavour in oblivion is his infamous review of the just released District 9, which he classifies as 'racist' and 'juvenile'. Roger Ebert has been one of the few supporters of Whte's rant in an interesting but ultimately unsatisfying defensive essay. Yes, White writes for an Alternative news weekly but how far is too far? Alternative news IS a different alternative medium to the news but when what is written is comic and absurd- there must be a line crossed and questions that need to be asked. Comparing a scene from GI Joe to french master Godard is insane, so is saying that Transformers 2 director Michael Bay is a Visionary. White sets the bar high for stupidity. I guess stupid is as stupid does.

'Che'



Now that I've seen Steven Sodebergh's 4 hour epic about Argentinian communist/revolutionist Che Guevara, I have gathered around concrete thoughts about what it all means & why in the living hell he would release such a thing. First off the accusations that Sodebergh is a communist just based on the fact that he has made a movie entirely about a communist is freakishly funny. As Glenn Kenny pointed out, this is far from being a 'valentine' to the guerrilla leader- it's just a look at a man that won his first revolution but sought out to change the world even more and failed. There is boredom and scenes that don't quite fit- scenes that were just out in the open for historical purposes but when the movies kicks it really kicks. The war zone is populated by desperation and the need to fight for the cause but what sodebergh tries to explore here is how a man that was a hero to millions became an embattled & failed warrior. Castro's Cuba is still Castro's Cuba in 2009- which is why the relevance of this movie is very existant, 50 years later. There is definitely a very mixed feeling in watching a movie this long and this arduous without actually asking yourself- why bother? I cannot complain about something this ambitious and expertly made even if I wouldn't necessarily highly recommend it. The fact that not every one of its 257 minutes gathered on screen works is furstrating- even more frustrating is the fact that the action is almost non existant and its pace asks you to be patient, very. This is not the landmark movie we were all anticipating but Benicio Del Toro's performance is even better that I originally thought it would be- to say he's electrifying would make me sound cliched and full of myself, but he is. Judging by his recent films, Sodebergh does not have the same magic touch he had with his astonishing stretch of films from 1998-2001 (Out Of Sight, The Limey, Traffic, Erin Brokovich & Ocean's Eleven). Since Then he's resorted to Artsy, ambitious fare that has steeped from the mundane to the messy- altough I appreciate his remake of Solaris and the more recent The Girlfriend Experience. Che falls in the middle and -to tell you the truth- I actually can't make up my mind about it. Call this a mixed review.

In which I gracefully ramble on...



Why do so many movies disappoint? The quality and substance is decisively lower and there's no reason in thinking it's getting any better. There were years in which I could actually pick as many as 30 great movies but the times have changed, if I'm lucky I find half that amount these days. I remember 1999, in which movies of startling originality came out every week- American Beauty, Being John Malkovich, Magnolia, Fight Club, The Sixth Sense, Boys Don't Cry to name a few. I find it somewhat disturbing that much of the blame is always layed down on the generalization that Americans are 'stupid' and the notion that everything has to do with the dumbing down of America. Just because well reviewed, smaller movies fail at the box office does not mean it is the public's fault for not listening to critical opinion. Movie critics can only tell you if a movie is good, they do not have the power to put your ass in the seat- contrary to what Roger Ebert thinks in his recent essay on The Hurt Locker's lack of Box Office. The best I can do is tell you what's good and what's worth seeing and mention that quality stuff IS in fact still out there- such as 500 Days Of Summer, Up & Public Enemies.



The days of having one great movie a week are long gone and so, our expectations need to be lowered. It isn't just in North America that civilization and art is declining. Look at the recent Paris Match- in which a nude Sharon Stone makes the cover with a headline title reading '50 and stunning' -Thanks to Glenn Kenny for the worthy example. It's not just happening here, it's happening everywhere and it's been happening for decades. Michael Jackson Dies and the press has a field day. GI Joe & Transformers come out, they skyrocket to the top of every country's box office. The sad truth is we are populated & pummeled by dumbed down art and dumbed down messages. We are a long way from Chaplin trying to get the Flower Girl- instead were in the Transformers era- where everything that's louder, bigger & without message is celebrated. Whereas anything deep, incisive and artful is dismissed as too boring or slow. Sadly, there's no reason to think this is going to change.

Huh?



Those right wing bullies are at it again. I must say it's a creative stab -taking a cue from The Joker- but they should really just give it a rest. whomever's responsible for this clearly has too much time in their hands. Matt Drudge ended up posting it on his site a few days ago- why am I not surprised? The length some people would go to try and justify their beliefs is hilarious and very scary. On a side note, this proves the relevance and influence The Dark Knight -especially Ledger's Joker- has had on our culture in general.

John Hughes 1950-2009

I'm not a John Hughes Fan, I respect what he did but his films always struck me as too conventional. Call me a snob but that's how I've always felt about him. There's no denying the impact he's had with teenagers and the way that target audience drooled at his altar of brat pack characters-they still do to this day (even well into their 40's). So as people Mourn a man that surely had a timely sense of humor and a good heart- I can't help but feel like I just didn't get the man and his art. Roger Ebert proclaimed him as the inventor of the 'Modern American Teenager Film' and no matter how unoriginal I believe his movies to be, there is some truth to that statement. One thing I can't deny is the heart he put into everything he did- there was always a sense of genuine naivety to his characters and the words he wrote always meant well. His later work in the 90's and this decade was frustrating and non existant- he took in the pseudonyn of Edmond Dantes- he was eccentric and strange but which artist isn't. His presence in the industry will no doubt be missed.

Talkin' about Marilyn..



I saw her again in Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot- which features a slew of one liners and one of the best movie endings I've ever seen.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLW5jzHsW7c

This was the first film in the Hollywood Era to actually have some sort of connection -albeit a minimal one- to homosexuality and drag. It was the beginning of a movement we now call Queer Cinema, kickstarted in the 90's. In fact, Billy Wilder had quite a few hidden references to Homosexuality in his later films, including The Lost Weekend. I can also think of Dog Day Afternoon-released 16 years later- in which Al Pacino takes a bank hostage to get money for his lover's sex change operation or how about one year earlier when The Rock Horror Picture Show came out and made drag an openly public/mainstream affair. This all happened way before Jake Gyllenhall and Heath Ledger went brokeback on us.

An Image 08/05/09 & Marilyn Monroe Syndrome



Cathering Deneuve in Belle De Jour & a picture that defined the 60's french sex symbol. She is still making movies 40 some odd years later- watch Von Trier's Dancer In The Dark and the more recent 8 Femmes. She sadly suffered the same fate as Marilyn Monore did- remembered more for her looks than her actual acting abilities. Monroe did a few good movies such as Some Like It Hot and The Seven Year Itch but she didn't have much acting to do in those films she was just being Marilyn- the giggly airhead type. Denueve is the opposite, she DID extend her acting abilities but her looks overshadowed everything she did and what we are left with is this incredible image from Luis Bunuel's film.

'Funny People'



I'm a big fan of Judd Apatow's comedy -Knocked Up & The 40 Year Old Virgin- mostly because there's always a feeling that it's not just comedy but also human emotions at play. Although Steve Carrell was a loony joke as the 'virgin' he had a carefully written role that demanded more than just jokes and in Knocked Up, Kathryn Heigel asked- No, make that demanded- Seth Rogen to lose his schlub lifestyle for a more serious life as a parent. Funny People is the weakest movie of Apatow's short career, it's also his most personal, ambitious and heartfelt one. It is by no means a total failure, there are scenes of great comedy and effortless abandon. What makes it a disappointment is the fact that you were allowed to expect more from a writer/director who's style everyone is trying to copy these days. The film is too long and should have been much shorter, it also doesn't have much of a flow and -contrary to his past 2 movies- it doesn't mix the drama and comedy as well. Sandler plays -well- Sandler and Rogen plays the same role he always plays- The schlub (God, I love that word). Some comparisons have been made to describe the film as Woody Allen-esque but I wouldn't go that far- Because this is Apatow's most 'Auteuristic' and personal film (loosely based on his days as Sandler's roomate during their comedy club days) I'd actually venture towards a more Truffault-esque play of words and say it reminded me of the French Auteur's later venture into Dramedy.

A Serious Man (Trailer) -In Glorious HD



I'm a self professed 'Coenhead'. As far as I'm concerned they haven't made a single boring movie in their 25 year movie career. They might have made a few duds (Burn Afer Reading & Intolerable Cruelty) but those duds were never dull. This new film looks interesting and something tells me he's not gonna be alright.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ieot859uTDs

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