Thursday, September 3, 2009

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.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

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.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

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.

Monday, August 31, 2009

'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.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

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.

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