The Man Who Skied Down Everest

Haven't seen this documentary in years, but it popped into my head today.

It was on PBS, some 25-30 years ago.

A slice:



Ratcatcher, a hidden Criterion Collection jewel.

Sorry I was quiet, crazy working hours.... but had some movies in my bag :)
Just watched it.... Ratcatcher is one of those hidden Criterion Collection's treasures.... you wonder how the hell it went overlooked like this. Few days ago I wasted an hour on a piece of Eurotrash that was hailed by everybody (The Diving Bell and The Butterfly, that even won few awards in 2007-08).
Ramsay's first feature should be added to those great first works (knife in the water, spirit of the beehive... etc). I'm really surprised that it didn't catch more attention, even for those who are not interested in movie making per se, it is such a well-told story and that's more than enough.

The movie takes place in Glasgow (where the director was born and raised) in 1973, when the garbage men's strike flooded the poor neighborhood with black plastic bags and rats.
Amidst the chaos, James is a young boy who (five minutes after the movie starts) is left to deal with a guilt: a consequence of innocent child play that will suffocate his own existence. The movie explored his relation with his family and his entourage (especially a young teen the neighborhood guys constantly harass).

Lynne Ramsay (a Scottish photographer) did a terrific job in her first feature... she has a good eye, knows exactly when to have a close-up... she used multiple modes (handheld outdoors, fixed indoors, interesting monochromatic lighting, some B&W imageries....tracking shots). She's also a terrific story teller, and the way she explored childhood/early teen shows she's a good observer.

The sound track usage is minimal (as Ramsay also stated in the interview on the DVD), as original score, there is a motif that plays especially during moments of reflections... interestingly enough also a nice piece of a Nick Drake's song (can't tell which one and too lazy to look it up now) plays -out of the blue- when James is alone in the bus... and a couple of more scenes are accompanied with popular folk songs.

the ending of the movie is very teasing, yet justified.... I -personally- think that the last scene is a fantasy, a dream, a last thought... why? will wait for you guys to watch it first....

This is the Trailer

This is the Criterion Collection page, and a fair article on it.

Dan, this is a MUST !


The Reader - don't read it or watch it

I saw The Reader with a friend last night, and was it ever bad. Even though I didn’t think the Revolutionary Road movie was that good, it is better than The Reader by far. The Reader is far more melodramatic, and it is generally very predictable. I also thought, for the first section of the film, that it was just meant to appeal to the fantasies of middle-aged women. This is because it is basically all about the Kate Winslet & David Kross characters screwing, with many nude scenes. Despite the fact that they profess to love each other, it’s pretty much all about lust. He’ll read her some Latin or Greek from the books he’s studying in school, and she’ll say it’s “beautiful,” even though she has no idea what he’s saying. Then they’ll screw. Then he’ll read her some Homer or Chekhov, and she’ll be really moved by that—then they’ll fuck. But what woman doesn’t have her panties melt when some guy reads some of The Odyssey before sex, right?

The rest of the movie uses the Holocaust and the Winslet character’s role as an SS guard for it’s dramatic power. This is tedious, given how many bad movies have done the same thing. There are some lame discussions between a law professor and his students that are supposed to bring up relevant “philosophical” issues but that are just trite, and a very silly scene at the end between the grown-up schoolboy character (played by Ralph Fiennes) and a Holocaust survivor, where the two of them decide that the money left by the now-dead Winslet character be donated to a Jewish organization for illiteracy. Winslet’s character was illiterate for most of her life, and allowed herself to be given a harsher sentence for her crimes because she was too ashamed to provide a writing sample and thus admit that she was illiterate.

This is one of those movies where the script is bad and is the main reason the film is bad. The acting by the leads is ok, but it can’t really overpower the melodrama and predictable aspects of the film. The film itself has a very ordinary and unremarkable look to it, and the director was one who was also responsible for The Hours, another melodramatic film from a few years back. Oh, and I read that the novel this film was based on was an Oprah Pick. All of those things put together sound like a good recipe for bad art.

Before the film started, there was also a trailer for another film involving Nazis, this time directed by Quentin Tarantino. It looked really bad. This is why I don't bother to pay for movies that are in theatrical release anymore, and just use those 'points' programs to see them for free. So many of them are just bad and forgettable.

Here's the trailer for The Reader:


Spider-Man 3

A better than expected film, and better than the 2nd one. Also way better than The Dark Knight. A full review soon. Here's the trailer:



Rewatched this Fellini film. It's not his best, but still enjoyable.

Here's the trailer:

Give it a try. As I say at the end of my review: 'Federico Fellini, in this film, shows that he is a great artist, even when his art is not great.'



Ingmar Bergman's 1966 film Persona is the rare instance of style trumping substance, yet also achieving greatness. IN some ways, it reminds me of a poem written by Bruce Ario, which he brought years ago to my Uptown Poetry Group. That poem used cliches in all ten of its lines, yet....the damned thing worked, and was, indeed, a great poem.

No, there's not much depth to this film, if you really analyze it, but what sheen!

The trailer:

Also, gotta love Bibi and Liv!


My Kid Could Paint That

Watched this documentary a few days ago. It's a solid doc that raises questions on art that I have often dealt with.

Unfortunately, the central question of the film seems to be did or did not the 4 year old girl, Marla Olmstead, the film is about paint the paintings claimed to be hers. The real question, though, is why is such manifestly dreadful art even being paid attention to.

The idiocy of the arts world- from New York Times arts apologist Michael Kimmelman to a stolid photo-realist painter to WASPy dilettantes suckered into purchasing garbage for thousands of dollars- has rarely been better portrayed, although director Amir Bar-Lev's position on the obvious fraud- artistic and financial, should have been much clearer and decisive, since it is so utterly without meaning. My favorite moment in the film is when a deluded wannabe art patron looks at a glop of painting on a canvas and starts developing a whole Freudian analysis of what the glops portray even though this is all clearly in his febrile mind.

Here's the trailer:

I'll have a full review online in the near future, but the parents of this child deserve to be imprisoned for their fraud and abuse of their child's youth. Other than that, if anyone still claims that, after this film, and the magnificent Orson Welles film F For Fake, that Abstract Expressionism is not a con, then they are either liars, stupid, psychotics, or con men.


The Trip to Bountiful.

I watched a great film today from 1985 called The Trip to Bountiful. It's a film I've known of for a very long time, for I remember when it came out (I was 9) and it was something my grandma really loved. Though at the time, it wasn't something I would fully realize or appreciate, so I am glad to have watched it as an adult.

Directed by Peter Masterson, the film is based on a play by Horton Foote. Basically, Carrie Watts (Geraldine Page) is living in a tiny apartment with her son and bitchy daughter in law. You can see that her life is nearing its end, and more than anything, she wants to revisit the tiny Texas town where she's from, called Bountiful. Of course, the catch is that there isn't any Bountiful anymore. The whole film is basically Carrie trying to get to this town, and along the way she meets this young woman on a bus named Thelma (Rebecca De Mornay) who is just starting out in life. While the two women are talking, we learn that Thelma is happy to be in love with her husband, while Mrs. Watts never loved her husband, and was forced to break off a relationship with the only man she ever loved.

The film poster I remember as a child...

While all this might sound like "trite chick talk" (they also discuss other things) the dialogue is incredibly realistic and powerful, because Carrie isn't someone who has lived an easy life. She's poor, she had a somewhat rough upbringing, two of her children have died, and she is forced to live with her bratty daughter in law (Jessie May) who only picks on her.

All Mrs. Watts wants is to actually revisit Bountiful, though when she gets there, nothing remains but condemned buildings. The film is powerful because unlike in some Hollywood flick, there are no flashback scenes to her earlier days--all is told via dialogue. There is also not any excessively sentimental music or forced sappy moments.

Page of course gave a great performance in Woody Allen's Interiors as the cold, unfeeling Eve. She is the sign of a truly great actress because I couldn't even tell this was she. Page won the Oscar that year and it was well deserved--she carried this film, and once again it is proof that with a great screenplay, one can obtain a great film.

I can't recommend this enough. I'd also like to add that much of the strength in this film lies in what is NOT said among the characters--you know their relationships, and that Carrie is nearing the end of her life. The film serves as a metaphor for life, death, and and all those things in between--like remembrance.

Here is the original 1985 trailer:

The Hour Of The Wolf

Rewatched Bergman's The Hour Of The Wolf. Many great moments, but still not a great film. A bit too over the top, and had he made the film more equivocal as to whether real or not it would have worked better. But, I got some conversation ideas for my next novel.

Here is its start:

Watch The Hour of the Wolf (1968, Ingmar Bergman) in Horror  |  View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

And here is its trailer:

Gotta love Liv Ullmann and Ingrid Thulin, though.


The Dark Knight

Christopher Nolan's film career, especially after the success of his indy sensation Memento, once seemed full of potential, But, now he seems to have settled into a niche as just another Hollywood gun for hire. Last night I finally got around to watching The Dark Knight, the second Batman film of his- you know, the one in which (still dead) Heath Ledger won an Oscar for portraying The Joker. Guess what? Overhyped yawnfest. I'll have a full review soon, but here are the basics:

First, this film is not as good as Batman Begins, which itself was not on par with the first two Spider-Man films. It suffers from middle filmitis, expecting one to care for characters with no effort put forth. Second, Bale is much better than Ledger, who simply cackles his way thru the film, and acts as a seeming supernatural force of nature. In this sense, he's not only less 'comic' than Jack Nicholson's Joker (much less Cesar Romero's), but essentially less scary- we see absolutely zero in the way of character development , motivation, nor shading. Hell, even Aaron Eckhart's Harvey Dent/Two Face is better acted. And it's a shame they kill off Dent in this film, while Still Dead Ledger's Joker lives (whoops!).

Lastly, it's not even that good an action film, because all the moves are telegraphed. I recall the feeling of not knowing what would happen next when I first saw Aliens and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Nothing like that is in this film. Take a look:

Including Insomnia with these two films, that now makes four consecutive films where Nolan has relied on unoriginal material. Boy, it's time to actually use the creativity you were born with. And, as for all those moronic critics who lauded both this film and Still Dead Ledger's performance- grow the fuck up!


Internet Film Critic Society

See the doohickey up on the top right.

The other day I was selected to become a member of the IFCS (Internet Film Critic Society). Generally, I do not care about such things, but many websites and publications seem to feel that such accreditation makes you 'better' as a critic. I've applied to some other societies, but many of them are as incestuous as the real world critical societies.

This one is smaller than some, but still a nice group of folks. To give you an idea of how closed minded and dumb members of Critical Groups are, view the comments at this recent film review I posted:


The commenter is David Sterritt,who heads up the National Society Of Film Critics, based in New York City. However, he clearly has issues with proper usage of words and their definitions. So, now I'm IFCS approved. We'll see about some other societies and other groups and websites I've applied to have my film reviews listed in, in a few weeks.


The Song Remains The Same

Sticking with the musical meme, I think the best concert film ever made was not Woodstock nor Gimme Shelter, but The Song Remains The Same. Why? Simple: best music = best film, and any film that chronicles Led Zeppelin, the world's greatest rock band (then and now) is hard to beat.

The trailer:

And here is part one, from YouTube:

Look around and you can watch the whole film for free.


Norwegian Wood

While on the subject, here is my fave Beatles tune of all time:

Listen to the lyrics. The affecting music contrasts with the somewhat bitter lyrics. One of the few song lyrics that actually is an enigmatic little poem.


The Beatles- Help!

I'd never seen this full movie, but watched it this afternoon. I've always felt the boys were overrated as a pop quartet, but still an essential band in rock history. I've seen A Hard Day's Night a few times and never thought much of it. This film is not as good. In fact, having grown up watching reruns of The Monkees tv show, I can say that while The Beatles made better music, The Monkees were far better comedians and actors. They could actually mix physical and verbal comedy along the lines of The Marx Bros.- the comedy team The Beatles are most compared to. The acting in this film, especially by the boys, is atrocious. There's no tale and no real reason for the film, save being a 90 minute commercial for the album.

The visuals of the film are superb but, in essence, this is the birth of the music video a generation before MTV (1965). I'll write a full review soon, but any positives you read about this film are likely just fans, not serious cineastes. The good thing is that two #2s from the great 1967 Patrick McGoohan tv series, The Prisoner, star in the film: Leo McKern and Patrick Cargill.

Here is one of their great tunes, though:


Nuri Bilge Ceylan's THREE MONKEYS

The fifth long-feature movie by Bilge Ceylan (pronounced Bilgueh Jeelan, where "gu" is like in "guitar") is not only his grimmest to date but also his most sophisticated. After exploring a dysfunctional couple in Climates, he's approaching a small dysfunctional family here. Again, whoever is looking for a complex twisted plot has to look somewhere else since Three Monkeys' main plot is as simple as Distant's and Climates'. Having said that you can throw away more than half of reviews trashing the work because of its narrative.

Ceylan made a giant leap -technically- in this work, he is more confident (something he even mentioned in a recent interview) and not looking to please or even to accommodate to his viewers: his camera gave up almost any tracking movement, he uses very unusual framing angles, his camera is low and oblique (almost recalling Ozu's tatami's view yet with more esthetically) and his characters are not centered, not focused, and sometimes not even in-frame i.e. they enter and leave the field of the static camera.

The over-contrasted image (like an over-exposed film, feasible because of his use of HDR Digicam instead of the classical, more expansive 35 mm) adds a darker aspect to the movie, it's like the contrasted B&W (even Black and Grey) of Tarr's Damnation but in colors (though these two differ radically in movie making otherwise).

Ceylan proves again that he's experienced in translating complex human states, in one scene the half-asleep young protagonist experiences a hypnogogic state that recalls the lamp scene in Distant, yet in Three Monkeys it serves a sub-conscious release and reveal a deeper layer to the plot (will refrain from giving any spoilers). His use of elliptical narrative style is -as always- remarkable.

The DVD I got is a 2-DVD set (Region 2 ) from a Turkish website with affordable prices that delivers in the States (www.tulumba.com), the subtitles are OK and the transfer quality is very good. The supplement DVD has a behind-the-scene featurette, Cannes, but most importantly more than 90-minute-interview for a Turkish program. If you can ignore the pretentious attention-seeker ignorant interviewer you'll enjoy Ceylan's modesty, and most importantly his clear descriptive process while approaching his work.

Dan I'm really looking forward to hear (read) from you in the future when you watch this it.

This is the trailer, the super-fast editing of the trailer does NOT reflect at all the pace of the movie, being as slow as Ceylan's previous work.

some stills


The Bad Sleep Well

Rewatched The Bad Sleep Well, by Akira Kurosawa, and it's better than I originally thought.

Here is the trailer:

The ending is absolutely killer- realistic and terrifying. As much as Kurosawa is lauded for Rashomon, Seven Samurai, and other historical epics, he's even better in his modern day classics, like this, Ikiru, and High And Low.

He may also be the most diverse great director of all time.


Theo Angelopoulos Rocks!

Watched another great film by this master of cinema. The Suspended Step Of the Stork is an oddly dissed film in Theo's canon, but it's not only great, but innovative in its use of constructing narrative and characterization with almost no closeups and little dialogue.

Here is a clip:

Here the trailer:

And, spoilers alert, here is the film's end:

I'll be reviewing this shortly. Go see it, if you can get the Region 2 DVD.


Kim Ki-Duk's: 3-IRON

Kim Ki-Duk is an interesting Korean movie maker when it comes to creating controversy. His in-depth observation of the Korean society often irritated the Korean establishment. Almost all of his movies were received with frustration and rejection in his native country, he even considered not releasing any of his work in Korea. On the other hand, Kim is one of the favorites contemporary far-eastern movie makers in Europe and a festival spoiled director, more than Kar-Wai (Hong Kong) and Zhang (China), also very popular in Europe.
He is famous for his minimal dialog, like in the opening scene of 3-iron. His protagonists are eccentric and almost universally isolated, alienated, or even rejected by society.
3-iron is one of his interesting movies, and the most famous in the US. Like in a lot of his movies, his protagonists achieve a state of transcendence, a fantasy state, to cope with the rigid harsh reality. Despite his cheesy sound track on this work: new age classical-like piano in the first, and a romantic Arabic song (a musical motif in the movie) in the second scene, the movie has some smart camera moments and some good suspense moments though they were spoiled at times by scenes that omission would have served better the whole movie.

The Thin Blue Line

Errol Morris is one of the best documentarians around. His The Fog Of War is a great milestone in the genre.

But his most important film will likely always be 1988's The Thin Blue Line, which helped free a wrongly convicted man of murder. It's very good, not great, but the seeds that came to fruition in later Morris works like The Fog Of War were sown here.

Here is a trailer link.


Safety Last

This is a clip from silent film comedian Harold Lloyd's most famous film, Safety Last:

It should be noted that the only special effects used were the fact that the building facade was on top of a building, to give the illusion he was on the side of the building. But, other than that, Lloyd did his own stunts, and with one good hand- the other was blown off in an explosion earlier in his career.

Today, he is almost wholly forgotten, but only Chaplin was a bigger silent comedy star. Lloyd was even bigger than Buster Keaton. I first saw his shorts, as a boy, on the old Joe Franklin tv show on WOR in New York. You go, Harold.