7/31/09

More Faye

Dunaway, that is. Here's a trailer from Bonnie And Clyde. This is a film I've not seen in may years, and will have to rewatch. It's more influential than good, but it is good.

7/30/09

Welles & "The Third Man"

For decades, there’s been controversy over whether Welles directed The Third Man or whether Carol Reed did. The fact that the film stars Welles, his good pal and Citizen Kane co-star Joseph Cotten, not to mention numerous shots and camera angles that scream Orson Welles, has led many to believe that Welles ghost-directed the film. There’s also the fact that Welles is one of the greatest and most influential directors who ever lived, whereas if Carol Reed directed the film, he’d have to be the most prominent one-hit wonder in cinema. Oliver! is one of the worst Oscar-winners ever, and most critics agree.

Well, here’s an interview with Welles in 1958, and his response to the authorship question is quite interesting.
  • Was your share in making The Third Man about equivalent to your share in Journey Into Fear?
  • It was more. I’d prefer not to be asked about that, it’s a delicate matter, because I wasn’t the producer; I’ve a right to tell you about what I did on Journey Into Fear though.

http://books.google.com/books?id=0xkXdZf_b4MC&pg=PR32&lpg=PR32&dq=%22The+Third+Man%22&source=bl&ots=kNlF3LKAWz&sig=GA5jAdVmX1sRcQn6OH6xo2ahVv0&hl=en&ei=_nVySrumMYeoMY7KgLEM&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=52#v=undefined&q=%22The%20Third%20Man%22&f=false

The fact of the matter is that Hollywood effectively blacklisted Welles when he made The Third Man. Carol Reed served as a front against the blacklist- think of the movie The Front starring Woody Allen. That’s why Welles didn’t want to discuss it. Let those who believe that Reed pulled a masterpiece out of his sleeve, for his sole collaboration with Welles, and then again descended to mediocrity read this, and they’ll see who the true creative force behind the film is.

Mommie Dearest

Just rewatched this much maligned film. Yes, there are campy moments, but Joan Crawford WAS camp; as was Bette Davis.

Faye Dunaway is great in the best scenery chewing role likely ever written.

Here is the trailer:


The classic wire hanger scene:


Could not find the ax scene, but here's a mashup that depicts Christina Crawford as almost a Village Of The Damned child:

Jean Renoir Interview

I've only watched a couple of his films, and both were a tad overrated. Still, here is a guy who puts art before self, and the contrast to the interviews with Fassbinder and Wenders (below) is clear. Parts 1 and 2:



7/29/09

Wim Wenders & Jean-Luc Godard

What happens when two hacks get together and their combined creativity takes hold?

Witness:

Wim Wenders

The clip below is from the horrid documentary by Wim Wenders, Lightning Over Water, and he is another guy I just do't get the fuss over.



His stuff isn't so obviously bad as Fassbinder's, but how could anyone compare these two guys to Werner Herzog?

More Fassbinder vapidity



You gotta love the role playing of suffered confusion Rainer gets going.

7/28/09

Fassbinder Speaks

Rainer Werner Fassbinder is one of those filmmakers I fail to understand the hype about. In the few films of his I've seen, he's demonstrably bad, yet his reputation is so great. Yes, one day I shall essay Berlin Alexanderplatz, as well his BRD Trilogy, but even listening to him speak he's nowhere near the artist nor mind of Werner Herzog, his longtime rival.

Listen:

7/27/09

Even Dwarfs Started Small

In some ways this 1970 film by Werner Herzog, Even Dwarfs Started Small, is even creepier than its long ago predecessor, Freaks.

Why? Because it is more realistic and id-based. We never know if this is another planet, an island, or just where this film is set. I do gnash my teeth at the poor grammar of 'dwarfs' over dwarves,' but other than that this is a disturbing little film, as I explain in my review.

But, listen to the odd yet apropos music, even from the start:
Even Dwarfs Started Small


Here's the ending:
Strange Tiny Man Laughing.

7/26/09

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser

In writing my review for Radio Days, I was thinking of other films wherein the soundtrack could rival Woody Allen's comic masterpiece. One name towers above all other filmmakers when it comes to film scoring, and that name is Werner Herzog.

There are many films of Herzog's that are great, but I thought of The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser for its music. It's a great score and a great film. The dream sequence is musically perfect.

And, best of all, the whole damned film is free online. Take advantage of this fact and watch this film. You will not be disappointed.

Here 'tis:

Beowulf (2007)

It played today on TV while I was trying to do some reading for my upcoming boards, but from what I saw I was impressed how the CGI had evolved recently. Hopkins, Malkovich, Jolie...etc, not only they look like them (even better, Hopkins looks younger) but their motion is "almost" human. It looks like a movie but where there is no technical limitation for anything: camera movement, locations, actions.... everything is possible.



Will we be witnessing a new era of movie making? will this advanced CGI make its way to be a more practical way for movie makers? instead of dealing with neurotic actors, locations, weather conditions.... they'll dictate their vision to graphic designers instead, and fine-tune the smallest detail in every scene...
I hope not...

Radio Days, Again

Watched this yester- still Woody's best pure comedy, AND a great film- poignant, deep, humorous, just wonderful.

This is why I endure the lesser fare he's served for the last 17 years.

The music is priceless- a great soundtrack:

7/25/09

And then there is The Muppets.

Here's another fave of mine. How can you not love this?!?!?!? Both are different, as they changed per which guest was on.





Poor Jim Henson and that mean flesh eating bacteria.

ABC Friday and Sunday Night Movie.

Since Dan posted his nostalgia, I thought I'd post mine. First, the ABC Friday Night Movie 1976-1981:



And then the ABC Sunday Night Movie:



Usually I was never able to stay up late enough to finish any of these. (I was put to bed). And then when my mom and her pal started watching Dallas on Friday nights, the movie was done. (We only had one tiny TV. Cable? What's that?)

And then I would wake on Saturday morning and watch The Smurfs:



They played 90 mins of Smurfs. I loved the Smurfs. Another I liked was Gummi Bears. Here is their theme song:



I don't understand why they'd make a show about a chewy candy, but the way it works is that they make this gummi-bearie juice that makes them bounce. Hence "Bouncing here and there any everywhere...they are the Gummi Bears!"

Give me a break, I was only like 8-9 then.

Knife In The Water

This was Roman Polanski's first film, and it's a damned good one.

Here's a clip:

7/24/09

More Polanski

Here's a clip from Polanski's underrated (although nowhere near great) comedy, The Fearless Vampire Killers, or: Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are In My Neck:

Repulsion

Still the best film of Roman Polanski's I've seen, and I've seen 9 or 10 of them. Catherine Deneuve is psychotic, but has a psycho ever been more babeolicious?

Here is a small clip from the film:


Repulsion - Catherine Deneuve - Click here for funny video clips

And, while I cannot embed the whole film, here's a link to it online. What think you?

Dr. Strangelove clip

A funny clip:

7/23/09

Emir KUSTURICA's UNDERGROUND (1995)


One of the earliest European movies I've seen some 10 years ago. It is Emir Kusturica's metaphor of the post-WW2 Yugoslavia. The movie did well back home (Lebanon) but also in Europe and Cannes most likely because of the steamy Serbian war that burst starting the early 90's and was followed closely by Lebanese too. I think another major reason for the movie's big success was the soundtrack by Goran Bergovic.

The movie focus on a Yoguslavian village during the Nazi invasion where two brothers Blacky and Marko decided to lead the resistance, mostly because they were both in love with a talentless but hot actress that was the girlfriend of one of the Nazi officers.
This is the opening scene, interestingly enough the soundtrack is played live by the actual band of Brekovic during most of the film. This added more "craziness" to the already absurd setting of the movie that constantly crosses the line b/w reality and fantasy.




After hiding under ground, the whole village set up its own auto-maintained system of providing food, light, water lead by the brothers. Years later Marko realized that the WW2 is over but instead of informing the village, he keeps them underground and takes advantage of their effort in order to build weapons. Blacky unaware of his brother's plan stays undergound. Marky, now national hero and the brother of a martyr (supposedly the missing Blacky), ended up marrying the hot actress he also became a leader in weapon trafficking during the cold war by still convincing the hidden village that it's still WW2 (a direct reference to Tito's isolation of Yoguslavia after WW2 for the cold war), things became more complex when things get loose... leading to 1992 and the break of Yugoslavia.



Amidst the chaos the two brothers end up on opposing side and in one scene, Blacky realized that he shot his brother (who is wheelchair-bound) while the wheelchair is on fire and going aimlessly in circles, Blacky is walking after it trying to revive his burning brother while they're both circling around a broken statue of Jesus (upside down) (I tried to look for the scene of youtube)... a great scene (in the poster above) is when the sexually frustrated drunk wife (because of Marky's impotence) dances around the "erected" tank cannon... I didn't find that too. that's another scene from an underground wedding...

The movie ends in a surrealistic world, from the point of view of the "village idiot"where all damage (including killed protagonists) celebrate their "country" somewhere on a small island... it concludes by: Once upon a time, there was a country.

Overall the movie offers a myriad of funny moments unrelated to the main plot but adds to the mood, like this fish scene. It's long (163 mins cut from original 320!!) but fast-paced specially with the gypsy music.... excuse the dumb added Pinocchio here
Kusturica made also "When Father Was Away On Business" and "Black Cat, White Cat" both also strong social dark comedies but not as socially involved as Underground. Underground is a mix of genres: comedy/tragedy/political/fantasy....

it is a great pleasure to watch.... i'll add this edited scene here.... (the 2 bros with the woman). I highly recommend it if you want to spend a "good time" watching a movie. I skipped a lot of subplots but maybe we'll elaborate one day if you guys manage to watch it.

Wassim

The ABC 4:30 Movie

Afterschool in NYC, in the 1970s, when homework was done, this is what was to watch- there would be the Planet Of The Apes films, Godzilla weeks, sword and sandal films, Ray Harryhausen films, UFO week, etc.

The music still sticks:

7/22/09

Million Dollar Movie

In the 1960s and 1970s, in NYC, Channel 5 (WNEW) had Creature Feature, Channel 11 (WPIX) had Chiller Theater, and Channel 9 (WOR) had Million Dollar Movie. Unlike the other series MDM was not genre specific- but I loved listening to the Gone With The Wind theme again.

The spot:

Creature Feature

Like Chiller Theater, this series featured sci fi, but slanted in the monstrous vein.

Stardust Memories.

Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories is arguably his most poetic film overall, though other great classics of his, such as Another Woman and Interiors, also come close. It is interesting in reading some of the criticism regarding this film when it first came out, notably Roger Ebert who gave the film only two stars, believing it’s about a “filmmaker who is out of ideas.”

Well, Ebert was wrong, for Stardust Memories is not only a great film, it is much more than that. Allen pays homage to one of his favorite directors, Federico Fellini, mirroring much of the opening on Fellini’s . In the beginning, the filmmaker Sandy Bates (Allen) is being approached by fans much in the same way Marcello Mastroianni is in 8 ½ . The difference is, however, that Stardust Memories happens to be, overall, a better film. It’s much more concise and trimmed (finishing at around 90 minutes, as opposed to the more bloated parts to 8 ½) and Allen also maximizes his use of humor in this film, for while Stardust Memories offers a deeper exploration, it is not without its comic touch.

Bates is a filmmaker who feels he has lost the real meaning of his life. Fed up by critics telling him they want the same old humor he’s been giving them, he cannot detach himself from knowing there is so much pain and suffering in the world, and that he needs to do something about it. His emotionally high-maintenance girlfriend, Dorrie, is played by Charlotte Rampling, and she has spent her days being locked away in an insane asylum, though despite Bates knowing that Dorrie is not good for him, he loves her nonetheless.

There is a particularly funny scene with Bates’ friend, played by Tony Roberts, where the two men get to talking about Dorrie. Bates says something along the lines of, “Dorrie, she was great, wasn’t she?” Where Roberts replies, “Yes, she was great. For two days out of the month. The rest of the twenty-eight she was lost.” And then Bates responds, “Yeah, but what a two days.”

He later meets a young violinist, played by Jessica Harper, who shares the same “lost” characteristics as that of the emotionally troubled Dorrie, and Bates takes an instant liking to her, over his current girlfriend, Isobel. (And Isobel is of course not plagued with many of the emotional problems as that of the many women Bates is attracted to, and this causes him to pull away).

One of the most memorable scenes in the film is, in fact, when Bates gets visited by an alien spaceship, and the alien admits that despite having an IQ of 1600, that even he cannot see what Bates saw in Dorrie over an emotionally mature woman like Isobel. Then, when Bates asks the questions of how can he find meaning? How can he contribute more to the world? How can he make a difference? The alien brilliantly responds with, “You want to make a difference in the world? Tell funnier jokes.”

It is a message one should not overlook, one that says to do what one does best. Stardust Memories is cinematically the most daring of all Allen’s films, for his use of black and white to reveal the break down of characters (such as Dorrie in the mental hospital when the quick cuts expose the breakdown in her psyche), and also the symbolism to tie the memories of his past together with that of his present.

Even the large mural on the wall changes to reflect Bates’ current mood at the time. Ultimately, the film version of the film reveals a frustrated audience once again who does not understand the work that has been presented to them. This is just another ironic, and unexpected twist from everything that has preceded this point. Stardust Memories does what all great art does: it allows you to watch and rewatch, presenting something different and new each time. And that never gets old.

Dan's review of the film can be found here.

7/21/09

Chiller Theater

I loved this movie series in NYC, as a kid. Here was an early opening:



Ah, the nights frittered away!

It was later replaced by this even cooler opening:



It was a nationwide series, but each local station had their own opening. I've seen a few online, but the WPIX openings weere the best!

The Birds

While Alfred Hitchcock was not a great director, he could have been, and his failures are often more fascinating than far greater films. One of his greatest films, however, is The Birds, which I mentioned below.

Here is the original trailer:



Here is a cool, condensed version:



The reason the film works is because it is realistic, save for one key element being off. In fact, many sci fi or fantasy films that work, do so precisely because they don't require superhuman BS to come into play. Think of Dave Bowman in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Think of Colonel Taylor in The Planet Of The Apes. Think of the cast of the original Night Of The Living Dead. Think of the characters in Colossus: The Forbin Project.

The cliche about human civilization being a thin veneer is true, in many ways, and these sorts of films exploit that to the fullest logical extent. Imagine being confronted with killer computers, talking apes, walking dead, or wilding birds. How else, but the way most of these films play out, would people react?

Why Hitchcock failed as a great director is because, unlike Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, or Michelangelo Antonioni, he was never able to let go of his rationality- save for films like Psycho, The Birds, and a few others. He lacked Keatsian Negative Capability- the ability to make seemingly irrational leap of faith connections that, in reflection, are not irrational.

Psycho

Ok, so it's laden with Freudian crap. But Psycho is still one of the rare Alfred Hitchcock films that touched greatness. The Birds is another, and it's interesting that both are sharp veers away from what was traditional Hitchian fare.

Hitch also went radical in both films. In The Birds, there is no redemption. In Psycho, the ostensible heroine turns out to be a supporting character.

The trailer:

Another Woman.

Imagine taking the best from a Bergman film and making it better. This is just what Woody Allen does in his masterpiece Another Woman, starring Gena Rowlands as Marion Post. Allen of course has never been shy when it came to his admiration for the great Swedish director, though this could not be more apparent than in the opening sequence of the film, which much resembles Bergman's 1955 classic, Wild Strawberries.

Another Woman tells the story of a philosophy professor named Marion Post who has basically lived a "cold and cerebral life," and has not allowed herself to feel passion. She is married to a cold doctor (Ian Holm) who cheated on his previous wife with Marion. Likewise, it is the second marriage for Marion also, for earlier in the film we see that she married a much older man (her professor), who seemed to love her, although she refused to have a child with him.

Another Woman dips into past and present, memory and forgetting, and it is quite possibly one of the greatest films about human loneliness ever made (with its only rival being Terrence Malick's masterpiece The Thin Red Line). The film begins with Marion taking a leave of absence from work so she can write a book, so she subleases a flat downtown, which happens to be next door to a therapist's office. Marion is able to clearly hear the patients, and it is through hearing their stories, that she begins to make connections within her own life.

Mia Farrow plays the pregnant Hope, who much resembles the Klimt painting with the same title. She is a regular patient to the therapist next door, and Marion takes an interest in her after overhearing Hope's therapy sessions.


Marion loses touch with her close friend Claire (Sandy Dennis) who later admits she withdrew from their friendship because of Marion's competitiveness with a man Claire admired. Likewise, Marion has distanced herself from her brother, though she does not realize this, as it is her brother who has distanced himself from her. As the film progresses, Marion begins to evaluate her life and she learns just how she's been judgmental and has stood above and evaluated others, thus causing them to want to pull away. And all this realization comes with Marion's turning 50.

The one man she feels true feelings for is Ken's friend Larry Lewis (Gene Hackman) but she pulls away from the warm and passionate Larry so she can instead marry the cold and cerebral Ken. Later on in the film, Larry makes himself present in one of her dreams, where she confesses to thinking about him "more than once in a while." He, in turn, tells her to do so only without regret. This scene ties in when Marion later meets Hope in a restaurant and Marion is speaking about her own regrets, including the abortion she had years ago, while she was still married to her first husband.


The cinematography is beautiful, as it is performed by the same cinematographer Bergman used, Sven Nyquist. The tones and colors all correspond with the mood of the film, and there is one particular scene where Marion is reading over the famous poem "Archaic Torso of Apollo" by the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, which quotes the line, "You must change your life."

The film works in accordance to the poem, as Marion comes to not only recognize her personal loneliness, but also wishes to change it. Gena Rowlands gives an astounding performance as the cold, cerebral Marion, while also exuding a warmth at the same time (possibly that hidden passion she's not allowed to escape all these years).

The film ends beautifully, while she is reading an excerpt that Larry Lewis has written about her in his new novel, and the scene is recreated, where Larry notes that he recognizes her passion, and that her passion is something that can in fact be, if only she allows it. Thus she asks the question if a memory is something you have or something you've lost.

Another Woman is one of the best films ever made. There are so many angles to explore in this film, that one just has to see it. There might be more Marion in you than you think.

7/20/09

Dog Day Afternoon.

I light of my earlier Pacino post, I got to thinking about Dog Day Afternoon, which is a terrific film. It's hard to believe this was based on a real event, but it is just so well written, acted and directed. It's just a flat out great work of art.

And Pacino looks damn hot in this film with that sexy street NY accent and all. I can't decide if he looks better here or in Serpico or The Godfather. It's a damn tough call. Eye candy and talent rolled into one. Just how I like it.



Anyway, enjoy watching my man in the clip.

Revolutionary Road



Not seen the above film, but finished the book today. A BIG disappointment. Soap operatic. Richard Yates cannot write effective female characters. Predictable, And it's one of those artworks that the more you think it over the lower it sinks. Will review it soon, but Jess had a more generous take on the book if not the film.

Chinese Coffee.

Chinese Coffee is an excellent film based on the play by Ira Lewis. Well, actually, it is a pretty good film with great writing (likely the play it is based on is a great play) but the directing, (done by Al Pacino) is merely passable, and there involves too many flashback sequences, not to mention the cinematography is nothing to write home about.

The DVD is actually an odd one to come by, and it can be found within this Pacino box set that carries two other films in the set, in addition to a documentary.

From everything I've read, this film never made it into the movie houses, likely because Pacino was not proud of his directing, or perhaps the film is just too literary and intelligent to appeal to a wide audience. (The more intelligent something is, the less the studios want of it). Chinese Coffee stars Pacino and Jerry Orbach and the entire film consists of these two men arguing.

Basically, Pacino is a writer who seeks advice from his friend on a particular manuscript. He lives in Greenwich Village, has no money, and is pissed he is unable to support himself from his work. Hmm. Sounds a bit familiar.

Orbach is somewhat a slimeball who blames others for his problems. His wife, his friends, his lack of luck. Ultimately he is envious of Pacino's having written a book based on their friendship that he believes can sell and make money. Though it is also likely that Orbach believes his friend's book has invaded his privacy as well.

Orbach also wrote two stories in his youth, but nothing since, because he just comes up with excuses why he never pursued his craft. Instead he becomes a "sell-out," yet like Pacino, has no money either. Instead he spends his time discussing literature and reading the letters of Tolstoy.

There are some great lines, such as Orbach telling Pacino he should "find something else to do" such as advertising. Then Pacino asks, "Are you seriously telling me I have no talent?" where Orbach replies, "No. Worse. You have no money." Orbach also tells him, (paraphrase) "you need to find something that will make you money because you're going to be fifty and working as a dishwasher who quotes Shaw and Proust all the time."


There are many literary references littered throughout, and an interesting epilogue by Al Pacino. He states that he thinks there are too many flashbacks in the film, but he kept them in because they were funny and seemed to go over well with the audience.

I could tell there was some influence from My Dinner With Andre, yet Chinese Coffee isn't as existential or as deep as Andre, but this was definitely a film where I found myself having to sit up and really pay attention to the dialogue. Not that I don't "pay attention" normally, but honestly, when I put it in the DVD player, I was expecting more of a lighter comic type film. And although there are some comic moments, the writing took me by surprise.

Definitely a different film than some of the Pacino earlier ones, such as The Panic in Needle Park and Author! Author! but all films are good in different ways. Chinese Coffee has by far the best writing, however. As mentioned, there are two other films in this DVD collection, (one called Richard III and the other also based on another play, where Pacino plays Brit). There is also a biography on Pacino, discussing his experiences with film acting as opposed to theater acting.

Chinese Coffee is certainly a film worth watching, and I hope with this review, the word can get out. If you stumble upon it, please give it a watch.

Dan's review can be read here.

7/19/09

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

This is the Coen Bros. best film that I've seen. I've yet to see No Country For Old Men, but the odd thing is that the actual filmic quality of Coen films seems inverse to the general praise they get. O Brother, Where Art Thou? was ripped when it opened, whereas the teeth-gnashingly dull and predictable Fargo was praised.

The trailer:



George Clooney is a good actor, much better than many pretty boy types.

Here he is lip-synching the film's biggest hit:

7/18/09

Hannah and Her Sisters.


Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters is another great film from Allen’s Golden Era of filmmaking. Much like his earlier film Interiors, Hannah and Her Sisters follows the lives of three sisters sandwiched between two Thanksgiving celebrations.

Hannah, played by Mia Farrow, is the successful yet goody-goody sister who is married to Elliot (Michael Caine), who happens to lust for her sister Lee (Barbara Hershey). Holly, (Diane Wiest) is the confused, cocaine-abusing sister with no career direction and she quite possibly lacks any artistic talent. The film deals with infidelity realistically, where we continually see Elliot making advances towards Lee (such as flirting with her, buying her a collection of poems by e.e. cummings and then informing her that a certain love poem of his reminded him of her, as well as loaning her books, etc).

The film does share some similarities with Interiors, but the relationships in Hannah and Her Sisters are presented much more strongly than in Interiors, and their relationships are more present in the film. We get the sense, for example, that Holly resents Hannah’s goody-goody nature and perfection, as does Elliot. Although he embarks on an affair with Lee (telling her that his marriage to Hannah is in its last stages) ultimately he learns that his connection to her was not as strong as once felt, and he realizes he loves Hannah more than he thought. Though all this is unknown to Hannah.


Likewise, Lee is emotionally weak for much of the film, always seeming to become involved with men who carry emotional baggage and who are not very good for her. Frederick is a depressive, frustrated painter who uses her for his only connection to the outside world, and he refuses to attend any family functions. Elliot essentially lies to her about the status of his marriage to Hannah, and through Lee’s own weakness, she believes him because she wants to believe him.

Woody Allen plays the character of Mickey, a hypochondriac who offers some humor into his ailments, but also deeper themes resonate as he ponders the meaning of life and religion. The film manages to tackle bigger issues as these without pontificating in the process, and all the while maintaining a level of humor throughout. One should not be too shocked then, to discover that the directionless Holly and the hypochondriac Mickey ultimately end up together, despite having suffered an earlier terrible date. Though both these characters are warm, and as viewers, we come to like them.


One of Allen’s many talents is to get into the minds of women, from their sibling rivalries to their competitiveness for the same man (Holly and her friend April, played by Carrie Fisher, compete for the affection of this architect throughout much of the film, and there is a very realistic exchange when he is deciding which to take home first, and the two argue passively over which one should stay in the car with him the longest). We hear Holly’s thoughts as she learns she’ll be the one taken home first. “He prefers April. I hate April. She’s pushy.”


Allen also uses effective camerawork to reveal the naturalness of the setting, such as allowing the characters to move in and out of view as one would realistically do at a party, thus allowing them to engage in small talk and other minor things that are responsible for this film’s authenticity. Although the film is set in the 1980s and one can see the fashion is dated, the film is still fresh and timeless. The dialogue is great and the characters complex, there are many ways one can broach this film. What is the deeper meaning of life? What goes into infidelities? What is the underlining causes for sibling rivalry and competition?

All these questions are asked and answered multiple times. Viewers will be left with many angles to ponder, and many insights into their own lives. Hannah and Her Sisters is a Woody Allen classic that is not to be missed.

Geraldine Page

Just watched The Trip To Bountiful (film version) and Geraldine Page gives a terrific performance, as she did in Woody Allen's Interiors, and the 2 or 3 other films I've seen her in. Here is her Oscar winning moment:



Ok, what's wrong with this? Page, Meryl Streep, Anne Bancroft, Jessica Lange....and Whoopi 'Fuckin'' Goldberg in Spielberg's The Color Purple atrocity?

Here is a slice of Bountiful:



Here is Page in Interiors (pardon the quality if the video):

The Thin Blue Line

Not Malick's classic The Thin Red Line, but Errol Morris's famed documentary from the late 1980s. It's not a great doc, and he's done better, but this clip shows Morris spielin' about the film:

7/16/09

Interiors.


Interiors is one of Woody Allen’s finest films. Noted as his first real drama, Interiors ranks among the best of Allen’s best, beside that of Stardust Memories, Another Woman, Crimes & Misdemeanors, Hannah and Her Sisters and Manhattan. Amid his Golden Age of filmmaking, the director arguably produced a dozen great films.

Interiors begins with the mother’s suicide, although as viewers, we don’t know this. We see Diane Keaton looking out of a window, viewing images of her and her two sisters playing on a beach when they are young. We see the cool interior, everything ordered and somberly lighted, thanks to the great cinematographer Sven Nykvist, the same cinematographer Ingmar Bergman used for his own films. Thus, it is no wonder that Interiors is Woody Allen’s most Bergman-like film.

The mother, (Eve) played by Geraldine Page, gives a stellar performance as a mentally ill “ice queen,” and the father, (Arthur) played by E.G. Marshall, notes in the beginning of the film, while looking out of a window, “I had dropped out of law school when I met Eve. She was very beautiful.” The film does a great job switching from past to present, filling in the little details later on.

Characters spend many moments beside windows, looking out of them, in fact. The interiors of the homes consist of “beiges and earth tones,” and are this way for a reason. Everyone seems detached, cold and austere. Allen also manages to accomplish the unthinkable: to create a great film that is full of genuinely unlikable characters.

Joey (Mary Beth Hurt) is the whiney, uptight wannabe creative type who has “all the anguish and anxiety of the artistic personality without any of the talent.” Renata (Diane Keaton) is the pretentious poet who locks herself away in Connecticut, trying to overcome her writer’s block, and then Flyn, (Kristen Griffith) is the somewhat ditzy aspiring actress who lacks depth.

Likewise, Allen touches upon many aspects in the arts, from those who struggle with trying to be one, yet do not have talent (such as Joey) to Frederick, the novelist husband of Renata, (played by Richard Jordan) who suffers angst over his lack of critical acclaim and has no problem drinking himself unconscious, to Eve, who admires Renata’s talent yet never gives Joey the affection she craves. Likewise, Renata resents the fact that their father has spent his life favoring Joey over her.


When Arthur announces he is leaving Eve for a “trial separation,” Eve cannot emotionally handle it, and she eventually attempts suicide. Sibling rivalry and dynamics are intricately demonstrated, where Renata continually encourages Eve that it is only a matter of time until her parents will reconcile, while Joey does not think Eve should delude herself. It is Joey’s pessimism that Eve resents, and Renata’s optimism that Eve craves, which makes the outcome all the more ironic when Joey is the one who ends up being right.

Tensions rise when Arthur brings a woman (Pearl, played by Maureen Stapleton) he met in Greece over to dinner at Renata’s house. Pearl is a stark contrast to the family: she is dressed in bright red, is outspoken and loud, and is interested in card tricks. Unable to connect with the family’s “cerebral discourse,” when Arthur announces their engagement, Joey refuses to give her blessing, and refers to Pearl as a “vulgarian.” Then a great exchange is made between the two siblings:

Renata: Will you tell him it’s ok? Clearly it’s your approval he needs.
Joey: He clearly had no trouble getting yours.
Renata: Well clearly it doesn’t mean as much as yours.


Finally, when the mother does suicide herself, moments before this takes place, there is an extended dialogue scene between Eve and Joey, with Joey doing all of the talking. She confesses both the rage and love she feels for her mother, and then Eve walks into the ocean never to be seen again. Thus, Joey follows her in, and it is Pearl who literally breathes the life back into Joey once she is pulled back onto land. While the film does not offer a happy ending, the characters are still as they are, with the exception of Joey, who at least learns to get her anxieties out in a journal, noting how her feelings “seemed very powerful to her.”

Many critics dismissed this film as melodrama, and even if one could claim that, then it is melodrama at its highest. A certain English playwright named Shakespeare was also great at constructing melodrama, and Allen proves it can be done if done well. Interiors is a great film. The beauty ranks alongside the best of Bergman, and the writing is akin to Strindberg or O’Neill, yet at the same time, holds that stamp of a great individual artist with the name Woody Allen.

Forbidden Planet

1956's MGM sci fi classic Forbidden Planet is a film as good as its rep. No, it's not there with the later 'realistic' sci fi films, but one can see how, a decade earlier than Star Trek, this film's influence is manifest.

Here is the trailer:



And, if you can stand the silly host, here is the whole film:



And, need it be said? Anne Francis was a goddess!

7/15/09

Whatever Works



I'm consonant with Jess's comments on this film, and will post a full review this weekend.

The film is sweeter than expected, but the good writing comes in where the cardboard caricatures do things that endear, regardless.

Certainly not a great film, but more laughs than many of his films in recent years.

7/14/09

Woody Allen's Whatever Works.

Today Dan and I went to see the new Woody movie, Whatever Works. It was a good movie with some deeper moments, but not one that is great. Larry David does a great job as the annoying, neurotic genius--and he acts it better than Woody Allen himself ever could. He brings more of an aggressiveness to the role, more of a nastiness, and the interesting point is that as a quantum mechanic physicist, he is someone who spends his days breaking everything down to their ultimate essentials, thus reducing it to nothing. The notion is that everything is falling apart, since he views everything on this molecular level, both literally and figuratively.

The good thing the film did was having him in the end, when he grows as a character, to mention how he is the only one who can see the "big picture" (since he is literally the only one able to see the audience in the film itself) and this contradicts everything from the earlier half of the film, where he only can see things at their basic, pessimistic parts, thus not allowing anything to get in. (Such as life's pleasures--even the act of sex he compares to the physical motion of a sewing machine). But by the end, he does let it in, and he lets others in. Thus explains "Whatever Works."


Another point to mention is that Woody has not had the captivating cinematography as his earlier films, such as Manhattan, Radio Days, and well, forget Interiors, Another Woman and Stardust Memories, which are in a different league all together.

Whatever Works is a good film with some very funny moments--much better than some of his lesser ones, such as Anything Else or Hollywood Ending.

Woody Speaks

Funny but some real moments:

7/13/09

Bergman on Antonioni



It's odd that Bergman had a general disdain for Antonioni, given that they shared many qualities in their films and views on humanity. Not to mention dying within 24 hours of each other.

But, being a great artist means squat in regards to being a great critic.

7/12/09

Brüno

My friend and I recently saw Brüno, starring Sacha Baron Cohen, in theatres. While I still haven’t seen Borat, I have seen pieces of it here and there, and what I’ve seen has admittedly been quite funny. So my expectations for this movie were high, as I’ve been pretty tired of ho-hum movies that I’ve seen at the bigger theatres of late.

While I’ve encountered a few people who said they loved the movie and thought it was hilarious…both my friend and I were seriously underwhelmed by this movie. Simply put, we just didn’t think it was that funny. Yes, it had some good moments, but you could experience many of them just by watching the trailer for the film.

Some of the unfunniest material involved some celebrity guest appearances, like the Paula Abdul cameo, or the overdone ‘celebrity charity recording’ spoof at the end of the film. As well, certain pop culture references made in the film will date it quickly. And while there were some funny parts of the film involving some more outrageous aspects gay sexuality, nothing was particularly shocking …in a world where videos like “2 Girls, 1 Cup” or “2 Guys, 1 Horse” can circulate freely on the internet, how could it be?

In his review of Borat, Dan said that film was "a wonderful critique- nay, full out assault, on the asininity of Political Correctness." Aside from this film not being that funny, the Brüno character wasn’t really used to reveal anything of any depth, whether that be about American attitudes towards homosexuality, or celebrity obsession, or even the narcissism of the type of gay man Brüno is parodying. Cohen and his collaborators just didn’t push it far enough in their writing for the film, and even if they still hadn’t had much to say, they could have said it in much funnier ways. Ah well, here's to hoping that Borat is better, whenever I do end up renting it.

7/11/09

L' Eclisse (M. Antonioni)




























I was re-watching Antonioni's L'Eclisse, supposedly the final constellation of his trilogy (L'Avventura/La Notte/L'Eclisse). Out of the three I believe La Notte is the most accomplished, yet L'Eclisse always intrigued me. Style wise it has almost the best of Antonioni.
Some professional photographers I know had mentioned on separate occasions Antonioni's work as their favorite in Cinema, and watching L'Eclisse you can tell why. I think even architects (if Gaudi was still alive) would love Antonioni. His fetish for architectural structures is obvious and almost dominates the ending of the movie (look at these three close-ups of a white building).

While watching it, I remembered how Dan once described Antonioni's characters: we're allowed to observe them, as models, but not to explore them. Antonioni doesn't allow them to "open up", we don't know why Vittoria (Vitti) decided to end her long affair with her boyfriend Ricardo, neither we know why she's suffocated (literally) with her overwhelming despair.
I always liked Antonioni's fragmented method of presenting a space, he would introduce the space (inside of a room, a building...) with multiple weird-angled shots of elements inside that space, and doesn't allow us a comprehensive picture until later; i.e. the opposite of a classical spatial presentation. He's also always fascinated by random close-up (see still, tree leaves) something that the Japanese Teshigahara (Woman in The Dunes) used to do a lot too.

Overall why did Antonioni choose to conclude this movie without his protagonists? we are left with backgrounds we knew, places we visited during the movie, but with near-deserted streets and spaces, with a universal impending-doom feeling. Did our couple really not show up for their rendez-vous or did Antonioni lose interest in his protagonists? so he didn't really track them, since their story (irrespective if they reunite or no) is collateral and subjected to a more comprehensive ending... an ending that he hinted at by the final scenes? one shot in this bizarre ending is (see still) this random man reading a journal with the bolded title: "Race for Nuclear War, fragile world peace" and the man facing the almost empty street. Again, this ominous sensation (helped by the musical score) showing on the faces of random people shot. Did Antonioni decided to end his movie (and the trilogy of despair/malaise/alienation) by showing us that the whole world -as we know- is ending.?


On a very different note I noticed an inetersting similarity between Antonioni (especially in L'Eclisse) and a lot of Edward Hopper paintings. Something that makes sense, both dealt with alienation in the modern (mostly urban) world. Antonioni's still of the man outside the front door of a building is an example of that. Even in case of more than one person being present in a Hopper's painting, most of the time they wouldn't be communicating. Both artists were also depicting urban architectural structures in their work.

Bergman once said that Antonioni would put such emphasis on the "photographic" form of his scenes that he'd lose focus on what the scene should deliver. It's inetersting, since that is one of the major differences between the two directors (content and form), while Bergman's work is more "vertical" (trying to explore deep into his protagonists psyche) and he'd amend that by allowing his characters to revisit their past crises by lengthy monologues/dialogues (Persona/Winter Light....) or flashbacks (Wild Strawberries/Cries and Whispers/Autumn Sonata...). Antonioni is more of observing his characters, and their reactions towards their entourage.
I want to listen to the Criterion DVD commenatry once I have some time. I'm also planning to revisit La Notte, Blow Up, and Red Desert. Overall I put L'Eclisse high in a top 5 of his, maybe right under La Notte.
This is the review of the DVD by Dan, these are the last few minutes of the movie.

Wassim

Whatever Works

The latest Woody film.

Looks funny bit definitely a slice of Woody Lite.

The trailer:

7/10/09

Shakespeare Behind Bars

An excellent BBC documentary that I watched the DVD of.

I'll have a review up in the near future. Not great, a little bit of too much liberal naive-te re criminals, but what is intriguing is the sincere prisoners who, forced by incarceration, have lifted themselves up from the zombie state most of America inhabits.

The actual doc is available online. Enjoy!



I've known these types of people, for better or worse, and one can understand even as one punishes.

7/9/09

Badlands

Another film by Terrence Malick. It's a tad overrated vis-a-vis his 3 later mature films, but it's still a very good film.

The trailer:

7/8/09

Boogie Nights

Paul Thomas Anderson's first big film, and a damned sight better than There Will Be Blood. Not a masterpiece, but better than expected.

The trailer:

No Country For Old Men

People who've seen There Will Be Blood say that this Coen Bros. film is better. It's one of those pairs of films that always get paired- like Crash and Brokeback Mountain a few years ago.

Here's the trailer:



The problem is that the most praised Coen films (Fargo, Barton Fink, etc.) are almost always way worse than the rave reviews whereas the films that are dismissed (O, Brother Where Art Thou?, The Ladykillers) are much better than the critics say. So, especially after the disappointment of There Will Be Blood, I'm dubious.

But, I'll watch it before the year is out.

7/7/09

There Will Be Blood

Just watched this latest Paul Thomas Anderson film and it's the latest in a series of so-called masterpieces from well known directors that are not what is claimed, and worse, represents a severe regression in the filmmaker's canon. Like N.B. Ceylan's Three Monkeys and Bela Tarr's The Man From London, this film is a regression for Anderson, and a worse film than Punch-Drunk Love, Boogie Nights, and even, arguably, Magnolia (yes, I know that had Tom 'The Mannekin' Cruise in it)

Simply put- no tale, hammy acting by Daniel Day Lewis, and no character development. It is Anderson's attempt to make a 21st Century Citizen Kane. But he's not Orson Welles.

The trailer:

Food, Inc.

Here's a doc I've gotta watch, recommended by a regular Cosmoetica reader. I already have it on my list for 2010 to interview the writer Eric Schlosser, so I'll probably order this film soon.

The trailer:



The opening:

7/6/09

Big Mac Is Dead

Ex-Defense Secretary Robert McNamara died today, at 93.

His life and ideas are featured in Errol Morris's The Fog Of War.

Watch the whole film here.

7/5/09

The Yardbirds....

Doing Stroll On (a version of Train Kept A-Rollin') from Michelangelo Antonioni's great 1966 film Blowup:



Watch Jeff Beck do his Pete Townshend thang, and since I gave you Jimmy Page in the last post, here he is again.

Before Spinal Tap....

There was The Song Remains The Same. The trailer says it all: The Greatest Band In The World.

I'll go further: The Greatest Rock Band Ever! (at least yet to be):


This was rock before it went pussy: it was about pussy, drugs and the music.

A clip:



That was the opener- go Google the rest!

Godard's Breathless

Here it is in all its overpuffed glory:


This film is not homage, but imitation.

If you cannot see why, then compare it to true homage films, like, say, Herzog's Nosferatu to the original Nosferatu and Tod Browning's Dracula.

If you still need help, then, a final query: why are you even reading this blog?

7/4/09

Trailer to what appears to be a ridiculous film.

This is the trailer to a film by Gus Van Sant, which I'd never heard of. I am reading this pop cultural book on the suicides of famous people and it's something I'm probably gonna have to give a middling to bad review. There's just no point to it, other than to list facts about these people's suicides and to mistake nuttiness with creativity.

Anyway, one of the suicides is of course Kurt Cobain. This film, called Last Days is about...you got it...his last days. The reason I'm posting the trailer is because it's hilarious, it's basically the Cobain character wandering around in a dress, high and in a daze. The character has a different name, but it's Cobain.

I don't understand why anyone would want to make a film about someone's "Last Days," rather than trying to celebrate why that person was any good to begin with. Reducing someone's story to their suicide is pointless, esp. when it's an artist, b/c it reduces them into being like everyone else. And that's just what this PC culture wants--not to see people in their highest pursuits, but "like everyone else," thus reducing them to a stereotype.

The trailer is funny though, give it a look:

Bergman Speaks

Just watched the DVD of Bergman Island, and will have a review soon. Meanwhile, here is that doc's director, Marie Nyrerod. Here is a doc for the BBC by the same gal, with much of the footage.

The 3 part series was edited into one film. Gander:

Jean-Luc Godard

“I just can’t take him very seriously as a thinker—and that’s where we seem to differ, because he does. His message is what he cares about these days, and, like most movie messages, it could be written on the head of a pin.” —Orson Welles

“Someone like Jean-Luc Godard is for me intellectual counterfeit money when compared to a good kung fu film.” —Werner Herzog

“I’ve never gotten anything out of his movies. They have felt constructed, faux intellectual and completely dead. Cinematographically uninteresting and infinitely boring. Godard is a fucking bore. He has made his films for the critics. One of the movies, Masculin, Féminin, was shot here in Sweden. It was mind-numbingly boring.” —Ingmar Bergman

I’ve never been a fan of that critical sacred cow, Jean-Luc Godard. He always struck me as pretentious, narcissistic, and puerile, if occasionally interesting. Later interviews also reveal my initial suspicions after seeing such films as Breathless to be true; he’s gotta be the most egotistical blowhard to ever direct films.

After seeing a few of his films, reading some of his interviews, and seeing what the aforementioned cinematic masters had to say about him, I knew my initial hunch was correct. Breathless was simply a bad film noir wannabe. It was very dull and technically sloppy, made all the worse by its smugly superior attitude. Plan 9 From Outer Space is entertaining, and Wood doesn’t position himself as being superior to everyone else. Not true here.

Contempt is OK, and it’s technically magnificent, but the characters are dull, and the audience never cares about them and quickly grows bored. Only Fritz Lang, some gorgeous scenery, and Brigitte Bardot’s tush make this a passable experience.

Alphaville is bad, athough not as bad as Breathless. It lacks the technical brilliance of Contempt, but Godard isn’t quite as arrogant here as in Breathless, and although technically sloppy, numerous close-ups of the gorgeous Anna Karina keep this from being a terrible film. It’s still incredibly naïve, though, and the ending is so bad that it’s hilarious.

Masculin, Féminin shows Godard going ‘political’- i.e. becoming a naïve Marxist, much like many of the Beatnik losers of the era. His incredible pompousness, especially re: politics, his lack of a coherent story, and cardboard characters that do nothing to engage a viewer’s interest simply make this an abysmal experience. Technically, it’s better than some of his other films, but overall, it’s simply grating and puerile.

Two or Three Things I Know About Her continues this unfortunate trend. Technically, it’s OK, but again it’s larded with naïve and preachy politics, and cardboard characters that the viewer simply cannot force him or herself to care about. It’s quite a bad film, although as an interesting side note, there is one particularly (unintentionally) funny scene where Godard has a voiceover pondering the meaning of the universe during a close-up of someone stirring coffee. Martin Scorsese claims that this scene influenced the scene in Taxi Driver where Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) looks into a cup after dropping a couple of Alka-Seltzer tablets into it. The difference is that Scorsese engaged his audience prior to that scene, and the shot illuminates Travis’s obsession with all sorts of minor things and details that most people wouldn’t even notice- a key point for this character. Godard’s shot serves no such purpose. In fact, I only remembered it because of the claimed influence on the later masterpiece.

Overall, I’d have to say that Godard is probably the most overrated director of all time. Aforementioned directors such as Scorsese, Lang, Bergman, Herzog, and Welles, among others, surpassed Godard in every way imaginable. My guess is that most film critics admire Godard more for his daring than for his actual accomplishment, which is mediocre at best. Or it could be that Academia is laden with Leftists who see Godard as some sort of hero, and worship him for his naïve politics (which dismiss the atrocities committed by Stalin, Mao, and the later Khmer Rouge), rather than for his actual art.

Either way, Godard is not a particularly good filmmaker, who lacked the ability to create interesting characters, and was too often bogged down by narcissism and naïve politics. Is he mildly interesting? Yes. But he’s not the second coming of Orson Welles. He unfortunately embodies all of the worst stereotypes surrounding the French- smug, pseudo-intellectual, naïve Leftist, and rabidly anti-American. The last two qualities would be forgivable if he actually wrapped those in good art. But…oh, you know what’s coming! Why should I waste any more time on this preening fraud?