Friday, March 24, 2017

Friday Quote: Good Will Hunting (1997)

"So if I asked you about art, you'd probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life's work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I'll bet you can't tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You've never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that. If I ask you about women, you'd probably give me a syllabus about your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. But you can't tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy. You're a tough kid. And I'd ask you about war, you'd probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, "once more unto the breach dear friends." But you've never been near one. You've never held your best friend's head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help. I'd ask you about love, you'd probably quote me a sonnet. But you've never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone that could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an angel on earth just for you. Who could rescue you from the depths of hell. And you wouldn't know what it's like to be her angel, to have that love for her, be there forever, through anything, through cancer. And you wouldn't know about sleeping sitting up in the hospital room for two months, holding her hand, because the doctors could see in your eyes, that the terms "visiting hours" don't apply to you. You don't know about real loss, 'cause it only occurs when you've loved something more than you love yourself. And I doubt you've ever dared to love anybody that much. And look at you... I don't see an intelligent, confident man... I see a cocky, scared shitless kid. But you're a genius Will. No one denies that. No one could possibly understand the depths of you. But you presume to know everything about me because you saw a painting of mine, and you ripped my fucking life apart. You're an orphan right?
You think I know the first thing about how hard your life has been, how you feel, who you are, because I read Oliver Twist? Does that encapsulate you? Personally... I don't give a shit about all that, because you know what, I can't learn anything from you, I can't read in some fuckin' book. Unless you want to talk about you, who you are. Then I'm fascinated. I'm in. But you don't want to do that do you sport? You're terrified of what you might say. Your move, chief."
Good Will Hunting (1997)

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Black Sun (1964)

This was an interesting one. It reminded me a lot of a Sam Fuller movie in that it is the cinematic equivalent of performing surgery with a sledgehammer. It's blunt and it's pulpy, but that doesn't mean that it can't get at some tough and interesting truths. The truly interesting part about this film is the language barrier. This isn't a movie where people have to talk out their differences because neither speaks the other's language. All they are able to go off of is tone, facial expressions and body language. And somehow they come to understand each other like one does a jazz song or a silent film. Perhaps the Tower of Babel was not meant to separate us, but rather to force us to unite on a deeper, more human level?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Sight & Sound Challenge: Contempt (1963)

Film: Contempt (198/250) 
First Time/Rewatch: First Time

This is an incredibly gorgeous-looking film, and a very deliberate one. From the recited opening credits to the presence of the film crew from the very beginning, we are reminded that we are watching a movie. This isn't real life. Or is it? The emotions certainly feel real. Jealousy, flirtation, indifference. The design is meticulous too. The curves of Brigitte Bardot's lovely body contrast with the multitude of right angles in their home. Every frame looks like an art print, perfectly arranged. Beautiful people playing house in their beautiful home, while the blank faces of Greek gods stare down at them. I felt sad watching them, felt their restlessness. In a story about art and relationships, these characters don't seem to see either anymore, with the exception of Fritz Lang (playing himself). Art is life, and what happens when you stop caring? 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sight & Sound Challenge: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

Film: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (197/250) 
First Time/Rewatch: First Time

My initial reaction to this was an unfair one; I was really really tired of John Wayne. Now I've said before that westerns aren't really my bag, but I've found things along the way to admire about the genre. But with John Wayne dominating the genre, especially on this list, it was starting to feel like déjà vu...when he showed up in this movie in those pants and that hat, he looked like a person in a John Wayne costume. But it's not his fault. He did his thing and did it well, and was rewarded with role after role playing, more often than not, the quintessential cowboy. But there was plenty to enjoy in this film. I loved the rest of the cast; Vera Miles, Andy Devine,  Edmond O'Brien, Lee Marvin, Woody Strode, and especially Jimmy Stewart are all great. They all have such interesting faces. This is a story about a new world replacing the old, and the way sacrifices must be made in order to help usher in positive change. It's a story of heartbreak and strength and finding one's voice, and the cast tells that story effectively. I especially liked when Stewart and Wayne shared scenes together; they played off each other well. So I guess I'm not completely sick of John Wayne. Not just yet. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Girlfriends (1978)

So crazy seeing a Warner Brothers logo at the head of a film this structurally daring and visually murky. Looking into the fairly limited amount of trivia about this wonderful movie I discovered that Stanley Kubrick was quite the fan, and it makes perfect sense. Though it has little in common with the aesthetics and themes Stanley trafficked in, Vicki Polon's structure is very Kubrick.

Rather than telling a conventional story, Girlfriends is a collection of moments that build upon one another. Long spans of time elapse between scenes and the audience is trusted to figure out where we are. Each scene builds upon the last while also being its own contained moment. The ending is cumulative and satisfying without that contrived/inevitable feeling that accompanies most traditionally structured screenplays. While there certainly isn't a straight line between 2001 and Girlfriends, you can see a circuitous kinship.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Friday Quote: Brooklyn

"I hope that when I go through the pearly gates, the first sound I hear is you asking me for the bill in that lovely Irish brogue."
Brooklyn (2015)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Lots of people take to criticizing filmmakers like Michael Bay and Zack Snyder for being "style without substance", but that's not really accurate. These films do have substance, it's just reprehensible substance that perpetuates a dangerous/delusional worldview. To demonize a prodigious use of imagery because of these guys is cinematic guilt by association. Thankfully, Kong came along to show us that there is another way.

Using the form of a Michael Bay film as well as Zack Snyder's preferred cinematographer, Jordan Vogt-Roberts is able to slyly subvert the Breitbart talking points that usually accompany such spectacle in favor of a more compassionate worldview. It isn't necessarily a "woke" film, but it is a wild popcorn flick that can be enjoyed without the guilt. The time has finally come for a baggage-less monster romp where someone dons a gas mask while wielding a samurai sword. Thank you, Kong.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Sight & Sound Challenge: The Tree of Life (2011)

Film: The Tree of Life (196/250) 
First Time/Rewatch: Rewatch

This is an incredibly moving film. When I first saw it on the big screen, it blew me away. Scenes of childhood, of motherhood and fatherhood, juxtaposed with breathtaking images of space and's overwhelming and comforting somehow. All of this has happened before, and it will all happen long after we're gone. Love, power struggles, hurt, compassion, grief, it connects us all. A quick glance at the user reviews on IMDb shows that many find this film pretentious and pointless, but I guess that depends on what you bring to it. Watching it as a mom brought me to tears. Jessica Chastain's portrayal of a mother whose love for her children seems to be her reason for living is so beautiful (this is the first thing I saw Chastain in and I just love her) and her presence really elevates the film. If you're watching for a basic beginning-to-end story, then you will find it pointless. It's just meant to be experienced. There is a note at the beginning of the film to watch it loud, and I couldn't agree more. Let the images and the music overwhelm you, let it wash over you like a baptism. This is art. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Sight & Sound Challenge: An Autumn Afternoon (1962)

Film: An Autumn Afternoon (195/250) 
First Time/Rewatch: First Time

Is this my first Ozu film in color? I think it might be. It's also my favorite Ozu that I've watched so far. Granted, I still haven't seen A Tokyo Story (1953), which is #3 on Sight & Sound's last poll and believed by many to be his finest work. It's a story that's reminiscent of his other films, focusing on family relationships and traditions, but it doesn't feel stale. The vibrant color and vibrant supporting characters breathe life into what might have been a humdrum film. I really love Ozu's recurring leading man Chishu Ryu as a father who must decide if it's time to "marry off" his daughter. Another bright spot in the film his daughter-in-law Akiko (Mariko Okada) who doesn't put up with anything. It's a great-looking and engaging film, and a worthy addition to anyone's collection. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Good Morning (1959)

Roughly 500 years ago, Leonardo da Vinci declared that, "Art is never finished, only abandoned." From apocryphal stories about artists breaking into houses to tweak the color of a painting, to George Lucas' continual futzing with the Star Wars films, it's been notoriously difficult for creative individuals to accept that a work is done. Even artists who have moved on from one particular piece, will often return to that style or those themes in another work as a way to get another bite at the apple. And of course there are directors who literally remake their own films.

Sometimes the results can be as astounding as Michael Mann's reworking of the TV Movie, L.A. Takedown into Heat. Other times the resultant film can be as awful as George Sulizer's English-language remake of his own chilling, Dutch-French co-production, The Vanishing. But most of the time it results in an enjoyable film that is no better or worse than its previous incarnation. Such is the case with Ozu's pleasant, family film Good Morning.