Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Confession (1970)

Despite the fact that Costa-Gavras now has four films in The Criterion Collection, I feel like he has become one of the forgotten auteurs. Though he's still making movies to this day, his name is not one that comes up often in conversation. Why not? His cinema is exciting, nuanced and has something to say. So what is not to like? Is it the fact that the political issues under examination in his films are considered to be the product of a bygone era? So are the politics of Godard! In fact the politics of Godard are even more obscure. A film like Made in U.S.A. is nearly impenetrable without at least a working knowledge of the long since forgotten Mehdi Ben Barka affair. Gavras does not require his audience to have intense knowledge of forgotten scandals in order to enjoy his work. The films give you everything that you need. Even Z, which was based on the 1963 assassination of the Greek politician Grigoris Lambrakis, can be understood fully without that foreknowledge. In this way, Costa-Gavras is eternal. Hopefully the recent home video releases of The Confession and State of Siege will prompt a new generation to embrace this forgotten master.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Sight & Sound Challenge: Trouble in Paradise (1932)

Film: Trouble in Paradise (18/250)
Critics Poll: 117th
Directors Poll: 132nd
First Time/Rewatch: Rewatch

This is an underrated little gem. It's got everything there is to love about a pre-code Lubitsch film. The dialogue crackles, it's got a naughty sensibility, and it's so so charming and quite funny to boot. A story about two thieves falling in love and joining forces to steal even more, I can only imagine how it might have scandalized the censors, and indeed when the code was enforced in 1935 it was not approved for reissue. Thank god we're not living in the dark ages anymore! This film is definitely worth seeking out. Craig and I revisited this one with our monthly film club, and nobody else had seen it before. The room was filled with laughter, and I can't think of a better audience to share this film with. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sight & Sound Challenge: Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)

Film: Two-Lane Blacktop (17/250)
Critics Poll: 235th
First Time/Rewatch: First Time

Oh man. I always feel this stab of guilt and insecurity when I really don't respond to a supposedly important movie, but this one bored me to tears. TO TEARS. It's about some nameless characters who drive because they must. They pick up a girl. She does nothing. They meet a guy who's a schmuck and a liar who also drives. And they drive some more. Like okay, I get it, it's minimalist, it's existential, it perfectly captures a time and place in our country's history. But I don't care. I don't care about any of these characters, I don't care that they don't have a reason for doing anything, it bored me visually, and I struggled to stay awake. I can see how this film might appeal to a certain demographic, but it definitely doesn't include me. Yawn. The most interesting thing was when the film slowed down and then burned at the end. Maybe I'll revisit it at the end of my life and I'll perceive it as being profound in some way. Maybe. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Paris is Burning (1990)

Such an astounding documentary! This film was instrumental in bringing a very specific, important and ignored subculture to the attention of the world at large. The ripples caused by the Drag Balls depicted here can still be felt to this day in popular culture the world over. Faced with homo/transphobia and the decimation of AIDS in the 80's, the members of this vibrant community refused to be anything but themselves. Even if it was just for a night, these balls allowed them a brief respite from the darkness.

Though many of the participants in this film are no longer with us, they live on in a work that is still so vital. The fight for marriage equality may now be a thing of the past, but stories like Venus Xtravaganza's are still happening every single day all across America. There are still battles to win. Everyone should see this film. It's funny, fabulous and heartbreaking without even breaking a sweat.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Friday Quote: God Help the Girl

"If you two don't get together then every song and every film and every book I've ever heard, seen or read are wrong."

God Help the Girl (2014)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Lola (1961)

Though this was Demy's first feature, it was the fourth one I saw. Prior to this I had already been amused by The Young Girls of Rochefort, baffled by Donkey Skin and absolutely taken by The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. As a result, I was already extremely familiar with many of Demy's thematic and stylistic tropes. While I do enjoy "growing old with a filmmaker" and getting to watching them evolve over time, viewing Demy's filmography in such a fractured manner allowed me the unique pleasure of getting to witness familiar flourishes in an extremely protian stage. For a filmmaker just starting out, his vision was so assured. He really new how to use that wide frame. And the cyclical structure is absolutely amazing! Though you have an idea how things are going to end, watching it actually fall into place is a thing of beauty. The final five minutes or so run like a Swiss clock that moves to a wonderfully jazzy beat by Michel Legrand. And of course Anouk Aimee is pretty easy on the eyes as well.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Sight & Sound Challenge: Singin' in the Rain (1952)

Film: Singin' in the Rain (16/250)
Critics Poll: 20th 
Directors Poll: 67th 
First Time/Rewatch: Rewatch

Where do I even begin to describe this film's greatness? Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen, and Cyd Charisse are all amazingly talented. This film has some of my favorite dance numbers in cinema history (particularly "Moses Supposes" which features Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor tap dancing and looking suave as hell). It's visually stunning, it takes time to just have fun (the "Beautiful Girls" number features the most over-the-top technicolor 50s version of 20s fashion), and everybody looks like they're having a blast. Jean Hagen is especially hilarious as Lina Lamont, with her squeaky voice and her angry outbursts ("Why I make more money than Calvin Coolidge....PUT TOGETHER!") I've seen this movie a million times over the years and its magic never diminishes. This is one to put on when you feel like being in a good mood. I'm so happy this made the list and I was more than happy to revisit it!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sight & Sound Challenge: Nashville (1975)

Film: Nashville (15/250) 
Critics Poll: 73rd 
Directors Poll: 132nd 
First Time/Rewatch: First Time

I'm always impressed by films that manage to juggle so many different storylines.  The stories are set in Nashville (obviously) in the country music scene. You would think that with the sheer number of characters the stories would get convoluted and confusing, but it's easy to follow once you figure out who everybody is. I was especially intrigued by the female characters, especially the fragile singer Barbara Jean (Ronee Blakely), the self-absorbed L.A. Joan (Shelley Duvall), the conflicted Linnea Reese (Lily Tomlin), and the hilariously obtuse "Opal from the BBC" (Geraldine Chaplin). I was so fascinated by all these different women, and each of them was so memorable in their own way. I could watch a whole movie just about Opal...she cracked me up in her scene where she was talking to cars like a crazy person. This film is equal parts funny and tragic and was a real treat to watch.

Monday, June 22, 2015

My Cinematic Life: Larry Karaszewski

While Hollywood might be a cut-throat town when it comes to business, the cinephile community is a pretty tight-knit clique. Need proof? Look no further than the outpouring of love that erupted after the death of Hollywood Book and Poster founder Eric Caidin last month. From the moment his death was announced, until way after his cinematically appropriate memorial at The New Beverly, my Instagram and Twitter feeds were chock-a-block packed with tributes from filmmakers and film fans alike. People I didn't even know knew each other were turning up in each other's photos.

What follows is ideally the first installment in a series exploring the weird and wondrous world of film love in the 21st century. My hope is that by interviewing filmmakers, critics, bloggers, podcasters, programmers, collectors and fanatics we'll be able to approximate some sort of informal oral history of this unique subculture that is able to bring together people from so many different walks of life.

photo by Anthony Pedreira

Today's subject is Golden Globe winning screenwriter Larry Karaszewski. In addition to authoring screenplays for like Ed Wood, The People vs. Larry Flynt and Big Eyes with his co-writer Scott Alexander, Larry is also a regular contributor to the YouTube series Trailers from Hell where filmmakers provide commentary tracks for some of their favorite film previews. Also, if you live anywhere near Los Angeles, you can often find him moderating a Q&A either before or after a rep screening of something awesome.

This interview was conducted over the phone. Special thanks to Zac Miller for taking the time to transcribe our geekiness.

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Friday Quote: The Sessions

"I believe in a God with a sense of humor. I would find it absolutely intolerable not to be to able blame someone for all this."

The Sessions (2012)