Monday, October 16, 2017

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

When this film was first announced I was very trepidatious. I’m very much not a Ridley Scott “Stan”. While his technical skills are beyond reproach, it is often hard for me to find anything personal in his work. The original Blade Runner grew in my estimation when I discovered that it was made after the death of his brother Frank. He let his mourning creep into the work via the morose tone and slow pacing and the film is better for it. Had he made this film at any other time in his life, that emotion would not be there. It was a fluke. But how do you replicate a fluke? And how do you do that when the guy responsible for that fluke has been relegated to Executive Producer?

The blunt answer is that Blade Runner 2049 did not manage to repeat that original’s fluke - but that’s OK. Instead of making me meditate on death, this film made me think about life. In Blade Runner, the Replicants want to live simply to live. But what is the point of living when the world is so cold, the trees are dead and all the animals are synthetic. In Blade Runner 2049 the Replicants have something to live for. Robin Wright’s Lieutenant Joshi speaks about preserving a balance which is essentially an argument for stasis. Blade Runner 2049 at least attempts to upend that stasis. Let’s shake things up and see what happens. Tomorrow could be a brighter day.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Film Scores for October

I'm one of those obnoxious Halloween-obsessed types, and all I want to do all month long is watch Halloweenie movies and listen to Halloweenie music. Obviously what counts as "Halloweenie" depends on who you ask, but here are some of my personal favorite film scores to listen to during this time of year. Of course this is in addition to the obvious choices (John Carpenter's score to Halloween, anyone?), and here we go!

The Addams Family, music by Marc Shaiman
I know this film so well that I could probably tell you exactly what dialogue goes with each part of the score. It's playful and fun, and it's not complete without MC Hammer's "Addams Groove."

Coraline, music by Bruno Coulais
Ah, Coraline, my favorite horror movie for children. The score is wonderful, with lots of singing in some kind of gibberish made-up language. It sounds weird but it totally works.

The Nightmare Before Christmas, Sleepy Hollow, Beetlejuice, etc., music by Danny Elfman
You can't really go wrong with a Danny Elfman/Tim Burton movie score. TNBC is the obvious choice, but I really love the Sleepy Hollow soundtrack too.

The Double Life of Veronique, music by Zbigniew Preisner
The film itself isn't scary or anything, but the music is haunting and melancholy...perfect for listening to on a gloomy day.

Suspiria, music by Goblin
If you don't have the Suspiria theme on your Halloween playlist, you're doing it wrong.

The Haunting, music by Humphrey Searle 
It's, well, haunting.

Dracula, music by Philip Glass
This new score for the classic 1931 Dracula is performed by the Kronos Quartet and it's great as a stand-alone album.

Bram Stoker's Dracula, music by Wojciech Kilar
Yes, another Dracula. And full disclosure, I actually don't really like this movie. But the score is really awesome and scary. 

The Woman in Black, music by Marco Beltrami
The movie isn't perfect, but it has a good old-fashion horror movie score that I love, with a creepy music-box-sounding theme that's sprinkled throughout. I love it.

The Witch, music by Mark Korven
Bone-chillingly creepy. There is no warmth in this score, and the whole thing (especially the end) is truly creepy. I think if I blasted this music on Halloween, nobody would come to my door. Or maybe I'd get trick-or-treaters in droves!

Happy hauntings, everyone!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Friday Quote: Mimic

"So... you think your little "Frankenstein" has gotten the better of you?"
Mimic (1997)

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Nanny (1965)

I'm kinda shocked I had never even heard of this little thriller. It's creepy, it's macabre, it has Bette Davis, and a splash of camp...what else could I want? Luckily I was able to catch it on TCM and I wasn't disappointed. Bette Davis plays the long-time nanny of a small family. The young daughter recently died, and the son is newly home from his stay in an institution following his sister's death. He's openly hostile to the old nanny when he returns and his parents wonder if his mental health is deteriorating again. What's really going on?

This was a fun watch. Bette Davis seemed to sprinkle a bit of her famous Baby Jane into a few scenes, and even though we might be able to guess where everything is going, it's fun to watch the film get there. The supporting cast is good too, especially Pamela Franklin (who appeared in one of my favorite spooky films The Innocents) as the cheeky upstairs neighbor. The story takes interesting twists and turns and it's perfect for this time of year. I can't be alone in my love for thrillers and horror the second it's autumn, right?

Monday, September 25, 2017

Nocturama (2016)

No matter what, violence is inherently cinematic. Filmmakers can make it horrific and traumatizing or they can make it ludicrous and comical, but the sheer kineticism of such acts cannot help but catch our eye. It goes right to that, “lizard brain” we hear so much about and connects with us on a primal level. It’s the same sort of psychology that you hear about advertisers employing to make us want their their products. Do you think that ISIS and the Alt-Right have teleconferences to discuss branding? Somebody has to give the social media guy a set of guidelines to follow, right?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Southside with You (2016)

I can't remember what podcast it was on, but a while back I heard someone doing a bit about how only the most well-known black people get biopics (Malcolm X, 42, etc) while any old white person can get one (Joy, Flash of Genius, etc). That bit kept cycling through my mind while I watched Southside With You. This is that premise stretched out to a ludicrous degree. Do you think this film would have been made/admitted to festivals if it hadn't been about the then-current POTUS and FLOTUS on their first date? Richard Linklater has made three films like this about random, fictional, white people. But this one had to be about the early years of the First Family in order to get Sundance attention. That's some bullshit.

Monday, September 18, 2017

mother! (2017)

It's insane that this film is being released by a major studio, on a ton of screens, and is being marketed as a horror film. I don't see this film making a dime over the weekend. People expecting a horror film will be disappointed and religious people will be enraged. But I couldn't help but giggle at the sheer anarchy of it all. It's scorched earth filmmaking that refuses to slow down once it gets going. Like the Poet, this film (and by extension Darren Aronofsky) craves your reaction and doesn't seem to care if that reaction is positive or negative. This film goes so for broke that it even prominently features a kitchen sink. It literally has everything AND the kitchen sink. I'm still grappling with what this says about me, but I simply cannot help but admire this beautiful, mess of a film.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Ladies Man (1961)

While Jerry Lewis certainly wears his influences on his sleeve (Tashlin and Tati) there's no denying that he also had an instinctual eye for images. Though the "plot" consists of little more than a series of vaguely connected vignettes, the imagery and jokes are enough to hold your attention. Jerry Lewis is what Adam Sandler could become if he actually gave a damn. The size of that set and the precision of he choreography is enough to give Rear Window a run for its money, and it's all in service of getting the laugh. Jerry  was not content to just clown around. He took his silliness seriously and it shows. We really did lose a legend.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

As much as I've enjoyed Steven Spielberg's recent output (especially Catch Me If You Can, Munich and Tintin) I feel like his most formally experimental films (and therefore most interesting to me) are ET and Close Encounters. Both films are about communication and in keeping with that theme, are more reliant on music and visual storytelling than dialogue to get their point across. It's not about narrative, it's about mood and feeling. Characters make decisions they cannot verbalize but we understand. The music and images do the speaking for them. The score and cinematography help to form a psychic connection between us and the characters. It's as though a message from the heavens has been planted inside of us. It's absolute cinematic alchemy.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Sight & Sound Challenge: Out 1 (1971)

Film: Out 1 (225/250) 
First Time/Rewatch: First Time

Okay guys, I don't even know what to say about this one. I sat through 743 minutes of a film (in installments, of course, I have a job and a life, haha) and I felt nothing at the end of it. The story involves two different theater troupes, a young thief and a young man who becomes involved in unraveling a potential secret society. Their paths cross now and again, but really, this barely had a plot. There were looooong rehearsal scenes that were tedious to get through, Jean-Pierre Léaud was weird and creepy, and by the time the film introduced anything that resembled a plotline, I found that I didn't care. Frédérique (Juliet Berto) and Lucie (Françoise Fabian) were probably the most interesting characters for me...great faces and compelling presences, but everyone else was just eye-rollingly pretentious. I probably went into this with the wrong mindset, just trying to cross it off my list, but I think I would've gotten way more out of this if it was two or three hours instead of twelve. But don't listen to my cranky rantings...from the different reviews I've read, it seems this film means a lot to a lot of people, and the mystery is worth unraveling. So watch it for yourself! As of right now the entire thing is streaming on Netflix. Just be ready for long stretches of actors dancing, rolling around on the floor, yelling and screaming, rubbing their feet on each other's faces (no really), and general artiness!