Friday, August 26, 2016

Friday Quote: Reality Bites

"At the beep, please leave your name, number, and a brief justification for the ontological necessity of modern man's existential dilemma, and we'll get back to you."
Reality Bites (1994)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Listen Up Philip (2014)

Just as the Dogme 95 gang had to leave behind the affectations that united them in order to move on to more ambitious work, so too must the Mumblecore kids. But it's not easy. There is safety in numbers. This is why most will cling to that group label like a safety blanket as they go about re-making the same film until they die...or the money dries up. Striking out on your own means you might fail but you gotta shake things up if you want to stand out from the pack. And it doesn't have to be anything big either. You don't need fancy cranes and computer effects. With a movement like Mumblecore it's possible to distinguish yourself with elements as simple as narration, score and good-looking cinematography. And this is why we know the name Alex Ross Perry and we don't know countless others. He has the daring to be maximalist in his minimalism.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Sight & Sound Challenge: Jules et Jim (1962)

Film: Jules et Jim (138/250)
First Time/Rewatch: Rewatch

This is such an interesting film. Before I watched this film for the first time I had already seen films like Vicky Cristina Barcelona and The Dreamers...stylish love triangle type movies. Seeing this film gave those other films context for me. There's something so compelling about a vivacious and dangerous woman. Even without her, the film teases just enough of whatever is going on between Jules and Jim...maybe real, maybe imaginary, but there's something there that's more than brotherly. Catherine (Jeanne Moreau) is a tornado, sucking them in and destroying them. Deadly, but so beautiful in her destruction. This film is stylish as hell, the performances intriguing, and every time I watch this film I'm drawn in all over again. The song she sings sums it up the appeal of this film quite nicely...

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Sight & Sound Challenge: Apocalypse Now (1979)

Film: Apocalypse Now (137/250) 
First Time/Rewatch: Rewatch

The original cut was a LOT easier to get through than the Redux. Holy crap was THAT long! I first watched it just before starting this Sight & Sound challenge, and I figured if I was only going to watch it once, I might as well watch the long version. Whoops! The shorter version flowed a lot better for me, and I was able to enjoy the individual characters throughout the film, from Robert Duvall's Lieutenant Kilgore ("I love the smell of napalm in the morning!") to Dennis Hopper's wacky photojournalist, to Frederic Forrest as "Chef" and little baby Laurence Fishburne (whose final scene absolutely breaks my heart). This film is disorienting...war changes you, it can be surreal. While I hated the score the first time I saw it, it felt more fitting the second time (although I still don't love it)...it has an "off" sound to it. These characters are in a foreign land, doing and seeing things they might never have imagined. This film captures that feeling so well....the horror, the horror...

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Wanderers (1979)


Seeing as The Right Stuff and the 1978 incarnation of Invasion of the Bodysnatchers are two films that I hold in extremely high regard, it's a wonder that I waited so long to see the film that Philip Kaufman made in-between those two. But it's also a kind of hard film to track down, so sue me! Anyway, though it comes nowhere close to the perfection of its predecessor and descendant, it's quite a good little picture. You can see elements of Bodysnatchers in a particular chase scene and the plotless focus on charismatic lunkheads clearly presages the Gemini astronauts of The Right Stuff. Sure things peter out a little after the second act climax, but it wins you back pretty easily. All in all it's a fun movie with a few actual thoughts on its mind and it deserves a wider audience. Perhaps the $49.99 price for the DVD on Amazon is holding people back? You can get the disc from Netflix. But like The Wanderers themselves, DVD's are a remnant of a bygone era that just doesn't know that it's time has passed.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Friday Quote: We Need to Talk About Kevin

"It's like this: you wake and watch TV, get in your car and listen to the radio you go to your little jobs or little school, but you don't hear about that on the 6 o'clock news, why? 'Cause nothing is really happening, and you go home and watch some more TV and maybe it's a fun night and you go out and watch a movie. I mean it's got so bad that half the people on TV, inside the TV, they're watching TV. What are these people watching, people like me?"
We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Wendy and Lucy (2008)


This feels like the type of movie a lot of filmmakers aspire to make. They want to tell a small story with low stakes that focuses on the characters rather than the plot. Of course this is a lot easier said than done. Big stories and intricate plots exist for a reason - they draw people in easily! When all you have is a few characters in a fairly unremarkable setting you have to work a lot harder. I guess it also helps if you have an adorable dog as one of those characters. But that's not to take anything away from Reichardt who makes you viscerally feel every single dollar Wendy has to spend. Decisions about how to spend your last few dollars are just as important as decisions that involve the fate of the world. It's nice to see that somebody gets that.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Sight & Sound Challenge: The 400 Blows (1959)

Film: The 400 Blows (136/250) 
First Time/Rewatch: Rewatch

I really really really love this movie. Jean-Pierre Léaud gives one of my favorite performances from a child actor as a young man whose parents are impatient and frustrated with him, whose teacher is pretty heartless, and who feels like he's running out of options for his life. He's scared, he's confused, he seeks refuge in all the wrong places, he makes bad decisions. Through it all we see a little boy who has nobody left in his life that believes in him. I can't believe this is François Truffaut's first film...it's a remarkable achievement in filmmaking. To capture such feelings of isolation, frustration, and hopelessness...Truffaut was 27 when this film was released! You know what *I* was doing when I was 27? Probably binge-watching Daria (again) and eating cookies by the fistful. Sigh. Anyway, thank the cinema gods for these filmmaking prodigies and for charming boys like Jean-Pierre Léaud.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Sight & Sound Challenge: A Man Escaped (1956)

Film: A Man Escaped (135/250) 
First Time/Rewatch: First Time

In this simple story of a Frenchman attempting to escape his cell at the hands of Germans during World War II, the protagonist's unwavering focus and precision is key. Director Robert Bresson famously used "non-actors" and his stories are fairly minimalist, stripping our focus away from everything else but the main character's mission. It walks us through every step: exactly how he chips away at the door, how to make a grappling hook, how he seeks out allies in his quest. I admire Bresson's confidence in telling such a minimal story and telling it well. I also really enjoyed the use of Mozart; his music accompanies this film so well.

Having said all that, it did feel a little draggy at parts, and I think it would've worked really well as a short film. Then again, I'm biased because I reeeeeally love short films. But it was a worthwhile watch, and a must-see for fans of Bresson.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Green Room (2016)


Now this is what I'm talking about! Unlike a lot of you, I did not care much for Jeremy Saulinier's last film Blue Ruin. I didn't hate it, I just found it to be rather generic. Nothing really stuck with me after that initial viewing. I even find myself mixing it up in my brain with other films. Thanks to the specificity of the Punk v. Skinhead divide in this outing, there is no way that you could possibly mix this film up with any other. All the little nuances of those subcultures are handled just right. You get the significance of certain elements without having to have them turgidly explained to you and they add up to a more well-rounded experience overall. The more specific you get, the more universal you become. Also, who could possibly forget Anton Yelchin?