Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday Quote: Mistress America

"I want the whole deal. I want the dead-on-my-feet-wake-up-and-I'm-40. I've spent my whole life chasing after things and knocking at doors... and I'm tired of running towards people. I want to be the place that people come to. I want to make a home for all the knockers and runners. I'm good at that. I'm happy with that. I keep the hearth. That's a word, right? Hearth?"
Mistress America (2015)

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Far From The Madding Crowd (2015)

I wonder if there's anyone out there in the world still trying to make films in the Dogme 95 style. I'll assume that since there are people out there who still listen to Smash Mouth and Sugar Ray, the answer is yes. But like late 90's beach-rock, the Danish "vow of chastity" wasn't meant to last. It was merely a pallet cleanser for two filmmakers who had grown bored with shooting traditional coverage. And I guess it worked since both of those filmmakers are presently producing better work than they were before they took and abandoned those vows. Like Luke Skywalker, they had to unlearn what they had learned. Hopefully the intrepid souls out there who are still trying to get their films certified aren't debut filmmakers. I guarantee that you'll never get to a film as exquisite as Melancholia or Far From the Madding Crowd if you start your career with handheld non-genre films.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sight & Sound Challenge: Blow-Up (1966)

Film: Blow-Up (112/250) 
First Time/Rewatch: Rewatch

"Ooh! Verushka! Peggy Moffitt! Jane Birkin!" My brain was going crazy with all of the gorgeous 60s fashion, makeup, and models. Mod heels! Peacock hats! Fabulous graphic eye makeup! I couldn't handle it. I could barely pay attention to the actual movie. But once I calmed down (Should I get a 60s bowl cut?), I was able to take in a story that I hadn't revisited in years. A fashion photographer becomes obsessed with a crime he thinks he uncovers through his photography. It's not especially plot-heavy; in fact, the plot almost seems beside the point. It's about the world he lives in, moments of chaos and color and creativity juxtaposed with moments of calm, quiet, and reflection. The photographer seems wearied by maintaining his "cool" persona. The only characters who seem free are the mimes (yes, mimes) who skip across this film, shaking up the status quo. And when he accepts their point of view, he too is free. Free to stop trying to figure anything out. Kind of how I feel when I watch a lot of these Sight & Sound movies, haha. It's groovy eye-candy, that's for sure. Now...where do I get a peacock hat?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Sight & Sound Challenge: City Lights (1931)

Film: City Lights (111/250) 
First Time/Rewatch: Rewatch

This is my favorite Chaplin film after The Great Dictator, although I have to admit it had been many years since I'd watched it. The story is uncomplicated: a tramp falls in love with a blind woman who sells flowers, and through a misunderstanding she believes he is a wealthy gentleman. Meanwhile the Tramp befriends a rich man who only remembers him when he's drunk. Hilarity ensues! What also ensues is a level of tenderness that he doesn't quite reach in many of his other films. The way he gazes lovingly at the flowergirl, the way he kisses her hand. Even his antics with the drunk millionaire are rooted in the Tramp's desire for friendship and being helpful. All the Tramp wants to do is help. This film is sweet, beautifully shot, and has real heart. That last shot sums it up: the little Tramp, clutching a flower, tears in his eyes, a look of joy and apprehension on his face. We don't know what the future holds in store for these characters, but this moment, now, is a thing of beauty. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

It's funny how much slack I will cut a film that doesn't take itself seriously. I can't stand the way Christopher Nolan's Batman films co-opted ideas like mass surveillance, terrorism, the occupy movement, etc. as a way to appear smart when they aren't actually saying anything at all. Fanboys love to hold these themes up as an example of why The Dark Knight should be considered serious cinema. The Purge: Anarchy, on the other hand, has no delusions about what it is. It's an exploitation thriller, pure and simple. And like the exploitation films of yesteryear, it is taking the "hot topics" of the day and using them as a hook to get butts in seats. It isn't trying to say anything profound about income inequality. It just wants to tell a fun, tense, action-filled story. I'd respect Christopher Nolan a whole lot more if he would just cop to the fact that his Batman films were doing exactly the same thing.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Friday Quote: The Thin Man

"Pretty girl."
"Yes. She's a very nice type"
"You got types?"
"Only you, darling. Lanky brunettes with wicked jaws."
The Thin Man (1934)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Appropriate Behavior (2014)

When this movie came out, that still of writer/director/star Desiree Akhavan sitting on the toilet was all over my tumblr feed. And then there was the poster with her staring at the straight, kissing couple. The moody photography of these images combined with the bisexuality and the whole Iranian aspect had me pre-judging this film in all sorts of ways. And while this film is about all those things, it's also really damn funny. Why didn't they play up that angle? For some reason they sold this film like NyQuil when it's actually Dimetapp. This film is bubblegum amoxicillin. I guess I would have been just as reluctant if they had played up the comedy. Could you imagine a poster with a rainbow flag on one side, an Iranian flag on the other side and Shirin in the middle looking quirkily confused? When a film is one dimensional it's fine to pick an angle and stick to it like glue. But when a film is as unique and nuanced as this one, you're doing it a disservice by making it out to be just one thing. Or maybe going in with pre-judgements helped me to like this movie better. Maybe I liked it this much because of all the ways it defied my expectations. Well, either way it's a good movie. You should see it!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Sight & Sound Challenge: Some Like It Hot (1959)

Film: Some Like it Hot (110/250) 
First Time/Rewatch: Rewatch

I've sung this film's praises before, so I'm not sure what else there is to say!'s a list of everything I love about this movie that I've seen a billion times. 

*Jack Lemmon, Jack Lemmon, Jack Lemmon
*Tony Curtis in millionaire drag, threatening a small child on the beach
*Marilyn Monroe's first performance of "Running Wild", shimmying all over the place
*The tango between Osgood and "Daphne," complete with a rose between their teeth!
*"Most of the time, I slap it!"
*A secret cocktail party in a train cabin, complete with tickle fight!
*Did I mention Jack Lemmon? Every single line, look, and giggle is absolutely perfect. 

This film is one of the greatest comedies of all time and it holds its spot on this list for a reason. Revisiting it was no chore, and I'll probably watch it about once a year for the rest of my life!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Sight & Sound Challenge: The Double Life of Veronique (1991)

Film: The Double Life of Veronique (109/250) 
First Time/Rewatch: Rewatch

You didn't have to twist my arm to get me to revisit this one! I wrote about the music in this film a couple years ago, and the music remains my favorite thing about this film. The story is about two women, identical, their lives doubling each other, with a shared passion for music. They sense the other, without knowing exactly what it is they're feeling. It's a haunting and beautiful story and the music accompanies it perfectly; it's practically a separate character. The idea of living a life alongside a double, and the weight of that's sobering. And the responsibility felt if something happens to the double...

Irene Jacob does an extraordinary job of playing both Weronika and Veronique. I'm eager to watch her in another film for this project; Three Colors: Red. Until then, I'll have her serene face bathed in green light forever in my memory. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

A Face in the Crowd (1957)

Thanks to the rise of Donald Trump this film is on the minds of a lot of people. Lately I’ve heard a lot of people claiming that it’s time to add A Face in the Crowd to the continually growing list of films that were once considered satires, but are now practically documentaries. But as ‘Becca’lise pointed out to me after our most recent viewing, regardless of how dark this film is, it is actually pretty optimistic. I’m not sure if Lonesome Rhodes' downfall was mandated by the production code or what, but the idea that a demagogue like that could be brought down by a few offhand remarks is actually wishful thinking. As we have seen over and over again with “The Donald”, shocking statements are not enough in today’s America. People decry our “Outrage Culture” and the ways that it can destroy lives over trivial faux pas, but it has somehow yet to put an end to that man’s candidacy. In fact, those outrageous statements have only made him stronger. Perhaps we should instead move this from the “satire” column to the “fantasy” column?