Monday, May 22, 2017

Philadelphia (1993)


I wish I had seen this film when it first came out. As the son of a huge Bruce Springsteen fan I was certainly aware of it, but I didn't actually seek out and watch it until five or so years ago. And while both viewings moved me greatly, I also felt like I was watching AIDS, homophobia and bigotry 101. I was watching this film in an After Ellen world where HIV/AIDS is still incurable, but it is also no longer a death sentence. It's amazing how fast the world can change.

It's also amazing that it took thirteen years for Hollywood to address this plague. I get that the GOP was ignoring it because they were fine with it killing off gay men and IV drug users, but homosexuals have formed the bedrock of the entertainment industry since forever. Why did it take active protesting of the Oscars and hit films like Silence of the Lambs and Basic Instinct to get the costal elites on board?

Philadelphia remains an important film worth watching for its strong performances and Demme's compassionate direction, but moreso than anything it is a reminder of how slow to action even the most progressive people can be when there isn't someone actively pushing them to do right. If you want to get something done, you can't be silent.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Twin Peaks (1990)


When people talk about Twin Peaks they tend to talk about giants and little men who talk backwards. They talk about the Black Lodge and Owl Cave. And while all of those elements are very much part of Twin Peaks, they are not part of the pilot. Things don't start getting dreamy until episode three. But that doesn't make the first episodes any less Lynch.

What struck me on this rewatch was how reliant this pilot was on mood and inference. Right from that first close-up of the Palmer's ceiling fan. You can imagine executives imploring David Lynch to cut it out and keep things moving, but thank God he didn't. Things like that fan and the swaying traffic light are laying the groundwork for where things are going. They are the "acceptable strangeness" that will prepare us for the truly dark places we are going to eventually find ourselves in. Just as Sarah Palmer and Donna Hayward are able to infer Laura's death before they are explicitly told, we too are able to read the signs and glean the greater significance of what is afoot under the small town surface.

In this pilot, David Lynch is giving us the keys to unlocking his and Mark Frost's weird little world. I can't wait to open that door again.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Sight & Sound Challenge: Spring in a Small Town (1948)

Film: Spring in a Small Town (213/250) 
First Time/Rewatch: First Time

I don't know, guys. I think I'm getting to the point of this challenge where I just want to reach that finish line. And maybe I'm not paying enough attention to really take these films in....if I'm not doing that, then what's the point? I did a little research about Spring in a Small Town, and I found it hailed as one of the finest Chinese films ever made. When I finished watching, I couldn't help but wonder if I watched the same movie. What cinephiles praised as a delicately restrained and naturally acted film, I found incredibly dull. The actors seemed stiff, the narration excessive...I don't know, I just wasn't feeling it. Maybe I need to rewatch it, or maybe *gasp* I didn't like a beloved film! As Judy Garland sings in In The Good Old Summertime, "I don't caaaaare, I don't caaaaare..." I find this happening more and more. I probably would benefit from a rewatch. The premise of a love quadrangle is definitely interesting on paper, and maybe I need a second viewing to appreciate the subtlety ouf this film. As it stands, however, this film gets a big shrug from me. And future films in this challenge will get much more of my focus so that if I don't like a movie, I'll know without a doubt in my mind that I don't like a movie. Ah well, not every film will appeal to everyone. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Tower (2016)


Who would have thought that a movie about a massacre would be the film to leave you with a renewed faith in humanity? I certainly didn't. While most films would focus on the shooter and his motives, this film hardly makes mention of him. This isn't a case of plastering one of the Boston Bombers on the cover of Rolling Stone like he's some sort of rock star. I'm not totally certain, but I feel like they don't even say the Austin Shooter's name out loud, and the only photo of him is as a baby. This is a film about the victims, about their lives and their experiences. It is also a film about compassion, sacrifice and even forgiveness. Oh and it's a cartoon too. Man I love cinema!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Friday Quote: Empire of Dreams

"The things that stick in my mind and make me laugh were, like, memos worried about whether or not the Wookie should have pants. They're looking at this thing and saying, "Couldn't he have some lederhosen?" This is great. Of all the things to worry about, the Wookie has no pants."

Empire of Dreams: The Story of the 'Star Wars' Trilogy (2004)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Rumble Fish (1983)


What a difference a lack of color makes! Stylistically and thematically, there isn't too much distance between this film and The Outsiders. They're both highly-stylized gang stories that make extensive use of camera tricks and opticals. But for some reason, Rumble Fish doesn't make me want to claw my eyes out. You'd think that the lack of color would draw even more attention to the stuff I hate, but instead it transforms ludicrous things into gorgeous ones. Black and white transports this film to another world entirely. Rumble Fish is 100% artificial and I love it for that. As Coppola stated, this is an art film for kids. Sure it's R-rated, but it's a pretty soft R. Why can't substitute teachers show THIS Hinton adaptation to their classes? It's guaranteed to ignite adolescent imaginations and we need more of that.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Sight & Sound Challenge: Wavelength (1967)

Film: Wavelength (212/250) 
First Time/Rewatch: First Time

A room. Some people. Some color changes. A horrible loud ongoing noise (or, uh, wavelength). For 45 minutes.
That's it. I didn't feel any particular way about it, except maybe irritated that 45 minutes of my life were gone and I had acquired nothing except a headache from that increasingly loud and high pitch that accompanied most of the film. To elaborate would be an insincere attempt on my part to ascribe meaning where I found none. I might have tolerated this at 10 or even 20 minutes (MAYBE) but 45? No. Although it did lead to this amusing conversation at work:
"What is that noise?"
"It's the movie I'm watching. It's just a shot of a room. There was a dead guy. And this noise. But not much else."
"Oh. Well I saw Guardians of the Galaxy 2 last night!"

Next!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Sight & Sound Challenge: Performance (1970)

Film: Performance (211/250) 
First Time/Rewatch: First Time

Hmph.

For a movie with this much sex and violence, I found this surprisingly dull. Any statement it was trying to make about "performance" and identity was overshadowed by the eye-roll inducing posturing of these hipper-than-thou characters. Mick Jagger cavorting with his manic pixie dream girls while the tragically macho Chas Turner has some sort of existential enlightenment (I guess?) sounds interesting on paper, but I just found it incredibly tiresome. But it's on this list, so what do I know? I did enjoy Jagger's singing in the film. That's about it.

Monday, May 8, 2017

I Am Not Your Negro (2016)


Insane that a piece that was conceived decades ago is still relevant today. It's what happens when you choose to ignore a problem rather than address it. You call something a "riot" rather than an "uprising" or "protest" so that you can diminish it and write it off. When you treat a tragedy as a one-off rather than a symptom of something greater, you diminish our ability to get at the heart of the disease. Bury your head in the sand all you want, but there is something gravely wrong with this country and the issue of race. Having a black President for eight years allowed us to further the delusion and look where that got us! The information in this film is not new. We just need to finally accept what it is saying and look within ourselves. Otherwise, what hope is there for a brighter tomorrow?

Friday, May 5, 2017

Friday Quote: Midnight in Paris

"You know, I sometimes think, how is anyone ever gonna come up with a book, or a painting, or a symphony, or a sculpture that can compete with a great city. You can't. Because you look around and every street, every boulevard, is its own special art form and when you think that in the cold, violent, meaningless universe that Paris exists, these lights, I mean come on, there's nothing happening on Jupiter or Neptune, but from way out in space you can see these lights, the caf├ęs, people drinking and singing. For all we know, Paris is the hottest spot in the universe."
Midnight in Paris (2011)