Sunday, September 30, 2007
Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)
Recently rewatched and was even more enchanted the second time around.
"You know, Rick, I have many a friend in Casablanca, but somehow, just because you despise me, you are the only one I trust."
Winter Light (Ingmar Bergman, 1962)
Algot Frövik, Sexton: The passion of Christ, his suffering... Wouldn't you say the focus on his suffering is all wrong?
Tomas Ericsson, Pastor: What do you mean?
Algot Frövik, Sexton: This emphasis on physical pain. It couldn't have been all that bad. It may sound presumptuous of me - but in my humble way, I've suffered as much physical pain as Jesus. And his torments were rather brief. Lasting some four hours, I gather? I feel that he was tormented far worse on an other level. Maybe I've got it all wrong. But just think of Gethsemane, Vicar. Christ's disciples fell asleep. They hadn't understood the meaning of the last supper, or anything. And when the servants of the law appeared, they ran away. And Peter denied him. Christ had known his disciples for three years. They'd lived together day in and day out - but they never grasped what he meant. They abandoned him, to the last man. And he was left alone. That must have been painful. Realizing that no one understands. To be abandoned when you need someone to rely on - that must be excruciatingly painful. But the worse was yet to come. When Jesus was nailed to the cross - and hung there in torment - he cried out - "God, my God!" "Why hast thou forsaken me?" He cried out as loud as he could. He thought that his heavenly father had abandoned him. He believed everything he'd ever preached was a lie. The moments before he died, Christ was seized by doubt. Surely that must have been his greatest hardship? God's silence.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
I, Robot (Alex Proyas, 2004)
I Robot is a product of Hollywood; a big budget, action, Will Smith driven vehicle with character archetypes, clichés, special effects, clever dialogue, an unnecessary sexual tension between the leads, and plot twists galore. All of which usually amount to me hating the film, but this film is a rare example of a Hollywood film that does it right. The script based on an incredible Asimov story is fantastic in and of itself, and brought to life with some great camera work, cinematography, and CGI. Behind all of the intense action and melodrama, Asimov's commentary on the parallels between humanity and robots as well as the insinuations of humans being incapable of sustaining a self sufficient society is not entirely neglected as would be expected. All and all I was surprised to find myself enjoying this film as much as I did.
Friday, September 28, 2007
The Fountain (Darren Aronofsky, 2006)
"Death is the road to awe."
I saw The Fountain in theaters about ten months ago and loved it. The film really seemed to click for me on all levels. It's obviously incredibly visual and heavily reliant on the the editing tactics and emphasized through the use of score so I thought a second viewing might reveal that I was manipulated by such devices, and perhaps I wouldn't think as highly of it again, however I found the reverse to be true. After the second viewing I became even more aware of how incredible the script (which many critics have referred to as incoherent) is as well as how moving the performances are (don't laugh, but I was brought to tears several times ). Originally I felt the performances and some of the dialogue came across as overly melodramatic, but I now realize they were essential for accomplishing such an emotional final product. I admire Aronofsky's ambition to tackle such a universally complex philosophical subject and cannot fathom why this film was so lampooned and/or ignored critically. In my opinion it is still easily one the best films from last year.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
The Silence (Ingmar Bergman, 1963)
Once again Ingmar Bergman directs a film with little dialogue, incredible since of mood, intriguing characters, excellent performances, gorgeous cinematography, and one breathtaking composition after another.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Wings of Desire (Wim Wenders, 1987)
A gorgeous and deeply profound film that celebrates human existence as an angel observes the lives and inner thoughts of mortals falls in love with a trapeze artist and wishes to become mortal himself. The film also features performances by Nick Seed and the Bad Seeds.
"When the child was a child, it was the time of these questions. Why am I me, and why not you? Why am I here, and why not there? When did time begin, and where does space end? Isn't life under the sun just a dream? Isn't what I see, hear, and smell just the mirage of a world before the world? Does evil actually exist, and are there people who are really evil? How can it be that I, who am I, wasn't before I was, and that sometime I, the one I am, no longer will be the one I am?"
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Monday, September 17, 2007
Sunday, September 16, 2007
3:10 To Yuma (James Mangold, 2007)
A careful blend of entertainment, genre conventions, iconography, predictability, fascinating characters, A-list quality cast/acting, a solid script with the exception of some over the top melodramatic moments as well as questionable action sequences, and some problematic dialogue. Overall it's a good, not great, traditional Hollywood Western with some excusable flaws.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Monday, September 10, 2007
Goodbye Dragon Inn (Ming-liang Tsai, 2003)
Goodbye Dragon Inn is a simple film about the final night at an old martial arts theater before it closes down for good and the lonely patrons in attendance. The film carries a very melancholy and sullen tone emphasized by the dark low key and sometimes blueish cinematography. The dripping water and and quiet soundtrack also heps shape the mood. There really isn't much of a narrative here and some of the takes are longer than necessary, which would most likely make it a painfully dull for the average movie viewer, but that's not what the film is about. It is meant to create a nostalgic bittersweet emotion by using occasional moments of subtle humor along with the somber sadness.
Sunday, September 09, 2007
This is England (Shane Meadows, 2007)
A powerfully emotional and overall brilliant film dealing with modern pro-nazi manipulative tactics set in 1983 England. This is perhaps the most culturally and politically relevant fiction film I've seen this year (along with Ken Loach's The Wind That Shakes the Barley) as the danger of race riots and racial tension increases among the threats of terror attacks throughout the world. The performances are all stellar. Young Thomas Turgoose is incredible in the lead as is Stephen Graham as Combo, the skinhead recently released from prison who stirs up the group of ska loving mod teenagers. The soundtrack is also great and features a couple of excellent originally composed pieces by Ludovico Einaudi as well as classic ska and 80s punk.
Friday, September 07, 2007
His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940)
After a second viewing I had to bump the rating of this fantastic film up a bit. Cary Grant is one of my favorites and this is possibly my favorite character he played as the witty dialogue comes fast and frantic.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006)
A typical pretentious Lynchian abstract, narratively sparse, surreal, mystifying, and pretty much incomprehensible David Lynch film we've already seen before only with even poorer sound and image quality than ever before, not to mention gratuitously overlong.
Monday, September 03, 2007
Powwaqatsi: Life in Transformation (Godfrey Reggio, 1988)
A less mesmerizing rehashing of the prequel spanning Africa, The Middle East and East Asia and exploring the impact of Western modernization on developing nations.
Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance (Godfrey Reggio, 1982)
A stunning experimental documentary consisting of montages of imagery without any synchronized sound or voice overs, accompanied only by Phillip Glass's moving score. This is the first of a trilogy of films commenting on anti human progress and the decay of humanity and environment. The film is bookended by a rocket taking off in the beginning which we later discover in the end is actually the Challenger Space Shuttle as we witness it's demise. In between these images we are privy to a frantic Eisensteinian montage using colliding angles and speeds of war related bombings and explosions, collapsing buildings, and beautiful time lapses of skylines, traffic, and people on the streets. The film shows both the evils and beauty of modernization with low angle shots of ominous looking skyscrapers as well as juxtapositions of natural environments with man-made structures.
Sunday, September 02, 2007
Stranger Than Paradise (Jim Jarmusch, 1984)
In the style of the cheaply made African American Independent films of the 60s, Jarmusch creates a humorous yet neorealistic portrayal of urban American life. The photography and dialogue is so natural an excellently delivered by the lead actors (John Lurie and Eszter Balint), relying on minimalistic dedramatization techniques as opposed to melodrama. The elliptical editing is a great touch as well making the story more episodic.
"It's Screamin' Jay Hawkins and he's a wild man so bug off."
Saturday, September 01, 2007
The Virgin Spring (Ingmar Bergman, 1960)
I'll just let the images speak for themselves here:
Through a Glass Darkly (Ingmar Bergman, 1961)
A well written and directed chamber drama from legendary Swedish director Ingmar Bergman. Sven Nykvist provides beautiful cinematography as always, but the performances from the four actors involved overshadows both of these filmmaking icons. Harriet Andersson as Karin, delivers the most powerful of all the performances as she captures the torment of a woman conflicted between reality and fantasy as she battles her own insanity. Bergman also tackles familiar themes of incest, philosophy, faith, and the artist. His inclusion of artists as characters can be interpreted as semi-autobiographical representations of his own struggles with sacrificing relationships with his loved ones for art.