Thoughts on movies and other media from a man who loves movies
Friday, September 30, 2005
Thursday, September 29, 2005
New Trailer for The Shining
Scorsese Lists Worth Noting
The greatest director in film history, Martin Scorsese, has compiled two different lists that rate the films that best utilize light and color.
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
For the most part I hate reality television
But Slate is running a week long diary by comic writer, director, and producer Judd Apatow on why he loves it.
Friday, September 23, 2005
Last Days Review
After the remarkable artistic achievement of Elephant, it would be easy to dismiss Gus Van Sant's Last Days as little more than a postscript to that film. Offering neither the psychological intensity nor the potent social commentary of that film, Last Days offers little more than a committed performance by Michael Pitt and a series of interesting moments that never seem to gel into a purpose. The film's underlying problem comes though in the two songs written by Michael Pitt that he performs in the movie. They sound enough like Kurt Cobain without mimicking him exactly, and they are fine pieces of work all on their own. The problem is that neither of those songs are as interesting or as confessional or as interesting as "All Apologies" and "I Hate Myself and Want to Die." The film seems to be saying that we can never know why somebody would kill themselves. Elephant offered no "answer" as to why anyone would commit a Columbine-like massacre, but it served up all the major touchstones and allowed viewers to read what they wanted from the film. The same can be said of this film, that the director offers no answers but allows the viewers to decide. Perhaps the problem is that the suicide of a rock star seems to be a psychological issue, something very singular, where a school shooting seems more sociological. Last Days needed more immediacy to work as well as it could have. Cobain's music had that immediacy, making the real life story so much more interesting than this fine but flawed film.
Thursday, September 22, 2005
The Aristocrats Review
I like to avoid using physical sensations to describe my reaction to films. The exception to my personal rule if if I actually experience what I said I did. When I left The Aristocrats my stomach hurt from laughing so hard. Not that I laughed throughout, although I certainly smiled all the way through. But when you laugh at this film you can't help but have it be the kind of laugh that shakes you to the core. The film gives the viewer insight into what makes jokes funny and why people laugh at the most disturbing things imaginable. Comic Paul Provenza and comic magician Penn Jillette videotaped dozens of famous comedians telling and explaining the joke (a joke I won't repeat here). The joke requires thinking up the most disgusting acts imaginable in order to maximize the punchline. All I can say is that the film entertained me to no end. Highlights include Steven Wright, the South Park version of the joke, and Dana Gould's Amish version. And special credit goes to Sarah Silverman for being the only one in the film to come up with an element that made me cringe with discomfort. (it involves her brother - and I doubt it's what you think it is).
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
How to See One of the Year's Best Films for Free
PBS stations around the country will be airing the two-part nearly four-hour Martin Scorsese documentary No Direction Home: Bob Dylan this coming Monday and Tuesday evening as part of the American Masters series. The DVD of the film is already available. This is one of those beautiful pop-culture moments where two great artists collaborate, and each of them shine even brighter because of the finished project. In the first half of the film Scorsese expertly compiles archival footage and interviews in order to present how Dylan rose to prominence singing folk songs and writing songs that were so of their time they were adopted by so many as the soundtrack to many of the seismic social changes the country was experiencing. As educational and interesting as this first two hours is, it doesn't feel very much like Scorsese. That problem disappears immediately in the second half as Scorsese begins to edit with a quicker pace making the audience feel the claustrophobia Dylan himself is experiencing. Although this hour and a half covers just about 18 months of Dylan's life, one gets the sense of how much he aged during this time. When all is said and done, the film makes Dylan a little more knowable, even if there is no greater understanding of how he created such amazing songs. There is a wealth of never before seen footage in the film, as well as some outstanding and rare television appearances and performance footage on the DVD. Quite simply, No Direction Home is one of the best films of the year.
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
The Constant Gardener Review
Fernando Meirelles' The Constant Gardener is less than the sum of its parts. Meirelles constantly moving camera and his frenetic editing certainly help build the suspense, the discomfort, and the unease of the characters in the film. The screenplay offers a first-rate mystery augmented by the perfect amount of marriage drama. The performances are all first-rate with Rachel Weisz showing enough ferocity to actually hold the screen even when Meirelles will not allow a scene to stay on screen for more than a few seconds. The problem is that the visuals are so exhausting that a viewer is likely to be too overwhelmed and simply thankful when the film (comparatively) slows down during some extended dialogue passages that should allow the viewer to catch up on the complicated plot. Those scenes should hook the viewer with the psychology of Ralph Finnes' character, but instead one is likely to simply be thankful that the constant barrage of images has ceased momentarily. I was underwhelmed by Meirelles first film, City of God, finding it stylish without substance (and containing one personally offensive scene involving guns being held on a pair of small children who are crying in fear - I for one refuse to believe there was any acting going on with the amateur performers in that scene). This film has substance, but the style doesn't allow it to connect with an audience. Meirelles may yet make a really good film, but he also might turn into someone who believes style can turn on a viewer's emotions no matter if the subject matter deserves a different approach - a situation that would make him the arthouse Tony Scott.