Saturday, February 6, 2016

SINS OF OMISSION - Entries #22 - #34

I used to have this whole, neat, little paragraph detailing exactly what a "Sin of Omission" is, but it's not really 100% accurate anymore, so I'll just wing it. Let me try to explain this, so as not to over confuse anyone - as the new premise of this blog is a bit muddled, if I do say so myself.

I've discussed in detail, in the past, my desire to turn this blog's mission into something completely different. What was once a blog dedicated solely to chronicling my progress through the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book, is now a blog about many things. However, the primary goal of this blog, as it exists today, is for me to chronicle and record my progress as I attempt to create my own 1,000 Movies You Must See Before You Die (because 1,001 is stupid). With me so far?

From here on out, every single film I watch is a candidate to get into my personal list. Whether my wife adds Footloose to her Netflix queue and begs me to watch it with her or I watch a movie that was nominated for Best Picture last year - anything and everything is fair game. After every 100 films that I watch, I sit down in front of that list of 100 and try to pick out the cream of the crop. My self imposed "rules" state that I can pick no more than 15 films and I try my best to pick at least 10. That's basically where we stand at this point...

So a few weeks ago I finished up another bout of 100 films and I've been taking my time getting here to present the official list. But, no worries - as the time has come to unveil my next set of selections into my personal greatest films list. This time around I'm entering 13 films for preservation on my list. Thirteen films that should have been in the 1001... book and it's a SIN that they weren't included. Read on...

CLICK HERE TO SEE A COMPLETE LIST OF THE LAST 100 FILMS I WATCHED. THESE FILMS WERE WATCHED BETWEEN JUNE 2015 AND JANUARY 2016

Entry #22
Dial M for Murder (1954 - Alfred Hitchcock)  10/10

Chosen because I'll never, ever forget the first time I saw Dial M for Murder. It was actually during my first attempt at tackling a list. My wife and I had just moved into our new apartment - newlyweds out on their own for the first time. We decided to give the IMDB Top 250 list a shot and thus, picked a particular day and printed the list as it stood on that day. Dial M... was #240-something. We went the local library (which, at the time, was a treasure trove of movies (I'm talking Blockbuster on steroids). One Sunday night, we sat down to check it out. My hopes were probably high, as I'd already been an established Hitchcock fan. What I didn't know was that I was about to view what would soon become my all-time favorite Hitchcock film (bold statement). The film finished and neither of us could stop gushing about it. It was eleven o'clock at night (maybe even closer to midnight), but we were still buzzing, so we decided to take a ride to the library and drop off the tape, just so we could keep talking about it. Twenty minutes, we were pulled over by a cop car, for having an expired registration (oopsies). I've seen Dial M for Murder several times since that hot August night in the summer of '07 and every time I do, I remember that story, that night my wife and I cuddled on the couch to watch Ray Milland plot the murder of Grace Kelly and when that failed, to plot the her conviction. It's just such a perfect movie for me. Not only do they get you to root for the murderer in the first half (just to see if he can pull this off), but then in Act II, they somehow make you do a complete 360 and root for the detective (played to utter perfection by John Williams). An all-time favorite of mine and one of the ones I really, REALLY shame THE BOOK for leaving out.



Entry #23
Mary and Max (2009 - Adam Elliot)  8/10

I suppose I chose Mary and Max because it was unlike anything I'd ever seen before. I'd once gone onto the IMDB message boards and put up a post asking for people to recommend movies to me that were animated, but weren't necessarily for children. What I got was a lot of suggestions to watch Japanese anime, which wasn't exactly what I had in mind. I'm intrigued by the idea of using animation (or in the case of Mary and Max, claymation) to tell about things other than talking fish and inanimate objects falling in love. In Mary and Max we're told the story of lifelong pen pals, who come from two very different backgrounds, but find that their personalities are more similar than they originally thought. I rarely cry at movies, but this one almost had me turning on the water works by the end.



Entry #24
Frances Ha (2012 - Noah Baumbach)  8/10

I was on a short Noah Baumbach kick in 2015, seeing both Frances Ha and The Squid and the Whale for the first time and absolutely LOVING both. The kick kept on rolling until I saw While We're Young and, Naomi Watts aside, was turned off.

Anyway, The Squid and the Whale didn't make it into the fold of this list, but Frances Ha does and I think it all has to do with Greta Gerwig, who I was mad about for weeks after seeing this. Can't really point to one thing that made me choose Frances Ha, other than the fact that it was just something that was up my alley. I really dug the black & white photography and the story - where not a lot happens, but somehow I was still transfixed to the screen - mostly due to the aforementioned Gerwig.



Entry #25
Creep (2014 - Patrick Brice)  8.5/10

Fucking "found footage" films, man - they get me every time. What is it about these amateur looking movies that always have me absolutely mesmerized and wanting more & more. In "Creep", we're presented the story of a regular Joe (they're always regular Joe's) who answers a Craigslist ad to come to a man's home and film a day in his life. It turns out the man, Josef, has cancer and is requesting the services of a vidographer, to document his final days, as his wife is pregnant and he wants to leave behind a memento for his unborn child. Things get weird early when Josef strips naked and has the videographer, Aaron, film him while he gives his imaginary, unborn baby a bath.

Screw the haters - I love this shit. Feed me all of your found footage Hollywood, for I will digest it with a smile. If I have a guilty pleasure in cinema, it's definitely these. I honestly don't think I've seen one that I haven't liked. The "creep" of the title is played by Mark Duplass, who, in my opinion, is brilliant in portraying his titular personality. This is one of those movies that had me immediately going to IMDB.com to see what the general consensus was. Turns out it wasn't great, but if you ask me, all of the plot holes & "doesn't make sense" arguments are unjustified. Within the context of this film, everything makes sense for the most part and it really is a true to it's title, in that it will creep you out



Entry #26
Deathtrap (1982 - Sidney Lumet)  8/10

Why I chose this movie:

1) Michael Caine
2) It reminded me of Sleuth
3) I had a blast watching it

'nuff said...



Entry #27
Wild (2014 - Jean-Marc Vallee)  8/10

I originally rated this a '7.5', but I'm upping it now, because in retrospect it belongs in that upper echelon of rating. This was, for my money, the Best Picture of 2014 - without too much question (although I'd say Whiplash has a claim to that nod too). The greatness of the film begins with the absolutely INSANE editing, which was brilliant and ends with the stellar acting job from someone who I used to underrate - Reese Witherspoon. If you watch an adapted screenplay and afterwards find yourself online searching to see where you can get your hands on the source material, that's always a good sign.



Entry #28
Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008 - Kurt Kuenne)  10/10

Heartbreaking. That's the word that best describes this fantastic and very personal documentary from Kurt Kuenne, which tells the story of the murder of Andrew Bagby. This had been floating around my Netflix streaming queue for months and on my IMDB watch list for YEARS, before I got around to seeing it last fall. As I expected, it was blow away. Much like "Wild", this was one of the best edited films I saw throughout all of 2015 and as Orson Welles' said of "Make Way for Tomorrow", it could make a stone cry. Great, great stuff.



Entry #29
They Live (1988 - John Carpenter)  8/10

Another one of those famous "film's my brother showed me" - I first saw They Live when I was a youngster. Having grown up being spoon fed on professional wrestling, seeing They Live was a no brainer, since the film's star was none other than "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. I LOVED this when I was a kid, even more so for the plot, than the sheer appearance of one of my wrestling heroes. My brother and I used to sit in front of the TV with smiles as big as the Grand Canyon on our faces, watching Piper and Keith David beat the crap out of each other, all for the sake of one wanting the other to put on a pair of shades. I mostly chose this for nostalgia purposes, as I'll fully admit it features terrible acting from an otherwise brilliant "Rowdy" Roddy. Still though, I could watch this anytime and that's just the kind of thing I'm looking for when it comes to my personal list.



Entry #30
Panic Room (2002 - David Fincher)  8/10

I've flip flopped back & forth over this one throughout the years, but when I saw David Fincher's fifth film this past January, I was head over heels, as I sat in awe of suspense that would make Hitchcock proud. The plot is juicy, the acting fine (I've rarely, if ever, seen Jodie Foster better) and the general atmosphere of the film all combine to make for a movie that both casual movie goers and film snobs alike should be able to agree on. This marks the third David Fincher film on my personal list - Fight Club and Se7en being the previous two selections.



Entry #31
Pauline at the Beach (1983 - Eric Rohmer)  8/10

Chosen because, on a tough day, it helped me to forget about my problems - if only for a little while. Sure, it was a minor problem. I mean, all I had to do was go to work. But on this particular work day, it was to be the busiest day of the year - Black Friday. While that may be a joyous, money saving day for the consumers of the world, for a retailer, it's a nightmare. I wasn't due to start until 11:00am, so when I awoke just before 9:00, I had some time to kill. With my wife already off to work to cook for the nursing home residents on Thanksgiving morning, I popped Rohmer's 1983 feature into my DVD player and for a little bit, I forgot about the stampede of customers that would soon come rushing toward me in hopes of saving a few bucks. With forty or so minutes remaining, I intentionally stopped the movie, vowing to finish it when I got off that night - so that I'd have SOMETHING to look forward to that day. Thank you Mr. Rohmer for helping me to forget something I was dreading and thank you for giving me something to look forward to. This is what the movies is all about.



Entry #32
Man on Wire (2008 - James Marsh)  8/10

I saw Zemeckis' The Walk last month, but this is "where it's at" if you want the story of Philippe Petit's daring 1974 high wire walk between the two World Trade Center towers. This was the most fictionalized account I've ever seen a documentary give. I'm not saying that they stretched the truth or anything. I'm just saying that Man on Wire takes full advantage of splicing dramatizations with actual, archival footage and then mixing in some talking head interviews over everything, in another brilliantly put together documentary that rightfully took home the Best Documentary Feature Oscar at the 2009 ceremony. Also the film features Michael Nyman's Fish Beach, a song that I'm such a sucker for in movies. Every movie should feature at least a snippet of Fish Beach.



Entry #33
The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1975 - Melvin Frank)  8/10

Chosen because I freakin' love Jack Lemmon and adding another one of his films to my personal list just seemed like the right thing to do. Together with the marvelous Anne Bancroft, the two are knocking zingers over the outfield wall left & right, as the features them, together, in heavy dialogue scenes, where their back & forth is comparable to Roddick and Sharapova batting a tennis ball to and fro across a net. Wow - one sentence, two sports references. Sometimes Impressive. Anyway, if you've never seen this gem from the mind of Neil Simon (I fell in love with that guy in 2015), then track it down - which won't be easy since the DVD is out of print. I suggest TCM - that's where I found it.



Entry #34
Shame (2011 - Steve McQueen)  8/10

Last, but not necessarily least (although being LEAST in this group, wouldn't be a bad thing), is Shame - Steve McQueen's second feature and the film he made just two years prior to the Academy Award winning "12 Years a Slave". Since my fingers are getting a little tired of clickity-clacking on the keys, I'll let the review I wrote last November speak for Entry #34, if you don't mind...

From a technical standpoint, there isn't a lot wrong with Shame. Fassbender is fast becoming a favorite actor of mine, prompting me to add Hunger to my Netflix queue immediately and peruse his filmography to find other gems that have promise. The films main score by Harry Escott is powerful and fits in, calling to mind a desperate man, clutched by something almost demon-like. It calls to mind a group of friends who see a friend drowning, yet just can't save him - except Brandon is a loner, with no real friends, and that makes it even more dire. The main theme (titled "Brandon") makes me feel like there should have been a scene with Brandon just screaming into the heavens, it's that kind of powerful music where you just feel like the pains of the characters need to be exercised to accompany it. Keep your eyes peeled for key scenes, including a beautiful tracking shot of Brandon taking a jog at night, while blaring classical music and another of Carey Mulligan belting out the saddest version of New York, New York you'll ever hear.



---

Well, thar she blows - my latest selection of films chosen for "preservation" on my personal 1,000 favorite films list. I hope you enjoyed perusing more of my thoughts and I hope you agree with at least some of my selections. Feel free to drop me a comment and tell me what I got right and what I didn't. Which of my selections you detest and which ones were chosen perfectly. It should be noted that about twenty other REALLY good movies were passed on during the selection process this go around. In the last seven months, I watched some doozies. This is partly why I changed my selection criteria so that, if I so chose, I could pick more than ten film, but absolutely no more than fifteen. One might wonder why I am putting such harsh rules on my own self. It's because I only want the cream of the cinematic crop and I intend to watch as many movies as I can possibly watch and scour the world for my absolute fav's. Films like Fruitvale Station, Chaplin's The Circus, Steve Jobs, Two Days, One Night, I Love You to Death, Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Memories of Murder, Inside Out and A Tale of Springtime were all examples of fabulous movie making, that I just didn't have a place for. I hope you enjoyed the previous article and I'll be back with another one just like it, in the coming months.

Want some links? Wanna save my entire 1,000 list (which as of today, sits at just 333 films) on some popular websites? You got it!

IMDB
iCheckMovies
Letterboxd
Listal

February 6, 2016  10:24pm

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

1007. Paranormal Activity (2007)


Running Time: 86 minutes
Directed By: Oren Peli
Written By: Oren Peli
Main Cast: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Mark Fredrichs, Amber Armstrong, Ashley Palmer
Click here to view the trailer

Note: So this past weekend, the first major snowstorm of 2016 plowed through my area and luckily my wife and I had the weekend off and had already planned to spend it indoors, vegging on horror flicks. The snowstorm only added to the coziness of the whole situation, making our bed & blankets seem all the more inviting. Anyway, my wife and I did some perusing and came across a list titled, "They Shoot Zombies, Don't They" - a horror movie list that aims to capitalize on the popularity of "They Shoot Pictures, Don't They". The list ranks the 1,000 greatest scary movies of all-time and my wife and I have decided to VERY SLOWLY work our way down the line, from 1K to 1. In addition to that, I've (also VERY SLOWLY) have begun my own project of tackling all the films in the Criterion Collection. Not sure how either of these projects will turn out in the long run. It is very possible that one or both of them could be given up without a moment's notice. For now, however, I'm pretty committed to both lists and plan to add separate pages to the blog to track my progress. I WILL NOT be doing full length reviews for anything, instead tracking my progress very similarly to the way I track my progress through the 1001 Albums You Must Listen to Before You Die list. Now then...

FOUND IT!

I LOVE found footage films, plain & simple. If I had to pick one guilty pleasure genre, that would have to be the one. I guess I can admit that they're really not usually films of high quality, but then again, I'm sort of blinded to their badness usually, as I just can't get enough of them. Let's delve into the plot of what is probably the second most famous found footage films of them all (behind "Blair Witch") - Paranormal Activity.


Your leads are Katie (Featherston) and Micah (Sloat), a boyfriend & girlfriend, who have recently moved into together and reside in San Diego, CA. When strange, yet minor, things begin happening in the house, it is Micah's idea to get a video camera and set it up in the bedroom, to try and capture some of the noises that their house has been making. We're talking very minor things at this point - creaky doors, falling picture frames, etc. The film really gets underway by showing us the first night's videotape - where more minor things happen. Tapping noises coming from the hallway, outside the couple's bedroom, added with more creaky door. Everything is kept pretty light at this point, Micah always joking about the phenomena and Katie mostly just annoyed at this point, rather than frightened. The couple later call in a medium to try and expel whatever ghosts may be hiding in the home and following the medium's visit, it is his professional opinion that not a ghost, but rather a demon is terrorizing the young couple and that this is not his area of expertise. He suggests a colleague and makes an alarmingly quick exit, wanting nothing to do with getting on a demon's bad side. The camera continues to get set up and strange noises get louder, doors do more than creak - they visibly move on their own, without being touched by human hands and often the couple wake in fright, in the wee hours of the night. We continue to go back and forth between the voyeuristic videos of the nighttime and the effects that the goings on have on the couple in the light of day. The relationship becomes more and more strained, as Micah argues to protect his home by his own set of rules, while Katie wants nothing more than to expel the demon, without upsetting it.

SPOILER ALERT!



I really think that these found footage films appeal to my interest in voyeurism. I promise I'm not a peeping tom, but when it comes to cinema, I definitely have some sort of off fascination with voyeuristic pictures. There's something about seeing something that we're not supposed to be seeing that is appealing to me. It's almost taboo, I suppose. The public was never meant to see the events that took place on Micah's video camera, but within the confines of the film - one thing lead to another and the tapes were made public. I also tend to love compelling films that employ non-actors. I've always been a big fan of the film Open Water, a movie that uses two primary actors to tell a very minimalist story. Paranormal Activity reminded me of Open Water - in that it took a young couple and plunged them into peril. The couple also just looked and sounded like a real couple. They had a typical home, typical arguments - they just felt very real to me. And so, when the paranormal begins to take place, it will hit close to home with anyone who's ever had a live in mate, I think.

I guess, if I had to nitpick about anything, I'd have toned down the ending a bit - or maybe even have come up with something entirely different. My whole theory behind what makes The Blair Witch Project so good, was that nothing scary is ever SHOWN. Anything scary that comes out of Blair Witch, is completely manifested in our own imaginations, the idea of being alone in the woods at night, the idea of strange noises that can't be identified, the idea of strange phenomena that can't be recognized. However, there's not a ghoul or spook anywhere near that film - hence the praise. However, in Paranormal Activity, it's sort of the opposite. The film is more blatant in it's intentions to scare us and makes us use our imaginations less. We see physical sings that SOMETHING is clearly amiss and in the end, when Katie is dragged kicking & screaming through her own house, imagination becomes null & void. The whole possession thing is probably a bit too much too, but then again, I guess that was always the end game. Either they expelled the demon or it won and I guess the only way an invisible entity finally wins, is by taking over the body that it's been terrorizing. I would have liked for everything to be a bit more subtle. Perhaps even end with the Katie being dragged down the hallway, followed by her screaming & crying and calling for Micah and just end like that. I think that would, at least, promote a little bit of imaginary use. In voyeurism (which is exactly what found footage is), it is imperative that we ask questions. I've used the example before of looking in a stranger's window. If I were to go outside right now, find the first lit up house and put my nose to their windows, surely I'd have a hundred questions. Keep us asking questions, keep everything very mysterious. People who are supposed to be acting natural, in their own homes, shouldn't have to constantly be explaining their motives.


How much of a dick was Micah though, am I right?! If I'm Katie's boyfriend, I'm being less of an asshole and I'm dialing up the demonologist as soon as the medium recommends him. I'm not messing around with baby powder, videotapes or Ouija boards, I'm just chilling and letting the one who's obviously been dealing with this kinda' stuff since she was a little kid (Katie) tell me how it's gonna' be. The character frustrated me very badly, at times, which is a compliment to the film.

RATING: 8/10  During our horror weekend, we also watched three of the five sequels. The second one is almost as good, IMO, but not as good and they get progressively worse, with Paranormal Activity 4 falling around the '4.5/10' range.

January 26, 2016  12:05am

Monday, January 18, 2016

1006. Lost in Translation (2003)


Running Time: 101 minutes
Directed By: Sofia Coppola
Written By: Sofia Coppola
Main Cast: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi, Anna Faris, Fumihiro Hayashi
Click here to view the trailer

BACK!

I've just say here dusting off my keyboard and surrounding desk with a sock from the laundry, trying to figure out just how to start this thing. Truth be told, I really didn't plan on doing any reviews again, this soon. Thing is - I just happened to watch "Lost in Translation" last Monday and shortly thereafter, realized it was a former BOOK movie. I tossed & turned on the issue of whether or not I wanted to keep this blog going and ultimately, I think I do! In reality, I've actually used my own blog a lot lately - mainly to recollect my opinions of certain films and I've realized in the past week or so that it's nice to have a database of reviews under my belt and it's also nice to know that anytime I get the itch, I can add to it and maybe someday, have this gigantic, mass library of reviews & thoughts - a movie diary - which was always my original goal. Anyway...let's move along and see what I can put together on this one. Don't expect Shakespeare, because I'm definitely not in review mode.




The setting is Japan and the main characters are 1) an aging actor, Bob Harris (Murray) and 2) the young wife of a photographer, Charlotte (Johansson). Charlotte's husband is on assignment in Japan, often leaving her for hours on end to entertain herself in the hotel, while he goes on photo shoots with rock bands. Charlotte is experiencing a mild case of insomnia, not to mention a bit of depression, wondering if her choice to get married was a good one. She sits for hours on end, staring out the window - staring at a foreign land where surely no one understands her plight. Meanwhile, Bob Harris is the aforementioned aging actor, in Japan to shoot advertisements and commercials for a brand of whisky. Harris suffers from similar, psychological ailments as Charlotte - insomnia and the wonderment of whether or not his marriage is crumbling. Bob finds temporary solace in the hotel's lounge, knocking back scotch and sucking on stogies, listening to the redheaded lounge singer belt out tunes, while the clanking of glasses and mutter of conversation keep Bob company. One evening Bob and Charlotte meet and quickly realize that they can connect in this foreign land, perhaps help each other fill the silence, keep each other company, give each other advice, become friends, perhaps. The two hang out, Charlotte even introducing Bob to her Japanese friends (the whole reason Charlotte tagged along with her husband, was because the couple actually had a few Japanese friends). The film is ultimately about loneliness and an unlikely friendship that helps to heal that wound.


Let's talk about my recent trips to Philadelphia and how those helped me to, maybe, understand this movie a little better. So anyway, I went to Philadelphia for the very first time in May of last year, despite living in Pennsylvania all my life and the trip to the nation's former capital only being like six hours away. Anyway, when we were there in May, the city felt so different. I loved it, don't get me wrong - but just being there felt very different than being in say - the city of Pittsburgh, a city I've visited multiple times throughout my life. Both are run of the mill big cities, complete with big buildings, lots of people and pizza places that are open later than any pizza place in my dinky, little town. However, I really felt like a stranger in Philly. Just looking out the window one evening, a window that overlooked Citizens Bank Park and Wells Fargo Center, I felt so far away from home, despite really not being THAT far at all. We went back in December and I felt a little better, but still I definitely felt like a stranger in a strange land - a feeling that I neither loved, nor hated. I can say for sure, that had I not been with my wife, I really would've felt out of place, unable to sleep and ready to trek down to the hotel restaurant nightly to try and find a waiting ear. Now then, this is Japan we're talking about - a lot more than hop, skip & a jump away from home and I can only imagine that at that distance, the term "stranger in a strange land" took on a whole new meaning, putting my six hour "odd feeling" to shame. Add to that two personalities that are already troubled - rocky marriages and general gloomy outlooks and you've got the right mix for a movie that makes sense and I think, is easy to identify with.





What exactly was this relationship though? It's definitely a pairing that is rife for examination and dissection. Were their romantic buddings? I'd LIKE to think not and prefer to think of the relationship between Bob and Charlotte as unlikely friends. It's not even a father/daughter type of deal, because the two were clearly striving to be equals, Bob turning his shirt inside out and asking Charlotte to cut the tag out, so that he could look cool hanging out with the youngsters. However, there seemed to be a sense of shame in the Bob character when Charlotte catches him with the redheaded lounger singer. There also seemed to be a bit of awkwardness in their penultimate, goodbye kiss - an awkwardness that might be felt by an older man, who knows this girl is clearly out of his league, yet hanging on to hope that he may still strike something up. I think it was a very well written film, nuff said. When you can pick apart characters and little nuances like that and wonder & wonder & wonder about what exactly was at the root of this relationship - was it father/daughter, was it romantic or was it merely friendly - then it's safe to say that it's this whole new sort of relationship, one invented by Sofia Coppola when she decided to put pen to paper. I'm not even going to go into the whole final scene and "what did he tell her" deal, because it's been analyzed to death. All we need to know, is that they shared a special bond and it wasn't just a "hey, you're here and I'm here, let's hang out" type of deal. The film is the documentation of this bond and years from now, when Bob is dead and Charlotte is old & gray, she'll tell her children of the man she met while in Japan and she'll smile - at least I think so. The ending, was the last special moment, of a group of special moments and hopefully, imaginary, old lady Charlotte will keep what Bob told her to herself and never tell another living soul.

I really need to get a move on and see The Virgin Suicides and Marie Antoinette and whatever other movies young Ms. Coppola has under her belt. Oh boy, I just looked and one of her films is called The Bling Ring - that sounds like straight up garbage, right there. Maybe, I should just quit with Lost in Translation. I will say this, on a totally serious note, with Lost in Translation, Ms. Coppola out did her her father big time, making a movie that bested anything he's done in the last forty years. I mean, seriously, have you seen some of the tripe that Coppola has directed - JACK for God's sake! All kidding aside, however, I agree that this is a "must see" film and really, it should have never been taken out of the pages of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book. In fact, I was all set to say "it should've won the Best Picture the year it was nominated", but I just looked and it had some stiff competition that year - in competition against LOTR: Return of the King (the winner) and Mystic River (a personal favorite). It's good - that's all you need know...

RATING: 9/10  I've become a real hard ass on giving out '10' ratings, but this was darn close. Easily rewatchable, with not only a great script & great direction from Coppola, but super fine performances from Johansson and Murray, the latter of which walks a fine line between dramatist and comedian, and balances it flawlessly.

January 18, 2016  4:38pm

Saturday, December 12, 2015

UPDATE - December 2015

"Where on Earth have you been?"

That's the question I plan to answer today...

Long story short, I'm kind of sick of the blog. When I finished the blog, a month and a half ago, the whole idea was that my writings would slow down heavily and I'd finally get a chance to watch what I wanted and not be forced to follow my viewings with coming here and writing about it. I longed for the days when I could finish a film and that film was finished - end of story. However, the opposite seemed to happen. It seemed like when I finished the blog, my writing got more frequent. I committed to writing once every Saturday only, except that post grew into something that was really a pain in the ass to write up. By four weeks in, I was sick of the whole experiment and ready to pack it in. So that's what I did...

So officially, I announce the end of MY WEEK IN FILM. First and foremost, I want to thank Amanda for her three contributions. Amanda was ecstatic about writing for my blog from the word go and I thank her for enthusiasm and her hard work. She was more than cooperative and timely with her writings and while I thanked her via email, last week, I want to formally thank her here. Thank you Amanda.

I also want to thank Film Debate for the opportunity to write for their website. Last week, I was feeling completely burned out by my writing endeavors and decided to contact Film Debate and render my resignation, so to speak. I only wrote one column for them, but it was received well by them and I was proud of that piece, having put a lot of work into it, to ensure that it came across as professional. Film Debate has left the door open for me to return and I thank them for being so understanding.

So where do we go from here?

Probably not far, to be honest. First of all, expect a long hiatus, as I'm just 100% burned out from writing. I still plan to write formal reviews for the 1001 movies that weren't in my edition of THE BOOK, but I also plan to avoid any of those movies for a while, on purpose, so that I can stay away from writing and recharge my batteries. However, if you just can't get enough of my thoughts on film (I doubt there's too many of you out there) then follow me on Letterboxd, as I plan to continue to keep that thing very active - even adding thoughts on most movies I watch.

I can be followed on Letterboxd here

Call this a goodbye for now, but I'm sure I'll be back. Like I said, I just need to recharge and maybe toss around some ideas on where to take the blog from here. Perhaps a new project will surface? Perhaps...

December 12, 2015  1:22pm

Sunday, November 29, 2015

1005. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)


Running Time: 120 Minutes
Directed By: Danny Boyle
Written By: Simon Beaufoy, from the novel Q & A by Vikas Swarup
Main Cast: Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Anil Kapoor, Madhur Mittal, Irrfan Khan
Click here to view the trailer

FROM RAGS TO RICHES?

I spent a good ten minutes lying here, trying to think up a good subtitle and dozing off in the process. Now, my mouth hangs agape, my eyes glossy and I'm dead tired. The overtime that I put in, in order to get through the Black Friday chaos may have helped to fatten my paycheck, but it did absolutely nothing for my eyelids. Long story short, I'm still trying to recover, catch up on sleep - whatever needs to be done to regain some energy.

I wrote about Slumdog Millionaire five years ago, during a monthly recap post and proclaimed the fact that this played second fiddle to The Curious Case of Bejamin Button to be "yet another laughable moment in the history of the acclaimed Academy (Awards)". I'm pleased to announce that my opinion of the film, overall, has sweetened - yet, I still stand by that statement.

I really loved Anil Kapoor in this and now really want him to actually host a game show. The whole segment where he tries to feed Jamal an answer via the steam in the bathroom mirror....well, no spoilers here, but it's one of the few great scenes in the film.

The main character of the 2008 Best Picture winner is Jamal Malik, whom we see at different stages in his life. However, in present day, he is a grown man (Patel) competing as a contestant on the game show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. When we first encounter Jamal, he is being tortured by police officers for suspicion of cheating at the game - for a poor boy from the slums of Mumbai certainly couldn't genuinely carry the knowledge to answer such tough questions. As he is interrogated by police officials, we learn via flashback the story of Jamal Malik, as he explains how he knew the answer to each question, taking us through his life, generation by generation. The film ever so slowly transforms from being about a guy cheating at a game show to being about a boy in love, as we become aware of Jamal's life long love interest, Latika (played by Pinto when the character is an adult) - the very reason he went on the show to begin with.


I find that the longer I take to write a plot synopsis, the stronger I feel about a particular film. If I feel the need to cram in, even insignificant details, then I must think a lot of the production and not wish to mar it by accidentally omitting crucial facts. If I care little about the plot, characters & developments, then I'm more likely to just give you the highlights and get on with it. Which is the case as it pertains to Slumdog Millionaire - a film that, even after a second viewing, I simply can't get 100% behind. I think the big reason is that the film really has two movies going on at once: one about a "slumdog" possibly cheating to win Who Wants to Be a Milloniare and a second story about the romance that escalates between Jamal & Latika and the turmoil that mounts between Jamal & his brother, Salim (Mittal). When we start to receive the flashbacks, it's for the sole purpose of Jamal proving his innocence. Therefore, if you look at it from a storyline standpoint, there's no reason for us to ever get the romance story that existed between Jamal & Latika. Also, isnt' the whole thing a bit TOO contrived? Am I really to believe that every question that Jamal was asked he has a story about? When I watch game shows like that, usually I JUST know the answer - I don't reminisce like an old man remembering when he could get a Snickers for a quarter.

However, I feel like I talk about contrivances way too much. Movies are meant to bend the rules and stories don't always have to make 100%, flawless sense. Sometimes, as long as it's all feasible, it's enough to go on. This was a decent story and a clever one, to boot. When my wife asked me the other day, "what's it about" and I told her, I remember thinking to asking myself why I hadn't liked this one before, because it just SOUNDS like such a good idea: "A guy is accused of cheating on a game show, so via flashback, he tells how he knew each answer". Hell, just reciting it again makes me want to re-add it to my Netflix queue, get it back and watch it again to make sure I didn't miss something.



I mean, don't get me wrong, I liked this one - but to go so far as to call it a "Best" anything or a "must see" something is a little ridiculous, in my opinion. I think a lot of the problem stems from the fact that Danny Boyle may have been the wrong director for this material. When I think of Boyle, I think drugs, tit shots, techno clubs, punk rock music, mohawks, bloody noses, hooligans, beat up leather jackets and of course, Ewan McGregor. What I don't think is romance and I really think Slumdog could have benefited greatly, at least with me, if it had been handled by someone who would've treated the material with a lot less herky jerkiness in regards to the camera and a little more sentimentality as far as the love story. Obviously, this is merely my opinion, as Slumdog Millionaire won the Best Picture for 2008 and clearly, didn't need anything to be different.

In closing, I think most will really like Slumdog Millionaire and for that reason alone, I can't not recommend it. However, if you find yourself agreeing with my reviews A LOT, then it may be that you and I have very similar tastes and therefore, Slumdog may not be up your alley. I think this was always going to be a tough novel to adapt, as it's really a couple of stories rolled into one giant, complex piece. I think a more down to Earth director could have handled the story a little better, as the talents of Danny Boyle should be saved for the more eclectic & electric films, ones that his style can really add to. As it is, I think Slumdog Millionaire had enough of an edge on it's own, without having Danny Boyle aboard to jazz it up even more with things like his signature editing style. I'm really mixed on this one, because on one hand it's a brilliant idea, yet as I watched it, if failed to really grasp me and make me care like I know I should have been caring. But hey, at least it's not the worst Best Picture of the last ten years (see Birdman and/or Argo).

RATING: 6.5/10  For a Best Picture winner, that's pretty low, but I've seen lower winners of the prestigious prize. That's two viewing for this, so I think I can safely file this one in the mediocre bin.

November 29, 2015  6:10pm

Saturday, November 28, 2015

My Week In Film - Week 4

Well I made it through "hell week" and thanks to post dating a few posts, you got some original content on the blog this week, something you wouldn't have gotten otherwise. It was quite the uneventful week in my movie life, so today's column shouldn't take up too much of your time. I worked a total of forty five hours this week at my job, which won't seem like much to some, but was a whole lot to me. Therefore, only four movies got viewed this past week. Shall we...

MY WEEK IN FILM: NOVEMBER 21 - NOVEMBER 27

PICK OF THE WEEK

PAULINE AT THE BEACH (1983 - Eric Rohmer)  8/10

I'm really coming to love Eric Rohmer. His films are ones that I want to ration out throughout the rest of my life, so that I always have a fresh one ready to see for the first time. There's something about the atmosphere that he creates and the characters that he exposes us to that really appeals to me and it's almost unexplainable.

In Pauline at the Beach, Rohmer's 1983 offering, Marion and her younger cousin Pauline, head to the beach for holiday. Once there, Marion runs into her old friend Pierre, who in turn, introduces the two girls to his acquaintance Henri. Marion and Henri share a lust for one another, which makes Pierre jealous, as he's always had a crush on Marion. Meanwhile, Pauline transforms from a child into an adult before our very eyes, as she observes the grown-ups, their actions, their motivations and their sexual tendencies and develops some of her own. The whole thing turns into a love hexangle (or maybe even heptangle) with many of the characters having an interest in more than one of their fellow vacationers.

This breezed by! I watched the majority of this before going to work on Thursday, save for twenty minutes which I just didn't have time for. It was one of those movies that I was really disappointed that I couldn't finish and when I got home that night the first thing I did, once I got settled in, was to finish it and it was a movie that was very easy to settle back into. Rohmer is quickly becoming a favorite of mine, right up there with the likes of Woody Allen and Hitchcock.



THE REST

REGARDING HENRY (1991 - Mike Nichols)  6/10

Just squeaked this one into '6' territory, as I didn't mind watching this one that much. But seriously, some bits of that score were just cringe worthy - like the most generic, basic score you've ever heard in your life. Plus, I don't really know why, I just do NOT like Harrison Ford. The man gets on my nerves something terrible. That being said, as I was watching this, I was, for some reason, reminded of the movie Frantic (Roman Polanski) and now I really want to see that again. On the other hand, Annette Bening was great here and looked fabulous. Fans of Lost may want to give this a go, as it was penned by series co-creator J.J. Abrams. It's nothing like Lost, but still...

And before I wrap it up about this one, is it really possible for someone to get shot in the ARM and suffer amnesia?! Isn't it sort of a ridiculous concept that you're asking me to believe here? I mean, if the medical stuff really does hold up and makes sense, then fine, I stand corrected - but why not just say that the gunshot wound to the head is what caused his memory loss? Wouldn't that have been an easier pill to force feed your audience? Also, why would you send a man whose basically a forty year old child back to work at a big time law firm and more importantly, why would they want him onboard. And while I'm picking at plot holes, how could a forty something year old man, who can't remember what side of the bed he sleeps on or what a fork is used for, manage to do the paperwork and crack the case on how he cheated to win the case right before his accident? Ugh. Did I really give this movie a '6'?

BARELY



DEAD RINGERS (1988 - David Cronenberg)  3.5/10

See review, here



NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1990 - Tom Savini)  7/10

When I was a lot younger, my brother had this movie on videotape and would rave about it. I'm sure there came a day when he showed it to me, as I remember seeing this one long before I saw anything from George Romero. The film was directed by Tom Savini (who you may remember as "Sex Machine" in From Dusk 'Till Dawn), a Pennsylvania native and actually a native of my neck of the woods. The film itself was actually filmed VERY near where I live, with the farmhouse that the group holes up in being located in Washington, PA, a town we often frequented when I was young when any shopping was to be done. I'm also pretty sure I spotted "Chilly" Billy Cardille there at the end of the movie, another area of Pittsburgh native and a guy who worked for the Channel 11 news for many years, before retirement. I remember him being a pretty integral part of the local drive to raise money for the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon - the ones who would cut in, in between Lewis' part, to announce what they were doing in your area. The nickname "Chilly" was due to the fact that he hosted "Chiller Theater" - a late Saturday night broadcast that played horror and sci-fi films. Enough of the "Chilly Billy" history lesson though...

The film is your typical, survivor story, so if you're into those - which with the popularity of The Walking Dead, who isn't - then there's no reason not to like this. I will say too that the lead actress Patricia Tallman does a particularly good job of showing genuine fear and all of her reactions are very believable. A quick check of her IMDB page shows she's still active, showing up on TV series' from time to time, most recently Criminal Minds.



AT HOME FROM NETFLIX
Madigan (1968 - Don Siegel)
Sunshine (2007 - Danny Boyle)
Millions (2004 - Danny Boyle)
Slumdog Millionaire (2008 - Danny Boyle)

POLL OF THE WEEK

Last week, I asked you guys what the BEST BOXING MOVIE OF THE 21st CENTURY was, and your answer was...

Million Dollar Baby

...but only by one vote. Other vote getters were The Fighter (3), Cinderella Man (1) and Ali (1). This week, based on the watching of many John Hughes films recently, I ask you what is the best Hughes' film, that he DID NOT DIRECT. Have fun!



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Hello Andrew’s followers!

I have been struggling to come up with ideas for this post. James Marsters kept popping into my head. But what else is new? I finally settled on writing about a non List movie that I liked, since I never get to do that. The thought nearly broke my brain. I will not do well after I finish the Book and have no direction. I will be like the guy in The Shawshank Redemption who hangs himself because he can’t adjust to life on the outside. Metaphorically speaking.

Let’s start with a comedy. Spy was a damn good movie. Despite the fact that this film has received quite positive reviews, I still feel a little ashamed saying that, hence the inappropriate swearing. Perhaps I am still embarrassed for Melissa McCarthy for some of her recent, more horrendous roles. But if, as a nation, we can all forget about Tammy, we can really start to appreciate this talented actress.

McCarthy stars as Susan Cooper, a talented CIA agent who lacks the confidence to attempt fieldwork but is spurned into action after the death of a colleague. The film constantly pokes fun at the gender stereotypes and double standards inherent in the spy genre, and frankly, society. It is quite hilarious, especially if you are familiar with the traditional Bond-esque motifs.

So I suppose this does not count as a true guilty pleasure movie, because it is so smartly written. Maybe next week I’ll come up with some hidden pleasure of mine that will really horrify you film buffs. Something with Jennifer Aniston perhaps?

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Thank you Amanda, that was great!

Check Amanda out at the following places:

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
1001 Albums You Must Listen to Before You Die
1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die

FILMDEBATE

So I've started writing for the film site FilmDebate. It's something I wanted to do to kind of drive in a little more traffic and maybe play with writing some other types of film pieces. The thing is, is that FilmDebate doesn't post reviews of anything not currently playing in theaters. Therefore, I'll be forced to write special interest articles. My first one actually posted this week and is something I hope to turn into a monthly feature. I call it NETFLIX MONTHLY and....well, just click the link below and check it out for yourself. I'd like to think that it's well written, as it's something I took my time with.




GUY 'N' GAL OF THE WEEK

Arielle Dombasle (who starred alongside Amanda Langlet in Pauline at the Beach) was born in 1958 and was just as famous as a singer, as she was as an actress. Pauline at the Beach could just as easily have been called Marion at the Beach, as she nearly stole the show from the film's intended star.

Tony Todd starred in this week's film Night of the Living Dead and played the cool head to Patricia Tallman's screaming nut case. A quick check to IMDB shows that Todd has nearly 200 film & television credits on his resume, with a handful in various stages of development. Glad to see this great actor staying active!


BLOG POST OF THE WEEK
"Where I tell you to GET THE HELL OUT and spread some love to some other, worthy blogs!"

Seriously, check out Amanda's movie blog this week, as she's just updated it a few days ago with another informative, entertaining batch of reviews. She's been doing such hard work here, that it's a testament to her that she manages to organize three of her own blogs. Her most recent batch of movie reviews includes Dawn of the Dead, The Deer Hunter, Grease and Days of Heaven - all succinct, funny reviews that deserve your eyes and your comments. 

Click here to be, once again, redirected to Amanda's 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die page.

Throughout the rest of the blog world, you may want to turn your eyes to A FILM A DAY, where author Sonia is taking on a personal goal to watch one movie for every day of the year. This morning, she caught my eye when she posted a review of Take the Money and Run, probably my favorite Woody Allen movie, pre-Interiors. After spending a few minutes perusing her blog, I'm loving the versatility. In the past week, she's reviewed the following films; Take the Money and Run, Jason Goes to Hell, Unexpected (2015), Rebel Without a Cause, Animal Kingdom, Annie (1982) and Madagascar 3. Tell me that's not a wild bunch of flicks. Click the banner below for more from Sonia and A FILM A DAY

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Expect a full fledged review of Slumdog Millionaire this week and maybe something else, as the goal is to TRY to post two full review per week. I'll see what I can come up with....

Thanks for reading!

November 28, 2015  9:30am

Thursday, November 26, 2015

1004. Dead Ringers (1988)


Running Time: 116 minutes
Directed By: David Cronenberg
Written By: David Cronenberg, Norman Snider, from the novel Twins by Bari Wood and Jack Geasland
Main Cast: Jeremy Irons, Genevieve Bujold, Heidi von Palleske, Barbara Gordon, Shirley Douglas
Click here to view the trailer

SUDDENLY, I'VE GOT A HANKERIN' FOR SOME DOUBLE MINT GUM!

If you're reading this, it means that it's Thanksgiving morning in the U.S. - so happy Thanksgiving to you Americans. If you're elsewhere in the world - happy Thursday! In reality, it's Sunday evening, as I've taken a liking to post dating my reviews to spread them out throughout the week and so as not to bury anything that has just been posted - namely, my MY WEEK IN FILM post. Anyway, Dead Ringers...

Man, just imagine if surgeons actually did wear red? How much more scary would surgery be!?

For Jeremy Irons, the film meant double duty - as he played twin gynecologists, Beverly and Elliot Mantle - two totally different personalities, who are both a lot loony in their own way. Elliot is the dominant twin - cocky and confident, ready to take on the world, one vagina at a time! Meanwhile, Beverly is his opposite - a shy, submissive sibling who has zero luck with the ladies, yet excels in his field, alongside his twin. While not Siamese twins, the two are basically inseparable, sharing an apartment & a medical practice together, not to mention pretty much everything else - including women. In fact, when actress Claire Niveau (Bujold) comes to their office for an appointment one day, it is Elliot whose eye she catches first, as he seduces her, all the while examining the the cause of her infertility. After getting her heated up, however, Elliot passes her off to Beverly, who sleeps with her and as a result, becomes emotionally attached to her. Basically, the rest of the film is just about Beverly's downfall as he becomes dependent on Claire;s affection and the drugs she introduces him to. He becomes a full blow, prescription drug addict and spirals completely out of control when he becomes convinced that Claire is cheating on him. Meanwhile, Elliot begins to worry about Beverly, as he becomes so dependent on the prescription pain pills that he can no longer function, eventually getting the brothers banned from the hospital where they practice, ruining their medical aspirations.



As much as I hate to, I wanted to start out the review portion of my Dead Ringers article by stating how boring it was. It's a word I don't like to use when describing films I dislike, but on rare occasions I make exceptions. However, I then realized that I didn't need to even consider using that word, because even though I highly disliked Dead Ringers, it was as far from boring as it could get. Allow me to throw some phrases & sentences at you and show you what I mean: "gynecological instruments for operating on mutant women", Genevieve Bujold gnawing at a fatty mass conjoining the Mantle twins, Jeremy Irons playing two completely different characters and nailing both roles while differentiating two separate personalities. These do not sound like the buzz words of a boring movie to me. Confusing movie? Sure. Weird movie? Definitely. But I certainly can't say it was boring. I watched this movie with a sometimes disgusted, sometimes befuddled look on my face and really wanted to be able to make more out of it, but alas, I couldn't.

What was Dead Ringers, but a movie about a socially awkward man falling in love for the first time? I kept waiting for the film to stray away from the love story, of Beverly's infatuation with Claire Niveau and turn into something more, but really it never did and besides the drug addiction angle, the film felt undeveloped, relying on the odd nature of it's director to get it through to the end credits. As if to say, "let's throw some 'mutant gynecological intruments' at them and that'll take their minds off the fact that we really have no story". I mean, sure, I guess you could cry "character development" and argue that the Mantle twins are ripe for dissection, but I never felt like a bond between us and those characters was ever strong enough to merit hinging the whole film upon.

I won't argue the talent of Jeremy Irons, someone who I'm, for the most part, completely unfamiliar with as an actor. A quick peek at his filmography and sure enough, I've only ever seen one other Jeremy Irons picture - the forgettable Reversal of Fortune. This performance made me want to pick out five more Irons' movies from Netflix and dig a little deeper into his body of work. To perfect not one character, but two, is a feat that deserves applauding However, that is kind of his job isn't it - to turn in a good performance? And while I applaud Irons, I wouldn't call his performances so good that I'd want to rearrange my favorite actors list or anything. Call it "really good", but not "blow away good". On the other hand, you've got Genevieve Bujold, who has since fallen off the face of the Earth and for good reason. She was both unpretty and untalented and whomever convinced her to pursue a career as an actress, deceived her.

Dig that tourniquet & surgical clamps sex scene!



Dead Ringers is going to be a "love it or hate it" movie. Fans of Cronenberg and his off the beaten path style will laud the film for it's uniqueness and ideas that challenge the ordinary. However, fans of a more conventional style of filmmaking will probably hate "Ringers" and for good reason. While Irons is good, maybe even great, as the Mantle twins, his performance isn't great enough to make you stop in your tracks and go back to make sure he wasn't robbed of an Oscar. Bujold is as plain as you can be and still be given work in Hollywood and honestly, giving her any work was probably a mistake. The film was too confusing for yours truly, which may be a fault of my own. I was constantly leaning over to ask my wife, "is that Beverly? I thought this was supposed to be Elliot? Who's the one in the red track suit?" While I wanted to like Dead Ringers, I simply didn't and give it my lowest of recommendations.

RATING: 3.5/10  It certainly will make you take notice, but in the end, you'll notice that the notice you took wasn't anything worth noticing. Nuff said.

November 22, 2015  9:24pm