Sunday, July 22, 2018

Recently Watched Movies

RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE
Trashy, imbecile, and gratuitously violent, yes. But I must say the RESIDENT EVIL series is one of the most mindlessly entertaining series in a long time. Milla Jovovich was born for this role. C-


SHATTERED GLASS
Feels fresh every time. The main character is despicable but pitiable, but is he worthy of our pity? Is his pathology a moral failing, a symptom of the culture, or a mental issue? If all of the above, in which combination? Far from a great movie, it nevertheless delivers what it sets out to deliver. As with GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, the directorial personality is subdued in service to script and characters. A clear case that Auteur Theory is sometimes irrelevant in the making of a good movie. B+


FLOWER
A well-made movie about insipid trashy girls with moronic parents who wreck everything around them for infantile thrills. BLING RING depicted similar kind of soulless personalities, but if Sofia Coppola never pretended her little monsters had souls, FLOWER does. And it is so unconvincing. This is utter trash. D+


BLACKCOAT'S DAUGHTER
Seen it again. Along with Darren Aronofsky's MOTHER!, a masterpiece that proves cinema is alive. The fact that this film got mixed reviews while stuff like BLACK PANTHER and LAST JEDI got near raves shows the utter decrepitude of our cultural scene. One of the most unsettling films about the nature of evil and the dark mystery of seduction amidst tragedy. A


JOSIE
Another worthless trash like FLOWER though not as scatter-brained. As with FLOWER, it tries to rationalize hedonism and nihilism with pseudo-moralism. In FLOWER, the girls' hi-jinks are supposed to somewhat 'rad' because they prey on weak men given to sexual perversion. The torture porn element of JOSIE is supposed to be morally justified on grounds of its anti-death-penalty message. Selling nihilism with a veneer of moral outrage is all too common in our culture where rappers are promoted as prophets and comedians pose as newsmen. As dishonest as HARD CANDY. Films such as these haven't the courage of BLACKCOAT'S DAUGHTER that admits to the seductive pull of evil and nihilism. D+


METROPOLITAN
Never gets old even though it's an old-fashioned tale. Perhaps, old-fashioned is synonymous with timeless, the tried and true. The 1980s was the decade of John Hughes cartoonish teen comedies and the Horny Teenager movies. 1990 began with this gem and instant classic, Whit Stillman's first film, a smart tale of young socialites searching for love and meaning. Stillman is no puritan but finds principles invaluable in a world of rising puerility. The lead character Tom Townsend is introduced as a soft-spoken radical who finds the socialite setting silly and frivolous but is later seen snubbing the aristocrat Von Sloneker for dismissing the televised socialite ball as not serious. In the end, a socialist turns chivalrous while the aristocrat is shown wallowing in frat-boy antics. Not that Tom suddenly came around to appreciating elitism, but his critique of the upper class was at least grounded in principles, and principles govern his behavior regardless of his shifting views. In contrast, Von Sleneker's dismissal of the socialite scene owes to his being even less serious than what he sneers at. It's as if one's character counts more than class or ideology. Socialist or Socialite, Townsend has a sense of scruples and honor, even though his righteousness sometimes blinds him to his unintended insensitivity to others. The difference is those with scruples at least make an effort to make amends and rise higher, whereas Von Slonekers of the world think the world revolves around them. A


NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA
Franklin Schaffner made two movies that became highly significant cultural events of the late 60s and early 70s: PLANET OF THE APES and PATTON. Perhaps, Schaffner never got the credit of someone like David Lean or Luchino Visconti because he was deemed an 'impersonal' professional than an auteur with personal vision. One could argue PLANET OF THE APES is essentially the work of the novelist Pierre Boulle and Rod Serling & Michael Wilson as screen-writers. And Schaffner's role in PATTON was regarded much like Victor Fleming's for THE WIZARD OF OZ and GONE WITH THE WIND: Hired Hand who ably carried out the vision of others. For some reason, NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA failed at the box office and got mixed reviews from critics. This is unfortunate because it is one of the best and most thoughtful middlebrow historical epics. By accident, PLANET OF THE APES, PATTON, and NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA became relevant to the Nixon years. The issues of race, class, war, power, and radicalism were colorfully brought to life in them. PATTON was Nixon's favorite movie, and his the fall of the Tsar in NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA anticipated the Watergate troubles that would undo Nixon's presidency. Of course, Nicholas and Nixon couldn't have been more different. Nicholas was a good man of middling intelligence who inherited the management of a vast empire in the most trying of times, whereas Nixon was a man of intelligence and knowledge who turned out to be his own Rasputin. Nicholas' political ills were like his son's condition. Once the regime began bleeding, it was difficult to patch the wound. This being the 100th anniversary of the killing of the Tsar and his family by Bolsheviks, this is worth a look. It's also relevant in our time of intense 'Russophobia' generated by nutty Jews. A-


KINGS OF SUMMER
If ever there was an instant classic, this is it. Must watch every summer. A


JEEPERS CREEPERS 3
Based on his first two JEEPER CREEPER movies, Victor Salva seems like some cuck-fruiter perv. He's a promoter of interracism and was once convicted of pervy-pedo stuff. And his horror trilogy's villain may strike many viewers as essentially Freddy Kruger with wings. Whatever the case, there's no denying Salva is inventive, ingenious, and insanely gifted with an eye as sharp as that of Spielberg, Fincher, and Kevin Reynolds. He's like mondo-trasho Orson Welles, a wizard with shifting frames and composition. And some of his images are mind-blowing. And even though JEEPERS is pretty crude and trashy(like RESIDENT EVIL), there is something genuinely dark and demented about Salva's universe of terror. Unlike Sam Raimi who did EVIL DEAD series for kiddie laughter, the JEEPER series seems the result of someone doing battle with his inner demons. It's a pop-psychological glimpse into the soul of genuine nutjob. Perhaps, JEEPER CREEPER series is most comparable to the ridiculous PHANTASM series, but Salva actually knows how to make a movie. B-


RISKY BUSINESS
I didn't much care for this movie upon release, but watching it again a few times recently I was struck by its romanticism despite the sordid situation its main character Joel(Tom Cruise) descends into. "What the fuc*" is an expression of cynicism but also of freedom, the opportunity to dream. And the twist on the 'hooker with the heart of gold' is convincing given Joel's blend of sheltered privilege, youthful naivete, animal lust, and hope for the future. Tangerine Dream's narcotic score makes it even more dream-like. A


DOUBLE LOVER
Francois Ozon is an estimable director, and DOUBLE LOVER runs like a slick well-oiled machine from start to finish. But it all seems an empty exercise in style. The characters might as well be robots or mannequins. The plot twists that combine Hitchcock with Cronenberg come across as so many tired allusions or homages. Intelligence and ability in service of a blueprint than a script. B-

Saturday, July 7, 2018

12 Great Opening Scenes in Cinema

CITIZEN KANE


2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY


ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST


ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA


RAN


HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR


8 1/2


TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A.


SAVING PRIVATE RYAN


THE WILD BUNCH


BLADE RUNNER


ANDREI RUBLEV

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Recently Watched Movies

THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT. First watched this on TV in the mid 1980s. Michael Cimino's crime caper movie, released two years before the Bi-centennial, is a cynical action-portrait of  human nature and American history. It begins with a church and ends with a one-room school house. It involves friends and war veterans. America, the land of God, Knowledge and Brotherhood of Man, is really about money(and anyway you can get it). And as the story traverses through natural wonders of Montana, there is the reminder that the land was stolen from Indians. Rating: A-


RAN. Watched this upon release in 1985. Seen it several times since. It's like a beautiful bridge with a collapsed arch. The Lear-figure who has to shoulder the tragic weight simply recedes as character and remains as prop, resulting in an haphazard narrative of impressive but disjointed wonders.Ultimately, the greatest tragedy of RAN is it fails as tragedy. But as drama of power politics, betrayal, and revenge, it is a stunning achievement. Rating: A


DAZED AND CONFUSED. Richard Linklater's surprising masterpiece never gets old. How such a loose story of kids taking it easy was made with such impeccable(and imperceptible) expertise and precision is truly amazing. An obvious labor of love made to seem effortless. It's like slacker on a tightrope. It has the directness of cinema-verite and the fine-tuning of a Swiss watch. Rating: A+


CLOVERFIELD. Recently revisited this movie. Proof that even the most ludicrous premise can be made to work with the right blend of ingenuity and heart. The idea of a space monster smashing NY is far-fetched, so how does the movie grab hold of our senses to accept the fantastic as 'factual'? It begins with a perfect rendition of Home Movie where all the people and places are recognizable and familiar. Then, through traumatized glimpses of the horror that erupts into the lives of the well-situated characters, the audience is left with little room to process what is going on. Events become so outrageous and unpredictable that the Fear Factor takes over. We only think SURVIVAL. But then, just when the characters(and the audience) have been rendered most primal in their instinct for self-preservation, the story strikes a romantic chord as the male character ventures off to rescue a damsel-in-distress and is, touchingly enough, joined by friends who decide to risk their own lives in the spirit of camaraderie. So, the most brutal kind of action-horror takes on an element of sentimentality and fairy-tale. And it works because the characters have been rendered as 'real' and believable in the opening scenes prior to the horror. Also, the all too human theme of love-and-friendship maintains an air of veracity amidst the mounting craziness of a city being rudely rearranged by what looks like a Godzilla-sized alligator-snapping turtle without a shell. There is even poignancy in the subtle reminder of fragility of the 'real'. Just as NY is being turned into smithereens by the monster from nowhere, the old video footage(of happier times) is being erased by new footage(of the mayhem). If so much of our current 'reality' is electronic and manipulated, imagine all the 'realities' that are being made and unmade on a daily basis by countless individuals who create new worlds and wipe them clean by toying with a few buttons. Are we god-monsters too? Certain horror purists may argue that CLOVERFIELD works on surprise than on suspense, which requires more sophistication. But the conception and execution of CLOVERFIELD are pretty amazing and incredibly inventive, even if of a shallower nature. Rating: A-


HIDDEN FORTRESS. This Kurosawa action-epic looks better than ever. It features a samurai order of sacrifice and obedience. Regal and majestic but also repressive and cold-blooded. Then, there is the hot-blooded world of commoners. Spontaneous and lively but coarse, crude, and treacherous. As the remnants of a fallen clan must trek through forests and villages disguised as ordinary people, the haughty princess comes to see what is most beautiful and ugly about humanity. And the two commoners, via their accidental role in aiding the princess to safety, comes to realize a value higher than petty greed. It was never one of my Kurosawa favorites, but seeing it on Blu-Ray, I recognize its greatness. Rating: A


PAUL, APOSTLE OF CHRIST. Watched about 20 min of this and had enough. One of those movies that beat you over the head with sermonizing. There are two kinds of religious films. Ones that get close to the source(before Christianity became a sure thing) and ruminate on the sheer difficulty of bringing forth a new faith. And ones that take for granted that Christ and Apostles were so holy and correct. Even though the latter may show lots of pain and suffering, there's a smug and lazy sense of righteousness and whose side God is on. It may work as theology but not as drama. THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, for all its faults, presents a Jesus who is troubled and uncertain as to his mission, purpose, and strength. From that arises a real sense of struggle that must be overcome dramatically. We are with a man in a world before he was canonized by officialdom. NOAH by Aronofsky is similarly provocative. In contrast, most religious films are merely self-satisfied in their retroactive renditions of a time when everything supposedly happened as it was deigned by God. There was no struggle toward holiness. Jesus and the Apostles were all holy and only needed to wait it out(and suffer a bit) before humanity came around to seeing their holiness. Rating: C-


GHOST WORLD. I never get tired of this film. An instant classic. Enid is one of my favorite characters. It tell us there's a lot of caricatures in humanity and a lot of humanity in caricatures. Rating: A+


RED SPARROW. Watched about 15 min of this and fast-forwarded the rest. Worse than honest trash. It's pompous trash. Rating: D


THE RIGHT STUFF. Based on the book by the late Tom Wolfe and directed by Philip Kaufman who, until then, was perhaps most famous for his version of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, a movie that also informed parts of THE WANDERERS, his best work. There is something Body-Snatcherish about THE RIGHT STUFF as well. America(and the world) is turning into the World of Organization Man. Soviets shoot rockets into space to hail the triumph of socialism and statism. US ramps up the space race, and the days of the cowboy test-pilots and individualists are over. It's the world of engineers and professionals. Against this, the Magnificent Seven do their best to retain the spirit that is human, heroic, and American. They refuse to be test-monkeys in space. They insist on being pilots. Is it a delusion? Maybe it's a dream. Excellent movie. But like Sidney Lumet's PRINCE OF THE CITY, a failure at the box office. Both films would be the last great work by the two directors. Rating: A


THE BLACKCOAT'S DAUGHTER. Is his film evil? Yes or no, it is a hauntingly beautiful and terrifying story of how a soul can fall deeply in love with evil. A masterpiece directed by the son of Anthony Perkins. Rating: A

Saturday, June 30, 2018

10 Essential Films by Martin Scorsese


Goodfellas



Mean Streets



Casino



Raging Bull



Taxi Driver



Silence



The Age of Innocence



Kundun



King of Comedy



The Wolf of Wall Street

Sunday, June 24, 2018

10 French Pop Songs


Chantal Goya-Si tu Gagnes au Flipper




Je t'aime... moi non plus - Serge Gainsbourg et Jane Birkin



Dalida & Alain Delon - Paroles, paroles




Francoise Hardy - Comment te dire adieu




Marie Laforet - Ivan, Boris et moi 1967




1970) Mireille Mathieu Pardonne moi ce caprice d'enfant




France Gall - Laisse tomber les filles 1964 HD (Tele Melody)




La Plus Belle Pour Aller Danser - Sylvie Vartan



Christophe - Aline



Elle est d'ailleurs - Pierre Bachelet

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

12 Novels

The Trial - Franz Kafka
The Castle - Franz Kafka
Demian - Hermann Hesse
Narcissus and Goldmund - Hermann Hesse
The Call - John Hersey
Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoevsky
With Fire and Sword - Henryk Sienkiewicz
Before the Storm - Theodor Fontane
Little Big Man - Thomas Berger
The Marriage Plot - Jeffrey Eugenides
The Tunnel - Ernesto Sabato
Young Phillip Maddison - Henry Williamson

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

11 Great Symphonies

Jean Sibelius: Symphony No. 5



Jean Sibelius: Symphony No. 7



Johannes Brahms: Symphony No. 4



Vasily Kalinnikov - Symphony No. 1



Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No. 8



Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 5



Hector Berlioz: Harold in Italy



Antonin Dvorak: New World Symphony



Sergei Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 2



Camille Saint-Saƫns: Symphony No. 3



Richard Strauss - An Alpine Symphony