Saturday, October 13, 2018

Recently Watched Movies

American Animals
Joyride as cautionary tale, one that actually works. A creative mind and hipster dude recruit two other guys from the middle class milieu to pull off a ridiculous heist involving rare library books. The crime itself is of less interest than complications around it and its aftermath dropping clues as to a culture infected with both excessive apathy and adventurism. Great film. A

Stylistically impressive horror that (all-too)consciously approximates the spellbinding hypnotics of Stanley Kubrick's THE SHINING. Ari Aster(the director) is halfway there as a visualist but lacks the focus of a mature artist who might have pulled the various threads together into a seamless whole. Too often, Ari Aster drops all considerations for the Effect. Still, there are several genuinely jarring moments, and the ultimate point of the story, that all our hysterics and obsessions about the world miss out on the real point of an hidden agenda, is well taken in our Age of Conspiracies. B+

Dark River
This is one of those all-too-common Art Films. Granted, it is good. Like many of its kind, there is the self-conscious reliance on less dialogue and more image. Much is suggested through mood & motions and use of space & details. Like many Art Films, it is set in a rural community in the modern world, accentuating the theme of how much the world has changed but so much remains the same. As the story unfolds, there are the usual uncomfortable truths about characters. Things are not what they seem. All very good but we've seen it all before, and frankly, I was bored through much of it. B

All That Jazz
A most extraordinary cinematic experience upon my first viewing as a child, Bob Fosse's semi-autobiographical musical now belongs in the category of less-than-meets-the-eye. In subsequent viewings(aided with more knowledge of world cinema), Fosse essentially came across as a derivative showman(than an original 'auteur') who, worse, didn't even care to steal from the best. Much of ALL THAT JAZZ owes to Fellini-in-decline(post 8 1/2). Now, it looks more like All That Spazz. Jessica Lange(as angel of death?) has to deal with an ego bigger than King Kong. Musical numbers are like schmaltzy cross between Broadway and Disco. By the way, do we want high-concept Art associated with something as cheesy as Broadway? Fosse's reputation as dance choreographer rests mainly on mannerisms with flickering jazz-hands and rotating hamhock thighs and jiggling jello buns. Maybe that was original at one time, but it's not my cup of tea. Still, there's lots of heart in this movie, and it's sure to please many first-time viewers. B

Something Wild
One of those films I feel the same now as on first viewing. This is a masterpiece, Jonathan Demme's greatest work(based on the brilliant screenplay of E. Max Frye). Sadly, it was his last triumph as an artist. Sure, he made big bucks and won lots of prizes with SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, a sleazy piece of sensationalism, and became a darling of the Libby-Dib set with PHILADELPHIA. But before he became an A-list director of Big Bucks and Big Themes, he was one of the most quirkiest directors who, however, didn't wear his oddball sensibility on his sleeve. His approach was both gentle and penetrating, empathetic and cautionary. His vision was of small characters navigating through obstacles of power(institutional or criminal), albeit one bridged by false but happy(and perhaps necessary) fantasies expressed through pop culture ranging from mainstream to alternative. Ultimately, it's not about replacing lies with truth but accepting the truth that lies are all around us like germs and, with that realization, making the best of things. A+

Sollers Point
A bogus 'art film' about the hard-knocks world of 'white trash' side of Baltimore directed by some cuck-faced dork. The white lead(who looks like Andrew Anglin) is apparently not so bad because he used to have a black girl-friend and still has feelings for her. And he seems to be 'cool' with the Brothas or, at least, tries to be. Meanwhile, all the nasties are 'white trash' hoodlums who act like Gary Oldman in TRUE ROMANCE. Ironically, the 'white trash' hoodlums do little else than imitate rap culture and act like 'whiggers'. So, are we to believe blacks are cool but whites who imitate blacks are 'fool'? Technically, reasonably well-made and well-acted. But bogus. C

I watched the first 15 min of this movie and grew bored. So, I checked the last 15 min, and it was stupid.

Last Rampage
There are two ways to approach this movie. As a message to white boys and white women not to slavishly obey and follow the Tough White Male. Based on an actual story, LAST RAMPAGE is about three loyal and adoring sons who break their sociopathic father out of prison. Though not evil themselves, their admiration of their Tough Hombre Pa has blinded them to his wicked ways. (Still, despite the man's plain-as-day wretchedness, one can understand why others look to him as a leader of men.) Another way to regard this movie is as an allegory of the dark side of Old Testament teachings where sons are supposed to obey their fathers just like the Tribe must heed the commands of God(as spoken through the Prophets) without question. I'm not sure the allegory works because the father in the movie is clearly a crazy monster, whereas patriarchs in the Old Testament were sometimes confronted with the hard choice of necessary evil. B

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Recently Watched Movies

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-

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+

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+

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

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+

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

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-

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

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-

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

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







8 1/2






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


Mean Streets


Raging Bull

Taxi Driver


The Age of Innocence


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