4 films for march

February 28, 2008

special guest poster for the month of march, mr. basil from the fs message boards. he’s running the show all month, picking the films, writing the posts, giving you his pick for president, whatever he feels like. so here is his lineup for the month of march.


here is the lineup for march with special guest reviewer basil of baker street:

week of march 3:

the treasure of the sierra madre by john huston


week of march 10:

the third man by carol reed


week of march 17:

dog day afternoon by sidney lumet


week of march 24:

8 1/2 by federico fellini



au revoir, les enfants

February 26, 2008

as i’m sitting here mulling over the film, i’m having a very hard time trying to figure out what to write about. i’m sure it’s all been covered before.

there’s something about the so called “art house films” where the film is not motivated by strong plot points, and is more character based, thematically driven. you would think that a film that has a very loose plot would be boring, but just being a fly on the wall in this all boys school, watching as they slowly go through adolescence in one year is very moving, and i think it’s because it’s relatable. i didn’t grow up in nazi occupied france or in an all boys school, but so much of the story transcends it’s setting. the setting gives it a tragic ending and some great scenery, but it’s funny and sometimes heartbreaking to see the way childhood is represented.

the cabinet of dr. caligari

February 21, 2008

it’s odd to think that some of the first films ever made were actually serial killer films. and it’s odd to think that they are just as creepy and suspenseful as films today. it’s also clear to see how much tim burton has actually stolen from german expressionism, even if he will never admit it. i mean edward scissorhands is just a somnambulist with scissors for hands.

the entire design of the film is very interesting to look at. the skewed buildings, the slanted doorways. but overacting is a real problem. it’s already something that plagues silent film in general, but with the over exaggerated everything in german expressionism it becomes laughable at some points.

plot spoilers in next paragraph

i really enjoyed this film right up until the last minute of the film. the fact that the entire film we are following this story of a sonombulist, and we buy into it, for the director to pull the rug out under our feet and tell us that the entire film was just the imagination of a mad man doesn’t sit well with me. i really don’t like films that try to twist the ending, shock the audience, and end up invalidating the entire experience.

it was a good enough film, and i think worth seeing, just for the fact that it’s had influence (or the movement in general has had influence) on a lot of filmmakers.

finally getting around to these……..many weeks late.

plot spoilers ahead

shadow of a doubt – what’s great about the beginning of the film is it throws you right into the mix and shows you that something is wrong with uncle charlie, you’re just not sure what. we see him lying in his room with money all over the place, and two guys trying to chase him down. we have no idea why he’s being hunted, if he’s actually done anything bad, or he is really is, but we get the sense right off the bat that something is not right with him. but as soon as he’s reunited with his sister and her family, you quickly forget what was a little off-putting about him. his interaction with everyone in the family seems completely natural, but when the two dectectives show up we remember that there’s something wrong with him. and as charlie II (as we’ll refer to her) slowly starts to learn more and more about her uncle’s past we start to see it as well. hitchcock slowly reveals it in the way in which he talks and his overall apperance as well. hitchcock does a great job of structuring his character and revealing a little information at a time.

now the flaws. i thought the film completely lost it’s steam in the last 15-20 minutes. i mean it sort of just stops after they find the guy in the east (which i don’t completely buy, i mean you have the chase for this mass murderer down to two guys and when one of them dies while on the run you just give up on the other lead as well?) and is forced to start up again when charlie II finds the ring (which i also don’t buy. i mean what the hell is chalrie I doing with the ring after he knows that charlie II knows about the murders). add to that a completely anti-climatic final showdown and it kind of just lost me.

the man who knew too much [1956] – there seems to be a lot of hate going around about this film on the filmspotting message boards. i don’t get it. i mean the first 30 minutes are unlike any hitchcock film i’ve ever seen….and it’s great! i was laughing so much at jimmy stewart’s little off hand comments and his awkwardness trying to fit in, in a foreign country. admittedly it does get a little crazy when they’re trying to sort it all out, but it’s suspenseful enough, and fun enough at the start, to really recommend. there’s also some talk on the fs message boards about “actors you feel safe with” and i jimmy stewart would fall into that category for me. he always seems to deliver for me, and this film is no exception. so jimmy stweart fans….go see it.

and a little aside— how creepy was that french assasin dude? i wanted to see jimmy stewart shoot him so i wouldn’t have to see him on the screen anymore.

2007 the round-up

February 15, 2008

i saw 50 films in 2007, and enjoyed a good majority of them. but first the major films i’ve somehow missed so you can’t chastise me for not including them…

assassination of jesse james…, 4 months 3 weeks 2 days, margot at the wedding, the kite runner, the diving bell and the butterfly, gone baby gone, sweeney todd, and somehow i’ve still seen 50 (thank you netflix)

my top films (in absolutely no order)….

into the wild – i feel like i haven’t gotten to talk at all about it. i mean, i really loved this movie. i had never seen emile hirsch in anything, so his performance really took my by surprise. i didn’t know what to expect going in (having really loved the book), but i was really sucked into mccandless’s life all over again and penn does a great job of just laying the facts out straight. not judging him, but not over hyping him either. hal holbrook is getting all the supporting actor buzz, but i thought the best supporting performances in the film came from vince vaughn and catherine keener. vaughn; being one of my favorite comedians, it was not a big a surprise that i really enjoyed it when he was on screen. but i really haven’t like catherine keener in anything i have seen before (okay in capote, unbelievably annoying in living in oblivion and 40 yr old virgin) but she is really good. she seems perfect for the traveling hippie role. and let’s not forget the beautiful cinematography (thanks mostly to america’s great landscapes).

after the wedding – this could very easily be my favorite film of the year. i just love the way the story unfolds and becomes more and more complex. some really unreal (in a good way) performances and beautifully touching moments. and rolf lassgard! this man just brings this film home. if you’re not with it right at the beginning, just keep holding out because as the film becomes more and more complex so does his performance. there’s really something to be said about a film that can create (in my mind at least) perfect pacing. i think only a few films this year can do this (meaning not feeling uneven or rushed in certain parts). and while bad pacing doesn’t ruin a good film, perfect pacing really makes me giddy, for whatever reason. the film takes you to places you’d never expect when you start off, and has some really touching moments (it got a little dusty in my living room a couple times). absolutely love this film and hope that everyone goes and checks it out.

this is england – some of the best performances of the year come from this film. thomas turgoose (who plays the bald headed little boy pictured above) is great, and stephen graham gives one of the best supporting performances of the year. it’s a hard film to watch because it’s all about a group of skinheads taking this young lad in and filling his mind with all their propaganda. but you absolutely believe why he would follow them. it doesn’t shine a good light on skinheads, but it definitely shows some other sides to them that you normally don’t see in films. you do get swept up in the excitement of everything and then the film completely takes you out if it. while i wouldn’t call it a twist, the film definitely rocks you into a sort of lull and the turns on you sharply. some of these scenes aren’t for the faint of heart, but if you can take it….it’s definitely worth checking out.

once – i’ve been a huge glen hansard fan for a long time, so when i heard he was making a movie i was first in line to see it. directed by former bassist of the frames john carney, this film was one of the biggest surprises for a lot of people this year. mostly because people were unaware of glen’s fantastic music making skills. i think the frames are the greatest band working today, and glen’s solo efforts are possibly even better, so it was no shock that i loved this film (all of which is centered around glen’s songs). glen and marketa irglova both show off some pretty good acting chops and the music is just phenomenal. if you haven’t already seen this film, or heard the soundtrack, please….please go do that now.

3:10 to yuma – a lot of people had a lot of problems with this film, but i just don’t see why. i really was enthralled in this from start to finish, and think it’s one of the best westerns in a long time. i also think it’s riddled with great performances and a really great cast. christian bale (who is quickly becoming my favorite actor working today), russell crowe, dallas roberts, peter fonda, alan tudyk, and ben foster are all great. especially ben foster who may outshine christian bale and russell crowe. he plays the psychotic effeminate killer to perfection (and that beard is just great).


some other films i found really enjoyable this year but felt no need to talk about…..juno, no country for old men, there will be blood, the bourne ultimatum, the darjeeling limited, knocked up, zodiac, the king of kong, and rescue dawn.

and that’s all. hopefully i won’t talk any more about 2007 films and will get back to watching ones from 30 or more years ago.

i swear i’m going to be putting up posts on the last of the hitchcock month and dr. caligari….but first let’s get this filmspots business out of the way.

my votes……

best picture


best director

joel & ethan cohen – no country for old men

best actor in a leading role

christian bale – rescue dawn

best actress in a leading role

ellen page – juno

best actor in a supporting role

ben foster – 3:10 to yuma

best actress in a supporting role

tabu – the namesake

best ensemble cast


best original screenplay

diablo cody – juno

best adapted screenplay

joel & ethan cohen – no country for old men

best editing

christopher rouse – the bourne ultimatum

best cinematography

robert elswit – there will be blood

best non english language film

the lives of others

best documentary


best animated film


best score

johnny greenwood – there will be blood

best soundtrack


best costumes

gersha phillips – talk to me

best art direction

aradhana seth & adam stockhaussen – the darjeeling limited

best sound editing

craig berkey – no country for old men

best makeup

tysulea hill-scott – grindhouse

best visual effects

no vote. i dislike all the nominees that i’ve seen.

kick-ass scene

bathhouse fight – eastern promises

best trailer

there will be blood

best villain

anton chigurh – no country for old men

surprising film

this is england

best line

“cause you’re like the coolest person i’ve ever met, and you don’t have to try……i try really hard actually” – juno

worst film


debut or breakthrough feature

once – john carney


ellen page – juno


really disappointed that once didn’t get much love. was hoping for a best picture nod for it because it got snubbed at the oscars. and rolf lassgard. he was great, but apparently not enough people saw the film.

check out fellow filmspotters lists….