4films for september

August 28, 2008

week of september 1:

the night of the hunter by charles laughton

a lot of people have cited this as one of their favorite movies ever.  so i guess i should see it.

week of september 8:

the big sleep by howard hawks

bogart and bacall….that’s all you need to know.  plus howard hawks.

week of september 15:

touch of evil by orson welles

orson welles.

week of september 22:

playtime by jacques tati

after many recommendations, i’ve decided to check this one out.


note – i’m still waiting for the james dean collection from the library (we missed the screening in 35mm (d’oh!)).  i really want to get the write up for east of eden still (and all about eve)


1990s bracket rd. 2: heat

August 25, 2008

after a while of no home movie viewing, from the trip to mexico to my dvd player breaking, i felt the need to make a triumphant return to the couch. so i sign up for the second round of the 1990s us bracket thingy and get my two films. the first of which was michael mann’s 1995 crime thriller heat.

how can a film that feels like such a mess still be pretty entertaining? that’s the question i kept asking myself during this film. it felt completely cluttered. it’s already pretty much 3 hrs long but it felt like it needed to be twice that to flesh out the story arcs it tries to cram in.

maybe i’m just used to excellent crime investigation entertainment, but things felt way too rushed (on the investigative side). and i’m not sure i buy the fact that 4 guys could get in a gun fight with the entire lapd in the middle of los angeles, and a few still get away.

i also didn’t buy most of the relationships in the movie. take for instance the scene when de niro is leaving the hotel and he leaves the girl in the car. the scene tries to be full of emotion but doesn’t work because i don’t buy the fact that she wants to be with him. she meets him, finds out he’s a murdering cop killing thief, and then says “ok let’s run off to new zeland”? no. i think not. she was ready to leave him not 10 minutes earlier and now she’s distraught that he’s leaving her?

now onto performances. everybody’s ok, except pacino gets a little too pacinoish (you know what i’m talking about…”she’s got a grrreeaaatttt aaaasssss!”). ashley judd is pretty unbearable as val kilmer’s wife, but she’s hardly in the film. the scenes between de niro and pacino are enjoyable on a few levels. they’re enjoyable on face value and while you’re watching it you go “dang, that’s al pacino and robert de niro…..awesome.” and the last scene of the film is just wrought with suspense that it truly had me on the edge of my seat.  one of the better showdowns i have seen.

overall i was fairly let down by this film, expecting to get one of the greatest films of the 90s, i just ended up watching a mediocre thriller with some big names.


the other film in this match-up is tombstone and hopefully will be up sometime latter this week.

plus be looking for my list of top 20 films for the filmspotter top 100 movies.

gentlemen prefer blondes

August 23, 2008

i don’t know if i would have ever seen this film if it wasn’t a part of the cinema at the square at the cleveland playhouse square (and if i hadn’t gotten free tickets to it). a musical romantic comedy starring marilyn monroe? even if howard hawks is directing. not very interested. and after seeing it, i can say that those reservations should have been stuck to.

i really didn’t like this movie, espically the first third/half of it. i was really just repulsed by attitudes of both of the female leads, and all of the men standing around them on the boat. i don’t know if the film is trying to get at some higher social commentary (i have to hope that’s what hawks was doing) but everything those two leads are about i just found offensive. monroe’s character’s all about money, and russell’s character hangs out in massive groups of men. this scene in particular really just disgusted me. the way she walks around and gets sort of turned on by the number of men working out in flesh color bathing suits….just awful. it also didn’t help that sitting behind me (and three of my friends) were two guys talking throughout the whole thing.

“how did they get her to do those things?”

“wow look at those costumes”

“this is my favorite dress she wears”

“the film’s not in there..” “yeah it is remember? watch”

“[singing along with the musical numbers]….[then clapping when it’s over]

they clapped? after musical numbers? yeah. i’m not sure why they felt the need to clap, it wasn’t like someone was preforming live on stage, nobody was there to benefit from the clapping.

granted after they get off the boat and are in paris the film is a little easier to swallow. but i’m not sure i buy the ending where that one detective decides to help out the girls. he had a chance to help them out throughout the film, and now he decides? just at the perfect time i guess. everything seemed to fit together too perfectly. i mean why would she want to get back with him after she has repeatedly said she doesn’t like him (i did have to go to the bathroom halfway through so i might of missed some things).

none of the songs were really that catchy or fun to listen to, and non of the performances were anything to smile about (except that little kid. he’s awesome). so all in all it was a pretty disappointing experience, though we did get to laugh a lot at how ridiculous the two guys sitting behind us were.

my fall film preview

August 21, 2008

some films to look out for in the coming months, in order of how excited i am about them (from least to most excited).

(click on the name or the photo for the film to see the trailer (if available))

mild interest in:

quantum of solace

burn after reading

body of lies

the list:

seven pounds

it may be oscar bait, but i really enjoy will smith in these kinds of roles. i also really liked the pursuit of happyness and this film teams up smith with the director again. granted the rest of the cast doesn’t excite me too much, and there’s potential for the film to get a little too shmultzy, but i always have faith that smith can pull through and give a great performance (perhaps an oscar worthy one?).

500 days of summer

if i had to pick my favorite “young” actor and actress to star in a movie, it would probably be joseph gordon lveitt (jgl) and zooey deschenel. so of course i’d get excited about seeing them together in a movie. plus, jgl gets to play a hopeless romantic who is lead in a number of musical numbers. that’s enough to get anybody excited.

somers town

shane meadow’s follow up to 2007s this is england, which was one of my favorite films from last year. meadows teams up with young actor thomas turgoose, who was great the last time they worked together. and the film seems to follow the same sort of theme. growing up and finding friends in england, though this looks a little more light than this is england. meadows really gets at moments and emotions that feel one hundred percent authentic. moments that we can all relate to even if we’ve not been in a similar situation. somers town seems to have the same sort of exploration of why we choose who our fiends our, and i think that’s a really interesting idea (even if it is hard to top this is england). not sure when this when is getting a release, and it’s most likely it won’t come out until sometime next year, but we can hope for a fall release at least.

brothers bloom

rian johnson’s follow up to 2006s brick. brick was one of my favorite movies of that year, and a lot of it had to do with johnson’s style. he brought something fresh and exciting to a genre that had been overdue for a re-hauling. his visual style alone was enough to recommend the film, not to mention the great performances and script.

now onto the brothers bloom. i was really excited for this film. a great young up and coming director, adrian brody and mark ruffalo, what’s not to love? then i saw the trailer and thought “hollywood has gotten to him”. it looks so generic and unappetizing. but then i read this…

“beyond the atrocious video quality, i’m honestly not sure how i feel about the trailer. it’s not a full representation of the movie by any means, and is much broader and goofier than the film tonally, but i guess trailers are never about being accurate, but about selling”
rian johson

so it settles me a little bit. he has the exact same reservations about the trailer as i do, and says it doesn’t represent the full movie. which is good. but he could be covering. i can’t have faith in a man that’s only made one movie to trust him when he says he hasn’t made a broad goofy caper, but i can hope that it’s true.

nick and norah’s infinite playlist

there’s something really entertaining about films that take place over one night, and form what i can tell this is one of those films. they have this presence about them that most films don’t. like they are going down in real time, and i think that’s to the movies advantage. one recent comedy i can think of that employed this was last years superbad. michael cera was tries to do it again but this time his counterpart seems a little more attractive.


i haven’t seen pollack, (a friend of mine really loved that movie and recommended it) but i have faith in his capabilites for some reason i can’t quite articulate. viggo is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors. he was great in eastern promises and good in much less interesting film a history of violence. and this western looks like one of his most interesting films. read the synopsis….

two friends hired to police a small town that is suffering under the rule of a rancher find their job complicated by the arrival of a young widow

i love that this sort of carries on this idea of western revival. with last years 3:10 to yuma, which i really liked, and now appaloosa i feel like (or maybe hoping that) westerns are making a comeback. the only part that scares me off a little bit is the “arrival of a young widow” who is played by renée zellweger.

wendy and lucy

i don’t know much about this movie, but what i do know is enough for me to get excited about it. one of my favorite films of the past few years was kelly reichardt’s 2006 film old joy. she films it with such sublty and care for the characters that i loved every minute of it. reichardt had a nack for creating very small intimate scenes that seemed to speak volumes about each of the characters, and just filmed it in a very beautiful place. every part of that film hit for me, and it set me up to be excited about every film she will make from now on. and from the few things i’ve heard, michelle williams is really great.

synecdoche, new york

charlie kaufman wrote the screenplay to one of my top 5 films of all time, so of course i’m excited about his directorial debut. pair him up with philip seymour hoffman in a film about a new york playwright who tries to rebuild a life-size replica of new york city in a warehouse? yes. that sounds perfect.

i haven’t been blown away by anything gondry has done without kaufman helming the script, i’ve felt that his scripts have lacked focus and real emotional depth, so it will be interesting to see if kaufman can work a great script (i’m assuming it’s great i haven’t actually read it) into a great a movie without gondry directing. but pairing him with philip seymour hoffman just seems brilliant, and i’m surprised they haven’t worked together before. hoffman does have the sort of quirk that i would associate with a kaufman script. but since i’m really unsure of his directing capabilities the film falters a little in my enthusiasm scale.

the curious case of benjamin button

i wasn’t to sure about this one when i read the premise. i thought it sounded a lot like last years coppala film youth without youth and i’ve heard nothing but awful things about that one. but when i saw the trailer (linked above), i was blown away. the way pitt is able to transform age to age just looks amazing. i think that pitt constantly putts out great performances and chooses really interesting projects. cate blanchett looks like she put in a good turn fincher hasn’t disappointed me yet, and this looks like it could be his most interesting film.

the road

just looking at the few photographs that have been released of the road would have put this film high on my “most anticipated list”, but add in the fact that the director made the proposition (one of my favorite films of 06) and viggo mortensen (one of my favorite actors) and this film catapults near the top of the list (not to mention my boy omar, you wire people know what i’m talking about). mccarthy penned the novel for last years best picture winning no country for old men, and just from press photographs alone it looks like he could do it again. the proposition handled this idea of living in uncivilized lands and the brutality that goes along with it very well that i think it will transpose itself well to this very similar backdrop.

i mean, just looking at viggo gets me excited.


van sants name is what makes this film top the list. if this had been the same cast but helmed by bryan singer, or whoever else wanted to (or wants) to tell this story, i would not have been as excited. but gus van sant is one of my top 5 greatest working directors (possible later blog post?), and i cannot wait to see this film. i’m not a huge sean penn fan, but he definitly brings some validity to the project and sort of solidifies it as an oscar contender probably. i’m much more interested in the supporting cast: josh brolin, emile hirsch, and james franco are all actors that i can get excited about. but it’s really all about van sant for me. i haven’t seen paranoid park, but from what i hear it’s van sant melding his commercial and art house sides together (which sounds awesome to me). i hope he tried to do that for milk as well. the story of harvey milk is also a very interesting one, that probably deserves a wider audience than it formerly got. i also trust that van sant’s not just trying to phone in for an oscar, but will actually do some interesting things in this one.


so that’s it. eleven films to look forward to this fall (or probably sometime next year for a few of them) all with something interesting to get excited about.

edit – added trailers for milk, seven pounds, synecdoche new york

“dad used to say the only causes worth fighting for were the lost causes.”

i just love jimmy stewart. i’ve said it before on here, but i just feel safe when i see him on screen (even if he looks as young as he does in this one). his presence just seems to calm me down, i know that i’m in good hands and if nothing else i’m gonna at least see a good performance. and he delivers in this film as well.

theres something refreshing about seeing a film about politics without an outright partisan political agenda. the film is not about trying to fight for oil or over abortion, he’s fighting for a boys camp. something that is (or seems like to me) a non partisan issue. as far as i can remember nobody’s political affiliation is mentioned, and jimmy stewart represents an unnamed state. he’s fighting against the idea of corruption. it’s not a political critique, but a social one. how much will we give up for money? for recognition? for power?

i was waiting the entire film for jimmy stewarts final speech in the senate. i don’t know if i’d be that lenient with most films when they get to their proselytizing moment, but since this film didn’t tow any party lines and it was jimmy stewart doing the preaching, i was all for it (and very excited). having seen the film on the big screen i think adds something to the thrill of the speech. you feel as though you’re sitting on the senate floor with him, getting hit in the face with the sweat flipping off his brow.

i loved the fact that jimmy stewart’s character gets so excited about seeing the capital. us, as modern viewers, are just as jaded as the people who live in and work in washington, and find his child like awe at the capital building kind of funny. but i love that the film doesn’t try to play it off as being naive, but rather fully appreciating the history of the country. stewart’s character truly loves just being in the presence of history, were in our modern minds we’d rather be in the presence of celebrity.

i’m not sure this is a film that could be made today. i think if someone did remake it, they would certainly add a lot of their own political agenda to the film, and it would ruin the spirit of it. this film is all about pride in our system, our country, and our fellow man.

his girl friday

August 11, 2008

i absolutely loved this movie. everything about it worked so well, but mainly it was cary grant. whenever the man was on the screen it made me smile. his charm, his delivery, his attitude, his charisma. i don’t know what it is (or if it’s all of it) but something about him is just comfortable.

i also think that journalism is a very cinematic profession. i think there’s just something exciting about being on the edge of a story. whether it’s for comedic purposes, or more serious ones, i think that journalism is the most exciting thing to film. and it lends itself well to the dialogue that the characters use. the fast witty exchanges don’t feel like a dated form of interchange but natural to the environment the characters are in. i was recently watching elvis mitchell under the influence when he was interviewing quentin tarantino and qt said that this was one of the movies he shows his actors before every movie (or most actors before most every movie). which i think is really interesting. if i ever made a movie i would probably sit down my actors and show them cary grant’s performance and then say “ok. now just go do that.”

the way the film flows, the pacing of it, is perfect. the way the film moves from one direction to a completely different one in the same scene is one of the most interesting things in the film. two characters will be having a conversation, one will walk out he door and immediately another character will walk in, in mid sentence.

i love the rosalind russell/cary grant interchanges. they have a perfect chemistry together that feels like they’ve really known each other for 15 years. i also really love films that take place over one night or in real time. you get a sense of presence that you don’t get in other films. you get the feeling that you are right there while all the action is unfolding.

this film has become one of my favorite movies ever, and i can’t wait to revisit it time and time again.

4 films for august

August 7, 2008

trying to get back in the swing of things….

week of august 4:

his girl friday by howard hawks

i’m a cary grant fan so….

week of august 11:

mr. smith goes to washington by frank capra

a 4films favorite jimmy stewart.

week of august 18:

gentlemen prefer blondes by howard hawks

another film i get to see in 35mm

week of august 25:

east of eden by elia kazan

really excited for this one. actually get to see it on a big screen in 35mm.


note – write ups on all about eve as well as my new 1990s bracket rd. 2 movies are coming soon as well.

update 8.21.08 – the east of eden dvd from the library is taking longer than excepted to get here, so i’ve moved it to the end of the month and the other two film up.

army of shadows

August 7, 2008

before i say anything about army of shadows, let me explain briefly my prolonged absence (if you don’t know already). for the first week and a half of july i was in mexico doing mission work, and when i return home i find that the dvd player is no longer working. normally i would just pop the dvd into my laptop, but it just seem to want to play dvds anymore…..especially dvds from the library. so after a few weeks of no movie watching at home i’ve made the return to the sofa to watch some classics. and this was a classic.

one of my favorite films i have watched as part of this 4films thingy. great from the opening shot, to the final epilogue. just a very visually interesting film to watch, greatly acted, and i think the structure held up really well. i wasn’t sure what was happening at first, the film sort of darts in and out from different character’s point of view, but stuck with it and i think it actually is one of the stronger points to the film.

thematically it reminded me a lot of the lives of others, in the sense that they both pry at this idea of what lengths people will go to preserve something. the way the film handles the inter struggles each character comes across with is phenomenal. we see character after character reach a point where they have to make difficult choices about whether to succumb to nazi pressure or their own weak mindedness, or fight on to preserve their freedom.

i love that the film is shot using moments of real time. like when a character walks from inside a building to a car you would expect a cut somewhere in between. man walks out of building….cut….man stands next to car. but melville keeps the camera rolling and takes in the whole event in real time. it takes the man a good minute/minute and a half to walk to the car and it heightens the suspense as to what’s going to happen once he gets there. there are many moments like this throughout the film where melville will just linger a minute longer than most directors would and it creates such tension in those scenes. it’s also a decidedly quite film. not a lot of dialogue, not a lot of music. the film uses editing and facial expression to deliver most of the information and the character’s struggles

so to summarize, a truly great film.