Wednesday, December 29, 2010

BEST OF 2010

TOP 10 MOVIES OF 2010:
What started off as a slow year, turned out to be quite an amazing one once all was said and done. Legends like Jean Luc Godard and Roman Polanski proved that they're still very relevant with 'Film Socialisme' and 'The Ghost Writer'. 'Toy Story 3' brought back fond memories of our childhood, Sofia Coppola made it perfectly clear that she's not her father, and has no interest in being like him as a director. And 'Machete' was the official guilty pleasure movie of 2010 (with 'kickass' and 'the expandables' right behind it). From the eerie and poetic; 'Uncle Boonmee...' (winner of best picture at this years cannes film festival) to Joaquin Phoenix's Practical joke on hollywood in the form of 'I'm Still Here', this new decade of cinema is off to a great start. Not to toot my own, but i can almost guarantee you wont find a "best of 2010" movie list as diverse as what you're about to read.


Ben Affleck can direct, but maybe he should just stay behind the camera for now (not trying to jump on the Ben Affleck-hate bandwagon, but its true).
I don't consider this one of "THE BEST" of the year, but its too important and relevant to go unmentioned.
An L.A. crime drama with a touch of the wild west, set in Australia.
Louis C.K. taps in to his "inner Bill Cosby" ("Bill Cosby Himself" to be exact) and proves why he's one of the best comedians working today.
A surprisingly good (and progressive) family dramedy, that might finally get Annette Benning the academy award that's dodged her for so many years.
a remake that wasn't as bad as we all wanted it to be.
guilty pleasure
another guilty pleasure
Michel Gondry steps away from his usual quirky humor & visual effects and returns to documentary film making with a personal film about his family.
Abbas Kiarostami steps out of his comfort zone, and makes a romance story reminiscent of 1960's italian art films. Juliette Binoche gives a great performance as well.

It was such a great year for documentaries, i gave them their own category. My one and only regret is that i didn't get a chance to see Werner Herzog's latest film; 'Cave of Forgotten Dreams' (which was apparently in 3D).
a man struggles with remembering his past after he's nearly beaten to death. In order to cope with the pain, he creates a unique form of therapy that involves reenactments with action figures. Eventually, his therapy turns in to art for others, and the subject must now deal with being an artist and trying to maintain what little memory and sanity he has left.
a documentary on 'Troll 2', which solidifies its status as the #1 cult movie if this generation.
Steven Soderbergh's unique and touching documentary about his friend (and former collaborator) Spalding Gray, told entirely through old performance footage, personal home videos and old tv appearances ranging from MTV to E!
say hat you want about Banksy or "Mr Brainwash", but this was one of the biggest documentaries of the year, and it got everyone talking. Whether the documentary is truly a hoax or not, Banksy made a great film (with a sick soundtrack).
while the social network may be the official film about, networks, Winnebago man is this years official film for the youtube era. this documentary focuses on one of the very first "youtube celebrities"; the angriest man ever. It focuses on his hatred for most people (specifically dick cheney), his political views, his colorful language and his disdain with being associated with the youtube generation.

Sometimes movies from the festival circuit don't get a U.S. distributor until months later. Technically these films came out last year, but no one in the U.S. has seen them outside of special press screenings or something like that.
a disturbing yet (darkly) hilarious look at dysfunctional families.
Andrea Arnold dispels the so-called sophomore jinx with a touching coming of age story, set to a surprising mid-90's hip-hop soundtrack including; Nas (life's a bitch), Gangstar (just to get a rap) and Eric b & Rakim (know the ledge). Not as good as 'Red Road' (one of the best films of 2006), but definitely a great film.
Nicholas Refn tries to shake his comparison to Stanley Kubrick (which hasn't been working out to well for him) with a violent, tripped out, acid-induced viking story. This movie starts to kinda fall apart at in the middle, but the cinematography, atmospheric soundtrack and ending keep everything together.
one of the most talked about books, became one of the most talked about movies of this year. To bad the sequels were a huge disappointment.
Claire Denis continues to prove why she is one of the best directors working today.
unlike 'mother' or 'secret in their eyes', this is one of the best foreign films of last year that actually lived up to its hype.
an amazing documentary/unfinished film hybrid about one of france's greatest directors (Henri Cluzot) and the masterpiece he never finished.

These are films that had some serious flaws, yet at the same time tried to do something new and think outside of the box in some way shape or form. They had both; amazing aspects along with things that should have been worked on like; editing (which is what 'Black Venus' and 'Enter The Void' suffered from) or a predictable unfolding of events (Black Swan). Nevertheless, these are still movies worth seeing more than once and will more than likely stand the test of time. Who knows, i might change my mind about these movies in the future.
Unfortunately, this is nothing that we haven't before with; '3 Women', 'Persona', 'Mulholland Drive', 'Repulsion', 'Vertigo' or other various films directed by Roman Polanski, Alfred Hitchcock or David Lynch. A great ending would've saved this movie, but instead Aronofsky took the predictable "its all in your head" route (with an ending VERY similar to 'the wrestler'). However, Natalie Portman gives the performance of her career (which may not be saying much because there's not a whole lot to compare it to, but still...). And Vincent Cassell is amazing all always. Even Mila Kunis surprised me (and many others) with a great supporting performance. Even though this isn't one of my top 10 films of the year, its still one of the most interesting, and should be seen. Oh, you get to see the trailer for Terrance Mallick's new movie ('tree of life') with Black Swan, so that's a major plus.
Say what you want about Gaspar Noe, but every one of his films gets more and more technically advanced. His downfall with this movie was similar to 'Black Venus' in that this movie could have been 45 minutes shorter. This is still a good movie (sometimes intense), but it just went on for too long. And some of you have seen this may find it hard to believe, but there's actually an even longer version of this movie.
As flawed as this movie may have been, at the end of the day it was a step forward in black film (if there even is such a thing). For once i didn't have to sit through a movie about; the first black athlete to slam dunk a basketball at an ivy league school, a single teen mother in the ghetto (yes I'm taking a stab at precious and the hundred other movies to focus on that), an aspiring rapping pimp (hustle n' flow), a black sidekick that has some stupid loyalty to the white main character (a role kept alive by Morgan Freeman and Whoopi Goldberg) or a biography about a predictable civil rights leader. This is probably the best post-slavery film to come in YEARS (might be one of the best). This film only had one flaw but as far as I'm concerned it was a MAJOR one. The editing. Jesus Christ this movie could have been cut down quite a bit. I thought there were WAY too many scenes that focused on her being shown as a freak, and hardly no focus on the main characters back story (outside of a few references here and there). Even more, the scenes where she is paraded around like a sideshow went on for way too long to the point where you want to scream; "ALRIGHT, ENOUGH! WE GET IT!"

Olivia Williams, Pierce Brosnan & Tom Wilkanson (The Ghost Writer)
Leslie Manville (Another Year)
Casey Affleck (The Killer Inside Me)
Joaquin Phoenix (I'm Still Here)
Christian Bale (The Fighter)
Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom)
Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Jeremy Renner (The Town)
Yahima Torres (Black Venus)
James Franco (127 Hours)
Ryan Gosling & Michele Williams (Blue Valentine)
Emily Alyn Lind (Enter The Void)
Julliete Binoche (Certified Copy)
Annette Benning & Julianne Moore (The Kids Are Alright)

if the trailer is any indication of whats to come, i cannot wait.
david cronenberg's next film
lynne ramsay returns
lets hope that these 2 new superhero films are not only great, but can tie all of the avenger movies together
snakes on a plane loses its belt of having the most ridiculous movie title
manuel de oliviero is 101 years old and still directing
after 4 years, this movie is finally getting a release
scorsese's next film. lets hope its better than 'shutter island'.
im not sure what david gordon green is up to, but as long as danny mcbride is in this, i'll see it
can harrison ford make up for that last indiana jones movie?
once again steven soderbergh is going 2 movies in one year. no one he's supposedly retiring. he's burnt out.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

New and improved Flud website with new reviews...

The flud website recently got face lift. Check out some of my latest movie reviews ('the social network', 'the town', 'machete' and more) on the new site.—the-expandables

Michael Mann & Claire Denis Ranked

Last night, I realized that Mann & Denis where the 2 directors i explored the most this year, outside of my regular go-to movies like; ghost dog, stranger than paradise, taxi driver, in the mood for love and a few more. In fact, Heat (Michael Mann) and Nenette & Boni (Claire Denis) are also two of my go-to movies when i cant think of anything else to watch.
With Mann, Ive always been a fan, but in all honesty, it never really went past ‘heat’ and ‘manhunter’. This year, i made a point to re-watch movies of his i haven't seen since i was a kid ('thief' and 'the insider') or to give other movies i disliked a 2nd chance ('ali' and 'collateral'). I even got around to finally seeing; 'Public Enemies' and 'Miami Vice'. Sure his current “digital” style of film making doesn't always work (like in public enemies), but other times he pulls it off beautifully (miami vice…which is a movie i think many people are scared to admit they like). The shots in his movies are so beautiful sometimes its ridiculous. I think he’s the best “studio” director working today (obviously that's debatable, but still…). I'm sorry that collateral is ranks so low, but that movie was not good at all. Also not a fan of the “white guy accepted by the native americans” movies, which is why last of the mohicans is ranked so low. i totally understand if other people like that movie, but its just not my thing.
Claire Denis is my 2nd most explored director this year. With the exception of that one dance documentary she made a few years, Ive made it a point to try and see everything she’s done. The retrospective at IFC this year made that easy. Ive said this many times, but i’ll say it again; i think she’s one of the best directors working today. She has a style unlike anyone else. Her films have a masculinity that most male directors cant match. All of her movies have an amazing score/soundtrack (even the ones that aren't scored by Tindersticks). And I love her choice of actors (especially Alex Descas and Vincent Gallo). I only wish she worked with Dennis Lavant more.
Just like i did with Thomas Vinterberg (and still SLOWLY working on with John Carpenter), a more in depth overview of each of their filmographies may come in the future if i have time.
Michael Mann
Claire Denis

Friday, December 17, 2010


Yo, here's a writeup i did with my friend John Cribbs for him and his friend Chris's website;
Its a pretty awesome concept where people are given the task of saving 5 films from the combined filmographies of 5 random directors. I got; Leos Carax, George Lucas, Russell Mulcahy, John Huston and Carl Dreyer.
Be sure to check out the rest of the five from the fire articles on the site as well (link to the website is on the right).


I cant remember the last time I've anticipated a movie coming out so much. 2011 is shaping up to be a pretty awesome year, and I'm really only basing this on 3 or 4 movies that i know of so far. David Cronenberg's 'a dangerous method', Lynne Ramsay's return with 'we need to talk about kevin' (which will also have John C Reilly acting in a dramatic role for the first time in a long time). And even though i still have my doubts, I'm very curious to see how both; 'Thor' & 'Captain America' will turn out. Anyway, here's the official trailer for Terrance Mallick's next film; 'The Tree of Life' (we can finally stop watching that bootleg camera phone version).

Monday, December 13, 2010


Just like Troll 2, this is another cult movie where most people don't seem to care about the first part (i wouldn't even be surprised if anyone hasn't actually seen Silent Night Deadly Night 1). This movie also shares another similarity with Troll 2 in that its another awful/awesome movie that's been re-discovered thanks to sites like; Youtube, Collegehumor and other viral sites. Because of the famous "Garbage Day" clip, Silent Night Deadly Night 2 has become one of the new cult movies of the 21st century. I was gonna put this on one of my "Movies for Halloween" lists, but it made more sense for this to be with the christmas movies (i mean, these silent night deadly night movies are essentially about a psycho running around in a santa klaus outfit hacking people up with an axe). In Silent Night Deadly Night 2 we follow Ricky, Billy's little brother from part 1. In the film, we see Ricky follow down the same evil path as his brother and watch as he slowly turns in to a serial killer seeking revenge on the sadistic nun from the first film who made life for him and his brother a living hell. If you've actually seen this entire movie, you know that there's a whole lot more to this besides the Garbage Day scene. There's the scene where Ricky kills the guy in the movie theater. The part where Ricky shoves an umbrella through a guys torso. And lets not forget the overall performance given by the commanding lead actor Eric Freeman, who almost never seems to blink (or show much emotion at all) through out the entire film.

Its kinda funny that Terry Zwigoff directed this movie strictly for the paycheck, and it ended up being even better than the disappointing; 'Art School Confidential' (the movie Zwigoff made thanks to the money he got from 'Bad Santa'). While 'Ghost World' highlighted Zwigoff's talent for awkwardly dark humor, Bad Santa was his first foray into raunchy and somewhat obscene humor. The dark humor in Bad Santa isn't as 'intelligent' as Ghost World, but it still works. Before this films release, the trailer didn't make this movie out to be that appealing. But slowly through word of mouth, this movie started to gain a reputation for its unexpected humor, and is slowly becoming a new-age cult movie (midnight screenings of Bad Santa have slowly started to pop up in movie theaters through out the U.S.). Zwigoff's obvious Todd Solondz-influenced film making (as seen in 'Crumb' and 'Ghost World') is nowhere to be found in Bad Santa. R.I.P. John Ritter and Bernie Mac.

After you finish watching 'Bad Santa', why not depress the shit outta yourself and watch the third installment of Michael Hanake's "Glaciation trilogy" (a trilogy based on actual events that have taken place in Austria over the years). This movie, which is loosely based on the true story of an austrian college student who cracked up, shot up a bank full of people then killed himself a few minutes later, is one of the few multi-storyline/multi-character films from the mid-90's that had absolutely NOTHING to do with Pulp Fiction (for that fact a lone, this movie deserves an applause). In the film, Haneke interweaves the lives of random austrian residents (a couple that has just adopted a daughter, a middle-aged couple that's recently lost their child, a lonely old man, a college student on the brink of a nervous breakdown, a romanian immigrant, etc) during the christmas season. Michael Haneke sure does make his country seem like a pretty grim place. This movie isn't as depressing as his first film; The 7th Continent, but it comes pretty close, with an ending just as powerful.

The Rocky saga shouldve ended with this one if you ask me. Outside of the final street fight at the end of Rocky 5, both; 5 & 6 are horrible, especially when compared to this one. We've all seen Rocky 4 by now (and if you haven't, what the fuck have you been doing with your life?), so we all know the story. Ivan Drago, the new lethal kid on the boxing circuit kills Apollo Creed in a boxing match, and Rocky seeks revenge. This movie was made during the height of the "evil russians" plot craze, that many american action movies played into with movies like; 'Red Dawn', 'Ruskies', 'Rambo 2', and many more. This movie has so many memorable scenes (especially the final training montage) and quotes. This is a must see for everyone.

I just saw this over the weekend at IFC, and along with 'Kickass', this is my favorite guilty pleasure movie of 2010. Its funny, because in a strange way, this horror/action/comedy reminded me of that parody action santa klaus movie from 'Scrooged' (the Bill Murray 'Scrooged'). I must emphasize that in order to enjoy this, it cannot be taken seriously. In Rare Exports, director; Jalmari Helander puts a disturbing twist on the age-old fairy tale of Santa Klaus. The film follows main character; Pietari, a young finnish boy who lives with his struggling single father, who notices certain things that others in his village don't see. Due to all the disturbing fairy tales he always reads, he's convinced that Santa Klaus isn't the jolly old man that everyone makes him out to be and he's lurking around the village waiting to kidnap all the children on christmas eve. Anyone who's a fan of Jav Svankmajer (a director famous for making movies based on twisted fairy tales) is sure to enjoy this movie.

I'm partially putting this movie on my list as reminder to myself to re-watch it, because its been a while. I'm aware the entire film (a biography about gangster/entrepreneur Bugsy Seigel) doesn't take place during christmas, but a critical segment of the film (Bugsy's casino owning days in Las Vegas), does. This movie is also a big part of Harvey Keitel's comeback that took place during the early 1990's. In a few short years ('92-'94), Keitel re-emerged to the A-list status that he once had with; Bugsy, Bad Lieutenant, Reservoir Dogs, The Piano and Pulp Fiction. Much like how Dennis Hopper was nominated for an academy award for Hoosiers, when he really should have been nominated that year for Blue Velvet, Keitel ended up getting nominated (his one and only nomination) for his performance in Bugsy, when most people felt it should have been for Bad Lieutenant.

Wow, Christmas time must suck for american kids in the public school system who celebrate Hanukka (or even Kwanzaa for that matter). Sure schools, try to acknowledge other holidays, but no matter what, Christmas is always #1. I think part of Hebrew Hammer's motivation as a film was to appeal to all the non-christian kids who had Christmas shoved in their faces for so many years. In 'The Hebrew Hammer', Adam Goldberg plays; Mordecai Carver, aka "The Hebrew Hammer". He's pretty much a jewish shaft/local hero among the jewish community. After santa is killed by his evil son (played by Andy Dick) with plans to do away with all holidays except Christmas, the Hebrew Hammer is given his toughest mission yet from the Jewish Justice League (the company he works for): save hanukka. To do this, he joins forces with fellow JJL agent; "Ester Bloombergensteinenthal" and head of the Kwanzaa liberation front; "Muhammad Ali Paula Abdul", played by Mario Van Peeples (a nice homage to Melvin Van Peeples, who pretty much single handedly started the 'Blaxploitation' genre, which 'The Hebrew Hammer' pays homage to).


This movie will always be a nice comment on yuppies and the 80's in general. Thank god we have the 'american psycho' we know today, and not what almost became the cocaine induced Oliver Stone adaptation that was supposed to star Leonardo Dicaprio. In the film, Christian Bale plays a young successful wall street stock broker by day and a serial killer by night (...or is it all in his head). By now, I'm sure most of you reading this know that my mancrush on christian bale started after his amazing temper tantrum on the set of the last terminator movie (which bumped mike tyson's homophobic/homoerotic rant at the tyson/lewis press conference down to 2nd place). Other than 'the fighter', which has everyone talking about bale, 'American Pyscho' is Christian Bale's best performance. I mean when you think about it, the batman movies are obviously not about his acting, 'public enemies' focused on Johnny Depp more than him, and with the machinist, people seemed to be more hung up on his weight loss ability and less on his acting. Bale does an amazing job as a psychopath, and i cant help but think that director; Marry Harron drew some inspiration from Mike Leigh's character 'Jeremy G Smart' from his film 'Naked'. Oh and in case you guys didn't realize, this movie takes place during christmas so it counts

for those of you not familiar with the movie 'naked', here's the character i was talking about, that I'm sure was used in some way to shape the patrick bateman character.

Sorry, but i had to throw in one "art house" film on the list. On christmas day, Morvern Callar wakes up to see that her boyfriend has committed suicide. This doesn't really seem to bother her (or director Lynne Ramsay was exploring a new way to express shock). Also, before his suicide, her boyfriend leaves behind a manuscript that she passes off as her own, which turns out to be very good and she sells it for $100,000. This is an anti-chick flick. Or, depending on how you look at it, its a chick flick that men can also enjoy. And Boards of Canada's amazing music makes this movie even better. In fact, i consider this movie to be one of the best of the last decade, and Samantha Morton's performance is also one of the best of the decade.

No matter how much i say this movie annoys me, i always end up watching it a couple of times a year. Maybe its time for me to just admit that i kinda like this movie. We all know the tale of stanley kubrick's last movie that left everyone scratching their heads (especially at that ending). When Dr. Harford (Tom Cruise) cant deal with the fact that his wife (Nicole Kidman) once considered cheating on him, he tries to get back at her by going to masked sex orgy, but ends up getting in way over his head and puts his and his family's life in danger. What annoys me the most about this movie is that if any other director shot a movie in london that was supposed to set in nyc, they would've gotten trashed, but because Kubrick did it, everyone (including Martin Scorsese) reached for the most bullshit excuses as to why Kubrick pulled off representing nyc with a green screen backdrop and scenic shots of the city (shot by someone else). Also, the scene where Nicole Kidman confesses her fantasy about cheating on her husband (a crucial part in the film) could have been executed so much better. I think of plenty of actresses who could have pulled off that scene much better. If anything, watch the movie because it was shot well (like any kubrick film), had a great soundtrack, and the sex orgy sequence was very good. But overall the acting was kinda flat.

Just trying to throw in yet another non-traditional christmas movie (this story takes place during christmas). This is a great modern western that stands out above most because of its dark, moody, atmosphere (probably due to nick cave's influence). For years, there have been plenty of Australian films that many would consider a "western", but this may be the first (or at least most successful) crossover to incorporate Aborigines. In 'The Proposition', Guy Pierce is hired by Ray Winstone (in one of his best performances ever) to hunt down and kill a sadistic gang of outlaws under the command of Pierce's brother (played by Danny Huston). This movie is way more bloody and violent than your average cowboy movie. Fans of Deadwood or The Assassination of Jesse James should enjoy this movie.

I threw in a tv episode in one of my "movies for halloween" lists back in october, so why not do the same for christmas. In this episode of southpark, the 4 boy and Jesus have to save Santa Klaus from terrorists after they shoot his sleigh down because they have mistaken santa for a terrorists. This was during the period where was southpark was getting super preachy and a bit obnoxious at time, but this episode in particular wasn't that bad. The highlight of this episode for me was the random reference to david o russell's 'three kings' (the torture scene). I was never a fan of the southpark christmas episodes that feature mr hanky because, just like cartman, i cant stand that character. But I'll make an exception with this episode.
link to full episode:

This one is a little obvious, but it never gets old. As far as I'm concerned, this is the best adaptation of a christmas carol yet. This is Bill Murray at his prime. And just like most of you, i am getting kinda sick of 'a christmas story'. For the last few years, Ive only watched it for a few scenes, but never all the way through. Luckily, just like TNT does with 'a christmas story', AMC will be showing 'Scrooged' for 24 hours starting on christmas eve. Bill Murray is obviously hilarious in this, but the supporting cast is also great. Aside from him, Carol Kane is probably my favorite character in the movie as the ghost of christmas present.

Monday, December 6, 2010


I'm sure by now most of you have seen this, but I'm pretty late on it. I admit that i slept on this movie. Even with all my friends telling me how great it was, i still planned on skipping it. Don't get it twisted, I'm not one of these pretentious film snobs that hate on pixar movies just for the sake of hating. I love incredibles , up and monsters inc. I just didn't think toy story 3 would be my kind of movie. Boy was i wrong. It was almost like god was trying to tell me i need to see this movie. On my flight back from spain (i flew Air France), Toy Story 3 was one of the MANY movie options i had to choose from. I must say, i always knew the french loved cinema more than most people, but shit...even their movie selection on their airlines are superior. I couldn't believe some of the movies i had to choose from on my flight back: wild at heart, le circle rouge, heat, 12 monkeys, animal kingdom and many more. Ive done a bit a of traveling over the years, but I've never got to choose from films by; David Lynch, Jean-Pierre Melville, Michael Mann or (GOOD) Terry Gilliam. In fact, the movie choices on my last 2 trips out of the country was shit like; Speed Racer, Red Belt and Blind Side. Good movies really do make flights go by faster. From now on, i may only plan my trips around locations that Air France flies too.
I always had a special attachment to my toys when i was a kid. And me being an only child meant that i had more than the average kid who had to share his stuff with his siblings (that's something foreign to me). Now, unlike Andy in toy story 3, i gave up playing (or even thinking about my action figures) long before going off too college, but the movie still touched an emotional nerve. Toy Story 3 kinda made me feel bad about giving my action figure away when i was kid. In fact there's that scene in in the movie when the pre-school kids play too rough with Andy's toys that brought back some memories. Even when i was young i use to hate kids like that. Id always avoid playing with them. They'd just take action figures and smash them together to simulate fighting. I hated that shit so much. I remember when i was 12/13 i went to my aunts house and saw some of my old toys on my cousins floor all broken and bent up with marker writing all over them. Toy Story 3 brought back all those memories.
In Toy 3 story, Woody, Buzz and the rest of the gang have come to terms with the sad fact that not only has Andy totally given up on playing with toys, but hes going away to college. After Andy decides to only take Woody to college with him (as a memento of his childhood), Buzz and the rest of the Toys fear that they'll be thrown away. A mix up occurs, and Andy's toys are accidentally sent to a day care center where they meet a new set of Toys, led by "Lots' O' Bear", who may not be as nice as they appear at first. Now they have to figure out a way to escape from the day care (or prison as it slowly turns out to be) before Andy leaves for college. The last half of this movie gets pretty "dark" for a family movie. Some parts in Toy Story 3 are pretty heavy for a little kid to handle, especially the scene towards the end when they're at the landfill, and pretty much accept the fact that they're about to die, just before being saved.
I think a lot of people relate to Toy Story 3 (or the Andy character specifically), because we've kinda grown up along side him with each movie, and can relate to growing out of playing with toys and action figures. I was pleasantly surprised with Toy Story 3. With the year almost over, i see Toy Story 3 maintaining a solid position on my top 5 of the year.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


If there's people out there who still have a hard time accepting the fact that Sofia Coppola isn't like here father, and has no interest in making movies like her father, they're going to hate her latest film; 'somewhere'. now, if you're a fan of her work, chances are you're going to love this. As far as I'm concerned, 'Somewhere' is the best thing she's done since 'Virgin Suicides'. That might not be saying much because many people considered 'Lost In Translation' to be both; boring & overrated (i personally think its a good movie...just not great) and 'Marie Antionette', although ambitious, was kind of a disaster. But nevertheless, 'Somewhere' is a great film. It represents Sofia Coppola saying; "this is my style, and I'm not compromising anything".
In the film, Steven Dorph plays a Hollywood "bad boy" who's forced to re-examine his wild life after he has to take care of his 11 year old daughter for an unspecified amount of time. I give Coppola a lot respect for keeping my interest in a character that i wouldn't normally care about. For anyone who's seen 'Lost in Translation', by now you should know that Sofia is known for basing characters in her movies on real people (in 'Lost in Translation', Giovanni Ribisi was clearly supposed to be Spike Jonze, Anna Farris was supposed to be Cameron Diaz and Scarlett Johansson was supposed to be Sofia). I haven't been able to pin down who Dorf's character is supposed to be based on, but imagine a movie about Colin Ferrel (or someone like him) taking care of his daughter while juggling an acting career and trying to maintain a typical A-list actor lifestyle. Sounds pretty uninteresting, right? Normally i would agree too, but Sofia was able to make an interesting movie, and give a typically shallow character some depth.
What i loved most about 'Somewhere' is that this is the first time she's really stepped out of her comfort zone (as far as the plot goes. I'm aware that 'marie antionette' was her first big budget movie). Her first 3 films have all been slight variations of the same basic plot: attractive, blond, privileged females trying to find themselves in a suffocating world. I guess there's nothing wrong with that, but at certain point its time to move on, and try something new (which she did). I'm starting to think that a lot of these modern day female directors (lynne ramsey, andrea arnold, claire denis & sofia coppola) are better at showing the sensetive side of their male characters, than male directors.
Like all of her movies, the soundtrack is great (although its still not as good as the score Air did for 'Virgin Suicides'). The cinematography is beautiful, like all of her movies (courtesy of cinemetographer; Harris Savides, who's work can be seen in the films of Gus Van Sant and David Fincher). Now, like i said earlier, if you aren't a fan of her previous work, chances are you may not like this. There are a lot of extended scenes, minimal editing and there's not a lot of dialogue (when compared to your average movie).


Phillip Ridley's 14 year absence from film was not worth the wait. And it doesn't help that the last movie he left us with 14 years ago was 'The Passion of Darkly Noon' (a heavy-handed religious film, with a waste of a cast that included; grace zabriskie, ashley judd and viggo mortensen). I guess i have so much hope for Ridley because he's responsible for one of my all time favorite movies; 'The Reflecting Skin' (something Ive been watching a lot over the last year). For a first time effort, The Reflecting Skin is one of best psychological thriller/horror/coming of age/dark comedies ever made. Unfortunately, Phillip Ridley wasnt able to tap in to the talent he once possessed, and instead he gave us a Polanski-esque, split personality/"its all in your head" thriller.
In Heartless, Jim Sturgess plays; Jamie, a depressed, introverted, socially awkward photographer who still hasn't recovered from the death of his father. He has a huge red birthmark that takes up half of his face (along with one of his arms and some of his chest), which not only makes it impossible for him to meet girls, but he's also the subject of ridicule from his neighbors (their nickname for him is "elephant man"). He lives in a rough London area which has been taken over by a gang of thugs, who might not even be human (one night Jamie quickly snaps a picture of one of them, and he discovers that they're these lizard-looking people with vampire teeth). He's finally pushed over the edge after his mother is mugged and murdered one night. This sends him in to a depression worse than ever. From that point on, the movie turns in to a story that's been done a million times. Jamie makes a deal with the devil (who just shows up out of nowhere) to give him a happier life. In return the devil asks for one favor; that he must kill a random person, cut his heart out and place it on the steps of a random church. That task alone is hard enough, but after completing the task, the devil (being the evil person that he is), goes against his word and wants to use Jamie for something even worse. On a side note, for some reason, the devil character keeps a little indian girl around as his sidekick/helper. I didn't really get that part of the movie.
Some of the scenes, acting and music are SO melodramatic that its kinda funny sometimes. And there's a "twist" ending, that you can see coming half way in to the movie. Now there are some positive things about 'Heartless'. As disappointing as the movie is overall, its still had a pretty cool, moody atmosphere (courtesy of Ridley's direction). Half of the cast is made of Mike Leigh's regular actors (Timothy Spall, Eddie Marsan and Ruth Sheen). Eddie Marson is the best thing about the movie. Phillip Ridley carefully places him in the middle of the movie (which is right around the time i started losing interest). Eddie Marson's quick appearance (similar to William Hurt's appearance in 'History of Violence') manages to keep you interested for a little while, but he's only in the movie for a one scene. Once Marsan's character goes away, the movie keeps getting worse until the disappointing ending.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


wow, sometimes i see so many movies a year i forget a few. 'Died Young, Stayed Pretty', a documentary about the underground world of concert poster art within indie music, would be a nice companion to this year's popular documentary; Exit Through The Giftshop'. Normally i avoid movies that are labeled; "a hit at sxsw". Because to me, the sxsw logo on a movie poster means nothing more than mumbling 20-something year-olds in a movie about love triangles or "finding yourself" (a genre some call "mumblecore"). Although 'Died Young, Stayed Pretty' has some flaws, it doesn't fit in to that typical sxsw film mold. Its still a solid film on something that's hardly been addressed in the world of film. Even if the subject of this documentary doesn't sound too eventful, at least watch it for the unique poster artists ("print mafia", ron libreti, bryce mccloud, etc) ), and the wide variety of colorful art that they produce ranging from loud & colorful to pen sketches on notebook paper.
This documentaries main problem is the structure (or lack of it after a certain point). As the documentary goes on, the director just kinda jumps around from one interview to the next. This didn't really bother me so much, because the artists and the exhibition of their art was enough to satisfy me, although i totally understand if some people get annoyed at the movies schizophrenic style. There's not much focus on the history or origin of movie poster art either. The documentary mainly focuses on the present day artists, and their views on love, life, and the current state of poster art. One unique quality about this documentary is that it doesn't really focus on the actual music or musicians that the artists make their posters for (although one of the artists does give us some history and insight in to the supposed closet homosexual life of elvis presely). Along with 'Exit Through The Giftshop', 'Died Young, Stayed Pretty' also shares a similar vibe and structure with 'Beautiful Losers' (the documentary about the young 'alternative' artists of the 1990's like Harmony Korine and Shepard Feary). So chances are if you like either movie, you'll like 'Died Young, Stayed Pretty'.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


***please keep in mind im excluding active legends like martin scorcese, werner herzog, woody allen, jean luc goodard and people like that. i just think putting them on a list like this would be kinda obvious.***

I think as of right now, he might be the most untouchable as far as im concerned. Of any director, he's made the most memorable movies of the last decade (the piano teacher, cache and the white ribbon). And even his recent movies that may not be considered "the best" of the past decade are still better than most (code unknown, funny games and time of the wolf). Similar to lars von trier (who's also on this list), Haneke is so great at fucking with the audience, raising questions that people are affraid to ask, and his movies leave you with an uneasy feeling (although he does all of this in a much less "prick-ish" way than Von Trier does). In one decade, he's taken on some serious issues, has tried different genres and has succeeded each time: the birth of facism (white ribbon), both: "white guilt" and race issues (code unknown & cache) and he even took a realistic stab at the post apocolyptic genre with time of the wolf. And id put code unknown up against crash any day of the week.

I grouped these three directors in to one, because they all pretty much represent the same thing. None of these directors are affraid to take risks, try completely different genres from one film to the next (soderbergh: bubble-> the ocean's 11 movies-> che, linklater: school of rock -> scanner darkly -> me and orson welles, assayas: demonlover -> clean -> summer hours -> carlos). They can work with either; big budgets or almost no budget, release 2 movies in a year, and they can get amazing performances from their actors (weather it be an ensemble or an individual standout performance). Of the three directors mentioned, Olivier Assayas might have the best track record (in my opinion, he hasn't made a bad a film yet). Soderbergh and Linklater both fall in to the same category, in that they actually do have more bad movies than great movies, but the great ones completely overshadow the bad ones. For example, all the of the ocean's sequels and full frontal seemed like silly movies, but just Che and Traffic alone overshadow all of that stuff. And of the three directors mentioned, Soderbergh is best at working with non proffesional actors (in fact with the exception of Gus Van Sat, he might the best of anyone on this list). Soderbergh even did the unthinkable and remade Solaris. RELAX, i recognize the original is way better, but his version isnt as bad as people make out to be. I use to hate it myself, but gre to like it. And the same thing with Richard Linklater. The Bad News Bears remake was pointless, but he still made Me and Orson Welles, Before Sunset and School of Rock which totally cancel out bad new bears (and other slip ups like fast food nation). And as overrated as scanner darkly was, it was still a fun movie, and a him trying something different.

I know they had a shitty first half of the last decade (although they did make O Brother Where art Thou), but No Country and Serious Man brought them redemption. I almost didn't wanna put them on this list simply because i hated Burn After Reading SO much (and it couldve been a great movie), but if im going to have one entry on this list for "the people", which basically means the one that wont have people bitching at you because you left them off your list (you know, the tarantino's and the christopher nolan's), i'll chooe the coens (although Nolan does get an honorable mention).

That shy/asshole grin that he always has makes me think that Von Trier is well aware of what he's doing, which is fucking with people. He started the last decade fucking with us by giving us the unexpected ending in Dancer In The Dark, and ended most recently with another headfuck; 'Antichrist'. In any group, you need a prankster. And Lars Von Trier fits that description to a Tee. Just about every movie he's made in the last 10 years has some kind of flaw, but similar to Soderbergh and Assayas, hes not afraid to take risks (although the risks Von Trier takes serve a different purpose). Also, almost all of his movies from the last decade, with the exception of 'Boss of it All' are bound to bring out many serious discussion, debates and stir up some serious emotions, which i think at the end of the day is his ultimate goal. So no matter what way you cut it, he's succeeded.

its almost like she was groomed for greatness. if you go from working for jim jarmusch to wim wenders (as well as working as casting director for tarkofsky at one point) you almost CANT fail as a filmmaker. Unlike many of her fellow popular female directors of the moment (specifically Sofia Coppola), Denis has no problem focusing on issues besides female problems. And even her films that do deal primarily with female issues aren't cliche and overdone (rape, abuse, etc). One of her most recent films; 35 Shots Rum was a great example of this. Many other directors would have taken the basic plot of that film; the relationship between a father and his daughter, and turned it in to a predictable story of incest or abuse. She did the complete opposite. In Beau Travail she was able to make a film with obviously homosexual undertones, and yet still make it feel masculine. She can do both; straight forward storytelling (35 Shots of Rum) as well as surreal & subjective storytelling as well (The Intruder). All of her movies contain beautiful cinematography and AMAZING music (courtesy of Tindersticks). She even took a stab at horror (or Denis's own interpretation of horror) with the somewhat disturbing; Trouble Every Day.

He can go through periods when you're kinda like "wtf" (even cowgirls get the blues and the psycho remake), but for five films in a row, he hasnt slipped up yet (although as good as paranoid park was, he was very close to doing a repeat of 'elephant'). Kinda of like Soderbergh, some of Van Sant's films are so different in; the look, film making style and subject from one film to the next that some people aren't even aware that the same guy responsible for Good Will Hunting is also responsible for 'Last Days' and 'Gerry'. Also, as an openly gay director, he's never afraid to touch on homosexuality, but at the same time does it in such a subtle way that its not even the issue of the film (with the exception of 'Milk', which is still still a good movie too). In a decade he covered school shootings, did 2 bios (harvey milk & kurt cobain), worked with A-list actors (matt damon, sean penn and james brolin) to high school kids who've never acted before (elephant & paranoid park) and has had equally successful results each time.

He's probably the best new director to emerge from the past decade, and one of the few people worthy enough to fill tarkofsky's shoes (especially with japon and silent light which are both obvious homages to tarkofsky's style). This might be the one debatable entry on this list because his movies aren't for everyone, but i personally think he makes some of the most beautiful movies out, so i kinda feel like its too bad for people who may not enjoy his movies.

Mike Leigh is one of the few directors left that represents real people and real issues. He walks in the shadow of John Cassavetes, yet manages to copy NOTHING from him (usually when people claim to show realism or express truth in film, they always have to resort to that knock-off handheld camera, improv style of cassavetes as if they're actually doing it justice). Mike Leigh is great at both getting an amazing performance from his entire cast (all or nothing) as well as getting standout performances from his actors as well(vera drake and happy go lucky). Although all his movies are set in the UK, and some people label his movies has "british films", anyone can relate to them.

Honorable Mention:
*LYNNE RAMSAY - if she was more active, she would've been on my current top ten for sure (only 2 movies in 11 years).
*CHRISTOPHER NOLAN - he brought batman back and inception is probably one of the most fun movies of this year. Even though he does get overrated sometimes, he still deserves to be mentioned
*MICHAEL MANN - put down the 1980's camcorder, and you'll be on this top ten list no question.
*DARREN ARONOFSKY - Another one of the best directors to emerge from the last decade who deserves to be mentioned.
*PT ANDERSON - I personally think he's done a great job of carrying Robert Altman's torch

Monday, November 8, 2010


I got a nice sneak peak of Claire Denis's latest; 'White Material' last night (a movie that i wish i saw at last years NY film fest over Todd Solondz SUPER disappointing; 'Life During Wartime'). Honestly, I've had my fill of movies set in Africa that are from the perspective of a white person. If its not Morgan Freeman sacrificing his life for Stephen Dorf in 'The Power of One' or Donald Sutherland and Marlon Brando saving South Africa in 'Cry Freedom', its Clint Eastwood making an oscar bait film with Matt Damon as the 'face' of south africa as a rugby player, conveniently released after Spike Lee called him out for his lack of representation of black soldiers in his war movies (which i think is a pretty pointless argument and also conveniently came about just as Spike Lee released his disappointing 'Miracle at St.Anna). And dont get me started on all the movies that portray african soldiers as senseless murderers (like 'Black Hawk Down' or 'Tears of the Sun'). Only recently have films that are set in the Continent of Africa actually deal with something other than apartheid or some other type of economical or political struggle ('waiting for happiness' and 'u-carmen'). But for Claire Denis, probably one of the best directors out right now, i'll make an exception and put aside all my preconceived notions about films set in africa (lets not forget that she, unlike many other white directors, actually grew up in africa and has a better perspective on things). If her films aren't actually set in Africa ('chocolat'-not the johnny depp movie, 'beau travail' or 'white material'), then they at least focus on africans or african immigrants living in france ('35 shots of rum', 'i cant sleep', 'no fear'). In fact, even though the location of 'White Material' is supposed to be anonymous, it was filmed in the same country as her first film; Chocolat (a semi-autobiographical film about Denis's childhood in Africa).
Much like how 'Inspector Bellamy' (as disappointing to me as it may have been) was with Claude Charbol and Gerard Depardieu (a long overdue collaboration of two french film legends), 'White Material' was the first (and yes, long overdue) collaboration between Denis and Isabelle Hupert (two modern day french icons). In addition to that, Denis brought along many other familiar faces and regulars; Michael Subor (The Intruder, Beau Travail), Isaac Debankole (chocolat and no fear) and Tindersticks, who had previously done the music for 4 of Denis's previous films (nenette and boni, trouble everyday, 35 shots of rum and the intruder). In 'White Material' Hupert plays; Maria, a white coffee plantation owner in an unnamed African region that's in the middle of a civil war between the army and the rebels (who are mad up of mostly AK-47-carrying children and teenagers). Because the climate is becoming more and more dangerous, all of the locals are starting to leave, yet Maria feels she and her family have to stay in order to save their crop and not lose money. This task becomes more and more difficult due to the fact that there are hardly any workers left to hire (almost everyone has left in fear of their lives). Also, Maria's ex-husband and co-owner of the plantation played by Christopher 'Highlander' Lambert (where the hell has he been??), is trying to sell the land and get out as well, behind Maria's back. In addition, there's a subplot that focuses on a character known as; 'The Boxer' (played by Denis regular; Isaac Debankole). The leader of the rebels who has a bounty on his head by the military. He eventually finds his way to Maria's plantation, where she helps him to hide out. The trailer for this film may mislead you to believe its a film that's nothing but a sympathetic look at a white women living in a dangerous climate in Africa. It really isn't. Its a bit more complicated than that (much like many of Denis's other films). If anything, 'White Material' focuses on the assumption that just because a white family has been planted in Africa for generations that they will be an exception to the violence around them. Maria, aside from her obvious pride in not wanting to leave her coffee plantation, almost assumes that she's just like any other local black person. She almost looks at herself as an equal. But through a series of "reality checks", she slowly comes to realize that's not the case.
In a way, the atmosphere of 'White Material' kinda draws some comparison to Denis's earlier film; The Intruder (although white material has a much more straight forward plot). This is mainly due to Tinderstick's amazing soundtrack (which is very similar to their music in the Intruder). In true Denis fashion, there are many small implications and hints to things that at the same time tell the whole story. There are also many unanswered questions, and open ended issues (mainly the ending), and the angle about Maria's son kinda going insane. Like always, Denis doesn't miss a beat, and 'White Material' is on par with all her other work. I have yet to see a film by her that i'd rate less than 4 out of 5 stars.

Monday, November 1, 2010


I'm pretty disappointed just for the simple fact that i sat through a 5-1/2 hour movie only to come out saying; "Yeah, it was ok". If i sit through a movie that long i wanna come out amazed. That shouldn't be too much to ask especially when I've dedicated the majority of my day to watching it. Olivier Assayas' biopic (his first in fact) about pro-Palestinian terrorist; "Carlos The Jackal" (Ilich Ramírez Sánchez) had many problems. Don't get me wrong, it was well acted, especially by lead actor; Edgar Ramirez (who's set to portray Pablo Escobar in his next role). It was also shot very well. I was so excited to see this mainly because aside from Steven Soderbergh and Richard Linklater, Olivier Assayas has the most eclectic range of any director working today. Watch 'Demonlover' and 'Summer Hours' back-to-back, or watch 'Irma Vep' and 'Clean' (both films star Maggie Cheung) back-to-back to see what I'm talking about. Now i give Assayas respect for taking on such a tough project. As a filmmaker he's never made a movie quite like this (although on a personal level for him, it actually makes sense that he directed 'Carlos' seeing that he grew up in France during the time period where Carlos The Jackal was very active and most known).
For some reason these super-long biopics that are based on true events ('red riding') or focus on both; the rise and file of a famous historical figures (che guevarra or carlos the jackal), always seem to start with a bang, but the last half of the film always seems to fall short and just drag on. Take 'Che' for example. The first part of 'Che' was almost perfect as far as I'm concerned, but the 2nd part seemed to have no direction at times. But because the first part was so great, it still kinda made up for the problematic 2nd half (i cant say the same about 'Carlos'). 'Che' is probably the perfect movie to compare 'Carlos' with. Both films are about controversial historical figures who some consider terrorists while others consider heros (i personally think Carlos was way worse than Che Guevarra, but that's just me), both movies are long as hell, neither get too much in to the childhood/early years of the subjects (although 'Che' didn't really have to do that because we already have 'Motorcycle Diaries') and like i said earlier, both have somewhat disappointing endings.
In the film Olivier Assayas takes us from Carlos's first mission to prove himself for the pro Palestinian organization; PLFP, to his most notorious mission (raiding the OPEC building in Vienna) to his downfall into obscurity due to too many failed terrorist attempts and the fall of the Berlin wall (marking an end to the cold war). In my opinion, there's no real mention as to why Carlos was so gung-ho on being this pro-Palestinian terrorists, when he was Latino. I understand wanting to fight for other oppressed people, but there's gotta be a REALLY good reason to wanna risk your life so many times for something that doesn't really directly affect you. Carlos was Venezuelan-born and raised in England. Neither; Palestine or Israel have that much to do with him (although I'm sure someone will find a way to prove that statement wrong). I mean Che Guevarra may not have been Cuban, but he eventually (TRIED) to take his fight to all of Latin American (and pretty much failed). I could sense that the film was trying its best to be fair and balanced and not take a side, but no matter what at the end of the day this movie kinda portrays Carlos as this cool, womanizing, globe-trotting, gun-carrying agent, when in fact he was just a terrorist responsible for many innocent deaths.
I understand that there is a shorter 160 minute version of 'Carlos' (the version i saw at IFC was in fact a mini-series that was turned into a long roadshow movie with an intermission). Maybe the shortened version is better. But at the end of the day Olivier Assayas tried something different and I still consider him one of the 10 best directors working right now.

Well its over a year later and I'm still conflicted with Carlos. After chatting with a few folks about it recently (specifically Eric Prfiender - another contributor, like myself, at the pink smoke and Sean over at the World of Video) i get that Carlos was essentially the first "rockstar terrorist", he came about during a time when French people (like Assayas and his father) were very much in to revolution, communism, socialism, etc. and that's part of what Assayas was trying to convey in the film. Cool. The more I learn about Olivier Assayas' upbringing (raised by anti-fascist parents and was an impressionable teen in France during the height of revolution, revolt and counter-culture being "cool") the more it makes sense that he was the perfect person to make this film (like originally said in my review). To be honest Olivier Assayas could direct anything and I'd watch it. He made an erotic thriller/espionage film centered around animated pornography and i loved it. He's slowly moving in to that Michael Haneke/Claire Denis category of "can do no wrong". I also realize that upon my first viewing of Carlos I completely overlooked that the film was quite action packed and entertaining. To quote Eric on facebook: "It plays like one of the Bourne movies, but its real. Its six hours long but never boring". I even dig the fact that this film/mini-series got Olivier Assayas a little bit of mainstream attention (it was nominated for a golden globe). I now see that all these things are true, but I still have a problem with Carlos the person. And I know you don't have to like or root for someone just because they're the main focus of a film. Alexander Sokurov made a great film about Hitler ('Moloch') and I had no problem with it. But the main difference between a film like 'Moloch' and 'Carlos' is that its almost impossible to not feel like Carlos is this awesome person when in reality he wasn't. Were parts of his heart in the right place? Sure. ...Kinda. ...Maybe. But I still have a hard time accepting that Assayas doesn't have a little bit of a crush on him.
I'll continue to be more open-minded about 'Carlos' but I don't think I can ever fully LOVE it. There's plenty of bad people I like and root for in movies but they're all fictiscious. Carlos The Jackal was real.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Louis CK: Hilarious

Hilarious could almost be looked at as a 'Bill Cosby Himself' for a newer generation (in fact Louis Ck sited this is one of his main influences). If you enjoy the stand-up/one man show style of Bill Cosby along with introspective and self depreciating humor you'll love this. What i love about each Louis CK stand-up special is that each one is kinda connected to the next. Each stand-up feels like a sequel, unlike other comedians who try to explore totally new material with each big stand up. In 'Hilarious' Louis CK give us all new material and stories about a lot of the same people as his previous stand-up specials. His children (a common subject in his stand-up) have grown since 'Shameless' and 'Chewed Up', bringing on new all material about them (like his oldest daughter being bitten by a pony and his youngest daughter taking a shit on the floor). He's still complaining about his weight and the stupid people he comes in contact with on a daily basis, but because CK is such a talented comedian and has such great delivery, i never get tired of hearing him talk shit about every day people.
Whats new is that now he's divorced, which brings on all new stories dealing with the 40-something year old CK trying to date again after being married for almost 10 years (this, along with some of the material in 'Hilarious' is a precursor to a lot of the material in his tv show on FX). Ever since 'Pootie Tang', Louis CK always seems to question weather or not he's a 'real director', but I think this movie is a prime example of his film making ability. If you follow any of his interviews or radio appreances (especially on Opie and Anthony), youd know that CK's knowledge of film is far more superior to the average stand-up comedian. In fact he sights Henri Clouzot's 'Diabolique' and Stanley Kubrick's 'Barry Lyndon' as his two of his all time favorite films. With 'Hilarious' he did what others like Jonathan Demme (Stop Making Sense) and Robert Townsend (Eddie Murphy's Raw) did, which was take a simple show/concert/stand-up and turn it in to an enjoyable film. Its also nice to see a good stand-up movie play in the theater. Martin Lawrence's last comedy special is the last one i remember playing in the theater, and i wasn't to crazy about that one. Even though Pootie Tang has gone on to gain a small cult following, it would be nice to see Louis CK take another stab at directing a film (maybe even something outside of comedy). I haven't been a fan of his screenplays ('why did I get married' and 'the invention of lying'), but his new TV on FX and 'Hilarious' clearly show the he knows his way around a movie camera, and can do more than just tell jokes. Id love to see his style of directing shown on his tv show transfer to film.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Inspector Bellamy

May Claude Charbol rest in peace, but i wasn't a fan of his final film (which oddly enough was his first ever Collaboration with iconic french actor Gerard Depardieu). This could be due to the fact that I'm not the 'afficionado' of Charbol's work like i am with other directors that i follow. It almost seems like in order to enjoy 'Inspector Bellamy' you have to really understand Charbol's style. I mean, i wouldn't throw someone in headfirst into the world of David Lynch by showing them 'Inland Empire' or recommend 'Eyes Wide Shut' to someone as their first Kubrick film. To be honest, of his large body of work, the only films of his that's Ive seen are; The Bridesmaid (which i thought was great), A Comedy of power (which i wasn't crazy about) and La Ceramonie (which i enjoyed as well). Maybe after i see more of his stuff, i might revisit 'Inspector Bellamy' and my opinion on it may change. But as of now, I'm not that impressed.
While on vacation, infamous police detective and author; Paul Bellamy (played by Gerard Depardieu) is pulled in to a mysterious case of a man; Noel Gentil, who faked his own death in order to collect insurance money so that he could run off with his mistress. Intrigued by Gentil and his story, Bellamy takes on the case and forms somewhat of a bond with him. This part of the movie i didn't quite buy. I didn't understand why Bellamy would just randomly take such a liking to Gentil. In fact, the only explanation that Bellamy gives is; "he intrigues me". Granted the case is made up of murder, mistaken identity, femme fetales, infidelity and other elements that would peak anyone's interest, but i needed a little more than just; "he intrigues me" as Bellamy's reasoning as to why he becomes so attached to the case. I didn't see much a connection there.
Also, in the midst of working on this new case (while he should be on vacation) Bellamy and his wife are visited by his unstable, alcoholic half brother; Jacques. His arrival makes the Bellamy household very tense because its clear that not only do the two brothers have some serious past family issues that are still unresolved, but its also clear that Bellamy's wife is cheating with his brother. And much like the relationship between Bellamy and Gentil, i didn't understand how a world class police inspector (who's job revolves around searching for clues), couldn't figure out that his wife and brother are cheating with other right under his nose. I mean, early in the movie its clear that Bellamy kinda suspects something between the two. In fact, there's one scene in the movie where Bellamy does confront his wife, but she casually dismisses it and Bellamy then drops it. Either he knows his wife is being unfaithful and he's just repressing it or he really has no clue. Either way, i thought that part of the story was weak.
'Inspector Bellamy' is a chilled out, laid back mystery for intellectuals with shades of Hitchcock. I imagine fans of Agatha Christie would take a liking to this. I may have many criticisms of the film, but it still had a few good points. Depardieu's acting, along with the rest of the cast, was excellent and the film was shot well (in fact there are a few standout shots of great cinematography). And for a police mystery with virtually no action whatsoever, i never found myself getting bored or nodding off (although i imagine many people with a short attention span would).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kanye West's 'Runaway'

Attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture, etc., than is actually possessed.

a saying, expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has been overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, rendering it a stereotype, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel.

If people are gonna treat this like an actual movie, so will I (and I'm gonna criticize it accordingly just like I would any other movie or short film I don't like). Please keep in mind that I'm not commenting about the actual music in the video. I don't care enough about it to get in to it. There's a lot worse out there to criticize than Kanye West's music. Also, please be aware that I'm not nitpicking at this video just because it has Kanye West's name attached to it. I know that a lot of people out there love to hate Kanye West just for the sake of it. I'm not playing in to that, so please save the "hater" label which I'm sure some of you are gonna try to throw at me after reading this. Anyway...I planned to pay his short film/music video; 'Runaway' no attention, but when a movie by Kanye West draws comparison to Stanley Kubrick and Federico Fellini, I'm sorry but curiosity is gonna get the best of me. And look, I understand wanting to make an epic video in the style of Michael Jackson (in fact Kanye pays homage to Michael Jackson or his; 'nigga' as he likes to call the king of pop). But this was just too much.
Basically, this short film/music video is about West rescuing an 'Angel' (a half woman/half phoenix), and taking care of her on earth. Throughout the course of the film we follow the Angel as Kanye takes her under his wing as she becomes accustom to life on earth (similar to Milla Jovavich's character in 'The Fifth Element'). And I'm well aware that 'The Fifth Element' isn't the first to do what it did either. I'm just trying to reference something that everyone's seen. Anway, before the 5 minute mark, we already have the main character; running away from something through the woods in what's supposed to be a dream sequence that represents Kanye running from his fears or a mysterious, unknown element of danger (see the definition of Pretentious), carrying a woman in his arms while he walks away from an exploding car in the distance (see the definition of Cliché ), and nikki minaj's forced English accent voice-over narration (as if speaking in a British accents suddenly makes things more 'sophisticated'). Remember, that's just the first five minutes. Throughout the entire video, he have ballerina's, interpretive dance and other various art film clichés I could barely stomach
It's as if Kanye thinks by randomly throwing in; foreign languages/accents, ballerina's, loud pretty colors and people dressed in all white that he's making an 'art film'. And what's sad is that the average kanye fan (or average person in general for that matter) doesn't know about film like I do (don't get mad. its true), so they have nothing to reference. All they see are pretty images in slow-mo, with artsy shit thrown in here & there and because they have nothing compare it to, they think the its most amazing or unique thing they've ever seen. I'm almost certain the people who labeled 'Runway' an 'art film' don't know anything about that genre past the basic stuff you're supposed to know like; Bergman's 'The 7th Seal' or the work of Stanley Kubrick (which doesn't always deserve the 'Arthouse' label that it gets sometimes). It's funny, you ever notice how whenever a film is SLIGHTLY different from the norm, people compare it Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch or Fellini? I've seen enough work by those directors to know that there's not much of a (WORTHY) comparison outside of the loud, bright colors (which could be compared to some of Kubrick's work if you didn't wanna put much thought in to it), and the dinner party scene as well the scene were the angel is roaming through Kanye's garden (I guess that could be compared to not only Fellini's '8 1/2' but Alain Resnais' 'Last Year at Marienbad' as well).
What I'm really surprised about is how no one has called out West for totally ripping off the visual style of Mathew Barney. And I use the term; "ripping off" because I've heard so many people call 'Runaway' "original", that I'm pretty much forced to use a term that's the complete opposite. For anyone who's seen both; the work of Barney and West's latest video, anyone notice the "similarities" in the visual style? Not too original, huh? And there's nothing wrong with borrowing or paying homage to another film or filmmaker (some of my favorite directors do the same), but dont label what they do as "original" when its clearly not.

But like I said earlier, the average kanye west fan or even hip-hop fan (as sad as it may be) doesn't know who Matthew Barney or Alain Resnais are. They don't know what 'The Cremaster Cycle' is, so they label it 'original'. What's even more insulting is that I'm almost certain that the reason 'Runway' is getting so much praise is because this video came from a black hip-hop artist, and the average person doesn't relate 'black' or 'hip-hop' to 'art' that often. I mean the standards for black film are obviously low. Look at how much praise stuff like; 'Hustle & Flow', 'Precious' or the movies of Tyler Perry get. Seriously, let's be honest here. If Kanye West hired Martin Scorsese or even Spike Jonze to direct this video, and the final product was the same exact video we have right now, EVERYONE would call it pretentious or awful. But because the majority has such low expectations for not only hip-hop music, but black people in general, they give it praise simply because its outside of the "champagne and bitches in bikinis" or Hype Williams world of music videos that people are use to.
So yeah, in case you dont get it by now, I'm not a fan of the video, lol.


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