Wednesday, January 26, 2011


With movies like 'King of New York', 'Bad Lieutenant' and 'The Funeral' under his belt, Abel Ferrara was one of the more prominent directors of the 90's American independent film renaissance. But due to his constant comparison to Martin Scorsese (which was sometimes just) and his truly independent attitude that didn't always mesh well with movie studios, he didn't transfer over well in to the next decade. Its hard to believe that a director with a roster of actors like; Willem Dafoe, Forest Whitaker, Madonna and Christopher Walken, who was also responsible for directing both Chris Penn and Harvey Kietel in their greatest performances (The Funeral and Bad Lieutenant respectively) couldn't get distribution outside of Europe anymore. Well, thanks to the retrospective at Anthology film archives we get a chance to see that just because Abel Ferrara's films haven't been hitting the theaters like they were in the past, doesn't mean he hasn't been active. In fact, he's been more active than ever. For the next couple of weeks, Anthology Film Archives will be screening all of Abel Ferrara's films from the last decade that haven't got a release in the U.S. yet. These films include; 'Mary' (2005), 'Napoli Napoli Napoli' (2009), 'Hotel Chelsea' (2009) and the movie of discussion; 'Go-Go Tales' (2007).
To Europeans, 'Go-Go Tales' is about 3 years old now but to us in America its a new release. Even before 'Go-Go Tales' was finished it got a lot of Buzz because it was originally supposed to star Harvey Keitel (which would have been the long awaited reunion between Ferrara and Kietel), but due to scheduling conflicts he had to pull out. Luckily Ferrara was able to get Willem Dafoe in what turned out to be one of his best performances in a long time. For years Dafoe has either played supporting roles (The Inside Man, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Life Aquatic) or he's been "out-shined" by his co-stars, most notably by Charlotte Gainsbourg in 'Antichrist'. In Go-Go Tales, Dafoe plays a gambling junkie and the owner of a failing strip club. He's four months behind on the rent and his strippers are on the verge of striking due to the fact that they haven't been paid in days. In order to save his club Dafoe and his accountant come up with a plan to rig the lottery. When the lottery scheme actually turns out to be successful, problems arise when they cant find the winning ticket (worth 18 million dollars) and they have until the end of the night to find it. What 'Moon' is to '2001 a space Odyssey' or what 'Black Swan' is to 'Persona' or 'Mulholland Drive', 'Go-Go Tales' is an obvious homage to Cassavetes' classic; 'The Killing of a Chinese Bookie'. Aside from Dafoe's commanding performance, the film has a colorful supporting cast of actors like; Bob Hoskins, Asia Argento (who delivers the other standout performance in the film), Burt "Paulie" Young, Pras (The Fugees) and Matthew Modine (another one of Ferrara's most commonly used Actors). Even though the film does have a great opening and great ending, some might find the middle a little troublesome and misguided.
With this on-going retrospective at anthology, 2011 could be Ferrara's comeback year. According to the director himself, he has some big plans for his next films (one of which is a biopic about controversial director; Pier Passolini).

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Below is a blog entry from last year (1 day shy of a year actually) on the greatest (recent) academy awards snubs. I wanted to update it a little bit as a response to the recent list of nominated actors. Naturally I disapprove. I'm in shock that Michael Fassbender ('Shame') and Albert Brooks ('Drive') didn't get nominated (sorry, couldn't find any good clips on youtube or vimeo for either performances. But just know that they should be on this list below). Sure, they weren't gonna win but at least give them the nomination they deserve.
I AM happy to see that not only has Gary Oldman FINALLY been nominated, but 'Monsieur Lahzar' got nominated for best foreign film as well...

As you can imagine the recent list of academy award nominations for this year has inspired this blog entry. No matter how much i try to not care about movie awards, i always end up getting sucked in to the hype mainly due to their constant inconsistency of nominees. I cant quite figure what their criteria is. It seems to change every year. Like any other year I personally felt there were a few snubs this year, especially in the category for best actor. I thought Casey Affleck and Ryan Gosling gave some of the best (and most unique) lead performances of last year, but for some reason the academy didn't feel that way. And It seems like no matter what the Coen Brothers do, something from one of their movies, weather it be from an acting standpoint or for something behind the camera, is going to get nominated (no matter if the movie is good or bad). I mean, True Grit was good, but that's about it. Sorry. I'm also starting to think that the academy has some weird personal vendetta against David Lynch. Say what you want about his "weird" movies, but the lead performances in both; Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire were phenomenal.
If you've followed my myspace blogs from back in the day I'm sure you're familiar with some of these already (naomi watts in mulholland drive, dennis hopper in blue velvet, harvey keitel in bad lieutenant and jeremy irons in dead ringers). Since then, Ive expanded on my list a little more. Over the last couple of years we've seen some MAJOR snubs. Sally Hawkins is a perfect example (and one of the most recent). I'm always amazed at  when an actor or actress, like Hawkins, can win a major acting award like a golden globe or at cannes, but not even get a nomination from the academy. Samuel l Jackson (Jungle Fever-best supporting actor @ Cannes), Tommy Lee Jones (3 Burials of Melquiades Estrada - best actor @ Cannes), James Spader (Sex, Lies & Videotape - best actor @ Cannes) and Benecio Del Torro (Che - best actor @ Cannes) are other examples of this. Come to think of it, it seems like Europeans appreciate great American performances more than American audiences do!
I'm also convinced that the academy is afraid of nominating misogynistic roles, as if to say that if they nominate a misogynistic performance, they're promoting or condoning misogyny. Its just acting. Dennis Hopper in 'Blue Velvet' to the recent Casey Affleck's performance in 'The Killer Inside Me', all prove this theory. Others include David Thewlis in 'Naked' (who received best actor at Cannes in 1993 for his role in 'Naked') and Aaron Eckhart's darkly comedic and misogynistic performance in Neil Labutte's 'In The Company of Men'.
And Its no mystery that "small films" have a tough chance of being nominated for anything. I guess there's the occasional exception, but generally speaking I'm right. In the 90's, actors like; Martin Donovan, Karen Silas and Tom Noonan gave the performances of their career's in 'Trust' and 'What Happened Was'. They were hits at sundance, but for some reason the academy seemed to ignore those smaller indie films.

Anyway, here's my list. I tried my best to find clips that best represent their performances. There are a few good clips that aren't youtube, so i had to do my best with what was available.































Tuesday, January 18, 2011


This gets my vote for being the most misunderstood and/or most underrated movie of 2010 (after Polanski's 'The Ghost Writer'). This seemed to come and go in the theater faster than i could remember probably because many people (myself included) avoided it due to word of mouth and a few bad reviews. After finally seeing this a few weeks ago, i must admit that this movie was very good. It had a few problems, but it was still very good. I just don't think people were expecting an existential hitman drama/thriller. I mean, look at the official movie poster. Its such an awesome throwback to the old action films of the 1960's and 70's. Not only is 'The American' the most underrated movies of last year, but the movie poster is probably in the top 3 movies posters of 2010. I remember when I first saw the poster and was immediately reminded of films like 'Point Blank' or 'Bullit'. I imagine people saw it, and expected a thrilling, fast pace, non-stop action film along the lines of 'The Professional'. But what they really got was something along the lines of 'Ghost Dog', which was another hitman movie that got a bad rep upon its initial release but now has somewhat of a cult following (especially from the hip-hop community thanks to The RZA). Its almost eerie how much Ghost Dog and The American go hand in hand with one another. Both stories are about assassins, yet there isn't much "action" in either film. Both have minimal dialogue (when compared to your average movie) and have similar endings. And both performances echo that of Alain Delon in a Jean Pierre Melville movie (specifically 'Le Samourai', which Ghost Dog is a loose remake of). In fact, The American reminded me of 'Limits of Control', which was Jim Jarmusch's second existential hitman film after 'Ghost Dog'. Even though I'm not a fan of 'Limits of Control' it took a lot of balls to make that and i give Jim Jarmusch respect for not compromising and making a typical shoot 'em up hitman movie.

In 'The American' Clooney plays a hitman who has to go in to hiding after a botched assignment. He's so disturbed with what happened on that last job that he tells his employers that his next killing assignment will be his last. I actually kinda found this aspect of the movie interesting. Its almost like director; Anton Corbijn was trying to explore the world of post traumatic stress through the eyes of an assassin. I liked it but i could see how others would call bullshit on something like that. After waiting a few days he gets his next mission: to simply build a custom riffle for an assassination (that he wont be executing) of who we're lead to believe is a priest or some religious figure (there's plenty of religious symbolism all through out the film). For something that's supposed to be his last mission, Clooney's character finds this assignment too good to be true and believes his employers are setting him up. For the rest of the movie Clooney's paranoia starts to get the best of him. Naturally there's a love interest. While Clooney is in Italy he falls for a prostitute named Clara (i know. i found this part of the movie a little hard to believe too). Her character is a bit mysterious through out the movie, and we don't see her true intentions until the very end. Clooney's paranoia has him contemplating weather of not she can be trusted. There's also a rival hitman (er...hitWOMAN) employed by the same people as Clooney and he soon worries that she may be the one who's going to carry out his execution.

Now, this movie isn't perfect. One of its main faults is the films deliberate pace (or lack of pace for that matter). Sometimes it just seems slow on purpose. Its almost like Anton Corbijn thought that the slower he made the film, the "cooler" it would seem. Don't get me wrong, the movie is very "cool", but sometimes it tries to hard. This is Anton Corbijn's 2nd feature film (the Joy Division Biopic; 'Control' was his first). He still needs to break out of his music video directing habits. Even though both 'Control' and 'The American' are good films, sometimes they feel like 2 hour long music videos instead of movies. I still love the fact that Corbijn paid homage to the classic action films like the ones i mentioned earlier ('Bullit', 'Le Samourai' and 'Point Blank') as well as others like 'Le Circle Rouge' and 'The Night of the Following Day' (a forgotten about Marlon Brando action thriller from the late 60's). Another positive thing about 'The American' is that it brought back the art of movie poster art, which has kinda been lacking over the years, with a few exception here and here ('Funny Games 2007' and Uncle Boonmee...' for example). Bottom line, if you have the patience chances are you'll enjoy 'The American'.

The examples above ('Point Blank' & 'Bullit') aren't the only great movie posters that had an influence on 'The American'. Other films like 'The Sergant' and 'Cool Hand Luke' could also be looked at as inspiration. From the placement and style of the text on the posters, the bold background colors (orange in 'The American', purple in 'The Sergent', blue in 'cool hand luke', etc) to the offsetting of the image of main character, these posters are a true representation of "cool". The kind you'd want to hang up in your home...

and 'The American' is just one of quite a few films bringing back phenomenal poster artwork...

Monday, January 17, 2011


Out of all the modern french filmmakers, Marina De Van is one of the most interesting figures. I've been fascinated by her for some time. I first saw her as the dominatrix sister in the dysfunctional black family comedy; 'Sitcom', and have been a fan ever since (*thanks Sarah Landset*). She's an equally talented actress (frequently appearing in Francois Ozon's films) and director (I wasn't crazy about her latest film 'Dont Look Back', but her early-pre 'In My Skin' short films are all excellent). Both her acting and directing are feminine, without being "girly", shallow or weak. Her movies have a strength and masculinity to them that can't be found in a lot of films directed by women (or even men for that matter). And the best thing is that she's only made 2 feature films so far, so i can only imagine how much she's gonna grow as a filmmaker as the years go on. There haven't been too many directors that have been able to share the stage with Cronenberg when it comes to the "Body Horror" genre. 'Bug' and 'Trouble Everyday' are the only two semi-recent films to come somewhat close . But as far as I'm concerned, Marina De Van's 'In My Skin' not only beats the 2 previously mentioned movies (in terms of "body horror" only), but actually gives Cronenberg a run for his money. Even her latest film; 'Don't Look Back' and her early short; 'Alias' deal with body transformation and/or modification in some way.

In the film De Van plays a woman who injures her leg (she accidentally cuts it pretty badly at a party and develops a really bad scar/gash that she keeps a secret). She slowly starts to grow an unhealthy fascination with not only the gash on her leg but body mutilation as a whole. De Van's acting along with the atmosphere of the film almost makes the scar on her leg seem like an actual character of its own (if that makes any sense). She wont let the scar heal as she keeps cutting it open with whatever she can find (pieces of metal, shards of glass and even a rusty knife). What starts with her cutting open the existing scar, turns in to her cutting (and sometimes biting) new scars all over her body. This starts to alienate her from her friends, co-workers and her boyfriend who are all (understandably) freaked out be her new found love of body mutilation (well...her boyfriend, played by Bertrand Bonello Lucas Laurant, is a bit of a moody little bitch). The film's most famous (and difficult to watch) scene involves the lead character locking herself in a room, cutting herself and smearing the blood all over her face in front of a mirror. This scene almost echoes the famous "you talkin' to me" part in 'Taxi Driver', which makes sense, because both films deal with isolation, potential mental illness and loneliness.

Like plenty of other extreme modern french films (Humanite, Trouble Every Day, The Pornographer, etc), 'In My Skin' doesnt have the same amount of dialogue that you'd expect from a film. The film convey's its messages through imagery and the un-spoken (the images from the film below truly capture the vibe of 'In My Skin')

Michael Shannon in William Friedken's 'Bug'
This movie fascinates me the most because it shows a female in a role that would typically be played by a male. Subconsciously we associate blood & violence with men. When we think of women & blood, its either women being murdered or their squeamish reaction. 'In My Skin' totally turns all of that onit's ass. Like i mentioned earlier, Marina De Van utilizes her feminine qualities by accentuating her (very nice) slender body, while giving a strong and commanding performance that many people don't usually associate with female roles. Not many actresses could pull off this performance convincingly. In fact, the only woman to come close is Beatrice Dalle's performance in 'Trouble Everyday', which is probably a film i imagine De Van drew a lot of inspiration from (the intensity in both of those performances is not only uncanny but damn near identical). 'In My Skin', 'Trouble Every Day', 'Bug', 'The Fly', 'Dead Ringers' and 'Videodrome' all share a lot of the same themes like Isolation, Loneliness, Sickness, Sanity (or lack of) and self mutilation. Even non-violent films like Lynne Ramsay's 'Morvern Callar' shares a bond with 'In My Skin'. In fact, even more so than stuff like 'Bug' or Cronenberg's films, because both; Morvern Callar and In My Skin focus on female characters. 'In My Skin' is also on obvious comment on the pressure and insecurities that some women face when it comes their bodies. So yeah, needless to say i highly recommend this. It may not sit so well with squeamish people though...


Thursday, January 6, 2011

My Picks for the Golden Globes

Best Motion Picture - Drama
Its not like 'The Social Network' or Black Swan are my favorite movies out of whats nominated (or even the year for that matter), but its going to come down between these two movies. Inception's not going to win, because at the end of the day, its a sci-fi/action movie, and those movies usually don't stand a chance at award shows. Because it could go either way, i cant pick just one. I'm going to go with either; 'Black Swan' or 'The Social Network'. But please keep in mind that as far as I'm concerned neither of these movies were the best in 2010.

Black Swan (2010)
The Fighter (2010)
Inception (2010)
The King's Speech (2010)
The Social Network (2010)

Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy
Out of whats nominated, I'm gonna go with 'The Kids Are Alright'. If 'the tourists' wins over that, I'm going to lose what little respect i have for the golden globes. And whats the deal with no nomination for 'Machete'.

Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Burlesque (2010/I)
The Kids Are All Right (2010)
Red (2010/I)
The Tourist (2010)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama
I'm pretty sure Jesse Eisenberg is going to win, but if it were up to me, id give it to Ryan Gosling. I honestly think Gosling is the best young-ish actor working today and his performance in 'Blue Valentine' is proof of that. What I'm most disappointed about is that Mark Wahlberg was nominated, but Casey Aflleck wasn't nominated for 'The Killer Inside Me'.

Jesse Eisenberg for The Social Network (2010)
Colin Firth for The King's Speech (2010)
James Franco for 127 Hours (2010)
Ryan Gosling for Blue Valentine (2010)
Mark Wahlberg for The Fighter (2010)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama
I think we all know that Natalie Portman is going to win. Its like they want to give her both; the golden globe and the oscar without think about any other female performances of last year. Not that she didn't do a great job, but i personally thought that Michelle Williams gave a better performance.

Halle Berry for Frankie and Alice (2010)
Nicole Kidman for Rabbit Hole (2010)
Jennifer Lawrence for Winter's Bone (2010)
Natalie Portman for Black Swan (2010)
Michelle Williams for Blue Valentine (2010)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy
This is fucking bullshit. I don't understand why Joaquin Phoenix wasn't nominated. I'm not picking anything for this category

Johnny Depp for The Tourist (2010)
Johnny Depp for Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Paul Giamatti for Barney's Version (2010)
Jake Gyllenhaal for Love and Other Drugs (2010)
Kevin Spacey for Casino Jack (2010)
*no one

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy
I'm almost certain Annette Bening is going to win this. The real question is can she FINALLY win the academy award that's slipped through her fingers so many times?

Annette Bening for The Kids Are All Right (2010)
Anne Hathaway for Love and Other Drugs (2010)
Angelina Jolie for The Tourist (2010)
Julianne Moore for the Kids Are All Right (2010)
Emma Stone for Easy A (2010)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Bale and Jeremy Renner gave two of my favorite performances of the 2010, but i give the slight edge to Bale, because at times Renner (and his accent) came off a little too "Boston-y" and forced.

Christian Bale for The Fighter (2010)
Michael Douglas for Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)
Andrew Garfield for The Social Network (2010)
Jeremy Renner for The Town (2010)
Geoffrey Rush for The King's Speech (2010)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Damn, this is a dog fight (sorry, I'm not saying these women are ugly, i didn't mean it like that). I gotta be honest, all of these women did deserve to be nominated, and this is a tough call. At this point it all comes down to personal preference, so i guess I'd go with Jacke Weaver. But i wouldn't be mad if any of them win. However, Olivia Williams should have at least been nominated for 'The Ghost Writer' as well.

Amy Adams for The Fighter (2010)
Helena Bonham Carter for The King's Speech (2010)
Mila Kunis for Black Swan (2010)
Melissa Leo for The Fighter (2010)
Jacki Weaver for Animal Kingdom (2010)

Best Director - Motion Picture
Just like the battle between 'social network' and 'black swan' for best picture, i think it'll be the same thing for best director.

Darren Aronofsky for Black Swan (2010)
David Fincher for The Social Network (2010)
Tom Hooper for The King's Speech (2010)
Christopher Nolan for Inception (2010)
David O. Russell for The Fighter (2010)

Best Screenplay - Motion Picture
I already know that 'the social network' is going to win this, because most of world has been fooled by that rapid-fire, monotone, fast talk shit that Jesse Eisenberg did all through out 'the social network', and people associate that with great acting. Don't get me wrong, i liked the movie, but the screenplay wasn't anything amazing. I'm just going with 'the kids are alright' because out of whats nominated, its the one i want to see win the most and unfortunately i haven't seen 'kings speech' yet. And i love inception, but an insecure part of me feels like if i pick it, I'd be grouped in with all the people who consider that movie the "deepest" thing they've ever seen.

127 Hours (2010): Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy
Inception (2010): Christopher Nolan
The Kids Are All Right (2010): Stuart Blumberg, Lisa Cholodenko
The King's Speech (2010): David Seidler
The Social Network (2010): Aaron Sorkin

Best Original Song - Motion Picture
Burlesque (2010/I): Samuel Dixon, Christina Aguilera, Sia Furler("Bound to You")
Burlesque (2010/I): Diane Warren("You Haven't Seen The Last of Me")
Country Strong (2010): Bob DiPiero, Tom Douglas, Hillary Lindsey, Troy Verges("Coming Home")
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010): Carrie Underwood, David Hodges, Hillary Lindsey("There's A Place For Us")
Tangled (2010): Alan Menken, Glenn Slater("I See the Light")
*don't care

Best Original Score - Motion Picture
Yeah, I'm going with Trent and Atticus on this one. The dark & dirty synth score brought back memories of films like; 'thief', 'manhunter', 'sorcerer' and even 'blade runner'.

127 Hours (2010): A.R. Rahman
Alice in Wonderland (2010): Danny Elfman
Inception (2010): Hans Zimmer
The King's Speech (2010): Alexandre Desplat
The Social Network (2010): Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross

Best Animated Film
LOL! this isn't even a contest. the other four movies shouldn't even bother to show up to the golden globes or the oscars for that matter. 'Toy Story 3' all day. But i must say, its nice to see 'The Illusionist' nominated. I know it means something special to director/animator; Sylvain Chomet, being that he's not a fan of the pixar/dreamworks movies. Its good to know that actual animation can still hang and is still relevant today.

Despicable Me (2010)
How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
The Illusionist (2010)
Tangled (2010)
Toy Story 3 (2010)

Best Foreign Language Film
Did anyone on the judging committee or whatever its called actually see any world films this year, or did they just randomly pick this shit out of a hat? i realize that a movie like 'dogtooth' would be considered "controversial" , and i imagine most people still haven't seen 'uncle boonmee who can recall his past lives' (the movie that i personally thought was the best of 2010), but this is a pretty bad representation of foriegn films in 2010. Because of that, i almost don't feel picking anything in this category, but if i had a gun to my head, i dunno i guess I'd pick 'biutiful'.

Biutiful (2010)(Mexico/Spain)
The Concert (2009)(France)
The Edge (2010) (Russia)
I Am Love (2009)(Italy)
In a Better World (2010)(Denmark)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Watching 'Copyright Criminals' brought back memories of me and my parents debating back in the day about the originality (my side) versus the lack of originality (my parent's side) of hip-hop and sampling. I remember listening to Das Efx's song 'Real Hip-Hop', which featured a loop from the Normon Connors song (or was it Pharoah Sanders??); 'The Creator Has a master plan', which annoyed my Dad, because this was one of his favorite songs and he felt that it was stealing. This is essentially what 'Copyright Criminals' is about: The debate as to whether or not sample-based music (mainly hip-hop) is stealing or original. The documentary interviews many key people like; Chuck D, EL-P, Q-Bert, Jeff Chang, DJ Spooky, Mixmaster Mike and various entertainment lawyers. But of all the subjects who were interviewed, i felt that Bobbito (legendary hip-hop radio DJ for those who may not know) and Saul Williams brought up the most important points in that sampling is an important aspect of hip-hop culture, because the culture itself comes from a lack of resources. In the beginning, most kids involved with hip-hop didn't have money for a drum set or a guitar. A turntable (primarily used for looping and sampling) became the foundation (or what some would say; the official instrument) of hip-hop culture. Sampling is and will always be the foundation of hip-hop production. Obviously my opinion on this may be looked at as bias, because I'm a fan (and participant) within hip-hop.
I thought the documentary could have gotten a little more in to a few more predominate hip-hop producers. I love the fact that the documentary had a nice section on De La Soul and the Bomb Squad, who pretty much gave birth what we know now as "left-field" or progressive hip-hop. I mean listen to the production of El-P, Antipop Consortium or Dalek. All of that comes from The Bomb Squad. It was also very important that they focused on the idea of "mash-ups" (specifically the work of Danger Mouse), which is a very popular trend in today's internet-based electronic music scene. Now, I know that the documentary was under an hour long and maybe there were some time constraints, but with some editing, there could have been room for; Dr Dre (he's mentioned briefly), Marley Marl and The Rza. Or maybe not. Maybe I'm nitpicking. But i don't think mentioning them would've offset the documentary at all. More importantly, I'm shocked that the documentary didn't find any time whatsoever for DJ Shadow and barely mentioned Prefuse 73, who are probably 2 of the most important figures within sampling and hip-hop production today. Prefuse 73 would've been a great representation on the idea of masking samples or making samples unrecognizable (another important aspect that the documentary only kind of got in to). For those familiar with Prefuse 73's music, i don't see how anyone could think otherwise. If you aren't familiar with his music, i recommend the album; 'Vocal Studies & Uprock Narratives'. And I'm sorry, but its almost blasphemous to not mention DJ Shadow's 'Entroducing..." album, which is not only one of most important albums within instrumental hip-hop, but also a major landmark in sampling.
One thing that the documentary BARELY got in to was the undercover racism within the criticism of sampling. I imagine that's a subject that would've taken the documentary to a whole other level, so I'm not mad that they didn't really delve in to that. But lets be real...the majority of sample-based music (as well as most successful) is done within hip-hop music which is predominately black. A lot people have some unchecked aggression towards hip-hop and rap music, because its a successful music movement that's pretty much all black (as far as the actual artists go). Many people don't want to appear racist (when they are), so they focus all of their hatred on hip-hop music as a way to let out their racism. Basically, hating on rap music is a veiled way of being racist.
Overall, the documentary is good, but for the most part its nothing that people don't already know. The documentary was made in 2009, so by now people should know that James Brown (well, specifically his drummer Clyde Stubblefield) and George Clinton are some of the most sampled musicians in hip-hop. Although the one aspect that i loved about bringing up these heavily sampled artists is how hip-hop rejuvenated their careers, and found them a new young audience. It also would've been nice if the documentary expanded on the points that it got in to in the last 10-15 minutes or so of the documentary like; evolution, making samples unrecognizable and focusing on more of today's prominent producers as well.

here's the link to the film on hulu:


Francois Truffaut once said that; "film lovers are sick people". I'd take that a bit further and say that criterion fanatics are even sicker. I mean, how nerdy do you have to be to break down clues about future movie releases in a drawing put out by the criterion collection? I don't know if you guys have seen criterions drawing for 2011 that hints at the upcoming releases, but a couple of these hints seem like they're pointing to Jim Jarmusch's 'Ghost Dog'. Some of the hints in the picture are pretty obvious: The head floating in the water with the eyes rolled in the back of its head clearly represents 'Diabolique' (i assume there's a blu-ray on the way). The globe is clearly 'The Great Dictator'. The calender page with "sunday" circled is probably 'Bloody Sunday'. And the sign in the water is 'Y Tu Mama Tambien'. Obviously, the strawberries represent "Wild Straberries" and the guy in black pointing the gun is 'Carlos', which makes sense because its distributed by IFC films (criterion has released other IFC films like; secret of the grain and summer hours, and Olivier Assayas has directed both; Summer Hours & Carlos). And i seriously hope that briefcase drawing isn't a hint to 'Pulp Fiction'. I think we have enough special edition dvd's of that movie in circulation already. Hopefully its a clue to 'Kiss Me Deadly', which is the movie that Tarrantino references (along with a million others) in Pulp Fiction. I had to get help on the other ones. Apparently 'Solaris', 'Insignificance', 'Four Feathers' and 'Some Like it Hot' are some of the other clues.
Now, notice the two things i circled in red. I could swear that carlos (the guy in black pointing the gun) is pointing his gun at what appears to be a dog with a sheet over itself, like one would do when they're pretending to be ghost. You know... GHOST...DOG! This wouldn't be too far fetched. Criterion has already released four of Jim Jarmusch's films, so he's no stranger to the criterion family. Furthermore, 'Ghost Dog' shares a connection with an older criterion release; 'Le Samourai' (ghost dog is a loose remake of that film). It would be just like Douglas Sirk's 'All That Heaven Allows' and its remake; Fassbinder's 'Ali: Fear Eats The Soul', which are both criterions.
Also, check out the other hint that i circled in red above the ghost dog. Its a knife in a cup of coffee beans. Now this is more than likely Claire Denis's 'White Material'. Its a film about a woman trying to save her coffee plantation within a violent african country. There's a even a scene in the film where a group of children have their throats slit. Also, just like a lot of recent criterions, 'White Material' is an IFC film. Now, i wouldn't be mad if i was right about this. But at the same time, I'd be a little annoyed that criterion picked Claire Denis's latest film over her more rare or lesser known stuff like 'No Fear, No Die', 'Nenette & Boni' or 'U.S. Go Home'. Or if they're going to pick a recent film of hers, it should at least be '35 Shots of Rum'. But it was brought to my attention that the knife in the coffee cup could hint at another Jim Jarmusch release. Just like criterion did a couple of years ago with releasing 'Night on Earth' and 'Stranger Than Paradise' at the same time, that image could be hinting at a double release of 'Ghost Dog' (the knife) and 'Coffee & Cigarettes' (the cup of coffee beans). I know this may be reaching a little bit, but you never know. Oh, and lets not forget that the regular Ghost Dog DVD has been out of print for some time now. An out of print DVD is always a good sign that criterion will put it out.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

OOPS! best movies of the last decade that i missed: PART TWO ('IVANS XTC')

I started the new year off with a movie i didn't even know existed until a few months ago, and it ended up becoming one of my favorites. Maybe its my own ignorance, but i would have never guessed that the director of 'Candyman' (Bernard Rose) was capable of adapting a Tolstoy novel into one of the best films of the last decade. In 'Ivans XTC', Danny Huston plays Ivan Beckman. A hotshot hollywood agent that must come to terms with his morality when he finds out that he has lung cancer (which is apparently in a late stage and cant be stopped). He keeps the news of his cancer a secret, and continues with his drug addicted, fast pace, cliche hollywood lifestyle, which probably played a major role in his deteriorating health.
There's so many great things about this movie, i don't even know where to start. Much like what Robert Altman did with 'The Player', Bernard Rose took a typically shallow character; a sleazy hollywood talent agent, and gave him depth. If 'The Player' represents the glamorous or fairytale side of hollywood, then films like; 'Ivans XTC', 'Ellie Parker' or even 'Mulholland Drive' represent the not-so glamorous side. I would even throw 'Inland Empire' in with those films, but so many people hate that movie (I'm not one of them), i guess i shouldn't mention it, so forget i even said anything. Its very difficult to show realism amongst a fake scene Los Angeles, but these films (especially 'Ivans XTC') truly succeed in doing that. At the end of the day, Ivan Beckman, Ellie Parker & Diane Selwyn (Mulholland Drive) all represent that person who's been chewed up and spit out by hollywood. While being a studio director, Bernard Rose must have either; seen some crazy shit in his time, or he just doesn't like L.A., because this film is pretty much a hate letter to hollywood and the movie business in general.
Danny Huston did an amazing job. You start off hating Ivan Beckman just like any other typical hollywood agent character, but once he realizes he's going to die, you slowly feel bad for him (especially in the last 10-15 minutes of the film). Rarely do you see Huston as a leading man, although he's in a ton of movies. He's played supporting roles in plenty of films like; 'children of men', 'the constant gardener', 'birth' and 'marie antionette', but 'Ivans XTC' shows that he can be a dynamic leading man if given that chance by someone other than Bernard Rose (Huston Also plays the lead role in Rose's 'The Kreutzer Sonata'). In fact, his performance in the film is somewhat reminiscent of his father; John Huston. Even Peter Weller gives a hilarious supporting performance as Ivan's client and fictitious A-list hollywood star; "Don West" (who I'm sure is based on someone or a is an amalgam of celebrities that Bernard Rose has come across in his life).
'Ivans XTC' is one of the earlier digital films like; Bamboozled, Julien-Donkey Boy or Festen. There's also 'Timecode', but that movie wasn't very good. Its pretty cliche to compare a digital, mostly handheld shot movie to the work of John Cassavetes, but unlike a lot of that mumblecore shit ('baghead', 'funny ha ha', 'Hannah Takes The Stairs' and other films that draw praise from "John Cassavetes scholar" Ray Carney) this is one of the somewhat recent films that actually deserves the comparison to cassavetes's work, along with other great digitally shot films i mentioned. The only thing that sucks about 'Ivans XTC', is that its not that easy to come by. There's not even a U.S. dvd available, which makes it difficult for the film to get any attention or exposure. But if you have the capability to watch multi-region dvd's. i highly recommend ordering 'Ivans XTC' on
And I assume most of you have seen Mulholland Drive and The Player (if you haven't, you should), but for those who haven't seen 'Ellie Parker', i highly recommend that as well. It's a nice companion with a film like Mulholland Drive. In fact, its almost like a light-hearted, comedic version of Mulholland Drive. It deals with pretty much the same elements; A struggling young actress in L.A. And, Naomi Watts plays the lead roles in both; Ellie Parker and Mulholland Drive. Also, this digitally shot film is very similar to the look of 'Ivans XTC'. 'Ellie Parker' is nothing amazing or anything like that, but its worth checking out.


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