Wednesday, March 30, 2011


This isn't so much a "review" as it is me just rambling about how great terry zwigoff's 'ghost world' is. For those of you who kept up with my myspace page, you should remember that i always spoke highly of 'Seymour', played by Steve Buschemi, but i never really got in to HOW great the whole movie is. There are so many little details in this movie, that i wonder if Terry Zwigoff, a director i consider to be part of the unofficial school of; 'Todd Solondz', was totally conscious of how genius his directing in this movie was. Coming from only 2 documentaries ('louie bluie' and 'crumb') to working with actors for the first time (one of those actors being the great Steve Buschemi) must have been a challenge. As a matter of fact, rumor has it that Zwigoff approached some acting coach before starting work on 'Ghost World' and flat out asked her: "how do i direct actors?" (or something like that). The way he captures hilarious details and funny real life situations always seem to blow me away every time i watch this movie. Seriously, when you get past the main plot of the movie, which is also great, you can clearly tell that Zwigoff's agenda was to just poke fun at middle america/"anywhere usa".

The video store scene:
Masterpiece Video Clerk: Hello, welcome to Masterpiece Video. How may I help you this afternoon, sir?
Masterpiece Video Customer: I'm looking for a copy of 8 1/2.
Masterpiece Video Clerk: Is that a new release, sir?
Masterpiece Video Customer: No, it's the classic Italian film.
Masterpiece Video Clerk: Yes, sir. I'll just check that on the computer for you, sir...Yes, here it is. 9 1/2 Weeks with Mickey Rourke. That would be in the Erotic Drama section.
Masterpiece Video Customer: No, not 9 1/2, 8 1/2. The Fellini film?

During the heyday of Blockbuster & Hollywood Video, i know a lot of you have had a similar conversation with a clueless video store employee. And please note, I'm sure you've had issues with movies that aren't even as "obscure" as a Fellini movie. In fact, in college i almost caused an entire Blockbuster to shut down, just for asking if they had a copy of 'Raging Bull' ("HUH?! WHATS THAT?!). Thank god 'Tommy K's' video had an employee like myself (along with my other awesome co-workers) who actually knew a thing or two about movies. LOL, and lets not forget the guy (or girl) in that same scene just standing around in the store watching the movie on the TV. This is funny on 2 levels. One; as a former video store employee, i can tell you its a fact that people really do just come in to the store with a soda, and make themselves right at home and watch a good portion of a movie that's currently playing on the TV and then just leave. Two: that guy/girl kinda represents that middle america/anywhere usa that Terry Zwigoff is clearly poking fun at (fat, sporting a mullet and drinking a big gulp soda)

Those funny little details that i spoke about earlier:

Am i the only one who finds it absolutely hilarious that the dude in the first picture (taken from the scene when Enid gets a job at the movie theater) has a fucking rat tail style ponytail? Only 9 year old bad kids named: "Dillon" have rat tail haircuts. This guy is a fucking adult. Sorry, but Terry Zwigoff clearly put that in there for a reason, yet i rarely hear anyone mention how funny it is. Also not to mention the fact that he asked for a medium drink. That speech that Enid gives him about medium beverages is pretty true. Who orders a medium drink? Lets be real. And take the guy in the 2nd picture. Why would you go out in public looking like Roy Orbison? Whats funny is, this guy is only on screen for seconds, but long enough for you to notice how much of an ass he looks like. And finally the art teacher (third picture). This makes me laugh personally, because it reminds me of my hometown of Amherst Massachusetts. For those of you unfamiliar with this awesome town that birthed Dinosaur Jr, Amherst is a very liberal/P.C. place. Don't get wrong, i love Amherst to death, but growing up there, you're almost bound to find someone wearing sandals, "earthy" looking jewelery made outta granola bits and Brazilian/African clothes that usually look awkward on the people who wear them. You know how there are sayings like; "Only in New York" or "That's So L.A."? Well, the art teacher in 'Ghost World' is "So Amherst". I crack up a little bit on the inside every time i see her. And lets not forget the wheelchair guy, who gets the trivia question right in the coffee shop. Not only is he such a random person, but the trivia question that he gets right in order to win the free coffee is a little odd too: "where on the human body is the douglas pouch located?"

The Blues Hammer Scene:
As far as Terry Zwigoff's fiction films go, this is probably the best scene he has ever directed. For those of you not familiar with Zwigoff's background, he comes a folk/blues background. In fact, he was once in a band with his friend; Robert Crumb. A lot of the musicians that he grew up listening to and looking up to where old black blues musicians who never really got the recognition they deserved. The scene when Enid and Seymour go see the old blues musician open up for "Blues Hammer" is just as funny as it is sad. I mean, the editing is just brilliant. Zwigoff cuts in and out of this obscure old musician (who seymour clearly idolizes) with scenes of douche bags and other scummy people watching a sports game, being loud and just not paying any attention to him play. Then after he finishes his set, even though no one in the bar besides Seymour could care of his existence, he still takes a bow and humbly walks off stage. That part is fucking heartbreaking. The heartache of that scene soon comes to an end, when "Blues Hammer", a group of frat boy-looking white guys take the stage, and start singing an old blues song about "picking cotton all night long". And as they sing, everyone in the bar starts to dance and have a great time.

Comic Book Store Nerds and "Pathetic Collector Losers":
Another great thing about 'Ghost World' is that Terry Zwigoff is not only above making fun of himself, but pretty much the entire "scene" that he comes from: Record collecting, out of style clothes wearing, comic book readers in their 40's (or older). Or as Seymour puts it; "Pathetic Collector Losers". Because Zwigoff comes from this world, he paints a perfect picture of what these people look like, the conversations they have and all the other little details. The scene when Enid and Rebbecca go to Seymour's "House Party" pretty much highlights this. A bunch of lonely, sad men talking about records. Yet its still OK to laugh at them. Or Take the scene when Enid and Rebbecca go in to the comic store. What the fuck kind of conversation are those two guys having at the beginning of the scene lol?

Zine-O-Phobia Creep: Whoever told you that bullshit about boiling is out of his mind. Carpet beetles are the only way to get flesh off a corpse.
Zine-O-Phobia Creep: I'm just telling you what he said.
Enid: Don't you creeps ever talk about anything nice? Don't you ever talk about fluffy kittens or the Easter Bunny?
Zine-O-Phobia Creep: Look who's talking, Little Miss Badass.
Zine-O-Phobia Creep: Yeah! Nice outfit. Who are you supposed to be, Cyndi Lauper?
Enid: Blow me, doofus.

LOL, seriously who the fuck has that kind of a conversation? Getting flesh off of a corpse? Little awkward moments and random conversations like that make me love 'Ghost World' so much. And speaking of awkward and random, how great is the graduation scene? Its so random that a bootleg, local, all girl pop group would perform at a high school graduation. Did the person who booked them think that a bunch of high school seniors would take them seriously?

Seriously tho, if you haven't seen 'Ghost World', you should make it a priority. Its easily in my top 25 films of the last decade (and Thora Birch looks damn cute in this movie too).

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Takeshi Kitano's latest, which was the closing film for the Japan Society film series; "Hardest Men In Town: Yakuza Chronicles of Sin, Sex & Violence", was a return to his unique take on the yakuza genre that most people know him for. A strange mixture of over the top violence, existentialism and dead-pan delivery reminiscent of Bresson. 'Outrage' is getting a lot of mixed reviews on places like rotten tomatoes and, but take it from me; this movie is GREAT. For those of you who love Kitano's work like 'Sonatine', i can almost guarantee you will love this. While watching this movie, at any given point you will; die laughing, look away in disgust (see picture), or contemplate the life of the lead character. Rarely while watching a movie in a packed audience did i feel so much synchronicity with a group of people i would normally dislike had i not been in the same movie theater with them and enjoying the same thing.
'Outrage' is a movie about double, triple and quadruple crossing within a few closely knit Yakuza Families, and one man's ultimate rise to power by playing everyone against themselves. In fact, I'd say the films only 2 issues were the complexity of all the back stabbing (they seem to happen every 15 minutes or so) and the fact that it can be difficult to follow who is with what Yakuza clan at certain points in the film. Those elements didn't really bother me, but i can totally see how those aspects of the film would annoy people.
Takeshi Kitano also stars in the lead role as "Otomo", an under boss who gets caught up in the convoluted back stabbing and turf wars. At certain points in the film, it almost feels like Kitano is poking fun at the Japanese gangster genre. I think he knows that scenes of loud, overly dramatic acting Japanese men yelling at each other in a small room for 5 minutes at a time is kinda funny and that's why there's plenty of that in the movie. Something that also might get overlooked in the movie is Kitano's performance. Takeshi Kitano may have one of the all time greatest faces in cinema. He has one of the best expressionless faces. And this has always been the case, long before his reconstructive facial surgery. When he yells, smiles, laughs, whatever, theres still a bit of apathy and boredom in his face that always makes you crack up more than usual. Given Jim Jarmusch's fascination (at times) with Japanese culture, I'm surprised that he and Kitano have never collaborated on a film before. And honestly, these days, I would much rather Kitano act in a Jarmusch film instead of a Tarrantino film, who's notorious for his fascination with asian culture.
The existential nature of the film i mentioned earlier has to do with Otomo's seemingly growing apathy for the yakuza lifestyle. He seems to be sick and tired of the finger chopping, turf wars and other things that come with the life of being a Japanese gangster. One scene in the film does a great job a highlighting this. In the middle of a heated debate with a rival Yakuza boss, he just starts laugh arrogantly, as if to say "i honestly don't give a shit what we're arguing about" (a short moment of this scene is in the trailer below).The soundtrack to this film is done really well too. Very synth-heavy and moody. And as i stated in a facebook post last week, the drill scene in 'Marathon Man' has taken 2nd place thanks to this movie (once again...look at the picture above). Anyone who's a fan of Jarmusch, Tarrantino or Takeshi's previous gangster films will love this movie.
Since this movie played at Cannes, NYFF and other important film festivals last year, I'm almost certain that this will get some kind of a short release in nyc (most likely Walter Reade or BAM).
And on another note, I'd also like to stress that if there was ever time to Join a theater, NOW is the time. Through the summer, if you join Japan Society, half the proceeds of your membership go to the earthquake victims in Japan. And whats a little more unique in joining Japan Society over places like Anthology or IFC (not taking anything way from those theaters, because I'm a member at both places), is that Japan Society is more than just a movie theater. They have art exhibitions, lectures and plays as well.
Japan Society Membership Info
And if you haven't seen Sonatine, i HIGHLY recommend it. Its a great movie, with many of the same elements of Outrage; violence, humor, hypnotic music and existentialism. (sorry i couldn't find a good English trailer, but whatever, you'll get the gist of the movie). This movie is part a 2-disc special edition dvd with the Zatochi remake (also starring and directed by Kitano).

Friday, March 18, 2011


Wow, this movie just gets better and better each time i watch it. I really cant believe I'm saying this. And its not a diss too Michael Mann, because i think he's an amazing filmmaker (as I'm sure some of you have heard me say plenty of times already), but a miami vice movie adaptation was something i had NO interest in seeing. I didn't care who was directing it. I guess that's why i never got around to watching 'Miami Vice' until late last year. In the last few months this has become one of my "go-to" movies when i cant decide what to watch or just need something to put on the TV. Even when I'm doing something else and cant pay attention to the television, this is the perfect movie to have on. I mean, you don't need to pay attention to the plot to realize how beautifully this movie is shot. And I'm saying this without even owning one of those nice hd TVs or a blu-ray player (i still own a big tube television). I don't know how many of you have actually been to miami, but Ive been there quite a few times and as far as I'm concerned, Michael Mann does an amazing job of catching the cities true vibe, just like how Robert Altman shows Los Angeles or how Woody Allen or Martin Scorsese capture New York City. Without making things distracting, Mann makes great use of cities nightclubs, architecture, palm trees, neon lights and beaches...

And in a more subtle and (somewhat) realistic way, Mann captures the vibe of the original T.V. show (although at the end of the day the movie is pure fantasy just like the show was (and i guess if you weren't in to the tv show that comparison doesn't help, but whatever)...

In the film, Jamie Foxx and Colin Ferrell star as the iconic TV characters "Crockett & Tubbs", who go undercover to infiltrate a major drug operation run by a Spanish kingpin who's in a partnership with local miami skinheads. This movie is underrated. People look at me like I'm crazy when i tell them how much i love it. When it comes to action films that involve cops, I think people have gotten way too caught up in that cliche of the "gritty, realistic, cop drama" genre. I mean, its MIAMI VICE. this isn't hill street blues or law & order. When you watch miami vice, you should put aside all those images of detailed forensics and cops walking the beat on rainy new york city streets, and just enjoy the movie for what it is: great entertainment. Don't get me wrong, its not like the movie doesn't have a few plot holes or flaws in logic, but so did the TV show (which Michael Mann also produced), yet people didn't seem to have a problem with that. Why does the TV show, which is considered a "classic", get a pass, while the movie takes scrutiny from people, who i imagine some of haven't even seen the movie. And strangely enough, as flashy and "pretty looking" as 'Miami Vice' may be, the digital film making style of Mann adds a little hint of that gritty realism that i mentioned earlier.
Sure, Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell aren't Daniel Day Lewis and Robert Deniro (in his prime), but their performances in this movie get no complaints from me. And the supporting cast, made up actors known mostly for their indie and arthouse work, really round out the cast: Eddie Marsan (vera drake and happy go lucky), Isaach Debankole (ghost dog, white material, manderlay), Justin Theroux (mulholland drive and inland Empire) and John Hawkes (winters bone, me and you & everyone we know). The score to miami vice does the job, but its still not as good as the music in Mann's other films like the insider or heat. In fact, Mann's ear for the use of good music in a film is often slept on too.
Furthermore, Miami Vice was the movie that made me realize the "eye" that Michael Mann has for setting up BEAUTIFUL shots. I always knew there was something about the look of his movies that stood out among other studio films (even before he switched to digital film making). Even a movie of Mann's that's so-so, like Ali, or not very good at all, like Public Enemies, still has better cinematography than most contemporary films. Seriously, look at these movie stills below and tell me this guy doesn't have the talent for creating amazing shots...

So stop sleeping on 'Miami Vice'. I guarantee some of you haven't seen this, yet you totally wrote it off as stupid because it was an adaptation of a TV show that some consider to be cheesy. And if you saw Miami Vice back in 2006 and didn't like it, maybe its time to give it a 2nd chance.


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