Thursday, April 28, 2011
Monday, April 25, 2011
In 'Variety', Bette Gordon reverses the gender roles, and puts a female lead in a typically male role. Through out the film, Christine does things that a woman wouldn't normally do in a film that takes place in early 80's new york city. She walks down alley's late at night by herself (once again...keep in mind this is early 1980's new york city), she goes on a date with a mysterious/shady guy that she hardly knows who frequents the porno theater that she works at (whom she eventually starts to follow, slowly turning the last half of 'Variety' in to a noir/mystery film). If a character like Travis Bickle from 'Taxi Driver' (which 'Variety shares a lot in common with in both; themes and in the main character) where to do these things, we wouldn't blink an eye or express that much worry about his well being. When Christine does these things in the movie, we're always worried and always on edge that something bad is going to happen to her (mugged, raped, murdered, etc). Bette Gordon further drives this point home with Christine's fascination in pornography. Lets be honest, we usually associate the consumption of porn with men. The only relationship we're use to women having with porn is acting in them. You don't expect a woman, especially an attractive, quiet, loner like Christine to enjoy porn.
Before i saw 'Variety', what drew me most to it were the stills and images that i saw on the Internet over the years. I didn't even bother to look up what the film was about. I just knew 'Variety' had to be a great film. The lighting and colors used in the images i saw reminded me of a Fassbinder film (specifically 'Lola'). 'Varitey' has this dark lighting & red-ish tint to it, which kinda adds to its dark atmosphere.
If you're a fan of any of the other films i mentioned earlier (taxi driver, red road, in my skin, the films of jim jarmusch & tom dicillo), you'll more than likely enjoy 'Variety'. It even shares some similar (visual) elements with other early 80's films like; 'Henry', 'Maniac' and Abel Ferarra's early work as well (specifically 'Ms. 45' and 'The Driller Killer').
Saturday, April 23, 2011
On the train ride over to anthology film archives to watch Dziga Vertov's experimental/silent film documenting 1920's Russia; 'A Man With A Movie Camera' (a film that was re-scored a few years back by the awesome jazz group; Cinematic Orchestra), i thought to myself; "this is gonna get boring as shit real quick. i don't care if its a free screening for members." I think ever since that pinksmoke article ("old movies sucks") came out, I've had a bit of a cynicism towards older movies, especially "classic" or culturally important older movies. Don't get me wrong, i know that 'Man With A Movie Camera' is a film that was way ahead of its time and revolutionized the documentary/fiction hybrid style that would later be explored by filmmakers like; William Greaves (Symbiopsychotaxiplasm) & Chris Marker (La Jette)...but there isn't even a soundtrack to the original man with a movie camera (let alone, no dialogue). Almost 2 hours of silence is a bit much (...or a bit less depending on how you look at it). Then i thought about the pink floyd/alice in wonderland mash-up as well as the dj shadow/akira mash-up, and decided id leave my ipod on while the film was playing and see if the random songs that played in my headphones went along with the movie. I wasn't expecting any amazingly synced up moments or anything like that. I just thought it would be a fun little experiment to keep me interested in the movie. So i picked a playlist on my ipod that was geared more towards chilled out/slow-ish/lounge type songs.
1. Sonic Youth - 'Beauty Lies In The Eye', 2. Cranberries - 'linger', 3. Sonic Sum - 'Sara-inge', 4. Jill Cunniff (luscious jackson) - 'calling me', 5. Gordon Lightfoot - 'Beautiful' (*used in vincelt gallo's brown bunny), 6. Red Hot Chili Peppers - 'My Friends', 7. Handsome Boy Modeling School - 'Sunshine', 8. Red Hot Chili Peppers - 'Pretty Little Ditty', 9. eDIT - 'Twenty Minutes', 10. J Dilla - 'Stop', 11. Mogwai - 'Take Me Somewhere Nice' (*used in larry clarke's wassup rockers), 12. Fiona Apple - 'Sullen Girl', 14. Beastie Boys - 'Ricky's Theme', 15. Jungle Brothers - 'Brain', 16. Sage Francis - 'Inherited Scars', 17. Commodores - 'Nightshift' (*used in claire denis's 35 shots of rum), 18. Vincet Gallo - 'Honey Bunny', 19. Jan Jelineck - 'On The Lake', 20. Massive Attack - 'Black Milk', 21. Louis Logic - 'The Great Divide', 22. Dwele - 'Melodies', 23. Portishead - 'Numb'
Now, naturally some of these songs didn't go with the movie AT ALL, but some worked surprisingly well. In this blog I'm going to point out the songs that worked together quite well with the images i saw on the screen...
Cranberries - Linger
I was very disappointed that the first song; Sonic Youth's 'beauty lies in the eye' (one of my favorite songs) didn't work, so i desperately wanted the next song to work...and it did. Watching the old grainy/black & white 'man with a movie' while the cranberries's song played, made me subconsciously relate it to the grainy/black & white feel of the cranberries video that always comes in my head when i hear this song (in fact, i think i like the video more than the song). Aside from the visual aspect, this song just "worked" with the scenes while the song played.
Sonic Sum - Sara inge
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Pretty Little Ditty
eDIT - Twenty Minutes
Mogwai - Take Me Somewhere Nice
Fiona Apple - Sullen Girl
Jungle Brothers & The Roots - Brain
Vincent Gallo - Honey Bunny
Jan Jelineck - On The Lake
Louis Logic - The Great Divide
This was really fun. I think I'm gonna have to go to more silent films at anthology film archives. I don't usually frequent the silent films at anthology, because they're usually foreign WITHOUT English subtitles or inter-titles (and id feel super pretentious watching a movie i didn't understand). But it looks like i found a fun way to work around all of that.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
My first issue was the actual music that was showcased in the film. It wasnt that good. Not the content or the lyrics (which mostly talked about sex or the struggles of being a gay black or Latino person within hip-hop), but the gay artist's actual raping ability (and production). This documentary is partially about MUSIC. At a certain point you have to rely on your skill as an artist and not rely on the novelty of being a "gay hip-hop artist". I understand that trying to get any kind of mainstream success or steady fan base within hip-hop while being gay is damn near impossible, but it doesn't help your case when you can barely rap on beat and are fumbling over your words in live performances (this was a problem I personally found with many of the artists featured in the documentary). And trust me, i know hip-hop quite well. In fact, I'd be so arrogant to say i know the culture more than the average fan, so please save your comments about how i "don't know hip-hop music" or how i don't have "good taste". I realize "good" and "bad" is all subjective, but i have faith that the average, knowledgeable hip-hop fan will agree with me about the music in 'Pick Up The Mic'. This issue draws a lot of comparison to the Asian rap artist Jin. He got a lot of hype years ago for being a mainstream Asian rapper, and when his album finally dropped almost no one bought it. Years later, many music journalists and hardcore fans of Jin tried to blame it on people not accepting him because he was Asian. There is SOME truth to that, but those journalists and loyal Jin fans never seem to mention the fact that his debut album was not very good. At some point, skill & ability has to count for something. In 'Pick Up The Mic', there's a lot of scenes from live shows of the featured gay hip-hop artists performing, and it almost makes you want to cringe at how bad some of the performance footage comes off. Some are either trying too hard to be/sound tough, while some need to polish up their clarity & breath control. If this documentary was supposed to showcase talent, it didn't do a very good job.
My next issue is a little more serious. This documentary managed to do something that no other hip-hop film managed to do which was play in to the underlying racism that many people have towards hip-hop, without even realizing it or meaning too. Hear me out...we all know that most people's hatred towards hip-hop has to do with the fact that it's a (mostly) black art form. Sure, there are plenty of people who just simply don't like hip-hop music without any hidden malicious reasons, but you and i both know that there's a large majority of folks out there who might as well be saying; "i don't like black people" when they say the phrase; "i don't like rap music". It's coded language. Lets be real - with 'Pick Up The Mic', there's this constant reminder about how homophobic hip-hop culture can be (and i recognize that it is) to the point where it almost feels like the filmmakers are saying (without even meaning to) that hip-hop and rap music is the ONLY music genre to EVER be homophobic or discriminate towards gays. Now, you and i both know that hip-hop culture is not very accepting of gay people, but it damn sure ain't the only music culture to do so. Everything form country music (with its connection to right wing/conservative values) to heavy metal all have issues with gay people, but once again, hip-hop and/or rap music is vilified as the first & only to do something wrong like it's the ONLY non-progressive musical genre. It's just like the term "bitch" within hip-hop. The minute people heard rap artists (who were mostly black) use that term to describe (SOME) women (which SOME women are), the entire world acted as if they had never heard such a word before (or any type of profanity for that matter). Its like all of a sudden rap music took the heat for inventing terms like; "bitch", "mother fucker", etc. I expect outsiders to paint hip-hop in a negative light, but the last thing i would expect is people within the culture to vilify it. That doesn't make sense to me. I understand that hip-hop & rap music has some growing to do, but so do other forms of music. The problem is you don't get that from watching 'Pick Up The Mic'. Watching this documentary you'd swear that hip-hop/rap is the only musical culture behind the times.
Because of these things, its difficult for me to support or even defend this documentary from a hip-hop standpoint. I don't question the struggles that gay people face today. But no matter what it's a one of a kind film (probably the first to do what it did) and that counts for something.
You can watch 'Pick Up The Mic' on hulu.com for free or just click the link below...
pick up the mic
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Here's a new thing i did for thepinksmoke. In this one, each of us picked an old/classic movie and talked about why we dislike it so much. I picked Andy Warhol's 'Empire', which i TRIED to watch at anthology film archives this past summer. There's a lotta good ones in this like; '2001' and 'Goldfinger'. Link below...
Old Movies Suck
Old Movies Suck
Monday, April 18, 2011
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
The Reflecting Skin
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
These days I've been getting more into to female performances under the direction of a female director (samantha morton in lynne ramsay's 'morven callar', isabelle hupert in claire denis's 'white material, marina de van directing herself in 'in my skin'), but Lodge Kerrigan manages to explore the female world without coming off like hes misogynistic or clueless towards women. In fact, 'Claire Dolan' paints a pretty shitty picture of the male race with the exception of Vincent D'Onofrio.
'Claire Dolan' is almost perfect as far as I'm concerned. So far, all of Lodge Kerrigan's film are connected by his continued exploration of mental illness (like Peter Greene and Damian Lewis in 'Clean Shaven' and 'Keane') or at least mental instability (as we see with D'Onofrio). As he states on the commentary track of 'Clean Shaven', Lodge Kerrigan is very much inspired by Polanski's work, and it really does show. I have yet to see his most recent movie, but hopefully it'll be playing at Toronto this year (which I'll be attending).
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
The ending of the film seems to piss some people off. Without giving anything away, I'll just say that Meek's Cutoff has a VERY open ending. Some may consider it a cliffhanger, while others will be going; "you cant be serious. that cannot be the end" (something i actually heard someone say this past weekend at the film film forum when the end credits for Meek's Cutoff came up on the screen). On one hand i really commend Kelly Reichardt. It takes balls (well maybe not balls in HER case) to end a movie the way she did. On the other hand i feel that she took an easy way out. These days, ANY movie involving any type of relationship between native americans (or people of any race for that matter) and white people seems to piss someone off. Because of this, i think a lot of (mostly white) directors are timid when approaching these kinds of stories. For example, on the commentary track for 'In The Company Of Men', Neil Labutte kept reassuring that the scene where Aaron Eckhart corrects the young black employees english and makes him pull his pants down wasn't supposed to be seen as racist. But why not? Part of 'In The Company Of Men' of men is about "the workplace", which CAN be very racist. That doesn't mean Labutte himself is racist (the irony of course is that he later went on to make the awful 'Lakeview Terrace' movie with Samuel L. Jackson). Same thing with the ending of 'Night of The Living Dead'. Roger Corman insists that the ending wasn't supposed to have anything to do with race. But, once again, why not? It doesn't mean Roger Corman is racist. Once again, without giving too much away, its almost like Kelly Reichardt didn't wanna do the wrong thing, or she was worried about portraying the native american character as a savage leading the three families to the slaughter, so she left the ending up to the audience to decide. I also don't think she wanted to make an ending that showed the native american befriending and working with the white characters, which is that typical 'dances with wolves'/'new world' thing that some american directors tend to do. If Reichardt had made that kind of an ending, i know that i woulda been a little annoyed. Why would this native american character help these people who captured him, tied him up and beat him (well i guess only one person in the group was aggressive and violent towards him, but still...). I still would have personally liked to see her make a decision on her own, and come to more of a closing.
Anyway, Regardless of the ending (which is still a big thing), the rest of the movie is really good. Michelle Williams continues to show why she's one of my favorite actresses working right now. Will Patton, who always seems to come off as a young Robert Duvall, was perfectly cast, as was Paul Dano. Shirley Henderson continues to play a slightly clueless and somewhat ditsy character, which is a role I'm afraid shes starting to get typecast as. Bruce Greenwood, who plays the clueless tracker does a great job too. It would've been nice to see Reichardt's frequent collaborators like Will Oldham or even Larry Fessenden (who's work i only recently discovered) act in the film. Their persona's seem go perfectly with the old time setting of Meek's Cutoff. Like all of Kelly Reichardt's other films, she continues to focus on the poor and the not-so-well off, like Oldham's character in 'Old Joy' and Michelle Williams character in 'Wendy & Lucy'. She also continues to photograph the american landscape and nature beautifully just like she does in all her other films.
'Wendy & Lucy'
Watching Meek's Cutoff really did remind me of the Oregon trail computer game i use to play in school. Having to cross the river while carrying personal items above your head so they don't sink, having to repair broken wagon axle's, the riffle shooting, running low on water, everything. Overall this movie was a success, even with the extremely ambiguous ending. But like i explained earlier, if you aren't a fan of open endings, and you like things to be wrapped up a little more nicely, you'll probably throw something at the screen when you watch this. This is one of those movies that will grow on me over time, like all of Reichardt's movies.
Monday, April 11, 2011
This is great news! All the info you need is in the link below...
Check out Tindersticks's music used in the trailers to some off Denis's films..
Check out Tindersticks's music used in the trailers to some off Denis's films..
The reason I'm writing this is because a friend recently posted that viral video of Vin Diesel breakdancing as a kid. Every time i see that, i always wonder if people know how he got his start in movies. Don't get it twisted, after 'Multi-Facial' he went on to become a typical action star. I'm not using this blog to praise Vin Diesel's acting career or anything like that, but anyone i come in contact with never seems to realize 'Multi Facial' even exists. He wasn't some guy who just magically landed roles in 'Saving Private Ryan' and the 'The Iron Giant'. I'm also posting this because at a party this past weekend, i got in to a long talk about movies and race. When Michael Mann's 'Ali' came up in conversation, a friend pointed out something that i never even realized (and I'm almost in disbelief that i never thought about this until Saturday). The point he made was that it seemed when it comes time to cast a major role for a black person, they just look at what current black actor is available. There's never an attempt to "make" a new actor or take an unknown and transform him to 'Ali' (or almost any role for that matter). It has to be someone people already know. But take a role like 'Thor' (and many others). When Hollywood needed a Thor (or a new spiderman, or the dude from twilight, or a harry potter, etc) they go on a search for one and make one (naturally all of those actors had been in movies before, but never a MAJOR role). There are exceptions that we're all aware of like; robert downey jr. christian bale and michael keaton, but you get the point I'm trying to make.
Not only does 'Multi-Facial' go hand in hand with classics like; 'Hollywood Shuffle', 'Story Of A Three Day Pass' and 'Chameleon Street', but it actually shows a side of Vin Diesel that most people weren't unaware of. Even though All the movies i mentioned above deal mostly with racial issues concerning black people, any multi-racial actor or an actor that looked a different race can relate to it. From: Anthony Quinn - a legendary actor who's played everyone from a Latino to an Italian, to Victor Argo - a Puerto Rican icon of new york city independent film who was often typecast as an Italian in the films of Martin Scorsese (mean streets) and Jim Jarmusch (ghost god) to a Jewish person (last temptation of christ) to Lou Diamond Philips, who's probably played every single race possible with the exception of a black person and a white person in the 1980's alone, to even The Rock. And lets not forget women. In fact, with women it goes a lot deeper, because non-white female actresses with a race that cant be pinned down always seem to get that ridiculous "exotic" label. Jessica Alba is an obvious example of this. But lets not forget people like Rae Dawn Chong (the token light skin girl of the 80's who was always cast when it was still somewhat "dangerous" to put an actress with dark skin opposite a white male lead in a romantic relationship). After i watched Vin Diesel's short for the first time, i imagined this is what a lot of these actors went through.
'Multi Facial' also draws a lot of comparison to John Cassavetes's first film; 'Shadows' - the story of 3 siblings (2 brothers and 1 sister) who are all different shades of black. The oldest brother, who struggles with the same auditioning/rejection stuff that Vin Diesel does in 'Mult-Facial', is the darkest. The light skinned middle brother seems to struggle with his identity and light skin complexion the most, while the youngest and lightest skinned (who basically passes for white) sister, is dumped by her boyfriend when he discovers she is actually black. Also, all the films previously mentioned (shadows, Hollywood shuffle, multi facial, the story of a 3 day pass and chameleon street) share the same rawness and have the same "rough around the edges" feel, but still get their point across. All of those movies are also directorial debuts.
The 3 sibling in 'Shadows'
Wendall B Harris paints his daughters barbie black in 'Chameleon Street'
Vin Diesel auditioning for the part of a stereotypical Italian in 'Multi-Facial', which he doesn't get, because he looks "too black". In the film he also loses a role in a beer commercial because the actors are supposed to be black, and he's told he looks "too white". In fact, he doesn't even get to audition. He's stopped at the door by the casting agent at first sight who informs him that he looks to light. He also auditions for the part of a Latino as well.
My only issue with Mr. Diesel is that after his career took off, he never seemed to revisit or work in any more movies that dealt with racial issues (unless I'm forgetting something). Anyway, this is an interesting short film. Yes the acting the is VERY rough, and theres a scene where Vin Diesel raps which will make you wanna look away and cringe, but its definitely worth checking out (below). It's nothing new, but given Vin Diesel's filmography, you wouldn't expect something like this from him.
Friday, April 8, 2011
The trailer for one of my most anticipated movies of 2011 is finally here. I'm not too sure what to think about it, but it does look interesting. And who knows what too expect after Lars Von Trier's last movie. In fact, 'Melencholia' almost looks like a sequel to 'Antichrist'. Judging from the trailer, it looks like Charlotte Gainsbourg is going all out once again just like shes done for Von Trier in the past (whether you like 'Antichrist' or not, you cant deny that Gainsbourg did an amazing job). Dunst and Sutherland seem like interesting casting choices and there seems to be some pretty cool special effects too. Anyway, here it is...
My favorite aspect of 'Irma Vep' isn't so much the main plot, but rather all the little things that are going on in the background and the references to other movies. Unfortunately, if you aren't up on french cinema, you might not get some of the little inside jokes and references. To some viewers, watching 'Irma Vep' might feel like watching Todd Haynes's 'Im Not There', but knowing very little about Bob Dylan (which is exactly what happened to me'). For example; legendary french actress Bulle Ogier has a cameo in 'Irma Vep', and makes a reference to how much she "likes latex". Unless you've seen her in 'Maitresse', where she played a dominatrix, you'll have no idea what she's talking about, or why that line is funny.
|Bulle Ogier's Cameo In 'Irma Vep' ("I Like Latex")|
|Bulle Olgier (wearing latex) in 'Maitresse' (1975)|
Speaking of latex, the costume used in the irma vep remake (pictured below), is not only an obvious nod to the michelle pfeiffer catwoman outfit (in fact there's a scene in 'Irma Vep' at the beginning of the movie where the costume designer shows Maggie Cheung a picture of pfeiffer's catwoman costume)...
...but the latex costume also seemed to foreshadow Olivier Assayas' growing fascination with leather, latex and S&M which he explored in his later films...
|'Boarding Gate' (2007)|
There are plenty of other clever scenes and funny references to not just french cinema, but the movie industry all together. Take the first few minutes of the film. At first it seems kind of chaotic with all the handheld cinematography, but after a minute you realize there's a lot of structure. We see the same production assistant walk in and out of the scene holding a toy gun, trying to get approval from someone as to weather or not it looks real enough to use in a movie. The camera passes by a production manager arguing on the phone about budget while another production assistant, wearing a 'Terminator 2' t-shirt, quickly comes in to frame, etc. When Maggie Cheung arrives on set, fresh off of working on a kung-fu action movie, she's surrounded by various crew members. Cheung's character is more interesting than i think people realize. When she arrives on the set of the 'Irma Vep' remake (which is essentially an arthouse film), its almost like she's somewhat insecure that she just came from doing a big action movie, so she tries to play it off like; "oh whatever, it was just a stupid martial arts movie. i dont really care about it". Any time in the film when Maggie Cheung is asked how she feels about french cinema or how she feels about acting in a remake of a classic french film, she gives these generic/vague answer like; "yeah, you know i like french movies a lot. i like the images". Later on in 'Irma Vep' there's a scene where a somewhat prick-ish/pretentious film critic calls her out on her vague and generic attitude.
|Jean Pierre Leaud as a pretentious director in 'Last Tango In Paris'|
|Jean Pierre Leaud Directs in 'Irma Vep'|
Olivier Assayas has a unique perspective on french cinema in that not only is he a director, but he was a film critic for Cahier Du Cinema. Some people may see that as a conflict of interest. When you watch 'Irma Vep' you can see both sides of Assayas. You can tell that some parts of 'Irma Vep' were approached by Assayas's film critic side, while other aspects of the movie where approached by his filmmaker side.
If you like movies like; '24 Hour Party People', 'Ivans XTC' or 'The Player', you'll enjoy 'Irma Vep' (even more if you're a fan of french cinema).