Friday, July 25, 2014


After a small hiatus we're back! The theme of this season is "New York". Every guest this year is either a native New Yorker or got their start/made a name for themselves in the big apple. Like always, most of the guests are connected to John Lurie in some cool intimate way (with one exception), but they don’t all come from that no-wave/downtown early 80’s NYC art scene.


EPISODE 501: Rammellzee

Rammellzee in Stranger Than Paradise
1. Both appeared in Stranger Than Paradise together (although they were never on screen at the same time)
2. Both travelled in the same social circle (Basquiat, Jim Jarmusch, etc)

I’m not quite sure how familiar some of you are with the eccentric character known as Rammellezze, so let me just drop this video on you real quick…

Besides being a graffiti legend and just all around innovator/progressive thinker in the world of hip-hop, Rammellzee was a weirdo, and, as you can see, he dressed like a robotic Mexican luchador wrestler (I say “was” because today he’s no longer with us, but given that season 5 would probably take place around 1996, he’d be alive and well). This episode would be the most philosophical one yet. As Lurie & Ram sit alone in a boat fishing somewhere off a pier in Queens (where Ram is from), I imagine the two of them conversing on everything from painting (remember - Lurie is also an artist/painter) to existentialism. Rammellzee is known for being a deep thinker (in my opinion, he would have fit right in with Waking Life) so prepare to have your mind blown.  

EPISODE 502: Richard Edson & Thurston Moore

Sonic Youth (Edson & Moore on the left)
1. Richard Edson & John Lurie worked together on Stranger Than Paradise
2. Like Rammellzee, I’m sure John Lurie & Thurston Moore were in the same social circle (they probably know each other)
3. Richard Edson is a former member of Thurston’s band Sonic Youth

For those that don’t know, Edson left Sonic Youth to pursue an acting career (Stranger Than Paradise was more than likely the movie Edson made first after leaving the band). I bet Moore & Edson hadn’t hung out since the 80’s so this fishing trip would give them a chance to hang out, catch up and talk about old times. I doubt Thurston would have any ill feelings towards Edson given that by the mid/late 90's Sonic Youth was a relatively popular band (kind of an important voice for generation X) and they had some pretty good rotation on MTV (again – this was 1996, so MTV actually played music videos by bands like Sonic Youth, Mud Honey, Dinosaur Jr., The Breeders, etc.)

EPISODE 503: Claire Denis & Vincent Gallo

Denis & Gallo on the set of U.S. Go Home
1. Claire worked with Lurie on Paris Texas & Down By Law
2. Vincent & John came from the same scene
3. Claire & John have a lot of mutual friends/aquantances (Wim Wenders, Jim & Tom Jarmusch, Agnes Godard, etc) 

Around this time Claire would be releasing Nenette & Boni (which co-stars Vincent Gallo) so this would act as both promo for her film and a chance to catch up with her good friend John.
Claire (L) & John (R) during the filming of Down By Law (1985 or 1986)
This was right around the time when Vincent Gallo was starting to gain notoriety. He seems like a moody/unpredictable guy, so who knows what kind of rude/out of line comments he’d interject during Claire & John’s conversations.

EPISODE 504: Luis Guzman

1. John Lurie did the music for Variety, which was one of Guzman’s earliest acting roles
*They would later go on to both co-star on Oz

Although Guzman hadn’t started working with Soderbergh or PT Anderson yett, he was still on character actor/”oh, that guy” status (by ’96 most people would recognize him for his role in Carlito’s Way). Luis Guzman is certainly a character on & off camera so I bet this would be the most comical episode of the season. I don’t mean to be presumptuous, but he doesn’t seem like much of a fisher, so it would be funny to see him out of his element. 

EPISODE 505: Hal Hartley & Parker Posey

None that I know of.

In the season finale, we’d catch up with Hal Hartley who was probably one of the hardest working filmmakers at the time (between his debut in 1989 through 1996 he had six features and a ton of short films under his belt), and Parker Posey would be in the midst of her “it girl” status that she had in the mid/late 90’s in the world of indie film.
Fishing With John was produced by IFC so it would make sense that they’d wanna highlight an important indie filmmaker like Hartley who was on the brink of making one of his best movies (Henry Fool).

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Hey all. When you have a moment check out my latest review on the upcoming Anton Corbijn spy thriller A Most Wanted Man over at CutPrintFilms.


Friday, July 18, 2014


I’m an only child, so the relationship between siblings confuses & intrigues me at the same time. I’ve always liked the idea that you have someone who kinda looks like you who’ll always be there for you or have your back, generally speaking, through thick & thin. As a kid, I loved the idea of the big brother or sister protecting their younger sibling and never getting in to trouble for it. As a kid I thought: "you can fight or, better yet, beat someone up and not get punished (by your parents at least) as long as you were defending your sibling?!". I wanted in on that. I also wanted that unspoken connection/companionship that I imagine comes along with having a brother or sister.
I’m also dumbfounded/heartbroken by siblings who don’t really speak, aren't very close or have some major falling out and they no longer acknowledge each other.

I think my fascination with siblings is a big reason as to why I loved Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell so much. It highlights a large immediate family of siblings, and, as I stated in my review of Stories, reminds me of my fiancee’s family to a certain degree (they're the same size as Polley’s family and are very close). I'm close with my immediate family but size-wise, were the opposite.
I love my parents to death but as a kid I was always the most enthusiastic friend in the bunch when it came to hanging out or having a sleepover because it meant I got to be around other kids my age for a while instead of my two adult parents who weren’t interested in playing video games or egging houses late at night (being an only child certainly has it's perks but it's also pretty boring).

That whole thing about only children always wanting their personal space is a bit inaccurate. Think about it - when you’re an only child you're around your (boring) parents more than anyone else. You cant wait to hang with other kids and communicate with people on your level. Another misconception about only children is our inability to share. How do you think we maintain such close friendships? We share & give things at an almost desperate level in order to have buddies. I think it says something that most of the friends I made between the ages of 7 through 12 are still my close friends today. When you're an only child, close friends fall in to that strange category where they aren't exactly siblings, but they're more than just  friends. thing that is true about us is how accidentally self-centered we can be sometimes. Take this write-up so far. This is supposed to be a movie review yet I’ve only managed to write about myself up to this point...
Based on everything I just said, combined with my love for John Cassavetes (one of my all-time favorites), it should come as no surprise that I’m incredibly fascinated by Love Streams. The relationship between our sibling protagonists in Cassavetes’ 1984 dramedy is strange to say the least (and the fact that the brother/sister team in Love Streams are played by real life husband & wife; Cassavetes & Gena Rowlands just adds a whole ‘nother layer for analysis). But what else would you expect from John Cassavetes. Whether it be the topic of friendship (Husbands); marriage (Faces, A Woman Under The Influence, Minnie & Moskowitz); identity (Opening Night & Shadows) or parenthood (A Woman Under The Influence), he's going to approach it from an unorthodox angle. But no matter what, he always captures the truth & realism that comes along with whatever topic he’s focusing on.

Adapted from a play of the same name (also written & directed by Cassavetes) Love Streams almost acts as two separate movies that eventually meld in to one. Robert Harmon (Cassavetes) is a womanizing writer living in Los Angeles. One random day he gets an unexpected surprise visit from his eight year old son (“Albie”) and has to look after him for a few days. Harmon is the last person you’d want taking care of a kid (even temporarily). Besides his brash attitude, inexperience with children & womanizing ways, he’s an alcoholic who lives in a mansion with a rotating lineup of random nameless scantily clad prostitutes. 
During all this, Robert’s eccentric/depressed sister “Sarah” (Gena Rowlands) is in the midst of an ugly divorce with her husband (played by Cassavetes regular Seymour Cassell) and is about to lose custody of her daughter. When Sarah no longer has anyone to turn too, she makes her way to Robert’s home to crash with him. Sarah does make herself a little too much at home (she practically moves in with all her personal possessions, including her pets), but Robert still takes her in. 

Robert and Albie eventually warm up to each other (there's a funny scene of them sharing a beer together) but in the last half of the story, Albie goes back with his mother and Robert & Sarah are now left alone to take care of each other. Beyond the fact that they're both fairly self-centered, Sarah needs help with her depression while Robert’s alcoholism and just overall lifestyle has gotten out of control. 

Of all of Cassavetes’ films, Love Streams is most connected to Opening Night (1977). Not only do both movies touch on aging and feature dream sequences/dreamy montage moments (something that isn’t really common in his work), but Love Streams & Opening Night show female characters (both played by Rowlands) in the midst of a very crippling mid-life crisis.
That’s not to say Robert’s life isn’t a “mess”. Most people who analyze/write about Love Streams seem to only talk about Sarah’s instability, when Robert’s life is just as messy. This could be seen as subconscious sexism/misogyny. We see an unstable & emotional female character and immediately label her as “crazy”, while her counterpart (Robert) sleeps with random women (apparently impregnating some without realizing it), gets dangerously drunk and hurts himself (and others) and it's almost looked at as cool/humorous.

John Cassavetes is often compared too/mentioned alongside low budget, hand-held, "gritty" & sometimes sloppy cinema, but his influence goes way deeper than just indie guerrilla-style filmmaking. It wasn't until I started writing this that I noticed how little things from Love Streams show up in other semi-recent films I enjoy about siblings. When Sarah first shows up at Robert's house he immediately jumps on her like a kid and gives her a big hug because he hadn't seen her in quite some time. In You Can Count On Me, when Samantha (Laura Linney) first sees her brother Terry (Mark Ruffalo) after such a long time she gets immediately excited, just like Robert, and excitedly gives him a big hug in a similar fashion. That element of the dysfunctional (older) brother & dysfunctional (younger) sister from Love Streams also shows up in European-made films like Shame & Nenette & Boni. In Shame, Brendon (Michael Fassbender) & Jenie (Carey Mulligan) never mention their parents, just like Robert & Sarah, which speaks volumes in my opinion. And the way Jenie suddenly shows up to stay with Brendon in Shame is reminiscent of how Sarah suddenly shows up in Love Streams.
And I know how much French cinephiles love Cassavetes. Love Streams was fairly successful in Europe. I like to think elements of it seeped in to Denis' subconscious when she made the criminally underrated Nenette & Boni - a story about two estranged siblings (an older brother & younger sister).

Cassavetes' work is also known for it's spontaneity – the “improvisation” throughout Shadows, the bar scene in Husbands, Gena Rowlands & Peter Falk’s erratic behavior in Woman Under The Influence, Timothy Carey’s performances in Minnie & Moskowitz, etc. Love Streams is not without plenty of random & spontaneous moments, but it still feels a lot more rigid than anything else he's ever done.

My submergence in to the world of John Cassavetes seemed destined. During my senior year of college everything fell in to place in a short period of time. My college library uped their movie rental selection and they carried the pre-criterion DVD of A Woman Under The Influence (a film I had read about for years on various film websites but had yet to see). Shortly after watching that, I got a VHS copy of A Killing Of A Chinese Bookie at a local pawn shop for $1. Then, entertainment weekly did a special on cult movies which featured Love Streams on their list of 25 greatest cult movies. Love Streams was difficult to come by at first, but after working at a video store with a decent selection, I found an old VHS of it that my boss gave to me for free. I later mentioned to my father about how I was really in to Cassavetes’ films, to which he reminded me that I’d been watching his work, in the form of Gloria - his 1980 crime drama starring Gena Rowlands, since I was a child, only I hadn’t realized it (for some strange reason Gloria is my Dad's favorite John Cassavetes movie).

Love Streams may not have the same impact as John's previous work like Shadows or Faces, but it still left behind a small legacy and was the subject of the excellent non-Ray Carney book; "John Cassavetes Directs", which was coupled with a making-off documentary.
A lot of hardcore Cassavetes fans like to consider this to be his unofficial final film as a director (his actual last movie before passing away was Big Trouble in ’88 which was just a for hire gig/slash favor to his friend/Big Trouble co-star Peter Falk).
Watching this feels a little bittersweet. It's been documented in every book that touches on Love Streams but John's cirrhosis, which eventually killed him, was fairly visible in certain scenes. When it wasn't covered by a sports coat, his protruded belly (and somewhat gauntly face) were clear signs of his deteriorating health.

While this has a small cult following, of which I’m very much a part of, it’s audience is about to grow with it’s scheduled release courtesy of the criterion collection...

Friday, July 11, 2014


this soundscape was part of the characters' non-verbal communication and was part of the way we were going to convey ideas when we couldn't say them out loud - Shane Carruth (

This film score is quite different from the previous entry we looked at/listened to. Jim Jarmusch's use of Rza's music in Ghost Dog is a little sparse, whereas Shane Carruth uses his own music quite a bit throughout Upstream Color. In fact, from an EQ-ing/mixing standpoint, there's moments where the music almost distracts from/overshadows some of what’s being said in the film which is something I normally HATE. But Upstream Color isn't the most straightforward movie and it doesn't rely on dialogue in the same way that other movies do, so I give it a pass...

(fast forward to 01:16 on...)

Obviously there's a more abstract reason as to why we're touched by instrumental music as opposed to music with lyrics. Even music with abstract lyrics becomes more literal when compared to music with no words at all. The same thing applies to the actual film itself. If you asked me why I really loved Upstream Color I don’t know if I could give you a concise/coherent answer. It just brings up certain emotions in me. If you've seen it you know the film deals with love, loss, vulnerability, identity, etc. These are all things we relate too, but there's still an unexplainable reason why I love the movie so much. It's all pretty overwhelming & abstract. I know this sounds cliche as hell but I guess it touches me on a subconscious level. 

When you have a dreamy/surreal film with a plot like Upstream Color (a mysterious figure makes a hypnotic drug out of a parasite that he uses on unsuspecting victims in an effort to exploit them) it's understandable that viewers & critics get more caught up in the strange story than the music that's playing in the background. It's a layered film.
But after one or two viewings, you move beyond the plot and start to notice how important of a role audio plays in Upstream Color. There's all these scenes where the characters are wearing giant headphones and zoning out to some type of music or ambient sound...

Shane Carruth even distorts & enhances certain audio elements in the film, and there's some jump-cut/'98-'02 Soderbergh era moments where the audio intentionally doesn’t sync up with the visuals (like in the second audio clip used earlier).
Carruth's use of audio in Upstream Color reminds me of David Lynch's post-Fire Walk With Me work. Have you ever watched Lost Highway or Inland Empire with the volume turned up fairly loudly? If you haven't, I urge you to do so. You'll hear stuff you've never noticed before (long droning sounds, bottom-heavy industrial noises, etc) and it'll make the viewing experience even better.

Music in film has a slightly deeper meaning to a guy like me who not only loves, analyzes & writes about film, but also makes music (whenever I'm motivated these days). But you don’t need to be that deep in to music to feel the effects of Shane Carruth’s score. You just need to have an appreciation for modern, somewhat progressive, ambient music. You can even enjoy this score independently from the film. Listen to this clip below (specifically from 00:06 on when the strings kick in) and tell me you aren’t moved in some way...

These days any kind of slow modern ambient electronic music, like the score to Upstream Color, is going to draw some mindless unjust comparison to the ambient soundscapes of Brian Eno. But Shane Carruth's work is actually worthy of that comparison. Both Eno & Carruth have the same dreary, chilling, emotional, bottom-heavy, full-sounding style. Even their composition techniques are similar. It's no mystery that Brian Eno has worked with full orchestras & bands before, but some of his best work was recorded alone in his home studio with just a Yamaha DX-7 synthesizer and a mixing board. Nothing else. In this documentary below, we get a glimpse in to Eno's minimalist home set-up (fast forward to 01:52 in the video)…

When you hear full sounding music like Eno's, we subconsciously imagine a group of people in a big studio with a bunch of instruments. But if you know anything about technology & sampling (which Eno does from time to time), you'd know you don’t always need a traditional set-up. All Shane Carruth used to score Upstream Color was his laptop, logic (a music programming/editing software), various manipulated samples and a simple midi controller (probably the same midi controller we see one of the characters using in Upstream Color).

The worst thing about the rise of music technology & software is that it allows ANYONE to call themselves a producer these days. It's gotten to point where if you have certain music programs installed on your laptop, all you need to do is read part of a manual or watch a tutorial video on YouTube, and you can compose something in under 30 minutes and call yourself a producer. This has been my gripe with outlets like Soundcloud, YouTube & Bandcamp since day one. There are way too many musicians & producers and not enough listeners. This might explain why I so rarely promote my own music that I make. Who ISNT a music producer or musicians these days? I just don’t want to be grouped with the millions of overnight music-makers/bedroom producers.

But there's an upside to the easy access of today's music software & equipment. Some people may want to make music but don’t have the budget for studio time, multiple instruments and/or big clunky mixing boards. Some everyday people just have a love for music and a good ear for making it. Every once in a while music software ends up on the laptop of a talented/motivated "bedroom producer" like Shane Carruth and we get the score for Upstream Color.

Monday, July 7, 2014

BEGIN AGAIN (CutPrintFilms)

Hey guys...

I'll be contributing to the excellent film site; on a monthly basis from now on (you can find my reviews of Night Moves & Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop on the site as well).
Don't worry - this won't mean a decrease in the content on this site or my contributions to The Pink Smoke.
Anyway, when you get a chance, head on over and check out my current review of John Carney's latest; Begin Again (also don't forget to check out the rest of the site as well).

Thursday, July 3, 2014


Now that Brooklyn is in a sort of renaissance, its only right that this lil' gem sees the light of day outside of the few rare screening it’s gotten over the last 30 years...
Besides the 25th anniversary screening of Do the Right Thing, Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads has been the highlight of the Spike Lee retrospective at The Brooklyn Academy Of Music so far.

Actually, that's not entirely true…

Getting snubbed for a handshake by Spike Lee at the 25th anniversary screening of Do The Right Thing was the real highlight for me so far. I'm not even being cynical. It's a cool experience I'll never forget.
Right before showtime I made a bathroom run and on the way I happened to look down (I'm kinda tall) and there he was - Spike Lee. We locked eyes for a brief moment and I extended my hand for him to shake it. Spike was about to shake my hand but he quickly pulled back when he saw my Red Sox hat and calmly said; "you got the wrong hat on" , and casually went on his way and didn't shake my hand.
Sure it was rude, but I feel like that's the kind of thing one would expect from Spike Lee. He loves his city. Plus, I kinda got what I asked for by wearing a Red Sox hat in NYC. I'm not from Boston, but I am from Massachusetts. Amherst to be exact. It’s a small college town on the other side of the state that birthed artists like Emily Dickinson & J. Mascis (Dinosaur Jr). I don't know what it is but ever since college, I've had a strange pride in being from New England (although I was born in Queens, NY, which gives me “dual citizenship”).

Oh...speaking of college, it's a shame Spike Lee snubbed a young guy like me who represents a generation of kids who went to historically black colleges partially due to watching School Daze (for more detail, read the third installment of the whole history of my life over at the pink smoke).

For the last decade I've lived in New York City and my New England pride has manifested itself through my subtle trolling - I intentionally wear a Red Sox baseball cap because I know it annoys the New Yorkers I live amongst. What's funny is that I don't even know one player on the current red sox roster because I don't follow sports. Roger Clemens & Mo Vaughn are the last two players I remember as a kid. Massachusetts is a small state so I like to think Boston teams are a symbol for the whole New England area and not just the one city.

Do The Right Thing

And if I can divert just one more time - although Do The Right Thing is one of the most important films ever made, I always felt like John Savage's Larry Bird jersey wearing character was a bit inaccurate. What Brooklyn-born person, white or black, would wear a Celtics jersey out in the public (especially during an era when Bird was still playing)? I realize that Boston sports teams represent "whiteness" to folks like Spike Lee (and they kinda do to a certain extent), and Spike was trying to put an emphasis on the character's whiteness, but c'mon - White Brooklynites hate Boston sports teams too.

Anyway, I guess you could say I trolled the ultimate New Yorker (Lee) and in sweet poetic justice I got dissed and didn't get the chance to shake hands (and possibly nab a photo) with one of the most important modern filmmakers working today (and to think, I had his back a few months ago).

But yeah, back to the Joe's Bed-Stuy screening...

Joe & Zachariah (Joe's Bed-Study Barbershop: We Cut Heads)
Not to say Spike Lee's other films like She's Gotta Have It, Malcolm X & Bamboozled aren't important to me, but it’s just that I've seen them so many times. Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop is the one Spike Lee film that's eluded me for years. Seeing this early work of his was like getting a new/refreshing look at the prolific filmmaker before he became the iconic outspoken pop-culture figure that we know of today. Besides the fact that this is a really good film (which I can now confirm after finally seeing it) Joe's Bed-Stuy has some serious history behind it - Ang Lee worked on it as the assistant director and Ernest Dickerson shot it, which began his almost decade-long working relationship with Lee as his cinematographer (Dickerson would go on to shoot everything up through Malcom X before becoming a director himself).

camera phone pic I nabbed of the closing credits...

From Bay Ridge (Saturday Night Fever) to Bensonhurst (The French Connection), Brooklyn has always served as one of the most important backdrops in modern cinema. How could it not? It’s the place that produced everyone from Harvey Keitel & Vincent D'onoffrio to Marisa Tomei & Darren Aronofsky. But Brooklyn also produced Spike Lee, Chris Rock, The Rza (Nope. Not Staten Island), Nelson George and a slew of other talented artists. The predominantly black Brooklyn neighborhoods that produced the latter bunch, like Brownsville & Bedford Stuyvesant, rarely got any shine on film and when they did it was usually under negative connotations (like the opening of The French Connection). Spike Lee really did provide a huge spotlight for areas of Brooklyn that weren't being shown on the big screen (I know after three decades of Spike Lee movies that this is obvious to most of you but it should still be acknowledged). Between the cinema of Oscar Micheaux in the 1920's through the Blaxploitation genre of the 1970's, Harlem almost seemed like the exclusive backdrop for films concerning black people. This even seeped in to modern cinema of the 80's & early 90's as Harlem was the setting for films like Brother From Another Planet (1984), New Jack City (1990) & Juice (1992).'s not like the relationship between Harlem & brown skin people is inaccurate. It's a historic place for us, but it's still just one neighborhood of New York City. Harlem is hardly the only place where you'll find black (and Latino) people in NYC, but modern American film would have you think differently. Thanks to the path Spike Lee created with his early work, recent films like My Brooklyn, Jamel Shabazz: Street Photographer, Mother Of George & Newlyweeds now have a lane to travel in (not to say Spike directly influenced or had anything to do with the making of the aforementioned films, but they still subconsciously followed down the path that Lee started 30 years ago with Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop to some degree).

Actually, half the imagery in Lee's student film looks as if he was influenced by the work of Brooklyn-based photographer Jamel Shabazz...

Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop is about a Brooklyn barber (“Zachariah”) whose business partner/fellow barber (Joe) is killed by the gangsters he was doing business with (Joe was letting a local gangster use the barbershop as a front for a numbers running operation). Soon Zachariah finds himself in the same position as Joe, and ends up doing business with the very same gangsters. Will he play things smart, keep his head down and do what he's told, or will he get greedy and see the same fate as Joe?

Although this was a student film, it was Lee's final work before ascending into "professional"/feature-length filmmaking just like Jim Jarmusch with Permanent Vacation or Richard Linklater with Its Impossible To Learn How to Plow... So this shouldn't be brushed aside as just another amateur student project. Sure the budget was obviously limited, there are some awkward acting moments and it may not be "polished", but to me it still falls in line with the rest of Spike Lee's filmography (and besides, having a polished film isn’t always the most important thing. Just look at a legend like Cassavetes).
Joe's Bed-Stuy, which clocks in at about an hour, literally planted the seeds for Lee's future work and all the themes he would go on to explore. The exploration of certain generational conflicts between old & young folks (as seen in Redhook Summer & Do The Right Thing) started with Joe's Bed-Stuy. The idea of "clocking"/using a legitimate business for an organized crime front (as seen in Clockers) is a major part of the plot in Joe's Bed-Stuy as well. You could even say it acts as a loose prequel to She's Gotta Have It in terms of style & delivery (She's Gotta Have It co-star; Tommy Hicks stars as the film's main protagonist).

This is the kind of film that can be enjoyed by diehard cinephiles who go to Anthology Film Archives just as much as the Brooklyn bohemians of today who frequent Afropunk festivals or The Brooklyn Museum first Saturday events. Fan’s of early Charles Burnett, specifically My Brother’s Wedding, will definitely enjoy this.
Outside of the basic plot, Joe’s Bed-Stuy is also a time capsule for the Bed-Stuy neighborhood. Not to say the neighborhood looks 100% different 30 years later, but there's still some noticeable changes that I imagine bother Spike and other longtime Bed-Stuy residents. 

If the criterion collection knew what was good for them they'd work on making this a future new release...

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


Lists used to be a regular thing here at PINNLAND EMPIRE, but for whatever reason I gave them a rest in favor of writing longer articles that most of you probably don't even finish reading once you start. It recently hit me that although its way too early to start deciding what the defining movies of the decade are, there's already quite a few isolated moments from the last 4+ years that are either so visually striking, prolific, heartbreaking, frightening, hilarious or a combination of everything that they deserve to be mentioned.

So, as part of a new ongoing series, we're going to list my personal favorite movie moments of the decade so far.
I put an emphasis on the word; "personal" because its just that. My own personal opinion. This list in no way speaks for anyone else. And please keep in mind that this is ongoing (as you're checking this sixth installment I'll already be putting the final touches on part seven). So if you don't see something listed that you feel should be, give it some time. It may show up eventually. There's no order or hierarchy in what gets listed either.

FYI...three of the eight films represented in this installment are currently streaming on Netflix instant, two are easy to come by on DVD & Blu-Ray just about anywhere, and one just left theaters (I'm sure it'll be released on DVD/Blu-Ray) so I don't wanna hear any of that; "no one has heard of or seen any of these movies" (I will admit that two of the films on this list aren't that easy to watch or come by on DVD/Blu-Ray at the moment)

So here's part six. Enjoy...

Joe gets her groove back... (Nymphomaniac: Part 2)

Contrary to what some uninformed film critics will try to have you believe, Charlotte Gainsbourg is not the only actress to work with Lars Von Trier on more than one occasion (if I read that wrong bit of info on another reputable film site or publication I may lose it). Last time I checked, both Lauren Bacall & Chloe Sevigny were in Dogville & Manderly and Siobhan Fallon was also in Dogville as well as Dancer In The Dark. But it is true that no other actress has been dragged through hell with LvT like Gainsbourg (sorry Bjork, but Dancer In The Dark was 14 years ago. Get over it).
There's something about Charlotte's performances in LvT's films that leads me to believe she's a little bit like "She" (Antichrist) or "Joe" (Nymphomaniac) in real life. I feel like a woman would kinda have to be a bit of a masochist to work with Lars on three consecutive (depressing) films.
This scene above, where Joe is finally able to have an orgasm again, is just as heartbreaking as it is shocking because she can only reach climax through pain.
I feel as if this scene (along with the entire film) was partially Von Trier intentionally playing in to decades of criticism he's faced when it came to his portrayal of women in film. Again - is there a LvT film where a woman isn't beaten, emotionally abused, raped or killed?

Fred stands up for Laurence (Laurence Anyways)

wheeeeew... no words needed for this one. Just watch the clip below...

Tiffany puts Pat Sr. in his place (Silver Linings Playbook)

This scene was a generational thing for me. Its a great moment but more than that, it's about a younger actress (Lawrence) holding her own (and stealing the show) with a legend (Deniro).
And the entire supporting cast in the background during this scene, specifically Bradley Cooper, just adds to the humor.

 "What were your final words were to mum?" (Stories We Tell)

These moments are what make documentaries great in my opinion. Towards the end of Stories We Tell, Sarah Polley, off camera, asks her father what his final words were to his wife (her mother) before passing away. In a moment that feels like five minutes, he pauses and awkwardly responds; "...dunno. that I loved her and I'll miss her. Something like that..." Its a such a telling moment because you can see the hurt on his face and hear it in his voice. If you haven't seen Stories We Tell, I highly recommend it so you can see where that hurt comes from.

8MM... (Bastards)

Last year my insecurities got the best of me and I didn't wanna get called on favoritism so I decided to not include Bastards in my top 10 (or in my honorable mention) even though I liked it very much. But once I saw all the reputable/good end of the year movie lists that included Denis' latest, I realized I messed up and should have gone with my gut. Much like what Trouble Every Day did for Denis following Beau Travail, which is to basically turn people off and be intentionally challenging, Bastards did the same thing as the follow-up to White Material. White Material got Denis a slightly bigger audience and what does she do in her follow-up? Intentionally confuse & disgust people. Its trolling but because its Claire Denis, I respect it. And she waited til the final moments of the film to show the most shocking part - Taking a page out of 8mm, Denis sheds some light on the disturbing incestious shit that's been going on just below the surface of the story.

Flying seagulls (Leviathan)

Leviathan is a very cloustrophobic film at times. After being trapped on a boat with crunching water noises & fish guts for minutes at a time, its nice to experience the freedom of flying over the ocean with the birds (I don't know if any other scenario could represent "freedom" any more clearly than that). These moments are very hypnotic but they also act as a breath of fresh air.

The mask scene from Newlyweeds...

Speaking of hypnotic...
here's another excellent scene, made even better by the subtle score, that almost gives you a contact high. I don't smoke weed so I'm amazed at how mesmerized I was at this marijuana-induced moment.

"AIM FOR THE DICK!" (Holy Motors)

It's tough to pick one isolated scene from this excellent movie. Holy Motors plays out like a series of brilliant sketches rolled in to one movie. But this quick moment where Denis Lavant randomly shouts out: "Aim for the dick!" (which has since been slightly edited to "aim for the crotch") made me legitimately laugh out loud the first time I saw it at the theater.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


The guys at the Syndromes & A Cinema podcast had me back on to discuss the work of PINNLAND EMPIRE favorite Kelly Reichardt. 

Great times. Enjoy...


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