Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The OFCS Says No (Again).....But I Am Comforted by The Thought of Marion Davies

Today I was denied membership into the OFCS (Online Film Critics Society for those not in the know).  At first I was really bummed (it is my second year applying and my second year getting deee-nied) but I suppose they cannot let in everyone who applies.  I think my writing is top notch (not to sound too cocky, but the one thing I pride more than any other is my writing) and my site looks to be a well-designed site (if not a bit basic) for what it is (I suppose the flashy graphics of many movie review sites make one stand up and take notice, even if the writing is rather bland and/or simplistic) but alas, deee-nied once again.  I did become a member of LAMB (Large Association of Movie Blogs) just last week, so I suppose one can take that to the bank and smoke it too (not to mix metaphors too badly).

Anyway, that is my whiny little rant for this evening.  I suppose I should get that damned Dogtooth review written already (I only promised it a week ago), so I will leave it at that and get my ass a-writing.  I'll leave you with a lovely picture of the under-appreciated Marion Davies (of whom I watched two films of last night - The Patsy and Show People - and will be posting a critique of sometime in the next few days).  She'll make everything better.  Enjoy.....

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960)

When one has gone through pretty much their entire adult life (from about 20 to the current 43) completely in love with Jean-Luc Godard's revolutionary French New Wave film A Bout Souffle (aka, Breathless) it is completely appropriate (and not strange or ridiculous at all, mind you!) for one to jump up and down like a giddy schoolgirl once one finally sees the film (that shook the world!) in a theater, up on the big screen, in a glorious (and quite gorgeous) newly minted 35mm 50th anniversary restoration print. Not strange or ridiculous at all, right? C'mon people, help me out here. Not strange or ridiculous at all - and completely appropriate. Right? Right?

Now I do want to clarify by saying that all this hullabaloo (not strange or ridiculous at all, mind you!) took place at the cinema I run with my lovely wife Amy, hours before we opened for business for the day, and that I was alone in said theater, so my giddy schoolgirl antics did not disturb a single soul. There may have also been a point where I lightly caressed the screen as that pixie darling Jean Seberg was hawking her New York Herald Tribune up and down the Champs-Elysees, but we probably shouldn't go into that because even I am beginning to think this may be quite strange and equally quite as ridiculous (though still quite appropriate).

Giddy schoolgirl antics aside, Godard's film was truly revolutionary as far as world cinema goes. Changing the way cinema works - or breathes if you will - Godard, along with his Nouvelle Vague compatriots, Truffaut, Rohmer, Chabrol and Rivette, were upstart pioneers for at least three (so far!) generations of filmmakers to come. Without Godard and his Breathless (and for full disclosure - Truffaut and his 400 Blows) there would never have been a Scorsese, a Bogdanovich, a Coppola, a Cimino, a Hopper. There would never have been a De Palma, a Ferrara or an Oliver Stone. There would never have been a Christophe Honore or a Arnaud Desplechin. There would never have been a Linklater, a Todd Haynes or an Anderson (neither Paul Thomas nor Wes). There would never have been a Wong Kar-wai or an Abbas Kiarostami.  There would never have been a Tarantino.  Not even a Spielberg (whether that's a bad thing or not).

Okay, I may be treading pretty far into the old hyperbolic swamp, but in essence, all I stated in the above paragraph is quite true. These filmmakers would still exist without the new wave of course (though as deeply ensconced in post-new wave mentality as Christophe Honore is, there can be a good case made for his possible inexistence otherwise) but they would probably exist in a somewhat altered manner. Seemingly simplistic in its plot (a girl and a gun is what Godard said) and mostly accidental in its style (his jump cuts were just his idea of cutting the film without editing out any sub-plots) the film nonetheless helped create a new way of tackling cinema.  A way that was the polar opposite of what was considered great cinema prior to the new wave.  I way that only the fresh minds of a group of motley cinephiles (all working as that most dreaded of writer - the film critic!) would dare attempt.

Yet, even as revolutionary as this movement, this film, was to cinema and the generations of so-called movie brats that came after them, it was just as revelatory to a young buck cinephile who was just coming into his own as a lover of cinema.  Watching just the usual gang of typical hollywoodie stuff throughout my childhood (my misbegotten youth if you will) it was when I graduated that I first dove into cinephilia.  Seeing Ran and Brazil in back to back weeks at a local cinema in 1985, I began seeking out more arthouse fare.  This led to my early love of Kurosawa, Bergman and Fellini, which in turn led me into Truffaut and Godard.  My first viewing of Breathless (at around 20 or so) was a shock to the system so to speak.  Sure, I still to this day love many of the films that came before (my favourtite time in cinema is still the fifties!), but there is just something so urgent about the French New Wave that makes it seem more important in a way.  Of course I was reading a lot of the Beats at the time too.  All in all, it led into the deep seeded cinephilia that enraptures me to this very day (and beyond I am sure)

Now of course the reason I am even writing about this particular film at this particular moment in time is that the aforementioned 50th anniversary restoration print is out and (as I am sure you have gathered from my earlier giddy schoolgirl antics) is currently playing at Midtown Cinema - the (again) aforementioned arthouse that my lovely wife and I run together.  So far business hasn't exactly been brisk (my film buyer warned me that Harrisburg would not come out for classic films - even if they are on 35mm!) but I have faith it will pick up over the weekend (and vindicate me with my film buyer!!).  I mean c'mon, how can they not come out for such a revolutionary film as Breathless?  Really, tell me how.  I know I am still going to act like a giddy schoolgirl (who wouldn't with Jean Seberg up on the screen!?) - as ridiculous and strange as it may seem.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Cinematheque Reviews: Salt

It's a bit late in coming, but here it is.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Cinematheque Reviews: Piranha

Let's face it, I was in no way expecting something great out of Alexandre Aja's Piranha remake.  I mean, c'mon, I'm not a psychopath.  What I was hoping for (and quite expecting) was something fun, albeit in the B-gradiest of ways.  Well guess what?   That is exactly what I (and all of you) got with this gaudy (purposefully so I am sure) and quite fun (if only in the so bad it's good kinda way - again purposefully so I am sure)  little Grindhousy movie that is Piranha 3D.

Read my review of Piranha 3D at The Cinematheque.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I'm a LAMB!! I'm a LAMB!!

Out there in cyberspace somewhere, there is a website called the Large Association of Movie Blogs (aka, the LAMB).  It is an organization that brings together all those movie bloggers - from the horror buff to the classic cinephile.  Well as of 3:26pm EST on Tuesday, August 24, 2010, I am now the newest member of said Large Association of Movie Blogs (aka, the LAMB).  Member #678 to be exact.

What does all this mean, you ask?  Well, I realize it isn't the New York Film Critics Circle, nor is it even the Online Film Critics Society (though I have applied there and am waiting a response), but the LAMB does have a rather sizable following - and I have already seen a bump in this blog's followers just since yesterday - and I am happy to be part of it all.

So, I suppose what I am trying to say is.....I'm a LAMB!!  I'm a LAMB!!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

366 Weird Movies Guest Review: Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 54)

Well, it would seem that I am branching out.  I have begun what hopefully will be a long and fruitful guest reviewing gig over at 366 Weird Movies.  It is a site dedicated to (obviously) weird movies.  From the slightly odd to the downright freakish - and everything in between.  My first piece for the site is on Nicholas Ray's Johnny Guitar.  Perhaps not the strangest film around, but its verging on camp ideals make it at least in the honourable mention category.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Reviewed at The Cinematheque

There has been much debate lately (especially since the release of Inception) over the idea of a movie being praised for not so much being a well-made quality film as being cool and hip and awesome - which incidentally is not really the same thing.  There are films that can straddle the two factions (sixties Godard and present-day Tarantino come immediately to mind) and one of those said faction-straddlers is Edgar Wright's third movie, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
When I first saw the film just the other day I made mention in a Facebook status update that I believed it to be one of the best films of 2010 so far - hands down.  Several days later (as I finish my review of said movie) not only do I stand by that seemingly surprising outburst (many a friend commented on how I must be being sarcastic) but have grown even more enamored of the movie.  So much so that I could not stop my rambling on and on and on and on and on and on (and on) about the movie in my review.  A review that I eventually had to put a halt to (lest I succumb to carpel tunnel) at just under 1500 words (my usual critique runs on somewhere in the 500-600 word realm).

Anyway, before I ramble on too much here, hop on over to The Cinematheque and read my review of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Winter's Bone
Reviewed at The Cinematheque

Just when one thinks true indie cinema dead in the water - mainly thanks to the almost corporate subsidizing and gentrification of independent product (think Little Miss Sunshine, Juno...) - along comes Debra Granik's surprisingly intense (the most oft used word when describing said film) Winter's Bone to save the day - for now (he adds jadedly).  My review (and yes, I use the word intense!) is awaiting just a line below.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Where Have All the Good Films Gone?

By this time last year, I had already seen seven of the eventual ten films that would make my year end best of list.  Gomorrah, Drag Me to Hell, Public Enemies, Inglourious Basterds, The Hurt Locker, Star Trek & Tetro.  Only Antichrist, Red Cliff & Broken Embraces were in my future.

Now here we are back in the present day and I only see three films (perhaps four) that will undoubtedly make that aforementioned best of list this year.  Shutter Island, I Am Love & The Killer Inside Me (and perhaps Winter's Bone).  So my question is, where have all the good movies gone?

I know every year there are critics complaining that this is the worst year in film history - but I am not doing that.  There are always better years and lesser years.  Of course we rarely get masterpieces anymore (or at least compared to the past!) but there are still good and great films coming out each year.  This year has had The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Vincere, City Island, Mid-August Lunch, North Face and the quite enjoyable but somewhat overrated Inception.  But all of these seem more like runners-up than top tenners. 

One can look into the future of the next four and a half months and pick out some interesting looking upcoming works.  Films like Julian Schnabel's Miral or Eastwood's Hereafter or Fincher's Social NetworkWall Street sequel.  Films such as the Sundance babies, Nowhere Boy and Catfish or James Franco as Allen Ginsberg in Howl.  Casey Affleck's doc on brother-in-law Joaquin Phoenix as well as brother Ben's new directed drama.  We are getting the American remake of the great Swedish vampire tale, Let the Right One In (retitled Let Me In for US audiences, and possibly a good film despite its inevitable comparison to its near masterpiece original). or even the lomg-waited-for

The problem is, none of these films (though all in different stages of anticipation) seem poised to join a top ten list anytime soon.  Perhaps a runners-up list, but not a best of.  The notable exception being Social Network, since I do love Fincher (but was highly disappointed w/ his Benjamin Button - so I am a bit apprehensive). 

With no Tarantino, Almodovar, Lynch, P.T. Anderson, Von Trier or Wong Kar-wai on the near horizon, I am beginning to worry that my eventual best of list will need to be filled with some of these runners-up choices just in order to reach that magic number 10.

There are only two films that make me sit up and shiver in anticipation and those films are Sofia Coppola's Somewhere and the Coen's remake of True Grit with Jeff Bridges taking on John Wayne's Oscar winning  Rooster Cogburn role.  If these two are as good as I am hoping, I suppose that adds up to a top six list (if I include Winter's Bone - which I probably will).

Of course this is just idle rambling, and I am sure there will be some surprises on that horizon.  Perhaps Piranha 3D will make the cut(!?).

Monday, August 9, 2010

Wild Grass
Reviewed at The Cinematheque

There was a lot of hoopla over 87 year old Alain Resnais' latest film, Wild Grass, when it first made the festival rounds last year.  Many called it an amazing work of an ageless auteur while others spat at the screen and stormed out of the screenings.  Okay, as far as I know, that last part never happened, but many in the critical community questioned why this film  was being so highly praised - many claiming it was just because Resnais made the film.

My opinion?  Well, you can read for yourself over at The Cinematheque as I have posted my review (link just below).  I do admit to having some mixed feelings at first - loving it visually but not so much otherwise - but the longer I watched, the more the work grew on me and the more I thought.....well, just go ahead and read the damned review and you will see.  Thanx for stopping by.

The City of Your Final Destination
Reviewed at The Cinematheque

Another late review to toss on the fire.  

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
Reviewed at The Cinematheque

I remember as a child, one of my favourite things to do was to watch The Tonight Show with my grandmother - when I should have been fast asleep instead. I remember these late nights as my first real exposure to Joan Rivers and I remember  and laughing at her jokes.  I am pretty sure my young, naive mind did not get a lot of her jokes (at least not until her regular guest hosting stint in 1983, when I was at least a little less naive as a high schooler), but I certainly do remember laughing.

After a while, Rivers became somewhat of a joke in the media's eyes, but this (now much less naive and definitely getting her crude jokes!) guy kept laughing - with her and NOT at her.  This quite touching (and not in any sappy, cliche'd kinda way) doc was made for those who have kept laughing with her and NOT at her.  A labour of (sorta) tragic love, one actually sees a humanized Joan Rivers - and a tragic Joan Rivers - but still a quite raunchy and funny Joan Rivers as well.  A Joan Rivers not afraid to laugh at herself for us.

I have never been the biggest fan of documentaries (many are informative but very few are creatively or artistically done) but this one is definitely a keeper.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Reviewed at The Cinematheque

It may be a little late in coming (but a lot of my reviews have lately - ya procrastinating bum!) but here is a link to my review of Neil Jordan's sorta-mermaid fairy tale Ondine.   Not much more to say other than what was said in the review, so just read it dammit!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

City Cinema - My Bi-Monthly Column

ed. note: The links in this post are no longer a viable resource.

As some of you might know (at least the local branch of "some of you") back in April 2009, I became a columnist.  I had (obviously) written film reviews and articles for both online and print publications before that, but that date mark my first foray into becoming a columnist.  It just sounds cool to say, doesn't it?  Columnist.  Yeah baby.

Anyway, these columns (which started out monthly but are now bi-monthly due to space issues) are written for a local alternative monthly here in Harrisburg PA, called The Burg.  

These columns can be viewed at The Burg's website (in PDF form) but I have something even better than that.  You can also read all my columns at The Cinematheque in their original unedited form.  Yeah, that's right, the one's in The Burg have been edited.  I tend to ramble on a bit so some of them were cut for length considerations.  I suppose that's better than having them cut because I cannot form a proper sentence.  Seriously though, the paper's editor, Peter Durantine, does a great job and I for one have no complaints.

Anyway, I have now posted links to all nine of my columns thus far (my tenth, September 2010 will be coming in a few weeks - in a separate post of course) in their true original (and possibly rambling in some cases) form.  Enjoy (or don't).