Formerly "A Movie A Day" :/

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Wild Strawberries - 1957 - Dir. Bergman

Although not exactly my favorite, I always appreciated Wild Strawberries for having an incredible tone. It's optimistic, dreary, crabby, fun, and painful all at once. Any time you have an old man thinking about his life, I feel like we're on a shaky path to depression but Wild Strawberries never actually feels sad while still being filled with sadness. I had only seen it once a very long time ago and was struck with how nice it felt to watch. Borg is the perfect old man, he's a curmudgeon but one that we want to watch, one we feel for, but I never find myself pitying him. I never feel like I'm watching a sad old man surrounded by youth, lingering on his own. There's a kind of peaceful acceptance of his place. One thing that I forgot (and I'm surprised that I did) was the dream sequence in the beginning, which is pitch-perfect. I always forget that Bergman masters the disorientation of a dream. They are not chock full of strange and disturbing imagery, but we feel it nonetheless. Small details make up our unreality. Also Bork and his Nurse are ADORABLE! They set-up the movie so nicely! Visually, I find it less striking than... say most of his others. But it is also one of the earliest films of his that I've seen. It's easy to see why this is thought of as one of Bergman's best films. It's well-rounded and illustrative of most of what Bergman does best.
Any of you kids want my Wild Strawberries?

Pickpocket - 1959 - Dir. Bresson

A much lauded film, for some reason I went into it expecting Italian Neo-Realism. I honestly don't know how I made that mix-up. I've never seen a Bresson film. Known for severing ties between Theater and Cinema, Pickpocket does just that. Voice-over runs throughout the film and hand movements, subtle gestures move much of the action forward. Our protagonist after all, is a pickpocket. It's hard to find a critic or auteur who does not praise the film to the skies. I struggled with it though. It runs awfully slowly and jerks around at times. The story is very jumpy. To some degree the film kind of occupied a space between cinematic and well... neo-realism, I suppose. We have a minimal story and character motivation is difficult to pierce, non-professional actors, but I don't think I ever really bought it. Voice-over makes it difficult to treat as real, so I felt like it should be treated like a story. But the story is neglected, at least, non-visual story-telling. Scenes and sequences are executed well but on a whole I feel like the film never really congeals. I also have to say I don't think I really gave a damn about the characters, which I'm sure didn't help any. I feel like it was a film where I appreciated the smaller parts rather than the whole. I can't say I was unsatisfied by any means, but I don't think the film really stirred anything in me. I can see how it was an important entry into cinema history (or at least Bresson's approach was) and certainly can see that.
Shit! Have they found me out!?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Elevator to the Gallows - 1958 - Dir. Malle

Malle's first feature follows the story of a murder gone wrong when the culprit finds himself stuck in a malfunctioning elevator. The premise is a little more appealing than the film ends up being, we spend little time in said elevator as we follow around two No Good Teens who have stolen the culprit's car. I couldn't help but feel slightly bothered by that rather major aspect of the plot. Maybe it was a cultural thing, but those teens seemed to be awfully random and seemed to do things for no reason whatsoever at times. This wouldn't be a problem but they are also the prime suppliers of steam the film needed. Our pair of murderers are either wandering around or stuck in an elevator. It's unfortunate because I felt sympathy for the murderers and wanted to see how they ended up, but was inconstantly side-tracked by these teens. The movie has a great feel aided by Miles Davis' sax and Moreau wandering the City by night. Perhaps this dispels some of the tension but it also embodies some of the more memorable moments. It's not a standout film by any means, impressive for Malle's first and apparently it's quite a breakthrough in terms of Moreau and Malle's relationship but I don't know nothing about that. I do like sad sax in the city though.
Elevators seem inconvenient in France.

Rashomon - 1950 - Dir. Kurosawa

I probably wouldn't have watched this movie a second time, I enjoyed it the first time many years back but didn't get too excited about it. Never really saw the point in seeing it again. But then I read an article when asked about the favorite Kurosawa, any good screenwriter worth his salt would answer "Rashomon." I don't exactly remember why that was the case, and naturally, I just don't agree with a statement of that nature. Famous for it's use of disparate viewpoints in storytelling, Rashomon follows two men telling the story of a rape/murder as told by those involved. Each version is significantly different from the one before. Naturally, it can seem a little overhyped being that that storytelling method has been employed so frequently by now. I not sure I feel any particularly strong feelings script-wise. The number of frames in the story are interesting and I would say that the "Rashomon-effect" is done with subtly, leaving us with the feeling that the futile pursuit of truth is not necessarily the pursuit of goodness. The film's cast is made up of Kurosawa regulars. Mifune is a wildly bombastic bandit... perhaps over the top considering his other roles, but he's a lot of fun to watch. And I'm always a big fan Shimura. Perhaps the best aspect of Rashomon is the lighting though. It's spotted and filtered through the trees, making for some absolutely beautiful shots. A nice visual metaphor for the theme.
Ha! Awesome...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

All That Jazz - 1979 - Dir. Fosse

All That Jazz was way crazier than I expected it to be. Although, I suppose I should have expected it, I only had secondhand info about Fosse. Maybe it's because of Black Swan but it seems like Aronofsky takes a lesson from the book of Fosse. Larger than life characters, wild, snappy editing, shaky realities, repetition. First of all, I've never seen Roy Schneider to a role like this and it completely blew me away. I feel like it must have been particularly hard to sell such a dirtbag-ish character but Schneider does so with ease. I'm not a huge musical guy, but Fosse is fun to watch and it works particularly well in the film. Although, I feel like the end number is way longer than it needs to be and kind of kills the mood. Easily my favorite part of the film is the editing, it's just nice and insane. The scene where almost all of the sound is cut out is just absolutely awesome. At first, it's a little hard to keep up with but eventually you manage to piece it together. The movie has it's slow points and I feel like the major criticism I have is that it's a pretty shallow film, you don't get much more out of it than the experience of the viewing. It doesn't seem like Fosse aimed much higher than that though, so I guess he did a perfectly fine job. And I had a blast watching it, so I'm not complainin'. Oh... and did I mention that Schneider kinda charmed the pants off of me?
Ben Vereen is terrified to be touching Roy Schneider's Head.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tentacles - 1977 - Dir. Assonitis

Oh, Tentacles! What could I say about Tentacles that hasn't already been said? I'm not sure exactly. An Italian-American attempt to capitalize on the Jaws money, it's a pretty poorly conceived movie. The basic idea is: If we have a bunch of people attacked while they are in the water, it will basically be the same thing. To be honest, I was pretty shocked by how poorly put together this movie is. It doesn't even try to hit on some of the same tropes that we are used to in mediocre horror movies. Do the villains get their comeuppance? No. In fact, you'd think they were in a different movie by the way they're treated. Do the heroes save the day? No. Bullshit saves the day. Stupid, stupid bullshit. I'm really surprised by how this movie is plotted. It's a series of octopus attack sequences with character who are barely introduced interspersed with scenes of actual actors doing a really shitty job of acting. I mean, fucking Henry Fonda blows ASS in this movie. John Huston is a big ball of bullshit, too. I mean, these guys are REAL ACTORS. If I can say anything positive about this movie is that the score is awesome. It's got hot 70's synth and bubble sound effects. I actually really liked it and tried (unsucessfully to download it) In light of how bad it is, I suppose it's pretty fun to watch. But man, this is a bad movie. Let there be no mistake, but it is entertaining... Sorta...
Oh no! Tentacles!

The Most Dangerous Man in America - 2009 - Dirs: Ehrlich/Goldsmith

Knowing absolutely nothing about Daniel Ellsberg, I was wondering how he became the most dangerous man in America. I suppose leaking Top Secret documents revealing some of America's secrets about the Vietnam war would do that. The documentary follows Ellsberg's early life as a fine, upstanding Patriotic American, who enthusiastically and voluntarily served time in Vietnam to his eventual shift to becomes an Enemy of the State. I feel like there is a somewhat uneven storytelling issue when is comes to Ellsberg's family life, if only because it can be pretty focused on how he met his wife (which was, naturally, a great sea change for him) but then I feel like I miss chunks of it and then all of a sudden he's divorced with two children. I don't mean to be a Nosey Nancy by any means but there was a lack of narrative smoothness in that respect. The rest of the doc is smooth as smoothed butter. Oh! Except for the animated sequences, which are rare but stick out like a shitty looking sore thumb. Anyway, Ellsberg's story is particularly potent because of his 180 degree change and I feel like it's rare to get such an indepth look into the whistleblower and the whistleblowing in general. The subject matter is especially interesting these days with all the wikileaks and talks of transparency and whathaveyou. It's strong documentary except for such nitpicking and certainly leads to some pondering about our relationship with our government (Man, Nixon sure was a hostile SOB!).

Prince of Darkness - 1987 - Dir. Carpenter

Lemme say, I just wish I looked as cool as Victor Wong in this movie. Also, I'm glad I don't look like Jameson Parker in this movie. That man is ridiculous looking. I would consistently think I was being ironic at myself. I mean, how can anyone take that guy seriously?! He's got a mustache and really nice blonde hair! He's perfect for this movie... Anyway, Prince of Darkness is just a lot of ideas that Carpenter had and he happened to make them all into a movie. Usually, things like this end up pretty badly. Just a bunch of random bullshit thrown together in a cold, calculating manner with shitty characters and bad special effects. Lucky for me, I like Carpenter's special effects. Some nice 80's practical effects, none of that computer business. Sure, I didn't give a damn about a single character, but it managed to be entertaining. And the premise is interesting enough to keep me interested. Anytime someone throws physics in with words like Anti-God, I'll bogey with them. It's not the best Carpenter movie, it's like a mid-point between his really shitty stuff and his good stuff. And you can see Alice Cooper as a Hobo. Not everything works, but there's so much thrown at you, that you're bound to enjoy some aspect of the movie. If not... maybe you're just not a Carpenter fan (I don't blame you).

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Plumber - 1979 - Dir. Weir

A short TV movie that ended up being a bonus feature on The Cars That Ate Paris, which I enjoyed enough to give this a shot. I think I may have enjoyed The Plumber even more, which makes sense. It's a little tighter. About a woman who is getting used to the life of a homemaker who finds herself "terrorized" by a rather overbearing Plumber. It's a little like the spiritual ancestor of The Cable Guy. Naturally, one of the more entertaining aspects of the movie is the woman struggling to draw the line of what is acceptable behavior from the Plumber, who knowingly takes advantage of her upper-class guilt and pushes the boundaries further and further, behaving increasingly manic. Where he does manage to go is awesome and the transformation of bathroom is easily one of my favorite aspects of the film. Judy Morris is especially great as the protagonist. I definitely felt for her, but at the same time, she wasn't so likable that I was rooting for her throughout. She's one of those characters who you want to see a little terrorized. Part of the fun is not just seeing what the Plumber will do next, but how long she'll manage to keep up her facade of everything being peachy keen. It's a fun movie, a simple story told extremely well with a great balance of comedy and drama.
Caaable Guy- I'm mean- PLUUUUMBER!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Cars That Ate Paris - 1974 - Dir. Weir

A movie I rented somewhat randomly, not really having a great idea as to what it was about. Throughout the movie, I kept expecting it to get a little more supernatural but it follows a town and their obsession with automobiles, to the degree that their economy seems based on outsiders getting into car accidents in some way. It's Weir's first feature and definitely feels like it. There's a definite unevenness and a strangeness. This makes it a little disjointed of a film but also quite a bit of fun to watch. It's silly and the ending most certainly hits the spot as a gang of youths terrifies the town and our protagonist gets over his fear of driving. It's got some Western/Mad Max touches that warmed my heart. The film has a series of strong moments and fun/creepy ideas and images that makes up for the weakness of the whole. The opening sequence is a good example of that. I always liked what I was watching, but often struggled to put it all together and make sense of it all. By the end, I don't think I ever successfully did, but I look back on the movie with great fondness and even as I write this, I'm remembering more things I liked about it. So maybe it's satisfying in a long-term sense. And I would certainly go for another viewing. Also Bruce Spense shows up! FUN!
You don't wanna cut this car off! LOLOLOLOLOLULZ!