Archive for December 2013
From an interview with writer/director Paul Shrader, an excerpt regarding “the idea that the power of the [film] medium is fading, from a cultural perspective:
PS: It’s not so much cinema as it is the whole theatrical construct – the idea of the projected image in front of a crowd in a darkened room. That’s going away. The two hour format is under siege. But the whole concept of audio-visual entertainment is expanding. How much difference is there between a five-minute thing on Vimeo and a thirteen hour season of The Killing? They’re both movies.
Tribeca: What are your personal thoughts on the reason the communal aspect of filmgoing is fading?
PS: Well, films were never communal just because people wanted a communal experience – it just happened to be the economic model that made the most sense. You could sell a lot of tickets and show the film at the same time to everyone. On a nickelodeon, of course, which predated movie theaters, only one person could watch the movie at a time. Nobody said, we want to sit in a hot room together! That’s just how it was. But it doesn’t have to be that way anymore. You know, this myth that people will always want to go out to the movies, they’ll always want a communal experience – I don’t know that that’s necessarily true. If you want to watch the next episode of Mad Men, would you really prefer to watch it in a theater? I don’t think so.
Tribeca: Do you see any value in that communal experience, or do you think it’s a romanticized notion?
PS: In a certain environment there’s a value – if you have kids. That’s why kids movies are still so successful in theaters – parents like to take their kids and let them interact with the other kids, they can all interact. But with all of the screens available to us to watch media on, it’s not necessarily the ideal experience anymore. I always prefer to go to an empty theater – I’d rather go to an eleven o’clock matinee than an eight o’clock show, so I don’t have to be there with all those people. The seats are uncomfortable, when there’s lots of people there you can’t get up so easily, so I prefer to go with less people there.
“The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts.”
NSFW 1949 French short film. Bringing meat to market ain’t no walk in the park.
Each year I create a list of my favorite films and write a little something about each one. I try to do this as close to the end of the year as possible, but since studios like to cram a bunch of good films in around Christmas/New Years (the awards gambit) I sometimes don’t get to see some films until January, if not considerably later the following year if they do not come to a theater in the Cedar Valley and I have to wait for the DVD.
While I love telling people about the movies I like, sometimes writing about it feels like a chore, especially when I wait too long to do it. So to prevent that from happening this year, I’m going to try write about the films I’ve seen so far that I liked, and write a follow-up post in Jan-Feb 2014 for the end-of-year holdouts.
I used to rank the films on my lists, but I’ve tried to avoid that in recent years. Comparisons are an apples to oranges game and in hindsight make little sense other than to satisfy some primordial desire to rank things. In recent years I have not always felt enamored to one particular movie over the others (a best-of-the-best) but that isn’t the case this year.
So here goes…
Evil Dead – A respectable remake of one of my favorite horror movies. I thought this version hit all the right notes – it was disgusting, bloody, loud, violent, bizarre and funny. Fans of the 1981 original and/or the 1987 sequel/remake should welcome this one into the fold. In an era when horror films insists on being taken seriously (with claims of “based on a true story” or “inspired by real events”) this film is proud of being preposterous.
Pacific Rim – An under-appreciated summer monster movie. Think Godzilla plus Transformers, on a global scale. Another great film from Guillermo Del Toro, who also made “Pan’s Labyrinth” and the Hellboy films. My favorite scene was Mako’s flashback to childhood, being chased down the street by a giant kaiju. Notice the camerawork during the incredibly high-angle shot, how the little girl can be seen running down a rubble-strewn street.
Amour – Last year’s Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film, this movie covers much of the same ground as “On Golden Pond’ but with far more heartbreak. An elderly couple cope with various debilitations as a result of a stroke (and aging in general). Love and pain are sometimes demonstrated through the same action.
Gravity – My favorite film of the year. Previous thoughts here.
Before Midnight – In 1995 Richard Linklater directed Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in “Before Sunrise” as twentysomethings who meet on a train traveling across Europe and spend an impromptu evening together in Vienna. Linklater, Hawke and Delpy reunited in “Before Sunset” in 2004, set in Paris, where their characters reunite and attempt to rekindle the flame they once had for one another. This year the third installment came out, just as touching and introspective as the first two. The couple discuss, often at length: parenthood, marriage and divorce, juggling careers vs. family needs, falling in and out of love, infidelity and perseverance. This film is great by itself; all three watched sequentially create the finest fictional version of the “Up” documentary series.
All Is Lost – a patient film about human survival, like “127 Hours” but at a more meditative pace. Robert Redford in a one-man show as a yachter whose ship is damaged once by a floating shipping container and later by a storm. When I say a one-man show, I mean just that – he is the only person seen or heard from in the entire film (and the only name in the credits, billed as “Our Man”). He performs his tasks methodically; patching up his rig, attempting to repair a radio to call for help, working against an constantly-flooding cabin, navigating a storm, recovering from injury, engaging a life raft… but I will say no more. This film reminded me of Gus Van Sant’s little-seen “Gerry” (the first film in his death trilogy).
Captain Phillips – a real-life edge-of-your-seat thriller by Paul Greengrass, director of “United 93” and the second and third films in the Bourne series. I invoke no hyperbole when I say Tom Hanks does his best acting in this movie. Greengrass refuses to allow the antagonists of his film to be one-dimensional cookie-cutter villains (e.g. the hijackers in “United 93”) and first-time Somali actor Barkhad Abdi brings so much humanism to his role as the pirate captain that it was hard not to have sympathy for him by the end.
After watching “Gravity”, “All is Lost” and this film, I’m not sure I ever want to leave the safe confines of dry land ever again.
12 Years a Slave – During most of the movie I was overcome with a feeling of despair. To quote Susan Wloszczyna’s review, I felt like I had “witnessed American slavery in all its appalling horror for the very first time”. Hard to stomach but impossible to stop watching. Amongst many solid performances, I was drawn to Michael Fassbender as the wicked slaveowner Edwin Epps, and Lupita Nyong’o as his prized slave Patsey.
Other films I’ve seen this year and liked include:
-the global warming documentary “Chasing Ice”
-“56 Up”, Michael Apted’s latest documentary in his multi-decade series examining the lives of a dozen Britons from across the socioeconomic ladder
-“Flight” with its insane opening crash sequence
-Greta Gerwig’s charm in “Frances Ha”
-Joss Whedon’s modern take on Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing”
-Matthew McConaughey as a criminal on the run in “Mud”
-last year’s Oscar winner for Best Documentary “Searching for Sugar Man”
-summertime blues flick “The Way Way Back”
-Disney’s homage to decades of arcade games “Wreck It Ralph”
Also, between my Hulu Plus subscription and the UNI Library, I’ve seen a number of great older movies, which I also wanted to highlight: classic Japanese anime “Akira”, early Wim Wenders road film “Alice in the Cities”, 60s black comedy “Divorce Italian Style”, French murder mystery “Elevators to the Gallows”, harrowing Holocaust film “The Grey Zone”, the visually stunning black & white 70s Czech medieval action art film “Marketa Lazarova”, the tender Altman western set in snowy Washington State “McCabe & Mrs. Miller”, fun adventure/escape film “Night Train to Munich”, personal minimalist story “No Impact Man”, feudal Japanese horror film “Onibaba”, the ever-fascinating Tilda Swinton in “Orlando”, Albert Finney doing some mighty fine acting in “Under the Volcano” and white-knuckled 50s French action/suspense film “The Wages of Fear”.
This I want to see:
Called “Black Angel,” the 25-minute movie was written, directed and produced in 1979 by Roger Christian, an art director who won an Academy Award for his set decoration work on “Star Wars.”
“Black Angel,” which was made with the support of “Star Wars” director George Lucas, was screened in Europe and Australia as a short film just before showings of “The Empire Strikes Back” in 1980.
It was never screened again.
Until recently, Christian had assumed the original film prints were lost. Now, thanks to a serendipitous discovery by an archivist at Universal Pictures and services volunteered by Emeryville, Calif., visual effects company Athena Studios, the movie has come back to life.
This week a digital restoration of the movie made its North American theatrical premiere at the 36th annual Mill Valley Film Festival in Marin County. Christian plans to release the film on Netflix and Apple’s iTunes early next year.
I stopped shaving my face in late September mostly out of laziness. Ten weeks later and this beard is starting to look like a permanent addition to my face. I say that now, knowing it will likely disappear when spring comes around.
A number of co-workers as well as relatives over Thanksgiving have asked me if I stopped shaving for “Movember”. I told them I didn’t know what that was. Apparently “Movember” takes place in November, the purpose being men grow a moustache to raise awareness for cancer research or something like that. I’m not sure how growing facial hair raises awareness for anything other than the hair on your face. Seems like an empty gesture, like those magnetic “support the troops” ribbons people used to have on their cars back during the Iraq War #2. Or like how wearing pink is suppose to raise awareness for breast cancer research.
Raising awareness is fine and all, but if people were really interesting in finding a cure, they’d donate money to a reputable charity focused on cancer research. But hey, Americans are lazy and selfish and can’t be bothered to do anything that actually requires real sacrifice. Foregoing the razor, well that’s easy! Anyone can do that. Which is why so many more men give up shaving then donate money. The path of least resistance (or sacrifice) is the path most people will take to suit their needs.
There is also a “No-Shave November”, which I think is what people assume I was participating in, though they called it Movember. So I not only had to point out the difference between Movember and No-Shave November, but I had to declare I was not participating on either. Ask me a simple question at work and you’re likely to receive a lecture in response.
So men participating in No-Shave November don’t shave their faces. For those men who, for whatever reason, regularly shave their chests/arms/legs, do they refrain from shaving there as well? Can women participate in No-Shave November? I think it’s only fair if women can refrain from shaving their legs. Actually, I’ve never understood why woman are expected to shave their legs but men aren’t. I’ve also never understood why it’s okay for parents to mutilate their infant sons’ genitals in the name of circumcision but it’s considered barbaric to do the same to infant girls. In my eyes it’s barbaric regardless of the gender. But I digress.