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His Girl Friday
Roberta Loved (2002)
A moving and unique twist on the one night stand...
I caught this playing on the film festival circuit recently and it's possibly one of the most brave and mature short films I've seen - EVER. Brocka writes his stories and characters fearlessly (haven't you seen Rick and Steve!?) and he's not afraid to shock you with this haunting short film about a strange date between an overweight, forgotten secretary named Roberta and a lost, aging male escort...
Keep an eye on this director and catch Roberta when it plays at your local film festival!
All the Real Girls (2003)
Within two films David Gordon Green has established himself as a strong director with a lyrical, thougtful voice. I waited in a 2 hour line to catch this at Sundance03, and it was worth it. This is a beautiful coming of age film about the fragility of young love and the pain of having to grow up and take the reins of responsibility. As soon as this comes out, catch it!
Added bonus: Paul Schneider is going to be a stone cold indie movie god.
I laughed, I cried, I wished there were more episodes of Rick and Steve. Episode three packs the most comedic punch, but well-defined characters, snappy dialogue and near-perfect timing make all the installments laugh-out-loud hilarious. Caution: not for the PC nor weak of heart. But if you're all PC or weak of heart, perhaps you should be watching some Ron Howard movie.
The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)
Need you really be convinced of the Coen Brothers' genius?
I don't know what sort of person would give this movie a 1 rating. If you're looking for old Hollywood craftsmanship/storytelling cut with dark cynicism & deadpan humor, thrown together with great characters and a twisty-turny noir-esque plotline, well, wow, you should probably run run RUN out to see this. I'm usually more eloquent when it comes to leaving these comments, but the Coen Brothers have once again reduced me to fangirl worship.
Cecil B. DeMented (2000)
I hate mainstream cinema too!
I'm sorry, this is not as bad as everyone on the planet makes it out to be. I think it's worth it all to see Kevin Nealon playing Forrest Gump in "Gump Again", the mythical sequel to the sugary-sweet Zemeckis popcorn flick. It's worth it for every insider joke, and wow, wonders of wonders, Melanie Griffith is ACTUALLY GOOD.
Not the documentary for me...
To each his own, of course, but I could not make myself interested in the ups and downs of starting a new dot com. I did not find all the talk about venture capital, strategic moves or group meetings compelling in the least. Perhaps I've been spoiled by watching one too many Maysles brothers docos, which always seem to pull back the curtain on the human condition. But after the third instance of someone screaming into a phone at a business partner, I tuned out. A film certainly for those in the business or tech world, a slight turn-off for the rest of us.
Nema-ye Nazdik (1990)
One day on a bus, an out of work father of two is mistaken for Mohsen Makhmalbaf, a famous Iranian filmmaker. He carries through with the ruse until he gets caught, and the family takes him to court, accusing him of fraud. The story is told through layers of flashback and shifting points of view. The look of the film is just as dynamic, using all sorts of film techniques - handheld, grainy 16 mm stock, the subtle use of shifting focus, and the all important close-up.
People tend to say that Abbas Kiarostami's style is a dead-crawl pace coupled with dry documentary images, but I've found his films to be wonderfully unravelling puzzles, full of frustrations and moments of perfect understanding. At times I think the key to Kiarostami's work is to simply earn it - the film may seem hard at first, you might be lost in the story, but don't give up! If you hang in there, you'll be rewarded with an unforgettable ending, like the one here in Close-up.
Pépé le Moko (1937)
Does he love the girl... or her jewels?
An exotic and tragic tale of dashing Pepe Le Moko and how his weakness for women inevitably costs him more than he ever expected. Pepe is trapped in a hazy, crowded den of international thieves known only as 'The Casbah' when he meets Gaby, the jewelry-laden mistress of an older man. She reminds him of Paris, and all the sophistication and beauty of that city he hasn't seen in years. After their introduction, Pepe can only think of the elegant young land with the twinkling diamonds, and he neglects his gypsy girlfriend Inez. Her constant jealousy pushes the story into darker territory.
Certainly distant cousins of the fatalistic American film noir, it's also a perfect example of the movement now called "Poetic Realism", in the same category as Le Jour Se Leve or La Grand Illusion. Jean Gabin does an excellent job as the dour and trapped Pepe, but then again, he's always excellent. The film drags here in there, caught up on its story points, but the lush visuals are usually enough to keep the viewer's attention. May not be appreciated with one viewing! I already want to see it again.
3 Women (1977)
Bergman and Dali and Altman, oh my!
I have been stalking this movie for probably a year or two, after my boyfriend reported having stayed up late to watch some "freaky movie with Shelley Duvall whose character constantly talks about tuna salad recipes". The story itself is pure Bergman (women switch personalities, a la Persona), an extended dream sequence feels like something Dali daydreamed about, and Millie's rambling self-importance smacks of Altman's usual sharp eye for characterization. I'm glad I managed to force a friend to tape it for me (she's afraid of Shelley Duvall) because now I back the tape up and write down some of those great McCall's recipes. Heh.
Mashgh-e Shab (1989)
Cartoons or Homework? An eternal struggle...
Kiarostami exposes some of the hardships of being a young student in Iran. With a few simple shots and a few basic questions, he manages to sketch out both the problems and the joys of childhood.
Kiarostami (playing himself, or simply "playing director") sets up his camera for a few days in a grade school in order to find out about children and their attitudes and struggles with homework. Kids of every personality (from hyper to shy, bragging to quiet) all felt the need to lie about the importance of homework in their life. We laugh each time a young interviewee tells a small fib and says they prefer the difficulty of their homework to watching cartoons after school. But often the truth of the matter is they reason they struggle with their homework is because both parents might be illiterate, or older brothers and sisters provide little support as well. Homework often takes a back seat to the reality of life for these children who are torn between the obligations of being a child and the obligations of being an active member of a family struggling to make ends meet.
An excellent little film - hard-going for the the impatient moviegoer who might need EVERYTHING spelled out for him/her, but for the rest of us, it's a joy to pull out the many meanings and truths embedded in this film.
Khane-ye doust kodjast? (1987)
A Journey Through A Child's Eyes
WHERE IS MY FRIEND'S HOME is a bittersweet, subtle film about a simple mix-up. When young Ahmed discovers he has taken his best friend Nematzedeh's notebook, he's determined to get it back to him, as the young boy is dangerously close to expulsion and can no longer risk their teacher's wrath. He sets out for his friend's neighboring town only to discover finding him amongst the winding, steep streets is no easy task.
In line with Kiarostami's body of work, he never feels the need to spell out plot points, characters' feelings, or the atmosphere of a scene through heavy dialogue. For example, the moment when Ahmed realizes he has Nematzedeh's notebook, we only see him remove his notebook...and then a second identical one. His shock is enough, we don't need to HEAR it's his friend's notebook. We can see it register on his face immediately. Also characteristic of his style, WIMFH pays special attention to the feelings of children, and the injustice of the adult world. And as usual, Kiarostami pulls a wonderful, naturalistic performances from all his child actors.
The L.A. County Museum of Art is currently holding a retrospective of Kiarostami's work, and this film by far is one of my favorites of his work. The quiet climax of this film is so simple and joyous that there was an audible gasp in the theater, a gasp of refreshing delight. Kiarostami may be hard going for the average movie fan, but I believe the rewards of a film like this are too great to pass this by for cinefiles of foreign film.
Arlington Road (1999)
Hitchcock would have loved it!
Neighbors with a past, a man on a mission, his girlfriend that doesn't believe him. Arlington Road definitely had the claustrophobic, paranoid atmosphere of a Hitchcock movie---think North by Northwest with a bomb. It will make you think and frighten you at the same time.
See this movie if you like getting the shivers.