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things fall apart
So it is when distinctions break down. when sex is confused for love and vice versa. when the ephemeral feels like the eternal. when self destruction becomes tantamount to pleasure and hedonism drives rather than informs the meaning of life. it is then and there that the past becomes oblivion and the future a pipe dream. it is typical of Gaspar Noe to bend, break, warp, and reshuffle time in his movies. he takes great reverie in it. it is something worth noting.
here Noe takes an essentially pornographic film and attempts to infuse it with raw emotion, think Linklater's Before Sunrise or even more Charlie Kaufman's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. he does not exactly succeed for the task is impossible, but nor does he fail entirely.
what must be noted or at least noticed is the lack of a future. for all the pretenses of love, for all the sexual encounters between an array of adults there is but one child in the whole movie. dozens of purported adults screwing each other into their graves and only one child to inherit a very lonely future. so it is with hedonism. so it is when you've lost distinctions between words, and meanings become meaningless. your life, your love, your existence, your home, your nation are too rendered meaningless
the breakdown of time becomes palpable beyond the mere characters on screen. where is this Paris that they are at? does it have a past? you'd never tell from this film, and so it doesn't. without a past it must certainly relinquish it's future. again one lonely child.
while i can love this movie and admire it's artistry and what it attempts to do, it must not be confused for art nor beauty. it's lyricism is that of an epitaph for a civilization. it's ugliness like ruins, a warning for the hordes who may inherit what they cannot fathom.
for once the academy got it right
With all due respect to Eastwood's American Sniper, the academy actually got it right with this pick for best picture. Every actor and actress in this given the space to breathe life into characters, every monologue and dialogue hits like a ton of bricks, every scene tries to get towards some fundamental truth of human nature only to have the next scene undermine that character and that purported truth. It's amazing that in the era of comic book universe movies that something like this can get made at all. An absolute must see before you die movie.
Shi ba ban wu yi (1982)
It's a shame that this era of movies came to an end just as they were putting out some of their best stuff. watched back to back with my favorite Super Ninjas, this movie holds up it's end of viewing quite well. this may be my second or third favorite in the genre. the action almost never stops and yet somehow squeezed in is a fairly labyrinth plot of shifting alliances. absolutely amazing choreography. great movie.
Paths of Glory (1957)
a movie that makes you angry
Kubrick doesn't have a reputation as among the greatest directors for no reason. There is a severe under representation of movies about WW1 that are of any decent quality. Kubrick masters this while making the movie not so much about any given war as about bureaucracy and the pedestrian banality which governs the logic of war. Every performance in the movie stands up. The pacing and editing are quick and workman like meaning that even during scenes of dialogue a lot seems to happen, nothing drags. The themes of the movie carry on to an unflinching end that will leave you physically angry. 9/10
what a find!!!
Went into this movie knowing nothing about it. that's probably the way to go. considering how most people i've met have never heard of this, that shouldn't be too difficult. Sam Rockwell gives the performance of a lifetime. The movie is completely thought out and actualized. It plays very very well with emotions while telling a believable sci-fi story. It's often said that Tarkovsky was the master of this but i've seen his movies and i understand the limitation placed on him by the soviets, still his movies are boring and TOO contemplative. this movie manages a great balancing act of entertainment, action, thought provoking, and caring. it's a shame more people haven't heard of it. 9/10
a movie to divide
It really all depends on what you want out of a movie. even within the narrow confines of movies that work entirely on the basis of metaphor, do you want that metaphor front and center like this or do you like it lurking in the background as in most Kubrick films. i wanted to hate this movie going in, but found myself oddly enjoying it while still recognizing it's flaws. It's unbending fidelity towards being metaphorical, combined with it's inability to quite perfectly work out the kinks of that metaphor, and it's habit of taking it's self so seriously makes this a movie that would be perfect for Mystery Science Theater 3000 to lampoon. The whole thing hovers precariously on the precipice of total ridiculousness but in my opinion manages just barely not to go over the edge into farce. The surrealistic nightmare that unfolds in the last 15 minutes might just be gut wrenching enough to keep the whole thing from falling apart. 7.5/10
Kill the Irishman (2011)
waste of resources
The story of Danny Greene is actually a pretty interesting one. The cast here is superb, better than this movie's paint-by-numbers writing and directing deserve. I'm sure at this point in the game it's difficult to find a new angle on 70's era mob pictures (Scorsese pretty much cornered that market) but nothing seems fresh here. There is no perspective no unique take. You know from one minute to the next exactly what is going to happen. It's a tough genre to be in now but that's no excuse for the waste of an overwhelmingly talented cast that is given nothing to do but go through the motions. 4/10
Approaching the Elephant (2014)
only someone in the grips of a theory
anarchists try to build a school based on the idea of no structure, no rules, and democratic involvement. only someone who has spent no time at all around human beings or children would fail to guess how it ends. kids are introduced to democracy without any understanding of the tacit underlying rules which make democracy marginally effective. nothing that can remotely be called education takes place. just hundreds of potential lawsuits as children's safety is repeatedly and brazenly endangered. forget trying to get kids to learn and memorize basic facts about the world. math, geography, spelling, reading, writing, history, music, all take a back seat to pie in the sky social and child development theories. someone should hand the staff of the school a copy of heinlein's Starship Troopers and direct them to the chapter on history and moral philosophy.
as for the movie it's self it's ninety minutes of watching and waiting for the other shoe to drop. a veritable comedy of human folly when reality takes a back seat to ideology.
Special When Lit (2009)
an ambivalence on it's subjects
the subject matter of this "documentary" appears at a glance to be the once and no longer popular game of pinball. it's history, it's demise, et cetera. look again and it's true subject matter becomes the idiosyncratic nature of those who inhabit the closed world of pinball. the filmmakers seem to have an ambivalence regarding these odd people which borders on schizophrenia. at once they are shown endearingly and then again the camera almost begs to linger on their weirdness, to leer and almost mock. much like it's sister film "King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters" the filmmaker seems like an outsider who perhaps enjoys the hobby while sneering at those for whom the hobby is the whole of their life. As a film it's motto might as well be Sartre's "hell is other people" When not spending time deciding between loathing and tender approval of it's subjects a dry and basic history of pinball plays out. more emphasis on this could have gone a long way. as it happens i love the game so to see the game as almost an afterthought in the film is disappointing. so be it. take what you can get.
Black Dynamite (2009)
i AM smiling
Black Dynamite may very well be the funniest movie of first decade of the twentieth century. Upon my first viewing i had to keep pausing and back tracking because i would be laughing so hard i'd miss minutes of the movie at a time. Micheal Jai White writes, directs, and stars in this gem of a movie. If there's any justice in the world this will become a classic right up there with Airplane! It takes the same premise as I'm Gonna Git You Sucker (a great movie in it's own right) and tops it out a notch. Nearly everything in this movie flawlessly spoofs the blaxploitation of the seventies, with Dolemite as it's taking off point. The convoluted "plot", the over the top bad-assery of the lead character and a return of our old friend Arsenio Hall. Watch this movie, recommend it to others.
Enter the Void (2009)
Gaspar Noe has made an excellent movie, nearly flawless. If you're the type of person not scared off by the prospect of a two and a half hour psychedelic meditative treatise exploring death and the afterlife then you will probably think this movie is perfect. My only qualm is the actress who did an excellent job but i believe could have been cast better. This may also qualify as the best LSD movie to watch ever. Half the movie seems to be like some buddhist black light poster come to life. The movie's vision of the afterlife makes it seem heart wrenching. What really could possibly be lonelier than wandering among the living but unable to interact with them?
Such a shame that such a great film is so unknown. On the other hand if you're a fan of Vin Diesel movie you should probably stay away.
even 70 minutes isn't short enough.
in some movies brevity is the movie's saving grace. a film that would be terrible at 100 minutes is quite tolerable at 87 minutes. at a mere seventy minutes Thankskilling is brief but not quite mercifully so. The movie begins to recycle it's own out-of-date pop culture jokes somewhere along the thirty minute mark. This should tell you where it stands at 70. The acting is amateurish to the point of annoyance. The plot stupid and poorly thought out. The special effects are bad, but not bad in a good way. Those hoping for an Eli Roth style Thankgiving will be sorely let down. Generally a movie like this would throw in generous heaps of female nudity to make up for it's utterly slipshod nature. not so here. The silly horror Jack Frost does this same thing a million times better. Don't bother.
one s**t eating scene is a shock, a million is a statistic
this is what passes for art? this is what passes for shocking? for something to be shocking requires one of a few horrific act surrounded on all sides by relative normalcy. wall to wall sodomy and s**t eating ceases to be offensive the way it might in a john waters film and instead makes it tedious. REALLY TEDIOUS. if the goal of this movie is to shock, why not simply offer a real life snuff film of a rape or murder? the film maker seems to want to heap gratuity upon gratuity for it's own sake, so why not go all the way? the underlying philosophy seems to be spite of the fact that most people have some sort of morals or artistic sensibility. the film maker is only bluffing at the notion that we shouldn't have these or that it is us for being hypocrites. congratulate yourself you made rape, sodomy, and coprophagous as boring as any other movie cliché.
if the goal of the movie is artistic or metaphorical, i call bluff on that too. the actors had to perfect an unrealism in order to spout off most of it's absurdest script. "it's a metaphor for fascist Italy..." shut up. you could have set this movie on the moons of Jupiter and it's allege metaphors would have been no further stretched as far as credulity. the fact that something like this is allowed the Criterion treatment is a sad state of affairs for the guardians of high culture. that they value this, whilst they scoff at far better films betrays their monolithic bias against American films no matter what. don't waste two hours of your life on this. pornographic film at least has redeeming qualities. the same cannot be said of this.
Running the Sahara (2007)
interesting yet annoying
this is a great documentary which is handicapped by the overwhelming assholery of the lead runner. socially conscious and well filmed in parts of the world that most Americans know little to nothing about, the movie only drags when the lead runner is either having a tantrum or acting in a manner befitting Machiavelli. the sight of the Sahara desert seems the only locale big enough to move comfortably about with his over inflated ego unencumbered. a scene late in the movie has the organizer trying to explain that he has to leave and the run has gone over schedule, that he has prior engagements, yet the lead runner and central character seems to act like a juvenile in exaggerating the whole thing to some kind of horrible betrayal. then very late in the movie he convinces the other two runners that he can't run, only walk and that they should stay behind and rest and catch up to him as he walks. then completely disregarding what he has told them he runs anyways forcing them to play catch up. the whole thing comes off as manipulative, the egotistical actions of some inner psycho drama. this pecker doesn't deserve the hot wife who occasionally pops up in the movie, he seems like on of those preternaturally obsessed characters from the Hostel movies.
when the prima donna isn't engaging in his drama queen antics there's moments of great beauty and informative analysis. one observation notes of a nomadic people on the Niger border for whom freedom of travel is so central to their life that they refer to houses as "tombs of the living". of course that's easy to say for people who have probably never been much of anywhere else in the world but their familiar grounds.
6 out of 10
perhaps the stereotypes of Americans being impatient with storytelling and in need of action is true. i found myself perpetually bored by this film. this in and of itself would not be such a bad thing, lots of film bore me. but this one actually has some decent storytelling to it. the problem comes from a lack of willingness to edit down the film, to move things along. too many shots of characters sitting around looking as if they are waiting to be filmed or photographed, glances caught at some distant nothing. mock modeling sessions for calvin klein ads. shots that consist of little more than a character walking across the frame. some tighter editing would have brought this same story in at around 45 to 50 minutes and would have lost nothing but fillers and time killers.
i went into beerfest with very low expectations and came out pleasantly surprised. while obviously not on the same level of comic genius as Evil dead 2, Airplane, or Dazed and Confused, Beerfest does make it's self into a watchable and decently funny film, with a merciful amount of female nudity thrown in just to keep your attention. What really would have pushed the movie into real cult territory would have been some sort of reference to thee great beer drinking comedy Strange Brew. a cameo by Rick Moranis or dave Thomas or both as member of canada's drinking team would have been proper homage. (and you can't tell me either actor is too busy, when's the last time you seen either of them). on it's own beer fest is pitched less at gross out humor and more along the lines of an extended Saturday night live skit.
i give it a high 7 out of 10.
there's been a disturbing trend over the last 15 years to call films which are quite obviously propaganda and label them as documentary. at the center of this trend is Micheal moore, but both sides of every political issue seem gleefully willing to commit the same mistake in taxonomy. part of it stems from the fact that the word "propaganda" itself has been so indelibly married to nazism and soviet socialism that in any context it seems to connote inherent falsehood. while this is not necessarily the case it does seem to be the vast public perception of the issue. so instead of admitting to watching propaganda we get documentaries which are chock full of bias opinions specifically chosen to fulfill preconceived notions. when it comes to the issue of global warming on one side you have the propaganda of al gore and on the other side you have this little bit of propaganda. now personally i'm more inclined to believe the point of view that this movie states, the problem is that spotting some of the logical shortcomings is not that difficult of a task. add to that the kind of "i'm a victim" mentality brought on by people skeptical of anthropogenic global warming and you get to wonder if when they say their being persecuted whether it's just hyperbole or whether they really have no historical perspective of what constitutes persecution.
6 out of 10, as much as i want to agree with the subject matter, the obvious biases and numerous rational shortcomings are too much to ignore and do a great disservice to the message.
a film for members of mensa
primer is two movies that either way could stand on their own, but which together provide such a fast paced dialogue and keep-up-with-the-clues plot that the overall effect is mind melting. this is definitely NOT a movie for someone who is looking to be entertained. this movie is the antithesis of independence day. the screenplay seems to be jumping over itself in order to get out even quicker than possible. nearly the first 20 minutes of the film is people talking over each other in half finished sentences that are constructed entirely out of technical jargon and blatherskite. those who are up to the challenge and can follow along are rewarded in the second half where ideas and paradoxes take over in place of dialogue. very few people are going to like this movie and it would be a true buzz kill for a Saturday night brew and view. but watched alone, this film and the numerous conceptual puzzles contained within it's overlapping madness can become an obsession.
i give it a nine out of ten. it's pitched way to high for my mind and the movie is strictly limited in the type of mood required to watch it.
this movie made me go a big rubbery one. this was way more emotionally resonant than Kane. when happy birthday swells....
how do i explain this to friends? how do i recommend this to the derelicts and scumbags i proudly call my friends? i'm not even sure what to say to recommend it. it's something intangible but raw. i can't really refer to anything in particular except the movie was just strong. well worth the $10 criterion disc. this may be one of my new favorites. maybe it's all the cold medicines talking. or maybe that this is kind of like Kane in reverse. the big emotional pay off right in the middle. or maybe it's because unlike Kane our protagonist Watanabe is actually a sympathetic character. is it even possible to watch this movie in groups of people?
Black Snake Moan (2006)
good lord almighty
this is a great movie. good music. awesome performance by Samuel l Jackson. good writing. it's unapologetically religious, which i suppose if a movie has to be religious it should be all "aww shucks" about it. the presence of Justin timberlake is a distraction although minor. but here's what it comes down to. Christina ricci is scorching. she is so hot in this movie she could singe lead. it's embarrassing how hot she is. i felt the uncontrollable desire to fertilize her through the screen via some metaphysical conjuring trick. watching this alone in the theater i felt somehow dirty. it was difficult, truth be told, to even give much thought to the plot, dialogue, camera work, visual strategies, cinematography or much of anything else in the movie because she was such a marvelous feast for the eyes. i like Christina ricci perfect 10 out of 10
out of whack
Without going too much into the politics of this movie i don't think i necessarily agree with it or come to similar conclusion. As a piece of entertainment the movie works, as a piece of propaganda (no that's not a bad thing) i simply choose not to buy it hook line and sinker. I'll leave it at that.
The plot in syriana is a complex weave of inter-connected events pertaining to politics, business, the middle east, Islam, and violence. The obvious comparison is of course this movie's twin, Traffic a similarly structured movie about the war on drugs. I think traffic works better for a few reasons. For one there is no real moral center in this film. In Traffic Bencio Del Toro plays an honest cop fenced in by pragmatics. In this movie everyone is something of a slime ball. The drug issue is a little easier to dispel because it's a lot easier to say end the war on drugs than it is to say end dependence on energy. Syriana also tack the interwoven style of traffic and revs it up a notch, but that leads to an overflow of hard to follow plots.
The acting is fine and the direction efficient but not crisp enough. the movie could have taken more time and tried to flesh out character and plot but it would have been pushing four hours at that point. It is entertaining trying to put the puzzle together and even though it occasionally delves into cliché' (walking away from an explosion without flinching is hardly inconspicuous but looks cool on film). Multiple viewings may help clear up the plot but it shouldn't be necessary to watch twice.
The Departed (2006)
not really scorsese's best work
The Departed is a great movie that suffers towards the end from an excessive number of plot twists. Everything else is in it's right place and yet, and yet, and yet... it still does not have the feeling of greatness that casino or taxi driver had. Why? i'm not sure. I have the feeling though that this will eventually grow into a descent drinking movie thanks in most part to Jack Nicholson's one-off mafia boss. Plenty of laughs to be had there. The movie for me had the unfortunate luck of following a preview for 300 which i couldn't get out of my head for most of the movie.
8 out of 10
Dolemite is awesome. Rudy Ray Moore's rhymin kung fu pimp with horrible choreographed action sequences is about as close as you can get to becoming a spoof of a genre without actually being spoof. Citizen Kane this may not be nor Les Infant Au Revoir, but this is undoubtedly genius in it's own right. The production values in this movie are so bad they could qualify as existential special effects. The plot drags a little in the middle but the power of such a cheap premise as kung fu hookers is enough to bring all but the snootiest film lovers through. The infamous ever present boom mike evokes shades of the gloriously incompetent Ed Wood and never grows unfunny. I sometimes wonder if the boom mike was left in on purpose as commentary on the ridiculous aspects of movies in general but i usually get distracted by erotic scenes that lack eroticism to the point of high art mundanacity. Everything is this movie is alive and breathing, dripping with desperate longing to be simultaneously loved and reviled. It works.
9 out of 10
The Changeling (1980)
The changeling is one of those quiet atmospheric movies that seems to have had profound influence on the Japanese horror genre that itself has influenced American horror today. George C Scott (they'll see the big board!) plays a loner composer who loses his family in a brutal manner than moves into a galactically large haunted mansion. From there the plot moves on in a way that will no doubt be familiar to today's audiences. little discovers, sherlock holmes style digging for answers, research, historical revelations et cetera. The movie holds together quite nicely and adds a few flourishes of touch that might serve as trifling pap in some of today's movies. The movie may also have a good secondary quality of being a descent sleep movie for it's mostly subtle and patient plotting. I'd recommend it to those who like the modern horror movies as an abject lesson in the history of their preferred genre.
everybody split up
An interesting idea for a movie is splitting the screen and letting dual realities run along a very similar plot. What the director is trying to suggest? The different perspective of the same situation as viewed by different genders? The infinite possibility of infinite possibilities? A clever trick to turn an otherwise slow moving meet-cute into something artsy? I don't know. The premise doesn't entirely work for me though as the more jesting aspects of my nature keep imaging the Batphone ringing at some point. Other than that there isn't much for me to say about the movie other than I think it's a more toned down, less passionate, more conservative version of the characters from Linklater's Before Sunrise movies. And Aaron Eckhart who normally seems to be a terrible terrible actor manages to actually pull off some adequate acting. I still would have chosen another lead though. Fans of Robocop may not be entertained.
5 out of 10