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Archive for October, 2009

big lebowski 2

(USA 1998 117m) DVD1/2

The Dude abides

p  Ethan Coen  d  Joel Coen  w  Ethan Coen, Joel Coen  ph  Roger Deakins  ed  Roderick Jaynes, Tricia Cooke  m  Carter Burwell  art  Rick Heinrichs

Jeff Bridges (Jeff Lebowski – The Dude), John Goodman (Walter Sobchak), Julianne Moore (Maude Lebowski), Steve Buscemi (Donny), Peter Stormare (Uli the nihilist), David Huddleston (The Big Lebowski), John Turturro (Jesus Quintana), Sam Elliott (The Stranger), David Thewlis (Knox Harrington), Ben Gazzara (Jackie Treehorn), Tara Reid (Bunny Lebowski), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Brandt), Flea, Aimee Mann,

The very term cult has been so overused there have been times when one wishes the word would be eradicated from the language.  One can think of numerous cult films not included in this list – Withnail & I, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Sir Henry at Rawlinson End, etc – but The Big Lebowski is one of the few exceptions to the rule.  It totally split critics ten years ago on release, some finding it a shambling mess, others adoring its quirks and rambling narrative.  One can only assume the former didn’t get the joke, for though it may not be the Coens’ best film – see Fargo or No Country for Old Men for that – it’s their most enjoyable, their most beloved.  (more…)

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mother and son 1

(Russia/Germany 1997 71m) DVD1/2

Aka. Mat I syn

I am seized by a suffocating nightmare

p  Thomas Kufus  d  Alexandr Sokurov  w  Yuri Arabov  ph  Alexei Yodorov  ed  Leda Semyonova  m  Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka, Otmar Nussio, Giuseppe Verdi  art  Vera Zelinskaya

Alexei Ananishov (son), Gudrun Geyer (mother),

I remember discussing Sokurov’s film soon after I first saw it with a fellow film buff who asked me how bleak it was on a scale of 1 to 10.  I told him, without resorting to simple numbers, that, to quote the hyperbole comparisons favoured by many critics these days, it made Robert Bresson look like Oliver Stone.  He nearly choked on his Kia-Ora, and simply said “shit!” in a sort of slow drawl worthy of comparison to Clay Davis the corrupt grafter in The Wire

            I wasn’t exaggerating any.  It’s also one of the simplest films of its era.  It focuses on the last hours of a dying middle-aged mother in a harsh, remote land not too far from the sea.  We’re not entirely sure of her malady – possibly a heart defect – we only know that it’s fatal and that her days are very much numbered.  She is tended to by her adult son who lovingly and painstakingly tries to ensure that her final moments are as restful as can be, carrying her outside to see the countryside – to rest against a birch tree, to lie in the tall grass, to breathe in the sea air and hear the waves cascading against the shore.  Finally, he brings her back to the barn-like dwelling where she eventually expires. (more…)

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being john 1

(USA 1999 112m) DVD1/2

I think, I feel, I suffer

p  Michael Stipe, Sandy Stern, Steve Golin, Vincent Landay  d  Spike Jonze  w  Charlie Kaufman  ph  Lance Acord  ed  Eric Zumbrunnen  m  Carter Burwell  art  K.K.Barrett

John Cusack (Craig Schwartz), Cameron Diaz (Lotte Schwartz), Catherine Keener (Maxine Lund), John Malkovich (John Horatio Malkovich), Orson Bean (Dr Lester), Mary Kay Place (Floris), K.K.Dodds (Wendy), David Fincher (Christopher Bing),

It’s hard a decade on to think back to a time when we didn’t know Charlie Kaufman; a world without Charlie Kaufman.  Indeed, at times one wonders if indeed the world still does include Kaufman, when one considers his mercurial talent for showing things way beyond surreal.  Is he truly of this world?  It’s like Stephen Hawking suddenly decided to become one of the Python team.  Take the plotline of this, his first success… (more…)

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all about my mother 1

(Spain 1999 101m) DVD1/2

Aka. Todo Sobre Mi Madre

Children are not made in a day

p  Pedro Almodóvar  d/w  Pedro Almodóvar  ph  Alfonso Beato  ed  José Salcedo  m  Alberto Iglesias  art  Antxón Gómez 

Cecilia Roth (Manuela), Marisa Paredes (Huma Rojo), Penélope Cruz (Hermana Rosa), Antonia San Juan (Agrado), Eloy Azorin (Esteban), Toni Canto (Lola), Candela Peña (Nina), Rosa Maria Sardà (Rosa’s mother), Fernando Fernan Gomez (Rosa’s father), Carlos Lozano (Mario), Cayetana Guillen Cuervo (Mamen),

There had been hints in Live Flesh that Pedro Almodóvar was achieving a hitherto sense of maturity in his work.  But what made his next film seem all the more astonishing was not that this newfound maturity was so plain to see but that he did it with the very same sort of characters that populated his earlier, extravagant sex comedies.  I mean, the plot is the sort of thing the working class Yorkshire playwright played by Graham Chapman in that immortal Python sketch might write about if his writer’s cramp would only go away. 

            Manuela, a counsellor at a local Madrid hospital specialising in organ donation, finds her private life imitate her work when her young son, Esteban, is tragically killed on the night of his 18th birthday when he is run down by a car chasing after another vehicle taking away the star of the play he’d just seen as a birthday treat.  Turning her back on her life, Manuela runs off to Barcelona, from whence she had fled 18 years previously to have her son.  She intends to look up her son’s father, Lola, a transvestite formerly called Esteban, like his son.  In doing so she befriends her old transsexual friend Agrado and her friend Rosa, a nun working in a shelter who, it transpires, it pregnant with another child of Lola’s, and that both are HIV positive.  In addition, Manuela looks up the actress, Huma Roja, who she saw that fateful night in the very same play, ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, she once played Stella in herself many years previously.  She then befriends not only Roja but Roja’s heroin addicted co-star and lesbian lover Nina.  (more…)

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boogie 1

(USA 1997 156m) DVD1/2

That is a giant cock!

p  Lloyd Levin, Paul Thomas Anderson, John Lyons, Joanne Sellar  d/w  Paul Thomas Anderson  ph  Robert Elswit  ed  Dylan Tichenor  m  Toby Emmerich  art  Bob Ziembicki  cos  Mark Bridges

Mark Wahlberg (Eddie Adams/Dirk Diggler), Burt Reynolds (Jack Horner), Julianne Moore (Amber Weeks), John C.Reilly (Reed Rothchild), Don Cheadle (Buck Shore), Heather Graham (Rollergirl), Luis Guzman (Maurice Rodriquez), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Scotty J.), William H.Macy (Little Bill), Alfred Molina (Rehad Jackson), Philip Baker Hall (Floyd Gondolli), Ricky Jay (Kurt Longjohn), Robert Ridgely (Colonel James), Nicole Ari Parker (Becky Barnett), Melora Walters (Jessie St Urgent),

Looking back a decade or so on, and pausing briefly to shake the cranium and murmur tempus fugit, Boogie Nights looks more and more like a seminal nineties movie, yet unlike say Pulp Fiction or Fight Club it’s a period piece.  It’s rather Anderson’s confidence, nay audacity, to do things with the camera that hadn’t been done before so that, when inferiors rip him off, writers discuss their use of ‘Anderson’ shots. 

            Eddie Adams is a seventeen year old bus boy who wants to make it big.  The only part of him that is big – thirteen inches to be precise – is his penis, and it doesn’t take long for porn king Jack Horner to pick up on it and, with the help of his lover/star Amber Waves and live-in starlet Rollergirl – named because she never takes off her skates – inveigles Eddie into their world and set out to make him a star of late seventies porn under the name, suggested by Eddie, of Dirk Diggler. (more…)

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                       John Douglas Thompson as “Brutus Jones”

by Sam Juliano

      As I prepare for a quick kidney stone procedure on Wednesday morning, I have been sidelined from any frantic weekend activity, but I did manage to see two films in the theatre and a theatrical work at the Irish Repetory Theatre on 22nd Street in Manhattan.

The absolutely tremendous production of Eugene O’Neil’s THE EMPEROR JONES  on Saturday night (last night of previews) contained an extraordinary performance by John Douglas Thompson, who last year shined in an excellent off-Broadway production of OTHELLO at the Duke. The drama, which officially opens today, is about Brutus Jones, a black American convicted of murder who escapes from a chain gang and becomes the despot of a tiny Caribbean island. It portrays blacks alternately as violent, superstitious and lazy, it includes symbols of primitivism like tom-toms and a witch doctor, and is written in dialect. The staging and lighting was imaginitive and the pupetry was remarkable. Of course it did bring to mind the 1933 film with Paul Robeson and Rex Ingram, directed by Dudley Murphy, which I have on an Image DVD and need to revisit.

I only managed two films in the theatre, and am currently working on a review of one, Spike Jonze’s WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE,  which I saw twice at a brand new Secaucus multiplex which for one week is offering free tickets.  I was extremely disappointed by the film, and can well understand why it sharply divided critics.  None of my five kids cared for it either.  Yes, it’s “art house” but that doesn’t make it good at all as it’s ponderous and badly written, even if the young star, Max Records does give an arresting performance.  I am ashmed to admit I saw a film like THE STEPFATHER, but again, i took advantage of the free admittance, and I was overuled by Lucille.  Ha!

Where the Wild Things Are ** (Friday night; Secaucus multiplex)

The Stepfather 0 stars (Saturday afternoon; Secaucus)

I was hoping to see a critically-priased Chilean film titled THE MAID over the weekend, but perhpas next week, if I am feeling better.

The Yankees currently lead their American pennant series 2-0, while David Schleicher’s beloved Phillies are tied with the Dodgers 1-1.

     Around the blogosphere there’s some great stuff.  I’ve provided a partial listing here as I’m not 100%:

Tony d’Ambra’s latest post at FilmsNoir.net is titles “Betty Draper Found in Noir City”:

http://filmsnoir.net/film_noir/betty-draper-found-in-noir-city.html

Effervescent Kevin Olson is getting ready for his week-long Italian blog-a-thon at Hugo Stigliz Makes Movies:

http://kolson-kevinsblog.blogspot.com/2009/10/get-pumped-were-four-days-away-from.html

At Craig Kennedy’s “Living in Cinema” there’s been a raging controversy over “Where the Wild Things Are,” which Craig loved and I did not.  Conversation did get a bit heated, but all is well.  It’s all under his popular ‘Weekend Forecast’:

http://livingincinema.com/2009/10/15/weekend-forecast-the-wild-things-are-here/

John Greco’s brand new post is a review of Kazan’s The Arrangement at “24 Frames” in his continuing coverage of the director’s works:

http://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/2009/10/18/the-arrangement-1969-elia-kazan/

Dee Dee’s “Darkness to Light” a.k.a. Noirish City, continues to be the place to be during her rollicking Halloween countdown, with a piece up on Karloff’s animated-short “The Mad Monster Party”:

http://noirishcity.blogspot.com/2009/10/31-days-to-halloween-countdowncontinues_16.html

One of our favorite people, Dave Hicks, continues his exhaustive examination of every year in cinema, and he’s presently at one of the greatest of years, 1989, with his review of Kenneth Branagh’s magnificent Henry V:

http://goodfellamovies.blogspot.com/2009/10/1989-henry-v-kenneth-branagh.html (more…)

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reservoir 1

(USA 1992 99m) DVD1/2

K-Billy’s super sounds of the 70s weekend keeps on trucking

p  Lawrence Bender  d/w  Quentin Tarantino  ph  Andrzej Sekula  ed  Sally Menks  art  David Wasco  cos  Betsy Heimann

Harvey Keitel (Mr White), Tim Roth (Mr Orange), Steve Buscemi (Mr Pink), Michael Madsen (Vic Vega, Mr Blonde), Christopher Penn (Nice Guy Eddie), Eddie Bunker (Mr Blue), Quentin Tarantino (Mr Brown), Lawrence Tierney (Joe Cabot), Randy Brooks (Holdaway), Kirk Baltz (Marvin),

Who shot Nice Guy Eddie?” ran the article in Empire magazine soon after the film’s release and we never did get an answer.  But who cares?  Though perhaps more polished debuts were made in the nineties, none had the impact and originality of Reservoir Dogs and, though much of the plot was ripped off from Ringo Lam’s City on Fire, accusations of plagiarism are harsh in the extreme as it’s so much of an improvement on the earlier film.  All great artists steal and, from its plotline of a robbery going wrong and the later congregation of the survivors in a disused warehouse to figure out why, Tarantino, as Robert McKee said, “made it into something wonderful.” (more…)

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Freeway (no 49)

freeway 1

(USA 1996 101m) DVD1

Look who got beat with the ugly stick!

p  Brad Wyman, Chris Hanley, Oliver Stone  d/w  Matthew Bright  ph  John Thomas  ed  Maysie Hoy  m  Danny Elfman, Tito Larriva  art  Pam Warner

Kiefer Sutherland (Bob Wolverton), Reese Witherspoon (Vanessa Lutz), Brooke Shields (Mimi), Dan Hedaya (Det.Wallace), Wolfgang Bodison (Det.Mike Breer), Amanda Plummer (Ramona Lutz), Bokeem Woodbine (Chopper), Brittany Murphy (Rhonda),

Those of a sensitive disposition, skip it; this is not for you.  This is one of those personal irrational selections, a guilty pleasure.  There is no other film like Freeway; not even its successor, Confessions of a Trick Baby, comes remotely close, and in many ways showcased the very reason why the first film worked and the second never came close.  Well, one main reason; the sequel had Natasha Lyonne, a perfectly capable but rather disposable talent.  The original, however, had something altogether more than capable and anything but disposable…at least then…

            Vanessa Lutz is the sixteen year old white-trash daughter of a crack whore mother and abusive stepfather on parole with a black boyfriend.  The same day her parents are both busted by the law, Vanessa makes the decision to escape to grandma’s to avoid falling into the clutches of social services.  She says goodbye to her boyfriend – who then proceeds to get himself shot in a drive-by – and sets off.  Problem is that her car breaks down on the freeway where the notorious I-5 killer prowls and the only help she gets is from a mysterious psychologist who offers her a lift. (more…)

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metro 1

(USA 1990 99m) DVD1/2

Urban Haute Bourgeoisie

p  Whit Stillman  d/w  Whit Stillman  ph  John Thomas  ed  Christopher Tellefsen  m  Mark Suozzo, Tom Judson  cos  Mary Jane Fort

Edward Clements (Tom Townsend), Carolyn Farina (Audrey Rouget), Taylor Nichols (Charlie Black), Christopher Eigeman (Nick Smith), Alison Rutledge-Parisi (Jane Clarke), Bryan Leder (Fred Neff), Isabel Gillies (Cynthia McLean), Dylan Hundley (Sally Fowler), Will Kempe (Rick Von Sloneker), Elizabeth Thompson (Serena Slocum),

Again, welcome to the domain of personal favouritism.  Few people would include Whit Stillman’s delicious debut in their own best film lists, a massive proportion indeed would not only never have seen or heard of it, but would never watch it even if they knew of its existence.  Metropolitan is, in every sense, a throwback.  Not just to Woody Allen at his most intellectual, but farther back to the razor sharp social analysis of F.Scott Fitzgerald and wit of Philip Barry.  The biggest influence, however, as noted by many critics, must be Jane Austen.  Indeed, I would go as far as to say that this is better than any Austen film made yet.  Many critics might go as far as to say that, if Jane Austen was alive today, she would be writing film scripts.  Yet Austen’s talent was not only inseparable from her period, but also too literary to make a career writing scripts in the 21st century, where wit and delicacy are regarded as extinct.  I will say this, though, that if she was to take a trip in Doc Brown’s De Lorean she would rather enjoy sitting down to this film. (more…)

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Here we go again, the next best 50.  No 50 begins the countdown tomorrow.

100 Donnie Brasco: director’s cut (US 1997/2007…Mike Newell)
99 Un Coeur en Hiver (France 1991…Claude Sautet)
98 A Taste of Cherry (Iran 1997…Abbas Kiarostami)
97 Ashes of Time (Hong Kong 1994…Wong Kar-Wai)
96 JFK: director’s cut (US 1991/1992…Oliver Stone)
95 Chungking Express (Hong Kong 1994…Wong Kar-Wai)
94 The Flowers of Shanghai (Taiwan 1998…Hou Hsiao-Hsien)
93 The Player (US 1992…Robert Altman)
92 Singles (US 1992…Cameron Crowe)
91 Kids (US 1995…Larry Clark)
90 Black Robe (Canada 1991…Bruce Beresford)
89 Underground: Extended Version (Yugoslavia 1995…Emir Kusturica) TV
88 Nil by Mouth (UK 1997…Gary Oldman)
87 Tilai (Burkino Faso 1990…Idrissa Ouedraogo)
86 Casino (US 1995…Martin Scorsese)
85 In the Heat of the Sun (China 1994…Jiang Wen)
84 Heavenly Creatures (New Zealand 1994…Peter Jackson)
83 The Apple (Iran 1997…Samira Makhmalbaf)
82 Clueless (US 1995…Amy Heckerling)
81 Dark City: the director’s cut (US/Australia 1998/2008…Alex Proyas)
80 Cyrano de Bergerac (France 1990…Jean-Paul Rappeneau)
79 Miller’s Crossing (US 1990…Joel Coen)
78 Election (US 1999…Alexander Payne)
77 Pride and Prejudice (UK 1995…Simon Langton) TV
76 Toy Story 2 (US 1999…John Lasseter, Ash Brannon)
75 A Dance to the Music of Time (UK 1997…Christopher Morahan, Alvin Rakoff) TV
74 The Silence of the Lambs (US 1991…Jonathan Demme)
73 Princess Mononoke (Japan 1997…Hayao Miyazaki)
72 Oranges are not the Only Fruit (UK 1990…Beeban Kidron) TV
71 Hamlet (UK 1996…Kenneth Branagh)
70 Ju Dou (China 1990…Zhang Yimou, Yang Fengliang)
69 Under the Skin (UK 1997…Carine Adler)
68 Natural Born Killers: the director’s cut (US 1994/1995…Oliver Stone) 
67 Secrets and Lies (UK 1996…Mike Leigh)
66 La Reine Margot: Version Longue (France 1994…Patrice Chereau)
65 Groundhog Day (US 1993…Harold Ramis)
64 Trainspotting (UK 1996…Danny Boyle)
63 Pleasantville (US 1998…Gary Ross)
62 Short Cuts (US 1993…Robert Altman)
61 The Remains of the Day (UK 1993…James Ivory)
60 Close-Up (Iran 1990…Abbas Kiarostami)
59 Heat (US 1995…Michael Mann)
58 Fight Club (US 1999…David Fincher)
57 Farewell, My Concubine (China/Hong Kong 1993…Chen Kaige)
56 The Last Bolshevik (France 1992…Chris Marker)
55 Fucking Amal (Sweden/Denmark 1998…Lukas Moodysson) 
54 Three Colours: White (France/Poland 1993…Krzysztof Kieslowski)
53 Festen (Denmark 1998…Thomas Vinterberg)
52 The Usual Suspects (US 1995…Bryan Singer)
51 Crash (Canada 1996…David Cronenberg)

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