Archive for the 'Film' Category

My friend showed me pictures of kids, all I could show him was pictures of my cribs

I am in love with this new Kanye West video.


Kanye West – Welcome To Heartbreak
by UniversalMusicGroup

Kanye always has the best videos, since his art is as much about his self-conscious creation of himself as a celebrity as it is anything, and music videos are the ultimate star art. No one sings as much about designer clothes as Kanye (“There’s no YSL they can sell/ to get my heart of this hell” is completely the funniest lyric of the year). So the whole thing of him breaking up in compression errors and static and colorbars is so arresting — the whole image of him is clearly just electronic signal — and it makes you think your cable is going out. Plus the imagery goes well with the beepy electronic sound and autotuning that Kanye’s using to distance us from his real feelings.

Weekly Movies Returns! For the Oscars!, February 16-22

Hey so I got behind on my movie blogging, and then I got even further behind, and eventually catching up looked like it wasn’t going to happen, so now I’ve decided to just leave the past in the past, which is a shame, because you are totally missing out on my thoughts on many Oscar-nominated movies, as well as Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains, which is amazing. I will try to write up some of the “lost months” at some point in the future, since I do have some notes.

Anyway:

  1. A Woman of Paris (Charlie Chaplin, 1923): So what happened is, several years ago, I had a passing urge to be more of a Chaplin completist, so I went to zip and added a bunch of movies to my queue. Then, I went to grad school, put my account on hold for two years, and then reactivated the account. Now that I really don’t care that much about Chaplin (City Lights is still my favourite but seriously I don’t think I need to know his whole career), zip sent me three Chaplins in a row. Limelight I saw a couple of weeks ago in the “lost months,” and thought was okay. I really wanted to see it because it’s the only time Chaplin and Keaton still worked together, and I thought it would be all poetic and lovely and stuff, but it had too much of Chaplin’s maudlin side to be much fun. This one, well it’s Chaplin’s first “serious dramatic film” as the title card at the beginning explains. UGH, I thought. It’s about a poor village girl (Edna Purviance) who leaves her true love through a misunderstanding and goes to Paris and then starts seeing this rich engaged playboy type (Adolphe Menjou), but then her true love comes to Paris with his mom and he’s an artist and his mom can’t stand her son wanting to marry someone like her, since she’s basically a whore. Blah blah suicide. Let’s put it this way. It was not as bad as you’d think. It’s briskly paced, the roaring twenties party setpieces are goregous, it’s well-acted — clearly Chaplin knew how to put together a film. The biggest problems were that it failed as a moral drama. It made being the mistress of a rich Parisian playboy, something I actually think would be pretty boring, look like a really sweet deal. You get cool clothes and a great apartment, and Menjou seemed like way more fun than the artist dude she really loved. He never really got mad at her; he seemed to find everything she did delightful. All in all, it really seemed like the way to go. But, more importantly, it just seems like Chaplin was wasting his gifts. His silent comedies are really great — combining visual poetry with sentiment, cuteness with social conscience. Honestly, if you’re Charlie Chaplin, why would you make a better-than-average melodrama when you could make a comedy that no one else could even touch?
  2. I Want To Live! (Robert Wise, 1958): I did unreservedly love this though, at least at the time. Susan Hayward won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance as Barbara Graham, a real woman who sort of drifted around being a petty criminal, then, according to the movie, was unjustly implicated in the murder and robbery of an old lady. There was a whole media circus and her lawyer and this one journalist tried to get her sentence commuted, but in the end, she went to the gas chamber. The movie shows the whole thing and basically portrays her as a fun-loving lady who passed bad cheques, but was wholly innocent of murder. The whole thing rests on Hayward’s portrayal, and she makes Barbara funny and likable and sympathetic — though after the movie Robert Osborne said that Hayward actually believed Graham was guilty. Which, for me, made the way the movie totally sold me on her side of the story more interesting. Other things that were good: contemporary jazz soundtrack, the Academy-Award-nominated-but-awfully-unsubtle cinematography, and the bit at the end where (Pulitzer Prize-winning) journalist Ed Montgomery turns off his hearing aid to drown out the roar of horns honking in apparent celebration of Graham’s death (a bit that Revolutionary Road apparently stole from this).
  3. Slumdog Millionaire (Danny Boyle, 2008): I finally saw this this week when I realized I’d only seen 2 of the Best Picture nominees this year. Then I realized Doubt didn’t actually get the Best Picture nomination, so I had only seen one (Milk, natch). Anyway, post-Oscar hype (I saw this Thursday), it’s still not a bad movie. If it had been a better year for movies and there was a No Country For Old Men up instead of a bunch of boring middlebrow stuff, I might feel like Slumdog took the award from something greater, but it’s not like Synecdoche, NY or My Winnipeg or Let The Right One In were going to win any more than The Dark Knight or Iron Man was. Of all the nominees, this movie felt the least like it was produced solely to win awards (though its promotion did nothing but position it that way) and the most like it was made for people to watch and enjoy. Its form was pure, pure melodrama, from the children in peril to the last-minute rush to pick up a cell phone — but it still felt fresh. The cinematography and editing were bright and modern, the music is actually relevant to the setting as well as sounding current (MIA was involved!), and most of all, I loved the way the media played a role. The fact that Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, which gives normal kid Jamal a kind of reality show pseudo-fame, is the centre of the story and the device that brings him and the girl together. Plus, you know, it ends with a dance number.

I kind of feel bad that I’d seen so few of the Oscar movies this year? I still might see The Reader, I guess, but I am really just not particularly interested in all the middlebrowness of it all. After reading the the Film Experience’s Oscar symposium that pretending the Oscars are really supposed to honour the “best” movies of the year is completely insane. It’s never going to be that, it’s always going to be a record of what seemed the biggest and the most movie-ish that year, and I’m kind of okay with that now and I just wish they could get through it in less than three and a half hours. (For the record, though, I loved the totally irrelevant cracked-out Baz Luhrman-stravaganza which I’m guessing will not be well-remembered, but only because it was so insane. They just kept adding in songs! Songs that don’t go together! Some of which are not really from musicals! (“At Last”?) And placing High School Musical 3 in the same context as West Side Story!)

Oh Jackman!

Hey, look, I finished something

I am off to vote, 1 and I will have a special double-issue of Weekly Movies up in the next day or two, but I just wanted to point you to my contribution to This Recording’s best films of the 1980s series, which ran a few days ago. I considered some other stuff, but I kept coming back to Law of Desire, so that’s what I wrote on.

The rest of the series is here. The other pieces are pretty great, as well.


  1. Yay for advance voting days! I’m actually pretty excited to be voting for Michael Byers

Weekly Movies, June 16-22

I keep mostly drafting these and then forgetting to actually post them. I guess the world can handle a delay in the hot news of what movies I watched this week. I haven’t been to the theatre in awhile, but this summer has not been a particularly inspiring one for movies. Plus, thesis. I’m looking forward to that one where James MacAvoy shoots curvy and Angelina Jolie rides the tops of moving vehicles, though.

  1. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Pedro Almodóvar, 1989): I was not really looking forward to watching this again; for some reason I remembered finding it to be amongst the more annoying of Almodóvar’s movies, but once I got into it I actually wound up liking it quite a lot now that I have been able to fit it into my critical program. I’m noting I watched it here, because of my obsessive record-keeping, but I actually can’t really force myself to write anything more about Almodóvar these days.
  2. The Strip (László Kardos, 1951): I missed the beginning of this, but I had to write it up anyway. It’s a film noir. Starring Mickey Rooney (!). He’s a drummer in a jazz club in LA and he gets this girl he likes who wants to be a movie star involved with some gangsters and things don’t end well — though all the actual violence is offscreen. What’s interesting about it is, it’s kind of good. Like, the band at the club has Louis Armstrong — and if that’s really Mickey Rooney playing the drums, which I think it is, he was really good at it. And I love the real LA locations (something I’ve had an eye for ever since I saw Los Angeles Plays Itself) plus the cinematography is frequently gorgeous. Also, Mickey Rooney does a good job insofar as his actual performance. Unfortunately, he’s still Mickey Rooney, and he still looks about 12 years old even though he would’ve been 30, so you’re constantly aware of watching a noir with Mickey Rooney. It’s still a pretty interesting artefact though.
  3. Fast and Furious (Busby Berkeley, 1939): You know that “Fast-Talking High Trousers” bit from Family Guy? That’s what this is like. It’s apparently the third in a series of sub-Thin Man husband-and-wife detective stories, which starred a whole bunch of different people. This one had Franchot Tone, who’s not very interesting, and Ann Sothern does her best with the wife part. I really…don’t have anything to say about it, it’s a 1930s detective movie/screwball comedy. The screwball bits aren’t bad, at that; the bit with the lion is very Bringing Up Baby. As for why Busby Berkeley directed this, I have no idea; maybe they were initially going to do a musical number surrounding the beauty pageant, but it got cut? It seemed weird to have Busby B. directing a movie that involved a performance and many, many women, but not to have an elaborate musical number.
  4. The Age of Innocence (Martin Scorcese, 1993): I thought I should watch this since it keeps coming up in books about fashion and cinema — you can see why when you watch it, Scorcese really spends a lot of time doing close-ups of gloves and jewelry and lace and so on. I have mentioned my love of Mad Men several times on this site, so it won’t surprise anyone that I eat this kind of thing up with a spoon. I love the idea that something about a society can be revealed in its day-to-day objects. I honestly didn’t expect to like it very much — I knew it was a movie about the stifling stiflery of 19th century society life, and I expected it to be as much of a challenge as The Leopard, but I was pleasantly surprised by it being actually really awesome. I can’t remember who said it, but I’m pretty sure I’ve heard someone say that Scorcese’s movies are always kind of about making movies as much as they are about the actual story in the movie itself. To my mind, The Age of Innocence seemed to fit that bill: it’s as much about making a “costume movie” as it is about anything that’s actually in the movie. It’s kind of a good thing, because then it becomes about how to represent historical realities to a present audience without sacrificing accuracy or making things too opaque. So it’s presenting the past, but it’s using contemporary cinematic techniques.

Weekly Movies, February 25-March 2

Sorry it’s late this week, I was kind of drowning in work.

  1. Le Confessional (Robert Lepage, 1995): This one was pretty interesting. It’s set in Quebec City in 1989 (during the Tiananmen Square massacre and the aftermath), with flashbacks to the late 1950s, when Alfred Hitchcock was in town shooting I Confess (which is about a priest who’s accused of a murder but he can’t clear himself because the guy who did it confessed the crime to him). There are tons of cinematic references to Hitchcock (blood circling in drains and so forth), but I really loved the great masculine melodrama. The hero? He spends most of the movie trying to paint over the shadows left on the wall in his childhood home. It’s great.
  2. Once (John Carney, 2007): Aw, this movie’s so sweet. I was surprised by how affecting it was, given that it’s basically a low-budget gloss on the traditional musical rom-com. They meet cute, they bond over their mutual talents, and then they make beautiful music together. Of course, it’s all low-key acting and shot in real city streets, with a charming indifference to things like lighting quality, like in this scene. I thought I was more cynical than that, but I guess not.
  3. The Butcher Boy (Neil Jordan, 1997): I really enjoyed this movie. butcherboy.gif It’s told from the very unreliable but fabulous perspective of a crazy Irish boy around the Cuban missile crisis; the actor who plays the boy, Eamonn Owens, is fantastic. There were so many awesome things in this movie, starting with the fact that it makes you laugh at the most horrible things, colouring all this misery in bright reds and having glowing Sinead O’Connor be the Holy Virgin, and ending with the people all walking around with pigs’ heads after a nuclear attack.

    And then I spent some time getting to know gay Marxist Spanish director Eloy de la Iglesia, who really embraces the penis in his films.
  4. Los placeres ocultos (“Hidden Pleasures”, 1977): Okay, so this movie is all about how gay guys really aren’t that threatening and it’s just their nature and it’s so sad that society won’t accept them. I’d make fun of it except that this was two years after Franco died, when being gay was still totally illegal in Spain. I really like the way de la Iglesia links sexual power to financial power by implying that the hero Eduardo’s influence as a bank manager allowed him to “corrupt” boys. There is also the greatly Marxist sentiment when the straight boy Eduardo’s in love with (who eventually learns to accept him) tells someone that he won’t let anyone take advantage of him, and the activist responds that he basically has more things to worry about than the gays, in that case: “Maybe you’ve been selling more important things and don’t even know it.” I didn’t quite know what to do with the “first season finale of Veronica Mars” ending though.
  5. El Diputado (“Confessions of a Congressman”, 1978): This covers a lot of the same ground as Los placeres ocultos, but is much more explicitly political. The hero is a closeted socialist politician who is being set up for exposure by his fascist rivals (this is transition-era Spain, remember).eldiputado.jpg
    The only thing that strains credibility is the fact that a Marxist in the ’70s would never have smoked (or even seen) a joint before. It’s really great though, with the gay love scene intercut with paintings of Marx and Lenin, linking the marginality of Leftists under Franco to the continued marginality of the gays. It ends with a single tear rolling down his face as he prepares to face the judgement of his supposedly liberal peers.
  6. Navajeros (I’m not sure of the actual translation — the direct is “knife users,” but I think it’s more like “petty criminals who employ pocketknives,” 1980): Apparently after doing the melodramas about how gay is okay, de la Iglesia moved on to sweet-ass crime stories. Set in Madrid’s depressing housing projects, this is about the greatest most famous juvenile delinquent evar. But that makes it sound lame, when it’s actually awesome. An imdb commenter (usually pretty dumb) compares it to blaxploitation, which is pretty accurate. There’s not a racial element, but it’s a very similar vibe: set in a gritty criminal underworld, high on brutality and political sentiment, made with great skill but not a lot of polish. The last sequence crosscuts between a baby being born (in ridiculously graphic detail) and the hero being gunned down in a senseless and preventable crime. Really impressive.
  7. Bulgarian Lovers (2003): This was de la Iglesia’s last movie — it marked his return to movies after a long hiatus precipitated by a heroin addiction — before he died of cancer. It returned to the somewhat homosexual man-man-woman love triangle “family” that we saw in Placeres ocultos and El diputado, but with a much more cynical edge, I guess because he didn’t need to push the gay rights agenda so hard now. I read a bunch of reviews for research and I was surprised that no one really made the film noir connection — Kyril, the hot but poor Bulgarian immigrant is clearly a femme fatale, and he gets the hero Daniel embroiled in this whole dirty nuclear business, and the scene where he realizes what’s up is a total Kiss Me Deadly reference with the whole glowing suitcase. They even dress Daniel up as a 40s film heroine for a short fantasy sequence. Come on, people. (It obviously retains the Marxist concerns of de la Iglesia’s earlier work with its emphasis on the fact that Daniel is totally paying for Kyril’s love.)
  8. El Sacerdote (“The priest,” 1978): You can imagine how easy it was to find information in Spanish on a movie called “the priest” directed by a guy whose last name means “of the church,” but this movie was amazing. It directly takes on the repressive nature of the Catholic Church — it’s set in 1960s Spain, when culture was changing but the Church still retained its links to the fascist Franco government — and it’s about a priest who’s driven so crazy by his forbidden desires that he actually castrates himself. It kind of combines all my favourite movie things: melodrama as moral and emotional exploration, weird sex stuff, pretty graphic violence, and penises. (I’m sorry I keep talking about penises, but it’s so rare to see penis in American movies and so common in Spanish movies, it’s hard not to focus on.)

In other news, have my Canadian friends heard about Bill C-10? I was talking to a prof at school who knows Canadian film policy pretty well about what it would mean. Basically, because filmmakers currently assume tax credits when they’re making their movies, the proposed amendment could get money taken away from productions after it’s been spent. The quote in the article is all like “We wouldn’t take tax credit money from something like Eastern Promises, just to really inappropriate movies.” (Note: it’s already illegal to get tax credits for pornography, so that’s not what’s going here.) But if this had happened in the 1970s, I bet they wouldn’t have funded Shivers (whose funding was pretty controversial at the time, what with the sex parasites) or Scanners, and who knows if Cronenberg would be an internationally beloved auteur today. Apparently the real danger isn’t so much the government actively censoring movies, but more that it would put a chill on investment, especially in risky productions, because then investors could get screwed over if the Ministry of Heritage conservative bureaucrats decides a movie’s content isn’t worthwhile. Facebook Group is here, it has more information.

It’s our superbowl (Oscar day top 10)

My top 10 movies of 2007; I’d written it out with links to my post on each one, but then my browser ate it, so we’re trying to get it up just in the nick of Oscar. This is obviously a totally subjective list, but I think for the first time in almost ever my actual favourite movie of the year might win the Oscar. (That I wrote that this means Juno will probably win.)

  1. No Country For Old Men
  2. There Will Be Blood
  3. Lust, Caution
  4. Persepolis
  5. I’m Not There
  6. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
  7. The Darjeeling Limited
  8. A Mighty Heart
  9. Superbad
  10. Grindhouse

Best movie I saw in theatres that wasn’t actually a 2007 film but finally got the theatrical release it so richly deserved: Killer of Sheep.

Honourable mentions: Waitress, Sunshine, Juno, Atonement, Eastern Promises, Across the Universe, Sweeney Todd, Rescue Dawn, 28 Weeks Later.

Big movies I didn’t see and so have been left off my list: American Gangster, Away From Her, The Savages, Margot at the Wedding, Michael Clayton, Gone Baby Gone.

Elsewhere

My bizarre attempt to deal with how academically-influenced my response to No Country For Old Men is up at This Recording. Go read.

You should be reading This Recording anyway, it’s awesome.

“Listening to my mom has never led to anything good.”

Random notes, after the jump because of Heroes spoilers: Continue Reading »

“The spice! The worms! There must be a connection…”

An incredibly revealing fact about my relationship is that we spent our Saturday night drinking chocolate stout and watching Dune.

“Although you’re grievin, I cain’t be leavin’”

This song has been in my head for days. Now it’s in yours! (Also, please note that if you click through to YouTube it says that the music is by Ennio Morricone. This is totally not true — Dimitri Tiomkin did the music for the film.)

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