Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

My Photo
Location: milwaukee, wi

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Three short ones

In lieu of three posts, here's a conglomeration of what I've watched lately.

The Ten (David Wain, 2007)

I am the queen of hyperbole; for instance, how many times can I say that a movie was one of my most anticipated of the year? Add another one to the total. The Ten is the comedy of the year, from David Wain (The State< Stella, Wet Hot American Summer, all of which I am a fanatic for) and Ken Marino. Here's a comedy that's foul, juvenile, and sacreligious, all without being too stupid. Everyone and their mom is in this movie, from Jessica Alba (cute and surprisingly funny) to Winona Ryder to Justin Theroux as Jesus. Ten vignettes, each interpreting a commandment. Wain said he wanted to make a funny version of The Decalogue, and he most definitely succeeded. Hilarity on the level of Wain's other projects abounds.


Tenebre (Dario Argento, 1982)

If you ever visit the actual site, you'll probably notice the new header, a beautiful brunette sitting at a table, holding a gun with an almost indescribable expression: part fear, part laughter, part sadness. This is my favorite moment from Tenebre, Argento's incredibly beautiful giallo masterpiece. It's suspenseful (I didn't see the end coming, for sure), but more than that, it shows the beauty that is possible in horror movies. When one character falls through a mirror with her throat slit, right into the camera, it's more stunning than anything else. Not to sound like a serial killer or anything. Argento topped himself here, horror with a surprise ending that satisfies the gore enthusiast as well as the cineaste.


Martin (George A Romero, 1977)

Finally, George A Romero's problematic, but rewarding, Martin, about a young man who thinks he's a vampire. Is he, or is he just insane? Well, he gets the blood from his victims with the use of a razorblade with fangs, only one of the clever details in the film. But while the details are solid, the movie as a whole is less so. Martin changes mid-film, from a scared/scary young man who never speaks more than three words at a time to a man who enters a relationship with a married woman without wanting to kill her. How? Why? Martin's character is unfufilled; I wanted to know something about his past, how he came to believe he is (or be) this creature. But the very last scene is one of the best examples of dramatic irony I've ever seen, so I recommend seeing it if only for that.


Labels: , , , , ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble It!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Viva La Muerte! (Fernando Arrabal, 1971)

Perhaps it's because I still have The Holy Mountain in mind, but Fernando Arrabal's surrealist Vive La Muerte! didn't hit the mark. Arrabal and Jodorowsky were collaborators (I believe) as well as influences on one another, so it's normal that the two filmmakers be tied together. But what Arrabal tries to do in this film, juxtapose the everyday with the holy, the divine and the profane, would be better done in Jodorowsky's film two years later.

The plot revolves around the desperation of Franco's Spain, where young Fando's father is dead. His mother tells him his father killed himself in jail, but Fando doesn't believe that. He has a vivid, at times shocking imagination, as well as a pretty big Oedipus complex. The mother-son sexuality is treated as one of the least shocking elements in the film. I can see how, at the time, the mixture of religious and sexual/violent imagery was shocking, but having seen Jodorowsky's work, as well as countless other, less talented filmmakers who have tried the same tactics, it's almost passe in contemporary times. Arrabal did shoot this film gorgeously, however. Fando's internal sequences were colored over with technicolors, such as bright pink and yellow, that sometimes blend and change during the sequence. While at first, this seemed inventive and different, after a while, it seemed almost amateur (too obvious a delineation between the real and the imagined) or film-schooly.

If you like surrealist film, I do recommend Arrabal's Viva La Muerte! because, as I said, some of the images are stupendous: the mother with the knife in her mouth and Fando's bath scene come immediately to mind. But for surrealist imagery (young girlfriend with a turkey companion) that has a real gut impact, you're best to look elsewhere. Of note: there is a graphic animal murder (of a cow) onscreen that made me really upset. Sensitive vegetarians like myself should be aware - it comes near the end of the film and is definitely an eye-covering scene.


Labels: ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble It!

Superbad (Greg Mottola, 2007)

Unless you're living under a rock in the US, you can't help but have heard all the rave reviews for Superbad, the Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg scripted teen comedy about two high school seniors (Michael Cera - although always George Michael Bluth to me - and Jonah Hill) who want to get drunk and laid. By all accounts, this movie is the be-all and end-all of comedies this year, the funniest thing since, well, Knocked Up. But just like I was the feminist wet blanket to that movie, I'd like to offer another perspective on Superbad.

Let me get this out of the way first: Superbad is funny. Not consistently hilarious, but funny enough that it definitely warrants a theater viewing. But it's also incredibly problematic, not to mention not nearly as original as most reviewers say it is. The teen movie formula is rigidly in place here, as two geeky young men want to get laid by beautiful girls. In fact, when I think about it, there isn't really anything new here at all. The jokes are way more raunchy and the dialogue a bit more witty (although sometimes, as my brilliant friend Melanie pointed out, too much so - what two teenage boys make references to Orson Welles in conversation?), but it's as old-fashioned as they come. Michael Cera is quite good as Evan, the smart friend who's going to Dartmouth in the fall and is quietly cute/nerdy. He's nervous about everything, which is both endearing and real. Jonah Hill, as Seth (the writers even named the characters after themselves), yells practically every line he has, which definitely grated on me after a while. Why is everything so screamingly important to him? Maybe it's my experience, never having been a teenage boy, but getting laid RIGHT THIS MOMENT was never that big of a deal to me.

And that's where the movie lost me. Not only did their quest seem a little silly, but I definitely felt alienated by the movie. Not in an immediate sense, but afterward, it was clear that this movie is not for me. Everything is for guys, from the cop bitter about his "bitch" (who ends up being a prostitute) ex-wife to the getting menstrual blood on your pants from dancing with a girl on her period (which would probably never happen, by the way). There's something intangible about the film that left me distinctly feeling like I was on the outside, looking in. That's not to say (I want to make this clear) that I didn't find the movie funny or that all women will feel this way, but I didn't love it like I loved The 40 Year-Old Virgin, another male-centric dirty comedy that didn't feel as alienating.

As my friend Melanie said again, I don't want to be the feminist who angrily declares "That's not funny!", but I just want to pose the question of why this movie had to be this way? Why go the route of the nerdy/fat/whatever kid getting the pretty popular girls? Why not be more progressive? Why aren't there good, raunchy comedies with teenage (or any age) women as the stars? Why do I have the feeling that if there was a movie like that, it wouldn't be nearly as popular or as acclaimed? But for now, we have Superbad, and if you weren't a women and gender studies minor like me (I look at pop culture too critically sometimes for my own enjoyment), it's probably enough.


Labels: ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble It!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Decalogue (Krysztof Kieslowski, 1989)

Why have I been such a deadbeat blogger? Aside from that pervasive ennui, it's been mostly because I've been involved with all ten hours of Kieslowski's The Decalogue, ten one-hour films, each that deal with a different commandment. Kubrick said this collection of films was the only masterpiece he'd ever seen in his life. That's quite a reputation to live up to. And while I wasn't droolingly in love with these films, I also wasn't as impatient as I was afraid of after the first two. Instead of writing about each film, or trying to talk about them as a whole, I've picked out my three favorites.

Decalogue 5: Thou shalt not kill. Kieslowski's only overt political statement of the series lies in this anti-death penalty piece. Instead of giving a total picture of a murderer, we see the few hours before the crime, during which the young man is mostly silent and isolated, but tries to reach out to the outside world (throwing the food at the little girls, to their delight) with little success. The crime is done, then the film cuts to after the trial, right before the execution. There is an idealistic young lawyer who has his whole livelihood put into question through the verdict, and the young killer who just wants to be buried in his family's plot. An incredibly realistic, humane portrait of the justice system. There are no judgements on Kieslowski's parts, just facts and people.

Decalogue 6: Thou shalt not commit adultery. Along with part 5, part 6 was made by Kieslowski into a slightly longer film for foreign distribution; I can see why, as these two are the parts with the most universal storylines. A young man spies obsessively on his neighbor and falls in love with her. When he finally gets his chance to be with her, he realizes love (or lust) isn't as ideal as he had thought. Kieslowski uses a potentially creepy situation to illuminate the fact that life is almost never what we think, which can be both a good and a bad thing. The acting in this one is the best of any of the films, provoking empathy on my part.

Decalogue 8: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. Perusing the imdb message boards (a frequent vice of mine), I found that part 8 is generally the least favorite of those who have seen the series. I think the story is the most compelling, for certain: an ethics professor is confronted by a ghost from her past, the grown-up version of the little girl who she sent to almost certain death during the Nazi occupation. Most of the tales are surprisingly optimistic at their ends (Kieslowski sees the glass as half-full!), but none more than this one. The two women talk, and the professor gains peace of mind, as she had always wondered what happened to that little girl, and the visitor regains confidence in the good intentions of mankind. I was struck by how the moment portrayed in the film was definitely the defining moment of both characters' lives, trumping that moment forty years ago.

And that's the best part of Kieslowski's Decalogue: it leaves you with hope for mankind, as well as giving you a reason and new way with which to look inward. While to me, it certainly isn't the masterpiece Kubrick said it was, it is still an impressive monument to philosophical film that should be seen; perhaps you, like me, might want to take it over several weeks, though.

Labels: ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble It!