Tuesday, February 28, 2006

This is Not a Porno

9 Songs (Michael Winterbottom, 2005) [5]
I have to say that the idea here (song, sex, meditation, song, sex, meditation) is something that appealed to me and I very much like the structure that Winterbottom has created. The execution of that structure is something that does become tedious after awhile and almost makes this film what many people want to categorize it as, explicit sex in a mainstream movie. Well, let’s talk about the sex; it’s definitely done much better than a standard porno. The camerawork, minimalist and at times gorgeously done, creates a much more realistic kind of sex than would be found in a Jenna Jameson “film.” Cut in concert footage that at times has a real connection to the overall theme, especially Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, but other times feels too disjointed. I like the idea of Matt meditating over this in his head, but there’s just something about those sequences that don’t work the way I thought they should. But everything about the film reverts back to the sex. It’s kind of a shame that it has to overshadow everything else. I feel that 9 Songs is a film that wants to be about much more than sex. It’s about how the body and various sensory experiences can overtake the mind in a relationship. I just don’t feel that the film expresses this idea well enough.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Warriors

The Warriors (Walter Hill, 1979) [4]
If I was giving this film solely on camp value, the opening twenty minutes would be a 10. However, the rest of the film leaves me feeling I’m missing something, even though I’m not quite sure what it is. I do think the film moves along way too quickly and is almost all action. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, there were some things, mostly the sociological elements of the story, which could have been fleshed out more. I heard the novel this film was based on was more of a social critique and that the film comes across as more of a comic book. There are just so many questions that come out of viewing this film. Most of which is what is the context and back history to explain why New York is overrun with hundreds of eccentric gangs? I know that that this has built up a (mostly male) cult following over the years, but I just don’t get. Is it the violence? Help me out, I really don’t know

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Monthly Listening Post - February

It can get pretty boring posting movie reviews all the time. As I've mentioned before, I'm just as big a music fan as I am a film buff. So I figured that every month (or bi-monthly) I would post 5 albums that I have been listening to and enjoying quite a bit, and I hope, that anyone who actually reads this blog will also. So here we go. Give these a listen and once again, enjoy.

1) Marah - It You Didn't Laugh, You'd Cry
2) Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins - Rabbit Fur Coat
3) Cat Power - The Greatest
4) The Jayhawks - Hollywood Town Hall
5) The Grateful Dead - Cornell University May 8, 1977 (This isn't a commercial album but a live bootleg that can be found at www.nugs.net. It's been one of the most coveted Dead bootlegs for quite a while.)

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Killers Double Shot

The Killers (Robert Siodmak, 1946) [7]
I saw this films a couple of years ago in a class at the University of Buffalo and forgot most everything about it except it was a prototypical film noir. It certainly is a sturdy, dependable noir, but it still has some significant flaws. The taut, fantastic opening was based on the short story of the same name by Hemingway, whose name gave the film some promotional clout. The rest of the film centers around an insurance investigator, played by Edmond O’Brien, trying to figure out why two men went to a small New Jersey town to murder The Swede (Burt Lancaster), none of which is in Hemingway’s story. While visually this film is tremendous, there are some issues with the script and characters. Siodmak was a master of the dark/white contrast that defined film noir. He’s also good at creating tension through his imagery. But I still have some lingering questions: What is the motivation of O’Brien’s character? Why is he so interested in a pretty insignificant murder? The whole thing teeters on being ludicrous. There are also times where the wooden acting by Lancaster and Ava Gardner makes me wince. Despite some flaws, I feel this is a great representation of film noir. [Postscript: I rented the two-disc Criterion addition with the 1964 Don Siegel version. I turned it off about half an hour in because it was nauseatingly dated, in a bad 60’sish way.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Imagine Me & You

Imagine Me & You (Ol Parker, 2006) [5]
On the introduction to this site I mentioned that most of these reviews were of films I see from Netflix and that I rarely go to a theatre (for numerous reasons; look it up). Well, I actually went to a theatre and an hour away in Syracuse no less. I drove seventy miles into lake effect snow for a promotional screening of a film that I know will never get played in Binghamton. The only reason I went to see this (besides it was free) was that Piper Perabo was in it. I think she’s a much underrated actress who was fantastic in Lost & Delirious. This film also deals with a same-sex relationship as that one did. Besides gender, there’s nothing in this film that makes it any different from a heterosexual romantic comedy. I tend to feel that the romantic comedy genre has been exhausted and that there are very few films that do anything to break out of that tired formula. This film is just another British romantic comedy with the bumbling Hugh Grant-esqe male lead, a horndog male friend, and intrusive parents. But for whatever reason, probably the spell Piper Perabo has cast on me, I actually enjoyed this film. The relationship between Perabo and Lena Headey was well done. It wasn’t too overwrought with drama but they made it seem as believable as a film can be. This film has enough emotional strength in its dramatic scenes to make the comedic elements, which I feel were overdone, tolerable. While I did enjoy this, I can’t give it any higher than a five because it doesn’t do anything different yet interesting to the genre. And will somebody please give Piper Perabo a role with some real substance and recognition.

The Constant Gardener

The Constant Gardener (Fernando Meirelles, 2005) [6]
I won’t say this is a disappointment exactly, but it did not live up to the expectations that I had for it, especially considering how much I like City of God, Meirelles’s debut. He still uses the hyper-kinetic editing and swirling, handheld camerawork that has come to define his style, but I don’t feel that particular style really works that well for this type of film. Even though most of the film takes place in a third-world setting like City of God, it feels almost completely different. We as the viewers don’t focus on those inhabitants really; we are focusing on the Fiennes and Weisz characters (I don’t know why Rachel Weisz is winning all the supporting actress awards, she good, not great). That’s another problem with this film: it doesn’t know what to make the focus of attention. Is it how multi-national corporations exploit the people of poor nations for their own financial benefit, or is it the relationship between the Fiennes character and Weisz. I really don’t know and I think that clouds the overall impact of the picture. But Fiennes, and Weisz give solid enough performances to make viewing this worthwhile.

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Lady From Shanghai

The Lady From Shanghai (Orson Welles, 1947) [7]
This often seems to be a forgotten Welles film, but I think it’s a nice little noir that has some really interesting qualities. Like other Welles’ films, this one was significantly recut by the studio against his wishes, and it shows especially in the overdramatic score and shaky transitions. But the essential nature of the film survives. Welles plays a man who can’t really be considered a hero. He’s more a boob that gets into a situation he knew was no good. He even says it in his narration. I feel that the narration is really a plus. It places Welles’ character as an outsider to the privilege and corruption that the rich characters inhabit. He knows better than to get pulled into a bad situation by a woman, but he can’t resist the smoldering Rita Hayworth. The standard noir fare of murder and double-crossing follow, ending up in the much mimicked house of mirrors sequence. That scene is a bit of a metaphor for the entire film: you can’t really tell who a character really is.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Ma Mere

Ma Mere (Christophe Honore, 2005) [4]
At first, I was horribly put off by this film and thought it was going to be an utter disaster. But as I continued to watch, it warmed on me slowly but not that much. Aesthetically, there are a lot of things I can get behind. The swirling, jangled hand-held camerawork, the Fassbinder like zooms (I stole that from Sicinski, but it’s the internet; come and find me!), and the stark brightness of the setting. Isabelle Huppert is fearless and mesmerizing at times in her role as the incestuous (?) mother. All my problems come from the story. I’m not exactly sure if Huppert’s character is a dominatrix, madam, help me out here. What are the reasons for this incestuous affair? Why would a mother and son determine to do this? Nothing is ever answered in a satisfying way for me, and while I don’t want everything answered, this film just seems to move along and then it ends. With lots of strange sex in between

Bonnaroo 2006 Lineup

Besides film, I also happen to like music quite a lot. Besides Christmas, the day Bonnaroo reveals their initial lineup is the most exciting day of the year. I've been to the last three and with this lineup, it doesn't look like I'm staying away this year.

2006 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival Confirmed Artists:
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
Phil Lesh & Friends
Elvis Costello & the Imposters
Bonnie Raitt
Death Cab for Cutie
Bright Eyes
The Neville Brothers
Bela Fleck & the Flecktones
Buddy Guy
Damian Marley
Ben Folds
Robert Randolph & the Family Band (YEAH!)
Dr. John
G. Love & Special Sauce
My Morning Jacket (YEAH!)
Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder
Steel Pulse
Mike Gordon and Ramble Dove
Cat Power (YEAH!)
Medeski Martin & Wood
Nickel Creek
Gomez (YEAH!)
Steve Earle (YEAH!)
Blues Traveler
Amadou & Mariam
Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks
Dresden Dolls
Son Volt
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Jerry Douglas
Rusted Root (YEAH!)
Devendra Banhart Band
Donavon Frankenreiter
Mike Doughty
Grace Potter & the Nocturnals
The Magic Numbers (YEAH!)
Bill Frisell
Seu Jorge
Bettye LaVette (YEAH!)
Shooter Jennings
Rebirth Brass Band
Andrew Bird
Steel Train
Jackie Greene
Wood Brothers
dios (malos)
Toubab Krewe
The Motet
Marah (F*%K YEAH!!)
Balkan Beat Box
Cat Empire

Coachella, you can now go in the corner and cry.