Sunday, June 16, 2013

"Seconds", 1966, John Frankenheimer, TSPDT: 995

This film is one of those little science fiction gems that probably escaped everyone´s attention.  I am afraid to tell you about the plot, because I don´t want to ruin its surprises.  But the mood of the piece is as important as what happens there, so a little bit to entice you:  a man wants to change his stale life so he gets an appointment at a company that gives guys like him a "second chance" by changing his identity.  That´s all.  Rock Hudson is very good in this, as is the rest of the cast.  Think about it as a very good episode of "Twilight Zone" that got the movie treatment.  I could go on and on with interpretations about the plot, but this is not the reason why I am writing these snippets right now (maybe I will for future films).  Watch it all.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

"Devil In the Flesh", 1947, Claude Autant-Lara, TSPDT: 1000

The purposes of these posts is to give you a quick guide to movies in the TSPDT list of 1,000 best films of all time.  In this case, "Devil..." is a melodrama during the Great War (First World War) in a small town near Paris, about a schoolboy in love with a slightly older woman, which already has somebody in her life.  It has fun parts, with lots of modern banter between the leads, and some striking camera movements due to the limitations of the 4:3 format, which gives the director the necessity of "finding" the actors and showing somehow the interesting things that they encounter in each setting, thus the extremely fluid camerawork. The morals of the story, however, are terrible, not so far from the reactionary tale of "Forrest Gump".  It is not a mystery why this movie is rated so low in the list, it is notable, but it will be forgotten.  Still, if you are here, is because you know that you could do a lot worse (modern Hollywood).  Watch at least the first half.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

"Fury", Fritz Lang (1936)

Is it always a pleasure to discover great films by great filmmakers.  Why we continue watching new garbage just because is it new?  This film by Lang is an Americanized version of the masterful "M", filmed before the darkest times of the Nazi regime as a warning about the dangers of the irrational mob.  The movie is clearly divided into two halves, one a fascinating study of the mob in action, the second about the legal consequences of the mob´s actions.  I cannot tell you more without describing the plot in detail, so I will withhold the spoilers and urge you to watch a good performance by Spencer Tracy, an imaginative use of stills and newsreels, faces and reactions, and a deceptive mandated ending that can´t make you forget the terrible actions depicted.

On the 996th place of TSPDT 2012 list and Rosenbaum´s 1000 Essential Films.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Back to the Past: review of three movies from Jan Troell. "Everlasting Moments", "The Emigrants" and "The New Land".

The appearance in 2008 of "Everlasting Moments" (Maria Larssons √∂gonblick Evigan), of Swedish filmmaker Jan Troell, gave back to the cinephiles of the world the opportunity to marvel at the miracle of the  moving image, in a succession of sepia photographs and social realism.

Troell's strategy is to place a character inside a family in an historical context, and let them develop within that past in evocative vignettes and small scenes of a deep didacticism. In "Everlasting Moments" our guide for the early decades of the twentieth Century in Sweden is Maria (Maria Heiskanen), wife and mother who discovers the aesthetic possibilities of the world through a camera. The camera as an object joins Maria and her partner in marriage, and its use releases her of the misfortunes of daily living, including the domestic violence partly derived from proletarian enslavement, a mixture of Soviet realism and Dickensian misery. Some film critics say that Maria bears the chauvinism prevalent in his time as a dominated female complicit with its own tormentor. Despite this impression, Maria takes the necessary steps for the continuity and progress of her family, that finally comes when her husband Sigfrid becomes a capitalist. It is then that she can stop feeling guilty about using her camera, which until then was an escape to the bourgeois world personified in her potential lover, owner of a photography shop. 

This assertion of individual power in pursuit of family progress is shared by the Swedish immigrants to whom Troell dedicated two films in the 1970s, "The Emigrants" and its sequel "The New Land". In these two films, Liv Ullman and Max Von Sidow leave an authoritarian and petrified Sweden where nature does not give respite towards a free America, for anyone who wants to take the land stolen from the aborigines. The road is arduous and full of disease, and the reward seems to be just more hard work, but Troell does an excellent job on emphasizing the tangible progress for the rural farmer, the daily optimism and dedication of the pioneer that believes more in his own capabilities than in an uncaring God who takes the most beloved. Although the viewer might think that the ultimate goal is money, being precisely an item highlighted throughout the second film, is not the mad pursuit of extraordinary profits represented by the California Gold Rush, but the traditional work ethic that ultimately pays. The pioneer has left all his sweat on the ground, and though his family has suffered the cost, in the final moments we have a peek at the beginning of a great American lineage, already in the era of the modern proletariat. Some scenes in "The New Land" are dominated by psychedelic drums and zooms from the seventies, while the horror genre music interspersed in "The Emigrants" is subtle like a sledgehammer, but given these warnings and used to the leisure pace, these two films offer an essential sociological and audiovisual experience not to be missed. 

Note of interest: there is a scene in "The New Land" taken entirely by George Lucas for "The Empire Strikes Back".  Many science fiction sagas are just allegories of the conquest of the West. 

"Everlasting Moments" (Maria Larssons ögonblick Evigan), 2008.
"The Emigrants" (Utvandrarna), 1971.
"The New Land" (Nybyggarna), 1972.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

"Now I Pronounce You Chuck & Larry", Dennis Dugan (2010)

An humanist comedy, crafted by the expert hands of Alexander Payne and that gentle spokesman for middle America, Adam Sandler.  This movie is funny and intelligent, kid you not.  "Brockeback Mountain" alienated scores of straight men with its promises of warm homosexual kisses, and when the moment came, it was glacial and timid, but still hurt to watch it: I never believed for a second that those people loved each other.  "INPYCaL" attacked the problem head-on, giving you Jessica Biel in panties, corageous firefighters and even Tila Tequila.  But there is a catch, see? Chuck and Larry, despite being straight, really love each other, and they don´t need to kiss to be the gayest couple in the mainstream cinema of the 21st Century.  Chuck and Larry learn what it means to be gay in the  United States, not exactlty the paradise that the guardians of Political Correctness want you to believe.  They equally joke about gays, fat men, ugly women, blacks and straight whites, but they know when enough is enough, explaining that some despicable words in the English language are equally insulting (nigger = faggot = kike).  "The Kids Are Allright" tried to make lesbians acceptable by making them almost heterosexual, "INPYCaL" instead tells you that gays are not like you at all, and it should not matter.  Differently from "Brokeback...", Chuck and Larry earned their kiss, and I would not think less of them if they don´t do it in front of the audience (3+/5).
Pablo Podhorzer ("white" & straight).

Armond White (black & gay) review:
Nathan Lee (Village Voice, also gay):

This film has a meagre 14% of positive reviews according to the Rottentomatoes aggregate engine, proving that consensus sometimes is downright wrong.

Friday, March 4, 2011

"Exit Through the Gift Sop", Banksy (2010)

Banksy is a real artist.  Instead of reading my comments, please link to his website and be amazed:

Ok, now the movie:
It works as an introduction to street art, and it works as social commentary about the commoditization of art in general.  Also speaks lots about real art (profound) and a pale imitation of it (pseudo-profound). Armond White should like this film, because it addresses exactly the kind of problem that White is speaking about when he rambles against Fincher, Nolan and Arronofsky.  The mainstream perceives the movies of those directors as being art, but they are more aking to Mr. Brainwash work than Banksy´s ouvres.  "Exit..." is funny, swift and poignant, probably the best of last year with "Scott Pilgrim". If connections had been made with other arts, it could have been perfect (4+/5).


"Tron: Legacy", Joseph Kosinski (2010)

In the next five mimutes I will think of a better storyline for TRON´s world that the one in the movie.  Imagine that the son of the Dude needs to connect the old computer to the intranet of his company for some arbitrary reason, so you see the shoot of him putting the telephone cable into the thing.  Then he gets sucked into the machine.  Everything is as we remember from the 1980s, but then CLU finds that now he can extend his reign utilizing more resources thorugh the intranet, so the CGI becomes 21st Century.  Then in the real world the managers put a new series of games online, and the games we see inside the machine would be justified. Dude´s son light-cycle could be controlled by Users, and we can crosscut from a frat-house of college boys playing online to the "reality" of the game in the machine.  CLU attempts to invade the Internet as a whole like a virus, to impose "order" against peer-sharing and whatnot, and we see how something really bad happens in the real world (mmm, an airport going crazy, etc) and after meeting several characters (the Searcher Algoritm, always working for Google) that help the Dude´s Son, CLU is defeated, and as a bonus an OS composed of the best friendly programs is now freely available and the Net thrives.  It took five minutes.  I am a genious.
So, the movie itself is not worth of your precious time, but if you can fast-forward you can watch three sequences with some interest: Disc Wars, the light-cycles, and its airborne version at the end.  The rest is suppossed profundity, and an attempt to generate a serious mitology where there is none.  Well, if the trick worked for "Inception" why would not work here?  The commitee doing this movie should have gone full-Nolan and put half an hour more of exposition and vacuous philosophy, maybe then the fanboys would consider it to be worthy of the herd.
One question: why Dude´s son is bleeding in the movie when he was converted into digital format by the laser? Another one: how can I use the spellchek function in Blogger?  Enjoy my typos..