Tuesday, October 16, 2007

todd solondz movies

After more than a year without posting, I realized I felt extremely sorry for this blog and decided to do something about it.

Todd Solondz is a director I only came across two weeks ago. I watched “Happiness”, the movie he directed in 1998, with little expectations, but as the movie progressed, my interest grew bigger and bigger. As soon as the movie finished, I was curious to see another of the director’s movies, in order to form an opinion. I watched Storytelling. I was further intrigued, and finished watching two others, Palindromes and Welcome to the Dollhouse.

Everybody says that Solondz makes weird movies, some say he makes weird and sick movies. But the reason I find his work so interesting is that he doesn’t make weird movies for the sake of weirdness, he’s not purely shocking for the sake of it. On the contrary, he focuses on life aspects that I’m sure can definitely be part of the real suburban life, and invites us to discover and investigate them. I think we all know or hear life stories that are awkward, and we’re not sure about how to react at their bizarreness: we’re amused and we laugh, and at the same time we’re shocked and outraged. And this is the kind of complex state Solondz’s movies induced to me. “I don’t like victim stories and I don’t write them […]There can be a blurry line between laughing at the expense of a character and laughing at the recognition of something painful and true”, the director says in an interview which explains quite interestingly the essence and dynamics of his work. I didn’t watch his movies thinking about them as a sick outcome of a sick person’s imagination, but rather actually feeling some very sad sides of human existence. They’re not “freak shows”, they’re takes on the sometimes freaky spectacle of life: “When I want to show the kind of meanness people are capable of, to make it believable I find I have to tone it down. It’s in real life that people are over the top. And if I have a certain view of how people behave in this regard, it’s because I’ve been a target for a certain kind of comment all my life. Perfect strangers have always felt free to say things to me in the street, or shout things from passing cars.”

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Sunday, June 04, 2006

big fish

Big Fish (2003) is one of the most beautiful movies i've watched so far. I am well aware of the fact that i can be accused of being a silly melodramatic girly, but i honestly don't care, since i have always adored storytelling (no wonder i am a great fan of fred&farid's essay on advertising being storytelling and so on). Plus, i am a Tintin huge fan (comics fan in general, to be more precise). And these two characteristics enjoyed every single minute of this movie. Thing is, if Tim Burton knows to do something really well, that something is to tell stories. And if people enjoyed and believed in such stories a little more, we would probably live in a better world.

But for those of us who spend most of the time unleashing our imagination and occasionaly finding outrageous explanations for every single detail, for those who look at this world the way everybody else does, but manage to see it quite differently (that is, in that particular, special way), for those who are never ashamed of smiling from their hearts, and who are willing to believe in the most out of the ordinary issues, and who never shout "nonsense" when exposed to something which seems unreal, this movie might be a very pleasant way of spending some time.

As far as the plot is concerned, the movie is no more than a story about some guy trying to find out the real side of his dying father, while reconstructing his fantasy-like side from all sorts of myths his father told him about himself. I can hardly wait to watch the many goodies on the DVD, about which i might add some updates at a later date.

Young Ed Bloom: There's a time when a man needs to fight and a time when he needs to accept that his destiny's lost, the ship has sailed and that only a fool will continue. The truth is I've always been a fool.
Young Ed Bloom: Now I may not have much, but I have more determination then any man you're likely to ever meet.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

lost highway

It's been a very long break, for which i deeply apologize, but the thing is that i've really been terribly busy. Which unfortunately means that i didn't have much time to watch movies, as much i was craving for them, and that i had even less time to post. Hopefully, i'm getting back on track.

Lost Highway is a David Lynch movie. For any regular movie-watcher, this should say pretty much. Because i believe that any regular movie-watcher has a strong opinion on Lynch and his style.

Personally, i love Lynch and his movies for several reasons. First of all, because in my opinion, they provide a very engaging perspective on dysfunctional minds. I mean if you happen to watch some Discovery FBI or forensic files on psychopaths with a totally deviant behavior, or just read something related and you find yourself wondering what on earth could drive a person mad enough to commit something totally out of the ordinary, movies like Lost Highway might actually provide some relevant insight. David Bowie singing "I'm deranged" at the beginning and at the end of the movie is no surprise, or coincidence from this point of view.

Second, there is the soundtrack. As far as i am concerned, the soundtrack helps a lot in building the perfect atmosphere and inducing the viewer a very "accurate" state of mind in accordance with the movie. No wonder: we have Trent Reznor working a lot for Lost Highway soundtrack, which is obviously "psychological" enough, and then there are Bowie, and Manson, and Lou Reed...just to give you an idea.

The plot, in brief, would sound like this: after a weird encounter at a party with some obsessively funny-looking man, some guy is accused of murdering his wife, but is curiously "replaced" the next day with a young mechanic, and has to start it all over. As this fascinating nightmare unravels, keep in mind the fact that it's like when you're lost or unsure on a lost highway and you just go with the flow...After all, "i think there is no such thing as a bad coincidence."

Sunday, April 16, 2006

libeled lady

ok, so you can call me nuts, but i'm just crazy about old movies. not any old movies, of course, but Libeled Lady received an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture in 1937. Directed by Jack Conway, the movie is a comedy/romance of the 30s and, to be honest, i couldn't help laughing out loud several times while watching it.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

dark passage

Before saying a few things about this one, i have to make an observation which puzzled me a bit, although making me very proud. As probably any person with some interest in movies noticed, IMDB not only has a list of Top 250 movies as voted by users, but also lists with votes by genre. In this latter category, each genre has a Top-rated list of titles, and a Bottom-rated list of titles. All genres but one: film noir is the only one which only has a Top-rated list.
As for Dark Passage, it's the first Delmer Daves i watch, and it's also the third (i hope i'm not wrong) in the famous Bogart-Bacall series of movies. Noir thriller, it uses the subjective camera technique in the first part, doubled by first-person narration and manages to create quite an atmosphere. We get to see what escaped prisoner Vincent Parry -wrongly accused to have murdered his wife - sees, we get to share his fear of not being caught, we practically get into his shoes, all careful and afraid. Until he gets lucky enough to find a taxi driver who recognizes, yet believes in him. So Vincent decides that the best way to be able to hide from the police, as well as from all the people who spotted his pic in the newspapers is to have his face arranged. To get a plastic surgery, that is. And this is the gimmick of the movie. Only after he gets a new face, can we step out of Vincent's shoes and get a grip while observing him from the outside. Only then, does the camera move off, that is. What follows is typically noir, with Lauren Bacall performing beautifully as the caring, loving woman by his side, as well as Agnes Moorehead acting impressively as the psychotic, obsessed one. So...hold your breath and cross your fingers, and don't miss it if you're a noir addict.

modern times

each time i watch a silent movie, i am looking for the magic described by Paul Auster in "The book of illusions". i want those people on the screen to be so expressive and develop such a powerful story, that i can develop strong feelings myself. I haven't yet watched all Charlie Chaplin movies, but so far, i haven't been dispappointed by any of them.
Although a quasi-silent movie, Modern Times has everything for one of the best in the silent era. Set in the 1930s during the Great Depression, the movie is mainly a social protest, dealing with the major issues of people during the 30s: unemployment, poverty, and hunger. The very simple story manages to millitate strongly against people being dehumanized due to machines in the Industrial Era, also by bringing a touch of fun. Actually, the same touch of fun goes on during the entire movie, making possible a very optimistic end:
Gamin: What's the use of trying?
The Tramp: Buck up - never say die. We'll get along!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

good, old reminder habit

i've watched and will soon post impressions: Marnie, Match Point, Dead man, Spellbound, Brokeback mountain, Ice Age 2, Basic Instinct 2, Witness for the prosecution and Violence des echanges en milieu tempere.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


If Psycho announced the mother as a man's best friend, Marnie states that the mother is a girl's best friend. In yet another Alfred Hitchcock-like psychological exploration, Mark marries Marnie, a habitual thief as well as pathological liar, who is not fond at all of any kind of man's presence anywhere near her. However, she is forced by circumstances to accept him and his continuous attempts to help her, the alternative being jail. Mark's persistence eventually pays off, and the psychological solution to Marnie's problems is built with the usual Hitchcock thrilling ability.
Some quotes:
"Marnie Edgar: You don't love me. I'm just something you've caught! You think I'm some sort of animal you've trapped!
Mark Rutland: That's right - you are. And I've caught something really wild this time, haven't I? I've tracked you and caught you and by God I'm going to keep you."
"Marnie Edgar: Why don't you love me, Mama?"
"Marnie Edgar: You Freud, me Jane?"

De battre mon coeur s'est arrêté

Jacques Audiard attracted my opinion some time ago, when i came across his following quote: "In essence, my work brings a plus of realism and eliminates the classical story in which you accept the conventions, but don't actually manage to identify yourself with the characters." I really liked the sound of this, and i've considered it a planner's ego ever since.
Since i am so fond of (good) French movies anyway, i was quite familiar with the atmosphere, as well as with the development the movie would offer, and wasn't disappointed at all by any element. Tom Seyr has every chance of following his father's footsteps, into dirty real estate business. However, he's not ready to let go his dream of becoming a pianist, just like his mother, especially since he's offered the chance of an audition, by his mother's agent. Trapped between his father's demands, his love for his best friend's wife and his passion for music, which is enough to turn into the only connection with his Chinese virtuoso teacher, who doesn't know a bit of French, Tom is vividly analysed and portrayed on the screen. Everything in 2005 De battre mon coeur s'est arrêté, winner of 8 César awards, one BAFTA Film Award and a Silver Berlin Bear.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

the lady vanishes

Alfred Hitchcock is one of those directors who never cease to amaze me. The lady vanishes is one of the greatest films of 1938 (of course) and yet another proof that Hitchcock is one of the best creators of thrillers ever. After an old British lady seems to have disappeared from a train, an entire game of complications and suppositions develops, most of them related to the question whether the lady actually was on that train or not. In other words, as one commentor on IMDB said, "A cracking plot, sparkling dialogue, great characters and sublime direction make The Lady Vanishes an all-time must see."
I admit i am rushing a bit with the comments, but i really am trying to get up-to-date with this blog.

nanny mcphee

aaaah...the eternal child in me...enjoyed this movie. Of course it's a silly children's story and nothing more, with magic and good and evil and all that, but i am always open to stories. Part because i still love reading comics so much, part because things are explained and revealed differently to children, which many times helps me spot and reflect upon certain details i'm not sure i would have taken into consideration otherwise. Plus, children have an amazing eye and way of thinking an sometimes their small things actually strike me. Enough with the mumble. Nanny McPhee is a sort of Marry Poppins, whose work principle is: "When you need me, but do not want me, then I will stay. When you want me, but no longer need me, then I have to go." It's just that unlike Marry Poppins, she's damn ugly in the beginning, i mean much more of a witch than a fairy. She has to take care of 7 children who had previously got rid of all the nannies in the local agency. And she manages to develop a great relationship with them, teaching them five great lessons and helping them and their father become a real family again.

Emma Thompson plays Nanny Mcphee and is also responsible for the screenplay, together with Christianna Brand. The director is Kirk Jones, and the seven children are really adorable.

broken flowers

"Sometimes life brings some strange surprises." Apparently this is the only thing capable of getting Don Johnston out of his current hibernation in the latest Jim Jarmusch movie. Only when receiving a letter which announced him that he was the father of a 19-year-old boy, does former Don Juan decide to go on a half-detective, half-emotional journey meant to unravel the sender of his previous lovers. "Broken flowers" was a pleasant experience from me, but i have to admit i had bigger expectations from it. The thing is that despite enjoying it, i constantly had the feeling that somethingwas missing. However, i'm not very sure what was that; i think i just wanted more.
Anyway; the movie contains a characteristic Jarmusch touch, therefore its atmosphere easily explains and will not be a disappointment for this director's fans (i guess). And Bill Murray achieves a great performance, which is not too surprising, giving his previous roles.

lock, stock and two smoking barrels

The funny thing about Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is that somebody whose tastes i really trust had told me that the movie wasn't actually any good, therefore i kept on avoiding it. Well, actually i think it is. Guy Ritchie's movie is one of the best comedies i've watched and if you're looking for a highly entertaining time, this is to my mind one of the best options. I appreciated both the script, and the directing, as well as the acting. And, all in all, i guess i can quote Big Chris, when saying "It's been emotional."

the conversation

"Harry Caul...an invader of privacy. The best in the business. He can record any conversation between two people anywhere. So far, three people are dead because of him." These are the premises of Francis Ford Coppola's 1970 masterpiece "The conversation", a lucid analysis of electronic surveillance and the threat of new technologies, released at a time when the violation of civil rights was on of the main public concerns. The movie follows Harry Caul (Gene Hackman), a surveillance expert who becomes utterly obsessed with a case of apparent marital infidelity, for fear that the couple he's closely watching might be murdered by the cheated husband. However, the movie's end is an impressive twist, turning Caul into the victim of his own profession. "The conversation" received 3 Oscar nominations, for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Sound. Actually, it unfortunately competed for Best Picture with Coppola's "The Godfather Part II". Full details and analysis here.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


Although it's scored 7 on IMDB, Proof really failed to impress me. I'm not necessarily saying it's a bad movie, but i watched so many brilliant movies lately, that it has become a little difficult for me to credit a movie like Proof too much.
What i liked the most, and what actually determined me to watch the movie was its idea itself: the uncertainty surrounding the daughter of a mathematics genius who had gone insane. Since i have been studying the phenomenon for a while, i am somewhat familiar to the drama of having a mentally disturbed parent or close relative, as well as the fear of inheriting the disease. However, the movie didn't seem powerful enough, as the psychological state would have demanded, but rather superficial and built for the sake of developing a drama. I enjoyed Gwyneth Paltrow playing her character though, and then, there was Anthony Hopkins, whom i loved of course, since he is among my favourite actors of all time.
The good thing about the movie is that it reminded me about a book i've been willing to read for a while now, about the fantastic story of the number pi. The film acted as an incentive and I finally decided to read it, which is quite satisfactory after all.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

pink panther

well, yes, i watched "The Pink Panther". The explanation is simple: i was so tired and so full of wok-related thoughts that i simply felt the need to watch something totally stupid and laugh accordingly. If Shawn Levy doesn't ring any bells, i should say that he also directed Cheaper by the Dozen and Just Married. And then, there's Steve Martin. The impression that i had was that this movie was alarmingly similar with basically any Leslie Nielsen movie, and in particular, with basically any of the movies in the "Naked Gun" series. So, if you feel like laughing from variations of such hilarious situations, you might as well enjoy this film. I honestly did, i needed a good laugh too badly not to use this opportunity.

Monday, March 13, 2006

taxi driver

well, i don't think there's any respectable movie site or blog which didn't discuss this all-time classic. Directed by Martin Scorsese in 1976, Taxi Driver is widely regarded as a masterpiece, despite not having been rewarded with any Academy Award. Actually, not even the nominations it received [Best Picture, Best Actor (Robert De Niro), Best Supporting Actress (Jodie Foster), and Best Original Score (Bernard Herrmann)] managed to cover the brilliance of the movie and the people behind it, since neither director Martin Scorsese, nor screenwriter Paul Schrader, or cinematographer Michael Chapman gained any recognition.
The powerfully insightful tagline "On every street in every city, there's a nobody who dreams of being a somebody." manages to focus in just a few words the entire story of the movie. And not only. Cause the movie still echoes in many of today's social, political and psychological realities. Robert De Niro achieves a wonderful performance as nighttime taxi driver Travis Bickle, a mentally unstable, but rather special guy who overcomes the premises of being an obsessed freak, ending up as the local hero.
  • Travis Bickle: The days go on and on... they don't end. All my life needed was a sense of someplace to go. I don't believe that one should devote his life to morbid self-attention, I believe that one should become a person like other people.
  • Travis Bickle: June twenty-ninth. I gotta get in shape. Too much sitting has ruined my body. Too much abuse has gone on for too long. From now on there will be 50 pushups each morning, 50 pullups. There will be no more pills, no more bad food, no more destroyers of my body. From now on will be total organization. Every muscle must be tight.
  • Travis Bickle: I'll tell you why. I think you're a lonely person. I drive by this place a lot and I see you here. I see a lot of people around you. And I see all these phones and all this stuff on your desk. It means nothing. Then when I came inside and I met you, I saw in your eyes and I saw the way you carried yourself that you're not a happy person. And I think you need something. And if you want to call it a friend, you can call it a friend. Betsy: Are you gonna be my friend? Travis Bickle: Yeah.

Monday, March 06, 2006

delay delay delay

just give me one more week, please, to finish the tons of work that i have and i will add the movies i've watched in the last two weeks, that is: Lock, stock and two smoking barrels; Proof; Broken Flowers and the already delayed Taxi Driver and The Conversation.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

monty python's life of brian

Life of Brian is the second Monty Python movie i watched. So i had quite some expectations from it, and the movie surely didn't let me down. I had quite a laugh, but not the sort of stupid laugh i sometimes get from silly American comedies or comedy/romances. Nope. Life of Brian uses English humour as a perfect tool to critisize excessive religiosity, as well as hypocrite and manipulative religion. In other words, as Wikipedia characterizes it "a sacrilegious film "deserving censorship". The movie presents the life of Brian Cohen (played by Graham Chapman), a young man born nearly the same time as, and right down the street from Jesus.
What I liked the most was the way in which psychology of masses is portrayed. I remember one person asking at a certain point: "How shall we fuck off, oh, Lord?" and i found that terribly funny. And then, there were many scenes which seemed to take place in one of today's churches, with people having come to listen to Jesus preaching who end fighting and arguing and insulting each other.
All in all, in 2000, "Life of Brian" was voted the greatest comedy film of all time by readers of the Total Film magazine. In 2004 the same magazine named it the 5th greatest British film of all time. And i do not believe that this happened for nothing.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

the purple rose of cairo

if i take into consideration how much work i have to do, i'd have to skip movies for quite a while; and i just couldn't take it any longer.
So, here i was watching "The Purple Rose of Cairo". Indeed "inventive, funny and magical" as announced in its launching poster, this movie makes me simply love Woody Allen a bit more (despite being among the few in which Allen doesn't act himself). The thing i like the most about Allen is his excellent writing skill. His dialogues simply keep me fully focused all the time, in a very enjoyable manner. They entertain me and enchant me, through a certain natural way of being able to go so deep into things, without requiring the intense implication of the viewer. Just like in the case of "Annie Hall", i feel like i need to mark down quote after quote, cause i could use it sometime, but, on the other hand, i don't feel like skipping parts of the movie while writing those quotes anyway.
What i'm trying to say, through all this complicated mummbling is that i loved this movie. Its idea is simple: we have a New Jersey waitress, with a jerk of a husband, who doesn't respect or love her, and whose only, but great escape from quite a miserable life are her nights at the movies. Together with the entire cinema world, which fascinates her and which she knows by heart. And then, we have the premier of "The Purple Rose of Cairo", the latest romantic story brought to the theatre. She falls in love with the movie, and one of the characters falls in love with her, so he just decides to leave the screen and go after this real woman he's mad about. There are no attempts to sabotage the story itself by getting into scientifical explanations of how the character did it. As one of the viewers says, "It's New Jersey, anything can happen". And things do happen. And twists and turns occur. And the feeling with which i remained is that cinema can indeed change lives; and this is neither good, nor bad; it's a form of therapy like any other forms of therapy, maybe a little more magical, because it focuses around stories in which situations solve, and there are people you can count on and then, there are all the little things, the minor details which real life doesn't spoil real people with.