What movie was that...?

25 May 2010

October Country

directed by Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher

Even the trailer is breathtaking. The Burton strikes again, bringing amazing independent cinema to Detroit. Don’t miss out. 

The Wackness

directed by Jonathan Levine

Jonathan Levine’s film about an NYC summer in 1994 possesses the perfect kind of alchemy that drums up massive amounts of nostalgia for a time when the world seemed as raw and vibrant as its music. Josh Peck is no joke as Luke, flunkie dope dealer who trades his wares for shrink sessions with a whacko doc Squires, a role Ben Kingsley relishes like a champ. Luke is hawking the doc’s daughter, Stephanie (a snarky and superb Olivia Thirlby), but she has a hard time seeing him the same way. Levine’s vision is a mixture of romance, comedy, slackerish poetry and sheer musical exuberance spilled across the backdrop of the Big Apple, which was hip hop’s epicenter in those glory days. It melts the hearts with its sincerity, like a story regaled after a few too many beers, a story that recounts a time when all seemed to make sense and the future wasn’t so bleak. I would totally watch a sequel to this treat of a film. Bravo, Mr. L.

Planet Earth

created by the BBC

When the BBC wants to put on a show, they put on one hell of an effing show. Life in the Undergrowth was a dazzling peek into the universe beneath our feet, and Life (the one narrated by David Attenborough, not Oprah) was a mind blower, and the Blue Planet series contains some of the most amazing underwater visuals beheld by humans. Planet Earth is so sweeping in its scope, so stunning in its realization that it simply dwarves all other attempts on the subject, save for its aforementioned counterparts, produced and released by the same company. Watching a legit BBC nature series is like seeing the world through new eyes, experiencing things you never knew existed, like giant centipedes that feed on bats, or the haunting majesty of a tundra forest. Hell, even organisms like grass take on an almost otherworldly property when glimpsed through the ever enthralled eye of the BBC camera crew. The truly curious will have already consumed these series with a ravenous verve, but those of you who haven’t gotten a load need to check every single one I named above.
Favorite sequences: The African wild dogs, the shark attacks, and the mountain goat sequences.

24 May 2010

House

directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi

Not to be confused with Steve Miner’s crappily awesome 80’s horror comedy, House, or Ethan Wiley’s even more ridiculous House 2, Nobuhiko Obayashi’s 1977 haunted house film is one of the most bizarre and righteous of its kind. Hauso (its proper title) tells the tale of a bunch of girlfriends who head up to Oshare’s (apparently, the English translation is “Gorgeous”) Aunt’s house to hang out and make some art(?) with their dreamy teacher. Turns out, Auntie’s house has an appetite of its own, and as it picks off the young ladies one by one, the surviving girls find themselves fighting for their lives. House is filled with such absurd, tangential and inexplicable sequences as to render the film nearly incoherent. I will highlight a sequence in which said art teacher asks a watermelon salesman if he has any bananas, causing the watermelon salesman to turn into some sort of radioactive skeleton that crumbles to pieces, and then turns the art teacher into a pile of bananas. I’m sure some crazy ass, high as a kite “expert” on the film could provide me with some convoluted explanation of the previously mentioned sequence, but I’m sure it would make about as much sense as a UFO conspiracy nut illustrating the validity of the Gulf Breeze sightings. Even if they could, it couldn’t explain the rest of the film, which, considering the date of its release, appears to be the primary inspiration for nearly every music video made during the first half of the 1980s. I am so happy that Obayashi’s bonkers masterpiece is a part of my history, part of what comprises me, and I would be totally happy to revisit this film with any interested party, but is not of the same magical stuff as Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, or Troll 2. It makes it no less spectacular, however. It is playing at The Burton Theatre in Detroit this week for a limited engagement, so haul those asses down there to feast your eyes on this treasure and support those excellent indie film lovers.
Sub-Review: If I had a million hats, I would tip them all to the absolutely tremendous commercial for the cologne dubbed Mandom, playing before the film and starring a magnificent Charles Bronson in all of his mustached, Death Wish era glory. A commercial that answers the age old question, “How does a man as manly as Bronson bathe?”, Mandom explores the awesome realm of existence that us regular guys can only hope to glimpse through vicarious filmic portholes. Everyone loves a lover, and everyone loves Mandom. FYI, I posted the commercial below, but viewer beware. The subsequent quivering in your loins is a phenomenon for which I take no responsibility.

Robin Hood

directed by Ridley Scott

Aside: This in no way pertains to the following review, but I have to get this off my chest. Off all the stupid, ulcer-inducing, bullshit remakes that Hollywood can vomit up on screen, why, oh why do they have to ruin one of my favorite childhood films, The Karate Kid? Pat Morita will forever be Myagi, no matter how hard Jackie Chan tries. What’s worse is that I could totally forgive this if they had cast any other kid, any other kid in the whole wide world than Will Smith’s annoyingly voiced son. Seriously, every time I hear that kid’s voice, I want to break something. Anyway, enough with the digression and back to the action…
I guess Ridley Scott caught the reboot fever that has been sweeping Hollywood these past few years, most successfully with Casino Royale and Star Trek, and most disastrous with Halloween (and you call yourself a true fan of horror, Mr. Zombie. For shame!). Scott’s reboot of the most famous ennobled criminal in history, sadly, falls somewhere in between, a cluttered mashup of history, fiction and ambition that exceeds reality. Scott’s Hood only becomes the guy we know at the very end of the film, with the bulk of the story finding him impersonating a dead knight to somehow help an old man and his foxy daughter in law hang on to some land in a post-Crusades England. Oh, but first he escapes from the clutches of his military servitude after King Richard (an always strange and wonderful Danny Huston) kicks off, and with some buddies in tow. I’ll give you a hint, they’re Will Scarlet (a solid Kevin Grimes), some other guy, and a friggin huge Kevin Durand who plays Little John (get it? It’s because he’s so friggin huge). Durand is a treat (as usual), and Cate Blanchett is dynamite as “Maid” Marion, Robin’s faux wife turned legit lover. Script writer Brian Helgeland finds himself cramming too much shit into a too little box, and the result is that characters like the effing Sherriff of Nottingham (Hood’s main foe) get lost in the shuffle. Too bad, but Scott and Crowe (a couple who are sliding down the Burton/Depp isolationist rabbit hole) make a good team, as long as you forget the truly agonizing A Good Year. Mark Strong rules, as does Max Von Sydow, and the whole package finds itself much better than the Kevin Costner abomination, but not nearly as good as Errol Flynn’s iconic turn in the 1938 classic. What else is there to say? The critics have been feeling varying degrees of lukewarm about this film, and with fodder as rich as Robin Hood’s legend, Scott’s final product should have definitely roused more than tepid sentiment in the average moviegoer. I don’t know what went wrong, but let’s hope that Scott’s Alien prequel finds itself more charged and fleshed out than this hijacking of an overdone folk tale.
Note: Whoever decided to extend the excellent brushstroke style of Scott Free’s logo into a filmic summary during the end credits was a genius. Hands down one of the best aspects of this film. Stay and watch and be surprised at every turn.

19 May 2010

The Faculty

directed by Robert Rodriguez

He has been making a lot of questionable but fun films for children these days, but Robert Rodriguez used to make some pretty balls out action movies, too. El Mariachi was a low-fi treasure, and Desperado birthed the enragingly cool El in his essential form, played to perfection by Antonio Banderas. And there was Sin City, a technical milestone and one of the finest comic book films ever made. But a lot of people forget about his slick popcorn horror film, The Faculty, starring a Who’s Who line up of young talent and written by Kevin Williamson. Yes, the real Dawson himself penned this nifty little sci-fi horror treat for the masses, and Rodriguez even had time to spawn a series of commercials for Tommy Hilfiger featuring the cast. Weird, but what’s weirder is the unlikely pairing of Williamson and Rodriguez. Geeky movie inside jokes and trivia are everywhere you look, and every player in the film gets it enough to put on a super sincere performance that only works to make it that much more fun. Plot time: A group of teens discover that aliens may have overrun their little town, body snatcher types that look no different from their human counterparts. The only way to out them is to force them to snort a concoction from Zeke’s (a perfect Josh Hartnett) DYI meth-at-home kit. How does the group plot their course? By referencing other movies that broke the sci-fi mold, of course! Elijah Wood is brilliant as the nerd, Clea Duvall is superb as the basket case- hold the phone, BC. Are you talking about a Breakfast club remake, or something? In a way, yes. It’s John Hughes after a tequila-lubed one nighter with John Carpenter, Sam Raimi and a stack of old video classics. Guaranteed to jack you up, and put a smile on your face. The Faculty ages like wine and plays like the drive in classic it is destined to become.

Beauty and the Beast

directed by Gary Truesdale and  Kirk Wise

In light of my recents posts, I feel it is high time for a little light from all this darkness...
I was recently lamenting the fact that my generation didn’t have any truly classic traditional Disney films to boast of, when I remembered the magnificent Beauty and the Beast. Sure, some may tell you that The Lion King ranks up there, or even Aladdin, but the sad fact is that neither of these hold up like such iron clad classics as Snow White, Cinderella, Pinocchio, The Jungle Book, Bambi, Fantasia or Peter Pan, and that’s just naming a few. During the so-called Disney Renaissance, several strong films emerged that showed promise, but of the newly accomplished bunch, only one possesses the pure magic that elevates it to such timeless ranks as the aforementioned. The story of Belle discovering love at the hands of her captor is pure Stockholm syndrome folklore, but Disney somehow manages to find the same transcendent core of the story that Jean Cocteau did with his 1946 version, and perhaps it was my age that helped engross me so, helped to enrapture me, but Disney’s pitch perfect fable is simply marvelous. Honestly, can you look back on The Little Mermaid with such affection, such objectivity? Or Pocahontas? These films are great, don’t get me wrong, but they are not of the same caliber and that’s a fact, Jack. You should be proud of your contributions to the grand Disney canon, Mr. Eisner, and you should be proud of such an achievement as having one of your animated films be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Hell that’s only happened twice, and it took a doubling of candidates for Up to make it into the recent running. Go back, experience it again. It is important to revisit places and things that conjure up such powerful youthful emotions, especially when they are such blood warming comforts as Beauty and the Beast. Blending computer animation with traditional animation for the first time, Beauty and the Beast is also bittersweet in that it marks the beginning of traditional animation’s wane in the universe. Watching it now is like watching an old home movie about the last few days of summer, when the days grow shorter, and time slips away faster than you care to admit. 

18 May 2010

Come to Daddy, Rubber Johnny (Aphex Twin music videos)

directed by Chris Cunningham

Sometimes, you hear a thing you cannot unhear, and sometimes you see a thing you cannot unsee. Someone breaking a limb. Tom Cruise dancing on BET. Howard Dean’s epic scream. Prepare to add two more things to that grand list, and I’ll say “you’re welcome” in advance. Chris Cunningham has long been the experimentalist, from working with Stanley Kubrick on his never realized film, A.I. (Speilberg’s conversation piece was the final fruition of said film) to his short films and music videos, Cunningham has set the bar for strange in a way all his own. In Aphex Twin mastermind Richard David James, Cunningham finds a kindred spirit. Or someone willing to let him just get as freaky as he wants. Either way, the results are nightmare inducing, and possibly gag reflex inducing. In Come to Daddy, Cunningham spins the yarn of a poor old woman terrorized by some scary ass kids (all bearing Richard’s face), then finds herself face to face with a devil spawned from the television underworld. For Rubber Johnny, Cunningham uses infrared video and prosthetics to create another nightmare based on the concept of a raver morphing as he dances. Each one is a fresh hell of pure, adrenaline fueled twistedness guaranteed to raise your pulse and quease the gut. There is humor to be found in there, too, it’s just darker than a black hole. It helps if, immediately after watching this tremendous duo, you curl up in a fetal position and hum nursery rhymes for 30 minutes or so. If you can find  several kittens to cuddle, that would work even better. 


Rabbit in Your Headlights (a Radiohead video)

directed by Jonathan Glazer

Jonathan Glazer was the talent who brought an artist’s eye to the stellar gangster film Sexy Beast, but before he was making features he was dazzling teens like me with his knockout music videos. And none of his music videos disturb and intrigue like his truly marvelous video for UNKLE’s Rabbit in Your Headlights, featuring the voice talent of Thom Yorke in full aural hypnotist mode. UNKLE, for those of you who are going “huh?” right now, is the epochal pairing of DJ Shadow and James Lavelle who, together, formed a kind of electronic super group, and their album, Psyence Fiction, represented the best of the best of the hip hop, trip hop, electronic, and alt rock worlds. For Rabbit, Glazer’s lens finds a man stumbling through a busy tunnel, narrowly (sometimes less than narrowly) missing collisions with various speedy travelers, while Yorke’s surreal croon seems to drown out the entire universe, until the mind boggling crescendo, that is. Again, this is one of those videos that blew doors off everything when it first came out, just like Duran Duran’s groundbreaking on location videos did in the 80s, only this time, the envelope is a little beyond the quaint notion of filming outdoors and, therefore, a bit more difficult to push. Mission accomplished, Mr. G.

17 May 2010

Back to the Future (Sweded)

directed by Team Bullet Time

Sadly, there are very few things that I actually liked about Michel Gondry’s filmic disappointment, Be Kind, Rewind. I loved the Swedes, however, and something I enjoyed more than Gondry’s Swedes are the ones he inspired, the ones you find all over YouTube. What are Swedes, you ask? They are the ultra low-fi, super imaginative, hyper distilled and affectionate uber-mockeries of films we all know and love. In Gondry’s film, Jack Black and Mos Def (both wasted, BTW) coin the term as they attempt to remake all the movies in a video store after Black erases them all.  In real life, Swede is the term others have adopted to categorize their own affectionate parodies of classic films. The net is full of such inferior and amateur renditions of old favorites, but in real life, no Swede is as swede (see what I did there? Not as easy as it looks.) as Team Bullet Time’s Back to the Future. From the hand composed soundtrack, to the ludicrously brilliant Doc Brown explaining how the time machine runs on the “capacitator”, the blistering 90 seconds that follow are as fantastic as anything in Gondry’s film. I could go on and on about all of the inside jokes, magical teasing and inspired filmmaking going on in this short, but I would ruin all the fun. Just watch it, and if you are thirsty for more, check out the tremendous Swede for Predator. There are a plethora of wannabes, and most of them fall way short, but these two understood the spirit of Gondry’s vision and have made unique additions to that work.


Predator (Sweded)

The Rock-afire Explosion

directed by Brett Whitcomb

Playing at The Burton in Detroit…
As I write this review, I am watching The Rock-afire Explosion’s video for Usher’s song, Love in this Club, on YouTube. And somehow, just like that, just as it has happened so many times in these past few months, 20 minutes have just flown by as I watched more and more videos produced by both the Rock-afire Explosion enthusiast (the epically endearing Chris Thrash) and the Rock-afire brainchild (the ego driven idealist, Aaron Fechter), videos that have helped to bring a memorable childhood memory back from the dead. And to think, it all started with Bubba Sparxxx’s Ms. New Booty. Why Chris Thrash chose to break the old champagne bottle against the hull of that particular club song is a question for the ages, but I have jumped ahead of the story, here. Let’s back up. In the 1980s, a young inventor named Aaron Fechter created an animatronic band that took the country by storm, or should I say by explosion. By Rock-afire Explosion, that is. With Fechter’s musical contraption at its helm, the youth-focused restaurant chain known as Showbiz Pizza was unleashed, spawning a craze amongst youngsters that has virtually no adult equivalent, bar maybe the young Elvis Presley insanity. Too bad the entire enterprise lost money hand over fist, until the once noble chain was forced to merge with the far inferior Chuck E. Cheese franchise. Dark days, indeed. And so it went, the illustrious Rock-afire Explosion vanishing into obscurity, until a small group of fans who never let go revived the cult icon with music videos released on YouTube. Now, I’m not talking about old Beach Boys or Raffi songs. I’m talking about stellar, hoodish club songs that inexplicably make me long for the days yore, when the rents got buzzed on pitchers of beer and us kids got to leap through the bacteria trap they called a ball pit. The doc itself revolves around the cult of Showbiz, the strange personae of Fechter, but the heart of the film beats for Chris Thrash, roller rink DJ who purchases a complete “show” to bring his childhood dream to life. Thrash would be a parody if he wasn’t so damn genuine, a true blue dreamer who dares to actually bring his aspirations to life. Brett Whitcomb's doc is technically sound, nothing special, and it is just long enough to keep you interested. What stays with you is an image of Thrash, watching his personal Rock-afire Explosion, his elation and contentment pure and complete. It’s joy the likes of which many of us can only hope to experience. Get yourself some Mountain Dew, a hot pie, and prepare to find that special place where a kid can be a kid, forever.
Feast your eyes upon these jewels:


16 May 2010

George Washington

directed by Brad Neely

Brad Neely’s world is full of strange and wonderful things, but none of them are as cussing awesome as his rap video about the first Prez of these United States. In Neely’s history book, GW was a laser guided, double sacked, perfect handed ninja who could kick you in two and shoot an arrow into heaven. The rudimentary animation merges with his uproarious lyrics in a sidesplitting and addicting little music video starring some zombie forefathers. Everything comes from Neely’s little world, including both voices, all the music (much of it created by his own mouth) and a portrait of Washington as a young badass, eating dear, screwing bears and slaying his sensei. GW has a soft spot for the children, but not the British children. I will say no more, except watch it. Then, watch it again. I guarantee that you won’t be able to get it out of your head. I am still at the point where I need a dose of it almost daily. If you’re thirsty for more, watch Neely’s other gem, Prisoner Christmas. I won’t spoil any of that for you, but brace yourself.


This is Christmas music!

Endless Summer

directed by Bruce Brown

Most surfing films, especially Endless Summer’s contemporaries, were nothing more than informative filmic chronicles of various locations or talents, made for a niche crowd of enthusiasts. Surfer Bruce Brown’s Endless Summer was a surfing film that transcended the common constrictions most other films of the sort found themselves battling. Perhaps because it was made by a surfer, much like Stacey Peralta’s insider perspective made the classic doc Dogtown and Z-Boys such a powerful film, but Endless Summer is a film that speaks to the inner Keanu in all of us. Yes, films like Super Session are much more rock and roll, Stacey Peralta’s Riding Giants is possibly cooler and Bustin’ Down the Door is more definitive in terms of iconic surfing talent, and there are hoards of underground mixtape films that feature some the of the hottest shit you have ever seen, but none of them do it with the casual grace, humor, and serenity of Brown’s Endless Summer. The sequel is also a wonderful film and features wonderful camera work, but the original taps into the kind of magic that is rarely duplicated. Brown’s son Dana made a killer surfing doc a few years ago called Step Into Liquid, which is also worth a view for anyone even remotely interested in surfing and surfing culture.

Exit Through the Gift Shop

directed by Banksy

The street artist known as Banksy, a guerilla phantom art terrorist who has canvassed virtually every surface this fair globe has to offer, tackles the filmic wall in his geniusly irreverent lampooning of the subjective world of “high” art. His subject is simultaneously himself, the post-bombing street art movement, and an overzealous documentarian whose obsession with the rogue lifestyle sends him on a path of idol worship the likes of which I haven’t seen since Robert Ford and Jesse James. Thierry Guetta’s first steps into the world of street art began with his cousin, known as Space Invader, whose 8 bit tile creations permeated France’s urban landscape. After that, it was on like Donkey Kong for Guetta, who filmed thousands and thousands of hours of graffiti being created amidst the shroud of darkness, and all across the globe. But it is for Banksy that Guetta searches with an Ahab-like fervor, which seems fitting as Banksy is himself much like the fabled white whale. He is pure, mysterious, folklorically intangible, an idea. Featuring such giants of modern street art as Shepard Fairey, Invader, and even the vehement, uproarious mockery that is Mister Brain Wash (he has to be seen to be believed), Banksy’s doc is at once a joke and a record of an important artistic movement, the no rules, renegade explosion of vision, the power of expression at all costs. Is it a work of art? You be the judge, but it was a cuss of a lot of fun to watch.

12 May 2010

Meet Joe Black

directed by Martin Brest

Don’t even roll your eyes at me, you jerks. Did you even watch Meet Joe Black? Or did you just bitch through the trailer, then never actually give Martin Brest’s strange and romantic film an earnest viewing? Well, I did, and guess what? I loved it! That cat is out of the bag. Brad Pitt is patently strange as Joe, aka Death, mysterious houseguest of William Parrish (a solid and excellent Anthony Hopkins). Death cuts a deal with William; the longer Mr. Parrish entertains him by showing him around the world and teaching him about life, the longer William gets to hang around the land of the living. Joe has the hots for William’s foxy daughter (classic Death), the wonderful and underrated Claire Forlani, which throws a cosmic wrench in the works. I will concede that the sequence in which Brad Pitt speaks in a horrendous (actually, what’s worst than horrendous?) island dialect is nearly unbearable, but the sheer joy of seeing Marcia Gaye Harden and Jeffrey Tambor act the hell out of their roles more than makes up for that mess of a scene. Meet Joe Black is a guilty pleasure, to be sure, but it’s a pleasure I am not ashamed to indulge ever now and again. Give it another shot, I beg you.

Sabotage (a Beastie Boys video)

directed by Spike Jonze

The ultimate badass music video takes the form of one rollicking, balls out cop drama starring various aliases of the Beastie Boys universe. MCA, Ad Rock and Mike D chase, shoot, speed and walk talkie the hell out of a fully realized film condensed into one righteous trailer. Sabotage has long since come to define the hardcore meets hip hop chaos of the Beastie Boys, and Jonze finds a way to compliment the signature song with a style as reckless and vibrant as anything you have ever seen. Car chases, mustaches and disguises abound, as does the level of testosterone and general kick assery of a Jonze trademark: pure energy and in your face lust for life. Those of you who remember seeing this video for the first time can remember it coming out of nowhere like the best sucker punch ever, and for those of you who have only watched this classic on the Spike Jonze compilation DVD have, sadly, missed out on the sweet pleasure of knowing what the world was like before this video. We can never go back, and we are all the better for it. As I think about all of the groundbreaking filmic talents who have emerged from the realm of the music video, I am shocked that this once indispensible medium has seemed to die a quiet death. Now, it has to be hunted, tracked through the internet jungle and glimpsed like an endangered species. There was a time, however, when unicorns like this romped through the television countryside for all to enjoy. 
Sabotage (avec a little behind the scenes action)

My Body is a Cage (an Arcade Fire video), All I Need (a Radiohead video)

directed by J. Tyler Helms

I was preparing to write a review for the magnificent J. Tyler Helms Arcade Fire video for their song, My Body is a Cage when I decided to give the video one more look. I have loved this video for some time, and when my Google search yielded a website for Helms, I had the good fortune of feasting upon his other dazzling filmic jewel, a video for Radiohead’s All I Need in which he combined the song with a splicing of scenes from one of my favorite films, French insect film Microcosmos. Peep my earlier reviews for both of these truly wonderful films, but get a load of Mr. H’s genius at work in both cases. For Cage, Helms creatively edits the operatic climax from Sergio Leone’s masterpiece to bring a whole new level to Arcade Fire’s sleazy (beautifully, elegantly sleazy) metaphor for coitus. Frankly, any chance to see Henry Fonda embody pure evil is well worth it, and Charles Bronson’s performance in that film stacks up with some of the finest in cinema. Helms bring a depth, a resonance to a song that can hold its own weight, and the result is tear-inducing. In All I Need, Helms combines the imagery with context to evoke a surreal and hypnotic quality prevalent in much of Radiohead’s canon. It makes me want to pop in Microcosmos and drop In Rainbows on the record player, Wizard of Oz slash Pink Floyd style, just to see what happens. My guess is it may blow my mind.
My Body is a Cage


All I Need

10 May 2010

Iron Man 2

directed by Jon Favreau

Is it as good version 1.0? Not at all, but it’s got a bonkers Robert Downey Jr., a Don Cheadle who trumps the Howard of the original, and a smarmy Sam Rockwell playing jealous little brother to Downey Jr.’s Stark. And the cherry on top of this comic action force is a slimy and sensational Mickey Rourke so entertaining he makes sitting on a cot with a bird on his knee look badass. Too many cooks (Scarlett Johansson, what was your comic codename supposed to be? And why were you in any way vital to the plot?) make for a shitty stew, but it’s the actors that keep it fun. Gwenyth Paltrow is underused, as is that plot thing everyone keeps talking about.  Yes, the film doesn’t seem to go very far, or deal with a fully formed plot, and maybe writing and acting wiz Justin Theroux is to blame, but it’s certainly not as aggravatingly bad as the geeks would have you believe. 

Night Train (a Chanel No. 5 commercial)

directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Perhaps it’s the passage of time, but never has Jean-Pierre Jeunet so obviously displayed just how deeply in love he is with Audrey Tautou as he does in his wonderful Chanel No. 5 commercial, Night Train. Jeunet is a hardcore romantic, ever starry eyed, regardless of how desperate the context. Even in the throes of childhood terror, manifested as a disorienting harbor city perpetually shrouded in darkness, Jeunet finds a light to guide his audience. In Amelie, the light was the truly radiant Ms. Tautou, and she brought to Jeunet’s affectionately dysfunctional world a tenderness all her own. In A Very Long Engagement, the intoxicating effects hadn’t worn off of the marvelous director, and once again she dazzled. The two will bring another feature film to the world soon enough, but for now be sure to watch Mr. J continue to be so enamored of Audrey Tautou so as to render all other elements (as beautifully treated as they are) mute. A romance, a train, and the wonderful amber tones that make up all things Jeunet, Chanel’s stroke of genius will melt your heart.

09 May 2010

My Life, My Card (an American Express commercial)

directed by Wes Anderson

It’s a whirlwind of hilarious, bat shit craziness, lovable pomp and idiosyncratic particularity that defines Wes Anderson’s highly entertaining American Express commercial from a few years ago. American Express struck out with the weird and lame Shyamalan spots, but struck gold with Anderson’s comic peek behind the scenes of a movie set, equipped with everything from an exploding car to a Jason Schwartzman. The strange thing is that, as contrived as that whole sequence was, it doesn’t make it any less indicative of Wes Anderson’s style, vision, and focus as an artist. What makes a true artist is the ability to see that artist in every work, and even if that one commercial was your only glimpse into Anderson’s head, you somehow get the entire picture right there. You know exactly what he is about.  And the pseudo one take makes for a highly entertaining ride.

Warrior's Dance (The Prodigy video)

directed by Colin Hardy

It’s no classic, but when I stumble upon something that seems to enjoy itself as much as Colin Hardy’s video for the newly released single from The Prodigy (remember? Firestarter? Remember? Fat of the Land?), I feel the need to share. Revolving around a few packs of smokes that come alive, barge into a closed pub, have a rager, then burn the mother, Hardy’s video has a kind of crunked out, shit faced, reckless direction that fits well with the song, and the entire packages read like something out of The Matrix Revolutions, but with pseudo stop motion animated objects. I dig the song, too, but let’s just say I’m not breaking down the record store door to get my own copy. Hardy shows promise, which makes me excited to see what else he can do, and apparently his Yeti based, Sam Raimi involved horror film is set to start soon. I have to admit, I’m excited to see a murderous cryptozoological creature menacing a group of hikers, a small town, or whatever the hell plot device Hardy has penciled into his modern fable.

07 May 2010

A Glorious Dawn (A Symphony of Science music video)

created by John Boswell

John Boswell, you’s a sexy bitch! Those of you who haven’t tuned into see Boswell’s masterworks need to get the hell to the Symphony of Science website to feast your eyes on some of the finest editing and scoring this side of Saturn. Starting with an amazing beatbox-like intro from Carl Sagan, Boswell’s A Glorious Dream takes the words of noted scientists such as Sagan, Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking (to name a few) and jettisons them straight into the Sexy-First century. Sagan’s vocodered musings about the universe and our place in its infinite vastness is as mellow and make out inducing as a Robin Thicke slow jam. It will leave you longing to be some-when else in time, gazing not on a sunrise, but a galaxy rise. Did Boswell’s master plan include producing baby making music for nerds? I’m not sure, but he hit cosmic pay dirt with these truly inspired music videos. I am highlighting A Glorious Dawn for two reasons. 1: It’s my favorite of Boswell’s series. 2: It has been nominated for a Webby, the internet’s Oscar. John Boswell, you are the Barry White of musical renderings of popular science.

Zodiac

directed by David Fincher

David Fincher’s winding, rabbit hole mind fuck of a whodunit is as aggravatingly unsatisfying as it is excellent. By unsatisfying, I mean completely satisfying (for me, that is), though I have heard the usual complaints to the contrary about the near 3 hour thriller. Yes, there are a lot of loose ends, a lot of unexplained oddities, a lot of strange dead ends, and the cussing killer never gets caught. Well, you know what? That’s life. Fincher’s obsession with minutia is telling and superb when it comes to constructing a past that actually happened, even fretting over a thread’s width of one of the Zodiac’s disguises, and Fincher’s flare for dysfunction, intrigue, and the slippery slope of a zealot’s fervor seems to crystallize here in this film about a sticky multiple murder case that remains unsolved to this day. Anthony Edwards, Brian Cox, Elias Koteas, Chloe Sevigny. I am going to stop name dropping all the amazing performances in this film, but Mark Ruffalo and Jake Gyllenhaal find the haunted core of each of their characters. And the gold medals go to the ever arrogant genius of Robert Downey Jr. and John Carroll Lynch. Lynch gives a performance that will make your skin crawl, and that’s all I am going to say about that. Fincher’s eye is meticulous and deliciously warped, and as long as he focuses his attention on the darkness instead of the light (again, I have to mention the train wreck of Benjamin Button. Ugh, what shit), he finds himself in a very small and very amazing group of cinematic talent.
Note: If you ever want to get a load of early Fincher need to check out his video for Aerosmith’s Janie’s Got a Gun, a music video that resembles what I can only imagine to be one of James Spader’s coked up night terrors. Fantastic.