What movie was that...?

27 August 2010

Disturbing Behavior

directed by David Nutter

David Nutter’s name is synonymous with many things TV. The X-Files, The Commish, ER, 21 effing Jump Street, Nutter’s resume reads like a list of television shows that spark copious amounts of nostalgia. But nothing stirs up such nostalgia like Nutter’s feature, Disturbing Behavior, starring an in her prime Katie Holmes (back when she wasn’t annoying), a budding Nick Stahl (excellent) and a pre awesome James Marsden (I love you, Mr. M. I just didn’t realize it then. Desolee). Marsden plays Steve Clark, new kid in school and semi traumatized teen in need of some friends. When local reject and general snarky youth Gavin (Stahl) shows him around and introduces him to Rachel (Holmes), Steve starts to realize that things in Cradle Bay may not be as they seem. The movie is awesomely crappy, and even now, just hearing Harvey Danger’s classic anthem song, Flagpole Sitta brings a smile to my face. This is a film that was a crap classic when it came out, and now that time has passed and I have had time to really romanticize this movie, the film is that much sweeter. It’s not good because it’s a good film; Disturbing Behavior is good because, if you’re like me, that summer in ’98 was one of those summers that conjure up fondest memories of irresponsible partying, gonzo craziness and magical recklessness, and the passage of time has only worked to make this film even more inextricably linked to those things. Always a good choice.

26 August 2010

Dead Hearts

directed by Dead Man's Bones

Prepare yourself, for I am about to get my fanboy on. I so heart Ryan Gosling, from his breakout role (that wasn’t a breakout, btw) in Henry Bean’s tough treasure, The Believer, to his achingly endearing Lars in Craig Gillespie’s fantastic film, Lars and the Real Girl. Gosling is tremendous in everything he attempts, and unlike many of his professional counterparts (Eddie Murphy, Bruce Willis, Jared Leto), Gosling’s musical efforts are not a catastrophe. Dead Man’s Bones, consisting of Gosling and Zach Shields, is the opposite of a catastrophe: it’s a full on double rainbow of phantasmagoric musical revelry. If they had prom in Halloweentown, it’s guaranteed that all the little ghosts and ghouls would be shaking their chains and sheets to Dead Man’s Bones. In Dead Hearts, artist and mechanical craftsman Arthur Ganson’s Machine with Wishbone creeps through a still life neighborhood, bearing witness to domesticity, tragedy and beyond. Ross Reige’s cinematography creates a surreal and hypnotic tableau, and Ganson’s Machine is like shrapnel from an Edward Gorey meets Jean Pierre Jeunet meets the Brothers Quay style dream. Dead Hearts is eerie and beautiful, rising to a literally shattering crescendo, then fading to a brooding melancholy that punctuates the video. And any film that makes me think of Yuri Norstein’s white horse is tops in my book.


Dead Hearts

This is just a great live version of In the Room Where You Sleep. Love it.

Name in Stone

directed by Dead Man's Bones

Not found on Dead Man’s Bones’ stellar album, Monster Music, Name in Stone is one of my favorite Bones songs, and their one take tromp through a cemetery with the LA Inner City Mass Choir and Bones regulars, the Silverlake Conservatory of Music Children’s Choir (founded by Flea and Keith Barry), is moving and excellent. Recorded live in a cemetery, Name in Stone begins like a gospel-esque dirge, then swells to a darkly celebratory chorus that taps into something strange and wonderful. Once again, Ross Reige creates an amazing atmosphere, this time using natural light and black and white to give the video something austere and poignant. Songs as strong as this make me so excited for the sophomore Bones effort. Gosling and Shields should be proud of themselves for creating something so amazing, especially operating under the “What’s he playing at, trying to make music? He’s just an actor.” deficit that, conversely, many musicians like Mark Wahlberg faced when starting out as actors. Well, look what an amazing actor Wahlberg grew into. Dead Man’s Bones isn’t just a great music group in spite of having an actor write the music. It’s a great band because it’s a great effing band. Give it a listen.

25 August 2010

The Natural History of the Chicken

directed by Mark Lewis

Anyone reading this needs to get their asses to a TV pronto and feast your eyes on the Mark Lewis oddity that is The Natural History of the Chicken. Surprisingly beautiful from a compositional standpoint, Lewis treats his material with almost too much reverence, creating a Lynchian portrait of strange Americana that mesmerizes and confounds. From the headless chicken to the man citing The Art of War in reference to his neighbor's noisy roosters, the doc overflows with oddball characters who seem like something out of Blue Velvet or a John Waters film. I really don't know what to make of it, but I cannot look away. And just when I think it's as ridiculous as it's gonna get, a chicken with a diaper shows up. Wow. This is America at its, well, at its something. Thank you, Detroit Public Television. Please, never stop surprising me with gems like this. Check it out.

I'll do you one better, friends. I give you (drum roll) The Natural History of the Chicken:
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6


You're welcome.

21 August 2010

Barton Fink

directed by the Coen Brothers

Say what you want about Fargo and No Country for Old Men, but the true twin pillars of Coen Brothers genius are A Serious Man (the best film of the decade) and the criminally neglected Barton Fink. Sure, the geniuses at The Academy saw fit to grace it with a few awards in ‘91, and the snobs at Cannes bestowed multiple awards upon the film (which was unprecedented and seems to indicated that maybe that group of eurotrash might know a thing or two after all), but this is a film that should have everyone talking, to this very day. Perhaps, like in A Serious Man, the Coens hide their genius too well, imbedding it in enough idiosyncratic comedic posturing to make palatable (and perhaps even mute) the deep mysteries their films unveil. Perhaps I shouldn’t take them so seriously because they clearly don’t, instead joining in on their strange and self mocking temperaments. I don’t know about that position, but I do find myself keenly aware of how little thought even my movie geek friends give the Coen films, especially the ones I so love. And when it comes to Barton Fink, most people can scarcely recall what the film was even about! Dammit! How does a film like this get the cosmic snub? It certainly wasn’t due to acting, because most of the cast deliver, possibly, their career best, including John Turturro and John Goodman. It certainly wasn’t due to the soundtrack, Because Carter Burwell’s score is entrancing and haunting (much like A Serious Man). It couldn’t have been the cinematography, because Roger Deakins is one of the finest cinematographers to ever practice the art, so much so that his name is nearly synonymous with cinematographic perfection. And, of course, it certainly couldn’t be due to the writing or directing, because let’s face it, the Coens made it. This doesn’t excuse filmic travesties like Intolerable Cruelty or The Ladykillers, but it doesn’t negate their near legendary talent. The Coens are a genre unto themselves, oft imitated but never equaled, but films like Barton Fink deserve to be on every best film list from here to eternity. Wait, BC. Are you saying that Barton Fink deserves the kind of recognition that The Maltese Falcon, On the Waterfront or, dare I even say it, Citizen Cane (omg, I had to say that in a whisper voice) deserve? Yes, dammit, yes! It does, and one shouldn’t be ashamed to make such assertions. Mark my words, Barton Fink shows you the power of human mind, and it is a chillingly dark thing to behold.

20 August 2010

Bronson

directed by Nicolas Winding Refn

I did it. I finally did it. I mustered the courage to watch Nicolas Winding Refn’s film, Bronson, a crazed biopic about Britain’s most notorious and violent criminal. I did this despite like-minded movie freaks urging me to avoid actually seeing the film, instead just allowing my imagination to fill the blanks that the works of art known as the Bronson trailers left unpainted. Both trailers I reviewed last year are works of art in every sense of the word, even better, in fact, than many of last year’s feature films. “How bad could it be?” I innocently thought. After watching the film on DVD, I immediately made my way to the special features section for answers to my deflated queries. Refn explains his fascination with American indie gangster films of the 40s 50s and 60s, the fragmented stories, the elements of the surreal, and how he wanted to take a script that was interesting, but “not very good,” fix it and make it into something more. In that sense, I see what Refn was trying to achieve but, sadly, he misses his mark. The soundtrack is amazing, and certain sequences are magnificently shot, but Refn’s fragmentation doesn’t mesh in the metaphoric, poetic sense that he intended. Tom Hardy is volatile and revelatory as Charlie Bronson, aka Michael Peterson, whose lust for fame and, well, let’s call it artistic temperament, combust into a violent performance piece about the brutality of one man’s desire for recognition. Anyone looking for a case to make about Tom Hardy’s professional talents need look no further than this one film, for even if he fails at everything else (which isn’t the case, as he rocked in Inception), this one role is more than many actors can hope to achieve in a career. My statement about Bronson being like Andrew Dominik’s Chopper, but with a grandiose, operatic pulse holds true, and the film’s high points (for me) outweigh the low. It is worth watching, but Refn’s ambition gets the better of him.

18 August 2010

The Other Guys

directed by Adam McKay

Maybe I was watching a different film from those critics who gave Adam McKay’s newest opus, The Other Guys, glowing reviews, but I don’t get what all the fuss is about. I’m all for a super pissed Mark Wahlberg getting his raging self pity on (and kicking ass) and a semi-inept Will Ferrell gumming up the tough guy works, but some of the jokes just didn’t work for me, plain and simple. The ballet scene, pour example, or Will Ferrell as pimp flare ups (weird and strange) seemed at odds with the rest of the film’s pacing. By that I mean how could someone like Wahlberg, or Ferrell for that matter, be so delusional? It didn’t gel. The film did have its moments, and plenty of Wahlberg’s trademark psycho stare, but it fell short of McKay high water marks like Anchorman or the underappreciated Step Brothers. Maybe the magic of Will Ferrell is wearing off. Maybe Will Ferrell has finally done for me what Michael Cera has done for everyone else; stagnate. If it’s between The Other Guys and another film tonight, I highly suggest the other film.

16 August 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

directed by Edgar Wright

I have been reading a lot about how Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a film without a country, or at the very least no country for old men (holy shit! I am so done with this blog if BC keeps up these terrible effing puns), but in the hands of satire genius Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), Bryan Lee O’Malley’s comic gets the treatment it so deserves. By treatment I mean a full on, pixilated mash up of action, energy and truly stellar music. Nigel Godrich cooks up some filthy guitar licks and candy coated action music that will blow your mind, if you’re into that kind of thing, and artists like Beck, Brendan Canning and Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene kick in some jams that make you long for a new MC5 album. After the Universal logo gets the throwback 8 bit treatment, the film’s side scroller is off and running. Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is in a boss band called Sex Bob-omb, and though he’s smitten with jailbait fangirl Knives, it all goes out the window when he catches a glimpse of his princess, Ramona. After a love connection is made, it’s on like Donkey Kong for Pilgrim, who has to shut down all 7 of her evil exes and rack up enough points to level up and be a man. The trailers are as accurate as possible, so don’t expect anything else from this razzle-dazzler of a hipster send up. The whole film is like a string of geeky references, metallic awesomeness and, thanks to cinematographer Bill Pope (The Matrix, Army of effing Darkness!), flashy battles that just work, like Google Chrome. As for the haters coming down on Cera for playing the same guy in every film, just calm the hell down. Jack Nicholson made his whole career about playing the same guy, and so far, so has Vince Vaughn. What about Sean Connery? My point is that personal opinion does not a valid case make, and Cera has still got the power to put a smile on my face. Mark Webber rocks, and Alison Pill just needs to be in everything, while more famous faces like Chris Evans (excellent) and Jason Schwartzman (deliciously smarmy) relish in the chance to play hell with their images. Shit, even Thomas Jane rules in a cameo that can only be described as surreal. Scott Pilgrim is just what I needed this summer, and it also gave me the motivation to dig my NES out of storage. Merci, Mr. Wright.

14 August 2010

Big Bang Big Boom

directed by Blu

Like Banksy, the artist known as Blu is known only by his work, for he has kept his identity hidden from the world like the final resting place of Hoffa’s body. His wall art graces such diverse locales as Guatemala City and Berlin, and his cumulative work is meditative, bizarre and haunting. In Big Bang Big Boom, Blu takes a figurative approach to the history of existence as told through a mind blowing animation sequence spanning millennia and stretching across the canvas of a coastal townscape. The animation itself is minimalistic, as is the soundtrack, but the sheer scope and breadth of Blu’s vision is staggering in comparison to most of the crap you find winning awards every effing year. Blu’s tale is mesmerizing, quiet, and the surprises around every corner will have you throwing your hands up and declaring his genius. In fact, I’m calling it right now: Blu’s Big Bang Big Boom is the frontrunner for best animated short this year. Mark my words, Academy. Don’t drop the ball on this.

Big Bang Big Boom

BIG BANG BIG BOOM - the new wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.

13 August 2010

Sky High

directed by Mike Mitchell
Disney’s clever little tale of teen angst, but with superpowers, hits the mark in the cutest ways. Sky High is flashily directed by Mike Mitchell (of Deuce Bigelow fame), who doesn’t win any awards, but talent like Michael Angarano and King Kurt (Russell, that is), rocking his amazing Overboard locks, make it looks so easy. Angarano plays Will Stronghold, son of Commander (Russell) and Jetstream (a chipper Kelly Preston) and, allegedly, a future superhero himself. When he shows up for his day at Sky High, a prep school for the superhuman, he promptly underwhelms his teachers (including an all star cast of B film heroes like Bruce Campbell, Kevin McDonald and Dave Foley) with his incredible lack thereof. Think Heroes, but before Heroes, and mix it up with a dash of The Incredibles and the essence of Hughes (John, not Howard). Bake at 400 degrees for 100 minutes, and there you have it. Add to the fact that the soundtrack plays like a class of ‘88 covers show, and you end up with a nifty, throwback cool kind of vibe. I watched this film with zero expectations, and I ended up having a blast. Those of you who dug the ingredients for this brew, check it out. Those of you thinking of ways to shut me down should probably ignore this one. It’ll just get you all riled up. See the kind of fun you miss out on when you’re a film snob, nitpicky jerk with no sense of fun or humor?

12 August 2010

Evolution

directed by Ivan Reitman

You have to set the Hot Tub for the pre-post-Duchovny X Files, Orlando Jones as the 7 Up guy slash Julianne Moore having a bit of professional fun era to really get at the heart of this underrated comedy gem. Back when Jason Reitman was just a youngster, Papa Reitman was churning out comedy classics like Ghostbusters (please don’t tarnish the good name with a third, unless it rules, Mr. R), Ghostbusters II (I’m serious, Reitman. Only do it if it’s awesome) and Stripes. If you thought the secret to his success was to simply throw Bill Murray in the works, you’re only partially right. Though he has fallen off in the recent years, Reitman still had the time (and the good fortune) to give us Evolution. David Duchovny mocks his sci fi persona to perfection as Ira Kane, disgraced former scientist turned slack off teacher at a community college. His buddy is volleyball coach and perv, Harry Block, and the pair stumble onto the discovery of an alien life form that rapidly evolves to adapt, and wreak havoc, on the idiots of earth. Sean William Scott gets his Stifler on once again as Wayne, wannabe fireman who pals around with the ridiculous duo. Julianne Moore is fantastic every single time, and she doesn’t disappoint as Allison Reed, old acquaintance of Ira’s and the accident prone straight lacer of the script. All in all, I walked out of the theatre the first time thinking I had just watched a forgettable dud of a comedy in which nothing especially hilarious happened. It wasn’t until I began qualifying my assertion with remarks like, “The only funny part was this… The rest of it was lame,” or “Oh, and that other part was funny, but the rest was lame.” Before I knew it, I had quoted a majority of the film, and if quotability isn’t a good indicator of quality, then I don’t know what is. Give it another whirl, and if you still think it’s lame, then I guess you’re just cooler than me. Jerks.

11 August 2010

Punch-Drunk Love

directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Clocking in at 95 intense minutes, Paul Thomas Anderson’s shortest feature film doesn’t pack any less of a punch than his more sprawling works. His auteur vision of Americana as alienation is always replenished and refreshingly new each time, and not to mention Punch-Drunk Love contains the very best Adam Sandler role ever, period. Sandler scores as Barry Egan the way Mickey Rourke scored as The Ram, creating a truly heartbreaking and tragically human portrait of loneliness that is in no way silly, despite every friggin moron in the theatre with me watching this tour de force and laughing like they were watching an episode of Jackass. Ha ha! Billy Madison just broke a sliding door. Idiots. I felt the kind of anxious rage boiling inside of me that Barry must have felt when his car gets hit. Anderson’s films are every one of them amazing in different ways, and his little love story is one of the finest examples of romance in existence. I would place this film up there with Casablanca or Natural Born Killers, Pulp Fiction or Edward Scissorhands. Wait- are you surprised by the list I just made? Were you expecting Love Story? When Harry Met Sally? You’ve Got effing Mail? What are you, new? P.S. Hoffman is solidly smarmy as Mattress Man Dean Trumbell, laying it on just thick enough to make his evil delicious. The scopitone flourishes will make you swoon, as will the tremendous Emily Watson (if you can’t get enough, go watch her in Lars Von Trier’s Breaking the Waves), who plays Barry’s counterpoint in a world of darkness. The film has humor in it, to be sure, but it’s certainly not the kind of crazy ass, cartoonish absurdity of Billy Madison or the Waterboy, so beware, all you old school Sandler lovers. The payoff is huge, however, and it just may change your mind about the funny man. It’s also about as close to sentimental that you will ever see Anderson, bar possibly his Fiona Apple music video on the Pleasantville DVD.

The Original Kings of Comedy

directed by Spike Lee
Sometimes, all you need is a camera, and Spike Lee knows it when it comes to directing some of the funniest comedians to have ever played the game. Lee keeps the energy up and the laughs through the roof as he documents D.L. Hughley, Steve Harvey, Cedric the Entertainer and the late Mr. Bernie Mac taking their comedy show on the road (the highest grossing comedy show ever, btw). With Harvey as the MC, the Kings let it rip about everything from work to race relations to smoking. When a pro like Hughley starts vamping with the audience, targeting members with laser guided precision, you feel how gifted these artists are. Lee’s work always makes a statement, whether it’s racial tension (Do the Right Thing), exploitation (He Got Game) or a charged crime thriller (The Inside Man), and in Kings, Lee is on point, and probably smiling from ear to ear behind that lens. Without a doubt, the highlight of the film is Mac’s performance: The non-watered down version of his sitcom persona digs into family life with all the piss and vinegar gusto of a preacher gone wild. Kings is a classic in whatever way you want to label it: comedy, doc, filmic statement, all around good time. Us white folks are always hoping for things, and I hope you go to see the Kings.

07 August 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

directed by Sergio Leone

It’s strange that a film genre as intensely American as the western has several “foreigners” to thank for elevating it to a level that us Yanks never would have achieved on our own. On behalf of all of us, I say “Grazi.” And on behalf of all of them, I’m sure Sergio Leone would say “You’re Welcome.” The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is Leone’s second best western, which makes it one of the best westerns every made by humans. Clint Eastwood’s Man avec No Name character, developed through two previous films, is given something of a back story (it’s subtle), while Eli Wallach and Lee Van Cleef are truly epic as iconoclasts of the rugged underbelly of Manifest Destiny. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly also features the coalescence of soundtrack and scene that Leone developed during the first two Dollars films, the concept coming to stunning fruition in the crescendo of a climax featuring the now legendary trio. Leone asked composing wizard Ennio Morricone to create individualized scores for the characters as well as scenes in the film, around which Leone edited the scenes instead of vice verse (as is traditionally the case). The result is an operatic lust for film, for storytelling and for creating a fully formed filmic experience. The only thing missing would be machines that piped desert dust and scorched air right in your face as you watched the epic standoff. This method of sound first, scene later composition crystallized with jaw dropping perfection in Leone’s finest work, Once Upon a Time in the West, but nothing beats the punch of the first time. Leone is the Orson Welles of the western, and much respect is due to such a remarkable auteur. You are Missed, Mr. L, and your vision is still affecting the way film is made, and watched, today. 

Broken Flowers

directed by Jim Jarmusch

Bill Murray rules in Jim Jarmusch’s tale of a two bit Don Juan in an existential funk. Jarmusch loves his randomness and chaos like a kid loves candy on Halloween, and Broken Flowers has both of em in spades. Murray’s role actually has surprisingly few lines (he’s no Sweetback, but he’s closer to that than Gordon Gecko), but he speaks volumes with a simple look. The soundtrack is superb, as is the supporting cast. Sharon Stone dazzles, Tilda Swinton is haunting and my man Mark Webber is right on as the possible drifter, possible son of Don Johnston (that’s Johnston with a T). I am still very partial to Ghost Dog, a truly underrated work of art, but Broken Flowers has just sky rocketed way up the list of personal favorite Jim Jarmusch films. The DVD also features a snappy piece of film work entitled Start to Finish, a collage of clapboard markers sprinkled with Murray quips and visual curios guaranteed to put a smile on your face. There are few things like a good, old fashioned Jarmusch film.

06 August 2010

The Garbage Pail Kids Movie

directed by Rod Amateau

Against my better judgment, I am going to proceed with a review and, even worse, a recommendation that you all get the hell out there and see Rod Amateau’s trash classic (no pun intended. The film is trash in every way.) testament to commercialism, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie. Before the Buckheimers of the world were squeezing blood from the stones of Disney rides and video games, and back when The California Raisins were spitting rad verses about the local library (Books! Check em out!), the series of collectable cards featuring gross out personalities, usually with some sort of physical deformity, were being traded and amassed by youth lucky enough to have parents who didn’t give enough of a shit to censor how their children got their kicks. The plot of the film makes an episode of Maury Povich seem like Masterpiece Theatre, and from the looks of the production value, I can only imagine that the reek of profit was enough to dreg all the money grubbers from under every rock in Hollywood. It’s the Twilight premise: Why spend more money and make the effects look cooler when every tween from here to Tokyo is going to see it anyway? Wow, BC, that way you talk about it, it sounds like the filmic equivalent of having a cavity filled. In all honesty, film lover, it’s no Citizen Caine. Hell, it’s not even a Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man. But it is worth a viewing, especially since the taint of nostalgia is enough to make such filmic refuse as this seem palatable. It also makes a good drinking game.

Take a drink:
Every time Juice says “Creep”
Every Time Juice holds/smokes a cigarette.
Every time a Garbage Pail Kid does her/his signature move.
Every time the State Home for the Ugly is mentioned.
Every time Anthony Newley (Captain Manzini) tries to impart some shitty, folky piece of wisdom or observation about civilized society.

Audible drinking call (viewer’s discretion):
Every time Dodger stutters.
Every time an actor appears on the screen for whom this pile was a professional high water mark.
Every time some awful 80s fashion is present on screen.

You’ll be sauced in no time. Trust me.

04 August 2010

Brokeback Mountain

directed by Ang Lee

Oh, get over it, already! Yes, Ang Lee’s masterpiece about forbidden love in the rural West is exactly that, a true American masterpiece that, thanks to the mammoth performances by the young and amazing cast, will echo in your heart for some time to come. Lee, like his films or not, is a gifted director who captures feeling so effortlessly that it enrages me. Okay, I’m calm, and I will not regale the plot that I’m sure everyone is aware of (How these two cowboys just can’t quit each other), but this story of secrets, double identities and the rigidness of conservative convention is masterfully told, thanks to the words of Annie Proulx, whose short story was converted into script form by Larry McMurty and Diana Ossana. As good as the script is, it is the actors who elevate the text to a raw and wrenching portrait of star crossed love. Heath Ledger simply astounds as Ennis, and Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway (who I begrudgingly have to admit was very good) are remarkable as the social and romantic cover for the two men. And hark, Dylan Tichenor ahoy! Good editors are hard to find. But don’t let the hype and rigmarole prevent you from feasting on Ang Lee’s treasure. It’ll be harder to quit than you think.

03 August 2010

Sling Blade

directed by Billy Bob Thornton

Billy Bob Thornton made a name for himself, and acted the hell of the lead in a film he wrote and directed. The film started as a short made a few years earlier, but the feature length final product is his crowning achievement. Thornton is a tremendous talent, vials of blood and myriad phobias notwithstanding, and his performances in such underrated films like A Simple Plan and Bad Santa, and such overrated films like Monster’s Ball, Thornton knows how breathe life into his roles. As Karl Childers, recently loosed from a hospital (where he did time for killing his mother and her teen lover), Thornton evokes the quiet matter of factness of Peter Sellers a la Being There, mixed with the non annoying elements of Tom Hanks, circa Forest Gump (and believe me, the non annoying elements in Forest effing Gump are slim pickins, indeed.). Karl befriends a boy named Frank, and the pair try to cope with their worlds as best they can. The entire cast is phenomenal, from a tiny yet powerful Robert Duvall role to a slimy and amazingly brave Dwight Yoakam performance, but it is Lucas Black who steals the show in every possible way. If all child actors could be as good as Black, then there would be no need for adults in film. Black speaks with a wisdom well beyond his years, and his face seems to mirror every trial of this good earth. He seems a sage already, and he delivers very large pieces of dialogue with ease and gravitas. Seeing Thornton and Black work together in Sling Blade makes Peter Berg’s sport classic Friday Night Lights even better, because watching Black play anxious quarterback Mike Wintchell, striving to lead his team to a state championship and do coach Gary Gaines (Thornton) proud, you feel a sense of history between the two. Let’s not forget that John Ritter gives the very best performance of his career as Vaughan, friend to Frank’s mother and a man without a country.
Note: As I muse over the recent and towering acting achievements of one mister Robert Duvall, I realize just how many times he has made a mountain out of a mole hill. From his Kilgore of Apocalypse Now to his Old Man character in The Road, to his Wayne of Crazy Heart and even his turn in Kicking and Screaming, Duvall can do things with very little that drop the jaw. Some things do get better with age, I reckon. MmmHmmm.

02 August 2010

La Moustache

directed by Emmanuel Carrere

Vincent Lindon is Marc, husband and seemingly regular guy, except for the mustache he rocks like a champ. One day, Marc asks his wife if he should shave it off. And with a few strokes of the old razor, the film is off and running, twisting and turning into a psychological and existential rabbit hole the likes of which I was clearly not prepared for. Vincent Lindon is quietly phenomenal as Marc, as is the rest of the supporting cast (Mathieu Amalric strikes again!), and Emmanuel Carrere expertly directs the film adaptation of her novel about identity and perception. It may lose you, but it’s worth the risk, because it may just smack you across the metaphorical face with a metaphorical open hand (metaphorically, of course). Jokes aside, Carrere’s La Moustache is a surprising euro gem that won’t fail to get those little wheels turning. And composer extraordinaire Phillip Glass (name drop, all you Stuff White People Like fans. Read the Classical Music Post.) creates another worthy score. You may never look at another mustache the same way.

01 August 2010

Streets of Fire

directed by Walter Hill

It’s a Rock and Roll fable. It says so, and Walter Hill’s films, as varied as they are, possess a grit and vibrancy that make him a true auteur filmmaker. In Streets, Hill tells the story of Ellen Aim (a sassy Diane Lane), kick ass singer who gets kidnapped by a gang of leathered psychos led by lunatic Raven (Willem Dafoe in full on insane creep mode). The only person capable of getting her back is her ex flame, Cody (Michael Pare is like crack for me), and the rest is history. Any film that combines a Pare and a Dafoe in one place is a treasure to behold, and Hill makes no bones about his greasy city rock allegory. He’s like a tough version of George Lucas (scope a pic, why don’t you?), a man who started his career with the raw power of Hard Times (which is one of Charlie Bronson’s best films) and The Driver, then grew his clout through more righteous films like The Warriors and The Long Riders. Mr. H has turned hisself into a producer as of late, but he is directing a crime film starring Pierce Brosnan and Giovani Ribisi, due out next year. I’m excited. 

Micmacs

directed by Jean Pierre Jeunet

Before I get into this review, we all need to get one thing clear: Watching any Jean Pierre Jeunet film is like venturing into a surreally endearing alternate reality where even the harshest of truths have a candy coating. And watching Micmacs assumes that the audience is already on the level avec Jeunet, and that this strange shared history of film work and film viewing has created a kind of starry-eyed infatuation with all things Jeunet. If you ever find yourself defending Alien Resurrection as the strongest of the series, then you, my friend, have drunk too deeply from Jeunet’s affectionate tonic, and Micmacs counts on your unconditional love to resolve the uneven and untended plot. This is not to say that the film was bad, but as far as Jeunet films go, it was probably his weakest work to date. This makes it a mediocre film with flashes of beauty and tenderness that wrench the heart. Too bad these moments don’t appear as often as with, say, The City of Lost Children or Amelie, but they do materialize, mostly as the result of the tragic-comic genius of Dany Boon, whose street performer background helps him to bring the role of Bazil to life. Bazil, as the result of a cosmic fluke, ends up with a bullet lodged in his head. After waking up from his coma, he finds himself homeless and unemployed, but a group of outcasts adopt him and help him to carry out a revenge plot on the munitions company that made the fated bullet. Most likely the oddest antiwar slash antiweapons films your are likely to see, Micmacs, like all Jeunet films, finds the windiest way to its point, and the journey always threatens to lose a few stragglers. Try to stay with it.
P.S. Dany Boon wrote, directed and starred in a 2008 film called Bienvenue chez Les Ch’tis, aka Welcome to the Sticks, about a disgraced mailman banished to a rural town in northern France. Those of you possessing both a love for wordplay (so, nerds. Who are we kidding?) and a strong French speaking background are likely to get a kick out of this comedy. Word around the campfire is that there is going to be an American version starring Will Smith. Unlike a lot of watered down, awesomed down American redoes, I may actually be looking forward to his one. At least with an American version, I won’t have to call up my old French teacher to figure out just what the hell was so funny…