What movie was that...?

23 August 2011

Senna

directed by Asif Kapadia

I have to admit: I am not a racing fan in any of its permutations. In fact, before watching this stunning doc, the only reason I even knew Ayrton Senna’s name was because of a Trivial Pursuit question. Or was it Jeopardy? At any rate, the trailer for this doc struck a chord in me that compelled me to the theatre, and director Asif Kapadia did not disappoint. Crafted entirely (bar some currently recorded audio, over dubbed) from original news, interview, home video and race footage, Kapadia attempts to assemble an idea of the man behind the wheel. Ayrton Senna was one of the of the finest Formula 1 racers of all time, which may not mean much to a lot of people, and perhaps F1 is much more popular globally than it is here in the US of A, but Kapadia doesn’t dwell on the specifics (though F1 fans will find those components as well). Instead, he focuses on trying to show the world of racing as Senna saw it, a world of beauty and strength and precision and balls out courage. Senna is a mesmerizing character, a man so devoted to his craft that it would be almost comical if it wasn't so damn contagiously visceral. By the end, you are literally right in the driver’s seat during Senna’s ill fated final race and absurdly, heart breakingly tragic end. Senna is a must watch for fans of documentary film, fans of racing, and fans of getting caught up in a sense of searching. Senna’s quest was not unlike the philosophy of surfing culture, of the search being as important as the culmination, but the doc leaves you with a longing to be as connected to something as Senna was, and I mean that in a good way. It just may invigorate you.

21 August 2011

Big Wednesday

directed by John Milius

It’s been a little while since I reviewed a good surfing film, so it’s a no brainer that I should praise the efforts of John Milius and his classic coming of age as surf epic film, Big Wednesday, starring the solid and often underappreciated William Katt, the ever percolating intensity of Gary Busey, and probably the only time I actually like Jan-Michael Vincent. It’s the story of free and easy youth, burdened with the passage of time, the responsibilities and consequences of growing up, the fallout of war and the calm waters between, and always the faces of the California breaks serve as a motif, an expressionistic and contemplative meditation on the state of the young men around whom the film revolves. Milius’s film is a surfing film made by a surfer, and it shows. It’s no Gidget, no exploitative beach buffs hanging ten and bronze bunnies playing beach blanket bingo. Big Wednesday is a great addition to any surf film catalog, and in an interesting way, it even adds another level to Busey’s Pappas character in Kathryn Bigelow’s amazing film, Point Break. The cinematography is great, as are the action shots of the surfers themselves. Give it a shot You won’t be disappointed.

PS This one’s for you, Paul.

20 August 2011

The Devil's Double

directed by Lee Tamahori

The one sheet looked amazing, but I knew better, and after getting a load of Lee Tamahori’s glossy disappointment of a biopic, I found that my instincts served me well. The story of Latif Yahia and his life as the reluctant stand-in for Uday Hussein, Sadam Hussein’s loose cannon son, had so much promise: the story of a life cultivated in a consequential vacuum, a frightening meditation on nature versus nurture and the darkness that can grow from absolute privilege. Too bad Lion’s Gate had to get hold of this potentially astounding biopic, sliming the whole works up with Saw style gore (though toned down) and Transporter style cinematography (again, toned down), finally leaving the whole thing up to Tamahori (whose resume is slightly less than stellar). The biggest tragedy of all of this is the sad fact that Dominic Cooper’s monstrously phenomenal performance(s) will most likely be overlooked because the rest of the film was weak. And make no mistake, Cooper’s turn as both the pauper and the prince, Jekyll and Hyde, is a powerhouse testament to the craft. Almost instantly I forgot about marveling over Cooper acting against himself in many scenes, instead truly seeing the characters as two different people. Even the times when Cooper is playing Latif playing Uday, he manages such nearly imperceptible differences that you can still tell it’s Latif. We’re talking about some spectacular layers here, commentary on one personality by another, then blurring the lines between the two, then mocking himself, the list goes on. This is like the first time I saw Monster’s Ball, and I realized that Heath Ledger was actually an amazing actor, or when I first saw Ryan Gosling’s promise in The Believer. Cooper is a talent to watch, even in a film as otherwise forgettable as this.

The one sheet, in case you haven’t feasted your eyes:

16 August 2011

A Good, Old Fashioned Hodgepodge

Today's review will be little more that a liberal helping of filmic treasures and videotic gems for your pleasure. I will try to briefly articulate why I am posting each video or trailer, though I suspect they will speak for themselves.

Drive (trailer)- directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
I am possibly unhealthily excited for this film, which is to say that while Refn's track record is spotty, his choice in leading men remains perfect. Oh, Mr. Gosling, you're my heart of the ocean!

I Know: A David Lynch music video- directed by Tamar Drachli
This music video is okay (the winner of a competition), but the real treat here is another track from David Lynch's upcoming electronic album. Okay, have you stopped hyperventilating yet? Because it's true: Lynch's album, titled Crazy Clown Time(!), is due out this Fall. And now that I realize the album won't be completely populated by sounds of meat hitting meat, kazoos and weeping, I am even more excited. He must be leaving that stuff to Scott Walker...

Little Bit: A Lykke Li music video- directed by Mattias Montero
This is another stellar music video that tremendous talent Mattias Montero actually directed. Just wonderful...

Bellflower (trailer)- directed by Evan Glodell
I posted this trailer to my Google+ account about a month and a half ago, and I thought that I had already posted it on OMFBC, but I never did! I'm truly sorry, and if this film has debuted in your neighborhood, get the hell to the theatre right now! I have been watching it daily for months, consuming it like vitamins.

05 August 2011

Sukiyaki Western Django

directed by Takashi Miike

It begins with a surrealistic fable performed on a stage, featuring a zany Quentin Tarantino(!), and only gets better, and when it’s all said and done, Takashi Miike helms one of the finest westerns of the decade, not to mention one of the coolest, most out there prequels known to man. The title itself carries with it implications that will have hardcore Western fans drooling (just as Tarantino deliberately titled his newest film with such connotations in mind), but the Asian twist is what makes this film such a gem. The plot is very Yojimbo-esque, which is pretty much the ideal plot for a great ass kicker of a Western (Leone thought it was good enough to jack for A Fistful of Dollars, and Walter Hill lifted it for Last Man Standing), the story of a lone stranger arriving in a divided town, pitting two warring families against one another. Shakespearean? Hell yes, but Miike gives the story so much surreal and poetic texture that you feel hypnotized by its spell. Django, of course, refers to the Sergio Corbucci classic, and Miike finds a way honor and not insult such a cult treasure. Western fans, get your watchin’ goggles on.