Posts Tagged ‘movies’

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My 2014 Discoveries

January 4, 2015

Top 35 (2013/14 not included):

35.  Involuntary (2008, Ruben Östlund)
34.  Les maîtres fous (1955, Jean Rouch)
33.  Love at Large (1990, Alan Rudolph)
32.  You Instead (2011, David Mackenzie)
31.  Above the Law (1986, Corey Yuen Kwai)
also Yes, Madam (1985)
30.  NY Export: Opus Jazz (2010, Henry Joost/Jody Lee Lipes)
29.  Sorcerer (1977, William Friedkin)
28.  Unfinished Business (1941, Gregory La Cava)
27.  High School (1968, Frederick Wiseman)
26.  Berlin Express (1948, Jacques Tourneur)
also Appointment in Honduras (1953)
25.  Bachelor Mother (1939, Garson Kanin)
24.  The Apple (1998, Samira Makhmalbaf)
23.  Hud (1963, Martin Ritt)
also The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965)
22.  Pushover (1954, Richard Quine)
21.  Shanghai Express / Blonde Venus (1932, Josef von Sternberg)
20.  Citizen X (1995, Chris Gerolmo)
19.  Fireworks (1947, Kenneth Anger)
18.  Outrage (1950, Ida Lupino)
also Hard, Fast and Beautiful (1951)
17.  La Vie des morts (1991, Arnaud Desplechin)
16.  Hercules and the Captive Women (1961, Vittorio Cottafavi)
15.  China 9, Liberty 37 (1978, Monte Hellman)
14.  Vampire’s Kiss (1988, Robert Bierman)
13.  Come Back to the Five and Dime (1982, Robert Altman)
12.  Go Get Some Rosemary (2010, Ben Safdie/Joshua Safdie)
11.  Dragnet (1954, Jack Webb)

10.  We’re Going to Eat You (1980, Tsui Hark)
09.  Les passagers (1999, Jean-Claude Guiguet)
08.  The Chase (1966, Arthur Penn)
07.  Border Incident (1949, Anthony Mann)
06.  Lone Star (1996, John Sayles)
05.  Violent Saturday (1955, Richard Fleischer)
also Armored Car Robbery (1950)
04.  Lady Windermere’s Fan (1925, Ernst Lubitsch)
03.  Out 1, noli me tangere (1971, Jacques Rivette/Suzanne Schiffman)
02.  Humanity and Paper Balloons (1937, Sadao Yamanaka)
01.  Tokyo Twilight (1957, Yasujirō Ozu)

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My 2013 in Film

February 21, 2014

I’ll keep it brief here because I have nothing to actually say. First up are the best new-to-me films that I saw in 2013. These do not include movies from 2012-2013. Why? Because [reasons]. The end of the ranking got really awkward as I tried to cram movies into it, so I opted to have a bunch of categories to give said movies mention despite their exclusion. I’m cool like that, my mum tells me. After all this are my 2013-premiere favourites as they sit for now (having not seen virtually every major film: The Immigrant, Stray Dogs, Under the Skin, and so on), including performances I dug, and notes on the year’s cinematography because apparently that is of particular interest to me (?). The only pieces I wrote all year were this Bastards review and this one on James Gray. What else? Breaking Bad and Bunheads destroyed all other TV, Gone Home was more moving than any film, and the only book I can recall finishing is The Invention of Morel. Music is cool too I guess.

  • Best Animated: Perfect Blue (1997, Kon)
  • Best Horror: The Exorcist III (1990, Blatty)
  • Best Australian: Dead Heart (1996, Parsons)Clay (1965, Mangiamele), Crawl (2011, China), One Night Stand (1984, Duigan)
  • Best Documentary: Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks (2003, Wang), Public Housing (1997, Wiseman), Nostalgia for the Light (2010, Guzmán), Bovines (2011, Gras)
  • Best TV film: Someone’s Watching Me! (1978, Carpenter), Something to Remind Me (2001, Petzold), Homecoming (2005, Dante)
  • Best Short: Never Weaken (1921, Newmeyer), The Professional Man (1995, Soderbergh, also TV)
  • Best Ad/Music Video: The Work of Director Jonathan Glazer
  • Further Best Musical: At Long Last Love (1975, Bogdanovich), Cabin in the Sky (1943, Minnelli)
  • Further Best Western: The Indian Fighter (1955, De Toth), Decision at Sundown (1957, Boetticher), Tennessee’s Partner (1955, Dwan), The Hanging Tree (1959, Daves), Apache (1954, Aldrich), Ride in the Whirlwind (1966, Hellman)
  • Further Best Action: Hard Target (1993, Woo), Drive (1997, Wang), Police Story (1985, Chan), U.S. Seals II (2001, Florentine), Torque (2004, Kahn)

Top 40:

40.  Sleepwalk (1986, Driver)
39.  Au Revoir Taipei (2010, Chen)
38.  Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974, Cimino)
37.  Art History / The Zone (2011, Swanberg)
36.  The Step (1985, Rekhviashvili)
35.  The Marrying Kind (1952, Cukor)
34.  That Old Dream That Moves (2001, Guiraudie)
also No Rest for the Brave (2003)
33.  The Sterile Cuckoo (1969, Pakula)
32.  Khrustalyov, My Car! (1998, German)
31.  Picnic (1955, Logan)
30.  Landscape Suicide (1987, Benning)
29.  Double Team (1997, Tsui)
28.  The Long Voyage Home (1940, Ford)
also Donovan’s Reef (1963)
and Two Rode Together (1961)
and The Quiet Man (1952)
27.  The Wife (1995, Noonan)
26.  The Amazing Mrs. Holliday (1943, Manning/Renoir)
25.  Duo Sang (1994, Wu)
24.  The Thief of Bagdad (1924, Walsh)
also The Big Trail (1930)
23.  Love is Colder Than Death (1969, Fassbinder)
also The American Soldier (1970)
22.  Raw Deal (1948, Mann)
also T-Men (1947)
and The Man From Laramie (1955)
21.  Le Grand Amour (1969, Étaix)

20.  Nighthawks (1978, Peck)
19.  Kamome Diner (2006, Ogigami)
18.  The Manxman (1929, Hitchcock)
17.  In the Family (2011, Wang)
16.  The Mortal Storm (1940, Borzage)
15.  Golden Eighties (1986, Akerman)
also Nuit et Jour (1991)
14.  Great Day in the Morning (1956, Tourneur)
13.  A Girl in Every Port (1928, Hawks)
12.  Crippled Avengers (1978, Chang)
11.  Applause (1929, Mamoulian)
10.  Running on Karma (2003, To/Wai)
also A Hero Never Dies (1998, To)
09.  Spetters (1980, Verhoeven)
also Flesh + Blood (1985)
08.  A Cottage on Dartmoor (1929, Asquith)
07.  The Ballad of Narayama (1958, Kinoshita)
06.  The Oyster Princess (1919, Lubitsch)
also The Wildcat (1921)
05.  Koridorius (1994, Bartas)
04.  The White Meadows (2009, Rasoulof)
03.  House By the River (1950, Lang)
also Die Nibelungen (1924)
and The Tiger of Eschnapur / The Indian Tomb (1959)
and Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler (1922)
02.  The 8-Diagram Pole Fighter (1984, Liu)
also The Legend of Drunken Master (1994)
01.  The Heiress (1949, Wyler)
also Dead End (1937)
and The Letter (1940)
and Dodsworth (1936)
and The Little Foxes (1941)
and Detective Story (1951)

Best 2013 Premieres:

  1. Stranger by the Lake (Alain Guiraudie)
  2. A Touch of Sin (Jia Zhang-ke)
  3. Blind Detective (Johnnie To)
  4. The World’s End (Edgar Wright)
  5. The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)
  6. The Dance of Reality (Alejandro Jodorowsky)
  7. Computer Chess (Andrew Bujalski)
  8. Bastards (Claire Denis)
  9. Top of the Lake (Jane Campion)
  10. Our Sunhi (Hong Sang-soo)
  11. Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon (3D, Tsui Hark)
  12. The Lone Ranger (Gore Verbinski)
  13. Before Midnight (Richard Linklater)
  14. Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel & Ethan Coen)
  15. The Last of the Unjust (Claude Lanzmann)

Best scene:  Love dance — Tip Top (Serge Bozon)

Favourite Performances:

  • Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
  • Simon Pegg (The World’s End)
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini (Enough Said)
  • Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke (Before Midnight)
  • Michael Cera (Magic Magic/Crystal Fairy)
  • Dolph Lundgren (The Package)
  • Paulina García (Gloria)
  • Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle) suck it

Notes on 2013 Cinematography:

The uncategorisably unique achievements this year were Computer Chess (Matthias Grunsky) on vintage tube video (this year’s No)—infinitely fascinating to look at—and Gravity (Emmanuel Lubezki, Arri Alexa/one scene 65mm) which wasn’t to my eyes one of the year’s best looking films, and raises some reactionary skepticism as to its faux-camera/lighting cinematographic “authenticity”, but is a technical marvel requiring probably the deepest involvement between cinematographer and post-production artists to date.

Film:

  • The World’s End (Bill Pope, 16mm/35mm): Rationally mixes gauges and spherical & anamorphic lenses, the lattermost causing the invaders’ blue orifice light beams to span the width of the ‘Scope frame for maximum stupefaction (and prettiness).
  • Vic + Flo Saw a Bear (Ian Lagarde, 35mm): Dat grain, dem blacks, dat painterly precision. Chilly.
  • Paradise: Hope (Edward Lachman and Wolfgang Thaler, Super 16): Pretty much the above but for the blacks, and the grain porn is twofold. SYMMETRY.
  • The Spectacular Now (Jess Hall, 35mm): Seriously, Panavision C- and E-Series lenses. Such lovely texture.
  • Inside Llewyn Davis (Bruno Delbonnel, 35mm): What a palette. Blurring software transforms grain into a RED-esque “bloom” as Delbonnel himself puts it. The jump from dailies to post-DI image must be staggering.
  • The Grandmaster (Philippe Le Sourd, 35mm): Soft, shallow focus. Dense elemental texture.

Digital:

  • Mother of George (Bradford Young, RED Epic): Long lenses oppress (a la The Yards) Adenike within the already insular Nigerian community of New York, her dilemma fully felt in suffocating isolation. The design touchpoint here is the Wong Kar-Wai of In the Mood for Love and 2046, they too fetishisations of lavishly textured garments and surfaces of bright colours thrown into darkness. Custom subverted as visual oppression.
  • Prisoners (Roger Deakins, Arri Alexa Plus): My goodwill started with its being a Hollywood flick that didn’t default to 2.35:1. Its refreshingly expansive frame finds a myriad of light sources and reflections amongst droplets of rain and bokeh, curiously busy at all depths. The highway emergency charge, and the candlelit vigil and its ensuing footchase are especially lavish setpieces.
  • Nebraska (Phedon Papamichael, Arri Alexa): I’m surprised, too! The trailer & Academy praise for its visuals to me indicated little more than a black-and-white-therefore-reputable fallacy, a shot-in-colour grey bore of adequate medium shots. But here it is, frequent long shots in deep focus, compositionally immaculate graphite drawings. In most cases these setups allow us to engage a character’s gait within the barren, wintry surroundings.
  • White House Down (Anna Foerster, Arri Alexa Plus): Refreshing in the midst of painfully overlit Hollywood movies. As well as being handsome, it smartly uses cameo lighting to direct one’s eye to faces in a shot that matter (as they will spout important bits of exposition) while others are draped in shadow, quite useful for a sprightly film so loaded with plot.
  • A Teacher (Andrew Droz Palermo, RED Epic): The revived Lomo lenses (see Starlet) warp bokeh and the world in line with the teacher’s irrational subjectivity.
  • Bastards (Agnès Godard, RED Epic): Not a noir painted with light to cast shadows, rather a smart use of digital’s sensitivity to near-eradicate its world of light. In all that murkiness, skin tones reign.
  • This is the End (Brandon Trost, RED Epic): Trost, a DTV & shorts DP and FX assistant miraculously landed Crank: High Voltage and Zombie’s great Halloween II in 2009, and has since made studio comedies look much better than they need to. In his best work to date, the RED diminishes all colours, conflating them into gold, ruptured beautifully by Trost with pink lens flares.
  • The Bling Ring (Harris Savides, RED Epic): The filmic loveliness of L.A. in Somewhere now the pearl-like sheen & eerie stillness of the city here, as fitting to its own subject, its increased ambivalence.
  • Legacy (Felix Wiedemann, Arri Alexa): Long-ass lenses and a soft palette recreate the 70s period look sans grain.

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My July and August ’12 in Film

August 1, 2012

Yes, this is a month overdue. July saw my unabashed foray into the Step Up series. Likewise into Europa Corp.—Luc Besson’s ever-growing French factory of decent genre pics—triggered by my enthusiasm for Lockout. The best this month was Besson’s own Nikita, followed by one of many in its mold: Colombiana, by the Tony Scott-aping Olivier Megaton; and another after a gap—The Transporter, adding fuel to my recent fascination with Jason Statham’s output. The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec and District B13 rounded Europa off (for now) as less successful entries. More importantly, I discovered a new director to fall in love with—Dimitri Kirsanoff, making two of the finest films I’ve ever seen. Little else has survived, at least with subtitles. I delved a bit into Japan this month also, making an effort to meet new directors with good results (particularly with Yamanaka), and similarly stuck to silent and early sound movies (not listed: Margaret Day, Female, Hot Saturday, Toni). I was lucky enough to see Oliveira’s 4.5 hour Doomed Love from a surprisingly good print shown at the Cinematheque. This is the kind of rigid affair I’ve drifted away from admiring so much the last year or so, but I still had a really good time with it. Finally, I saw the last Tony Scott movie, it turns out (as I write this following his death), I’ll ever see for the first time: Beverly Hills Cop II, highly enjoyable. A round 60 in total.

  1. Ménilmontant (1926, Kirsanoff)
  2. Rapt (1934, Kirsanoff)
  3. Oasis (2002, Lee)
  4. Sazen Tange and the Pot Worth a Million Ryo (1935, Yamanaka)
  5. Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972, Fulci)
  6. Sexy Beast (2000, Glazer)
  7. Magic Mike (2012, Soderbergh)
  8. Cutter’s Way (1981, Passer)
  9. Murder By Contract (1958, Lerner)
  10. Step Up Revolution (2012, Speer)
  11. Cutting it Short (1981, Menzel)
  12. Passing Fancy (1933, Ozu)
  13. Mother (1952, Naruse)
  14. Antoine et Antoinette (1947, Becker)
  15. A Long Goodbye (1971, Muratova)
  16. Doomed Love (1979, Oliveira)
  17. Mr. Thank You (1936, Shimizu)
  18. Step Up 3 (2010, Chu)
  19. Secret Agent (1936, Hitchcock)
  20. Nikita (1990, Besson)
    *

Sexy Beast is the kind of film that would frustrate plot-minded plebs, and contrastly alienate some for its over-directed TV commercial and fashionable late-century machismo aesthetics. A small, small part of me could roll with the latter, but truthfully I ate this up. A more striking and funny The Limey, with silent cinema embellishments and post-Petulia/Resnais/Roeg suture strategies. Ben fucking Kingsley.

Murder By Contract was friggin’ cool. Proto-Jarmusch. Atypical Third Man-like score. A Nietzsche Superman ultimately flawed. Dem close-ups!

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Sheer, unrelenting noise. But the best of that kind. So much fun. There’s something to the flashbacks which makes me think a really great Feuillade-like serial could be packed into this sort of breathless spectacle.

Step Up Revolution is the best and smoothest in terms of clear storytelling since the first, which was totally vanilla compared to this, in line with the third’s unrealist spectacle, smart use of (and frequent attention to) 3D/depth built into the choreography to boot, a considered rather than opportunistic Occupy parable (*cough* Batman) with a nice/naive outcome (aww). Beautifully shot. Occasionally too cutty.

Spider-Man 3 is soo goood. Sure, it has some of the clumsiest, coincidence-laden plotting in any movie (which I’d forgive), and a dramatically confounding turn of events in the middle (Harry suddenly remembering and forcing MJ to break up with Pete because he has to attack his heart or whatever–extremely rushed and unconvincing, can’t forgive), but Raimi’s no less the action genius, and the emo passages are a blast.

Enough is like Cape Fear/Martha/De Palma/Verhoeven/Brecht but ultimately it’s utterly unsubtle and risible post-classical girl-power nonsense that attains an admirable force by the end. That climax set is cool. Hilarious movie. JLo plays it straight.

La Region Centrale is unwatchable. Interesting in theory. One of many experimental films that exposes my terrible lack of imagination.

Alice et Martin is probably Techine’s weakest that I’ve seen. Still novelistic and nuanced, but its structure is less intriguing; indeed it seems as if he was done with jumping about timelines until he does, just once. It’s alright.

Worst:

  • La Région Centrale (1971, Snow)
  • Twixt (2011, Coppola)

Best rewatches:

  • North By Northwest (1959, Hitchcock)
  • Beau Travail (1999, Denis) 35mm!
  • The Intruder (2004, Denis) 35mm!
  • The Spider-Man trilogy (2002/2004/2007, Sam Raimi)

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August, naturally, is the month of MIFF. I’ve taken out all festival viewings to avoid being repetitive…that is, whenever it is I list them in their own post. But I suppose this is what led to my watching a whopping, surely personal-record-breaking 91 movies in a single month. You’d think spending all day in movie theatres would compel you to shun images after returning home each night, but on the contrary it seems cinema only tightened its grip on me: I tended to forgo precious sleep just to watch more. Before you reject my filmic opinions forever, yes, a direct-to-video thing made number 1 in the ranking, but no, I am not trolling.  It is a perfect action movie: it’s lean, dexterously shifting between action/non-action rhythms, impeccably crafted in the shot-by-shot storyboarding sense with a wise use of the camera’s distance to bodies, and of course the fight choreography is cool as hell. Meanwhile, the polar opposites of these traits were executed flawlessly in all their flawed glory on a much bigger budget by Christopher Nolan in his third Batman, the cine-laureate of blind and deaf people everywhere. Wow, that was offensive to actual blind and deaf people. Moving on. There wasn’t much trending this month, for the festival. Some Joe Dante, and a couple Tony Scotts upon hearing of his shocking death. I miss him sorely.

  1. Ninja (2009, Florentine)
  2. The Man from the Diners’ Club (1963, Tashlin)
  3. Casualties of War (1989, De Palma)
  4. Lonesome (1928, Fejös)
  5. A Running Jump (2012, Leigh)
  6. Sleepless Night (2011, Jardin)
  7. Taking Off (1971, Forman)
  8. Damsels in Distress (2011, Stillman)
  9. The Legend of Suram Fortress (1986, Parajanov/Abashidze)
  10. Day of the Outlaw (1959, De Toth)
  11. A Woman of Paris (1923, Chaplin)
  12. The Parson’s Widow (1920, Dreyer)
  13. Wolfsburg (2003, Petzold)
  14. The Hole (2009, Dante)
  15. Yearning (1964, Naruse)
  16. Level Five (1997, Marker)
  17. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby /
    Step Brothers (2006/2008, McKay)
  18. Mouth to Mouth (1978, Duigan)
  19. The Road (2001, Omirbayev)
  20. Cosmopolis (2012, Cronenberg)
    *

True Heart Susie. Pretty good. Potent held close-ups of hearts being tested. Some superfluous titlecards.

The Raid was pretty damn good. Beautiful control. Strong spatial sense. Often deadeningly long/violent action sequences, but never lacking in creative choreography.

Finally built up the courage to watch Casualties of War. De Palma’s the fucking man, to be sure. Having Fox dreamember it all was a wise idea as it defines the operatic sublimity of the horror on display, and it’s utilised more critically in the coda as a macroscopic “bad dream”, the events of which we choose to forget. De Palma naturally had to remind us again with Redacted. Also, his most meaningful use of split-diopter effects?

Yearning‘s framing is impeccable; you couldn’t fault it. The narrative is just as impeccable. But the last shot and the cut to “The End” is almost mind-blowingly cruel. It’s difficult to really read her there. It almost becomes a “I fucking deserved this, really” and I’ve an image of her after this movie utterly bitter and numb.

Duplicity is mostly frustrating in its clever narrative actualisation and play on its title, but by the end it felt complete and rather satisfying. Robert Elswit.

Damsels in Distress was adorable. I don’t recall Stillman being this…comedic? Like, Thor and his inability to comprehend colours for skipping the first grade. Absurd. And very funny. Ryan Metcalf is really something, a totally cartoon performance; it looked like he was animated by Brad Bird himself. Strangely, Aubrey Plaza overdid it; more proof that her schtick is only truly great on late shows when she has no lines. The close-ups seemed to be fashioned after old Hollywood whereby the face is luminous and the background is soft and out of focus. Gerwig’s close-up at the Complainer meeting is gorgeous. I’m not totally sure what happens at the end. I know they start dancing but where does the narrative disappear to? I have to watch these scenes again!

*
Lynne Ramsay’s Olympics short, Swimmer. Utterly rapturous b+w cinematography nodding to Riefenstahl’s immortalisation of man’s physique, with a Davies-like compendium of aural references and nods to old England. It is beautiful and baffling.
*
I admire the way Bernie allows us to intuit certain details before they are addressed by the faux-documentary inquisition. The most significant being the use of past-tense in the interviews, as well as Linklater’s allowing us to perceive Bernie’s flamboyant gestures by way of Black’s very fine performance. It reveals itself to be quite interesting morally, with the doting townsfolk at once humanist and lawfully speaking, biased. The film itself is also humanist in regards to Bernie, and I don’t see why it shouldn’t be.
*
I’m not sure that Four Flies on Grey Velvet makes even a bit of sense, and it’s ludicrously comical even for Argento, but there’s too much brash camerawork and editing to dismiss it.
*
Tony’s Pelham is still fucking great. Auteuristically speaking his most complete; at the risk of checklisting: the male/male “romance” at its centre, the control room governing the fates of actual lives, flawed working class types stepping up to the plate for the greater good (the greeater gooood), an angel of death or extreme situation forcing sinners to face their moral consequences with the possibility of redemption, a self-sacrifice, surveillance and the media, a minor racial element… Missing a resurrection, however. Scary that the climax again takes place on a bridge. Totally gorgeous coloured lighting and the train velocity motif with images and text playfully whizzing all around. The opening image is minimised down to a little box like the light at the end of a tunnel, expanding as we approach it.
*
Compelled to mention:
  • The Raid (2011, Evans)
  • Swimmer (2012, Ramsay)
  • The Hitch-Hiker (1953, Lupino)
  • Bernie (2011, Linklater)
  • Drowning by Numbers (1988, Greenaway)
  • Dans Paris (2006, Honoré)
  • Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971, Argento)
  • Case Départ (2011, Steketee)

Best rewatches:

  • The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009, Scott)
  • Total Recall (1990, Verhoeven)
  • Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990, Dante)
  • Man on Fire (2004, Scott)
    *