I hereby present the following with no explanation:
Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno (2009)
A documentary combining cast and crew interviews with footage from Clouzot's unfinished film L'enfer. The documentary attempts to tell the story of both the production of the film and the film itself at the same time, with varying degrees of success. Though the story of the troubled, short-lived production is fascinating, the real showpiece is the lost footage from L'enfer, much of which is experimental and very, very beautiful. Watching this really made me wish Clouzot had been able to finish it.
Easy A (2010)
In many ways a throwback to 1980s teen movies, a favorite genre of mine. It's funny, and Emma Stone is charming in a way that makes up for the problems with the film--the most grievous that it approaches a very serious issue and then veers away from it entirely. Despite that, there's a lot to like and very little to dislike. Catch this one, it's fun.
The American (2010)
What if In Bruges had been a serious movie? This film begins with the same premise--an assassin is asked by his boss to lay low in a tiny, beautiful European village--and from there it carries a number of similar plot points, though it is approached with an entirely different attitude. Its tone is dead serious. The American is set in modern times, though you wouldn't really know it save for the fact that a few people have cell phones, and the main character makes a point not to use them. The filmmaking itself reminds me of an older style of film, a foreign style of film. Were it not for the cell phones and the notable star George Clooney, I would have guessed it was made in the 1960s or 1970s, and possibly directed by an Italian or a Frenchman (the director was actually Dutch).
Judging from the reactions of people in the cinema when I saw it, many people thought this movie was a shoot-'em-up Bourne-style action picture before coming in. These people were disappointed with what they got, which was beautiful and haunting and an excellent film by any standard. The American is just about out of theaters, so you should go see it ASAP if it's still playing near you.
Red Riding - In the Year of Our Lord 1980 (2009)
Red Riding - In the Year of Our Lord 1983 (2009)
A confusing set of films exploring themes of corruption, good and evil, ends justify the means, that sort of thing. I saw In the Year of Our Lord 1974 a few weeks ago, and these later films did help clarify that one, but they spawned a number of their own questions. I suspect more than a few significant elements from the books were left out. It is not helped by the fact that most of the characters sound like they're speaking through a mouthful of marshmallows. The three films as a set are interesting and visually beautiful, but don't expect to come out feeling like you understand exactly what's happened. They may be better-served by a second viewing. Honestly, they made me want to read the books so I can understand what's really going on.
Mississippi Mermaid (1969)
A Truffaut picture about one of the most screwed-up relationships I have ever seen in a serious film. A rich factory owner on Reunion Island solicits a bride from France through correspondence, and she's not exactly who she seems. Soon after her arrival and their wedding it's clear that she's either a high-functioning psychopath or not the woman she claims to be. (Hint: She's both. It's not really a spoiler.) It's a well-made movie, though a little overlong--by the end I wanted to personally shoot both of the main characters.
The Nature of Existence (2010)
A documentary in which the filmmaker visits spiritual leaders, philosophers, scientists and some common people with opinions in hopes of gaining some insight on the meaning of life. He approaches all of his subjects with a neutral attitude--even the people whose opinions are undeniably zany and whose actions are utterly infuriating. His restraint is admirable, and without it this film wouldn't really work.
Animal Kingdom (2010)
Gritty and realistic modern mafia film, with an Australian crime family at its center. Some very terrible things happen to the teenage protagonist at the hands of his criminal uncles--he is far from perfect, but unlike his relatives, he isn't beyond hope. I was not in a great mood around the time I was watching this, but it is gripping, well-made, and very intense. It is also terribly bleak. It's brilliant, though, and you should see it.
I have to admit it: I'm hooked on Tumblr. It's so easy to make new themed blogs and form an audience there, it's irresistible.
Here's a list of them, for those of you who'd like to follow them. They all have RSS feeds.
- Hover Animals: Pictures depicting animals (and sometimes other things) that appear to be hovering.
- Rats in Hats: Delivers exactly what it promises.
- The Apple Club: For people who like apples. A group blog.
- One! Hundred! Polaroids!: A better-structured repository for my Polaroid project. Don't worry, I'll still be posting new ones here, too, and the new site will take a while to run through the fifty-odd old ones.
You'd think after this many photos, there'd be a lot fewer misfires. Blame my pet cat for this one--he took it by knocking the camera off a dresser.
So this weekend a couple friends and I went to an anime convention (Nan Desu Kan) in Denver. One of my buddies and I crashed it--weren't gonna be hanging around long enough to make buying a badge worthwhile--so we just walked around gawping at the cosplayers while our other friend presumably had a good time going in the rooms we weren't allowed into. And we watched part of the Michigan game at the hotel bar, I guess because it was a bastion of adulthood in a sea of under-eighteens.
Anyway, I bet you wanna see the cosplayers.
The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974)
A Werner Herzog picture depicting the life of Kaspar Hauser, a boy discovered in the early 1800s in Germany. He claimed to have been kept in a dark cellar since birth, with very little human contact until his caretaker took him to the Nuremberg town square and left him there. It's a fascinating story, now widely thought to have been partly or wholly a hoax perpetuated by the youth himself, but the film takes Hauser at his word.
It's very slow-moving, meandering through Kaspar Hauser's life in the general direction that the story demands--not atypical for a Herzog picture, in my experience. Bruno S., who plays the titular character, performs so brilliantly that I was surprised to discover that he was not a professional actor. Everything about this movie is stunningly beautiful.
Red Riding - 1974 (2009)
The first in a trilogy. Fascinating crime drama about a journalist who investigates a series of murders of young girls, which he suspects are connected, and the high-level corruption he uncovers in his search for answers. It's a little surreal, and harder to follow than I'd like to admit. Maybe this is just me being a dumb American, but it is really tough to understand Yorkshire accents. It's like one guy who can enunciate visits a city full of mumblers. That said, I'm really looking forward to seeing the other two installments of the trilogy, which further investigate the layers of corruption.
A Boy and His Dog (1975)
Bizarre post-apocalyptic film about a young man named Vic and his telepathic dog Blood. It's based on a Harlan Ellison story I've never read. I've seen this movie a few times, and I just love it to pieces. I guess I'd call it a black comedy, as it is quite funny, but there are a lot of very nasty ideas tossed around cavalierly in the nuclear wasteland that Vic calls home.
It is the only movie I can think of that includes a talking dog as a character and is completely comfortable with making that talking dog a bad person.
The Land Before Time (1988)
I say these words, and you immediately think of the terrible parade of sequels that has plagued our society for the last fifteen years or so. You may not remember the original, which was a good and competent Don Bluth film, and maybe the only one that doesn't include magic sparkly special effects. The animation all looks beautiful and sharp, with background art reminiscent of pulp sci-fi paintings.
No one sings any dopey songs, and there is a serious sense of urgency and menace over the entire film. The characters, all baby dinosaurs, are constantly threatened by starvation and predators, and their environment is neutral at best, hostile at worst. Despite all this, it's a very cute film, a childhood favorite of mine.
What's Up Tiger Lily? (1966)
Essentially, it's a higher-budget YouTube video executed with skill: Woody Allen took a couple of Japanese spy films, re-cut them, and re-dubbed the soundtrack with comedic dialoque. It's successful as a comedy, but it's kind of amazing that it was made and released at a period in history when this kind of exercise required a budget.
Next week or so:
- Mississippi Mermaid (1969)
- Red Riding - 1980 (2009)
- Red Riding - 1983 (2009)
- The American (2010)
- Animal Kingdom (2010)
The Maybe List:
- The Nature of Existence (2010)
- Machete (2010)
- The Expendables (2010)
- The Other Guys (2010)