Friday, January 30, 2009

Sergio Leone: Once Upon A Time...


Sergio Leone. When you say the name to a film fan they most commonly think of Spaghetti westerns. I went to the Music Box on January 22 to see what is personally my favorite western: Once Upon A Time In the West. The epic scope of the film is what did it for me. It revolves around 4 people: Jill, a woman who is coming into town to meet her soon to be husband, the other characters being Cheyenne, Harmonica, and Frank. The opening 15 minute are some of the best 15 minutes of cinema as 3 outlaws contracted by Frank are waiting in a train station for Harmonica. The score by Ennio Morricone is one of my favorites as well and ranks up there with his score for The Mission as one of his best. This is filmmaking at its finest and the images captured throughout the film depict that.


I recently watched Once Upon A Time In America for the first time. It is a 4 hour film but it had me completely drawn to the characters and story for that time. Very few director can accomplish that. The film has had a checkered past. It was originally to be released as a 4 hour film and debuted as such to tremendous praise at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival. Soon afterward it was completely butchered down to 2 hours. Home video and DVD have saved this film by restoring its original 4 hour running time. The director's cut which has not been released yet is said to 4 1/2 hours. I would love to see that version and compare the two.
The film follows five bunch of kids over the span of five decades. These types of films are among my favorites because you get to study the characters growth from childhood up through adulthood. The childhood friends become criminals but still attain a sense of loyalty to one another. Loyalty that will be strongly tested throughout their adult lives. The violence in Sergio's films is always sudden. Boom. Done. Out. The film itself opens with two very graphic images and pits the viewer right in the middle of the storm. Many have commented on the structure in it being akin to an opium dream. DeNiro starts off the film in an opium den and the film is bookended by it. In a sense it is. This is a dream of America gone awry.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Lost Season 5 Premiere

The best series on network television returned with a riveting season 5 opener yesterday. I really hope they do more origin story on the Dharma Initiative, the smoke monster and the island itself. The best news about this season is that the flash forwards and flashbacks are few and far between.

There were alot of things going on in this opener. Hopefully they also shed some light on what the hell happened to Claire last season. A good theory I read up on one of my forums is that The Others were waiting for Locke, because he shifted to the past and met them, and they had to wait years for him to come back after the crash.

Overall I really like the direction the season is heading: answering more questions as opposed to asking. They have enough questions to last them this season as well as the final sixth season in 2010. One thing's for certain, it will be interesting looking back on confusing episodes like this after the show is over and putting the pieces together.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Wrestler review

One of the most poignant and heartfelt quotes I've heard from a film in a LONG time that completely sums up Rourke's character is "The only time I get hurt it out there [outside the ring]." That quote rings true throughout the film as he tries to reconnect with his daughter played by Evan Rachel Wood. He also tries to connect with a stripper played by Marisa Tomei. Both of them perform in front of a crowd and both have professions which are not taken seriously by the general public.

As a wrestling fan, I have been told so many times "Wrestling is fake. They're acting." Well, the punches and kicks are fake and the whole role playing is acting indeed.
But how does one learn how to take a chair shot or get thrown through glass? You don't. And that's what the film portrays so authentically.

What Mickey Rourke does with this performance is amazing. He's not playing Randy "The Ram" Robinson...he IS The Ram. It's what Daniel Day Lewis did with last year with There Will Be Blood.

The director, Darren Aronofsky, whose previous works include Pi, Requiem For A Dream and The Fountain has proven to be absolutely fearless when it comes to portraying a character. Not many directors would want to take the route that Aronofsky did at the end of Requiem For A Dream and I applaud him for his honest character portrayals. The filmmaking here is very much in the vein of John Cassavetes. Character driven, many scenes being improvised and a very documentary feel to it all.

This film legitimizes what wrestlers do in the ring and the lasting effects it has not only on their bodies but on those close to them. Rourke's powerhouse performance is sure to get him an Oscar nod and he clearly deserves the win.