Thursday, September 30, 2010

May I smoke my pipe?

So I'm sitting in the theater watching Inglourious Basterds for the first time. Along comes the now famous scene of Hans Landa and Pierrer LaPadite sitting at a table. At that point a quote by Hitchcock was brought to mind that is used to describe ways to create tension: "There's two people having breakfast and there's a bomb under the table. If it explodes, that's a surprise. But if it doesn't..."

In this case, Robert Richardson's camera literally goes under the table to uncover not a bomb, but Jews underneath the floor boards. From the moment Landa walked in, he knew. It's a scene that not only builds tension but character. The calculating nature of this villian is on display. Like a cat toying with its prey before going in for the kill.

There's another moment of a similar nature: the scene in the underground bar. Large exchanges of dialogue set us up for an explosion of violence. And again, the "under the table" device is used. Only this time it's handguns pointed at testicles. It's scenes like these where Tarantino is on his A game and in complete service of the story.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Name That Connection















Name the other film with Tom Cruise and that magical number 82.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Upcoming Conventions: HorrorHound Weekend 2010

WHEN: NOVEMBER 12-14
WHERE: CINCINATTI, OHIO

WHO'S GOING TO BE THERE?




























FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT: www.horrorhoundweekend.com/

Friday, September 24, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Flip Side of the Coin 1




NOT ON DVD!

Most big time collectors of DVDs have ran into this problem before. Either a film is not released on DVD or it was put out on a bare bones edition.

When it comes to collecting a director's catalog, there will be gaps with some of them. If you wanted to have a complete Richard Linklater Retrospective, you would not be able to because of Suburbia not being released. When learning about a director it's important to start at point A and end at point Z and examine the growth of that director.

If it's on the inferior VHS format there is no reason it should not be on DVD. The format has already changed to Blu Ray and the likeliness of these films being released on DVD are getting slimmer and slimmer. Double dipping DVDs with countless special editions is another factor that is killing library titles. I'm guilty of re-buying DVDs if they add a commentary. If it's a movie I like, of course I'm going to want the definitive version. But that's for a whole other argument altogether.


















The Wonder Years
This one is usually found at the top of most "Missing DVDs" lists and for good reason. The one thing keeping it from hitting shelves is securing the music rights to the massive soundtrack of the show. Borrowing over 300 pieces of music for its 115episodes. Music licensing practices have screwed over a good amount of shows and prevented them from hitting shelves or had DVDs released without the soundtrack. The music was essential part to this show.

Fan bootlegs are out there but that just doesn't do it justice. This is the kind of DVD set that demands interviews and featurettes galore.

There's an empty space on my shelf waiting to be filled and I am becoming less patient as time goes on.

The Keep
Director Michael Mann has stated that he is not proud of how this movie came out. As a result, there is a gap in Mann fan's DVD collections.

King of the Hill
Steve Soderbergh's third film. Adrian Brody, Spalding Gray and a young Katherine Heigl star in this Great Depression-era period piece.

Let It Be
The documentary that was intended to show the making of an album and ended up documenting the unraveling of The Beatles. There is no reason this should not have been released already. LaserDiscs go for up to $300 on EBay. Tapes go for up to $200.

The Magnificent Ambersons
Orson Welles' follow up to Citizen Kane. Do I really have to make an argument for this one?!

IN NEED OF AN UPGRADE
"Quickie" DVDs put out with little to no care.

Fearless
Full screen, bare bones DVD. Come on. It's Peter Weir's best film. Do it justice.

Heaven's Gate
It was an ambitious flop. But a commentary by Michael Cimino would be a first day purchase for me.

The Insider
Of all Michael Mann's films, this is one I would like to hear a commentary the most.

Lost Highway
Released in a crummy full screen version only, this terrifying nightmare vision from David Lynch deserves better treatment.

Midnight Run
Great buddy/cop flick from the 80's. Needs a Special Edition

Raising Arizona
Another 80's classic. One of the Coens' best.


Speaking of DVD's in need of an upgrade, Paul Thomas Anderson's last 3 DVDs have all followed the same format. 2 discs, short behind the scenes featurettes, some photos. If I recall, PTA stated that he was just not interested in doing commentaries anymore.

LOST COMMENTARIES
The only way you can get these commentaries is on LaserDisc. Criterion has the rights to all of these commentaries and has not released them which is a damn shame. I am chomping at the bit to listen to that Scorsese Taxi Driver commentary.

The Fisher King (Terry Gilliam commentary)
The Game (David Fincher commentary)
Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese commentary)
Trainspotting (Danny Boyle commentary)

STILL WAITING FOR...

Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair

Get on with it already

*****UPDATES*****

2/23- Blow Out will be released by Criterion on April 26.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

20 Years of GoodFellas

"As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a gangster." Henry Hill, 1955

The year was 1990. The day: September 19. I was four years old. At that point, the one film that consumed me the most was E.T. It wouldn't be until about the 6th or 7th grade that I would see GoodFellas for the first time. I knew I was seeing something I hadn't seen before. Not just in terms of content (this being the first gangster film I saw) but how the content was being presented. There is unflinching conviction in every frame of Scorsese's 1990 masterpiece. This is the life of a wiseguy and it's not pretty. Subsequent viewings as I got older cemented it's place in my top 5 films of all time.

If The Godfather could be described as operatic, then GoodFellas in many ways is the punk version of a gangster film. It's raw and has jagged edges. There is a kind of energy that explodes off the screen.



CONTENT













Now before even getting into the meat of the film, one has to look at just how much of an influence the gangster films of the 30's had on Scorsese. Just look at a film like Scarface or a film like Public Enemy. These were not films with happy endings. They looked at their protagonists or antagonists in this case in an unflinching manner. Scorsese has stated that he loves films that chart the rise and fall. But the most important part of those pictures is the fall. Not only does this film accomplish that but it is about the process of getting to the top. The mundane details are presented to us through the narration and insert shots- whether it is a closeup on the watch of the wrist of a guy getting out of a car or Henry Hill telling us how Paulie had a system to make food in jail.

GoodFellas starts out not with a whisper but with a bang. Before the audience knows it, they end up witnessing Joe Pesci stick a carving knife into a man in a trunk and then see Robert DeNiro put a few rounds in the guy. Right off the bat, Scorsese lets us know, this is not going to be pretty. It's going to be a visceral experience for the next 2 1/2 hours.

The story is based on journalist Nicholas Pileggi’s book Wiseguy, which is an account of the life of gangster turned informant Henry Hill. Hill, a half-Irish half-Sicilian growing up in Brooklyn, from a young age idolizes the Lucchese crime family gangsters that live and work across the street from his apartment. His admiration turns to initiation into the lifestyle. He quickly climbs the ladder of success....and falls down the ladder just as fast.

For a movie that is two and a half hours long, it moves at a breakneck pace, which was apparently Scorsese’s goal. He would later state that he wanted the movie to start like a gunshot and just pick up steam from there, ultimately reaching the point where things would be so out of control that they would have to unravel. Scorsese accomplishes precisely this and it is an example of how in control he was throughout the entire making of this film. Every time that I watch, it is glaringly obvious that you are witnessing a director who is confident to do whatever he wants on the screen.












The characters in the film are all memorable and shows Scorsese's knack for getting the best performances out of whoever he is working with. In this case, Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, Paul Sorvino & Lorraine Bracco. Even small characters like Sam Jackson's Stacks Edwards and Frank Vincent's Billy Batts shine here.

TECHNIQUE

The best films take you into their world for however long their running time is. It's only on the 4th or 5th screening of the film that you are able to sit down and take apart shots. This is one of those films that employs a narrator as a means of giving the viewer information that pertains to a scene. The device of a narrator is a tricky thing. Sometimes it hinders a film. It tells us too much about what's going and ambiguity is thrown out the window. A film like GoodFellas is exactly the type of film where a narrator is needed.

There are many components that make this film rewatchable, but for me the music and the pacing/editing is what seperates it from all of the other gangster films. First off, we are treated to an eclectic soundtrack that ranges from Dean Martin and Muddy Waters to George Harrison and Sid Vicious. Scorsese doesn't use music to tell us the certain emotions of a character, he rather uses it as a counterpoint to what is taking place in the scene. Who can not hear Donovan's Atlantis without thinking of Billy Batts getting beaten down by Pesci & DeNiro or listen to Derek and the Dominoes Layla without thinking about the montage of whacked wiseguys and the one chord synching up to the opening of the meat truck.












Editor Thelma Schoonmaker has worked with Marty since his short films. Some of her best work is displayed on the likes of Raging Bull. The question was, could she possibly top her editing skills that she showed us there? After GoodFellas, the answer was a resounding YES!.

Now it's important to note the style that Scorsese brings to each project he takes on. He went wild on Raging Bull and then on King of Comedy he was very controlled. He always lets the story dictate style. This is exactly what any great filmmaker does. The style of GoodFellas starts off with classical filmmaking in the first act. It is also where the famous dolly shot into the Copacabana takes place. As the film goes on and as Henry Hill gets deeper and deeper into the pit of organized crime, the editing & pacing become more and more chaotic. By the time we reach the "Last Day As A Wiseguy" sequence, Scorsese employs shock cuts, freeze frames, sped up zoom ins, and reverse zooms. Add to that a montage of blues and classic rock songs along with Henry Hill's frantic schedule through his narration and you got some of the most riveting filmmaking of Scorsese's catalog.

CLOSING COMMENTS

To quote Roger Ebert: "Scorsese's best films have always been poems about guilt." Quite so. Religion and violence are always two themes the director has come back to. In Henry Hill's case, his sins lead him to live his life as "a schnook." A nobody without a name to look up to.

I could go on for hours about my admiration for this film. Every time I watch it, I am reminded of why I love the medium of film so much. It's the type of film you completely surrender yourself to when it's on. Just try turning it off once you've caught a part of it on cable. I dare ya. I know I can't. So go get your shinebox, finish stirring that pasta sauce (make sure it doesn't stick) and pop in GoodFellas. You'd be a schnook not to.



Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bye, bye blackbird













The theatrical version of Miami Vice, upon first viewing, is a bit of a disappointment when you stack it up against Mann's previous film Collateral. Unlike Collateral, Mann opted to release a director's cut. He is known for these director editions. Peviously releasing them for Thief, Manhunter, Last of the Mohicans and Ali. In hindsight, Miami Vice: The Director's Cut is a film that will reward viewers after several viewings. Once you start to realize that it's more content- based as opposed to character based. Therein lies my problem with Vice in the first place- character development. This is a thread that carries on into his work on Public Enemies.

After leaving the theater after seeing Public Enemies, I did not feel the same way when I saw Collateral, Heat or The Insider for the first time. Mann had so many great collaborators working on this one. What got me watering at the mouth was how it almost mimicked Heat in terms of collaboration. There was Dante Spinotti on photography (finally teaming up with Mann since The Insider) and Elliot Goldenthal composing the score. Then you had the two big name actors: Johnny Depp & Christian Bale together in a film for the first time. Their meeting in the jail cell brought back to mind Vince & Neil's meeting in the coffee shop. In fact, this movie echoes some of the same themes he presented in Heat. That's not a bad thing, but I feel it was done better in that film.

My big complaint on Mann's current visual aesthetic is not so much the fact that he's using digital, but how he's using it. The issue with this is: Why use digital to create such a "You are there" type of look when the viewer is not invested enough into the characters. What hinders Public Enemies is Mann's choice of sacrificing character development in order to get to a string of highlights and action sequences. You almost have to come in after having researched Dillinger to enjoy this movie.

Looking back at Heat, even a character as small as the getaway driver played by Dennis Haysbert is given scenes to strengthen the development of his character. That type of development is absent in both Vice and Enemies. I am longing for another great character moment from Mann's repertiore. Characters like Jeffrey Wigand, Vincent, Neil McAuley, and even a Frank from Thief.

Alas, there was no director's cut of this movie. Right now it sits near the bottom of Mann's catalog. I was honestly quite bored watching it for the 2nd time. Mann is currently shooting the TV film Luck with Dustin Hoffman and airs on HBO in 2011. One can hope that this is a rebound or at least gives him a burst of creative energy to tackle his next theatrical project with a fresh new way of telling a story.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Great Characters: Anton Chigurh
















Film: No Country For Old Men
Played by: Javier Badem
Memorable moment: The gas station scene

The Sweet Hereafter- A Review

The Sweet Hereafter is a film that blankets the viewer in the cold and stark atmospheric winter. Right from the outset, it lets us know that a terrible tragedy (a school bus accident) has happened. It does so in fractured narrative that enhances the story rather than hinder it.

A small town is torn apart by the tragedy. Some bonds are mended while others are broken. Two major storylines develop in a subtle and harrowing manner. The first involves a lawyer who has come to the town to discuss a settlement regarding the bus accident. The second involves a girl who was apart of the crash that ended up surviving.

Director Atom Egoyan does an excellent job of showing honest human beings and their interactions under dire circumstances. Egoyan is known, along with David Cronenberg, as one of the veteran directors to come out of Canada. This film is a perfect starting point to the rest of his career.

Rich in character development, beautifully photographed and bolstering a haunting score, this one will stay with you long after the final scenes play out.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

GREAT POSTER ART 003: Grindhouse Edition

Posters for Exploitation/Grindhouse films of the 70's are a whole new breed when it comes to poster art. They are the type of posters you'd expect to see a tear in the bottom right hand corner. One would find these posters in the lobby of a dingy run down theatre. Of course, there has to be that tagline for each film.

Here are some of my favorite examples from that era of exploitation:









Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mike Portnoy leaves Dream Theater

While 90% of the content on this blog is film related, there's the occasional music related content that will pop up. Since important news about a crucial member parting one of the bands I love, I thought I'd post it here.

___________________________________________________________________________________
***The following is taken from the Mike Portnoy Forum***

Wednesday September 8th 2010

I am about to write something I never imagined I'd ever write:

After 25 years, I have decided to leave Dream Theater....the band I founded, led and truly loved for a quarter of a century.

To many people this will come as a complete shock, and will also likely be misunderstood by some, but please believe me that it is not a hasty decision...it is something I have struggled with for the last year or so....

After having had such amazing experiences playing with Hail, Transatlantic and Avenged Sevenfold this past year, I have sadly come to the conclusion that I have recently had more fun and better personal relations with these other projects than I have for a while now in Dream Theater...

Please don't misinterpret me, I love the DT guys dearly and have a long history, friendship and bond that runs incredibly deep with them...it's just that I think we are in serious need of a little break...

Dream Theater was always my baby...and I nurtured that baby every single day and waking moment of my life since 1985...24/7, 365...never taking time off from DT's never-ending responsibilites (even when the band was "off" between cycles)...working overtime and way beyond the call of duty that most sane people ever would do for a band...

But I've come to the conclusion that the DT machine was starting to burn me out...and I really needed a break from the band in order to save my relationship with the other members and keep my DT spirit hungry and inspired.

We have been on an endless write/record/tour cycle for almost 20 years now (of which I have overseen EVERY aspect without a break) and while a few months apart from each other here & there over the years has been much needed and helpful, I honestly hoped the band could simply agree with me to taking a bit of a "hiatus" to recharge our batteries and "save me from ourselves"...

Sadly, in discussing this with the guys, they determined they do not share my feelings and have decided to continue without me rather than take a breather...I even offered to do some occasional work throughout 2011 against my initial wishes, but it was not to be...

While it truly hurts for me to even think of a Dream Theater without Mike Portnoy (hell, my father named the band!!), I do not want to stand in their way...so I have decided to sacrifice myself and simply leave the band so as to not hold them back against their wishes....

Strangely enough, I just read an interview that I recently did that asked me about the future of DT and I talked about "always following your heart and being true to yourself"...sadly I must say that at this particular moment, my heart is not with Dream Theater...and I would simply be "going through the motions", and would honestly NOT be true to myself if I stayed for the sake of obligation without taking the break I felt I needed.

I wish the guys the best and hope the music and legacy we created together is enjoyed by fans for decades to come...I am proud of every album we made, every song we wrote and every show we played....

I'm sorry to all the disappointed DT fans around the world...I really tried to salvage the situation and make it work...I honestly just wanted a break (not a split)...but happiness cannot be forced, it needs to come from within....

You DT fans are the greatest fans in the world and as you all know, I have always busted my ass for you guys and I hope that you will stay with me on my future musical journey, wherever it may lead me....(and as you all know my work ethic, there will surely be no shortage of future MP projects!)

Sadly...
Your fearless ex-leader and drummer,
MP


"Move on be brave, don't weep at my grave, because I am no longer here...
But please never let your memory of me disappear...."
--- The Spirit Carries On

________________________________________________________________________________

While I can't say I listened to Dream Theater in the past 6 months, they still have had a major impact on my musical tastes. Discovering DT in 2004 was something I'll always remember. Especially meeting the drummer Mike Portnoy himself at a meet and greet. Whatever his future endeavors may be, I hope that DT will continue to make music and MP continue to follow whatever path he chooses to take.

The river leads back there: The Films of Terrence Malick

When watching a film by director Terrence Malick, you are going to be treated to some of the finest cinematography there is to offer. A major component to all of his films is the struggle to find the balance between man and nature. The director's reclusiveness and need to achieve perfection in every frame has drawn comparisons to such masters as Stanley Kubrick. The release date for the director's latest film Tree of Life is currently unknown. But rest assured, it sounds like it just may be his magnum opus. For those who are not familiar with Malick's work, I highly suggest checking out Badlands, Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line & The New World.









Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Meet Me In Montauk

Charlie Kaufmann's scripts have always been refreshing and original. Some loved by many (Eternal Sunshine) and some polarizing (Synecdoche, New York).

I'm curious to hear what people's favorite story is and why (the comment box is your friend).

Vote now!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The 2000's: A Retrospective Pt. 2

"The absurd lengths of modern studios and it's CGI capability go to in order to save the audiences the bother of imagining anything themselves is probably having a crippling effect on the mass imagination. There seems to be an audience that demands everything to be explained to them. That everything be easy. And I don't think that's doing us any good as a culture. The ease in which we can conjure anything with CGI is directly proportional to how uninterested we are becoming in all of this. Most films that i see are having a level of criticism that one would attribute to a fireworks display. It's all ooh's and aah's. I think we are in store for a period of cultural re-evaluation. If not, then we are in for a period of cultural damnation. I think we're fairly headed to hell in a hand basket and we gotta change our priorities" -Alan Moore, author of the graphic novels Watchmen & 300

This quote never rang more true when I was sitting in the theater at the end of No Country For Old Men. By the end, I heard more boos and complaints coming out of a theater than walking out the theater for Transformers 2...a movie in which the audience clapped and cheered by the end. I have scanned several blogs, film websites and listened to podcasts decrying the decline of quality in cinema for the last decade. There are 2 reasons for this. First of which is based around Hollywood. The second of which is more along the lines of the aforementioned quote.

Hollywood has become the nightmare that Robert Altman predicted in The Player. It basically thrives on fear. In the 90's the scripts for Pulp Fiction and Forrest Gump were both rejected by several studios before finding a studio that would distribute them. Now, it has become even worse. Had Tarantino not been as known as he is today, a film like Pulp Fiction would never get a theatrical release in these times. It's becoming harder and harder to push an original film through the studio system these days. Movie fans have the filmmakers like Joel & Ethan Coen, Tarantino, PT Anderson, Linklater, Soderbergh, Aronofsky & Fincher to fall back on. But where are the new filmmakers who will pave the way like the aforementioned ones did in the 90's?
We are looked upon by Hollywood as consumers and demographics.Not film savvy or smart.

Flashback to the year 1999. Entertainment Weekly declared it as the "Year That Changed Movies." You need proof? Here's an excerpt:: "The whirling cyberdelic Xanadu of The Matrix. The relentless, rapid-fire overload of Fight Club. The muddy hyperrealism of The Blair Witch Project. The freak show of Being John Malkovich. The way time itself gets fractured and tossed around in The Limey and Go and Run Lola Run. The spooky necro-poetry of American Beauty and The Sixth Sense. The bratty iconoclasm of Dogma. The San Fernando Valley sprawl of this winter's Magnolia." Not to mention we were given excellent works from veteran directors like Stanley Kubrick (Eyes Wide Shut) and Michael Mann (The Insider) as well as a satire on the workforce known as Office Space. We were even offered more than adequate work from other veterans: Spike Lee (Summer of Sam), Woody Allen (Sweet and Lowdown) and Martin Scorsese (Bringing Out the Dead).

Looking back on the decade as a whole, I found a steady decline (for me anyway) in coming out of the theatre having seen a great movie. Foreign films and independent cinema became a shelter from the fodder of remakes, sequels, and adaptations. Some original voices were heard in the midst of the storm (Charlie Kaufmann, Christopher Nolan), some good directors got caught up in it by the end of the decade (Wes Anderson, M. Night Shyamalan). CGI reached lower standards than ever before and the so called 'innovative' nature of 3D has yet to be found. It's depressing surfing the movies news sites with story after story of remakes of movies I grew up on. It's twice as bad being a horror fan.

Now the blame can't solely be put on Hollywood. After all, why did a film like Grindhouse or Zodiac tank at the box office and yet Meet the Spartans charts number 1? We as audiences are the reason that's why. And for all the money given to the next Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street remake, original screenplays are given the axe in favor of sequels to those remakes. How can you argue to make more creative and interesting films when the average audience member who is going to the movies just to kill time doesn't really care? I am of the opinion that audiences, having been raised on more movies than the previous generations, are getting smarter. A recent example of a quality film that was succesful has given me some hope. That film is Inception. These are not people that "go to the theater opening week and then watch it drop off the map the next weekend". These are people going back for repeat viewings.

The studio only looks at a price tag. Not a finished product. That has to change and when that does, alot more Fight Clubs and Pulp Fictions will filter through the system again. There needs to be more risk. As Francis Ford Coppola said "There can't be art without any risk. It's like expecting there to be children without having sex."

It's that old quote about the every other decade phase. The 70's saw the New Hollywood movement take hold, the 80's saw Hollywood wipe away the grittiness and add a new slick polish to its look, and the 90's gave birth to a new independent cinema whose many filmmakers are burgeoning today. Maybe, just maybe this decade will be what the 90's were to the 80's. One can only hope.

Out of the many movies seen, I narrowed it down to 15. The years 2002 & 2007 in particular were exceptional and a good amount of the films in my best of list ended up being from those 2 years. I find it so hard ranking films. On any given day, these rankings could change because all of these films are so different. And that is what I love about them. These are films that I kept finding myself going back to and each subsequent viewing has left a greater impression than the last. For now, this is how they stand.


15. About Schmidt (2002, Alexander Payne)
Regret. What have I done with my life that is so important? This is something we've all felt at one point. The story of Warren Schmidt excels in giving us those themes through Jack Nicholson's honest and heartwarming portrayal. The voice of this film is soft and comforting but it's only after you've heard what it has to say, that it's all the more profound.

14. The Wrestler (2008, Darren Aronofsky)
Aronofsky bounces back from the overblown dissapointment of the Fountain to create a film that is more along the lines of a John Cassavetes character piece. It should also be noted that Mickey Rourke gets the comeback performance of the decade award here.

13. Adaptation (2002, Spike Jonze)
Having recently caught up on this one, I'm sure it will jump higher in the rankings. The manic energy of this story is a delight and will always have me coming back to it.

12. Inglourious Basterds (2009, Quentin Tarantino)
I've always loved the men on a mission movie and when I heard Tarantino was doing one, the anticipation was high. What I ended up getting was way more than I expected. Yes, the men on a mission story was there. But also apart of the package was the tragic story of Shoshanna, a brilliant performance by Christoph Waltz and some of the most gripping dialogue scenes in Tarantino's catalog. And that my friends, is a bingo.

11. There Will Be Blood (2007, Paul Thomas Anderson)
Greed, religion and capitalism propel this intense portrait of an oilman. Very slow and methodical. Watching this in the theatre, a bunch of people behind me kept laughing at the performance of Daniel Day Lewis toward the end. Before I could tell them to shut the hell up, the movie did it for me.

10. 25th Hour (2002, Spike Lee)
"Champagne for me real friends and real pain for my sham friends."
Kudos to Spike Lee for being one of the first directors to set a film against the backdrop of post-9/11 New York. There's no action or bad guys here. Just Monty Broman, a character who has hit rock bottom and is coming to terms with the realities of what he's done. Edward Norton gives the performance of his career and is backed by other sublime performances by the always excellent Philip Seymour Hoffman, the delightful Rosario Dawson and Barry Pepper.

9. Zodiac (2007, David Fincher)
The amount of information on the Zodiac case and how Fincher was able to assemble and present it within a 2 1/2 hour film makes for an engrossing viewing experience. This is not a 3 layer cake. This is a 3000 layer cake.
My full review can be found here: http://reflectionsonwire.blogspot.com/2010/07/zodiac-2007.html

8. Children of Men (2006, Alfonso Cuaron)
Underneath the simplicity of the storyline of a man trying to get from point A to Z are alot of layers and ideas that make it more than just an average story. There are a few scenes here that are completely jaw dropping. A perfect marriage of style, tone and story.

7. Almost Famous (2000, Cameron Crowe)*
As a huge fan of 70's classic rock, I absolutely fell in love with this film the first time I saw it. Its many things, a memory piece, a tribute to some of the greatest music ever made, a great coming of age story. But its also one of the saddest examinations of art there is. A deconstruction of the myth that it can be enough, that it can shield you from the pain of life completely, that when you get lonely “all you have to do is go to the shelf and visit a few of your old friends.” It takes apart the easy lie that art can ever, or should ever, be enough.
*Note: This applies to the director's cut Untitled. It incorporates even more depth into its already rich characters.

6. Memento (2000, Christopher Nolan)
When I first saw this film I was simply amazed at the director's ability to tell a story in such a unique manner and with such finesse. Nolan has since gone onto direct bigger budget fare, but Memento is still his masterpiece. Although The Dark Knight comes very close.

5. Synecdoche, New York (2008, Charlie Kaufmann)
Kaufmann's scripts have always been unique and completely original, but here he outdoes himself. This is another one that demands the viewer to see it multiple times. It reveals more and more layers as you peel back the onion.
My full review can be found here: http://reflectionsonwire.blogspot.com/2009/03/film-review-synecdoche-new-york.html

4. OldBoy (2003, Park-Chan Wok)
Revenge films have existed for so long in cinema. Here is a rare revenge film that deals with the consequences of it all.

3. City of God (2002, Fernando Meirelles)
Hailed as the Brazilian GoodFellas, it's similarities are there. But the difference in the world of this film is that people on the slums of Rio de Janiero are not given any choice in regards to following a life of crime. Even more tragic is how children get caught in the crosshairs of this ugly world. This is the only film on here where I find myself having a hard time grabbing off the shelf because of it's raw and devastating power.

2. No Country For Old Men (2007, Joel & Ethan Coen)
"Is this guy suppose to be the ultimate badass"
To answer Llewlyn's question: Not only is Anton THE badass, but No Country is the ultimate Coen Brothers film. Gripping, edge-of-your-seat thriller that delivered more suspense than most horror films of the last ten years. The Coens plumb Cormac McCarthy's novel and create a meditation on mortality, freewill and living in a world whose values are in decay. A film that opens and closes on a quiet note that is as haunting as anything this decade.

My full review can be found here: http://reflectionsonwire.blogspot.com/2010/06/no-country-for-old-men-2007.html

1. Mulholland Dr. (2001, David Lynch)
Another Lynch film. Another world to get lost in. Mulholland Dr. functions as a career summation for everything Lynch has done to date, incorporating the 50s style and na├»ve heroines of the Blue Velvet era and blending it with the experiments in narrative subjectivity from Lost Highway. The ingenious narrative structure has been widely dissected, but it’s notable that even as he plunges through layers of subjective reality, he keeps a coherent emotional throughline so that you can have no idea what happened, but you can understand exactly how it felt. The best thing Lynch has done since Eraserhead and the best thing to come out of the 00's. You will see me one more time if you agree. You will see me two more times if you don't.


HONORABLE MENTIONS
Inland Empire, Waking Life, Wall-E, Up, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Unbreakable, In the Bedroom, Minority Report, Battle Royale, The Dark Knight, A Serious Man, Requiem For A Dream, 21 Grams, Traffic, The Devil's Rejects, Donnie Darko, The Royal Tenenbaums, Punch-Drunk Love, Before Sunset, Monster, The New World, Kill Bill Vol. 2, I'm Not There, 28 Days Later, The Departed, Bubble, Memories of Murder, Collateral, Shaun of the Dead, A History of Violence, Munich, Once, District 9

Friday, September 3, 2010

The 2000's: A Retrospective Pt. 1

This decade for me was important in terms of exploring filmmakers (both past and present) and genres. Pre 2000, my favorite director at the time was Steven Spielberg. There was a childlike wonder he bestowed upon people with films like ET and Close Encounters and then changing it up with Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark & Jurassic Park. Then even going further by tackling epics like Schindler's List & Saving Private Ryan. I remember just sitting in the theater and seeing that beachhead sequence in Saving Private Ryan and having my jaw on the floor.

HIGH SCHOOL YEARS
Between 2000 and 2004 I came across a number of films I considered to be favorites without even knowing they were by the same director. I looked at the credits of both Back to the Future and Forrest Gump and they said 'Directed by Robert Zemeckis'. By then I started to track the directors I liked. Diving into their back catalog and seeing how someone like James Cameron went from Terminator to Titanic.

By 2003, I started getting interested in the works of David Fincher. Se7en was as terrifying as anything I had seen before and Fight Club was a complete visual assault.

COLLEGE YEARS
Upon graduating high school in 2005, I would discover two of my favorite directors: Stanley Kubrick and Paul Thomas Anderson. I had seen a couple of the former's films (The Shining, 2001, & Dr. Strangelove) and was hooked. The Kubrick box set then made it's way into my grubby little hands and it was set in stone that Kubrick had become my new favorite director. The versatility he showed in hopping from genre to genre with relative ease and the ability to create a masterpiece in each genre was stunning.

The latter (PT Anderson) was a director I had found out about on a site called the Mike Portnoy Forum (forum for the drummer of the band Dream Theater). I ended up checking out Boogie Nights and was surprised at how well it balanced dark comedy, drama, and tension....sometimes all at once in a single scene! Not only that, but there was an exuberant energy running throughout the film. Even more surprising was how old Anderson was when he wrote the script...18. Then I got hit with the film Magnolia and the rest as they say, is history.

Oliver Stone made his way onto my radar after seeing Platoon. I had already loved 20th century history and I thought it was cool that a director devoted so many of his films to the history of that period. The director's box set which compiles his work from Salvador through Any Given Sunday is the type of DVD set I wish was released more often.

Along the way I made many more great discoveries: Joel & Ethan Coen, Quentin Tarantino, David Lynch, Michael Mann, Richard Linklater, Spike Lee & Kryzstof Kieslowski.

I'm always anxious to discover new directors and different ways stories are told. As a friend once said to me: "There's so many films but there's so little time to see them all."

Stay tuned for the 2nd part of this retrospective. It's a hell of a lot darker than than this one.