Saturday, April 30, 2011

You know you've seen too many movies when...

- you spell bastard with the 2nd a switched to an e
- you listen to Brian Eno's Ending (An Ascent) when watching a baseball game.
- the waitress finds You're So Cool written on napkins at your table.
- you refer to your busy days as May 11, 1980 kind of days
- "My Awesome Mixtape #6" is the name of your 80's mix CD
- your dreams consist of the lone biker of the apocalypse.
- you constantly stare at radiators. Hoping for a song or two to emit from them.
- 'remember Sammie Jankis' is what you write on the back of family photos
- 'Miss Torso' is the name you give to the girl next door
- you tell people to hold on to their butts when you turn the lights on
- 'the hatch just blew' is an expression you use when something isn't your fault
- you have a fear of dancing henchmen when visiting art galleries

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Public Enemies

Depp. Bale. Spinotti. Mann. These cats were workin' together and workin' on a crime biopic of one John Dillinger. Another film shot on digital, controversially to some. His aesthetic that he brings to the table on Public Enemies is perfect for a TV show. A big reason why I'm anticipating the TV series. Luck even more.

The problem here is the approach. The canvas of Public Enemies just seemed too small to pack everything in. I was left a little underwhelmed walking out. I don't want that from a Mann film. Granted, there were Mann's Greatest Hits all over this film. The action scenes, sound mix, attention to detail, etc. But as a whole, the investment in the story didn't really pay off as well as I hoped it would. There's a real vibe working in Vice. And in Heat. Even in Collateral. I sorely wanted that Mann vibe in here. B

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Friday, April 22, 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Reels now has a tumblr account.

Rumored to heal minor cuts and abrasions.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Finding your inner medulla: Miami Vice

Of all the films in Mann's catalog, this is the one I was interested in revisiting the most. One that was slighted both critically and commercially as not fitting in the same white overcoat as Don Johnson and instead veering into new territory.

Adaptations from television shows are a lose-lose scenario 4/5 times. Having said that, Mann wasn't interested in stepping back into the pastel colored world of Miami Vice as much as creating a photo negative of that world. A reboot, if you will. It pains me to use that word in a day & age where studios are reboot happy with franchises & brands.

The closest resemblance to structure as far as television show goes is it's similarity to Smuggler's Blues. A mid season episode from Season 1. I love the series just as much as any Vice fan. Why be a retread though? Mann's minimalist style suits the material well. The digital allows for some great depth of field nighttime scenes. I would say "New Decade. New Rules." But that tagline has been co-opted by a bunch of "hot & hip twentysomethings." So I'll save you the bouts of nausea.

The soundtrack that was once thumping melodies from Peter Gabriel, U2 & The Who is replaced by Moby/Patti LaBelle & Mogwai. The former creating a scene that is prime Mann and the latter closing out the film in a subdued, somber manner.

Vice's dreamlike, existential narrative is key for Mann's new digital aesthetic. It's crept into many of his films. Here it's on full display. The nuances, close-ups, use of color, etc. A film that tropes action genre cliches & doesn't get enough credit in Mann's canon. A

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Back to the Streets: Collateral

With Collateral, Mann took a good pot boiler script and really used it as an experiment for new visual techniques. He's back on the streets. The hynotic use of lights, architecture & geography of Los Angeles. It's all there. Only this time it's more focused. Most of the scenes being shot with the Viper Cam, a camera he would use to shoot his next film. He still has an incredible eye for action set pieces, as evidenced in the nightclub shootout. Collateral also brings up some interesting challenges such as filming conversations in a car while still making them interesting. Mann's influence from Dr. Strangelove is apparent in that the film is basically an entire third act. Moving forward with a certain drive and momentum that is in sharp contrast to the wide canvas he used on Heat. A compressed, focused thriller that never overstays its welcome. A

What's in the box?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sucker Punch: Ali

Biopics are usually, to coin a phrase from Will Hunting, paint by numba. It all depends on what the director and actor brings to the material. & that's the thing. Finding a right matchup. Ali stands as continuation of the pure drama based characterizations Mann used in The Insider. It's a sucker punch to the gut. & no, this sucker punch will not be thrown in slow motion with an on-the-nose soundtrack. Some familiar faces briefly pop up- Ted Levine, Bruce McGill & a new one that will be trading in his advising for taxi driving lessons.

Ali opens up with a fantastic montage that shows Mann in the zone. Intercutting Ali's early life with his present life all backed by a nightclub performance from Sam Cooke. The boxing scenes deftly reveal Ali's magnitude in the ring. The in close camera shots even keep us on our toes. For the most part however, the filmmaking is in the background while Ali's life takes center stage. Whose larger than life personality is personified by Smith's performance. To be sure, Mann's expressionism is based around a broader scope that preaches as much on prejudice than just funneling it out to look at a the portrait of a single athlete. The problem with this is, had he chose to go that route it would have gotten higher marks. It more than likely could have been his third masterpiece in a row. It's a fascinating time, story & portrait of a life. I just wish it could have been more than what I was left with after the bell sounded.

One thing that should be noted: this is all based around the Director's Cut. Some of the best scenes- the opening, the Zaire pre-fight scene- are given more weight. It's not exactly a James Cameron Director's Cut, where entire subplots are put back in. But the 8 extra minutes add to the story as they should. We'll get to another (yes, Mann loves them scissors) director's cut soon. B+

Monday, April 4, 2011

Safe From Harm: The Insider

Grains of hyper-realized truth embedded within the framework of a film are sometimes easy to pluck at. The end card tells us some of these events were exaggerated for dramatic effect. Yet, it's able to get away with it. In terms of truth telling, this is a film that bats in the 90's. Chronicling a crucial turning point in American journalism but more importantly painting a picture of a man whose integrity is at stake. It's a murky sea of moral dilemmas that pervade the frames & will wipe the smirk off your face faster than a Bruce McGill outburst.

Mann has always had a penchant for realism and this is by far the best example of that. Not to mention the use of surrealism in the night time golf & mural transformation scenes. Employing wide shots, intense close ups and indirect focus. Razor sharp cutting that isn't showy- it moves the scenes along to a certain rhythm that never feels forced. The bullets that once hummed along L.A. city streets are now being placed in mailboxes. The dialogue cascading from a red screen on Wigand's computer to faxes, right up to to the corporate news offices of 60 Minutes. This film is porn for people who love smart dialogue. Unrelenting in its delivery of intelligent material and morality plays. The soundtrack adds a whole other dimension to the proceedings and is the decor of this sound structure. There is a certain point at the ending that has plucked at my heartstrings with somber rhythms. Rhythms rarely felt. Lisa Gerrard has a hand in it. Her soothing voice stirring up honest emotions. I feel like I am a better person for having watched it. There's not too many works of art I can say that about. Top 10 worthy. A+