Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Movies I Would Like to See in the Criterion Collection

Greed (1924) (Erich Von Stroheim)

The Unknown (1927) (Tod Browning)

The Crowd (1928) (King Vidor)
1. The American Ego
2. A Man On the Brink
3. Optimism Turned Bleak and Back Again

Man With A Movie Camera (1929) (Dziga Vertov)

Freaks (1932) (Tod Browning)
1. Pre Code
3. One of Us

A Matter of Life and Death (1946) (Powell and Pressburger)
1. Absence of Love
2. Wartime Fantasy
3. Power of Love
Out of the Past (1947) (Jacques Tourneur)
1. The dialogue
2. Mitchum
3. Nicholas Musaraca's Photography

The Asphalt Jungle (1950) (John Huston)
1. All Star Cast
2. Small Town Crooks
3. The Heist
Los Olvidados (1950) (Luis Bunuel)

Hour of the Wolf (1968) (Ingmar Bergman)
1. Nightmares of the Past
2. Madness of the Mind
3.  Von Sydow and Ullman
Petulia (1968) (Richard Lester)
Midnight Cowboy (1969) (John Schlesinger)
1. New York Life
2. Joe Buck and Ratso
3. The bonds of friendship
The Devils (1971) (Ken Russell)

Images (1972) (Robert Altman)
1. Altman does psychological terror
2. The sound design
3. Mind Games

The Day of the Jackal (1973) (Fred Zinneman)

Barry Lyndon (1975) (Stanley Kubrick)
Dersu Urzula (1975) (Akira Kurosawa)

After Hours (1985) (Martin Scorsese)

Raising Arizona (1987) (Joel Coen)
2. The chase scene
3. Dreams of the future
The Decalogue (1988) (Krzyzstof Kieslowski)

The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989) (Peter Greenaway)
1. The Colors
2. The Lust
3. The Gluttony

Wild At Heart (1990) (David Lynch)
1. Cage and His Snakeskin Jacket
2. Lovers On the Lam
3. Lynch's dark comedy

Barton Fink (1991) (Joel Coen)
1. The Frustration of Writer's Block
2. Turturro
3. The Life of the Mind

The Age of Innocence (1993) (Martin Scorsese)

Paradise Lost Trilogy (1996- 2011) (Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky)

Cure (1997) (Kiyoshi Kurosawa) (on Hulu)

Fireworks (1997) (Takashi Kitano)

After Life (1998) (Hirokazu Koreeda)

The Insider (1999) (Michael Mann)

The Limey (1999) (Steven Soderbergh)

Memories of Murder (2003) (Bong Jon-Ho)

Spring, Summer, Winter...and Spring (2004) (Kim Ki-duk)

Birth (2004) (Jonathan Glazer)
1. Desplat's Score
2. Love Reincarnated
3. Kidman

Primer (2004) (Shane Carruth)

There Will Be Blood (2007) (Paul Thomas Anderson)
1. Ambition
2. Family Ties
3. Daniel Plainview

Synecdoche, New York (2008) (Charlie Kaufmann)
1. The Existentialism
2. The Psychology
3. Philip Seymour Hoffman

Shame (2011) (Steve McQueen)
1. Fassbender
2. Addiction
3. McQueen

Boyhood (2014) (Richard Linklater)

The Cinema of Peter Watkins
The Short Films of Frederick Wiseman
The Short Films of Jan Svnkmajer
The Before Trilogy by Richard Linklater

The Exterminating Angel
The Human Condition
Mishima: A Life In Chapters
Peeping Tom
Straw Dogs
Le Trou (OOP)
Three Films By Hiroshi Teshihagara
A Film Trilogy By Ingmar Bergman
Four Masterworks By Ingmar Bergman
*note only Virgin Spring needs the upgrade from blu to complete the original box set

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Museum of the Grotesque

Some of the more interesting aspects of Texas Chainsaw Massacre have nothing to do with Leatherface and everything to do with the environment, the family, etc. You get the feeling that the universe is collapsing in on its travelers.

There's the corpse at the beginning.

The armadillo on road, here reproduced by Jason Edmiston for his gorgeous take on a TCM poster: 

The hitchhiker: 

Leatherface may have the chainsaw which makes up for 1/4th of the title of the film, but if there ever was a villain for TCM, it would have to be the hitch hiker. Bubba/Leatherface is one of those guys that does the bidding of his brother and the rest of the family.


I've heard more than a few people complain about this character. Yet he acts as a key component to an interesting theory: What if this whole trip was Franklin's revenge fantasy? Think about it. Nobody wants him on the trip. Nobody helps him. They treat him like dirt. 

And as far as his ultimate fate is concerned, the answer is simple: self martyrdom. What would cause Sally more grief than for her to watch her own brother get chainsawed into pieces right in front of her? 

The nest of Daddy long legs: 
The sound design and the almost otherwordly sprawl of this nest is chilling. 

Beyond just the thwack of the sledgehammer, notice how four of the five protagonists are  not aware of the gruesome fate that awaits them or their friends. There is nothing explained or rationalized between them about what is going on. Much different from Psycho which came before or Halloween which came after. There is no psychiatrist to explain Norman Bates or a Dr. Loomis. We learn nothing about Leatherface, the Hithhiker or Grandpa. Not only that, there are no authority figures such as cops here. We are truly on our own. 

Feathers n' bones:
This is where the inspiration for Texas Chainsaw shines through the most. At the age of four, Tobe Hooper first heard about the news reports about the gruesome discoveries at Ed Gein's house. Here we see bones stretched across couches. Feathers and bone fragments piled together and strewn about the floor. A chicken flocking away inside of a cage. All of these artifacts are totems of chaos. They are showing the order of the world overturned by disarray. 

The rotting corpse in the attic: 

Grandpa Sawyer
He is implied to be a mass murderer yet we only see him on his last days here. Where is his prequel film? 

Three films preceeded this one and were able to stand on their own in unique ways (more on that for another time). For now, I'm just happy that a film like TCM exists. It stands as one of the more terrifying experiences I had watching a movie for all of the above reasons, 


Friday, October 2, 2015

31 Days of Horror: Days 1 & 2

It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's October. And as per tradition, I watch horror movies all month long leading up to the ghastly holiday.


This is classic grindhouse folks. And what more appropriate video company to release I Drink Your Blood than Grindhouse Releasing. 

The plot: a kid decides to infect a town by injecting rabies into cookies. There is copious amounts of gore and nudity here as one would expect from these types of flicks. It's one of the few films at the time to reach Herschell Gordon Lewis levels of goriness. 

Is it quality? Far from it. But then again, you don't go into a McDonald's expecting expensive cuisine. Look out for the PT Anderson version of this film I Drink Your Milkshake. 


Italian cinema has two sides to it. The light side- Fellini, Rossellini, De Sica, Antonioni, Risi. And a twisted, grotesque dark side- Argento, Fulci, Soavi, Martino, Deodato. Today we're gonna discuss Fulci. 

Before his much grislier later work that earned him the moniker "the godfather of gore", Lucio Fulci was known for being a premier genre director that tackles everything from westerns to giallo and he was doing it since the late 50's. Duckling happens to fall into the latter category. 

Giallos are murder mysteries that were mastered by Fulci and Argento. What Duckling does so well is how it lures the viewer in using its multiple protagonists and suspects. Italian horror movies always have great soundtracks and Riz Ortolani's work here backs this up. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

10 Great Films Set In the Jungle

There's something that just draws me into films set in the jungle. It was the setting for my first short story written around fifth grade.

The tribalism, the raw unpredictable forces of nature. In the cases of Apocalypse Now, Sorcerer, and Fitzcarraldo, you can feel the authentic danger of the set. Some of the wildest behind the scenes stories were born from these movies.

10. The Serpent and the Rainbow

Not a big Wes Craven fan by any stretch. He's made a few films that I genuinely enjoy and out of those film, my favorite is Serpent and the Rainbow. Craven taps into something diabolical here: Haitian voodoo. It offers a refreshing take on the zombie and the hallucination sequences are Craven at his peak.

9. Predator
This film has so many quotable lines from just about every member of the cast. Each cast member is memorable and that stands as a testament to John McTiernan's direction. A boot camp movie just like Platoon a year after, you get a real sense of the jungle as the marines go deeper into it. You also get to see it get torn apart by a minigun and grenade launchers, so there's that. 

8. The Thin Red Line

The most poetic movie on the list. Polynesian chants and Jim Caviezel swimming with natives are the first things that come to my mind when I think about this movie. It explores nature in a lyrical, graceful way and shows how it nestles beside brutal conflict in times of war. Malick is able to capture the geography of the area with ease so you know exactly where you are. There's an expansiveness to the movie that is not just in part to the ensemble of actors, but of  John Toll's framing.

7. Platoon
"You volunteered for this shit man?" 
Oliver Stone's own personal experiences in the Vietnam War fueled his passion to depict it on the big screen. It begins with a memorable opening. The ants and mosquitos. Falling asleep while on a shift. Stone gets the exhaustion and environment down to a science.  

6. Cannibal Holocaust
1 minute in- Wow this looks pretty peaceful. A relaxing score and beautiful panoramas. I don't know what they were talking about. 30 minutes in- What the fuck! Is that? Oh god!

Between all the abhorrent scenes of torture, the impaling of a woman and degradation perpetuated onto villagers by the four main documentarians, it is easy to see why the movie has such a reputation. The difference between this and other movies like A Serbian Film is the way it was shot. CH is ugly, crude, rough. It grips you by the hair and drags you through the jungle. Even among other cannibal movies of that time- Umberto Lenzi would release Cannibal Ferox a year later- it stands above. There is a savagery to the movie that is unmatched.

5. Aguirre: Wrath of God
From the opening scene, Herzog shows how nature dwarfs man. Man and nature has been a reoccuring theme in his works and he really is the guy that first comes to mind when you think about eccentric, will stop at nothing to get that shot kind of directors. Truly fearless. The best thing about watching a Herzog film is not knowing what part of the world he will take you to. 

4. Southern Comfort
Walter Hill never really got the appreciation he deserved. He was on a streak with The Driver, The Warriors, but he reached his peak with Southern Comfort. It can be viewed as a metaphor for Vietnam, though Hill denies this. It's got a stand of DNA it shares with Cannibal Holocaust in that the National Guardsmen are as tribal as the backwoodsmen they are fighting. A hidden gem. 

3. Fitzcarraldo/Burden of Dreams
There's always two go to documentaries if I ever wanted to show people the insanity of making a film: Hearts of Darkness and Burden of Dreams.

How do you convince a tribe to pull a three story, 320-ton steamship over a steep jungle portage? You contact Werner. Fucking. Herzog. That's how you do it. I can't imagine any other director going these lengths. The cinematography by Thomas Mauch, who photographed another Herzog movie in the list, (Agguirre) beautifully captures the jungle and human spirit's quest to make a place in it.

2. Sorcerer

I remember showing my girlfriend this film. 20 minutes in she commented on it being nihilistic, exhausting and utterly dark. This was before the meat of the plot was introduced. It's reactions like that to films like these that signal one thing: the filmmaker succeeded. You feel the sweat, dirt, and grit as these four guys travel through the jungle with nitro glycerin in the back of their trucks. It's as tense a film Friedkin ever made, And he made The Exorcist.This film is top 10 worthy.

1. Apocalypse Now

What more can I say about this movie? A massive influence on my writing and a film that I always learn new things from each time I watch it.