Thursday, April 30, 2015

April 2015

4/1- Rome Open City (1945, Roberto Rossellini) (A)
       It Follows (2014, David Robert Mitchell) (A-)

4/2- Paisan (1946, Roberto Rossellini) (A-)
       Wild Strawberries (1957, Ingmar Bergman) (A+)*
        All About Eve (1950, Joseph L. Mankiewicz) (A+)*

4/3-  Laurence Anyways (2012, Xavier Dolan) (B)
        Louie (2 episodes)

4/4- Louie (8 episodes)
       The Last Temptation of Christ (1988, Martin Scorsese) (A)*

4/5- World of Tomorrow (2015, Don Hertzfeldt) (A+)
        Rejected (2000, Don Hertzfeldt) (A+)
        Lily and Jim (1997, Don Hertzfeldt) (C)
        The Meaning of Life (2005, Don Hertzfeldt) (A)
        Billy's Balloon (1998, Don Hertzfeldt) (B+)

4/6- Faust (1928, F.W. Murnau) (A-)
       Mad Men (3 episodes)

4/7- Bay of Blood (1970, Mario Bava) (C+)
       Mad Men (5 episodes)
       Germany Year Zero (1948, Roberto Rosselini) (A-)
       Umberto D (1952, Vittorio De Sica) (A)

4/8- Mad Men (4 episodes)
       Amarcord (1973, Federico Fellini) (A)

4/9- Mad Men (3 episodes)
       Blood of the Beasts (1949, Georges Franju) (A)

4/10- The Last Laugh (1924, F.W. Murnau) (B+) (Note: an A until the final 15 minutes which the studio put upon Murnau because they wanted a happy ending)
         Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015, Alex Gibney) (B+)
         Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
         Three Colors: Blue (1993, Krzysztof Kieslowski) (A+)*

4/11- The Great Beauty (2013, Paolo Sorrentino) (B)
          Mad Men (4 episodes)

4/12- Juliet of the Spirits (1965, Federico Fellini) (B-)

4/13- Barry Lyndon (1975, Stanley Kubrick) (A+)*
          Paris, Texas (1984, Wim Wenders) (A+)

4/14- The Cameraman (1928, Buster Keaton) (B-)

4/15- Steamboat Willie (1928, Walt Disney) (B)
         Salesman (1968, Albert and David Maysles) (A-)

4/17- Il Sorpasso (1965, Dino Risi) (B+)

4/18- Burn After Reading (2008, Joel and Ethan Coen) (B+)*

4/19- Russian Ark (2002, Alexander Sokuruv) (A-)

4/20- The Americanization of Emily (1964, Blade Edwards) (B-)
         Beetlejuice (1988, Tim Burton) (A+)*

4/24- The Battle of Algiers (1966, Gillo Pontecervo) (A+)
          I Vitelloni (1952, Federico Fellini) (A)

4/25- The Leopard (1963, Luchino Visconti) (A)

4/26- Mean Girls (2004, Mark Waters) (B+)

4/27- Enron: The Smartest Guys In the Room (2005, Alex Gibney) (B+)

4/28- Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson (2998, Alex Gibney) (A-)
          Winnebago Man (2010, Ben Steinbauer) (B-)

4/29- All That Jazz (1979, Bob Fosse) (A+)*

4/30- Lessons In Darkness (1992, Werner Herzog) (A)
         Mommy (2014, Xavier Dolan) (A)


The Xavier Effect

Dancing with Mommy to Eifel 65
I'm a good kid ya know?
You win some, you lose some
That's life.
The Stevie Effect

Xavier Dolan was only 25 when
he made this film. What is more
incredible is that he was around
21 when he made his debut film
I Killed My Mother. Young 
directors are always a wake up
call for me because at 28, I still
haven't made a movie. Orson 
Welles was 26 when he made 
Citizen Kane. PT Anderson was
26 when he made Hard Eight. 
By that rate, they seem lazy 
compared to Dolan's output 
at his age. 

The first film of Dolan I had
decided to watch was 
Laurence Anyways.
It was a 3 hour opus that had
a fantastic ballroom sequence.
Yet, I felt something was 
missing. I felt the length of
that 3 hour opus. He could
have trimmed it down a 

Upon seeing Mommy,
something clicked for me.
This film felt so honest.
The first thing was the 
performances. I had liked
the performances of 
Laurence Anyways,
but his actors reach 
a new level here.

Ann Dorval, an actress he 
has used in multiple films,
gives a performance that 
is flamboyant yet tender.
It is matched by Antione
Olivier Pilon's 
hyperactive, ADHD
riddled Steve. This 
kid's face goes through 
a multitude of emotions
as battle scars from cabbies,
a neighbor and his own 
beloved mother are 
inflicted upon it. 

Tantrums are thrown. 
Fists are clenched.
Bottles are broken.
Feelings are put through
the ringer with liberal 
doses of hard earned truth. 

What this film brought out in me was a realization, or more accurately, a confirmation, that in a time when so many films depicting ever evolving mother/son relationships or just family relationships, few are able to be as intimate as Dolan's work here. Through the pulsing beats of Eifel 65, Lana Del Ray, Oasis and the rest of the soundtrack, to the rawness of Dolan's camerawork. A simple pan down to a pant leg brings such revelations about a character. Films at their best represent the purest of artistic expression. Mommy is able to break free of the constraints of cinema and transcend to dark corners of the experience of a mother and her son that rarely have light shown upon. 

I wish I could write more.
But the light is green.
It's time to go.
Feet don't fail me now.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Lake shoot 1: A simple shade of blue

Blind Spot: The Leopard

A 3 hour costume drama set in Italy? Nah. At least that is what I thought three years ago. The Leopard never really commanded my attention until I say a clip of it on the documentary Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession. I was already a big fan of Age of Innocence and after hearing Scorsese adored this film and how its dance sequences influenced his picture, I considered it a must see. Please note that this is the uncut 3 hour version.

Luchino Visconti's The Leopard is based on Guiseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's novel of the same name. European actors Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale would make their appearances in later classics or were already in classics but seeing them appear together here made me happy. Burt Lancaster plays an aristocratic Prince. One whose ageing presence is felt as he watches the social class he once knew become more and more obsolete. It's a passing the torch of sorts to a new generation.

Historically, this film takes plays in the 1860s during Italy's Risorgimento. A political and social movement that consolidated several states in the Italian peninsula into the Kingdom of Italy. As this was going on, the aristocracy at the time saw a rise of the middle classes to form a democratic nation.

We see the various uprisings in expertly staged scenes in the beginning. But the heart of the film lay in its lavish interiors of opulent Italian palaces. All culminating in a beautiful 5 minute dance sequence. Visconti's camera is transportive in its attempt to recreate a crucial time in Italian history.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A few thoughts on trailers

Trailers and perhaps more importantly, teasers are able to produce a great amount of anticipation towards a movie. They are geared to appeal to the largest demographic possible so studios send footage to various trailerhouses to appeal to women, children, the male demographic, etc. Let's say the average age for executives in these houses are 25 to 35. Let's look at their point of reference: the last 15 years of movie marketing. Which is to say, not very strong. This is why we are getting bombarded with the same stuff.

There are some more of the creative people out there though. Just watch what one youtuber did to the terrifying film The Shining:

With the change of music, the voiceover and the clever cutting, what was once terrifying is now turned into an upbeat family drama.

Hitchcock and Welles would even introduce their movies Citizen Kane and Psycho when they cut trailers for those respective films. But then again, they had enough creative control to get away with that.

Trailers from the 70's and the 80's knew that if you show all of your money shots in a trailer, what would be the point for a person to pay money to actually see the movie. That philosophy is out the window nowadays. The advent of MTV and all the fast cutting has trailers packing as many shots as possible.

Perfecting the art of the trailer depends on how much information you want to unveil to the audience member. For example, watch the difference between the teaser and the full length trailer for Terminator 2:

Now imagine if you just saw the teaser for Terminator 2. You would have no knowledge of which terminator is bad. We already know Arnold played the villain in the first one. This would make the scene where each terminator turns the corner in the mall hallway all the more suspenseful. To just go with this teaser, something that shows nothing from the film, would be a big chance. Within the full length trailer though, we are given the information that Arnold is the good guy.

You can also have the flipside where you cut a trailer for Drive to make it look like an action movie when it really is a slow, methodical existential thriller.

The whole "give away everything in trailer" deal hurts genre flicks the most. Namely comedies. The substandard "cramming in all the funny jokes" in the trailer. Once you see a joke, it's not really as funny as the first time you see it. When you actually sit down and watch the "hot new comedy", you realize that the jokes that actually were funny were ones you saw already in the advertising for it.

A remedy for this problem is simple but rarely happens: be creative and work with what you have. Case in point: A Serious Man. This trailer could have been a black screen with the words "The next Coen Brothers film" and I would have seen it. But it went so much further. Looping sound effects and pieces of editing give this trailer this gleefully subversive vibe. I remember people getting mad at this trailer and call it awful marketing. It's the exact opposite. We've just been conditioned to so many conventionally cut, by the numbers trailers that anything creative causes awkward gawking.

Editing is about manipulation. Once you edit a frame, you are manipulating an image. This ties into marketing and advertising because you want someone to buy your product. So why not use it to its full effect. Kubrick knew this. Just watch the trailer for A Clockwork Orange and study the rapid cutting and quick words like Witty, Metaphorical, Sardonic, Comic, Bizarre and Musical flash across the screen. Coming back to The Shining, you can make it as simple as possible and have nothing be shown. Just an elevator with blood coming out of it. That's it. All we need to know about the movie rolls across the screen is supplied in three forms: the music (giving the foreboding tone), the visual (this pegs it as horror) and the words coming across the screen that say "A Film By Stanley Kubrick."

Since we are on the topic of trailers for horror movies, I might as well discuss another tiresome trend. Every horror trailer of the past 6 or 7 years could seamlessly bleed together. Here is the structure:

Introduce audience to protagonist
Show them how conflict is introduced
Use the soundtrack to create moody atmosphere
Title card saying "From the Producers of (most likely Paranormal Activity and Insidious) or Directors of "So and so"
Montage of several scenes that either lead to fuller "scares" in the movie or random insert shots meant to provoke warning and a foreboding tone
Ratchet that intensity up throughout the montage while soundtrack crescendos
Title card
Then, that one extra scene. The one where the soundtrack and dialogue cut out and everything is silent. The final jump scare which is most likely the biggest jump scare of the movie, tagged at the end.
Cut to Written By and Directed By

We've all seen it. Even the trailer for The Babadook attempts to make it look like a milk toast, generic horror movie. Nobody really knew who Jennifer Kent was before that. So if I were to share the trailer with someone and urge them to see it, they would say it looks generic. How does one correct this? Well, for one, knowing that trailers are cut to appeal to the widest demographic. Now Kent is first time director. She doesn't have enough clout as more established directors.

Spielberg, Abrams and Nolan on the other hand are directors who do have enough clout to get this kind of control on their projects.

The latest example this is Star Wars Episode VII. I knew I was going to see this movie in the theater. But after the second trailer, I was blown away by just how perfectly edited the trailer was. It gives fans everything they want (Instant nostalgia when Han and Chewbacca are revealed) while at the same time saving a ton of footage until it hits theatrically.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Decade So Far Pt. 2: The New Blood + other ramblings

This decade has already brought out tremendous new talent. Last year alone gave us Chazelle (Whiplash), Saulnier (Blue Ruin), Simien (Dear White People) and Kent (The Babadook). These guys were the biggest surprises. Here's a roundup of the directors who released films that came out of left field and surprised me due to the fact I was not aware of their careers beforehand. 

Films: Whiplash
Upcoming Projects: La La Land

Films: Blue Valentine, The Place Beyond the Pines
Upcoming Projects: The Light Between the Oceans

Films: Fruitvale Station
Upcoming Projects: Creed

Films: Martha Marcy May Marlene
Upcoming Projects: Janis

Films: The Babadook

Films: Blue Ruin
Upcoming Projects: The Green Room

Films: Dear White People

Films: Polytechnique, Incendies, Prisoners, Enemy
Upcoming Projects: Sicario

Since we're talking new, I decided to update my list of Anticipated films of 2015. New list: 

The Hateful Eight (By the guy pictured above)
The Look of Silence (Joshua Oppenheimer)
Sicario (Denis Villeneuve)
Our Little Sister (Hirokazu Koreeda)
Midnight Special (Jeff Nichols)
Silence (Martin Scorsese)
31 (Rob Zombie)
The Revenant (Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu)
Bridge of Spies (Steven Spielberg)
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (JJ Abrams)
Carol (Todd Haynes)
The Green Room (Jeremy Saulnier)
Sea of Trees (Gus Van Sant)
Knight of Cups (Terrence Malick)
Light Between Oceans (Derek Cianfrance)
The Walk (Robert Zemeckis)
The End of the Tour (James Ponsoldt)
Spectre (Sam Mendes)
Yoga Hosers (Kevin Smith)
Louder Than Bombs (Joachim Trier)
Dheepan (Jacques Audiard)
Beasts of No Nation (Cary Fukunaga)
Mad Max Fury Road (George Miller)
The Early Years (Paolo Sorrentino)
The Tale of Tales (Matteo Garrone)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Wish They Were: The Secret History & a couple of other movies I would like to see

This is a series where I will make up dream projects that I either

a.) wish to come to fruition, or
b.) stay in the dream world because certain actors or directors perfect for the project are no longer living

It was all spawned one day by reading Silver Screen Fiend by Patton Oswalt. In it, he has a section called Whistling In the Dark where he imagines double features that would make any film geek's mouth water. So in the spirit of that, I decided to do my own imaginings and most wanted movies.

This is a project that I would like to see come to fruition.

The novel that made well dressed scholarly psychopaths cool. This is a book I would love to see get the adaptation treatment. It's 500 pages, broken into 2 parts. With the end of Part 1 harking back to the Prologue of the book. The book I believe has been optioned by Maggie

DIRECTOR: David Fincher
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl were well established books which were adapted into successful films. Even Social Network's source material was The Accidental Billionaires. This would be a perfect project for him because it explore a side that is not as intensely dark as Se7en, Zodiac, or Dragon Tattoo but it still has considerably dark characters and story.


Richard Papen
Character description: Has a need to feel loneliness because his parents don't like him and he has no siblings. Has an obsession with fitting in and craves attention. Also dependent, prideful and accepts the fact that things can't always be.
Who should play him: Andrew Garfield

Julian Morrow
Character description: the Classics professor that teaches a limited-enrollment course of Ancient Greek. Richard wishes to impress him to gain admittance.
Who should play him: Ian McKellen

Henry Winter
Character description: linguistics expert. Intelligent and very laid back.
Who should play him: Ben Whishaw

Frances Abernathy
Character description: a Greek scholar who is thin and has bright red hair. Has classy taste and is always dressed in fancy suits no matter what the occasion.
Who should play him: Xavier Dolan

Charles Macauley
Character description: One half of the fraternal Macauley twins. Dark blonde hair like Camilla. Spontaneous and doesn't really care what people say. Does unexpected, wild things.
Who should play him: Jamie Bell

Camilla Macauley
Character description: One half of the fraternal Macauley twins. Dark blonde hair like Charles. Confident but this trait is sometimes confused with her selfishness.
Who should play her: Mia Wasikowska

Bunny Corcoran
Character description: Very cheesy and easy going. Always cracking jokes.
Who should play him: Jesse Plemons



Year of Release: 1982
Director: Robert Altman

After the failure of Popeye, Altman takes on his most ambitious project yet with an astounding cast that includes Altman regulars Lily Tomlin, Elliot Gould, Ned Beatty, as well as Jack Lemmon, Brad Dourif, Allen Garfield, Roy Scheider, Karen Allen, Deborah Kerr, Sidney Poitier, a film debut from a young Emily Watson

The film becomes the go to reference guide for movies about cults. It also secures Best Picture and Altman a Best Director Oscar.

Powers Boothe gives a career defining performance as Jim Jones.



Director: Wim Wenders

Rush is one of my top 5 favorite bands. If anyone needs a primer on the band I urge them to watch the wonderful documentary Beyond The Lighted Stage. Of all three members, the one that I find the most interesting is the drumer, Neil Peart.

This film will be an intimate look into the life of the drummer from Rush. After the death of his wife and his only daughter with the span of a year, Peart hits the road on his motorcycle. The spine of the film will be Peart's own book Ghost Rider. It will also incorporate the feeling of being in a band for almost 40 years with the same two members. Who could almost be looked at as extended family members at this point.

Tom Hanks will play Neil Peart.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Decade So Far Pt. 1: Disappointments

The same people who bash Interstellar confusingly hold this film on a pedestal of praise. Nolan is going in the right direction here- the direction of stunning visuals. I just wish he didn't need to create an entire character (Ellen Page) to explain what was going on half the time.

Black Swan
Mulholland Dr. but on a diet. No, seriously. The performance Natalie gives notwithstanding. I just don't see the mind fuck that everyone else is seeing. Maybe a few strokes and that's it.

The creature featured in the movie has the name Dren. That is nerd backwards! Get it?! I wonder how you can create an anagram for Failure out of Splice.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Dear Oliver Stone,
Bubbles? Seriously? What in the blue fuck were you thinking.
Sincerely, a passionate fan of your 80's and 90's work.

Steps to making an exploitation homage:
Step 1: Do not laugh at the genre at which you are attempting to pay homage to.
Step 2: Watch Death Proof for pointers.

"I was once here- near the top of directors to watch out for. Now look how far I fell"

The Fighter/Silver Linings Playbook/American Hustle
Three Kings feels more and more like an anomaly in the work of David O. Russell. The cast of his last three films deliver solid, enjoyable performances. I will concede that his new muse Jennifer Lawrence delivers a rock solid performance along with Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook, which is easily the most enjoyable of the the last three pictures he made, which isn't saying a lot. Christian Bale even ended up delivering one of his best roles in American Hustle. I just wish his scripts were tighter and more focused. American Hustle bears the brunt of it. Imagine a less focused GoodFellas with the sequence where Henry is all coked out inserted at random moments in the film.

Super 8
I wanted to like this. I really did. It tickled my Spielberg fancy that brought me back to Close Encounters and E.T. The thing is, J.J. Abrams is not Steven Spielberg. So with that, all I can say is, good luck with Star Wars VII. The most genuine part of the movie is when all of the kids are at a diner. The dialogue felt authentic. As an homage, this movie works. On its own though it is frustratingly stale.

Moonrise Kingdom
Wes finally did it. He is now parodying itself. He had peaked with his signature style on Tenenbaums because he had the perfect script to funnel his style through. The writing in Moonrise feels kitsch and desperately tries to be hip. It felt like he was on auto pilot here which makes it his worst film. Thankfully he rebounded with Grand Budapest.

Killing Them Softly
Hey folks! This is Capitalism. I'm not going to be subtle at all in delivering this political message. Now fucking pay me. I found the film, especially the first half, misdirected and heavy handed.

Seven Psychopaths
Come on McDonough. Do you really have to be THIS over the top? So much of the material in this movie isn't even necessary.

Zero Dark Thirty
Hurt Locker was a solid B and had tight direction from Bigelow. The bomb disposal scenes in particular. So it pains me to say that what was present there is absent here. Everyone talks about the last forty minutes of the movie. Nobody really gets excited over the first two hours though. I don't remember any memorable characters. I just remember that Joel Edgerton and Jessica Chastain are in this movie. Chastain does the best she can with what she was given. The film really took off because of the death of Osama bin Laden helped make the film go in a new direction. So much so, it landed on many top ten lists and earned a Best Picture nomination. I wasn't really impressed. Here's hoping Bigelow comes back with something better scripted.

Danny Boyle is such a maddening director to follow. Not to the point of a Ridley Scott. But still frustrating. The man who cranked out Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, 28 Days Later and Sunshine also made a painfully misguided movie in the last decade with Slumdog Millionaire. The trailer for Trance had me excited. It looked like Boyle was tapping into genre territory again. Maybe even horror. The benefit of reuniting with screenwriter John Hodge (Shallow Grave, Trainspotting) excited me even more. Unfortunately it suffers from Inception syndrome. This time Rosario Dawson has to fill us in on everything. I prefer her to Ellen but come on, man.

The 2nd and 3rd acts of Place Beyond the Pines
This may be the biggest disappointment. When you know a film is a solid A during the 1st part. Gosling nails the performance of Luke here and creates the most interesting character in the whole film. Unfortunately the triptych story line doesn't really deliver with the next 2 acts. Especially the third one. Generational turmoil makes for a damn intriguing story line. Just don't blow your load prematurely.

Frances Ha
I did not like Frances. I did not like her friends or the people she associated with. These are the types of people who I hope I never bump into. Self absorbed, entitled snobs.

Captain Phillips
Tom Hanks is one of my favorite actors. So when I heard this was was of his best roles, I felt obligated to see it. Going in the screening I saw a giant standee with an 'A' review from Peter Travers. I'm not a fan of Travers' reviews but seeing a standee where a giant paragraph heaped praise upon a film I was about to see made me take note. Greengrass is someone whose movies I do not follow. Bourne Identity was OK. United 93 I still have to see. Captain Phillips, stylistically was a mess. The shaky cam has been done to death in cinema in the last 10 years. The choice to use it hear felt out of place and to make things worse, the setup of the ending felt hokey and very 'America Fuck Yeah!'. Look, I know this is based on a true story. So many 'serious' movies are. There's just so many other ways to tell this kind of story.

The Sacrament
Religious cults like the one at Jonestown led by Jim Jones rank high on the list of things I would be most interested in seeing depicted in film. So when you actually try to depict, don't half ass the thing with shaky cam bullshit. The sting of this project is still felt because there is enormous potential for a movie about this subject. And it hurts even more to see a talented director like Ti West stumble over what should have been a home run.

Nymphomaniac Vol. 2
I have rarely seen a more blatant hatred for the audience in a film as this one. While the Depression trilogy (Antichrist, Melancholia, Nymphomaniac) brought to light great performances by female leads (Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kirsten Dunst), the final installment manages to sucker punch us and then continue to kick us while we're down. The constant intellectualizing of sex, the drawn out scenes S & M, spoons finding themselves in unnecessary places. For what? It's like watching kids build a sand castle on a beach and then the parents come along and destroy it. Every character that was set up in a genuine way in the first volume, all the points to this four hour story, were betrayed by a pretentious fuck you statement.

5 Reasons Why I Love Amarcord

1. Nino Rota's score. If only for the fact that a part of it was used in a film from my childhood, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Thus making a film built on nostalgia incredibly effective for me.

2. Fellini's most autobiographical film is pulsating with life. The faces, the attitudes, the costumes and colors contribute to this feeling. At the same time, this is a film that takes place during fascism. So just as much as we become absorbed in the life fantastic, Fellini reels us back in and reminds us of the political subterfuge going on during that time.

3. Fellini's other passion besides filmmaking is on full display here- women.

4. This movie is absurdly hilarious! In the best possible way.

5. Taking what he learned with shooting in color on Juliet of the Spirits, Satyricon and Roma, he is able to lense fully expressive shots. Like this:

and this:

Monday, April 6, 2015

World of Tomorrow

People criticize movies for their length all the time. "The film was too long. I loved it but it would have been even better had it been trimmed." I am of the belief that if I am enjoying a film, I don't want it to end. In essence film length doesn't really matter. Short films are a good example of this because the best of them are able to be incredible effective in such a short amount of time.

Kubrick said some of the most spectacular examples of film are in TV commercials. In an interview for Full Metal Jacket, he pointed to the Michelob commercials. "Forget what they're doing- selling beer- and it's visual poetry. Incredible eight frame cuts. And you realize in thirty seconds they've created an impression of something rather complex. If you could ever tell a story, something with some content, using that kind of visual poetry, you could handle vastly more complex material."

It is this very notion- communicating ideas through pure visuals in a small time frame- that fuels the work of Don Hertzfeldt. His shorts prior to this stretched animation to creative highs. Rejected was a compilation of rejected animated skits from The Family Learning Channel. A corporation the commissioned him to do promo segments for them. For 10 minutes, the short goes through an array of  moods and shows Don bending,twisting and inverting the art of animation. Conceptualizing It's stuff you could only get away with through that format.

His other work such as Lily and Jim, The Meaning of Life, and Billy's Balloon were preludes to what was to come with It's Such A Beautiful Day. The amount if ideas and emotions Hertzfeldt was unable to unpack in an hour affected me greatly.

World of Tomorrow takes this idea to astonishing new heights. In just sixteen minutes, Hertzfeldt creates an entire universe. Introducing me to ideas, concepts and feelings I am happy to now have lingering in my memory. Above all, his avoidance of obvious narratives allow his work to achieve a truthfulness not common in many features. To accomplish this type of visual poetry within a feature film is one thing. To achieve it in 16 minutes is an unfathomable amount of determination and vision.

Don created this animation all by himself on a computer. Imagine what he can do with a team of people working for him.

Trailer for World of Tomorrow


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Louie Season 4- A Review

I'm late in the game, but seeing that the new season of Louie frustratingly has not been released on DVD (neither has the third season for that matter), I had to hold out until it hit NetFlix. Thankfully, they added it to streaming so I was able to binge the entire season in one sitting.

The idea of a comedian creating a show or even being involved in a show isn't really anything new. Richard Pryor was in a part of the The Richard Pryor Show in 1977 and was cancelled way too soon. Jerry Seinfeld was involved in Seinfeld. With that show, the concept of using standup bits that would introduce each episode felt fresh. Given that the show

The first two episodes are around and A-. Louie has been able to hone his craft as far as writing goes over the course of three seasons and it shows here. There are jokes. But they come so organically and out of human behavior. None of it seems forced. He definitely show an influence from Woody Allen.

Then comes the big stick of dynamite that is episode 3. So Did the Fat Lady delivers a scene to be reckoned with. One of brazen honesty. The whole notion of fat shaming is repulsive to me. So to see it dissected here showed that this is a show that is doing things few shows of its ilk would dare to try. 

This six part story arc shows Louie helping out a Hungarian woman (played by Ellen Burstyn) who is stuck in an elevator. After helping her, he comes to her apartment and meets her niece who doesn't speak English and falls for her. This was Louie's most Allenesque arc yet. I should note that the always awesome Charles Grodin plays Louie's doctor. He appears in episode 1. Relationships are the center of this saga as his relationship with his daughter Lily, his ex-wife and the Hungarian woman, Amia, are all examined. Communication is looked at through the non English speaking Amia and the problems that led to Louie's divorce. All of this taking place during an oncoming hurricane. A thematically rich series of episodes.

Seen as a self contained story within 6 episodes, this would have easily been in my top 10 films of last year had it been released in theaters. This is Louie at his most ambitious.

In the Woods represents some of the strongest writing Louis CK has done in his career. It deals with parents and how the cope with their kids using drugs. Flashbacks are incorporated but also are necessary. As they tell the story of how as a middle schooler, Louis and a couple of his friends were involved in smoking pot. His mother is brilliantly played by Amy Landecker. He soon becomes involved with a dealer played by Jeremy Renner. Everyone is brilliantly cast in this episode, which was dedicated to the late, Philip Seymour Hoffman.

This set of episodes does something daring. It turns the guy we love, our protagonist into a villain in a particular scene. Its an extremely uncomfortable moment. The Pamela storyline is my least favorite of the season but it still manages to keep me interested.

The season as a whole grinds everything the show has built to a screeching halt and says "Let's go left" when so many other shows would have gone right. It's experimenting with story structure. It's this type of writing that I hope continues in the fifth season.

Friday, April 3, 2015

100 Favorite Cinematic Moments

Fisti from A Fistful of Moments created this blogathon. He said "pick a number between 1 and 100 (anything more than a hundred is gaudy)".

I love doing top 10s, 20s, 30s, and even top 100s. So when I sat down and actually started my list, the ideas kept on coming. And coming. And coming. And coming. I knew I had to cap it off so I figured, fuck it, I'm going to dance on the edge of gaudiness and list 100. As you will find out, some descriptions are shorter than others. That is because some scenes just speak for themselves. Another reason is that a bunch of these moments I plan on elaborating on more fully later on. Note: If I had the money, I would have used editing software to create a montage of these scenes.

When I think of the movies I have watched over the course of my life, I inevitably come to a specific moment in a certain movie that sticks out. These moments come to mind all the time whether I'm typing out something movie related or just going about my life. They are apart of me. If movies were made to generate empathy and for us, then I would say some of the best moments in my life involved watching a movie that helped me through a difficult time or just made me laugh when things were down.

There are moments on this list that have repulsed me, made me eyes fill with tears, made me excited to live, made me afraid, lifted me up. Others that I have no pleasure in watching them unfold on screen because of the brutal context. They are ingrained in my subconscious.

I should warn you that there is graphic content ahead as well as some spoilers for movies. These are listed in no particular order.

So without further ado, let's get crackin'.

1. The Save Me sequence from Magnolia. And the prologue. And the ending. Don't make me choose.

2. Described to by Walter Murch as "a strange nightmare which blended reality and fiction", the opening of Apocalypse Now is hallucinatory. As is the rest of the movie.

3. The opening of Dog Day Afternoon set to Elton John's Amoreena. A montage of everyday life in New York City. Then it all gets turned off at the click of a radio dial.

4. The boats in the fog scene in Ugetsu. Thick, mysterious atmosphere like this is seldom used this well.

5. The shower scene in Psycho.

6. Jake La Motta Vs. Sugar Ray Robinson in Raging Bull. I mention both because after hearing that Scorsese modeled the editing of this scene after Psycho, it taught me how the language of cinema allows people to take their influence to another place entirely. Yes, the cutting is great. Approaches cubism in a way. But just look at the difference in the story each film is trying to tell. Both are moments that affect me greatly and are sequences I often go back to not just for technical reasons but to get lost in their power.

7. If I had to choose a movie for the award "Most Haunting Film In Cinema" Sunset Boulevard would easily win. The audacity to have the opening narration coming from a corpse is astonishing and genius. 

8. Saving Private Ryan: The D-Day scene alone disspells any notion that Spielberg isn't a great filmmaker. Kaminski's photography, the sound design, cutting, movement, the sense of geography the scene brings are all remarkable. Beyond just technical shit, this FEELS like you are on Omaha beach. This is just a prelude to the extraordinary picture that follows.  

9. "They're all gonna laugh at you" Paul Dinaggio's score + Paul Hirsch's editing + Sissy Spacek's reaction. It's like beautiful music that you listen to play out but you don't want it to hit that dissonant chord that you know will happen. Amy Irving's reaction shots to finding out what is happening. As soon as those doors close. Boom. Everytime I watch this scene I wanna push Carrie out of the way.

10. The blood test in The Thing. Carpenter is as brilliant as any arthouse filmmaker out there and this movie is proof of that. Just watch the mathematically precise shots he uses. Rob Bottin's work here is still unmatched. 

11. Glengarry Glen Ross: Always Be Closing. Fuck you, that's my name! 2nd prize gets a set of steak knives. Like a great album, I could listen to the dialogue in this film all day. Here is my favorite song:

12. The first 15 minutes of Suspiria. Italian horror is a genre I am very fond of. I prefer Argento to Fulci and if there were any arguments to be made as to why, I would have to show them this scene.

13. Crossing the bridge in Sorcerer. The ending scene of the film as well. More to come on this one.

14. The "through the looking glass" scene from JFK. A monumental feat of editing.

15. California Dreamin' with Faye Wong in Chungking Express.

16. "Mein fuhrer. I can walk!" Thank God they didn't opt for the pie fight. Of all of Kubrick's qualities, one of my favorite was his use of satire. That is best conveyed in this ending. 

17. The dinner scene in Alien. The film as a whole brilliantly conveys fear and isolation. But the dinner scene with Kane is able to cut to right to the core of it all. The convulsions and the sounds that John Hurt makes are horrifying to watch and hear. 

18. Anwar Congo reacting to the re-enactments of the Indonesian genocide atrocities. From The Act of Killing. We are watching a character more fascinating than anything coming out of Hollywood in years.

19. The prologue of Persona. Bergman stretched the bounds of film language as far as it could go with this opening. 

20. The transformation scene in American Werewolf In London. It has yet to be topped as far as visualizing the pain and terror of becoming a werewolf for the first time.  

21. Sister Ruth's descent into madness in Black Narcissus. We already have one of the most gorgeous films ever made with this masterpiece from Powell and Pressburger. Underneath it all is a brewing madness that pours over into its final moments. 

22. Do the Right Thing race rant montage. This scene is a match to the gasoline can  that is this movie. Luckily, Sam Jackson tells us all to cool that shit out  before the match is dropped. 

23. The Russian Roulette scene(s) between DeNiro and Walken in The Deer Hunter. Harrowing stuff. One shot. Indeed. 

24. I was originally going to choose a scene with Chigurh (gas station scene preferably). But when I think of No Country For Old Men and the feeling I get when the credits roll, I go to the ending. The whole film is about a cycle violence carried on from one generation to the next. Cormac McCarthy's prose are beautifully spoken through the mouth of Tommy Lee Jones off the page penned by the Coen Brothers. All amounting to the new generation devouring the old generation mentality. It truly is No Country For Old Men and Ed Tom Bell's face says it all. 

25. "That's Cosmo. He's Chinese." This is where I fell in love with the movies of PT Anderson. His use of music, the editing, the pacing. It was invigorating to know that at such a young age, someone could pull a scene like this one off. 

26. The Insider meltdown scene. Mann's cinema always tip toes n the edge and flirts with surrealism. This scene showed him jumping headlong into it. Every bit as necessary for the character's state of mind.

27. "I do" The baptism sequence in The Godfather has had praise showered upon it by countless people and for good reason. In a film crammed wall to wall with memorable moments, this one stands out as my favorite. 

28. The opening of Kieslowski's Blue. The pacing, the cinematography. Perfect start to a perfect movie. 

29. "I'll be right here." The first memory of cinema that I can recall is crying my eyes out to the ending of E.T. then rewinding it in the VHS player (what's that?) and watching it to cry all over again.

30. The ending of Whiplash. Most intense scene of 2014. Tom Cross' editing deservedly won the Oscar. Fletcher fixing the bent cymbal. Andrew mouthing "fuck you" to Fletcher after he interrupts him with his drumming. The scene is able to tell a story with all of these little moments while at the same time acting as the culmination of the two main character arcs. Great stuff. 

31. "Merry Christmas, Bedford Falls!" Stewart's exuberance. Capra's homeliness. This is a damn great movie for all ages. Such a glorious moment. 

32. This entire sequence in GoodFellas. This is when I fell in love with editing and the possibilities of what cinema could do through editing. Scorsese and Schoonmaker throw out the rulebook for this breakneck sequence that has a kick ass montage of songs ranging from George Harrison to Muddy Waters. "You wanna see helicopters? I'll show ya helicopters."

33. Stewart seeing the wedding ring on Kelly's finger and falling in love with her at that moment in Rear Window.

34. There are countless memorable scenes in The Third Man but the ending really gets to me. Wanna learn how films are made? Go to this movie. 

35. Blair Witch Project has left a scar on my subconscious ever since seeing it at the drive in in 1999. The scenes that continue to haunt my memory and I keep fresh every Halloween season deal with the voices of children in the distance during night and when the enter the house. 

36. Again, several memorable moments from Network, but Beale's outcries are electricity in my veins when I watch it.

37. Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite. This may be my favorite moment in all of cinema.

38. Mulholland Dr.: A dream about Winkie's. Like Patrick Fischler, who hopes he never sees that face outside of a dream, I hope to never see that face outside a movie. 

39. The car chase from The French Connection. What is pure cinema? A chase scene according to William Friedkin is pure cinema and what better than the one in his sharp edge cop drama. 

40. This genius chase scene in Raising Arizona is the closest live action film has gone into emulating Looney Tunes. Any further and we would have wound up with the poorly executed Looney Tunes movies. 

41. Alex Kitner, meet Jaws. This scene also contains the famous reverse zoom on Chief Brody and a creepy as fuck moment where the bloody, ripped to shreds raft floats to the shore. 

42. The most terrifying scenes in The Shining have nothing to do with Jack Nicholson weilding an axe. Though that is a terrifying thought in itself. It has everything to do with the atmosphere that builds to scenes where Danny sees the twins. Or when Wendy sees this: 

43. The shootout to end all shootouts in The Wild Bunch. They all know there's no way out. But you still are rooting for them. Watch the cutting of the images here. No one did slow motion like Peckinpah.

42. The frog conquistador scene in The Holy Mountain and the fact that it exists. Seriously, what the hell is going on inside the mind of Alejandro Jodorowsky? Whatever it is, don't change. It's sequences like these that leave me in befuddlement, glee, and fascination. 

43. Once Upon A Time In the West..."Keep your loving brother happy" I could have gone for the brilliant use of sound in the beginning, the operatic movement of the ending, but it's this flashback scene that stuck to my subconscious like tar. 

44. The burning of the castle in Ran. As extraordinary a visual moment as any in cinema. 

45. Dorothy walking into a world of color is such a transporting moment.

46. The fifth dimension scene in Interstellar. This movie had me in tears in several scenes. This scene is just one of them. 

47. The growing old montage in Up. Some of the strongest scripts to come out of Hollywood are penned by the Pixar team. I just wish they got back on track. 

48. The first processing scene between Freddie Quell and Lancaster Dodd in The Master. The whole film is a dreamlike enigma that refuses to leave my brain. I don't think people under-- oh fuck I blinked. Back to the start. 

49. "Ready when you are Sgt. Pembry" 

50. The ending of 25th Hour. A cathartic experience if there ever was one. 

51. The tale of the goy's teeth in A Serious Man. Help me. Save me. Was Hashem trying to tell me something here?

52. "Listen now, this is Nashville! They can't do that to us in Nashville!" This movie is such a monumental middle finger to the hypocrisy of America. As Barbara Harris sings along at the movies peak moment, "It Don't Worry Me"

53. A girl. A bag. A ringing telephone. Audition is a slow burn of a horror film that rests on cruise control. This scene kicks everything into high gear. 

54. Ladders, and stairwells, fire escapes, and comedians in It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. 

55. Gene's speech in Wet Hot American Summer is one of pure inspiration. 

56. Detective Toschi and Robert Graysmith reign in years of work at a diner in Zodiac. 

57. This donkey scene in Pinocchio ruined me when I was a kid.

58. Zombi 2: Why hello wooden shard! My name is Ms. Eye. Pleased to meet you!

59. The opening to Day of the Dead. The money blowing in the wind on the empty streets. The alligator that is loose. "The Dead Walk" newspaper. Then this guy:

60. The ending of The Devils Rejects. Saying "Fuck it" in so many ways.

61. Cannibal Holocaust: Here's just one moment from this grueling, savage film. The Italian cannibal movies are something not for the faint of heart and of those movies, this one takes the cake. 

62. The Conformist: The trees are their own character in this impeccably lit moment.

63. Don't Look Now: One of the more realistic sex scenes in cinema. Also one of the most brilliantly cut together

64. The Exorcist: the exorcism scene. 

65. The friendship between McMurphy and Chief in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. It all leads to my favorite moment of the movie at the end. Transcendent. 

66. The friendship between Ratso Rizzo and Joe Buck in Midnight Cowboy. Another film littered with memorable moments. But for now, I'm gonna pick the apartment scene. Tomorrow it will probably be the ending. The next day, the psychedelic party scene. 

67. Harry Caul listening in on things in an apartment in The Conversation. A masterclass in sound and editing, this is every bit as good as the first two Godfather films and Apocalypse Now. 

68. Schindler's List is filled with haunting and sad moments but this one is at the top for me.

69. THIS scene. This. Fucking. Scene. After shooting Sport, DeNiro does something absolutely fascinating. He sits down on the stoop for about 4 seconds. then he goes about doing the scene. That moment alone is enough to warrant it a spot this list. 

70. The Fisher King: Dancing in Grand Central Station. 

71. The Burbs is an all time favorite for a variety of reasons. Besides being Joe Dante's best work, the cast is phenomenal. The show stealer has gotta be Bruce Dern. His antics as Rumsfeld elevate the already genius comedy to greater heights. 

72. The Ballad of Maxwell Demon in Velvet Goldmine. For a movie as energetic as the music it depicts, this scene seems to encapsulate it all in the form of a music video. Todd Haynes simply doesn't care about rules. 

73. Eyes Wide Shut: The password is Fidelio. 

74. 8 1/2 is a film whose opening dream sequence has been copied and parodied several times. It's impossible not to be absorbed in it when watching the film. 

75. The 30 minute wordless bank heist in Rififi. 

76. The basement scene in Inglourious Basterds. Beautiful dialogue. Tense as hell. This was also the first time I saw Michael Fassbender in a film. After this scene in particular, I knew he would be worth looking at. If someone were to ask me why I love Tarantino or what is so good about his dialogue, I would show them this scene.

77. Jacob's Ladder: Jacob being taken through the hospital and into the emergency room. The flimsy wheel on the hospital bed as it jaggedly rolls through the severed limbs on the floor is so disconcerting. Things become more and more nightmarish. When we get to the shot that is pictured below it feels like an undiscovered circle of hell. It's such a nightmarish moment from a underrated movie.

78. The carny family from Freaks chanting "One of us. One of us. We accept her." This film would never be made in Hollywood today. 

79. The ending of the Elephant Man. A torrent of tears always follows this moment. John Merrick is a major inspiration on

80. The unforgettable and terrifying dinner table scene in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. 

81. Hoop Dreams: When Arthur Agee's mother is certified as a nurse. Real people's whose lives are as more interesting than anything in fiction. This is another film that is chock full of moments that it is difficult to pick just one. For now, this moment is the one. 

82. Witnessing the enormous range of emotions of Dear Zachary: from the best and most noble of humanity to the worst of humanity. Of all one hundred moments that are on this list, Dear Zachary easily tops them as far as sheer breadth of emotion. Exhausting but absolutely necessary. 

83. The cafe scene in Blue Is the Warmest Color. "I would pay you in flesh and blood." The way Adele's voice cracks during that delivery. The cadence, the dialogue, the setting. All of it contributes to this brutally emotional and heart breakingly honest scene. 

84. These two scenes from Forrest Gump. An introduction and a goodbye.

85. Anju's despair in Sansho the Bailiff. I will never shake this scene. 

86. The editing and sheer excitement of the final battle in Seven Samurai. The whole film is a film school in itself but this scene in particular really stands out.

87. Jackie Brown. I could put the whole "Switch" sequence here, but this section of it is so crisply written I had to choose it. "Louis? Louissssss." This is my favorite post- Heat DeNiro performance easily. 

88. The size and scope of the burning oil derrick in There Will Be Blood. Watching this on the big screen was one of the highlights of my movie going. Johnny Greenwood's Penderecki-like score adds a whole other dimension.

89. The 3 hour of bizarre cinema that is Inland Empire and how you wander through its stream of consciousness narrative to arrive at moments like this:

90. The old monk instructing the young monk to repaint the calligraphy on the remote Buddhist temple in Spring Summer Fall Winter...and Spring. 

91. Kieslowski's The Decalogue was a major turning point when I was seeking out new films outside of America. At some point you feel like you know a lot about the form and what it can do. Then you come across a set of films like these and it utterly changes you. The father knocking down the bench with the candles in church in Decalogue I is forever ingrained into my mind. 

92. It's over. Stop trying to be cool. Alain Deloin in Le Samourai is simply cooler than you are. By extension and through this opening scene, so is Jean Pierre Melville.

93. This scene from Se7en never made me look at air fresheners the same way again.

94. "Son, this is what happens when you FUCK A STRANGER IN THE ASS!"

95. The tunnel scene in Possession. Isabelle Adjani's performance stands as one of the bravest and fiercest out of any performance in horror (or any genre for that matter). This film and this scene in particular terrify the shit out of me.

96. The curb scene in American History X. The sound still rings in my ears. Brutal and uncompromising look at race.

97. The dream sequences in Wild Strawberries. I recently rewatched this movie and was again blown away by Bergman's use of dreams and his portrayal of the fragility of life. It deeply resonates with me. 

98. The ship sinking in Titanic. Now before I have someone start complaining, let me put you into my perspective. In 1997, Titanic was EVERYWHERE. It was the event movie where you, your kid and your grandparents could go to. Watching this mammoth ship sink and break in half on the big screen was something I will never forget. "Gentlemen, it's been a privilege playing with you tonight."

99. Of all Woody Allen's films, this his best moment. Gordon Willis' photography coupled with Mariel Hemingway's delivery of "You just have to have a little faith in people" All of this during the swelling of Rhapsody in Blue. Great filmmaking. 

100. Death Proof: The car chase. The beatdown. The end. 

Until next time...