Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Film News

Creative Coup d'etat...Maybe?

Star Wars Font

      Like all great, or once-great properties that have come before it, Star Wars has been seized by the mechanisms of commerce and vicissitudes of time. Disney, the ubiquitous merchant of magic, which for some is now an unbecoming title—well, the magic part at least—is the new owner of that cherished timespace. While its current profile inspires neither uniform applause nor outright derision, Disney's capacity for magnificence is uncontested. With a catalog of films that stretches as far back as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first full-length traditional animated feature in motion picture history, Disney has demonstrated time-and-again an ability to sustain feelings of wonder and awe, and a primal adeptness in the management of story and fantasy. These statements spotlight a reputation that is owed primarily to its founder, Walt Disney, a brilliant visionary who carved a lineage that is steeped in fantastical ambition. Well, what is more fantastical and ambitious than a continuation of the original Star Wars Trilogy? How about an actual continuation of the Star Wars Trilogy!?

Friday, October 12, 2012

My 100 Favorite Directors - UPDATED!

These Go To Eleven...111!

      Those who frequent my blog may wonder where in the hell have I been. But I like to maintain mystery in the digital world. I am not Amish; not that there's anything wrong with that (is it not a coincidence that Peter Weir's Witness features in this edition...). And I don't practice the Thoreau method. What I do is rigorously follow the wisdom of Wooderson from Dazed and Confused. "Living man, L-I-V-I-N!" Such an answer is perfunctory, I know. I am quite the cyber obscurest. All you need to know is that I am having fun and working hard. It is my social networking duty, first and foremost, to keep that perpetually curious aura alive. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Top 10 Least Favorite Movie CHARACTERS: Part II

The Best of the Worst

      Part I of my "Top 10 Least Favorite Movie CHARACTERS" can be found by clicking the above link.  
      I suppose I'll have to choose my words carefully. Chuck Norris is watching. I'll oblige only because Bruce Lee's reincarnated-self is not here to protect me. 
      These characters are the vermin of cinema. But they are the best vermin, contaminating the world, charmingly, one evil at a time. They are simply too good at being bad. While their actions, behavior, and generally their outlook on life is morally objectionable and admittedly terrifying, their determination and affinity for destruction is captivating. 
      Evil is not the prerequisite, but its very existence is crucial to my ultimate aversion to these characters. So, I urge you to tread cautiously. Trading glances with individuals so miserably appalling is known to be the predominant cause of nightmares. As we all know, fear leads to madness. Do not let fear transform you into a revolting character of cinema. I never want to see any of you lovely readers creepily decorating one of my future "Love to Hate" installments. I for one harbor no such fear. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Top 10 Least Favorite Movie CHARACTERS: Part I

Love to Hate


      Let's face it. We are wired to dislike certain people. Human nature assures us there's a line to be crossed between that which we deem admirable and that which we deride gleefully. Movies are no different. The characters who inhabit these tantalizing worlds solidify our diametric ideological curiosities. And I'm most curious about the disreputable. Therefore, in this post, I will identify my "Top 10 Least Favorite Movie Characters." 
      Common themes you may discover are the false representation of power, the willful subjugation of powerless figures, betrayal, cowardice, fraudulent ethics, deception, malfeasance, and of no less importance, obnoxious personalities. 
      These characters are despicable. The actors are not. In no way is it my objective to denigrate the work of these performers. In fact only great performances qualify for my list. It's not the performances or the actors I'm begrudging, but the detestable characters they portray so effectively. Their inclusion is actually an endorsement of the quality of their work. An actor's placement on this list is a celebration of their trenchant embrace of villainy, or in some cases their insufferable expression (think obnoxious voices, folks). 
      Some choices will be obvious, some more surprising. I made a concerted effort to avoid selecting only familiar "villains." A task too easy is little fun. Did I succeed? 
      One final caveat: I refused to select loathsome characters from godawful movies. Logic being that movies that are awful do not deserve publicity. Additionally, if the movie is bad, it is likely the characters are, too. No need to dwell in the vapid sewers of mediocrity, right? Thus, only movies I deem worthy of praise are to be culled. Let's begin shall we...

Saturday, June 30, 2012

My 100 Favorite Directors

Because 99 Is Too Few and 101 Is Too Many

       I'm jubilant. The idea that I can even cultivate a list of 100 directors, stretching from the silent era to present-day, from pioneers to pop-culture pragmatists, brings me great elation. These are directors whose work nourishes my cinematic education, whose talents I've increasingly come to admire. 
      I'm a fairly disciplined and autonomous thinker. I've been told routinely that I'm a champion of vim and vigor, of which my ethic is tethered inextricably. The reason, I suppose, is that I tend to excel only in areas where my interests lie aggressively and most authentically; a rather simple principle to guide one's ambitions, correct? Well, film is my cornerstone passion. It has been for as long as I can remember. In the last two-to-three years, coinciding with the genesis of this very blog, my indoctrination has grown even more radically—an inexorable pursuit that is nothing less than obsessive. This impending list is definitive proof. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Ten Best Actors of All-Time Relay Race

Ain't No Monty High Enough

      "The Ten Best Actors of All-Time Relay Race" rivals the Summer Olympics, exceeds the popularity of the NBA Finals, and portends this year's Presidential Election results. Where else could man venture to achieve such prestige? What institution has a greater collection of talent? The answer is nowhere unless nowhere is code for My Film Views, the mastermind of said blog-a-thon. Or the lovely Melissa Bradley, whose willingness to enlist the tenuous wisdom of yours truly is responsible for my participation.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Top Five Things I Learned From The Movies

The Intersection of Film and Life: Part I

      Any Top Five that invokes the "Things I Learned" refrain has to at least mention Stanley Kubrick. Without Mr. K, future generations of Americans would never know how to cease worrying about the "bomb." In all seriousness though, "The Top Five Things I Learned From The Movies" is one of my more intimate ruminations, focusing squarely on the cinematic landscape...of course!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

AFI Part IV of IV (25-1)

The Apex of AFI

      The time to anoint the twenty-five best films in MY AFI 100 has finally arrived. So anticipated was this final unveil that the Silent Chorus of Expectations can now rejoice. This, the culmination of extensive Amazon purchases, was not ill-advised. With one-hundred and twenty-three titles vying for inclusion, there was no shortage of deliberation.
      Keen readers will observe some audacious reshuffling. But this is a personal list, one that reflects the depths of my idiosyncratic tastes. I am if nothing else an eclectic purveyor of film and these twenty-five films fiercely reflect that sentiment.
      I will not hesitate to summon the Hulk if disagreements emerge. I'm being cheeky of course. I encourage debate. Now, please enjoy!     

*P.S. I expect to revisit these posts in the future, intermittently I presume, with the intention of contributing some minutia of wisdom for ALL of my selections. Yes, there is a lot left unsaid.

Friday, June 1, 2012

AFI Part III of IV (48-26)

A Network of Classics

      Keep on, Keepin' on!~ And just as a brief reminder, I'm planning to update these posts intermittently as I expand my blog. Please do not be alarmed by the lack of written content for the majority of my selections. My only real intention at this point is to display without illustration or demonstration which films in the two-AFI 100 editions comprise my own. Eventually, and perhaps sporadically, I'll elucidate on why I chose this film and why said film is ranked where it is. Remember, twenty-three films missed the cut and I've undergone quite extensive revisionism to produce my list.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sneak Peak: AFI Part III of IV (50 & 49)

Greatness Lies Ahead

      Stellar terrain is within grasp. We're moving from A New Hope to Empire Strikes Back, from Magic to MJ, from greatness to extreme greatness. We have officially touched down in the "Mere Mortals Do Not Reside Here" district, so take a good look at your neighbors, all fifty of 'em, and feel free to engage your inner Mr. Curious.

Friday, May 25, 2012

AFI Part II of IV (75-51)

Keep On Filin', The Whole World's Filin' At You 

      And so my reconstruction of the AFI 100 continues with numbers 75-51 ...  

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

AFI Part I of IV (100-76)

The Filed Bunch 

      One of my cherished cinematic endeavors, besides firing up the 81' DeLorean and cruising back through time to the Roaring Twenties, was watching every film from the American Film Institute's 100 Years...100 Movies list (both the 1998 and 2007 editions). Well, I am pleased to announce—and yes, Dubya, this next statement is irrefutable: Mission Accomplished! 
      That euphoric acknowledgement meant that I had to allocate time for 123 separate viewings. I breath film, so it was rather undemanding. 
      Mission number two concerned my evaluation of the AFI's two lists. I ranked the films according to my own criteria, a more personalized touch if you will. By the logic of numbers, twenty-three films missed the cut. 
      The AFI 100 celebrated the first century of American cinema; the 10th Anniversary Edition (2007) extended into the early aughts (well, negligibly, as it removed twenty-three films from the original Top 100 and added only four films from 1996-2006). Additionally, nineteen films made before 1996 were included. Thus, 123 unique films comprise the two editions. 
      A jury of 1,500 film artists, critics, and historians determined the selection of films. Naturally, as with any list of this magnitude, disagreement's bound to surface. These films, while not universally lauded, are a great starting point for moviegoers, particularly those like myself, immersed in the glorious history of cinema. 
      Film is inherently personal. There are films emblazoned on this list that will arouse your medieval sensibilities (thank you, Marcellus Wallace for immortalizing this phrase). But for any nascent moviegoer, with only a predisposition to the generic fodder churned out by Hollywood annually, the list provides great value. Will it enhance your appreciation of American cinema, refine your tastes? Perhaps. 
      Objectivity is an inexact form of currency in film criticism. Everybody has a different criterion by which they judge a film, and as is the point, what one deems as an objective truth is often misappropriated. Ebert once theorized, "To take a hypothetical possibility, if you were to see all 100 films on the AFI list, by the end of that experience, you would no longer desire to see a Dead Teenage Movie." Twenty-minutes viewing ATM adds credence to Ebert's theory. That movie is despicable. But even Ebert, cemented in the pantheon of critics, admits that a "great Dead Teenager movie" may materialize. The point is that films in general circulation betray, more often than not, a depressing weariness. Teenage films, because of their pandering to that all-too crucial, young demographic, tend to burrow in this depressive, unimaginative hole even more aggressively. So if you aspire to soar to artistic heights beyond those offered by the banalities of the drab Hollywood machine, then feel free to observe my ultimately meaningless list, a careful reconstruction of the AFI 100.   

*I caution this is not a blanket criticism as Hollywood, despite its flaws, produces plenty of good films to justify its system.

Monday, March 19, 2012

What I've Been Watching

Silent Film Edition: Part III

      D.W. Griffith and F.W. Murnau, two names featured prominently in my blog, are titans of cinema's past. The purpose of highlighting their work; therefore, is to underline their importance, to inspire an interest however mild in their exceptional work. Any film buff could comfortably laud their accomplishments. Such a statement presupposes that every consumer of film is desirous of the "buff" distinction. The box office receipts for films like Jack and Jill and New Year's Eve confirm my suspicions that a voracious awareness of film history, for the average moviegoer, is unnecessary. Well, I am not the average moviegoer. And I'm here to tell you, loyal readers who frequent my blog, neither are you. My commentary presumes your attentiveness for, yes, cinema's history. Presumptuous as it may be, this Silent Film segment, which will continue in perpetuity, is designed to fulfill your curiosities. Well, mine, too. So please enjoy. By the way, any paragraph that manages to invoke the names of Griffith and Murnau whilst identifying cockamamie cinema, for which Adam Sandler is routinely a fixture, is a paragraph that is about as inessential, as well, Sandler's next terrorizing tour through planet boredom. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

What I've Been Watching

Silent Film Edition: Part II

      In Part II of my Silent Film Marathon, I discuss two groundbreaking German films, their style reflective of the highly influential German Expressionist movement and their function emblematic of the horror/surreal/fantasy genres. Enjoy. And please feel free to impart some wisdom below. I'm eager to engage discussion. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Film View

Pain Don't Hurt

      In the unlikely chance you were pining for some kind of bizarre visual illustration which illuminates the reasons for my blog's existence, then I ask you to look no further than the mash-up below. After all, the first two sentences in my blog's bio were born from inspiration provided by this clip (and more specifically, the aroma of badass). 
      As I stated on Twitter, after watching this clip, "palms will sweat, fists will clench, and you'll hardly be able to fight the urge to check for marks." I can say, as with any great apocryphal story, the clip's effects, gleamed from my unofficial study, are likely to include nausea, euphoria, phantasmagoria, and any combination therein. Now, behold the latest Internet phenomenon and FIGHT THE POWER! 

Thank you, Red Letter Media!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Film News

Spider-Man's Coming To Dinner. Why is He A-May-Zingly Grace-Less?

      Languid would be the adjective that properly encapsulates my expectation level for The Amazing Spider-Man. It is a reaction I can exaggeratedly equate to a convulsion: Neither violent nor humorous but a reaction wrought with uncertainty. For a visual manifestation, recall the look of disbelief on Spencer Tracy's face in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, when he realized his beloved daughter, Joanna (played by Katharine Houghton) fell in love with a black man (Remember: Stanley Kramer's film took place during the 1960's when race relations were routinely characterized by tumult) named Dr. John Prentice, a "perfect" man played by the legendary Sidney Poitier. As the news registered with a startled Mr. Drayton (Spencer), his iconic stone-cold face began to intimate a blinding incredulity. And then he uttered this famous refrain: "What the hell's goin' on here!?" 
      Yep, those exact words in that exact sequence exited my mouth when I realized Columbia Pictures intended to reboot Spider-Man. While not born from any racial or marital context, my distrust of this Spider-Man reboot is nonetheless a product of laborious skepticism. (Also remember: Tracey's character was a proponent of equal rights yet his reaction, at least initially, conveyed stark prejudice, as if he failed to uphold the ultimate test: Practice what you preach). Despite the preposterous oversimplification of the narrative and placid character dynamic, I love that movie and Spencer's performance (famously it was his last. Katharine Hepburn's and Poitier's performances were also top-notch). So, I suppose all this Spider-Man business simply represented an opportunity, for me, to reference a terrific film.
      I'd be lying to you though...somewhat.

Friday, February 17, 2012

What I've Been Watching

Silent Film Edition: Part I

      There is no way I could conjoin, at least with any faithful accord, the words film and connoisseur without examining the silent film era. And not some thumbnail critique, but an honest inspection where the terms zeitgeist and technical efficiency dominate the lexicon. 
      For the obsessively xenophobic moviegoer, whose idea of a movie predicated strictly upon visuals, pantomime, and intertitles inspires loathsome charges of supreme boredom, this feature shall, I can only hope (thank you, Princess Leia), instill in you perhaps a scintilla of affection for the era that gave birth to our beloved cinema.
      The idea of merging sound and image, specifically "motion picture," is as old as film itself, but technical challenges, arising from difficulties synchronizing dialogue, prevented their practical marriage. With the advent of the Vitaphone system, ushering in the first commercially viable, feature-length motion picture with synchronized dialogue, 1927's The Jazz Singer, the prevalent utility of silent film was soon displaced by the commercial predominance of "talkies."  And in 1929, the modern sound film era found its near century-long stronghold; it took another thirty years before the preponderance of color would overtake black-and-white, in large part a result of the emergence of affordable, home-television sets. 
      Now, I do not intend for this post to be neither a history lesson nor a reprimand of today's widespread antipathy for the silent film era. And to be perfectly frank, seeing and appreciating The Artist does not render you an authority. Hopefully, though, it is the impetus that does encourage you to delve further into the era that did inspire Michel Hazanavicius's outstanding homage. 
      Before I undertook this massive task, this familiar song, a staple of perseverance, was flowing ubiquitously through my veins, peering into the imaginative window of my soul like a muse forlorn, thundering loudly in the background that occupies the dormant recesses of my audible mind: Rick Astley's Never Gonna Give You [Yes, you, Silent Film] Up
      The first two silent films I will spotlight are the two seminal works from the preeminent, pioneering American director, Mr. D.W. Griffith. Without further ado, let the Silent Film Party begin. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Film News

Pretty But Perfunctory

*Editors Note: Pretend Clint Eastwood is narrating this entire post!

      Beyond an investment of $3.5 million (per 30-seconds, up from $3 million last year) and a critical mass upwards of 90 million, what distinguishes a Super Bowl spot from any other spectacle-less day of advertising? Well, because of the exorbitant monetary outlay and the mammoth exposure, the biggest distinction is, presumably, creative disbursement. All that money—enough to feature Taylor Kitsch in two prominent spots—has to go to good use, correct? The answer, of course, is yes. But, more important, do the yeoman efforts, from marketers, actors, directors, and sponsors, produce effective results? Sadly no. In the hotbed of filmic fanaticism, the 2012 Super Bowl will be synonymous with three words, transitively etched in the amorphous footprint of Twitter: Pretty but perfunctory.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Short Review: Paths of Glory

The Path of the Unfair Man

Paths of Glory (1957) - Stanley Kubrick

War, at its very core, pitting man opposite man, nation against nation, ideology vs. ideology,  is objectionable; gainful byproducts—heroism, courage, honor, and freedom—materialize only in the absence of tyranny. Kubrick's Paths of Glory is a luminous albeit controversial examination of this very conflict, in the face of suffering, behind a facade of honor, amidst a path of overwhelming destruction. The real cost of war is not measured in any dollar investment, but in stark contrast, by the morbid tabulations of human loss. World War I drastically altered the landscape of aggression, as trench warfare disintegrated notions of civility. An imprint of cynicism piggybacked victory, as beleaguered soldiers, dehumanized by the brutality of war, were forced to confront an abject reality bound by their corrupt leaders' miserly aims. While Glory, focusing on the plight of soldiers in battle, avoids any inspection of civilian life (The Deer Hunter offers an honest, gut-wrenching glimpse into the plight of veterans' post-war assimilation), it does provide a lens into the fragile psyche of men who are victimized by injustice. Combine the nuanced, harrowing dichotomies of war with Kubrick's uncanny visual eye and Kirk Douglas' impeccable, layered performance, and what emerges is a mesmerizing battlefield of horror. There can be no doubt: Stanley Kubrick is a visual dynamist, an aesthetic raconteur who imparts meaning through image with seldom a word to rely. And, lest I forget, the ending of Kubrick's anti-war yarn is one of the greatest in cinema's glorious history.  10 out of 10

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Movie Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Tattoos Penetrate Skin, Provoke Discussion

      David Fincher is a maestro of mood. His darkly probing psychical lens, marked by lurid curiosity, depicts menace in the shadows of decrepit dealings, corruption on the fringes of institutional hierarchy, and dishonesty in the despicable terrain of a broken land, whose violent lifeblood, objectified by lascivious miscreants, runs amok of both order and reason.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Short Film Review: JT vs. the Good Guys

Fighting The Good Fight

      A traditional high school film unfurls with less excitement than a trip to the dentist, a dentist, in fact, with credentials best exemplified by this smiling buffoon of Bond lore. Convention elucidates, often blithely, a celebration of Mr. Drab and Mr. Dull, figures whose genetic code reads, in the strictest interpretation: Minutia of mundanity. Boring and banal, let's be honest, are two words deathly undeserving of cinematic treatment. Thankfully, an exhilarated gasp and animated fist pump later, Chris Shimojima's (Director of Madeleine Zabel, reviewed by yours truly) newest short, JT vs. the Good Guys, competently circumvents convention, revealing a nontraditional high school film with gusto.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Movie Review: The Tree of Life

Beauty Is In The Eye of the Beholder

       *This review appeared unedited in my Top 10 Films of 2011 post. It was, unsurprisingly, my number two film of the year. Malick, in my vernacular, means magnificent. And because I admired his visually enrapturing contemplation of life so deeply, it deserved singular residence on my blog. Without further elucidation, my review: 

      Terrence Malick's sprawling meditation of life is as ambitious a film as Stanley Kubrick's piece de resistance, 2001: A Space Odyssey. A technical achievement unsurpassed stylistically by every film this year, Tree of Life combines temporal extravagance with uncanny ambrosial awareness. Employing visual, narrative devices anathema to Hollywood, Malick exhibits, through ellipsis, elaborate visual exploration, and aggressive spacial arrangement, a rare fusion of style and technique. Astounding one's senses like the lyrical, transcendental rhymes of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, Tree of Life is the undisputed cinematic equivalent to prodigious poetry.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Top Ten Movies of 2011

Strains, Lanes and Automatons 

      Not quite the year of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, 2011 distinguished itself as the year, which demonstrated Hollywood's recidivist tendencies (bad habits), driven, unsurprisingly, by a strong capitalistic urge to promote superheroes, comic book characters, and any other potentially robust profit stream; I guess the ancillary benefits associated with excessive merchandising are too potent a force (sadly Luke Skywalker would pose no threat to the gross infiltration of Hollywood executives, after all, his franchise helped establish the model). Indeed, 2011 was the year of the superhero. But these monetarily-inspired incarnations, while neither transcendent nor groundbreaking, were quite commendable (X-Men: First Class, Thor, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2), revealing an advantageous benefit of superhero hysteria: Successful blending of art-house and commercial fare.
      Objectivity is an underused currency in the world of film criticism. It is not by accident. Subjectivity, on the contrary, rules the day. With the formulation of this list, I posit neither grand allusions of purpose nor propagation. Arguing passionately for or against the inclusion or omission of a particular film, is, without assistance from the writers of Moneyball, an inexact science. Too many of the films on which we comment evince grim mediocrity, and too many of the people who make them betray a disheartening weariness. Therefore, as this is not intended as an objective list, but merely a subjective rendering of my strongest likes, I encourage healthy discourse.
      Many of my selections are, I would contend, standard fare. I have not succeeded in my one New Year's Resolution, which was, no hyperbole: Watch every film made in 2011. Complicating temporal matters is the fact that I've devoted considerable time scrutinizing film history, expending many an hour watching films from all eras: Classic American Cinema, French New Wave, German Expressionism, Italian Neorealism, Hong Kong New Wave, and other essential foreign movements. My knowledge of cinema, beyond an obvious aesthetic maturation, has grown appreciably to the degree: If I were to construct a list of the Top Ten Films I've seen NOT MADE in this calendar year, it would look VASTLY different. That's not to say that 2011 was a bad year; it just means there were very few films that struck a response as visceral as witnessing the brilliance of filmmakers such as Jean-Pierre Melville, Howard Hawks, Preston Sturges, Robert Bresson, Wong Kar-wai, etc., etc. So, without further ado, I give you my Top Ten of 2011:

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Movie Review: Warrior

Fight To The Dual

       "Warriors, come out to pla-i-ay." From one cult film with the connotation of a man devoted to war to what surely is destined to be another, Warrior is a sterling exhibition, and most important, a heartfelt example of a film that embraces multidimensional composition. Guilty of an inopportune release date (after the enormous bounty of praise given to The Wrestler and The Fighter) Warrior establishes its champion custodian of direction, Mr. Gavin O'Connor as a vital resource in American cinema; a director whose chief talents insinuate a very basic understanding of humanity. O'Connor weaves gut-wrenching emotion into a gripping, embattled tapestry of duality, pieced together by men, equal part martial artist and pugilist, whose primal pursuit in life involves barbaric bouts of manhood. O'Connor's weighty suggestions of dual purpose—mythical vs. reality, hardship vs. romance, style vs. substance, home vs. away—underscore his film's greatest triumph: An uncompromising awareness of the human condition, revealing, unsuspectingly, a fragile dichotomy.