Saturday, January 30, 2010

In praise of Haiku Tunnel

about 8 years ago, I had an infant daughter who, like most infants in general, would wake up in the middle of the night because they are hungry. So, being the dutiful mommy, I would go downstairs get a bottle ready sit on the couch, feed the baby and end up dozing off just as the baby dozes off during the bottle.

Fortunately, we had a plethora of movies to choose from on cable during these feedings. One night, I flipped onto a movie called Haiku Tunnel. It's about a guy, Josh, and his misadventures as a law firm temp. While I was never a law firm temp, I was a law firm support staffer and this movie hits every single nuance of what it's like to work in a law firm as a support staffer. Weird partners, especially of the tax variety, spooky office managers, squawky secretaries and the best .. SUMMER ASSOCIATES!!! Oh my gosh, Josh completely nails summer associates and they way they are ... I still laugh just thinking about it.

Well anyway, 8 years later, my tivo picked it up and I watched it and guess what ... 8 years later, it's still freaking hilarious!!!!

So Josh Kornbluth, I dedicate this posting to you!

Monday, January 25, 2010

2 movies last night

I'll get the crappy one out of the way first ... ugh.

The Darwin Awards. What and why????? I picked it up because i want to watch movies with Tim Blake Nelson (o brother where art thou and Wonderland ... actually liked him better in Wonderland). This had to be one of those movies that everyone knew was going to stink, but did it because it would be a couple days work, in and out. The cast ... joseph Fiennes, Winona Ryder, nelson, David Arquette, Josh Charles, Juliette lewis, Chris penn (had to be his last film) ... it also has a neat cameo by the mythbusters guys, of which, I'm sure the film pulled inspiration from. Fiennes plays the disgraced detective who starts working as an insurance fraud investigator ... it was stupid beyond stupid. There was one snippet involving metallica that was pretty cool, but Fiennes and Ryder ... blech ... Tim Blake nelson was ok too. But wow, this movie was really really bad.

I know i listed my favorite movies in the previous post, but I watched one last night that may sneak in. Our local paper had a movie decade in review type thing and on the list was a film called The Lives of Others. German film, won best foreign film at the Oscars in 2006 ... dealing with Stasi spying during the GDR period. Thought I'd have a look, tivo'd it and .... wow. it's a long film ... it's German! And yes, it details how the secret police spied on perceived enemies for, this one in particular, a very selfish reason. There are very few films where I cry because of a happy ending ... well, not happy in the traditional sense, there was tragedy behind the ending, but still .. I was starting to get ticked because I was afraid the ending was going to be with the artist seeing his spy, after the wall fell down walking down the street and never confronting him ... that's what i expected, but no ... that wasn't the end and the ending was PERFECT. Serioulsy, a perfect ending to a film. That's rare. The best scene, other than the final one was when the workers got word that the wall came down and the GDR was no more ... it was incredibly low key (German film!) and completely appropriate and efficient (German film!).

Yea, it's on my list. This film is simply perfect.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

My Favorite Films ....

don't know if I've ever listed them. I won't rank them except for my favorite film of all time. until a film effects ... or affects me like The Bicycle Thief did ... it's still number one.

Ok The Bicycle Thief ... contextually, it's a perfect film. The story is so simple, but the feel, the feel of post-war Italy ... they lost the war too you know and they suffered as well as a result. The ending, so sparse, so final, so heartbreaking ...

and in no particular order:

Che ... my most recent addition. So congratulations Soderberg, you did it. You completely made me have faith that you are able to make great films. Ze Good German was very good and I'll say that watching that one gave me a glimmer of hope, but Che hit it out of the ballpark. Of course, it was IGNORED by the American cinema going public, which is a damn shame. Even the glaring skipping over of Che's time in the Belgian Congo ... Che is a masterpiece of biographical cinema and should be watched by every student of history and film.

Pan's Labyrinth ... a historical setting ... Franco's rise in Spain. A little girl with a very active imagination .. she needed one. The scariest monster ever on film, the pale man. Just a magnificent piece of art ...

Unbearable Lightness of Being ... it's personal for me. First, my mom is Czech. Second, i watched this a day after i came home from the Soviet Union. The gray/green atmosphere of the Soviet era cut me to the core and I wept for half of the film because it took me back to how i felt and the smells of the Soviet union.

Donnie Darko. Richard Kelly has yet to write and direct anything comparable. Incredibly original screenplay and concept of the world coming to an end. Great soundtrack and who knew that Patrick Swayze had acting skills! It's Jake Gyllenhall's best work as well. I can watch this film over and over again and it will marinate in my head for a week. it's a shame that so far Richard kelly seems to be a one trick pony because his second effort, Southland Tales was one of the WORST films I've ever seen.

These next two are grouped together because for the life of me, I cannot pick out my favorite:

Anything Coen Brothers. Still waiting to see The Serious Man, but I'm sure it will go into my "classic" file. The only 2 Coen films that I say "meh" to are Hudsucker Proxy and Burn After Reading and I really can't understand why they bothered with Intolerable Cruelty. I know I shouldn't feel that way toward Hudsucker, but I do ... I'm not a big Tim Robbins fan and I'm REALLY not a big Jennifer Jason Leigh fan ... ugh, she's just so annoying to watch. For her, it's about putting on some fake voice, felt the same way about Mrs. parker and the Vicious Circle, but anyway. Wish they could do a do over on that one, but there was no saving Burn After Reading. Hoping that they can come up with something that is Brad Pitt worthy. The first Coen Brothers movie I saw was Raising Arizona when I was in college and I was blown away by the sheer originality of it. Only the Coen Brothers can make kidnapping a baby funny. The Man Who Wasn't There, I would have to say, is my favorite. But it may be eclipsed when I see Serious Man. I even enjoyed their remake of Ladykillers, despite Tom Hanks dumb performance ... everyone else made it acceptable. Fargo didn't win enough Oscars. That's one I can sit and watch and shiver. just like when I watch No Country for Old Men .. it makes me sweat.

Barton Fink
Blood Simple
Miller's Crossing
O Brother Where Art Thou

my goodness, these 2 guys are amazing, can't say enough.

Anything Quentin Tarantino. I adore every single on of his films and it would make me happy if he would take his script for Natural Born Killers and have a re-do because then every QT script would be a masterpiece, burn in hell oliver stone, ya putz. I saw Reservoir Dogs when I was working in Chicago and all these gearhead U of Chicago law students were talking about it, so I checked it out and just went "gawwwwwww". QT is a master of the tribute film, but he does it so well that the audience doesn't realize it. I saw Pulp Fiction on opening night ... even used the new fangled service of buying tickets over the phone with my credit card just to guarantee I would have a seat. I went into the movie a little tired and came out so jonsed up that I stay awake most of the night. I still watch it and am amazed how the film fits together like a masterpiece by Mozart, even though the story jumps around. Tarantino revived the careers of Travolta, Keitel, Grier and made major movie stars out of Sam Jackson and Uma Thurman. And Inglorious Basterds ... wow ... QT won the Oscar for his Pulp screenplay, but he should take it all home ... I'm talking best picture here ... for Basterds. I wish more people would appreciate he and Robert Rodriguez's tribute to Grindhouse features because Death Proof was totally awesome. I also can't wait to see the third volume of Kill Bill, coming in 2014!!!!

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford ... the name of the film killed it. But it's just an amazing piece of cinematic art. Each performance is beautifully muted. Brad Pitt is frightening as Jesse James and he deserved at least an Oscar nomination. Casey Affleck got it instead, which was ok since the entire film was incredible. Roger Deakins cinematography work in this film was a sight to behold. Seriously, I took one scene and paused it frame by frame and each frame looked like a portrait from the period. It's no wonder the Coen Brothers work with him exclusively.

Animal Crackers ... yea, Animal Crackers. Comedy is about timing and this one is a masterpiece of timing. Groucho Marx's monologues, Chico and Harpo's slapstick ... timing timing timing and funny funny funny. There's a plot somewhere in this film, but I just watch it for those 3 going from one bit to another. Charlie Chaplin was also a master of comedic timing, but the marx brothers had to time time it 3 ways. Now I won't discount Chaplin because i adore his work as well and if anyone can get through the chase scene from The Kid without crying their eyes out, well, there's something wrong.

The Matrix. The first one. Again, this is a movie where what was presented was so new and cutting edge and freaking cool! I remember walking out of that film thinking "oh my god, I get it now" ... seriously, I thought the matrix was for real. James Cameron and his blue people can stuff it. The Wachowski Brothers, even the one who is a woman now can do better than Cameron and could probably whoop his butt. The other 2 installments weren't good at all ... which is too bad. This is why i specifically only list the first one.

The Blues Brothers ... ok ok ... it's not THAT good of a film, but it's just fun. Great Chicago picture. I can watch it over and over again and still laugh and recite every line from the Mall scene. As far as Chicago pictures go ... Blues Brothers, Ferris Bueller, Adventures in Babysitting ... all choice. But The Blues Brothers really put Chicago on the film map.

Marty Movies, that's what I call films by Scorcese. Goodfellas didn't win enough Oscars, neither did Raging Bull. Those are my 2 favorite Marty Movies. I watched The Age of Innocence a couple years ago and was amazed by the beauty of it, not necessarily by the performances. I'm convinced that marty's oscar for Departed was a makeup for his snubbing in previous years, especially for Raging Bull. I'm not quite sure what his deal is with DiCaprio right now ... seems like every marty movie has leo in it anymore.

Empire of the Sun. Spielberg's best film, period, but it doesn't get the love it deserves. Schindler's List ... blech ... stupid, manipulative and false. Christian Bale didn't get the recognition he deserved for taking on such a massive role at such a young age. The story is rich and incredibly well executed from start to finish. The final scene makes me sigh in relief everytime I see it. You want so badly for his mom and dad to see him. I think I may have actually shouted "There he is!!!!!!" at the screen when I saw it for the first time.

The Pianist ... Roman Polanski's masterpiece, hate him all you want for what he did with that 13 year old girl, but this film simply is the best Holocaust picture ever made and again, like him or not, Roman Polanski deserved that best director Oscar (given to him by Harrison Ford) and Adrien Brody deserves the best actor Oscar for the next 10 years for his performance. This is one of the few films where I wept from start to finish ... didn't weep a bit watching Schindler's List ... didn't deserve my tears.

And as long as I'm riffing on Schindler's List ... I'll tell you, I almost gave up on Spielberg after that stupid movie. He redeemed himself when he made Munich. This film was excellent and unlike Schindler, didn't manipulate the audience at all. i'll keep watching Spielberg films because of Munich.

No Man's Land ... a film about the war in Yugoslavia and how confusing, even for those who are fighting each other, that war became. it also manages to squeeze a few chuckles out of the audience when they introduce the media into the mix. 3 guys in a trench. 2 from one side, one from the other and one of them is laying on a landmine ... it's a trip. There aren't enough films made about this incredibly sad time in history. But then again, it may be too soon. Another good film about the war in yugoslavia was called Welcome To Sarajevo by Michael Winterbottom. Very very good and again, the media is a major character in the film.

ok ... that's all I can think of for now ... maybe i'll add more as time goes on.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

revolutionary road ... so disappointing

Watched Revolutionary Road. i guess i expected more. I'll say this, I liked it better than Rachel Getting Married, which doesn't take much!

I cannot reconcile Leonardo DeCaprio as a leading man. he's a good actor, no doubt. But he has the face of a 10 year old boy. What show was he on .. Growing Pains? yea, he still looks like that only with his head planted on a man's body. And i'm going to spoil the movie during this drubbing, so if you don't want to find out what happens at the end, stop reading ...


kate winslet's character was horrible, just horrible and when she died at the end of the film, I acutally clapped. DeCaprio's character was better off without her pathetic self centered immature butt. I WANNA MOVE TO PARRRRRRRRRRRRRRISSSSSSSSSSSS ... ugh ... what a stupid stupid stupid storyline. I read that this was such a tragic tale ... no .. it was stupid. I really rolled my eyes when Winslet took the kids out into the yard to tell them that ... booo hoooooo ... they weren't moving to Paris and the kids STOMPED OFF . Bullshit ... sorry, but that was bullshit. Those kids would be THRILLED to not have to leave all their friends, their house, everything they know ... in fact, their kids were 10x more mature than winslet's pathetic character. Now, the one part of the film that was relevant was the overarching theme of a woman's right to choose. Her character gave herself an abortion and died as a result. That was the reality back in the 50's ... women had no choice and we'll never know how many women died like she did. But still the movie SUCKED!!!!!!! Why Roger Deakins lent his amazing talents to this movie, i'll never know.

So Transsiberian turned out to be the best movie of all the ones I watched over the holiday.

I started out the new year by watching Inglorious Basterds (again, spoilers below). First, I think I jumped up from my seat and jumped up and down for joy at least twice and then when the film was finished, my hand were aching from clapping so loud. Basically, i was like a child who has just been given the key's to santa's workshop. I'm still marinating on whether or not this was QT's best ... it may very well be when all is said and done, but as of now, Pulp Fiction is still my favorite ... i did manage to watch the final hour of it while flipping channels the other night ... Don't Jimmy me Jules ... and Ving Rhames cool send off to Bruce Willis in the dungeon ... man, I'll always find something to rave about in that movie.

Basterds. Ok .. my prediction. It will be nominated for the following Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Screenplay
Best actor -the guy who plays Landa
Best Director

Brad Pitt SHOULD get a best supporting nod, but he'll be snubbed as usual. he easily delivered some of the best lines ever spoken.

over half the movie is subtitled and I be darned if that's not Steve Buscemi on the stairs in a nazi uniform during the Operation kino scene ... i swear it is! And I also dig Sam jackson as the narrator and keitel as Pitt's superior officer ... voice only. Damn, i watch too many QT films. And yes, when Shoshanna died, she did the exact same fall and death face as Uma did in Kill Bill. Geek ... yes, I am!

That film was simply the BEST revenge fantasy film ever! i need to watch it again.