Tagged: Criterion Collection

Check Out These Minimalistic Posters by Neil Kellerhouse for Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin (2013)

under the skin
Neil Kellerhouse, Criterion DVD/Blu-Ray cover art designer and frequent poster artist for directors like David Fincher and Steven Soderbergh created these fantastic one-sheets for Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin. I love these, because they seem to echo the tone and feel of the eerie teaser trailer we got for the film earlier in September. Also in a day and age where posters are basically a competition to see who can slam more stuff on it, this minimalist approach is very refreshing.  Continue reading

Interview-Review: Luis Buñuel’s The Exterminating Angel (1962) – A Discreetly Charming Essay of Bourgeois Critique

the exterminating angel
First of all I’d like to apologize for my behavior during the last Interview-Review for The Front (1976). I think I was drunk or something.
That’s okay, just try to keep it chill this time.

Yes… I’ll do my best, but I can’t promise anything.
Well, all right that’s good enough for me.  Continue reading

Review: Blue Is The Warmest Color (2013) – Abdellatif Kechiche’s Neorealist Love Epic of Extreme Close-Ups and Delicious Spaghetti

*Spoilers Ahoy!*
Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) is a quiet and mysterious schoolgirl. She loves reading, eating and sleeping. One sunny day, as she’s on her way to a date, she crosses the coolest blue haired and blue jeans wearing girl in all of France (Léa Seydoux). Their eyes meet for the shortest time and it’s: Bam! Coup de foudre. Love at first sight. That night Adèle dreams of her hot blue lady. At first she tries to fight her instincts, but then it just becomes impossible to resist. After being rejected by her girl crush in school, she decides to go out to a gay bar with her BFF (Sandor Funtek). At this point she almost gave up hope of ever meeting her blue angel again, but as fate would have it, Emma just happens to be hanging out there. In a gay bar? Who would have thought!  Continue reading

Interview-Review: Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974) #KifKif

1) What is Ali: Fear Eats the Soul about?
It’s a love story between a lonely middle-aged woman, Emmi (Brigitte Mira) and a young Moroccan migrant worker Ali (El Hedi ben Salem). They meet by chance in a bar. Ali’s friends dare him to dance with this “old lady” and he does, but then it turns out that they have a lot in common, namely that they’re both lonely and melancholy. So they try to make it work, even though they know the odds are against them. Turns out that racism was still rampant in Germany and especially after the Munich massacre people weren’t that accepting of interracial relationships. Aside from that there’s also the whole ageism thing going on. It’s a great movie.  Continue reading

Mini-Review: Faith, Hope and Love in Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Ordet (1955)

ordet 1955
The Borgen’s are a peasant family living in rural Denmark. They love their pigs, smoking their pipe and God. One day Anders Borgen (Cay Kristiansen), Morten Borgen’s (Henrik Malberg) youngest son announces that he wants to get married with Anne Petersen (Gerda Nielsen). Unfortunately, the Petersen’s don’t share the Borgen’s religious views and ascribe to a slightly different group of Christians, so that’s a no-go. Things however escalate when Morten’s daughter Inger (Birgitte Federspiel) gets sick. Meanwhile her younger brother Johannes (Preben Lerdorff Rye) thinks he’s the second coming, prancing around the house speaking of resurrection and making crazy faces. Who are these people?  Continue reading

Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha (2012)

frances ha
Frances Haliday (Greta Gerwig) is a peppy 27-year-old dancer living in New York City with her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner). When her boyfriend Dan (Michael Esper) asks her to move in with him, she realizes that their relationship isn’t really working out. Later she finds out that Sophie is moving out of their apartment. With not enough money to live on her own in the City, she moves in with two male friends. Meanwhile her relationship with Sophie seems to be falling apart, one of her new roommates labels her as “undatable” and on top of that her job as a ballet teacher is on the line. Frances doesn’t really know what to do with her life. She goes back to her hometown to visit her parents. All around her people seem to be doing just fine, but even if things aren’t really working out for her at the moment, she keeps smiling and stays positive.  Continue reading

Hating a Director: When is it too much? – A Case Study Based on Michael Bay

Michael Bay hair 003

Few directors are known by name by the general movie-going audience, even fewer are hated as heatedly as action director Michael Bay. It’s difficult to exactly point out why so many so-called cinephiles and wannabes feel so strongly about a director who has not one but two films featured in the prestigious  Criterion Collection (The Rock and Armageddon). Is it that he gets to work with a big budget and the best industry professionals despite his films generally getting horrible reviews? Is it the Victoria’s Secret models, hot cars and his passion for explosions that make people envious? Is it the fact that he doesn’t care about anything people write about him on the internet? I am still not sure.
My most likely answer would be that people enjoy his films, the box office numbers speak for themselves, but since critics hate everything that has his name on it pretentious moviegoers feel conflicted about his work. On one side his entertaining and hectic films are must-see events, on the other hand they’re not good enough to be declared favorites without losing a lot of street creed. This puts aspiring film experts in a tough position, where they ultimately give in to “peer pressure” and declare they don’t like his films, while still actively seeking them out and watching them. The excuse is that they’re “going to see how bad they are” or “laugh at them and make fun of how bad they are”, while secretly enjoying them.

While it is not socially acceptable to like a Michael Bay film, without the rare approval of Rotten Tomatoes or other “authorities”, his pictures are too big to ignore. It is a well known fact that Bay innovated the action genre with his hectic videoclip style editing and action set-pieces/explosion centered plots. Undeniably nobody can make objects, people or computer generated imagery look as sexy as Bay does. His fetish for visual perfection at the cost of anything else, be it story or characters, is in its own way a valid mean of expression. While his artistic statement might not be the deepest, it is certainly far more interesting than many pandering art house director’s annoying ideology and propaganda. That’s right, because much like say the Coen brothers Michael Bay is in his way an auteur. He has a clear vision, his films come from a very personal place and he makes most of the decisions on the projects he works on. So why is there no respect for the Los Angeles boy who likes to blow up shiny toys and is one of the few that still prefers practical special effects (when possible)?

One reason is envy. Many professional critics are self-centered egomaniacs, that take themselves far too seriously and believe only their opinion matters. It is only natural that critics would hate Bay, because he gets to ignore them. He doesn’t need good reviews to be successful. He stopped trying to make a critically acclaimed film after Pear Harbor, didn’t do it for him. Critics feel powerless against Bay (inferiority complex), because no matter what they say he doesn’t have to play by the rules. So regardless how we feel about his catalogue, we can all agree that Bay represents some sort of anomaly in the Hollywood studio system. As long as his films are profitable he can do whatever he wants. He gets to have fun, he gets to direct movies and gets to do them the way he likes them.  Isn’t that every filmmaker’s dream (getting paid for what you enjoy doing anyway)? As a matter of fact isn’t that everybody’s dream (in a way)? Oh, and did I mention many people who become critics once were aspiring filmmakers? Does it start to make sense now?

Personally, I enjoy Michael Bay’s films, especially on a technical level and because I like to disagree and challenge with mainstream ideas, I admit it. I also think he’s a likable guy (based on the interviews I’ve seen) and a professional, with a work ethic I respect. Even if you like Bay however, let’s say you genuinely hate him or his films. That’s fine. You don’t have to like every director, it’s impossible. I myself tend to actively dislike certain directors, mostly when they make “cold” films that are hailed as masterpieces or when they are very judgmental and annoying about their “message”. Anyways, the reason or event that inspired me to write this piece was a news bit I read this morning about Michael Bay possibly being punched on the set of Transformers: Age of Ultron, in Hong Kong. Reading some people’s reactions I was saddened not only to find a lot of hate for his films, as expected, but also people rejoicing about the incident. The same people probably would define themselves against violence. Some gloating attitudes even transpired from articles written by what I consider to be respectable bloggers.

So when is hating a director too much? To me the answer is clear: When it becomes personal. We are here to judge their work, not who they are as a person. Sure that influences their work, but why should we be happy that they were possibly physically hurt? I guess it’s easy and even satisfying (in the moment) to hate someone and cheer when something bad happens to them, especially if it’s a person you envy. Then however I asked myself how I’d react if a public personality I hated got punched and I remembered when the ex Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi was allegedly punched and I thought it was great. I could justify myself and say that Berlusconi has done a lot of damage to Italy and basically destroyed the country’s image and goodwill, while Bay can be merely held responsible for “ruining people’s childhood” by taking on the Transformers franchise and producing horror remakes, but that wouldn’t be right.

What can we learn from all this? Firstly, I’m no better than other people or bloggers: I just happen to dislike other people. In other words a little bit of healthy auto-critique every once in a while prevents you to become exactly what you say you hate in other people. Secondly, hating and envying famous people doesn’t make you feel any better about your life, in the moment it might be a gratifying feeling, but it’s destructive and will make you feel miserable in the long run and we should really focus our time and energy on things we truly love and enjoy. Thirdly, does there need to be a third point? I don’t know, usually it’s three, but I guess I had only two. So this is how I feel about Bay. I hope that whether you like him or not, that I still gave you something to think about. I’m not going to try to convince you that he’s a great director and that his films are masterpieces, but if you can watch and appreciate Bay’s cinema for what it is without the need to insult it or feel guilty about it: My job is done.

Meh: Fiend Without A Face (1958)

Fiend Without a Face (1958) – 6.5 (IMDb 6.1) – Sci-Fi, Horror, Criterion (UK)
One of the few horror films in the Criterion Collection, so of course I had to check it out. While I liked the story and the cheesiness, I can’t say that I was a fan of the “creatures” and especially the creature design (it’s disgusting, but not in a good way) or how everything had to be explained to the viewer. Were they afraid we were too dumb to “get it”? Fiend Without a Face is set during the cold war, when all the atomic energy hysteria and “invisible” enemy stuff was hot and on everybody’s mind. The film follows a military officer who tires to stop an unidentified menace, save the girl and make America safe once more, for it is the biggest and best country in the world. Sorry, I was just rambling, like this film! I liked the photography, so many 50s sci-fi films felt they needed to go Technicolor, but I’m glad these guys chose to shoot in black & white. The sets looked a bit too much like sets. The acting is all right, I especially appreciated the writers writing a strong female part, well, for the 50s anyway. That’s all I have to say.


‘Meh’ Movies You Watched Last Week?

Pickpocket (1959) – 6.5 (IMDb 7.8) – Crime, Drama, Criterion (France)
I’ve only seen a couple Robert Bresson films, but already at this point I can tell that I am not a big fan of this acclaimed director. His cold and methodical style of filmmaking achieves great things on a technical level, but doesn’t connect with me on a personal level. The fault is certainly not with Bresson, but with me (if we’re looking for faults) and as the high IMDb ratings and great reviews suggest most people love his films (especially Michael Haneke). Pickpocket is the story of a young man stealing other people’s wallets and watches, while trying to justify his vile actions with faux moralist ideals he himself can’t seem to buy into. The film takes an almost documentarian approach showing the man’s everyday life. There’s little drama, although there are some moments you’re genuinely hoping he doesn’t get caught. What I liked about the film was the black & white cinematography and easy on the eyes Marika Green, in a supporting role. Other than that the film felt kind of empty. Luckily it’s under 80 minutes long. Again: Not a bad film certainly, just one that was kind of meh.