This weekend Metallica Through the Never gets a wide release, so what better time to mention a couple of my favorite films revolving around music or where music is an integral part of the story? No better time! Wow, did I really need to answer that? Guess not. Anyways, as always these are just five of many films about music I love and appreciate, I didn’t rank them because I don’t like that: Bla bla bla, the usual stuff. Also: No, I couldn’t make a list of favorite astronaut movies if I tried, sorry Gravity fans. Back to music!
5. The Double Life of Veronique (1991, Krzysztof Kieslowski)
Actually, I prefer Three Colors: Blue as far as Kieslowski films about music go, but I’ve recently mentioned the film when discussing my five favorite trilogies, so I don’t want to repeat myself too much. Also, I just really want to give a shout out to this film which is not as talked about. La double vie de Veronique (original title) is a stunning piece, a delight to look at (much like Irène Jacobs’ lovely face) and a pleasure for the ears. Composer Zbigniew Preisner outdoes himself once more if you can believe it. The story is not exactly new with the whole doppelgänger thing, but when it was released Hollywood hadn’t caught on to it yet, so I can imagine the concept being fresh at the time. I wish I could have seen it then, but still this is a great film with fantastic photography, stellar performances and of course great music.
4. The Last Days of Disco (1998, Whit Stillman)
This is my favorite Whit Stillman film. Yes, it’s about music and disco, but at the end of the day like all of his films it’s about bourgeois kids, bohemian girls and dandies. The best scene of the film is when Josh (Matt Keeslar) makes an incredibly heartfelt speech about how disco will never die. I also love Chloë Sevigny and Kate Beckinsale as the two leading ladies. However the best part of course is the Whit Stillman’s witty dialogue and his quirky humor, the character’s little idiosyncrasies and the small intimate moments they share with each other. Plot and story are really secondary in a film like this one, still the fact that I don’t remember much of it means that it’s due for a re-watch.
3. Last Days (2005, Gus Van Sant)
As a big fan of Gus Van Sant’s work, I feel that this is one of his most under-appreciated films. Why might that be? Gee, I wonder. No, actually it’s very simple. People have increasingly short attention spans, myself included, so whenever a “slower paced” film comes along it sadly goes unnoticed (like Sofia Coppola’s Somwhere). Anyways, Last Days is about Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain’s last days, even if officially it’s about some guy named “Blake”. Michael Pitt stars as “Blake” and easily delivers a career best performance. It’s also worth noticing that the film was shot by Harris Savides (RIP), who collaborated with Van Sant on several pictures and is a particularly fitting choice here since the film needed an almost documentarist approach. All in all a very depressing, but extremely rewarding experience.
2. Jennifer’s Body (2009, Karyn Kusama)
Now, this might seem like an odd choice, but bear with me. Produced by Jason Reitman and written by Diablo Cody, Jennifer’s Body is a stylish horror/comedy film about a young girl (Megan Fox) who is sacrificed to the devil by a band hoping to achieve commercial success. Unfortunately for the guys the girl for the sacrifice needs to be a virgin, which Megan Fox’ character hasn’t been in a while. This is one of my favorite horror films and the music in it is very catchy, the writing is sharp and funny and the performances are better than you’d think. The film is very much about music and the notion that certain bands claim to have made a “deal with the devil” to sell a lot of records. The film’s biggest feat is that it manages to balance horror and comedy, which is not an easy task, like at all.
1. The Runaways (2010, Floria Sigismondi)
Another odd pick. Seemingly. At first. Maybe. The Runaways is about the homonymous first all female punk band in California, their rise and fall to success. Kirsten Stewart and Dakota Fanning play the two women who formed the band, Joan Jett and Cherie Currie and they do a fantastic job. As far as biopics go, this is definitely one of the best, because it’s also a coming-of-age story and a story about friendship and all that. So in this case as well, it’s more than just the music and paradoxically that’s the key to making a good film about music. The lovely young actresses also did their own singing and comparing it to the original recordings I have to say that it is most impressive. A good film I felt is worth mentioning because not many people have seen it or know about it: The Runaways.
The Canyons (2013) – 2 (IMDb 4.2) – Drama, Thriller (USA)
What happened to Lindsay Lohan? She was supposed to be the next big thing and now she is… Poor girl. I used to be a fan of her work and she used to look great, now look at her! Anyways, The Canyons is quite simply a train-wreck of a movie. Lindsay Lohan co-stars with porn star James Deen (haha, so clever! I know right?) in what is one of the worst thrillers I’ve ever seen. To give you an idea: I loved I Know Who Killed Me and still defend it, so I can appreciate a good genre film. Everything about The Canyons however is bad, like bad soap opera bad. The only good thing about this film, sorry to be so vulgar: Tenille Houston’s glorious tits. Other than that there’s Gus Van Sant in the shortest of cameos and of course the beautiful scenery where the film takes place. This is an irredeemable film and I hope nobody sees it, for their own good.
That’s the only bad film of the week, luckily. If you watched a bad film and want to warn everyone about it: Please do. If not: I’m happy for you.
Thanks for Sharing is coming out in limited release this weekend. The film tackles the highly timely topic of sex addiction, that not many movies have discussed so far. So instead of having five favorite movies about sex addiction I would like to take this opportunity to discuss addictions in movies in general. Sex is not the only addiction a person can have, there are lots of others, like gambling, alcohol, rage and so on and so forth. I selected five films that deal with five different addictions. There are a lot of movies dealing with the idea of being addicted or obsessed with something and of course five movies will hardly cover any ground, but it’s a starting point to inspire you to notice how many films deal with the same concept that can take on endless forms.
As we’ll see none of these addictions are a good thing, not even the ones that sound fun. Some addictions are out and out bad, like say a vampire being addicted to human blood and killing. Some addiction may even come off as noble like “your job”, but too much of a good thing can become a bad thing. Professor Humbert Humbert’s love for Lolita eventually became an obsession, though it’s fair to question if the pedophile relationship wasn’t doomed from the start, but I digress. Let’s explore some of these addictions and see how they ruin people and how they almost always end badly. No happy endings, because that’s life and how else can life end if not in death? Sorry, I’m being a bit over-dramatic here, never mind. Carry on!
5. Greed (1924, Erich von Stroheim)
Money. The root of all evil? Of course not. It’s the human soul that’s corrupted to its core. I exaggerate of course, but maybe not (then again I’m fairly misanthropic). Eric von Stroheim’s masterpiece. One of my favorite, if not my favorite silent films of all time. This picture shows how greed can bring a person to do horrible things and horrible things will happen to them of course, because karma is a bitch! I don’t remember exactly all that happens in this film (it’s been a while), but I remember the climax being very powerful and telling of the human soul. It’s a film that boarders cheesy, nevertheless at over three hours there’s not a dull moment in it.
4. Sunset Blvd. (1950, Billy Wilder)
Easily one of my favorite films of all time. Billy Wilder’s Sunset Blvd. shows how fame wanting to be the center of attention can become an addiction. Norma Desmond is an actress from the silent era that would kill for a comeback. She is addicted to the limelight and that’s ultimately her demise. This is a beautiful film noir, one of Wilder’s best, romantic and witty as always. It’s about Hollywood and success and art and life and love and so many other things I couldn’t possibly sum it up in a couple sentences.
3. Drugstore Cowboy (1989, Gus Van Sant)
Drugs are possibly the most used addiction in movies. It’s easy to show and many people can relate to it. Also many artists have problems with substance abuse and so art often reflects life. I put Drugstore Cowboy on this list, because I feel it’s an overlooked film by a great, sensitive director, Gus Van Sant, who deals with the issue in a thoughtful way. While some movies seem to glorify drug use (especially weed), this film shows how it can ruin a person’s life and even when they want to get out, it’s the hardest thing to do.
2. Death Proof (2007, Quentin Tarantino)
This might seem like an odd pick, but if you think about it stuntman Mike McCain is an adrenaline junkie. He clearly gets off (sexually) by crashing his death proof vehicle into other people’s not-so-safe cars. Generally considered Tarantino’s worst film (even by himself), it is one of my favorite of his and I feel it’s often unjustly maligned. Why? Probably because people have short attention spans and are bored easily unless shit is exploding on the screen. Anyways, what I like about this film is the dialogues and the great exploitation ending, which totally kicks ass.
1. Black Swan (2010, Darren Aronofsky)
As I’ve mentioned your job can also become an addiction. Today many people face burnouts because they’ve become workaholics. In Black Swan Nina (Natalie Portman) is obsessed with perfection and getting the lead in the Swan Lake ballet. She eventually goes nuts, but she does so in a poetic and awe-inspiring way so it’s totally cool. In real life however people can get depressions and such, but as we’ve come to know depression is about the least sexy thing you can depict in a movie (unless you want it to bomb). According to Darren Aronofsky Black Swan is a companion film to The Wrestler, and as a matter of fact both protagonists seem to share a similar “work ethic”.
That’s it for this week’s recommendations. If I may add something of a personal advice: Try to kick your bad habits or addictions (if you have any). Don’t become a slave to them, because as these stories show it never ends well. Okay, I’m done being corny and now go and watch some movies or tell me about your favorite films about addictions!
Last year, October 9, 2012 we lost one of America’s best cinematographers: Harris Savides. He lived in Manhattan and was only 55 years old when he died from brain cancer, leaving his daughter Sophie and his wife Medine behind.
This weekend the last film he shot, The Bling Ring, got a limited release in the United States. I would like to take this opportunity to remember a man who shot some of the most aesthetically interesting films of the last decades.
Starting his career with a Cindy Crawford workout video, Harris moved up in the business working on television and then for Madonna video clips. He then teamed up with video clip director Phil Joanou for his first feature film Heaven’s Prisoner in 1996. Since then he worked with some of the most renowned directors like David Fincher (The Game, where he also has a cameo and Zodiac), Wong Kar-wai (for his BMW short The Follow), Noah Baumbach (Margot at the Wedding and Greenberg), Martin Scorsese (for his short film The Key to Reserva), Ridley Scott (American Gangster), Woody Allen (Whatever Works), Sofia Coppola of course (Somewhere), but most notably Gus Van Sant (from Finding Forrester up to Restless, minus Paranoid Park which was shot by Christopher Doyle).
For me Harris’ style was a mixture of practical look, capturing reality through the honesty of his lens, yet at the same time crafting a captivating and beautiful picture in its simplicity. His sensibilities were most fit for movies that stripped themselves of anything superfluous, trying to frame the essential and at the same time, the essence of objects and people. All the auteurs mentioned clearly recognized his talents and used them to tell stories that needed a realistic, cinéma vérité almost documentarist approach, like Somewhere and Milk. Or when they needed to recount a tale of loneliness and depression like Last Days and Greenberg.
Methodical and precise directors like Fincher; practical, but sentimental ones like Allen and minimalist, but detail oriented ones like Coppola: Harris knew exactly how to fit each and everyone’s needs and make their films look the best they could. He could also be glossy, dazzling and stylish, when he needed to, like in The Follow or even looking at The Bling Ring.
Needless to say, the news of his passing was a sad and devastating one for film fans and especially those among us that appreciate visually refined works. His nuanced vision, his great intuitions and his sense of humor will definitely be missed.
Rest in Peace, Harris Savides.