Though Yoshida Yoshishige’s Woman of the Lake is not part of the prestigious Criterion Collection, it definitely feels like it should be as you watch it. It’s has a very specific 1960s tone and aesthetic of the great classics of that time period. I decided to list Three Reasons to check it out, because it seems like an under-seen film. Not many people have rated it on IMDb, but that’s precisely where it was recommended to me a while back. So I’d like to thank the IMDb users for their great advice. Continue reading
Claude Ridder (Claude Rich) is a young writer who recently attempted suicide, but failed miserably. Now, a mysterious organization wants to recruit him to perform some risky time travel experiments on him. He is the perfect subject, because if he died during the process, they could easily stage everything to make it look like a suicide. Everything’s ready. Claude (and a cute little white lab mice) will be sent back in time exactly one year and should stay in the past for one minute. After four minutes (no relation to the all-girl KPOP idol group featuring Hyuna) he can be released from the time machine and go on with his life. Unfortunately, something goes wrong and he keeps traveling through time randomly without ever coming back for more than a couple of minutes. Will he make it out alive? What’s hiding in his past? And why is that mouse traveling with him? Continue reading
Some weeks I just don’t feel like watching a whole lot of movies. Last week was one of those rare weeks. What happened? Nothing. I was feeling a bit sad for whatever reasons, so I didn’t feel like watching movies. Yeah, I know that sounds weird. Also I started the week off with a bad film and then tried to watch something else, but didn’t even finish it. Oh, and I also started watching Krzysztof Kieślowski’s The Decalogue, which I highly recommend. So anyway, here are a couple thoughts on the three films I watched.
This Girl’s Life (2003) – 5 (IMDb 5.7) – Drama (USA)
Sometimes a movie misses the mark by so much it’s not even funny. This film was supposed to be about a porn actress and her life. As thrilling as that may sound the movie is devoid of anything titillating, sexy or even vaguely entertaining. There’s no real story, which is not a problem per se, but if you don’t care about the main character it can become a bit boring. James Woods is the only good thing about this film. His performance is so charming, but not even he can save the film from its unfocussed and convoluted storytelling. What else can I say? I was let down by this film. I was expecting a critical look at the porn industry, instead this film almost glorifies the business. I’m sure if you’re a huge porn star you have more autonomy and “choice”, but to make it seem like it’s all roses and flowers is a bit too naive for me. In short: This film is a waste of time. Lots of unnecessary subplots that lead nowhere, no balls or sense of ethics and zero idea of the concept of artistic integrity.
‘PICK OF THE WEEK’
Identification of a Woman (1982) – 7.5 (IMDb 6.8) – Drama, Romance, Criterion (Italy)
Much like with Federico Fellini, my favorite Michelangelo Antonioni films are the black & white ones (though Red Desert of course is fantastic). Of the later half of his career though I have to say this is probably one of his best works. The film is about a director who falls in love with a woman, but someone doesn’t want them to be together. Just like most of his films stuff doesn’t get resolved. Everything remains a mystery. Who threatens them? Why? Who is this woman? I really liked this film. It’s gorgeous to look at, like every Antonioni film. It has a splendid cast, like every Antonioni film. And it’s deliberately paced, just like every Antonioni film needs to be. Once again it’s one of those movies you can’t really explain to people, you have to see them, experience them, live them. The best part about this film is the very ending. I always admire a bold ending and this one is definitely one of the best endings I’ve seen in a long time. It’s enigmatic, quiet, yet so incredibly powerful. Highly recommended.
The Bow (2005) – 8.5 (IMDb 7.1) – Drama, Romance (South Korea)
Hello! How’s everyone been doing? Has it been a week already? Damn. Last week was quite eventful for me in terms of movies, but not in the sense that I watched a lot, but because I found out about two great Sight & Sight lists: The Critics’ Top 250 Films and the Directors’ Top 100 (yes, there’s a lot of overlap). I was quite shamed to realize that I hadn’t seen as many of these classics as I hoped or thought I would have. So that’s a project I’ll start: Watching all of the movies on that list I can get my hands on! Meanwhile I’ve been also preparing for the October Challenge. “What’s that?” You may ask. Well, I sure am glad you did, because I was going to tell you anyway.
The October Challenge is a monthly challenge on the IMDb Horror Board and it involves watching (at least) 31 horror films during the month of October. Why 31? Because that’s an average of one film per day, you’re welcome to watch more if you want to. Why does it take place in October? Because it’s Halloween month. It’s all explained on IMDb. The point is, I’ve been starting to gather ideas on what movies to watch and so I’ve been preparing and getting pumped for that. Expect a lot of horror talk during October!
As for the films I watched this week, unfortunately it’s only four, fortunately they’re all good. I’ve been playing a lot of that silly video game Injustice: The Gods Among Us so I wasted a lot of time I could have been watching movies on that. How sad indeed. I didn’t even write a full-lenght review last week, but I promise I’ll do that this week. What else..? Oh! The Bling Ring is now available on iTunes so that was great news for me, I totally plan on re-watching it in the next couple days, so I’m very excited about that. Now on to the “mini-reviews”.
The Passenger (1975) – 7.5 (IMDb 7.6) – Drama, Mystery (Italy)
Another great drama, mystery written & directed by Italian master Michelangelo Antonioni. This film follows a reporter, Jack Nicholson, who has taken on the identity of a dead colleague and is now in some kind of danger or something. I’m not sure I completely understood this film on a purely narrative level, maybe I’m just not that smart, but I did connect to it emotionally. As always Antonioni is great with his cinematography, going for a more documentarian approach with this one, which makes sense obviously. What he excels at is creating and conveying a sense of space and I just love the way he frames the picture. Nicholson does as solid job, as you would expect and the rest of the cast is good as well. Typical deliberate pacing and familiar atmosphere make this a must see for Antonioni and film lovers in general.
La Migliore Offerta (2013) – 7.5 (IMDb 7.7) – Mystery, Drama, Romance (Italy)
Maybe the “twist” is easy to recognize, I know I didn’t, but then again, I’m not really someone who picks up on these sort of things. The Best Offer is Giuseppe Tornatore’s newest film and it’s a great romantic mystery/drama. Great performances by Geoffrey Rush and Dutch actress Sylvia Hoeks, who’s also very easy on the eye. The plot centers around a wealthy auctioneer who is invited to evaluate a young woman’s villa and art collection. The thing is she can’t leave her room or see people, because she’s afraid of open spaces (something-phobia, I’m sure). If you’ve seen other films by Tornatore you know he’s a romantic at heart and his films are always commenting on the art of filmmaking as well, so that’s probably why cinephiles all over the world love him, and rightfully so I think. This film is no exception, but again knowing his other films I was surprised by the ending and the uneasy tone he manages to create.
Jack Reacher (2012) – 7.5 (IMDb 7) – Action, Crime, Thriller (USA)
I must admit I only watched this because I was curious to see Werner Herzog as the villain, but this movie has so much more to offer than just that. Great action, suspense and drama. I actually thought Rosemund Pike was the best part of the film, but Tom Cruise certainly does a fine job as well. It’s about a lawyer trying to keep their client out of death row and then of course stuff gets really complicated and you find out it’s an international intrigue and stuff. My only criticism is that it feels kind of like one of those TV procedurals, I wish it had a more cinematic aesthetic. Some of the plot gets really complicated, but I was able to follow most of it, which I’m glad, because most of these movies turn me off because of their weird and convoluted stories and multiple non-sensical story-lines. Not the case with this one.
‘PICK OF THE WEEK’
Do The Right Thing (1989) – 8 (IMDb 7.8) – Drama (USA)
This is considered to be the best of Spike Lee’s joints and I certainly thought it was great. It’s more of a “day in the life of”/”slice of life” type of film. The plot loosely follows the people of a black neighborhood in New York. It’s about racial tensions and deep-rooted hatred for those that have a different ethnical background. The good thing is that it shows how every person, regardless of their cultural background, can hate another race or ethnicity. Unfortunately we all have preconceived notions about other people. The film uses a very hot and humid summer day to work as a catalyst, that brings those negative feelings to the surface culminating in a rather shocking and violent ending, that reminded me a lot of Lars von Trier’s Dogville. Before its dramatic finale, the film is also very funny. The many characters (the city being one of them) are portrayed in a very realistic and thoughtful fashion. This film gave me a lot to think about.
Riddick is the third film in Vin Diesel’s crazy sci-fi/action trilogy, so this week’s topic is going to be trilogies. What are some of your favorite trilogies? Usually I always hear the same ole franchises mentioned when people talk about trilogies, but few people know that many auteurs and indie filmmakers work in that format as well. Since I tend to gravitate more towards the art house camp, my favorite trilogies are going to be a bit more “unusual” maybe, or pretentious, depending on how you see it. Don’t be offended if your favorite trilogy isn’t mentioned, just leave a comment with your favorites, so that my ridiculously elitist point of view will be counterbalanced.
Note: Some critics count Ingmar Bergman’s Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light and The Silence as a trilogy. Now, I’m not sure if that’s “official” or just the Criterion box set, but in any case those movies are amazing and some of the best in cinema history, so I’m not going to count them in my list, but they’re definitely some of my favorite films.
So, without further ado and in order of release date: Here are my five favorite trilogies and below some other I dearly love and wanted to mention because I don’t want to exclude anything.
5. Michelangelo Antonioni’s Alienation Trilogy
La Notte (1961)
4. Michael Haneke’s Glaciation Trilogy
The Seventh Continent (1989)
Benny’s Video (1992)
71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance (1994)
3. Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colors Trilogy
Three Colors: Blue (1993)
Three Colors: White (1994)
Three Colors: Red (1994)
2. Whit Stillman’s Doomed-Bourgeois-in-Love Trilogy
The Last Days of Disco (1998)
1. Richard Linklater’s Before Trilogy
Before Sunrise (1995)
Before Sunset (2004)
Before Midnight (2013)
Honorable Mentions: Wonk Kar-wai’s Days of Being Wild Trilogy, Lars von Trier’s The Europa & Golden Heart Trilogy, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Trilogy and Park Chan-wook’s The Vengeance Trilogy.
Trilogies I haven’t seen (completely) yet, but plan on watching: Gus Van Sant’s Death Trilogy, Dario Argento’s The Three Mothers Trilogy, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Trilogy of Life, Sergio Leone’s The Dollars Trilogy and Yasujirō Ozu’s Noriko Trilogy.
Allan Stewart Konigsberg alias Woody Allen is one of the most prolific and consistently interesting filmmakers. I can’t praise him enough. He’s one of my favorite filmmakers and he continues to surprise audiences, by putting out a new film every year since the 1970s. Even if critics don’t always like his efforts, he consistently makes the films he wants to make. Lately he proved that he still got it with Midnight in Paris and now it looks like his newest film, Blue Jasmine is getting mostly positive reviews as well, which makes me happy.
To celebrate the release of his new drama, coming out in theaters this very friday, I wanted to recommend my five favorite Woody Allen films. This list can be especially helpful if you’re looking to get into his sizable filmography. Since I am so in love with all of his films, and wouldn’t say he’s made one that I dislike, it’s hard for me to pick one over the other, but I’ll try my best.
5. Annie Hall (1977)
It’s Woody’s smash hit. This catapulted him into international stardom, and rightfully so. This is a great picture, it won Best Picture, again: Deservedly so. The film is a romantic comedy starring Woody Allen himself and his first muse Diane Keaton. It’s about Woody’s character trying to figure out why his relationship with Annie Hall didn’t work out. Some very innovating filming techniques and narrative styles. Woody breaks the “fourth wall” several times, speaking directly to the camera. How could you not like this film?
4. Interiors (1978)
A rather depressing film for a director known for his comedic chops, but I love Interiors. It’s as close as Woody will ever get to Michelangelo Antonioni, in fact he uses the same cinematographer that worked on Red Desert, but of course there’s a bit of an Ingmar Bergman feel too. The film is about three sisters dealing with the separation of their parents. This is Allen’s first foray into drama and I would say it’s his best “serious” film. Great nuanced performances by all the actors involved and I especially like Diane Keaton in this one.
3. The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
Aside from comedy, Woody has always had a passion for fantasy as well, but not that dragons and wizards shit. It’s always something grounded in “reality”. In The Purple Rose of Cairo Mia Farrow’s character falls in love with a movie character that literally comes out of the movie. Set in New York in the 1930s this is a nostalgic and romantic film, with a bittersweet ending. It’s one of my favorite films, because it comments on film as a storytelling medium and as a cultural phenomenon. It’s also one of the best instances of Woody mixing melancholic and comedic tones.
2. Whatever Works (2009)
I know I should be picking one of his classics, but I have to be honest here and I think this is one of his most underrated films. It looks as though the script is something he re-hashed, but I like it nonetheless. It’s not one of his best, but certainly one of Woody’s funniest and probably most ‘expositive’ of his “life philosophy” which is basically the title of the film itself. On a personal level this film reminded me a little bit of Lolita, and maybe he didn’t even intend to reference it. Larry David is good in this, but my favorite part is Evan Rachel Wood, she is just to die for and a good actress of course.
1. Midnight in Paris (2011)
I know I always talk about this one, but it’s probably my favorite of his at this point and the Woody Allen film that got me to watch almost all of his movies. I should however revisit his classics, because now that I know and understand his style better I’m sure I’ll appreciate them even more. Midnight in Paris is about a writer (Owen Wilson) who wants his work to be more respected. He is on holiday in Paris with his fiancé he finds a spot where every night at midnight a car stops by and he is transported to the 1920s, where he meets all of his literary heroes. Almost like an Alice in Wonderland, he is able to work out his real life problems in the fantasy world. Won best original screenplay, well deserved and certainly one I’ll keep re-watching.
If you want to know more about Woody Allen I also recommend the excellent Woody Allen: A Documentary. A documentary on Woody as a person and an artist. In conclusion: What are your favorite Woody Allen films?