Once again this week the good have triumphed over the bad, the evil. Don’t worry we’re still talking about films here of course. I watched and re-watched a lot of good ones. Including once again the short films of Spike Jonze, like I’m Here (2010) and others that you can find on YouTube. Here’s every good film and a couple thoughts on them, if I’ve already reviewed them in the course of the week, just click the title and it will open up the link to the full-length review. Enjoy and don’t forget to let me know about your favorite films of the week. I’m always curious to hear what other people liked.
‘PICK OF THE WEEK’
La Grande Bellezza (2013) – 8 (IMDb 7.5) – Drama, Comedy (Italy)
Cries & Whisphers (1972) – 8 (IMDb 7.9) – Drama, Criterion (Sweden)
Ingmar Bergman is easily starting to become one of my favorite filmmakers. His films are quite simple in terms of plot, but there is so much underneath the surface: symbolism, emotion, drama, passion, depth. It’s quite incredible. Cries & Whispers is considered one of his best and it’s about a wealthy woman on her deathbed and her sisters. You can definitely see how this film influenced someone like Woody Allen (especially when doing Interiors). I loved the performances, Bergman’s use of color (Sven Nykvist went on to shoot Fanny and Alexander and even work with Woody) and the drama, which was so intense. The film is thoroughly entertaining, even if that may not be the most accurate adjective to describe it, it’s very engaging and I could easily identify with the characters even if they’re from a much higher social strata than mine. I guess that when it comes to death we really are all equal.
The Bling Ring (2013) – 9 (IMDb 6) – Crime, Drama, Comedy (USA)
A Short Film About Killing (1988) – 8 (IMDb 8) – Crime, Drama (Poland)
In the same vein of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s A Short Film About Love this is a short film that explores killing. Killing an innocent man and then death sentencing a guilty man. Both films are very short, yet so powerful, because they get straight to the point. As always with Kieslowski his films are gorgeous to look at, this is one of his most beautiful in my opinion. Sławomir Idziak went on to shoot The Double Life of Veronique and Three Colors: Blue for Kieslowski, but in this one it’s a more subdued beauty, less showy, but fascinating nonetheless. I almost felt like Werner Herzog’s look of his On Death Row series was inspired by the look of this film, but I could be wrong. In any case: This is the story about a man who kills a cab driver for no reason and is then sentenced to death. Without any judgment this films just presents the story as it is and is able to inject a lot of humanity and emotion to the characters who feel completely believable and three-dimensional. It’s certainly the best film I’ve seen all week!
Once Upon A Time In America (1984) – 7.5 (IMDb 8.4) – Crime, Drama (USA)
This film has been on my “list of shame” for quite a while now and I just needed to watch it. I finally did and it was quite enjoyable. It’s an epic tale of this gangster’s life, I’m not even going to begin to explain it because it’s so grand and trying to encompass every single and possible aspect of human existence it’s just enormous. Sergio Leone’s direction does feel a bit heavy-handed in some points however, it’s very dramatic, but sometimes too much. The cast is absolutely incredible, but not all performances are subtle, although I was a big fan of Robert De Niro in this film, and he’s usually not my favorite actor, but perfectly cast here. My favorite part was the incredibly romantic score by Ennio Morricone, without the music this film wouldn’t be nearly as great as it is. I was surprised to see Jennifer Connelly as a kid, didn’t even recognize her, she wasn’t a good actress yet, but definitely better than her adult counterpart. If you’re a Giuseppe Tornatore fan or know his films you can definitely see how he was influenced by Leone; Nuovo Cinema Paradiso feels a lot like Once Upon A Time In America.
Viridiana (1961) – 7.5 (IMDb 8.1) – Drama, Criterion (Spain)
Great film by Luis Buñuel, great social commentary too. I was pleased to see Fernando Rey in this film, because I liked him a lot in That Obscure Object of Desire. Viridiana however follows a young woman who wants to become a nun, but then realizes that maybe that sort of lifestyle isn’t right for her. So she decides to open up a charity and help people who way, but if you know anything about human nature it’s that we’re all just a bunch of ungrateful bitches. The film’s climax is pretty great and incredibly poignant. The black & white cinematography is absolutely gorgeous and dreamy. Buñuel surprisingly holds back with the surreal elements in this film (or maybe I just didn’t catch them?). Although the ending could is maybe not to be taken “literally”, but again I could be wrong. Great performances all around, nice score and just a crisp, to the point film. Also, very ahead of its time with some of the thematic elements, in terms of censorship and what you’re allowed to show/imply. I always like it when filmmakers are able to defy the system and do whatever they what, not playing by the rules.
This is a spoiler filled discussion of Sofia Coppola’s latest effort: The Bling Ring. This is not a review. If you haven’t seen the film yet I suggest you do that before to fully appreciate this piece. I warned you, if you keep reading I’m assuming you have seen the film or don’t care about spoilers. Either way: Thank you for reading.
In loving memory of one of America’s greatest cinematographers: Harris Savides. Continue reading
I watched three great films this week, makes me happy. I also re-watched a couple Spike Jonze shorts, which are available on YouTube. Their very short and incredibly quirky so they’re well worth your time. The main event for me this week in terms of movies was The Bling Ring. I waited for this film for more than a year. I wish Sofia would be more like Woody Allen. Anyways, going into the theater I was very excited, but at the same time worried that I would not enjoy it, but I totally did. It was great. The theater audience seem to “get” the movie. They all laughed at the jokes. I wasn’t distracted much by the people next to me (as it usually happens) and some people even stayed for the end credits, which resulted in me missing my train, but it was totally worth it!
If you haven’t seen Sofia Coppola‘s The Bling Ring yet: Make it happen, support good cinema! The film didn’t make a whole lot of cash, probably because it was marketed as something it wasn’t, or because of its cast of newcomers (who are all amazing!) or maybe because Sofia is not interested in making a film that is telling you exactly how to think and feel. Fact is this is my favorite film of 2013 so far, and it’s more than likely going to end up in my top five for the year (if not maintaining the top spot). I’d also like to single out Taissa Farmiga as my favorite supporting role in the film. She doesn’t have a lot of screen time, but she does the most of it, while also looking very sexy and alluring.
Fitzcarraldo (1982) – 8 (IMDb 8) – Adventure, Biography, Drama (Germany)
Certainly Werner Herzog’s biggest film in terms of budget. Fitzcarraldo is the film about a crazy entrepreneur trying to bring the opera (namely Caruso) to the Andes. In his nutty quest to make money and gain some sort of respectability from the Peruvian high society he decides to get into the rubber business. As it turns out to get to the land he bought will have to literally move his ship over the mountains. The film is just as incredible as its premise and fully delivers on every level. Klaus Kinski is great as the title character and so is Claudia Cardinale. There aren’t a lot of other faces that I recognize in terms of actors, but that’s never a problem, because all the talent in front of the screen is just as good and qualified as the people working behind the scenes. I’m not big on adventure films, but this one is fun, thoughtful and very engrossing. Good job Werner Herzog!
‘PICK OF THE WEEK’
The Bling Ring (2013) – 8.5 (IMDb 6.4) – Crime, Drama, Comedy (USA)
Office Space (1999) – 7.5 (IMDb 7.8) – Comedy, Crime (USA)
Very funny film and incredibly quotable. There are so many great lines in this one. It kind of makes you wonder where Mike Judge’s career went. Office Space is about a guy that has officially had enough of his job and is not going to take a single minute more of the corporate oppression. He and his friends decide to “steal” money from his company. The film may take a while to “get started”, but once it does it is very entertaining and charming. I like how the sadness and uniformity of corporation is reflected in the costume design and the cinematography, through depressing tones and monochromatic brushes of brown and grey. The film is very funny, but never vulgar or silly. The characters are very relatable and human, never turning into caricatures, while still drawing from well-known archetypes. All in all a very enjoyable comedy.
Marc (Israel Broussard) is a quiet teenager that arrives as a new student at Indian Hills High School in Calabasas, California. Most kids seem to ignore him or think he’s weird, but Rebecca (Katie Chang) is nice to him. She introduces him to her girlfriends and pretty soon they become best friends. They both have a passion for celebrities and their expensive lifestyle and living in Southern California’s wealthy neighborhoods access to their homes is easier than you’d think. Taking advantage of rich people’s scarce attention for security, they are able to break in to their home and get a taste of their stuff. What starts out as innocent home invasion out of boredom, slowly turns into a compulsive impulse to burglarize several celebrity homes in the Hollywood Hills area. Being just teenagers of course they love bragging about the robberies at parties and so it’s only a matter of time before they get caught. Continue reading
You have no idea how excited I am about this one! Spike Jonze is up there with Sofia Coppola as one of my favorite directors. I am at the Locarno Film Festival right now and I’ve just seen the first trailer and poster for HER, which is most likely going to end up on my top ten of the year.
The trailer starts with Avril 14th a piece of music used in Marie Antoinette (and you might have noticed Sofia “borrowed” Crown on the Ground for her newest film The Bling Ring). This film, HER (sorry I just have to use caps) looks phenomenal. It seems like a natural progression after Jonze’s 2010 short I’m Here, which is also about technology.
The film comes out November 20, 2013 and it’s definitely one of my most anticipated. I don’t want to add anything else, except that the minute the trailer began I was entranced and transported into Spike’s world, everything around me disappeared. Incredible filmmaking. Great cast of incredibly talented (and good-looking actors). Joaquin Phoenix, Rooney Mara, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson, Olivia Wilde: I am stunned. See for yourself!
A couple nights ago I re-watched Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980), one of my all time favorite horror films. My brother and his friend and I set up a beamer in our living-room and watched Room 237 (the documentary about The Shining) first and then watched Kubrick’s film. It was epic and I appreciated it even more than the first time, having a better knowledge of Stanley Kubrick’s filmography and loving all of the films he has done. I also have a better knowledge of the horror genre, but still, what can I say about the film that hasn’t been said before?
So I came up with a couple ideas while and after watching the film. I noticed that all those ideas are about how The Shining had a huge impact on filmmakers and pop-culture in general. Without prolonging my monologue: Here are five ways in which The Shining was inspirational to other filmmakers and artists all around the globe. Much like Room 237 these are subjective theories, some probably more valid than others.
Sofia Coppola is known to be a fan of Stanley Kubrick fan. She cited Lolita as one of her favorite films, and I certainly agree. The Bar Scene in The Shining reminded me a lot of the one in Lost In Translation and both films mostly take place in a hotel. Maybe it’s the light or the atmosphere or something subconscious, but I think Sofia was inspired by it. You can’t really see it in that picture, but to give you an idea of which scenes I’m referring to.
Wes Anderson is another director that is widely influenced by Kubrick’s aesthetic. The most apparent thing is how he frames his shots. Anderson clearly likes to use wide shots and move his camera like Kubrick used to. His similarities with the master however are mostly on a visual level, thematically and tonally the two couldn’t be more different. The shot on the left is from The Royal Tenenbaums.
Obviously not a visual comparison here, but an audible one. Not that the two scores are terribly similar, but I feel that Johnny Greenwood uses some of the same “wood instruments” (sorry, I’m no musical expert obviously). We all know P. T. Anderson loves Stanley Kubrick, so it’s no stretch that he would assign his composer to do something “similar” or (more likely) Greenwood loves Kubrick as well.
Stanley Kubrick is certainly an auteur, and as such his body of work can and should be viewed as one giant piece. He has evolved stylistically and thematically throughout his career. The Shining maze scene, reminded me of the scene in the trenches in Paths of Glory. In this sense Full Metal Jacket seems like a natural evolution for Kubrick, especially in developing his visual style, just like there would be no ‘Shining’ without Barry Lyndon.
Clearly this idea is kind of silly, but you can’t deny the fact that they’re both on a go-kart, wearing not only the same type of clothing, but the exact same colors. Now, of course Mario has a red hat and all kinds of tricks and he’s actually racing against people, but I can’t help but think that somewhere in Japan someone loved The Shining and wanted to pay homage to it. Even the way it’s shot, from behind is the same!
So, these were my thoughts on The Shining‘s influence and inspiration to other people. The way this film inspired me is that it made me want to watch “older” films. When I first saw it I mostly watched recent mainstream films and now I’m quite the opposite, preferring foreign art house cinema. It’s one of the great horror films and I recommend it to anyone who loves Kubrick, the horror genre or just a good mystery. If you don’t like the horror genre: This is proof that excellent genre pictures exist. If you have seen The Shining, I’d love to hear about how you interpret it and how it inspired you!
This week The Spectacular Now may or may not come to your local art house. Wait, it’s not? Oh, right only four theaters (let me guess LA & NY?): No worries! Here are five coming-of-age films that are readily available for you to watch on home video or the internet.
While three weeks ago we discussed young adults in ‘arrested development‘, coming-of-age films are just as popular sub-genre, but they’re actually about young people ‘successfully’ transitioning into adulthood. Why is the genre so popular? Well, Hollywood knows their target audience’s age (bravo!) and so they’ll make movies that speak to them. Also these movies are about “firsts”, mostly focussing on first sexual experiences, because let’s face it that’s what’s interesting.
Most of you might be familiar with the American coming-of-age films and there are a ton of films about the subject. Wikipedia reports more than two-hundred movies, plus hundreds of teenage movies exploring the subject one way or another. Now, not to be a snob, because I love US cinema, but to encourage you to look for a different spin on things let me recommend you four foreign films and only one American. These also happen to be some of my favorite films, so again, not trying to be a snob here.
5. Amarcord (1973, Federico Fellini)
Some say this is Fellini’s most personal film. Looking through his book of dreams (his diary, original title: il libro dei sogni) this summer I found many images he drew that feel like they could fit in the same universe as this film. This film is a glimpse inside his mind and where he grew up. In fact the small town in Emilia-Romagna becomes a character itself. Amarcord means, translated from the local dialect, “mi ricordo”: I remember. Memories tend to be fuzzy, they tend to have a dream-like quality, and we can all agree that films are like dreams. This film got a lot of critical acclaim, but you should watch it because it’s also funny (in typical Fellini fashion) and melancholic and if you’re a Fellini fan: This is one of his best films and he has one of the most impressive filmographies I know of.
4. Show Me Love (1998, Lukas Moodysson)
Fucking Åmål (original Swedish title) is the story of two teenage girls and their romantic relationship. The film is set in a small town in Sweden and Moodysson shows just what it’s like to be a teenager in school, the relationship with your parents and your peers. Living in the German-speaking part Switzerland I found that a lot of the things I experienced or felt were the same as in this film. When I watch American films it feels distant, I can still connect, but this actually felt as if it was about my youth, even though I never was a Swedish teenage girl. This film is honest, it perfectly captures the time and place, it’s sweet and romantic and everything I love about Moodysson. It’s about wanting to get away from home, and feeling trapped in a small town and I certainly knew that feeling growing up.
3. The Virgin Suicides (1999, Sofia Coppola)
Who hasn’t thought about suicide at least once in their life? Certainly growing up you think about it a lot. Sofia Coppola’s début feature film is already a beautiful, tender film, but a very depressing one. Tonally, it’s unlike anything she has directed since. Every time I watch it it makes me sad and I totally feel like the Lisbon girls, although I don’t kill myself at the end. Even at this early stage of Sofia’s career she’s great at directing young actors, capturing the 1970s essence and drawing you into the film with great music and spectacular cinematography. I don’t know if I’d recommend this film to depressed people, but it’s certainly the best American coming-of-age film I know, because Sofia doesn’t shy away from uncomfortable subject matter and is not afraid to show what it truly feels like to be a teenager. There is also a mystery element to the film which gives it an aura of weird sadness.
2. Fat Girl (2001, Catherine Breillat)
À ma sœur! (literally: to my sister) is a film about two sisters competing with each other. One is beautiful, but very naïve when it comes to sex, the other is, well fat and unattractive, but a bit more street smart. Both are on summer vacation and the film is about their first sexual experiences and how that changes the dynamic between them. It’s also about depression and apathetic parents. Like most of Breillat films it shows you explicit sex scenes that aren’t sexy. It’s raw, but always loving even when it’s uncomfortable to watch. The beauty of it is that Breillat doesn’t judge its characters, in fact this film is partly autobiographical. I haven’t seen all of her films yet, but I think this is without a doubt her masterpiece. I have to re-watch it because it’s been a while, but it’s definitely in my top 100 and the ending is just jarring. If someone says they saw it coming, they’re lying!
1. Turn Me On, Dammit! (2011, Jannicke Systad Jacobsen)
This was one of my favorite films of 2011, and that was a great year for film, but Få meg på, for faen made the top 10. From the first scene of the film, which is Helene Bergsholm masturbating on the floor, I knew this was going to be a great one and it was. Much like Show Me Love this is about a teenage girl who wants out of her small town in Norway. She has these weird sex fantasies that lead to her getting a “bad” reputation, you know how quick that can happen in small towns. It’s a funny film, it’s very ‘girly’ sometimes, which makes it cute and ‘innocent’ even if it does treat some adult themes. I also like the look of this film and the costumes (sounds weird to say I know), I look forward to checking out more films by Jacobsen. As I always say: We need more women directing!
That’s it for this week. The films were in chronological order, not order of preference, because I don’t have the heart to do that. I realize the sub-genre is vast and these five films barely scratch the surface so I’ll go ahead and recommend the films of John Hughes for those of you that want something more American and mainstream and Gregg Araki if you’re more on the indie side. If you feel that there were films that I left out that absolutely need to be mentioned, please leave a comment and let me know!
Some people lamented the lack of marketing for The Bling Ring, especially in terms of social media. While A24 might look lazy or uninterested in marketing Sofia Coppola’s new film it’s probably just a matter of limited resources. In other words: It’s a new studio, they don’t have a lot of money.
As these kinds of things go, sometimes the lack of funds forces marketers to get ingenious and inventive. In this case, A24 decided to promote two of their films at once in what I like to call Crossover Marketing. ‘Crossover’ what? Crossover Marketing. What do you mean by that? Well, it’s basically cross-promotion, but I like the idea of having invented something new.
Here’s what I mean. For the release of Spring Breakers on home video, they posted this pretty picture on their Facebook page. Kind of genius, right?
I still haven’t had a chance to see Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring, but I’m so jazzed for it. In the meantime here are my favorite quotes and moments from the trailers so far, besides the obvious, but still awesome Let’s go shopping!
Katie Chang is definitely what I’m most looking forward to in this movie, both in terms of performance and eye-candy. She also reminds me of someone I used to know. I so can’t wait to see this film and I’m totally jealous of everyone that has already seen it or will see it before me.
Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) is a famous Hollywood actor living at the Chateau Marmont. Between the routing that comes with promoting his films, getting awards and lending his face for special effects Johnny Marco is bored and on the verge of an existential crisis. His life feels empty, he’s literally spinning around in circles going nowhere. Even sex lost its taste. Everything suddenly changes when his eleven-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) comes to live with him for a brief period of time. Johnny realizes that he’s been neglecting her and that he doesn’t know her at all. Spending some quality time with her on a trip to Milan, Italy something in him is awakened and he finally seems to want to take responsibility and be a part of Cleo’s life. Ending the film on a hopeful note, Marco finally seems to be going somewhere. Continue reading