Premise: This list includes only films that had a 2013 release date according to IMDb. If you’re stunned that some films aren’t on this list it’s probably because they are on the 2012 list. My top ten will probably change and be updated, as more (foreign) films get released. As of right now I still haven’t seen Sono Sion’s Why Don’t You Play in Hell?, Catherine Breillat’s Abus de faiblesse and Gia Coppola’s Palo Alto. Yes, that last one was included purely because of the family name. Continue reading
I’m sure every year cinephiles all over the world are heartbroken or at the very least bummed that their favorite films of the year weren’t even considered by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. I still naively hope that it will get better the next year and that they might get it “right”, but it’s useless. I stopped believing that the 9-10 Best Pictures nominees represent the years best films. I don’t even watch all of the nominees anymore, just the ones that look interesting. Continue reading
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
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.
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.
One thing I like to do whenever there is a film coming out I’m excited for is to watch movies that might have similar themes. With The Bling Ring coming out in limited release tomorrow only few privileged people will have the pleasure to see it. The films I’m recommending here on the other hand should be relatively easy to find and hopefully they’ll get you pumped for Sofia Coppola’s new film.
1. I soliti ignoti (1958, Mario Monicelli)
Big Deal on Madonna Street is one of the most famous and celebrated heist/caper films. Part of the Criterion Collection and shot in magnificent black & white, this is a charming little Italian crime/comedy featuring some of our cinema’s greatest actors like Vittorio Gassman, Claudia Cardinale, Marcello Mastroianni and legendary comedic actor Totò. I soliti ignoti relates to The Bling Ring in that it is precisely about invading and robbing other people’s houses, although it focuses more on the planning stages of the coup.
2. Purple Noon (1960, René Clément)
Another great film in the Criterion Collection is Plein soleil, a French version of The Talented Mr. Ripley based on the book by Patricia Highsmith. Alain Delon plays the title character scamming his “friends” to get their money and lifestyle. Although there’s no “robbing celebrities” in this one, it is clear that Tom Ripley envies his rich buddies’ life and thus decides to go the illegal route to enjoy their luxuries. Sound familiar?
3. The Doom Generation (1995, Gregg Araki)
As part of Gregg Araki’s Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy and the director’s only ‘heterosexual’ film, The Doom Generation is about teenagers committing armed robberies to the tune of dopest shoegaze tracks. The film deals with typical themes of teen angst, loneliness and depression or in other words: What it’s like to be a teenager. Much like the for Burglar Bunch things escalate reaching new levels of ridiculous, although I’m sure there are no neo-nazis in The Bling Ring.
4. Party Monster (2003, Fenton Bailey & Randy Barbato)
Macaulay Culkin plays a rampant scene queen/drug addict/himself? Just kidding. He plays a party monster. Although the guys from The Bling Ring don’t do hard drugs I wanted to mention this film, because Sofia Coppola fans might love it. Party Monster is all about exploring the idea of celebrity and our society’s fascination with stars. It also discusses themes of isolation and solitude, much like the previous film I mentioned, and it also helps that it has a good, cynical sense of humor.
5. 3-Iron (2004, Kim Ki-duk)
“What an odd pick” you might say “You’re probably just throwing that in here, because you’re out of ideas”. No, I’m not. Yes, Kim Ki-duk’s 3-Iron is a masterpiece and you should watch it regardless of any movie being released in theaters, but it is relevant here. The central premise is a character invading people’s homes; not to rob them mind you, but he still gets arrested. Also, there’s a romantic sub-plot you might get great enjoyment from, I certainly did. This is my favorite Kim Ki-duk film and it relates to Sofia Coppola’s work, because they’re both sentimental directors and again, they explore similar themes.
So, these are my recommendations. If you’d like to give some (better?) recommendations, feel free to give us these recommendations. I always like getting recommendations. Man, I sure used that word a lot. Recommendations!