If you love film as much as I do, chances are you listen to a film related podcast. Five years ago I didn’t even know what a podcast was, but then, as it happens when you surf the web, you discover all kinds of interesting things. I only listen to literally a handful of podcast (as in five) and they’re all film related. I wanted to start my own podcast at some point, but I never did, because I couldn’t find a co-host. I did record a couple of episodes, but that was so last year and it was in Italian, and I didn’t think I was particularly good at it. Continue reading
15 Seconds of Horror is an Instagram series created by Tim Buel and Cody Rhyse. They are encouraging filmmakers and film fans to join in on the fun and make shorts and so I did. I randomly came up with an idea this past weekend to make an extremely short short. It’s actually not as easy as it sounds to tell a story in 15 seconds, but I always like a challenge. Unfortunately, not being very practical with Instagram, I shot this with a normal consumer camcorder and then uploaded it to Instagram. However you really should shoot with your iPhone (or iPod), because otherwise Instagram will just crop your video. So anyway long story short we ended up putting it on YouTube.
Our short is a home invasion flick and I didn’t use any particular inspiration for this one. Usually I think of a director or style I want to reference, but this time I just followed my own instincts. The result is something slightly less stylish, but hopefully effective. Of course having seen tons of genre films I can now see some Giallo and Eastern European influences, but they’re mostly unintentional. Editing the film down from one and a half minutes to fifteen seconds was the real challenge, but my brother is a fantastic editor and so he helped me out a great deal. My other brother plays the villain or il pazzo, as he likes to say and my little sister is the victim. Kinder Sorpresa is just Italian for Kinder Surprise, the delicious chocolate egg by Ferrero, which in our case however is a pillow i.e. the murder weapon.
A lot of good movies this week, so good, there’s not one but two picks of the week!
Nashville (1975) – 7 (IMDb 7.6) – Drama, Music (USA)
Robert Altman’s own Roma. Nashville is about the city of music. It’s a fascinating odyssey, where you meet a variety of characters, different stories and they’re all connected and intertwined, but not in a cheesy/forced way. It’s very organic and you get a good sense of who everyone is by the end of the film, although the film seems almost “detached”, for lack of a better word. There is also some political message, which is a bit annoying, but since it serves the story at least it’s not thrown in there just ’cause. All in all a good film, great performances, good music (and I’m not even into country music) and a lot of dialogue. By the way this has to be one of the most “American” films I’ve ever seen.
Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex *But Were Afraid To Ask (1972) – 7 (IMDb 6.8) – Comedy (USA)
Hilarious sex-comedy by writer and director Woody Allen. This film is divided in a handful of sketches all trying to answer (one way or another) sex-related questions. Of course none of them are to be taken seriously, but Woody Allen just has fun with it. He stars in every other segment and it’s consistently funny (except for maybe one segment) and at times genius (the black & white TV bit). Certainly something lighthearted and slap-sticky, but it works for me. There’s even a creature-feature segment with a giant tit terrorizing a small town. I love how this film manages to be charming and fun without being vulgar. There’s no nudity and yet the film can remain poignant and topical, because Woody’s humor is not gross. Take notes contemporary comedians: This is how you do it!
‘PICK OF THE WEEK’
Before Midnight (2013) – 8 (IMDb 8.5) – Drama, Romance (USA)
The Shining (1980) – 8.5 (IMDb 8.5) – Horror (USA)
Raise Your Voice (2004) – 7 (IMDb 5.5) – Music, Romance (USA)
This was a favorite of mine when I was younger. I still like it today, but for totally different reasons. I think the drama in this film is exaggerated, but Sean McNamara’s crazy video-clip style is so committed that his vision is contagious. Sure, it’s over-the-top cheesy and campy, the romance clearly only exists in the context of this film, but there is a sense of honest joy and passion for filmmaking and loving hollywood films. I can’t deny that this would be a guilty pleasure of mine, but I don’t believe in the term. When I like something I don’t feel guilty, I feel good. This film is about a young girl (Hilary Duff) believing in her dreams. Of course we know it’s not as easy as in movies, but films are also here to make us dream a little. By the way, the Italian title for this film is (literally translated) Born to Win (Nata per vincere). Those who have seen the film will know it’s not that fitting.
‘PICK OF THE WEEK’
Il Giardino Dei Finzi-Contini (1970) – 8 (IMDb 7.4) – Drama, Romance (Italy)
Yesterday they screened this film for free in Locarno (Switzerland) as part of the pre-festival. Arthur Cohn (producer) and Lino Capolicchio (actor) were present and shared a interesting stories on the film and working with Vittorio De Sica (before being brutally interrupted by rude hosts). The film is great. It’s about a Jewish family in Italy during WW2, so it’s very sad, but also very romantic, because it’s about these two young adults who are in love with each other ever since they were kids. However it doesn’t ever really seem to be working out for them. Great use of color cinematography (and I’m not a fan of the 70s aesthetic), fantastic performances, inspired great directors such as Steven Spielberg (Schindler’s List) and Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums). It won awards (Oscar & Golden Bear), it’s historically relevant (as an Italian I feel like we tend to forget we helped the nazis) and it’s beautifully sad. It doesn’t use voice-over and knows when no words need to be spoken. The music is maybe a bit too sentimental, but other than that it’s just a great film, but clearly a depressing one, because what it’s showing is based on an autobiography by Giorgio Bassani.
Other than these films, I also managed to watch a great brand new short by Tim Buel called Summer Home. Without giving anything away: He shot and edited this film during his vacations, with his iPhone. It looks great, he keeps getting better and better visually. The title sequence reminds me of the new Evil Dead. The score, as he says, was inspired by Ennio Morricone’s work on The Thing (1982) and I actually thought it had giallo-esque tones, even before he confirmed my intuition on The Golden Briefcase podcast (excellent show). It’s a home invasion film (he loves the sub-genre and films like You’re Next). the only scene I want to mention is the beginning, because it feels very real, natural and true, and to me that is one of the highest thing you can achieve in cinema. Like Vittorio De Sica always said: You don’t famous or even professional actors to make a good film.
Without over-hyping it for you, check it out and also look for his 15 seconds Instagram shorts under #15secondsofhorror (genius idea) and join in on the fun making your own horror shorts!
That’s it for this week’s round-up on everything I’ve seen. Let me know if you enjoy these films. What you think of Tim’s short(s) or just what good movies you watched last week!
See you next time,
As teased last week I watched a lot of good movies. Some of those I’ve already reviewed, so if you want full-lenght thoughts on them, just click the title. I also had a lot of fun with the short horror films of Tim Buel.
Chicken with Plums (2011) – 7.5 (IMDb 6.9) – Comedy, Drama (France)
Radio Days (1987) – 7 (IMDb 7.5) – Comedy, Drama (USA)
Written & directed by Woody Allen (and featuring his witty voice talents), Radio Days is a nostalgic look at an era in which radio was the dominant media. Made in a time where television substituted the medium, now in turn rendered obsolete by the internet, Woody remembers his childhood and in the most romantic and whimsical way possible. The film is a series of anecdotes and memories connected to radio programs and listening to songs on the radio. At the same time that’s the films only “flaw”: It is unfocused and jumps from bit to bit without presenting a clear narrative or story. But that is a minor criticism, because I’m not one of those that needs a traditional narrative to enjoy a film, here however it takes a little bit to get into and understand what Woody is going for. Once you get it however it’s a satisfying, charming little film.
The Coast Guard (2002) – 7 (IMDb 6.5) – War, Drama (South Korea)
As you may or may not know Kim Ki-duk is one of my favorite filmmakers. The Coast Guard was the only film of his I hadn’t seen yet. The reason being, that I’m not a big fan of war films, unless it invovles crazy nazis. Of course this is not only a war film, but also a Kim Ki-duk film and I’m always on board for that. The Coast Guard is Kim Ki-duk’s Full Metal Jacket (1987), in that it shows the pointlessness of war and how nonsensical the whole notion of it is. Kim injects personal drama and all of his favorite themes into this one turning it into a fascinating character piece and one of the best war films I’ve ever seen. That being said, it’s also a heavy film and definitely not for everyone; but because of its subject matter – North vs. South Korean conflict – it’s a relevant film that I would venture saying has a historical significance. Not my favorite Kim Ki-duk, but definitely worth checking out.
Stoker (2013) – 7 (IMDb 7.2) – Drama, Mystery, Thriller (USA)
V/H/S/2 (2013) – 7 (IMDb 7.1) – Horror Anthology (USA)
‘PICK OF THE WEEK’
Stroszek (1977) – 8.5 (IMDb 7.9) – Comedy, Drama (Germany)
Last week’s favorite film came at the end of the week. Last night I watched Werner Herzog’s Stroszek with my brother, in anticipation of the director being honored for his career at the Locarno Film Festival this summer.
Stroszek is a small masterpiece from the German director, that much like in his 1970 black & white film Auch Zwerge haben klein angefangen (Even Dwarfs Started Small), returns to a fascinatingly strange cast of characters. The story follows a drunk street musician and his friends trying to make a new life for themselves in the United States. It is very much a character piece, with a lot of humor and heart, all of which is accompanied by a melancholic and irredimably pessimistic view of humanity which culminates in a triumphantly quiet and perplexing ending. This may all sound artsy fartsy to you, but Stroszek is much more than just a statement from Herzog: It’s a story about the human condition and what it means to be human. How is our life different from that of an animal? How are we, as human beings, different from animals? And is there a thing such as happiness on this sad and lonely earth?
This film tries to answer those questions and is bold in doing so and that’s what makes it such an important essay about humanity. It also helps that Herzog genuinely loves his characters or at least is able to present them in a way that the audience will empathize and root for them. Underscored by some great music and shot beautifully Stroszek is a film that I’m sure will stay with me for a long time and I already can’t wait to re-watch.