Monthly Archives: November 2015

last week’s films…

Felix & Meira (2015), Maxime Giroux ★★★★★

I’ve been noticing quite a few great directors from Canada; Stéphane Lafleur’s Tu dors Nicole (2014), Xavier Dolan’s Mommy (2014), Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario (2015), and now I’m looking forward to Guy Maddin’s The Forbidden Room (2015), [  …wildly surreal comedic mystery tale, the crew of a submarine trapped in the ocean depths can’t imagine that things could get any worse. Then they discover that a dangerous band of forest thieves has joined them on board. ]. Like Tu dors Nicole and Mommy, Felix & Meira is filmed in Canada.

Nostalghia (1983), Andrei Tarkovsky, movie of the week ★★★★★

Another film that divides story arcs between black & white and color sequences, like Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death. One b&w scene is especially noteworthy, [ There’s a reference to the opening scene, with the same people; the white horse, german shepard, woman, old woman, girl, and child. The long take starts with a close up of the woman, and ever so slowly pans right and we next see the girl also in close up, then the older woman in a medium shot, then you see the woman again with the child! Then the dog, horse, girl, and old woman. The camera movement is parallel to the players, so there is no arc of movement. ].

Fargo season 1 episodes 1-10, season 2 episode 1-7 ★★★★★

Quality tv. The phrase seems nonsensical, until you realize Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander was a 4 part Swedish tv series, which is essential viewing in this 312 minute film cut. Krzysztof Kieslowsk’s The Decalogue, 10 short films shown on Polish tv. Fargo is upholding the tradition already laid by The Sopranos and True Detective (season 1). Once I saw the first two season 1 episodes on netflix dvd, I was hooked. Binge watched 3-10 on Hulu Plus in a day – 6 hours? (52 minute episodes), and season 2 1-7 in one sitting, and I’m caught up. Numerous tie ins to the Coen Brothers film; audio, visual, and character, with other homages to Coen Brothers films [ (Miller’s Crossing, The Big Lebowski), and to David Zellner’s Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (2014) ]. I started episode 1 and thought, ok, no Marge Gunderson [ (until I was proven wrong) ]. Then after season 1, I wondered about Sioux Falls. [ Then season 2 started ].

Repast (1951), Mikio Naruse ★★★★★

It was hard not not compare this work to Ozu, and how he would have handled the story without narration, but that takes nothing away from this snapshot of a marriage from the wife’s pov.

Nashville (1975), Robert Altman ★★★★★

Nashville starts out like a scattered deck of cards laying on the ground that someone threw up in the air, with the camera panning to and following a set number of them as they work their way back into the now shuffled and collected deck.


last week’s films…

A Wedding (1978), Robert Altman, movie of the week  ★★★★★

Robert Alman’s signature shot – a slow zoom in or out from a long shot with a simultaneous slow pan, always to accentuate a plot point or character, sometimes combined with a soft focus. There’s one of the scenes at the greenhouse where Carol Burnett is the target of this beautiful shot. Keep your eyes peeled for Joan Allen’s first (uncredited) role. Several actors from 3 Women filmed a year prior; both of the older parents, now playing Lilian Gish’s sister and the Bishop, and the two girls who worked at the spa, now one of the camera crew and the groom’s sister.

A Prairie Home Companion (2006), Robert Altman  ★★★★★

Ensemble cast, smooth flowing plot, and a supernatural twist. I include it in my Altman great list for those reasons – and it has his signature zoom in / out and slow pan shots. Nice seeing Virginia Madsen in a great role.

As Tears Go By (1988), Kar Wai Wong  ★★★

His debut film. I like to see the beginnings of his established filmmaking style develop, such as the foot chase scene and close ups of facial expressions to tell the story.

3 Women (1977), Robert Altman, movie of the week (tied with A Wedding)  ★★★★★

Shelly Duval, Sissy Spacek, Janice Rule… Millie, Pinky, and Willie. Playing catch up with Robert Altman’s filmography, which recently started with  Gosford Park (2001) in August, then Short Cuts (1993). Watched this a second time with Altman’s excellent commentary turned on.

Mean Streets (1993), Martin Scorsese  ★★★★★

Another very early film that is a prelude to his later masterpieces, with experimentation of his now signature slow motion shots with a popular tune playing in the background.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015), Alfonso Gomez-Rejon  ★★★★

Made my top 20 for 2015 to date. [ The final scene, with Greg showing Rachel his film, her face first seems to gloss over with emotion as the images unfold – but all that is being shown are the stop motion random shape sequences as she flat lines and you wonder if this was just her death mask as her body succumbed to the cancer throughout her body? ]

Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015), Leigh Whannell  ★★★

Actually this didn’t suck as I thought it would when I realized I wasn’t getting the first 2011 film like I thought from the library. I enjoyed Lin Shaye’s performance, and recognized her as the sunburnt dog tounge kissing neighbor in There’s Something About Mary, and Kingpin, and Dumb and Dumber.

Dumbo (1941), Ben Sharpsteen and 5 others  ★★★★

Rewatched this for the pink elephants on parade sequence. Trippy.

Short Cuts (1993), Robert Altman  ★★★★★

Flashbacks to The Player (1992). It seems like they took the cast and kept them on the payroll to do these two back to back – which is what I think they did. I always think of Gus screwing the pooch when I see Fred Ward.

The Trial (1962), Orson Welles  ★★★★★

The scene where he’s running through the wood slate corridor with the light slicing him into multiple pieces as the giggling young girl groupies chase after him on the other side is phenomenal.

other films from last week…

Heavenly Creatures (1994), Peter Jackson ★★★

He sure likes to move the camera; dolly, crane – almost Blair Witch Project dizzy.

Secrets of a Soul (1926), Georg Wilhelm Pabst ★★★★★

Dream sequences (Subconscious Cinema vimeo video linked – found this blog post: NEW SAVANNA: Animals in Cartoons: Tripping the Elephants Electric when doing a “pink elephants with electricity” image search). Spellbound immediately comes to mind. So many others. Just last week I rewatched Michael Haneke’s Cache with it’s dream flashback. Oh and pink elephants…, I just added Dumbo to my library queue.

F for Fake (1973), Orson Welles ★★★★★ and Almost True: The Noble Art of Forgery (1997), Knut W. Jorfald ★★★★

Having just watched Art and Craft (2014) a few months ago, another art forgery documentary, these two fit right in nicely, the second one being a supplement on the Criterion disc 2. The I’m a girl watcher candid double take sequence on F is worth the price of admission right there.

Fellini Satyricon (1969), Federico Fellini ★★★★★

Almost hit eject, until I started noticing the art and set design, composition, and performances. Reminded me of the 1981 Clash of the Titans, without the stop motion. Seems to me all (?) of the effects were physical right down to the gushing blood and earthquake shaking building collapses. Ebert’s 4 star second paragraph starts with The movie is based on a book that retold degenerate versions of Roman and Greek myth. I would agree with the degenerate part.

Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) ★★★★★, Charles Reisner Buster Keaton, The General (1926), Clyde Bruckman Buster Keaton ★★★★★

Number 477 and 35 on TSPDT (February 2014 edition). Double dvd from the library. Essential Keaton, imho. [riding the locomotive side rod as it starts moving, house falling on him, leaning into the wind storm]

The Innocents (1961), Jack Clayton ★★★★

Found this one at #405 on TSPDT. Quite the non-standard ending. Would make a great Halloween showing. Deborah Kerr, Michael Redgrave.

Into the Wild (2007), Sean Penn ★★

Documentary material. The sister’s narration through the timeline was done well.

Spectre (2015), Sam Mendes ★★★★

One trip to the theater over the last couple weeks. I’ve found I turn my mind off during these Bond films lately. I got the below two rewatches after seeing the references in Spectre and didn’t realize until a few minutes in that I had already seen Skyfall.


Quantum of Solace (2008), Marc Forster ★★★★

Skyfall (2012), Sam Mendes ★★★★

other films from last week…

A Touch of Zen (1971), King Hu ★★★★★

Instantly recognized the scene they showed in Mark Cousins’ documentary The Story of Film: An Odyssey, which I watched more than a year ago – dvd chapter titled A Touch of Zen, when the commander in chief firsts sees / runs into the Abbot the 3 monks.

Closely Watched Trains (1966), Jiri Menzel ★★★★★

Bare bones Criterion Collection dvd from the library – feature, chapters, trailer. You don’t need anything more. Luckily, the final [explosion is not premature. ]

The Baron of Arizona (1950), Samuel Fuller ★★★★★

An unusual role for Vincent Price, with his usual I know something you don’t facial expressions. I half expected that this was based on a true story – and I think it is.

Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles (2014), Chuck Workman ★★★★★

Another reason to keep an open mind when viewing today’s films. Today’s stinkers could very well turn out to be tomorrow’s masterpieces.

Days of Being Wild (1990), Kar Wai Wong ★★★★★

Beautifully filmed, as expected from a Kar Wai Wong film. The final scene feels like it’s a prequel to [Chungking Express.] Maybe it is?

The House Is Black (1963), Forugh Farrokhzad ★★★

Fairly hard to watch – coming in at :22, you should be able to manage. A few more extras make it a worthwhile library checkout.

21 Grams (2003), Alejandro G. Iñárritu ★★★★

Finally finishing up his death trilogy; Amores perros (2000), 21 Grams (2003), and Babel (2006). Getting ready for The Revenant coming out next year.

The King of Comedy (1982), Martin Scorsese ★★★★★

I don’t know why I skipped over this year after year, though I shouldn’t have worried. The story is tight, plausible, and has you rooting for The King.