Sunday, November 29, 2009

My Fifty Favorite Films of This Shitty Decade (with linkage)

Alphabetical order:


Aaltra

After The Wedding

Amelie

Autopilots

Babel

Be With Me

Best in Show

Brokeback Mountain

Cache

Changing Times


Climates

Code Unknown

Distant

Elling

Flower of Evil

Fraulein

Frozen River


I’ve Loved You So Long

In The Bedroom

Intimate Strangers

La Cienega

Linda Linda Linda

Little Children


Look At Me

Lost in Translation

Milion Dollar Baby

Mondays in the Sun

Moving Midway

North Country


Private Property

Silent Light

Skins

Something Like Happiness

Songs From The Second Floor

Summer '04


Syndromes and a Century

Talk to Her

Tam i z powrotem

Taste of Others

The Chorus

The Class

The Painted Veil


The Son

Time Out

Together

Turtles Can Fly

V for Vendetta

X-Men

Zodiac

My Fifty Favorite Films of This Shitty Decade (with linkage)

Alphabetical order:


Aaltra

After The Wedding

Amelie

Autopilots

Babel

Be With Me

Best in Show

Brokeback Mountain

Cache

Changing Times


Climates

Code Unknown

Distant

Elling

Flower of Evil

Fraulein

Frozen River


I’ve Loved You So Long

In The Bedroom

Intimate Strangers

La Cienega

Linda Linda Linda

Little Children


Look At Me

Lost in Translation

Milion Dollar Baby

Mondays in the Sun

Moving Midway

North Country


Private Property

Silent Light

Skins

Something Like Happiness

Songs From The Second Floor

Summer '04


Syndromes and a Century

Talk to Her

Tam i z powrotem

Taste of Others

The Chorus

The Class

The Painted Veil


The Son

Time Out

Together

Turtles Can Fly

V for Vendetta

X-Men

Zodiac

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lake Tahoe (2008)



If you saw Fernando Eimbcke’s dryly amusing “Duck Season”, then you know what to expect: leisurely pacing, naturalism on steroids and performances so understated they border on the comatose. Set in a seedy beach town on the Yucatan peninsula, this outing again features young Diego Cantano as Juan, who has just rammed his mom’s car into a telephone pole, and his meandering efforts to have it repaired early one Saturday morning.


As Juan ambles the town’s crumbling streets, his quest takes on Arthurian overtones, as he encounters a variety of oddballs who may, or may not, be able to help him. An aging mechanic with one foot in the grave (Hector Herrera) dispatches Juan to an auto parts store run by a young woman (Daniela Valentine), complete with a perpetually crying baby, who wouldn’t know a spark plug from a tire.


She suggests Juan enlist the aid of her friend David (Juan Carlos Lara), a young man much more interested in Bruce Lee movies and NunChuk flinging than auto repair. As Juan begins to despair for his situation, he makes a quick trip home – actually nothing in this film is quick- where it is apparent something is seriously amiss, and our first hint that there is a hidden, underlying story to this seemingly random, and rambling, journey.


But, through the course of this long and frustrating day, we are able to piece together the life altering events that led to Juan’s accident, and we are filled with a surprising sense of poignancy for this young man and his family. Yet “Lake Tahoe” is primarily a comedy, in the sense that Jim Jarmusch’s films are comedies, and it’s clear that Eimbcke and Jarmusch are kindred spirits behind the camera.


There is something in virtually every scene that will produce a chuckle, or at least a grin, and the entire film is infused with a uniquely subtle comedic sensibility. It will be fun to see where Eimbcke’s next goofy misadventure takes us.

More Info

Lake Tahoe (2008)



If you saw Fernando Eimbcke’s dryly amusing “Duck Season”, then you know what to expect: leisurely pacing, naturalism on steroids and performances so understated they border on the comatose. Set in a seedy beach town on the Yucatan peninsula, this outing again features young Diego Cantano as Juan, who has just rammed his mom’s car into a telephone pole, and his meandering efforts to have it repaired early one Saturday morning.


As Juan ambles the town’s crumbling streets, his quest takes on Arthurian overtones, as he encounters a variety of oddballs who may, or may not, be able to help him. An aging mechanic with one foot in the grave (Hector Herrera) dispatches Juan to an auto parts store run by a young woman (Daniela Valentine), complete with a perpetually crying baby, who wouldn’t know a spark plug from a tire.


She suggests Juan enlist the aid of her friend David (Juan Carlos Lara), a young man much more interested in Bruce Lee movies and NunChuk flinging than auto repair. As Juan begins to despair for his situation, he makes a quick trip home – actually nothing in this film is quick- where it is apparent something is seriously amiss, and our first hint that there is a hidden, underlying story to this seemingly random, and rambling, journey.


But, through the course of this long and frustrating day, we are able to piece together the life altering events that led to Juan’s accident, and we are filled with a surprising sense of poignancy for this young man and his family. Yet “Lake Tahoe” is primarily a comedy, in the sense that Jim Jarmusch’s films are comedies, and it’s clear that Eimbcke and Jarmusch are kindred spirits behind the camera.


There is something in virtually every scene that will produce a chuckle, or at least a grin, and the entire film is infused with a uniquely subtle comedic sensibility. It will be fun to see where Eimbcke’s next goofy misadventure takes us.

More Info

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Inheritance (2003)


“The Inheritance” is an interesting, involving Danish corporate drama that presents the viewer with a number of unexpected challenges. The production is competent and slick, the direction and acting consistently strong, the photographic style is appropriately moody and the editing is brisk without being flashy. Yet, there’s very little here in the way of catharsis, in fact, the film has a curious feeling of anti-catharsis, and just about everyone here devolves into a grim, reptilian self interest over the course of the proceedings.


Ulrich Thomsen is excellent as Christoffer, a happily married Stockholm restaurateur, who is summoned back to Denmark to save his family’s steel empire; a concern mired in enormous debt kept hidden for years by fraudulent accounting. Under the urging of his manipulative and controlling mother (an ice cold Ghita Norby) Christoffer institutes a series of draconian reforms designed to attract a buyer for the failing enterprise.


These reforms come at an enormous cost, as the employees, the family and Christoffer’s own humanity are profoundly affected. Despite its austere and intellectually engaging execution, the script treads awfully close to soap opera territory, and there are times when the film feels like the sort of thing regularly found on Lifetime Movie Channel. But there are no pat or heartwarming resolutions here, as it becomes clear that Christoffer’s sense of duty has transformed him, and requires him to pursue a path totally incompatible with his former self.


This conflict forces him to make a choice at the film’s conclusion - a choice that can be viewed as either coldly callous or the ultimate self sacrifice- and director Per Fly’s ambivalent storytelling extends that dilemma to the audience as well. This is not a film for those seeking multiplex yucks; in many ways it is as tough and impenetrable as steel itself.

More Info

The Inheritance (2003)


“The Inheritance” is an interesting, involving Danish corporate drama that presents the viewer with a number of unexpected challenges. The production is competent and slick, the direction and acting consistently strong, the photographic style is appropriately moody and the editing is brisk without being flashy. Yet, there’s very little here in the way of catharsis, in fact, the film has a curious feeling of anti-catharsis, and just about everyone here devolves into a grim, reptilian self interest over the course of the proceedings.


Ulrich Thomsen is excellent as Christoffer, a happily married Stockholm restaurateur, who is summoned back to Denmark to save his family’s steel empire; a concern mired in enormous debt kept hidden for years by fraudulent accounting. Under the urging of his manipulative and controlling mother (an ice cold Ghita Norby) Christoffer institutes a series of draconian reforms designed to attract a buyer for the failing enterprise.


These reforms come at an enormous cost, as the employees, the family and Christoffer’s own humanity are profoundly affected. Despite its austere and intellectually engaging execution, the script treads awfully close to soap opera territory, and there are times when the film feels like the sort of thing regularly found on Lifetime Movie Channel. But there are no pat or heartwarming resolutions here, as it becomes clear that Christoffer’s sense of duty has transformed him, and requires him to pursue a path totally incompatible with his former self.


This conflict forces him to make a choice at the film’s conclusion - a choice that can be viewed as either coldly callous or the ultimate self sacrifice- and director Per Fly’s ambivalent storytelling extends that dilemma to the audience as well. This is not a film for those seeking multiplex yucks; in many ways it is as tough and impenetrable as steel itself.

More Info

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Whisky (2004)


The next time you get one of those irresistible cravings for an oddball comedy from Uruguay, this esoteric adventure will nicely fill the bill. “Whiskey” is about the life of a middle-aged owner of a dingy textiles factory (Andres Pazos) whose clunky, sputtering knitting machines are devoted entirely to the production of rather odd-looking argyle socks.


When his sophisticated and more successful Brazilian brother Herman (Jorge Bolani) comes for a visit, confirmed bachelor Pazos orders his frumpy but devoted assistant Marta (Mirella Pascual) to “help out”. In other words, pose as his wife and present a veneer of happiness and normalcy. Marta, who has secretly adored Pazos for years, is pleased to comply, and it’s clear she is willing to carry out this charade to a degree far beyond her boss’s comfort zone.


Much of the film’s subtle humor is a result of this conflict, as Pazos quietly struggles to keep Marta’s expectations in check. The threesome eventually visit a deserted, out of season beach resort, and romance finally begin to smolder, but in a surprising and poignant way. The film is pleasingly underplayed and moves at a languid pace, but possibly drags on just a few minutes too long. Yet, within this eccentric construction, there are moments of genuine humor, pathos and empathy.


By the way, “whisky” is a smile-producing word, apparently used by Uruguayan photographers instead of “cheese”. And if you’re a fan of unorthodox foreign comedies, I predict this film will have you smiling as well.



More Info

Whisky (2004)


The next time you get one of those irresistible cravings for an oddball comedy from Uruguay, this esoteric adventure will nicely fill the bill. “Whiskey” is about the life of a middle-aged owner of a dingy textiles factory (Andres Pazos) whose clunky, sputtering knitting machines are devoted entirely to the production of rather odd-looking argyle socks.


When his sophisticated and more successful Brazilian brother Herman (Jorge Bolani) comes for a visit, confirmed bachelor Pazos orders his frumpy but devoted assistant Marta (Mirella Pascual) to “help out”. In other words, pose as his wife and present a veneer of happiness and normalcy. Marta, who has secretly adored Pazos for years, is pleased to comply, and it’s clear she is willing to carry out this charade to a degree far beyond her boss’s comfort zone.


Much of the film’s subtle humor is a result of this conflict, as Pazos quietly struggles to keep Marta’s expectations in check. The threesome eventually visit a deserted, out of season beach resort, and romance finally begin to smolder, but in a surprising and poignant way. The film is pleasingly underplayed and moves at a languid pace, but possibly drags on just a few minutes too long. Yet, within this eccentric construction, there are moments of genuine humor, pathos and empathy.


By the way, “whisky” is a smile-producing word, apparently used by Uruguayan photographers instead of “cheese”. And if you’re a fan of unorthodox foreign comedies, I predict this film will have you smiling as well.



More Info

Monday, November 16, 2009

Shadows in Paradise (1983)


Not surprisingly, in this first installment of his Proletariat Trilogy, director Aki Kaurismaki has delivered a stark, grimy, yet oddly comedic tale of taciturn working class Finns going about their daily lives.


An aimlessly adrift garbage collector (Matti Pellonpaa) is awakened from his dull and bleak routine by two unrelated but significant events: the sudden death of his co-worker and a chance meeting with a dour grocery clerk (the wonderful Kati Outinen). Under Helsinki’s grim, foreboding skies, Pellonpaa and Outinen bumble their way into an awkward, comical, but at times, deeply touching romance.


Her talent for finding trouble, and his odd, protective attraction to her, land the couple in some tight spots and causes Pellonpaa sleepless nights and, eventually, a few blows to the head with a discarded 2x4. While Scandinavian black comedies aren’t known for their lush musical scores, here Kaurismaki uses a lively, sophisticated jazz piano track contrasted with rockabilly blues as symbols for the class struggle that underlies every aspect of this story. With simple shot design and straightforward editorial choices, Kaurimaki keeps his techniques quiet and that forces the audience to look beyond the subtle - almost disengaged - physical characterizations of his actors, and into the deeper, quirkier reality within.


Those who favor traditional Hollywood fare will likely find this a difficult film to sit through and it’s clearly not designed to please a large audience. But those who appreciate the unique dark humor of the Nordics will find it worthwhile. Kaurismaki even throws in a compelling moral to boot: Life is short. If there’s something you want to do, you better get crackin’.

More Info

Shadows in Paradise (1983)


Not surprisingly, in this first installment of his Proletariat Trilogy, director Aki Kaurismaki has delivered a stark, grimy, yet oddly comedic tale of taciturn working class Finns going about their daily lives.


An aimlessly adrift garbage collector (Matti Pellonpaa) is awakened from his dull and bleak routine by two unrelated but significant events: the sudden death of his co-worker and a chance meeting with a dour grocery clerk (the wonderful Kati Outinen). Under Helsinki’s grim, foreboding skies, Pellonpaa and Outinen bumble their way into an awkward, comical, but at times, deeply touching romance.


Her talent for finding trouble, and his odd, protective attraction to her, land the couple in some tight spots and causes Pellonpaa sleepless nights and, eventually, a few blows to the head with a discarded 2x4. While Scandinavian black comedies aren’t known for their lush musical scores, here Kaurismaki uses a lively, sophisticated jazz piano track contrasted with rockabilly blues as symbols for the class struggle that underlies every aspect of this story. With simple shot design and straightforward editorial choices, Kaurimaki keeps his techniques quiet and that forces the audience to look beyond the subtle - almost disengaged - physical characterizations of his actors, and into the deeper, quirkier reality within.


Those who favor traditional Hollywood fare will likely find this a difficult film to sit through and it’s clearly not designed to please a large audience. But those who appreciate the unique dark humor of the Nordics will find it worthwhile. Kaurismaki even throws in a compelling moral to boot: Life is short. If there’s something you want to do, you better get crackin’.

More Info

10 Years of The Savages

The Savages struck a vibrant chord with me when it was first released 10 years ago. It’s all about a pair of 40-ish siblings...