Sunday, August 2, 2015

July Movies

Well, there have 213 days in 2015 and I've seen 213 movies. These are July's views and I must say, this month featured some of the best and worst movies I've ever seen. Sunrise will soon find a spot in my top 50 movies of all-time. Maybe even the top 25. True Detective: Season 1 was arguably one of the best things I've ever watched for a one season series. Only Top of the Lake was better. This month was also filled with some epic clunkers, including a well received movie which made an odd list.....one of the only films I've ever turned off before it was finished....Mr. Turner was so painfully dull, all the colors in the world couldn't save it.

  1. The Machine - Much better than anticipated look at AI v Humans, from multiple angles.
  2. Trouble Every Day - Poor attempt at artsy look at cannibalism. Gallo is painful to watch.
  3. Mr. Turner - For once, the word pretentious fits. Art film about artist made for artists.
  4. A Trip to the Moon - 1902 short, which plays almost like a cartoon. 
  5. Into The Woods - Blunt, Kendrick, Streep and Huttlestone are brilliant. A gem musical.
  6. The Search for General Tso - Witty, great music and sincere homage to Chinese Americans.
  7. True Detective (Season 1) - The finest acted cable series I've ever watched. Top Notch.
  8. Ju-on 2 - Awful sequel to now classic Japanese horror film. Solid start, but then repetitive.
  9. Sunrise - Murnau's 1927 silent was the end of an era, but might be the greatest of them all.
  10. Mad Ron's Prevues from Hell - A collection of 47 horror trailers, some classics. Dud!
  11. Maggie - Arnold in dull Zombie flick with Little Miss Sunshine, fails on every level.
  12. Ex Machina - Simple minded, refurbished AI movie model. save your time, see The Machine.
  13. The Salt of the Earth - Should have been titled, famous for trivializing other's plight.
  14. The Damned - No surprised, but solid little horror flick, with very attractive everything.
  15. It Follows - Overly hyped horror, that fails when the main plot point becomes irrelevant.
  16. Summer with Monika - Early Bergman is beautifully simple, sad, predictable. Not his best.
  17. Penguins of Madagscar - Great kids movie, but lacks deep meaning and enough adult humor.
  18. Lost River - Gosling's writing/directorial debut misses bar it set and plummets to the depths.
  19. Spirit of the Beehive - I'm withholding judgement. Beautiful, but I'm too distracted.
  20. The Passion of Joan of Arc - Brilliant, bold and powerful. Falconetti is mesmerizing. 
  21. Freaks - Browning circus tale is exploitative, but a wonderful tale with unforgettable finale.
  22. Au Hasard Balthazar - Didn't click for me, as the parable of Marie seems misguided.
  23. Evidence - Horrible found footage, "hi-tech" thriller/horror with 1/2 a twist ending.
  24. Night of the Living Dead - Rewatched the original. One of the best ever. Says so much!
  25. Jinn - Interesting idea ruined by pretty much every aspect of bad film making. 
  26. White God - A simple powerful message about life, nature and an answer staring us in the face.
  27. The Wicker Man (1973) - Hilarious and campy, then I found out it wasn't supposed to be. 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

When You Recommend A Movie To Someone It Is Lost On

Recommending a movie for me, isn't about whether or not I liked it. It never is. It is always about whether I not only think the other person will be entertained, but if they'll be able to speak about it and appreciate, not necessarily the way I did, but possibly from an alternate perspective. I crave that, so I'm always careful when saying "you should see this."

Lately, I've kept my movie recommendations to myself. I've found that there are really only two or three people I know who appreciate them and thankfully a "new friend" who shares my passion for certain types of movies (shh, good movies). I have my two muses as I call them privately, then there is one other person and this new addition to my movie nonsense. That being said, when I recommend something that really affected me, I expect the person to watch it with some faint interest and realize, it's not going to be a superficial two hours.

So what am I going on and on about? Obviously, I'm not talking about movie reviews and recommendations, so get on with it! Lately, I've painted myself into a bit of a conflicted state, but I'm not the one holding the brush. It seems that someone I used to recommend a movie to would watch it with open eyes, but now, unless his little boy toy or his painfully boring "date" recommends a film, he's not interested. He reads or listens to their reviews, checks the New Yorker and then spew the film class professor-speak nonsense that his two heroes put out. It's frustrating, because it's so painful to see someone suck down other people's opinions and pawning them off as their own, when both these two buffoons opinions can be found verbatim in a careful Google search.

So why does it bother me? Well, if I take the time to suggest something, but then add, but you probably won't, because I know they didn't recommend it, I don't want to hear your reasoning for disliking it, but then my detective instinct kicks in and I stupidly ask and when I hear "It was a sappy ending, but what can you expect, it was about dogs."  Yes of course and you, who google searches every last word of your obsession's grade school, oedipal-laced poetry, can't see the tie ins to immigration in Eastern Europe, the loss of innocence in the world today and the fact that there isn't one scene in the entire fucking movie that isn't a metaphor for something other than a little girl and a lost dog?

Sorry, did I vent a little too freely? Maybe I did, but of course, I keep these post cryptic and anonymous enough, so that if anyone ho watches movies such as these three, wouldn't be able to figure it out. Of course anyone who has asked how I've been and meant it, will know right away. The woods call. The shack, the cat, the fire, the stream and the WiFi, so I can watch movies and not wonder, "should I bother?" I know the answer and I'll abstain from this day forward and revel in what they have missed.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Review: White God

White God is a movie like no other I've seen. It's being compared to everything from Lassie to The Birds, but in my eyes, it's much more similar to Bresson's Au Hasard Balthazar, a movie I just saw for the first time recently. A young girl and her pet are separated and their lives take turns that cause them to grow, in ways that are and aren't expected. Where White God separates itself, is that it's brutality seems to reflect no on Eastern Europe, but humanity itself. The metaphors are obvious, yet after reviewing some articles and message boards, it's clear they were missed on most Americans and maybe that is the point. It's so obvious, so laid out, that to have some visceral reaction, would be to admit ones naivety. I think this is the only area the film fails and not something I would have known, had I not researched the reactions post-viewing.

One thing that I was so happy I noticed early on and something I will share with everyone who has not seen the film, was the tails of the dogs in the earlier scenes. They were upright, even in some of the more painful scenes. This, gave me relief, because I knew the dogs were happy. The extras on the DVD go into great detail of how the dogs were trained, that will give most reviewers great relief and here's why. The movie is terribly upsetting. It's frighteningly so for animal lovers. I happened to watch the same day the Internet was abuzz with the death of Cecil the Lion. To say it didn't tear me apart would be a lie. I cried at three, maybe four different scenes and the ending nearly destroyed me.

I hate telling what films are about, so I'll leave it at this. Children look at their parents with respect, admiration and maybe even awe and dogs look at humans that same way, but there comes a point, where when nature's creatures are taken for granted, even abused, where they fight back. This is true with animals, with children and with all minority groups who grow tired of being neglected. There's a quote at the beginning that we should keep in our minds throughout the film and better yet, after it's over. We'll all be better for it, as will those who let themselves be taken by this film.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Likes

The past two days, social media has really killed my opinion of people. People with good jobs, wonderful families, newborn babies or those soon on the way, are just tiny lonely people, looking for some sort of odd acceptance. How can people use the death of a lion to pander for likes. I'm not talking about those asking for justice or those commenting on how sad they are, but those who have twisted it to mean something else...to essentially, make it about themselves and their warped values. Ten, twenty, fifty likes. The more Trumpesque the better. The more hate in their words, the greater the count, feeding the frenzy until the comments filled with rage come out, about a completely irrelevant topic. Words like extinguish, kill and purge are used. I imagine the grin on the writer, as his pride beams. He sits back in the comfort of his home, basking in the glow of the computer or phone, feeling good about himself. Little does he realize, he's just made himself even smaller. He doesn't care, because the like counter grows, as does his imagined power; much like the hunter, his kill list nearing 50.

I sit back and I write something from the heart. For me and me only. Friends of course, welcome to share in it, because for me, I want to know of their thoughts and (maybe foolishly) believe they care of mine. Someone else writes of their experience abroad and how they found something they'd been lacking. Two, three likes, a comment or emoji, to let them know we saw it. While others fawn over the dead daily, despite the death being years ago. Twenty, thirty likes within an hour. The "thinking of yous" pour in. "I'm here" they exclaim....and they are, right in your likes list. Mission accomplished, as their existence is giving some minuscule meaning.  The twisted ankles, the scraped knees, the ridiculous amounts of doctor's visits for the common cold, all like heavy, while a friend's heart pours out about something dear and goes unnoticed and she needs the likes. Not for her self worth, but because it's important that when people take the world into consideration, it's recognized. She benefits nothing from her post, but to let others know she shares in their struggle. Seven likes, while the post demeaning an entire race gets seventy. Maybe it's time I stop liking posts of other's happiness and start posting that I wish they could experience the hate they dole out. I wonder, how many likes that would get?


Monday, July 27, 2015

Three Years Ago

Three summers ago, my life was a lot different. I was in an awkward position financially and I'd really come to grips with the fact that a lot of the summer was going to be spent on my own. I got into a habit, almost every night of taking walks. Some short, some long, some with a destination in mind, some without, but almost every night, rain of shine, I walked. The cooler temperatures allowed me to enjoy it, although I can remember evenings, drenched in sweat or frozen solid, depending on the season. I was in pain, because of my knees, but these walks cleared my mind, my lungs and whatever else seemed to ail me. I don't know exactly when my hip issue started, but unlike my knees, the hip was a mystery. I woke up one morning, my hip was stiff and when I left the house, I was in agony. I assumed I slept wrong and it would right itself once I stretched it out. Three years later, that isn't the case. I've learned to live with not just pain, but agony. The limited range of motion is actually more of a hindrance than the pain and has affected more than just walking, but that's not really what I'm thinking about now. I'm thinking about those walks. So often, on rainy evenings, thinking about nothing at all, but the moon, the stars and all I had to enjoy in life. I'd then come home, be quickly reminded of my awful apartment, but I'd fight it. I'd let those walks carry me through until the next. I'd give anything for one of those walks right now, but I don't think I'd return.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

White Privilege

This was a post I wrote on Facebook after surprisingly not seeing any moaning about the Documentary by Jose Antonio Vargas, titled White People

Dayyum! I just scrolled my timeline and not a single white person got their feelings hurt by White People. I unfortunately haven't seen it, but the number of fake accounts that popped up on twitter, tells me it was a damn good show.

Here's the thing. If someone of color aka non-white says "White Privilege," are you offended? If you said yes, then you are exhibiting white privilege. It has nothing to do with how hard you work or study, how you stayed out of trouble, because here's the thing, that is entirely the point. Somewhere out there, there are 100 Black, Spanish, Native American, Arab, Asian, who worked and studied as hard as you and never got in trouble, but they don't have what you "earned" or achieved. Stop looking at the one person you know who isn't white that achieved as your benchmark. Look at every one you do know and how they fare compared to others. If all you know are successful people of different colors, then guess what "that's white privilege too."

Have you ever been followed by security, because you're white? Have you ever had someone cross the street, because of your skin color? Have you ever has someone assume, you can play a sport, cook something or excel at a certain subject, because of your appearance? That is white privilege.

Take a long hard look at the demographics of this country over the last 250 years. Now take a good hard look at the political leaders who "represent" them. That my friends, is White Privilege.

Think of your news and who brings it to you, regardless of political affiliation. How white is that? Do you know that whites commit almost 68% of all crimes in the US and 62% of all violent crimes? They also represent 62% of the population. Isn't it odd that despite the amount of crime being proportionate to the population, our news doesn't show this? That is white privilege. When you take into account that white, on average make 12x the amount of money that blacks make, doesn't it seem like that there is some privilege. Inheritance, social status and general family legacies also are examples of white privilege.

Like I said, I'm happy that I scrolled down my time line and didn't see a single complaint. I expected to see a ton of it, but maybe all my ranting and raving and that of a few others are making people realize, it's not about you and your specific situation. It's not about hard work or study. It's about playing the hand your dealt, but having all the cards at your disposal. I can't make it any more simple than this...

Would you trade places with a person of color, because of the benefits in achieving equality, in terms of wealth, opportunity and representation?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Ebert Questionnaire

Before reading this, please understand, I do not consider myself to have ever written a serious review of a film. I title some quickie reviews or reviews, but I do not go into them telling much, if anything about the plot, the actors or any other major aspects that would qualify them as real reviews. I despise reviews to be honest, because they are so often wrong and, if read before viewing a film, will lean the viewer towards that line of thought. I see it every single week with someone who always agrees with what they read or were told about the movie. For me, I enjoy the blind exploration. As for this, I just found it interesting.

QUESTIONNAIRE:
1. Where did you grow up, and what was it like? Brooklyn, New York from 1970-1985. It was a mixed bag of cultures and ethnicity and it taught me to look for the beauty in what was different about people, but also how much we're all the same, despite the appearance of being so very different. I think, later in life, when I delved into foreign films, this was a huge advantage, despite never having traveled outside of the country. 

2. Was anyone else in your family into movies? Yes, my parents and both sets of grandparents were very fond and the bulk of the movies I saw growing up were black and white; many considered classics. If so, what effect did they have on your moviegoing tastes? I think it made me comfortable with black and white, silent and subtitles, which is something most of my friends, who grew up in Westchester, don't seem to have much patience for.

3. What's the first movie you remember seeing, and what impression did it make on you? The King Kong remake in 1976, was the first I saw in the theatre. I was only six years old, but I remember being amazed at the enormity of the beast. I also couldn't understand why he kept trying to take Jessica Lange's blouse off. I definitely understand now.

4. What's the first movie that made you think, "Hey, some people made this. It didn't just exist. There's a human personality behind it." The African Queen. I remember thinking the actors were suffering, all to entertain us. I remember loving the movie, but thinking that it was such a hard job. Years later, after reading of the woes that went on while filming, it really occurred to me how much work goes into the acting alone. Then of course, the other aspects that makes movies, such as that one, incredible. 

5. What's the first movie you ever walked out of? I've never walked out of a movie in my life. It's too expensive to do such a thing. I very rarely even turn a movie off, no matter how horrible it might be. Recently, I turned off Mr. Turner, then read it was ranked almost a perfect score by Rotten Tomatoes. I stand by my gut, it's a horrible movie, that one more hour, couldn't possibly have turned around.

6. What's the funniest film you've ever seen? Mel Brook's Young Frankenstein is still, to this day, the funniest movie I've ever seen. Although, the hardest I've ever laughed inside of a theatre, was There's Something About Mary. 

7. What's the saddest film you've ever seen? Dear Zachary was the only movie, I've ever had to pause and compose myself, because I couldn't hear. That being said, it's a documentary, so I'm going to go with Terms of Endearment. That one scene...you all know what I'm talking about, is the most gut wrenching scene in movie history. Even though, most guys would say Brian's Song.

8. What's the scariest film you've ever seen? The only movie to ever give me a nightmare was Hitchcock's Spellbound, but the only movie that I can say scared me, was Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Probably because my lunatic parents let me see it, in the theatre, at age eight.

9. What's the most romantic film you've ever seen? Mine is a tie, between The Artist and Cinema Paradiso. The reason it's a tie, is because both are romantic in completely different ways than people would think. If it was simply, romance between a man and a woman, I'd be hard pressed to come up with one. Possibly one I just watched, Murnau's 1927 gem, Sunrise. Or possibly Amelie, but once again, is it true romance?

10. What's the first television show you ever saw that made you think television could be more than entertainment? All in the Family. Some may laugh, but I remember how much it used racism to mock racism. Showing that racism not only can be spawned from ignorance, but it is primarily spawned by ignorance. Sadly, the same tool I watched, was watched by nearly everyone I know and most of them didn't get it.

11. What book do you think about or revisit the most? Sendak's Where The Wild Things Are, will always be my favorite book, because it represents everything that is important to a child, that nearly every adults loses. That is the magic of it and why, even without reading it in nearly 25 years, it still remains my favorite book.

12. What album or recording artist have you listened to the most, and why? There is no band I've listened to more in my life than The Clash. They captured the angst of being 12-13 in the early 80's and their messages stand true today. The anti-establishment movement that punk music was, was important to that era's kids. They might not have been the first, but they were without a doubt the most influential band for everything that came after. 

13. Is there a movie that you think is great, or powerful, or perfect, but that you never especially want to see again, and why? Boogie Nights. I know this will sound odd, but I thought this was one of the best movies I'd ever seen when it came out, but with each subsequent viewing, I like it less and less. my critical eye starts wandering and I find entire scenes that should have been cut or shortened, but then there is the flow, which I find odd, because when I originally saw it, it seemed so short, but the last viewing, I was praying for it to end. I think it is brilliant, but I doubt I'll go back ever again.

14. What movie have you seen more times than any other? Without a doubt Jaws, but that is simply because it is on television the most. The movie I have gone out of my way to rewatch the most, is Lethal Weapon. While I somewhat shy away from straight action, I adore this movie and have seen it, start to finish, at least 20 times.

15. What was your first R-rated movie, and did you like it? Somehow I got into S.O.B. and was the first time I'd seen nudity on film. I'd seen Playboys before, but I think this was the first experience in the theatre and seeing Julie Andrews, of my beloved The Sound of Music, in her naked glory, was quite a shock.

16. What's the most visually beautiful film you've ever seen? Aronofsky's The Fountain is the first film that comes to mind, the second being anything by Terrence Malick, but the film that blew me away aesthetically was Hero. The use of colors, put even the likes of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to shame. 

17. Who are your favorite leading men, past and present? Just off the top of my head, I'll go with Pacino, Gosling, Oldman, Dean, Von Sydow, Burton, Cobb, Fassbender, Widmark and Hopkins.


18. Who are your favorite leading ladies, past and present? Katherine Hepburn, Streep, Foster, Joan Allen, Blanchett, Swinton, Mirren, Lawrence, Lindblom and Bejo.

19. Who's your favorite modern filmmaker? Paul Thomas Anderson, but this isn't a slam dunk

20. Who's your least favorite modern filmmaker? Christopher Nolan

21. What film do you love that most people seem to hate? Severance is one of my favorite horror/thrillers of all-time and I've yet to meet one person who liked it enough to praise or recommend it. I've seen it three times and I think it's clever, funny and has enough, wow moments to put it over the top. I also adore the Resident Evil series. 

22. What film do you hate that most people love? Shawshank Redemption & Citizen Kane. Yes, I know.

23. Tell me about a moviegoing experience you will never forget—not just because of the movie, but because of the circumstances in which you saw it.  Going to see The Seven Samurai at a revival house in NYC called The Thalia. It changed my view of films, because I realized language didn't always matter.

24. What aspect of modern theatrical moviegoing do you like least? I do not go to the movies anymore, because aside from people having no courtesy, I despise surround sound. 

25. What aspect of moviegoing during your childhood do you miss the most? There is nothing I loved more than going into the theatre when it was light out and coming out to darkness. It's as if you're transported and I'll always enjoy that. 

26. Have you ever damaged a friendship, or thought twice about a relationship, because you disagreed about whether a movie was good or bad? I'd never take it that far, but I am shocked by how angry people get when I say I thought Whiplash was one of the ten to fifteen worst films I've ever sat through. I've lost some Twitter followers over it. 

27. What movies have you dreamed about? Spellbound and Houseboat....falling on a spike and Sophia Loren. One was slightly better than the other.

28. What concession stand item can you not live without? If I'm at the theatre, I need popcorn. Anything else is just a distraction.