Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My top 10 films of 2009

Might be a head-scratcher, but I tells it like I sees it:

3)Summer Hours
4)The Hurt Locker
5)Big Fan
6)Police, Adjective
7)Drag Me to Hell
9)Still Walking

Friday, October 2, 2009

Moon (2009)

Another top 10 pick for 2009. I feel increasingly drawn to subtler, personal films, rather than a film which has, say, a lot of characters whose dynamics might be explicitly presented. Moon obviously is a small movie, but what was most refreshing was how SIMPLE it was. After seeing the trailer, I anticipated a heady, Tarkovsky-esque experience, so I was taken aback when the movie ended. There was no twist. No ambiguity as to what happened to the main character. Everything was tied up in an incredibly neat little bow. That's not to say I wasn't guessing for the first 3/4s of this film; I was hooked. It dealt with heavy themes: mortality, grieving, homesickness, and it did so thoughtfully, yet still within the context of this straight-ahead hard sci-fi story. Duncan Jones' first-time direction is restrained, taut; Clint Mansell's eerily languid score was his best yet IMO, and Sam Rockwell's dual performance was a powerhouse. From a sci-fi standpoint, Moon is nothing new. We've seen elements of it countless times in Twilight Zone episodes, and movies like The Island and Silent Running. But it's just done so well here. I think Moon does to the genre what Half-Life did to the first-person shooter, taking all of these familiar elements and maximizing their potential.

Still Walking (2009)

Wow. I suck at blogging. Or do I? Who says how this should be done anyway?

Still Walking
was amazing, and easily made my top 10 list for 2009. Meditative, melancholy, and at times unnerving, specifically the scene towards the middle of the film involving the family's dinner guest. I've read many great things about Koreeada's Afterlife, which I've netflixed, and after reading Ebert's review of Still Walking, in which he argues Koreeada's heirship to Yasujiro Ozu, I realize I must finally see Tokyo Story. I missed it at a Ozu marathon a few years back in Baltimore, and now, after hearing the stylistic comparisons to Koreeada's work, I must watch Ozu posthaste.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Strangers on a Train (1951)

I'd like to think this would cause a slight "comment-section" uproar if anyone actually read my blog besides me, but I actually didn't like this much.

I don't know if I was in the wrong mood, or I was having trouble concentrating or something, but I was just kind of bored. And I love boring things, so that's weird. And I love most Hitchcock. And I love a lot of obscure, silent Hitchcock, and also the weird, late-60's Hitchcock stuff people usually dismiss. But this is one of his all time greats, and I couldn't get into it. Robert Walker was amazingly creepy as the psycho, Bruno, however. Man, that guy was a mess.

Monday, March 2, 2009

My top 10 Films of 2008

I'm posting this a week after the 2008 Oscars (which, per usual, were pretty wack):

1)The Wrestler
3)Happy Go Lucky
4)Gran Torino
5)Wendy and Lucy
6)Rachel Getting Married
9)Synecdoche, NY

The Wind Will Carry Us (1999)

Kiarostami's Taste of Cherry has been, my favorite overall film at varying times over the past couple of years. I remember feeling like I hadn't seen anything like it. I'll have to put something up about Taste of Cherry at some point, but anyway, after watching that, I got really interested in Kiarostami's stuff, and watched Close-Up and Where Is The Friend's Home? soon after, the latter incidentally being one of the best "Engrish" movie titles in my opinion.

This film displayed the trademarks of his work: mostly improvised, philosophical dialogue, non-actors, long takes, and a plot that's less interested in moving characters from scene to scene, than it is in giving Kiarostami a platform to ask questions.

There are so many things going on in this film, it was hard to determine a common theme. Maybe there isn't one, just thoughts coming and going. An elderly resident of a small village is dying. A TV production crew arrives to cover the grieving rituals of the townsfolk, but...the woman doesn't die. The cynical, fast-paced crew is forced to slow down and experience a part of their world from which they've grown apart. The engineer's endless quest for cell phone reception, driving to the top of a hill over and over again, which is shown in painstakingly real time, showed how far apart these two cultures were, geographically and socially. The world outside of the village seems condescending, looking in at it like an antfarm, waiting for this woman to pass, so they can package it into an exotic little TV story. The men wait and wait...

Here's a scene:


There's also a scene that takes place in what is essentially a cave, where the engineer buys goat milk from a young girl, that's so haunting and speaks so beautifully to the two alien worlds colliding, the dialogue spoken hesitantly, as if each character is afraid of being who they really are with the other. We can barely see the two of them, the lighting is SO low...oh man, the whole scene is just so eerie and heavy.

Contempt (1963)

I'm not too familiar with Godard's stuff, but I really liked Band of Outsiders, and Breathless (I honestly can't remember if I've seen anything else by him). So I sort of had high hopes for this, especially after watching L'Avventura, which I loved, and which someone had compared to Contempt, at least stylistically. But I didn't like this much at all. The characters and dialogue were typical Godard, which was good, but the score by George Delarue was used WAY too often, and drowned out much of the banter between Brigitte Bardot and Michel Piccoli. Was Godard being self-reflexive in his decision to use music this way? The rest of the film is extremely critical of the "industry" of art-films, so perhaps that's a reasonable explanation. In any case, it just didn't work for me. The music is undoubtedly beautiful, but here it just seemed heavy-handed and melodramatic.

And the 30 minute long-takes of characters just wandering around half naked, musing about life, etc...basically the stuff I loved about Breathless, just didn't seem to work in this. They seemed to be part of another film, and didn't seem to work against the more conventional scenes with Jack Palance and the whole "businessman vs. artist" dynamic. The parallels drawn between Javal's decision to sell out and his failing relationship with his wife were forced, maybe sort of preachy too.

And maybe I'm giving the music choice too much credit, but I really think it was like 50% of the reason I wasn't buying this movie.

But um, Brigitte Bardot is really really hot.