2014-08-26

Pray For Me : The Jason Jessee Film


Pray For Me : The Jason Jessee Film (Steve Nemsick & David Rogerson, 2007)

Professionnal skateboarder Jason Jessee is profiled in this 80 minutes documentary that preceded his comeback to a skaboarding sponsorship by Santa Cruz skateboards.

Coming from a Mormon family of South California that liked motorcycles and guns, Jason Jessee became a peculiar character that few people have really understood. Considered by his friends and peers as a clown or a kook, Jessee has passed from 100 000$ earnings in a year skateboarding to a minimum wage job cleaning dishes.

The portrait of his family and childhood is nicely done but too much time is on the fact that he hides himself behind a mask of comedy and extreme behaviors such as Nazi imagery, terrorist slogans, and Jesus freak phrases. Clearly, this is a man that wanted to do things his own way and make people talk about him. Sadly, the documentary almost plays as a joke and only encourages his eccentric side without trying to really scratch the surface and peel off the layers of this obvious shell that Jessee has forged around him to protect him from being hurt.

Another side of Pray For Me that should be improved is the lack of footage of his skateboarding days and the few archives shown. I read on IMDb that the budget was around 100 000$ for the entire documentary and this is probably one of the reasons it was harder to get rights for the archives of his career. However, the whole film feels that the budget was limited and it is almost sad that it feels cheap. There’s one thing when the soundtrack is done with less money and features more underground artists, much like skateboarding videos in general, but when the writing of the screenplay lacks of formal structure and circles around an interesting topic without achieving a complete analysis.

Between two shots of Jessee kidding around in his garage and interviews of his peers and family, Pray For Me : The Jason Jessee Film leaves us with a vague impression of the man and many questions hold in the air regarding the subject of the film and its purpose. As a skateboarder myself I like to know the guy behind the name written on the decks I buy. The Jason Jessee boards are nice skateboards and his graphics have always been considered as popular amongst customers. Apart if you are a real fan of the man or a diehard rabid consumer of everything skateboard I would suggest a rental but as aforementioned, there’s not a lot to learn from this 80 minutes documentary.

2014-08-25

Sawdust and Tinsel


Sawdust and Tinsel (Ingmar Bergman, 1953)

An aging circus ringmaster visits his estranged wife to see his young sons. Meanwhile, his jealous young lover has an affair with an actor.

Ingmar Bergman has left a tremendous amount of film to his fans behind him and his later career was more internationally followed by fans and media. But his pre The Seventh Seal films, prior to 1957 if you prefer, are lesser known except for the hilarious Smiles of a Summer Night and the sexy Summer With Monica. Back then, only initiated cinephiles watched and enjoyed early Bergman films.

Staring Harriet Andersson, Sawdust and Tinsel is seen as one of the most rewarding gems that Bergman directed. Involving the lives of the members of a moving circus, we follow the constant humiliation of his characters and how they are outcasts of the conformist society. Bergman observes the lives of artists he sure could relate to. His career of film and theater director led him to pass into many difficult process that can be compared to what is seen in Sawdust and Tinsel.

Apart from the fact that much of the story and the character involvement are recurrent themes in Bergman’s films, the photography by Sven Nykvist easily links to the wonderful shots of The Seventh Seal and the presence of travelling performers like in his The Magician and the aforementioned masterpiece.
On the other hand, the story is quite heavy and feels very academic in its treatment of structure and its approach to drama. I believe that Bergman was still in his shell with his storytelling abilities and he later had his own voice with Wild Strawberries or Cries and Whispers for instance.

Since many of the characters are despicable and are difficult to relate to it is a film that may leave its audience cold and loose points when compared to the best offerings that Bergman has done in his career. Still, lesser Bergman is still better than most director’s best films. For Bergman fans it is an essential viewing, for completists it is worth the look, and for the average movie-goer I’d suggest you get by The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries before getting to Sawdust and Tinsel. It is far from being an average movie but this is the kind of feature that could but that was essential to its director to get to better works. Finally, it is an Ingmar Bergman film that delivers a genuine Ingmar Bergman film.

 

2014-08-21

Smiles of a Summer Night


Smiles of a Summer Night (Ingmar Bergman, 1955)

The lives of bourgeois lovers in Sweden during a summer of the first half of the 20th Century are inspired to let themselves live their passion. Based on a Shakespeare play, Smiles of a Summer Night was later an inspiration for Woody Allen’s A Midsummer’s Night Sex Comedy.
Interestingly enough is the fact that it is one of the few comedies that Ingmar Bergman ever directed. In interviews he often said that he was not in his element while working with this genre. However, Smiles of a Summer Night might be his more accessible work and one of the most enjoyable.

With a cast of Bergman regulars of the sexy Harriet Andersson, the ever great Gunnar Bjornstrand, and a very small bit by the beautiful Bibi Andersson. The lightness of the story and the whole tone of its debonair approach to love is refreshing and brings a sexy angle to the costume piece and the beautiful actresses in Ulla Jacobsson, Margit Carlqvist, and Ella Dahlbeck.
Speaking of actors in a Bergman film, one must say that they are directed by the hand of a master. When the chameleonic Bjornstrand is the central character in a picture we are in for a treat. It is one of the most underrated actors that worked with him and he could do anything. Simply put a beard on the man and he is the elder lawyer Egerman that married a virgin but still having a passion for the hot tempered actress he frequented as a mistress years ago.

Smiles of a Summer Night might seem like an UFO in Bergman’s filmography but his treatment of bourgeoisie and their love affairs was already a subject that he was acquainted to. There’s the thin line between keeping the face and humiliation that the men suffer all along the film and we discover again strong women in Bergman’s film that have the control over the heart of their lovers. This kind of comedy can be compared to an Ernst Lubitsch classic that could have been shot in Sweden but still carrying the same sophistication and je ne sais quoi.

As the final film I had to watch from Ingmar Bergman to complete my quest of watching all of the 1000 Greatest films of all time by www.theyshootpictures.com, I must admit having had a lot of fun and I could easily recommend this entry in Bergman’s filmography and in any list. It is a great relief when someone compare this with his other austere and heavy dramas.

 
 

2014-08-20

Deck of the Week – Santa Cruz’s Gallos by Jason Jessee

This feature is about the most innovative, subversive, original, and artsy graphics in skateboarding. Highlighting new and current decks on the market but also going back in the great catalog that many legendary skaters and companies have put out since the underground debuts of this highly marginalized sport.

For the first time on Le Mot du Cinephiliaque, the new feature consisting of presenting one deck that I want to display and write about.
This week, I’m bringing you my pool deck that I’ve been skating with since this spring; the Santa Cruz Gallos by Jason Jessee. It features a 8.6X32 inches shape with a wheelbase of 15 inches and a proper nose.
Coming from Santa Cruz, one of the most iconic skateboard company, the wide shape is perfect for pool skating or cruising around.
This is a nice compromise between the old shaped decks of the 1980’s and the thin popsicle decks of the 1990’s.
Featuring a violent rooster with blood red and dark grey tones, this is a deck that wants to be destroy by its owner.
Far from being a classic deck, this recent release by Santa Cruz was almost forgotten because many re-issue decks were populating the market at the time it came out. This is however a great deck that I mounted on Independent trucks (139), Bones wheels (58mm), and Amphetamine Ceramic bearings.

What is your perfect pool deck? Did you ever watched the documentary on Jason Jessee Pray for Me: The Jason Jessee Film? If yes, please share if it is worth it I haven’t watched it yet.

2014-08-03

The Top 7 Performances by Jeff Goldblum


Note: this article is a contribution to the Goldbumathon hosted by the great folks over at Cinematic Catharsis. Celebrating the many faces of Jeff Goldblum.



7. Tricycle Man in Nashville

As important as it is for an actor to be staring in movies, being in the supporting cast often offers the most interesting characters. This quirky guy out of the film of a very quirky director, Robert Altman, is quite something. In fact, the entire cast of this masterpiece is amazing and to have a young Goldblum in it this makes it even more fun.  


6. Leonard Hayes in Friends


Okay, for anyone who knows me and my wife we vow a cult to the sitcom Friends since we got together back in 2001. Goldblum's character in the episode auditions Joey (Matt LeBlanc). Goldblum's character is very near his real life self and Joey mentions all the commercials Hayes does. Goldblum has been the voice of many commercials for years on TV. For that and his collaboration on Friends this is number six.


5. Jack Bellicec in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

The 1978 remake of this great classic of Sci-Fi/Horror was a nice hit staring Donald Sutherland and Goldblum again in a supporting role. Another great entry in the genre and helps to elevate Goldblum's filmography for the cult film lovers.


4. David Levinson in Independence Day 


For any actor there's a time to shine in genre films, author films, and then there are blockbusters. This big summer blockbuster reminds me of the first summer when my family moved in Quebec City, the film came out that year and I went to the theaters on its release day, I remember because I went with my little brother and my father who it is his birthday. The nerdy glasses and the very 1990's look of the unbuttoned shirt is now a reference of this time. 


3. Alistair Hennessey in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Earlier in this post I wrote quirky right? I think it is even more suitable for this film. It might be Wes Anderson's least appreciated film, so even said it his worst, but Jeff Goldblum is in all his splendor as Hennessey the other crew that rivals Steve Zissou. I must mention that Anderson is one of my favorite directors working today and that even if I haven't seen The Grand Budapest Hotel, I'm looking forward to Goldblum's performance in it. This kind of cinema let the actors go nuts with their characters and this was a great choice to cast this actor in this role.



2. Seth Brundle in The Fly (1986)

This might have been my number one but I kept something that I cherish even more for this spot. Jeff Goldblum in a David Cronenberg film: what can i ask more with that? Geena Davis his wife of the time to co-star. I think this is it. The Fly by Cronenberg is a Horror classic that is an essential for any fan of the director and Goldblum. Knowing that it is a remake I always refused to watch the original since the remake is so great. I like that Goldblum is the star of this one and that it is an underground success.


1. Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park/The Lost World

I could ramble on and on about Jurassic Park and how I was 10 years old when it came out and how I watched to over and over on my VHS when we got it at home. The mathematician of Malcolm trying to score with Ellie (Laura Dern), getting on the nerves of Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) is still one of the best elements of this movie. This is another summer blockbuster but one of the most entertaining. It is also one of my favorite Steven Spielberg film of all time. 


So that's it for this top 7 performances by Jeff Goldblum. I hope you enjoyed it and let's just take this as a conversation starter! 
What should have been included? What should be the ranking in your opinion? Please have fun with the comments' section!

2014-08-01

if....


Note: this review is a contribution to the The British Invaders Blogathon hosted by the great folks over at A Shroud of Thoughts. 

if.... (Lindsay Anderson, 1968)


In this allegorical story, a revolution led by pupil Mick Travis (Malcolm McDowell) takes place at an old established private school in England.


With his film if...., director Lindsay Anderson responded to François Truffaut's saying that nothing good, in films, has come out of England. Even if this statement is totally wrong, let's take the time to mention the Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger collaborations for instance, Anderson was a strong defender of the films of his country while admiring pantheon directors like John Ford with his brilliant writings about this master of American Cinema. 


The subversive film that is if.... is quite something that no one should read on the first level. First, because it might make no sense for a simple minded viewer but also because every scene starts out as being a normal scene of a private English school and turns out in the last thinking way possible for it to become. It is interesting to observe how ironic each character is and how laughable they can become. Every character and every aspect of the English life and society is kicked in the nuts. 


One thing I must honestly admit is the transfer from color to black and white film that I can't quite understand the logic behind it. In mind there's none and it might just be an artistic value that wants to demonstrate change and transition in the emerging new society of 1968. Let's remember the events of May 68 in France. Even in an orderly world like England where they still have a Queen and the Parliament people don't really protest or riot. Well, until the coming of Punk rock movements initiated by The Clash, Sex Pistols, The Damned, and their followers.


Speaking of the visuals of this film, the photography is superb and it was a Czech New Wave cinematographer named Miroslav Ondricek. It is more than worth mentioning and the whole film feels fresh and it has this vibe of revolt that many films of the Czech New Wave carried.


There are those kind of films that you watch one time and then you can relegate as I've seen it and I might never rewatch it and I'm good with it. But, the second kind of films, the ones you can watch again and again and find something new and interesting about it. if.... fells into this category.



2014-07-31

Irréversible

Irréversible (Gaspar Noé, 2002)

Events over the course of one traumatic night in Paris unfold in reverse-chronological order as the beautiful Alex is brutally raped and beaten by a stranger in the underpass.


After all this time, I've finally got to sit to watch Gaspar Noé's most widely known film: Irréversible. Staring two of the best French actors of their generation, and a couple in real life, Monica Bellucci and Vincent Cassel give striking performances as the onscreen couple that gets their life completely change over one shitty night. Let's say it like this. As the film is legendary known to be edited in reverse, the scenes are in the unchronological order, their are not that many things to spoil for the reader who never watch this unforgettable film.


Let's get this out, this is disturbing, violent, and two particular scenes that probably anyone who has ever heard of this knows; the famous brutal murder scene with the fire extinguisher and the crude rape scene where Bellucci might have given her life changing performance and probably the worst scene to act for a woman. It looks so true that at some point, we believe it is happening in front of our eyes. There are two things I have to say about this. First, yes it is very difficult to watch, but rape happens every day and it is part of life. If people are not disgusted by it well the rate won't drop. Let's just hope that anyone who watches that will think about twice before committing such an ugly crime. Second, since art and media are the reflection of life, well it should not be censored or passed over. Cinema is there to illustrate the best and the worst of humans. And Irréversible is one of the most human films I've ever seen.


The evolution of the story is so well executed and I believe that Noé's approach to the whole idea is not only a gimmick of telling the story backwards. It could have been a gimmick, nothing is more true than that. But Noé wants us to ask ourself, is the story weaker because I already know the ending? No. It even makes more sense when the emotional angle is observed, knowing what's going to happen in their lives we kind of have even more empathy for those characters. The movie gets all our attention and we easily get to identify with them.


Finally, it is a mandatory film and probably one of the most important film of the 21st Century. However, I don't think I'll ever watch it again. Just like a great piece of art I wonder how long I will think about it. Mandatory, difficult, but more noticeable it is essential.




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