2011-09-30

Top films of Michael Mann by LMdC


Given the opportunity to make a top or a list of films is always something I jump on head first. Since Mann is the Director of the month at the LAMB I’ve decided to make a little late contribution of my own. This is a modest top since of the 10 films directed by Michael Mann, I’ve only seen 4. But, you know there’s always a but, it will be a great pretext to catch the six omissions listed below. As always comments are welcomed and I encourage you to make your own top and recommend me one of the films I haven’t seen from Mann.

1. Heat (1995)
2. Public Enemies (2009)
3. Miami Vice (2006)
4. Collateral (2004)

I still need to see Ali, The Insider, The Last of The Mohicans, Manhunter, The Keep, and Thief.

2011-09-29

Top films of Cary Grant by LMdC






I would like to take the time to celebrate one of the funniest actors of All-Time. His presence in Howard Hawks' screwball comedies, Alfred Hitchcock's thrillers, and in many various roles has left an indelibile mark. I've decided to contribute to the LAMB's acting school by making a list of my favorite performances by Grant.

1. To Catch A Thief
2. Bringing Up Baby
3. North By Northwest
4. His Girl Friday
5. Only Angels Have Wings
6. The Philadelphia Story
7. Notorious
8. Monkey Business
9. Suspicion

The Last Picture Show

The Last Picture Show (Peter Bogdanovich, 1971)


Peter Bogdanovich is the kind of director that eats and breaths Cinema. His encyclopaedic knowledge of films, directors, and the whole business is as impressive as Martin Scorsese’s. Bogdanovich made his name in the early 1960’s with reviews, books, interviews with the greats of the 1950’s and 1940’s. His series of interviews with Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, and John Ford are references in the American Cinema. With just this work he could have been as important as Pauline Kael or Manny Farber. But, he always had the desire to pass behind the camera to write and direct his own films. However, the man never reached full success with the audiences and the critics. Judged severely by his peers and probably misunderstood the man had to direct TV movies, miniseries episodes and pay check jobs to survive in the studio controlled years of the 1980’s, a time where directors weren’t considered as apt as they were in the 1970’s. Although, this decade, the most prolific of Bogdanovich’s directorial career, is marked by the second Golden age of American Cinema. The Last Picture Show is clearly a film of that decade for many reasons while it contains many references of its director’s heritage.

The 1970’s was a time where the kids and teenagers of the 1950’s were becoming the legendary directors of today: Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Hal Ashby, Peter Bogdanovich, Stanley Kubrick, Terrence Malick, Robert Altman, and many more, The Last Picture Show is almost like if Bogdanovich wanted to represent the coming of age of this new generation of directors from boyhood to manhood with the characters his second film. The Last Picture Show is a pivotal film that is set in Texas, shot in a classic black and white that digest the lessons of Orson Welles and John Ford for its mise en scène of subtle camera placing at the height of the eyes and few camera movements. The visual aspect is very classical and reminds of the films of the 1950’s with a nostalgic but not too bold feeling. The Fordian theme of the community, the ensemble cast and the little town, and of course the many Ford films displayed (Wagonmaster and The Sands of Iwo Jima).

Meanwhile, the themes and the preoccupations of its characters are serious and the main theme of the film circles around their sexuality and how their lives evolve in this dying town. We clearly feel the European influence on Bogdanovich: Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, and Ingmar Bergman amongst many. The approach and the way the themes are exploited reminded me of the important films of the 1960’s of these remarkable directors.

Overall, The Last Picture Show is a smart film that brings you into known territories and then surprise you with its mature themes and its wonderful and touching story. The use of Howard Hawks’ Red River is pure genius. It gives a great emotional push for the film’s final moments. Every cinephile should watch this cinephile crafted film. And for the record, Cybill Shepherd: WOW!

2011-09-27

Bridesmaids

Bridesmaids (Paul Feig, 2011)


First, don’t ever read the chosen critics lines on movie posters. Second, always learn to read a review and/or a critic until the end. Third, one liners are lame and even if it says “It’s the female version of The Hangover” or “The Best Comedy of the Year!” don’t listen to them and learn to read more than one review about a film. I do not pretend to possess the ultimate knowledge and no one should be neither.

Especially in the case of Bridesmaids, almost fully casted by current and former SNL players; Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, etc. It was a good cast and the idea, even if it sounds like a female The Hangover, well it is so not the case by the way, falls flat on many levels.

The weakness of the script is that it travels between absurd comedy, rom-com, existential drama, and bathroom jokes. It literally shoots on too many ducks at one time. Even if the target isn’t missed every time it is hard to follow the lead here because every scene is like a sketch and maybe it lacks of links or should had had a stronger director to hold the glue together... But, many situations are too long and the comedy slowly becomes a malaise for the viewer that tries to identifies with Wiig’s character that constantly fells deeper and deeper.

I wouldn’t say that this movie is “awful” as my compatriot Kevyn Knox noted in his capable review but I would say that it was quite a light comedy that even if the laughs aren’t as frequent as they should be, it wasn’t a torture either. However, I fully agree with Mr. Knox on the fact that producer Judd Apatow is wrongly recognized as the new guru of Hollywoodian comedies. The pedestrian humour and the bathroom jokes even if efficient, I really don’t understand the public sometimes, are simply bad taste and could be excised from the script. The greater laughs I’ve heard in a theatre were when I first saw The Great Dictator by Charles Chaplin circa 2002. It was clear honest laughs of clever humour about one of the most important moments in the History of humanity. I’m not comparing Bridesmaids with The Great Dictator but I am saying that to be funny a film doesn’t need to be vulgar or disgusting. A lesson Apatow must learn and apply in his movies.

2011-09-23

Fall 2011

This summer has been pretty busy for me and my girlfriend since we had our wedding on August 20. The many things we had to plan and the details of our honeymoon in Hawaii took us all the free time we usually have. On my side it’s my movie viewing time that I completely cut. First, because it took a lot of time to watch and review those films but also because when my mind isn’t free I have much more difficulties to get my attention focused and to fully appreciate what I am watching.

So I’ve decided to make a list of the films I’d like to see this Fall when I’ll get back from all the wedding and the honeymoon. You’ll notice that I put many Horror classics that I am really ashamed to haven’t seen yet (Halloween, The Innocents, The Haunting, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Les yeux sans visage, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and many others). Those will be a part of my month of October, which I like to imposed myself some Halloween themed films. Then, there are some Christmas oriented picks too to get me in the mood during December (A Christmas Story, 3 Godfathers, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence) but also many films set the Ancient times (Land of the Pharaohs, Cleopatra’s, Colossus of Rhodes) because during the holidays I like to watch this kind of films. This is the historian in me that needs those.

There is also many films that will help me attain one of my objectives of the year; to get to the half of the 1000 Greatest films of All time of They Shoot Pictures Don’t They.
There's also some Nicholas Ray films I urged myself to discover after those many years of wait... It also is justified with the new release of a bio about Ray.

Here’s the list:

1. Madame de… (Max Ophüls, 1954)

2. Battle of Algier (Gillo Pontecorvo, 196-)

3. Nanook of the North (Robert Flaherty, 1927)

4. Husbands (John Casavetes, 1972)

5. The Servant (Joseph Losey, 1963)

6. Kiss Me Deadly (Robert Aldrich, 1953)

7. The Last Picture Show (Peter Bogdanovich, 1971)

8. Shadows (John Cassavetes, 1959)

9. The Innocents (Jack Clayton, 19--)

10. Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978)

11. Le Corbeau (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 19--)

12. Y Tu Mama Tambien (Alfonso Cuaron, 2000)

13. Irréversible (Gaspar Noé, 2001)

14. Ali : Fear Eats the Soul (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 19--)

15. Les yeux sans visage (Georges Franju, 195-)

16. The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (Peter Greenaway, 1989)

17. Land of the Pharaohs (Howard Hawks, 195-)

18. Colossus of Rhodes (Sergio Leone, 196-)

19. Cleopatra (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 196-)

20. Cleopatra (Cecil B. DeMille, 192-)

21. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1975)

22. Dersu Uzala (Akira Kurosawa, 1975)

23. Black Moon (Louis Malle, 1975)

24. Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 1954)

25. Bigger Than Life (Nicholas Ray, 195-)

26. They Live By Night (Nicholas Ray, 1948)

27. The Lusty Men (Nicholas Ray, 196-)

28. L’année dernière à Marienbad (Alain Resnais, 1958)

29. The Devils (Ken Russell, 197-)

30. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel, 1956)

31. Duel (Steven Spielberg, 1971) Watched August 15


32. Cat People (Jacques Tourneur, 19--)

33. I Walked with A Zombie (Jacques Tourneur, 19--)

34. Night of the Demon (Jacques Tourneur, 19--)

35. The Haunting (Robert Wise, 19--)

36. Doctor Phibes Rises Again (Robert Fuest, 19--)

37. The Wicker Man (Robin Hardy, 19--)

38. Scream (Wes Craven, 1994)

39. A Christmas Story (Bob Clark, 1983)

40. 3 Godfathers (John Ford, 1948)

41. Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (Paul Schrader, 1983)

2011-09-22

Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie

Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie (Luis Buñuel, 1972)


This is by far one of my favourite film of all time. Buñuel has always been a one of a kind director contributing with Salvador Dali on the surrealism with his Un chien andalou and L’Âge d’or, two masterpieces of moviemaking and dreamlike sequences that every self-respected cinephile should have seen. The symbolism of these instinctive films as so many levels of understanding and such depth that a simple essay on them isn’t enough to crack their codes.

Let’s get back to Le charme discrèt de la bourgeoisie made almost fifty years after Buñuel’s first films! What strikes you the most is how the surrealism that characterized his first films is still omnipresent but even more mastered than ever. Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie is the culmination of Buñuel’s work : the perfect surrealism film. The uses of symbolism and camera techniques is really subtle and Buñuel doesn’t need to slice the eye of a woman or get a cow in the bed of two lovers. The many situations of Le charme... are already overly enough and the closer to realism it gets the better it is. The dreamlike sequences that always feel like if you were in reality but finally you weren’t at all embarks the viewer on a trip with the bourgeois that are trying to get diner together and enjoy a nice evening.

This series of events is packed with humorous dialogues and situations. Just like Woody Allen, another admirer of Buñuel’s work, I feel that this kind of hybrid film where humour and reflection means entertainment and Cinema. It is a smart film where subtlety uncovers the hypocrisy, the fears, and the vices of the bourgeois characters populating the film. The uniqueness unity of Le charme... brings you in common places and then just when the viewer thinks he knows how the situation will turn out Buñuel gets a bunny out of his hat. This master has many tricks in his bag. You have to see the film to fully understand the reach of the whole thing.

In 1972, there were many big successes: The Godfather, Cabaret, Deliverance, What’s Up Doc?, The Getaway, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were to Afraid to Ask), but in my opinion Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie along with Aguirre: The Wrath of God was the greatest film of that year. Unfortunately other films mentioned earlier will always make shadows on Buñuel’s greatest achievement.

2011-09-20

Important Announcement!

If you liked the posts about the Snowboarding videos of this week you will be more than welcome to join Powder Lines, my new blog about Snowboarding videos and related things. Please join or bookmark it and contribute to this new community! Feel free to comment and share your thoughts. I will be linking videos, reviewing releases of the past and the new ones too! I let you with this amazing picture of my favourite rider of all-time: Peter Line.

Snowboarding series: Technical Difficulties

Technical Difficulties (Mike McEntire, 1999)


More than a decade after the release of Technical Difficulties this Mack Dawg productions still holds the run pretty well. It was the film that pushed us to do more rails, go higher and try corked spins and flips. With the dream team that Forum snowboards (read Peter Line) put together: JP Walker, Jeremy Jones, Wille Yli-Luoma, Bjorn Leines, Joni Malmi, and Devun Walsh and the top riders of the time: Chad Otterstorm, Kevin Jones, Jason Brown, and many more Technical Difficulties had to surpass the success of its predecessors of the same production company: Decade. TD had to be even more progressive while presenting new tricks with an even greater approach. Well, for this blogger it hits its goal with great fashion. This is the snowboarding video I watch the most often. When I received it at Christmas of 1999, I remember that I used to watch it every time I’d go out and ride, which was every day at that time.

The cinematography looks like a skateboarding flick, a handheld camera by a rider following the rider doing his run. While other parts are shot from a stable point and zoomed. This is mostly for the rail sessions and the backcountry parts. Which by the way are a great amelioration from the videos shot in the early years of the 1990’s where the camera used to move quickly and in an amateurish way.

The parts by the riders are well balanced and the editing surely makes it dynamic and quite enjoyable. The variety and the quality of the soundtrack is so efficient that I even made myself a mixed tape of it. The best parts are from JP Walker, Peter Line, Kevin Jones, and the closing part: Devun Walsh. Why did I choose those guys? First, because every rider has a variety of tricks, many different terrains, and possess a fluidity in the execution of their parts. The riding displayed is progressive and does not only involve street or backcountry, it has the perfect mix of them all: a great balance between resort, big mountain, street. It doesn’t denature the sport and stays true to itself.

As I stated with my review of That’s It That’s All big budgeted by Red Bull, a film like Technical Difficulties did very well with a small budget. Even if expectations were very high from the previous film Decade.
Special mention
*Technical Difficulties was a turning point in the craft of making snowboarding movies. It set a new standard.*

2011-09-19

Snowboarding series: That's It That's All

That’s It That’s All (Curt Morgan, 2008)

With the release of the new feature by the BrainFarm films production, The Art of Flight, I wanted to get back and catch-up with their previous offer That’s It That’s All: this is a marvellous film to get pumped to. Well, this is the first of a series of Sports related media releases I will be reviewing on Le Mot du Cinephilaque. My major concern on this modest Blog is to talk about films. Snowboarding is a big part of my life since 15 years or so. The commercial vehicles that are the snowboarding movies took many looks during the latter years of this somewhat young sport. Directly related to its bigger brother Surfing, snowboarding followed some of the paths of the sport of The Beach Boys. Surfing was the first sport to actually shot videos of professional athletes and release them to promote their brands. Then skateboarding, another part of my life, followed and then snowboarding also did. The latter sport is an hybrid of surfing and skateboarding, the attitude of the sport and the fashion is way more influence by skaters than surfers but the three sports are interconnected and many athletes like Shaun White, Terje Haakonsen, Todd Richards, JP Walker, etc. Managed to master two or more of these sports. During the 1990’s snowboarding movies were handheld cameras by other riders who were filming each other and put it in segments with punk rock soundtracks. It gives an amateurish look to the whole package or as we call it in the milieu a Do It Yourself approach. A very counterculture underground vibe to it all. It came from skateboarding and punk rock. Slowly companies understood the strength of this almost free promotion.

In 1998, came something that helped commercialize and popularize the sport, for some people it represented the ultimate recognition for a sport for others it was the beginning of the end. The Winter Olympics, with the Halfpipe qualifications held by the FIS(ski federation) instead of the ISF(snowboarding federation). It represented to many times Halfpipe World champion Terje Haakonsen an insult to the sport, even if the Norwegian was the favourite to win the gold he boycotted the event in protest for that decision.

After the Olympics the sport never been the same, Shaun White two times Gold medal winner makes almost 10 million of dollars per year while guys like Peter Line, who practically wrote the book of freestyle snowboarding, had to sell Forum/Foursquare to Burton to survive.

Snowboarding has an incredible history and even if the sport is populated with major sponsors like Red Bull (the main sponsor of the BrainFarm films) it still is reserved to a small group of outcast in our society talking about jibs, pipes, boards, dudes, etc. This is a lifestyle and a passion.

The film, That’s It That’s All elevates how snowboarding films were made, almost entirely shot from helicopters from Red Bull, filled with National Geographic-like scenery of Backcountry Mountains, short commentaries by the featured riders this is more than just a juvenile DIY movie. The strength of it all is because it makes you want to go out and actually go snowboarding instead of the latter years where the video parts are filled with street rails and no actual Mountain riding. Street snowboarding is the combines the most spectacular aspect of skateboarding into snowboarding. But for most of the riders out there we don’t actually do rails all winter long. Most of the consumers of the sports are still going to resorts trying to kill it in the parks and last pipes. However, the greatest days of snowboarding I had in my life were the ones I went with some friends in a mountain with fresh snow and powder. We call it backcountry and this is the best you can get. That’s it that’s All concentrates the riding in those areas: New Zealand and Alaska.

Another interesting topic is the fact that they went to meet legends of the sport that retired from the big spots and continued to ride for themselves and the love of the sport. Bryan Iguchi, Terje Haakonsen, and Jeremy Jones are the legends in That’s It That’s All but the star of the film is Travis Rice the most versatile and complete athlete of this sport today. His style flows superbly and his bag of tricks is just unbelievable. The soundtrack is grandiose and fits the perfect images that populates the movie.

As I stated earlier this is the first of a series of reviews of Snowboarding films I will be watching to get me into the vibe for the beginning of the new season that is approaching. The Art of Flight the new feature from the makers of That’s It That’s All is the most awaited video since the brighter days of Mack Dawg Productions. I hope to see it soon since it is already available on iTunes.

Special Mention
*The greatest snowboarding film of all time*

Going the Distance

Going the Distance (Nanette Burstein, 2010)

Drew Barrymore and Justin Long are around 30 years old and they both have had hard times at relationships. She, is finishing school and is an understudy in New York for the summer while in Autumn she’ll return to her big sister’s house to complete school. He, is a New York guy working for a record label he hates. His relationships always fell in the same pattern with every girl. But together they’re like the perfect couple. As Fall comes Drew returns to San Francisco to finish her grad. Their relationship will have to pass through the test of distance.


This light rom-com aims at the Y generation. Filled with a superb soundtrack of bands like Weezer, The Cure, and The Airborne Toxic Event. Going the Distance has modest goals and probably hits the target for what it’s supposed to be. A light but not life changing comedy. The denouement is predictable but like every Colombo, we how it’s gonna end, it’s how it gets there that is interesting. Well, even if passing by the clichés Going the Distance has this breezy light hearted spirit and a funny feeling. Not as good as (500) Days of Summer, Going the Distance fells into that category of films that are not too stupid or not overly melodramatic either so it can please the boys and the girls. The weakest points are the supporting roles that aren’t stiff enough and that could have some sort of Easy Aing. The stereotyped supporting cast just get onto your nerves and slows the whole story and its evolution. Far from being a study of characters it still has this hook that makes you want to finish the film even if you guessed the ending right. It is a movie worth a look with your girlfriend.

2011-09-11

Duel

Duel (Steven Spielberg, 1971)


This first film, made for TV, by one of the wealthiest director of its time, and maybe of all-time is a success of Hitchcockian grandeur. The story can be resumed to one line: a rep/seller on the road of California is menaced by a trucker until their ultimate showdown. As for Hitchcock’s The Birds not much is explained here except the fact that the menace is there and we are on the edge of our seat from the first moment until the generic. Do we really have to know why the birds attacked this little Californian town? No! It is the same here, the trucker is never seen and the tension rises gradually until the very end of this confrontation of the man versus the machine. The plot also revolves around the symbolism of the manhood of the two opposite forces. The little red Plymouth Valiant against the truck as a phallic representation of the two males. The impotent car against the powerful all-American truck. It also represents a rite of passage for Dennis Weaver’s character: his relationship with his wife is mentioned in a quick phone call where he demonstrates his inability to be a man, a real man. This event will make him face himself and be a stronger person.

However, the qualities of Duel mostly resides in its stylistic beauty and the mastery of its director. The simple plotline could have made this a poor TV-movie that could have been in the shelves and forgotten. Nonetheless, it was released in theatres and applauded. Made in thirteen days, Spielberg shows how he understood moviemaking and how he innovated with few resources. Nowadays, Spielberg has hundreds of millions of budgets and his films aren’t has great has they were in the 1970’s. The mise en scène of Duel deserves its place amongst the great films of its time. The way Spielberg places the viewer into the action, just like the master Hitchcock, is inspired and thoughtful.

As an admirer of Spielberg’s earlier work (Duel, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Indiana Jones original trilogy, even Jurassic Park I loved as a kid) and a detractor of his later work (War of the Worlds, Munich, The Terminal) it will always be a tormenting thing when thinking about the filmmaker himself. Nonetheless, Duel is an astounding start for the career of one of the most prosperous director of all-time.

2011-09-09

Recommended readings - Down and Dirty Pictures



Down and Dirty Pictures by Peter Biskind

From the author of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, Peter Biskind comes with this funny and full of juicy anecdotes about the rise of American Independent Cinema in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Focusing on the rise of Miramax and the trembling foundations of the Sundance Film Festival it paints a portrait of the Weinstein bros and Robert Redford. On one hand we discover how manipulative and tyrannical Harvey and Bob Weinstein are with everyone in the business and how they manage to elevate the best of the Indys out there. While Redford is presented as the control freak of Sundance.

The main critic I can express about this book is how Biskind likes to put everyone in the mud to keep its viewer alert. Some interviews with former employees of Miramax sure juice the fact that Harvey is a man with some Angers but still. Sometimes the book looks like a diatribe against the Weinsteins...

On the other hand the stories around the debuts of Steven Soderbergh, Quentin Tarantino, Todd Haynes, and the other interesting filmmakers out there are full of details and interesting facts. This is a very enjoyable book that entertains and educates about this blank spot that Independent films always had in the History of Cinema. A must read.

2011-09-07

Satyricon


Fellini’s Satyricon (Federico Fellini, 1969)


The films of Federico Fellini always have been intriguing and mysterious because every first viewing of his films I feel like I’m entering in a different world than mine. Not only the imagery but also the narrative and the acting. It is always like the feeling of being in a dream-like universe. The first film from Fellini I saw was his Casanova with Donald Sutherland. It’s time for an anecdote: when I came back from my one month trip in Italy in 2006 my flight from Paris to Montréal had a special passenger: Mr. Donald Sutherland. The funniest thing about this little moment was that I knew who he was and I loved his presence in Casanova, Don’t Look Now, 1900, etc. But everyone was shouting this is Jack Bauer’s father! For Odin’s sake’s this man is a living legend don’t insult him by saying that he is the father of the flavour of the moment! Recognize the man at least!

I discovered many Fellini films before I started this blog, so this is why this is one of the first reviews about his work. Satyricon was the first film of Fellini I ever bought, the Antic Roman settings and the name of the movie (I am a fan of the band of the same name) were the two magnets that got me and my hard earned money. Opposed to many Italian and American peplums that tried to recreate with precise details the past, Fellini’s Satyricon is the perception of the Roman Empire by Fellini himself. This is his fantasy about this time and age. It may sound a little pompous but for the neophytes out there Federico or affectively Fefe had an incredible imagination and his creations are inimitable. This creativity is characterized by a childish approach to everything, many of his imagery is taken from his memories and his impressions as a kid on how he used to perceive and see life.

Far from being his most accessible work, Satyricon did not have standard narration neither does it have appealing characters. It looks like a freak show set in Ancient times. It is raw, bizarre, and beautiful at the same time. But like many unique films, this Fellini is a masterwork of cinematic brilliance and mise en scène. Even if it’s not considered as a major work from his oeuvre I still think that film has a special aura of greatness and weirdness. Moreover, Satyricon is a very personal film made by the genius vision of Federico Fellini.
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