2012-01-31

La nuit américaine

La nuit américaine aka Day For Night (François Truffaut, 1973)

In this love letter to the seventh Art by one of its greatest lovers of all time, François Truffaut, the Cinema, the making of, the world in front and behind the camera is exposed like a porn star in a XXX feature. Truffaut wants to present all his passion and love to the medium by showing to the public and his comrades the craft of making a film within a film. Almost shot like a documentary but clearly a fiction, La nuit américaine is one of Truffaut's most well-known film.

With an uneven but interesting plot Truffaut wants us to feel his dedication to film making and cinephilia. Almost redefining the term cinephile for himself first with his writings in Les Cahiers du Cinema then while being one of the most celebrated French cinéaste and one of the two main figures of the  French New Wave with Jean-Luc Godard La nuit américaine stands out like a masturbatory exercise that could have been more than a cult film but that carries dreamt sequences of pure cinematic bliss and many forced dramatic events that could have been spared in the script.

However, one cinephile cannot be cold blooded by Truffaut's film and this is mainly what saves the entire picture from falling apart. The naive charm and the passionate hugs from the maker to the final product are enough to court the most heartless of cinephiles.

2012-01-30

The Ides of March

The Ides of March (George Clooney, 2011)

In my attempt to catch-up on the films of 2011 I've missed, this George Clooney picture was very high on my list. Plus it earned an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.

This political drama that depicts American politics with a superb cinematography and "mise en scène" that revives the greatest political dramas of the 1970's sure gets your interest. At some point I thought I was discovering a Alan J. Pakula film that I haven't seen.

The duality between Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney) and campaign worker Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) are vast and their ambitions even bigger. I won't spoil any twists of the plot but let's say that politics isn't the trade of good men. Even with the campaigns and the public images the subterranean of this world isn't very clean.

The plot evolves around the fact that we begin with the illusion of the perfect candidate and the right man to govern the "greatest" country in the world. However, as we dig deeper and deeper the men involved in politics are send there with an obsession of power and control. It is interesting to watch how the plot slowly evolves and takes us places we would haven't guessed it would go. Instead of showing democracy as the greatest thing since sliced bread it demonstrates how much mud and crap a candidate must pass through to obtain the ultimate votes.

This ensemble cast leaded by a capable but sometimes maladroit Ryan Gosling is excellent in its whole and to see Philip Seymour Hoffman, George Clooney, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright, Evan Rachel Wood, and Paul Giamatti is a great happening that its director only could have assembled.

All in all, this is Clooney's best directorial effort with Good Night and Good Luck, and the context of a future Presidential election was a nice moment to release a somewhat "cynic" film like The Ides of March. One must admit that it was probably an attempt to get more Oscar nominations at first. The producers must have been disappointed to only get one with this good but not great political film. Moreover, it is also interesting to watch who really pulls the strings of power...

2012-01-24

84th Academy Awards Nominations

2012 Oscars Nominations
Of the two main categorizes (Best Motion Picture of the Year and Best Achievment in Directing) some nominations are a bit of surprise to me. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close for Best Motion Picture comes almost out of nowhere since I haven't read many rave reviews or reviews at all. On the plus side, a much deserving film The Tree of Life got a nomination as its director Terrence Malick.
The other films nominated are pretty much the ones that were mostly discussed by critics and specialists; The Artist, The Descendants, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse.
The directors nominated are Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist),Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris), Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life), Alexander Payne (The Descendants), Martin Scorsese (Hugo).
 
So, one of my New Year resolutions has been since two or three years to see all the films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. Of the last years I didn't get to see them all. Well, this year I will watch them all and post my predictions a few days before the ceremony.
 
What do you think of the 2012 Oscars nominations?

2012-01-23

Shadow of A Doubt

Shadow of a Doubt (Alfred Hitchcock, 1943)

In this quest to view and review all the films mentioned in the book 1000 Movies You Must See Before You Die, there is a nice little club hosted by my good friend Squish over at Filmsquish, you can participate if you are interested or to just browse through the reviewed titles. This exercise made me discover some lesser known pictures and other films I wouldn't have been interested at the first time but I pushed myself into the viewing and the sometimes it had been very rewarding. However, since I've been working on many classic films list since around 2001-2002, lots of titles are second to multiple watches for me. Other titles hold the status of being personal favourites. Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt isn't less than a masterpiece and a personal favourite from Hitch's great filmography.

When traveler uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) comes to town (Anytown, USA) the Young Charlie (Teresa Wright) is more than excited, because she wants to know more about his voyages and the real life that he lives. However, since she is not a dumb girl, she discovers that uncle Charlie's has a dark past.

The story evolves around the duality (recurring Hitchcock theme) of the name Charlie and the opposites between both character. As if uncle Charlie is the bad side and Young Charlie is the good side. One example is the shoot when uncle Charlie's train arrives there's a giant black smoke that encaptures the locomotive as if the train came from hell. Cotten delivers a very subtle performance that helps Hitchcock's tension building around the principle of the criminal in the house with young Charlie and the fact that she discovers her uncle's secrets.

The technique and the mise en scène are the most important aspects of the film to notice when watching Shadow of a Doubt. It is also Hitch's creativity that pushes the boundaries of film making at this time and the brilliant cast that gives a more than notable ensemble performance.

2012-01-20

Top Films of Federico Fellini by LMdC

Today is Fellini's birthday, this director often called the "Maestro" has divided cinephiles from around the world with his dream-like "mise en scène" and his fabulous imagination. The recurring themes of childhood memories, at the beach endings, his neo-realist period, and the Cinecitta productions characterized Italian Cinema for many film buffs.
Without further ramblings here's the top films of Federico Fellini:

1. 8 1/2 (1963)
2. La dolce vita (1960)
3. Le notti di cabiria (1957)
4. La strada (1954)
5. Satyricon (1969)
6. I Vitelloni (1953)
7. The White Sheik (1951)
8. Amarcord (1973)
9. Casanova (1976)
10. Roma (1972)


I still need to see: Variety Lights (1950) Il Bidone (1955) Juliet of the Spirits (1965) Spirits of the Dead (1968) The Clowns (1971) Orchestra Rehearsal (1979) City of Women (1981) And the Ship Sails On (1984) Ginger and Fred (1986) Intervista (1987) The Voice of the Moon (1990)

Our Idiot Brother

Our Idiot Brother (Jesse Peretz, 2011)
This indie production featuring Paul Rudd, Zooey Deschanel, Elizabeth Banks, Emily Mortimer, and many other could have been the regular stupid comedy about the stereotyped hippie with the eco-bragging about the respect of the earth and the many bold charicatures that comes with it. However, we discover another side of Paul Rudd's talent and an okay play that lives mainly because of the performances and the presences of its cast.

Rudd portrays the "idiot brother" who's been caught selling weed. When he goes out of jail for good behavior, his girlfriend and the farm he lives and works on doesn't want him anymore. The ex has already another boyfriend who lives on the farm with. However, the worst part is that the lady doesn't want him to get his dog (called Willie Nelson) back.

This movie stands out mainly for Paul Rudd's performance of subtility in this bland and naive hippie. Many situations could have fell into known territories because of their nature and our references. Nevertheless, the storyline helps Rudd to place his character in the perspective of the potential stupid or idiot without really being it as we could have thought. We see his interactions with his three sisters with each one he will eventually live with and bring a new perspective in all their lives. As you would guess this is the kind of indie that makes you feel good and that could be related in some way to The Kids Are Alright or Little Miss Sunshine as for the capable supporting cast and the interesting characters they have. Someone may say that those are a little too quirky but isn't the case for an Indie?

Our Idiot Brother is an interesting first offering from Peretz as the director and his interesting little story. This is a small movie that has a small effect but made with care.

2012-01-19

The 21st Century's Most Acclaimed Films by They Shoot Pictures Don't They?

NEW The 21st Century's Most Acclaimed Films



The seventh edition of our 21st Century list is now online, and incorporates many of 2011's critics' ballots. Unsurprisingly, Terrence Malick's Tree of Life leads the 2011 bunch.  View

2012-01-13

Top films of Steven Spielberg by LMdC

It was probably the first director name I ever noticed when I was a kid and it was way before I become a director worshiper. My relation with Spielberg has many highs and many lows. Let me explain myself here, I love his talent as a storyteller and his vision that makes us discover something fresh and original almost every time. The latest release of Tintin helped me to make peace with this widely acclaimed director that got on my nerves with his latest releases. The moralistic messages of his films and the lack of sensibility of some of his subjects and/or the hypocrisy of their treatment pissed me off.
However, when I look back at his better films I can not do anything but applause and remember myself how like his better work. Just hum the theme song for Indiana Jones and I will immediately have images of the hero for days. Who can't quote a line from Jaws? What is the only other (other than black and white even if they aren't colors 'cause they're black and white) color in Schindler's List?

I know it is a controversial list but it is my personal appreciation of Spielberg's oeuvre so far.

1. Jaws (1975)
2. Duel (1971)
3. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
4. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
5. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
6. Jurassic Park (1993)
7. Schindler's List (1993)
8. Catch Me If You Can (2002)
9. Artificial Intelligence: AI (2001)
10. The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011)
11. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
12. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
13. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
14. Minority Report (2002)
15. Munich (2005)
16. Hook (1991)
17. War of the Worlds (2005)
18. The Terminal (2004)
19. The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

Films I haven't seen: The Sugarland Express (1974) 1941 (1979) The Color Purple (1985) Empire of the Sun (1987) Always (1989) Amistad (1997) Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull (2008) War Horse (2011) Lincoln (2012) Robopocalypse (2013)

2012-01-12

Back to the Future

Back to the Future (Robert Zemeckis, 1985)

Being born in the 1980's, 1983 to be exact, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) has always been one of my favourite childhood heroes. He rode a skateboard, been in the past and drove a DeLorean. The simple thought of time travel always inspired weird ideas of returning to Prehistoric Ages or Medieval Times. However, this Robert Zemeckis pictures targets the 1950's a time of "peace and security" for the middle class American. This era has been romanticized and brought back in fashion in the 1980's. It was then a nice opportunity to take the Marty McFly of 1985 and make him travel to the time where his parents met: the 1955. Well, in a strictly commercial point of view this family adventure targeted many generations and portrayed an era that represented the parents of the time and the teenagers.

It is in the same vein that John Hugues managed with much success to make many teenager films, by understanding their preoccupations and revitalizing the social values of the 1950's. His comedies, Christmas Vacation (written by Hugues and directed by Jeremiah Chechiak), for example, display a father figure that wants to revive the real Christmas family of his childhood, from what decade? The 1950's, yeah right!

The story of the family depicted in Back to the Future represents the perfect recipe to a success, the love story, the action, the stereotypes of the crazy scientist, the terrorists, etc. It was intended to be a classic at the time it was made. Nowadays, it is a cult classic for my generation and a personal nostalgic pleasure. I remember watching this movie with my father on Saturday nights everytime it was aired on TV. Sometimes we would rent the three films together and watch them in a triple bill evening with popcorn, cheese sticks and cola. As a part of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die Blog Club I was thrilled to revisit this classic of my childhood. A must see.

2012-01-11

News: Directors Guild chooses film award nominees

(Reuters) - Filmmakers Woody Allen, David Fincher, Martin Scorsese, Alexander Payne and France's Michel Hazanavicius were nominated for Directors Guild film awards Monday -- a honor that is often a key indicator of Oscar success.
Hazanavicius, 44, scored his first Directors Guild of America (DGA) nomination for his black and white silent movie about old Hollywood, "The Artist," which has wowed critics since its premier at the Cannes film festival in May.


The French director joined U.S. veterans Scorsese and Allen, who were nominated for their work on 3D family film "Hugo" and comedy "Midnight in Paris," respectively.


Fincher scored his third DGA nomination for the U.S. version of Swedish writer Stieg Larsson's thriller "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," while Payne notched up his second nod for dysfunctional family drama "The Descendants" starring George Clooney.
The DGA has a strong track record of foreshadowing the eventual winner of the best director Oscar, and the Academy Award for best movie also goes to the winner of best director. Since 1948, there are only six occasions when the DGA award winner has not gone on to win the corresponding Academy Award.
The DGA hands out its award at ceremony in Los Angeles on Jan 28 in Hollywood, and it will be hosted this year by former "Frasier" star Kelsey Grammer. (Source)
With this news, I just can't say how much I am surprised to see that they already overpassed Terrence Malick as a contender for the Best Director award. It's a shame because his colossal work on The Tree of Life is worth at least for a strong nomination. It also announces that the Academy will omit his candidature for the precious statuette...
I will write it just once and I hope to never write those words anymore in front of an aberration like this but it is my reaction to this announcement: WHAT THE F--K! Don't get me wrong I am very happy for Allen, Scorsese, Fincher, Payne, and Hazanavicius it is all well deserved but the near-masterpiece of the year and its director doesn't even get mentioned?
Read my full review of The Tree of Life.

Links: Update of the 1000 Greatest Films at They Shoot Pictures Don't They?

NEW The 1,000 Greatest Films




TSPDT's annual update of the 1,000 Greatest Films is now online. 49 changes to the list and for the first time Fritz Lang leads the way with 16 films. Please take a look for yourself!

2012-01-10

My 12 (or so) Favourite Classic Films First Seen in 2011

 Quoting the words of one of the Film critics that inspired me to do this Blog, Kevyn Knox of The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World:

"Inspired by the always charming, always enjoyable and always cinematically knowledgeable (and always alliterative, nomenclaturally speaking) Self-Styled Siren, I send forth a list of my 25 favourite classic films seen for the first time in 2011.  Classic, of course, being any movie made prior to 1960.  And in keeping with the Siren's choice of keeping the descriptions to a bare bones minimum (actually inspired in turn by Clara at Via Margutta 51...)   So without further ado, here are my favourite classic films seen for the first time in 2011."

Since I've seen fewer films than the latest years I've decided to make a list of 12 films instead of the 25 that my colleagues did on their own niches. To keep up with the format of this exercise I will be writing one-line presentation of each film and add the link to the full review of them on this blog.
1. To Have and To Have Not (Howard Hawks, 1944)
Since one or two years I've been meaning to watch the entire films of the great Howard Hawks, this Bogart-Bacall flick is all about Hawksian comedy-thrill and probably one of the best films I've seen in 2011, it became a personal favourite rightaway. Full review.

2. Les yeux sans visage (Georges Franju, 1960) 
A filmmaker friend of mine talked to me many times about this masterpiece of French Cinema, as of today I don't understand why I've never watched this before, a frightening yet very human film. Full review.


3. Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 1954)
Ray's freudian Western masterpiece with the amazing Joan Crawford, it redefined the classic Hollywoodian Western genre. Full review.


4. Kiss Me Deadly (Robert Aldrich, 1955)
A cult classic of bad guys, guns, girls, atomic disaster, and gritty fun. Full review.


5. Land of the Pharaohs (Howard Hawks, 1956)
Hawks' underrated egyptian grand spectacle is all about excess and filmmaking extravaganza, one of Martin Scorsese's guilty pleasures. Full review.


6. To Be Or Not To Be (Ernst Lubitsch, 1942)
The Lubitsch touch and one of the many inspirations on Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, the last film by the beautiful Carole Lombard. Full review.


7. The Long Voyage Home (John Ford, 1940)

A war picture by of the most American filmmakers of all-time, John Ford, shot by Citizen Kane's cinematographer Gregg Toland. Full review

8. The Naked Jungle (Byron Haskins, 1952)
A guilty pleasure of mine, the 1950's and 1960's films shot in jungles/studios are a subgenre I really for no reason love, Haskins an underrated director of Film Noir does a great job with a nice script full of subtext and symbolism. Full review. 


9. Partie de campagne (Jean Renoir, 1936)
Probably the most beautiful unfinished film of all time, Renoir's film is shot like a short story directed by an early Terrence Malick, full of visual poetry and humanity. Full review.

10. Mon oncle (Jacques Tati, 1958)Tati has kept the Silent comedy tricks alive with his M. Hulot, without really much words Tati manages to make us laugh out loud many times in his subtle but enjoyable comedy. Full review.

11. Madame de... (Max Ophüls, 1953)

Max Ophüls, what more can I say than it is one of the most beautiful films ever made from one of the best directors of all-time. Full review.

12. Rio Grande (John Ford, 1950)

The last installement of the Ford Calvalry trilogy, a freudian film starring the ultimate American father figure; JohnWayne. Full review.

2012-01-09

Top films of Martin Scorsese by LMdC


The living director I probably respect the most and the one that directed my all-time favorite movie, Taxi Driver, Martin Scorsese's top film list is not an easy thing to do. With more than forty films, shorts, documentaries, concert films features, the career of this great director of 69 years old isn't even slowing down. With a film presently in theaters, Hugo, Scorsese's first 3D experience, and a biopic about Sinatra announced and another project titled Silence, the man sure wants to work. He could have only made films until the early 1980's and his place amongst the greats of the media would have been casted forever in stone.
After many problems in the 1970's and 1980's Scorsese directed his Last Temptation of Christ a controversial film that represented this tormented catholic's preoccupations. Even if I only saw more than the half of his filmography I think I've seen the major works of this amazing director. Here are the top films of Martin Scorsese by me:

1. Taxi Driver (1976)
2. Raging Bull (1980)
3. Goodfellas (1990)
4. The King of Comedy (1983)
5. Mean Streets (1973)
6. The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
7. New York, New York (1977)
8. After Hours (1985)
9. Casino (1995)
10. The Departed (2006)
11. Shutter Island (2010)
12. The Last Waltz (1978)
13. The Key to Reserva (short) (2007)
14. I Call First (1967)
15. New York Stories (segment Life Lessons) (1989)
16. Gangs of New York (2002)
17. Shine A Light (2008)
18. Bringing Out the Dead (1999)
19. The Age of Innocence (1993)
20. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
21. The Aviator (2004)
22. Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974)
23. The Color of Money (1986)
24. Boxcar Bertha (1972)
25. Cape Fear (1991)

I still need to see: Vesuvius VI (short) (1959) What's A Nice Girl Like You Doing In A Place Like This? (short) (1963) The Big Shave (short) (1967) Street Scenes (1970) Italianamerican (1974) American Boy: A Profile: Steven Prince (1978) Mirror, Mirror (Amazing stories) (1986) Bad (video short) (1987) Made in Milan (1990) A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies (1995) Kundun (1997) Il mio viaggio in Italia (1999) The Neighborhood (short) (2001) Feel Like Going Home (2003) The Lady by the Sea: The Statue of Liberty (2004) No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (2005) A Letter to Elia (2010) Boardwalk Empire (2010) Public Speaking (2010) George Harrison: Living in the Material World (2011) Hugo (2011)

2012-01-06

Gangs of New York

Gangs of New York (Martin Scorsese, 2002)
Gangs of New York is the Martin Scorsese picture that Harvey Weinstein wanted to produce to win many Oscars and be the ultimate David O. Selznick. Weinstein wanted to produce the movie of a true Hollywood director and have full control over "his" director. The Miramax tycoon always thought he knew movies better than anyone else and he knew what the public wanted to see. Buying foreign films at low cost and cutting them to please American audiences was his bread and butter in the 1980's. In the 1990's, he decided that he would buy Independant American features and control the lenght and the content. He began producing with Tarantino's Pulp Fiction and slowly earned fame and recognition within his peers. However, ther a re few filmmakers that haven't been well acquainted with Weinstein because he is a man of control and a manipulative fellow. He'll always present himself like your best friend, buying your movie and making you a favor to distribute and promote it the way you wanted it to be.


2012-01-05

Horrible Bosses

Horrible Bosses (Seth Gordon, 2011)
Three normal or random guys (Charlie Day, Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis) work for bosses that they hate. One is a drug addict and a freak (Colin Farrell), the other loves power and thinks his wife constantly cheats on him (Kevin Spacey) and the last one but not the least is a sexual harrassment hotie (Jennifer Aniston). With this setup the three guys brag about how their bosses make their lives miserable until one drunken night they decide to finish with their misery and think about a plan to get rid of their bosses. They will meet a professionnal (Jamie Foxx) to do the job...

The presence of a SNL regular Jason Sudeikis, the funny and sometimes annoying high pitched voice Charlie Day (Going the Distance) and Arrested Development's Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) make the perfect trio of losers that plans the perfect crime to eliminate the nuisance at their jobs. This universal concept of hating our bosses might seem too simple but instead this is what makes this film work so well. The bosses portrayed by the capable actors aforementioned are so mean and over the line of sanity that it is almost justified to kill them.

A simple plot that gives an interesting variation on Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train with twisted humour and a great supporting cast. With Horrible Bosses we are far from The Tree of Life (aka the greatest film of 2011 on this blog) but the comedy is efficient and the situations are hilarious. A great film for a friday night with friends and a couple of beers.

2012-01-04

One Day

One Day (Lone Scherfig, 2011)

Adapted from the Best-seller of the same title, this romance that is expanding over twenty years told only on the 15 of july of each year from 1988 until 2011 is almost already castrated by its concept. Since I haven't read the original material this review is based only on the feature film.

The couple of Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturges was a promising setup to this awaited adaptation. The concept of the novel is transcribed by fifteen or so short films that represented each year the story is told. The films also represent the times and the evolution of this relationship. But as the pace the story goes the viewer doesn't really has the time to understand what is the link between the two leads and how they get to each other each year. The restriction of the concept, told the story by only one day per year retains too much information and lets to much blanks to fully capture what the author wants us to understand from its story.

Even if Hathaway and Sturges want to take the movie on their shoulders they carry two complex characters that a story won't properly unfold and that doesn't let the talent of the two young actors take the lead and perform. The lenght of the film, probably reduced by the studios and/or producers restraint the possibility to make this film work.

Afterall, the waste of talent and production cost, the short films reprensent the last decades with much precision but the story displayed is too thin to make this film work and be a real success.
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