2012-12-22

Django Unchained

Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino, 2012)

With the help of his mentor, a slave-turned-bounty hunter sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner. 

 First off, my relationship with Quentin Tarantino's films began when I was around twelve and I watched Pulp Fiction. It was a complete revelation since I did not knew that movies could be so much fun, so original, and quick witted. This first viewing of QT's most celebrated film opened the gates for me to Cinema and many of its genres: gangster films, film noir, Samurai flicks, Western Spaghetti, and many more. A game changer it was, and oh boy did that made a monster? Then I took Cinema classes in College, began collecting movies that I would watch for my movie eduction and moreover my pleasure. And around August 2009 approx., when Inglourious Basterds came out I started this little modest blog that helps me to express myself freely from my thoughts and dreams of Cinema.

Some of the regulars of LMdC know that I've been hitting the nail about Django Unchained and was waiting more or less patiently for its Christmas release. About two weeks ago I was granted to receive free entries for Quebec City's premiere of the movie I was waiting like it was my cinephile Christmas gift. Well, Santa was earlier this year. Enough with the digression here and let's get the proper review going.

2012-12-21

First thoughts and impressions on Django Unchained

Last night I was lucky enough to be at the Premiere of Django Unchained in Quebec City, and my friends and readers I was excited! This is a little teaser on my impressions prior to my writing of a proper review of this one heck of a film.

First, let's get over the fact that it is Tarantino's Sergio Leone/Lucio Fulci/John Ford picture especially for its first half. He stayed true to the Western Spaghetti genre and also true to himself. It is hard, bloody, and funny as hell. It is also a guy movie in the like of a classic of mine called Die Hard.

Let's also say that Christoph Waltz is still great in the new Tarantino. And regular Samuel L. Jackson might equal his brilliant performance of Pulp Fiction in an outstanding performance as Stevens.

It is not the masterpiece I was expecting, but still my favorite film of 2012. Stay tuned for a longer review of this chutzpah experience.


2012-12-17

Recommended Reading: Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light


Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light (Patrick McGilligan, 2003)

Of the hundreds of books, biographies, analysis, essays about the most respected and famous film director of all time Patrick McGilligan’s biography might be the most complete and essential to the Hitchcock enthusiasts out there.

In a very apt English McGilligan presents the facts of the life and career of Hitch. From his early works in England to his major pictures like Psycho, every detail of every picture is included. This is not a complaisant biography that praises and shows the man in his entire splendor. On the other hand, it evokes some of the gossips and disputable behaviors of the man without giving them total credits since some aren’t proved to be exactly true.

Paired with François Truffaut’s interview book on the man, we have the two essential writings that we need to fully understand and appreciate the master’s career. 900 pages of pure pleasure.

2012-12-14

Recommended Reading : Rosebud: The Story of Orson Welles

Rosebud: The Story of Orson Welles (David Thomson, 1997)

This biography of Orson Welles is an admirer’s look upon a career of failures, fakeries, lies, and some of the most important films in History. David Thomson is clearly a Welles enthusiast and even if his tone is sometimes forgiving of the tempered director he also likes to bring a little gossip on the table of the man-child enfant terrible. While spending numerous pages on the creation of Citizen Kane and its writing, structure, team he almost never mentions the context of creation of his other pictures. Even if Kane is the first film by Welles and his most important, a little more element on the other completed projects could have been a great import in the book.
After closing the book, I felt like I didn’t learned much more about the films and life of Orson Welles and I would rather much recommend the book he co-wrote with Peter Bogdanovich; This is Orson Welles instead. Still, it brings some light on a life that has been almost a myth to many cinephiles around the world.

2012-12-13

Magic Mike



Magic Mike (Steven Soderbergh, 2012)

A male stripper teaches a younger performer how to party, pick up women, and make easy money.

Director Steven Soderbergh announced his retirement from directing a little while ago but he seems to be working even harder than before since then. With three films in 2011, Magic Mike in 2012, and two new releases in 2013 one can ask if it was just a joke from the young prodigy who wowed the Cannes film festival with his first feature Sex, Lies, and Videotape back in 1989. Once again, Soderbergh brings sex in front of his legendary red camera in his own particular manner. While Sex, Lies, and Videotape was about desire and unconventional emotions around sex, he also gave us one of the steamiest sex scenes of mainstream cinema in Out of Sight, a part in the erotic themed portmanteau film Eros, and directed a porn star, Sacha Grey, in his film about a call girl The Girlfriend Experience. Soderbergh’s depiction of sex and sexuality is far from being conventional or stereotyped. He has something to say about it and he is eager to study facets of human sexuality with no reserve or taboos.

2012-12-12

Ali : Fear Eats the Soul



Ali : Fear Eats the Soul aka Angst essen Seele auf (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1974)

Emmi, a woman truly in the second half of life, falls in love with Ali, a Berber guest worker more than ten years younger. When they both decide to marry, everybody seems to be against them. When the folks calm down a bit, Emmi and Ali get deeply unsure about their relationship.

Shot in 15 days, this “throwaway” film by German New Waver Rainer Werner Fassbinder became his most famous and recognized movie. Based on Douglas Sirk’s melodrama All That Heaven Allows, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul is far from being a remake of the 1955 gem. It is a film that portraits a situation that creates reactions from the audiences. Almost forty years later, it is easily conceivable that a couple of a German woman in her sixties and an Arab man in his thirties will be rejected and seen as “dirty”.

2012-12-11

The Sweet Hereafter



The Sweet Hereafter (Atom Egoyan, 1997)

This film documents the effects of a tragic bus accident on the population of a small town.

The Egyptian born director, now Canadian, Atom Egoyan divided film critics and cinephiles in two camps: two who loved his films and those who admire them but not get into them because of his phantasmagorias. With his greatest success The Sweet Hereafter, Egoyan received an Oscar nomination and won much respect from film enthusiasts. The film is even on the 1000 Greatest Films of All Time and the 1001 Movies You Should See Before You Die lists. Voted as the fourth most important Canadian film of all time let’s discuss The Sweet Hereafter.

2012-12-10

The Outlaw Josey Wales

The Outlaw Josey Wales (Clint Eastwood, 1976)

A Missouri farmer joins a Confederate guerrilla unit and winds up on the run from the Union soldiers who murdered his family.

When one starts to gaze Westerns he’ll be headed towards the Sergio Leone Man With No name trilogy. They defined Clint Eastwood has an actor with his few words, his squinting eyes, and his face almost always in the shadow of his hat. Leone’s films also forged Eastwood as a director and even if it is at a more personal level, and one could states to a lesser one too, the Eastwood Westerns have a lot to do with Leone’s.

2012-12-07

The Verdict

The Verdict (Sidney Lumet, 1982)

A lawyer sees the chance to salvage his career and self-respect by taking a medical malpractice case to trial rather than settling.

About ten years ago, or so, I saw Dog Day Afternoon Sidney Lumet’s near masterpiece that stars a young and once brilliant Al Pacino. As a director, Lumet is very talented and subtle. In my book of directors he is one of the most constant and underrated moviemaker of the American Cinema. Teaming with very talented screenwriter David Mamet and lead man Paul Newman, Lumet’s offers us with The Verdict more than just a simple courtroom drama. 

2012-12-06

All That Heaven Allows

All That Heaven Allows (Douglas Sirk, 1955)

An upper-class widow falls in love with a much younger, down-to-earth nurseryman, much to the disapproval of her children and criticism of her country club peers.

Melodrama, Technicolor, the 1950’s. Douglas Sirk! The formula is there and couldn’t get better. Remade in 1974 by Rainer Werner Fassbinder in his Ali: Fear Eats the Soul and in 2002 by Todd Haynes with his masterpiece Far From Heaven, Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows might be one of the most visually striking films that the German born director ever made. It’s a shame that I saw my first Sirk movie only two years ago, being such an enthusiast now. With recurrent lead actor Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman as a widow of the upper-middle-class who falls in love for her gardener who himself lives as a simple man living simply and growing trees. Their biggest problem is the disapproval of their relationship by Cary’s (Wyman) children and her circle of friends of the country club.

2012-12-05

The Apartment

The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960)

A man tries to rise in his company by letting its executives use his apartment for trysts, but complications and a romance of his own ensue.

The appreciation of a movie can change from a person to another, from a director like Billy Wilder who directed his share of notable pictures, one can argue that Some Like it Hot was better than The Apartment or that his crowning achievement is Sunset Blvd. The same can be said about the director himself, the late Andrew Sarris used to lower the income of Wilder into Cinema and might compare him to a John Ford for whom he ranked as a pantheon director. Being an absolute fan of comedies, I cannot pass under the radar the filmography of Wilder. His sardonic, acerbic touch and his unique screenwriting rank him amongst the greats, in my own top.

2012-12-04

Die Hard



Die Hard (John McTiernan, 1988)

John McClane, officer of the NYPD, tries to save wife Holly Gennaro and several others, taken hostage by German terrorist Hans Gruber during a Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles.

Being born in the 1980’s makes me a kid of the John Wayne of my time, Arnold, Stalone, Van Dam, Jackie Chan, and Bruce Willis were the actors I wouldn’t miss a film. The later who played the character of Officer John McClane was my favorite; I remember very well that the first time I got to a Theatre by myself was for the opening night of Die Hard: With a Vengeance in Sorel. The first film of the franchise, Die Hard, is a game changer movie that even ranks third in the Top 10 of Christmas movies I cumulated for this December. Without much further ramblings about myself here’s my a little enthusiastic review of this Action Film classic.

2012-12-02

It's a Wonderful Life



It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946)

An angel helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman by showing what life would have been like if he never existed.

The great American classic of Christmas movies that is It’s a Wonderful Life is like the Casablanca of holiday films. Almost everyone has seen it and some adore it while others, let’s call them the naysayers, call it overrated. Loosely based on Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol, Frank Capra’s film has passed through the ages like a classic novel that lustres the nostalgia of the old-fashioned Christmas.

George Bailey (James Stewart) is a young businessman and family man. He represents the guy next door or the good traditional American man. One day, his enterprises fails and he loses a big chunk of money. Seeing no other option other than the most fatal one, he is saved by an angel that will make him take a step back and see what would happened if he wasn’t even born. This will give him back the will he needed to continue his good life.

The films of Frank Capra all have a saccharine moral and an ending that unifies the audience. Facing a Howard Hawks, Capra’s vision is more populist and pedestrian. Hawks was a director who could bring a genre picture and elevate it with his themes and unique writing. On the other hand Capra was an inspired filmmaker and he was a fine director who liked to release the audience with his humor and comedies. It is when he had to face serious issues like the potential suicide of Bailey that his talent got short.

However, It’s a Wonderful Life is one of the most interesting Christmas movies and it couldn’t more of a classic. With the perfect guy next door actor in James Stewart, George Bailey takes us on a visit of our lives and reminds us that the holidays are purposed to make us stop from our crazy lives and take the time to meet our families and celebrate together. 


2012-12-01

Movie Watching Goals For 2012 - December Update


Since I put my hand on Andrew SarrisThe American Cinema : Directors and Directions 1929-1968, my interest for completing a list I’ve been rambling about over and over here at the good old LMdC (short for Le Mot du Cinephiliaque), is TheyShoot Pictures Don’t They? 1000 Greatest Films of All Time is became my priority. To me and many others, Kevyn Knox for instance @The Most BeautifulFraud In The World, this is the ultimate cinephile’s reference.

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