Thursday, September 27, 2018

plato's cave sixty eight (being a film journal)

Panos Cosmatos - Mandy - 2018
Second time, giving it another chance. Still find the film quite problematic but it has some good stuff (like the chainsaw fight).

Daniel Barber - Harry Brown - 2009
Had seen this film when it came out and really loved it, was looking forward to this second viewing and the film holds up quite well. Great film if you are a Michael Caine fetishist. Living in a shitty part of Brooklyn I can relate to some of the stuff here.

John McTiernan - Die Hard - 1988
Over and over have I watched this film. An area of extreme interest is the frames I have placed here in the above area which is just classic visual filmmaking. Going through it slow and watching the pacing and its relation to the edits, to the movements within the frame, and the general atmosphere is really rewarding. What might seem a quotidian action movie reveals much virtuosic skill (editing, direction, acting, photography) when watched not only multiple times but on the modern day equivalent of a steenbeck; meaning pausing the film all over the place, rewinding, rewinding and pausing again and pushing to the next frame, paying close attention to sound alone, sound as how it relates to all other elements of the film and also to how you as a spectator are involved in just taking it all in. All theses pleasures make film worth watching over and over. In addition; Alan Rickman plays probably one of the top 5 heavies in a film, aka Bill Clay. One great film!

Sam Raimi - A Simple Plan - 1998
A pleasant rewatch of this great nineties classic with Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton, and Brent Briscoe (plays a who the hell is this actor level detective in Twin Peaks season three, Mulholland Drive and The Dark Knight Rises) as a ruinous trio of drunkards, idiots and hypocrites. Brigit Fonda traverses even beyond these dimwit's level and explores the true meaning of amoralism as she goes from a goody two shoes (the idea of giving the money back) to a conniving good for nothing in the stretch of an hour. I must be honest, this viewer loves watching this evocative transition! There are so many wonderfully subtle moments throughout the film as well, like a simple camera movement in the barber shop as Paxton interacts with Sheriff Carl Jenkins (played by Chelcie Ross) from Paxton close-up to window with fox and Ross with a lovely bit of focus pulling. Somehow shocking to watch in its subtly.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

plato's cave sixty seven (being a film journal)

Lynne Ramsay - You Were Never Really Here - 2017
Second time seeing this. Great film, it is brilliant how Ramsay keeps pushing the levels of extreme abstraction... visually, sonically and with the story. Plot doesn't really make much sense but is non the less potent. Gets into the Chandler territory where the story gets lost in its own abstraction.

John Schlesinger - Darling - 1965
In school one of my professors showed this in a class that was basically focused on looking for odd anomalies in narrative cinema, moments that could not totally be explained in a traditional way but needed to be thought of similarly to the way a spectator would look at a painting or listen to a piece of music. One was encouraged to look very closely (and listen) to a film and get really to know the details. With Darling we looked at the l'amour train sequence with Dirk Bogarde and Julie Christie. The first shot in the compartment with Bogarde and Christie beginning to kiss, Bogarde has no cigarette in hand. Then a hard cut and the camera is outside the compartment and Bogarde has a cigarette (see images above). Such a truly strange sensation this gives even the viewer, not noticing it would truly make this film so much less strong. Watching the sequence all these years later, it really says something about his character (contradictions) and their relationship (fragile, superficial), something not so easy to put in words but quite palpable. Subtleties like this really make it a film worth watching and rewatching. Personally Christie's 60s philandering gets a bit irritating, and brings to mind a stronger film Brief Encounter, where an affair could barely begin before both parties feel total anguish. The cinematographer Kenneth Higgins achieved a really strong black and white range - not necessarily high contrast but a gorgeous interplay between grays and whites and blacks, grain and sharpness. Bogarde and Christie's actorshippe is just the bee's knees. Quite a lovely film!

Alfred Hitchcock - North by Northwest - 1959
On a Hitchcock rewatch lately. Hope to go through a dozen or more in the next few weeks. North by Northwest is one of my favorites by him, especially love the sex business between Cary Grant (whom only did one kind of exercise) and Eva Marie Saint. The fake Frank Lloyd Wrong house is really wonderful as well, and after a half dozen times seeing this I still white-knuckle through the Mt. Rushmore ending. Martin Landau plays a great Hitchcock/Bond villain, looks a bit like Cassavetes to me. I always look so forward to James Mason as the dirty sob Phillip Vandamm, just one of the great film heavies.

Michel Gondry - Kidding episode one - 2018
Not sure if I like this show. Not a bad idea but didn't really grab me, seemed too Spike Jonze for me.

9.12.2018 - 9.18.2018
Scott Buck - Iron Fist first season - 2017

Michael Mann - Collateral - 2004
Had only seen this around the time it came out and felt luke warm about it, but this rewatch I really enjoyed it. Tom Cruise played a real son of a bitch, and it was a good dark palleted film. Only problem is it is one of those early films mostly shot on digital and at times is quite ugly, mostly with camera movement and pans, sometimes it works though (like above image). This is an interesting list of films shot early on with digital. I remember having a real problem with most of these early digital films at the time, and in a way they didn't date well. One of the best Mann films, maybe second-tier to Heat, Manhunter, and Thief.

Ridley Scott - All the Money in the World - 2017
Not without interest, would be curious how Spacey differs from Plummer.

David Simon & Ed Burns - The Wire season four - 2002-2008
This is a great season.

9.20.2018 - 9.22.2018
Derek Simonds - The Sinner season 2 episode 8 - 2018
Final episode, brilliant show.

Panos Cosmatos - Mandy - 2018
At the art of memory, this was one of the most anticipated films of the Summer. Partly from the crazy trailer, but mostly because of the Jóhann Jóhannsson soundtrack. I did really enjoy parts of the film; the violence was really stunning to watch, visceral as hell, often times really great use of music, sometimes not as much (the use of King Crimson's great Starless song contradicted the time period fetish as discussed latter).  Andrea Riseborough and Nicholas Cage really shred the hell out of this film, impossible and head-scratching. The problems though for this viewer were many. The use of animation made no sense, the obsession with the Italian horror film genre too much in the fetish territory, and again with the Stranger Things 80s fetish which can just be tiring (and the acid-trip paperback book culture). I notice the director is the same age as myself, so was somewhat brought up in this time of the 1980s, maybe a little young to take it in with maturity, but old enough to get a feel for the decade. I would have guessed the film was made by a millennial, someone that fetishized the period without having really lived it, but there where some indications that show his age, like the Ronald Reagan bit in the beginning. The drinking scene with Cage really was insane though, and I loved it. Also the palette of the film is quite stunning; dark reds especially take control of the film which was shot by Benjamin Loeb. He gets pretty dark and pushes the limits in a great way, although it seems much of the look was a little to heavy handed in the way of manipulation in post. I am hoping a subsequent viewing will improve the relationship to the film, because it has some great stuff in it.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

plato's cave sixty six (being a film journal)

Jim Jarmusch - Dead Man - 1995
I remember seeing this as an undergrad when I worked at a movie theater and for some reason that escapes me, didn't like the film much. My teacher at MassArt Mark Lapore came to the theater to see the film and after asked me if I had seen it. I said I had but didn't dig it much and he looked at me like I was crazy and said I should see it again (in a more polite way, as he was a polite fellow). I did and realized my first opinion was rubbish. Anything Mark recommended to me I would take seriously, he had great taste and a beautifully humble way of talking about film, literature, and music. I told him I didn't like Nirvana and he again said I was crazy, that the guy was a serious artist. Again I went back and gave it another shot. Another big one was when he mentioned I should check out the Alan Clarke retrospective at the MFA and I was just blown away by the work (still am!). Over the years I got to know Mark fairly well, one year (around 96') the two of us drove up to NYC together and hung out with a bunch of his friends, I was honored he asked me along. We went to a bunch of his favorite record stores, saw an Olivier Assayas retrospective together (Cold Water!), checked out some bookstores and got pizza. I would learn so much about music, film and books in general from short periods being around him. I sure miss the guy. 
In terms of this film, it had been a few years since I had seen it. Spent the morning listening to the Neil Young soundtrack on vinyl and my wife and I decided to watch the blu-ray. I forgot that some of my truly most loved actors are guest in it, like Billy Bob Thornton, Jared Harris, John Hurt, Alfred Molina, Lance Henriksen (from The Terminator), and Bob Mitchum. I idea that Depp is somehow Bill Blake without knowing it is very intriguing.  His transformation from pencil pusher to gunslinger is lovely to watch. Gary Farmer as Nobody is one of Jarmusch's best characters, he reminded me quite a bit of the Japanese poet played by Masatoshi Nagase at the end of Paterson. Image used reminded me a lot of Tarkovsky's film Ivan's Childhood.

9.3.2018 - 9.4.2018
Carlton Cuse & Graham Roland - Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan - 2018
This show was not bad, was expecting it to be unwatchable but I got into it fast and it was pretty consistent throughout which is rare with television. Includes a real nice performance from Bunk (Wendell Pierce) from The Wire.

David Cronenberg - Shivers / They Came From Within - 1975
I use to watch this film about once a year. Hadn't watched it though in about 8 years or so. Had a hankering to after watching Scanners the other day. I always think of the movie as They Came From Within which was the US title when released. Truly fucked up, funny, sexy and horrific film, always a pleasure to watch. Interesting that it came out the same year as JB Ballard's High-Rise, who had written Crash in 1973 and Concrete Island in 1974. The works all share some themes and have a similar ambiance.

9.4.2018 (more specifically the last week or so)
David Simon & Ed Burns - The Wire season three episode one through eight - 2002-2008
My Wire Rewatch session. Maybe the third time seeing this season. A little more consistently solid than the second season. Great characters emerging and ones that keep it trucking.

Alfred Hitchcock - Vertigo - 1958
One of the reasons I moved to San Francisky in my youth was from being so obsessed with Vertigo, especially the utterly unique ambiance of the film (the street scene image above gives a sense of the ambiance). California (northern) was just so bloody different from what I was use to in New England. The light there specifically... not just in San Francisco but also Marin and The Peninsula (even more so). This is one of those rare films I give a 10/10, it is pretty much perfect.

Steven Spielberg - Saving Private Ryan - 1988
Watched this film a few times when it came out, was attracted to the battle sequences firstly, which are really wonderfully done. A lot of good cast members too... especially strong performances from Tom Hanks and Tom Sizemore. I remember the beginning and ending sequences with the old Ryan being extremely problematic, as well as the injured soldiers calling for their mothers. On this recent viewing, these two sections are just so bloody stupid I was embarrassed to be watching. The one interesting thing is he walks a bit like he has had a few drinks which I imagine he needed with that god awful outfit we all must endure, and the "They Live" family.  I at least feel happy that the old guy could get in a few drinks to kill some of the pain of the modern day. One of those films that kind of makes a strong statement on how the old days were really something and modern times are just a bunch of people wearing golf attire driving from one parking lot to another.  Surely a film to enjoy.

Derek Simonds - The Sinner season two episode six - 2018
Great photography.

Brad Bird - Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol - 2011
My favorite MI so far is the most recent. This and number 3 pretty good as well, lags a little though here and there.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

plato's cave sixty five (being a film journal)

8.23.2018 Stuart Rosenberg - The Laughing Policeman - 1973
San Francisco police procedural shot on the streets of SF, opens with some very strange sound design - electronic bleeps and statics. My partner in crime recommended this film as a recently discovered (for him), a lesser know quality 70s film. One insane cast which includes Val Avery (one of my favorite actors, too many great roles to mention), Walter Matthau, Bruce Dern, Mario Gallo (A Woman Under the Influence, Raging Bull), Anthony Zerbe (Cool Hand Luke, Papillon, The Parallax View), Clifton James (Cool Hand Luke, The Last Detail, Rancho Deluxe, Superman II), Louis Gossett Jr., Paul Koslo, Matt Clark (some great roles, including a few Clint Eastwood films), Gregory Sierra, and Wayne Grace (many good films including Mulholland Drive). Film drags a bit at the end but has some really great action, nonsense dialogue and heavy SF business, a perfect town back in the day (sure as hell not now) for a sleazy group of pimps and scoundrels.

Nash Edgerton - Gringo - 2018
Entertaining film with David Oyelowo, Joel Edgerton, Charlize Theron and Amanda Seyfried. Heard WFT interview with Oyelowo and wanted to watch some films with him. Good guy. Have been attempting over the last year or two to find good film podcast and man it is a desert out there. Marc Maron's is by far the best, a great show he puts on. His loose structure of going through the interviewee's life and influences and how they perfected their craft really works well, mainly because he asks good questions, is knowledgable, passionate and good at conversing with the interviewee. His knowledge of film, TV, music, comedy etc gives him a position where he is not half understanding answers which is common with interviewers. The EW podcast on Twin Peaks was pretty good, they came to the show with a lot of ammunition and they are fairly perceptive. My two problems with the show are : they tend to only reference post 80s film (and TV), and some of the theories are based on not seeing the entire picture. Besides that the podcasts I have listened to are either by people that have only seen a film once, or have too much millennial baggage (vocal fry and the like) or too much negativity.

John Dahl - The Last Seduction - 1994
Had seen parts of this on cable before. Not a bad film, chez art of memory we have a slight fetish for films from the early to mid nineties, maybe because we were both in high school, transitioning into college, taking in films and music in a way that is harder when you are older. Basically our brains were both set to tabulae rasae. In addition the films were quite good in this period, indie meets Hollywood, serious but also light hearted but not in a 80s superficial way, bits of comedy, sometimes quite minimal & deadpan (Hal Hartley), slightly conceptual in their structure (Before Sunrise and the trilogy), random bits of conversational nothingness floating throughout (Pulp Fiction), neo art house noir (Jarmusch). So many great actors were in their prime: Gary Oldman, Daniel Day-Lewis, Morgan Freeman, Ralph Fiennes, Tommy Lee Jones, Juliette Binoche and many others. For modern film, in a way the 70s and 90s are prime for the art of memory.

David Lynch & Mark Frost - Twin Peaks: The Return episode one and two - 2017
Was so kindly gifted the blu-ray set and finally watching, although I think this might be my fourth viewing. Watched the movie version of the first two episodes, makes sense that the first episode didn't end with music. The blu-ray just looks and sounds so stunning, noticeably better than when I streamed. Just such a perfect experience these new Twin Peaks are!

David Frankel - The Devil Wears Prada - 2006

Michael Crichton - Looker - 1981
I often watched this film around the age of 9 through 14 on cable. It made a huge impression on me, along with They Live, Cherry 2000 and a few others. Later Repo Man and Scanners. The concept of manipulation through television, corporate treachery and annihilation, and living the superficial life in The City of Angels. All things that seem to equally interest me at age 43.

David Cronenberg - Scanners - 1981
A great double feature. Have seen this film about 20+ times. Didn't discover it until a little later in life, around age 19, living in Boston. The industrial scenes, and the horrifically ugly mall are so lovely and contrast well with one another. Cronenberg and his team chose great locations back in those days. Perfect score as well by Howard Shore. What a film.

Christopher Nolan - Batman Begins - 2005
I like the simplicity of this one compared to the other three. Saw the three films a couple times when they came out but not since then. Pretty good films, so much more interesting visually and sonically than most other super hero films

Christopher Nolan - The Dark Knight - 2008.
Story too complicated which often takes away from the experience but visually a really stunning film with some great cinematography, editing, music and acting. Heath Ledger is unreal.

Derek Simonds - The Sinner season two episode four - 2018
This show is really good, as stated previously.

Vince Gilligan - Better Call Saul season four episodes one through four - 2018
Kind of a mediocre show compared to Breaking Bad, but has some good moments - mostly interested in following the lives of Giancarlo Esposito (Gus Fring), Bob Odenkirk (Saul Goodman), and Jonathan Banks (Mike Ehrmantraut).

David Lynch - The Elephant Man - 1980
Had not seen this film in 15 years or so. Probably the last time was on VHS, and had never really seen it properly, projected or on bluray. Now reading the Lynch Room to Dream book and has lit a fire for me wanting to revisit some of his films I had not seen as many times or not in a long time like The Straight Story and Wild at Heart. I remember in my late teens or early 20s I made a "best of" Wild at Heart with all my favorite scenes, and use to watch it like a son of a bitch, probably only saw the film all the way through a couple of times. The Elephant Man is surely one breathtaking film, with the lush/from another time photography by Freddie Francis (Time Without Pity, Room at the Top, Sons and Lovers, The Innocents, The French Lieutenant's Woman, The Executioner's Song among others) and the unbelievably touching scene with Anthony Hopkins tearing when he first encounters Mr. Merrick. John Hurt as Mr. Merrick is just beyond words. I love the contrast of a more straight style for Lynch to some of his signature weirdness like the elephant intro and the cosmic ending.

John Landis - Coming to America - 1988
Had seen this film enough times when I was in high school to remember some of the lines like "if lovin' the Lord is wrong, I don't wanna be right". Partly a bad film but has some good stuff in Queens. Brutal place back then compared to now.

Steven Spielberg - Catch Me If You Can - 2002
Always hear about this film being good but never had seen it. Very nice, I enjoyed.