Friday, October 18, 2019

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

Joe Talbot - The Last Black Man in San Francisco - 2019
The construction of this film was a tad jarring much of the time but successful in the way that it portrays a dying (or dead) city and lovingly documents the atmosphere of an eccentric old house with an apocryphal history. Quite a unique film that works most of the time.

Howard Deutch - Pretty in Pink - 1986
No thank you to John Hughes and his crew of melon farming Leviathan deniers, I just came by to see some Harry Dean Stanton.

Carol Reed - The Third Man - 1949
Endlessly dense film with many layers to investigate over repeat viewings. Joseph Cotton as an anti high-falutin writer of genre fiction is one of the great film characters, engaging in some humorous discussions with Sgt. Paine (Bernard Lee) and Crabbin (Wilfrid Hyde-White). Also a superb role for one of England's finest actors, Trevor Howard. Carol Reed's opening narration also endlessly fascinates, and one can obsess on his subtleties in diction.

Bennett Miller - Moneyball - 2011
Another example of how one can hate sports and men who go about sports, but love films about sport, sports and the men who go about these activities.

Ric Roman Waugh - Shot Caller - 2017
Very good film on second viewing. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has great screen presence and is a fine actor.

Amy Heckerling - Fast Times At Ridgemont High - 1982
Once a year kind of film with a great cast including Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Forest Whitaker, Sean Penn, Ray Walston, and Robert Romanus, who plays one of the great screen sleaze-bags. For this viewer a character like Damone is what makes this a film that works on numerous levels and the Velveeta sleazes in a Hughes film reasons to not bother with them. I remember I first started listening to Led Zeppelin's Kashmir after seeing this film.

Alan Metter - Back to School - 1986
A film I enjoyed as a middle schooler, hadn't seen since then, has some good jokes.

John G. Avildsen - Joe - 1970
Second time watching this and for the most part I can do without the majority of the film but I really love when Joe (Peter Boyle) and Bill Compton (Dennis Patrick) move their focus to the village and get into some real strange hippy business and even what Boyle calls an Or-gee. Films showing an outside view of beat and hippy culture can be really fantastic, like A Bucket of Blood. Photography is nice and dark too, and red, like someone accidentally put a red filter in there or developed the film wrong.

Antoine Fuqua - Equalizer 2 - 2018
Not a film I liked much but any Denzel film I will watch.

Jordan Peele - Us - 2019
If I am honest with myself, I didn't care for this film. Had some moments though, like Elisabeth Moss' deranged performance.

Vince Gilligan - El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie - 2019

Vince Gilligan - Breaking Bad season one - 2008
I am no television scholar but perhaps the contemporary wave of cinematic television started with The Sopranos (1999-2007), The Wire (2002-2008) and Breaking Bad (2008-2013), all children of Twin Peaks (1990-1991). Maybe some viewers wouldn't agree or have no interest in the relationship between cinema and television, but for someone like myself growing up watching and being irritated by the majority of television in the 70s, 80s and 90s, these 4 great shows separated the shite of The Cosbys and Beverly Hills 90210 from the long form cinematic experiences that had layers of poetry, literature and were often times on the level of fine art. Breaking Bad was in a way so engaging because the trajectory of Walter White could not be expressed in a 2 hour film, his madness needed flowering or unflowering over many hours, where the experience would be full of nuances. Another initial observation of Breaking Bad was that a viewer coming to this show with a love of experimental music, field recordings, sound design and drone music, would find the sound/music here not much different than what he/she was hearing when listening to artists like Akira Rabelais or BJ Nilsen. The sound work interacts with the picture in a nice Bressonian manner, and gets into the world of abstraction with the activity (pleasure) of hearing sound that is full of texture and ethereality warping reality quite severely. The followup film El Camino I found to be a really strong sequel to this great masterwork and Aaron Paul is as excellent as always. Planning on watching again soon and the rest of the seasons of Breaking Bad.

Ang Lee - Brokeback Mountain - 2005
Superb Ang Lee film. Reading the short story recently, one can see the script by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana is a virtuosic expansion of a work that excels at brevity, there is even a book on it. And of course, Heath bloody Ledger!!!

Andrew Dominik - Killing Them Softly - 2012
This is one hell of a film that I love to watch over and over. Purchased the book Cogan's Trade (1974) by George V. Higgins many years ago but have yet to read. He also wrote The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1970) which was made into another raw Boston crime film. There were quite a few memorable indie films from around 2012, there was a certain feeling in the air that is exceedingly attractive. Some other films include (and many with a touch of the 1970s about them):
  • The Place Beyond the Pines (also with Ben Mendelsohn)
  • Animal Kingdom (also with Ben Mendelsohn)
  • Starred Up (also with Ben Mendelsohn)
  • The Drop (also with James Gandolfini)
  • God's Pocket (with a memorable role by Richard Jenkins)
  • Out of the Furnace (also with Sam Shepard)
  • Mud (also with Sam Shepard)
  • The Grey
  • Rampart
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
  • Under the Skin
  • Margaret
  • Shame
  • Prisoners
  • Enemy
  • The Hunt

Anthony Mann - Raw Deal - 1948
More of a fan of Mann's westerns, had not seen in a while, has some great moments, John Alton was really one of the great photographers.

Alfred Hitchcock - The Birds - 1963
One of the best Hitchcock films for this viewer. For many years hardly a week would go by without playing a film by old Hitchcock and if possible a read from Truffaut's Hitchcock/Truffaut (still have to see the Kent Jones film). Moving to SF at age 21 the city was very much under the influence of films like Vertigo and The Birds. These were the heaviest of the heavies for a young San Francisco wine drinking Robert Musil reading Jay DeFeo worshipping potato eater:

  • The Wrong Man (Jesus what a film)
  • Vertigo
  • Rear Window
  • North by Northwest
  • Shadow of a Doubt
  • Lifeboat
  • Rebecca (also by Daphne du Maurier)
  • The Lady Vanishes
  • Strangers on a Train
  • Foreign Correspondent
  • The 39 Steps
  • Notorious
  • Saboteur

Alfred Hitchock - Shadow of a Doubt - 1943
Henry Travers and Hume Cronyn engage in some good frank talk on Inee (Indian arrow poison) and other matters of killing, crime and the like. Strange undercurrents of incest, closeted homosexuality and other business discouraged in 1940s America. Near perfect film, sometimes as a viewer one can get sick of the Mid-Atlantic accent to be honest.

Philip Kaufman - Invasion of the Body Snatchers - 1978
Very strange brief cameo of Robert Duvall playing a priest up to no good.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

plato's cave ninety four (being a film journal)

Quentin Tarantino - Jackie Brown - 1997
Tarantino's classic film.

S. Craig Zahler - Bone Tomahawk - 2015
Equally strange on a second viewing. Kurt Russell and Richard Jenkins and the film a reason to watch a second time.

Alexander Payne - Sideways - 2004
Slightly embarrassed how many times I have watched this film. Suffering vague Bay Area depression from time to time I would watch this for the comedy. Always like buddy films and this surely a good one.

Robert Benton - Twilight - 1998
Paul Newman as a private dick.

Federico Fellini - - 1963
Watched this with my wife who hadn't seen it. Interesting seeing the opening shot a week later in Falling Down. Very nice extremes of black and whites.

Ida Lupino - The Hitch-Hiker - 1953
Lovely film, dark as Hellfire, high contrast photography, no MF wishy washy grays.

Stan Lathan - Dave Chappelle: Sticks & Stones - 2019

Penelope Spheeris - The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years - 1988

Sebastián Lelio - Gloria Bell - 2018
Another solid film from Mr. Lelio, I dig this guy's style. Especially the abstract photography in the dance club, and unique colors only digital photography can give you. Quite a film.

Stephen Frears - My Beautiful Laundrette - 1985
Great film.

Jang Hoon - A Taxi Driver - 2017

Steve Wang - Drive - 1997

James Gray - We Own the Night - 2007

Kim Ki-duk - 3-Iron - 2004

Ivo van Hove - National Theatre Live: All About Eve - 2019
Theatre at BAM live via HD video. Gillian Anderson top notch as always.

Antoine Fuqua - Training Day - 2001

Shane Carruth - Upstream Color - 2013
Could not really remember why I was not taken by this film, but on rewatch I believe it to be the jarring editing that is a tad hard to connect with. Certainly a solidly made film but can't get into it.

Andrei Tarkovsky - Stalker - 1979
One of those films that made this viewer become a solid film junkie. The number of nights I have spent looking for a vein trying to get that original high I got when I watched Stalker as a teenager i cannot count.

Jonathan Demme - Rachel Getting Married - 2008

John Schlesinger - Marathon Man - 1976
One of the very good conspiracy-political films of the 70s, which I like very much.

Martin Scorsese - The King of Comedy - 1982
Had not seen in a while, seemed a little flat this viewing.

Joel Schumacher - Falling Down - 1993
Another I had not seen in a while, one of the really great portraits of Los Angeles. Came out the year I graduated high school, I am surprised I didn't move to LA after seeing this, had a strong effect on me after growing up around the slightly dull East Coast light.

Nancy Buirski - By Sidney Lumet - 2015

Takashi Makino - cinéma concret - 2015
Takashi Makino - On Generation and Corruption - 2017
Takashi Makino - The Picture from Darkness - 2016

Roger Donaldson - Species - 1995
I live two blocks from Michelle Williams. I will have to mention to her I saw the film next time I walk my dog by her house.

Takashi Makino - Emaki/Light - 2011
Takashi Makino - Still in Cosmos - 2009
Takashi Makino - At the Horizon - 2018
Takashi Makino - Origin of the Dreams - 2015

Takashi Makino - EVE - 2002
Takashi Makino - Space Noise - 2015
Takashi Makino - Memento Stella - 2019
Three nights at Anthology Film Archive of Mr. Makino's work, starting with an early 16mm film EVE, and ending with his new 60 minute opus Memento Stella. Purely transcendental works beyond description, one can talk about the methods of constructions but these films are just pure experience, an immersion in the sublime. I found myself as a young man so transfixed by experimental film, but over the years felt quite alienated from it, which especially made these works resonate so strongly. Also these films in a way take a piss on the concept of film's superiority over digital; a trend I notice in the avant'garde and photography worlds. One wonders if an obsession for only celluloid is a bit fetishistic? And leaves little room for the idea that a true artist is someone that can conjure a sort of magic onto the screen (or the canvas or the speakers), and that the method they go about getting this magic to manifest itself is really not that important.

James William Guercio - Electra Glide in Blue - 1973
One strange film with Robert Blake giving a bizarrely uncomfortable performance.

Walter Hill - 48 Hrs. - 1982
Once a year type of film. Really great soundtrack and ambiance, the honky bar scene never gets old.

Chad Stahelski - John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum - 2019
More effective on the big screen but this is def a solid one. I love watching Wick limp around like an old man the entire film, he does a great job at getting that broken gait to explode into pure violence and mayhem.

Carl Schenkel - The Mighty Quinn - 1989
Wanted to see some Schenkel films after Mindhunter season two.

Clint Eastwood - The Mule - 2018
Good anti-cell phone film, made me laugh a few times.

Greg Mottola - Superbad - 2007
Funny film.

Jonathan Demme - Philadelphia - 1993

Greg Mottola - Adventureland - 2009
I have yet to see Mottola's film The Daytrippers, which seems to be one of those hidden gems from the 1990s, this and Superbad pretty good. Very good soundtrack.

9.18.2019 - 9.25.2019
David Milch & Michael Mann - Luck - 2011-12
Felt like re-immersing myself into the world of the low-lifes of this show, particularly the crew played by Kevin Dunn (also in the first season of True Detective), Ritchie Coster, Jason Gedrick, Ian Hart and Richard Kind (most memorable in A Serious Man). It has that nice sort of Robert Altman quality where you can't totally understand what is happening much of the time. On a second viewing, I find large sections of the show hard to watch, partially seeing the depressing lives of these horses and additionally knowing that there were some deaths involved, but non-the-less this series is fully engaging and has some great moments.

Ethan Hawke - Blaze - 2018
Finally seeing this film which I enjoyed very much. Some stunningly beautiful photography by Steve Cosens.

Sydney Pollack - Three Days of the Condor - 1975
Another one of those 70s conspiracy thrillers...  perhaps not one of the best but certainly with some good moments like the beginning killings that are quite gripping in their randomness.

Martin Scorsese - Raging Bull - 1980
Just one of those great films worthy of a once a year revisit. I remember freshman year in film school seeing this in class on a 16mm print and before it started some older cats sitting in the theater ranking Scorsese films and putting this one first, and I realized I had some work to do as I had only seen Taxi Driver, Mean Streets and Last Temptation of Christ, perhaps Goodfellas. His early films especially the two docs Italianamerican and American Boy: A Profile of Steven Prince were films that this young film enthusiast studied very closely. After over 25 years of rewatching this film I would agree with those youngsters that it is certainly his most powerful film, not just because of the novel explorations of the possibilities of photography, camera speeds and editing, but also the comedy/tragedy/fragility/angst of the film is so palpable and makes the viewer in a way uncomfortable even though it is just such a pleasure to watch. Just a perfect film.

Martin Scorsese - Taxi Driver - 1976
Another perfect film by Scorsese.

David Fincher - Gone Girl - 2014
Has some pretty good moments. Carrie Coon's performance is really strong, the subtitles of it escaped me the first couple of times but were very clear this viewing. She is one of the great actors working now. I love the Trent Reznor soundtrack as well.

9.24.2019 - 9.26.2019
Lisa Cholodenko, Michael Dinner - Unbelievable 2019
Really powerful show of this true life serial bastard. Beautifully done, and in a way unique as it is a sort of female buddy cop show in some ways.

Michael Ritchie - Downhill Racer - 1969
Didn't have a clear memory of this film, was not totally taken by it but the skiing parts nice on the eyes.

Ted Demme - Blow 2001

Ava DuVernay - When They See Us - 2019
Hell of a show. Want to watch a second time as it is very subtle. Tragic.   Seeing the real life guys at the Emmy Awards made me want to watch.

9.29.2019 - 10.5.2019
Jane Campion, Garth Davis - Top of the Lake - 2013
Preparing for season two with a rewatch. Some great directing, photography and actorshippe. Landscape photography up there with Lord of the Rings and even Thomas Joshua Cooper.

The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story - 2016

Budd Boetticher - Buchanan Rides Alone - 1958

Jim Jarmusch - Gimme Danger - 2016

Joe Berlinger - Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile - 2019
Ted Bundy biopic film, not so good.

Joe Berlinger - Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes - 2019
Much better than the biopic. Impressive avant'garde editing of 70s footage emphasizing the horror of Bundy's deeds and the general unease of the decade.

Pella Kagerman, Hugo Lilja - Aniara - 2018
Based on the 1956 science fiction poem written by the Swede Harry Martinson. Quite abstract, a little lame at times, but with some pleasant visuals.