Monthly Archives: July, 2012

Trailer for your Weekend: Looper

English: Bruce Willis at a ceremony after he w...

Looper stars this guy… shamefully without that killer facial hair.

This plays like some incredible lovechild of the gangster and sci-fi genres. If it manages to keep a lid on the inherent confusions that the time-travel subgenre always seems to bring, this could be one of the most electric and original releases in quite some time. Chucking in the star of last week’s trailer Joseph Gordon-Levitt not to mention Jeff Daniels, Emily Blunt and oh I dunno, Bruce Willis certainly wont hurt my excitement levels.

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Boudu Saved From Drowning

I remember quite a while ago, when I was first beginning to explore the world of classic cinema, I had this notion that comedy was, more than other genres, fundamentally connected to the time it was made. By that I meant that all the comedies I liked at that point were less than 20 years old, and I felt that without the societal connectedness of what was made in the silent years and immediately after, I would not find them amusing. I remember watching Jean Renoir’s Boudu Saved from Drowning and having these thoughts really blown out of the water. Attempting to tidy up the files on my computer, I came across this review I wrote of it at the time. It is pretty raw, this was just when I was starting up the blog, but hopefully it is still worth a read.

Boudu Saved from Drowning

Cover of The Criterion Collection’s release of Boudu Saved from Drowning

I found Jean Renoir’s Boudu Saved From Drowning (1932) really quite funny, a lot funnier than most of the ‘comedies’ I have been subjected to the past few years. The story is exceptionally simple. Man saves bum from drowning himself, invites bum to stay in his house, chaotic hijinks ensue. That’s about it really, but this is a comedy after all, not an Iñárritu film and the plot is serviceable enough. Some of the early, outdoor scenes shot by Renoir are quite beautifully rendered. This got me thinking about comedy films today and how little effort is (seemingly) put into making the films beautiful ones. There is a perception that comedic films cannot be artistic or ‘worthy’ ones, a perception that judging by this film did not exist in the 1930s. Jokes in this film take on a number of forms; there is slapstick, witty punchlines, amusing social comments and a hell of a lot of sexual innuendo. The only time that the film fell a bit flat for me was when there was an over-reliance during the middle section on slapstick, with Boudu’s rudeness and stupidity becoming increasingly over-the-top (and the character risked becoming an oafish Homer Simpson style caricature). However this period of the film also provided what is probably its most hilarious sequence when Boudu tries to clean his hands of the stubborn shoe polish he has gotten all over them.

Homer Simpson

Homer Simpson and Boudu – separated at birth perhaps?

But if Boudu is a simply drawn character then the character of Monsieur Lastingois is a wonderfully complex one. Initially I thought him seedy – his affair is exposed very early on, then (being a struggling student with a 2nd hand book addiction) my opinion of him skyrocketed when he allows a student to have two books from his store free, exclaiming “your name is youth.” And obviously the bravery he shows in rescuing Boudu whilst everyone else watches on makes him somewhat of a hero. All the while though he is carrying on his affair and using a telescope to check out the physical attributes of women as they walk by his window. Modern comedies could again learn something from this film and actually take the time to create interesting characters rather than the cardboard cut-outs we are generally provided with. He is also endlessly forgiving of Boudu for his ungratefulness, rudeness and even the seduction of his wife. In another amusing scene, the only time he tries to remove Boudu from his home is when he perpetrates the heinous crime of spitting in a prized volume of Balzac. There is heart to go with the humour here as well. See the reactions of the main characters to Boudu’s final act of defiance; or the heart-rending early scene where our bum has lost his dog and no one will assist him in the search, but then they all (including two police officers) jump to help an attractive upper class lady caught in the same predicament.

A sublime film with a distinctive charm whose shortcomings in story and an at times overly simplistic protagonist are more than surpassed by a great variety of humour, beautiful cinematography and some of the other characters being fantastic. I loved a vast majority of this film more than many others I can recall. If, like I did you struggle to believe a film made well over 70 years ago could make you chuckle, then I highly suggest you check this out.

Verdict: Pint of Kilkenny

Progress: 56/1001

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Thoughts on the Aurora Massacre

No doubt by now you have all heard of the horrific events that took place at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado. I do not want to dwell on the events too much. This is not a news site and it is not really my forte. But I have spent many hours over the past two days thinking about what occurred and I feel that I should share some thoughts.

The massacre is a devastating event on so many levels. Because of the societal ramifications, for the filmmakers to have had their work corrupted in some way; and the fact that such evil exists in this world. But the main reason is that people have died. People have died for absolutely no reason.

One of the reasons that this event has had such an effect on me is because, without knowing any of them, the victims were people just like me. They were cinema goers, movie fans. A day before I had sat shaking with excitement as The Dark Knight Rises began. The victims were people who would have been just as excited as me, if not more. The kind of people who venture out at midnight to see a movie because they simply can’t wait any longer. And I cannot begin to fathom the unimaginable terror of what took place as they sat and watched the film that they had anticipated so much.

Director Christopher Nolan participating in th...

Director of The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan.

Christopher Nolan has released a statement following what occurred in Aurora which reflects the manner in which the horror of what has occurred will not pass soon for many people, including film fans: “Speaking on behalf of the cast and crew of The Dark Knight Rises, I would like to express our profound sorrow at the senseless tragedy that has befallen the entire Aurora community. I would not presume to know anything about the victims of the shooting but that they were there last night to watch a movie. I believe movies are one of the great American art forms and the shared experience of watching a story unfold on screen is an important and joyful pastime. The movie theater is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me. Nothing any of us can say could ever adequately express our feelings for the innocent victims of this appalling crime, but our thoughts are with them and their families.”

Inevitable at some stage, a light will be turned on the guilty party and why he did what he did. Already Nolan’s second Batman film The Dark Night and the iconic graphic novel, The Killing Joke, by Allan Moore have been referenced as possible inspiring factors for the killer’s rampage. Anyone who kills is in a sense mad. No matter what they read. It is not the fault of artists such as Nolan or Moore that this man did what he did. I have seen The Dark Knight and read The Killing Joke and I took inspiration from them as I do any great work of art I consume. But no sane person is motivated to kill by a work of art, no matter how dark or violent. A violent, murderous rampage in a cinema has nothing to do with any of these works. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. And if someone you are with says something like that, pull them up on it. I agree with Jon Fisher from The Film Brief, who in a podcast with me following the events, said that if anything, the killer was just narcissistic and knew that The Dark Knight Rises would be the big news story and wanted a part of that fame.

As an Australian I do not have the intimate knowledge to really comment on American gun laws, which to me seem utterly ludicrous. I will draw one parallel though. In 1996, one horrific day changed gun control in Australia forever. In Port Arthur, Tasmania, Martin Bryant – armed with a semi-automatic rifle – massacred 35 people. In response, the Howard government made possibly the only decision of their time in power that I agree with (for those unfamiliar with Australian politics, the Howard government was a conservative government that had little time for human rights and led public debate in this country down some very dangerous paths). The Howard government immediately severely restricted the availability of all automatic and semi-automatic weapons and announced an amnesty for those weapons already in the community to be offered up to police so they could be destroyed. Yes, there have been gun deaths since. But the bold and swift actions of the conservative government resulted in no tragedy approaching that of the Port Arthur massacre occurring since. One horrific event can change the way a nation works, the way that people access weapons with murderous potential. I can only hope that the Aurora cinema massacre can be that one event for America. All it needs is someone brave enough to stand up and make the change happen.

I’ll finish up this little piece with the same quote that I use to close the discussion with Jon on The Film Brief podcast a couple of days ago. These words come from Jamie Kilstein, a stand up comedian, podcaster and massive superhero film fan on facebook: “I want to write about gun laws,racism, and idiots on the news, but after meeting so many great people at a midnight show last night in NYC, so many outcasts, so many nerds, so many people excited to watch a movie about a superhero, I’m just sad.” So am I.

The Dark Knight Rises is for me, a great film, even a 5 star one. Go and see it. Enjoy it, and be thankful for all that you have.

Trailer for your Weekend: Premium Rush

English: US postal stamp from 1902 for special...

Unfortunately, Gordon-Levitt’s character does not appear to be as snappy a dresser as this chap.

No originality in cinema? How about a pushbike set thriller? Perhaps with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a bike courier, and Michael Shannon as what I can only assume will be an extremely intimidating bad guy. If they pull  it off this could be an ultra exciting action flick, with set pieces that really set it apart. Well that’s what I’m hoping for after seeing this trailer anyway.

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Trailer for your Weekend: Oz the Great and Powerful

Title plate of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (not...

Title plate of Baum’s very first Oz book.

Apologies for the lateness of this week’s trailer. Unfortunately there was a death in the family last week so I have been away from the computer.

Anyone who has followed this blog for long will know that James Franco is one of my favourite actors working today, predominately because of his intriguing choice of roles. To see him in an Oz set adventure, not to mention the really interesting choice of director and three dynamite female leads, has shot Oz the Great and Powerful to the top of my ‘to see list’. Especially after I heard recently that the producers of this were really looking to pay homage to a number of Baum’s books that first created the Oz universe. Sure, it looks like it could be the latest annoying Burton/Depp literature adaptation, but with them not in the director/actor places, this should hopefully be something quite different.

What do you guys think of this?

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Trailer for your Weekend: Gangster Squad

Perhaps the trailers that get me the most excited are not those for films that I know will be fantastic or have hugely high expectations for. Rather, it is those that give me a glimpse of a film that could be incredible, or perhaps could just be average. More than maybe any other genre, the contemporary gangster film is a very inconsistent one. It is rare to find a really well made and enjoyable example. But when the genre is nailed just right, it can be something really exceptional. This trailer for Gangster Squad (rubbish name don’t you think?), shows that they have the feel downpat – the costumes, the voiceover, the violence. And a cracking cast. Who knows if that will translate into onscreen awesomeness, I have high hopes following the trailer. And I’ll definitely be checking it out to see which way it goes.

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Worth Watching June 2012

Worth Watching:

  • Modern Family Season 1 (2009), Christopher Lloyd & Steven Levitan – I’m not one for TV comedy generally, but this is a fantastic show. It all comes down to characters, with all of them being fully formed, hilarious individuals who continuously defy your expectations with their foibles. Manny is the best written character I’ve come across on television; whilst Ed O’Neill as the simultaneously grizzled yet endearing Jay is the character with the most growth, despite being the oldest. Great stuff.
  • The Original Movie (1922), Tony Sarg – Incredible animation style stands out in this very early satire on the ‘business’ of the film industry and comments on artistic licence. A lot of the humour arises from the witty intertitles whilst a lot of the joy comes from admiring a visual style that is no longer produced. Manages to work in a few potshots at censorship as well, so you have to love that.

  • Private Snafu: Spies (1943), Chuck Jones – An official American WWII propaganda cartoon directed by the iconic Chuck Jones. This is a real window into the past, essentially a warning to keep information confidential. Not much has changed in that regard, could almost be a contemporary anti-terrorism ad. The quite beautiful traditional animation, and familiar voices make this a treat to watch.

  • The Sandlot Kids (1993), David M. Evans – I used to absolutely love this film as a kid, despite having little interest in baseball like most Aussie kids. Dennis Leary and Karen Allen are perfect as the parents of Scott Smalls, whilst the young cast members are all pretty excellent. Chief amongst them the charismatic leader of the crew Mike Vitar and the hilarious Patrick Renna, who was somewhat ubiquitous in family films of this vintage. I still absolutely love this film.
  • Modern Family Season 2 (2010), Christopher Lloyd & Steven Levitan – Initially it seems as though the writing in this second season has lost some of the snap of the first. But it grows as the season progresses. The evolution and deepening of the various family relationships make this an intriguing, developing season. And the silly hi-jinks of Phil and Luke Dunphee are good for a fair quota of belly laughs.
Earthquake (Modern Family)

Jay and Manny, two of the inspired characters that make Modern Family such a cracking watch.

  • Little Nemo (1911), Winsor McCay – I came across this on the excellent Cineroulade site, which I encourage you all to check out. This story of a man creating very early animations features some incredible, if laboured drawings. It’s actually quite a gentle, funny comedy that for today’s audience showcases the technology of extremely old filmmaking. A great, fun combination of live action and animation.

Not Worth Watching:

  • Burnt by the Sun (1994), Nikhita Mikhalkov – This Oscar award winning film is a surreally comic look at 30s Soviet Russia. However, at least early on, the comedy is not at all funny. The film concerns a respected Colonel, and the manner in which he is betrayed by the State. A few things work, the tender relationship between Colonel Kotov and his young wife and daughter for example. But unfortunately too much does not, the plot is pretty standard with an associate from the past returning to make trouble and overall, it’s all a bit unsatisfying.
  • Before the Rain (1994), Milco Mancevski – This very slow moving Macedonian film suffers from the structural approach it takes. By dividing the narrative into an almost circular triptych, the film struggles to engage with the audience. I found this really quite a bore to watch. The last third is definitely the most satisfying, with a sense of character and journey. But the first two leave you too disinterested to really care.
  • Prometheus (2012), Ridley Scott – Has more supremely original ideas than any film needs. But these are not integrated successfully into the script, which clunks. It looks amazing, with them design on par with the iconic earlier iterations of the franchise. But some of the actors are out of their depth, whilst neither the action or horror elements really worked for me. My major gripe though is that at times it felt like the film was trying to make me see the message, or ask life’s biggest questions, but forgetting to entertain me.
  • Get the Gringo (2012), Adrian Grunberg – You can see why this went straight to DVD in other territories. It’s a pretty woeful and tired effort from Gibson et al. You would struggle to find more middle of the road filmmaking than this effort which literally put me to sleep. If you are hoping for over the top, prison break fun like I was, look elsewhere.
Adiós gringo

I don’t really know what this is, but I feel comfortable in saying that it is better than Get the Gringo.

If you only have time to watch one Modern Family Series 1

Avoid at all costs Prometheus

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