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Archive for the ‘Thoughts, Opinions, Rants’ Category

I wish I could somehow recline in the mind of David Lynch for just a few hours, no perversion included. Simply a desire to figure out how the one-of-a-kind filmmaker’s brain ticks, where the insane ideas pour from, why he’s so adept at constructing cinematic puzzles that have no easy-does-it solution. There’s a distinct power at play in any film that forces its viewers to revisit the picture in its entirety in order for them to discern just what the fudge is exactly going down, and that’s a magnetism that doesn’t need to be rewarding to earn its rightful place. I’ve watched Lynch’s spell-binding Mulholland Drive at least ten times at this stage of my life, and I still can’t decide on a straight-and-narrow synopsis. Every fresh watch pokes holes through my then-existing analysis. But, the thing is, I love that ongoing thought process. Coin it as being a tad masochistic; fine by me.

Far too few celluloid experiences pack the discomfort and open-mouth gapes that accompany Lynch’s first work, 1977’s black-and-white Eraserhead, which I caught earlier on the Sundance channel. Guess is,  the fifth time I’ve seen the film. The aftermath is always the same—-brain sodomy. Essentially, this one’s about a nearly-mute weirdo, Harry Spencer (the by-God’s-own-hands unsettling Jack Nance), who sports a pre-Christopher “Kid” Reid pencil-top hairdo and is deathly afraid of becoming a father, and the neurosis he undergoes when his girlfriend gives birth to a disfigured baby. Only, you don’t get your standard daydreams filled with dinnertable scenes starring multiple rugrats; Lynch’s treats feature little alien-like creatures convulsing, or spewing blood, or living in heaters, not to mention, as a sweet bonus, bearded ladies singing showtunes.

Reports state that Lynch made the film using a slim $10,000 grant he received from the storied AFI Conservatory and IOUs he grabbed from friends and odd-job employers. Shows the then-31-year-old wannabe-director’s determination and honed vision. Something tells me, though, that Eraserhead wouldn’t be any less abstract if he’d been given a grant 20 times that amount; like all of his films, Lynch’s debut remains such a singular vision 23 years after its premiere, you can only enjoy it in guiltless bafflement. And that, folks, is precisely the skill that I’d love tap into somehow, some damn way; the ability to create give-me-your-undivided-attention fiction, stories and live-action deals brimming with all-my-own imagination. Of course, no one will ever manage to replicate a David Lynch film, but that’s not even my point; I’m itching to learn how he so brilliantly digs into his own unique sensibilities and translates them into works that equally polarize and astonish.

Eraserhead is by no means a masterpiece, or even one of my all-time favorite movies. It’s up there amongst the strangest and most invigorating, however; one of many offbeat films I re-check often, when I’m searching for inspiration.

Fatherhood is nowhere in sight, so I can’t sympathize with poor Harry Spencer; I am paranoid as hell in other areas, though, namely within a professional pit of quicksand I can’t seem to crawl out of. Could bearded songbirds and mini-ETs get their metaphors on over that? Should they even, for that matter? Not at all. I need to visualize my own what-the-fuck imagery, just as David Lynch did back in 1977.

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As the release of Shutter Island rapidly approaches, concluding a marathon of anticipation around these parts, I’ve been working on some related posts for my colleagues over at Reel Loop. The first is today’s feature, ‘Six Book-To-Film Adaptations That Hollywood Needs to Make Happen,’ comprised of novels I love and think would translate well on the big screen. For added measure, I’ve also made some suggestions on how said projects should move forward, if any or all get that chance one day.

Give it a look, and let me know what books YOU’D love to see turned into feature-length flicks.

LINK: REEL LOOP Feature: Six Book-To-Film Adaptations That Hollywood Needs to Make Happen

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This goes out to all nine of my loyal readers. You all complete me. And shock the hell out of me.

2010 begins an interesting diversion, the windy path to notoriety within the online film-covering community. Earning respect, one post at a time. That’s the goal, at least. So far, I’m on two channels: this here one, which will continue to be home to all random film musings, free-spirited reviews and reactions to pictures both new and old, and other me-centric writings that, honestly, have no other fitting home; and Critics Notebook, where I regularly contribute in-depth reviews of new films, whether independent, obscure or mainstream. Here, the reviews are raw; there, much more controlled and self-edited.

Which leaves a place for me to cover a healthy smattering of film news, and that’s where my new outlet, Reel Loop, comes into play. Though its still in its upstart stage, Reel Loop shows tons of potential and, most importantly, spunk. Not that dry news, but lively updates and an occasional creative remixing of the hard-news approach. The site’s tagline is “Face-Punching Film News,” so there you go. They’ve welcomed me into their fold, and I’m quite grateful. Still learning the system, yet to master the flow, but ready to soak up game and solidify my name.

These are crazy, closed-door times for those hungry to kick in hinges, especially in the film journalism circuit. I’m a year older, and recharged. Down for whatever. More passionate and studious toward cinema than ever before. Just how I like it.

Now, about nixing that surname and upgrading this into a legit dot-com…..

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I figured that it’d take longer than a eight days before I began steaming over my Best of 2009 list, but, alas, the ocho is upon me. Lone Scherfig’s An Education is lucky, because had I seen Oren Moverman‘s The Messenger before New Years Eve, it would’ve most certainly edged An Education off the list (The Last House on the Left, which placed tenth, had the 10-spot secured, lock and key, regardless; that ninth position was the flexible one). A steadily hectic schedule kept me from seeing Mr. Moverman’s sobering and fresh look at war-time grief, and that’s a shame.

The film sprinkles a variety of emotions, all landing right in the middle of the pie. Moverman, along with the script’s co-writer Alessandro Camon, knows when to relieve the tension with perfectly-executed humor; there’s some of the most earned levity in this film that I’ve seen in some time. The domineering sensation is that of a heart being wrenched, though, particularly in four scenes that show U.S. Staff Sergeant, and medal-holding hero, Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) and Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson) carrying out their patriotic duties: they’re both Army soldiers turned Casualty Notification Officers, meaning they’re the troopers stuck with the somber task of informing a recently-killed comrade’s next-of-kin about his or her death.

Whenever this specific job requirement comes into play, The Messenger devastates. Foster and Harrelson knock on one home’s front door and greeted by a grumpy middle-aged man; they’re looking for his daughter, though Harrelson has requested her by a different last name. Turns out, she recently married an Army guy whom her pops disapproves of, behind his back. What starts off as a father’s heartbreaking realization that his kid has broken his own heart shifts into violent sobs from her and daddy being forced to swallow his pain and console. Moverman keeps the camera mere inches behind the daughter’s back, showing her father’s teary eyes as he hugs her in the foreground, and the holding-back-their-own-tears, crumbling expressions of Foster and Harrelson. It’s extremely taxing. Continued after the jump: (more…)

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Pardon the pretentiousness that could be taken from the following; I’m just typing while thinking.

Take from this what you will, but there’s seriously no greater joy for me than when unsuspected visitors to my bedroom finger through my DVD collection, only to leer my way with hesitation and mild shock. That me, the nice, friendly and warm fella they thought they knew so well has such a perverse appreciation of truly fucked-up cinema. Sure, they glance at Billy Madison and other non-threatening standards, but then they also see Lucio Fulci’s The House by the Cemetery, and Dario Argento’s Deep Red, and the many recent foreign horror flicks with the off-putting cover art designs. And then I proceed to fawn over the elaborate death scenes, how the respective director makes you squirm while reeling in sadistic glee. 

Truth is, I’m accepting more and more every day that there’s this inner dark side beneath my naturally disarming ways. Take the book I purchased this morning—-Ramsey Campbell’s The Face That Must Die. I know tons of people reading The Lost Symbol, thinking that they’re onto something quite intriguing, but not I; I’m enraptured by British horror writers. Just last week, I stormed through James Herbert’s ferocious ’70s novel The Fog. And every night, before I drift off into slumber city, I take in another entry from Jack Ketchum’s demented short story collection Peaceable Kingdom. His “To Suit the Crime” is a must-read; it’s an intense exploitation story bookended by a Rod Serling-esque twist. 

The reason for this self-examination is the following, the first full trailer for Amer, a French new-age-giallo from filmmaking duo Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani that could potentially show Dario Argento how he used to make horror. Amer is currently making the festival rounds, and the praise is slowly mounting. The trailer, released earlier today, is bizarre and moving, lavish and somewhat vile. Meaning, exactly my kind of thing. You want to know more about me? Watch the trailer, after the jump, and wonder why I’ve replayed this five times in a row now. But first, here’s the synopsis found on Bloody Disgusting

Desire has always been linked to one’s look. And cinema too. Luis Buñuel knew that very well when he filmed the short of a razor over an eye with a detail shot. Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani recover this image in an experimental film with immaculate style. Someone watches a girl through a keyhole. The wind lightly lifts a woman’s skirt as a group of men look on. The fantasy of a dress tearing. Composed of fragments -of eyes, lights, shadows, gestures– and without dialogues, Amer delves into the life of Ana, always halfway between the real and the imaginary. A film of sensations, always shot skin-deep.


Head beyond the jump for the hypnotic trailer: (more…)

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Sometimes I want to smack myself. Clench my fingers into a tight knot and shoot the fist upward into my jaw. All while saying, “What took you so long?”

One of those times was two nights ago, when, after work, I strolled my way over to a local AMC theater to catch the Coen Brothers‘ latest, A Serious Man. For those who don’t frequent acclaimed film blogs and critics circles (meaning the vast majority), A Serious Man has been nonexistent, riddled to a small pocket of major city screens. If you do visit the cinema-forward websites that I’m all over on a daily basis, though, you’ll currently see this one placing rather high on most heads’ Best of 2009 lists. It’s Joel and Ethan Coen, so naturally it’s praised in the highest of ways, and typically their two-sided name would have been enough to have me immediately  slurping down flat Diet Coke and overpriced popcorn. Something about A Serious Man hadn’t clicked with me, though. The excitement wasn’t there. Anticipation was vacant. The problem is, I’m still not sure why. Literally a week before the film’s trailer premiered online, I’d once again devoured Blood Simple and Miller’s Crossing; resisting the latest picture from the fellas responsible for those two gems should never happen, right? 

The fact that I’ve finally seen A Serious Man and I’m quite the fan proves that my indifference was indeed foolish. We all go a little mad sometimes. Yours truly included. While most critics are claiming this to be the best film of the Coens’ career, I’m nowhere near as exclamatory; however, that doesn’t mean it’ll simply come and go in my head. In fact, the film’s lasting power in my thoughts is exactly why I dig it so much. Sitting there in the scarcely-populated AMC theater, I absorbed the film with quiet attentiveness, but never outright verve. A few chuckles here and there, but mostly casual entertainment. But then the morbidly poetic final shot came, and I was pretty floored. Initially, in a “What the hell was that? Are you kidding?” way, but then, no more than 20 minutes later, the last image stained itself in my brain. I couldn’t shake it. And that’s when I totally got it. I was right there with the Coens. It’s a alternately profound, ironic and fearless place to be.

Not the film's final shot, but those who've seen A SERIOUS MAN should understand.

The film’s closer tops their fury-causing, heavily debated No Country for Old Men ending, in my eyes. It’s just as maddening at first, but then equally as esoteric and poignant upon closer inspection. Much like as A Serious Man as a whole. 

Continued after the jump: (more…)

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Prior to seeing the film, I was under the shameful impression that Jason Reitman‘s Up in the Air would be a lighter variation on 2007’s Michael Clayton, the dreary yet tightly written George Clooney success. Both star your mom’s favorite actor as a dream shatterer; in Reitman’s film, he’s Ryan Bingham, the guy hired by your backbone-less company to send your ass straight to unemployment, while he’s a law-firm’s prized “fixer” in Tony Gilroy’s ’07 Oscar contender. In both, he’s a problem-solver-for-hire. The Up in the Air trailer promised a self-evaluation, one leading to a realization that Clooney’s character needs personal change, similar to how his Michael Clayton came to grips with his role in indirect murders. The familiarity left me with minimal excitement for Up in the Air, frankly, even though every critic with a WordPress account had been hailing Reitman’s third picture as one of the, if not the, year’s best. I’m a fool like that, sometimes. 

I couldn’t have been further from reality. Up in the Air is its own compelling entity, a serious comedy full of heartbreaking levity. Reitman—-who co-wrote the film’s script with Sheldon Turner, together adapting a 2001 novel by author Walter Kirn—-directs with a remarkable hand. Stylish without overstepping the lines, subtle without losing any of his own creative identity. The dialogue is always sharp, at times downright brilliant (I’m confident in saying that “You’re a parenthesis” will go down as 2009’s most devastating insult). And George Clooney is at his best, in a role that allows him to flex his God-given charisma just as much as it challenges his abilities, demanding new facets of vulnerability and sadness that are foreign to one Danny Ocean. Not even Michael Clayton could transmit unseen tears as convincingly as Clooney does here, in a post-wedding-rehearsal chat between brother and sisters that drives home just how detached he is from those he should unconditionally support. The pain on Clooney’s face is expressive acting at its most effective.

I won’t shoot myself in the lip by saying he deserves the Academy’s Best Actor statue (it’s way too early for such hyperbole), but he’s secured a top-slot in my personal list, alongside Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker), pending on the leading-man merits of Invictus (Morgan Freeman), A Single Man (Colin Firth) and one I’ve slacked off on seeing thus far, sadly, A Serious Man (Michael Stuhlbarg). I’m absolutely riding with Team Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds), but he’s on the supporting side, anyway.

George Clooney and director Jason Reitman

 

Let’s lock in both Clooney’s and Reitman’s names in the nominees-for-sure discussions, shall we? Continued after the jump:

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