Comments on watching and making films.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A few thoughts on The Dark Knight

I'm not going to write a review about The Dark Knight. There's no point. It would just be a really long gush fest, with words like magnificent, amazing, and transcendent. It would include phrases like "easily one of, if not THE best of the year", "pitch perfect", and "everything that is amazing about filmmaking". But you can read all of that elsewhere. There's no point in me repeating it. I also don't want to go into the plot, because I am so afraid I might give out a spoiler (though I'm thoroughly convinced that I was, probably, one of the last people to actually see it). So, just a few thoughts, and we'll leave it at that.

- Easily the best Batman ever.

- I'm not actually sure they have a word to describe how amazing the film was. I'm still on the high of seeing it.

- I thought it was interesting that I liked the portrayal of Two-Face by Tommy Lee Jones in Batman Forever when I was a kid, but as I grew up, enjoyed its cartoonishness less and less. Now, as an adult, Aaron Eckhart's Two-Face is perfect - Bitter, Insane with rage and jealousy, and completely broken.

- Although Maggie Gyllenhaal is a better actress than Katie Holmes, I'm not sure she made a better Rachel Dawes. Gyllenhaal's  natural personal attributes bleed heavily into the character, and, while Katie Holmes is not the best actress, I will say that I think she was able to fill the role better. I wasn't able to see Rachel Dawes as well as I did with Holmes. I kept seeing Maggie Gyllenhaal AS Rachel Dawes.

- I'm glad the filmmakers followed the path they did. Yes, it was much darker than people expected, but the darkness serves the character of Batman a lot better. Nolan pushed the limits of all of these characters, made you fall in love with them (even the psychotic Joker), and when you fall in love with a character, the film suddenly becomes something bigger than everyone. That's what film is supposed to do - invite you into its world, stir up emotions and passions, and make you FEEL something. The Dark Knight accomplishes every bit of that.

- Heath Ledger, hands down, may be the best Joker there will ever be. I feel sorry for whoever else may have to step into his shoes in the future.

- Nolan had already proved his worth with films like Memento and Insomnia, but, with The Dark Knight, he shows that he is a master.

So, all in all, in the words of my friend Wes - It rocked my BALLS off!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The best trailer for a film that made no sense to me.

This trailer, for Godard's Masculin, Feminin, is really cool. I just wish I understood the actual film.

DVD - Mr. Freedom

Eclipse is a, relatively, new subsidiary of the Criterion Collection, that is putting out DVD's of much lesser known films by great filmmakers. Unlike Criterion, though, these are stripped down affairs, sporting only digital restoration and a new transfer, but no other extras. My first encounter with Eclipse is their William Klein collection, of which, I have seen Mr. Freedom, and The Model Couple. The transfers on these films were great, so, ultimately, I think Eclipse has done a good job, from what I'm seeing so far, and look forward to more of their releases.

Ultimately, though, I have one problem with Mr. Freedom - I have no idea what the f@$% this movie is about! I mean, I know what its about, it's a farcical, over the top, commentary on American Imperialism, and especially the Vietnam War, but... Watch it, and see if you can figure it out. John Abbey plays the title role, Mr. Freedom, a super-hero-ish character, who wears a ridiculous costume, and goes to France to liberate the people from the tyrannical communist oppressors led by the likes of Moujik Man (a stand in for the Russians) and "Red China Man", a giant inflatable Chinese dragon.

Now, I know what you're thinking - How could a giant, inflatable, communist Chinese dragon be a threat to democracy? I don't know. You're guess is as good as mine. The film starts off on an incredibly strange note, and devolve's from there. By the time you've sat their, watching this thing for an hour and a half, you'll just end up wondering where your hour and a half went. If your into a film that bashes America in really oblique, and increasingly ridiculous ways, then Mr. Freedom is your film, but, to be honest, I've seen much better criticism of a nation in a lot of other films. Mr. Freedom was definitely not for me.

If you want to get an idea of how weird this movie is, here is a, relatively, tame clip from it - 

DVD - Wassup Rockers

Larry Clark made a huge splash with his feature film debut, Kids, which courted a lot of controversy upon its release because of its frank depiction of underage characters involved in sex and drugs. He has dredged up some bit of controversy with every film since. His latest, Wassup Rockers, was released to strong critical reviews in 2006, but didn't seem to receive much of a theatrical release. I finally picked it up on DVD the other day, because I had heard so many good words about it. I've haven't seen any of Clark's other films, but I figured this was as good as any to start with. Unfortunately, I think I was wrong.

Wassup Rockers is the story of a group of Latino friends, in South Central Los Angeles, who spend their time listening to punk rock, drinking beer, talking about sex, and, most importantly, skateboarding. Skateboarding is their outlet, their way of getting away from the prejudice they face at their school because of the clothes they wear and the way they look (other kids make fun of them because they wear tight clothes, like rock stars, and wear their hair long). The film follows them, for the most part, for a day as they travel from South Central to Beverly Hills to skateboard, and have numerous "adventures" along the way. 

My problem with this film is that its not really a fictional story, and not really a documentary, and the little story it does have seems pretty trite and cliche. When the boys meet two rich, white, horny girls in school girl outfits, that invite them back to their mansion... I was done. I mean, c'mon! Really? Let's get real. Now the Beverly Hills cop giving them a hassle because of their brown skin? That's a possibility, but a lot of the other things that happen in this film seem ludicrous.

Clark rounded up a group of kids that are actually from South Central, non-actors, to play the part, and the "realism" tends to get a little boring some times. Add, on top of that, a plot line that includes a bunch of ridiculous incidents that we, as an audience, have seen in one way or another (and done much better) in other films, and Wassup Rockers just seems kind of pointless. It doesn't teach me anything new about these kids. Does it surprise me that 13/14/15 year old boys are skating, talking about sex, and listening to music? No. Why would it? Does it surprise me that a bunch of Latino kids suffer racism at the hands of some of the black kids in their neighborhood, or by the LAPD? No. So what's the point? I don't feel, as an audience member, that I saw anything in this movie that was worth my hour and forty minutes.

DVD - Low: You May Need A Murderer

Low has been around for a while now, since somewhere around 92/93. They play a certain kind of, forgive the term, low key rock music that has since become a sort of trademark in the indie rock world. When bands start turning down the volume, making simpler songs, with a more intimate feeling, they often get compared to Low. Low is comprised of husband and wife Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, and a revolving bassist. Sparhawk sings (for the most part), and plays guitar, while Parker provides backing vocals and plays drums.

David Kleijwigt's documentary about the band is really about Sparhawk and Parker, their marriage, their Mormon faith, Sparhawk's recent meltdown, which forced the cancellation of some tour dates, and, of course, the music of Low. Kleijwigt follows Low on a couple of tour dates, recording live performances, and everything in between, including how Sparhawk and Parker raise their kids while on tour, and Sparhawk's mixed views on America and his faith.

You May Need A Murderer is not as complete as it could be. Kleijwigt didn't shoot the making of Drums and Guns, the album on which Low is touring on during the film, and he never REALLY gets Sparhawk (or Parker) to really go into the nitty-gritty of what caused Sparhawk's problems, but he does capture a very, almost innocent, family, whose parents just happen to be rock and roller's. Sparhawk talks openly about his Mormon faith, and it is interesting to see how he lives it, and the fact that it DOES affect the decisions that he makes on a daily basis. Sparhawk and Parker choose to live their faith out, and are very serious about it, even in a world where religion and rock star do not mix. Sparhawk is earnest, and Parker is quietly supportive. 

While its cinematography is cheaply DV, and often lacks character and basic technical skill, watching this husband and wife team do their thing is more than enough to keep you entranced. I don't know if you have to love Low to love the film, because I would just consider myself a "casual" fan, but it may help if you actually like "slow-core" music.

DVD- The Tracey Fragments

I can't be sure on this, but I don't think The Tracey Fragments ever got a "real" theatrical release in the States. By "real", I mean playing cities other than New York and L.A. for a week to film critics/fanatics, and whoever else happened to pick up on the fact that it was playing. I wish it would have, because this is a film that demands to be seen on a big screen. It's visual style is such, that it suffers a bit from watching it on DVD, and I would go so far as to say that you probably would be wasting your time trying to watch it on a portable DVD player or iPod.

The Tracey Fragments is a Canadian film by director Bruce McDonald, and starring one of the most incredible actresses of her generation - Ellen Page. Page is Tracey, a fifteen year old girl who can't reconcile her reality with real reality. Through a multi-frame screen, we see the bits and pieces that make up the story of her daily life, from being made fun of at school, to crushing on the new boy, to accidently loosing her brother in the woods, to spending days trying to find him. To try and describe the effect of the multi-frame screen is pointless, you just have to experience it, but it makes you feel the same way that Tracey feels - unsure of herself, and on information overload.

I LOVED this film. Page's performance is such that you completely buy into the idea that she is this fifteen year old girl, whose hypnotized her brother into thinking he's a dog, fantasizes about the 80's new wave dressed new kid, and who drives busses late at night to knock herself out of her depression. I'm not really sure what to say about McDonald's directing, because Page pretty much carries the whole story. All of the other characters almost seem like background noise, and with so many things going on on the screen, who has time to keep up with them anyway? The "Mondrian"-style panels give the film an energy and frenetic quality that is akin to the teenage life at fifteen. Your world is changing at lightning speed, and you're having massive amounts of information thrown at you at once, and this is exactly what McDonald's visual experiment does, putting up dozens of layers on the screen at once, to give you differing views of the action, and, at times, slightly different performances. It makes you really feel like you're seeing a story from all sides.

This film isn't for everyone. The panels might throw the casual movie-goer out of the story. The story, itself, is also fairly simple, and, had McDonald not used the panels and multiple take in the same shot (in other words, if he had told it straight-forward, nothing special), the film would probably be a little boring. It's McDonald's commitment to his style, and Page's electrifying performance, though, that make this film one that you need to watch.

Trailer's below - 

Sunday, July 6, 2008


It's been a while since I've posted on here, but its not because of laziness. I've had several personal issues to deal with these last couple of weeks, which all center around my own health and the health of family members. Anyways, I hope to start updating regularly soon. I have a lot of films I want to write up, and I am also in Season 5 of The Sopranos, which I hope to write a little blurb about once I've finished watching all of it.

Indefinable Orbits was supposed to already be started on, but several issues, not the least of which have been health and certain supply necessities, which I am still waiting on, have caused it to be delayed. On top of that, I'll be heading to a camp to do videography for a week, next week. As soon as I get back, I'm going to hit it hard and try and get this thing shot.