These are all shot with the Canon 5DMkII, and all feature amazing music by an artist named Matthieu Ouaki. What a novel idea, to try and connect with your audience through feeling and art, as opposed to shoving a product down their throat...
Comments on watching and making films.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
The Girlfriend Experience finally came out on DVD, which means I finally got a chance to see it. It came out for about a week, when I was still living in Texas, and I missed it, so of course I ended up having to wait to see it (which really sucks, because I like seeing as much stuff as I can in the theater, especially Soderbergh's work).
The film tells the story of a New York City escort by the name of Chelsea (played by adult film actress Sasha Grey), and how she handles her life, her clients, and her boyfriend, a well meaning but obviously dense guy named Chris (played by Chris Santos). Chelsea treats her escorting as more than just meeting men and having sex with them for money. She feels as though she is providing a full service package in which she goes out with these men, has conversations about whatever they want to talk about, and does whatever they want. She is not just a hooker by any means, and in order to prove that, she is attacking this thing that she does very professionally, which keeps her boyfriend happy. Until, that is, she does the very unprofessional thing of falling in love with a client.
The Girlfriend Experience is a tough film to crack, at least for the first half. It comes off as a seemingly random grouping of events that happen in Chelsea's life, and to a lesser extent her boyfriends life, until she meets this writer client that she falls for, which is when the film really starts to coalesce into a film (something with a more discernible story). You have to be patient with this film, and the last half of it is the pay off. The movie is carried, primarily, by Sasha Grey, which is unfortunate, because she really can't act that well. There is no enthusiasm in the role, at all, no difference between happy or sad, angry or glad. She delivers lines with a fairly wooden quality that any B-list actress would have been able to handle with, at least, some flair. I may be one of the few to say this, but it honestly comes off as her casting being a publicity stunt, as though Soderbergh was wondering if he could ruffle a few feathers and get people interested if he put a porn actress in the role, because, honestly, ANY actress could have played this part, and any actress could have probably played it better than Sasha Grey.
If you watch the DVD, definitely watch the alternate cut in the special features, if you're only going to watch one version. It leaves out some really boring and pointless scenes involving the boyfriend and some rich buddies of his on a plane to Vegas, and makes the film feel a little tighter, even though it runs about the same length some how... All in all, The Girlfriend Experience is definitely worth watching, but, I for one will be happy when Soderbergh gets back to making real films and stops goofing off with this stuff for HDNet.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
I'll go see anything by Steven Soderbergh. The first film I remember seeing of his was Traffic, and ever since then, I have gobbled up everything of his that I came into contact with. He is one of our best living and working filmmakers, and one lucky guy, in that he can pretty much write his own ticket (well, except for Moneyball, which was recently dropped by the studio Soderbergh was going to be making it for). I love everything from his mainstream stuff, like the Ocean's trilogy and Out of Sight, to his more "experimental" side with films like Kafka and Schizopolis. Yeah, I'll go see anything by Steven Soderbergh, but that doesn't mean I will worship everything he does. I didn't care for the first in his series of HD films for HDNet, Bubble. The Good German was okay, but nothing to write home about, and, ultimately, The Informant! falls into the same category.
The film stars Matt Damon as Mark Whitacre, a real life higher up at major food company in Illinois, who tries to sell his company down the creek by going to the FBI with a Lysine price fixing scam. But when Whitacre doesn't see things going the way he wants them too, he tries to lie himself out of the situation he's caused, which puts the FBI in a curious predicament.
The Informant! is based on a true story, and Mark Whitacre is a very real person. Soderbergh, though, being the playful personality he is, took some liberties in making Whitacre look like an even bigger doofus than he probably is in real life. Using little touches like a constant inner monologue, and Damon playing his best bafoon, Soderbergh takes what would, generally, be a rather uninteresting tale of corporate espionage, and makes it into an enjoyable and funny story about a man who just doesn't get it. Unfortunately, the film felt like it was a bit of a throw away, much like The Good German. It was definitely watchable, and enjoyable, but I'm not sure it's the kind of movie I would want to watch again. Soderbergh tries a lot of different things, though, and I'm glad this film exists, even though I probably wouldn't buy it on DVD.
Joe Swanberg's films are always something I hold a certain amount of anticipation for. It's a little annoying that they, generally, can not be seen theatrically (except for SXSW appearances, and occasional special screenings, generally held in cities far, far away). One of the best things I think Joe has ever done is team up with Greta Gerwig, as evidenced in his third feature, Hannah Takes The Stairs, and his follow up Nights and Weekends.
Nights and Weekends stars Joe and Greta as James and Mattie (respectively), a long distance couple who only get to be together every couple of months. James lives in Chicago, and Mattie lives in New York, and they seem to get along really well, but there are cracks in their relationship, the kind of cracks that are exacerbated by the distance they are constantly fighting through. When James goes to visit Mattie in New York one weekend, she drops the bomb and breaks up with him. Fast forward a year or so, and James makes a surprise visit to New York, and ends up hanging out with Mattie again. But will the good or the bad of their old ways be what comes out in both of them?
Nights and Weekends is definitely Swanberg's most accomplished feature to date (He's already made and premiered another film at SXSW, Alexander The Last, at the time of this writing). He is moving farther away from the graphic, and somewhat meaningless, sex of his first feature Kissing on the Mouth, and moving closer and closer to actually mixing real and meaningful story with a realistic shooting style that includes nudity and frank depiction's of sex. Night's and Weekends real power is in Greta Gerwig's performance, when she manages to channel all of the nervous energy, paranoia, and indecision of a young person in love. Swanberg, who is fairly solid as an actor, delivers a good performance, as well, though I feel like he sometimes has this Jimmy Fallon-esque quality to him, where he's laughing at his own jokes. There are some GREAT scenes in this film, especially the one in Chicago where they're out in the rain, and the NYC hotel scene, near the end, with the bathrobe joke. Nights and Weekends is a fabulous journey into men and women and their inability to relate to each other over a long term relationship, especially when distance is involved. I loved it, and I can't wait to see his next one.