Archive for January, 2008

2006

January 19, 2008
Netflix DVD
Canada
English
110 Minutes
Drama / Romance
Sarah Polley

Sometimes You Have To Let Go Of What You Can’t Live Without.

An acting clinic by Julie Christie, who is still incredibly hot, even at her advanced age. Husband must put wife in Alzheimer’s nursing home before things get too out of hand at their lakeside Canadian cottage. Fiona gets confused in the kitchen and may not come back the next time she heads off on a cross country ski excursion.

Slow pace and winter beauty make it seem to unfold in real time. Fiona has good days and bad, the nursing home staff seems caring, with just a little more structure than may be necessary. Fiona begs her husband and love of her life to take her to the home before he is nearly ready. And then she demands that he leave, knowing the rules state that he must stay away for 30 days. He knows that he is basically saying goodbye to someone with whom he hasn’t been apart in more than 40 years. Heartbreaking.

Oscar Nominations:
–Actress Julie Christie
–Adapted Screenplay by Sarah Polley

8.8 Metacritic
7.9 IMDB
**** Ebert

~~

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2007

January 19, 2008
Campbell CA — Camera 7
USA
English / American Sign Language
158 Minutes
Drama
Paul Thomas Anderson

There Will Be Grace. There Will Be Vengeance.

After you’ve seen THERE WILL BE BLOOD, listen to our Cinebanter podcast, which can be found here .

Oscar Nominations:
–Picture
–Actor Daniel Day-Lewis
–Director Paul Thomas Anderson
–Cinematography
–Adapted Screenplay by Paul Thomas Anderson
–Art Direction
–Film Editing
–Sound Editing

9.0 Metacritic
9.0 IMDB
#28 IMDB

~~

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NOBODY KNOWS
2004

January 18, 2008
Netflix DVD
Japan
Japanese
141 Minutes
Drama
Hirokazu Koreeda

…based on a true story. Four children of flighty freewheeling woman, none older than 12, are left alone in a one-room apartment in a Japanese city. They are left with money, but are not allowed to go outside for fear of discovery. Very touching, deliberately paced, with unique camera angles. The kids are adorable and natural and their tiny neighborhood becomes another character as we follow the 12-year-old Akira around as he does errands as the head of household. Not particularly uplifting. This may be the worst Japanese mother ever portrayed in film…

~Best Actor of 2004 for Yuya Yagira — Cannes Film Festival

8.8 Metacritic
8.2 IMDB

~~

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2007

January 16, 2008
Campbell CA — Camera 7
France / USA
French / English / Persian / German
95 Minutes
Animation / Comedy / Drama
Vincent Paronnaud & Marjane Satrapi

Black and white old-school animation which follows the story of Marjane, a young girl who grows up during the Islamic Revolution in Iran. We see the politics through a child’s eyes, follow her to a foreign boarding school, see her fall in and out of love, all the while keeping her sense of humor and creative fantasy world alive.

9.0 Metacritic
8.2 IMDB
**** Ebert
A Schwarzbaum

~~

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2007

January 13, 2008
Camera Cinema Club
USA
English
106 Minutes
Documentary
Alex Gibney

This is gonna be tough. I’m a longtime member of a snobby film club who meet ten times a year and watch unreleased (and sometimes unreleasable) films, usually have a guest speaker, and then pass the microphone around to discuss what we’ve just seen. The most important aspect of the club for me is that we have no idea what we’re about to see until the actual title card appears on the screen. We don’t know genre or language or year or production company–nothing. This is where I saw ONCE, well before anyone had told me about it, and this secrecy probably helped make it one of my favorite experiences at the movies last year. So on this Sunday morning, the auditorium darkens and the ThinkFilm logo comes one, which is usually a good sign, and we go to Afghanistan. And we hear from a man’s family about what a nice guy he was and that he only chose to become a taxi driver to help his family out while the rest of the family farmed their land.

This man, Dilawar, was turned in by other Afghans, taken into custody by US military and governmental personnel at a former Soviet airbase, and was dead from torture five days later. We hear from people who’ve toured our overseas prisons, people in Washington who set the policy, people who have actually been tortured by US soldiers, and finally, and by far most importantly, we hear from the men who were probably responsible for this particular death.

If you have Iraqi War Fatigue, you may join the dozen or so people at my screening who walked out early in the proceedings. I mean, what can we learn about the conflict that we don’t already know? We can learn how men turn from patriotic soldiers into men who dispense pain because they feel that they’re expected to get information. They’re just not told exactly how to get it. This was a very hard film to sit through.

It is less one-sided than you might imagine for its subject matter. The low-ranking soldiers who do the hitting and “stress positions” and “waterboarding” (these euphemisms simply don’t sound as bad as the practices are) make compelling arguments towards their interviewers that people act differently in places like Abu Ghraib than they would in their own hometown. “If you had been there, what would you have done?” one convicted former solider asks. The title of the film refers to Dilawar, a cab driver, who picked up three men, was arrested with them, and portrayed to the soldiers as a collaborator who was in charge of the timing device for a bomb. The three others were released eventually; Dilawar was murdered.

The footage is harrowing. I’ve seen all the Abu Ghraib still photos, thanks to Salon, but for the first time, I saw what appeared to be cellphone video of prisoners doing anything and everything, regardless of embarrassment, that their captors insisted upon. This typically involves guard dogs or sexual degradation.

One former marine, not involved with the death, says “we were told that Muslim men are particularly susceptible to sexual humiliation and ridicule. That’s bullshit. Isn’t everyone? Who wants to masturbate in front of a crowd with a hood on their head.” We are not spared this footage either.

The talking heads chosen are similar in tone to NO END IN SIGHT, including Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff and the architect of the so-called “Terror Memo”, John Yoo. We also hear from more low-ranking soldiers than are typically found in a story like this. We hear from a pioneer in psychological torture, a professor from McGill University. And perhaps most powerfully, we hear from a British national, who underwent the same sorts of torture that Dilawar went through. Upon his release, a US soldier said “if you weren’t a terrorist before, we probably made you one here.”

In the news yesterday, Canadian officials sent out a note to their diplomats which told them to exercise caution when dealing with the USA because the United States is now on the same list of torture-users as Syria, Egypt, and all the other places we’d expect. This film is very timely.

People will jump on this documentary as another left-leaning anti-war tirade. But it really doesn’t have a political side. The cornerstone of a fair legal system is the ability to learn of and defend oneself against charges and accusations. There are people locked up under American control, who have no idea why they’re there. For more than five years now. But our government has suspended habeas corpus for terror defendants.

The so-called “ticking time bomb” scenario is brought up and dismissed. The value of information gleaned from torture is brought up and dismissed. The words of former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and our very own President Bush are brought up and dismissed. John McCain is the only man running for President who has been a victim of torture and he is the strongest spokesman for its elimination. Why do we listen to career politicians who have never served in combat?

We find out that not only did Dilawar not help the other men with their rocket launch, but THERE WAS NO ROCKET LAUNCH. We hear from a a former FBI special agent who tells us how to get intel without torture, in a “friendly” manner.

To sum up, this film was hard to watch, both philosophically and visually, with scenes I promise you haven’t seen before. A thoughtful story on our new American Policy of Torture. A good summary of the history of torture. A good counterpoint to those scenes in 24 where Keifer saves the planet because he chose the exact right moment to torture someone.

The film ends with the horrifying idea that a huge, worldwide payback is on the horizon. How could there not be vengeance for what we’ve done?

7.3 Metacritic
7.7 IMDB

~~

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2004

January 12, 2008
Sundance
Canada / France / UK
French / English / Cantonese
90 Minutes
Drama / Music
Olivier Assayas

When You Don’t Have A Choice, You Change

…there is no bigger Maggie Cheung fan on the planet, but I have to admit that this one was a bit slow. Cheung is married to a former rock star and together they have a child who lives with his parents. Both the musician and Cheung are heroin users and most of his friends blame her for his lack of productivity and bad health. When he dies in a seedy hotel room before a comeback tour, she is sent to jail and upon her release, decides to clean up and try and get her son back. Nick Nolte mumbles through the role of the grandpa guardian. Cheung is torn between continuing her music-world lifestyle and becoming a responsible parent. She busts out French, English, and Cantonese with equal aplomb. Moody and depressing.

Director Assayas is Maggie Cheung’s ex-husband.

~~Best Actress of 2004 for Maggie Cheung–Cannes Film Festival

7.5 Metacritic
7.0 IMDB
***^ Ebert
B Schwarzbaum

~~

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1985

January 11, 2008
Netflix DVD
UK
English / Latin
136 Minutes
Documentary / Biography
Michael Apted

…Part four of the series. The English children are now 28 years old. Most seem relatively happy. They refer to “the program” and how it’s affected their lives, being followed by an unknown public. Two of the fancy pants prep school boys are not included in this episode. One remarks that “he’s said all he wanted to say in a previous episode.” Surprisingly, the guy who seems to be barely hanging on mentally is open and available as we follow him into his tiny trailer carrying his one suitcase. Most of the participants have found partners and have begun families. The filmmaker does a great job of refreshing our memory about each person by showing us clips from their younger days. I look forward to 35 Up…

8.3 IMDB

~~

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2007

January 9, 2008
Netflix DVD
USA
English / Arabic
102 Minutes
Documentary
Charles Ferguson

The American Occupation Of Iraq – The Inside Story From The Ultimate Insiders.

…fascinating, enraging documentary about the post-invasion lack of a plan that the USA had for occupying Iraq. Talking heads who were there speak relatively candidly about where missteps occurred. The highest ranking interviewee is Richard Armitage who describes the arguments and competition between the State Department (who wanted to work with the Iraqis to rebuild), and the Defense Department (who took over, purged the Iraqi army and banned all Baathist party members from ever being employed again). Is quick to show what happens when people who have never been in combat before (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Bremer) plan a post-war occupation from the comfort of their Washington DC offices. The incompetence is staggering. The occupation of Iraq is a complex topic and Ferguson does a great job explaining what went wrong, when it went wrong, and who was responsible. This film claims that the US response to the looting was probably the first huge mistake of what became a long series of mistakes.

…This film will probably become the historical document of the arrogance and lack of foresight that keeps us in this war so long after we were told that the mission had been accomplished.

~~The Best Documentary of 2007: Los Angeles Critics, New York Critics, San Francisco Critics, Southeastern Critics, Toronto Critics.

8.9 Metacritic
8.5 IMDB

~~

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2007

January 9, 2008
Netflix DVD
USA
English
92 Minutes
Documentary
Dan Klores and Fisher Stevens

He Had To Have Her.

…In 1959, a married lawyer, who feared that his Mistress was going to stop seeing him and perhaps find somebody else, hired two men to knock on her door and throw lye in her face when she answered. She was blinded and the story became a tabloid sensation. The young woman, incredibly beautiful, added sunglasses to her fashion ensembles. The man went to Attica prison in New York. He never stopped writing letters to the woman, trying to get her back. Upon his release a dozen years later, he asks her to marry him, and she accepts. Her girlfriends do not view this with the horror you might expect. She’s lonely after all…

…one of the wackiest love stories of all time. It involves cheating, fidelity, publicity, and maybe even fate. The story is fabulous, with seemingly hundreds of newspaper clippings as evidence of this case’s wide appeal–at least in New York City. But somehow, the film can not match the interest of the story. I found myself bored at points. All the faces shown on camera are interesting, but perhaps they’ve told their story too many times. One talking head drops the N word like it was the most natural thing in the world. That at least woke me from my doze…

6.9 Metacritic
6.9 IMDB

~~

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2004

January 7, 2008
Netflix DVD
USA
English
86 Minutes
Documentary / Biography
Richard Schickel

…like going to film class where the smartest director in Hollywood describes what he was trying to do in the 15 or so films mentioned here. Scorsese talking about film, even his own, is like watching a kid describe Christmas. He gets hyper–his hands start moving around–and that laugh. He admits when something didn’t work. We also see clips from all of his incredible films up to GANGS OF NEW YORK. Fascinating…

8.0 IMDB

~~

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2006




January 6, 2008
DVD
USA
English
780 Minutes
Crime / Drama
David Simon

~~

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2006

January 3, 2008
October 11, 2006
HBO
USA / Hong Kong
English / Cantonese
151 Minutes
Crime / Drama / Thriller
Martin Scorsese

Lies. Betrayal. Sacrifice. How Far Will You Take It?

After you’ve seen THE DEPARTED, listen to the MichaelVox and Tassoula K Cinebanter podcast, which is available here or at iTunes.

Second Viewing:
…you know what? It doesn’t hold up as well as I’d hoped…Nicholson is ridiculously over-the-top…enough to just about ruin it…I’ve also now seen the Hong Kong original and I’m incredibly impressed by the screenwriting…how they took INFERNAL AFFAIRS and made it into this uniquely Boston-flavored film. The cast is so good that I’m pretty sure they could make any film work. DiCaprio, Damon, Wahlberg, Baldwin, Sheen. The love story is pretty cool, though probably a bit too coincidental. There are plot holes involving tapes, but the ride is still fun…

–2006 Oscar Winner for Best Picture; Director Martin Scorsese; Adapted Screenplay William Monahan; Editor Thelma Schoonmaker
–2006 Oscar Nomination for Best Supporting Actor Mark Wahlberg

~~

First Viewing October 11, 2006:

Powerhouse cast assembled to work for Scorsese. This is second only to Half Nelson on my year’s best.

Bullet Points:

–Ron Howard and Spielberg make me mad when the manipulate me, but Scorsese doesn’t.
–a simply breathtakingly exciting first hour.
–Edited perfectly, as usual, by Thelma Schoonmaker.
–Nicholson is the weak link, believe it or not.
–Alec Baldwin does more with little screen time than any other actor.
–Nice theme of masculinity throughout.

2006 Oscar Nominations:
~~Best Picture
~~Best Director for Martin Scorsese
~~Best Adapted Screenplay for William Monahan
~~Best Editing by Thelma Schoonmaker
~~Best Supporting Actor for Mark Wahlberg

8.5 Metacritic

~~

8.6 Metacritic
8.6 IMDB
#41 IMDB

~~

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2005

January 2, 2008
January 18, 2006
HBO
UK / USA / Luxembourg
English
124 Minutes
Crime / Drama / Romance
Woody Allen

Passion Temptation Obsession

An Irish coach at a posh London tennis club marries above himself, but also has the encumbrance of an unsettling American lover.

Oscar Nomination for Woody Allen Best Original Screenplay of 2005.

7.2 Metacritic
7.8 IMDB

~~

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2004

January 1, 2008
DVD
USA
English
720 Minutes
Crime / Drama
David Simon

~~

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THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE
1972

December 31, 2007
Netflix DVD
France / Italy / Spain
French / Spanish
102 Minutes
Comedy / Drama / Fantasy
Luis Bunuel

An effort of a group of friends to dine together are continually frustrated.

Oscar Winner Best Foreign Film Of 1972.
Oscar Nomination Best Screenplay of 1972 by Luis Bunuel and Jean-Claude Carriere.
**** Ebert
**** Halliwells
**** Maltin
#21 Halliwells
8.1 IMDB
9.3 Metacritic

~~

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2007

December 30, 2007
Campbell CA — Camera 7
USA
English
92 Minutes
Comedy / Drama
Jason Reitman

A Comedy About Growing Up…And The Bumps Along The Way.

After you’ve seen JUNO, listen to our spoiler-filled Cinebanter podcast here.

If you can get through the first 20 minutes, with all it’s preciousness and look-at-me begging, you’ll fall in love with it. Too much snarky dialogue threatens to sink it.

8.1 Metacritic
8.4 IMDB
#161 IMDB

~~

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INFERNAL AFFAIRS
2002

December 30, 2007
Netflix DVD
Hong Kong
Cantonese / English / Thai
101 Minutes
Crime / Drama / Thriller
Wai-Keung Lau and Siu Fai Mak

Loyalty. Honor. Betrayal.

Two lives intersect, of an undercover cop, who has infiltrated a Triad gang, and a gangster who has become a cop to keep his boss informed of police activities.

…for the first time in cinema history, Tony Leung has no cigarette to obscure his face moodily…very professional film-making from Hong Kong, especially the sound mix…two incredibly attractive leads and three hot women who are onscreen for a total of five minutes, tops…

7.5 Metacritic
8.1 IMDB
#234 IMDB
** Halliwell’s

~~

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2007

December 28, 2007
San Jose CA — Camera 12
USA
English
96 Minutes
Comedy / Music
Jake Kasdan

Life Made Him Tough. Love Made Him Strong. Music Made Him Hard.

6.4 Metacritic
7.0 IMDB

~~

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2007

December 28, 2007
San Jose CA — Camera 12
USA
English
101 Minutes
Action / Drama / Fantasy / Horror / Sci-Fi / Thriller
Francis Lawrence

The Last Man On Earth Is Not Alone.

6.5 Metacritic
7.4 IMDB

~~

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2006

December 27, 2007
May 20, 2007
Netflix DVD
Ireland
English / Czech
85 Minutes
Drama / Music / Romance
John Carney

How Often Do You Find The Right Person?

8.8 Metacritic
8.0 IMDB

~~

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2003

December 27, 2007
DVD
USA
English / Polish / Greek
720 Minutes
Crime / Drama
David Simon

~~

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THE LIVES OF OTHERS
2006

December 23, 2007
Netflix DVD
Germany
German
137 Minutes
Drama
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

Before The Fall Of The Berlin Wall, East Germany’s Secret Police Listened To Your Secrets.

8.5 Metacritic
8.5 IMDB
#53 IMDB

~~

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1977

December 22, 2007
Netflix DVD
UK
English
100 Minutes
Documentary / Biography
Michael Apted

8.2 IMDB

~~

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2002

December 15, 2007
DVD
USA
English
775 Minutes
Crime / Drama
David Simon

The Wire is the best show that has ever been on television. I’ve been on this bandwagon since the first episode in 2002. A character says something in the first ten minutes of the season and the reaction to that line won’t happen until the 13th hour of the season. Filmed entirely in Baltimore. Full of a stable of perfect actors. Black people are heroes and villains. Gay people are heroes and villains. Cops, politicians, drug dealers, civilians are heroes and villains. It has to be considered a 13-hour work, not a collection of 60 minute episodes. You’ll never get it if you go in with that idea. The Wire as a collective of four seasons (the fifth about to start) may be the best filmed story I’ve seen in my lifetime. Few films measure up and no television measures up. Sorry Sopranos–BSG–Hill St. Blues–etc.

Winner of the Peabody Award. So There.

~~

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2004

December 15, 2007
Netflix DVD
USA
Spanish / English / French
115 Minutes
Animation / Action / Adventure / Comedy / Family / Fantasy / Sci-Fi
Brad Bird

Forced to lead ordinary lives and forget their powers, a family of superheroes return to action when the world is threatened by a megalomaniac.

9.0 Metacritic
8.2 IMDB
#139 IMDB
*** Halliwell’s

~~

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2007

December 12, 2007
Campbell CA — Camera 7
USA
English
91 Minutes
Comedy / Drama
Noah Baumbach

One Family. Infinite Degrees Of Separation.

Terrible. Stay away from this one.

After you’ve seen MARGOT AT THE WEDDING, listen to the MichaelVox and Tassoula K Cinebanter podcast, which is available here or at iTunes.

6.6 Metacritic
7.1 IMDB

~~

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2007

December 8, 2007
August 23, 2007
Netflix DVD
USA
English
118 Minutes
Comedy / Romance
Greg Mottola

After you’ve seen SUPERBAD, listen to the MichaelVox and Tassoula K. Cinebanter podcast, which is available here or at iTunes.

7.6 Metacritic
8.0 IMDB

~~

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1970

December 8, 2007
Netflix DVD
UK
English
52 Minutes
Documentary / Biography
Michael Apted

8.1 IMDB

~~

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Written by Michael W. Cummins