2009

January 12, 2010
San Jose CA — Cinearts Santana Row
USA
English
112 Minutes — December 16, 2009
Drama
Scott Cooper

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CRAZY HEART is the subject of Cinebanter Podcast Number 85. After you’ve seen the movie, listen to the spoiler-filled review by Tassoula and I by clicking the play button right here:

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Show Description:
• 00:00 Intro
• 00:32 CRAZY HEART Discussion
• Break
• 22:06 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 22:37 The Last Five®
• 1:00:08 GLAAD Award Nominees
• 1:07:02 Credits & Outtakes

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8.0 IMDB
8.4 Metacritic

CRAZY HEART

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2001

September 19, 2009
Netflix DVD
Germany / USA
English
95 Minutes — March 19, 2005
Drama
Erik Skjoldbjaerg [Insomnia]

Overly depressing story of a young, talented journalist who gets a full-ride to Harvard and begins writing for Rolling Stone while trying to keep her unraveling life together. Ricci is fine as the real-life writer, but Jessica Lange was over-the-top and oppressive as her put-upon mother. Ricci enters therapy after her friends find her editing and re-editing an article on Bruce Springsteen, setting aside things like eating, sleeping, and bathing.

The 1980s references are spot on, the costumes worn to college parties perfect, and I remain unconvinced that mental illness can ever be properly captured on screen. She seems to grow more angry and paranoid, which isn’t the same as growing more depressed. I’m not sure if that’s the fault of the acting, but one scene of a person unable to get out of bed does not an in-depth portrait of serious depression make.

Say what you will about the overly-dramatized (and sanitized) Ron Howard film A BEAUTIFUL MIND, but when he was looking at all of his scribbling and the formulas jumped off the walls so that he could form them into the answer he was looking for, we at least understood that he sees numbers differently than we do.

No such luck here. Jason Biggs plays a way-too-patient love interest and Michelle Williams is one of her verbally attacked roommates.

6.2 IMDB

PROZAC NATION

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LORNA’S SILENCE
2008

July 22, 2009
Press
Belgium / France / Italy / Germany
French / Albanian / Russian
105 Minutes — July 31, 2009
Drama
Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne [The Child]
Arta Dobroshi plays Lorna

We are immediately dropped into these characters’ lives. We are trusted to catch up on our own. Without someone spelling out every character and every motivation. This fact alone makes the first moments of LORNA’S SILENCE compelling. Lorna is at the bank where she makes a deposit. She is married, though clearly unhappily, to a man named Claudy, whose emaciation tells us that he’s an addict of some sort. Lorna is as cold as can be to this man. What has he done (besides get hooked on smack) to make her treat him this way? We are mostly in hand-held closeups at this point–in fact, this “you are there” quality will make the whole experience of the film much more visceral.

Claudy is clearly in terrible shape. He’s looking for companionship from Lorna, trying to get her to play some cards with him before bed. She then announces, I’m going to bed, adding “are you coming?” Which throws us for a loop as her body language, stoic face, and coldness towards him doesn’t exactly spell marital bliss. Alas, he needs to get his bed roll out of the other room and she sleeps in her bed while he tosses and turns out in the living room while trying to kick heroin–and not for the first time. This sounds like every other junkie-trying-to-clean-up movie that’s ever been made, but this heroin portion of the film really isn’t important. The film is about so much more.

They live in a dismal, drab apartment. She continually pulls out her ID to tell people she cares about that she’s “nearly Belgian.” The story becomes more clear. She has married Claudy in order to get a green card. She’s Albanian. The terms of the arrangement are spelled out: $5,000 Euros for marriage and $10,000 Euros for a divorce. Lorna is in a hurry for this divorce because it will be her turn to get paid when she marries “The Russian”, a crime boss of some stature. And so on, and so on, and so on.

What if you wanted to immigrate to a new country, but couldn’t do it legally? A sham marriage might be just the ticket. But the authorities are used to such capers, so it would really help Lorna’s case for divorce, if her Belgian husband abused her. But he can’t. So desperate and lonely is he, that her occasional tiny displays of caring and compassion mean everything to him. Perhaps she’s been supportive in prior attempts at quitting drugs.

There are harrowing scenes where he demands that she lock him in their apartment while she goes to work as a drycleaner so that he can’t leave to make a buy. Even more hard to watch are the scenes where Lorna pleads with Claudy to beat her, so that she can file a police report and get her divorce quicker. But he won’t. So she’ll have to bruise herself and blame it on him. But she’ll need a witness.

Lorna seems dead inside most of the time, but her eyes come alive with sparkle during the few meetings she has with her boyfriend, Sokol, another immigrant who is always traveling here and there to pick up whatever work he can. They all answer to Fabio who has the connections, the seed money, and the gun to run the whole enterprise. This is a story about the people we don’t notice. It reminded me of DIRTY PRETTY THINGS.

If Lorna claims spousal abuse, she’ll be questioned thoroughly, but if her husband were dead (he is a junkie after all), wouldn’t that make the whole situation a bit easier? Lorna wants to be rid of Claudy, she wants the $20K the Russian has promised, she wants to be out from under control of Fabio, and she wants to open a cafe with her beloved Sokol. But to her horror, she realizes that she has a conscience. If Claudy overdoses by his own devices, she can’t be held morally responsible. But if he really tries to get clean, asking her for help, doesn’t she have to support his decisions? Things aren’t as easy as they first appear.

This film is full of magnificent little moments. Claudy’s treatment ends and he promises to cook Lorna dinner. She receives a letter from a judge telling her that her divorce is final. Claudy, though expecting this to happen eventually, is not okay with it happening so soon, and puts on his jacket in order to go out and meet his connections. She refuses to let him go and he must physically fight her to get out of the apartment to score dope to drown his sorrow at losing his sham wife. This is a wordless scene that lasts about ten minutes. They awkwardly wrestle, she grabs him, she throws his key out the window after locking them both in, and then she reverts to the only urge that can possibly challenge the need for heroin. It is an incredibly touching scene–something I won’t soon forget. She is giving herself to him for comfort, for congratulations, for her own guilt about taking advantage of him, for thousands of other reasons. No dialogue is necessary.

This is actress Arta Dobroshi’s first major role and she is magnificent. Her big eyes are perfect at projecting hope, fear, apathy, and desperation. A scene where she’s questioned by some cops is a superb use of few words going a long way.

The film unfolds as a sort of mystery. Who is The Russian, what is the relationship between the two people who share the apartment, why does Lorna deposit money in the bank? The Dardennes make us do the work in finding out. It is easy to believe that Lorna was living her life in Belgium well before we started following her. There is a feeling of us sort of happening by, the camera picking up her story by accident, though it could be many immigrant’s story.

The last ten minutes play better as metaphor than as plot and I’m not sure they’re successful. But the rest of the film is spectacular.

8.4 Metacritic
7.3 IMDB

LORNA’S SILENCE

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2008

July 21, 2009
Press
USA
English
97 Minutes — August 21, 2009
Documentary / Music
Davis Guggenheim [Relativity; NYPD Blue; ER; The Shield; Deadwood; An Inconvenient Truth]

Jimmy Page. The Edge. Jack White.

Guitar players have no reason to read any further. Take the day off work or school, and find the loudest movie theater you can. Go ahead. The film was made for you. It’s like “guitar porn.”

Led Zeppelin fans, I’m about to say something to you that will make you stop reading and head to your nearest theater. Non-fans probably won’t know why it’s a huge deal when I tell you that Jimmy Page will take us to see the hallway / staircase where John Bonham recorded his “WHEN THE LEVEE BREAKS” drum parts. Off you go, now.

Jack White fans. Unfortunately, due to my, er, age, I need to report that I have absolutely no frame of reference for White or The White Stripes or any of the other half-dozen bands he plays with.

And finally, for U2 fans, I’ll give you two reasons: 1) You will see “The Bulletin Board” at Mount Temple Comprehensive School; and 2) In Edge’s kitchen, he will put an old cassette in a player, mutter “not sure what this is”, and we will hear a 4-track recording of an early run through of “WHERE THE STREETS HAVE NO NAME” complete with extra high-hat, and Bono in the background counting out “4-5-6! 4-5-6!” to the rest of the band trying to figure out Edge’s rhythm structure. A perfect edit takes us whooshing to the Slane Elevation show just as the lights come on, and as I sat there in open-mouthed amazement, I realized that none of us have seen that show on a big screen before.

If you’re a student of musical history, the director, Davis Guggenheim, could scarcely have found three better guitarists to follow. James Patrick Page is 65; David Howell Evans is 47; and John Anthony Gillis (more on that name later) is 34. Page was there for the very birth of heavy metal, 60s Prog Rock, the era of the sessions guitar player, and his band had their own plane, “The Starship”, some 30 years before U2’s Elevation Air took off. Edge proves to be a good tour guide on the political influence of music, how punk rock made attitude as important as musicianship, and the cost of sonic perfection. White leads us through a depressed Detroit, hearing in blues music from the 1930s an expression at the anger he felt in the late 1980s when you were looked down on if you could play an instrument.

I need to get my own prejudices out of the way.

1) U2 is my favorite band. I’ve seen them more than 50 times, my first show being in 1984 in San Francisco. I have never waited for an autograph from any other celebrity of any kind, but I have waited for the band, both backstage, and at hotels. When I talk to close friends, many of whom I’ve met because of our love of the band, we still marvel that somehow, way back, we chose the “right” band to fall in love with. My first show was 25 years ago, and I’ll be seeing them again in October. Same lineup. Bigger stadium. Still the biggest band in the world. One of the things I love about them is that they are, by far, the best example of a band being larger than the sum of its parts. To a ridiculous degree. Any one of the four of them on their own or in a different band would probably not inspire any of the adoration they now claim. Except, maybe Edge.

2) John Bonham died when I was 13 years old. People sometimes play that “What single concert do you wish you could have attended?” game. Music fans answer all over the place, Elvis’s ’68 Comeback Special, Beatles on Ed Sullivan or at Shea Stadium, The Who when Keith Moon was alive, that Motown TV show where Michael Jackson first moonwalked, Springsteen Born In The USA Tour at the Meadowlands, the Nirvana Unplugged show. U2 fans usually say Red Rocks or Point Depot New Year’s Eve or Live Aid. If I could go back in time, I’d go to a Led Zeppelin concert from 1977 or so. I’m not even sure it’d be a good show. Back then, people sat in chairs to listen to the 20-minute laser-aided compositions, while inhaling god-knows-what. (In March, 1975, they played a version of “DAZED AND CONFUSED” that lasted a butt-numbing 43 minutes.) But to just be in the room with them. What was that like? I’ve been in the room with U2 before and that was pretty cool. Much like U2 is greater than the sum of its parts, Led Zeppelin is probably not-quite-as-great as the sum of its parts. Because those parts are spectacular. John Paul Jones is a far better bassist (and keyboard player) than Adam Clayton will ever be. Bono has only recently challenged Robert Plant, in his prime, as a vocalist (though not lyricist—Bono wins there.) And John Henry Bonham is the best drummer that will ever live. Period. End of sentence. I had a Zeppelin poster over my bed until I graduated from high school. There is one important thing that Led Zeppelin and U2 have in common. When John Bonham died, there was never even a conversation that the band would go on without him. Can you imagine three of the members of U2 touring with anyone else but the fourth? Me neither.

3) I probably have one White Stripes album. As I went in to IT MIGHT GET LOUD, I thought that Jack was one of those “trying-really-hard-to-appear-to-not-be-trying-really-hard-to-be-cool kids. Why the hat, why the bowtie, why the old-fashioned car, why live in Tennessee? I must say I came out feeling the most differently about him, as he was the one I knew the least about. He also has the most to overcome. Page, Edge, White. One of these things is not like the others. Yet.

The conceit of the film is that three guitarists from different eras, with different backgrounds, and different styles, would come together in a warehouse to talk about their love of the guitar and music in general. And they’re bringing their guitars (and guitar techs—Dallas Shoo gets plenty of screen time.) This is referred to in the press notes as “The Summit”. Seeing three professional guitarists discuss their craft would probably be compelling enough, even if two of them weren’t my favorites. But this Summit is only a small portion of the film, and not the most exciting part. For those viewers looking forward to a concert recital by the three men, you may be disappointed.

We will spend a great deal of time with each of the three individually, in hometowns, guitar shops, next to record players, surrounded by amps, and in the backs of cars as they each take us on their own musical journey. While this can be seen as self-indulgent on Behind The Music, none of them come across as conceited. Which is weird because they’re superstar guitarists. The difference here, I think, is that they are reminiscing on behalf of the guitar. The participants know that the guitar itself is the star, not the player. We will visit places and hear songs important to the courtship of each man and his guitar. This isn’t a film about stardom; it’s a film about musicians.

It might be a good time to point out that we will never really hear one of the three say that they’ve been influenced by either of the other two. Edge won’t tell stories of playing along with Zeppelin records, White won’t even acknowledge that the other two exist, claiming instead to study early 20th Century Blues. But each of them will, to an incredible degree, give praise to dozens of players who came before them.

We get no clue as to whether or not the three men even like each other’s music. And this proves to be a help to the film, not a hindrance. There is no hero worship here (except by us and the director) and the three men have such different styles that none of them could be accused of stealing from either of the others. But it also leaves the meeting between the three as sort of cold. This was the first time any of the three had met, and it didn’t appear to be the beginning of any musical collaborations. In fact, I don’t think there is any way in hell that the three of them went out for a beer afterwards. I’d be surprised if any of them had spoken with any of the others since the film was completed. Again, the guitar is the focus, not the individual.

The credit sequence at the beginning tells you just about all you need to know about the direction the film will be traveling. With titles that mimic a guitar font somehow, we are treated to close-ups of shiny frets, razor sharp strings, and smooth, polished curves of guitars. If instruments can be made into porn, Guggenheim has done it. A Page voiceover says, “caress it like a woman,” and damned if the director didn’t sex-up the instrument with loving angles.

The first scenes are of Jack White on what I assume to be his Tennessee farm. A cow moos as he picks up a single string, a coke bottle, and a piece of wood. This MacGyver move results in a quick slide-guitar performance. This build-your-own aesthetic is something that is very important to Jack White.

We next see the three men headed towards The Summit. White and Page are in the back of town cars, while U2 fans will be proud to watch Edge drive his own Mercedes to the meeting. In Los Angeles, Edge has the home court advantage. The three men are probably being prodded from off camera about what they expect to happen. White sarcastically says “we’ll probably have a fistfight” and “I’m hoping to steal everything they know about guitar playing.” Edge is excited and hopeful. Page says “we’re bringing our guitars, so there’s no telling what could happen” and then says of Edge, “he is a sonic architect”, which is as good a description as I’ve ever heard for him.

Since this is basically a documentary about guitars, drama must be manufactured and we see a super-slow-motion shot of the three men, in unison, walking up three different stairs to the raised platform where the summit will take place. Begin and Sadat wish they would have been photographed as lovingly. Hands are extended, still in slow-motion, smiles are exchanged, and we leave the warehouse and go back in time.

Jack White is all about “overcoming” a musical instrument in order to get it to do what you want. He is also about cultivating an image. It’s no mistake that the White Stripes only used red, white, and black—White got the idea from both the Coca-Cola logo and the Nazi flag. White is sometimes a hard man to like. The biographical sketch we get in this film probably requires some fact-checkers before we take it as truth. He was the youngest of ten kids, growing up outside of Detroit, under poor circumstances. He had a seven by seven foot bedroom and in that bedroom were two drum kits, a reel-to-reel, and all his records. He claims to have slept on a mat laying diagonally between bass drums. Unlike the other two, White’s growing up story in the film is animated. We don’t see a childhood home, and in fact, White doesn’t give us a tour of many important places to him. At the time, he played drums because two of his older brothers were already playing guitar. Also, White says, “I have no interest in playing guitar because everyone else is.” He gets a job in an upholstery shop and he and his manager form his first band. His first guitar is payment from a thrift store for borrowing his van to move. He loved it. An interest in old blues music was born, and to this day, he claims that the Son House song, “GRINNIN IN YOUR FACE” is his favorite song of all time. The song features a man singing and stomping his foot and that minimalism appealed to White. He seems to choke up when he plays that song for us while holding the roughed-up album sleeve.

For some reason, White’s story includes a 9-year-old kid, dressed exactly as White is, learning about music from present-day White. Not sure who’s idea this was, but Old White kicks a Montgomery Ward guitar and then Young White does the same. This Montgomery Ward guitar will be one of many old, out-of-tune, and low-cost musical instruments that White collects.

He formed the group The White Stripes with his ex-wife Meg White. When they married, he took her name. While I’m in favor of his feminism in this move, he negates all of my good feelings when the press notes still refer to “his big sister Meg.” But when it comes to the music itself, I can set aside his dress, his cooler-than-thou-ness, and his “authenticity”. Because he says things like “making music should be a struggle” and “sometimes I put the organ four steps away instead of five so I have to run faster to get there.” And then he said something that will make U2 fans stop in their tracks. He claims that when the White Stripes toured, neither he nor Meg knew what the first song was going to be. They’d go out. And try something. And if that didn’t work, they’d stop and try something else.

There is concert footage of White in various bands, and he is really good. I know, newsflash, right. But he has a soulful, bluesy thing going that he has no right to have. The filmmakers captured a guitar solo during a show in Austin where White was so into the music that he didn’t realize (or did he?) that his fingers were bleeding all over his guitar. He was literally bleeding for his music. At a different show somewhere in the Northwest, a single camera is behind an amp, facing the crowd. It follows Jack as he plays and the crowd is jumping and pumping their fists and he’s manically playing and jumping around and then he turns and begins singing and the place goes nuts. White’s stage setup is substantially smaller than either of the other two participants as you might imagine.

Jimmy Page is seen as a 13-year-old kid playing the song “MAMA DON’T WANT TO SKIFFLE ANYMORE” on the British TV show “All Your Own” in 1957. One of the biggest laughs of the film is when a cracked-voice Page answers the hosts question about his post-school plans with “I want to do biological research.” And then the fun for Zeppelin geeks really begins.

Page gets out of a car at Headley Grange, a former workhouse outside of London. Page once claimed that the estate was haunted, and I don’t know if it’s true or not, but Robert Plant wrote the lyrics to “STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN” there in a single day, and Peter Gabriel likewise had no trouble with writer’s block as he wrote most of “THE LAMB LIES DOWN ON BROADWAY” there with other members of Genesis.

Now, Page is an old man, with a goofy grey near-mullet. He is a bit of a caricature of a retired country gentleman, bumbling about his estate, remembering the good old days when he ruled the music world. But it can’t be overstated what a production genius he once was. There are things he did in the late 60s and early 70s with no technological help that are still being used today in music recording. He believed in the maxim: distance equals depth. One of the most famous things that he did was to set up microphones both right next to the amps, as usual, but then he’d place a second microphone some 20 feet away from the first and mix the sound to be right in between the two. The sound of the room and the natural echo were just as important as the notes in many cases. He changed recording engineers for each Zeppelin album–he was completely hands-on as a producer. This changed on Zeppelin’s final studio album, “IN THROUGH THE OUT DOOR” when the rest of the band would be happy if Page would come out of his drug stupor long enough to record anything. Page’s genius resulted in guitar sounds that weren’t like any others, and more importantly, he took the sheer strength and power of John Bonham and made him into the cornerstone of the band.

Page takes us inside the house and says, “this is the entryway, and there’s the staircase. This is where Bonzo recorded WHEN THE LEVEE BREAKS.” Page looked all over the house for the right spot for echo and power and found it at the bottom of the staircase in the front hallway of Headley Grange. The microphones hung down from the second floor and everyone left the room and John Bonham played. Page claps his hands to listen for the same echo and recalls that after Led Zeppelin IV came out, bands began putting their drummers in all manner of industrial setting. Elevator shafts, cement basements, etc. all trying to capture the same sound.

We next find ourselves in Page’s country house as he plays us some of his records. This is giggle-inducing. Page saying, “listen to this part” and “that was extraordinary” while playing air guitar to old 50s and 60s hits. I couldn’t help but notice that on the shelves behind Page are all of the Zeppelin box sets that you were too poor to afford back in the 80s when they came out. Page will play “RAMBLE ON” in his living room.

Jimmy sits on an old chair in his backyard and plays a beat-up old mandolin. He’s playing “THE BATTLE OF EVERMORE,” outside, by himself and it sounds magical. During the Page portion of the movie, we see plenty of black and white footage and hear of the pain he went through once he realized that he was just a guitarist for hire. He would be called to this studio and that, without any connection to the songs he was playing. His skill made him much sought-after, but he gave it all up after one session where he realized he was playing guitar with the Muzak orchestra. In response, he formed The Yardbirds. The many years past have not lessened Page’s anger at the rock press, especially for their response to Led Zeppelin IV. “One paragraph—that album had Stairway and Levee and Misty Mountain Hop and Rock And Roll—and they could only write one paragraph.”

Bono-haters will be happy to know that he doesn’t appear on camera saying anything. Fans will recognize the first clips we see of Edge as he does Yoga on the roof of his Miami hotel while holding a Blackberry. We then go to Hanover Quay where Edge and Dallas try to lead us in a tutorial on the effects pedals. It takes both men to change the music to the exact sound Edge was looking for. If it wasn’t clear before this film, no Dallas Shoo, no Edge. Seriously. It’s to the point where Dallas can read his mind. Edge fiddles with something, Dallas stares, trying to remember this exact setting for the next time Edge wants it. Edge plays a bit of “GET ON YOUR BOOTS.” He also plays “ELEVATION” without any pedals and then with the full court technology press. Edge will play guitar at Hanover, at his house, at the warehouse, and on the Irish coast.

In Edge’s kitchen, he’ll pull out the 4-track of “WHERE THE STREETS HAVE NO NAME.” He’ll give us a tour of Mount Temple School, including Mr. MacKenzie’s music room, where Edge says the band pushed the chairs to the side and tried to make a ruckus. He also jumps up on the stage-like platform where the band would play early gigs. He jokes that he stood at stage right for a reason he can’t remember “and I have been ever since.” And then, set your watches, because you will see the early single “STREET MISSION” on the big screen in all of its big-hair glory. And, though it may require rewinding when the DVD comes out, a full five-minute ear to ear smile is seen on the face of the once-jovial Larry Mullen. Edge is filmed all over Dublin, providing his own voiceover. He’s on the docks at sunrise, and these scenes are interspersed with the October photo shoot on those same docks.

Edge remembers the lengthy guitar solos of the 1960s and 70s and how self-indulgent they seemed. We see a schematic of an electric guitar and Edge describes how he and his brother, Dick built it, right down to wrapping the magnets. He was an electronics geek even at a young age. He recalls first with frustration the fact that Top Of The Pops was the only TV show that Irish kids could watch to learn about and hear new music. Then he turns downright giddy when he remembers seeing The Jam perform on the show. Twice the same year. His life would never be the same. No longer was musicianship more important than attitude. Suddenly, the fact that the band couldn’t really play their instruments was no longer a detriment to their breaking big.

Edge recounts a trip to New York City with his family. “People looked and talked just like they did in the movies,” he says. He saw a guitar in a window and went in to play it. Here’s your U2 pullquote: “Twenty minutes in that store defined the sound of the band. I thought, this better work.” While we watch an animated guitar, amp, and effects pedal, Edge explains how he discovered that creative use of echo could fill in notes when he wasn’t playing any, resulting in a much more full sound. How he takes away notes from chords, making them more clear. This is the part that U2 cover band guitarists will rewind over and over again on home video.

Edge takes us to the house where the “WAR” album was written and some demos recorded. He was full of anger about the “Troubles” and was concerned that he couldn’t express that anger with his guitar. Bono said something to the effect of “Go off and find it, Edge” or something else equally Bonoesque. Edge goes on at some length about looking at trees in an orchard and suddenly realizing that this group of trunks and branches and chaos was actually lined up in perfect clarity. Or something. Edge’s introspection resulted in “SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY.”

And yes, towards the end of the film, Edge stands in front of the very bulletin board where a young Larry Mullen, Jr. placed a notice looking for students to join his band. Edge reflects thoughtfully on what would have happened if he hadn’t responded to that first notice. He says he’d still be playing guitar, but with whom?

They each get to perform for the other two at the Summit. Edge will play Elevation while the other two look on. (He gets credit for the title saying “This might get loud for a second” as he fiddles with his equipment.) White will play something as well, but the real fun, and my favorite moment of the entire film is when Page stands up, while the other two remain in their comfy leather chairs. Page coolly rips into “WHOLE LOTTA LOVE” and Edge jumps to his feet like a tweener at a Jonas Brothers concert, his smile huge, his eyes pinned to the fingers of Jimmy Page. White is a bit cooler and leans in, tapping his foot, and also staring. The two of them appear to be trying to decipher the mystery of the universe. Edge is standing and actually moving slowly towards Page while he plays, his over-sized brain taking in every nuance of the song. It was the coolest.

All of these individual stories of the three guitarists are divided up with footage of the warehouse and songs from each of them, and old clips and there are chapter titles for each new section. The editing is pretty perfect, showing us modern day images juxtaposed with how the person looked when they were just starting out. We hear the voices of the participants, see rare photos, and have the privilege of listening to dozens of songs. (Final stats: Page: 18; Edge: 20; White: 17)

The best chapter titles say simply “Edge’s Explorer”, “Jack’s Kay”, and “Jimmy’s Strat.” And then we hear about how the love affairs started. It’s always difficult to capture creativity in a film, but this one does a pretty good job. Each man asks “what if I…?” at specific points in his life, and that decision, coupled with hard work, gave them each a very lucrative career.

For a rock guitarist, Edge is by far the most normal of the three.

Page used to wear purple silk dragon-adorned pajamas, for pity’s sake. Page used a violin bow, Page had a double-guitar for “STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN,” Page bought the house of Aleister Crowley, Page used an actual theremin onstage, Page had a thing for barely teenage girls. White wears bowties and vests and guyliner, and took the last name of his former wife who he still refers to as his “Big Sister Meg.” Edge is thoughtful and polite and self-deprecating and by my estimation, we see much more of Edge and hear much more U2 music (Bass Trap! Passengers! One Tree Hill! Tomorrow!) than from the other two musicians.

We are left with three very different people doing the same job. Page and his cohorts in Led Zeppelin were responsible for many heavy metal clichés which are still laughed at today. Both the double-necked guitar and violin bow that Page required were mocked by the quintuple-necked bass and violin v. violin solo in Spinal Tap, (a clip of which we see). The “self-indulgent guitar solos,” as Edge refers to them, were a staple of Zeppelin shows. (Wait until you see the clip of a concert by the Edgar Winter Group.) Edge claims to have cried while watching Spinal Tap because he knew it was truthful. Punk rock itself can be seen as a response to Zeppelin and Queen and Yes and every other band who created 15-minute songs when a 2:30 Ramones masterpiece would do. Page brings this double-neck guitar to the Summit and see if you agree with me that Edge is sort of laughing at it as Page explains how it was necessary in order to quickly switch from acoustic to electric during “STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN.”

By the same token, Edge’s tutorial on his effects rack and several dozen pedals is immediately followed by White saying, “technology is the enemy of creativity.” White built a guitar in front of us and Edge needs his own carbon offset to play his. White fronted a two-piece band, and claims his favorite song was made by a man stomping and singing the blues. However, White enlists a guitar tech to mount a harmonica microphone inside one of his guitars so that he can grab it and sing through his amp. So he’s not the tech-hater he claims to be. White will bring this guitar to the Summit.

Page was often thought to be the single best guitar player in Britain, playing on many, many songs as a session player. White studied the old bluesmen. Edge admits to not having a particularly deep musical knowledge. Of the three men, (let the e-mails start), Edge is clearly bringing up the rear in terms of guitar virtuosity. Even the choice of songs the three men play with each other at the Summit tell us something about their proficiency.

The Page song the three play is “IN MY TIME OF DYING,” a masterpiece of slide guitar. This performance alone is worth the price of admission as Page slides like a master, Edge somehow harmonics it up, and White finds the blues. White’s song is “DEAD LEAVES AND THE DIRTY GROUND,” and he barks out orders to the others as they play. The Edge song chosen is “I WILL FOLLOW,” which Page and White could probably play with their eyes closed, but which wouldn’t sound like Edge. Edge has overcome musical ability with musical uniqueness. There are guitarists who sound like Page and White, but none who sound anything like Edge.

Having said all of this, I’m not entire sure that the film will work for everyone. Fans of any of the three men’s music, or the guitar itself will have themselves a ball. Musical historians can find something to enjoy in the way that music has evolved from 1957 until today. But for those who see the trailer and think they’ll be treated to a concert by the three men, think again. We see relatively little footage from this heralded meeting. Most of the information is compiled during the individual portions. The warehouse also features a box of records that we never hear. We can only hope that a DVD extra will be the complete warehouse meeting including songs listened to and played and any demonstrations the men did for each other.

When I walked out of the theater, I realized that my face was hurting because I had been smiling so much while watching it. I may have shouted (or at least mumbled) at the screen. You rarely get a chance to see musicians you love on a large screen, so it’s right to feel a little giddy when you can. I would suggest something that I normally never do. Go see this in the loudest theater with the biggest screen you can, even if you normally avoid the chains like a plague, as I do. This film needs to be felt and experienced. Don’t wait for the DVD.

7.3 IMDB [102V]

IT MIGHT GET LOUD

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2008

July 20, 2009
HBO
Canada
English
90 Minutes
Documentary
Paul Saltzman

Brown v. Board of Education was decided in 1954. Charleston High School in Mississippi finally integrated their single high school in 1970. In that year, the seniors had two proms. One for the white kids and one for the black kids. And that’s the way it continued until Charleston’s most famous resident, Morgan Freeman, offered in 1999 to pay for a single prom, provided it was integrated. He was turned down. So he tried again in 2008. This time the schoolboard and the seniors themselves said yes.

The high school has 415 students, 70% of whom are black.

The documentary crew gave cameras to a dozen or so students, probably the most outspoken of the group. All of the kids were fine going to an integrated school and living in an integrated town. At least all of the ones who appeared on camera. One white senior male was photographed behind a screen for fear that his family would see him brazenly say things like “I’ve had white lovers and black lovers and it’s what’s inside that counts.”

Whenever something comes up that speaks for the other side–that is, the racist side–the cameras aren’t there to capture it and we see events unfold with animation. People in this town may be racist, but they also are careful. A white girl claims that a black girl threatened her and then brought a gun to school the next day. We hear from the black girl but the white one is nowhere to be found.

A prom committee is formed and rules are established. One white girl resigns from the committee because she would not be attending the mixed prom, though she would go to one if it were white-only.

Meanwhile, the townspeople are reacting. We hear from several parents, who remember their own segregated proms. We meet one white senior girl (who looks to be about 14) who openly talks about her black boyfriend (who looks, maybe 15). They aren’t particularly demonstrative at school. They don’t hold hands in front of people, and neither has ever been allowed to visit the other one’s home. They claim to be in love, and with West-coast 2009 eyes, they seem like a naive, though cute couple. But to people stuck in the past in Mississippi, they might just represent the downfall of the human species.

The woman’s father is by far the most open about his thoughts on their relationship. He is one of those “you can either love me or hate me. I hope you love me, but if you don’t, keep to yourself and I’ll do the same” type of southerners. He claims to have plenty of black friends, but he feels like his girl will be hurt when she gets out into a real world that won’t approve of her boy choice. The boy’s parents take a more “be careful” approach. The man tried to punish his daughter by grounding her and taking her cell phone, but she stayed with the boy. As the school’s sole interracial couple, the prom has extra meaning for them.

We need tension, and it comes in the form of some parents paying for and holding a white-only prom after all. A meeting is held in someone’s house and two of our interview subjects recount being there and hearing a father say “no black boy is going to rub up all on my daughter at a dance” and they take off denouncing the meeting and the prom. Some white kids refuse to go, but others don’t. And the ones who went received much less scorn than I would have expected. They took dates to a party to which an entire ethnic group was excluded. And they didn’t feel particularly bad about it.

The white parents hire a lawyer who speaks to the film crews in their stead. He begins saying things that make them look worse while trying to make them look better. One obvious question for a lawyer is “why won’t those parents speak to us?” To which he replies “They don’t want to appear racist.” By holding a white-only event, they don’t want to appear racist. Nice.

Clips of Freeman driving around, clips of kids worried about dresses and tuxedos and big enough limos and whom to go with begin to take over. Beauty parlor scenes, texting, music apprehension. It all seems pretty normal.

One thing that isn’t easy to see is that just about everyone we see in town is poor. These kids come out of trailers and walk down milk crate steps while dressed in beautiful, colorful outfits. It seems like the town much more alike than the older generations would lead you to believe.

The film is most successful in documenting an anachronistic town, with a single small high school, who can’t seem to get their head around racial diversity and interaction, more than 50 years after the Supreme Court ruled on the matter.

8.4 IMDB

PROM NIGHT IN MISSISSIPPI

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2009

July 19, 2009
Camera Cinema Club
USA
English
95 Minutes
Comedy / Drama / Romance
Henry Jaglom [Hollywood Dreams]

Time Never Kills The Love Of Your Life.

Actress Tanna Frederick. Remember that name, please. Although you’ll be hard pressed to forget it after the credits for IRENE IN TIME spend what seems to be a full 60 seconds where they say simply “Tanna Frederick In”. In huge letters, while background images of the ocean are changing. Someone (director Henry Jaglom) really must think that the name Tanna Frederick either means something now to audiences, or will soon mean something to audiences. She also starred in his last film, HOLLYWOOD DREAMS, and fool me once, shame on me, but fool me twice…you know the rest.

Frederick plays a 20-something, unlucky-in-love, singer who is recording an album. While Ms. Frederick’s voice won’t make you nauseous, neither will you believe for a second that she has a recording contract. Nor will you believe that the obviously hip producer spends his time staring out his booth’s window at Frederick while mesmerized by the dulcet tones coming out of her mouth. Someone told the actress she could sing, Jaglom encouraged her, now she’s playing a singer. (This is something I’ve referred to for years as the “Potsie Principle” named for the Happy Days character who found a way to sing in nearly every one of the later episodes of that classic sitcom.)

Never mind that her songs include one call “Dancing With My Father” (lyrics: I’m dancing with my father by the light of the moon) and a song that must be heard to be believed called “Starbucks” about a woman who walks into the coffee shop with a cellphone thus making the retail chain (ticker symbol: SBUX) magical. Or something.

I really enjoyed the 2007 Irish film ONCE, and one of the reasons why was the recording studio scenes. Typically films have a big “reveal” whereby a band or singer hits one, maybe two notes and the heard-it-all producer stops what he’s doing, silences his co-workers, and stares longingly at the musicians behind the glass. ONCE didn’t do this. The first verse of the first song was shaky, but it got better and better, and while the recording engineer didn’t gaze at the band as if witnessing greatness, he did smile at the surprise of hearing something decent.

IRENE IN TIME has sweeping camera shots of what seems to be entire songs, where our beautifully lit star, Ms. Frederick, is singing with such passion that every other musician in the room can’t help but stare. And producer, and later love interest, Jakub, sits in a director’s chair absorbing every note that comes towards him. He even uses his love of her singing to land a date with her. I don’t doubt that people may find her whiny voice appealing, but I defy anyone to tell me that the rest of her band, including four other professional singers, would smile as much at one singer, when they have much more important things to worry about–like producing their best performance. It rang completely false.

There are also those films where the director needs to show us that the actor or actress is really singing. And that he or she is really remarkable. And that the words that the character wrote are so deep that we need to hear every verse and every word. And then the whole band has to hug and high-five afterward to prove that magic was made during the session we just witnessed. Somehow IRENE IN TIME covers each of these bases. And did I mention the song called “Starbucks”.

This film is completely populated with boring, self-centered people. And the queen of the self-centered is Irene. This gaggle of women meet up to drink wine, swim in a posh Santa Monica bungalow’s pool, and bad-mouth their former and present boyfriends and their mostly absent fathers. There are tears aplenty. Whenever this group of women meet, or even when a group of older friends, male and female, hold poker nights, Irene gets to be the first and last person to talk. Her problems are so much bigger than everyone else’s. She gets to be first in telling the story about how great her now-dead father was, how he would lie to teachers to get her out of school and take her bike riding or sailing or to the circus. In fact, why limit these incredibly compelling stories to just friends or even just acquaintances? Why not discuss her father on first dates? And, believe it or not, why not discuss her father with the unknown high school student at the next table at a restaurant?

There’s a scene where a father and daughter are having dinner in a restaurant booth. She is one of those only-in-the-movies teenagers who speaks of existentialism and parental boundaries and how her dad could have been a better father. He leaves to go to the bathroom, against her wishes. Meanwhile, our heroine’s date, a jazz singer’s manager, has been getting eyes from the restaurant’s hostess (played by Dorothy’s little sister and the ex-Mrs. Bogdonovich, Louise Stratton) so he leaves his date to go talk with her. This shows us that another man in Irene’s life will be a dog like all the others, but that’s not the worst of it. Irene scoots over to talk with the young woman. Are you with your dad? Yes. My dad used to come to school and lie to the teachers and take me bike riding. And within minutes of meeting, she’s explaining the greatness of her dead father to yet another victim. The teenager, who is both wise beyond her years, and much more aware and intelligent and grown up than Irene mentions that her date is right now flirting with the hostess and “he’s not the right match for you.”

In addition to the contract rider which provided Frederick with three full songs to sing on camera, there must have been an equally enforceable clause which required that she appear in a bikini. Don’t get me wrong, she looked fabulous, but with the exception of a scene that actually took place poolside, the other two bikini-scenes were were completely gratuitous. Frederick has obviously been hitting the gym and if I had a body like hers, you know, but more guyish, I’d scarcely keep my shirt on anywhere. But sometimes scenes are added to films just because the actress wants them. To the best of my recollection, she never actually sang while in a bikini. Though perhaps those scenes will surface in the DVD release.

All of the characters come from money. Irene’s father apparently gambled a lot and on one of the occasions when he won, it paid for the down payment on the house she grew up in. Irene currently lives with a friend and her friend’s mother (Karen Black), in a huge house with a pool and fountain. It’s not clear how Irene makes a living. Surely not in the hour a day she spends recording songs with such titles as “Starbucks.”

In the mid-point of the film, Irene visits the house she grew up in as her mother hosts a last party before selling it. She escapes to her old room to look around. She finds a music box and inside of it is a note in her father’s handwriting. Why she waited this many years to open the music box even though many a childhood treasure hunt started there, is never explained. The clue inside says to look in a box in the closet and in that box is the photo of a young singer. At this exact moment a family friend comes into the room and nervously says “put that away before your mother sees.” Uh oh. The plot thickens. Or maybe, the plot finally starts. Not really.

Next scene: a woman is rehearsing a jazz song while her manager watches. Irene comes in at the exact second the singer starts performing a song. Irene begins shaking and crying and sobbing and looking on in mouth-agape wonder as the woman continues to sing. When it’s over, Irene (who is unknown to both singer and manager) demands to know “where did you get that song!” Again, Irene walked in just as the song was starting. The manager tries to cool her down and asks if she’s a fan, but she isn’t. The singer comes over and tries to comfort Irene. Irene, never one to hide her emotions from strangers, begins a story. “My daddy and I wrote that song together and I haven’t heard it for 15 years, I demand to know how you got it!” The answer is obvious to we in the audience, though it isn’t so obvious to Irene because apparently nothing is obvious.

Yes, her perfect father (disappearing gambler, breaker of public school truancy laws) may have had a mistress or two on the side and perhaps this singer was one of them. The singer tries to lessen the blow by saying “you remind me of him” and “I loved him so much”, etc. Once we find out that Irene’s mother adopted her, it doesn’t take a genius to deduce that the singer is the mom and Irene is the daughter and the father wasn’t the prince that she thought he was. Her constantly rosy view of her “daddy” is finally cracking a bit when faced with this kind of evidence.

Irene is a “close-talker”. Irene stares at people and says things like “I feel this connection” or “Daddy is watching over me.” Irene is apparently so incredibly beautiful, inside and out, that every man who comes within her zone of influence is immediately smitten and must date her. But what about the women in her life? Thanks for asking. In what may be the most ridiculous scene in a film full or ridiculous scenes, there is a bathing-suit-clad couch scene where four women are talking. One of the more forward women, who looks like a former Olympic swimmer, is all but devouring Irene with her eyes. “I find you very attractive” she purrs as her hands stroke our heroine’s bare shoulders. “Have you ever been with a woman?” Only in the movies do we hear “let’s kiss to see if we feel anything” and our giddy main character kisses the Olympian to see if her problem isn’t with her choice in men, it’s with her choice of males. Then the other two have to kiss, but they don’t take it seriously. Then Irene gives her review: “your lips are softer than a man’s–it’s like kissing yourself,” which in retrospect is probably something the narcissistic Irene has always wanted to do.

The next male who falls for her is the record producer, a buffed, seemingly normal guy who all but begs for a date. She agrees (while close-talking) and he picks her up while holding a bouquet of red and blue balloons. You’d think he was a medium who contacted her father from beyond the grave by the way she acts. She again shudders and cries and sobbingly says “Oh my god, when I was a kid, my dad would give me balloons that were also red and blue! How did you know?” she says through her tears. He replies, “I thought of you when I was picking the colors.”

To review the men we see with Irene. 1) Man comes over for dinner at Irene’s house. She admits how happy she’s been with the past three months together. He counters that it’s really only been 2 and a half. Gone. 2) On date with architect, her chirpy, borderline retarded interaction with him (“Close your eyes. Now think of your favorite drafting tool”) results in his replying something that the rest of us will wonder for the rest of the film “what’s wrong with you?”. Gone. During the meal. 3) A man returns to L.A. after six years and has lunch with Irene, her friend, and another man. By the way, the friend has to “pretend to be straight this one time” and though she ends up telling her date she likes women, he almost changes her orientation with a single kiss. The man who returned after a long absence used to date Irene and he continues to talk about the good times and how he’s grown and changed the way she wants and then he proposes marriage, right at the bar. Gone. 4) Jazz singer’s manager, calls her up, they bike ride on the Santa Monica boardwalk (the better for Irene to again tell the story of her father “kidnapping” her to go for a ride), and they have the aforementioned meal while the hostess licks her lips while watching him on his date. She gets dropped off by him after a different date saying “you make me feel like an awkward 8th grader” though I’m not sure what that means. Gone. 5) Record producer who stares at her through the glass, is smooth and handsome, and picks her up with huge display of tear-inducing balloons. They have what appears to be romantic walks on the beach and good sex. This man leads Irene to invite her complaining girlfriends over for a ceremonial burning of the huge collection of self-help dating books she’s collected. They throw them into the fireplace with enthusiasm. Irene then says “this past week with Jakub has been great. I think I finally found the one.” Yup, it only took her a week, but she knows for sure. A later phone call will reveal that Jakub is on his way back to Chicago where his wife and family live. Gone.

Zero for five. And none of them are as great and warm and loving as Irene’s Father was.

Frederick (or her character, and I’m not sure which is which) is as self-centered and neurotic as Woody Allen, with none of his humor or charisma. That’s right, she has less charisma than Woody Allen. Her mother will say “did you know you come from a long line of narcissists?” Anyone who watches this film will be nodding their head vigorously. This film was full of boring people (mostly women) who continuously boo hoo’ed over their man problems. And each of them connected their present day problems with men and the fact that their father left them, or were abusive, or were perfect, or were too caring, or not caring enough. We get it.

Fathers have incredible “power” over their daughters’ formation of male roles and relationships. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that fathers have been responsible for untold negative relationships between daughters and the men they attempt to love. On the other hand, fathers have also been responsible for well-adjusted and fulfilling relationships between daughters and the men they form partnerships with. Most of us have parents who mostly did the best they could. It’s time to move on and take responsibility for ourselves.

This film was a mess of talky scenes where characters I didn’t care about lamented how terrible their lives were, while surrounded by affluence. No one is seen working or paying for anything or checking off anything on their to-do lists. They were just seen talking. Over and over again about the same thing. Mostly, about the father that Irene hasn’t seen in 15 years.

A final title card says (in flowery script): For My Daughter.

5.4 IMDB [20 Votes]

IRENE IN TIME

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1967

July 18, 2009
San Jose CA — California Theatre — 70MM
France / Italy
French / English / German
124 Minutes
Comedy
Jacques Tati
#87 They Shoot Pictures Don’t They Top 1000 Films Of All Time

“Solo Filmschool” movies are those on the big list of the 1000 best films of all time, which the crew over at TSPDT keeps track of and updates from time to time. The current version is from January 2010. My plan is to work my way down the list, watching all of them on DVD (if available), regardless of how slow-moving, or out of date they might appear at first. If a highly-regarded and serious film class is not available where you live, you could do a lot worse than using this list as a jumping off point.

I was lucky to catch this in 70MM at the beautiful California Theatre in downtown San Jose. It was my first exposure to Director Jacques Tati, who appeared in the film as “Monsieur Hulot”, but there isn’t really a main character. In fact, there is absolutely no discernible dialog in the whole film. It’s in French and German and English, but you can’t really pick up on what anyone’s saying. It is all background noise. Hulot stumbles from place to place, first to a huge bureaucratic building, then to a fancy dinner club, then to a guy’s apartment, but here’s the thing: we have no idea why he is wherever he is. There is also an American tourist who follows her tour group around from gray building to gray building, never seeing any of the sights that made Paris famous (except in creative window reflections.) The two of them will cross paths, but again, we don’t know why. They’ll end up at a department store, in a traffic circle, and in a splendid lengthy scene in a restaurant on its grand opening day.

The film was made in 1967 by its crazy director who took two years, mortgaged his financial future, and actually built a small city outside of Paris in which to film it. He also never, I mean not once, filmed anyone or anything in close-up. There are no shots, I don’t think, with one actor only. Shots are held for long periods of time and in the background and corners things are happening. There are also cardboard cutouts on buses and in building windows and in the far background whose purpose appears to be populating the frame. At other points, live actors will be frozen in the background and only “come to life” at certain points in the scene. Not sure what that choice was about.

But if ever a film was full of whimsy, and not manufactured whimsy, like CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY or THE TRUMAN SHOW (even if you like those movies.) How a story with mumbled far-off dialogue and no plot and no explanation for why people are doing what they’re doing can be so compelling and interesting is beyond me? The entire thing is funny, but there aren’t many laugh-out-loud moments.

I very much liked the experience.

7.9 IMDB

Playtime @ Amazon

PLAY TIME

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1999

July 17, 2009
Netflix DVD
USA
English
82 Minutes
Documentary
Christine Fugate

From housewife to porn star.

A documentary about Stacy Valentine, a porn star from the late 90s. “Encouraged” by her husband, she sent nude photos of herself to a men’s magazine which printed them and then flew her to Mexico for a nude photoshoot with some Adonis. Upon her return to her small town in Oklahoma, she packed up her things, and left her husband and town behind to start her new life in Los Angeles.

There are a whole slew of documentaries like this, both full length, and as a part of HBO’s Real Sex or some other titillating cable series. Besides the obvious, the reason I continue to watch them is twofold: 1) are there really any well-adjusted, non-abused or addicted women who get into porn; and more importantly, 2) How does a porn actor or actress ever have a normal romantic relationship. Most of these kinds of documentaries try to answer both questions. PORN STAR: THE LEGEND OF RON JEREMY; WADD: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JOHN C. HOLMES; SEX: THE ANNABEL CHONG STORY; THINKING XXX all tried.

As to question 1, this film claims that while Stacy was adopted (gasp, so was I) and her father had a temper, she was never abused in any way. She also claims to love sex (as every porn star in recorded history has claimed) and be good at it. Although it’s easy to hide, her wholesomeness makes me believe that she has no drug addictions. In fact, she’s sort of a square.

As to question 2, that’s where this film is pretty well-done. At the beginning she’s interviewed on her bed and she says that if she’s horny, she goes to work and if she wants someone to talk to after work, she has her cats. But towards the end, she’s tried to start a relationship with another porn star, Julien (who I did recognize, the pool of men in the business being much smaller than the pool of women). They seem, dare I say, cute together. Both dumber than dirt, both look every bit the porn star they are. They talk about handholding being more intimate that intercourse, and how they don’t care if their work involves sex. There is a scene towards the end that could only happen in the adult business. For the first time, Stacy agrees to shoot a scene with Julian and another man. The other guy goes first and we zoom in on Julian as he watches the woman he claims to love having sweaty sex with another man. Though he knows that it’s just work, the look on his face is heartbreaking. He literally curls up in a fetal position with a pillow on his lap, unable to perform while his wife acts like she’s having the best sex of her life. They break up soon afterward, though he appears to really care about her.

Another angle this film tries to hit is Stacy’s complete lack of esteem about her body, which is a pretty important part of being a porn star. She got her first boob job soon after marriage and the film includes three pretty gross scenes of breast reduction, liposuction, and lip augmentation. She is never satisfied, thinks that she’s fat, and often laments that her co-stars won’t be aroused by her body. How weird for a person who is in the most exposed vocation on earth to be so unsure about how she looks.

Stacy seems like a nice enough young woman. Her mother is aware of her chosen profession and even accompanies her to the AVN awards in Vegas. When Stacy is shut out of the five categories she’s nominated for, you’d think her life were over. Equally upsetting to we the viewers, when she wins Star of the Year at a knockoff parallel Cannes Film Festival for porn, she can hardly contain her joy and rushes back to the hotel to call her mother back in Oklahoma “Mom, you are talking to the Best New Starlet of 1998!” Exactly how does a parent respond to such a call?

We watch her at conventions where men have no trouble just putting their hands on her, and we see her arrange a date with a rich fan. She comes back and throws the money in the air, just like in a Hollywood romance.

A post-script tells us that she left porn after four years and got a job as a “model recruiter” at Penthouse.

6.9 Metacritic
6.4 IMDB

Girl Next Door @ Amazon

THE GIRL NEXT DOOR

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2009

July 16, 2009
Redbox DVD
USA
English
91 Minutes — January 16, 2009
Action / Comedy / Crime
Steve Carr

Safety Never Takes A Holiday.

In my defense, sometimes marriage can be a collection of compromises. Sometimes my wife gets to pick the movie. Plus, we are big fans of KING OF QUEENS, which is probably the lightest TV show I’ve ever watched regularly. For a three-camera studio audience sitcom, it was hilarious to me. Mostly because the guy was overweight and loved the same kinds of foods that I do–that is, stuff a 10 year old would eat. And neither character was all good.

So with that goodwill felt towards Mr. Kevin James, I tried my first experience with the Redbox machine near my Lucky’s. I have recently read a New York Times article about how Paul Blart is the number one rental in Redboxes, which only hold about 50 different titles and how the CEO of Redbox was pretty sure that Paul Blart was not the number one rental at the much snobbier Netflix.

The plot, ha ha, is that James has hypoglycemia and that keeps him off the police force in New Jersey, but he takes his job at the West Orange Mall just as seriously as if her were a real cop. He rides a Segway, helps little old ladies, finds lost children, and keeps his uniform pressed and looking good. Everyone around him ridicules his weight and the dedication he brings to his job. He has a crush on the hair extension kiosk girl. He has a circle of friends who work in the mall. He has a daughter at home, the product of a green-card-acquiring Mexican immigrant who left them behind soon after her birth.

It’s Black Friday and a group of highly-trained, tattooed, X-Game participants takes over the mall so that they can steal the credit card codes on the biggest shopping day of the year. But with our hero’s knowledge of the mall layout and how to get a Segway to do what you want, the bad guys don’t stand a chance, do they?

The reason this film wasn’t as funny as it could be is because Blart himself has no discernible sense of humor. At all. Since he takes his job so seriously, he doesn’t think what he’s doing is funny. His shyness isn’t funny. His dating bad luck isn’t funny. James isn’t given a chance to be ridiculous. Knowingly, that is. It just isn’t very funny. Filled with unknown actors, this film made a fortune. I’m sure a sequel is in the works. Nice use of incredibly sappy old Survivor song.

3.9 Metacritic
5.4 IMDB

Paul Blart: Mall Cop @ Amazon

PAUL BLART: MALL COP

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2009

July 16, 2009
HBO
USA
English
45 Minutes
Documentary
Alexandra Pelosi [Journeys With George; Friends Of God: A Road Trip With Alexandra Pelosi]

After being exiled from his home and the church he built, the former minister tries to redeem himself and rebuild a life for his family.

Something happened while I was watching this short documentary that I never expected to happen: I started feeling sorry for Mr. Haggard. Of all the social issues that are dividing our country, the one that I have the most trouble with, above all else, is the group of people trying to stop gay people from having the same rights as straight people. Adoption, marriage, and leading a church. Racism, abortion, creationish, etc, all take a back seat in my mind to two adults in love. How do you legislate that?

Before seeing this, Haggard was a hypocrite who spoke out against gay equality while having an ongoing relationship with a male escort. This documentary shows us some of his early sermons on the topic and in retrospect it’s easy to snicker at him as he explains the great danger of homosexuality. A particularly awkward speech he gave ten years ago mentions that a buddy and he were knocking on doors while going about the lord’s good work, or whatever, and they suddenly found themselves in the parking lot of a gay bar. Someone called out to them “are you two together?”, then we see the audience at the sermon bust out laughing like it was the craziest thing they’ve ever heard. Can you imagine? Two men being a couple? Madness?

But here’s the thing: Haggard seems like a charismatic, slightly dorky, leader of people. If he encourages you to do things, I bet that you do them. He is still strongly religious, still reads the bible, and is still almost superhumanly honest. Some of the questions Pelosi asks (and she is great at this in all her films) are so on point, that the subject can’t help but answer with the first thing on his mind. He doesn’t sugarcoat what he did or his “struggle” or when the news came out that he was “completely cured of his homosexuality” that Haggard himself never said it, but one of his former co-pastors did. He knows he isn’t “cured” and he may not believe that being gay is “curable”. He continually talks about the sins he’s committed, his wife seems pretty cool and supportive, his kids are exactly like every other kid, though probably more understanding as the family is banished from the State of Colorado and forced to live in loaner houses, a residence hotel, and then a tiny apartment.

And here’s the part I can’t get my head around. He had sex with a man, he admitted to buying crystal meth. And for those transgressions, he was fired from his job, required to enter treatment, banned from ministering again, and here’s the kicker, forced out of the entire state of Colorado. On who’s authority can a church with 14,000 members tell a man and his family they must leave the state and the church which he founded and led for decades? I’m sure there are bylaws and such that spell out what happens, but wouldn’t a man who has, according to their beliefs, fallen, need his home church and familiar surroundings now more than ever? Isn’t that what Christians are supposed to do?

As an atheist, I’m finished shaking my head while listening to people talk about why theirs is the one true religion. I’ve moved past his or anyone else’s religion. But here’s what I saw: A man who could again be a very compelling leader, a man interested in the downtrodden, who could be an asset to any organization (even a church) that might want him.

At the beginning of the documentary we see scenes from Pelosi’s previous project where Haggard is hugging young men and speaking in front of all male arena crowds and riding his scooter around the huge empire that he’s had a large part in building. We can snicker at the male hugging, but there is no doubt that all the people who speak to him after his sermons or speeches think that he’s the greatest. They can scarcely control their enthusiasm.

Did the punishment fit the crime in this case? As someone who wishes everyone could just bang who they wanted, obviously I don’t understand how big a crime it is to enjoy the company of the same gender. But the way he was treated, after admitting to touching a man, seems just about as unchristian as you can get. They gave him a severance package, they forced him into exile in Arizona, the White House distanced themselves from him, the other evangelical leaders suddenly decided that he never really was that powerful, and he became a story that his former supporters wished they could simply forget.

The greatest post-script possibility of this documentary would be the news that Ted Haggard has started a ministry for all sexual orientations. He could keep the meth out, but let in the gay and the bi and the poly and whatever else consenting adults should be allowed to do. Shouldn’t those children of god have access to the same scripture and fellowship as his initial flock? If you believe this kind of thing, and I don’t, Haggard could conceivably save souls for Jesus. He still has the skill set. Let him lead.

Back to the filmmaking for a second. Pelosi is great at asking the pushy, yet not-rude question. I’ve always felt like her subjects consider her some kind of west coast, liberal Jew, who simply doesn’t know how social graces are followed and they are therefore extra forgiving when she acts in such a forward manner. This film is short, and Pelosi and another person handle all the filming. There are shots in cars and shots on walks in the desert and old clips and explanatory title cards. He really opened up to her and it made him, and his family, a much more sympathetic subject.

7.0 IMDB

The Trials of Ted Haggard @ Amazon

THE TRIALS OF TED HAGGARD

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SUMMER HOURS
2008

July 14, 2009
San Jose CA — Camera 3
France
French / English
103 Minutes — May 15, 2009
Drama / Family
Olivier Assayas [Clean; Paris, Je T’aime]

A woman celebrates her 75th birthday at her country home just outside of Paris. Her two sons and one daughter are there, as are her five grandchildren and housekeeper. She is concerned about getting old and takes her eldest son on a tour of the home, pointing out valuable art pieces and furniture and suggesting what he should do with the home and its furnishings when she’s no longer around. This type of conversation is always fraught with meaning and emotion, and the son puts off any serious discussion, but knows that he will some day need to take control as executor.

Mom dies and the siblings must decide what to do with the house. Frederic is the only one of the three who lives in Paris. His younger brother, Jeremy, works for the shoemaker Puma in China, where he’s just been offered a five-year committed promotion. Adrienne, played by goddess Juliette Binoche, is a artsy designer presently living in Manhattan. The home is full of artwork by their great-uncle, a man that the oldest can barely remember, but who the world remembers as a genius. Should they sell the house and auction the art or keep it as a family meeting place.

Anyone who’s been in a similar situation with their own family can relate to this issue. If you keep a home that few family members will be able to take advantage of, are you simply putting off the inevitable split that all families face? Should you keep it as the legacy of your beloved mother? What if one kid needs cash and another kid would rather have the family home available for use? How do the grandkids feel about visiting grandma’s house, without grandma being there?

On paper, this seems so dry as to be unwatchable, but somehow, director Assayas finds a way to show us exactly how these siblings interact. There are no black sheep, no one is out to get the others, no one is pilfering the really good stuff before the others can see it. But by the same token, no one is going to roll over and let the other two decide what’s best for them. They have three separate lives now and live on three separate continents. How will they come to an equitable conclusion?

The interaction between siblings is very honest. They kid, the get upset, they comfort each other. We don’t need them to say things out loud, we can watch how they deal with each other. The daughter isn’t serious about men, the younger brother has some guilt about living and working in China, the older brother has some anger about being put in the position to figure everything out.

There are three scenes that stick out in my mind.

–After the funeral, when all the siblings are in Paris, perhaps for the last time, they have a dinner at Frederic’s house. Wine is consumed, food is prepared (Quiche, natch), and the discussion begins in earnest about what to do with all that mom left behind. Frederic’s idea of keeping the house completely as it is, complete with housekeeper is met with differing levels of unhappiness by the other two siblings. Subtly, the wife of Frederic and the wife of Jeremy, realize that she should probably be in the kitchen instead of out at the table discussing the inner-workings of their in-law’s family. This was so realistic as to be shocking. One picks up a coffee cup, the other takes a dirty plate in. We see them in the kitchen, not talking, simply letting the three siblings reminisce and decide important things without their input. Anyone with in-laws know that they’re influence on family members is exercised behind closed doors.

–A group of art experts descends on the shuttered home and in one continuous shot, we go from room to room as the siblings and the experts go through art pieces, commenting on their relative scarcity and value, then we leave and go to the next room where pictures are being packed up and such. By the end of the film, you feel like you have some mental image of the layout of the home and its grounds.

–The teenage grandchild “borrows” the home for a party and another long continuous shot followers her as she flutters from group to group, unpacking food, changing the music, taking a hit off a joint, flirting with boys, etc. while in the background a surprisingly large number of kids arrives via moped, car, and bicycle. The girl feels every bit as powerful as her grandmother once did on the same land. The way the camera floats over everyone and notices things and moves effortlessly from room to room, not really focusing in on any one teenage participant in particular. The camera continues outside, down a hill, and to the swimming hole where some kids are cooling off. Really good stuff.

This film had no agendas, and the most important character was the house and its furnishings. Families might be destined to break up in our global world. I didn’t feel the filmmaker lamenting that fact, merely observing it.

After my grandparents died about 15 years ago, there was some serious thought to the rest of the family (their three kids, and we five grandkids) keeping the family cottage on a lake in Michigan so that we could continue to visit. But then we realized that the family was spread out in Seattle and San Jose and DC and the chances of us ever visiting again were pretty slim, especially as one big group. But the fact that even today we talk about that house, with its grassy hill, it’s murky lake water, the aluminum dock, makes us long for those days. We clearly don’t lament the loss of the house as much as the loss of our visits there with Grandma and Grandpa.

8.4 Metacritic
7.0 IMDB

SUMMER HOURS

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GOOD WORK
1999

July 13, 2009
Netflix Roku
France
French / Italian / Russian
90 Minutes
Drama
Claire Denis [Chocolat]

Dreamy, beautiful story about the French Foreign Leigion in Djibouti. Mostly wordless, though sometimes with voiceover that doesn’t match what we see on screen. Excessive and oppressive routines for the soldiers who seem to need it for their psyches. Men from the world’s different cultures must learn to co-exist and work together through discipline. Directed by a woman, this might be the gayest straight film I’ve ever seen. The men are almost always photographed shirtless and sweaty, in tight shorts, doing manual labor or Tai Chi or cathesthenics. But how beautiful they are. On a dusty outpost far above the ocean, they seem to be training for a fight they’ll never have. Their leader, who seems to partake in every form of physical exertion his men are forced to, has them doing tasks with dubious military benefit. They break rocks and march through lava-like landscape. The plot is nearly non-existent, save for a superior who asks a grunt his name and background, which gets the leader angry (or is it jealous), which leads to a showdown between soldier and superior. Note to self: don’t talk back to guy in charge of unit.

Worth watching alone for the photography and the final ten minutes which is either symbolic or literal, but is trippy either way. If you are a homosexual man, put this on the top of your Netflix Queue. You won’t be disappointed.

~~
~~

BEAU TRAVAIL is the subject of Cinebanter Podcast Number 75. After you’ve seen the movie, listen to the spoiler-filled review by Tassoula and I by clicking the play button right here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Show Description:
• 00:00 Intro
• 00:32 THE HURT LOCKER Discussion
• Break
• 27:52 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 28:30 BEAU TRAVAIL Discussion
• Break
• 36:00 The Last Five®
• Break
• 1:09:43 Listener Feedback
• 1:15:47 Credits

~~
~~

9.1 Metacritic
6.9 IMDB

Beau Travail @ Amazon

BEAU TRAVAIL

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THE SIDE EFFECTS OF BEING AMERICAN
2008

Netflix Roku
USA
English
105 Minutes — May 30, 2008
Documentary / Sport
Chris Bell
12 Month Movie Pace: 152

Entertaining documentary about the hypocracy of America’s relationship with steroids. The main facts can be narrowed down to two. 1) What if steroids aren’t actually bad for you; and 2) If they are bad for you, why don’t we better regulate other drugs which are much more dangerous, but used much more widely and therefore encouraged, much less tolerated?

Chris Bell is the middle of three boys born in upstate New York. They come from a big-boned family. The oldest got a nickname early of “Mad Dog” because he got in fights with schoolmates who called him fat. The younger one had a learning disability and ended up with the nickname “Smelly”. They all became obsessed with TV wrestling to the point of putting on shows in their basement and even performing in school talent shows.

Then Mad Dog went to play college football where he was all but ordered to begin taking steroids. Which he has never stopped to this day. He is now 35 or so. He also had a career in the WWF as one of the guys who lets the stars beat up on him in the ring. The director turned 18 and moved to California to attend USC and to work out at the fabled Gold’s Gym in L.A. where his hero, Arnold, used to work out. His dream of WWF glory never panned out. Smelly is also a steroid user and competes in powerlifting competitions. (We see him bench press 705 pounds–unbelievable).

Somehow the Bell boys are a perfect “normal family” example which plays off well with all the well-known examples the director finds of steroid obsession. Bonds, Maguire, Conseco, Carl Lewis, Ben Johnson, Lyle Alzado, Hulk Hogan, as well as porn stars, Air Force pilots, Congressmen, psychiatrists, and medical doctors of all stripes. The medical doctors to a person are confident that steroids are as safe as any other treatment and can’t understand the mania around them. Congress spent more time talking about steroid use in baseball than Hurricane Katrina or health care.

Bell goes to an anti-aging clinic (really a chiropractor) where after a few rudimentary tests, which he does himself, he gets a package in the mail of injectable steroids. He visits researchers, Olympians, parents of teenage suicides, Mexico, a supplement store, and he even creates his own supplements with the help of three day laborers from the local Home Depot. For $4 worth of supplies, he can sell a bottle for $60 and there is absolutely no governmental regulation. He visits a photo shoot for a fitness magazine, he gets two pictures taken ON THE SAME DAY for a before and after mockup. Pouty bad posture before–smiling, spray tanned, shaved, and flexing after (along with some photoshop work).

What I’m saying here is he gets so many different perspectives on the need for Americans to look and perform their best (legally or illegally) that it’s a wonder he kept them all straight. Which he does. A particularly strong argument is the sheer number of prescription drug advertisements we see on TV and why those are fine, but it’s a crime to possess steroids. One lawyer says “Peanuts kill people each year–do we sue God for making them?” We then see a list of reasons for emergency room visits. Alcohol, cocaine, vitamin C, then way down in the 160s, steroids. Deaths by tobacco: 435,000, alcohol: 75,000; steroids: 3.

We see George C Scott in Patton, Stallone in all kinds of things, Arnold in Conan and Predator. What’s a boy in America to do? Even GI Joe has completely changed from a normal looking guy in the 70s to a buffed beast today.

A documentary like this takes a taboo topic and asks “what’s the big deal?” In many ways RELIGULOUS did the same thing.

Very well done.

8.0 Metacritic
7.8 IMDB

Bigger, Stronger, Faster* @ Amazon

BIGGER STRONGER FASTER

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1975

DVD — LiveTweet
USA
English
124 Minutes — June 30, 1975
Thriller
Steven Spielberg [Close Encounters Of The Third Kind; Raiders Of The Lost Ark; E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial; Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom; The Color Purple; Empire Of The Sun; Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade; Always; Hook; Jurassic Park; Schindler’s List; The Lost World: Jurassic Park; Amistad; Saving Private Ryan; Artificial Intelligence: AI; Minority Report; Catch Me If You Can; The Terminal; Munich]
#106 They Shoot Pictures Don’t They Top 1000 Films Of All Time

“Solo Filmschool” movies are those on the big list of the 1000 best films of all time, which the crew over at TSPDT keeps track of and updates from time to time. The current version is from January 2010. My plan is to work my way down the list, watching all of them on DVD (if available), regardless of how slow-moving, or out of date they might appear at first. If a highly-regarded and serious film class is not available where you live, you could do a lot worse than using this list as a jumping off point.

A man-eating shark causes havoc off the Long Island coast.

Still incredibly fun after more than 30 years. This was a Live Tweet (660 tweets during the film) whereby people announce information and frivolous minutiae about the film and many that have nothing to do with the film. The ratio of watching the screen to watching the laptop is probably 1 to 5. But it was a fun pick. Hollywood considers the industry to be cut in half between Pre-Jaws and Post-Jaws. Now the marketing is at least as important as the plot and acting. Jaws either heralded great entertainment or the death of real artistry.

7.9 Metacritic
8.3 IMDB #107 All Time
** Halliwells

Jaws @ Amazon

JAWS

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2008

July 11, 2009
San Jose CA — Cinearts Santana Row
USA
English
131 Minutes — June 26, 2009
Action / Drama / Thriller / War
Kathryn Bigelow [Near Dark; Blue Steel; Homicide: Life On The Street; K-19: The Widowmaker]

An excruciatingly intense film about a bomb squad unit in Iraq. Bomb squad movies are always a little tense, from THE ENGLISH PATIENT to any movie-of-the-week where the characters aren’t sure if they should cut the blue wire with the white stripe or the red wire with the yellow stripe. THE HURT LOCKER will have none of that. These guys are professionals, with tools and technology at their disposal. Most times they disarm the bomb, save lives, and come back to base simply a little sweaty for the experience. Other times, the only thing left of them is charred hair inside their helmet, as one character mentions.

There is a ten to fifteen minute sniper scene in this film that can’t be overpraised. The men come to the aid of some English soldiers for hire, come under attack by a group of men in a far-away building in the middle of the desert, and must team up to fight back. The tension that Bigelow brings to this, from the generous use of time, from the silences, from the angles, from the shot into the scope so that we see a soldier’s huge eye, to a shaky hand trying to drink a juicebox, to the guy who may be a sheep herder or may be another sniper, to the question of whether any of them will make it out of their little crevice alive. It is stunning and worth the admission price alone. Film students will study this scene for years to come.

~~
~~

THE HURT LOCKER is the subject of Cinebanter Podcast Number 75. After you’ve seen the movie, listen to the spoiler-filled review by Tassoula and I by clicking the play button right here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Show Description:
• 00:00 Intro
• 00:32 THE HURT LOCKER Discussion
• Break
• 27:52 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 28:30 BEAU TRAVAIL Discussion
• Break
• 36:00 The Last Five®
• Break
• 1:09:43 Listener Feedback
• 1:15:47 Credits

~~
~~

9.3 Metacritic
7.7 IMDB

THE HURT LOCKER

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2005

July 10, 2009
IFC
Australia
Vietnamese / English
114 Minutes — February 24, 2006
Crime / Drama / Romance / Thriller
Rowan Woods

A former heroin user’s efforts to rebuild her life are hampered by her drug-dealing brother and boyfriend and her best friend, a onetime sporting hero turned addict.

Cate Blanchett is her usual fantastic self, this time as a 32-year-old recovering heroin addict, forced to continue to live with the mistakes she made five years prior. She lives at home with her mother and has worked for four years in a Little Saigon video store. She longs to own her own place but no bank will look past her previous financial trouble. Her ex-boyfriend, Dustin Nguyen (yup, 21 Jump St), comes back to town after his own drug issues and they try to avoid old habits. Sam Neill plays a crime boss who dabbles in young men and Hugo Weaving plays a former rugby great, now reduced to selling jerseys for drug money. Each of the characters is afraid of being ordinary, small, like the title says. Blanchett’s family has had their share of tragedy, but so have so many others in Sydney.

One very bright spot is the Vietnamese/Australian relations in this film. Drug dealers come from both camps, business leaders come from both camps, both sets of parents are demanding and caring, and no one utters a word which would cause you to think they even noticed the difference. Cate and Dustin were/are in love, Cate learns Vietnamese to better deal with customers, Dustin’s uncles reflect on their own immigration story. That phase of the film was incredibly well done.

It’s not quite as sad as it all sounds. It’s dreamy and out of focus. We don’t see any detox scenes which have become filmmaking cliches. But somehow, Blanchett shows us how hard it is to try to rebuild a life after being an addict.

7.7 Metacritic
6.4 IMDB

LITTLE FISH

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2007

July 10, 2009
Netflix DVD
USA / Canada / Netherlands
English
84 Minutes — July 13, 2007
Drama
Steve Buscemi [Trees Lounge; Homicide: Life On The Street; Oz; The Sopranos; 30 Rock; Nurse Jackie]

Buscemi is a journalist who feels he’s slumming by being assigned to interview starlet Sienna Miller instead of attending some kind of important press conference in Washington DC. Miller would like any interviewer to at least have a cursory knowledge of her career. He’s stubborn and cocky. She’s bratty and conceited. She’s also beautiful and “always on”, even in the restaurant where the interview begins. Within minutes she storms out of the eatery to face the photogs while he gets a cab back home. A plot device keeps them together for the next 80 minutes. We learn about both of them and whether or not they are really speaking to each other or “acting” like they are.

Miller is someone I’ve never seen before and I know nothing of her background. She impressed me by being both brash and self-assured, but then frail. She is sexy, then despicable. Buscemi is someone we all know can do this kind of role in his sleep, but in this case there is something from his own life that keeps intruding into his interaction with Miller.

The film is basically the two of them talking to each other. The film claims that one of them has to “win” the conversation by exposing less of themselves while learning the most about the other one. I’m not sure we learn about either of them. But I wasn’t bored at any point and Miller’s loft is one of those dream places everyone wishes they had.

I feel like this story will evaporate from my mind any minute.

6.4 Metacritic
6.9 IMDB

Interview @ Amazon

INTERVIEW

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2009

July 7, 2009
Campbell CA — Camera 7
USA
English
140 Minutes — July 1, 2009
Crime / Drama / Thriller
Michael Mann [Thief; Manhunter; The Last Of The Mohicans; Heat; The Insider; Collateral]
12-Month Movie Watching Pace: 152

~~
~~

PUBLIC ENEMIES is the subject of Cinebanter Podcast Number 74. After you’ve seen the movie, listen to the spoiler-filled review by Tassoula and I by clicking the play button right here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Show Description:
• 00:00 Intro
• 00:32 PUBLIC ENEMIES Discussion
• Break
• 17:39 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 19:27 DEAR ZACHARY: A LETTER TO A SON ABOUT HIS FATHER Discussion
• Break
• 31:06 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 31:41 The Last Five®
• Break
• 55:11 Listener Last Fives (Scott in Florida and Cynthia in California)
• 1:04:02 Credits and Outtake

~~
~~

7.0 Metacritic
7.9 IMDB

Public Enemies [Book] @ Amazon

PUBLIC ENEMIES

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1972

July 1, 2009
De Anza College Film Class
USA
English
116 Minutes — June 21, 1972
Crime / Horror / Romance / Thriller
Alfred Hitchcock [The 39 Steps; The Lady Vanishes; Rebecca; Notorious; Rear Window; Vertigo; North By Northwest; Psycho; The Birds]

A disillusioned and aggressive ex-RAF officer is suspected through circumstantial evidence of being London’s “necktie murderer.”

Hitchcock’s second-to-last time in the director’s chair. Notable for a few things. The violence is close-up, face-to-face, and we don’t cut away. There is no implication of violence, there is violence on screen for all to see. Also, Hitch appears to have given in to the temper of the times by showing us nudity, albeit, just after or before violence has occurred. Much like every slasher film from the 1980s. The story is about a guy who may or may not be a serial killer. The star’s resemblance to John C. Holmes may take some viewers out of the story. There is 70s era clothing and hair and ADR work. And there are scenes of real tension proving that even at his advanced age, Hitchcock really had a certain film-making skill set. A scene in a potato truck could have gone horribly wrong, but didn’t.

7.5 IMDB
* Halliwells

Frenzy @ Amazon

FRENZY

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1951

June 29, 2009
September 1, 2008
De Anza College Film Class
USA
English
111 Minutes — June 29, 1951
Drama / Film Noir
Billy Wilder [Double Indemnity; The Lost Weekend; Sunset Blvd.; Sabrina; Some Like It Hot; The Apartment]
#580 They Shoot Pictures Don’t They Top 1000 Films Of All Time

“Solo Filmschool” movies are those on the big list of the 1000 best films of all time, which the crew over at TSPDT keeps track of and updates from time to time. The current version is from January 2010. My plan is to work my way down the list, watching all of them on DVD (if available), regardless of how slow-moving, or out of date they might appear at first. If a highly-regarded and serious film class is not available where you live, you could do a lot worse than using this list as a jumping off point.

In order to prolong the sensation and boost newspaper sales, a self-seeking journalist delays the rescue of a man trapped in a cave.

Second Viewing:

On a larger screen of the De Anza screening room, the film looked just as sharp as on my TV. I’ve since read a lot about this film and I was struck by the non-heroic nature of just about every single character. Perhaps the man’s father and the newspaper editor were blame-free. But every single other person who appears on screen has more faults than normal. Even the poor man stuck in the cave. The second viewing just made everyone seem less redeemable. The family who sets up camp (literally) outside the cave, the wife of the man, even the photographer who began wet-behind-the-ears ends up nearly as ruthless as the others. Douglas is spectacular.

Previously Written:

This was suggested by David Simon who was doing interview after interview about the final season of the Almighty WIRE. That show dealt with an eager Baltimore Sun reporter who began bending the truth a bit in order to be noticed by either the New York Times or the Pulitzer committee.

This film stars a young, handsome, and strong Kirk Douglas as an out-of-work reporter who lands in New Mexico after a series of firings from other papers. He is bitter about living in the middle of nowhere until he stumbles upon the story of a man trapped in a cave while collecting Indian artifacts. Sensing his big break, he enlists the help of the less-than-worrisome wife, the crooked County Sheriff, and the dense engineer. Told that the man could be rescued in 18 hours, Douglas gets all to agree to drill from a much higher place, thus taking about a week to free him. The man is rugged and tough, what could go wrong? The Sheriff helps Douglas keep the story exclusive and before you know it, the area surrounding the diner, hotel, and cave are overrun by onlookers, all paying an entry fee to wait out the rescue. Some say that the phrase “media circus” was invented after this film as a carnival complete with ferris wheel and other attractions pulls into the parking area near the mountain.

It is amazing how relevant this film still is. Douglas isn’t a bad guy–he just knows the value of a good story. The film has no heroes. No one on the right side. The man in the cave was collecting sacred artifacts. His wife sees her chance to get out of the tiny, dusty town and back to the big city where her personality would be more welcome. The Sheriff is crooked in both elections and in never paying a check. The engineer is spineless. Even the crowd itself is there for the festival atmosphere, the excitement, and the chance that either the man will be pulled out alive, or his body will be taken out if he dies. Either way, what a show!

The landscape is filmed spectacularly. There are sweeping vistas from the top of the mountain. A long pan shot reveals an endless line of cars heading towards the action. At one point a train stops just across the street and passengers hop off and literally run towards the cave opening.

Douglas is fantastic. We see him grovel for the job, accepting lower pay than he’s used to just for the work. Later we see his chest swell with pride as the onlookers (and a microphone-wielding TV announcer) applaud and cheer him as he heads back into the cave to speak with the frightened trapped man.

Very impressive.

“One of Billy Wilder’s masterworks, in which he was in a serious mood, exposing the sensationalism of the tabloid press. Wilder’s target was not merely the press, radio, and television, but also its readers, listeners, and viewers who enjoyed nothing so much as a dramatic disaster. Time has confirmed that it is an incisive, compelling melodrama.” — Halliwell’s Top 1000 #352

“Unrelentingly cynical (yet mostly believable) tale of how the reporter exploits the “human interest story” for his own benefit — and how the potential tragedy turns into a three-ring circus — has a peculiarly contemporary ring to it. Biting and extremely well acted.” — Leonard Maltin 2007 Movie Guide.

*** Halliwell’s
*** Maltin
7.2 Metacritic
8.3 IMDB

Ace in the Hole – Criterion Collection @ Amazon

ACE IN THE HOLE

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1925 & 1942

June 28, 2009
Netflix DVD
USA
English
72 Minutes — April 18, 1942 re-release
Adventure / Comedy / Romance
Charles Chaplin [City Lights]
#27 They Shoot Pictures Don’t They Top 1000 Films Of All Time

“Solo Filmschool” movies are those on the big list of the 1000 best films of all time, which the crew over at TSPDT keeps track of and updates from time to time. The current version is from January 2010. My plan is to work my way down the list, watching all of them on DVD (if available), regardless of how slow-moving, or out of date they might appear at first. If a highly-regarded and serious film class is not available where you live, you could do a lot worse than using this list as a jumping off point.

A lone prospector in the Yukon becomes rich after various adventures.

Most famous for the scene in which a starving-to-death Chaplin boils his shoe and he and his companion eat it. Sort of a collection of gags more than an actual story. Chaplin is out of his depth as a prospector. He narrowly avoids being eaten by a bear on several occasions, and once, his starving roommate swears that Chaplin’s turned into a five foot chicken just waiting to be eaten. There are dance hall girls who will break his heart and rich guys who will spit on him. But because it’s Chaplin, we know he’ll have the last laugh.

This was released in a much longer version in 1925 as a silent. Once sound in movies was perfected, Chaplin went back, wrote a score, took away the title cards, and narrated a brisk 72 minute version. I’ve never seen the original silent. The narration was less intrusive than you might imagine. Though it does tell us things we can already understand while watching. The special effects are astonishing for its time period, especially as a cabin balances on the edge of a cliff.

8.2 IMDB #157 All Time
**** Halliwells

The Gold Rush @ Amazon

THE GOLD RUSH

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2006

June 27, 2009
Netflix DVD
Ireland / UK / Germany / Italy / Spain / France
English / Irish Gaelic
127 Minutes — March 16, 2007
Drama / History / War
Ken Loach [Ladybird Ladybird]

In 1920, a radical young Irish doctor cancels his plans to practice medicine in London when he witnesses British troops brutalizing Irish volunteers waging a guerrilla campaign.

Not sure about its historical accuracy, but this film sure makes the British look like total dicks. ROB ROY and BRAVEHEART and BLOODY SUNDAY and to a lesser extent, GANDHI, did the same thing. But this seemed somehow more brutal. Because it’s Ireland, there are, of course, two brothers, one of whom is about to become a highly-paid doctor in England and the other is becoming something of a leader in the Irish resistance. I’ve since done a bit of reading on the subject and the film followed pretty closely the Declaration of Irish Independence and the different battles and skirmishes they had. The film is supposed to show us a reluctant man, forced into taking up arms after all that he witnesses. It’s hard to dispute his actions, but I’d like to see a film from a reluctant English occupier some day. Several powerful scenes involve torture by the British on the Irish leader in a dank jail cell. Perhaps more morally horrifying is the way that the “good guys” have to deal with their own men who may have been forced to tell secrets under fear of that same torture. If someone tells the opposing army, and it results in the death of some of your men, what do you do to the young man who let the cat out of the bag?

You’ll need the subtitles, by the way.

Winner of 2006 Palme D’or

8.2 Metacritic
7.6 IMDB
** Halliwells

The Wind That Shakes the Barley @ Amazon

THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY

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2007

June 26, 2009
Sundance Channel
English
85 Minutes
Documentary
Ian Connacher

Documentary about how human’s love and use of plastic, the world’s most versatile substance, is choking the planet. I thought it might make me feel bad about my water bottles, but it goes much deeper. The difficulty of recycling bottles which have different kinds of plastic used for their body and the cap. We look at pristine beaches that are clean, then the next day, covered in washed up plastic. The filmmaker head out to one of the earth’s five swirling ocean sights where plastic congregates due to the currents–something I’ve always wanted to see. It was a four day boat ride, and once they got there, they began collecting items. The actual area of trash is huge–about the size of Alaska, so the pieces were still one-at-a-time and not a huge pile like I may have been expecting. They do take a huge net and drag it behind the boat where it collects tiny pellets of plastic which fish mistaken for eggs. As one of the Greenpeace people say, the ocean looks crystal clear, but is completely full of plastic pellets that animals eat. We go to India where villagers make new items out of old plastic bags. There is a Himalayan village where plastic bags have been outlawed by a forward-thinking panel of elders.

There is some cause for optimism. A guy somewhere in America takes all kinds of trash, even the grossest stuff, and makes it into railroad ties, which last longer than wooden ones. These ties are the exact same size in every country on earth. Another man shreds stuff down into such tiny pieces that it becomes a mulch that plants can thrive in. Two men are shown “eating” a plastic they devised by using plant cells.

Much like the guys in KING CORN tested their own lives and bodies to learn the influence of corn in their lives, the filmmaker in this case gives us a tour of his small apartment and labels all the things made from plastic. I dare you to do it in your own homes. Yikes.

Link to film info is here.

Addicted to Plastic @ Amazon

ADDICTED TO PLASTIC

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HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB
1964

June 24, 2009
TCM — LiveTweet
UK
English / Russian
93 Minutes — January 29, 1964
Comedy
Stanley Kubrick [Paths Of Glory; Lolita; 2001: A Space Odyssey; A Clockwork Orange; Barry Lyndon; The Shining; Full Metal Jacket; Eyes Wide Shut]
#39 They Shoot Pictures Don’t They Top 1000 Films Of All Time

“Solo Filmschool” movies are those on the big list of the 1000 best films of all time, which the crew over at TSPDT keeps track of and updates from time to time. The current version is from January 2010. My plan is to work my way down the list, watching all of them on DVD (if available), regardless of how slow-moving, or out of date they might appear at first. If a highly-regarded and serious film class is not available where you live, you could do a lot worse than using this list as a jumping off point.

A mad USAF general launches a nuclear attack on Russia, and when recall attempts fail, and retaliation is inevitable, all concerned sit back to await the destruction of the world.

First things first. This was a live-tweet whereby people around the world all watched Turner Classic Movies at the same time (or if that channel wasn’t available, they started their own DVD at the appropriate time). This is not the best way to watch a film you’ve never seen before. You find yourself looking down to read comments and respond rather than letting yourself get into the film you’re discussing. Luckily, this was, perhaps, my fifth viewing of Kubrick’s classic.

It is impossible to watch many of the scenes of politicians and generals arguing and not think of the Bush administration. It must be said, however, that the film is pretty dated. There is exactly one woman in the film, but Peter Sellars plays three roles. There are several hilarious phone calls where the US president speaks to the Russian leader about the “mistake” of sending nuclear weapons towards them.

The sets are Kubrickian in their hugeness. The entire pace and feeling of the film changes when Kubrick goes hand-held for a few scenes of a US base under attack. We’d see this again in Full Metal Jacket.

But this is mostly rightly held up as a farce about a single crazy guy and how much power he has when his subordinates follow orders without thinking them through. A young James Earl Jones plays one of the pilots. George C. Scott is really the reason to watch. He uses all of this macho-ness in the service of playing General Buck Turgidson (in fact most characters have snicker-worthy names).

Everyone should see it, but it was clearly made in 1964.

9.6 Metacritic
8.7 IMDB #28 All Time
**** Halliwells

Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb @ Amazon

DR. STRANGELOVE OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB

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2008

June 29, 2009
DVD Screener
USA
English
104 Minutes
Drama
David Spaltro

There are few e-mail scarier than the ones I sometimes get that say “I made a film which I am distributing by myself and I was wondering if you’d watch it.” After more than a decade attending the Cinequest San Jose Film Festival, I know just how many lousy, nay, unwatchable, films are made each year. Not a year goes by when I don’t shake my head wondering how on earth someone was given money to make the trash that just unspooled in front of me.

I can happily report that …AROUND (note the dots first) caused me to neither shake my fist at it, nor wish for my 104 minutes back. In fact, I am incredibly thankful to Director David Spaltro for introducing me to an actor named Rob Evans, who is charismatic and sexy in a Ryan Gosling/Ben Afleck/Edward Burns way. He seemed to be acting at a higher level than the others (and perhaps at a higher level than the material.)

The story would normally be another clue to send a viewer in the other direction. A guy moves to Manhattan, enrolls in a film school of dubious quality, runs out of money, uses credit cards to fund his cinematic vision, and ends up homeless but wiser for having met new people and experienced new things his suburban self wouldn’t have. The struggling first time filmmaker may be the single most popular storyline of struggling first time filmmakers. For obvious reasons.

Spaltro is not above having characters say things that would never be said. Witness two separate characters, one homeless, living in a train station, who somehow both know they exact highfallutin classic quote that our protagonist also lives by. That this understanding of great literature happens in a public men’s room doesn’t make it any less probable. But these mis-steps are few and far between.

I’m not as smitten with the main love interest, played by Molly Ryman, who I felt was out of her depth beside Evans. I did, however, enjoy a spunky actress (who may have been Indian-American), who we first meet having sex in the back of a car. She had an energy that seemed to suit the story. Saul, a homeless bookseller, is a welcome addition to the circle of friends. His character made me think of the real-life street people I’ve seen running a tiny business from a card table on the street.

The “homeless are people too” portions of the script didn’t override the story of a young man’s quest to live by his code, even if that code involved rotating several dozen credit cards and living under a roof only sporadically. Scenes where he picks up beauties in bars rang especially false due to the duct tape covering one of his Converses. I wonder if his target knew that he had showered that day in a shelter.

I look forward to what Spaltro does next. Word is that through some kind of distribution channel, this film should soon be available at both Amazon and Netflix. And then perhaps he can pay back all those creditors.

6.2 IMDB (43 Votes)

…AROUND

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1956

June 23, 2009
Netflix DVD
USA
English
119 Minutes — March 13, 1955
Adventure / Drama / Western
John Ford [Stagecoach; The Grapes Of Wrath]
#7 They Shoot Pictures Don’t They Top 1000 Films Of All Time

“Solo Filmschool” movies are those on the big list of the 1000 best films of all time, which the crew over at TSPDT keeps track of and updates from time to time. The current version is from January 2010. My plan is to work my way down the list, watching all of them on DVD (if available), regardless of how slow-moving, or out of date they might appear at first. If a highly-regarded and serious film class is not available where you live, you could do a lot worse than using this list as a jumping off point.

A confederate war veteran tracks down the Indians who have slaughtered his brother and sister-in-law and carried off their daughter.

There are no two ways about it: this is one racist film. Wayne is so disgusted by Indians, that he barely acknowledges a quarter-cherokee member of his own family–a young man he saved after his parents were killed in an attack. He refuses to let the young man call him “uncle”, though the rest of the kids do. Wayne’s character, Ethan Edwards, also believes that death is a better result for a young woman than having sex with an Indian. Which is basically what the entire film is about.

Wayne has returned to his brother’s ranch several years after the Civil War has ended. He has with him some gold coins, never bothering to explain where they came from. We assume that Edwards’ work isn’t always above board. A man’s cattle are stolen and he joins the party to go find them. While out in the brush, they all realize that the cattle were just a diversion so that Comanche could attack the undefended homesteads. What follows is an incredibly tense, scary, though not explicit scene of attack. When Edwards and Martin (the aforementioned part-Cherokee) return, it is too late. We again don’t see anything but reactions and know what state the family is in. Missing are the two teenage girls. Edwards must find them before they are “married” into the Comanche world.

Euphemisms like “married” or “indoctrinated” or “she’s all Indian now” really mean that another race, in this case Native American, has had sex with the virginal, snow-white teenage girls in checkered prairie dresses. And while modern audiences might say “I can sorta see how that wouldn’t be cool back then”, the anger and frustration that Wayne shows while trying to find the girls is much deeper than all that. He feels it his duty to kill his own family members rather than have them live with who he considers savages. With their own language to boot.

The story, which is sort of a chase film that takes place in Monument Valley, amongst some of the most beautiful scenery ever captured, is basically: will Edwards find the girls; how long will it take; and once he does, will he kill them? That’s it. The bad guy, the Comanche chief is a man named Scar. Two things here: he is played by a blue-eyed guy who looks like he lives in Brooklyn thus completely taking us out of the picture (Bogdanovich in a fabulous commentary explains that “that’s just how it was done back then”) and two, and probably more important, Ford sets up this “Scar” character as a renegade evil Comanche as opposed to the honorable (docile?) Comanches which were filling the governmental aid stations back then. This sort of gets him off the hook in terms of the savagery of one particular group of Indians not speaking for the whole clan.

Lest you think that the film is a progressive portrayal of Native Americans, you need only look at the scene where Edwards and Martin are shown a small group of teenage girls who have been “liberated” by government troops from their Indian captors. To say that they’ve ended up loopy would be an understatement. They act like children raised by wolves, thus affirming everything that Edwards thinks will happen to his own nieces. “They ain’t white anymore” one character says.

Setting aside the underlying racism of the whole enterprise, one can marvel at the photography. Granted, Ford had perhaps the greatest natural backdrop in film history at his disposal, but that didn’t mean that he just sat back and watched the magic. The justly famous shots of darkened doorways with the silhouettes of characters remains quite striking. The vistas are broad, the shootouts easy to follow, and certain chase scenes where groups of Indians are several miles back on bluffs are fabulous in their composition. How Ford got everyone to be at the right place at the right time for a shot is beyond me.

There is an extra interlude where dancing and a wedding take place that felt out of place, but perhaps the film was too heavy for 1956 audiences and they needed some comic relief. This relief is in the form of a borderline retarded mailman suitor and a looney old drunken deathbed old guy who spouts non sequitors. But scenes with these two are few and far between. Don’t get me started on the bratty acting of Jeffrey Hunter as Martin who seems to pout his way around the west.

Wayne is pretty awesome as someone trying to protect everyone around him from how the real world operates. He shields young men from the heartbreak they’re destined to experience, he protects people from violence and the aftermath of savagery. In Wayne’s eyes you can see that he feels like he’s experienced things and seen things that he doesn’t wish on anyone else. He knows that gold gets things done, that murder is bloody and awful, and that naive young love is no match for a harsh world.

He also rides a horse well and dresses in bright colors.

This is rightly considered a classic (Number 7 on the Big List of 1000 Movies). The photography is spectacular, the action exciting, the story morally ambiguous, and the acting is mostly great.

8.0 IMDB
**** Halliwells

The Searchers @ Amazon

THE SEARCHERS

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2008

June 21, 2009
Cinemax
USA
English / Portuguese / Spanish
112 Minutes — June 13, 2008
Action / Sci-Fi / Thriller
Louise Leterrier

Sometimes you just want to turn on the dish and sit back and watch something. Back in the 70s, whenever I read comic books, I was a Marvel guy and not a DC guy. Those guys were snobby, what with their Superman and Batman. My two favorites were Spiderman and Hulk. I like the whole “big guy misunderstood and forced to turn green due to others’ stupidity” of The Incredible Hulk. I’m sure I’ve seen every episode of the Bill Bixby series.

But here’s the thing: CGI has not risen to a level whereby a normal-sized man (Ed Norton) can change into a guy 30 feet tall and still make it believable. Say what you will about Lou Ferrigno in green makeup and torn pants, but at least he was a human being and so was Bixby. Once Norton gets the green eyes, they at first try to hide Hulk, but then we see him and its a cartoon that runs around fast with swooping cameras and quick editing which tries to confuse us enough so that we’re not really sure what we’re seeing.

The plot isn’t bad. I didn’t see the Ang Lee version, so I don’t know if this is a continuation or not. Banner is living in Brazil, hiding from some kind of governmental authority led by William Hurt. He sends his blood into an unseen scientist who tries to get him to try different experiments in the hopes that it will cure him. He is discovered and when the special ops team Hurt assembles proves to be no match for a 30 FOOT MONSTER HUMAN, he calls in Tim Roth, for some reason. Roth volunteers to be experimented on and this leads to the number one plot device in comic book history: the evil twin. When Hulk and Bad Hulk fight, I just wanted it to be over. It was all just too loud and ridiculous.

Norton tries the best he can to bring some kind of intelligence to the proceedings but he’s no match for helicopter gunships and CGI where no human actors are required.

6.1 Metacritic
7.2 IMDB

Incredible Hulk @ Amazon

THE INCREDIBLE HULK

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AVENUE MONTAIGNE
2006

June 20, 2009
Netflix DVD
France
French / English
100 Minutes — February 16, 2007
Comedy / Drama / Romance
Daniele Thompson

I still don’t know why this film showed up in my mailbox. I obviously added it to my Netflix Queue, but for the first time, I have no idea why. It didn’t star anyone I’ve seen anything else from. The director was new to me. I don’t love Paris-based films. I don’t add things because Netflix says “I also might enjoy…” So I’m not sure what happened, it may have even been a mistake. Having said that, it was an enjoyable story about a single block on a street and the stories behind a play, a piano recital, and an auction all taking place on the same night. One spunky “amelie-esque” waitress is the connection to all three stories. All of the characters are wealthy and attractive, but even rich people have a hard time being happy all the time.

The actress in the play, feels like she’s slumming by appearing on a soap opera when all she really wants is to be cast in the newest Sydney Pollack film. The pianist would rather play in shorts and flip flops to a group of children or hospital patients than tour nonstop for rich audiences. The old man who is auctioning off his priceless art collection is trying to stay young in the arms of a beautiful woman who is open about only loving his money.

It’s good, it’s french, and the main waitress character is adorable. What’s not to like?

6.4 Metacritic
6.9 IMDB

AVENUE MONTAIGNE

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1947

June 18, 2009
TCM
USA
English / Cantonese
87 Minutes — June 9, 1948
Crime / Drama / Film-Noir / Mystery
Orson Welles [Citizen Kane; The Magnificent Ambersons; The Tragedy Of Othello: The Moor Of Venice; Touch Of Evil]
#418 They Shoot Pictures Don’t They Top 1000 Films Of All Time

“Solo Filmschool” movies are those on the big list of the 1000 best films of all time, which the crew over at TSPDT keeps track of and updates from time to time. The current version is from January 2010. My plan is to work my way down the list, watching all of them on DVD (if available), regardless of how slow-moving, or out of date they might appear at first. If a highly-regarded and serious film class is not available where you live, you could do a lot worse than using this list as a jumping off point.

A seaman becomes involved in the maritime wanderings of a crippled lawyer and his homicidal frustrated wife.

One of the lesser-beloved of Welles films. First things first. I am still flabbergasted when I see a 30s or 40s actress who is as beautiful as Rita Hayworth was here. For some reason, I don’t think actresses became sexy and beautiful until Sophia Loren or maybe Anita Ekberg or someone of that era, usually from Europe. Then I catch a glimpse of Grace Kelly and realize that I’m completely wrong. Rita Hayworth was breathtakingly beautiful. And married, though breaking up with, Welles at the time.

Because of its tone and the use of an attractive woman who knows more than we do, we know they’ll be some sort of double-cross, but we don’t know what. After seeing this, I’m still not sure who was doing what to whom and for what reason. But the ride was nice. Welles tries for an Irish accent, which isn’t particularly believable. There is a lawyer and a dicey assistant and a hall of mirrors scene at the end which has been copied dozens of times since. It was filmed on locations as the boat headed from Mexico up to San Francisco Bay.

See it to complete your Welles list or see it to see Rita Hayworth in extreme closeup while singing a nonsense song.

7.8 IMDB
** Halliwells

The Lady from Shanghai @ Amazon

THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI

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THE RULES OF THE GAME
1939

June 16, 2009
Netflix Criterion DVD
France
French
106 Minutes — January 18, 1961
Comedy / Drama
Jean Renoir [The Grand Illusion]
#3 They Shoot Pictures Don’t They Top 1000 Films Of All Time

“Solo Filmschool” movies are those on the big list of the 1000 best films of all time, which the crew over at TSPDT keeps track of and updates from time to time. The current version is from January 2010. My plan is to work my way down the list, watching all of them on DVD (if available), regardless of how slow-moving, or out of date they might appear at first. If a highly-regarded and serious film class is not available where you live, you could do a lot worse than using this list as a jumping off point.

A count organizes a weekend shooting party which results in complex love intrigues among servants as well as masters.

What’s memorable about this film is the complete lack of sexual morals of any of the characters. Everyone, of both genders, has a little something on the side. Some come out and say “I don’t love you, but I want to sleep with you” while others are more coy. Characters sneak off to one of the many rooms on the estate to mess around, often in front of spouses. The basic premise is that rich people are just as horny as you and me. It must have been scandalous back in the day.

8.0 IMDB
**** Halliwells

The Rules of the Game @ Amazon

THE RULES OF THE GAME

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Written by Michael W. Cummins