Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
I Am Cuba 1964.
Speaking of Cuba, I decided to watch this extraordinary epic of the fall of the Cuban Dictatorship and the rise of the Revolution for the third thrilling time. Yes of course its propaganda but taken for what it is and was,there are many truths presented here, and lets not forget what Cuba was about in the 1950's under Batista's brutal long dictatorship.
The film is presented in four seamless segments showing us the hardships of the people and includes a long segment on the student uprising that features the only known actor (to me anyway) Sergio Corrieri as one of the student leaders. This film might be the most beautiful film I've ever seen, the scenes fluid and poetic simply take your breath away.
Especially great is the very famous opening at a hotel with the camera beginning at the top of the building, stopping at a tacky beauty pageant and traveling down into the swimming pool. Also great is the swirling delirious nightclub segment with the camera focusing on a male singer, bar girls, prostitutes and dancing patrons with an emphasis on brutish American male tourists picking up girls for their evening fun.
Yes one could say that these American portraits are stereotyped as is the nasty scene with American sailors stalking a young woman through the streets of Havana, but who could doubt that this kind of behavior never took place. The film sat unseen for many years until it was seen and rescued by Martin Scorsese and Francis Coppola who brought it to the attention of the world, and became an influence for many young filmmakers, see for instance Boogie Nights. Directed by Mikhail Kalatozov with cinematography by Sergey Urusevskiy, this was a joint venture between Cuba and The Soviet Union, who thought they were making a simple piece of propaganda but were actually making one of the great films in the history of cinema.
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Cold in July 2014
This one’s a keeper. A noirsh color saturated nightmare of a B movie set in a small town in East Texas in 1989, the land that time forgot. The movie throws us fast and hard into the plot with Michael C. Hall one night being wakened by his wife who thinks she hears someone prowling around the house. Sure enough Hall nervously takes down the shoe box from the top shelf in the closet that holds his gun and bullets and promptly shoots the burglar dead. He didn’t mean to, the gun just went off, but Hall who is mild mannered and owns a frame shop (a nice touch that is also in the book) is being hailed as a hero for protecting home, wife and young child and part of him likes that. But here’s where the ride which I thought was safe and steady starts going fast and loose around those dangerous curves and what you think is going to happen doesn’t, and this is what keeps this thriller thrilling for its running time. Sometimes I have a strong graving for this sort of film, but this is a dying or already dead genre, and the only way to get my fill nowadays is through some of those damn good series that occasionally turn up on cable and are the new B movies of our time. “Cold” fits in and belongs with the Coen Brothers and John Dahl who at one time early in their careers made little rodent droppings of movies, somewhere between here and there that played homage and cheap boarding house host for the likes of Robert Mitchum, Dana Andrews and Dick Powell. It helps to have Sam Shepard all grizzly and gaunt and Don Johnson bursting at the seams along for this ride throwing odd angles and off kilter personality traits at us a mile a minute. The violence is sometimes rough and in your face and for that reason I can only say see this film to a select few. Directed by a young filmmaker I never heard of Jim Mickle who has previously made zombie and vampire movies and is based on a novel by Joe R. Lansdale, also good is the music score by Jeff Grace.
Monday, December 22, 2014
Sunday, December 21, 2014
I'm mixed up with my feelings about this complex and imaginative film but also wish I liked it more than I did. The plot concerns an older actor who made his mark years back playing birdman, a comic book character in a couple of blockbuster movies. For various reasons the actor Riggan Thomson played to neurotic and outlandish perfection by Michael Keaton walked away from movie stardom and big bucks and when the film opens is attempting sort of a comeback and is struggling to put on a play on Broadway based on of all things a Raymond Carver book "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love."
Everything that could go wrong with trying to put on a play goes wrong, and on top of that Keaton is having a surreal meltdown where he hears the voice of birdman, and has all sorts of visions that of course we are privy to. The movie is good when showing the backstage pitfalls of what it takes to do a play, and is full of fine performances including Edward Norton as a narcissistic despicable actor and Emma Stone (what a wonderful voice she has, one of the few "newer" actors who has a memorable speaking voice, it’s all throaty and lush) who plays Keaton's daughter who has big mental issues and drug problems and who works for him as his assistant and gofer.
The movie not by accident or coincidence has real life parallels with Keaton's messed up career, how well we remember him, as Batman, and it was brave, risky and a gamble for him to take on such a transparent role. The director Alejandro González Iñárritu instead of molding the film as just a backstage look at what fools actors can be, (I kept thinking thank God I didn’t become an actor, as if being an artist is any easier or saner) and what it takes from their lives to do this crazy job, and instead mixes in sometimes annoying bits of surreal and wild fantasies that for me just didn’t work and after a while became redundant and as I said annoying.
The film itself looks great, most of it shot in long takes with what looks like hand held cameras that move behind and through the theatre giving a somewhat threatening and unsettling feel to the story and his use of Times Sq. itself is brilliant. In several scenes Inarritu by opening doors onto the glistering neon colored night time streets of the Square creates self contained little theatrical acts and gives us some much needed breathing space.
One of my favorite of these street scenes has Keaton locked out of the theatre only in his underwear (don’t ask) forcing him to walk through the streets and around the block to the theatre entrance causing quite a commotion among the flocking tourists who hover like nasty pigeons. Is this a nightmare, a fantasy or reality? My dreams usually have me wandering the streets not in my underwear but without my shoes. Look for Keaton to take home the best actor Oscar in a few months, Hollywood loves a good comeback story.