…and the quest to see everything

Archive for October, 2010

Halloween Post: Let Me In


ph. Overture

In Let Me In, director Matt Reeves blatantly uses the original Swedish Let The Right One In as a starting point, but Rear Window references come within this film as well. The first references is Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) spying on his neighbors in his apartment complex with a telescope. The telescope scene reminds me of how many blue irises the film features. He spies on adults more sexually capable than he is – a good-looking, moody couple and a man lifting weights in his apartment. It’s strange them when Owen notices that the new neighbor, Abby (Chloe Moretz) and her father (Richard Jenkins) have their windows boarded up. The second reference is when Abby’s father pops up from a backseat of a car, attacking a young man while the train passes by. Lights from the train or the tracks flash and the screen turns red as an old man attacks. With the exception of these red flashes, blue and white dominate the film, but even those colours come off as somehow warmer in this film than the original. We’ll have Reeves and cinematographer Greig Fraser to thank for all of those.

Michael Giacchino created the film’s score, but it sounds more like Hans Zimmer. Owen’s mother is barely visible in the film. I guessed Ali Larter, but I got slightly mad when I found out that she is played by the talented Cara Buono.

The film exposes the source material’s themes without spoon-feeding it to the audience. Smit-McPhee’s Owen is more sickly compared to the twinky in the original, and Moretz’ Abby is more gross yet slightly more emotional than Lina Leandersson’s Elin. The tone of their interactions are more varied and have an arc, Owen’s voice creaking a bit when he tries to talk to the new girl, both of them as awkward as kids in their situation would be. This awkwardness is heightened by Abby, of course, being a vampire. They’re more combative, both crossing the lines of their friendship, daring each other, testing each other’s humanity and compassion, finding out whether one would help the other. We’ll have Reeves and the actors to thank for that as well.


Bad Movie: Taking Lives


ph. Warner

Despite my moods, I have to consider that Ethan Hawke is a great Broadway actor. That Angelina Jolie has knocked it out of the park at least twice. The latter, my favourite performance of hers, is in black face – and yes, I just willed this sentence to existence. That the Patton Oswalt quasi-apology for bad movies exist. The first shot I’ve seen of Taking Lives and with Jolie’s super-dark hair I thought, wait, why is Salt already on TV? My sister is a big Angelina fan for some reason, and she’ll watch any movie of hers, despite being very well aware that it’s crap.

That Gena Rowlands, who plays Mrs. Asher, is awesome, touches anything she wants and ain’t scared. And she dies. After watching KST getting killed off in a movie, there should be a law against icing great actresses.

Olivier Martinez is also in this mess, because they’re using a Frenchman to convince America that this movie’s set in Quebec.

And Kiefer Sutherland, Canadian, in pictures.

Then Costa (Hawke) befriends a random guy and kills him.

Here’s how it ends. Context – Ileana (Jolie) and Costa has sex without the former knowing that the latter is a killer. He’s pretty gross about the sex too.There’s actually decent acting going on here, Jolie’s cry groaning and Hawke’s creepy soft talk surprisingly the right notes for the scene. But they can’t save this movie at all. Ileana gets fired, moves to some winter yokel town to be alone and bear a child, then whoa, Costa’s back! Yeah, assault that pregnant woman!

Stab her in the stomach!

She stabs him in the heart, and reveals that she’s not really pregnant. I’m not an ob-gyn, but she should be swimming in blood had he put his second or third hand on her. The violence, however, is shocking and ridiculous enough to fasten my willing suspension of disbelief.

And U2’s playing, convincing me that my father is wrong and my friends are right about U2.


Three Colours – Red


Post 300!


Gone with the Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939)

Black Narcissus (Michael Powell, 1947)

A Star is Born (George Cukor, 1954)

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Ronald Neame, 1969)

Salo (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1975)

Flash Gordon (Mike Hodges, 1980)

Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (Tim Burton, 1985)

Se7en (David Fincher, 1995)

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Shane Black, 2005)

Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008)


The Birds


ph. Universal

My first film professor taught us shot-counter shot relationships through the most complex examples – those that are found in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. This isn’t the first time Hitch made characters within the film as metaphors for the audience. However, unlike in Rear Window where there are just three or four people at the most watching Jimmy Stewart’s neighbors, it’s one or two-second shots a little crowd watching, all of them focused on different things. Until our main heckler, Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) points out something urgent. Shot: explosion!

Counter shot – freeze frame of Melanie reacting ridiculously to the spreading fire.

Wait, did Tippi name her daughter after this character? Anyway, shot – another explosion!

And establishing shot, showing the audience both how small and large the damage is, and showing us the distances between the three locations where the action happens and is being watched. People in chaos running like ants. And that’s just the beginning of another attack.

I can only imagine papers written about this movie all fighting for what they think the movie’s about. The bird attacks symbolizing Cold War paranoia, the urban versus rural divide, the xenophobia engendered by those two issues – love interest Mitchell Brenner’s (Rod Taylor) sister Cathy (Nancy Cartwright) judging her brother’s clients as hoods, even if their mother Lydia (Jessica Tandy) corrects her to no avail. Or the birds as a comment on Native versus white occupation, nature against man or expressing how crappy it is to meet in-laws. Melanie is the stand-in for the audience but she comes of as a bit distant so some of the audience can relate more to the townspeople who alienate her. As one of the misinformed visitors say, she might be the cause of all this, the birds following her around and attacking her. And as a big city girl, she goes places alone, and every ten or fifteen minutes of the film she gets attacked.

The film’s first scene alludes to a court date, which leads to socialite Melanie’s history of pranks and Roman exhibitionism. Her face is small, child-like and elegant, but unlike most of Hitch’s earlier heroines, she isn’t one bit innocent. Her deeper voice is more flirtatious than Hitch’s women before her. Instead of feigning innocence, she tries to she the audience that those reckless days are behind her. That’s why the recycled Edith Head outfits and aging chignon are trying to convey. Those qualities convince Mitch, although creating quick banter between them, he keeps reminding her of her past, that she stalked him all the way to his small town, Bodega Bay and won’t let her hear the end of it. She does have to face a hurdle, Lydia which reminds her of issues with her own mother.

Lydia despite of what she reads in the gossip columns, also reluctantly gives Melanie the stamp of approval. The film introduces Lydia as an older woman with piercing, accusing eyes. Anne also gives Melanie fair warning about how Lydia may take her and Mitch apart the same way Mitch and Anne’s relationship ended because of Lydia. Thankfully however, Tandy lucked out on becoming the nicest, most three-dimensional older woman, her age group otherwise demonized in other Hitchcock films (the second nicest, most three-dimensional old woman in Hitch’s films is Anthony Perkins). Lydia is specifically distresses seeing another farmer’s corpse, attacked by birds. She gets to air out her anxieties, her fear that comes with a loss of physical and emotional strength. She questions her own mothering abilities, she’s afraid of being abandoned, ambivalent towards Melanie that she reveals to the latter’s face. She creepily calls Mitch ‘dear’ then later calls him inadequate compared to his father, Frank.

I’ll go back to Hedren’s acting. She can convey the darker, sexier side of later Hitchcock heroines while being caring towards the Brenners but sometimes she loses that spark. Some of the attack scenes also show her weak spots – she flirts seconds after being attacked by a gull, taking away from the believability of the scene. In other scenes, she positions her head, lips and every limb in its exact, photogenic place, not letting go of a performed beauty even in moments of terror. I’m not sure whether to blame her or to blame Hitchcock whose relationship to actors and coaching them aren’t known as the best.

My second complaint would be the special effects, but I think some of you will defend that as ‘painterly.’ Yes, I was actually terrified when the birds started coming in from the fireplace. And yes, I know that Hitch and his crew used as many live birds as possible during production. As the ornithologist in the restaurant says, it’s a war against the temperamental birds, the film this about whether the birds do or don’t mark their territory against man.


Rest my little ones, rest.


This post is part of Nathaniel R’s Hit Me With Your Best shot series.

If this movie was any more of a hit in its first run, Robert Mitchum wouldn’t have been allowed to sing at the old school roasts.

And…snark over. Film historians ETA including Ebert laud Charles Laughton’s only film and masterpiece The Night of the Hunter for its excellent cinematography and that goes well with the film’s pacing. There’s a lot of tense moments within the film, but the children cross the river to safety like, pardon the biblical reference, the Hebrew across the Nile. The children find a barn to sleep in, and for the first time, they and the audience can breathe and be tranquil. Despite the darkness of the barn we see twilight transform into night into daybreak.

This one. ph. MGM/UA

Oh come on, man!

As the boy says with contempt, ‘Don’t he ever sleep.’ Hey, Mitchum, leave those kids alone!

That shot of his silhouette lets the kids know that they’re in trouble, that Mitchum’s character is evil at its most relentless, that there;’s little salvation for these young ones at all. The shot’s picture plane also consists of a foreground (the barn), a middle ground (the treetops) and a background (the plain). It makes me wonder how big a studio Laughton have had to work around with to create this shot, what kind of camera tricks he may have used to convey such dimensionality.

Also, a friend of mine has a fatwa on Lillian Gish for acting in D.W. Griffith’s racist pictures. To me, this movie and her awesomeness atones for her past sins.


Three Colours – White


Pillow Talk (Michael Gordon, 1959)

8 1/2 (Federico Fellini, 1963)

Amarcord (Federico Fellini, 1974)

Moonstruck (Norman Jewison, 1987)

Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991)

The Usual Suspects (Bryan Singer, 1995)

Trouble Every Day (Claire Denis, 2001)

Charlie Wilson’s War (Mike Nichols, 2007)

Bright Star (Jane Campion, 2009)

Restrepo (Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington, 2010)


Three Colours – Blue


I couldn’t hold out on this series any longer. I should have done this at July 14, but I don’t think Kieszlowski released his Trilogy movies at that date neither. I chose the screen caps for the colours, but I hope national allegory and emancipation are captured in these images as well.

Fantasia (James Algar, Samuel Armstrong, 1940)

Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)

Age of Consent (Michael Powell, 1969)

The Conformist (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1975)

Hausu (Nobuhiko Obayashi, 1977)

The Usual Suspects (Bryan Singer, 1995)

The Thin Red Line (Terrence Malick, 1998)

Mulholland Drive (David Lynch,

Ballast (Lance Hammer, 2008)