…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “Best Picture

Climaxes: The Paul Haggis Crash.


After watching some hard-hitting cinema at the Toronto International Film Festival I went home to watch a great movie in Paul HaggisCrash last Saturday night. Oh that’s right, I’m not supposed to like Crash, a movie I first saw as a summer film in 2005 and liked then. I started noticing the backlash in 2007, when people started questioning its premise that the anomic and diverse environments like Los Angeles, California encourages racism but also lets these characters overcome their prejudices. They’re all racist, which is pretty grim.

And I can’t necessarily divorce myself from the warped mind that guides racism. Take for instance, disgruntled Officer John Ryan (Matt Dillon) unloading his issues on the stereotypically named Shaniqua Johnson (Loretta Devine), as if everything that’s happened to him and his father is automatically her fault. Like, are you fucking for real? Unpleasant topic aside, at least it’s not one of those movies or shows trying to pass racism or other people’s ignorance off as funny.

It’s also called by some bloggers as the worst during the 80th Academy Awards slide show, and this is taking into consideration that Around the World in 80 Days won the same award too. It also didn’t help that Brokeback Mountain made decade lists two or three years after and a movie that I still haven’t seen in its entirety despite being a Queer Cinema essential. Besides, what’s so wrong about a movie that has both Iron Man sidekicks and Brendan Fraser and Sandra Bullock, the most reviled cinema couple in recent history? And any Devine movie that isn’t a Tyler Perry movie is automatically passable.

A friend of mine has criticized the film’s premise, And I start seeing that now. Det. Graham Waters (Don Cheadle) has a girlfriend/coworker Ria (Jennifer Esposito) who snaps and tell him about stereotypes, and he says stuff back. Then another coworker, Flanagan (William Fitchner) fires off more stereotypes towards him. The movie takes place in two days and they are already saying fighting words, which is strange because Graham and Flanagan might have just met each other for the first time that day. I’m pretty sure there’s a long grace period between civil conversation and its exact opposite, right?

The first half of the  of the film shows these characters – or groups of –  encountering each other, race relations coming to the forefront. After the sixty-fifth minute mark, these characters will meet again. It’s pretty straightforward, but there are some variations. Character A, who might have had a clash or a crash with character B might either meet the latter again or with a character C or maybe A, B or C might meet together. I don’t know what I’m taking about.

From here on, this post will talk about these scenes in the dénouement and maybe I’ll talk about the actors in those scenes. Also, these scenes happen at the same time, which I find it difficult to believe but then I live in a big city. Weird stuff happens to me all the time. Some spoilers straight ahead.

John saving Christine Thayer’s (Thandie Newton) life makes it forgivable that he molested her the day before.

Officer Tom Hansen (Ryan Philippe) defends Cameron Thayer (Terrence Howard), a ‘Uncle Tom’ character gone E.L. Doctorow. I cared about this the least because I became lukewarm towards Philippe after his post-turn of the 21st century fame. His ex-wife Reese Witherspoon won the Best Actress trophy the same year, making people think that she has the advantage in that doomed marriage, but he was in the film that won Best Picture. So I guess they were even. Hansen will later let a man hitch a ride, which won’t end well.

Look at Daniel’s (Michael Pena) face! This is the film’s best climax. Pena here gives nuance to a half stereotype.

The nobly named Jean Cabot (Bullock) talks to someone over the phone on how angry she is all the time. And then she falls down the stairs because she wears socks inside.

Say what you will about the writing but I give kudos to these actors who were known for anything but drama. It affirmed the positive side on my continuing ambivalence towards Bullock. It also reintroduced Howard – who also starred in Hustle and Flow which was released in the same year – to audiences before he went crazy and   introduced Pena who is one of the most underrated and versatile actors working today.

And I like how Haggis and crew shot this film, the blurred city lights at the background, the actors well framed within the screen. These visuals give the film both gravitas, warmth and hope and the rest of you can debate the legitimacy of those elements in the film.


The Sting


ph. Universal

Mixing golden age filmmaking techniques and new Hollywood’s colourful realism, The Sting is more form conscious than director George Roy Hill’s earlier films. Meaning that this film also has enough wipes and page wipes for ten Kurosawa films. Both wipe montage overloads portray Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) getting makeovers and a new apartment. The latter montage also depicts Hooker’s new partner Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) gathering people for a con. Each of these people are like chapters in a book that we skip to see the exciting part of them performing their sleight of hand. Their mark is a gangster named Doyle Lonegan (Robert Shaw). These montages are accompanied by a ragtime score, the conflicts given a lighter mood.

There’s also a lot of running in this movie, mostly from Johnny’s part, having to leave Joliet, Illinois for Chicago to avenge the death of his former partner. He’s being chased by authorities and hitmen who have been on him since he has moved. There are guns involved and the clicking sound of Johnny’s shoes eerily makes the audience a little afraid for him. The camera follows Johnny enough for us to see Redford’s athleticism. There are also quick zoom outs from the gunmen, whether they’re on top of a subway platform or within hallways or back alleys behind a diner. Even if they’re looming they can never catch up to Johnny.

I started to understand why this won over Ingmar Bergman’s Cries and Whispers for Best Picture in 1973. There’s little quips from Johnny’s girlfriend, blaming her wasted training on her orchestra instead of her trip numbers. That could be overread as a satire on class boundaries in Depression-era America, but we can accept it as an incidental humour that’s as real because it’s delivered in little strokes. It’s a very masculine film, honestly portraying man in its different stages, from Lonegan’s bravado at the poker table to Gondorff wasting away before he and Johnny can get their acts together. There are red herrings before the winners bring out their Hollywood smiles, and most of us won’t have it any other way.


Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor


Hazy childhood movie memory – Pu Yi goes from child emperor (Richard Vuu) to teenager (Tao Wu), either doing group martial arts warm-ups or military warm-ups with the Communists within the Forbidden City. That’s probably not how the movie actually goes.

My first film class showed Visions of Light, where it talks about this film’s use of symbolism through colour. Red means tradition and authoritarianism. Yellow, apparently is transition but I think it’s actually marks discovery. I haven’t seen Visions in a long time. I remember Pu Yi’s tutor Reginald Johnston’s (Peter O’Toole) bike being yellow. Lastly, green, and thus all the cool colours – even brown, strangely enough – means change, abdication, moving away from Pu Yi’s (John Lone) Imperial past. The words ‘open the door’ are often said with hostility in this film. This is the first movie I remember to use blue as a feminine colour, worn by women in the Forbidden City, or blue lighting/screen to depict an escape where the women are in focus and in their most troubled and precarious. Or white for loneliness. Great cinematography from Vittorio Storaro, Bertolucci’s longtime collaborator.

I’ve tweeted that a big chunk of The Last Emperor is the Asian Conformist, which is reductive, yes. Bertolucci’s about style and morally cold-hearted characters, a combination he masters here. The film is essentially political, as it publicly calls out authoritarianism’s hypocrisies. I suppose knowing that Pu Yi wasn’t that nice of a person makes the film more morally complex. It makes an emperor’s story relatable because it’s about any individual’s growth from unwanted independence to confusion to selfishness to adult self blame to resignation. Lone performs this rollercoaster of an arc beautifully, like playing hide and seek with the character’s moral ambiguities, changing depending on the man’s place in life. Other great performances include O’Toole’s enunciation, Maggie Han as Easter Jewel and Ric Young as an interrogator, the latter two camping it up without distracting from the film’s even tone.


The Godfather


Finally! And just to let TV folks know that no one can sit through four hours of this with commercials. Luckily, I caught this on the Bloor on Thursday. I was still slightly distracted, partly because I’ve seen most of this movie until the baptism massacre. I’ve read some of the criticism of this movie listed here, so seriously, what else is there to say?

That I’m flip flopping as to whether or not this is nature or nurture – either his safe distance from the family business made him learn enough and to stay temperamental or that Michael (Al Pacino) was ordained to be Don, despite everyone else’s plans. That this is “greatest movie ever” despite that all the principle players with the exception of Abe Vigoda have been better somewhere else.

That Michael, brandishing an Anglo name, had the swagger of Jimmy Cagney once he turned into the hat-wearing gangster.

That this movie’s pretty meditative until the murder scenes, all having the punch of William Wellman gangster movies.

That I couldn’t remember Sterling Hayden’s name and that bugged me for the whole movie, so I just kept calling him Robert Ryan instead.

That Italians really like Italian stage blood.

That where are the women?

That one reviewer actually pointed out Sonny’s (James Caan) shoulder and back hair and yes, I would still hit it.

And lastly, that there’s a place in my heart for Godfather III because Michael and Kay (Diane Keaton) make the cutest old divorced couple ever and that I can turn that into a drinking game, unlike this one.

p.s. CHCH is gonna be airing on pan-and-scan and HD versions of “The Godfather” on June 13th at 7, and the respective sequels will be aired at Sunday June 20th and 27th at the same time slot.


First Movie Ever: Forrest Gump


(I’m sure it wasn’t a close-up. ph. Paramount)

First of all, I just wanna say that FIRST BLOG ENTRY IN THREE DAYS!

RopeofSilicon asked its readers what their first movie going experience was. “Forrest Gump.” I was seven. I remember my paternal grandmother taking me, my sister and my two cousins to see the movie. I remember the bus stop, young Forrest’s foot getting stuck in the gutter, Forrest (Tom Hanks) in the rain, Forrest meeting Jenny (Robin Wright) and giving her some box and I remmeber the meeting being really happy and I guess it’s more bittersweet.

(Gross)

Everything else was a blur. For some reason, I don’t remember Jenny being a coke addicted stripper trying to jump off a building and eventually getting AIDS. Or Lt. Dan (Gary Sinise) being homeless and getting hookers for him and Forrest and eventually kicking him out because one of the hookers called Forrest a retard or something. And how it’s a one in a million chance for a special needs person to have a rockin’ body like that. And somebody investing Forrest’s money on Apple, because advertising within a film existed back then too. And that this is probably Haley Joel Osment’s first movie. Hookers and suicide and cocaine and the stock market in a family movie.

I blame my lack of memory first to the draconian censorship board in the Philippines. Maybe I slept while watching the movie, or we left the theatre when the shocking parts happened. The last scenario seems impossible since my grandma was also a cultural person who would probably have wanted us to see the terrible side of life. But then she didn’t allow me to have toy guns.

(CSI!)

There’s also a part of me that’s a bit surprised how this movie hasn’t aged well. All we have to do is look at Jenny’s storyline which, by the way, is probably the most ridiculous sentence I’ve ever written. And I haven’t even said everything that happens to her. All those things can happen to a real person, but going through time with a timely addiction to a timely disease makes someone look more like a time capsule or a metaphor instead of a fleshed out character. Jenny, however, exists both as a foil for Forrest as a way to remind contemporary critics that this movie ain’t cookie cutter.

Tom Hanks’s performance divides critics and movie writers moreso today than when it was released. I guess if a movie fails to shock at repeat viewings, it fails. I can’t watch it in its duration when it’s being aired on TV. I like it despite its flaws, but there are too many movie I like better that came out the same year.

I also wanna say that my mom absolutely hates Tom Hanks for some reason. I don’t know when else would I have the opportunity to expand on that.


The French: Gigi


(Oh no she’s one of them now. ph. MGM)

Honore Lachaille’s (Maurice Chevalier) songs were creepy, and the sprechgesang killed me during the movie. But by being pretty, this movie can get away with not aging well in content. Now that that’s out of the way, Lachaille’s first song, although it raises eyebrows today, is about the new generation. It’s up to personal interpretation whether it foreshadows what changes the new generation it might bring.

“Gigi,” set in the French Gilded Age, fits well in the 1950’s depiction of women as it turns her from whore into wife. In the centre of all this drama are two relatively young people, teenager Gigi (Leslie Caron) and Lachaille’s nephew Gaston (39-year-old Louis Jourdan). Both have complaints about the life they’re born into. Gigi feels tiresome of the ‘love’ everyone talks about, while Gaston sings about boredom, an audacious statement for someone of his stature living in that era. They fall in love, he asks for an arrangement for her because her family’s breeds courtesans, not wives.

(happy ending)

The end of the movie obviously has its pivotal moments. It’s Gigi’s first time at the notorious Maxim’s but she talks as if she knows everybody’s business. She talks about dipped pearls, but pulls back into a mature version of a comment would have reminded him when she was young and innocent. But he’s still angry about this new Gigi, takes her home, but changes his mind, breaks her family tradition and asks for her hand in marriage. Anyone else can look at the situation as a man still having control of his woman. What I see is Gaston putting a stop to the condemnation of womanhood that his civilization is used to.

Gigi is also played by Audrey Hepburn in a 1952 stage play version. I like Leslie Caron better, incorporating exuberance, flexibility and self-doubt into the character. Hepburn’s played period princesses in the golden age of her career, but I always feel her performances are a bit flat. Someone prove me wrong, please.


Ordinary (White) People


OrdinaryPeople(ph. secret)

First of all, I would like to say that “Ordinary People” won over “Raging Bull” in the Oscars. Suck it, juiceheads.

Most of what I’ve learned in “Ordinary People” is what I have already learned in “Cache.” White people like having champagne parties with other white people they dislike, they have childhood secrets that they yell out inside urban buildings, their kid’s in the swim team.

OrdinaryPeople

I’m gonna paraphrase Ebert that other films tackling the dysfunctional suburban family would have been more contemptuous of them, like Haneke was in “Cache.” The main characters in “Ordinary People,” however, have their flaws but the film shows theories about why these flaws exist instead of using those flaws to attack them. Watching the characters can make anyone feel like they’re watching a dry period piece. This film may have a certain effect on a some of the audience since it mixes bourgeois complicity with ‘golf course America’ inflections.

OrdinaryPeople

Conrad Jarrett (Timothy Hutton) adds to that effect by being closed off, sweaty and blaming himself for everything. Teenage alienation is intensified by watching his brother die. His psychiatrist (Judd Hirsch), however, helps him release from being a skinny boy with nervous ticks to someone who is rightfully mad at his situation and articulating what exactly is wrong. We feel relief when he cusses even at his own mother (Mary Tyler Moore) and father (Donald Sutherland), shattering their mannered sensibilities.

OrdinaryPeople

Fine, I will admit that it is not the ‘greatest’ movie but in the way that it does not really call attention into itself. It does not have a Paul Thomas Anderson effect. This is a movie about the suburbs, everything’s tailored. The golf courses, the lawned churches, the columned homes all have a groomed look without a hint of satire. If you can indulge me to stretch, this film is what Gainsborough or Brueghel would have captured with a camera depicting 1980’s America. This is what Kurbick would have shot if he was a sentimentalist.

OrdinaryPeople

This movie also stars hot piece of ass Adam Baldwin (not related to Alec) when he was 18 and cocky. You might know him as the wide-eyed young soldier in “Full Metal Jacket.” If you really want to get pissed about the Academy, get pissed that the Kubrickian masterpiece was only nominated for one Academy Award. He was also “Firefly” or apparently “Chuck.” I should watch that show, but not really.

OrdinaryPeople

Lastly, if “Ordinary People” teaches us certain truths, it is that drunk people flock to McDonald’s. The end.