…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “best soundtrack ever

Go back to China, Bitch.


ph. Pandora

‘Go back to China, bitch?’ No, chut the fuck up.

English teacher Karen Pomeroy (Drew Barrymore) shakes hands with, as my judgmental friend says, a kiddie fiddler (Patrick Swayze). Guess which one gets fired in the school first. Tears for Fears plays.


Singin’ in the Dark!


Hey, it’s Lucy from “The Office UK“/”Studio 60″/”Ugly Betty.”I don’t know which one of those shows that she had a character named Lucy but I’m gonna call her Lucy anyway. And a guy who plays Poppy’s (Sally Hawkins) brother-in-law in Happy Go Lucky. I swear casts in British films are so incestuous, although they never mix the ‘rich’ ones with the ‘poor’ ones. The one on the middle is Simon Pegg and the one who’s back is facing the audience is a zombie.

His name is Eddie…Paulson? Fact! The first time I saw this film was at Daylight Savings Time at Much More Music. Technically the movie went on for an hour. I also can’t remember how it ends. I’ve always been afraid to watch the movie on the big screen because apparently if you mess up the words, you get stripped in front of everyone. Anyway, Meat Loaf is telling off that boy something fierce. Also, why does every ‘bad’ movie between 1967 to 1980 need a muscle-y blonde man bimbo? That rule still exists today, a muscle-y blonde man bimbo appears as a character in Xavier Dolan’s Heartbeats.

Was Alfred Molina ever this skinny? Is my question too generous? Although I’ve only seen it enough to get the gist of it, I have the DVD here and my rusty French translates the title to Nights of the Devil or Diabolical Nights or something.

Ohh, Gaad! Anyway, I’ve always thought of Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) as Quentin Tarantino‘s on-screen double. Also, Coconut is so the best song in this movie.

Note to Americans: only the gay Canadians have the ‘beady little eyes.’ And fine, it’s funny hearing Anne Murray being called a bitch.

If I was a Congressman, I’d make America F**k Yeah the national anthem. Although best part of this film involves its parody of Susan Sarandon. And I usually hate homophobia in film, but seeing Tim Robbins and Sean Penn be called F.A.G.’s seemed really funny. Well, mostly because I hate Sean Penn.

After the Team America clip, we have this, and for a split second the curtains and the wallpaper made me think of the balcony space in ‘The Muppets.’ But no, this is a real person from Blue Velvet‘s wacky world. There’s always interludes of 1960’s American songs, and we thank David Lynch for seeing something dark in that decade. Speaking of the 60’s, I wonder what would happen if David Lynch directed an episode of “Mad Men.” Oh wait, that already happened.

Sookie! When I yelled that at the screen, the hipsters in front of me laughed. Funny thing is I don’t even watch “True Blood.” And again, I didn’t even know she was in this movie, especially since I loved Anna Paquin as a child. I previously blogged about how I hate Kate Hudson, but I kinda like her again here. Here her face still looks like that of an awkward teenager’s, and it’s still mesmerizing to watch her sing. I declare an Almost Famous curse, because the cast members except Billy Crudup ended up doing bad movies. Well, Paquin did have 25th Hour, and she’s better than doppelgänger Claire Danes can aspire to be.

I’m so ashamed to not know the lyrics to this song, because my dad is like the biggest Tears for Fears fan and I listened to this stuff in high school. My dad thinks the members of Tears for Fears met in a mental ward. Anyway, my favourite movie in high school, and one that needs revisiting stat! Also, when Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Gretchen (Jena Malone) kiss. Joy Division has never been better used in a soundtrack.

Joseph Gordon Levitt for mayor! Although Joe Levitt would sound like he’s running in the South.

Dance, white boy, dance!

‘Singin’ in the Dark’ programmer Shawn Hitchins says that this is what it’s gonna be like if Rob Ford gets elected for mayor. Best film criticism I’ve heard all year.

Courtney Love auditioned for the role of Nancy in… Sid and Nancy, but the casting agents considered her too young and it went to Chloe Webb. Love thanks the gods for not giving her the role because British TV called Chloe Webb ugly. I agree. And was Gary Oldman ever that young?

And we end this ding along with blasphemy. This is both optimistic and cynical. The Eric Idle character tries to comfort us, but they all end up alone and deserted, no one venerating them for their deaths. Yet.

Multitude of thanks to Hitchins for giving me the list of movies he chose for his sing along “Singin’ in the Dark” as part of this year’s Nuit Blanche, which is like the only event in my calendar. Photos courtesy of Universal (Shaun of the Dead, Blues Brothers) 20th Century Fox (Rocky Horror Picture Show), Alliance Atlantis (Boogie Nights) Miramax (Reservoir Dogs), Paramount (South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut), Pandora Films (Donnie Darko), MGM (Blue Velvet, Sid and Nancy), Fox Searchlight (500 Days of Summer) Warner Brothers’ Pictures (A Clockwork Orange), HandMade Films (Life of Brian).


Armchair Historian: A Knight’s Tale


(Another “I remember in Art History” post. Sorry?)

ph. Columbia

Watching parts of A Knight’s Tale reminded me of this essay I wrote  about Medieval costume and jewellery. My professor wanted to use that essay as an example to future students, and I’ve coasted ever since. It’s been three years, and after that have been coffee table books about the history of fashion as well as late nights watching Trashopolis. So take half of what I say with a grain of salt, including the part that the a certain percentage of production of clothing in that time had a trickle down system and that some of the clothes worn by the serfs are hand-me-downs from the royals, accounting for how ratty some of the clothes looked. I can’t even imagine living back then with that garbled factoid in my head.

The language of clothing is pretty interesting here with William Thatcher/Ulrich von Liechtenstein (Heath Ledger) and Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossamon) wearing thin, loose, flexible fabrics, exuding the lightheartedness and youth of the film. We’re reminded of that young innovation when Kate the blacksmith gives Will a thinner but stronger armor. Or when William plays with a red rose in a short sleeved tunic.

I remember other Medieval flicks having thicker fabrics with bolder colours. A servant boy had a greener tunic than Ulrich, but the latter’s tunic had better detailing. But the darker, thicker and more layered the clothes, the more serious the character’s business is. For example, bellowing Geoffrey Chaucer (Paul Bettany) always wears a jacket and Adhemar’s (Rufus Sewell) is darker and more broody.

Of course, Jocelyn’s costumes are more anachronistic than the rest. She dyes her hair punk red and the tunics hang more like South Asian costume. There’s even one part of the movie where she wears a Regency looking hat and a Turandot-esque headdress.

Films like this try to ease its audience in its anachronisms and it works in this case. I like the clothes and the music, I’m just observing. I also like the colour-blind casting of Sossamon, and despite her emotional limits, who else can play a slender punky noblewoman other than her? If anything, the most fatal flaw would be how needy Jocelyn got in her relationship with Ulrich.

Costume designer Caroline Harris is also responsible for the costumes in Othello ’95, making it into my list of movies I will see one of these days.

Also, this is my primary resource for my medieval costume essay.

(Another “I remember in Art History” post. Sorry?)

Watching parts of A Knight’s Tale reminded me of this essay I wrote  about Medieval costume and jewellery. My professor wanted to use that essay as an example to future students, and I’ve coasted ever since. It’s been three years, and after that have been coffee table books about the history of fashion as well as late nights watching Trashopolis. So take half of what I say with a grain of salt, including the part that the a certain percentage of production of clothing in that time had a trickle down system and that some of the clothes worn by the serfs are hand-me-downs from the royals, accounting for how ratty some of the clothes looked. I can’t even imagine living back then with that garbled factoid in my head.

The language of clothing is pretty interesting here with William Thatcher/Ulrich von Liechtenstein (Heath Ledger) and Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossamon) wearing thin, loose, flexible fabrics, exuding the lightheartedness and youth of the film. We’re reminded of that young innovation when Kate the blacksmith gives Will a thinner but stronger armor. Or when William plays with a red rose in a short sleeved tunic.

I remember other Medieval flicks having thicker fabrics with bolder colours. A servant boy had a greener tunic than Ulrich, but the latter’s tunic had better detailing. But the darker, thicker and more layered the clothes, the more serious the character’s business is. For example, bellowing Geoffrey Chaucer (Paul Bettany) always wears a jacket and Adhemar’s (Rufus Sewell) is darker and more broody.

Of course, Jocelyn’s costumes are more anachronistic than the rest. She dyes her hair punk red and the tunics hang more like South Asian costume. There’s even one part of the movie where she wears a Regency looking hat and a Turandot-esque headdress.

I’m pretty sure men’s short sleeves or trousers weren’t as prevalent, if nonexistent.

Films like this try to ease its audience in its anachronisms and it works in this case. I like the clothes and the music, I’m just observing. I also like the colour-blind casting of Sossamon, and despite her emotional limits, who else can play a slender punky noblewoman other than her? If anything, the most fatal flaw would be how needy Jocelyn got in her relationship with Ulrich.

Costume designer Caroline Harris, is also responsible for the costumes in Othello ’95 and Croupier, both movies making my list of those I will see one of these days.


TIFF Hangover: Attenberg


Two themes support Attenberg, the first is its portrayal of awkward human interactions. We see protagonist Marina, a 23 year-old girl with an extremely low sex drive, learning how to French kiss from her sexually experienced Charlotte Gainsbourg lookalike of a best friend, Bella. She can talk to her architect father about taboo sexual issues in their native Greek, French and animal. She’s a chauffeur for a little company, driving around a visitor who she’s going sleep with. She describes every little thing she does to try to arouse him. I’m serious.

ph. cinema-architecture

All of this happens in decay, in a small Greek city with ample infrastructure – hospitals and tennis courts. Yet there only seems to be a handful of people enjoying these things. The movie spends most of its time capturing Marina and Bella’s walks together, showing that boredom is quirky’s workshop. It’s only until their third or fourth walk together that the film shows people other than the main characters. They sing a Brigitte Bardot song ironically, the sidewalk near the tennis court isn’t ripe with the men or women of their sexual fantasies.

Attenberg doesn’t have a good start pacing-wise but it has a lot of good ideas. It keeps the audience laughing and thinking and has a different approach in human behaviour in an isolated and limited world. Labed perfectly captures the boredom, confusion and pain so subtly in a role that won a best actress award in Venice. And a good indie rock soundtrack always helps.


The Kids Are All Right


ph. Focus

The trailer for The Kids are All Right shows Manohla Dargis calling it a ‘near note-perfect portrait of a modern family,’ in a way that it shows complex implications to the words ‘biological’ and ‘parent,’ there are clashes,  affairs, dinners with people who are having affairs, cathartic speeches of redemption. It’s a typical formula if not for the slow pacing, the script, tick-y acting from the major players and the hand-held cam close-ups in group scenes, all giving the impression of a balance between improvisation and direct delivery.

Basically, two teenagers from lesbian parents look for the sperm donor, and whatever ensues, ensues.

Annette Bening as Nic is the best in show without trying. I’ve only seen her in crazy parts (American Beauty, Running With Scissors). Other reviews have tried to sell her as the stable one in the relationship, and she is that. She can also be ‘not my real self,’ be acidic, be the embarrassing drunk one, be the one who has to deal with the headaches just like a parent. Her first line at the first dinner conversation about Jules’ (Julianne Moore) truck makes the audience follow her more. Her calm reaction to a shocking revelation proves that Bening’s performance becomes the greatest one within greatest performances.

I’m ambivalent about Laser (Josh Hutcherson) as a character. It was his idea to contact their sperm donor Paul (Mark Ruffalo). A little selling point for the movie and his character that he might or might not be ‘too close to his loser friend Clay,’ that subplot being really hilarious. He also doesn’t know how to talk to Paul, being directly hostile about Paul’s opinions about little things, this approach somehow different from his sister, college age Joni (Mia Wasikowska) just smiling at him. Despite of those things, I don’t feel like I got to know the guy. He must have had female friends, unless that’s what ticked off Nice and Jules. I think Laser just fades into the background after the scene with the talk.

O hai, HaySpayTu. Tanya (Yaya da Costa) is a bit Earth Mother Archetype to me, just like a grown-up version of the real Yaya da Costa we know.

And hai, Peggy’s lesbian wooer (Zosia Mamet) from “Mad Men!”

I also wanna talk about the Susan G. Cole critiques to this movie. A) Mark Ruffalo doesn’t even act like a stoner in this movie and the last time he did that was in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I think he actually does his best to defend his character – a lesser actor would have just laid there and portray Paul as the dirt bag that he is on the script. B) Bisexuality exists. I’ll concede that the film uses a Degrassi: TNG storyline, and that she’s not alone in thinking that the Jules and Paul thins is BS, but a plausibly realistic one.  But then I’m not a lesbian so I don’t know how strong their fortitude is against Mark Ruffalo. Mine isn’t.

Now that that’s all out, time to download the rest of the soundtrack!


Marie Antoinette


ph. Pathe

In between watching movies from the Wright Stuff series and watching Scott Pilgrim, I watched another hipster romance movie – Marie Antoinette. Before I get to the meat of this post, I just wanna say that I have to discuss the traces of what I have read or heard about the woman whose life this movie is depicting, and how true this movie is to the life of said murdered queen – if I used the word executed it means she deserved it, which she partly didn’t. Some people believe that the dead are fair game, but then we’re talking about one of the most slandered women in history, so every time Coppola or the film trips, we deduct a point.

I remember the pre-blogging glory days of trying to defend this movie while calling out the royalists who trolled the Marie Antoinette forum on iMDb. That was where I read someone who compared the movie to a series of paintings. And probably where I read someone mistake Marie Antoinette’s (Kirsten Dunst) alleged Swedish boy toy Count Axel von Fersen (Jamie Dornan) as Napoleon. And/or make a comparison between Madame du Barry (Asia Argento) as a Disney evil queen – she did NOT look like that nor act like she was depicted in the film, by the way. There are other directors who make a collage of pop culture references in their work. Those anonymous readings, however, show that Coppola isn’t able to mold those separate images and/or incorporate them into what should be a believable and seamless biopic. I don’t fully believe that it would have been a better decision to invent her own images of these people instead recycling old/different/inaccurate ones, but I’d imagine there’s some who watched this movie who would choose the former over the latter.The movie has always felt like ‘This is what I imagine her life to be,’ which has driven a lot of history nuts crazy.

Need to remind you guys that Coppola’s direction of the character Marie Antoinette evoked Paris Hilton. And being inundated by that comparison by the media, oh my God. Which leads us to Coppola’s apparent aim of turning Marie Antoinette’s story as a satire of the nepotism – biting the hand – and decadence of the government and celebrity culture of Bush-era US. Which is great, but why can’t Marie Antoinette simply be Marie Antoinette?

And, exhale.

What is different between 18th century Versailles and 21st century America is the treatment of children’s sexuality. Adults both blue and red-blooded obsessed over Marie Antoinette as a sexual being. It’s tragic how her mother, Maria Theresa (Marianne Faithful) has fought for and keep the crown of the Holy Roman Empire as a woman and became the most powerful woman in Europe after Catherine the Great, only for her daughter to be trampled so easily. Coppola gets it right in this movie by actually showing the ‘people of France’s’ real problem with Marie Antoinette – that it dragged on before she was able to produce an heir. And how full the operating room was when Marie gave birth to, unfortunately, Therese. Also consider the hypocrisy of spying on adolescents’ bedroom action and the Christian notion of not talking about sex and not teaching the poor couple how to have sex.

Marie eventually becomes corrupted by this oversexualized society, having knowledge of her grandfather-in-law King Louis XIV’s (Rip Torn) affair with Du Barry. Marie then derides this fake aristocrat. In Coppola’s film, she unknowingly she becomes just like Du Barry, carrying out her own affair with the Swede.

Today, a 14 year old’s responsibility is his or her homework and some household chore. Marie, turning 14 when she did, has had a quick transition between childhood and adulthood, just like that insufficient carriage ride to the French border. At least two years into adulthood in that day’s standards, she has a responsibility that reminds her that she is still a second class citizen under Salic law. No wonder, as Coppola shows in the film, Marie regresses.

Flaw – The scene when Marie walks with Austrian Ambassador Mercy (Steve Coogan) and Therese in the gardens. The Princess du Lamballe (Mary Nighy) runs to the three and informs them of the Austrian Empress’s death. How did the Austrian ambassador not know that first?


In Roger Ebert‘s review of this film, his second point called Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette as ‘pitch-perfect casting.’ It’s not Interview with a Vampire, or to compare it to the other performances that year, she’s no Penelope Cruz. It’s wonderful watching Dunst’s face react to her husband King Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman) wolf down his food, or how her face reaches us through that infamous zoom out, saying a lot while standing still. Having to go across the palace to a private room where she could cry or fawn – a measured release of emotion from one place to another. Worn down after the deaths in her family. Her poised diplomatic voice as she talks to her husband’s cabinet and even to her own brother, the Holy Roman Emperor (Danny Huston). As some blog I used to read has said in defense of her performance, Dunst was obedient to Coppola’s vision.


But Melanie … Ralston … Is A Badass Too


I love how every stoner posits him or herself as a medical or legal expert, such as Melanie Ralston (Bridget Fonda) in Jackie Brown. You’ve had one of those in your social circle.

ph. Miramax/A Band Apart

Coughing’s good! It opens up the capillaries. You know, when you cough you’re pulling in air, or in this case – smoke, into parts of the lungs that don’t normally get used. So, coughing’s good, it gets you higher.

I mean, she’s white. She must have gone to college or something. And Fonda never hesitates nor clings on a word and just lets them fly out of her mouth with such certainty and security. While depicting drug addicts or questionables or damaged an actress can either go shrew or 33 variations of victim, and thankfully she’s neither.

For some reason, everybody watched Jackie Brown last Tuesday or Thursday nights when it was on at CBC at one in the morning. I only caught the last two hours of it, but I remember past viewings when Samuel L. Jackson shoots Chris Tucker. And by watching the rest, I guess I get the picture. I just love Bridget Fonda’s performance and character here so much. I’m not alone. She’s well-traveled, liberated, subversive. I had to blog her.

Quentin Tarantino is a great director in a technical side, deftly showing his audience the shot-counter shot relationship through Melanie, such as shot.

Counter shot.

Stop hating, Jackie.

Bechdel time!

Melanie?
Jackie?
Hey, girl, what’s up?
Hey, are you getting that suit?
Yeah. You like it?
It looks really good on you.
You got something for me?
You betcha.
I put a cherry on top. Booh-yah!

Good enough.

Melanie the character also has one of the greatest swan song in movies. Melanie started this precedent of women dying awesome in Tarantino’s oeuvre. O-Ren Ishii’s (Lucy Liu) decapitation, Elle Driver (Darryl Hannah) losing an eye, Bridget von Hammersmarck (Diane Kruger) getting strangled. For Melanie it all started with ‘Louisss…Lou-isss…’

And she gets shot. The end!


Do the Right Thing


ph. Universal

In the film about a scorching day and racial tensions in the Bedford-Stuvyesant neighborhood in Brooklyn, each character is capable of cruel acts, big or small. But they are nice too in their own volition. Da Mayor (Ossie Davis) places flowers on Mother Sister’s (Ruby Dee) window. Sal (Danny Aiello), an owner of a pizzeria, has a passive-aggressive rapport with his employee Mookie (Spike Lee) and a more flirtatious one with his sister Jade. Mookie, a dysfunctional dad, does his best when he’s visiting the Tina (Rosie Perez), the mother of his child.

So I don’t feel hatred towards Sal when he destroys Radio Raheem’s boom box. I also feel the same when Mookie turns against his boss. I’m not condoning these actions by any means, however. Spike Lee’s characters have these opposites within them, or more particularly, a hidden anger within a communal love. And when they act out and when the simple-minded rioter puts a picture of MLK and Malcolm in a wall previously occupied by pictures of Italian Americans, it  doesn’t seem like a victory. He changed up a wall on a burning building.

This movie’s also about a community that is constantly learning about its inner rules, or at least is in eternal limbo. Who’s allowed to live or to set up a business in the neighborhood? There are no set boundaries in this neighborhood but every character feels trespassed. Yet no one leaves. The conflict also isn’t about race as much as it is also inter-generational. Da Mayor tells the teenagers that knows their parents didn’t raise them to act disrespectfully. It’s the business owners and the two elders communicating with the young, or attempting to do so. Familial connections are made between characters who might be throwing stuff at each other in a few hours.

I only have three small issues with this movie, one bleeding into my issue with Spike Lee. First, the acting isn’t that solid, but then I’m talking about the bit roles who have to speak in a Toni Morrison-esque cadence. And a director who doesn’t care about his bit players is just like every other director before 1967. Besides, he can direct the hell out of Danny Aiello, and the rest of his main cast. Second, the garish look and red lighting of the film that makes it look like it was shot in a studio, but that only shows how he can get better in time. Third and most distracting of all, he can’t make a prologue and epilogue to save his life.


Blood, this time around


ph. Paramount Vantage/Miramax

The first thing the movie makes me remember is Daniel Day Lewis’ performance as Daniel Plainview. He’s all you see for the first fifteen minutes, even more. It’s funny that a performance mostly known for Day Lewis speaking through the roof of his mouth begins with silence. When he injures himself falling down his little oil well and has to go to a makeshift smelting office place thingy to give them his chunk of silver. He is lying down on the dusty field and seconds later we cut to the office and he’s still lying down, and the audience believes that he slithered his way there.

He asks about HW’s friend/future wife Mary. He then plays around with Mary and tells her that there will be no more hitting. Yet he can’t get no love from her since she feels so uncomfortable.

Also, is that Daniel’s feeling being hurt? He has feelings? He conveys the feeling knowing how distant he is from his real family without the gaping mouth that any amateur would. This scene also subverts Daniel’s image of a family man, an image that he tries to present in his business dealings and one that his competitors have eventually debunked. Yet he stitches his wounds and moves on.

There is subtlety and naturalism to Day Lewis’ work here. His reading of ‘why don’t I own that,’ for example. He makes business talk within a business themed film to be more interesting than it should. There’s also the first time he talks to the realtor, more hilarious since I know what he’s up to.

The movie frames him as a nicer, insecure yet misunderstood guy this time around, although the denouement makes the audience realize that he unfortunately just doesn’t know how to convey his niceness to other people.

I’ve always contended that Brad Pitt gave the best performance that year. The only other nominees I’ve seen are Depp and Viggo, who are worthy adversaries. I always believe in apples and oranges, but there’s something physical and direct about his Day-Lewis’ role and performance. He had a lot to do, did it, won an Oscar for it.

Speaking of performances, adult HW’s closeups are just as effective.

O hai Ciaran Hinds! In all honesty, I didn’t know who Ciaran Hinds was til last year. Oh, that makes it worse!

The movie operates in large strokes, Instead of plot revelations where one thing happens one minute after another, the film focuses on one main action that percolates within five to ten minutes. We see one thing and we see the consequences for the rest of an allotted time. Sometimes, like Daniels’ scene with adult HW, it develops through dialogue, while in others, when a derrick explodes, the film lets nature take control.

Some of its audience might be reductive their perception of a movie by saying it’s two and a half hours of fields or business talk. But the personalities within the movie, specifically Daniel and Eli (Paul Dano) makes it accessible. They declare instead of whisper. And so quotable!

A movie is funnier if you watch it with more people. ‘Just give me the water, Eli’ and ‘That was a hell of a show’ in that straightforward delivery was funnier, as well as every scene where Eli gets owned. I wasn’t laughing the first time I saw those violent moments, I felt Kubrickian shock. I first saw the movie at the VIP section. One of the employees asked me if what kind of food/drinks I wanted, but it was such an ascetic experience that I had to take seriously. This was in March 2008, or February, before the Oscars. This was the most important movie of all time and I couldn’t laugh at anything. This time, I was starving yet I could laugh.

I remember the blues and the warm colours. I should smack myself for forgetting the foliage depicted within the movie. I also don’t remember the movie being this dark looking. And how menacing the first shot is of the mountains. And the symmetry, of course.

And the music. The only ones I’ve retained are the ones in the beginning and its beehive effect and the Cormac-esque fiddle in the end, the latter I haven’t been able to find. I’ve listened to the soundtrack a lot, it gets me through winter. I tried to keep a mental note on which tracks were playing in which scenes.

I am also one of the few people who will defend Paul Dano’s performance, his Eli building on the foundations that Burt Lancaster has in “Elmer Gantry.” He’s supposed to be annoying and over the top. He’s also the reason we have such a bad impression of Daniel, popping up at the wrong time to ask for the money that Daniel already paid to Eli’s brother Paul (Paul Dano). He sermons like Elvis.

I waited two years to rewatch this movie, and it is the best way to rewatch is to let it gather dust instead of watching it to death. Although the movie still fails the Bechdel test.


A Streetcar Named Silent


(ph. Warner DVD)

Inspired by Nathaniel, Nick, and Tomas. My A Star is Born posts will be out when the movie plays in my rep theatre. ETA: This post is also now a part of Nathaniel’s ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot’ series.

I was screen capping A Streetcar Named Desire for my “Godfather” cast career post. Get some good caps of Brando, get out. Something really captivated me while skimming through this movie, because it felt like watching the frills and frenetic images of a silent movie at parts. Streetcar has that ‘silent’ German feel while the weaker On the Waterfront has Neorealist touches. East of Eden and Splendor in the Grass brings the crazy, which I like, but despite of how much I love them, I think colour drowns out the emotional punch that his black and white films had. [ETA: It’s been nine months since I wrote that sentence, I’m not sure if I agree with that now.]

The silent-era feel of the film was especially true when Vivien Leigh was on-screen. It helps since her character is a relic of the past, and the silent aesthetics compliment her. The camera captures her through overhead shots and full body long shots. It zooms and zeroes in her shamelessly as if Kazan wants us to feel her emotions by exposing her so closely on-screen. The mise-en-scene helped a lot into the mood of this film, enveloping Blanche with its draperies and decay.

This one. It was really hard to choose.

I’ve been ambivalent with the movie, since it was one of the first classic-era films I’ve been introduced to. I saw this before Gone with the Wind. The film astounded me on my first viewing, watching Leigh’s vulnerability and Brando’s wavelengths. Seeing Brando in a suit seems even scarier because he’s calm at the moment and the audience knows he’s just waiting to snap.

But then it’s dialogue-heavy, like most early film adaptations of plays, and I’m more of a visual guy and I didn’t appreciate what this movie did visually back then. And since it’s one of my first outings on classical film, I ran to iMDb and most of when were cheering for the film. There’s a few who deride her performance, although it’s clearly the best of the bunch.

I got around to reading the play and I interpreted the ‘following morning’ scene – when Blanche makes it seem that she’s encountering trash for the first time, specifically the lines where Blanche tells Stella that the latter has forgotten about Belle Rive – as more sorrowfully than Leigh and Kazan did (honestly, I’m probably not gonna be the most subtle director ever, and that’s why I don’t plan to become one). So there was a brief period of slight dislike there.

But then this last time I saw Leigh playing Blanche strong to protect her sister, worn out both physically and mentally, convulsing on the floor. None of that was fake. Enjoy the screen grabs.


Obsessed: Zodiac


(Make me wanna holler. ph. Paramount)

Maybe “Zodiac” is trying to show an alternative system in solving crime. There are always gonna be cold cases and the police cannot fully dedicate themselves to every unsolved crime. They’ll just find some seemingly altruistic nerd like Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) to ponder over dusty evidence. I was gonna call this transfer system perfect if it didn’t ruin families and if it didn’t end in a staring contest instead of an actual arrest and conviction.

The movie starts with a high angle wide shot of San Francisco in the Fourth of July while a croony male version “Easy To Be Hard,” a Broadway song about civil rights is playing, making the scene and the rest of the movie seem dangerous in a romantic way. We see the Transamerica Tower being built. “Zodiac” glides for a 160 minute movie about a serial killer, showing the passage of time with the same artistic hand used with depicting a man stuck in the past.

(Jesus Christ indeed)

This is the best David Fincher movie I’ve seen so far. It doesn’t have the blatant dialogue about morality in  “Se7en,” an element that can make a movie age like fish (but don’t mistake me, I like a lot of it). It doesn’t have the ‘shut up, Brad Pitt’ of “Fight Club,” although I like Brad Pitt everywhere else. “Zodiac” doesn’t declare itself as a great film like the other two, but watching this after two and a half or so years makes me feel like I found a hidden jewel.

(A better stalker than Edward Cullen)

Graysmith’s obsession is still seductive because it attempts to shatter  impartiality, especially that of police work. He tries to get into police stations and detective’s homes and yes, that’s annoying. But the typical police officer isn’t sadistic enough to say no. In his last conversation with David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo), he knows how to spin a tale and has done a lot of research on the suspect’s time line coinciding with the killings. Toschi tells him he can’t prove any of his speculations. He bravely replies that ‘Just because we can’t prove it doesn’t mean it’s not true.’

Lastly, why is John Carroll Lynch playing douche-y roles? He’s amazing here as Arthur Leigh Allen, and he’s serviceable as one of the guards in “Shutter Island.” I just miss the loveable husband from “Fargo.”