Tuesday, October 29, 2013

PREMIERE WEEK SUCKS! THE MUSICAL III: THE TRILOGY!!!!!!!!

(cough, cough, COUGH! COUGH!-COUGH!!!, clear throat, clear throat, COUGH! COUGH! COUGH!)

Well, I had planned to do my annual salute to the new network TV shows, "PREMIERE WEEK SUCKS!..." I had done that the past two years, here's the links to those:

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2011/09/tv-premiere-week-sucks-musical-and.html
http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2012/09/premiere-week-sucks-musical-ii-sequel_18.html

and as you all know, I've been unable to post, regularly for awhile, and it's practically November, some shows have already been cancelled, and I'll be honest everyone, I'm sick as hell, on top of everything else. So, I know I said this last year, and then did the damn thing anyway, but this time I swear, while I'd very much like to, I'm just not gonna do the "Premiere Week Sucks!" thing this year. Sorry guys.

Anyway, now that that's out of the way, I know a lot of people have been wanting for me to answer a few questions about the goings-on in the entertainment industry, like what I really think about Affleck playing Batman. Well-

ANNOUNCER
(Interrupting)
And now, the host of , "Premiere Week Sucks! The Musical III: The Trilogy!!!!!!!".

DAVID
What the hell?

ANNOUNCER
A guy who was a nobody until "Celebrity Apprentice". ARSENIOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO HALL!

(Arsenio Hall walks out from behind the curtain, which also reveals THE POSSE in to, playing music in to. Also revealed behind another curtain, the AUDIENCE. Arsenio walks towards the front of the stage, standing next to DAVID.) 

ARSENIO HALL
Thank you, thank you.

(Arsenio does his whoop-thing with his arm, as the music plays out. The audience joins in with him.) 

ARSENIO
Thank you. It is so good to be here.

DAVID
Yeah, I'm glad you're here, I was a huge fan of your back in the early nineties, but what are you doing here?

ARSENIO
Well, since you said you weren't gonna host this thing this year, they said I can do it.

DAVID
They?

ARSENIO
Yeah.

DAVID
Who's they?

ARSENIO
The people who run your blog.

DAVID
(Confused pause, laugh from audience)
What do you mean 'They'; I'm "They"! I run this blog!
(Coughs, coughs, coughs)

ARSENIO
Well, they said I can do it, and beside, I am a perfect representative of this new season of TV, 'cause basically, what this season is about, is people, returning to primetime TV after many years.

DAVID
Well, that, well, that is true actually, but who the hell invited-

ARSENIO
So, let's start with our first TV legend back on TV, Michael J. Fox.
(Arsenio grabs a microphone)
Hit it Posse!

DAVID
And since when can you sing?

(Posse plays theme song to "Family Ties)

ARSENIO
Secret talent.

DAVID
Alright, "Family Ties", I get it.

ARSENIO
(Singing in tune to song)
What would you do, baby, without Fox.
What would you do, baby, without Fox.
It's his one last chance, before
he drops dead soon.

DAVID
(Interrupting)
Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Stop the music!

(Posse stops playing)

ARSENIO
What?

DAVID
What the hell man, that wasn't funny. Making fun of his illness, c'mon!

ARSENIO
He's still around, he's making it work.

DAVID
C'mon Arsenio, you were never this dark?

ARSENIO
Alright, you're right, that was a little mean How about another returning TV legend.

DAVID
Sure. Who? Sean Hayes?

ARSENIO
Andy Samberg

DAVID
What?!
(Coughs, coughs)

(Posse plays classic "Dragnet" opening bars.)

ARSENIO
This is the city. Brooklyn Ninety-Nine?

DAVID
(Interrupting)
That's not the title.

ARSENIO
He co-wrote "Motherlover" and "Dick in a Box" with Justin Timberlake.
Now he works with a retired Control Agent 99, Barbara Feldon as they solve crime at the most dangerous police station in Brooklyn.

DAVID
Dude, that's not the show. It's "Brooklyn, Nine-Nine", not "99", and Barbara Feldon has nothing to do with it. And why didn't you pick Andre Braugher, he's the famous returning actor on the show.

ARSENIO
Who?

DAVID
Andre Braugher? "Homicide", "Gideon's Crossing", "Men of a Certain Age"?

ARSENIO
Never heard of him.

DAVID
He was on your show two weeks ago?

ARSENIO
I don't think so.

(Audience laughing, long delayed pause)

DAVID
(Clears throat)
Seriously, what are you doing-. Oh-kay, who else is returning.

ARSENIO
How about Allison Janney?

DAVID
Absolutely, 4-time Emmy Winner, "The West Wing", she's working on Chuck Lorre's new show, with Anna Faris.

ARSENIO
That's right.

(Posse plays "Two and a Half Men" theme)

ARSENIO
Drunk, drunk, drunk, drunk-drunk eh drunk.

DAVID
WHOA!

ARSENIO
Chuck Lorre's got another show, about drunks.

DAVID
Posse stop please!

(Posse stop playing)

DAVID
Who the hell wrote all this? Cause it wasn't frigging you.

ARSENIO
It's your blog dude?

DAVID
I'm not doing this!!!!! Why are we making fun of a guy's alcoholism?

ARSENIO
Why does he keep making shows about drunks?

DAVID
'Cause he's an alcoholic, that's what he knows how to write about? And, "The Big Bang Theory" was a fluke, I guess. I don't know, okay? But no more making fun of Parkinson's no more making fun of people. Okay, this isn't about bashing the people, this is about bashing the television shows themselves. Here give me the mike, let me show you.

(Arsenio hands David the microphone)

DAVID
Posse, give me "The X-Files" theme.

(Posse starts playing "The X-Files" theme song)

DAVID
Joss Whedon's back on TV
X-Files meets stupid superhero thing.
His fans are gonna love it
No matter what I say.
Glad Clark Gregg's back on TV
(Not singing next line)
Remember, "The New Adventures of Old Christine". No? Forget it?
(Back to singing)
But isn't he dead or maybe not
I guess it don't matter anyhow
But then why the hell, do you watch?

(Song ends)

DAVID
See, that's what we're doing, we're making fun of how bad the shows are, we're not going after the people.

ARSENIO
Okay, I think I get it. Alright, how about this?

(Posse plays "My Two Dads" theme.)

DAVID
Where the hell'd you pull that theme song from?

ARSENIO
There's two dads on "Dads"
But it's not like "My Two Dads"
Although it's just as bad
How'd this get on the air
Stick with animation Seth
We love you, yes we do.
When everybody said your Oscars sucked
We defended you, we did
But "Dads" really sucks.
Stick to talking Dogs
And why ruin Mull, Green and Ribisi career's too.

(Music stopped early)

Okay, we couldn't get that to completely match.

DAVID
That's okay, that's the idea. And kudos, on the Posse, for getting the "My Two Dads" theme at all, that was awesome; I didn't expect that. Round of applause for that one.

(Audience applause)

ARSENIO
Who else is back on TV? Tony Shalhoub, "Monk", "Wings", legendary actor-

DAVID
Um, Arsenio, his show was already cancelled?

ARSENIO
So, we can't make fun of it?

DAVID
Well, if you want to beat a dead horse, go ahead, but I don't see the point.

ARSENIO
Alright, fair enough. "The Millers"?

DAVID
Oh, Will Arnett and Margo Martindale?

ARSENIO
Yeah.
(Long pause)
I got nothing.

DAVID
Me neither. Posse, you guys got anything? No.

(Posse shakes heads 'no'.)

DAVID
Yeah, it's not that's it's good or bad, but there's nothing there. Making fun of it is like hitting a helium balloon with a pinata stick.

ARSENIO
Yeah.

DAVID
Oh, "The Goldbergs", lots of people returning to TV on that show. George Segal. Wendy McClendon-Covey, and Jeff Garlin.

ARSENIO
Oh, Curb!

DAVID
Yeah.

(Posse starts playing "Curb Your Enthusiasm" theme)

DAVID
Wait a minute- no. That's too easy, besides the whole show is about the '80s. We gotta a quintessential '80s theme song.
(Pulls out a coin)
Alright, heads for "Charles in Charge", tails for "Perfect Strangers"

(Coin flips and lands on stage) 

DAVID
Heads it is.

ARSENIO
Alright.

(Posse plays theme to "Charles in Charge")

Goldbergs is a show, about the '80s.
A family sitcom, from, not like Molly Goldberg's.

DAVID
The really good TV buffs get that joke.

ARSENIO
We didn't want it, but it's on.
Who wants to remember back then anyway?
But we got "The Goldbergs", "The Goldbergs" on ABC.

DAVID
We weren't really giving that one our all, were we?

ARSENIO
No, not really.

DAVID
Okay, you know, honestly, this isn't the worst season when it comes to premiere week, so we are only half-into it this year.

ARSENIO
No, it is a decent year.

DAVID
Well, all the dramas suck.

ARSENIO
Yes. Why people are watching that "Sleepy Hollow", "The Blacklist" crap. Although I do love James Spader.

DAVID
Yeah, but who doesn't?

ARSENIO
Of course, who else is returning?

AUDIENCE
Robin Williams!

DAVID
What?

AUDIENCE
Robin Williams!

(Audience starts cheering) 

DAVID
Robin.

ARSENIO
Yeah, he's back on TV too.

DAVID
Yeah, Mork back on TV. You're right, if we're only going to do, one more song, about how "Premiere Week Sucks", we really should do it, for his new show, "The Crazy Ones".

ARSENIO
Sarah Michelle Gellar's on that show, too.

DAVID
Her too, but it's Robin friggin' Williams! Right?

ARSENIO
Right.

DAVID
So, "Trophy Wife"?

ARSENIO
Yeah.

(Posse plays "The Brady Bunch" theme song)

DAVID
Here's the story, of that guy from "West Wing"
He's a lawyer with 3 kids from 2 wives.
Two are twins, and one's Chinese.
And that's his life.

ARSENIO
(Also singing)
Here's the story of a flirty nymph.
She was on "The Comeback", but nobody saw it.
So she's been doing films, like "Watchmen"
That's Malin's life.

DAVID & ARSENIO
Now the one day, the lawyer, found this lady.
Well, lady's pushing it, she's pretty much a girl.
In Hollywood, this would be, a normal marriage
But on TV, she's his "Trophy Wife"

(David and Arsenio do a couple dance steps to end the show, as the Posse finishes the song. Audience cheers, David and Arsenio shake hands and end.) 

DAVID
Thank you, Arsenio!

(LAWYER'S NOTE: No celebrities, or Arsenio Hall's or "The Posse" were apart or members of any such performance of "Premiere Week Sucks! The Musical III: The Trilogy". Furthermore, no such project ever existed, and had it existed, no Arsenio Hall or The Posse or friends/family thereof, were coerced, blackmailed, kidnapped, or in any other way forced to participate in the production against their will. The production that doesn't exist. Thank you.)

And to end this production, I thought I'd freak out some of the younger "The Big Bang Theory" fans; so here's Amy Farrah Fowler, doing a couple cartwheels and dancing in embarrassing clothes, with a strange theme song. Enjoy!















Saturday, October 26, 2013

MOVIE REVIEWS #75: PART 1: "AMOUR", "KON-TIKI", "MUD", "GINGER & ROSA", "SPRING BREAKERS", "WHAT MAISIE KNEW", "SOMETHING IN THE AIR", "DON'T STOP BELIEVIN': EVERYMAN'S JOURNEY", "GRACELAND", and "EVOCATEUR: THE MORTON DOWNEY JR. MOVIE"!

Well, I was hoping to have more reviews finished before I posted this, but, I recognize that I have to get around to posting these. I've been vague about the circumstances that have kept me from posting at my regular speed for awhile now, so I figured I owe some piece of explanation to all of you, so to be a little less vague, my family, got in a fight with our old landlord. I'm not gonna go into all the details, because it's been continually devolving, but they basically were determined to kick us out of the house, and while eventually we did, the case is currently going through the courts. In the meantime, we didn't have a place to stay, nor did we have much money, so for about a week or so, we stayed at multiple hotels, until finally, we started moving into another place. I say we, but I was stuck at the (m/h)otels during most of this time, watching my autistic brother, and unable to get online regularly. Speaking of getting online regularly, we had both a Netgear to get on the internet with, which wasn't perfect, but certainly very good, and we also had an internet hookup as well. The internet hookup however, was lost in the move, because, and I won't go into too deeply about this, but basically, the person who originally bought the internet hookup, in a separate situation, he took the internet back. Unfortunately, where we moved, there wasn't any public internet hookups at our new location, and we're considerably broke right now, but we're trying to pay our bills, and buy a new internet service. We tried one that seemed to work, and we liked, but the deal we realized too late, cost us too much money. So, while I was able to get online at a more regular pace recently, we're now back to square one. In case some of you are wondering, the other internet service we had was Clear, and I loved it. It was relatively cheap, plus it worked. Unfortunately, in one of dozens of signs of Mercury being in retrograde this week, and screwing us over every chance we get, Clear was recently bought by Sprint, so we can't get the deal we used to. (If you have a current Clear contract, I highly recommend you guys keep it btw.) So, we're back at square one. I still have a second batch, and possibly too batch of movie reviews I have to write on (Hey, it was all I could really do during this time) so this won't be the greatest written of reviews probably, but I decided that I have to post something. So, this is what I finished in time to post today; I still have about another dozen films to go. Hopefully they'll be posted soon than later, and I may be posting other blogs that I've been wanting to post ASAIC.

So, again, sorry or all the friggin' delays, believe me, nobody's more frustrated about them as I am. Anyway, here's the first batch of my latest edition of my RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEWS! Hope you all enjoy them!

AMOUR (2012) Director: Michael Haneke

✰✰✰✰✰



Shortly before I started writing this review, I changed my autistic brother's diaper for the, however-many-nth time today, 3rd or 4th I guess. I give it, 5-1 odds that I'll have to change him again before I finish writing this review. That's not a subject I normally care to discuss, especially during a movie review as, I'm a firm believer that the power and importance of how entertainment can help us transcend our lives cannot be undervalued or overappreciated, but it certainly was something that crossed my mind, many times, while watching "Amour", the latest from director Michael Hanake. Hanake's known, for never making the same movie twice, purposefully switching genre, look, storytelling structure, and style with each film. His previous film was "The White Ribbon", a black and white film about Germany post-WWI, showing the way the seeds of Nazism were planted in the country, after destruction and blame for the war. His film "Cache", about a celebrity who's been stalked with hidden cameras that are spying on him, is often regarded as one of the best films of the last decade, but my favorite film of his is "The Piano Teacher", about a sexually repressed older woman, who tries to instigate an S&M relationship with a teenage student of hers. "Amour" won the Foreign Language Oscar, and became the first Foreign film to earn a Best Picture nomination since "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," in 2000. "Amour", of course is French for love, and the film is aptly titled, although it'll seem ironically so to some. The movie begins with a long shot reminiscent of the famous last scene in "Cache", with a long shot of an audience at a classical music performance. We soon meet former music teachers and still relevent socialites Georges and Anne (Jean-Louis Trintignant and Oscar-Nominee Emmanuelle Riva [You might remember him as the old judge in Kieslowski's "Red" and her from "Hiroshima Mon Amour"]. Right now, as old as they are, they're relatively modern, but then, very suddenly, Anne has a stroke, and then a surgery goes wrong, and is paralyzed on one side of her body. Georges now has to watch and look over her, day and night. Helping her on and off the toilet and the wheelchair, help exercise her legs and get her spirits up as she recovers, and for awhile, it seems like she is. Old successful students come to visit, as does their daughter Eva (Isabelle Huppert), but Anne's physical, and worse, her mental decline, begin to take their toll. I've always felt that there's nothing worse than losing your personality and sense of humor, and strokes really do that to people, of all ages. "Amour" is about the love that two people have for each other, and how that "For better or worse" getting put to the test, is really the standard of a relationship. I'm certainly recommending it, for the great acting and directing and Hanake, he got an Oscar Nomination for Directing as well, and there is spectacular precision to his work. I don't think it's his best film, but it's certainly powerful. It's strange to think, how it effected the audiences however, and got the Oscar nominations, 'cause I don't think it's the most entertaining film, but also, there's other films like this before, and hindsight, I don't know if I'd rank it as high as some people have. That said, with Hanake's films, there always a taste distinction involved, because he's switching genres so radically, and I think it's hard to pin which of his films are the most special; he's one of the few directors, who I think favorites do determine which are his best films for some. I guess part of this criticism is that the movie doesn't feel like a new story or a telling of it, to me, but it's a very good telling of it though. So, as technical masterpiece, I think it's excellant, and I certainly was effected by much of "Amour", but if I'm completely honest, there is something holding me back from completely embracing it, and after careful thought, I think it has to do, with the ending, as well as the opening sequences that tell us the ending essentially at the beginning. The very beginning and the very end of the film, don't quite work for me, but it's on a very high of level of criticism that I have discrepancies about it, so other than that though, this is a great film.

KON-TIKI (2012) Director: Joachim Ronning & Espen Sandburg

✰✰✰✰1/2



Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee, "Kon-Tiki", from Norweigan Directors Ronning & Sandburg, did manage to surprise me, as one of the more entertaining films I've seen in a while. It's a classic story, and it's told in a classical way. Very classical, the story was actually depicted in the Oscar-winning documentary of the same title back in '51, and is about Thor Heyerdarhl (Pal Sverre Hagen), who had a daring scientific theory that Polynesia was populated by the Ancient Incas, and not, as most people believed then, (and now) by Asians. In order to prove this theory, after years of being unable to get published, decided to prove his theory by sailing from Peru to Polynesia on a balsa wood raft, using only the techniques used back in the 5th Century, a journey of over 5,000 miles. He teams with a engineer-turned-refrigerator salesman Herman Watzinger (Anders Baasmo Christiansen) to team up, and finally gets financial backing from the President of Peru, with his wife Liv (Agnes Kittelsen) and kids at home, the movie turns into one of those, man against nature epic journey films, and it's a good one. Technically, the movie looks incredible, this has some of the most underrated cinematography of the year. The film takes place, nearly entirely on the raft, yes, similar to "Life of Pi," and there's a lot of the same kind of wonder, the electric fish, the flying fish, plenty of near-misses with bloodthirsty sharks, and of course, the fragility of the raft, as well as the struggles of shooting film out there, 'cause if you think that's hard now to shoot footage from the middle of the Pacific Ocean, imagine then. Despite knowing the ending, the skill level of this film, and the fact that it's just a good story to begin with, really transformed this movie, and from a deconstructionist perspective, it's a great piece of classic entertainment. I imagine the documentary is probably more impressive, I'm gonna definitely look into after watching the film, but I gotta say, overall, I wasn't expecting to like "Kon-Tiki", so much as I was watching it, and I have surprised at just how much I really did get into the film, so a big recommendation for me. Also, Hagen's single-minded performance as Heyerdahl, is also quite special impressive, and overlooked. Some of the parts might be better than the whole, but it's still a lot of good parts in "Kon-Tiki", and it's very clear to see why it got the Foreign Language Oscar nomination.

MUD (2013) Director: Jeff Nichols

✰✰✰✰1/2



Jeff Nichols's has quietly and suddenly taken David Gordon Green's place as the master of southern gothic filmmaking as Green's gone off to work under Judd Apatow & Friends. I've been more technically impressed with his work than personally since his debut "Shotgun Stories", as well as his last film the quixotic and mystical "Take Shelter". All his films have a similar feel to them, but strangely when I look back, all the of them are quite different. "Mud" feels like it could've been directed by someone like Robert Mulligan after he made "To Kill a Mockingbird", and also feels like it could've taken place anytime before or since that book was written. It also seems to arken back to everything from mid-'80s kid dramas like "Stand By Me," to the early work of Terrence Malick, even so far back as "Tom Sawyer". The two kids in the film are Ellis and Neckbone (Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland). Ellis is a little bit older and wiser, and has started to notice girls, but still scours the nearby woods, where the two kids came across a boat, in a tree. Up high in a tree. That image surreal and strange enough, until they realize someone is living there. The someone is simply named Mud (Matthew McConaughey), and he's some kind of ex-local rogue figure that makes a deal with the kids to help him out occasionally, in return, they can have the boat as their secret hiding place when he leaves. It's hard to describe Mud completely, although I think it helps to learn that Nichols wrote the role especially for McConaughey, and he seems to fit this part more naturally than other recent ones of his. Soon enough, the forces that are coming after Mud start swarming, from town and from out-of-town, and his past starts getting slowly revealed, but all of it surrounds another local girl who's come back to town, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon, in her best role in years) who he's been chased, and led Mud on and/or fallen in love with him for years now, and is essentially the cause for all Mud's problems, or at least the catalyst, but she's in town now, shopping at the Piggly Wiggly and staying at a motel, waiting for word from Mud, which eventually makes Neckbone and Ellis the go-between for them, which helsp keeps others off the trail. "Mud", is very well-acted and really good at letting us into this world. There's some great quiet supporting works from people like Sam Shepherd, Sarah Paulsen, Ray McKinnon and Michael Shannon. The film is intense and seems to exist in that world of classic American mythology, and honestly, that's always what's held me back a bit from truly embracing Nichols as a truly great young filmmaker. He's very good at telling great stories, but I think he struggles when it comes to putting them in a greater context and sparks of originality; similar directors like a Ramin Bahrani for example, seem to tell stories that I haven't seen before, and with characters I haven't seen. "Mud" is a little too classical for me personally. Oh, I'm definitely recommending it, it's a really standout film, especially for the hour and a half or so, although I think it lost a way a bit at the end, by going with a more, legend-filled ending, but the talents cannot be underestimated. He may not tell stories perfectly, but you're watching and paying attention every step of the way. So, I didn't like a twist or turn here or there; I was interested enough to get to the twist and turns, and that's what Nichols is great at.

GINGER & ROSA (2013) Director: Sally Potter

✰✰✰✰1/2



As I struggle to write some of these reviews this week, reviews of many films that I saw, a little earlier than I would've prefered to have watched then I'd normally prefer to start writing about movies, I start looking through other movie reviews of some of these films, to refresh a few memories of some of these films, usually particular plotpoints to help refresh my memory. (Hey, I watch a lot of movies, even when I'm not weeks behind on my blog, and they aren't all "Gone with the Wind", some of them you have to think back on.) That said, occasionally sometimes I find out something or realize something later about a movie that makes me think about it in a different way. I'm a huge fan of Sally Potter's work to begin with, her last film "Yes", which was written and acted in Shakespearean iambic verse about a modern-day affair between an British politician's wife and an exiled Lebanese doctor, is a masterpiece. Yet, while I greatly admired and appreciated her latest film "Ginger & Rosa", after reading the late Roger Ebert's review of the film, I noticed a piece of information that completed startled me about the film. That information, was Elle Fanning's age when she made the film. She plays 17 and older in the film, and I frankly just presumed that,- well, I had lost track of how old the younger Fanning is, and figured she's grown up quickly. No, she's 13. If you would've told me she was thirty and playing younger I would've bought it, and that's a compliment about her talent, btw. Fanning is Ginger, and her and her best friend Rosa (Alice Englert) are close. It's the early '60s in England, and the threat of nuclear war is very real and emminent. Ginger's father Roland (Alessandro Nivolo) is an adament philosopher, against nuclear war, as well as much of the traditional ways of the '50s world, much to the chagrin of his wife Natalie (Christina Hendricks). She's a stay-at-home Mom, who has little outside world knowledge, so their divorce is particularly disheartening. Rosa's father left years ago and she disregards her mother Anhoushka (Jodhi May) and is far more wilder both personality and experiencewise than Ginger, more independent as well. Roland goes off into his liberal circle of friends and elites and Ginger gets caught up in the anti-nuclear annihilation protests, obsessively so in fact. Rosa, gets closer and closer to Roland and his movement. Ginger also begins struggling to remain on good terms with her mother, and her political obsession and belief in the near end of the Earth, begin to blind her about events that are really going on, and an act of betrayal sends her spiraling. "Ginger & Rosa", is essentially another one of those films about the friendship between two teenage girls, but there's so much more to the film, much more than even it lets on at times. There's strong supporting work from Annette Bening, Oliver Platt, and especially Timothy Spall as leftist friends of the family, and there's a lot of other things going on, and this coming of age film is as much about the age as it is th echaracters, but the spectacular acting and script, really propels the film. Especially Fanning's performance, who most of the film's character is seen through, and it's the more amazing considering her age. It's almost scary how talented that family is, this could be award-winning performance if people took up and noticed, especially considering, how tricky it is to take on a Sally Potter project, you need great actors even in small roles to take on her projects. That said, this is Alice Englert's first acting role; she's Jane Campion's daughter, and that's an impressive debut as well, even if it's not as thorough her counterpart, but still, this film, keeps growing on me, the farther away I get from it, and it remains powerful. The last shot, a long-take two-shot, of Ginger and Roland, it has some voiceover, and very little dialogue, but it's an absolutely perfect shot and ending for this film. There's a lot of really impressive work in "Ginger & Rosa" at work here.

SPRING BREAKERS (2013) Director: Harmony Korine

✰✰✰



I never went to Spring Break, for any of my eight years of college, (I know, [sigh]) and oddly, I didn't know too many who did actually. The few who did, came in two varieties, the kind who can do anything and get straight A's without worries, and the kind who were doomed to dropout, and you wonder how they ever got through high school. Either way, Spring Break has become a far bigger and more- I was about to say "glamourized", but that doesn't sound like the right word. Exploited, it's become more exploitive over the recent decades, probably since MTV first started taking it over, eh, who-the-hell-knows when. Eh, I remember Joey Lawrence was still on "Blossom," so at least 20 years ago and, it's really become a quintessential part of the pop culture, and some people, yes, they take it a little more literally and to heart than others; that it's more than just a brief vacation before Easter. "Spring Breakers", the latest film from Harmony Korine, who famously wrote "Kids" when he was a teenager, is about that "Spring Broke" delusion of Spring Break, that we see before, during and after the Girls Gone Wild cameraman wake up and go home. The four girls at the core of this movie, are Faith (Selena Gomez), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson) and Cotty (Rachel Korine), and they're a little short on cash, and transportation to get to Spring Break. They're college students who spend their time in college, getting laid, or thinking about getting laid, or doing strange girls things in what will generously be called "sleeping wear" that''s patently erotic in the same way a baby voice from an adult woman is, or some people think it is. Well, one of them, Faith is religious, and consults her youth pastor (Pro wrestler Jeff Jarrett, and is it just me, or is there more strange pro wrestlers cast in movies than ever before?) before getting coerced into joining her sisters on the trip down to Florida. A trip that was financed by a little robbery and grand theft auto. (Actual auto theft, not the video game. [The things I feel the need to clarify nowadays]) At first, it's an amazing experience. A spiritual and orgasmic,- whatever that they seem to see or think they see, in this experience of everlasting parties, boozing, drugs and sex. The images reflected upon me, the well known photography series "Spring Broke" by Nathaniel Welch, Steve Appleford and Evan Wright, which depicted Spring Break is a much more realistic light. It might be natural for me to see things that way, given my more third person perspective on parties, even when I'm in the middle of them, but I think in this case, I have the correct perception. So does Korine I think, and that leads to the second half of the film, which is practically an entire different film,beginning with the four girls getting arrested after a motel party got raided. Surprisingly a gangster/rapper named Alien (James Franco, under all those dreadlocks and gold teeth) bails them out, and promises them an experience if they stick around, and a religious-like belief that the Utopia/Caligula of Spring Break, can really exist, forever. That sentence had a lot of big words, but basically, after enough footage of tits, beers and beer being poured onto tits, "Spring Breakers" become a gangster movie as rival gangsters head towards a shootout, and things get very real in that week. Faith, leaves early, suspecting the worse. A second only leaves after she gets caught up in crossfire, and the other two.... Well, I can't give the whole thing away, but watch it and make with it what you wish. I'm not sure what Korine's saying with this, other than, unfortunately doing what he does best, for the first half of the film, depicting the real behavior of teenagers and young people, or at least this drastic behavior that's seriously disturbing. I don't know what to make of the second half, I suspect that he simply needed to add a story so this deus ex machima of Alien was created. For what it's worth though, Franco's performance is mesmerizing in the role, possibly Oscar-worthy. What to make of "Spring Breakers"? It's certainly is provocative enough to insist on making us confront the question of this hedonistic ritual that you can find fairly equivalent events occurring every other day in Vegas if you know where to look or go. (Maybe another reason I'm more underwhelmed by Spring Break than others) I just don't have an answer. Korine's points are well-made and his vision is certainly uncompromising and memorable, as always. I am tempted to separate the movie into two halves the spring break half, and the gangster half, because judging this film in its entirety is somewhat more difficult. Whatever it is "Spring Breakers" has to be seen, whether documentary, warning, expose, or just another out-of-control vacation disguised as a new lifestyle choice, that's really just an old one that failed many many times before, "Spring Breakers" refuses to let you be a passive viewer. I'll recommend it for that, although I don't know what that amounts to. I'm not sure what these coeds think it amounts to either, but it whatever they think it is, it's less.


WHAT MAISIE KNEW (2013) Directors: Scott McGehee and David Seigel

✰✰✰✰✰




A reinterpretation of the Henry James novel, "What Maisie Knew", is one of the better movies I've seen about divorce and separation, especially from the kid's perspective. And it sticks with that kid's perspective, as the title indicates, the main character is Maisie (Onata Aprile, in her feature-film debut) the seven-year-old daughter of Susanna and Beale (Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan). He's some sort of music executive who's job requires constant overseas travel, and Susanna is a rock'n'roll singer, and before I go any further there's a few things I have to praise about this film. First, the script, is spectacular. The way this scripts write the dialogue of the characters, and the way and moments when the Maisie character, hears these outpouring of anger and random flippant-ness and, just the tone of, those moments when a kid first realizes that the parents talk and treat you differently, then maybe they actually are or behave, is really spot-on. This begins with the script, moves secondly into the directing for knowing the ways to shoot some of these scenes. The directing team of McGehee & Seigel, aren't the most well-known household names; it's only the second film of there's I've seen after "Bee Season", from a few years ago, a movie I did like that was also about a child's perspective on a family that's in crisis, a very different film but that seems to be a common theme for them. The third thing, is the acting of the film, and there are four great performances in this film, by the main supporting characters. Beale, quickly marries the family's nanny, Margo (Joanna Vanderham) a move that Susanna isn't even aware of until Maisie goes to Beale's house for the week, and she's living there, and they're talking about a cruise honeymoon. In a quick response to Beale marrying a trophy wife, Susanna marries Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgard), a nice bartender, who was hanging out at one of those parties adults try to throw when the kids are supposedly in bed. I don't know whether to give too much away going forward here, but essentially what's happening to Maisie is that, there's two parents who do love her, but for really aren't capable of taking care of her, despite their best efforts. Beale travels too much to even take care of his new wife, much less a kid, and Susanna's preparing a new tour. What I really liked about how good the film is that, Maisie isn't used as a pawn here. The parents are in fact, fighting each other, and sabotaging each other if possible, but Maisie's merely a witness, who doesn't fully understand what's going on, and the two parents are trying to do what's best, but failing badly, and Maisie can only understand so much of these developments, between these four characters. And they are characters, everybody gets moments to shine as actors here, yet they are all supporting, and the way the movie does has certain character seem prevalent, then leave the movie, and brings new ones in...- There's a lot going on, and it's a great film! Coogan has a great scene at a restaurant, Julianne Moore is always great of course, this is a spectacular performance of hers, and she's got great scenes, and Skarsgard and Vanderham, they seem like the less juicy roles, and the less well-known actors (Skarsgard plays Eric on "True Blood", and this is my introduction to Vanderham's work) but they're very critical parts that have to be played very well, for us to care as much about them as we do. It's also one of those movies, where, you're constantly worried about certain possible cliched and/or bad plot developments, or having them done poorly or undercutting the film entirely if possible. I mean, you're counting it down and you're worried, "Don't do this, don't do this, here...." I won't give away my thoughts, but they don't do the things that could've that others films might've done. Really, across the board, I was incredibly impressed with "What Maisie Knew", this is a special film. Very highly recommending it.


SOMETHING IN THE AIR (2013) Director: Olivier Assayas

✰✰1/2



(Defeated breath) I know I'm overloaded with films this week, and for the immediate future as well, and certain things are gonna slip through the cracks of my mind, and go in one ear, and right out the other. That said, filmmaking and a filmmaker's job should be to make sure that that doesn't happen as best as he can. Olivier Assayas's film "Something in the Air", yeah, it's not the worst movie by any means, I'm sure there's stuff I liked about it while watching it. He's made decent movies in the past, like "Summer Hours", but boy, (Swoosh, hand flies over my head) I mean, to make the '60s this forgettable? In Paris? Like everywhere else, there was a thought a revolution was in the air, and the movie follow a group of students and youngsters who were apart of the protests and strikes that riddled the country as Charles de Gaulle's government and officials, were caught in the crossfire, fighting both the trade union and the students. The after-effects were certainly memorable, but the movie is more about the waifing and disorientation of these students who struggle to find their paths and continue the revolution. That's the thing, why the movie is completely forgettable, the characters themselves are too distracted and barely present. The movie is aptly titled, "Something in the Air". That's a common refrain from the era, but like the movie, it isn't clear what or even why. Maybe that was the disillusionment of the time, but the characters should still have a more profound purpose, and the era, should just be setting, and not the point of the film to document it. It may document it well, but I couldn't care, and I'm not sure anybody else could either. Director Olivier Assayas, is a decent director; I enjoyed his film "Summer Hours", which had as much talking and meandering, but it made sense in the film, had a reason, and wasn't what the film was about. "Something in the Air," is incredibly well made, but has absolutely none of that. If someone asks me about "Something in the Air" in the future, I'll probably respond, "Is there"? or "Really, what is?" or "What do you mean?".

DON'T STOP BELIEVIN': EVERYMAN'S JOURNEY (2013) Director: Ramona S. Diaz

✰✰✰✰



Arnel Pineda realizes just what kind of strange and bizarre luck he's had. Back in 2008, after a previous failed singing career in Hong Kong, the Filipino cover song singer in Manilla was seen on Youtube, by one of the members of Journey. They flew him in from Manilla, and had him tryout, and sure enough, after a few sessions, he became their unlikely new lead singer for their latest tour and albums. I won't name names here, but I know a guy, who's a member of a band, that's- let's just say very professional in the way they go about music, and the business of music. I run into him occasionally and talk shop, and last time, he talked about replacing their band's lead singer, and how they had already picked the guy, jetted him out to Hawaii for a few weeks, while gigs and contracts with the current singer were exorcised, and gave him more legal paperwork to sort through than you can imagine. Anyway, he talked about the misperception of the importance of a lead singer in a rock band. It's a common misbelief that the singer is the core and essence of a bad, when in reality, they're fairly replaceable, as dozens of examples through history can be assured. That said, some lead singers are harder to replace than others. Steve Perry is a good example, and Journey replaced him multiple times now. They're in a bit of a bigger bind than most bands, because Perry's voice was so popular and distinctive that replicating it is a challenge, and if they have to go halfway around the world to find a voice that can, well- apparently they'll do it. "Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey", is the story of Pineda, who came out for his first performance like a Jagger/Bruce Lee/Steve Perry firework in Chile in front of 20,000 people, and then slowly found his niche and spot in the legendary rock band. It's also another behind-the-scenes of a major tour-type films, and it's a good one. Pineda's story is one of the most interesting in recent rock history, and seeing this nobody-turned-folk hero to millions, frankly a good story, a good guy, it's enough for a good movie. The music and his singing doesn't hurt. It's a nice, feel-good story. I'm fond of the part where Arnel meets the guy who replaced Chicago's lead singer backstage, and they start swapping tales about joining world-famous rock bands, and replacing legendary members. Pineda might be an unlikely rock star, but he's a rock star now, and good for him. He's talented, he deserves it. Amazing what youtube can do these days.

GRACELAND (2013) Director: Ron Morales

✰✰✰✰



When I read the description of "Graceland", on netflix.com, which states, "When criminals accidentally abduct the daughter of chauffeur Marlon Villar (Arnold Reyes), instead of the daughter of his longtime boss Manuel Chango (Menggie Cobarrubias), a corrupt Filipino politician, Marlon finds himself caught up in a nightmare of deception and betrayal." I figured, "Hmm, worst case scenario, it's a remake of Kurosawa's "High and Low", so it can't be that bad. Well, it's not exactly a remake of "High and Low", but it's certainly not bad. When the kidnappping happens, Manuel's daughter Sophie (Patricia Gayod) is killed during the kidnapping, as the kidnappers thought they were killing Marlon's daughter. There's some quick thinking however, once they realize their mistake and convince Marlon to keep quiet about Sophie's death, or his daughter Elvie (Ella Guevara) will be killed. So, he now, in order to save his daughter's life, has to make it seem like Maniel's daughter is the one alive, and that his is killed, at least until the ransom is paid. The movie isn't about the whodunit, or the howyacatchem, but the personal struggle for Marlon, who's actually devoted to his boss, but can't jeopardize his or his family's future, but he's put in multiple no win situations that have to play out. There's more to the film, like the actions of Manuel, and how he inspired the kidnappers to go to such violent and drastic lengths. Still, if you took a lot of this away, the style of the movie feels more action-influenced than psychological after awhile, and I think that's a misstep from Director Ron Morales; it's his second film as a director, and yes, he is Filipino, despite the Spanish-sounding name. (Spain once occupied the islands many years ago, they have an unusual amount of influence in the coutnry.) There isn't too much else to say about the film. It eventually becomes little more than a good bu typical film, but for most of it, it's edge-on-your-seat excitement, so I'm definitely recommending it. Good film by a good young filmmaker, but not much more than that.

EVOCATEUR: THE MORTON DOWNEY JR. MOVIE (2013) Directors: Seth Miller, Daniel A. Miller and Jeremy Newburger

✰✰✰✰



(Sly smile, chuckle under breath) Well, well. One of those reminders that, there really isn't anything that's truly new in television. I will be dating myself a bit here, but I actually do remember Morton Downey Jr. Not so much the original and most fascination incarnation of his groundbreaking talk show, but some of the later and less remember attempted rebirths of them in the early nineties. Morton Downey Jr. was Glenn Beck, long before there was a Glenn Beck, or a Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity at the time. His talk show, and you gotta remember the times here, this was late eighties, and this when talk shows truly ruled television. "Donahue", "Sally Jesse Raphael," "The Oprah Winfrey Show" was just starting, many many others at that time. People don't realize, not like today, there were dozens. If you account for how few channels, regular and basic there was at the time, there was about as many talk show on TV everybody as there regularly is, reality TV now. That's a good equivalent. Morton Downey, Jr., was the really first confrontation talk show host of the era however. There had been others previous, like Joe Pyne, who was known for belittling and slinging accusations and yelling at his guests, but Morton was a character. I wouldn't call him on the complete Rush Limbaugh bandwagon of the era, although he was-eh, what you'd consider a libertarian although he'd go after both sides more often than his spawns do now. Famous confrontation with the likes of Al Sharpton and others occurred on his shows. Fight, nudity, a screaming cult-like audience that one critic called "A talk show with a hockey audience", that originated in Secaucus, New Jersey, and was the perfect forum for the hormonal angry teenagers to let off their pent-up sexual frustrations with. Downey was the first to dance the line between portraying a character as a talk show host or being real, and created this exploitative slanted television that we see now in things like Fox News. He portrayed the people's pent-up frustrations and stood up for the little guy, but oddly he wasn't like that at all. He was a musician/songwriter of folk rock, and his father a famous nightclub singer who would hang with the Kennedys. Morton was in the room when Ted Kennedy won his '68 reelection to the Senate. He could sing too, but not as good as his father. but somehow he found himself at the very beginning of the AM Talk radio movement, which evolved into his grimy and obsessive talk show, which started as a more confrontation Donahue, but would devolve into the early influence of Jerry Springer by the end. He's bump his guests with his stomach, and blow smoke in their face, and insult his audience and guests. What little I remember of him, was memorable, and "Evocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie" relieves these moments and his life from the beginning of his show, to his lung cancer surgeries and deaths later in life. His death very ironic, considering his signature smoking and blowing the cigarette smoke into guests faces he didn't like. When I saw him doing anti-smoking commercials, years after being forgotten, it was surreal, yet unsurprising. If people had heard about his death, and not that many were paying attention at the time, there'd be an easy-to-understand majority of people who were probably smirking at the prospect. (Myself included) This documentary brings up back to that era, talks to some of his most famous guests and some of the audience members, and others. It uses lots of kinds of filmmaking and editing, including animation at a few points, which is accurate considering the cartoon he had become. His last real headline before his death, was his show's cancellation amid speculation, and eventually admitting that he faked a supposed attack on him by skinheads in a public bathroom. (Which was faked, we find out officially here) This was after he went after the famous girl who lied about white cops having raped her in New York City back in the '80s. Whether you liked him or hated him at the time or now (And I'm in the latter on both), he was an important name in the evolution (or de-evolution) of modern television, and his influence is everywhere, and it should be more well-known. "Evocateur..." is a very good reminder of him and his work, and it's definitely worth seeing. A good TV history lesson.



Wednesday, October 23, 2013

CANON OF FILM: "IN A LONELY PLACE"

IN A LONELY PLACE (1950)

Director: Nicholas Ray
Screenplay: Andrew Solt from the adaptation by Edmund H. North based on the story by Dorothy B. Hughes



If there was ever a director who was ahead of his time, it was Nicholas Ray. If he had started making movies in the ‘70s, he would be right up there with Martin Scorsese in our minds. His films, on top of being expertly shot and made, dealt with characters who were social outcasts. Alienation, before anybody ever heard of the word. Much less, understood what it meant. Yet, his movies weren’t about people fighting against society, they were about those who couldn’t understand it, and yet, what’s most remembered about them are how the characters themselves had to fight inner demons, so deep that sometimes, were not let on to exactly what they are. His most famous film is “Rebel without a Cause,” mostly because of its iconic James Dean performance. I’ve written on that film once before, where I describe many of the hidden sexual symbolisms of the movie. Many of his films involve themes that added sexual confusion to the theme of alienation, like the western “Johnny Guitar,” which makes the male characters unsure weaklings and the women characters strong and murderous. “In a Lonely Place,” doesn’t appear to have quite the same kind of alienation, but what it does have is a character that’s possessed by demons. He can be thoughtful and loving one second, and just as quickly burst into a murderous rage. Dix Steele is one of Bogart’s greatest characters and performances. He’s an unemployed screenwriter who’s renown all over Hollywood for his temper. One late night, instead of reading a novel that he’s been offered to adapt into a screenplay, an act which, on its face Dix would normally never consider if he didn’t need the money, he brings home a hatcheck girl, Mildred (Martha Stewart, no not that one) to tell him the story, as oppose to reading it. She leaves, and then she ends up dead. Dix is the lead suspect, although we know he didn’t do it. An alibi witness corroborates his story, (Gloria Grahame) a next-door neighbor who just moved in. She saw them go in, although we don’t see her watching the girl leave, despite what she says. Does Ms. Grey have an ulterior motive? It’s hard to say. She’s certainly attracted to Dix, and soon after they start an affair, which makes Dix look more suspect, not to mention his long record of violence, including suspected violence against women. As he gets his screenplay nearer and nearer to completion, which of course is nothing like the novel, (Ironically, this movie included many differences from the Dorothy Hughes novel it’s based on) he seems to fall more and more in love with Laurel. He also becomes more and more possessive. All the while, the investigation into the murder continues on, adding one more strain on this already tumultuous romance. The title has multiple double-meanings depending on how you look at it. “In a Lonely Place,” not only shows the loneliness of a man on edge, the loneliness of a killer who’s just killed, an artist’s loneliness as he works, my favorite, and the one I’m most familiar with, but also the loneliness of being in a relationship with someone like that. It’s not a film where characters find love as a cure-all for their ills, instead we get a movie about how an artist must have both his good side and his bad side in order to work. To strip Dix of his demons and anger is to strip Dix of being Dix, something Laurel can only find out gradually. There’s a few movies about films and filmmakers like “Sunset Boulevard,” “8 ½,” and “The Player.” Those movies are good at showing the aspects of filmmaking that they show, but “In a Lonely Place,” shows us what it’s like to be an artist in an industry that strives to work on as little art as possible. And shows what a lonely feeling that can be, even, or especially so, when a relationship is involved. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

THE 5 OBSTRUCTIONS BLOGATHON: OBJECTIVE #5: FREEDOM: "THE TEN GREATEST MOVIES OF THE YEAR 2000!": BACK TO MY LISTS!


The 5 Obstructions blogathon

OBSTRUCTION #5: Write about anything. It can't be a review or a feature you've done in the past.

I’ve been pondering this latest obstruction for a little while, trying to figure out what exactly I want to write about. The only other stipulation, other than the fact that I have complete freedom to write anything I want is that, I have to write about movies, and it has to be on something that I haven’t written about before. Well, despite the recent/ongoing interruption in my normal blogging patterns, I’ve written well over 300 blogs, including over 700 movie reviews, not counting my Canon of Film pieces, which are ineligible for this, since most of those I have pre-written. Frankly, I’ve written a lot about movies, and it’s hard to go out and find new things to talk about them at this point. Especially given complete freedom as a base. It may be counterproductive to most ways of thinking, but it’s easier to think outside the box, when you’re given a box to think outside of.
So, what to write about? Well, the first thing I thought of, was to ask you, the readers. I posted in several of the more active and more communal FB groups that I’m apart, and am often a participant of, those who certainly know my work ‘cause of how often I post there, and I asked them what they would like me to write about? I’m always looking for feedback and ideas to springboard off of anyway, and why not ask them? Well, nobody responded to my inquiries, so thanks, Readers, for that waste of time. (It’s true btw, I’m always looking for feedback, constructive, recommendations, useful, even negative feedback I appreciate, and I consider and read all comments and replies. I don’t always listen or agree, as at least one Anonymous poster has found out, but still, I do want to know what you guys think, and what you guys would like for me to discuss.)
I thought of things like personal favorite films and director and stars and whatnot, but that’s so common amongst bloggers, and usually when bloggers do that, it’s such a vanity project, that it really just turns into a list of movies, without any real constructive discussion on them. The other reason however that I generally avoid such things as a “My Top Ten Favorites…” or whatnot lists, things, is that, generally I don’t have favorites. I mean, of course I do, but I don’t use favoritism as a standard. I discuss some of my personal choices a long time ago on this blog, when I participated in multiple 30-Day Movie Challenges, and within that context, I like the use of discussing that as an introduction, but even then..., (Below are the links to those blogposts)
I strive to be the kind of critic/commentator, who looks for the differences between what I like, and what is good, leaning more towards the latter if possible, as oppose to like and don’t like. Maybe that’s made me more detached, some would say, (Or others might say that I take out the so-called “entertainment” or “fun” aspects of film-viewing) but they’re arbitrary to begin with, favorites, it feels so trivial to discuss them. Besides, you ask me to name 1,000, I’ll name 1,001; you ask me to name 1, I’ll name 1,001, or 2, or however many I feel like anyway. Except for always naming “Casablanca” as my all-time favorite, I simply find such questions puzzling. I know, I just did a huge TV show poll, but I did a poll on “Greatest TV Show”, not “Favorites,” for a reason. Whether or not some of the participants listen to that request, I don’t know, but still, I just don’t like dealing with favorites.
Not that determining the greatest of anything, isn’t arbitrary, but it is less so than favorites. It takes out the personal, and opens up for the possibilities, of really understanding why a film is so good, and/or better than other films, as well as why we like a particular film(s) better than (an)other.
So, without any real excitement in the favorites idea, and no real feedback on what you guys would like for me to talk about, and in a bit of a quandary, I decided to go to my last backup plan. Some of you really longtime readers, know about my list, for those who don’t, one of my original goals with this blog, was to publish the list I compiled of every movie I’ve ever seen. Oh yeah, it’s on here, here the link to that blog, as well as the blog explaining the list.
Well, the first 3,000+ films I saw anyway. Just, add almost all the films I’ve reviewed to that list now, and when I hit another milestone like 4,000 or 5,000, I’ll republish this list of coffee spoons I’ve measured out my life in. Oh, believe me, I’d rather this list be of women I’ve had sex with, or something more titillating, but it could certainly be worse. And those of you wondering about some websites that allow for one to compile such lists, well, I was doing it, long before those websites existed, and it would take so many manhours to literally transfer them to such a site…- I literally started saving this list, before USB drives were invented. What you guys don’t know, although probably would’ve guessed from my list-obsessed Aquarius ways (Although I do try hard to suppress such discussion of that) is that, there’s more than one list I have. I have some ranked lists, one for each decade, starting with the eighties, and going ‘til today. Originally when I started compiling them, I had lists separated for each decade, or each decade where I had seen a more-than-considerable amount of movies from that decade. (Actually, I’m wrong, the ‘80s list I compiled later; it was original a list of films from 1989 and earlier, now a list of films from 1979 and earlier, when I had enough films from the ‘80s to make its own list.) Well, since I started these lists, x amount of years or so, my viewing habits have become more elaborate and even moreso once I started writing reviews for this blog. Now, I’ve started separating films into years, narrowing them down even further. Originally, I started doing this, with this decade, because it was easier, but shortly after I passed the 1,000 film threshold for the entire naughts, (The ‘00s decade) I painstakingly began doing the same with that list, and it took a couple years actually, but recently, I finally made reranked and separated that decade list, into ten separate yearly lists, and needless to say, I retired the previous list. It’s a saved film somewhere, but when I now see a movie from that decade, I no longer rank it on that list. I’m still hundreds of films from doing that with my ‘90s list, and quite a few hundreds more from doing that with my ‘80s, and any other decade I so choose to do that with.
I know; I know, it’s such masturbation on my part, but might as well do something with them. I was actually delaying posting these Top Ten Lists, because for some of these decades, I hadn’t seen enough films, at least in my view, to really make a objective determination of what the best film was from those particular years. Take 2000, I’ve only seen 68 films from the year 2000. I’m not quite sure why I missed so many films from that year, although I’m sure being 15 at the time, and late fees and jobless and still going through high school had something to do with it, but I wanted to see more films, at least 32, and certainly more of the Oscar-nominated films from that year, before posting this list. (Or for that matter, 2001, I’ve only seen 77 films from that year so far, which is far too low) However, sometimes you have to say, what the hell, let’s talk about the year 2000, in films, and what films I’d argue as the best of that year. Might as well, besides finishing this challenge, now I got nine more blogs I can write to have you readers on the edge of your seats! He-he.
So, 2000, and like I said, this is a very limited sample, in fact, I want to label it an “Incomplete” list, for the time. Of course naturally all lists can be like that, but still…. Anyway, I do think there were some good and even great films from that year worth talking about even now, so, let’s do it. Shall we start at my bottom ten? Alright then, let’s get in the way-back machine and let’s have some fun, and take a look at the best films from the year, 2000!

TEN GREATEST FILMS OF 2000
10. Billy Elliot

You know, the movie that I really kinda, turned-around on, on this list, is “Billy Elliot”. I do have a tendencies, to look at Stephen Daldry’s other films more than this one, which is rather unfortunate ‘cause they seemed to have gotten progressively worse since this feature-film debut of his. That said, there’s a reason it’s his best, it’s the traditional story, kid overcoming obstacles to achieve his dream, told in the non-traditional way. The two things I really think about with this film, first the quick-cut editing in the film, really bolts you into the movie. It’s actually, when you go back and think about it, just how paceful, and quiet his other films tend to be now, or sweeping as in the case with “Extremely Loud…” this movie jumps into the film. It’s Guy Ritchie took over the editing of the film or something, and it forces you to really get into the film and the characters and start to care, like we have to with these films, or else there’s no point. The other thing I remember is the real sense of time and place the movie has. Yes, the core story, there’s a reason it’s been adapted for Broadway and still remains a relevant and relatable piece of art for many people, but it’s Ireland, it’s a specific time, there’s a strike going on, the father’s distressed, the family, the characters, this movie, didn’t have to be that specific in order to be successful, but, they did, and-, you know, it’s one of those great questions a screenwriter has to ask about his work sometimes, “Can this story take place anywhere or any time else?”, and if it can’t then you know you got a good story. This story, could’ve hypothetically taken place almost anywhere, anytime, on the surface, but that wasn’t enough, and the film makes sure that, it really surrounds itself with these characters, that time, in the only time the film could’ve taken place in. You know, this is the one change I made to my Top Ten, before posting, I had “O Brother, Where Art Thou” in my Top Ten originally, and “Billy Elliot” eleventh, but the more I thought about it, the really, much more important and seminal, and entertaining work, but this is the film that sticks with you, long after it’s over. I underrated this film originally, and really demeaned it, when I saw Daldry’s work continually decline, but I saw this one again recently, and I was young at the time, now I realize, this is the great underdog story of the year, and it’s great to watch and analyze from many different perspectives.

9. Cast Away


On top of being one of Tom Hanks’s greatest performances, it’s really quite amazing just what Zemeckis does with this film. I’ve watched it three or four times now, I always seem to slip into it whenever it’s on. It’s a little easy to joke about Wilson, and some of the other strange and often-parodied quirks of “Cast Away”, but the fact of the matter is, that this film could’ve been done badly in many different ways, and instead, it usually hits the right note. Hanks’s performance is practically equal to that of DeNiro’s Jake La Motta in “Raging Bull”, gaining and then losing considerable weight to play the part, but notice it’s a very quiet and often wordless performance by Hanks. We know he can play big and quirky characters, but never do we really see just how great he is with just with body and facial expressions. And consider how Zemeckis, really tamed himself. He’s known for sweeping films, that are loud and often boisterous, oftentimes great, going all out in some ways like “Back to the Future”, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” , or “Forrest Gump” even, but there’s hardly any score in “Cast Away”, and he very purposefully made this film as realistic as possible. It’s a lot to take in for a movie, but I buy into it, every time. It’s quite amazing what’s pulled off here.
8. 6ixtynin9
Probably the title most of you have never seen from my list is “6ixtynin9”, which is a film from Thailand, that’s one of the strangest and most fun black comedy heist thrillers I’ve seen. Actually, the film seems to be hard to define in any genre. If it was an American movie, well, it probably be called a Coen Brothers film, ‘cause the only kind of tone I can compare it too, and while it’s not a remake of any kind, I’m pretty sure the Coens themselves saw “6ixtynin9” and were then inspired to make “Burn After Reading”, one of their most underrated and funniest films. The title is not what your first thought; it’s actually a dreadful translation, but basically it refers to the common movie situation, where a 6 or a 9 on a door in a movie, is always upside-down, and the wrong room, in this case, bad guys seems to keep going into the wrong room, killing somebody in there, searching for money that they can’t find, leaving the room’s poor tenant, who’s in trouble with certain people herself (although not to the level of murder, but she’s certainly getting the wrong idea), but now has to find ways of disposing of these bodies left in her apartment, that she can’t get out, and more people keep coming in. She has to kill them, and then get rid of the bodies somehow, and that’s really the beginning of this story that gets more and more ridiculous as it goes on, and it’s absolutely funny as hell. It’s definitely a movie that we’re starting to see influences of elsewhere now, and it’s definitely worth seeking out. It’s definitely a deconstructionist’s wet dream film, you just don’t know what’s gonna happen next, but it’s definitely gonna be fun and funny.
7. High Fidelity
I think any list of the best romantic comedies of the decade, a decade that, let’s be honest, there was we would consider a limited amount, but Stephen Frears’s “High Fidelity”, has to be considered for that list. For one thing, it’s about a character, who’s obsessed with lists. He’s more music driven, as he spends his days, mulling over his old girlfriends, and especially his latest ex, and compiling Top Five Lists at his record store. Yes, record store, for you young people, look them up. (I know, that’s an old joke, but vinyl rules!) John Cusack, another one of those actors who never gets the credit he deserves, and this Nick Hornby adaptation, one of the best adaptations of his stories as well, is really an insucient and carefree film. Frears’s is one of the most versatile of directors anyway, but he finds some really right notes in this film, from the music to the dialogue, especially the arguments, to the way he fully embraces this breaking the 4th wall narrative, there’s pure joy in this film, even the end credits, are more interesting visual graphics than most Hollywood blockbuster special effects extravaganzas. And John Cusack, another one of those truly great actors that never gets enough credit; he’s great in leading man roles, especially, even in bad movies, but there was a period where he was doing “Being John Malkovich”, “High Fidelity”, “Identity”, “Max”, these really great character roles, that really showed that A. he is one of our best actors, and that he can do anything. This is a first person film, has a lot to do, play a few different ages, many different emotions, and with a lot of different actors and actresses, and with the camera. Not everybody can do that, that talking to the camera thing, people don’t realize, when you’re acting, you get into a method and create a character from within, it’s hard to suddenly break into a soliloquy essentially, at least onstage there’s an audience, but too suddenly take that character, into another world, and jump into the surreal essentially, even if it’s a serious role, you need to be one of the best comic actors alive to take that kind of part.  Everybody else, whether a good or bad actor, they’re all kinda casted as types, in this movie, from Jack Black to Catherine Zeta-Jones’s cameo, to Tim Robbins’s strange cameo, even, that core center character, it either makes the movie or it breaks it, with this kind of film, and this film makes it. And it’s surprisingly realistic about the love story, romance between the characters, it’s not a real rom-com romance filled with the great romantic getting back together-scenes. Despite everything it’s sneaks on up you, it’s messy and chaotic a bit, gets a lot of things right that film. Kinda gets overlooked for not being a tradition rom-com, but that’s why it is such a good one strangely enough.


6. Wonder Boys
There’s something Chandleresque about Curtis Hanson’s “Wonder Boys”, another favorite of mine, and not just because I often use Bob Dylan’s Oscar-winning Song from the movie, “Things Have Changed”, as one of my personal theme songs. Essentially however, the film is one of those stoner comedies, where a main character is simply incapable of getting himself out of a situation, that he isn’t quite sure how he managed to stumble into in the first place. The only real difference is that they're smart stoners, really.  It’s also another one of those films that takes great joy, in surprising us at every turn. Just when you think you know what kind of movie this is, a character shoots a dog, and it’s funny. I tried reading the original novel the film was based on once, it’s a little convoluted and hard to read, but the way it got transferred to film in this slow-motion physical comedy, is all the more impressive. Of course Douglas’s performance, one of his very best, never gets the credit it deserves, but there’s some special supporting work from Tobey Maguire, Robert Downey Jr., Rip Torn, and Katie Holmes as well. The title refers to authors who had one major hit book, and then never seem to come up with another, (Meanwhile the Steven King’s out there….) so I guess essentially this is one of those struggling author movies, but again, this was a common theme with the best films from this year, taking a few elements from stories that we know, but finding new ways of twisting and telling them, and that’s really why the film works so well. It even has characters, like the Katie Holmes character, who’s a red herring. The way she’s positioned and placed in the film, you’re thinking, “Important character,” 20-something, boarding in the old man teacher’s room, and the film, doesn’t go in that direction. Some might argue that’s a waste of a character, but that’s actually  what’s great about the film, there’s chess pieces on the board, but they don’t move exactly the way you think they would. This is another one of those films I always get sucked into whenever it’s on, absolutely brilliant film.


5. Best in Show
The best of Christopher Guest’s films is “Best in Show”, it’s a film I’ve seen dozens of times now, never fails to make me laugh, and there are so many things to laugh at as well.  What I actually love about this one, and why I rank it so high, is that this is the one that, you really get sucked into, and you don’t realize why, until near the end, when you have no idea who’s actually gonna win. It’s actually the most ingenious of Guest’s ideas because of that, and it works because the acting is so well-done that we actually care about the characters at the end, even with the great commentary by Fred Willard that might be the best performance in the film, undercutting them. That’s what really gets me about “Best in Show”, as great as the comedy is, the way the movie plays out, it actually turns into a really intense competition at the end, and you realize, that was no playing favorites, he didn’t create good guys or bad guys, he just let the actors play some really great characters, and have them exist. That’s really the secret behind these mockumentaries, let the characters as outrageous as they may be, just feel like they actually exist, or could exist, and it just happens that the movie is funny as hell too. That’s really kind of the topping essentially, that the movie, keeps a great through line, without a predictable or outcomeless ending, which I think were the problems with “Waiting for Guffman” and “A Might Wind”, as funny and great as those films are, the more you watch it, the more you realize it’s at another level. This was definitely the best, straightforward comedy of the year.
4. Chocolat
Lasse Hallstrom’s another of those really underrated directors, he makes good movies, sometimes he can make a really great one, and “Chocolat”, is really just an enjoyable. It’s delectable, it’s quirky, it’s simple, it’s certainly not a complex film about a major subject matter or anything, but I don’t understand people who can’t sit back, watch it and enjoy it. It’s a literal film about chocolate versus lent, and, I guess it seems to be a pro-witchcraft movie when you think about it too deeply, but it’s just enjoyable. You know, I have friends who berate me a lot for not liking films like “Armageddon”, or “Independence Day”, or something like that, and tell me that I don’t look at how “fun” a movie is, I probably mentioned that some other point earlier, but, this is a fun movie. Not those noise and effects that signify nothing. When I want to sit down and have fun with a film, this is the kind of film I want to watch. Nobody getting killed, a light story, a good story about kids, a whimsical movie that’s more or less a fun fairytale, and I’m not gonna lie, the loads of chocolates helps too.
3. Requiem for a Dream
And now for something completely different, Darren Aronofsky’s masterpiece “Requiem for a Dream” is one of two movies about drug addiction in my Top 3 of this year, (Don’t know why it was a good year for drugs but…) and “Requiem…” which was originally rated NC-17 for a graphic dildo scene, is about the how drug addiction, of all kinds, derail a family into the utmost of depressions. An unrecognizable Ellen Burstyn, gives one of her greatest performance as a mother who get addicted to diet pills after being conned into thinking that she’s going on a game show, as her son, played by Jared Leto, falls into the sling of heroin addiction, as does his girlfriend in one of Jennifer Connolly’s best roles as well. The movie’s editing style of multiple cross-cutting makes the movie seem more hypnotic than it might actually be, as well as the hypnotic violin score that drives the movie. This is quite an unforgettable film that goes nowhere but down, and should probably be required viewing to teenagers or even preteens as we see just what depths some will go through for that high. I may post a Canon of Film Review on this film later, and I notice that I talk a lot about the search for happiness in that piece, and there is joy and happiness for awhile in their search for that perfect high, and just how temporary that high is, and just how low the downfall is. There’s a lot of great films about drug addiction, but any shortlist of the absolute best, has to include “Requiem for a Dream”, it’s one of the absolute most powerful.
2. Traffic
However, I must say that while “Requiem…” is a better film about drug addiction, the quintessential film about the drug trade is “Traffic”. Winner of 4 Academy Awards including Best Director for Steven Soderbergh, an adapted from a famous miniseries, “Traffic”, takes place in Mexico, San Diego and the Northeast, and follows three stories, each about the effects of drugs, wearing the corruption in Mexico, and how one cop works from within to not only fight it, but use it to his advantage, how straight cops, are unable to fight corruption at the border, among the powerful elite, and the battle of addiction at home, as the country’s latest drug czar, is suddenly dealing with his addicted daughter, who’s getting more and more out of control. The film is shot on handheld cameras, by Soderbergh (Under an alias) and is edited using thousands of jump cuts as well as some beautifully tinted cinematography to help separate the stories out, and great performances by a long list of all-star actors, “Traffic” on its surface seems like another film about the drug trade, but the craft and skill of the movie really separates it from all the other films of the genre. It’s investigative instead in exploitative, and the movie is really a technical masterpiece, and another reminder of just how naturally great a director Soderbergh is. Arguably his best film, as he masterfully tells multiple stories, and really shows just how complex the issue of the drug trade actually is, and how truly vicious the cycle of it is, and how the win in not only unwinnable, but in some ways, it’s completely essential the drug trade is to the socioeconomic workings of the country, and the world.

1.      Almost Famous


While I still consider this list, essentially incomplete, and in many ways I consider it embarrassing to be so ill-equipped to discuss this year in film in terms of the greatest, however I think I’m pretty sure that no many more films from the year 2000, I’ll later watch, that “Almost Famous”, is the definitive number one film from the year. I’ve discussed the film before, on a Canon of Film article,

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2011/10/canon-of-film-almost-famous.html

and it stills holds up as the greatest and most inherently watchable film of the year. It's fun, it's entertaining, I think you can argue it as the best coming-of-age summer film of the all-time; it's Cameron Crowe's best film,- this is an iconic film that really has a lot of good things going for it. It's just a brilliant look at rock'n'roll in the '70s, that you can turn on anytime, like a great album, and always be enjoyed. Autobiographical, funny, smartly-written, amazingly acted, just a brilliant film.

Well, I've got nine more blogs of these to go, one for each year, after that, I'll post the entire list of films from the 2000s decade. In the meantime, I'm gonna build the suspense a bit, and let me see if I can start another debate here, and so, what do you guys have as the Top Ten in the year 2001! I'll try to get to some of the other films later.

POST-SCRIPT: After I posted this list, I realized that I mislabled another film as being apart of 2001, when it should've been listed as a 2000 film. That film, now ranks number 2, on this list, and you can move down one the rest of the list. That film is below:

2. Amores Perros



Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's "Amores Perros", isn't the first film to directly borrow the plot structure from "Pulp Fiction", but I'd argue that it's the best one. The debut feature from the great Mexican director, "Amores Perros" translates literally to "Life's a Bitch", but Bitch has a double-meaning, as it's really a reference to dogs. All the characters in the movie are involved deeply with their pets, and all of there lives collide, shocking and unexpectedly in a car accident. The first story involves Octavio (Gael Garcia Bernal) as he's deeply in love with his brother's wife, Susanna (Vanessa Bauche) and he decides to take up underground dogfighting in order to make enough to get her and her kid, and escape from his violent brother. That's the first story, the second involves a model named Valeria (Goya Toledo) who convinced her now-husband to actually leave his wife and kids for her, shortly before she gets in the accident, and is now wheelchair-bound, and struggling to get her leg to heal. This is not the new life either her, or her new husband had in mind, when they moved into their new high-rise apartment, which overlooks and big advertisement of her on the street below. A third story involves a homeless man, El Chivo (Emilio Echivarria) a witness to the car accident, who ends up taking Octavio's dog; he houses numerous others, while he also begins a transformation to slowly reconnect with his long-lost daughter, who he abandoned years earlier. This was also the first and arguably the best collaboration with Inarritu and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga, they would make a trilogy of films using this fractured style that separates people through random events and misconnections that play with time and structure, the others being "21 Grams", and "Babel", at least one of which you'll probably likely see on another one of these lists in the future, and he later wrote and directed his own film, "The Burning Plain", another film with that style, that I was one of the only people who liked it. He's also an acclaim novelist, and that tells you why he's so willing to break with normal three-act structures, he's more interested in how everyone is connected, worldwide, and how certain the smallest details involving incidents they have nothing to do with, can alter the lives of others, in ways they can't imagine, or even understand. "Amores Perros", with it's skillful handheld camera and quick-cutting gives us a glimpse of the talents of these two men, a flashy glimpse, but what's just as amazing is not how good "Amores Perros" remains, but how well they've been willing to live up to the potential, from this groundbreaking, inventive film. This film could've been a career for most filmmakers, for them, it was only the beginning.