2002: 4 movies

Posted 2019 April 9

Fred Rogers’ Dartmouth College Commencement Address
Speech and delivery by Fred Rogers
Audience: Dartmouth College faculty and 2002 graduating class

   Total destroyer! This is true power in sermon format. A man who had a children's show for decades in which he taught generations of children how to live positively, who engaged lives, whose message was so positive in such dark times, that people doubted his sincerity, gives a commencement speech years after his retirement from TV. The speech is radiant, and so is the day, and so is the significance in the human psyche. Pure positivity. Pure health. Pure humanism.
   This might lose significance the more the years pass, and the less that people recognize the voice and persona of Fred Rogers. But for now the significance exists. Unbeatable in clearing out your nasal passages. Desperately needed medicine for the extreme competitive times in which we're now living. A movie that gives profound moral and psychological alignment to its audience.

Vendredi soir 
Directed by Claire Denis
Written by Emmanuèle Bernheim and Claire Denis
Produced by Bruno Pesery
Music by Dickon Hinchliffe
Cinematography by Agnès Godard
Editing by Nelly Quettier
Production design by Katia Wyszkop
Set decor by Gérard Marcireau
Costumes by Catherine Leterrier and Judy Shrewsbury
Starring Valérie Lemercier and Vincent Lindon

   You get to step into Paris for one night during a traffic jam. You get to feel the sensations of a woman who is moving out of her apartment and into her boyfriend's. She is heading towards the life that is expected of her, but she has too much imagination to go quietly, and so she dabbles in a bit of adventure before her freedom is over. It all moves like a drunken dream and it lingers satisfyingly for long after the movie ends. It's about finding a little me-time and savoring it. Brilliant in its thoroughness, it's a gift that subtly comments on how commercial everything has become, and how hard it is to break away, but ultimately rewarding. The cinematography, editing, and the lead actor flow with the direction to create a poem that is incomparable.
   The title translates from the French to "Friday Night".

Ying xiong 
Directed by Yimou Zhang
Written by Feng Li, Yimou Zhang,
and Bin Wang
Produced by William Kong and Yimou Zhang
Music by Dun Tan
Cinematography by Christopher Doyle
Editing by Angie Lam, Vincent Lee,
and Ru Zhai
Production design by Tingxiao Huo and Zhenzhou Yi
Costumes by Emi Wada
Hair-styles by Siu-Mui Chau
Make-up by Lee-Na Kwan
Starring Jet Li, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung,
Maggie Cheung, and Ziyi Zhang

   A wonderful story about doing the right thing, as beautifully as possible, no matter how small or how noticed or how costly. The cinematography is peerless, the way the colors glow, the light plays along the screen. The acting as well. It is as perfect a movie as can be imagined. And it's exciting! And the music is tremendous! Each scene is memorable and a contender for the best scene. It's like a great symphony of emotion. And there is even a little Rashomon-esque mystery written into the story to figure out the truth of the story.   
   The title translates from to "Hero".

1962: 6 movies

2019 January 13: added "Lunch Hour"

Cosmic Ray
Directed by Bruce Conner

   An explosion of cinema. Whether you call it abstract, collage, music video, or apocalyptic nightmare, it's truly one of the greatest artistic achievements! A masterpiece! It reflects its time with the changes in consciousness after the advent of nuclear bombs, television, rock and roll, America's addiction to war, and its obsession with sex. This movie reflects the speed, desperation, and glitz of life in the latter half of the 20th century. It was a time where most knew very concretely that any moment could be the last and, on the plus side, that every moment was a gift. Being aware of the increasing dangers made everything sparkle that much more, as if in a dream, or as in the transition from monochrome to color in "The Wizard of Oz" (1939). An admirable trait of this movie's is that it conveys this sort of development in consciousness all the while sticking solely to black-and-white cinematography.
   The soundtrack is taken from a live performance of Ray Charles' R&B hit "What'd I Say", which was first released in 1959. The repeated song-line "It's all right!" serves as a kind of encouragement through the barrage of emotion-inducing images. The tone of the song which blends sensuality and fervent spiritual praise serves to underline the themes while also making it an enjoyable romp.
The movie is a bold declaration that the human spirit can ride even the most treacherous of waves of deadliness. We know what we're up against strong odds and yet we won't ever give up being true to ourselves! It bursts the lid on what was thought possible with movies, takes it to the stratosphere! One of the pefect soundtracks in cinema! One of the perfect titles in cinema.
   There is a strong current of sexuality throughout, and this major aspect of the movie seen from our present perspective and consciousness is clearly biased sexually, racially age-wise, and body-type-wise. But I think, considering the time of the production, this is understandable, considering how show-girls and night-club dancers of the day typically met the same criteria. The movie is trying to encapsulate our world and present it all in a ironic way as entertainment. Blending images of war with fireworks with images of nudity is a reflection of how our world has come to jumble everything together without any time to reflect or appropriately transition to the next topic. The novel thing about the nudity, stripping, and sensuality, is that it comes across as very fresh and current in the manner it was shot, namely in that they are shots that capture the beauty of the female form and don't seem to be primarily for the purpose of tantalization or arousal.

La rivière du hibou
Written and directed by Robert Enrico
Produced by Paul de Roubaix and Marcel Ichac
Music by Henri Lanoë and Kenny Clarke
Cinematography by Jean Boffety
Editing by Denise de Casabianca and Robert Enrico
Sound mixing by Jean Nény
Starring Roger Jacquet and Anne Cornaly

   Heart-pounding, dreamy, thrilling, glorious! The movie is a miracle of cinema. Its effects long outlast its short run-time. One of the greatest indictments of capital punishment in cinema, it makes the thing seem no different than murder, and it's all because we feel like we live within the psyche of the main character. Beautiful and genius cinematography that captures not only the thoughts and feelings of the character, but also of the entire landscape of which he is a small but desperately conscious part. The slowing down of time within a period of slowed-down time is a feat that can never be topped. On top of all this, the soundtrack is perfection. There is practically no dialogue, but rather it's half sound-effects and half instrumental scoring, with one amazing and soulful original song, "Livin' Man".
   The escape and reunion scene are the definition of magic, where movie-lovers live when they get that gleam of movie-love in their eyes. For the precedent on capital punishment, see Melies' "Les incendiaires" (1906).
   The title translates from French to "Owl river", named in honor of the 1890 Ambrose Bierce story upon which it is based "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge".

Jules et Jim
Directed by François Truffaut
Written by François Truffaut and Jean Gruault
Music by Georges Delerue
Cinematography by Raoul Coutard
Editing by Claudine Bouché
Costumes by Fred Capel
Starring Jeanne Moreau, Oskar Werner,
and Henri Serre

   I've watched this movie more than most on this list. I was entranced on my first viewing as a teen. It felt timeless, magical, uber-smart, and uber-passionate. Then in college, I had a snobby professor tell the class that it is a good movie when you're a teen, but it's light and fluffy compared to a lot of other movies, namely those by Godard and Fassbinder. I vehemently shook my head in silence. I couldn't believe he was serious! I still can't. After all these years and viewings, I am still entranced by this movie. I am amazed at how lovely and radical and timeless it is while still changing and showing new facets and lessons to me as I change. Today, it seems to me a masterwork not only of Truffaut's but of cinema. It handles its pretty standard run-time of an hour and forty-five minutes like an epic, like a lifetime, like a journey through the decades, like a powerful poem holding the essence of humanity. It is framed in a "by straight men for straight men" tone, focusing on feminine beauty, "bros before hoes" philosophy, treating women either as disposable, troublesome, worthy of adoration, or crazy. But in a subtle way, it highlights the gender gap like no movie before or after. Jeanne Moreau is astounding in her role as the misunderstood woman. She walks an unbelievable tight-rope line where roles of feminism, domestic wife, libertine, psychopath, and warrior for justice all meet. And at the end, the fact that the audience is left trying to figure out how to digest the ending, as symbolic of marriage, as real action, or as idealist allegory is maddeningly satisfying. We are left with a document laying human sexuality in the 20th century bare. This was us with all of our possibilities, our hopes and fears, and all of our limitations.
   The title translates from French to "Jules and Jim".

2001: 4 movies

posted 2018 November 30

Le peuple migrateur
Directed and produced by Jacques Perrin
Co-directed by Jacques Cluzaud and Michel Debats
Written by Valentine Marvel, Jacques Perrin,
and Stéphane Durand
Cinematography by Olli Barbé, Michel Benjamin,
Sylvie Carcedo, Laurent Charbonnier,
Luc Drion, Laurent Fleutot,
Philippe Garguil, Dominique Gentil,
Bernard Lutic, Thierry Machado,
Stéphane Martin, Fabrice Moindrot,
Ernst Sasse, Michel Terrasse,
and Thierry Thomas
Music by Bruno Coulais
Edited by Marie-Josèphe Yoyotte
Production Design by Régis Nicolino
Narrated by Jacques Perrin

   Some may think that an hour and thirty minutes of footage of birds flying can not sustain their interest, but that's part of the reason this movie makes it on this list. It's not a formal documentary, but more like a symphony of dozens of bird species on their different migration paths. We get close-up looks at their features as they walk around, eat, mate, swim, interact with each other and other species, as well as, of course, fly. Most of it flows in a light and fun spirit. Then it gets majestic, and then, after not seeing people as the protagonists for such a long time, it gets philosophical and spiritual. The editing is a huge part of that. The editing is also responsible for keeping the movie engaging, for instance in the way scenes begin, the viewer has to flap a little to figure out what you're looking at, and from what angle, until the subject becomes clear. In a way, this creates a feeling of flying.
   The cinematography is gorgeously clear, with masterpiece shots and sequences. Tranquil and yet thrilling. It's a tremendous achievement that provides a supremely out-of-body experience, leaving the viewer yearn to watch the making-of. The music is at its worst, unobtrusive, and at its best, an fine complement to the various moods including the spiritual.
   The title translates from the French to "The migrant people", which states up-front that the movie's aim is to blur the lines between humans and birds, their ways and ours, to examine our differences, and possibly to re-think some of our ways and tendencies, like borders, nationalism, and racism.

Written and directed by Majid Majidi
Produced by Majid Majidi and Fouad Nahas
Music by Ahmad Pezhman
Cinematography by Mohammad Davudi
Edited by Hassan Hassandoost
Set decor by Behzad Kazzazi
Costumes by Behzad Kazzazi and Malek Jahan Khazai
Makeup  by Jahanjou Jafari, Mohsen Mossavi,
and Affarine Sadeghi
Starring Hossein Abedini, Zahra Bahrami,
and Mohammad Amir Naji

   A small quiet illegal refugee gets your job, and now your life sucks. That's the opening note of this movie. And from there it leads to a gushing exploration of sexuality, love, selflessness, and the definition of a good living. The cinematography is at times harsh and barren, and other times sprouting honestly with sparse life and color. There are moments, especially towards the end when a haunting spirituality overwhelms the viewer. The tremendous and perfectly timed close-ups aid in this.
   The fact that the titular actor is completely silent for the whole movie is a rough gamble, but makes for a gripping and long-lasting effect. Not only is it a touching love story with humanist themes, but it's also a clever working around the censorship laws governing movie-making in Iran, which regulate relationships between men and women, and the female body.
   The title is the name of the lead female character and translates from the Farsi to "Rain". 

In the Bedroom
Directed by Todd Field
Written by Robert Festinger and Todd Field
Produced by Todd Field, Ross Katz,
and Graham Leader
Music by Thomas Newman
Cinematography by Antonio Calvache
Edited by Frank Reynolds
Art direction by Shannon Hart
Set decor by Josh Outerbridge
Costumes by Melissa Economy
Wardrobe by Shana Schoepke
Makeup by Terri Harper
Hair styles by Sally J. Harper
Starring Tom Wilkinson, Sissy Spacek,
Marisa Tomei, Nick Stahl,
and William Mapother

   Now, this is top-level dramatic cinema. People often say that things are relatively easy because they aren't brain surgery. But I'd say this movie is just as hard as brain surgery, if not more so. Shifting tone, story-line, shifting protagonist, but the sum is weighty and palpable. The American dream, sweetly and comfortably set in a pretty fishing town in Maine, turns into a deafeningly quiet backdrop for grief and a helpless thirst for justice. The unhurried pace of direction and editing is mostly responsible for the success of the piece. You feel the days. You feel the minutes.
   The chilly cinematography and monstrously good acting paints quietude, letting the audience feel the scream for ourselves. The main three themes are the loss of a loved one, the violence that can be awakened in people, that exists under the surface of our pleasant exteriors, and the roles of violence and assertiveness in sexual relationships. In the end, the tone is one of victory. The lion has roared, proven itself once again. The wolf has been scared off. The pride is scarred but has regained its peace.

1968: 5 movies

posted 2018 October 14

Fando y Lis
Directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky
Written by Fernando Arrabal and Alejandro Jodorowsky
Produced by Juan López Moctezuma and Roberto Viskin
Cinematography by Rafael Corkidi and Antonio Reynoso
Editing by Fernando Suarez 
Music by Hector Morely and Pepe Ávila
Starring Diana Mariscal and Sergio Kleiner

   A love story of the most original order. This movie goes into the depths of a man and a woman's path towards each other and then with each other in the quest of complete and perfect union. Along the way, the stresses, temptations, and monotony tugs at their bond, bringing out unbelievable cruelty from the man towards the woman. But if we are ever to rid the world of misogyny, it takes bold explorations like this into the heart of it to understand the gulf between lovers.
   The style is completely surreal, taking the helm from Bunuel, Salvador Dali, Maya Deren, and Gavaldon. The movie does not borrow from these geniuses, but its permission from them to feel free to tell a story as honestly and completely as possible. It is a success for Jodorowsky not because it is weird, but because it feels so personal.
   The title translates from Spanish to "Fando and Lis".

Toby Dammit
Directed by Federico Fellini
Written by Federico Fellini and Bernardino Zapponi
Produced by Alberto Grimaldi
Cinematography by Giuseppe Rotunno
Editing by Ruggero Mastroianni
Production design and Costumes by Piero Tosi
Art direction by Fabrizio Clerici
Music by Nino Rota
Starring Terrence Stamp

   Spooky, comic, and cool! The premise of the movie is a treat for fans of Fellini's 8 1/2, because it's a similar theme except done in color and with Terrence Stamp in place of Marcello Mastrioanni. The result is a gothic take on the loneliness of a famous actor, with a streak of wild unpredictability courtesy of Stamp. Features some of the most alluring colors and creepy-fashionable sets. The stunning cinematography tells a story all by itself, starting off with red smoky scene, shifting to the blinding white lights of purgatory, and ending with a liberating night scene through the windshield of a raging Ferrari. Fantastic!
   Terrence Stamp gives a rivetingly feral lead performance. The speed with which the story develops and conveys the macabre setting, proves again why Fellini is a genuine master of the craft. The title is a reference to the main character in Edgar Allen Poe's story "Never Bet the Devil Your Head".

Directed by Bob Rafelson 
Written and produced by Bob Rafelson and Jack Nicholson
Cinematography by Michel Hugo
Editing by Michael Pozen
Art direction by Sydney Z. Litwack
Set decor by Ned Parsons
Choreography by Toni Basil
Starring Peter Tork, Davy Jones,
Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith,
Victor Mature, and Carol Doda

   Trippy adventure. Commercial pop boy-band tries to break out of their type-casting. It could have been a failure. It could have been awfully fake. But luckily, they were connected to the right movie-makers, Bob Rafelson and Jack Nicholson, who were schooled by Roger Corman. These guys take a half-assed idea and turn it into a modern Godard-soaked, psychadelic dream. Juicy in its reality-bending, comic, social commentary three-pronged mission. The groovy music and editing keep it engaging and timeless.

2000: 4 movies

Posted on 2018 June 30

Direction, production, and music by Tony Gatlif
Written by Tony Gatlif and David Trueba
Cinematography by Thierry Pouget
Editing by Pauline Dairou
Production design by Brigitte Brassart and Denis Mercier
Costumes by Ana Sousa and Nieves de la Calle
Starring Antonio Canales 

   It starts with a stunning concert that you have to reach by paddle boat. The musicians, singers, dancers, and audience are all from different countries, and the result is something otherworldly. From there, we shift into a story, interspersed with fantastic musical performances and dancing, and finally, it all ends with a brilliant and haunting, scene that fuses the story with music in a thrilling way.
   The story itself is interesting in that it has 3 parts, the relationship of an uncle and a disabled nephew, the eternal love of a father for his daughter, and a gangster tale. Director Gatlif is a monster genius and his movies seem to be treasure chests which we would do well to explore from top to bottom, first to last.
   The title translates from Spanish to "I come".

Dancer in the Dark

Writing, direction, and camera operation
 by Lars von Trier
Produced by Vibeke Windeløv
Cinematography by Robby Müller
Editing by François Gédigier and Molly Marlene Stensgaard 
Casting by Avy Kaufman
Production design by Karl Júlíusson
Art direction by Peter Grant
Costumes by Manon Rasmussen
Music by Björk, Mark Bell,
and Vincent Mendoza
Music mixing by Valgeir Sigurðsson and Mark Stent
Lyrics by Sjón Sigurdsson and Lars von Trier
Starring Björk, Catherine Deneuve,
David Morse, Peter Stormare,
and Siobhan Fallon Hogan

   Tremendous project, completely devastating. To be honest, it does start off slow. The first 20 or 30 minutes are spent a little uneasily because of the stilted acting and not really any plot, but when the first musical number begins and feeds into the next scene, we are amazed by the quality of the song and choreography, by Bjork's voice, her transformation into a bold performer, and how it all fits her inner life. And we are hooked.
   It snowballs huge into a story as America versus Europe, capitalism versus more social systems, Hollywood versus real-life, and the inescapability of our time. It is awesome to behold, and Bjork is perfect as the soul at the center of the storm. The actors all are amazing in that they fit so deliciously. They are all moral partners, and are all witnesses, as we are, to the tragedy of our own cruelness. Probably Von Trier's best work because it's the most breath-taking feat he has attempted, partly because the tone achieved is so wide-ranging and intense, and partly because it may be the first sardonic musical. It is a compelling journey of the heart and mind. It's a marker, a document of our nightmarish times.

Los Almendros - Plaza nueva
Directed by Álvaro Alonso
Written by Encarnación Iglesias 
Produced by Encarnación Iglesias, Yolanda Rodríguez,
and Belén Sánchez
Music by Niño Josele 
Cinematography by Alex Catalán
Editing by Paco R. Baños
Art direction by Javier López
Starring Miguel Zurita

   Sweet, relaxing ride through a Spanish town on a bus with Gitanos, or Gypsies. Deals with preconceived notions, and learning how to survive when tossed into a culture that is completely foreign to you. It's a celebration of humanity, with lots of great shots, songs, humor, and love.
   The title is in reference to two bus stop locations, and translates literally to "The Almond Trees - New Square".

1961: 3 movies

posted 2014 October 3
Blast of Silence added on 2018 March 15

Directed by John Whitney Sr.

   Abstract animation which was in full bloom in the early 1920s, went underground and finally had a comeback in 1958 with the opening credits sequence of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo. That was the project of John Whitney Sr. and Saul Bass. Here, three years later, Whitney treats us to a 7-minute feast of his visuals which hypnotize and stimulate. Sensuous, stellar, mysterious, and mathematical all at once. The screen is born anew with this movie!

Blast of Silence
Written and directed by Allen Baron
Narration written by Waldo Salt
Produced by Merrill S. Brody
Music by Meyer Kupferman
Cinematography by Merrill S. Brody
Editing by Merrill S. Brody and Peggy Lawson 
Art direction by Charles Rosen 
Narration by Lionel Stander
Starring Allen Baron, Molly McCarthy,
and Larry Tucker

   A gruelling week in the life of a hit-man. You feel the city, you feel the loneliness, you feel the sick emptiness of the job. The photography has never been topped, the editing too. The people who put this together were fierce monsters of art. It seems to be related to Kubrick's "Killer's Kiss" (1955) in its raw energy and gritty splendor.

The Misfits
Directed by John Huston
Written by Arthur Miller
Produced by Frank E. Taylor
Music by Alex North 
Cinematography by Russell Metty
Editing by George Tomasini
Art direction by Stephen B. Grimes and Bill Newberry
Set decor by Frank R. McKelvy
Costumes by Jean Louis and Dorothy Jeakins
Music by Alex North
Starring Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable,
Eli Wallach, Montgomery Clift,
and Thelma Ritter

   Take the woman most widely considered to be the most beautiful in the world, take a screenplay by her Pulitzer-prize winning husband, take Hollywood's finest cast and crew, and voila! You have a movie that can not be duplicated. At times, it feels like a grown-up version of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, especially since it's about an fragile and idealistic young woman who seems to find surprises wherever she turns, except that the surprises in this case are human weakness and death. At other times, it feels like the last chapter in the cowboy/Western genre since it takes place among washed up cowboys in a world that doesn't need them as much anymore.
   Part of the movie's success is in how their is no clear black and white morality to it. All of the characters are struggling to stay afloat and to survive in a grey world. This can make it challenging viewing since everyone in the movie has major flaws, but instead of making the movie distasteful, we watch on, hoping for answers, and because the movie carries truth. Even Roslyn, who is our stand-in and gives us our perspective, who is so pure and in love with life, at times even she comes across as flawed. On the negative side of her spectrum, she's a victim, a martyr for no one, an unreasonable idealist, a perfectionist addicted to pointing her finger at everyone else. But through it all, the movie belongs to her and the actress who portrays her, Marilyn Monroe. Her character's compassionate convictions still speak true today. It's hard to divorce one's perception of Roslyn from Marilyn, but this doesn't take away from the movie. It could be one of the only movies where the audience's familiarity with an actor enhances the movie-watching experience. The movie shows us the much-needed positive angle of Marilyn Monroe's lesson to us: you must have compassion to have true and pure joy.
   Through it all, the camera moves around like a dream. It captures shots of people, city streets, small-town streets, the mountains, and animals. Shots that you don't ever want to let go. It builds tension by tightening the arguing actors in a frame, and shows loneliness by capturing a single body against an endless sea of wild country. The days, the nights, the interesting characters, settings, and thrilling experiences, Marilyn's performance makes a poem around them, and it's a beautiful, frightening, and heart-breaking one.

1918: 1 movie

(Last updated 15 March 2018)

A Dog's Life
Directed, written, edited, and produced
by Charles Chaplin
Production design by Charles D. Hall
Cinematography by Roland Totheroh
Costumes by Mother Vinot
Starring Charles Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Albert Austin, and Syd Chaplin

   By our count, this marks Chaplin's eighth cinematic gem in 5 years! Not that he made eight in five years, he actually made over 40! This is just the eighth that has made this list of superior movies. It's an epic accomplishment, historic, rewarding and instructional. I mean, this is literally the first five years of the era of movies for mass consumption, and all the best ones were made by this one person! This makes us curious what it is about Chaplin's work that has resulted in so many gems, and his fame and beloved status in cinema. I think it is that he took something that he took something that was turning into a business, a sort of mindless factory, and he injected it with personality, humor, real emotion, and intelligence. He saved the medium by commenting on movies being made and poking fun at them, like in the scene in this movie where he rolls his cigarette with one hand. We instantly understand what he's doing, he's trying to be cool, but he's just not. And in showing us this, we think he's even more cool for showing us his vulnerable, un-cool self. By the way, the movie he references is "The Return of Draw Egan" (1916), an action-Western where the hero walks into a bar and rolls his cigarette with one hand while the other patrons try to size him up.
   Building on his theme of compassion for the poor, Chaplin goes all out in this one. Chaplin's tramp lives on the street, eats trash, and can't find work, and yet none of this is shown to us as a reason to despair immobilized. It all moves too quickly for that. The tramp is always on the move, looking for food, drink, friendship, love, and money, and this is what makes him endearing to us. He becomes our role model, or patron saint. Through his journey we witness many injustices, but they whizz by as we cling on to the tramp's coat, eager to see what he'll do next and if he'll ever find success.
   The inclusion of a dog as his companion, and the various interconnecting scenes all go to prove Chaplin's standing as the premier artist in the movie-medium at this time. It's like a stage play, but too action-packed for that. It's like an adventure story but it's too funny for that. It's like a comedy but it's too true-to-life for that. It's in a class all it's own. Cinema is the only single word for its macabre, bizarre, and romantic spirit.

1999: 4 movies

posted 2018 February 23

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch
Produced by Richard Guay, Jim Jarmusch,
and Diana Schmidt
Music by RZA
Editing by Jay Rabinowitz
Art direction by Mario Ventenilla
Starring Forest Whitaker, Isaach De Bankolé,
Camille Winbush, and Tricia Vessey

   Where Italian gangster culture meets African-American gangster culture meets Japanese gangster culture meets cartoons. How is this even possible? And then there's the French-speaking ice cream man! Welcome to the mind and soul of Jim Jarmusch. It's a universal poetry that will fill you with appreciation for the samurai's code which honor commitment and fearless perseverance over all things.
   The short scene where the movie's composer meets the lead actor and narrator is not just a neat cameo, but a central point since the soundtrack is so essential as to be almost the beat over which the poetry speaks over, as in a rap song. The movie's main theme is making the right action, saying the right things, thinking the right thoughts, living by striving towards perfection, and Jarmusch and team make it a mind-blowing event to behold! The cinematography seems a little uninvolved and the Italian gangsters come across as almost off-puttingly comic, but there is so much else to love, such as the editing and whole overarching ethic that this can be forgiven and on some viewings even appreciated. Possibly Forrest Whittaker's best role.

Hendrix: Band of Gypsys
Directed by Bob Smeaton
Produced by Neil Aspinall and Chips Chipperfield
Cinematography by Eugene O'Connor
Editing by Julian Caidan
Fillmore East concert photography by Jan Blom
and Woody Vaskula
Editor of Fillmore East concert footage (black and white):
Andy Matthews
Editor of Fillmore East footage (color): Amalie R. Rothschild
Starring Billy Cox and Buddy Miles

   Really fascinating documentary that takes you through all the steps towards a great concert and album. I mean, it captures the time, the personalities, the legal aspect, really in-depth look at the music industry, and it all flows with historic clips, interviews, photos, and concert footage. It documents the tumult of the late 1960s, and Jimi Hendrix's struggle to play music relevant to both black and white audiences. At some points, some of the interviewees seem to differ on their accounts and takes of Hendrix and his goals, but the artistry of the movie is that everything is all laid out splendidly for audiences to take and make up their own minds with.
   The soundtrack is flawless. And the star of the show, Hendrix, is worthy of the attention because of his fascinating music, politics, philosophy, humor, compassion, physical beauty, and fashion. The Band of Gypsys emerges with the glowing verdict that they not only created one of the greatest concerts and albums of all time, but that they are one of the greatest rock bands that has ever existed. Solid Billy Cox comes across as the rock, the shimmering, pulsing throne, the steady launching and landing pad. Jimi comes across as the god, the pilot, Icarus flying to new and untested heights. And Buddy Miles is the madman, the screaming, tantrumming baby, the rocket fuel, sometimes the show-stealing atomic bomb. It's where the blues, jazz, R&B, pop, British invasion, psychadelic, funk, progressive rock, experimental noise, protest, gospel, hard rock, and heavy metal all meet. And uncannily, the movie demonstrates this. The concerts the album was based on were sold out, the album has been certified as double platinum, and the movie itself has been certified platinum. Good to know justice has been served regarding this gem and all of its components.
   The 57:39 of supplemental live footage is amazing and can stand as a pretty epic movie by itself.

Run of the Mill
Direction by Børge Ring
Written by Børge Ring and Joanika Ring
Produced by Karsten Kiilerich, Willem Thijssen,
and Christine Thårup
Editing and coloring by Dorte Westh Lehrmann
Animated by Sara Koppel and Børge Ring
Music by Børge Ring and Mike del Ferro

   I didn't want to like it. I wanted to turn it off. And by the end, I was stunned, completely speechless, unable to move. Such perfect story-telling, such deep-rooted emotion. Denmark's Borge Ring is one of the great movie-makers, if you didn't already know that after his "Anna & Bella" 1984, and "Oh My Darling" 1978. He is a master of mood and making the viewer completely rethink the meaning of our lives.

1998: 5 movies

Posted on 2018 February 16

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Directed by Terry Gilliam
Written by Terry Gilliam, Tony Grisoni,
Tod Davies, and Alex Cox
Produced by Patrick Cassavetti, Laila Nabulsi,
and Stephen Nemeth
Music by Ray Cooper
Cinematography by Nicola Pecorini
Editing by Lesley Walker
Production design by Alex McDowell
Art direction by Chris Gorak
Set decor by Nancy Haigh
Costumes by  Julie Weiss
Starring Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro,
and Tobey Maguire

   A celebration about smart people who just can't deal with slow pace of progress, and so they turn to wild drugs to watch the world turn into a fantasmagoria that is at least entertaining since it cannot be just and reasonable. In this way, these doped-out of their minds, stumbling, slurred-speech losers are actually protesters, taking a kneel on life, or Don Quijote-like warriors of justice in the battle against conservatism. The performances, music, and cinematography are perfectly haywire, and the writing somehow, brilliantly, makes sense. Possibly the best movie in the career of everyone involved, including director Burton and actor Depp. It's also a strong contender for best drug-movie ever. Related to "Easy Rider" and "Bonnie and Clyde". The cinematography and editing are beautiful, grotesque, and frenzied as if Federico Fellini directed Goodfellas while on LSD.

Written and directed by John Waters
Produced by John Fiedler and Mark Tarlov
Music by Stewart Copeland
Cinematography by Robert M. Stevens
Editing by Janice Hampton
Production design by Vincent Peranio
Art direction by Scott T. Pina
Set decor by Patty Burgee
Costumes by Van Smith
Starring Edward Furlong, Christina Ricci,
Lili Taylor, and Lauren Hulsey

   Neck and neck for #1 of the year. So great! Seriously, it's one of the coolest movies ever, because of its bold proclamation of the truth while at the same time, somehow miraculously, staying humble, never snobby, and funny! The movie helps us understand the mind of an artist, but with never a dull moment. The mood walks a constantly surprising line between punk rock and earnest goodness. It feels autobiographical, from the good old days, but also somehow very current. And the soundtrack is as spot-on as soundtracks get!
   It's also commendable how director John Waters seemed to find a nice synthesis after his 1970s and early 80s movies with their wretched trashy sentiments and the sugary sweet "Hairspray" (1988). Here there are little touches of uncleanliness sprinkled throughout, but the whole universe in the movies kind of celebrates that, and makes us realize that life is not a sanitized glamour show, and so our art should not be either.  The movie doesn't just sprinkle this punk sentiment, it throws it right in the face of glossy, clean celebrity and wealth. It allows the clash to unfold fully to show clearly that genius cannot be sanitized and removed from its origins and core meaning. It is camp triumphant! 
   I must warn you: full nudity and titillating situations are depicted. But it's not gratuitous. It furthers the message that art can occur in unlikely places, and it furthers the argument for freedom of expression. Lastly, it is possibly the first document to contain the vulgar terms "teabag" and "dutch oven".

B. Monkey
Directed by Michael Radford
Written by Chloe King, Michael Radford,
and Michael Thomas
Produced by Colin Vaines and Stephen Woolley
Music by Luis Bacalov and Jennie Muskett
Cinematography by Ashley Rowe
Editing by Joëlle Hache
Production design by Sophie Becher
Art direction by David Hindle
Set decor by Careen Hertzog
Costumes by Valentin Breton Des Loys
Starring Asia Argento, Jared Harris,
and Jonathan Rhys Meyers

   Two movies crashed into one with nice results. On the one hand, it is a movie about a grade-school teacher who works nights as d.j. for a hospital, who seeks to do find satisfaction in his life, to fill his loneliness. On the other hand, it is a movie about a jewelry-thief who is trying to go clean even though her family is made up of unstable, violent criminals destined for a grim ending. The two protagonists meet and lead us to volatile, violent, and steamy results. The leads are perfect. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is exceptionally fiery.

1996: 3 movies

Posted on 2017 February 17
Genre added on 2018 February 15

Looking for Richard
Directed by Al Pacino 
Produced by Michael Hadge and Al Pacino
Music by Howard Shore
Cinematography by Robert Leacock 
Editing by William A. Anderson, Ned Bastille,
Pasquale Buba, and Andre Ross Betz
Art Direction by Kevin Ritter 
Costumes by Yvonne Blake, Aude Bronson-Howard, 
and Deborah Lynn Scott
Starring Al Pacino, Frederic Kimball,
Penelope Allen, Alec Baldwin,
and Kevin Spacey

   Interesting in that it blends many genres and themes. It's not just a production of Shakespeare's play Richard III, but it's also a making of a theatrical production, the making of a movie. It's an explanation of a play. And it's something new: it's like a multi-media meditation on a 17th century play, its meaning, and its applications to today. Bravo, and some really great performances and most importantly, the brilliant editing which is monstrously good.

Breaking the Waves
Directed by Lars von Trier
Written by Lars von Trier and Peter Asmussen
Produced by Peter Aalbæk Jensen and Vibeke Windeløv
Cinematography by Robby Müller
Editing by Anders Refn
Costumes by Manon Rasmussen
Makeup by Sanne Gravfort, Morten Jacobsen,
and Jennifer Jorfaid
 Starring Emily Watson, Stellan Skarsgård,
and Katrin Cartlidge

   It's a celebration and an homage to steadfast faith. And it explains that steadfast faith comes from an all-powerful love. Yes, not everything in the movie is exactly relatable, and a part or two might seem a tad exaggerated, but the parts that work, really work, and those parts are impassioned and ingenious. Some scenes are even shockingly good, especially the ones where Emily Watson's character is talking to God and as God. Those scenes make the ground quake as we are left to wonder if she is actually tapped into something or if she is psychotic. The divide and crux of the movie is right there! And really what is she doing wrong? Is it not the world that she lives in that is undeserving of her? In this sense, it's also a look at justice and where we are at this moment as a species.


Written, directed, produced, and animated
by Don Hertzfeldt
Music by Dave LaDelfa
Cinematography by Cary Walker
Editing by Kevyn Eiselt

   Hertzfeldt takes his talent to a Fleischman level with the drawings coming off the page and blending animation with live-action. The humor is just as violent, sardonic, and cathartic. But it is funny nonetheless. And gleefully creative.