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.

Pecker
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

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.

Genre

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.

1985: 3 movies

Desperately Seeking Susan added on 2018 February 15

Rendez-vous
Directed by André Téchiné
Written by Olivier Assayas and André Téchiné
Produced by Alain Terzian
Music by Philippe Sarde
Cinematography by Renato Berta
Editing by Martine Giordano
Production design by Jean-Pierre Kohut-Svelko
Costume Design by Christian Gasc
Music by Hubert Bougis and  William Flageollet
Starring Juliette Binoche, Jean-Louis Trintignant,
Wadeck Stanczak, and Lambert Wilson

   The movie starts with a scene in an office that is so subtly realistic that it's amazing, especially since nothing much happens except that it serves as a lightly humorous way to introduce the main character in this serious drama. The main character is played by Juliette Binoche, who is already so watchable and talented that she seems like the reincarnated spirit of Ingrid Bergman. The movie opens up like a playground full of romantic joys and problems, and keeps the viewer's mind actively drawing comparisons to their own relationships.
   As the movie plays, Binoche's character makes her decisions, and lives through a handful of relationships, each one seeming to lead her to a chauvinistic dead-end. Will she ever find the way to a love based on respect? She may be on the right path when she meets a director who is staging "Romeo and Juliet". Played by Jean-Louis Trintignant, who was the definition of cool in 1970, it's a treat to see a master actor performing with newcomer Binoche. His filmography travels nicely with him here, and his trademark gravitas proves he's still got it.
   By the end of the movie, the viewer gets the feeling that love is a huge, breath-taking edifice, and that nothing matters more. This movie is a brilliant ode, parable, and poem to love where every line, every word is placed with care. The title translated from French means what it means in English, "Appointment".

Desperately Seeking Susan
Directed by Susan Seidelman
Written by Leora Barish
Produced by Sarah Pillsbury and Midge Sanford
Music by Thomas Newman
Cinematography by Edward Lachman
Editing by Andrew Mondshein
Production design by Santo Loquasto
Art direction by Speed Hopkins
Set decor by George DeTitta Jr.
Costumes by Santo Loquasto
Starring Rosanna Arquette, Madonna
Aidan Quinn, Mark Blum
and Robert Joy

   Of course, it's fun and colorful and filled with stars. But these are just used as a welcome mat so viewrs can experience a well-rounded production. The most awesome aspect of the movie is the tremendous cinematography, notably the scenes in the dance-club and the magician club, as well as those in alley-ways and shop-lined streets. Lachman wanted to show the grit of the New York he knew, enticing and yet menacing. And his lens choice, filters, and panning combine to achieve a screen that looms in front of the viewer like little we have seen before.
   The silly drama of a housewife mixing places with a carefree, hustling nomad isn't really silly once the movie gets going, but rather it is a mirror on the split nature of our society. The mood and flow is regulated by the director who was schooled on French New Wave, so that helps keep the project from being forgettable pop trash, and rather a comment on pop and trash. And then there are the fun themes of magic and superstition, music, and the more valuable themes of everyday life and feminism. The understated but committed performances and the bright multi-colored art direction keep it all in the joyful realm.

The Purple Rose of Cairo
Written and directed by Woody Allen
Produced by Robert Greenhut
Music by Dick Hyman
Cinematography by Gordon Willis
Editing by Susan E. Morse
Production design by Stuart Wurtzel
Art direction by Edward Pisoni
Set decor by Carol Joffe
Costumes by Jeffrey Kurland
Makeup by Fern Buchner
Hair-styling by Romaine Greene
Starring Mia Farrow, Jeff Daniels,
and Danny Aiello

   It's a soothing movie, even as it is awakeningly deep. With its story of a woman living a hopeless life during the Great Depression, we are treated to a glimpse of a fellow sufferer's trials and her joy of escaping into glamourous romantic movies. The genius of the movie comes when we get a glimpse of the business behind cinema magic. Splltting the dashing character on the screen from the actor who plays him, we are able to see that the protagonist, awesomely played by Mia Farrow, it might even be her best performance, is being used for her money by the actor even as she has a real relationship with the character. The comedy helps the whole heart-breaking affair go down easy.

1978: 3 movies

posted 2017 September 25


In einem Jahr mit 13 Monden
Writing, direction, production,
art direction, and cinematography
by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Production Design by Franz Vacek
Music by Peer Raben
Editing by Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Juliane Lorenz
Makeup by Jo Braun
Starring Volker Spengler, Ingrid Caven,
and Elisabeth Trissenaar

   Slow and at times absurd, this beautiful and ground-breaking tale ushers us through the life of a married man who has fallen in love with someone other than his spouse. He has changed his sex for love but now is abandoned. In fact, he's been abandoned many times since then. That's what makes the story interesting: everything has happened already, and now the characters are only searching around for why, they try to recreate it, and they try to repair it. As down as this movie sounds, the gripping angles, the colors, art direction, and performances keep our eyes glued. Also, having a little knowledge of writer/director Fassbinder's personal tragedies gives this a sense of autobiographical importance and urgency.
   The title translates from Deutsch to "In a Year with 13 Moons".

Par desmit minutem vecaks
Written and directed by Herz Frank
Produced by Herz Frank and Pauls Pakalns
Cinematography by Juris Podnieks
Art Direction by Gunars Kondrats
Sound by Alfreds Visnevskis

   It's pretty amazing how interesting this movie is despite it's lack of story, one single shot, and no other subject other than a few toddlers watching a stage-show. There are no camera movements besides zooming in, zooming out, and panning. But what there is is nearly ten minutes of behavioral revelation. With nothing else to go on, we scan this child-audience for clues on what they are watching. When one of the children seems profoundly disturbed by the show, we might think about the morality of such a project. Is this wrong to subject a boy to something that can bring him to tears just for the sake of a movie? But as he moves so easily back to a calm and pleased state, we think this is not really cruelty but a matter of nature. People are simply emotional beings. Then the camera shifts to other children with less pronounced reactions and we wonder if there was something particular about the first boy, maybe we are not like him. The other children are cute as well, and we are grateful to the camera-operator for the way we are shown a variety of a children, but we are especially grateful when the camera pans back to the first boy, because somehow in such a short while we have already come to miss him, his dramatic shifts of mood, his impassioned features, the way his spirit spills out of his eyes, nose and mouth. 
   The music cleverly and amusingly dramatizes the shot, intriguing us by not moving parallel to the scene on the stage, but rather parallel to the reactions of the audience members. In the end, what we have learned is hard to put into a clever paragraph, it is more experiential, like staring into a mirror and playing with the limits of our own face and the way it relates to our mind. The title translates from the Latvian to "About ten minutes older".

Oh My Darling
Direction and music by Børge Ring 
Produced by Nico Crama
Sound Effects by Boy van Hattum

   No words or actors, only music, sound effects, and spell-binding animation. A simple tale of human generation, family, and the conflicting tugs of the heart. Story-telling great as a classic Greek ode.

1997: 6 movies


Bacheha-ye aseman
Written and directed by Majid Majidi
Produced by Amir Esfandiari and Mohammad Esfandiari
Cinematography by Parviz Malekzaade
Editing by Hassan Hassandoost
Music by Kayvan Jahanshahi
Starring Amir Farrokh Hashemian, Bahare Seddiqi, 
and Mohammad Amir Naji

   A gem. One of the best movies of all time, because it is as real and pertinent as it is beautiful. A real slice of life in Iran. The performances are so good, they're unreal! It's focused on children, yes, but the movie isn't childish. It's almost overwhelmingly humanist, heart-breaking in its poetry, humorous with its surprising observations, and suspenseful in its cinematography, editing, and economic writing. The family and inter-personal dynamics are enlightening and strongly tear-inducing, and inspiring. The climax by the lake is a cinematic highlight. 
   The title translates from the Farsi to "Children from the heavens".


Washington Square
Directed by Agnieszka Holland
Written by Carol Doyle
Produced by Julie Bergman Sender and Roger Birnbaum
Cinematography by Jerzy Zielinski
Editing by David Siegel
Production design by Allan Starski
Art direction by Alan E. Muraoka
Set decor by William A. Cimino
Costume design by Anna B. Sheppard
Makeup Department
Hair-styling by Sherri Bramlett, Wayne Herndon,
and Aaron F. Quarles
Make-up by Barbara Lacy and Micheline Trépanier
Music by Jan A.P. Kaczmarek
Starring Jennifer Jason Leigh and Albert Finney

   One of the most perfect performances by an actor in a movie.Every movement, sound, look, every moment and part of Jennifer Jason Leigh's physique that is caught by the camera is perfectly in tune with the spirit of the movie, and the spirit of the movie is strong and multi-faceted. It is the story of a love between a father and daughter, also between two lovers, and between a woman and herself. It is a story of growth, of tremendous pain and loss, and it is a story about truth and true power. The camera moves in intimately and out imperceptibly. Its feminism begins with a fearful whisper and ends with a proud scream. 
   It is based on the Henry James' novella of the same name.


U Turn
Directed by Oliver Stone
Written by John Ridley
Produced by Dan Halsted and Clayton Townsend
Music by Ennio Morricone
Cinematography by Robert Richardson
Editing by Hank Corwin and Thomas J. Nordberg
Casting by Mary Vernieu
Production design by Victor Kempster
Art direction by Dan Webster
Set decor by Merideth Boswell
Costumes by Beatrix Aruna Pasztor
Make-up by John Blake, Ken Diaz,
Rob Hinderstein, Mark Sanchez
an Natalie Wood
Hair-styling by Cydney Cornell, Dino Ganziano,
and Melissa Yonkey
 Starring Sean Penn, Jennifer Lopez,
Billy Bob Thornton, Jon Voight,
Powers Boothe, Nick Nolte,
Joaquin Phoenix, and Claire Danes

   In look, editing, plot-twists and camera angles, this movie succeeds because it rejects the regular way that movies usually behave in. It's as if every shot is the director cursing in the face of what cinema has been, and a bold, punk-rock yell for something new. It's wild, unbridled, fun, and an ugly mirror on our capitalist culture. Story-wise, it's basically a bloody nightmare made with wit style and humor that also parallels the story of bottomless human greed. The editing is masterful, the way a secondary character can be talking, and then, for a second, we see that character through the eyes of the main character. It's an unsettling technique especially because it really gets us aligned with the main character even if we don't want to be. If you can make it through the violence and sexual abuse, it is a treat of a movie. A film noir "bonnie and clyde"-type movie for our over-the top, jaded times.


1996: 2 movies

Posted on 2017 February 17

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.

1995: 4 movies

Posted on 2016 December 20

Party Girl
Directed by Daisy von Scherler Mayer
Written by Harry Birckmayer, Sheila Gaffney,
and Daisy von Scherler Mayer
Produced by Harry Birckmayer and Stephanie Koules
Music by Anton Sanko and Bill Coleman
Cinematography by Michael Slovis 
Editing by Cara Silverman 
Production design by Kevin Thompson 
Set decor by Jennifer Baime
Costume design by Michael Clancy 
Make-up by Angela Johnson
Hair-styles by Barri Scinto
Starring Parker Posey, Guillermo Díaz,
Omar Townsend, and Sasha von Scherler

   A simple story told in such a novel way that it cannot be ignored. The lead actor is extremely magnetic because of her range, her unpredictability, and charm. The editing, sets, costumes, and photography create a dizzying whirlpool of sex, music, and drugs to convey the rush of the party-lifestyle. In the end, it's about a young woman's search for self-sufficiency and for her true self, a ride which is uniquely and humorously enjoyable. A liberated production, and one proud of its liberty.


12 Monkeys
Directed by Terry Gilliam
Written by David Webb Peoples and Janet Peoples
Produced by Charles Roven
Music by Paul Buckmaster
Cinematography by Roger Pratt
Editing by Mick Audsley
Production design by Jeffrey Beecroft
Art direction by William Ladd Skinner
Set decor by Crispian Sallis
Costume design by Julie Weiss
Make-up by Allen Weisinger, Christina Bartolucci,
and Christine Beveridge ... hair designer / makeup designer 
Hair-styles by Peggy Nicholson, William A. Kohout,
and Christine Beveridge
Starring Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe,
and Brad Pitt 

   It's a new shift in screen-writing. It knocks us off-track from the usual patterns, and introduces us to a new type of movie experience, one where there is no wrong to right, and no goal to reach. The goal is simply to know, as in: to live and to experience. And the visuals and performances add 100% to the production, direction, and writing. They create a feeling sharply direct and visceral. 
   The fact that time is fluid in this story makes it possible for the viewer to turn on any scene and get a sense of the whole. It's action-packed, funny, suspenseful, and often makes us doubt our own readings. And through it all, there is a deep mourning about time, mortality, and the irretrievable past.         
   The attention to detail just adds to this masterpiece's deliciousness.


A Streetcar Named Desire
Directed by Glenn Jordan
Produced by Glenn Jordan
Music by David Mansfield
Cinematography by Ralf D. Bode
Editing by David A. Simmons
Production design by Fred Harpman
Art direction by Janet Stokes
Set decor by Tom Pedigo
Costume design by Theoni V. Aldredge
Makeup by Alan Friedman
Hair styles by Susan Mills and Linda De Andrea
Starring Jessica Lange, Alec Baldwin,
Diane Lane, and John Goodman

   At this time of this writing, the most famous version of this Tennessee Williams play is the 1951 movie with Marlon Brando. But after seeing this more recent version, I ask why the former is so well-regarded. Is it because it's older, because it's in black & white, because Marlon Brando is in it, or because so many people have seen it? None of these reasons is a fit justification for art. This 1995 version, on the other hand, has a more realistic Blanche. It's more realistic all-around. When the lines are spoken, I feel like this is the right way they should be spoken. I never really understood Vivien Leigh's Blanche. But Jessica Lange is amazing to watch, so is Diane Lane, John Goodman. And Alec Baldwin seems so new and fresh and real, and yet somehow a little Brando sneaks in so that we won't miss his performance. Best of all, it feels unbearably painful to watch because of the emotions and reality of the situation. The other looked so good, I just liked the look and sounds. It was like a pop song, but this is the true symphony. There is no reason to look elsewhere in cinema, this is the definitive version of this play about men and women, sisters and bros, fantasy versus realism, art versus matter, and elite versus common. It's tragic the way it should be, meaning it leaves you feeling like something is all wrong. It's not cute and beautiful. It's messy, real, and an accurate depiction of society's cruel rape and murder of beauty and imagination.



1994: 5 movies

posted 2016 December 9


Il Postino
Directed by Michael Radford
Written by Furio Scarpelli, Giacomo Scarpelli,
Anna Pavignano, Michael Radford,
and  Massimo Troisi
Produced by Mario Cecchi Gori, Vittorio Cecchi Gori,
and Gaetano Daniele
Music by Luis Bacalov
Cinematography by Franco Di Giacomo
Editing by Roberto Perpignani
Production Design by Lorenzo Baraldi
Costume Design by Gianna Gissi
Starring Massimo Troisi, Philippe Noiret,
and Maria Grazia Cucinotta

   It relies so heavily on Troisi's performance that you feel like his performance is the star, like it's the glue, the backbone, like it's the landing after a gymnastic flying leap. The whole story about the worldly poet and the poor village-dweller is fascinating and well-written. 
   The struggle inherent in this movie is to consider whether Troisi's character would have been better off not meeting Neruda or whether Neruda gave his life meaning and made him a hero. The title translates from the Italian to "The mail-carrier."

Ed Wood
Directed by Tim Burton
Written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski
Produced by Tim Burton and Denise Di Novi
Music by Howard Shore
Cinematography by Stefan Czapsky
Editing by Chris Lebenzon
Production design by Tom Duffield
Art direction by Okowita
Set decor by Cricket Rowland
Costume design by Colleen Atwood and Stephanie Colin
Makeup by Carrie Angland, Rick Baker,
Jim Leonard, James McLoughlin,
Ve Neill, and Matt Rose
Hair styles by Bridget Cook, Lucia Mace,
and Yolanda Toussieng
Starring Johnny Depp, Martin Landau,
and Patricia Arquette

   Making a good movie about a man who made bad movies is a complicated affair. It involves understanding the very nature of good and bad in cinema. It involves respecting personal vision, integrity, and perseverance, and it also involves plenty of humor. Somehow, Tim Burton's team was able to find the pitch perfect balance between humor and respect, inspiration, and pity. There is very little mockery, if any. Instead, the movie takes an admiring, amused tone, and that's what makes it good. So does Depp's sincerity, and the breath-taking, classic-Hollywood-styled lighting and cinematography. 
   There's something punk-rock about the movie, the way it laughs in the face of big budget, big money, and instead honors friendship and practicality. This movie makes us wonder what cinema would look like if it was more about having a good time and creating something true rather than seeking a perfect form with no substance.

Una pura formalità
Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore
Written by Giuseppe Tornatore and Pascal Quignard
Produced by Mario Cecchi Gori and Vittorio Cecchi Gori
Music written and conducted by Ennio Morricone
Cinematography by Blasco Giurato
Editing by Giuseppe Tornatore
Production design by Andrea Crisanti
Set decor by Vincenzo De Camillis and Mauro Passi
Costume design by Beatrice Bordone
Hair-styling by Vitaliana Patacca
Makeup by Maurizio Trani
Starring Gérard Depardieu and Roman Polanski

   Spooky as heck, a beautifully woven exploration into the human psyche. The editing is flawless, the writing a dream. The acting sublime. It's an amazing feat of art when something makes you think about the definition of life. It's also a rare treat when a movie so intelligent and psycological is able to come across as suspenseful to the point where the audience bites their finger-nails!
   The title translates from the Italian to "A pure formality".

1993: 6 movies

posted 2016 August 25

Trois coleurs: Bleu
Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski
Written by Krzysztof Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz
Produced by Marin Karmitz
Music by Zbigniew Preisner
Cinematography by Slawomir Idziak
Editing by Jacques Witta
Production design by Claude Lenoir
Set decor by Lionel Acat, Christian Aubenque,
Jean-Pierre Delettre, Julien Poitou-Weber,
and Marie-Claire Quin 
Hair and make-up by Jean-Pierre Caminade and Valérie Tranier
Costumes by Naima Lagrange and Virginie Viard
Starring Juliette Binoche

   This movie is so intricate and precisely-made that it feels good to watch as soon as it starts playing. It's the color, the silence, the rare perspectives that draw us in, and then, wham! The story and music pound harder than anything we've witnessed. The movie uses color saturation, brightness, darkness, silence, and Preisner's stunning score to bring to life Kieslowski's melancholy tale of loss and rebirth. It feels like a break into a new era of film-making. Poetry and technology, spirit, joy, and pain. Binoche's performance smolders with silent pain, and gives us the 
   The title translates from French to "Three Colors: Blue", a reference to the trilogy the movie is a part of, Blue, White, and Red, representing the colors of the French flag. Blue also refers to a feeling of melancholy.


Latcho drom
Written and directed by Tony Gatlif
Produced by Michèle Ray-Gavras
Cinematography by Eric Guichard
Editing by Nicole Berckmans
Art direction by Denis Mercier

   It's a new kind of musical. The story is more subtle, loose, but the music and dancing is intense, fiery and stirring. It's about a race of people scattered, wandering, and oppressed who somehow triumph in their unity and their culture of music, dance, color, and family. The cinematography catches the details that the curious eye craves, and the editing ties them together with poetic meaning. 
   The mind swoons at how this was all put together through all the countries, landscapes, times of day, languages, and customs. The title translates from Romani as "Safe journey".


Nirvana - MTV Unplugged in New York
Directed by Beth McCarthy-Miller
Series created by Jim Burns and Robert Small
Produced by Alex Coletti
Music by Kurt Cobain
Editing by Jon Vesey
Art direction by Robert Fisher
Starring Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic,
Dave Grohl, Pat Smear,
Lori Goldston, Cris Kirkwood,
and Curt Kirkwood

   So tasteful, so emotional, so beautifully staged. Could this really be a concert of a hard rock band? Every song is beautiful, and it showcases one of the truest artists of our lifetime.

1992: 2 movies

posted on 2016 March 30

Jamón Jamón
Directed by Bigas Luna
Written by Cuca Canals, Bigas Luna,
and Quim Monzó
Produced by Andrés Vicente Gómez
Music by Nicola Piovani
Cinematography by José Luis Alcaine
Editing by Teresa Font
Casting by Consol Tura
Production design by Gloria Martí-Palanqués and Pep Oliver
Art direction by Noemí Campano and Chu Uroz
Set decor by Julio Esteban and Pedro Gaspar
Costumes by Neus Olivella and Belen Lemaitre
Special Effects by Reyes Abades
Starring Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem,
Stefania Sandrelli,  and Jordi Mollà

   A dirty mess of a movie, but it's proud of its dirtiness. Incest, nudity, violence, animal abuse, adultery, prostitution, and garlic breath, all of this is depicted, and yet it doesn't glorify any of it. Instead it's a poem about human dreams, human weakness, and the way humans have made everything so complicated. The all-star cast helps keep it all afloat as do the talents of the crew. It may not be pretty but it's certainly a picture that stays with you and holds tons of truth.
   The title translates from Spanish to "Ham Ham"


Wayne's World
Directed by Penelope Spheeris
Written by Mike Myers, Bonnie Turner,
and Terry Turner
Produced by Lorne Michaels
Music by J. Peter Robinson
Cinematography by Theo van de Sande
Editing by Malcolm Campbell
Casting by Glenn Daniels
Production design by Gregg Fonseca
Art direction by Bruce Alan Miller
Set decor by Jay Hart
Costumes by Pat Tonnema, Kimberly Guenther Durkin,
and Janet Sobel
Make-up by Mel Berns Jr. and Courtney Carell
Hair-styling by Kathrine Gordon, Barbara Lorenz,
and Carol Meikle
Music by David Campbell and Maureen Crowe
Starring Mike Myers, Dana Carvey,
Tia Carrere, and Rob Lowe

   I found this movie entertaining, whimsical, and yet relevant, with an under-lying revisionist conceit that belied the film's emotional attachments to the subject matter. Hahaha! That's what the characters say during the ending credits about how they hope the movie is accepted.
   In other words, this movie doesn't suck. It subverts all the tropes of big-studio movie-making to tell a story of two down-on-their-luck but sincere guys who dream of love, rock and roll, and a tv-show. They venture into a risky deal with big money, striving to remain true, and encapsulating the spirit of the time.
   The casting is perfect, from all the leads to all the supporting cast, and the tone of humor trumps everything, making us root for Wayne and Garth as heroes. The loose structure, the cultural references, and the way the heroes talk to the camera calls to mind past works of comic brilliance like those of the Marx Brothers, while somehow still coming across as fresh.
   Whether it's realistic or fairy-tale doesn't really matter, as the movie proves with its three endings. What matters here is that we understand the sincerity of the leads and their intentions, as they are comic cheerleaders in the fight for the spot-light on the underdog-class. In short, all is well when Wayne and Garth are on the screen.