Mineshaft Gap

It's a screening log, no more no less. Maybe I'll have something interesting to say one of these days...

It's Stork.

Children of Men (Cuaron, 2006)

Equal parts mesmerizing and baffling, Cuaron's new feature is a great film made from a banal topic. His story is slight, and his characters (though well played) are not particularly deep. But the film is a masterpiece of mise-en-scene, and masterful at underplaying big scenes of emotion.

The visceral cinematography and choreography by what seems like hundreds if not thousands of extras grounds you in the reality of this world. Cuaron is making a very specific statement about injustice and hope, but never lets his polemic become to bald-faced. Even in one long tracking shot that plays like a catalogue of Abu Ghraib imagery, I felt something was being reveled to me, not forced upon me.

All of this combines with perhaps the year's best ensemble performance. Owen, Moore, Eijiofor, Ashitey, Huston and especially Caine are stellar. Caine specifically turns in his best performance in years, playing a character something like an aged Alfie with a soul. He is funny and tenderly heartbreaking.

In the long run Cuaron may not to have much to say about the whys of the world today, but he cares deeply about the how. Within his quite classical narrative he wants to display how a government will go about cheapening individuals towards an amorphous "security". The torture, the marginalization and violations of what we like to hold as basic human rights are what he displays here, in powerful long takes. Even if his plot is in any number of SF novels, his images are uniquely his own with, a power to resonate through the world.

Current 2006 Top Ten:
1. Three Times
2. Children of Men
Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story
4. Miami Vice
5. A Prairie Home Companion
6. The Departed
7. The Queen
8. United 93
9. Inside Man
10. Dave Chapelle's Block Party

Strong Women.

His Girl Friday (Hawks, 1939)

Just a brilliant, brilliant film. Russell and Grant have such great chemistry, and the characters are so strong. Hawks was such the ideal studio director, capable of handling any genre, and any beat in any film.

More Movies.

Wet Hot American Summer (Wain, 2001)

Goddamn this movie is funny.

Three Times (Hou, 2006)

Three eras, three "times". A time for love that is about separation, a time for freedom that is about slavery, and a time for youth that is about death. Beautifully shot and deeply felt. Hou Hsiao-Hsien is a powerful genius.

Current 2006 Top Ten:
1. Three Times
2. The Departed

3. Miami Vice
4. Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story
5. A Prairie Home Companion
6. The Queen
7. United 93
8. Inside Man
9. Casino Royale
10. Dave Chapelle's Block Party

Conservative America.

Cars (Lasseter, 2006)

Charming and sweet, if not quite the equal of other PIXAR films, Lasseter's peon to '50s and '60s America veers between gently charming and promoting a reductionary ideology about conservative America and the "fly over states". The message is light enough though not to interfere with enjoying this cute but slight children's film.

Manderlay (von Trier, 2005)

A sequel(of sorts) to von Trier's 2003 masterpiece Dogville, Manderlay is a vicious attack on the supposedly liberal face of America. Manderlay is a world of prolonged slavery, and von Trier says explicitly that white Americans still enslave people to this day. The different facets of Grace shown in this film almost make her a different character than Kidman's Grace, she has taken on the role of pseudo-liberal society that was Paul Bettany's Tom in Dogville. As with that film, Manderlay's Bowie-scored close is blistering.

More films.

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (Cassavetes, 1976)

Why is it that I have become so interested in films elliptically about artists? Pierrot le Fou and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie are both about their makers more than about any plot or genre. Cosmo Vitteli is John Cassavetes. He is the center of an eccentric family of performers, all working to express themselves and stay alive. The film has the same air of tragedy as Godard's: that of the lost artist. And yet, in the same way as Godard this film has hints of a simple misogyny. But it is undercut in the films by Godrd's love of Karina, even in his sadness, and by Mr. Sophistication, Cassavetes grotesque self portrait. He uses the genre's conventions towards a probing examination of art of self.

Dreamgirls (Condon, 2006)

Way too long, but with good songs and great performances by Murphy and Hudson. Condon has no personal style, which limits this from being anything special.

Flowers from Shanghai (Hou, 1998)

My first Hou Hsiao-Hsien. It took me a good 20 minutes to adjust to his style, because he is speaking in a language all his own. The film he makes here is ravishing and epically sad. Off putting at first, the series of fades give the film a sense of memory that never borders on nostalgia. Leung and the ensemble feel authentically of the period. This is an incredibly intriguing film which may be a masterpiece; only more Hou films will help me to know.

10 adjusting.

I just realized that Tristram Shandy is an '06 film. There for it is in the list. As always it will probably be February before I see all the films I need to to make this list. I have high hopes for Children of Men, Three Times, Pan's Labyrinth and Inland Empire.

Current 2006 Top Ten:
1. The Departed
2. Miami Vice
3. Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story
4. The Queen
5. A Prairie Home Companion
6. United 93
7. Casino Royale
8. Inside Man
9. Dave Chapelle's Block Party
10. Borat


Celine and Julie Go Boating (Rivette, 1974)

What is this film? It is about stories and memory, and friendship. Is it too long? Yes, but I would not give up one of the digressions, from Celine and the suitor to Julie and the audition. This film is filled with such a joy about stories and telling them. It can be intoxicating to watch. It is in and of the cinema. It is a masterpiece.

Seed of Chucky (Mancini, 2004)

Funny and even a little brave, this is the way almost any horror comedy should be. Jennifer Tilly should be a star.

Movies of late.

In addition to starting to watch but failing to get through Pulse, the American remake, here's what I have seen of late.

Unaccompanied Minors (Feig, 2006)

Cute, and the Kids in the Hall guys were great.

Je Vous Salue, Marie (Godard, 1985)

More proof of the greatness of large images, watching this on my new bigger TV made all the difference from my first viewing a year ago. Godard's clarity of thought screams through in this film. He gets at the heart of the difficulties of faith. His eye lingers perhaps a little too long on young naked bodies, but the fervor of his ideas is breathtaking.

Petit Notes a propos du film Je Vous Salue, Marie (Godard, 1985)

Another of Godard's video preparations for a feature, this one ruminating on the nature of facial poses and the influence of music. A fantastic piece of video criticism.

The Dreamers (Bertolucci, 2003)

There is something so compelling about the lives of beautiful people on film. The politics are only given glossy treatment, but the films do feel truly loved and the performances are fantastic. Bernardo's own personal experience is what drives this film. His own worship of Godard, and coming of age during the Nouvelle Vague(he would have been a significant, but still minor 7-8 years older than his subjects here during May of '68). A film that can be loved for its cinephilia, despite it's shallowness or flaws.