Mineshaft Gap

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


Miami Vice (Mann, 2006)

Who would have thought that instead of a tired TV series remake, Michael Mann would turn Miami Vice into a breathtaking work of video art? Character and plot are really secondary to the image in Mann's new film, and thankfully so. No one needs a remake of another 80s TV series, and Mann takes us into other territory completley. The film is not about Crockett and Tubbs, and is barely about Farrell and Foxx, it is about the look of the sky or the ocean, the way men move in violence, and the nature of work.

Like all Mann's films, work is at the heart of Miami Vice. We get next to nothing of backstory for our leads, and from the first frame we are plunged into a visceral tale. You don't take a breath till an hour into the film. Movement defines these men, not pasts. Mann keeps wipping the images by you, effortlessly establishing tone and mood, and holding you in his control.

Though obstensibly about a standard cop show plot, at its heart this is non-narrative cinema, this is video art.

Current 2006 Top Ten:
1. Miami Vice
2. United 93
3. A Prairie Home Companion
4. An Inconvenient Truth
5. Dave Chapelle's Block Party
6. Nacho Libre
7. Hard Candy
8. Superman Returns
9. Thank You For Smoking
10. V for Vendetta

Four horror films.

The Piano Teacher (Haneke, 2001)

More a psychological horror film than anything else, Haneke's 2001 prizewinner is a sad and haunting look at repression. Huppert is brilliant, and Haneke manages to keep it moving no matter how slow the story.

Friday the 13th (Cunningham, 1980)

If Haneke can show the heughts of horror, then this has to be the nadir. Completely uninvolving and boring.

Sleepaway Camp (Hiltzik, 1983)

Cheesy, but in a knowing way, this is leagues better than the "Jason" films.

Zombie (Fulci, 1979)

No Romero, but this is an occasionally scary, wonderfully over the top flick with a pretty great ending.


Pravda (Godard and the Dziga Vertov Group, 1970)

definitely one of the best of Godard's later political polemics, his attack on the socialist revisionism of Czechoslovakia is a heady mix of Marxist readings and intricate montage. You don't have to agree with Godard and company to see the amazing essayist talent in the film. An always compelling, frequently funny piece.

Quick Hits Because I am Lazy.

Veronica Mars: Season 1 (Thomas, 2004)

Not a film, but one of the best examples of how good current television can be. Witty without ever venturing into over-the-top nature of Whedon or Sorkin in their most indulgent moments, VM draws full characters and plays with genre as well as any film. The final episode is the best example of the slasher genre I have seen in recent years. Good stuff.

Funny Games (Haneke, 1997)

Another breathtaking yet mannered film from the Austrian provocateur, his examination of violence in the cinema is infuriating and intellectually thrilling. I can't agree with his overarching argument, that violent cinema is created through the brutality of the audience, but at the

Shivers (Cronenberg, 1975)

David C's first feature is still scary today, and better than much of his early output (I'm looking your way, Scanners). A very disturbing ending and some good scares.

Life of Brian (Jones, 1979)

Their most coherent film, and the best example of their intelligence, Brian's best bits (the Sermon on the Mount, the zealots chasing Brian) all skewer organized religion as mercilessly as there has ever been in pop culture.

Birth (Glazer, 2004)

I don't know if I am fully behind the current critical reappraisal of Glazer's underappreciated 2004 gem, but it is defiantly a formally challenging and thematically disturbing tale about loss and hope. I feel the style is a little too cribbed from Kubrick to be a full fledged masterpiece, but it shows much promise from a director that just turned 40. I really need to see Sexy Beast.

Typhoid Mary.

Rabid (Cronenberg, 1977)

The best thing about this early Cronenberg thriller is it's incredible sadness. Chambers is quite impressive as the pseudo-vampire, and the idea of this world is terrifying. A great early horror flick from the master

Godard's mind.

Sauve qui peut(la vie) (Godard, 1979)

Watching Godard's 1979 return to the cinema is a telling look into the mind of an artist at a breaking point. Full of a type of overwhelming cynicism that would steadily grow in his work, and lacking even in his revolutionary fire, it is about malaise and masochism. But Godard seems to come to it naturally, without asking you for pity. He is at times accusatory, at times regretful and frequently just melancholy. Godard sees the death of the cinema, which he had predicted since Weekend as well as his own coming irrelevance.

What irony then that this work would restore his place in world cinema, and would rank with and above all but the best of his sixties work. Just as his attitude to cinema radically altered film in the sixties, his look at modern life in 1979 would challenge the coming 80s materialism. Gone is the fun of the New Wave films, but also gone are the dry polemics of the 70s videos. His characters are brutal archetypes of the modern world, prostitutes all. But even here he manages to keep a slim glimmer of hope, for the whore and the writer have a chance for redemption. He has little sympathy for his surrogate, Paul Godard, and it is that self loathing that closes the film. But as we watch Godard change through the 80s, finally coming to the glory of New Wave, we see him regaining the spirit that his rejection in the 1970s stripped away. Sauve qui peut(la vie) should never be translated as a title. In English, la vie invariably gets lost and that is tragic. Even as an after thought life is always on Godard's mind.

Another Roundup.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Gillam and Jones, 1977)

Still a classic to this day. "Oh, now we see the violence inherent in the system!"

Seven (Fincher, 1997)

Dark and disturbing, with solid performances around. I hope Fincher comes back this year with another solid thriller like this.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (Verbinsky, 2006)

As disappointing as any movie that has come out this year, this film takes all the slack of the original and adds a complete uninteresting performance by Depp. The liveliness of Captain Jack is gone, and the whole thing seems weighed down by expectations.


The Devil Wears Prada (Frankel, 2006)

If this comedy were funny, then it might be worthwhile. As is it is mildly amusing (especially Emily Blunt), and painful to watch Meryl Streep try to wring comedy out of this unfunny scrip. Anne Hathaway, looking a lot like a young Liza Minnelli, and Adrian Greiner are easy on the eyes, though, so the film isn't a complete waste of time. Just close.