Mineshaft Gap

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

Forget it Jake.

Chinatown (Polanski, 1974)

Since I am reading Bingham's Acting Male right now, I've decided to watch and re-watch some of the 70s Nicholson classics. I first watched Chinatown when I was about 16 and it confused me(though what didn't at that age). Rewatching it again last night, it is amazing how subversive and genuinely disturbing a film it is. Far more horrific in its end than Rosemary's Baby, the film pulls back the curtain on paternalism so brilliantly because it suckers you in so completely. Polanski, from Towne's brilliant script, effortlessly builds the tension and lays out the mystery, playing you all along until the true plot hits you when you least expect.

Crime in Society.

Bicycle Thieves (De Sica, 1948)

Another film I am embarrassed to say I hadn't seen, this absolutely lived up to its vaunted reputation. It should be shown to anyone that doubts the link between society and crime.

2 More.

Scary Movie 4 (Zucker, 2006)

While Zucker and Abrahams still know how to be funny, the act has worn thin. This is no better than any of the other Scary Movies.

Inside Man (Lee, 2006)

A tight script and solid direction, plus that killer cast really add up to something. Lee still knows how to play with the camera, and really could have gone mainstream with his talents because he certainly has the eye. But even here he has something to say about race in class in modern New York. The script keeps the expository groaners to a minimum, and Lee keeps everything rolling along.

Current 2006 Top Ten:
1. Miami Vice
2. United 93
3. A Prairie Home Companion
4. The Descent
5. An Inconvenient Truth
6. Dave Chapelle's Block Party
7. Inside Man
8. The Black Dahlia
9. Nacho Libre
10. Hard Candy


The Outlaw Josey Wales (Eastwood, 1976)

This was perhaps the first film that showed Eastwood as auteur, and it is still a classic in a lot of ways. The Eastwood western was always a different breed than that of Hawks and Ford, or even Leone. Eastwood is more interested in family than action, and in paternalism in both its positive and negative aspects. Josey Wales is a famed killer, and yet one that was driven by forces outside his own traditional Missouri farm. His story is a tragedy and a fairy tale. It is a story for adults, and Eastwood handles it with both tact and horror, longing and joy.


Pierrot le Fou (Godard, 1965)

I watched Pierrot le Fou again because I had been thinking about it a great deal lately. I felt that I needed to see it again, now that my understanding of film is greater, and that it might become one of my favorite films if I saw it again now. So what is my new verdict? The film, like all of Godard, is hard to judge. Godard is mistrusting of emotion in film (no matter what Fuller says in this film) and what he is doing at the heart of his work is intellectual. That said Pierrot is a film of connected joys, of a gangster film, a musical, and a melodrama and tragedy. It offers compelling texts on all Godard's favorite themes, from art to relationships. It seems to state a basic disconnect between men and women, and indeed seems to hold that the same disconnect is within cinema and is what killed the world of Hawks and Ray.

Emotion versus intellect, but which side is Godard really on? It is hard to ignore the implicit and explicit misogyny of much of Godard's work, yet do we really relate or empathize any more with Ferdinand than Marianne? She is living her life, while his intellectualism cripples him. If he is an artist in search of a subject, why ignore the life being lived by the woman beside him? Or is that exactly what Godard is saying, and about himself no less. David Thomson suggested that Godard loved the image of Karina more than the woman herself, and Pierrot le Fou seems to be about that painful realization.

And in that light and in that way it become the most revealing of tragedies. Moments ago I was unsure of what to think of this film or how to place it within my own cannon. But now I see this as a tragedy of an artist, and Godard's own most self-critical and self damning works. It is perhaps his most modernist text and the height of his modernist cinema. It is a film that is powerfully moving after it is intellectualized, which means it is exactly what Godard intended. The artist himself has abdicated the film, but it may simply be to painful for him to acknowledge as anything more than bourgeois. Instead it is a tragedy of modernity, of art, of cinema and of Godard.


The Wind Will Carry Us (Kiarostami, 1999)

Possibly my least favorite of the Kiarosatmis I have seen so far, it is none the less a lyrical and haunting portrayal of village life in Iran and moral bankruptcy in benign ways. Kiarostami's use of darkness in the cellar scene is mesmerizing.

Jason X (Isaac, 2001)

By far the best of the Jason films, this is a clever and actually scary chapter in the saga.

Through the Olive Trees (Kiarostami, 1994)

A comedy, a tragedy, a documentary. Kiarostami's 1994 masterpiece is an engrossing and intensely moving piece that made me happy to be alive. In its story of a film director, a boy and a girl the film reveals a universality to human existence as seen through the specificity of a tiny Iranian village. Funny, sad and, as far as I read the last shot, joyous Through the Olive Trees is one of the greatest works of cinematic art.

The Black Dahlia (De Palma, 2006)

Why, why Brian do you feel the need to tell a story here? That may sound ridiculous when discussing a murder-mystery but for the first two acts this film rides easily along on mood and setting. De Palma plays with his twin themes of voyeurism and obsession beautifully, and is back by brilliant performances by Swank and the ethereal Mia Kirshner. But once the story hits in act three and the exposition starts flying all the goodwill is brought to a screeching halt and we are just left cold. Hartnet isn't awfully, though Scarlett Johanson is, but it is hard to get past those atrocious last 20 minutes. Before that, however, there are a great number of things to cherish about the film.

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

Life, Death, Life, Film, Death.

A Taste of Cherry... (Kiarostami, 1997)

Why do
we live and why do we die? What purpose is there in such a world as this. Mr. Obadi is searching for just such a purpose in Kiarostami's masterful 1997 Palm d'Or winner. In his search he finds frightened youth, dogmatic young adults, and resigned elders. His quest is to find someone to save his life, which in the end he finds through the one old man that would help him end it. As for the epilogue, it expresses in one concise moment the joys and pain of life. Or rather, everything that makes life worth living.

New Nightmare
(Craven, 1994)

How do you make postmodern boring
? Ask Wes Craven to do it. Additionally, this is perhaps the most narcissistic film ever made. It boils down to the fact the Craven is such a gifted storyteller that evil itself wants to be a part of his creations.

(Kiarostami, 2002)

In ten succinct and brilliant episodes, Kiarostami tells you everything you need to know about modern Iran and its male-female relationships. From there you also get the feeling that he is using the mirror of Iran to say much about all human society. Ten is a film that is sneakily powerful and painfully human.

10 on Ten (Kiarostami, 2003)

Kiarostami's simple film class is less instructive than explanatory of his own filmmaking manifesto. Kiarostami is almost oddly humble in the work, constantly pointing out that this is just how filmmaking works for him.

(Bava, 1985)

An incredibly enjoyable and actually scary Italian horror flick produced by Argento, Demons hits all the obvious notes but just does them incredibly well.


With the festival coming up I am swamped at work, but I have had a chance to watch these movies:

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2-4 (Various, 1980s)

Sad schlok after a decent first flick.

The Passenger (Antonioni, 1975)

Antonioni's 1975 masterpiece is a brilliant and challenging film that is engaging without ever fully embracing it's thriller trappings. Nicholson proves again why in the 1970s he truly mattered as Antonioni's camera wanders through the wreckag of his life. The celebrated final shot is perhaps the best single shot in the history of the cinema, both bringing the film full circle and giving it its only satisfying ending without ever seeming trite.