With Blue Is The Warmest Color getting the dreaded NC-17 rating and 50 Shades Of Grey almost destined to nab it in 2014, I was thinking back on some of the most memorable NC-17 rated films since the rating got introduced more than 20 years ago. Before that there was the X rating, which was just as bad and meant for a provocative experience to say the least .. Many of these films didn't even deserve the NC-17 they got. Martin Scorsese's upcoming The Wolf Of Street had to be trimmed down because the MPAA was about to slap it with an NC-17. Yikes. Even a master filmmaker like Scorsese is having a hard time dealing with the MPAA bullies.
Most of the time it has to do with the sex, other times it's .. actually 99% of the time it's the sex. You get Hollywood films where heads get blown off and those movies always get away with it easy, but you have two people having their genitals showing and the MPAA is up and arms over it. Talk about stupidity. I'd rather have my children watch two people having sex than a guy's head getting sawed off -Saw anyone? And then there is debate as to how violent movies are responsible for all these school shooting and mall shooting happening around our neighborhoods. Maybe if those kids were watching people having sex instead of a mindless Stallone vehicle maybe it wouldn't have turned out so bad.
Listen, I'm not for censorship of violent films. I just think it's funny that sex is still a scary thing in the States and that meanwhile out there in Europe there are nude women in bus ads. Talk about societal advancements, those Europeans got it going on. i just find it ironic that for a country that seems to be scared of sex -"oh the children", "GOD is looking down on you"- there really is less of a strict restriction from the MPAA on violent, big blockbuster movies. I mean, how shocking is it to watch a vagina? as compared to, for example, watching a woman getting her face busted in by her boyfriend in The Expendables (an R rated film by the way ..) Slapping an NC-17 rating on a film with sexually graphic scenes prevents some people from watching -for example- Blue Is The Warmest Color, which is one of the best films of the year or last year's underseen but brilliant Killer Joe.
Here are notable films that have gotten the rating since its inception back in 1990.
Where The Truth Lies
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
There isn't much that's hidden in Blue Is The Warmest Color. The film's director Abdel Kechiche has taken much heat for not only having his film run more than 3 hours but also for shooting scenes of graphic sex involving his two female leads. It's more than just sex that runs through Kechiche's film but the sex is important. That's one thing I don't think people seem to be getting. Of course Kechiche shoots them in such a sensual, male-gazing kind of way and -yes- he seems to be getting away with a lot (no wonder his actresses said they felt used during the shoot). However I do think these sex scenes represent an integral part of the overall story.
Our two lovebirds Emma and Adele don't have much in common. Emma loves art and hanging out with pretentious-talking artists and doesn't really care about making as much money as possible in life. Whereas Adele -as much as she loves to read and talk art- is more earthbound and finds having a steady job and healthy salary to be of the up-most importance. That's why she pursues her passion of teaching at a daycare. These ideal are reinforced when we get to meet the parents of both young girls, they end up sharing the same common ideals. Adele's parents reinforce the question of yes, art is great but where does one's salary come from if you make it your living. Emma's parents on the other hand love art and don't mind that their daughter is putting it at the forefront of her life.
These two girls have practically nothing in common except for one thing, the lust they have for each other is tremendously intense. Sex drives their relationship. So much so that Emma finds Adele to be a kind of muse for her paintings. That is why I find Kechiche's reason for having such graphic sex scenes not out of the ordinary. Kechiche is trying to show us how these two girls can only connect in the bedroom. Outside there isn't much chemistry. Sure, they talk a lot about philosophy -Sartre!- and literature but one feels like Adele is being forced into these conversations more than passionately seduced by them.
It is then no surprise that their union ends up fizzling out. Sex can no longer hold it together because at the end of the day it takes more than just passionate sex to make a relationship work. It takes a bond that is more than just about sexual desire. That is where Blue Is The Warmest Color hits its rough patches, we knew the end was coming and that Adele -still immature and baby-faced- would be heartbroken by a relationship that was all style and no substance.
Crying ensues. The film picks up again once the two girls meet up at a coffee shop to bid their adieux's to one another. No clothes are taken off but the sexual chemistry is still there, Adele licks Emma's fingers and puts her hand between her legs. All this in broad daylight, in front of people. This scene is more sexual and provocative than any of the nudity-laced ones we had seen prior. Emma finds a way to control herself and tells Adele that it's too late. She knows that it takes more than just sex to make a relationship work. Of course, it is an important part of any relationship but Adele and Emma are two different people that somehow ended up in a relationship. Sex held it together.
The color blue is firmly placed in almost every scene involving Adele. Emma's hair color is blue. From a scarf to the park bench where they have their first kiss, the color is subtly -or for some unsubtly- utilized to evoke the state of mind of her character. She is deeply and firmly in love and the color cannot escape her every move. It isn't up until the breakup that Kechiche decides to replace that color with red to show the vast emptiness that Emma has had on Adele's life.
In the film's final scene we are in an art gallery at Emma's show, Adele shows up all dressed up and -to my eyes- not really sure why she is there. It is clear that Adele wants closure but how to get it. She sees Emma's circle of friends, her new girlfriend and the pretentiousness that reigns all around the room. That is more than enough for Adele to finally find closure. She knows this world is not for her, she is more than happy with her job teaching kids. In fact, just like her own self, she has graduated to teaching first graders. A subtle indication that she is growing up just like the kids she is teaching. A final shot of her walking away from the gallery is all we really needed to see to know she will be alright.
Monday, November 11, 2013
The physical transformation Matthew Mcconaughey succumbs to in The Dallas Buyer's Club is one for the history books. Forget about the more than 40 pounds the actor had to lose to portray Ron Woodroof and think more of the way he completely delves into the mannerisms and tics of a homophobic, female loving, bigot that finds out he's HIV positive and has 30 days to live. That's what happened to Woodroof in 1985, just as the disease was taking its toll on not just the population but -SHOCK- Hollywood as well. In the early moments of the film lone star cowboys gather around the back shed of a rodeo to see the headline in the paper which reads "Ron Hudson dead of AIDS". Not many people wanted to believe it was AIDS that killed one of the most masculine actors Hollywood ever produced.
Woodroof wasn't a saint. In fact he was the complete polar opposite, a man so bigoted and endowed with his radical principles that even after the doctor tells him he's dying of AIDS he blatantly responds "I ain't no queer". So the story goes, Woodroof eventually realizes that he does have AIDS and is consequentially rejected by friends and co-workers. What must a man do next? That's where the story gets interesting. AZT was the big drug of the moment to combat the disease back in the 80's. The FDA was making clinical study after clinical study to look at the effects the drug had on AIDS patients throughout the country.
Woodroof tries it and finds his illness worsening. From there on in he travels to places as diverse as Mexico, Israel, Japan, China and Sweden to find the latest breakthroughs in medicine to combat his HIV -and others in the process. Opening up a Dallas Buyer's Club inside a rundown motel room gets Woodroof going and sets up a chain of events which eventually make him one of the top black marketers for AIDS medicine. The FDA obviously disapproved of his actions. Set out legal lawsuits against Woodroof to put a stop to his rebellious ways.
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee, the film has a gritty, docu-drama feel to it. The momentum it builds up in its first half can however not be maintained in its second half. cliches come to Valee's film at a furious pace, so does the presence of Jennifer Garner who's vastly underutilized as a doctor that defies her peers' orders and backs up Woodroof's case. What makes this film are its performances. Jared Leto as a transvestite that becomes Woodroof's partner is a standout. But it's Mcconaughey, skeletal and gaunt, that gives us a fearless, impassioned performance that can be qualified as artfully resonant. He deserves every award that is coming his way. He has never been better.
Saturday, November 2, 2013
Sorry for the lack of posting in the last few weeks, my hands have been pretty full of late but I plan on catching up with you very soon. I have still managed to catch up with a few goodies at the cinema and will tell you all about them in the coming week or so. 2013 is shaping up to be one hell of a movie year.
Friday, October 11, 2013
1) The Master
P.T Anderson's masterpiece is almost unexplainable. A reinvention of the cinematic language with a never better Joaquin Phoenix. The backdrop is scientology but that's only the backdrop for a much complexer movie.
2) Zero Dark Thirty
Forget about the Bin Laden raid which ends the movie. What counts in Kathryn Bigelow's film is how to they actually got to the most wanted man in the world. The procedural work rivals that of "All The Presidents Men" anf features a great petformance from Jessica Chastain.
3) Killer Joe
Matthew Mcconaughey is scary good as a crooked cop that rivals Keitel in "Bad Lieutenant". Director William Friedkin directs this tale about the dark side of humanity and how far for the sake of greed.
Ridley Scott's prequel to his "Alien" is the kind of movie I love. Filled with ambitious ideas about creation, "Prometheus" can be seen as a great bookend to last year's "Tree Of Life". It is a deep, satisfyingly rewarding experience.
Joseph Gordon Levitt stars in director Rian Johnson's Sci-Fi tale about loopers, time travel and murder is an original and visionary mind bender. Following it might be a mind fuck but the high that comes out of it is contagious.
6) The Dark Knight Rises
Forget about the flaws which include an unworthy twist near the end. Christopher Nolan's conclusion to the greatest superhero trilogy ever told has many high points and an ending that satisifies the 8 year journey. Joseph Gordon Levitt is again a standout.
7) Rust And Bone
8) The Sessions
Marillon Cotillard excels as a woman that loses noth her legs at work but ends up finding love. Directoer Jacques Audiard proves that "Rust And Bone" was no fluke by making a hard edged film about tragedy, love and forgiveness.
Who says a paraplegic can't have sex. John Hawkes and Helen Hunt make a fantastic team in this true life story about a paraplegic that wants to experience sex and hires a sex surrogate to fullfill his needs. Sweetly rendered and never joked upon.
9) Seven Psychopaths
An all-talented cast that includes Walken, Rockwell and Harrellson surrounds this original black comedy about the criminal underground. Martin Mcdonaugh's bold, outrageous and wild film is bound to achieve cult status.
Pixar's latest was met with just polite approval upon its release in the summer. For all its conventional narrative "Brave" is a gorgeous looking film with more than enough heart and laughs to place it next to the great Pixar flicks.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
To think that Dziga Vertov's The Man With a Movie Camera came out more than 74 years ago. Things have changed in cinema since then, yet the influence Vertov's film has had on movies is immeasurable. Film was already entering the sound era and silent pictures were slowly dying, yet "talkies" -as they called them back then- weren't fully fleshed out and the quality was lacking. There was something missing. It took Vertov's experimental film to pave the way for the next 80 years of cinema to come.
There aren't many films as influential as Vertov's masterpiece of sound and image. One can think of Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless in 1960 and its invention of the jump cuts but even that film can't compare to Vertov. "It stands as a stinging indictment of almost every film made between its release in 1929 and the appearance of Godard’s 'Breathless' 30 years later," the critic Neil Young wrote, "and Vertov’s dazzling picture seems, today, arguably the fresher of the two." Godard is said to have introduced the "jump cut," but Vertov's film is entirely jump cuts.
Before Man With A Movie Camera most films had shots that lasted for many seconds, if not minutes. The average shot length in 1929 was of 11.2 seconds. In the blink of an eye Vertov decided to make an experiment and have HIS shots last a much shorter duration. The average shot length of his film ended up being a mere 2.3 seconds, a feat completely unheard of back in 1929. To give you an example Michael Bay's Armageddon released in 1998 also has an ASL of 2.3 seconds.
Vertov saw how cinema was stuck in a tradition of being shot like a stage play. I can think of Josef Von Sternberg and his Marlene Dietrich pictures which, to my eyes at least, haven't aged very well because of the staginess and theatricality that infused their every frame. The same could be said with many of that films at that time that refused to break the wall of theatricality.
It wasn't just the ASL that was mind blowing, Vertov decided to make an experiment and to push the boundaries of what cinema can do. He combined his images of daily life in communist-era USSR with a soundtrack that melded perfectly with his images. It's as if the music was made to gel with the celluloid he shot. There isn't anything dramatically gripping in the film as much as there is a bombardment of contagious cinematic joy. The sheer rush of experimentation. In fact this experimentation still seems fresh by today's standards. 80 years later, Vertov's masterpiece still has a striking effect with a whole new audience.
Thursday, October 3, 2013
Gravity is eye popping stuff. Alfonso Cuaron has made a movie that is unlike any we’ve ever seen before. It’s almost as groundbreaking as Avatar minus the flaws Cameron’s film had. Cuaron's magic here is perfect. This is a straightforward blockbuster from an auteur who knows how to please. Cuaron's films have legitimately made him one of the best directors around (Children Of Men, Y Tu Mama Tambien) hell he even made high art out of a Harry Potter film. Prisoner Of Azkaban was by far the best one of the series, with its exceptional visuals. So who's to expect anything else but a great movie from Cuaron. He's made one here with Gravity. There are no eye popping, gut squirming villains in this space world. The villain here is just gravity itself in all of its nightmarish, scientific and subtle madness.
It would be unfair to reveal the secrets behind the plot but suffice to say a master is at work here and Cuaron has surely directed Sandra Bullock to her second Oscar Nomination – if not, her second win. Bullock is dead-on as an astronaut with not much to live for but her job, especially as she is still mourning the death of her daughter back at home. Corny stuff right? but you believe it and are affected by it. George Clooney plays her co-pilot in the space mission and he acts, well, like George Clooney in an astronaut suit. I'm fine with that. Some of the visuals here are tremendous, in a how-the-hell-did-they-do-it kind of way. It was supposedly a torturous experience for Sandra Bullock as she told us at the film's premiere in Toronto. Bullock was in a cubicle the entire shoot of the film and had to rely on her imagination to act out the scenes. It seems to have worked.
Gravity is a film that relies on its visuals to tell a story. The hypnotic madness of space itself is continuously a theme that was delved upon before, most notably in Stanley Kubrick's 2001:A Space Odyssey. This is not as trippy an experience as Kubrick's journey into the human psyche but it relies on that film as a draft for its more entertaining aspirations. Some of Gravity's images have been firmly planted into my head since I last saw it in Toronto 3 weeks ago. It's a film that is meant to be seen on the biggest screen possible with the biggest speakers. The dialogue is minimal but the music -brilliantly composed by Stephen Price- drives the story along with its loud, penetrating beat.
The last 10 minutes of Gravity are as intense any film I've seen this year, in fact it'll make you appreciate the grounded feel of our beloved planet. There's something to be said about a film that takes place mostly in space with not much plot to speak for but the survival of its protagonists. What Cuaron and his brother Carlos -they wrote the screenplay together- have achieved is an immersive experience unlike any other we've ever seen before. Comparisons to Avatar will be made, but Gravity is a better, more artful experience. A 90 minute trip to space with the unrelenting feeling of wanting to get out alive.
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Breaking Bad. There, I said it. It seems like it's the only thing people have been talking about these last few weeks. With good reason. This was an exceptional show, from the likes we hadn't seen since The Sopranos. A show that took on such cinematic value that it made us aware of just how low the quality of movies really is these days compared to cable TV. Walter White's fate became such a nationwide phenomenon that if you said words such as "Heisenberg" or "Ricin" chances are people would know what you were talking about.
The last three episodes of the series really just blew me away, starting with "Ozymiandas" which was an amazing achievement that proved that cable TV could be of the stuff deserving of Oscars, ditto the last two episodes which laid the ground for an epic finale. One that might have not been as risk-taking as say The Sopranos whatthefuckjusthappened ender or as brilliantly realized as Six Feet Under's ambitious time lapse but it kept its promise intact and used Walter White's ingenuity to tie up all the loose ends and serve up some cold blooded revenge.
What to make of this series overall? It started off with a bang and ended with a bang. Bryan cranston as Walter White is a masterful creation comparable to that of the late James Gandolfini's Tony Soprano. An anti-heroic monster that somehow had people rooting for him. I won't hide, I was one of those people rooting for White to come out on top but morally it was wrong. Here was a man that built an empire on making and dealing a drug that ruined lives. Cranston never let-up the intensity that came with his role. Walter White started off as a loser chemistry teacher, bullied by his wife, mocked by his son and ended up as a drug kingpin, feared by his wife, disowned by his son. This was a scarface-like story that had consequences that were so deep and so psychologically deep that scholarly thesis' could be written about it.
Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman was a masterful portrayal of a boy that grew up a man in such short amount of time. Paul was a no-name actor before this show -and judging by his turn in last year's small indie Smashed- this isn't the last we'll hear from him, the film world is knocking at his door. Ditto Anna Gunn who's Skyler was a -curiously- hated character in the series, even though she condemned what her crime-loving husband was doing and was the voice of reason until she got corrupted herself. Which says a lot about how far this series has come. Walter White started off as a schlub that you felt bad about but turned into this gargantuan monster that was meant to not be rooted for. The audience still did, which to me is a brilliant example of our violent-loving society. The show's creator Vince Gilligan made it clear White is not a guy to root for and the series behind him has fully condemned his behaviour yet we still cheered on.
In "Granite State", the penultimate episode, Walt is relegated to living a low-key subordinate life in a remote, snowy cabin deep in the woods of New Hampshire and of course -given that this is New Hampshire- he goes insane with boredom and hitches a ride to a local bar where he calls his son at school and, instead of having his son understand his excuses, gets an earful from Walt Jr. by being told that he's better off dead. This of course discourages Walt, a man whom from the start said he did it for his family and their own welfare. This might have also been a wakeup call to audiences who stood by Walt, maybe it was indeed time to pack it and call it a day. A phone call to the police ensues ,a defeated Walt about to give himself up, when "Gray Matters", his former partners and nemesis', appear on Television. This sparks a fire inside Walt and makes him realize that all this had to with himself more than his family. He wanted to prove to himself that he could feel "alive" as he put it. He did but with consequences.
That last episode, entitled "Felina", had Walt taking revenge on everyone in sight. The Nazis, Lydia and Gray Matters. It was a rewarding feast for the eyes that tidied up every possible tread. Skyler got one last goodbye, in a breathtaking scene that could have belonged straight out of film noir with its cigarette smoke and low lighting. In fact the whole episode was like a film noir, with not much dialogue but stark, haunting images of people that have turned into mere ghosts. Jesse, prisoner at a meth lab, dreaming of a past when making a perfect wooden box at woodworking class was the only time in his life where he had achieved a state of Nirvana. Skyler, a broken woman who's husband betrayed her trust and consequentially got her into deep trouble with her family and the law. Marie, a widow tormented by the unfound body of her dead husband.
Gilligan directs the whole episode like its his last one, it sort of is, and gives us a few nifty shots that are worth talking about for years to come. And who else but Jesse could have killed Todd, the character that ended up being most evil out of all the ones that came before him in the series. Alas, Breaking Bad and its final three episodes, 150 minutes of pure TV bliss, made high art out of a story that got more and more complicated as it went along. The 96% pure blue meth that Jesse and Walt infamously cooked up was almost a curse to anyone that dealt with it. Gilligan got criticized by some circles for giving his series "too tidy" of an ending. I understand that argument but at the same thing we've come so far and had so many surprises, shocks, twists and turns that the biggest shock of them all was that there was no shock at the end at all. The simpleness of "Felina" is what made it so brilliant and sometimes that all you need to satisfy.
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Abdi's scenes with a brilliantly effective Tom Hanks as the Captain are what makes "Captain Phillips" indisputably great. Greengrass smartly decides to cast non-professional actors for the Somali roles, the risk pays off brilliantly. Abdi, looking jaunt and intense, matches Hanks scene for scene. He is exceptional and Oscar-worthy in a role that demands a lot of intense, real emotions. Muse nicknames Hanks "Irish" and calls him that many times throughout the film, their bond is a complicated one. Both men understand each other: Phillips knows Muse is doing what he has to do to survive and Muse knows that the Captain wants his men on-board unharmed and will do whatever it takes to achieve that. These two men share more in common than one might think and both are relying on the American government to get them out of this situation.
We all know how it ends, that's besides the point. What "Captain Phillips" ends up being about is the bond between these two men. They both come from significantly different cultural backgrounds yet they fully understand each other, they know why they are both there. While the other pirates, played by Barkhad Addirahman, Faysal Ahme and Mahat M. Ali, couldn't care less about Phillips, Muse does. Abdi is phenomenal and performs the rare -maybe never before achieved- feat of giving the best performance in a Tom Hanks movie. He and his pirate co-horts chew on Khat Ban religiously throughout the ordeal, trying to manage the situation by getting a simple high. They however find out it'll take much more than just herb to get through their botched hostage-taking attempt. The 135 minute "Captain Phillips" might sometimes feel by-the-books but whenever Abdi and Hanks are onscreen your eyes can't look away. They bring "Captain Phillips" up a notch and make it Greengrass best film since 2006's "United 93".
Thursday, September 26, 2013
"hmm, Bogie". That's what Jean-Paul Belmondo's character in Breathless silently utters to himself as he spots a Humphrey Bogart movie poster on his way out of the movies. That pretty much explains in a nutshell the influence that Bogart had on screen acting. Godard's French New Wave masterpiece is known as the first "modern" movie in the history of cinema. No coincidence it is heavily influenced by Bogart's movies, specifically The Maltese Falcon. Directed by John Huston, this 1940 masterpiece features an astonishing performance from Bogart as Samuel Spade, a private detective that enters a case that involves three eccentric criminals, a gorgeous pathological liar and a golden statuette that everybody wants a piece of.
Huston and Bogart put plot in the backseat for character. What we get is the story of a man that isn't your typical hero, in fact he isn't a hero at all. Spade is a man that has his own moral code. His own rules of the game. The whodunit becomes less important than how we respond to the strong screen presence of Bogart and his co-stars. That's what makes `The Maltese Falcon' a classic. We see more and appreciate more each time we watch it. Huston invented what the French called film noir, in honor of Hollywood films (often `B' movies, cheap to make, second movies in double features) that took no-name stars into city streets to pit tough guys, often with a vulnerable streak, against dangerous dames. Bogart was luckier than most noir heroes, but it cost him. Struggling to maintain his own independence – against the claims of love or his own penchant towards dishonesty – the Bogart hero can do little better than surrender, with a rueful shrug, to the irony his survival depends on.
For Huston, telling this story posed a different problem. Telling it straight wasn't possible – too many twists.Plot is irrelevant here. Small, unique touches are of the upmost importance instead. Huston chose to focus on characters. One way to appreciate Huston's choices is to LISTEN to the movie. Hear the voices. Notice how Huston relies on the exotic accents of his characters to keep us interested. Could we endure the scene in which main villain Kasper Guttman explains the history of the Maltese falcon unless his clipped, somewhat prissy English accent held our attention? Same with Joe Cairo, his criminal associate and a man with almost indescribable accent. There are clues throughout that the 3 male villains of the piece might also be gay, Cairo is mocked by Spade for having a "perfumed Handkerchief" and we all know what that meant back in 1941.
All of this leads to the ending, minutes of screen time in which more goes on, gesture by gesture, than a million words could summarize. He loves her, maybe, but he won't be a sucker. After the film, we're left with Spade, whom we like and loathe, a man whose sense of justice squares, just this once, with our own, maybe but who's moral code conflicts with our own. At least he follows that moral code. Take this for example: Spade didn't much like his murdered partner to begin with, after all he had an affair with his partner's wife. But he wanted to find the person that ousted him. "When a man's partner is killed, he's supposed to do something about it.” It seems to be a street code, a rule of the game for Spade, even if it means bringing the woman he loves to jail. With all the harsh things Spade is capable of doing we still respect him for sticking by the set of rules he has chosen to live by. He seems to be living in his own world of ethics and scenery. Bogart plays Spade rough, playful and with more than his fair share of demons stirring up inside him. That we never see these demons make's Huston's film all the more haunting.
John McTiernan’s action masterpiece Die Hard was released into theaters, and it's not an understatement to say that we're still reeling from the impact. The film turned one Bruce Willis — until then thought of primarily as a comic actor and harmonica player — into a Hollywood action star, a position he's still convincingly holding down 25 years later. It also unleashed armies of imitators: There was Die Hard on a Ship (a.k.a. Under Siege), Die Hard on a Mountain (a.k.a. Cliffhanger), Die Hard at the Stanley Cup Finals (a.k.a. Sudden Death), and so on, all the way up to this year's double dose of Die Hard at the White House movies (a.k.a. Olympus Has Fallen andWhite House Down), not to mention Die Hard Beating a Dead Horse (a.k.a. A Good Day to Die Hard, a.k.a. Die Hard 5). It is, in fact, partly thanks to these imitators (as well as the Willis franchise's lesser sequels) that we often forget how expertly made the original Die Hard is: It's as much a perfectly calibrated character piece as it is a kick-ass action flick. So what has the action landscape looked like since that fateful day in 1988 when we first met John McClane en route to Nakatomi Plaza? For the past few months, I’ve been watching and/or rewatching almost every major action movie made since then in an attempt to come up with the best ones. The good news is that a lot of awesome action movies have been made over the past 25 years. The bad news? Not all of your favorites will be on this list.
(1) Die hard
(2) Terminator 2: Judgement day
(4) The Fugitive
(5) The Bourne Identity
(6) The Matrix
(7) Spider-Man 2
(8) Minority Report
(9) The Dark Knight
(10) La Femme Nikita
(1) Die hard
(2) Terminator 2: Judgement day
(4) The Fugitive
(5) The Bourne Identity
(6) The Matrix
(7) Spider-Man 2
(8) Minority Report
(9) The Dark Knight
(10) La Femme Nikita
Monday, September 23, 2013
Watching a 35mm copy of Deep Throat over at Visual Arts Building here in Downtown Montreal, I couldn't help but be reminded of just how important this piece of snuff cinema truly was. Forget about how important it was to porn, and how it has basically influenced -sadly- the 21st century woman as we know of it. This 1972 film a starring Linda Lovelace as a woman that finds out she has a clitoris in his throat and gains deepended pleasure from performing fellatio to her men is a kind of "opened door" to the way women would get treated in mainstream Hollywood cinema. So sad and so true and not everyone would agree with me but "director" Gerard Damiano's film was almost a kind of "OK" for the female to get looked down upon in mainstream cinema. After watching Deep Throat and subsequent Porno films that followed it, Hollywood had a reaction that was almost akin to them saying "Hey we can write these female roles how we want them to be written and not many will complain about the downgrade cause they're over there shocked at what Lovelace is doing".
I know many people that would say Deep Throat was important to the advancement of feminism given the fact that the film actually promotes Female Orgasm! A far cry from today's porn where -unless shot by an amateur- will not even come close to showing us a woman having an orgasm. In fact these days only the guy has it and basically degrades the girl by abusing her face with his liquids. Oh boy here we go, I'm going pretty far here but you do have to understand that this film basically changed everything. Made Linda Lovelace a sort of celebrity and had many people imitating what they were seeing onscreen -and still do to this day. It's a film that is probably as influential as any from the 70's. Going back to this feminist angle that I was just talking about, yea I see what people mean by its role in female empowerment but at the same time I don't think it's very empowering to have the idea of a woman with a clitoris in her throat, sort of an ingenious idea to bring a bit more meaning to the fellatio but alas quite laughable.
Lovelace was actually featured in a recent "bio-pic" which had Amanda Seyfried playing the porn star. Haven't seen the film but will surely catch when I get the chance. Lovelace's life was obviously not a walk in the park. She claims she was held at gun point in making the film. Sh eventually starred in a number of soft-core films that didn't really come to much else but a quick buck for her career. She also ended up giving her support to anti-porn films as the years went along. A sort of bitterness to the way she was treated back then. Slapped around by her "bosses" and in Deep Throat you could clearly see bruises on her legs and arms. A disturbing site to say the least, especially if you know the whole story behind it.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
Denis Villeneuve is a director that I've adamantly followed since the beginning of his career in Quebec more than 15 years ago. It took a while for this great director to finally hit it big. In 2010 he released an incredible masterpiece called Incendies. It garnered an Oscar nomination, critical acclaim and then the world finally knew about him. Too bad they haven't seen his earlier stuff.Maelstrom was a sexy, film-noir narrated by a fish and starring the lustful Marie-Jose Croze and Polytechnique was an artful black and white re-creation of an infamous college shooting in Quebec.
In Prisoners Villeneuve doesn't soften his style or adhere to any Hollywood conventions. He is still the Denis Villeneuve I've always known. It helps that he has an impressive cast that includes 5 Oscar nominees. This is an ambitious, sprawling, fascinating and -yes- flawed 158 minute movie about a missing kids case. Jake Gyllenhall and Hugh Jackman deserve a nomination, so does Villenueve for his impressive direction. Paul Dano, Terrence Howard, Octavia Spencer and Maria Bello complete the cast. An incredible cast having a go at a screenplay that was on the “black list” for the longest time.
Jackman plays Keller Dover who ends up facing every parent's worst nightmare. His six-year-old daughter, Anna, is missing, together with her young friend, Joy, and as minutes turn to hours, panic sets in. The only lead is a dilapidated RV that had earlier been parked on their street. Heading the investigation, Detective Loki arrests its driver, Alex Jones, but a lack of evidence forces his release. As the police pursue multiple leads and pressure mounts, knowing his child's life is at stake the frantic Dover decides he has no choice but to take matters into his own hands. He kidnaps Alex.
The film takes so many twists and turns that it threatens to derail, by the film's last act that's what happens. I wish they could have tightened this film up in the editing room and cut 15-20 minutes of it. That's a minor quibble because there are powerful moments here. Many will recall Clint Eastwood's Mystic River and Todd Field's In The Bedroom. They wouldn't be wrong but I'd go a step further and say this is very much akin -and owes greatly- to David Fincher's Zodiac. Both are 150 minute tales about missing kids and the obsessed people trying to solve the case.
The scenes of torture here are sometimes tough to watch. Is Keller stooping down to the same level as the abductors? How much is too much in exacting revenge? These questions have been asked before in the cinema but deserve to be asked again. Here's a big studio picture with a lot on its head and an ambition you don't see much of these days at the movies.
It helps that -like Fincher- Director Villeneuve has a great visual flair, he gives us some of the most powerful scenes of the entire year. Jackman, fresh off his “Les Miserables” nomination, could get a second nom for this one. He delivers a passionate, relentless performance, easily the best work he’s ever done. Gyllenhall is ferociously good and might have found a great director to work with (wait until you check out what Gyllenhall and Villeneuve have done with Enemy, due out in 2014.)
Suffice to say there's a lot to chew on here and the expertise at work is top notch. I wouldn't be surprised if this catches on in the years to come as one of the go to films in the murder-suspense genre. It really is phenomenal work from real pros.
When I was in Toronto I had overheard people talking about this short film that had premiered there called Noah, the raves coming out were phenomenal. Someone even uttering it's the "Citizen Kane of short movies". Yikes, talk about expectations. Well anyways I got a good look at it the other day and suffice to say it really is damn good. Well, maybe not Citizen Kane good but pretty damn spectacular in its depiction of this generation's communication breakdown. The film really is THAT ingenious, all shot through the eyes of a high school teenager and his computer. Our protagonist Noah suspects his girlfriend is about to cheat on him and sets out to get back at her through Facebook. But it's so much more than that. It's about the way we live these days. Noah navigates through his Iphone, Skype, Facebook, Wikipedia, Google and Chatroulette -multiple task bars open- with the attention span of a 5 year old, always distracted by the next thing in line. It takes a ChatRoulette girl to put things into perspective and her arguments are deep enough to have you want to quit Facebook this very instant.
Directed by two first time filmmakers out of Ryerson College in Toronto, Walter Woodman and Patrick Cederberg, Noah is a powerful depiction of contemporary technology and its role in relationships.What is stupendous about it is the way that it tells its timeless story of suspicion and heartache in a way that is only possible through the filter of its technological approach. Betrayal takes the form of logging in to your loved ones Facebook. Getting over things means seeking out a stranger on Chatroulette. It’s familiar, but different, and a recogntion that our interactions follow the same patterns even as they are mediated differently. But there is the specter that those interactions are inferior, the way Noah is doing 4 things at once when Skyping with Amy -his ex-girlfriend-, or the way that his Chatroulette connection is dropped so easily, so unceremoniously.
This is as relevant as Fincher's The Social Network was. These are the times we live in. It is sometimes very hard to watch Noah, because there are many things here that you and I can relate to in one way or another. It's funny how the breakup the film portrays happened not through conversation but through online betrayal and hacking. There ended up being no closure for both parties, just blocking on Facebook. For the film's 17 minutes and 29 seconds you are transported into a world that is eerily similar to yours. It took two college students from Ryerson, Woodman and Cederberg, to remind you that this is us today in 2013.
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Many people neglect Chaplin's earlier stuff. I'm not talking about his feature length movies but more the fact that he started out like many others did, doing short films when the medium was just bursting out. In 1914 the character he would popularize as "The Tramp" in such classics as "City Lights" and "Modern Times" made his big screen debut in " Kid Auto Races" directed by Henry Lehrman. A peculiar debut for Chaplin's character, considering how -although the Tramp here is the main character- he is quite an annoyance to the centrality of the plot and to the audience. Especially given that he is intruding at a kid's event with the parents as the onlookers. Chaplin's Tramp would eventually be much more sympathetic in later, more popular pictures.
Chaplin's Tramp is a spectator at an auto race in Venice, California. He simultaneously keeps getting in the way of the camera and interfering with the race. This causes great frustration to the movie going public, who just wants him to already get hit by one of the race cars. It's a small feat in filmmaking at a time when movies were only getting started and the narrative was only starting to develop into some sort of coherent form. The 11 minutes of "The Kid Auto Race" were a sign of greater things to come for the silent movie star and the memorable persona he would eventually flesh out. This is slight Chaplin but it's still fascinating to watch "The Kid Auto Race" since this is where it all started.