Friday, October 26, 2007
With some sadness, I canceled my greencine account today. Grad school always takes up a lot of time, and the Time Warner DVR is just too fun and convneient... fast forwarding through ads makes television fun again, and time-shifting just blows me away.
I originally got involved with Greencine because their selection was broader than Netflix or Blockbuster. On a related note, film buffs will enjoy Adam's "List".
In the quite likely event that I return (service has always been fantastic), a partial list of my current queue is below the fold.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Loosely inspired by real events, Der Tunnel is the story of escapes from East Germany trying to get their family out. Tunnel's story is solid, but fake events added for dramatic effect drag the movie out a longer than is needed. The German view of victimization can be tiring, as real events of Statsi blackmail are compared to entirely imaginary accounts of the duplicity of Hollywood producers. The central romance never happened. 7 out of 10 stars.
Mind-bogglingly stylish, this combination of 300's impossible battle and American Splendor's (reviewed below) narrative-with-in-a-narrative is one of the greatest films of all time. Stylistically inspired by the Book of Hours, this color, 1944 adaption of Shakespeare's play transitions the viewer from "what a cute old movie" to "this movie, if made now, would be groundbreaking." The play is meant to follow Henry IV, and as such an otherwise pointless death scene doubtless makes more sense in the broader context. The romance with Catharine appears to be tacked on. Henrvy V gets 9 out of 10 stars.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
The Greencine Five, Part VII: Zulu, Fire Walk with Me, Heimat: A Chronicle of Germany, Kontroll, Twin Peaks
The ANSWER of another day
Zulu is a classic, one of the best movies ever made. It stands with Godfather and Lawrence of Arabia as a movie that does everything right. At one level merely the story of the defense of Roark's Drift by the British against the Zulus, so much is happening as to boggle the mind. Anti-war protests, a 1GW v. 0GW struggle, class and ethnic divisions, and of course heorism are everywhere to be seen. Mind-numingly beautiful, Zulu is an adventure/war movie that transcends both genres. A must see. 10/10.
On the plus side, Chris Isaak and Kiefer Sutherland play FBI agents for the first twenty minutes. Also on the positive ledger, this movie ties together the three ephocs of Twin Peaks (the immediate fall-out of Laura's murder, the search for Laura's killer, and the Windom Earle half-season) together than I had thought possible. On the negative side, everything else. Lacking humor, the most interesting characters, warmth, suspense, dramatic tension, or anything else of interest, it's no surprise that Fire Walk with Me movie was "greeted at the Cannes Film Festival with booing from the audience and met with almost unanimously negative reviews." Stay away from this one, unless (like me) you've declared finishing the Twin Peaks universe to be your mission.
Monday, August 06, 2007
The Greencine Five, Part VI: The Knack... and how to get it, Raise the Red Lantern, Twin Peaks, Why has the Bodhi-dharma left for the east?, Doomed Megalopolis
I imagine in fourty years watching "Family Guy" will feel just like viewing The Knack... and how to get it. The physical and absurdist comedy is identical. The incongruous combination of conservative dress and risque subject matter is the same. And even the character of British accents on Family Guy (they "don't so much speak English as chew on it") is evocative of the strange enunciation and jargon of post-war British balinghou. The only difference is that, compared to The Knack, family guy is a cartoon and in color. And also funny.
Raise the Red Lantern
From filmmaker Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of Flying Daggers, Curse of the Golden Flower) and actress Gong Li (2046, Hannibal Raising), comes this story of realpolitik among four wives of a prosperous man in northern Republican China. Centered around deception and zero-sum strategy. Raise the Red Lantern is a beautiful tragedy, as if House of Flying Daggers had all the kung-fu removed and diagogue about relationships thrown in. Recommended.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
The Greencine Five, Part V: Seven Men from Now, Story of a Prostitute, The Work of Director Spike Jonze, Twin Peaks, Wishing Stairs
The best Western I have ever seen, Seven Men from Now could easily be set in contemporary Anbar Province, Iraq. A former sherrif hunts down the seven men who killed his wife in a hold-up amidst a backdrop of tribal unrest, federal patrols, and general lawlessness. A favorite of French existentialists (according to the commentary), Seven Men from Now throws you into action and doesn't let up. Unimaginably good.
A wildly misnamed drama, Story of a Prostitute is a Japanese version of Catch 22 set in Manchuko. Actually the story about a philosophical ex-officer who is proudly Japanese but disenchanted with the war effort, the film follows him from being a disrespected personal assistant, to KMT captive, to finally increasingly lost in CYA over his would-be-court-martial. So much is right with the movie that with time it becomes increasingly easy to overlook the overacting of the title character.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
The Greencine Five, Part IV: Memento Mori, Bride and Prejudice, Azumi, The Burmese Harp, Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life.... and other strange tales
A head-ache-inducingly complicated love quadrilateral, Memento Mori joins the "new wave" of Korean cinema that focuses on bizarre plots, fantastically improbably revenge stories, and Catholic iconography. Rapid cuts and a seemingly switches between the past, present, and fantasy leave the viewer struggling to keep up. Lady of tdaxp and I took special pleasure as one of the main characters perfectly shares the physical appearance, vocal intonation, and mannerisms, leading to some otherwise needed levity. You won't regret Memento Mori, but you won't regret missing it, either.
Bride and Prejudice, a fusion of Bollywood and Jane Austen, is fantastic. A story with shallow characters, predictable plot twists, and inexplicable dancing. It's also fun. Several sisters are on the marriage market, energized by their sense of romance and their mother's sense of drama ("It is my fate to grow old in this house, surrounded by spinsters!"). The film is structured in India, London, Los Angeles, London, and India, and the (apparently standard) Bollywood fight scene is hilariously staged in a Bollywood theatre. In spite of skepticism of bollywood (Lady of tdaxp) and skepticism of film adaptions of Jane Austen (Sister of Lady), everyone loved this film.
Saturday, July 07, 2007
The Greencine Five, Part III: 12 Monkeys, Signs of Life, Twin Peaks, The Place Promised In Our Early Days, Idiocracy
In the brief period after Catholic terrorists went away but before Islamists terrorist showed up, ecoterrorists were all the rage. 12 Monkeys joins Rainbox Six in the ecoterror subgenre, but adds timetravel that cannot change the past but can only observe it. What is most striking about the film is the chaos of visual style, from exploitive shots of women (as above) to Brazil-style futures, naturalistic cityscapes to Moorish insane asylums. PS: DVD cover art aside, Bruce Willis is not a robot, and never claims to be one.
Signs of Life is two stories at once: the tale of a post-traumatic-stress suffering soldier and an apology for Germany. An injured German soldier in Greece is given a posh assignment on a collaborationist island, where even the local gypsies like the Germans. He's liked by his friends, loved by his wife, is smart, careful, and industrious. But tragically, suffering from his psychic war wounds, he becomes a threat to himself and others. Signs of Life recalls nothing so much as Underground, that apologia for Yugoslavia previously featured on tdaxp.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Sometimes clicking "rent" at things that look vaguely interesting gets you classics, like I'm Not Afraid. At other times -- well, you get my last two weeks of movie watching. That "Gattaca" is the highlight of the list says a lot. I would have had more fun watching any of the movies on the Awful Movie Database.
Like Twin Peaks Season 2 Disk 2 (reviewed below), this second disk is one DVD too many. The director's orientalism, marxism, and general Frenchism (calling the Jews degenerate was a nice touch) gets tiring, as does his superficially informative documentary about India. If you want to see what India's true problems in the 1960s were, watching Commanding Heights. If you need to punish yourself to restore karma from a particularly bad dead -- say, the sacking of Samarkand -- then finishin Phantom India. If you liked Amin Maalouf's In the Name of Identity, as I didn't, you may be able to tolerate this movie.
A real conspiracy theory wrapped inside a false one, Tribulation 99 starts out fanatistically strange.. and ends as yet another angry, campus-radical screed against Reagan, Bush, the United Fruit Company, and counter-revolutionary generally. The whole film is about 50 minutes long -- watch the first half, then throw the disk away. (Or, if you subscribe to greencine, return it and get another in the mail!). Many references will be familiar to Coast to Coast AM fans. If the film hadn't strayed so far into late-eighties-campus-leftist paranoia it would have been a classic.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
The Greencine Five, Part I: Curse of the Golden Flower, Phantom India, Twin Peaks, I'm Not Afraid, They Came Back
I have a home office, but I don't have cable. The experiment is working out quite well. To keep the TV in use, I upped my Greencine subscription from 3 DVDs at a time to 5. The first batch of DVDs arrived by Friday, and today the last of them are watched. Below are reviews, from the most recently watched to the first viewed.
A Hamletian epic of faithlessness and betrayal, Curse of the Golden Flower centers around the Chrysanthemum Festival of the late Tang Dynasty. The style shifts through the movie from the lush beauty of House of Flying Daggers to the dead beauty of the Godfather Saga. Some of costumes and choreography are reminiscent of 300. Sadly, Zhang Ziyi does not make an appearence, though Man Li is not a poor substitute.
1969's Phantom India (Disk 1), by Marxist / Cultural Relativist / French documentarian Louise Mille, is perhaps the least explanatory film possible about that country at that time. Yet its hypnotic qualities cannot be denied. From the theosophist dance academy to the Right Communists, the two themes are that a western mind absolutely cannot understand the east and that a Maoist revolution would be for the best. The best line (paraphrased): "After becoming nearly extinct decades ago, the tradition has regained popularity. Thus it is dead. What was once living now is folklore."