Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I can't drink anymore and QUICK NOTES: AWAY WE GO.

I had maybe six drinks last night over the course of five or so hours. Few beers, a shot of whiskey, just about nothing compared to my drinking of the past.

This morning I woke up at 5:30 due to my bladder's need for release, wracked with headache, stomach nauseous, almost unable to move. My head, the poor thing, still feels a bit like it might just implode.

This wasn't a late night or a giant binge of booze, just a few drinks with friends and some lovely DJing by my good friend Whiskey Pete. But alack, my head, it throbs, my stomach, it cries.

It's like my body is trying to tell me, quite forcefully may I add, that my days of heavy drinking have come to an end. Strangely, I've been thinking a lot lately about how drinking has become less of an activity for me, how going to bars has lost its appeal, how more than a few drinks in an evening does nothing but make me clumsier, more sensitive, more jumbly in my emotional movements.

Guess my fleshy parts wanted Captain Brain to get the message a bit quicker.

Not to say I'm done with drinking in all ways, but heavy drinking, this might be toodles.

Have been watching a load of films as of late, and sadly been too distracted/busy to really dig in to my thoughts on them. Lets call this ketchup, and I'm squeezing it right now.


Saw this flick the other night at my new second favorite theater in The Bay - The Red Vic. Was surrounded by a lady I loved, and a group of new friends I've really started to feel comfortable around and let me say, perfect fucking setting.

My thoughts, in exceedingly quick form:

1. Cynics beware. This is not a film for you who detest emotion and light-hearted laughs and touching stories about relationships told via quirky camera work. This is a wear-it-on-your-sleeve blob of well-crafted emotion. I found myself smiling and getting teary and laughing, but if you arrive at this theater with gloom and doom criticism chafing at your britches, you will be dismayed.

2. It's strange watching yourself, even your relationship on screen. My mother had told me previously to viewing Away From Me that the main character Burt (John Krasinski) reminded her of my brother. Perhaps she's getting daft in her old age, but I was stunned to see a character so much like myself (her other son) projected on the silver screen. His mannerisms, his clumsiness, his self-conscious comments, even the way he looked all pointed at me. I thought, as I'm apt to do, that I might just be self-obsessed, but as I was getting up to leave my lovely friend Libi turned to me and said, "Was it weird watching yourself on the screen?" Alex and I spent the next three times picking apart the relationship, the similarities and differences. Very strange indeed.

3. Sam Mendes is usually pretty set in his visual ways. But Away We Go dispels his sort of static camera. At times it works, giving the film a more casual look that fits with the sort of indie aesthetic it's looking for, but at other times this sort of casual feel seems almost amateurish. The shot of Burt and Verona (Maya Rudolph) falling on to the trampoline could've been stolen from any "indie" pic from the early 90s. I almost laughed. Nice to see Mr. Mendes trying something new though huh?

4. I loved, loved this film for 2/3 of it. Thought it was funny and light-hearted and that the main characters were loveable and loosely sculpted enough that I wasn't drowned by sentiment. The film loses it's way en route to Montreal though and it starts to get a bit heavy-handed with observations on relationships and love and life and I found myself cringing a bit. Luckily, the good will built up in the first hour carry the film along, and even though the final moments drag on, I found myself completely recommending the film in the days that followed.

Thursday: Red Dawn

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Oh, Seattle and another poke at my still unnamed new column.

Oh, Seattle.

Let's get this straight, before I start hearing it from my parents and my friends still chained to the polar fleeced hulk that is Seattle: I love Seattle. I was born there, raised there, and, ashamedly, have lived there for most of my life, and for the most part I have happy, even amazing memories of the little jewel of green in the Northwest.

But, after spending five days there I've come up with a few observations of old Sea-town, and I'll warn you parents and Seattle-livers, some of them ain't that happy.

I'll try to keep it brief, and only slightly tinged with acid. Slightly.

1. Seattle's like a giant suburb. Oh sure, you can talk about the Space Needle and the downtown area, and the new light rail, but after having lived in a, ahem, real city for six months, coming back to Seattle is a little well, shocking. Sure there's an urban nexus of crud in the middle of it all, you might call it "downtown", but aside from this sort of island of dirt and Belltown, all you've got is a bunch of mainly residential neighborhoods. It's like an octopus if the octopus' head was a big, shitty wad of asphalt, and it's arms were almost-cool neighborhoods.

2. They should divide Seattle in half. It's a fucking haul from the tip-top of North Seattle to even the middle ranges of this city by the sea. Taxi from 91st and Aurora (north north) to the tip top of Queen Anne (mid-ranges) was over 20 dollars. And sure we could've biked or used public transit, but all of these vehicular modes would've taken at least an hour.

3. I always thought Alex was overexaggerating about the amount of polar fleeces and unstylish people clogging the streets of Seattle, but nope, she was right all along. We went to a wedding and there was someone wearing an American Apparel sweatshirt and jeans. I understand comfortable formality, but c'mon, a sweatshirt to a wedding?

4. That said, after years of thinking the only semi-artsy people in this former city of mine lived within the self-deprecating walls of The Stranger's offices, the wedding of Matthew Sullivan and Jennifer Maas drastically changed this. Just rife with well-dressed, good looking, interesting people, the kind I thought jumped ship long ago. For hours, literally hours, I found myself immersed in conversations about art and film and graphic design and music and obscure shit and was nearly astounded by it. Does this sort of thing happen in Seattle all the time?

Again, I love Seattle, from afar. I love my parents and my friends that still live there, but I'm just saying after six months of SF, I feel like I've been missing out. Just saying.

I was trying to start a new column a bit back about what's coming out from Criterion presently, not seven years ago. You know, just sort of brief peeks to showcase what direction this amazing company is heading in. I've had a few pop up in my old inbox, so I thought it might be a good time to go at it again.

1. Homicide (486)

What Is It?: A, yawn, David Mamet crime-thriller. One of his early ones at that.

Why Is Criterion Releasing It?: "It’s perhaps Mamet’s most personal on-screen work, and, according to the Washington Post, “his most complex—in fact, his best—film.""

My Thoughts?: Ah phooey. The Criterion Collection is obsessed with Mamet, and sure, I've only seen late era Mamet, but everything I've seen has been stilted and borderline sleeping medicine. Sure, William H. Macy is in it, and I'm always curious as to where Macy was before PTA made him a star, but a wordy-Mamet police film? Sigh ...

2. That Hamilton Woman (487)

What Is It?: A rare pairing of married couple Vivian Leigh and Laurence Olivier in a film by Alexander Korda about tragic love story and, uh, the Napoleonic Wars of the 1790s.

Why Is Criterion Releasing It?: I'm sure there's a lot of a reasons, but Criterion claims Winston Churchill saw it 80 times. Seems like reason enough.

My Thoughts On It?: 1941 was a year of big epics, and some of those epics, heralded as they are, bored me to tears. I've never seen this one, nor have I ever been curious about Mr. Olivier and his lady, but hell, it might be a blast. Or it could be another costumed snooze-fest I predictably snooze through.

3. Pierrot le fou (421)

What Is It?: All I saw were the words "noir" and "Godard" and I was sold.

Why Is Criterion Releasing It?: Because Criterion loves all things Godard. Seriously, anything with this pioneer's name on it gets the Criterion Collection. Report cards, porno subscriptions - anything.

My Thoughts?: Again, a politically charged early 70s noir by possibly the most original of The New Wave? Count me in, twice.

Wednesday: Away We Go

Friday, September 25, 2009


It's been almost a year since I've started this little blog. 365 days, a bunch of minutes, seconds, weeks, and such and such. I'll be honest, I thought I'd be a lot farther with this Quest, nearly a year after my start, but I'm proud to say with the final strains of some Beastie Boys song receding in the background, that I've hit 100. That means, with my time growing ever more strained and Criterion continuing to release more and more and more films, that I'll finish this Quest sometime after your children have children.

Months ago, that would've been daunting, anxiety-creating, fearful even, but I, at least I hope, I've created a website that isn't just about Criterion. It's a little bit about my life, a lot about films and mostly, hopefully, just a good read. I know, it's not always on time, it's not always consistent, but I'm plugging along, the thought of a finished Criterion Quest always in the dark corners of my mind.

I wanted to celebrate my finishing of the first 100 films by listing ('cause you know I love a list) my top five favorite from the second fifty.

Thanks for reading. Tell your friends. Let the Criterion Quest rush forward!

THE BEST OF THE SECOND FIFTY (in no particular order):

1. For All Mankind (54) dir. Al Reinert

This was a fucking surprise. A seventy minute explosion of all things NASA. I don't know how Al Reinert did it, but he took what I've seen thousands and thousands of times (I did a thirty minute film on Apollo in high school - it didn't go well) and turned it in to art. I sat in a coffee shop in Seattle many months ago, huge headphones plugged in, my then-and-now roommate JM surfing the 'webs across from me, and was just blown away by the collusion of image and sound. Absolutely amazing.

2. The Unbearable Lightness of Being (55) dir. Philip Kaufman

Before seeing this film I'd struggled through Milan Kunderas beloved book, striving to see how anyone could turn this in to a film. Give it to Philip Kaufman (at the height of his game here) to take the philosophic meanderings of Milan Kundera and turn them in to a touching love story about two drastically different people forced together in a time and place of utter turmoil. When the screen faded to white I was bawling.

3. The Passion of Joan of Arc (62) dir. Carl Th. Dreyer

Surprise, absolute surprise. I'd always lumped this film in with films like Battleship Potemkin, a work that transcended actual enjoyment because of its importance and influence. I sat down to be disappointed, to consider myself not as much as a film dork, to wonder if my artistic sensibilities just weren't up to snuff - and was blown away. Somehow, I give the remastering artists of Criterion the majority stake, they take this silent film about a crazed French martyr and it becomes the foundation of so many films you've seen. There's a visual style here that informs so many directors of the last hundred years. Breathtaking, heartbreaking, amazing.

4. The Third Man (64) dir. Carol Reed

This is a no-brainer. One of the great films of all time. Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles, Carol Reed, and one of the most darkly humorous looks at people on the edge, you'll ever see. If you haven't seen this film, leave your computer now, watch this film.

5. Rushmore (65) dir. Wes Anderson

This film, and Wes Anderson in general, is one of reasons I evolved in to the film dork I am today. This was the first of his films I saw and it will always stay in my brain as one of the greats. Its interesting, now that I've watched this director's filmography over and over again, to see this film as a sort of segue way from studio owned man to fully functioning auteur. A truly original film bolstered by the duo of Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman.

6. Sisters (89) dir. Brian DePalma

Cuh-reepy. A truly disturbing look at conjoined twins. I watched this film with the lovely Alexandra Healy, and couldn't help falling a little more in love with her, as we both sat in disturbingly confused awe, goosebumps raging, wondering where the fuck this creepy little delight was headed.

7. Kwaidan (90) dir. Masaki Kobayashi

Four horror stories as seen through the lens of the Japaneses. Everything you want from that simple description. Absolutely nuts.

8. Gimme Shelter (99) dir. The Maysles

I wish this film had been 100. Truly one of the great documentaries of all time. A beautiful structure paired with a truly horrific event and the final shot of Mick Jagger's face = mind-melting.

Eight of my favorites. Can't wait for the next fifty.

As always, thanks for reading.

Monday: Away We Go

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hungover at 8 'o' clock and BEASTIE BOYS VIDEO ANTHOLOGY (100)

I'm writing this post at 8:45 on a Tuesday night, and I'll be quite honest, I'm pretty hungover. My head is pounding (in the way that only booze can make it), my mouth is dry (and no amount of water seems to satiate its need) and my stomach is frolicking on the edge of hunger and nausea.

I was drunk at noon today - this is not a regular part of my weekly routine. Three of my loutish friends and I (Whiskey Pete, Freytiger and Jonathan-Marc) attended the Anchor Steam brewing tour.

What's Anchor Steam? It's beer, delicious delicious beer made only in this fair city I now call home. What's an Anchor Steam brewing tour? A tour through there beautiful brew house that ends with a hefty sampling of their delicious beers. I believe I drank seven beers ... in forty minutes.

Things I liked about the Anchor Steam brewing tour: beer drinking, the bottling machine (look how it spins!), the way our tour guide sounded out every single syllable, our tour guides seeming dislike of his job (it's just refreshing to see job-discontent in action), beer drinking, Summer Beer straight from the tap.

Things I didn't like about the Anchor Steam tour: realizing that old people are the reason for all things bad in the world, the way our tour guide eyed us when we first came in as if he knew we were drunken trouble, the fact that I couldn't stand on the railing to get a better look at my beloved bottling machine, the man with the accent, the man with the blue backpack, the man in the orange shirt, questions, questions, questions.

I am still a little drunk. My post might make no sense.

I'm a little disappointed, for the first time ever, that The Criterion Collection picked The Beastie Boys Video Anthology (100) as their hundredth film. Of all the amazing, absolutely wonderful films they could have thrown a few dollars at to celebrate their cresting of the big 1-0-0, they decided to piece together, an admittedly thorough, collection of, sigh, Beastie Boy videos?

I sat through them though, and here's my thoughts:

1. I love robots doing the robot.

These fuckers are creative. Undoubtedly. And it is certainly nice to see, in this age of music videos disappearing in to the hobbit holes of the interwebs, the work of a group who put pride and effort in to their visual representations. And hell, it's always funny to see a giant cardboard robot doing the robot. I laughed, loudly.

2. There is a timeless quality to these fellows.

At any given point in this collection of videos these gentlemen could've been anywhere from 20 to 50. Maybe Mick Jagger let them borrow his needle set and Vitamin B injections, because it's at least a little weird.

3. Or maybe it's a dated quality...

I couldn't figure out, while watching video thirty million, if the timeless quality was because they're aging exceptionally well, or if it's because no matter what time period it is (though I notice they subtly excised the whole "No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn" era) everyone of their songs sound exactly the same. Every rap consists of them name-checking, talking about dancing, and perhaps rhyming something with the word "flop". Perhaps if you never change, you become immortal. Like the Highlander.

4. Or maybe it's a timeless dated quality. Yeah that's it.

Strange to say this with Adam Yauch battling cancer, but these guys seems literally unphased by the progression of music or the ravages of age. They're pushing 50 and nothing seems to have changed, except the thread count of their sheets and how many dollar dollar bills they're sleeping on.

5. Why?

I don't have a lot to say about this collection of videos. I still love "Sabotage" and "Roots Down" but that's all I really got. I haven't looked at what 200 is, but it better not be a Weezer Video Anthology, or I'm throwing down.

Thursday: 100 Fucking Films!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The modern sci-fi classic DISTRICT 9, QUICK NOTE style.

I've been waiting to see District 9 for a few months now. Though I enjoy a movie sans friends, I'm a terrible self-motivator, thus I wait for long after its release to swindle a few friends in to coming along with me. And lucky that I did as District 9, a low-budget film by a first time director, is absolutely a modern sci-fi classic. Perhaps the first of its kind in many many many years.

Here's my QUICK NOTES:

1. Classic fucking film. My father, after viewing the film, text messaged me this "As good as Blade Runner." My dad, and my brother actually, are semi-notorious for hating most films, or at least finding some painful amount of fault in them, and thus the acknowledgment that the film was as good as Blade Runner was a weighty critique. But the man, mustache and all, was one hundred percent right. This is everything you want in science fiction: originality, allegory, amazing technical design, and just the right amount of geek to make things shine a bit.

2. And geeky this film is. The second half of the film is pretty much a mad-scramble/fire fight between a slowly metamorphosizing main character and a squad of gang members and marines. Every gun you've ever seen in a first person shooter (gravity guns, nuclear bomb guns, fireball guns, etc.) that you've wanted to see realized on the big screen - in this movie. About the time you see a robot pick up a big and kill man with it, you know this is a geek film. With that said, it's never too much though. Sure, this is a film made for the sci-fi set, but just about anyone could see it and walk away both happy and challenged by the film. Don't let the fears of a geek film put you off. You'll be sad.

3. Low budget indeed. This film was made for 30 million dollars. In the world of over-spending that is Hollywood, that's the change you find under your mattress. But Neil Blomkamp, the director, uses that money in downright genius ways. The film is edited maniacally, quick cuts between HD and real film, live action and documentary, and though, yes, it does fit right in with the story, it's also there for a reason - to hide the low budget nature of this film. Sometimes (the break-in to the MNU establishment, or a few of the patchy plot smudges) the lean budget shows, but in general this is low-budget at its very very best. Color me impressed.

4. A few holes. Though the plot and pace of this film are amazing. There's a few solid holes, big chunks 'o' glossed over plot development that you can sort of forget about because the plots rocketing along so sharply. They didn't bother me a lot, but I certainly noticed.

5. I'm doing a fine job of not saying anything about the film, because the discovery of well, just about everything is half the fun of this movie.

6. The wife in this film is as one-dimensionally written as any ever. She's just sobs and one-liners. Cut her out.

7. That last shot, with the metal flower, it didn't need to be there. I understand, hammer that point home, but c'mon don't hit the nail toooo hard.

8. I smell sequel, and it's a fragrant odor.

Friday: Crazy Love

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Patrick Swayze, 1952 - 2009 and QUICK NOTES on a few films.

The Swayz died yesterday, and quite honestly, I'm pretty sad. I was trying to explain to Alex yesterday that the death of actors that I grew up with makes me profoundly glum. I don't know if it's the actual passing of actors that I know, and sometimes love, or the grim reminder that I'm getting older and my past is starting to fade, but there's a real potent sadness when an actor like Patrick Swayze kicks the bucket.

Swayze was diagnosed with colon cancer a year or so, and from what I've heard the disease is pretty much a death sentence, thus, I was only awaiting the inevitable news. That said, I'm still bummed that my only encounters with the man who made Dirty Dancing amazing, the man who saved Colorado from a Red Dawn, the man who had a kiddie porn dungeon in Donnie Darko, will be ones from the past. He wasn't always the greatest actor, but the man made you smile, you have to admit that.

I'll drink a few for you tonight Big Patrick. You should too.

I've been slackin' on my bloggin', and accrued a few films under my belt in the mean time. Thought I'd slice through 'em real quick with a few snarky comments and even some recommendations.

Let the Quick Notes begin!

Valentino: The Last Emperor dir. Matt Tymauer

I threw this on the Netflix queue as Alex is obsessed with fashion and this account of famed designer Valentino's life peaked her interest. I'm curious about fashion, I like to look nice, and I'm interested in the terminology and design aspects, but a documentary about haute couture and the super rich seemed obnoxious at best. Strangely, I left this film happy with the experience. Director Matt Tymauer captures a lot of things on film here - Valentino's final fashion show, his tumultuous though loving relationship with Giancarlo Giammati, and the child-like emotions of a very rich, semi-powerful man - and manages to force them together in to a pleasant little film. The rich are fucking weird, the world of fashion (especially super high-end fashion) is even weirder, and I never want to be a part of this world. But I do enjoy just a glimpse in to it.

Errol Morris' First Person dir. Errol Morris

We're winding up our obsessive digestion of all things Morris right now, and we had to tromp through a few more discs of his television series First Person in the process. I've reached a point where I shouldn't even be recommending Mr. Morris, as I'm madly in love with him and can't help but gush uncontrollably every time I see anything of his. That said, this is another fascinating collection of interviews with fascinating people. It's low-budget, fairly talky, but man, if the interview with the crime scene cleaner or the large-toothed Mutter Museum lady don't have you engrossed, your brain is a mushy world. Also, the crime scene cleaner reminds e of my mother, if she traded nursing for cleaning up dead bodies.

The Thin Blue Line dir. Errol Morris

This is my favorite Morris film. A brilliant break down of a murder in a small town that is fascinating, gripping, and a downright chilling indictment of the American justice system. The final moments will confuzzle your ears.

Twin Peaks Episode 1 & 2 dir. David Lynch

Been hearing about these for years and finally started digging in. I'm mad because the pilot, which introduces the whole story, just isn't included with the episodes, thus you're propelled in to the town of Twin Peaks with almost no back story. I'm glad because this eyeball of Americana is classic David Lynch. It's a little campy, a lot creepy, and Kyle Maclachlan is at his very very best as Agent Cooper, a ebullient burst of freaky dreams and coffee-lovin'. Can't say I recommend it yet, but I'm certainly enjoying it.

And that's it.

Wednesday: Beastie Boys Video Anthology Pt. 1 (100)

Friday, September 11, 2009

A weird thing I saw, and a new column about new releases.

A weird thing I saw today:

A rollerblader, all multi-wheeled and skirting the edge of 80s fashion, chain smoking cigarettes on Valencia.

Rollerblading and chain smoking Marlboro Lights, it seems so Miami Vice.

I want to start a new column that focuses not just on what I'm watching right now in terms of The Criterion Collection, but what they as a company continue to release. As much fun as it as to dig through what they've done before (and as I'm cutting away at the first 100, it just gets more and more enjoyable) this is also a company that continues to release absolutely amazing movies in to the public in the most fantastic way. Thus, when they have a new release (and they're on point about making sure I know) I want to tell you about it.

So, they just sent me a press release for their new release, The Human Condition (480), so let's get it started.

What Is It?: A four-disc, nine hour epic following one Japanese soldiers entire trip through the second World War.

Why Is Criterion Releasing It?: "A raw indictment of its nation’s wartime mentality as well as a personal existential tragedy, Kobayashi’s riveting, gorgeously filmed epic is novelistic cinema at its best."

My Thoughts On It?: Nine hours! Holy shit, how in the world am I ever going to finish the Criterion Collection if some of these films are topping out nearly two hours over the average person's work-day? I mean, I'll certainly, CERTAINLY, be asleep for at least four hours of this film. There just isn't any way that I can sit through nearly nine hours of Japanese soldier triumph and tragedy. It just ain't happening.

Hmmmm ... I feel as if there should be a final question in terms of my feelings about the film, but I can't think of one. Any suggestions?

Monday: District 9, Errol Morris' First Person

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A moment of brain silence and GIMME SHELTER (99)

It's eerie, my brain it's quiet.

Seriously, on most occasions I could just scrawl out a list of the absurd thoughts flitting about in this gooey center, but right now, for some strange reason, it's empty. Just a peaceful haven of bird calls and cricket tweets.

I'm just going to roll with it though. Keep on keepin' on if you know what I'm saying.

Lets talk about Gimme Shelter (99).

As I expected to be, I was completely and totally blown away by how good this film was. It's absolutely the most telling documentary I've seen about the end of The Summer of Love. It sheds a harsh light on the drugs, the sex, the sort of devil-may-care attitude that permeated a certain sect of society, and what it reveals aren't entirely pretty.

I shut my computer off two days ago, Mick Jagger's distraught face burned in to my mind, and wanted to curl up in a ball and just be held. God I love it when I film can do that to me.

My thoughts on this fantastic documentary, again scrawled in my journal as I watched this film:

1. Mick Jagger is a dick

From moment one while watching this film, Mick Jagger comes across as exactly the kind of rock star I sort of hate. He's pompous and attractive and just thinks his band and the music they make is the greatest music in the entire world. There's a line when he's talking about an absolutely spectacular performance by Tina Turner that's goes something like, "It's nice to have a chick do well" that made me cringe. And through out the film, he becomes more and more so, just a man overcome with power and fame. The Maysles do a fantastic trick here, by concurrently showing the documentary to both you and to Mick Jagger and filming his reaction. So you can actually see in the lines of his Brit-face how the terrible events of the film affect him.

2. Drugs are bad.

There's a brief scene in this movie where a man, in the thralls of a bad trip, is shirtless barking at the camera that made my stomach flip. That coupled with woman screaming and then seizuring and the sheer lack of control oozing across every one's face in this film, I never want to touch another bit of that sticky-icky every again. I mean I probably will, but c'mon, this film certainly drives D.A.R.E.'s message home.

3. There's something sketchy about the whole damn thing.

Just right from the start, you know this party isn't going to be Woodstock. There's backroom discussions about spacing. The British promoters just can't seem to get the proper, well, anything set up, and the crowd, framed so creepily by these fantastic documentarians, seem almost animalistic, on the edge of sanity, ready to tear each other apart. Drugs are bad and seemingly, so are music festivals.

4. "Tough shit."

Hmmmmm ... I can't remember why I wrote this. I'm assuming there was something with someone being hurt or having a drug overdose and this was the line that emitted from the mouth of the promoters. Ew.

5. They need bandages!

This is how badly everything was set up: someone gets hurt in the crowd, and instead of a fully-prepared doctor heading on down and fixin' them up. The promoters start asking the crowd if they have any bandages. THE CROWD! A tragedy of errors.

6. I wonder if people who actually went to this show were like "Awesome!"

You know? I've been to too many concerts where something awful has happened (injuries, fights, overdoses) but the music was amazing, the crowd was fantastic, and I left thinking, "Wow, what a show." I wonder if The Maysles capture the truly negative aspect of the concert so well that we don't get a solid glimpse of the positives. Or this could just be the most fucked-up concert of all time, and this is a perfect snapshot of the event.

7. Holy shit.

There was just a point in this film, moments after The Hell's Angels (security at the event) beat up the guitarist for Jefferson Airplane that I just wrote down "Holy shit" and then stopped writing. Everything after this moment is a downward spiral, a straight shot to a truly chilling conclusion, and I couldn't find a single moment that didn't make me just want to write the two words over and over again. If Woodstock was love and peace, this was hell and violence.

Final thoughts: Please, for the love of god, see this film. If you hate The Rolling Stones (Dad), or if you don't like documentaries, or if you're a creepy interweb troller that stumbled on my blog, take my advice: see this film. It's as good a documentary (music or otherwise) as created, and you are missing out hugely if you don't do yourself the favor of seeing it.

Just saying.

Friday: Errol Morris' First Contact Marathon

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Again, credibility. Pimping Criterion, and QUICK NOTES: MANUFACTURED LANDSCAPES.

Again, the SF Weekly has deemed a bit of my writing fit for their webpage. I admit, it's a bit gushy. I just can't help it, the show was fantastic and all I could do was say nice things. Don't blame me for a rare bit of positive energy.

WAVVES @ The Rickshaw Stop

Would love to hear your thoughts on it if you have a second. Please, head-punch me with honesty. I need it.

I love Criterion, seriously just about everything they do, including there smaller, lesser known Eclipse Series. It's a collection of smaller, lesser known films (be it obscure chunks of well known director's filmographies or just movements in film no one has ever touched upon, or the collected works of directors a little outside of the mainstream) that Criterion sells at a lower price. They're a little more bare bone than Criterion's main line, but that's okay because a good deal of the time you end up with collections like Nikkatsu Noir. I talked about Tokyo Drifter (39) and Branded To Kill (48), absolutely bonkers bits of old Japanese filmmaking that take the sort classic American gangster film and mix them with bizarre colors and free jazz and perversion like only the Japanese can. Well, this little box set collects five lesser known films from the Nikkatsu Noir genre that birthed those amazing films and I just wanted to make sure you knew it was out there.

Seriously, I haven't seen this yet, but I can promise if you're up for some weirdness, this'll sate your need.

Alex and I have sort of been on a non-stop bender of documentaries over the last few months. Mainly, we've been consuming Errol Morris en masse, but we've slipped in a few bits of, uh, other stuff here and there. Including this disappointing film Manufactured Landscapes. A few quick thoughts about it:

1. Alex kept referring to the film as the modern day Baraka. The only thing I remember about that film is being painfully hungover and it's strange mix of rattling drums and beautiful imagery soothing my alcohol bludgeoned brain. This film was a sort of sprawling bit of ass-kissing aimed at incredibly talented photographer Edward Burtynsky and sure there's big beautiful shots like in Baraka, but literally half this film is either still images or Burtynsky talking about the environment. I can't say either film made a huge impression on me, but this one even less so.

2. Again, Burtynsky, super-talented filmmaker, kind of a ponce as a person.

3. Thought Burtynsky claims it isn't, this film is sort of a giant middle finger to China and all it's environmental waste. Oh wait, that's what Burtynsky does by the way, he takes pictures of landscapes so drastically affected by environmental damage that they've become something entirely different. Not shockingly, many of these landscapes exist in, well, China. If I was Burtynsky, I'd be digging a bomb shelter and loading his rifle, the Commies are certainly coming to get you.

4. I'm pretty sure every cent of money spent on this film was thrown in to the opening ten minute tracking shot of some sort of giant mile-long factory in China. It is absolutely beautiful, but after that, everything else is sort of sub-standard. The audio sounds like it was recorded in a closet and honestly, a good portion of the film is still clips of Burtynsky's photo work. If only the entire film was beautiful music and these sorts of shots, I'd be a happy little man.

5. I never really knew what this film was aiming at nor who did what with it. Was it a giant homage to Burtynsky's work? Or was Burtynsky actually directing the film? Was it a film about his work or was it a film about the devastation we as a invasive, corrosive, virus have beset the Earth with? If the film was good I might've gone back and tried to figure this information out, but it was not, and thus, I will do no such thing.

Final thoughts: Eh. If you want pretty, give it a go. If you want a good documentary, try something else.

Wednesday: Gimme Shelter (99), I fucking swear.

Friday, September 4, 2009

It's Friday, and this is a short one.

I wanted to draw your attention to two things this morning:

1. My brother, a burgeoning actor in LA and a fine writer, recently got kicked in to semi-finalist status for some sort of bizarre travel writing contest on a website called Trazzler. If he wins he gets 10,000 dollars and a two-week trip to New York. Though none of us will gain anything from his victory, I will no longer have to hear him complain about his destitution and my parents will no longer have to pay for his weekly allowance of string beans and steel oats. Thus, head on over to this website, read the blurb, and then add yourself to his wishlist. The more people who end up on his wishlist, the better chance he has have winning prizes we shall never see:

Help Justin stop robbing my parent's bank account HERE.

There you go Justin, perhaps you'll win and those "50 dollar down payments" on my computer will start arriving ...

2. I found this pretty solid article about the state of rereleasing catalogs for the major studios and how Criterion continues to buck trends and be successful. I find the article interesting and sort of explains why I love Criterion so much:

Criterion? I nearly killed you.

3. I realized that most of the trailers for the films I talked about yesterday are up and about on the internet and I thought I'd share 'em with you to maybe garner a bit more excitement for the films I'm talking about:

#99. Gimme Shelter

His hair it spins so prettily.

#100. Beastie Boys Video Anthology

Those bastards on Youtube got nothing, but here's a video off the anthology.

#101. Cries and Whispers

A quote from reader Mattro2.0 about my fear of Bergman and my upcoming viewing of this film:

"The film weighs exactly 8,724 lbs, that is to say, it's heavy."


#102. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

I love the shooting and then the sneaky ham grab. This movie is as strange as it looks.

#103. The Lady Eve

I don't know what this TCM shit is at the beginning, but hot damn, they sure do talk fast! And that voice-over is absolutely brilliant - "Hasn't seen a white woman in years!"

There we go! Hope you have a good weekend.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What's In Store #7

Hot cakes! I completely forgot about my endearing love for all things preview related and just haven't been giving you, my attractive readers, the opportunity to know what's in store for the next five films in my Criterion Quest.

I for one am sad for you, as I am sad that I haven't had the opportunity to write these. We can be sad together. Here is an injection of happiness though, my first What's In Store in weeks.

As always, thanks for reading:

#99. Gimme Shelter dir. David Maysles, Albert Maysles, and Charlotte Sverin

If Woodstock was the start of the Summer of Love, than The Rolling Stones' performance at the Altamont Speedway in 1969 was its creepy, drug-fueled end. This is the world famous documentary about that concert, and for the love of cinnamon, this is one dreary bit of concert filmmaking. If Woodstock was happy lovin' and pleasant trips and free love, this is shadowy corners, drug-fueled violence, and a group of Hell's Angels that take security a little too far. This is a must see.

#100. Beastie Boys Video Anthology dir. Various

It seems somewhat fitting that the hundredth film in The Criterion Collection is Beastie Boys Video Anthology (100) as Adam Yauch was just diagnosed with cancer, somehow adding a layer of age to the group, I thought impossible. It's also interesting that one of the films in this collection is just a smattering of videos from a Brooklyn rap-group. It also is curious that it falls on the number 100, and I can only imagine that The Criterion Collection's coffers were looking a bit empty and a bunch of videos for the kids, seemed like a good way to stuff their pockets. Regardless, I'm pretty excited.

#101. Cries and Whispers dir. Ingmar Bergman

I'm of varied opinions that in my quest to watch all things Criterion, I will invariably be subjected to each and ever film ever made by recently deceased master, Ingmar Bergman. Spear me with stones and arrows film lovers the world over, but when a Bergman flick pops up in the queue, I'm always a bit reticent. Even a bit sleepy. I'll get through it though, with your hand in mine.

#102. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie dir. Luis Bunuel

Bunuel is another director (along with Bergman and Kurosawa and few others) that The Criterion Collection just can't get enough of, and this is a good thing, as the French director's take on well, anything, is always deeply rooted in the surreal. This film, about a dinner party that starts and ends for eternity is absolutely amazing. Images from it, which I saw years ago, still haunt my dreams. Rich people walking, you just can't get enough of it.

#103. The Lady Eve dir. Preston Sturges

Old movies used to be all about fast talk and silly situations. Plots were there, but not entirely needed, and Preston Sturges was the master of the spot-on dialogue. This film, which I saw fairly close to The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (102) was my introduction to early screwball comedies, a genre I loved briefly, but am more than excited to dive back in to. Fast talking, heavy drinking, low-moral value - it's like being at a Sander's Family Christmas!

It's a good batch these, four classics, and, uh, some Beastie Boys videos ...

Friday: Gimme Shelter (99)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Just another reason why I love Criterion and QUICK NOTES: INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS

This is a clip from one of this month's Criterion releases, Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles:

A woman making meatloaf for four minutes, and that's just a small bit of whatever this film is about.

My heart it flutters.


Alright, I know I watched Saving Private Ryan this week, and that bombardment of flag-waving, Nazi-killing should've been enough. But just days before I'd waited in line on opening night to see Quentin Tarantino's brand new film Inglourious Basterds, another three hour war film involving a group of men killing the shit out of some Nazis.

My quick thoughts on the film:

1. This is a weird, weird, weird film. Seriously, if you thought anything Tarantino had done up to this point was strange (and anyone who saw Death Proof has to feel this way) then this film is going to reassert the notion that Tarantino might be a bit cracked. From a 1980s style training montage set to some sort of German pop-epic to a horrifyingly death-filled finale involving a severely overcranked camera and a misty smoke monster this film will have you eyes squinted wondering, "What the fuck?"

2. This film is gorier 'n' shit. Alex left the film and the first thing she said was "I feel a little nauseous." Tarantino's always loved a gory film (Kill Bill) but by taking his lust for blood-spouting gore and placing it in the context of war, the dam is broken, the gloves taken off. People gasped the first time a scalp was taken, and it didn't stop. The death's in this film are brutal, and when people aren't dying, people are bleeding and having things carved in them and on and on and on. It barely affected me, but I've been enjoying bloody head explosions on film for years.

3. Brad Pitt is fantastic. Lt. Aldo Raines is a brilliantly put together character that skirts the edge of seriousness and cartoon so well that you can't help but love this redneck Nazi hater. His opening monologue is brilliant, and that second scene with The Bear-Jew and the mouthy German still has me chuckling. My house is not a house of quoters (damn you quoters!) but I hear Pitt's drawn out "Naaaaa-zi" all the time. Those of you who think Pitt is just a pretty face need to realize this illusion was dispelled years ago and the idea of Brad Pitt as one of the most talented character actors/leads in the business is one you need to get a hold of.

4. Not my favorite Quentin Tarantino film. I don't know where along the lines Tarantino decided to completely embrace the rest of the world's thoughts that he was just an excessively talented master of pop-pastiche, but this film feels like just another step down that road. It's cool and bloody and well done, but at the end of the day it's Tarantino, yet again, proving to the world that he knows a shit ton about film and he's fucking fantastic about showing it. I liked/loved a few moments of this film (the opening sequence - brilliantly tense), but found it to be bloated in some parts and cool for cool's sake a lot of the rest of the time. If I was still buying DVDs I'd certainly pick this one up, but it'd probably be a bi-yearly sort of watching. A special, fucked-up film to watch on the anniversary of the end of the war.

5. I was asleep, on-and-off, for forty-five minutes of this film. I just want to get that out there, so haters can't say my opinion doesn't count. I missed a few plot details, a couple of character deaths, but in general caught the entire film. So, take your mean words and eat 'em.

Would love to hear your guys opinions on the film.

Wednesday: Gimme Shelter (99)