Monday, May 31, 2010

that's the end

"The cocaine problem in the United States is really because of me.  There was no cocaine before Easy Rider on the street.  After Easy Rider it was everywhere."

"When we were making the movie, we could feel the whole country burning up - Negroes, hippies, students, I meant to work this feeling into the symbols in the movie, like Captain America's Great Chrome Bike - that beautiful machine covered with stars and stripes with all the money in the gas tank is America - and that any moment we can be shot off it - BOOM - explosion - that's the end.  At the start of the movie, Peter and I do a very American thing - we commit a crime, we go for the easy money.  That's one of the big problems with the country right: everybody's going for the easy money.  Not just obvious, simple crimes, but big corporations committing corporate crimes."

"I want to make movies about us.  We're a new kind of of human being.  In a spiritual way, we may be the most creative generation in the last nineteen centuries ... We want to make little, personal, honest movies ... The studio is a thing of the past, and they are very smart if they just concentrate on becoming distributing companies for independent productions."

rest in piece Mr. Hopper, you crazy sum'bitch you.


criterion counsel: sigh, watched the first twenty minutes of My Girl Friday last night, but alas the film i'm supposed to be viewing seems out of reach ...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

a lil' bit of old hollywood

amongst all my raging against the bloated whale of hollywood this week, i stumbled across this amazing little map of the california from the days of the studio system.  the studio system was perhaps just as noxious as the cinematic world we live in today (what with actors being property and such and such) but somehow looking back the films just resonate more.

the above map showcases how paramount, a major then and a major now, broke down the californian climes in to the various landscapes and countries one would need for any good film.  need the sahara desert? try southeastern california.  the chilled salmon of the alaskan rivers?  try the south bay.  need a handful of code-crunching programmers to turn your green screen in to a pixelated version of a jungle? try any film that's come out in the last five years.

sigh, the hatred, i'm literally hemorrhaging it.


criterion counsel:  don't point that judgy finger at me, i'll take it right off. 

i implore you.

i'm wont to conceptualize, compose and create an entire week of loathing for sex and the city 2.  each day a different lambasting bit of vitriol aimed at the two hours and fourteen minutes this downright abysmal film robbed me of.  i'd want to pick apart the film as a piece of cinematic garbage, ream the movie for its offensive nature towards other cultures, run a cyber-smear campaign about the film's unabashedly american sensibilities.  i want to seriously go door-to-door to the films obvious demographic (women and gay men age 17 - 35) and roughly assert that this film is not worth watching.

i implore you viewers of the world, do not go and see this film this weekend.  you will hear your friends talk about "how dumb it is, but the clothes are great!" you will hear critics dismiss the film as a mere triffle, another stupid summer blockbuster that thuds without consequence.  you will hear those close to you hint that maybe, as they are tired and they just want to consume something stupid, that sex and the city 2 is a possibility for your friday cinematic viewing.  but please, do not listen.

sex and the city 2 is a clear an indication of the future of hollywood as any shitty sequel/remake/video game adaptation i've seen in the last year, and we as a culture need to draw the line.  we need to say that this sort of superficially blase film, rife with churning currents of racism and overt consumerism is not something that we as film viewers will accept.  hollywood is quickly and quite aggressively becoming the sort of beast that we as film lovers will no longer understand in two or three years.  and it's doing so with our silent complacency.

i know, and have already experienced the sort of backlash disapproval of a film like this brings. "oh noah, who cares, it's just not your type of film," or "you are not the target audience," and "it's just a stupid film."  and guess what?  that means hollywood wins.  we've rolled over, we've let our national cinema become a stew pot of shit brimming with corporate sponsors and unoriginal thought and it's time to say no.  i'm not proposing a boycott or anything even slightly protest related, i'm just saying, go support other film this weekend.  find a good independent cinema and just relax amongst a film you've never heard about.

don't be a faceless ten dollars in the millions this awful movie will certainly rake in.


criterion counsel: our viewing of the film was sidetracked last evening by weighty conversation.  soon though, soon.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


i'm angry right now at the state of cinema.  in the last two days i've seen, and please forgive me my cinematic transgressions, sex and the city 2 and prince of persia: sands of time.  both, for varying reasons, differing all the way, have left me entirely bereft of love for film, my once true love.  i've sat and stared at a list of reasons why i hate both of these films, trying, oh god trying, to dig out some sort informative bit of thought that would let me lambast these films in an intelligent way.

but, jesus christ, i just don't know if they exist anymore.  both of these films are so awful in so many ways, they are literally the cappers of a solid month of terrible new cinema.  an almost dreadful portent of where i think hollywood is taking us.  all the signs are there: a lackluster cannes, disney pulling the plug on original thought, the proliferation of remakes and rehashes - we're spiraling towards destruction.

or maybe we're not.  i've had a few thoughts lately about why modern cinema and i just aren't jiving:

1.  perhaps cinema, in all it's monstrously blockbustery form is a young person's game, like rap music and technology.  perhaps the flashy explosions and sweat-cleavaged women flopping about don't appeal to me as much anymore because my maturity level as risen above that of a fourteen year old.  not to say that a good, stupid action movie doesn't sometimes float my boat (ask anyone about my prematurely named Dayz of Swayz marathon), it just seems like everything is big and stupid and flashy and sometimes, most of the time, i want a little originality, a lot of plot, and some strong steady camera work. i've gotten past, for the most part, the awkward morning boners and high-pitched cracks of filmic puberty, i've even moved past the binge drinking of my college days of cinema.  i'm getting older and, not surprisingly, so is my movie taste.  i don't need fruitless action and swiss-cheese plots.  i need a good solid piece of cinema that i can wrap my arms around and dig in.

2.  also, i'm no longer a part of modern pop culture.  i've slipped out of the cultural tunnel.  i don't care about reality television, or i-pads, or the season finale of lost or who's winning in the nba finals.  i just don't care anymore.  i jettisoned a television almost a year ago, and have blissfully been ignoring the modern's world sensibilities every since.  thus, when the criterion conquistador and i were curled in to the fetal position watching carrie and samantha spit on the cultural traditions of the arabic world, i couldn't even laugh, because half of the jokes about taylor swift and miley cyrus and justin beiber just flew right on over my head.  i mean in general satc2 flew right over my head as even back in the day i couldn't embrace the show or it's film spin-off.  every aspect, the characters, the romances, the clothes, none of this shit registers because as a human existing in the real world, i just don't give a shit.

3.  that said, satc2 and prince of persia are terrible films.  awful, offensive bits of muck that are completely and totally indicative of film hollywood today.  i will have much to say in the weeks to come about both of them, but i thought, before unleashing the weapons of destruction, i'd at least paint a picture of where i am in terms of film and why we're starting not to get along.


criterion counsel: sleep is at such a premium these days.  and that is all i will say.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

watch this: michael winterbottom's the killer inside me trailer

michael winterbottom is a strange, strange director who makes ethereal films that often times defy any and all genre.  i tell you, see nine songs and then code 46 and then 24 hour party people and try to pin down the director. toss in a little in this world and you've got perhaps the most diverse director working today.

and then toss in the killer inside me, based on jim sheridan's nasty little book, starring casey affleck and a host of attractive women and i'm spinning about in some kind of tizzy.

after the assassination of jesse james by the coward robert ford, it's near impossible for me to shake the notion that casey affleck isn't anything but a serial killer. seriously if i ran in to him in a dark alley, i'd quake with fear.

let this trailer make you feel the same way.


criterion counsel: it's a great movie, i just haven't had time to finish it up yet.  i'm trying though.  had to expose myself to the plague that is sex and the city 2 last night and re-immersing myself today in the horror that will be prince of persia, so i might need to swallow a healthy dollop of good old american classic to help ease the pain.

Friday, May 21, 2010

wide-eyed stares

let there wet eyes and longing impulses carry you in to the weekend.

criterion counsel: just getting started.  the credits rolled yesterday.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


The Director: Mario Monicelli

What Is It: The tender branch between the end of the true crime caper and the beginning of the New Wave.  It's a classic caper flick with crooks and plot twists a plenty but these crooks, they ain't got no skill.  Thus, hilarity.

A Lil' Bit Of History: All my bitching and moaning about franchises, sequels and remakes, and this, a wonderful little bit of comedic fluff spawned, ahem, two sequels and two, count 'em two, American remakes of the film.  

A Lil' Bit More History: The film was a knock-off/satire of my most favorite of Criterion films, so far, Rififi (115).  A film that this film, no matter how much I enjoyed it, holds nary a candle too.

The Expectation: The Italian tradition of comedia all'Italiana has soured me in the past, but I've been so enamored with film in general lately, I was ready to try anything that didn't feature Jennifer Lopez or that hadn't derived from a SNL skit.  Thus, expectations were high.

The Experience: Life has, as it always does, reared its shaggy mane yet again and it took me nearly a month to slough through this one.  Which is strange as the film is one peppy burst of enjoyment after another.  I felt at times like I had swallowed a time-release pain-killer, and that every few days another lump of relief soaked in to my body.


1.  Marcello Mastroianni

If you love film, especially Italian film, you're a fan, or in-the-know about Marcello Mastroianni.  A staple of Fellini's films, Mastroianni was quite possibly the inventor of cool in the late 50s and 1960s.  He raged across film, embodying all the stereotypes of hip we now take for granted.  Which is why it is so strange in Big Deal On Madonna Street (113) (the film that would push him over the cliff of success) that he's a sort of complaining photographer-turned-thief with a crying baby on one arm and stern-browed wife on the other.  He's nothing like the sunglasses-wearing, lady seducing character we all know him as now.  He's a blunderer and terrible crook, and though he plays second man to Peppe (Vittorio Gassman), he's still, quite possibly the least "cool" character in the film.  This would be the type of stunt casting an actor might take on late in his career, when they'd already adopted a screen presence, and antithetical pairing like this would play off that presence.  But here it's as if Mastroianni's bumbling Tiberio, is a hint of things to come.  A shadow of the character he had hidden with him that somehow Mario Monicelli pulled to the surface.  

2.  Chuckles.

I'll be honest, old films don't make me laugh as much as new films.  Don't start throwing rocks, the humor, the language, hell, the entire culture these films derived from is different and thus the possibility of me giggling my way through one is, well, a wee bit smaller.  Oh, I appreciate that a good old comedic film has the potential to bust a gut, it's just most likely not mine.  Big Deal On Madonna Street (113) had me laughing though.  The story of a cobbled together caper gang and their attempt to rob a pawn shop isn't a riot, I wasn't rolling on the floor, but there were scenes and moments that had me barking in laughter.  The gang, in a dingy basement full of broken bikes and bottles, trying to hide from an attractive young lady - classic.  Peppe beating the hell out of a room full of drunken suitors - amazing.  I can't say why, but the collusion of actors in this film had me twisted up in chuckles, an absolute surprise and delight.

3.  A gang of side-liners.

Is it strange that in the middle of this Italian comedy about thieves in Rome, that I found myself thinking about underdog sports films?  Sure, this isn't exactly that.  There's no big beefy rival teams or inspiring moments or any of the sort, but there's something about this likable lump of losers that had me thinking about Bad News Bears and the sort.  Though each and every one of these characters is sort of a putz, I found myself rooting for their caper to succeed, their romances to be fruitful, their lives not to be so down right depressing.  I rooted from the sidelines for a bunch of knuckleheads to strut on to the field an win the big game.

4.  Losers once and for all.

And what's great about the film is, and not to ruin anything, but no one's a winner in this pick.  No one's a loser either, but if you're judging the success of the film through the success of a crime, this one's a big failure.  But that's the great thing about the film - the caper is the ruse.  The ploy to draw you in and make you comfortable, excited about action and adventure, while they're unraveling the sad little lives of these hilarious characters.  All of these louts are losers in their own right, but this little gig somehow gives them, and us, meaning.  If they can pull this off (for a never revealed sum of money) they'll have lives to live, not poverty to exist amongst.  And the film hardly focuses on the crime at hand, it focuses on these characters as fully-rounded bits of screenwriting who collide with each other for a brief moment before spinning off on to their own.  The final scene in the movie, as the characters, beaten, battered and burned are slowly peeling off in to their own respective lives (together for such a short time) drives it on home - who cares about the caper, what are these characters going to do next?


criterion counsel: alright, alright, getting started again.  might be another month or so before anything like this pops up though.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

watch this: MY MAN GODFREY (114) trailer

it's coming.

black and white and full of sass.  feels like the collection is winding its way through a humorous bit on its way to the carl dr. theyer section.

i quiver in fear.

apologies for the link and lack of embed, this old film trailers are sneaky like foxes.


Watch the trailer HERE.

Friday, May 14, 2010

film ain't nothing but televison these days

first off: this is my 300th post.  three hundred huh?  that's a sizable number, and hope all of you my loyal readers are steadily wrapping as many presents as possible to help me celebrate.  you don't even have to wrap anything of worth in these presents, because as the criterion conquistador will tell you, anything wrapped - be it package or present or loonie in straitjacket - peaks my interest wildly. empty boxes with glue on them, if i can't see within, almost always got me wet at the corners of the mouth.

i'll mimic blowing out 300 candles and you can sing some sort of festive birthday song and that'll be the end of it.


i wish, what with this momentous post and all, that i had some sort of positive thing to say about the state of film, but after seeing russell crowe and ridley scott's new robin hood film and i'm more down on the film industry than i have been in months.  i feel almost bad lately, as i've been coaxing the amazing criterion conquistador to all the films i'm attending for review, and they're literally all shit.  i thought that a big historical epic, directed by a filmmaker of note might sway this notion and the criterion conquistador might actually sit through a decent film.

but, alack, robin hood is not only a fairly stupid film, but it highlights a trend in film that scares the shit out of me: it's more television pilot than film.  i don't watch a lot of television anymore, but when i did, i was an enormous fan of pilot season, because you'd get twenty or thirty hints of shows and then be able to decide what you might watch based on that.  the television pilot doesn't have to be a complete story, because there will be one or two or three or whatever more seasons following it that will fill out the story and characters.  thus the opening show of a good long television series is just an admirable way of introducing the central concept of the story and those players who might make up that story.  that's what a pilot is.

film on the other hand, if you've been paying attention, is a singular story, told within the confines of two or so hours, where hopefully, everything wraps up and we leave satisfied, sick on shitty popcorn, and ready for another, completely different movie.  film in nutshell: single story, round characters, satisfying ending.

or at least it used to be.  with the onset of sequel upon sequel upon sequel upon sequel we no longer have to look at film as singular entity.  every film has the potential of starting a series of films, and if those films fail, there's always the chance to just reboot it from start and hope that those new films will catch on and another series will come out of that. this is awful for many reasons, as the space for original cinema is slowly being relegated to art houses and the internet, but what bothers me the most is that films are now becoming pilots.  yup, the opening salvo of any trilogy is just that, an opening introduction, the first act of a three-part play.

take robin hood, a film quite clearly made as a prequel.  we meet robin hood and his merry men and we meet prince john and his unmerry men and we meet maid marion and her cast of characters and the film goes through some rote plot work that slightly fills us in on who these characters might be, and then boom, film over.  we've been teased, tricked and tickled in to becoming curious and now we're downright ready to get invested in another "episode".  we don't wait a week though, we wait years and when the next film comes (already bristling with new cliffhangers to get us ready for the third "episode") we're rosy with excitement.

but this doesn't work behind the central conceit of film.  what this does is create poorly written stories and badly conceived characters that flop about on screen in stories that are built just to be built upon.  i don't want to look at the foundation of a house, i want to see the whole damn thing.  but, no, we're being given the bare bones, so the hollywood producers can fill them in with on-going additions to the series.  we're not watching movies, we're watching introductions.

there's grim times on the horizon people, keep your heads down.


criterion counsel: getting almost to the end of this film and it's only been four weeks since i finished the last one.  with this sort of timeline in place i might finish the criterion collection with arthritis just barely tickling my hands.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

my camera, r.i.p.

i will step away from writing about film for a brief moment to memorialize my old/new camera that i lost last night, with a smattering of pictures i've taken over the last eight months.

a little bit sad right now, but it's my own fault, so i'll toss out some money to buy myself a newer, nicer one.

g'bye camera, we had a good time together.


rest in peace my slow moving friend.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

the festival experience

when i lived in seattle, folk were always boasting about how amazing the seattle international film festival was.  how big it was and how long it went on for and how you could see so many films because the festival was just that massive.  and i sat in seattle, a life long film fan and, up to that point, a life long resident of the city, and imagined how amazing it must be to see films at such a well recognized festival.

and, aside from a press screening of a terribly boring documentary about japanese internment entitled rabbit moon (which all i remember of is the dry fresh rolls we were given afterwards) i never saw a single seattle international film festival screening.  i can't say why. perhaps it was just all too overwhelming, or maybe my life in seattle, grey and boring, just couldn't bother to wrap itself around going somewhere and doing something.  

even last year, fresh off in to the bay, i remember seeing the lineup for the san francisco international film festival, being palpably excited, discussing this excitement with the criterion conquistador and still, never seeing a film at the festival.  

i can't explain it, but something about the pressure of so many films in one place, and so many people all crammed together excited to see those films did the opposite for me, a supposed film fan, it sort of scared me.

until this year.

i covered the san francisco film festival for a variety of sources (mainly mission loc@l), dove in head first you might say, saw seven films in two weeks (which is nothing compared to the ingestion rate in which full time film journalists devour film during the fest), wrote reviews in press lounges, saw roger ebert speak, held the criterion conquistadors hand and cried a little bit when philip kaufman spoke about his dearly deceased rose.  quite honestly, my first experience as festival-goer was more than amazing and i implore you to visit a festival in your town. 

perhaps these, a handful of thoughts, will push you to get out and watch:

1.  i saw seven films, as mentioned about, and they ranged from french films about suicide and family to the also aforementioned documentary about a wacky japanese inventor and his 80th birthday.  films about the mexican border and about the communion between man and son and the wild expanse of the mexican caribbean.  i saw films about the idea of what a "union" is and films about drunken kidnappers and the bonds between child and thief.  i saw films i loved and films i hated, but at the end of the festival, one thing was clear: i love film and this sort of beautiful upchuck of all things cinema is more than inspirational.

2.  festival film goers are a different breed.  this isn't head to the cinema and buy a ticket and some popcorn and sleep your way through a film.  this get to a film an hour early with a magazine or a cell phone and elbow your way in to line and then voraciously with teeth bared, growl and snarl to keep your border.  once the line starts moving, don't let your guard, because this selection of old ladies and film dorks will be fight for a spot in that cinema like a mother guarding her young.  they will bitch and whine and moan, and somehow you will not be annoyed you will be ecstatic that people in this country of ours still love film enough to wholeheartedly defend their position so. i found myself at once irritated and infatuated with a group of women who pleaded with me to save their seats as i looked like a "nice man."

3.  i don't know about all festivals but SFIFF was perhaps the nicest experience in terms of reviewing i've ever had.  i'm notoriously a fuck-up when it comes to getting things like accreditation and the like for  festivals and in classic noah-fashion, i managed to acquire late accreditation and then request screeners for films from, ahem last year's festival. which spun the website, the festival's press people and myself in to a spiral of anxiety. it worked out, but when i approached the festival offices for my press pass i found myself sweaty and nerve-wracked, awaiting a stern word and a gentle push that only an angered publicist can manage. instead i got treated like a prince by the staff.  there were no angered publicists, only helpful sffs members.  booze and juice and snacks were given, happy hours were had, exclusive parties were opened up to me.  it was amazing, and i can only thank the staff of the festival for presenting me with such an amazing experience.

that's the rub: film festivals are amazing, they're just a little more work.  you have select few theaters playing films a select few times, and if you're a real film fan (which i'm slowly working my way towards) you'll get out and find those films and meet other film fans, and drool and ogle and be immersed in exactly the place you're supposed to be.

can't wait for next year.


criterion counsel: sigh, it's like kicking a dead horse.  

Monday, May 10, 2010

watch this: alejandro jodorowsky's THE INCAL trailer

alejandro jodorowsky is a maniac.  a filmmaker with out the barriers of rational thought that created films like holy mountain and el topo, films that melted minds with nary a regret to be had.  if you've never experienced a jodorowsky film (first, shame on you) and second, get out there, find one, and let you perceptions of reality drastically change.

this trailer for an unmade jodorowsky/moebius film called the incal.  listen how the crowd giggles when they're throwing people off that wall.



criterion counsel: stagnant good friends.  stagnant.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

a few things about THE INVENTION OF DR. NAKAMATS

i had the great pleasure of seeing roger ebert speak last saturday.  he was introduced by a series of famous directors (terry zwigoff, philip kaufman, jason reitman, and of course errol morris) and the criterion conquistador and i left the theater a little teary-eyed and completely in awe of well, cinema.  star-studded and fairly glamorous what i left the castro theater with was the sense that roger ebert is as well respected as he is not because of the sheer breadth of his output (though that isn't so shabby itself) or the pure beauty his writing emits (again, right on the money there) but more so because of his ability and want to champion the smaller films.  ebert, though i can't say we've always agreed on everything, loves film, big or small, and when he latches on to something he loves he fights for it in every way.  all of his presenters made the point that their films would've gone nowhere without the two-fisted fighting of the great ebert.  it left me inspired and more than ready to champion a few films of my own.

sure this is a tiny blog with a tiny readership but hell, maybe if i shout a little louder about some of the great movies i have the opportunity to see each week, someone will listen. 

that said:

i saw a film called the invention of dr. nakamats at this years san francisco international film festival.  clocking in at only a brief 54 minutes (with opening and closing credits) the film left me stunned and excited about the prospect of cinema.  the highest honor for any film is its ability to inspire in me the urge to watch more films.

dr. nakamats certainly did so.  can't say so about the rest of the festival's offerings but this film, all 54 minutes of its slow expansive peek in to the can't-believe-this-man-real life of dr. nakamats had my hungering for more, more, more.

this is the trailer, and then, a few things about dr. nakamats:

ahhhhhhh, dr. nakamats, you wily old codger you.

a few more facts for the kiddies reading at home:

1. dr. nakamats invented the floppy disk. above, in that amazing trailer, you'll see dr. nakamats standing in front of his house in front of what he deems "the dr. nakamats floppy disk gate." and it is just that, a gate made to resemble a floppy disk.

2. dr. nakamats believes that oxygen in high quantities is bad for the brain. thus, the amazing dr. nakamats submerges himself in water, letting his brain de-oxygenate, waiting for amazing ideas to bubble to the surface.

3. dr. nakamats has his own fan club and is considered to be one of the highest paid lecturers in the entire world.

4. that music you hear in the trailer above is certainly pieced together by none other than mark mothersbaugh of devo and the soundtracks of amazing films like the royal tenenbaums (157)this is that sort of movie but dragged out of the mind of wes anderson and gently heaved in to the real world.

i could talk about this film for days.  but you should just go and read my absolutely glowing review of it over at mission loc@l. 

check it out HERE.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

watch this: to have and to hold

wow, that opening shot that's all sliced and diced and dragged through the household and then boom, right on ?love and the slow head turn.

you count me in.

To Have & To Hold - Taster Tape from Jony Lyle on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

watch this: anton corbjin's the american trailer

i know, i know, posting a trailer for a new film is barely my style, but i'm knee deep in festival coverage right now and have a little less than forty-five minutes to crank out a review on a series of shorts i absolutely abhor.

any-who, anton corbjin and george clooney in a film about assassins, final hits, tails and love? have to say it has a sort of epic, 1940s casablanca feel to it.

and that i love.


criterion counsel: i am so excited about the film i'm digging in to right now.  i'm so excited about the world of criterion awaiting me.  alas, all this excitement is worthless as i've had barely a moment to dive in.  sigh.  forgive me readers.  forgive me.