Thursday, July 22, 2010

hot dang, america!

wooooooo-weeeee, taller than a car that steam spouting sum'bitch is.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


children in montana love sitting on stoops and staring out across the dusty plain, their earth-caked futures percolating in the distance.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010

across this wild place

see that tiny town that enormous giant of a person is pinching?  that's chicago.  one time crux of the midwest.  former meat-packing capitol of the world.  home to the cubs, the white soxs, the bears, the bulls and the blackhawks.

well guess what lingering readers?  the criterion conquistador and i are hitting the road in, well, just about four and half hours on a massive road trip across this oft times great country of ours.  through bois and billings and the dakotas and minnesota and wisconsin, we're cutting across this wild place we call america to see what it has to offer, with chicago as our end goal.

the postings are going to be sparse around here and if not sparse, particularly short and sweet.

wish us luck in our travels, we'll certainly do the same for you.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

mmmmm ... samurai

toshiro mifune is such a glowing statue of japanese masculinity.

he makes my loins quiver and my hair stand on end.


criterion counsel: it's been a busy coupla days.  sadly none of that business has been aimed at the criterion collection.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

go, run, see inception

i was lucky, privileged, blessed to see christopher nolan's new film inception on monday night and i can't (both legally and scholarly) gush more about the film.  people will call this the new matrix (i heard them as i left the theater, already dropping the wachowski's sci-fi classic) and if you're thinking mind-bending science-fiction that pushes far past what has come before, then yes, this is the new matrix.  but inception is so so so much more.  this is the matrix on massive steroids, but undercut with an emotional core.  this is a trick on reality (on realities actually) that never lets up.  from moment one you're thrust in to the world of a group of thieves that operate on an entirely different level than anyone who's come before, and you hold on with all your might to their adventure(s).

i want to write nothing more about the plot or the characters or the resolution of this film, because i came in blank, only the oddball images of the teaser posters emblazoned on my brain, and it allowed for everything to be a surprise, everything to be a revelation.  

just know this, the forty minute heist at the end of the film rivals any and all that've come before it.  perhaps the greatest execution of a complicated bit of filmmaking i've ever seen.  acting, writing, cinematography, action choreography - it doesn't get better than this.

mr. nolan, i tip my hat to you.


criterion counsel: did some real damage on the kurosawa piece the other night.  but life has imposed itself once again.  we'll see if i can get to it before i leave for chicago next week.

Friday, July 9, 2010

watch this: the hidden fortress (116) sneak preview

getting back to the classic masters these days.  yesterday dassin, today kurosawa, tomorrow bunuel - it's a stroll through a museum of the greats.

this film supposedly influenced the star wars films, though it's hard for me to see that amongst the screaming samurai women and flame dancing tribal men.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

RIFIFI (115)

the film: rififi (115)
the director: jules dassin (the naked city (380), brute force (383), etc.)

what is it: only my favorite film amongst the sizable number of criterion collection films i've perused.  gritty, grim, depressing 'till the end - almost the perfect crime film.

a lil' bit of history: the film's centerpiece, an immaculate 30-minute heist sequence that features no words, no music, no imposed sound, has actually been recreated by real life criminals.  the types with guns and rap sheets.

the expectation: i've seen it before and couldn't wait to dive back in to the glowing perfection of this seamless film.

the experience: sequestered in a beautiful home with a whopping sound system and an enormous television, the experience, though broken apart by much needed sleep, was near perfect.

1. the way crime should be portrayed

rififi (115) is a beautiful film.  a beautiful film about characters that as a viewer you feel drawn too, entranced by, even rooting for by film's end.  but in the long run rififi (115) isn't a film about glorifying the world of crime.  instead it's a dark peek in to the brutal rules that govern the world.  yes, you will be amazed by how artfully put together the heist in the film is, but the aftermath quickly disperses the hollywood sheen.  these characters live and die by a code, a series of life-long traditions that govern their professional existence, and the lines of friends and family and co-workers mean nothing when they come in to question.  the final twenty-five minutes of this film are brutally heart-wrenching, the kind of bait-and-switch that boosts you up only so it hurts more when it knocks you over.  crime, on a basic level, can be a terrible terrible thing and rififi (115) in all its black and white glory, deftly portrays this.

2. the heist

read anything about rififi (115) and you'll read about the heist sequence in the film.  near thirty minutes long, the heist sequence is told without sound of any kind (aside from the normal scuffle of your average heist). as a reviewer, who on a weekly basis is force-fed enormous, big budget bits of hyper-kinetic action rife with ear-grating explosions and mind-manipulating music, rififi's (115) silent crime finale is refreshing.  instead of being "wowed" by the giant special effects and cheesy one-liners you're locked in to the characters and the very simple, yet difficult act of breaking in to a well-secured diamond merchant's vault-like storefront.  the character's tenseness, the sweat that drips from their faces, the pin-drop atmosphere isn't obscured by booming timpanis or synthy reverb.  instead it sits in the foreground and each tick of the cinematic clock seems to crush the air out of your chest a little bit more.

3.  the after-heist

modern movies, at least those birthed from the loins of hollywood, have a need to wrap everything up in a fiery finale.  to tie the loose ends that the film has unearthed in a blaze of action.  bad guys die, good guys live, lovers love - it's just the manner of film we've become accustomed to.  yet, rififi (115) doesn't even attempt to pull together the loose ends in a action-packed ending.  instead the heist finishes with 
thirty minutes left in the film, and the unresolved bits then start a-flowing.  all of sudden the magic of the heist has fallen to the wayside and the dark underbelly that rests below the surface quickly takes center stage.  bullets are fired, friendships are tested, loyalties are broken, and the world of crime suddenly doesn't seem so magical.  instead it seems exactly what it is: dangerous, seedy, and all about the love of money.

4. tony the stephanois

there's something about the portrayal of tony the stephanois by jean servais, the star of les miserables and  le plaisir (444).  this is a gangster we've seen before, but not at this stage in his life.  this is a crook fresh out the slammer but without the fresh gleam hollywood usually presents them with.  this is a broken man, one who once supped on caviar at fancy restaurants and wooed beautiful women in lavish apartments dripping with antiquity.  this is a broken man who now sweats when he walks, smokes cigarettes to ease the pain, and finds solace in the peaceful suburbanity of another man's family.  he is violent and angry and ready to no longer be a part of this world.  servais plays him like a character who has seen too much, a man who has lived by the rules for too long and now has emerged from a stint in the pen without the knowledge of how the rules have evolved.  he's an old-timer in a newbies world, and the violence that marks the end of the film, seems to adequately fit the stephanois' grim life view.  he performed a crime, and because he didn't see it from every angle, he has to kill or be killed to survive.  his is a deep, dark, depressing world, and even the rekindled love of a woman can't bring him back from the edge.

final thoughts:

don't even need 'em.  watch this film.  many times over.


criterion counsel: on a rampage right now.  who knows how many films i can devour before i leave!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

200 bonsai

i want nothing more than to be finishing this movie this morning, the lovely criterion conquistador locked in to the crook in my arm.  but alas, i have 200 bonsai to water and a film about human-hunting to digest.

and i have forty-five minutes to do so.

thus, give me the time today to finish the film and expect a glut of praise tomorrow.

hope your america-loving weekend was long and stained with bbq.

Friday, July 2, 2010

tony le stephanois est exact au rendez-vous ...

i can't explain anymore just how brilliant this film is.

does this poster further it's brilliance?

does the jagged red lines and language of love make my mouth-slobber a little more mutual?

and you call yourself a film lover ...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

why so hazy?

i saw the last airbender a few days ago. it was, disappointingly, awful. poor story, teenage editing, awful acting, and maybe some of the poorest script choices ever conceived.

and sadly (strangely? inevitably?) the terribleness of the actual film wasn't even what irked me the most.  oh no, i'm so used to shit dripping on to my lap near every time i venture in to a movie theater, the fact that i was watching yet another set-up for yet another trilogy of soulless big budgetry, barely phased me.  i simply stared at the screen, allowing the mind-numbing imagery to batter out another few brain cells.

what torqued my movie-loving soul the most was the fact that the film, like so many already this summer and so many more to come, was in (cue booming drums and flashy visuals) 3-D!  i've vocalized my distaste for the cheap gimmick that is 3-D! before, and even sliding the glasses on to my face prepares me for yet another brown backed slide down shit mountain.  before the last airbender though i accredited my dislike for 3-D! to the fact that it usually signaled a film that spun on the lazy axis of visual effects.  with so much money thrown towards the ability to see leaves flutter in to your face, i can never imagine that a whole lot is left for a little thing called story.  sure toy story 3 blasted me from the bay inland, but i consider it a fluke of the new found medium.  3-D! is a death rattle from a bloated tech-whale, and every time i force those hipster-glasses-gone-wrong over my eyes, i shudder a bit, knowing exactly what comes next.

and still, this aspect of 3-D! wasn't what kicked me the most times in the uvula.  during the film, in a boorish bit of dialogued exposition, i decided that in no way whatsoever could my 3-D! glasses be helping or hampering my viewing experience. thus, rebel that i am, i pulled the glasses off of my face and to see what would a 3-D! film in un-3-D! would look like.

as it turns out 3-D! films in un-3-D! look much like the films we we're happily watching for years and years before some pea-brained ass in a leather chair on sunset boulevard decided that 3-D! was the wave of the future.    well, they look similar, except for the colors portrayed on screen are actually those colors.  one fails to realize that the trick behind, ahem, 3-D! glasses is polarization, a way of pushing the brain and eye to disconnect slightly, drawing the image on screen seemingly closer to the face.  to achieve polarization one must tint the glasses slightly, making it so we're viewing our films, our beloved films, through cheap-o sunglasses.  yes, the laser beams shot from the laser beam gun are seemingly "wizzing" past our head, but also every bit of beautiful color we could be laying our eyes on is, relegated to somewhere between it's original color and a muted, charcoal-like gray. we are not feasting on an array of delicious colors, but instead chewing the ash of a film put to the fire.  it is the sad, unheralded truth, that 3-D! is not only robbing our films of the need for story, but also robbing us of the true visual nature of what we might be seeing.

what i want from the studios isn't the dismissal of 3-D! as a viable filmic option as there are those small-brained individuals in the world who would like to watch jennifer lopez getting a pap smear in enormous, monstrous 3-D!.  what i would enjoy rather is the opportunity to never, ever, have to view a 3-D! film again.  that i could see films that sucked as hard as the last airbender (and oh how hoover-ish this beast of a film was) in all of the visual glory they were meant to be presented in.  i don't want to be an extra four to five dollars to have my optic rainbow painted over with opaque paint.


criterion counsel: film rented. film unwatched.