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Stop Making Sense (1984)
An Extremely Stylish Concert
If it wasn't for me seeing Jonathan Demme's filmography, I might never have heard about the Talking Heads. So I know the band is from the 80s, a generation whose music I simply cannot tolerate but hey, I was born during that time and I don't remember the music so I'm ok. I must mention however that even though the Talking Heads are from the 80s their music style is way out there. It doesn't sound like music from that era; it's a completely different kind of sound. Even though I wasn't impressed much by the music (except for `This Must Be the Place'), the film itself is definitely worth checking out.
Unlike most concert films they try to praise the performer with laser effects, explosions, and of course the glamour. Stop Making Sense is very different, extremely stylish yet very simple. The footage is composed of shots that the audience would normally see at a concert, meaning throughout the film we only see the staging area, not the audience nor the backstage or anything like that. As the band plays on stage, in the background are a compilation of images composed of photographs, locations, colors, and words. The main attraction of this film is the cinematography. The main stand out of the film for me was where David Byrne plays with the lamp as he sings This Must Be the Place. The low-key lighting of the film gives it an extremely serene feeling. Along with the dimming of the background and the lighting of each of the members blending into the darkness gives a different feeling to a concert film. A great example of this dimming technique is another Demme film entitled Swimming to Cambodia, featuring Spalding Gray.
So why did I decide to see Stop Making Sense? Well, because I like the films of Jonathan Demme. He has a very unique style to his films, such as the actors talking directly to the camera. To see a filmmaker of his status direct a concert movie was something I just had to see. An experienced filmmaker making a concert film seemed a bit awkward but the final result is quite rewarding. I'm glad to see filmmakers not indulge into one type of genre, its good for them to try something new.
Yeah! Violent softcore porn from 1890! Oh wait this is from 1991?
If any of you people reading this watch Family Guy, you might recall and episode where they poke fun of independent cinema. It had black and white photography, a clown cooking pancakes and flipping them through the air in slow motion while a girl lying on a couch stared while smoking a cigarette. Obviously this doesn't make any sense at all, and that's exactly what Begotten is.
Don't get me wrong the concept of this film sounds great, God killing himself; mother earth-giving birth to the land, Son of Earth being tortured and whatever. Unfortunately the way this film is constructed lacks substance. Its just like that Family Guy segment, there is a lot of images juxtaposed but they don't give a clear meaning to what is going on. I appreciate films that make the audience think, but quite honestly if it wasn't for the closing credits saying God Killing Himself played by some guy, Mother Earthy played by some girl I met on the street, Son of Earth played by my friend Bob, I can assure you I might have thought this film was a complete waste of time and pointless. Those credits are the only thing that makes the viewer think there was some sort of intellectual thought behind this nonsense, unfortunately I still don't see any significance so I'll just say the director was just being a freak. If intellectualism was the director's intent, then I'm sorry because there is no point to this silly story.
If anything this is like a stylish black and white mess of a violent soft-core porn film. Why? Well that girl blows the dead guy in the opening scene and then starts masturbating. Afterwards you have some guys dressed in cloaks beating up the girl with sticks. Most of the time this film consists of these cloak guys dragging a nude person through all sorts of terrain. When they get tired they just beat him up. Hmm, when they stop to rest they beat him up. Great way of conserving energy!
I admire first time filmmakers for trying to make films in black and white, well its actually grayscale but Begotten is literally black and white. The use of two colors makes this film look extremely old. Like I said, the concept is great, but it fails due to poor direction. Maybe if the scenes hadn't been that long it might have been better. Well, quite honestly I take that back because I saw most of the film through my fast forward button and it was still very long. Critics that said this was a masterpiece, a brilliant work of art, and a revolutionary piece of cinema, I laugh at their silly comments. HA! Simply because they didn't want to seem as if they didn't understand the movie and didn't want to admit it to millions of people, they just had to say Oh, yeah great stuff. Geez, just admit you didn't understand it so call it crap, that's what I say. I still prefer Eraserhead over this film any day; at least you could talk some sense out of it. Well, David Lynch certainly brought a new breed of weird films. But, Begotten does succeed in being much weirder than Eraserhead. Begotten can be tedious, ridiculous, or brilliant, you decide.
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Psychological Myth-Dystopian Vision
`Alex's adventures are a kind of psychological myth. Our subconscious finds release in Alex, just as it finds release in dreams. It resents Alex being stifled and repressed by authority, however much our conscious mind recognizes the necessity of doing this.' - Stanley Kubrick 1971.
I read the novel when I was only in 3rd grade by my own free will. People would stare at me as if I was crazy or something whenever I would walk into stores and I had the book in my hand. I never clearly understood the book, probably due to the British dialect and the complex plot. But there were two words that stood out from the book 1. Droogs 2. Korova Milkbar. I remember I used to call my friends droogs for a while, and the Korova Milkbar fascinated me because I used to see pictures of it in books and it was something I've never seen before. The pictures I saw were so bizarre and psychedelic yet at the same time beautiful.
After seeing the movie I felt in love with it. It's the tale of Alex and his `droogs' whose motifs are violence and sexual pleasures from rape. Alex is a rude young man who is respected by his droogs because he is intimidating. Alex threatens them so much they can't take no more and frame him. Alex is sent to prison and is sentenced for 13 years. Alex tries to behave so that he can leave prison on parole. He studies the bible and learns that it is not entirely holy due to its repelling content. Murder, sex, violence, betrayal are some themes he finds within the `holy' bible. Alex later hears of a program the government is trying to conduct with a random inmate. The experiment will result in an individual never to perform any sort of violent crime ever again. Alex is chosen for this experiment. The process consists of strapping the person into a chair while they are shown images on a screen of extreme violence. For Alex this is heaven for him because that is what he did before going to prison. He saw beauty in violence. As days with the experiment pass by, Alex starts to feel the effects of the experiment. He starts to be disgusted by what he sees onscreen. The experiment is a success. Alex is then released a free man. He comes across all the people he made harm too and they claim their revenge on him.
This is without a doubt a very powerful tale of an `eye-popping dystopian vision' of the ultra violent, with an intelligent mix of classical music with the blend of violence. A tale that makes us feel sorry for the horrendous person that is truly Alex behind the government experiment. This is another film from Kubrick, the cinematic genius who made a masterpiece every time he picked up the camera.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
THE Majestic Modern Silent Masterpiece
I get asked many question to why I like this movie, but one of the most frequently questions I get asked is `Why do you like that boring movie?' my response is always `Because it's good'. I first saw this movie when I was in the 3rd grade. At the time I felt as if I didn't understand the plot. The thing I enjoyed the most out of the movie was it's spectacular space visuals and the highly popular psychedelic ending sequence. I must have scene this movie once every 3 years. Each time I saw it I hoped to try to understand the plot of the film even more. After seeing the movie over an over again I think I finally realized that the movie did not rely on plot but on visual story telling. This is more of an experimental movie. It tried to do something that was never done before in the history of filmmaking.
The movie starts off with `The Dawn of Man' based on the scientific theory of man evolving from apes. As the movie progresses we jump to the year 2001 in outer space and we are revealed how far man has evolved from once being an ape. This is a time where man depends on technology and the widely influential computer.
What makes this movie even more unique is the use of hidden symbolism. Another question I get asked is `Okay so if you like this movie so much and it's one of your favorites, what is the meaning of that big pole?' My response to this question could be extremely debatable and might seem offensive to some people. To me the black bar represents God. The pole first reveals itself to the apes. One of them stands out of the pack and fears it. After a minute of analyzing the pole it finally has the courage to touch it. In a later scene the ape is shown near a pile of bones. The ape grabs one of the bones and is for the first time filled with knowledge. This represents how the animal has learned the ability to reason and uses the bone as a weapon. The scene with the two rival packs explains how the one with the greatest technological achievements will triumph over others. The second appearance of the Pole is on the moon. Scientist go to the moon and try to determine what it is. One of the main things I noticed is how modern man treated the pole in comparison to the apes. The apes feared it and praised it, while modern man disrespected it by taking pictures of it as some sort of prize. The scientists are punished by the high pitched sound produced by the pole. The third appearance of the pole is when Dave deserts the mother ship and ventures to reach Jupiter. The pole is scene floating around near Jupiter's atmosphere, meaning God is watching over you, or God is everywhere. Finally the pole is in the final scene with where Dave is shown in his bed as an elderly man. The pole stands in front of Dave's final moments of life, this shows us how God never stops watching over us. The ending shows a baby in the womb, a perfect depiction of death and rebirth. Quite possibly this is the most accurate space movie based on scientific fact, unlike Star Wars and Star Trek.
Final note, 2001: A Space Odyssey is my all time favorite movie. It's made by my idol, Stanley Kubrick. 2001 defined the standard to what silent cinema is today. It doesn't rely much on dialogue but on visuals to tell a story. The movie does move quite slowly, and to many it's like `the most boring movie' ever made. But to a person that likes film and appreciates all the strange and original aspect of this art called film, 2001 will be a real treat. If you like 2001 check out another movie called Koyaanisqatsi, it's as equally impressive.
Don't understand Schizopolis? Thats your fault.
I have to start off by saying that I truly liked Schizopolis. It's unlike anything I've ever seen, in the traditional sense that is. In any case, I'm not a real fan of studio movies so Schizopolis was right up my alley. People might wonder what strived me into seeing this film. Well, it was by luck actually. I was looking at some movie matches for psychologically yet offbeat inclined films such as Dark City. I came up with one choice, Kafka. I saw that and it was a nice movie, I own a copy of it actually. Then when I looked up movie matches for Kafka I think I got Schizopolis. It was either that or I simply looked up what other movies this director named Steven Soderbergh had directed. Schizopolis seemed like an interesting movie, catchy name and incredibly high offbeat ratings, I couldn't go wrong. Well, I was right! By the time I finished seeing this film I was left entirely confused but amazed at the good piece of filmmaking by this guy named Soderbergh. Eventually I had to see some of his other films, and of course, they were as good as I had hoped. By this time I became a follower of Soderbergh and had to see The Limey opening day, again I was pleased.
Schizopolis is a self reflective movie Soderbergh style. Fellini 8 ½, Woody has Stardust Memories, Soderbergh has Schizopolis. According to what I have read behind the making of this film is that Soderbergh thought of quitting filmmaking once and for all after the critically panned The Underneath. His thoughts were put to the making of this film. The result is a film that is so absurd it left critics speechless because they obviously didn't know what to think of it. They couldn't really ridicule it because that would just mean they didn't understand it. Hence the introduction of the film `in the event that you find certain sequences or ideas confusing keeping mind this is your fault not ours'. Soderbergh is indeed a genius of avoiding negative feedback from critics and instead he mocks them indirectly. As for the film's moments, the introduction and closing of the film are highly amusing. The funniest sequence is probably when Soderbergh is making funny faces in front of the mirror. As for another funny portion of the film is when the Soderbergh characters speak with terrible Japanese and Italian dubbing.
This is definitely a film that is worth viewing. Its good to see a new type of cinematic film style from a filmmaker that is truly passionate about film. If you are looking for something new and inspiring cinematic wise, look no further. Come Early! Come Often!
The Modern Day Silent Majestic Masterpiece
Film is a visual medium; words are not necessary to tell a story. Stanley Kubrick taught us that with his masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey. He proved that visuals is all that really matters in film to tell a story that will cause people to make their own conclusions while also trying to maintain the sense of the director's intent. Godfrey Reggio also proved this with his masterpiece Koyaanisqatsi. Both of these films, especially Koyaanisqatsi are a perfect example of a modern day `Silent Films'.
Koyaanisqatsi is not a film in its traditional sense. There is no story, yet there is. I know it sounds ironic but let me explain. What is it that you see when you go see a movie? Images, montages of images put together to tell a story. Koyaanisqatsi is nothing but images put together to tell a story. Even though there is no dialogue what so ever, you somewhat understand what the film is trying to induce.
The film begins with a painting of what seems to be Hopi paintings on a stone. This could represent the birth of mankind. Then the next image is a space shuttle thruster, the evolution of man evolving to the extent that he has passed the limits of the skies. The first half of the film are images of Mother Nature. Meaning oceans, landscapes, and so forth. The second half is modern day earth with it's technological advancements.
You can see the images tell a story if you look closer. We begin with nature, no signs of humans or technology. It's a beautiful scenario. After the images of nature finish, the first thing we see is a tractor of some sort ejecting black smoke making it look intimidating and dangerous as it's own smoke slowly covers the entire frame. A beautiful yet fearful sight.
Modern day life has never seemed so strange. As I saw Koyaanisqatsi I realized this was modern day. But the way Godfrey Reggio portrays it onscreen makes it appear as if we are in a different world. Images switch from playing in fast speed to slow motion, and vice versa.
Accompanied to a beautiful score by Philip Glass adds even more beauty to the film. Glass is known for his offbeat style of music, by combining it with Reggio's bizarre style, it creates a masterpiece of film unlike no other.
Koyaanisqatsi is not a film for everyone. It takes a certain type of audience to appreciate a film like this. This is film is a piece of art form, if you want a true definition of what people talk about when they say film is art, this is the best example you will ever find.
There is so much to say about this film that I can't even think where to begin. All I can say that if there are any people out there that truly love film will appreciate Koyaanisqatsi. If you cannot appreciate what this film has to offer, then I don't think film is an area that can truly relate to you. Like I said before, this film is made specifically for certain types of people, its not for everyone. When a film of this caliber can make you laugh, smile, and evoke emotion, you know you've cared about it and it has meant something. Any filmmaker that can make this so through a montage of images is an absolute genius.
American Psycho (2000)
Might Seem Repulsive but its a Good Intelligent Film
I was waiting for the release of American Psycho when I first saw the trailer, back when I went to see Dogma in 1999. I'm a serious movie buff and when a film looks interesting; I go absolutely insane and desperate waiting for the film to come out. As time went by I started to see comments about people who saw screening at Sundance and so forth. Some comments were positive, some very negative. Nevertheless the good overcame the negative comments.
So the film is finally released and of course I'm anxious to see it. I go to the theater but it's sold out. So the next day I go to the theater and I'm in! As I saw the films I am overwhelmed by the beautiful imagery, style, characters, and so forth. Overall, I was very satisfied. My only complaint was the ending.
The idea of a man killing women in order to maintain a sense of sanity does sound a bit repulsive. Of course feminist groups will protest against this movie but there is a lot of missing information. The character Patrick Bateman doesn't only kill women; he kills men as well. He uses women as meat for sexual pleasures. Once he's done using them he eventually kills them. As for the men, he simply kills them out of jealousy. One thing about Patrick Bateman is that he hates people being more successful than him. So he strives to be superior to everyone. How so? By killing people. Even though some killings of his are rather illogical, some actually do make some serious points. His monologues before he kills his victims will help you decide whether or not his killings carry any sense of logic in them. Still, everything Bateman does has certain intelligence to it.
The ending was a bit of a let down. It seems that recent films tend to strive for the psychological ending, which I love. Fight Club had it; Stir of Echoes had it, the Sixth Sense, and now American Psycho. But American Psycho's lacked something. I am still not sure I understand the ending yet. I could have been that Bateman was actually insane and had to kill everyone to be at ease, or if his killings were all a state of mind- meaning he imagined and believed in them so much he thought they were real. Something that might have improved the film is if we could have seen what Bateman's secretary does after she sees his daily planner.
Chris Bale has simply come a long way from being the kid in Empire from the Sun. His role back then was Oscar worthy, and it's even more apparent that he deserves recognition for his role as an insane-psychopathic Yuppie from the 80s.
Overall the film is simply brilliant. It is a smart film and it is extremely well made. I'm just happy to see that an independent film such as this captivated the interest of many Hollywood mainstreamers. If anything we need more independent movies to get a wider audience. So far this is the best film I've seen so far this year due to a flawless performance by Bale, and the help of great direction. Lets hope it gains the recognition it deserves.
Buddy Boy (1999)
Ugly movie, but it's good.
Buddy Boy is a psychological thriller on the same scale of Roman Polanski movies. While seeing Buddy Boy it immediately reminded me of a particular Polanski movie, The Tenant. Both stories deal with men looking abroad to the windows of others and noticing bizarre happenings. Thus causes the men to slowly go insane and therefore indulge themselves within their own insanity.
The story deals with a stuttering young man who is very reclusive and lives with his stepmother. He spends most of the time locked in his room. A perverse pass time of his is to look inside the apartment of a beautiful woman, played by Polanskis wife, Emmanuelle Seigner. He falls in love with the womans image without knowing her. As the story develops they eventually meet and become friends. The young man continues to spy on the woman due to his lack of trust in her. As he peeps into the womans apartment, he begins to notice that she cooks human flesh and eats it raw. He goes over the womans apartment, only to discover that she is eating vegetables, I forgot to mention the woman is a vegetarian. The young man begins to think God hates him for making him see terrible things. Apparently the only time he sees the acts of cannibalism is when he is at his Peeping Tom area. This is the beginning of one mans decent into madness.
I expected to see a particular type of stylish psychological film, instead I witnessed something more disturbing than what I usually see. Nevertheless it was an interesting movie. The style is ugly, its not elegant its simply ugly. So far I have not learned to like this particular style, I prefer something more elegant, meaning I dislike movies that take place in the rural areas of a metropolitan city. Despite the settings I thought the film was decent. Its definitely a change of pace horror film instead of watching the typical teenage slasher Hollywood flicks. Which I dont see but Im sure they are terrible. Buddy Boy is a film that allows you to have your own conclusion, it doesnt give you the ending, you create it yourself by what you saw from the flick.
Back in the U.S.S.R. (1992)
Sloppy Movie, but Polanski's presence redeems it.
While on a Russian tour, Archer; a young American tourist's experience takes an unexpected turn when he meets a mysterious woman named Lena. She has accidentally stolen a priceless work of art, and as events spin out of control Archer finds himself without a passport, accused of murder, hunted by the police, and pursued by a ruthless smuggler.
The main reason I saw this movie was to see Roman Polanski's performance as an actor. He was great in The Fearless Vampire Killers, The Tenant, and A Pure Formality. Like in A Generation, Polanski has a small role in this movie as well; nevertheless he proves he is a very talented yet overlooked thespian. As for the movie itself it's rather poor. It has the elements of making this a good thriller but the director aims for the Hollywood approach and it simply doesn't work. The use of young actors was a mistake in my opinion, if the protagonists would have been a little older the style of the film might have been more mature and we might have gotten a completely different movie. Instead we get a ridiculous film that doesn't really have any substance at all, and proper organization. The film leaves a great deal of questions unanswered; I can't even begin to explain how many holes were left uncovered. Basically it's just a sloppy movie. The only reason to see this is for Polanski. If he wasn't in it, trust me I would never have seen this movie.
The Thin Blue Line (1988)
The Pioneer of Stylish and Surreal Documentaries
The Thin Blue Line was my first taste of an Errol Morris picture. I saw this in my Film as Literature class. At first I didn't want to see this movie at all. I though it would be like every other documentary where it has the narrator speaking, while there is old footage being ran, and pictures of the crime or whatever is being shown. Oh boy how wrong I was. From the first second you hear the music running and you see the captions An Errol Morris Film, you immediately get the sense that you are in for something good. How right I was in this aspect.
Never before have I ever seen such a stylist documentary. The film runs to the repetitive but moody music of Philip Glass. Along with the reenactments, the movie has an extremely surreal experience to it. Unlike 99% of documentaries, Errol Morris eludes to have narration, instead he lets the people say what's one their minds. In my opinion this is more effective because you get to hear the truth and not assumptions by the narrator trying to impose excessive remarks. I mentioned reenactments, let me explain how they work in Errol Morris movies. According to what the people on camera might be saying, Errol Morris tries to recreate those situations. This adds a very strange feel to the documentary experience. Even though you know these reenactments never occurred as they are shown, it helps you understand what the people are talking about. Furthermore it adds to the whole logic of seeing a movie, it makes it more artistic and more film-like. Another interesting feature Errol Morris uses is footage from movies, or cartoons. I have never seen these elements in a documentary. I was astonished by what I saw in this documentary. At every single second of the film, it keeps your attention intact. Careful if you blink, other wise you will miss something great. I liked this film so much I ended up renting every single documentary directed by Errol Morris.
On a final note regarding Errol Morris, every single thing he does is good. I'm just happy to have the privilege to be living at this time to witness such great films from him.