Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Reborn in the USA

A UK film critic recently wrote a brilliant blog post about a bloody funnel she'd received in the mail.

This blog is a perfect example of why America is the true vampire, sucking the creativity of other countries and reusing it to make money because it's easier than being creative for ourselves:

"The erstwhile blood funneler didn’t include a note or press release or any identifying details – just the blood-caked funnel. But a few moments of internet research revealed it to be a promotion for Let Me In, the American remake of Swedish vampire masterpiece Let the Right One In. The original film (based on the novel by TK) is a marvel of understatement and atmospheric creepiness, a fantastic convergence of entertainment and art. And since, as far as I know, every single print and DVD and digital copy wasn’t destroyed in some sort of vast international warehouse fire conspiracy, there is absolutely no reason to remake this film. Except that Americans like to make money. And did you know that Americans made exactly zero dollars off the original Swedish version of Let the Right One In? It’s true! This cannot stand! One producer told the Los Angeles Times, “We’re incredibly admiring of the original, but to be honest with you, that picture grossed $2 million. It’s not like we’re remaking Lawrence of Arabia.”
But who knows. Though I object on principle, Let Me In could wind up being a perfectly fine piece of entertainment. But reshooting and repackaging something great so you can sell it to dumb people too lazy to go to an art house theatre and read subtitles is a cheap trick. Kind of like sending me a plastic funnel coated with red dye to trick me into writing about your movie. Goddamnit."

So don't be a lazy American. Rent the original Let The Right One In and enjoy it for all of it's foreign genius. It is a touching and haunting story of a young, lonely boy and the vampire girl who becomes his only friend.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

"..and then go contemplate the moon..."

It is extremely difficult for me to review Chinatown in a brief manner. I wrote a 20-page critical analysis of this film in college. It's one of those movies that is like a mysterious lover: every time you see it you learn something new about it. It never ceases to amaze and entertain me. But I spare you deep analysis in favor of concise description.

Chinatown is a film noir. The story of a private investigator and the woman who hires him. But it is also so much more. In the grand tradition of film noirs, the mystery it unravels exceeds your expectations and shocks your sensibilities. Polanski delivers a vintage noir that reflects the loss of innocence that permeated America in the 1970s after the free love of the 1960s.
Jack Nicholson is a revelation as Jake Gittes, the slick private investigator who thinks he's seen it all and knows it all. Faye Dunaway is hauntingly vulnerable as the mysterious Evelyn Mulwray, whose husband's rendezvous with a younger woman sets the plot in action. John Huston is powerful and chilling as Noah Cross, Evelyn's father and the former owner of Water & Power. Jake and Evelyn are classic examples of tragic characters, every aspect of their being forcing their fateful path. All characters and even the plot are downright Shakespearian in quality.
The cinematography wraps you in the story like a warm blanket. Polanski uses all of the old film noir visual motifs and peppers the film with foreshadowing of what is to come. The common themes of conspiracy and sex are brought to a whole new level. And remember: in every film noir, sex=power.
The costumes are perfection and even act as character development.
The dialogue is some of the best you'll ever hear. Pay close attention to every word. Every syllable spoken helps to develop and advance the plot, and if you miss even the slightest detail, the eventual twist will be lost on you.
This movie is incredibly successful because it is so very subtle. The details are teased out slowly, but the pacing is perfect. To go into anymore detail is to spoil everything.
Rife with symbolism, metaphor and clever hints, Chinatown is a rich viewing experience. You must see this movie before you die. Twice. You must watch it again to pick up all the little hints and foreshadowing, and appreciate the flawless structure of this film.
Flawless, perfect, classic and sublime. "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."

Bitter Moon is a sexy psychological thriller told in flashback. Hugh Grant and the lady from The English Patient are an average married British couple, Nigel and Fiona, sailing to India. They meet a wheelchair bound writer, Oscar (Peter Coyote) and his beautiful young wife, Mimi (Emmanuelle Singer, Polanski's Wife). The tight quarters and lack of activity gives Oscar the opportunity to tell the every dirty detail in the sordid tale of his relationship with Mimi to poor unsuspecting Nigel.
This one is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. While we are spared the reenactment of the most disturbing of Mimi and Nigel's kinky games, the visceral language used to describe it will provide a crystal clear mental image that will have you reaching for the brain bleach. Not a family film to say the least.
The acting is great. Coyote's no-holds-barred narration doesn't take away from the action and Singer is the perfect mix of . Hugh Grant is actually very good because he is required to be who he is- a painfully proper British man who doesn't know what to do with himself in awkward situations.
Taking turns as romantic, playful, sexy, disturbing, sinister, horrifying and thrilling, Bitter Moon defies expectations and explanation. It's a tight little film, full of anticipation and it will keep you guessing right up until the end. It explores the highest high and the lowest lows of the humanity all occurring in one complex and dysfunctional relationship.


Friday, July 23, 2010



tried to embed the video, but it won't let me.

YES!!!!!!! Please dear God, let this movie be as awesome as I hope it will be!

Daft Punk is making the soundtrack and it's streaming online currently.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Easter egg

Sometimes you're reminded why seeing a movie on opening night in the theater far surpasses any home-viewing experience.

I had one of those moments last Friday during the trailers preceeding Inception:

The trailers were rolling, and everyone had high expectations. It was a sold-out show and you could feel the anticipation in the air. A trailer begins, it presents the intriguing plot of a group of people stuck in an elevator, and one of them is not who they seem.
There is dead silence as our collective excitement builds over what they're going to tease at in the trailer, and then the text on the screen reads "From the mind of M. Knight Shyamalan" and a deafening simultaneous groan rises from the crowd. We had not all planned to groan, nor did we groan loud enough for the whole theater to hear. Virtually every single solitary patron in that theater let out a genuine groan to express their frustration and disappointment in Mr. Shyamalan.
Then we all laughed in surprise, because we were not alone in our sentiment, and because we were probably all thinking the same thing: Does M. Knight know that the mention of his name generates that type of response from an audience?

I laughed again when I saw that this was not an isolated occurence in theater 14 of the AMC Boston Common:


and there are no shortage of other links to similar experiences. Just Google "Shyamalan groan".

Take heed, Mr. Shyamalan.

Monday, July 19, 2010


All too often, movies fail to live up to their potential or our expectations. They try too hard to be everything to everyone, and as a result are sloppy. I'm pleased to report this isn't the case with Inception.

This review contains no spoilers. All I'll even say about the plot is that the main characters are in the business of stealing ideas and do so by entering their victims' dreams.

Nolan's trademark, color-heavy visual style is alive and well in Inception. You can grasp the mood of the scene from the tone cast over the film, be it a warm sepia or a chilling blue. This helps a great deal further into the movie when the mis-en-scene has to remind you which
world you're watching.
Inception is a slick caper or puzzle film in the spirit of Memento and Ocean's Eleven. You get all the pieces of the puzzle early on in the film and spend the rest trying to piece them together. Jargon is bandied about by the characters, the true meaning of which you only find out later. It's an excellent and well-balanced blend of action, thriller, drama and sci-fi. The action scenes keep the plot moving forward and the thriller elements keep you trying to solve the puzzle.

This isn't to say Inception is flawless. I would have liked more character development, but I suppose Nolan had some sort of necessary time restraint. This film could have used an extra 30 minutes or so to tell us who these people are and why we should care. The only characters that are given that kind of consideration are DiCaprio's Cobb, Cillian Murphy's Robert Fischer, and Marion Cotillard's Mal, and they are that much more successful and engaging because of it. Mal in particular seems more real than anyone else because of the careful development of her character and the impressive performance given by Cotillard. The other actors make up for lack of character development with effortless charm and likability. Page, Gordon-Levitt, Ken Wantanabe, Rao, Hardy and the rest of the ensemble cast- notably Michael Caine and Tom Berenger- turn in solid performances. However, Murphy and Cotillard steal this movie. When they are not on screen, you long for them to come into the plot again. They are magnetic and vulnerable in ways that DiCaprio never seems to be. Your heart will ache for them in a way that it does not for DiCaprio.

This is the movie of the summer. While not as impeccable as Memento nor slick as Ocean's Eleven, it's one of the best films I've seen this year. There is a lot to be said for subtlety and ambiguity and Nolan tries his best to use them to his advantage. My only real complaints are the heavy-handed naming of some characters and the use of "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien" repeatedly in the film. La Vie En Rose was so powerful and unforgettable that you cannot use t one of Edith Piaf's best-known songs in a movie featuring Cotillard. It was like a big distracting reminder "You're watching a movie!", plus the fact that it was a little too literal for the characters involved. The only songs that would have been worse are "Dreamweaver" or "Dream A Little Dream Of Me".

-- Noel
Sent from my T-Mobile Sidekick®


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Comedy and Tragedy

It's been hotter than Hades in Boston for over a week. This is upsetting to a New Englander such as myself. I tolerate the harsh winters, even enjoy them, with the explicit understanding that at least I don't have to suffer through blazing summer heat and humidity. I feel as if this unsaid agreement with Mother Nature has been broken. I feel betrayed and bitter.

If you couldn't tell, the heat put me in a terrible mood. The only upside to this kind of weather is that I have no reason to be outside. I stay in my moderately-air-conditioned apartment, praying for rain and watching movies.

I watched Zemsta, aka The Revenge, which isn't directed by Roman Polanski, but he does star in it. If you enjoy Shakespearean farce, then you'll love Zemesta. It's a much-loved Polish play written by Aleksander Fredro in the early 1800's. It was adapted for screen in 2002 by the prominent filmmaker in Poland, Andrzej Wajda. It's kind of like Poland's Much Ado About Nothing. The characters are just as strong, the plot is just as clever, and the dialogue is just as delicious. It is all in Polish, so this is a subtitled film, but nothing is lost in translation.
All of Fredro's plays poke fun at nobility and their "first-world problems", so-to-speak.
The Cupbearer and The Notary are the two poles (pun intended) at the center of the story. Each resides in one half of the same estate, and each hates the other. Of course their children, Klara and Waclaw, have fallen in love and conspire a way to make peace. The Notary wishes for a wedding of his own, to the Widow of the late steward. So, The Cupbearer sends for lovable Papkin, Polanski, to act as his liaison to The Notary to attempt to broker peace, and to The Widow to win her hand.
Hilarity ensues as Papkin falls in love with Klara, The Widow falls in love with Waclaw and everything gets impossibly mixed up.
Polanksi shines in the role of Papkin. Papkin is supposed to be a grand warrior and womanizer, but he is really a coward and a ridiculous flatterer. Papkin is a legend in his own mind. Polanski is larger than life and funny as hell as the bumbling little would-be hero. The rest of the cast is also fantastic, they inhabit their characters fully, matching each other in talent and delivery.
The set and costumes are wonderful. 17th century Poland is brought to life, albeit in a sanitized way. There is dirt, but nothing is soiled. Perfect for a light-hearted plot suited more for a stage than a screen. At the end there is a genius curtain call. If only all really great movies ended that way.

Old school farce like this is an acquired taste. Very high brow, no fart jokes, and few punchlines. The best part about that is that it makes for good family fare. You can watch this with your lace-curtain grandmother or your 5-year old nephew (it's like reading out-loud, but a movie!) and no one is going to miss the subtext or be offended. It inspired all the classic sitcom setups that please crowds: If you're here... then that means.... Oh, no!

If you don't like Shakespeare and prefer bloody war films, please watch Polanski's 1971 adaptation of Macbeth. And, no, you didn't read that wrong, Hugh Hefner was the executive producer of this film. Yeah, that Hugh Hefner.
They're not that strange of bedfellows. Polanski's late wife Sharon Tate was a famous Playboy Bunny, and Hugh Hefner was very close with her and Polanski. I can only imagine that Hefner wanted to help Polanski get back to work after Tate's murder in 1969.

And what better subject matter than The Scottish Play? An ambitious Scottish nobleman and his equally ambitious and morally depraved wife decide to kill their way to the throne, and then try to keep the power by killing any who stand in line to inherit it.
And my, my, my, is it bloody! Black as tragedy can get, Polanski keeps this movie in shadow and paints it with blood. The medieval world presented is dark, dirty and sinister. And there is more unsettling imagery than even the most seasoned horror movie lover will say "Eeeewww!"
Macbeth enters a coven of witches (awesome witches, no pointy black hats here) and their cultish and disturbing behavior set the tone for what is to come. Tate was stabbed sixteen times, and Polanski engages in all kind of cathartic release in this film. MacBeth brutally stabs and hacks at his victims. The witches and the Macbeth are a thinly-veiled metaphor for the Manson Family, a cult of power-hungry and ruthless killers. And the fact that they are played by young actors, flying in the face of traditional performances of Macbeth, Polanski is mirroring the young Manson Family members. He said of his casting young actors:
"Directors always portray Lady Macbeth as a nagging bitch. But people who do ghastly things in life, they are not grim like a horror movie."
Indeed, Tate's killers were all under 25, three of them pretty girls.

Most of this movie is comprised of POV shots, so the audience is a participant in the violence and action. I would also guess this was a very gratifying way for Polanski to capture this cathartic piece. The viewer is living vicariously through the cameras, just as Polanski was.

This is as exhilarating as Shakespeare can get. You feel the action in your bones. If every movie adaptation of the Bard's work could be this awesome, no one would ever call it boring. This one is not to miss.

*SPOILER* there is an awesome head-chopping at the end when Macduff triumphantly avenges the murder of his wife and children (if Polanski couldn't so it in real life, why not on celluloid?) and the finale strays from the play to hint that the cycle of violence and ambition will never end. Polanski lets no optimism or hope survive. It is chilling. *SPOILER*

Next up: Chinatown!!!! BEST MOVIE EVER! The Film Noir To End All Film Noirs!

AND as if to reward me for blogging, the sky has just opened up! Huzzah!