Shame (4/18/12)

ShameMovie Eighty Seven

Shame is a film I would recommend everyone to see. It’s certainly not easy to sit through, but it is absolutely mesmerizing.

I watched writer/director Steve McQueen’s (no, not the Steve McQueen from The Great Escape) previous film, Hunger late last year and found it to be both horrific and beautiful. The acting is some of the finest in cinematic history and instantly shot Michael Fassbender to the top of my greatest actors list. There is a particular shot in that film that lasts for close to 18 minutes and is chock-full of complex dialogue that is probably more dialogue than the rest of the film combined. It’s absolutely amazing. Shame also has several very long shots and some equally awesome moments that show McQueen really can capture lightning in a bottle twice.

For Shame Michael Fassbender plays Brandon, a sex addict living in New York. Soon after, his sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan), visits him and throws his world off kilter. Brandon and Sissy have a relationship that could safely be called “totally messed up”. Brandon clearly has a problem having her around and it seems that could be due to past events we are unaware of, or because it brings his addiction to the forefront of his mind. As the two interact, we find out more about them and their personal issues.

We are never given reasons behind Brandon’s addiction we are only shown it exists and how he deals with it. We see how it negatively affects his life and on a particularly self-destructive bender, we see how sick he truly is and he gets no pleasure from this, only pain. Michael Fassbender is absolutely resplendent in this role and you really sympathize with Brandon’s plight. Carey Mulligan also gives an amazing performance. The beauty in every shot is stunning at times, despite some of the ugly things happening on screen. Steve McQueen is new to filmmaking, but he has proven that his name means quality.

Shame is strictly for adults only. It’s NC-17 rating strikes me as a bit odd since I didn’t think the material was overly graphic, certainly not nearly as much as In the Realm of the Senses. That said, however, the subject matter is also very adult. I’m sure many kids (when I say kids, I mean teens) would see this film for the sex alone and not really grasp the point. Shame is very adult, but it’s not as gratuitous as I was expecting. Michael Fassbender was absolutely robbed for the best actor Academy Award.

I give it 5 singing Carey Mulligans out of 5.

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Wings of Desire (4/16/12)

Wings of DesireMovie Eighty Six

Wings of Desire is a stunningly beautiful cinematic experience from writer/director Wim Wenders. The film is literally poetry in motion.

There are many reasons we watch movies. Sometimes we want to see explosions and action and just want to be entertained without having to really think about the film we’re watching. On the other side of the spectrum, we have films like Wings of Desire that push us to think and demand our attention and consideration. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the mindless action movie, but to me they simply aren’t nearly as memorable.

Wings of Desire is about two immortal angels (Bruno Ganz and Otto Sander) that watch over Berlin. They cannot be seen, except by young children, and the only interaction with people is a comforting hand on a shoulder or a hug. One of the angels, Damiel (Ganz) falls in love with a beautiful acrobat (Solveig Dommartin) and makes the decision to become mortal to be with her.

While the film is primarily black and white, which is to show the dull world from the eyes of the angels, there are several color scenes and things become color after Damiel becomes mortal. As the angels listen to the thoughts and feelings of the humans they watch over, the dialogue could literally be taken as poetry.

I cannot recommend Wings of Desire enough, it is honestly one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. It knows when to be lighthearted but it also knows when to be absolutely serious. My only complaint is that it does not have a definitive conclusion and sets itself up for its sequel, Faraway, So Close and call me cynical, but I can’t imagine that film being nearly as magical as Wings of Desire.

I give it 5 Berlin walls out of 5.

Addendum: Adding this beautiful art for Wings of Desire that I just discovered minutes after finishing this post.

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7 x 7 Link Award

7x7 Link Award

Welly well well well…

It seems I’ve been put up for two of these 7×7 Link Awards from two very talented, handsome individuals. So, first off, huge thanks to Mark ( and Cinemaniac ( I started this blog on March 3rd, so I’ve been at this for a little over six weeks and I am absolutely in love with it. My original goal to watch 300 movies this year is something I am still striving for, but simply writing my thoughts on the movies I watch is rewarding enough on its own.

Here are the rules I’ve conveniently copy/pasted from other blogs

Rule #1: Tell everyone something that no one else knows about you.

Rule #2: Link to one of the posts that I personally think best fits the following categories:
Most Beautiful Piece,
Most Helpful Piece,
Most Popular Piece,
Most Controversial Piece,
Most Surprisingly Successful Piece,
Most Underrated Piece,
Most Pride-Worthy Piece.

Rule #3: Pass this award on to seven other bloggers.

Something no one else knows about me:
I’m lactose intolerant. Actually, I’m not sure what people DO know about me so allow me to introduce myself. My name is Andy, I’m 29 years old and living in the Chicago area. I’ve had a lifelong love affair with movies and I have always wanted to track what I watch in a year, and this was a logical next step above that. In addition to movies, I am a huge video game fanatic, I enjoy music, and bicycling. I’ve been married for about two and half years. I have a miniature poodle named Lebowski.

Most Beautiful Piece
To be honest, I don’t consider anything I’ve written to be beautiful but the most beautiful movie I’ve written about is most certainly Baraka. Watching and then writing about Baraka was bittersweet because I watched it the night my father passed away. Movies are an escape and I wanted to be engrossed in something beautiful. Baraka was perfect.

Most Helpful Piece
Again, not really sure if my blog could be considered helpful…Man, this is tough. I’m sure I’ve recommended movies that people haven’t seen, so I suppose recommending an amazing movie would be considered helpful. In that regard, I think my review of Letter Never Sent is my most helpful. I got very little feedback on it, so that’s another reason why I’m bringing it up again here. Seriously, this movie was phenomenal. See it. 

Most Popular Piece
I haven’t been doing this for very long so I’m afraid I’m not terribly popular…Yet. One day, world. One day…Anyway, to date my most “liked” and commented review was for Memento. As of this second it’s sitting at 16 likes and 32 comments which I’m pretty pumped about. I do a little dance in my head every time anyone likes one of my posts so this is pretty awesome. Oh, Memento is pretty awesome too. Coincidence? 

Most Controversial Piece
There are two reviews I did that I could consider controversial, one of the films I liked a lot and one I thought was fairly mediocre. The first movie was The Adventures of Tintin which I enjoyed a bit but found it kind of dull. Others seemed to enjoy it quite a bit so I’m not sure if I should give this one another shot or just wait for the inevitable sequel. The film I loved but others did not was Gladiator. The great things about movies is that we can all take away a different experience, so I’m glad to have some differences of opinion that have been civil.

Most Surprisingly Successful Piece
Without a doubt, my first successful blog is also the one I am the most surprised by. When I watched Troll Hunter I had no idea I would like the movie. I also had no idea so many other people would be interested in it. Troll Hunter is a fine film, don’t get me wrong, I just didn’t think it had the appeal. Chances are, this may have been the first blog of mine you read.

Most Underrated Piece
I’m going to go back to one of my early reviews for this, since I was literally an unknown when I wrote it. The 1933 version of King Kong is one of my absolute favorites and I quite like my review of it. I don’t really have anything else to say about it but please read it. In fact, you can find all my old reviews linked in the monthly recap pages linked at the top of the page. I’ve been meaning to go back to all my old reviews and add links to explain my rating, that’s one thing I started doing after I had already written like 40 blogs to help explain what the hell I was rating. 

Most Pride-Worthy Piece
Honestly, if I can’t choose Memento again because of its popularity I’d have to choose my blog about the Ebertfest line-up. I am incredibly excited to be going to Ebertfest (5 more days!!!). I didn’t actually contribute a lot to the post, I mostly copied it from Roger Ebert’s own site but I’m just proud that I’m getting to go this year with my good buddy Julian.

As for the seven bloggers I’d like to pass this on to…It’s really tough to pick just seven but here they are in no particular order:

If you aren’t on that list, do not despair. I still love you and your blog. Really, I do.

So to wrap up this enormous post (I really didn’t intend for it to be this long) I would like to say THANK YOU and thanks for reading, commenting, liking, tweeting, and just visiting my site.


Memento (4/14/12)

MementoMovie Eighty Five

Memento is the type of movie that plays with your mind so much that you may want to immediately watch it again as soon as the credits start rolling. After their success with the Batman franchise, I think the Nolan brother’s other films  have gotten the proper attention than when they were released.

There is literally no other film like Memento and there are few who could write or direct a film as interweaving without making a total mess of things. The continuity alone could destroy a film like this. Luckily for us, Memento may be confusing to follow but it is a taut psychological thriller.

The film happens in reverse order and are spliced between a scene that happens in regular time. The two timelines eventually become one at the film’s climax. The main character, Leonard (Guy Pearce), sustained an injury and has a condition that prevents him from retaining any short term memories. He does, however, remember everything that happened up until his injury, including the rape and death of his wife. His mission is vengeance for his wife, but his condition makes this tricky. He keeps notes and Polaroids to help as well as tattoos, but we soon learn his methods are not perfect and the people around him may be deceiving him on purpose.

When a film has a reverse sequence of events it is usually hard to surprise the audience, but Memento does. Information is slowly trickled to us and things begin to make sense for us, but it’s easy to forget some things that just happened, much like Leonard’s condition.

While not a perfect film, Memento makes it hard to dislike. What could easily feel gimmicky or cliche is done with care and will likely leave you second guessing everything you are seeing happen in front of you. Few films can present everything in a manner that shows but also deceives without going over your head. Be sure to pay close attention when watching for all the clues.

I give it 5 Memento timeline explanations out of 5. (spoiler warning for those that haven’t seen the film)

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Days of Heaven (4/14/12)

Days of HeavenMovie Eighty Four

Days of Heaven is one of only a handful of films from director, Terrence Malick, so it’s easy to call it one of his best. Days of Heaven would be one of the best of nearly any other director as well, but it is certifiably a Malick film.

Terrence Malick has a very unique style to his films and his entire process of filming. Days of Heaven was apparently shot without a script for the most part, and the editing process took him over two years to complete. When watching his films, you become aware that you are watching something much richer than what is simply happening on screen. There are shots of scenery, of animals, of the sky, things that have nothing to do with the plot directly, but enhance the beauty of the story being told.

Days of Heaven focuses on a worker named Bill (Richard Gere) that has to flee Chicago for killing his boss. He travels with his girlfiend, Abby (Brooke Adams), and young sister, Linda (Linda Manz). Linda provides the narration for the film. Posing as three siblings, they find work on a farm and Abby is coerced to marry the dying farmer for his money. Things become complicated as the farmer finds out the truth about Bill and Abby, but Abby develops feelings for her new husband.

For a movie without a script, the story is actually quite good, but Malick’s films are primarily visual. The cinematography is, of course, stunning and the film is such a wonder to simply stare at you could easily be distracted by the plot. There is literally no one else quite like Terrence Malick making films today. It’s also worth noting that the Criterion Collection has done an outstanding job with the release of Days of Heaven. Everything is top-notch and there are special features aplenty.

Days of Heaven is a wonderful film and is a film for the sake of beauty. There are moments near the end where my mouth was simply agape in wonderment at the scenes captured on film. Not quite as esoteric as Tree of Life, but a bit dreamier than The Thin Red Line, Days of Heaven is a wonderful film and a terrific introduction to Terrence Malick.

I give it 5 locust swarms out of 5.

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Peeping Tom (4/14/12)

Peeping TomMovie Eighty Three

Peeping Tom is a deeper movie than the title may lead you to believe. It is a film that seems perverse and weird with maybe a tinge of slasher film added, but it is deeper and smarter than that.

Released in 1960, Peeping Tom shook up critics and audiences at the time and the material is still fresh. If it were made today, the sex and violence would likely be ramped up and the analog film would be replaced with digital cameras, but otherwise not much would need to be changed. As it stands, Peeping Tom does not need more sex or violence to be a thrilling movie.

The story centers around Mark (Carl Boehm) who is a serial killer. He films the expressions of women as he kills them and then watches the footage later. The title of the film is based on the slang term for voyeurs, which is exactly what Mark seems to be, but his obsession runs much deeper, as we learn. Mark befriends a young woman (Anna Massey) that lives in his building and develops feelings for her as she begins to learn the truth about him.

When we learn the reason for Mark’s obsession, it is within the realm of possibility. I never suspended my disbelief that something like this could really happen, even if it is a bit far-fetched. The performances in Peeping Tom are fantastic and the music and cinematography shift to take us along for the ride.

Criterion collectors take note, Peeping Tom has been out of print for some time but is now available on Netflix Instant Watch. Some parts of it are dated, notably some of the dialogue, but the film itself is quite well done.

I give it 4 viewings through the film reel out of 5.

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Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (4/7/12)

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo GarciaMovie Eighty Two

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia is a raw movie that shares more in common with a Western, yet doesn’t stick to the conventions of that genre.

The very direct title really tells you all you need to know without giving you the details. It raises so many questions and I needed them answered. Who was Alfredo Garcia? Who wants his head? Why do they want his head? We get most of the questions answered during the opening scene.

The young daughter of a wealthy Mexican businessman gets impregnated and the businessman puts out a one million dollar bounty for the head of Alfredo Garcia. Literally. He even says “bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia” in the first fifteen minutes or so of the movie. Word gets out about the bounty and we meet Bennie (Warren Oates) who knows Alfredo, or Al, and sets out with his girlfriend, a prostitute, to find him.

When I said Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia is “raw”, it predominately comes through in the characters. Bennie is not a likable guy, necessarily, but we connect with him and he doesn’t go looking for violence. Bennie also ends up having a very odd relationship with Alfredo’s head. Traveling together, Bennie speaks to the dismembered head like an old friend. I don’t want to speak too much to the plot without giving anything away, but Alfredo Garcia is one of the most interesting characters in cinema history.

I was unsure about Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia because there were a few odd moments at the beginning of the film. Notably, a prostitute getting knocked out by an elbow check by one of the bounty hunters. I’m not sure if it was meant to be funny, but I laughed. I also had a problem with my copy of the movie, and about half way through it had to stop and order a new copy. Normally, I don’t like having that much of a gap when watching something, but since I had been thinking about the movie it was fine.

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia is what I would dub a modern Western noir. It is a gritty film that works with what is presented. Warren Oates is fantastic and apparently channeled Sam Peckinpah (the director) for his character. I’ve never quite seen anything else like it.

I give it 5 amazing, but unfortunately fake Criterion covers out of 5.

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The Thing [1982] (4/13/12)

The ThingMovie Eighty One

The Thing has been one of my favorite horror movies for as long as I’ve liked horror movies and for a movie that’s as old as I am, it’s held up extraordinarily well.

We have seen many many MANY horror movies come and go between 1982 and today. We’ve even had another Thing movie (which I have yet to see). Even the special effects for The Thing have stood the test of time.

Set in Antartica, a dog being chased by Norwegians that are trying to kill it stumbles upon a group of researchers. The dog, as it so happens, is really an alien that can change the DNA of its host and take over. Soon after, the Dog-Thing wreaks total havoc and no one can be trusted for who they really are.

Without the completely isolated setting and small ensemble cast, The Thing simply wouldn’t work as well it does. There is little hope for the crew surviving, and even if they do they are stranded. This creates an incredible tension that always leaves me on the edge of my seat, even though I know exactly what will happen next.

The Thing is one of those movies that I could watch just about any time. I decided to watch it this time around for three reasons: I had just purchased the Blu-Ray on the cheap, it was Friday the 13th and I wanted something scary-ish to watch, and Bizzam blogged about Kurt Russell and I thought he died and then decided I needed to watch a Kurt Russell movie. I’m glad I did.

I give it 4 frosty bearded Kurt Russells out of 5.

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Repo Man (4/13/12)

Repo ManMovie Eighty

Please don’t judge Repo Man by it’s atrocious cover art, it’s actually a very smart action/comedy/sci-fi movie that is surprisingly fresh even all these years later.

In a nutshell, Repo Man is about an LA punk rocker named Otto (Emilio Estevez) that gets tricked into reposessing a car by Bud (Harry Dean Stanton) and finds out he really likes the life of a repo man. As all of this is happening, there is a man driving around something in his trunk that vaporizes anyone that opens it. Obviously, the two stories eventually intertwine and we learn the truth of what is happening. It’s actually quite well done.

Repo Man does not fit in many conventional standards. It’s not an action film. It’s not a sci-fi film. It’s not a comedy. Though there are certainly large portions of those genres and maybe a few more, the tone is constantly evolving. The inclusion of all those genres does not come at the expense of the others either, it’s all balanced nicely.

If you live in Region B (Europe, Africa, Australia, et al.) then I would strongly suggest picking up Eureka’s Masters of Cinema entry. It looks absolutely fantastic. Those of other in Region A…Pray for a Criterion release or get a region free player. It’s also available on Netflix Instant Watch for now.

Repo Man is a movie that I was expecting to be really schlocky and qualify as so-bad-its-good. While the acting and some of the dialogue is not very good, the film doesn’t suffer because of it. In fact, it seems to make a point to rise above it. Harry Dean Stanton in particular is wonderful. I was not expecting to enjoy Repo Man nearly as much as I did and I’m afraid I will be unable to do it justice in merely writing about it. It’s a film that just needs to be seen.

I give it 4 trunk vaporizations out of 5.

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