Wednesday, December 24, 2008

WALL-E (Directed by Andrew Stanton)

It is rare that I watch animated features that aren't from the 70's, about New york, or directed by Ralph Bakshi... Tonight I watched WALL-E and I can say it was a smart film that both children and cinema lovers can enjoy.

There is no spoken dialouge between characters for the first 25 minutes of this film. The scenes of an abandoned Earth being managed by a single robot and his pet cockroach carries the film very well. The absence of dialogue exemplifies the main character's loneliness and his search for companionship.

Fan's of Quentin Tarantino would have a Field day with the various allusion's presented in this film. Classic's such as E.T., The Matrix, The Wiz (yes the Wiz) and Space Odysesy 2001 are thrown into a blender and mixed together to form WALL-E. The outcome is a tasty treat for viewers of all ages. It neither goes over the heads of younger audiences nor mundane for veteran movie goers.

One of my favorite aspects of this film is the social commentary that it presents. Director Andrew Stanton paints an interesting Dystopia that i have never seen before in films. He presents citizens of the future as obese Hedonistic individuals living in a space station who depend on computers for their every need. They ignore their surroundings and live their lives in front of a screen. They do not exercise because they can not even walk. I believe the director see's this as the only solution to the progression of a hyper-consumer capitalistic society that tries to meet our every desire. In essence it is the fault of a single corporation named BNL (If my memory serves me right) that mankind is trapped in a Hedonistic Technological Singularity. Also, Mankinds issues of overpopulation and Pollution are explored in this films.

Whether you have kids or you just want to impress a date without trying to seem like you are trying to impress your date, give Wall-E a try.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dolemite! (Directed by D'Urville Martin)

Just because a movie is bad doesn’t mean it is not entertaining. Rarely, a film is so bad that it is great. Dolemite is one of those rare exceptions.
It has been about an hour since I finished Dolemite and this tale of a storytelling pimp continues to make me laugh. I am amazed by how many rappers and entertainers have been influenced by this movie. As a matter of fact, ODB from the Wutang Clan (my favorite hip hop group) used scenes from this film in one of his music videos.
Here is the run down of the film:
The movie starts like other exploitation films as a black pimp is released from prison to help catch the pimp and crooked cops who initially framed him into the prison sentence. Then it gets interesting: Sex in cars, Shootouts in broad daylight on a two lane highway, Dolemite makes a white man dance to avoid bullets (only to be shot point blank), castration, crooked cops who openly snort cocaine, black revolutionary preacher with automatic weapons, sex, X-rated Nursery Rhymes, consensual rape, Prostitutes who practice Kung Fu, The player’s ball with pimps dressed in their finest gear, a grand finale fight scene featuring prostitutes with kung fu grips, somebody’s bladder gets ripped out, and of course more murder…

The acting in this movie is horrible! The direction of this movie is horrible! There are scenes where you can literally see the boom microphones in the frame. However, writer and star Rudy Ray Moore’s cursing rants and X-rated Nursery rhymes easily over shadow these negative aspects. With lines like, “You no business born insecure MUTHA FUCKAS!” and “Man! Move on and let me pass before I have to pull MY HUSHPUPPIES OUT YO ASS!” this film was obviously used as a vehicle to unleash some long pent up anger towards white people. Few movies top Dolemite in its use of Curse words and deliberate chauvinistic view of women.
If taken serious, this film is offensive to everybody. So expect and appreciate the worse in filmmaking when you look at this film “You movie going butter popcorn EATING MUTHA F***AS!”

The Passion of Joan of Arc (Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer)

I usually do not rent films before 1950 unless it is a Film Noir or directed by either Fritz Lang or Jules Dassin. I believe modern films have expanded upon the ideas that these films initially relied upon and the progression in filmmaking has left these films unexciting. Every now and then a film before the 1950’s can hold my attention. Unfourtanetly, Joan of Arc falls into the previous category.

Honestly, I want to enjoy this film. I want to be able to talk about how great it is. Instead, I am going to commit Blasphemy and critique a film that was made almost a century ago.

I understand there were major limitations for early filmmakers but I cant help that this film put me to sleep TWICE! I admit, the focusing on the emotions presented by the Human face is initially a great idea, but it is not a photographic element that neither keeps my attention nor carries a film of this length. The film is visually haunting and the burn scene is eerily realistic. But you wait through what seems an eternity for the films most famous and controversial scene… Kind of like Vincent Gallo’s Brown Bunny. Actually, Just like Vincent Gallo’s Brown Bunny.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Crossroads: Exit Exhibition

I am having my first Solo Exhibition Monday, December 8th in Tallahassee, FL. Please visit my website or contact me directly for more details.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Weekend (Jean-Luc Godard)

In the world of Professional boxing, a great boxer is not necessarily the undefeated boxer. A great boxer is one who's winning streak is interrupted by a particular opponent and all faith is lost in the boxer. Fans begin to equate his early success with luck and Critics forecast his demise in the rematch. In the rematch, The great fighter proves to the world why he is great and either brawls it out with the opponent for 12 rounds or humiliates the opponent. In essence, what makes a great boxer great is his character and will not to give up.

In comparison, Jean-Luc Godard is considered one of the great directors because of his contributions to the French New Wave. But like his Boxing counterparts, he was not without failure. His 1967 feature length film "Weekend" was a failure. At times the film with showed promise, but after 12 rounds it failed to deliver.

I must admit, the absurd metaphor of consumer and capitalistic society killing off itself in an endless amount of car accidents is an interesting idea. These scenes were so absurd that they were funny. However, i believe Godard was too experimental in this film and forgot about the basics of story telling. Overall this film is not cohesive. The jump cuts in this film are very harsh and usually seem very random. Furthermore, I feel completeley detatched from the main characters of this film.

This film is similar to Felini's "City of Women." It is a wild Oddessey into a world that is visually similar to our own but drastically different in the characters morals, laws, and ideology. These films show the characters being thrown from one situation to the next. Once they escape one camp of weirdos they run into another. However, Felini's "City of Women" had a clear goal from the start. The character was being put through various test because of his lust and views of females. In a sense, the film was Felini's self evaluation of his own chauvinistic views. In comparison, Godard's political statements are presented to boldly and forcefully in the feature.

This is not meant to be as harsh as it sounds, but one of the best parts of this film is the ending. The ending finalizes Godards statement that modern society will "consume" itself. Almost 10 years later, "Dawn of the Dead" would take this concept and produce a much better film.

For fans of Godard's "Breathless", this film can not be compared to the brillance displayed in the earlier film.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Golden Chicken (Director Samson Chiu)

I guess the stereotype is true… I cannot resist Golden Chicken.

This story of an aging prostitute sharing her memories of her 20 years in the profession to a would be robber in a locked ATM booth caught my attention when I initially picked up the box cover at Video 21. I knew I would love the film.
Initially, I thought the similarities to Nights of Cabiria made me love the film. However, I believe the performance of actress Sandra Ng was one that stands on its own. I felt that her performance as a fun loving and compassionate person, who happens to be a prostitute ,was stronger than Giulietta Masina’s performance as Cabiria. The actress’s expressions of joy were sincere throughout the film. By the end of the film, I felt that the main character was one of my best friends.
Another strong aspect of this film is the plot. I thought it was interesting to view 20 years of Chinese history through the eyes of a prostitute. Furthermore it was great to see how outside forces, such as the economy affected her trade. It was funny to see the transitioning of styles and wardrobes as well.

This film is one that I will watch for years to come… I hear that there is a sequel. I doubt that it can top this film, but this film left me itching to see more from the main character.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Max Payne (Directed by John Moore)

It's a fact, films are rarely better than the books they are based on. Films like Max Payne prove the same for video games made into full length features. I honestly don't understand why there has been such a push to make video games into full length features. The charm of video games is the fact that you can control the characters. This is completely lost on the big screen.

I remember playing Max Payne in High school and I was amazed that I could play a video game version of The Matrix. In all, that is the glory of Max Payne. For it to make it to the big screen is too little, WAY too late. The Matrix was made before the Video game was even thought about. So why make a film about a video game based on the special effects of a film that was released a decade ago?

The highlights of the film are definitely the Cinematography. The narration and Plot lends itself to Nihilism and the scenes and lighting compliment the story elements very well. However, I do think there was over use of Karsh lighting. The special effects was also very impressive. Then again this is never in question with big Hollywood productions.

What is in Question is the choice of Rapper Ludacris as Lt. Jim Bravura. Ludacris is a gifted and creative rapper from my hometown of Atlanta, but he is not a great actor. His role was not convincing. Mark Wahlberg did a great job of portraying the dark hero but the talent around him drags him down. The plot also drags his performance down C'mon, Mythical viking Angels? I thought this was a hard boiled crime detective drama!

Another problem I had with the film was its portrayal of Drug users. It seemed like the film came from Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No to Drugs" campaign. This film has many cliche's, but this one is the most outlandish and over the top.

In all, I can not complain too much about this film... I had the opportunity to watch the advanced screening for free (good looking out Ramo!). But thank god it was free...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Great Korla Pandit

Simply amazing...

Bad Guy (Directed by Ki-duk Kim)

This film one of the most twisted love stories I have ever seen. From the start of the movie, I know this was a film that i would enjoy.

Nabbeun Namja follows the tale of a pimp of few words and his love for a college student that he tricks into prostitution.

What is interesting about this film is that it focuses on a non sexual love in contrast to sex for hire. There are a lot of heavy punches in this film as well...

This is another example of a Great Korean Film although it will probally always be overshadowed by Oldboy. I feel that Oldboy can draw American Audiences in more, but Nabbeun Namja is much more artsy.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Blast of Silence (Directed by Allen Baron)

It's been a month since I have seen this film, so I will keep this review short and sweet...

Blast of Silence is a period piece which captures the ambiance of Christmas time in early sixties New York City. The film follows Professional Hit man Frankie Bono, played by the film's director Allen Baron, on a mission to kill a local crime figure. Although the film's plot is nearly bare to the bone, the film picks up the slack in it's visuals and it's candid cinematography of the streets of New York (which was rare at this time). In addition, Lionel Stander narrates Bono’s thoughts and actions in Second Person throughout the film. This was a unique addition that separates the film from other films within the Film-Noir genre.

I believe when a director places himself in front of the camera he has no choice but to make the best film he possibly can; his image is on the line. This can be seen with Vincent Gallo's Buffalo 66' (Excluding Brown Bunny) and many of Spike Lee's Films.

I recommend this film to all lovers of Film Noir and vintage New York City.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Pink Elephants

I remember watching Dumbo as a child and being mesmerized by the "Pink Elephants on Parade" sequence when Dumbo gets drunk. I ran across this scene again, but with Sun Ra's version of the song. To say the least this scene is still mesmerizing to this day. I've been drunk a few times, but I never saw the Pink Elephants. I guess this will have to do for now.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Real Warriors.

There is something special about The Warriors that makes it one of my favorite movies. Is it becuase the film takes place in 1970s New York in the twilight of Dawn? Perhaps it is the gritty culture of the Gangs of New York? On the other hand, it might be the glimpses of hip hop culture in its infancy?

Whatever it is, the same magic of the film can be seen in the Documentary "80 Blocks from Tiffany's." This is a in depth look into a South Bronx gang called "The Savage Nomads" in 70's New York. This is the type of gang the Warriors were based on.

Be sure to check out all 8 videos.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Deep Blues (directed by Robert Mugge)

Am I suppose to take this film seriously? If so, where can I begin?

Director Robert Mugge and narrator Robert Palmer do injustice to the artists presented in this film. Granted the fashion trends (ie jheri curls) of the late 80's and early 90's did little justice to anyone, but there are some scenes that obviously have racist undertones to them. I feel that these undertones are subtle, but they reflect the makers of the film's attitude and presumptions about "African American" Culture. Plus Robert Palmer freaks viewers out by his presence on screen. He first appears on screen in a Trench coat as if he is going to flash someone. His voice overs were perhaps a highlight in the film. In retrospect, he actually had some interesting things to say.

In all honesty this film is just bad! It is enough proof when one of the original narrators/ producer, David A. Stewart, walks out midway through the film. To make matters worse, the director attempts to "play it off" by having the two bid each other farewell and actually put it in the film. If someone leaves in the middle of filming, take them out completely! Apparently Stewart helps behind the scenes, but to viewers it seems like the guy leaves the project all together.

As far as the musicians and the music is concerned, the performances were decent. However, I feel that some of the musicians presented were "fillers" for the more important musicians presented later on in the film. I actually liked Roosevelt "Booba" Barnes' second performance. However, they made him seem like he was coked out of his mind. Furthermore, the interview with him and the Mayor of the town was SO FAKE. It was offensive that this was added to the film. I have anxiety attacks just thinking about it.

While watching this film, I kept asking myself, "is this a joke". The film started out ok, but once Stewart walked out, I realized the film had no hope. Although the film ended with a wonderful cover of some of Robert Johnson's popular songs, the film left me Deeply Blue that I actually spent money to view this film.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Classe tous risques (directed by Claude Sautet)

Je taime Classse Tous Risques! This film deserves the distinction of being considered one of the greatest fugitive films of any era. It has everything one looks for in a gangster film: Carjacking, pistol whippings, blatant chauvinism, Betrayal, and the occasional man getting thrown out of a moving boat. While certain aspects remain cliché, the plot of the film is unique. The story is the tale of an international fugitive who is trying to balance a family life and his ties to his friends in the underworld.

Director Claude Sautet examines the concept of loyalty heavily throughout this film. He examines the loyalty based on age, relationship, and situation. The main character, Abel Davos (played by Lino Ventura), is an aging gangster with a decreasing number of options of where he can run and who he can trust. In the opening scenes he shows strong loyalty to his partner in crime Naldi when things hit the fan. Later in the film, Davos calls on some old friends for help, but instead they send young gun Eric Stark (played by Jean-Paul Belmondo) to his rescue. Davos does not take it lightly that his old friends do not come to meet him personally. It is shown that these friends have now invested their loyalty in women or their new places in society.

While this film can be brutal, it beautifully juxtaposes a career criminal’s routine with his will to be the best Father he can be. The same hands that can kill a man are the same hands that his two young boys fall asleep in at night. Furthermore, this film is shot beautifully and is a beautiful timepiece of 1960’s Europe.

Although this film is great, I can not consider it perfect. There are times where the editing can be a little rushed. One scene in particular is when Star is having dinner with his new flame lilliane (played by Sandra Milo). During this scene the two are talking about how every knows their personal past and how it does no good in talking about it then Stark says “so…” and the scene cuts drastically to them in Starks house where Liliane says “so…” as if she is finishing the thought. I can see how a “so” can tie the two scenes together in the screenplay, but this comes off as rushed in the actual film. Another aspect of the film that could be improved is character development of the old friends Davos called on in his is moments of despair. Although they mentioned how close they were at one point, it would have helped to see this loyalty at some point in the film.

In all, this film is one that I recommend to all Gangster film lovers. This beautiful film is one that will stay in a viewers mind long after watching the film.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Cidade dos Homens (directed by Paulo Morelli)

Let it be clear... Cidade dos Homens (City of Men) is no City of God.

The marketing strategy of this film was to subtlety suggest it to be the sequel of City of God. While this this film was co-produced by Fernando Meirelles, one of the directors of City of god, this film comes off as kitsch compared to the superior City of God.

This is a coming of age tale of two poor youth who have struggled their entire lives in a Brazilian Favela (ghetto) in Morro da Sinuca. For their entire lives they have depended on each other for survival. Their parents were either dead or whereabout unknown. When one of the youth finds his Father, their relationship becomes strained. This plot is painted against a background of the never ending gang warfare in the favelas.

A lot of the filming techniques, such as the use of cross processed film, are recycled in this film.

While this film is not to the level of City of God, It is not completely a loss. It was a pleasure to see this film get out of the 70's and speak about life in the modern favelas. The women in the film are very beautiful... but then again it is Brazil! One personal highlight of the film is the scene in which Midnight, a gang leader and cousin of one of the main characters, is being praised during a Baile Funk concert held as a sort of pep rally. This was a step to separate itself from City of God and show modern Favela culture. Unfortunately the rest of the film could have easily been in the 70's.

Trailer: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

This is a film that follows a character who ages backwards. It is starring Brad Pitt and is scheduled for release on Christmas Day.

Le Notti di Cabiria (Directed by Federico Fellini)

A Federico Fellini Film... What more is there to say?

This film is a timeless tale of a woman's elusive search for love. The woman, played by director Federico Fellini's wife Giulietta Masina, walks the streets of Rome as a prostitute. Unlike most depictions of prostitutes, this film is not sexually vulgar nor exploitive. In fact, Fellini depicts Cabiria as a kind hearted and ambitious woman who is quick to let everyone know that she owns her own home.

As one can imagine, a film about a prostitute will have her interacting with different men. However, this film takes it further and examines her expectations of herself and the men she ends up falling for. When viewing the film, one constantly asks why does she get herself in these situations. But for anyone who has ever been in love, it is clear. The old saying, "love is blind" is the theme of the movie. The most appealing aspect of the film is Fellini's ironic use of a prostitute in search of love as the main character. One who makes temporary love for a living but lives to find permanent love.

Nights of Cabiria is simply another great Fellini film. One of my personal favorites. The themes and situations presented in this film are some that anyone can relate to regardless of generation or occupation.

La Haine (Directed by Mathieu Kassovitv)

First things first… After watching this film, I immediately knew I had seen a modern classic.

For critics, this story is written off as an overly stylish period piece constructed within the mid-90’s Hip hop culture of the French lower class. However, the story of multiracial friendships on the brink of collapse, bounded only by a hatred of a system (represented by police) is timeless.

This movie follows the lives of three ethnically diverse young men (one of African decent, one Jewish, and one Arabic) and their trails while growing up in the French Suburban Projects. Later in the film, we see these characters out side of their home “turf” and their attempt to find their way back home through the streets of Paris (which they are visiting for the first time).

La Haine is part Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” and part Walter Hill’s “The Warriors.” In the first half of the film, director Mathieu Kassovitz takes visual and storytelling cues from director Spike Lee. I must admit, at times the visuals were more impressive than the actual story in the first half, but this was necessary to keep the viewers attention as he lays down the environment in which the three main characters grow in.

While viewing the second part of the film, we see the three main characters lost in the streets of Paris. I instantly realized I was watching a modernized version of “The Warriors.” With this in mind, I must proclaim I have a bias; “The Warriors” is one of my favorite films. However, copying this film is not necessarily a key to success. Larry Clark’s “Wassup Rockers” is proof to this claim. What makes this film successful is the believable characters and their love/ hate relationship with each other. Furthermore, this film is brutally honest. The director provides the harsh and unglamorous truth. At times it is easy to be unsympathetic to the characters and other times you feel apart of the team. He does not paint these characters in a romantic way as in many “ghetto movies” but he shows the hate inside them which they mirror in others around them.

This film is a very personal film for me. I see myself in this film. I spent my final years of high school in a wealthy suburb of Atlanta, Ga. I am of African-Native American- Spanish Decent and my two best friends were Persian and a Caucasian kid. Although we grew up far from the projects, we also grew up far away from the multi million dollar homes many of our peers grew up in. We lived in apartments and town homes. Throughout high school, I felt I could not fit into the culture surrounding me and I latched unto traditional Hip Hop culture with my friends. I was mesmerized by the Breakdancing, Graffiti, Rhymes, and Turntables, similar to the characters in the film. My friends and I shared a lot of the same feelings (although not as extreme) about the “system” as the characters. This film provided me with an introspective of my teenage years in juxtaposition with the Mid 90’s French Society.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

My Favorite Films

The following titles are a list of 50 films I consider my favorites. These are not in particular order.

Story of a Three Day Pass
Good fellas
La Dolche Vita
Night on Earth
Buffalo 66
Nights of Cabiria
Chungking Express
Fallen Angels
Old Boy
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance
Survive Style 5+
A Face in The Crowd
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
The Warriors
Heavy Traffic
Coon Skin (Street Fight)
Mystery Train
Annie hall
Requiem for a Dream
2001: A Space Odyssey
Juliet of the Spirits
Man Bites Dog
Mean Streets
City of God
Naked City
400 Blows
Stolen Kisses
Bed and Board
Love on The Run
Elevator to the Gallows
8 1/2
Bad Boy Bubby
The Conformist
Street Trash
Guide to Recognizing your saints
Je T’aime Paris
Down by Law
La Haine
Once Upon a Time in America
The God Father II
Style Wars
Taxi Driver
Pulp Fiction

Honorable Mentions: He Got Game, Wild Style, Bad Lieutenant, Man Push Cart, Day Night Day Night, New York New York, A Bronx Tale, The Landlord, 25th Hour, Battle of Algiers, City of Women, A clockwork Orange, Night in the City, The Temptations (TV), James Bond Films, Desperado, Great A Day in Havana, Buena Vista Social Club, Kill Bill Series.