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.