Wednesday, January 26, 2011

This is Water

Here's a really good college commencement speech given by one of my favorite authors ever, David Foster Wallace. Definitely worth checking out.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Attention! Attention! (30/100)

Attention general public and blogging population! Today I bring your attention to an absolutely wonderful 1986 BBC mini-series called The Singing Detective. It's a six-part television program that isn't technically a film, but it's on the Times top 100 list, and I'm willing to consider it a film as well. If you consider is a film it's easily in my own personal top five movies of all time, and if you consider it a TV show, it's hands down the best I've seen. Make no mistake, TV show or movie or whatever you label it, The Singing Detective is absolutely brilliant.

Written by Dennis Potter, and largely considered to be autobiographical (though Potter denied this), The Singing Detective tells the story of a bedridden hospital patient reliving his pulp magazine detective stories he wrote as well as various childhood memories through various hallucinations and some very clever storytelling. It's told in a way that might be confusing to some viewers as a lot of seemingly random scenes are interspersed throughout the narrative, but as we learn more and more about the characters and their back-stories, pieces start fitting into place. It's almost like a detective story! And while viewers are left to form their own conclusions when it's all over, it becomes clear that Potter did everything very intentionally.

So, you ask, whatever did The Singing Detective do to deserve such lavish praise? It does just about everything I can think of that a film can do right... well, right. The acting is superb: Michael Gambon (you might recognize him as Dumbledore from the more recent Harry Potter movies) gives an amazing performance and has some of the best dialogue I've heard. His character is bitter and cynical and completely nasty, but I also found him extremely likable. All the other actors and very good as well and there's definitely some top-notch acting going on here.

I won't goon much longer other than to reiterate that you watch this as soon as you can. It's masterful. It's art. It's cinema perfected as far as I'm concerned. Thank you Times for introduction me to this wonderful piece of work.

Also, there's awesome 1940s crooner music and characters occasionally bursting into song!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Star Wars (28/100*)

If there's one set of movies I've put off seeing for far too long it's definitely the Star Wars franchise. I mean, the franchise is essentially a staple of pretty much every boy's childhood, right?

Well not mine. It's not something I particularly regret. On one hand I guess I did always feel a bit left in the dark when playground conversation turned to serious matters like Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader. But on the other, and to be honest I'm not entirely sure whether this is a good thing, but a childhood without Star Wars allowed me to watch the movies today with an unbiased mind and without donning the rose-tinted goggles of nostalgia. I think an objective viewpoint is generally the best kind of viewpoint, and all too often nostalgia gets in the way of qualities I really value in cinema.

And I'm sorry Star Wars fans, I know what the series means to you, I just didn't enjoy it. A New Hope was pretty good (and that the only movie in the series the Times list explicitly stated I must watch), but it definitely went downhill in episodes V and IV.

Maybe part of it was the fact that the infamous plot twist in episode V had been spoiled for me (and just about everyone who hasn't been living under a rock for the past 30 years) a hundred times over. I could literally quote that and a few other scenes word for word, and this mind you in a movie I had never seen before. I'm not joking.

I didn't watch the prequels, but considering Star Wars fans hate them, I doubt I'd get any enjoyment out of them. I might watch them one day, but I have no particular desire to do so at present.

* Yeah I know I'm a few movies behind on the whole review thing. I'll get around to them eventually.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Chungking Express and Double Indeminity (23/100)

I also watched first two Godfather movies, but everybody knows about them already, right? I think they're overrated, but they're still pretty darn good.

Chungking Express (1994) 

A really unique movie with one of the coolest intro themes I've ever heard:

I think it's a really suitable song for this movie and it's visual style. The movie itself is a Hong Kong film directed by Wong Kar-wai, but it's  bit hard to classify it as one genre or another. It's a romantic drama, but it's not really a film that work because of it's plot. This movie is mainly for people who just really love film in general. Quentin Tarantino is quoted to have said: "I just started crying. Not because the movie was sad, but I'm just so happy to love a movie this much.'' And damn, if that isn't good enough praise for you I doubt anything I can say here will convince you to watch it. The whole atmosphere kind of reminded me of Tarantino's Pulp Fiction actually, if only because of it's charm.

It's a really subtle film. I've only seen it once, but I aim to revisit it soon because I can tell there are a lot of things I missed. The movie itself is divided into two essentially unrelated story arcs with characters only briefly coming into contact with each other. I was a bit confused by this and didn't realize that the story arc had changed for quite a while (due to my incompetence or just not paying attention remains up to question). It's not a casual film, and it's not really a film with any very serious message (none that I've found at least), but it doesn't try to be. It's a celebration of film and a pretty damn good one at that.

Double Indemnity (1944)

For some reason, I can't for the life of me see why, I never really got into detective films. What little of the genre I've seen I've loved, and there's just something about the film noir style that I find irresistible. Maybe it's all the snarky cynical characters, or the cat-and-mouse detective work, but I just love the genre.

It's about a love affair between a life insurance salesman and a married woman who plot to pull off the perfect murder by killing her husband and get away with the insurance money, but obviously things don't work to plan, and well, you'll have to see it for yourself.

Anyway, I sincerely urge you to watch this movie ASAP. It's one of the most entertaining works of cinema I've seen in a while. I found myself watching with a huge stupid grin on my face the whole way through. It's an amazing film with a clever plot and some awesome dialogue. It's barely aged and it's still remains exciting it all the intense parts, and if you're looking for a movie to watch over the weekend make it this one.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Oh, just some Canadian indie bands

Just thought I'd drop these here. I apologize in advance for my indie/alt-rocky musical tastes if that's not what you're into. People tend to be picky about these things.

Anyway, the 100 movie thing is now up to 22/100, I'll be posting some reviews in the next few days.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

100 movie challenge progress: 20/100

"Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine."

Casablanca is probably one of the movie perfect movies I've ever seen. In case you don't know, it's a 1942 romantic drama directed by Michael Curtiz about a love triangle between the main actress and two lovers, one of whom she had assumed to be dead but turned out to not be, which complicates things quite a bit. It's a classic movie and it's not hard to see how much of an impact it's had on cinema in general. The screenplay and onscreen choreography are just superb. There's always something happening, there's not a dull moment. I honestly don't have any complaints. A lot of people consider old movies slow and boring to watch but Casablanca is pretty much the antithesis of that stereotype. I highly suggest everyone watch this movie at least once.

Metropolis on the other hand, I didn't enjoy as much. It's a 1927 German Expressionist silent film by Fritz Lang, and in case you didn't know, one of the most iconic science fiction films in cinema history. It's a fine movie, and an amazing technological achievement (for the time of course), but I'm just not a fan of movies that rely to much on symbolism. I think it's a historically important film, but I doubt I'd watch it again. On a side note I'm fairly certain that it's the oldest movie I've ever seen.

Next up: The Godfather Parts 1 and 2!!!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Times 100 movie challenge!

Any cinema buffs here? I'm planning on watching all of the "ALL-TIME top 100 movies" over the next few months. I'll probably post a review for each new one I finish. If anyone has any suggestions on what I would watch right away I'd be glad to hear.

Here's the list. I'll update it as I finish each movie. I've seen 30/100 so far.

Movie↓ Year(s)↓
Aguirre: The Wrath of God 1972
The Apu Trilogy 1955, 1956, 1959
The Awful Truth 1937
Baby Face 1933
Bande a part 1964
Barry Lyndon 1975
Berlin Alexanderplatz 1980
Blade Runner 1982
Bonnie and Clyde 1967
Brazil 1985
Bride of Frankenstein 1935
Camille 1936
Casablanca 1942
Charade 1963
Children of Paradise 1945
Chinatown 1974
Chungking Express 1994
Citizen Kane 1941
City Lights 1931
City of God 2002
Closely Watched Trains 1966
The Crime of Monsieur Lange 1936
The Crowd 1928
Day for Night 1973
The Decalogue 1989
Detour 1945
The Discrete Charm of the Bourgeoisie 1972
Dodsworth 1936
Double Indemnity 1944
Dr. Strangelove 1964
Drunken Master II 1994
E.T. The Extra Terrestrial 1982
8 1/2 1963
The 400 Blows 1959
Farewell My Concubine 1993
Finding Nemo 2003
The Fly 1986
The Godfather, Parts I and II 1972, 1974
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly 1966
Goodfellas 1990
A Hard Day's Night 1964
His Girl Friday 1940
Ikiru 1952
In A Lonely Place 1950
Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1956
It's a Gift 1934
It's a Wonderful Life 1946
Kandahar 2001
Kind Hearts and Coronets 1949
King Kong 1933
The Lady Eve 1941
The Last Command 1928
Lawrence of Arabia 1962
Leolo 1992
The Lord of the Rings 2001-03
The Man With a Camera 1929
The Manchurian Candidate 1962
Meet Me in St. Louis 1944
Metropolis 1927
Miller's Crossing 1990
Mon oncle d'Amerique 1980
Mouchette 1967
Nayagan 1987
Ninotchka 1939
Notorious 1946
Olympia, Parts 1 and 2 1938
On the Waterfront 1954
Once Upon a Time in the West 1968
Out of the Past 1947
Persona 1966
Pinocchio 1940
Psycho 1960
Pulp Fiction 1994
The Purple Rose of Cairo 1985
Pyaasa 1957
Raging Bull 1980
Schindler's List 1993
The Searchers 1956
Sherlock, Jr. 1924
The Shop Around the Corner 1940
Singin' in the Rain 1952
The Singing Detective 1986
Smiles of a Summer Night 1955
Some Like It Hot 1959
Star Wars 1977
A Streetcar Named Desire 1951
Sunrise 1927
Sweet Smell of Success 1957
Swing Time 1936
Talk to Her 2002
Taxi Driver 1976
Tokyo Story 1953
A Touch of Zen 1971
Ugetsu 1953
Ulysses' Gaze 1995
Umberto D 1952
Unforgiven 1992
White Heat 1949
Wings of Desire 1987
Yojimbo 1961

Monday, January 10, 2011

Videos that make me fuzzy inside

Oops, haven't posted in the past week

I suppose everyone and their dog has seen that last one, but it's still a good one.

Next time: real content!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Videos that make me laugh

That last one will only make sense if you've seen The Shawshank Redemption, which you should if you haven't, cause it's the bomb.