Archive for the 'Movies' Category

Top 10 Films of ’10

This year, I mean last year — 2010 — was good to me in terms of film, mostly thanks to The Site Formerly Known As The Auteurs. I met some very passionate people on there and got introduced to some incredible French films, Soviet cinema and old obscure British art films that I wouldn’t otherwise have heard of.

This list will probably not reflect any of that because I’m constrained by the fact that only films released in ’10 can be on here, and of those, I’ve only seen a handful. Still, I don’t think that I need to see all the films in ’10 to be able to make a list of my favourites. So without further ado —

10. Siege Of The Dead

Clocking at a little over an hour, this brilliant little film from Germany is about a group of ordinary people trapped in an apartment building surrounded by zombies. While Siege… isn’t quite as scary as REC, it is ultimately more clever and resourceful.

This is one of the films I found out about through an acquaintance on Mubi (The Site Formerly Known As The Auteurs), and boy am I glad that I did.

9. Dogtooth


From Greece comes this disturbingly dark film that I despise because of how it made me feel; yet it resonated with me so much that I find it absolutely necessary to include in this list. On the surface, it’s about bad parenting, but really, it’s a film about fascism and censorship; paranoia and mind control; and incest.

There’s a scene in this film that makes that one infamous scene in Antichrist look like some G-rated Disney shit.

8. The American


While most people compare Corbjn’s The American to Melville’s Le Samourai, I find that it’s a lot closer to Jarmusch’s Limits of Control than the former. It’s a hitman film with no hits; an international spy thriller with no thrill. All you get is some absolutely gorgeous photography and Clooney walking, sitting and having sex with a hooker. Now while that may not sound very interesting, I believe Corbjn made exactly the film he wanted.

It’s an exercise in minimalism and subtlety, and that appeals very much to my senses as a filmmaker.

7. Heartbeats


Now is as good a time as any for a little confession: I didn’t very much like Xavier Dolan when I first heard of him. I just hate knowing that there’s someone exactly my age (he’s only 20 days older) doing something I so passionately want to do — and doing it well. It makes me feel like such a loser. A failure. Also, it doesn’t help that he’s incredibly good-looking too. I’m sorry, but he is. Anyway, that’s beside the point.

His second feature, Les Amours Imaginaires, otherwise known as Heartbeats, is a beautiful film about love, lust and friendship. It’s very well written and incredibly well-shot. The editing can be a bit distracting at times, and the slow-mo shots get old really quickly, but the film is far greater than the sum of its parts.

That’s not something I can say about a lot of films.

6. Flipped


This American film by Rob Reiner is probably the sweetest most adorable film I’ve seen all year. It’s about two eighth graders who fall for each other. Essentially, it’s a film about first love set in the 50s. It’s funny, well acted and very well written. I don’t know what more to say except except that if you’ll only see one film about first love this year, this should be it.

5.  Please Give


Nicole Holofcener’s Please Give is the surprise film of the year, for me at least. I didn’t very much like Holofcener’s previous film, Friends With Money, and went into this one knowing absolutely nothing about it.

It’s a multi-layered ensemble about an upper middle-class couple who buys the apartment of their neighbour, an elderly woman, and wait for her to die. The characters are incredibly well written and the performances fantastic, especially from Rebecca Hall who plays the elderly woman’s granddaughter. Holofcener’s favourite, Catherine Keener, is in this too, and she’s brilliant. In a way, the film feels like good Woody Allen and the very best of Todd Solondz.

As far as slice-of-life films go, this right here is outstanding. Tell your friends.

4. The Ghost Writer


I’d like to go on record saying that I prefer the original title — The Ghost. That being said, this is a brilliantly crafted film by an old master. With The Ghost Writer, Polanski made what is probably the best political thriller in years. It was well written, well acted and had the most amazing score. Most of all, it was actually thrilling.

3. Four Lions


It’s not everyday that you see a film about “jihadists” that’s actually funny. It’s incredibly sharp, witty, dark and really really funny. I haven’t laughed like I did in this all year.

The film’s greatest strength is probably the fact that it didn’t ridicule or poke fun at Islam; it easily could have. It’s a film about idiotic terrorists who just happen to be muslim; not one about how islam “breeds” terrorists. A lesser director could’ve easily gone the other way and made a film I would’ve probably found offensive.

Chris Morris is no hack, and he succeeded in making one of the best films of the year.

2. Carlos


As long as I’m talking about terrorism, I might as well go ahead and talk about Olivier Assaya’s masterpiece, Carlos. It’s not so much about terrorism as it is about idealism, radicalism and battling western imperialism. Like The Baader Meinhof Complex, Carlos is about how someone with arguably good intentions turns into, for all intensive purposes, a monster.

With an ambitious running time of five and a half hours, Carlos is a near perfect film.

1. Somewhere


Like The American, Somewhere goes nowhere, but even more so.

The first five minutes, in which a stationary camera captures a Ferrari going round a race track over and over and over… tells you everything you need to know about this film. But I did not like the last ten minutes. Not because there was anything especially bad with the ending, it’s just that, for a film so subtle, the ending was too “in your face.” Nevertheless, that didn’t spoil this beautiful film for me.

Like Lost in Translation, Sofia Coppola has once again made an incredibly deep human story about loneliness. Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning were fantastic; the cinematography absolutely brilliant, and the music wasn’t half-bad either.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is my favorite film of 2010.

Here. My Review…

So I just saw “Here. My Explosion…“, the latest feature from indie filmmaker Reid Gershbein. The film can best be described as being a pseudo-mumblecore feature.

It’s about Sera (Eleese Longino), an artist who has a weird relationship with coffee. Or more accurately, coffee cups from which she’d drunk from. The empty coffee cups make magical things happen to objects around them, when she’s not watching. Yes, I think the basic concept is new and fresh too. And I like new and fresh 🙂

So the film basically revolves around how this “magic” affects Sera, her friends: Tom (Seth Burnham) and Francois (Jeffery Davis). And Francois’s two girlfriends: Lil (Lee Kuhn) and Tegan (Jennifer Jajeh).

The first thing you’ll notice about Here My Explosion is how over-saturated its colours are. To some extent, the effect works really well. I love how all the saturated establishing shots of the city look with the tilt-shift effect added in post to give the illusion of depth. I also like the wide shots that weren’t establishing. There’s this one shot in the beginning of the film of Francois and Lil walking into his house that stuck in head because of how magical and dreamy it looked.

HME_Magic

On the other hand, the over-saturated close-up shots don’t look quite as good. In some of those shots, the skin of the actors look too orange and fake. Other times, it’s not the actors, but an object in the background that’s distracting. There’s this one scene when Tegan and Sera first met that’s like that. Sera was trying to tell Tegan about her art, but I couldn’t concentrate because my attention was being distracted by the hyper-saturated red coming from the flowers behind them.

Why do I call this film a Pseudo-mumblecore? Well, it’s mumblecore because it was shot like a mumblecore film with multiple handled shots, shaky-cam and close-ups that wouldn’t have made sense anywhere else. It’s Pseudo- because it didn’t feel or sound too mumblecore. This is of course a good thing because nothing rapes my ears like the awkward filler-saturated dialogue of mumblecore films. It’s like, you know, kinda like, sorta… Goddamnit! Say something already!!!

Reid knows when to shoot handled and when to keep the camera stationary. He did an amazing job giving the film a “real” feel without being too distracting for the audience. For that, I give props to him. Although, there’s this one scene that didn’t feel right. Sera and Francois were in the car: She’s driving and he’s sitting comfortably in the back seat with no one in the passenger’s side. You don’t see friends driving around like that. It’s just not natural. The only thing missing was a  black suit, and she’d be his very own personal chauffeur.

Let me say it right here and now – I love the theme song. It is simple, yet very catchy. I simply love it. It appears in the very beginning, randomly in the middle and at the end credits of the film.

As for the audio, I have a love-hate relationship with it. At times, it’s clean. So clean, in fact it’ll have you wishing there was more background noise so you can have a more natural sound. Other times, the noise is too bad you’ll have to listen extra hard in order to hear what the actors are saying.

Also, there’s this one scene that was totally silent. Granted, no one was talking, but Sera was moving around and a little music might have helped. The theme-song maybe? Just saying.

Like earlier suggested, I like the dialogue. For the most part, it was natural without being too mumblecore. Everything a character said almost always felt right, with the exception being the ending. I didn’t buy that whole segment with the Colombians.

For the record, I like Sera’s final monologue at the end 🙂

Reid did a good job casting most of the parts. I like Eleese Longino, and I think she works really well as Sera. I buy her as an alternative-artist who’s a little confused about life’s little mysteries. Also, she’s beautiful. Really. Don’t take my word for it, all the characters think so too. They all have a crush on her. Yes, you read that right – ALL OF THEM! 😉

Jeffery Davis as Francois the Ladies Man was perfect too. Jennifer Jajeh plays Tegan well enough, and I think she’s very likable.

Two people I have a problem with are Lee Kuhn and Seth Burnham as Lil and Tom respectively. I don’t know if it’s Lee’s fault or Lil the character’s, but Lil is lifeless throughout the whole film. But that’s mild-criticism at best, being that she doesn’t have that much screen time.

My biggest problem though, was Seth as Tom – the multi-millionaire entrepreneur. To that, I say Bollocks! But that’s hardly Seth’s fault. I mean – Does the film need a multi-millionaire entrepreneur in the first place, who feels that he should tell everyone how much money he has every chance he gets? In my not-so-proffesional opinion, IT DOESN’T. Don’t get me wrong, the character can be there. He just shouldn’t go around telling everyone how much money he has. But if he must, then he should at the very least look the part.

HME2

In the end, seeing that I love the story, acting, music and the pseudo-mumblecore feel to it, I have no choice but recommend Here My Explosion. If you’ve seen a mumblecore film… or Dogme95… or any non “Hollywood” film… and liked it, then you should definitely see Here. My Explosion. It’s as good a film as any in that category.

Download/Watch HME right now – HERE.

Also, if you like it, follow Reid on Twitter – @thraveboy.

Top 10 of ’08

In a few minutes, we’re going to bid farewell to the year 2008. Year 2008 has been a friend; A friend that has been there for us every second, for 365 days straight. Saying goodbye to a friend like that, knowing you’ll never see them again, ever, is very sad and emotional. In times like that, you hold on to all the good memories you shared with that friend.

It is in that spirit of farewell, that I sit here reminiscing  about my Top Ten Favorite movies of this passing year of ours, twenty-zero-eight.

With this list, I didn’t consider the writing, directing or even the acting in the movies. It was solely based on the movies I enjoyed, and not only enjoyed, but those movies I felt like rewinding and watching all over again immediately the end credits started rolling. Those are the movies worth remembering.

If you feel this list in incomplete, and feel like there’s a movie I should’ve added, feel free to tell me in the comments. And if you think this list is totally shit, well, make your own! I just did!

So with no further ado, ladies and gentlemen –

AL’s TOP 10 OF ’08!


[REC]

REC

Technically, this is a 2007 movie, I know. But it wasn’t released internationally till 2008. Still, I’ll just consider this a bonus, and not part of the 10.

10. Speed Racer

Speed Racer

True, this movie is one of the biggest flops of the year, and the fact that it got mostly negetive reviews didn’t help either. But Speed Racer is by far one of my favorites movies of the year.

I saw it once on the big screen, once on DVD ,and I’ve watched the Gran Prix from the movie more than ten times!

09. In Search of a Midnight Kiss

In Search of a midnight kiss

There is something about independent movies that I love so much, and this movie has a whole lot of that thing, whatever “that thing” is. Sure, sometimes the movie is slow, and at times the dialogue a bit tacky, but the characters feel very real, and that’s what I love so much about the movie.

I saw it on DVD twice, and I’m sure going to see it again because it’s that good.

08. Let the Right One In

Let the right one in

With “day-walkers” and glittering vampires on our screens, it’s refreshing to actually see some real vampires. Let the Right one in did just that, and boy was it disturbing!

Probably the only movie on this list I haven’t seen more than once, but the fact that it touched me in ways no other movie has secured it a place on this list.

07. Cloverfield

Cloverfield

I remember I was with a friend last year when I first saw the trailer for this movie attached to The Transformers. After Transformers, we kept trying to remember what the name of the movie we saw the trailer of was. What we both didn’t realize at that time was the movie didn’t have a name, which was probably why we couldn’t remember. When it finally came out earlier this year, it succeeded in superseding all the hype around it and standing strong as one of the greatest, if not the greatest hand held/shaky camera movie there is!

Saw it once on the big screen, once on DVD.

06. Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire

You know the movie you’ll hear so much about, and when you finally see it, you feel like all that you’ve heard was just the tip of the iceberg and the movie is so much better? Well this is not that movie. With slumdog, you get exactly what you expect. But that’s not saying it’s a bad movie, no. It’s amazing! Cute story, nice visuals and a Kickass soundtrack!

I just watched this movie, but god did I wish to just rewind it and watch it all over again!

05. Man On Wire

Man On Wire

I don’t see a lot of documentaries, and the few I see tend to be boring at times, even if just a little. Man On Wire was interesting from the first shot till the very last frame! This movie wasn’t only interesting and inspiring, it was entertaining as hell! Just hearing Phillip Petite talk with such passion about his wire will put a smile on your face and motivate you to chase your dream, no matter how ridiculous it is.

04. The Fall.

The Fall

I’ve been wanting to watch this movie since I first heard about it nearly two years ago. Sometimes, the story behind the making of a movie inspires me to watch the movie, and boy does this movie have a kickass making-of story.

Sadly, it wasn’t officially released till this year, and it was totally worth the wait! The visuals are off the hook, and the little girl was just so WOW!

I’ve seen it twice, and I forsee many more future viewings. This is a classic that the next generation will talk about… Well maybe not, but it still made my cut.

03. The Wackness

wackness

This is the ultimate independent movie! Forget what I said about In Search of a midnight kiss, this movie is the shit! It perfectly captured an era, and not only were the characters real and likable, they were very much relate-able!

I’ve seen The Wackness three times already, and it gets better with every viewing!

02. The Dark Knight

TDK

Remember what I said in Slumdog Millionaire? About a movie that is over hyped but all that hype felt grossly underdone after actually seeing it? This is that movie!

I saw the Dark Knight THREE TIMES on the big screen, and I have it on DVD!

I so so so love this movie, which begs the question, If The Dark Knight  is my number two, what’s my favorite movie of the year?

01. Wall-E

Wall E

Yes, Wall-E! Oh my god this movie was so awesome!

I don’t normally like animated movies, not at all, not ever. And no disrespect to Pixar, but non of their movies ever made it into my favorites list. And I have no particular reason, I just don’t get that emotional connection that I get in watching movies with animated films… That is until this little robot came and totally won me over. To tell a romantic story with no words is beyond me, but it happened, and it was genius! The character of Wall-E was so cute – it brought me to tears! That’s as deep a connection as any movie can have with me…

Honorabe Mention:

Frost/Nixon for it’s amazing dialogue.
JCVD for doing to Van Damme what The Wrestler did for Mickey Rouke.
Iron Man for making me believe in Superhero movies.
Tropic Thunder for giving me the laugh of my life.
And Milk for Sean Penn’s amazing performance.

I haven’t seen The Wrestler yet, but knowing Darren Aronofsky, I’m sure  it’s going to be a great movie that’ll probably depress the shit out of me.

So… this is it! Farewell my good friend, and I will always treasure these gifts of yours to me with all my heart!

Now… where 2009 at?