Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Apartment

The Apartment (1960) ...Dir. Billy Wilder

Four or five Decembers ago, I saw The Apartment for the very first time. I was home for the holidays and had stayed up late watching TV with my dad (we’re both notorious night owls). The Apartment was scheduled to play on some old-movie channel (AMC, TCM... you know the sort) and when I told him that I’d never heard of it, he knew immediately that our search for that evening’s entertainment was over.

I spent the next 2+ hours watching (and listening) in slack-jawed amazement. The Apartment is easily one of the best-written films I have ever seen. The dialogue is awesomely clever without ever sounding unbelievable--every line sounds like something a person might actually say, a distinction which relatively few movies can honestly claim. And good gravy, that cast! Fred MacMurray is cast against type to incredible effect, Shirley MacLaine is more adorable than any human being should be allowed to be, and Jack Lemmon is simply perfect--one of the greatest actors of all time in one of his greatest roles of all time.

There are a lot of easy picks when looking for movies to watch at the end of the year. Classic options like It’s a Wonderful Life and whichever iteration of A Christmas Carol floats your boat are understandably irresistible. But films as smart and as funny and as graceful as The Apartment only come around so often. Be a mensch! Watch the movie!

Friday, February 25, 2011


The Oscars are on Sunday! Holy cats!
Who will win? Who should win? Who cares? (I do! Apparently!)

  • And the winner will be: Colin Firth, The King's Speech
  • Better choices: Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine / Michael Shannon, My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done

  • And the winner will be: Natalie Portman, Black Swan
  • A better choice: Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine (A pair of crazy good performances in that movie.)

  • And the winner will be: Christian Bale, The Fighter
  • A better choice: Nope. Bale was the best this year, by far.

  • And the winner will be: Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit (At least I hope it will be her. Taking a bit of a hopeful risk here...)
  • A better choice: Jacki Weaver is downright scary in Animal Kingdom. I'll be pleased if either she or Steinfeld wins.

  • And the winner will be: Toy Story 3
  • Better choices: How To Train Your Dragon, or Despicable Me, or The Illusionist, or...

  • And the winner will be: The King's Speech
  • A better choice: I Am Love (Not even nominated! What?!)

  • And the winner will be: Roger Deakins, True Grit
  • Better choices: Adam Kimmel, Never Let Me Go / Jeff Cronenweth, The Social Network | (Deakins is amazing, and has deserved an Oscar many times over, but True Grit mostly pales in comparison to his proven capabilities. See The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford for some of Deakins' best stuff.)

  • And the winner will be: The King's Speech
  • A better choice: I Am Love

  • And the winner will be: Inside Job
  • A better choice: Restrepo

  • And the winner will be: Poster Girl (Sure! Why not?)

  • And the winner will be: The Social Network
  • A better choice: Maybe Inception? I still can't believe it was snubbed in this and the Directing categories. Ridiculous.

  • And the winner will be: In a Better World
  • A better choice: I've only seen one of the nominees(Biutiful), so I'll withhold judgment on this one. [Note: The First Beautiful Thing may be a great film--I don't know. But had Italy submitted I Am Love as its contender for Best Foreign Language Film, they might very well have won. Dummies.]

  • And the winner will be: The Wolfman (Seriously.)

  • And the winner will be: Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, The Social Network
  • A better choice: Hans Zimmer's Inception score was integral to the film, but I'm 100% behind The Social Network on this one. Paired with Aaron Sorkin's script, that score is the film's backbone. Watch it again with the sound up, you'll see. (PS: How was Daft Punk not at least nominated for their TRON:Legacy score? Highway robbery!)

  • And the winner will be: "We Belong Together," Toy Story 3
  • A better choice: The one Ryan Gosling's character sings in Blue Valentine.

  • And the winner will be: Madagascar, carnet de voyage(?)
  • A better choice: I still haven't seen them! I know, I'm the worst! (Should I be fortunate/industrious enough to see them this weekend, I'll edit accordingly.)

  • And the winner will be: Na Wewe(?)
  • A better choice: (See "Short Film - Animated".)

  • And the winner will be: Inception

  • And the winner will be: Inception

  • And the winner will be: Inception

  • And the winner will be: The Social Network

  • And the winner will be: The King's Speech
  • A better choice: My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done

  • And the winner will be: David Fincher, The Social Network
  • A better choice: Depending upon how much (if any) of Exit Through the Gift Shop was constructed by its maker(s?), Banksy might deserve this award more than anyone. But that's also assuming Banksy is the actual director of that film, so.... | Werner Herzog for My Son, My Son..., Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio for Alamar, Charles Ferguson for Inside Job, and the royally-snubbed Christopher Nolan for Inception are all worthy. But all of that said, I'm totally down with Fincher taking it home.

  • And the winner will be: The King's Speech
  • Better choices: Any of these. (The Social Network definitely has the best chance of pulling the upset, and I'm hoping it does just that.)

Ranking the Best Picture noms:
  1. The Fighter
  2. The Social Network
  3. True Grit
  4. Inception
  5. Winter's Bone
  6. Toy Story 3
  7. The King's Speech
  8. 127 Hours
  9. Black Swan
  10. The Kids Are All Right (Don't want to launch into too much of a rant here, but The Kids Are All Right is one of the worst movies I've seen in years. That it received a Best Picture nom really cheeses me off. If it wins any Oscars at all, I'll be quite unhappy. That is all.)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Top 10 of '10

I'm done calling my year-end film lists "Best of". I don't buy it anymore. There are simply too many diverse criteria at play for it to be safe to call one great film better than the next great film. These movies are all great, but for wildly different reasons. This list should really be called: "Colin saw these films during 2010 and liked them a lot based on their possessing some combination of Social Significance, Visual Beauty, Excellent Storytelling, Skillful Filmmaking, Literary Merit, Honesty, His Having Connected With It On a Personal Level and Nearly Having Cried While Watching It, Fascinating Undefinability, Great Acting, Etc. Also, he may have just been in a particularly receptive mood when he saw them." But "Top 10" seems less cumbersome. You're welcome.

Notes regarding this list:
...If it was released in a theatre near me in 2010, it's eligible. This does not include reissues of 50 year old films like Breathless, but does include movies like A Prophet which was 'officially' released in 2009 but didn't actually make into theatres for general viewing until February.
...Each title--save one--is linked to its Wikipedia page. I have linked to IMDb in the past, but IMDb's new format is garbage so Wikipedia gets the nod. Besides, should you feel so inclined, a link to the film's IMDb page is available at the bottom of its Wikipedia entry.

Cutting to the chase...

1. Restrepo
...And this is why I can't call this list a "Best of". By pure cinematic standards, Restrepo wouldn't touch the top of this list. But it's the most important movie I've seen in quite a long time, and the only movie concerning the ongoing war in Afghanistan that doesn't have an agenda. It is documentary filmmaking at its best: no narration, and no filmmakers trying to make themselves famous by stepping in front of the camera. Restrepo is a rare thing--a pure, uncorrupted document of life (and death) for real American soldiers in Afghanistan.
2. A Prophet
3. My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done
...To my knowledge, very few people have seen this film, and that's a shame. Directed by Werner Herzog, produced by David Lynch, and starring Michael Shannon (for my money, the most talented actor currently working) among other greats, My Son, My Son... saw strangely limited distribution. It's on Netflix now; you can even watch it instantly! Seriously, go watch it right now.
4. Exit Through the Gift Shop
5. Alamar
...Hey, I just blogged about this one! Just below this post! Or, if you can't find it there, you can be magically teleported to it by clicking right here!
6. The Fighter
...The best film in serious Oscar contention by leaps and bounds. And it's still in theatres most everywhere, so go see it while you still can.
7. I Am Love
8. Lebanon
9. Inside Job
...The two most stomach-turning images from Movie Year 2010 were almost carbon-copies of one another. In one, Donald Rumsfeld & Co. smile and pat each other on the back after successfully deflecting blame for the death of Pat Tillman in The Tillman Story. In Inside Job, similarly scummy assholes deflect blame for the economic collapse during congressional hearings then go home to the billions they made off with. These buck-passing thieves and murderers-by-proxy are the supervillains of today.
10. It's a tie! Between: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, The Social Network, & True Grit (and probably some others, too. Sorry.)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


After viewing Alamar last week, one question was stuck at the front of my mind. As I began writing tonight, it seemed natural that I should use the question to frame a discussion of the film. And, if I knew that everyone who might read this post had already seen the film, that question is exactly where I would start. But I've got a feeling that relatively few people have seen Alamar, and I firmly believe that I would be doing anyone who hasn't a disservice by raising the question ahead of time.

So... where does that leave me? Well, it obviously leaves me without my planned jumping-off point. But Alamar is a far more dynamic film than one limited question could do justice.

Alamar explores the relationship between father and son as well as the relationship between man and nature. It contrasts an urban European lifestyle with a rural North American lifestyle and subsequently intermingles two vastly different cultures. Alamar is beautiful. And yes, by that I mean that the photography is beautiful, but I also mean that the story and tone are beautiful. The film is beautifully paced, for crying out loud! Honest to god, Alamar is cut in such a way that the 'space' between scenes just feels perfect. And there is a serendipity inherent to this film that--no joke--seems borderline magical. (I realize how hyperbolic that last statement sounds, but I truly mean it.)

What's the movie about, you ask? The movie is about a 5-year old boy named Natan. Natan's parents separated three years after Natan's birth, due primarily to the fact that they come from two diverse walks of life--dad Jorge is a Mexican who lives and fishes off the Carribean coast, mom Roberta is an Italian on the verge of moving home to bustling Rome. Before traveling to the other side of the world to live with his mother in Italy, Natan spends several weeks in Banco Chinchorro with his father and grandfather, learning to fish, living off the sea, immersed in nature.

And that's pretty much it. Beyond this basic premise lies very little story, if any. Alamar is not a popcorn movie. If you're looking for a traditional plot structure and conventionally drawn characters, you'll be disappointed.

Alamar is--with all due respect to I Am Love--the most beautiful movie released in Seattle last year, one of the most extraordinary documentary-style films I've seen, and will undoubtedly rank among my Top Ten films of 2010 (that list coming very soon to a blog near you).

A week on, I still can't get Alamar out of my head. It would be impossible for me to recommend it too highly. Please, dear readers, see it soon.

[PS: If you see Alamar and want to know what my 'big question' about the film is/was, and maybe even would like to discuss it, let me know.]

Monday, January 24, 2011

Blue Valentine

Two years and a few days ago I saw a film called Revolutionary Road at the E Street Cinema in Washington, D.C. I had been looking forward to seeing the movie for quite some time but had put it off because: a)I was living in Savannah, GA at the time and Savannah--for no good reason at all--is devoid of the sort of movie theatres which release interesting films in a timely manner, and b)I was almost positive that I'd be able to see the movie free-of-charge at the E Street. Much to my delight, the latter came to pass. But much to my dismay, the film fell far short of my (probably too high) expectations. Perhaps Sam Mendes wasn't up to the task of making this movie, perhaps two fine actors--DiCaprio & Winslet--weren't quite fine enough to fully bring their characters to life, or perhaps the story (adapted from what I am told is a great novel by Richard Yates) simply wasn't meant for the cinema.

What does Revolutionary Road have to do with Blue Valentine, you ask? Well, from where I was sitting when I watched it last week, Blue Valentine looked a whole lot like a Revolutionary Road for the aging hipster set. A man and a woman who seem to genuinely love one another get married too soon, and for the wrong reason(s). They do their best to keep their hopes and dreams alive and in sight, but nonetheless wind up settling down in the suburbs and working nondescript jobs to make ends meet. Eventually, inevitably, their 'let's hold this together, we've got our child to think of' lifestyle becomes too much to bear and the first thing to be crushed under its formidable weight is the love this man and this woman once felt for one another. ... All the same pieces of the same puzzle are in play, albeit in a slightly different time and slightly different place. (And, though I'm sure this goes without saying, these circumstances remain heartbreaking.)

What sets Blue Valentine apart from Revolutionary Road is that Blue Valentine explores this emotionally devastating territory with brutal honesty whereas Revolutionary Road felt praticed and scripted and... well, just off.

Writer/director Derek Cianfrance wisely juggles time and space in telling Dean and Cindy's backstory; by intercutting flashbacks of happy, hopeful beginnings with their hopeless present-day predicament, he grants the viewer a respite from the sort of relentless emotional battering which defines Revolutionary Road.

Cianfrance hasn't made a perfect film, of course. There are instances in which the tone of a given scene doesn't quite match that of the scenes surrounding it, and in these instances the cinematic illusion is briefly but definitely broken. It's always disappointing to become deeply invested in a film's characters only to be jarred back to reality by the abrupt realization that, "Oh, yeah. We're sitting in a darkened room watching moving pictures. These people aren't real."

But despite its occasional flaws, Blue Valentine packs a serious and resounding emotional punch. The film is defined by its actors' performances, and Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are painfully believeable as Dean and Cindy. In theory, Blue Valentine is Derek Cianfrance's film, but I simply cannot imagine it being the same with anyone other than Gosling and Williams in these roles.

Blue Valentine is the movie I had hoped Revolutionary Road would be. In nearly every area that Revolutionary Road fell flat, Blue Valentine stands strong. While I am quite glad to put a two-year old disappointment to rest, I am also a bit worried about myself... Why on earth would I want so badly for a film to be this heartbreakingly painful?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Perfect Getaway

Whenever I'm out of Seattle and away from the near-endless supply of filmic entertainment available from the Seattle Public Library and Scarecrow Video, I make a point of reactivating my usually latent Netflix account. Maintaining a Netflix account that I hardly use is sort of silly, I admit, but I find it comforting to know that a massive DVD catalog is readily available should I choose to relocate for a month or two.

Last June I traveled to Georgia to visit my sister, who is good enough to put a roof over the head of a sizable HD television as well as it's close pal, the Blu-ray player. Naturally, one of my first orders of business was to reactivate the Netflix account and set its default format to Blu-ray. Knowing my time in GA was limited, the obvious next step was to move as many seemingly decent films available on Blu-ray to the top of my queue. One of those 'seemingly decent films' turned out to be A Perfect Getaway. (I don't know exactly what possessed me to think this movie looked decent, but I think I gave it a chance based on the fact that I like Steve Zahn. Anyway, I can't come up with another, better reason.)

Fast-forward to January 2011. I had suspended my account but forgotten when it was set to automatically reactivate (Netflix only allows you to suspend your account for three months at a time, at the end of which it will reactivate automatically should you fail to log on and prolong the suspension. Some real Columbia Record Club-style bullshit.) I come to find out at the end of the holidays--via an unexpected charge on my bank account, of course--hey, I'm a Netflix subscriber again! I decide to make the best of it and start rejuggling my queue in order to get some new movies I wasn't able to see in theatres, but not before the two DVDs at the top are shipped my way, one of which is A Perfect Getaway. I'm less than psyched about this turn of events since it doesn't look nearly as 'decent' as it once did, but the movie has already been delivered and I'll be goddamned if I don't watch it.

Which brings me--mercifully, I know--to my... well, review would be a huge overstatement, so let's just call them thoughts:
...To start simply, this movie is bad. You can sort of tell it's going to be bad based on the premise and the DVD menu, so this isn't really news.
...Badness aside, the movie rebounds remarkably at about the halfway point. Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich (and by Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich I mean the characters portrayed by these actors, characters whose names I've already forgotten) are on their honeymoon in Hawaii. They've just arrived in Kauai from Oahu and are troubled to learn that some fellow honeymooners were just murdered in Honolulu. It comes to light that the suspected killers are a young couple, so all the other young couples our protagonists come across from then on are immediately suspect. From there, things get pretty wacky and over-the-top, but in a sort of fun way. "Are these punky newlyweds capable of murder?!" "Or are this mega-commando and his former meat-cutter of a girlfriend the more likely maniacs?" "Holy shit, we're gonna die! And we only just started this wonderful life together!"
...This movie actually gets pretty exciting/amusing once it puts the cinema references aside (Steve Zahn's character is a newly-minted screenwriter so we get to hear all about how film plots work... exciting) and starts getting into actual plot twists. It's all absurdly ridiculous, of course, but for the purposes of absurd ridiculousness, you could do a lot worse than A Perfect Getaway.
...One last thing: the aforementioned mega-commando is played to great effect by Timothy Olyphant. Seriously... shades of old-school, Aliens-era Bill Paxton. Good stuff.

Coming soon... More thoughts(!): Blue Valentine! Alamar! Etc! Yay.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Starts slow. Real slow.
Primarily pretty pictures.
Truly beautiful father-daughter relationship.
Gorgeous girls galore.
Los Angeles light looks great on film. (Washington Winter-gloom antidote?)
Black Ferrari.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Over-the-top horrorart cinema.
Better than The Wrestler.
So many mirrors!