Sunday, January 31, 2010
I am writing this because it is the end of the month and I had planned to write more pieces than the four I had done so far. The problem is that I got a freelance editing gig that started two weeks ago that may stretch through next week. While this is welcome news in terms of allowing me to make a living during what is usually a dead time as far as editing work (yes, corporate videos are good for something), it also resulted in draining all of my time and energy, preventing me not only from writing about movies, but also watching them.
That said, I still plan to do several posts about my favorite films of the last decade (although the decade is still officially not over, so I am not in a rush like many film critics were). I look forward to writing about some upcoming movies in the next month or so, such as "Shutter Island" and "A Prophet", as well as Bong Joon Ho's "Mother", which I saw a few months back. Plus, whatever films I watch on DVD can spark a piece, like one I watched right before my editing gig started.
I understood that blogging would come out of me in spurts due to my schedule, where I have stretches of either consistent work or unemployment, most of which I never can quite predict when it will happen. But that's the life.
Also, I would like to thank Jason Bellamy over at The Cooler for honoring me with a Kreativ Award last week, which inspires me to get cracking on some of the pieces I have brewing.
Hopefully, I will have something later this week.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Where do I begin with the potential minefield of discussing James Cameron's "Avatar" considering the box office records the movie is currently breaking and the discussion of the film extending far beyond its merits as a film, but about its significance in the history of motion pictures? Sure, we have the usual suspects raiding internet boards to insult anyone who does not recognize the genius of James Cameron. But, we also have extensive articles about the politics of the film with those on the left and right sides of the political spectrum chiming in about its message. This movie is at the center of the cultural zeitgeist in America at this given moment.
Now, I have to admit that most films that occupy this position in our culture I usually respond to with a certain level of skepticism. I believe any sensible person should because, otherwise, the likelihood of falling into group think mentality grows considerably. Ultimately, much of your preconceptions about a film go away when your eyes and mind engage directly with the movie playing on the screen right before you. What often happens, as with recent heavily hyped movies I have watched in the last month such as "Watchmen" and "Star Trek", is that I am actually surprised about how the movie themselves bear little resemblance to what I read about them. "Watchmen" was derided as either an overlong mess or celebrated as a faithful adaptation of a graphic novel considered one of the all-time greats. In some ways, they are both right, but what bothered me more were the clumsiness of its big ideas which seem to have come straight from its source. "Star Trek", on the other hand, was heralded as a clever and fun adaptation of a series, while I thought the script was mind-numbingly stupid and found the film to be amateurishly directed. Expectations versus reality.
"When you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you" is the quote by Friedrich Nietzsche that opens the director's cut of "The Abyss". There has never been a James Cameron film without a significant level of ambition, which is why he has been taken more seriously than 95% of the action filmmakers during the 25 years of his career. I watched this version of "The Abyss" for the first time two days after seeing "Avatar" (which I discuss in the other piece published today). I remember watching the theatrical version of this film, which is about 30 minutes shorter, on Pan & Scan VHS tape about 20 years ago and not being terribly impressed.
Obviously, that was probably not the best circumstances to watch this. I still would like to see this in the theater some day. It also did not help that the theatrical cut of the film does not quite make much sense (particularly in incorporating the aliens into the narrative), though I would also add the longer version has other problematic issues. What's undeniable about the film is both its ambition to be a love story and a political statement, as well as its technical achievement in filming an underwater adventure in actual water which produces some of the most stunning imagery to be found in any Cameron film.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
I recently watched "Dead Ringers" for the first time in about 20 years and finally connected to a film that had left me cold back in 1988. This was the first film directed by David Cronenberg after one of his rare box office hits "The Fly". Cronenberg is an interesting director, as his films often create unsettling moods, though he usually relies on almost unstylish medium shots and close-ups as coverage for his scenes.
The reason I analyzed a scene from this was due to the special circumstances of editing a film where one actor plays two roles opposite each other. Jeremy Irons plays twin gynecologists Bev (short for Beverly) and Eli (short for Elliot). Bev is considered the more shy, reserved twin, while Eli is more an extrovert which helps with attracting women for either one or both to sleep with. However, as the movie progresses, you can tell their characteristics become less and less distinctive from one another.
Friday, January 1, 2010
I actually wanted to wait until the year was officially over to present the best films that came out this year, as well as some other random thoughts. It should be noted that I still have plenty of movies to catch up with over the next year, including some films I still want to catch in theaters the next month, such as "Avatar", "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus" and "The White Ribbon". Plus, I have films such as "Silent Light" and "The Headless Woman" in my home now via Netflix. Since my list is not limited to 10, I will make any updates and note them if I feel I want to include any additional films in this group.
This was not exactly the greatest year for movies. In fact, it was rather depressing, but there were some films that gave me hope that all is not lost. I have seen a total of 45 movies as of this writing either in theaters, on DVD or VOD. I only counted films that received an official release in the United States this year on any format. For example, I did not include Bong Joon-Ho's "Mother" (that I saw at the New York Film Festival) which would have easily made my best movies list but will not be released here until spring. First, I will present what I consider the 13 films that stood out most for me, followed by special categories that highlight special achievements, as well as reflect my complicated reactions to what cinema offered us in 2009.