Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Crooklyn

On Sunday I watched Spike Lee's semi-biographical Crooklyn. I liked it a lot, more then School Daze or Girl 6 I think. The writing, and acting that went with it, seemed very honest and I also liked the cinematography, though I am not sure I could tell you why yet.

The end is very sad, so watch out! I only tell you because if I had read the back of the box I would have been warned, but as it was, I was totally shocked and felt like my heart was wrenched out. I literally cried for the last 20 minutes of the film!

I feel like one of the things I liked about Crooklyn was the way it dealt with telling the story of this family in Brooklyn in the early '70s. I didn't feel out of place because they did such a good job of putting universality into the storytelling. For instance, when the family is facing money woes, they send some of the children off with relatives for the summer. Troy, the only girl and the main character, is sent to live with a middle-class aunt and uncle who an adopted daughter a littler older then Troy. The aunt immediately takes out Troy's braids and straightens her hair, something Troy's mother would never have allowed. Although the act of braiding vs. straightening is exclusive to African-American culture, most families can relate to a relative who disagrees with the way we were raised or the way we dress. The film portrays many such common bonds, while also giving us insight into a community we are not a part of.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Comedy, Murder and Tim Curry

I went to Target on Sunday and made an impulse DVD buy. They were selling Clue for only $5.50!!

I must have watched Clue on a weekly basis at my friends house growing up. We loved it! Especially the part at the end when Tim Curry runs around knocking people down and reenacting the whole movie!

I had to do some cleaning the other night, so I needed a movie that I didn't need to keep my eyes on the whole time...CLUE!

Following are a few comparisons between what I thought of the movie as a child compared with what I think now (perhaps in another 15 years I will watch it again and compare my thoughts then, too!)

1. RE: The scene where the cop comes and they have to hide the dead bodies from him.
As a child I thought the funniest part of this was that they are pretend-making out, followed by an amusing back and forth between Curry and the Cop where the cop tells him its fine because this is America!

As an adult, I realize the beauty of this scene is the multi-layered aspect. It really highlights the character work by the entire ensemble. For one thing, they are not just faux-making out, they are making out with DEAD PEOPLE!! and the look on Micheal McKeen's face in the background is so believable, just the right amount of shock and camp without overdoing it, something I think would have been easy to do in this film with decided silent-era undertones...

which leads me to the next comparison....

2. RE: the pace
As a child, I think the pace was just...right...for me as a child who may not have otherwise had much patience. I didn't think much of it except that it was funny when Curry ran around and everyone was falling down all the time.

As an adult, I recognize that there is a conscious attempt to mimic silent films through use of slapstick and pacing. The slow pace of the search scenes brings to mind The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari whereas the fast paced slapstick of the final scenes is reminiscent of Chaplin and Buster Keaton.

3. RE: sexual humor

OK, this kind of brings me to an overall point I have about film viewing and comedy in particular.

You will only ever get the jokes you already know.

As children, we all understand sexual behavior on some sub-conscious level. That being said, when a child laughs at the French maid's cleavage, they are only doing so because somewhere , somehow, they learned that that was funny. And when I, at the age of 7 or 8, laughed at the people making out with dead bodies, I would have laughed just as hard if the people had been asleep or were actually dummies, because the funny part to me was the lie and the consequences.

Children are not scarred by watching funny movies with humor they don't fully understand. The humor they don't get, goes over their heads. This is what makes movies like Shrek and Finding Nemo so successful - because there is humor which can entertain children on one level, and parents on another. This means that a parent, or babysitter, doesn't mind watching the movie over and over (at least not as much) because they find it entertaining as well, with the knowledge that the children are not being "corrupted" by "dirty" humor.

OK, that's enough of that rant!

Anyway, go watch Clue. Or play the game. or throw a black-tie party and murder some people just for kicks...

Friday, June 13, 2008

What I've Watched thus Far

OK, so I have been negligent in my film watching and blogging. I know, I know!! It's only the second week, and I should be way more on top of this, but I'm just not. Sorry.

I have only watched two movies so far...Harold and Kumar go to White Castle and Logan's Run, both of which I got from my favorite rental place - Hugo Boffo's Hall of Film (umm, a.k.a, my brother's film collection!)

I asked HB to lend me 5 movies because I already had two of his I still need to watch. So he loaned me 7. sigh. Anyway, here are some small insights on Harold and Kumar and Logan's Run -

Harold and Kumar:
Super fun hero's journey story about two friends with the munchies on a quest for White Castle, and, by extension, the American Dream (of cheap food...). I really enjoyed this and laughed a lot, though I don't know if all the jokes would be as appreciated by some of my more straight laced readers.

I have some issues with the portrayal of women in the film, but after watching the interview with the screenwriters in the special features, I can't say I'm surprised. All in all though, it is pretty fantastic that we have a mainstream film out there about two average American stoner guys who just happen to be Indian and Asian.

Logan's Run:
Before I watched this, HB suggested I compare it with Star Wars, which came out a year later (because of the vast difference in how the film makers choose to do a Sci-Fi film). Well, I did that, and it is true - very different techniques! Still, my mind kept wandering to compare it with Soylent Green with Charlton Heston. The biggest difference is the ending, but otherwise, they are ridiculously similar, right down to the empty warehouse-like-treatment facility. In a way, I thought the LR acting was better and some of the cinematography. The friends I watched it with loved the miniature set that was used for overhead shots of the futuristic society, and I was partial to the old cat man who introduces Logan and his Lady to the concept of "family". The other big difference between LR and SG is that LR seems to have a stronger underlying moral. The hedonistic people of the city are so totally obsessed with sex, beauty and youth that they are fooled into thinking they get reborn at age 30, when in fact they just get killed in a bizarre ritual.

"Hello? 1973? Yeah, I have reality on the line for you, I'm patching it through..."

I think this is a very thinly veiled attempt at commenting on the late sixties, early seventies pop culture in America - the whole sex, love, and rock and roll movement - saying that all that is fine for a while, but at some point you need to wake up, grow up and start a real family.

OK, that's all I have for now. I plan on watching 5 more movies this weekend, so stay tuned!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Just Trying This Out

I thought since this is a film blog and part of film is image it would be nice to have something pretty to look at! So I am attempting to put a little video I made at Christmas in Maine up. Let me know if it works for you! Thanks!

video

Quick Ratings

Here are some quick ratings on this past weeks films in preparation for the coming weeks (I will change the side bar once I know what all the movies will be) I am going to my brother's house tonight to pick up some movies and start watching!!

Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day: 3 out of 5 of whatever I'm giving. This was a solid, fun romp with just enough plot to get me through and quick enough that I was able to forget I knew how it would end!

Who Killed the Electric Car: 2. I learned a lot, but I think their next documentary should be called Who Killed the Electric Car...Movie? It was too long, and the stuff they put in to jazz it up was confusing and made it look like a conspiracy theory.

27 Dresses: Yes, a chick flick. I give it 3. It has a lot of problems, especially all this crap about sisters who act like they are out to get one another. OK, if you haven't ever had a sister, I have a news flash - you may hate her or you may love her, you may like her or dislike her, but your goals are probably not to sabotage her life! There are ups and downs to all relationships, but this was a bit over the top. Still, the costuming was great, and there were some good funny deliveries by Kathryn Heigl I enjoyed.

Evan Almighty: 4. This was better then Bruce almighty and had a nice message complete with anagram at the end. Steve Carrell is hilarious and Wanda Sykes was a nice addition to the otherwise white-bread ensemble cast as well.

Death at a Funeral: 4. Really funny, that kind of funny where you get so uncomfortable you want to leave the room but you can't look away. I also liked that there is a character played by a man with dwarfism, but it isn't made a big deal out of. The biggest thing, and it's pretty funny, is when one says (referring to the man w/dwarfism), "Maybe no one noticed him..." and his brother responds, "Oh sure, I'm sure no one noticed the four foot tall man walking around!" There is a fair amount of slapstick which is something I love about British comedies.

OK, that's it, I must stop blogging for today and go eat something!

Born Romantic

(caution: Spoiler Ahead! But really, it's a romantic Comedy, what do you thinks gonna happen?)

This weekend I also watched Born Romantic, an English film with Craig Ferguson, my favorite late night host. Anyway, this was an impulse buy at the corner store near my apartment for $2...what can I say? I can't pass up an English Romantic Comedy with a Scottish actor!

The film focuses on three men and their love interests. Frankie (played by Ferguson), a somewhat crass but hopelessly romantic divorcee has the hots for "a classy lady"; Furgus (David Morrisey) has traveled to London in search of the woman he calls his soul mate...after leaving her at the altar eight years before; and Eddie (Jimi Misty, what a name!), an amateur thief who uses chloroform to rob people, ends up falling for one of his targets, a hypochondriac who dresses graves for a living.

Two things work to tie the plots together - the salsa lounge where they all meet up, and trying to give a deeper meaning to the whole thing is Jimmy, the cab driver who lost his wife a few years before. The best thing about this script is that they kept the cabby's speeches to a minimum and his bursts of insight short and sweet, relying more on the actor's ability to use subtle facial gestures to communicate with the audience. This allowed for him to sound intelligent and insightful, vs. the side character played by Ian Hart who goes into long speeches about how women can't actually feel love and other crap (by the end, this gets tied up nicely as well). Other than that, this film's script had something lacking, and really was carried by the ensemble cast, nice cinematography and the fact that they all had accents.

My absolute favorite scene is one in which Frankie sings "L.O.V.E." in total homage to Dean Martin, Sinatra and all those dudes - and he does a good job! The accent (American) sounds funny coming from him, as it always does, but it just adds to his lovable character.

Of course, everyone gets his girl in the end...and even the cab driver starts dancing with the foxy salsa instructor as the aperture closes around their faces.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Iron Man

Hey! Here is a bit about the film I saw this afternoon with my brother, who taught me much of what I know about looking at cinema critically. I hope he will be a semi-frequent commentator on this blog, letting me (and y'all) know when I have missed the mark and when I need to dig deeper (of course, y'all may do the same, and I welcome it with great anticipation!)

So, Iron Man, with Robert Downey Jr. as Stark (billionaire weapons maker turned vigilante) and Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, the no-nonsense assistant, not to mention the other famous to semi-famous actors who make an appearance. I was inclined to see this film because I actually love superhero movies, both bad and good. I also like to watch how we as a society often turn to fictional superheros when our problems get to big for us to face on our own. It's not a coincidence that Iron Man grossed over $98,000,000 opening weekend, or that several other very successful, if less well done, superhero flicks have come out in the past few years or are slated to come out soon (ex: Spiderman (I & II), Batman Begins, Hell Boy, Dare Devil, The Fantastic Four (I & II), The Avengers, you get the picture)

Within the first few scenes I thought, "oh great, here we go with another macho-man superhero who degrades women and really loves power more then he loves saving the world" There is a scene in which a young journalist from Vanity Fair wants to interview Stark about his work making weapons for the government...she ends up in his bed, and then kicked out by his assistant - "I do whatever Mr. Stark needs me to do...sometimes even taking out the trash" (Potts) And, somehow, a flight with his Air Force buddy to Afghanistan to show off a new weapon, ends with them getting drunk together and the flight attendants prancing around like go-go dancers.

But after his return from captivity, Stark appears to be changed. Not completely, which, thankfully, leaves us open for sequels with further character development. This is a general problem I have with action films - if there is no character development in the first film, there sure as hell won't be any in the second or third, but people tend to lose sight of that, what with all the explosions.

There are a lot of underlying themes, concepts, and little jabs at society, in this film that allow for some interesting DVD viewings when the time comes. I look forward to it, as well as any future sightings of Iron Man that Marvel has in store for us.

Here is an interview with Downey Jr. from April on the David Letterman Show. I think he seems really pompous (about the script re-write stuff), but some would (and did) say he is "just playing a Robert Downey Jr. character". What do you think?

Welcome!

Hello! Welcome to my new blog, FilmAching...as in, aching for films, the feeling you have if you are a film connoisseur and there is a film out you simply must see...or the feeling you have as a young editor and you can feel that if you could just find that one frame that needs to be cut, this shot would be perfect...or the aging screenwriter who knows this one will be his big break...that is what aching for film is all about, my friends!

I plan to use this blog mostly for critiques this summer, in order to keep my abilities sharp, get some feedback and practice writing film analysis, which is what I will be doing a lot of next fall when I take a Documentary and Experimental Film class and a Topics in Cinema (focusing on films by the Coen Brothers and Quentin Tarantino films) which will be about viewing and analyzing a bunch of films through discussion and papers.

I will also try to post updates on films and screenplays I or my friends are working on. Currently, one friend (who I have yet to find the perfect blog name for) is working on a short he has written which he would like me to be in, as well as help with holding the camera and such! When completed, I will either post here or add a link to it.

So, as one of my goals for the summer is watching at least 7 films a week (!), check back often for critiques, long and short, of the films I will be viewing!