My Summer of Love
Pawel Pawlikowski’s last film Last Resort was one of my favorite films of 2001. He has an amazing ability to film everyday type scenes with an amazing composition. This movie is about a burgeoning friendship/love affair between a bored teenage girl in a dead-end British small town and a rich bad girl home for the summer after being expelled. The townie’s older brother has turned to Jesus which pisses the girl offl to no end. She looks for an escape and the rich girl lacking in parental guidance provides it. There are sublime moments of pure cinematic brilliance, amazing moments of empathy, cruel moments of selfishness, and exhilirating moments of declaring independence in this film.
The concept of this film is unbelievable. How do you make a 90 minute film about one joke? After five minutes, I was already feeling weary. But then I gave into its charms and it ended up blowing me away. A tribute to old time comedians, to the adaptability of comedy, to timing, to shared experiences, hell - even to human perserverance, this film is great. Any movie that makes me love mimes and Gilbert Gottfried is a damn work of art.
Kung Fu Hustle
Easily the most fun movie all year. This put a smile on my face the entire time. Stephen Chow’s last film Shaolin Soccer was also a lot of fun but this new one is much better. Manic, fantastic, funny, and amazing. Incredible fights and special effects. This film puts all of the big Hollywood epics to shame with their disorienting action scenes. This film's over the top craziness still has me smiling months later when I reminisce about it. Why this movie wasn’t the hit of the year across this great land of ours is beyond me.
Once again, Wong Kar-Wai delivers. Everything he does is incredibly interesting to me. Ostenibly a sequel to In the Mood For Love, this film shares a similar pacing and feel to its predecessor. Just like In the Mood, 2046 uses Nat King Cole songs as the emotional fulcrum of many scenes. And just when you think that the movie couldn’t get any better, Wong Kar-Wai teases us by giving us footage from the aborted sci-fi film that 2046 was originally going to be. In it, we are given a world where Mariko Mori remakes Blade Runner for the Gil Gerard generation in the novel that Tony Leung’s character is writing. Like all Wong Kar-Wai films, one viewing is not nearly enough to fully comprehend all of the intricacies. I look forward to seeing it again.
Werner Herzog’s documentary about Tim Treadwell is enlightening, sad, engrossing, infuriating, and stupendous. Treadwell dedicated his life to bringing awareness of the grizzlies that lived in the wilds of Alaska. He spent thirteen summers living amongst them, studying them, filming them and himself while sharing his thoughts on film, and bonding with them.
Eventually, this lifestyle caught up to him and he was killed by a grizzly in 2003. The audio of his and his girlfriend’s deaths were recorded but Herzog wisely decided not to play it. Instead, he films the coroner who describes what was on the tape and that is enough. I've heard that that footage doesn't really exist and that whole scene is fake but I don't care.
Treadwell was a man living on the edge, a man more comfortable with bears than with people, a man who clearly had some issues to deal with. He died doing what he loved but he was so damn stupid at the same time. The film consists of Herzog’s narration as he tries to make sense of Treadwell, interviews with people who knew him, and a lot of footage that Treadwell had shot himself. The days leading up to his death, Treadwell seemed to have a premonition of his death as he pontificated on the nastiness of one bear and how he planned on living amongst the bears until the day he died. Herzog continues to astound me with his choices in subject matter.
Me and You and Everyone We Know
Yes, this film might be just a wee bit precious, but I was sucked in from the beginning. Miranda July is amazing! She has such a fascinating face and persona. She could have been a huge silent film star because her face is so incredibly expressive. At times, she reminded me of Buster Keaton. Near the beginning of the film, I thought that this is the kind of movie that Hal Hartley could have made in the late 80’s if he wasn’t so hipsterfied and obsessed with being so damn deadpan.
July does a great job of capturing the everyday loneliness and desire to connect with another person whether you are six- years-old, a teenager, or an adult. The sexual confusion and experimentation of the teenagers is incredibly funny, but also very real. This film captures so many little, fascinating moments of life (the goldfish on the roof of the car to name one). July incorporates so many universal themes in this film in a new, very unique way. This film got the big arthouse push over the summer and I was worried that I would be saddled with another cloying Napoleon Dynamite fiasco that strained too damn hard to be quirky. Instead, I was pleased to find this heartfelt, tender, charming film. And as far as I know, there aren't any Me and You and Everyone We Know lunchboxes as of yet.
This film had me thinking for days. The story of two potential Palestinian suicide bombers is fascinating. Filmed on location, the filmmakers faced incredible danger and one crew member was even kidnapped at one point and needed the intervention of Arafat to secure release. The film is not preachy but it does clearly state that these kinds of tactics might not be the best way to achieve goals. It does an incredible job of showing the frustration and humilation of the occupied as well as showing how the two potential bombers are merely pawns in a larger game.
This movie is amazing. I have not read much about the last few days of the European theater of World War II so I’m not entirely sure how factual this film really is. However, it was based on two credible sources so even if it isn’t completely accurate, I’m sure that it captures the essence of what the last few days in Hitler’s bunker were like -- the paranoia, the suicides, the undying allegiance to the Fuhrur. Bruno Ganz is amazing as a defeated Hitler. As some subordinates begin to disobey him, he begins to realize that the only thing he he can even remotely control anymore is what goes on in his bunker.
Ulrich Matthes as Goebbels is the most chilling portrayal I've seen all year. He is truly frightening. The scene where his wife poisons their children rather than surrender to the Russians is incredible yet quite logical based on the mindset of the leaders in the bunker. As the Russians draw closer to the bunker, the end draws near and there is chaos on the streets and mass suicides under ground. This film, the D-Day sequence in Saving Private Ryan, The Pianist, and Come and See all are excellent places to start in the World War II genre. I felt completely drained by the end of this movie.
A devastating documentary about the impact of colonization and economic victimization of Tanzania. Everyone is getting rich off of the fish from Lake Victoria except, of course, the Tanzanians. I was equally fascinated and horribly depressed by the machinations in place to keep the system the way it is. Tanzanians are left to forage in the streets and dumping grounds and are lucky if they are able to get their hands on the rotting carcasses of the fish that are left behind. Some people even hope for a war because soldiers get paid well. The images in this film are unforgettable. This is a must see film.
A Close Second
The Squid and the Whale
Before seeing this film, I had only seen one of Noah Baumbach’s other films (Kicking and Screaming) and I wasn’t that impressed with it. And he co-wrote my least favorite of the Wes Anderson films (The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou). So I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this one. But my doubts were quelled during the very first moments of this bitterly funny film about divorce. The numerous tennis and ping pong scenes underscored the underlying tensions of the film to brilliant effect. Jeff Daniels made me wonder where he’s been all these years. It seems like just yesterday he was tearing shit up in Something Wild before disappearing from my radar. Welcome back Jeff.
William Baldwin’s character echoes in my mind many months later. The scene where Jeff Daniels asks to get back together and Laura Linney busts out laughing is easily one of the best moments of any film this year. The Kafka discussions still crack me up. The "I am a philistine" scene is incredible. Every moment of this movie is wonderful.
The arrogance, the pettiness, the selfishness, the insecurity, the confusion of this family are all on display here. It is a testament to the acting, the directing, and the fine script that the audience is drawn to care at all about these pretty unlikeable people.
The only complaint I can even think of about this film is how short it feels. I wanted more damnit!
My Favorite Film of the Year
The White Diamond
This film is unlike any I’ve ever seen before. Werner Herzog’s documentary (or so he says) left me speechless. Some of this seems too perfect to be caught merely by chance. The credits list Herzog as the writer of the film lending even more doubt to whether or not this is all a true story. I’d love to believe that it is all true but like any documentary, the mere fact that a person is filming it, shapes the experiences of the people being filmed so I suppose it doesn’t really matter.
The film tells the story of Dr. Graham Dorrington who embarks on a trip to the giant Kaieteur Falls in Guyana to fly his helium-filled flying craft above the unexplored tree tops. The guy is manic and good for a few laughs. Herzog wisely chooses not to make him the ultimate subject of the film. Instead, Herzog focuses on whatever event happens to grab his attention as a filmmaker.
Herzog spends a lot of time interviewing one of Dorrington’s crew, a Guyanese man named Mark Anthony who ruminates on technology, nature, life, poetry, and his longing to fly the craft to Spain to visit his family who he hasn’t seen in thirty years.
Dorrington also explains how his friend died twelve years earlier in a similar expedition. He is clearly haunted by his friend’s death and harbors guilt for it. This is one of those times that I can’t believe that all of the things in this movie are real. At one point, when talking about his late friend, Dorrington explains that his friend had once been swarmed by elephants while his camera was rolling. Sure enough, Herzog included footage of elephants stomping by overhead.
There is just something about this film that put me in a trance. Whether it is villagers talking about the legend of the great falls nearby, a miner moonwalking next to the falls at sunset, beautiful shots of thousands of swifts flying into the mist of the great falls to the cave behind it, or Herzog’s melodic narration, I was absoutely transfixed by this film.
3 days ago