Saturday, July 21, 2018

Favorite (four), part fifty-four

Just like in my other fifty-three posts in this series, I want to take a second to single out the highlights of my recent film viewing.  Most of the films I have been glad to see but only very few have stayed with me.  This series is my filter for those and my hope is one or two will be good to you as well.

George Cukor's Little Women
FilmStruck celebrated Cukor last week as its featured director, making it as good of a time as any to dig deeper into his work.  He never was a flashy stylist and many of his films seem comfortable taking their time even at the risk of running off some of the audience.  What makes Cukor so special is how deep he goes with his characters.  He trusts their freewheeling spirits, loves them, knowing it is possible both for them to entertain us and allow us into their souls.  As a result, we care an unusual amount about the characters in his films.  Cukor also was a master at restraint.  Just look at how long he withholds things from Hepburn, a practice run for his finest hour a few years later in Holiday.  Less entertaining than Hawks, less visual than Ford, less buoyant than Lubitsch and less clever than Wilder but just as great as them all.

Kelly Reichardt's Certain Women
I have never been much of a fan of her work.  Having seen Old Joy, Wendy and Lucy and Meek's CutoffI often felt her work was admirably minimal without the heft or depth of a Bresson or Ozu.  But her latest feels different to me, saying a tremendous amount without saying much at all.  Reichardt uses one of cinema's greatest weapons, silence, to get underneath her themes and wonderfully rich characters and stories.

Morgan Neville's Won't You Be My Neighbor?
Fred Rogers' life makes for a fascinating film and Neville gets into much of what makes the story unique and provocative.  My only complaint is I wish there were more interviews from kids, like myself, who grew up watching Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and the way they experienced the show as compared to Rogers' ultimate vision and philosophy behind it.

George Cukor's Dinner at Eight
Most extraordinary is not the drama but the acting and the multitude of characters and social situations we can recognize and have probably experienced.  Not completely sure if it should all be viewed as a critique and/or satire but it sure seems like it even though Cukor was such a fixture in the world he is depicting.


Friday, July 20, 2018

Honoring Stan

https://open.spotify.com/user/mynuitchezmaud/playlist/0J9XmwnGWlOR6yh1cmT7Fm?si=8GIcKx-FToa4U_oLKPZ-lQ


Sunday, July 15, 2018

Latest Mixtape

https://open.spotify.com/user/mynuitchezmaud/playlist/03L2jHfQ6aicq4eJzmYGi6?si=TL0aa1CPRv26Zcu-5Jxoeg


Sunday, July 8, 2018

Favorite (four), part fifty-three

Just like in my other fifty-two posts in this series, I want to take a second to single out the highlights of my recent film viewing.  Most of the films I have been glad to see but only very few have stayed with me.  This series is my filter for those and my hope is one or two will be good to you as well.

Zachary Treitz's Men Go To Battle
The kind of imaginative lo-fi work that makes me rethink my normal skepticism around low budget digital filmmaking.  It feels like the cinematic equivalent to something Will Oldham might author.  It is quiet and earthy and comfortable just being pure and unadorned.  The acting is tremendous, and its restraint from using much light or music refreshing.  As strong of an American micro-indy as I have seen since Blue Ruin.

Frederick Wiseman's Law and Order
Aside from Wiseman's complete formal discipline, what might be most impressive about his work are the moments he is able to capture.  Whether it is the angry father at the end or the belligerent juvenile early on, the characters he finds in the scenes he shows us feel so raw, so real, and so rich it is like we have never seen humans going through real emotions on film before.  It is such pure cinema, Wiseman's work, and such a successful approach.  For anyone that wants to see moments deflected exactly as the artist found them, without any fluff and without any fear that the sheer moment would have enough heft or interest on its own, these are hours full of reward.  

Kasper Collins' I Called Him Morgan
An unusually absorbing doc that not only gives us Morgan's greatness but also gives us other dimensions like a deeper understanding of jazz as black classical music or of the human capacity to forgive even in the midst of great anger.  Collins' most impressive achievement might be his ability to take a paucity of Morgan footage and supplement it with shots of skylines and nature without making it all feel like hollow re-enactments.

Peter Kunhardt's King in the Wilderness
Kunhardt's style is nothing remarkable and the music can be overdone and cloying at times, but Kunhardt reveals sides of King's life that adds dimensions to my understanding of him.  Most remarkable to me was the idea of non-violence as the more radical response, as compared to retaliation, to hatred and racism.  According to King, "...if you're really going to be free, you have to overcome the love of wealth and the fear of death."



2018

7/4/18 I watched Peter Kunhardt's King in the Wilderness.  Kunhardt's style is nothing remarkable and the music can be overdone and cloying at times, but Kunhardt reveals sides of King's life that adds dimensions to my understanding of him.  Most remarkable to me was the idea of non-violence as the more radical response, as compared to retaliation, to hatred and racism.  According to King, "...if you're really going to be free, you have to overcome the love of wealth and the fear of death."

7/14/18 I watched Morgan Neville's Won't You Be My Neighbor?  Fred Rogers' life makes for a fascinating film and Neville gets into so much of what makes the story unique and provocative.  My only complaint is I wish there were more interviews from kids, like myself, who grew up watching Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and the way they experienced the show as compared to Rogers' ultimate vision and philosophy behind it.   

7/27/18 I watched Serge Bozon's Mrs. Hyde.  It is a strange film and I am unsure all that Bozon is after but it features yet another tremendous performance from Huppert and visually it all feels incredibly clean and clear.  It is, I guess, a little in the line of The Nutty Professor, but it takes that format to address the deep racism issues facing France at the moment.

8/24/18 I watched Paul Schrader's First Reformed.  Schrader has always seemed like someone on the brink of imploding.  He doesn't come across as one of these guys that easily shares his feelings or is often at peace.  And his greatest characters all embody the same brooding nature that, unchecked, could become dangerous.  I haven't seen all of his work but I am a huge fan of American Gigolo and Affliction and this is perhaps my favorite of all of his films I have seen.  Hawke is perfect in the role and Schrader gives us moments that previously I would not have thought him capable of.  

8/25/18 I watched Lucrecia Martel's Zama.  To be honest, it was one of these films I felt like I missed, like I was just not smart enough to understand.  It reminded me of Herzog's Cobra Verde and while the filmmaking, the acting, the colors, the sound were all extraordinary, I just never found my emotional way in.   

8/30/18 I watched Tim Wardle's Three Identical Strangers.  A pretty fascinating tale.  Not always told in the most artistically impressive manner, perhaps, but compelling and certainly does not go where you might expect.

9/4/18  I watched Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman.  Spike is totally in his element and his passion and talent come through in ways that I haven't seen in his work in more than twenty years.  I found it messy, uneven and raw, as in akin to an early draft that still needed an editor's touch.  But I also thought it the closest American film I have seen in the 21st century to the spirit of the daring and uncomfortable batch of great indies that first burst on the scene in the early to mid eighties.    

9/10/18 I watched Andrew Bujalski's Support the Girls.  Bujalski's intellectual mainstream film is smart, impressive but not always fully compelling.  Bujalski makes the strongest cinematic metaphor yet for the Me Too movement and proves to me for the first time that he might actually be able to make something subversively great from within the Hollywood system.  

10/13/18 I watched Damien Chazelle's First Man.  I was a huge fan of Chazelle's last two features but this one left me quite cold and indifferent.  It seemed very uninspired and had very little to offer in terms of a new voice or feel to an old, stodgy Hollywood genre.  

11/2/18 I watched Orson Welles' The Other Side of the Wind.  Some incredible sequences, certainly, but the editing was frustrating and ultimately defeating for me.  As much as I love Welles, I could not rise to love this one.

11/3/18 I watched Kitao Sakurai's The Passage.  A delirious short film that ran short on interest for me way before it ended.