Friday, April 30, 2010

Favorites Wrap-Up

Favorites Wrap-Up  
Inspired by Dave Hicks over at the tremendous Goodfella's Movie Blog, starting on February 4th I decided to post on my favorite film from each year from 1926-2008.  It's been the most satisfying blogging I've ever done, and I particularly wanted to thank three people who stopped in almost every single day to dialogue with me: Dave Hicks, Sam Juliano, and John Greco.  I can't thank everyone enough who took the time to participate in the countdown.  It's definitely been the highlight of the last several months for me.  

One of the most exciting things about the countdown to me is that it's identified many more films I still want to see.  The list is now a permanent fixture on this blog.  And it's my hope that it will continue to be a source of interaction for you and me.  I will continue filling in the gaps, and each time I see a new film, I will add a short post on it, in red, to its respective year.  I encourage you, as you continue to discover new things, to come back to their respective years and add these films to the conversation, as well.  

To this end, I have added a new column on the right side of my blog, entitled "Recently Watched".  Each time I see something new, I will add it here, along with the short post under its respective year.  I will also continue posting here about my upcoming film, Peril, as well as about any other major moviegoing experiences I have.  

Thank you all for being such great friends of this blog.  You are among the most inspiring cinephiles I have ever met, and I look forward to continuing to follow all your incredible contributions.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

2008: Tulpan (Sergei Dvortsevoy)

2008: Tulpan (Sergei Dvortsevoy) 
This will be the final year I'll tackle.  I wasn't able to see enough last year to confidently put together a post.  But I will do one more post tomorrow, wrapping up the countdown and discussing a little about where we go from here.  

Tulpan, in terms of its bravura filmmaking, could be seen as the rural counterpart to my 2007 entry.  If I had to guess, the film probably has less than 100 cuts.  However, it covers a lot of ground.  It's one of these rare films that pushes my understanding of what's possible in the medium and forces me to reconsider the directions in which I'd like to go.  In fact, if somebody said that I have an endless amount of time and money to do my next project, I would love to take the Mungiu or Dvortsevoy approach.  To me, in terms of sheer technique, this is the most exciting filmmaking I have seen in many, many years. 

What's most inspiring to me about Dvortsevoy's approach is the way he's able to meld a virtuosic spirit with the most quotidian of subjects. It's as if Orson Welles or Stanley Kubrick suddenly took on neorealism. The approach feels completely groundbreaking and new to me.  And when I watch certain scenes, of course the birthing of the lamb is the first come to mind, I feel like the approach is able to produce unprecedented effects and emotions.

Some people bemoan the death of cinema.  But incredibly brave filmmakers like this will continue to open up new doors and directions. I for one continue to believe that the medium is still very young, and that we are only starting to see all its great possibilities.  

Other contenders for 2008: From this year , I still have some things to see.  These include: Stephen Daldry's The Reader, Andrew Stanton's Wall-E, Claire Denis' 35 Shots of Rum, Olivier Assayas' Summer Hours, Abel Ferrara's Chelsea on the Rocks, Hong Sang-soo's Night and Day, Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Tokyo Sonata, Arnaud Desplechin's A Christmas Tale, Hirokazu Kore-ada's Still Walking, and Ole Christian Madsen's Flame & Citron.  At some point, I'll need to revisit Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler as I struggled a little with it the one time I saw it.  But from this year, I really like Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's Lorna's Silence.  I loved Megumi Sasaki's Herb and Dorothy and Claire Denis' 35 Shots of Rum.  And my closest runner-up is Gus Van Sant's Milk.

4/9/10 I watched Claire Denis' 35 Shots of Rum.  The style is absolutely sublime, and I thought Denis sustained poetry and nuance as well as I have ever seen her do.  Perhaps slightly too elusive at times but overall just really powerful stuff for me.  

12/18/10 I watched Arnaud Desplechin's A Christmas Tale.  It's an ambitious work, and at times, Desplechin almost feels like he's inventing a whole new kind of film.  It's modern and moves from lyrical moments to pretty intellectual highs with stylistic ease.  Desplechin is wonderful with actors and a real talent, but here I thought he could have benefitted from subtracting some things.  Not every subplot is satisfying, and the final feel of the film was a bit blurred as a result of its overreaching.

12/19/10 I watched So Yong Kim’s Treeless Mountain.  It’s all one piece -- the colors, the texture, and the mood.  And it’s all done in an incredibly deliberate and artful way.  But I never felt very much, and it all felt a bit claustrophobic to me, with its insistence on filming almost everything in extreme close-up.  

12/23/10 I watched Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Tokyo Sonata.  Kurosawa's lightest and most accessible work I've seen.  It's great to see the director working outside of genre and in territory that's already been masterfully done by Kitano (Fireworks) and Yang (Yi Yi).  Restrained but lyrical with the best final scene I've seen all year.  A wonderful film.    

12/25/10 I watched Kristopher Belman's More Than a Game.  As somewhat of a former athlete, I'm a sucker for this type of story, and much of this side of Lebron James' rise was unfamiliar to me.  I was inspired by the friendship and obstacles these young guys had to overcome.  And I was moved by Coach Jones' struggle.  Not always the most well-made doc, but a story worth telling.

12/28/10 I watched Wendy Keys' Milton Glaser: To Inform and Delight.  Glaser is an interesting person, who was unknown to me before the film.  But the film never finds a terribly riveting way to present him, and I found myself questioning why I was spending this much time with him.  

12/28/10 I watched Antonio Campos' Afterschool.  Clinical and carnal, feels like an American Dumont or Noe.  Air-tight in its calculations and from a distance.  But suspect whenever it approached anything human and more realistic.  

12/29/10 I watched Pablo Larrain's Tony Manero.  Quite the dreary affair.  Exquisite camerawork, at times, and some wonderful performances, but oppressive with seemingly little to no reason.  

12/30/10 I watched Richard Linklater's Me and Orson Welles. Linklater keeps things buoyant, and it all has a pretty charming and harmless spirit.  And McKay, at times, bears a remarkable resemblance to Welles himself.  Just felt a bit incomplete to me.  Welles' lack of doubt made it hard for me to fully connect to him, and I wasn't always sure what to do with Efron.   

1/2/11 I watched Oliver Assayas' Summer Hours.  Assayas brings a realism and vitality that I greatly admire.  And the acting and characters are all incredibly satisfying.  But Assayas seems unwilling to stop and give any one moment too much weight and importance.  While this might be the secret behind his cinema's energy, it also diminishes its weight ultimately.  And isn't it strange that the family would allow a big party to be held at the home, as a new owner buys it and prepares to take it over?

1/4/11 I watched Tim Disney's American Violet.  It's a pretty traditional David v Goliath story, but there are some moments where this smaller budget indy acquits itself well.  I enjoyed Will Patton and Anthony Mackie, as always.  And newcomer Nicole Behaire does a pretty fine job, too.  Just wish it was a little more imaginative in terms of its use of music, and some of its directorial approach.  

1/7/11 I watched Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler.  Of the Aronofsky I've seen, it's the one I like the most so far.  But I still find him to be someone that enjoys causing the audience pain.  And his esthetic, at times, the jump cuts and ugly cinematography, really don't do it for me.   

1/8/11 I watched Gerardo Neranjo's I'm Gonna Explode.  The film the most influenced by Pierrot Le Fou that I've ever seen.  And when it's really riffing on one of my all-time faves, I think it's at its strongest.  But it neither has Godard's wisdom, incredible sense of humor, nor formal inventiveness.  Plus Maru has nowhere near the beauty of Anna Karina. And so its energy wanes about halfway in.

1/13/11 I watched Lance Daly's Kisses.  Had a lot of heart, but the filmmaking, and most of everything else, felt pretty thin to me.  

1/14/11 I watched Lisandro Alonso's Liverpool.  As incredibly beautiful as it is painfully slow.  An art film with a big ole capital A, the kind that would have Pauline Kael turning over in her grave.  

1/19/11 I watched Steve Jacobs' Disgrace.  A tough movie for me to get a handle on, not really sure what the filmmakers were hoping to say.  At times, I felt it was entirely nihilistic, while other moments made me think there was a sliver of hopeful outlook within these rough circumstances.  All in all, a little mixed on it as the characters' motivations seemed unfounded in any reality I could fully recognize.    

1/22/11 I watched Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York.  I'm in a huge minority, someone that has always struggled with Kaufman's work, and it's not really a different story here.  I admire his quirky outlook and his unique modernism, but emotionally and intellectually I just end up frustrated.  The acting's quite impressive though and so are some of Elmes' visuals.

1/30/11 I watched Hirokazu Koreeda's Still Walking.  The third of the director's films I've seen, and he continues to be among my favorite of all the contemporary Asian directors.  He's definitely a humanist, and there are moments that carry a tremendous power.  Not perfect, I particularly found a little fault with the saccharine nature of some of the score.  But all in all a memorable effort from one of the few directors still carrying Ozu's torch. 

2/12/11 I watched Joe Swanberg's Nights and Weekends.  It was my first experience with a Swanberg film, and I certainly liked it much more than I expected.  The writing at times was very sharp, and I liked how uninhibited and intimate it could be.  It also captured feelings and things about life in one's twenties that seem rare on screen.  But I don't like Swanberg much as an actor, and there's something smug about his overall tone and approach.  

3/24/11 I watched Abel Ferrara's Chelsea on the Rocks.  Made with Ferrara's typical deceptively unpolished style,  a strong documentary from the ever probing auteur.  The material is perfect for Ferrara as he's able to filter the seediness of the Chelsea into his own debauched yet weirdly humanistic perspective. Certainly not for everyone, but fans of Ferrara will feel his work continues to evolve and excel.  

6/4/11 I watched Nash Edgerton's The Square.  I didn't care very much for the ending.  But Edgerton definitely shows skill at the genre and a real inventiveness at times both in terms of his plotting and filmmaking.  Will be interesting to see what he does next.

2/4/12 I watched Hong Sang-soo's Night and Day.  There is something really impressive about Hong's cinema, and he is perhaps the greatest successor to Rohmer that we have right now.  The use of the zoom was particularly masterful here.  But the film ends up being overly long and pretty unlikeable and cold by the time it comes to a close.  

11/27/15 I watched Marc Forster's Quantum of Solace.  After a very positive experience with Casino Royale, I had high expectations for this next film in the Craig/Bond series.  I have never been a fan of Forster's work though and this one proves in my mind yet again that he is neither a great builder of character nor an action director with any real inspiration.  

9/25/17 I watched Adam McKay's Step Brothers.  Some funny moments for sure although it does not have the shape or heart of the the very best comedies.  

11/17/17 I watched Agnes Varda's The Beaches of Agnes.  Although I still do not know Varda's cinema well at all (to date, I have only seen this and Cleo), I am very interested in tracking down more of her work.  Her cinema feels like some gourmet confection - inventive, sophisticated, quirky and most impressively, light.  I have seen a few other filmmakers go down this path of personal essay or stream of conscious autobiography (Marker and Godard, particularly).  But neither is able to articulate their personality and give you a feel for who they might be as a person better than Varda does here.

12/23/18 I watched Matt Wolf's Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell.  One of those documentaries that immediately convince you to go out and dig into the work of the featured artist.  Prior to watching the film, I had only heard one song by Russell and now I am very curious to spend more time seeing what he was all about.  He strikes me as part Scott Walker, part Mark Hollis and perhaps part Nick Drake.    

1/19/20 I watched Miguel Gomes' Our Beloved Month of August.  As much as I love Gomes' next two features, I never fully connected to this one.  It had a few stylistic bursts that were exciting and signaled to the greatness ahead but otherwise I had to push myself through to the end.

8/28/20 I watched Olivier Bohler's Code Name Melville.  A great documentary for anyone interested in the French crime film master.  Really insightful interviews from friends, fellow filmmakers and critics.  I particularly liked the following two comments:  1.  That what Melville made really were "urban westerns" 2.  That even though he admired American filmmakers like Wyler, that his style was more akin to Bresson than Wyler or any of Wyler's American contemporaries.

10/11/23 I watched Ryusuke Hamaguchi's Passion.  An early film from the great Japanese filmmaker.  For the first time, I see influences of Woody Allen, in the way he uses the Gershwin music, and I also see him working through other cinematic influences like Cassavetes.  It is an early work that shows how far he has come over the last 15 years.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

2007: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu)

2007: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu)
It only seems apt that the two directorial achievements that most impressed me over the last decade are my final two picks of the countdown.  

I have long been interested in the idea of an aesthetic that captures the real with methods that are precise and  formal.  It's a difficult balance to strike as many films aiming for something more formal usually end up distancing themselves from reality.  Meanwhile, films that want to feel real will often end up sacrificing a formal system for something more intimate and immediate.   

When I saw Mungiu's film, I was shocked at how well he was able to achieve this balance as I describe it above.  His film is one of the most technically complex films I have ever seen.  Yet, somehow he is able to insert this approach into something that always feels incredibly real and alive.  

I guess we can chalk it up to many things: acting, writing, production design, lighting, and cinematography.  In other words, filmmaking.  It seems that everything must be working in great harmony for Mungiu to achieve this result.  

All I can say is I can't think of a more harrowing scene than the negotiation with the "doctor".  Nor can I think of a scene more rife with tension than when Otilia and Adi attend the birthday party.  This is filmmaking of the highest order.  Brave, emotional, and one of the most remarkable achievements I can remember seeing in a very long time.      

Other contenders for 2007: From this year, I still have some things to see.  These include:  Tony Gilroy's Michael Clayton, Andrew Dominik's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Catherine Breillat's The Last Mistress, Pedro Costa's Colossal Youth, Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Jacques Rivette's Don't Touch the Axe, and Abderrahmane Sissako's Bamako. At some point, I need to revisit Joe Wright's Atonement as I did struggle with it a little the one time I saw it.  But I do really like The Coen Brothers' No Country for Old Men, Grant Gee's Joy Division, Abel Ferrara's Go Go Tales, and David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises.  I love Tina Mascara and Guido Santi's Chris & Don. A Love Story.  And my closest runner-up is Garth Jennings' Son of Rambow.  

12/22/10 I watched Aaron Katz's Quiet City.  Light and sweet, Katz has heart, and it shows.  I don't find his writing as interesting as Bujalski's, nor his ability to capture nuance and awkwardness as skilled as Bujalski's talents.  But Katz has some of David Gordon Green's feeling for sound/image and creates a couple of tremendous moments here. The scene of the four young adults dancing at the house party might be my favorite scene all year.  I look forward to seeing more of Katz.  It's works like this one that continue to keep me interested in mumblecore and somewhat optimistic about micro-budget filmmaking.  

12/23/10 I watched Cristian Nemescu's California Dreamin'.  Some interesting subtext about Americans and their relationship to the outside world.  But the filmmaking all felt a bit sloppy, overlong, and haphazard.  

1/6/10 I watched Andrew Dominik's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.  There's much to recommend here, even though a strong emotional connection is not one of them.  Deakins and Cave both do some brilliant work, and Deakins' blurry effect is particularly noteworthy.  Probably most noteworthy though is Casey Affleck.  It's an incredibly interesting performance that makes me think we might see some extraordinary work from him in the very near future. The length of this one is probably my biggest problem with it, although its emotional distance can make it somewhat frustrating, as well.  

1/31/11 I watched Catherine Breillat's The Last Mistress.  Breillat does sex and shock very well, but both of these run their course after awhile if the depth and humanity aren't there.  I like some of Breillat's work a good bit, but this one hardly connected at all with me. 

2/6/11 I watched Tony Gilroy's Michael Clayton.  It's in the vein of some of my favorite films, The Insider and All the President's Men.  The script here is exceptional, and Clooney is wonderful in the part.  Elswit also shoots with great care and precision.  I just wish they had found someone a little more subtle than Newton Howard to do the score, and I'm completely unconvinced by where they chose to leave things (should have come earlier or later and in a different way).  As is, just feels anti-climatic and a disservice to much of the good work preceding it.

2/25/11 I watched Chris Smith's The Pool.  Only having seen his doc, American Movie, I wasn't sure what to expect here, but it seems like a total departure.  Smith brings a clean, naturalistic style to this tale, and his level of restraint is most impressive.  He never, I don't think, gives us a close-up, when it would be such an easy way out.  After awhile, I didn't feel the tale really built on itself, but I was glad to know that it exists.  It's a very unique American narrative film. 

10/6/11 I watched Jacques Rivette's Don't Touch the Axe.  I'm still trying to fully embrace Rivette.  His approach is pure, rigorous, and entirely admirable.  But it's so leisurely and devoid of any real entertainment value, plus inclined to period work, that I ultimately find it quite distancing. 

10/11/11 I watched Ronald Bronstein's Frownland.  Definitely an indy UFO worth a look and worthy of discussion.  It's like a more abrasive, in-your-face Clean, Shaven.  Disturbing, frustrating, and utterly original, will be interesting to see what sort of career Bronstein will have.  It's much more interesting than Aronofsky's Pi;  just too bad we're no longer in 1998.  

8/2/14 I watched Kent Jones' Val Lewton: The Man in the Shadows.  Jones could be an esteemed documentarian or a well known one if that was his desired path.  He is among the most astute and articulate of English-speaking cinephiles and his homage to Lewton is proof yet again (as if he needed anything else to support that claim).  Jones gives us a succinct yet heartfelt essay on the producer who should be far more of a household name.  His two hands full of films deserve to be an even greater part of the conversation and I imagine their reputation will only continue to grow as the years pass.  A required look for anyone interested in knowing more about the great Lewton.  

5/24/15 I watched Gerald Peary's For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism.  Covered a decent amount of familiar ground for me, but I still really appreciated it, particularly for bringing some of the earlier American critics to my attention (Woods, Lindsay and Sherwood) and for finally providing some faces for what are now very familiar names. 

10/26/15 I watched Abdellatif Kechiche's The Secret of the Grain.  The fact that this masterful work is little known in the States sums up the devastated state for the current American cinephile.  To seek out a film like this in 2015 is to be so incredibly marginalized, so alone in your interest and passsion, to survive you might have to focus on the positive of having been able to have somehow spotted Kechiche's achievement among the overwhelming wreckage.  Kechiche's cinema is up to so much all at once.  Formally it is a unique mixing of Dardenne ingredients (non-actors, industrial locations, faded colors, lack of Hollywood coverage) with Cassavetes' nervy, documentary-type editing.  Emotionally it is an odd pairing of Scorsese's visceral moments of discomfort coupled with Rossellini's mystic humanism.  It is a much different film than the only other film I have seen so far from Kechiche, Blue is the Warmest Color and yet another modern day classic.  Kechiche is one of the greats, regardless whether our culture even knows who he is.    

10/27/15 I watched Christophe Honore's Love Songs.  Less seemingly interested in Demy's bourgeois milieu and more in sync with the angst and edge of early Carax, Honore is so very French.  While he has some of the early New Wave's playfulness and Desplechin's interest in the twenty set his sensibility veers off into this strange terrain of gothic and poetic alienation.  

12/17/17 I watched Lee Chang-dong's Secret Sunshine.  I loved his film Poetry and was curious to see something else from the filmmaker.  Again, a female character is his focus and his sensibility soft, poetic and acutely perceptive.  This one is tough terrain, the loss of a child, and not always a terribly enjoyable viewing but it always feels honest and actor filmmaking of the highest order.

12/29/19 I watched Eric Rohmer's The Romance of Astrea and Celadon.  I'm not sure enough has been written about the transcendent nature, and effect of Rohmer's cinema.  Although he is known, at least in The States more as the French Woody Allen, the austerity of his cinema is far more akin to the work of Ozu, Bresson or Dreyer.  Sure he is masterful in his simplicity and his work with the actors but his greatest strength is the way he keeps the viewer's desire constantly withheld.  The viewer wants action, consummated emotion, stylistic flourishes that are exciting.  Rohmer refuses, and in so doing, hopes to force the viewer into accepting a different type of experience with his cinema.  As his stories unfold, Rohmer continues to pile complexity onto the situations and emotions of his characters, meanwhile depriving and denying them any real catharsis or climax.  His hope is that by withholding a release until the very end, the final moments take on a power and magnitude that would have never been reached or possible any other way. 

6/24/20 I watched Charles Burnett's Quiet as Kept.  Not top shelf Burnett but another work for anyone interested in one of the most unsung artists still working in American cinema.  

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

2006: L'enfant (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne)

2006: L'enfant (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne) 
I saw La promesse and Rosetta in theaters when they first came out.  I was lukewarm on both and then ignored the next ten years worth of Dardenne releases.  But finally after some prodding and encouragement from friends, I caught up with L'enfant, The Son, and Lorna's Silence. I tell you all this to explain that I've done a complete about-face on these directors and now consider their work one of the most interesting things going right now.  I haven't gone back and revisited their earlier work yet, but I would assume I would have a much more favorable reaction to it now, too.  

More than anything, I respect that the Dardennes, like Kiarostami and Hou Hsiao-hsien, have a real formal system guiding their work.  It's conceived with great thought and then executed with laser precision. The three later films I mention above all feel very Bressonian to me, though I can't concede quite yet that the Dardennes' heights of transcendence are on the same level as the great French director. 

But I greatly admire the level of restraint they exhibit throughout their work.  I also respect the lively, real performances the Dardennes are able to elicit.  They came up making documentaries, and their ability to create a "real", fictional world is far superior to most.  

For the moment, the brothers might be just a notch below Bresson, but the chase sequence in this one rivals, and maybe even surpasses, the great heist scene on the train in Pickpocket.  I'm excited to see whatever they do from here.  I truly think they're among today's masters.    

Other contenders for 2006: From this year, I still have some things to see.  These include: Jafar Panahi's Offside, Hou Hsiao-hsien's Cafe Lumiere, Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain, Spike Lee's Inside Man, Pedro Almodovar's Volver, Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers, Abbas Kiarostami's Roads of Kiarostami, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's The Lives of Others, and Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth.  I really like Stephen Frears' The Queen.  And my closest runner-up is Hou Hsiao-hsien's Three Times.  

11/23/10 I watched Shane Meadows' This Is England.  Meadows has energy, verve, and a very good way with his actors.  Stephen Graham, in particular, is spot-on and incredibly dangerous every moment he's on screen.  Meadows can be a little overwrought at times for my taste.  And I'd prefer a little more shape to his storytelling.  But all in all, a pretty enjoyable flick.  

11/26/10 I watched Emanuele Crialese's Golden Door.  Gainsbourg is incredibly compelling, and it's a nice tale about a part of Ellis Island entry that I've never heard.  Moving, at times, though the the flights of fancy didn't always completely jell for me.  

12/17/10 I watched Pedro Almodovar's Volver.  It's a complex tale about regret, artfully delivered by Almodovar.  Some of it might be a little messy and slack, but Cruz delivers a weighty performance that makes it all pretty worthwhile.

12/31/10 I watched Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's The Lives of Others.  The director does a very fine job of going into expected places, and coming out of them with unexpected solutions.  He's at his very most successful in the film's final moment.  This idea of doing things for others, selfless, without expecting acclaim or recognition and no matter the consequences, affected me pretty deeply.  A bit too clean, and Hollywood neat at times in its formal approach.  But definitely a story patiently, and very intelligently told.  

1/25/11 I watched Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain.  It's a bit too elusive for my taste, and Weisz didn't completely captivate me as I would need to be from her role.  But Mansell proves once again that he's among the most talented composers in the world, and Jackman actually impressed me more than ever.  

11/26/11 I watched Tsai Ming-liang's I Don't Want to Sleep Alone. Tsai's cinema is remarkably consistent from film to film, thematically, rhythmically, and formally.  No one does loneliness and modern alienation, post-Antonioni, as well as Tsai.  And there's a repressed sexuality about his work that's as strong in its charge as Lynch, Cronenberg, or anyone else.

7/28/12 I watched Steven Cantor and Matthew Galkin's loudQUIETloud: A Film About the Pixies.  Borderline boring doc about an extremely interesting group.  Never goes into what made these guys who they were, and after awhile the surface approach becomes frustrating.  

8/9/12 I watched Stephen Kijak's Scott Walker: 30 Century Man.  What I liked most is the fact that the filmmakers don't shy away from Walker's darkness.  The film is granted nice access to Walker, and I certainly left with somewhat of a better understanding.  Could have gone deeper and could have explored Walker's quip about "imbibing".  But all in all a worthy doc if you're interested in learning a little more about Scott Walker.  

11/23/12 I watched Ha Yoo's A Dirty Carnival.  There's a visceral energy and an angle of originality that make this gangster epic of immediate interest.  The lead character sucks you in and this world of violence without guns at first feels all the more disturbing.  But a little too much of everything by the end had me more worn down than inspired.  

6/9/13 I watched Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette.  Up to now, I have been skeptical of Coppola's approach - wall-to-wall hipness masking a questionable amount of depth.  And the same issues could certianly be raised here.  Yet I found her style fitting this time around, allowing us to feel Marie's listlessness and difficulties in an effective way that a more traditional, period piece may not have given us.

11/26/15 I watched Martin Campbell's Casino Royale.  It is the first time I have seen a Craig-starring Bond film and he is quite good.  First of all he might be the strongest actor of all of the Bonds and he just exudes the unusual mix of charm and guile I have come to think of with Bond.  The big difference is his Bond is a little more violent, a little more hands-on, more often full of visible scratches and bruises than boyish and dapper.  This Bond is a bit at the end of his line and Campbell/Craig seem to have a good thing going on.  The movie is non-stop action and although not always artful it is very good entertainment.  

11/14/16 I watched Bong Joon-ho's The Host.  It is an impressively large-scaled South Korean production that Les Inrockuptibles consider very highly.  It might have a lot to say about government, media, and the frenzies created around potential threats and viruses.  Unfortunately it is tough for me to take seriously, beyond its slick spectacle, as well done as it may be.  

6/20/17 I watched Andy Fickman's She's the Man.  Not the type of movie I normally watch but cute for what it was and Bynes has tons of charm to spare.

10/23/17 I watched Werner Herzog's Rescue Dawn.  Herzog is in the Hollywood system as much as I have ever seen but comes through, for the most part, true to form.  Herzog finds in Bale another perfect embodiment for his distorted heroism and proves once again that he can bring out the jungle of the jungle better than anyone who has ever worked in the medium.  The movie falters towards the end when it seems Herzog is trying to grasp at more Hollywood convention but otherwise it finds a unique, compelling voice within a well-worn genre.

6/13/20 I watched Jafar Panahi's Offside.  An interesting metaphor and concept that provide for a memorable commentary on Iranian culture.  But overall I found it claustrophobic and a bit monotonous after a while.

7/5/20 I watched Hong Sang-soo's Woman on the Beach.  Definitely a Hong film and very admirable for its simplicity and sense of harmony.  I did not love it quite as much as my favorite films from the South Korean director but an enjoyable film for any Hong fan.

12/15/21 I watched Spike Lee's When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts.  One of the strongest qualities of Lee's work is the way he repeatedly uses the medium to talk about his anger with the treatment of African-American people in this country.  He sometimes finds dramatic ways to do it and he also often does it by having a strong comedic voice.  And regardless of the type of story Lee is telling, he gives it a flashy cinematic style that makes it all go down a little more easily.  

They say the flip side of anger is sadness.  This doc made for HBO might be the first Lee film I have seen (there are many and I can't claim to have seem them all) that embraces the sadness rather than the anger.  It is also the first Lee film that seems to background style and let the people and events stand for themselves.  As a result, it packs a weighty punch and stands up there with the greatest achievements of his career so far.    

3/31/22 I watched John Scheinfeld's Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him)?  I always loved Nilsson's song in Midnight Cowboy but I had never delved into the rest of his work which I can now begin to tell you is surprisingly rich and rewarding.  A fascinating portrait for anyone like me that loves Dylan, Scott Walker, Rufus Wainwright and countless other singer-songwriters.

6/11/22 I watched Sarah Polley's Away from Her.  The acting is tremendous and I commend Polley for working with material that feels original and true to life.  It's the style of the film that impressed me less.  I found it difficult to see any logical organization or meaningful structure to how the story was told.

8/7/22 I watched Karen Moncrieff's The Dead Girl.  Most interesting is the way the screenplay is put together, puzzle-like and episodic, where you are never quite in sync with it until the very last few seconds.  

11/13/22 I watched Jia Zhangke’s Still Life.  I am aware that Zhangke is highly revered in circles I admire but this is probably the first film of his I’ve seen in its entirety.  In its rigor - long takes and prominent film sound - it reminded me of 80s and 90s Hou Hsiao-hsien.  Its painterly lighting and framing of the highest order also recall the mastery of Hou.  Slow, thoughtful and with a touch of fantasy that yearns for something other than the every day grind of 21st century China, a great example of a great 21st century art film.

Monday, April 26, 2010

2005: Les amants reguliers (Philippe Garrel)

2005: Les amants reguliers (Philippe Garrel) 
I love to lose myself in certain movies, particularly those movies that abandon more traditional time structures and suck you into their temporal vortex.  I'm thinking of movies like McCabe & Mrs. Miller, The Mother and the Whore, and this 2005 entry from Philippe Garrel.  I had the good fortune of seeing it in a Parisian theater and remember leaving transformed with a completely different viewpoint for the next couple of days.

The first half of the film, the 1968 riot footage, is shot in such an obscure way that it helps further push the viewer into this other space. By the time we arrive in the more drug-induced part of the film, there's a certain hazy quality that is now shared between film and viewer.

A challenging film, I would say.  But also one of the more poetic and audacious films I've seen in a long time.  Garrel, along with longtime Rivette collaborator DP William Lubtchansky, create a unique, cinematic world that after 183 minutes seems to end far too soon.

Other contenders for 2005:  From this year, I still have some things to see.  These include: Steven Spielberg's Munich, Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven, Hong Sang-soo's Tale of Cinema, Alain Resnais' Not on the Lips, Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Tropical Malady, Lajos Koltai's Fateless, Philip Groning's Into Great Silence, and Jacques Audiard's The Beat That My Heart Skipped.  I've struggled a little with Terrence Malick's The New World  the couple of times I've seen it.  Yet, I know that many people I respect and admire place this one extremely high.  I'm not sure exactly what's keeping me from embracing it fully, but I haven't gotten there quite yet.  From this year though I really like Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain and Bennett Miller's Capote even if I can't say either is a close runner-up.  

12/8/10 I watched Craig Brewer's Hustle & Flow.  Brewer brings both a tremendous vitality and heart to the film.  And Howard's performance is delivered with such an amazing amount of conviction.  Perhaps slightly messy and overwrought at times.  But a film that deserved to put Brewer firmly on the map.  It's also a film that hits on things such as the incredible vulnerability and anxiety that come with trying to be discovered and the grit and hustle necessary to achieve success in a creative profession.  

12/15/10 I watched Steven Spielberg's Munich.  Some of my reservations with Spielberg are on display -- his questionable sense of humor, his lapses into sentimentality, and his taste in music.  But it's also as clear as ever that when he puts his mind to it his formal skills are up there with any of the masters.  The action sequences -- the opening of the film, when Avner first flashes back to "Black Sunday" while asleep on the airplane, the phone bomb, the attempted killing in London, and the first murder in Italy -- are all incredible in their grace, energy, and effectiveness.  In fact, they are probably the strongest set of action sequences I've seen since Heat.  A film with several flaws, overly wordy, overlong, and uneven.  But when it's great, it's a classic.      

1/2/11 I watched Stephen Gaghan's Syriana.  There are some very nice moments.  But Gaghan feels like he's trying to tell us the story of the world, and it all feels a little overcooked to me.  Taking on so many intersecting stories, I also found myself having trouble fully connecting to anyone.  Wright's character particularly felt a bit distant.  Desplat does some very strong work though.  I just wish Gaghan didn't feel the need to hit us wall-to-wall with it.

1/28/11 I watched Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven.  The director's cut of this one has a pretty big reputation among some of the blogosphere critics, and it could very well differ dramatically from this cut I just saw. This one though had little to keep my attention or to impress.  It had almost no moments for me and felt messy all around.  

2/5/11 I watched Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds.   Really didn't connect with it at all.  I like Tom Cruise as an action star, but this one just seemed devoid of any true tension, for the most part, and in serious need of some depthful characters.  As is, I just found it very boring and cold.

12/31/11 I watched Martin Scorsese's No Direction Home.  Should go down as one of the greatest of all Scorsese films and the single best doc on Dylan.  It's moving, informative, incredibly cinematic, and really captures the great one at his absolute, creative peak.  

7/28/12 I watched Tim Irwin's We Jam Econo - The Story of the Minutemen.  Great doc in just how intimate and up close it puts you with the band.  About as satisfying of a portrait of a band as I have ever seen on film - between the long, un-cut performance footage to the informal dialogue with the band.

7/28/12 I watched Lian Lunson's Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man.  I loved it when Leonard or someone else was talking about Leonard.  I was less interested hearing others sing his songs.  Overall, a worthwhile watch, I guess, for the real fan, but otherwise a bit underwhelming.

8/5/12 I watched Greg Whiteley's New York Doll.  A satisfying look at the mythical group.  Would have loved a little more vintage footage but moving and redemptive for this band that never fully got its due.

6/11/17 I watched Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man.  Having recently been in Alaska,  I was especially interested in seeing this now even if it had been on my radar since first coming out.  Herzog's unique sensibility and world view really come through and his restraint and humanism were surprising given what I thought I knew about him.  It is far from Wiseman's world of documentary but it is still of great interest with a different type of rigor.  

8/19/17 I watched Stuart Samuels' Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream.  A very informative look at a special era in American cinema.  Great interviews abound from Hoberman to Rosenbaum, Barenholtz to Romero, Waters to Lynch.  I finished watching and now want to go watch all five movies that are its focus - El Topo, Pink Flamingos, Night of the Living Dead, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Eraserhead.  

9/23/19 I watched Hong Sang-soo's Tale of Cinema.  The sixth feature from the South Korean filmmaker shows his style already fully intact as well as his interest in films-within-a-film.  A bit heavier than my favorite films of his but still worth a look for fans of Hong who are interested in taking in his entire filmography.

11/1/21 I watched Ying Liang's Taking Father Home.  Some people I respect think highly of this film and I can see its strengths - its patience, its willingness to observe with distance and to listen offscreen and its ability with the cinematic ellipsis.  I can also see weaknesses - an overreliance on music and an often ugly visual aesthetic.

6/3/22 I watched Alex Gibney's Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.  A fairly interesting look at the rise and fall of Enron.  Gibney's style is a bit tawdry but a decently entertaining watch.  

11/15/22 I watched Gus Van Sant's Last Days.  There are a couple of scenes that jump off the screen like the slow dolly back as Pitt jams alone through the window.  But it's a real drag to get through and Van Sant's style for me feels more grating than illuminating after a while.

1/24/24 I rewatched Martin Scorsese's No Direction Home: Bob Dylan.  I still think it's the most "enlightening" doc on Dylan I have seen to date.  

3/10/24 I watched Frederick Wiseman's The Garden.  By no means one of Wiseman's most affecting works.  But I found the editing of the spectators at the Golden Gloves fight unusually effective in communicating the types of people who come out to watch boxing and the speech by the NY head of the NAACP reinforced the feeling I have long had that, along with John Ford, Wiseman is the deepest examiner in our nation's cinema of what it means to be an American.  

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Lullaby/Peril Updates

Probably the single best way to keep up with The Last Lullaby and Peril is to receive our monthly e-mail updates.  All you have to do is send an e-mail to or

Here's a copy of our latest update that went out this past Friday:

April 23, 2010
Thank you all for taking time to register for our updates. Today I will cover four topics:
- MovieMaker Reboot!
- Next Peril Event
- Lullaby News
- Other Fun Stuff

MovieMaker Reboot!

I'm very excited to announce that I have resumed my blog with MovieMaker, "the world's best-selling independent movie magazine".  MovieMaker has decided to reboot my favorite film from 1926-2008 series that I have been doing for the last several months over at the LULLABY/PERIL blog.  This reboot will bring a whole new audience to the series, and I hope some of you will visit, too:

I also will be documenting LULLABY/PERIL on my new blog for MovieMaker. 
*For most of last year, I blogged weekly for MovieMaker. These posts can be found here:

Next Peril Event

All is going great with PERIL. One of the most fun things we've been doing lately is periodic chats on the internet, using ustream.  This technology allows everyone to tune in at a certain time, see and hear me, and converse using a chat box.  We have our next ustream chat this Tuesday at 9PM, CST.  All of you can tune in from your computer, anywhere in the world, simply by visiting:

An account with ustream is free, but you will need to sign up in order to enable a chat box.  It's a great, new tool. And here's video from our last ustream chat to give you a sense of how they work:

Lullaby News

I will keep you posted on new developments for THE LAST LULLABY.  In the upcoming issue of Videoscope magazine (, there is a wonderful review of the film as well as a fantastic piece, written about LULLABY by Max Allan Collins.  There's also this really nice interview I did recently:

Other Fun Stuff

And just a reminder: over at the PERIL Facebook group (, we're doing a daily movie trivia game.  Each day's winner will be entered into a drawing to win a role as an extra while we're filming PERIL.  The movie trivia game will continue until we hit 3,000 members.  At that time, we'll have the drawing.  We're having fun with it, and I hope that many of you will join the group and come play with us. 
Lastly, as I mentioned in my previous update, I have created several places for people to begin following PERIL.  Here are all the different places we have so far. I hope that many of you will join us here: 
e-mail updates (simply send an e-mail to 
Thank you all for your incredible support.  I couldn't be more excited about the road ahead.  As always, if you have any questions, hit reply and your e-mail will come to me. 
Please keep spreading the word!  You guys are the best. 
Jeffrey Goodman
Chaillot Films

2004: Million Dollar Baby (Clint Eastwood)

2004: Million Dollar Baby (Clint Eastwood) 
A tough year for me to choose.  The Fuller film really blew me away.  But I finally gave the year to Clint as he just strikes me as a model of simplicity, modest craftsmanship, and intelligence that seems somewhat special in today's landscape.

I do like more audacious cinema, and I often find myself wowed and inspired by some of the medium's greater stylists, but minimalism and simplicity at the height of post-modernism also feels most welcome.  I won't deny that this one can be overly-sentimental at times.  But I think it has real heart, three strong performances (Eastwood, Freeman, and Swank), and a really nice look, too.

I keep wondering, who will carry on this tradition of classicism and professionalism once Clint is gone?  I really think he's one of the treasures of American cinema. 

Other contenders for 2004:  From this year, I still have some titles to see.  These include: Eric Rohmer's Triple Agent, Martin Scorsese's The Aviator, Pedro Almodovar's Bad Education, Zhuangzhuang Tian's Springtime in a Small Town, Oliver Hirschbiegel's Downfall, Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Bahman Ghobadi's Turtles Can Fly, Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski's Born Into Brothels, and Yoji Yamada's The Hidden Blade.  I love Hong Sang-soo's Woman Is the Future of Man.  And my closest runner-up is Samuel Fuller's The Big Red One: The Reconstruction.  

1/28/11 I watched Martin Scorsese's The Aviator.  DiCaprio was terrific, as I always think he is, and the movie, when it's really dealing with Hughes and all he went through, is quite affecting.  But I found it too meandering, deviod of enough insight into Hughes' real motivations, and a bit flat whenever Blanchett as Hepburn was on screen.

2/2/11 I watched Wong Kar-Wai's 2046.  I'm not sure anyone has been more inventive formally in the last twenty years than Wong Kar-Wai. And I'm pretty sure no one uses slo-mo in a more refreshing and unique way.  But here his style seems to really overwhelm a story that's in desperate need of some shape and some depthful characters.  

3/18/11 I watched Arnaud Desplechin's Kings & Queen.  There's a vitality and playfulness at times that make Desplechin feel like the most correct, contemporary successor of the French New Wave.  But with this vitality comes a certain messiness and muddiness that I often find trying and frustrating.  No doubt Desplechin is a sharp writer and wonderful with actors, particularly his women.  I find though he lacks a filter that keeps his films from really floating, in the way of my favorite works of the Nouvelle Vague.  

4/22/11 I watched Hirokazu Koreeda's Nobody Knows.  Feels like a pretty big departure for the director.  Whereas most of his films tend towards a poetic reality, this film seems under the influence of the Dardenne brothers.  I prefer the other Koreeda though, as this one is unable to elevate itself above a study of misery.  Specifically, the director doesn't seem to possess the Dardenne brothers' ability to offer those real moments of transcendence in the midst of bleakness and despair. 

7/4/11 I watched Bahman Ghobadi's Turtles Can Fly.  A bit more stylized than A Time for Drunken Horses and perhaps slightly too melodramatic.  But a hard, unflinching look at a part of the world that we rarely see. 

7/17/11 I watched Sean Baker's Take Out.  It's really part of one of my less favorite tendencies in American independent cinema right now.  That is, an inexpensive naturalism that consists of almost non-stop extreme close-ups, handheld camerawork, and a claimed continuation of Italian neo-realism.  I don't see it though.  These American films don't have the budgets to show enough of the world to make us feel like we're seeing things how they really are. 

10/3/11 I watched Eric Rohmer's Triple Agent.  Another example of Rohmer's sly, one-of-a-kind filmmaking.  But this one appealed a little less to me as I missed Rohmer's more contemporary trappings.  

10/17/11 I watched Claire Denis' L'intrus.  The most challenging of the Denis films I've seen so far.  Filmmaking of the highest order as she is truly one of the most gifted filmmakers working today, but her sensory experiments go too far for me here.  I like the wanderings but finally want something to bind it all together, and it never comes.  

10/18/16 I watched Pedro Almodovar's Bad Education.  Almodovar seems to be growing as a stylist as he gets older.  This one is complex, full of elegant camera movements and full of tricky dissolves, iris shots and other cinematic flair.  Almodovar is in Hitch territory which he does quite well even if I do not think it is an ideal fit for his daring wit and deep empathy for the outsider.  

10/23/16 I watched Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.  Anderson's 8 1/2 is visually impressive and beautifully art directed but his fey cinema continues to leave me cold.  He is too self-conscious, too cool and ultimately I have a really difficult time caring about the characters in his films.

10/11/17 I watched Christopher Bird and Kevin Brownlow's So Funny It Hurt: Buster Keaton & MGM.  It's a depressing period in Keaton's life, interesting to know about but a bit of a drag to watch.

10/27/17 I watched Werner Herzog's The White Diamond.  Graham Dorrington feels like a Herzog character and some of the footage is moving or zany in that way that is pure Herzog.  But it also all feels too familiar, like Herzog just doing Herzog again.

3/25/18 I watched Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Tropical Malady.  One of the more challenging works I have seen in a while and I am not positive I fully grasped all that "Joe" is doing.  The second half of the film is very unexpected and is as abstract and elusive as the first half is palpable and clear.

5/10/18 I watched Gavin O'Connor's Miracle.  A good sports film with some great lessons in leadership from the coach.  

10/19/22 I watched Xan Cassavetes' Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession.  It just so happens it is the second film I have seen in a row about a special period for the art film in the United States.  The previous film was Searching for Mr. Rugoff.  Both are worth a look but Jerry Harvey struck me as the more important figure and this work by Cassavetes felt far better shaped than Deutchman's tribute to Donald Rugoff.

11/20/22 I watched Tian Zhuangzhuang's Delamu.  The setting and some of the interviews are moving but the music is crummy and the lack of rigor kept me at a distance.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

2003: All the Real Girls (David Gordon Green)

2003: All the Real Girls (David Gordon Green)
I'm one of those in favor of the auteur theory.  I do believe in most cases that the best films are made by the best directors and that in most cases, the directors are the "authors" of their films.  However, what I think is perhaps undervalued in this idea is the contribution of some of the great cameramen, composers, editors, art directors, and producers.  Film is a collaborative medium, and many of the great directors benefit substantially from their relationship with their great collaborators.

Here is a perfect example.  There's no doubt in my mind that David Gordon Green is unusually talented.  But I also think his cameraman, Tim Orr, is an exceptional talent.  Just look at Orr's work outside of Green, a film like Raising Victor Vargas, and it's clear that Orr has a style all his own.

But when together, to these eyes, Green and Orr are the most poetic visual stylists of their generation.  Their work is earthy, muted but natural, and incredibly picturesque.  Like Bujalski, there's also a touch of grace and class to their approach that separates them from many of the other independents.

Green's cinema is mannered -- particularly his unusual dialogue, offbeat casting, deliberate pacing, and lack of conventional narratives -- and frustrates some.  But I'm a fan, and all of his work so far, this is my favorite.    

Other contenders for 2003:  From this year, I still have some things to see.  These include: Francois Ozon's Swimming Pool, Peyton Reed's Down with Love, Abbas Kiarostami's Five, Lars von Trier's Dogville, Thom Anderson's Los Angeles Plays Itself, Jafar Panahi's Crimson Gold, Marco Tullio's The Best of Youth, Patrice Chereau's Son Frere, Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and Kim Ki-duk's Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter,... and Spring.  At some point, I'll need to revisit Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation and Clint Eastwood's Mystic River as I struggled a little with both the first time I saw them.  But from this year I really like Gus Van Sant's Elephant.  And my closest runner-up is Tsai Ming-liang's Goodbye, Dragon Inn.

12/13/10 I watched Lars von Trier's Dogville.  Perhaps intellectually stimulating.  But I found it way too much of a slog and way too distanced emotionally to care much at all.  Jump cuts abound and so does von Trier's nihilism, something that I feel is a bit of his trademark.  

1/23/11 I watched Francois Ozon's Swimming Pool.  I'm a fan of Ozon and Rampling, and the start of this one is pretty delicious.  But it starts to unravel in a way that's more frustrating than englightening.  And by film's end, it's far from satisfying. 

3/26/11 I watched Abbas Kiarostami's Five Dedicated to Ozu. Interesting but not transcendent for me.  Kiarostami is our ultimate humanist right now, and this little exercise certainly reminds us to be mindful and observant.  I just question his decision to go digital, and a few of the segments feel slightly uninspired.

7/5/11 I watched Andrew Jarecki's Capturing the Friedmans.  An extremely thorough and well-crafted look at this horrific story.  A bit manipulative at times though to a fault. 

10/8/11 I watched Hou Hsiao-hsien's Cafe Lumiere.  He dedicates it to Ozu, and you can feel the Japanese master's influence.  Unfortunately, it also highlights the fact that the Japanese filmmaker is able to go deeper, entertain with greater facility, and is ultimately the more masterful filmmaker of the two.  As always, I respect Hou's approach and esthetic.  I just wish he allowed more humanity and lyricisim into his work. 

10/19/11 I watched Vincent Gallo's The Brown Bunny.  I'm a big fan of Buffalo '66.  But this one simply felt shallow, lazy, and self-indulgent. Disappointing.  

9/21/14 I watched Serge Le Peron's Chaplin Today: The Gold Rush.  An interesting short little doc on the making of The Gold Rush.   There are a couple of memorable interviews, and it is moving to watch how the film plays today and affects the youth in Burkina Faso.  

7/13/16 I watched Robert Altman's The Company.  Told in Altman's trademark, hazy manner, this one impressed me most with Malcolm McDowell's performance and the way that Altman glides from scene to scene.  Not in the hard-edged jumpy style initiated during the Nouvelle Vague but more in the way that a wave slowly takes over still water.  

11/25/16 I watched Kim Ki-duk's Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring.  The first film I've seen of Ki-duk but among many I have seen of the new South Korean cinema.  Ki-duk has little if nothing in common with Hong Sang-soo.  Based on this work, Ki-duk's cinema is more spiritual, more allegorical and more tone poem than any sort of traditional narrative.  

12/20/17 I watched Thom Andersen's Los Angeles Plays Itself.  Andersen's scope is impressive and there certainly has never been a more thorough work done on the history of Los Angeles on film.  But it just all felt a little too academic and pedantic.  It needed more life, more style and more shape.  

4/3/20 I watched Abdellatif Kechiche's L'esquive.  Kechiche, an actor himself, has a tremendous ability for achieving vital, piercingly plausible performances.  The other two films I have seen of his, The Secret of the Grain and Blue Is the Warmest Colour, are stylistically bolder, employing long takes and complex mise-en-scene but all of his work features extraordinary acting.  What I admire about Kechiche, perhaps above all, is as daring as his cinema can be, he also understands restraint.  Here there is hardly any music at all and although mostly composed of tight, handheld shots, Kechiche sticks to this one approach rather than combining many different styles and approaches.  I put Kechiche in a small group of the greatest filmmakers working today, and this film only deepened that feeling for me.  

10/23/21 I watched Jafar Panahi's Crimson Gold.  It is the first film by Panahi that fully grabbed me.  I have also seen Offside.  Aside from Panahi's remarkable restraint with respect to sound, or other words the film's almost complete absence of music and use of only minimal sound, what impressed me most was the depth and presence of Hossain.  The narrative structure of the film is also quite unique as it flashes back from the opening scene.  But until the end is unclear how the beginning relates exactly in a linear manner to the rest of the film's proceedings.     

11/26/21 I watched Jon Favreau's Elf.  An entertaining Christmas movie that is moving and imaginative even if some of the key plot points (like Caan's epiphany) seem forced rather than earned.

12/28/21 I watched Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott's The Corporation.  There is no doubt that some of the exploration and discussion are quite interesting, but the style of the film is so tawdry making it tough to get through.

3/13/24 I watched Martin Scorsese's Feel Like Going Home.  Mediocre Scorsese doc.  Mostly illuminating for me to learn that Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker both originated from MS.

3/14/24 I watched Wim Wenders' The Soul of a Man.  The strongest documentary I have seen by Wenders is a reminder of his abilities as a storyteller at a time that most people consider his good work behind him.  Just look at how he introduces Lenoir and the silent footage he compiles for the James sessions.  It is so many things at once - an important historical tool to teach about the blues, an ode to cinema with its varied filming techniques and a heartfelt confession of sources that have fueled and inspired him all these years.  

3/18/24 I watched Richard Pearce's The Road to Memphis.  My least favorite of the first three parts but worth it simply for BB King's telling of his breakout at Fillmore West.  

3/19/24 I watched Charles Burnett's Warming by the Devil's Fire.  Not one of Burnett's finest even if it has his poetic flight of fancy every once in a while.  

3/19/24 I watched Marc Levin's Godfathers and Sons.  My least favorite of the series so far even if it was really interesting to learn about Marshall Chess and Chess Records.

3/23/24 I watched Mike Figgis' Red, White and Blues.  A bit of a trudge even if we get to see Van Morrison perform and learn more about Skiffle.

3/23/24 I watched Clint Eastwood's Piano Blues.  One of the strongest entries of the series but not as strong as Eastwood's piece on Monk and nowhere near as strong as Wenders' entry.  Ray Charles is the highlight.