My Week in Film (6/22 - 6/28)

We Own The Night (2007)*
(Directed by James Gray)

Boys just want to have fun.

I think I had the wrong idea about this film earlier. I thought it was a sorta typical film that just happened to be done pretty well. Now, I'm not sure. I feel that it's a film largely about how families and those sort of institutions rob people of their own individual freedom. The ending is mighty depressing, too, which I didn't think about earlier. Gone are the aspirations from earlier in the film. They're now replaced with family duty and with a familiar feeling of getting back to the status quo. Plus, he's fat now (hi, duder!). All this thematic exploration isn't worth shit, however, if the other parts of the film aren't exciting. Good thing that they are. It's expertly anchored by two major setpieces and by some fantastic acting (particularly from Phoenix although Wahlberg's turn at the end of it is fantastic as well). Everyone is awesome. The opening is sexy. Who cares about sincerity and honesty? It's just damn good filmmaking.


Miami Vice (2006)*
(Directed by Michael Mann)

I can't get over this film and I've rewatched half of it since this last viewing take place and I can't put my finger on it. I imagine it's endlessly rewatchable and as every single moment of it is enhanced by the quality of now. Every single camera movement feels ephemeral, the actions, the love, the everything. What a strange and incredible film this is. I've seen comparisons to Olivier Assayas' Boarding Gate and Claire Denis films like L'Intrus and those type of comparisons are actually not far off. It's a boundless film and it feels like ocean waves splashing against you. There are a couple of bad scenes (like when Sonny and Rico first meet Yero and that stupid grenade shows up) but for every bad scene, there's a wonderful bit of awesomeness like that initial boat ride between Sonny and Isabella. It's the stuff that dreams are made up of. Ultimately, there is no escape for anyone. All you can do is go back right into the fold or the flux or whatever it's called. It never changes.


On Dangerous Ground (1952)
(Directed by Nicholas Ray)

It opens all brutal and tough mirroring the main dude's tuffness. Then it gets all plaintive and wide-open as it appropriates the winter landscapes to basically a tell a love story. Ward Bond's character is kind of a drag but it never got in the way for me like it did with lesser beings and the characterizations though stock are always engaging. Ida Lupino's blind girl is probably the worst but she really gives a good performance and those final moments are awesome. Basically, NICHOLAS RAY NICHOLAS RAY NICHOLAS RAY


High and Low (1963)
(Directed by Akira Kurosawa)

I don't know why I think you'll let me down. You never do.

Thor is quite right about the beginning of this film. It's a widescreen cinemascope extravaganza as Kurosawa juggles like a million people inside the frame, constantly shifting them around like emotional chess pieces. It'a masterclass, as you said. Then it gets all procedural-like besting Zodiac at its own game and somehow Mifune just drops out of the picture as it becomes basically characterless (almost) and morphs into solely a film about pursuit. The inevitable conclusion is awkward but then totally perfect. I don't have much to say. I mean, it's Kurosawa, how can you fail, really?


Finally, Lillian and Dan (2008)
(Directed by Mike Gibisser)

Just cheap, really. Not offensive, just boring and whatever.


The Geisha Boy (1958)
(Directed by Frank Tashlin)

Japanese children are creepy. So ridiculously maudlin that it nearly kills the funny bits, but, fortunately, the funny bits mostly end up winning (although the last 15 minutes or so make a pretty strong argument against). I was surprised that there wasn't anything that was kind of offensive since some of Lewis' other movies have that problem. The only characterization I have any problem with is the baseball player but that's mostly because he is a beast and should actually be a football player, not a baseball player (a pitcher? wtf? he looks like a linesman). I wish the film had done more with the magic conceit other than just have jokes about the bunny, but, hey, what can you do? Also, the kid's smile is supposed to be cute, right? Well, it just comes out forced and odd and desperately creepy like something that forgot to die. BLAH BLAH BLAH.


Transformers (2007)
(Directed by Michael Bay)

There was other stuff, too. Maybe. I don't get it. It's just people reacting against special effects (not even interesting special effects like Speed Racer). Just agressively juvenile (and not in a way that's funny, either, outside of Shia's 'NO NO NO NO NO NO"). Just a baffling film, really, which got progressively worse every time that Megan Fox opened her mouth or Turturro showed up or Michael Bay decided what he was really doing was making one of those Army of One commercials. It's just terrible and inexcusable.

The Yards (2000)
(Directed by James Gray)


It's so hard to talk about it because the movie is like a chokehold on the emotions. It's so fantastically fraught and unable to communicate, just like Leo. Everything feels like a vice grip as the inevitable actions occur and greek (?) tragedy is invoked and the lighting is so amazing (just in the way that it obscures Phoenix's eyes). It's the bestest parts from the subsequent Gray films turned into one. All the familial duty shit coupled with the agony and just tortured roles and roles and I'm on the ground screaming because it cannot get better than this and then the score goes into overdrive and everything slays me and MOVIES MOVIES MOVIES. This is the power of cinema, ladies and germs.


Ghostbusters (1984)
(Directed by Ivan Reitman)

I didn't laugh that much. I mean, it was pleasant and all. There's something very nice about it which I liked. I think Sean mentioned it wasn't cynical and all that stuff. Yeah, there's something very wide-eyed and optimistic about the film. I dug that. But, I just didn't laugh that much. Bill Murray was pretty funny being his usual smug self. His face by itself could just make laugh. The rest of the cast was good but not up to his level (although Harold Ramis's line readings were kind of funny). I don't know what to tell you. I've never seen this movie before because I figured it was a nostalgia thing, you know? I can see some of the merits but I don't see what makes this all that great. I must say that the ending with the Stay Puft Marshmallow man deserves its iconic status and all that junk.


Near Dark (1987)
(Directed by Kathryn Bigelow)

Small Texas towns with teenagers taking the truck out for the night and looking for opportunity. Of course, there is a girl and that girl brings trouble. The Lesson: if something wants to feed off you, don't let it. Our hero will learn that lesson well. There is a strange beauty to these slightly idyllic magic hour moments, they straddle the two absolutes that the film deals in: night and day. After meeting the pretty cute girl, all he will know is night. One of the things that I found interesting was just the setting and the kind of people that are in this film - dusty small towns along the highway, rough and tumble truckers with knives ready to flash. It's not that different of a setting from something like No Country For Old Men. Motels play a key role in this film as well. The night is so bright and loud and the feeding scenes between the boy and the girl are quasi-orgasmic (keeping with all that vampiric shit). But the boy isn't part of the crew yet. I don't really know what I'm saying. Something about how bad ass and scary it is when the crew goes out the bar. They test him, show him their strength. Who needs the day anyway? This movie is simply bad ass, Tangerine Dream score and all and, at its best, is ridiculously exciting and compelling (and when it actually goes thru with the whole western/vampire thing, it's pretty awesome). The performances are pretty good for what they are, you know? Bill Paxton is fantastically over the top as Severin and Lance Henrikson is all quiet leader bad ass. The boy and the girl are nice and all but it's not really about them. It's about the pull and that magic hour and wanting to live in the sun and wanting to die at night. Shit's good and it's filmed pretty well, too and all that stuff. Right away, its textures are interesting and all that stuff. eh, life sux, get over it.


He's A Woman, She's A Man (1994)
(Directed by Peter Chan + Chi Lee)

It made me laugh. What can I say? This gender-twisting comedy just really made me laugh. Maybe it was the random asides and references to Cantopop stars and the random articles of theirs that people were selling or it was just Leslie Cheung constantly saying "But I'm not gay!!!" It's probably one of the funniest movies I've seen that deals with homo panic. I don't know. I just fell for it. The premise is simple: Leslie Cheung is bigshot producer. He's going out with Carina Lau who is a singer that whose career he helped build up. He feels frustrated in the relationship and decides to find a new singer (a male singer so he won't get involved as he has in the past). Here comes Anita Yuen (in a totally wide-eyed and shiny performance) as a mega fan of the couple. She decides to pose as a man so she can audition. Thru weird turn of events, she/he gets hired, ends up moving in with Leslie Cheung and causes havoc. It's familiar stuff but the performers really sell it for me. Then there's Eric Tsang who's still fat and this time plays a gay elder named Auntie who's kinda regressive but in a weirdly lovable way (there's a scene in a buffet where he picks out what he wants from the line and then points toward a waiter's package LOL). But the film belongs to Leslie Cheung who goes back and forth, locks his room to make sure that his new gay roommate doesn't come in during the night, tears his hair out, wondering if he could possibly be... gay? He's both in love and scared shitless. It's hilarious. Besides all that, it's just fun to see Cheung and Lau back together from Days of Being Wild.


Sumo Do, Sumo Don't (1992)
(Directed by Masayuki Suo)

I'm sure I've seen a film like this but right now I can only think of anime equivalents. Stuff like Eyeshield 21 and other crap like that. Or dramas like Water Boys (also starring Naoto Takenaka). You know, ragtag team gets together and succeeds at unlikely task. In this film, it's sumo. In Water Boys, it's synchronized swimming. In Eyeshield, it's football. I guess something like Bad News Bears (except I haven't seen that film). There's the hero who reluctantly joins, starts recruiting others with their own fears and goals, whatever. There's a tournament, too, and a possible love interest. They lose at first and then... Well, you know. It's that kind of movie and for that kind of movie, it's okay. The ending is ruined by a totally tone-altering piece of crap song. Naoto Takenaka, how many gems can I discover in your filmography? You're a director, too? Time for auteurist readings!


Jhon's Movie of the Week is... MIAMI VICE

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