Sunday, October 29, 2006

Review of The American Astronaut: A Unique SF Musical

I like to talk about films and while at my favourite cafe, Amanda mentioned the film The American Astronaut, which I hadn’t heard of. So I saw it without knowing very much about it. Completely unique with a great late night film festival screening feeling, it is a lot of fun. It’s a science fiction film with music and in a strange way it reminded me of Godard’s Alphaville in that it is science fiction without elaborate special effects. Gorgeously shot in black & white with a killer rock & roll soundtrack it’s a unique achievement.

Review of Set Yourself on Fire: Beautiful Music

by Stars

One day in my favourite coffee shop I was talking with Erin and she suggested that I listen to Star and I did and loved them. Instantly Set Yourself On Fire has become one of my favourite albums. With complex and playful orchestration along with clever and honest lyrics, it’s a joy to listen to and I keep listening again and again. I don’t know a lot about them, but I know that they’re from Montreal and they’re becoming one of my favourite bands. I love discovering new music.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Review of The Bad and the Beautiful: Portrait of a Producer

by Vincente Minnelli

I found out about The Bad and the Beautiful from Martin Scorsese’s documentary about American Movies. Director Vincente Minnelli has a gift for staging elaborate shots to complement the story which is a sometimes funny, sometimes dark look behind-the-scenes look at the Hollywood film industry. With an energetic performance by Kirk Douglas at the core, it has some honest insight into the filmmaking business along with some melodrama. It was interesting to see a film about film that focussed on a producer and to have a main character who wasn’t completely sympathetic as well. Fun for those who are interested in the history of film and the self-reflexive films about making films.

Review of The Prestige: A Clever Trick

by Christopher Nolan

Are you watching closely?

Christopher Nolan is a talented filmmaker, so I was looking forward to “The Prestige”. I was expecting a film that was showy, but it surprised me with subtlety. It was like a good magic trick that is confident and subtle and classy. With solid performances from Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman and the always watchable Michael Caine, it’s a study of magic and illusion and obsession. While it seemed slow to me at the start (maybe because of my expectations) it gradually drew me in until I was completely absorbed. It seems more complicated than it is and it works on several levels with a complicated, yet elegant structure.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Godard's Elegy for Hollywood

Contempt is a film by Godard that didn’t even register on my radar before someone mentioned it to me. It was a pleasant surprise and a glimpse at Godard working with what seemed to be his largest crew and a more linear and narrative structure.
The cast is wonderful with surprises from Fritz Lang (as himself) and Jack Palance as a Hollywood producer, but the film is built around Michel Piccoli and Brigitte Bardot. The breakdown of their relationship is the core of the film and it’s also a metaphor for the end of the big old-Hollywood model of filmmaking. But with Godard it’s never that simple or clear and he manages to cram a lot into the frame and it keeps you thinking about it for days afterwards.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

OK Computer as Reggae

by Easy Star All-Stars

It’s an interesting idea to transpose songs into different musical genres and the results can be unpredictable. Radiohead’s OK Computer is one of my all-time favourite albums, so I was intrigued by the idea of a reggae version of the recording by the Easy Star All-Stars. I was surprised at how well it worked for me. While every track isn’t a good fit, overall it makes a strange sort of sense to take songs of existential dread and alienation and give them reggae versions. I don’t think that this is for everyone, but I like it.

Surreal and Influential Vision

When I watched the short surrealist film Un Chien Andalou I was constantly surprised at how much I recognized. Pretty much every image in the film is recognizable in many other films. It’s the definitive surrealist film and it’s a haunting vision that has helped to expand the possibilities of cinema. The most fascinating connection for me is how much of the film is referenced in Jonathan Glazer’s Birth as Jim Emerson explains in Birth of a Brunuelian Notion . Un Chien Andalou is important, entertaining and endlessly fascinating.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Beautiful Dream World

by Michel Gondry

I went in to The Science of Sleep with a bit of nervousness based on the trailer and all of the other work that I’d seen from Michel Gondry. There seemed to be a lot of imagery and situations repeated from his music videos and it seemed a bit light. Once the film started I was pleasantly surprised that it was a very different film from the one that I had constructed from the trailer and I was completely drawn into the world that was created.
Gondry’s two previous dramatic features were written by Charlie Kaufman and I was very curious to see what Gondry would do on his own both writing and directing The Science of Sleep. Gondry has a much looser structure and it gradually erases the lines between dreams and reality.
The performances of Gael Garcia Bernal and Charlotte Gainsbourg are wonderful to watch as they play complex and sometimes frustrating characters. There are magical moments between them and I relaxed into the film like sliding into a warm bath. When the film was over it was a bit strange walking out into the world and it almost seemed as if I had not completely left the film. It took me a while to become grounded again which is one of the signs of a great film as it changes the way that you see the world. That’s why I love seeing films.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Portrait of a Rennaisance Man

by Joe Angio

My knowledge of Melvin Van Peebles consisted mainly of thinking of him as the father of the “blaxploitation” film genre and the maker of Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song (which I haven’t seen yet). With a provocative title such as How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (and Enjoy It), I wanted to check out the film at the Atlantic Film Festival and to find out more about Van Peebles. I was very glad that I did since Joe Angio, the director of the documentary, introduced it and was around for the question & answer session afterwards.
The film paints a very entertaining portrait of a no-nonsense artist and person who just goes and does whatever he decides to do. I was constantly amazed as I learned more and more about a man who seems to be able to do just about anything that he sets his mind to. A lot of fun, fascinating and an important contribution to the history of film and art in the 20th century.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

West Coast Morality Tale

by paul fox

In Everything’s Gone Green Paul Fox directs a script by Douglas Coupland where a man realizes that he’s stuck in a dead end in his life. Funny and beautifully shot, it had a good balance between the humorous and the serious as what it’s really about at the core is personal ethics and how we live our lives. I like the performances, the quirky characters and situations and seeing a film that was unashamedly set in Vancouver, British Columbia.