Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Criterion Wishlist III

With the holiday season approaching, it’s obvious that what film buffs want are DVD/Blu-Rays from the Criterion Collection since they always offer film lovers exactly what they want and more. Especially in November where Barnes & Nobles sell those DVD/Blu-Rays at half-price so that they can broaden their collection and make the un-cultured swines look pathetic. In the past few years, I’ve made a list about what I wanted and another one two years later. I was supposed to have one set this past July but other things got in the way as well as trying to figure out what films should go into Criterion. This list represents not just the films that I want to see in Criterion but also what kind of films and filmmakers that should be exposed to a wider audience. Here are the list of films that I think should go into the Criterion Collection in no particular order:

1. The General

Buster Keaton is a must in the world of film as he is considered one of the finest actors and filmmakers in the world of silent comedies. With Charles Chaplin and Harold Lloyd already have some of their films on Criterion, Keaton should be next on the list as his 1926 film would be the best place for his first release on Criterion. It should include audio commentary by historians of Keaton’s work as well as documentaries about the film and Keaton himself. The set should also include some short films of his to display his work as part of a series of releases to come for the comedy legend.

2. Frantic

Roman Polanski is already a staple for the Criterion Collection as much of his work from the 60s and a few from the 1970s are already part of Criterion. Yet, there isn’t much to cover about his work in the 1980s yet this film is often considered one of his most underrated. Not only should there be a remastered version of the film supervised by Polanski but also with an assortment of extras including interviews with Polanski, Harrison Ford, and Emmanuelle Seigner. Making-of footage as well as some possible deleted scenes and as an extra, Polanski’s much-maligned 1986 film Pirates in a remastered print with a new introduction by Polanski.

3. Mr. Jealousy

While it might be a minor film from Noah Baumbach in comparison to some of his recent films. It is still an interesting film that explores Baumbach’s fascination with growing up. The film set should feature extras that related to the film with interviews from cast members and Baumbach along with some deleted scenes. Another major extra is the film Highball that Baumbach made during production with a new introduction from Baumbach and his explanation into why he thinks it is his worst film.

4. Melancholia

Lars von Trier already has a few films on Criterion as it is obvious that more should come and what better film to be part of that than his 2011 film about the end of the world and how two different women react to it. The set shouldn’t just feature interviews with von Trier and his stars in Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg but also interviews with several cast and crew members as well as some insight into what von Trier wanted. Another special feature that should be added is a piece about depression with interviews with von Trier and Dunst talking about their own personal experiences with depression.

5. Possession

Andrzej Zulawski’s 1981 horror film is definitely one of the finest and certainly scariest films of the genre though it’s really a dramatic interpretation of a couple coming apart. It’s a film that isn’t seen by a lot of people though horror has been a genre Criterion has been profiling as they would unveil cult horror films. The set should include interviews with Zulawski as well as stars Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill along with interviews with feminist film historians about the film.

6. American Gigolo

Paul Schrader’s 1980 film isn’t just a breakthrough for the filmmaker but also would be the film to make Richard Gere into a major film star in his role as a gigolo who sleeps with women for money. The DVD/Blu-Ray should feature a new remastered print supervised by Paul Schrader as well as commentary by Schrader and new interviews with Richard Gere and Lauren Hutton about the film. A special featurette on the film’s music to feature interviews with Giorgio Moroder and Debbie Harry of Blondie on the song Call Me.

7. Wendy and Lucy

Kelly Reichardt is one of the finest filmmakers working in American cinema though she is not really known to mainstream audiences due to the neo-realist approach to her films. Her third film that marked her first collaboration with Michelle Williams is certainly her crowning achievement as it plays into a young woman trying to find work with her dog. The extras should feature an audio commentary track from Reichardt, Williams, and the dog Lucy along with new interviews on the film and remastered versions of Reichardt’s short films.

8. Thunderbolt and Lightfoot

Michael Cimino is definitely one of the most controversial figures in American cinema during the New Hollywood era yet he is a filmmaker that is lauded by many. His first film as a director showcases his love for large landscapes as it plays into an unlikely partnership between two men on the road trying to find some stolen money. The extras should feature new interviews with Cimino and his stars Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges about the film as well as an audio commentary piece by film critic F.X. Feeney who some might know for his appearance in the documentary Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession.

9. Blow-Up

There’s no question that Michelangelo Antonioni’s work in the 1960s are among some of the best films that are ever made as all three films of his alienation trilogy along with Red Desert have been released on Criterion. Yet, there’s one other film from that decade that isn’t there as it’s his 1966 Palme d’Or-award winning film that captured Swinging London as well as being an intriguing murder mystery. A release on DVD/Blu-Ray is badly needed in not just a new transfer but also a remixed audio as the Warner Brothers DVD is horrible with its audio. Along with archival interviews with Antonioni, the film should feature new interviews with Vanessa Redgrave and Jane Birkin who appeared in the film along with musicians Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page about their appearances as well as Herbie Hancock who did the score. As an extra, the film should feature Il Provino which is a segment that Antonioni did for the 1965 omnibus film The Three Faces.

10. Adaptation

Spike Jonze already has one film in the Criterion Collection in Being John Malkovich as it’s time for another of his films to be included in his second film as it explores a screenwriter’s attempt to adapt Susan Orleans’ book The Orchid Thief. The film is need of a new DVD/Blu-Ray release that should include an abundance of extras including new interviews with Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, and Chris Cooper, a commentary track from Jonze and the film’s screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, some short films by Jonze, and an interview with Robert McKee about the film and Brian Cox’s portrayal on McKee.

11. Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer’s 2013 film is definitely a sci-fi film like no other as it’s it plays into many of ideas of what an alien would encounter if it landed on Earth. While it is a film that many critics and film buffs have been praising, it’s definitely a film that deserves a wider exposure. For its DVD/Blu-Ray release, the extras should include an audio commentary track from Glazer and co-screenwriter Walter Campbell as well as interviews with composer Mica Levi, and several others about the film along with a making-of documentary. Yet, the big feature should be an interview with Scarlett Johansson about the film and her performance.

12. The Knack... and How to Get It

Richard Lester’s 1965 film is considered one of the finest films in British cinema as it plays into the idea of sex as well as a young man’s attempt to attract the opposite sex. It’s among the many films of the new wave of 1960s British cinema that needs to more attention as the set should include new interviews with Rita Tushingham, Michael Crawford, and other cast members. An interview with Lester conducted by Steven Soderbergh about the film. Archival footage of the film’s 1965 premiere at Cannes where it would win the Palme d’Or.

13. Hard Eight

There’s no question that Paul Thomas Anderson is among one of the finest filmmakers working today as there is no excuse into why any of his films should be included in the Criterion Collection. His first film is one that anyone who isn’t a fan of his work probably hadn’t seen much of as it hadn’t appeared on TV unlike most of his other films. The set should include a new transfer supervised by Anderson of his final cut as well as the re-edited version by Rysher studios that Anderson rejected. The extras should feature new interviews with Philip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly, and Anderson as well as some deleted footage and some early shorts including Cigarettes and Coffee.

14. Love and Basketball

If there anything about Criterion that should be praised for is its emphasis to expose audiences to such talented women filmmakers from icons like Jane Campion, Agnes Varda, and the late Chantal Akerman to emerging filmmakers like Lynne Ramsay, Andrea Arnold, and Lucrecia Martel. Yet, there hasn’t been a lot of representation on African-American filmmakers but more especially on African-American filmmakers. That should change with probably one of the finest films of the 2000s helmed by Gina Prince-Bythewood as her film explores two people and their love for each other and basketball. The extras should include interviews with Prince-Bythewood, actors Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan, and several other cast and crew members plus making-of footage, and the film’s impact on women’s basketball.

15. The Others

Alejandro Amenabar’s 2001 film was definitely a major international breakthrough for the filmmaker as well as being one of the finest haunted house films that had created. It’s a film that is pretty much essential into what Criterion has done for horror as the set should feature new interviews Amenabar and the film’s star Nicole Kidman as well as making-of footage and other cast/crew interviews. The film should also feature a conversation piece between Amenabar and another famed horror filmmaker in Guillermo del Toro about the film.

16. El Sur

Victor Erice’s 1983 film is definitely one of the most overlooked films of the 20th Century though it wasn’t the version Erice had intended since he only filmed half of the novel. It’s a film that needs more exposure as does Erice who is considered the Spanish equivalent to Terrence Malick as both filmmakers don’t make films frequently. For the extras, new interviews with cast and crew members about the film and why only half of it was it made. The DVD/Blu-Ray set should also feature the shorts that Erice has done in his career for those that want to see his entire body of work with short films.

17. Blood Simple

With Inside Llewyn Davis set to be released on Criterion, it is clear that the Coen Brothers need to have more films out as what better film to be included than their first. It’s not just one of the finest noir films ever made but also a key example of what the Coen Brothers were able to do with their first film. The set shouldn’t just include a remastered print but also extras to feature interviews with the Coen Brothers, Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya, and M. Emmet Walsh as well as collaborators like cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld, sound editor Skip Lievsay, and music composer Carter Burwell about the film.

18. The Piano Teacher

Michael Haneke is one of the great filmmakers working today as it’s obvious the man needs to be profiled more through Criterion as one of his films just got released recently. His 2001 film that explore a piano teacher’s infatuation with sadomasochism and her growing feelings towards a young student is certainly one of his most chilling films of his career. The DVD/Blu-Ray set should feature an assortment of extras including new interviews with Haneke and the film’s star Isabelle Huppert, some deleted scenes, featurettes on the themes of the film and its music, and a remastered transfer of one of Haneke’s early TV films with a new introduction by Haneke.

19. The Elephant Man

With two of David Lynch’s films already on Criterion, it’s time for another of his films to be part of the collection in his 1980 sophomore feature about Joseph Merrick. It’s definitely one of Lynch’s finest films as a DVD/Blu-Ray release is definitely needed as extras should include new interviews with Lynch, actors John Hurt and Anthony Hopkins, producer Mel Brooks, an archival interview with the late Anne Bancroft, a documentary film about Merrick, and excerpts of the different variations of the stage plays with performances by David Bowie and Bradley Cooper.

20. I Stand Alone

Gaspar Noe is definitely a very controversial figure in the world of cinema as he is also one of its most polarizing. Yet, there are no questions that he is one of the most interesting figures out there as what film should be included into the collection than his first film. The DVD/Blu-Ray set should feature not just a new transfer supervised by Noe but also interviews with Noe and those involved in the film. Other extras should include the prequel Carne in a remastered print as well as several of his early short films made before and around the time of his first film.

21. The Headless Woman

Lucrecia Martel is definitely a filmmaker that has been discussed in recent years though she’s only made three films so far with another one on the way as her first film La Cienaga has just been released on Criterion. Her 2008 film isn’t just one of her most acclaimed but also a unique character study of a woman dealing with grief and the consequences of her actions. Extras should feature not just remastered prints of Martel’s short films but also interviews with the director and star Maria Onetto as well as discussions about Martel and her impact for Argentine cinema.

22. Nine Queens

Another Argentine film that made an impact for the country is considered one of the finest crime films of sorts as it plays into two men trying to con a man into buying a prestigious stamp. It’s a film that is unlike anything as well as give exposure to the late Fabian Bielensky. The DVD/Blu-Ray set should include archival interviews with Bielensky as well as new interviews with cast members including Ricardo Darin. Other special features should include interviews with scholars on the Argentine New Wave and an interview with filmmaker Steven Soderbergh about the film and the script he wrote for its remake Criminal.

23. Carnal Knowledge

Mike Nichols is definitely one of the key figures of New Hollywood while being someone that manages to succeed with mainstream audiences. One of his finest films from the early 70s play into the world of marriage and love affairs as well as what men want in women sexually and such. Though Nichols had recently passed away, that doesn’t mean he could still contribute as the extras should include archival interviews with Nichols and Jack Nicholson on the film as well as new interviews with Art Garfunkel, Candice Bergen, and Ann-Margaret about the film and Nichols.

24. Memories of Murder

While there have been a few Korean films that have been released from Criterion, the time has come for one of its key figures in the Korean New Wave to get wider exposure in Bong Joon-Ho. His sophomore film that explores the real-life events of South Korea’s first serial killer is among one of the finest thrillers in cinema. The extras should feature interviews with Joon-Ho as well as actors Song Kang-ho and Kim Sang-kyung about the film as well as a documentary about the real-life events in the film.

25. Laurence Anyways

One of the great things about Criterion is the fact that they’re willing to create exposure for gay/lesbian cinema as well as emerging filmmakers. Yet, there is no filmmaker that is as hot as Xavier Dolan as his third film is definitely the right film at the right time just as the world of transgender is becoming public. The special features for the film should feature an introduction from Gus Van Sant and Xavier Dolan as well as new interviews from Dolan and actors Melvil Poupaud and Suzanne Clement. Other extras should discuss transgender in cinema as well as Dolan’s contribution to cinema and music videos directed by Dolan.

26. The Portrait of a Lady

Jane Campion is definitely an iconic figure for feminist cinema as she’s had two films released from Criterion and maybe more to come soon. One film that is in definite need of a DVD/Blu-Ray release is her adaptation of the Henry James novel that stars Nicole Kidman. It’s a film that doesn’t just play into a woman torn between two worlds but also cope with the decisions that she made. The extras should include new interviews Campion and Kidman as well as some making-of footage and possibly new interviews with John Malkovich and Christian Bale about their roles in the film. Another special feature should focus on the work of Henry James and the novel.

27. Scarecrow

Jerry Schatzberg’s 1973 film is among one of the more overlooked films in New Hollywood as it was a co-winner of the Palme d’Or at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival that starred Al Pacino and Gene Hackman. It’s a road film of sorts that doesn’t play by the rules as it is often considered a lost classic as the film definitely needs some exposure. The extras should feature new interviews with Schatzberg and cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond about the film plus some archival interviews with Pacino and Hackman as the latter is currently retired.

28. The Limey

Steven Soderbergh’s 1999 film is definitely one of the most interesting character studies set in the world of crime where a former criminal travels to Los Angeles to avenge the murder of his estranged daughter. It’s a film that is in definite need of a new DVD/Blu-Ray release as it would be supervised by Soderbergh as the set should include an interview with the filmmaker and several cast members including Terence Stamp, Peter Fonda, and Luis Guzman about the film. Other extras should include some making-of footage and excerpts from the Ken Loach film Poor Cow that includes commentary by Soderbergh and Loach.

29. The Spy in Black

The duo of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger are staples in the world of Criterion as their first collaboration together that revolves around a plot by German spies and a U-boat captain to attack the British fleet during World War I. Yet, it’s a film that is sorely in need of a new, highly-restored digital transfer as the look of it is terrible. The extras should feature a new introduction by Powell-Pressburger fan Martin Scorsese as well as interviews with Powell’s widow Thelma Schoonmaker, and interviews with British scholars on producer Alexander Korda and the formation of the Archers production company that Powell and Pressburger was a part of.

30. Basquiat

Julian Schnabel’s bio-pic on the famed street artist Jean-Michel Basquiat is one of the most unconventional yet realistic portrait of an artist and the environment he is in. Especially as it also showcases the world of 1980s New York City art and the craziness of the culture. The extras should feature interviews with Schnabel and Jeffrey Wright as the latter talks about his performance as Basquiat. Documentaries about the 1980s New York City art and an archival interview with David Bowie about Andy Warhol and his performance as Warhol.

5 Film Sets for the Criterion Collection

1. Robert Altman in the 80s Eclipse Series

While there’s no question that the 1970s was Robert Altman’s golden period yet his work in the 1980s doing intimate film versions of stories that he did on the stage feature gems that many people haven’t seen. Among these films include Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, Streamers, O.C. and Stiggs, Fool for Love, Beyond Therapy, and a couple of segments for omnibus films that he did in the 1980s. It’s a collection that fans of Altman should have and definitely need with some essays about those films including contributions from Sam Shepard and Paul Thomas Anderson.

2. Early Brian de Palma Eclipse Series

Brian de Palma is definitely one of the revered filmmakers in American cinema as he is lauded by many despite some of the bad films he has made. While his first film Murder a la Mod is already on Criterion as an extra special feature for the DVD/Blu-Ray release of Blow Out. There’s several of his early work that isn’t available as films like Greetings, The Wedding Party, Dionysus in ‘69, Hi, Mom!, and Get to Know Your Rabbit to a wide audience as a box set for these films in the Eclipse series is needed with some contributions by fans like Quentin Tarantino and Noah Baumbach providing essays on these films.

3. Abbas Kiarostami’s Koker Trilogy

There’s no question that Abbas Kiarostami is one of cinema’s great voices internationally as he makes films not just in his native Iran but also in other countries. While there’s been rumors about a possible release for all three films of the Koker Trilogy in Where Is the Friend’s Home?, And Life Goes On, and Through the Olive Tree which all explores stories in Northern Iran. These are three films that haven’t widely been seen by Western audiences as it’s the chance for these three films to be seen with loads of special features that relates to the trilogy as well as some short films by the filmmaker.

4. Gregg Araki’s Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy

Gregg Araki is definitely one of the key figures of New Queer Cinema in the 1990s as the time has come for three of his most controversial releases to be given a new life and more. Totally Fucked Up, The Doom Generation, and Nowhere were films for anyone who was a teenager in the 1990s must’ve seen as it played into that idea of how shitty the world was in those times as it still resonates with audiences as well as teenagers whether they’re gay or straight. The set should include audio commentary tracks by Gregg Araki plus interview with cast members from all three films as well as some making-of footage and interviews with some of the acts that contributed music to the three films.

5. Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita

There’s no question that the novel isn’t just one of the most controversial books ever created but also one that challenged the ideas of what could be written in fiction. While it’s no question that Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 adaptation was quite controversial, a DVD/Blu-Ray release for the film alone isn’t enough as there is also the 1997 adaptation by Adrian Lyne that some considered to be superior than Kubrick’s version. A dual release for both film versions should come together with not just many special features about both films but also the novel with interviews from the cast of both films and as a big extra. The novel itself.

Well, that is it for another wish list for the Criterion Collection. The holidays are approaching as I’m sure many film buffs want Criterion DVD/Blu-Rays for Christmas and nothing more. Until then, let’s hope Santa gets us these DVD/Blu-Rays.

© thevoid99 2015

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

2016 Blind Spot Series

With the year coming to close as I have one final film to watch for this year's Blind Spot Series as it will be Howard Hawks' 1932 film Scarface. Now that another series is about to end, another is starting to come as I'm once again shaking things up. This time around, the films I'm choosing aren't just some films that are now becoming available in the presentations that they deserve but also the kind of films that I've been hearing about but have never seen. My choices aren't just based on films that I wanted to see but also on filmmakers that I don't know much about and such as well as films that made an impact on cinema. Usually, it would be for a film a month for the series but having done a trilogy this year and doing a 10-part film series two years before. I decided that list would include not one but two trilogies as it will be sixteen films for 2016 instead of the usual twelve. Here are the 10 films and 2 trilogies that I will do for 2016:

Satyajit Ray's Apu Trilogy (Pather Panchali - Aparajito - Apur Sansar)

Das Boot

Come and See

Roman Holiday

A Brief History of Time

The Killer

John Ford's Calvary Trilogy (Fort Apache - She Wore a Yellow Ribbon - Rio Grande)

Yi Yi

A Trip to the Moon

News from Home

Seven Beauties

The Exorcist

© thevoid99 2015

Saturday, November 21, 2015

007 James Bond: SPECTRE

Based on the novels of Ian Fleming, SPECTRE is the story of James Bond trying to uncover a criminal organization that is threatening the world just as the MI6 is under threat of shutting down. Directed by Sam Mendes and screenplay by John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Jez Butterworth from a story by Logan, Purvis, and Wade, the film has Bond encounter the organization that puts the world into chaos as Daniel Craig plays Agent 007 for the fourth time. Also starring Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Monica Bellucci, Dave Bautista, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jesper Christensen, Andrew Scott, and Ralph Fiennes as M. SPECTRE is a thrilling yet exciting film from Sam Mendes.

The film plays into not just the recent events James Bond had encountered with mysterious organization known as Quantum but it all finally ties together when he not only uncovers what Quantum is part of but who is running this secret organization. Even as it relates to not just Bond’s past but also the emergence of a new world order as MI6 is being shut down by a new organization that wants to put the entire world under total surveillance. For Bond, this new criminal threat as well as the possibility of MI6 being shut down not only prompts him to go at it alone against the advice of M but also lead him to clues as it relates to a man named Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz) whom Bond had known as a child and thought had died.

The film’s script doesn’t just play with Bond coping with aspects of his past and the new threats he is dealing with. He also is forced to go alone as MI6 are unable to be directly involved as M, Q (Ben Whishaw), Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), and Bill Tanner (Rory Kinnear) are all under surveillance from this new organization that is to replace MI6 where M had to fight to keep MI6 going. While Bond would create things that would put MI6 under further scrutiny such as the film’s opening sequence in Mexico City which has him trying to go after an assassin that is related to this secret criminal organization under the orders of the previous M. He would also turn to an old nemesis in Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) who would reveal not just what Quantum had become but asked Bond to protect his daughter in Dr. Madeline Swann (Lea Seydoux) who knows some things about what her father did as she would help Bond.

The script would also play into the growing sense that the world is changing as it makes Bond and M uneasy where the latter has to deal with Max Denbigh aka C (Andrew Scott) who wants to get rid of MI6 for a joint security organization as he believes surveillance on everyone is good for the future. It plays into this conflict of the old ways vs. the new ways where Bond is a representation of the old ways as he is about trying to figure out what is going on and make the decision to pull the trigger if necessary. While M and Bond do agree that their old tactics do have faults, they at least produce results which does prompt the latter to go deeper into what he is trying to uncover and why Oberhauser is alive. Even as it becomes clear about what is trying to do and why he is targeting Bond of all people.

Sam Mendes’ direction is definitely thrilling from the film’s cold open which begins with this intricate and gripping tracking shot where Bond is at the Day of the Dead ceremony in Mexico City as he is watching out for an assassin. It definitely opens the film with a bang while it establishes what Bond is going after and what it will lead him to. Shot in several locations such as Mexico City, Rome, London, Tangiers, and the Austrian Alps, the film does play into the emergence of a new world order emerging where there are several things happening while Bond would travel by himself as he is aware that he’s being watched under the new rules forcing his associates to cover for him. While it is largely a suspense film with lots of action and extravagant set pieces, Mendes does know where to slow things down as well as play into the formula that is often expected with Bond films. There are elements of humor in the film which definitely gives a nice balance to the action as it often comes from Q and Moneypenny while infusing bits of drama and character development into the story.

Notably the relationship between Bond and Dr. Swann as the latter is hesitant to trust Bond but realizes what he is doing while being the one person that could bring some redemption for her father. Mendes’ approach to compositions with its usage of medium shots and close-ups do help build up the drama while the wide shots allow Bond to be wherever he’s at to cope with what he’s facing When the film’s third act takes place in Tangiers where Bond and Dr. Swann with Oberhauser, it is clear that something is up but also there is a lot more that is being revealed. Especially in what he is up to where some of it isn’t surprising but it does have this payoff that Bond is up for a challenge with so much at stake. Overall, Mendes crafts an enthralling and entertaining film about a spy saving the world from an evil criminal organization bent on creating a new world order.

Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography from the usage of the exterior lights for scenes set in Rome and London as well as playing up to some of the cold atmosphere of the scenes in the Alps as well as some crafty interior lighting for scenes in Tangiers. Editor Lee Smith does excellent work with the editing as it is straightforward while knowing when not to cut while creating some unique rhythms and jump-cuts for some of the action sequences. Production designer Dennis Gassner, with set decorator Anna Pinnock and supervising art director Chris Lowe, does amazing work with the design of places where Oberhauser conducts his business and meetings as well as Bond‘s home apartment and other rooms such as Q‘s workshop.

Costume designer Jany Temime does nice work with the costumes from the dresses that Dr. Swann and the other women wear to the Tom Ford suits that Bond wears. Hair designer Zoe Tahir and makeup designer Naomi Donne, with prosthetics makeup designer Mark Coulier, do terrific work with look of the characters in terms of the hair and such as well as the look of a character late in the film. Special effects supervisor Chris Corbould, along with visual effects supervisors Steven Begg and Mark Curtis, does fantastic work with the special effects as it relates to some of the action sequences along with some of the hacking devices from Q.

Sound designers Christopher Assells, Ann Scibelli, and Peter Staubi, along with sound editors Karen Baker Landers and Per Hallberg, do superb work with the sound to play into the many sound effects that occur in the action sequences as well as in some of the film‘s quieter moments to build up its suspenseful moments. The film’s music by Thomas Newman is wonderful for its bombastic orchestral score that play into the action and suspense while knowing when to be low-key for its drama while creating some variations of the franchise’s theme music. The film’s song Writing’s on the Wall by Sam Smith is an OK song that has its moments but Smith’s singing is just terrible.

The casting by Debbie McWilliams and Nicole Schmied is great as it features some notable appearances from Stephanie Sigman as Bond’s date in Mexico and Alessandro Cremona as the assassin Bond goes after in Mexico. Monica Bellucci is wonderful as the assassin’s widow Lucia who would give Bond some crucial information about Oberhauser while Jesper Christensen is terrific in his role as former Quantum figure Mr. White who would also reveal Bond some information as well as urging Bond to protect his daughter. Andrew Scott is fantastic as Max Denbigh aka C as a government official who wants to get rid of MI6 for a new security organization as he brings a smugness that is just fun to hate. Dave Bautista is superb as Oberhauser’s henchman Mr. Jinx as a henchman that doesn’t say anything but uses his actions and power to do the talking as he’s a fun henchman to watch.

Rory Kinnear is excellent as MI6 chief of staff member Bill Tanner who aids M in trying to keep MI6 from being shutdown while Naomie Harris is brilliant as Moneypenny as M’s secretary who helps Bond uncover some information that would relate to the secret organization. Ben Whishaw is amazing as Q as Bond’s quartermaster who provides him with some inventions and stuff while providing some witty banter that is essential to the series. Ralph Fiennes is incredible as M as Bond’s boss who copes with not just Bond’s tactics but also MI6 being shut down where he tries to deal with C and maintain his idea of the old ways.

Lea Seydoux is remarkable as Dr. Madeline Swann as Mr. White’s daughter who joins Bond in uncovering the secrets of this organization while being someone who is very smart and not afraid to throw down where Seydoux brings some depth to the character. Christoph Waltz is phenomenal as Franz Oberhauser as this mysterious man who knows Bond very well as he is the mastermind of this organization where Waltz brings a lot of charm and personality to a villain that could be Bond’s greatest opponent yet while bearing many attributes that is typical of the old ways but reinvent for a new world order. Finally, there’s Daniel Craig in a sensational performance as Agent 007 James Bond as this spy who is trying to save the world from evil where he copes with not just elements of his past but also in maintaining the role that only he knows as it’s changing for an uncertain future. It’s a performance that his Craig not only be the badass and be serious but also display some humor which shows he’s having fun as it’s definitely Craig at his best.

SPECTRE is a marvelous film from Sam Mendes that features Daniel Craig in another winning performance as Agent 007. Along with a great supporting cast that include standout performances from Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, and Ralph Fiennes as well as thrilling action sequences and sprawling technical work from its crew. The film definitely stands as one of the finest films of the James Bond franchise in terms of its entertainment value as well as provide enough intrigue for audiences to be captivated by. In the end, SPECTRE is a riveting and exciting film from Sam Mendes.

James Bond Files: The EON Films: Dr. No - From Russia With Love - Goldfinger - Thunderball - You Only Live Twice - On Her Majesty's Secret Service - Diamonds are Forever - Live and Let Die - The Man with the Golden Gun - The Spy Who Loved Me - Moonraker - For Your Eyes Only - Octopussy - A View to a Kill - The Living Daylights - Licence to Kill - GoldenEye - Tomorrow Never Dies - The World is Not Enough - Die Another Day - Casino Royale - Quantum of Solace - Skyfall

Non-EON Films: Casino Royale (Climax! TV Episode) - Casino Royale (1967 film) - Never Say Never Again

Bond Documentaries: Bond Girls are Forever - True Bond - Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007

Sam Mendes Films: (American Beauty) - (Road to Perdition) - (Jarhead) - (Revolutionary Road) - (Away We Go)

© thevoid99 2015

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Crowd (1928 film)

Directed by King Vidor and written by Vidor, John V.A. Weaver, and un-credited work by Harry Behn, The Crowd is the story of an officer worker who tries to stand out from the crowd while dealing with life as a married man with a family. The film is an exploration into a man trying to make something of himself in a world where everyone is trying to standout but deal with enormity that is the crowd. Starring James Murray, Eleanor Boardman, and Bert Roach. The Crowd is a phenomenal film from King Vidor.

The film revolves the life of a young man who was instilled as a boy that he would make something of himself yet finds himself struggling to stand out from the rest of the world as he works in an office in New York City. It’s a film that plays into a man’s attempt to become a real somebody despite some tragedies as he would also get married and have a family. While he would overcome some obstacles in his life, it is all about trying to do something for himself and his family no matter how hard things can be. The film’s script plays into not just the trials and tribulations that John Sims (James Murray) would endure early in his life but the weight of optimism he would carry into his adult life despite the many setbacks he and his wife Mary (Eleanor Boardman) would endure.

King Vidor’s direction definitely has some flair for style in not just some of the compositions he creates but also in how he fuses an air of realism into the film. Shot largely on location in New York City, Vidor has his camera explore a world that is very busy and with a fast progression that play into the sense of reality that Sims must contend with. Some of Vidor’s camera angles that play into that clash of cynicism with optimism is very prevalent in some of the scenes while it is also quite playful at times. Even in scenes where Sims and Mary would have their first date with some friends as well as scenes that are visually entrancing such as the look of the office where Sims works at with many other men doing the same old thing.

It plays into the idea of the individual vs. the crowd as Vidor’s usage of wide and medium shots are prevalent while he does infuse a few close-ups for the drama. Even for some of the moments that would challenge Sims in the third act as it showcases that air of realism that Sims must contend with but also find hope in a world that is often unforgiving. Overall, Vidor creates a sensational and rich film about a man trying to stand out from the crowd.

Cinematographer Henry Sharp does brilliant work with the film‘s black-and-white photography to play into not just some of the realism in the locations in the city but also infuse some stylish lights for some scenes set at night in the interior and exterior scenes. Editor Hugh Wynn does excellent work with the editing as it is straightforward with some rhythmic cuts for some of the dramatic moments as well as some of the comical moments. Set decorators Cedric Gibbons and A. Arnold Gillespie do amazing work with some of the miniatures that are created for some of the elaborate moments with the camera as well as the look of the office where Sims works at. The film’s music by Carl Davis, for its 1981 reissue, is fantastic for its orchestral-based score with mixes of jazz to play into the period of the times as well as playing into some of the dramatic moments in the film.

The film’s excellent cast include some notable small roles from Alice Mildred Puter and Frederick Burke Frederick as John and Mary’s children, Lucy Beaumont as Mary’s mother, Daniel G. Tomlinson and Dell Henderson as Mary’s brothers who don’t approve of Sims, and Bert Roach as Sims’ friend Bert who would set Sims up with Mary. Eleanor Boardman is remarkable as Mary as a young woman who falls for George but copes with the struggles he faces as well as not doing enough for him. Finally, there’s James Murray in a marvelous performance as John Sims as a young man with hopes and dreams to make it in the city as he copes with reality and the fact that he’s just like everyone as it’s a performance that is filled with anguish and despair.

The Crowd is a sensational film from King Vidor. Filled with a great cast and evocative visuals, the film is truly a majestic look into the idea of reality vs. fantasy set into the world of the city from the eyes of a young man. Especially as it’s told with a sense of style that is unique in silent cinema. In the end, The Crowd is an astonishing film from King Vidor.

© thevoid99 2015

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

2015 Blind Spot Series: Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans

Based on the short story The Excursion to Tilsit by Herrmann Suderman, Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans is the story of a man who falls for a woman from the city as he is tasked to kill his wife and run away to the city. Directed by F.W. Murnau and screenplay by Carl Mayer, the film is an exploration into the idea of love as it’s presented as a silent film with sound effects and music. Starring George O’Brien, Janet Gaynor, and Margaret Livingston. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans is an exquisite and enchanting film from F.W. Murnau.

The film explores the life of a simple farming couple whose marriage is on the rocks when the man falls for a vacationing woman from the city who urges him to kill his wife and move to the city with false promises. It’s a film that isn’t just about a man torn into what he has to do but it’s also a film where a man and wife try to salvage their marriage in their situation. Especially where they embark on an adventure through the city to see what it’s really like as it’s one of confusing and excitement. Carl Mayer’s screenplay does have an odd structure where it’s about not just the man (George O’Brien) and the wife (Janet Gaynor) going through struggles as the man is embroiled into an affair with the woman from the city (Margaret Livingston).

The script shows the man and wife in happier times which is a sharp contrast to where they’re at as the man is with the woman from the city who would seduce and charm the man into a plot where she has a much bigger motive. The second act would be about the man doing the act but things don’t go well where he and the wife go on this adventure in the city. An adventure that isn’t just about what they would encounter but also to see if there is still something between them.

F.W. Murnau’s direction is definitely spellbinding not just in some of the simplicity in his direction but also in some of the visual language that he creates. Especially in the way the city is portrayed as some fantasy world that is enthralling and decadent from the view of the woman of the city that is very different from the simple farm life that the man and wife live in. Murnau’s presentation of the farm world does have some bits of stylistic shots yet much of it simple in its medium and wide shots along with a few close-ups. By the time the film moves into the city, it is presented as a world that is just chaotic and lively where the usage of dissolving images and slanted camera angles that are part of the Murnau’s trademarks in the world of German Expressionism.

At times, the images are dizzying but it would play into moments that can be perceived as fantasy that includes a shot of the couple walking in the very busy streets of the city. It is among these images that are just astonishing to watch as Murnau would also employ some lively and comical moments into the film. Even in little moments where a man is trying to fix a woman’s dress while watching a dance where the results are funny. By the time the film moves into the third act which has the protagonists return to the countryside, it does become about what the man and wife had endured and see if there is a possibility of reconciliation or will the man be tempted by this other woman. Especially in what he had seen in the city as well as what is really important to him. Overall, Murnau creates a mesmerizing and evocative film about a man torn between two women and two possible worlds.

Cinematographers Charles Rosher and Karl Struss do amazing work with the film‘s black-and-white photography with its unique approach to lighting for some scenes at night as well as creating gorgeous images for some of the scenes set in the day including in some of the interiors such as the photo studio. Editor Harold D. Schuster does fantastic work with the editing with its stylish usage of dissolves, rhythmic cuts, and transitions to not play into the drama but also in capturing the exuberance of the city. Art director Rochus Gliese does brilliant work with the set design from the look of the fair to the design of the home of the husband and wife and the places they go to in the city.

The special effects work of Frank D. Williams does excellent work with some of the film‘s minimal visual effects which were primitive for one of its famed sequences but still has an air of beauty that is effective. The film’s music by Hugo Riesenfeld and Erno Rapee is superb for its orchestral-based score filled with some sound effects to play into the world of the city as well as somber yet lush string-based pieces to play into the drama and romance.

The film’s incredible cast include some notable small performances from Ralph Sippery as a barber, Jane Winton as a manicure girl, Gibson Gowland as an angry driver, Arthur Housman as an obtrusive gentlemen who got in trouble with a lady, Bodil Rosing as the man and wife’s maid, and J. Farrell MacDonald as the photographer who would take a photo of the man and wife. Margaret Livingston is brilliant as the woman of the city who is vacationing at the small town where she seduces the man to kill his wife and present him with this fantasy of city life. Janet Gaynor is amazing as the wife as a young woman who feels hurt and upset over what is going on as she wonders why her husband hasn’t been so loving towards her. Finally, there’s George O’Brien in an excellent performance as the man who is torn between these ideas of city life but also the life he already has with a wife and child where he becomes lost in these decisions where he tries to ponder the choices he is making.

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans is an outstanding film from F.W. Murnau. Armed with gorgeous visuals, lush music, and a phenomenal cast, the film is truly one of the finest films in the silent era. Especially as it manages to find ways to use sound effects in an imaginative presentation without the need for dialogue or other elements of sound to create a story that has so much to offer. In the end, Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans is a spectacular film from F.W. Murnau.

© thevoid99 2015

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me

Directed and sound designed by David Lynch and screenplay by Lynch and Robert Engels that is based on the TV series by Lynch and Mark Frost, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me revolves around the final days of Laura Palmer before her murder as well as the events before and after the events of the TV series. The film is a prequel/sequel of sorts to the series as it relates to the mysterious murders of a young woman and another young woman who would be connected to the murder as aspects of her life are unveiled. Starring Kyle MacLachlan, Sheryl Lee, Moira Kelly, Chris Isaak, Harry Dean Stanton, Ray Wise, and Keifer Sutherland. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me is a gripping yet mesmerizing film from David Lynch.

The film explores not just the final days of the life of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) who was a major subject in the TV series but also in the events that preceded her murder as it relates to the death of a young woman named Teresa Banks (Pamela Gidley). It’s a film that isn’t just about a young woman falling apart in her final days but also dealing with the revelations about the mysterious figure that had been stalking her as he would eventually become her killer. The film’s screenplay by David Lynch and Robert Engels does have an odd structure in terms of its narrative. Notably in its first act as it relates to Banks’ murder where Special Agent Chester Desmond (Chris Isaak) investigates with Sam Stanley (Kiefer Sutherland) as they find some things that relate to the murder and then something happens that stops the case that includes the sudden re-appearance and disappearance of the FBI agent Phillip Jeffries (David Bowie).

The film’s second and third act plays into Laura Palmer’s final days as she copes with being in a multitude of relationships with other men, a drug problem, and the mysterious appearance of a man named Bob (Frank Silva) who had been stalking her. Then there’s her father Leland (Ray Wise) whom she believes might actually be Bob as well where there are some revelations about his own past and such. Still, it raises questions about not just his relationship with Laura but also other things about him that definitely becomes puzzling. Even as there’s moments in Laura’s own world where she sees things as it relates to characters whom she had never met nor were part of the series in the beginning start to appear for some strange reasons. Those are among some of the flaws in the script as well as these surreal moments about this mysterious world that is the Black Lodge where Bob supposedly lives in.

Lynch’s direction is quite simple at times for the way he shoots the many locations in the Pacific Northwest while he would add things that are surreal such as Desmond and Stanley given a message from a mute woman in a red dress. It plays into this strange mix of Americana and European surrealism where Lynch does create some simple compositions and such in his close-ups, medium shots, and wide shots yet will find a way to play with these elements. The film’s first act which revolves around the Banks case where Special Agent Desmond is leading the investigation play into a world that is corrupt as Desmond and Stanley were forced to do things by themselves. By the time the story moves to the second act at the small town of Twin Peaks, it plays into the town and what it was like during Laura Palmer’s final days. Still, there are odd moments as it relates to not just some of the characters from the TV show but also the ones who either were on the show but don’t appear in the film or those who come into the show very late into the series. The direction would feature these point-of-view shots as well as moments that add to the surrealism that includes key moments in the third act that plays into Laura’s final day including her death. Even as it relates to those involved and what could’ve been done to save her. Overall, Lynch creates an eerie yet intoxicating film about a young woman’s final days in a small town.

Cinematographer Ron Garcia does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography with its usage of lights including blue lights as well as some naturalistic images for some of the scenes set in the day. Editor Mary Sweeney does excellent work with the editing as it play into the drama and suspense while creating some cutting styles and montages that are bizarre which delve into the moments that are unexplained. Production/costume designer Patricia Norris and set decorator Leslie Morales do fantastic work with the set design including the Palmer home, the Roadhouse bar, and the mysterious red room where the Man from Another World is from while the costumes are quite stylish to play to what Laura wore in her bawdy moments as well as the suits of the FBI agents.

Sound editor Douglas Murray and sound designer David Lynch do amazing work with the sound to play into some of the sound effects that occur in the film as well as in the atmosphere in some of the events that go on including the scenes where Bob would be around lurking towards Laura. The film’s music by Angelo Badalamenti is incredible as it’s the highlight of the film with its mixture of orchestral, blues, dream-pop, and ambient music that features variations of themes from the TV show as well as some somber themes that play into the drama and tragedy of the film as the music includes contributions by Julee Cruise who appears as the singer at the Roadhouse bar.

The casting by Johanna Ray is wonderful as it features small appearances from TV cast recurring/regular characters like Catherine Coulson as the Log Lady, Al Strobel as the one-armed man Philip Gerard, Lenny von Dohlen as the agoraphobic Harold Smith who would hide Laura’s diary, Peggy Lipton as the diner owner Norma Jennings, Madchen Amick as the diner waitress Shelly Johnson, Heather Graham as Annie Blackburn, Grace Zabriskie as Laura’s mother Sarah, Miguel Ferrer as Agent Rosenfeld, David Lynch as FBI regional superior Gordon Cole, Gary Hershberger as Mike Nelson, Frances Bay as the mysterious Mrs. Tremond, Walter Olkewicz as the Roadhouse bartender Jacques Renault, Michael J. Anderson as the Man from Another Place, Jonathan J. Leppell as Mrs. Tremond’s grandson, Eric Da Rae as Leo Johnson, and Phoebe Augustine as Ronette Pulaski as the young woman who would walk out of the event traumatized and lost.

Other notable small roles include Kimberly Ann Cole as the mute woman in red, Rick Aiello as deputy Howard who tries to antagonize Special Agent Desmond, Gary Bullock as Sheriff Cable, Jurgen Prochnow as a mysterious woodsman at the Black Lodge, Pamela Gidley as Teresa Banks, and Harry Dean Stanton in a terrific performance as a trailer park landlord who is trying to make sense about what happened. David Bowie is superb in a small role as the FBI agent Phillip Jeffries who had disappeared two years earlier as he suddenly appears talking about the Black Lodge. Kiefer Sutherland is excellent as Agent Sam Stanley as a man who has quirks that allow him to see things where would make a chilling discovery as it relates to Teresa Banks’ body. Frank Silva is fantastic as Bob as the evil killer who may or may not be real as he stalks Laura as he might also be involved in Banks’ death. James Marshall and Dana Ashbrook are brilliant in their respective roles as James Hurley and Bobby Briggs as Laura’s two lovers with Marshall as the sensitive Hurley and Ashbrook as the more troublesome Briggs who both cope with Laura’s offbeat behavior.

Kyle MacLachlan is amazing as Special Agent Dale Cooper who deals with the chaos over the Banks case as he waits for what will happen next as he would later become a key figure in the Palmer case. Moira Kelly is pretty good as Donna Hayward as Laura’s best friend who tries to deal with Laura’s behavior as Kelly brings a more low-key approach to the character that is played by Lara Flynn Boyle in the TV show. Ray Wise is remarkable as Leland Palmer as Laura’s father who hides a dark secret as it relates to a lot in what is happening as it’s an ambiguous but underwritten role that loses some of its intrigue. Finally, there’s Sheryl Lee in an incredible performance as Laura Palmer as this troubled young woman who deals with a severe drug problem as well as juggling relationships and a stalker as Lee brings a lot of weight and anguish to the performance of a young woman who is living on the edge.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me is an excellent though flawed film from David Lynch. While it does sort of deviate from elements of the TV series while focusing more on the events that related to Laura Palmer’s final days. As a standalone film, it is quite exhilarating and strange that manages to be out there but also riveting. For those who are fan of the TV series, the film serves as a fitting companion piece despite some of its flaws. In the end, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me is a brilliant film from David Lynch.

David Lynch Films: Eraserhead - The Elephant Man - Dune - Blue Velvet - Wild at Heart - Lost Highway - The Straight Story - Mulholland Dr. - INLAND EMPIRE - The Short Films of David Lynch Pt. 1 - (The Short Films of David Lynch Pt. 2) - (The Music Videos of David Lynch)

Twin Peaks: Season 1: Pilot - Episode 1 - Episode 2 - Episode 3 - Episode 4 - Episode 5 - Episode 6 - Episode 7

Season 2: Episode 8 - Episode 9 - Episode 10 - Episode 11 - Episode 12 - Episode 13 - Episode 14 - (Episode 15) - (Episode 16) - (Episode 17) - (Episode 18) - (Episode 19) - (Episode 20) - (Episode 21) - (Episode 22) - (Episode 23) - (Episode 24) - (Episode 25) - (Episode 26) - (Episode 27) - (Episode 28) - (Episode 29)

Season 3: (Coming Soon)

(The Missing Pieces)

The Auteurs #50: David Lynch: (Pt. 1) - (Pt. 2) - (Pt. 3) - (Pt. 4)

© thevoid99 2015