Friday, July 03, 2015

The Cruise (1998 film)




Directed and shot by Bennett Miller, The Cruise is a documentary that follows the ramblings and comments of the philosopher Timothy “Speed” Levitch who would speak while being a tour guide for New York City bus rides. The film is a look into one of the most unconventional figures in the world of art who would talk about things in the world around him. The result is an intriguing though very self-indulgent film from Bennett Miller.

Timothy “Speed” Levitch was a cult figure in the 1990s through his fast-talking yet philosophical ramblings where he was a tour guide for New York City bus rides as he talked about various places in the city and told little stories about these places. While he often spouts about things in the city and some of his own views about it, it’s a film that follows the man not just working as a tour guide but also in his own cruises around the city that he loves and sometimes hates. At times, it is very fascinating to revel into Levitch’s views into the world as well as himself as he is an interesting figure. Yet, there are moments where his ramblings can be overwhelming but also boring to listen to.

Shot in this grainy black-and-white video stock, Miller follows Levitch in his many surroundings as he often crashes in people’s places and would make his living doing the tour guide thing. Some of which has him hoping to give him a writing career as he also ponders about the idea of having a real job as he is viewed by his own family as a failure. Levitch is anything but a failure as he manages to be quite compelling at times in his work. Yet, his nasally voice isn’t for everyone while his ramblings about poets and philosophical figures not only becomes too much but it definitely makes the film to be a chore to watch. Even as Miller tries to make him less boring as he follows him around endlessly on these tour buses and in New York City while he also talks about things on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Miller’s direction is quite simple as he often gazes into images of the city as it’s a character in the film while he also shoots reaction from the people on tour as some are fascinated but others are just baffled and bored by Levitch’s own ramblings. With the aid of editor Michael Levine and sound editor Stephen Altobello, along with sound mixer David Novack, Miller goes for a very low-key, cinema verite style as he is shooting the film as if it is a low-budget documentary. Yet, it’s look is very fascinating as there are some things on the technical front that is solid. It’s just that the subject matter isn’t very interesting after ten-fifteen minutes. The film’s music by Marty Beller is low-key as it‘s mostly piano-based music while music supervisor Tracy McKnight goes for the same approach with just piano-based classical music as well.

The Cruise is a very dull film from Bennett Miller. Though Timothy “Speed” Levitch is an interesting figure, it’s a film that showcases someone who can be fascinating but his endless ramblings about everything does become a bore. In the end, The Cruise is a terrible film from Bennett Miller.

Bennett Miller Films: Capote - Moneyball - Foxcatcher - (The Auteurs #47: Bennett Miller)

© thevoid99 2015

Thursday, July 02, 2015

150 Favorite Films of 2000-2015 (That Isn't Lost in Translation) Announcement




July 5, 2000. I was browsing on the net like everyone else did where one of my obsessions at the time was a song by Leona Naess called Charm Attack which I had seen a lot on MTV2 at that time. I wanted to know more about her where I went to a fanpage and stumbled upon this website called Epinions.com where I learned that if you signed up to write a review, you could get paid. It was the first review I wrote and during those years, I would evolve from writing music reviews to writing about films and so on. I was very popular in the world of music and in film not only for my opinions but in my evolution as a writer. After 9 years of having a good relationship and being quite successful while making some decent money. Things started to sour in the fall of 2009 where it wasn't about getting late checks but also finding myself feeling constrained and compromised by my work and with the people who were running things at that time.

In 2006/2007, I signed up for a Blogger account thinking it would be a platform to write other ideas but with the exception of a review of Hotel Chevalier and a few music reviews. I rarely used it during that time from 2007 to 2009 and I wasn't sure if I would use it properly. Then 2010 came and with the weight of my own depression that was looming over me at the time and a sense of frustration with Epinions.com over not just being paid but being paid properly and actually have more control on what I wanted to say. I found myself leaning towards the blogging and just as I had hit my 10th Anniversary at the site on July 5, 2010. I had this epiphany where I had done so much and had written more than 1600 reviews on film, music, books, and a few other things but with very little to show for. There were things I wanted to do but I didn't have the avenue to do that at Epinions.com as I was also frustrated by the sense of stupidity that was emerging over the quality of the writing and everything else. For that, I told them to fuck off and never wrote for them again as I would also be relieved that the site finally crashed down on its own bullshit last year.

I think if it wasn't for this blog, I would probably be stuck and not really go anywhere. Yet, turning this blog into Surrender to the Void wasn't an easy task as I had to re-familiarize myself with the world of writing reviews and also needed new things to do. There, I was able to create things such as the Auteurs series, lists, and all sorts of stuff. Plus, I was able to expand myself into different kinds of films and review things I wasn't able to do in Epinions.com. It's amazing that I've managed to not just find creative freedom but an outlet that is far more fulfilling.

Five years later and more than thousands of posts and all sorts of crazy shit. The time has come to make a list of films that I have seen and loved for the past 15 years. This isn't a definitive list of the best films of those fifteen years but rather a list of films that I certainly loved that had come out in the past 15 years. Yet, there's a reason why this list is referred to 150 Favorite Films of 2000-2015 (that isn't Lost in Translation). For anyone that has read my work and now of my love for that film will be spared from me talking about how great that film is. For anyone that isn't familiar with my work and will wonder why that film isn't in the list, just read this. So this month will be devoted to 150 of these films that I've selected as it will be told in five parts. Some of you know might now what the top film will be while others won't. That is part of the fun about these lists as there is no clue into what might be on top and what didn't make the final cut.

© thevoid99 2015

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

The Auteurs #46: Xavier Dolan




Among the crop of new filmmakers to come out in the late 2000s, there is probably no one that has created as much excitement and ferocity better than Xavier Dolan. Though he would start out as a child actor in Quebec and do dubbing for films all over the world, his impact as a filmmaker is already immense as he’s only 26 years old with five films so far and two in the works. Openly gay and not afraid to define himself as a director of style, Dolan has managed to make the kind of films most young filmmakers would dare to dream. Even if they manage to be controversial or daring in ways that would even make those quite afraid or others who are just fascinated by how dangerous he is at times. Still, Dolan is someone that has managed to bring something new to the world of cinema as he is really just getting started.

Born Montreal in the Quebec province of Canada on March 20, 1989, Xavier Dolan was the son of the Egyptian-born Canadian comedian/singer Manuel Tardos and the schoolteacher Genevieve Dolan. Dolan would be part of the film and television industry in Canada early as a child where he became a child actor for many productions set in Quebec while getting work as a dubbing voice actor for many English-language based productions including the Harry Potter film series where he would dub the voice of the character of Ron Weasley as well as the Twilight film series as Jacob Black. While Dolan would get some financial stability and work as an actor, Dolan had the desire to wanting to make films as a director. After years of doing voice work and appearing in films and television, Dolan would get the chance to make his very first film.

More can be read here at Cinema Axis.

© thevoid99 2015

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Films That I Saw: June 2015



Summer is heating up and it’s not really a good thing as I’m not really fond of warm weather as I prefer to stay home. Yet, I’ve been spending much of my time at home because there isn’t a lot going on and I don’t have a lot of money which forced me to miss the Stones playing at Bobby Dodd Stadium earlier this month. Then again, I’m not surprised that I missed since I rarely have the kind of money to see something like this though I do hope they will come to Atlanta once again and I hope to have the money this time around. At the same time, I’ve been slowing things down now as there’s days where I would watch a movie and end up not watching it.

Largely because I just don’t have the urge to do anything and I’ve been sleeping very late recently. I sometimes have bad insomnia spells as I couldn’t sleep and would end up waking up nearly noon or something. Plus, I’m dealing with my dog Prissy who is very old as she’s pissing on the floor a lot and is becoming blind. It’s just pretty overwhelming these days as I decided to just slow down.


In the month of June, I saw a total of 26 films in 13 first-timers and 13 re-watches plus six episodes of the first season of Twin Peaks as part of my summer marathon devoted to the series. Definitely down from last month due to other activities and such. The highlight of the month was definitely my Blind Spot assignment in The Long Goodbye. Here are the top 10 First-Timers I saw for June 2015:

1. Il Sorpasso


2. Tom at the Farm


3. Spy


4. Dreams


5. Love is Strange


6. Carne


7. Pretty Baby


8. Altman


9. All These Women


10. Magic in the Moonlight


Monthly Mini-Reviews:

Premature


This was a weird but funny teen sex comedy that mixes the elements of Groundhog Day in which a young high school kid is forced to relive one of the worst days of his life and at the worst time when he’s being interviewed to attend a prestigious college. It is quite funny while the real star is Alan Tudyk in a cameo role as the college representative who is going through a divorce as it’s very silly but funny in terms of what a kid will do to lose his virginity to the hottest girl in school.

Top 10 Re-Watches:

1. Gone Girl


2. The Empire Strikes Back


3. Spaceballs


4. Star Wars


5. Superman Returns


6. Return of the Jedi


7. Just Friends


8. Stick It


9. Revenge of the Sith


10. Blades of Glory


Well, that is all in July. Tomorrow in honor of Canada Day, my Auteurs piece on Xavier Dolan will come out as I will start work on my next subject in Bennett Miller. I will also release my list of 150 Favorite Films (that isn’t Lost in Translation) from 2000 to 2015 to celebrate my 15 years in writing reviews. Along with theatrical releases like Inside Out, Magic Mike XXL, Vacation, and hopefully a few others. I will release a new list of films that I think should be in the Criterion Collection in conjunction with Barnes & Nobles’ Criterion sale and reviews of films by the Martin Scorsese, Sam Peckinpah, and Warren Beatty along with some recent releases. The Star Wars and Twin Peaks marathon will continue where in the former, I will finally watch the infamous Holiday Special. Until then, may the Schwartz be with you….

© thevoid99 2015

Monday, June 29, 2015

Altman (2014 film)



Directed by Ron Mann and written by Len Blum, Altman is a documentary that explores the life and career of one of American cinema’s great artists in Robert Altman. Featuring audio interviews with his widow Kathryn Reed Altman, their children, and the people who had worked with him. The film plays into Altman and his peculiar approach to filmmaking and storytelling along with rare footage of behind-the-scenes footage and rare home movies provided by his family. The result is an enchanting and exhilarating portrait of one of American cinema’s great voices.

The term “Altmanesque” is something that best describes the style of the kind of films that Robert Altman makes which are based on real things that are happening with overlapping dialogue while refusing to play by traditional and conventional aesthetics that usually happens in mainstream cinema. For those that had worked with him and those like Paul Thomas Anderson who was inspired by him, it’s a term that means many thing. Especially to a man that didn’t live his life by conventional means as he was someone that liked to have a good time and treat his actors and collaborators as part of his family. It’s a film that isn’t just a tribute to Altman but also to his body of work which were all defined by its refusal to play by the rules whether they were successful or not.

Each chapter opens with a collaborator of Altman such as Lily Tomlin, Lyle Lovett, Sally Kellerman, Elliott Gould, Michael Murphy, Paul Thomas Anderson, Keith Carradine, Robin Williams, and several others to each define the term “Altmanesque” in their own way. These chapters would play into Altman’s early life where he served in the U.S. Air Force in World War II and later found his way into the film industry when he co-wrote the screen story for a film called Bodyguard in 1948 for RKO Pictures. The film would also play into Altman’s time doing industrial films and documentaries during the 1950s, his work on various TV series where he would meet his third wife Kathryn Reed, and his first films as a feature-film director where he would clash with studio heads about how to tell a story.

By the time he broke through with M.A.S.H. in 1970, things would definitely go up as Altman would often have his own family on the set where director Ron Mann would reveal not just a few rare short films but also some rare behind-the-scenes moments and such to show how Altman’s children were part of the set. Notably as his son Stephen would start out as a props man and later be his father’s production designer while Matthew Reed Altman would become a camera operator for much of his father’s films. The success that Altman would have for much of the 1970s where he was able to remain independent while working with studios gave him the chance to create a studio of his own in Lion’s Gate Films (not the US/Canada studio of the same name) that launched the career of Alan Rudolph and several others.

The film would play into Altman’s own innovations as a filmmaker where he would find new ways to record a lot of overlapping dialogue through little microphones on the actors while Altman and a sound mixer would find out which dialogue to use and how to mix it right the way to make it feel natural. While his innovations would be used for a lot of films by other filmmakers including Hollywood, the film also played into Altman’s own exile from Hollywood until 1992’s The Player where he made a big comeback. Some of the scenes that Mann would create would be presented through the work of art directors/animators Matthew Badiali and Craig Small who would create some background images of what Altman might’ve been doing during those times.

With the aid of cinematographer Simon Ennis in shooting some of the testimonies from Altman’s collaborators and Kathryn Reed Altman for its ending along with editor Robert Kennedy to compile footage of Altman’s earlier work and rare home films. Even as the sound work of John Laing would help play into Altman’s innovations in capturing overlapping dialogue while the music of Phil Dwyer and Guido Luciani is playful with its jazz-based score. Music supervisor Mike Rosnick would maintain that sense of playfulness with the music to play into the different periods of time.

Altman is a phenomenal documentary film from Ron Mann. It’s a film that anyone who loves the work of Robert Altman must see this not just for some of the rare home movies and interviews he does but also into a study of his methods. For anyone new to Altman might think of the film as a nice place to start though his own work is the best way to look into the man and his work. In the end, Altman is a remarkable film from Ron Mann.

© thevoid99 2015

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Summer of Twin Peaks: Episode 5-Cooper's Dream



Directed by Lesli Linka Glatter and written by Mark Frost, the fifth episode of Twin Peaks entitled Cooper’s Dream revolves around the discovery of Leo Johnson’s blood-stained shirt that Bobby Briggs put in the apartment home of Jacques Renault. Special Agent Cooper, Sheriff Truman, Deputy Hawk, and Dr. Hayward all check out what is in Renault’s apartment where they find some clues into the work that Renault and Johnson are up to. It’s an episode where it is not just about a series of investigations where Audrey Horne, James Hurley, and Donna Hayward trek into their own journeys to find out what is going on where Hurley and Hayward ask Laura’s cousin Maddy for help.

The episode does find a balance of quirky humor with some suspense and drama as there’s also some looming tension as it relates to Hank Jennings’ return to society as he promises Norma to do right though it is clear he might have a history with Josie Packard. Hank’s return would put Norma’s affair with Ed Hurley on hold while Benjamin Horne’s attempt to buy the Martell saw mill is getting closer with Catherine Martell wanting to ruin Packard. It’s an episode that plays into a lot of elements in the underworld as Mark Frost would write events and little subplots that play into not just how Laura Palmer’s death would unravel some of the things in the town but also how things become more complicated as it relates to her own activities.

One major subplot involves Bobby Briggs and his affair with Shelley Johnson as the latter reveals she had bought a gun as the two pretend to play with it while Briggs would finally unveil a more tormented side of himself during a session with Dr. Jacoby as it relates to Laura. It’s a moment where Dana Ashbrook’s performance definitely shows a lot of layers as someone who has some depth and makes Briggs a character who isn’t just some good-looking bad boy but one who is very troubled. Sherilyn Fenn’s performance as Audrey Horne is another standout not just due to the script but also in Audrey’s motivations as she would blackmail her father’s department store boss to get her a job where she would work to investigate what Laura and Ronette would do. Even as it showcased more of her attraction towards Agent Cooper.

Lesli Linka Glatter’s direction is very mesmerizing in the compositions as well as matching the elements of suspense and humor such as a scene where Cooper, Truman, Hawk, and Dr. Hayward meet with the log lady who would reveal some things that her log claims to have seen. It would be a key break into the story while the episode would also feature moments of humor as Cooper is annoyed by visiting Icelanders for a business convention held by Benjamin and Jerry Horne. A business meeting and later a party that would set the course for some of the elements of greed that looms over Benjamin but also a moment that shows Leland Palmer losing it. Yet, it’s one of the final scenes of the episode that involves the Johnsons that becomes a major turning point as their story ends in a cliffhanger.

Cooper’s Dream is a phenomenal episode of Twin Peaks thanks in large part to Mark Frost’s script and Lesli Linka Glatter’s direction. It’s an episode that ends on a high note into what will happen next while keeping this mysterious about what happened and what is going on. In the end, Cooper’s Dream is a dazzling and riveting episode from Lesli Linka Glatter.

Twin Peaks: Season 1: Pilot - Episode 1 - Episode 2 - Episode 3 - Episode 4 - (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)

Season 3: (Coming Soon)

(Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me) - (The Missing Pieces)

© thevoid99 2015

Friday, June 26, 2015

Summer of Twin Peaks: Episode 4-The One-Armed Man




Directed by Tim Hunter and written by Robert Engels, the fifth episode of Twin Peaks entitled The One-Armed Man is an episode where Special Agent Cooper and Sheriff Truman find more answers into the underworld and who is connected to who. Especially as they uncover certain things relating to the Renault brothers and their dealing with drugs as there is more that is going that the authorities don’t know yet. Notably as it plays into growing feud between Josie Packard and Catherine Martell over the sawmill and other events that lurks into the town where Deputy Hawk would finally track a mysterious one-armed man who could be a suspect relating to Laura Palmer’s death.

It’s an episode that plays into a lot of the things that are going behind the scenes in the town of Twin Peaks as the authorities would try to get answers as they confront this one-armed man in Philip Michael Gerard (Al Strobel) who admits to being in the hospital the same night Hawk was meeting the Pulaski family. Yet, it turns out to be a step back where Cooper receives word from a fellow FBI agent in Gordon Cole (David Lynch) about some of the marks in Laura’s body. The episode also reveals about Laura’s missing necklace where James Hurley and Donna Hayward realize that someone had took it based on a vision that Sarah Palmer had.

The episode would feature Donna making a secret alliance with Audrey Horne who wants to find out who killed Laura despite the fact that she and Laura weren’t close friends. It plays into the element of suspense and intrigue as Audrey would plea to her father to work at his cosmetics store as a way to please him who is unaware of her real motives. While it’s an episode that has a few elements of humor as it relates to Cooper’s unconventional methods and an encounter with a veterinarian’s building with all sorts of animals including a llama. It is a darker episode where it would feature the introduction of Norma’s husband Hank (Chris Mulkey) who is awaiting the results of his parole hearing where he promises Norma to do things right for her.

Tim Hunter’s direction definitely plays up the elements offbeat humor with elements of suspense and drama. Notably as it focuses on some of the things that goes on in the town where Josie Packard stakes out a motel where Benjamin Horne and Catherine Martell are having their fling. Much of it plays into Horne and Martell’s plans to ruin Packard while the episode would later reveal Horne being aligned with someone more nefarious as it relates to the underworld of Twin Peaks. Then there’s the Dr. Jacoby character who remains very ambiguous as Audrey believes that he knows something as does Agent Cooper. It all plays into the complexity of the case as well as some strange events where James Hurley meets Laura’s cousin Maddy for the first time as he is surprised at how much she looks like Laura.

The One-Armed Man is an excellent episode from Tim Hunter that maintains much of the film’s strange approach to mystery as well as exploring some of the drama that revolves around some of its characters. Most notably as it showcases some of the darker elements that is happening where those who are good are trying to set things right in a world that is very corrupt. In the end, The One-Armed Man is a riveting episode of Twin Peaks from Tim Hunter.

Twin Peaks: Season 1: Pilot - Episode 1 - Episode 2 - Episode 3 - 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)

Season 3: (Coming Soon)

(Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me) - (The Missing Pieces)

© thevoid99 2015