Monday, December 31, 2012

The Year-End Reflections of 2012




The end of another year and honestly, the end of a pretty bad year. Sure, I saw a lot of great movies and made some discoveries but there were also some personal issues that nearly ruined things as I also went into some health issues. I'm OK now though I really hope I don't go through another year like this. It was just horrible. Some of it had to do with families and I will admit, I don't really like any of them. There was also some financial issues that I went through as I really couldn't go anywhere or do anything. Now, it's been sorted out for now. Hopefully, I can do something and hope I can go to some film festivals for 2013.

Now that's out of the way, 2012 was still a good year in terms of film-watching and such. Though things in the music side weren't so great. There were things that kept me entertained and engaged. A lot of which were some discoveries as well as there were filmmakers I was into as well as films that I saw. A lot of which were new to me as also I found a lot of new films that I would definitely put in my all-time best of films list. So for now, here are the 10 best things that I experienced in 2012:

1. Robert Bresson



Of all of the filmmakers that I discovered this year that has intrigued me, no one was as more interesting than Robert Bresson. It started in December of 2011 when one of the DVDs I got from the last Criterion sale was for Mouchette. I was amazed by the minimalist quality of it and how he was able to find realism in the use of non-professional actors. Since then, I would see four more of his films in Diary of a Country Priest, A Man Escaped, Pickpocket, and The Trial of Joan of Arc. I'm eager to see more of his films in 2013 and beyond in the hopes I can do an Auteurs piece on him real soon.

2. The Auteurs Series



This was definitely the most successful essay series that I took part in. It began in late 2010 and then, a few more came by in 2011. Now, it's a monthly thing which gives me the chance to divulge into filmmakers I'm familiar with and those who I was just getting into and give them something that is worthy of their work. It also gave me the chance to revisit some of their films or see those that I had never seen to fulfill my list of films to see. From Lars von Trier to Stanley Kubrick, this was a good year for filmmaker discoveries for me as I hope 2013's subjects will do the same.

3. Letterboxd



I got to thank Courtney of Big Thoughts from a Small Mind for introducing me to this. For years, I had a hard time keeping up with the many films I've seen in my lifetime. Thanks to Letterboxd, I can not only keep track but also find out how many films I've seen so far. I don't have a good number of how many first-timers I saw in 2012 but I'm sure it's somewhere over 200. I hope to exceed this record for 2013 and create something that will have me lessen the number of films that I need to see.

4. Andrei Tarkovsky



One of the filmmakers of the Auteurs series that I ventured into was Andrei Tarkovsky. Prior to this year, I had only seen 2 films. By the end of the summer, I had now seen everything he's done. He's definitely a filmmaker that is unlike anyone who had been working in the second half of the 20th Century. His exploration into faith and humanity had been interesting from films like Andrei Rublev, Stalker, and The Sacrifice. I really hope people get a chance to see his films although they're not easy to watch but they all have something to say about the world in general.

5. New Music Discoveries



I'm not really fond of new music this year as there wasn't really anything other than some artists that I'm familiar with that released anything good. I hate top 40 pop music. I hate mainstream rock. I hate this new wave folk music. I practically detest everything that's on the radio. Even indie music isn't that good these days. For me, it forced me to go backwards somewhat where I revisited synth-pop while I discovered music from acts like King Crimson and Can where the latter introduced me to Krautrock.

6. Holy Motors



Of all of the films I saw this year, there was definitely one that stood out for me. I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into as I had only seen bits of Lovers on the Bridge on TV as well as Leos Carax's segment in Tokyo!. What I saw was something that truly defined the meaning of what a film is and what it should be. There's not much plot to it nor did it need one. It's all about what it needed to say visually or stylistically. It's not a film for everyone but for anyone versed in cinema, this was a true delight of the year.

7. CM Punk



The man is definitely the Best in the World. For me, he is the best wrestler in the world not matter what the WWE Universe says nor what the Slammys say since they gave the Superstar of the Year to John Cena who didn't really have any big wins in 2012. The reason CM Punk is my favorite wrestler this year, along with Daniel Bryan, is the fact that he's the one guy who continues to defy description whether he's a face or heel. I too, am a Paul Heyman guy. Heyman is one of the few men who understands about what should be done with pro wrestling while Vince McMahon is becoming more out of touch as he is about to send some goof to arrive as a ballroom dancing gimmick. Right now, Punk has been the WWE champion for more than 400 days. No one hasn't done that in years so this man deserves some respect! Fuck you Cenation! I hope Dolph Ziggler and AJ Lee give Cena the ass-kicking of a lifetime... and then some.

8. New Bloggers to Enjoy



One of the things about being a blogger is finding something else to read. In 2012, there were a lot of people to read that I managed to be entertained by. So for these bloggers, I want to thank them for making my year at least enjoyable. So thank you to Sati @ Cinematic Corner, David of Taste of Cinema, Movienut14 @ Defiant Success, Tips of Tips from Chips, Diana @ Aziza's Picks, Vern of The Video Vanguard, Tyler of Southern Vision, Chris of movieandsongs365, and Norma of Being Norma Jeane.

9. Finding Films/Documentaries on YouTube



One aspect about being online is that you tend to get bored. Sure, there's stuff to see on YouTube but they eventually get removed while for those who don't have Netflix or any other streaming service can always find something to see. If it wasn't for sites like IndieWire, I wouldn't get the chance to find things to see on the net like the Nicholas Winding Refn documentary NWR or BBC documentaries on YouTube. Plus, I got the chance to see things that would be available for a while as if they were exclusive. God bless the Internet.

10. New Films Discoveries



One aspects about being a film buff that is exciting are the discoveries. For me, there were a lot from films like Repulsion, Kes, The Passion of Joan of Arc, Vivre Sa Vie, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, Silent Light, Scenes from a Marriage, La Jetee, Sans Soleil, and many others. I hope to see a whole lot more for next year as it's all about discoveries when it comes to film-watching.

Well, that is it for 2012. Let's toss this year away and begin a new one. I will close with something that I believe is one of the best moments in film for 2012:



(C) thevoid99 2012

The Films That I Saw: December 2012



Another month has end as well as the end of another year and honestly, it’s a relief. Personally, 2012 was not a very good year. I went through some health issues as well as some personal issues. Some of it affected my film-watching. Still, I’ve managed to see a good number of films as I ended the year at least on a high note. Especially as December was some serious film-viewing due to the slate of films that were coming out though there’s more 2012 releases to see for next month though I doubt I will come up with a definitive 2012 list since I still have never done lists for 2009, 2010, and 2011.

In the course of December, I saw a total of 43 films. 27 first-timers and 16 re-watches. Somewhat slightly up from last month except in first-timers though it was still considering what I saw in that month. Some of which were related to Stanley Kubrick for the Auteurs piece on him as well as various other films I came across to or had in my DVR hard drives. And some that were theatrical releases. One of which in the form of Django Unchained that had me experience one of the worst theatrical film-going experiences I had ever had.

Not since the 2006 screening of Brokeback Mountain had I experience something like this but on a very different level. What happened when I went to see Brokeback was that in the middle of the film during the scene where Ennis talks about what he had saw as a child to Jack. The sound went down. I couldn’t hear anything properly for 10-15 minutes and it ruined the movie for me. After the screening, those who had seen the film including myself got a free pass which I used for Match Point a week later. With Django Unchained, this was very different as I saw on Christmas Day in the morning with a full crowd. We were all having a good time. More than two hours into the film, something happened and the screen went blank.

It was horrible. For 20-25 minutes, nothing was happening as the theater manager revealed that the power went out and that the projector had to be rebooted. Honestly, I wondered where were the projectors who were supposed to be handling these things? It is an indication of how times have changed and not for the better. I sat in my seat waiting for the screen to come back as I was talking to fellow patrons as they were texting and such. Honestly, I frown upon texting or anything in a film theater but in this case. I made this an exception. The film finally came though everyone was saying “fast-forward” and it got to the part just before the scene that we were about to watch. Most of the people got to finish seeing the film but that incident ruined everything. At least we all got passes afterwards which I used a week later to see Les Miserables.

If anyone had experiences like this, let me know as I’m sure some of us went through something like this. Right now, here are the 10 best first-timers I saw for December 2012:

1. 12 Monkeys


2. The Passion of Joan of Arc


3. Django Unchained


4. Bound for Glory


5. Rosemary's Baby


6. Coming Home


7. The French Connection


8. Delicatessen


9. Weekend


10. Les Miserables


Monthly Mini-Reviews:

Limelight


The documentary about famed NYC club king Peter Gatien has moments of interest about the NYC club scene in the late 80s and 1990s that was quite hot but the documentary itself was quite boring. It wasn’t engaging enough and some of the presentation in the visual effects looked very cheap. It really didn’t do enough to showcase more of why Gatien was very influential to that scene as its third act suffered too much into Gatien’s legal issues.

Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie


Though it’s just a collection of outtakes from Anchorman, this spin-off is still quite entertaining as it featured more Ron Burgundy, the Channel 4 News Team including Brick Tamland, and Veronica Corningstone trying to report about a group of anarchists. It’s pretty funny as it shows more of Champ’s possible homosexuality and who actually plays the troubled son of Ed Harken. It’s something fans of the film must see.

Wanderlust


People rag on Jennifer Aniston for good reason although she’s actually a better actress than I think some people give her credit for in films like Office Space, The Good Girl, Horrible Bosses, and Friends with Money. This film features one of those better performances as well as the fact that it’s actually pretty funny. Aniston and Paul Rudd play a couple who move from New York City to Atlanta to find work only to come across a hippie commune and stay there for a while. The scene of Aniston tripping her balls off was quite funny as well as other revelations relating to the world of hippies and such. It’s not as good as David Wain’s other films but still quite entertaining.

The Three Musketeers (2011 film)


Paul W.S. Anderson is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. Sure, he’s made a bunch of bad movies although he has made some decent films like Mortal Kombat and Event Horizon. This film is definitely the most ridiculous film he’s ever made. It’s quite idiotic at times and the action is so over the top. The acting is quite hammy and sometimes pretty bad. Yet, it doesn’t apologize for it as it is fully aware of how bad it is. I kind of admire that and I found myself strangely entertained by it. Notably the performances of Christoph Waltz and Mads Mikkelsen as well as Orlando Bloom hamming it up as the Duke of Buckingham.

Ordinary People


People rag on this film for the fact that it beat Raging Bull and The Elephant Man for the Best Picture Oscar in 1980. Still, this is actually one of the better films that actually deserves that Oscar as it’s a very engaging and heart wrenching melodrama. Notably as it revolves around Timothy Hutton dealing with guilt as a family is being torn apart by death. The performances of Hutton, Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore, and Judd Hirsch are brilliant as well as the realism into how people deal with death that is directed with such subtlety by Robert Redford.

Re-Watches:

1. A Clockwork Orange


2. The Tree of Life


3. Harold and Maude


4. Finding Nemo


5. We Need to Talk About Kevin


6. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy


7. Eyes Wide Shut


8. Garden State


9. Shall We Dance?


10. Namath


Well, that will be it for December and 2012. There will be one final 2012-related post to reflect on the rest of the year. Coming in January will be a slew of reviews of films by Robert Altman, William Friedkin, and a few others as well as the first part of the 2013 Blind Spot Series and whoever is related to that. There will also be some re-watches for films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The City of Lost Children as it will both be related to the upcoming Auteurs series for its respective directors. Until then, let’s have a Happy New Year.

© thevoid99 2012

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Passion of Joan of Arc




Written, edited, and directed by Carl Theodor Dryer that is inspired by Joseph Delteil‘s book, La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (The Passion of Joan of Arc) is the story of Joan of Arc’s capture by the English as she’s put onto trial where she tries to defend herself against the English. The film is an exploration into Joan of Arc’s life and her defiance against those as she claims about doing God’s will. Starring Renee Jeanne Falconetti, Eugene Silvain, Andre Berley, and Maurice Schutz. La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc is an astonishing yet riveting film from Carl Theodor Dreyer.

The film is essentially a dramatic interpretation of Joan of Arc’s trial where she is being persecuted by the English over witchcraft and heresy. During this trial, judges and priests try to get Joan to sign a false confession in order to save her life as they even try to manipulate her. Joan continually defies the English claiming she’s just doing what God is asking her to do. Yet, she does eventually sign her confession only to recant everything she had said feeling she’s just doing wrong out of fear as she gains the courage to face her death. It’s a story that is told with a lot of simplicity as it is based largely on transcripts on what had happened at the trial.

While there isn’t much plot to the film as it largely takes place in a courtroom, it is all about Joan of Arc’s defiance against the English who are accusing her and doing whatever to break her. What is most compelling about the story is Joan’s devotion to God as she is just stating what she believes in as she is continually being questioned by bishops and treated with cruelty by guards. To the people outside of the courtroom, they see Joan as a saint and what happens to her inspires a passionate response. Even those at the trial such as a young priest realized what was done was unjustified.

Carl Theodor Dreyer’s direction is very engaging for the way he frames the film as well as the close-ups he creates to express the heightened emotions of the film. Notably with Joan of Arc who is always looking up in the air as she is trying to communicate with God waiting for an answer from him. Dreyer’s camera work is very entrancing in the way he frames everything as he always have the camera looking up at the bishops while keeping things straight for Joan of Arc. There’s also some stylish shots from above or under to display the kind of chaos that occurs with the crowd as they watch Joan of Arc accept her fate. Dreyer also creates some unique imagery to emphasize the idea of faith as it’s the one thing Joan of Arc is clinging to. Through some effective yet rhythmic cutting, Dreyer keeps things intense as well as methodical to see how far these men will break. Overall, Dreyer creates a truly mesmerizing portrait about Joan of Arc and how she defied those who questioned her faith.

Cinematographer Rudolph Mate does brilliant work with the film‘s black-and-white photography to maintain lots of coverage for the film‘s intimate framing as well as utilizing lighting schemes to display the authority figures. Art director Herrmann Warm does amazing work with the sets from the courtroom to the scenes outside of the castle. The costumes of Valentin Hugo is wonderful for the period that is created from the robes the bishops and priests wear to the ragged clothes of Joan. For the film’s mid-1990s reissue, composer Richard Einhorn creates a sprawling oratorio that plays to the emotions and drama that is played out in the film as it’s definitely a highlight of the film.

The film’s superb cast includes some notable performances from Michel Simon as a judge, Maurice Schutz and Andre Berley as a couple of bishops involved in the trial, and Eugene Silvain as the lead bishop Pierre Chaucon. Finally, there’s Renee Jeanne Falconetti in the role of Joan of Arc where Falconetti gives a truly unforgettable performance as this young woman trying to hold on to her faith as she is being pushed around by many people in order to break her as it’s definitely a performance for the ages.

La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc is a magnificent film from Carl Theodor Dreyer about the trial and death of Joan of Arc. Featuring a captivating performance from Renee Jeanne Falconetti as well as dazzling images, it is truly one of the great films of the silent film era as well as one of the definitive films about Joan of Arc. For those new to Dreyer, this film is definitely the best place to start. In the end, La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc is an incredible film from Carl Theodor Dreyer.

Carl Theodor Dreyer Films: (The President) - (The Parson’s Widow) - Leaves from Satan's Book - (Love One Another) - (Once Upon a Time) - (Michael (1924 film)) - (Thou Shalt Honor Thy Wife) - (Bride of Glomdal) - Vampyr - Day of Wrath - (Two People) - (Ordet) - (Gertrud)

© thevoid99 2012

Crossfire Hurricane




Directed by Brett Morgan, Crossfire Hurricane is a documentary about the Rolling Stones’ rise to success and acceptance through their lawless persona in the 1960s and 1970s. Featuring audio interviews with members of the band along with former members Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor, the film explores many of the band’s period from the 1960s to the early 1980s through archival footage as well as footage from the other documentaries made by the band. The result is a very entertaining and engaging documentary about one of the greatest rock n’ roll bands of all-time.

Most documentaries about musicians often has a narrative that is typical with most documentaries. Either the whole story is told or they skim on some parts of the story in order to present something basic. With the Rolling Stones, their story is anything but basic since they never were the band that played by the rules during their hey-day. While subjects like the band’s drug use, Brian Jones’ death in 1969, the disastrous concert in Altamont, and Keith Richards’ notorious drug busts are talked about. What make it different in this film is that it’s told from the band themselves through audio interviews as they’re not seen. Through their recollections, the Stones along with former members Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor talk about the band’s wild period and their rebellious persona from the early 1960s to the early 1980s where the band was becoming the hottest touring act ever.

While the documentary doesn’t talk about what happened to Stones in the 1980s and beyond except through concert footage along with a clip from Martin Scorsese’s Shine a Light to end the film. It’s a film that is more about how the Stones went from being infamous, reviled, and enemies of the establishment to becoming loved by many all over the world as legions of people go to their shows and by their album just as they were getting their act together. Through archival footage from many of the band’s TV appearances, rare footage, and clips from some of the documentaries the band made like Gimme Shelter, Let’s Spend the Night Together, Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones, Sympathy for the Devil, The Rolling Stones Rock N’ Roll Circus, and the bootlegged Cocksucker Blues. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Ronnie Wood, Bill Wyman, and Mick Taylor all tell stories about these events and their exploits.

While the stories that the Stones reveal doesn’t feature anything new that hasn’t been heard from past documentaries and books about the band. What does make it interesting is the fact it’s told by the band themselves through their recollections though the band admit they don’t remember everything they went through. A lot of the commentary is made by Jagger and Richards since they’re the most well-known individuals in the band where Jagger revels about the onstage personas he created during those years while Richards reveals a lot of detail into his drug abuse at the time. The band also dwell on Brian Jones’ decline and his death in 1969 where they admit to having some regret about not having to do more for him during those times. Jones’ replacement Mick Taylor revealed how he got into the band while he also reveals, though in an admitted cagey response, into why he left the band in 1974 that led to Ronnie Wood becoming his replacement.

Through the wonderful editing of Stuart Levy and Conor O’Neill and the intricate sound design of Cameron Frankley and Jason W. Jennings. The film is given a unique look where some concert footage is inter-cut with some wilder moments while the music that is used does help tell the story. Brett Morgan’s direction is unique for the way he uses footage and music to help move the narrative as the film begins with a performance from the band in 1972 and then goes back in time to their early concerts when they were just doing covers.

While it may not offer anything new to fans of the Rolling Stones, Crossfire Hurricane is still a remarkable documentary from Brett Morgan. Particularly as it gives the band and its former members the chance to talk about themselves through archival footage as well as some rare material. It’s a film that is a nice introduction to the band though 25x5 is really the most comprehensive film about the band even though it only talks about their first 25 years. With the band now having reached 50 years, it is still amazing that they’re still around and showing younger acts how it’s done. In the end, Crossfire Hurricane is a superb documentary about the Rolling Stones.

© thevoid99 2012

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Les Miserables (2012 film)



Based on the novel by Victor Hugo and its musical by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, Les Miserables is the story about a convict who becomes a mayor in France only to be haunted by the presence of a police inspector as he goes on the run with a young girl to take care of for her mother as they later deal with a growing revolution. Directed by Tom Hooper and screenplay by Boublil, Schonberg, William Nicholson, and Herbert Kretzmer, the film is an exploration into redemption and seeking the chance to find a new life while facing old fears. Starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Samantha Barks, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Helena Bohnam Carter. Les Miserables is a sprawling yet spectacular musical from Tom Hooper.

After serving 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread for his nephew, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is released on parole as he tries to find work only to be shunned for his conviction as he finds shelter at a church. After stealing some silver from that church and later captured, the bishop (Colm Wilkinson) claims that he gave the silver to Valjean as he later tells him to use it to start a new life. Eight years later, Valjean reinvents himself as a mayor only to deal with the presence of a police investigator named Javert (Russell Crowe) whom Valjean know who was the lead guard at the prison many years ago. Meanwhile, a woman named Fatine (Anne Hathaway) was fired by a foreman as she is seeking to get money for her young daughter Cosette (Isabelle Allen) who is living at another home. Fatine is forced into prostitution as she is later saved by Valjean who realizes what’s happened to her as he vows to Fatine that he will find Cosette and take care of her.

After evading Javert who had learned about Valjean’s true identity, Valjean finds Cosette who is living with a couple in Thenardiers (Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bohnam Carter) as he gives them money to take Cosette off their hands. After realizing Javert is in Paris looking for him, Valjean and Cosette hide in a convent where Valjean is able to escape from Javert. Nine years later as Valjean becomes a father to Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), revolution is happening as Cosette catches the eye of a young revolutionary named Marius (Eddie Redmayne). Also in Paris are the Thenardiers and their daughter Eponine (Samantha Barks) who is in love with Marius as she reluctantly shows his where Cosette lives.

After realizing that Javert is nearby, Valjean runs away again with Cosette until the battle rages on where he learns that Cosette has fallen in love with Marius as he decides to help Marius with the revolution. When Javert is in the battle as a spy and later captured by the revolutionaries, he and Valjean come face-to-face where Valjean would make a decision about their fates.

The film is the story about a convict who seeks to find redemption after being in prison for 19 years over a small crime as he is haunted by who he is as well as an inspector who doesn’t believe that this man will redeem himself. Along the way, he finds salvation and love as he does whatever it takes to do right for a woman who had been wronged and for a young girl to become a beautiful young woman who later falls for a revolutionary. In the course of the film, it is a story about people all trying to get something whether it’s to fulfill a sense of duty, to find love, to be loved, or to gain redemption in these terrible times during the early 1800s in France after the French Revolution.

The screenplay is faithful to the musical as it explores a lot of the complexities of these characters as it is largely about Jean Valjean’s yearning to find redemption for his sins where he would do things for those he felt had been wronged or what he had done. Yet, he is pursued by Inspector Javert who is convinced that Valjean is a criminal and always will be a criminal as once he learned Valjean had broke parole. He is determined to do whatever to get him back in prison as an act of duty. When Valjean reinvents himself as a mayor where he hopes that people will be treated well, he learns about a woman who had been fired and goes into prostitution in Fatine. Fatine is someone who just wants to work to give money to help care for her illegitimate child as she goes into great despair thinking there is no good in the world until Valjean saves her where he would vow to do right for her by becoming a father to her daughter.

When Valjean takes Cosette away from the cruel Thenardiers, who likes to steal from their customers at their inn, he hopes to give Cosette a life that is good and will allow her to become a woman. Yet, times would change in the face of another revolution in France where Cosette would fall for this young revolutionary in Marius as he becomes torn between love and duty as he is unaware that the Thenardiers’ daughter Eponine is in love with him as she would play a key part in the story. Eventually, things would collide where Valjean would have to get involved with the revolution in order to do whatever to give two young people a future while facing his own demons as well as Javert.

Tom Hooper’s direction is definitely big in terms of its presentation as it is a musical that isn’t shot on some stage or a soundstage. Instead, it is shot as if it was on location where things are big and the musical numbers also play up to the grandeur of the story. While there’s a few moments such as some shaky hand-held camera work that doesn’t entirely work at times, Hooper does manage to keep things in tact through these sprawling compositions filled with crane shots, tracking shots, and other stylistic shots to maintain that air of spectacle. Hooper does also bring things where it is intimate in order to display emotions or something that helps tell the story.

Since this is a musical, there isn’t a lot of spoken dialogue as a lot of it essentially sung. Notably on the set where it adds to the emotional tone of the story such as the I Dreamed a Dream scene where it is shot in one unbroken take to capture the sense of anguish and loss that Fatine is going through. While the bombastic music that is by Claude-Michel Schonberg and lyrics by Alain Boublil does play into the many emotions of the film, Hooper’s direction makes sure that the music isn’t distracting while taking a few moments for the singing to stop for a few dialogue interplay with the actors. Still, it is about what is sung and how it helps tell the story as Hooper knows when to keep things simple that includes the film’s ending. Overall, Tom Hooper crafts a very heart-wrenching yet dazzling musical that has all of the splendor in what is expected in the genre.

Cinematographer Danny Cohen does excellent work with the film’s photography from the somewhat de-saturated look of the colors in the exteriors to the more simplistic yet stylish lighting schemes in the interiors. Editors Melanie Anne Oliver and Chris Dickens is terrific for its stylish approach to cutting by using some fast cuts on some of the film’s upbeat numbers while going for more methodical cuts in the ballads. Production designer Eve Stewart and supervising art director Grant Armstrong do amazing work with the set pieces from the dreary look of the prostitutes area to the chaos that is set in Paris for the film’s revolutionary scenes including its climatic battle.

Costume designer Paco Delgado does brilliant work with the costumes from the lavish yet ragged look of some of the women‘s clothing to the uniform that Javert wears. Hair and makeup designer Lisa Westcott does superb work with the look of the characters for Valjean as he ages in the years to the more offbeat look of the Thenardiers. Visual effects supervisors Richard Bain and Sean Mathiesen do wonderful work with some of the exterior settings to recreate the look of early 1800s France. Sound designer Dominic Gibbs along with sound editors Lee Walpole and John Warhurst, does fantastic work with the sound to blend all of the voices in multiple singing parts as well as the intimacy in some of the solo parts of the singing.

The casting by Nina Gold is incredible for the ensemble that is created as it features some notable small roles from Aaron Tveit as Marius’ revolutionary friend Enjolras, Daniel Huttlestone as the adolescent revolutionary Gavroche, Michael Jibson as the foreman who fires Fatine, Patrick Godfrey as Marius’ grandfather, Natalya Angel Wallace as the young Eponine, and Colm Wilkinson as the Bishop of Digne who would play a key part into the direction Valjean would take into his life. Helena Bohnam Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen are delightful as the very funny Thenardiers who like to steal and do whatever as they later try to profit from the revolution. Eddie Redmayne is superb as Marius as a young man who is torn with his devotion for the revolution and the love he has for Cosette as he later deals with the aftermaths about what he’s gained and lost.

Samantha Barks is amazing as Eponine as the daughter of the Thenardiers who is in love with Marius as she tries to deal with his feelings towards Cosette as she would play a part into the revolution. Isabelle Allen and Amanda Seyfried are wonderful in the different age of Cosette with Allen as the young girl seeking to find someone to treat her right while Seyfried adds to sense of longing as the older Cosette as she has a wonderful moment in her duet with Redmayne. Russell Crowe is excellent as Inspector Javert with his rugged presence and his determination to maintain his sense of duty though there’s some parts in Crowe’s singing where he is trying a bit hard though he is better suited in the ballads when he doesn’t try so hard.

Anne Hathaway is outstanding in her small yet unforgettable performance as Fatine where Hathaway displays all of the anguish and torment the character goes to as she later deals with loss and later peace. Hathaway’s performance of I Dreamed a Dream is truly the highlight of the film where the singing is raw yet so filled with emotion that it is an indication of Hathaway’s talents as an actress. Finally, there’s Hugh Jackman in a tour-de-force performance as Jean Valjean where Jackman not only brings in that sense of physicality and strength that was needed for the part. Jackman also brings in a sensitivity and conflict to man unsure of himself as he seeks to find redemption as it is definitely a crowning achievement for the Australian actor in all counts including his singing.

Les Miserables is a phenomenal film from Tom Hooper that a remarkable ensemble cast and a look that plays to its ambition. It is a film that indicates that the musical will never go away when it’s executed in the right way. Notably as it features amazing songs and dazzling set pieces that plays to the many emotions of the story. In the end, Les Miserables is a marvelous film from Tom Hooper.

Tom Hooper Films: (Red Dust) - (The Damned United) - The King's Speech

© thevoid99 2012

12 Monkeys




Based on the short film La jetee by Chris Marker, 12 Monkeys is the story about a convicted criminal living in a post-apocalyptic world as he’s sent back in time to find information about a virus that is already plaguing the world as he later deals with trouble. Directed by Terry Gilliam and screenplay by David and Janet Peoples, the film is an exploration into the world of time-travel and chaos as a man deals with his past while doing whatever he can to save the future. Starring Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt, Madeleine Stowe, David Morse, and Christopher Plummer. 12 Monkeys is a stylish yet mesmerizing sci-fi film from Terry Gilliam.

In a post-apocalyptic future where 1% of the world had survived a plague that had wiped out the human race, James Cole (Bruce Willis) is a convicted criminal who volunteers to take part in a time-travel experiment to retrieve information about the source of the virus that started the plague. In return, Cole would receive a pardon for his work as he is sent back to the period of 1996-1997 where the virus started. Yet, he finds himself in 1990 as he is sent to a psychiatric ward where he meets a crazed young man named Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt). At the hospital, he’s being examined where Cole learns that it’s 1990 while making claims to his doctors about a virus that is going to spread that is going to cause a plague. After an escape attempt with help from Goines, Cole returns back to the future where he reveals what went wrong.

The scientists send Cole back in time where he finally makes it to 1996 where he kidnaps a psychiatrist named Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe) who was Cole’s doctor at the hospital six years earlier as they drive from Baltimore to Philadelphia. Cole has discovered that Goines is the founder of an underground army known as the Twelve Monkeys as he hopes to confront Cole as he tries to search for him. Cole finally learns where Goines is as he is the son of a revered scientist (Christopher Plummer) where Cole finally confronts Goines only for things to become more confusing. After returning back to the future to reveal what he learned, Cole begins to doubt about everything he’s been through.

Back in 1996, Railly begins to review her diagnosis about Cole where she makes some startling discoveries that has her realizing what’s really going on. After convincing the scientists to send him back to 1996, he returns to 1996 where Railly meets him trying to tell him that a plague is really going to happen. Upon realizing what will happen, the two make a discovery about what is going on as Cole does whatever it takes to stop the plague from happening.

The film is essentially the story of a man going back in time to try and find out who started a plague that would nearly wipe out civilization while he deals with all sorts of things that has him confused about his mission. A lot of which has him encountering all sorts of people including a crazed man who would eventually lead an underground army that might’ve started the plague and a psychiatrist who would eventually piece out all of the things that he’s saying. During these missions and encounters, he also deals with recurring dreams where he sees a young boy witnessing a murder. Since it is inspired by Chris Marker’s 1962 short film La jetee about a man living in a post-apocalyptic world where he goes back in time and has a recurring dream about a boy (Joseph Melito) witnessing a man die. The film expands Marker’s short film into something far grander.

The screenplay definitely uses the basic elements of Marker’s short while adding more stakes to the story as well as a lot of ambiguity. Notably in the character of Jeffrey Goines who is this very crazy young man that the film’s protagonist meets where their encounter would have Goines come up with something big that would later drive the plot. Yet, Goines ends up becoming more abstract in his ambitions whether no one really knows what he’s up to and maybe he doesn’t know what he’s doing as it’s up to James Cole to find out. Cole is a man who definitely has no idea what he’s doing as he seemed content to collect insects for samples to scientists while hoping to get a decent life. By taking part in this experiment, he becomes more confused about what is real as he eventually starts to realize what is going on.

Adding to Cole’s journey who would eventually play to his fate about whether it’s true or not is Kathryn Railly who doubts everything Cole says at first. Even as she would become some best-selling novelist who has a lot of theories about certain things only to realize that something could actually happen. Yet, she faces her own persecution from doctors and police when they believe that she has gone crazy. The screenplay not only succeeds in creating characters that are engaging as well as scenes that play out to the suspense of the film. It also features some small stories and dialogue relating to a missing boy that would play to what Cole knows and Railly’s realization about what is going on.

Terry Gilliam’s direction is definitely stylish for the way he presents the film as not just a sci-fi film but also something that feels modern where Gilliam was able to work around with his budget limitations. For the scenes in the future, Gilliam creates something that is filled with ruins as it’s set in Philadelphia and Baltimore where it seems like a world that is ravaged and animals are there to roam freely. While there is a bit of visual effects for a few scenes involving animals, it is set mostly in a world where it is grim and troubled as there’s a lot of strange things that play up to a future that is still trying to figure out its technology and its purpose.

For the scenes set in the 1990s, Gilliam keeps things simple in terms of the presentation though he goes for very stylistic slanted camera angles to help tell the story. A lot of which it to play up Cole’s view of the world where he has no idea where he is. Gilliam also employs lots of close-ups and medium shots to help tell the story while utilizing a few moments that pays homage to La jetee in the recurring dream sequences. Gilliam also uses wandering cameras to play up the suspense and drama that heightens things including the film’s climatic finale that captures the true spirit of Chris Marker’s famed short. Overall, Gilliam creates a truly marvelous and exhilarating film that does more in what is expected in a sci-fi film.

Cinematographer Roger Pratt does brilliant work with the film‘s vibrant yet stylish look from the somewhat grimy look of the futuristic scenes to more straightforward yet ethereal lighting schemes for the scenes set in the 1990s. Editor Mick Audsley does excellent work with the editing from the stylish montages of the dream scenes to the more rhythmic cuts for the film‘s suspenseful moments. Production designer Jeffrey Beecroft, along with set decorator Crispian Sallis and art director William Ladd Skinner, does spectacular work with the set pieces from some of the decayed places set in the 1990s that Cole and Railly encounter to the more grimy look of the futuristic scenes with its TV ball.

Costume designer Julie Weiss does nice work with the costumes by keeping things straightforward for the most part though the character of Railly gets to wear the more stylish clothes throughout the film. Hair and makeup designer Christine Beveridge does terrific work with the look of the characters such as Jeffrey Goines‘ mid-90s look as well as other looks that were inspired by the films of Alfred Hitchcock. Sound editor Peter Joly does superb work with the sound work from the haunting atmosphere of the futuristic set pieces to the more chaotic sounds of the scenes in the 1990s. The film’s music by Paul Buckmaster is wonderful for its low-key yet soaring orchestral score to play out the drama as well as some playful themes for the Jeffrey Goines character. The rest of the soundtrack features music from Louis Armstrong, Fats Domino, B.J. Cole, Tom Waits, and a score piece from Bernard Herrmann.

The casting by Margery Simkin is incredible for the ensemble that is created as it features appearances from Matt Ross and Lisa Gay Hamilton as a couple of activists, Carol Florence as a scientist who monitors Cole’s reports, Jon Seda as a fellow inmate of Cole, Christopher Meloni as a police lieutenant who interrogates Railly after her kidnapping, Joseph Melito as the boy in Cole’s dream, and David Morse as the assistant to Dr. Goines. Christopher Plummer is pretty good in a small role as Goines’ father who is bewildered by his son’s eccentric activities.

Brad Pitt is brilliant as Jeffrey Goines as a man who is extremely unpredictable and abstract as someone who is very outgoing as well as displaying a physicality that is just eerie to watch as it’s definitely one of Pitt’s great performances. Madeleine Stowe is wonderful as Kathryn Railly as a psychiatrist who tries to understand what Cole is doing only to piece up things that would raise lots of questions into what Cole is up to. Finally, there’s Bruce Willis in a remarkable performance as James Cole as a man seeking to find a way to a decent life only to take part in an experiment that has him confused as well as vulnerable as it’s definitely one of Willis’ finest performances.

12 Monkeys is a phenomenal film from Terry Gilliam that features top-notch performances from Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, and Brad Pitt. The film is definitely not just a great tribute to Chris Marker’s La jetee but also one of Gilliam’s most fully-realized and engaging films. It’s also one of Gilliam’s more accessible films in terms of its imagery as well as injecting small bits of humor into a story that is very bleak. In the end, 12 Monkeys is a triumphant film from Terry Gilliam.

Terry Gilliam Films: Jabberwocky - Time Bandits - Brazil - The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - The Fisher King - Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - The Brothers Grimm - (Tideland) - The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus - The Zero Theorem - (The Auteurs #38: Terry Gilliam)

Related: La Jetee

© thevoid99 2012

Friday, December 28, 2012

Bound for Glory




Directed by Hal Ashby, Bound for Glory is the story about the folk singer Woody Guthrie and how he came to prominence during the Great Depression as a voice for the people suffering from the Great Depression. Loosely based on Guthrie’s autobiography and adapted into script by Robert Getchell, the film explores the evolution of Guthrie’s music just as he tries to help out a group of Dust Bowl refugees in California during the Great Depression as Guthrie is played by David Carradine. Also starring Melinda Dillon, Ronny Cox, Gail Strickland, and Randy Quaid. Bound for Glory is an extraordinary film from Hal Ashby.

It‘s 1936 in Pamba, Texas as Woody Guthrie seeks to find work and money for his family while dealing with the Dust Bowl. With no jobs available, Guthrie leaves his family to go to California where he would meet all sorts of characters during his journey as he eventually reaches California by train and car where he meets a group of Dust Bowl refugees. Upon meeting folk singer Ozark Bule (Ronny Cox), Guthrie would eventually find an outlet for what he sees through folk music and eventually become a hero of the people through the radio. Yet, when radio sponsors want Guthrie to not sing controversial material and be compromised. Guthrie would make a drastic decision that would make him a hero to the world of American culture.

While most bio-pics often showcase how a person became famous and such, what makes this film different is that it only places to a certain part of the life of Woody Guthrie. Largely in how he would become a folk hero to many during the Great Depression and spread his voice to the people while having to deal with the responsibility of taking care of his family and being there for them. At the same time, he has to deal with what people want him to sing and in places where he has to sing to those who have no idea or any care about what he’s singing about.

While a lot of the events of the screenplay are fictional in order to tell the story of a man trying to fight the system as he has to deal with all sorts of forces and authority. It also shows a man who is flawed since he is neglectful towards his family at times though he doesn’t mean to. It’s a story that allows Woody Guthrie to be humanized rather than make him into a bigger icon as he’s just a man that wants to help people out and not ask for much in return. While the people he meets in his journey would definitely shape his outlook into the world, some would be helpful while others would just steer him into a direction that would have him rebel.

Hal Ashby’s direction is definitely stylish as well as engaging for the way he re-creates late 1930s America during the Great Depression. Notably as he sets the film in California as parts of Texas and the American Southwest where it’s a world that is wide open where people are moving all over the country looking for work. Ashby’s direction is often ever-moving where he uses all sorts of hand-held cameras to capture the crowd moving around including the first-ever use of the Steadicam for some of those scenes. There is something freeing and loose in those scenes along with the scenes where Guthrie hops on the train where he’s left to his own devices and deals with whatever he has to face. By the time he’s in California, it’s a place where there’s opportunities but also hard-ship as he realizes what is going on and is able to do something about it.

When he sings songs on the radio and for shows in places where he is extremely out of place, the direction shows a sense of claustrophobia where it feels like a different film of sorts. Even as the confines of the environment of where Guthrie has to do this and that has him acting out. Notably late in the film where he brings his family from Texas to California only to abandon them again where it shows that he is definitely lost and unsure of what to do. The film’s ending is poignant for not just the decision Guthrie makes in this very beautiful environment that he doesn’t belong. It’s where Guthrie goes afterwards as with the songs he sings where each song is served as a device to tell a story. Overall, Ashby creates a very fascinating and uncompromising portrait one of American music’s great figures.

Cinematographer Haskell Wexler does exquisite work with the film‘s very beautiful cinematography to complement the landscape of the American Southwest while utilizing soft lenses to play up its beauty. Editors Robert C. Jones and Pembroke J. Herring does wonderful work with the editing to use montages for a few scenes of Woody‘s road trips as well as more straightforward cuts for the rest of the film. Production designer Michael Haller, along with set decorator James Berkley and art directors James Spencer and William Sully, does brilliant work with the set pieces from the look of the camps to the homes and places that Woody encounters.

Costume designer William Theiss does nice work with the costumes to play up the look of late 1930s period where the men wear ragged clothes and the women wear something that‘s classy but also ragged. Sound mixer Don Parker does terrific work with the sound to capture the raucous nature of the impromptu concerts and atmosphere of the camps. Music supervisor Leonard Rosenman creates a unique soundtrack filled with a lot of the folk music of the times as well as many of the songs by Woody Guthrie that is performed by David Carradine along with some additional orchestral pieces to play up orchestral versions of Guthrie’s songs.

The casting by Lynn Stalmaster is excellent as it features some memorable appearances from James Hong as a diner owner, Brion James as a pick-up truck driver at the border, M. Emmet Walsh as a driver whose wife was offended by a comment Woody makes, Bernie Kopell as Woody’s agent who tries to get him big gigs, Ji-Tu Cumbuka as a hobo that Woody meets on the train, John Lehne as the radio station manager who tries to get Woody to play it safe, Elizabeth Macey as the wife of a young migrant worker, and Randy Quaid as the young migrant worker who befriends Woody in California. Gail Strickland is terrific as Pauline who befriends Woody in California as she would become someone who would confuse Woody in his own journey.

Melinda Dillon is great in two different roles as the folk singer Memphis Sue whom Woody would duet for songs on the radio and as Woody’s first wife Mary who tries to deal with Woody’s new role and his abandonment. Ronny Cox is amazing as folk singer Ozark Bule who gets Woody to spread his music all over California through the radio only to deal with the troubles Woody has to deal with as he tries to help him to compromise. Finally, there’s David Carradine in a magnificent performance as Woody Guthrie where Carradine displays a great sense of charm and wit to the man while proving to be a very engaging singer that can bring a lot of the attitude that Guthrie is known for.

Bound for Glory is an outstanding film from Hal Ashby that features a superb performance from David Carradine as Woody Guthrie. The film is definitely one of the most compelling music bio-pics for deviating from convention and tell the story of how Guthrie became a voice for the people. It’s also a film that revels into the world of Guthrie’s music and how is still manages to connect many years since they were made. In the end, Bound for Glory is a remarkable film from Hal Ashby.

Hal Ashby Films: The Landlord - Harold and Maude - The Last Detail - Shampoo - Coming Home - Being There- (Second-Hand Hearts) - (Lookin’ to Get Out) - (Let’s Spend the Night Together) - (Solo Trans) - (The Slugger’s Wife) - 8 Million Ways to Die

© thevoid99 2012

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Blog News 12/27/12: 2013 Blog Plans




2012 is coming to a close as I'm set to post the last slew of reviews for the year as well as another monthly report though I doubt there will be one for the year except for a year-end reflections piece. Despite going through some personal issues as well as some setbacks that forced me to abandon various projects including some for my music blog The Void-Go-Round which has been inactive for a very long time. A lot of which is my fault due to lack of interest and other issues while the Favorite Film essays series was stopped due to lack of inspiration, over-writing, and writer's block.

The Favorite Film series will return although I have no idea what film will I write about. I have some ideas but it's just that I need the urge to finally write something and not over-think it. That's why the essays for the Dollars Trilogy and Secretary fell apart. The former is because I was just going through a lot of things and some bad medication as it didn't help things and I was extremely unsatisfied with the results. The latter was due to the fact that I over-wrote everything. With this essay series, I'm going to go into a new approach in the hopes that I don't do something like this ever again.

Despite that setback, there was one essay series that has managed to do well with the Auteurs series. It was a major success. I got a chance to watch and re-watch films by filmmakers I was familiar with while exploring those who I haven't been familiar with. For me, it was a major accomplishment starting this off with Lars von Trier and closing the year with Stanley Kubrick. 2013 will be just as interesting as I've already made final selection for the filmmakers I will do for 2013:

January-Ang Lee

February-Jean-Pierre Jeunet

March-Whit Stillman

April-Nicole Holofcener

May-Baz Luhrmann

June-August-Woody Allen (a special Auteurs edition in three/four parts)

September-Jane Campion

October-David Cronenberg

November-Jim Jarmusch

December-Wong Kar-Wai

I should also note that there will be some additional updates from past Auteurs pieces to catch up with some upcoming releases from those filmmakers who are still making films like Gus Van Sant and Sofia Coppola as they will get new additional chapters written.

Along with the Blind Spot series that I will be participating in. There will a slew of reviews of films and filmmakers I hope to do. Some of which will be films I had never seen before and some that I have seen. The Cannes Marathon will be around for May while there won't be any other special marathons that's coming around. Here are some of the ideas I plan to do for 2013:


  • Explore the films of Merchant-Ivory, John Cassavetes, Orson Welles, and Jean Vigo as well the films of the Japanese New Wave, Italian Neorealism, French New Wave, Iranian New Wave, and other genres/movements.
  • Do complete works on the films of Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Terry Gilliam, Robert Altman, Steven Soderbergh, Krzystof Kieslowski, Luis Bunuel, Akira Kurosawa, Mel Brooks, and other filmmakers for possible future Auteurs subjects for 2014.
  • Retrieve and re-write/revise old reviews from Epinions.com of filmmakers like Robert Altman and Francois Ozon as well as write new reviews of films by David O. Russell and Spike Jonze along with whatever leftovers from Epinions.com.
  • Write reviews of franchises like the Rocky movies and whatever else that's available on TV.

These will be among the many ideas that I have for this blog as I also hope to do some extensive work on the blog itself in order to improve things. Create index pages, banners, and all sorts of things just to so that readers could navigate through the blog much easier. Also give it a makeover and such.



Finally, there's the big project that I plan to do for this blog. It is called LiT 10. A tenth-anniversary project to celebrate the release of my all-time favorite film Lost in Translation in which I will do a scene-by-scene analysis on the film as well as discuss many ideas into Sofia Coppola's direction, the performances of Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, the film's soundtrack, and many other things relating to the film. I currently have no idea when it will start but I do hope to have it done by late September 2013.

That's pretty much it for what will come ahead though I'm still unsure about what to do with The Void-Go-Round as I definitely don't have any interest in writing music. Though I do plan on either deleting and retrieving whatever material I have left at Epinions.com as I hope to completely sever all ties with the site by the end of 2014. I also hope to attend film festivals for 2013 as there's a possibility I'll try to go to Toronto. If not, the Savannah Film Festival nearby.

Well, that is pretty much it for what will be ahead for 2013. I hope this year will have me accomplishing some things as my other work in trying to write screenplays has been very slow. It's just hard to jot down ideas and such as I ended up shelving one project as I'm also working on another at the moment. I hope to get something going. Until then, let's make 2013 a good year.

(C) thevoid99 2012