Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Films That I Saw: March 2015

Spring has arrived and it’s the season I detest the most because of allergies as it’s also time for me to embark on some major projects that I want to do for the year. The big one is my list of the best films that I’ve seen so far from 2000 to 2015 which I will unveil in July to celebrate my 15th anniversary as a critic. Yet, there’s things I want to finish first while still taking the time to work and finalize my list. At the same time, I’ve been helping my parents getting into the digital world where they’ve already become accustomed to the world of social media which I still don’t want to be a part of. I think in some respects, I’m an anti-modernist in terms of what is expected in the world of social media.

Helping my parents be part of this new world has taken up some of my time which is a relief as I’ve been needing to spend less time watching film as it has become a chore for a bit. There’s moments where I admit that it’s not fun as I needed a bit of break to do other things for a while. Even as I decided to revisit old films that I hadn’t seen a while and give them a chance for a re-watch without the need to soak into anything intellectual. Even in the world of professional wrestling which it’s become frustrating to deal with as myself and those who love it are forced to deal with idiots who are in favor of sports entertainment and entitled Samoan sissies who haven’t paid their fucking due. I just end up playing games online just to cope with all of the chaos.

In the month of March, I saw a total of 41 films in 19 first-timers and 22 re-watches which is up from last month though my first-timers take is slightly down but that’s OK. One of the highlights of the month that I saw is my Blind Spot assignment in Alphaville. Here are my top 10 first-timers for March of 2015:

1. Du cote de la cote

2. Purple Noon

3. Zazie dans le metro

4. Wild Tales

5. Elevator to the Gallows

6. Heartbeats

7. The Lovers

8. Cold in July

9. The Fire Within

10. Suzanne's Career

Monthly Mini-Reviews


I thought this was pretty good as it’s just a unique reinterpretation of Sleeping Beauty where it’s told from the perspective of its villainess. While it is a film that is style over substance, it does have moments that are quite enjoyable as Angelina Jolie definitely brings everything to her performance as the titular character. Even in moments where she provides bits of humor that is often overlooked as she’s often known for being serious. Adding to the film’s charm is Elle Fanning as Aurora as she manages to be an equal to Jolie as she is also very engaging and more than some damsel-in-distress.

Wrestling Isn’t Wrestling

Max Landis’ short film is something every fan of professional wrestling must see. It is absolutely hilarious as it explains not just people’s fascination with pro wrestling by using Triple H’s own story from his rise to greatness as an example. The wrestlers are played by women which makes it even funnier while the cameos from comedians, actors, and professional wrestling figures just make it even more funnier.

Top 10 Re-Watches:

1. Finding Nemo

2. Goldfinger

3. The Clash: Westway to the World

4. My Summer of Love

5. 9 to 5

6. Little Miss Sunshine

7. Broken Flowers

8. An Officer and a Gentleman

9. Ride with the Devil

10. Dreamgirls

Well, that is all for March. Next month, there will be a diverse array of films I’ll watching including more films by Louis Malle and Agnes Varda as well as films by Jean Cocteau and Robert Altman. Along with Auteurs-related pieces by Jacques Tati, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, and Xavier Dolan, the next subject of the Auteurs series is Bong Joon-ho. Along with some recent and new releases, I hope to review films like Furious 7 and Child 44. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2015

Monday, March 30, 2015

Wild Tales

Written and directed by Damian Szifron, Relatos Salvajes (Wild Tales) is a film with six different stories that relates to violence and vengeance where various people deal with implications of these events and themselves. The film is presented in an anthology-film style as it relates to six different stories about different people and their reaction to others where they use violence to deal with these situations. Starring Ricardo Darin, Oscar Martinez, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Erica Rivas, Rita Cortese, Julieta Zylberberg, and Dario Grandinetti. Relatos Salvajes is an absolutely insane and exhilarating film from Damian Szifron.

The film revolves six different stories of revenge and violence all taking place in Argentina as it plays into the lives of people and how they react or deal with the situations. These stories involve people in an airplane, a waitress dealing with a customer she knows and loathes, two men killing each other on the road, a demolition man having the worst moment of his life, a family undone by tragedy, and a wedding day gone horribly wrong. Though none of these stories are connected through its characters, they are connected by the same theme of vengeance and violence as Damian Szifron’s screenplay explores these ideas with elements of black comedy as well as tragedy. All of which plays into the lives of these characters and the dilemma they’re in about how to react.

Szifron’s direction is very stylish in not just the different tone he presents for each story but also in the fact that they do share similar visual traits. Notably in some of the close-ups, zoom shots, and other compositions ranging from medium to wide shots. There’s moments of intimacy in the segments in the plane as well as the family drama while there’s some very offbeat moments involving the demolition man, the two men on the road, and the sequence at the roadside café. Some of it plays into elements of suspense while some of the elements of violence range from graphic to darkly comical. Szifron’s approach to humor is very offbeat into not just some the craziness of these situations but also in how some of these characters use vengeance to either help themselves or to just create more trouble. Overall, Szifron creates a film that lives up to its namesake and a whole lot more.

Cinematographer Javier Julia does amazing work with the film‘s cinematography from some of the film‘s daytime exterior scenes in the desert and some of the countryside to some unique nighttime interior/exterior lighting scenes to help set some moods for some of the darker stories. Editors Damian Szifron and Pablo Barbieri Carrera do brilliant work with the editing as it has elements of style from jump-cuts to other stylistic rhythmic cuts to play into the humor and suspense while ending each segment with a simple cut to black. Production designer Maria Clara Notari does excellent work with the different set pieces to give each segment a different look to play into the environment of its characters.

Costume designer Ruth Fischerman does nice work with the costumes as the clothes range from casual to more posh-based clothes for the family-drama segment and the wedding segment. Sound designer Jose Luis Diaz does superb work with the sound from the different textures of sound in the many segments including the sounds of explosions in the demolition man segment. The film’s music by Gustavo Santaolalla is fantastic for its different array of music from eerie orchestral music to somber acoustic-based pieces as well as some brooding electronic pieces as the soundtrack includes bits of classical, dance, and pop music.

The casting by Javier Braier is incredible for the massive ensemble that appears in the film. For the film’s first segment in the plane, there’s brilliant performances from Dario Grandinetti as a music critic, Maria Marull as a model, and Monica Villa as a schoolteacher who are all connected for some strange reason. For the roadside café sequence, there’s superb performances from Rita Cortese as the cook, Julieta Zylberberg as the waitress with a grudge towards the customer, and Cesar Bordon as the customer with a dark and seedy past. For the road segment, there’s amazing performances from Leonardo Sbaraglia as the rich man and Walter Donado as the poor man who both fight following some insults that leads to total mayhem.

For the demolition man segment, Ricardo Darin is excellent as a man whose life goes into ruins by a series of unfortunate incidents while Nancy Duplaa is terrific as his wife who becomes alienated by his troubles. In the dramatic sequence, there’s fantastic performances from Oscar Martinez as the millionaire Mauricio, Maria Onetta as his wife, Osmar Nunez as their lawyer, Diego Velazquez as the prosecutor, and German de Silva as a groundskeeper who is willing to help them in their troubles. For the wedding segment, there’s marvelous performances from Erica Rivas and Diego Gentile in their respective roles as the bride and groom where one of whom would carry a secret that would make the wedding reception a night in hell.

Relatos Salvajes is a phenomenal film from Damian Szifron. Armed with a great cast and a provocative take on the ideas of violence and vengeance, the film is truly an off-the-wall film that isn’t afraid to go bonkers as well as extreme and dark places. Even if delves into black comedy that will make some very uncomfortable. In the end, Relatos Salvajes is a remarkable film from Damian Szifron.

© thevoid99 2015

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Favorite Cinematic Moments Blog-a-thon

Andrew of A Fistful of Films has created a new blog-a-thon that related to a post that he did recently as here are the rules:

1) Pick a number between 1 and 100 (any more than 100 is just gaudy).

2) Choose that many cinematic moments that are either your all time favorites or ones that could, on any given day, be your all time favorites.

3) Post them on your blog (or Tumblr or whatever) with the above header (or one you create for yourself).

4) Send me the link by either posting it here in the comments or getting ahold of me on Twitter.

It is a simple idea that he has created while he also made an explanation of why he wanted to do this blog-a-thon:

We all have them in the back of our minds; those moments that make us think "man, this is what the movies are all about". We relive those moments in our mind's eye, remembering them and dissecting them and adoring them. They come in all shapes and sizes, from all types of films, and yet they all share one very important aspect; they define why we love the movies. It could be the way that the moment is cut; the way it's edited together. It could be the way the moment uses it's actors to evoke a powerful emotion from us. It could be the way that music floods the scene and draws us even closer to the moment in question. It could be a grand climax, a breathtaking introduction or a simple interchange. It could be any and all things, because for every film lover, the list is different.
To differentiate myself with this list from everyone else, I decided to go for a list of moments that I love but it will not include anything from Lost in Translation because I’ve talked about that film to death and you can read that here as well as films I’ve talked about in essays just to widen the playing field more. I should also note that this list was not easy to do as I did it via stream of consciousness as it went from 10 to 20 to 50 and then 100 but in the end, I went with 25 as I will say that this is just a sampler of my favorite cinematic moments.


The space-dance between WALL-E and EVE is truly one of the most majestic moments in film as something that really showcases that romance isn’t dead. It’s really a moment that revealed into how animated films can really transcend genres where it was more than a kid’s film but something that adults and the most snobbish of film buffs can enjoy.

2. Fish Tank

Andrea Arnold is currently one of the new masters to emerge in cinema as one of the most touching moments in the film comes near the end where Katie Jarvis’ Mia character is about to leave home as she meets with her mother as they have this very contentious relationship. There’s a lot of great scenes in the film but the dance between Mia, her mother, and her younger sister to a hip-hop classic is actually a moment that isn’t talked about. Sure, Mia does leave the projects in the end but that moment makes it clear that at least Mia does love her family no matter how dysfunctional they are.

3. Possession

Horror is never as visceral nor as scary as a scene where Isabelle Adjani’s Anna character starts to descend into madness during a scene inside a subway tunnel. It’s a scene that is pure horror where it is driven by emotions rather than tricks as it plays into this woman having a meltdown as she is throwing things that she is carrying as well as milk while blood is coming out. Adjani’s screams are piercing and primal as it’s really a performance for the ages.

4. Secretary

Fuck Fifty Shades of Grey, this film is how a S&M relationship is portrayed as the scene where it doesn’t portray women as vulnerable and naïve nor men as creeps. What this film does is showcases two very dysfunctional people as James Spader’s E. Edward Grey and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Lee Holloway’s first actual session all because Lee created a typo as he would spank her ass repeatedly to ensure that she gets the letter right. It’s a moment that is quite erotic without the need to show any nudity as it’s a moment that Fifty Shades of Grey will never duplicate.

5. Under the Skin

Nudity can be crucial in the art of storytelling as there’s a lot of moments in Jonathan Glazer’s film that really re-defines the story of alien’s encounter with humanity. The scene where Scarlett Johansson’s alien characters looks at herself naked for the very first time is really unlike anything as it’s a moment where sexiness and eroticism is gone out of the window in favor of curiosity. Johansson’s silent performance is key to that moment as it also indicates what it would be like for an alien to discover humanity through a look in the mirror.

6. The Tree of Life

Terrence Malick’s 2011 film is really one-of-a-kind in terms of what cinema could be as there’s so many moments in the film that could be talked about. Yet, it’s the Creation sequence that sticks out more than anything as it’s truly indescribable in terms of its technical brilliance and evocative imagery captured by cinematographer Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki. Add the music of Zbigniew Preisner and it creates something that is just operatic but also very spiritual as it is a film that is quite religious in some respects but not overtly as it was something that goes beyond of what cinema could be. Even the bits with the dinosaurs actually added an authenticity to what Malick wanted to say about his message in Jack’s conflict between the ways of nature and grace.

7. The Seven Samurai

The film that pretty much sets the template for many ensemble-based action films as Akira Kurosawa’s film about seven samurai warriors who are hired to protect farmers from a ruthless gang of bandits. The film’s climatic battle is easily the most gripping moment in the film where it does play into samurai and farmers going up against bandits who are using guns to kill whoever as it is shot in the rain. It is truly a work of art into what Kurosawa creates as well the sense of loss that would loom for the film’s ending.

8. Drive

One of the best films in the past five years certainly has to be in this list. There’s a lot of great moments in the film but that one that sticks out the most is the opening sequence as it relates to who Ryan Gosling is and exactly what he does. Nicolas Winding Refn creates a mood that harkens back to early 80s cinema that is also quite gritty as it really sets the stage for what is to come.

9. Once Upon a Time in the West

Sergio Leone’s epic western is truly a benchmark for all westerns to follow as the scene of a family being gunned down by mysterious men as a young boy watches. It’s a moment that is very violent yet it is nothing compared to the reveal of the film’s main villain which is none other than Henry Fonda. To see one of cinema’s great legends play a villain that cold was shocking and what he would do to this boy just adds to the sense of shock.

10. Pan’s Labyrinth

Guillermo del Toro’s 2006 film features moments that are magical yet the moment that will always stick out is when Ofelia enters a room to retrieve something from this mysterious character known as the pale man. It’s a moment that is quite scary but also has an air of innocence where Ofelia does a simple innocent act that would get her in trouble as the pale man would chase after her.

11. This is Spinal Tap

Stonehenge, where the demons dwell. Where the banshees live and they do live well. There is a million moments in that film that are funny but the Stonehenge sequence is the best of them all. It begins with Spinal Tap trying to find ways to boost morale and present the best show when Nigel suggests singing the song with a Stonehenge monument built yet when it is presented. It becomes one of the best bits of the film about how ideas can go horribly wrong.

12. Oldboy

The film that really showcased what action and fight scenes can do where the scene where Dae-Su fights a bunch of men with a hammer is just awesome. It’s captured in a wide dolly shot that showcases how many men Dae-Su has to fight as the camera would move back and forth into the action as it would show scenes of Dae-Su getting beaten up but comes back to prove that he won’t be stopped.

13. Gravity

The sequence where Sandra Bullock enters the space station after being in space for a long time as she takes off suit as it’s definitely a majestic moment in the film. It’s a moment where all of the chaos her character goes through is stopped for a brief moment as she floats inside to know she is safe for a bit while putting herself into a fetal position.

14. Up in Smoke

The greatest stoner comedy ever made. Who could not love the antics of Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong as two guys just trying to to make it on their own as musicians and get baked at the same time? The film's climax where they perform the song Earache My Eye where Cheech is in a tutu and singing the song. It is truly one of the wildest moments in film but also one that never stops in bringing in great laughs and all sorts of hijinks.

15. Black Swan

Darren Aronofsky’s surrealistic ballet film features not just a career-defining performance from Natalie Portman but also a study into madness. The scene where Portman’s Nina character finally embraces her dark side to play the Black Swan is it’s a perfect moment in the world of dance and ballet. The icing on the cake is where Nina gives Vincent Cassel a surprising kiss as if she has reached a form of perfection but is then awaken by reality into the fact that she’s going insane.

16. La Dolce Vita

Federico Fellini’s masterpiece as it features many highlights that gives the film a lot of life but also a film that explores a man going into his own existential journey to find meaning in a life that is quite meaningless. The scene where Marcello Mastroianni learns that his best friend Steiner has killed himself and his children is a shocking one where he waits for Steiner’s wife to return to tell her the news as she is chased by photographers who are taking pictures of her as she has no idea why. It’s a moment that plays into Marcello’s own humility and uncertainty about the ways of the world as he wonder if there is any meaning in life.

17. Full Metal Jacket

The films of Stanley Kubrick has moments that are ingrained into the head of any cinephile as there are so many too choose from. The sequence where Sgt. Hartmann and the many characters in the film are introduced is a key example of Kubrick’s mastery in the art of cinema. From its use of tracking shots and low angles to the way R. Lee Emrey maintains an intimidating presence as he scolds Matthew Modine’s Joker character for making a joke and Vincent D’Onofrio for smiling. What could be more perfect than that.

18. Solaris

Andrei Tarkovsky is without question one of cinema’s great masters. All of his seven feature films have moments but it is his third film that features moments that are just majestic as well as what sci-fi could be. The scene where Henri drives home in this hypnotic sequence where cars are driving through fast highways as it’s shot in Japan yet it feels like a very futuristic world. Yet, it also plays as this amazing transitional sequence in which the Kris Kelvin character would then make his journey into outer space to find out what is going on.

19. Che

Steven Soderbergh’s two-part four-plus hour epic is really unlike any bio-pic in the past several years as it only spotlights aspects of Che Guevara’s rise and fall. One notable moment in the film is his fall in Bolivia in 1967 as the scene where Guevera is finally pinned down by a CIA-trained army as he tries to fight off as many as he can as Benicio del Toro sells that determination and the eventual sense of humility once Guevara realizes that there is nowhere to go.

20. Playtime

Jacques Tati’s crowning yet under-seen achievement is a must-see as it plays into the downsides of modernism. One notable sequence that is the art of Tati’s approach to comedy is a scene where he enters a new restaurant where the entrance door has been shattered and the doorman is holding the doorknob as if the door was still there. The gag include drunks coming in and such as it plays into the sense of chaos while Tati’s Monsieur Hulot is in the middle of all of this playing the simple man stuck in this ultra-modern yet messy restaurant.

21. Antichrist

Lars von Trier’s most controversial and confrontational film to date as it is just this stylistic tribute to the works of Andrei Tarkovsky but a mesmerizing exploration into grief and depression. There’s a lot of scenes that are controversial and certainly not for the faint of heart but one notable scene that is quite chilling is Willem Dafoe’s discovery of Charlotte Gainsbourg’s thesis. It is this very quiet moment where Dafoe wonders what the hell is going on and who is wife as she is still coping with the loss of their child.

22. Frances Ha

For anyone who is young, Paris is the one place that everyone wants to go just to experience its lights and famous landmarks. In this film, Greta Gerwig’s Frances goes to the city for a weekend as the trip itself turns out to be a misguided one where she deals with loneliness and uncertainty. All to the tune of Hot Chocolate’s Every1’s a Winner that is presented with a lot of irony as it plays into Frances’ own transition into adulthood.

23. Holy Motors

The film that really celebrates cinema to the fullest no matter what genre it is in or what kind of craziness it contains. Leos Carax’s film is truly unlike anything that is out there as does the performance of Denis Lavant who transform himself into many characters in the course of the film. The best sequence of the film is the music break where he is playing an accordion as he is accompanied by musicians inside a church as it’s a very lively moment that is just pure cinema.

24. The Wild Bunch

If there is a true definition of “fuck you” cinema, it is this film by Sam Peckinpah. The final shootout sequence and the moment preceding that where Pike Bishop and his gang try to save one of their own. Yet, as the Germans and Mexicans just kill the man. Pike and his boys shoot the man for killing their friend as a laugh comes. Bishop looks at the German and shoots that motherfucker down. Then, all hell breaks loose. Fuck you cinema at its finest.

25. Commando

There's a lot of things that no one should do in the world of action films. It's one thing to kidnap a man's daughter but if that girl is Alyssa Milano and her father is Arnold Schwarzenegger. Jarboni, you're going to need a lot of body bags. The scene where Arnold just kills everyone as he is this one-man army is just a whole lot of fun. Bodies going down one by one with guys getting scalped and arms getting cut off. That is cinema.

© thevoid99 2015