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:


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) - (Episode 23) - (Episode 24) - (Episode 25) - (Episode 26) - (Episode 27) - (Episode 28) - (Episode 29)

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) - (Episode 23) - (Episode 24) - (Episode 25) - (Episode 26) - (Episode 27) - (Episode 28) - (Episode 29)

Season 3: (Coming Soon)

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

© thevoid99 2015

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Summer of Twin Peaks: Episode 3-Rest in Pain

Directed by Tina Rathbone and written by Harley Peyton, the fourth episode of Twin Peaks entitled Rest in Pain revolves around the day of Laura Palmer’s funeral services as emotions run high while Special Agent Cooper believes that he has a hunch on who killed her. While Cooper believes that there’s a lot more to the case, he also deals with the tension between Sheriff Truman and Agent Rosenfield as the latter found some clues during Laura’s autopsy that opens the door to an underworld in the town. All of which plays into things that is happening where Cooper and Truman confront Leo Johnson who denies anything despite Cooper’s reciting all of Johnson’s past criminal activities.

It’s an episode that does close a moment where everyone says goodbye including Laura’s look-a-like cousin Maddy (Sheryl Lee) who visits to attend the funeral to Leland Palmer’s comfort. Yet, it’s a moment where the town would unravel as Bobby Briggs would claim that Laura’s real killer is the whole town in saying that they didn’t do enough to help her. It’s an episode where it features some very intense and intentionally cheesy dramatic elements along with comical moments that prove to be very funny in the most unintentional ways. Thanks in part to Harley Peyton’s script which not only manages to balance the disparate tones of the story but also find ways to keep the focus about the mystery surrounding Palmer’s death.

Under Tina Rathbone’s direction, the element of humor, drama, and suspense is engaging as well as being offbeat as it also features little moments that do play into the story. Notably a scene involving Ed Hurley and his wife Nadine (Wendy Robie) as the latter thanks him for giving her the accidental solution for her silent drapes as it is among some of the weird moments of the episode. Yet, it’s the funeral where Rathbone’s direction has nearly all of the principle characters in the frame while building up something where things will explode. It’s a very comical moment while it is followed by Shelley Johnson working at the diner telling the customers exactly what happened.

Its final moments would play more into the underworld where Truman and Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse) would invite Cooper into a secret society that involves Ed Hurley as it relates to a secret drug smuggling ring that Truman and Hawk are trying to end. It’s the episode that would give a proper introduction to Jacques Renault (Walter Olkewicz) and his family who are in connection with Leo Johnson into transporting drugs. What would happen would unveil more about the dark elements of the town as well as more about Laura Palmer and her connection with the Renault family. With Miguel Ferrer being great as the asshole FBI Agent Rosenfield and Sheryl Lee providing a brief yet wonderful performance as Maddy Ferguson. It’s an episode that plays more into the tension between Josie Packard and Catherine Martell where the former tells Truman about what she wants to do as it is clear that Martell is trying to ruin Packard.

Rest in Pain is a fantastic episode from Tina Rathbone and Harley Peyton as they manage to find a balance between elements of humor and drama. It’s also an episode that isn’t afraid to find the line of unintentional humor as it plays into David Lynch’s idea of playing against the rules of conventional television mysteries. In the end, Rest in Pain is a thrilling and witty episode of Twin Peaks from Tina Rathbone.

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

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

Season 3: (Coming Soon)

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

© thevoid99 2015

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

2015 Blind Spot Series: The Long Goodbye

Based on the novel by Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye is the story of a detective who tries to find the people who are involved in the murder of his best friend in Los Angeles. Directed by Robert Altman and screenplay by Leigh Brackett, the film is an update of Chandler’s novel as it’s set in 1970s Los Angeles where a man trying to do what is right finds himself in a world that is very complicated. Starring Elliott Gould, Sterling Hayden, Nina Van Pallandt, Jim Bouton, and Mark Rydell. The Long Goodbye is an entrancing and gripping film from Robert Altman.

A murder has just happened as a man who is accused of his wife’s death goes to his gumshoe friend for help only to be presumed dead in Mexico starting a gumshoe’s journey to find the truth. It’s a film that doesn’t just subvert the ideas of traditional film noir and suspense films but it is also set into a world where it’s about greed and selfishness that clashes with old school ideals. In the middle of this is the gumshoe Philip Marlowe (Elliott Gould) who is a private detective who learns that his best friend’s wife was murdered as he would also deal with his friend’s eventual suicide in Mexico prompting him to believe that something isn’t right. What would happen is that Marlowe would drive all over Los Angeles to find some truth only to encounter a series of strange characters and things that stray from the norm.

Leigh Brackett’s screenplay definitely strays from a lot of the conventions of film noir as well as doing a complete deconstruction of Chandler’s novel such as setting the story in 1970s Los Angeles as opposed to something like the 1940s. While Brackett retains much of the language that is expected in noir in terms of its stylistic and rhythmic approach to dialogue, it’s in the characterization that is subversive. Notably the character of Marlowe as if he was presented in a traditional noir film. He would be someone that is quite aggressive in his findings or be very smart and cooperative while often having some kind of voiceover narration. What Brackett does is turn that persona upside down by presenting Marlowe as an everyman of sorts as someone who bumbles his way into a situation while being difficult towards the police and be concerned about finding the right kind of food for his cat.

It’s not just Marlowe that strays from the ideals of noir but it’s also in the characters he meet such as the novelist Roger Wade (Sterling Hayden) as he is essentially a washed-up alcoholic with money problems who rambles about his life and is abusive towards his wife Eileen (Nina Van Pallandt). Eileen is another character that doesn’t play to the tradition of noir as she could’ve been a love interest but the script allows her to be so much more as it is clear that she might know what happened but there’s complications. Then there’s mob boss Marty Augustine (Mark Rydell) who is a man that just wants his money as he is quite intimidating but sensible unless he doesn’t get what he wants where he turns out to be very dangerous. It all plays into this world that Marlowe is in as it is one where he is being the cuckold while trying to make sense of things as he just wants to know what really happened to his friend and his friend’s wife.

Robert Altman’s direction is quite stylish in terms of staying true to the elements of film noir but it is infused with an offbeat sensibility that makes it a very unconventional film. Notably as he would present it in a world that is very modern but has this sense of conflict of old-school ideas with a new age of individuals who care more about themselves. While it is shot largely in Los Angeles with a few shots in Mexico, the film does play something that is very modern though much of its tone is a mixture of old school noir with an offbeat sense of humor that is more akin to the world of the 1970s. Notably as there are elements that are very quirky such as the fact that Marlowe is always seen lighting a match to smoke a cigarette or a character playing variations of the title song that appears frequently in the film.

Altman’s usage of medium and wide shots not only help play into the vast look of the locations but also play into a world that is very lively and chaotic as Altman knows where to place his actors into a frame. Notably as he doesn’t use a lot of close-ups while keeping things very natural and on location such as an opening sequence where Marlowe is looking for cat food at a 24-hour supermarket at 3 in the morning. Altman’s approach to capturing some of the chaotic moments that involves multiple characters talking with lots of overlapping dialogue do help play into a world that is confusing but also offbeat. Even as he uses some long takes and tracking shots while knowing when to play the elements of suspense and infuse it with something humorous or something much darker. Overall, Altman creates a very engaging and riveting film about a gumshoe private detective trying to uncover a mystery in Los Angeles.

Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography from the usage of available light for some of the nighttime interior scenes along with naturalistic lights for the scenes in the day as Zsigmond‘s photography manages to play something that strays from convention in order to capture a moment in time. Editor Lou Lombardo does amazing work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts and various rhythmic cuts to play into the suspense as well as the film‘s offbeat humor. Costume designers Kent James and Majorie Wahl do excellent work with the design of the different clothes from the clothes of the men to some of stylish dresses of the women.

The sound work of John Speak and Dick Vorisek is terrific for not just the naturalistic approach to sound but also in the sound editing to capture some of the pieces of music and match it up along with the vast sounds of the party scenes. The film’s music by John Williams is fantastic as it is largely a jazz-based score that only appears in few instances for some of the film’s suspenseful moments while the title song that is written by Williams and Johnny Mercer is played in various styles on location or as part of the score.

The film’s cast is marvelous as it features some notable small appearances from Jack Knight, Pepe Callahan, and Vincent Palmieri as a few of Marty’s hoods, Rodney Moss as supermarket clerk Marlowe meets early in the film and in jail, Jerry Jones and John S. Davies as a couple of LAPD detectives that Marlowe despises, Jo Ann Brody as Marty’s girlfriend, Stephen Coit as the lead detective Farmer, Ken Samson as the Malibu Colony security guard who does great old Hollywood star impressions, David Arkin as young hood named Harry who takes a liking towards Marlowe’s often-topless neighbors, and Arnold Schwarzenegger in one of his early film appearances as a hulking yet silent hood who works for Marty. Henry Gibson is superb as Dr. Verringer as a private hospital doctor who was treating Wade while asking for money. Jim Bounton is excellent as Marlowe’s friend Terry Lennox who asks Marlowe for help as he would later be accused of killing his wife and later be dead prompting Marlowe to find some truth.

Mark Rydell is fantastic as Marty Augustine as this crime boss who just wants what is owed to him as he’s a character that has something that is quite calm but is also very dangerous in one notable moment that is scary. Nina Van Pallandt is amazing as Eileen Wade as Roger’s wife who has been trying to deal with his debt as well as helping Marlowe with the case as she knows a lot more than she seems. Sterling Hayden is brilliant as Roger Wade as a washed-up and troubled novelist who is dealing with money troubles as he deals with the ways of the world while concealing knowledge about the night Terry’s wife was killed. Finally, there’s Elliott Gould in a phenomenal performance as Philip Marlowe as this gumshoe private detective that deals with a case that becomes complicated throughout the course of his journey as Gould brings a humility and wit to his performance that strays from all of the ideas of what is expected in a film noir protagonist.

The Long Goodbye is a magnificent film from Robert Altman. Featuring an incredible performance from Elliott Gould along with a strong supporting cast, enchanting music, and Vilmos Zsigmond’s beautiful photography. The film isn’t just a fascinating take on the world of film noir but it’s also one of Robert Altman’s finest films in terms of taking a genre and put a different spin on it. In the end, The Long Goodbye is an outstanding film from Robert Altman.

Robert Altman Films: (The Delinquents) - (The James Dean Story) - Countdown (1968 film) - (That Cold Day in the Park) - M.A.S.H. - Brewster McCloud - McCabe & Mrs. Miller - (Images) - Thieves Like Us - California Split - Nashville - Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson - 3 Women - (A Wedding) - (Quintet) - (A Perfect Couple (HealtH) - Popeye - (Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean) - (Streamers) - (Secret Honor) - (O.C. and Stiggs) - Fool for Love - (Beyond Therapy) - (Aria-Les Boreades) - (Tanner ‘88) - (Vincent & Theo) - The Player - Short Cuts - Pret-a-Porter - (Kansas City) - (The Gingerbread Man) - Cookie's Fortune - Dr. T and the Women - Gosford Park - The Company - (Tanner on Tanner) - A Prairie Home Companion

© thevoid99 2015

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Pretty Baby (1978 film)

Directed by Louis Malle and screenplay by Polly Platt from a story by Malle and Platt, Pretty Baby is the story of a 12-year old girl who works in New Orleans’ Red Light District in the early 20th Century as a prostitute. The film is an exploration into a young woman coming to terms with her sexuality as she watches her mother work as a prostitute where she is forced to be part of a world she is not ready for. Starring Brooke Shields, Susan Sarandon, and Keith Carradine. Pretty Baby is a compelling yet provocative film from Louis Malle.

Set in the Storyville area of New Orleans in 1917, the film revolves the young life of a 12-year old girl whose mother is a prostitute as she catches the eye of a photographer as she would become his muse and lover. It’s a film that plays into this young girl who comes of age during this time where she only knows the life of being in a whorehouse and tending to things at the place. Even as she would eventually become a prostitute herself where the result would have her grow up too fast. It’s a film that is set into a period in time where morals tend to fall by the wayside as it is about money and being fulfilled sexually while the women who prostitute themselves are using their sexuality to get what they want and hopefully have a better future.

Polly Platt’s screenplay uses this setting as a backdrop for this young girl coming of age where she wouldn’t just live with prostitutes, bartenders, cooks, musicians, and a brothel madam but also children who live and work in the house. It’s a world that is something where it has its own rules yet everyone helps each other out. For the character Violet (Brooke Shields), she is part of that world as she would help take care of the younger children, including her newborn baby brother Will, and give the brothel madam Nell (Frances Fay) what she needs if it’s cocaine or opium. It’s a world that gives Violet a sense of fulfillment but her mother Hattie (Susan Sarandon) is tired of the life as she is quite immature at times as well as selfish. When the photographer E.J. Bellocq (Keith Carradine) comes in to do photographs, he is intrigued by Violet as he sees her as a young girl becoming a woman while being conflicted of being there for her and give her the life that she needs.

The script also has a very offbeat structure where much of the film is set in this brothel with very little places outside of it as it plays to the world that Violet lives in and how comfortable she is in this world of booze and sex. Even if she is too young for it as its second act has her lose her virginity to a man she doesn’t know and deal with her mother’s desire to leave the brothel. The third act would have Violet leave the brothel to stay at Bellocq’s where it’s a very different world with rules as well as Bellocq’s devotion to his work as a photographer. It’s also a moment where Violet not only faces the real world but also a world that is starting to change once World War I is ending.

Louis Malle’s direction is very exotic for the way he presents 1917 New Orleans by shooting on location in the city with its old buildings along with a few shots in Mississippi. Much of the compositions do play into some of the photos that the real E.J. Bellocq did during that time in the way Malle would place the characters into a frame or how he would set up a shot. A lot of it features some intricate medium shots for some of these scenes including the photos that Bellocq would create. There is a beauty to the brothel that Violet lives in as it’s very lively and has this air of sophistication mixed in with a bit of decadence. Yet, there’s an air of innocence that Malle captures in the film as he sees Violet have the energy of a child but also a woman who is quite mature but also immature.

Then there’s the sexuality of the film where there are scenes of Violet being nude as it is discomforting to watch. Especially since she is a 12-year old girl as it definitely borders the line of what is obscene yet it does play into not just Bellocq’s obsession towards her but also Violet’s own awareness of her sexuality. Even as there’s a shot of Violet lying on a couch for a photograph totally nude, with the exception of her genitalia, as it is very provocative in how it can bring a sense of discomfort but there’s a beauty to it. Even as Malle is aware of what he needed to say visually as it plays into Violet’s encounter with the real world where it is about order and morality just as the home she had known for all of her life becomes the target of everything that is wrong. Overall, Malle creates a very fascinating yet unsettling film about a young girl coming of age in early 20th Century New Orleans.

Cinematographer Sven Nykvist does incredible work with the film‘s cinematography as it is a major highlight of the film in terms of the attention to detail in its photography for many of its interior scenes and usage of naturalistic and artificial light along with . Editor Suzanne Fenn does excellent work with the editing as it is very straightforward as well as using rhythmic cuts to capture Violet‘s own sense of energy. Production designer Trevor Williams and set decorator James L. Berkey do amazing work with the look of the brothel in its state of glamour as well as how small the kitchen is along with the studio that Bellocq works at.

Sound mixer Donald F. Johnson does nice work with the sound to play into the atmosphere of the locations as well the mixture of live music and natural sounds in the mix. The film’s music by Ferdinand Morton is superb for its New Orleans jazz-based score while the rest of the soundtrack features the music of those times.

The casting by Gary Chason and Juliet Taylor is fantastic as it features some notable small performances from Matthew Anton as a young boy named Red Top, Barbara Steele as the prostitute Josephine, Mae Mercer as the cook Mama Mosebery, and Diana Scarwid as the European prostitute Frieda. Antonio Fargas is terrific as the piano player Professor who is a friend of the prostitutes while being the one to keep an eye on her at times. Frances Faye is excellent as the brothel madam Nell as a woman who runs the operation and make sure things go well while doing drugs to cope with her aging. Susan Sarandon is brilliant as Violet’s mother Hattie as a prostitute who has the beauty and body of a successful prostitute but becomes tired of the life as she is eager to want something new despite her selfishness.

Keith Carradine is amazing as E.J. Bellocq as the famed photographer who is entranced by Violet’s personality and beauty as he falls for her while wanting to be her protector. Finally, there’s Brooke Shields in a phenomenal performance as Violet as this 12-year old girl who is enamored by her environment while having a troubled relationship with her mother as she would fall with this photography as it’s a very exciting yet dangerous performance from Shields who was only 12 when she did the film and expose herself in that way.

Pretty Baby is a remarkable film from Louis Malle that features a breakthrough performance from Brooke Shields. While it is definitely not a film for everyone as it does border the line between what is obscene. It is still a captivating film that plays into the world of a young girl coming of age in early 20th Century New Orleans in one of its seediest moments in history. In the end, Pretty Baby is a enchanting film from Louis Malle.

Louis Malle Films: (The Silent World) - Elevator to the Gallows - The Lovers (1958 film - Zazie Dans Le Metro - (A Very Private Affair) - (Vive Le Tour) - The Fire Within - (Bons baisers de Bangkok) - (Viva Maria!) - (The Thief of Paris) - Spirits of the Dead-William Wilson - (Phantom India) - (Calcutta) - Murmur of the Heart - (Humain, Trop Humain) - Place de la Republique - Lacombe, Lucien - Black Moon - (Close Up (1976 short) - (Dominique Sanda ou Le reve eveille) - Atlantic City (1980 film) - (My Dinner with Andre) - Crackers - God’s Country (1985 film) - (Alamo Bay) - (And the Pursuit of Happiness) - Au Revoir Les Enfants - (May Fools) - (Damage (1992 film)) - (Vanya on 42nd Street)

© thevoid99 2015

Monday, June 22, 2015

Summer of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith

Written and directed by George Lucas, Revenge of the Sith (Star Wars: Episode III) is the third and final film of the prequels trilogy in which Anakin Skywalker is tasked to watch over Chancellor Palpatine during the final days of the Clone Wars where he would descend further into the dark side of the Force. The film plays into the events where the Jedi would finally learn the identity of the Sith Lord but also cope with his new apprentice which would change everything including the galaxy. Starring Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, Jimmy Smits, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Lee, and the voice of Frank Oz. Revenge of the Sith is a stellar yet flawed film from George Lucas.

Set during the final days of the Clone Wars between the Galactic Republic and a separatist movement where the Republic is on its way to victory. The film revolves around Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) and his growth as a respected Jedi but certain events relating to his own personal life, his sense of fear, and not being granted the rank of Jedi master would force him into a descent of darkness. Adding to this growing list of problems is when he is assigned by the Jedi council to watch over Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) who has raised suspicion of the Jedi for his growing power. Once Anakin learns who Palpatine really is, he becomes conflicted until Palpatine claims that he can be the one to give him the powers to prevent death where things would unravel. It’s a film that does play to a classic rise-and-fall scenario but it is more about a young man whose good intentions to save those he loves from death only to descend further into fear and anguish.

George Lucas’ screenplay does start out on high note where Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) go on a mission to save Palpatine from Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) in a confrontation that would have a lot of foreshadowing while its aftermath would reveal some big news for Anakin and his secret wife Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) which would only drive Anakin’s fear of Padme dying. While the script does have a more linear storyline with a few subplots that relates to Kenobi chasing after one of the separatists’ generals in a droid named Grievous (the voice of Matthew Wood) while Yoda (the voice of Frank Oz) goes to another planet to aid the Wookies in a battle. Yet, the focus is on Anakin’s descent towards the dark side of the Force where it is his friendship with Palpatine that would become the catalyst into the decisions he made. All of which were driven by fear and desperation to save those he loves as its third act would force Anakin to be confronted by those who care for him.

Lucas’ direction is quite vast from the opening sequence where it features this unbroken shot that goes on for a few minutes to play into a battle in space where a lot is happening as the camera would follow two little spaceships flying through the battle. It’s a moment that does kick the film off in a high note where Lucas’ approach to wide and medium shots are thrilling as well some of the close-ups. There are also moments where the action and adventure are always engaging and thrilling though much of it is presented through visual effects which is overwhelming at times. Still, Lucas is able to keep things in focus while adding some suspense and intrigue as it relates to Anakin’s friendship with Palpatine with its usage of wide and medium shots to play into Anakin’s descent. Many of the scenes are very exciting and engaging which is a total contrast to the scenes involving Anakin and Padme as it’s not just that the love story between the two is bad but its horrific dialogue just makes it very uninteresting.

The direction would also include a lot of political commentary where some of it is handled very heavy-handedly such as a piece of dialogue that Padme says in response to the end of the Galactic Republic during a Senate meeting. It’s another of the flaws that is laid upon the film along with Anakin and Obi-Wan’s eventual confrontation as it is also hampered by some of its dialogue. Though it’s ending is sort of grim, it is filled with a bit of hope where Lucas is able to create something that is ambiguous that would set up the stories for the original trilogy. Overall, Lucas creates a thrilling though very messy film about a young man’s descent into darkness.

Cinematographer David Tattersal does excellent work with the cinematography to play into the looks of the different places along with some unique lighting schemes and moods to play into those worlds. Editors Ben Burtt and Roger Barton do brilliant work with the editing to capture the sense of energy in the action scenes while providing some stylish transition wipes that are actually fun to watch. Production designer Gavin Bocquet, with supervising art director Peter Russell and set decorators Piero Di Giovanni and Richard Roberts, does fantastic work with the design of some of the sets including Palpatine‘s office and the room where he was in during being captured by Count Dooku. Costume designer Trisha Biggar does nice work with the costumes from the lavish clothes of Padme to the robes of the men.

Makeup designers Dave Elsey and Nikki Gooley do superb work with the look of some of the alien characters as well as Palpatine in the film‘s second half. Visual effects supervisors Roger Guyett and John Knoll does incredible work with the visual effects to play into the look of the planets and its different locations along with the design of the creatures and droids. Sound designer Ben Burtt and sound editor Matthew Wood do superb work with the sound from the sound effects the droids make to the layer of sounds in the battle scenes along with eerie moments in other intense moments of conflict. The film’s music by John Williams is wonderful for not just its orchestral score with soaring strings and operatic choir arrangements but also in low-key moments to play into the drama and bombast of the story.

The casting by Christine King is very good as it features notable small roles from Silas Carson in a dual role as the voice of separatist leader Nute Gunray and Jedi master Ki-Adi-Mundi, Temuera Morrison as Clone leader Commander Cody and various clones, Matthew Wood as the voice of General Grievous, Joel Edgerton and Bonnie Piesse in their respective roles as Owen and Beru Lars, Christopher Lee as the Sith lord Count Dooku, Peter Mayhew as the Wookie Chewbacca whom Yoda is friendly with, and Jimmy Smits as Senator Bail Organa as a friend of the Jedi who would witness the death of a young Padawan as he would rescue Yoda and Obi-Wan. Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker are fantastic in their respective roles as the droids C-3P0 and R2-D2 with the former providing some funny lines while the latter gets to do some scenes where he manages to take care of a few droids. Frank Oz is superb as the voice of Yoda as a Jedi master who is concerned with Palpatine’s growing power as well as its eventual outcome where he would eventually confront the man who is the leader of the Sith.

Samuel L. Jackson is excellent as Jedi master Mace Windu who becomes uneasy about the role Anakin is in with Palpatine where he would have a confrontation with Palpatine. Ian McDiarmid is brilliant as Palpatine as the Galactic Republic’s chancellor who is given more power as his meetings with Anakin show a much darker side to the man as it relates to his real identity. Natalie Portman is wonderful as Padme Amidala as Naboo’s representative who deals with her pregnancy as well as Anakin’s strange moods as she realizes what is happening to him. Hayden Christensen has some decent and good moments as Anakin Skywalker whenever the character is restrained but becomes very annoying and overwrought once he emotes as it’s a very messy performance. Finally, there’s Ewan McGregor in an amazing as Obi-Wan Kenobi who would be assigned to target General Grievous as he tries to help Anakin with issues over the Jedi council while later having to confront him for his actions.

Revenge of the Sith is a very good yet flawed film from George Lucas. While it does feature an excellent cast and some amazing visual effects, it’s a film that has a lot of moments that are good but elements that keep it from being great. Most notably in its writing as it is clear that Lucas should never involve himself with romance or politics. In the end, Revenge of the Sith is a terrific film from George Lucas.

Star Wars Films: Star Wars - The Empire Strikes Back - Return of the Jedi - The Phantom Menace - Attack of the Clones - The Force Awakens - The Last Jedi - The Rise of Skywalker

Related: Holiday Special - Caravan of Courage - The Battle for Endor - The Clone Wars - Fanboys - The People vs. George Lucas

Star Wars Anthology Films: Rogue One - Solo - (Untitled Star Wars Anthology Film)

George Lucas Films: THX 1138 - (American Graffiti)

© thevoid99 2015

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Spy (2015 film)

Written and directed by Paul Feig, Spy is the story of a CIA office worker who becomes a field agent for an assignment once the identity of many of its field agents have been compromised as this woman has to stop a crime boss’ daughter from revealing the location of a nuclear bomb. The film is sort of a spoof on spy films where the person that is to save the world is an unlikely person as she doesn’t have the physical requirements to be one but has the heart and determination to get the job done. Starring Melissa McCarthy, Jude Law, Rose Byrne, Jason Statham, Miranda Hart, Bobby Cannavale, Peter Serafinowicz, and Allison Janney. Spy is a witty and adventurous film from Paul Feig.

When the identities of top field agents for the CIA trying to find the location of a nuclear bomb have been revealed to the daughter of a recently deceased crime boss. An analyst who wants to seek vengeance for the death of a spy she cared for is tasked to take part in the assignment where she is initially excited about doing the job but things don’t exactly go her way. The film is essentially a spoof of sorts on spy films where it plays into the idea of a woman, who might not have the typical yet superficial image of spies, as she is given the chance to save the world. Yet, she would endure some humiliating moments in trying to catch her targets while having to deal with a rogue field agent who is trying to do her work in ways that makes him look even stupider than he already is.

It is all part of a world where the villains are dealing with this woman who might be a whole lot easier to kill considering that she doesn’t fit the mold of other spies but it’s also an advantage for the character of Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) who manages to do more than everyone expects from her. Paul Feig’s screenplay does follow conventional elements that is expected in spy films but also creates characters that are very engaging. While Cooper is just a nice analyst who is very good at helping field agents find their way out of a situation where she becomes close with the spy Bradley Fine (Jude Law). When Fine is killed in a mission by the target’s daughter Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), Cooper wants to take the mission to avenge Fine though she is forced to wear a series of humiliating disguises and identities while having her best friend and fellow analyst Nancy (Miranda Hart) to guide her through an earpiece.

The script would also allow moments that are funny such as the antics involving former CIA agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham) who is upset that Cooper gets the assignment which prompts him to go rogue and do stupid things. His character is sort of a play on spies for not just how tough they are and how much bullshit they tend to talk but it is presented in a funny way as Ford is a man who is all brawn but no brains. While Rayna is an antagonist, she is not a traditional one since she is essentially a woman who is a pawn of a bigger scheme while feeling she’s not getting any kind of respect where she and Cooper seem to have a rapport despite the fact that they’re enemies. Even smaller characters like Nancy, CIA boss Elaine Crocker (Allison Janney), and an Italian agent named Aldo (Peter Serafinowicz) manage to do a lot more which add to the story and its comedic tone.

Feig’s direction definitely pays an ode to spy films while managing to be something that is of its own. Notably as it isn’t afraid to not take itself so seriously where some of the comedy is played very loosely and natural. Though much of it is shot largely on location in Budapest with a few second-unit shots of Rome, Paris, and Washington D.C., the film does have a look that is very worldly and lively which is expected in spy films but also manages to have something where it does have this woman be a fish out of water in these places. Most notably where Cooper would think she would have the time of her life traveling to Rome, Paris, Sofia, and Budapest but would often stay in the worst hotels and in the most horrific disguises as a mother of four or a woman with 9 cats. While many of Feig’s compositions are simple, he does manage to create something that is visually exciting while matching it with a naturalist approach to comedy.

Feig is also able to find a sense of energy in the action scenes while knowing where to put in some funny moments that do feel natural and realistic with elements of disbelief for laughs. Feig would also include some very crude humor that involves Cooper having her first kill and her reaction to it is very funny while it is followed by a scene where the CIA analysts are looking into the dead man’s phone and photos where they find some very personal things. The film’s climax which involves this Italian playboy named Sergio de Luca (Bobby Cannavale) and the deal of this nuclear weapon not only continues to find the balance between humor and action but it would also have a payoff that isn’t just funny but also satisfying. Overall, Feig has created a very thrilling and hilarious film about a woman who becomes a spy.

Cinematographer Robert Yeomen does excellent work with the cinematography as it‘s very straightforward and colorful to play into the vibrancy of the locations as well as some inspired usage of lights some of the interiors and for scenes at night. Editors Don Zimmerman and Dean Zimmerman do amazing work with the editing where it allows itself to play into conventional action-style cutting but also with a sense of timing and rhythm to play into the comedy and find ways to mesh both styles. Production designer Jefferson Sage, with art directors Tom Brown and Bence Erdelyi and set decorator Kelly Berry, does brilliant work with the set designs from some of the hotels Cooper goes to as well as the lavish homes and hotels she would meet Rayna and other targets. Costume designer Christine Bieselin Clark does nice work with the costumes from the tuxedos that Fine and Ford would wear to some of the humiliating clothes Cooper would wear in disguise along with some stylish clothes that she and Rayna would wear.

Makeup artist Kati Jatkos and hair stylist Peter Gyongyosi do terrific work with the disguises that Cooper would wear including the different hairstyles along with one notable disguise for Ford. Visual effects supervisor William Mesa does wonderful work with some of the film‘s minimal visual effects that often involve some of the action scenes. Sound editors Beau Borders and Becky Sullivan do superb work with the sound from the way some of the fighting occurs as well as some of the social events and action scenes that the characters encounter. The film’s music by Theodore Shapiro does fantastic work with the film‘s music score as it is quite bombastic for its action scenes while going for something low-key for its comedic moments while music supervisor Erica Weis brings in a fun soundtrack filled with music that ranges from electronic, hip-hop, rock, and pop to bring in an air of excitement.

The casting by Zsolt Csutak does great work with the cast as it features notable small roles from Carlos Ponce and Will Yun Lee as a couple of CIA spies, Jessica Chaffin and Katie Dippold as a couple of CIA analysts who deal with rats and bats in their offices, Zach Woods as a guy putting something mysterious in Rayna’s cocktail, Mitch as a pilot named Colin (no it’s Frederick), Raad Rawi as Rayna’s dad, Michael McDonald as a CIA gadgets man who gives Cooper some unimpressive gadgets, Morena Baccarin as a beautiful CIA spy that Nancy mocks, Nargis Fakhri as an assassin that tries to kill Ford and Cooper, and Bjorn Gustafsson as a bodyguard of Rayna that Cooper would insult. Peter Serafinowicz is fantastic as the Italian spy Aldo who likes to sexually harass Cooper as he thinks she is the most beautiful woman in the world. Allison Janney is superb as CIA head Elaine Crocker where Janney plays it straight while being very cool and calling Cooper out early about her pink eye.

Bobby Cannavale is excellent as the playboy/dealer Sergio de Luca who brings a suave charm to his role as someone who just wants to cash in and sell weapons to the highest bidder. Jude Law is brilliant as Bradley Fine as a CIA agent that has a great working relationship with Cooper as he trusts her while being very good to her. Miranda Hart is amazing as Cooper’s friend Nancy as a CIA analyst who also wants to be a spy as she later joins Cooper in a mission where she gets to do some of the funniest things in the film. Rose Byrne is remarkable as Rayna Boyanov as a crime boss’ daughter who decides to create chaos while trying not to reveal the location of a nuclear weapon where she also has some funny moments with Cooper to show how alike they’re sort of are.

Jason Statham is phenomenal as Rick Ford as it’s a performance where Statham makes fun of the action film persona he’s known for and bring a lot of laughs. Most notably as he’s a guy that talks tough, acts tough, and is very tough but is also an idiot as he has no idea what he is doing half the time while being a risk to everything as it’s just one of the funniest performances ever. Finally, there’s Melissa McCarthy in an incredible performance as Susan Cooper where it’s not jut McCarthy being very funny in enduring all sorts of humility and intense physicality. It’s also in the way she brings a sense of heart into the character that makes her very endearing while not being afraid to show some guts as it is one of her finest performances.

Spy is a marvelous film from Paul Feig that features a winning performance from Melissa McCarthy. Armed with some very exciting and funny moments along with a strong supporting cast that includes scene-stealing performances from Rose Byrne, Miranda Hart, Jude Law, and a hilarious Jason Statham. It’s a film that isn’t just a smart spoof of the spy films but also one that manages to be very funny and extremely entertaining. In the end, Spy is a sensational film from Paul Feig.

Paul Feig Films: (I Am David) - (Unaccompanied Minors) - (Bridesmaids) - (The Heat) - Ghostbusters (2016 film)

© thevoid99 2015