Friday, July 31, 2015

The Films That I Saw: July 2015

The summer season is heating up as the weather here in the South has been pretty brutal. Especially if you’re driving a gas-guzzler with no air conditioning as it’s something myself and my parents have a hard time dealing with. This was not a great month for me personally as I’ve been kind of burned out a bit. I ended up not watching a lot of things and some of the things I wanted to do took a little longer than I expected. So I took some time off for a while which is why I haven’t posted every day as of late. It’s not just that there’s other things around me that is happening but it’s also the fact that I don’t want to watch films every day. Sure I have two marathons as one of them will expand into the fall due to the pace of everything that I do. Yet, I would rather take my time with everything than just finish it on that day and go do something else an hour later and feel tired.

In the month of July, I saw a total of 27 films in 15 first-timers and 12 re-watches plus two episodes of Twin Peaks. The same as last month though it’s not much of a surprise as one of the highlights of the year has been my Blind Spot assignment in My Darling Clementine. Here are the top 10 first-timers that I saw for July 2015:

1. Inside Out

2. The Straight Story

3. Ride the High Country

4. Good Night, and Good Luck

5. Calvary

6. Begin Again

7.7 Days in Hell

8. Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore

9. Fool for Love

10. Lava

Monthly Mini-Reviews

The Judge

This was an OK film as it played into a lawyer trying to help his father who is accused of murder. While it has a great cast, it is a film that tends to be overly-drawn out and meanders at times. Despite a great performance from Robert Duvall, it’s a film that wants to be a lot of things as it includes a silly subplot where Robert Downey Jr. struggles with the idea that he slept with Leighton Meester who could be his daughter. The result is just a film that is very boring as it wants to do something good but ends up being very mediocre.

This is Where I Leave You

This had the potential to be so much more in terms of a family comedy-drama but since this is a film by Shawn Levy. It ends up being very dumb as Levy really has no clue in how to get the best of his cast. Even as people like Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, Jane Fonda, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll, and Kathryn Hahn are given anything to do. Plus, there is this recurring gag of a young kid carrying a porta-potty and he sits on it to poo on. It’s a film that tries so hard to be funny and shocking and ends up just being absolutely fucking stupid.

Top 10 Re-Watches:

1. Live Aid

2. A History of Violence

3. Snowpiercer

4. The Player

5. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid

6. Moonrise Kingdom

7. The Color of Money

8. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

9. Beerfest

10. The Faculty

Well, that is all for July. Next month, the only theatrical release I’m interested in seeing is Ricki and the Flash and that is probably it. The Star Wars marathon will conclude this month while the Twin Peaks will expand to September and maybe October. Aside from films by Alain Resnais, Michelangelo Antonioni, Ingmar Bergman, David Lean, and Jacques Tati. Auteurs pieces on Bennett Miller and Gaspar Noe will come in as the one on Tati will get started once I finish the one on the latter. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2015

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Begin Again

Written and directed by John Carney, Begin Again is the story of a struggling music executive who finds a young singer-songwriter as the two collaborate on making an album through various locations in New York City. The film is an exploration into two people who both endured failures and disappointments as they try to do something together to express their love for music. Starring Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightley, Catherine Keener, Hailee Steinfeld, Adam Levine, CeeLo Green, Mos Def, and James Corden. Begin Again is a touching and enjoyable film from John Carney.

The film revolves around a music executive who is down on his luck as he stumbles into a club where he hears a song from a young woman as he wants to sign her to his label and make her album. While it is a simple story of two people who both endured moments in their life as they’re down on their luck as they find something that brings them together through the love of music. For the music executive Dan Mulligan (Mark Ruffalo), he wants to find something that matters regardless if it sells or not as he was once a great music producer whose life has not gone well and has a shaky relationship with his daughter Violet (Hailee Steinfeld). For Gretta James (Keira Knightley), she’s a singer-songwriter still stinging not just from the break-up of her musician boyfriend Dave Kohl (Adam Levine) who cheated on her. It’s also in the fact that really cares about the music and learns that Kohl has sold out in order to become part of the machine.

John Carney’s screenplay has a unique structure where its first act is about Dan stumbling into the club meeting Gretta who reluctantly sings in a club after being prodded by her friend/musician Steve (James Corden). It plays into what Dan and Gretta were doing on the day before they meet as well as the latter and her relationship with Dave. Most notably in how it fell apart when Dave returned with a new song where Gretta learned that he cheated on her. The second act is about Dan and Gretta collaborating to make the album as Dan reluctantly produced himself as he is aware that he’s not getting any support from his label nor his business partner/label head Saul (Mos Def). With a group of several unknown musicians and Steve, Dan would record Gretta’s album on any location as they’re eventually aided by Violet in a means to reconnect with her father. It’s third act isn’t just about the reality of the music industry but also about Dave who returns to meet Gretta as it becomes clear how much he’s changed as it plays into what Gretta wants for herself and her music.

Carney’s direction is very simple as it plays into the wonders of New York City and how music fills that world where Dan and Gretta are eager to make use of its many locations and record whatever they can flesh out musically. Much of it involves a lot of hand-held camera movements with lots of close-ups and medium shots as Carney doesn’t really go for anything big. Yet, he does manage to find moments that are engaging such as Gretta and Dave’s break-up scene where it is about the song that Dave created and their reactions which has Gretta very upset. Carney also creates moments that are lively not just in the outdoor sessions where Dan is recording Gretta and her band but also in a moment where the two walk around New York City listening to music from their earphones. It is all about the love and power of music where Dan would also reveal why things with him and Violet hadn’t been easy until he invites her to play on Gretta’s record where it is this cathartic moment. The scenes involving Dave and the results of Gretta’s record doesn’t just play into some of the cynical realities of the music business but also what music is supposed to be for the artist rather than what Dave and Saul represent. Overall, Carney creates an exhilarating film about two people who find salvation through their love for music.

Cinematographer Yaron Orbach does excellent work with the cinematography from the naturalistic yet colorful look of the scenes set in the day to the usage of lights for the interior/exterior scenes at night. Editor Andrew Marcus does nice work with the editing as it‘s straightforward with some stylish jump-cuts and montage cuts to play into its energy and humor. Production designer Chad Keith, with set decorator Kris Moran and art director Anne Goelz, does fantastic work with the look of the apartments Steve and Dan live in to play into their personalities as well as the massive loft apartment Dan and Gretta lived in where things were good.

Costume designer Arjun Bhasin does terrific work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual with the exception of the rich designers suits that Saul and Dave wear. Visual effects supervisor Yuval Levy does good work with the minimal visual effects that is used which includes an acceptance speech Dave does that Gretta and Steve see on YouTube as well as an inspiring scene of what Dan sees in Gretta‘s performance. Sound editor Lewis Goldstein does superb work with the sound to capture every layer of the music as it‘s presented on location as well as the atmosphere of the clubs and other venues.

The film’s music by Gregg Alexander is amazing as it‘s a very low-key yet melodic-based score that features elements of folk and pop while music supervisors Matthew Rush Sullivan and Andrea von Foerster bring in music from Stevie Wonder and other artists yet it’s the originals song by Alexander, John Carney, Glen Hansard, and other writers that is the heart of the film as it includes Lost Stars and other songs that Knightley would sing as well as the songs that Levine sings.

The casting by Jeanne McCarthy is brilliant as it includes notable small roles from Cee-Lo Green as rapper Troublegum who helps Dan find musicians and Mos Def (under his real name Yasiin Bey) as Dan’s old friend and business partner Saul who tells him about why he can’t help Dan because of the changes of the music business. Catherine Keener is wonderful as Dan’s ex-wife Miriam who is surprised by Dan’s recent enthusiasm as she would later help him in making Gretta’s album. Adam Levine is superb as Gretta’s ex-boyfriend Dave Kohl who became successful despite the things he had done for her as he copes with not just success but also the fact that he has made a lot of compromises for the music he and Gretta made in the past for the sake of commercialism. James Corden is fantastic as Gretta’s friend Steve who is a street musician who not only helps Gretta cope with her break-up but also to get her to play music again as he would also help Dan in the recording of her album.

Hailee Steinfeld is excellent as Dan’s daughter Violet who isn’t just dealing with growing pains but also not having her dad around as she copes with his frequent absences until she is asked to join his project where she reveals her brilliance as a musician to her father. Keira Knightley is remarkable as Gretta James as a songwriter who just loves to make music as she copes with her ex-boyfriend and his success as well as the need to make music that is true and honest while Knightley shows she can really sing. Finally, there’s Mark Ruffalo in a marvelous performance as Dan Mulligan as a once-famous producer turned music executive who experiences some bad luck until he hears Gretta’s song where he collaborates with her as a way to make something that is meaningful again as Ruffalo brings a lot of humor and some great chemistry with Knightley.

Begin Again is a phenomenal film from John Carney that features great performances from Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley. The film isn’t just about the celebration of music but also in the idea of how music can mean so much to people in an age where purity is being coerced by commerce. In the end, Begin Again is a sensational film from John Carney.

John Carney Films: (On the Edge) - Once - (Zonad) - Sing Street

© thevoid99 2015

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Color of Money

Based on the novel by Walter Tevis, The Color of Money is the sequel to another Tevis novel in The Hustler in which “Fast” Eddie Felson has retired from the world of pool-hustling as he catches the eye of a young hustler in whom he wants to support only to be coaxed back into the game. Directed by Martin Scorsese and screenplay by Richard Price, the film plays into a man who tries to disconnect himself from the world that made him famous only to come back after seeing a young man with talent as Paul Newman reprises his role as “Fast” Eddie Felson. Also starring Tom Cruise, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Helen Shaver, John Turturro, Forest Whitaker, and Bill Cobbs. The Color of Money is a compelling and rapturous film from Martin Scorsese.

Set more than twenty years after “Fast” Eddie Felson had become the greatest pool hustler in the streets, the film revolves around a retired Felson who has now become a successful liquor salesman while making money on other hustlers. Yet, he catches the eye of a young hustler whom he sees as someone with the potential to be great as he takes the young man and his girlfriend on the road to teach him the trade of hustling. Along the way, Felson teaches Vincent Lauria (Tom Cruise) about how to make money and how to lose below his abilities in order to win big. By traveling to famous pool halls around the country before taking part of a big 9-ball tournament in Atlantic City, Felson finds himself getting the urge to return but has to contend with aging as well as the fact that there are those who are younger and know the trade of hustling just as good as he did.

Richard Price’s screenplay explores the world of hustling as Felson is someone who is a master at it but hasn’t played in more than 20 years while his eyesight has sort of deteriorated. Though he tries to live a normal life while watching pool hustling from afar, he finds something in Vincent that makes him want to come back. While Vincent is talented, he is immature as Felson would take him under his wing along with Vincent’s girlfriend Carmen (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) who has managed Vincent’s dealings as she would pay close attention to Felson’s methods. Even as she would help Felson in playing the role of hustler as it would cause some issues with the very immature Vincent who realizes that part of the art of hustling is to act the part of being someone who isn’t good and then hustle that player. Through Vincent, Felson would live through him but would eventually become selfish once Vincent improves as its third act would have both men attend the tournament against each other.

Martin Scorsese’s direction is very stylish not just in his presentation of the world of 9-ball pool and hustling but also in a world where it’s about survival and making money anyway a person can. Shot largely in parts of Chicago as well as bits of Atlantic City, the film plays like a world that is changing where the valor and classiness of the pool halls is now nothing more than an urban decay of sorts. While Scorsese does bring in some stylish usage of close-ups and medium shots along with some simpler moments, it is all about the sense of atmosphere in these pool halls as well as the need to play and hustle someone. Scorsese’s approach to the games are presented with a sense of rhythm as well as a bit of psychology into what will take for that person to win and win big but also how to lose and then make that person feel like shit.

Scorsese would also go into extreme close-ups to showcase a pool ball being hit by a pool cue as well as other elements that definitely play into a sense of style. Notably in his approach to tracking shots where he would go from a medium to wide or vice-versa as it plays into Felson’s love-hate relationship with hustling. There’s also some unique crane shots that Scorsese would use as it would be prominent in the film’s third act in the 9-ball tournament in Atlantic City. Many of the images that Scorsese would create are very unconventional as it strays from what is expected in films like this but it also plays into how intense these games are where it is about strategy and see how one can lose. Overall, Scorsese creates a very engaging and riveting film about a former pool hustler teaching a young hustler the trick of the trade.

Cinematographer Michael Ballhaus does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from its usage of natural lights for some of the exteriors and daytime interiors to the lighting in some of the pool halls as well as the lightings for the tournament. Editor Thelma Schoonmaker does incredible work with the editing with her stylish approach to montages, jump-cuts, and dissolves to play into the world of pool and hustling. Production designer Boris Leven and set decorator Karen O’Hara do fantastic work with the design of the pool halls from the richness of the one in Atlantic City to the more decayed, street look of the ones Vincent and Felson go to.

Costume designer Richard Bruno does nice work with the costumes to play into the youthful look of Vince as well as the suits that Felson wears to represent his sense of the old school. Sound editor Skip Lievsay does superb work with the sound as it plays into the atmosphere of the bars and pool halls the characters go to as it has a sense of atmosphere that is very street and has its own sense of rules. The film’s music by Robbie Robertson is great as it is largely blues-based music to play into the world of the pool halls while compiling a soundtrack that features music from Phil Collins, Warren Zevon, Robert Palmer, Mark Knopfler, B.B. King, Willie Dixon, Don Henley, and Eric Clapton.

The casting by Gretchen Rennell is brilliant as it features some notable appearances and small roles from punk rock legend Iggy Pop as an opponent Vince hustles on the road, professional pool players Grady Mathews, Steve Mizerak, Keith McCready, and Jimmy Mataya as themselves, and Bill Cobbs as an old friend of Felson who runs a pool hall. John Turturro is terrific as a friend of Felson who gets beaten by Vince as he thinks he can take him. Forest Whitaker as a young hustler Felson faces off with where the result would have serious consequences for Felson. Helen Shaver is wonderful as Felson’s girlfriend Janelle who tries to keep Felson grounded while being aware of his past as a hustler as she wonders if he’ll lose it all over again.

Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is amazing as Carmen as Vince’s girlfriend who joins Vince and Felson on the road while learning about Felson’s methods very closely as she realizes there is more than what is going on as she tries to make sure that Vince is well-paid and succeeds. Tom Cruise is excellent as Vincent Lauria as a young pool hustler who is great at pool but lacks the knowledge to make serious money as he copes with his immaturity and what Felson wants from him. Finally, there’s Paul Newman in a remarkable performance as “Fast” Eddie Felson as a former pool hustler who is fascinated by the young Vince as he wants to mentor him only to find himself back in the world that he’s been detached from for so many years as it’s a performance full of energy but also one of humility as Newman brings a lot of gravitas to the role as it’s one of his best performances.

The Color of Money is a phenomenal film from Martin Scorsese that features a great performance from Paul Newman as “Fast” Eddie Nelson. Along with amazing performances from Tom Cruise and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and a killer soundtrack. The film isn’t just one of Scorsese’s most entertaining films but also a key study into the world of hustling and an old veteran trying to teach a young hustler the trades of making big money in a cruel world. In the end, The Color of Money is a sensational film from Martin Scorsese.

Related: The Hustler

Martin Scorsese Films: (Who’s That Knocking on My Door?) - (Street Scenes) - Boxcar Bertha - (Mean Streets) - Italianamerican - Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore - Taxi Driver - New York, New York - American Boy: A Profile of Steven Prince - (The Last Waltz) - Raging Bull - The King of Comedy - After Hours - The Last Temptation of Christ - New York Stories-Life Lessons - Goodfellas - Cape Fear (1991 film) - The Age of Innocence - (A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies) - (Casino) - (Kundun) - (My Voyage to Italy) - Bringing Out the Dead - (The Blues-Feel Like Going Home) - Gangs of New York - (The Aviator) - No Direction Home - The Departed - Shine a Light - Shutter Island - (A Letter to Elia) - (Public Speaking) - George Harrison: Living in the Material World - Hugo - The Wolf of Wall Street - (The 50 Year Argument) - Silence (2016 film) - (The Irishman) - Killers of the Flower Moon - (An Afternoon with SCTV)

© thevoid99 2015

Saturday, July 25, 2015

New York Doll

Directed by Greg Whiteley, New York Doll is a documentary about the life of New York Dolls bassist Arthur “Killer” Kane who went from being part of one of the most influential proto-punk bands and then find salvation as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The film plays into a man who had hit rock bottom after the dissolution of the band as his salvation and being part of a spiritual service would give him the chance to play with the Dolls one last time. Most notably as it is an interesting and heartfelt exploration into the world of faith and spirituality. The result is a mesmerizing documentary from Greg Whiteley.

In the early 1970s in New York City, one of the bands who would help plant the seeds for punk rock was a quintet known as the New York Dolls. Armed with street-wise approach to glam and a simplified yet raunchy approach to rock n’ roll, the band were only an underground sensation in the U.S. but in Britain, they were bigger than that despite only releasing 2 albums from 1973 to 1974 before splitting up in 1975. The film is about the band’s bass player Arthur “Killer” Kane who was part of that group who had helped shape the sound of what later become punk rock in the 1970s and beyond. Yet, the lack of success the band had would lead Kane to try and start other projects that didn’t go anywhere as he succumbed to drugs and alcohol until a near-fatal suicide attempt would have him go into a different direction in his life as he became part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The film follows Kane’s life as part of that organization where he volunteered as a librarian and be part of something that makes him fulfilled despite having little money. During the course of the film, the history of the Dolls as well as their importance to the world of popular music is presented where the people who are interviewed such as Live Aid organizer Bob Geldolf, punk historian Don Letts, Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders, and British rock vocalist Morrissey reveal the importance of the band. The film also shows exactly the events that led to the band’s break-up as well as Kane’s own troubled life where would spend much of the 80s struggling to find work as he would get work as an extra in a few films such as Innerspace. Yet, the moment that led to his suicide when he saw his former bandmate in Dolls vocalist David Johanssen appearing in Scrooged as Johanssen had become a big success as an actor and as a solo artist under the pseudonym Buster Poindexter.

Director Greg Whiteley would follow Kane around in his daily chores but also realize that there’s a part of Kane that is amiss as it relates to the Dolls where Kane hopes to play with the Dolls again despite the deaths of drummer Jerry Nolan in 1992 and guitarist Johnny Thunders the year before. Then in 2004, Kane’s prayers were answered when Morrissey was asked to curate the Meltdown Festival where he wanted the surviving members of the New York Dolls to reunite to play a few shows in Britain. With Johanssen and guitarist Sylvain Sylvain agree to take part, Kane would also join in as the church would help him get money to retrieve his old bass guitars as it would also eventually lead to a reconciliation with Kane and Johanssen as the two had a bitter falling out in the past and were both looking to make peace. With the aid a few musicians, the Dolls would finally return to Britain to the excitement of music fans where they would deliver and more.

With the aid of cinematographer Roderick A. Santiano, co-editor Seth Gordon, and sound designer Jason Altshuler, Greg Whiteley would create something that is intimate but also would feature archival footage and photos of Kane’s time with the Dolls and his attempts to try to start other projects before turning to faith for help. Aside from the musicians and those in the industry like photographer Bob Gruen who are interviewed, the most interesting people are those who are part of the Latter-day Saints organization including two old ladies who are surprised about Kane’s past as they want to be groupies for Kane. The film also portrays the Latter-day Saints folk as good people who aren’t just devoted to God but also are willing to help others as it gives Kane a reason to feel alive as he would lead the band into prayer before their very first performance in Britain in many years.

The film would also feature some visual works by Seth Gordon that plays into the history of rock n’ roll and how the New York Dolls’ legacy would influence many bands ranging from punk, 80s glam metal, and the alternative music of the 1980s and 1990s. Even as the film climax with the band’s performance at the Royal Albert Hall where they managed to be the band of the night though it with everyone reflecting on Kane and how he managed to use his faith to get the Dolls to reunite and then leave the world in a peaceful manner.

New York Doll is a remarkable film from Greg Whiteley. Not only is it a very compelling film about one of the finest bass players in the world of proto-punk but also a touching story of faith and how it would help a man find salvation and eventually gain some redemption and hope through music. Especially as it would introduce an audience who aren’t familiar with the music of the New York Dolls and how important they are but also in how music was able to get through the people. In the end, New York Doll is a sensational film from Greg Whiteley.

© thevoid99 2015

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Straight Story

Directed by David Lynch and written by Mary Sweeney and John E. Roach, The Straight Story is a simple story about an elderly man who heard about his estranged brother’s stroke as he decides to visit him by driving 240 miles by using a John Deere lawnmower. The film is a change of pace from Lynch who strays from his world of surrealism in favor of something low-key but engrossing as it is based on a true story about an event that happened in 1994. Starring Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek, and Harry Dean Stanton. The Straight Story is an exhilarating yet touching film from David Lynch.

The film is a simple story in which an old man drives a lawnmower, with a homemade trailer towed behind the mower, just to see his ailing brother whom he hadn’t seen or spoken to in a decade. Yet, it is a story of not just about forgiveness but also perseverance in which a man wants to do what he feels is right by not just seeing his brother but also to make amends for whatever bad things they said to another that split them apart. Though Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth) could’ve asked someone to drive him from Laurens, Iowa to Mount Zion, Wisconsin. It’s a journey that Alvin needed to make on his own while his stammering yet sort of mentally-disabled daughter Rose (Sissy Spacek) stays home as she couldn’t drive her father as well. With bad eyesight, walking on two canes, and is very stubborn, Alvin will do whatever it takes to see his brother Lyle (Harry Dean Stanton).

The film’s screenplay by Mary Sweeney and John E. Roach does play to a traditional structure though it’s told in a very loose form. The first act is about Alvin preparing for his journey where he would use his old lawnmower which doesn’t last as he would get a new one to use for the journey from Iowa to Wisconsin. It’s in the second act where the story really takes shape as Alvin would drive his mower and trailer in the day at a very slow speed and stop at night. Along the way, he would encounter many people including a young hitchhiker, cyclists, and other sorts of people in small towns. Many of which display the sense of decency and generosity that is often encountered in small towns. Especially where Alvin would talk to people about the things he experienced as well as his daughter Rose and brother Lyle where he doesn’t talk much about the latter until later in the film. It is Lyle where it adds weight to the journey that Alvin is taking and the reason into why he needs to see him.

David Lynch’s direction maintains that air of simplicity in terms of compositions as well as shooting the film on location from Laurens, Iowa to Mount Zion, Wisconsin as it was shot largely on chronological order which rarely happens in film. Yet, it does play into Alvin’s determination to reach his destination no matter how long he takes as well as having to endure big trucks and such. Lynch’s usage of close-ups and medium shots help play into not just Alvin’s struggle to get to where he needed to go but also his age as he’s walking with two canes and knows he’s getting older. Lynch would also go for close-ups and shots that play into the feel of the road as if the audience is a passenger in Alvin’s journey.

There are also wide shots of the many locations that is used in the film as it plays into a sense of Americana that is rarely seen in films as it plays into a world where there is still a sense of good and generosity that people need in a world that is often troubled. Though it’s climax is inevitable, it does have something that is still powerful not just about a man’s journey but also a man just wanting to see his brother. Overall, Lynch creates a very evocative yet touching film about a man driving more than 200 miles on a lawnmower to see his ailing brother.

Cinematographer Freddie Francis does amazing work with the film‘s cinematography to capture the beauty of the American Midwest in its daytime settings while going for something more natural and low-key for scenes set at night including the campfires that Alvin would make. Editor Mary Sweeney does excellent work in the editing as it is straightforward with its rhythmic cuts with a few stylish usage of dissolves and fade-to-black cuts. Production designer Jack Fisk and set decorator Barbara Haberecht do fantastic work with not just the look of the home that Alvin and Rose live in but also the small trailer that Alvin would live in during his journey.

Costume designer Patricia Norris does nice work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual for what Alvin and Rose wear. Sound editor Ronald Eng and sound designer David Lynch do superb work with the sound in not just creating naturalistic sound for everything that happens on location but also in some of the layering of sound to play into some of the surroundings including a scene where Alvin talks to another elderly man about World War II. The film’s music by Angelo Badalamenti is brilliant as it is this mix of ambient-based music with elements of traditional and folk-based music to play into the world of the American Midwest as it is one of Badalamenti’s finest scores.

The casting by Jane Alderman and Lynn Blumenthal is great for its usage of professional and non-professional actors as there’s appearances from John P. Farley and Kevin Farley as a couple of bickering twin mechanics and Everett McGill as a friend of Alvin who would sell him a new lawnmower to use. Other notable small roles include James Cada as a man who would let Alvin sleep in his backyard and arrange things to continue Alvin’s trip, Barbara E. Robinson as a woman with bad luck, Anastasia Webb as young hitchhiker, and John Lordan as a priest Alvin would meet late in the film. Harry Dean Stanton is fantastic as Alvin’s brother Lyle who appears in the film’s ending as it’s just this brief yet mesmerizing appearance.

Sissy Spacek is brilliant as Alvin’s stammering but capable daughter Rose who helps her father prepare for the trip while being the one to tell him the news about Lyle. Finally, there’s Richard Farnsworth in an incredible performance as he brings this sense of weariness but determination to a man that just wants to see his brother as there is also a sense of wisdom and charm to a man that is really full of life as his simple journey is one that is just extraordinary.

The Straight Story is a phenomenal film from David Lynch that features a magnificent performance from the late Richard Farnsworth. While it is considered an anomaly of sorts in comparison to the darker and more surreal films that Lynch is known for. It is still a Lynch film in terms of its restrained quirky humor and the simplicity of small town American life that isn’t seen much in American cinema. In the end, The Straight Story is a majestically rich and sensational film from David Lynch.

David Lynch Films: Eraserhead - The Elephant Man - Dune - Blue Velvet - Wild at Heart - Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me - Lost Highway - Mulholland Dr. - Inland Empire

The Short Films of David Lynch Pt. 1 - The Short Films of David Lynch Pt. 2 - The Music Videos of David Lynch

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

© thevoid99 2015

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

2015 Blind Spot Series: My Darling Clementine

Based on the novel Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal by Stuart N. Lake, My Darling Clementine is the story of the O.K. Corral shoot-out where Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday go up against the infamous Clanton Gang. Directed by John Ford and screenplay by Samuel G. Engel and Winston Miller from a story by Sam Hellman, the film is an exploration into the code of the West as a man tries to maintain law and order in the unruly world as well as deal with a group of criminals. Starring Henry Fonda, Victor Mature, Linda Darnell, Cathy Downs, Tim Holt, Ward Bond, John Ireland, and Walter Brennan. My Darling Clementine is a rich yet engrossing film from John Ford.

Set in 1882 in Tombstone, New Mexico, the film plays into the legendary OK Corral shootout between the Clanton Gang and the town’s marshal Wyatt Earp (Henry Fonda) and Doc Holliday (Victor Mature). A shootout that is considered one of the most legendary tales of the American West. Yet, the film is a dramatic account of what happened where it begins with Wyatt Earp and his brothers that include Virgil (Tim Holt), Morgan (Ward Bond), and James (Don Garner) driving cattle to California where they stop at the town of Tombstone. Things get complicated when Wyatt finds James killed along with their cattle stolen prompting Wyatt to become the town’s new marshal as he held the job at another town while dealing with the Clayton Gang led by its father (Walter Brennan).

The film’s screenplay by Samuel G. Engel and Winston Miller doesn’t rely entirely on historical facts as the actual showdown happened a year earlier. Instead, it’s about a man trying to do what is right in a world that is unruly as he only stopped by to get supplies and a shave where he is the only person that doesn’t just stand up to the Clayton Gang but also keep things in order. Even as he would get the aid of the town’s doctor/gunslinger Doc Holliday whom he would befriend but also have a friendly dispute with. Still, the two would together to deal with the brutish presence of the Clayton Gang who would often have things their way but Earp knows that he can’t stop them unless he has evidence to take them down. At the same time, Holliday deals with a former flame, whom Earp is smitten by, as well as the advances of a saloon singer as it plays into the different world of women who are trying to live their lives where men are often the dominant species in the West.

John Ford’s direction is very entrancing for the way he presents the world of the West in its sense of beauty but also with a sense of terror. Shot on location in Monument Valley, the film does play into a world that feels like a period in time where the West is still in its infancy as towns are popping up and people are trying to live decent lives. Yet, there is also the sense of unruliness as a lot of the cowboys go to saloons to drink and gamble while wondering if someone crazy will disrupt their sense of peace. The direction has Ford bring a lot of attention to detail in not just the landscapes but also in his approach to framing in the way he would put an actor into a frame whether it’s in a wide or medium shot. It adds to the sense of how vast the world of the West is and why it has this balance of rules and no rules which is quite exciting in some respects. The direction also has Ford create some unique compositions in the way he presents his actors in not just the use of close-ups but also in how they interact with one another.

Most notably scenes involving Earp and Holliday sharing a drink as they try to understand each other as well as the tension between the saloon singer Chihuahua (Linda Darnell) and Holliday’s old flame Clementine Carter (Cathy Downs) at a saloon where Chihuahua is sneering at her with Carter not doing anything. Ford’s presentation of the drama is simple he adds a sense of intensity into the action and shootouts including the climatic showdown at the OK Corral. It’s a moment where it’s not about the violence but rather strategy and to see if Earp can convince the Clayton Gang’s leader to surrender and serve time or suffer the consequences as the results are very riveting as it plays to the idea of justice in the West. Overall, Ford creates a sensational and compelling film about a man trying to do what is right in the unruly world of the American West.

Cinematographer Joseph MacDonald does incredible work with the film‘s black-and-white cinematography to play into the look of the West and its many locations along with some unique lighting for the scenes set at night as it is one of the film‘s major highlights. Editor Dorothy Spencer does excellent work with the editing as it is very straightforward with some unique rhythmic cuts for some of the film‘s dramatic and suspenseful moments. Art directors James Basevi and Lyle Wheeler, with set decorator Thomas Little, do amazing work with the look of the saloons and buildings in the town of Tombstone as it plays into the world of the West as well as the church that is being built during that time.

The costumes by Rene Hubert are fantastic for the look of the clothes the men wear as well as the dresses that the women wore in those times. The sound work of Eugene Grossman and Roger Heman is superb for not just in the sound effects but also in how things sound on location and in the scenes at the saloons. The film’s music by Cyril Mockridge, with music direction by Alfred Newman, is brilliant for its bombastic orchestral score as well as traditional music of the times provided by Newman as it includes some of the songs that were made during those times.

The film’s cast is great as it features some notable small roles from J. Farrell MacDonald as the bartender Mac, Jane Darwell as a kind restaurant owner Kate Nelson, Roy Roberts as Tombstone’s mayor, and Alan Mowbray as a visiting stage actor who arrives to entertain the locals only to be harassed by the Clayton Gang. John Ireland and Grant Withers are terrific in their respective roles as two of the Clayton brothers in Billy and Ike while Don Garner is noteworthy as the youngest Earp brother James who is killed early in the film. Tim Holt and Ward Bond are fantastic in their respective roles as the elder Earp brothers in Virgil and Morgan who aid Wyatt in keeping Tombstone safe. Walter Brennan is excellent as the Clayton patriarch Newnan Haynes Clayton as the head of a gang leader who makes sure that his boys do whatever it takes to rule the town as well as get whatever he wants at any cost.

Linda Darnell is wonderful as the saloon singer Chihuahua who is a lover of Holliday that is eager to be with him as she contends with Clementine’s presence as well as Earp’s sense of control. Cathy Downs is brilliant as Clementine Carter as a former flame of Holliday who comes to town to see him as she is greeted with kindness by Earp whom she befriends. Victor Mature is amazing as Doc Holliday as a skilled gunslinger/doctor with a serious illness to tuberculosis that sort of owns the town yet copes with feelings for Carter as well as Earp’s new sense of control as he would admire the man for sticking to his guns and do what is right. Finally, there’s Henry Fonda in a magnificent performance as Wyatt Earp as Fonda brings this very straightforward yet lively approach to the character as there is bits of humor in his performance but he’s all business as it’s one of Fonda’s finest performances.

My Darling Clementine is an outstanding film from John Ford that features an incredible performance from Henry Fonda as Wyatt Earp. Along with great supporting work from Victor Mature, Cathy Downs, Linda Darnell, and Walter Brennan. The film isn’t just a compelling film that explores the ways of the West but also a man trying to maintain a sense of law and order in a world that is out of balance. In the end, My Darling Clementine is a spectacular film from John Ford.

© thevoid99 2015

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Summer of Twin Peaks: Episode 8-May the Giant Be With You

Directed by David Lynch and teleplay by Mark Frost from a story by Lynch and Frost, the first episode of the second season of Twin Peaks entitled May the Giant Be With You picks up where the first season finale ended as Special Agent Dale Cooper is found in his hotel room wounded by a gunshot from a mysterious man. There, he would meet a mysterious giant (Carel Struycken) who would give him some clues that Cooper would listen to as he would later recover from his wounds. After learning about what happened Jacques Renault and Leo Johnson as the latter is in a coma, Special Agent Rosenfield returns to Twin Peaks to aid in the investigation despite his disdain for Sheriff Truman and his staff. The episode also plays into the aftermath of the Martell sawmill fire where Shelley Johnson and Pete Martell would survive while Catherine Martell’s fate remains unknown.

The events in aftermath would also mark some changes in the behaviors of a few while James Hurley would spend time in jail for drug possession as he confesses to Sheriff Truman what he was doing in Dr. Jacoby’s office. Dr. Jacoby would talk to Truman, Cooper, and Rosenfield about how he had gotten possession of the other half of Laura Palmer’s necklace as well as insight into things about Leo Johnson as Cooper learns that, despite still being a suspect, didn’t kill the other girl who had been killed a year earlier. Mark Frost’s script is very complex as it has a lot that is happening as Ed Hurley watches over Nadine who had attempted suicide and is now in a comatose state. Other subplots involve Audrey secretly working at One Eyed Jack’s where she gets herself in danger as she nearly has a sexual encounter with her father who doesn’t know what she is doing there.

Things do get stranger as David Lynch would create elements of surrealism as it relates to Cooper’s meeting with this mysterious giant as well as the ending which involves Ronette Pulaski finally awaken from her coma. Another moment of surrealism is when Maddy saw blood stains appearing in a carpet as if they were saying something to her. A later meeting with Donna Hayward where the two would wear Laura’s sunglasses would bring a change into their behaviors as it is among some of the new and strange things that is happening. Most notably Leland Palmer whose hair had suddenly turned white and is acting oddly happy for some reason that baffles everyone. Especially in a dinner where the Haywards invited the Palmers where Leland would sing for some odd reason.

There are characters whose fates remain unknown aside from Catherine Martell as Josie Packard had suddenly disappeared while Bobby Briggs would have a heart-to-heart with his father about Bobby’s future. It is among these moments that occur in the series as it plays into Lynch’s idea of small town life and its sense of peace and tranquility but there is darkness underneath. Especially as it only leaves more questions than answers over who killed Laura Palmer as the search is one for a mysterious third figure who might be the one that killed Palmer.

May the Giant Be With You is an incredible episode of Twin Peaks from David Lynch that doesn’t just open the second season with a bang but also maintains the sense of mystery and humor in the series. Especially as the cast is once again at the top of their game while bringing much more to their characters. In the end, May the Giant Be With You is a spectacular episode of Twin Peaks from David Lynch.

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

Season 2: 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

Monday, July 20, 2015

Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore

Directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Robert Getchell, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is the story of a widow who travels to the American Southwest with her young son in the hopes that she can find a better life for them. The film plays into a woman trying to start over as she struggles to find love and a new job as well as raise her pre-teen son who is going through growing pains. Starring Ellen Burstyn, Kris Kristofferson, Alfred Lutter, Diane Ladd, Jodie Foster, and Harvey Keitel. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is a mesmerizing yet compelling film from Martin Scorsese.

Following the death of her husband in an auto accident, the film revolves around a widow and her 11-year old son trying to start over in the American Southwest on their way to her hometown of Monterrey, California as she would struggle to find work and love. It’s a film that plays into a woman trying to live something that is very ideal but has to contend with the reality of her situation as well as raising a son who is quite bratty and going through growing pains. Though Alice (Ellen Burstyn) was once a singer, she realizes that finding a job to be one is difficult where she would eventually work as a waitress and later meet a kind rancher named David (Kris Kristofferson). Still, Alice would struggle to keep her son Tommy (Alfred Lutter) intact as he would eventually act out and later befriend a troublemaker named Audrey (Jodie Foster).

Robert Getchell’s screenplay plays into Alice’s trials and tribulations as the first act has her coping with the death of her husband despite their turbulent relationship as she realizes that she needs to move from New Mexico and back to her hometown of Monterrey. Much of the film’s first half is a road movie where Alice and Tommy try to find a place to live as well as a job for Alice as she would get a job as a singer for a bar but it wouldn’t last due to an unfortunate tryst with a young man named Ben (Harvey Keitel). The second half would have Alice finally settle in Tuscon, Arizona hoping it would be temporary as she realize the only job she can get is a diner waitress where is later guided by the waitress Flo (Diane Ladd). At the same time, Alice ponders if she can have a relationship as the film also has a feminist message of sorts about what Alice really wants and what she needs to do for herself and for her son.

Martin Scorsese’s direction is very intimate in the way he captures Alice’s turbulent life as well as the world that she has to deal with that is quite chaotic. The film opens in the style of a melodrama and in a full-frame aspect ratio where it shows a young Alice fantasizing about being a singer in the farm that she’s in. When she then says something profane, it becomes clear that this is not a 1950s melodrama as it shifts into a widescreen aspect format to play into Alice’s troubled life with her husband and son Tommy who is listening to Mott the Hoople in loud volume. It establishes that Alice hasn’t reached her goal as she deals with a neglectful husband and a bratty kid where things would change once her husband dies. Much of Scorsese’s compositions are very simple as he does take advantage of the beauty in the many locations in the American Southwest in places in New Mexico and Arizona.

For many of the scenes at the motels and at the diner, Scorsese would employ a lot of hand-held camera tracking shots to play into the drama as well as to capture Alice trying desperately to look good so she can get a job. Even the scenes in the diner shows how frenetic things are where Scorsese would maintain that intimacy with a sense of style in the hand-held camera shots. There are also moments where Scorsese would play into something that feels very loose in the way Tommy would go into his own adventures with Audrey as it would play into his own sense of acting out. Especially as it would boil the tension between him and Alice as it relates to what Alice wants in her life but also what she needs to do for herself and Tommy. Overall, Scorsese creates a very engrossing yet spirited film about a woman starting over with her son.

Cinematographer Kent L. Wakeford does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography to capture the sunny look of the locations in its exteriors along with some unique lighting for some of the scenes set at night including the scenes in Phoenix where Alice would spend time with Ben. Editor Marcia Lucas does nice work with the editing as it is straightforward with some rhythmic cuts for some of the comedic and more heavier moments in the drama. Production designer Toby Carr Rafelson does fantastic work with the look of the motels Alice and Tommy lived in as well as the diner and David‘s ranch. Sound mixer Don Parker does terrific work with the sound in capturing the atmosphere of the diners and bars as well as some of the music that is played on location. The soundtrack would feature not just a few pop standards but also contemporary music from Mott the Hoople, T-Rex, Elton John, Leon Russell, and Dolly Parton.

The film’s amazing cast includes some notable small roles including an early un-credited appearance from Laura Dern as a young girl in glasses eating an ice cream cone at the diner, director Martin Scorsese as a diner customer, Lane Bradbury as a woman who has some connection with Ben, Harry Northup as a bartender that helps Alice in Phoenix, Billy “Green” Bush as Alice’s late husband Donald who appears early in the film, Leila Goldoni as Alice’s best friend Bea who helped her with the move, Valerie Curtin as the shy and timid waitress Vera, and Vic Tayback as the diner’s owner/short-order cook Mel. Harvey Keitel is superb as Ben as this man who meets Alice at a bar in Phoenix as they would have a brief relationship that doesn’t last. Jodie Foster is wonderful as a teenage tomboy named Audrey whom Tommy would meet in Tucson as she would introduce him trouble as well as saying very foul language.

Diane Ladd is fantastic as the waitress Flo as a sass-talking woman who is quite hardened as she helps Alice in keeping her head straight as it’s a performance that is just fun to watch. Kris Kristofferson is excellent as David as a kind rancher who understands what Alice is going through as he wants to help her and Tommy while dealing with Tommy’s bratty behavior. Alfred Lutter is brilliant as Tommy as this pre-teen kid who is very talkative as he copes with being bored as well as finding somewhere to be at as it’s a very wild yet naturalistic performance for the actor. Finally, there’s Ellen Burstyn in an incredible performance as Alice as this widow who is forced to start over as her dreams of being a singer is pulled by the wayside in order to care and raise her son as well as find out what she really wants in her life as it’s a funny but also gripping performance from Burstyn.

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is a remarkable film from Martin Scorsese that features a magnificent performance from Ellen Burstyn. While it is a very different film from some of the more urban films that Scorsese is known for. It is still one of his finest in terms of character study as well as being a feminist film of sorts where a widow is trying to come to terms with what she has to do with her life and for her son. In the end, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is a phenomenal film from Martin Scorsese.

Martin Scorsese Films: (Who’s That Knocking on My Door?) - (Street Scenes) - Boxcar Bertha - (Mean Streets) - Italianamerican - Taxi Driver - New York, New York - American Boy: A Profile of Steven Prince - (The Last Waltz) - Raging Bull - The King of Comedy - After Hours - The Color of Money - The Last Temptation of Christ - New York Stories-Life Lessons - Goodfellas - Cape Fear (1991 film) - The Age of Innocence - (A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies) - (Casino) - (Kundun) - (My Voyage to Italy) - Bringing Out the Dead - (The Blues-Feel Like Going Home) - Gangs of New York - (The Aviator) - No Direction Home - The Departed - Shine a Light - Shutter Island - (A Letter to Elia) - (Public Speaking) - George Harrison: Living in the Material World - Hugo - The Wolf of Wall Street - (The 50 Year Argument) - Silence (2016 film) - (The Irishman) - Killers of the Flower Moon - (An Afternoon with SCTV)

© thevoid99 2015

Saturday, July 18, 2015

150 Favorite Films from 2000-2015 Pt. 5 (that isn't Lost in Translation)

For the fifth and final part in this list of my 150 Favorite Films of 2000-2015 (that isn’t Lost in Translation) comes the final 30 films from 30 to 1. Before we go into that list, here is a list that I posted of150 more films from that period that unfortunately didn’t make the final cut. It was hard enough to put in 150 films but the past 15 years in cinema brought in a lot of great films. Here are the final 30:

30. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Love stinks as this film ponders what happens if heartbreak wants someone to get rid of memories of the person they just broke up with. That is what Michel Gondry and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman came up with in this whimsical yet evocative tale of heartbreak and love. Starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet as the two both play against type, the film explores the importance of love as Carrey’s Joel character would be inside his head realizing how much Winslet’s Clementine means to her. With a strong supporting cast that includes Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst, Elijah Wood, and Tom Wilkinson as well as gorgeous visuals by Ellen Kuras. The film is truly one of the most inventive and charming love stories ever told.

29. Under the Skin

In this adaptation of Michael Farber’s sci-fi novel comes one of the most unusual yet enchanting sci-fi films of the 21st Century. While it does have elements of the Walter Tevis novel The Man Who Fell to Earth that was famous adapted in 1976 by Nicolas Roeg that starred David Bowie. Jonathan Glazer and co-screenwriter Walter Campbell would create something that was very different as it played into an alien who pretends to be a woman as she would lure men into a trap in Glasgow, Scotland as she would eventually discover humanity and the world they live. Starring Scarlett Johansson in what is a performance for the ages, the film is a keen study into the world of what an alien would encounter as the film would also feature a chilling score by Mica Levi, Johnnie Burns’ intricate sound design, and the ravishing photography of Daniel Landin.

28. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

After a period of making very dramatic-heavy yet morose films about death, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu would make a big change as his fifth film would explore a film actor’s attempt to make a comeback through a stage play as he contends with ego, disappointment, and impending failure. Shot in a very continuous one-shot shooting style with the aid of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, the film plays into a man trying to escape his past as a film star who was famous for playing a superhero. Starring Michael Keaton in the performance of his career, it’s a film that plays into a sense of madness as it features a great ensemble that includes Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, and Lindsay Duncan as it is one of the most adventurous and intriguing studies of art and the will to suffer for it.

27. Dogtown and Z-Boys

The world of documentaries in the 21st Century covered a lot of things from the world of Formula One racing, animal attacks, musicians, the environment, art, and all sorts of crazy subjects. Yet, it is Stacey Peralta who would create a documentary that doesn’t just explore the world of skateboarding in the 1970s but also reveal his role in revolutionizing the sport along with a group of surfers-turned-skaters known as the Z-Boys. Featuring narration by Sean Penn, the film plays into the way skating culture when from a simple fad in the early 60s into the extreme sport that would take the world by the storm from the 1980s and beyond. Most notably as Peralta would incorporate a soundtrack that adds not just a sense of visual poetry to the skating but also into the sense of excitement where the Z-Boys took down the skating champions of the 60s like vermin.

26. Laurence Anyways

Most filmmakers by their third film would try to refine their craft or do something challenging. What Xavier Dolan did in his early 20s with his third film would create not just one of the most boldest love stories ever made but also a film that would subvert the ideas of gay-straight love affairs. While it is a simple story about a man who decides to become a woman and the woman who is supporting this decision. It is one that is filled with a lot of complexities in terms of its study of characters as Melvil Poupaud and Suzanne Clement would bring a lot to their respective roles as Laurence and Fred. A film that is also unafraid to be style over substance in terms of its colorful visuals and a mesmerizing soundtrack. The film is truly a landmark film for not just gay/lesbian/transgender cinema but also in the way romantic films can find new ideas.

25. Her

Another strange love story which involves a man and an operating system would turn out to be one of the finest and most touching films of the 2010s. From Spike Jonze comes the story of a man who is going through a divorce falls in love with this operating system who has something that is unexpected in machines which are emotions. With Joaquin Phoenix in the lead role of Theodore and Scarlett Johansson as the voice of the OS named Samantha, the film is very moving as it transcends the concept of sci-fi as Jonze and cinematographer Hoyte van Hoyetema would go for something is strikingly exotic in its visuals where it would feel futuristic but also very present. Along with a supporting cast that includes Rooney Mara, Amy Adams, Olivia Wilde, and Chris Pratt along with a soundtrack that features music by Owen Pallett, Arcade Fire, and Karen O.

24. American Splendor

The 21st Century saw the rise of comics and graphic novels not only come to life on the big screen but it would also pave the way for stories that weren’t about superheroes being told. Among them is the late Harvey Pekar whose titular series of comics would play into his daily struggles as a hospital file clerk as Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman would tell his story in a strange mix of documentary and dramatization. With the real Pekar and his wife Joyce appearing in the film as themselves, the film would also feature Paul Giamatti in a break-out performance as Pekar in the dramatic side of the film with Hope Davis as Joyce. It’s a film that isn’t just very comical at times but also very touching to see how much Pekar’s work managed to touch the common individual proving that even ordinary stories have something to offer for everyone.

23. The Social Network

In this dramatic telling of the founding of Facebook comes one of the most provocative stories about the rise of a few people who started this little idea that would change the world yet would come apart by greed and betrayal. From director David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin comes this very unique story that plays into not just the founding of Facebook but also how its founders would screw each other over along the way. Starring Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg and Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin, the film plays into a group of guys that started something from their own dorm while there’s others who felt their idea was stolen. Add the eerie score music by Nine Inch Nails leader Trent Reznor and collaborator Atticus Ross comes a film that marks as a tremendous tale of greed and power.

22. Oldboy

In the second part of Chan-wook Park’s Vengeance trilogy comes a film that doesn’t just reinvent the revenge film. It would be an exploration into loss and how the past can sometimes never run away from anyone. Starring Choi Min-sik as Dae Su, the film doesn’t just reinvent the idea of action cinema but also in how brutal the violence can be as well as be displayed in a manner that is stylistic but also filled with terror. Most notably the sequence where Dae Su battles a group of men with only a hammer as it adds to the intensity of the violence. The film would also feature one of the most fucked-up twists ever created in cinema as it remains one of the most shocking moments in cinema as well as its aftermath. It is also the film that doesn’t just bring visibility to Park himself but also South Korea as the country would emerge as a country that had new ideas to tell.

21. Never Let Me Go

In this adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel comes one of the most unusual but heart-wrenching sci-fi films of the 2010s. Directed by Mark Romanek and adapted into script by Alex Garland, the film plays into the lives of those whose fates have already been sealed as it is told in three different decades as three young people are tasked to become organ donors for a futuristic dystopia. Featuring a cast that includes Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley, Sally Hawkins, Andrea Riseborough, Domhnall Gleeson, and Charlotte Rampling. It’s a film that plays into those that try to see if they can have a life outside of their fates but also see if they do mean anything to a world that is very complicated.

20. Gone Girl

From novelist Gillian Flynn comes one of the most fucked up love stories ever made as it’s about a guy who meets a girl. They fall in love and get married but things go wrong as the guy then notices his wife has gone missing and is then accused of killing her. Helmed by David Fincher, the film isn’t just one of the director’s darkest films but it’s also one of his funniest as it’s a mixture of mystery and satire where it makes fun of media coverage and all sorts of things. While it has a great ensemble cast led by Ben Affleck that would also include Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris, and Patrick Fugit. The real star is Rosamund Pike as Amy as the woman who is supposedly killed by her husband as she is probably one of the greatest characters in film.

19. Holy Motors

Returning from what had been a long hiatus from the cinema despite a short film and a few minor projects in the 2000s, Leos Carax would return with a bang in what is one of the most surreal yet fascinating portraits about cinema itself. Starring longtime collaborator Denis Lavant comes this strange story in which Lavant plays a man who inhabits many characters to fit into an environment where it’s playing a CGI character, a musician, a singer, or some raging lunatic named Merde. It’s a film that doesn’t just play as a tribute to cinema but also into how whimsical it is as it’s a film that refuses to play by any kind of rules or flesh out any kind of convention as it is a tremendous accomplishment from Carax.

18. Pan's Labyrinth

For anyone that believes fairy tales is for children would think twice as Guillermo del Toro would make something that is far more complex and broader for an audience that was looking for something different. Set during the final days of the Spanish Civil War, the film revolves around a young girl whose love of fairy tales and books has her encountering a fantasy labyrinth world that could help her in the real world. A mixture of horror, war, and children’s fantasy, del Toro’s film is a chilling yet enchanting story that manages to bring so much yet features an air of innocence that is rarely seen in films. Especially for a film that is very dark and not in the English language as it is a major achievement for international cinema.

17. In the Mood for Love

Wong Kar-Wai’s 2000 film is probably one of the most exotic and gorgeous love stories ever told as it is part of an informal trilogy that began with 1991’s Days of Being Wild and 2004’s 2046. Yet, it is a film that stands on its own as it revolves around two people who learn that their respective spouses are having an affair with each other. Starring Tony Leung Chui-Wai and Maggie Cheung, the film plays into two people coping with heartbreak as they ponder how to confront their spouses while spending time of their own. Featuring the dazzling art direction, lush costumes, and sumptuous editing of William Chang, the lush cinematographer of Christopher Doyle and Mark Li Ping-Bin, and a hypnotic soundtrack. The film isn’t just a major highlight in the career of the Hong Kong filmmaker but also a film that says so much about the theme of love.

16. The New World

Though the script was written back in the late 1970s, Terrence Malick’s dramatic account of the founding of Jamestown in the early 1600s is a film like no other. Relying on historical facts and legends, Malick would recreate a period in time where America was a new land but one that was also unstable. Starring Colin Farrell, Christian Bale, Christopher Plummer, and then-new comer Q’orianka Kilcher as Pocahontas, the film showcases a world where a young woman is entranced by the new visitors but also the ways of an old world. Marking Malick’s first collaboration with Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, the film has a look that is intoxicating as well as compelling to play into people trying to live together despite their difference. Though there’s three different cuts of the film, they all manage to tell the same story as it plays into Malick’s mastery in the art of storytelling.

15. Almost Famous

Before Cameron Crowe was a screenwriter and filmmaker, he was a young journalist writing for Rolling Stone magazine in the 1970s where he would use his experience to create a film where a young kid goes on the road with his favorite band to write a piece on them. With a cast that includes Frances McDormand, Patrick Fugit, Kate Hudson, Jason Lee, Billy Crudup, Zooey Deschanel, and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman as the famed music critic Lester Bangs. The film plays into a period where a young kid experience the world of rock n’ roll at a time when he was fun and wild before the age of corporate rock. It’s a film that is very musical as well as very touching as it is Crowe’s crowning achievement.

14. There Will Be Blood

Following a period of making films set in cities and presented in a certain style, Paul Thomas Anderson would take a five-year break between films where he would adapt Upton Sinclair’s Oil! into this intense story of greed and power. Set in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century, the film plays into a silver-miner who would find oil in Southern California as he would do whatever it takes to have complete control. Featuring Daniel Day-Lewis in the role of Daniel Plainview as it is a role filled with terror and chew-scenery, it is a film that recalls not just the works of Terrence Malick on a visual scale but also John Huston and Old Hollywood. Featuring an eerie score by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood and lush visuals by Robert Elswit, the film is a tremendous feature that would mark a new era for Anderson as a master filmmaker.

13. 24 Hour Party People

Whereas lots of films about music or music scenes tend to talk about things that happened or dramatize everything. What Michael Winterbottom and screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce does is say “fuck it” to the rules and go for something that is truly off the wall in the story about the rise and fall of Factory Records. Starring Steve Coogan as Factory Records co-founder Tony Wilson, the film plays into events that involved bands like Joy Division/New Order and the Happy Mondays as they would make Factory Records a key music label for British indie music. The film would also have these moments that are crazy where Wilson often narrates the film as he would claim he is just a supporting character in this story and then at one point would have the camera get a shot at the real Tony Wilson. It’s a film that is truly Mancunian in every sense of the word as it is funny and has a great soundtrack to boot.

12. I'm Not There

The 2000s saw a lot of musical bio-pics on many performers like Ray Charles and Johnny Cash to great success but it would eventually become parody as studios tried to create stories on anything and anyone. For someone like Bob Dylan, a straightforward bio-pic on the music legend wouldn’t work at all as Todd Haynes and co-screenwriter Oren Moverman did something that broke away from convention to create a film that captures the spirit of Dylan. Having one person as Bob Dylan would be impossible so Haynes created an idea where six different people played Bob Dylan in his different incarnations. Marcus Carl Franklin, Christian Bale, Ben Whishaw, Heath Ledger, and Richard Gere would each play different variations of Dylan yet it is Cate Blanchett that would steal the show as the Dylan who goes electric, cause chaos, introduce the Beatles to marijuana, and all sorts of crazy shit. The result isn’t just a film that is essential to fans of Dylan but also what a bio-pic should be in terms of what to tell and what not to tell.

11. Enter the Void

Gaspar Noe’s 2009 film is probably one of the most visually-sprawling yet out-of-this-world film that is really indescribable. While it is a simple story about an American drug dealer who gets killed after a deal gone wrong where he would have an out-of-body experience in the afterlife as he watches what is happening around him. The film is just this strange yet hypnotic film where the camera is always constantly moving around as it plays into something where the audience is the ghost. It is also filled with dazzling visuals courtesy of Benoit Debie that captures the city of Tokyo at his most vibrant. Especially as Noe was willing to see how far he can go as he would also play into the sense of grief as well as bring in a lot of existential themes for a film that refuses to define itself as it is easily the greatest mind-fuck of the 21st Century.

10. Drive

From the novel by James Sallis comes a film that wouldn’t just be a breakthrough for one of Denmark’s finest talents but would also serve as a major stepping stone for its lead actor. Helmed by Nicolas Winding Refn and starring Ryan Gosling in an untitled character, the film plays into the life of a Hollywood stunt driver who works doing stunts by day and works as a hired getaway driver for robbers at night. The film plays into a man who plays by his own rules as he would become attached to a new neighbor and her son as he strives to protect them following a botched robbery that involves her husband. It’s a film that is played with such style and features an amazing ensemble cast that includes Carey Mulligan, Oscar Isaac, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman, and a mesmerizing performance from Albert Brooks as a crime boss. It also would include lovely visuals, eerie moments of violence, and a hypnotic soundtrack that would captivate listeners.

9. The Wrestler

The world of professional wrestling in the world of cinema is often seen in either eerie documentaries about the good and bad as well as comedies that often portray wrestlers and wrestling fans as buffoons. What Darren Aronofsky and screenwriter Robert D. Siegel create is a touching story of a once-famous professional wrestler who deals with a fading career as well as health issues and regrets. Starring Mickey Rourke as Randy “The Ram” Robinson comes a man who deals with a near-fatal health scare as he deals with not just his estranged daughter but also a fading career with no future. It is a film that is told with a sense of realism as well as showcase the life after being in the spotlight. Even as Aronofsky allows Rourke to present a vulnerability that was rarely seen from the actor as the result wouldn’t just be one of Aronofsky’s best films but also a comeback for Mickey Rourke.

8. Antichrist

After having made a name for himself in the 1980s and 1990s as he arrived into the 21st Century with lots of acclaim and clout. The rest of the 2000s would be a period of difficulty for Lars von Trier as he would end that decade with what is truly his most controversial film to date. The first in a trilogy of films that explored the world of depression, the film revolves around a couple going into a forest to cope with the loss of their child as the man tries to analyze his wife and her fears. What would happen would be a descent into Hell as the film would showcase uncompromising elements of sex and violence as it features amazing performances from Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg in roles that have them do all sorts of things and in uncomfortable situations. While the film does serve as a visual tribute to the works of Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, the film is quintessential von Trier in terms of his willingness to push buttons.

7. The Tree of Life

A project whose genesis dated back in the late 1970s, Terrence Malick’s fifth feature film would be his most personal as it played into the life of a family in 1950s Texas. Starring Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Hunter McCracken, Tye Sheridan, and Laramie Eppler as the O’Briens with Sean Penn as an older version of the eldest son Jack. While it would have a story that is simple, it is presented in a very abstract narrative that includes this intoxicating sequence about the Creation of Earth that features dazzling visual effects work from Douglas Trumbull. Along with the ethereal photography of Emmanuel Lubezki and an inspired use of classical music, the film isn’t just one of the most daring films of the 21st Century but also one of the most spiritual films to ever be shown in the cinema.


From Pixar and director Andrew Stanton comes a film that may be sci-fi in its story and setting but it is a whole lot more than that. Set in a futuristic world where Earth is now a dump and the only thing that is living is a robot that was supposed to be turned off and his pet cockroach. Upon meeting a robot named EVE who is trying to find life on Earth, the film becomes a love story with elements of silent comedy until the story moves into outer space where it becomes something much broader. It’s a film that is really a game-changer of sorts in the world of animation in not just for its technical front in terms of its photography and look but also in how it can stray away from conventional narrative and do something more. Especially as Stanton would also explore the dangers of consumerism and technology in the world of humanity where it would take a robot to wake them up and have them return home.

5. Mulholland Dr.

What was supposed to be a TV pilot would end up becoming David Lynch’s most surreal yet evocative film to date. While it maybe inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s Persona in its themes of identity, the film is the second part of a Los Angeles trilogy that began with 1997’s Lost Highway and concluded with 2004’s INLAND EMPIRE as it explores not just the dark side of Hollywood but also the strange beauty of the city. While it is a story where a wannabe actress arrives to Los Angeles where she meets an amnesiac woman at her aunt’s apartment, it would become so much more as well as twist in its third act that blurs the idea of reality and fiction. Armed with gorgeous visuals, an eerie soundtrack that includes a devastating cover of Roy Orbison’s Cryin’, and a breakthrough performance from Naomi Watts.

4. Ghost World

With the world of comic books and graphic novels being very popular as they would turn into feature films in the 2000s. One film managed to stand out for not just being different but also for telling a story that wasn’t about comics nor was it about superheroes. Instead, it’s the story of two teenage girls whose friendship would diverge following a prank on a loner in whom one of the girls befriend. Helmed by Terry Zwigoff and written by the novel’s writer Daniel Clowes, the film explores not just a young woman going through growing pains but also deal with the expectations of post-high school life. Featuring an amazing soundtrack and a great cast that includes Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, Bob Balaban, Illeana Douglas, and Steve Buscemi. The film is further proof that stories based on comic books can be about the ordinary person including a young girl.

3. Secretary

From the short story of Mary Gaitskill comes a story about a shy young woman who finds herself through sadomasochism by working as a secretary for an obsessively-compulsive lawyer. Helmed by Steven Shainberg comes this very sensitive yet quirky film that stars Maggie Gyllenhaal in her breakthrough performance as this young woman from a dysfunctional home life who finds not just sexual but emotional fulfillment from the demands of her boss. Featuring an equally great performance from James Spader as the tormented E. Edward Grey is a film that proves to be one of the finest and offbeat love stories of the 2000s. Especially as it also finds a way to make sadomasochism playful and fun without the need to say anything provocative and bit. After all, it’s a love story with an edge and some spanking.

2. Somewhere

Sofia Coppola’s fourth feature film marks a turning point for the filmmaker after a trilogy of films that revolved on alienated young women. By stripping things down to its barest essentials, the film is an exercise in minimalism as it explores the life of a Hollywood film star who goes through an existential crisis while getting a visit from his young daughter. Starring Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning comes this touching tale of a father and daughter spending time together in the Chateau Marmont where Dorff’s Johnny Marco character ponders the life of decadence he had been living in as well as his failures as a father. Featuring mesmerizing yet naturalistic images by the late Harris Savides as well as a moody soundtrack that defies convention. The film would become another example of Sofia Coppola’s mastery as a filmmaker.

1. Morvern Callar

From the novel by Alan Warner comes one of the most entrancing yet odd dramatic films ever created. Helmed by Lynne Ramsay, the film would be this intriguing tale of a woman who finds her boyfriend dead of a suicide as she would become detached and later puts her own name into a manuscript he written. Played by Samantha Morton, the titular character is an unconventional protagonist who is trying to deal with what had happened as well as figure out the decisions she has made in her life. Masterfully composed with unique usage of music that would play into Morvern’s state of mind. The film is a provocative story about death and a woman’s way of coping as well as trying to find herself in a world that is often complicated and with rules.

Well, that is all for the 150 Favorite Films of 2000-2015 (that isn’t Lost in Translation). Hope you all enjoyed it or bitched about it. Let’s see what will happen in a few years from now.

Pt. 1 - Pt. 2 - Pt. 3 - Pt. 4

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