Monday, October 27, 2008

Ashes of Time Redux at the Kendall Square Cinema

About 8 years ago, the Coolidge Corner theater showed a midnight screening of Ashes of Time. I was already a devout Wong Kar Wai fan, but I had never had a chance to see Ashes of Time. Certain cinematic moments stick in your mind. Seeing Ashes of Time on the big screen was a cinematic pinnacle for me. From the soundtrack to the visuals to the amazing cast, I loved Ashes of Time. I bought a shitty bootleg version of it in Chinatown and watched it multiple times, noticing small details, and finally wrapping my head around its challenging story line. When I heard that Wong Kar Wai was rereleasing Ashes of Time in the theater, I was ecstatic. Not many people had really had a chance to see this picture that I have privately treasured. So how did Redux compare to my original experience of seeing Ashes of Time in the theater? The general experience of seeing it on the big screen is still intact. Some minor qualms are the way Wong Kar Wai reedited the first scene changing its epic spaghetti western sword fight into a less than exciting scene. The music cues are different and not as strong in my opinion. The quality of the film changes from scene to scene, which can be jarring and take the audience out of the action. Also, the colors look a little off and not as strong as that original version I saw years ago. On the other hand, the translation is a little different and seems a bit stronger. Also, just the ability to see this classic on the big screen is cause for celebration and I strongly recommend seeing this while you can.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Coolidge Horror Marathon (update)

The Coolidge just posted the other three films in the horror marathon: From Dusk Til Dawn, From Beyond and The Howling (werewolf sex!).

Some Came Running at the Harvard Film Archive

So this is my second Minnelli movie in two nights. Like The Bad and the Beautiful, Some Came Running is a beautifully shot film which climaxes in a carnival scene brimming with colors and lights. Minnelli color codes the whole movie creating a surreal painting of pastels. As lush as the movie's visuals are, I had some concerns with the script and story. Frank Sinatra plays Dave Hirsh, a writer and a military man, who returns to his home town drunk on a bus. He reunites with his brother and makes some new friends and acquaintances. Providing a further synopsis would be difficult, because at times it is hard to understand what Some Came Running is really about. There doesn't appear to be much of a character arc or any real conflict. Things just seem to indiscriminately happen to the characters. At 137 minutes, the movie is long too. I went with Naomi who said she was just waiting (hoping) for it to end and that she thought it was going to wrap up at multiple times. Some Came Running is a flawed but gorgeously shot film that may be worth seeing just for the colorful finale.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Bad and the Beautiful at the Harvard FIlm Archives

The Bad and the Beautiful is a wonderfully scripted film, which is superbly directed by Vincente Minnelli. Minnelli is probably most well known for his musicals (Meet me in St. Louis, Gigi, and An American in Paris), but he also did a significant amount of melodramas that the Harvard Film Archive will be screening for the rest of the month. The Bad and the Beautiful is a movie about movies. Producer Jonathan Shields is profiled through the flashbacks of a screenwriter, a director, and one of his leading ladies. And they are not fans. Shields steps over friends and lovers on his way to the top and when everything goes awry; when he finds himself at the bottom again, he needs them back. Although a melodrama, the film is beautifully shot by Robert Surtees (he won an Oscar for it); it has the lighting of a film noir with shades and shadows looming over each dramatic scene. Also, Minnelli clearly payed special attention in the way he framed scenes with each actor standing in the perfect spot and each piece of furniture meticulously placed, making the movie look like a moving portrait. I've often heard Minnelli compared to Douglas Sirk, but there is no irony in this movie. The Bad and the Beautiful like All About Eve or Sunset Boulevard is a movie that takes a serious look at the darker side of Hollywood.

Harvard Film Archive and Brattle both update calender

Alot to be excited about here. First off, the Brattle will be doing a B-movie series from November 5th to November 9th. The highlight will be Samuel Fuller's best movie in my opinion Pickup on South Street. Then they are honoring William Dafoe with a great list of movies: The Life Aquatic, Mississippi Burning, and The Last Temptation of Christ. Then both the Harvard Film Archive and the Brattle are showing a John Boorman series with Boorman in attendance for some of the movies at the Harvard Film Archive. This is a must attend. Boorman worked on such classic films as Deliverance, Zardoz, and Point Blank. The Brattle is also doing an Indiana Jones series showing movies that influenced Indiana. Also, they are showing all four Indiana Jones movies, but stay away from that last one unless you like tons of CGI gophers dancing around and gyrating. The Harvard Film Archive will be showing a very long list of Oshima movies. The most famous being In the Realm of Senses, which I've always wanted to see.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Appaloosa at the Somerville Theater

I love westerns. I love gritty mud-covered cowboys drinking shots of whiskey, staring each other down and then unloading their guns into one another. I love panoramic scenes of the west with monument valley unfolding in the background. I love westerns and Appaloosa is a pretty solid western. Appaloosa is centered around lawman Virgil Cole (Ed Harris) and his deputy Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen), two friends that are hired to defend a lawless town from a murderous rancher (Jeremy Irons). Their efforts are disrupted and friendship tested by the arrival of ...ugh...a woman (Renee Zellwegger). Appaloosa is not a dark revisionists western like Deadwood or Unforgiven. There isn't much violence. No, Appaloosa is more like a John Ford western or the original 3:10 to Yuma. Its about the camaraderie between Harris and Mortensen and how their friendship surpasses all other obstacles. Harris and Mortensen, who both worked together in History of Violence, are both great. Renee Zellwegger is less so and you really begin to hope that an errant bullet will hit her in the face. Although it does little to advance the genre, the movie delivers a solid little western that will keep you entertained. I went with April who when it was over exclaimed, "so boring." But she isn't much of a western fan. So screw her.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Man with a Movie Camera at the Harvard Film Archive

Just got out of a free screening of Dziga Vertov's Man with a Movie Camera at the Harvard Film Archives. An experimental film from 1929, Man with a Movie Camera has no plot or characters, but is just a series of scenes of a man (vertov's brother) filming people and machinery around Moscow. Although little happens thoughout, Vertov is able to keep things interesting. Vertov uses an assortment of camera tricks from double exposures, to sped up film, to split screens to capture the liveliness of Moscow and its inhabitants. From the opening scene of a man standing on a large camera and looking through his own smaller camera to the movie theater of people that seems to be watching the same movie as the audience, the Man with the Movie Camera is very self-conscious and very self referential. The Man with a Movie Camera celebrates all that cinema is capable of and Vertov stresses this with his constant references. Vertov wanted to push cinema to its limits and was able to create a film that is simply beautiful. As a side note, it does seem likely that with all the scenes of the proletariat working together with big Russian smiles, that Vertov was trying to push a commie agenda. But nobody's perfect!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Coolidge Corner Horror Marathon

So they just posted this years line up. We've got Jamie Lee Curtis in Prom Night. For six long years, Hamilton High School seniors Kelly, Jude, Wendy, and Nick have been hiding the truth of what happened to ten-year-old Robin Hammond the day her broken body was discovered near an old abandoned convent. The foursome kept secret how they taunted Robin - backed her into a corner until, frightened, she stood on a window ledge... and fell to her death. The stupid bitch. Though an accident, the then-twelve-year-olds feared they'd be held responsible and vowed never to tell. But someone else was there that day... watching. And now, that someone is ready to exact murderous revenge-on prom night.

Also on the line up is the late great Stan Winston's Pumkinhead starring Lance Henrikson. As a young boy, Ed Harley saw an evil demon kill a man. Many years later, Harley (Lance Henriksen) and his young son are running a grocery stand in Nevada that is visited by 6 city youths on their way to a cabin. While Harley is away on an errand, one of the boys accidentally kills Harley's son with a motorcycle. Remembering what he had seen that night years ago, and what he had heard, Harley pays a visit to a reclusive witch who helps him invoke that demon - known as Pumpkinhead - to avenge his son's death. As he sees the youths being killed, one at a time, through the eyes of the demon, Harley discovers that a horrific price must be paid. Possibly demon sex...

Finally, Lamberto Bava's Demons...A new theatre is to be inaugurated and people are invited to watch a movie. A woman tries on a mask, the mask pierces her skin and this causes her to transform into a demon. She then bites others and they turn into demons, turning slowly the whole theatre into mayhem, only few survive the blood-thirsty demons. I kid you not thats really the plot. Lamberto considers this his best movie, what not Cave of the Golden Rose 5?

So thats all of the line up we have for now...still three more movies to be announced though so keep checking like crazy.