Log in

No account? Create an account
Film Lovers/Snobs Unite

> recent entries
> calendar
> friends
> profile
> previous 20 entries

Saturday, November 28th, 2009
9:42 pm - favorite directors

I've never really thought about a list of favorite directors but I've been watching these Alain Resnais movies and it's sort of crossed my mind just because I'd put him on any list, even if he seems to specialize in flawed masterpieces. Of course, it occurs to me that flawed masterpieces are exactly what I love. It's always been easy to answer people when they ask who my favorite director is. I mean, it's like my being gay, for many people it's been so obvious they wouldn't even think to ask about it. Rainer Werner Fassbinder, right? Naturally.

I also used to LOVE Fellini and Bergman but I haven't much by the two of them in a long time. I love the handful of Bresson films I've seen and the seven or so Mizoguchi films I've seen. The ten or so Alain Resnais films I've seen. Half of the Kurasawa films I've seen. I enjoy Hitchcock, Wilder, and Cassavetes, but there's something so much more compelling about these old European and Japanese masters that hits me in the gut of my soul and submerges me in this aching beauty for hours or days that comes back at me like waves or acid flashbacks for years. It's funny when I look at films the way you look at different drugs when you're a polysubstance abuser it doesn't seem like Hitchcock's movies are too interesting on a deeper level. They're like cocaine where it's thrilling but when it's over it's just over.

As for modern directors, there's PT Anderson and Francois Ozon and though Anderson might be more ambitious (maybe) there's something about Ozon's games that haunt me just like more serious films.

As for the female directors, it's Agnes Varda all the way. Sure, Ida Lupino films are interesting and compelling. Jane Campion films are fine. There's Margarethe von Trotta, Doris Dorrie, Agnieszka Holland. Leni Riefenstahl? I'm sure I could think about other female directors I enjoy if I sat here for a while but I don't think anyone has done as well as Varda has done. She's made some truly remarkable films and there's such a striking range. Like, the woman who made Cleo from 5 to 7 was also behind Vagabond, The Gleaners, and The Beaches of Agnes.
She's one of the few female directors that has made it into the pantheon alongside the men. Of course, I'm really interested in learning more about the work of a more diverse field of artists. I know almost nothing about African film. I've just sort of picked up on this wave of great Korean cinema and am relatively ignorant about many world cinemas including major countries like Russia. And I'm certain there are more female auteurs out there and many on the ascendant. Maybe Sarah Polley has the potential?

Then there are the directors I like but still need to get to know better, like Demy and Malle and Ozu and Tarkovsky. And those I think might be overrated or not quite my style but feel I should explore further, like Truffaut and Godard.

It feels like making these lists is terribly arbitrary in some ways but that there is some value found in saying, "This I like and this I don't." I've noticed pitfalls in lists where people will make sure they have one of these and one of those and they'll want to resist being conventional so they'll put inferior movies in place of those that are expected. Then they'll put things they feel impelled to put because they're en vogue at the moment. And you find yourself worrying how many Italian Neorealist films/filmmakers should be represented on a list five, ten, twenty, a hundred. How many films of a director do I have to see to say I like the director's work instead of I like these particular films? Do I like Rashomon enough to make up for Kurasawa's films that bored or annoyed the hell out of me, such as The Seven Samurai?


I feel like trying to make a list like this makes the whole concept of making lists seem silly. How do you compare Jacques Demy to John Cassavetes to Elia Kazan to Francois Ozon? Hawks to Cukor to Minnelli, let alone to Pedro Almodovar? How about Almodovar to Bunuel? In some ways Almodovar does what Bunuel wanted to do but more directly but weren't Bunuel's films more beautiful? Or am I mistaken what is contemporary for less beautiful? I suppose there is more depth in the films of Bunuel? But does that depth matter when Tarkovsky, Bergman, and Bresson films touch closer to the sublime?

What do you think? Who are your favorite directors? Does anyone read this anymore?

(comment on this)

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008
11:16 pm - didion/dunne

Last week I watched True Confessions (1981), a film adaptation of John Gregory Dunne's novel with a screenplay by Dunne and his wife Joan Didion.
Right now I'm watching this bad 90s TV movie called Broken Trust (1995).
This one stars Tom Selleck as a idealistic judge who appears about to get caught up in some kind of treacherous web.
That Selleck is possibly the most convincing actor is only one of the problems here.

I worry that both of these films suffer from being written by novelists in that much of the dialogue would sound better printed on a page.

Maybe it's something else.
I was really surprised by how little i connected with True Confessions and am considering reading the book just to see if there is anything there. Watching this film, also an adaptation of a novel, one gets the idea that all the Didions put into this screenplay was a desire for a paycheck. I remember her talking in an interview about how in screenwriting it was important to let it go once you'd handed it in. Let them mess it up. Maybe it's someone else's fault.

I don't know what to say here. I'm just really disappointed that Didion's screenwriting career doesn't do justice to the rest of her writing. The characters in this movie all come across as a lot dumber than they should be.

Can anyone say anything to me about John Gregory Dunne?

(comment on this)

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008
7:55 pm - Delirious Revisited

Last August, Deb and I had the opportunity to attend a special screening of director Tom DiCillo's Delirious. I wrote about the film the next day (which, if you check out the comments, generated a response from DiCillo himself). In subsequent weeks, due to lousy distribution (think Katrina-relief-effort lousy) and despite a rave review from Roger Ebert, Delirious came and went, lasting only a month in New York, a week in Los Angeles, and appearing on less than two-dozen screens in the entire U.S.


Last week Delirious was released on DVD. I encourage you to run out and buy, rent, or steal a copy immediately. You won't be disappointed (especially if you're a fan of the great character-study films of the Seventies). Rewatching the film today, I was once again blown away. Not only does it boast fantastic performances (by Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, and Gina Gershon, to name the obvious few), it's also a stunning piece of cinema.

Fortunately, the DVD transfer captures the movie's rich colors; scenes like the one where the Pitt character, walking through the streets of New York and realizing he's in love, are nothing short of visual poetry. Plus, there's a great commentary track by DiCillo, who has crafted a film, despite all third-party efforts to the contrary, worth remembering.

(2 comments | comment on this)

Thursday, April 24th, 2008
9:25 pm - Volunteers Needed for Film Festival!

hope this post is allowed here. Mods, please let me know if it isn't.

Hi everyone!

I am the volunteer coordinator for the San Francisco International Black Film Festival. We are looking for some high energy, enthusiastic, creative, and fun volunteers for our 10th annual festival that is coming up (June 4-15th). Please email me if you are interested. Our first volunteer meeting will be Tuesday, April 29th 2008 at 6:30pm at Sheba Lounge 1419 Fillmore St. San Francisco, CA Light snacks will be provided. And really, who doesn't like free food?
PLEASE RSVP  by email
Check the website at www.sfbff.org for more information. We look forward to working with you.

PS, pass on the word. If you aren't interested or won't be in the area, perhaps you know of someone that would love to do this.

(comment on this)

Thursday, March 27th, 2008
1:23 pm - What the Hell?

This morning, in The New York Sun, there's an article about how Manhattan's Anthology Film Archives (according to its website, "the first museum devoted to film as an art form") is reviving the early movies of Albert Brooks; specifically, his first two features, the wonderful and exquisite Real Life and Modern Love (the former, made in 1979, an extremely prescient commentary on reality television, the latter taking neurotic romanticism to heights even Woody Allen never dreamed possible).

Regarding Brooks's third movie, Lost in America, the article mentions that "'there's no print of it anywhere.' An apparent victim of indifference on the part of Warner Bros., which owns the film, Lost in America has fallen through the distribution cracks."

No print of it anywhere?! It's not unusual in this day of film restoration awareness (thanks to the efforts of directors like Martin Scorsese) to hear how 90 percent of American silent movies have been lost, as well as half of all the films made in the U.S. before 1950. But we're talking about a movie that was made in 1985, for Chrissake! As well, Lost in America took in more at the box office than Brooks's first two films combined. And nobody thought to preserve a single print?

I don't know about you, but that really grinds my gears.

(comment on this)

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008
3:11 pm - Cancel the Bigger Boat

Roy Scheider died earlier this week. Damn. He was one of those actors who was often much better than the material he was given (a curse that followed him from his first screen credit: TV's The Edge of Night).

But all that's moot, because he appeared in one of the most entertaining films ever made (Jaws, where he ad-libbed the line "You're gonna need a bigger boat"), one of the most exciting (his reaction shots behind Gene Hackman lent humanity to the often cold and heartless French Connection), one of the most overlooked (William Friedkin's difficult and uncompromising Sorcerer), and two of the most daring (David Cronenberg's version of Naked Lunch and his narration for Paul Schrader's Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters). Most importantly, he starred in (and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for) Bob Fosse's brilliant All that Jazz, which is just flat-out one of the best movies ever made.

Roy Scheider was a classic example of one of those actors, like Bogart, who always, regardless of circumstance, rose to the occasion; so that, in those those few-and-far-between instances when the occasions rose to him, he was ready.

He is already missed.

current mood: rejuvenated

(comment on this)

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007
11:53 am - Conference & Film Festival in Columbus, Ohio!


(comment on this)

11:52 am - Conference & Film Festival in Columbus, Ohio!


(comment on this)

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007
11:22 am - Film Festival!

Umm, the website isn't up yet, but keep checking b/c it will be soon! Also, we need volunteers, so if you're in the area, just leave a comment and let me know.

(comment on this)

Thursday, October 4th, 2007
9:02 am - Up Coming Film Festival. BE THERE!


The Ohio State University's Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity will host a Film Festival from November 27 to December 1, 2007 in Columbus, Ohio. The festival will be comprised of films that approach the topic of race in a variety of life and policy dimensions and make use of a structural portrayal of race and racism (i.e., not focusing solely on individualist perspectives).

The overall goal of the Film Festival is to illustrate structural racism in a myriad of forms through a medium that will not only reach a broader audience, but also has the ability to transform the way activists, academics, policymakers, and other interested individuals talk about and do work around race and other issues of social justice. We hope to demonstrate how film as a communication tool can help us to examine, rethink, and change our ideas about race and racism. For this reason, we have selected films of both domestic and foreign origin that deal with issues such as race, gender, class, identity, image, politics, education, and other social and structural forces that intersect to shape the lives of us all. Each film will be preceded by a short introduction and followed by a question and answer period fielded by a panel of acclaimed scholars and/or activists with expertise in areas related to the subject matter of the film. On Friday evening, there will be a Keynote Address given by Danny Glover and Felix Justice.

The Film Festival will be held in conjunction with a national conference hosted by the Kirwan Institute entitled Toward a Transformative Agenda around Race. The conference will challenge scholars, activists, and practitioners to explore ways of talking about and doing around race that underscores our linked fate as people and facilitate bridge-building and coalition formation across racial, ethnic, and even ideological differences. This emphasis on using racial analysis, discourse, policy and practice to draw people together for constructive, proactive purposes, and to actually enact our commitments, is at the heart of what we mean by a transformative agenda around race.

A website dedicated to the conference & film festival will be coming soon!

current mood: excited

(comment on this)

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007
10:59 am - Delirious

I've got this camera click, click, clickin' in my head.
"I'm Not Angry"

Although it doesn't appear until the end credits, Elvis Costello's classic 1977 spitfire anthem serves as one of the best movie theme songs—theme in every sense of the word—of recent years. Jealousy, voyeurism, paranoia, acceptance, rejection, denial, the potential for violence, the recognition that it's all so damn unfunny that it becomes funny—Costello's song has it all, and so does the fine film to which it's now been wed.

Director and writer Tom DiCillo's Delirious, which had a special screening last night in Manhattan at the Angelika, works effectively on so many different levels that it gives new meaning to the term cross-genre. At once a comedic and dramatic Midnight Cowboyish character study of downtrodden friendship, it's also a love story, a meditation on fame (those who have it vs. those who want it), and a potential stalker flick. Despite its vastly disparate characters, shifts in tone, and wildly divergent plot lines, the movie hangs together remarkably well. Its debts to Michael Powell's Peeping Tom and Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver aside, Delirious is the best movie about wanting to be famous since that other great Scorsese paean to obsessive behavior, 1983's The King of Comedy. (Both Scorsese films starred Robert De Niro, who receives mention several times in Delirious.)

"Sometimes I see too much," says Steve Buscemi's Les Gallantine (even his name is a worthy successor to Rupert Pupkin and Travis Bickle) to Michael Pitt's Toby Grace. What he doesn't see is how his chosen profession—that of paparazzi—with each click of his shutter takes something away from his subjects. He proudly displays on his apartment wall two long-range photos of Elvis Costello (who effectively appears as himself in the movie) as if they were big-game trophies.

Following last night's screening, Tom DiCillo spoke about the making of Delirious, which he spent the last six years bringing to fruition. He couldn't say enough good things about his star Steve Buscemi, who delivers what might well be the best performance of his career (right up there with his starring role in DiCillo's 1995 indie classic, Living in Oblivion).

One thing DiCillo couldn't stress enough about his new film and whether or not it succeeds: "Tell your friends about it." Indeed, in a movie marketplace where big-name films boast advertising budgets larger than what it cost DiCillo to make his movie (he had to reduce his budget from five million dollars down to three million), word of mouth is more important than ever.

DiCillo told The New York Times last week: "'Look at the movies people are watching.... They’re about nothing. You invest nothing.'"

Not so with Delirious.

(comment on this)

Saturday, July 14th, 2007
10:05 am - Shopsin's

I learned about Shopsin's last year when I visited Evergreen Video to interview owner Steve Feltes for my book about Paul Nelson. Deciding we'd eat while we talked, we walked across the street to Shopsin's, at 54 Carmine Street in the West Village, where we were presented with menus the length of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novella (there are supposedly over 900 dishes listed).

On the way over, Steve told me that the restaurant's proprietor, Kenny Shopsin, was somewhat legendary for yelling at — and even tossing out — his customers. He also mentioned that someone had made a documentary about Shopsin.

Now that film from 2004, I Like Killing Flies, is out on DVD (I watched it online yesterday via Netflix). Lo and behold, Kenny Shopsin is indeed a veritable Soup Nazi (his refusal to seat parties of five or more is only one of his endearing predilections), albeit one with a fouler mouth and a more philosophical bent. Imagine a cross between a kinder, gentler Charles Bukowski and perverse, dyspeptic Mortimer J. Adler — then stick a spatula in one hand and a flyswatter in the other, and voilà! you have Kenny Shopsin.

Director Matt Mahurin's documentary is about as bare bones as you can get, and the pace is rambling and frenetic at the same time; all of which serves his subject well. And, indeed, Shopsin likes killing flies, which functions not only as a metaphor for how he treats his customers but also for the United States' terrorist problem and for the human condition as a whole.

The day I was there, Shopsin was on his best behavior, occasionally emerging from the kitchen to sit down and visit with a customer, and the food was great (reminding me of one of my favorite restaurants from Salt Lake City, Over the Counter). And, perhaps because it was late in the year, there were no flies.

(comment on this)

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007
4:53 pm - Last Days

Director Gus Van Sant's fictionalized take on Kurt Cobain's suicide is similar in tone and execution (pun unintended) to Elephant, his fictionalized take on Columbine; which is to say, the film is virtually devoid of dramatic narrative, offers little if any understanding of its characters or their motives, and, though its art-film pretensions insist otherwise, ultimately exploits the hell out of its subject matter. Which would be okay if either film were at least entertaining, but, given their source materials, they're not because that would be, well, exploitative. Both movies are basically punchlines we already know to jokes that were unfunny to begin with.

Anybody can point a camera at someone pulling a trigger; making us understand why and allowing us to experience the sense of loss that comes from pulling the trigger, that's a different matter. There's more I'd like to say about Last Days, but, honestly, the movie already robbed 97 minutes of my life. I'll be damned if I'm going to surrender any more to it.

(3 comments | comment on this)

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007
10:16 pm - Name that Movie... please?

Okay, this is driving me nuts; several months ago I saw a trailer for a foreign film that involved a kid in prison, sharing a cell with an inmate who (according to the trailer) starts off sounding pretty innocent/not that guilty, but as the story progresses turns out he's batshit insane. It's independent and if I remember right has won a few awards. I think it's out in Europe but not in the states, and I think it's in black & white, not much to go off of, I know. But I remember it looked good!

(comment on this)

Thursday, April 26th, 2007
10:18 am - Gun Crazy

I'm not sure how this one escaped me for so many years. Directed in 1949 by Joseph H. Lewis from a screenplay by MacKinlay Kantor (based on his 1940 Saturday Evening Post short story) and blacklisted Dalton Trumbo masquerading as Millard Kaufman, Gun Crazy reset the standard for film noir and paved the way for the attractive, sympathetic -- albeit sometimes psychotic -- antiheroes that showed up two decades later in movies like Bonnie and Clyde (whose real-life characters inspired Gun Crazy's lovin' couple on the run) and The Getaway.

Cinematically, the film's often expressionistic; its startling and (then) innovative use of extended "backseat driver" takes, shot from within the getaway car, and get the viewer caught up not only in the characters' predicament but the sexual excitement their larceny generates. And Russell Harlan's black-and-white cinematography is right up there with his work on Red River, The Thing from Another World, and Blackboard Jungle.

Not again until Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway would the screen see crooks as charismatic as Peggy Cummins and John Dall. Director Lewis told critic Danny Peary in 1981: "I told John, 'Your cock's never been so hard,' and I told Peggy, 'You're a female dog in heat, and you want him. But don't let him have it in a hurry. Keep him waiting.' That's exactly how I talked to them and I turned them loose. I didn't have to give them more directions."

(2 comments | comment on this)

Monday, April 23rd, 2007
11:32 am - Everything Is an Afterthought

I recently sold my first book. In conjunction, I've established another LiveJournal to report on the project's progress, occasionally provide links about, and writings by, its subject, the journalist and critic Paul Nelson, and share snippets of information or parts of interviews that may or may not be covered further in the final product.

In addition to being a critic and screenwriter, Nelson co-wrote the fine book: 701 Toughest Movie Trivia Questions of All Time (about which Martin Scorsese said, "Some of the sections were so tough I could only guess at the answers, but the book taught me a lot I was happy to learn").

The new journal shares the book's working title, Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson. Just follow the link.

Anybody interested in learning more about this brilliant writer, whose own life proved just as mysterious and fascinating as the artists' about whom he wrote, is welcome to join. As well, tracking the process of how a book goes from sale to publication should prove interesting. I'm rather curious about that part myself...

(comment on this)

Thursday, March 29th, 2007
6:15 pm - We Don't Live Here Anymore

"Too sad," Mark Ruffalo's character says toward the end of this film from 2004, succinctly summing up the preceding hour and a half of marital warfare. Arguably, director John J. Curran's greatest accomplishment is managing to end the movie, which is sometimes almost too painful to watch, on a hopeful note without resorting to maudlin platitudes or a song by Sarah McLachlan. 

Woody Allen's Husband and Wives without the laughs, Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage without the subtitles, and Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut without the masks, We Don't Live Here Anymore boasts terrific performances from Ruffalo (fine in this year's Zodiac), Laura Dern, Peter Krause, and co-producer Naomi Watts.

Larry Gross's screenplay, based on Andre Dubus's novella We Don't Live Here Anymore and short story "Adultery," guides -- but doesn't drag -- the viewer through a psychic minefield fraught with every imaginable method of harm we humans can inflict upon one another without actually drawing blood.

(comment on this)

Sunday, January 7th, 2007
8:16 pm

What kind of songs do you think capture the essence of Wong Kar-wai that haven't been used in any of his films?

(1 comment | comment on this)

Wednesday, November 15th, 2006
12:02 am - The Dreamers

To make a suggestion, if anyone hasnt seen Bertoluccis "The Dreamers" with the gorgeous Eva Green of Casino Royale, you should. This is a fantastic coming of age story and love letter to film set around the May 68 events in France. Bertolucci makes movies for looking at. I think his films, with their incredible cinematography, sensual faces, eroticism, and fatalism are the most intense voyeuristic thrill and what films, to me anyway, are all about; dreaming.

(comment on this)

Sunday, October 22nd, 2006
12:18 pm - Pauline Kael, Reviews A-Z


Some lunatic has put online all 2,846 of Pauline Kael's capsule reviews from her fine compendium, 5001 Nights at the Movies. While I don't advocate the unauthorized hijacking of anybody's copyrighted works (the site's been out there for a while now, so who knows whether or not it's been sanctioned), it's indeed handy having these insightful cinematic kernels available at one's fingertips. (Which is to say, it saves me the arduous task of getting up off my butt and taking the book itself off the shelf.) Such is the insidiousness of the Internet.

On paper or in cyberspace, one thing these reviews reveal is that Kael was at her best writing in the long form. Reduced to the amount of space usually permitted in Entertainment Weekly, often lost are the insights, the snap of her words, and the sense of enjoyment that shone through her writing. Kael, like Paul Nelson, was as much a stylist as she was a critic, in some cases rendering the reviews she wrote better than the films she was writing about.

current mood: spirited

(comment on this)

> previous 20 entries
> top of page