Monday, March 30, 2015



I assume the title was meant to be ironic. The plot line here was anything but. A group of eight friends meet for a dinner party; a comet is passing close to the earth; they slowly discover there are multiple versions of themselves in a nearby house...or houses. Things quickly became very confusing.

Film was definitely intriguing...easily held my interest. But I found the actions and reactions by the characters annoying and ultimately unsatisfying. I tried putting myself and my friends in the same set-up and can't imagine we would act like this group did. They went to theft, aggression and violence...fear, mistrust of the 'others' and each other.

Partially successful, partially aggravating. A mixed bag but a compulsive watch.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Dear Zachary


Powerful, very sad doc on the murder of a young doctor and the hard-to-believe aftermath. Parts of this were inspirational. others were infuriating...mostly it left me with a sense of cynicism and anger at what we call a justice system.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Journey to Agartha

Japan anime   w/d  Makoto Shinkai

A more conventional anime than several of his others. We follow a young girl as she enters an underground land (Agartha) where the dead and all sorts of disparate creatures live. Her motives are unclear, even to her...but she eventually says she had been lonely.

The film takes place in the same fantastical world used by Ghibli, Miyazaki and others. The visuals here were lovely but because of the fast pace he lingered less on some stunning landscape or other...a feature I particularly enjoyed in several previous films.

Although I see this as a lesser work it still easily held my interest for two hours...a testament to his writing and character skills.


The Garden of Words

Japan anime   w/d Makoto Shinkai

Short (46 min) move up from manga to exploring human relationships in an adult manner.

The film shares his trademark beauty with all his others - in particular his mastery of water imagery and accompanying sounds. His characters here were interesting and complicated...for the first half hour. He then moved the story into high school which removed it from the adult world and brought it down to being just another cartoon.

This was as visually striking as 5 Centimeters Per Second but lacked the emotional punch. It's clear he is progressing. If he ever marries his eye with a satisfying story he'll take anime up a level.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Future

Italy/Chile    Manuela Martelli, Rutger Hauer

Unusual and oddly compelling drama set in contemp Rome. We follow two Chilean teenaged orphans struggling to survive. The boy brings home two older friends who persuade the girl to seduce an aged, blind, former Mr Universe/peplon actor to rob him.

She sees him regularly, falls in love with him and can't carry out the plan. Film is low key, slow paced. Her acting is minimalist but I couldn't stop watching...even for a second. MM reminds me of Ana Torrent with her dark eyes and quiet affect giving great depth to a part that is almost wordless.

I see it has a low rating on IMDB - no surprise there. This would have no appeal to the explosion crowd.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Silent Hill

Contemporary horror film. Done with great visual panache but by now there is no longer any pretense of real world's purpose is to frighten with hideous CGI imagery. But when placed in this artificial reality why would the audience care about what happens to a character? She's just another toon and everybody knows you can't hurt a toon...

I can see where there is a market for scary date movies and this one is probably as good as most at delivering. But it's not cinema.


Monday, March 23, 2015

From the Journal of Jean Seberg

documentary    w/d Ron Rappaport

Fine account of the meteoric rise and sad decline of the young girl from Marshalltown, Iowa who started as 17 yo Saint Joan and ended up a suicide on a side street in Paris, her body not found for two weeks.

She was a victim of the film business and, especially the FBI. Her advocacy of the Black Panthers put her on J. Edgar Hoover's hit list; she was hounded/pursued by the feds until she finally gave up. She was a creature of her time, a kind-hearted girl chewed up and spit out by the minions of the ruling class for daring to suggest the extant power system needed change.

Film was done with re-enactments and a narration of  a surviving Jean in the person of an actress looking back at her life...a very effective technique.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Ghost in the Well


Nice treatment of a 12th century folk legend done in 1957. Beautifully lit/shot. One of the Japanese classics.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Informant


So-so piece on a former "radical" who underwent a sea change after visiting Venezuela, turning into a right wing guy who got into bed with the FBI and ratted out his putative friends.

This guy was a troubled soul who seemed to believe mostly in himself...rose to the top because of his aggressiveness, charisma and hierarchical a typical corporate stooge...the type of person those who really seek to change the system should be careful to stay away from.


Friday, March 20, 2015


Jake Gyllenhaal

Sharp, mesmerizing film with a standout performance by JG. He has graced several films recently with his abundant talents (Prisoners, Enemy) but none approaches the work he does here. A true modern monster...not the kind who wait under your bed; the one who appears on your screen delivering the nightly 'news.'

Dead-eyed, articulate, calculating, autistic? - this character bursts through moral/ethical restraints and delivers the blood and gore to willing viewers - if it bleeds it leads.'s not personal,  just business.

Creepy and unforgettable.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Olive Kitteridge

Frances McDormand, Richard Jenkins

Humanistic drama about a depressive woman who steadfastly makes the lives of the people around her constant cutting remarks undermining their value.

Tour de force acting by FMD. She evolves as the years pile on, becoming a bit mellower...but just a bit whilst retaining her core personality. She also displays a tender side from time to time...usually away from prying eyes.

Jenkins played her saintly husband believably. There were several clunky moments in the four-hour drama which didn't detract too much from the overall quality of the production.

Ultimately this was a fine character study with a memorable lead performance.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ghost Story of the Snow Witch


Lushly filmed tale of a murderous snow woman who spares a young handsome sculptor as long as he tells no one of their encounter.

Derived from the same story that begins Kwaidan. Beautiful, effective lighting and imaginative camera angles throughout mask the low budget. Story was lean and tight and quite moving. From 1968.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Sidewalk Stories

Charles Lane

I waited 25 years to see this: the first American silent film in decades - preceding The Artist by 20 years.

I'm sorry to say the wait was in vain. Irritating music and cartoonish behavior by hammy actors sunk this like a stone. I wondered why this was so hard to see for so long. Now I know. Too bad. I applaud Lane's ambition and chutzpah...his artistic judgement...not so much.


Saturday, March 14, 2015

War of the Buttons


First adaptation of this novel was done in the 60's in French, second in Ireland in the 1990's and now this. Two groups of boys from adjacent towns stage a 'war' for the same stupid reasons the adults are warring: cock of the walk status.

Expensive production larded with schmaltzy touches (esp music) that grated. I really enjoyed the Irish version...if I ever want to see this story again (unlikely) that'll be my choice.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Japan anime

Beautifully drawn with shimmering pastels but I found the story and its treatment too juvenile to work for me.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015



Fine example of Russian miserableism from the director of The Return. Here we focus on the plight of people living in a small town on the bleak, forbidding shores of the Barents Sea. The story features official corruption, infidelity, universal alcoholism, sex and shooting as a temporary escape...

The director wisely turned his camera away from the most significant dramatic events...focusing exclusively on the effects on his characters. They were well drawn and trapped in lives they had chosen for themselves. When given the opportunity to leave for something better they passed.

No one here believed in anything...especially not the absurd hypocrisy of the Orthodox church...whose platitudes closed the film...delivered by a priest in rich vestments, in the richest building in town to a cynical congregation.

Strong, memorable film...not as compelling as his first but better than Elena.


The L Shaped Room

UK Leslie Caron

Kitchen sink drama from 1962. A pregnant expat takes a room in a lower class boarding house and reluctantly gets involved in the lives and personalities of her new neighbors. She is ardently pursued by a self-absorbed 'writer' who backs away in horror when he eventually learns of her condition.

So...not a love story but more an honest peek into life at the bottom of the food chain in London at the time. The film featured lesbianism, prostitution, homosexuality, race, single motherhood...all topics rarely seen in films before this.

LC was beautiful, sensitive and sympathetic as she navigated this world on her own. She was deeply troubled but got through this phase of her life with a little help from her new-found friends. The drama holds up well for today's audience.


Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Night of the Shooting Stars

Italy   w/d Taviani Brothers

One of the many great films to come out if Italy. WW2 is ending, the Germans are retreating. Before they do they commit more atrocities...I guess just because they could.

We follow some people of a rural village who elect to hit the road to look for the Americans. What they encounter will change their lives.

A very engaging, moving film showing how people act in extreme situations. Lovely landscapes, real people, fraught times.


Friday, March 6, 2015

What Did the Lady Forget?

Japan   d/ Yasujiro Ozu

Classic Ozu from 1937. Domestic tensions rise to the surface under the influence of an adolescent visiting niece. Mother's become a tyrant; we watch as the husband and niece collude to put her in her place and restore him to head of household.

All his trademark touches with more humor and slyness than one lovely exterior tracking shot of a couple walking down the street with Hawaiian pedal steel guitar playing.

Quiet, elegant, formal...and amusing.


The Philadelphia Experiment

Michael Pare, Nancy Allen

Not bad. 80's sci-fi drama about a military experiment gone awry...two sailors are transported from 1943 to 1984 and then their troubles began.

Of course it was preposterous but a willing cast and snappy direction/pacing kept me in my seat and my mind from wandering. Solid junk produced by John Carpenter.


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion


A high ranking police commissioner commits a murder and attempts to steer the subsequent investigation elsewhere.

Strong premise hurt by making the protagonist a self-absorbed, overbearing jerk. After a while I lost interest in this creep and didn't care about the eventual resolution.

A more nuanced character would have worked better.


Two Days, One Night

Marion Cotillard   w/d Dardennes

Riveting drama about a woman struggling to keep her job in Belgium during the global race to the bottom.

Done with their trademark hand-held camera technique but less of the shaky cam  than in past films. The entire focus is on this woman's efforts to stay afloat in a cruel, inhumane economic system. MC is brilliant and easily carries the film. She is intense, despairing, de-glamorized, heartbreakingly vulnerable. Her interactions with her co-workers are starkly realistic and believable.

This is one of their best films...also one of her best. A treat for a dedicated filmgoer.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

John and Mary

Dustin Hoffman, Mia Farrow   d/ Peter Yates

Oddly off little film from 1969. Both leads were young and charming but many of the secondary scenes involving other people clunked badly.

The basic structure was boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl. So conventional. I wonder how this played to an young audience then? Not too well I'd guess. This was long after major changes in cultural sensibilities had taken place...the same year as Woodstock.

Written by John Mortimer...which may have been the problem. Nicely shot - she looked luminous in spite of the hollywood makeup. I almost cared about their fate. But not quite.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Still Alice

Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart

Fine film. We watch a high-achieving female professor gradually succumb to the ravages of alzheimers. She and her family are extremely privileged, with a large, upper west side apartment, a beachfront house on LI. They seem to have the usual tensions common to all and are very supportive of her during her decline.

Even though the situation here was idealized JM succeeded in allowing us to feel the depths of her anguish, her frustration, her loss of self. For a mainstream hollywood film they did well with this topic and raised it above the disease-of-the-week genre.


The Way Back

Peter Weir

Well intentioned attempt to translate The Long Walk to the screen. This incredible story (true?) of seven people escaping from the gulag in Siberia and gradually making their way through hill and dale, jungle, mountains and desert to freedom in India was a fascinating read...but as a film...not so much.

The inevitable fakeness of what these people looked like, sounded like (everyone spoke accented english) coupled with the lighting, sets...all the folderol of filmmaking made it closer to movie reality than the one we actually live in.

Give Weir credit for trying but it really didn't work. The book did...purely as an adventure story even with the yeti sighting.