The current state of my desk and two of its more conspicuous residents, who wound up side by side today purely by coincidence, leading to the entirely unexpected revelation that Tom Cruise DOES kind of have a pop-art-Christ-look thing going on there, glower aside. Having such an association in mind while watching a romanticization of warring Buddhists-cum-Bravehearts makes the effort of sitting through Samurai all the way through seem more enticing than when I started a few days ago, with the intention of revisiting favourite movies of my childhood and teenage years to see if they’re still all that beloved, stopped for perfectly menial reasons, and failed to pick it up again. We’ll see how it goes. Buñuel might have saved the day.
Archive for the Miscellaneous Category
Moving Image Source has posted an excellent interview with Harris Savides, director of photography of several very good recent films, including Birth, American Gangster, and Zodiac. Excerpt:
Let’s talk about Birth. It’s so exquisitely lit and photographed. The whole idea of looking at faces, and the mystery behind faces, is so important, because that’s sort of the premise of the film: you’re wondering, who is this person? I’d read that you had in mind certain paintings, in thinking about the film.
That was true of a movie I did for James Gray, The Yards. He walked me through a museum once and taught me a bunch of stuff. He wanted me to see things that he liked and appreciated, not only in regard to art, but more in regard to light and the direction of light. And it’s really stuck, stayed with me.
Were there specific painters that stayed with you from that?
Yeah, Georges de la Tour, who uses a candle most of the time. And for lack of a better way to describe it, there’s a kind of muddiness in the black, which is basically the fall-off of the lit part from the candle to the blackness. It’s not a true black. And true black doesn’t exist, really, in the world, nor does it exist in painting at all. Yet in our world, the technical world of filmmaking and video HD, black is really black now. And that seems to be the benchmark for every kind of new technology that comes along is, “Look at how good these blacks are.” They’re almost like anime blacks. It’s very unnatural.
Technicolor had that feeling, the old Technicolor. They were able to get really rich blacks.
But even there, if you go see any of these new restorations, that black still has something that’s relatable in our lives, as opposed to this synthetic black that is very, very contrasty.
That murky black that you’re talking about—it creates a sense of mystery?
Yeah. It’s muddy black, it’s purple-y black. Technically, it’s wrong. But I don’t want to discount the power of that in telling a story.
The interview includes an image of de la Tour’s “Christ In The Carpenter’s Shop.” Below, two more de la Tours, and two screenshots from Birth (2004).
“There’s enough C-4 on this thing to put a hole in the world!” or, My Favourite Films: Short VersionPosted in Miscellaneous, Reviews - Film with tags favourite films, hunchback disney, lord of the rings: the two towers, speed, top 10 films on December 2, 2009 by N.W. Douglas
I don’t know how I found the moment of insight or firmness of will to actually jot down an ordered list of my favourite films, but it did happen, last night, at 3:40 am. And looking back on it 24 hours later, I’m only waffling on a few titles’ inclusion and placement. I’m posting this because A) my Decade list is proving difficult to compile, and I’m still too busy with schoolwork to really get into the meat of the matter and B) I’d like to get a record of my favourites out now, because it will probably slightly change tomorrow, and the day after that, and so on (though the top five remain pretty consistent, year to year). I may as well get the first real iteration out while I’m happy with it.
Here they are, sans explanation:
1. The Lord of the Rings (Peter Jackson, 2001-2003)
2. On The Waterfront (Elia Kazan, 1954)
3. Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)
4. Ran (Akira Kurosawa, 1985)
5. Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)
6. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise, 1996)
7. M (1931, Fritz Lang)
8. Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron, 2006)
9. Airplane (Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, 1980)
10. Speed (Jan De Bont, 1994)
And eleven more:
11. The Insider (Michael Mann, 1999)
12. Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)
13. The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949)
14. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
15. Blade Runner/Kingdom of Heaven (Ridley Scott, 1982 & 2005)
16. Minority Report/Munich (Steven Spielberg, 2002 & 2005)
17. Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (Frank Capra, 1939)
18. North By Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)
19. Once Upon A Time In The West (Sergio Leone, 1968)
20. Star Trek: First Contact (Jonathan Frakes, 1996)
21. Ronin (John Frankenheimer, 1998)
Also, in alphabetical order:
The Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz, 1938)
A Man For All Seasons (Fred Zinneman, 1966)
Black Hawk Down (Ridley Scott, 2001)
From Russia With Love (Terence Young, 1963)
Glory (Edward Zwick, 1989)
Mean Streets (Martin Scorsese, 1973)
Serpico (Sidney Lumet, 1973)
Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (Marc Rothemund, 2005)
Three Kings (David O. Russell, 1999)
The Virgin Spring (Ingmar Bergman, 1960)
So many more could be up there, but these are the films I find myself returning to, year after year. To be sure, I’ve only included films that I’ve had at least one year to contemplate after viewing, with two exceptions: The Third Man, which I viewed this summer and if the just-out-of-print Criterion DVD that just arrived at my door this morning is any indication, has already worked itself into my system as an all-timer (Thank you, Barnes & Noble!), and The Virgin Spring, also a summer discovery, of which I was lucky to co-present a screening to some of my fellow churchgoers.
Essays await. In the spirit of my #1 pick, let us plow on through the night and at dawn, look to the east…
After a solid two weeks of almost non-stop work on one production after another, with another 2-3 weeks left to go, I think this video accurately sums up myself and my classmates’ mental situations. It is glorious work and I love it dearly, but sleep is the currency of this trade, and becoming accustomed to an average five hours per night has its consequences.
All of which doesn’t distract from the fact that this post is a dressed up placeholder. Yes, CINEMA TRUTH is still kicking around out there, and I really truly can’t wait to share my currently gestating Decade series – focusing on my favourites, of course, and the major trends that I find interesting enough to write about. And I’ve listened at least 12-15 times through the new Switchfoot album, HELLO HURRICANE, and have thoughts on this new, very very worthwhile addition to their discography. There are other good things being planned, slowly, but I want to do right by them, so it will take a while to pop them out, fully formed and readable.
Until then, let’s spend some time answering the following question: What is one of your favourite little scenes of the decade? What’s that one scene that no one else cares about or remembers, but makes the film for you?
I ask because tonight I was thinking about MINORITY REPORT (2002), and a wonderful scene between Tom Cruise and Lois Smith. It’s the bit where Cruise finds out about the minority report, which should help him prove his innocence – you can hear the plot wheels grinding into a higher gear – but it’s also a great showcase for Cruise and Smith as actors, and for the dialogue by Scott Frank and Jon Cohen. Their words have sharpness and poetry, and enchant somewhat while getting lots and lots of exposition done. By the end of the scene, you don’t really care that it was all talk about “this history,” and “go there, do that.” Smith is a treat, not so much chewing her dialogue as holding it on her tongue, sucking the juice out at certain intervals. It’s one my favourite little moments in film from this decade.
I couldn’t find a video of the clip, but here’s a shot of Lois Smith as Dr. Iris Hineman, the Mother of Precrime.
The future (i.e. December) looks promising. See you on the other side.
Video H/T: My good bud Aaron May, who doesn’t have anything I can link to, as far as I’m aware. His regular site is down for the time being.
Blogging has been light, and will likely continue in such a manner for the next few weeks as my classmates and I keep up with the preproduction freight train, leading into our shoot in less than two weeks time. I’ve got lots to write on, but little time to write. For now, some quick things:
1. I managed to catch three films at this year’s VIFF. KAMUI was scattershot, wildly silly, and frequently entertaining despite plot holes you could drive a shark-hunting pirate ship through (and yes, that vessel does factor into the proceedings). If anything, it’s refreshing to see a swordplay-heavy action film that doesn’t cut every 1.2 seconds. Or even every 2.5 seconds.
THE HAPPIEST GIRL IN THE WORLD milks everything you would expect, and then some, out of a tightly focused one-day story arc. In hindsight, I’m not sure if it was as funny as the audience seemed to think at the time, and perhaps found a crowd willing to meet it part way. Either way, it’s a fine little film.
My last film of the festival was a late choice made out of curiosity, not buzz (not that the film necessarily had that), and now having let it settle for a couple weeks, I remain as convinced as ever that it’s the best thing I’ve seen in a theatre this year. Remember this title: LETTERS TO FATHER JACOB. I’m not finished with this one. Keep an eye out for it. The trailer’s at the bottom of this post.
2. I saw WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE exactly 24 hours after I saw LETTERS TO FATHER JACOB, and I can’t ever remember experiencing a one-two cinema punch quite like that. Both films are deeply emotionally resonant, and effected similarly strong reactions from my jaded critical self. Being immersed in film academia, you spend so much time looking at how things are put together (which, I believe, only enhances appreciation) than sitting back and letting it wash over you as a total experience. JACOB and WILD THINGS are gifts in that regard. The dissection may, and should, come later, but when they’re up there, unfolding before tired eyes and tired minds, the overall sweep of their stories and characters proves to be cleansing. I’m not sure I realize yet how much I needed those two films, at that point in my life.
3. Also worth mentioning is the concert U2 just played here in Vancouver. It was my first U2 show, having only become a fan over the last couple of years. I was not disappointed. All I will say is that their one-two-three combination of “One,” “Amazing Grace,” and “Where The Streets Have No Name,” may have been the greatest live-music moment I have ever experienced . Especially the segue from “Grace” into “Streets”. The feeling running through that changeover, from reflecting on the gift of grace to the hope of heaven, and the mounting joy as that famous riff builds and builds…truly electrifying. And a masterful use of their most beloved songs to point the audience’s eyes upwards, towards the Magnificent One.
And through it all, these four guys on stage seemed immune to the crowd’s adoration. I’d read accounts of concerts, how U2 concerts almost become worship services at times, but I really was surprised at how humble they come off on stage.
4. Last but not least, Switchfoot, my favourite band, is releasing a new album on November 10. It’s called Hello Hurricane. I cannot wait. And to sweeten the anticipation, the band is previewing every one of the new songs on their website for the next two weeks. From what I’ve heard so far, this may be their best work since The Beautiful Letdown, and what a summit that album was. Eleven days to go.
Ok, that’s all for now. Watch FATHER JACOB, and answer a quick unrelated question: When you think “Edward Zwick,” what springs to mind?
Cinema Truth turns one year old today. And except for the name change partway through, this is the same blog that began September 24, 2008. This is the first blog (of three or so) that I’ve managed to actually make it to one year of sustained use, so today is a bit of a mild personal milestone. To the loyal readers, thanks for your insightful comments, and to the Google picture visitors, thanks for the hit counts. While you’re clicking through to that image, have a look around. I promise I’ll do the same when I come looking for that Aguirre-and-pipe-player screenshot that surely someone out there has online.
In terms of festivities, there isn’t much planned. I watched Woody Allen’s excellent MANHATTAN (1979) yesterday, and since I have Diane Keaton: Art Snob on the brain, I think a few chuckles are in order:
I will note, as a sad counterpoint to my very first post, that I’ll be seeing less films at VIFF this year; indeed I may not get out to the festival at all amid the demands of schoolwork, pre-production, work, and other obligations and interests.
Speaking of VIFF, this may be a good time to talk quickly about EDISON & LEO, a film I saw at last year’s festival. Directed by Neil Burns, it bears the honor of being the first Canadian stop-motion feature. It’s the kind of story that seems hellbent on owning the term “quirky,” – it’s about a mad scientist with an electricity-powered son, vengeful mystical First Nations women, and Manitoba – but it doesn’t trip up in its own little excesses to the point where it’s just an exercise in obscure silliness. The film has plenty of charm, both visual and verbal, to power through the uneven sections.
The film has apparently been released to DVD by TVA Films; as far as I’m aware, it didn’t receive theatrical distribution. For a genuine milestone in Canadian cinema, this is a shame. Seek out the DVD. Support this film. Hopefully Neil Burns is working on something new; it’s early yet, but based on EDISON, I think Canada may have found its Tim Burton. Burns pulls off genuinely effective and beautifully rendered storytelling, warts and all. A trailer may be found here, though it does a fairly appalling job at showing the film’s strengths.
And while we’re hopping between streams here, I still can’t believe that the THE GOOD THE BAD THE WEIRD, that Korean love letter to Sergio Leone, has yet to receive North American distribution. It has (or had, if the window of opportunity has closed) huge crossover appeal as an action-comedy, and yet nobody sprang for it. If you have a chance of seeing it, grab it tightly. It’s the closest thing we’ve had to Indiana Jones-style adventure in twenty years, and with 100% less CG aliens.
I’m looking forward to another year here at Cinema Truth. There are some exciting things planned for this fall and winter, and I hope you’ll join me on the journey. Onwards and upwards…
I’m slowly working my way through The Art of Cinema, a collection of writings on film by Jean Cocteau. One passage, from the essay ‘Poetry in Cinematography,’ is too good to not share:
And if the man who carries out a work of cinematography offers us the essence of his heart and soul, precisely because he cannot control the impulse to do so; if he submits himself to undertaking a humble task and this essence escapes from his innermost being, an essence and charm that owe their effect to the very fact that they are uncalculated; then how do you expect this essence and this charm to work when the audience, his true collaborator, responds with ill-mannered indifference to this proposal of a marriage of love?
If the public goes out of its way to lose its childhood faculties, if it pretends to be an incredulous grown-up unable to slip into that sphere where the unreal becomes matter-of-fact, if it insists on hardening itself against the euphoria it is being offered, if it makes fun of things that are beyond it instead of attempting to raise itself to their level, in short, if it will play the sceptic when confronted with the mysteries of religion and art, I am no longer surprised when people complain that producers are inclined to make only films of the most lethal vulgarity.
This craving to understand (when the world that people inhabit and acts of God are apparently incoherent, contradictory and incomprehensible), this craving to understand, I say, shuts them off from all the great and exquisite imprecisions that art deploys in the solitudes where men no longer try to understand, but to feel.
This is why I am fascinated by cinematography, which goes beyond the little audience for theatre and is that much more likely to reach those few souls in the world who are searching for food and dying of hunger.