Saturday, December 26, 2009

Snowed in and watching movies on Christmas

I didn't plan on spending Christmas snowed in, not leaving my house and watching movies all day but that's just what I did. The original plan was to head home for the day/night but Tulsa and NE Oklahoma was hit by an ice/snow storm that dumped seven inches of the stuff on us. For Oklahoma, that's a paralyzing amount that shuts down businesses and streets. So, I'm housebound.

Luckily, I've got a few Netflix films and things recorded on my DVR, so I've been watching movies all day while taking hot baths, cleaning my house, eating nachos, homemade salsa and popcorn. Not a bad way to spend the day if you happen to be snowed in.

First up was the kind of cheesy 1976 science fiction Futureworld. This is the sequel to the far better Westworld and it isn't very good. Peter Fonda and Blythe Danner play reporters who go to the Delos amusement park to see if anything has changed since the robots went crazy and started killing people in the first film. No suspense, kind of dated, horrible acting by Fonda. I love Westworld but Futureworld shouldn't have been made.

Monster Thursday (2004) is something you don't see that often--a Norwegian movie that could be considered a "surf" movie! Norwegians and surfing don't usually go together but maybe there are great, but extremely frigid, waves that I'm not aware of on their coastline? Aside from the surfing, the film is a solid romantic drama as a guy pining for his best friend's girl gets the chance to spend a lot of time with her when he leaves the country. He may not be able to control his emotions.

I followed up Monster Thursday with another Scandinavian film, this time it was the charming Danish comedy/drama Chinaman (2005). I really liked this little film as it has this sweet story about a depressed plumber who is going through a divorce. With no wife at home to share meals with he begins to go to a Chinese restaurant across the street. Soon, he's helping them with their pipes, hanging out in their living room and contemplating marriage to keep one of the family members (the lovely Vivian Wu)  in Denmark. Chinaman looks great and the tender-hearted story swept me in right off the bat.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Me and Orson Welles/new poll

Go here if you are interested in reading my latest review for Urban Tulsa--Me and Orson Welles. The film is a nostalgic look at the 1937 Mercury Theatre performance of Julius Caesar through the eyes of a 17 year old actor (Zac Efron) as he tangles with New York City and Orson Welles.

There's also a new poll on the homepage: Where do you prefer to watch movies? A/ Home B/ In a theatre

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Yesterday at around 5.15pm I joined the growing line of people to see Avatar (me and Vern Snackwell in photo). We were fourth in line for the 6.30 start time, so I guess it is safe to say we were "nerding" it at the front of the line. How long have I been reading about Avatar? Six years? Seven years? A long time. Well, I've seen it and I can say that it did not disappoint as it delivers pretty much on everything that James Cameron promised by unleashing one of the most extravagant visual onslaughts I've experienced in a movie theatre in awhile.

On a purely visual level--Avatar is stunning. The audience is quickly drawn into a distant world that is fantastical, full of bizarre creatures, vibrant colored plant life and scene after scene of some kind of mind blowing aspect or other. At times it's as if Cameron has created a deep-sea universe on the skin of a planet and it's incredible to witness.

I was worried about the "3D" elements--would it distract me? Could I lose myself in the story? Eight foot blue aliens and a love story? Answers: no, yes and yes! In fact, only a few minutes into the film was I forgetting that I was wearing the bulky glasses and just let the 3D take hold. The 3D wasn't really forced in your face with gimmicks (thank you) but there were some scenes that were so breathtakingly gorgeous and riveting to watch in 3D I can't imagine seeing the film in any other capacity.

Avatar has some of the usual Cameron issues that plague a lot of his films. The story becomes too one note and predictable, some not so great dialogue and it teeters on the edge of just becoming too heavy-handed but then it delivers another awe inducing scene and you forget whatever nitpicking issue that may have been brewing in your mind. I know I did. The last section of the film is about as rousing a sequence you will ever witness in an action film. I was pumped up as I sat in the theatre.

Avatar is one of the more visceral experiences I've had in a movie theatre in years. It's pure visual spectacle and not to be missed if you like movies. Cameron has delivered the goods again. The 3D is so good it feels like you are immersed in this distant planet's story as it unfolds in front of you. Immersion 3D. This should really only be watched at IMAX in 3D--don't cheat yourself by seeing it in any other theatre or format as you are not getting the full visual extravaganza that Cameron has spent years and hundreds of millions of dollars to create for the film.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly scene to celebrate Clint's poll victory

Since Clint Eastwood beat John Wayne 10-6 on the latest poll...lets have a classic duel scene from The Good, The Bad and the Ugly!

This is such an amazing scene with a three person duel by director Sergio Leone.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Commercials by Roy Andersson

In my review of Songs From the Second Floor a few days ago I mentioned that director Roy Andersson was known for his commercials. Here are a short group that are quirky, bizarre and pretty interesting. Roy Andersson!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

UTW review of Brothers

Go here if you want to read my review in this week's UTW of Brothers. It's the new film from director Jim Sheridan with a cast of well known actors, family melodrama and war.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Songs From the Second Floor

There is nothing I like more than watching a film I have no expectations for and having the movie blow me away. I have to admit, it doesn't happen a lot because the more films you watch, the harder it is to be surprised, shocked and moved by what you are watching. The brutal truth of it is if you watch hundreds of movies a year for twenty five years in a row--you get kind of desensitized by the onslaught of what you watch.

But you also never give up hope that the next movie you watch will be the one that lights some unexpected spark inside your heart as it unfolds. While I enjoy many new films throughout the year, only a few times a year (if that many) does something come out of nowhere to leave me awestruck, dumbfounded and tingling with pleasure as I watch it. I just finished Roy Andersson's Songs From the Second Floor a few minutes ago and am in such a state. Wow!

Andersson has only made three feature films in forty plus years as a filmmaker (this is only his second feature, coming twenty five years since his first in 1975; he's also made numerous shorts and commercials in his native Sweden) which makes this movie all the more astonishing to me. Songs From the Second Floor is a cinematic work of art, fully recognized by decades of contemplation regarding content, message and design. It's something I might have to watch a second time to let every image sink further into me.

Songs From the Second Floor is not the easiest film to watch at times. It's a raw, no-holds barred indictment of modern society, utilizes no clear story or lead characters, has passages where little or no dialogue is uttered and embraces surreal, Kafkaesque scenes that deliver Andersson's bleak message for the world we inhabit. The main star of the film is the unbearable, pervasive malaise that accompanies much of the human existence in Andersson's world. Call me crazy but witnessing such unabashed doom and gloom has never been so riveting!

Andersson spends time concentrating on places where normalcy should reign supreme. We see hospital rooms, bars, apartments, lobbies and hallways--all lit with eerie, otherworldly artificial lighting that is hauntingly gorgeous and soul crushing at the same time. Andersson loves the long take (as do I). He bathes his characters in wondrous long shots with zero camera movement (another thing I prefer) as they stare off into space, lost in near catatonic dazes. There are traffic jams that stretch through every Stockholm street, young girls being sacrificed by the government and clergy for no reason, mass panic on the streets as the world seems to be crumbling around us all and other forms of unexplained events. None of it moves the story forward but it adds to the general sense of foreboding present in the film. This may not sound great or interesting but it is.

Songs From the Second Floor is a magical realization of director Roy Andersson's vision. It's uncompromising, daring, beautiful, maddening, depressing, humorous, quirky and something that I won't be forgetting anytime soon. I'm now aching to see Andersson's 2007 film You, The Living when it comes out on DVD. If it's anything like this, I'm in for an exhilarating experience. Highly, highly recommended if you are into something outside the mainstream (or just really good movies!).

Songs From The Second Floor - Silent Song

This scene from Songs From the Second Floor is very typical of the film. It's got the mundane rubbing up against the surreal--this time with musical accompaniment. There are dozens of memorable, amazing sequences like this in this Swedish film.

Friday, December 04, 2009

UTW review of An Education

Go here if you want to read my review of An Education. It's an English drama set in 1961 as a precocious 16 year old falls into the romantic company of a much older man. It's really good.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

November movies, video blogging and poll results

I was looking at Cameron McCasland's blog The Red Headed Revolution and got to see him do a video post and thought to myself that I should do those every so often. So, look for that in the future. Thanks Cameron for that idea!

Most recent poll results: What was the best decade for movies? 1970s got nine votes, 1980s got four, 2000s got three and a single person thought the 1990s was the best decade. CineRobot readers got this one right--the '70s was the best decade for films.

New poll question is up: Who made better westerns? John Wayne or Clint Eastwood? Please vote. It's the American way.

A Boy's Life---2003---usa   **1/2
More Than a Game---2008---usa   ***
The Counterfeiters---2007---germany   ***
The Fourth Kind---2009---usa   **
Rear Window---1954---usa   *****!
The Men Who Stare at Goats---2009---usa   ***
Pirate Radio---2009---england   **1/2
Encounters at the End of the World---2008---usa   ***1/2
The Damned United---2009---england   ***1/2
Fat City---1972---usa   ***1/2
The Duellists---1978---england   ****
The Castle---1997---australia   ***1/2
Sleeper---1973---usa   ****
To Catch a Thief---1955---usa    ****
Tell No One---2007---france    ****
An Education---2009---england   ****
Sunshine Cleaning---2008---usa   ***
I Love You, Man---2008---usa   ****
3-Iron---2004---south korea   ****
A Serious Man---2009---usa   ***