Monday, January 31, 2011

Anton Corbijn's one second film

I'm a big Anton Corbijn fan (photographer, director of Control and The American) and
came across this one second film he did for the Dutch postal service a few weeks ago.
This was actually used as a stamp which is pretty cool if you ask me. Sure beats the
American stand-by stamp of "flag" or some other dreary bit of design.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Dylan Skolnick's tops in 2010

It's that time of year again, when movie lovers start listing their favorites and their worsts in what was watched during the year. Just like last year, expect some guest bloggers over the next few weeks giving us their lists. Enjoy!

First up is Dylan Skolnick from the Cinema Arts Centre, Long Island's leading venue for alternative cinema in Huntington, New York.

I Am Love [Italy] Tilda Swinton's achingly intense performance anchors this wildly vibrant drama about a wealthy Italian family that is torn apart when long-suppressed desires explode through the family's seemingly tranquil surface.

A Prophet [France] Jacques Audiard's powerhouse portrait of a young street kid who is thrown into the chaos of prison and rises to become a powerful gang leader is one of the best crime films in many years, a work that deserves to be compared to classics like Goodfellas and The Godfather.

White Material [France] In 1988, filmmaker Claire Denis made her cinematic debut with Chocolat, a quietly forceful tale of her childhood in Africa. Over twenty years later, Denis returns to Africa to create one of the most powerful works of her career. Legendary actress Isabelle Huppert stars as a plantation owner trying to hold things together in land ravaged by warlords, child soldiers and social breakdown.

Red Riding Trilogy [England] Inspired by the true story of the Yorkshire Ripper, this haunting trilogy takes us down the rabbit hole through years of police corruption and murder. You'll be terrified, moved, and need a shower after watching these stunning stories of three men trying to catch a child killer amidst a web of violence and greed.

Mother [South Korea] Bong Joon-ho's gripping Hitchcockian thriller seems like straightforward drama about a dedicated mother attempting to protect her son from being wrongly convicted of a young girl's murder, but nothing is quite what it appears in this delightfully twisted tale of obsession and delusion.

Broken Embraces [Spain] Spanish master Pedro Almodóvar spins another magical melodrama in this fascinating saga of a blind writer who is forced back into the past to remember the passionate love that transformed his life and cost him his eyes.

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger [USA] Woody Allen has been highly erratic in recent years, but he's back on his game in this bitterly funny story of a group of family and friends who can't seem to stop deceiving each other and themselves.

Black Swan [USA] Although many are comparing it to The Red Shoes, Darren Aronofsky's maniacal portrait of a ballerina cracking under pressure has more in common with Dario Argento's classic Suspiria. Some may complain about the film's unrelenting intensity, but this high-class horror flick is devilishly entertaining, and no one will question Natalie Portman's fantastic performance.

Inside Job [USA] Forget Paranormal Activity 2, this exposé of the recent economic collapse is the year's best horror movie. Charles Ferguson calmly and clearly reveals how we were robbed blind, then stuck with the bill to bail out those who had just screwed us over.

Marwencol [USA] After he was beaten to the point of brain damage by five thugs, Mark Hogenkamp rebuilt his life by meticulously creating his own world in 1/6th scale out of junk and dolls. Hogenkamp's creation is unforgettable, and Jeff Malmberg's brilliant documentary shows that the story behind this obsessive work of art is just as amazing.

The Social Network [USA] Master director David Fincher (Zodiac, Fight Club, Seven) applies his always meticulous storytelling skill to the founding of Facebook and the result is a mesmerizing tale of friendship, ambition, and betrayal.

True Grit [USA] Working with great fidelity to Charles Portis' novel, the Coen Brothers' have created the first great classic western since Unforgiven.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


If you paid close attention to the 2010 statistics that were posted a couple of weeks ago, you may have noticed that monitor a slightly embarrassing statistic called "tearjerker." This is the number of times during the year a movie makes me cry. I have a soft heart when it comes to films and let the water works flow nine times in 2010. That's actually down from 2009's total of 13! In 2011 I'll be keeping track of a new statistic that is more gross than shameful--vomit.

Yes, I will do the dirty work and chart the number of films I watch that has a scene in it of an actor upchucking, spewing, heaving, regurgitating, hurling or any other slang you want to call it. I am sensing the question that is percolating in your brains dear readers: why? Well, I'm always disgusted when I see on-screen puking and every year I'd seem to see it occur a dozen or more times and think to myself why there's so many scenes of someone throwing up in a movie? 2011 will be the year that I actually put a number to it in a random, unscientific study. Aren't you glad that you are getting to read CineRobot for free? I should charge for undertaking these mathematic projects.

I've seen 22 films in 2011 and so far 7 of them have had a vomit scene. That's 31% of movies so far in January. I will keep you all up to date on this topic throughout 2011. Dear readers, is there anything else I should be monitoring that you can think of? I obviously will sink to low depths to satiate my own messed up queries if I'm tracking the vomit scenes I come across.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

UTW review of Made in Dagenham

Go here if you'd like to read my recent review in Urban Tulsa of the English film Made in Dagenham. It's the most non-aggressive movie about a labor strike you will likely ever see as a bunch of female machinists take to the streets in 1968 England. So light in tone, the film veers more into the realm of comedy than drama.  I guess I'm used to seeing workers with bricks in their hands during negotiations so this is a real change of pace from that sort of violence.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Movie tickets #22

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Shutter Island + Street Fight

Shutter Island. Martin Scorsese is better than messes like his 2010 release Shutter Island. I finally got to see it on blu-ray and now see why it was delayed from a theatrical release: it's not any good! In fact, this is my least favorite film by Scorsese since Kundun in 1997. That's a long ways back to go to find something that didn't totally work for the legendary director. Even though I wasn't overtly swooning at recent films such as The Aviator or Gangs of New York, those are at least big, epic films fascinating to watch. Shutter Island? It is just a bad movie. Period.

Technically well-made, it is Scorsese after all, but the story of Shutter Island is an endless series of ridiculous, overwrought scenes of psychological fantasy that lead to twists that I didn't care about. I had no interest in resolving any of the mysteries the characters are trying to get to the bottom of. Not a single one. This delving in the make-believe world of real v. unreal doesn't suit Scorsese's style. There's no intimacy and virtually everything on the screen is overblown--from the pounding score to the knock you on the skull acting of the cast.

Scorsese's got a bunch of films he's producing or directing in the next couple of years. He's 68 years old--is he feeling the pressure to create more to help build on his cinematic legacy? I sure hope not. The Departed (2006) was a tense throwback, but Shutter Island feels completely off and you'd never guess who the director was. It could have been any hack young Hollywood director delving into the current style of loud filmmaking with no subtlety or nuance. As I said earlier, Scorsese is much, much better than this junk.

Street Fight. A week into January and I've already got a contender for favorite documentary of the year. Street Fight is a 2005 film from director Marshall Curry that attempts to follow the 2002 mayoral election of Newark, New Jersey while a brash upstart named Cory Booker attempts to unseat long-term incumbent Sharpe James. I generally try to avoid the purely political documentaries as they tend to fill me with disgust at our increasingly messed up government, but Street Fight is a riveting examination of all that is right and wrong with our broken system.

Plagued by violence, poverty, corruption and hopelessness, Newark is a city that has seen better days. Booker is a 32 year old lawyer, who went to Stanford and Oxford, and is outspoken, idealistic and likes to lay the blame at the feet of Sharpe and his political machine. Sharpe will not be voted out without a fight and uses every means at his disposal including police intimidation, manipulation of mass media, blatant lies, threats of violence, fraud and pretty much every dirty trick his team can come up with. Down and dirty politics ain't a pretty picture and this race for mayor is as vile as a local election can get. Street Fight is a terrific documentary that will make you angry as much as it will entertain.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

2010 statistics!

Total films seen in 2010: 243

By Month

January: 23
February: 18
March: 21
April: 18
May: 16
June: 16
July: 33
August: 18
September: 16
October: 12
November: 20
December: 32

By Decade

1920-29: 2
1930-39: 1
1940-49: 2
1950-59: 6
1960-69: 5
1970-79: 26
1980-89: 20
1990-99: 6
2000-2009: 98
2010: 75

By Country

156: US and A!
16: England, France
4: Canada, Spain, Sweden
3: China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico
2: Austria, Denmark, Hong Kong, Romania
1: Chile, Greece, Finland, Indonesia, India, Israel, Netherlands

Who I Saw 'Em With

104: Alone
96: Sarah Jesse
28: David Nofire
8: Aaron Mankekar
7: Lillian Blevins
6: Bart Ford, Peter Klein, Brandon Pleake
5: Krista Chamberlain, Mandy Durham, Tim Spindle
3: Scott Booker, Cassie Tudyk
2: Mary Beth Babcock, Donnie Bostwick, Nancy Churillo, Lance Miller, Greg Younger
1: Jacob Booker, Gunter Bostwick, John Cooper, Candice Due, JR Due, Susan Green, Tom Huettner, Trevor Koop, Bill Lloyd, Jada Maxwell, Kim McMillen, Joe O'Shansky, David Vance, Sara Younger

Where I Saw 'Em

202: Tulsa, Oklahoma
6: Pryor Creek, Oklahoma; London, England
5: Seattle, Washington; On a jet
4: New York, NY
2: St. Louis, Missouri; Nashville, Tennessee; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
1: Paris, texas; Virginia Water, England; Kansas City, Missouri; Miami, Oklahoma; Vancouver, Canada; Memphis, Tennessee; Dadeville, Alabama

In a theatre: 102
Documentaries: 33
Tearjerkers: 9

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

UTW review of How Do You Know

Go here if you want to read my recent review of the James L. Brooks comedy/drama How Do You Know. It stars Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson and Jack Nicholson. It's a negative review if you like reading about how I couldn't stand a certain film. Those are often the most fun reviews to write to be perfectly honest. I want to see films that cause me to either love or to loathe--any reaction is better than no reaction.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Pete Postlethwaite 1946-2011

Long-time readers of CineRobot know I love character actors more than the movie stars that get more press and attention. I just love their ability to be acting chameleons from role to role, film to film as they play both good and bad. These actors, who are usually not blessed with the looks and physiques of the leading men/women, have to craft performances that make their smaller screen time memorable and unique. They are often the glue that makes a movie better and the best actors in a movie are often these people who unfortunately go unnoticed or unappreciated way too much. Well, not by me.

The English actor Pete Postlethwaite was just the sort of actor I loved to watch. Not a traditionally handsome man with his prominent nose and grizzled, angular features, Postlethwaite had as much charisma and on-screen presence as anybody he shared the frame with. Postlethwaite, a lifelong smoker, recently died at the age of 64 from cancer.

The most recent thing I saw Postlethwaite in was a few months ago in The Town, a better than average heist film directed by Ben Affleck set in the working class neighborhoods of Boston. Postlethwaite does what he does best in the film--takes a small role and makes it his own in such intelligent, invisible ways that you can't help become captivated by his gangster ringleader as he masquerades as a semi-legitimate florist. 2010 was actually a great year for Pete as he was also in one of the most-buzzed films of the year in Inception. He was in a third big release too, but I didn't see Clash of the Titans, so I'll go no comment on that one.

Let me give you some recommended titles for films where Postlethwaite shines that are worth checking out on DVD if you haven't seen them or want to re-watch. Start with the previously mentioned The Town to see what he was doing right before he died and then work your way back through his catalogue. In the Name of the Father (1993) got Postlethwaite his only Oscar nod--a best supporting actor nomination--in a terrific movie where he shared scenes with the always heavy-duty Daniel Day-Lewis. His most well-known film role is probably in 1995's The Usual Suspects, but one of my favorite things he did was Brassed Off (1996), a sweet film about a plucky group of coal miners who live for the brass band they love to play in that will be threatened if the mine closes down.

The masses can have their glamorous movie stars with their increasingly wrinkle free faces, their imperfections erased by chemicals, surgeries or Photoshop trickery--I'll take people such as Pete Postlethwaite every time.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Hannie Caulder + Red Riding 1974

Hannie Caulder. I love westerns. I watched a lot of them while growing up and it's comforting for me to watch a film from this genre. No matter how many I see, they always take me quickly back to my childhood as they were always a popular option among a variety of family members. Hannie Caulder (1971) is one of those westerns that has been kind of "lost" from the DVD world and was just given a release. Having seen a bunch of westerns, I thought I'd never seen it, but early on I realized I had seen it although I may have ten years old at the time. Who knows? It was buried somewhere in my memories, an increasingly foggy place to be located.

Directed by western genre specialist Burt Kennedy, Hannie Caulder stars sexpot Raquel Welch as a woman seeking revenge on three foul, dirty, murdering (they kill her husband), raping no-gooders. Unfortunately she doesn't know the first thing about shooting a weapon until she meets a bounty hunter (Robert Culp) who teaches her the way of the six-shooter. Donning some tight leather britches (she shrinks to a snug fit by wearing them into a bath) and a Mexican poncho with seemingly nothing underneath, Caulder is a smokin' hot vigilante, hell-bent on putting these three into the ground. Ignore the poster with the skin-baring Welch posing friendly with these men--she wants them D-E-A-D.

The three bad brothers are as good as it gets for a western from this era: Ernest Borgnine, Jack Elam and Strother Martin. That's top-notch casting right there. You can almost smell the stench that is wafting off of them as they are bearded, filthy, greasy-haired, loud, obnoxious and lacking all sense of morality. They are perfect villains for a revenge western such as Hannie Caulder. I almost wish I could have seen more from them and wish they weren't portrayed as such bumblers. They should have been doing more raping and killing, upping their evil quota before the final showdown with Hannie. This is a fun western that may have been missed or forgotten about through the decades.

Red Riding 1974. Earlier this year a trio of film's were released from England that has been getting a lot of buzz. Originally made for English television and known as the "Red Riding" trilogy, the series starts in 1974 as a serial killer is on the loose, praying on young girls. The mystery is pursued by a young reporter (Andrew Garfield from The Social Network) and he's eager to uncover the who and the why of the murders. As he gets more and more embroiled in the chase, the bloodier he becomes as there's a trail of corruption and nasty people in the midst of the story.

The "Red Riding" world is based on a group of novels by David Peace and they are as much about the corruptible nature of being human as much as they are the actual serial killer (at least the first one is, I haven't seen 1980 or 1983 yet). At times, it's small screen status rings too strongly--it just doesn't feel like a "film" at key moments. It's still a a gritty tale with a lot of darkness in the story. I hope it will expand with each jump forward in time, despite having new characters introduced, or old characters erased, as we get closer and closer to the truth of who is behind these killings and why there are people in power attempting to hide it. While not as blown away by this as some critics, I'm intrigued and have part two in my queue to see soon.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

UTW review of The Fighter

Toward the end of every calendar year, a slew of better films come out and The Fighter is one of those kinds of movies. Go here if you want to read my review of it in Urban Tulsa, but the short version is I really liked this boxing based film from director David O. Russell. Among the many things I loved about it is it has probably my favorite cast in 2010. Dead-on casting across the board.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

December movies

In a few days I'll post one of my favorites of the year--the 2010 statistics! That will have the complete list of who, what, when and where (but no why will be given). Until then, be happy with the rather mundane monthly list of what I saw and my 1-5 ratings. As December usually is, this was a busy month with me watching 32 films that saw a couple of 5 stars (including the first time I have ever watched the pretty amazing The Treasure of Sierra Madre) and a bunch of films poised to get nominations come award time.

Taxi Driver---1976---usa   *****!
Heartbreaker---2010---france   ***1/2
Hannie Caulder---1971---usa   ***
Last Train Home---2010---china   ***
Red Riding 1974---2009---england   ***
Mr. Death---1999---usa   ***1/2
Frozen River---2008---usa   ***1/2
The Tourist---2010---usa   ***
Triangle---2007---hong kong   ***
Black Swan---2010---usa   ****
Humpday---2009---usa   **1/2
True Grit---2010---usa   ****
The Legend of Jimmy the Greek---2010---usa   ***
Red Riding 1980---2009---england   ***
A Prophet---2009---france    ****
The Fighter---2010---usa    ****
The Pursuit of Happiness---1971---usa   **1/2
The King's Speech---2010---england   ***1/2
Four Lions---2010---england   ***1/2
Bomb It---2007---usa   ***1/2
How Do You Know---2010---usa   **
The Furies---1950---usa   ***
Whatever Works---2009---usa   **
It's Kind of a Funny Story---2010---usa   ***
The Treasure of Sierra Madre---1948---usa   *****!
A Solitary Man---2009---usa   ***
Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison---1957---usa   ***1/2
The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector---2009---usa   **
I Love You Phillip Morris---2010---usa   ***
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale---2010---finland   ***
Tron: Legacy---2010---usa   **1/2
Scott Walker: 30th Century Man---2006---usa   ***1/2