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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Can a Dead Man send Broken Flowers to Strangers in Paradise?

The 80's. Worst decade for clothes, hair and cars. Fairly interesting decade for music and books. Magnificent decade for independent films in which nothing happens except life. The onset of true independence with singular characters shifting through a torrent of coming to age discoveries entering the ME decade. No more of your mother's flashbacks or your grandfather's grand narratives. Simple, momentary sections of life in the postmodern era with technology glaring into your soul."Stranger than Paradise" (1984)  is officially Jim Jarmusch's first film - it culminates and captures his style both in dialogue and film technique. A gritty example of the 80's need to move beyond its me-ness and into self and societal discovery. Just as Wren ("Smithereens, 1982) exhibits the altering of the female perspective - Willi and Eddie take on and twist the ideals of male roles and expectation. Jarmusch continues this road style film making in an obvious attempt to find answers to 80's questions. There are no long grand narratives, but small pieces and segments that can't find the question much less the answer. 

"Dead Man" (1995) - Yes, you may want to run out to rent this because Johnny Depp is hott- but really watch it. In a quiet room, turn off the phone, lock the door and pay attention. Gary Farmer, Crispin Glover, Jared Harris and Robert Mitchum don't act, don't memorize words, don't enter and exit a frame. Nothing happens.

"Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai" (1999) - Forest Whitaker glimmers - way more interestingly than new age vampires. 

"Limits of Control" (2009) - This was one of  those lone box rentals that always beg to be watched (yes, they chant Pick me, PICK ME). It wasn't until half way through with the 'lone man' in the plaza waiting that it dawned to check "Who made this?" and....well...Its slower and more lacking in 'stuff' than even Jim Jarmusch is famous for, but it still intrigues and tugs at your brain. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Crazy Brilliant

In the echos of Hollywood, some place spot lit with murky edges lies Vincent Gallo. Teaming with angles of dueling elements. Is he brilliant / crazy, ugly / beautiful, talented / awkwardly lucky? We would safely choose all of the above. Frantic / quiet, stony / gregarious- Gallo is painter, musician, film maker, actor, model, street boy, friend, enemy. 

"The Perez Family" (1995) - A stellar cast and director, this film of immigration shows the blending of the new American family. Gallo captures the moments he is on screen - the camera loves him but he is surrounded by actors who's craft and ability to hold the camera is in abundance.It is slightly jarring through editing - there is a stilted element that stops it from being a great film. 

"Buffalo 66" (1998) - Agonizingly strong story telling - Ricci and Gallo are painful to watch yet riveting. As are Houston and Gazzara, holding the frames in solid watchable moments that are with out redemption. Raw, amusing and tender. 

"Get Well Soon"(2001)- Awkward, stumbling, choppy. Film mavens and Gallo fans have to  absolutely watch this and enjoy, other wise can't really recommend it.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bunnies are Evil

If you are an avid television "Buffy" fan, you know the truth- Bunnies are evil, just ask the revenge demon Anya. Not wanting to scare everyone for life here are only two evil bunnies and one lovable adorable one.

"Night of the Lepus" (1972) - What is up with the first few years of the 70's ? Can we plan bad acid trips?? Here is a youtube link to the trailer from this one, if you can stand it then watch the whole flick......

"Monty Python's Holy Grail" (1975) - yes, it really must have been the drugs......This one you need to watch for its iconic throwback status - check out what formed your parents sense of humor! And watch out for Bunnies, i'm just say'n. 

"Harvey(1950) - Now after all that evil rabbitness, sit quietly, relax and watch the delightful Jimmy Stewart in one of his best roles. Don't question it or try to figure anything out. Just go with it and enjoy. An innocent sweet comedy with quiet mid-century sensibilities.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day

Joyous Earth Day everyone!! 

As we all go about our day picking up trash, prepping our garden space, working with neighbors to plant rain gardens, joining in city groups to combat blight or contributing to treehugging associations to repair loss of rain-forests, let's take a few moments to acknowledge those who's hard work and awareness brought these issues to light:

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, at first thought to be a little kooky, Ms. Carson's research and observations has proven to be one of the most important in eco-balancing awareness. This 1962 book is just as readable today. An American Experience did an incredible documentary very much worth watching  - 

 Naturalist John Muir also provides writing for us to change the way humans view the natural world.starting the Sierra Club and providing written accounts of our national parks.  The film "The Boyhood of John Muir" as well as an American Masters documentary offer insight and intrigue into the mind of a classic American adventurer.

 Environmentalist Aldo Leopold writes of nature from the inside - participating in the being, sound and rhythm of a unified existence. "A Sand County Almanac" rolls off the page into a readers vision. Below are links to a portion of his book and a site dedicated to the film inspired by Leopold, "Green Fire", take advantage of both.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Be the Change you Want to see in the World -MG.

Today is change the world day. 
My own special holiday of documentaries.

"Food Inc." (2008) - Not as gross or surprising as you might think. Informative with out being exploitative, interesting with out being preachy. Its all the stuff we know but really don't want to think about.  Its TIME to think.

 "Grown in Detroit" (2010) - Don't let the D-word scare you. This lovely, timely, important film doesn't gloss over the realities of teen motherhood- but allows a peak into the solutions and creative aspects of teaching children how to be grown. It took the vision of Dutch documentary filmmakers to show what the media will not share with you - Detroit revolutionizing the world. From Urban Farming to food safety to local Agri-Business Catherine Ferguson Academy is utilizing the greatest most important natural resource we have to make change for a better way of life, our children.
 Help save their school - Insist the media give proper coverage, sign the petition, buy local.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ignore the "List" but read mine

Lists are boring. When a list comes out, ignore it. Don't bother with some experts must see, top 100, worst ever, Cus lets be real - THEY are always wrong. Your personal list is always better .......

Someone asked the other day for everyone to pick their top 5 films ...UGH.....there is no way to pick only 5 and on any given day the top 20 is a fluid live being. After 100 years of movies (SOME of which I haven't seen) how can anyone narrow it to a chosen number of 'top' anything? Its like picking your favorite child. Impossible.........

That said since today is 4-20-11, I give you my list of favorite stoner films (for the moment). Ask me in an hour, you'll get a different list.......

"Reefer Madness" (1936) - An education film that encouraged many drive-in goers to indulge and were they pissed off when they couldn't figure out how to get the mind altering green the film folks were smoking.  

"Half-Baked" (1998) - Silly, poorly acted but extremely funny and entertaining. The guy on the couch is the best bit. Wait for it..........

"Up In Smoke" (1978) - Is it funny or do I just have fond memories of many drive in viewings?  I admit to seeing this one endless times and most of it going completely over my head. A bit choppy in the editing style, repetitive gags, but watchable, rewatchable and iconic. 

"Clerks" (1994) - IF I were to participate in a top film list this would be number 14 or 16 depending on my mood. An incredible first film in several given genre's - Silent Bob and Jay are culminations of several guys I went to high school with and one I dated. You gotta love it. Watch it once for fun, then again to study the style, dialogue and characterizations. There are obnoxious subtleties here.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

If it must be broken down.....details and possible Spoilers?

There is nothing more annoying (on a personal note) than a movie review that gives blow by blow details of a film, including details that give things away. Avoiding information and opinions about a film is almost impossible these days, if you friends don't ruin it then some radio or television personality makes a snide or uninformed comment. 

In a review, opinion and a basis for that opinion with out TOOOO much detail is all we really need. Right? 

Saturday Night Specials

For a First date @ your house

"Grease" (1978) - Fun, silly, so many  great celebs (Sid Caesar, Eve Arden & Dodie Goodman, everyone!), really great songs and the love story doesn't give any 'hints' to the new guy/girl. 

For a few dates down the road but I don't really know you yet 

"The Transporter" (2002) - Ladies don't be shy about showing off your 'guy flick' addiction (or is that just me?) - Fast cars, gorgeous European landscapes and yes, Jason takes his shirt off in every movie he is in. Plus, its really a fun movie! 

For I'd really like you and you might be able to spend the night date 

"Breathless (1960) - Its French, its black and white, its slightly mysterious but romantic but she isn't stupid. And there is this thing he does with his thumb......


"My Beautiful Launderette" (1985) - Luscious, Seriously romantic, pretty film. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

She Should Have Been Stephanie Plum ......

Moxie, Jersey tone, tomboyish, already established action hero, Lori Petty has it all.....hearing her read the Evanovich bounty hunter novels put the character into a solid, formidable place. Ah that is not to be, they've chosen someone else...more on that later.....
First notable on the sad cop show "Booker" featuring Richard Grieco- who's jump from "21 Jump street" was somehow awkward although I'm not sure why...... Any way- Lori was a stand out from that moment. Shortly after she is featured in our first film of the day....

"Point Break" (1991) - Smooth dark cop thriller - undercover with Keanu and Patrick in surfer style. Petty is tough and natural. Her acting instincts show up strong.

"A League of Their Own" (1992) - With a dominating cast including Madonna, Geena Davis, Rosie O'Donnell and the ever adorable big brother Tom Hanks- Petty easily keeps up and create a memorable performance. 

and last but never least.....

"Tank Girl" (1995) - (HEY! Que music!!!) - A fun thrill romp,Petty brings a buoyancy and sinewy rock attitude to this film. Not overly successful, but a great comic offering. There are times it moves too quickly to keep up with the music - but that doesn't deter from the complexity.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Now Available on DVD .......

Wandering around the video store - searching for that elusive one box film that looks out of place and lonely, unlikely to be rented - but didn't or couldn't see the one. Instead choose 3 I'm not sure I should have watched at all.......
"Tangled" (2010) - Beautifully drawn, fun picture- with really annoying songs. Mandy Moore as a lovely voice and makes a perfect princess. Notice the Princess saves herself, but.....I'm not overly impressed. Pretty with a few jokes isn't enough. I feel so jaded.

"I love You Phillip Morris" (2009) - I expected a lot more from this picture - The first 1/3 is full of shock and gratuitous jokes- just when I thought 'eh?'  it got good. The second 1/3 improved greatly, became funny but with a certain depth and discovery. Then the last 1/3 became this unbalanced joke, shock, funny, joke. The voice over was distracting - just show me the story or break the 4th wall all together. Star Jim Carey was his brilliant self and appears to attack the part with delight. Co-Star Ewan McGregor is brilliant in some scenes and awkward in others. 

"Crazy Heart"(2009) - You really can't go wrong here. The cast could make any ol' script work out okay. Robert Duvall as the best friend, Maggie Gyllenhaal as the new love interest, and a strange choice of Colin Farrell as the former student turned super star. Perhaps after all the whoopla the expectation was to high? Every character seems isolated -there is no feeling of connectedness. Not in a sense of character development by searching out the past through a former protege nor finding a long neglected child. While it makes story sense for Jeff Bridges' Bad Blake to be disconnected and alone - the other characters with background and roots also appear to be attached to nothing around them. We have no reason to believe that Bad would care for any one person out side himself and we don't develop any basis to see his attitude change for the bland reporter. A terrific film, gorgeous cinematography, nice direction, with fantastic individual scenes - no true depth.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

When you'r not a Glamourpuss.....

Can you imagine what movies would be like with out the 2nd, 3rd and 4th bananas? Those character actors allow pretty people to stay center stage with perfect hair and makeup. Creating characters to echo the love and admiration an audience feels, only also being slightly mocking. These side note sarcastic beings help invent a realistic aura around the star. 

Hattie McDaniel - Often portraying a maid, Ms. McDaniel garnered attention after appearing in several dynamic comedy roles with Jean Harlow, Clark Gable and Mae West. While playing supportive, subservient characters Ms. McDaniel gave off that clever, quirky smirkiness helping the 'star' to become a solid well-rounded character. 

"Saratoga" (1937) - Writer Anita Loos does her magic by developing women with clever wit- even when they aren't the brightest bulbs intellectually- the characters have a strong sense of self. This one is a bit formulaic but still quirky and smart.


Thelma Ritter - Best friend, snippy maid, reality broker- lending her talents to scenes to encase any acting into a warm, realistic moment. 
 "The Misfits" (1961) - A desolate landscape shows the forbidden, roughly hewn emotional existence of characters so tightly wound up they desperately need Ms. Ritter to offer a sense of relief. Written by Aurthur Miller, Directed by John Houston, with method actors Marilyn Monroe, Monty Clift and Eli Wallach against professional Clark Gable - an explosion waiting to happen. 

Aida Turturro - Acting that comes from your entire being seems to be a Turturro family tradition. Aida creates little moments of true emotion- again, vibrantly allowing a 'star' to become complete. 
"Romance & Cigarettes" (2005) - You can't help but enjoy this film - Characters of the most normal crazy kind fill the screen- James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Steve Buscemi, Bobby Cannavale, Mandy Moore, and the dancing oddity of Christopher Walken create absurd situations that remind you of those neighbors on the old block. We won't forget Ms. Turturro, who once again makes the insanity seem perfectly normal. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

What can you do? He was good.....

Having recently watched "12 Angry Men" for the umpteenth time, during the entire film I kept wondering WHY?

The movie is boring. It all takes place in one room with a bunch of old guys. We don't see any of the real 'action', never find out the truth, don't even get to see the murder! Never even see these men in any real situation - so why should we care what they think or listen to them blather on and on..............Yet, I didn't turn the channel. 

Why? The performances are captivating. Not only did Director Sidney Lumet have a cast of indelible talent but he pulled from each of them the best they've ever been. Often his films are just as described, nonstop talking, describing, emoting, of what might have, could have or should have....with out really showing the audience anything....but .....the magic he works on the individual, the framing of the scene, the belief an actor gives of his characters existence - that is the talent of Sidney Lumet (June 1924 - April 2011). 

 "12 Angry Men"

"Dog Day Afternoon"


Captivating character driven epics of human nature in all its loneliness, fear, bravery and lust. 
Thank you Sidney Lumet.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Pretty Day for a Garden Walk

Had a blog planned out for spooky films, but now am inspired by the warmth of this pleasant Sunday to talk about Gardens and various vistas of nature. Spring weather has been hiding from us here in Michigan, but hopefully those cute little crocus, spring-bells and tips of hyacinths are signs of sun. This gray blah beginning of Spring is dragging its heels and hanging by jagged fingernails onto the bitter dullness of winter. Let's delve into a few wicked gnarly outdoor spaces and then relieve our souls with an English rose or two.

"Grey Gardens" (Documentary 1975 & HBO film 2009) - One can't possibly do one with out the other. It would be awkward to view the documentary and not discover some of the before and after provided by the film. Fascinating quirky mother and daughter  create an intriguing vista of a once grand garden and insight into private lives of socialites. 
 Edie Beale in the front garden 
of the family East Hampton estate.

"Garden State" (2004) - The Garden State of New Jersey is shown here in all its oddity. From the affluent quirkiness of the main character's family, its most appealing view a gardenish wall paper with matching shirt to the dull frozen graveyard for hamsters in a working class girl's backyard. The best view of the 'garden' is the pit, a massive sink hole guarded in a sense by a family living in a dry dock boat. 
 Director/Star Zach Braff with co/stars checks out the pit.

"Enchanted April" (1992) - The romantic clothes, food, tea and gentile temperament of an English country side set in an Italian vacation. Lovely garden scenes will distract you from the story line. If you've seen it, just play it with the sound down and catch occasional glimpses of incredible views while doing your housework.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Get Ready for Spring Break

 "Creature from the Black Lagoon" (1954) - Creepy lingering waves lap gently at the moonlit sand.........slimy skin, fins and scales......Yes, a mysterious creature roams the beach.....lets go swimming! 

"Muscle Beach Party" (1963) - Get inspired for summer fun, learn the twist, and romp in the sand with Frankie and Annette. Grab up any of the Beach Party flicks and revel in the fun, but also pay attention to comedians and musical Icons of days past you should know about - Be sure to find "Beach Blanket Bingo" for the delightful prat falls of Buster Keaton. But here on Muscle Beach we find,Buddy Hackett, Morey Amsterdam, Candy Johnson, Little Stevie Wonder, and Peter Lorre. 

"Jaws"  (1974) - Misunderstood large & slippery creature has his own cool theme song, but can't get any respect. Thank Goodness for slick smoking mans man Roy Scheider and nebbishy Richard Dreyfuss or we might never get in the water again.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Words and Meanings Follow Me

Splotches, swirls, dots and lines follow me - not just filling my brain but covering my eyes and trailing behind me. Not very often does this manifest in poetry, but lends an understanding to the need of the poet to get those words out on the paper, on the napkin, on a tiny receipt when its all you can find in your pocket. Speaking those words in rhythm to the world can relieve the poet of his burden and allow fresh words to circle.

"Il Postino" (1994) - Poet Pablo Neruda is the center of this film filled with politics, romance, and friendship. Gorgeous as only Italy can be, it is lovely from start to finish. 

IF You Forget Me - First Stanza by Pablo Neruda
I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists:
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me

Monday, April 4, 2011

Quick Jot and a to go cup!

Happiest Birthday (yesterday) to Ms. Doris Day, who albet pert and cutsy was a strong, independant woman of postion and means on screen and off.

And a special howdy doo to Poetry Month - Poets on film:

"Pinero" (2001) - Beniman Bratt does an excellent job in this choppy but emotinal biopic.

"Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle" (1994) - Jennifer Jason Leigh is so much her adorable self, I'm not sure we get a picture of what Mrs. Parker was like? But still interesting.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Revolutionary Women on the Screen

i used to dream militant dreams
of taking over america
to show these white folks how it should be done
i used to dream radical dreams
of blowing everyone away
with my perceptive powers of correct analysis
i even used to think
id be the one to stop the riot and negotiate the peace
then i awoke and dug
that if i dreamed natural dreams
of being a natural woman
doing what a woman does
when shes natural
i would have a revolution

One of those moments when you know who you are, that just being changed the world- came when first reading this poem- that was ages ago. Yesterday, NPR repeated a segment of a recent interview with Phyllis Schlafly declaring her objection to feminists was their rampant desire to force all women out of the home and into the work place - (paraphrased) - She was upset by the idea of ignoring or degrading the work of women in the home.

It appears in some ways, Professor Giovanni and Ms. Schlafly were saying the same thing. Being a woman means you are successful simply by being. While we could build a case against Ms. Schlafly as a successful working mother, therefore undermining her stance, that is for another place and time. It is important to honor all women for what ever they choose to do ...(oh, that sneaky choice thing just keeps coming up).......

"Metropolis" (1927) - So many political, personal and social connotations take place in this film, but we will concentrate on the ideal revolutionary taking place within a female figure. What other emphasis of strength and dreams can be both forceful and futuristic than a woman -both strong and mechanical as well as a stature representing all humanity. Thank you Fritz Lang for a complex social reality in which to explore the roles of women. This film clearly shows an attempt to control and utilize the feminine causes an entire social structure to come crashing down. 

"True Love" (1989) - Annabella Sciorra as Donna appears at first to have everything a girl could want. When she begins to see her world with clearing vision, trouble ensues. An awakening of the structured sense of being a woman, when to question and when to answer for yourself. Very much an 80's film of self, place and familial norms. 

"Thirteen" (2003) - Its harsh, realistic, funny, frightening, and important. It may not be your existence, but its pretty certain some aspects of this are truthful for girls you are raising or girls you know. Pay attention with out judgment and feel the need, strength and worldliness it takes to be 13. 

"Their Eyes Were Watching God" (2005) - Zora Neale Hurston created a character riveting, real and thirsty. Of course, the book is incredibly better than the film, but the film is worth while and the essence of Janie's craving for independence and belonging are developed as the book warrants. Much of her searching for herself revolves around relationships with men, but Janie is aware of this and is able to learn about herself from the events. Making aware choices and balking at what is expected.


Friday, April 1, 2011

Suffer the Fools lightly

"The heart is forever making the head its fool.
                                                                                            -Francois de la Rochefoucauld 
What shall it be? The buffoons of comedy or the cruel trickster that makes a fool? Whats say we do a little of both?

"The Heiress" (1949) - One can't quite blame the lonely heiress played by Olivia De Havilland for falling foolishly in love with the gorgeous and charming scoundrel played by Montgomery Clift - but as a trickster he should have known better what might happen next.......

"Babes in Toyland" (1934) - Oh those silly boys. One can't help but laugh at the slapstick done well, Laurel and Hardy romp through this film with perfect timing full of misunderstanding and confusion. Wonderful.

April Fools to you- May your heart always be 
open to trickery and silliness!