Archives for December 2013

Overlooked Film: Dirty Pretty Things (2002)

I have decided to return to something that I have not highlighted in quite some time on my website: overlooked/forgotten gems. so as we close the year out, allow me to submit the 2002 British drama/thriller Dirty Pretty Things for your approval.

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Dirty Pretty Things was directed by Stephen Frears and starred Chiwetel Ejiofor and Audrey Tautou, as star-crossed illegal immigrants working in a London hotel.  Check out the trailer here:

The film principally deals with themes surrounding the treatment (read: the exploitation) of illegal immigrants inhabiting a world with the more fortunate among us. This film does an admirable job of showing the underworld and how the plight of people who are simply seeking a better way of life often goes ignored.

Have you seen Dirty Pretty Things? Leave a lovely comment below and let me know what you thought of it.

Out With the Old … (2013 in Review)

Overall I think this has been quite a good year for movies. What struck me most about the films is that for the most part, they were “smaller” films – not heavily reliant on huge box office stars or special effects to bring the audience in. That is my experience at the very least.

At my last tally, I averaged about 2-3 films per month (#NotTooShabby) for the year. Admittedly, my theater-going activities slowed down as the year drew to a close, but it was not for lack of trying.

As I pick up where I left off back in July, I have, at the time of this posting, (planning on seeing another tomorrow), seen the following films:

In looking at this list and the list I compiled in July, I asked myself the following question: What would I consider to be the best of the year?

My answer is not so simple. Frankly, I always have trouble with these types of things (“best of-s”) … mainly because I am pretty much a blank slate when  I enter the cinema.  With a few exceptions, I am not coming from a place of  “Oh yeah, this is a top ten film for the year.”

That said, I forged ahead and after much consideration and shuffling around, here are my top picks for 2013:

12 Years a Slave. I think this was the best film I saw this year. I have stated it several times on this blog that it was an emotionally evocative, sublime film going experience.

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Short Term 12. Featuring outstanding performances by young Keith Stanfield and Brie Larson, it was a small film with a big heart. See this.

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Prisoners. Although there are tiny elements of the falling action that I felt were overwrought, overall this film had a perfect balance of twisty suspense and an intense family drama.

Prisoners-Jake-Gyllenhaal-Hugh-Jackman

Her. A late entry. I do not want to go into too much detail, as I feel the film deserves a write up, but let me just say I loved this film in so much as it entertains us and asks us some very interesting questions concerning the very nature of love itself.

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Before MidnightI came to this film trilogy kind of late, but I am ever grateful that I (eventually) showed up to the party.

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Twenty Feet From Stardom. The sole documentary entry in this list gives the audience personally stirring and music-filled accounts of some of rock and roll’s leading backup singers.

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Much Ado About Nothing. Arguably my favorite Shakespeare play. Arguably one of my favorite modern Shakespearean adaptations. Fine stuff from Mr. Whedon.

Much Ado Whedon Style

Honorable Mention Pacific Rim, Blue Caprice

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Stayed tuned in the coming days for a preview of what is to come in 2014 (In With the New …)!

Joan Fontaine (A Fan’s Appreciation)

Dear Joan Fontaine,

As I watched Suspicion earlier this evening, I was reminded of the heartbreak I felt when I heard of your passing at the age of 96 a couple of weeks ago. It was a full life that much is certain. But I am not here for that rehash of the biographical details of your life – the family tensions, the highs and lows and such. I just want to spend a moment reflecting on your body of work and what it has meant for me and my enduring passion for the world of cinema.

Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine in Suspicion.

Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine in Suspicion.

I think my first on screen encounter with you occurred when I saw Jane Eyre during my 10th grade English class. While my classmates chuckled heartedly at the ‘high-waistedness’ of Orson Welles’ pants, silently, I was fascinated by the ‘mouseish’ yet indomitable spirit you conveyed in your portrayal of the titular English governess. This film heralded my introduction into classic film – which in turn, opened up the entire world of film to me. For that I will be forever grateful to your part in this.

Joan Fontaine in Jane Eyre.

Joan Fontaine in Jane Eyre.

Post Jane Eyre, I made it a mission of mine to comb through your filmography and catch as many films as was possible, and by the means I had at my disposal at the time – the public library’s video collection, American Movie Classics and (much later) Turner Classic Movies. As part of my obsession with Alfred Hitchcock, I read the book Rebecca with the sole purpose of being able to watch the film. And boy I am glad that I did. Although some of the particulars of the novel varied in the screen adaptation (for reasons), I was still taken in by your performance of a naive young woman drawn down the rabbit hole into a fraught, almost surreal world.

Joan Fontaine in Rebecca.

Joan Fontaine in Rebecca.

Through the years, I continued to marvel at the variety of films that you starred in, notably Letter From an Unknown Woman and another lesser known film – my “go to” for those rainy Thursday afternoons when all you want to do is cuddle up on your sofa and blank the entire world out (save for what you are watching). RKO’s From This Day Forward always did the trick for me. Now, on its surface there is nothing extraordinary or groundbreaking about this film – it is a standard, romantic post-war melodrama. But for some reason since I first saw it struck a sentimental chord and whenever it came on, a big, cheesy smile crept across my face at the anticipation of seeing it again. It has been several years since I last saw it, but I will try to remedy that once I find a digital version of it to watch.

From This Day Forward

From This Day Forward

So I could bather on and on but I think I will leave it here – your work as a lasting testament to the dedication to your craft. You will be sorely missed.

Letter From an Unknown Woman

Letter From an Unknown Woman

Much Luv ~

iluvcinema

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Scheduling Note: Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will air a 7-film retrospective in memory of Fontaine’s work today, Sunday December 29th.

Joan in 1978

Joan in 1978

 

Denzel Washington Birthday Poll

'Flight' Japan Premiere - Assignment For Paramount

Well, well Denzel turned 59 today. My ‘homeboy’ (we are both from the city of Mount Vernon, NY) has made quite a career for himself. As I was putting together this post in celebration of his birthday, I realized just how remarkable and lauded. I wanted to put to my readers a poll of which of his films is your favorite. Originally I wanted the list to be no longer than say, 5-6 titles, but with DOZENS of screen credits , the list ballooned to 10. And this is where I left it, even if I did want to add a few more to the poll list. So without further ado, please mark which of his movies you consider your favorite. I know, it is like being asked to pick your favorite kid, but you know you have one [wink].

Favorite Denzel Washington Film?

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It would not be fair for me to ask you about your favorite film without me putting my two cents in. And no, my selection it is not “Alley Mugger #1” from 1974’s Death Wish (Source: Internet Movie Database). I think I will go with his turn as anti-apartheid martyr Steve Biko in Cry Freedom. Why, you may ask? In this pre-megastardom role, one could tell that this was to be his trajectory. I had to watch the film in high school and what resonated with me above all else was that when he was taken out of the film, the story felt empty, hollow, flat – such was the impact of his presence and performance. A magnetic talent that is to be sure and who has entertained us ever since.

So as the poll indicates, if I left off any of your favorite films, tick “Other” and hit the Comments section and let us know what your fave Denz flick is.

Merry Christmas To All!

giphy

2013 National Film Registry

Honestly I used to be must more on top of this. Luckily the thought just ‘popped’ into my head and I decided to venture over to the Library of Congress website to see if the 2013 list has come out. Sure enough, it has! Announced and posted yesterday, these 25 films were selected “as works of great cultural, historic or aesthetic significance to the nation’s cinematic heritage.” This annual honor means that the films “will be preserved as cinematic treasures for generations to come” (All images courtesy of the Library of Congress):

  • Bless Their Little Hearts (1984)

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  • Brandy in the Wilderness (1969)
  • Cicero March (1966)
  • Daughter of Dawn (1920)
  • Decasia (2002)
  • Ella Cinders (1926)
  • Forbidden Planet (1956)
  • Gilda (1946)
  • The Hole (1962)
  • Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
  • King of Jazz (1930)
  • The Lunch Date (1989)
  • The Magnificent Seven (1960)
  • Martha Graham Early Dance film (1931-44)
  • Mary Poppins (1964)
  • Men & Dust (1940)
  • Midnight (1939)

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  • Notes on the Port of St. Francis (1951)
  • Pulp Fiction (1994)
  • The Quiet Man (1952)
  • The Right Stuff (1983)
  • Roger & Me (1989)
  • A Virtuous Vamp (1919)
  • Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966)

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  • Wild Boys of the Road (1933)

This year’s selections bring the number of films in the registry to 625. To check out the entire registry, click here.

Reactions? Post below.

Brad Pitt 50th Birthday Appreciation Post

Today, Brad Pitt is officially a member of AARP folks (DANG I feel old). In honor of reaching this milestone, I wanted to share with you all a list of my favorite performances by him. Unfortunately I cannot be bothered with the actual order (well, maybe I will do it in reverse chronology), but just know that if it made the list, I thought it was good.

'WORLD WAR Z' Germany Premiere

Also I am a heathen, in so much as I have not seen such gems as Tree of Life, The Assassination of Jessie James …, Fight Club and Inglorious Basterds. So maybe that negates all of my efforts in the minds of some. Fear not doubters, I will (eventually) get to them.

12 Years a Slave (2013)Granted, his time on camera is very limited but I just wanted to put this out there mainly on the strength of the film which is, simply stated, it is a sublime cinematic experience. See it if you can, please.

Moneyball (2011): Check out my review to see what I liked about it ….

Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005): Okay my one exception to my above stated criteria for standard of quality. It is simply an action-y guilty pleasure of mine. Deal with it.

Ocean’s Eleven (2001): Loved the pacing and everything about this Soderbergh-helmed caper.

12 Monkeys (1995): I guess my soft spot for this film is based on 1) my appreciation of its source (Chris Marker’s short, La Jete) and 2) my appreciation for the work of Monty Python alum Terry Gilliam.

Se7en (1995): I like this film more and more each time I have seen since that first time in the movie theater.

A River Runs Through It (1992): Pitt’s golden boy looks worked so well in this adaptation of writer Norman Maclean’s autobiographical tale. It also gets major props for the beautiful, serene photography.

 

What are your faves? Hit me in the comments section below.

 

2014 Spirit Award Nominees

Recently, the 2014 (Film Independent) Spirit Awards nominees were announced. As I pored over the list, something dawned upon me – for a change, I have in fact seen plenty of these films well at least more than I could have previously claimed in a given year. A few of the films I have already taken a look at on this blog; see my earlier entries for Short Term 12, Before Midnight, Blue Caprice, Francis Ha, Una Noche and Gideon’s Army.

In addition to these titles, on the list of nominees, I spotted two additional films that have come that are strong contenders this awards season – Twelve Years a Slave and Blue is the Warmest Color. After much much delay, I would like to take this opportunity to let you know what I thought of these films. Again sorry for the procrastination.

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12 Years a Slave

I don’t know where to begin with this one. I mean, in spite of the weighty topic – a true, first hand narrative of free man of color kidnapped and held captive in the (I highly recommend reading the book), it is simply a beautiful, cinematic experience. From the cinematography, to the acting and the overall atmosphere created by director Steve McQueen and his cinematographer (Sean Bobbitt), I am almost at a loss for words for how this film moved me.

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When I read the announcement about this film being made, I immediately had really high expectations, based largely on the goodwill I had for the filmmaker and his ‘muse’ (Michael Fassbender) from their previous collaborations (Hunger and Shame). After reading the book in the lead up to the release back in October, the one reservation I did have was how they would take this first hand account and translate it into a narrative suited for the silver screen. But why doubt? Screenwriter John Ridley brought the wonderfully eloquent words of Solomon Northup to life.

I briefly mentioned the performances above; now allow me to elaborate and highlight two of the standouts for me. The titular character, as played by the severely underused Chiwetel Ejiofor, really conveys a man who was in a struggle not only for his physical freedom but also his psychological liberation. It is a marvel to see on screen. In the role of Patsy, newcomer Lupita Nyong’o is a revelation. In her portrayal, I feel the echoes of those who preceded us – their enduring unflappable spirit in the face of unimaginable and brutal circumstances.

Ironically, last night I was asked about my favorite film of 2013. Almost without hesitation, I said 12 Years a Slave. I think I am going to hold onto that one.

 

Blue is the Warmest Color (La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2 )

PHOTO-Le-poster-officiel-de-La-Vie-d-Adele_portrait_w532I saw this film as the 51st annual New York Film Festival was drawing to a close. What a singular New York Film Festival 2013 experience to have – a provocative, much talked about Cannes Palm D’Or winner directed by Abdellatif Kechiche (who also offered an assist on the screenplay). Based on a graphic novel by Julie Maroh, Blue chronicles the romantic and sexual coming of age of Adele (Adele Exarchopoulos) and specifically, her relationship with university student Emma (Léa Seydoux).

I know much has been made about the sexual politics of the movie, but I will leave that for others more qualified to debate the particulars. And for those who choose to see the film, judge for yourself. But for me, I THINK I know where the filmmaker was going with respect to the symmetry of the love scenes and the stage of the relationship between Adele and Emma we were witnessing. That said, some of their earlier scenes felt overlong and a little out of place with the rest of the film’s narrative. And before you ask, no, I am not particularly fazed by expressions of overt sexuality on screen.

In spite of this visceral response, as I ventured out of the screening and into the brisk October night, I made a resolution to myself that in spite of my feelings about this one aspect of the film, I would not let this take away from the overall experience and would therefore try my best to judge the other narrative elements of the film objectively. When I reflected on the film with this in mind, I found that at its heart, the film you are left with is a well photographed, episodic love story, that over the course of its three hour running time (this is not an estimate, it really is three hours) feels rooted in a reality, even if particular acts venture into the realm of the voyeuristic and fantastic.

 

The Spirit Awards will air March 1st on IFC.