Catch it if You Can: Dear Murderer (1947)

This is a very cleverly crafted, properly acted and well written piece of British Film Noir that asks the audience to go on a journey to discover that there is no such thing as a “perfect crime.” At a crisp 90 minutes, it does not skip a beat and leaves its audience constantly engaged.

For a little perspective on how this film was likely received in 1947, I defer to the New York Times Review of Dear Murderer.

It is available for viewing on Netflix, via its streaming feature.

Do You Really Know Who You Are Talking To On The Internet (A Review of Catfish)

I originally wanted to see this film as a companion piece to the fantastically engrossing The Social Network. In many ways it is – it shows us that in the wake of the social media phenomenon which is Facebook the landscape of who we are what we want people to think about us and who we interact with is forever changed.

In this respect Catfish is a fascinating watch. I think that coupled with a rather raucous audience that went along with the film in a rather tongue in cheek fashion made it a pleasant viewing experience. When we saw something that was like “huh?” we laughed and offered on the spot commentary. Normally this is not the type of movie going experience I take pleasure in but in this instance it worked.

One criticism levied against the documentary was that many feel that the film exploited certain parties involved in the narrative. That part of the story does not bother me too much only because for this kind of doc you need to get permissions and clearances. I guess the counter can be made if the parties involved were somewhat unwitting (much in the way that some reality show folks may be blissfully ignorant to what lies ahead). I do think this is a valid point but honestly my initial reaction was to have no pity. It’s cold I know but that was my initial primal response.

In the end, it has a lovely takeaway and for most of the story does make one question about what this internet age has wrought.

The Social Network (or Should I Drop the “The”)?

I will not waste time “reviewing” The Social Network so to speak. But I did think I should take a moment to mention how much I really liked this film – in fact in a year where what I have seen has been a bit disappointing, this is clearly one of my favorite films of the year.

In many ways, the major coup for me was taking what on its surface would seem to be a “nerdy” or “intellectual” subject and creating an all around fully engaging film that at times left me so involved in the drama on the screen that I forgot where  I was.

There are a lot of props to go around. Director David Fincher  at the helm of this very well made film. His signature is all over the film. In less capable hands this could have simply fallen into the area of legal melodrama.

Much of this credit is due to Aaron Sorkin’s (West Wing!)  fantastic screenplay. He was able to capture the drama, comedy and in some cases, the tragedy surrounding the people, places and events that mark the Facebook phenomenon.

Of course you cannot be engaged in a story through direction and writing alone. You need a cast that is able to deliver the goods. On that count the entire cast showed their chops – yes Jesse Eisenberg is the primary catalyst of all the action but I feel like this was really a great ensemble piece. [Another Dr. Who reference: Andrew Garfield (Eduardo Saverin) featured prominently in a two-parter during Series Three of one of my favorite shows!]

As we approach the the season where films are “geared towards adults” this was a great entreé.
The Facebook page of Britain's Queen Elizabeth is shown on a computer screen in London November 8, 2010. Queen Elizabeth has joined Facebook, adding a presence on the world's most popular social network to the royal family's accounts on Twitter, photo-sharing site Flickr and YouTube.  REUTERS/Dylan Martinez  (BRITAIN - Tags: ROYALS SOCIETY)

One example of Facebook’s reach.

Quick Pick: “I Married a Witch” (1942)

1941:  American leading lady Veronica Lake (Constance Ockleman, 1919 - 1973) wearing a glass-beaded dress in a scene from 'I Wanted Wings' about the fortunes of three recruits to the American Air Force, directed by Mitchell Leisen  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

I tweeted about this film last night as I watched its closing moments. I just wanted to take a moment to briefly post here about what an imaginative, creative piece of cinema this was. As a fan of the television series “Bewitched” (which this film predates by 20 years or so), I really was taken in by the story of a witch mixing with a mortal and all the wondrous things that come with that.

The film was directed by René Clair and is based on the novel The Passionate Witch by Thorne Smith.

The supporting cast is also of note and includes the likes of Cecil Kellaway,  Susan Hayward and the ever entertaining Robert Benchley.

For more information on this film, I refer you to the entry in the TCM Movie Database.

Things I learned after FINALLY Watching Avatar

When the opportunity presented itself, I took advantage – Avatar has been re-released in IMAX 3D and I decided to end my embargo on the film. Why did I refuse to see the film for such a long time in the first place, you may ask? The reasons are several fold – among them:

  • my often stated (and well documented – see below) resistance to embrace the 3D craze that is poised to take over cinema
  • the extremely delayed realization that Titanic was a pretty lame movie; as a result not wanting to believe the hype of another James Cameron movie

So, the afternoon, as I took the escalator up to the IMAX theater of the Lincoln Square Cinema, my expectations were rather low ….. but as the closing credits rolled and afterward, I took stock of the experience and assessed what I had learned:

  • I was wrong to wait so long to see this movie
  • I forgot all the stuff I really liked about James Cameron prior to Titanic – he made several fun action-packed movies that I enjoyed watching during the 80′s and 90s, and
  • not all 3D has to give you headaches – no headaches here!

As you can tell from my list, I was pleasantly surprised that I saw this film – I really went with it. Has it changed my perception of 3D? Not really sure at this point but I after seeing Avatar on the big screen, I cannot imagine seeing this film anywhere else. It truly was a cinematic event.

A Western Perspective (The Ox Bow Incident)

Yesterday I tweeted about the Ox Bow Incident. A couple of days prior I had been on the phone with my brother – we started out by discussing our reactions to the latest installment of True Blood. At some point, the conversation moved to Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven (1992); how we got there I cannot tell you. My brother was marvelling at the allegory conveyed in this modern masterpiece. In his estimation this was a film that broke the standard conventions of what people traditionally think about the “wild” West; especially its mythic standing portrayed over the years on the silver screen.

It was at this moment that I took the opportunity to tell him, that while I am no expert on the genre, throughout cinematic history, turning the myth of the American West on its head is not totally a new idea. I first started talking about The Searchers (1956), but soon moved on to my favorite Western, 1943′s The Ox Bow Incident. It is a very intimate film, not something one finds in a traditional Western. Based on a novel of the same name, it is a moving story of what happens when one’s conscience yields to mob rule and the actions that mob (posse) fly in the face of reason, logic and justice.

I do not want to reveal the details of the plot because I want you to experience the film as I did – a lovely wonderful surprise on a random weekend afternoon. I assure you if you have not seen it, it will leave you thoroughly satisfied.

*The Ox Bow Incident is playing Sunday, September 5, 2010 (12:00 Noon) at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

This Year So Far

We are headed to the final quarter of this year and I decided to take stock of some of best bits from my blog in 2010. I went through everything starting with January and realized that I did see a lot of films but not as many as I saw in 2009.

My evidence of seeing the V&A exhibit

My first viewing in 2010 was the underwhelming Nine. By the end of January, it picked up pace with weekend back to back viewings of A Single Man and Fish Tank; the main highlight of the latter film had to be seeing Andrea Arnold (director) and Michael Fassbender (one of the leads) in person at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

The spring did not offer too much in cinema pleasure but I did enter the summer blockbuster season watching Iron Man 2 (which I liked but did not review) – I was too busy preparing for my trip abroad, which included a very exciting trip to the Victoria and Albert Museum to see the fashion exhibit of Grace Kelly. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photographs at the exhibit I guess you will have to take my word for it :)

After some time away to reflect on my recent loss, I shifted back into movie-going mode with viewings of the Sex and the City 2, the A-Team and Inception. I am still wowed by what I saw (Inception). A-Team definitely met my expectations for a summer action flick and Sex and the City – well after seeing it, definitely does not make my list of Great Girlfriend Flicks.

So, what does the final quarter of 2010 hold?

Stay tuned here and find out.

(Sort of ) A Review of “Inception”

Inception was one heck of a ride. There were definitely layers within layers (within layers) but at the core I feel that the story was not directly dealing with the dream landscape but rather is a device by which we get to the heart of the story – a story that taps real (not imagined) human emotions such as longing, loss and guilt. At least, that is what I took away from the film.

I do not want to discuss the plot elements for fear of divulging too many details. If you have seen the trailer, that should provide an interesting entree into what you can expect from the film. Anything else I would attempt to articulate would do not do the movie justice and possibly spoil it for others.

As for the performances, everyone seemed properly cast in their roles. Leonardo DiCaprio has really come into his own as an actor and he is going to go from strength to strength. There is no mistaking that this is an ensemble cast anchored by a central character’s conflict. They all do a magnificent job in orbiting this world that Nolan has created; how could you really go wrong with talents such as Cillian Murphy, Ellen Paige, Michael Caine, Marion Cotillard et al? A stand out performance for me was that of Joseph Gordon Levitt (dude from the television series 3rd Rock from the Sun). He provided more than one chuckle-worthy moment and had probably the best “action” sequence (non-CGI) in recent memory. At the end of one of the longer parts of the sequence, the audience ripped into rapturous applause.

As for the auteur, writer/director Christopher Nolan – I will not belabor you all by talking about what a genius he is, etc. I think enough has been said in that regard. Just know that this film does not disappoint and adds to the tremendous filmography that he has produced over the couple of decades.

In the end, I am recommending that you do go into watching the movie bearing this in mind – it is a story of ideas. Yes it maybe could have been presented in a less mind-bending manner but that is part of the fun – it is a thought exercise in which you are left to answer questions about the plot – are we dreaming, etc. They leave you wondering what way is up and exactly what is that line between reality and what we want to be real. And we arrive at that place exhilarated and wanting more.

*Side note: in some ways I am reminded of The Twilight Zone in particular episodes such as “Perchance to Dream,” “Shadow Play” and the like. Those are just the ones that immediately come to mind.

First Post in a While ….

This one will be short and sweet….

This past weekend I saw the A-Team. Basically it was great escapist entertainment heightened by the gratuitist display of Bradley Cooper’s rockin’ bod.

Bradley Cooper in "The A-Team" (Dune Entertainment, Scott Free Productions, Stephen J. Cannell Productions, Top Cow Productions, 20th Century Fox Film Corporation)

My Film Reviews

About a year ago I wrote a series of film reviews for a website, Wildsound; I thought it would be nice to share them on this blog:

The Stranger

A Night to Remember

The Most Dangerous Game

Where the Sidewalk Ends

The Hitch-Hiker