...engaging and discerning culture, as a way of life...

December 29, 2007

The Barbarian Invasions - 6

This is one of those films that you have to see a couple of times (I'll have to write more when I have seen it again). It is a very reflective film about life and the meaning of relationships in the midst of dying. Diagnosed with a terminal illness, Remy (Remy Girard) is reunited with his family and friends as he goes through the final stages of life and reflects on the value and meaning of his relationships. Directed by Denys Arcand (Jesus of Montreal and The Decline of the American Empire) this film is one of the few Canadian (and French-Canadian) films to win an Oscar.

December 28, 2007

"2007's best films"

Comment Magazine has posted my best films of 2007 (at the end of the article they have provided very helpful links to my blog posts about each film). All of the films I mention are currently available on DVD. I tried to pick films in many different genres so there should be something for all kinds of viewers.

Here are a few more films that will be worth checking out in theaters or when they become available on DVD.
Michael Clayton
Across the Universe
American Gangster
The Darjeeling Limited
No Country For Old Men

I am looking forward to seeing There Will Be Blood, Atonement, and Juno soon.

December 27, 2007

Interview - 6

Steve Buscemi stars and directs this remake of Theo van Gogh's (who was killed in 2004 by Islamic extremists) Dutch 2003 film of the same name. Pierre is a political newspaper journalist. Having fallen out of favor with his editor, he is assigned to interview soap opera and B-movie actress, Katya (Sienna Miller). Initially neither of them wants to be there, but eventually they start to relate and ask each other deep questions about each other. They start to reveal their vulnerabilities as people with complex lives that go deeper than their work and identities that people have given them. But as the conversation gets more personal it gets more complicated to tell whether they are being authentic, or merely playing the roles as they are use to. It is a rather minimalist film, relying exclusively on the conversation and engaging the audience on big questions about life, relationships, etc. similar to My Diner with Andre, The Big Kahuna, and Conversations with Other Women. The questions in all of these films are important, but the conclusion of Interview seems to suggests a more cynical, yet maybe more realistic, view of the potential of connecting to strangers and the power of conversations.

December 26, 2007

Great music of 2007

Here are the albums released in 2007 that I loved most.
William Fitzsimmons - Goodnight
Band of Horses - Cease to Begin
The Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
The National - Boxer
Iron & Wine - The Shepherd's Dog
Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha
Kanye West - Graduation
Once - Film Soundtrack
Kings of Leon - Because of the Times
Jose Gonzalez - In Our Nature
Feist - The Remainder
Patty Griffin - Children Running Through
Sigur Ros - Hvarf-Heim
Rilo Kiley - Under the Blacklight
Ryan Adams - Easy Tiger
Radiohead - In Rainbows
The Shins - Wincing the Night Away
Hem - Home Again EP
Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals - Lifeline

I also got to hear some great music live which got me hooked on: Andrew Bird, The Guggenheim Grotto, Sufjan Stevens, and David Bazan. Ryan Adams and The Cardinals and Joseph Arthur and the Lonely Astronauts were also good.

December 23, 2007

Stardust - 6

Based on Neil Gaiman's book of the same name, Stardust tells a fun fairy-tale adventure story. There are two worlds, the normal England and a town called Wall, on one side of the "wall" and a fantastical magical world called Stormhold on the other side. The first scenes set up the mythology so that when we are introduced to Tristan, we know more about him than he does. He originally travels to Stormhold to retrieve a fallen star as a romantic ploy to win the heart of Victoria. But along the way he discovers that he is actually aiming to low. That he really can reach and grasp beyond his small world- for the star (which turns out to be a woman (Clare Danes). Tristan is taken in by a rogue pirate (Robert De Niro), and gets involved in a battle with a witch named Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her two sisters who want the star to gain eternal life and youth. The story is very much in the traditional fairy-tale arc, but is fun and entertaining to watch.

December 17, 2007

Rescue Dawn - 5

Director Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man) and Christian Bale team up to tell the story of a lost pilot in the early days of the Vietnam war. In a similar vein to Stalag 17, most of the film is a group of prisoners held in a camp bonding over a plan to escape to freedom. The film shows the camaraderie of the military, the psychological effects of war and imprisonment, and ends with a celebration of escape, success, and freedom (which I think is not suppose to be taken as ironic, but could be). It is an interesting and well shot film. And while taking a different approach to the Vietnam war film genre, it doesn't stand out as distinctly.

December 16, 2007

No Country For Old Men - 7

The Coen Brother's may have just made their best film. And maybe just the best film of the year. Using Cormac McCarthy's novel of the same name, the story weaves together the lives of a few old men. Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem, The Sea Inside) is a hired killer- cleaning up the mess of the guys who sit behind the big desks and make all the deals. Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) is "retired" and spends his time hunting in the Texas desert. Having stumbled upon a suitcase of money he is determined to outsmart it's rightful (or wrongful?) owner. The body count rises as this cat and mouse game continues through out the film. While the film is quite violent, the Coen brothers emphasize the seriousness and tragic nature of killing rather than glorifying the carnage (It is much more Flannery O'Connor than Quentin Tarantino or David Cronenberg). But it is Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) who gives this narrative its spiritual, even religious, connective thread. His conversations and voice over talk of the nature of being human with the certain knowledge of our death, but with the uncertainty and mystery of it's happening and why. Despite the seriousness there are a few humorous lines, but it isn't used as comic relief, but rather show the closeness of the comedic and the tragic. What might be the most powerful aspect of the film though, is the body language of the characters and the somber and quiet visuals and pace of the film. This is an essential film for the serious film viewer.

December 15, 2007

The Golden Compass - 4

Religious controversy aside (read Jeff Overstreet's good response to it), this film was less than compelling. The fantastical world that Pullman has created is somewhat intriguing but the story develops slowly and much is left unexplained (and with film you really have to work hard to show rather than just narrate facts). The Golden Compass is a gift that young Lyra gets from the head master at her school/orphanage. It allows its user to ask questions and then look into it and the truth is revealed. Lyra is invited to go to the north by Marisa Coulter (Nicole Kidman), and longs to go because her uncle Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig) is headed there to investigate "the dust" (which is not quite the equivalent to Lucas' "Force" but has something to do with the creation of the universe the characters live in, which is a parallel one to ours). It is on this journey that the adventure begins as Lyra discovers that children are being kidnapped and she recruits the fallen bear king Iorek Byrnison to help her save her friends from having their daemon's killed. Oh yeah, everyone in this parallel universe has their soul in the form of an animal that stays with the person. What really kills this story is the final minutes of the film which feel like a trailer for the second film, the characters mine as well have looked at the camera and said, "stay tuned for the sequel in 2009 where we will attempt to save Lord Asriel from the danger he is in." The film ends up being to short with many scenes that end to quickly, which makes the plot jumpy and somewhat hard to follow. On a more positive note, the acting is done well, but the main reason to watch this film is for the CGI which is excellent.
What interests me most about this film is the metaphor that Pullman intends. I think it is more complex than any black and white controversy can speak to, because in fact, this film actually shows that in this fantasy world there is no such thing as good. There is definitely evil, but the heroine's response is not to appeal to the good, but rather a mystical pragmatism to fight off this evil oppression/authority. Truth in this world is human freedom. Any threat to this god is worth the ultimate struggle and fight, but not to the point of death- because then you have lost. In this way The Golden Compass exists in a very different world than the worlds created by Tolkien, Lewis, and Rowling.

December 13, 2007

The Namesake - 5

This is a story about the conflict of cultural assimilation in America faced by immigrants to this country. This story tells of Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli, from India in the 1970's and transitions into the struggle of their son Gogol (Kal Penn) to discover who he is. It is through his unusual name that the film gets it title as well as the momentum to tell the story of how one's name can be an impetus to discover not only the meaning and reason for the name, but a deeper, richer story. Gogol soon discovers that his name is unusual in America and the he is named after a famous Russian author. Initially rejecting his parents and his heritage, he later regrets this when he starts to discover why his parents named him Gogol, and the love that they have for him. The story wanders most of the time but ends by resolving the inner conflict Gogol feels as he discovers that he is his father's son, and that his family is most important to him.
This film is an adaptation of the novel by Jhumpa Lahiri, and while I have not read it, the book seems much more nuanced (as books can sometimes show the reader the thinking and internal emotions of characters more clearly) and thoughtful than this film could really do justice to. The film moves slowly and at times is rather disjointed. While it starts with plenty of potential it cannot sustain it for the two hours of the film.

December 05, 2007

Live Free or Die Hard - 4

Using an interesting essay from Wired Magazine by John Carlin as the basis for the plot actually makes this film more interesting. But the film sticks to it formula of explosions and death defying feats by our all-American hero, Bruce Willis- I mean, Detective John McClane. Computer hackers have attacked all of America's infrastructure on the 4th of July weekend. Their motivation? Revenge, honor, and greed. Thomas Gabriel, a former government consultant for terrorism, wants to show his old bosses how right he was by enacting a threat that he was trying to help everyone avoid. McClane is then recruited (falls in) to protect Matthew Farrell (Justin Long), a hacker who could potentially help solve the problems that are wreaking havoc. The plot hovers in the background as the action sequences just keep coming at you with many outrageous, but very cool, machines as they chase, shoot and try to destroy each other. An entertaining film, but unfortunately it avoids letting the story idea develop into a thoughtful film.

December 04, 2007

Paprika - 6

I am not an anime fan. Don't get me wrong, I like a good anime film. I just mean that compared to people who are "really" fans and own and see the vast amount of anime out there, I am sort of a newbie who hangs around listening, picking up things here and there. I've only seen most of the "famous in America" anime like that of Hayao Miyazaki and the Ghost in the Shell film series (1, 2, 3). I love how anime takes its art seriously, which also means that some of it gets ratings other than G- America cannot get that animation is not just for the kids. The artists are always trying to imagine a world and drawing the viewer in to a story (no pun intended). Paprika, a female therapist, has learned how to enter people's dreams, so when a machine that is used by therapists is stolen she must help a cop and a scientist solve the case. It makes for some eclectic and stunning visuals as the audience traverses dreams that are starting to merge together. The final showdown between good and evil is unexpected and outrageous- in a good way. The film uses the idea of dreams and reality to show how fluid and mixed up humans get about which is which. There are also allusions to the traumatic and therapeutic expressions of our mental worlds. Reality isn't what it used to be, but is still beautiful.

December 01, 2007

Paris, je t'aime - 5

This film is unusual. It is comprised of 18 short films of about 5 minutes each. Similar to Coffee and Cigarettes it is a series of short segments that has some loose connections. Each segment has it's own unique director and actors (it's a long list of well known names- Coen Brothers, Natalie Portman, Elijah Wood, etc). Each of these short films takes up the theme of trying to give the audience a glimpse of the city and ethos of Paris. The stories are diverse and the connections and meanings, in true postmodern fashion, are mostly left to the audience. While a few of the stories are about falling in love, some explore darker themes, like death and drug abuse. It is an interesting experiment in film-making.

November 28, 2007

Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus - 5

"The South" has always been a mystery to me. People refer to it not only as a location, the south-eastern part of the US, but also mention it as a culture, a state of mind, an attitude, a disposition, etc. This documentary follows musician Jim White as he travels in a rented old Chevy through parts of the south and hearing and telling stories of religion, morality, and trying to get at the essence of the south. The film is intriguing and is well produced. The music is what stands out, featuring songs by Jim White (the title comes from the lyric to his song Christmas Day), Johnny Dowd, The Handsome Family, David Eugene Edwards (as 16 Horsepower), and more. It is a creative film that doesn't reduce its subject to a simple stereotype, but opens up a conversation about how people experience and make sense out of their lives, some through music, some through religion, and others through crime. The film develops into a tribute to storytelling and the gift it is to being and becoming human. Here is what Scott had to say about it "Offers a visual & lyrical portrait of what O’Connor may have meant by "Christ Haunted South"." I was curious enough to check it out.

November 27, 2007

Erik Mongrain

Thanks to Ryan over at Brewing Culture for pointing him out.

November 22, 2007


Just watched Everything is Illuminated again. A beautiful and thought-inducing film about the power of our pasts.

"I have reflected many times upon our rigid search. It has shown me that everything is illuminated in the light of the past. It is always along the side of us, on the inside, looking out. Like you say, inside out. Jonathan, in this way, I will always be along the side of your life. And you will always be along the side of mine."

The Apple Dumpling Gang - 7

This is a classic film from my childhood. A rather comedic and children's western, the story involves three children who are inherited by Mr. Donovan, who unknowingly agrees to pick the kids up as a "delivery." The three children then accidentally stumble on gold in the mine that belonged to their father, this soon turns the town upside down as the children are fought over but become attached to Mr. Donovan and Dusty- a female stage coach driver that helps take care of them. The real hilarity is a side story about two incompetent bad guys named Theodore (Don Knotts) and Amos (Tim Conway), who want to rob the bank, but end up in outrageous situations. The best is when they steal a ladder from the local firehouse. It is a fun film, where justice and family win out over the chaos and destruction that might be possible in the new frontier of the west.

November 18, 2007

Shrek the Third - 6

Sequels have challenges- audience expectations, getting the stars to agree, etc. They also usually have story issues as some stories were not written to be continued. Shrek 2 suffered because of this. Audiences loved the first one and were not sure where the story could go from there. In this third installment the writer's keep is short and simple and it works. Shrek goes off to find a replacement so that he doesn't have to be King, and Fiona breaks the news that Shrek is to be a father. Using this relatively simple conflict setup, it continues with the usual jokes about fairy tales. The story is not as grand as the first two, but it makes for a fun film that once again has a good soundtrack and interesting characters.

November 15, 2007

I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry - 2

Imagine a comedy where two firefighters, let's call them Chuck and Larry, decide that pretending to have a civil union for the benefit of being able to pass on one's inheritance to Larry's kids and the investigation of this relationship by the government and the political ramifications this might have on one's work and home life. Pick two of your favorite comedians to play the roles of Chuck and Larry. This exercise has just saved you two hours, and you've imagined a better film than was made here by Dennis Dugan, Adam Sandler, and Kevin James. Dan Aykroyd, Steve Bescemi, and Jessica Biel couldn't improve the film either. The plot is predictable, the jokes you've already heard before, and- at almost two hours- it doesn't end soon enough. And if you are watching to see Sandler and James kiss, gladly that never happens. Somewhere wrapped up in this rather bad film is a message about tolerance, but it comes across as ironic rather than authentic.

November 11, 2007

Ratatouille - 6

Pixar again proves it is an amazing animation company. The visuals in this film are stunning, and the story is fun and entertaining. But the films one flaw is that the plot is jumpy, moving faster at times and losing the significance of the characters involved. It starts off as a story about Remy, a rat with an acute sense of smell. He wants to fulfill his dream of being a cook in the tradition of France's great cook, Gusteau who claims that everyone can cook if they take the art seriously. When Remy gets separated from his family and ends up in the kitchen of Gusteau's (who has since died) restaurant, the film picks up the story of Linguini, who works as a dishwasher and garbage boy in the kitchen. When Remy and Linguini become friends and co-workers, Linguini is able to cook up great food with the help of Remy's cooking abilities. Linguini becomes famous and over takes main chef Skinner, who- in true elitist fashion- has it out to bring Linguini down. The film then moves quickly developing a love interest between Linguini and Collette a fellow chef and reuniting Remy with his family. The conflict is that Remy and Linguini are the only ones who know what is actually going on. The film then takes up the story of Anton Ego, the famous food critic. He comes to know the truth and is able to sum up the film and bring about resolution. I have recently read many writers talk about Ego's final speech as it reflects on the purposes of art and criticism. This is worth reading (or hearing) again:

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talents — new creations. The new needs friends. Last night, I experienced something new, an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau's famous motto: Anyone can cook. But I realize that only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.
It is both a fun and thoughtful film, which makes it worth watching.

November 06, 2007

American Gangster - 7

Gangster films have a mysterious appeal in American culture. Everyone (OK, maybe this is a guy thing?) has some hidden longing to be The Godfather or Tony Montana from Scarface, or if not to be them, at least admires them. These people are criminals and everyone knows it. Therein lies the attraction, gangsters are symbols of pride and power, and we secretly would rather be feared than loved.
Ridley Scott's American Gangster take up a similar story, based on real events, with some interesting twists. Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington), decides to take advantage of the war in Vietnam, and buy directly from the fields of heroin, using military friends and relatives to smuggle it back in military planes. Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) is a cop, and law-student, who gets further drawn into investigating the growing drug problems in NYC. The film follows both of these men as their lives get further and further entangled. The film highlights the arrogance that starts to take over Lucas' life as he gains power and money, while showing the increasing vulnerability of Richie as his life is falling apart. The film avoids trying to be a detective crime thriller and instead becomes a character study of who it is Lucas and Roberts long to be, and the difficult choices we have to make to get there.
Gangster films trouble the idea of the American Dream while still holding the promise of its success. This film goes further by arguing that we might have to surrender the dream to something better and more real: the relationships of those closest to us. This film works as heightened metaphor for the choices we make and the people we want to become.

November 05, 2007

Across the Universe - 6

Using Beatles songs as a starting point, this film tells a love story set in the tumultuous decade of the 60's. Jude (Jim Sturgess) leaves Britain behind to go to America for an adventure. He becomes friends with Max (Joe Anderson) and Jude soon starts falling for Max's sister, Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood). Max drops out of Princeton to live in NYC, here the three of them live in a community apartment with an eclectic group of artists. The film weaves the songs of the Beatles and the events of the times- the war in Vietnam, drugs, the sexual revolution, civil rights movement, and the questioning of authority.

Director Julie Taymor using stunning visuals, including animation, psychedelic coloring (with a trippy cameo by Bono), and imaginative and artistic props and sets to try to portray the feeling and experience of this radical turning point in a culture. The plot is relatively simple but the use of songs and historical footage shows the complexity of the times and the individual and social struggles.

November 04, 2007

The Darjeeling Limited - 7

I love Wes Anderson's brand of quirky, humorous, and sometimes blunt storytelling (If you disliked/liked his other films, you may have a similar response here). Three brothers who having suffered the trauma of their father's death are on a spiritual journey in India. Aboard the Darjeeling Limited train, Francis (Owen Wilson) takes charge as he hires someone to plan their itinerary. Peter (Adrien Brody) and Jack (Jason Schwartzman) follow along with minimal eye rolling. They would rather be somewhere else, but it seems like trying to be brothers is at least worth the attempt, even if Francis is overbearing. The humor continues as they try to force themselves into a spiritual and transcendence experience, only to find that it can't be created, it has to find you. The film then gets very serious as they rescue some boys from drowning and come to realize that life, contrary to their American worldview, is not always about them. The film does a good job of finding both the humor and sadness that accompanies trauma. It also shows the complexity of responses that we can have, and yet, it always seems to involve others who illuminate what we really care about.

Educating Rita - 7

What is the purpose of higher education? This 1983 British film answers this questions by exploring the education of Rita (Julie Waters), a hair dresser, who at 26 has decided she wants to better herself by attending college classes. She meets with an English tutor who having a long career has gotten bored of teaching and become a drunk. Dr. Frank Bryant (Michael Caine) becomes intrigued by Rita as she ask real everyday questions. This throws him for a loop as he is use to pretentious students and having to play the part of the expert and scholar. As the film goes on the questions of the purposes of college become entangled in issues of relationships, social mobility, and the meaning of thinking critically. Ultimately though, it becomes about Rita and Frank's identity, the people they are and the people they want to become. While this film is pretty old, I think the questions remain similar and poignant for those that care about the value and "reason for being" in higher education. Thanks Andrea for the recommendation.

A Little Romance - 7

This is a nice story of romantic love, in the sense of romance- ideal and storied. Two middle-schooler's meet in Paris, Lauren (a very young Diane Lane), who is American, and Daniel (Thelonious Bernard), who is a native of Paris, but loves American films. They soon discover that they are both bright students and probably the only one's for each other. They eventually hear a legend that kissing under a bridge in Venice will make their love last forever. They then go on an adventure to make it true. The key to the film, is when the old man (Laurence Olivier), who has helped them run off, explains the storied nature of legends and romance. He makes the point that the stories we tell have to be lived to be true, our lives, in some respects, make the stories real (It makes a great scene to show in a class). Thanks Gideon for the recommendation.

November 02, 2007

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Solid State Society - 6

Ghost in the Shell is a long running manga (Japanese comics). It has been adapted into 3 films (my thoughts on 1 and 2), this one being the third, and two television series.
This is a crime thriller set in the future, where a villain named the "puppeteer" is infecting people, who are part human and part machine. Section 9 is responsible for tacking and ending the string of violence. The plot is intriguing and exciting and the film concludes by once again asking philosophical questions of reality and mystery and tension of mind and body. Similar to The Matrix (which was greatly influenced by this anime) the levels of complexity are great. These questions are important and can be asked well in the context of science fiction. The beautiful animation of this series is enough to recommend all three films.

October 30, 2007

Ryan Adams: live

Ryan Adams (not Bryan Adams) played Pittsburgh's Carnegie Music Hall last night. They skipped having an opener and when right to work starting with a more than 10 minute song (I'm not nerdy enough to know all recognize all of his songs). Adams is back up by The Cardinals which help create this alt-country music. They played mostly from Ryan's latest album Easy Tiger, but also some earlier songs- especially a few of my favorites from Cold Roses. They then ended the show with the very beautiful and honest "Come Pick Me Up" and "Two." Overall, a great concert with music you can get lost in.

October 24, 2007

The Lookout - 6

Using a rather typical high school car crash as the starting trauma to a story of popular Chris Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the film focuses on the planning of a heist at the bank he now works at. Chris' brain damage has left him with trouble sequencing events and doing daily tasks. He lives in an apartment with middle aged and blind Lewis (Jeff Daniels). Chris is not getting anywhere with classes and has reached a dead end. When he is approached and befriended by a group of strangers you can see the con coming. While the plot is driven by the heist it is really about dealing with trauma and the need for stories, forgiveness, and meaning in order to make sense of the past and have any hope for the future. This film would be better if the characters had been developed more, instead you are left with unrealistic people and plot.

October 19, 2007

Transformers - 5

Based on the 80's animated series, Transformers is a simple plot, with spectacular effects courtesy of Michael Bay (I know you know what this means) and Steven Spielberg. Transformers are an alien race of robots, who are looking to restart their civilization, so Megatron (the evil bot) takes the cube (origin of their life spark) to earth. It ends up lost in the arctic and only a secret government agency knows about it. Sam (Shia LaBeouf, eerily similar to his character in Disturbia), a high-schooler who is seen as weird and eccentric, gets a used car, which is actually a transformer that is sent to protect him as he unknowingly holds a map that could allow Optimus Prime and his crew of good transformers to save humanity and live at peace with the Transformers. The plot focuses more on Sam's relationship with classmate Mikaela (Megan Fox) than on the apocalyptic battle. But the movie is fun and entertaining, and with John Turturro playing a secret agent, almost makes this movie worth recommending. The visuals are stunning, but the overtly manipulative music and faux courage and patriotism make it a rather trite film. This film really should have been about Transformers given the title and all. For a similar, but more critical film see Titan A.E.

A Mighty Heart - 5

This film is a pseudo-biopic about Wall Street journalist Daniel Pearl (Dan Futterman), who in early 2002 was kidnapped in Pakistan by a terrorist group. His wife, Mariane (Angelina Jolie), is the main pathos of the film, as she is pregnant and is not sure how optimistic or pessimistic she should be as American and Pakistani law enforcement try to find Daniel before it is too late. i think this film may be more valuable as time goes by. It does indeed give one a sense of the times that we lived, and are living, in. It does a interesting job of trying not to editorialize, yet the ending seems to indicate that a sense of stoicism is what is needed. It doesn't deny the importance of Mariane's grief, but the film finds a way to move on- to quickly in my opinion. (It is only a two hour film, the book my be more reflective).

October 14, 2007

Michael Clayton - 7

By naming this film after the main character, Tony Gilroy (Bourne trilogy) makes it obvious that this is a character study. Michael Clayton (George Clooney) has a hectic and fragmented life. He owes people money, he has a stressful job in a law firm dealing with other's problems, and his family has fallen apart. Its enough to make anyone want to think about running- leaving it all behind for some place to just be left alone. That isn't an easy choice, especially when you realize that you might not want to be with anyone, much less yourself. These questions and thoughts come to the fore as Clayton is dealing with renowned lawyer Authur Edens (Tom Wilkinson), who is dealing with his own issues of conscience about what he has done with his abilities to reveal and hide the truth. CEO Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton), realizing that Eden could jeopardize her hard work to climb the corporate ladder has her own crisis of conscience.
The questions of who we are and who we are becoming is intimately tied up in what we think is just and right and the ways we pursue these ideals. Michael Clayton explores the moral complexity of living with so many choices, and our responses of running or confronting them. It tests one's ability to care about their personal choices, as they seem removed and insignificant to one's public life. And rather than fall into an easy cynicism, the film goes about showing its tagline false. This film has the depth of character and story to allow the space for good questions and self reflection.
Reading Steven Garber on proximate justice makes a nice connection to this film.

28 Weeks Later - 5

This is a rather unofficial sequel (none of the same actors, different director and writers) to Danny Boyle and Alex Garland's (also did Sunshine together) film 28 Days Later. This film stays close to the horror genre, with a little plot near the beginning and end, to try to rescue its significance. It never really succeeds, though, as the story tries to bring coherence to a story focused on chaos. The metaphor is supposed to be Iraq apparently, with allusions to a Green Zone and the US military having power and abusing it to kill both the infected and innocents. There is also the subtext of trust between people, governments and family. But all of these don't play out well, which makes it a disappointment.

You Kill Me - 4

This film is a pseudo-mafia film- heavy on the sentimental finding oneself theme. Frank (Ben Kingsley) is a hit-man for his mafia family, but has a drinking problem which sometimes interferes with getting the job done. So his uncle (Philip Baker Hall) sends him to San Fransisco to get sober, here he meets Laurel (Téa Leoni) Tom and (Luke Wilson) falling in love and getting a mentor to become sober. Frank moves from his stubborn ways to get sober and finds he is better able to do his work. Yeah, its supposed to be ironic. The only thing worth seeing here are the good performances by Kingsley and Leoni. Or better yet check out their other films (Sexy Beast, House of Sand and Fog, Spanglish, etc).

October 11, 2007

The Boss of It All - 6

Lars Von Trier tends to make dark and intense films: Breaking the Waves (which I should probably see again, right Paul?), Dancer in the Dark, Dogville, and its close to disturbing sequel- Manderlay. Here he has made a wonderful and funny comedy. Set in a small IT company in Denmark, the founder wants to sell and make the most money for himself, at the expense of his co-workers and partners. So he makes up a fictitious boss from America and blames any problems and hard decisions on him. This makes him popular with everybody. But when he finally needs to sell he needs to actually get "the Boss" that he has created to sign. Easy enough he'll hire an actor to pretend to be the boss and sign. Kristoffer takes on the job, and he takes his acting very seriously. The humor comes when he has to be around for a few days getting to know the employee's and figuring out what emails he apparently sent and received. In the process he must decide the moral character of "the Boss" that he is playing and decide whether he would really sell the company, and how much he wants to be liked and applauded. It is truly a great comedy of errors.
Trier interrupts his own story at points to make you aware that you are watching a film and to bring out the significance of the film as a metaphor for what we do in our own lives. We make similar moral choices and often they are driven more by manipulation than by what is true. In the end, it is a film about the moral meaning of art's ability or inability to tell the truth.

October 10, 2007

Wings of Desire - 7

This German film by Wim Wenders (director of one of my favorite films- Paris, Texas- and a couple U2 videos and Bono's film The Million Dollar Hotel), who spent many years in America before returning to honor his native Berlin with this film, uses the idea of angels to get at the deepest desires that human have. The angels in this film do God's work, but can never really experience reality. They see in black and white, they can't physically touch the world, and yet they are intimate with the deepest thoughts of the humans that surround them. Damiel (Bruno Ganz) longs to be in the world truly, to experience it. First he falls in love with a circus trapeze artists, and meets Peter Falk, who is an angel who became human. Damiel finally decides to become human too, and pursues really living and loving, rather than his previous mundane experience. The film uses angels as a way to express the inner thoughts of human beings, and helps the viewer glance at themselves, and to critically reflect on whether they are pursuing their true desires and loves, or settled for a mundane existence. The film also uses a few performances by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. City of Angels is based on this film, but turns the unique and interesting ideas into a overly-sentimental romantic film. Wing of Desires succeeds by revealing the mystery to being human.

October 07, 2007

Once again

I saw Once again this weekend, still beautiful... One of my favorite films of the year.

October 04, 2007

The Future We Will Create: Inside the World of TED - 6

For the last 20 years, the Technology Entertainment and Design (TED -most of the presentations can be viewed here) conference has happened in Monterrey, California. It is by invitation only and tries to connect people with big ideas, so that these ideas-that will shape the future- can be put into practice. This film documents the 2006 conference, the famous attendees, and the big ideas of unknowns. It shows the energy that is created and excited as people hear these ideas that potentially can effect cultural change. Each speaker is given 18 minutes to sum up their idea and three people from the conference are given a wish for the world that will receive $100,000 dollars of funding. The event is also filled with performances by musician's, comedians, and poets. The attendees include Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Al Gore, Peter Gabriel, Jeff Bezos, and Rick Warren. The curator/organizer of the conference Chris Anderson. It is ultimately about how ideas can be given legs in a community of people, and how culture and society can be shifted by this committed group of people. The ideas are usually so fundamental to human life that politics and worldviews can work together for the common good. Thanks Scott for the recommendation.

October 03, 2007

Andrew Bird at Carnegie Music Hall

The open space of the music hall brought on visions of a forest as Andrew Bird whistled and played the soothing music of nature. He was soon joined by Martin Dosh on drums and keyboards, and Jeremy Ylvisaker on bass, guitar, and backing vocals. Bird's primary instrument is violin, but he also integrates guitar which gives him a indie-folk sound. Using looping techniques these three players can create loud and overwhelming sound and yet it doesn't over power.
Bird's lyrics are beautiful and eclectic, from ancient Russian empires like the Scythians to the personal relationships of Table and Chairs. It was a beautiful evening, that would have lasted longer were it not for the time limits of the hall.

Bird as Dr. Stringz

September 30, 2007

Black Book - 6

This film sits firmly in the tradition of WWII films about the underground struggle to fight off the Nazi's. Set in Holland (and directed by Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven), the story follows Rachel Stein (Carice van Houten), a Jew who joins the resistance and uses her beauty and body to infiltrate the Dutch Nazi's in power. In a world built out of deception, it becomes harder and harder for people to really know others. The film is an intricate story where bonds of trust are created and broken. This distrust manifests in each of the characters in different ways as they try to survive and long for the end of the war. Rather than provide a picture of good versus evil, the story highlights the good and bad desires that we all have- and the sort of character that these desires and our choices help create. The film is well made and engaging.

My Dinner with Andre - 7

Wally (Wallace Shawn- yes, the Sicilian from Princess Bride) hasn't seen Andre (Andre Gregory), a friend from their early theater days, in years. So he makes plans to have dinner with him. The conversations they have over dinner is the film. It is just two friends having dinner and talking. And if meaningful and philosophical (they actually reference Heidegger at one point!) conversation puts you to sleep, you'll be off to nod in five minutes. What makes this film great is its honest dialogue about life's meaning, reality, and asking good questions like: Who am I? Where am I? How did I get here? And where am I going? As Wally and Andre talk they come up against the problem of knowing how to really live, how one makes choices, and what is reality. They also talk about how western culture is overwhelming and has responded with numbness and apathy. While this film is more than 25 years old, it remains a relevant conversation for thinking about life and provides a model for asking good questions.
Thanks Andrea for recommending it.

September 29, 2007

The Station Agent - 5

This is a simple film about how our traumatic experiences leave us disconnected from others. There is some comfort in loneliness that each of the characters learns to break from in order to become friends that care for one another. The three unlikely friends are Fin (Peter Dinklage), a dwarf, who loves trains and inherits an old train station to live in, Olivia (Patricia Clarkson) a reclusive artist who has lost her son, and Joe (Bobby Cannavale)- a food stand worker who loves to talk. The dialogue is awkward as they slowly unlearn the usual habits of masking their true selves. The film shows that friendships are built and that they are needed.

September 28, 2007

Blue - 7

Previously, on the day I started this blog, I gave this film a 5. Seeing it again, I have no idea why I did that . Let's call it- "I learned a thing or two after blogging about 800 films since then." This is an amazing film, director Krzysztof Kieslowski uses every shot to develop the themes and story. Julie (Juliette Binoche) suffers the loss of her husband, a nationally known French composer, and her five year-old daughter in a car accident. The remainder of the film is Julie's attempts to deal with the grief and trauma. This includes random encounters and connections with people in her apartment building, her husband's mistress, and finishing a symphony that her husband had started. It is a thoughtful and well made film. It has been analyzed extensively by academics interested in film and trauma studies. It is part of the Three Colors trilogy (White and Red).

September 27, 2007

Next - 3

Hollywood has a fetish for turning Phillip K. Dick stories into films. Sometimes with great results- Blade Runner, A Scanner Darkly, and Minority Report. Sometimes with decent results- Total Recall and Paycheck. But this is just bad. Chris (Nicolas Cage) can see a few minutes into the future. So the government wants to exploit this to prevent a nuclear terrorist attack. For some unknown reason the terrorists also know about Chris and are trying to kill him. And when Chris is around Liz (Jessica Biel) he can see further into the future. The trick of the film is that the viewer is never sure if what they are seeing is every real-time or what Chris can see ahead of time. This is used to stupidly manipulate the audience. The action sequences of destruction are amazing, but the plot barely makes sense. And Cage, Biel and Julianne Moore "phoned in" their performances. At one point I think Cage looked more bored than I was.

September 23, 2007

Eastern Promises - 4

Director David Cronenberg won me over with his films Dead Ringers and The History of Violence, both complex and well done films. Unfortunately, Eastern Promises is a film unworthy of these past works. The story is about a diary found by Anna (Naomi Watts), when a woman dies giving birth to a daughter. The diary is in Russian and when she approaches a Russian business man to translate it, Anna finds that the information is incriminating and she is now involved with a London crime family. It is the mysterious Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen) that draws most of Anna's attention, and they work together to do as much good as they can, considering the circumstances. The plot takes time to develop and then ends too quickly.
This film is noteworthy for all the wrong reasons. It features gratuitous sex and violence that does very little to advance the plot. It had potential, but I felt cheated as I walked out of the film. The ending came to early- I was waiting for the next reel to be put on. Instead the credits rolled.

September 16, 2007

3:10 to Yuma - 6

Some might claim that the traditional western died at the end of John Wayne's career in the 70's. But while it has been on the decline, it is still alive and doing well (See Unforgiven and The Proposition). While 3:10 to Yuma is a remake, it still fits in today by showing the moral dilemma's that we can face when questions of justice arise.
Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) is the leader of a gang of outlaws and is captured by a small town. Dan Evans (Christian Bale) is a struggling rancher in that town and in need of money agrees to help transport Wade for the 3:10 train to Yuma and, of course, Wade's gang is not going to see him taken without a fight. But the real story is the struggle of wills as the audience wonders about the moral qualities and fortitude of both men.
The west provides a great setting to have a heightened dialogue about the meaning of justice and moral good. With the absence of modern bureaucracy, the wilderness becomes a place where justice is in the hands of the people, it is no longer an abstraction. So, as always a gunfight must ensue as justice needs to be pursued or destroyed at all cost. The conversations about what is truly good is what makes this film worth watching.

The Human Stain - 3

Based on Phillip Roth's critically acclaimed novel, this film is a character drama, focusing on a fired English literature professor Coleman Silk (Anthony Hopkins) and his relationship to Nathan Zuckerman (Gary Sinise) and his new found love in the young Faunia (Nicole Kidman). While the characters are well developed the story leaves you wondering why you should care for them. The film hinges on Coleman's story of his past and his inability to be truly honest with anyone about it. Its probably another of those books that is best left as a book. It attempts to say something about the human condition, but only vaguely gets there and it is ultimately unrewarding.

September 09, 2007

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer - 7

Set in 18th century France this is the fictional tale of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. The film is based on the 1985 book by Patrick Suskind. Grenouille (Ben Whishaw) is born on the street and grows up in an orphanage. He is an oddity because his sense of smell is very acute and he has no natural scent of his own. Smell becomes the under-riding metaphor as Grenouille struggles to find his vocation- mostly as a slave, until he is able to become the apprentice of perfumer Giuseppe Baldini (Dustin Hoffman). He soon learns that his goal in life is to preserve the scent of beauty which is the essence and soul of beautiful women. In this way he stumbles into the job of a serial killer. As he kills the women in order to capture their scent for the best perfume in the world. He is eventually caught and condemned to die by death on a cross. And though he finds power in beauty his true longing is to be truly loved, discovering that this is impossible for him, he sacrifices himself. The film confronts the audience with the questions: Is Grenouille supposed to represent Christ or the anti-Christ? In this fable the ambiguity will stay with you for days. It is probably the most provocative, yet beautiful films of 2007.

Life is Beautiful - 7

This Italian film won 3 Oscars when it came out in 1997. Actor-writer-director Roberto Benigni tells a comedy in the midst of the harsh reality of the second World War. The story is told from a young son's perspective about his father, Guido (Benigni), who was a goofy but caring man who finds love with Dora right before the war, and when they have a son they raise him to love life, have fun, and take bath's despite his protests. When the father and son are taken to a concentration camp because they are Jews, Guido convinces his son that they have been signed up for a game in which they do what they are told to gain points to eventually win a tank. Guido uses his imagination in order to help his son see that amidst the ugliness and destruction in life, it is still beautiful. The film is mostly funny, which is odd as the setting could not be more horrendous, but that is ultimately Benigni's claim. Even human evil is unable to complete destroy the gift and beauty that is life. It is an audacious claim, and one that this story tells beautifully and with great care- never making light of the reality of the holocaust. Rather the film points us toward love, family and our imagination as a key to being human and allowing us to resist the evil which can well up in all of us.

September 02, 2007

Maxed Out - 6

This is a documentary about debt and the economy of credit cards in America. This should be required viewing for anyone graduating high school and about to enter the world of being responsible for one's own finances. The film is a typical documentary, trying to keep the writer/director James Scurlock out of the story while individuals tell there experiences about debt, as well as interview with collector's and government hearings on finance from banks and credit card companies. The film does a good job of educating the audience about how credit and money work in America's consumer society. It also points out the increasing pressures of credit card companies to encourage debt for their own advantage- while missing the longer term picture of a possible economic collapse.

September 01, 2007

Blades of Glory - 3

Starting out with an outrageous premise—two male figure skaters becoming a pair—makes the jokes and gags in Blades of Glory easy. What is harder is to actually make them funny. This film is short enough and packs the acting power of Will Ferrell, Jon Heder and Jenna Fischer to nearly pull off some very original comedy. If you love figure skating as an art form you might be offended as star figure skaters Chazz Michael Michaels and Jimmy MacElroy make an absolute mockery of the sport. The film plays on most of the same story arcs and physical gags as do other comedies of this sort, with strange background stories and rather two-dimensional characters- especially when it comes to the forced love story. The funniest parts of the film are when they stop worrying about plot development and just start goofing off and ad-libbing. The film considers itself just fun entertainment and succeeds by not over-extending itself past 90 minutes.

August 27, 2007

Sergeant Rutledge - 7

I didn't grow up watching westerns and I don't know a whole lot about the films of John Ford. Lucky for me Jason does. So when he recommended The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, which I loved, I started paying attention. And while I was less impressed with Ford's Stagecaoch, Sergeant Rutledge revived my love of Westerns and Ford. This film is actually more courtroom drama than traditional western. Sergeant Rutledge (a black officer in the Army- played by Woody Strode) is charged with a crime that takes most of the first half of the movie to even find out as accounts are given by many different witnesses to finally get at the truth of the situation. I don't want to give to much away, but you should see this film. It is ahead of its time (1960) on issues of race- this is the first film to have an African-American for a namesake and main character.

Solaris (1972) - 6

Here Andrei Tarkovsky, Russia's most famous director, explores human psychological. This film is the basis for the remake by Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney in 2002. It is a meditative film, slowly revealing more about the psychology of the characters. At points it is almost to drawn out with scenes of nature and space, it is a film that requires patience. The film starts with government video of an inquiry into what is happening at the space station (This could be part of the inspiration for the film Contact) The plot involves a psychologist, Kris Kelvin (Donatas Banionis), who travels to a space station of a mysterious lake. He soon discovers that the people on board's desires start to become a reality because of some sort of radiation from the lake. It reveals Kelvin's grief over his wife's death, and her reappearance on the space station. The final voice over is metaphysical poetry, asking questions of the meaning of our desires, longings, and loves. The film ends with Kelvin reuniting with his distant father. Watch this film if you want to hear Zizek's analysis of the film.

August 24, 2007

The Invasion - 4

The review is now posted at relevantmagazine.com

August 22, 2007

Superbad - 6

To the undiscerning viewer this film may seem like just another teen sex comedy like the less-than-thoughtful American Pie franchise. And while it is rated R and contains plenty of crude lauguage, a closer look at the work of Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, The 40 Year-Old Virgin, and who was a producer on this Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg-written film) reveals Superbad as an interesting picture of our culture. And an all to accurate one at that.
The plot centers on two average high school friends and their crazy plans on how to explore their raging sexuality a few weeks before their graduation. Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) have learned what culture has told them about who they are and who they should be. They want to pursue this, but there is also something deeper holding them back. So they end up getting invited to a party and asked to bring the booze, which they convince uber-geek Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse)--aka McLovin, a twenty-five year-old Hawaiian organ donor--to buy with his fake ID. The plan goes horribly wrong and the night gets progressively worse.
Eventually, they make it to the intended party and find that getting drunk and hooking up with women isn't the glamorous "meaning of life" that our culture often sets it up to be. In fact, coming to understand one's sexuality in high school turns out to be an independent study with one's close friends as the teachers. This makes for many awkward situations and conversations when the characters, niavely charging ahead- making it up as they go along.
While providing plenty of laughs and gags, the seriousness of Seth and Evan's friendship soon becomes apparent; it confronts the audience with the questions of one's identity and the friendships and committments that make us who we are. And like all of Apatow's work, the film ends with a fable-like moral: our friendships are what maintain order and intimacy amidst the overwhelming chaos and fear that often invades our relationships.

August 20, 2007

A Mighty Wind - 7

Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy (This is Spinal Tap, The Big Picture, Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, and For Your Consideration) take up a one night tribute to a 60's folk producer's life for this hilarious mockumentary. Using the same troupe (Catherine O'Hara, Michael McKean, Parker Posey, Harry Shearer -A prominent voice on The Simpsons, Jennifer Coolidge, John Michael Higgins, and Jane Lynch) from these other films, the film sounds like a VH1 Behind the Music highs and lows for three bands: Mitch and Mickey, The Folksmen, and The New Main Street Singers. While the music is good, with the exception of the overly produced Main Street Singers, the drama behind the scenes creates the real story of these washed-up pseudo-celebrities. The ability of the actors and actresses to keep a straight face and ad-lib are what make this film truly hilarious.

August 18, 2007

Inland Empire - 4

In the land of weird films, David Lynch is king. This is anything but traditional filmmaking- even less so than Mulholland Dr. While his film Wild at Heart (and from what I hear Lost Highway, Blue Velvet and Eraserhead) have a narrative that the audience to follow, Inland Empire lacks this to the extent that it hard to know the sequence of the scenes. Are they going forward? Is that a flashback? Are they referring to something in the past or the future? The film basically follows three different story ideas: An actress (Laura Dern) who becomes confused about her role and what is going on around her, an eastern European group of men and women- who it seems may be involved in the sex-slave business, and finally sit-com like episodes of three rabbits in a suburban living room. Like I said this isn't something you'd likely see in anything but a David Lynch film. I get how art is suppose to push the boundaries of our imaginations, but I'm confused as to how this film works in that way. Read Evan's review which give Lynch more credit for knowing what he is doing.

August 15, 2007

Becoming Jane - 6

While in the tradition of the biopic, this film focuses more on the young Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway) and her relationship to Irishman Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy). She is from the country and her parents (James Cromwell and Julie Walters) would like for her to marry, often conflicted as to whether she should marry for money or for love. She falls for Tom, who is a rugged city law student. The remainder of the film follows the struggles that this socially unacceptable relationship faces.
The film plays like one of the movie adaptation of her novels (i.e. Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility) with the exception of small scenes in which Jame comments on writing about human nature and happy and tragic endings. The film seems to say that the novels define her, rather than her life defining the stories. It works more as a romantic film than as a tribute to her as an influential author.

August 14, 2007

eXistenZ - 7

David Cronenberg writes films dripping with meaning beyond the stories they tell, usually making commentary on contemporary culture. He goes deep into human psychology in both Dead Ringers and A History of Violence. Here, he explores the idea of virtual reality and how it changes how we perceive and act in reality. Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is a game designer and an attempt is made on her life at a developers meeting. She survives and then invites her security/marketing rep (Jude Law) to get into the game to discover who is after her. As they go deeper into the game the line between reality and virtual reality gets more and more fuzzy. The film also engages in interesting questions about character, identity, and the ethics of the real and the virtual. And the film has a very intriguing and good twist ending. Hat tip to Gregory for the recommendation.

Friday Night Lights - 6

Based on the true story of the 1988 Permian High School football team, the film focuses on Coach Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton) and and the players as they face the intense scrutiny and pressure that is Texas high school football, especially in this tight knit of Odessa. The story follows the stories of a few individual players, forming a collage of vignettes that are connected through the sequence of the games that they win and lose as the season progresses and makes its way to the ultimate game- the State Championship. While it has the usual elements of a sports movie, it is more than that as it highlights the personal lives that the players have and the broader implications and limits of a win/lose game mentality. While football is a huge part of life for this town, life cannot be reduced- there is a bigger picture. Which is what teaching and learning are ultimately about.
The score, by Explosions in the Sky, greatly compliments the storytelling.

August 13, 2007

Farce of the Penguins - 5

Bob Saget has written and directed the crass and crude commentary to footage of penguins that was at least partly running though your head when you were watching March of the Penguins. Samuel L. Jackson is the narrator, and voices are the likes of Saget, Tracy Morgan, Lewis Black, and Christina Applegate, with minor roles for Dane Cook and Norm MacDonald. The film has a similar structure to episodes of Family Guy and this film is definitely not "family friendly." What makes this film funny is the fact that documentaries about animals usually give them human characteristics and portray animals as perfect, while this film differs by inventing animal characters that are as bad as humans. This film works as a counter argument to the near worship of nature found in most films about the natural world.

August 09, 2007

Disturbia - 3

This film hitched its wagon to Rear Window, which means it pretty much set itself up to fail. The similarities are that a housebound guy, starts staring at his neighbors and his paranoia convinces him that his neighbor is a murderer. In this case Kale (Shia LaBeouf), a high-schooler who is under house arrest for punching his teacher- not a pleasant way to spend summer vacation. He gets bored, starts peering in on the neighbors, takes a liking to the new girl next store (Sarah Roemer), seeks payback to the punks across the street, and gets paranoid by a creepy older man (David Morse) who is slowly adding up to the suspect in an ongoing news story. Its pretty clear where all of this is going, Kale gets the girl and needs to be right in his rebellion against his mother (Carrie-Anne Moss) and his spying. The film is governed by PG-13 slasher constraints- the main goal here being to make the audience jumpy, rather than creatively telling a story (which is why Rear Window works 50 years later- that and the ending). In the end, it all just works itself out too easily.

August 08, 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum - 6

Cool. That's the one word reduction of this trilogy about an amnestic CIA agent, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) on the run and searching for his identity. Bourne travels the world like it's his backyard. And artfully takes out anyone in his way on his search for the truth about where he came from and who he is. Cool. In this final chapter (which like Supremacy is distinctly directed by Paul Greengrass), Bourne finally gets a break as a reporter digs up the story through an interview with one of the original CIA operatives involved in setting up the operation that created Bourne. CIA deputy director Noah Vosen (David Strathairn) can have none of this and sets up an operation to get rid of the "threat." This puts Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) and Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) who have been following Bourne up to this point in the awkward position of deciding where and with whom the truth lies. And how willing are they to put there jobs on the line. The mystery behind Bourne is finally revealed and justice illuminates the perpetrators. A very entertaining and cool, yet intelligent, action movie.

August 07, 2007

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - 5

This is the second film in the series and second and last for director Chris Columbus. This film has an easier time of it as it only needs one school year to tell the story and further develop the growing battle between Harry and Voldemort. Harry's friendship with Ron and Hermione is also strengthened, and the widening divide with the Malfoy's. It is also interesting that Snape takes on a lesser role in the story. The plot revolves around the legend of the Chamber of Secrets and the history of Hagrid and Tom Riddle from 50 years before. Magic, intuitive insight, and maybe some help from higher powers make Harry victorious again over a huge snake.

August 06, 2007

Café Lumière - 7

This film was made as an homage to Japanese writer/director Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story (which I've just added to my movie queue) by Taiwanese director Hsiao-hsien Hou. It is a reflective film about a young woman's learning what it means to be an adult. Yoko (Yo Hitoto) is back and forth to her parents house, the train stations, Cafe Erika, and a book/music shop where she is researching a jazz pianist. She also has conversations about books and dreams and recording train sounds with bookshop worker/friend Hajime (Tadanobu Asano, Last Life in the Universe). She also reveals to her parents that she is pregnant and not intending to marry the father. The parents are worried for her, but the generational gap separates them from honest conversation. The film has both the feel of Yoko's loneliness, as well as her self understanding and peace about life and the choices she has made. While the film lacks a simple narrative structure and moves slowly with Yoko as she lives here daily life, the film is beautiful none the less.
Hat tip to Gideon and Tala for the recommendation.