Dog Day Afternoon (Lumet, 1975)

Posted in 1970's, American, Sidney Lumet with tags , on September 26, 2009 by kevin

What Lumet has done so well here, and the thing that most films of this nature fail to accomplish or even attempt, is to emphasize the lows of a tense situation in order to amplify the high notes when they arrive. He does well to spend good portions of stock on the true statis of the situation, allowing moments of compassion and tedium to saturate a story that, in another’s hands, may have felt more akin to an explosive heist romp. Instead, Lumet and his ensemble deliver a delightfully paced thriller that is generous enough to let true characterization and story drive what could have been a genre piece into something much more interesting.

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Beau Travail (Denis, 1999)

Posted in 1990's, Claire Denis, French with tags , , on September 9, 2009 by kevin

As a medium, film is full of rarely utilized potential. In this instance, I am talking about the possibility of cinema to overcome mere narration and wisp dreamily into the realm of meditation. Although it has been done, successfully, several times, there is a surprising dearth of these films being produced. Whether this results from a fear of underemphasis in terms of narration – the desire to tell a story being innate to humans – or a lack of imagination, I am not the one to say. Thankfully, Denis’ Beau Travail is a film that aims squarely for the right portion of your brain. Its success, however, is debatable.

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Daisies (Chytilová, 1966)

Posted in 1960's, Czech, Vera Chytilová with tags , , , on September 8, 2009 by kevin

From the opening credits as gears churn amidst hazed out clips of bombings to one of the more joyous finales I can recount, Daisies prances about in a free from manner directly in tune with demeanor of the two young girls it so generously depicts. In much the same way that the two Maries consistently act immature in mature settings, Chytilová joyously frolics between different color schematics and mosaic editing with relentless energy, capturing a twisted and mildly psychedelic version of a teen girl’s fantasy sleepover; one in which everything is ever so slightly naughty.

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Standard Operating Procedure (Morris, 2008)

Posted in 2000's, American, Errol Morris with tags , , on September 8, 2009 by kevin

Errol Morris has a fairly unique ability to elicit defensively candid interviews from oft maligned subjects. He did so in The Fog of War and here, again, he has successfully drawn deceptively forward responses from unlikely candidates. While the story – and more importantly the images – of Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison have become mental calling cards of our nations collective conscious in regards to the Iraq war, Morris proofs his material, making it seem as important and fresh as the days in which the horrific images first leaked.
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Metropolitan (Stillman, 1990)

Posted in 1990's, American, Whit Stillman with tags , on September 4, 2009 by kevin

About halfway through Metropolitan, I wasn’t feeling too good about things. The mockery was blatant, jokes only half-inspired and performances completely overblown. Dialog replete with empty intellectualizing about class status in America (stultified of course) can only take a picture so far. Around the 45 minute mark, however, I started to realize that there was kind of a lot going on here.

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Lifeboat (Hitchcock, 1944)

Posted in 1940's, Alfred Hitchcock, American with tags , , , on September 4, 2009 by kevin

A truly bizarre film on many accounts. Antediluvian xenophobia mixed with just a dash of self-national mockery, Lifeboat rows along in both confusing and intriguing manners. Why is no one on this boat, aside from the German, capable of helming it? On the opposite side of the coin why, at times, does it feel like Hitchcock has made a propaganda film? Couple that with some out of date racial stereotypes, fine acting, and a cinematic experiment akin to Rope and you find yourself with a highly watchable although truly beguiling muddling of skills from the considerable talents of Alfred Hitchcock and John Steinbeck.

I Vitelloni (Fellini, 1953)

Posted in 1950's, Federico Fellini, Italian with tags , on September 3, 2009 by kevin

I have been meaning to get around to I Vitelloni since high school and, today, I finally did. The film is quite the quintessential “buddy” film, although it is a far cry from the drunken farce comedies we have come to expect from the genre today. This is not about a group of male friends going to Vegas, drinking a lot and coming to trite revelations in the epilogue. Fellini’s vision is an honest look at the mires of masculinity, malaise of stagnant living and realities of shirking responsibility.

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