Thursday, December 30, 2010

Musings: Exit Through the Gift Shop

Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010. By Bansky)

The following article assumes that the reader has seen the movie we are about to examine in detail.

Over at the Filmspotting message boards (have you been there lately?), it was noted by one of its community members how 2010 was marked by one debate in particular that stirred our passions. Art criticism: is more of a subjective activity or one for which one may actually take an objective stance? Does the director, writer, painter or historian’s opinion carry greater weight than that of the amateurs, the fans, the general movie going public? Do previous experiences, especially those professional and academic in nature, mean that one genuinely has greater insight into a piece of art, thus whose word carries a more valuable and objective standpoint? Of course, any sort of discussion about art criticism must begin at an even more primitive stage, namely, what consists of what?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Blogging Around (December 29th 2010)

Hello readers!

A year older, a year wiser. I very much like that expression. In the coming days, a flurry of 'memories of 2010' articles shall be published in newspapers, magazines and blogs. The world of cinema is not exempt from this exercise and yours truly has already written a couple of 'end of the year' lists in the past couple of days, with maybe a couple more to come...

End of the year part 2: Top performances

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Comparative review: True Grit (1969) and True Grit (2010)

The Battle of True Grits
While I would have loved writing an epic comparative article about not only the 1969 and 2010 movies of the same name but also the original novel authored by Charles Portis, but I have yet to read his book. Therefore, today’s special edition review will be restricted to the two aforementioned films.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Year in review part 1

End of the year lists

2010 is running its final lap to the finish. Those who visit Between the Seats either regularly or on occasion might have noticed that we are easy graders. We like to dig up the positives in movies rather than hamper on the negatives. Unsurprisingly, the consensus here at the blog is that 2010 was a good year for film. Whether you were escaping to local art house cinemas, exploring the multiple film festivals which invade cities every year or spending your weekends at the multiplex in anticipation of the latest Hollywood offering, the past 12 months were half bad. If you dabbled in a little bit of all three movie watching choices mentioned above, I don’t see how one could have had a bad time at the movies.

Oh, but I can hear the favourite complaints already:
‘It was a terrible year for film,’ and the close runner up, ‘Last year was much better,’ (This despite that I distinctly recall you saying last year ‘It was a terrible year for film.’).
If you really insist, well, in that case I’m sorry to hear that. Better luck next year, I suppose.

With out of the way, the hour is upon us to commemorate some of the best of what the class of ’10 gave us and later on, because such lists can also ignite discussion, some of the worst/disappointments of 2010 as well.

Top 10 films of 2010

10-Curling (Denis Côté). Côté’s strange yet beautifully lyrical world revolving around an antisocial father-daughter couple is my ‘movie that nobody saw’ pick for the list. There are a host of awkward moments and the performances are fantastic.

9- Let Me in (Matt Reeves). Terrifically well acted and exquisitely well shot, this English-language adaptation of the Swedish horror novel is a testament to how good horror films can be when character development is the film’s primary concern. Of course, none of that matters because it was a box-office dud.

8- Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Edgar Wright). Fun, fun and simply more fun. While the actual chemistry between the two leads, the romantic crux of the film, is somewhat unfulfilling, virtually everything else is stellar. The film’s repeat viewing quotient is ridiculously high as well.

7- Shutter Island (Martin Scorsese). Being moved out of its original October 2009 slot to February 2010 might have been a cause for concern, and while the film’s plot is a wee bit predictable, Shutter Island was a beautiful assault on the senses.

6- The Social Network (David Fincher). Many, myself included, thought the notion of making a feature length movie about the creation of Facebook sounded like a joke. In some ways, we are still waiting for the movie about the creation of Facebook since Fincher gave us one of the most interesting, poignant and funny films of 2010. 

5-Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky). My favourite Aronofsky movie, which is saying something since this chap also directed Requiem for a Dream and The Wrestler. Its melodrama and visceral qualities rise to almost overbearing heights, which was exactly what made the entire ordeal so effective.

4-The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke). Perhaps the controversial pick of the bunch since most consider this to be a 2009 film. I can’t do much about the fact that its theatrical release in Montréal was February of this year. It’s also freakishly haunting.

3-Incendies (Denis Villeneuve). A family drama draped in a rich emotional and psychological texture. Villenueve’s tale of how the past can come back to haunt us (as well as our progeny) lingers with me still. Lubna Azabal gives one of the best performance of the entire year.

2-Inception (Christopher Nolan). A clever concept is taken to epic proportions under the confident and intelligent guidance of Christopher Nolan, which is a guarantee for success. But Inception didn’t merely end up being ‘rather good’, which itself would have left me happy anyhow. It was freaking awesome.

1-Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich and the Pixar family). Never has an animated film been ranked so highly in any of my lists, but the conclusion to the Toy Story trilogy really did have a little bit for everybody, all the while tying up the journey of our favourite characters with a perfect bow ribbon.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

End of the year

Hello readers!

The holidays are upon us,  as is the end of the year 2010. I'm quite grateful to have about a week and a half off starting tomorrow. Not only do I get to rest a bit, but it means that I can take care of the some important business here at Between the Seats. End of the year lists, reviews of both True Grit films (the 1969 Henry Hathaway directed feature and the brand new Coen Bros. version), finishing off that damn Glory of Rome marathon with reviews of Caligula and Spartacus still waiting, and of course an end of the year version of Blogging Around. There will be plenty of action during the next 10 days or so, rest assured.

While were at it: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Edgar Chaput.
Writer, editor, manager and mother/father of Between the Seats.

review: Tron: Legacy

Tron: Legacy (2010, Joseph Kosinski)

Hollywood often reserves movie lovers a significant blockbuster gift for the holiday season. The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003), King Kong (2005), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) and Avatar (2009) are some of the more memorable ghosts from Christmas past. Big actors, big special effects and big, big hype during the months leading up to each and every one of the films mentioned above. Now comes Joseph Kosinski’s Tron: Legacy, a movie whose marketing and fanboy buzz alone are legacies in of themselves, what with the first ever footage emerging at the 2008 Comic-Con convention. That’s right, 2008, a cool 2 ½ years ago. A unique aesthetic design which stays true to the 1982 original, a story involving computers and state of the art technology, IMAX, 3D, etc. with the cherry on top being logo of the company promoting this mammoth: good old Walt Disney studios.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Far East Specials: Invisible Target

Invisible Target (2007, Benny Chan)

There are ‘action films’ and then there are ‘action action films.’ It is a distinction that perhaps I alone make, but one that appears clear as daylight to me. An ‘action film’ serves up a solid dose of thrilling and impressive sequences in which the characters engage in intense brawls, gunfights, chases or jaw-dropping stunts, but which also have something resembling a script. Beneath the sweat and blood dripping from the abused bodies of the characters is a minimal amount of development of plot and emotional arcs. First Blood and The Bourne Identity are ‘action movies.’ ‘Action action movies’ are so concerned with the stunts, chases and gunfights, that by the film’s end, caring for the characters and, most of all, plot have taken a back seat. The Protector (reviewed here) and Invisible Target are ‘action action movies.’ Sometimes the unthinkable happens. Sometimes, you’ve had enough action.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Films du Fleur de Lys: Curling

Curling (2010, Denis Côté)

Québécois filmmaker Denis Côté has a penchant for art house cinema. Slow moving stories, elliptical situations, worlds that say a lot when once the viewers peers closely but which seem almost mundane upon first look. The opening scenes to Curling, Côté’s latest effort, exemplify this nicely. The camera (and an eerily bright light) rests on a young girl, 12 years of age, visiting the eye doctor, the latter of which, having determined that the child’s eye sight is weak, begins to comment on how difficult it must be to understand what the teacher writes on the chalk board in class. The girl, reserved in a non-chalant kind of way, lets the adult know that she doesn’t attend school. The second scene has the same girl, this time with her father and again filmed with a single shot like the first, waking back home in the midst of blistering wind along a lonely road somewhere in the countryside. A policeman stops them, curious as to why they would want to walk in such frigid weather. The father replies each of the lawman’s queries, but always with hint with defensiveness. He doesn’t want to talk to this man. He doesn’t like talking to many people. If he knew he lived in a movie world and that an audience was watching his every move, he probably wouldn’t want to talk to us either.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Review: Black Swan

Black Swan (2010, Darren Aronofsky)

Critically acclaimed director Darren Aronofsky is at it again. After a series of films about tortured souls in which the torture was often both self-inflicted and driven by forces outside of the protagonists’ control, he returns with a tale directly inspired by the classic ballet tale Swan Lake. I don’t know why Aronofsky is so keenly interested in stories about people who aren’t happy and on the rare occasions when happiness should lift them, they cannot grasp it. Nevertheless, he’s rather good at this sort of tale, so why not give it another go? Whereas his previous effort took viewers inside the wrestling ring, this time it’s behind the scenes of a ballet, the famous story of Swan Lake, prepared by director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel), who has awarded the lead role of the Swan Queen to Nina (Nathalie Portman), member of the group for some time already but who only now has earned a significant place in the spotlight. Thomas explains to his troop that this ballet has been practiced and performed aplenty but not like under his direction. For the supremely talented but highly introverted Nina, those words shall bear unforgettable meaning.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Review: Bigger than Life

Bigger than Life (1956, Nicholas Ray)

Bigger Than Life, one of director Nicholas Ray’s most famous and highly regarded films, is a family drama whose story takes place in a small suburban town. Having grown up as a lad in something strongly resembling a stereotypical suburban neighbourhood, stories, especially dramas, that find their inspiration in suburbia have long held my interest. To conform or not to conform, that is the question. Films that put a spin on the familiar ideals of this way of life are the ones I hold the highest esteem when done well.  Ray had already dabbled in similar themes with Rebel Without a Cause a year earlier, although that film’s plot concentrated on the place of youth in 50s U.S.A.. Bigger than Life tackles the larger nuclear family structure as is often described in such settings. What thrusts the drama in the film is less any character’s natural desire to be different, but a drug that releases some undesirable side effects in Ed Avery (James Mason), a family man who would do anything to help sustain his son and wife Lou (Barbara Rush), provided they subscribe to his ‘new and improved’ tactics. 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Rambo Marathon: Final rebuttal

To the top of the mountain of burned flesh.

To better appreciate this article, one might want to pay a visit to Bill’s Movie Emporium to read his original review of the film at hand, Rambo.

Small town U.S.A, the jungles of Vietnam, the deserts of Afghanistan and finally Burma, these are the global regions where you and I have gone to battle with a series of reviews and rebuttals for each successive entry in the Rambo franchise. With each passing week it became increasingly clear that rather than engage in memorable titanic clashes of film debate, we were in fact allies in our admiration for the series. Even when I spewed out with terrific vitriol words of hatred towards that forsaken second chapter, it turned the same movie didn’t sit well with you either. Rambo, the last testament to a memorably violent protagonist didn’t change much. I absolutely loved it, and you clearly enjoyed it quite a bit, even if your praise wasn’t exactly on the same level as mine. Since you and I have begun these joint marathons, the single time when writing a rebuttal served any considerable jolt to my creative and argumentative juices was for Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Bill, we are doing another marathon together in the future, and next time we must imperatively choose a genre, director, actor, anything for which we know our opinions differ.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Far East Specials: Blood and Bones

Blood and Bones (2004, Sai Yoichi)

Takeshi Kitano is one of those actors who is endlessly watchable, regardless of the overall quality of the films he is in. Unlike most, I was not a big fan of Battle Royale (2000), but his smart part was both hilarious and intimidating. Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman (2003) was a blood soaked and thrilling retelling of the famous samurai’s story, and again Kitano was the main attraction, notwithstanding the crazy dance sequence at the end. He is an actor who brings an uncommon energy to his roles time and time again. Were I too venture a comparison with an American actor, I’d say that he is a bit like Jack Nicholson in that Kitano the man has taken on a persona which often finds its way into his individual performances. He interprets characters, but they are all undeniably Kitano-inspired characters, and much of the same can be said for so many of Nicholson’s performances, both the good and the bad. There is an undeniable charm and attachment to the actor, but oftentimes they are covered in brashness, brutality, or cockiness.