Friday, March 30, 2012

Update: 2 marathons: Alien and a bunch of cars!

Hello readers,

Well, March will soon turn into April and, as promised, the activity at Between the Seats should be a little more regular than it has been during this month. Like the blossoming flora of early springtime, Between the Seats will also be strutting its stuff proudly for your reading pleasure. With the conclusions of both the BBS Productions Presents and Comica Obscura marathons upon us (only 1 film in each left!), it was time to devise some new themes for the weeks and months to come.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Comica Obscura: Road to Perdition

Road to Perdition (2002, Sam Mendes)

The title of this marathon, Comica Obscura, is apt in more ways than one. The most obvious reference it makes is to the relative obscurity of the source material which inspired each film under evaluation. Another is that the movies themselves are not known for being adaptations of comic books. This second notion is perhaps more pertinent if only because most of the films reviewed thus far have felt as though they could have been regular entries into their respective genres. When learning that they are, in fact, the cinematic translations of certain comics, one begins to wonder if the comic creators themselves were not inspired by films. There is perhaps a no more fitting example than Road to Perdition, the comic which was written by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner, unquestionably inspired by the famous gangster pictures of yesteryear. Director Sam Mendes and screenwriter David Self came along in 2002 and adapted the book for the screen, but one could just as easily assume it to be another classic entry in the gangster genre.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

review: A Separation

A Separation (2011, Asghar Farhadi)

Without engaging in any sort of geopolitical diatribe, it feels safe to say that working in Iran's film industry is not the simplest of endeavours. The political and cultural climate of the country has created a strange hybrid of permissiveness and clampdowns on those artists who fancy themselves filmmakers. The image the rest of the world is left with is that the domestic success of one's picture depends on how culturally safe and in accordance with law the story and ideas are. The controversial story surrounding Jafar Panahi is one clear example in which the artist was stifled in the most extreme degree, while another, more nuanced situation is that of Asghar Farhadi's latest project, the Oscar winning A Separation, which has been both praised and loathed on home soil.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

review: Zombie

*the reader should be forewarned that the following article had originated as only one chapter in a capsule reviews article, only to develop into a monstrosity of a review for a single film, hence the atypical, first person writing style which characterizes the first few lines, something usually reserved for said capsule reviews. Because we were lazy, no alterations were made. Thank you

Zombie aka Zombie 2 (1979, Lucio Fulci)

Reviews for really 'out there' horror movies is, as many of you know, not exactly a Between the Seats staple, but as was when last time around in a capsule reviews article, I have been receiving a steady line of 70s and 80s gory horror flicks from a colleague at work. Consider it an education in a genre I have overlooked for far too long. Some cursory research indicates that the reason Fulci' 1979 film is recognized as Zombie 2 is because upon its release, the studio's mouth watered over the opportunity to cash in on the fact that in Italy, George Romero's Dawn of the Dead was titled Zombie. In truth, other than featuring legions of walking dead, Fulci's film bears no connection to Romero's.

review: Beauty Day

Beauty Day (2011, Jay Cheel)

Before there was Jackass...Before there was YouTube... There was Ralph Zavadil’

So goes the tag line for a recently produced documentary, the subject of which, Ralph Zavadil, was as much controversial in the eyes of some as he was amazing in the eyes of others. Made for a very modest budget, Between the Seats’s interest in the film rested in the fact that its director, Jay Cheel, is not only an up and coming Canadian filmmaker (already hard at work on his second feature, no less), but happens to be one of the many fantastic co-hosts of one of the oldest, most well established film discussion podcasts on the internet, Film Junk. Familiarity with a director but not with the subject matter can be a tricky proposition, for what if the subject is less than thrilling? Thankfully, in the case of Beauty Day, the director could have chosen are more curious figure in Canadian television history, admired by some, while completely misunderstood by others.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Comica Obscura Marathon: Battle of Warriors rebuttal

To make sure one fully appreciates the subtleties of the article below, please visit Bill's Movie Emporium and read his review of Jacob Cheung's Battle of the Warriors.
At this stage, it is safe to say that the Comica Obscura marathon has been our most divisive yet. With the one exception of the Star Wars: A New Hope review from a couple of years ago, none of our marathons have provided for as many diverging opinions on such a consistent basis. I believe this to be a good thing, first and foremost because it produces a level of excitement when the time comes to formulate rebuttal posts (something which, I think you would agree, lacked in our previous marathons for the most part) and secondly, because now the reality is that I really do not know what your views on the next films will be, whereas before one could almost predict that if I enjoyed or not, you would echo those sentiments.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Comica Obscura: Battle of the Warriors

Battle of the Warriors (2006, Jacob Cheung) also known as A Battle of Wits

It is remarkable how many movies have merged out of Hong Kong and mainland Chinese studios which found inspiration in the most tumultuous periods of the country's own history. The 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and the 00s have all featured their fair share of sweeping epics (named 'wu xia' films) which attempted to convey China's at times stunningly violent past. The trend in cinema is as follows: the more modern of the films, the more emphasis is put on the action. There are some exceptions of films which, even though they recognize that China's Warring States Period was, for many reasons, an awful era for its senseless violence, they try to espouse something a little bit different. Writer-director Jacob Cheung's Battle of the Warriors, based on a Japanese manga created by Hideki Mori, is in that sense unique.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Blog update: The Ides of March

Hello readers,

Some of you may be wondering why no new material has been published since Sunday 4 days ago. True enough, reviews typically appear with greater frequency here at Between the Seats then they have in the past couple of weeks. We shall not lie, time has been of the essence on a nearly daily basis over the course of the past 14 days or so. Work has heated up, certain obligations for Sound on Sight have required a bit more time than anticipated and what little free time remained has been spent on, well, non-movie related activities (Yes, we do those too).

Sunday, March 4, 2012

BBS Productions Presents: The Last Picture Show

The Last Picture Show (1971, Peter Bogdanovich)

Saying that film itself is an important part of people's culture seems rather obvious. After all, this is a movie blog, with most of the readers who pass by being movie bloggers themselves. Singing the high praises of cinema is simple enough and also quite fun to do in the case of such a community. In the wider landscape of general society, movies as art is a notion which can go unnoticed, or under-noticed. Theatre, ballet, music, paintings and to a lesser degree architecture all can claim their rightful place among the building block of culture for almost any society with greater ease. Film, however, is frequently relegated, many times rightfully, to the realm of commercialism. If one ponders the issue for a few minutes only, one can understand that even commercial movie endeavours speak to the culture of a society, despite what some cinephiles might prefer to believe. One type of film will sell better than another because of what a given society as a whole enjoys. The day the movies go away, even the crassly commercial ones, is the day society loses a bit of itself.

Comica Obscura: Fritz the Cat rebuttal

For a better appreciation of the article that follows, please read Bill's review of Fritz the Cat from last week. 
After two weeks in which our respective reviews and rebuttals made no qualms about where we each stood with regards to The Rocketeer and Sword of Vengeance, two examples for which our opinions diverged on some important issues, it seems safe to say that with the third film we arrived at very similar conclusions.