Friday, May 14, 2010

The First Year Report...in 3D!


One year ago today, I started this blog. 45 posts later, I realize that I might have something worth continuing and never imagined the incredible support I would get from readers, as well as terrific bloggers like Craig Simpson, Jason Bellamy, Ed Howard amongst others (please visit all of the blogs listed on the right side of this page) who usually comment here. That there are people out there reading my words and the possibility that they provoke thoughts and ideas satisfies me more than anything else about this blog. As I always say, I never expect anyone to agree with me, as much as I want to encourage everyone to bring ideas and arguments to the table. You can read any of the comments on any given post and be amazed at the lack of trolling and juvenile behavior that plague so many movie sites.

I will also admit that I did get an additional morale boost last month when someone we all read decided to use his status to bring attention to smaller film blogs including mine, for which I am eternally grateful. It always encourages me when someone I respect and, in this case, idolize, reads what I write and does not think I am completely off my rocker. I do hope to further evolve this blog to see what else I can get away with. I have some pieces cooking for the future, as well as some interesting projects elsewhere that may be featured here, one of which I am particularly excited about.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Memories of the Turn of the Century in Film, Part IV: 2006/2007


The fourth part of this series about the 00's takes a precarious turn into the discussion of films while focusing on the years 2006 and 2007, which produced many films that were more than worthy of debate. These two years, for me, represented the creative peak of the decade with some of our best filmmakers releasing their greatest works. As I briefly mentioned at the end of the last part, I had decided what the subjects each part of this series would be at the beginning of this year. I have written about the state of the filmmaking community coming out of the 1990's, the deterioration in behavior of movie audiences and, in the previous part, how we have redefined what film is in the digital age. So, of course, one unavoidable topic is how the discussion of films has changed. The 00's was the decade when film criticism moved almost entirely to the internet.

Why do I approach this with some trepidation? First off, it seems like every other day, a new piece about the death of film criticism (let's call this DOFC, for short, from this point on) gets written, as well as the inevitable and sometimes angry rebuttals. A lot of this debate centers around the fact that many film critics are losing their jobs, which makes this subject even more touchy. Another thing is that critics have become increasingly thin-skinned with regards to, um, criticism. To make delving into this subject more of a losing proposition on my part, I am one of those amateur bloggers often described in DOFC articles whenever critics want to dismiss the idea that any asshole can open up a blogspot account and be taken seriously when writing about movies.

Let me start off with a few statements before I, as an asshole with a blogspot account, go down this path, some which I have articulated when I first started this blog a year ago. I have no interest in becoming a paid film critic. I prefer to make a living with what I do now and, to be honest, I cannot imagine even paying my bills writing about movies. I would never even refer to myself as a critic, as the term narrowly defines what I am trying to accomplish with this blog. So, I do not exactly I have any personal stake in this when I discuss this, as I am tackling this more from a reader's point of view. I now ask that you forgive me for what I have to do now.

I want to kill film criticism, as we have defined it for so long.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Tale of Two Bad Lieutenants



I recently watched Werner Herzog's not-quite-remake (more like a riff) of Abel Ferrara's "Bad Lieutenant" and then revisited the earlier film the following night. Originally planning to write about both, I think the more interesting comparisons between the two have to do with how they were approached from the distinctive filmmaking viewpoints of both directors rather than what little plot or story each has to offer. This was something best conveyed visually. Sometimes, words cannot describe these films.

Each film is clearly a product of the directors' sensibilities, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. The tones of both films are also very much dictated by the central performances of Harvey Keitel and Nicolas Cage, who bring completely different energies to their roles.

It has not been a secret that when it was announced Herzog was going to make his "Lieutenant", there were several nasty comments exchanged between the two filmmakers. This video remix, as I call it, tries to show how these filmmakers' visions overlap, as well as fight with one another. It is rare to see two such notable directors tackle the same idea, as opposed to the usual scenario: a hack remaking a superior director's work. Oddly, in this case, I believed the superior director made the lesser, though bizarrely fascinating film.

You should be warned there are SPOILERS for both movies. I also do not shy away from either film's most lurid moments, so consider this piece very-NSFW.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

When Action Movies Were Fun: The Good, The Bad, The Weird


We are a few days from the start of the summer movie season, in which, week after week, Hollywood will release potential blockbusters with budgets that well into nine figures. Even taking into account the number of underwhelming movies that are dumped in theaters during the first four months of the year, summer, with very few exceptions, has turned into a barren wasteland of manufactured entertainment. These are movies made in corporate boardrooms, conjured up through formulas involving demographics, quadrants and other corporate buzz words that, sadly, due to the predictability of movie audiences, has proven to be effective in luring ticketbuyers. Take a look at any of these movies and there is a certain joylessness to the proceedings, where directors bring a television ad aesthetic to the filmmaking and movie stars look like they are thinking about little more than the check clearing in their bank account.

This will not be about me ranting against the idea of Hollywood making action spectacles, but the reality is that sometimes they really do not seem to care about the quality of the product they put out. How much fun and imagination can filmmakers infuse their movies with when every creative decision is trying to second guess moviegoers' reactions as summed up by test scores and spreadsheets? Whatever happened to the days when George Miller can go out in the Australian desert and shoot something as batshit insane as "The Road Warrior"? Or how about comparing the Steven Spielberg who made "Raiders of the Lost Ark" with such enthusiasm for the possibilities of cinema to the Spielberg who directed "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" as if held at gunpoint by George Lucas? Sometimes, you just want to go to the movies and leave with a smile on your face, such as I did when I saw "The Good, the Bad, the Weird".