Site Update

I’ve been away from THE MOVIES online for a while now starting a new site, THE MOVIES everyday, where I’ve been reviewing a movie off Netflix every day. That site hit its 20th post today, and I just got a Real Life Day Job, so I can’t promise any sort of regular updates right now.

I wouldn’t even bother posting this here, I’m don’t expect anyone’s wondering where I’ve been, but this site is still getting 50+ pageviews a day (mostly on this Splice post [perverts]).

For now, keep up with me regularly over at THE MOVIES everyday. I’ll be using this blog for bigger and less frequent essay-type posts, hi-res screengrabs, and other spoiler-type stuff.

Thanks.

Last Shot & Music: The Thin Red Line

I watched The Tree of Life for the third time yesterday, and it inspired me to finally post this frame from Terrence Malick‘s The Thin Red Line.

That film’s Academy Award-winning score (by Hans Zimmer) stuck with me for a long, long time. A compilation of Melanesian choir music from The Thin Red Line, including its theme, Jisas Yu Holem Hand Blong Mi at 2:20, below:

In Frame: Swimming Pool

Swimming Pool, Francois Ozon‘s tense drama about (the nature of fiction/being a writer/sexy French sex) is a masterpiece. Throughout my first viewing, I rewound over and over again to grab screens of some of its most impressive shots. Here are a few of my favorites (some NSFW).

In Swimming Pool, Charlotte Rampling plays mystery/crime novelist Sarah Morton, who goes to her publisher’s secluded home in France to work on her next novel. These three screens are from a single shot that pans slowly from the left to the right, then back to the middle as Morton types. Inspired, she looks up and smirks. Cut.

The slow movement from shoulder to shoulder serves to wind up tension in the otherwise static scene. I half expected to see someone or something behind her every time the camera moved.

Ludivine Sagnier plays Morton’s publisher’s daughter, Julie, who shows up unannounced and is the catalyst for the film’s core drama. She and Morton spend much of their time sneaking around behind each other’s backs and are often framed comparatively. One shot often comes long after you’ve forgotten about the first. “That looks familiar,” you’ll think. But what does it all mean?

I’ve illustrated the effect with the two easy examples above, but there are many more throughout the film. Watch it and spot them for yourself!

This frame (and the scene it’s from) encapsulates the two characters’ relationships with and attitudes towards one another shortly after they meet. Morton, dressed in a long sleeve shirt, wearing sunglasses, and working by the pool while Julie lazes around naked, pestering her with questions. These people are opposites, and they do not immediately attract.

I include this frame for two important reasons. Firstly, it is the single most French screen I have ever grabbed. Is that a stereotype, or is it a pretty lady smoking a cigarette in the bath? Probably both.

Secondly, and I have to admit to my selfish motives here, posts with nudity get the most hits. My first post to this blog, on Splice and Sexuality, gets more daily page views than the rest of this humble website combined. Maybe this one will bring more eyes to The Movies online?

Swimming Pool, now streaming on Netflix Instant.

In any case, watch the movie and let me know what you think! I welcome spoilers in the comments.

On Being Quoted

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It happened to me. After years of mocking quotewhore critics for using sensational prose to get their names and their publications names into movie trailers, it happened to me. My TIFF review for Bunraku was quoted on the back of the DVD.

From the box:

Bunraku blends spaghetti westerns, film noir and graphic novels to create a “visual masterpiece… unlike anything ever put to celluloid” (James Battaglia, The Film Stage).

Yes, my friends, I wrote those words. I did. I admit it. Reading them in the context of the box, I wanted to slap myself for it. “Unlike anything ever put to celluloid”? A “visual masterpiece”? Who do I think I am, Peter Travers!?

It bothered me. A lot. Those words are there for as long as the movie is there. People will pick it up and read it and say “Oh James Battaglia liked this, I will too.” Then if they don’t like it they’ll blame me. Maybe some of them will mail me angry letters. Maybe Woody Harrelson read it and said “James Battaglia is an idiot.”

Ugh.

I had to know if I was right to say those things or if waiting in the rain for an hour to see the movie at midnight with hundreds of excitable fans and the director and cast could have swayed my early opinion, so I watched the movie again.

It turns out I knew what I was talking about.

(Please read my review now if you haven’t. I’m not going to go through a plot synopsis in this post, and it might not make much sense if you don’t know anything about the movie.)

See, Bunraku really is “unlike anything ever put to celluloid.” Sure, it borrows themes liberally from dozens of other, (often better) classic movies. The thing is, none of those movies are anything like the entirety of Bunraku. It succeeds in taking bits and pieces from timeless cowboy and samurai stories and putting them together to create something completely new. Other critics are right when they say its characters and plot aren’t well developed. They’ve missed the point, though. Bunraku isn’t about details, it’s about retelling classic tales in a new way  and in that, the film is a wild success.

Visually, it’s also unlike any other movie I’ve seen. Some compare it to Sin City, but that’s not a fair comparison. Sin City used color and graphic novel conventions in interesting ways, and so does Bunraku, but Bunraku is ultimately staged in a big popup paper foldout world. There just isn’t another movie that looks like that. It really is a visual masterpiece unlike anything ever put to celluloid.

It’s also a long movie. Too long, probably. Here’s part of my quote in its original context:

The fact that there are two storylines to first connect and later resolve adds length to the movie that impatient viewers won’t appreciate, but I refuse to complain about a single frame of this visual masterpiece purely on the basis of time.

Yes, they pulled the words “visual masterpiece” from a sentence on how I don’t mind that the movie is too long.

Everything else I have to say about Bunraku is in my original review (on The Film Stage, the best film news site on the net).

And yes, I bought myself the Blu Ray. Because this is cool.

Why I Love Movies: Music

I’m taking a few minutes out of my Skyrim Weekend Marathon Play Session to draw what little attention I can to the excellent music of Terrence Malick‘s The Tree of Life. I watched (and loved) the movie for the second time yesterday, and one arrangement in particular, Zbigniew Preisner‘s Lacrimosa, has been stuck in my head all day. The Tree of Life blu ray begins with a warning that the film is best played at full volume. Put your headphones on, crank the levels to 11, and play the track below.

In the context of the film, the requiem’s history and lyrics are also really cool. I wiki’d that for you.

Netflix Pics: ‘Winnebago Man’ is one of the best docs you’ve never heard of

If you don’t know about the Winnebago Man, stop what you’re doing, read no further, and watch the video clip below.

That, my friends, is Jack Rebney a.k.a. Winnebago Man a.k.a. The Angriest Man in the World. About 20 years ago, he starred in a Winnebago sales video, entertaining the crew so much between takes that they kept the cameras rolling and distributed VHS copies of the outtakes to their friends after the shoot. Those friends made copies and showed their friends, who made copies and showed their friends, who did the same and who’s friends did the same. In a time before YouTube, Winnebago Man became one of humanity’s earliest viral videos.

Where is the Winnebago Man now? How did his viral fame affect him? Is he really the angriest man in the world? Roughly two decades after the now infamous video went viral, documentary filmmaker Ben Steinbauer attempts to track down and interview Rebney to answer these questions and more in Winnebago Man.

But there’s a catch: Nobody’s been able to find Rebney since the video emerged years ago. A private detective finds only a string of old P.O. boxes, and a web search nets just one old classifieds listing – for a boat. Where is the Winnebago Man, what is he up to, why is he so secretive, and is he even alive?

No spoilers here, folks. All I’ll say is that Winnebago Man made me laugh – a lot – and managed to humanize viral video victims along the way. Check it out on Netflix next time you’re in a docu-comedy sorta mood.

Watch ‘Red State’ Right Now


I’m having trouble figuring out how to start this review of what I think is a perfect movie. A bold opening sentence, I know, but any accurate synopsis would spoil so much of what makes Red State great that my writing one would do all five of you reading this blog a disservice.

“But what’s so perfect about it, yo?” you wonder. “If you were a good writer, you could make your point without spending so much time focusing on how difficult you’re finding it to make your point.”

Shut up.

Red State is perfect for the same reason any Perfect Movie is perfect: It starts strong, gets better, then ends. A simple formula, really, but few films even aim for that let alone pull it off. So many movies these days rely on huge set pieces, mind-blowing action sequences, and high-concept drama that they blow their loads early. Everything after the Great Part lags. You yawn. Check your phone. Tweet about the cool bits.

Red State starts with a strong small-town horror set up, then takes one unpredictable turn after another, each better than the last, and ends sharp. The characters are (sometimes frighteningly) believable and the acting couldn’t have been any better (especially from Michael Parks [as Fred Phelps meets David Koresh] and John Goodman). Throw a little cultural commentary into the mix and you’ve got yourself a Perfect Movie.

 

Watch it on Netflix, guys. Seriously.

 

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