Category Archives: Movies
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:
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?
In any case, watch the movie and let me know what you think! I welcome spoilers in the comments.
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.”
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.
And yes, I bought myself the Blu Ray. Because this is cool.
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.
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.”
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.
Every one of the first six Netflix user reviews for Michael Grecco‘s Naked Ambition: An R-Rated Look at an X-Rated Industry give it a 1-star rating. “It is NOT a true doccumentary,” one reviewer whines. Another says it “makes porn boring”. The comment rated most helpful by the Netflix community reads, “This documentary sux!!!!!!!”
Those people are all wrong, and because they’re unanimously and vocally so, I feel obligated to correct them.
First order of business: Naked Ambition is not a documentary about porn. It’s a documentary about Grecco’s attempt to shoot a coffee table photography book in only three days. His subject just happens to be the Adult Video News awards show in Las Vegas. People expecting a straight documentary about porn will be disappointed (though there’s plenty of sex-free nudity), and that’s their own fault. The film’s synopsis clearly states that the doc is about Grecco working to compile photos for his book, which brings me to my next point.
Second order of business: Naked Ambition is not an advertisement for Grecco’s book (also named Naked Ambition: blah blah blah). Many reviewers complain that it’s self-indulgent and that Grecco is creepy. None of this is true. It’s about Grecco shooting for his book. Of course he’s going to talk about it. The man worked 20 hours a day for 3 days and you don’t want to hear about the finished product!? Would you complain that The Beatles Let It Be film is an advertisement for the album?
Third order of business: Naked Ambition is not entirely without plot or insight. Plotwise, it follows one thread about Grecco making his book and another about two up-and-coming young actresses vying for the coveted Best New Starlet award. Along the way it provides a glimpse of some porn stars’ real personalities, and they aren’t exceptionally strange or emotionally damaged at all. Throw in some behind-the-scenes peeks at the awards show and the convention preceding it and, as an added bonus, brief interviews with some of the most interesting sex toy creators you’ll ever see, and this doc has way more substance than prude reviewers would have you believe.
You see, it starts as a straight documentary about a photographer shooting for a coffee table book. Interviews along the way introduce stars, inventors, and awards. Slowly, you start caring more about the people and less about the book and the porn. Will Sunny Lane, a former figure skater and current Next Big Thing, win an award? Will Grecco land a photo-op with smut legend and First Amendment crusader Larry Flynt? I’m not telling.
Naked Ambition is an excellent documentary, folks. If you’re interested in photography, porn, awards shows, or convention expos, (and who doesn’t love convention expos?), you’ll dig this flick.
I’m right. As usual.