Pop songs indellibly linked to film

Posted August 20, 2011 by Jeff
Categories: Uncategorized

Since the 1960s popular cinema has been regularly combined with pop music. Often times I’ll hear a song completely differently after seeing/hearing it used in a particularly effective scene in a movie. Here are a few songs I hear often coupled with the scenes that changed them for me forever.

Hard not to start with Scorsese when talking about pop songs that have been forever removed from any previous context due to their expert use in a movie. Here are some of my favorite examples, starting with the aftermath of Robert de Niro’s Jimmy cleaning up the loose ends after the Lufthansa heist in Goodfellas set to Derek and the Dominos “Layla”.

And how can you not follow it up with some Tarrantino – of course it’s so hard to choose but here are the two that sprang to mind: David Bowie’s “Cat People” in Inglorious Basterds and Stealer’s Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle with you” in that greusome scene in Reservoir Dogs.

And the wunderkind Xavier Dolan in one of my favorite films of this year: The Knife’s “Pass this On” in Heartbeats

“Modern Love” by David Bowie in Leos Carax’s Mauvais Sang is exhilarating.

The Coen Brothers have also been good at owning some classic songs, few moreso than “Danny Boy” set to a botched mob hit in Miller’s Crossing.

Among the many amazing uses of period music during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the early 80s was Public Image Limited’s “This is Not a Love Song” in Ari Folman’s animated documentary Waltz with Bashir.

Seemingly harmless songs can be made nightmarishly unsettling as seen in this iconic sequence set to Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams” in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet

…and, of course, Q Lazzarus’ “Goodbye Horses” in The Silence of the Lambs.

ODing to the strains of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” in Trainspotting (sorry for the dubbing – a good link to this was hard to find).

http://www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/x39sjg
Lou reed – perfect day – trainspotting by Hypnotic-Poison

David Fincher made Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man” incredibly forboding in Zodiac

And I’ll end up with one of my childhood faves: Santo and Johnny’s “Sleepwalking” in the Ritchie Valens biopic La Bamba (again sorry for the dubbing).

What pop songs can’t you hear without thinking about the movie they’re from? Please gimme your list in the comments.

Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench now on Netflix Streaming

Posted May 3, 2011 by Jeff
Categories: Uncategorized

The most unique and exciting film I saw last year is now streaming on Netflix. See it and swoon.

Apparently the DVD is also coming out this week. I shall has it!

Using the Netflix model to save the movie theater?

Posted April 13, 2011 by Jeff
Categories: Uncategorized

Chris Dorr at Tribeca Film Festival online suggests a new buisness model for movie theaters: the subscription.

You go to a website or download an application to your device that gets you a list of every movie theater in the United States. From this list you get to pick two movie theaters.

For example, I would pick the AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 and the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, both on Broadway in Manhattan. One shows mainstream Hollywood fare and the other shows foreign and independent movies. Both are my local theaters.

The key point is this: each customer gets to create her own access point at any theater across the entire United States. Think of it as choosing your own screen much like Netflix allows you to do.

Then I put in my credit card and agree to pay $10 per month ($120 per year) and receive a movie pass to these two theaters. This movie pass allows me to go to any movie at any time at each of these theaters.

Interesting thought but will this really increase theater revenues? Certainly I would love to take advantage of this but that’s because I see at least two if not more movies each month already. Would this encourage more theater-going and save the movie theater industry or would it just be another discount for movie addicts?

Films for the 2011 IFFB announced

Posted March 22, 2011 by Jeff
Categories: Uncategorized

The Independent Film Festival Boston has announced it’s film lineup for the 2011 festival. The festival is happening April 27-May 4 and you should go! I will, once again, be volunteering so I don’t have to shell out any $.

The movies that especially caught my eye upon first viewing are in bold (mostly for the directors as I’ve sadly been lax in following festival buzz this year.)

Opening Night Film

BEING ELMO directed by Constance Marks

Closing Night Film

CONAN O’BRIEN CAN’T STOP directed by Rodman Flender

Narrative Features

13 ASSASINS directed by Takashi Miike

BELLFLOWER directed by Evan Glodell

BENEATH CONTEMPT directed by Benjamin Brewer

THE CATECHISM CATACLYSM directed by Todd Rohal

CIRCUMSTANCE directed by Maryam Keshavarz

FANNY, ANNIE & DANNY directed by Chris Brown

THE FUTURE directed by Miranda July

GREEN directed by Sophia Takal

LITTLE ROCK directed by Mike Ott

THE MULBERRY TREE directed by Mark Heller

ON THE ICE directed by Andrew Okpeaha MacLean

SAHKANAGA directed by John Henry Summerour

THE SALESMAN directed by Sebastien Pilote

SEPTIEN directed by Michael Tully

STAKELAND directed by Jim Mickle

SUBMARINE directed by Richard Ayoade

TERRI directed by Azazel Jacobs

THE TRIP directed by Michael Winterbottom

THE TROLL HUNTER directed by Andre Ovredal

THE WHISTLE BLOWER directed by Larysa Kondracki

Documentary Features

BETTER THIS WORLD directed by Kelly Duane & Katie Galloway

BOBBY FISCHER AGAINST THE WORLD directed by Liz Garbus

BUCK directed by Cindy Meehl

BURMA SOLDIER directed by Nic Dunlop, Ricki Stern, & Annie Sundberg

THE CHINESE ARE COMING TO TOWN directed by Ronja Yu

THE CITY DARK directed by Ian Cheney

COLOR ME OBSESSED directed by Gorman Berchard

CONVENTO directed by Jarred Alterman

CRIME AFTER CRIME directed by Yoav Potash

CULTURES OF RESISTANCE directed by Iara Lee

DRAGONSLAYER directed by Tristan Patterson

EL BULLI: COOKING IN PROGRESS directed by Gereon Wetzel

GOD WILLING directed by Evangeline Griego

GRANITO: HOW TO NAIL A DICTATOR directed by Pamela Yates

HEAVEN + EARTH + JOE DAVIS directed by Peter Sasowsky

HOT COFFEE directed by Susan Saladoff

HOW TO DIE IN OREGON directed by Peter Richardson

IF A TREE FALLS: A STORY OF THE EARTH LIBERATION FRONT directed by Marshall Curry

IVAN & IVANA directed by Jeff Silva

LAST DAYS HERE directed by Don Argott & Demian Fenton

MAKE BELIEVE directed by J. Clay Tweel

PAGE ONE: A YEAR INSIDE THE NEW YORK TIMES directed by Andrew Rossi

PROJECT NIM directed by James Marsh (AKA the guy behind Man on Wire)

PUPPET directed by David Soll

PUSH: MADISON VS. MADISON directed by Rudy Hypolite

RAISING RENEE directed by Steven Ascher & Jeanne Jordan

SONS OF PERDITION directed by Jennilyn Merten & Tyler Measom

SUPERHEROES directed by Michael Barnett

WE STILL LIVE HERE directed by Anne Makepeace

WHO TOOK THE BOMP?: LE TIGRE ON TOUR directed by Kerthy Fix

WINDFALL directed by Laura Israel

Short Films
8 directed by Daniel Laabs & Julie Gould

AFTER YOU LEFT directed by Jef Taylor

ALL DAY YEAH directed by Charlie Anderson

BABY directed by Daniel Mulloy

BOB AND THE TREES directed by Diego Ongaro

THE BOWLER directed by Sean Dunne

BOY directed by Topaz Adizes

CHAINSAW FOUND JESUS directed by Spencer Parsons

THE CONTRACT directed by Lina Mannheimer

DEEPER THAN YESTERDAY directed by Ariel Kleiman

THE DENTIST directed by Alex Mallis

FLYING ANNE directed by Catherine Van Campen

FRACTURE directed by Nicolas Sarkissian

ICE HOCKEY directed by Larry Cohen

ICH BIN’S HELMUT directed by Nicolas Steiner

IRMA directed by Charles Fairbanks

JUPITER ELICIUS directed by Kelly Sears

LITTLE HORSES directed by Levi Abrino

MR. HAPPY MAN directed by Matt Morris

NEGATIVIPEG directed by Matthew Rankin

PIONEER directed by David Lowery

POSTER GIRL directed by Sara Nesson

PROTOPARTICLES directed by Chema Garcia Ibarra

THE STRANGE ONES directed by Christopher Radcliff & Lauren Wolkstein

TATOOINE directed by Eric Power

WE’RE LEAVING directed by Zachary Treitz

YOUNG BIRD SEASON directed by Nellie Kluz

Heartbeats

Posted March 14, 2011 by Jeff
Categories: Uncategorized

Heartbeats (the French name is Les Amours Imaginares – why they didn’t just translate the title I have no idea) is Xavier Dolan’s second feature film. The French Canadian Dolan is just 21 years old and as a filmmaker he’s decadess ahead of the game.

Heartbeats is the story of a post-adolescent love triangle (a la Jules et Jim). Two friends, James Dean handsome Francis (played by Dolan himself) and the vampy vintage-chic Marie both lock eyes on and pursue Nicholas, the stunning boy who looks like Michaelangelo’s David. The friends become bitter rivals, each competing desperately for the beautiful boy’s affections. In between these narrative elements are faux-interviews with ancillary characters about their experiences in love.

Frankly, the preceeding paragraph is almost meaningless because the narrative and the faux-documentary vingettes are the weakest part of the film. Writer/Director Dolan is a very immature storyteller. The chararcters are fairly flat and the situations he puts them in invite viewers to laugh at their struggles and naievete rather than sympathize. The characters are all beautiful to look at but they never become more than wonderful mannequins upon which to display hip designer and vintage clothes and always perfectly styled $100 haircuts.

One hopes that Dolan’s talent for narrative develops more because he has a singular cinematic eye and already has an experts instict for composing and editing indellible “cinematic moments.” Dolan is the sweetest fruit borne from the tree of Quentin Tarrantino (and I don’t say that only because of his use of a French pop/ye-ye cover of Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang” – a tune used quite well in the Kill Bill movies). Dolan, like Tarrantino, achieves his most transcendent moments by incorporating music (French pop, The Knife and Fevery Ray) and stylized imagery. What Tarrantino has done for things like absurd brutality (the ear slicing scene in Reservoir dogs) Dolan does for the hopeful seductiveness of primping before a date (evoking yet somehow also outdoing the “Cat People” sequence in Inglorious Basterds)or the libidinal excitement of being young and walking into a dance party anxiously hoping to bed your new crush. The extensive use of super slo-mo (usually a pet peeve of mine) can be forgiven – the awe caused by the combination of music, lighting, costuming and production design of these music video-influenced sequences are anything but cliche.

Dolan is an outrageously promising talent. I’m excited to eventually be able to see his first feature (2009’s I Killed my Mother). I just hope he’s able tol grow up. Heartbeats is too heavy in stealing from it’s influences (the previously mentioned Tarrantino and Truffaut but also early Godard and Gus Van Sant and Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love) and too light on substance. I hope he learns how to create characters that the audience can do more than lust after and laugh at. But he is, after all, a very young man and, really, who can blame a 21 year old for being shallow and obsessed with beauty? He has the all the potential to mature like other celluloid wunderkinds Scorsese, Welles or PT Anderson and if he does I’ll be there in the cinema loving it at every step.

Incidentally I’m guessing we can look forward to seeing Dolan’s face pop up in Hollywood and Indie-wood very soon – he’s quite a fetching young man with a great head of hair and has some quality acting chops.

Heartbeats is playing through the end of this week at the Kendall Square Cinema here in Cambridge and is in limited release elsewhere

Kaboom

Posted March 7, 2011 by Jeff
Categories: Uncategorized

In the 90’s Gregg Araki made super-saturated psychedelic teenage movies that not only mixed genres (comedy/thriller/horror/road move/sci-fi/camp) but also csually mixed sexual identities in a way never before seen in the history of cinema (though at the time his inclusion of joyous depictions of frank gay teen sex put him squarely in the “New Queer Cinema” category). Nowhere, The Living End, The Doom Generation and Totally F***ed Up were some of the most thrilling and vital cinema of the era. Moreover Araki proved himself a huge fan of alternative music saturating each of his scenes with awesome background tunes courtesy of his favorite bands (The Jesus and Mary Chain, Nine Inch Nails, Ride, Cocteau Twins, Thrill Kill Kult, etc). Araki proved himself a promising young auteur whose fuck-you attitude and disregard for the rules of cinematic form (to say nothing of the rules of defined sexuality) showed great promise. That promise was fulfilled with 2005’s Mysterious Skin, a more sober yet still vital examination of the fallout of childhood sexual abuse and, more poignantly, the complicated emotions (including some controversially positive) that can come with such a violation. (Incidentially the less said about his later threesome comedy Splendor the better.)

In 2007 Araki cleaned his pallete a bit while trying on some new cinematic clothing. Smiley Face is a lightly absurd stoner comedy in the vein of Danny Leiner’s Harold and Kumar series and Dude Where’s My Car featuring a wonderfully deadpan Anna Faris in the lead role (a departure for Araki who has always casted his leads as his own personal pretty-boy surrogates). Smiley Face had a lighter and more playful tone – a welcome change from the sometimes opressive gravity of Mysterious Skin.

This year Araki returns with Kaboom – a full fledged return to his cinematic roots: heavy doses of primary colors, apocalyptic religious cults, witchrcraft and pretty young things ditching their clothes at every turn. When I saw the trailer I was pumped! But after viewing the unfortunate truth is that Araki seems to have lost something in the 15 years since the close of his “Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy” and the making of Kaboom. Young Araki had all the energy (sexual and otherwise) of a young turk film student. His first movies had a chaotic, amateurish and haphazard quality that gave them a vitality and disregard for cinematic rules that made it easy to ignore the clunky plots and just ride the wave. Araki has become a much more technically accomplished filmmaker since then. Unfortunately this maturity is a detriment to Kaboom. Where once his dialogue and laughibly unrealistic maguffin plot devices were just part of the fun. In Kaboom they stick out like sore thumbs. The first 1/3 of the film is delightful – we are introduced to the fresh-faced, pretty young art school hipsters as they fall asleep in class, make out and sleep with eachother, do drugs and pretty much live out the adolescent sex fantasies untainted by cares of STDs, pregnancy, sexual preference or fidelity in the way that only Araki can. Unfortunately the film gets too lost in it’s plot as the film goes on. Like his earlier films Kaboom includes a doomsday conspiracy with gaping logic holes. Unlike in his past films where Araki kept these plots in the background all the way through the closing credits, the final 1/2 of the film foregrounds the maguffin. Characters begin spouting off absurd expository dialogue when all I really want them to do is go back to fucking, fretting over their crushes and being crazy kids. The film needs more of the dimwit surfer dude Thor trying to suck his own cock and wrestling in his underwear with his supposedly ultra-straight buff dude friends and let the larger, weaker plot continue to be a string of random events that happen in the background while the rest of the characters run around, do drugs and screw.

I saw this movie with my friends Rosie and Jean who liked it a lot more than I did. Rosie had never seen an Araki movie and in some ways I wonder if I had been in her shoes if I would have loved it too. But Kaboom just comes off as an anemic retread of Araki’s older, more vibrant films.

On the upside, it’s awesome to see that Araki and I continue to have the same musical taste. Almost every new band that I’ve fallen in love with over the last five years is included in the soundtrack (the XX, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, A Place to Bury Strangers). I really want Araki to have a music podcast so I don’t have to try to find these bands on my own – I know that Araki will always has my back in that category!

Side note: big thumbs up to the actress Juno Temple as a care-free orgasm addict blonde. She seems to be in almost every excellent independent movie I see these days (Greenberg, Cracks, Year One, Atonement) and she just drips with sex appeal. Excellent casting choice. Oddly enough apparently Araki auditioned the wonderful Rooney Mara (aka Zuckerberg’s ex in The Social Network and future star of the Millenium Trilogy films that David Fincher is working on.)

Oscar noms out – how did I do in my predictions?

Posted January 25, 2011 by Jeff
Categories: Uncategorized

Oscar noms were announced this morning. There were pretty much zero surprises (the biggest may be the absence of Leslie Manville from Supporting Actress). How did I do with my predictions?

Best picture: 9/10 (predicted The Town but they went with The Kids are All Right)

Director: 3/5

Actor: 4/5 (Gosling gets snubbed for Bardem)

Actress: 3/5 (Sort of surprised about Kidman – that movie hasn’t really gotten a whole lot of buzz)

Supporting Actor: 3/5 (oops, only put 4 in my prediction. Doess the lack of Andrew Garfield portend badly for The Social Network?)

Supporting Actress: 2/5 (batting .400 is only good in baseball…)

Documentary: 3/5

Cinematography: 4/5 (though if I had gone with my sleeper instead of Winter’s Bone’s McDonagh I’d be perfect! Go Roger Deakins – they gotta give it to him at some point!)

I got 31 of 45 correct – not too shabby.

Just a quick note about costume design: good on the Academy for nominating at least one (essentially) contemporary film with I Am Love.


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