CLASSICS: Mulholland Dr.

Mulholland Dr.
Directed by: David Lynch
Written by: David Lynch (screenplay)
Starring: Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, Justin Theroux and Ann Miller

David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. seeks to do nothing less than redefine cinematic narrative.  By playing off expectations- those that precede dread and anticipate desire- he creates a hallucinatory dreamscape that, like many dreams, is populated with familiar people, repeated locations and maddening symbolism.

Figuring out what a dream means is a common point of relation among people, though producing that experience on a film and draining it of the personal angle of a friend or family member makes Mulholland Dr. quite a challenging experience to interpret, especially on only one viewing.  We’re being tasked with interpreting the dream of someone we do not know.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Next to Normal: When are we OK with weird movies?

By looking at the title of this post and choosing to read on, you are, at the very least, open to the idea of a weird movie.  This is an important step, I think.  “Weird” is an abstract concept, one that for the purposes of this post means where what you’re seeing collides with your perception of reality.  Think of the final minutes of 2001: A Spacey Odyssey or, more recently, the beginning and the end of The Tree of Life.

What makes us associate the weirdness with those examples more than, say, traditional Hollywood comedy?  Comedy is rooted in expectation.  When a situation defies our expectation of what we think should happen, we laugh.  You don’t expect Brad Pitt to bite the bullet in Burn After Reading so quickly and brutally, so when he does it comes off as comical, but him walking on a beach with other lost souls in Tree of Life is just out there.

Continue reading

ARCHIVE REVIEW: Vanilla Sky

Vanilla Sky
Directed by: Cameron Crowe
Written by: Cameron Crowe (adapted screenplay), Alejandro Amenábar & Mateo Gil (original screenplay),
Starring: Tom Cruise, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, and Kurt Russell

The trouble with success is, you always have to follow it up with something.  In the case of Cameron Crowe, who was adorned the king of both rock music and the film world in 2000 with Almost Famous, follows it up with this surreal, weird, and ultimately unsatisfying trip through the perpetual abyss of love and loss.

Another perk of success, at least in Hollywood, is that it allows you to draw in A-list names to your cause.  In the case of Vanilla Sky, Crowe draws in the great (Penélope Cruz), the good (Tom Cruise) and Cameron Diaz.  This big-name ensemble, which is led by Cruise but scene-stolen by Cruz, follows silver-spoon publisher David Aames as his life spins in and out of reality after a car crash.

Continue reading

Our (Belated) List of Favorite Movie Directors

1. Martin Scorsese- It may seem unimaginable that nearly three years ago director Martin Scorsese had yet to hold an Academy Award in his hands, but it is the disappointing truth. The once would-be Catholic priest entered the film making world with hits like Boxcar Bertha and Mean Streets which put him at the forefront of New Hollywood with his violent, audience-specific films. Though Francis Ford Coppola felt he was unfit to helm The Godfather: Part III, Scorsese quickly overshadowed Coppola to become an icon of his own, creating films filled with themes related to violence, machismo, Italian-American identity, immigration, Catholicism and New York City. Five decades of classics like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas and The Departed, Scorsese set a style of quick editing, rock and roll soundtrack and frequent collaboration with actors and editors who claim Scorsese to be a living encyclopedia of film history. The film that did it for us: Though he’s created modern epics including a personal favorite, Gangs of New York, Scorsese’s talents are most apparent in Taxi Driver, a film with some of the most carefully constructed technical detail and powerful themes of isolation, violence, sex and how they are related and lead to destruction.

2. Stanley Kubrick– One of the unprecedented visual artists in all of cinema, it’s hard to not love movies when Stanley Kubrick makes them.  His gift for telling a compelling story is aided by those infamous distant shots, able to encompass the idiocy in The War Room (Dr. Strangelove) or gravity-defying in the great beyond (2001: A Space Odyssey).  He never told the same story twice, but each film carries with it his distinct visual flair,  helping him to create some of the most fully realized worlds the movies have ever seen.  Kubrick is one of the biggest influences on American cinema not only because of his artistic genius, though.  His ruthless dedication to his vision of the material led to feuds with his actors and the writers of the source material (both on The Shining.)  Perfectionism is costly, but with it he created many things that are, in fact, perfect.  The film that did it for us: There’s never been a more beautifully filmed comedy than Dr. Strangelove, and there are few as horrific.

Continue reading

Five movies to watch alone

To coincide with our “Five movies to watch with a group,” post from the summer, it’s time for the foil.  Here are movies that we think you’ll get a deeper understanding from if you kick out the guests and block out the rest of the world.  While the group movies offer visceral thrills and outlandish humor, these movies use a sometimes understated, subtle way of telling the story that can’t be appreciated with a loud group of people.

There Will Be Blood- We both named Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic the best movie of the 2000s, but we’ve never watched it together.  Something primal about Anderson’s direction and Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance (also topping our best male performances list) leaps off the screen and speaks right to you.  If you’re in a crowded room, you won’t hear it as well.

Continue reading

SPOTLIGHT: Naomi Watts

Few actresses in Hollywood that are this attractive get famous for their talent.  That’s just how the business works, unless you’re Naomi Watts.  Her career was launched by a David Lynch movie early in the 2000’s, and she’s been on an almost perfect hot streak ever since.  Sure, she does venture into the mainstream (King Kong), but it isn’t because she’s looking for a paycheck.  She is an actress who does movies she cares about.  In 2010, after a couple years out of the spotlight, she makes a return in the new Woody Allen movie and takes the starring role in a thriller about the outed spy Valerie Plame.  On her way to becoming one of the endearing performers of modern movies, let’s hope Watts continues to send volts through the system for years to come.

Continue reading

Our (Belated) Best Movies of the 2000s

1. There Will Be Blood– Paul Thomas Andersen’s take on a corrupt, independent oil prospector at the turn of the century who just conned a family out of their oil-wealthy land is an epic exploration of two souls squaring off in a new world torn between spiritual and capitalistic ideals. The performance of Daniel Day Lewis gives Daniel Plainview flesh and blood thicker and blacker than the oil he devotes himself to drilling, carrying the film for nearly three hours and never skipping a scene that won’t enthrall. Those who can’t appreciate experimental filmmaking or principals of classic cinema like Citizen Kane will think this movie bores more than it bleeds. Though it’s a tragic tale, telling the American nightmare oppose to the America dream, it’s technically beautiful, if not perfect. The unconventional and strange cinematography and score are just a few of the elements that set Andersen up as rebellious poet, taking a stand against everything the digital film age embodies, and in doing so he creates something just as classic, magnificent and important as Citizen Kane, but clumping them together is injustice. There Will Be Blood mines deep into new territories and in the process, becomes a masterpiece.


2. The Departed– Martin Scorsese’s visceral return to the crime drama yielded extraordinary results.  Packing an unbeatable cast into a winning script by William Monahan, Scorsese creates a world where corruption starts young and gets more powerful with age.  Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Vera Farmiga, and Mark Wahlberg are all excellent, but as with most of his films, Scorsese is the star of the show. He laces this tale of Shakespearean magnitude with perfect music and pacing.  Two and a half hours rarely go by so fast.  You’ll have whiplash by the time the film reaches its bloody climax, and love every second of it.  With The Departed, Scorsese’s created a classic that stands with his best work. Continue reading