Wednesday, December 28, 2016

10 Best Films of 2016

10. Blackway (Daniel Alfredson)

09. The Fits (Anna Rose Holmer)

08. The People Garden (Nadia Litz)

07. Ma Ma (Julio Medem)

06. Sully (Clint Eastwood)

05. City of Gold (Laura Gabbert)

04. Lost in Paris (Fiona Gordon)

03. Author JT Leroy Story (Jeff Feurzeig)

02. Your Name (Makoto Shinkai)

01. Rules Don't Apply (Warren Beatty)

Sunday, December 18, 2016

10 Worst Films of the Year 2016

10. The Bodyguard (Sammo Hung)

I love Sammo. If  could make any film I wanted, there would be a spot for Sammo in that film as he is a dynamo. Such a dynamo, that he did himself no favors playing this sad sack character suffering from dementia. The fight scenes are okay, but the character work and strange narrative style really make this a difficult watch.

09. 31 (Rob Zombie)

Zombie previously made Lords of Salem which was great. It felt artistic and free form, funny, sad and even a bit scary. He followed it up with this, which is loose in all the wrong ways, overlong, rambling and lazy and gross instead of scary.

08. Miss Peregrine's home for peculiar children (Tim Burton)

I don't care if a director is faithful to a book. Some movies are better than books. I do care that this director who has become a sort of Hot Topics director has made a film that is uninteresting on a style level with no one to relate to or root for.  

07. The Boy (William Brent Bell)

It starts off well, but the character motivations become silly. Why can't she just take care of the doll. She is getting paid, and the ending is so laughable, it ruins any credibility for what proceeded it.

06. Lights Out (David Sandberg)

This horror film has a few interesting characters, but as with most of these types of films, poor character motivation, plus it really feels like it presents suicide as a viable solution for mental illness.

05. Blair Witch (Adam Wingard)
It's the same as the first and not a bit scary. How long would they have to stare at that wall?

04. The Darkness (Greg McLean)

It's terribly dull and has troubling views of children with autism.

03. The Greasy Strangler (Jim Hosking)

This is what would happen if John Waters lost his talent for casting, his humor and his good sense. This is a miserable slog that treats its leading lady terribly and with a hint of racism.

02. Bad Moms (Jon Lucas)

It is crass and completely unfunny with "relatable observations" that were creaky when Erma Bombeck was popular.

01. Meet the Blacks (Deon Taylor)
This movie wasn't just unfunny. It was incoherent.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Mr. Beatty Has Made His Masterpiece (spoiler review)

This film is not a traditional bio pic. Beatty is too old to play Howard Hughes as Hughes was in 1958. The characters refer to Mr. Hughes as "very old." Beatty is playing a sort of alternative Hughes and liberties are taken. The events depicted in the story cover about six years. In life, these events happened during about a two decade period. This is not The Aviator that used a biography as its basis and stuck to it. This is something much better, a light film with serious concerns that fits the persona of Mr. Beatty very well indeed.

The film opens in the early 1960s as author Richard Miskind has written a book claiming that Mr. Howard Hughes has lost his mind and is at a press conference for the book. Hughes is expected to call in and debunk the claims of this book to avoid losing defense contracts and potentially have his business fall into the hands of conservators.  This is a nod to Clifford Irving who did write such as book. And the name Miskind is a take off of Peter Bliskind who wrote a somewhat unflattering book on Mr. Beatty. Mr. Miskind (played with a bit of menace by Paul Schneider) is seen earlier in the film hitting on one of the actresses  that Mr. Hughes has under contract. It was a smart move to make this character the Irving stand in and not add any unnecessary extra character. We already don't like this guy and want prove him to be wrong. It is sad that the bookends of the film hinge on if t Mr. Hughes is together enough to make a phone call. In a scene from the late 50's Hughes has to say the right thing during a congressional committee. Much of the film takes place in the late 1950's, a much less cynical time when we saw the good in these types of mavericks without looking for the warts.And, in the course of the film, Mr. Hughes will become a victim to all his warts, neurosis and fears.

There are touching scenes of Mr. Hughes trying to keep himself together. He is suffering from codeine addiction after plane crashes, as well as mental disorders. My favorite scenes: there is a scene toward the end where Mr. Hughes plays with a lamp, turning it on and off, looking into it. Much of the time he has been surrounded in darkness.  And the light and his smiling reaction is as if to say, what was all the hiding in the dark about. It is also one of the least vain scenes from a major actor, and one who is often accused of being vain. Another scene, Hughes flies in Raymond Holiday (a friend of his father's played by the great Dabney Coleman) to seek his advice on business matters. Hughes has just lost a major lawsuit and may have to sell his father's company. He is nervous and rambling and suggests that he and Raymond should go flying sometime, and Raymond, gently but firmly, tells him "I'm not sure you should really think about flying any more Howard. It is a devastating scene. A number of Warren Beatty films involve a man at odd. There is a disconnect between what he is and what he wants to be seen as. Bugsy saw himself as a family man and business maverick but became smaller in the name of lust. Bulworth started as a liberal dem and let special interests make him far more conservative. John McCabe thought he was a genius entrepreneur but had no business sense and was not the smartest person in the room. Sometimes Hughes is the smartest person in the room and is much admired ("I think Howard Hughes should be president" one character coos). Like McCabe, he is a comic figure as well as a tragic one. And this film has more than its share of comedy.


I don't mean to be negative, but are me living in Nicaragua now?

This is a question posed by Howard Hughes' drivers Levar Mathis (played by Matthew Broderick) and Frank Forbes (played by Alden Ehenreich) and eventual co-keepers after they are rushed to Nicaragua on a whim, and to avoid possible business catastrophe, by Mr. Hughes. The question gets a big laugh. After the intro, the story starts proper when Forbes picks up Marla Mabrey from the Hollywood airport. She has just won a talent competition in West Virginia, and is given a contract by Howard Hughes. 400 dollars a month plus a home. Mabrey is a songwriter and devout baptist. She travels to Hollywood with her mother (played by Mr. Beatty's lovely wife) who questions Mr. Hughes' motives. Hughes has a stable of 26 actresses that he keeps on his payroll. They are all there for a screen test for something (likely made up) called Stella Starlight. Many of the folks who have been there for a while still have not met Hughes.And there is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about what being under contract means exactly.This is a great comedy of misunderstanding. The first meet up between Hughes and Mabrey sees Marla prattle on about how grateful she is as  Hughes eats a TV dinner,completely ignoring her, then (hilariously) picks up a saxophone and starts playing (as a signal that he is about to get lucky). Marla, tougher than she seems, indicates to Mr. Hughes that if his reputation with woman was true, he would not have time to work on aviation (Mr. Beatty has made similar claims about himself and the 12,000 women he is alleged to have slept with; I would not have had the time). When Hughes meets Frank Forbes for the first time, Forbes tries to talk Hughes into real estate as Hughes goes on about venereal disease. Hughes repeats himself because he is losing it (I will leave this country and never come back. I...will leave this country and never come back), but these instances are seen as adding emphasis because we make allowances for the rich.  These confusions end up showing how much interest and slack people are willing to give a billionaire while they reside in his orbit. Another point of comedy misunderstanding, Hughes is unaware that his doubles look nothing like him

 Mr. Beatty has said that the film is about sexual mores of the 50s. That plays into it a bit and informs Frank and Marla's behavior as they meet and fall for each other and have complications from back home and in Hollywood. The biggest complication though is Hughes and his frenzied mind.  This is a frenzied film. The editing is quite unique, many scenes are often quick, bringing in just the necessary information to move to the next part. It is a marvel. Another marvel is how much I related to the film as a man who cannot have children.
Hughes describes himself as still more of a son than a father, which I found a touching way to characterize it. And I still miss my father (who died Christmas day last year) the way Hughes misses his How come you never talk about your daddy Frank? I could always tell my mother I loved her..but my father, I miss him. Hughes is obsessed with leaving a legacy and believes that this new thing called DNA allows your father to still be alive in you. As Raymond Holiday asks him Who's DNA are you going to be in Howard?
In an early scene, Hughes sees a small child and runs out of the room in horror. At first, Hughes' legacy seems to be his planes and his films.

Marla writes a song for Frank based on a kind comment he had made to her.

One day I told my friend I was terribly blue.
Was it far too late to do what I dreamed I could do?
He thought for a moment, then he answered.
He said, “The rules don’t apply to you.”
He said it very simply, and quietly too.
But as if there wasn’t any doubt at all that he knew.
He gave me a gift that I would treasure.
He said, “The rules don’t apply to you.”
In the movies we see, in the shows on TV,
And in anthems passionately sung,
There’s a message that you’ve got to keep believing in yourself,
But they generally mean, if you’re young.
It it written in the air, as it seems to be,
That we haven’t long at all to find our destiny?
I’ll always remember to be grateful
That the rules don’t apply to me.
I wouldn’t like.
The rules don’t apply.
The rules don’t apply to you.
When Marla drunkenly sings the same song to Mr. Hughes a few scenes later (Collins is the perfect drunk in this scene), Hughes looks deeply moved, but we don't know if he is moved because his film Hell's Angels is playing in the background or because the song speaks to him as the aging nutty maverick that he has become.
 After Marla sings Rules to Hughes, Marla throws herself at him, after Hughes gives her a ring and says they are basically married, and ends up pregnant. When she confesses this to him, he assumes she slept around. Much later in the film, after Hughes and Marla have lost touch, some kids run around his bungalow, and he seems happy to see them. He has moved his interest in legacy onto children.
It will take Marla bringing her son to Mr. Hughes at the end of the film to enliven Mr. Hughes into going on record the Miskind book is a hoax. Mr. Beatty took 15 years off to raise his children whom he obviously loves very dearly. The hero in the film is ultimately the child. If Love Affair was a love letter to his lovely wife and Bulworth was getting all his political ideals down and Town and Country was a comment on past behavior, Rules is a love letter to his children who are the most important thing in life.

With that in mind, I will speak a bit about the young people of this film, Frank and Marla.
Frank has a Murphy bed as Beatty did when he came to Hollywood. Marla comes from a deeply religious family in Virginia as Beatty did and was under contract as Beatty was. Warren's sister Shirley had met Hughes right away when she came to Hollywood.
The cast and crew are by and large friends of Mr. Beatty that he has used a number of times before. Mrs. Bening (Bugsy, Love Affair) is Marla's tough mother, Paul Sorvino (Bulworth) is a reporter. Oliver Platt (Bulworth) is a bothered executive in a hilarious sequence. All the actors are great; the cinematography is excellent as well. Beatty did not become Hughes but made Hughes Beatty, shrouded in mystery, sexy, smart, mysterious,  Hollywood obsessed long after the real Hughes was,  and yes...old. It is an achievement that obviously only he could have done and it blows any other portrayal out of the water because it has nearly 60 years of an acting persuasive acting persona behind it and fits among Beatty's and the (in general) very best roles.

These little details taken from life are as carefully planned as any of the glaces and banter that Frank and Marla share. We see two people falling in love on screen. There is a shot at the end of the film where Frank thinks Marla and her son have left. The camera falls back then moves forward in such a way that the audience knows Marla is still there, and Frank is just about to find her. It is a crowd pleasing scene that really could have used a crowd.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Boo a Madea Halloween: Like Ernest Scared Stupid with a lot of bad Language

Madea Halloween is the funniest Tyler Perry movie yet. It also contains elements that are different from his usual obsessions. No married woman is abused by her husband or has a sad sleazy past.
No one is particularly slut shamed, no man is an oaf. All that happens is teens want to go to a college party and one of the dads, Brian (Tyler Perry) needs to stand up to his daughter (one of the teens who is forbidden to go but goes anyway). There is a good moral here; a firm hand is necessary but does not have to include a switch (despite what Madea, Joe, Bam and Hattie might say).

The film should very much appeal to teens. I was in a theater with a few teens who laughed all the way through it. It could be a family film if not for Joe's language in most of his scenes.

He is not about calling his son a bitch and dropping the n work for surprising comic effect. Every scene Joe in is funny, particularly his confrontation with a clown.

Other comic highlight include Hattie's twerk, the hilarious church scene and a topless scene. I was really cheered up by this film. Weakness, most of the acting by anyone outside of Madea's circle is terrible, particularly the college boys. I will single out Liza Koshey as Aday though for giving a great sincere performance as the pastor's daughter. If I could make movies, I would cast her in a minute. Also, the film is too long by about twenty minutes and the ending really does not work. These are small quibbles as I have much praise for this enterprise.

Madea always has some one stay with her to learn a life lesson. It is often not by choice. A wife is abused and has nowhere to go. A woman is in jail with Madea. A couple is in the witness protection program at Madea's house...some of it is rather contrived. Madea, as she did with this film, should stick with teens, as teens are stuck at home and more or less have to listen without contrivance. And the issues will not be as overly dramatic as they often are in the adult world.  That being said...

The other idea I would try if I was Perry since Joe's profaneness was so funny in this film. Let's put him and Madea in a rest home, dealing with all the sex that is supposedly going on in those places and maybe solving some issue as old folks in rest homes, like teens have nowhere to go either.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

A Crisis in Six Scenes: Better Than the Last Couple of Movies A Few Thoughts.

It is nice to hear something other than jazz  or classical over Woody Allen opening titles.
I never thought that would happen.

And it is nice to see Woody Allen starring in a new project.
I never thought that would happen again.

He is in fine form here as an author with children and grandchildren and a wife just a bit older than he is yet still a smart and strong working woman., a marriage counselor

Woody Allen's persona at 80 is just as honest as his earlier characters. I was shocked that he admitted to needing hearing aids.

Allen has one very poor scene in this, the scene at the diner with Bobby Slayton.

He has about fifteen great ones though so don't be put off with that diner scene that comes before the half-way point.

Allen's comic highlights are the scene with the barber Dominic, who insults him brutally but with some affection. He has good moments with Miley who also insults him but with less affection.

It is nice to see brutal insults dealt at Allen and how he deals with them, much like Dangerfield, he changed from being someone who always had the upperhand to someone that only occassionally gets it, and it works here.

May is a treasure as well and the scenes involving her clients are hilarious.

The turbulent times that Miley speaks of and comically inspire everyone, except Allen are deeply felt as well; anyone with the service should check out this show.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

20 Favorite Directors Working or Dead

20. Jose Mojica Marins
                                         At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul (1964)

19. Cheryl Dunye

                            The Watermelon Woman (1996)

18. Jean Cocteau
                     Beauty and the Beast (1946)

17. Ralph Bakshi
                            Hey Good Lookin' (1982)

16. Frank Tashlin
                            Cinderfella (1960)

15. Richard Kern
                            Fingered (1986)

14. Tobe Hooper
                            The Funhouse (1981)

13. Orson Welles
                            The Fountain of Youth (1958)

12. Tom Laughlin
                           Billy Jack Goes to Washington (1977)

11. Richard Fleischer

                            Million Dollar Mystery (1987)

10. Juraj Jakubisko
                             Bathory (2008)

09. John Derek
                             Ghosts Can't Do It (1989)

08. John Waters
                             Cecil B Demented (2000)

07. Henry Jaglom
                                             Ovation (2016)

06. Monika Treut
The Raw and the Cooked (2012)

05. George Lucas
                                          The Phantom Menace (1999)

04. Woody Allen
                                          Irrational Man (2015)

03. Jean Luc Godard
                                           Goodbye to Language (2014)

02. Warren Beatty
                                                     Rules Don't Apply (2016)

01. Charlie Chaplin


                                      A Countess From Hong Kong (1967)

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Damn Yoga Hosers

Thomas Pynchon is writing more conventional stories these days with an infusion of pop culture. Peter Jackson is things very far removed from Meet the Feebles. Boy do I miss things like Meet the Feebles.

I used to complain when Kevin Smith did anything outside of his View Askew universe. I liked some of those characters so much. I cannot quite be blamed for this. Clerks 2 was VA and it was good. Cop Out, Zach and Miri, Red State and Tusk were not to my taste. Though with the later films, I did notice a shift in his directorial style, more complex shots, better use of music, more chances, not revolving around a sitcom-like moral lesson at the end.

When I found out about Yoga Hosers, I was not looking forward to it. It had returning characters from Tusk. Tusk was bad because it played like a horror film then jarring scenes of comedy would interrupt everything; it was not funny; it was not scary. The tone was screwed.

The night before seeing YH at the local theater, The Loft, I read an indiewire interview with Smith, he talked about Henry Jaglom being a hero of his because he is always doing his own thing and putting it out there himself. I remembered that when Jaglom met his newest muse Tanna Fredrick, the films became way different. They were about a male (usually Jaglom) in a world of female issues; now they are about Tanna and acting communities.  The films are better than the old ones. Not everyone thinks so, but I do.  I realized then that YH is a film Smith feels he has to make and once I realized that, I figured I should give it a real chance and not just see it because I am a Kevin Smith fan and want him to keep working so he will make View Askew again one day.

Without question, this is his best film since Dogma (1999). The Colleens are every bit as memorable as his VA characters, the hilarious montage, the way they sing a sentimental song to their dad to prevent him getting laid in the other room, "sorry boot that."  The film is very quotable. Guy Lapointe (Johnny Depp) works in this film because the film has a consistent tone. It is a horror comedy on par and at times reminiscent of Evil Dead 2. Other stand out characters include Gordon Greenleaf and Ichabod (Adam Brody who has a throw away line that is among Smith's best all time lines). The VA films got their cues from pop culture. This film should be pop culture itself.

I will gladly follow these characters into Moosejaws, which will also feature Jay and Silent Bob (best of both worlds). That is not to say the film does not have problems. Ralph Garman is not good here. Smith also failed the luminous Vanessa Paradis by giving her nothing but exposition; he also failed Osment who fails to do anything here except look like Ron Jeremey. These mistakes are forgivable (Please though if YH's is ones only exposure to Vanessa Paradis, seek out her other films; she is wonderful in everything except this) because Smith has delivered a very good film.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

50 Best Movies (as far as I'm concerned)

50. Triple Agent (2004) Eric Rohmer

49. Tillie's Punctured Romance (1914) Mack Sennet

48. Fantasma en el Oeste (1978) Antonio Magrheriti

47. Belle Toujours (2006) Manoel de Oliveria

46. Vampires in Havana (1983) Juan Padron

45.The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things (2004) Asia Argento

44. Pocketful of Miracles (1961) Frank Capra

43. To Beautiful for You (1989) Bertrand Blier

42. Grandma's Boy (1922) Fred C Newmeyer

41. It Rains in my Village (1968) Aleksandar Petrovic

40. The Battleship Potemkin (1925) Sergei Eisenstein

39. I, A Man (1967) Andy Warhol

38. Rambo (2008) Sylvester Stallone

37. Made in USA (1966) Jean Luc Godard

36.  Beauty and the Beast (1946) Jean Cocteau

35. My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999) Isao Takahata

34. Me and You (2012) Bernardo Bertolucci

33. Pink Flamingos (1972) John Waters

32. Eaten Alive (1976) Tobe Hopper

31.The Monte Carlo Story (1957) Sam Taylor

30. Masked and Anonymous (2003) Larry Charles

29. Picnic (1955) Joshua Logan

28. Deconstructing Harry (1997) Woody Allen

027. Utopia (1951) Tim Whelan

26. Kiki's Delivery Service (1989) Hayao Miyazaki

25. Cinderfella (1960) Frank Tashlin

024. Lolita (1962) Stanley Kubrick

023. Follow Me Quietly (1949) Richard Fleischer

022.The Geisha Boy (1958) Frank Tashlin

021. ALL IS LOST (2013) JC Chandor

020. The Trial of Billy Jack (1974) Tom Laughlin

19. Once Before I Die (1966) John Derek

018. SOCRATES (1971) Roberto Rossellini

017. Banjo (1947) Richard Fleischer

016. City Lights (1931) Charlie Chaplin

015. The 3 Musketeers (1939) Allan Dwan

014. Murphy's Romance (1986) Martin Ritt

13. Ben And Me (1953) Hamilton Luske

012. AMERICAN GRAFFTI (1973) George Lucas

011. Keep Up Your Right (1987) Jean Luc Godard

010. The Charles Bukowski Tapes (1985) Barbet Schroder

009. Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993) Woody Allen

008. IRENE IN TIME (2009) Henry Jaglom

007. The Misfits (1961) John Huston

006. The Fortune (1975) Mike Nichols

005. WHO IS BOZO TEXINO (2002) Bill Daniel

004. BUILD A HOUSE, PLANT A TREE (1980) Juraj Jakubisku

003. PEOPLE WILL TALK (1951) Joseph Mankiewicz

002. Rules Don't Apply (2016) Warren Beatty

001. SKIN DEEP (1989) Blake Edwards