Sunday, May 06, 2007

Black Book d. Verhoeven

Yesterday, I just had one of those experiences that stayed with me all through the day. I was lucky enough to take the 5 minute walk to the Garden Cinemas and catch what may be the best new film that I will see all year. Paul Verhoeven's Black Book is such a wonderful over the top melodramatic film, made about such a serious subject that it's only hours after leaving the theater in awe of what I saw that I was even able to attempt to delve into what I loved so much about the film. Not even my bedroom ceiling falling down last night under the weight of water, in my first weekend in a new apartment in a new state, 2 days before I start a new job (perhaps more on that later), can temper my enthusiasm about this film.

Black Book starts off by telling the story of Rachel (soon to be Ellis) a Jewish girl living in Nazi occupied Holland. Soon enough, after her hiding place is bombed by the Nazis Rachel through rapid succession of circumstances finds herself working as part of the Dutch resistance to the Nazi occupation. Having recently been lucky enough to have seen Melville's Army of Shadows in the theater last year parts of the resistance story seemed familiar, even if set in a different country. Verhoeven had numerous tight and tense scenes of resistance fighters attempting to make their way in and out of various Nazi posts on what seemed mostly like suicide missions. And their were more than enough of these action or suspense sequences to keep virtually any viewer entertained I would guess.

However, what stuck with me throughout the film, and what is sticking with me afterwards is the overwhelming moral ambiguity of the characters and their motives throughout the film. The resistance fighters are flawed. A Nazi has a kind heart. Their were so many twists and turns throughout the film that in the end, it was not out of the question to be wondering who exactly am I supposed to be rooting for here? One way Verhoeven achieved this was bringing his characters sometimes unwillingly, sometimes unknowingly into acts of violence. A devout Christian member of the resistance struggles to even pull the trigger as he sees his fellow member of the resistance getting beat near the point of death, that is until he hears the assailaint take the Lords name in vain. Then the bullets come flying. Do members of the resistance sacrifice Jews for their own fellow non Jewish Dutch countrymen? Questions like that arise against such a fast paced kinetic background, that if you stop for a moment to think about it as you are viewing you may miss the next twist, and there are several!

But, what's more? It's only after the Dutch resistance has proven "successful" and Holland is liberated that Verhoeven brings more problems to the core. As, Dutch flags wave in the street and soldiers come down in a parade on side streets women are having their blonde hair shaven, stipped to their underwear holding up signs "Nazi Whore." Is Verhoeven suggesting that the Dutch treatment of their own citizens after the war was no better than the Nazis? One character says as much. But, again, as the viewer, where do we look in the film for definitive answers. More often than not their isn't a definitive answer. The moral ambiguity throughout, and the questions one is left with is the very genius of the film. In a story about the indisputable good cause of the Dutch resistance against Nazi Germany we see the darkest side of human nature in our heroes as well as our villains.

It's been years since I have seen Basic Instinct or Showgirls, two of Verhoeven's more recent efforts. But like in those films sex does play a huge role in this film. Rachel/Ellis is stripped bare often in aid of the resistance, and humiliated often as well. Candice von Houten bravely plays her role. It's the first film I have seen her in, and after seeing this film their is nobody else I could picture in this role. She was wonderful. The rest of the supporting cast at the very least held their own and at times were even magnificent, Thom Hoffman as the resistance fighter Hans especially stood out, as did Sebastian Kock as Muntze, head of the Nazi SS.

More even than wanting to recommend this film to all of my friends I now find myself also wanting to check out earlier Verhoeven as well. I am among many that snickered at Starship Troopers and Showgirls, but after an effort like this, I think its time for me to give his other films another look as well.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Second Annual BS Movie Draft

Because I have one more cup of coffee to finish before hitting the bank, post office, and a Tree Festival, I may as well address the Second Annual BS Movie Draft!

Yes this was brought to us by the same people who brought us The Director Draft in March of this year. And before that, Last Years Inaugural Movie Draft. The internet is a strange place, when you find these exercises on a soccer message board. But as I have mentioned before last years Movie Draft was one of the funnest experiences I had, and probably more than anything stirred the direction of this blog to be primarily focused on film. So, howbout that.

At any rate the rules were similar to the first draft...

The aliens are pissed. After opening up the time capsule containing the movies from the first BigSoccer Movie Draft and sitting through dross like the Unusual Suspects and Big Fish, they've demanded a recount.

SO once again, if humanity were destroyed tonight, what movies would you place inside a time capsule to be discovered by either possible survivors, future sentient beings, or aliens?

Movies selected in the first draft are ineligible. See below for alphabetized list.

The draft will be ten rounds. Four hour windows for each pick. PM the next in line when you've made yours. Please proxy picks if you know you'll be ofline for awhile.

The winner will be the one who selects ten movies that best offer the greatness of cinema to future civilizations. "Greatness," of course, will be defined by participants to their individual tastes. Basically, it's a ********ing free for all.

We had 13 participants this time around and a stable of 200 movies chosen in the first draft, which could not be chosen this time around...

African Queen, The (1951 Huston)After Life (1998 Hirokazu)Aguirre: the Wrath of God (1972 Herzog)Airplane! (1980 Abrams, Zucker Bros.)Alien (1979 Scott)All About Eve (1950 Mankieweicz)All About My Mother (1999 Almodóvar)Amadeus (1984 Forman)American Graffiti (1973 Lucas)American in Paris, An (1951 Minnelli)Andrei Rublev (1969 Tarkovsky)Animal House (1978 Landis)Apartment, The (1960 Wilder)Apocalypse Now (1979 Coppola)Awful Truth, The (1937 McCrarey)Babe (1995 Noonan)Band of Outsiders (1964 Godard)Battle of Algiers, The (1965 Pontecorvo)Battleship Potemkin (1925 Eisenstein)
Being John Malkovich (1999 Jonze)Belle De Jour (1967 Bunuel)Best Years Of Our Lives, The (1946 Wyler)Bicycle Thief, The (1948 De Sica)Big Fish (2003 Burton)Big Lebowski, The (1998 Coen)Big Sleep, The (1946 Hawks)Birds, The (1963 d. Hitchcock)Birth of a Nation, The (1915 Griffith)Black Rain (1989 Imamura)Blade Runner (1982 Scott)Blood Simple (1984 Coen)Blow-Up (1966 Antonioni)Blue Angel (1930 Von Sternberg)Blue Velvet (1986 Lynch)Breaking the Waves (1996 Von Trier)Brazil (1985 Gilliam)Breathless (1960 Godard)Bridge on the River Kwai (1957 Lean)Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974 Peckinpah)Bringing Up Baby (1938 Hawks)Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969 Hill)
Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The (1919 Wiene)Caddyshack (1980 Ramis)Casablanca (1942 Curtiz)Casino (1995 Scorsese)Chariots of Fire (1981 Hudson)Chinatown (1974 Polanski)
Cinema Paradiso (1989 Tornatore)Citizen Kane (1941 Welles)City Lights (1931 Chaplin)
City of God (2002 Meirelles, Lund)Clerks (1994 Smith)Clockwork Orange, A (1971 Kubrick)Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977 Spielberg)Colors trilogy (1993-94 Kieslowski)Cool Hand Luke (1967 Rosenberg)Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000 A. Lee)Das Boot (1981 Petersen)Days of Being Wild (1991 Wong)Days of Heaven (1978 Malick)Dazed and Confused (1993 Linklater)Dead Man (1995 Jarmusch)Dead Poets Society (1989 Weir)Decalogue, The (1989 Kieslowski)Deer Hunter, The (1978 Cimino)Do the Right Thing (1989 S. Lee)Double Indemnity (1944 Wilder)Dr. Strangelove (1964 Kubrick)Duck Soup (1933 McCarey)East of Eden (1955 Kazan)Eat Drink Man Woman (1994 A. Lee)8 1/2 (1963 Fellini)Empire Strikes Back, The (1980 Lucas)Enter the Dragon (1973 Clouse)
Evil Dead trilogy (1981-92 Raimi)Fargo (1996 Coen)Fanny and Alexander (1982 Bergman)Fantasia (1940 various)Floating Weeds (1959 Ozu)Forbidden Games (1951 Clement)Full Metal Jacket (1987 Kubrick)400 Blows, The (1959 Truffaut)Godfather, The (1972 Coppola)Godfather Part II, The (1974 Coppola)Gone with the Wind (1939 Fleming)Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, The (1966 Leone)Goodfellas (1990 Scorsese)Graduate, The (1967 Nichols)Grand Illusion, The (1937 Renoir)Great Dictator, The (1940 Chaplin)Great Escape, The (1963 Sturges)Hard Day's Night, A (1964 Lester)
Harold and Maude (1971 Ashby)High Noon (1952 Zinneman)His Girl Friday (1940 Hawks)
Hoosiers (1986 Anspaugh)How Green Was My Valley (1941 Ford)Ikiru (1952 Kurosawa)
In the Mood for Love (2000 Wong)It's a Wonderful Life (1946 Capra)Jaws (1975 Spielberg)Jean de Florette (1986 Berri)Kelly's Heroes (1970 Hutton)Kwaidan (1964 Kobayashi)L'Avventura (1960 Antonioni)La Dolce Vita (1960 Fellini)La Strada (1954 Fellini)Last Waltz, The (1978 Scorsese)Lawrence of Arabia (1962 Lean)Les Diaboliques (1955 Clouzot)Lion King (1994 Allers, Minkoff)Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-03 Jackson)Los Olvidados (1950 Buñuel)M (1931 Lang)Mahanagar – aka The Big City (1963 S. Ray)Maltese Falcon, The (1941 Huston)Man Who Had His Hair Cut Short, The (1965 Melvaux)Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The (1962 Ford)Manchurian Candidate, The (1962 Frankenheimer)Marriage of Maria Braun, The (1979 Fassbinder)Mary Poppins (1964 Stevenson)Masculin, Feminin (1966 Godard)Menace II Society (1993 Hughes Bros.)
Metropolis (1927 Lang)Monkey Business (1931 McLeod)Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975 Gilliam, Jones)Mulholland Dr. (2001 Lynch)My Fair Lady (1964 Cukor)My Life as a Dog (1985 Hallström)My Man Godfrey (1936 La Cava)Night of the Hunter, The (1955 Laughton)Night of the Living Dead (1968 Romero)Nights of Cabiria (1957 Fellini)Night on Earth (1991 Jarmusch)North By Northwest (1959 Hitchcock)Nosferatu (1922 Murnau)Notorious (1946 Hitchcock)Oklahoma! (1955 Zinneman)Olympia (1938 Riefenstahl)
On the Waterfront (1954 Kazan)Once Upon a Time in the West (1968 Leone)One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975 Forman)Outlaw Josey Wales, The (1976 Eastwood)Passion of Joan of Arc, The (1928 Dreyer)Pather Panchali (1955 S. Ray)Paths of Glory (1957 Kubrick)Philadelphia Story, The (1940 Cukor)Pierrot le Fou (1965 Godard)Persona (1966 Bergman)Platoon (1986 Stone)Princess Bride, The (1987 Reiner)Psycho (1960 Hitchcock)
Pulp Fiction (1994 Tarantino)Qatsi trilogy (1983-2002 Reggio)Quiet Man, The (1952 Ford)Raging Bull (1980 Scorsese)Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981 Spielberg)Raising Arizona (1987 Coen)Ran (1985 Kurosawa)Rashomon (1950 Kurosawa)Rear Window (1954 Hitchcock)Rebecca (1940 Hitchcock)Rififi (1955 Dassin)Right Stuff, The (1983 Kaufman)
Roma, Citta Aperta – aka Open City (1945 Rossellini)Rosemary's Baby (1968 Polanski)Rules of the Game, The (1939 Renoir)Run Lola Run (1998 Tykwer)Samurai trilogy (1954-56 Inagaki)Sansho the Bailiff (1954 Mizoguchi)Scarface (1932 Hawks)Scarlet Street (1945 Lang)Schindler's List (1993 Spielberg)Searchers, The (1956 Ford)Secret of Roan Inish, The (1994 Sayles)Seven Samurai, The (1954 Kurosawa)Seventh Seal, The (1957 Bergman)Shadow of a Doubt (1943 Hitchcock)Shawshank Redemption, The (1994 Darabont)Sherlock, Jr. (1924 Keaton)Shining, The (1980 Kubrick)Silence of the Lambs, The (1991 Demme)Singin’ in the Rain (1952 Donen, Kelly)Sleeper (1973 Allen)
Some Like It Hot (1959 Wilder)Sound of Music, The (1965 Wise)Spinal Tap (1984 Reiner)Spirited Away (2001 Miyazaki)Stagecoach (1939 Ford)Stalag 17 (1953 Wilder)Sting, The (1973 Hill)Star Wars (1977 Lucas)Strictly Ballroom (1992 Lurhman)Sunrise (1927 Murnau)Sunset Boulevard (1950 Wilder)Taxi Driver (1976 Scorsese)Thin Blue Line, The (1988 Morris)Third Man, The (1949 Reed)39 Steps, The (1935 Hitchcock)Throne of Blood (1957 Kurosawa)To Catch a Thief (1955 Hitchcock)To Kill a Mockingbird (1962 Mulligan)Tokyo Story (1953 Ozu)Touch of Evil (1958 Welles)Toy Story (1995 Lasseter)Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The (1948 Huston)12 Angry Men (1957 Lumet)2001: A Space Odyssey (1968 Kubrick)Ugetsu (1953 Mizoguchi)Un Chien Andalou (1929 Buñuel)Usual Suspects, The (1995 Singer)Vertical Ray of the Sun, The (2000 Tran)Vertigo (1958 Hitchcock)West Side Story (1961 Wise, Robbins)Wild Bunch, The (1969 Peckinpah)Wings of Desire (1987 Wenders)Wizard of Oz, The (1939 Fleming)Woman Under the Influence, A (1974 Cassavetes)Yojimbo (1961 Kurosawa)Young Frankenstein (1974 Brooks)

Got all that? Good.

Since I was moving for most of the duration of this draft, I didn't feel as connected as I did with the first draft, or the Directors Draft. But, I look at my stable of films and I'll be damned if they are not magnificent. The roster is below.

1. Contempt (Godard 1963)
2. L'eclisse (Antonioni 1962)

After my first two picks a fellow drafter commented, "Contempt and L'eclisse? You're love life must be sensational right now." Of course, not. It's a greasefire, but these films would stand out for me even if I was happily married. Whereas Band of Outsiders opened up Godard to me, Contempt just floored me and made me realize his genius. After seeing over 150 new to me films since then, Contempt is still my favorite of all time. L'eclisse moved me more than almost any film since Contempt and is the best "new to me" film I have watched in 2007.

3. In a Lonely Place (Ray 1950) - Possibly my favorite noir, though some may debate it's noir status, and definitely my favorite picture of Nicholas Ray's a director I love. Bogart and Grahame are absolutely perfect.

4. Late Spring (Ozu 1949) - To get my favorite Ozu in round 4 was a delight. Moreso than even, Tokyo Story this film is Ozu for me.

5. A Man Escaped (Bresson 1956) - Probably Bresson's most accessible film. He gives away the ending in the title and still creates one of the most suspenseful films I have ever seen.

6. Imitation of Life (Sirk 1959) - I love my mellodramas, and this film never has me less than a crying mess at the end. Beautiful, wonderful, and subversive.

7. A Place in the Sun (Stevens 1951) - A movie I rate higher than anyone else I know. Perfect mellodrama, and the American Dream/Love Story told better than its ever been told. Beyond that, it may be the among the most beautifully photographed black and whites ever.

8. L'enfant (Dardenne 2005)- Among my very favorites of the past decade. The Dardenne's more than anyone have picked up Bresson's torch (though they still have a long way to go to equal Bresson). I find myself replaying the final scene in my head so often. Just heartbreaking.

9. No End (Kieslowski 1985) - The saddest of Kieslowski's and probably also my favorite. Also, it may be the last fil in which politics played even a supporting role in Kieslowski's films. A transition from early to late Kieslowski.

10. Suspiria (Argento 1977) - I won't ever forget the first time I saw Suspiria. The soundtrack, the over the top gore, the colors. It was fantastic, and still is. Among the greatest horror films ever made.

So, it was fun. And the thing is, I can think of another shortlist of 50 for the 3rd annual draft should it occur next year. Lord knows there are enough great films left unpicked.

Norwalk Dispatch part 1

So, yes. I am less than a week into the largest change of my life. Moving halfway across the country and knowing nobody in my new town. But stuff has gone relatively well so far. The move itself went well enough with help from my father as we loaded up the U-Haul and had two relatively uneventful days of driving before getting to our destination in Norwalk. Before all that, the goodbyes in Indianapolis were just as hard as I had imagined they would be. But at the same time, I know I will see and hear from those people again. So, I can't be too sad. Indianapolis, will be what I consider home still for a long time, but I am adapting to Norwalk alright in the first week.

The apartment has started to come around a bit, with a bit of a film motif in the front room with two Godard film posters (In Praise of Love, and Band of Outsiders), A Virgin Suicides poster, and a Van Gogh print over in the "dining" area. At just over 400 sq feet, there isn't a ton to work with, but I don't have a ton of stuff so thats okay. As I look over towards my kitchen area, I like the exposed brick near my oven and sink, but I do not so much enjoy my oven yet which does not seem to be calibrated to the right temperature. Either that or my freezer is set at mega freeze. I also am getting used to doing dishes in a single basin sink, which is not my favorite thing in the world, but I will get used to that.

The one piece of furniture, an old chair from Indy, that I was gonna bring out turned out to have become moldified on the bottom after sitting in our basement. So, the one chair I have here now is a directors chair. Luckily come mothers day weekend I will be recieving a chair from some friends and possibly a two top table. Then, the apartment will be all in order.

The town itself seems to be great, if a bit expensive. Amenities, etc nearby include...

Work - 0.7 miles or less than a 15 minute walk
My bank - less than a 5 minute walk
Library - right across the street
The Stand - A juicebar/vegan and raw food resturaunt less than a five minute walk
Garden Cinemas - Norwalks local art movie house, less then a five minute walk
Trader Joes - 4 Miles away
South Norwalk - The trendy nightlife place of Norwalk, a twenty minute walk, or a two minute busride.

This isn't to mention the numerous other resturaunts, latino groceries, and numerous other amenities within walking distance.

Now, if only I could find a church to suit my liking to worship on Sundays, all would be complete.

But, this weekend I will visit the large Catholic church across the street for Mass. I will check out the Stand for a vegan Brunch on Sunday, I will visit Garden Cinemas to see Black Book which I have wanted to see for a while. And earlier in the week I think I have found my local for happy hour once or twice a week. I don't forsee myself going for too much nightlife as the bars are expensive. But, thats okay. It's better for me that way anyway.

I'll be living without cable at least through December when I will have my car paid off, and possibly longer as I pay back some loans to my parents who very graciously forwarded money to me for the move. In the meantime, I still am keeping my Netflix account up and running. I hope to get down to NYC (a 55 minute train ride) for some films or New Haven maybe. And hopefully I will get this blog back up and running a bit more regularly as I am getting settled in again. For the meantime, I will be keeping the name as is, since Indy still has my heart and I love that town. But thats all subject to change.