Stalag 17

When Gil Stratton’s character “Cookie” announces in the voiceover that opens Stalag 17 that “it always make me sore when I see those war pictures — all about flying leather-necks and submarine patrols and frogmen and guerillas in the Philippines… what gets me is that there never was a movie about P.O.W.s” he wouldn’t have been accurate, even in 1944 when the film was set; Renoir’s The Grand Illusion was released in 1938, but it’s French. What’s really happening there is Billy Wilder is already winking at the audience to think about what POW films have been made, and I’m guessing he was betting that his audience hadn’t seen The Grand Illusion, or British productions like 1947s The Captive Heart or 1950s The Wooden Horse. Read more of this post

Advertisements

Ajami

It was probably inevitable that a film like Ajami would come along—an Israeli/Palestinian collaboration, directed by a Christian Israeli Arab (Scandar Copti) and a Jewish Israeli (Yaron Shani) about a group of Christians and Muslims in a small Arab neighborhood, the titular Ajami, in one of the oldest port cities in the world, Tel Aviv-Jaffa. Everything in the film itself, from the setting and characters to the plot, to all of the meta-aspects including the directors and production, feels like the cinematic culmination of the conflict that’s been raging in that part of the world for so long. It produces a melting pot of socio-cultural conflict that, in true artistic fashion, manages to boil everything down to the all-too-human people caught up in it all. Read more of this post

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

In one issue of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, it’s revealed that there’s a library in the realm of The Dreaming that contains not just every book ever written, every film ever made, etc. but also every book, film, etc. ever conceived. You can just imagine that within that library exists the other 8 hours of Stroheim’s Greed and the lost hour of Welles’ The Magnificent Andersons. You can add David Lynch’s Twin Peaks to that collection, in which the third season and everything cut from the film remains locked away. It’s a tremendous shame too, as the show’s first season revolutionized American television, bringing an unheard of cinematic quality to the medium, as well as adding Lynch’s unique brand of surrealism, humor, and art-house tendencies. Read more of this post

Black Swan

Before Black Swan was released, but when the hype machine was already in overdrive, I stated on one film message board: “Aronofsky has earned my willingness to see any film he makes. Even his failures are interesting.” Indeed, Aronofsky may be the most interesting young American director working today, if only because with every film he genuinely seems to be shooting for the moon in an age where most directors are much more modest in their ambitions. But he also makes the kinds of films that are as fraught with faults as they are strengths. In many respects, I’ll take interesting failures over uninteresting successes any day, because it’s often just a matter of time before those faults are transformed into strengths upon reconsideration. Read more of this post

Alternate Perspective: Summer Wars by JH

“Anime? You mean the Japanese cartoons like Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh!” or “Anime? You mean the Japanese cartoons full of sex and violence?” are probably the two most common responses by “normal” people when they find out that someone watches anime; I can’t help but find the polar opposite associations rather hilarious. Nobody would ever say “oh, you read poetry, you mean that stuff about flowers?” or “oh, you read poetry, you mean that stuff about wars?” The Association stem from the confusion that anime is a genre rather than simply animation from Japan; it’s no more a genre than French films are a genre. Once I’ve explained that to people unfamiliar with anime the next question is inevitably “why do you watch cartoons?”.  Indeed, the stigma against animation has something only suited for kids or outrageous satirical comedy is pervasive in most of the West. The simple answer behind why I watch it is that the creative freedom inherent in animation, and frequently expressed through animation, far outweighs that in the vast majority of live-action films, and Mamoru Hosoda’s Summer Wars is a prime example of that imaginative explosion. Read more of this post

Camille

Is there a greater repository of lost classics in the entire canon of world cinema than classic Hollywood? Today, major studios have learned that the real money is in putting all their eggs into one-basket blockbusters that cost hundreds of millions to make and can gross into the billions, but, back in the day, Hollywood was all about mass production. The initial inclination is to condemn this as a homogenized, manufactured approach to filmmaking, but the truth is closer to the opposite. Because Hollywood, especially the major studios, produced so many films they had the freedom to take risks that modern studios don’t. Classic Hollywood also had a cadre of the greatest technicians, artisans, and, yes, artists that filmmaking has ever known. It’s always an adventure to scan the credits of a classic Hollywood film to see what talents work on it. Read more of this post

Boris Barnet: Outskirts/The Patriots & Girl with the Hatbox

The Girl with the Hatbox (1930)

Outskirts/The Patriots (1933)

Outside of Jonathan Rosenbaum, who called Outskirts and By the Bluest of Seas masterpieces, Boris Barnet is a little-known figure even in cinephile communities. It’s a shame too, as the two films on this DVD point towards an early master of Soviet cinema. Of course, even mentioning “Soviet cinema” brings to mind the likes of Eisenstein, montage theory, and propaganda, but Barnet is the rarest of birds: an early master of Russian cinema that shies away from propaganda, and is supremely tasteful and judicious in his use of montage. The Girl with the Hatbox closely recalls the silent comedies of Charlie Chaplin in its elegance and charming humor. In the case of Outskirts, the truth is more devious; it’s a film that’s almost anti-Soviet in its satire, mixing comedy, drama, war, as well as sound and images in utterly original ways for a film from 1933. Read more of this post