Films Seen in 2013 Round-Up: #131-137


Hello everyone! Sorry it has been quite a while since I last posted. I go through spurts of writing a lot and then corresponding ebbs. I’ve shifted my focus a bit to reading and trying to learn some German so films have taken a backseat as of late. Plus, in effort to save some money I’ve cut back on certain monthly expenses. Meaning no more Hulu Plus and only Netflix streaming for me. But I’ll certainly keep up with some viewings and posting output. For one thing, I plan on participating in next week’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot for Mary Poppins.

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#131. Berberian Sound Studio (2013, Strickland)

A meticulous tribute to giallo and the inextricable subconscious effect that sound contributes to the moving image. It’s made for a very narrow but appreciative audience and is more of a fascinating academic-like exercise that I primarily admired. I’ve gotten much more interested in the role of sound in film this past year so it is a treat to see something that uses this crucial but often underappreciated and little understood aspect of filmmaking as its almost essay-like focus. Isolation and cultural dislocation lead the way with Toby Jones as Gilderoy. He might as well be trapped in the sound studio.. The setting plays like a psychological prison and Strickland explores the power of sound through its surrounding inescapable nature. Visuals are something we can look away from. Sound has the capacity to drown us, drive us into dismantling states.

We never see the film Gilderoy is working on, titled The Equestrian Vortex, but we hear a great deal of it. As everyday objects are used to fill in our imaginative aural gaps, the film builds up a jarringly uncomfortable atmosphere. No blood is shed, no violence seen. But watermelons and the like suddenly have squeamish associative power, made all the more complex through its effect on Gilderoy who becomes uncomfortably complicit in helping create horror by indirectly taking part in it. The film-within-a-film seems to be an extension of how the beautiful but mistreated women in the studio inhibit the space. It may not seem like a lot happens in Berberian Sound Studio, because to be sure this is true, and yet its purpose is clearly multi-layered.

Random Observations:
Interesting that we the audience get an advantage over Gilderoy re: subtitles for spoken Italian while Gilderoy has an additional disadvantage over us re: he is seeing both the footage and the sound of The Equestrian Vortex while we only hear the audio.

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#132. Antonio Gaudi (1985, Teshigahara)

Putting another layer of artistic endeavor between us and the fantastical undulating work of Antonio Gaudi, Teshigahara’s near-wordless documentary is like a poetic context; the gift of heightened consideration. The way his work is shot runs the gamut, from close-ups where detail is abstracted to far away in order to place his creations within the context of Barcelona. What about this angle; or this angle? How to best extrapolate the ever-changing notions of his shapes and constructs? The camera considers his work from every angle, caresses the curves and even considers the world outside as his buildings would hypothetically see them as sentient beings, thereby treating them as such. This film was also a big influence on my decision to save up and travel to Barcelona for a week this November.

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#133. The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On (1987, Hara)

From the moment a wedding celebration becomes an awkward self-indulgent confessional moment of radicalism as Kenzo Okuzaki denigrates the concept of family and drops reference to his committed murder and jail time you know this is going to be a bonkers documentary. And it is. There are no easy answers; Okuzaki’s tenacity is something to behold but his methods, which yield some result, are fidget-inducing. It’s the most excruciatingly uncomfortable film I’ve seen in some time. You kind of feel like you’ve crossed into another dimension once Okuzaki hires his wife and friend to impersonate the brotherless siblings who rightly jump ship on their journey towards truth. His interrogation methods are so relentless and so narrow that the film is a dive into one man’s post-war psyche just as much as the partial truths of specific WWII atrocities dug up. And then there’s the role of documentarian in all this. Truly a bizarre trailblazing documentary of dangerous and volatile investigative parts and you’ll never forget Kenzo Okuzaki. Not something I ever want to see again but that’s okay because it’s burned into my brain.

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#134. Before Midnight (2013, Linklater)
Review in separate post.

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#135. Love, Marilyn (2013, Garbus)

A really informative cliffnotes info dump about her life. Considering how loaded and complex her life was, it is impressive how much ground is covered. Having a chunk of her written material be the context for the documentary was lovely, centralizing her voice. If only it had been presented differently. Most of the male actors got the job done. The women on the other hand are often forced, over-emotive and theatrical. It was like being at an unfortunate casting session. It didn’t help that the fake backgrounds and constant camera movement further distracted from the reading sessions. But overall well worth watching if someone wants a sense of the basic puzzle pieces of her life as well as an introductory sense of her mindset.

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#136. The Bling Ring (2013, Coppola)

Like a vapid anthropological study, Coppola ponders the mindset of these entitled criminals as they nonchalantly rob the houses of the rich and famous. What drew me to The Bling Ring is the way Coppola focuses on the entitlement of the entitled. That is to say, these teenagers act as if they are merely going to a friends house while they are away. There is never a sense of doing something wrong. No worrying about implications and consequences. They shared the same space as celebrities at various clubs and bars. Tabloids and gossip blogs allow people to track their every movement so anyone can know where a celebrity is on any given day. So it’s like they feel naturally entitled to break into their homes and take their things. It’s treated as blase, and the materialism brings them superficially closer to fame. Coppola is more interested in the frame of mind, specifically the lack of it, that would make one do such things. Being that close to fame, allowing one’s life to be made up entirely out of superficial concerns. And taking the next step.

We might not be like the characters in the film, but it’s indicative of larger fact that many of us obsess over and talk about famous people with a inordinate level of familiarity. And this is something that has certainly blown up with the advent of internet culture. These girls are on the farthest end of the spectrum but the fact of the matter is that a lot of people invest too much time and energy and thoughts into what their favorite famous people are doing or wearing or fucking day in and day out.  Between tabloid culture and real-life shipping within fandom, which I personally find uncomfortable, there are may facets of becoming far too involved with famous people. I see it every day on tumblr and pretty much everywhere else within fan culture. The broader implications aren’t addressed in The Bling Ring, but they certainly exist and the film depicts one extreme example of unwarranted attachment.

These characters are wildly privileged and clearly have zero sense of the concept of earning, of private space or of remorse. Coppola took an interesting approach that I largely admired, staying true to her initial fascination, sacrificing the development of ideas for mere contemplation. It doesn’t make for as great film, but it certainly makes for a good one.

Watching several episodes of ‘Pretty Wild’, the short-lived Alexis Neiers reality show to prep for the film added a wonderfully horrifying layer of context to everything. As a result, Emma Watson saying ‘kitten heels’ had both of us cackling.

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#137. Monsters University (2013, Scanlon)

A riff on the college buddy comedy, Monsters University might not pack the kind of next-level emotional wallop of some of Pixar’s output or have the kind of ambition we crave from them, but this is flat-out the most entertaining film I’ve seen this year. That anyone could have walked out of this unsatisfied boggles my mind. As much as I want to accept and be open to all responses people may have to any given film, ‘soulless snob’ automatically springs to mind in regards to anyone who was impervious to its considerable charms. It’s heartfelt, hilarious and carries a wonderful message on its back. It hits every note it tries to, every joke lands on-target (anyone who lived on a college campus will appreciate a lot of the humor) and Crystal and Goodman lend their top-notch voice work in reviving their Mike and Sully characters. Far exceeded my expectations.

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Wish List: 15 Dream Director/Actor Collaborations


Do you ever think about which actor and director pairings would get you the most psyched? You wake up and go online to read confirmation that so-and-so signed on to star in so-and-so’s next production and you find yourself eagerly anticipating it more than most other projects solely because of the pairing? Well, here is a list of collaborations I would love to happen. These are not the pairings I want more than any other. Honestly, with all the actors and directors out there, grouping certain people above all others as definitive perfection is a little foolish. I am sure someone else could come up with a list like this and I would be just as excited about their picks. Hence the list being unordered. I would really love to hear what your dream collaborations would be. Be sure to comment and list some of yours!

Fatih Akin and Franka Potente – Sibel Kekilli’s role in 2004’s Head-On is my reference point for this. While Akin’s last film was the mediocre comedy Soul Kitchen, his Head-On and The Edge of Heaven are very heavy dramas that demand equally intense performances from all involved. Seeing Potente take on material involving his trademark exploration into German-Turkish relations would be so undoubtedly rewarding.

Woody Allen and Tom Hollander – Tom Hollander has been one of my favorite actors for several years now, and he got to show his comedic chops in 2009’s brilliant political satire In the Loop. Allen’s recent globe-trotting tendencies make it somewhat common for British actors to pop up in his films as of late. Hollander would fit in perfectly in a strong supporting role as part of an ensemble in an Allen film. He excels at villainous roles (Pirates of the Carribean 2 & 3, Hanna), but I hope he gets more opportunities to be as funny as he is in In the Loop. “A walrus? I’m not fat, I don’t even have a moustache. Fuck, they’ve given me tusks.”

Bong Joon-ho and Lee Byung-hun – This one is honestly bound to happen at some point. Lee is a superstar and Bong represents economic prosperity for South Korea’s film industry. It is just a matter of time. The reason this pairing would be exciting is because of what Bong could bring out of Lee. Lee is a fantastic actor and he has a strong ‘soap opera’ acting ability that works so well for him. Bong’s films are known for being so tonally distinct, often switching moods within the same scene or balancing many different varied genres at the same time. I have said it so many times, but again, he does something with his films that nobody else in cinema does. Seeing Lee function within this atmosphere would surely bring something different out of him. The potential here is endless.

Jane Campion and Claire Danes – While I kind of wish this collaboration had taken place in the 90’s as opposed to now, this would still be a pairing I would kill to see. Danes is exceptionally talented and seeing her in a Campion period piece would be a refreshing role for the actress to take. Additionally, she would be up to the challenges demanded of a lead actress in a Campion film.

The Coen Brothers and Peter Dinklage – How has this not happened yet? I kept having to double check and make sure this collaboration has yet to occur. Yes, Dinklage has been on my mind and in my dreams quite a lot lately what with “Game of Thrones” and all. Dinklage is commonly placed in roles that showcase his epically sardonic line delivery. His performance in his debut film Living in Oblivion really exemplifies how well he can be used in a comedy. The kind of humor the Coens excel at would be perfectly matched with how Dinklage fits into his comedic roles. In short; this needs to happen.

Sofia Coppola and Mia Wasikowska – It is not hard to see why I think this pairing would work. I am thinking mainly of the pose-heavy way Coppola frames and shoots her characters and how naturally Wasikowska would fit into the look of her films. My shallow reasoning is that the woman shoots beautiful people prettily. Pretty, pretty, pretty like a painting. While I want her to eventually focus on older actors (her work with Bill Murray is the best work she has gotten from anyone), for now, if this happened, I would be ecstatic.

David Cronenberg and Johnny Depp – Oh Johnny. My feelings about Depp have been a rocky roller coaster of the years. The man is a great actor, but the only performance of his I got excited about over the last decade is his Sweeney Todd. Cronenberg is at a place in his career where his films are rooted in harsh realism, largely leaving his mind-fuck days of body horror behind. Depp would do nicely in both eras of the director’s work. Cronenberg’s films fully maintain that edge and fascination with human psychology and I would love to see Depp in the kind of roles that Viggo Mortensen gets from his memorable collaborations with the director.

Michael Haneke and Tilda Swinton – This one is so obvious, it barely needs explanation. Haneke’s cold and distant works have gotten brilliant work out of actress powerhouses Juliette Binoche and Isabelle Huppert. Swinton would be a natural fit within a Haneke work as she is capable of performing the hell out of any role as well as her ability to exude the trademark Haneke coldness to a tee.

Lee Chang-dong and Bae Doona – Lee’s films deal with some ugly situations presented in a natural and honest light. His characters go on an extended journey, for better or worse, and he asks a lot from his performers. Jeon Do-yeon was justifiably praised for her exhausting performance in Secret Sunshine, and for not wearing any makeup in the film, which is a bigger deal than it is here in the States (most South Korean actresses are not likely to take a role with this requirement). Bae Doona, my favorite South Korean actress, has an inherent willingness to take the kind of stripped down roles others might be hesitant to. Her presence and talent in a Lee Chang-dong film would be a dream of mine.

Terrence Malick and John Hawkes – Malick’s obsession with nature and that earthy quality of Hawkes would be a perfect fit. Can’t you just see Hawkes taking on some of that heavy ‘why are we here?’ voiceover? It is really hard to expand on this one; it is the first one that came to my head when brainstorming for this list. It just feels right.

Christopher Nolan and Will Smith – When Smith almost signed on for Django Unchained, I found myself a lot more excited than I expected to be. Then that fell through. Smith always takes huge projects, and while he exacts a Nazi-like control over every aspect of the films he appears in, I still like the actor. While characters might not be Nolan’s strong point as a writer/director, seeing Smith in a big-budget Nolan flick would likely give Smith a chance to really shine in a project that would give him a chance to make the most of some strong material a la I Am Legend.

Alexander Payne and Leonardo DiCaprio – DiCaprio is the rare actor who has never taken a comedic role. Ever. Not even a remotely comedic one. The more serious the material, the more drawn to it he is. Which is fine; the man has given some incredible performances and I always look forward to seeing him on screen. Yet at this point, I am yearning for him to do something different. His upcoming role in the new Tarantino is exactly the kind of project I am intrigued to see him in (is that officially happening? I’m cautious about believing casting announcements these days). He would be pushing himself in a different way. Will we buy him as a villain? I wonder. But I am ecstatic to see him try. While I want to see DiCaprio in a comedy (seriously…how surreal would that be at this point?), even seeing him try a dramedy would be radically different and even jarring. The kinds of films Payne makes are the exact kind of project I want DiCaprio to align himself with, as his upcoming The Descendants illustrates.

Todd Solondz and Ben Stiller – I am a Ben Stiller fan despite his love for big paydays over meaningful projects. Looking at his writer/director projects, it is obvious that he is drawn to darkly comic material. Some of the stuff on “The Ben Stiller Show” and in addition, The Cable Guy and Tropic Thunder, go to some pretty dark places. Solondz’s desire to sincerely explore the dark side of humanity in a very matter-of-fact way somehow materializes itself as black comedy. Given the chance for a role in a Solondz film, I am overly confident that Stiller would absolutely shine.

Quentin Tarantino and Choi Min-sik – The director is arguably more influenced (and takes the most from) by Asian cinema than anything else. Yes, I am lumping together many different national cinemas there, but the point remains. With Kill Bill Volume 1, he created Go-Go Yubari specifically for Chiaki Kuriyama, and she remains among my very favorite characters in any film. I hope he can create other roles for Asian actors that he admires and/or idolizes from time to time, and Choi Min-sik would be my first pick. The man can play any type of role thrown at him and Tarantino’s obsession with Oldboy, and very likely other Choi performances, would make him a perfect candidate for a specially created character by the filmmaker.

Lars von Trier and Winona Ryder – Quite honestly, this is the kind of role Ryder needs right now, if she can get it. Something tells me she would be drawn to being Trier’s emotionally drained puppet and for someone trying to get her career back, she needs a game-changing project to push her into difficult places. I am sure kissing Channing Tatum is nice, but The Dilemma ain’t gonna cut it. In the end, neither are bit parts in Star Trek and Black Swan, although it’s a start. Ryder is an actress that has been a consistent presence in my life whose earlier performances will remain with me. I am seriously rooting for this woman, (for a 5th grade biographical project, others picked to write about Lincoln and Washington; I picked Ryder) and von Trier is the kind of director I want her to get a project with.