Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cinema 2009 Lexicon

Moments in movies 2009.
In the tradition of these guys I present some memorable moments in 2009 films.

Falling ash from the forest fire that seems to sprinkle down on the audience in Avatar.

Nicolas Cage and Val Kilmer in Bad Lieutenant stand looking on and time seems to freeze as an iguana standing on an office desk takes over the scene.

The loneliness of the future designer in Coco Before Chanel as she wanders down each night in the mansion looking to fit in only to escape back to her room.

Carrey Mulligan looking through the glove compartment of her 'fiance's' car in An Education coming to the harsh realization that things are not what they seem.

Paul Schneider sympathetically looks out the window into the winter yard at Abie Cornish in Bright Star recalling a similarly framed scene in Citizen Kane as he is about to reveal to her that the love of her life has died.

Using saliva to clean bullets covered in blood in The Hurt Locker.

Peter Capaldi in In The Loop: "Sorry, sorry, I know you disapprove of swearing so I'll sort that out. You are a boring F, star, star, CUNT!"

The violence and meditation of chopping wood in Revanche.

The two rice cooker gifts in 35 Shots of Rum that tie the film's beginning and end.

Isabelle Huppert scratches the back and belly of her daughter and son in Home as they sit in a field under a tree enjoying the one moment of peace they have had since the traffic took over the neighborhood.

A rabbi spouting lines from Jefferson Airplane in A Serious Man.

The cardboard cutout couple that George Clooney takes with him in Up In The Air to photograph in various locations representing the only favor he can tolerate to do for his family.

Arta Dobroshi's irrational and impulsive striptease in Lorna's Silence that leads to her making love to a man she has seemingly hated up to that point.

The night shootout in the forest in Public Enemies as light flickers off of trees and bodies fall.

Liam Neesen in Taken: "I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you."

The lovers in Jerichow - tragically - getting exactly what they wished for.

Hellen Mirren's explosively, dramatic, dinning room plate crashing scene in The Last Station that quickly turns from serious to humorous after she falls down and reveals that she is lying on a fork.

The explosive properties of nitrate film in Inglourious Basterds.

The fate of the family's art nouveau furniture in Summer Hours.

Penelope Cruz in Broken Embraces entering the room, looking at the video footage of herself, lip synching what she said when the scene was filmed - before turning and leaving the room.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best Music of the Year

So what about the best music of the year?
Ummm, look, I won't pretend to make a 'best of' music list for 2009. One is because I am not a music critic. Two is because I don't buy near enough music in any given release year to make my opinions on the year worthy. You want that go to music review sites such as Cokemachineglow, Pitchfork or Tiny Mix Tapes.
However, I do buy a good amount of music from previous years to be able to make a list of music I really liked and 'discovered' this year.
So here goes. I'll start with six I liked from 2009. After that each album and artist listed will have the year of release next to it.


Exploding Boy After Glow - Great Swedish rock album that has yet to get a release in the US. Enjoyable while driving.
Healamonster & Tarsier Cupcake Cave - Catchy electronica pop.
Memory Tapes Seek Magic - More catchy electronica pop.
Odawas The Blue Depths - Quiet and beautiful this album would probably qualify as one of the unsung bands on this list.
White Lies (self titled) -Majestic Brit-rock, at once heady and catchy.
The XX (self titled) - Mummblecore rock at it's best and despite a pretty straight forward style they create a unique sound.

Catherine Ribiero + Alpes Paix [1972] - This one sort of snuck up on me. Ribiero is sort of a French Patti Smith.
ZZ Top Tres Hombres [1973] - Yeah, yeah you've heard them before. But most likely you have only heard their late 80's stuff. This one is their first album and it is great blues-rock.
Thin Lizzy Jail Break [1976] Theatrical heavy metal from the 70's. A band I sort of ignored for years.
The Rosebuds Life Like [2008] This would qualify as the second most unsung band on this list.
Moscow Olympics Cut the World [2008] - Think a Filipino New Order. Beautiful shoegazer sound. Tough to find.
Il Mucchio (self titled) [1970] No list is complete without 70's Italian psyche prog rock. I found a used copy on Amazon.
Tear Gas (self titled) [1971]- Early 70's hard blues rock band that time has forgotten. I found this on a hard rock 70's music blog.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Good unreleased films 2000 to 2009

Here are the some of the better films I saw this decade that did not get regular distribution in the US. By regular distribution I mean films that did not get a week long theatrical play date in New York and/or Los Angeles.
All of these films could have been seen at festivals and some had a two day run at places like the Anthology Film Archive in New York - and most all are available on DVD.

Of course, there are many, many more films that could make this list. But this is a list of what I managed to see [and like] over the last decade.

Battle Royale [2000]
Be With Me [2005]
La Captive [2000]
In The City of Sylvia [2007]
Johanna [2005]
Mysterious Object at Noon [2000]
One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich [2000]
Photos to Send [2002]
Secret Sunshine [2007]
The Silence Before Bach [2007]
Turning Gate [2002]

Friday, December 11, 2009

Best films 2008 & 2009

This decade flew by and the films kept coming. But here we are at the end. Will these films hold up in ten years? Perhaps. I enjoyed them at the time.
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days...
The Edge of Heaven
Man on Wire
Red Belt
Tell No One
Time Crimes
Vicky Christina Barcelona
Waltz with Bashir
Woman on the Beach

The Baader Meinhof Complex
Il Divo
In The Loop
Flame & Citron
The Last Station
Lemon Tree
Soul Power

*Subject to change a bit...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Best films 2006 & 2007

Just past half way with the decade in full swing plenty of good titles were being released.
Army of Shadows*
Children of Men
The Departed
Half Nelson
Miami Vice
Mountain Patrol: Kekexili
La Moustache
Notes on a Scandal
The Prestige
Thank You For Smoking
This Film Not Yet Rated
* a 1969 film finally released in the US.

After The Wedding
Diving Bell And The Butterfly
Eastern Promises
The Lives of Others
Michael Clayton
Planet Terror [full version]
There Will Be Blood

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Best films 2004 & 2005

Mid-decade had plenty of good films. In fact, maybe too many. It is tough narrowing it all down to only 10. So I'll just include as many as I feel are necessary.
Blind Shaft
Bright Leaves
The Corporation
Enduring Love
Endless Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Notre musique
Secret Things

The Beat That My Heart Skipped
The Best of Youth
The Devil's Miner
The Edukators
Forty Shades of Blue
A History of Violence
The New World
Tropical Malady

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Best films 2002 & 2003

Early in the 2000's the films were going strong.
The Fast Runner
Femme Fatale
I'm Going Home
Late Marriage
Read My Lips
Sex and Lucia
The Sleepy Time Gal
Spirited Away
Talk to Her
War Photographer
Y Tu Mama Tambien

Divine Intervention
The Fog of War
Lilya 4-Ever
Lost in Translation
The Man Without a Past
The Man on the Train
The Mother
Rivers & Tides
The Son
The Station Agent
Veronica Guerin

Monday, December 07, 2009

Best films 2000 & 2001

The only way to consider what the best films of the decade were is to make a list of the top ten [or so] year by year.
It was a heck of a good decade. I'll do one post each day this week.
Aimee & Jaquire
Beau travail
The Girl on The Bridge
Human Resources
The Idiots
It All Starts Today
Yi Yi
Wonder Boys
You Can Count on Me

Amores Perros
La Cienaga
Code Unknown
The Gleaners and I
In The Mood For Love
Last Resort
The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring
Mulholland Drive
Under The Sand
Wisconsin Death Trip

I will try to be consistent with one rule and that is the film needs to have been released for a regular run in either NY or LA the year it is listed. If it played at a festival or was released in another country in an earlier year then it does not count until the year it gets an actual release in the US.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

Cloud Atlas

I decided to read a book titled 'Cloud Atlas', which is considered to be one of the best fiction books of the new millennium.

What could be easier than going to the library and finding a book published in 2004 with a relatively easy title to remember? Turns out it was pretty easy - maybe too easy. I went to the computer catalog, typed in the title, found it, then wrote down the author's name and headed for the shelves. There it was. Clean, unread, ready to be checked out. [Hmmm, how can such a celebrated book appear to be unread, I thought?]

I took the book home and began to read it. It was quite good. Then, looking back at the 'best of' list, I realized that the author's name on the list was not the same name on the book I had checked out. Whoa, I was reading the wrong book!

Turns out there are two books published in 2004 with [basically] the same title. Yep, 'Cloud Atlas' by David Mitchell and 'The Cloud Atlas' by Liam Callanan.

Anyway, The Cloud Atlas is a good read. May not be the best of the last ten years but then again I liked it better than a couple other books that made that 'best of' list. So I'll chalk this up as a serendipitous read. Plus, it taught me a little about the rarely reported Japanese balloon bombs used during World War Two.

Turns out I'm not the first to do this.
Here and here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Lost Island of VHS...

Il Ladro di Bambini - Gianni Amelio - 1992

Much praised in 1993 when it came out but much forgotten in the world of DVD / Blu-Ray this film is about a police officer [carabiniere] who is instructed to take a young brother and sister to an orphanage - but due to complications regarding the girls abusive past the officer decides to take the two to another orphanage in Sicily.

Even though his actions are kind he is essentially kidnapping them - unwittingly, of course. Along the trip they begin to bond with him in ways they never did with their mother. Directed by Gianni Amelio, the film takes a serious episode [sort of neo-neo-realism] and makes into something warmer, smarter but still heartbreaking.

This is long overdue on DVD.

A side note: I recorded this on VHS years ago and through an intermediary lent the copy to Antonio Banderas - who was considering a remake. I never got back the original but I did get back a studio copy in a more official case.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Easy Life

The Easy Life

This is a really good Italian comedy / drama directed by Dino Risi in 1962. Very rare and not available in DVD in the US the film was an influence on both 'Easy Rider' and 'Sideways'.

The title in Italian, Il Sorpasso, translates as 'The Overtaking' and is more accurate in the context of the movie in more ways than one.

Articles on the film here.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Milk of Sorrow

Trailer for The Milk of Sorrow (La Teta Asustada), which won the Golden Bear at this years Berlin Film Festival.
The full length film is available here [no subtitles]

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

More Rare dvd

Here is a list of more rare DVDs that aren't really rare - just not seen enough and often tough to find.

Croupier [Image]- This is a terrific drama with a young [pre-famous] Clive Owen who works as a croupier to to curb his own gambling addiction but gets word of an inside job that he can't pass up. The script is very strong with nary a wasted scene. It should be a classic.

Day of the Outlaw
[MGM] - This is a rarely seen Andre de Toth western from the 1950's. Shot in a stark black and white the film is about a tough rancher who faces off against a group of thugs who come to town and take over for a day or two. It has a good amount of tension with a nihilistic streak that would have made Peckinpah proud.

The Rabbit is Me [First Run Features]- A terrific East German film about a young woman who has an affair with a judge who happened to sentence her brother to prison for political activity. A tricky dynamic is at work and a very political one as well. Made in the 1960's the film was banned in East Germany for years.

Reconstruction [Palm]- This postmodern romance from Denmark played many festivals and had great word of mouth - for those who saw it. Basically it is about a photographer who meets and falls in love with a woman in the course of one intense day. Influenced, no doubt, by Last Year at Marienbad it is both complex and perplexing but worth seeing again and again.

The Soft Skin [Fox Lorber] - Hard to imagine that a Francois Truffaut movie could be rare but this one [which is out of print] is. Directed after the success of his first three films [which everyone knows] the film never took off and it's hard to know why. But the doomed love affair it deals with fits right into the themes of the French New Wave of the period.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

39 or 59

Was 1959 a better year in film than 1939?
It's certainly better than 2009.

Eleven great films from 1939
Gunga Din
The Wizard of Oz
Gone with the Wind
The Rules of the Game
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Only Angels Have Wings
The Roaring Twenties
Le Jour se lève

Eleven great films from 1959
The 400 Blows
Some Like It Hot
The World of Apu
North by Northwest
Jazz on a Summer's Day
Hiroshima, mon amour
Wild Strawberries*
Day of the Outlaw
Room at the Top

* made in 1958 but released in the US in 59

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Rashomon already played

RASHOMON IS PLAYING AT THE NUART blares the headline on the LA Times [web] today.

Followed by a nice sentence: The beautifully restored print of Akira Kurosawa's landmark 1950 drama "Rashomon" visits the Nuart Theatre for a one-week engagement beginning Friday.

Nice press, you say?
The only problem is Rashomon actually closes tonight.
It opened last Friday.

Nice work LA Times. This is what you get with a depleted staff at a sinking newspaper? If anything you'd think the Arts & Entertainment section would be their strongest department. [Sigh].

BTW I saw Rashomon last night. And the print never looked better. The black and white is ravishing.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


In the City of Sylvia.
A good movie that features a young artist who looks at and follows women who appear to be staring off into space alot.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Telluride festival photo

I was trying to get a photo of Helen Mirren and I managed to get a [not very good] photo that included - from the left - Anouk Aimee, Carey Mulligan, Brenda Blethyn and Helen Mirren.

Compare with this photo by Leonard Maltin, from a better angle.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Van Gogh brushstrokes

There are 1753 brush strokes in Van Gogh's "Vincent's Bedroom in Arles".

The whole video about catching fake Van Gogh paintings with computers is here.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Godard tweets

So I did a Twitter search for Godard as in Jean Luc Godard.
And it's interesting because in a matter of a few hours there were two famous quotes by Godard that were going around and mentioned by a good number of people who I am guessing were not connected to one another.

To be or not to be. That's not really a question. showed up 8 times in 40 tweets.

A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end... but not necessarily in that order showed up 4 times in 40 tweets.

The first quote is one I had never heard from Godard and I am not sure where everyone else heard it. I am guessing a meme is going around.

Monday, August 03, 2009


I visited the Huntington Library this weekend. It's a beautiful place. Of course, I forgot my camera, which is actually a good thing because otherwise I would have spent too much time snapping photos and not enough time looking at the beauty and sheer size of the place. However, there are many good photos over at Flickr.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Severe cuts

Why are they smiling?

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders will begin working today to line up votes for the budget agreement they reached Monday evening to close a $26.3-billion deficit and allow the state to begin paying all of its bills again...
The plan has not been formally released. But... it does not include any broad-based tax increases, relying instead on deep cuts in government services, borrowing and accounting maneuvers to wipe out the deficit....

Tens of thousands of seniors and children would lose access to healthcare, local governments would sacrifice several billion dollars in state assistance this year and thousands of convicted criminals could serve less time in state prison. Welfare checks would go to fewer residents, state workers would be forced to continue to take unpaid days off and new drilling for oil would be permitted off the Santa Barbara coast.


So again, why exactly are they smiling?

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Lost Island of VHS...

Antoine et Antoinette - Jacques Becker - 1947

Jacques Becker's light but highly enjoyable French film from the 1940's 'Antoine and Antoinette' is about an attractive working class couple living in Paris who get their hands on a winning lottery ticket that is sure to end all of their woes. Only the ticket gets lost in a busy train station. Antoine scrambles to find the ticket at the same time Antoinette finds herself the object of affection from a lecherous businessman who employees her. The film is sort of a remake of Rene Clair's 'Le Million'. Less artful perhaps but maybe a bit more empathetic and down-to-earth.
I suspect this could be part of the Janus Collection and may show up on Criterion some day. As it is now you can only see it on a cheap VHS copy that is tough to find.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Lost Island of VHS...

The Nasty Girl - Michael Verhoeven - 1990

One of my favorite German films from the 1990's was 'The Nasty Girl' by Michael Verehoven. A young woman writes an essay that wins her the respect and love of her small home town. So for her next assignment she decides to write an essay about the town's Nazi past and before she knows it she is an outcast facing the wrath of the town along with death threats to her family. The film's story is good enough but the style and distinct energy of the directing and editing make for a really delightful cinematic experience not to mention one that deals with a subject that still riles some Germans.
This one deserves to be on DVD. Miramax has the rights.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Jukka Tolonen is a Finish guitar legend.

Here are a few tracks from his 1971 album Tolonen!. It's more jazz oriented than rock - just so you know.

Elements: Earth, Fire, Water, Air


Tuesday, June 02, 2009

What is this recent New Yorker cartoon all about?
Answer below.


The piece was written by Stan Freberg in 1951.

There was also a long running TV sitcom in the Philippines called John en Marsha back in the 1980's.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Egg breaking revival

Tear Gas - 1971 hard blues rock

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - 2009 rock album

No downloads here - just a comparison of images.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Culpeper's Orchard

Culpeper's Orchard was a Danish psych / rock band [with folk influence] from the 1970's. Their sound has hints of Led Zeppelin, Cream and Genesis. Check it out.

Here are choice cuts [from YouTube] of the first album Culpeper's Orchard - 1971.

Mountain Music Part 1
Hey You People
Teaparty for an Orchard
Ode to Resistance
Your Song & Mine
Gideon's Trap
Blue Day's Morning
Mountain Music Part 2

Monday, May 25, 2009

Magazine cover

This week's New Yorker cover was done on an iPhone.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Ramases - Space Hymns.
Ramases was an early 1970's band that produced [I think] only this one album in 1971.
And it's a good one. Sort of a psychedelic, freak folk rock album done by Martin Raphael - who made a living as a heating salesman in Sheffield, England. He and his wife, Selket, put this album together and in a short time it obtained a cult following.

Here are a few tracks to listen to available on YouTube.

Life Child
And The Whole World
Quasar One
You're The Only One
Earth People
Jesus Come Back

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Some 09 Movies

Here is what I have seen recently. In order of preference.

Revanche - A terrific thriller from Austria about a criminal bent on killing the cop who killed his girlfriend. Has a gradual pace and builds beautifully and then shifts focus very subtly and effectively.

Il Divo - An impressive, impressionistic Italian film about a former Prime Minister who may have had connections to the mafia and the murders of his rivals. This is not a traditional biopic and it's all the better for it. Very well assembled. I'm not sure if the director or the editor or the cinematographer gets the bigger applause so I'll salute all three.

Lemon Tree - A [rich] Israeli couple move next door to [poor] Palestinian woman who happens to have a lemon orchard they think will be a hideout for terrorists who want to kill them. So they arrange to clear cut the orchard. This is a well made and engaging film that gets into the personal emotions of the Israeli Palestinian conflict even if is a bit predictable and, at times, heavy-handed.

Adventureland - Young man gets job before going to college in a theme park where he does drugs, falls in love and has a great summer. Despite the fact that many jokes fall flat this is a good film because of the believability of the characters, their situations and the 80's East Coast milieu. It captures youth and falling in love about as well as any youth film out there.

Séraphine - French film about [real life] sightly crazy painter Séraphine de Senlis. Great first hour that carries on a bit long into the second hour as we watch the woman make bad decisions and descend into madness - a place where, unfortunately, most dramas about painters go.

Departures - Japanese film about a cellist who becomes an undertaker preparing bodies for their 'departure'. Sensitive film with some good early scenes about rituals but it gets too sentimental midway through. I like the rock metaphor but it only adds some interest to the story. Also what's up with most of the recently departed being women?

The Limits of Control - Laconic hit man (Isaach De Bankolé) - who lives on paper and espresso - goes to Spain to kill some bigwig [Bill Murray] in this flatter than a pancake drama. I'm a fan of Jarmusch's existential, dead pan style but I had no connection with this film at all.

Monday, May 11, 2009

70's classic

I've always wanted to hear this album. Some guy is streaming** it on a website called Vinyl Archives.
Buckingham Nicks

**[Note this only plays the full album on a Windows Media player. If you only have iTunes it will only play the first song, which it downloads].

Also available here to listen to no matter what you have.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Cannes 2009

The 2009 Cannes competition lineup:

Abrazos Rotos” (Broken Embraces), directed by Pedro Almodovar
Antichrist,” directed by Lars Von Trier
Bright Star,” directed by Jane Campion
Enter The Void,” directed by Gasper Noe
Faces directed by Tsai Ming-liang
Fish Tank,” directed by Andrea Arnold
Kinatay,” directed by directed by Brillante Mendoza
Les Herbes folles,” directed by Alain Resnais
In The Beginning,” directed by Xavier Giannoli
Inglorious Basterds,” directed by Quentin Tarantino
Looking For Eric,” directed by Ken Loach
Map of the Sounds of Tokyo,” directed by Isabel Coixet
A Prophet,” directed by Jacques Audiard
Spring Fever,” directed by Lou Ye
Taking Woodstock,” directed by Ang Lee
The Time That Remains,” directed by Elia Suleiman
Thirst,” directed by directed by Park Chan Wook
Vengeance,” directed by Johnny To
Vincere,” directed by Marco Bellocchio
The White Ribbon,” directed by Michael Haneke

When possible I've tried to include the trailer.

Friday, May 01, 2009


"J.G. Ballard began as a hardcore SF writer. His very early short stories, on familiar themes such as overpopulation, societal decay and so on, are as good as anything in the genre.... There followed four novels of glazed apocalypse": [Martin Amis]

Where the world was destroyed by:

The Wind from Nowhere (1961) Wind
The Drowned World (1962) Water
The Drought (1964) Heat
The Crystal World (1966) Mineralisation

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Evolution of Dancing Gangsters

Walk Cheerfully (1930) silent Ozu film.
The Band Wagon (1953) Vincent Minelli musical.
Band of Outsiders (1964) Jean-Luc Godard movie
Pulp Fiction (1994) - Quentin Tarantino flic.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Old prof...

Stanton Englehart has passed away. He was a great artist but an even better human being. He was very compassionate, humorous, generous, vibrant and a pleasure to be around.
He taught art classes at Fort Lewis College in CO.
One of the classes he taught was on Aesthetics. I took the class back in 1990. It was a cool class because the students would talk aesthetics and art most of the day. Then Stanton would play music and we would write in our journals or read the books he had assigned. At the end of the year he would let the students grade themselves. He felt we ultimately would be humble enough to not give ourselves an A+ and he was right: He had to talk some of us out of giving ourselves a B.
He painted a lot of landscapes and was particularly partial to the Southwestern United States [close to where he lived his entire life]. He would visit Lake Powell often, with his wife, and he would come back and paint these big colorful paintings that would take up half the wall. A book on his paintings can be found here.

The books he assigned for his class were:

The Memory of Old Jack
The Universe is a Green Dragon
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

He had an influence on my life. He'll be missed by many.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Handshakes [and smiles]

Khrushchev & JFK

Mao and Nixon

Bush and Abdullah

Obama and Chavez

You getting the picture people? Diplomats shake hands. This is how the world moves forward.