Thursday, October 28, 2010

AFI Free = dumb idea

The AFI Film Festival in Los Angeles [Hollywood actually] is free again this year. And it is a dumb idea. Here's why. As of right now tickets are available for free [started at 10 am] - but most people cannot access the site now because [duh!] everyone is swamping the site.

But here's the thing, most everyone who can access the site can afford to buy tickets. The folks who would benefit most from the festival being free don't have easy access to a computer. And a good many others are at work right now and cannot access the site because...well they are working and it's not advantageous for them to be perusing the site.

The only other options are to buy a pass for $500.00, which is not really a good choice, or to join AFI and get a chance to aquire tickets...well  yesterday. This scheme is obviously a nice way to advertise AFI. And maybe that is the whole idea behind the concept.

But I say here's a better idea: Stop making the AFI Festival free and instead sell tickets again so people can get tickets for movies they want to see without the hassle.

That said, I saw five or six films last year at the festival and none of them were sold out. So there is a good chance that films will still have seats available on the day of the screenings. But a good many people will not want to drive across the city, pay for parking and take a chance that maybe they can get into a film.

It's time for AFI to admit that the only reason they offer free tickets is as an adsvertising tool. It's a nice idea in theory. Let's hope next year they stop advertising and let us buy tickets again.

Friday, October 22, 2010


One of the best films I've seen this year is the 1968 Japanese horror film Kuroneko directed by Shindō Kaneto’s who is known for directing Onibaba a film somewhat similar in plot and theme.  But while that one is a bit more realistic this one is a ghost story of sorts in a sub-genre known as bakeneko mono or monster-cat tales.

The film's first scene involves a group of samurai who invade the home on Yone (Nobuko Otawa) and her mother-in-law Shige (Kiwako Taichi) whom they brutally rape and murder. The two women lay dead and a cat comes along and laps up their blood, which leads to them being transformed into vengeful spirits or bakeneko, "beautiful cat-like women" who have taken an oath to kill and suck the blood of all Samurai.

Subsequently, they settle in a home deep in the forest where they lure samurai to kill them. As the story unfolds we learn that the mother has a son - married to her daughter-in-law - who went off to war. He returns and is promoted to samurai by the local warlord who tells him to go in search of the spirits that are killing the samurai. He, of course, doesn't realize that these spirits are his mother and wife.

The story is quite good as it builds tension amid some of the horror elements - although to be honest the film is not particularly scary or bloody. At least by today's standards. However, the cinematography is stunning both in the use of black & white lighting but also the staging of each scene in the forest and some visual references which recall the influence of Nōh theatre.

Overall, the formal elements are terrific and the fillm's story really builds a very engaging suspense.

More info here:

MediaSeized analysis
Film Ref review
DVD Outsider review
DVD Beaver review

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fish Wanda Poster

I just unexpectedly saw A Fish Called Wanda at The American Cinematheque. I say unexpectedly because I had read the calendar incorrectly and thought I was going to see a German film, which actually plays next Saturday. Anyway, I had seen A Fish Called Wanda when it came out in 1988 and for some reason was not impressed. Twenty-two years later I have to admit my original opinion of the movie was wrong; it is truly a comedy classic. I laughed a lot. The crowd loved it too.

It was showing as part of a retrospective of Jamie Lee Curtis' career. She was in attendance and provided an entertaining interview after the movie. In the interview she talked about how the original ending was scuttled in favor of a happier with a love story element. Apparently, during the testing phase American audiences did not respond as well to the original darker ending in which is was evident that the Jamie Lee Curtis character was going to knock off the John Cleese character once they got to Rio. So various scenes were shot after principle photography to give the film a bit of a love story element.

One other thing she mentioned was that the original film poster was scrapped for a different one. I have included the poster above. This poster was supposed to have been destroyed due to an image flaw. But enough copies got out that it still exists today. If you look closely at it you will see that Jamie Lee Curtis is standing in an awkward way. The reason is because her image is a composite of two different poses she took during the photo shoot; One in which she was standing sideways and one in which she was standing looking straight ahead. You'll note that her upper body is facing us directly but her lower body is to the side. The pose, while not impossible, is off kilter in such a way that Jamie Lee Curtis had the poster redone. A bit of trivia for a fine and very funny movie.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

1999 best

One of the best recent years in film was 1999. Check out a list of over 40 films released in the US that year. [I've only included films I either liked or that were significant in one way or another. I've also only included films that got an official release of a week or more in the US in 1999].

All About My Mother
American Beauty
Autumn Tale
Beau Travail
Being John Malkovich
The Blair Witch Project
Boys Don't Cry
Buena Vista Social Club
The Dreamlife of Angels
The Emperor and the Assassin
Eyes Wide Shut
Fight Club
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
Human Resources
The Insider
The Iron Giant
It All Starts Today
Late August Early September
The Limey
The Matrix
My Best Fiend
Not One Less
Princess Mononoke
Ride with the Devil
Run Lola Run
Show Me Love
The Sixth Sense
The Straight Story
Three Kings
Time Regained
The Wind Will Carry Us