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Archive for 2008

Movie Review: THE FALL (2008)

by Christopher Beaubien • September 12, 2008 • Start the Discussion!

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Alexandria In Wonderland

Once Upon A Time, Six-year-old Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), one of the injured patients in a Los Angeles hospital circa 1920, wanders the limey and creamy walls looking for something to help pass the time. She has a doughy and lovable face that is genuine, animated, and suggests a definite sharpness of thought. She comes across Roy Walker (Lee Pace), an American stuntman working in the Hollywood “flickers”, who is now being treated for his paralyzed legs from an occupational hazard. He is welcoming and befriends the little Romanian girl. Her presence distracts him from an inky cloud of depression.

Their bond grows when he tells her an epic story that is silly yet strong, perplexing yet straight-forward, fantastical yet damned. Her own imagination manifests, reinterprets, and even edits his words into a hodgepodge of visually radical planes, structures, and characters. A whole new universe takes us away from the confines of the hospital and into a land of eye candy.

The Fall is not the best film of the year, but it is one of the most special. While watching it, I realized that I have never seen this movie before. What I mean is that most of the movies I’ve seen are a variation on other films I have seen. Out of the cookie-cutter machine a la Edward Scissorhands, a strange butterfly-shaped cookie has escaped the line: The Fall is a genuine original. What a fresh breeze it is to have a filmmaker throw out that unwritten book that rules out exploration and approaches deemed too strange and melodramatic for mainstream expectations. Here is a work by an artist who exercises his liberties selfishly in the best sense of the word, but not without purpose.

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Michael Moore’s SLACKER UPRISING Is Free!

by Christopher Beaubien • September 05, 2008 • 2 Comments

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Bias Alert: This news comes just I have recently finished Michael Moore’s Election Guide 2008, thus having read every published word he has ever written including those from the obscure Adventures in a TV Nation.

That waskly old Liberal Michael Moore is rocking the vote (and the boat) with his new film Slackers Uprising. Much like in The Big One (1997) which chronicled Moore’s book tour for Downsize This!, this documentary follows Moore across the country’s universities and colleges. With young adults in attendance months before the Presidential Election of 2004, Moore beseeched the Slackers of America to find their shorts, scarf down their Fruit Loops sans milk and VOTE! The race was between Bush and Kerry and arguably over half the country felt the stakes were near-apocalyptic over four more years of the Sitting Duck in Office.

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Unique Trailers: TAXIDERMIA (2006)

by Christopher Beaubien • September 03, 2008 • Start the Discussion!

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Two years ago, Hungarian filmmaker György Pálfi made a darkly comic familial splatter film based on the short stories of absurdist writer Lajos Parti Nagy. A vomtorium that dissects the inner workings, obsessions, and gluttonous fetishes of the Kálmán’s past three generations. A timeline laced and dripped into the warm, spent human ooze from Dante’s Circles of Hell. This film Taxidermia (2006) sounds like John “Se7en” Doe’s cup of tea.

The three generations syndrome by German novelist Thomas Mann follows the scheme that the grandfather starts the family on its course, then his son, the father, raises the family to the pinnacle of success so that the last generation’s son would waste it and start anew.

Dutch, once upon a time English, filmmaker Peter Greenaway applied this three generation scheme to filmmaking and concluded that the bold grandfather of the cinema was Sergei Eisenstein, the revolutionary Russian Soviet director who fashioned the immutable and much imitated Battleship Potemkin (1925)*. The renegade father of the cinema was Orson Welles who perfected the medium with the towering Citizen Kane (1939). Then the mutinousson of the cinema being Jean-Luc Godard broke and rearranged cinematic conventions by way of the French New Wave Breathless (1960).

TAXIDERMIA (2006) Trailer

Fair Warning: This One Gets Pretty Freaky

I really dig that smash cut with the crying rooster.

TAXIDERMIA (2006) International Trailer

A round of applause for the sickly fascinating website with the droning music and the decadently gruesome images. When you get to the spinning pin wheel, click on the same image twice to navigate to a new link in the site. Montreal-based Brazilian musician/DJ Amon Tobin scores the film and it sounds subterranean.

Taxidermia was Hungary’s official entry for the Academy Awards’ Best Foreign Film. I wonder how long before its judges walked out of the screening room to get a bucket. Roger Ebert, after watching it at the Cannes Film Festival wrote, “I am sure Taxidermia is an important film and certainly a brave one, but I doubt if I know anyone who would thank me for recommending it”. European art critic Boyd van Hoeij called it the best film of 2006.

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I have not seen this film just yet, not for a lack of stomach mind you. I’d have gladly bought a DVD released by Tartan outside of North America had I not found out about the Hungarian produced two-disc special edition. It is packaged like a slab of meat wrapped in cellophane — “Cause you can look right through me. Walk right by me” (couldn’t help myself!) sold in supermarket.

Disc One features the film in an anamorphic widescreen transfer with Dolby 2.0, Dolby 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. Optional English subtitles are included. Supposedly there is a DVD version that includes a director’s commentary but is not included here.

Disc Two has a 42 minute production, 30 minutes of deleted scenes, with optional director’s commentary, 8-minute visual design and concept gallery, 3 minute stills gallery, Hungarian and International trailers, two music videos by the band Hollywoodoo, Taltosember vs Ikarus a 20 minute short film by György Pálfi, storyboards, and an interactive game.

Unfortunately, the Hungarian retailers are keeping this DVD edition a secret from the rest of the world. Anyone who knows how I can get a copy of this special edition would be greatly appreciated.

*I originally wrote “…the bold grandfather of the cinema was D.W. Griffithswho made the first narrative-sophisticated feature film Birth of a Nation (1915) – a pity it is irredeemably racist.” Whether Eisenstein or Griffiths is the real grandfather of cinema has the makings of a blood-on-the-walls debate between cinites.

Thy RELIGULOUS Trailer

by Christopher Beaubien • September 02, 2008 • Start the Discussion!

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Calling all agnostics, come November 5th, have plenty of body armor on because the unapologetic documentary Religulous is hitting theaters.

RELIGULOUS (2008) Trailer

That all heart, brainy and quick-witted political commentator, Bill Maher, takes us around the world to prod people about that hot button called God. There’s already some right-wing evangelist backlash against it. One wonders if there will be a boycott for the likes of Kevin Smith’s underrated Dogma (1999). Thank (insert your diety here) there are people out there willing tackle the bully boys that ram literal readings of the Old Testament down our collective throats.

Kevin Smith Joins The Protesters of DOGMA (1999)

Kevin Smith Laughs At The Protesters of DOGMA (1999)

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Movie Review: MAN ON WIRE (2008)

by Christopher Beaubien • August 13, 2008 • Start the Discussion!

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Watch His Step!

Watching a great movie that clicks in all of the right places assures me that there is harmony in the universe. It is like marveling at a perfectly symmetrical design like the Eiffel Tower or a spider web. Life is really random chaos with no point. It is a relief that our human intellect stubbornly seeks and finds safety, reason and occasional serendipity in the face of an abyss. Without a sound mind, sanity is lost. To perform well, the struggle between genius and madness is universal. The endeavor of Philippe Petit is one of the most memorable…and balanced.

The documentary Man on Wire recounts a French tightrope walker’s obsession to tread while suspended between the void of the World Trade Center Towers 1,368 feet from the ground. That’s the height of 228 six-foot men. Having trained for most of his life to perform this feat, he masterminded a plot with an adventurous team of experts and thrill-seekers to infiltrate the towers’ rooftops to get the wire across them. The illegal operation was as dangerous and complex as a robbing a heavily guarded infrastructure like in Jules Dassin’s Rififi (1954) or, if you haven’t seen that one, Steven Soderbergh’s 2001 remake of Ocean’s Eleven. My only complaint about the break-in was that they didn’t pack a video camera to film the spectacle from such an awesome perspective view.

The scenes of the controversial incursion are narrated by the present interviewees while documented footage and dramatically staged footage bring us intimately to experience it. The black-and-white footage (always timeless) is integrated so well that documentary and the fictional realization become seamless. The director James Marsh has made an exceptional thriller and a visual poem about great dreamers whose vision threaten to capsize them unless they rise to act upon their desires.

This is a superb follow-up to Marsh’s 2006 directorial debut titled The King, a chilling docudrama about an estranged son (Gael Garcí­a Bernal) who goes to depraved lengths to integrate himself into the new family of his born-again father (William Hurt – “How does that feel?”). The King was between Julia Kwan’s Eve and the Firehorse and John Hillcoat’s The Proposition on my Best Films of 2006 list. This year, Marsh is almost neck-to-neck with magician/filmmaker Errol Morris who too has made another invaluable documentary called Standard Operating Procedure. CONTINUE READING ►