Demolition (2015)

Directed By: Jean-Marc Vallée

Screenplay By: Bryan Sipe

Cinematography By: Yves Bélanger

Starring: Jake Gyllenhall, Naomi Watts, Chris Cooper & Judah Lewis

Runtime 101 minutes

I’m going to watch anything Jake is in so when Demolition came on HBO my viewing of this movie was bound to happen. To my surprise I found this movie to be extremely compassionate. I’m not exactly shocked at how terrible of a reception this movie received when it was released because of how sentimental it is, but call me sentimental because this is a much better film than the critics were giving it credit for. “Fuck the critics!”

Honestly this is a deeply rich film about apathy, grief, and life itself. As Jake’s character searches for a renewed view on life so do we. I found Demolition to be extremely effective to the point where the climax of the film had me teary-eyed. I found Demolition to give it’s characters (most of) the justice characters deserve but rarely find these days.  I found Demolition to have heart and humor, soul and passion.

Usually this kind of movie is melodramatic or standard indie fare; striving to be sympathetic with hints of comedy but ultimately leaving with everything feeling very thin and surface level. I think Demolition goes deeper than that and succeeds on many basic levels. I think that where most movies like this try and be profound and aren’t, Demolition doesn’t try to be and is.

Lastly, I believe my reception to this film was based on expectations. I was expecting a crappy film, thin with a weak plot and weak characters. I found something that was much richer and for that I thoroughly enjoyed my time and found Demolition to enhance my life experience. Demolition has something to say about life and we should listen.

God Bless America


Silence (2016)

Directed By: Martin Scorsese

Screenplay By: Jay Cocks & Martin Scorsese

Cinematography By: Rodrigo Prieto

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver & Tadanobu Asano

Runtime 161 minutes

Silence is Scorsese’s newest movie. It’s really tough to watch. People like Scorsese for a lot of reasons and I think that many fans will find this to be an extremely difficult movie to get through, I did. It is not a nice movie for audiences. It doesn’t let you sit back and watch mobsters hustle or gangsters rise to prominence. It doesn’t have Joe Pesci giving spitfire comedic dialogue. It doesn’t have De Niro or Leo. Silence is a brutal film, both for its audience and it’s characters. Silence is also a spectacularly beautiful film.

Scorsese has mastered the image. He has, plain and simple. Scorsese’s movies are always in some way about movies themselves. What movies can be, what they should be, how they can operate on multiple levels. Silence is no different, but it is not about movies in the way we usually understand them through Scorsese. Silence is not about long dollys, steadicams, or quick cuts. Silence is about stillness. Silence is about the image. But more importantly Silence is about the meaning images can convey.

Silence is brutal because of it’s subject matter. It is hard to watch arrogant people believe they are right and that is exactly what the Jesuit Priests were, in my opinion. It is harder to tell what Scorsese believes but they may ultimately be the point. Scorsese does not spoon feed us what to think or feel, he wants us to experience these things on our own. He wants the movie to do what a movie should do, make its audience think. For me this was a tough movie to get through, not because of it’s pacing but rather because I cannot stand these missionaries. I cannot stand what they preached, what they believed, and how they went about doing it. But that doesn’t mean it’s a movie I shouldn’t see or that it was a movie I regret seeing.

I believe that there is also a strong parallel of the Jesuit Priests in Japan to Scorsese as a filmmaker. The Priests in Japan died for their cause yet accomplished nothing. Scorsese is at a point in his career that he too must be looking back and wondering what he has accomplished. Even with so much praise and success what impact has he had on new filmmakers? Are new filmmakers understanding what he loves so much about movies? Do they understand why movies are impactful and how this can be done? Or even though he has worked so hard and brought us to many terrific films, is it essentially all meaningless?

Silence will test you as it tests its characters, but I assure you this is worth seeing on the big screen.

God Bless America

Bay of Angels (1963)

Directed By: Jacques Demy

Screenplay By: Jacques Demy

Cinematography By: Jean Rabier

Starring: Claude Mann & Jeanne Moreau

Runtime 90 minutes

The second of Demy’s features, Bay of Angels, is a sweaty amusement park ride; only the steadiest of hearts will stay dry. Bay of Angels is sexy fun thrilling, including everything that gambling and romance has to offer.

This movie proves that watching people gamble can be just as exhilarating as the act itself. When big money is on the table one cannot simply look away, one must watch until the(in this case) roulette ball has landed in its home either in celebration or demise for both the characters and viewers.

Jean (Claude Mann) is just the right amount of awkward and calm allowing his luck to spark a relationship with the gambling addict Jackie (Jeanne Moreau). Their relationship reflects all the ups and downs, highs and lows of gambling, and it is done so with style and flair.

Bay of Angels is an experiment in catharsis in winning big money, living the high life and falling in love. This is a classic.

God Bless America

Track of the Cat (1954)

Directed By: William A. Wellman

Screenplay By: A.I. Bezzerides

Cinematography By: William H. Clothier

Starring: Robert Mitchum, Teresa Wright, Beulah Bondi, Tab Hunter, Philip Tonge, Diana Lynn, William Hopper & Carl Switzer

Runtime 102 minutes

If you want to see a move that most assuredly inspired Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight watch this movie. Not only is it worth the watch because of the resonance it’s clearly had with Tarantino, but it is an exception film to boot. The acting is superb, the direction fantastic, the location isolating, the themes compelling, and the relationships fundamentally human.

Track of the Cat has the feeling of a play but it undeniably cinematic.

The weakest and most upsetting part of the movie is the portrayal of an old Native America named Joe Sam played by Carl Switzer. The dialogue and make-up for this character are unequivocally racist. It’s not Jim Crow racism but rather the inherent lack of respect and understanding. Whereas all the other characters are multi-dimensional people, Joe Sam is a one-dimensional caricature. One can write it off saying it’s due to the times and there’s no way around it, but I feel that a movie that gets so much right should not be given the benefit of the doubt for something they got so terribly wrong. Luckily the modern viewer is bailed out of this racism for most of the film as Joe Sam is relatively scarce throughout the film and isn’t given too much important dialogue until the end. However, it is his presence at the end that will leave the viewer with the sourest taste in his mouth, because again the rest of the movie has so much right that it is hard to not feel dirtied with this last minute lingering racist presence.

Ironically one of the themes of this movie is racism, the western idea of manifest destiny, and it’s lingering effects. In that reasoning maybe the Joe Sam caricature is both the proof that racism still exists and (possibly) the filmmakers decision to make the audience grapple with that very idea.

Track of the Cat is a remarkable movie and one that should certainly be watched.

God Bless America

Lola (1961)

Directed By: Jacques Demy

Screenplay By: Jacques Demy

Cinematography By: Raoul Coutard

Starring: Marc Michel & Anouk Aimée

Runtime 90 minutes

Lola is Jacques Demy’s first feature length film and as I continue through his filmography Lola is an impressive start. I had two big takeaways from this film.

The first is that French films have an inherent advantage over America cinema for no other reason than the French language itself. Their language, along with the societal norms that have probably followed the language’s example, allows the French to speak to one another on a level Americans could never truly replicate. They have an ease and an intimacy towards one another. No matter the relations to one another be it friends, acquaintances, even enemies, they speak to each other in a more familiar tone. I believe this to be in the inherent nature of how French is spoken. Even with lovers, Americans could not get at the poetic nature of communication the French enjoy.

The second spectacular nature of this film is due to the film itself, inherent French-ness aside, in the constant duality this film presents. Throughout this film there rest doubles, whether in appearance or in action, plot or conversation, this film is built upon sameness. Lola is all the more impactful because the protagonist Roland lives outside of these dualities. His story is not part of the circle of love that Lola and the young girl Cecile experience, and for that he is destined to leave Paris and find something anew.

Lola is a very good film consisting French poetic resonance, great dialogue, love intrigue, and the search for one’s self. I’m looking forward to the rest of Demy’s catalogue.

God Bless America

Shutter Island (2010)

Directed By: Martin Scorsese

Screenplay By: Laeta Kalogridis

Cinematography By: Robert Richardson

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo & Ben Kingsley

Runtime 138 minutes

I am so glad I have finally been able to rewatch this film. As I say a lot, the way we receive movies is largely due to our expectations. Sometimes this falls on marketing for a misleading advertising campaign and sometimes this falls on us for wanting a movie to be something it is not. When I first saw Shutter Island in theaters I could not appreciate this movie for what it was because I wanted it to be something it wasn’t. I was looking for a detective ghost story and that is not what Shutter Island is. What Shutter Island is is a profoundly beautiful film about a shattered man who has a whole island of people trying to help him find himself.

The beautiful irony of Shutter Island, which was not lost on me this time around is that wonderful idea that Leo’s character is looking for himself. This is and isn’t a spoiler. The reason it is not is because the movie is undeniably more impactful when you know this going into it. Every gesture, every look, every comment that people make to or away from Teddy Daniels (Leo’s character) has so much more meaning because you, along with everyone else on the island, knows what is going on. That was the tragic flaw of this movie for a modern audience. It seemed to them, us, me at the time that we were being dealt a shady hand. That the movie wasn’t being honest or straight forward with us. That ultimately there had to be more because it couldn’t have been as simple as the characters were telling us it was. But it is that simple and therefore utterly complex and compelling.

I’m telling you, this movie is beautiful and heart-breaking and a tremendous testament to Martin Scorsese. Go rewatch this movie and be amazed.

God Bless America

Bringing Out the Dead (1999)

Directed By: Martin Scorsese

Screenplay By: Paul Schrader

Cinematography By: Robert Richardson

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Patricia Arquette, John Goodman, Ving Rhames & Tom Sizemore

Runtime 121 minutes

This was one of the last narrative features of Scorsese’s I had yet to see and it didn’t disappoint. Scorsese truly is the best living American director (respectively). His films have a vitality throughout his career that never ceases to amaze, and unlike other directors that get complacent or seem to lack whatever passion it was that got them into the game in the first place Scorsese is always pushing ahead, seeking to further film and it’s possibilities.

Bringing Out the Dead is not Scorsese’s best film but it has something unique to say about the world and for Scorsese it has something unique to say about New York City. Those that wander the streets at night, those that serve to protect us, and those that have to see all the terrible horrible shit that we don’t want to see. Frank, the main character sums up the role of an EMT perfectly as he says something along the lines of “My job isn’t to save lives, but to bear witness so that others don’t have to.”

Speaking of The Cage, Nic gives a great performance with his best friend make-up getting the MVP for this movie. The make up job makes me feel as Cage’s character suggests, that he hasn’t had a goodnight sleep in months, and boy do I ever want this guy to get a good nights rest, Jesus. Cage is rattled and on the brink of a melt-down throughout this entire film, so essentially perfect casting. The supporting cast of characters brings a dynamism to this film that we’ve come to expect from Scorsese but that most other films lack.

Just a well done movie that gives you a lot to think about. Thank you Marty.

God Bless America

The King of Comedy (1982)

Directed By: Martin Scorsese

Screenplay By: Paul D. Zimmerman

Cinematography By: Fred Schuler

Starring: Robert De Niro & Jerry Lewis

Runtime: 109 minutes

In my opinion this is Scorsese’s most underrated film. It’s fantastic on so many levels. De Niro is hilarious, awkward, absurd, creepy, manic; he’s the best Rupert Pupkin anyone could ever ask for.

Scorsese is in tip-top shape, framing us both inside and outside Rupert’s head seamlessly and humorously. The rest of the cast is extremely funny. There’s so much subtle and dark humor in this movie but also deals with a subject matter that thirty-five years later is still as relevant as ever: celebrity culture.

The King of Comedy is dark, real dark. And if you can get past that, you’ll find the humor in it all. This is a movie that’s shear existence amazes me. A still moderately young De Niro playing an absolutely delusional comic, it’s incredible. Scorsese showing that he’s as good at humor as he is at violence, this is the whole deal.

If you haven’t seen this movie you should.

God Bless America

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

Directed By: Taika Waititi

Screenplay By: Taika Waititi

Cinematography By: Lachlan Milne

Starring: Sam Neill & Julian Dennison

Runtime: 101 minutes

Man this is a fun movie. There is a ton of Wes Anderson and Edgar Wright influence all over the screen and it’s exciting. This movie is fun, funny, heartfelt and takes place in the beautiful “Bush” of New Zealand.

I will say the first half is much stronger than the second but that doesn’t diminish the story or how enjoyable this movie is. However here comes the main problem with this film, the antagonist.

The movie is about a foster kid moving in with new foster parents. The antagonist is the social services woman who drops him off. Besides this being a rather standard antagonist for a foster care movie her constant presence is completely unnecessary. She becomes much more of a caricature than a character and it really sucks. It sucks because besides her this movie would almost be flawless (not as in being a perfect movie, but with almost nothing you could truly complain about).

See, Ricky and Hec have to hide in the “Bush” otherwise Ricky will be taken away from Hec and Hec will probably go to jail, but they are essentially running from the national guard of New Zealand. In no way shape or from would a social services lady be running this nationwide “manhunt”. It makes no sense, her character is over the top and isn’t needed. The stakes of Ricky being taken from Hec are high enough, we don’t need this stupid character doing a job she would never ever do.

That being said I still really enjoyed this movie and it’s definitely worth a watch. Some great style mixed with humor and heart with beautiful shots to boot.

God Bless America

I’m the Angel of Death: Pusher III (2005)

Directed By: Nicolas Winding Refn

Screenplay By: Nicolas Winding Refn

Cinematography By: Morten Søborg

Starring: Zlatko Buric

Runtime: 90 minutes

If you follow my blog, which you don’t because no one does, you’d know I’ve been cruising through Refn’s Pusher trilogy. After an unusual experience with Pusher II, Pusher III makes a lot more sense. Even though it’s a trilogy, II and III feel much more tonally related than I. Now having watched all three though, while still feeling I is the best of the trilogy I have an extreme appreciation for II and III and what they succeed in doing.

This trilogy is about control, specifically an individual’s ability to control their environment. Each protagonist is either trying to have control, find control, or maintain control over their situations. A noble theme and a fascinating one for Refn to have explored. As a trilogy it is fun and gratifying to see minor characters weave in and out of these movies even though the protagonists change throughout the three.

Pusher III makes you want Milo to maintain control as much as he wants to. A man once with unquestionable power in the Pusher world is now aging and fighting addiction (another aspect of how he is looking to control something). But Milo’s time as someone to not fuck with isn’t over yet. This is another great movie by Refn and the trilogy has a lot to say about humanity and it’s dark underbelly of crime.

Watch these movies, they’re all on Amazon Prime right now and you won’t be disappointed.

God Bless America