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

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

With Blood on My Hands: Pusher II (2004)

Directed By: Nicolas Winding Refn

Screenplay By: Nicolas Winding Refn

Cinematography By: Morten Søborg

Starring: Mads Mikkelsen

Runtime: 100 minutes

See I told you Mads Mikkelsen was exceptional as Tonny. So exceptional in fact that they gave him his own movie. Of course I’m not going to complain any time Refn is/was allowed to make a movie, but Pusher II has a much calmer tone than any of Refn’s other films I’ve seen. It’s not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination, it’s actually still a great film, just not what I was expecting from Refn or from the sequel to what was an intensity juggernaut in Pusher I.

Another thing that through me was how much grittier Pusher I looks and feels than it’s sequel. Even though Pusher II is still handheld throughout it felt much cleaner than Pusher I. Maybe this is from Refn evolving as a filmmaker and nine years removed from the original he just wasn’t able to or interested in replicating that Pusher grit. The Pusher world is still grimy by itself but this does feel like a more produced version of the original and not fully it’s visual sibling.

However, Pusher II is still emotionally gripping and has a lot to say about the character Tonny and the world he comes from. And again Mads Mikkelsen is excellent as Tonny.

You should watch this movie.

God Bless America

Irma Vep (1996)

Directed By: Olivier Assayas

Screenplay By: Olivier Assayas

Cinematography By: Eric Gautier

Starring: Maggie Cheung & Nathalie Richard

Runtime: 99 minutes

This is an interesting French film that deals with the state of world cinema generally and French cinema specifically. It’s about a French production of a remake of an old silent film, and for the remake the director casts a Chinese actress as the star.

Irma Vep is engaging throughout but the last few minutes is where this movie busts a whole through your brain. Of course it wouldn’t have any power if it weren’t for everything that comes before it, but dang the ending is mesmerizing and shows what movies are truly capable of.

Maggie Cheung is super seducing wearing a skin tight latex suit for a good portion of the film. And it doesn’t hurt how everyone in the movie talks about how beautiful she is. The influential power of other people.

This is worth a watch for anyone interested in a movie about filmmaking and movies.

God Bless America

Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Directed By: Kenneth Lonergan

Screenplay By: Kenneth Lonergan

Cinematography By: Jody Lee Lipes

Starring: Casey Affleck & Lucas Hedges

This is a really good film. This is what more movies should try and be. I’m not saying everything needs to be super depressing, but time is given to the characters and the audience to allow the story to actually matter. We get to witness a situation unfold. We get to understand nooks and crannies of a man’s psyche. It is beautifully shot and gives an importance to the image that isn’t always seen nowadays.

While people have been talking about how depressing this movie is, there is also a lot of humor in it. Lucas Hedges hits every line that he needs to to make us laugh but also perfectly juxtaposes for us how broken his uncle is.

Because of the location and shot selection, even the lack of dialogue from the main character, I found Manchester by the Sea to have a strange soothing quality. Like that of a sad man who has gone to the shore to watch the waves roll in and out.

This is a very lovely film. It is not the best film, it’s not the most beautiful, but it sets a standard for filmmaking and storytelling that people should take notice of.

God Bless America