Category Archives: film

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On the passing of filmmaker Alan Parker

Alan Parker just died. If you grew up in the last quarter of the 20th century, odds are very good you’ve seen one of his films, if not several. You may not even realized you did. He wasn’t a fan of the auteur idea of being a director, and that likely resulted in him not making films in a consistent way. Which is fine, since he made many a good film. The New York Times has done a wonderful thing and put together a list of some of his most well known films and where you can watch them online: Where to Stream Alan Parker’s Best Movies – The New York Times.

If you haven’t seen any of his films, now is your chance. Grab that list and go stream. I may rewatch “The Commitments”, one of the more enjoyable films from that time.

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On how Christopher Nolan borrows from Michael Mann and “Heat” for The Dark Knight

Christopher Nolan borrows heavily from Michael Mann, in particular from Mann’s best film, Heat, for his own film, The Dark Knight. To see what I mean, watch this video: The Dark Knight: Visual Echoes.

Visually, he borrows a great deal. But I think he goes much further than that. The bank scene in The Dark Knight takes a lot from the bank scene in Heat. Not just visually, but sounds and action too.

To see what I mean, here’s the scene from Heat:

And here’s the scene from The Dark Knight:

This is not to take away from Nolan, who is a great director. But it is fascinating to me to see how much he uses of Mann, another great director. It’s almost a homage to him.

Fans of The Dark Knight might like to watch it and then watch Heat. You won’t be disappointed.

P.S. The scene from Heat is not just the bank robbery but the getaway. It’s a classic.

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A list of films you might need right now is this: the best screwball comedy movies


Here’s a good list to take your mind off these pandemic times: Best Screwball Comedy Movies: List Ranked By Film Fans

And no, it’s not just old black and white movies, great as they are. There’s films as recent as 2019.

The weather is going to be rainy this week (at least in Toronto): take a break and have a laugh by watch one (or ten) of the films listed there.

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It’s a good time to check out the Criterion Channel

If you are tired of other streaming services, or if you want to improve the films you are watching, now is a good time to check out the high quality films on  The Criterion Channel.

Right now they have a 14 day free trial. Now, if you are not a cinephile, the list of films they have could feel daunting. To make it simple, here is a list of 50 essential films you can watch there, with reasons why you want to see them.

If you aren’t sure, you can check out Criterion films streaming on Netflix, Apple TV and more. Consider giving them a try, though.

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What does Bong Joon-ho’s ‘Parasite’ win mean for the Oscars?

Likely nothing. On the surface, it might seem like it will. But step back: every year some pattern emerges from the Oscar winners, and this pattern is seized on as meaning something meaningful.

The only pattern I can see as meaningful is how Netflix has been steadily gaining more and more nominations over the last few years. There is a meaningful trend. It could end any time, but I think it means that more American films will come from new organizations (e.g. Netflix, Apple, Amazon).

I thought Parasite was a great movie, and Boon Joon-ho is a great director.  But look over the last 10 or 20 years and see if you can find a trend in which films are winning. If you can, I’d love to read about your analysis.

P.S. This is a good piece that got me thinking about the meaning of a film winning at the Oscars: Bong Joon-ho’s ‘Parasite’ makes Oscar history by repurposing the familiar – The Washington Post

 

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For fans of The Godfather, with a few minor thoughts

Here’s a short but good interview with Francis Ford Coppola on The Godfather book’s 50th anniversary | EW.com.

“The Godfather” is one of those films I can always sit down and watch, and is on the list of my top favourite films. It is such an odd film from the 70s, in that it doesn’t seem from that era, but if you grew up in that era, then you see the 70s reflected in a film set in the 40s.

It’s a masterpiece of a film, and I can watch it with the sound off, for it is beautiful to see. The acting is superb as well. The only thing about it that never fails to bother me when I watch it is knowing I am sympathetic to a family of criminals. Coppola wisely sets up the Corleone family’s antagonists in a way you have a hard time feeling sympathy for them when they are attacked, which makes the viewer complicit in what is going on, corrupting him or her. It’s a corrupt world, the film says, and the only way to deal with that is to accept it. I never way to accept that, and I always am aware of that when watching the film.

I often think of it in comparison to the great film by Clint Eastwood, “Unforgiven”. Eastwood’s character succumbs to the forces of evil, but he never takes it for granted, and he moves away from it again. As well, Eastwood takes the entire film of “Unforgiven” to strip away all the myths and glory and glamour of Westerns. In some ways, it is the opposite of “The Godfather”.  Later film makers would do to gangster films what Eastwood did to the Western.

 

 

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A fascinating side by side comparison of Blade Runner 2049 with the original

Can be seen in this video:

I knew there were many visual parallels, but I didn’t catch just how many there were until I watched that video.

Found via this link: Take a closer look at how Blade Runner 2049 subtly updated its predecessor

An odd thing happened to me on seeing Blade Runner 2049 for the third time

The first time I saw Blade Runner 2049, I found myself continually comparing it to the first Blade Runner. I loved it but I could not think of it without thinking about the first film.

The second time I saw it, I watched it for the details. It is an incredibly detailed film, and I found myself watching it for the all fine workmanship in the film (like the Japanese characters on the buttons of the jukebox that you barely see).

The third time I saw it, I saw the film in itself. That was the odd thing. It took me three tries to see the film as a narrative about these mostly new characters. I saw the film the way I would normally see any film that’s new. The other odd thing was that the film seemed to move faster the third time around than the first time. I thought it was slow the first time around and it was compared to the original film. But without that context and having absorbed all the details, I found the storytelling tight and essential.

I plan to see it many times. I think it is a masterpiece and every viewing yields something I missed in previous viewings. You may not want to watch it several times but I recommend you watch it more than once. You will be rewarded the second (or third) time you see it.

What people get wrong about Blade Runner (or Blade Runner as film noir)

The original Blade Runner is a film about the past, present and future. The future part is obvious: replicants, flying cars, off world colonies. It also remains fixed in the present of its time, the early 1980s, with the film’s characters wearing neck ties, reading newspapers, smoking indoors, talking on payphones, watching small screen TVs, and dressing like punk rockers. The past part may not seem so obvious, but it is essential to understanding the film.

The past of Blade Runner is film noir of the mid 20th century. Not just in the way it looks, though the look of film noir is spread throughout the film: the clothes Rachel wears, the office that Bryant works in,  the style of clothes and music in Taffy Lewis’s club, the constant smoking, the hats of Gaff, the trench coat of Batty. It is noir in its morality and outlook. The world is a bleak place, the characters are not who they appear to be, and the morality of everyone is compromised and complicated.

I thought about this again when I read this piece,  There’s Something About “Blade Runner” | Balder and Dash | Roger Ebert, as well as  reading comments about Blade Runner 2049. In this piece, the author tries to establish who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. Assigning who the good and bad people are in film noir is pointless. No one is entirely good, and more often than not, everyone is some degree of bad. Film noir characters have to make difficult choices in a bleak environment where there may be no happy outcomes.

Likewise, some people are critical of Blade Runner 2049 and the role of women in this future. The assumption should be that in the future there should be progress and women should have better roles. But the future of Blade Runner is not one of progress. It is a future where despite technological advances there is no progress. It may not be the future you want, any more than the worlds of film noir are not ones you want to inhabit. It is the future the filmmakers want to explore, and get you to think about.

More on film noir here and here. A great example of what Blade Runner might look like cast as just a film noir film is in that clip above. While Blade Runner is gorgeous in colour, I’d love to see a black and white (sepia and white?) version of it too.

Three smart analyses (and one not so smart) on Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049
Here are three smart pieces on the latest Blade Runner film. I’ll touch on the last one separately.

  1. Life After Empathy: On Philip K. Dick and ‘Blade Runner 2049’ – Paris Review
  2. Inside the kaleidoscope mirrored heart of Blade Runner 2049.
  3. Blade Runner 2049: Identity, humanity and discrimination | Pursuit by The University of Melbourne
  4. Review: Blade Runner 2049 can’t replicate its predecessor’s mastery – Vox

Each of the first three pieces delve into themes and ideas and layers of the film, and among other things, what I took away from them is that the sequel to Blade Runner is going to be studied and discussed for as long as the original film was. I highly recommend these pieces.

The not so smart analysis comes from Vox. It makes the same mistake that others make, namely, in criticizing the film for being too slow and unlike the original Blade Runner. That is ironic, because Blade Runner 2049 seems to be intent on not making the same mistake as the original Blade Runner of shortening and dumbing down the film to make it more appealing. It took three tries until Ridley Scott could release the Blade Runner he wanted (the Final Cut version).

If you have seen the film, read the first three pieces (or any one of them) and then read the Vox piece, and you can see how they miss out on the richness and depth of the film.

I have seen Blade Runner 2049 twice now, and I understand the difficulty people might have with it. It is long. It doesn’t strive to entertain. It swerves away from the film noir genre that Scott stuck to. For all of his artistry, Scott is a traditional storyteller and filmmaker. He makes Hollywood films. Villeneuve strikes me more of an art film maker. He still works within the Hollywood system, but he is striving for something more. That something more is captured here in Blade Runner 2049.

How to get started making low cost films using your smart phone

Sure, to make a great film, great equipment helps. But as these links (and that photo of Zach Snyder shows), you can also make a good film using the latest smart phone technology. And not just Snyder: Gondry does it too. All the links below can help you get started making films using the technology in your pocket. Your films may not be as good as those, but the sooner you start making films with what you have on hand, the better your later films will be.

Thoughts on the new Blade Runner 2049 trailer

Well, here it is!

Some initial thoughts:

  • There’s many echoes visually of the first Blade Runner. In this trailer, there is the close up of the eye and the fight that goes crashing through the wall. Then there’s the cars,  the cityscape and even the clothing that K (Ryan Gosling) wears resembles the first film.  (Also  the woman with K is wearing a transparent yellow raincoat similar to Zhora in the first Blade Runner. She seems to be a replicant.)
  • Other echoes are the scene where K is walking with someone past suspended bodies. It looks like Deckard entering the Tyrell Corporation in the first film.
  • Speaking of that scene, the suspended body that resembles Dave Bautista has a label of Nexus 08 prototype 01! So clearly the replicants have gotten better. The question is: how much better, and in which ways?
  • There seems to be a number of locations for the film besides Los Angeles. The one Bautista’s character is in looks like Russia. (Also, there is a date on the tree that is tied up: is it the incept date of the tree? Or some other significant date?)
  • Speaking of locations, where is Deckard living? It looks deserted, which makes me think it is on Earth. Also, there are Korean symbols on the building he is in.
  • The sequencing of that scene where K meets Deckard is interesting. It looks like K mets Deckard, who tries to escape to his car, which get blown up. In other scenes he is fleeing with his dog when K bursts through a wall and saves him. After which it seems like K asks him questions.
  • That K can burst through a marble wall makes me think he is a replicant.(Well that, and a number of other things)
  • There are two scenes with insects: there are slugs at Bautista’s place and a fly at Deckard’s that lands on K’s hand. Are they real, or replicants too? The fly could be a drone that would tell Deckard someone is coming.
  • There is a walled off city at the beginning of the clip. I wonder if that is breached somehow. It makes me think that that is what happens later when the water is flooding.

Lots to think about and get excited about too! Looking forward to more trailers soon! In the meantime, what follows is a collection of the previous trailers. Enjoy!

P.S. Oh, I missed this featurette before. Need to add it, too!

For Fans of Blade Runner and Typography

This article will surprise you if you are fan of Blade Runner: Blade Runner | Typeset In The Future. It speaks to a level of detail in the film that I hadn’t appreciated. Not just the typography, but a number of other aspects, too. I was surprised, since I had seen the film dozens of times and read countless articles on it.

Highly recommended for fans of type and especially fans of the film.

A good review of Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle. And a good critique of what works based on the Philip K. Dick get wrong.

That review,here, is worth reading for anyone watching or interesting in watching the Amazon Prime series.

Anyone interested in works based on the novels of Dick should focus on this key quote (I added the emphasis):

Pop culture has exalted many of Dick’s wilder stories and novels. Since the release of Blade Runner (1982, based on the short novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) and Total Recall (1990, based on the story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”), his pet motifs of false realities and artificial identities have captivated filmmakers. …Along the way to becoming popcorn entertainments, Dick’s motifs have shed a lot of their existential baggage. Today, the revelation that capsizes everything a movie character once believed about himself and his world is just another mind-blowing plot twist. No sooner have we gasped Whoa! than the film has moved on to the next chase scene, martial-arts display, or explosion. Nobody sits around questioning their own reality or humanity the way Dick’s protagonists do. Those questions, however, were the whole point of Dick’s fiction

That’s a great critique of even the better works based on Dick, like Blade Runner. Whenever you see or plan to see a film or TV series based on one of his works, it’s better if you can read the novel first. Doing so will add much more complexity and richness to whatever you are about to see.

Should you go to (film) school? Some brief thoughts on education

If you read this Open Culture post, Director Robert Rodriguez Teaches The Basics of Filmmaking in Under 10 Minutes, you’d be inclined to say “no”. As for me, I appreciate the points raised in the piece. Much of directed learning in school is less than valuable. That said, there are many ways to learn: experience, reading and watching how others do things, schools and teachers. The idea of limiting yourself to one way of learning is to deprive yourself unnecessarily. Learn any which way you can.

Blade Runner: Final Cut now playing in Toronto at the Regent Theatre.


Blade Runner: Final Cut is playing at the Regent Theatre in Toronto.

Blade Runner was released 25 years ago and while Ridley Scott made strong improvements to the film when he released The Director’s Cut of the film, the Final Cut is even better. Scott has the time and the luxury of telling the story without feeling the need to tighten it up and quicken the pace. That’s just one reason why you should see it again.

Not only that, but as they say at blogto.com, you should go to the Regent and take advantage of

the opportunity to see one of the great visual masterpieces of the cinema on an actual cinema screen, digitally projected no less, is too tantalizing to ignore. Scott’s restoration project has included digital fixes and cleanups

Plus, it is just fun to go the Regent Theatre! It’s a great old theatre on Mt. Pleasant just south of Eglinton. Go before the end of November!

Man of Constant Sorrow, from “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

I love this movie: great direction, story, actors, and without a doubt, great music.

As the actor says: that’s some mighty fine pickin’ and a singin’!

You can find out more about the movie here

Why critics should not review kids films

Over at the nytimes.com, is an article on the success of High School Musical: Move Over Mickey: A New Franchise at Disney – New York Times

One thing that struck me was this silly comment from their TV critic.

Virginia Heffernan, a television critic for The New York Times, wrote that although the sequel had a haphazard charm, “the movie is mediocre, and should be skipped.” But she added, “I can’t wait to buy the soundtrack and do the karaoke.”

I wonder if the critic watched the show with a preteen in attendance. It may be mediocre from an adult viewpoint, but it is simply magical to a preteen (I know).

Feminism and Aliens

I remember when I first watched Aliens, I was taken by how the movie flew by, even at 2+ hours. It was thrilling.
I thought about it later and how well it was made. We had already seen the Alien in the first movie, which was a great cross of the genres of science-fiction and horror films. James Cameron made a different movie by crossing the genres of war film and horror film with Aliens. This was interesting in itself. But he also did another interresting thing: he explored the notions of feminism within the film, or at least, the bonds between mother and daughter. (Just like he explored the notion of Father and Son in Terminator 2.) Cameron is not Renoir or Bergman, but Arnold might not have been joking when during the “Titantic” Oscar he joked about starring in Cameron’s “art films”.

The other interesting thing is the juxaposition between maternalism and the action film genre. The contrast gives the films punch. I am sure Camille Paglia would approve. 🙂 See:

As Andrew Sullivan said, one of the best movie lines ever.

It’s a sad and beautiful world, indeed

The next time you are in a (good) video store, try and rent “Down by Law”. It is smart and funny and very cool. It’s been ages since I have seen it, but it still has stayed with me all this time. It has great lines , great scenes and great music. Check out the trailer for a taste:

YouTube – Down By Law – Theatrical Trailer