Le Doulos (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1962)

Hello all.

I am shamefully under-exposed to Jean-Pierre Melville. It goes right up there with the fact that I have only seen two films of François Truffaut (something that will hopefully change soon) in that I have had time to see films from both of these directors but inexplicably have yet to do so. For March’s “Tackling the Oeuvre,” we are attempting to take on Melville and I was assigned Le Doulos. After two viewings and a week to sit on it, I still feel as if I am underprepared to attempt to write anything on it. The best I can do is to try. There is something to be said about a film when you can feel a director’s touch while watching it. This is absolutely the case with Le Doulos. It’s an expertly crafted, finely acted film with an excellent and captivating story. As I normally do, I warn you as the reader to not continue reading this until you have seen the film. I am not going to go extremely deep into the film but I may discuss what happens after a major reveal and it may be impossible to adequately discuss that without going into some detail of the reveal. Enjoy.

One thing I failed to mention in the opening paragraph is the film’s screenplay. It is right up there in terms of quality with the film’s direction. In my two pages or so of notes on the film, I think I jotted down “the writing is top-notch” about six times. Its quality is that noticeable. For the sake of this paper, I want to put forth that the four most important categories when attempting to judge a film’s value, beyond entertainment and excluding theory for the most part, are direction, writing, cinematography, and acting. Le Doulos nails all four of these categories.

In terms of cinematography, this film excels as a result of its over-usage of shadows and single-source lighting. One particular shot comes to mind, towards the beginning of the film, Jean-Paul Belmondo’s character, Silien, kills somebody and as he is escaping, we are left with the haunting and brilliant shot of a lamp hanging upside down and swinging back and forth from its cord. Prior to Silien’s shooting of the other character, this lamp is the only source of light in the room thus the viewer is forced to notice it. This is a very common feature of film noirs. Throughout the entire film there are shadows everywhere and the viewer witnesses characters literally emerging from darkness frequently. These sorts of shots and usage of that type of lighting all are meant to help set the tone for the film. Getting down to it, this film is grim and nothing short of it. The characters do not trust one another, and hell, until the reveal, the viewer does not trust most of the characters.

Quick side-note, Silien makes the following comment right after his reveal (it is “his” reveal in the sense that he is at the focal point of what the viewer and Maurice are in the dark about), “in this business, you either end up a bum or full of lead.” This utterance is realized within ten minutes of it being said. Every criminal in this film either winds up dead or in jail. The beauty of that sentence is, the viewer knows what’s coming after it is said yet it takes nothing away from neither the utterance itself nor its realization.  I loved this film and I cannot wait to dive deeper into Melville’s filmography.

Thank you for reading!

January, 2010

February 3, 2010

Hello all.

I am a few days late on this but I try not to post more than once a day and seeing as how Monday and Tuesday’s posts were already taken up, I had to wait until today. Anyway, here are the movies I watched in January…

January

1. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Peter Jackson, 2002)
2. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Peter Jackson, 2003)
3. An Education (Lone Scherfig, 2009)
4. (500) Days of Summer (Marc Webb, 2009)
5. The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, 2008)
6. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Gavin Hood, 2009)
7. X-Men (Bryan Singer, 2000)
8. All the Real Girls (David Gordon Green, 2003)
9. Snatch (Guy Ritchie, 2000)
10. District 9 (Neil Blomkamp, 2009)
11. Adam (Max Mayer, 2009)
12. Big Fan (Robert D. Siegel, 2009)
13. Up in the Air (Jason Reitman, 2009)
14. Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999)
15. A Serious Man (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2009)
16. I Love You, Man (John Hamburg, 2009)
17. Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson, 2009)
18. Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur, 1947)
19. The Big Steal (Don Siegel, 1949)
20. Observe and Report (Jody Hill, 2009)
21. The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)
22. The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)
23. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2000)
24. Crazy Heart (Scott Cooper, 2009)
25. A Single Man (Tom Ford, 2009)
26. Humpday (Lynn Shelton, 2009)
27. World’s Greatest Dad (Bobcat Goldthwait, 2009)
28. The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 1957)
29. Good Bye Lenin! (Wolfgang Becker, 2003)
30. Blades of Glory (Josh Gordon and Will Speck, 2007)
31. I Love You, Man (John Hamburg, 2009)
32. Dogville (Lars von Trier, 2003)
33. Crank: High Voltage (Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, 2009)

Not much going on today, had to work this morning and plan on catching up on the movies I have from Netflix this evening and hopefully seeing the Hawks win a damn game. I hope everyone is having a solid week thus far.

Thank you for reading!

The 82nd Academy Awards

February 2, 2010

Hello all.

Actor in a Leading Role

Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart”
George Clooney in “Up in the Air”
Colin Firth in “A Single Man”
Morgan Freeman in “Invictus”
Jeremy Renner in “The Hurt Locker”

Actor in a Supporting Role

Matt Damon in “Invictus”
Woody Harrelson in “The Messenger”
Christopher Plummer in “The Last Station”
Stanley Tucci in “The Lovely Bones”
Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds”

Actress in a Leading Role

Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side”
Helen Mirren in “The Last Station”
Carey Mulligan in “An Education”
Gabourey Sidibe in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”
Meryl Streep in “Julie & Julia”

Actress in a Supporting Role

Penélope Cruz in “Nine”
Vera Farmiga in “Up in the Air”
Maggie Gyllenhaal in “Crazy Heart”
Anna Kendrick in “Up in the Air”
Mo’Nique in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”

Animated Feature Film

“Coraline” Henry Selick
“Fantastic Mr. Fox” Wes Anderson
“The Princess and the Frog” John Musker and Ron Clements
“The Secret of Kells” Tomm Moore
“Up” Pete Docter

Art Direction

“Avatar” Art Direction: Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Kim Sinclair
“The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” Art Direction: Dave Warren and Anastasia Masaro; Set Decoration: Caroline Smith
“Nine” Art Direction: John Myhre; Set Decoration: Gordon Sim
“Sherlock Holmes” Art Direction: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
“The Young Victoria” Art Direction: Patrice Vermette; Set Decoration: Maggie Gray

Cinematography

“Avatar” Mauro Fiore
“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” Bruno Delbonnel
“The Hurt Locker” Barry Ackroyd
“Inglourious Basterds” Robert Richardson
“The White Ribbon” Christian Berger

Costume Design
“Bright Star” Janet Patterson
“Coco before Chanel” Catherine Leterrier
“The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” Monique Prudhomme
“Nine” Colleen Atwood
“The Young Victoria” Sandy Powell

Directing

“Avatar” James Cameron
“The Hurt Locker” Kathryn Bigelow
“Inglourious Basterds” Quentin Tarantino
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” Lee Daniels
“Up in the Air” Jason Reitman

Documentary (Feature)

“Burma VJ” Anders Østergaard and Lise Lense-Møller
“The Cove” Nominees to be determined
“Food, Inc.” Robert Kenner and Elise Pearlstein
“The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers” Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith
“Which Way Home” Rebecca Cammisa

Documentary (Short Subject)

“China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province” Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill
“The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner” Daniel Junge and Henry Ansbacher
“The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant” Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert
“Music by Prudence” Roger Ross Williams and Elinor Burkett
“Rabbit à la Berlin” Bartek Konopka and Anna Wydra

Film Editing

“Avatar” Stephen Rivkin, John Refoua and James Cameron
“District 9” Julian Clarke
“The Hurt Locker” Bob Murawski and Chris Innis
“Inglourious Basterds” Sally Menke
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” Joe Klotz

Foreign Language Film

“Ajami” Israel
“El Secreto de Sus Ojos” Argentina
“The Milk of Sorrow” Peru
“Un Prophète” France
“The White Ribbon” Germany

Makeup

“Il Divo” Aldo Signoretti and Vittorio Sodano
“Star Trek” Barney Burman, Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow
“The Young Victoria” Jon Henry Gordon and Jenny Shircore

Music (Original Score)

“Avatar” James Horner
“Fantastic Mr. Fox” Alexandre Desplat
“The Hurt Locker” Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders
“Sherlock Holmes” Hans Zimmer
“Up” Michael Giacchino

Music (Original Song)

“Almost There” from “The Princess and the Frog” Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
“Down in New Orleans” from “The Princess and the Frog” Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
“Loin de Paname” from “Paris 36” Music by Reinhardt Wagner Lyric by Frank Thomas
“Take It All” from “Nine” Music and Lyric by Maury Yeston
“The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)” from “Crazy Heart” Music and Lyric by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett

Best Picture

“Avatar” James Cameron and Jon Landau, Producers
“The Blind Side” Nominees to be determined
“District 9” Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham, Producers
“An Education” Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey, Producers
“The Hurt Locker” Nominees to be determined
“Inglourious Basterds” Lawrence Bender, Producer
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” Lee Daniels, Sarah Siegel-Magness and Gary Magness, Producers
“A Serious Man” Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, Producers
“Up” Jonas Rivera, Producer
“Up in the Air” Daniel Dubiecki, Ivan Reitman and Jason Reitman, Producers

Short Film (Animated)

“French Roast” Fabrice O. Joubert
“Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty” Nicky Phelan and Darragh O’Connell
“The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte)” Javier Recio Gracia
“Logorama” Nicolas Schmerkin
“A Matter of Loaf and Death” Nick Park

Short Film (Live Action)

“The Door” Juanita Wilson and James Flynn
“Instead of Abracadabra” Patrik Eklund and Mathias Fjellström
“Kavi” Gregg Helvey
“Miracle Fish” Luke Doolan and Drew Bailey
“The New Tenants” Joachim Back and Tivi Magnusson

Sound Editing

“Avatar” Christopher Boyes and Gwendolyn Yates Whittle
“The Hurt Locker” Paul N.J. Ottosson
“Inglourious Basterds” Wylie Stateman
“Star Trek” Mark Stoeckinger and Alan Rankin
“Up” Michael Silvers and Tom Myers

Sound Mixing

“Avatar” Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson and Tony Johnson
“The Hurt Locker” Paul N.J. Ottosson and Ray Beckett
“Inglourious Basterds” Michael Minkler, Tony Lamberti and Mark Ulano
“Star Trek” Anna Behlmer, Andy Nelson and Peter J. Devlin
“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers and Geoffrey Patterson

Visual Effects

“Avatar” Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham and Andrew R. Jones
“District 9” Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros and Matt Aitken
“Star Trek” Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh and Burt Dalton

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

“District 9” Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
“An Education” Screenplay by Nick Hornby
“In the Loop” Screenplay by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” Screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher
“Up in the Air” Screenplay by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner

Writing (Original Screenplay)

“The Hurt Locker” Written by Mark Boal
“Inglourious Basterds” Written by Quentin Tarantino
“The Messenger” Written by Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman
“A Serious Man” Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
“Up” Screenplay by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, Story by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy

Just a quick update after all the nomination madness this morning. Due to the fact that almost all of the categories were predictable, I only wanted to mention the Best Picture nominations. Here they are accompanied with their score on Rotten Tomatoes….

“Avatar” — 82%
“The Blind Side” — 70%
“District 9” — 90%
“An Education” — 95%
“The Hurt Locker” — 97%
“Inglourious Basterds” — 89%
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” — 91%
“A Serious Man” — 87%
“Up” — 98%
“Up in the Air” — 90%

Thoughts, everyone? Here’s to hoping The Hurt Locker comes out winning! Thank you for reading!

Hello all.

This month, and hopefully more in the future, I am taking part in a project entitled “Tackling the Oeuvre” in which a handful of people are individually watching one film of a director, in this particular case it is Lars von Trier, and writes about that film. The film given to me was Dogville.  As a sort of precursor to this, I would like to state that although I have always been extremely interested in von Trier, I have seen just a few of his films. The continually-growing interest in von Trier is correlated with the fact that my two greatest passions are philosophy and film, and von Trier is the contemporary king of making films that could easily belong to a category that would be labeled “philosophical cinema.” As always, I like to provide a fair warning for those who have not seen this film to avoid reading this until you do so, and I can assure you, in this case, the film is well-worth your time.

This film is about quite a few things, but at its core, Dogville is a story of both the negative and positive effects of power/control. The word “story” and “experiment” are realistically interchangeable while discussing this film. Tom, the town of Dogville’s philosopher, is in control of this experiment. To clarify, the experiment is to successfully assimilate an outsider, Grace. If the town is capable of doing so, Tom believes that this will be a statement in favor of the townspeople’s moral character. For those unfamiliar with virtue ethics, it is an ethical theory that focuses on the virtues of a person rather than his/her duties or the consequences of his/her actions. Essentially, Tom is a virtue ethicist in the sense that Grace’s acceptance would hypothetically come about through the townspeople’s good nature and warm disposition, and that Grace’s acceptance would not be the result of the townspeople feeling as if they are duty-bound to accept her or for their own well-being. The viewer slowly learns what happens when the people of Dogville are given power and control over Grace. The power that they feel is the result of Grace being indebted to them for potentially accepting her and as the film progresses, the viewer is made more and more aware of what actions these people are capable of justifying. According to my notes, I jotted down “PROBLEM OF POWER” four times, so clearly, it is an issue dealt with in the film.

There are no words for the final sequence. And if you’ve gone this far and have not seen the film, I urge you to stop reading and see the film. As great as the first two hours and fifteen minutes are, this film is pushed into the “masterpiece” conversation with its final half hour. I sat on the edge of my seat with my hand covering my mouth during the confrontation between Grace and her father, anxiously waiting for her decision. At this point, you feel as if you know what the right thing for her to do would be, which actually very well may be the case, but due to what the viewer has seen Grace go through (especially in the twenty minutes leading up to this point) I feel as if there is a definite possibility of not being able to take a step back and look at the situation objectively. The viewer wants justice for Grace, the character who up to that point had the least (as close to none as possible in her situation) amount of control is the ultimate decider of the town’s fate and the viewer cannot help but want her to do what is right. I credit von Trier’s writing/direction and Nicole Kidman’s exceptional performance for eliciting this feeling.

Lars von Trier is three for four when it comes to me. I loved Europa, Dancer in the Dark, and Dogville but absolutely hated Antichrist, which admittedly, has grown on me a little over time. I hope you guys enjoyed this, and I hope it is something that I get the opportunity to take part in again. Thank you for reading!

Hello all.

Today is championship Sunday, which is my favorite day of football of the year. Also, the Flyers are playing the Penguins on NBC here in a few minutes. Today will (hopefully) be a great day for sports. This post may be more personal than those that follow this site are familiar with due to the fact that I am making a decision on whether or not to keep my personal blog. “Keep” is probably not the right word; I should say update as frequently as I do. What I am leaning towards is keeping it so I am able to link to things that I do not want to clutter this site. It’s a difficult decision because I have had the other site for two years and to be honest I get a good deal of views per day over there as well.

As a huge fan of Denis’ Beau Travail and Jonathan Rosenbaum, I really enjoyed this article. Check it out if you’re a fan of the film and if you haven’t seen, then you should treat yourself to it. I have a bit of time off this week, at least in comparison to last week’s work-filled week, so I will be working through a bunch of films. I am starting to work my way through Bergman and I will keep you all updated on what I am watching and thoughts. I started with The Seventh Seal and was absolutely blown away.

Here are my last.fm stats for last week (people who follow my personal blog will be familiar with this as I post it on Sunday/Monday over there)…

This upcoming week’s playlist will have both of Los Campesinos! previous albums and will feature their newest on Tuesday when I pick it up. I have been a huge The Good Life kick lately, so I will probably include their Help Wanted Nights as well.

Thanks for reading this quick update and I hope everyone has a great Sunday.

Hello all.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? is another film that just barely made the cut, that is not to say that I do not love the film, because I really do. It is just that I have seen it so many times and there were a few others I wanted to include but at the same time I wanted to limit myself to fifteen films. In the end, my love for the film and the fact that the Coen brothers had a film released in 2000 led me to the fact that including this film was the right thing to do. I kept my notes on this film very specific because, as I have said, I have seen it so many times. This film is overfull with questions of morality and the weight of a conscience on the soul, which are factors that force me to love it that much more.

One thing I noticed this time around is what I would consider a “Coen touch,” which is characters’ justifications for personal pursuits as a sort of social commentary. That is to say that, as in real life, people will stretch reality to a point where what they are doing is perfectly justified (at least in his or her eyes). In the film, George Clooney’s character Everett steals John Turturro’s character Pete’s cousin’s watch. Clooney finds it to be fine due to the fact that Pete’s cousin later betrays them and justifies his action through the fact that he only stole the watch temporarily. As if, had the cousin not betrayed them, he would have easily returned it, which certainly is not the case. On a grander scale, the three main characters’ overall mission/journey/adventure is justified, once again by Everett, by a lie. This time, to show how out-of-the-ordinary and extreme the lie was, Everett is unable to come up with an explanation such as he does with the watch and any other situation he gets them into. It shows how strange the lie is insofar as before, the watch is a minor “misstep” but an action as bold as busting two other guys out of jail (one who was not far from release) is unjustifiable and unexplainable.

The characters in this film are obsessed with the notion of a “quick fix.” This may not be the most interesting of comments due to the fact that a good majority of the film’s characters are criminals and/or not the best people but I still think it’s a noteworthy point. Think back to Pete and Delmar rushing out (cutting in line while they are at it) to be saved in a congregation of people that they have no association with in order to get the quick fix of being saved and absolved of their sins. Tommy, the African American accompaniment, sells his soul to the devil in order to learn how to play the guitar “real good” instead of putting in the work in order to learn. Sure, there is a much deeper spiritual question in this notion but I still think it sufficiently adds to the reoccurring theme of “quick fixes.”

I have finally returned to the Year 2000 in Film project, with only seven, six after today, films left. I started this project over a month ago, and I still haven’t finished it. For that, I apologize. The last month marks one of the biggest shifts I have ever had and it has left me with only a limited amount of time. It did not help that December and January are the months in which I catch up on the big releases of 2009 so that I am ready for my End of the Year List and award shows. I hope you all enjoyed this, I am curious; Are there people who do not enjoy O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Thank you for reading!

Hello all.

I thought I would post some random sites and links that I have enjoyed the past week. I would also like to put out a friendly reminder to follow me on Twitter, be it my personal or this site’s account. I personally recommend checking out Closely Watched Trains (a running list of films the writer gets through on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They? list) and Film Fidelity (the writer there is currently going through 2009 releases). I read Commentary Track daily and always enjoy what’s written there.

This sort of post won’t be recurring, it’s just an attempt at getting something written seeing as how I have yet to go back to my Year 2000 in Film project. To be fair to myself, I am working on a certain piece, but it’s been a couple of months since I have seen the film so I am having a bit of difficulty with it. It should be up on Monday morning (no promises though!). I hope everyone has a good weekend.

Thank you for reading!