Sunday, February 03, 2008

Great Scene, Lousy Movie

So, here's a thought - even the worst movies can have a glimmer of brilliance at their core. Sometimes a single moment in a film can become so memorable that the rest of the picture is forgiven for its shortcomings. Opinions abound, but my pick, to start this thread, is the much heralded Five Easy Pieces. I love Jack Nicholson. He's got an unmistakable delivery and an incredibly expressive face. But in this film, there isn't much story to give him room to shine (of course, I feel the same about his other outings around this time, like Carnal Knowledge and The Last Detail). Then comes this little nugget, and the rest is history...

You can almost feel the role of Randle McMurphy presaged here. Perfect.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


I'm in love with a little rat named Remy. But he's no ordinary rat - he has dreams, ambitions and tenacity that far exceeds the complacency of his family and friends. Not content to live a life of "stealing garbage," Remy is determined to become the greatest chef in France. It should come as no surprise that a number of obstacles might stand in his way, but it's the finesse with which he negotiates through this maze that makes him a role model for not only rats, but for humans as well.

I was particularly moved by a line of dialogue he shares with his father outside of a Paris exterminator's shop:
Django: Take a good, long look, Remy. This what happens when a rat gets a little too comfortable around humans. The world we live in belongs to the enemy. We must live carefully. We look out for our own kind, Remy. When all is said and done, we're all we've got. [starts to walk away]
Remy: No.
Django: [stops] What?
Remy: No. Dad, I don't believe it. You're telling me that the future is, can only be, more of this?
Django: This is the way things are. You can't change nature.
Remy: Change is nature, Dad. The part that we can influence. And it starts when we decide. [he walks away]
Django: Where are you going?
Remy: With luck, Forward.

In the midst of an already brilliant film, this gem touched off a glorious array of emotions and meditations that caused me to pause the film and reflect. Was this pivotal moment really spoken in a Disney film? Will the masses of children and parents seeing this immensely popular movie see the inherent Buddhist message contained here? With the charm of Remy coupled with the whip smart choreography and timeless storyline, I have no doubt that this film will find favor (and repeated viewings) for many years to come.

4 out of 5 stars (especially since there was no sung dialogue!)

The Fine Art of Goofing Off

Last night, my wife and I learned a valuable life lesson, a deep philosophical revelation, an instruction of epic proportions: Don't delay, start goofing off today! We have now been transfixed and mesmerized by the artistic genius of Henry Jacobs.

"Henry Jacobs is a legend, at least among fans of 1950s radio satire and electronic music. He was a West Coast composer, radio host, and a friend and collaborator of philosopher Alan Watts. His legacy might have existed mostly in the hazy memories of his fans -- had not some of his tapes been rediscovered, and just released in a CD/DVD combo, The Weird Wide World Of Henry Jacobs.

Beginning in 1953, Jacobs hosted a music program for KPFA in Berkeley, Calif. The Folkways record label later released highlights from this show on an LP, Audio Collage, in 1955. His work represented a patchwork of skits, soundscapes and mock interviews.

Jacobs co-organized the Vortex Experiments, a series of mind-expanding sound and light concerts at a San Francisco planetarium starting in 1957. In 1970, he moved to a stretch of remote coastline north of San Francisco. Now 80 years old, he says he's trying to live as if it's the 19th century -- or possibly the fifth."

The above introduction accompanies an excellent interview with Jacobs on NPR's All Things Considered.

Friday, December 07, 2007

January's Film: Dayereh (The Circle)

Join us Wednesday, January 2, 2008, at 7:00pm in the Homewood Public Library Meeting Room as we discuss Jafar Panahi's 2000 film The Circle.


Anton Corbijn's 2007 black and white biopic about the late Ian Curtis (1956-1980), lead singer of post-punk band Joy Division is one of the finest films of the year for its unparalleled cinematography, brilliant casting and directorial execution, its sensitivity to the much-ballyhooed subject matter, AND a thrilling soundtrack. It's screenplay is artistically adapted from the thoroughly engaging and illuminating book Touching From a Distance, by Deborah Curtis (Ian's wife), who also co-produces the film with the band's former manager Tony Wilson.

Chronicling the life of troubled young musician Ian Curtis, who forged a new kind of music out of the punk rock scene of 1970s Britain, and the band Joy Division, which he headed from 1977 to 1980, is a daunting task. Clearly there's a reason why a film of this magnitude hasn't been attempted for Curtis before. Nothing could have come close to the coverage here (without direct participation from the band members, family and friends) of his rocky marriage, extramarital affairs, and his increasingly frequent seizures, which were thought to contribute to the circumstances leading to his suicide on the eve of Joy Division's first U.S. tour.

Extra points to Samantha Morton for her sympathetic portrayal of Deborah Curtis, and for making me wish she'd be cast as Sandy Denny in a similar biopic chronicling her life on stage and behind the scenes. Tell me I'm not the only one who thought Sandy was playing Debbie.

4 out of 5 stars