Sunday, July 03, 2011

Adjustment Bureau

This is one each romantic Philip K. Dick film, highly recommended!

The Tree of Life

Yes, it was worth the wait. And the drive -- after all, why would the Cannes Palme d'Or Winner show any closer than Wichita? Thanks to the Warren Theaters for not just showing the film, but showing it properly. Even a quiet film needs great sound and sharp focus.
A quiet film tackling the big questions. Well, not so much as tackling as holding the questions up to the light in  a way we might not have seen yet. Certainly " The Thin Red Line" was a war movie, but it was a war movie like no other, and this film, apparently long delayed, resonates at an even higher frequency than Thin Red Line.
Is that possible, one might ask, since the Criterion Blu Ray of the The Thin Red Line, freshly viewed, gave this viewer several days of shame about the quality of his entertainment choices.
Comparing TRL and Tree of Life is actually more appropriate than comparing it to Transformers or even Malick's last masterpiece, "The New World". Thematically TRL and TOL both probe the nature of man, the nature in man, and perhaps urges us, albeit obliquely, to humble thyself in the face of the beauty and majesty of the shape of chaos that seems to exist in every nook and cranny.
Call TOL "Affliction" with a positive outcome and a side of God, if one must, as long as one recognizes this is not a sign of conversion from yours truly. Malick has something to show us all. I was able to enjoy Transformers this long weekend also, so have no fear, I am not going all Arthouse on you. Tree of Life is for anyone with an open heart and an open mind.
(there are dinosaurs!)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

RIP Gil Scott Heron

Saw Gil Scott Heron some time back in the '80's. Steel Pulse opened for him. He wrote songs with fantastic social commentary, catchy lyrics and a message, sometimes embedded in real poetry. Arguably his best known title, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised", is proving prescient, if narrow-focused on "his people's experience" in the still struggling with it -- in spite of a black president -- United States. I am glad the USA has come as far as at has and refuses to say it is over.
 Reading a recent New Yorker profile of him it seems like this might be the release from pain he has been chasing for awhile. Regardless, his voice, mind and passion will be missed.

Monday, May 02, 2011

The King's Speech

A guest review from my Wife, Sarah Desmet. Yeah, she is a better writer!

When I learned of The King's Speech (TKS) trailers online I woke early in Costa Rica to begin downloading. By one afternoon several days later the snippets shared the King's awkward public address and beauty of Helena Bonham-Carter, but saved everything of the experience I would one day see on screen: The ineffable command to communicate we humans share, a soulful courage fighting halting, silent fear.

We are not birds with one signature chirp, but mammals with the shared grace of human speech. Slightly Cinderella but far from Pygmalion, TKS traces the battle line we worldwide fight from inside the mind: “What do you expect to hear from me?” “Do you understand the words coming out of my mouth?” “Can you feel me?”

Jeffrey Rush nails the future King in this fog of duty and asks “What are you afraid of?' To speak includes fear of not being understood for who you are, who you want to be, and who you must learn to be.

We were once two face to face lovingly crammed in an elevator going down to a Piccadilly Place where what we most feared – being direct, angry, honest -- is the native tongue. Today when one day a stutterer smooths a phrase we've heard haltingly ever before, we think, You found your flow! To do as others do does not give one his voice and TKS reminds us that to embrace being unique – left handed; a model maker, not collector – are places where we find our command of language. How we, as Kings, lead lives with the strength of clarity.

TKS shares a place of history when the language, the physical audio contact of how what was said, mattered so psychically, so physically – from tongue, jaw, heart, smile and finally ephemeral fears of being 'just human', and ever so full of grace.

Academy Awards or none, eminently memorable.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


I have no idea how or why we got this fabulous film here in Manhattan Ks, just going to count my blessings. You see the small print, "music by The Chemical Brothers", don't you? The boys are back without the block rockin' beats, but man can a choreographer work some magic to their particular and unique churning ambience. Not that this is a fight film.
Call it "The American has a Baby" and get part of it right. You would have to start with a patriot sold out rather than a cynical arms dealer the shadow world is catching up to, but still. What would that guy do, knowing scorched earth is the policy that applies to him and his family?

Cate Blanchette trumps the last Bourne CIA director and even pushes Oldman's John Rain antagonist CIA dude down a notch, "Darlin". Eric Bana, excellent as usual, let's Hanna chew the scenery all to the beat of Joe Wright's  camera of discontent. YEs, the camera is as good as it needs to be, and better than the Haters deserve! Don't make me name names. I am still shocked at the critics blasting a guy for shooting a "could have been by the numbers" spy film with verve and experimentation.

So: music, camera, acting and a clever script all equal a really good excuse to see a quality film on the big screen!


Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Here is an enjoyable and dark ride, one of slew I've seen lately, that stands above the crop. The crop? "Edge of Darkness", "Law Abiding Citizen", and "Harry Brown" come to mind, each have their merits and strengths and I sat through them entertained. "Faster" offers similar themes, stripped to their essence, monologue redacted.
Dwayne and BB Thornton live in their roles. I know, the car repair dude in "U-Turn", but man, both of these guys hit this Grindhouse Joint with nary a wink to the audience. Tom Berenger does a quick, perfect turn as the flic opens, as effective as his role in "Inception" but even more fleeting.
The score is by Clint Mansell, and does not assault, but informs. The camera is, on the other hand, flash and spectacle. This is not the Crank Camera kids incredible acro-cam, (they actually shot in daylight) but dark, grimy hi def angles and zooms. This dark palette meshed seamlessly with Mansell's throbbing bottom.
No one wanders into a movie like this expecting high art. It is certainly a treat to see fine craft and charisma together without the Luc Besson slapstick(which I love) or the gore fest that has gained so much ground since the wars started.
Make no mistake, the violence is quick and harsh and big, but I saw no identifiable organs and the camera chose to linger on the list rather than bodies. Let me wrap this  with the title of a Minutemen Doc as a summation, "We Jam Econo" and a nice quote from Faster, "Where's the exit?"

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Black Swan

The Black Swan. Where to begin?

Aronofsky makes some damn compelling, difficult, films. I am still rubbing my Requiem scar in phantom pain. The only deeper cut was seeing the Fountain by myself in Topeka because there was a game on, or some such nonsense preventing the normal movie people from joining me.

Black Swan is a psychological horror film in the Joseph Conrad mold, a tale of self destruction and recovery a la “The Secretary” and an exploration of a modern day child star mother-daughter relationship with a bit of titillation thrown in to get the guys to come to the show.

Black Swan might be a dissection of celebrity culture, perhaps an examination of ballet, at the very least a bird's eye view of a mind driven too hard to perform and cracking under the pressure. Aronofsky does this with his characteristic great camera, style adapted to match the story, and a cast that is willing to pull out all the stops to make us believe.

Darren(not Aronofsky) and I had this discussion: what if Portman's transformation hadn't been done with effects? Well, the answer is, of course, we would have been watching either a dance or a play, not a movie. The transformation is as perfect and breathtaking as it is startling. I can feel the shivers I got watching it just thinking about it.

Black Swan is a dark Christmas film, one that gives me hope for the genre, and adds another notch to Aranofsky's belt. Bring on the Terrance Malick!