Archive for the Cinema Category

Masquerade – Andrew Lloyd Webber

Posted in Cinema, Duly Noted on June 19, 2009 by dvcmann

From the 2004 film adaptation of Phantom of the Opera.  It’s brilliant.  Rent it.  Burn it.  Make it yours.



Chan-Wook Park’s Oldboy

Posted in Cinema on April 21, 2009 by dvcmann

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Park’s Oldboy is a brilliant and creative piece of fimmaking.  It is visually stunning with its use of color, exposure, and composition that is punctuated by a haunting score and fantastic acting performances.  Which brings me to this:

It is important to view Oldboy in the original Korean audio with appropriate subtitles.  This goes without saying when discussing other foreign greats like Rififi, La Femme Nikita or Pan’s Labyrinth; however, for some reason, Asian fims seem to get dubbed (We can probably thank matinee kung fu film tradition for that.) and DVD’s may come preset that way as the default version.  It comes across as cartoony.    The dubbed version of Oldboy is like watching Mann’s brilliant work in Manhunter with voice-over done by the cast of  iCarly.


Oldboy’s subject matter and graphic intensity make the film difficult for some.  It won the Grande Prix award at Cannes, although it surprisingly didn’t make a recent list of the top 25 most contoversial films.  The plot unfolds and refolds like a paper figure; one moment a swan, the next a tiger, with a climax that rivals Seven or Sixth Sense.  It has all the kinetic energy of a great martial arts movie and unleashes it with heavily stylized violence like the single shot corridor fight sequence, but just like in physics, it has the ability to contain that potential force with the power of stillness as you hear the sound of the wind or footsteps crunching in the snow.  It is that pause that emotes, let’s it sink in.

Lastly, this film reaches for places that American movies hardly do anymore.  Forget the test screenings and number crunchers, the ones that are killing John Hillcoat’s iteration of The Road as we speak; no, Park went for it – all in – like a fucking Korean Kowboy, and that’s why the movie resonates so cleanly.

Oldboy, like all true art, must be visited often, and we get a chance to do that with the joy of new discovery and perspective.  Oldboy can’t be taken in at one time any more than Blood Meridian or Mozart, and that continuing relationship is the secret the Mona Lisa smiles about.  The one you feel when she looks at you.

If You’re Reading This, You are the Resistance

Posted in Cinema on March 12, 2009 by dvcmann

SkyNet sees…

If You Don’t Love Red Dawn Then The Terrorists Have Already Won

Posted in Cinema on October 9, 2008 by dvcmann

Just looking over the list of top box office films from that year brings back a flood of memories, all tinged with the painful heavings of puberty. Ghostbusters, The Karate Kid, Red Dawn, Revenge of the Nerds, Bachelor Party, Purple Rain, Footloose, Splash, Romancing the Stone, Police Academy, Gremlins, Beverly Hills Cop… It’s all like some sort of weekend cable movie marathon, and they were all released in the same year, MCMLXXXIV, George Orwell’s favorite twelve months, and the title of a Van Halen album – 1984.  And every bit of it was completely soaked in the scintillating sounds of the keyboard sythesizer.

Some douche from Slate recently spent what could have been his productive blog time instead attacking Red Dawn, one of the top 10 greatest movies of all time along with fellow ’84 alumnus The Karate Kid, as a bloodthirsty ode to conservative “nutterdom”.  I say fuck him.  Fuck him with a rocket propelled grenade, yo.

In that era of cinematic narcissism, all I can say is too bad there was no giant screen, color TiVo’ing, high-def plasma, DVD playing, LCD techno-altar in my living room at the time or I would have spent untold hours of my time defiling myself in front of a frozen screenshot of Kathleen Turner’s soaked dress in Romancing the Stone.  Instead, I think I wasted much of it.

Um…hang on a minute… There, I just ordered the collectors edition from amazon.

Don’t judge.  I will sweep the leg.  I’ll do it.

No, instead I pretty much spent that year watching re-runs of the A Team on a 13″ black and white with a pair of vice grips for a channel knob.  It all provided a convenient escape from the fact that my family had recently given up the charade of the 1950’s suburban promise.  you know, the billboard family with smiling parents and a super-green lawn.  Fuck, I wanted to be a Cosby kid.

Despite all that, some of my happiest memories are from sitting in dark movie theaters with my friends and family, watching john hughes movies; the smell of the popcorn, the textures, sticky floor and all.  I saw Return of the Jedi from the back row with a blond lolita that liked to flash me only because she knew I was terrified of her.  To this day, when the lights go down it sends me back,  and for all that, 1984 was a pretty good year.

The Brave Cowboy by Edward Abbey

Posted in Cinema, Read This on October 7, 2008 by dvcmann

A “modern day” western parable set in and around a fictionally veiled Albuquerque, The Brave Cowboy is a tale of principle and friendship.  Abbey captures the contrasts between the Old West and the new in a rapidly expanding America during the Eisenhower administration. An incredibly prescient novel, it foreshadows the cultural strife of the coming decade and the Vietnam era.  The author has you cheering for the “anarchist cowboy” the entire time while  masterfully building tension to a full-gallop climax, all of it leading to an ending that will haunt you.

Published in 1956, the novel’s anti-hero theme would later become a staple of 60’s and 70’s cinema that could be seen in Easy Rider, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Kesey’s novel wasn’t published until 1962), and Cool Hand Luke.  There’s even a classic western chase through the mountains very similar to the one in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  In fact, The Brave Cowboy was made into a film in 1962 starring Kirk Douglas titled Lonely Are the Brave.  Douglas reportedly considered it one of his favorite films.  So not only does the book predate all of the movies mentioned, but the movie does too.

More info on Edward Abbey and his work can be found at, including biographies, history, quotes and an Amazon affiliate bookstore.

EDIT TO ADD:  Here is a gnarly piece on a Columbia University website detailing the social-political tie-ins of the movie and novel with McCarthyism, anarchism, french existentialism, Beatniks, Sam Peckinpah and, most shockingly, draws parallels with another story that at times is an almost direct adaptation of Brave Cowboy, the 1982 movie First Blood starring Sylvester Stallone; itself adapted from a novel of the same name published in 1972.

When you factor in all of the many different versions of both the screen play and movie that were and were not used for First Blood, the similarities are even more pronounced.  IMDB trivia and Wiki have details — including the fact that Kirk Douglas was originally cast to play Col. Troutman in Rambo, but quit because of, get this, the divergence of the screen play from the original novel.

Doing a little research, the author of First Blood, David Morrell, cites as his influence British author Geoffrey Household’s 1939 novel Rogue Male when he started writing the book in 1968.

um…we’ve got reading to do.


Posted in Cinema on August 11, 2008 by dvcmann

Al Pacino built his reputation as an actor on the early work he did in films like the Godfather series, Scarface, Dog Day Afternoon and the 1973 cop classic Serpico.

Based on a true story, Pacino plays a hip young cop railing against institutional corruption in the New York City Police Department. Directed by Sidney Lumet, and filmed entirely on location in New York, the movie won Pacino a best actor Oscar nomination.

It’s straight old school 70’s awesome that sent ripples through the law enforcement community and at the same time managed to set a new standard in pre-disco fashions.


The Dark Knight

Posted in Cinema on July 22, 2008 by dvcmann

Okay, let me be up front and say that I haven’t even seen this film yet, but the hype surrounding this thing is reaching a fevered pitch and is worth taking a look at in its own right.

First off, let’s acknowledge the fact that Heath Ledger’s death seems to have catapulted him into jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain status as an untouchable saint of pop culture and thus diminishing any true talent by relegating his image forever to the realm of wall posters and the obsessive daydreams of overly dramatic teenage girls. And trust me, there are few things more powerful in this world. Just look at what 12 year old girls did for Titanic, or the much less benevolent wielding of those energies as Britney Spears. The fact that people were mentioning Oscar for the young Australian actor before the movie even came out seemed like evidence to the fact that Ledger was becoming legend.

But none of this explains the first wave of buzz since the movie’s release that says it is brilliant almost in its entirety. (Don’t even get me started on the second wave that has parents whining about how they brought their 7 yr olds to see it and they cried. I don’t care what toy stores are selling. Be a parent.)

TDK co-star Michael Caine, the man who has made more movies than any other actor besides John Wayne, said in a pre-release interview that Ledger’s Joker was the scariest psychopath in movie history – in movie history. Just stop for a minute and consider who that claim has to measure up to:

* How about fellow English Knight Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter? Seriously?

* Robert de Niro in Cape Fear (or Robert Michum’s original for that matter)

* Kevin Spacey in Se7en – HELLO! Dude put Gweneth’s head in a box (where it belongs)

* Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange

* Tom Noonan in Manhunter. Tell me, do you see?

* Jack Nicholson in the Shining?

* Gary Oldman

* Is Anthony Perkins’ Psycho too obvious? Mother what do you think?

* Not to mention Christian Bale’s performance in American Psycho

* Lindsay Lohan in Freaky Friday? I mean c’mon!

Sir Micklewhite had left himself wide open if you would have asked me. He does, however, have some pretty impressive stats to back up his claims about Ledger and the Batmovie now. IMDB’s top 250, voted on by users, currently has TDK ranked as the #1 movie of all time. Yes, you read that right. To put that in perspective you should know some of the top 10 contenders include The Godfather(s) 1 & 2, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Casablanca. Citizen Kane and the Wizard of Oz are buried somewhere in the 30’s. The movie review site Rotten Tomatoes has the Dark Knight clocking in at a 94% ranking, making it one of the highest rated movies in their site’s 10 year history.

Granted, these rankings have a lot to do with the power of modern marketing, the influence of the internet, and the fact that the celebrity culture Tom Wolfe wrote about in Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamlined Baby in the 1960’s has since staged a full blown Coup d’etat on American society and now rules us with an iron fist. Long live Mary Hart’s legs! Only time will tell where the newest Batman will land on less proletariat lists like the American Film Institute’s Top 100 though.

Like I said, I haven’t seen it yet but if you noticed at the beginning of this nasty mess I called The Dark Knight a “film”. The implication, from my perspective, is art. So I guess I want to believe in what this movie could be just like everybody else, and I hope Michael Caine is right.