Sunday, March 6, 2011

My Monthly Dose: A Daily Prescription of Films. March 2011


My Monthly Dose: A Daily Prescription of Films. March 2011

This month I wanted to focus and completely dedicate to the Criterion Collection, a company that has done a remarkable job archiving/preserving/heralding a bevvy of films that are usually...amazing.
Good news for those who have Hulu-Plus because the Criterion Collection have made a deal with them to showcase a bulk of their films. (Netflix does have a good handful of Criterion films, FYI).
This month also gives a glance at mockumentaries, Jim Jarmusch and Wes Anderson.


  1. The Great Dictator (1938) Charlie Chaplin. - Chaplin takes on Hitler and Mussolini in a very funny film that also warned us of World War II, a year before it even happened. It deals with a barber who is mistaken for a very evil ruler.
  2. Something Wild (1986) Jonathan Demme. - If you’ve ever wondered why Melanie Griffith was ever worth talking about...then watch this film. Her, Jeff Daniels and Ray Liotta literally light up the screen in this wonderfully twisted film that begins as a comedy and ends as a thriller. Plus it shows us Manhattan in the the mid-80’s and has some David Byrne vox and John Waters for good measure.
  3. Silence of the Lambs (1991) Jonathan Demme. - Demme tackled “Lamb” with a lot of gusto and some ideal casting. This is an amazing film where all I feel I need to say is...watch it now.
  4. Bande à part. Band of Outsiders (1964) Jean-Luc Godard. - Quirky, funny, violent and sexy...as per usual Godard gives us a film that explodes with energy...and one that breaks the film conventions of it’s time in order to pave ground for “new storytelling”.
  5. Do the Right Thing (1989) Spike Lee. - Lee hits his mark with a film that sparkles with humor and anger, intensified by the validity of it’s vision and the wonderfully apt cast. Plus, John Turturro is always great to watch...even when he’s playing a racist fuck.
  6. Spoorloos. “The Vanishing” (1988) George Sluizer. - A dark and desperate film that gives us a view of what conscious “evil” is. I felt creeped out when the film ended and it’s bleakness left me hollow inside...But it’s a fascinating view of ethos and mores and how we interpret those views.
  7. This Is Spinal Tap (1984) Rob Reiner. - 11 anyone? This film doesn’t age...those bands still exist, they just have different distortion pedals or haircuts. Probably one of the greatest mockumentaries ever made.
  8. Videodrome (1983) David Cronenberg. - When you add James Woods and Cronenberg into a filmic mix the result is appropriately “uber” creepy.
  9. Stranger than Paradise (1984) Jim Jarmusch. - A charming and slowly paced black & white film that follows the lives of three lonely young adults who search, longingly, for “something more”. This was Jarmusch’s first feature and it set up the standard for the new independent film-making movement that was finding it’s way in the mid-80’s.
  10. The Harder They Come (1972) Perry Henzell. - Jimmy Cliff stars in this violent ‘realist’ film based on a real-life Jamaican criminal from the 1940’s. The story of a man who wants to make music his life but has to turn to selling drugs in order to get by (sound familiar?).
  11. Robocop (1987) Paul Verhoeven. - Verhoeven is one of the film worlds great satirist...he bites accordingly using future technology/sci-fi as a means of commenting on society’s brainwashing by the world’s not-so-invisible oligarchy. [The one time he tried to apply his wit using the “real world” in Showgirls (1995), most people missed the ironic commentary he so lovingly applies to his work.] I suppose his knives cut better in the Galaxy X42 than they do in Las Vegas, NV.
  12. 喋血雙雄. “The Killer” (1989) John Woo. - bang bang bang...then add some of the worst white jazz possible...andsomehow Woo still had a decent film. Probably because of Chow-Yun Fat, the coolest of all Hong Kong heroes, plays the role of a hit-man who accidentally blinds a pretty singer while doing a hit. The good guy that he is wants to make up for the accident...and that of course requires ONE MORE HIT to get the money for the eye surgery...
  13. C'est arrivé près de chez vous. “Man Bites Dog” (1992) Rémy Belvaux. André Bonzel. Benoit Poelvoorde. - This Belgian mockumentary is both funny and vicious. For those of you who can read French, the film’s English title is not a direct translation (It Happened in Your Neighborhood) but is an apt title for this film. The opening scene felt so real that it took me a while to shake off that this was only a movie...
  14. Night On Earth (1991) Jim Jarmusch. - Jarmusch tells the tale of 5 taxi’s around the world and what happens in those cabs. LA, NYC, Paris, Rome and Helsinki are the cities where the stories take place. My favorite is Roberto Benigni’s performance as the taxi driver in Rome who pretty much says all the wrong things you can say to a priest.
  15. Short Cuts (1993) Robert Altman. - America’s greatest short-story writer was Raymond Carver, a man who late in his life found success by honing his craft with razor precision...Altman, who also found success later in life with M.A.S.H. must have identified with Carver...not just as a late-bloomer but also as an artist who’s focus was on basic human desires and weaknesses. 
  16. My Own Private Idaho (1991) Gus Van Sant. - I didn’t realize this when i first saw this film but Van Sant adapted a novel called City of Night and Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 1,2 and Henry the V into a contemporary tale of death, fellatio, loss and narcolepsy. River Phoenix and Keaunu Reeves play the hustling leads in a gorgeously photographed film.
  17. Nóż w wodzie. “Knife in the Water” (1962) Roman Polanski. - Polanksi had three actors and a boat...and he was able to delight and entertain me with this twisted tale of desire and societal standing. Mysterious and haunting visuals flow well with the minimal sounds and music.
  18. The Ice Storm (1997) Ang Lee. - I had read the book before I had seen the film...but I must say that this is a great adaptation and it is superb on every level including the casting, the cinematography, the directing and the production (the film, if you can believe it, was shot in summer...not winter...so look at how amazing the production was...)
  19. Lord of the Flies (1963) Peter Brook. - I saw this film for the first time in High School...Brutal, primal and haunting this film tackles the novel of the same name and (almost) does it justice.
  20. Time Bandits (1981) Terry Gilliam. - This film is fun. This film is funny. This film is great to look at. This is Terry Gilliam’s first feature and you can see all the years he did animation for Monty Python blossomed into a fertile world of cinematic wonderment. P.S the trailer is pretty funny.
  21. Schizopolis (1996) Steven Soderbergh. - A strange wacky wild and at times frustrating film...The story of the films inception, which I got first hand, is that Soderbergh wanted to break out of the rut he felt he was in and to let loose...Which he did. There are some absolutely golden moments in this film while there are some areas where you may want to fast forward...but be patient and let it play.
  22. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) Wes Anderson. - I enjoy Wes Anderson and his brother’s inventive cinema. This particular film is the synergistic result of everything they must have learned about film making and story telling in their previous films (Rushmore, Bottle Rocket). The color palette the characters the costumes the story all fit in what I consider a too perfect film. Plus who can ignore a film in which Alec Baldwin narrates?
  23. Rushmore (1998) Wes Anderson. - This film was an amazing vehicle for Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzmann. It also showcases Anderson's ability to provide the dark angle of human desire into a comedic story of a child who wants to be a man and a man who wants to be a child. My main critique on this film is that I felt it should have ended when the remote control planes were flying...
  24. Bottle Rocket (1996) Wes Anderson. - I love the idea of robbing a book store. What can I say?
  25. The Darjeeling Limited (2007) Wes Anderson. - I love looking at this film. I’m happy to turn the volume off and look at the setting and the colors...oh, the colors! And yeah, the actors do a good job too.
  26. Burden of Dreams (1982) Les Blank. - Werner Herzog is a hero of mine and this documentary captures him when he was making Fitzcarraldo...a movie about a crazy guy who wanted to bring opera to South America...by sneaking a boat over a hill...which Herzog literally did. Watch it to see a true artist at work and the life threatening danger his art puts himself and everyone around him at.
  27. Ace in the Hole (1951) Billy Wilder. - Kirk Douglas plays bad (bad meaning asshole, not bad bad) along with Billy Wilder’s film that deals with what the media will do to have a story of their own. In regards to it's subject matter on truth in media and the twisted hunger our society has for disasters this film is just as important now as it was then.
  28. F For Fake (1973) Orson Welles. - Orson Welles takes us on a semi-documentary ride by questioning everything and everyone for every reason you’d think. And this is what Welles wants, for us to think about the information that we are given and to think about how we embrace or deny that information. Welles should know, he broke into the American consciousness by faking a news report about Martians attacking Earth.
  29. Harlan County, USA (1976) Barbara Kopple. - A documentary film that covers the story of how members of a coal mining group try to unionize in the South and how they were trounced upon by their companies violent reactions against them. Shocking to see the goon squads that openly threatened and attacked the union members...goes to show you how savvy they were not about cameras back then.
  30. Fishing With John (1991/1998) John Lurie. - There are some great episodes where the musician/actor John Lurie takes some of his friends fishing (Jim Jarmusch, Dennis Hopper, Tom Waits, Matt Dillon, Willem Dafoe). My favorite episodes are with Jarmusch and Hopper.
  31. Mystery Train (1989) Jim Jarmusch. - Jarmusch weaves tales in the South...in Atlanta, Georgia. Several stories weaved together with an ensemble cast around a hotel, (whose night clerk is the one and only Screamin’ Jay Hawkins) this film has some great moments that lead up to an explosive finale featuring Joe Strummer (yes, from The Clash) and Steve Buscemi.