by HELEN GEIB
Free-Talking Series: Next Post
JUNE 19, 2010 – JOHNNIE TO ON CRITERION FILMS
The folks at Criterion asked Johnnie To for a list of his favorite Criterion-released films. To has long been my favorite working director, so I was irrationally delighted to discover we have very similar tastes in movies. Three films by Kurosawa made his list, as did two by Melville, one by Wong Kar-Wai, and Kobayashi’s Harakiri. The full list and To’s comments at the Criterion site.
(The full table of contents for Criterion top 10s from a diverse lineup of artists.)
JUNE 11, 2010 – 2010 SUMMER RELEASE SCHEDULE: WHAT LOOKS GOOD TO YOU?
At the last meeting of my film club, the question came up of what everyone was looking forward to this summer. Let me put it this way: There’s not much. Toy Story 3, of course; Pixar films are a general favorite. A few people talked up Inception, which appeals to the sci-fi and suspense fans in the group. The comic book fans are excited about Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Oh, and we have some Twilight fans among us. Although I forgot about it at the time (which says a lot…), I plan to see Knight and Day.
What are you looking forward to seeing this summer?
JUNE 04, 2010 – NEW POLL TIME: ARTHOUSE THEATER PROXIMITY
Thanks to everyone who voted in the “I’d see more movies in the theater if…” poll! Half the votes went to “it was cheaper” with the remaining votes split pretty evenly among “the movies were better,” “I had the time,” and “nothing- I love my home theater.”
The new poll was inspired by a TOTM:IE comments conversation with Mike. Is there an arthouse theater within driving distance of where you live? My vote will be going to “sort of.”
MAY 29, 2010 – VIENNA IN FILM
I was too early by just a few days to see the Vienna Museum’s “Vienna in Film” exhibit, but I did catch a glimpse of the exhibit hall. There were posters for Hollywood fabrications featuring Mozart, Mayerling, and “The Blue Danube” waltz on the walls, and scenes from Austrian films playing on a monster screen. The flier was in German, but I could pick out The Wedding March and Before Sunrise among the German-language film titles in the blurb. No prizes for guessing which movie is referenced by the exhibit’s promotional poster. Is any other great city so completely identified with a single great film as Vienna with The Third Man?
MAY 13, 2010 – VACATION NOTICE
I’m going on vacation and to make it complete, I’ll also be taking a vacation from the world wide web. Thanks to the technological marvel of automated scheduling, Commentary Track will stay live while I’m gone. See you on the 24th!
MAY 9, 2010 – POLL RESULTS AND NEW FOLLOW-UP POLL
“How many movies do you see in a month?” poll results:
1 – 40%
2-5 – 40%
6-8 – 0%
9-10 – 0%
none – 20%
I neglected to vote myself before I closed the poll, or there would have been one vote for “6-8.” I can only dream of having enough time to see 9-10!
New follow-up poll: “I’d see more movies in the theater if…”
MAY 4, 2010 – FROM INDIANAPOLIS TO MINNEAPOLIS FOR A MOVIE
So I drove to Minneapolis this past weekend to see The Warlords, Peter Chan’s stupendous historical drama/war movie starring Jet Li, Andy Lau, and Takeshi Kaneshiro. 600 miles from my house to the theater. It was worth it.
APRIL 30, 2010 – THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a recent Swedish film, a major hit in Scandinavia that’s now playing on the American arthouse circuit. It’s a detective story/thriller partly about the unmasking of a serial killer-rapist who has been preying on women undetected for decades. The investigation that reveals the pattern is initiated by an old man whose niece disappeared 40 years before. Although her body was never found, he has always believed she was murdered and that he was the indirect cause of her death. Tormented by guilt for all those years, he brings in someone unconnected with the case to make a last attempt to find out what happened before he dies.
The old man’s story contributes to another, intriguing pattern within the film. Presented with evidence of a crime, he misinterprets it. The misinterpretation is plausible, but fundamentally off-base; he is too close to the events, seeing them through the lens of his own involvement and preoccupations. The misinterpretation perpetuates the mystery and causes him great suffering, but it also causes him to act- decisively. His act leads directly to the solution of the mystery and the discovery of the larger truth behind the events of which the girl’s disappearance was one small part. This pattern repeats unexpectedly in the main characters’ lives.
APRIL 25, 2010 – KICK-ASS THROWDOWN
APRIL 22, 2010 – NEW POLL
Have you voted in the new poll? The question: “How many movies do you see in the theater in a month?” Satisfy my curiosity- vote now!
APRIL 18, 2010 – DO YOU WANT TO WRITE FOR US?
Are you fascinated by the film business- the nuts and bolts of production, distribution, and exhibition? Do you track release dates and crunch box office numbers? Or maybe you know someone like that? Commentary Track is seeking a writer for a new feature on the business behind the art of movies and movie-making. Visit this page for more details.
APRIL 12, 2010 – AND NOW, SEEKING TECHNICOLOR RECOMMENDATIONS
The film noir mini-festival is one-half of a six film series. The other half is to be given over to Technicolor. Maybe they were thinking, “light and dark”? Anyway, I advocated for Technicolor = Powell and Pressburger and suggested Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes, and A Matter of Life and Death. What would you want to see on the big screen in a Technicolor fest? I took it that they were thinking of Golden Age 3-strip features by the way, but a broader perspective could be interesting too.
For the record, my submitted film noir shortlist:
The Maltese Falcon
Out of the Past
The Lady From Shanghai
The Big Heat
Kiss Me Deadly
I would have gone with Touch of Evil instead of Kiss Me Deadly for the capstone, except it was shown in last season’s program.
APRIL 8, 2010 – SEEKING FILM NOIR RECOMMENDATIONS
I’ve been asked to suggest a few titles for a film noir series. It’s a short series, only three movies long, and geared to a general audience. The movies should be 1940s/50s and on DVD. So, what should I recommend?
APRIL 3, 2010 – TOPSY-TURVY
The March Movie of the Month for my film club was Topsy-Turvy (1999), Mike Leigh’s study of Gilbert, Sullivan, Gilbert & Sullivan, and the creation of The Mikado. “Topsy-Turvy” is the perfect title, referring to both “the world of topsy-turvydom” that was a hallmark of Gilbert’s librettos and the disorienting change and creative ferment experienced by the characters. It would be going too far to say that Topsy-Turvy has nothing in common with Leigh’s other films, but it is certainly very dissimilar to his trademark carefully observed portraits of the mundane, day-to-day existence of working-class people in contemporary England. It’s amusing to think of the title as also being Leigh’s judgment of what making an extravagant period piece centered on the Theater did to his filmography.
MARCH 31, 2010 – 1ST QTR WRAP-UP
Three months into the new year my new releases moviegoing count stands at 10. The breakdown:
– 3 good
– 5 failures
– 2 wastes of time
– 2 missed
January and February were grim, with quality mixed but trending up in March. This count does not include 2009 releases catch-up (count: 9 new films – mostly good, a few great; 2 revivals), which went a long way to compensate for the dismal returns in the first two months.
MARCH 26, 2010 – HONG KONG CINEMA: BEST OF THE ‘NINETIES
Kozo, webmaster for the great LoveHKFilm.com (follow the link in the sidebar), recently published the results of his reader’s poll for the best Hong Kong films of the ‘nineties, a great decade in Hong Kong cinema. I had a tough time narrowing my own list to 20, of which 17 made the cut. The number in parentheses is the position on the reader’s 100.
20. Kawashima Yoshiko
19. Bullets Over Summer (51)
18. The Bride With White Hair (24)
17. Hard Boiled (2)
16. A Chinese Feast (75)
15. Savior of the Soul (80)
14. Happy Together (13)
13. Comrades, Almost A Love Story (11)
12. A Moment of Romance (21)
11. Temptation of a Monk
09. Running Out of Time (6)
08. Chungking Express (1)
07. Centre Stage (43)
06. Ashes of Time (17)
05. Full Alert (30)
04. Once Upon a Time in China (7)
03. Dragon Inn (33)
02. Days of Being Wild (9)
01. The Mission (3)
(To my regular readers: Yes, this ranking is largely arbitrary and is informed by my genre and style preferences.)
The reader’s 100 top five, from no. 5 to 1: Drunken Master II, Bullet in the Head, The Mission, Hard Boiled, and Chungking Express. Read the rest of the list.
I can understand why Kawashima Yoshiko and Temptation of a Monk didn’t get enough votes to make it onto the list. They’re obscure, stylistically unconventional, and tragic. Hitman I have no explanation for.
My taste being eclectic, my top 20 is a pretty fair cross-section. Missing from my list is exploitation and Hong Kong-style crazy comedy, specifically Stephen Chow (a crazy number of whose movies made it onto the reader’s 100). I haven’t counted up the number of films on the list that I’ve yet to see, but nearly all of them are one or both of Stephen Chow vehicles and unavailable on DVD. Unfortunately, the latter category includes several films that I do very much want to see, and have for years. If only everything really was on DVD, the way people who only watch Hollywood new releases are always saying….
MARCH 24, 2010 – INTRODUCTION
Lately, I’ve been feeling constrained by the review format. Basically there’s just a lot I want to say about film that doesn’t fit that template. I’d like to say this is an announcement of a new series of in-depth critical essays about the great filmmakers, but actually I have something less formal and more bloggish in mind.
I’ve categorized this post under “Conversation” because that’s what I’m hoping it will become. I’ve pinned it to the top of the home page, and I’ll be updating it on a when-I-feel-like-it basis with my thoughts on movies I’m watching without reviewing, the movie controversies of the moment (is film criticism dead?), blurbs for random movies that I like… that sort of thing. This is an open invitation to the other writers and the readers to do the same in the comments, whether it’s responding to my movie musings or posting your own.