Category Archives: Movies

On The Origin of Writing.

“There are no undiscovered great writers. There is such a hunger for great writing, and there are so few good writers out there. I actually have a Darwinian view of writing. Write three scripts on spec, and if by the end of that third one, you haven’t felt that energy coming toward you – that excitement, that enthusiasm about finding a new voice – you should find something else to do, because you should feel that. It’s harsh, but it’s just true. You can get somebody to read your work. So, just try it. Just write, and see who gets excited about it.”

Marshall Herskovitz

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Pretty Pictures

Thanks to Dolores for the link:

“Pencil Face” from the SCADshorts website. Watch the quicktime HERE.

On horror

Fear is of danger; terror is of violence, of the violence I might do or that might be done to me. I can be terrified of thunder, but not horrified by it. And isn’t it the case that not the human horrifies me, but the inhuman, the monstrous? Very well. But only what is human can be inhuman. Can only the human be monstrous? If something is monstrous, and we do not believe that there are monsters, then only the human is a candidate for the monstrous.

If only humans feel horror (if the capacity to feel horror is a development of the specifically human biological inheritance), then maybe it is a response specifically to being human. To what, specifically, about being human? Horror is the title I am giving to the perception of the precariousness of human identity, to the perception that it may be lost or invaded, that we may be, or may become something other than we are, or take ourselves for; that our origins as human beings need accounting for, and are unaccountable.

Stanley Cavell, The Claim of Reason, p 418-9

The 2007 Movies I Loved The Most.

It’s already mid-January and we’re still doing lists. Yeah, life is pretty when you’re procrastinating.

This list has been the subject of much debate, as to what movies are exactly eligible: some movies were much later released in Europe but already made their way throug other mediums (yeah the internet baby). Other movies were released in 2006 but have only made its way to my dvd player this year. Were these still eligible?

I have decided to not really care about these rules. This list is just about what I have seen this year. There are 2006 movies on the list and there are movies on the list that have a 2008 theatre release in Europe. And then there are all those 2007 movies I haven’t even seen: Boss of it All, Grindhouse, There Will Be Blood, Juno, Darjeeling Limited, Eastern Promises, Inland Empire, etc etc.

So this list is very limited, incomplete and very personal. It has not been an easy one either. Like every year, I bitch and moan about how much better TV is and this year is just the same. One thing I noticed over the past months that production-wise there have been beautiful beautiful films, but almost every time these movies fuckup their writing. Most shining example must be the Dylan biopic I’m Not There. Arguably it deserves best cinematography of the year, as well as best editing, but oh boy the screenplay. I’m tired of non-narrative movies that don’t make any sense. It’s truly the easy way-out.

So anyway shouts go to all these movies I liked but missed something, somewhere: The Prestige, Stardust, 3:10 to Yuma, Blades of Glory, Gone Baby Gone, Atonement, I’m Not There, This is England, Four Months Three Weeks Two Days and I am Legend.

And here’s the Ten Most Liked:

1. Ratatouille

An animated movie on the number one position, is that still blasphemous these days? It is definitely different to judge because the whole acting aspect is so different.

Ratatouille is just about the only film on this list that truly represents the things I admire these days: a perfectly strong executed high-concept script, mixed with very well developed characters who have very broad appeal from the kids to the seniors to the moviebuffs. 3D animation truly learns the writer a lesson about how every single second matters in your script.

There is nothing fancy in the writing, nothing redundant. Everything seems clean, simple and down to the point but it’s overwhelmingly effective and joyful. I’m in awe of Brad Bird’s accomplishment. This is the second movie of his that blew me away. If he keeps this up, you have found your true auteur here and you may forget about all those other whimsical ones.

2. Notes on a Scandal

Notes on a Scandal really took my breath away when I first saw it. I was thinking it to be some boring, badly written drama about an English school but how foolish I was. I should note that along with Ratatouille, this is the only film on this list where I have nothing bad to say about the writing. Which is exactly the reason these two are number one and two. One might say I’m laying too much focus on the whole writing aspect and as that may, I fully acknowledge how writing is not everything. But it is much like the structural foundation of a house. Said house still has to be decorated or I’m not living in it. But if the structure doesnt provide a roof, or walls, or is totally unstable, you best run far away from that house.

Notes on the Scandal did quite the oppositie. It combines such a tightly written story with an amazing depth. Judi Dench was phenomenal and Cate Blanchett for once didn’t irritate me (I’m not her biggest fan, although I admit she’s really good at her job). The ending was small but oh so clever within this story. I wish I’d see more movies like this.

3. No Country for Old Men

The critic’s darling of the year and I must say there’s reason enough to praise No Country for Old Men. I was especially awed by the way they told their story by almost pure visual bravura. In a sense this was maybe their most Hitchcock-ian movie. Almost every major point in the story was told by watching the events unfold, there was hardly any dialogue that created the story. The suspense came from watching two men enter a room, knowing they were going to do bad things. Again no dialogue.

The whole movie was like watching two masters-at-work. I kept thinking no youngster could ever achieve this kind of visual mastery. You could feel the craftmanship, as if the Coens had worked thirty years to get at this point: being able to master their story in pictures. That’s probably why I was disappointed by the ending, where all of a sudden dialogue took over and tried to provide a very ambiguous ending. I sort of wished they had pushed their style and felt a little cheated at the end, which is probably the reason they ain’t number one.

4. Superbad

We had been hyping Superbad among our little circle for months. Expectations were high and we probably liked the movie already ALOT before we had even seen it. Nonetheless it didn’t disappoint at all. I’m not sure this will be the definitive teen movie (as some have been calling it) but let’s say they do a very remarkable job in an already overcrowded genre. And let’s not forget these are the sort of movies which are very easily to hate. They are cheesy, have an inherently simplistic premise and portray not the most refined kind of people. Superbad however does an awesome job of combining these three things with enough heart, enough complexity and enough refinement.

I must admit I still prefer Freaks and Geeks above everything the Apatow clique has ever done. To me it is still their biggest accomplishment, even if the show was only at the cradle of all these recent output.

Superbad too relies heavily on the ingredients that made Freaks and Geeks so good, but that’s mainly meant as a compliment because they did it so well. And lest we not forget the surplus of Greg Mottola’s direction. He truly gave the story a much needed visual flavor that may have looked simple but was in fact very clever and beautifully done. That’s at least one major point I’ll give them over Freaks and Geeks.

5. You The Living

Should we be disappointed if we eat two days in a row exactly the same perfect dish? Probably not. Yet I was somehow disappointed with You The Living because it felt like almost exactly the same recipe as Songs From The Second Floor. And I know I shouldn’t really because yet again Roy Andersson does things I have never seen another director do. The mise-en-scene was yet again magnificent. The actors were awesomely cast. The camerawork was astounding. The jokes were once again brilliant. But ah the story!

You know this could have dragged on for another hour or another two hours or maybe you could have told this story in 45 minutes. This is never a good sign. And there lies the heart of my problem with You The Living. Somehow because this was the second dish, it all felt way muddier and incomprehensible.

This is still number five because Roy Andersson is still as genius as he ever was. But I’m slightly worried what the third dish is going to be. We hope it will make a little more sense.

6. The Departed

I had almost forgotten about The Departed when I started compiling this list. I think I saw it in January right after I made my 2006 list. This was another critic’s darling and again, I could see why. The first 40 minutes were brilliantly perfect cinema. The whole set-up of the two moles in each department, the antagonists, Boston, everything clicked together and the old master Scorsese just blew me away.

But then the script started to become too complex. And setups didnt become payoffs and things were left in the open, and everyone was a mole and people died randomly. There were just too many suspenses developing as we moved forward and they didn’t come together.

Problem is they tried to stay too closely to the trashy original Infernal Affairs script, which had too many plot twists to begin with.

The Departed is as good as everyone says it is but it overplays its screenwriting hand a bit too much. But the actors, the direction, production design, editing make it truly the classic movie it will become.

7. Knocked Up

Two Apatow clique movies this year, two are in my top ten. Do we have a crush on that little troupe? Yes, we have.

I posted some notes on Knocked Up a few months ago, where I kind of criticized the clique of writing thinly developed female characters. I still stand by those notes and it’s really the only thing which prevents me from putting this movie in the number one position.

As far as all the rest goes, these are the kind of movies I’m jealous of. The kind I’d like to make myself. The kind they made in the thirties and forties. If only Apatow would make these kind of movies as a screwball comedy with strong female leads, you’d probably have some sort of perfect comedy.

8. Babel

Together with The Departed, this was on most people’s 2006 list. But I wasn’t blown away by this as I was by Departed or No Country for Old Men. There is something about Babel that just isn’t working. It’s probably a structural problem, and I think it’s the root of the feud between writer and director.

I’m a fan of both these two man: Arriaga and Inarittu, and it’s hard to criticize one guy. They’re probably both the problem of what’s not working.

However, Babel scores this high because of the japanese storyline. I thought that was one of the most clever and touching stories I had seen in a while. Almost everything worked in that story for me and I wonder what would have happened if they had just made one movie out of that one storyline.

9. The Hills Have Eyes // Ils // Bourne Ultimatum


12 movies in a top 10 list!? Cheater!

Let me try and clarify why there are three movies on the number 9 spot. I had seen some interesting horror and thriller genre movies this year and I really wanted to have one in my top 10. The problem is I just couldn’t choose which of these three movies deserved that spot the most. They all have screenplay problems, BUT they excel in the action & suspense sequences.

So this number 9 spot is split in three, namely
– Best action choreography goes to the Hills Have Eyes. The scenes with a raving revengeful father trying to get his kid back by entering the mutant’s village were just amazing. This was The Shining meets Texas Chainsaw Massacre in a special french Aja way. Thrilling!
– Most intelligently creepy ending goes to Ils. What an awesome twist that was! Such a simple and effective movie and all this time I was wondering what the payoff was going to be. I was truly surprised in the catacombs. An intelligently creepy ending as I haven’t yet seen that much. I want to see more of this french directing duo.
– Best action suspense goes to the Bourne Ultimatum. I really loved all the action sequences, with the Metro station as the most effective and supenseful. Greengrass really knows how to captivate your mind with strong suspenseful action, bloody awesome job.

10. Stranger Than Fiction

Stranger Than Fiction has a great meta-premise (what if your actors can actually hear the movie’s voice-over talk?) and it worked far better than I had anticipated. The first 30 minutes or so were genuinely surprising, clever and entertaining.

The movie has been compared over and over with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: both use this sort of weird meta screenplay device, both have a big comedian in a dramatic role and both feature a romance.

I actually think the Stranger than Fiction premise works far far better as Eternal Sunshine did (which was truly the weak part of that movie), but the romance and the second act of Stranger Than Fiction makes the movie weaker.

There just isn’t enough chemistry between Ferrell and Maggie Gyllenhaal and it’s a combination of dialogue, scenes and acting. Plus they should have written the Dustin Hoffman professor part out of the script.

However, for a great first 30 minutes, a good ending and a so-so second act, you make a movie that deserves number 10.

Yes.

“Tell the story! Tell the story! That’s what I saw in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. The films that I love are very straightforward stories, like really old-fashioned stuff. I’ve never been a fan of whimsical or confusing storytelling.”

–- Paul Thomas Anderson

WGA Strike

Lost producer Carlton Cuse

I love how the WGA writers are making great use of the internet to support their cause. The clips, photos and posts make the whole fight so much more direct & personal and it finally puts a face to all the writers, who are the kind of people you normally never see. So have a look around the net, get informed about why action is needed and why unions are actually quite valuable.

The main blogs to keep you up-to-date with everything that’s happening is UnitedHollywood & the Variety Strike blog.

Also great to see are the wgaamerica youtube videos:



Twists.

Direct copy from the Premiere website but I want this for my archives.

So here they are: 20 Big-Time Movie Twists.

I’m actually surprised they did not include Saw (the best twist in years imo) or Memento but interesting list nonetheless.

BIG SPOILER WARNING OFF COURSE!!!

Planet of the Apes

Movie: The Planet of the Apes (1968)
Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
The Setup: A group of American astronauts crash land on a world where apes talk and rule, while humans are primitive slaves with no voting rights.
The Twist: The planet is actually Earth; the space ship traveled in time instead of space.
Fun Fact: The script was actually written by twist-loving Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling.

Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back

Movie: Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Director: Irvin Kershner
The Setup: After blowing up the Death Star in 1977’s Episode IV — A New Hope, Luke Skywalker trains to become a Jedi while Vader and the Empire strike back, frequently.
The Twist: Darth Vader is Luke’s father. Though as we learned later, he was also Princess Leia’s father and, in a way, C-3PO’s father. Which kind of makes him the Sith version of K-Fed.
Fun Fact: In an attempt to keep this twist a secret, the scene was originally shot with actor David Prowse — who was the guy in the Darth Vader suit — saying to Mark “Luke” Hamill, “Obi-Wan killed your father.”

Fight Club

Movie: Fight Club (1999)
Director: David Fincher
The Setup: On his way home from a business meeting, a normal shlub befriends a far more interesting guy named Tyler Durden, leading the two eventually to form an underground boxing organization.
The Twist: Tyler Durden is all in the narrator’s head.
Fun Fact: According to Variety, Fight Club was one of the first DVDs to be overseen by the film’s director, which might explain why it was, and still is, one of the better movie DVDs ever made.

Psycho

Movie: Psycho (1960)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
The Setup: After stealing money from her boss, Marion Crane checks in the Bates motel, where people check in but they don’t check out!
The Twist: The murderer is the inn’s owner, Norman Bates, who thinks he’s his own mother, even though Mama Bates is dead … and kind of ripe.
Fun Fact: Among the women considered for the role of Marion Cane, which ultimately went to Janet Leigh, were Eva Marie Saint, Lana Turner, and Shirley “Mrs. Partridge” Jones.

Citizen Kane

Movie: Citizen Kane (1941)
Director: Orson Welles
The Setup: The story of newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane is told by a reporter who’s trying to find out what Kane meant when, with his last dying breath, he uttered the word “Rosebud.”
The Twist: Rosebud was his childhood sled.
Fun Fact: Kane was inspired by real-life newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, who was so “flattered” by his thinly veiled portrayal that, when the film opened, he decreed that no Hearst paper mention it. At all. Ever.

Soylent Green

Movie: Soylent Green (1973)
Director: Richard Fleischer
The Setup: The Earth has become so overpopulated that people will do (and eat) anything to survive.
The Twist: In the immortal words of Detective Robert Thorn, “Soylent Green is people.”
Fun Fact: On the cartoon Futurama, Soylent Green was the special ingredient in a parody of the cooking show “Iron Chef,” while in another episode characters enjoyed a nice, refreshing can of Soylent Cola.

The Usual Suspects

Movie: The Usual Suspects (1995)
Director: Bryan Singer
The Setup: After a group of criminals are caught during a heist, one of them, a crippled man named “Verbal” Kint, reveals that the entire plot was the work of master criminal (and urban legend) Keyser Söze.
The Twist: Verbal is Keyser Söze.
Fun Fact: Soze is actually Turkish for “talks a lot.”

Oldboy

Movie: Oldboy (2003)
Director: Chan-wook Park
The Setup:
After being held prisoner for 15 years, Dae-su is finally released, not knowing who held him or why, only that his wife is dead and his daughter is nowhere to be found. Joined by Mi-do, a woman he met in a sushi bar and later falls in love with, Dae-su tries to find out what happened.
The Twist: Mi-Do is Dae-su’s daughter … which he doesn’t learn until after they’ve slept together.
Fun Fact: Oldboy is actually based on a Japanese comic book of the same name, further proof that not all comic books movies have to be, well, comic book movies.

Mission Impossible

Movie: Mission: Impossible (1996)
Director: Brian De Palma
The Setup: After the members of his spy squad — including his leader, mentor, and friend Jim Phelps — are killed, and he’s accused of being a double agent, super spy Ethan Hunt goes on the run to clear his name.
The Twist: Phelps not only isn’t dead, but he planned the whole thing.
Fun Fact: Because of this twist, actor Peter Graves, who played Phelps on the original TV show, declined to appear in the film.

Friday the 13th

Movie: Friday the 13th (1980)
Director: Emile Chautard
The Setup: When a group of kids at a summer cap start turning up dead, they believe it’s the work of Jason Voorhees, a kid who years earlier was allowed to drown in the camp’s lake and who, they think, has returned from the grave to enact his revenge.
The Twist: It actually wasn’t Jason killing all those kids, it was his mommy. Which is just so embarrassing.
Fun Fact: In 1992, Jason was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the MTV Movie Awards.

Chinatown

Movie: Chinatown (1974)
Director: Roman Polanski
The Setup: Private dick Jake Gittes is hired to investigate what he thinks is a routine case of corruption and adultery. It turns out to be a tad more complicated.
The Twist: Evelyn Mulwray’s sister — slap! — is her daughter — slap! — her sister and her daughter! — slap!
Fun Fact: During the climactic reveal, Faye Dunaway asked Jack Nicholson to really slap her. He did.

The Wicker Man

Movie: The Wicker Man (1973)
Director: Robin Hardy
The Setup: Responding to an anonymous tip, Sergeant Howie goes looking for a missing girl, and ends up on a strange island full of human-sacrificing pagans.
The Twist: Actually, the pagans sent the anonymous tip to lure Howie to the island so they could sacrifice him.
Fun Fact: Christopher Lee actually appeared in the film for free. He has since said that he considers his role in the film to be one of the best of his career.

12 Monkeys

Movie: 12 Monkeys (1995)
Director: Terry Gilliam
The Setup: After a deadly virus nearly wipes out humanity, the last remaining scientists send James Cole back in time to find out how they can stop the Army of the 12 Monkeys, who they believe to have spread the virus.
The Twist: The Army of the 12 Monkeys was actually a PETA-like animal rights group that released animals from a New York City zoo on the same day the virus was released by some jerk.
Fun Fact: Like Christopher Lee and The Wicker Man, Bruce Willis agreed to star in 12 Monkeys for free, though he was eventually paid after the movie came out.

Jacob's Ladder

Movie: Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
Director: Adrian Lyne
The Setup: When Vietnam veteran Jacob Singer starts hallucinating demons and his dead son, he thinks it has something to do with post-traumatic stress from combat.
The Twist: Jacob actually died in Vietnam, and everything he sees is a deathbed vision.
Fun Fact: Jacob’s doctor was played by Lewis Black, who’s now known for being a comedian, a Daily Show regular, and kind of twisted.

Eddie & the Cruisers

Movie: Eddie & the Cruisers (1983)
Director: Martin Davidson
The Setup: When the re-release of their only album returns them to the spotlight, the members of the long-defunct ’60s rock band Eddie & the Cruisers reminisce about their band and its dead lead singer Eddie Wilson.
The Twist: Eddie ain’t dead, he just grew a beard.
Fun Fact:
Unlike Eddie & the Cruisers, the band that performed all the music in the movie, John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band, is actually still around … and on MySpace.

Angel Heart

Movie: Angel Heart (1987)
Director: Alan Parker
The Setup: When private dick Harold Angel is hired by Louis Cyphre to find a missing singer named Johnny Favourite, it leads Angel into the bizarre world of New Orleans’s voodoo scene.
The Twist: Angel is Favourite, he just doesn’t remember, though Louis Cypher, also known as Lucifer, does.
Fun Fact: According to the IMDb, Robert De Niro’s performance as Cyphre is actually an impression of his pal and Goodfellas director Martin Scorsese.

The Game

Movie: The Game (1997)
Director: David Fincher
The Setup: Nicholas Van Orton is a tightly wound executive who eventually chucks himself off a building when his life goes to hell.
The Twist: Instead of being killed in the fall, Nicholas lands in one of those big air stunt pillows because everything that has happened — including having his house vandalized, being kidnapped and left for dead in Mexico, and accidentally killing his brother — was part of an elaborate game paid for by his brother as a birthday present.
Fun Fact: While doing such a game may have looked far-fetched 10 years ago, similar A.R.G.s (alternate reality games) have since become popular (and commercial) and have been used to promote things like Nine Inch Nails’s Year Zero album, the TV show Lost, and the upcoming Batman movie The Dark Knight.

The Crying Game

Movie: The Crying Game (1992)
Director: Neil Jordan
The Setup: After a British soldier is accidentally killed fleeing from the IRA members who had been holding him hostage, one of his captors goes to make sure the soldier’s girlfriend is okay.
The Twist: That girlfriend is a man, baby.
Fun Fact: This gender twist was also used, albeit a lot less successfully, in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.