This Is Where I Leave You
The family gathering comedy is one of the more difficult genres to pull off. Good for Levy for trying something different. But next time he…
Absolute silence while the Warner logo, the name of the production company and the title of the movie are displayed on the screen. Suddenly, we see ourselves orbiting the Earth while a cacophony of radio and television transmissions confuses us by their sheer volume and sound pollution they cause. Then, slowly, we begin a journey throughout the universe that will last for the next few minutes, taking us far from our old and familiar planet while we experience a kind of time traveling as sounds of our atmosphere become older and older - until, eventually, we are involved by an oppressive silence and we realize that we traveled further than our oldest sound emission. And when we begin to realize the dimension of our surroundings - that goes much beyond our capacity for abstraction -, we are back to the starting point, returning to Earth through the portal represented by the blue and young eyes of Ellie Arroway, our leading character.
So exactly what is National Theatre LIVE anyway, you may be wondering?
Simply put, it's a program run by the Royal National Theatre in London, which broadcasts live performances of their productions via satellite, to movie theaters, cinemas and arts centres around the world. If you live in the UK or nearby, you'll see it as a live simulcast; like watching a sporting event. And if you live farther away (Canada) you'll see it as delayed broadcast and what we were shown.
One of my earliest and most memorable movie going experiences was Franklin Schaffner's 1968's "Planet of the Apes". It was presented in my grade school's Cine Club (sort of a small film festival that played one different, semi-recent movie every Saturday during a period of about a month). For weeks prior to the showing I was mesmerized by the publicity artwork which depicted a caged Charlton Heston being repressed by a gorilla. As an eight year old the movie originally struck me purely as a horror piece but it is the other "little things" that still compel me to write about it after all these years.
What's more, I believe "Planet of the Apes" with all of its different incarnations: original classic, sequels, remakes and TV adaptations, makes for a wonderful example of cinematic "dos and don'ts" At a glance the first entry in the series may seem like just another monster movie but this is hardly the case. It's too bad neither the majority of the filmmakers involved in the sequels, nor Tim Burton in his remake, were ever able to figure this out.
I have a small childhood memory indirectly associated with Alejandro Jodorowsky's "Santa Sangre"(1989). I remember well about how it drew the attention of people when it was introduced in South Korea in 1994. One tagline was simple brutal honesty that I still recall with smile: "This is no doubt the cult!" And here is another nice one that makes my eyeballs still roll: "Today, You will be infected by the cult!"They were blatant enough to draw the attention from an 11-year-old boy, but the problems were that (1) I was too young to get the chance to watch it, and (2) my hometown was a local city far from Seoul. However, that was a blessing in disguise. They showed the audiences the butchered version with a considerable amount deleted due to local censorship. In those days, bold, controversial films like "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, & Her Lover" were never introduced to South Korean audiences unless they were heavily chopped. You probably think it is kind of weird considering some uncompromisingly violent South Korean movies made nowadays, but it did happen a lot when I was young.
In "Certified Copy," his most recent movie, director Abbas Kiarostami adopts an intriguing and surprisingly efficient narrative strategy: after structuring the first half of the film emphasizing the realism and naturalism of the situation and of the dynamic between the characters, he changes the internal logic of the movie in the second half in a subtle but clear way, investing from then on in a tone that flirts with fantasy by establishing a fascinating game involving the main couple.
Written by the director himself, the movie begins with a lecture given by the writer James Milles (Shimell), who has just released a book that defends the importance of replicas of great works of art in a general way. Attending the event is the character played by Juliette Binoche, who owns a gallery and seems to be fascinated by Milles, offering to take him on a tour in Tuscany before he leaves Italy. Disagreeing with some aspects supported by the author in his book, she initiates a discussion while they visit museums and restaurants, until something curious eventually occurs and they start to act and talk as if they were a couple with 15 years of marriage.
Is Frank Darabont's "The Shawshank Redemption" the best motion-picture of all time? According to Internet Movie Database users, that is exactly the case. The advent of the internet likely brought together the largest congregation of movie fans in history, ready to express their opinions in the most accessed movie data base ever, and the best rated film there is "The Shawshank Redemption."
This isn't something to take lightly, true, but there are peculiarities about the website's data that needs to be considered. If you've followed their rankings in the past you may have noticed that the response by users to recently released films tends to be more extreme than that of older ones, in other words, a recent good movie might initially appear with a higher rating and a bad one with a lower one; films only seem to reach their rightful place with the passage of time and particularly with the accumulation of a larger number of votes. Their opening weekend is not the most accurate of moments to evaluate what audiences really think about them.
Call it a bloodbath. Not literally, of course, but it sure felt like one.
It was a Friday afternoon in late spring 1993 at The American Film Institute. The Class of 1992, which had pretty much killed itself making short films ("cycle projects") since starting the program in September, was waiting for a list. Dreading it, too. Because everybody'd known all year that of 168 "Fellows," as AFI calls them --- only 40 (or just 8 across 5 disciplines - directing, producing, cinematography, editing, production design) would be invited back, making that coveted Second Year cut for the opportunity to produce a second year film.
A top secret selection committee debated late into the day. Even I, then Special Projects Coordinator and right hand to the Dean of Studies, didn't know who was meeting. There was tension everywhere, clinging like the humidity of a Midwestern summer, as the committee decided, and the Fellows waited.
I hope this letter reaches you with the best of health and spirits. I am reaching out to you not only because I loved your movies, but also because we are of the same generation of Desis. We migrated here with our parents during that first huge wave some forty years ago and now we are both (perhaps in self-perception) regular middle-aged guys from big cities experiencing the next phases of our lives. I am sure that many of your childhood experiences paralleled mine, both in school playgrounds and in our private imaginations. In some ways, we are peers; in some ways I admire your work. The fact that I am writing this letter implies that I am concerned about a progression that seems to be taking place in your films.
• Video by Kevin B. Lee • Text by Steven Boone
German Expressionism, Soviet Montage, Italian Neo-Realism, the French New Wave , the Japanese New Wave, the Australian New Wave, Cinema Novo, the New American Cinema, Cinema du Look, the Black Pack, Dogme 95, mumblecore...
In the cinema world, film "waves"--movements of like minded filmmakers bound by generation, nationality, stylistic tendencies or social/political position--rise, crest and fall away every decade. But the latest wave is something different.
Raging Bull, Henry V and Heat are primary examples of films acclaimed on their releases and steadily more since then. But this is far from being the case with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein: slaughtered by the majority of critics in 1994, when it was released, the movie by British director Kenneth Branagh didn't please the audience either, becoming an embarrassing box office flop in the career of its director, which had so far been in ascension.
Even the surprising casting of Robert De Niro in the role of the "monster" wasn't enough to attract the attention of the audience, which therefore lost the opportunity to witness yet another immensely sensitive performance by the actor - and I use the word "monster" in quotes because DeNiro may have played many in his brilliant career (Louis Cyphre, Al Capone, Max Cady and even Jake La Motta come to mind), but the creature conceived by British writer Mary Shelley certainly isn't one of them. At least, not in Branagh's beautiful version.