Category: Film Notes

January 6, 2009 / / Film Notes

By Mel Cartagena

Videodrome – 1983 – dir. David Cronenberg

If at times you feel overwhelmed by the tidal wave of ‘entertainment’ that comes at you from your all around, then you understand how Max Renn (James Woods) was feeling in Videodrome. In his quest for the ultimate cheap thrill he finds himself caught in the zone between the real and the manufactured fiction he peddles.

December 31, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Peggy Nelson

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence – dir. Nagisa Oshima – 1983

Prisoner of war films offer an eye-of-the-storm perspective from which to contemplate the chaos of war.  In the tradition of Jean Renoir’s The Grand Illusion (1937), and David Lean’s Bridge Over the River Kwai (1957), Nagisa Oshima’s Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence investigates the psyches of men from very different cultures in this tale of British captives in a Japanese POW camp.  Co-written by Oshima and Paul Mayersberg from an Afrikaner’s published memoirs, Oshima uses the perspective of the non-Japanese to turn his lens on WWII Japan.

December 31, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Peggy Nelson

In the Realm of the Senses – dir. Nagisa Oshima – 1976

Nagisa Oshima’s tale of sexual obsession, In the Realm of the Senses, retains the power to shock despite being over 30 years old.  Based on a true story, the film concerns one Sada Abe, found wandering the streets of 1936 Tokyo with her lover’s severed penis in her hand, who upon her arrest became a media sensation and folk heroine.  Realm features non-simulated sex between the actors, BDSM, graphic violence, and other controversial elements that may or may not appear depending on what version you’re viewing, and where you’re viewing it.   Widely banned upon release, it is perhaps Oshima’s best-known film.

December 15, 2008 / / Film Notes

Reviewed by Paula Delaney
Shoot the Piano Player – 1960 – dir. Francois Truffaut

This 1960 French film starring Charles Aznavour tells a story that has the ingredients of romance, drama, and comic tragedy. The main character, Charlie Kohler (Edouard Saroyan) is played by Aznavour in a persona that might remind one of Peter Sellers, due to his expressions of his emotions, or lack thereof. The film is in black and white and the cinematography is representative of foreign films at the time. The music throughout the film evokes a carnival type of atmosphere, and gradually heightens the irony of the plot.

December 12, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Jared M. Gordon

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – 2008 – dir. Steven Spielberg

It was only a matter of time, I suppose, until aliens would show up in an Indiana Jones film.  After countless screenwriters and even more countless drafts, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull finally saw the light of cinemas nearly twenty years after the release of Last Crusade. The actual legend of the crystal skull concerns a series of artifacts discovered in Central and South America in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Explorers purportedly unearthed several carved quartz skulls, and it was claimed that these skulls possessed not only unimaginable powers but that they could not have been crafted by modern means.  A 1996 BBC documentary investigation revealed that several crystal skulls that had been displayed in museums and held by collectors throughout the world were forgeries.  However, there did indeed exist a few specimens whose construction defied conventional explanation.

Speaking of defying convention, Indiana’s fourth outing has been tossed about as one of the weakest (if not THE weakest) of the series.  As an action film, it delivers, and Harrison Ford himself presents a terrific performance.  So what’s the problem with Crystal Skull?

December 11, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Jessic O’Byrne

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – 1984 – Steven Spielberg

It would be easy to pick on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom for its outdated and grandiose special effects or its condescending treatment of women, children, minorities, and essentially every other character in the film that is not played by Harrison Ford. It would be equally simple to write the film off as pure, unsubstantiated kitsch filled to the brim with unrealistic depictions of, sex, foreign cultures and academia. To do so, however, would be to stomp on the cavaliering dreams of the millions of little boys (and girls too, myself among them) who grew up in an era when our first glimpses of the outside world were broadcast to us in our cribs via TV and movies and our fictional heroes had to somehow be more grandiose than the already larger-than-life celebrities depicting them. The world has changed a lot since this film was originally released in 1984: we’ve all become a little older, a little fatter, and a little more politically correct. Temple of Doom offers viewers a chance to travel back to a simpler time when we could be satisfied with a tub of popcorn, and orange soda, and an entertaining (if not always fully engaging) adventure story. And so, as responsible stewards of our younger, less cynical (more easily amused) selves, we must throw aside our super PC mantles for a couple of hours in order to bask in the glory of all that is Indiana.

December 10, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Jared M. Gordon

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – 1989 – dir. Steven Spielberg

Sean Connery.

Harrison Ford is in this movie too, but Indy for the first time takes a backseat to a character that is even more engaging than he is: his father.

A public left scratching their heads at the significance of Shiva Lingas identified far more readily with the lure of the Holy Grail.  “Every man’s dream,” indeed.

Of course, the Holy Grail is a metaphor, and while it makes a physical appearance in this film, it stands for tempered wisdom, responsibility, and courage.  Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott) says, “The search for the Grail is the search for the divine in all of us.”  Indiana Jones, as he walks the breath, word, and path of God, demonstrates his humility, his wisdom, and his bravery.  In short, Indiana must prove himself heroic to be worthy of the grail.  Certainly, so must we all.

December 9, 2008 / / Film Notes

By: Victoria Large

Serenity: Sci-Fi on the Raggedy Edge

If you’re familiar with writer-director Joss Whedon’s much-beloved 2005 science fiction film Serenity, you’ve likely heard the tale of the picture’s convoluted path to the big screen. It begins with the 2002 premiere and subsequent, swift cancellation of Firefly, Whedon’s hour-long TV series that fell victim to an impatient network (not to mention a dreadful ad campaign that featured Smash Mouth’s then-ubiquitous tune “Walking on the Sun”). Serenity picks up where Firefly was forced to leave off, and Firefly’s vocal fans (some who watched the initial broadcasts, many who were converted by the hot-selling DVDs of the series) embraced the big screen version, only too happy to have their favorite characters back. Fans championed the film with a missionary zeal; at the time of Serenity’s release, a story circulated about a Vancouver man who bought 320 tickets to the film just to give them away to strangers. Alas, Serenity didn’t set the box office aflame during its initial run, but it has predictably had a strong DVD afterlife, and indeed more staying power than the Jodie Foster thriller Flightplan (a massive hit, moneywise, in 2005) that held the number one box office spot when Serenity opened, or the Vin Diesel vehicle Doom (even that had a bigger opening weekend). Serenity’s charms are many whether you’re a newcomer or a diehard, and in the past few years it has settled comfortably into a position of rare prestige in the cinematic sci-fi canon.

December 9, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Jared M. Gordon

Raiders of the Lost Ark

The movie that defines the action-adventure genre, Raiders of the Lost Ark introduced movie audiences everywhere to Indiana Jones, the romance of archaeology, and just how dangerous the ark of the covenant can be.

*FUN FACT: According to the Ten Commandments, graven images were strictly forbidden.  However, the one time God makes an exception in the bible is for the lid of the ark itself, adorned with two golden seraphim.  Why do you think that is?

Indiana Jones took full advantage of the blockbuster mentality that had gripped Hollywood since the arrival of Jaws six years prior.  Gone were the days of the big studios, the stables of stars, and the Vietnam-enriched, experimental filmmaking that defined much of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

December 1, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Leo Racicot

The Hustler – dir. Robert Rossen – 1961

Paul Newman did not take Hollywood by storm with his first film, The Silver Chalice. In fact, in characteristic joking mode (he was a great kidder!), he actually took out an ad in the trades apologizing profusely to filmgoers for that cinematic travesty. Following in the footsteps of such giants as Brando, Clift, James Dean, Newman chopped a huge chunk off the pedestal of stylized acting, making his performances and acting in general seem real and accessible. Human beings.  Unlike Brando, whose characters always seemed unreal, even freakish, Newman’s natural accessibility as a person as well as an actor made you think that here was a guy you could sit down and have a beer with and shoot the breeze with. He became one of Hollywood’s most-loved stars, in part, because though there was no way he (or anyone!) could ever have subsumed those Olympian good looks, that choirboy’s smile, the eyes bluer than all the Seven Seas put together, the body Adonis would have been jealous of (those pelvic “davids”!!!), filled with sexiness and swagger, he focused all his working energies AWAY from them; he cared nothing for being a pretty boy of the movies; his aim was higher and truer and it showed.