Category: Main Slate

March 18, 2010 / / Main Slate

Big Fish – 2003 – dir. Tim Burton

Tim Burton’s Big Fish is an homage to everything that we were, everything that we are, and everything that we will be.  What really bakes your noodle is the reveal that it’s all happening, every moment, all at once.

Based on the novel by mythology enthusiast Daniel Wallace (watch for a cameo of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces on Ed Bloom’s nightstand), Big Fish is a tale about everything big in our lives: the worlds of our childhood, the worlds of being in love, and the worlds of responsibility, maturity, death, and beyond.

March 2, 2010 / / Main Slate

By Melvin Cartagena

High & Low – 1963 – dir. Akira Kurosawa

The film has such assertive direction that it slips without effort from power play drama to suspense thriller to police procedural/manhunt chase to high drama. In spite of this blend of genres that for a lesser director would take three or four films to fully unravel in its complexity, this film is all Kurosawa, an assured and heady blend of action, drama and objective humanity.

February 8, 2010 / / Main Slate
February 2, 2010 / / Main Slate
January 29, 2010 / / Main Slate

By William Benker

Why Adaptations Still Work (When Done Properly).

Fantastic Mr. Fox – 2009 – dir. Wes Anderson

Adaptations of nearly forgotten children’s stories are a complicated process.  It requires certain tools, one could say, in order to “re-invent” the story in an appropriate way.  It must be done carefully, not daring too far from the original heart of the book, yet driving the narrative towards a more theatrical climax, properly combined to invigorate not only the audience, but the depth of the story.  While many other adaptations and remakes have both succeeded and failed to do this in the past decade, the stop-motion genre has invariably avoided such defeats.  Unlike recent hits Coraline & Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (both directed by Henry Selick,) Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox looks gritty, perhaps even haphazard, if fans weren’t aware of the director’s impeccable career (The style more closely resembles 1988 Czech film Alice by Jan Svankmajor). The Fantastic Mr. Fox goes beyond exploring the classic tale through a more contemporary perspective. Through the expansion of the original narrative, Anderson amalgamates the story into modern thought, meticulously transfusing both Roald Dahl’s original message and his own artistic vision, proving once again that the auteur is still at the top of his game.

January 25, 2010 / / Main Slate

Arizona Dream – 1993 – dir. Emir Kusturica

“But what’s the point of breathing if somebody already tells you the difference between an apple and a bicycle? If I bite a bicycle and ride an apple, then I’ll know the difference.” That’s one of the first of many philosophical musings from Axel Blackmar, the searching twenty-something protagonist of Emir Kusturica’s willfully strange 1993 film Arizona Dream. It’s a statement that prepares the audience for all that comes next. That is, at least well as the audience can be prepared for all that comes next.

January 22, 2010 / / Main Slate

By Melvin Cartagena                      

The Long Goodbye – 1973 – dir. Robert Altman

“If being in revolt against a corrupt society constitutes being immature, then Philip Marlowe is extremely immature. If seeing dirt where there is dirt constitutes social maladjustment, then Philip Marlowe has inadequate social adjustment. Of course Marlowe is a failure, and he knows it. He is a failure because he hasn’t any money…A lot of very good men have been failures because their particular talents did not suit their particular time and place.” – Raymond Chandler

In the first shot of The Long Goodbye, Marlowe (Elliott Gould) wakes up as if from a deep sleep. In time he demonstrates he is a stranger in a strange land, an intruder from a different time attempting to grok the  free-floating morality of the sprawling city of twenty-four hours supermarkets and Laundromats, and neo-flower children practicing yoga naked, and new-age healers. Marty Augustine (Mark Rydell) punctuates this temporal dislocation in Marlowe when he refers to the gumshoe as Rip Van Marlowe, the victim of a long sleep that has thrust him into a time and place that has no love for a man of ethics, a man who cares. This is more than can be said for the police, who in typical noir-pulp fashion first arrest Marlowe, then grill him relentlessly for three days about Terry Lennox’s (Jim Bouton) escape to Mexico hours after the brutal killing of his wife Sylvia, and finally cut him loose after Terry’s confirmed suicide down in Mexico. One more for the books in the precinct, but this makes no sense to Marlowe, so it’s up the world-weary knight in tarnished armor to set things right in his mind.

January 7, 2010 / / Main Slate

By Mel Cartagena

La Dolce Vita – 1960 – Federico Fellini

The first image we see is a massive statue of Christ being hauled via helicopter over Roman landmarks, to be set atop St. Peter’s Cathedral. On the way there Marcello (Mastroianni) is distracted by a trio of girls sunbathing on the rooftop of a modern apartment building. He makes miming motions to them of writing down their phone numbers, but the noise and confusion get in the way of communications. That night Marcello is on the Via Veneto, scoping out the scandals among the fringe celebrities of Rome, collecting fodder for his gossip column (this is the movie that introduced the world to the word Paparazzo.)

In the opening scenes of what becomes a sprawling visual feast, Fellini shows us the scope and brio of La Dolce Vita. From the highest, holiest towers to the lowest, seediest night clubs, over the course of seven nights and seven dawns, Marcello will scour the heights and depths of Rome for the emotional center he’s missing, and he’ll always come up empty at dawn as a result of communications breakdown.

January 4, 2010 / / Main Slate

The Philadelphia Story – 1940 – dir. George Cukor

There are few movie treasures as evergreen  as The Philadelphia Story, few movie stars as everlasting as the incomparable Katharine Hepburn. Labeled “box office poison” by Hollywood after making a string of nascent hits followed by a string of stinking bombs, Hepburn fled to her native East Coast to lick her wounds and find solace on the stage, namely in Phillip Barry’s play, “The Philadelphia Story” which became a lucky theater penny for everyone involved, Great Kate most of all.

Hepburn had the savvy to buy full film rights to the vehicle, provided she play the lead. She saw the play as her ticket-to-ride back to Planet Stardom, a kingdom she was to rule over for the rest of her life.