Thursday, June 26, 2008
By now, it's old news. But the Emmy honchos, who were already going to release the Best Comedy and Best Drama shortlists early, one-upped themselves in a pulse-gauging experiment by announcing their lists even earlier. Depending on industry reactions, we may be getting the Acting shortlists soon too. So who made the first cut for Best Comedy and Best Drama?
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Flight of the Conchords
Two and a Half Men
As you can see, a few of my favorites made the cut, including 30 Rock, The Office, Flight of the Conchords, and Pushing Daisies. On the other hand, Two and a Half Men also made the shortlist, and while I don't watch that hypnotizer of awards voters, I do watch Entourage, whose last season outscored Rescue Me on the this-show-is-a-sad-parody-of-itself meter. Overall, I'm pretty okay with this list, but only because I know in my heart 30 Rock will not only make the nominee list but will also win the gold. The rest is noise.
Friday Night Lights
Well, The Wire made the shortlist for (I think) the first time ever, which is only going to make its inevitable loss more disappointing. In fact, I'm not even happy it got this far, if only because Boston Legal is STILL in the running, and as we learned from Spader's win last year, it's dangerous to underestimate the Academy's devotion to mediocrity. On top of that television travesty, Grey's Anatomy, in a universally ridiculed season, still made the cut over the likes of, oh, I don't know, Battlestar Galactica. That series, one of television's best, never really had a chance, so I'll reserve judgment until I see the gap where Mary McDonnell's name should be on the Best Actress shortlist. And really, all that aside, this is a decent list. Lost entered "The Constant," its best episode to date, so with any luck it will make the final five. House and Friday Night Lights are my other ponies in this race, apart from the second best drama of the year and lead contender for the Best Drama Emmy, Mad Men. Apparently they entered the pilot for consideration, a political choice for such serialized shows--judges don't need any backstory in order to understand the episode--even though the series went on to even greater highs.
Click here for the full post
Saturday, June 21, 2008
As promised, I have settled on my personal alternative to the AFI's 10 Top 10. The usual caveats apply (I haven't seen everything, I've seen more movies from the 2000s than any other decade so my choices skew new, foreign films aren't eligible), but let's get right into it with one of my favorite genres, shall we?
Top 10 American Westerns:
10. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid by George Roy Hill
9. Rio Bravo by Howard Hawks
8. Stagecoach by John Ford
7. Unforgiven by Clint Eastwood
6. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre by John Huston
5. The Wild Bunch by Sam Peckinpah
4. 3:10 to Yuma by James Mangold
3. The Shooting by Monte Hellman
2. McCabe and Mrs. Miller by Robert Altman
1. High Noon by Fred Zinnemann.
To create these lists, I first came up with shortlists of up to 20 nominees, and whittled them down a bit, then ranked them and cut the lists off at 10. I made no aim to make sure I included, say, at least one John Wayne, at least one Clint Eastwood, etc. That said, I'm impressed that my western list has no repeat directors and covers 10 of the greats from Johns Ford and Huston on down to Monte Hellman and James Mangold. Speaking of Mangold, I love the 1957 3:10 to Yuma, but I think Mangold's is even better, and if I were completely honest, I would have put it in the top position. But instead I put it just behind the top three, which have all stood the test of time well. I also wrestled with the possibilities of modern westerns from Hud up to No Country for Old Men, but I chose to stick with the classic cowboy westerns. As you can see, my favorites are the more subversive westerns (like underappreciated cult gem The Shooting) that take elements of the genre established by the Ford/Hawks/Huston westerns and turn them on their heads. And as I've repeatedly stated, if this list included foreign films, I'd kick off the bottom four in favor of Leone's masterworks (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West), El Topo, and The Proposition.
Top 10 American Animated Movies:
10. Sleeping Beauty by Clyde Geronimi
9. Finding Nemo by Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
8. Robin Hood by Wolfgang Reitherman
7. The Little Mermaid by Ron Clements and John Musker
6. Aladdin by Ron Clements and John Musker
5. The Jungle Book by Wolfgang Reitherman
4. Beauty and the Beast by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise
3. Toy Story by John Lasseter
2. The Incredibles by Brad Bird
1. The Lion King by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff
It's easy for me to claim not to be biased despite the fact that I grew up when many of the higher ranked films were released, but I genuinely believe these are the best American animated movies I've yet seen. Feel free to take that with a grain of salt. On the other hand, Snow White is based on a Grimm's fairy tale (respectable), but The Lion King is based on Hamlet (contender for the greatest written work ever). You make the call. The Jungle Book leads the classic classics for me. The story, the animation, and the music work to really transport you to the Indian jungle. And I always find Robin Hood one of the most overlooked Disney classics for some reason, despite the exciting picaresque adventure and the awesome crossbow-wielding vulture. By the way, Snow White and Cinderella are lame. Sleeping Beauty is a man's princess movie. You can quote me on that. The animation is at least on par with beloved classics Pinocchio and Bambi (Fantasia never did it for me), but this one includes dragons and sorcery. As for the Pixar choices, I haven't seen Toy Story 2 or Ratatouille since theaters, despite loving each then. Relatedly, it looks like Wall*e will earn a spot on the list soon enough.
Top 10 American Romantic Comedies:
10. Once by John Carney
9. It Happened One Night by Frank Capra
8. The Philadelphia Story by George Cukor
7. Rushmore by Wes Anderson
6. Singin' in the Rain by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly
5. When Harry Met Sally by Rob Reiner
4. Before Sunrise by Richard Linklater
3. Annie Hall by Woody Allen
2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind by Michel Gondry
1. Almost Famous by Cameron Crowe
So maybe I splurged on the modern movies a little bit. In my defense, I haven't seen many of the screwball comedies, and on top of that, I rarely seek out romantic comedies anyway, so my selections are more unconventional. You're just lucky I didn't put While You Were Sleeping on here. Almost Famous, overlooked by all but Ebert, is one of the movies that rotates in and out of the slot for my favorite movie period, and Eternal Sunshine weaves a hilarious romantic tale amidst a sci-fi conceit. I probably should have gone with something like Harold and Maude for my tenth slot, but I'm far too attached to Once right now, which you'll note is hardly a romantic comedy. I admit this is my weakest genre, but then again, try to find better choices. It's difficult to top these guys, and together they perfectly encapsulate my vision of (heterosexual) romantic comedy.
Top 10 American Sci-Fi Movies:
10. Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Don Siegel
9. Blade Runner by Ridley Scott
8. 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick
7. Donnie Darko by Richard Kelly
6. Children of Men by Alfonso Cuaron
5. A Clockwork Orange by Stanley Kubrick
4. Aliens by James Cameron
3. Eraserhead by David Lynch
2. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope by George Lucas
1. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back by Irvin Kershner
As you'll see, a couple modern sci-fi movies bumped off more classic choices like Alien or The Day the Earth Stood Still. Those films are certainly great and influential; I happen to prefer Donnie Darko's time-traveling '80s tribute and Children of Men's dystopian antihero. I probably should have ranked Blade Runner or 2001 higher, but this is a more accurate personal reflection. I admire the direction of those films, and the performances, and dear lord, the science fiction, but I don't love either of them as I do other classics. I also imagine the AFI would fall down dead at the mere thought of including Eraserhead, but Lynch doing sci-fi is one of the better genre-director match-ups. And of course the two best American science-fiction films launched a phenomenon. A New Hope (along with Jaws) revolutionized (some would say ruined) American cinema, and Empire Strikes Back fulfilled all the dark promises of the saga that began with the double-murder of an orphan's only caretakers. If foreign films were allowable, I would have worked in two Russian greats, Kin-Dza-Dza and Solyaris.
Top 10 American Fantasy/Horror Movies:
10. The Exorcist by William Friedkin
9. The Wizard of Oz by Victor Fleming
8. Frankenstein by James Whale
7. The Princess Bride by Rob Reiner
6. Rosemary's Baby by Roman Polanski
5. Young Frankenstein by Mel Brooks
4. The Shining by Stanley Kubrick
3. It's a Wonderful Life by Frank Capra
2. Inland Empire by David Lynch
1. Fellowship of the Ring by Peter Jackson
As I dove into this category, I realized how few great fantasies exist. No wonder The Lord of the Rings was the first fantasy Best Picture. The Princess Bride outshines all the 80s kid fantasy flicks (Labyrinth, Willow, and, one assumes, Legend) by at once commenting on and observing the standards of fantasy adventures. Similarly, Young Frankenstein is a comedic spin on the genre that merits inclusion. The highest-ranking horror films, The Shining and Rosemary's Baby, are fantastically engaging outings by renowned directors. Meanwhile, the top few should come as no surprise after my last post, and yes, I think Inland Empire is the second best American fantasy-horror movie I've seen (assuming, of course, it counts as a fantasy-horror, and I haven't overlooked anything). I can't think of another movie that had me frightened but entranced for so long. Foreign contenders range from modern (Pan's Labyrinth) to ancient (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) to everything in between (Hour of the Wolf, Les Diaboliques).
Top 10 American Mystery Movies:
10. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang by Shane Black
9. 3 Women by Robert Altman
8. Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock
7. Memento by Christopher Nolan
6. Mulholland Dr. by David Lynch
5. Vertigo by Alfred Hitchcock
4. The Manchurian Candidate by John Frankenheimer
3. The Third Man by Carol Reed
2. The Big Lebowski by Joel and Ethan Coen
1. Citizen Kane by Orson Welles
What an incredibly tough category. I had to exclude so many of my favorite film noirs (The Lady from Shanghai), detective stories (The Long Goodbye), and Hitchcock thrillers (The Lady Vanishes). While we're at it, I also left off two of my all-time favorite foreign classics, Ingmar Bergman's Persona and Alain Resnais' Last Year at Marienbad. But I got to include one of the sharpest post-modern mysteries, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which has one of my favorite voice-overs. I also made sure to find room for more unconventional mysteries like 3 Women and Mulholland Dr., by two of my (apparent) favorite directors. And I rectified the AFI's egregious error of placing The Third Man too low. Now it is firmly situated behind the masterful epistemological exploration The Big Lebowski (another post-modern mystery gem) and Orson Welles' difficult-to-define revolutionary triumph Citizen Kane. Of course, Citizen Kane is much more than a mystery movie, but then, so are many of these films.
Top 10 American Crime Movies:
10. Badlands by Terrence Malick
9. Chinatown by Roman Polanski
8. Touch of Evil by Orson Welles
7. Blood Simple by Joel and Ethan Coen
6. Once Upon a Time in America by Sergio Leone
5. Miller's Crossing by Joel and Ethan Coen
4. Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet
3. Double Indemnity by Billy Wilder
2. The Godfather by Francis Ford Coppola
1. The Godfather, Part 2 by Francis Ford Coppola
I didn't intend this, but for once I really withheld modern movies (Silence of the Lambs, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Seven, and most unfortunately, The Player), so this is a much more AFI-looking list than my others. And the most alarming exclusion, Goodfellas, was an oversight, but then, I don't personally like it quite as much as these ten anyway (and I've only seen it once). Still, I fully admit that it should be on here. This was another category with a bevy of worthy entries, so I have many foreign exclusions as well: Shoot the Piano Player, Le Samourai, Rififi, Elevator to the Gallows, Le Corbeau, and City of God. I especially wanted to look outside the gangster subgenre, which led me to some of my favorites (Double Indemnity, Glengarry Glen Ross, Badlands), although I adore the gangster movies here too, obviously.
Top 10 American Action/Adventures:
10. The Bridge on the River Kwai by David Lean
9. Kill Bill, Vol. 2 by Quentin Tarantino
8. Straw Dogs by Sam Peckinpah
7. No Country for Old Men by Joel and Ethan Coen
6. The Matrix by Larry and Andy Wachowski
5. Jaws by Steven Spielberg
4. Die Hard by John McTiernan
3. Lawrence of Arabia by David Lean
2. The Return of the King by Peter Jackson
1. Raiders of the Lost Ark by Steven Spielberg
I had more trouble with this list than any of the others, and for a while I considered scrubbing Action/Adventure for a different genre. Most of the action contenders were in the crime category, and other adventure candidates were in sci-fi, fantasy or war. But I think I came away with a very interesting collection that isn't oversaturated by modern action movies (it pained me to keep Sin City off the list). Kill Bill Vol. 2 is the one that comes closest to being both an action and adventure movie, and frankly, I think the Kill Bill saga is Tarantino's greatest accomplishment yet. I'm very glad to find a spot for Straw Dogs, which saves its final act for one of the most memorable sieges to date. No Country for Old Men is the most intelligent film on the list (and impossible to categorize, so cut me some slack here), and I hope time allows it to move up the rankings. Again, The Matrix revolutionized action blockbusters, as Jaws did a couple decades prior. As you can see, I favor adventures, with Die Hard leading the action pack, and the top three saved for the most gripping adventure stories ever told.
Top 10 American War Movies:
10. Stalag 17 by Billy Wilder
9. Jarhead by Sam Mendes
8. The Best Years of Our Lives by William Wyler
7. Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo
6. Full Metal Jacket by Stanley Kubrick
5. Saving Private Ryan by Steven Spielberg
4. The Deer Hunter by Michael Cimino
3. Platoon by Oliver Stone
2. Paths of Glory by Stanley Kubrick
1. Apocalypse Now by Francis Ford Coppola
Clearly I chose to include movies that deal with war without actually showing soldiers in battle: Stalag 17 is yet another tribute to Billy Wilder's snappy writing, The Best Years of Our Lives is a powerful early testament to the trouble with reassimilation, and Johnny Got His Gun is probably harder to watch than the rest of these combined. Jarhead's standing in for some of the greater modern war films that I believe will stand the test of time (Rescue Dawn, little else), and though often overlooked, it happens to be quite stunning in its own right. Meanwhile, my top 6 are the usual suspects, headed up by Coppola's philosophical exercise. Of course, three of my all-time favorite war films are foreign--Army of Shadows, The Battle of Algiers, and Ivan's Childhood--and would certainly bump the last three off the list.
Top 10 American Dramas:
10. George Washington by David Gordon Green
9. Barton Fink by Joel and Ethan Coen
8. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans by F.W. Murnau
7. Schindler's List by Steven Spielberg
6. A Streetcar Named Desire by Elia Kazan
5. Network by Sidney Lumet
4. The Last Picture Show by Peter Bogdanovich
3. All About Eve by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
2. Sunset Blvd. by Billy Wilder
1. Casablanca by Michael Curtiz
Perhaps due to the category's catchall nature, this was the toughest list to cut down. But I wanted to make sure it spanned from the greatest classics to overlooked modern gems, as you'll notice the rankings extend from Casablanca on down to George Washington. And with the exception of my more oddball choices for the final two slots (brilliant dramas, one from the '90s and one from the '00s), this is the list most like something you'd see by the AFI, and all are films for which I hold an intense appreciation. Accordingly, I also have a longer list of foreign candidates: 8 1/2, Andrei Rublev, Cries and Whispers, L'Avventura, Wild Strawberries, and Werckmeister Harmonies.
There you have it. My hardest categories were the ones with too many brilliant candidates (Mystery, Crime, and Drama), which made me warm to the AFI list a little bit. If I hadn't taken such a strong stand, I'd have been tempted to narrow the categories down to Gangster or Epic too. Also I kept trying to insert Orson Welles movies, but most of them aren't technically American (The Trial, Chimes at Midnight, Mr. Arkadin), so I was bound by the rules. My final assertion: this list is nowhere near perfect, in part because I developed it in just a couple hours. Part of me tried to objectively rank the best American films (as if such a thing were possible), and part of me played favorites, and part of me accidentally forgot about Goodfellas. But it is empirically 42 times better than the AFI's 10 Top 10, which is all I really set out to do. And as with that list, this is just a starting point. I'm sure I've forgotten about other great movies, and lucky for me, there are even more classics waiting to be seen.
Click here for the full post
Friday, June 20, 2008
On Tuesday evening, the American Film Institute unveiled yet another unwanted list of poorly chosen films intended to represent the best of domestic cinema. It's cute that they think we care, but I suggest the AFI quit while they're not so far behind. I actually love their year-end awards for excellence in film and television, but when it comes to their Best Of lists, they leave much to be desired.
Here, the AFI continue their streak of baffling choices. Unfortunately, sticking to American movies is part of the deal, but it's important to note this excludes several great movies that would spice up lists like these, including English-language movies with American stars, like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Second, I despise that their lists start with the top film, ruining all suspense from the get-go, but that's just a formatting issue, and a personal one at that. Most damningly, their choices are the same old boring ones we've seen time and again, epitomized by their inclusion of Courtroom Drama as a genre on par with Sci-Fi or Western. There's not even a category for War. Maybe they're just legally required to include To Kill a Mockingbird on every list. Relatedly, dividing their new Top 100 list into genres makes it harder for experimental genre-defying films or movies that are difficult to categorize, like much of the work of the Coen Brothers. But let's tackle the 10 Top 10 one by one, shall we?
Top 10 American Animated Movies:
I'm mostly pleased with the selected films, although I'm tired of seeing Snow White in the top slot all the time, as it wouldn't make my top 10. The Lion King leading the contemporary classics pleases me, although Shrek is not better than The Incredibles by any stretch. Still, the AFI is due to make much more ghastly mistakes than this, so let's move on.
Top 10 American Romantic Comedies:
I almost fell asleep during City Lights. I loved Modern Times and The Great Dictator, and The Gold Rush is charmingly nostalgic, but I did not connect with City Lights on anything other than its historical level, and I'm dismayed to see it hailed as the best romantic comedy of American cinema. Annie Hall? That's more like it. I'm pleased with many of the rest, particularly When Harry Met Sally, It Happened One Night, and The Philadelphia Story, but toward the bottom, the AFI ventured into new bizarre territory. Harold and Maude is a phenomenal pick, hilarious and certainly worthy of a survey of American film, but an odd choice for the AFI, especially under the romantic comedy header.
Top 10 American Westerns:
One of the few quintessentially American artforms, the western has been done best by an Italian named Sergio Leone. But if we must limit ourselves to American films, the AFI list, without regard to rank, is great except for the laughable choice of Cat Ballou. I can give an alternative 10 American Westerns that should have made that final slot including AFI perennials The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Ox-Bow Incident, and My Darling Clementine. But my major problem with this category is the order of the selections. The Searchers is a fine film, but not the best American western, which I'd probably give to the one below it, High Noon. This trend continues through the list, with Shane ranked too high, Unforgiven too low, Red River too high, The Wild Bunch too low, Butch Cassidy probably about right, and McCabe and Mrs. Miller way too low. But what strikes me most about this list is how much more interesting foreign westerns are, and I've only seen a few. Putting aside Leone's five most famous westerns, John Hillcoat's outback western The Proposition and Alejandro Jodorowsky's Mexican freakshow El Topo are among my 10 favorite westerns.
Top 10 American Sports Movies:
Wait, so Sports Movie is a full-fledged genre now? Million Dollar Baby will not stop ruining my life. Seriously, I find it ludicrous that the AFI would exclude, say, documentaries or war movies and give a whole 10 slots to sports movies. Personally, Friday Night Lights is my favorite sports movie, but aside from that, I'm not that into sports themselves or the movies that honor them, so forgive me for taking a pass on this "genre."
Top 10 American Mystery Movies:
By "Mystery," they mean Hitchcock thrillers and film noirs, which is fine by me. From Hitchcock's oeuvre, they've chosen Vertigo, Rear Window, North by Northwest, and Dial M for Murder, an interesting selection. I've long felt Rear Window is tremendously overrated, particularly compared with the craftsmanship of Psycho, and I prefer The Lady Vanishes and Notorious to North by Northwest. Out of the classic noirs, they've chosen Laura, The Third Man, and The Maltese Falcon, which are all fine choices. But The Third Man is easily the best of the selected noirs, and I'd put it above the Hitchcock films chosen too. Even Vertigo, a fantastic second place choice. Moving on, aside from neo-noir Chinatown, the AFI's modern picks are Blue Velvet and The Usual Suspects. I prefer Mulholland Drive and especially Inland Empire, Lynch's magnum opus, to Blue Velvet, but Blue Velvet is a great movie. On the other hand, there are many modern mysteries better than The Usual Suspects: Memento, one of the best mystery movies of the 2000s, The Big Lebowski, and if they really wanted to stir the pot, Brick.
Top 10 American Fantasy Movies:
We all knew going into this thing that The Wizard of Oz was going to be the AFI's number one. But the happy surprise? Fellowship of the Ring came in second, and I couldn't be more thrilled with that choice (although it makes it that much worse that the rest of these movies outranked The Two Towers and Return of the King). Which is good, because the rest of this list can be trashed. Miracle on 34th Street is only considered a decent film because we watch it during the holidays when our senses are dulled on egg nog and Christmas shopping (important sidenote: the same cannot be said of Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life). I'm not surprised that the AFI included Groundhog Day and Field of Dreams and the 1933 King Kong, but I am taken aback that they had the opportunity to include some great American horror classics here, and they forfeited. The Shining, The Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby, even The Omen (original flavor) outrank most of these choices. I take back what I said in Mystery--Inland Empire deserves to go here, assuming anyone can actually explain what happened in that masterpiece.
Top 10 American Sci-Fi Movies:
For the last time, Empire Strikes Back > A New Hope. It's basic mathematics. In the same vein, Aliens outperformed Alien. Both original films are great movies, but their sequels happen to be even better, a fact that has been giving stubborn critic-types sharp pains for years now. It's like The Godfather, which serious cinephiles are pained to admit is not quite as good as The Godfather, Part II. Out of the classic '50s sci-fis, I find Invasion of the Body-Snatchers more entertaining and a sharper commentary than The Day the Earth Stood Still. I'm thrilled that A Clockwork Orange is so high--ET's not my favorite, but I understand why people love it--and Blade Runner's about right too, not too high and not too low. Finally, I get the nostalgic love for Terminator 2 and Back to the Future. If I saw those movies in the '80s or when I was a kid, I would hold them dear too. They're both iconic at this point. But that doesn't make them great.
Top 10 American Gangster Movies:
Gangster movies are another storied tradition of American cinema, although the genre arbitarily limits the full extent of crime movies. Of course, the Godfathers and Goodfellas are among the best. But White Heat is off-puttingly high. Jimmy Cagney is a brilliant character actor, and Raoul Walsh's direction is generally enaging. But, especially compared to Cagney's younger work and better crime noirs of the '40s, White Heat is inadequate. I have no problems with the rest of the choices included except for how limited they are. Going with Gangster Movie instead of Crime excludes the two best film noirs, Sunset Blvd and Double Indemnity. Pulp Fiction is an inspired inclusion, and I suppose it makes up for the loss of Reservoir Dogs. Another modern classic that failed to make the cut is Miller's Crossing, one of the few easily categorized films in the Coen Brothers' filmography. And finally they have a chance to honor Sergio Leone, and they deem Once Upon a Time in America unfit for inclusion. I'd place it in the top 5, but then I didn't much care for White Heat.
Top 10 American Courtroom Dramas:
Another pretend category. Empire Magazine had an ongoing feature a few years back where a columnist tried to come up with a diverse top 100 movies 10 at a time, a genre a month. I only bring this up because at least that project had real genres and not overly specific subsets. I wonder what the AFI's Top 10 Anthropomorphic Chimp Movies are. On topic, I've only seen two of these movies, apparently the best two, so I won't comment on their choices. Still, no room for The Caine Mutiny?
Top 10 American Epics:
And here is where the AFI really betray their truthiness. Yes, Titanic feels like an epic, but it is certainly not. It's about two people over a few days. You can't even claim Titanic covers an epic realm of human experience with a straight face. Honestly, I wouldn't consider Schindler's List an epic either, though admittedly, the movie covers a lengthy time period and traverses a significant portion of human experience. Phenomenal film? No doubt. Just not an epic. "AFI defines 'epic' as a genre of large-scale films set in a cinematic interpretation of the past." By their definition, Shakespeare in Love is an epic. But we're really here to criticize their choices. The sad thing is, I actually love most of these. I maintain that Spartacus is overrated, as is Gone With the Wind, though unsurprisingly so. Now that I think about it, Raiders of the Lost Ark fits their definition and merits inclusion. We should probably just be grateful Birth of a Nation didn't make the cut.
Going through these lists, it's become apparent that I need to offer up an alternative 10 Top 10. I'll stick to American movies for comparison's sake, but I'll point out foreign suggestions that would have made my lists, and I will not hesitate to include films from the past 25 years. But I do have to change the 10 genres, if for no other reason than D3: The Mighty Ducks is one of the 10 Sports Movies I've seen. How about these for the 10 genres: Animated, Romantic Comedy, Western, Mystery, and Sci-Fi from the AFI lists, and then Crime (instead of just Gangster), Horror/Fantasy (instead of just Fantasy), War, Action/Adventure, and a catchall Drama category. My categories are already twice as broad as the AFI's, and yet I can already see whole sectors of film that will be left out, including documentaries and non-romantic comedies. But what's the point of making an AFI-style list that's actually inclusive?
Click here for the full post
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
I finally sat down for my first film by Hungarian auteur Bela Tarr, and I feel like I just peered into the eye of a dead whale. Werckmeister Harmonies is ambitious in its attempts to understand the world, hypnotizing in its stylish execution, and demanding in its philosophy. I couldn't recommend it more.
"Show us," the local barflies beg of a well-liked, soulful kid named Janos Valuska in the opening scene of Werckmeister Harmonies (a tracking shot beyond ten minutes), and that is exactly what director Bela Tarr does. He barely explains the title, he flies by the deeper meanings, and he leaves us a bit puzzled. But you can't say he didn't show us, with Werckmeister Harmonies comprised of only 39 lush black-and-white shots that total two and a half hours of rapture.
The barflies want Janos to illustrate a solar eclipse, for one is nigh, so he arranges them in an elaborate dance to represent the movements of celestial bodies. The planetary dance of the barflies is an enchanting opening symbol, and Janos embodying the chaos that anticipates the return to sunlight is our first glimpse of the harrowing alleys ahead. Also due to bring darkness to the quaint Hungarian town: the traveling circus, whose main attractions are The Whale, an enormous stuffed carcass, and The Prince, a shadowy dwarf figure.
Upon leaving the bar, but before the circus arrives the next night, we follow Janos through his daily routine, meeting his Uncle Gyorgy, an elderly musicologist, and his Auntie Tunde, recently estranged from Gyorgy. Auntie Tunde brings ill omens: "It is certain that something is to come," she says ominously, compounding Janos' prior warnings from a crazed innkeeper.
Meanwhile Uncle Gyorgy explains the title, an unfamiliar concept to this non-musicologist. In music, there are two temperaments. The just temperament occurs naturally, with two notes separated by rational numbers, but the same scale may not apply to every instrument. So 17th century music theorist Andreas Werckmeister sacrificed the natural harmony of the just scale to develop the well temperament, which standardized the natural scale and eventually replaced it. Werckmeister believed he had uncovered the measurements that govern not only music but all natural occurrences, including the movements of planets. In short, a man-made institution overcame the natural one, sacrificing harmony for equality. Sounds a lot like communism invading Hungary.
But Bela Tarr claims his films are not allegorical. Werckmeister Harmonies is not the story of postmodern Hungary, but rather the story of young Janos Valuska trying to comprehend the universe. As he beholds the spectacle of The Whale, he is awestruck, staring into its inscrutable gaze in an attempt to understand God. Janos believes the whale is an example of God's limitless creativity--for who would create such an oddity--but God appears to be his mind's method of coping with nature.
In the next room, The Prince, seen only via his shadow one night as he eclipses the lamplight, represents The Whale's antithesis. He is dynamic where the whale is sedentary, he is sinister where the whale is spectacular, and in his only scene, he manages to incite a man-made force that overcomes the natural harmony of the village.
The interplay of dark and light on a story-level is beautifully paralleled in the cinematography, one memorable sequence revealing the heavenly whale is doomed to an afterlife in a corrugated iron box whose walls are ordered arrays of lines. Even more than the compositions, the sympathetic performance of Janos, faced as we all are with just how much we can never comprehend, and the indelible score of Mihaly Vig, Bela Tarr's tracking shots draw you inexorably toward the end. I cannot fathom watching the opening planet-dance without needing to see where the story goes from there, dark omens or not.
Watching, as we often do, Janos navigating the town's roads on foot for minutes on end, we reflect on the relationship between his course across the town and the sun's course through the sky. Janos' regular routine is not so different from the orderly orbits of the solar system. But interrupt the natural harmony for even a moment, and the world hurls toward entropy. Only when the sun reveals itself to us again are we enlightened, so to speak, if temporarily, and life resumes.
I realize Werckmeister Harmonies is not at heart a work of political allegory, although it's not surprising how often it's taken as such given how well the themes reflect Hungarian history, but I am nevertheless reminded of political philosophy. In order to leave a state of nature, we sacrifice true freedom for order and security. Finding the balance is the key to a group's prosperity, but the larger the group, the greater the tendency toward the middle. The ultimate success, it seems, can only come from an individual in nature, but enlightenment is so tenuous, so fragile, so easily broken that we settle for the best we can do within the institution. We accept Werckmeister's scale and seek the purest harmony allowable, happy to reside on this side of man's potential, content not to face our limits in the boundless, overwhelming possibility of nature.
Click here for the full post
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Now that Tuesday morning is over, I finished watching my Monday night shows (well, technically, I started watching my Monday shows on Tuesday too). Spoilers abound for The Mole, Weeds, Secret Diary of a Call Girl, and The Middleman.
The Mole has been unsurprisingly chaotic this year: three episodes in, and everyone has displayed mole-like behavior at one point or another. Bobby going home didn't shock me simply because he was obviously trying to make people think he was the mole. Also, I'm glad not to have to deal with his whining any more. My main suspects now are Mark (who I've found suspicious since last week) and Alex (who I'm just now suspecting). Overall, I'm enjoying the show, but enough with the Spanish-language challenges. I want to see more along the lines of the waterfall raft-jump!
Weeds is continuing its transition into a show that people are less interested in, but I liked the premiere. Maybe I'm just glad to have Nancy back in my life. My favorite part of the episode (and presumably, season) is the returned focus on Nancy's relationship with Andy, a bond that diminished during the army fiasco and Andy's perpetual goofing off with Doug. Mary-Louise Parker and Justin Kirk are so genuine in their scenes together, thanks no doubt to their long friendship in real life, that I always enjoy seeing them bounce off of each other. Of course, I generally like to laugh while watching shows that enter awards races as comedies, but the funny was sequestered in Agrestic. I look forward to Celia and company reconnecting with the Botwins, but I'm disappointed that Conrad, Heylia, and Vaneeta are gone for good. Meanwhile, I have no sycophantic reverence for Albert Brooks, but I thought he was a fine addition to the show. I didn't die laughing, as I expected from his rapturous reputation, but I'm interested to see where his storyline heads. It's another rebuilding year--last year got us halfway to the new Weeds, and this year aims to finish--so we can expect growing pains, and for now at least, I'm happily along for the ride.
Rounding out Showtime's new power hour (Californication who? Oh, right. Sorry about that) is Secret Diary of a Call Girl, set in London, where it aired last Fall. Billie Piper plays Hannah, an educated London woman who struggles to maintain her relationships while keeping secret her life as Belle, a high-class prostitute. The series is fascinating from an occupational perspective ("Oh, so that's how they do that"), and Piper is engaging as our warm, witty narrator. But frustratingly, the show's deepest concerns--Hannah's privacy threatens to cut her off from her support system--are not explored very deeply, or they are resolved in that sitcommy way by the end of the episode, while much more interesting territory--Hannah's relationship with her parents, her leisure time, possible ethical complications--is glossed over. I certainly found the show enjoyable, and I'm sure there's a world of sexual niches yet to be explored by the show (the first season has an episode each for orgies, threesomes, foursomes, you get the idea), but I find myself lukewarm to the next two seasons. Secret Diary of a Call Girl goes down easy (so to speak) but fails to establish anything meaningful with its client, er, audience.
Just for you, I saved the best for last. I can't believe I had more fun watching ABC Family than Showtime, or that I found the pilot of a Lost writer hilarious and authentic, but Javier Grillo-Marxuach's The Middleman is my new Monday show. It's based on Marxuach's comic series, and from the opening shot of Wendy Watson playing secretary while a nuclear reaction goes awry in the room behind her, the show establishes its graphic novel design. Wendy is rescued by a square-jawed hero known only as the Middleman, and after noticing Wendy's cool in the face of danger, the Middleman offers to recruit her to help fight comic-type bad guys trying to take over the world.
The Middleman takes place in a world just outside of reality, like Pushing Daisies or Arrested Development, and the pilot admirably sets up the tone of the series, an old-fashioned superhero show with the slightest hint of self-reflexive commentary. The Middleman uses terms like "mosey," "ri-gosh darn-diculous," and "beat the crud out of that weasel--pardon my French," and at first I thought this was thanks to the Family in ABC Family. But it sets up a hilarious scene that puts my mind at ease: The Middleman is straight as an arrow not because of language guidelines but because that's how the heroes of old behaved.
While it has its ABC Family production values (and perhaps, in part, thanks to them), I was immediately charmed by The Middleman and cannot wait to see where Wendy and the Middleman find themselves next week. I highly recommend the pilot, and remember, kids: always drink your milk!
Click here for the full post
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Does anyone else hate the generic recommended Father's Day gifts? Sure, your father can have diverse interests: He can support the 49ers, or he can be a Cowboys fan. I'm sure he has an opinion in the endless Phillips vs. Flathead debate. Also, he can choose from war movies, westerns, or action blockbusters. That about covers it (irony alert: my father likes football, tools, and those movie genres...but he also has interests that separate him from stereotype. Cocaine, for instance).
Well, to celebrate Father's Day '08 (while, as I write this, my own father is off enjoying the delicious stacked enchiladas offered by southern Arizona restaurants on a journey, nay, pilgrimage to the real-life sites of one of our favorite westerns, 3:10 to Yuma), I decided to come up with a list of some of my favorite television fathers, most of whom happily exist outside the narrow target demographic of Father's Day companies and are much more interesting for it. I readily admit many television fathers lie beyond the scope of my research (that's something my 9th grade history teacher taught us to say if we didn't know the answer to a question--surprising how often it's come in handy since then).
Oh, and I'm going to ruin your expectations right now and tell you that Mr. Cleaver, Cliff Huxtable, Jason Seaver, Carl Winslow, Danny Tanner, Alan Matthews and the like (I'll throw in Tim Taylor too) were thrown out immediately. Family shows are essentially still operating under the Hays code where authority figures must be just, and the immoral are punished. I'm more interested in fathers on shows that give them enough room to fail but triumph anyway.
Without further ado, I present the Mitch Leery Memorial TV Fathers Awards (trophies are small busts of James Van Der Beek's hair crying):
Best Den Father
The Mitch goes to: Harold Weir from Freaks and Geeks
Not only does Harold do an admirable job raising both of his biological children, Lindsay and Sam, but he gradually raises their entire social circles, including Bill and Neil, regulars at the Weir family dinner, and an obnoxious, lonely Kim. When he opens his house up to Lindsay's ex Nick, he even starts to inspire the kid, helping him prepare for the future he wants to pursue as a drummer. And it all leads to one of my favorite Mr. Weir moments, when he tells Lindsay why he holds her to a higher standard than Nick. Sure he can be a little strict, but you can't argue with his results.
Most Surprisingly Good Father...Sorta
The Mitch goes to: Wee-Bey Brice from The Wire
After going through all of the HBO dads--not an inspiring bunch--I realized that Season 4 of The Wire ought to be fruitful. And it certainly was, if I were looking for disappointing parents who let their children fall into depressing lives on the streets. But somehow, Wee-Bey had the wisdom to let his son go. Namond was not meant for the drug trade, and despite protests from his banshee, er, wife De'Londa, 'Bey made the executive decision to sign Namond's custody over to Bunny Colvin, a decision that irrevocably improved my appreciation of him. Bunny Colvin proves to be the best thing that ever happened to Na', but Wee-Bey's surprising compliance impressed me most.
The Mitch goes to: Keith Mars from Veronica Mars
I know Keith Mars may not be your first mental image of "cool," and I have a feeling he'd agree. But the facts remain, being such an accomplished private investigator has endless cool potential, especially for your kids. Not only can he get background checks on your skeezy new squeeze, but he can do battle using only his wits and a mounted deer head. I'd like to see Tommy Gavin rescue his kid from a refrigerator set on fire. Well, maybe not Tommy Gavin...what are the odds I'd pick a firefighter? But you get the picture. I believe Lucy Lawless said it best: "You're cool, Mr. Mars, and you've got a cool daughter." And you don't argue with Lucy Lawless. She's seen the final cylon. I rest my case.
The Adopt Me, Please Award
The Mitch goes to: Benjamin Sisko from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
I'll be honest. I only picked Captain-cum-Prophet Sisko because I want to live in the 24th century, not because he's my actual first pick for adopted TV father. But you can't deny he's far from a bad choice. It took him six years to even begin to question crossing moral boundaries in a war that threatened to annihilate not only humanity but the entire Alpha Quadrant (although come to think of it, Sisko's stern moralizing may not make for the most fun childhood). Additionally, his love for his son knows no bounds--just watch "The Visitor." But best of all, like my own father, he cooks. I swear, every episode that shows a Sisko dinner scene makes me hungry. I can't be certain jambalaya made from replicated ingredients would taste better than some of my dad's homemade sausage and sauteed onions, but I'm more than willing to find out.
Best Glimpse at an Otherwise Unjudgeable Father:
The Mitch goes to: Judah Botwin from Weeds
Since I don't watch Supernatural, I figured the best I could do was find another way to honor Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who we got to see thrice in Season 1 of Weeds. But so much information came through in those home videos of Judah and Shane, I'm gettin' a little misty just thinking about it. Video 1 sees young Shane waking his parents up on his birthday, and Judah offers to kick off the day cooking pizza-eggs for "the amazing, unbelievable Shane Botwin." Video 2 sees Judah playing Star Wars with Shane, before turning the camera on himself to say, "Good night, Dad." And yes, fanatics will remind me that there is a Video 3 (for Nancy's eyes only), but this is about Judah as a father, and I think we can reasonably extrapolate awesomeness based on his videos with Shane.
The Mitch goes to: Michael Bluth from Arrested Development
Sure, the guy in the $6000 suit is gonna leave off the guy who doesn't make that in a year, come on! Michael Bluth may not be the world's greatest father--his treatment of Ann, his periodic "moving to Phoenix" threats, his repeated failures to actually listen to his son--but good luck finding a more hilarious dad. And he has George Michael's best interests at heart, whether he's assigning him overtime at the banana stand, threatening to poison his teacher, or hiring GOB to make a mudslinging election video for Student Body President. I can't wait to see Michael Bluth's self-congratulatory parenting on the big screen!
Most Like My Own Father
The Mitch goes to: Eric Taylor from Friday Night Lights
It is Father's Day, after all. I'm legally obligated to honor my father somehow, and I figure this is the most cost-effective way. It seems a little fawning to say my dad is most like someone as beloved as Coach Taylor. But both are hands-on Texas den fathers (my dad never coached football, but he was scoutmaster even after I was gone) who refuse to tolerate whining and get a kick out of tear-worthy inspirational speeches. Also my dad briefly coached football at a fictional Texas university until he returned to Dillon thanks to his underhanded car dealer friend. Little known fact.
Grand Prize for Greatest Father
The Mitch goes to: Sandy Cohen from The O.C.
I'm talking vintage Sandy Cohen, not the adulterous corporate shark lazy writers tried to make him in the middle seasons. Back when Sandy brought home a juvenile, became his legal guardian, and taught him how to assimilate into high society. Sandy's bleeding heart rules his decision-making, especially in parenthood, and he always knows the right thing to do. On top of that, he's got a great sense of humor and eyebrows of wisdom. And if you're lucky, the occasional Sly impression.
And lastly, Father of the Year
The Mitch goes to: Walter White from Breaking Bad
This was a tough choice, but not due to an abundance of extraordinary fathers this television season. It's kind of sad when Rufus from Gossip Girl is your biggest competition (that Josh Schwartz sure knows what goes into great fathers). But Walt was my favorite. From the opening scene, during Walt's video camera confession, you know he'll do anything for his family. As the season progresses, he is forced to really test his ethical boundaries--maybe murdering a gangster isn't the mark of a great father--but there's something endearing about Walter becoming the man he wants to be while fighting cancer, raising his son, and becoming the surrogate father for his drug-dealing partner. His final video confessional, where he introduces himself to the unborn child he figures he'll never meet, is one of the best parts of the season, and it only makes Walter's inevitable death that much harder to face. Yes, I realize that my first Father of the Year is a meth dealer, and I'm okay with the moral implications.
Now it's your turn. Who all did I forget about, which dads are most like yours, and where can I get a statue of Dawson crying for myself?
Click here for the full post
Friday, June 13, 2008
Season 4 of Battlestar Galactica comes to a close until 2009, but on the bright side, Season 4b will get an extra two hours for the series finale. Also on the bright side: Season 4a's finale maintains the quality built to it from the rest of the season. Spoilers abound:
What a frightening episode. I spent so much time worrying that one or many of my favorites were going to die that I am kind of relieved about the disheartening future for them all. But the deathly tone overshadowed much of the opening acts: Kara telling Lee that Bill must die in order for Lee to become his own person, Laura telling Bill to blow up the basestar, Tigh talking about airlocking himself, the list goes on. But at the end of the day, nobody died except the dream of Earth.
The Final Four plot was beautiful. Seeing each of them present at D'Anna's arrival immediately gave me shivers, and the way D'Anna gracefully handled her ultimatum, practically winking at Tigh, was perfect. The paranoia was palpable, really augmenting the Cold War-ishness of the episode (and latter half of the season, on second thought). I don't know what to make of Tory any more, probably due to Rekha Sharma's overshadowed performance, but I can't believe she wouldn't care about humanity being destroyed. On the other hand, her cold tension with Roslin implies that perhaps Tory is indicting humanity for their blind hatred of cylons.
Somewhere along the way, Saul Tigh became the noblest character on this show (with the possible exception of annoyingly righteous Helo). Stewing in his contribution to Laura's potential death, confessing to Bill, and waiting in an airlock, Michael Hogan continues to be one of the best players on Battlestar. Tyrol and Anders, though, were essentially stand-ins this episode. I guess without Anders, Starbuck wouldn't have gotten involved in the Mystery of the Resurrected Raptor, but other than playing Hardy Boys, Anders and Tyrol were non-characters, lumped together and acted upon by others. They didn't even get to out themselves, although that only would have led to Starbuck causing an international incident, so to speak.
Speaking of which, the Galactica Missile Crisis was thrilling. I loved that Tory knew Lee was spineless, but interestingly, D'Anna started to look nervous about the possible consequences of the standoff while Lee didn't look back. The intercutting with Starbuck in the raptor and Gaius trying to talk D'Anna down ratcheted up the tension and called back to Gaius' relationship with Three during his time on the basestar post-New Caprica. Gods, I miss the weird cylon threesome days.
But the can't-we-all-get-along resolution, with Lee's about-face (however consistent with his character) and cylon amnesty was a bit weird, like the Obama hope campaign actually being put in effect in a real life situation. It was like that time when the Pegasus showed up, and everyone was weirded out even though they knew they were supposed to be happy. Don't get me wrong, I couldn't be more pleased that nobody died and the cylons aren't the blind enemies of the humans now. It's just that I know by now to be distrustful of happy endings, and we got happy endings in spades.
I realize Earth ain't all it's cracked up to be--by the way, that Geiger counter was picking up a lot of radioactivity, yet another Cold War reference--but they got there nonetheless. And there's some sort of human-cylon alliance, and Laura and Bill are openly affectionate, and Laura's become the mother of humanity (I mean this regarding both her encouragement of Lee and her scenes with Tory and Baltar), and Kara didn't throttle Sam's neck, so we've been dealt a mostly happy hand. Plus we got that extended montage of the human civilization celebrating their victory--I was so excited to see Tyrol's miner's union again, I overlooked the frustrating lack of serious making out between Bill and Laura. They got to Earth, and they hug again? Come on! (Sidenote: At first, during the final scene between Lee and Bill, when Laura came striding out, I thought she was his Head Laura, which would have been even more romantic than his "I can't live without her" from "Sine Qua Non"). I know I'm not the only one itching for some middle-aged loving on Battlestar.
Musically the show is as exciting as ever. Bear McCreary has long been dependable to bring an Eastern element to the series, with Indian and Middle Eastern themes recurring, notably in the reworked "All Along the Watchtower," now with sitar. But tonight, when we reached Earth, the music was decidedly more Christian, a bit medieval in fact. Maybe that's why at first I thought the crew landed at Tintern Abbey. Instead, they landed in The Waste Land.
More than anything else, I'm elated that we finally got an episode that not only included everyone, but gave everyone at least a momentary spotlight. Scenes like Dee picking up the water bottle for Gaeta elevate the rest of this crazy series by fleshing out the realities of the universe. In fact, more than anything else, that scene reminded me how much they've all been through, with Gaeta and Tigh visibly damaged and Dee trying to keep everyone together. Even Kat made an appearance via her picture on the wall. And that scene at the end, with every one of our main characters on Earth, a bit disappointed and wondering what's next, was powerfully moving.
What's next is a very good question at this point. Thankfully, and a little surprisingly, even the die-hards like Bill and Laura are accepting of the cylons in the fleet now, and I wonder if there's a future for Starbuck and Anders (although it seems like they're pushing Kara and Lee back together and using Tory as an out for Anders). Obviously the final cylon is the major loose thread--I can't tell you how many times I feared someone I loved would die and then be revealed as the final cylon. But now that we're on Earth, both humans and cylons, I hope they don't go with the "everyone's a cylon" theory. Of course, I'm far more interested in the characters than the plot. Did you notice in the final tracking shot how Anders rejected Tory's advances? Also, Tigh and Six are going to have a baby at some point, and we can all be thankful that Lucy Lawless is here to stay. Which reminds me that the rest of the cylons--there are others, right?--will likely show up at some point.
Overall, I felt "Revelations" was an exciting conclusion to this season (I'm tired of this midseason/season nonsense--this has been a season, and next year we'll get another), if not quite the best episode (I prefer "The Hub"). It represents the most serious game-changer yet, although I still feel "Lay Down Your Burdens" was more interesting, if only because then we knew we'd eventually get off the planet and be back on our way to finding Earth. After "Revelations," what's to come feels like it won't be the Battlestar Galactica we've come to love. While writing the series finale, Ronald D. Moore wrote "It's the characters, stupid" on his whiteboard to keep himself focused. He's absolutely right; next season will not be about the search for earth, but rather it will follow up with our characters now that we're there. And now that we know Laura, Baltar, Tigh, and all the rest are going to be in the final season, I can't frakkin' wait.
Click here for the full post
Partly in an effort to prove that I do more than sit around pondering Emmy nominations, I thought I'd review one of the newest additions to the Criterion Collection, an underseen 1961 film noir called Blast of Silence.
It's Christmastime in the naked city, and hit man Frankie Bono, played by Allen Baron, has one last contract to settle. We follow him as he receives instructions from his contractor, makes contact with a sleazy gun dealer, and stalks his mark down decorated midtown streets. It's a simple story with an appropriately short running time, but its low budget does not prevent the film from reaching greatness.
The first thing that hits you in the movie is the narration, words written by blacklisted Waldo Salt and spoken by blacklisted Lionel Stander. Before we meet Frankie Bono, we hear Stander address him--the narration is accusative and second-person--and what's more, he speaks with such vitriol that we're unsettled from the start. He yells about being born into a world of hate as we hear a screaming mother giving birth and see only a black screen with a slowly growing white spot. Eventually we realize we're in Frankie's car inside a black tunnel, about to be born into a world of hate ourselves.
The narration overwhelms us from the start, and even during a scene of reconciliation between Frankie and an old friend, we aren't able to hear them speaking because the aggressive narrator is too busy ranting about Frankie's pathetic inability to connect with other people. But it's not called Blast of Silence for nothing: after the film's first violent outburst, we are treated to a series of scenes that, except for ambient noise, are completely silent. No angry narration, no jazz cues, just Frankie Bono and his bleak environment.
Perfectly in tune with the narration, the violence is sudden, angry, and engrossing. It's also expertly developed. Consider the film's first violent outburst: Frankie finds his gun dealer and his mark at the same nightclub. Amidst rapid intercutting of close-ups, the situation gets stickier as the club singer (singing a pulse-pounding story of escalating violence, himself) rages on, and the tune lingers in your head even after Frankie leaves the club, chasing his quarry to his death.
Of course, New York plays a vital role in the film, the low budget demanding location shooting that beautifully sets the tone. The busy holiday streets contrast the starkness of Frankie's preferred solitude as the narrator blasts him for it as well. The chilly harbor ferry sets Frankie apart from the rest of his city, but the wintry climate is even harsher out on the water. And the docks, no stranger to seedy plot entanglements, are still bleaker, an overcast day cutting Frankie off from all hope as he navigates the maze of piers and ruined seaside buildings.
I'm ever grateful to the employees of the Criterion Collection for excavating underseen gems. Like its closest companions, Truffaut's Shoot the Piano Player and Melville's Le Samourai (both also in the Criterion Collection), Blast of Silence is a sharp, effective crime story that refuses to let you forget that the biggest battles are internal.
Click here for the full post