Hey all, Pip here, long time no see!

This little happy gem of a movie is brought to us by Jean-Pierre Jeunet: the genius behind everyone’s favorite Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain (or just Amelie for us). This film takes place in that same fantasy world. In fact it is so fantastical, the eye of the camera is so free, it’s closer to an animated film most of the time than anything. The story is pretty simple, and somewhat melancholy in its setup. A boy loses his father to a landmine, the army even sends a picture of the landmine with his father’s personal effects. After his mother loses her mind, he is sent off to boarding school where he escapes and we find him thirty years later miming every word to old movies and working in a video store. A miraculous accident happens and he’s shot in the head, yet survives with the bullet still lodged in there. Due to the logos of both weapons manufacturers being right there on both the landmine and the bullet casing, he one day comes across both of the companies and they happen to be right across the street from each other. So starts his journey to get revenge for his life, so shattered by both of these companies.

He finds himself adopted by the cast of this film, and each has their own unique way of helping. I could write a paragraph for each character and then some, that’s how alive everyone was. Even if they had very little screen time relative to others, each made their mark. Dany Boon and Julie Ferrier both steal the show with their leading parts. Dany plays Bazil, the simple man who is shot in the head and seeks revenge. He is simple, but not simple-minded in spite of your first impression of the man. He, after all, is the mastermind behind one of the best revenge plots I’ve seen. Do you remember the scenes in Amelie where she was sneaking into the mean vendor’s apartment trying to make him go crazy? It’s like that. Julie Ferrier is a contortionist that has a bit of a crush on Bazil, who is clueless at first of course, and wants to be a part of the plan no matter how dangerous and manly the mission. My absolute favorite part of the movie: that there was in fact a Plan B.

The bad guys were really bad, in their own legal way. At first they are just normal CEO types, but the more we get to know them, the more we get to see their true colors. Some of the scenes were very intense, Rachel almost had to hide a few times!

The film is whimsical when it wants to be, scary and serious when it wants to be, and cute as a button just about all the time. The world is what France is like in my head I think, having never been there in person. I thoroughly enjoyed everything from start to finish, and I look forward to seeing it again. I hope it gets wider distribution soon, so if it comes even within a long hike from you – I highly recommend it!

The Wrestler

The Wrestler

I remember Pi and watching it the first time vividly.  When it became easy to find was right around the time I was beginning to take notice of these types of films.  It had a profound impact on me and I consider it to be one of the experiences that molded the way I watch movies.  Aronofsky followed up Pi with Requiem for a Dream, one I do not believe anyone walked away from unscathed.  I made his third film, The Fountain, my almost favorite of 2006, one most would completely disagree with me on.  Like all the small cadre of my favorite directors, I anticipate their future projects like a little boy on Christmas Eve.  Sometimes my expectations are up so high that if Jesus Christ himself walked out of the screen and sat down next to me to share popcorn I would shrug my shoulders and yawn.  It’s a curse.  I was not disappointed with The Wrestler.

Aronofsky is starting to make this look easy.  The story moves forward effortlessly through waters most other movies get bogged down in with sap and over-writing.  Watching this film was more like watching a documentary or following him around.  Much has already been written about Mr. Rourke’s performance, and I do hope he works some more and lays off the plastic surgery.  He turned the role into something you couldn’t imagine anyone else doing, not even the real guy this story was loosely based on.  Marissa Tomei has been showing off her body quite a lot lately, god bless her.  But the beautiful thing is not her courage to show off her body, but to take the parts she’s taking as the characters are complicated and anything but the damsels we’re so used to.

This is a deeply touching story about a man so far down on his luck it’s almost painful to watch.  The stuff that really stuck me was the estrangement with his daughter, something I have experienced in a way.  Even though the man is alone, broken and a pauper, he does what he knows in his soul he was put on this earth to do.  In spite of everything, getting to the end will make you smile with a sigh.

I’ve been wholly neglectful of my reviews, and for that I apologize.  Reading a film review so far late in the game doesn’t really help most people out there.  I only hope maybe those that don’t see these in theaters will catch them on DVD in the near future.  My first review, well both of them really, is fairly difficult as it needs a preface of sorts.  I always try to take a movie on what it gives the audience.  I try not to get wrapped up with outside forces or current events or how well it adapted a book I’ve read.  I’m doing the same to these following reviews however much I might want to get up on my soapbox.



I love Gus Van Sant of course.  He has this relaxed air about his films, the actors are definitely king on his set.  This much is most likely obvious to even the average movie-goer.  I discovered him without realizing who it was when I watched My Own Private Idaho, and of course again with Good Will Hunting.  I was even along for the ride with the brilliant, yet difficult to watch, ‘death trilogy’.  So, like all my favorite directors, when I realized he was going to direct my favorite asshole Mr. Penn, I was quite titillated.

I say Sean Penn is my favorite asshole because he is a gigantic asshole.  Have you seen him in interviews?  It’s actually funny.  Damnit the man can act, though.  I really don’t know anyone else that changes so much from role to role.  This is the same guy that was in Dead Man Walking and Fast Times at Ridgemont High?  As I said, the actor is king on Van Sant’s set, Penn is not the only that flourishes.  Each and every one of the guys on screen so exuded the time and place, not to mention their character as a real life human being.  I think aside from Milk himself, James Franco’s Scott Smith I felt the most connection with.  Their relationship on screen was almost heartbreaking to see unfold, but the love between them was palpable which is something difficult when working with a beautiful member of the opposite sex let alone… well Franco is pretty damn hot.  As method actors, were they gay during shooting?  Am I gay?

Similar to the Titanic, I knew how this one was going to end.  I didn’t mind, though.  I really enjoyed getting to know Harvey Milk.  I’m sorry to see that his battle was only the tip of the beginning, but what a beginning.  This story, like other great men or women that changed history, show us how powerful we really are as individuals.  We are truly greater than anything anyone else believes us to be, including the government of our local municipality, city, county, state and country.  Harvey Milk is a hero in my book and definitely deserved to have his story told in the medium of the day.  See it if, especially if man-flesh bothers you.


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Damn you David Fincher.  He’s the director for the uninitiated.  Damn you for getting so much right.  Damn you Brad Pitt.  He’s the old guy that ages backward.  Damn you for getting everything right.

I’m upset because I walked out of the film knowing I had enjoyed it, knowing I had attached myself to the characters, knowing I might have learned something, but also knowing it wasn’t quite as good as it thought it was.  Let me start by saying it’s a seamless film, wonderfully executed by all parties.  The script was smart, if a bit heavy, and didn’t take the audience for granted.  It was long, but I didn’t really feel it.  It had all these things going for it, so why didn’t I adoringly, unabashedly and other words that end in -ly love the dickens out of this?

The answer is: I’m not sure.  It’s much like the infamous line, I love you, but I’m not in love with you.  I think I would see this again, just to marvel at the many things I did love about it.  The craft of the film is something to behold.  And there were many sequences and people he meets that I did adoringly love.  I think the closest thing I can compare it to I mentioned earlier – Titanic.  All the parts are there: great crew, great cast, great story… but where is Titanic now?  It’s a statistic unfortunately, forgotten.  This is a really good film, and should be seen, but it will be forgotten and that is why I damn… that is why…

It’s pronounced sin-NECK-doh-key.  Say it fast and you got it.  Don’t let some punk kid at the box office correct you condescendingly as if he’s used the word in conversation the last decade.  The great Charlie Kaufman, who is responsible for this, is also responsible for some of the most outrageous and inspiring scripts made in mainstream Hollywood.  If you go down the list, he’s literally never taken a misstep tying his material with the proper director.  He’s been blessed with Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry and of course George Clooney as directors.

I walked out of this complete and total mindfuck not really knowing which way as up, let alone if I liked it or not.  I knew I had seen something stunning, but I wasn’t sure if Kaufman was making fun of me or bowled me over with a work of such staggering genius my poor mind trembled before him.  You see, this film is his directorial debut and he flexed that power as if he’s been doing this his life entire. He not only created a total world of fantasy while retaining reality, but he also created a world for his actors to live in and poop in.

The damn film was just so blazingly sad and depressing and winding in upon itself with time going by decades per cut and confusing and like a Chimera that had the penis and vagina fused together locked eternally in a staring contest.  I can almost compare it to an extremely well done and high budget student film that’s more like visual poetry than anything.  Yes there is a cohesive story, but the line between reality and the main character’s fantasy was so blurry it might as well have been a part of the scenery.

I’m rambling on purpose, brevity being the soul of wit and method to the madness and all that.  I recommend two types of people to see this film: those that are snooty and would see such a film anyway and those that are curious about a car accident on the freeway.  You see, I’m so confused about this masterful work of art that I really do need to let it stew some more… catch it on the flip side in the comfort of my living room… throw back a beer and let it happen.

Maybe I’ll write a real review then.

P.S. Hoffman was a god yet again.


Rachel here: The soundtrack was written by the genius Jon Brion, music which sounds inspired from a smokey jazz club with a pinch of class. Little Person, sung by jazz vocalist Deanna Storey and I must add that Ms. Storey is quite the mysterious one… I found her old CD Baby bio and a very sparse IMDb page… Quite elusive indeed.  Little Person is just a wonderfully sad but beautifully touching song.  An absolute perfect marriage of music and film.

mp3: Little Person

Synedoche, New York 2008 (Lakeshore Records)

Album available digitally at Amazon

I want you to see this film, but I need you to do some heavy lifting training first because Changeling requires it.  If you go into this one out of shape, you’re going to sprain something that much I can guaranty.  Most of us know the story by now.  This Clint Eastwood helmed feature is a true story about a woman that lost her boy under mysterious circumstances.  Calling on the LAPD to help was apparently her mistake, as the corruption and brutality she faces thanks to that department in the late 1920’s is truly a rage-inducing experience.

I give Jolie a hard time in most cases.  She’s basically insane and her lips are crazy huge.  She plays two characters really well: the bitch and the insane bitch.  What she has done in this film, I really do have to give her credit for.  Not only did she break out of her bitch (although it was appropriately channeled at certain points), but as an audience member I felt her pain as if she was my own mother.

Clint Eastwood is an amazing director.  He effortlessly puts together a story that could easily feel like the History Channel, and gives us a film so gripping the two hours and twenty minutes flew by without being noticed.  There are some amazing stories of human spirit and the pursuit of justice melded into the main arc.  I went into this ignorant of the story as it happened and I was shocked and, well pissed off as it unfolded before me.  Honestly I want to go back in time and start punching LAPD officers in the face.

By the end of the film, one that I will not dream of ruining, you cannot help but hope that what Christine Collins went through happened for a reason.  As Rev. Gustav Briegleb says in the film, “..the Lord works in mysterious ways…”

Hey folks, Pip here.

So Rachel has been sick all week, then better, then sick again with a really bad flu.  So sick that she had to miss the show in San Diego with Beck and many others.  A sad day indeed.

Of course this also meant total neglect of this place, but that will change this weekend at some point as soon as she gets back up on her feet.  Send your love and warm wishes her way.

Howdie folks, Pip here.

My sister Tara found a cool quiz and sent it our way in which you have to guess the film by a single letter from the ‘one-sheet’ teaser poster of said film.  Some of them were really easy, others I couldn’t come close to figuring out.  See if you can beat my try of 23 correct without cheating!  QUIZ

Not only do I love films, but I love the behind-the-scenes action too.  I’m not talking about who Brad Pitt is shacked up with, I’m talking about knowing a funny story as told by the key grip on Lord of the Rings unit 14.  In fact I think I love the that stuff as much as the films themselves.  I have been known to see a film I love more than ten times, memorizing every last detail, but most surprising to some is the fact that I watch the fly on the wall docs that are on disc 2 of the special editions more than once too.  I’ll even go so far as to show friends what I think are particularly funny parts of a commentary track.  I have dreams of one day owning a rare collectable one-sheet and original film print collection.

When I tell you that a new Art House Theatre was just remodeled and had a grand re-opening literally two blocks away from my place, you’ll understand when I tell you that I was mind-bogglingly excited.  The place is really nice, too – and should be after one million dollars in renovations!  I went to go see a really cool doc the other day called “Man On Wire” which I will post a review up this weekend.  Already I plan on going back for every single release our neighborhood theater shows.  For all those lucky enough to have a local (or semi-local) art theater, show your support by going there as much as possible instead of the fancy multiplex.

Off of the soap box for me, let me know how you do on the quiz!

Woody Allen #44

Hey folks, Pip here, that’s right I’ve returned!

Of course it’s really no surprise that a new Woody Allen film is out.  There’s always a new Woody Allen film coming, here, or going and it’s almost to the point now where we take him for granted.  All of his films, be they amazing or bad or something in between, are worth watching.  The man has so much to say and do I can’t even think up a good metaphor… allegory… hell I can’t even come up with something that rhymes that can show my appreciation for his vast body of work.  As a student of film I’m quite ashamed to say that I haven’t seen them all, but I’m slowly working on it.

Preface aside, I really enjoyed his latest even if I do wish he was the narrator instead of that guy.  Who the hell was that guy anyway?  Some guy that played a photographer technician in The Good Shepard?  Weird…  Anyway, for a man that’s got a love affair with New York – Woody, not the narrator, he sure is treating Europe like a passionate mistress that has brought out an old man’s inner fire.  I think it’s great that the melieu of his films have changed as has the tone and characters to suit.  His European films have a special sort of laziness and tension that coalesce into something that’s decidedly Woody.

The players of this film are all known from their previous work and their reputations hold fast here.  Given Woody’s witty, yet realistic, words the actors make the sordid things in life look good.  Javier Bardem could probably seduce me, so he’s got no problem taking down two beautifully difficult women, make that three!  Sweet!  Not only is it entertaining, but it puts relationships under a microscope showing more truth there than most writers, directors and actors dare give us in an entire career.  The wonderful thing about a Woody Allen film is they all make it look so easy.

The movie is part romantic weekend, part insane ex-wife and part Spain.  Mix together, add sugar and a pinch of Jewish cynicism and you’ve got a wonderful story that allows all parties to walk away having learned something, including me.

Smart People: imdb / trailer

When I see a film trailer that I’ve never heard of that has such a good cast as this, I’m either the first person to discover it or it sucks.  I’ll look right away to the director… never heard of him.  Could I be the first person to discover it?  The thrill normally goes away quickly, as I have become jaded… oh so jaded.  Damn you Lucas!!  You have spilled my childhood like a samurai cutting open his own gut!  Oddly enough, this film fell into neither of those categories, it was actually ‘pretty good’.

I would label this film as one of those that wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for a few decades of independent film, but doesn’t quite fit in with those rascals either.  It’s like a grown up hippy without a cause and with a regular job, you know the type.  Come to think of it, Dennis Quaid’s character is pretty much living in the wrong decade.  No, not the 60’s, more like the 40’s back when being curmudgeonly was academic.  He plays a widower with a lot of social aptitude issues that happens to have an adopted brother that’s a bit of a loser.  He’s also got a good Republican daughter and a cute doctor that’s got a student/teacher fantasy in full swing.  Thomas Haden Church pretty much plays the same character as he did in Sideways, only with a heart.  Come to think of it, everyone is pretty comfortable in their roles mostly because they’ve done exactly this before.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this, the film was actually really entertaining.  I don’t wish I got my two hours back or anything, but man, couldn’t this crew come up with something revolutionary?  I think everyone went into this project with the full intent of it being edgy and new, but ended up just pushing out something fairly safe.  That’s really my only problem with the movie, it just stood there in perfect balance right on the fence.  All that said, I’d still recommend this to just about anyone in this dry spell before the Summer Rush.

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