Tuesday, August 7, 2012

new online address for CCC


Charm City Cineaste has moved.

It will be a messy move, but the July 2012 Films Viewed should be up before the end of the day today (Tuesday, August 7th, 2012).

I am going to have to say goodbye to the color coding (not supported on Wordpress from what I can see). Where I saw the film will now be listed in parentheses following the capsule review.

Thanks for reading. I hope I have been helpful so far, and I hope to continue to be helpful in the future.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Films Viewed (June 2012)


Possession (1981) retains its power, rising from word-of-mouth film underground praise to full on uncut re-issue. A man and wife break up. She has met someone else that can give her something he cannot. Flat-out amazing histrionic fever-dream cinema.

I missed On The Bowery when it bowed as a revival, so I rented it. Bums of varying character and type struggle to survive in this hybrid feature/doc. Short and far from sweet.

I was part of only maybe the fourth audience to see Beasts of the Southern Wild at a special sneak preview via WYPR/MFF. A girl comes of age in a place on the brink of destruction. Wild, heartfelt, and free. Opens this weekend at the Charles. Check it out.

Haywire was about this woman who was really good at kicking ass and killing people and what happens when she has to "go rogue". Directed by Steven Soderbergh. A simple pleasure, but a well-constructed one.

Prometheus 3D was "eh," never rising above being a sci-fi/action thrill-ride. Dealt with "big questions" in ways that were at best quasi-profound. Many others were more sorely disappointed by this movie. But, you know, the air conditioning worked and the popcorn was fresh.

The Circus continued the Charles theater's Chaplin revivals. A great opportunity to continue my film education.

I really liked Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life, despite how French and whimsically arty it was. I bought the concept and approach, didn't mind the puppets, got to hear some great music. Sometimes things were being alluded to that I did not understand, but the dude lived an insane life.

I really liked Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life, despite how French and whimsically arty it was. I bought the concept and approach, didn't mind the puppets, got to hear some great music. Sometimes things were being alluded to that I did not understand, but the dude lived an insane life.

It was good to finally have the time to sit down and view Jimmy Joe Roche's "Black Midnight Death Trip" and "Daydreams." Experimental video made with a device I helped him create and assemble via Kickstarter. A good weird half of an hour.

It was good to finally have the time to sit down and view Jimmy Joe Roche's "Black Midnight Death Trip" and "Daydreams." Experimental video made with a device I helped him create and assemble via Kickstarter. A good weird half of an hour.

Moonrise Kingdom is a Wes Anderson movie, and it is about the things this his movies are about. I bought into the world he has created this time around quickly and enjoyed it, although opinion among my friends is divided.

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp sort-of left me cold, like other "masterpieces" I could name. Maybe I am not British enough to appreciate it? The more I read post-screening, the more I seemed to remember enjoying it.

Public Enemies, on the list for some time, helped a summer afternoon pass by. Seems like the predecessor of most of the aesthetic and approach of the series  Boardwalk Empire, another slow-burning piece of filmic work I enjoy.

There is a new film group in Baltimore called Sight Unseen. They presented a series of short experimental films from the Enoch Pratt's film print collection at the Wind-Up Space entitled "Sights and Sounds". This was fun and good and I look forward to more events like this one.

I wound up seeing the revival of The Royal Tenenbaums twice the week in showed. I also watched it once at home on DVD with the commentary track on. It was just that kind of week.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was a movie where Abraham Lincoln kills vampires.

Safety Not Guaranteed won me over, taking its oddball premise and fleshing it out enough to be enjoyable. The solid ensemble performances helped, also.

Sometimes I get nostalgic for the East Baltimore of my ancestors and I put on Hairspray (1988) with the commentary track.

The Charles
The Rotunda
The Senator
The Landmark Harbor East
MICA Brown Center/ Wind-Up Space/  Suburban Multiplex
Netflix Instant/ Netflix DVD
(Please note: Whenever possible, all titles are linked to their pages on the Netflix website)
Total: 14 features, several short films (9 features, one short film program in theaters/ screenings) rooms) 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Films Viewed (May 2012)

Wanda was an excellent way to kick off my 2012 Maryland Film Festival weekend. A woman drifts, disempowered, through her life. As John Waters, screening host and film selector, put it, "a feminist film about a dumb woman." Great rare opportunity to see it on the big screen.

I must recuse myself from reviewing the collection of Genre Shorts that played the festival as I hosted the screening.

I must recuse myself from reviewing Francine as I helped host the screening.

I have yet to be disappointed by a performance and screening by the Alloy Orchestra. This one, for the silent film From Morning 'till Midnight, was especially good. The films servea as an odd artifiact, German Expressionism taken to such extremes it played like Kubuki theater. A man who works in a bank steals money from it to unleash his wild repressed passions and manages to destroy his entire life in one day.

In The Turin Horse, a man and his daughter endure against nature. They begin to lose the fight, as we all do. A wonderful introduction to the films of Bela Tarr via his final film. Long takes, nothing happens, hypnotically paced... why aren't these "viewing preferences" on Netflix?

Attenberg was just great. A woman navigates the confusions of sex and romance with the help of a more worldly friend and nature documentaries as her father battles a terminal illness. More proof that something is going on in Greece besides a dept crisis.

I still can't decide about Damsels in Distress. Sure, it was another Whit Stillman film, and I enjoyed the other three very much. But something was wrong here, something that films like Kicking and Screaming manage to capture about college life that this one misses. It is never a problem to watch Greta Gerwig do anything for a feature's runtime, so I guess I am for this film. I can see why others might not be.

Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie was the apex of a sudden interest in this comedy team that I have onlty grazed the work of historically. Tim and Eric try to turn a post-apocalyptic wasteland of a mall around to raise money they owe that the blew on making a terrible billion dollar movie. Meta meta meta. Cameo cameo cameo.

It is thanks to the industriousness and dedication of a MICA student that I got to see The Long Absence, subtitled by said student as a culminating project of his studies. A woman, missing her husband, suspects that an amnesiac drifter may in fact be him. Prime 1960s French cinema, lost to us English-speakers due to no subtitles. Until now.

The Avengers was great fun, made more excellent by being in the hands of a knowedgeable director. Superheros assemble to fight a planetary menace.. Enjoyable to those like myself who have seen all the films leading up to this one, but also accessable to people who are not as familiar. This is what a summer popcorm movie should be like.

Girl 6 had been sitting on the list for a very long time. An aspiring actress becomes a phone sex operator and begins to lost herself to her "new role." A notorious Spike Lee bomb championed by a friend in college. An interesting oddity, but we are a long way away from 1996.

Rhyme and Reason is a documentary about hip hop culture made when the culture was in serious transition (mid-1990s). Wu-tang is rising, Puff Daddy is about to become a Platinum selling artist. Glad to see it floating around on Netflix Instant on a headcold-plagued weekend.

The Dictator was not a funny as Borat, not a terrible as Bruno. I wasn't offended, but I rarely am.

I went to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel with my father, and I was easily the youngest person on the theater. A group of British boomers, portrayed by A-list British actors retire to India and act up a storm. Fine for what it was.

2012 Maryland Film Festival
The Charles
The Rotunda
The Senator
The Landmark Harbor East
MICA Brown 320/  Suburban Multiplex
Netflix Instant/ Netflix DVD
(Please note: Whenever possible, all titles are linked to their pages on the Netflix website)
Total: 13 features, 8 short films (18 in theaters/ screening rooms)


Friday, May 11, 2012

Films Viewed (April 2012)

For the Love of Movies was a movie about movies, so it had that to overcome. Still, it was an interesting look at the history of the film critic, a now endangered species, and a plea for their importance and continuing relevance. I am a writer of criticism, so I could take heart, but the writing is on the wall as we enter the New Dark Ages.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home was sweet and simple, coaxing good performances from talented players. A man who cannot seem to make it out of his mother's basement leaves the house. Pat ending, but otherwise interesting work, a new way to get into the old plot mechanics.

Every so often, I re-watch The Big Lebowski. I continue to enjoy it.

Bad Boys II is an arch, insane film made at the height of America's W-era shrillness. So many bizarre choices are made, so many performances phoned in... the film is a series of sensations and set pieces that almost feel like scenes from different films. An Action Comedy from Michael Bay. Many thanks to the Gunky's Basement boys for searing this one onto my retinas.

We Need to Talk about Kevin was an exploration of the terror of the late 1990s, the realization that the success America had achieved was soon to fade and that the kids weren't all right. A mother lives in the aftermath of a senseless slaughter perpetrated by her psychopathic son. Could have been the worst sort of melodrama, instead comes alive coldly and precisely under the direction of Lynne Ramsay.

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? is a continuation of my exploration of the films of Frank Tashlin. Another cartoon come to life. Simple post-modern self-reflexive fun. In guessing this is what Godard went to see when he needed to laugh.

The Raid: Redemption blew off the suburban multiplex screen, kicking and punching. A police squad raid a high-rise full of criminals. You have seen this before, but not as well done or as enjoyably executed.

The Muppets was okay.

The Myth of the American Sleepover was a knock-out debut, especially if you came of age in the time before smartphones. Young people navigate the last weekend of the summer and the ending (or beginning) of their adolescence. All first-time actors. I found Claire Sloma's performance especially luminous.

It was such a nice time to get together with some friends and watch The Usual Suspects. The film holds up, unlike others from the era.

Gerhard Richter Painting was a chance taken that paid off handsomely. I was unfamiliar with the artist before the film, but found it a serene mediation on the artistic process. Thanks to the Charles for showing it.

The Charles
The Rotunda
The Senator
The Landmark Harbor East
MICA Brown Center/ Johns Hopkins Shriver Auditorium/  Suburban Multiplex/ Video Americain
Netflix Instant/ Netflix DVD
(Please note: Whenever possible, all titles are linked to their pages on the Netflix website)
Total: 11 features (6 in theaters)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Films Viewed (March 2012)

A Separation lived up to the hype, an engaging and dramatic Iranian film about a couple's disintegration under Sharia Law. You think you might not want to see this, but, trust me, you do. This was a well earned Academy Award.

Songs for Cassavetes was part of my last rentals at the Charles Village Video Americain (two stores in the chain remain open). A film about the turn-of-the-century American music and arts underground focusing on the legends and emerging stars of the scene. The kind of film I didn't need to see when I was living it, but one I definitely appreciate now as a statement of the principles I still continue to live by.

Half Japanese: The Band That Would Be King has been on "the list" for forever. It is an interesting trope of the lionizing/canonizing "rock docs" that they always choose a certain work that is the greatest by the group. I am now very curious to hear "Charmed Life", but I suspect it will leave me feeling like I usually feel about Half Japanese.

"You're Not Fooling Anybody" and "You're Still Not Fooling Anybody" were paired on the same VHS tape. Very controversial work in the Tarantino era. Now, I feel like it is akin to beat-diggers pointing out other DJs sample sources. Not that exciting. Still, a masterful editing job that points out (convincingly) that Tarantino "sampled" a plot-line from another film for the heist from Reservoir Dogs.

"A Day's Pleasure" and "The Kid" were a double feature at The Charles, which continues its Chaplin retrospective. I will have to miss this month's installment, but I highly recommend you check it out. "The Kid" was especially enjoyable, if I bit creaky and melodramatic at times. To be fair, when you are birthing an art-form, you're gonna do some things that will later become cliche.

Coriolanus was a tough-minded Shakespeare adaptation, very in tune with the issues of today. Set in a dystopian future world but still done "full Elizabethan" in terms of dialogue, the story charts the rise and fall of a warrior who would be king. Well, he would be king if he didn't like killing and fighting so much. Great performances highlight this rarely-adapted or performed work.

Doggie Woggiez! Poochie Woochiez! was the Everything is Terrible collective's most recent collection of lovingly compiled video garbage. This time around, the focus is on dogs, and the ostensible "frame" is a re-make of Jodorowksy's Holy Mountain. A mind-melting 90 minutes, presented at the Whole Gallery.

Wanderlust had me in hysterics in the (otherwise empty) Landmark Harbor East theater in which I viewed it. Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston's characters stumble into a commune after their Manhattan life crumbles in the new economy. David Wain directs a stellar supporitng cast. Perhaps made more resonant to me by how often I have rubbed elbows with the "other" American music and arts underground (the one with the jam bands and the drum circles).

It is safe to say that The Hunger Games was a good night at the movies, even for a neophyte to the series like myself. Jennifer Lawrence was note perfect, the dystopian world fully realized. I look forward to more of the films, but I fully admit I will probably never get around to reading the books.

I will never not enjoy watching Sunrise, an early silent film that never fails to personally satisfy and gratify me. A "symphony of the country and city" in which a man is tempted to leave his wife and then reconsiders. A beatifically shot, wonderful window into a lost world and culture.

Everyting is Terrible: The Movie and 2 Everything 2 Terrible 2: Tokyo Drift were similar experiences to the above works of the EiT Collective. Just an amazing mind-melt. The first focused on those dusty "educational" videos in the free rental section of the video store of yore and the ones you would find from the 1980s at the 1990s flea market. The second expanded on the theme, gained form, ate my brain.

Project Nim examines what happens when you raise a chimp as a human. Can it acquire language the way a human baby would? This documentary raised many good questions not only about language acquisition but also about the (flawed) humans conducting the experiment and their intentions.

I am glad to have seen Khodorkovsky, despite its plodding, pedantic tendencies. An engaging and illuminating film that serves as a window into the end of the USSR (and the rise of Putin).

The Charles
The Rotunda
The Senator
The Landmark Harbor East
Video Americain / Whole Gallery
Netflix Instant/ Netflix DVD
(Please note: Whenever possible, all titles are linked to their pages on the Netflix website)
Total: 12 features, 4 short films (9 in theaters/venues)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Films Viewed (February 2012)

Drive became the talk of the town this fall. I missed it, and eagerly anticipated its release on DVD. I was not disappointed. A man who drives people away from criminal enterprise navigates his increasingly complicated life. Noirish and 1980s, over the top yet low key, and buoyed by some amazing performances. Everything I enjoyed about Tarantino in the 1990s brought flawlessly into the 2010s.

Red Tails took a while to get going, but was a solid entertainment. The Tuskegee Airmen fight racism, inner demons, and Nazis in this WWII epic. The right notes were hit, the action kept front and center while the story developed efficiently around the set-pieces.

I have been interested in director Frank Tashlin for a bit, and have finally gotten to see one of his films. The Girl Can't Help It is a cartoony piece of pop culture fluff, notable for the A-list 1950s rock and roll captured on the soundtrack and in performance. It looks like more of his films are hitting DVD these days, and I hope to check out more.

A monthly Chaplin series has begun at the Charles, this time around featuring the shorts "A Dog's Life," "Shoulder Arms", and "Sunnyside." To me, you can't go wrong watching film's greatest artist blaze trails and elciit belly laughs shortly after the birth of the medium. I am looking forward to taking in this series over the course of the year.

The next week's revival was the complete opposite, a grim slog through The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceaususcu, the narrative created solely from propaganda and state films from throughout his time as the leader of the Romanian people. As the descendent of Eastern Bloc Poles, I find such film-going difficult but valuable.

Pina 3D is a tribute to an artist taken suddenly and too soon. Wim Wenders coordinates a tribute to her brand of groundbreaking and transgressive dance and artistry with the help of her surviving troupe. A tribute to the power of collective artistic action and a guided tour of the work of an underappreciated artist. Well, anyway, I don't remember Robin Williams mentioning her in his dance in The Birdcage.

Whoa, The Bride Wore Black! A prime Truffaut just sitting out there waiting to be watched. A husband is murdered on his wedding day. The bride seeks revenge. Sound familiar? It should. Such an engaging blend of technique and atmosphere, both pastiche and homage. A good time.

Ratatouille was just what was needed to lighten my spirits on a particularly melancholy weeknight. A rat learns how to be a chef. It gets more ridiculous and wonderful from here. Really about the trials and tribulations of being an artist working in a mass produced commercial medium. Glad I saw it, although I am clearly late to the party.

The Charles
The Rotunda
The Senator
The Landmark Harbor East
Suburban Multiplex/ Video Americain
Netflix Instant/ Netflix DVD
(Please note: Whenever possible, all releases are linked to their pages on the Netflix website)
Total: 7 features, 3 short films (7 in theaters)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Films Viewed (January 2012)

Life During Wartime, a sequel to Happiness, is filmmaker Todd Solondz' meditation on the aftermath of unspeakable acts and (obliquely) the state of Israel. Heavy, philosophical, and free of transgressive acts. An entirely different film from the first on several levels.

The Artist has been a bit of a minor sensation in the world of Baltimore film, opening with some fanfare on two screens at the Charles. Interesting in technique, this (mostly) silent black and white film watches the rise and fall of stars at the advent of the talkies. A perfect showcase for the throwback mugging of Jean Dujardin. Didn't blow my mind, wasn't terrible.

The Charles theater revival series helped me check The French Connection off my list. Two cops go after a big heroin bust in a complicated and crumbling 1970s NYC. A showstopping breakthrough for director William Friedkin that delivers the action movie goods but aspires to to do more (and sometimes succeeds).

Red Desert represents my first technical disappointment with a screening at the Charles in some years. Having just seen the rapturous Criterion restoration of the film on a hi-def television, this print looked muddy and dark (problem with the bulb? problem with the projector?). In a film so carefully color coded, the effect for me was ruinous. Still, I focused more on other aspects of the film this time around and discovered new things.

The Descendents deserves the acclaim piled upon it, the story of an aging and reluctant patriarch deciding the fate of his family's land inheritance while also dealing with his wife's coma and apparent infidelity. Just note perfect. As a divorced kid, I can relate to many aspects of this dysfunctional family tale.Link
Week End is always good, Godard throwing up his hands and saying "I give up." A wonderful mess of a film. The revolution is just around the corner as two crude bourgeois cardboard cut-outs head for a weekend in the country. Nice to see it with a friend of a friend who does not often wade in such waters.

Moneyball was not a bad choice for a rental. A small-market baseball general manager figures out how to utilize statistics to build a successful team. Filled with Pyrrhic victories, sharp dialogue, and solid performances.LinkLink
Hoo boy, A Dangerous Method! Freud meets Jung, Freud loses Jung... you know the story. Or do you? Kiera Knightley gives a brave and open performance as the test case at the dawn of a new era of psychoanalysis and psychiatry.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was a jolly good time, all grey and drab and British. Cold war spies battle back and forth as spies do, cautiously, silently and cleverly. Cream of the crop ensemble cast, perfect director for such material. Sure, it was the CliffsNotes version of the plot, but I'm a quick study.

The Mill & the Cross serves as an auspicious introduction of more contemporary films to the Charles theater revival series. Rutger Hauer as Breugel, painting the world around him. A smart, visually sumptuous art film. Who were all those people packing the screening? Good for them, and good for the Charles.Link

The Charles
The Rotunda
The Senator
The Landmark Harbor East
Suburban Multiplex/ Video Americain
Netflix Instant/ Netflix DVD
(Please note: Whenever possible, all releases are linked to their pages on the Netflix website)
Total: 10 features (8 in theaters)