Thursday, January 31, 2008

Best Films of 2007 (for cash)

I submitted this list to the Film Comment 2007 readers poll in the hopes of winning some Criterion Collection DVDs. I am not a fan of lists like the one that I have composed. In my notes below, also submitted, I assumed the voice of what a person from New York City would assume a person from Baltimore would talk like. I do hope they find my comments delightfully provincial and earthy.

1. There Will Be Blood
2. Syndromes and a Century
3. No Country for Old Men
4. Killer of Sheep
5. Starting Out in the Evening
6. Lady Chatterley
7. The Darjeeling Limited
8. Zodiac
9. Margot at the Wedding
10. La Vie En Rose
11. The Lives of Others
12. Golden Door
13. Black Book
14. Juno
15. Black Snake Moan
16. Control
17. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
18. Inland Empire
19. Lars and the Real Girl
20. Michael Clayton

Notes: Well, there are a lot of films in my top twenty in which people "kept it gangsta," whereby they exacted revenge or commited horrible acts in the name of selfishness, competition, or justice ("There Will Be Blood", "Before the Devil"). Others "kept it gangsta" simply by getting on stage night after night ("La Vie En Rose"). To choose some of these films may lower my "cred" with certain cineastes ("Black Snake Moan," "Margot at the Wedding"), but I imagine other choices may please them ("Lady Chatterley," "Golden Door"). Ultimately, I do not care. I live in Baltimore and I take what I can get from our local film houses (Hey, I managed to catch "Syndromes" twice which ain't half-bad). I had to cut a few well-done films ("Sweeney Todd," "Rescue Dawn," "Superbad") in favor of others, but oh well. That just serves as more proof that it has been a good year overall.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Film Exhibtion in Baltimore in General- December 2007

First, an apology for the delay. It has been hard to find the time.

December offered a ridiculous smorgashboard of films, the smaller films that could and the boundary-pushing ones that did not make the leap to a larger audience. I am a fan of both, so I was well pleased just trying to keep up with all the offerings. I did think it was a bit smug to list the number of the golden globe nominations next to the films playing at the Landmark, but I think all involved with that debacle wound up with egg on their face.

In the end, it seems as if the Charles, the Senator, and the Landmark walked away from the season with cash in hand. I was all over town, enjoying the ride. I even made it out into the county to enjoy the godless pleasures of the Golden Compass, which I enjoyed thoroughly.

I have yet to see There Will Be Blood, a fact that astonishes many close friends. I am looking forward to the film, and hope to see past the hype into what one can only hope is a truly great American film (pans aside). This weekend should put a fix on that, if I can spare the two hours and forty minutes required.

Although some of the more adventurous among our ranks have had their hackles raised by what they perceive to be a "safe" choice for a series, I have been personally enjoying the Charles theater's 25 film Hitchcock revival, which will run until sometime in the future. This week's selection, The Lady Vanishes, was an unexpected delight (despite the obvious politcizing towards the end of the film). It will play again on Thursday at nine, and I say find the time.

Speaking now of film rental, one video store has closed, while another has opened. I must mark the passing of the great Baltimore County-based chain Movie Time Video. Their stock was remarkably deep and varied, and they provided many an enjoyable evening of strolling through their stacks to take home another find during my college years. The next time you check your Netflix cue, remember what we are losing, chain by chain, store by store. Does anyone know if any of the locations are still open? Google can give one false hope.

On a more upbeat note, Vanguard Video has opened its doors in Mount Vernon. The store is smallish, but I can attest that it is "all killer, no filler." The store has trimmed the fat and is brimming with Criterion discs and Kung Fu flicks. I would say to stop by if you can navigate past the ongoing construction. Information including hours and location can be found here.

Well, that's it for now. I promise more content soon. I do wish to avoid being one of those bloggers who starts out all fired up and stops posting. We shall see... I shall at least add some useful links in the near future.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Films Viewed (December 2007)

Je Taime, Je Taime
What Would Jesus Buy?
Strange Culture
SLC Punk
Last Year at Marienbad
Starting Out in the Evening
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
The Walker
Blade Runner: The Final Cut
Margot at the Wedding
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
Sunshine State
Superbad (Extended and Unrated)
Fanny and Alexander: The Televison Version (Act One)
Romance and Cigarettes
Charlie Wilson's War
The 39 Steps
The Great Debaters
The Savages
Salon Kitty
The Charles
The Landmark
The Senator/ The Rotunda
Other (DVD, BMA, Suburban Multiplex)
TOTAL: 22 (15 in movie theaters)
NOTES: First of all... what a run! I usually peak around 18, but pressed on to 22 thanks to the holiday break and several films I sincerely wanted to see, playing now in area theaters. The films are listed in chronological order of viewing, so the last seven or so were the ones that lead to the bum's rush, most of which are still going strong locally The suprisingly pleasing Romance and Cigarettes is gone now, but I would say to consider the DVD when it arrives.
I have just returned from the free screening of John Frankenheimer's Seconds at the BMA. Eric has once again picked a winner, and it seems as if people are making a habit out of attending (screenings are held on the first Thursday of every month). I wish him continued sucess there, and look forward to the upcoming offerings.
Last month's BMA screening lead to the viewing of another film by Alain Resnais, Last Year at Marienbad, and after the formal inventiveness and cold beauty of that film, I have added him to the list of directors to explore when haunting the stacks at Video Americain.
In terms of disagreements with the critical consensus, I enjoyed Noah Baumbach's Margot at the Wedding. I certainly would not give it an "F," as Sun critic Michael Sragow did. Yes, there were nods to Bergman, and not everything worked. But why not take risks as opposed to re-creating your previous hit?
I could go on, but will stop here. As always, let me know if you would like to hear more about any of the film's screened. One word of caution: The Savages is pitch black, and is nowhere near as gently humorous as the trailer makes it out to be. Still worth seeing, to be sure, but don't go if you "just want to laugh." For that, I would highly recommend Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, a film that has not done well nationally, for reasons unknown. In that instance, by the way, I am on the same page with Mr. Sragow, a critic I respect even when I disagree with him, unlike the critics of some other local publications.
Next up, film distribution in Baltimore in general in December. Sorry about the dotted lines. Blogger keeps erasing my paragraph breaks for no discernable reason.