Thursday, December 9, 2010

Films Viewed (November 2010)

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest was the "oh, okay" last installment of the Millennium Trilogy. The narratives were seen through to the end dutifully. Not as absorbing as the first two films, but still engaging. I saw a special-edition hardcover set at the chain bookstore yesterday that makes the books look more literary. Sure, fine. But you should really buy them here.

Hereafter was a Clint Eastwood directorial effort. Sad real-deal psychic retires, but they keep pulling him back in. I feel Eastwood's films are hit or miss and will watch his avowed masterpiece one of these days. He is an old man who makes movies in the old style. Sometimes there is a comfort in this.

Hot Bubblegum is a Hebrew-language sex farce from 1981 in the style of American Graffiti and Porky's. One night, Netflix Instant was throwing some crazy suggestions my way. Who am I to say no the gods of random?

Bill Murray Life Lessons 2009 was another filmic effort from local upstart Ann Everton, who once cut my hair on the stage of the Senator theater. Watch her take on Meatballs here. Read her interview on the City Paper here.

Logorama won the 2010 Oscar for Best Animated Short and can be seen right here. Worth your time.

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill has been the subject of inside jokes between my girlfriend and myself for some time. The ending truly had us soaring out of the living room. No, he doesn't eat the parrots.

Tropical Malady shows the promise of director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, but I prefer his later films. One that sends you running to the Internet for assistance. With help, I figured out what in the heck happened in the second part.

Dogtooth remains the talk of the Baltimore arthouse circuit. Perhaps better the second time around, as you can put things together more thoroughly. No matter how hard a helicopter parent will try, the outside world will eventually seep in to even the most hermetically sealed household.

The Secret in Their Eyes as just fine. The one the spoiled all the Oscar betting pools earlier this year. I am with those who feel it was essentially an episode of Law & Order, but a really good episode of Law & Order.

Possession has been the talk of the Baltimore arthouse rental circuit in recent times. A couple's relationship deteriorates due to adultery in 1980s Berlin, but hoo boy, there is more to it than that! Let us just say that Isabelle Adjani's character is having one monster of an affair. A psycho-sexual blend brought to boil. If enough people add it on Netflix, maybe someone somewhere will get the message that this needs a proper re-release.

House (1977) is me playing catch-up to the movie-going talk of the town this past spring, after a new print had a limited engagement run at the Senator. A group of young girls visit a ghost house in the country. Wonderful lunacy, highly stylized and very Japanese, ensues. Not scary, still gory.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One was the first film seen at the newly re-opened Senator theater. The theater has been stripped to the bone by the prior tenant, but it is good to have it opened. I have a feeling this little film that is mostly about some teenagers camping in the woods and being angsty and sad is going to go far!

Bright Leaves chronicles documentary filmmaker Ross McElwee's family's involvement with the tobacco trade in North Carolina, but is much more than that. I am very forgiving of his films with their many side-trips and rambles. Not a good as Sherman's March, but I found it very absorbing.

Hideaway (Le Refuge) was a "one week wonder" at the Charles. A woman addicted to drugs discovers she is pregnant with her lover's child after she and her lover overdose, resulting in the death of said lover. And that is just the first ten minutes or so! Suprising throghout, there was a plot twist that had the audience reacting like they caught something I didn't. Clearly, I need to see more Ozon.

Heart of Glass is a prime Werner Herzog film that I have been meaning to give my viewing attention to for some time. The secret of making ruby glass is lost in a Bavarian village, a shepherd has visions of the future, and things slowly go horribly awry, descending into madness. Herzog hypnotized the majority of the cast before each take. You know, because he's like that.

American Grindhouse was a thorough and informative overview of the different types of films that played the grindhouse circuit in the American heyday of such movie houses. Of the "DVD supplement" school, but not terribly so. I would love a doc on the actually movie theaters and what it was like to go to them, perhaps focusing on the more infamous ones.

The Charles
The Rotunda
The Senator
The Landmark Harbor East
Suburban Mulltiplex/ Video Americain/ DVD/ Online
Netflix Instant/ Netflix DVD
(Please note: All releases are now linked to their pages on the Netflix website)
Total: 14 features, 1 short film, 1 anthology collection of short films (5 in theaters)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Films Viewed (October 2010)

The Social Network was hands-down great if you are a fan of David Fincher and are as interested as I am in the new socially networked world that has emerged in recent times. Still in theaters due to great reviews and solid box office. I say see it.

The Heartbreak Kid (1972) was an odd one. I have been meaning to see more of the films of Elaine May since reading an appreciation of her early work in Film Comment a few years ago, and Netflix provided the opportunity. Why this was re-made (apparently terribly) by Ben Stiller and company is a mystery since the original barely functions plot wise. Hard to go wrong with a young Cybil Shepard, though.

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? is what happens when Herzog and Lynch get together AKA Awesome + Weird. If you are a fan of either, this is highly recommended.

Plastic Bag, a short by Ramin Bahrani voiced by Wener Herzog, was an extra feature on the above DVD. Haunting, minimal, and effective.

The Jerk was a surgery-recovery choice while trolling through the Comcast On Demand at my mom's house. Early Steve Martin has its moments, but he is not in full filmic blossom quite yet.

Extract, another On Demand choice, was like Mike Judge lite. Diverting but never quite got anywhere interesting.

Jaws III: works every time. I wish I could see it in the original 3D. Perhaps James Cameron could get behind this restoration as well as his other more personal conversion projects?

I Need That Record! was an uneven love letter to the now-disappearing independent record store, my home away from home wherever a reputable one can be found still surviving. The good outweighed the bad in this, but the writing is on the wall.

The Art of the Steal
was a double hit in my apartment that it was about both the art world establishment and the world of the non-profit. Delineates the art heist of the century and shows one idea of the art museum (small, for the common man, for arts education, not for critics) losing out in favor of the predominant mode (bus tours, big show, gift shops).

Trash Humpers was quite a rough ride, courtesy of Harmony Korine. A lo-fi American nightmare. I think one day all films will look and play out like this one. This is because I am a cynical person. Banned from Netflix!

John Carpenter's The Thing was a gory paranoid hoot, especially on the big screen. I can see why many old-school FX Fangoria types pledge their allegiance to this one. Screened as part of the new series Gunky's Basement (more info on future screenings here).

Blind Woman's Curse
was a WTF Japanese Yazuka/Horror hybrid. Absolutely bizarre at points. An oddity in both genres. Not a bad way to spend a Friday night.

The Killer Inside Me was an eyebrow-raising look inside the mind of a psychopath. Not for the faint of heart. Memorable performances throughout from Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba, and Kate Hudson. A rom-com it was not!

was another great film from Ulrich Seidl, a director I was introducted to by John Waters via his Maryland Flm Festival screening pick of a prior film of Seidl's in 2004. In it, a woman leaves the Ukraine to find work in Vienna. A man leaves Vienna to find work in the Ukraine. Bleak and terrible things happen, thanks to the new global economy. Hooray Capitalism!

The City of Lost Children can now be checked off the list. A big beautiful film that somehow feels empty and hollow. The way-station between Delicatessen and Amelie that makes you feel creeped-out/uncomfortable more than a few times.

Water Lilies was a French film about two young women coming of age who. Yes, there is synchronized swimming, but it was shot strikingly. Yes, there is LGBT sexual confusion and tension. Yes, you can watch it on Netflix Instant. Played DC, but never made it to Baltimore.

I Am Love did make it to the Charles, and I regret not catching it on the big screen, as it was clearly meant to be seen. Sumptuous visuals detail the downfall of a wealthy woman (Tilda Swinton) who manages to wear a different super-chic dress in every new setting in the film. She gives it away, all for love. Operatic and borderline ridiculous, I still had a good experience with it.

The Charles
The Rotunda
The Senator
The Landmark Harbor East
Suburban Multiplex
Netflix/ DVD/ On Demand
(PLEASE NOTE: all DVD-available releases are now linked to their page on the Netflix website)
Total: 16 films, 1 short film (2 in theaters)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Charm City Cineaste Three Year Anniversary: 2007-2010

Well, three years have passed since I started this blog. Many things have changed.

I began during a time of great upheaval and uncertainty in the film exhibition landscape in Baltimore city. There was a lot of nervous energy in the air back then. That time has passed.

As the dust settles, there are clear winners and clear losers. As one Baltimore theater-owner sunk lower and lower into the depths, I eventually decided to turn away from reporting the details, which had become tawdry and wince-inducing. I admit I am clearly biased. I was upset that Baltimore was losing a place to see films, even temporarily, and I was losing any sense of decorum over the situation. I think turning away from it here was my acknowledgment of that bias, but I know I more than got my digs in.

In terms of film exhibition now, the Charles theater's ownership is now also in charge of the Senator theater via a deal with Baltimore City. The Rotunda soldiers on, having recently added a new third screen. The Landmark Harbor East is a place to pay an insane amount of money to see a first-run film. The demand placed upon the mid-sized theater to handle blockbuster films like Inception has lead to sold out screenings and other dilemmas, your dollars burning away as the clock ticks on your overpriced parking-metered spot. In the case of the Landmark, I feel you might as well go the 'burbs. The others remain solid options.

But I must acknowledge that while this landscape has changed, I have changed as well. I don''t make changes easily or well, and have stuck with going to the movies regularly long after most have shifted habits, if the habit was there at all. What could possibly beat seeing a film on the big screen, engaged in the communal experience, munching on popcorn, out on a Friday night?

Well, the answer is Netflix. I fought it for a long time, but this is the new model. For the price of seeing a non-matinee film at the Landmark, I got King Kong in the trunk.

Sure, I have the additional help of an up-to-date HD big screen television and an Internet connection to said television. Now, I have a Netflix Instant library bigger than I can even comprehend at my disposal. Wonderful and challenging films like Bluebeard and Import/Export, which never played on any Baltimore screen, are suddenly and instantly available to me.

It hurts to say all of this. I don't want to betray film house culture, film stock, popcorn machines, popcorn slingers. Sometimes I think this is just a new option that I will integrate into the others, but I know better. I know that I am not from movie-theater-love from childhood, and am more of a "movies on television" person historically.

In any case, to reflect this shift and to make my blog more user-friendly, I will now link to the Netflix page of any film I watch via that service when I list a film's title. This coming month that is pretty much all of them.

I know I am too orderly and willful to stop this blog now, but I foresee a day when I see no films in theaters in a given month. I already skipped seeing anything at the Charles last month for the first time in this blog's history. I had my reasons, but it was strange to realize.

So, I will continue on into year four of this blog. The next interesting/terrifying thing that may become a topic for reporting could be the end of the arthouse movie-theater experience in Baltimore entirely. I certainly hope this is not the case, but as the blue hairs shuffle off this mortal coil, the laptop generation wonders why anyone would pay for a movie at all.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Return of the Senator Theater!

Now under new management!

Friday, October 15th.

First feature? Red

Article here.

Let the new era begin!

Films Viewed (September 2010)

Hackers was certainly not a great film, but it had its moments of great humor, mostly unintentional. I was too old in 1995 to dig on it, but I had my own encounters with this kind of youth film via Pump Up the Volume, Heathers, and other films often involving Christian Slater. They never quite get it right, but they do try. Check it off the list!

Machete was pure popcorn-munchin' fun. It was marred perhaps by being too politically ambitious, but still kept to its grindhouse pedigree with enough faithfulness to make it worth a Friday night screening. No regrets. Made good on the fake original trailer.

Ponyo was strangely disappointing. I figured I would enjoy it as much as other Studio Ghibli fare, but was left cold more often than not. Odd echoes of Hurricane Katrina reverberated around in my head while I tried to piece together the plot. The "okay this is ridiculous" trademarked Anime ending was especially so.

Summer Hours does not seem at first glance like something worth investigating. A bunch of bourgeois French people ponder their mother's legacy? Eh. But the"No. 3" ranking in Film Comment's Top Twenty Films of 2009 tipped me off that it was something worth seeing, and it truly was. The story engages because it is so artfully and humanely told. We have all been there when it comes to the themes presented, or dread the day we will be.

Easy A was some true pop relief. Emma Stone carried the film admirably. I found it to be a fun satirical romp through high school in the 2000s, familiar territory in my case. Sure it was ridiculous and campy. Not sure it was Election-level great, but definitely a contender.

L'Enfance Nue, the debut feature film from 1968 by Mauricee Pialat, is an unflinching portrait of a damaged young man stuck in a broken foster care system. Smartly executed and revolutionary, jarring and naturalistic, it bombed when first released in France. Pialat is still not a "name" director in America, but I am a fan of the films of his that I have had an opportunity to see.

Wallace and Gromit in A Matter of Loaf and Death was just a good ol' time, like a Warners cartoon. A fun "whodunit." Saw some digital work among the stop motion, but it was not terribly distracting. Does this count as film? I hope so.

L'Amour Existe was the debut short film of Maurice Pilat, included on the DVD reviewed above. Even in his first work, we see an assured filmmaker with a definite voice, ready to mix it up and get in your face.

The Charles
The Rotunda
The Landmark harbor East
Other (Netflix DVD, Netfix Instant, suburban multiplex)
Total: 7 films, 1 short film (2 in theaters)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Films Viewed (August 2010)

The Girl Who Played with Fire was a worthy sequel to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I have been chided by Baby Boomer co-workers for not reading the books and have been told that I am getting a simplistic experience with the films. I respond that I am too busy on Twitter and Faceplace to read books. LOL.

Brighton Rock was the penultimate revival, British gangster noir. Was that really Richard Attenborough as the young conflicted Catholic psychopath? This Richard Attenborough? Carole Marsh was a vision of loveliness.

When You're Strange: A Film About the Doors was the definitive document on this group, if you ask me. After the impact that the Oliver Stoned Doors had on my misspent youth, I found this clarifying. I don't know if I am a true Doors Fan, as it were, but this doc gives legitimacy to their strum and drang via an evenhanded, researched approach.

Red Desert was one of those films you wait to experience correctly. I did, and was rewarded by the new Criterion disc. Beautifully shot and languidly paced, it presents confusion and desire in bleakly nuanced and sharply defined vistas. Comparable to Stalker, another big favorite of mine, which was inspired by this film.

We Live in Public was a perfect descent into the late 1990s, cash being burned as the future was foreseen. A heck of a ride, crashing around the end of the century like most ridiculous things of that era. Josh Harris saw it coming, all of it.

It Always Rains on Sunday was the last revival in the Charles theater series that stretches back to last decade, give or take the occasional brief hiatus. Another British noir, this one was more of a claustrophobic kitchen sink drama. With it, the revivals end for a year, to return when their programmer returns from Rome.

The Kids are All Right was why you go the arthouse; smart, truthful, complex, and unwilling to pull punches. Directed well, acted well, and worth the time of anyone interested in 21st century family dynamics.

Hell House was an old doc in a new DVD box, reminding me in production values of Roger and Me. We see the operation of the first big hell house of its kind, something that is now a nationwide phenomena. Scary in ways other that those intended by the operators of said house.

The Manchurian Candidate... "Wait, you've never seen that film?" "No, I haven't." But it's a classic." Yes, but for years it was unavailable to the public." "It's been available since 1988." "Oh..."

Lovely and Amazing is the second major film in the directorial career of Nicole Holofcener. It was interesting to see this film after seeing her latest, which used some of the same cast/types in different ways. I suspect her films will age well based on how this 2001 effort looked and felt today. Do I dare venture back to 1996's Walking and Talking?

The Beatniks (Mst3k version) was a terrible bore of a film only levied by the jibes of the Satellite of Love crew. Started flat and cold, but redeemed itself by the end. More proof those guys can make any film a hoot.

Bluebeard was the ZOMG highlight of the month. A fairy-tale re-told by the director of Romance? I was in from the first, and was stunned repeatedly by the cinematography and the performances evoked. Proof that film can be art. It is a crime it did not even get a week on a big screen in Baltimore.

It Happened One Night is canonical, a welcome relief on an otherwise dreary late-summer evening. Did not like the creaky sexist attitudes, still enjoyed the back and forth of the two leads and the pre-code licentiousness.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was like a book written for people who don't read. The gamers and fanboys stayed away from a movie custom made for them, a film which represents a possible future of the feature film. I was enjoying myself from the opening Nintendofied Universal logo and theme onward. I wish I had more company in the theater, however.

Jaws was an old friend, revisited with educated eyes. Key scenes remained from my childhood, while others escaped me at the time. Nice way to wrap up the summer, movie-wise, despite declining to stick around to watch the sequel.

The Other Guys was thoroughly "eh" but was still Will Ferrell's second biggest opening box office weekend. I felt somehow not manly enough for this film, or maybe not stupid enough? And I can be a big appreciator of stupid humor... puzzling.

The Charles
The Rotunda
The Landmark Harbor East
Other (Suburban Mulitplex, Netflix! Netflix! Netflix!, Greektown rowhome)
Total: 16 (6 in theaters)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Films Viewed (July 2010)

35 Shots of Rum seemed like a resposnse to arugments I don't know much about in French culture. I am a fan of the director Clarie Denis, but wasn't too moved by this film.

Se7en can be checked off my earlier list. I can see how it was impactful in its time, but it seems also kind of standard-issue to me today. I think seeing it in 1995 would have been a bigger deal.

Pick a Winner is a collection of videos and films from Load Records that I bought from the merch table of the band USAISAMONSTER. I skimmed through it once, filed it, and forgot about it. Good to finally sit down and soak in its weirdness.

Lessons of Darkness is a hybrid doc by Werner Herzog. Burning oil wells, science fiction scenes in the desert. Suggested by someone as appropriate due to the situation in the Gulf for a group watching that never occurred. So I borrowed the DVD.

Please Give was my first encoutner with the films of Nicole Holofcener at a jam-packed screening on a brutally hot day of the holiday weekend. I can see now why someone commented that her films are always welcomed.

Fata Morgana was on the flip side of the Herzog DVD I borrowed. Quite a trip through the desert. I do wonder if the tale of making it enhances the film, but it is clear that its influence is far-reaching.

Stones in Exile was the first thing I used my new Netflix account to watch over the computer instantly. Yes, I have gone over the dark side. Yes, this was not the most interesting documentary, but I still dig on that record.

Mickey One, although mostly a mess, is visually compelling and sometimes just plain insane in what it is about and after. Studio American does French new wave.

Cyrus reminded me in Mickey One in the sense that it is a "big" overground film being intentionally made in an underground style. For some reason, I gain pleasure from the experience of seeing these films despite how much I dislike this in other art forms.

The Last Detail was another Hal Ashby film to check off the list of his "must-sees." Like 35 Shots of Rum, I felt left out of the situation and the argument, although you can feel the tension of making this kind of movie in the Vietnam era. The incessant profanity from those cursing like the sailors they were must have been boundary-pushing at the time, but has little impact to the modern coarsened ear.

Good Dick was a film I have been meaning to see for some time. The copy at the Video Americain I frequent was stolen, so the Netflix Instant (which can be streamed right to our new television) provided the film to me finally. It is rare to see a film deal with female sexual dysfunction this openly and effectively.

Winter's Bone was a window into a world, buoyed by the performance of Jennifer Lawrence as a young woman in search of her father in the Ozark backwoods.

M has been on the list for so long it is laughable. I even own an earlier edition of it on Criterion DVD! The version I watched was the most recent clean-up of the print. Smart, savage, satirical... it is wild to see someone like like Fritz Lang running amok in a new art form.

Inception is looking like the only summer film of the summer, and can be highly recommended. Otherwise, I have been wholly unmoved and uninspired by this year's model of blockbuster.

Beautiful Losers is a documentary about a group of kids who skateboarded and made art together and apart in the early 1990s. It was a wonderful explanation in regards to what attracted me to this culture when I was a lad.

Pirate Radio was an intriguing premise turned into an abysmal film. Don't be fooled. It is a waste of time. So many "oh god no" moments based on ham-fisted script and directorial decisions I lost track.

The Hangover made 277 million in domestic box office. I was chided by my students for having never seen it. Now I have. So there, students!

The Charles
The Rotunda
The Landmark Harbor East
Other (Video Americain, Netflix, suburban multiplex)
Total: 16 features, 1 video compilation (6 in theaters)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Films Viewed (June 2010)

Robin Hood was a movie that I saw at a Cinemark Multiplex in the county. They have radically changed the way concessions and tickets are sold there, creating a confusing "buffet-style" situation. I enjoyed the film, but my expectations were not very high. I am beginning to believe that seeing MacGruber has somehow cursed my filmgoing experiences this summer, but most agree this is a lackluster season.

Respect Yourself: The Stax Record Story re-affirmed by believe in soul over technique, emotion over suavity. Just get out there and get to it!

Harry Brown was a fantasy for a person that is not me, the tale of an avenging oldster taking back the streets from the kids and their rap music. Michael Caine was very good in his role, and things got complex enough to remain interesting. Beautifully shot, all smoky grays and haunted hallways.

Bringing Out the Dead was the last remaining post-Mean Streets Scorsese movie for me to see. Instantly out of date when created, it captured some of the insanity of being really, really tired fairly well, and was otherwise uneven. I did not save the best for last.

Warrior of the Lost World (MST3K Version) was a hoot and a half. I have noticed a tendency to return to such pleasures as the temperatures increase. The summer roster seems to be failing me as of late, so I will take it where I can get it.

Vincere, a movie I was implored to see by the local film community, was operatic, visually stunning, and about a kind of insane love and devotion that was probably not easy for the average filmgoer to understand. I have a weaknesss for such fare, and was glad that I was chided into seeing it by others.

Autonomous Comics One is the short film student work of Brian Nicholson, a Baltimore transplant and raconteur of some prominence.

The Reason Why Our World is Coming to an End is included in the above package I purchased the set at the True Vine, and this films was the superior of Mr. Nicholson's filmic efforts thus far. I wish him the best in all his continued efforts.

The Complete Metropolis was a worthwhile three plus hours, taking in this early silent masterpiece in as complete a version as is possible. Will those final additional seconds ever appear? I hope not, because then I would have to see it again. From the crappy public domain DVD I picked up at Best Buy through all the subsequent re-masters, returns, and revivals, it is a screening opportunity that is hard to pass up.

Fellini's Roma was considered a baffling misfire when first release, but I think makes sense as a doc hybrid today, at least to me. You get images and moments, leaving the idea of a plot eventually far behind.

Crimes of Passion was a overheated scorcher, perfect for a post-show late night. Ken Russell sure does have some issues with women! Comic book on one hand and blatantly Hitchcock psycho-drama on the other, it moved along with a kind of energy that reminded me of the kind of movies I would watch very late at night on pay cable in my youth.

The Scarlett Empress was such fun. I assumed I was tuning into a stuffy melodrama, but this film was having nothing to do with that. Expressionistic sets framed intrigue after intrigue. Don't let the DVD box fool you!

Walkabout was avoided for some time due to my associations with another kind of Australia. I should have known better. You don't get made by Nicolas Roeg early in his career and be referenced by Throbbing Gristle without being worth watching. Jenny Agutter's performance is entrancing.

Spetters seemed like it was going to be standard issue teen motorbike fare, but soon got all Verhoeven on it, which made for a much more interesting movie. I think these past three Video Americain rental choices reflect a kind of "let's see... um, maybe this is good?" stumbling about on my part. In all cases, I was not dissatisfied. I have not yet begin to plumb the depths of their back catalog!

Equus was a rental choice I was faux-chided for making. It was claimed that I was a "dirty, dirty man" for renting this film. I saw it on Jenny Agutter's IMDB and said, "Hey... if Harry Potter can be in a production of it, then I can rent it." Hoo boy! Quite a ride!

Taking Out the Trash/Trash Talking is a film by the Paper Rad collective I have been meaning to see for some time. Thanks to Brian Nicholson for lending it to me.

The Carter Showcases Lil' Wayne in all his sizzurp-swilling glory, breaking through big time. It is the kind of film that would not be allowed to be made about him while it was being made, and so things fall apart as he gets bigger and bigger. Like smoking a joint with Dylan in 1963.

Independence Day can finally be taken off my list of top ten 1995-1997 films I didn't see. I was like seeing 2012 again, but with less advanced special effects, outdated politics and worldview, and Will Smith. You know... it killed a few hours.

Two American Audiences was an interview film with Jean-Luc Godard, made around the time of La Chinoise, included in a Believer magazine film issue compilation of films about Godard in the States called JLG in USA. I think the above film will finally be rented, despite some reservations I may have about it.

The Charles
The Rotunda
The Landmark Harbor East
Other (Video Americain, The Senator)
Total: 16 features, 3 short films (5 in theaters)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Films Viewed (May 2010)

Phantom Lady was another workaday Noir, replete with plot convolutions, frame-ups, tough dames, cartoon psychopaths... a good time if you take comfort in the sturdy frame of an old Hollywood picture.

Exit Through the Gift Shop was a fun-house mirror ride through the modern world of art and celebrity, London and LA, Banksy and OBEY.... a brilliant movie by an intelligent media player.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has been making the Boomers at work really excited. This film and the book upon which it is based are quite a phenomenon despite the "graphic" parts that are spoken about in hushed tones. I was on the fence until I heard it was Swedish. No regrets.

Nights and Weekends is part of my apology to the Mumblecore movement. Sorry I kinda dabbled in you until just recently! Clearly I needed to pay closer attention to all this business.

Dogtooth came into the 2010 Maryland Film Festival with a lot of "buzz." Joe Audience Member appeared to find it a "buzzkill," but I enjoyed it, taking away a commentary on parent's desire to "protect" their children from the outside world. What will you take away?

We Don't Care About Music Music Anyway... is an impressionistic take on Japanese noise music that I found just wonderful, filled with orchestrated smash-sessions and live-show theatrics.

Gabbi on the Roof in July is a movie I must recuse myself from reviewing since I helped to host the film for the Maryland Film festival. More information can be found here.

Tiny Furniture is another movie I must recuse myself from reviewing since I helped to host the film for the Maryland Film festival. More information can be found here.

Cold Weather is the final movie I must recuse myself from reviewing since I helped to host the film for the Maryland Film festival. More information can be found here.

Liverpool is why I go to the festival. A challenging film where we follow a man on a journey. We are given little, becoming detectives, reading into each small moment, each reaction to the man. I enjoy this type of exercise very much.

Total Recall was a whole bunch of smart fun. Always worth the time to take the trip. Hosted by Dan Deacon.

Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness, a silent film, was accompanied live by the Alloy Orchestra. This is an MFF tradition that makes for a pleasant Sunday morning. I hope it continues.

Until the Light Takes Us was perfect for a Black Metal dilettante like myself, giving an overview of an interesting/disturbing moment in recent music history.

Putty Hill was just a fine time, the second sold-out 2010 MFF screening for this local filmmaker. As someone from these types of neighborhoods who has lost people to similar circumstances, I applaud this film for its sensitivity and nuance. For more information, go here.

Iron Man 2 was a big dumb thrill-ride, nowhere near as refreshing as the first, but still full of all the little touches I enjoy about this director's films. The purists seemed upset, but I had no qualms.

Late Spring was yet another shot at getting into Ozu's most critically acclaimed films. I confirmed once again that I don't like them, preferring his Noir one-offs or films like Good Morning to this sort of stately, static drama. The ending was fairly devastating and understated. I will give it that.

Babies was a fine piece of observational documentary. A way to watch babies explore their environments without having some concerned mother snatch them away. The women cooing in the audience were annoying but served as a fascinating study in people's involuntary reactions to stimuli.

Kick Ass was a smart, geeky "hell yes / high five" sort of a film. I had a good time but I don't think I gained anything from the experience. A Kevin Smith-like journey through the annals of geekdom.

Magruber (cue theme) MAGRUBER was a movie that maybe only I saw in the theaters MAGRUBER didn't need to exist but Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig are always funny MAGRUBER one day I'll learn my lesson about SNL spin-off films MAGRUBER! (explosions)

A Colt is My Passport shows that Japan also was busy making work-a-day Noirs, a bit later than in America but just as enjoyable. An anti-Ozu to remind me of what I love about Japanese film.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High retains it's charm, perhaps, because it is based on an actual sociological study of 80s Cali teens. It is not shallow and it is not simple. Note-perfect.

In the Realm of my Senses was another anti-Ozu that is still unable to be seen uncensored in Japan. I am assuming that one day all film will be like this, but maybe I assume too much.

Hannah Takes the Stairs was another entry in my Mumblecore fest. Better than trying to tune in Digital TV in my new apartment, that's for sure.

The Secret of Kells was just ravishing, sumptuous film-making about the value of knowledge and books. I am glad to have seen this animated visual feast, and recommend it when it comes out on DVD.

A Day at the Races was lesser Marx brothers in totality but classic in certain parts. I can see why this one does not get revived as often. Made right after my favorite, A Night at the Opera.

The Puffy Chair, unfortunately named, is another Mumblecore film that eventually won me over. Headed up by the Duplass brothers, who are about to unleash Cyrus on us.

The Charles
The Rotunda
The Landmark Harbor East
The 2010 Maryland Film Festival
Other (Video Americain, suburban multiplex)
Total: 26 films (20 in theaters)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Film Exhibition in Baltimore (May 2010)

Well, I think this is my last monthly update on Film Exhibition in Baltimore. There just isn't anything going on, really.

The film exhibition landscape has seemingly settled. No word on the Charles theater's owner taking over the Senator theater officially, just the possibility. Oh, to gain privileged access to those smoke-filled back rooms in city hall where these deals are struck! Meanwhile, the Senator keeps on keeping on in its patchouli-scented current incarnation, with maybe Hausu coming back again, (which I would enjoy seeing greatly). I am also seeing that The Complete Metropolis is scheduled for a run beginning Friday, June 11th, which I will enjoy if I can catch it (showtimes for any film are limited by the other events the theater tends to schedule these days, leaving potential patrons with 8PM or Midnight screenings to choose from most of the time).

The Charles is the Charles, a bit spiffier and pricier but essentially the same. The Landmark Harbor East and the Rotunda provide mainstream commercial American film with a place to be seen (it is so hard to get to see these films otherwise). A recent screening of Iron Man 2 at the Rotunda was relatively glitch-free, so I hope I won't get fooled again if I begin to consider it a screening option once more. I would just advise getting there with plenty of time to spare.

Well, that is that. I retire this column and will continue to update when news breaks, which is not very often on this front these days. The war is over, for now. Up next, a whopping Films Viewed (May 2010), including films screened as part of the 2010 Maryland Film Festival.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Fims Viewed (April 2010)

Chloe was a psycho-sexual good time, courtesy of Atom Egoyan. Although flawed and a bit too Freudian, it should be noted for its attempt to tell the story from the perspective of the female lead, getting inside her needs, neuroses, and sexual desires.

Greenberg was about that guy who was older than me that I hated due to his uber-1990s slack and his inability to transcend his own hang-ups. Ben Stiller was fine, Greta Gerwig was lovely and amazing. It's hard to make a good film about a poisonously unlikable main character.

The Incredible Shrinking Man was a satisfying meal of 1950s smart Sci-Fi. Held up well and got me thinking. All I remember from seeing it as a kid was the battle with the spider.

Play It Again, Sam is Woody Allen as a play as a movie. Not quite there yet, but the pieces are in place for greatness. I want to live in the main character's apartment.

A Lesson in Love made for a good follow-up considering Allan's love of Bergman. A film unavailable on DVD I had taped off of TCM 11 or so years ago. I enjoy his work too much to criticize. A smart early effort that saved his career, apparently. Thanks for the info, Robert Osborne!

The Runaways is a standard bio-pic, but one that I still enjoyed. Another film that should be noted for its efforts to take stock of things from a female perspective (would there be any other way to tell this story?). Clearly from the viewpoint and with the authorization of Joan Jett and Cherie Curie. Lita Ford gets reduced to a bit part, which seems wrong somehow.

Mother, not based on the Danzig song in any way, was perhaps made more odd by my lack of understanding of the Korean mother-son relationship. A troubled boy gets in trouble. Mom gets to investigating. And then... hoo-boy!

Danger: Diabolik was just the kind of campy early-1960s comic-book relief I needed during a grinding work week. Slow in parts, fantastic in others, Diabolik is quite a piece of work.

Sympathy for Mister Vengeance struck me as the weakest of Park Chan-wook's vengeance trilogy. I would say check out Oldboy first, then Lady Vengeance. Points gained for leftwing radical nutjob female lead. Points lost for a "yeah, I already get it" unnecessary voice overdub and one plot convolution too many.

The Charles
The Rotunda
The Landmark Harbor East
Other (Video Americain, The Maryland Science Center)
Total: 9 films (5 in theaters)

NOTE THE NEW NEW POLICY: I will now give a capsule review with each film. I will continue to experiment with the format. Please leave comments or suggestions if you are not a spammer.

Film Exhibition in Baltimore (April 2010)

Well, it may be all over except for the negotiating. The Charles theater's owner will take over the Senator, (probabilistically). The details are here. The Senator being leased for one dollar a year? Sounds like a deal, though I think I hear the Senator's soon-to-be-former owner crying off in the corner somewhere...

In other news, the Charles is gearing up for the 2010 Maryland Film Festival. The schedule is here. I may have to recuse myself from too much reportage on this, as I am a member of the screening committee and, at a few screenings, I will be introducing the filmmakers and running the Q and A afterward. Dan Deacon presenting Total Recall? Bill Callahan of Smog presenting Faces? Norwegian Black Metal Doc? Japanese Noise Band Doc? Some SNL doc that James Franco made? A whole slew of cutting edge festival fare, John Waters, 3D movies, and more? I would suggest giving that schedule a good going-over and making a weekend out of it.

Up next, a new format for my Films Viewed (April 2010).

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Films Viewed (March 2010)

Fish Tank
Wild River
Shutter Island
Spring Breakdown
The White Ribbon
Alice in Wonderland (IMAX 3D)
A Prophet
For Ever Mozart

The Charles
The Rotunda
The Landmark Harbor East
Other (Video Americain, The Maryland Science Center)
Total: 9 films (7 in theaters)

NOTE THE NEW POLICY: If you want me to say something about any of the films viewed, please ask. I will be more than happy to speak on their qualities.

Film Exhibiton in Baltimore (March 2010)

A day late and a dollar short. Apologies.

It has been some time since I have weighed in on local happenings. Here's some data worth passing on...

The Charles has upped its ticket price. The six dollar matinee/ eight dollar feature era is over. There is also now a senior discount. May God have mercy on the ticket sellers during this time of tumultuous transition.

The Charles has installed credit card machines. This means the "cash only" era is over. May God have mercy on the concessionists during this time of upheaval and change.

The Charles has installed fancy new granite counter-tops over the raw concrete ones. There is talk of the Charles serving alcohol in the future, but this is a rumor at best. For now, Tapas will have to suffice. May God have mercy on the ushers as they engage in crowd control.

In summary, every time I go into the place, something is different.

The Senator's former owner may have finally nuked the soup, as Towson University has pulled out its bid for turning the theater into a live music venue. This leaves the Charles' proposal as the only one on the table. For more, see today's article in the Sun. I have intentionally avoided reporting on all this wrangling, but am pleased to see a proposal which would bring films back to the theater as the only one left standing. If only anything involving the Senator's fate was a done deal!. Oh well...

The Rotunda continues to show first run films. I am assuming they will continue also to poorly project them, and will also continue to understaff the theater (concessions and tickets in the same line) so that there is very little chance that you will get in to see your movie on time.

That's about it! Up next, a paltry Films Viewed (March 2010).

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Films Viewed (February 2010)

The Hurt Locker
Putty Hill (excerpt)
La Corona
JFK (director's cut)
The Battle of Algiers
Final Flesh
The Last Station
Numero Deux
American Graffiti
The Last Picture Show
The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
Hot Tub Time Machine

The Charles
The Rotunda
The Landmark Harbor East
Other (Video Americain, School Library, Wholphin)
Total: 10 films, 1 short film, 1 excerpt from a longer work (6 in theaters)

NOTE THE NEW POLICY: If you want me to say something about any of the films viewed, please ask. I will be more than happy to speak on their qualities. If not, I shall keep mum.

the Brith of a Cineaste (1998-present)

After I broke up with the girlfriend who hated movies, I almost immediately entered into a relationship with a girlfriend who loved movies.

I had a lot of catching up to do.

I have two impulses that are pretty strong in me. One, if you deny me something for specious or arbitrary reasons, I will want it more. Two, if you tell me I can't do something, I will do it more just to defy you.

My first tentative encounter with the Charles happened just as they opened under the present management. I saw the second half of a Saturday Night Fever/Pulp Fiction double feature. Through my work for the A&E section of my college newspaper, I began attending critical and preview screenings there. It was at a screening of Kissed that I think that my love for the place, then still a one screen, solidified.

The Senator came into play during the Star Wars digital ruinings of late 1990s. I was there for more than that, of course, seeing many mainstream and classic films there over the years. I am especially grateful for my experience of a "proper" screening of Laurence of Arabia before the ol' gal entered into her current season of local band sucktitude. The place has really nuked the soup recently, if you ask me.

The Rotunda was owned by the Loews chain the middle to late 1990s, and used to screen arthouse fare, forcefully exercising its clearance over the Charles on many occasions. I saw Requiem for a Dream, the Virgin Suicides, You Can Count on Me, and many other films there that you might have expected me to have caught at the Charles.

My old interests rekindled, I added the recent explosion of American Independent cinema to the agenda. If I had the time, I was at the movies. If you were talking to me, I probably wanted to talk to you about film. If it was a nice sunny day out, I could be found in a darkened auditorium.

On one level, it is silly to talk about this person who is still me now. Clearly, a person who keeps a bi-monthly blog on film exhibition in Baltimore still has a more than healthy film habit. You know how I feel when it comes to the cinema: go hard or go home.

After a year's campaign, I got a part-time job at the Charles in 2003, and the rest is history.

Next month, I will devote this space once again to the goings on at the various local theaters. I hope this nostalgic exercise wasn't too painful. Before then, my Films Viewed (February 2010).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Films Viewed (January 2010)

Sherlock Holmes
42nd Street
Stingray Sam
The Young Victoria
Letters from Iwo Jima
Broken Embraces
Gold Diggers of 1933
Young Mr. Lincoln
A Single Man
Swing Time
Footlight Parade
Crazy Heart

The Charles
The Rotunda
The Landmark Harbor East
Other (Video Americain, DVD, the Internet)
Total: 13 films, 1 short film (9 in theaters)

Notes: Although I will be including this in my Films Viewed next month, I thought it would be important to mention Putty Hill, the new feature by local filmmaker Matthew Porterfield. It seems like he hasn't caught too many breaks since the critical success of his extremely impressive directorial debut Hamilton. Of course, this is the case in the larger independent filmmaking community when it comes to funding and financing in these time of economic crisis. I attended a screening/benefit, and was impressed by what I saw. To find out more and donate to the cause, go here.

My filmwatching has been impacted by the re-start of school and another task I am engaging in for the Maryland Film Festival. This second task is secret but important. I can say no more.

I had two bad screening experiences this month: Sherlock Holmes and Swing Time. Sherlock Holmes' bad time was due to the print being projected "dark." Either something was wrong with the projector/print or Guy Ritchie has made a truly murky film. I am thinking it was the former. My problem with Swing Time came not from any technical problem but from the sequences between the dancing. I am very forgiving of hokey old-timey filmic conventions, but this one took the cake. I say watch Fred and Ginger dancing on Youtube instead. I also suspect my viewing of a few episodes of the rapid-fire 30 Rock earlier that morning kept me from getting too into the swing of things.

Conversely, I have had no problem getting into the Busby Berkeley films which the Charles theater revival series has been on a tear through recently. Those sequences are surreal and amazing.

Two winners which will be playing locally whenever the Charles manages to dig out and open their doors again would be A Single Man and Crazy Heart. As someone who has always had an affinity for the aesthetics and about-to-explode-in-revolution culture of the early 1960s, A Single Man was a direct hit, telling an engaging, tragic story in high style. Go and be enveloped in another time and place. Crazy Heart is a minor miracle, the same old story told one more time, but with feeling. Jeff Bridges is in the role he was born to play, and the rest of the cast is on par (even Colin Farrell). The music ain't half-bad either, and that is coming from someone who is very choosy about his Country and Western. The Charles needed another Slumdog Millionaire, and it looks like they found it.

Finally, is is nice to be able to watch a short film and then be able to say that you can watch it here right now. Otherwise, it was Ford, Almodovar, and Eastwood, independent nuttiness and low-brow humor of the first order.

Up next, the final installment in my recent series, The Birth of the Cineaste (1997-present). Stay safe and warm, Baltimore!

Monday, January 25, 2010

the Lost Years of the Cineaste (1995-1997)

For two years, I didn't watch movies.

"Oh... come on! You? For two years?"

Yes. Two years.

It is a bit of a simplification, but it is essentially true.

For two and a half years, I was in a relationship with someone who did not like films.

We got along on most other levels, but she wasn't interested in this activity.

That meant no weekend trips to see first-runs, no snowbound rental marathons, no catching something odd on the television. Nothing.

To be fair, I was also busy being a full-time college student who worked two part-time jobs who was also in a full-time rock and roll band. But, still! The conveyor belt shut down and I was out of the loop, creating a gap in my filmic knowledge that makes it appear as if I was out of the country at that time.

Clearly, there is not a lot to say about this era. I present instead a list:


1. Se7en (1995)

Yes, one of my favorite contemporary directors made this apparently stunning film and I still haven't seen it. I tried once at a noisy college party. No dice. I rented it in anticipation of this list and ran out of time. Clearly, I need to see this thing. Some guy named Pitt is pretty good in it, I hear.

2. The City of Lost Children (1995)

It is insane that I haven't seen this film. It makes no sense considering how much I have enjoyed and/or felt obligated to see Caro and/or Jeunet's other works (Delicatessen, Amelie, A Long Engagement). Some day soon I will rent this and fill in this critical gap.

3. Apollo 13 (1995)

Epic space film starring Tom Hanks? C'mon, EVERYBODY saw that one! Not me...

4. Toy Story (1995)

Okay, this one I would have skipped initially, but considering its impact and influence, you figure I would have rented it or caught it at some holiday gathering. Not the case.

5. Independence Day (1996)

While everyone else was in line to catch this mega-blockbuster that July 4th weekend, I was in the studio recording an EP with my band. I caught part of it on cable recently and was amused by what a time capsule the film has become. Oh, to recall to time in America when we had no clear enemies and endless faith in computers!

6. The Apostle (1997)

With an acclaimed preformance by Robert Duvall, this is the kind of movie I will be all over very shorty. Not then and not yet.

7. Mission: Impossible (1996)

Tom Cruise on wires? Brian DePalma at the helm? Sounds like a guilty pleasure, but I have yet to indulge. This non-viewing has led me to not see the entire series as I assumed I would be unable to follow the storyline. This is silly.

8. Hackers (1995)

I guess I get a pass on this one considering my college-age at time of this "teen film", but some hold this (apparently) horrible and hysterically inaccurate film in high cult-esteem these days. Perhaps one day when I need to laugh, I will happen upon it on VHS at the thrift store.

9. Dead Man Walking (1995)

This is sort of acclaimed, serious drama I would have found gripping some rainy afternoon. Instead, I was off combing thrift store bins in search of rare records for a dollar (vinyl was cheap because it was SO DEAD at the time).

10. Amistad (1997)

Stephen Spielberg tackles slavery and I was either working at the school post office or the writing center when I wasn't desperately trying to suss out the lyrics I had warbled on my band's latest practice tape.

So, that is that. As I will explain in my next installment, this deprivation is extremely important, as without it there would be no true Birth of the Cineaste (1998- present). Before then, my handful of Films Viewed (January 2010).

Monday, January 4, 2010

Films Viewed (December 2009)

Fantastic Mister Fox
Kids + Money
The Devils
La Danse
La Belle Personne
Trouble in Paradise
Fanny and Alexander: The Television Version (Act One)
Red Cliff
Avatar (3-D)
La Haine
The Kid Stays in the Picture
Happy Endings
Near Dark
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
Santa Claus (MST3K version)
Up in the Air
What's Opera, Doc?
A Night at the Opera
An Education
Casa de los Babys
The Maid
Me and Orson Welles
Flags of our Fathers
Fantastic Mister Fox

The Charles
The Rotunda
The Landmark Harbor East
Other (Video Americain, Projected Laptop, Wholphin)
Total: 24 films, 1 short film, 1 animated short (15 in theaters)

Notes: You know it has been a good movie month when the list begin and end with screenings of Fantastic Mister Fox.

The count has clearly been boosted by snow hibernation.

This month I will let the list speak for itself. Yes, go see it in 3-D. Yes, that movie is totally deserving all the critical acclaim. Yes, that movie is a work of pure twisted genius.