TIFF Review: Restless

“Things go a certain way. Then they don’t.” Almost a fitting description of the love story at the heart of Gus Van Sant’s Restless. The story of a suicidal Enoch (Henry Hopper, son of Dennis) who draws himself into chalk-outlines for morbid fun and his pixie-dreamgirl, Annabel (Mia Wasikowska – excellent), who is more serene than manic, luminously dying of brain cancer. The film charts their budding romance as fall turns to winter in Portland, Oregon and how both of them come to terms with death. The film might have just a bit too much quirk for the rather heavy subject matter, but for those willing or able to get emotionally invested beyond the directors self-awareness, things can, perhaps, be extrapolated to a universal human condition. Self denial, or at the very least, a healthy suspension of disbelieve is required of the viewer as much at the characters practice this at every turn. An awareness of the typical cliches inherent in this type of movie, and how Gus Van Sant both both embraces and subverts them are at times revealing. They are are onto something even as they often jerk the audiences chain. If not for the bittersweet blend of earnestness and sly self-awareness, Restless would surely fall into the tar-pit of sugary schmaltz that plagues Good Will Hunting and Finding Forrester. Call this film a curious hybrid of the directors ‘mainstream’ mode and more experimental ‘Death Trilogy’ (Gerry, Elephant, Last Days) mode, although it very much leans towards the former.

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Shorts Program: Logorama

“Shorts Program” is a semi-regular column highlighting a short film that is well worth your time. If you have a short film you would like to share, drop us a line at marina@rowthree.com.

Old Big-Boy

Idiocracy ain’t got nuthin’ on this!

Logorama, which could take home an Oscar next month, probably takes the vulgarity prize (in both language and aesthetic) and would very likely make Naomi Klein (author of No Logo) cry. Along with Klein, probably a few brand managers and intellectual property lawyers. The creators are equal opportunity offenders! The ‘story,’ such that it is, follows Ronald McDonald on an OJ like cop chase through a cartoon Los Angeles where every person, building and car is constructed out of corporate logos. Yes, you can get lost just looking at background insanity, or follow a couple of Micheline Men cops trying to gun down old Ronnie and save Big Boy, the Pringles Guy and a cute Esso-gal. The animators here are having a blast, even though their symbols may be obvious (uh, kinda the point!), the energy and mayhem is infectious. Not just products and services, but film fonts and symbols, environmental groups and everything under the sun (even the open source Linux Penguin!) gets tarred and feathered with a broad brush which, appropriately is structured and executed like a modern Hollywood Blockbuster. Surely the collapse of the Western world is happening due to copyright-gone-wild and capitalist cannibalism. (Fun Fact: David Fincher, who also laid the satirical smack down on capitalism and violence in 1999s Fight Club is voice of the Pringles Man and Seven screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker is also lending his voice to the proceedings.)

Logorama was (of course!) made and produced by an ad firm, the French H5 Design Collective and directed by François Alaux. The entire 16 minute short is tucked under the seat. Enjoy!

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Bookmarks for November 20th

What we’ve been reading over the past week or so.

  • For Your Consideration: 25 Things The Academy Got Right In The 2000s
    As hard as it is for those prone to bitching about the Academy to admit, they don’t always get it wrong. In fact, it was surprisingly easy to find twenty-five examples of where they most certainly got it right (though mind you, it was even easier finding fifty things they got wrong). So for what it’s worth, here are my picks in descending order for your anticipatory pleasure. Unlike the 50 snubs, I opened to up to all categories, since, again, there wasn’t quite the plethora of options.
  • REEL TRUTH: Why Women Should Stay Away from Twilight
    Twilight was never supposed to get this big. It looked like it was simply meant to be a high brow straight to DVD film. Instead it turned the media world into complete chaos and because of that, females of many different ages fell into the beautiful lies Twilight created to make us believe about Bella and Edward’s intense karmic connection. Funny how so many women avoid or are completely unaware of the many flaws and bullsh*t they eat up from the series, but today is the day I am going to attempt to open their eyes to see how using Twilight as a guide book/film to dating will only bring disappointment to your love life.
  • David Lynch on Going to India to Shoot His Next Movie
    During his downtime, Lynch is working to bring meditation into schools worldwide. Vulture caught up with Lynch at the Russian Tea Room on Sunday, before his scheduled speaking engagement with the Hudson Union Society, to discuss his favorite directors, the importance of final cut, and how his next film project will take him to India.
  • Film features: The Story Behind Fight Club
    Reese Witherspoon, Sean Penn and Courtney Love might’ve starred in Fight Club? I think we’re all glad that it ended up the way it did. Here is how David Fincher brought this iconic film to realization.
  • Fantastic Planet (La planète sauvage, 1973)/De Profundis (2007) (Ferdy on Films, etc.)
    Marilyn Ferdinand looks at two unusually artistic (in the sense of looking like paintings) animated films, arguing for the continuation of this art form and its peculiar emotional pull in the face of modern computer animation.
  • Sundance Film Festival Unveils 2010 New Frontier Lineup
    In the first of its announcements for its upcoming 2010 program, Sundance Institute revealed Wednesday the selection of 13 artists from six countries whose works will be presented as part of the New Frontier sidebar at Sundance Film Festival. A collection of digital art, film screenings, multimedia performances, site-specific installations and video presentations will take part in what organizers promise to be “a fully immersive media lounge” for festival goers to experience throughout the event.
  • Up and Up!
    Last week, Disney/Pixar released to the home-viewing market Up, their CGI-animated colorfest that just happens to share a name with a 1976 fuckfest by Russ Meyer (the latter adds an exclamation mark just to convey how excited it is to exist). It would seem that an animated film about a man who saves his life from the shadows of the twilight years by attaching thousands of balloons to his house, sailing to a far-off land and saving a rare bird species from exploitation has little in common with a who-killed-Hitler murder mystery that’s a thinly veiled excuse to showcase people having (softcore but graphic) simulated sex while Kitten Natividad narrates it all as the one-woman Greek chorus. However, there are more similarities than you might think.
  • Only Eight of This Decade’s Best Picture Nominees Are Original
    You would think that there would be a huge divide between the most profitable and the most critically acclaimed films of this decade, right? You would think that while mainstream America flocks to established properties, the Academy of Motion Pictures would lean more towards rewarding originality. Not So… /Film commenter Keith points out that only 8 of the 45 Academy Award Best Picture nominees of this decade (so far) are originals.
  • ‘Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans’ Producers Want It To Spawn A Franchise
    Producers Alan and Gabe Polsky hope to continue the “Bad Lieutenant” name as an ongoing franchise. Given the successful collaboration of Herzog and Cage, and before them Ferrara and Keitel, the Polskys admit they’d like to go further with other “interesting combos” for more stand-alone “Bad Lieutenant” installments. They specifically propose the director/actor team-ups of Darren Aronofsky and Brad Pitt and Michel Gondry and Bill Murray, which both sound like great ideas.
  • Top 10 Bad Messages From Good Movies
    Sometimes it can be hard to see the messages a movie teaches, especially if they’re unintentional. The best way to see a movie’s messages, and bad ones in particular, is to be a parent watching the movie with your kids. Suddenly you find yourself talking to your kids after you leave the theater or after the video finishes playing at home, just to see if they picked up on the bad messages. Then, if they did, you can try to do some damage control.
  • Bad Boys Grow Up
    Tarantino and Almodóvar finally make films equal to the ones they’ve always claimed as inspirations. Tarantino came to be regarded as a hyped-up pop culture junkie spritzing bloodshed and movie references in equal measure. And Almodóvar was thought of as something like the post-Franco John Waters, mixing ’50s Hollywood-style melodrama with cheerful hedonism awash in sex and drugs. At this year’s New York Film Festival, it was Almodóvar’s latest, “Broken Embraces,” that was chosen for the closing night slot. And about a month before the festival, Tarantino’s latest film, “Inglourious Basterds,” became the unlikeliest hit of the year. What links both of these films is that, for each filmmaker, they represent a point at which they demonstrate a mastery of craft equal to the Hollywood films that inspired them.

Bookmarks for November 9th

What we’ve been reading over the past week or so.

  • Paranormal Activity Will Not Save American Horror
    Paranormal Activity isn’t the beginning of a horror revolution, it’s the first financially positive after-effect from the ‘revolution’ 10 years ago. That’s a long time for a good idea to pay off just once. So studios will continue to play it safe, file this away as a fluke (which it is), make the sequel, and continue on with their lives.
  • Best & Worst: Movie Star Websites
    These days, all the chatter online seems to be about social networking – your Twitters, your Facebooks and such. But cinema stars are still maintaining websites hoping to entice fans to follow their work/buy crap with their name or face on it and pimp their latest musings. We decided to trawl the depths of the magical intarwebs to take a look at some of the cream of the crop – and some that are just rotten.
  • Why The Hell Was “Christmas Carol” Released Now?!?!
    Doesn’t it make more sense for Disney’s “A Christmas Carol” to be released closer to the more appropriate holiday?
  • Mainstream Media attention to new doc COLLAPSE is attention-worthy itself
    What’s incontrovertible is that we’re right now living through the giddiest age of apocalyptic cultural ferment that any of us have ever experienced. I think it’s safe to say that it tops the ones that accompanied the turn of the 20th century, and the advent of World Wars I and II, and the Depression era, and the social and cultural upheavals and meltdowns of the sixties and seventies, and the turn of the 21st century.
  • Artistic Childrens Films Are Getting Darker these days
    …where the regressive infantilism of grown-up comedies and action pictures is answered by a grave precocity. A movie like “Where the Wild Things Are” or “Fantastic Mr. Fox” play a kind of reverse dress-up, disguising adult anxieties in the costumes of innocent make-believe and fanciful spectacle. […] The impulse to protect children from these kinds of stories is understandable. Like adults, they experience plenty of hard feelings in their daily lives and they may want, as we do, to use movies and books as a form of escape. Bright colors, easy lessons and thrilling rides that end safely and predictably on terra firma have their place. But so, surely, do representations of the grimmer, thornier thickets of experience. That’s what art is, and surely our children deserve some of that too. Which includes movies that elicit displeasure and argument along with rapture.
  • Michael Haneke Uncut
    Talking shop, theory, and practice with the director of The White Ribbon, Cache, Time of The Wolf, Code Unknown, Funny Games and Benny’s Video.
  • Fight Club @ 10
    The secret to the enduring allure of “Fight Club” may be that it is, as Mr. Norton put it, quoting Mr. Fincher, “a serious film made by deeply unserious people.” In other words, a film as willing to take on profound questions as it is to laugh at and contradict itself: what is “Fight Club” if not the most fashionable commercial imaginable for anti-materialism? A movie of big ideas and abundant ambiguities, it can be read and reread in many ways.
  • Zhang says ‘Blood Simple’ has shades of [Stephen] Chow
    Zhang said his new film has shades of Chow’s signature nonsensical humor, but doesn’t go as far as the Hong Kong comedian known for “Shaolin Soccer” and “Kung Fu Hustle.” “There are some parts where we go crazy like Stephen Chow, but we don’t go as crazy,” he said..
  • Top 10 Cameron Crowe Moments
    Personally I’d put the “Tiny Dancer” scene from “Almost Famous” in my top ten scenes of all time, period. But here is CNN’s picks for best Cameron Crowe scenes.

Bookmarks for August 17th

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What we’ve been reading – August 17th:

  • Quentin Tarantino in His Own Words
    The House Next Door on Q.T. — As some readers may know, I’m not the world’s most enthusiastic defender of Quentin Tarantino; I discussed my reservations about him a while back with my friend Keith Uhlich, the managing editor of The House Next Door, a Time Out New York film critic and an unabashed Tarantino booster. But because I do admire Tarantino’s idiosyncratic style, and because some of Keith’s arguments made me question my assumptions
  • Quentin Tarantino’s favorite films post-Reservoir Dogs
    I believe this is an older video, from around 2007, but hey, it is making the rounds virally at the moment. Film Junk listed out the films to make it even easier.
  • Mathematical Model for Surviving a Zombie Attack | Wired.com
    Math could play a key role in quelling a zombie outbreak and when to quarantine, etc.

IMDB’s Top 250 – How Accurate Is It?

Like all of us who spend a good deal of time here on Row Three, I love movies. However, (and I say this without knowing the depth or breadth of each person’s particular obsession), the way we express this love differs from individual to individual. For instance, one of the particular ways that my affair with all things cinematic has manifested itself is in an enormous excel database, one that I have been maintaining for six years now (in fact, it all started six years ago yesterday). In this database, I have compiled, among other things, daily viewing logs for every day since August 16, 2002 (there’s no real significance to that date…it’s just when I decided to start keeping track of this information), which I cross-reference with an alphabetical list of films and the days on which I viewed them. On March 19, 2003, the day the U.S. first launched the war against Iraq, I was busy watching The Big Bird Cage, a Roger Corman-produced exploitation film starring Pam Grier. The film I’ve seen the most since August 16, 2002 is Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller, which I’ve viewed 10 times in the past 6 years.

One of the spreadsheets I put together as part of this database was a list of IMDB’s Top-250 films, which I did with the express intent of watching every film on that list. To date, I’ve been fairly successful, with only 8 films on the list that I still need to see. The problem is that the top-250 I laid out for myself was from December 15, 2002. Looking at today’s IMDB top 250, the number I have yet to see has jumped to 17. Furthermore, only five of the films I haven’t seen from my original 2002 list are even on the newest top 250. Three of them (The Others, You Can Count on Me and The Man Who Would Be King) have dropped off completely.

Even the five that appear on both lists have shifted positions since 2002, some significantly:

Das Boot (#36 on the list in 2002, #66 on the current list)
Double Indemnity (#44 in 2002, #54 now)
It Happened One Night (#112 then, #130 now)
Arsenic and Old Lace (#131 then, #241 now)
His Girl Friday (#148 then, #231 now)

The new additions to the Top-250 that I haven’t seen are:

The Lives of Others
Oldboy
Kind Hearts and Coronets
Brief Encounter
Sleuth (1972)
The Lady Vanishes
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
The Kid (1921)
Stalker
Ace in the Hole
Hate (La Haine)
Great Expectations (1946)

Now, the additions of The Lives of Others, Oldboy, and The Diving Bell and Butterfly make perfect sense; none of those films had been released at the time the 2002 list was compiled. What’s surprising is that the remaining nine are considerably older, and were around in 2002. Kind Hearts and Coronets, released in 1950 and completely left off the 2002 list, is now #140 on the current Top-250. Why the 110-position surge? I originally thought the answer might be DVD related, that the release of the film to the home market may have influenced its standing, but Kind Hearts and Coronets was first released on DVD in the U.S. three months prior to the 2002 list I copied (I don’t know when it was released in other markets). Has the film found a recent audience, or did a few zealous Alec Guinness fans ‘stack the deck’, taking the time to create hundreds of accounts on IMDB in order to vote it onto the list?

Other films have also changed significantly. Some (released around 2002 amid a great deal of hype, only to see the furor dwindle by 2008) make sense. Others don’t. Here are a few of the other ‘list shifts’:

Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (dropped from #5 in 2002 to #20 today)
Citizen Kane (#4 in 2002 to #29 today)
Lawrence of Arabia (#22 then, #35 now)
Raging Bull (fell 20 places, from #51 then to #71 now)
Touch of Evil (down a whopping 35 places, from #58 then to #93 now)
.
.
.
.
Still other films on 2002’s list have now dropped off completely, and not just ones that were at the bottom to begin with:

All the President’s Men (was #171 in 2002…gone today)
The Iron Giant (#198 in 2002, also gone today)
Miller’s Crossing (from #205 to oblivion)
The Untouchables (#215 to nowhere to be found)
Clerks (#217 to nothing)

Of course, not every film has dropped. Some have even increased in popularity over the last 6 years:

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (#27 in 2002, #5 today)
Pulp Fiction (up 13 places, from #19 in 2002 to #6 today)
12 Angry Men (from #24 in 2002 to #10 today)
Fight Club (was #37 in 2002, and now it’s #23)
A Clockwork Orange (jumped from #64 in 2002 to #48 today)
.
.
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And for the record, the #’s 1 and 2 films in 2002 were The Godfather (#1), followed by The Shawshank Redemption (#2). Today, #’s 1 and 2 are The Shawshank Redemption (#1) followed by The Godfather (#2)

So, how reliable do you feel the IMDB top-250 list is in determining the likes and dislikes of its contributors? Can it be heavily influenced by a ‘fad’ mentality (The Dark Knight is still sitting at #3 overall on the current list), or does it do a good job in detailing the tastes of the hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of film fans who vote on a regular basis?

What do you think?