18 April 2012

Hello Blogging My Old Friend

Wow! I hadn't realized how long my hiatus was until I started working on this post. Thankfully, I've got the whole interweb thing figured out and finally working so I will not be away for so long again. Can I just say I really missed you?

So much has happened, too much really, that I'm just going to focus on the films shown at my eponymous movie club. I'm really trying to take it back to my original intention so we are alternating between older/classic films and more modern fare. This year, I'm also trying to focus on a different genre each month and choosing a film that perfectly encaptures it.

Where we left off:

"The Apartment" (1960)
Director: Billy Wilder (Seven Year Itch, Sunset Blvd., Some Like It Hot, legend)
Starring: Shirley MacLaine, Jack Lemmon, Fred MacMurray
Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Art Director, Best Editing. Nominations: Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Cinematography, Best Sound

"The Apartment" is one of my favourite movies. I can remember seeing it when I was fairly young (big shocker) and didn't know what it was about. Now, it amazes me that this movie was made at all and I wonder if it could still be made successfully today. What would it be rated? Surely not the PG it received from the Hays office.

"I'm too old for that sort of thing, I mean; in a VW."

Bud (Lemmon) is a young man trying to work his way to the top at work. Unfortunately, he's a bit misguided and lets executives use his apartment for their trysts. When his boss Mr. Sheldrake begins to use it, he brings over the colourful and carefree elevator operator Bud likes named Fran (MacLaine). Soon it becomes apparent that this scheme isn't going to work out and Bud must come to terms with the consequences of standing up for the girl of his dreams and potentially losing his career.

"The mirror is broken."
"Yes, I know. It makes me look the way I feel."

"The Apartment" is full of the typical bon mots we expect and love from Lemmon and MacLaine and McMurray (of My Three Sons fame) is deliciously evil as a boss and lover with few morals or ethics. It is a must see for fans of comedy and the actors, as well as a must for those who place a high emphasis on award wins.

"Tomie" (1998/1999)
Director: Ataru Oikawa
Starring: Miho Karro, Mami Nakamura, Yoriko Doguchi

I saw this movie for the first time after the cover art caught my eye at Blockbuster. It is the kind of movie you watch and when it's over ask yourself, "What the heck just happened?" I couldn't have told you the story or what it was about other than there was a head in a bag and it grew a body (as if you need to know anything more than that!). I must have watched it three times and could never say more than that! If you like it, there are also several sequels of varying success. Watching this again with the club made me feel a bit silly. The plot is not nearly as absent as I remember, but the film is still an easy entrance to the world of modern Japanese horror films and perfect if you have a group with members who are uncomfortable around anything scary.

Tsukiko is a troubled young woman who can't remember what happened in her past to make her so. She seeks the help of a psychiatrist who through hypnoses uncovers a name- Tomie. Who Tomie was and why she is haunting Tsukiko becomes the core of the movie. At the same time, a detective is investigating a rash of serial murders that also uncovers the name Tomie. A young man has the aforementioned head in the bag and talks to it. It talks back. I won't give away more for fear of ruining it, but the identity of the killer, Tomie, and what happened to our heroine as a child are all revealed.

Perfect for lovers of Asian cinema and Japanese horror especially. Also good for anyone looking for a good mystery with a bit of blood in it.

"The Searchers" (1956)
Director: John Ford (Grapes of Wrath, Stagecoach, How Green Was My Valley)
Starring: John Wayne, Natalie Wood, Vera Miles, Jeffery Hunter
Awards: DGA nomination, AFI #1 Western, AFI Top 100 Films #12

To agree with AFI is a bit redundant, but this is my favourite Western as well. It showcases the quintessential Wayne hero/curmudgeon and is beautifully shot, acted, and written. What else would you expect from the grandfather of Westerns, Ford?

"Ethan, I gotta ask you and Martin to take a ride to the State Capital."
"Is this an invite to a necktie party, Reverend?"

Shortly after Ethan Edwards (Wayne) comes home from the civil war, his brother's ranch is attacked by Indians (sorry P.C. people!) and everyone is killed except his youngest niece who is kidnapped. Ethan forms a search party and spends years looking for her. Finally, he finds her, all grown up, and played by Natalie Wood in what would normally be an embarrassing performance. Having lived with the Comanche for so long, can she be rescued?

"That'll be the day."

"The Searchers" is a long movie, but one with enough weight and importance behind it to make the time sail by. The male actors really shine as does Miles, as the young woman in love with a member of the searching party. The film holds true today with its themes of racism, family, and war. A must for Western lovers, but seriously; if you're a fan of Westerns you've probably already seen it. Otherwise, it is simply a must see for everyone.

[side note: A great drinking game- Drink every time Wayne says something snarky or acts like a smart ass. You'll be pleasantly buzzed before the end of the first reel.]

"La Haine (Hate)" (1995)
Director: Mathieu Kassovitz
Starring: Vincent Cassel, Hubert Kounde, Said Taghmaoui
Awards: Best Director (Cannes), Best Editing, Film, & Producer (Cesar Awards), Best Young Film (European Film Awards), Best Director & Film (Lumiere Awards), Empire Magazine 100 Best Films of World Cinema #32

Mathieu Kassovitz made a name for himself by making films that addressed social and political subjects in a youthful and fresh way. Most American movie goers will know him as the love interest in "Amelie" and I encourage you to seek out his French films as well.

"Jusqu'ici tout va bien..." ("So far, so good...")
Centering around the race riots in the Paris ghettos, "La Haine" follows the lives of three friends during a 24-hour period. The trio represent an almost unlikely alliance in France: Vinz- Jewish, Said- Muslim, and Hubert- African/French. Each responds slightly differently to the riots and police brutality effecting their community. They both try to go about their day as normally as possible and try to find someone to blame for the beating of their friend Abdel. The ending is one that you will talk about for years to come and the conversation that stemed from this film was one of the best in the clubs history.

"La Haine" doesn't pretend to have the solution to Frances difficulty, not does it delve to deeply into what caused this horrific level of hate amoungst the haves and have nots, the white protestant and everyone else. It does give you something to think about. The film regained the spotlight again in 2005 after Kassovitz criticized then Home Office Minister Nicolas Sarkozy (now President) made racist comments following another bout of riots in and around Paris. The transcripts of those conversations is priceless!


  1. Glad to see one of my favorite blogs back in business. I hope you stick around!

    Of those films, I've only seen LA HAINE, which I just can't get myself to like no matter how many times I watch it. I mean, I do like it, but the Spike Lee influence is a bit too much for me to take the film seriously. I love Vincent Cassell, though, as you probably know. TOMIE sounds great, but I have to be in a mood for weird Japanese horror.

  2. It's funny, I hadn't really thought of the Lee influence. We watched it more for influence from Scorsese! YOu would really dig "Tomie". Let me know what you think once you see it!