Classic Film Review : Five Easy Pieces (1970)

IMDB Score – 7.5
Rotten Tomato Score – 86%
Academy Award Nominee for Best Picture, Best Actor (Jack Nicholson), Best Supporting Actress (Karen Black), Best Original Screenplay
Netflix Watch Instant

Directed By – Bob Rafelson
Starring – Jack Nicholson, Karen Black, Bill Green Bush, Susan Anspach, Sally Struthers, Ralph Waite, and Lois Smith

A drop-out from upper-class America picks up work along the way on oil-rigs when his life isn’t spent in a squalid succession of bars, motels, and other points of interest.

I have a confession to make. I actually watch two films before this one and I’m not going to write about them because I didn’t enjoy them like I thought I would and even so, I have no idea what the hell I’d write about. The films are “El Topo” and “The Holy Mountain”. What batshit insane films. The only way that I’ll watch those again is if I’m wasted and it’s okay to shout. I’m still going to watch “Santa Sangre” though. I just felt like disclosing that.

What is it about Jack Nicholson when he was young in which I instantly see Jack Torrance in every one of his roles. It’s easy to see how perfect he was for that role because you can see little pieces of Jack in all his characters. This is no different. Jack plays Bobby, a, well, he’s a dick. The film starts out with him working on an oil rig and being a total bastard to his girlfriend Rayette, played by Karen Black. Rayette is a dumb southern belle who doesn’t know what the hell is good for her and puts up with his shit until Bobby gets word his father is ill and they both ride up to Washington to see him.

The film marks the first award nomination for Jack in the Best Actor category and although he didn’t win, gave one hell of a performance. The transformation he goes through, or seems to go through during the film was heavily helped by Jack’s performance as the direction of the film was just kinda of shabby. The story was interesting but the camera work and editing was flat as it left me a bit confused when the scenes changed. It wasn’t a fluid transition. Besides Black, Susan Anspach gave a great performance as the wife of Bobby’s brother, a woman who would go toe to toe with Nicholson on more than one occasion and hold up to him.

The film ended up being a nice watch for fans of acting and the ending to the film, while a little bleak, was fitting and true to the character of Bobby. The film was also one of the beginning films that started a new era of Hollywood. It’s just a shame Rafelson couldn’t join the ranks of Hal Ashby and other great directors of that time. He tried though.

3.5/5

Suggested Viewing – Last Picture Show, Midnight Cowboy, Paris Texas




Classic Review : Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)

IMDB Score – 7.2
Rotten Tomato Score – 100%
Nominated for four Oscars including Best Editing, Best Sound, Best Writing, and Best Actor (John Wayne)

Directed By – Allan Dwan
Starring – John Wayne, John Agar, Forrest Tucker, Wally Cassell, James Brown, Richard Webb, and Adele Mara

A dramatization of the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima.

My Netflix dvd queue is a funny machine. I had about 13 films in front of this but every single one of them wasn’t available when it was time to ship out so I was surprised when this came in the mail. I honestly forgot all about it but was eager to sit down and watch an old film as it’s been way too long due to all the films from last year that I’ve been cramming in my face. There are so many older films that I’m finally going to be able to sit down and watch now that my Netflix queue is starting to get older and this pleases me. I’d rather watch bad film from the 40s than a bad film from last year any day. “Sand of Iwo Jima” ended up being a completely patriotic cookie cutter of a film but when you’re watching John Wayne and his infinite manliness, it doesn’t really matter.

The film follows a group of soldiers through boot camp to the…well…sands of Iwo Jima. John Stryker is the leader of this group, played by the manliest man of all men, John Wayne. Stryker is kind of a mix between drill instructor Hartman from “Full Metal Jacket” and Tom Berenger from “Platoon”. The men don’t like him. He is tough as nails and don’t take no shit from NOBODY! You had plans to get laid over the weekend? I don’t think so! Looks to me like your bed is a little uneven. That will be a revocation of your weekend pass soldier. Seriously, this exact scenario played out in the film. Wayne, who would later go on to earn his first Oscar nomination for the role, was made to play this character. He takes nobodies shit and dishes out punishment. He ended up giving one of the performances of his career as we follow Stryker through his bouts of alcoholism, regrets, anger, and acceptance. The films co-star, John Agar, plays one of the privates who claims to be an intellectual and finds his Sargent deplorable. What plays out for the next two hours is a cookie cutter production of every single war cliche that has ever happened. Yet, with this being a mere four years after WWII ended, it’s obvious that this film was made as a symbolic power fist in the air for America, and for that I can put up with it.

One cool aspect of the film is that they spliced a lot of great real footage from Iwo Jima and other pacific battles into the film. If you know what you’re looking for, you can spot the actual footage which is always an interesting watch. I’ve always been interested in the years we went to war and the film shed more light on what it was actually like to run up those beaches into a hail of gunfire. Due to the time of its release, you’re not really getting anything gritty or brutal. The men who get killed on screen just kid of fall down or do that clutching to the chest as they slowly let gravity bring them to the sand. Like I said, cliche and cheesy. It was however a great display of acting from Wayne and a much needed break from the glitter and glamour of films released this year.

2.5/5

Suggested Viewing – The Longest Day, Bridge on the River Kwai, Band of Brothers: The Pacific



Documentary Review : Cutie and the Boxer (2013)

IMDB Score – 7.2
Rotten Tomato Score – 96%
Academy Award Nominee for Best Documentary
ON NETFLIX WATCH INSTANT

Directed By – Zachary Heinzerling

This candid New York love story explores the chaotic 40-year marriage of famed boxing painter Ushio Shinohara and his wife, Noriko. Anxious to shed her role as her overbearing husband’s assistant, Noriko finds an identity of her own.

I am sick. I am sitting in bed trying to breath and constantly asking myself why I have to suffer like this every time the temperature changes. It’s my semi-annual hell hole and it’s also an excuse to watch some films lazily in my bed. My first film ended up being such a joy to watch that I don’t know if I’m going to continue my viewings so I don’t lose this feeling I have.

“Cutie and the Boxer” is a film about a married Japanese couple, Ushio and Noriko Shinohara, who are trying to make a living selling their art in New York City. They have been artists for decades and the film chronicles their artistic journey as well as the journey they take in their relationship.

Let me get this out of the way first. This is a gorgeously shot film. Zachary Heinzerling eloquently constructed this film by focusing on the intimate way that these two artists live their lives. Nothing is held back and we soon realize that holding nothing back is the entire nature of their relationship. It’s really as if Heinzerling isn’t in the room with them as they discuss the problems they have with each other with smiles instead of frowns. They are open books and Heinzerling was able to capture some real forms of the human heart and spirit while following the couple. The film also utilizes a fantastic score by Yasuaki Shimizu. Saxophones and Cellos routinely fill the scenes captured by the camera and add a light and peaceful atmosphere to the film. It’s one of those scores that kind of gets under your skin and makes what you’re watching more relaxing and content. That and I’m a sucker for anything with an oriental feel to it.

The art displayed in the film is pretty fantastic. Perhaps the most interesting art is the pieces that give Ushio his nickname, “The Boxer”, where he straps on boxing gloves filled with paint and punches a canvas from left to right. Did I mention that this man is 80 years old? It just goes to prove that there is something in the Japanese gene that makes them live forever and do amazing work while doing so. Ushio is also a gifted sculture, making make acid filled fantasies from cardboard, usually involving motorcycles. His wife, Noriko, is also a gifted artist and focused more on the art of drawing. Her “Cutie” series chronicles the early part of her relationship with her husband as they raise a child together, mostly while Ushio is piss drunk. This is where the open-ness of the film lies. Her work is literally a series of painting and drawings that highlight how difficult it was to be married to Ushio and standing next to her is that same man with a smile on his face. It’s one of those relationships where you know they’ll stick together through everything due to them being two individual souls spending their own lives together instead of trying to make a single life from two people. I always thought those kind of relationships were the best at making it all the way.

The film also focuses on what it’s like for two people who happen to be artists to share a life together in a business sense. They are both vying for a chance to have their work shown at galleries. Ushio is the more famous artist and Noriko has usually helped the man out and neglected her own work. She was also forced to bear most of the responsibility of raising their child and actually had to give up painting for a long time. She is now able to fully focus on her own artwork and it was great watching her try to succeed. I was rooting for her like I knew her.

The whole film was just magical. It was like watching “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” but instead of fish the art is on a canvas. It may not have been the best documentary in the Academy Awards but it is a completely unique film that will make even the least artistic person want to grab a paint brush. Oh and the montage during the credits is one of the best things I’ve seen in a while. Highly recommended.

4.5/5

Suggested Viewing – Exit Through the Gift Shop, Wasteland, Jiro Dreams of Sushi




Thoughts On the Oscars! A Reaction Thread

I’ve had a shitty day. My previous post should have covered that. I am however going to be watching the Oscars ceremony as it has been a tradition with me for as long as I can remember. We’re getting close to curtain so I decided to fire up this post. What I’m going to do is make my musings and just update the post as the ceremony continues. I’m going to let you know right now, I’m not going to filter myself. So if you are afraid of bad language then I’d say skip this one. Check back regularly or just read it afterward. Either way it should be fun. I needed this today…

– Apparently Jennifer Lawrence fell on the red carpet. Who taught her how to walk?
– Ellen just called Liza Minnelli a man. Shots fired.
– Ellen looks like she’s going to conduct an orchestra.
– Lol, Ellen hasn’t seen a penis in a while.
– Jared Leto wins. We all knew that was going to happen. He deserved it. Bravo.
– Pretty damn good speech from Leto.
– Holy shit, Jim Carrey can make his face into anybody. Great Bruce Dern impression.
– Pharrell Williams stole a couple Oscars and hid them in his hat.
– Katherine Martin wins Best Costume Design for The Great Gatsby. I didn’t see the film. I don’t have much to say.
– Dallas Buyers Club wins best Hair and Make-up. They made Jared Leto look…well, like a transexual Jared Leto.
– HAN SOLO IN THE FUCKING HOUSE.
– MY GOD WHAT HAPPENED TO KIM NOVAK? OH MY GOD.
– These animated shorts look cool. Mr. Hublot with the win.
– Frozen with the Oscar for animated film. The Wind Rises gets snubbed. It was a gorgeous film.
– Sally Fields always looks like she’s about to cry.
– Gravity wins the first of every single on of the technical awards with Visual Effects.
– Oh man, Ellen is so hit and miss tonight. The writers were a little lazy tonight.
– Lol, Zac Efron can’t read.
– This Tina Fey Amex commercial is funnier than anything Ellen has said tonight save calling Liza Minnelli a man.
– The comedy shtick is getting old Ellen.
– Great documentaries this year. 20 Feet From Stardom gets the steal from The Act of Killing.
– LOL GREATEST SPEECH EVER. EVERYBODY SHOULD SING THEIR SPEECHES.
– Brad Pitt has a douchey haircut.
– I really thought The Hunt was going to get that one. I still need to see The Great Beauty.
– I was really hoping I didn’t have to sit through U2 tonight but alas, I have to.
– “Kristen B. Ell. What?” LOL.
– Who let the local high school AV club produce the show tonight?
– Number two for Gravity with Sound Mixing. Gravity sweeping the tech awards with number three for Sound Editing.
– Here is that epic selfie…
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– Here comes supporting actress…
– Lupita!!! So deserved. Much heartbreak.
– Oh, and the Oscars did a great thing by adding that June Squibb clip. A lot of people are going to watch Nebraska now.
– I’m so tired of this shtick.
– YOU GET A SLICE OF PIZZA. AND YOU GET A SLICE OF PIZZA.
– BILL FUCKING MURRAY.
– Come oooooooooooon Roger Deakins…
– I miss you Harold Ramis.
– DAMMIT. Gravity again. You will get your award Roger Deakins. You will!
– Gravity again. Every damn award.
– Nice singing Pink.
– It is getting very late. They need to start cranking out these damn awards. We still have a memorium, another song, and like six awards to go.
– Damn, Katherine Martin wins another Oscar.
– ANOTHER MOVIE MONTAGE? GIVE OUT THE FUCKING AWARDS.
– This show is taking forever.
– I’m going to fall the fuck asleep.
– Best Score time. Everybody deserves it. Gravity again. Holy shit. It’s a mop up.
– Original Song goes to Frozen. Durrr.
– I swear to God…if they start cue-ing music for the speeches of the major awards…IT’S RUNNING LATE CAUSE OF FUCKING PIZZA AND OLD MOVIE MONTAGES.
– Ahhh, screenplays. John Ridley gets his due for 12 Years a Slave. LET’S GO SPIKE!!!!
– YES!!!!!!!!!!! SPIKE!
– I’m so happy Spike won. He;s one of my favorite people. Finally something awesome happens in the second half of this show.
– Here’s a big award. I’m sure Cuaron is going to get it. He deserves it so much…aaaaaannnnnnd
– CUARON! Congrats man! Well deserved. It was a one of a kind film and the they owed him for snubbing him for Children of Men.
– I knew as soon as I saw Blue Jasmine that Cate was going to win. She was incredible.
– HERE IS THE BIG ONE. LET’S GO LEO.
– THE MAN IS HERE TO STAY. I love the decision. I hoped Leo got it but honestly all five deserved it. Way to go Matthew McConaughey
– He saved that speech about himself when he said “alright, alright alright”.

AND BEST PICTURE GOES TO…

12 YEARS A SLAVE.

DESERVED AS SHIT. I’M GLAD IT WASN’T GRAVITY. I’M GOING TO BED.

Film Review : Blue Valentine (2010)

IMDB Score – 7.4
Rotten Tomato Score – 87%
Netflix Watch Instant
Academy Award Nomination for Best Actress – Michelle Williams
Golden Globe Nomination for Best Actor – Ryan Gosling

Directed By – Derek Cianfrance
Starring – Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Mike Vogel, John Doman, and Faith Wladyka

The film centers on a contemporary married couple, charting their evolution over a span of years by cross-cutting between time periods.

Why did I do this to myself? Why did I watch this film the day before Valentine’s Day? I’m beginning to think that somewhere deep in my brain lies a section of tissue that loves to punish the rest of my brain. I knew what I was in for yet I hit play on my DVR anyway. I don’t understand it. I’m still glad I did it because I ended up loving the film.

Blue Valentine centers around the relationship of Dean and Cindy, two people who met by chance and fell in love. That sounds nice doesn’t it? That sounds like something you can curl up in your favorite PJs, get a nice glass of wine, pop in the DVD player, and just enjoy the romance. Well, there are some great elements but what you’ll ultimately get is a punch in the face. Right. In. The. Face. This is not a film to be viewed if you have recently gone through a breakup, but perhaps it’s what is needed to put things into perspective and get the grieving process into full gear. I know it hit me hard. Relationships are tough business. The relationship we see unfold throughout the course of the film is full of intensity from where we start to where we leave off. It’s a perfect example of how we roll the dice. Some people we meet will end up being people we love forever. Some people we meet will end up being people we hate. Sometimes we’ll meet a person and both of those things will happen. It’s necessary though. It’s necessary to go through these things. Sometimes you just have to get your heart ripped out and this film did a great job ripping mine out.

Derek Cianfrance is slowly becoming one of my favorite up and coming directors. His last film, “A Place Beyond the Pines” was a slightly flawed but overall fantastic film and now that I’ve seen “Blue Valentine”, I can’t wait for what he has next. The dude is a wonder behind the camera. There were a lot of scenes in BV that were done using a handheld camera and while the term “shaky cam” could possibly be used for some, what it did ws make the film more real. I didn’t think this was possible due to the fact that Cianfrance had both of his leads improvise many scenes but the camera added an extra sense of realism to the film. Long shots covering the length of conversation kept me interested in what was being said. The way in which Cianfrance also told his story was interesting. The film jumped from the beginning of Dean and Cindy’s relationship to the present day relationship. This, at least for me, kept the relationship as a whole in view. I didn’t forget what they went through at the beginning of the film because I was still being shown the beginning of the relationship at the end. This also laid the heavy on pretty thick as we are constantly watching them in love and in turmoil. It was very powerful.

Speaking of powerful, what performances by Williams and Gosling. They had some of the best chemistry on screen that I’ve ever seen and the fact that they improvised a lot of their scenes together makes it even more fascinating. Gosling has always been a solid actor to me. He collaborations with Nicolas Winding Refn have been a little off but he is a very capable actor who may have given his career performance in BV. Williams, who earned an Oscar nomination for her role, also is at her career best. Williams in particular was incredible once the camera was locked on her face, her eyes in every scene and her facial expressions were great to watch as you could tell she was losing herself in her character. Gosling was charming and also incredibly tragic. Both were incredible to watch.

I know I shouldn’t have watched this film with tomorrow looming, but I’m glad I did. It’s a tragic story but ultimately a real one. Relationships can be brutal beasts and not every single one ends with old age and grandchildren. It’s important to remember this and this film does a great job portraying what people have to deal with when they decide to fall in love. The film also boasts great music from Grizzly Bear and an end title sequence that is unique and uplifting. Great film.

4.5/5