Tag Archives: Upstream Color

It’s Never Too Early: Pondering 2013’s Best Films … So Far

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I think 2013 has been a surprisingly strong year for movies. Okay, maybe not BIG movies, but there have been many smaller films that, to me, will rank high when the year comes to a close. I decided to make June 30 the cut-off here, so any film that has not officially opened before then (that I’ve already seen) is not here—hence, no “Blue Jasmine.” And of course, there are plenty of movies I still need to see that could make a dent: “Leviathan,” “Beyond the Hills,” “Simon Killer,” “The Act of Killing.” You’ll note that there is plenty of 2012 product here, but I am considering any film actually released in 2013 in North America is fair game. This list may change dramatically tomorrow, but today, in random order, here it is:

  • “Stories We Tell”
  • “Frances Ha”
  • “The Place Beyond the Pines”
  • “Upstream Color”
  • “Before Midnight”
  • “The Bling Ring”
  • “Lore”
  • “Mud”
  • “No”
  • “This is the End”

Some others that at the very least are in the conversation, for me: “The Gatekeepers,” “Side Effects,” “Room 237,” “Like Someone in Love,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” “Fill the Void,” “Spring Breakers,” “To the Wonder,” “Something in the Air” (yes, I think I’ve completely changed my mind on this one), “Ginger and Rosa.”

What do others think? Here are several lists of 2013’s halfway-point bests:

“Upstream Color” still from the film’s official site.

 

Wednesday Round-Up: Zod, Pixar, Critic-Bashing, and Brigitte Nielsen (of course)

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If you’re searching for film-related articles this week there’s a very good chance you’re reading about “Man of Steel,” which opens in theaters this Friday. And that’s where we kick off this week’s round-up:

  • The great Playlist ranks the Superman films from worst to best, and it’s hard to disagree with their list. I’ve pondered watching “Superman Returns” again one of these days, since I recall not hating it, in fact, rather liking. But I feel as if I cannot remember a single scene, and that means … something. (It could just mean I’m losing brain cells as I age.) It will be interesting to see where we’ll all rank “Man of Steel” on this list, and whether or not it will breathe new life into Krypton’s favorite son.
  • Incidentally, I am most intrigued by “Man of Steel”’s villain, Zod, played by the great Michael Shannon. I am dying to see his take on the iconic character; when I interviewed him for The Playlist back in 2011, he discussed his take on the Zod, and his respect for actor Terrence Stamp: “I found his performance so powerful that I would be overwhelmed by it if I tried to incorporate it into what I’m doing. There’s no reason to try and replicate it, because it’s perfect the way it is. I’m just trying to go down a different road with it; the script’s a little bit different than the original script. It’s going to have a different look and feel to it, visually. I’m looking forward to really settling into it, and playing with it.”
  • I could probably make these Wednesday round-ups include only Indiewire articles; every week, I’m impressed by the sheer number of interesting articles posted on the network of sites. Here is one from a favorite of mine, Eric Kohn, on Pixar’s upcoming “Monsters University.” I’ve spent a lot of time on Pixar lately, since my son’s favorite movie (today, at least) is “Toy Story 2.” I have not seen “Brave,” yet, but it certainly does seem as if Pixar is in a bit of a rut.
  • And one more from Indiewire, a pretty fascinating look at “critic bashing.”
  • If you follow movie news sites closely, you know Nikki Finke, and this is the latest news on … Well, I’m not sure what’s going on.
  • Life magazine features vintage photos of American drive-ins.
  • Will a film featuring an, um, wildly diverse cast that includes the late David Carradine, Brigitte Nielsen, Kerry Washington, Jeff Fahey, Steve Guttenberg, and Michael Madsen, and narrated by Peter O’Toole ever get released? And should we care?
  • I’ve been meaning to put together an “Upstream Color” feature for weeks, and I will, soon. Here is one of many insightful looks at the film, from the L.A. Review of Books.
  • Lastly, one of my favorite writers on film, and one who lives and works in Buffalo, Girish Shambu, takes on the concept of “vulgar auteurism.” Great comments here, too.

As always, these links are more can be found on my Twitter page, Twitter.com/FilmSwoon.
Michael Shannon photo from Warner Bros.’ “Man of Steel,” found on tgdaily.com.

Weekend Preview: “Frances,” “Maisie,” and “Love” Finally Make it to the Buff

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I’m not sure why there has suddenly been a cluster of TIFF 2012 movies opening in Buffalo, but I’m not complaining. This week sees three interesting films for adults that emerged from the Toronto International Film Festival with varying degrees of buzz: “Frances Ha,” “Love is All You Need,” and “What Maisie Knew.”

The biggie is surely Noah Baumbach’s swoon-worthy “Frances Ha,” a wonderful film that I wrote about today on buffalospree.com. I’ll likely be posting that piece and more thoughts on the film here very soon. Suffice to say, I adored it, and Great Gerwig’s performance in it. I’m not sure I’ll ever hear Bowie’s “Modern Love” again without thinking of her twirling through the air. This one is highly recommended.

Susanne Bier is a fascinating filmmaker, but I’m not sure I’ve figured her out yet. She directed the stunning “Brothers” (the original) and “After the Wedding,” featuring one of Mads Mikkelsen’s finest performances). But her English-language debut, “Things We Lost in the Fire,” while a gallant effort, fell flat. So, too, did her Academy Award-winning “In a Better World,” a marginal work that somehow defeated Haneke’s “White Ribbon” for the Best Foreign Language Oscar.

“Love is All You Need” looks like a rather dopey adult romantic comedy, but the presence of Bier and stars Pierce Brosnan (who has grown more interesting with age) and “Better World’s Trine Dyrholm, along with the lovely Italian scenery, make it moderately alluring. Reviews have been very mixed; as Stephen Holden put it in the New York Times, “The first sign of trouble in the romantic comedy ‘Love Is All You Need’ is the clichéd and incessant use of ‘That’s Amore.’”

The pint-sized star of “What Maisie Knew” is adorable — her visage truly sells the poster — but the movie, a present-day Henry James adaptation, does not sound appealing. The first line of the film’s description fills me with dread: “Susanna (Julianne Moore) is a pushy but seductive rock and roll icon married to Beale (Steve Coogan), a charming, distracted art dealer.” Oh boy. Yet the cast is a draw; Moore, Coogan, Alexander Skarsgard. And directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel have done interesting work together (“The Deep End,” “Uncertainty”). I would expect this one to close quickly, so if interested, act fast.

Of course, these are just the wee indies. In the multiplexes, the big openings are the Vince Vaughan-Owen Wilson Google-promotion/comedy “The Internship,” and Ethan Hawke in the horror-home invasion thriller “The Purge.” Get this: Box office buzz indicates that “The Purge” may top “The Internship.” That would be a huge blow for Wilson and Vaughan; there seems to be little enthusiasm for the film, and perhaps the Onion has hit on why with this headline: “‘The Internship’ Poised to be Biggest Comedy of 2005.”

It actually seems as if “Internship” won’t even hit the number two or three spot, with the still-going-strong “Fast & Furious 6” and the surprise hit “Now You See Me” coming ahead of it. If Shawn Levy’s comedy is topped by “After Earth” in its second week, we’ll officially have a disaster on our hands …

One other option, of course, is to stay in and watch Shane Carruth’s “Upstream Color” on Netflix. Yep, this mind-blower is now streaming.

As I previously mentioned, coming this Friday and Saturday at the Screening Room in Amherst: “Sorry, Wrong Number” at 7:30 followed by “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?” at 9:15.

And as the Buffalo News reports today, the North Park Theater is no more — at least, for a little while. It’s a shame, truly, but it is fitting that the final film to play there under Dipson was Buffalo product Peter McGennis’s “Queen City.” Let’s hope the theater does, indeed, reopen soon.

Next week sees Superman return in “Man of Steel” while Seth Rogen and friends face the apocalypse in “This is the End.” What’s the best news for Buffalo movie fans? Richard Linklater’s “Before Midnight” arrives.
Photo: Doane Gregory/Sony Pictures Classics

In “Goodfellas,” One Dog Goes One Way, One Dog Goes the Other Way, and I’m Watching Them Both

goodfellas dog

It’s possible I’ve seen Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” more than any other film in my last twenty or so years. And when I come upon it — on AMC, Spike, etc. — I have to watch it. It makes no difference to me whether it is edited for TV or not. Sure, it’s nice to hear Pesci’s poetic profanity, but I’ll take it either way.

So I was thrilled to recently write about a new Blu-ray box set that includes “Goodfellas,” “Heat,” “Mean Streets,” “The Departed,” and “The Untouchables” for buffalospree.com. Since it’s a rather busy day, I thought I’d post that piece, which also looks at some other cool recent releases. It’s all part of my occasional “Mondays With Schobie” segment for the Spree site.

Incidentally, a few years ago, my best friend Anthony surprised me with one of Henry Hill’s paintings, and a print of the famous “One dog goes one way, one dog goes the other way” painting pictured above. They adorned the walls of my Spree office for years.

Take it away, me (note that on the Spree site, titles are italicized; since I’m lazy, I generally put them in quotes here):

There are certain movies that I simply have to watch any time I stumble upon them on TV, and while the roster has changed periodically since I was a younger man (I’d no longer include the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies, although I still love them dearly), there are a few that have sat there comfortably for the last few years.

  • Interestingly, five of them have been put together in a new Blu-ray set from Warner Home Video, and it’s almost as if they asked me what I’d like to see in a set called “Ultimate Gangster Collection.” There are actually two sets—“Contemporary” features Mean Streets, The Untouchables, Goodfellas, Heat, and The Departed, while “Classic” is comprised of Little Caesar, The Public Enemy, The Petrified Forest, and White Heat. And while I’m referring specifically to the former as my repeat viewing favorites, these are both must-owns (and smartly timed for release just before Father’s Day). The “Contemporary” set is ideal for a viewer like me who owns all of these films on DVD, but is ready to trade up for remastered Blu-ray versions. There are a number of special features for each film, but in each case, the movies themselves are what truly excite. The three Martin Scorsese crime classics — Mean Streets, Goodfellas, and The Departed—are fascinating to view together, coming at three distinct periods in the filmmaker’s career. Meanwhile, The Untouchables is both Brian De Palma’s most commercially successful and purely enjoyable film, and Heat is the quintessential Michael Mann epic. The films of the “Classic” set are, of course, legendary, with two of James Cagney’s finest performances (Public Enemy and White Heat), Edward G. Robinson’s immortal “Rico” (in Little Caesar), and Petrified Forest’s stunning trio of Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, and Leslie Howard. The subject matter might be tough, and the violence brutal, but both sets represent the peak of cop-robber-and-gangster cinema. (Warner Home Video, 2013)
  • Now for something completely different: Another of those if-it’s-on-I-gotta-watch-it is National Lampoon’s Vacation, and a new thirtieth anniversary Blu-ray of the Chevy Chase-starrer offers a chance to revisit the film minus the commercials and TV edits. (Until watching this new edition, I’m not sure I’d ever seen the film uncut.) What stands out most about the film today is how grounded in reality it was; even Randy Quaid’s immortal cousin Eddie is pretty darn believable. And it captures the often overwhelming stress of the family road trip in a way I’m not sure any other film has. Vacation looks better than it ever has, and the disc also features a well-made documentary. (Warner Home Video, 2013)
  • Several other recently released DVD/Blu-rays that benefit from a second viewing include: Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects (Open Road Films, 2013), featuring award-worthy performances from Rooney Mara and Jude Law; Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color (ERBP, 2013), a mind-F of a film that, literally, I watched twice in one sitting — this one demands it; and two recent Criterion releases, Godard’s Band of Outsiders and Alex Cox’s punk-sci-fi cult hit, Repo Man (Criterion Collection, 2013).

I also want to give a quick mention to a few books I’ve read since last I wrote this columns that fit here, sort of. When I finished all three, I had to dive back in to re-read some favorite parts, so there you go.

  • The Man from Primrose Lane: I came upon James Renner’s sci-fi-ish stunner when news broke that Bradley Cooper would star in a film adaptation. Considering Cooper’s ascension to the Hollywood A-list, that’s a good indicator a book could make some waves, and if Primose has not yet, it will, and soon. It’s the strange story of an old man (“the Man from Primrose Lane”), a sudden murder, a best-selling author whose wife has committed suicide, and an obsessive quest to discover the truth. It’s a book that, like David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, is at times difficult, but always compulsively readable. (Macmillan/Sarah Crichton Books, 2012)
  • The Interestings: Meg Wolitzer is the author of nine novels, and her latest, The Interestings, is her most acclaimed yet. It’s a sprawling tale of five creative teenagers and their tangled adult lives, and I found it a story that seems ready-made for an HBO series. It’s sad, funny, and, for anyone who ever thought their destiny might lie in the art world, unmissable. (Penguin Publishing/Riverhead, 2013)
  • The Friedkin Connection—A Memoir: William Friedkin is one of those filmmakers whose highs could not be higher (Oscar wins for The French Connection, box-office glory for The Exorcist) and lows could not be lower (the flop of Sorcerer, the controversial Cruising, and, well, pretty much every movie he made between To Live and Die in L.A. and last year’s Killer Joe). His memoir is an honest, remarkably candid look at almost every one of his movies, and at his own failings as a person and filmmaker. It is especially insightful to hear him discuss Cruising, the gay serial killer film that ranks among the most fascinating, wildly flawed studio pictures of the last thirty years. (Harper, 2013)

All of these films and books have something common: I could sit down with them now and be just as contented as I was the first time I watched or read them.