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Monday, December 15, 2014

December Film Club

Hey everybody, thank you to everyone who made it out to Drive last month.
Sorry, this is so last minute, but I was having a hard time deciding what to show this month because I wanted it to be a Christmas themed movie and I kind of exhausted my knowledge of Christmas movies over the past couple of years.  Truth be told I don't really watch them, or enjoy watching them, so I had to seek some outside help.  I decided to show a film that was recommended by multiple people: Christmas in Connecticut.

We will be meeting at the regular time of 6:15pm this coming Thursday, Dec. 18th.  Hope you can make it!

Monday, November 3, 2014

November Film Club

Well, what do you know?  It's November already.  A huge, giant, thank you to everybody who came out to Horror Fest last week, it was a complete blast and I can't wait for next year!

On to business.  For the month of November, I generally try to find a film that has some connection to Thanksgiving, but I decided to forego that because there really aren't A LOT of good films that take place during Thanksgiving.  Instead, I decided to screen one of my favorite films of recent years. This month, (Thursday, November 20th at 6:15pm) we will be watching Nicholas Winding Refn's, Drive.  A film that is as beautiful as it is haunting.

Drive is a 2011 American neo-noir arthouse crime thriller directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Oscar Isaac, and Albert Brooks.  It is adapted from the 2005 James Sallis novel of the same name, with a screenplay by Hossein Amini.

Like the book, the film is about an unnamed Hollywood stunt performer (played by Gosling) who moonlights as a getaway driver.  Prior to its September 2011 release, it had been shown at a number of film festivals.  At the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, Drive was praised and received a standing ovation.  Winding Refn won the festival's Best Director Award for the film.  Reviews from critics have been positive, with many drawing comparisons to work from previous eras.

The film currently holds a 93% certified fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 235 critical reviews.

Roger Ebert awarded the film 3 1/2 out of 4 stars saying this of the film, "As played by Ryan Gosling, he is in the tradition of two iconic heroes of the 1960s: Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name and Alain Delon in Le Samourai.  He has no family, no history and seemingly few emotions.  Whatever happened to him drove any personality deep beneath the surface.  He is an existential hero, I suppose, defined entirely by his behavior.  That would qualify him as the hero of a mindless action picture, all CGI and crashes and mayhem.  Drive is more of an elegant exercise in style, and its emotions may be hidden but they run deep.  Sometimes a movie will make a greater impact by not trying too hard.  The enigma of the driver is surrounded by a rich gallery of supporting actors who are clear about their hopes and fears, and who have either reached an accommodation with the driver, or not.  Here is still another illustration of the old Hollywood noir principle that a movie lives its life not through its hero, but within its shadows."

I love Nicolas Winding Refn as a director and I love this film especially.  You will not want to miss this film.  Hope to see you there!

Here's the trailer:

Monday, September 22, 2014

4th Annual Crete Library Horror Fest

Before I get down to business, I would like to thank everyone that came out for Good Morning Vietnam, we had a good turn out for our little tribute to the work of Robin Williams.

I can't believe it's almost October.  This year has FLOWN by.  We've watched a lot of great films and I think this year has been the best yet for post-film discussions.  Now, on to business.  There's something we do here at the Crete Library every October to get into the Halloween mood.  Those of you who are familiar will know that I'm talking about the Annual Crete Library Horror Fest.  This is the 4th year that film club has hosted the Horror Fest and I aim to maintain the level of horror excellence we've brought in the past years.  The way I've structured Horror Fest is as follows:  We will be meeting on two separate nights, Wednesday, Oct. 29th and Thursday, Oct 30th at 5pm.  We will be watching a total of 4 horror movies over those two days.  Not only will we be watching some films, but there will be plenty of candy/snacks, possibly pizza, soda, etc.  I'm also thinking some horror trivia, WITH PRIZES!  If the past years are any indication, I think we're going to have a lot of fun with this.

Anyway, here's the lineup so you can plan accordingly:

Wednesday, Oct. 29th

5:00pm-28 Days Later directed by Danny Boyle

7:00pm-REC directed by Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza

Thursday, Oct. 30th

5:00pm- The Descent directed by Neil Marshall

7:00pm- Ju-On directed by Takashi Shimizu

Horror Fest is one of my favorite things to host at the library and I can only do it with your support.  As long as you guys keep coming, we can keep this tradition alive!  So, I hope you can make it out for some horror movie fun, let's make this the best Horror Fest yet!

Monday, September 8, 2014

September Film Club


First, let me start by thanking all of you who came out to our Neo-noir Film Series (I believe some of you may have come to every single film!), that was awesome, you guys are awesome.  I wish every single week was like the film series, a new film every week, it would be spectacular, unfortunately that isn't how it goes.  But, enough gloominess, I have an announcement to make!  I come with news of a new film, (gasp!) that's right folks, you heard me correctly, this isn't a joke, this is the real deal!  On Thursday, Sept. 18th at 6:15pm, as something of a small tribute to Robin Williams, we will be watching Barry Levinson's excellent film: Good Morning Vietnam

Good Morning Vietnam is a 1987 American war comedy film written by Mitch Markowitz and directed by Barry Levinson.  Set in Saigon in 1965, during the Vietnam War, the film stars Robin Williams as a radio DJ on Armed Forces Radio Service, who proves hugely popular with the troops, but infuriates his superiors with what they call his "irreverent tendency".  The story is loosely based on the experiences of AFRS radio DJ Adrian Cronauer.  Most of Williams' radio broadcasts were improvised.  Williams was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

The film holds an 89% "Certified Fresh Rating" on Rotten Tomatoes.  Roger Ebert awarded the film 4/4 stars saying,

 "Williams' best movies are the one where he is given a well-written character to play and held to the character by a strong director.  In his other movies, you can see him trying to do his stand-up act on the screen, trying to use comedy to conceal not only himself from the audience-but even his character.  The one-liners and ad-libs distance him from the material and from his fellow actors.  What is inspired about "Good Morning Vietnam" which contains far and away the best work Williams has ever done in a movie, is that his own tactics are turned against him.  The director, Barry Levinson, has created a character who is a stand-up comic, he's a fast talking disc jockey on Armed Forces Radio during the Vietnam War, directing a nonstop monologue at the microphone.  There is absolutely no biographical information about this character.  We don't know where he comes from, what he did before the war, whether he has ever been married, what his dreams are, what he's afraid of.  Everything in his world is reduced to material for his program.  But while he's assaulting the microphone, Levinson is doing something fairly subtle in the movie around him.  He has populated "Good Morning Vietnam" with a lot of character actors who are fairly complicated types, recognizably human, and with the aid of the script they set a trap for Williams.  His character is edged into a corner where he must have human emotions, or die."

Hope to see you there!

Here's the trailer:

Monday, August 25, 2014

Neo-noir Film #6: L.A. Confidential

Good day good people!  Well, here we are at last, the final film of our summer neo-noir film series.  Last week we witnessed Roman Polanski's noir masterpiece, Chinatown, and I don't want to let you guys down so I decided to finish up the series with another entry that just oozes film noir greatness.  Made some 23 years after Chinatown, but in a very similar vein and setting, we come to Curtis Hanson's beautiful homage to the genre: LA Confidential.

L.A. Confidential is a 1997 neo-noir detective film based on James Ellroy's 1990 novel of the same title, the third book in his L.A. Quartet series.  Like the book, the film tells the story of a group of LAPD officers in the year 1953, and the intersection of police corruption and Hollywood celebrity.  The title refers to the 1950s scandal magazine Confidential, portrayed in the film as Hush-Hush.  The film adaptation was produced and directed by Curtis Hanson and co-written by Hanson and Brian Helgeland.

Critically acclaimed, the film holds a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, as well as an aggregated rating of 90 on Metacritic.  It was nominated for nine Academy Awards, winning two:  Kim Basinger for Supporting Actress and Hanson and Helgeland for Best Adapted Screenplay; it lost every other category to Titanic.
Roger Ebert awarded the film 4/4 stars and later added it to his list of Great Movies and said this of the film, "L.A. Confidential is described as film noir, and so it is, but it is more: unusually for a crime film, it deals with the psychology of the characters...It contains all the elements of police action, but in a sharply clipped, more economical style; the action exists not for itself but to provide an arena for the personalities.  The dialogue is lovely; not the semi-parody of a lot of film noir, but the words of serious people trying to reveal or conceal themselves.  And when all of the threads are pulled together at the end, you really have to marvel at the way there was a plot after all, and it all makes sense, and it was all right there waiting for someone to discover it."

As I said, this film is a wonderful example of neo-noir made to replicate the feeling of the noirs of old, and it's a fantastic film.  We will be meeting Thursday, Aug. 28th at 6:15pm, hope to see you there!

Here's the trailer:

Monday, August 18, 2014

Neo-noir Film #5: Chinatown

A big thank you to everyone who was able to make it out to Fargo last week, we had a wonderful turnout!  This week in our Neo-noir series we will be entering into a little different territory.  Until now, just about all of our films were set in somewhat modern settings while employing the themes and techniques reminiscent of Film noir (hence, neo-noir).  This week's film (as well as next week's) fits into the neo-noir category because it was made after 1960, but is set in the late 1930s, when actual Film noir was being made.  Essentially it is a noir period piece.  This film comes to us from 1974, Roman Polanski's Chinatown.

Chinatown is a 1974 American neo-noir film, directed by Roman Polanski from a screenplay by Robert Towne, and starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway.  The film was inspired by the California Water Wars, a series of disputes over southern California water at the beginning of the 20th century by which Los Angeles interests secured water rights in the Owens Valley.  The Robert Evans production, a Paramount Pictures release, was the director's last film in the United States, and features many elements of film noir, particularly a multi-layered story that is part mystery and part psychological drama.

In 1991 the film was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry for films that are "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant," and it is frequently listed among the greatest in world cinema.  The 1975 Academy Awards saw it nominated eleven times, with an Oscar going to Robert Towne for Best Original Screenplay.

The film currently holds a 98% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 60 reviews.  Roger Ebert awarded the film 4/4 stars and later added it to his list of Great Movies saying of the film, "Chinatown is not only a great entertainment, but something more, something I would have thought impossible:  It's a 1940s private-eye movie that doesn't depend on nostalgia or camp for its effect, but works because of the enduring strength of the genre itself.  In some respects, this movie actually could have been made in the 1940s.  It accepts its conventions and categories at face value and doesn't make them the object of satire or filter them through a modern sensibility...Here's a private-eye movie in which all the traditions, romantic as they may seem, are left intact."

This film and next weeks film are wonderful examples of neo-noir replicating the feel of actual 1930s and 40s film noir in a way we have not yet seen in our series, and you will not want to miss it.  We will be meeting Thursday, Aug. 21st at 6:15pm, hope to see you there!

Here's the trailer:

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Neo-noir Film #4: Fargo

Greetings!  First, allow me a moment to thank everyone who was able to make it to Memento, hopefully you've had some time to think about what happened in the film because at the start of our next meeting there will be a test....ok, that isn't true, but I'm glad you all stuck with it, it can be a somewhat challenging film, but a challenging film is a film that makes you think!  Secondly, I'm here to announce the next title in our Summer Neo-noir film series!  This next film will be the second in our series directed by the masterful Joel and Ethan Coen (who directed our first film Blood Simple).  Fargo is perhaps the one film in our series that somewhat strays from the traditional dark and shadowy style generally found in noir and neo-noir (some others have but not as much), taking place in the blinding white of snowy Minneapolis, Minnesota and Fargo, North Dakota.  This being said, the film does maintin many of the themes we have seen in our other films in the series: kidnapping, murder, revenge, double crossing, criminal investigations, etc.

Fargo is a 1996 American dark comedy crime film written, produced, edited, and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen.  It stars Frances McDormand as a pregnant Minnesota police chief who investigates a series of local homicides, and William H. Macy as a struggling car salesman who hires two criminals to kidnap his wife.  The film also features Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare, and Harve Presnell, as well as the work of one of my favorite cinematographers in business, Roger Deakins.  The film earned seven Academy Award nominations, winning two for Best Original Screenplay for the Coens and Best Actress in a Leading Role for McDormand.  In 2006, the film was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and inducted into the United States National Film Registry for preservation, making it one of only five films to be preserved in its first year of eligibility.

Fargo was met with widespread critical acclaim, currently holding a 94% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on reviews from 84 critics.  Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert both named Fargo the best film of 1996.  It was also Ebert's fourth favorite of the 1990s.  He awarded the film 4/4 stars and later added it to his list of Great Movies.  In his original review he said this of the film: "Fargo begins with an absolutely dead-on familiarity with smalltown life in the frigid winter landscape of Minnesota and North Dakota.  Then it rotates its story through satire, comedy, suspense and violence, until it emerges as one of the best films I've ever seen....films like Fargo are why I love the movies."

We will be meeting Thursday, Aug. 14th at 6:15pm, hope to see you there!

Here's the trailer:

Monday, July 28, 2014

Neo-Noir Film #3: Memento

Happy Monday everybody!  A big thank you to everyone who made it out to our showing of Rian Johnson's directorial debut, Brick, we had a real nice turnout.
On to business.  This is the final week of the first leg of our Neo-noir series, which will pick up again Aug. 14th and continue for the following weeks (21st and 28th).
Now, after much deliberation, I have finally decided on Christopher Nolan's wonderfully inventive thriller: Memento, as the next entry in our exploration of neo-noir.

Memento is a 2001 American neo-noir psychological thriller directed by Christopher Nolan.  The screenplay was written by Nolan based on his younger brother Jonathan Nolan's short story "Memento Mori".  It stars Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Joe Pantoliano.  Memento is presented as two different sequences of scenes: a series in black-and-white that is shown chronologically, and a series of color sequences shown in reverse order.  The two sequences "meet" at the end of the film, producing one common story.  We follow Leonard Shelby (Pearce) as a man with anterograde amnesia (short-term memory loss) as he attempts to hunt down the man responsible for the murder of his wife.  Critics especially praised its unique, nonlinear narrative structure and motifs of memory, perception, grief, self-deception, and revenge.  The film was successful at the box office and received numerous accolades, including Academy Award nominations for Original Screenplay and Film Editing.  The film holds a 92% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes out of 167 reviews.
Roger Ebert awarded the film 3/4 stars saying, "The purpose of the movie is not for us to solve the murder of the wife.  If we leave the theatre not sure exactly what happened, that's fair enough.  The movie is more like a poignant exercise, in which Leonard's residual code of honor pushes him through a fog of amnesia toward what he feels is his moral duty."

We will be meeting this Thursday, July 31st at 6:15pm, hope to you there!

Here's the trailer:

Monday, July 21, 2014

Neo-noir Film #2: Brick

Hey everybody, thanks to all of you who made it out last week for our first neo-noir film, Blood Simple.  This week we will be watching the excellent debut film from Rian Johnson: Brick.

Brick is a 2005 American neo-noir thriller film written and directed by Rian Johnson, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  The film's narrative centers on a hard-boiled detective story that takes place in a Californian suburb.  Most of the main characters are high school students.  The film draws heavily in plot, characterization, and dialogue from hard-boiled classics, especially from Dashiell Hammett.  The origins of Brick were Rian Johnson's Hammett obsession.  Hammett was known for hard-boiled detective novels, and Johnson wanted to make a straightforward American detective story.  He realized that this would result in a mere imitation and set his piece in high school to keep things fresh.  Of the initial writing process he remarked, "it was really amazing how all the archetypes from that detective world slid perfectly over the high school types."

Brick was released to positive reviews.  It currently holds an 80% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, derived from 134 reviews.  Roger Ebert awarded the film 3/4 stars stating, "What is impressive is his commitment to his idea of the movie's style.  He relates to the classic crime novels and movies, he notes the way their mannered dialogue and behavior elevates the characters into archetypes, and he uses the strategy to make his teenagers into hard-boiled guys and dolls.  The actors enter into the spirit; we never catch them winking."

We will be meeting this coming Thursday, July 24th at 6:15pm, hope you can join us!

Here's the trailer:

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Summer Film Club: Neo Noir

Hey folks, I am back and with my return comes also the return of Film Club!  For the remaining months of summer (July and August) we will be watching films that fit a theme, that theme is Neo-Noir.  Some of you may be unfamiliar with this sub-genre (some of you may even be unfamiliar with the genre of Film Noir altogether!), so allow me a moment to expalin.

Film Noir, as described by the internet (wikipedia), is as follows:  "Film Noir is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations.  Hollywood's classical film noir period is generally regarded as extending from the early 1940s to the late 1950s.  Film noir of this era is associated with a low-key black and white visual style that has roots in German Expressionist cinematography.  Many of the prototypical stories and much of the attitude of classic noir derive from the hardboiled school of crime fiction that emerged in the United States during the Great Depression."

Neo-Noir, as also described by the internet (wikipedia), is as follows:  "Neo-noir is a style often seen in modern motion pictures and other forms that prominently utilize elements of film noir, but with updated themes, content, style, visual elements or media that were absent in film noir of the 1940s and 1950s."

Class dismissed.

SO, for the last three weeks of July (17th, 24th, 31st) and the last three weeks of August (14th, 21st, 28th) we will be watching films that fall into the sub-genre of Neo noir.  I sent out an email a few days ago explaining that I have not selected the second two films for July yet, but never fear!  For I have selected the first, and that's all that matters at the moment.  Regardless, here is the planned schedule:

July 17th- Blood Simple
July 24th- TBA
July 31st- TBA

Aug 14th- Fargo
Aug 21st- Chinatown
Aug 28th- LA Confidential

All films will begin at the regular Film Club time of 6:15pm.

Our first film in the Neo noir series is the stunning debut film by the extemely talented Coen brothers:

Blood Simple is a 1984 neo-noir crime film written, directed and produced by Joel and Ethan Coen.  The film's title derives from the Dashiell Hammett novel Red Harvest (1929), in which the term "blood simple" describes the addled, fearful mindset of people after a prolonged immersion in violent situations.  It was the directorial debut of the Coens and the first major film of cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld, who later became a noted director, as well as the feature film debut of Joel Coen's wife Frances McDormand, who subsequently starred in many of his features.

Blood Simple is an excellent example of the updated style found in neo-noir films.  I hope you are able to come out and see this fantastic film!

Here's the trailer:

Monday, May 5, 2014

May Film Club

Hello everyone, thanks to all of you who were able to make it out to see Wings of Desire, I hope you enjoyed it.

MAY!  It's a new month folks and that means a new film.  For the month of May, we will be watching a film by one of my personal favorite filmmakers, Terrence Malick.  The film to which I am referring is...*drumroll* The Tree of Life.

The Tree of Life is a 2011 American epic experimental drama film written and directed by Terrence Malick and starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, and Jessica Chastain.  The film chronicles the origins and meaning of life by way of a middle-aged man's childhood memories of his family living in 1950s Texas, interspersed with imagery of the origins of the universe and the inception of life on Earth.

It's not the easisest film to describe or put into a nice plot summary because it's somewhat light on narrative and heavy on the visuals, the imagery, the sounds and the emotions that are conveyed.

This is one of my absolute favorite films of all time.  Terrence Malick is a visionary director the likes of which are rarely seen these days, from his early film Days of Heaven to his epic meditation on war and humanity, The Thin Red Line, and now The Tree of Life.

In January 2012, the film was nominated for three Academy Awards:  Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Cinematography.  In the 2012 Sight & Sound critics' poll, 16 critics voted for it as one of their 10 greatest films ever made; this ranked it at #102 in the finished list (making it the third film on the list which had been released since the year 2000, behind Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood for Love  and David Lynch's Mulholland Drive.)

This is one of those films you must see, espeically if you love film, music, art or whatever!  Just see it!

We will be meeting Thursday, May 15th at 6:15pm.  Hope to see you there!

Here's the trailer:

Monday, March 31, 2014

April Film Club

Hey folks!  Thanks to everyone who was able to make it out to see Capote last month in honor of the late, supremely talented, Philip Seymour Hoffman (if you're looking for more of his work, ask me for a list!).  For the month of April, I've decided to show another, somewhat different film.  Don't worry, it's not as challenging as Last Year at Marienbad, but it is hopefully outside what you're normally used to watching.  The film in question is Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire (the German title is Der Himmel uber Berlin or The Heavens Over Berlin).

Wings of Desire is a 1987 romantic fantasy film directed by Wim Wenders.  Set in contemporary West Berlin (at the time still enclosed by the Berlin Wall), Wings of Desire follows two angels, Damiel and Cassiel, as they roam the city, unseen and unheard by its human inhabitants, observing and listening to the diverse thoughts of Berliners: a pregnant woman in an ambulance on the way to the hospital, a painter struggling to find inspiration, a broken man who thinks his girlfriend no longer loves him.  Their reason of existence is, as Cassiel says, to "assemble, testify, preserve" reality.  In addition to the story of the two angels, the film is also a meditation on Berlin's past, present and future.  Damiel and Cassiel have always existed as angels; they existed in Berlin before it was a city, and before there were even any humans.  The film is shot in both a rich, sepia-toned black and white and color, with the former being used to represent the world as experienced by the angels.

Come on out and join us for this very poetic and beautiful film, hope to see you there!

Here's the trailer:

Monday, March 3, 2014

March Film Club

Hey folks.  Normally in the month of March I play something Irish in honor of St. Patrick's Day, but this year I've decided to forego that and play a film in honor of Philip Seymour Hoffman who tragically passed away last month.  He was a phenomenal actor, probably one of this generation's finest and he will be sorely missed.  I've decided to show the film for which he was recognized with an Oscar for Best Actor:  Capote.

The creation of one of the most memorable books of the 1960s-and the impact the writing and research would have on its author- is explored in this drama based on a true story.  In 1959, Truman Capote (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) was a critically acclaimed novelist who had earned a small degree of celebrity for his work when he read a short newspaper item about a multiple murder in a small Kansas town.  For some reason, the story fascinated Capote, and he asked William Shawn (Bob Balaban), his editor at The New Yorker, to let him write a piece about the case.  Capote has long believed that in the right hands, a true story could be molded into a tale as compelling as any fiction, and he believed this event, in which the brutal and unimaginable was visited upon a community where it was least expected, could be just the right material.  Capote traveled to Kansas with his close friend Harper Lee (Catherine Keener), herself becoming a major literary figure with the success of To Kill a Mockingbird, and while Capote's effete and mannered personal style stuck out like a sore thumb in Kansas, in time he gained the trust of Alvin Dewey (Chris Cooper), the Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent investigating the murder of the Clutter family, and with his help Capote's magazine piece grew into a full-length book.  Capote also became familiar with the petty criminals who killed the Clutter family, Dick Hickock (Mark Pellegrino) and Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.), and in Smith he found a troubling kindred spirit more like himself than he wanted to admit.  After attaining a sort of friendship with Smith under the assumption that the man would be executed before the book was ever published, Capote finds himself forced to directly confront the moral implications of his actions with regards to both his role in the man's death, and the way that he would be remembered.

Philip Seymour Hoffman won several awards, including the Academy Award for Best Actor, for his critically acclaimed portrayal of the title role.  The film holds a 90% rating on out of 162 critical reviews and was awarded 4 stars by Roger Ebert who had this to say of the film, "Capote" is a film of uncommon strength and insight, about a man whose great achievement requires the surrender of his self-respect.  Philip Seymour Hoffman's precise, uncanny performance as Capote doesn't imitate the author so much as channel him, as a man whose peculiarities mask great intelligence and deep wounds."

This film is a great example of the monumental talent Philip Seymour Hoffman displayed in all his roles, a talent that the film world is worse off without.  We will be meeting Thursday, March 20th at 6:15pm, hope to see you there!

Here's the trailer:

Thursday, January 30, 2014

February Film Club

Hello everyone, thank you to everyone who made it out for Last Year at Marienbad.  Already we find ourselves at the second month of the year, and with it comes another film.  Don't worry, this one isn't as complicated as the last one.  For the month of February we will be watching the feature debut of director Sidney Lumet:  12 Angry Men

12 Angry Men is a 1957 American drama film adapted from a teleplay of the same name by Reginald Rose.  Written and produced by Rose himself and directed by Sidney Lumet, this trial film tells the story of a jury made up of 12 men as they deliberate the guilt or acquittal of a defendant on the basis of reasonable doubt.  In the United States, a verdict in most criminal trials by jury must be unanimous.  The film is notable for its almost exclusive use of one set:  with the exception of the film's opening, which begins outside on the steps of the courthouse followed by the judge's final instructions to the jury before retiring, a brief final scene on the courthouse steps, and two short scenes in an adjoining washroom, the entire movie takes place in the jury room.  12 Angry Men explores many techniques of consensus building, and the difficulties encountered in the process, among a group of men whose range of personalities adds intensity and conflict.  Apart from two of the jurors swapping names while leaving the courthouse, no names are used in the film.

The film today is viewed as a classic, highly regarded from both a critical and popular viewpoint:  Roger Ebert listed it as one of his "Great Movies", and the film currently holds an enviable 100% "Certified Fresh" rating on (click link for more info) out of 45 critical reviews.

This is one of the films that if you haven't seen it, you must, and if you have seen it, you should see it again.  I think we can get some really good conversation going from this film.  Hope to see you there!

Here's the trailer:

Monday, January 6, 2014

January Film Club

Happy New Year everyone!  A new year means a whole new lineup of films for Film Club.  We will continue to meet on the third Thursday of each month at 6:15pm (unless otherwise indicated).  In the tradition of previous years of Film Club, I'd like to create an experience that will challenge you as a viewer.  I want to show you films that will make you think, spark up lively discussions and maybe even just entertain you.  One of the goals for this year's club, I think, will be a greater emphasis on the discussion following the film.  We have had some good talks this past year, but I'd love to amp that up a bit, and the best way to do this is with films that lend themselves naturally to discussion, so be prepared for some really stellar films this year.

Now, remember when I said Film Club meets on the third Thursday of each month (unless otherwise indicated)?  Well, that holds true, except for this month.  I will be out of town on the 16th (normal Film Club night) so I will be pushing this month's film to the following Thursday, the 23rd.

Ok, so, to kick off our exciting new year of Film Club, allow me to introduce our first film.

On Thursday, Jan. 23rd at 6:15pm we will be watching Alain Resnais' wonderful, enigmatic film:  Last Year at Marienbad.

Last Year at Marienbad is a 1961 French film directed by Alain Resnais.  The film is famous for its enigmatic narrative structure, in which truth and fiction are difficult to distinguish, and the temporal and spatial relationship of the events is open to question.  The dream-like nature of the film has fascinated and baffled audiences and critics; some hail it as a masterpiece, others find it incomprehensible.

The film takes place at a social gathering at a chateau or baroque hotel, a man approaches a woman.  He claims they met the year before at Marienbad and is convinced that she is waiting there for him.  The woman insists they have never met.  A second man, who may be the woman's husband, repeatedly asserts his dominance over the first man, including beating him several times at a mathematical game (a version of Nim).  Through ambiguous flashbacks and disorienting shifts of time and location, the film explores the relationships among the characters.  Conversations and events are repeated in several places in the chateau and grounds, and there are numerous tracking shots of the chateau's corridors, with ambiguous voice overs.  The characters are also unnamed.

The film continually creates an ambiguity in the spatial and temporal aspects of what it shows, and creates uncertainty in the mind of the spectator about the causal relationships between events.  This may be achieved through editing, giving the apparently incompatible information in consecutive shots, or within a shot which seems to show impossible juxtapositions, or by means of repetitions of events in different settings and decor.  These ambiguities are matched by contradictions in the narrator's voiceover commentary.  Among the notable images in the film is a scene in which two characters (and the camera) rush out the chateau and are faced with a tableau of figures arranged in a geometric garden; although the people cast long dramatic shadows, the trees in the garden do not.  The manner in which the film is edited challenged the established classical style of narrative construction.  It allowed the themes of time and the mind and the interaction of past and present to be explored in an original way.  As spatial and temporal continuity is destroyed by its method of filming and editing, the film offers instead a "mental continuity", a continuity of thought.

The film received mixed reviews when it was released and even continues to receive much of the same, that said, it has cemented itself as one of the great works of cinema.  It currently holds an impressive 95% on out of 42 critical reviews, and Roger Ebert awarded the film 4 stars and included it on his list of Great Movies.  He said of the film, "The idea, I think, is that life is like this movie:  No matter how many theories you apply to it, life presses on indifferently toward its own inscrutable ends.  The fun is in asking questions.  Answers are a form of defeat."

This is a VERY interesting film:  a mystery and a romance wrapped up inside an enigma.  I hope that you can make it out to see this wonderful film!

Here's the trailer: