Search This Blog

Monday, December 28, 2015

"Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens" Review


Phew...ok.  I figure 4 times might be enough times to give some thoughts on this film.  I loved it.  I continue to love it more with each successive viewing.
Let me clarify that while I do indeed hate much of what happened from 1999-2005, I was still relatively young during that time period and consequently those films played into my continued love of Star Wars as a whole.  I first saw the original trilogy in 1995 (age 8) when my father bought the THX mastered VHS boxset (the last true representation of the original trilogy, I might add), so my wait to see Phantom Menace in '99 could hardly be called a wait at all.  As an older person who has since come to understand to a certain degree what makes a film "great", beyond the simple "Did it entertain me?" "Did I like it?" "Natalie Portman is cute" (yes, yes, very yes) mentality of a 12 year old, to the "Does it have good writing?" "Are the characters likable because of the writing/acting or because we are told to like them?" "Does the cinematographer do a good job in conveying the story visually?" (no, no, and no) mentality of a (sometimes) adult, I've noticed upon multiple re-watchings, the originals hold up immensely and still inspire awe and wonder, where the prequels do not.
J.J. and crew have done what 1999 George Lucas could not.  They have recaptured that feeling of reality and wonder I felt watching the original 3.  I can feel the world, and like Rey, I can believe in the "myths" of the Jedi and the Force.  Much of this comes from, not only, Kasdan's writing (pitch perfect in ESB and quite wonderful here as well), and J.J.'s direction, but also the decision to use practical effects whenever possible and the availability of better CGI (used when necessary to great effect).  The writing and acting help makes the characters feel like real people, rather than actors just reading lines.  I cared about these people, I laughed with them and at them (when appropriate), I cheered for them (and developed a crush on Daisy Ridley that rivals my adolescent self's crush on Natalie Portman), and felt sorrow when bad things happened to them.  Losing Han Solo felt like losing an old friend or a beloved uncle you had known for much of your life.  Those kinds of emotions are painfully missing from the prequels, which felt as cold and lifeless as the green screen sets in front of which the entirety of the films were filmed.
I don't think this film was as good as "The Empire Strikes Back", but I also don't think it needed to be.  For me, it was better than the original Star Wars even though it mirrors it quite frequently (a fact I had no problem with as it wasn't employed to trick us or treat us like we were idiots).  They didn't rehash things in the hopes we wouldn't notice but rather referenced things we already knew happened as well as many of the characters in the film knew, or had experienced first-hand.  It was very self-aware in this regard.
I know this is kind of jumble of thoughts, but that's how my brain works and I am no writer, so, whatever.  Long story short: It was a great re-introduction to a galaxy far, far away, that we haven't truly been able to revisit until now.  I literally can not wait to see what other stories will be told.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

December Film Club

Hey everybody!  Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving.  Thank you again to everyone who made it out last month to Nightcrawler, we had a real great turnout.
For the month of December I have chosen a film by the great Billy Wilder, The Apartment.

The Apartment is a 1960 American comedy-drama film that was produced and directed by Billy Wilder, and which stars Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, and Fred MacMurray.  It was Wilder's next movie after Some Like it Hot and, like its predecessor, a commercial and critical success, grossing $25 million at the box office.  The film was nominated for ten Academy Awards, and won five, including Best Picture.

The Apartment holds a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and Roger Ebert awarded the film 4/4 stars, adding it to his list of "Great Movies".  In his review, he said this of the film, "There is a melancholy gulf over the holidays between those who have someplace to go, and those who do not.  The Apartment is so affecting partly because of that buried reason:  It takes place on the shortest days of the year, when dusk falls swiftly and the streets are cold, when after the office party some people go home to their families and others go home to apartments where they haven't even bothered to put up a tree.  The valuable element in Wilder is his adult sensibility; his characters can't take flight with formula plots, because they are weighted down with the trials and responsibilities of working for a living.  In many movies, the characters hardly even seem to have jobs, but in The Apartment they have to be reminded that they have anything else."

We will be meeting a week early for this month's Film Club so plan accordingly.  We will be meeting Thursday, Dec. 10th at 6:15pm.

I hope you can make it, see you there!

Monday, November 2, 2015

November Film Club

Thank you, thank you, thank you, to everyone who was able to make it out to Horror Fest this year.  We had a good solid attendance for all 4 of our films.  I hope you enjoyed yourselves as much as I enjoyed scaring you all!  Another big thank you to  everyone who brought snacks, you're never obligated but as always, it is appreciated!

October is somehow already over, which is disappointing because that moves us closer to winter.  Let's hope the winter months fly by as quickly as the rest of the year.  But, as always, a new month means a new movie!  For the month of November I have chosen Dan Gilroy's thrilling film, Nightcrawler.

Nightcrawler is a 2014 American neo-noir crime thriller film written and directed by Dan Gilroy in his directorial debut.  The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a former thief who starts shooting footage of accidents and crimes in Los Angeles, selling the content to local news channels as a stringer.  It features Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, and Bill Paxton.  The film had its world premier at the Special Presentations section of the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.  It received critical acclaim and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay at the 87th Academy Awards.

The film holds a 95% Certified Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and Matt Zoller Seitz, writing for, awarded it 4/4 stars, saying this of the film, "This is a classic film, not just because every scene and line is casually beautiful and devoid of extraneous touches, but because its tone is mercilessly exact.  Gilroy, a first-time feature director who has written or cowritten many movies, knows what he wants to say, and how to say it.  He maintains just the right amount of distance from Lou, so that we get a buzz from his audacity while finding him revolting.  We're not so much looking down on Lou as peering into an abyss that exists, to some degree, within everyone: the lightless home of that little voice that whispers, "You've just gotta do what makes you happy," and "It's easier to ask forgiveness than permission."

We will be meeting Thursday, Nov. 19th at 6:15pm

Hope to see you there!

Here's the trailer:

Monday, October 5, 2015

5th Annual Horror Fest

Can you believe it's already October?  This year has gone by too quickly.  But, with the arrival of October comes my favorite film club event!  I know you know what I'm talking about (especially since it's the title of the post), the annual Horror Fest!  This year I've decided to show four films from new directors in the horror field.  I think these entries, while excellent on their own, show promise for even better stuff to come from these newer directors.  They all seem to have a better understanding of the horror genre than most, when you consider the amount of garbage horror that gets churned out regularly.
Let's get right into it.

First, I'd just like to express my gratitude to all of you great people who help make this possible just by attending!  I can't believe we've been getting together to watch scary movies for 5 WHOLE YEARS! Just awesome.  As long as you good people continue to show up, I'll keep showing movies.

We will be meeting Wed. Oct. 28th and Thurs. Oct. 29. The first film will start at 5:00pm on both nights, and the second will begin at 7:00pm, on both nights.  There will be plenty of snacks and treats, but feel free to bring whatever you'd like for yourself or to share.  Please, also feel free to dress up!  Halloween is only a few days after the film club so, get into the Halloween spirit!  If enough of you dress up, we can have a vote for best costume and the winner will get a prize, so, yeah, I'd say it would be worth it!

(click the titles for the trailers)

WEDNESDAY, OCT. 28th at 5:00pm

(Directed by Ti West)

The House of the Devil is a 2009 horror film written, directed, and edited by Ti West, starring Jocelin Donahue, Tom Noonan, and Mary Woronov.  It combines elements of both the slasher film and haunted house subgenres while using the "satanic panic" of the 1980s as a central plot element.  The film pays homage to horror films of the 1970s and 1980s, recreating the style of films of that era using filming techniques and similar technology to what was used then.

WEDNESDAY. OCT. 28th at 7:00pm

You're Next (2011)
(Directed by Adam Wingard)

You're Next is a 2011 American independent slasher film directed by Adam Wingard, written by Simon Barrett, and starring Sharni Vinson, Nicholas Tucci, Wendy Glenn, A.J. Bowen, and Joe Swanberg.  The films follows a family get together at their secluded home that comes under attack from masked assailants.

THURSDAY. OCT. 29th at 5:00pm

The Babadook (2014)
(Directed by Jennifer Kent)

The Babadook is a 2014 Australian psychological horror film, written and directed by Jennifer Kent at her directorial debut, in which a woman and her son are tormented by an evil entity.  The film stars Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman, while Daniel Henshall, Hayley McElhinney, Barbara West, and Ben Winspear appear in supporting roles.  

THURSDAY. OCT. 29th at 7:00pm

(Directed by David Robert Mitchell)

It Follows is a 2014 American supernatural horror film written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, and starring Maika Monroe.  The plot follows a girl pursued by a supernatural entity after a sexual encounter.  Filmed in Detroit, Michigan, It Follows debuted at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.

Again, there will be a plethora of snacks and refreshments, so don't feel obligated to bring anything, but I won't discourage you from doing so.  Costumes are not mandatory, but I think it would be really cool to see people dressed up.  There may be some trivia again or some other such activities, I'm not sure, I haven't worked out all the specifics yet, but it should end up being a really fun time.

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

September Film Club

Well, we made it through our Werner Herzog series.  I hope you all enjoyed the films, or at the very least, got a little out of each of them.  I think watching films that you normally wouldn't is a good practice.  I feel it broadens the mind and maybe makes you a little more open to trying out films that may be a little different, or odd.  Oftentimes, these are really great films that you may otherwise miss.

Now, on to business.  For the month of September we will be returning briefly to our regular structure, that is, one film on the third Thursday of the month, before we move on to October's Horror Fest.  The film I have chosen for this month is the directorial debut of Alex Garland: Ex Machina.

Ex Machina is a 2015 British science fiction thriller film written and directed by Alex Garland.  It stars Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Sonoya Mizuno and Oscar Isaac.  Caleb (Gleeson) is a programmer in the near future working for Bluebook, the world's most popular search engine.  In a company-wide contest, he wins a visit to Nathan (Isaac), the company's CEO, at his secluded home and research facility in the mountains.  Caleb is informed by Nathan that he will be administering the Turing test to an android with artificial intelligence.  The film was made on a budget of $15 million and grossed over $36 million worldwide, receiving positive reviews.

The film holds a 92% certified fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 201 critical reviews.  Matt Zoller Seitz, writing for, awarded it 4/4 stars, saying this of the film, "Throughout, Garland builds tension slowly and carefully without ever letting the pace slacken.  And he proves to have a precise but bold eye for composition, emphasizing humans and robots as lovely but troubling figures in a cold, sharp mural of technology.  Garland's screenplay is equally impressive, weaving references to mythology, history, physics, and visual art into casual conversations, in ways that demonstrate that Garland understands what he's talking about while simultaneously going to the trouble to explain more abstract concepts in plain language, to entice rather than alienate casual film-goers.  The ending, when it arrives, is primordially satisfying, spotlighting images whose caveman savagery is emotionally overwhelming yet earned by the story.  This is a classic film."

We will be meeting Thursday, Sept. 17th at 6:15pm

I hope you can all make it out to this excellent film!

Here's the trailer:

Monday, August 3, 2015

Summer Film Club: August

Can you believe it's already August?  A new month means TWO more films from our featured director, Werner Herzog.  This month we will kick things off with another of Herzog's greatest accomplishments, Stroszek.

Stroszek is a 1977 film by Werner Herzog.  Written specifically for Bruno Schleinstein, the film was shot in Berlin, Wisconsin, and North Carolina.  Most of the lead roles are played by non-actors.  Stroszek tells the story of a Berlin street performer, recently released from prison, who, with a prostitute and his elderly landlord, move to Wisconsin in the hopes of finding a better life for themselves.  Stroszek was conceived during the production of another Herzog film, Woyzeck, which Herzog had originally planned to use Bruno in the title role.  After believing Klaus Kinski to be more suitable for the part, Herzog specifically wrote the leading role in Stroszek to compensate Schleinstein for his disappointment over Woyzeck.  The film was written in four days and uses a number of biographical details from Schleinstein's life.

The film holds an impressive 100% certified fresh rating, on Rotten Tomatoes, out of 13 critical reviews.  Roger Ebert awarded the film 4/4 stars and added it to his list of Great Movies in 2002 saying this of the film, and specifically Bruno S. "Stroszek is one of the oddest films ever made.  It is impossible for the audience to anticipate a single shot or development.  We watch with a kind of fascination, because Herzog cuts loose from narrative and follows his characters through the relentless logic of their adventure.  Then there is the haunting impact of the performance by Bruno S., who is at every moment playing himself...he is a phenomenon.  Herzog says that sometimes, to get in the mood for a scene, Bruno would scream for an hour or two.  In his acting he always seems to be totally present:  There is nothing held back, no part of his mind elsewhere.  He projects a kind of sincerity that is almost disturbing, and you realize that there is no corner anywhere within Bruno for a lie to take hold."

Our final documentary in our Werner Herzog series is the wonderful film Cave of Forgotten Dreams.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams is about the Chauvet Cave in southern France that contains the oldest human-painted images yet discovered.  Some of them were crafted as much as 32,000 years ago.  The film premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival and consists of images from inside the cave as well as of interviews with various scientists and historians.  The film also includes footage of the nearby Pont d'Arc natural bridge.  The cave is carefully preserved and the general public is not allowed to enter.  Herzog received special permission from the French Minister of Culture to film inside the cave.  Having received permission, Herzog nonetheless had to film under heavy restrictions.  All people authorized to enter must wear special suits and shoes that have had no contact with the exterior.  Also, because of  near-toxic levels of radon and carbon dioxide, nobody can stay in the cave for more than a few hours per day.  The film holds a 96% critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 123 reviews and Roger Ebert awarded the film 3 1/2 out of 4 stars saying this of the film, "The restrictions of four small portable light panels works to Herzog's advantage; as they move, they suggest how the flickering torches might have created an illusion of movement in those repeated features.  The space was so limited it was impossible for his crew to stay out of many shots, and their shadows dance on the walls, just as the shadows of forgotten ancestors must have danced in the torchlight.  Herzog's inspiration is to show us the paintings as the cave's original visitors must have seen them.  I have seen perfectly lighted photographs of other cave paintings that are not so evocative."

(We will briefly return to our regular schedule for the month of September, but October will be our annual Horror Fest, so stay tuned for updates!)

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Summer Film Club: July

Thank you to everyone who made it to our first two films: Heart of Glass and Little Dieter Needs to Fly (and our secret, bonus, third film Lessons of Darkness).  Herzog's films are not always the easiest on first viewing, but I think as we progress, his styles and themes will become apparent and possibly even make his other films easier to understand and enjoy!

Our first film of the month of July is not only one of my favorite Herzog films, but just plain one of my favorites.  We will be watching The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser.

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser follows Kaspar Hauser (portrayed by Bruno Schleinstein), who lived the first seventeen years of his life chained in a tiny cellar with only a toy horse to occupy his time, devoid of all human contact except for a man, wearing a black overcoat and top hat, who feeds him.  One day, in 1828, the same man takes Hauser out of his cell, teaches him a few phrases, and how to walk, before leaving him in the town of Nuremberg.  Hauser becomes the subject of much curiosity, and is exhibited in a circus before being rescued by Herr Daumer (Walter Ladengast), who patiently attempts to transform him.  The film follows the real story of Kaspar Hauser quite closely, using the text of actual letters found with Hauser, and following many details in the opening sequence of Hauser's confinement and release.

The film holds a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and Roger Ebert awarded the film 4/4 stars, and added it to his list of Great Movies.  In his review, he said this of the film, "Werner Herzog's films do not depend on "acting" in the conventional sense.  He is most content when he finds an actor who embodies the essence of a character, and he studies that essence with a fascinated intensity.  In Herzog, the line between fact and fiction is a shifting one.  He cares not for accuracy but for effect, for a transcendent ecstasy.  "Kaspar Hauser" tells its story not as a narrative about its hero, but as a mosaic of striking behavior and images: A line of penitents struggling up a hillside, a desert caravan led by a blind man, a stork capturing a worm.  These images are unrelated to Kaspar except in the way they reflect and illuminate his struggle.  The last thing Herzog is interested in is "solving" this lonely man's mystery.  It is the mystery that attracts him."

Our second film for the month of July is Encounters at the End of the World.

Herzog and cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger go to Antarctica to meet people who live and work there, and to capture footage of the continent's unique locations.  Herzog's voiceover narration explains that his film will not be about "fluffy penguins," but will explore the dreams of the people and the landscape.  They visit McMurdo Station, talk to an iceberg geologist, travel to a seal camp and even visit the preserved original base of Ernest Shackleton.  

The film holds a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Roger Ebert, to whom the film is dedicated, awarded the film 4/4 stars and said this in his review, "Read the title of "Encounters at the End of the World" carefully, for it has two meanings.  As he journeys to the South Pole, which is as far as you can get from everywhere, Werner Herzog also journeys to the prospect of man's oblivion.  Far under the eternal ice, he visits a curious tunnel whose walls have been decorated by various mementos, including a frozen fish that is far away from its home waters.  His method makes the movie seem like it is happening by chance, although chance has nothing to do with it.  He narrates as if we're watching movies of his last vacation-informal, conversational, engaging.  He talks about people he met, sights he saw, thoughts he had.  And then a larger picture grows inexorably into view.  McMurdo is perched on the frontier of the coming suicide of the planet.  Mankind has grown too fast, spent too freely, consumed too much, and the ice cap is melting, and we shall all perish.  Herzog doesn't use such language, or course; he is too subtle and visionary.  He is nudged toward his conclusions by what he sees.  In a sense, his film journeys through time as well as space, and we see what little we may end up leaving behind us.  Nor is he depressed by this prospect, but only philosophical.  We came, we saw, we conquered, and we left behind a frozen fish."

Though these are very different films, separated not only by time, but also a physical distance, Herzog's themes and ideas can be seen quite clearly in both, as in most of his others.  I hope you are able to join us for these two wonderful films!

Here are the trailers again:

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser
Encounters at the End of the World

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Summer Film Club: June

June is here so summer has, as far as I'm concerned, officially begun, and with it, our Summer Film Club.  The theme this year is Director Spotlight: Werner Herzog.  Each month we will be viewing TWO films by Werner Herzog, a feature film and a documentary.  I tried to pick a nice selection of some of his best, and most fascinating films.  Our first two films this month will be Heart of Glass and Little Dieter Needs to Fly.
The setting is an 18th century Bavarian town with a glassblowing factory that produces a brilliant red ruby glass.  When the master glass blower dies, the secret to producing the ruby glass is lost.   One of the most famous things about this film is that during shooting, almost all of the actors performed while under hypnosis.  Every actor in every scene was hypnotized, with the exception of the character Hias and the professional glassblowers who appear in the film.  The hypnotized actors give very strange performances, which Herzog intended to suggest the trance-like state of the townspeople in the story.  Herzog provided the actors with most of their dialogue, memorized during hypnosis.  However, many of the hypnotized actors’ gestures and movements occurred spontaneously during filming.

The film holds an 88% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Roger Ebert awarded the film 4/4 stars, and added it to his list of Great Movies.  He said this of the film, “The interiors are darkly lit, with shadows gathered around them.  The music of Popol Vuh seems like melodies from purgatory.  Ordinary conversation is lacking, ordinary routines abandoned.  These are people solemnly waiting for…nothing.  Although some have found the film slow, I find it terrifying in its emptiness.  It is like looking down into a vertiginous fall at the edge of time.  Herzog fascinates me.  I feel a film like Heart of Glass comes as close to any single one of his titles to expressing the inchoate feelings in his heart. He was once asked what he would do if he had one day to live.  It’s a meaningless question, but I appreciated his answer: “Martin Luther said that if he knew the world were ending tomorrow, he would plant a tree.  I would start a new film.”

Our second film for this month is the documentary, Little Dieter Needs to Fly.

Little Dieter Needs to Fly tells the story of German-born American and Vietnam veteran, Dieter Dengler.  As a child, he watched his village destroyed by American warplanes, and one flew so close to his attic window that for a split-second he made eye contact with the pilot flashing past.  At that moment, Dieter Dengler knew that he needed to fly.  As an 18 year old, he came penniless to America.  He enlisted in the Navy to learn to fly.  He flew missions over Vietnam.  He was shot down, made a prisoner, became one of only seven men to escape from prison camps and survive.  He endured tortures by his captors and from nature: dysentery, insect bites, starvation, and hallucinations.  In this film, Dengler and Herzog take us on a journey through the experiences he had as a prisoner.

The film holds a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Roger Ebert awarded the film 3 1/2 out of 4 stars saying this of the film, "Herzog sees his mission as a filmmaker not to turn himself into a recording machine, but to be a collaborator.  He does not simply stand and watch, but arranges and adjusts and subtly enhances, so that the film takes the materials of Dengler's adventure and fashions it into a new thing.  Herzog starts with a balding middle-aged man driving down a country lane in a convertible, and listens, questions and shapes, until the life experience of Dieter Dengler becomes unforgettable.  What an astonishing man! we think.  But if we were to sit next to him on a plane, we might tell him we had seen his movie, and make a polite comment about it, and go back to our magazine.  It takes art to transform someone else's experience into our own."

If you haven't already checked out the trailers that were included in the last post, they are included here again:

Heart of Glass
Little Dieter Needs to Fly

I'm super excited for this summer's theme and I can't wait to share these films with you.  Hope to see you there!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Film Club Summer Series: Werner Herzog

Hello everyone!  I hope you're ready for a summer of great films because I, for one, can't wait.  This summer we will be exploring a few of the films of acclaimed director Werner Herzog.

Werner Herzog was born Werner Herzog Stipetic on September 5th, 1942 in Munich, Germany.  He made his first short film in 1962 at the age of 20, and his first feature length film 6 years later in 1968.  Since then has gone on to create a combination of over 63 shorts, documentaries and feature films, being nominated and winning many awards.

This series will differ in schedule a bit from last year.  Last summer we met the last three weeks of July and the last three weeks of August.  This year we will meet on the regular Film Club night as well as the following Thursday, so it will be the 3rd and 4th Thursday of each month.  This is what the schedule looks like:

6/18- Heart of Glass
6/25- Little Dieter Needs to Fly

7/16- The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser
7/23- Encounters at the End of the World

8/20- Stroszek
8/27- Cave of Forgotten Dreams

(Click the title of each film to see a trailer)

We will meet at 6:15pm each night, just like regular Film Club, with a little discussion after each film.  Herzog's films are far-reaching in their themes and subjects and lend themselves easily to discussion.  Werner Herzog is one of my favorite filmmakers currently making films, and one of the few directors, whom I admire, that I have had the pleasure of meeting personally.  I hope you will join us for as many films as you can!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

May Film Club

Hey everybody!  Sorry it took me so long, but I've been working on some themes for the summer.  I think I came up with some good choices but ultimately that will be up to you guys to decide.  Before we get into it, let me first send out a gigantic thank you to everyone who came out to see My Winnipeg, I wasn't sure how everyone would take it since it's a little odd, but you guys were great, and we had a really great discussion afterwards!  It shouldn't surprise me, though, because you guys are awesome!  Film Club is definitely the best program at the library because of your support, so again, a million thanks to you all.
NOW, for the month of May, I've dug up another little quirky documentary film that, while on the surface appears very simple, is actually quite deep when you dig a little...well, deeper.  We will be watching the directorial debut of the (now) famous documentary filmmaker, Errol Morris.  The film in question is Gates of Heaven.

Gates of Heaven is a 1978 documentary film by Errol Morris about the pet cemetery business.  It was made when Morris was unknown and did much to launch his career.
The film, like Morris' other works, is unnarrated and the stories are told purely through interviews.  It is divided into two main sections.  The first concerns Floyd "Mac" McClure and his lifelong quest to allow pets to have a graceful burial.  McClure's business associates and his competitor, a manager of a rendering plant, are interviewed.  The second part concerns the Bubbling Well Pet Memorial Park.  This operation is run by John "Cal" Harberts and his two sons.  This business is far more successful and continues to operate today, run by Cal's son Dan Harberts.

Noted director Werner Herzog pledged that he would eat the shoe he was wearing if Morris' film on this improbable subject was completed and shown in a public theater.  When the film was released, Herzog lived up to his wager and the consumption of his footwear was made into the short film Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe.  Gates of Heaven launched Morris' career and is now viewed as a classic.  In 1991, Roger Ebert named it one of the ten best films ever made, and wrote that the film was an "underground legend," and in 1997 put it in his list of The Great Movies, saying this of the film, "There are many invitations to laughter during this remarkable documentary, but what Gates of Heaven finally made me feel was an aching poignancy about its subjects.  They say you can make a great documentary about almost anything, if only you see it well enough and truly, and this film proves it.  Gates of Heaven is a documentary about pet cemeteries and their owners.  It was filmed in Southern California, so of course we immediately anticipate a sardonic look at peculiarities of the Moonbeam State.  But then Gates of Heaven grows ever so much more complicated and frightening, until at the end it is about such large issues as love, immortality, failure, and the dogged elusiveness of the American Dream.  Gates of Heaven is so rich and thought-provoking, it achieves so much while seeming to strain so little, that it stays in your mind for tantalizing days."

This was, appropriately, the first film I saw by Errol Morris and I fell in love with it.  Morris is a very skilled filmmaker with an eye for the peculiar and the unique.  I hope you can make it out to this interesting film.

We will be meeting Thursday, May 21st at 6:15pm.  Hope to see you there!

Here's an excerpt from the film, courtesy of The Criterion Collection:

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

April Film Club

Good April to you all!  Thank you to everyone who was able to make it out for our viewing of The Wind that Shakes the Barley, it was a good turn out and we had some new faces (huzzah!)  and we had a real good discussion following the film.  Also, isn't this spring weather great?  Except for that recent bout of snow, the horrid winter seems to have finally passed and we can enjoy life again, (another huzzah!).  For the great month of April I have decided to show one of my favorite films.  It is admittedly strange, but it is such a lovely film, I think you'll all enjoy it.  This month we are watching Guy Maddin's excellent My Winnipeg.

My Winnipeg is a 2007 film directed and written by Guy Maddin with dialogue by George Toles.  Described by Maddin as a "docu-fantasia" that melds personal history, civic tragedy, and mystical hypothesizing," the film is a surrealist mockumentary about Winnipeg, Maddin's home town.  A New York Times article described the film's unconventional take on the documentary style by noting that it "skates along an icy edge between dreams and lucidity, fact and fiction, cinema and psychotherapy."  Although ostensibly a documentary, My Winnipeg contains a series of fictional episodes and an overall story trajectory concerning the author-narrator-character "Guy Maddin" and his desire to produce a film as a way to finally leave/escape the city of Winnipeg.

The film currently holds a certified fresh rating of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes out of 82 critical reviews.  Roger Ebert awarded the film 4/4 stars saying this of Maddin's work, "If you love movies in the very sinews of your imagination, you should experience the work of Guy Maddin.  If you have never heard of him, I am not surprised.  Now you have.  A new Maddin movie doesn't play in every multiplex, city or state.  If you hear of one opening, seize the day.  Or search where obscure films can be found.  You will be plunged into the mind of a man who thinks in the images of old silent films, disreputable documentaries, movies that never were, from eras beyond comprehension.  His imagination frees the lurid possibilities of the banal.  He rewrites history; when that fails, he creates it."

This is one of my all time favorite films.  Watching it is such a joy and reminds me, every second of its duration, just why I love film so much.  Few films achieve this, and fewer directors are able to produce something that elicits that feeling in me, but Maddin is one of them, and My Winnipeg is among the very best.

I hope that you can come out and join us for this wonderful film!  We will be meeting Thursday, April 16th at 6:15pm

Here's the trailer:

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

March Film Club

Hello friends, thank you to all you brave souls that made it out in the bitter cold to come see (500) Days of Summer, we had a great turn out and pretty good discussion following.  For the month of March, following my usual tradition of showing a film regarding the Irish, in honor of St. Patrick's Day, I've decided to show Ken Loach's The Wind that Shakes the Barley.

The Wind that Shakes the Barley is a 2006 Irish war drama directed by Ken Loach, set during the Irish War of Independence (1919-1922) and the Irish Civil War (1922-1923).  This drama tells the fictional story of two County Cork brothers, Damien O'Donovan (Cillian Murphy) and Teddy O'Donovan (Padraic Delaney), who join the Irish Republican Army to fight for Irish independence form the United Kingdom.  It takes its title from the Robert Dwyer Joyce song "The Wind that Shakes the Barley" a song set during the 1798 rebellion in Ireland and featured early in the film.  Widely praised, the film won the Palme d'Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival.  The film got a positive reaction from film critics.  As of January 5, 2008, the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 88% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 102 reviews.

Jim Emerson, film critic and former editor for Roger Ebert, awarded the film 4/4 stars saying this of the film: "You don't have to know about the history of the "the troubles" in Northern Ireland to be swept up in the human drama of Ken Loach's "The Wind that Shakes the Barley," which won the Palme d'Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival.  With almost tactile immediacy-you can almost smell the smoke and the wild grasses in the hills, feel the rain and the fog in your bones-this movie places you shoulder to shoulder with people who are living and dying for their country, their families, their friends and their principles."

This is very excellent, often gritty, film about some of the volatile history of Ireland.  Ken Loach crafts a moving and compelling drama and I hope you can make it out for this wonderful film!

We will be meeting Thursday, March 19th at 6:15pm.

Here's the trailer:

Monday, February 2, 2015

February Film Club

Hey everybody, hope you survived the snow storm we just had!  First of all, let me thank everybody who made it out to our showing of Luis Bunuel's The Exterminating Angel, we had a good turn out and a good discussion.  If you weren't able to make it, we do offer it for rental at the library.  Now, on to business.
Now, as you all know, I am a fan of the romantic comedies, HUGE fan.  Ok, that's not true, not even slightly, but, there are a few romances that I don't find horrible.  For the month of February, we will be watching one of these movies.  This month's film club film will be Marc Webb's directorial debut: (500) Days of Summer.

(500) Days of Summer is a 2009 American romantic comedy-drama film written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, directed by Marc Webb, and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel.  The film employs a nonlinear narrative structure, with the story based upon its male protagonist and his memories of a failed relationship.  It premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and garnered critical acclaim, becoming a successful "sleeper hit".  Many critics lauded the film as one of the best from 2009 and drew comparisons to other acclaimed films such as Annie Hall and High Fidelity.  As I mentioned, the film is presented in a nonlinear narrative, as it jumps from various days within the 500-day span of Tom and Summer's relationship, indicated by an animation that includes the day's number.

The film received positive reviews from critics upon its release.  Based on over 214 professional reviews, it obtained a certified fresh seal on Rotten Tomatoes with an approval rating of 86%.  The consensus describes the film as "A clever, offbeat romantic comedy, (500) Days of Summer is refreshingly honest and utterly charming."  Film critic Roger Ebert awarded the film 4/4 stars saying this of the film, "Tom opens the film by announcing it will not be your typical love story.  Are you like me, and when you realize a movie is on autopilot you get impatient with it?  How long can the characters pretend they don't know how the story will end?  Here is a rare movie that begins by telling us how it will end and is about how the hero has no idea why."

This film is one of those rare romantic-comedies that I don't hate or find a chore to watch.  Come on out and join us for this wonderful little film.

We will be meeting Thursday, Feb. 19th at 6:15pm.  Hope to see you there!

Here's the trailer:

Monday, January 5, 2015

January Film Club

Hey everybody, welcome to the new year!  2015 is here and we're going to kick off this brand new year of Film Club with one of my favorite surrealist films from the ever subversive Luis Bunuel.  We will be watching his 1962 film, The Exterminating Angel.

The Exterminating Angel was written and directed by Luis Bunuel.  Following the scandal surrounding his previous film, Viridiana, Bunuel returned to Mexico to shoot another film.  This film was originally titled The Outcasts of Providence Street but was later renamed The Exterminating Angel.  It is considered by Mexican film critics as the 16th best film of the Mexican cinmea and one of the best 1,000 films by the New York Times.  

During a formal dinner party at the lavish mansion of Senor Edmundo Nobile and his wife, Lucia, the servants unaccountably leave their posts until only the major-domo is left.  After dinner the guests adjourn to the music room, where on of the women, Blanca, plays a piano sonata.  Later, when they might normally be expected to return home, the guests unaccountably remove their jackets, loosen their gowns, and settle down for the night on couches, chairs, and the floor.  By morning it is apparent that, for some inexplicable reason, they are psychologically, but not physically, trapped in the music room.  Days pass, and their plight intensifies; they become quarrelsom, hostile, and hysterical- only Dr. Carlos Conde, applying logic and reason, manages to keep his cool and guide the guests through the ordeal the best he can.

The film currently holds a 95% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and Roger Ebert awarded the film 4/4 stars, later adding it to his list of Great Movies.  He says of the film: "Luis Bunuel's The Exterminating Angel (1962) is a macabre comedy, a mordant view of human nature that suggests we harbor savage instincts and unspeakable secrets.  Take a group of prosperous dinner guests and pen them up long enough, he suggests, and they'll turn on one another like rats in an overpopulation study."  He goes on to say about the director: "Bunuel belongs to a group of great directors who obsessively reworked the themes that haunted them.  There is little stylistically to link Ozu, Hitchcock, Herzog, Bergman, Fassbinder or Bunuel, except for this common thread: Some deep wound or hunger was imprinted on them early in life, and they worked all of their careers to heal or cherish it."

The Exterminating Angel is one of Bunuel's most provocative and unforgettable works.  I hope you can all make it out to this strange and wonderful film!

Here's the trailer: