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20/20 Filmsight - Film Criticism by David O'Connell

 
Film Criticism by David O'Connell

20/20 Filmsight - July 2007

Black Snake Moan

July 30th 2007 22:50
Black Snake Moan Samuel Jackson movie poster
Black Snake Moan takes the dirty, sweaty energy of the Tennessee blues and fuses a story of redemption and guilt. Samuel Jackson plays Lazarus, a down-and-out bluesman who finds Christina Ricci half-naked and nearly dead on the road.

He nurses her back to health, and aims to cure her of her wickedness, a foul mouth and a burning addiction to sex.

It's dirty and raw, with the dusty farm roads of Tennessee making the perfect backdrop for this black hole of American culture... it's alluded to that the film takes place in the modern day, but it could easily have been 20, 30 or 40 years ago.

People are poor, with a sharp divide between black and white, though there's surprisingly little racism, suggesting that American culture hasn't really evolved in all parts of the country.

The film poster reminds audiences of grindhouse movies, and while that's not entirely correct, the screen is soaked with sex and lust... Lazarus chains Rae, played by Ricci, to his radiator in order to keep her from chasing men, and the chain is used to replicate kinky bondage scenarios.

And, damn!, is Jackson superb... his country black accent is picture-perfect as his style. He looks pathetic, alone in his farmhouse, but regains some of his younger strength once Rae needs tending to.

For that matter, Ricci captures the film... playing a sex-crazed maniac sounds like an easy role, but Ricci shows us the complexity of the role, with big, soft eyes that hint at a childhood of abuse, covered up with an angry shell.



Blues music is played over every scene, with Lazarus playing his guitar during a thunderstorm, or on his porch in the afternoon. I love the blues, especially the old tunes, which coax images of alcoholism, dirty night streets and an unquenchable fury. The music in Black Snake Moan, while fitting, didn't stir me the same way that some of the old classics do, but the soundtrack suited the film nonetheless.

Black Snake Moan
is a stirring, humanistic film... you'll feel your blood pump through your veins as the film charts through all the major blues emotions: regret, anger, lust, sorrow. It'll inspire the senses, as sound and smell come alive off the screen, with the sweat on writhing bodies bringing you to the boil. "Live your life" says Lazarus, and we see why.



I say
: A savage examination of the human soul, and one presented over the blues... definitely a great movie for Australian audiences.

See it for: Christina Ricci... I only knew her as the weird daughter from The Addams Family, and she's now a leading lady capable of carrying a film on her shoulders. We see a lot of her naked, horny body, and she looks... amazing... you'll almost be terrified by the hunger in Ricci's eyes.




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Dirty Harry

July 29th 2007 23:50
Dirty Harry Clint Eastwood
It's one of those movies that will always be remembered: Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry, a police thriller that invented the genre in American cinema.

To watch it now, it's lost a little bit of shine... Eastwood is fantastic, delivering his lines in that tough guy image that we're all used to, but the story takes time to develop, and there's a lot of lost tension.

Add to that the fact that we see the killer from the beginning, and you start to wonder what the point of all this is.

Of course, all of this is trivial when Eastwood delivers, arguably, the most memorable lines ever said by a police officer in a movie:

"I know what you're thinking. Did he fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I've kinda lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?"

Shall we?



It's all very good, and filmed with helicopters over San Francisco. You really feel like the killer is a predator in a concrete jungle, stalking his prey, while Harry plays the most dangerous game.

Where Dirty Harry really shines, however, is after he's caught the killer. Up until that moment, the film seems to have no gravity or lustre.

Once Harry brings him in, the District Attorney lets him have it... after all, Harry didn't play by the rules, ignoring the need for a search warrant and proper police behaviour. A visiting judge announces that all the physical evidence is inadmissible in court, allowing the killer to go free.

Harry is a lone wolf, more concerned with the letter of the law, rather than the rules created to protect people. He's out for justice, like some remorseless samurai.

Indeed, he channels Melville's Samourai in his honour, his silence. He's a hard man, almost a relic of an earlier age - and he's unfit to survive in our modern jungle.

In the final scene, Harry realizes it himself... he's an anachronistic savage, playing police in 1960s San Fran, when he should really be a Knight of the Round Table in the Dark Ages. There's no subtlety in his actions, and his breaks in the case are due to luck, suggesting that he's not so clever, either.

Yes, Dirty Harry reminds us that the tangled web of law protects us from the police - sure - but also protects the criminals. The field of law is a murky water at best, which is why people devote their entire lives to its study. In the movies, however, all those problems can be solved with a .44 Magnum.


I say: One for the fans of the police thriller... it's not particularly well-paced or gripping, which may deter regular cinema fans.

See it for: Dirty Harry's lines are precious.


* this image is from the Wikipedia page on Dirty Harry
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Dragon War Trailer

July 27th 2007 18:58
D-War promotional image dragons invade Los Angeles


Update(5/09): The TV trailer is available on Youtube, embedded here for your convenience.



Update(30/08): D-War came out in Korea, selling 6.13 million tickets(as of early August), making it the most successful movie of 2007 in Korea. This article claims that the movie is inspiring fierce emotions of nationalism., as the movie is based on Korean mythology, though it's filmed in English, with American actors.

Well, it'll open on Sept. 14 in America, and we'll see if the CGI-violence-and-fantasy spectacle will sell over the big pond.

With all the interest from Asian audiences, my curiousity is definitely piqued by this movie. Is it a return to the Hollywood blockbusters of the 80s and 90s? Maybe it's time for American studios to hand over the reigns to the kings of a new decade.



Dragon War D-War movie poster
Thanks to the magic of CGI, the B-movie is coming back with a vengeance, except now they're dressed up with slick special effects and big budgets, propelling them into Hollywood red carpetdom.

None more so than Dragon War, or D-War, another big Korean monster movie.

Unlike The Host, which played around with the cliches of monster movies, D-War looks like it's going to happily pursue cliche and inane stereotypes.

Dragons. Wise old Asian grandfather. White boy destined to save the world grows up in disbelief. Has a hot busty white girlfriend. Has a wise-cracking black friend.

Stuffy military committee. Sends fleets of Black Hawks out after the monster. Swat Teams. War flashbacks remind me of Lord of the Rings AND Star Wars I, if you can believe it.

All they need is little boy who is good with computers or has an uncanny ability to communicate with animals, a SWAT team member that 'never leaves a man behind', and a stripper with a heart of gold.

It doesn't even look that fun, though the violence is satisfying.



You have to appreciate the raw computing power that goes into making fantastic fantasy, though. Check out this collection of rendered scenes:



Here's the official English website!


(found on I Watch Stuff)

* first image is from this Japanese site
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This is one of those things that's just making the rounds on the Internet, and it'll make you wonder about the usefulness of the Internet.

It appears to be a 13-year-old kid lip synching to some song, which is not that good


[ Click here to read more ]
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Shrek the Third

July 25th 2007 18:59
Shrek 3 Shrek Donkey and Fiona

This isn't the type of movie that I'd normally review on this site, and, in fact, I did not see Shrek the Third. My girlfriend, however, DID watch it, and she enjoyed it enough that it seemed like a wise move to post a review.

[ Click here to read more ]
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Ah, the 60s... a time when pornography was considered 'golden' and when you could smoke on airplanes. Those crazy days of halycon youth are long gone, especially for those of us who weren't even born in the 60s, but can only judge the decade by our father's Playboy magazines.

Believe it or not, some people didn't like pornography in the 60s and they made a little PSA (Public Service Announcement) to warn you of the evils of perverse pornographication


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People always warn you against doing anything illegal in Asian countries, as the jails there are real prisons, not like the Canadian jails: 'Would you like chicken, beef or fish? Don't fill up - we're going golfing today!'

And I'm sure a jail in the Phillipines would be a bad place. Not somewhere that you'd get a lot of rest and relaxation


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Zhang Ziyi nude scene body double Shao Xiaoshan

The nude body double for Zhang Ziyii, a Miss Shao Xiaoshan, posted an ad for a foreign husband on her blog.

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Oldboy

July 22nd 2007 23:36
Oldboy Hammer Fight Corridor Scene
Oldboy was a Cannes contender, losing out to Fahrenheit 9/11, despite Quentin Tarantino's sweaty, spit-riddled pleas for justice.

It's a nasty, violence-soaked revenge thriller from Korea, but one that turns the genre on its head... I've never seen anything like this, and it was a mind-blowing two hours of sweaty palms, cold feet


[ Click here to read more ]
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Real Transformers Costumes

July 21st 2007 18:51
Want to be a Transformer? A real one? One that transforms?

Well, a group of fanatical fans have devoted time and effort into making 'real' Transformer costumes


[ Click here to read more ]
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MATURE CONTENT
   


Indiana Jones Harrison Ford
Harrison Ford and Shia LaBoeuf have started filming the new Indiana Jones movie, with tingly fans shrieking in anticipation for photos or footage. All we have is this photo of Harrison Ford dressed like Indy and sitting in a rocking chair.

Today, the Guardian Film Blog found a rumour that Lucas et al. may be planning to do a trilogy, and some of the actors have signed for a further two films


[ Click here to read more ]
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In the Realm of the Senses

July 17th 2007 23:08
In the Realm of the Senses
Based on a true story from Japan in 1936, In the Realm of the Senses is a provocative 1976 movie from director Nagisa Oshima. It's a masterful tale of an all-consuming sexual relationship that drives deeper into the sinister chasms of depravity.

And depraved you will feel - the sex is unsimulated, and we see shots that we're not used to seeing outside of pornography


[ Click here to read more ]
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Borat at the Tour de France

July 16th 2007 23:10
This video seems to show Borat, famed Kazahkstani journalist, running alongside the bikers in the Tour de France, clad only in that horrific shoulder-strapped thong-thing.


[ Click here to read more ]
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Slate had a contest to see who could come up with the corniest action movie one-liner. One thing that makes action movies so bad/good/bad is that there's almost always some incredibly ridiculous one liner after the main character kills someone.

This point was satirized hilariously in the UK action movie homage, Hot Fuzz. Simon Pegg meets up with Nick Frost after shooting a bad guy, who then falls into the freezer


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Some Like It Hot

July 15th 2007 22:58
Some Like it Hot Marilyn Monroe

Considered 'culturally significant' and one of the funniest American films in history, Some Like It Hot is an outrageous comedy from Billy Wilder.

[ Click here to read more ]
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Indiana Jones Adaptation Steven Spielberg
I've heard of this before, but the recent news on this made me even more interested in this film.

When Raiders of the Lost Ark came out in 1981, a group of three 10-year-old boys fell in love with it and decided to make a shot-for-shot adaptation of the film


[ Click here to read more ]
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So, you know about World of Warcraft, right?

Sure, you do


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Withnail and I

July 10th 2007 18:42
Withnail and I movie poster
Withnail and I is often labelled as 'the funniest English movie ever made', but that's a highly contentious issue. After all, it's the country that gave birth to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, though there's a similar undercurrent in Withnail and I.

It's bizarre, it's unbelievably quotable, and it's a terrifying look at near-madness


[ Click here to read more ]
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Original Burlesque Goes Beserk!

July 9th 2007 10:58
Luckily, I was sent home early last Friday, which meant I was unexpectedly free to attend the Original Burlesque goes Beserk showing at the Chauvel. It was a special presentation by the Mu-Meson Archives, a bunch of misfits that seemingly enjoy cinema that would normally be relegated to the refuse bin.

The screening consisted of a collection of old loops from the old burlesque days, a ragtag assemblage of historical clips. Back in the day, they must have been 'stimulating' but now they are nothing more than fascinating curiosities


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Something else about Woody Allen

July 8th 2007 23:30
I was doing some background reading about Woody Allen to prepare for my post on The Purple Rose of Cairo and found this interview with him in the Guardian.

This interview was taken after Hollywood Ending had finished filming... the film was a terrible disappointment, with all the critics gleefully describing it as one of Allen's 'worst films' and his personal critics still attacking his personal life


[ Click here to read more ]
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The Purple Rose of Cairo

July 8th 2007 23:03
The Purple Rose of Cairo Woody Allen Mia Farrow
Recommended by Damo, The Purple Rose of Cairo is one of Woody Allen's best loved films, awarded in Europe and included on Time Magazine's All-Time Greatest 100 Films list (the limitations of a top 100 films list befuddles me).

Allen's then-romantic-interest Mia Farrow takes center stage as a Depression-era housewife whose miserable life is illuminated only by the time she spends at the cinema, watching The Purple Rose of Cairo endlessly, day after day


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Young and Dangerous

July 6th 2007 18:24
Young and Dangerous
Young and Dangerous is the name of a 1996 movie from Hong Kong that tells the down and dirty about a group of young gangsters in the Triads.

It may feel odd to Westerners, who were weaned on the gangsters of Coppola and Scorcese, memories of Joe Pesci squeezing some guy's head in a vice, or even Pacino and his leetle friend... Young and Dangerous features some inconsistent style, strange rules of honour and dialogue that appears cheesy


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This Sunday at 6 pm, come along to the Chauvel Cinema for a double screening of Annie Hall and The Purple Rose of Cairo.

In addition to enjoying Allen's films, have a brownie. I had one last week - it was $2.80 and so chocolately delicious that I almost bought a second


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Betty Page sitting winking on the beach
If you're in Sydney, you've got to make your way down to the Chauvel this Friday for their once-in-a-lifetime screening of Original Burlesque - a two hour reel of burlesque loops from the 50s.

The cast reads like a Who's-Who of dirty, backalley strip clubs: Betty Page, Lili St. Cyr, Tempest Storm and more


[ Click here to read more ]
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The Hitchhiker (HBO Series)

July 3rd 2007 23:25
The Hitchhiker
Back in the 80s, there was a show produced in Canada called 'The Hitchhiker', which was something like a less-science-fictiony version of The Twilight Zone or Outer Limits.

It would start off with this hitchhiker, in a worn, brown leather jacket, opening the show with a stiff dialogue. Then the show would play out, and there was always some twist or mystery to give the story a sickly, repulsive feel


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A Streetcar Named Desire

July 2nd 2007 23:21
Marlon Brando Streetcar Named Desire
Elia Kazan's adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play, A Streetcar Named Desire, was a terrifying film when it came out, exploring ideas of abuse and mental illness. Fifty-six years later, it still shocks your blocks.

It launched Marlon Brando's career, and with no surprise, either. Brando steals the show, eclipsing every other actor on screen. He's Stanley Kowalski, a working-class Polish descendant, complete with sweat-stained fitted T-shirts and a vulgar mouth. His wife is Stella Dubois, from a formerly wealthy upper-class house, and the differences between them are obvious, especially when Stella's sister, Blanche, comes to stay


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La Vie en Rose

July 1st 2007 22:44
Edith Piaf La Vie En Rose
'La Vie en Rose' means 'Life in Pink', a phrase that summons up images of soft pink sheets and bright Sunday mornings accompanied by the sounds of sparrow regurgitating worms to feed their squawking infants.

It's a song written and made famous by Edith Piaf, one of France's most memorable and loved singers. And, tragically, Piaf's life was anything but Pink


[ Click here to read more ]
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