Short Film Saturday: Kandinsky Drawing

It’s been far too long since I’ve included shorts here so why not start with a little art. The creative process being caught on film is one of the unique things the motion picture can do. If you want a more art buff-friendly insight to this abstract creation follow the Open Culture link where I found this short.

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Film Activism: Kamikaze ’89 on Kickstarter

Yesterday, I was pleased to learn  about (and back) this Kickstarter for an American re-release for Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s final starring role in a cult film called Kamikaze ’89 (1982). This is a re-release both theatrically and on DVD/Blu-ray.

At this time, we’ve organized the North American theatrical premiere on June 3, at BAMcinématek in Brooklyn, NY. Where it screens next is, partly, up to you – although we can’t guarantee bringing the film to every town, with your support we can reach theater operators all over the map. Any funds raised in excess of the initial $20,000 will go towards expanding the film’s theatrical impact, or investing into future stages of the release cycle, like making the best possible DVD and Blu-ray package. This film is truly an unsung classic and we can’t wait to bring it back to the public eye with your support.

Here’s the campaign blurb:

Kamikaze ’89 was the final acting role of its star (and master filmmaker) Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Directed by his friend Wolf Gremm, the film is not often cited among Fassbinder’s important achievements. That’s due for a change. Set in a dystopian, futuristic Germany (actually only 7 years after its 1982 production date), Kamikaze ’89 is perhaps Fassbinder’s crowning achievement as an actor. The film also marks his last collaboration with longtime muse Brigitte Mira, and co-stars Franco Nero, of Django fame as well as Fassbinder’s final project as a writer/director, Querelle. It is also the only film in which he wears a leopard-print suit in every scene, which we think is reason enough to consider it more than a mere “footnote to film history,” as Vincent Canby said in his original New York Times review. Finally, you’ll love the electronic score by Edgar Froese of Tangerine Dream, who as a band defined the sounds of many cult classic films, from William Friedkin’s Sorcerer to Michael Mann’s Thief to Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark.

They’re seeking $20,000 (this is NOT a flexible funding project). Here’s their statement on the funds:

In order to bring this film the attention it deserves, we’re planning a nationwide (and Canada!) theatrical re-release. Although Film Movement has a long track record dating back to 2002, this will be our first large-scale theatrical re-release under the Film Movement Classics banner. We know from handling new releases over the past 13 years that putting a film into movie theaters and on Blu-ray is expensive. We figure $20,000 is the minimum we need to raise to get it out there for the theatrical release alone. If we can raise an additional $10,000, we’ll put it towards the creation of a brand new 35mm print, made with the utmost care from the new 4K digital master. The true cost for this is actually significantly higher – closer to $35,000 to do it right – but if we meet this goal, we will have the generous assistance of Ziegler Film, Kamikaze’s original production company, in covering the balance for this vital asset. Finally, if this campaign is a hit, we’ll be able to invest further in new restorations and releases; you’re not just backing this film, you’re backing our mission to celebrate classic cult and arthouse cinema.

For more about the rewards and to back the project visit its page.

Mini-Review: Jack Reacher

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Jack Reacher

This is the kind of film that looks pretty good based on the trailer, but I’ll admit I didn’t rush out to see despite the fact that this film boasts the brilliant move of using Werner Herzog as its villain. My reaction to the trailer was that it seemed like those bits would be the highlights. It does, however, expound upon that with good action sequences and an intriguing web of mystery that’s well executed in visual and cinematic terms. It’s another winning project for Tom Cruise, who remains one of the few actors who can consistently find star vehicles that work on a narrative, financial and aesthetic level.

8/10

Poverty Row April: High Gear (1933)

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old Poverty Row April post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically depending on the theme. Enjoy!

High Gear (1933)

Oddly enough here you have an example, right after the last, of a melodrama that doesn’t work. This one also features Jackie Searl (as he was more commonly credited) albeit in a smaller role, he’s also orphaned, has a similar climax in terms of plot points, but is flat, rushed and for the most part ineffectual. Part of the issue with this film is that the stakes aren’t all that high. The climax of the film and denouement are lazily, cheaply handled with poor dramatic effect. The characters in this tale are flatter and less engaging than the prior one. Again this is a case of parallels causing easy comparison, but it just doesn’t work. The child, aside from the scene of immediate shock, seems greatly unaffected by his being orphaned. The trauma our protagonist deals with is handled with mediocrity and while the film moves well-enough and is done quite professionally in most regards save for the writing. In the end it’s just too much to overcome.

5/10

Mini-Review: Debra Paget, for Example

This film is available to stream on Fandor. For those of you who are not familiar with Fandor, it’s frequently referred to as Netflix for cinemaphile. In essence, what Netflix was and always should have been. Fandor is available for a free trial period and can be subscribed to on a discounted annual basis rather than a higher recurring monthly fee.

This Mark Rappaport documentary, as opposed to the previously reviewed Max & James & Danielle, is a bit longer and has one central focus: the intriguing career of Fox contract player Debra Paget.

At once it’s an interesting look into a C-list career and the common practice of not only keeping contract players but attempting to create homegrown stars out of them. Through this trip Rappaport not only indulges in a universal nostalgia for things and people experienced during childhood, which we can all agree to regardless of the details.

Once again there is some more speculation here with wondering if Paget ever really got her desire to play the bad girls Marilyn Monroe go to portray, and also imagined and interpreted voice over that is imagining Paget’s insights to pivotal moments as she was notoriously one who shunned the spotlight or retrospective interviews after her Hollywood days had passed her by.

Again there is some parenthetical fascination in this film, with this and Rappaport’s other recent short you’ll come away from this film fascinated, enlightened, and with a long list of movies to see.

Mini-Review: Max & James & Danielle

This film is available to stream on Fandor. For those of you who are not familiar with Fandor, it’s frequently referred to as Netflix for cinemaphile. In essence, what Netflix was and always should have been. Fandor is available for a free trial period and can be subscribed to on a discounted annual basis rather than a higher recurring monthly fee.

This is a video essay by director Mark Rappaport who has made a name for himself through his cinema-loving feature and short docs. The marvelous thing about this particular title is that there is a significant dalliance in speculative fantasy true paramours of film engage in but can only adequately explore via video and picture editing.

In this film Rappaport discusses the phases of the career of Max Ophüls. In particular it examines his work with James Mason in the United States, and another favorite, Danielle Darrieux in France. The speculation comes in wherein Rappaport imagines the three collaborating in an imagined film.

With both this imagined past, that reflects Ophüls imagined Golden Age Vienna, and Rappaport’s parenthetical narration style, this is an enjoyable quick doc that should be a decent primer on his style.

My eBooks now on Nook!

One of the big projects of me for 2015 was getting my ebooks that already existed in better shape. They are now, and can be found on Amazon worldwide.

Part of that project was supposed to include making the existing books available on other platforms as well.

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Fast forward to now and phase one of that process is complete: The Isle of Helyr and The Bloodmaster Trilogy both are available on Nook for purchase.

It’s the same cheap $0.99 either way, so get reading!

iBooks to follow!

Updates: April 14, 2016

An update on this site is long overdue. Heck, a post in general is long overdue. Since October the struggle for any cinephile has faced has been very present for me: what matters more life or film? Clearly without life there is no film. However, those obsessed with film don’t always grasp that fully. Two new phases of my life are being entered to: fatherhood (in it, in a foster kind of way), and being a licensed driver (working on it – and originally from New York so that explains that).

I had a good deal of the gap in new material filled with re-spliced material but alas they lapsed. But things are in the works both here and elsewhere they’re just a bit slower-going. Here are some examples.

The first in line will be reviews for two short documentaries by Mark Rappaport.

Followed by a Blu-Ray review of a previous Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language film now out on Blu-ray.

Then a Blu-ray review of a horror film starring the late great Christopher Lee, to not narrow it down too much!

Batman-Superman Logo (DC/Warner Bros.)

Also, I’ve begun ruminating on the latest caped crusader film. Hint: I was enveloped by the sheer vacuity of it, then when I realized why I was really mad.

Aside from writing projects here, I also have outside writings in various stages of development. I definitely need to kick into high gear. And when I do you’ll hear about it here. One recent development you will not can be found here.

BAM-Awards-2015

I have every intention of writing up the BAM Awards for the 21st time in 2017, I just need to do a lot of year-end catch-up.

If a hiatus is needed in the future for another work it will be announced beforehand.

Speaking of hiatuses, my The Tin Drum posts, are a white whale I’m determined to chase down also.

Game of Thrones (2011, HBO)

More is sure to come as balance, much like winter on Game of Thrones, is coming to my life.

Rewind Review: Charlie St. Cloud

Despite the fact that both the trailer and the synopsis of Charlie St. Cloud make it quite apparent that Charlie (Zac Efron) will lose his brother (Charlie Tahan) his brother in a tragic car accident the film still manages to be quite compelling which is rather impressive in and of itself. When one of the more crucial and emotionally wrenching facts about a film is a given the picture starts behind the eight ball but it manages quite nicely.

Another surprising element, without giving too much away, is that there is a twist within the telling of this tale but the nice thing about it is that the twist acts as part of a frame and not the lynchpin of the tale. Unlike many films which rely on a twist ending this one incorporates it into the storytelling without having the quality of the film hinge on whether or not you like the twist. In a sense the twist does not necessarily lie to you. While the rules of the preternatural visions are a bit hazy for much of the film by the end you’ve untangled them and see that what lies within the framed tale is still very much worth seeing.

In just over 10 minutes you get a sense for who Sam (Tahan) is and also the relationship that he and Charlie share. It is a good example of cinematic shorthand and what is also refreshing to see is that it was somewhat realistic. Due to the age difference Sam was frequently roughhousing with Charlie’s friends and didn’t have the cleanest vocabulary. However, just because it wasn’t Disneyfied saccharine doesn’t mean you didn’t feel the true emotions belied by the insults and punches thrown.

charlie_st_cloud04

The editing in this film is particularly strong not only in terms of making the story flow but especially allowing the story to have emotional impact. Prime examples of this are in the flashback sequences and in the car accident. Particularly the latter as it demonstrates the power of sound and does not sensationalize events but knows instead the power of the human imagination.
Another interesting thing is that this film had Look At You style casting in which a familiar face you haven’t seen in a while pops up in an unexpected film as a supporting character. There is Kim Basinger, who plays the boys’ mother. Her involvement is also early on as the story does do a time jump of five years, which is not easy to pull off. It is well handled particularly when Charlie hears “You haven’t changed a bit.” It’s stock dialogue but it is a concern that needs addressing when you take a character from high school senior to someone who should be just out of college and have the same actor play both with little to no change in appearance. There’s also Ray Liotta who plays a small but pivotal role as a paramedic who Charlie runs into later on by chance. There’s also Donal Logue as Tess’s (Amanda Crew) mentor, you may know him from the series Grounded for Life. Lastly, there’s Augustus Prew who I hadn’t seen in quite sometime and who most may only remember as Rachel Weisz’s unstable son in About A Boy, does the line “She doesn’t fancy him, she only fancies me!” being screamed ring a bell? All these supporting characters play a very important role in adding dimension just beyond the two main relationships of the film namely Charlie-Sam and Charlie-Tess.

While being supported by a very capable performance by Amanda Crew, the film is called Charlie St. Cloud and for good reason. Efron dominates the film and carries it with ease. For the first time in a while you see him playing a fully-rounded character and not just rounding out a rather simple one. It’s a side of him many may not know existed between all the High School Musicals and Hairspray, it might not be the better one but it is strong nonetheless. Regardless it’s a strong wrenching performance. If Efron can find musical work that can let him play a layered character we can see him at his fullest potential but the film musical is still on life support.

charlie-st-cloud

What was also good to see was Burr Steers’ name as director. This marks his third feature and I’ve seen all of them and they are rather different from each other. First, there was a the sharp-witted, acerbic Igby Goes Down which was one of the best films of 2002. Then there was last year’s Efron star vehicle 17 Again, which while nothing special did have its moments of escaping the formula. While it’d be great to see of Steers has another writer/director gig in him it is good to see his versatility.

Overall, this was a cinematically and viscerally pleasing tear-jerker that is definitely worth seeing.

8/10

Poverty Row April: Tangled Destinies (1934)

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old Poverty Row April post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically depending on the theme. Enjoy!

Tangled Destinies (1934)

If you’ve ever seen a murder mystery weekend episode of a sitcom, the gag is that invariably a real murder ends up occurring. This is the kind of tale that inspired that charade because for the most part it plays out like one of those tales, minus the subterfuge. The set-up is fantastic: an emergency landing of a small plane during a storm forces the passengers to seek refuge in a nearby empty house. The storm causes power surges and ample opportunity for the mysterious murderer/crook to strike.

There are some Pre-Code twists to it that will leave you guessing, and the occasional not-suitable-for-the-21st-Century comment, but the film does well to build and develop its mystery and buck expectations.

8/10