2013 Archives - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Changing Reels Episode 14 – Upstream Color

In episode 14 of Changing Reels, we dive into Shane Carruth’s experimental science fiction drama Upstream Color. The film is a love story revolving around two individuals who find themselves inexplicably drawn together after being the victim of an unthinkable crime. Exploring themes of memory and identity, and featuring brilliant sound design, there is plenty to discuss in this film. As is custom, we also take a few minutes to highlight our two short film picks of the week: Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi’s Giant God Warrior Appears in Tokyo and Alberto Roldán’s Everything & Everything & Everything.

Show Notes:

  • 5:22 – Giant God Warrior Appears In Tokyo by Shinji Higuchi
  • 15:43 – Everything and Everything and Everything by Alberto Roldán
  • 26:09 – Upstream Color by Shane Carruth

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Changing Reels Episode 5 – The Bling Ring

It can be argued that Sofia Coppola is easily one of the most respected female directors of this generation.  Growing up within the film industry, it is no surprise that many of her films touch on themes regarding the nature of fame.  In episode five of Changing Reels we weigh the merits of The Bling Ring, Coppola’s 2013 ripped from the headlines film about celebrity obsessed teens whose love of fame leads to them stealing from the very same stars they adore.  We also discuss our short films picks of the week:  Hiro Murai’s Clapping for the Wrong Reasons and David Raboy’s The Giant.

You can subscribe and rate our show on both iTunes or Stitcher!

Show notes:

  • 1:22 – Clapping for the Wrong Reasons by Hiro Murai
  • 10:05 – The Giant by David Raboy
  • 22:13 – The Bling Ring by Sofia Coppola


Denis Villeneuve Podcast: Prisoners (2013)


Courtney Small of Cinema Axis joins Andrew for a conversation on the moral complexity and gorgeous photography of Denis Villeneuve's Prisoners.

Both the introduction and outro on the podcast come from composer Jóhann Jóhannsson for Sicario ("The Beast") and Prisoners ("Through Falling Snow").


Claire Denis: Bastards (2013)

Marco's family needs him.  His brother-in-law committed suicide, a creditor holding his estranged family in debt may be to blame, and his niece was found after surviving a brutal sexual assault.  Marco returns home, sets his eye on the creditors wife, and begins to unravel what poison is killing his family.  Claire Denis directs Bastards from a screenplay co-written by Jean-Pol Fargeau and stars Vincent Lindon and Chiara Mastroianni.

See me nowIt didn’t strike me until halfway through Claire DenisBastards just what is the crowning achievement of her films. They’ve been rooted in different genres, ranging from horror with the hypnotic Trouble Every Day to the languid near-ethnographic work of White Material. With a skill I’ve rarely seen outside the films of Andrei Tarkovsky, Denis edits to emotional beats within the story instead of on specific actions. I think of the moment when her camera lingers on Protée long enough to see him weep under a shower, or when Dr. Brown stops to hungrily smell a woman’s hair as he stands too close to her in the train.

So it makes perfect sense that Denis would come to noir at some point. As the latest film in her work it also stands as one of the most narratively obscure, hiding the truth of the poisoned family history which plays out in those little emotional moments which propel the story. As an intellectual exercise I’m intrigued, especially since noir is defined as much by its evocative photography as it is by the characters who must insist to themselves or others they are doing the right thing.

Denis, who cowrote the screenplay with frequent partner Jean-Pol Fargeau, does not leave the characters of Bastards much room to explain themselves. This makes for wonderful imagery, and a stunning opening chapter which worked so well the rest was almost certain to be a disappointment. But the narrative cohesion is stretched to the limit, partly because of Denis’ editing style and also casting all the relevant women in the movie as slight variations on the same look. I was entranced by the visuals, but when I started thinking about where I was in the story I’d get lost.


Spike Lee: Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth (2013)

Spike Lee teams up with Mike Tyson to present a filmed version of Tyson's one-man show, Undisputed Truth.

There was a boyI can think of few subjects more worthy of Spike Lee's attention than Mike Tyson.  Tyson has always fascinated me, as his early life and brutal treatment still led to reading Maya Angelou and philosophy to talk about shifting economic conditions in America.  But this same upbringing and intelligence nonetheless produced a man who was convicted of the rape of Desiree Washington and bit off part of the ear of Evander Holyfield.  No matter the sensitivity or humor of the way Tyson presents himself in Undisputed Truth, to say nothing of the apparent reconciliation between him and Holyfield, I could not forget that the Tyson speaking onstage trying to crack jokes with the audience contains violent multitudes.

My observation Tyson "trying to crack jokes" is intentional, because I didn't laugh once during Undisputed Truth.  What I saw was a shifting portrait of a man uncomfortable in the spotlight, trained to behave and perform in a specific way be it in the ring or up there in the corner of Undisputed Truth.  The first shot of the show has Tyson in silhouette, sitting quietly as Nat King Cole's "Nature Boy" plays and when the lights come on we see Tyson trapped in the corner with a single bar stool and he tries to put on a chipper voice when he thanks everyone for coming out and welcomes them to his "living room."  It screams loneliness and desperation, not intimacy and humor.

The loneliness is what struck me the most about the next eighty minutes, as Tyson tells the audience stories of how he was abused, ignored, spat on, and taken advantage of.  I was almost horrified the first time I heard the audience laugh when Tyson was telling the story of the bully who killed one of his pet pigeons.  It's in that story we get a microcosm of Tyson, capable of nurturing but because of his environment and the evil he was subjected to he becomes a reflection of that evil and expressed it in violence.  This tension between Tyson's story is presented in the way Spike frames Tyson.  Unlike in Freak and A Huey P. Newton Story there's a noticeable distance between Tyson and the crowd, and even when we get a reverse-shot looking out into the crowd their faces are indistinct and reactions unclear aside from the sound of laughter.

Spike picks up on this tension, and the reaction shots from the crowd tend to pain a different story than the laughter on the soundtrack.  But before we get into that, how did you feel coming out of Undisputed Truth?With my mammaMy immediate reaction is that yes, that initial scene felt like a bizarre SNL parody in which Tyson takes over for Mr. Rogers, and he never quite recovers from that in terms of general presentation. We differ a little when it comes to the humor—I didn’t really laugh much, but I did think Tyson brought a nervous comic energy to certain sequences. The rhythm of the show ebs and flows, with these increasingly hard to follow, quickly spun stories reaching a manic high point, followed by a more emotional anecdote or shift in chronology.

One of my thoughts frequently was, “Tyson would be a great one-man performer if he had a little more control over his delivery.” This was usually followed by the question of responsibility in giving Tyson more of a voice, empowering someone who was convicted of rape to tell their side of the story and spend an hour prior painting themselves in a complex, somewhat nuanced light at least in part in order to contextualize the later crime. We talked about it a little with Kobe Doin’ Work, but it’s tough for me to make a case for actively seeking to give accused (and in this case convicted) rapists more exposure and cultural agency just because of the other details of their lives—it’s something victims almost never get in those cases. (*And significant to note that this was of course a show running on its own, independent of Spike—what I’m referring to is Spike’s decision to give it wider viewership by filming it.)

That said, you bring up an interesting theme that I don’t think gets fully realized in Undisputed Truth—the tension between Tyson’s inner violence (both suffered and inflicted on others) and his projected humor and reflectiveness. He’s sharply self-aware, and there are moments—like the story you mentioned about the bully killing his pet pigeon—where it almost seems like his own humor, feeding into the audience’s uncomfortably cued laughter, is directed at the absurd contradiction of his character. For being known as, among many other things, one of the most fearsome, brutal boxers of his time, I can see how such a sensitive and horrific story would be dealt with using dark humor—it’s as if both projected versions of his personality are meeting in a memory.