Can't Stop the Movies - Page 2 of 414 - No One Can Stop The Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
6Jun/180

TSPDT 999: Oasis (2002)

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I'm going through the list of all the films I have not seen on They Shoot Pictures Don't They.  It is arguably the most comprehensive and varied "best ever" list assembled.  If I have seen a film on the list previously, I will write short thoughts followed by a full review of the unseen film alternating between the top and bottom of the list.  Today's film is from the bottom of the list, Lee Chang-dong's 2002 drama Oasis.

There's a turn of phrase I've gradually phased out of my writing repertoire when it comes to criticism, when the piece of art "makes a mistake it can't recover from".  This implies I know more than the makers of the piece of art, and also posits the mistake as some kind of disease or injury that the art merely needs to take some bed rest to overcome.  When I accepted the good and the bad aspects of all works of art are more intentional than not, I started to appreciate more films, songs, books, and so on.

That also means when a film takes as dreadful a turn as Oasis does, I have to take that as intentional.  What begins as a depressingly realistic depiction of mental illness and how sufferers are ostracized from friends and family becomes a terrible fantasy.  Oasis is the film where its protagonist rapes a woman with cerebral palsy.  This is the start of their romance.  That rape begets romance is one of the many ethical travesties committed in Lee Chang-dong's film.

5Jun/180

TSPDT 19-22: Man with a Movie Camera (1929)

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I'm going through the list of all the films I have not seen on They Shoot Pictures Don't They.  It is arguably the most comprehensive and varied "best ever" list assembled.  If I have seen a film on the list previously, I will write short thoughts followed by a full review of the unseen film alternating between the top and bottom of the list.  Today's film is from the top of the pile, Dziga Vertov's 1929 experimental documentary Man with a Movie Camera.

19. Persona (Like) - Discussed at this link.

20. Rashomon (Like) - Discussed at this link.

21. The Godfather Part II (Like) - I'm not big on The Godfather but finally broke down at some insistence and watched Part 2.  All the apathy I felt for the original turned around in this sequel.  A big reason for that is the parallel plot structure of the now deceased Vito and Michael struggling with the power his father built.  It requires no investment in the first film because of how clearly Coppola communicates the inter-generational cycle of violence.

22. Man with a Movie Camera -

In 1929 the Soviet Union was post-Lenin, pre-famine, and surging forward on a wave of industrialization that took Russia from a borderline feudalistic country to one of the great powers on our planet.  Even knowing what's to come, Stalin's brutal dictatorship twisting the foundation of communism into an unrecognizable ghoul away from its ideological roots, Man with a Movie Camera is a breathless and bold statement of a country ready to flex its newfound power.  There's nary a whiff of the military in Dziga Vertov's film, instead focusing on the everyday pleasures while not ignoring the strain rapid industrialization placed on the populace.

Shots come and go so quickly the most accurate descriptor of Vertov's style is that old cliche, "blink and you'll miss it."  That doesn't come close to correctly describing the affect of Man with a Movie Camera.  Vertov's montage is so crisp and precise that even when the shots change from apartment outcroppings to hospital cradles arranged in aesthetic similarity the connection is emotionally clear even if the intellectual threads aren't immediately apparent.  This is not a film interested in the artifice of fiction or keeping cinema rooted in stage theatrics.  Vertov's trying to usher us into a new way of thinking about, crafting, and experiencing cinema with all the confidence and bluster of his fellow citizens.

Man with a Movie Camera isn't entirely free of artifice or, at least, Man with a Movie Camera requires a certain suspension of disbelief regarding what we know cameras and the human body are capable of.  When the titular man emerges from a frosty mug of beer we know intellectually that he's not gearing up for the worst hangover in human history.  What we're seeing is in-camera special effects, superimposing one image atop another to emotionally prep the audience for a night of fun.

3Jun/180

LOCALHOST (2017)

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If this is your first time reading Pixels in Praxis or are averse to spoilers, check out our FAQ before proceeding.

LOCALHOST can be purchased on itch.io.

"My mind feels too clear. My memories are automatically sorted, processed. And all of human experience isn't enough."

These words come from the red drive, arguably the most tragic of the artificial intelligences I'm tasked to delete in the middle of LOCALHOST's night.  I've felt that inability to stop the rush of memories before where every decision and feeling I've made or experienced blindsides me at once.  But that rush, that overwhelming sensation, is part of the human experience.  That the red drive, supposedly a man who uploaded his consciousness as he lay dying of cancer, never experienced the existential anguish of feeling the entirety of your existence laid bare brings up two important questions.

The first - am I being tricked?  Red has a personality and communicates terror but using broad strokes.  It's as if red's AI learned the words of existential angst but didn't quite get the hang of the helpless intensity of being painfully present.  The second - why don't I care?  Or, more to the point, why don't I empathize?

I'm aware as I make my conversation choices that these are fictionalized drives of AI, programmed by fictional programmers but made by a real team that had to include some programmers.  Even as I write that I realize I'm uncomfortably aware of exactly where I am and what I'm doing.  This collection of electronic signals communicates artificiality through carefully constructed encounters that are animated with uncomfortably familiar mannerisms.  My brain fires similar electrical signals to make these hands work, and I'm struggling to contain the associated feelings.

1Jun/181

TSPDT 1,000: Sorcerer (1977)

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I'm going through the list of all the films I have not seen on They Shoot Pictures Don't They.  It is arguably the most comprehensive and varied "best ever" list assembled.  If I have seen a film on the list previously, I will write short thoughts followed by a full review of the unseen film alternating between the top and bottom of the list.  Today's film is from the bottom of the pile, William Friedkin's Sorcerer coming in at 1,000.

Experiencing Sorcerer is akin to being pulled down in an ocean wave, gasping for orientation and control in an environment indifferent to your struggle.  That's exhilarating for me as a challenge to my personal physical limits much like Sorcerer challenges my cognition of what the hell is going on.  Describing Sorcerer afterwards is daunting as I think back on how much storytelling William Friedkin crams into the opening vignettes.

There's the effortless sliding cool of Friedkin's zoom pan from an idyllic poolside to the hotel room of a man assassinated by Nilo (Francisco Rabal), doubled up by the long slow descent of the camera as it follows Nilo's problem-free exit.  Shortly after, a shocking splash of red as Victor's (Bruno Cremer) business partner commits suicide instead of asking for financial help.  Kassem (Amidou), the sole survivor of a carefully planned bombing, gets a ruthless shoot first never ask questions response from the Israeli military.  Then the bruises on the face of a bride and matching wounds on the groom tell the story of domestic violence not seen onscreen as Jackie (Roy Scheider) robs a church during their wedding.  Every one of these setups could have spun into their own film, but Friedkin goes deeper and darker by focusing on capitalist oppression on their personal scales long before seeing the desolation of Sorcerer's setting Porvenir.

29May/180

TSPDT 1-18: L’Atalante (1934)

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I'm starting a new project that will take me at least through next year by going through the films I have not seen of They Shoot Pictures Don't They.  It is arguably the most comprehensive and varied "best ever" list assembled.  If I have seen a film on the list previously, I will write short thoughts followed by a full review of the unseen film alternating between the top and bottom of the list.  Today's film is number eighteen, Jean Vigo's L'Atalante.

1. Citizen Kane (Like) - The film so good it's given us an exhausting comparison to films not named Citizen Kane even outside cinema. Citizen Kane remains a propulsive steamroller of style while creating the eternally young myth of auteur perfection in Welles.

2. Vertigo (Like) - One of the benefits of going through this list will be filling in my Hitchcock blank spaces. Blissfully, Vertigo's alternately nightmarish and hypnotic presentation of desire, fear, and obsession haunts and thrills in equal measure.

3. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Like) - Discussed at this link.

4. The Rules of the Game (Like) - Renoir is a filmmaker I came to gradually, needing to see the goofy Boudu Saved from Drowning and Grand Illusion before returning to The Rules of the Game. The second time through its gentle humanism and dense storytelling riveted me.

5. Tokyo Story (Like) - The only Ozu I've seen (and something I look forward to correcting). Tokyo Story is heartbreaking in its low-key poeticism, letting the relative peace of each composition settle in before the inevitable march of time and increasing callousness of the children send their elders off into the abyss.

6. The Godfather (Indifference) - Some films, like Citizen Kane, survive the way pop culture has integrated almost every scene into various works of art. Not The Godfather, where Brando's mushmouthed performance and dreadfully slow pace sapped my interest in watching the others for some time.

7. (Like) - In truth, there are better films exploring the space of imagination and memory than Fellini's. But that doesn't stop from being a lot of playful fun with a touch of melancholy and inventive camerawork to maneuver around tech limits at the time.

8. Sunrise (Like) - Thankfully, I rarely encounter people who resist watching films not made in the last ten years. If I ever do, I'd find a way to quickly put Murnau's Sunrise on. One of the most gorgeously shot films ever made with timeless romantic tension.

9. The Searchers (Indifference) - The beginning and end of The Searchers is ambiguous American filmmaking at its best. The middle is a plodding western I could do without.

10. Seven Samurai (Like) - Discussed at this link.

11. Apocalypse Now (Like) - Not the best of the Vietnam films, but the one that takes the most daring creative steps in putting us in the maddening cycle of violence that seems without end.

12. Singin' in the Rain (Like) - What a dazzler made from spare parts with its tongue in its cheek and its heart in the heavens. Brilliant physical comedy from Donald O'Connor, endless enthusiasm from Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly's carefree dance with the camera and rain, and hearing Jean Hagen's voice for the first time. Singin' in the Rain is truly magical.

13. Bicycle Thieves (Indifference) - File Italian neorealism under "not my thing". I'm open to that changing over the course of this list, but Bicycle Thieves left me cold rather than invested.

14. Battleship Potemkin (Indifference) - See above. I will not discount Eisenstein's importance on cinematic craft and theory, but this was a chore to get through outside the terrifying Odessa Steps sequence.

15. Taxi Driver (Like) - Not my favorite Scorsese but damn close. The bitter loneliness of Travis Bickle led to one of the most misapplied quotes in cinematic history. But the film itself with its hellish streets, subtle racism, and threat of misogynistic violence remains painfully relevant today.

16. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Like) - I didn't realize my copy of The Passion of Joan of Arc had an accompanying musical score because I was so spellbound by Joan's torment at the hands of men committing venial sins. Sunrise may be the better "gateway" picture into early cinema, but this is arguably the first fully transcendent spiritual experience film could provide.

17. Breathless (Like) - I have a love/meh relationship with Godard. Breathless glided over me the first time through. Then I felt the urge to watch it again. And again. And again. By my fourth or fifth time I realized Godard's effortless cool and metatextual vision hooked me deep.

18. L'Atalante -

L'Aatalante took aim and struck mightily against my Achilles Heel - sincerity.  Not sincerity stewed in melancholy (though there's a helping of that), nor sincerity with the easy gloss of sentimentality (dash of this as well), but sincerity through the weathered emotions of a man past his prime trudging himself up from his depression to help two lovers find their way.  Jean Vigo willed himself through his final days to make L'Atalante, and it's hard not to sense his feelings on his imminent death tied with the Jules (Michel Simon), the first mate who's seen it all but has little to call his own.

I could make the visual argument that Jules' story runs parallel to that of the just-married Juliette (Dita Parlo) and Jean (Jean Dasté) if not for one curious shot during L'Atalante's opening scenes. Jules leads the cabin boy (Louis Lefebvre) by the hand to prepare a warm reception for the newlyweds.  Despite Jules' dedication to the task at hand, Vigo halts the momentum to allow time for Jules to say a quick prayer at the church.  It's the first of many time Jules sneaks off to try and have a life of his own before his duties put him back where he's supposed to be.