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Showing posts from 2019

VIDEO ESSAY: Scorsese's Second Take

Martin Scorsese's new film The Irishman, which makes its streaming debut today on Netflix, is another landmark achievement from one of the world's greatest filmmakers. The film is also a reckoning for Mr. Scorsese.

The fact that The Irishman opens up with a long tracking shot (photographed by Rodrigo Prieto) is a deliberate nod to Scorsese's -- arguably -- most famous sequence: the long tracking shot into the Copacabana from Goodfellas (photographed by the late Michael Ballhaus). Nearly 30 years after that shot first dazzled audiences, Scorsese looks to be making an amendment to his visual thesis. Gone is the glory and glamour from the Goodfellas days. In The Irishman, melancholy oozes from the edges of the frame. Right out of the gate, we're introduced to the end of the road: a senior home where mob hitman Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) sits alone, awaiting his meaningless death.

When this shot is juxtaposed against the Goodfellas shot showing Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) …

VIDEO ESSAY: Once Upon A Time...In The F.B.I.

Something I tend to do at some point in the evening, whether or not drinks are involved, is to make anyone who is visiting my apartment sit down and watch something I love or find compelling or just want to share because I think it's the most special thing. It could be a whole movie or a short film or a music video. Maybe it's an SNL digital short. Sometimes it could be a video essay I just cut and want some feedback on. The through line is always the same: it's the moving image that I always go back to, wanting to relish in experiencing it with other people.

In the months since first watching Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon A Time...In Hollywood, his slow-burning cinematic love letter to Tinseltown in 1968, it's become fact that this movie serves the same purpose for Mr. Tarantino. It's not just a glorious "hangout movie" -- it's a glorious "hangout movie about watching movies -- and TV and commercials and even just listening to the radio.&qu…

Watch: Gaspar Noe's ENTER THE CATS

It's been quite the day for trailers. Ad Astra. It Chapter Two. Top Gun: Maverick. But I don't think anyone was REALLY ready for the promised "digital fur technology" of Tom Hooper's Cats. The trailer is pure nightmare fuel.

While watching it, the first thing that struck me was how dark and dreadful the film looked. Like physically and literally. I started thinking about how the film would probably be enjoyable while on some drugs. Then I started fixating on a shot of Idris Elba on top of a multi-colored lit building and the poster for Gaspar Noe's Enter The Void suddenly popped in my head. And after that, there was no turning back...

Trailer Alert: James Gray's space epic "Ad Astra"

It's no secret that I greatly admireJames Gray's The Lost City of Z. So his upcoming operatic space drama Ad Astra has been of great interest to me. While the first trailer certainly was intriguing, the second trailer (which 20th Century Fox released today) works like gangbusters. Tonally, it fits more in the Gray cinematic canon -- i.e. it's introspective, it has stirring orchestral music and focuses on another father-son dynamic. Think about it. Joaquin Phoenix felt an obligation to do the right thing for his cop father Robert Duvall in We Own The Night. Phoenix also felt an obligation to keep his father's dry cleaning business alive -- and therefore making his social and romantic life impotent -- in Two Lovers. In The Lost City of Z, a final father-son exploration back into South America proves tragic. And now Ad Astra stars Brad Pitt as an astronaut who goes looking for his estranged astronaut father (Tommy Lee Jones) in deep space.

For me, this trailer gets every…

#InformedImages: Thom Yorke and Paul Thomas Anderson's "Anima"

#InformedImages is a Free Cinema Now series that studies and brings to light influential films and other examples of moving images that informed and inspired specific visuals in later works.

Paul Thomas Anderson shocked a lot of cinephiles last week when he dropped a new musical short film -- Anima -- on Netflix. Anima is a creative collaboration with Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke; it immediately drew comparisons to Buster Keaton from several film writers. The Keaton comparison is fine and all but it is kind of a lazy summation in my opinion. To me, PTA's Punch-Drunk Love was more of a Buster Keaton homage if anything (just look at the sequence where Adam Sandler runs from the Four Blonde Brothers outside of a 99¢ Only Store).

I feel that Anima comes from a perfect storm of pretty random inspirations. Among them, some Bergman (Persona) and McQueen (Shame). The centerpiece of Anima, I believe, is a direct offspring of the 1989 Oscar-winning animated short film Balance. This extended…

Watch: MIDTOYSOMMAR (Trailer mashup of TOY STORY 4 and MIDSOMMAR)

While watching Josh Cooley's Toy Story 4 -- perhaps the bleakest entry of the series (and that's not a bad thing) -- I remembered how insanely serious this Pixar flagship really is. I'm not kidding. Remember the theme of mortality during that incinerator scene in Toy Story 3? This is heavy stuff for the targeted children audience. Toy Story 4 is no different — but instead of death it looks closely at the next scariest thing: breaking up with someone. In a lot of ways, this is *the* Woody entry in the film series, giving him a complete, fully-focused arc. Woody is poised with the dilemma of having to break up with Bonnie, his kid owner. And the ending is surprising and moving.

Then, making a complete 180-degree turn is Ari Aster's upcoming "horror" film Midsommar. I haven't seen Midsommar yet...but I fully intend to, especially since I regard Aster's Hereditary as the best film of 2018. So, as many cinephiles can relate, I've been reading anything…

Watch: PERFECT PIKACHU (Mashup of "Pokémon Detective Pikachu" and "Perfect")

On Tuesday May 7th, Warner Bros. and Ryan Reynoldstrolled the Internet by pretending to upload the entire Pokémon Detective Pikachu movie to YouTube, a couple of days before its theatrical release. As I type this, the YouTube video -- which actually shows Pikachu working out to some 80s jazzercise music -- has 1,441,931 views and counting. It's a clever marketing ploy, feeding right into the piracy culture of the interwebs and poking fun at the rick-rolling clickbait urgency. 
Within moments of watching this rick-roll video, I recalled the 1985 romance-fitness club-meet cute that is Perfect, starring John Travolta and Jamie Lee Curtis. Then the idea clicked to replace Curtis with Pikachu and...well...you can just watch for yourself...

#InformedImages: “There Will Be Blood” and “Narcos: Mexico”

#InformedImages is a Free Cinema Now series that studies and brings to light influential films and other examples of moving images that informed and inspired specific visuals in later works.

I remember the exact the moment it clicked together for me. It was about half an hour into episode 2 (directed by Josef Kubota Wladyka) of Narcos: Mexico on Netflix. The camera crept across the dry, desert landscape toward a hole in the ground, where Rafael Caro Quintero (a.k.a. Rafa, played by Tenoch Huerta Mejía) was digging furiously, in an attempt create a makeshift aqueduct to help grow his field of marijuana. It recalled images from the earlier sections of Paul Thomas Anderson's masterpiece There Will Be Blood, when Daniel Plainview (played by Daniel Day-Lewis) was digging for oil underneath the rocky ground. Then, as I continued to watch Narcos: Mexico, a more striking visual parallel to There Will Be Blood began to emerge. For example, as Rafa and his boss Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo (…

Watch: THE MASTER JOKER (Trailer mashup of THE MASTER and JOKER)

At the end of Paul Thomas Anderson's 2012 drama The Master, the protagonist -- or antihero? -- Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), an alcoholic and violent WWII vet who spent most of the film's running time butting heads with his post-war environment, almost seemed to be at ease finally.

With the first teaser trailer for Todd Phillips' Joker (also starring Phoenix) dropping online today, I couldn't help but draw a new cinematic connection. What my latest mashup trailer suggests is that since the 1950s, Freddie has grown into a new person...Arthur Fleck (a.k.a The Joker) in the 1970s!

Take a look and put on a happy face.

Watch: A Whole New IT (2019 ALADDIN Mashup Trailer)

2019 is proving to be "a whole new world" indeed! This past Sunday night, during a commercial break for the 61st Annual Grammy Awards, Disney dropped a surprise TV spot of their upcoming live-action remake of Aladdin. It gave us our first look at Will Smith as the Genie, a role made legendary by the late Robin Williams in the 1992 animated feature.

While it's unfair (and definitely too early) to say whether the film -- or Smith's complete performance -- will be a massive failure, it is fair to say that the visual effects rendering of Smith as the larger-than-life blue Genie is anything but impressive. In fact, it's a downright frightening creation. It's crude and looks like a movie meme brought to life.

After watching this new TV spot several times, I began to draw movie connections and then reimagined Aladdin's Cave of Wonders as Pennywise the Clown's lair in the 2017 remake of It.

In short, Will Smith's Genie gave me more goosebumps than the cl…

Finally, The 60 Best Films Of 2018

Don't @ me.

Hereditary Directed by Ari AsterShoplifters Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda BLACKkKLANSMAN Directed by Spike LeeThree Identical Strangers Directed by Tim WardleFirst Reformed Directed by Paul SchraderCapernaum Directed by Nadine LabakiDid You Wonder Who Fired The Gun? Directed by Travis Wilkerson24 Frames Directed by Abbas KiarostamiThe Rider Directed by Chloé Zhao Annihilation Directed by Alex GarlandHappy As Lazzaro Directed by Alice RohrwacherYou Were Never Really Here Directed by Lynne RamsaySpider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey & Rodney Rothman Widows Directed by Steve McQueenDon’t Worry He Won’t Get Far On Foot Directed by Gus Van SantMission: Impossible - Fallout Directed by Christopher McQuarrieWhite Boy Rick Directed by Yann DemangeWildlife Directed by Paul DanoUnsane Directed by Steven SoderberghRoma Directed by Alfonso Cuarón Blaze Directed by Ethan HawkeIf Beale Street Could Talk Directed by Barry JenkinsÚltimos Días En La…