Saturday, September 18, 2021

Mary and Max (2009) directed by Adam Elliot

 This stop motion animated film by Adam Elliot and based on his correspondence with a friend in New York for over 20 years. Voice talents include Philip Seymour Hoffman, Toni Collette, Eric Bana and Bethany Whitmore. 

The basic story is the long distance friendship between a  lonely young girl who lives in Australia who randomly sends a letter to New York after finding max's name in a phone book and asks him where babies come from the United States. Max is has Aspergers syndrome and, after panicking about receiving the letter, responds and the two begin a back and forth that goes on for decades. 

The film follows the two and their relationships changes over the years was Mary grows up and Max has his own changes over the years. They lose contact for a time but they continue to inspire each other .

This film is without a doubt a black comedy... some of it is pretty bleak and depressing even with a layer of comedy painted over it. The characters are very endearing nevertheless less and the animation is stylized and original. Mary's world is sepia-tones while Max's new York is in black and white. Both have splashes of red here and there. There is a lot of child abuse in this movie, in Max's history and Mary's [present and it sort doesn't get better as time goes on but the bond between them helps them cope and survive. 

I want to avoid spoilers in case anyone decides to see this, but I will say it ends in a touching but heartbreaking way and it made me cry. Partly from sadness and partly from Mary realizing how important she was to Max.

Not exactly a fit for the whole family and it is a challenge to deal with the subject matter. It is well worth watching and VERY far out from most films I've seen and can be harrowing but well worth travelling the journey it takes you on. 

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Polish poster: Jaws 2

 I mean... it's taking the title pretty literal, non? It is clever in one way but confusing in every other way! 

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Polish Posters: The Shining

 I am not sure what the top poster says about the movie... but I like it. You can almost make Jack Nicolson's face behind the abstraction and there is what looks like a still from the movie near his chin.  The bottom one is certainly terrifying, but it's super weird. I bet Shelley Duval is not happy with it. The posters both seem to be showing some sort of psychosis and at least they get across the disturbing elements of the film... of which there are many. 

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Mommy (2014) directed by:Xavier Dolan

 I have been wanting to watch this film for years and when it came on TV I reordered it... and waited more years to play it. I do like the films of Xavier Dolan. Like most filmmakers he has his strong and weak points but overall I don't think anyone can really deny he is a serious and seriously good director/writer/actor and editor. I knew going on this was an intense one and it didn't let me down on that level. 

The story of a mother, her son with severe behavioural issues and the neighbour who befriends them, this film while not without humorous moments exposes its subjects and the difficulties they face directly and forced the viewer to deal with it all head on. Filmed in a 1:1 ratio like classic films were, the cramped square restricts and contains their lives and options. It's very effective and the cinematography and editing are amazing. The only quibble I have is the use of popular music throughout. It's not inappropriate but for me personally it takes me a little out of the story from time to time. 

The start of the movie has an overly long series of title cards outline how a new government has enacted a law that allows poor parent's of troubled kids to place them into hospital with basically no question asked. I think this could have been told in a short line of dialogue or some other way that didn't drag out the start of the film as it's a plot convenience and the story is not about it.

I do not want to spoil the film, though to be honest, there isn't much room for what happens at the end to progress in many other directions but there is point where the lives of the characters and literally the world of the film opens up for a brief time before it all closes in on them again. 

The there main actors Anne Dorval, Antoine Olivier Pilon and Suzanne Clément are stunning in their roles. Dolan's collaboration with the actors, particularly his long association with Dorval pays off with her giving a very real intense performance that will likely bring you to tears. Pilon keeps you n edge the entire running time. He never overplays his condition and makes it clear there is no predicting his behaviour from one moment to the next.  Clément with her stutter and reserved manner is a calming influence on the others and us. 

*I would like to give a pat on the back to out Québec productions. Less than 5 million $ to make this film which is typical and the quality is in line with anything I've seen at 100 million $. Proof that the success of a movie lies in it's tory, actors and technicians and dedication to strong ideas and situations over flash and high paid "stars". 

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Who Are You,Charlie brown? (2021) directed by Michael Bonifiglio

 Narrated by Lupita Nyongo, this hour long documentary for Apple TV+ is very well produced and does a good job telling the basics of Peanuts cartoon creator Charles Schultz. It has nicely done appropriate graphics setting the cartoon strip as a template to tell the story and includes a Charlie Brown animated story throughout in which he is asked to do an essay about himself. 

I can't say it's bad doc because it really isn't. but it lacks depth mostly because I think it is aimed a very young audiences as an introduction to Shultz's life which was pretty interesting. To my ears, Nyongo's narration is in that tone we reserve for young children, and the details of the artist's life are spoon fed through very simple factual statements. If it is aimed directly for younger children, then it's a good effort. If it was aimed at adults or fans of Peanuts then it's a little too simple and shallow a dive. maybe I knew too much about him already to be a target audience. 

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Polish Posters: Rosemary's Baby

 I highly recommend a search of "polish movie posters" if you get a chance. Better yet, just keep reading the Slammer and I'll be posting quite a few over the next year.  I don't know what got me started on this, maybe it was the super bizarre Godzilla poster I saw in a video on monster poster art or maybe it was one of these... lets say varied... interpretations for the film Rosemary's baby. 

The top image is my favourite... it's great even it it tells you nothing about the actual film. 

The two above really have  different take on the baby part of the name. One is a creature's hand and the other looks almost like a Madonna and child. 

These two obviously have the same inspriationbut took it in wildly different directions. Ones is a very chaste, creepy and , I think well rendered image.. something I might want to draw myself while the other is some sort of 80s exploration film version of the same image. Sexy as Mia Farrow is in the film I just don't see her in that...pose. 

Click the images to see larger versions.

Believe me, this is the just scratching the surface and I'll be exhibiting many more Polish posters soon. 

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Waxworks (1924) Directed by Paul Leni

There are three main reasons to watch this silent film.  Emil Jennings (Caliph of Bagdad), Conrad Veidt (Ivan the Terrible) and Werner Krauss (Spring helped Jack). Such a test should be enough but the wonderful cinematography, sets and great cutting and superimpositions life this anthology film to a higher level. A poet is hired to make up stories about an exhibitions main wax figures and each one plays out with him and the proprietor's daughter as the love interests in each. The three sections are imaginative, I'll give it that and it ends in a surreal chase. The set pieces are reminiscent of the expressionist classic, Cabinet of Doctor Caligari but not quite as out there. Close, but not quite. 

Saturday, July 24, 2021

City Lights (1931) written, produced, directed by, and starring Charlie Chaplin


Made several years after sun was taking films by storm, Charlie Chaplin defied the odds and produced not only a work of art but a huge hit in this silent film. He would avoid sound another few years but this is considered one of his best projects. 

The little tramp character befriends a millionaire after stopping him for committing suicide who helps Chaplin by giving him money so that a blind girl, the tramp's love interest can have an operation restore her vision. When the rich an is robbed and the tramp is found with  a ton of his cash, things get complicated. The tramp evades the police long enough to pass the cash to the girl but is soon arrested and put in jail. 

After being released he sees the girl in a flower shop window, the girl comes out and replace a crushed flower he is holding and when she touches his hand she realizes who he is and they smile at each other. 

Well acted, filmed and maybe a little sentimental the film still has impact and can touch your heart like few other movies can. Chaplin is a master of his medium and this is considered by sum to be his masterpiece. 

Saturday, July 17, 2021

The Mark of Zorro (1920) directed by Fred Niblo

This original film version the Zorro legend is a pure delight. At this point we all know the story of the rich dandy courting the beautiful woman who finds him annoying but is also the dashing hero of the people, Zorro who cuts the faces of evil doers with sword, leaving his trademark "Z" on them as a warning to others. 

This is the role that catapulted Douglas Fairbanks to international fame and it is no mystery why. His dual role is done with an amazing amount of humour and his physicality and joyful energy in the role has never been matched. The sword fighting and the amazing stunts are still thrilling to watch and done with a grace and sense of fun that just keeps you engaged with the film from start to finish. 

Fairbanks produced the film and adapted it from the the 1919 story The Curse of Capistrano by Johnston McCulley as well as playing the titular role. 

I was introduced the character by the old TV show and have a soft spot for Zorro I have to admit. He was in some ways the inspiration for another vigilante of justice, Batman. In the comic, Bruce Wayne's parents are killed after seeing this this film so it's no wonder why the grieving child took on the role of a masked hero. To be honest this film would many anyone want to do that. 

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Pandora's Box (1929) Directed by: Georg Wilhelm Pabst


This one of my favourite films and one of the best films of all time. If that sounds over the top, watch this and see for yourself. Even today, the actions and personality of the lead character, Lulu, is iconic and unmatched almost 100 years since the film's release. Playing the lead, Louise Brooks created something unique... an image and look that survives to this very day. She is more than just one of the most beautiful women of all time... her character is so full of life and ch charismatic is just pouts out of the screen into the viewers eyes. He haircut and look literally influenced the entire flapper era and Lulu's lust for life and new experiences is infectious. Look toward almost any advertisement, decoration almost anything from the flapper era and Brook's image is on it. 

Pabst and his team took Brook's natural talent and brought it to life with amazing photography. Every frame could be a still photo. This is German film so it goes the way many did and have gone since...right into a nightmarish world of horror and depression but it's so well done and you are so caught up in the main character's story you just can't stop watching as it all starts going from fun to tragedy. 

The plot is complicated, involving a devil may care young woman who is basically sleeping wiht almsot everyone else in the cast including her fiancé, his son, an acrobat and some woman she knows. Somehow they mange to present this behaviour as freeing and endearing and beyond the prudishness of that and to be honest, this generation. Lulu isn't looking to hurt anyone... at least not at the start. 

It was inevitable that such a free spirit would get herself into trouble and boy does she ever get into trouble. Her fiancé is not happy catching her with so many people during their wedding reception and orders her to kill herself. They struggle with a gun and he is accidentally killed, the door to the room opens and the guests see her holding the smoking gun with his head buried in crotch - one of the most memorable shots in cinema history. 

Her dead husband's son helps her escape to London to avoid going to prison for murder with some of her other associates but it all goes down hill from there, leading her into prostitution and a shocking ending that even for a film this old, if you have never seen it, you won't see it coming. 

Anyone I can get to watch this movie finds it shocking and intriguing. Louise Brooks is mesmerizing. Too many people are unfamiliar with silent cinema to know it was not all Keystone Cops but often poignant, complex and talking about subjects that even today people find controversial and scandalous. I cannot imagine something this wildly free being made today.