Archive for April, 2007

The Dogwalker

April 30, 2007

dogwalker.jpgEvery year hundreds of films are produced and released here in the United States, but it is only a relatively select few that ever garner any sort of real attention. The vast majority of films that make it in the spotlight are the big-budget productions that Hollywood churns out. Occasionally, a smaller, independent film manages to break out and get some attention, but even films like Little Miss Sunshine or Half Nelson have the distinct advantage of having actors with recognizable names and faces. Truly rare are the films like The Puffy Chair or Raising Victor Vargas–movies with no recognizable actors and therefore no star power–that manage get a few brief moments in the comparatively small spotlight of attention. But for all of these rare films that are given a fighting chance of being discovered, there are all the other films that get lost in the shuffle. And unless you’re lucky enough to see these films at a festival, or somehow stumble across them, many go unnoticed. (more…)

Killer of Sheep

April 29, 2007

killer-of-sheep2.jpg For many years I counted myself among those fortunate enough to have seen Charles Burnett’s 1977 film Killer of Sheep. Produced as Burnett’s thesis project while in the master’s program at UCLA, Killer of Sheep has enjoyed a near-mythological (and richly deserved) reputation as one of the greatest films ever made. It was among the first 50 films inducted in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, and in 2002 the National Society of Film Critics named it as one of the 100 Essential Films of all time. And yet, despite the acclaim and accolades the film has garnered over the decades, Killer of Sheep has remained largely unseen, making the occasional appearance at film festivals or on college campuses. But all of that has changed, as the complicated nightmare of music clearance rights that held the film back for 30 years have finally been cleared, and Burnett’s masterpiece is making its way to art house theaters across the country. (more…)

Mahogany

April 25, 2007

mahogany.jpgMahogany came out in the theaters shortly before I turned six years-old. By that time I was already obsessed with film, and had made up my mind that when I grew up I somehow wanted be involved in movies. I knew I had to pay attention to everything I saw in every movie I watched, but Mahogany was the one of the first films to teach me a valuable lesson about life. Although I could not articulate it at the time, I was aware of the fact that part of the measure of a film was how an audience reacted to seeing it. If an audience laughed, I understood that what was on screen was supposed to be funny. If the audience cried, I understood that something sad had happened. But while watching Mahogany, I heard the audience do something I had never heard before. Approximately seven minutes into the film, Billy Dee Williams appeared on screen for the first time, and I heard a noise come from a majority of the audience, which happened to be women. I didn’t know what that sound was, but as I recall is was a combination of gasps, sighs and moans. It wasn’t until years later that I would come to understand that that sound was a collective chorus a female sexual desire. This sound, that was emanating from nearly every row in every corner of the movie theater in Norwalk, Connecticut, was the sound of women wanting. And because of that and another key life lesson I learned from Mahogany, I will always have a place in my heart for that film (even though it sucks). (more…)

Grindhouse

April 4, 2007

grindhouse.jpg There’s nothing quite like the painful sting of disappointment that comes from anticipating something, only to be let down when it fails to live up to your expectations. Every time I feel that extreme sort of disappointment, I promise myself that I will never again get excited about something. I promise myself that I will no longer count down the days until some new album drops or wait anxiously for some new film to open. But then something like Grindhouse comes along, and the geeky fanboy in me takes over, and all I can do is think about what a great movie this is going to be, and how I can’t wait to see it in the theaters four or five times, and then buy the DVD and watch all the bonus material, absorbing every aspect of what will no doubt be a cinematic masterpiece. And no matter how many times I go through this (although I must admit it is less and less frequently as I grow older), it still hurts when the film is a let down. It especially hurts when the film is as big of a letdown as Grindhouse. (more…)