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The A-Z of Movie Directors

Or more specifically, my A-Z of movie directors. Everyone has their own, and I invite everyone to share theirs. Although you can probably guess, it’s a list of directors sorted alphabetically, with one director for each letter of the alphabet, for example, the letter A could be Akira Kurosawa or Paul Thomas Anderson, depending on whether you choose to sort alphabetically by the first letter of the first name or the last name. Either one is optional, you don’t have to restrict it to using the first letter of the surname.

Anyway, here’s my list.

A

Paul Thomas Anderson: The greatest living American director today, Paul Thomas Anderson has consistently served excellent films about the human condition, live in the San Fernando Valley and character studies.

Best Movie: There Will Be Blood (2007)

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B

Ingmar Bergman: The king of European cinema, the late Ingmar Bergman was a man who knew everything about cinema, and made films that covered various excellent moments in human life, confronting topics such as religion, sexuality and human relationships.

Best Movie: Persona (1966)

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C

Francis Ford Coppola: In the 70s, at least, this dedicated man went through Hell (from the time constraints of The Godfather making to the infamous tragedies of the Apocalypse Now shoot) to make some great movies and cannot be ignored.

Best Movie: The Godfather (1972)

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D

Darren Aronofsky: A man whose knowledge of cinema has resulted in some moving, horrifying images put to screen, Aronofsky tests the limits of film and uses his strong filming tactics to create original, studied pieces.

Best Film: Requiem for a Dream (2000)

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E

Edgar Wright: From fast-paced, extra-extreme editing, to quick cuts, witty humour delivered with notable velocity and film reference after countless film reference, it’s nice to have a fresh British take on modern comedy.

Best Movie: Shaun of the Dead (2004)

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F

David Fincher: A director whose understanding of the foundations of a decent thriller and whose analysis of human behaviour is fascinatingly key, Fincher has presented us with his own fresh outlook on darker societies.

Best Movie: Fight Club (1999)

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G

Vincent Gallo: A doubtful and surprising choice, I know, but this man deserves his place here for his simple cleverness and accuracy in either comedy (Buffalo ’66) or deep-seated tragic drama (The Brown Bunny). An interesting, misunderstood man.

Best Movie: Buffalo ’66 (1998)

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H

Alfred Hitchcock: One of the founders of action thriller, Hitchcock has managed to, time after, time, produce interesting, thought-provoking thrillers, and earned his name among the best of Hollywood’s directors.

Best Movie: Rear Window (1954)

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I

Alejandro Gonzalez Iñàrritu: A Mexican film director whose movies examine racism, prejudice, coincidence, chance and human connections unlike any others, Iñàrritu is a man who knows what he films, and makes strong, beautiful movies.

Best Movie: Amores Perros (2000)

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J

Joel Coen: One of a duet of extremely talented brothers, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen have consistenly and regularly produced interesting, often hilarious, always moving movies that have taken their place in great movie history.

Best Movie: Fargo (1996)

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K

Krzysztof Kieslowski: Though the man only made four movies (and one ten hour movie split into ten “episodes”), those films are beautiful, masterful films of exploration and deep meaning about humanity. His premature death is a sadness, but his films live on.

Best Movie: Three Colours: Red (1994)

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L

David Lynch: Probably the most original film director in Hollywood at the moment, Lynch is a man who can formulate mammoth, confusing tales, and decorate them with his original, unique and poignant outlook on life, America and humanity. A fantastic, strange man.

Best Movie: Mulholland Dr. (2001)

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M

Michael Haneke: A fantastic director whose techniques involving violence and sex are unique, clever and smart. Read my full article about his career here.

Best Movie: Cachè (2005)

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N

Christopher Nolan: Reinventor of the Batman franchise and director of twisting, unbelievable films, Christopher Nolan is a man whose vast knowledge and superior opinions of use involving special effects is mind-boggling. His films are accurate, yet will always be questionable in the annals of film discussion.

Best Movie: Memento (2000)

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O

Orson Welles: From Citizen Kane to The Muppet Movie, Orson Welles is a man who dominates the screen with his presence, as well as his inventive imagination and timeless visionary representations of life and living.

Best Movie: Citizen Kane (1941)

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P

Alexander Payne: An offbeat filmmaker whose indie gems are held in high consideration among others, Alexander Payne’s films are clever, interesting and fun to watch.

Best Movie: Sideways (2004)

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Q

Quentin Tarantino: A man whose movies excel in glorious violence, subtle humour and beautifully written and choreographed scenes of fantastic acting, Quentin Tarantino’s movies have become famous for their awesomeness.

Best Movie: Pulp Fiction (1994)

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R

Robert Altman: From the annoying yet cinematically awesome touch of overlapping dialogue, to the true cleverness into which he weaves the tales of various characters, Altman’s films are brilliant works of art.

Best Movie: Short Cuts

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S

Martin Scorsese: The King of comedy… and gangster movies, character studies, psychological thrillers, street dramas and others, Scorsese is a powerful presence among all cinematic directors. Awesome.

Best Movie: Goodfellas (1990)

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T

Lars von Trier: Whether or not you think he’s an egotistical Anti-Semitic bastard, that his films are pointless, narcissistic, and hate-driven, you have to admit von Trier is smart, clever and knows how to make a movie. Feel free to disagree, but I freakin love this guy’s films.

Best Movie: Dogville (2003)

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U

Edgar G. Ulmer: Sure, he’s only made one or two good films, and you may not recognize his name or even his movies, but he’s a suitable enough choice as any for the letter ‘U.’

Best Film: Detour (1945)

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V

Gus Van Sant: Love him or hate him, this is a man whose smarts for the film industry is original and interesting, and who seems to perfectly capture whatever he wants with a camera in a perfectly acceptable (though rarely accessible) manner.

Best Movie: Elephant (2003)

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W

Billy Wilder: A man whose excellence has resulted in some of the best movies Hollywood has ever had to offer, Wilder is a talented man that no one will ever forget.

Best Movie: Sunset Blvd. (1950)

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X

Xavier Dolan: Though I’ve only seen one of his movies, it was fair enough and he’s deserving of a place here. Besides, how many directors have a name beginning with X?

Best Movie: I Killed My Mother (2009)

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Y

Terence Young: His Bond movies weren’t the best, but nevertheless they were still Bond, and decent ones at that. And I must remind you how stressful it is to find directors whose names begin with a certain letter.

Best Movie: Dr. No (1962)

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Z

Robert Zemeckis: He’s made some great American movies, ones that will never be forgotten, and he’s a fitting way to end this alphabetical list of 26.

Best Movie: Forrest Gump (1994)

Phew! So that’s my list. Leave a comment below telling me what you thought of it, and what some of your own favourite directors are.

Thanks for reading.

The David Lynch Challenge: Decoding Inland Empire (Part 2)

Episode Two: Decoding Inland Empire (Part 2)

If you have not read the first part of this post, read it by clicking here. If you haven’t seen David Lynch’s terrific film Inland Empire, watch it NOW before reading ahead, and remember to keep an open mind. A very open mind. If, after watching it, you have questions, hopefully I can put together something resembling an answer.

Many of you, after seeing this film, may be asking… what’s with the rabbits? They pose the most stumping question of them all, perhaps, and hopefully I can shed some light on the issue. The scenes with the rabbits are directly taken out of a 45-minute short film Lynch directed in 2002, aptly named Rabbits. It consists of these rabbits, sitting around and occasionally moving, saying disconnected phrases in a completely random order. It’s like we’re hearing parts of a conversation, except all the lines are mixed and jumbled up, like an anagram. It’s a puzzling and perplexing feature, but an interesting and thought-provoking one as well. So why has Lynch put these short clips in his feature film? It’s my understanding that he’s reinforcing an important statement about the film that is touched upon many times: that there really is no timeline, and that time itself cannot be trusted. The rabbits are in a type of purgatory, from which they cannot escape, and time for them is running short. They are unaware of their situation, but can sense that something is very wrong. This is similar to the way Inland Empire makes the viewer feel, and that important non-linear storyline is just being reminded to us by using these rabbits. It helps if you watch Lynch’s short film, which was originally released as a short series of episodes. You can watch Rabbits on Google Video by clicking here. Warning: If you’re going to watch it, do not skip ahead. Please. It’s important to sit down and listen very carefully to everything that’s being said. This is a test of both your attention span and your memory span.

Anyway, back to IE. Another enigmatic detail which recurringly pops up throughout the film is the appearance of the letters “AXXON N” on a wall, with an arrow pointing through a doorway:

If you were a Lynch fan in 2002 (which I, surprisingly was not. Well… I was fifteen.), you may have known that he was going to release a short series on his website called Axxon N. It never got released, as Lynch was busy developing the basic plotline into Inland Empire. Anyway… at the beginning of the movie, a record is seen playing. The voiceover says it is playing “Axxon N,” the longest running radio play in history. Then we cut to a blurred scene of a man summoning a prostitute to his room. This prostitute is the Lost Girl, who we see at various times throughout the film watching the movie’s entire events in the hotel room on a TV. She seems to be new at the prostitution game, and is perhaps a much younger, more naive and inexperienced version of the now Hellish, world-weary Susan Blue. Back to Axxon N… The explanation, once thought about, appears to be fairly simple. Axxon N marks a doorway to a different place… a different TIME, perhaps even a different parallel universe. It reflects what the old Polish lady said to Nikki near the beginning of the film… remember. “A boy passed through a doorway and evil was born. A girl passed through an alley to a “palace,” and yadda yadda.” This is a reflection of that. The entire film from Nikki’s first appearance seems to be relatively chronological until we see AXXON N on a wall as Nikki/Sue is walking to her car with groceries. Nikki (or Sue) also tells us that when she saw this “writing” on the wall, she remembered something. Axxon N seems to be almost definitely a gateway, a deux ex machina (did I use that right?) that is extremely dangerous if tampered with. Axxon N also reappears much later on through the movie as the name of a nightclub that Susan (or Nikki???) enters to go to see the Man with Glasses — a police detective — and tell her ‘monologue.’

Now… the film’s tagline is “A Woman In Trouble.” What is the trouble? It could be various things, but one that keeps coming to mind is the unresolved issue of the Phantom. He seems to be a “hypnotist,” and a very dangerous person. In the monologue, Nikki/Sue tells of Billy, her lover with whom she is cheating on her husband and to whom she falls pregnant. She mentions he is good with animals (so, too, seem to be various characters, including Harry Dean Stanton’s Freddie) and acquired a job at a Polish circus from his skill. Nikki talks of a man at the circus, called The Phantom, who could easily trick people and disappear quickly. He is a hypnotist, as I mentioned, and he is out to get Nikki/Sue. He hypnotises a woman, “Billy’s” wife, to stab Nikki with a screwdriver and kill her, but this only kills her “character,” Susan. The real Nikki is still alive and at the end of the movie goes to get revenge on the phantom by shooting him, before passing through a door marked “47” (the name of the unfinished Polish production) and finding the Lost Girl in her hotel room, freeing her, and herself.

So there. That’s much of the movie explained, but certainly not all of it. The rest, including some of the Polish scenes which I’m just now beginning to grasp, shall be left to your imaginations, which are stronger than any singular man’s opinion. Hopefully this was of some benefit to you however, and hopefully it will prompt you to re-watch this fantastic, misunderstood movie.

So… what did you think of my opinion? Leave a comment with your thoughts below.

Thanks for reading.

Ten Movies That Define Me

The following list is ten movies that ‘define me.’ These are movies that changed the way I looked at cinema, and helped to craft my perspective on film in general. These are not necessarily my Top Ten favourite films, but one or two from that ten will be present.

In no particular order:

There Will Be Blood

From the moment I first saw Daniel Day-Lewis in In The Name of the Father, I knew I was looking at one talented man. Then I saw this movie, and I was blown away. This is one of the few movies that actually caused my jaw to drop at its aching perfectness. A masterpiece.

Citizen Kane

Proclaimed repetitively the best movie of all time, Citizen Kane may not be that, but it is breathtaking in its painfully honest portrayal of greed and heartlessness, the carelessness and ignorance of the human soul. It was the first film ever to touch upon issues such as this in the manner which it did, and coming from a twenty-something man, that was something rare indeed.

A Serious Man

Admittedly not my favourite Coen brothers movie, A Serious Man is nevertheless a vitally important reason why they are so great. Though I’m not a Jew, this movie spoke to my inner emotions and frustrations. I think of myself as a very different man to Larry Gopnik, though his distraught plight and repressed dislike of his own selfish situation is brutally honest and without mercy.

Dancer in the Dark

From its unique opening of various collaborations of beautiful art pieces as a fantastic score plays in the opening, to the depressing ending which I’m not ashamed to say is the ONLY film ending that has ever made me cry, Lars von Trier’s dogme-influenced musical masterpiece is a unique event that manages to capture something more than a camera could convey.

Magnolia

You probably know that this is my favourite film of all time. It’s an achingly hard decision to make, but all things considered, I’ve NEVER felt the way I felt while watching this movie. Every single tiny aspect of the way it was made was life-changing for me, and helped to confirm the suspicion that I was destined to watch and love movies.

Persona

A lot of movies have changed the way I look at films, but Persona changed the way I looked at “cinema.” There is a difference. Bergman reminds us we’re watching a film, and the film itself features some stunning acting and breathtaking cinematography, all thanks to Bergman, Sven Nykvist, Liv Ullmann and Bibi Andersson, as well as everyone else involved. No one had the brains of Bergman, and it’s due to his creative vision that films are made like they are today.

Eyes Wide Shut

An often ignored and hated Kubrick film, Eyes Wide Shut is actually a feast for the senses, and contains important messages about society, living, marriage, jealousy, hatred and discovery. Whether its Nicole Kidman’s brilliant (no, fantastic) adulterous monologue or Gyorgy Ligeti’s creepy piano theme whose notes play with a striking tune like a slap in the face, this slow-paced masterpiece which seems to go nowhere is actually a film to be re-examined and thought about.

Mulholland Dr.

Lynch’s most famous and probably his best film, this strangely scary and atmospherically surreal 150-minute masterwork is a strange, puzzling riddle with disturbing thematic echoes of the heartless mouth of Hollywood, rejection, sexuality and emotion. It’s a real ride.

2001: A Space Odyssey

Often mistakenly filed away as ‘long’ and ‘boring,’ Stanley Kubrick’s classic sci-fi is in reality a beautiful analysis of human evolution, the creation and existence of life, and possibilities for the daunting spectre of the future, as well as alien existence and extraterrestrial intelligence. Embrace your inner Star Child.

Paths of Glory

If I had to pick a war movie that ‘defined me,’ I would scan through all the possibilites, but they all lead to Paths of Glory. It is a moving, determined and no holds barred awesomely truthful analysis of war and the tumultuous toll it has on its survivors, as well as the people who watch and run it all. Very powerful.

There you go. Ten Movies that Define Me. Some interesting picks there, I’m sure you’re thinking. Please, leave a comment with your thoughts and tell me what your ‘defining’ movies are.

Thanks for reading.

The David Lynch Challenge: Decoding Inland Empire (Part 1)

Welcome to The David Lynch Challenge, a random series of posts in which I will challenge myself to crack and try to come up with theories to help understand some of the most confusing creations that have come out of the mind of David Lynch.

Episode One: Decoding Inland Empire (Part 1)

Of all the confusing, strange, intricate and oddly compelling masterpieces David Lynch has created, Inland Empire (or INLAND EMPIRE, as he prefers to spell it) may be the most confusing, inaccessible one yet. But… it happens to be one of my favourite Lynch films ever. Many people think of it as a sister piece to his much more popular Mulholland Dr. Indeed, the two films are similar, in thematic elements and general plot feel. Both films seem to be about failure in the bustling industry of Hollywood. Both films are about actresses, one who is new and naive, and the other who is growing old, experienced and has seen too much. Inland Empire is about Nikki Grace, who seems to be a mixture of both. She is played by Laura Dern, who plays her character like never before. Her performance is undeniably one of the most shocking and realistic acting performances of the decade, the female equivalent of Christian Bale in American Psycho or Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood.

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD! PLEASE WATCH THE MOVIE FIRST!

Her character Nikki Grace is an actress who has just won a part in a new film called On High In Blue Tomorrows, which is an enigmatic movie which seems to be about a married man having an affair with a loose but wise woman. Nikki is visited near the start of the film by her new Polish neighbour (Grace Zabriskie, who you may remember from Twin Peaks (she played Laura Palmer’s mother)) who tells her a Polish folk tale, which in several ways, predicts important aspects of the plot to come: she tells of a boy who passed through a doorway, inadvertantly giving birth to ‘evil’ which followed him for the rest of his life, and a variation: a girl walked through the marketplace, passed through an alley and into a palace. The old woman then reveals through personal revelations that the story we are about to witness will not be in chronological order. The first hour of the film following this seems to be pretty linear and simple, as Nikki begins to work on the film with her co-star (Justin Theroux, from Mulholland Dr.). They are soon told by the director (Jeremy Irons) that the film is actually a remake of a Polish film called 47 that was abandoned in production due to a ‘curse’ and the murder of the two leads. Earlier, the Polish woman asked Nikki if there was a “brutal fucking murder” in her film. Nikki replied, “no.” Is this the murder the psychic old woman was referring to? After watching this movie a good eight times, I’ve picked up a few incredibly tiny things, so hopefully they can help. Filming begins, and Nikki begins to sink into her role of “Susan Blue.” The film takes a strange and confusing non-linear turn which takes a lot, a lot of thinking to figure out. The whole scenes are like anagrams… letters (scenes) in a word (movie) that are in the wrong order and need rearranged. Don’t be too confused, some scenes are linear. Nikki is sharing an intimate moment with co-star Devon, and begins to get close. She doesn’t realize that they are actually filming a scene and all the intimacy is part of their characters. This is an early sign that she is beginning to lose it.

Also shown throughout the film at random parts are scenes featuring Polish characters. Are these scenes from the original Polish project 47 that was abandoned? Most likely. The Polish scenes and the scenes with Nikki/Susan are eerily similar but uniquely different.

Nikki’s character Sue seems to be some sort of reflection of her emotions as a ‘failed’ actress. It’s hard to figure out all the details of her character, but here’s what I think: her character is a battered ex-prostitute whose husband discovers she is cheating on him when she reveals she’s pregnant but he says he’s infertile. She reveals many secrets of her earlier life and relationship with men in powerfully coarse monologues with a strange, silent man with glasses who observes and rarely speaks. Susan used to be a prostitute, but she has grown too old to do it anymore and most people have forgotten about her. She hangs around in the shadow of much younger women who are probably prostitutes, and listens to their sexual conversations and picks up on details of their lives that she remembers used to be part of her life. Nikki had high hopes of being an actress, but (like Naomi Watts in Mulholland Dr.) she discovers that Hollywood is a very fickle place, and that even when she does get her big break in a part in this great movie, the part ends up ruining her and taking her over as she begins to lose control and slip deeper into Susan.

That’s all I’ve got for now, but eventually I’ll post a second part to this post with more thoughts on the movie, including the mysterious presence of the ‘rabbits’ and the chillingly recurring AXXON N, as well as other things. If you haven’t seen Inland Empire, you shouldn’t really be reading this, but if you are, I encourage you to watch it closely and attentively, and then mull it over for a few days.

If you’ve seen it, leave a comment with what you thought of my thoughts, and stay tuned for the second part to this post.

NOW UP! Read Part 2 of this explanation/review here.

Thanks for reading.

Some Great Mashup Videos of Directors’ Catalogues

I recently discovered some great mashup videos on YouTube made by users who were fans of the material of certain film directors. I thought the videos were extremely well-done and have decided to share with you some of my favourites. I did not make any of these videos and I am not advertising or anything like that. I’m simply passing along some great videos I think film fans will appreciate.

The Films of Stanley Kubrick:

The Films of David Lynch:

The Films of Joel and Ethan Coen:

The Films of Paul Thomas Anderson:

If you enjoyed those videos as I did, they’re all made by the same YouTube user, some guy named barringer82. Again, I’m not advertising and hopefully you won’t consider this post spam or anything. I’m just hoping you found those videos as entertaining and informative as I did. Great work.

Thanks for reading.

Preaching to the Lynch Choir

Anyone who’s read a considerable amount of my posts or taken a schmooze at my Favourite Directors page might notice I have a slight obsession with the film catalogue of David Lynch. I’d like to talk to you– and hopefully not bore you –with a little explanation about why he is one of the greatest minds in the art of film at the moment and what makes him special to me.

David Lynch was always interested in art, and in the mid-sixties he spent $200 to finance a short artistic ‘picture,’ entitled Six Men Getting Sick. He won an award, and was approached to create another feature. His next was called The Alphabet, and is among my Top 10 Horror Movies even though strictly speaking, it’s not a horror. It’s a short film based on a nightmare that his wife’s niece had. Watch it for yourself and tell me you’re not creeped out:

This is a perfect example of the madness in David Lynch’s head. Many of his shorts were like this, including two that followed it: The Grandmother and The Amputee.

After those two came Eraserhead, his first feature length film and his weirdest.

But I’m not here to catalogue his whole career (that you can see on the banner at the top of this post). I’m just here to help some people to come to grips with this man and perhaps make peace with the weirdness he produces.

Many have had problems with his films, and if you’re not into big, confusing, think-about-it narratives, then I suggest to stay away from Eraserhead, Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, and INLAND EMPIRE. Thankfully, he has made some more accessible films, such as The Elephant Man, Dune, Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, and The Straight Story.

But I think the real talent lies in those tricky mythological mazes of deception and disturbance. It is within those labyrinths of destruction and terror that true entertainment and artistic value lies. The first time I saw INLAND EMPIRE only a few months ago, I was utterly bamboozled and kind of annoyed that it made almost no sense to me at all. Yet… I strangely enjoyed it. Even the completely frustrating and annoying parts had artistic value and entertainment within them. Sometimes it comes from the writing, and sometimes it comes from the acting.

The point I’m trying to make is that no-one can really be 100% satisfied when they reach the end of a Lynch film, because often, they don’t get what they’ve just seen. But it’s not about getting it… its about enjoying it. And you might find, as I did, that if you mull over what you’ve just seen and think about it for a few days, a light bulb might go off and you might finally get it. Lynch himself has said that he doesn’t like to explain his films because he believes each movie should have its own interpretation to the viewer.

Of course, there’s no reason you should have to listen to me, I’m no expert, I haven’t even seen all of Lynch’s movies (The Straight Story still eludes me and I’m trying to finish Season 2 of “Twin Peaks” before I watch the movie). It’s just… I’ve heard too many people say they’re fed up with Lynch that haven’t really given him a proper chance. A person I like to refer to in this case is Roger Ebert. He gave Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart and Lost Highway all bad reviews, but then he gave Mulholland Drive and INLAND EMPIRE the most positive reviews you could have hoped for. Here was a man who had given up on Lynch (well… almost) but who radically changed his mind when finally something clicked.

Oh… listen to me. I’m full of crap. I’m rambling, and I’m sorry, but hey! Hopefully you’ve learned something. Now go watch INLAND EMPIRE.

Thanks for reading.

Lynch Diary #1: Twin Peaks

David Lynch is quite possibly my favourite director working today. Well, perhaps not, but he has made some really great movies. It was only last year that I was introduced to Lynch with Blue Velvet, and since then I have never looked back. So far, I’ve seen all of Lynch’s films except for Dune, Fire Walk With Me and The Straight Story. And just a couple of days ago a friend lent me a copy of Season One of Lynch’s hugely successful TV series, Twin Peaks. So far, I’ve only watched three of the eight episodes (including the Pilot) of the series, but I would like to so far broadcast my thoughts and give a secret premonition of who I believe killed Laura Palmer…

Right, so first off, let’s look at the Pilot episode. It starts off with three minutes of pure bliss, slow images of Lynch’s perfectly created little sawmill town. The music is Julee Cruise, “Falling,” a song I heard years ago but surprisingly appeared right there as soon as I pressed play. Then we transition to a fisherman (Jack Nance, whose looks have changed dramatically since Eraserhead) discovering the homecoming queen’s body. A nearly naked woman named Pulaski is also found, alive but emotionally scarred for life. It becomes clear that Laura Palmer and Pulaski (whose first name I cannot remember) were attacked and raped.

And from this point on, throughout the progression of the episode, we are introduced to several more strange characters, all residents of Lynch’s town, and begin to follow their stories. Each have their own suburban secrets, a la Blue Velvet, and each have their tale to tell.

Enter FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan, this just keeps getting better and better), who decides to stay in the peaceful town and invesigate the murder. He’s a weird fellow, muttering into a tape recorder dubbed Diane and admiring what seem to be completely normal and otherwise uninteresting trees. In the next episode, we learn of his love for coffee and cherry pie, as the mystery continues to unfold.

At the conclusion of the third episode (Episode Two if you don’t include the Pilot), Cooper has a strange dream involving a small man dressed in red who speaks as if his words are reversed audio, and a woman whom he claims to be his sister, but who is identical to Laura Palmer. Cooper awakens from this dream (nightmare?), calls up the town sherriff Harry S. Truman (yes, you heard me right) and tells him he knows who the killer is.

A suspenseful ending if ever there was one. So what are my thoughts? Who do I think killed Laura? Well, I have no firm evidence and I’m probably wrong, but I believe it is either Leo, Audrey or that psychiatrist fellow. If you don’t know who I mean, you must see Twin Peaks. I’m probably dead wrong, but those are my guesses. Tonight I’m going to crack down and watch the rest of the series, and tomorrow I will update you with my thoughts on the next few episodes and whether my predictions have changed.

What’s my Lynch opinion? I am very much enjoying TP. I love the way he presents us with all these characters and their different lives, and a director who can spin the whole multiple scenario character and make it enjoyable (a nod to P.T. Anderson and Robert Altman, among others) is among the top in my book.

What do you think of Twin Peaks? Leave a comment and let me know, but no spoilers!

The 10 Best Films of the Decade (2000-2009)

Before I begin this list, I would like to quickly note that most people consider the last “decade” to include 2010 (well, a large number of my friends do). This is correct, except when you consider that, technically looking at the Gregorian calendar, the “decade” began on January 1, 2001. Most people struggle to accept this and include 2000. Because I don’t want to confuse people, I’m including the year 2000, too, but 2010 movies don’t count. That’s a different list entirely. So anyway, let’s count them down, the Ten Best Films of the Decade.

10: Hot Fuzz (2007)

 

Edgar Wright’s follow-up to the smash-hit Shaun of the Dead has since become known as one of the best cop movies ever made. In my opinion, the best. Simon Pegg is hilarious as Sgt. Nicholas Angle Angel, a tough, experienced cop who we can easily see is good at his job, from his determined strut in the first take to guns blazing in the final half hour. He is good at his job. Too good. So good, he’s making everyone else on the force look bad, so he’s being transfered to the countryside before he can say “still a bit stiff.” In the town of Sanford, things seem to be uneventful and normal, but in reality there is trouble brewing. He is teamed up with Danny (Nick Frost), an obese but determined police officer who despite his poor fence jumping skills nonetheless enjoys his job and dreams of the action he sees in Michael Bay movies. As usual, Edgar Wright hits the mark, employing the same tactics he used in his previous film, and expanding his imagination in ways we could never have thought possible. Well done!

9: A Serious Man (2009)

One of the most honest, true and… well, serious movies of the decade is one of the Coen brothers’ best, even better than their Best Picture winner No Country for Old Men. Revealing the true way of life of many people, and discussing life’s problems and how we deal with them in an interesting way, the Coens provide a thought-provoking analysis of suburban existence, like a Jewish American Beauty, whilst still staying flat, grounded, and keeping the humour dry. Witty acting performances from a cast of mostly unknowns as well as superb cinematography, music and overall presentation are all factors in the undeniable greatness of this modern classic, which must be viewed more than once. Stuhlbarg is excellent in his leading role and the Coens prove that even after twenty-five years of filmmaking, they still have the golden touch for originality, subtle humour and truthful observations of real humanity.

8: Requiem for a Dream (2000)

A controversial choice for some, but there is no way I could exclude this masterpiece from Darren Aronofsky. It’s a dodgy film with my friends: some like it, some hate it, some love it, some despise it. I am one of those who love it, and its not just for the way it tells its terrific story. Well, actually, it is. I’ve written an article about the music used in this movie, but I’ll sum it up by saying it works amazingly. The cinematography by skilled Oscar-nominated Matthew Libatique is top-class. Aronofsky knows how to set the mood, too, and this is another category where the music comes in. The film might seem a little too fast-paced for some, but the fast pace works effectively because these people are on drugs which make their lives fast-paced. There are so many ways in which Aronofsky communicates to the viewer what it feels like to be on drugs. At first, everything is fine, but quickly, things begin to go awfully wrong. I can’t easily think of anything scarier than the penultimate ‘meltdown’ scene, with God only knows how many cuts and music so awfully terrifying that we feel like we are in the Hell that drug abuse must be. And the final scene, oh! What a work of art! If ever a movie scene has made you cry, this has to be it. Requiem is a terrifically depressing film, but it must be seen.

7: Amelie (2001)

It has gained an enormous following and earned great fame, and rightly so. Jeunet’s La fabuleux destin d’Amelie Poulain (did I get that right?) is a masterpiece. It is a very funny film, and almost all the laughs are just observations of contemporary life and how disturbingly easy it is to shake things up. That’s what the eponymous Amelie (Audrey Tatou) does. She sees the people around her, all with their own separate, different lives, and decides to change them. The results are arguably some of the most amusing consequences we could’ve hoped for. Amelie herself is searching for love, a love that when found, she is reluctant to accept. She is an intriguing character and Tatou plays her with grace, skill and knowledge. Whether she is helping or hindering the situations of her acquaintances, she is either way changing their lives, in some cases forever. Jeunet is clever, and inserts his vision into this engaging, thought-provoking film.

6: Amores Perros (2000)

A fatal car crash is the one intersection between three completely different, but thematically harmonious lives in this amazing, beautiful film from Alejandro Gonzales Iñárritu (21 Grams, Babel). His two later films (just mentioned) also share some of the emotions and the general message that different people can affect the lives of others. 21 Grams featured a car crash, too, and Babel dealt with racism in a visceral, ugly way which stems from this original film. The three stories told all involve dogs (the title translates roughly to “Love’s a Bitch”) and they play key characters in the lives of the characters. A man enters his mutt into dangerous illegal dogfights to save up money and run away with his girlfriend. A vain supermodel is put in a wheelchair and cannot save her small dog who is trapped under the apartment. A strange, loitering man walks with many dogs across the street, observing. But via a car crash, all three lives change. The story is brutal, but brilliant. It is filled with emotion, and left me on the verge of tears at its end. This movie must be seen. The best foreign film of the decade.

5: American Psycho (2000)

“Try getting a reservation at Dorsia now, you f**king stupid bastard!” So screams Christian Bale’s chilling, unforgettable serial killer in the first half of this sick, twisted, brilliant thriller. He is talking to Paul Allen (Jared Leto), a business rival, as he murders him brutally with an axe in a darkly comic, disturbing scene. Patrick Bateman has since become a well-known name in the annals of movie psychopaths, and is in my opinion, equivalent to Hannibal Lecter or Darth Vader… in fact, perhaps even scarier. Bateman speaks bluntly and hatefully of the people around him, and indulges in violence, sex and drugs often. Murder is his way of releasing energy, and he does it in various sickening ways, such as his “rampage” toward the end. He says earlier on that he believes his “mask of sanity is about to slip,” and slip is what it does. He murders, both creatively and plain disgustingly, as we are frequently introduced to a darker, scarier side of the shark-in-a-suit image we’re so often greeted with in movies. The business card scene is a funny and interesting scene in which Bateman and his colleagues compare business cards, and Bateman is angered when he is intimidated by those of his acquaintences. Everything in this movie is something that can set off Bateman into a killing spree. We are shown a true glimpse into the mind, body and soul of a serial killer. And it is marvellous.

4: INLAND EMPIRE (2006)

I’ve already reviewed this film here, but I’ll say a couple of sentences: Laura Dern is brilliant in her role as a disorientated and confused actress plagued by the curse of a film in which she is starring. A magnificent, epic masterpiece, but not for everyone.

3: Caché (2004)

 

Michael Haneke has always been one of my favourite directors. From Benny’s Video to Funny Games to The Piano Teacher and now, to this, a film which betters all its predecessors and completely changes the way we look at surveillance in movies and surveillance in general. The English title of this Cannes smash-hit is Hidden, which refers to various things in the film, most perceptively the concept of the hidden camera which films the outdoor surroundings of a wealthy family’s apartment. The camera sits stationary, filming their house as various people pass by in cars and on cycles, and as the family man (Daniel Auteuil) leaves and comes home from work. He is disturbed by the tapes, as is his wife (Juliette Binoche), but he believes that he knows who is responsible. The film is slow-paced and uneventful, but these tactics work brilliantly in making the movie the masterpiece that it is. There are some shots in which barely anything happen (the opening and closing shots come to mind), but these shots are pivotal to watch carefully and think about afterwards. The film asks a barrage of questions and will leave the viewer thinking for days afterwards. Any film that can do this (yes, Inception counts) is worthy of my favouritism (usually), and this film towers above the rest. A must-see.

2: Mulholland Dr. (2001)

I’ve already reviewed this film here, but I’ll say a couple of short sentences: Mulholland Dr. is David Lynch’s masterpiece. The director has made so many great films (including Lost Highway, which I’m proud to announce I finally get!) but MD really sums them all up: dreams. It’s about dreams. It’s clever, manipulative, thought-provoking and engaging, everything a Lynch film should be, and more. The scene where Rebekah Del Rio sings Roy Orbison’s Crying in Spanish is forever engrained in my memory for so many reasons.

1: There Will Be Blood (2007)

“If you have a milkshake, and I have a straw…” I think you know where this is going. Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood is, simply put, the greatest film of the decade. He tells a breathtaking epic of a tale in which a great oil tyrant, to put it lightly (Daniel Day-Lewis) attempts to rob his friends and enemies and turn everyone away from him. He descends on a power-hungry trip of madness, murder and sick glee. He is terrifying and brilliant. Meanwhile, Anderson stands behind the screen examining and telling a tale he’s really been waiting his whole career to tell. I’m probably overusing the hyperboles, and this probably isn’t my favourite Anderson movie (if you’ve read my posts, you should know what that is), but the film is worthy of the excitement I hope I’m giving you about it. I was careful about watching this because it was a long movie about oil, but boy! Was I proven wrong! All the films on this list need to be seen, but There Will Be Blood is undoubtedly and arguably the best.

Honourable Mentions (in no particular order): No Country for Old Men, Sideways, Little Miss Sunshine, Shutter Island, Memento, Irreversible, The Departed, Shaun of the Dead, Donnie Darko, Traffic, Dancer in the Dark, Borat, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The White Ribbon, Inglourious Basterds, and countless others.

Thanks for reading.

Mulholland Dr. vs. INLAND EMPIRE

An image from Lynch's strange "INLAND EMPIRE," a whopper three-hour sister piece to Mulholland Dr.

In 2001, famous director David Lynch released what I like to refer to as “his second truly Lynchian film, twenty-five years after Eraserhead, his first,” Mulholland Drive, or if you wish to shorten it…

Mulholland Dr.

It received generally positive reviews with an 81% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8.0 rating on IMDb. People liked it. It’s about an actress (Naomi Watts) who moves to Hollywood to begin her career. In her apartment she is surprised to find a woman(Laura Harring) who has survived a car crash with everything but her memory. This is paralleled with the story of a director (Justin Theroux) losing control of the project he is attached to. The story is exciting and interesting and plunges us deep into an intriguing abyss. The film’s final twist is shocking and unexpected, and forces us to go back and re-examine the whole film. The actors’ performances are knockout and Lynch’s storytelling is genius. However, Mulholland Dr. would have a competitor when five years later, Lynch released a “companion piece,” entitled

INLAND EMPIRE

Lynch has specifically asked the title be all upper-case letters, presumably for effect, and the film itself, beyond the title, is extremely effective. Positive reviews again with a 72% rating on RT and a 7.0 rating on IMDb, although as you can see, the viewers and critics were not as impressed as they were with Lynch’s predecessor. I however, was much more lenient toward it. I scored both films a 9/10, but of course, I won’t say which is better until the end. The plot seems simple, and parallels with Mulholland but, at about an hour into its three-hour run time, it delves into a mysterious, confusing dream-like world full of complex scenarios that are not really there for you to understand, but rather for you to just enjoy watching. It is basically about an actress (Laura Dern in her best acting performance EVER, and certainly one of the best female performances in recent years) who wins a part in a film called On High in Blue Tomorrows, which she discovers is a remake of a supposedly “cursed” Polish film called 47. Throughout the course of the film the “curse” begins to take hold of her and changes the way she thinks and acts as she starts to become her character. Relax, it’s much more original and entertaining than it sounds. Lynch uses what may be clips from the abandoned Polish original to perhaps shed light on the story itself, which seems to be about an ageing ex-prostitute who has had a troubled, difficult life.

Overall, both films are dark and impressive and earn repetitive viewings with their strange twists and curious plots. You should be very careful when you go to watch these films. Be on guard and be prepared; you need to watch them carefully and definitely more than once. So which is the winner? I think Mulholland Dr. tops INLAND EMPIRE and I’ve got reasons:

1) It’s not as dark, sure, but the pacing and storytelling has a more noticeable effect in our head.

2) While Dern beats both Watts and Harring acting-wise, there’s nothing quite like the chemistry between the leads in MD. They have a mystery to solve, and it’s a lot easier to watch than IE.

3) The twist. You just cannot beat MD’s twist. It’s so dark and horrifying and eye-opening, and it made me immediately rewatch the whole film then and there. I waited a few days before I rewatched IE. MD had a much deeper effect.

I would like to remind you that it was a very, VERY, VERY close choice and I would like to be able to say I like both films equally, but that’s not the way things work. They’re both masterpieces and it is unfair to juxtapose them like this. Don’t just watch one, watch them both. If you have an open mind, I doubt you’ll be disappointed. Cue Mulholland Dr.‘s most memorable scene:

Thanks for reading.

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