4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Lance Henriksen Edition


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Today, Lance Henriksen is 80 years old!  In honor of this day, here are….

4 Shots From 4 Films

Dog Day Afternoon (1975, dir by Sidney Lumet)

Near Dark (1987, dir by Kathryn Bigelow)

Dead Man (1995, dir by Jim Jarmusch)

Mom and Dad (2017, dir by Brian Taylor)

4 Shots From 4 Jim Jarmusch Films: Permanent Vacation, Stranger Than Paradise, The Limits Of Control, Only Lovers Left Alive


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Happy birthday, Jim Jarmusch!

4 Shots From 4 Jim Jarmusch Films

Permanent Vacation (1980, dir by Jim Jarmusch)

Stranger Than Paradise (1984, dir by Jim Jarmusch)

The Limits of Control (2009, dir by Jim Jarmusch)

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013, dir by Jim Jarmusch)

Music Video Of The Day: The Lady Don’t Mind by Talking Heads (1986, directed by Jim Jarmusch)


Today is Jim Jarmusch’s birthday.  Jarmusch, who is one of the godfathers of American independent film, is 67 years old.

As a director, Jarmusch frequently casts musicians in his films.  From John Lurie, who appeared in Jarmuch’s first films (Permanent Vacation, Stranger Than Paradise) to the members of the Wu-Tang Clan and Tom Waits, Jarmusch has always shown an appreciation for musicians as actors.  It’s not surprising that, along with feature films, Jarmusch has also directed his share of music videos.  Jarmusch has done videos for everyone from Neil Young to Tom Waits but, according to his entry at the imdb, his first music video was for Talking Heads’s The Lady Don’t Mind.

The Lady Don’t Mind was the first single from Talking Heads’s sixth studio album, the best-selling Little Creatures.  This video came out two years after Jarmusch’s second film, Stranger Than Paradise.

Enjoy and happy birthday, Jim Jarmusch!

Playing Catch-Up With The Films Of 2019: The Dead Don’t Die (by Jim Jarmusch)


Uh-oh, the dead are rising again.

Seriously, I’ve lost track of how many zombie films I’ve seen over the past ten years.  This last decade was the decade when zombies went mainstream and I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about it.  Zombies have become so overexposed that they’re no longer as scary as they once were.  I mean, there’s even PG-rated zombie movies now!  How the Hell did that happen?  Everyone’s getting in on the act.

There were a brief flurry of excitement when Jim Jarmusch announced that his next film would be a zombie film.  Myself, I was a bit skeptical and the release of a terrible trailer didn’t really help matters.  The fact that the film was full of recognizable names also made me uneasy.  Would this be an actual zombie film or would it just be a bunch of actors slumming in the genre?  The film opened the Cannes Film Festival and received mixed reviews.  By the time it opened in the United States, it seemed as if everyone had forgotten about The Dead Don’t Die.  It was widely chalked up as being one of Jim Jarmusch’s rare misfires, like The Limits of Control.

Last month, I finally watched The Dead Don’t Die and you know what?  It’s a flawed film and yes, there are times when it even becomes an annoying film.  That said, I still kind of liked it.

In The Dead Don’t Die, the Earth’s rotation has been altered, the result of polar fracking.  No one seems to be particularly concerned about it.  Instead, they’re just kind of annoyed by the fact that the sun is now staying up in the sky a bit longer than usual.  Cell phones and watches stop working.  House pets abandon and occasionally attack their owners.  In the rural town of Centerville, the dead rise from their graves and start to eat people.  Whether or not that’s connected to the Earth’s rotation is anyone’s guess.  (I like to think that the whole thing about the Earth’s rotation being altered was Jarmusch’s homage to Night of the Living Dead‘s suggestion that the zombies were the result of space radiation.)

We meet the inhabitant of Centerville.  Zelda (Tilda Swinton) is the enigmatic mortician.  Bobby (Caleb Landry Jones) is the horror movie expert.  Farmer Miller (Steve Buscemi) is the red-hatted farmer who hates everyone.  Zoe (Selena Gomez) is the traveler who is staying at the run-down motel with two friends.  Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) is the police chief who wants to save everyone but Farmer Miller.  Ronnie (Adam Driver) and Mindy (Chloe Sevigny) are police officers.  They’re all in the middle of a zombie apocalypse but very few of them seem to really be that surprised by any of it.

Throughout the film, we hear Sturgill Simpson singing a wonderful song called The Dead Don’t Die.  Cliff demands to know why the song is always one the radio.  Ronnie replies that it’s the “theme song.”  Ronnie, we discover, has an answer for almost everything.  He explains that he knows what’s going to happen because he’s the only one that “Jim” allowed to read the entire script.  Cliff isn’t happy about that.

That’s the type of film that The Dead Don’t Die is.  It’s an elaborate in-joke, a zombie movie about people who know that they’re in a zombie movie but who are too detached to actually use that information to their advantage.  The script has been written so they have no choice but to do what the script says regardless of whether it makes them happy or not.  It’s a clever conceit, though a bit of a thin one to build a 103-minute movie around.

As I said, the film can occasionally be an endurance test.  Everyone is so deadpan that you actually find yourself getting angry at them.  But, whenever you’re on the verge of giving up, there will be a clever line that will draw you back in or the theme song will start playing again.  Bill Murray and Adam Driver are fun to watch and Driver reminds us that he’s actually a good comedic actor.  (In the year of Marriage Story and Rise of Skywalker, that can be easy to forget.)

It’s a flawed film and definitely not one of Jim Jarmusch’s best.  At the same time, though, The Dead Don’t Die is not as bad as you may have heard.

Here’s The New Red Band Trailer For The Dead Don’t Die


I know that I should probably be more excited about The Dead Don’t Die, the upcoming zombie comedy film from Jim Jarmusch.

I mean, after all, Jim Jarmusch has made some brilliant films and I enjoyed his take on vampires, Only Lovers Left Alive.  Add to that, the film is full of wonderful actors, people like Adam Driver, Bill Murray, Selena Gomez, Steve Buscemi, and Tilda Swinton.  And yet, for whatever reason, I can’t summon up much enthusiasm for The Dead Don’t Die.  Everything that I’ve seen about it so far just seems to add up to one big “meh.”

Maybe it’s just the fact that there’s seems to be a new zombie movie every week.  Seriously, zombies were a lot more interesting before they went mainstream.

Anyway, The Dead Don’t Die opened the Cannes Film Festival yesterday and the response so far has been rather lukewarm, if respectful of the fact that the film was directed by a very important filmmaker.  Reading the reviews, you get the feeling that it’s a film that the reviewers wanted to like more than they actually did.

To coincide with the Cannes premiere, here’s a new redband trailer!  You can watch it below.  Maybe it’ll leave you with a bit more enthusiasm than it does me.

The Dead Don’t Die comes to theaters on June 14th.

4 Shots From 4 Robby Müller Films: Paris, Texas, Dead Man, Breaking The Waves, 24 Hour Party People


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking.

RIP, the great cinematography Robby Müller .

4 Shots From 4 Robby Müller Films

Paris, Texas (1984, dir by Wim Wenders)

Dead Man (1995, dir by Jim Jarmusch)

Breaking the Waves (1996, dir by Lars Von Trier)

24 Hour Party People (2002, dir by Michael Winterbottom)

Sundance Film Review: Stranger Than Paradise (dir by Jim Jarmusch)


The Sundance Film Festival is currently taking place in Utah so, for this week, I’m reviewing films that either premiered, won awards at, or otherwise made a splash at Sundance!  Today, I take a look at 1984’s Stranger Than Paradise, which won the Special Jury Prize at the 1985 Sundance Film Festival.

‘You know it’s funny. You come to someplace new, and everything looks just the same.’

— Eddie in Stranger Than Paradise (1984)

Stranger Than Paradise tells the story of three friends.

Willie (John Lurie) lives in a small apartment in New York City’s Lower East Side.  He likes to go to the movies.  He likes to watch TV.  He likes to gamble, putting bets on horses and cheating at poker.  He was apparently born in Hungary, though he doesn’t speak with an accent and, whenever he has to deal with a relative, he always tells them, “Speak English.”  When his best friend asks him about why he never mentioned that he was Hungarian, Willie replies that he’s just as American as anyone.

Eva (Eszter Balint) is Willie’s cousin.  She’s travels to America from Budapest.  The plan is for her to live with her Aunt Lotte (Cecillia Stark) in Cleveland but, because Lotte is in the hospital, she begins her life in America by spending ten days in Willie’s cramped apartment.  Eva enjoys the music of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.  When she’s walking to Willie’s apartment, I Put A Spell On You blares from the large tape player that she always carries with her.

And then there’s Eddie (Richard Edson).  Eddie may not be too smart but he’s always smiling and easy-going.  Unlike the somewhat churlish Willie, Eddie always seems to be enjoying himself.  When Eddie first meets Eva, most viewers will probably expect them to eventually become a couple.  That doesn’t happen, of course.  That’s not the type of film that this is.

The first thing you notice about Stranger Than Paradise is the look of the film.  As one might expect from a film that reportedly had a budget of $10,000, the film looks cheap but there’s a beauty in that cheapness.  The harsh black-and-white magnifies every detail of the film’s locations.  When we watch Eva walking through New York City, the street may look desolate but it’s an exquisite desolation.

Directing his second film, Jim Jarmusch shoots nearly the entire film in single long takes and refuses to indulge in any of the usual tricks that movies often use to force an audience to identify with its main characters.  The camera rarely moves and every scene ends with a blackout.  It’s a technique that casts the audience as observers.  Willie, Eva, and Eddie may all be outsiders but, while watching the film, so is the audience.  Willie, Eva, and Eddie win us over because of the charm of the actors playing them and the deadpan humor of their dialogue but, at the same time, the film never lets us forget that we’re merely watching their lives unfold.

The humor in Stranger Than Paradise comes less from what these characters do and more from what they don’t do.  When Eva arrives in New York, Willie never offers to show her around.  There’s no trip to Broadway or the Statue of Liberty or anything else that we, as an audience, have been conditioned to expect whenever a stranger comes to New York for the first time.  Instead, Willie and Eva sit in Willie’s apartment and watch TV.  When Eddie asks Eva if she wants to join him and Willie at the movies, Willie tells Eva to stay in the apartment and not go outside.  Eva eventually wins Willie over by shoplifting dinner.

During the film’s second act, Willie and Eddie decided to visit Eva in Cleveland, despite not being sure where Cleveland is.  They ask one random guy standing on a street corner how to get there.  “I’m waiting for a bus,” the guy snarls back.  Later, as they drive drown a highway, Eddie asks Willie if they’re in Ohio yet.  “I think we’re in Pennsylvania,” Willie replies.  When they finally do get to Ohio, it turns out to be a frozen wasteland.  After meeting up with Eva, Willie and Eddie spend most of their vacation watching TV with Lotte.  Eventually, they visit Lake Erie.  It’s frozen but Eva, Willie, and Eddie still dutifully stand at the railing and stare down at it while a freezing wind howls around them.

Eventually, all three of them end up in Florida.  Instead of visiting Walt Disney World or Miami, they end up sitting in a cheap motel room.  Eva goes to the beach, which — when shot in black-and-white — looks just as desolate as Ohio in winter.  Eventually, all three of them stumble into money but that’s just a set up for the film’s final joke…

It’s a deliberately slow-moving film but it’s never less than watchable.  Lurie, Edson, and Balint all give such wonderfully deadpan performances that they’re a joy to watch even when they aren’t actually doing anything.  Stranger Than Paradise was Jim Jarmusch’s second film and also one of the first independent American films to receive widespread attention and acclaim.  (The National Society of Film Critics named it the best film of the year.)  34 years after it was first released, the film is an idiosyncratic joy to behold and definitely one that needs to watched by anyone who loves cinema.

Previous Sundance Film Reviews:

  1. Blood Simple
  2. I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore
  3. Circle of Power
  4. Old Enough
  5. Blue Caprice
  6. The Big Sick
  7. Alpha Dog

What If Awards Season Began And Lisa Totally Missed It? Here Are The Gotham Nominations!


The_Witch_poster

As proof of how busy I’ve been over the past few days, just consider this: On October 20th, awards season kicked off and I totally missed it!

That’s right.  On October 20th, the nominations for the 2016 Gotham Awards were announced.  The Gothams honor independent films and they actually have some pretty strict guidelines regarding what they consider to be independent.  So, a lot of this year’s potential Oscar nominees are not eligible for the Gotham Awards.

That said, over the past few years, the Gothams have slowly emerged as a somewhat helpful precursor.  While getting a Gotham nomination does not guarantee any film an Oscar nomination, it certainly doesn’t hurt.  That may especially be true this year as 2016 has, for the most part, not been the great cinematic year that 2015 was.  With no real favorites having yet to emerge, every precursor counts.

So, with that in mind and just a few days late, here are the Gotham nominations!

Best Feature

Certain Women
Kelly Reichardt, director; Neil Kopp, Vincent Savino, Anish Savjani, producers (IFC Films)

Everybody Wants Some!!
Richard Linklater, director; Megan Ellison, Ginger Sledge, Richard Linklater, producers (Paramount Pictures)

Manchester by the Sea
Kenneth Lonergan, director; Kimberly Steward, Matt Damon, Chris Moore, Lauren Beck, Kevin J. Walsh, producers (Amazon Studios)

Moonlight
Barry Jenkins, director; Adele Romanski, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, producers (A24)

Paterson
Jim Jarmusch, director; Joshua Astrachan, Carter Logan, producers (Amazon Studios)

Best Documentary

Cameraperson
Kirsten Johnson, director; Marilyn Ness, producer (Janus Films)

I Am Not Your Negro
Raoul Peck, director; Rémi Grellety, Raoul Peck, Hébert Peck, producers (Magnolia Pictures)

O.J.: Made in America
Ezra Edelman, director; Caroline Waterlow, Ezra Edelman, Tamara Rosenberg, Nina Krstic, Deirdre Fenton, Erin Leyden, producers (ESPN Films)

Tower
Keith Maitland, director; Keith Maitland, Megan Gilbride, Susan Thomson, producers (Kino Lorber, Independent Lens)

Weiner
Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg, directors and producers (Sundance Selects and Showtime Documentary Films)

Weiner_(film)

Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award

Robert Eggers for The Witch (A24)

Anna Rose Holmer for The Fits (Oscilloscope Laboratories)

Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert for Swiss Army Man (A24)

Trey Edward Shults for Krisha (A24)

Richard Tanne for Southside with You (Roadside Attractions and Miramax)

Best Screenplay

Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan (CBS Films)

Love & Friendship, Whit Stillman (Amazon Studios)

Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan (Amazon Studios)

Moonlight, Story by Tarell Alvin McCraney; Screenplay by Barry Jenkins (A24)

Paterson, Jim Jarmusch (Amazon Studios)

Best Actor*

Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea (Amazon Studios)

Jeff Bridges in Hell or High Water (CBS Films)

Adam Driver in Paterson (Amazon Studios)

Joel Edgerton in Loving (Focus Features)

Craig Robinson in Morris from America (A24)

Best Actress*

Kate Beckinsale in Love & Friendship (Amazon Studios)

Annette Bening in 20th Century Women (A24)

Isabelle Huppert in Elle (Sony Pictures Classics)

Ruth Negga in Loving (Focus Features)

Natalie Portman in Jackie (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Breakthrough Actor*

Lily Gladstone in Certain Women (IFC Films)

Lucas Hedges in Manchester by the Sea (Amazon Studios)

Royalty Hightower in The Fits (Oscilloscope Laboratories)

Sasha Lane in American Honey (A24)

Anya Taylor-Joy in The Witch (A24)

* The 2016 Best Actor/Best Actress and Breakthrough Actor nominating panels also voted to award a special Gotham Jury Award for ensemble performance to Moonlight, “in which actors at all levels of experience give outstanding performances that speak eloquently to one another both within and across each chapter of the story.” The awards will go to actors Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Alex Hibbert, André Holland, Jharrel Jerome, Janelle Monáe, Jaden Piner, Trevante Rhodes, and Ashton Sanders.

everybody_wants_some_poster

(AWARDS SEASON HAS BEGUN!!!)

 

Arleigh’s Top 9 Films of 2014 (Front End)


We’re now past the halfway point for the film season of 2014. The year has seen it’s share of hits, bombs and surprises. Many look at the box-office numbers some that these films generate as a sign of their success. Others look at how the critics-at-large have graded these films as a way to determine whether they’ve been successful.

I know some people would list nothing but independent arthouse films as their best. They look at genre and big-budget films as not being worthy of being the best of the year, so far. It’s that sort of thinking that limits one’s appreciation of film, in general.

Does having a 150 million dollar budget mean that a film cannot be one of the best of the year. Past history will suggest that’s not the case. Yet, there are cinephiles out there who will dismiss such films because they consider it as being too Hollywood. The same goes for people who look down upon genre films like horror, scifi, westerns and many others that do not fit their slice-of-life drama study. They’re not existential enough for some.

I’ve come to look at all the films I’ve been fortunate enough to see through the first six months of 2014 and picked 9 of the best (I picked a random odd number since Lisa Marie already does the even numbers thing) no matter their genre, type of film and budget. I’ve picked a couple of scifi films, a documentary, an action-packed blockbuster sequel, a wonderfully made 3-D animated film (itself a sequel), a neo-noir Western, a brutal crime-thriller, an indie horror-thriller and one of the best comedies of the last couple years.

In no special order….

noah-banner222Noah (dir. by Darren Aronofsky)

capawsmovarthc-cvr-a91f8Captain America: The Winter Soldier (dir. by Anthony and Joe Russo)

cold_in_july_ver2_xlgCold in July (dir. by Jim Mickle)

HTTYD2How To Train Your Dragon 2 (dir. by Dean DuBois)

JodorowskysDuneJodorowsky’s Dune (dir. by Frank Pavich)

the-raid-2-berandal01The Raid 2: Berandal (dir. by Gareth Evans)

Snowpiercer (dir. by Bong Joon-ho)

GrandPianoGrand Piano (dir. by Eugenio Mira)

22JumpStreet22 Jump Street (dir. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller)

My honorable mentions: All Cheerleaders Die, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Joe, Edge of Tomorrow, Lego: The Movie, Blue Ruin, Locke, Under the Skin, Only Lovers Left Alive, The Sacrament

Film Review: Only Lovers Left Alive (dir by Jim Jarmusch)


Is it possible that the iconic American independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch is a fan of the late and beloved French film director Jean Rollin?

I ask this question because Jarmusch’s latest film, Only Lovers Left Alive, is one of the most Rollinesque films to have ever been made by a director other than Jean Rollin.

The most obvious similarity between Jarmusch’s film and much of Rollin’s work is that they both deal with vampires.  Rollin was the visual poet of vampire cinema and, if nothing else, Only Lovers Left Alive is a very poetic film.  The film tells the story of three vampires — ennui-stricken Adam (Tom Hiddleston), Adam’s wife Eve (Tilda Swinton), and Eve’s hedonist sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska), all of whom would be perfectly at home in any of Rollin’s vampire films.

But, to be honest, the horror genre has reached the point where ennui-stricken and decadent vampires are hardly unique. What distinguished both Only Lovers Left Alive and the best films of Jean Rollin is the way that they both use and defy the conventions of the vampire genre to explore issues of sexuality, religion, politics, and artistic expression.  Much like Rollin, Jarmusch understands what the audience expects from a vampire film and he makes his larger points by manipulating, defying, and occasionally even confirming those expectations.

In other words, Only Lovers Left Alive is no Twilight and we’re all better off for it.

DAY1-0217.CR2

There are other similarities between Only Lovers Left Alive and the best films of Jean Rollin.  Much like Rollin, Jarmusch tells his story through a collection of sensual and increasingly dream-like images.  Even Rollin’s trademark lingering shots of empty beaches and ancient castles are duplicated, in Only Lovers Left Alive, with haunting shots of the empty streets in Detroit and Tangiers.  When, towards the end of the film, two hungry vampires find themselves searching for blood in an ancient city, it was impossible for me not to think of a similar scene in Jean Rollin’s Two Orphan Vampires.

Now, I’m sure that some of you are probably saying, “That’s great, Lisa, but can you just tell me whether the film is worth watching or not?”

To answer your question, it is.  It’s not a flawless film.  There’s a few comedic scenes involving a doctor played by Jeffrey Wright that aren’t quite as entertaining as they could be.  And while it’s an interesting idea to have Christopher Marlowe show up as a vampire, John Hurt’s performance did not quite work for me.  But, whenever the film concentrates on the chemistry between Hiddleston, Swinton, Wasikowska, and Anton Yelchin (who plays a hilariously naïve human), it works brilliantly.

So yes, definitely — see Only Lovers Left Alive.

968full-only-lovers-left-alive-screenshot

See it for the scenes in which Adam and Eva drive through the ruins of Detroit, looking for Jack White’s house (“Oh!  I love Jack White!” Eve exclaims) and discussing Adam’s belief that the “zombies” (his term for the rest of us) are on the verge of destroying themselves.  Adam serves as the film’s philosophical and political mouthpiece and often times, his dialogue runs the risk of being a bit too on-the-nose perfect but Tom Hiddleston is such a charismatic performer that it doesn’t matter.  Wisely, Hiddleston delivers his most portentous lines with just a hint of self-mockery, as if to let us know that even Adam knows he’s being overdramatic.

See it for the amazing sequence in which Adam plays music in Detroit while Eve dances to it in Tangiers.  If Katharine Hepburn had been turned into a vampire, she would have been a lot like Tilda Swinton’s Eve.

See the film for Mia Wasikowska’s hilarious turn as a petulant and immature brat who just happens to be vampire.  The scenes in which she goes out of her way to annoy the dour Adam left me convinced that, if I ever become a vampire, I’ll probably be a lot like Ava.

See it because the White Hills appear as themselves, playing in a club and absolutely killing it.

See it because it’s one of the few vampire films to strike a perfect balance between humor and drama.

Most of all, see it because it’s a good and unique movie and, so far this year, we’ve had a bit of a shortage where those are concerned.

As for me, if I ever meet Jim Jarmusch, I’m going to ask him for the title of his favorite Jean Rollin film.

If nothing else, it should be an interesting conversation.

only-lovers-left-alive-poster