Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Science of Sleep


I think if you don't like Michael Gondry, you're crazy. I don't mean that you have to like his films or think they are the greatest things out there, but you have to appreciate the fresh approach he brings to the film making process. He is a very flawed director in that his films are sometimes more about the absurd film techniques and excentric story lines he perfected while directing scores of music videos. Yet, as with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind(2004), when he has a good screenplay, Gondry is able to make gold and use his quirky film tricks for good instead of evil (meaning he uses his fun tricks to further the story rather than for nothing). Maybe Charlie Kaufman should write all of his films!


His follow up to 'Spotless Mind', The Science of Sleep(2006), is a great effort in taking a simple story and using it as a vehicle Gondry's style of imagry, but it ends up falling short in the end.

There was not a lot of buzz about this film when it came out last summer and although I wanted to check it out in the theaters, I just missed it. So, thanks to my good friends at Netflix, it arrived last week. My wife and I found ourselves laughing and finding the story touching at times, and I was excited watching the dream sequences throughout the film. But, when the film ended, we looked at each other and agreed that it did not deliver in the end.

The Science of Sleep is about a man, St├ęphane Miroux, played by Gael Garcia Bernal, who moves to Paris from Mexico to be with his mother after his father dies of cancer. In the middle of missing and mourning his father, his mother gets him a dead end job with four quirky co-workers and seems to all but live by himself. His mother seems to be a part of this movie only to further the story and gives him some kind of reason for being in Paris at all.

After a short time he meets his new neighbor, St├ęphanie, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, who is almost as quirky and strange as Stephane, but ends up just confused by his strangeness but is also attracted to him. The relationship is confusing, but then again, relationships can be confusing. In The Science of Sleep, it remains confusing and never resolves (which may or may not be a bad thing).

Stephane's problem is that he can't differentiate between reality and dreams. They intertwine for him seamlessly. Throughout the film we are taken into his dream television show, which he directs, produces, stars in, is all of the musicians in the 'talk show' band, and he is the subject of the show. Both beautiful and amazing, the dreams show us what is inside his head and how he feels about his life. His problem arises when he has to separate the two and is unable. The name of his show is 'Stephane TV'. Complete with a green screen and two windows with blinds he can open and close as he looks out of his own eyes.

The dreams are what make this film tick and Gondry knows it. I got the feeling that from the start, he wanted to make a film with some old animation techniques and bring them to a new level, while integrating those animation scenes into the real world, showing the audience Stephane's problem. They are new, they are different, and they are a joy to watch. They are worth taking a look at this film. You will laugh and feel refreshed at some of the scenes. The problem is they don't add up.
Gondry gives us hope throughout the film that Stephane might just figure things out and rise above his strange problems to finally get the girl, but this never happens. His life not getting resolved is not my problem. It's that Stephane is a slave to his character. He has no choice in what happens to him as his dreams engulf his reality. There is no time where he looks at what's happening and decides to go deeper into the rabbit hole, or come out of it and change something with in his life. I know that in life some people choose not to choose, but in films we typically are witness to a time which is most important in the character's life. I at least would like to see the moment where he decides to gives up or comes to the conclusion that even he knows he is hopeless.

One of my biggest dissapointments was when he gets a huge break at work and they publish his 'disasterology' paintings as a calandar, but it means nothing to any of the characters and is never brought up again. Stephan has a party thrown for him but the big break is never even mentioned again throughout the film and serves only as a way of trying to get the audience to believe that he really is a smart, respectable protagonist who we should believe in. I could only see a flawed, weak, junenile man who truly could not cope with real life and may even have some serious mental problems.

By the end of the film, he is so disjointed and lost as a character that we as the audience are lost also. Unable to feel much either way for him, which is obviously how Stephanie feels also. She finds him attractive and cute, but in the end, his juvenile tricks and miscommunication are just confusing to her and she is unable to really commit to him but also unable to let him go.

In the end, this is a film that Gondry may have wanted us to feel the way I feel about Stephan and his life. He may have said, "I want to make a film about a slightly funny, quirky, but ultimately pathetic and possibly deranged young man who is on the verge of losing himself completely to his fantasy world." But, I don't know Michael Gondry. I do know that this is one reason I enjoy film in general. Someone else may watch this movie and feel totally different that me.

Do I give it any stars or thumbs? No. I just say watch The Science of Sleep with an open mind to the quirks and enjoy the fun that Gondry brings to the screen as well as some of the great performances from Bernal and Gainsbourg. Particularly Bernal, who is becoming one of the great up-and-coming actors that is willing to take risks with his roles and always gives you something memorable from every character he plays.

Let me know what you think about the film and if you had a different opinion. I'd love to know it!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Mockingbird crashes and burns...

It's over for me. My pick is no longer in the running on Boiled Dinner's Movie Madness contest. It's down to On the Waterfront vs. Casablanca.

How do I feel? I feel down-trodden. I feel broken. I just can't believe it. Citizen Kane is out and now Mockingbird? What has the world come to?

Kos wanted to know which one each of the contestants wanted to win. I'll put it this way. I feel like my hockey team, the Colorado Avalanche, have made it to the Conference Championship only to lose in game seven. To watch the final two teams in the Stanley Cup is bitter. Oh, I'll watch, but I won't like it.

The bird is down and now we get to see if a washed up boxer who whines a lot can beat up the washed up bar owner with girl and Nazi problems. It would have been a lot more interesting if a Mockingbird who stands up for doing the right thing in the face of much adversity and racism could have beat down Mr. Union on the Waterfront. I think we know who would have won and I also think that someone (Boiled Dinner), knows that there was no contest and he was scared.

What a sad sad world...

(actually, I just wanted a free DVD)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

It's heating up

Kos has brought everyone to a ferver with his Movie Madness contest on Boiled Dinner! For full commentary on the race to the Championship go to O'Tim's blog.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The game continues!

Ok, so I am currently in 5th place after the second round of Boiled Dinner's Movie Madness competition. I took some chances with a few underdogs that did not pan out and I am wondering what I was thinking when I picked Annie Hall to win over Gone With The Wind. I think I was just hoping that another low seed would triumph but alas, I was wrong.

I am sill torn over Singin' in the Rain being taken by Psycho. It is hard to pick between two films that are so totally and fundamentally different in almost every way. Singin' is a film that is about the past. It comments on film history and the coming of the sound age but also holds all that is so great about the musicals of the 40's & 50's. It makes fun of itself and the genre it is a part of, but also takes every formula, staple, and stereotype very seriously, elevating itself above the typical musical at the time. Smart, smart, film that can be watched again and again.

Now Psycho is just one of the scariest movies ever made and it opened audiences to a genre of movie that had never seen before and is now one of the highest grossing genres in Hollywood. Hitchcock also created an iconography that has been used and copied do death, but not nearly as effectively or ingeniously. I wish I could have seen Psycho for the first time in 1960. I wouldn't have slept for days. (be sure to check out Peeping Tom (1959). It came out about 6 mo. before Psycho and is considered to be the first slasher film)

Why are the best films the ones with the simplest story lines which give a genius director like Alfred Hitchcock the chance to play with the depths of his characters and the tricks of his trade. There are lessons to be learned here, people. Take note.

I'm still torn.

Thanks to Kos and Boiled Dinner for making us think about film and giving us a chance to wonder why one film might be better the other. For challenging our ideas of what's good and why.

Damn fun and I can't wait to win...

Friday, March 16, 2007

Film Madness

Kos has done it again! He has devised a way to make you choose between some of the best films ever made and look at them like a basketball game, but with movies! He took the AFI's top 100 films of all times and put them in a bracket. I personally think he's a little too into basketball!

Anyway, check it out at Boiled Dinner

I had a great time picking my favorites and I not only took into account the fact the Kos was the one who picked the winners, but things like historical significance, social implications, subject matter, the popularity of the film at the time as well as today, and it's influence on filmmaking. I also thought about basketball and if a certain movie were an underdog, would it fight with everything it had to overtake the giant (see my final pick)? Or, would it roll over and submit to the better "team"?

Here you go and be sure to check out Boiled Dinner!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

300

If you haven't seen 300, you may not want to read this until you do. It's not a spoiler, but it does talk about the film and if you are like me, you won't want to know anything about it until you can go see it. If you don't give a crap, read on...



My first thought about 300 is that director Joel Schumacher must have had a two hour orgasm watching that movie.

I went to it last night with Steve and Jeff. I will say that I really enjoyed the movie. I was never really surprised by it, but it is one of the most visually stunning films I have seen in a long time. And if you like men, you will love this film.

To clarify, I would say that it is a bit Batman & Robinesque with the mostly naked, super built Spartans tearing apart the Persians limb from limb for 75% of the film. There were times in the film where the audience would laugh out loud at the bikini briefs all the men in the movie were required to wear. I would actually call them "bulges". But, I also understand that they are playing to a stereotype of the Greek warrior as having fought naked next to each other to the death. The filmmakers were also (I hope) showing the physical dominance of the Spartans over their enemies and even other Greeks as a way to raise them above the average man as Super Warrior! It also helps our 'suspension of disbelief' when the Spartans fight and kill everything in their path. Even a demonic giant ogre being that is seemingly indestructible.

I will also say there there are some very attractive women in the film and some full frontal nudity for those guys who need a little balance from the bulges.



What makes 300 a pretty good film is that it is from the world of Frank Miller. Don't go to this movie thinking it is an accurate portrayal of what happened at Thermopylae. This is a film based on a comic book and it does not stray from this. It is a hard boiled, bloody, fantasy filled with mythological beasts and very stylized dialogue.

Was there a tinge of pro-Iraq war in there too? The lines about freedom is not free and how their water and food come at the price of the men fighting for them right now. It seemed a bit fishy to me.

BUT!!! All that said, I still really liked the film. There were some true "Holy Shit" moments and it was pure entertainment. Once again I will say that it was visually stunning and is very worth the ticket. Especially in IMAX. It's almost hard to wrap your mind around it.

poster images courtesy of IMPA (Internet Movie Poster Awards)

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Scorsese

Welcome to Stab Film!!!

I have been wanting to get this up for a couple of months now and here it is (OK, maybe I should edit that, but what fun is life without double meaning?).

I don't claim to be a great writer or have the correct opinions on everything, but I love film and I could talk for days on end about it, so that's just what I'm going to do.

The first topic of my first personal blog is Mr. Scorsese. When he won the academy award for Best Director, I jumped up out of my chair and jumped for joy like John Elway had come out of retirement and just threw the Super Bowl winning touchdown for the Broncos. Check out the win on YouTube:



It seems that NOT watching the Oscars is in lately. Two people expressed with pride to me that they would not want to watch a bunch of rich people see who gets the big lame award and toot their own horns. What people don't realize is that the Oscars are bigger than these celebrities. It is not about them and it is not about the lows our society has sunk to in regards to celebrity worship. The Oscars are about art. The highest form of art in our civilization today. Film making is a craft which takes the vision of one to several people and spreads out the implementation of making a film to a large group of very talented professionals. Just like a sports team though, it is only as good as the person leading the way. The director.

At the apex of his craft in every aspect is Scorsese. He not only has the vision and talent, but he has the demeanor and personality to pull together the crew and actors to bring a screenplay to life.

After he won, I also talked friends and heard many critics say they did not think he necessarily deserved an Oscar for this film but was awarded based on the fact that he had not won for such great films as Raging Bull(1980) and Goodfellas(1990). I'm not ever going to argue that he should have won for both of these (particularly for Goodfellas going against Dances With Wolves). I will defend that The Departed(2006) had every right to win for best director and Best Picture.



Scorsese deserved to win Best Director for The Departed. Most arguments I hear have nothing to do with the competition he was up against this year, but compare The Departed with Scorsese's past films. Check out, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17351684/

He was not competing with himself. It is also my opinion that you cannot compare a majority of Scorsese's pictures to one another and especially to other films. I am not saying there are not films being made of the same caliber, or filmmakers of the same caliber. Martin Scorsese is a student of film who is constantly trying to re-define himself and has become the best filmmaker we will probably ever see. If we are putting Martin up against any other director today, there is no competition.

As for Best Picture, it was a very tight field this year with some great films about important subject matter, but in the end, The Departed was as good or better a film as any of them.

OK, that's the end of my essay. I hope you like it and I hope you agree. If not, then that's OK too. I'm not a film snob like my sister likes to think I am.