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Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Year's Ten Best Films
I thought I would save my year end top ten list for a separate post, since I work and worry so hard over it every year. It certainly was a tough year, since there were only five or six sure-fire contenders and about six or seven other potentials. It's a little early for list-making, I think, but I've seen everything I'm going to see in 2005, so there it is. You can click on the link to see comments, runners up, the worst list, guilty pleasures, and whatnot, but here is the big ten. And, rest assured, I'm the only one on the planet without Brokeback Mountain on his list.

1) Saraband, 2) Broken Flowers, 3) A History of Violence, 4) The World, 5) 2046, 6) Land of the Dead, 7) Good Night, and Good Luck, 8) Capote, 9) Mysterious Skin, 10) The New World.

Merry Winter Holiday Season to one and all!
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 12/22/2005 Comments (0)
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New Movies & DVD Reviews from Combustible Celluloid
The holidays are here. I've seen more movies than should be allowed for one human being. My total for the year is 251, quite a bit less than my record, but way more than last year. I'm exhausted, and I'm taking a week off. Somehow, I've written reviews for all the major holiday releases, and here they are:

  • Breakfast on Pluto **1/2
  • Casanova **1/2
  • Fun with Dick and Jane **
  • Match Point ***1/2
  • Mrs. Henderson Presents **1/2
  • Munich ***
  • The New World ****
  • The Ringer **
  • Rumor Has It **1/2
  • Transamerica **1/2
  • Wolf Creek **1/2

    Here are the latest DVDs that I've had time to write up:
  • Fantastic Four
  • The Great Raid
  • House by the River
  • Scarlet Street
  • Seven Men from Now

  • And a year-end list:
  • The Year in Review: 2005's Top 25 DVDs
  • :: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 12/22/2005 Comments (0)
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    The Quiet Earth Reviewed
    Tom Huddleston at Not Coming to a Theater Near you has written a great review of a movie I've been waiting for forever to come out on DVD: The Quiet Earth. It's one of the best end-of-the-world movies I've seen, and one of the most underrated films of the 80s. There's some pretty significant spoilers in the review though, so if you want to go into the movie fresh, you might want to bookmark it for later reading.
    :: posted by Donald Melanson, 12/22/2005 Comments (1)
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    "Zuzu's petals!"
    The CBC has a fascinating history on Frank Capra's holiday classic It's a Wonderful Life, its failure in 1946, and its rebirth on television in the '70s and '80s.
    :: posted by Matt, 12/22/2005 Comments (0)
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    Tuesday, December 20, 2005

    Herzog's Rescue Dawn Trailer
    The trailer for Werner Herzog's Rescue Dawn is now online, with Christian Bale again radically changing his appearance, this time to play a Vietnam prisoner of war. Herzog actually tackled the same story in his 1997 documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly, which I suggest you check out before the feature film version opens in March.
    :: posted by Donald Melanson, 12/20/2005 Comments (0)
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    Monday, December 19, 2005

    DVD Review: Sin City
    by Ian Dawe

    I'm a sucker for movies that create a world - one with dimensions and shadows and light and everything in between. Even if the story is particularly compelling, I can be drawn in on the strength of a fully realized milieu. Sin City is one of those movies where the world is larger than the characters - larger, even, than the story. That's one of the reasons why I found it such a fascinating, beguiling piece of filmmaking and the best reason to get this new "Recut and Extended Edition" DVD.

    Based on the famous comic book by the legendary Frank Miller, the film takes us through four stories from this dark city. Director Robert Rodriguez wisely employed Miller himself early on in pre-production and film has a patina that not only does justice to the book, it deepens and enriches an already deep and rich world. Sin City is a heightened, stylized mythic place, right out of American popular culture, combining elements of film noir and German expressionism with a daring, violent sexuality not seen since A Clockwork Orange. It's always raining or snowing in Sin City, always replete with long shadows and deep angles.

    Full Review >>
    :: posted by Donald Melanson, 12/19/2005 Comments (0)
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    Sunday, December 18, 2005

    Shatner's Picks
    If you're like me and often find yourself wandering the video store aisles asking: "What would Shatner watch?", you don't have to wonder any longer -- the William Shatner DVD Club is here to save you.
    :: posted by Donald Melanson, 12/18/2005 Comments (0)
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    Friday, December 16, 2005

    Stephen Frears on Lindsay Anderson
    Director Stephen Frears came around to San Francisco this week to talk about his new Golden Globe-nominated Mrs. Henderson Presents. The director got his start working in theater, and then as an assistant for directors Karel Reisz and Lindsay Anderson.

    On the late great Anderson -- about whom most Americans still know too little -- Frears had this to say: "He was a bugger. He was a wonderful man, but he was quite fierce. He'd give you a bollicking as soon as look at you. He was wonderful. Very funny."

    And there you have it. What more can you say?
    :: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 12/16/2005 Comments (0)
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    A Peek at Oscar's Best Song Competition
    AMPAS has posted a press release listing the 42 candidates for the Best Song Academy Award. The songs come from such wide-ranging films as Pooh's Heffalump Movie, Elizabethtown and Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic. I didn't know that all of the songs are presented by the Academy at once, randomly, in three-minute clips.
    :: posted by Matt, 12/16/2005 Comments (0)
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    Wednesday, December 14, 2005

    Woody Allen Speaks on Golden Globe Nod
    I don't know who did it or how, but someone got a quote out of Woody Allen about his Golden Globe Nomination for Best Director. It's pretty typically Woody:

    "I'm always very gratified when anyone likes a movie I've done but I can't take the credit -- it's a triumph for the cast."

    Match Point is one of my favorite films this year. It opens in New York and L.A. on Christmas Day and goes wider in January.
    :: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 12/14/2005 Comments (0)
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    "King Kong" Film Review from Combustible Celluloid
    Here's a math problem for you. I was asked to review King Kong for the San Francisco Examiner. The film screened Monday night, starting at 7:30, and it opened Wednesday morning, less than 36 hours later. For a film review to appear in Wednesday morning's paper, when does it need to be finished and filed? That's right! First thing Tuesday morning. Which meant that I had to get home sometime after 11 and write and re-write until the wee hours of the morning. So if my review sounds like a breathless, incoherent glob of gibberish, there you have it. Nonetheless, I had a great time, and despite the film's oppressive running time -- which really plays havoc with the pace and characterizations -- it's a blast.

    And here's the review.
    :: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 12/14/2005 Comments (0)
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    Tuesday, December 13, 2005

    San Francisco Film Critics Circle announces 2005 Awards
    I met last Thursday with the other members of the SFFCC for a bout of furious and passionate voting. You'd be surprised how close some of my favorite movies came to winning, but actually lost. The list of winners is actually fairly dull, and not all that different from the other Critics Awards in other cities. Plus anyone who reads this spot regularly already knows my feelings on Brokeback Mountain. The winners were officially announced today.

    Best Picture: Brokeback Mountain
    Best Director: Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain
    Best Actor: Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain
    Best Actress: Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line
    Best Supporting Actor: Kevin Costner, The Upside of Anger
    Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams, Junebug
    Best Screenplay: George Clooney & Grant Heslov, Good Night, and Good Luck
    Best Foreign Language Film: Cache (Hidden) (France, et al)
    Best Documentary: Grizzly Man
    Marlon Riggs Award: Jenni Olson, The Joy of Life

    Note: I loved Cache, but it won't open here in San Francisco until January 20, so I haven't written my review yet.
    :: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 12/13/2005 Comments (1)
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    Friday, December 09, 2005

    New Movie & DVD Reviews from Combustible
    Here we are in the middle of awards season, and the pickings are slim. It's easily the worst batch since 2000. Last week I would up reviewing a couple of throwaways: Going Shopping and First Descent, and I caught up with the not-screened-for-the-press Aeon Flux over the weekend. Three new Oscar hopefuls opened this week, and all three of them are duds, especially Rob Marshall's Memoirs of a Geisha. At least others seem to agree with me on that one, but I can't understand how critics across the board, both mainstream and obscure, both highbrow and lowbrow, are falling for the latest Parade Float, Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain. Don't be surprised if it takes home several gold statues next spring. Finally, we have Stephen Gaghan's Syriana, which, simply put, is an Important Message in search of a movie.

    In new DVDs, Warner Home Video's gorgeous King Kong is surely one of the year's biggest events, not to mention Milestone's release of Kong's predecessors, Grass and Chang. I checked out some classics by three great directors of the studio era, Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat (Fox), Preston Sturges's The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (Paramount) and Fritz Lang's amazing Rancho Notorious (currently available only on a British import DVD). Finally, I had one Halloween slasher-flick leftover, The Janitor (Elite), and Miramax's hit 1991 documentary Paris Is Burning.
    :: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 12/09/2005 Comments (0)
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    Thursday, December 08, 2005

    Son of Typecasting
    With his ongoing blog feature Son of Typecasting, font designer Mark Simonson catalogs the mis-uses of type in period films. The occurances are both subtle (chech his entry on Scorsese's Gangs of New York) and not so subtle. Essential reading if you've ever spotted Helvetica used in any film set before the 1950s.
    :: posted by Matt, 12/08/2005 Comments (0)
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    Tuesday, December 06, 2005

    Killing Children and Other Editing Stories
    So, the process of editing is painful. Very painful, especially for someone as self critical as I. The first cut of the film told me I had to re-shoot the ending, and then things got really bad. Endless fiddling, watching the same few scenes over and over again - after a while you only see the flaws. And for this film, I'll admit that there were plenty to see.

    Then I made the mistake of showing a rough cut to another filmmaker - and wasn't prepared for the negative feedback. I felt a bit like George Lucas who, after showing Star Wars to Brian DePalma, was met with the immortal comment "What's all this crap about the force?" Obviously, I still have a lot of work to do. So, here are my new filmmaking lessons:

    7. There's no right way to edit. It's kind of like playing music - you have to listen to it so many times that you just go on feel.

    8. Every idea is worth trying. Especially in the world of non-destructive, non-linear editing, if you have an idea, it's easy to try it out without destroying the whole structure of the piece. Some of the best ideas come from this.

    9. Be prepared to listen to your friends. I suppose the addendum to that would be "whatever they have to say", because after I calmed down and re-read my friend's email, he actually had some good suggestions about how I could make the film better. Friends tend be honest. That's the problem.

    10. You must kill all your children. That was something an old writing teacher of mine once said, and it's especially true of film editing. Anything you thought when writing the script would be good - be prepared to delete it. You have to approach a film with fresh eyes. That's probably why the real filmmakers use professional editors who aren't so wedded to the material. If you've lived with the project for a while, written it, directed it, acted in it, etc., it's a lot harder to trash those scenes that you slaved over, however necessary it might be.

    Next time, I'll report from the land of re-shoots, digital color correction and scoring. Stay tuned.
    :: posted by Ian Dawe, 12/06/2005 Comments (3)
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    Monday, December 05, 2005

    Indie Spirit Nominations Announced
    Totally missed this last week but the nominations for the Independent Spirit Awards have been announced, IndieWire has the details. Up for best feature are The Squid and the Whale (which leads all other films with six nominations), Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Good Night and Good Luck, and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrade, all of which have four nominations each.
    :: posted by Donald Melanson, 12/05/2005 Comments (0)
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    Film Noir NYC
    The New York Times looks at New York City locales used in classic film noirs such as 1950's Where the Sidewalk Ends. A fascinating read (requires a NYT registration, natch).
    :: posted by Matt, 12/05/2005 Comments (0)
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    Artforum's Top Films of 2005
    Artforum is again one of the first publications out of the gate with a best of list for 2005. Two of the five lists from the December issue of the magazine are online, with Brokeback Mountain topping Isaac Julien's list, and Districted, a series of short films, leading Chrissie Iles'.
    :: posted by Donald Melanson, 12/05/2005 Comments (1)
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