Fall Tour Highlights
Done at last! The box trucks are parked, the CMF staffers are catching flights home for the holidays and Campus MovieFest has finally wrapped up a pretty incredible Fall semester. A few highlights: CMF launched very successful first-year events at Cañada College and Virginia Tech, we saw record-breaking participation at Arizona State, San Francisco State and UNC-Greensboro, and there were sold-out red carpet finales everywhere in between.
But nothing sums up the successful Fall semester quite as well as this—enjoy!
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
Yesterday I took in a double feature as I watched the latest Disney/Pixar release Brave (more on that to come) and came home to watch something a bit more downbeat in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, a 2007 thriller starring the underrated Ethan Hawke and Everyone’s Favorite Highbrow Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. This film is also notable for being Sydney Lumet’s final film before his death in 2011 at age 86.
The film basically follows two brothers (Hawke and Hoffman) and ultimately their entire family, through a jewelry store heist that goes horribly, horribly wrong. It’s a plot we’ve all seen before; think Reservoir Dogs or Dog Day Afternoon (another Lumet classic). What’s different or unique about Before the Devil Knows You’re Deadis how this is ultimately a story about father-son relationships and decades-old scars that never heal and lead to a lifetime of resentment. Hoffman plays the “unfavored” son who on one hand wishes nothing more than his father’s death but on the other is still striving for that acceptance that Hawke, the “favored” son seemed to earn so easily. Albert Finney plays their dad; a fine choice for a supporting, but very pivotal, role.
Without giving too much away, the film’s final scene, the final confrontation between Finney and Hoffman, can be interpreted in many number of ways. Does Finney finally accept his son for who he is or is this one more condemnation on a life he’s disappointed by and ashamed of? I choose the former.
Exit Through the Gift Shop
In what I imagine is going to be a recurring theme throughout this blog, Exit Through the Gift Shop is a film that I’ve been meaning to get around to watching because I’ve had lots of friends tell me that it’s so good and Banksy is so interesting, and on and on. For whatever reason whenever this one pops up on my Netflix list—it’s something that Netflix helpfully recommends for me, based on my interests in movies such as Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, of all movies—I’ve always passed it by for more accessible fare like 30 Rock or Rosanne re-runs.
It’s a shame I’ve waited so long because I enjoyed this movie so much more than I thought. Banksy really is so interesting and mysterious, but that French dude Thierry Guetta certainly steals the show for me. In many ways I envy that guy, or rather, I envy Mr. Brainwash, for coming up with an absolutely ingenious scheme to get shallow Los Angelinos to buy his art: Get Banksy to endorse you, master the art of hype, and you’re Golden! My two favorite parts of Mr. Brainwash’s utter success is that 1.) he’s apparently an absolute idiot who most people hate to work for and 2.) he didn’t even create most of the art in his gallery! Mr. Brainwash is the Thomas Edison of street art.
Much has been written about whether the whole thing is some kind of hoax; that Banksy basically created Mr. Brainwash as his own sort of street art and to show just how fickle and (ahem) brainwashed the whole art house community really is. I don’t have a clue and I don’t really care. Whether Thierry was acting on his own or through the guidance of Banksy, it’s still a story about really cool street artists and their work and just how easily the world will buy into basically any bullshit as long as it has celebrity endorsements and attractive packaging.
FAVORITE SCENE SHOT: I have two: Loved the shot in the opening credits of the graffiti artist evading authorities by climbing the bridge parkour-style while the two fat cops can only watch. And the scene where we get to see the literally hundreds of tapes that (INSERT NAME HERE) kept was utterly impressive and depressing all at the same time. I still have no idea how Banksy was able to make a coherent documentary with all that disorganized footage (or maybe that was part of the ruse….!)
VIEWED ON SATURDAY, APRIL 7 ON A 32” FLATSCREEN VIA NETFLIX/APPLE TV
I’ve always been a James Cameron fan. From Terminator to Aliens to T2 to The Abyss and the underrated True Lies, this man can do little wrong in my eyes, minus Avatar. So at the time of Titanic's original release around Christmas of 1997 I was twelve years old and a ginormous nerd over all things Titanic, so when I heard the guy that made Terminator 2 was making a movie about the sinking of Titanic it was almost too much to handle. How AWESOME does that movie sound? Were there going to be robots from the future in it?? I remember seeing the teaser posters for the movie and absolutely flipping my shit:
Of course, later on I discovered it was a love story about kissing and eternal love and all that crap, which tempered my expectations ever so slightly, but the premise of a love story brought the opportunity for a nude/love scene so I figured it was a win-win in that regard.
Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed, either on the awesomeness or the nudity front, and Titanic turned out to be one of my favorite movies of my childhood and one of many reasons that I’ve pursued a career in film/television/entertainment. On top of that, Titanic made a boatload (heh) of money and is widely regarded as the best disaster/romance/epic of all time and one of the greatest films of all time.
Fast forward to 2012: To commemorate the centennial of the Titanic’s actual sinking on April 15, 1912, Titanic has been re-released, this time with an added dimension! I’m firmly in the the “3D Sucks” camp but this is one of the few movies that I’ll see in that format, just to have a chance to see it in theaters again. Outside of Avatar, one of the more tastefully-done uses of the medium, and by far the best post-converted 3D attempts I’ve seen (granted, I haven’t seen all that many). There are very few “It’s coming right at us!” moments so for the most part Cameron used the effect to a much more subtle effect than I’m used to seeing from 3D movies.
The interesting thing about Titanic 3D is that it’s entirely possible to watch the movie without the glasses. Almost always, the main subject on screen is not actually in 3D; everything around it is. For instance, generally the movie has three planes of focus, something in the extreme foreground, the main subject (usually Jack or Rose or the ship) and the background. In an attempt to create depth, the foreground and background are in 3D but the middle man is generally not. I don’t know if other 3D movies are like this but my experience has been that this is not the case.
Overall though, it was just nice to be back in the company of the ship and Jack and Rose and channel my inner twelve-year-old for a few hours. Titanic still has its problems: The dialogue, like in most Cameron movies, is remarkably stilted, and the melodrama runs a bit high in places. But there’s no denying that Titanic is still a tremendous cinematic experience and still James Cameron’s crowning achievement as a filmmaker.
Favorite Scene/Shot:Probably not my favorite scene, but it was something I’d forgotten about until I saw it again last night. When Jack is below deck dancing with little Cora and the next song he tells her he’s going to dance with Rose. Cora gives Jack that look, which prompts Jack to say, “You’re still my best girl, Cora!” Jack Dawson was such a player.
Viewed on Friday, April 6 in RealD 3D at the Northlake Movie Tavern in Atlanta, GA
For my first-ever blog post I decided to watch the classic 1922 horror film Nosferatu by F.W. Murnau. Now, as a graduate of a film studies program it seems pretty unlikely that I’ve never seen probably the most overplayed “film school” movie of all time, but for whatever reason when my Film History professor covered German Expressionism he went with The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari over this piece. I remember one of my best friends who went to a different college remarking how not only had he seen Nosferatu many times over, but he’d also seen several different musical arrangements of it, including a heavy metal version. So I figured I’d better get cracking.
A quick history lesson on Nosferatu: Murnau originally was aiming to do a direct adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula but the film rights were never acquired. This didn’t stop Murnau and his screenwriter; they changed all the character names and tinkered with the plot and moved forward with his movie. Unfortunately, Bram Stoker’s widow and executor of his estate caught wind of his adaptation and sued his ass. The result was all film copies and negatives were to be burned and she was owed reparations, which were likely never paid as the production company that financed the movie went out of business. Luckily enough, bootleg copies of the film survived, which is what we have available to this day.
Nosferatu is widely regarded (along with Caligari) as the grandfather of the modern horror movie, and with good reason. The movie is remarkably scary, has incredible cinematography (especially when it comes to framing the characters), and has some iconic moments; from Dr. Orlock’s creepy shadow climbing the stairs to Ellen’s bedroom to the creepy timelapse of the coffins leaving Orlock’s lair to every scene on the ship.
A couple of other things that drew my attention in Nosferatu were the color tinting throughout my copy of the movie. The movie constantly shifts from yellow to blue to red, among others, which I imagine was added to enhance the mood and differentiate night from day but I found it pretty distracting and would’ve preferred just straight black and white. The musical score that I ended up with on Netflix also wasn’t my favorite as it sounded way too modern for a movie from 1922. When it comes to my silent movies I need either a single piano or something along the lines of a traditional orchestra. What this copy had sounded like a piano back by synths.
Favorite Scene/Shot: How about those RATS!
Viewed on Thursday, April 5 on a 32” flatscreen TV via Netflix/Apple TV