Film friday is back as surreptitiously as it left. I’ll be jumping into the filmography of one of my favorite director’s of all time, Quentin Tarantino. This week’s poster is for his first film, an independent production, called My Best Friend’s Birthday. It took him and his friends four years to complete while they were still working at a video store. During the editing phase, 34 of the 70 minutes of footage were lost in a fire. Tarantino admits the film is poorly directed and I’d have to agree, but this was where he was just starting out. If you’re a Tarantino fan I’d still check it out, the writing isn’t bad and there are a few genuinely funny moments, not just “so bad it’s funny.”
So this movie is one of my favorite westerns. It sits on that list with the Clint Eastwood westerns and the Frisco Kid starring Han Solo and Willy Wonka.
Hailee Steinfeld, 14, stars as Mattie Ross, 14, but she kicks acting’s ass and keeps up with Matt Damon and Jeff Bridges every step of the way. This is her film debut, so hopefully her agent puts her in more high quality work for a little.
Why haven’t you seen this movie? Don’t like remakes? A big fan of the John Wayne version? Too bad, this movie is deep yet funny, and wonderfully scripted, acted, shot, and subtly scored.
Film-maker Cameron McHarg got in contact with me after seeing my Film Friday series. He’s been working on an exciting script for a movie called Monroe Log and asked me to do a poster for it. The treatment I read for the movie was great and I can’t wait to see the movie one day, hopefully soon.
This film can be perplexing, but in that way it’s like life. How often do you really get any answers to the big questions? The ones that start with “Why…”
The movie is a short look into the unfortunate life of Larry Gopnick, a physics professor, and we watch as he tries to do what he thinks is best. Visually, the movie is beautiful, can’t recommend it enough for that. And once again the dialogue is fantastic, as with much of their work it’s deeply rooted in specific regional or cultural vernacular and accents, in this case a Jewish community in Minnesota in 1967. If you need your films to be wrapped in a neat package at the end then this is not your movie, this is as messy as reality.
Out of all of the Coens’ films, this one had me laughing the most. There’s a short but hilarious scene at the very end, a perfectly delivered conversation between J.K. Simmons as a CIA superior officer and another actor discussing the events of the film that we’ve just seen, and they’re as incredulous as we are. As for the rest of it, Pitt and Malkovitch steal the show for the majority of the film, they’re too good here. Watch this movie! Next week is “A Serious Man.”
What can I say about this movie that hasn’t already been said? It’s amazing. If you haven’t seen it, change that. It’s beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, very intense on both an emotional level (mostly fear) and on the level of action. Their go-to director of photography, Roger Deakins, is in great form here. I can’t recommend this movie enough.
This week is The Ladykillers, a remake of the 1955 film of the same name, which got some pretty bad reviews and a poor audience response overall. I had never seen it until this week, and went into it expecting it to be bad. I think since my expectations were so low, I was pleasantly surprised, and ended up really enjoying it. Marlon Wayans was surprisingly entertaining, and J.K. Simmons was great as always, he can’t go wrong with that voice, so he’ll always be around, gladly. Tom Hanks did really well playing the scholarly, creepy con-man, but what can you say? It’s Tom Hanks, he’s usually good, sometimes great, almost always watchable. Anyway, this one was shot a lot better than Intolerable Cruelty, more interesting looking characters, setting, and better decisions made for each shot (more symmetry and repetition). One thing that adds to the feel and imagery of the movie is that it’s set in a small town in Mississippi, mostly taking place in a weathered old house, more specifically in the root cellar of said house. While it takes place in the 90s at the earliest, many of the characters seem stuck a half century or more in the past, but it’s not unusual for the Coen brothers’ characters to be unusual. I would recommend it, not one of the best, but definitely worth watching. Next week is No Country For Old Men.