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Monthly Archives: April 2008

I know everyone is calling it crap and pretentious, but I loved it. I can admit, it’s arty, it’s pretentious, it’s pure. I feel like I could describe the films of Robert Bresson or Federico Fellini or Michael Haneke with any of these adjectives, but does that make them bad movies? Some, maybe. I’d be cautious recommending any of their movies to the Average Joe Movie Buff, though, because each of these directors’ films are employed with their trademark styles. If you can’t sink you’re teeth into the films instantly or don’t have an idea what the movies are about, you’re a goner. Which would explain why I had such a difficult time with movies like Lancelot du Lac or 8 1/2 when I first saw them in my teens.

A couple weeks ago, Youth Without Youth only played in town for a week (even though it was released in America at the end of last year), so I only got the chance to see it once. I’d love to see it again, though. I loved the way Coppola chose to express his feelings on memory, love, and vitality in abstract terms, considering he is dealing with abstract notions. So far, seeing this was the film event of the year–at least in a city like New Orleans, which doesn’t get much in the way of limited releases in the theater.

I can’t write an in-depth review of the film anytime in the near future, and even if I could, I really don’t want to say too much. Just see the movie! Youth Without Youth may be in a theater near you, but if it’s not (or if it’s about to leave your local cineplex), it’s coming to DVD next month.

Any thoughts from anyone who’s seen it? I know I can’t be the only one who liked it. Ari from The Aspect Ratio put it #10 on his Top Ten of 2007 list, so I don’t feel too left out. His “review,” although brief, is spot-on.

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What should I focus on about Street Kings:  the weak performances from solid actors, the messy screenplay or the film’s lack of morality? Whatever, because in the end, all roads lead to the conclusion that Street Kings is a movie you won’t mind missing.

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I must confess: I’m not a huge fan of the Rolling Stones. I do like some of their songs, but only because they’ve put out so many. “Paint It Black,” “Miss You” and “Star Star” are all awesome, but they’re not the “popular” songs, so none of these greats are played in the new documentary on the Stones, Shine a Light, directed by Martin Scorsese. Even though the film is a bit of a disappointment, it’s still a movie to see.

shine a light

The Stones are performing as part of a benefit concert for Bill Clinton, and Scorsese is filming it all for this movie. There really is no plotline: most of the movie is made up of footage from this concert and archive footage from the Stones back in the day. Scorsese is known for his use of pop music in his movies, and the Stones are regularly featured on his soundtracks. (In fact, he’s used “Gimme Shelter” in three different movies.) It’s only fitting that he would direct the Stones, and there are some shining moments throughout.

Just like an actual concert, the movie depends on the set list the Stones use during their performance. The song choices are pretty uneven, but understandable given the audience at the benefit concert: for every great, ballsy song like “Sympathy for the Devil,” there’s a not-so-great pop tune like “Start Me Up” right around the corner. There’s something transcendental, though, about the opening number (“Jumping Jack Flash”), the way Scorsese orchestrates it as a character in the movie and as the director of the movie, but few of the songs equal this power.

The film opens and ends magnificently, just like Scorsese should handle it. The problems occur in the middle where the movie tends to drag. But there’s nothing like seeing Mick Jagger sing and jump around the stage, giving off the same energy levels he did 40 years ago. Shine a Light is no Gimme Shelter-the 1970 documentary about that one night at Altamont-but it’s definitely a movie worth checking out for a couple moments of wonderful magic.

Rating: 7/10

At the end of The Counterfeiters, I learned via voice-over that the counterfeiting work I had just watched is the biggest counterfeiting operation of all time, all while the protagonist dances with a woman on the beach in the moonlight. Aw, how cute.

Maybe the movie should have, instead, been titled, Yay! For the Counterfeiting Jew.

Despite the film winning the best foreign film honor at this year’s Oscar ceremony, The Counterfeiters is just another “issues” movie that expects people to love it just because it’s about underdogs, just like previous overrated Academy Award winners Schindler’s List and Crash.

Salomon “Sally” Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics)  is a high-roller, spending money at a high-class resort and eating and drinking only the finest. He has a flashback, and we get to the meat of the story: Around 1939, Sally counterfeited everything from passports to money, and even different currencies, like the dollar and the pound. He is eventually caught and put in a concentration camp. Because of his renknown for making fake bills-he is considered the best counterfeiter anyone can find-the Nazis put him to work, to make counterfeit notes which, as we learn, is what is financing the Nazi war movement.

Therein lies a conflict between Sally and a fellow prisoner, whose wife and children arein Auschwitz. He wants to stand-up for what is right and sabotage the Nazi money-making machine, but Sally and the others involved just want to stay alive. Instead of letting events speak for themselves, like the prisoners getting better beds than those not working on the counterfeiting operation, the story “speaks” the issue through dialogue, telling instead of showing. “This is wrong” seems to be the message throughout, but it doesn’t have a chance to get through a bored audience. Thelast ten minutes are pathetic and even more forced than the unnatural events that have come before it.

The Counterfeiters really has the potential to be something fantastic. Or maybe I only think that because the basic plot isn’t as contrived as the other ninety-per cent of the movie.

Rating: 5/10