Friday, December 26, 2014

Top Films of 2014

1. Violette (Martin Provost)
2. Boyhood (Richard Linklater)
3. Finding Vivian Maier (John Maloof, Charlie Siskel)
4. Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq (Nancy Buirski)
5. The Immigrant (James Gray)
6. Mommy (Xavier Dolan)
7. Wild (Jean-Marc Vallée)
8. Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy)
9. Selma (Ava Duvernay)
10. Jeune et jolie/Young and Beautiful (François Ozon) 
11. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson)
12. Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller)
13. The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (Brian Knappenberger)
14. Life Itself (Steve James)
15. The Theory of Everything (James Marsh)
16. White Bird in a Blizzard (Gregg Araki)
17. Venus in Fur (Roman Polanski)      
18. Ivory Tower (Andrew Rossi)
19. Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch)
20. God Help the Girl (Stuart Murdoch)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Top Films (October & November 2014)
Mommy (2014, Xavier Dolan)
Life Itself (2014, Steve James)
White Bird in a Blizzard (2014, Gregg Araki)
Happy End (1967, Oldrich Lipský)
The Theory of Everything (2014, James Marsh)

Honorable Mentions:
The Reflecting Skin (1990, Philip Ridley)
Whiplash (2014, Damien Chazelle)
Men, Women & Children (2014, Jason Reitman)
Az Karkheh ta Rhein/From Karkeh to Rhine  (1993, Ebrahim Hatamikia)
Bande de filles/Girlhood (2014, Céline Sciamma)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Top Films (September 2014)

Top Features
La scoperta dell'alba/Discovery at Dawn (2012, Susanna Nicchiarelli) This was the closing film at the first annual Euphoria Film Festival at USC. This is a really good time-travel film.
Les amants de Montparnasse (Montparnasse 19) (1958, Jacques Becker)
Trust (1990, Hal Hartley)
God Help the Girl (2014, Stuart Murdoch)
Dance of the Maize God (2014, David Lebrun)   

Top Short Films
Spielzeugland (2007, Jochen Alexander Freydank) Video link   
Emilie Muller (1994, Yvon Marciano) Video link
Frida Kahlo & Tina Modotti (1984, Laura Mulvey, Peter Wollen)   
Brother (2000, Adam Benjamin Elliot)
Mur 19  (1966, Mark Rappaport)

Honorable Mentions:
Maidentrip (2013, Jillian Schlesinger) Even though the subject of the documentary has disowned the film, everyone else seems to like it.
Why Be Good? (1929, William A. Seiter) Every so often, AMPAS (Oscars) will present a newly restored Colleen Moore film. This was pretty good. Her character was a little less tame than usual.
Rocks in My Pockets (2014, Signe Baumane) Latvia's submission to the Oscars this year. It is not only an animated film that deals with mental illness, but has a good shot at being nominated this year.
All This Mayhem  (2014, Eddie Martin)
The Devil and Miss Jones (1941, Sam Wood)
She's Gotta Have It (1986, Spike Lee)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Top Films (July & August 2014)

Finding Vivian Maier (2013, John Maloof, Charlie Siskel)
Boyhood   (2014, Richard Linklater)
La beauté du diable (1950, René Clair)
Short films:
Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe (1980 , Les Blank) Video link
Western Spaghetti (2008, PES) Video Link

Web pilot:
 The Cosmopolitans: Season 1, Episode 1 Pilot (2014, Whit Stillman)  Streaming on Amazon (free)

Top 5 Films (June 2014)
Violette (2013, Martin Provost)
Cooley High (1975, Michael Schultz)
Carrie (1952, William Wyler)
The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (2014, Brian Knappenberger)
Imitation of Life (1934, John M. Stahl)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Top 5 Films (May 2014)
The Immigrant (2013, James Gray)
All My Sons (1948, Irving Reis)
Ivory Tower (2014, Andrew Rossi)
Magritte ou La leçon de choses   (1960, Luc de Heusch)
La perle (1929,  Henri d' Ursel)

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Top 8 Films of April 2014
Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq (2013, Nancy Buirski)
Venus in Fur (2013, Roman Polanski)
Flore (route de la Mer) (2014, Jean-Albert Lièvre)
Suzanne (2013, Katell Quillévéré)
Les garçons et Guillaume, à table!/Me, Myself, and Mom (2013, Guillaume Gallienne)
Jeune et jolie/Young and Beautiful (2013, François Ozon)         
Sweet Dreams (1985, Karel Reisz)
Charley Varrick (1973, Don Siegel)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Top Five Films of March 2014 
Mr. Nobody (2009, Jaco Van Dormael) 
Time After Time (1979, Nicholas Meyer)
An Unmarried Woman (1978, Paul Mazursky) 
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014, Wes Anderson) 
Only Lovers Left Alive (2013, Jim Jarmusch)   

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Debunking the Myth That Foreign Films Are Boring and Going with the Flow

Note: I am writing articles on foreign film for now. I will post my articles here as well. Click on the link at the bottom of this article to view the Examiner's website.

Getting into foreign films can be a challenge, especially when they live up to their stereotype of being weird and/or boring. Foreign films aren't as palatable as American films sometimes, but the good thing is they often aren't as condescending or formulaic.

When you take the differences of the language and culture into consideration, two things might occur: you might be enlightened by a new perspective or you might be alienated by it.

Here are two examples of foreign films that made me scratch my head at first: That Obscure Object of Desire and Last Year at Marienbad.
[That Obscure Object of Desire]

That Obscure Object of Desire is Luis Buñuel's final film and it came out in 1977. It was a work full of mastery and even perhaps his best. However, upon a first viewing, I didn't know what to make of the Conchita character. After all, she was played by two actresses: Ángela Molina and Carole Bouquet. The more I researd why Buñuel used two actresses, the more I was confused.

Finally, I learned that Ángela Molina had bailed on Luis Buñuel during the making of the film. According to his book, My Last Sigh, Buñuel recounts how there was not enough funding to start the film over. So over a dry double martini, he arrived at the conclusion that he should just hire another actress to finish the film. Here I was trying to figure out what he meant stylistically, when there was no mystery whatsoever.
[Last Year at Marienbad]

When I watched Last Year at Marienbad for the first time, I have to admit that I just couldn't get it despite the fact that It is perhaps Alain Resnais' most acclaimed film to date and it was certainly ahead of its time. Nothing made sense and it seemed to be so far out there that I didn't understand it at all. Finally, someone explained that Last Year at Marienbad wasn't meant to be understood and that I should watch it again, go with the flow, and not try to make anything out of it. So I did. And it worked.

Foreign films may be harder to decipher sometimes. However, it would be a shame to throw out the baby with the bathwater and avoid them all. It's helpful to start with a list like IMDB's Top 250 of the films in the Criterion Collection. I recommend looking into additional lists at The key is to discover what kind of films you like and watch more titles by the same filmmaker or from the same country.

Originally published on Blogger 6/12/11
As published on

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Top Five Films of February 2014
Milius (2013, Joey Figueroa, Zak Knutson)
They Died with Their Boots On    (1941, Raoul Walsh)
Pour elle (2008, Fred Cavayé)
Perfect (1985, James Bridges)
Le fils de l'autre (2012, Lorraine Levy)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Shia LaBeouf Says #iamsorry

A friend in Pennsylvania alerted me to Shia LaBeouf's performance art piece with this article. Sunday at the Berlin Film Festival, LaBeouf walked out of the Nymphomanic premiere; "I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE" was written on the paper bag that he wore over his head. Yesterday, Tuesday, February 11, 2014, Shia started his apologetic campaign at a space located at 7354 Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles. What was he sorry for? For plagiarizing the work of Daniel Clowes. Everyone was led to believe this was not a publicity stunt. Yet, it certainly garnered attention.

Reports showed that hardly anyone showed up on Tuesday and that the line ranged from three to six people at any given time. However, on Wednesday, some who showed up when the gallery opened at 11 a.m. did not make it in by the 6 p.m. closing time. Kayce Miller was a sweet girl in a wheelchair who showed up at noon. However, she ultimately was not let in.

The last person to enter was a woman with bleached blonde hair. She refused to answer me when I asked what time she arrived that day. Later, there were rumors that she had offered to pay twenty dollars to someone in line. When that failed to work, it was alleged that she had cut in line. This was no surprise as many new faces turned up in the beginning of the line at various points throughout the day. While guards did not catch many of the cheaters, one man in a white baseball cap was banned from entering when he tried to sell his space in line.

When it was their turn, each person in line had the opportunity to see Shia LaBeouf alone. There was no time limit. Some people would be able to spend over twenty minutes with him, while others ran out of there within 30 seconds. Some spoke of the awkwardness, because Shia would not speak. He would only sit there and cry with a paper bag over his head. One man played him a song on the ukelele and reported that Shia smiled. How was it known whether or not he smiled when there was a paper bag over his face? That is to remain a mystery.

For most people who ventured out to see Mr. LaBeouf on Wednesday, standing in line became an existential issue. Why were some of us there in the first place? Why were we willing to stand there for several hours to spend only minutes with a celebrity none of us knew firsthand? Several new bonds were forged and information, hugs, and photos were exchanged. Even actress Nia Vardalos was caught passing by the crowd in the mid-afternoon.

By 3:30 p.m., it was pretty clear that not everyone was going to see Shia LaBeouf. A security guard issued a cut off and additional people stayed in hopes that the rate of attrition would give them a chance. However, only about three people were able to move through every ten minutes and it turned out that way before the cut off was actually well beyond the point of no return.

The guards recommended coming early at 10 a.m. or 10:30 a.m. the next day. However, with all the publicity and skyrocketing numbers, you probably wouldn't stand much of a chance unless you showed up at 9 a.m. With the upcoming weekend, it's clear that even more people will arrive. What time will people start lining up? 8 a.m.? 7 a.m.? Unless Shia's team starts imposing a limit of two or three minutes per person, there is no way that all those who have come to see him actually will.

The last day to see him at his space will be Sunday, February 16th.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Top Five Films of January 2014 
Walking and Talking (1996, Nicole Holofcener)
Great debut from Holofcener, focusing on the relationship between best friends.  I discovered it after hearing from several people that it was among her best films. Her most recent film, Enough Said, is also a great dramedy. 
The Baby Maker (1970, James Bridges)
Checked it out after a friend raved about it. Basically, it features Barbara Hershey in her best role as a surrogate mother for a rich couple.  Similar to Juno in many ways, but it takes quirky to another level and better explores the emotions of a mother-to-be giving up her child. 
Louis Lumière (1968, Eric Rohmer)
 Jean Renoir, Henri Langlois and Eric Rohmer discuss the films of the Lumière Brothers, pioneers of cinema.  There are lots of film clips from their early films, many of which are extremely hard to find otherwise. 
Do Me a Favor aka Trading Favors (1997, Sondra Locke)
 Sondra Locke always brings an energy to her films, whether she is acting or directing.  This film is no exception.   Rosanna Arquette is amazing in this.
Dallas Buyers Club (2013, Jean-Marc Vallée)
 Matthew McConaughey won Best Actor at the Golden Globes for a reason. The strength of the movie definitely lies in the performances.

Honorable mention:  
Bound (1996, The Wachowskis)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Top Five Films of December 2013
Nada (2001, Juan Carlos Cremata Malberti)
Sitting Ducks (1980, Henry Jaglom)
The Gauntlet (1977, Clint Eastwood)
Les saveurs du Palais/Haute Cuisine (2012, Christian Vincent)
Diplomatic Courier (1952, Henry Hathaway)

Honorable Mention:
The Gambler (1974, Karel Reisz)
El hijo de la novia/Son of the Bride (2001, Juan José Campanella)

Short Film: