Francis’ Favorite Films Of 2009 #6
The Coen Brothers’ “A Serious Man”
Larry Gopnik is a professor. He is a professor with a lot of questions in his mind. He is being tested. He is the victim of the world’s most cruel practical joke ever: his wife falls in love with Sy Ableman and kicks him out of the house, his son has attitude problems, his daughter is obsessed with getting a nose-job, he is being bribed by one of his students while at the same time, said student’s father is threatening to sue him, and his tenure is in jeopardy because of some anonymous letters defaming him. The pivotal moment where you realize the world’s kicking you in the ass… we’ve all been there.
Larry Gopnik seeks answers. He asks the help of three rabbis. Were his questions answered? Or is this just “The Uncertainty Principle” at work?
All we know for sure is this: Sy Ableman is a serious man.

Francis’ Favorite Films Of 2009 #6

The Coen Brothers’ “A Serious Man”

Larry Gopnik is a professor. He is a professor with a lot of questions in his mind. He is being tested. He is the victim of the world’s most cruel practical joke ever: his wife falls in love with Sy Ableman and kicks him out of the house, his son has attitude problems, his daughter is obsessed with getting a nose-job, he is being bribed by one of his students while at the same time, said student’s father is threatening to sue him, and his tenure is in jeopardy because of some anonymous letters defaming him. The pivotal moment where you realize the world’s kicking you in the ass… we’ve all been there.

Larry Gopnik seeks answers. He asks the help of three rabbis. Were his questions answered? Or is this just “The Uncertainty Principle” at work?

All we know for sure is this: Sy Ableman is a serious man.

@4 years ago
Francis’ Favorite Films Of 2009 #4
Robert D. Siegel’s “Big Fan”
Let me start this by saying that I cried during and after watching the Robert Siegel-penned “The Wrestler”. And I’m also a big fan (pun semi-intended) of Patton Oswalt. So this is a bit biased. But if “The Hurt Locker” was one of the best war films I have ever seen, then “Big Fan” is one of the best sports films I have ever seen.
Siegel has a way of writing characters that makes them easy to relate with. Whether it’s Mickey Rourke’s aging wrestler, or Patton Oswalt’s NY Giants fan who cares for nothing else aside from his favorite team, Siegel writes the characters with such… (and I’m sorry for such a pretentious use of the word) pathos. And it also helps that Siegel has assembled a brilliant cast including Kevin Corrigan as the best friend of Patton Oswalt’s character, and Michael Rapaport as a Philadelphia Eagles fan and Patton Oswalt’s rival.

Francis’ Favorite Films Of 2009 #4

Robert D. Siegel’s “Big Fan”

Let me start this by saying that I cried during and after watching the Robert Siegel-penned “The Wrestler”. And I’m also a big fan (pun semi-intended) of Patton Oswalt. So this is a bit biased. But if “The Hurt Locker” was one of the best war films I have ever seen, then “Big Fan” is one of the best sports films I have ever seen.

Siegel has a way of writing characters that makes them easy to relate with. Whether it’s Mickey Rourke’s aging wrestler, or Patton Oswalt’s NY Giants fan who cares for nothing else aside from his favorite team, Siegel writes the characters with such… (and I’m sorry for such a pretentious use of the word) pathos. And it also helps that Siegel has assembled a brilliant cast including Kevin Corrigan as the best friend of Patton Oswalt’s character, and Michael Rapaport as a Philadelphia Eagles fan and Patton Oswalt’s rival.

@4 years ago
Francis’ Favorite Films Of 2009 #2
Katheryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker”
Quite possibly one of the best war films I have ever seen. Bigelow managed to build tension (and believe me, shit does get intense) without having guns blazing left and right. In fact, I dare say that this is our generation’s “Full Metal Jacket”. Remember that last part from “Full Metal Jacket”? The one where they were flanked by unseen snipers? Imagine the intensity of that sequence. But multiply it by 10. And the pick of focusing on a bomb squad stationed on the Iraqi border was quite inspired.
Jeremy Renner is the last great action hero.

Francis’ Favorite Films Of 2009 #2

Katheryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker”

Quite possibly one of the best war films I have ever seen. Bigelow managed to build tension (and believe me, shit does get intense) without having guns blazing left and right. In fact, I dare say that this is our generation’s “Full Metal Jacket”. Remember that last part from “Full Metal Jacket”? The one where they were flanked by unseen snipers? Imagine the intensity of that sequence. But multiply it by 10. And the pick of focusing on a bomb squad stationed on the Iraqi border was quite inspired.

Jeremy Renner is the last great action hero.

@4 years ago
Film: CachéDirector: Michael HanekeWriter: Michael HanekeCinematographer: Christian BergerProducer/s: Andrew Colton, Veit Heiduschka

Being a fan of Funny Games coming in, both the American and the French version, I was excited to see another one of Michael Haneke’s films (in class no less) but instead I was let down by Caché due to it succumbing to the pitfalls of “intellectual cinema” wankery prevalent with postmodern French films (or any other postmodern film for that matter).

When a videotape shows up on the doorstep of a family’s house, everyone is thrown in a loop that ends up unearthing a past that might or might not be connected with the mysterious parcel in the first place. Much like Funny Games, Caché deals with a family distressed due to unusual circumstances, which seems to be a recurring theme with the director’s work.

But unlike Funny Games, which kept me on my seat for the rest of the film, Caché fails by boring me to death with all the static camerawork. I don’t subscribe to the flashy, MTV style, jump cuts and camerawork, but this was just too much. The opening scene alone, if anyone could even call that a “scene”, would have suffice for the whole feature but instead Haneke relied on this kind of style all throughout. It gets ridiculous by the quarter of the film. And the supposed saving grace of Caché, the suicide scene, comes in way too late and is way too short to save it anyway.

In conclusion, one should see either versions of Funny Games instead and leave this film to hardcore Michael Haneke fans. The tediousness kills the otherwise smart plot, and unless you’re into all that artsy pretentiousness of overly long static camera shots, then avoid this at all costs.

by Tomi Uysingco

Film: Caché
Director: Michael Haneke
Writer: Michael Haneke
Cinematographer: Christian Berger
Producer/s: Andrew Colton, Veit Heiduschka

Being a fan of Funny Games coming in, both the American and the French version, I was excited to see another one of Michael Haneke’s films (in class no less) but instead I was let down by Caché due to it succumbing to the pitfalls of “intellectual cinema” wankery prevalent with postmodern French films (or any other postmodern film for that matter).

When a videotape shows up on the doorstep of a family’s house, everyone is thrown in a loop that ends up unearthing a past that might or might not be connected with the mysterious parcel in the first place. Much like Funny Games, Caché deals with a family distressed due to unusual circumstances, which seems to be a recurring theme with the director’s work.

But unlike Funny Games, which kept me on my seat for the rest of the film, Caché fails by boring me to death with all the static camerawork. I don’t subscribe to the flashy, MTV style, jump cuts and camerawork, but this was just too much. The opening scene alone, if anyone could even call that a “scene”, would have suffice for the whole feature but instead Haneke relied on this kind of style all throughout. It gets ridiculous by the quarter of the film. And the supposed saving grace of Caché, the suicide scene, comes in way too late and is way too short to save it anyway.

In conclusion, one should see either versions of Funny Games instead and leave this film to hardcore Michael Haneke fans. The tediousness kills the otherwise smart plot, and unless you’re into all that artsy pretentiousness of overly long static camera shots, then avoid this at all costs.

by Tomi Uysingco

@4 years ago with 1 note
Film: Vengeance is a Golden Blade (1969)Director: Meng Hua HoWriter/s: Meng Hua Ho, Yun Chih TuCinematographer: Kuo-Hsiang LingProducer: Run Run Shaw

One of those rare Wuxia films from the Shaw Brothers that revolves around a father-daughter relationship, Vengeance is a Golden Blade shows a lot of promise but falls flat with all its dramatics and jerky sword fighting.

Its a story about a girl wanting to avenge her disgraced father from the Vicious Long Brothers, a bunch of evil doers who are also his father’s business rival. Think about that for a second. If you have an agency hired to protect things and people, why would you name your company Vicious Long Brothers? Well that point is moot, but it sure comes into play in regards on how the story was written.

It was written poorly.

It doesn’t have a logical narrative and the climax is rushed and sloppily staged. The film anchors itself with its never ending plot twists that don’t go anywhere, making it look and feel like a soap opera on mid-morning TV with some martial arts and swords thrown in.

Indeed this is a Wuxia film and we’re here to see some swordplay, but alas it fails on that end as well. There are a couple of good fight sequences but it has been mired by the slow pace of the story. “When are we going to get to the juicy bits?” I kept asking myself, but once there my patience has already been sucked dry by the story line. Also, the build-up of the Long Hung Sword versus the Golden Blade didn’t make a significant impact as promised throughout the film, taking a backseat to the dramatic theatrics of the story.

There is one thing going for the film and its the use of a female heroine. Pao-Shu Kao, who later was on Taiwanese productions such as Blood of the Dragon and Bandits, Prostitutes and Silver, is one of the few women in martial arts movies during its golden age, and its a refreshing change of pace with its testosterone packed counterparts. She most definitely had an impact on strong female roles in this genre (and probably others as well).

All in all, this is not Shaw Brothers best release. I’ll give it an A for its effort to keep the genre fresh with a more dramatic pace with its father-daughter issues, but to speak bluntly, I am not here to watch relationship issues. I wanted to see swordplay like other top notch Shaw Brothers releases, instead I saw a soap that is not sure of itself.

by Tomi Uysingco

Film: Vengeance is a Golden Blade (1969)
Director: Meng Hua Ho
Writer/s: Meng Hua Ho, Yun Chih Tu
Cinematographer: Kuo-Hsiang Ling
Producer: Run Run Shaw

One of those rare Wuxia films from the Shaw Brothers that revolves around a father-daughter relationship, Vengeance is a Golden Blade shows a lot of promise but falls flat with all its dramatics and jerky sword fighting.

Its a story about a girl wanting to avenge her disgraced father from the Vicious Long Brothers, a bunch of evil doers who are also his father’s business rival. Think about that for a second. If you have an agency hired to protect things and people, why would you name your company Vicious Long Brothers? Well that point is moot, but it sure comes into play in regards on how the story was written.

It was written poorly.

It doesn’t have a logical narrative and the climax is rushed and sloppily staged. The film anchors itself with its never ending plot twists that don’t go anywhere, making it look and feel like a soap opera on mid-morning TV with some martial arts and swords thrown in.

Indeed this is a Wuxia film and we’re here to see some swordplay, but alas it fails on that end as well. There are a couple of good fight sequences but it has been mired by the slow pace of the story. “When are we going to get to the juicy bits?” I kept asking myself, but once there my patience has already been sucked dry by the story line. Also, the build-up of the Long Hung Sword versus the Golden Blade didn’t make a significant impact as promised throughout the film, taking a backseat to the dramatic theatrics of the story.

There is one thing going for the film and its the use of a female heroine. Pao-Shu Kao, who later was on Taiwanese productions such as Blood of the Dragon and Bandits, Prostitutes and Silver, is one of the few women in martial arts movies during its golden age, and its a refreshing change of pace with its testosterone packed counterparts. She most definitely had an impact on strong female roles in this genre (and probably others as well).

All in all, this is not Shaw Brothers best release. I’ll give it an A for its effort to keep the genre fresh with a more dramatic pace with its father-daughter issues, but to speak bluntly, I am not here to watch relationship issues. I wanted to see swordplay like other top notch Shaw Brothers releases, instead I saw a soap that is not sure of itself.

by Tomi Uysingco

@4 years ago
Francis’ Favorite Films Of 2009 #5
Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Bronson”
If you’re following this tumblr, chances are you know that I am a big fan of Nicolas Winding Refn and his “Pusher” films. So imagine my delight when I found out that he was going to make a biopic of Charlie Bronson (not THAT Charles Bronson), Britain’s most dangerous criminal. This is basically a series of vignettes focusing on chapters of Bronson’s life, presented as a vaudeville act. Tom Hardy was absolutely brilliant in this one. He overacted, yes, but it was needed. The true testament to Hardy’s acting chops were during those subdued moments that I actually only noticed upon second viewing.

Francis’ Favorite Films Of 2009 #5

Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Bronson”

If you’re following this tumblr, chances are you know that I am a big fan of Nicolas Winding Refn and his “Pusher” films. So imagine my delight when I found out that he was going to make a biopic of Charlie Bronson (not THAT Charles Bronson), Britain’s most dangerous criminal. This is basically a series of vignettes focusing on chapters of Bronson’s life, presented as a vaudeville act. Tom Hardy was absolutely brilliant in this one. He overacted, yes, but it was needed. The true testament to Hardy’s acting chops were during those subdued moments that I actually only noticed upon second viewing.

@4 years ago
Francis’ Favorite Films of 2009 #3
Armando Iannucci’s “In The Loop”
Political satire at its best. Also, probably my most quoted film of 2009. My favorite quote would have to be “‘Climbing the mountain of conflict’? You sounded like a Nazi Julie Andrews!” Sharply written, funny, smart, and engaging. The events that transpire in the film are perfect examples of the proverbial shit hitting the proverbial fan.
Also, I would like to recommend Armando Iannucci’s brilliant series where this film was actually based on. It’s called “The Thick Of It”, and it’s one of the funniest things I have ever seen.

Francis’ Favorite Films of 2009 #3

Armando Iannucci’s “In The Loop”

Political satire at its best. Also, probably my most quoted film of 2009. My favorite quote would have to be “‘Climbing the mountain of conflict’? You sounded like a Nazi Julie Andrews!” Sharply written, funny, smart, and engaging. The events that transpire in the film are perfect examples of the proverbial shit hitting the proverbial fan.

Also, I would like to recommend Armando Iannucci’s brilliant series where this film was actually based on. It’s called “The Thick Of It”, and it’s one of the funniest things I have ever seen.

@4 years ago
Francis’ Favorite Films Of 2009 #1
Cary Joji Fukunaga’s “Sin Nombre (Without Name)”
Fukunaga’s beautifully shot, well-written and extremely well-acted debut feature is a simple love story set against the backdrop of illegal immigration, gang violence, and the pursuit of the American dream. The story follows El Casper as he attempts to sever his ties with his former gang, and his chance encounter with Sayra and her family, illegal immigrants on their way to New Jersey from Honduras.

Francis’ Favorite Films Of 2009 #1

Cary Joji Fukunaga’s “Sin Nombre (Without Name)”

Fukunaga’s beautifully shot, well-written and extremely well-acted debut feature is a simple love story set against the backdrop of illegal immigration, gang violence, and the pursuit of the American dream. The story follows El Casper as he attempts to sever his ties with his former gang, and his chance encounter with Sayra and her family, illegal immigrants on their way to New Jersey from Honduras.

@4 years ago with 4 notes
Film: The Funeral (1996)
Director: Abel Ferrara
Writer: Nicholas St. John
Cinematographer: Ken Kelsch
Producer: Mary Kane

Probably the most thought provoking film to ever come out of director Abel Ferrara’s oeuvre, The Funeral is a gangster film dealing with the same themes (i.e. family, morals, loyalty) as any other gangster film ever made but treated differently. It is more personal, and in a way, more effective than the mafia epics that we are used to. The film unfolds in the course of one day in the 1930’s, through a series of flashbacks. It deals with the funeral of gangster Johnny Tempio (Vincent Gallo) and how it affects his family. There’s his ruthless brother Ray (Christopher Walken), obsessed in avenging his brother’s death. Ray is married to the pious Jean (Annbella Sciorra) who is against the whole lifestyle and has regrets about involving herself with Ray in the first place. Chez Tempio (Chris Penn) is himself haunted by his own demons, and those of his father’s who committed suicide. Eventually, Chez’ own actions will serve as the catalyst for one of the most downbeat endings to an already depressing film.The film suffers from slow pacing, but in a way, it also what made “The Funeral” so original. The pacing reminds us as viewers that we are not watching another “Godfather”. We are seeing these characters slowly fall apart because of the decisions that they had made, and how their lives turned out. As a director, one will need actors who are talented enough to convey the emotional depths of the characters that they are portraying and Ferrara has assembled a fine ensemble. Vincent Gallo gives an air of mystery around him whenever he is on screen, which lends more to the fact that we don’t know anything about Johnny. Christopher Walken is superb as usual and he gives Ray the intensity that only he could give. But probably the stand-out performance in this film belongs to Chris Penn as Chez, morally ambiguous right to the very end. His performance is both terrifying and heartbreaking. The supporting cast is also commendable for their efforts. Gretchen Mol as Johnny’s wife, Isabella Rosellini as Chez’ long suffering spouse, and Benicio Del Toro as a smooth rival gangster, all played to their strengths even though they are cast in considerably smaller roles.Ferrara’s direction is just like the pacing: slow and steady. It gives the film a different vibe than any of his other films. The sets are minimal: small kitchen spaces, the living room where Johnny’s casket is placed, the bar owned by Chez. All, small packed spaces. All the flashiness and romanticism of the gangster life are dulled down. The dialogue is amazing to say the least, showing us how these are not macho stereotypes. They are people. Real people. Real flawed people. All in all, this film is recommended not only to fans of crime drama but fans of films in general. This shows us what could be done with a small budget and a great deal of talent. But I must warn you, this is not a feel-good movie. IF you are going to see this, prepare to be devastated.

by Francis Cabal

Film: The Funeral (1996)

Director: Abel Ferrara

Writer: Nicholas St. John

Cinematographer: Ken Kelsch

Producer: Mary Kane

Probably the most thought provoking film to ever come out of director Abel Ferrara’s oeuvre, The Funeral is a gangster film dealing with the same themes (i.e. family, morals, loyalty) as any other gangster film ever made but treated differently. It is more personal, and in a way, more effective than the mafia epics that we are used to.

The film unfolds in the course of one day in the 1930’s, through a series of flashbacks. It deals with the funeral of gangster Johnny Tempio (Vincent Gallo) and how it affects his family. There’s his ruthless brother Ray (Christopher Walken), obsessed in avenging his brother’s death. Ray is married to the pious Jean (Annbella Sciorra) who is against the whole lifestyle and has regrets about involving herself with Ray in the first place. Chez Tempio (Chris Penn) is himself haunted by his own demons, and those of his father’s who committed suicide. Eventually, Chez’ own actions will serve as the catalyst for one of the most downbeat endings to an already depressing film.

The film suffers from slow pacing, but in a way, it also what made “The Funeral” so original. The pacing reminds us as viewers that we are not watching another “Godfather”. We are seeing these characters slowly fall apart because of the decisions that they had made, and how their lives turned out. As a director, one will need actors who are talented enough to convey the emotional depths of the characters that they are portraying and Ferrara has assembled a fine ensemble. Vincent Gallo gives an air of mystery around him whenever he is on screen, which lends more to the fact that we don’t know anything about Johnny. Christopher Walken is superb as usual and he gives Ray the intensity that only he could give. But probably the stand-out performance in this film belongs to Chris Penn as Chez, morally ambiguous right to the very end. His performance is both terrifying and heartbreaking. The supporting cast is also commendable for their efforts. Gretchen Mol as Johnny’s wife, Isabella Rosellini as Chez’ long suffering spouse, and Benicio Del Toro as a smooth rival gangster, all played to their strengths even though they are cast in considerably smaller roles.

Ferrara’s direction is just like the pacing: slow and steady. It gives the film a different vibe than any of his other films. The sets are minimal: small kitchen spaces, the living room where Johnny’s casket is placed, the bar owned by Chez. All, small packed spaces. All the flashiness and romanticism of the gangster life are dulled down. The dialogue is amazing to say the least, showing us how these are not macho stereotypes. They are people. Real people. Real flawed people.

All in all, this film is recommended not only to fans of crime drama but fans of films in general. This shows us what could be done with a small budget and a great deal of talent. But I must warn you, this is not a feel-good movie. IF you are going to see this, prepare to be devastated.

by Francis Cabal

@4 years ago