Monday, June 6, 2011

Weekly Wish List 6/7 Cowboys, normal people, and genius dictators

We start off this week with one of the best films of last year and finish off with one of the best films of all time. Let's not waste time.

True Grit - Joel and Ethan Coen
My boss thought this was the best film of 2010, I sadly could not chime in because I have not seen it. Now it seems I will finally be able to join in the lovefest that PORTEmaus has for this movie. The Coen's are always interesting and more often than not are simply pure genius. People had some problems with the stuff they were doing at the beginning of the millenium and yeah I would agree it gave us some of their weaker films, but we also got The Man Who Wasn't There. People cringed at Burn After Reading as the follow up to No Country For Old Men, I thought it was a wicked smart film that returned them to some of their more comedic roots. Miller's Crossing is still my favorite Coen movie, I hear that this story of a grizzled old cowboy, a young lady, and a bumbling lawman might knock Miller's off of its pedestal. I have not yet written about the Coen's in any of my posts, Barton Fink should be showing up soon in my latest Movie Night(along with Spike Jonze making his first appearance), and as soon as I get my hands on this film I will be sure to give you my thoughts. It's gonna be hard to defeat Miller's Crossing, so I'm excited to hear that this might be even better.

Another Year - Mike Leigh
Mike Leigh returns to a simple slice of life story along the lines of Happy-Go-Lucky. Another Year is a simple story of an older couple in love and those around them who are not as lucky. That's it. Leigh really blew me away with Topsy-Turvy and Naked. I was never taken with Vera Drake, and Secrets and Lies was good but I think I was too young when I saw it to appreciate it. It takes some balls to make a simple movie about real human relationships with relatively little narrative drive. I didn't get a chance to see this film, but Broadbent and Leigh make magic together and right after True Grit this is at the top of my list.

Duck Soup - Leo McCarey
There's actually a few Marx Bros movies being rereleased on DVD this week. If you have never seen a Marx Bros film then this is the perfect time to start. No better introduction than Duck Soup. This satire of the ludicrousness of war tells a loose story of Rufus T. Firefly named president of Freedonia only to go to war immediately over the love of a woman. The Marx Bros were geniuses of physical comedy, and masters of timing. Nobody does the straight man better than Zeppo, and Groucho is well....he's a god. Their films really defy explanation, either you get it or you don't and if you don't I feel sorry for you. You probably also don't like Abbot and Costello...again sad. If you like this film be sure to check out the rest of their ouvre...Animal Crackers and Horse Feathers also rank pretty high up there for me.

Probably the most eclectic mix I've seen since I've started doing this column, but exciting nonetheless. I can't stress enough how much everyone needs to watch Marx Bros films. Be sure to check out Hawk's New Tune Tuesday...which should be up shortly. As always be sure to follow us on Facebook or Twitter @PORTEmaus.


One last thought - Green Lantern: Emerald Knights comes out today....fanboys you get your wish Nathan Fillion voices stop whining.


  1. I'm a big Miller's Crossing buff (in my top 10 for cinematography of all-time, top 5 gangster picture as well) and while I liked True Grit and it made my top 5 for '10, it doesn't it top it imo. In fact I like O Brother, Where art thou? (another brilliant looking film, due in large part to being the first film to be fully color graded and using Avid's RGB colormatch to get those wonderful bronze looks) and No Country for Old Men better than it as well.

    Still a more than worthwhile pickup, also, it's my favorite score of the year.

  2. Yah man I LOVE Miller's top 5 is usually what i think about but Miller's would probably be in my top ten...maybe top 20 i'd have to put some thought into a big fan of The Man Who Wasn't There....existentialist dread in suburbia is always welcome for me......but yeah i suppose itd be miller's, o brother, barton fink, man who wasnt there...yah...sooo top 10 cinematography? what rounds out that list?

  3. cinematography is a tough thing because what is considered great cinematography now, wasn't considered such 40-50 years ago, the game has changed, quicker paced cuts and average shot times have meant DPs are now forced to come up with more shots. Vertigo was a game changer, but the shots that made it so are easily obtainable now, I've done trombone shots with track and even just steadicam and zoom, back then, it was such a expensive and tough shot.

    Also, it's one of those things that the film itself doesn't have to be great to have great shooting (Open Range for instance has great cinematography and the second AvP, believe it or not, has some wonderful shots and lighting that were ruined on DVD/Blu by someone messing with the contrast and gamma levels too much.)

    Conrad Hall in my opinion was the greatest cinematographer of all time, Pfister (working with those large sensor imax cameras are impressive, but working with the lighting and shadow cues in the hallway action sequence in Inception shot on a moving stage is just amazing) and Deakins are the top's in todays world.

    Anyway, off the top of my head without thinking too much into it and in no real order...

    Road to Perdition
    Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
    Days of Heaven
    Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
    Once Upon a Time in America
    Raging Bull
    8 1/2
    The Proposition
    Miller's Crossing

  4. pretty good...i would say cinematography would be harder for me to boil down to a list like that than actual films....cause i do like pfister and deakins...and conrad hall is conrad hall....i enjoy Doyle's work(although i havent kept up with him since 2046), should be obvious i LOVE libatique who really manages style and substance...kaminski did ryan which has some amazing work in that opening sequence(still say best 30 minutes of film during the nineties) but kinda blew his load there and the rest of the film is still only "good" if maybe "really good"...super stoked you mentioned Yedlin..who also shot May by Lucky McKee with a very dark creepines looming throughout...but aside from that and his work with Rian Johnson i havent seen much else...and yah sonnenfeld should stop directing and go back to work for the Coens ....cept deakins seems to be their boy dubs....into that sprawling American landscape aren't ya?....

  5. yeah that's what I was saying in so many words, it's tough to boil it down to a list, cinematography is one of those categories where it might be more proper to do a decade by decade best of list rather than all-time, the trends just change too much from era to era.

    yeah Kaminski did Private Ryan which besides being fantastic work created the whole cliche of war movies using the low saturation/high contrast look. However most of his stuff after that is just too glossy for me. It worked for Minority Report, but look at his work on Indy 4, terrible, there's scenes that look like they're shot on green screen that were shot on sets, it's crazy.

    Sonnenfeld, yeah, enjoyed his work as a DP much more than his work as a director...I do like Doyle's work, 2046 is one of those I mentioned earlier, I wasn't big on the film itself (in the theater it felt like it was 9 hours long) but it was wonderfully shot...

    Brick is the first movie I went and saw in theaters where I said "man, that looks like a film I shot/how I would shoot it." I don't mean that in any egotistical way, it's just certain looks and lighting and the use of depth of field in it reminded me a lot of my own preference in working, especially at that time, I had just shot two short films on a DVX for a guy that, in terms of look, could be considered low-budget Brick if you saw them.

  6. and yeah, Americana on film, when it's done right, beautiful...