, 122 min, 2009
Nicolas Cage (Terence McDonagh), Eva Mendes (Frankie Donnenfield), Val Kilmer (Stevie Pruit), Xzibit (Big Fate (as Alvin ‘Xzibit’ Joiner)), Fairuza Balk (Heidi), Shawn Hatosy (Armand Benoit), Jennifer Coolidge (Genevieve), Tom Bower (Pat McDonagh), Vondie Curtis-Hall (Captain James Brasser (as Vondie Curtis Hall)), Brad Dourif (Ned Schoenholtz), Denzel Whitaker (Daryl), Irma P. Hall (Binnie Rogers), Shea Whigham (Justin), Michael Shannon (Mundt), Joe Nemmers (Larry Moy). Directed by Werner Herzog and produced by Stephen Belafonte, Randall Emmett, Alan Polsky, Gabe Polsky, Edward R. Pressman, John Thompson. Screenplay by William M. Finkelstein (as William Finkelstein), based on the earlier film Bad Lieutenant by Victor Argo & Paul Calderon & Abel Ferrara & Zoë Lund.
Werner Herzog’s The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans is some sort of wonderfully bizarre, ass-backward insane masterpiece. Here is a film that gradually and, if possible, subtly works its way over the top, only to double back and go over the top again. It is a madcap dive off the deep end, a spit in the eye to general narrative convention, formulaic cop dramas, basic common sense and any scintilla of good taste. You don’t like it? Fuck it! It hates you! Continue reading
, 110 min, 2009
Gabourey Sidibe (Precious), Mo’Nique (Mary), Paula Patton (Ms. Rain), Mariah Carey (Ms. Weiss), Sherri Shepherd (Cornrows), Lenny Kravitz (Nurse John), Stephanie Andujar (Rita), Chyna Layne (Rhonda), Amina Robinson (Jermaine), Xosha Roquemore (Joann), Angelic Zambrana (Consuelo), Aunt Dot (Toosie), Nealla Gordon (Mrs. Lichtenstein), Grace Hightower (Socialworker), Barret Helms (Tom Cruise (as Barret Isaiah Mindell)). Directed by Lee Daniels and produced by Daniels, Gary Magness, Sarah Siegel-Magness. Screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher, based on the novel Push by Sapphire
Lee Daniels’ Precious is an overwhelming experience, impossible to fully describe. Cut from the cloth of difficult, indeed, occasionally overwrought material, this film will wring you out. What I do know is that this is a powerfully-directed film, centered on two strong performances by a newcomer and a comedian, featuring fantastic support by an eclectic yet talented cast. Is it melodramatic? Maybe. A bit heavy-handed at times? Perhaps. However, ungainly title aside, this film gets under your skin – and stays there. Continue reading
Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata (1978) is a powerful portrait of the relationship between a mother and her daughter. It’s as simple as that. Well, almost. What begins as a friendly visit between two long-separated women soon becomes a long day’s journey into night, mutating into a vicious psychological bloodletting (ala’ Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) the likes of which neither of them could’ve anticipated – or will soon forget. Continue reading
“Northern Ireland, 1981. 2,187 people have been killed in ‘the Troubles’ since 1969. The British Government has withdrawn the political status of all paramilitary prisoners. Irish Republicans in the Maze Prison are on a ‘blanket’ and ‘no wash’ protest.”
– Opening contextual title cards from Hunger (2008)
Steve McQueen’s Hunger (2008) is about hunger of many kinds. It’s about the literal hunger that its main character, Bobby Sands, faces as he protests for civil rights. It concerns the hunger that the British seem to feel to hold violent dominion over their weaker opponents. However, it is also about the almost feral hunger one feels for freedom, independence and basic human dignity. Such is a hunger experienced by all the Irish Republicans incarcerated at the Maze (a.k.a. Long Kesh) prison. It is this hunger which drives them to an astonishing willingness to use their bodies as weapons, torturing themselves in order to force their opponents to compromise. Continue reading
Ingmar Bergman’s Persona (1966) is an apparently confounding array of sounds and images, of words and ideas – to what end? What is the meaning of this most perplexing of cinematic experiences? What is the intended effect? On the surface, it would seem to be about a nurse (Bibi Andersson) who is assigned to take care of an actress (Liv Ullmann). The actress, having gone mysteriously mute during a performance of Electra, now refuses to say anything. The nurse, positively a fountain of personal details and experiences, takes the actress to a secluded house in the middle of nowhere and proceeds to unburden herself with extremely candid confessions about herself – her past, her present, her fears and desires. Here, an apparent transference of personalities takes place, or at least of one of them. Or does it?