Week Seventeen: The Comedians of Comedy (2005)

•April 24, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Title: The Comedians of Comedy

Tone: Laughter shall be had

Who:

Director-Michael Bliden

Cast- Patton Oswalt, Maria Bamford, Zach Galifianakis, Brian Posehn

When: 2005

What: Follow some of the funniest comedians ever as they tour across the U.S.

Why:

  • Wrapping up a month of motivational/inspiring films with The Comedians of Comedy, which always makes me want to drop everything and go on a comedy tour with my friends.
  • Not only is The Comedians of Comedy one of the funniest stand-up films around, it also offers insight into how funny people construct their routines. It’s really engaging to watch these funny folks conjure up jokes/routines while they’re on the road.
  • One of the best aspects of The Comedians of Comedy, coupled with archive footage of their early routines, are when the group discusses what it was like when they started performing, swapping stories about bombing on stage, handling hecklers, working tough rooms, and so on.
  • All and all, watching comedians on the road trying to make each other laugh makes The Comedians of Comedy just a lot of fun to watch. Below is an excerpt from one of Zach Galifianakis’ routines in the film. Enjoy!

Week Sixteen: Rivers and Tides (2001)

•April 17, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Title: Rivers and Tides

Tone: The Zen of Impermanence

Who:

Director-Thomas Riedelsheimer

Cast- Andy Goldsworthy

When: 2001

What: Thomas Riedelsheimer profiles the work of artist Andy Goldsworthy. Goldsworthy creates intricate sculptures from natural materials, many of which collapse, erode, or wash away after being sculpted.

Why:

  • Spring is here, which means it’s time to break out of the hibernation-mode of winter. This month we’re profiling various films that should help motivate you to awaken from your winter slumber.
  • Andy Goldsworthy’s approach to sculpting is quite unique in that he devotes a great amount of time and patience to create intricate sculptures made of ice, twigs, stone, leafs etc…often bringing his sculptures to the brink of collapse, only to have them erode, wash away, and simply disappear. His sculptures are transitory and that is what makes his work so significant.
  • Thomas Riedelsheimer constructs Rivers and Tides in such a way that the viewer not only gets to see Goldsworthy sculpt and discuss his work but also get to see the world from Goldworthy’s perspective.
  • One of the best aspects of Rivers and Tides are the scenes wherein the sculptures that Goldsworthy is constructing fall apart before they’re completed. These scenes are quite inspiring as you witness Goldsworthy’s patience and persistence to keep re-building after everything falls apart. Enjoy!

Week Fifteen: Network (1976)

•April 10, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Title: Network

Tone: A damn good prophetic satire

Who:

Director-Sidney Lumet

Cast- William Holden, Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, Ned Beatty

When: 1976

What: Howard Beale, a news anchor, discovers he is being let go by the network and madness ensues.

Why:

  • In honor of Sidney Lumet’s recent passing I’ll be profiling my favorite Lumet film Network.
  • Written by Paddy Chayefsky, Network is one of the most biting, bold, and prophetically relevant satires ever made. Network not only satirizes exploitation and sensationalism in the media but also the passive nature of modern society (In other words it’s damn good writing)
  • Network went on to win four Oscars, one for best script and three for best performance. Network is only one of two films to ever win three Oscars for acting (the second being A Streetcar Named Desire (1951))
  • Peter Finch was the first actor to posthumously win an Oscar for his performance (the second actor to win posthumously was Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight). Below is the famous “Mad as hell” speech which showcases both Finch’s performance and Chayefky’s sharp writing. Enjoy!

(Note: If you want to savor this speech within the context of the film then don’t watch this clip)

Week Fourteen: Touch the Sound (2004)

•April 3, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Title: Touch the Sound

Tone: The Zen of Percussion

Who:

Director-Thomas Riedelsheimer

Cast- Evelyn Glennie

When: 2004

What: Profile of profoundly deaf solo-percussionist Evelyn Glennie

Why:

  • This month we’re profiling films that hopefully motivate or inspire you to accomplish a goal, create something, initiate something you’ve been putting off, and so on.
  • Touch the Sound makes for a good motivator as it showcases how Evelyn Glennie, whose livelihood is music and sound, doesn’t allow her being deaf to impair her creative output.
  • Touch the Sound contains some truly marvelous imagery. The combination of superb cinematography with meticulous sound design create a sense of Evelyn Glennie’s unique perception of sound.
  • I can’t think of much else to write about for this one so below is a lovely trailer which will give you a good sense of the film. Enjoy!

Week Thirteen: Sunset Boulevard (1950)

•March 27, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Title: Sunset Boulevard

Tone: Film-Noir-Horror or Oh how the mighty have fallen

Who:

Director-Billy Wilder

Cast- William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim, Nancy Olsen

When: 1950

What: Joseph Gillis, a struggling screenwriter, happens upon faded silent-film star Nora Desmond and becomes entangled in her delusions of returning to the big screen.

Why:

  • Wrapping up a month of films-about-film with what is essentially a horror film about Hollywood, Billy Wilder’s 1950 classic Sunset Boulevard.
  • Ranked by AFI as one of the greatest films of all time, selected for preservation by the National Film Registry, and often remembered for the quote “All right, Mr.Demille, I’m ready for my close up.” Sunset Boulevard is a powerhouse film helmed by a powerhouse cast and crew including cinematography by John F. Seitz (Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend) and costume design by the incomparable Edith Head (Vertigo, Sullivan’s Travels)
  • Much of the cast in Sunset Boulevard play roles that mirror their real life. Gloria Swanson (Desmond) was in fact a former silent-film star. Director Cecil B. DeMille plays himself. Actor/Director Erich von Stroheim plays the butler/former director Max Von Mayerling. There are also cameos by former silent film stars Hedda Hopper, H.B Warner, Anna Q. Nilsson, and Buster Keaton.
  • One of the most memorable aspects of Sunset Boulevard is its ominous and ghostly atmosphere. In the film, Joeseph Gillis’ introduction to Norma Desmond is marvelously unsettling. To set-up the clip below, Gillis’ is mistaken as someone else by Desmond. Enjoy!

Note: Paramount took down the clip, sorry folks

Week Twelve: Burden of Dreams (1982)

•March 20, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Title: Burden of Dreams

Tone: Megalomania

Who:

Director-Les Blanc

Cast- Werner Herzog, Klaus Kinski, Peruvian Indians

When: 1982

What: Les Blanc documents Werner Herzog’s arduous production of Fitzcarraldo, wherein Herzog and hundreds of Peruvian Indians move a 320-ton steamship up and over a mountain.

Why:

  • Keeping with our films-about-films theme, Burden of Dreams follows one of the most ambitious, treacherous, and tumultuous film productions in recent history, Werner Herzog’s 1982 epic, Fitzcarraldo.
  • Herzog is, to put it simply, absolutely crazy…in the best possible sense of the word. Some highlights of his career include throwing himself into a cactus patch as a means of apology to the cast of his film Even Dwarfs Started Small (a cast member had been accidentally burned and run over by a van during production), In 2006 he pulled Joaquin Phoenix out of a car wreck after Phoenix had accidentally flipped the car near Herzog’s home, only a few days after the incident with Phoenix, during an interview with BBC, Herzog was shot with an air rifle by an unknown gunman, Herzog, unfazed, continued the interview and remarked “It is not a significant bullet.”(you can watch the shooting incident here: Herzog vs. The Lone Gunman)
  • Burden of Dreams offers a remarkable glimpse at Herzog’s maniacal filmmaking style and the monumental set of challenges and set-backs he faced during the production of Fitzcarraldo. Below is the trailer. Enjoy!

Week Eleven: The Player (1992)

•March 13, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Title: The Player

Tone: Biting meta-satire. Burn Hollywood burn!

Who:

Director-Robert Altman

Cast- Tim Robbins, Peter Gallagher, Greta Scacchi, Whoopi Goldberg

When: 1992

What: Hollywood studio executive Griffin Mill, in charge of approving or rejecting screenplays to be produced, begins receiving death threats from a disgruntled writer whose pitch was rejected.

Why:

  • Following along with this month’s films-about-films theme, Robert Altman’s Hollywood meta-satire The Player is a gloriously cynical portrayal of the Hollywood film industry by a director who loathed the studio system.
  • Altman is one of cinema’s most prominent auteurs. His distinctly naturalistic style, constantly roving camera, large ensemble casts, and penchant for encouraging actors to improv make for some of the most refreshingly unique films in cinema.
  • The Player‘s self-aware, unbroken, eight minute opening tracking shot is one of the best opening sequences I’ve seen. Altman decided to do the intro as one long unbroken shot simply to make an opening tracking shot that lasted longer than Orson Welles’ opening sequence for Touch of Evil. Furthermore, The Player‘s opening sequence features characters discussing great tracking shots from various films, most notably Touch of Evil.

(Check out the two openings here- Touch of Evil, The Player)

    • Altman was well-regarded as an actor’s-director, meaning he allowed actor’s to improvise and helm their characters rather than rigidly micro-manage their performances. This approach made Altman a very desirable director to work with as an actor. The Player features over fifty celebrity cameos throughout the film including, Bruce Willis, Jeff Goldblum, Julia Roberts, Angelica Huston, John Cusack, Burt Reynolds, Susan Sarandon, Jack Lemmon, and a whole lot more, all of whom worked for no pay, simply because they liked Robert Altman so much. Below is a decent trailer for The Player. Enjoy!