Tag Archives: movie reviews

53. Stranger Than Paradise – Jim Jarmusch (1984)

Repeat Viewing.

“You know, it’s funny, you come to someplace new, and everything looks just the same”

It would be remiss of me not to mention straight away that Stranger than Paradise is my favourite movie of all time, so you’re not going to get a balanced and impartial review from me today. No way, Jose. It’s a movie that I love like a family member, and not a rarely seen great uncle or distant cousin, we’re talking a little brother or sister, in fact, just ask my nearest and dearest for further proof on my love for it! And, of course, I’m going to give it the full marks out of ten. (Sorry for giving away the entry’s ending) That being said I know it’s not the greatest movie ever committed to celluloid, that’s something like a Citizen Kane, Grand Illusion, Andrei Rublev, Tokyo Story, or Seven Samurai. Each one a great and influential film. Stranger than Paradise certainly influenced American independent cinema – I’ve got my own 16k word dissertation that attests to that- but I would struggle to call Stranger a great movie, at least in comparison to some of the previously mentioned films. I think my one true gripe with the film is the somewhat weak and out of place ending. It doesn’t really compliment the style of the film. My own take would be that the film doesn’t need an ending. It has no beginning or middle in the tradition of the Aristole three-act structure, so an ending doesn’t work in that context. Yet Stranger does bow to an ending with drama – and I use the term “drama” loosely – and it just doesn’t work for me.

That’s enough of the criticism. I can’t do it any more! What I love about Stranger is it’s uniqueness, I can’t think of another movie like it. I can’t think of a movie that deals with immigration, the failure, or even non-existence, of the American dream, alienation, friendship and so on whilst balancing it with a movie that has so little obvious drama and content. It’s almost like watching a home movie so little is happening in a literal sense, but it’s still so damn quotable. Anyone who doesn’t come away saying “bug off” isn’t paying hard enough attention. The characters are also very real. We don’t see them being people to admire, and we don’t see them redeeming themselves. They exist in their own bubble, and they don’t change. They are what they are. They’re the same in the beginning as they are at the end. People don’t change, really.

The film is also all kinds of cool. Anyone who has ever seen an interview with Jim Jarmusch knows he’s the coolest person on the planet. We’re talking Mick Jagger Gimme Shelter era coolness. And, naturally, the film’s coolness is transmitted everywhere. From the actors to the music to the cinematography. Stranger is beautifully photographed by Tom DiCillio – a hugely talented person – and edited into tiny fade-to-black vignettes, lasting from a few seconds and up to three or four minutes in some cases. The style was so inspiring to me that I shot my own grad film on 16mm black and white film stock and used about seven cuts in the whole flick. It just works so wonderfully when you’re working on a small budget. Finally I need to say a few words about John Lurie. For someone who isn’t even an actor primarily he gives a stunningly adept and understated performance. You should hate Lurie’s character, but you can’t help but like him.

I could go on and on about my love for this film, I didn’t even mention the locations’ importance, but I’m gonna quit while I’m behind ahead and start fantasizing about Jarmusch’s new film in production, Only Lovers Left Behind instead.

Marks out of ten – Ten

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48. Cube – Vincenzo Natali (1997)

First Viewing.

Super low budget, it’s Canadian and it’s about, well, a Rubik’s cube with serious issues; it likes to kill people. On the face of it it’s not exactly the type of film I’d be rushing out to watch usually, but I thought I’d give it a go due to a combination of good reviews and peer pressure. And, I’m not going to say I wish I hadn’t seen it, but it didn’t rock my world (I’ve never used that phrase before, and, reading it back, I don’t think I ever will again!) I can live with the dubious special effects, I can live with the weird set-up, I can almost live with the awful dialogue, but when certain characters started acting like they’ve been lobotomised half way through the film I lost interested. I understand that the characters, who are trapped inside this killer box, are under intense pressure to escape, but really, you don’t go from being a good guy to a total dick in the space of 30 seconds. If you’re a huge sci-fan it’s probably worth checking out, or if you find a regular Rubik’s cube just far too easy you might want to take a look too, otherwise I’d watch something else.

Marks out of ten – Five

*Bonus Oscar related content!*

Being a huge Woody Allen fan I’d like to see Midnight in Paris sweep the Oscars up, but that’s never going to happen. Midnight in Paris isn’t actually even close to some of Woody’s best work, so I shan’t be overly gutted if he goes home empty handed. It’s not like he’ll give a fuck either way. I quite liked Moneyball too, but that’s because I’m a closet baseball and stats geeks. I guess I might not feel the same if I had zero interest in the sport. I’d also like to see Gary Oldman win for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but I’m finding it hard to find any other films I truly love out of the nominated bunch, so that’s a big “meh” from me on what goes on to win tonight…

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