Tag Archives: New York

54. New York, I Love You – Multiple Directors (2009)

First Viewing.

New York, I hate you- This movie is awful. I had such high hopes for it after it’s prequel, of sorts, Paris Je T’aime. If you’re unfamiliar with the films’ concept it’s a collection of short films, somewhat connected, about a city, Paris in the original, and New York City here. The short films here are so cringe inducing and boring that I couldn’t wait for the film to end. It has one, possibly two, worthwhile stories. One involving an elderly couple who are celebrating their 63rd wedding anniversary by taking a trip to the beach. It has a beautiful moment, by far the best in the film, where the elderly couple embrace on the beach. It’s almost tear inducing. Other than that section there’s not much else going on, a scene where Bradley Cooper is meeting up with Drea De Matteo and we are privy to their internal thoughts is okay, but that’s really it in terms of the “good” stuff.

How about the bad stuff I hear you ask? There’s just too much to recount, but there were two scenes, in particular, that made me want to scoop my eyes out of my head with a spoon and then cut off my ears with a rusty knife. The first being a scene between Rachel Bilson, Andy Garcia and Hayden Christiensen. It has the worst dialogue I’ve heard in a long, long time. It doesn’t help that Hayden Christiensen has the acting ability of a baboon, while Rachel Bilson’s performance would make Kristen Stewart’s classic wooden delivery seem like Diane Keaton’s performing it. It’s utter shit all round. I threw up in my mouth at some of the dialogue. It’s so bad. So bad. I don’t even know what the hell they were talking about together it’s so bad. The other scene that made me want to cry involved Olivia Thirlby pretending to be wheelchair bound. I assume the writer intended for this story to be whimsical and sweet, but it ends up being patronising and damn right offensive to disabled people, actually, it’s offensive to everyone! One part of the story is beyond tacky. Thirlby, who at this point we assume is disabled, wraps her arms up on some tree branches thus leaving her legs dangling below her and she then proceeds to ask her date to take off her underwear and fuck her while she swings from the branches. It isn’t sweet or romantic, it’s so contrived and stupid that I wanted to turn off the movie there and then.

The rest of the shorts are crappy and forgettable. Ethan Hawke, despite his talent, can’t make the awful dialogue in his short seem real or entertaining. Chris Cooper’s scene is pure cheese. Natalie Portman’s is so boring I can’t even recall it. Shia LeBeouf as a disabled east european bell-hop was stunningly bad. And on and on it goes.

And, possibly the worst thing to come out of this movie, is that you get no sense at all for NYC. These scenes could be happening anywhere in the world. It’s garbage.

Marks out of ten – Three

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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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32. Lbs. – Matthew Bonifacio (2004)

First Viewing.

Lbs. finally received it’s DVD release this month after being made on a micro-budget back in 2004 and it’s probably worth the wait. The most interesting and exciting element of the film is the parallel between the main character, Neil, and actor’s, Carmine Famiglietti, weight loss. The film charts Neil’s weight loss through seclusion in the middle chapter of the film and thus the dedication of Famiglietti to “get thin” for his art is an incredibly beautiful action. The film, by tackling such a difficult topic, asks interesting questions about self worth and human perception. It offers no answers in truth, but that’s by design, it avoids the obvious Hollywood clichés of self disgust being conquered and the protagonist snagging the prettiest girl in the town. The dialogue is also sharp, the acting spot on and the photography very competent. There are a few issues I have with script, it’s a little jumbled at times and occasionally lacking direction, but that doesn’t spoil the film. It perhaps leans a bit too heavily on the Italian-New Yorker stereotype too when it really doesn’t need to. It is, however, a good, thought provoking and, at times, uncomfortable movie to watch.

Marks out of ten – Seven

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