Just Giblets

Little Seen Film of the Day – Or (My Treasure)

1st May 2014
by Michael

Little Seen Film of the Day – Or (My Treasure)

Or (My Treasure)For fans of bleak foreign films that make you want to slit your wrists when you’re finished, don’t miss this hard-hitting, powerful film by Israeli director Keren Yedaya. Or is a hard worker. She collects discarded recyclable bottles, goes to school, and works washing dishes in her neighbor’s restaurant. She uses the money she collects from her bottle returns to buy food for her mother, who is just being released from a clinic. This mother-daughter family is struggling to make ends meet on the sporadic incomes of Or’s job. Oh, Or’s mother Ruthie works as well: as a prostitute, and while her work can occasionally bring in some money, Or is doing everything she can to get Ruthie to quit the business. She even goes so far as to find her mother a job cleaning the house of a wealthier (an slightly eccentric) mother of a friend. The problem is, while Ruthie loves her daughter, and realizes her chosen profession tears Or apart, she doesn’t really seem to want to stop. To complicate matters, Or is quite popular with the boys, and is pretty sexually active. Yedaya plainly shows us the difficulties life throws at these two women, and some of the joys as well. But it’s all short lived, as we can tell from the tone of the film. And the film spirals toward an inevitable conclusion despite possibilities that convince us that things might work out all right.

The talented actress Ronit Elkabetz is tragic and flawed as Ruthie. Young Dana Ivgy is heart breaking as Or, struggling mightily against forces beyond her ability to control. Yedaya bathes her film in realism, and many scenes seem so raw, naked and personal that I felt uncomfortable viewing them.

posted in Memes, Movies, Nostalgia | at 6:58 am | 0 Comments
30th April 2014
by Michael

Little Seen Film of the Day – Beijing Bicycle

Beijing BicycleBEIJING BICYCLE is a startling film that begins as a charming, warm-hearted tale of a country boy struggling to cope with life in the big city of Beijing, and ends as a cynical, pointed look at today’s society, and the hardened values that are needed to survive. Guei is the central character, a young man, recently transplanted from the country, who finds work as a bicycle messenger. Just as he is about to pay-off his new bike, it is stolen. When he finds Jian, a school boy from the city, riding his bicycle things become very complicated. The bicycle is certainly a ubiquitous symbol in China, as they fill the streets and quickly become essential possessions for these two young men. The startling, and serious ending to this film really draws out the thought and discussion.

Director Xiaoshuai Wang has made several films since 2001’s BEIJING BICYCLE, but I have not seen any of them.  I would be curious to see some of his other films.  He does a remarkable job in this film making a compelling films whose central characters are difficult to relate to.  Lead actress Xun Zhou has starred in several Asian films including SUZHOU RIVER and BALZAC AND THE LITTLE CHINESE SEAMSTRESS

posted in Memes, Movies, Nostalgia | at 6:30 am | 0 Comments
29th April 2014
by Michael

Little Seen Film of the Day – Apartment Zero

Apartment ZeroAPARTMENT ZERO is a most unusual film that made a big impression on me when I saw it in the late 80’s.  Written and directed by Martin Donovan (who later went on to write DEATH BECOMES HER), this combo black comedy/thriller stars Colin Firth as Adrian, a repressed and socially awkward Brit living in Argentina who is struggling to make ends meet operating a repertory theatre with a dwindling audience while paying for the care of his mother in a home.  Despite his social anxiety, he is forced to look for a roommate, and after a series of unsuitable possibilities, settles on the ruggedly handsome Jack, played by Hart Bochner, with whom he is instantly attracted to physically.  The two start up an bizarre relationship, with Adrian intrigued by the charismatic Jack, but more unexpectedly, Jack seeming to share a similar affection for Adrian.

Adrian’s neighbors in the apartment building are an eccentric bunch who immediately take a liking to Jack after being repeatedly rebuffed socially by Adrian, several of which both male and female, become physically involved with Jack.  Adrian resents the connections Jack is making with the neighbors, and begins to put demands on his accommodating roommate.  Adrian’s friend Claudia is involved with a political committee that’s investigating a series of murders that bear a striking resemblance to those committed by members of death squads that operated in Argentina in the 70s.  When she discovers a possible tie between Jack and these death squads, a confrontation between the two leads the film into a violent spiral of revelations and twisted actions.

When I saw APARTMENT ZERO I still wan’t out to many people as a gay man, and the homoerotic undertones of the film fascinated me.  The black humor is exceptionally handled, and the performances by the two leads are terrific, especially Firth as the repressed Adrian.  Sadly, the theatrical cut contained more homoerotic content that was edited from the home video version.  I’m not sure if that version is available to screen.

posted in Homo, Memes, Movies, Nostalgia | at 7:04 am | 0 Comments
28th April 2014
by Michael

Little Seen Film of the Day – Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

Once Upon a Time in AnatoliaNuri Bilge Ceylan’s seventh film (following the outstanding trio of DISTANTCLIMATES, and THREE MONKEYS continues the trend proving him to be a filmmaker of note. ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA clocks in at 157 minutes, and it starts off at an intentionally grueling pace. Part murder mystery, part police procedural, what Ceylan’s latest film really is an exploration into the human soul. The film is split fairly evenly into the dark of night, and the clinical light of day. For the first hour plus, a posse of police officers, a doctor, a prosecutor and two confessed murderers roam the quiet steppes of Anatolia, searching for the body of a murder victim. Sadly, the self-confessed murderer was drunk the night of the crime, and is having trouble remembering exactly where they buried the body.

As the trio of vehicles wends their way through the darkness of the hilly and windy landscape, the characters provide some banter that is at times humorous, and at times banal. As the group grows weary and decides to stop for the night in a small village, the first plot twist occurs, along with the appearance of the first woman to be seen in the film. ??The body is eventually found, and the film shifts to the small town where the autopsy is to be conducted.

The narrative shifts as well, to the POV of the doctor, a quiet observer, who continues to observe the characters around him, including the wife of the murder victim. Played with somber intensity (and a formidable moustache) by Muhammet Uzuner, the doctor becomes the moral pivot upon which the film hinges. His ongoing discussion with the Prosecutor, played with panache and another formidable moustache by Taner Birsel, reveals a telling line about the ruthlessness of women, which may or may not have something to do with the film’s plot. ??And that’s the beauty of this film. It almost doesn’t really matter the motivation behind the central murder, and it’s never really revealed. It leaves you with a lot of questions to ponder, so if you like your films to be all nicely wrapped up at the end, this film is not for you. But if you’re a fan of Ceylan’s previous films, or if you like amazing cinematography, perplexing and sometimes amusing dialog and mysterious examinations of the human soul, you will want to check out this film.

posted in Lists, Memes, Movies, Nostalgia | at 7:25 am | 0 Comments
27th April 2014
by Michael

Little Seen Film of the Day – Vigil

VigilNew Zealand director Vincent Ward made a splash in the 90’s with the Robin Williams film, What Dreams May Come, before that indie film goers enjoyed his work on such films as Map of the Human Heart or Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey.  But his first narrative, a little seen film called Vigil, made a major impression on me even though I’ve only seen it once, in the theater, back in the mid-80’s.

Vigil centers around Lisa, an 11-year-old girl on the cusp of adolescence who lives on an isolated farm in the middle of nowhere, with her parents and senile grandfather.  When her father dies in a tragic accident, her grandfather hires an itinerant hunter  named Ethan to help the family survive.  Their antiquated farm is ever on the verge of literal collapse, and while both Lisa and her mother react with aversion at Ethan’s intrusion into their lives, soon a passionate love affair erupts between the widow and this quiet newcomer, driving Lisa to the point of near madness as she copes with grief, puberty, and what she feels is a menacing invading force.

Anyone who has seen Ward’s films knows that he is a visual stylist beyond compare, and Vigil shows this burgeoning talent beautifully.  The remote hills of New Zealand look like a lost, timeless world, well before Peter Jackson ever conceived a a Middle Earth down under.  When Lisa’s emotional quagmire starts to manifest in hallucinations, the audience, seeing the entire film roll out through her eyes, can’t help but be caught up in her mania.  Young Fiona Kay, who later appeared in An Angel at My Table, soars as a young actor in her first film.  Her affecting, natural performance is what’s makes it possible for the audience to join her on this journey.  Vigil might be a tough film to find at this point, never having been transferred to DVD in the U.S. as far as I know, but do try to catch it if you ever get the chance.  I’d also recommend Ward’s later film Map of the Human Heart starring Jason Scott Lee and Anne Parillaud.

posted in Memes, Movies, Nonsense, Nostalgia | at 7:28 am | 0 Comments
26th April 2014
by Michael

Little Seen Film of the Day – Picture Day

Picture DayThis one is for all the rabid Orphan Black lovers out there (like me).  Or maybe it’s not.  Maybe they’ve already found this film and devoured it like all things Tatiana Maslany.  So maybe this is for everyone else.

A couple of years ago, before the Clone Club, I saw a little Canadian film at the Toronto International Film Festival, 2012.  It was fun, it was well written, and it starred a young actress who caught my eye.  I remember saying to Beth, “We should get Tatiana Maslany to come to Chlotrudis for the Breakout Award.  I think she’s going to go places.”  Well, it wasn’t many months later that Orphan Black hit the scene and the rest his history.  Tatiana Maslany was a cult favorite, rapidly gaining wider and wider audiences.  But back in 2012, she starred in a terrific, complex, teen comedy/drama called PICTURE DAY.

Claire (Maslany) was a bad ass in high school, but now she’s repeating her senior year and she’s become something of a joke.  She’s hanging around Henry, a nerdy freshman that she used to babysit, who now has a hopeless crush on her, with a goal of making him into a mysterious, hip rebel.  Her success with Henry throws his life into a turmoil, but her own life isn’t much better off.  With a mother who barely notices her, and an 33-year-old rocker-wanna-be boyfriend who’s clearly not in Claire as much as he’s into the adoration of young groupies, Claire’s work with Henry is really the only things that’s going well – at least in her mind.  Clearly, Claire’s is being set up for some tough life lessons, which are delivered in a way that isn’t heavy-handed, a credit to writer/director Kate Melville’s skill as a flimmaker.  But it’s Tatiana Maslany, who shines in PICTURE DAY.  Clearly just a taste of what was to arrive less than a year later on the small screen.

posted in Film Festivals, Memes, Movies, Nostalgia, TV | at 7:40 am | 0 Comments
25th April 2014
by Michael

Little Seen Film of the Day – Take Care of My Cat

Take Care of My CatFive friends from high school living in a poor city in South Korea try to maintain their friendship a year after graduation even as they all seek diverging paths away from their current lives. Take Care of My Cat provides a terrific look at contemporary South Korea, with frequent cell phone and text message use. integrated wonderfully into the film. Performances are strong, and the script is punctuated with humor and emotional moments. The lack of stereotype so prevalent prevalent in this type of film is a testament to the actresses, and the sure directorial hand that elevates this film above the norm.

Also notable about this lovely film is it was the first time many of us saw Doona Bae, the talented actor who went on to such films as Linda Linda Linda, The Host, Air Doll and Cloud Atlas.  I haven’t seen any of director Jae-eun Jeong’s subsequent films but I would like to.  If you have a chance to see Take Care of My Cat, it’s a sweet film that I think you’ll enjoy.

posted in Memes, Movies, Nostalgia | at 8:00 am | 0 Comments
24th April 2014
by Michael

Little Seen Film of the Day – Kandahar

Not being a very proficient blog poster, I’ve decided to try something that will get me to at the very least, post more often.  For the last 25 years or so, I’ve been enjoying a lot of independent, documentary, and international film.  I’ve attended a lot of Film Festivals… heck, I started my own independent film society!  So many of the films I’ve loved have been seen by so few people.  This morning in the shower, something made me thing of a film I saw back in 2002, that has stuck with me pretty well, although I probably haven’t thought of it in years.  It’s probably also a film not many people saw.  Then I started thinking about other films that a lot of people probably heard of, much less saw.  I decided I would try to post a film a day that probably hasn’t been seen by a lot of people.  Hope you get a chance to see some of these films and enjoy them!

Caveat:  Some of my friends and fellow Chlotrudis members may think that the films I choose have actually been seen by a lot of people.  The films I’m selecting are films that most of my non-Chlotrudis friends have probably never seen.  If you’re in Chlotrudis, you’ll probably have a higher percentage of viewing rate.

KandaharKandahar (2001)

directed by Mohsen Makhmabaf

Kandahar is the tale of one woman’s journey. Superficially, Nafas is returning to her native Afghanistan from Canada, to save her sister. On the last full moon of the century, Nafas’ sister, who lost her legs in a mine accident, will commit suicide. Now Nafas must race against time to arrive in Kandahar in time to prevent the tragedy. Along the way, she must record in her tape recorder, the hope that her sister has lost.

Nafas is our guide as a woman arriving in Iran. We watch as she must cover herself completely with the traditional burka, and find her way to Kanadahar without any of the rights or status befitting a western woman. We witness with her, the horrors of a war-torn country, and the irony of women, completely hidden from view, putting on lipstick and other makeup.

Kandahar is powerful, with some unforgettable images. None of the actors are professionals, which shows a bit, but this is still a film not to miss.

posted in Memes, Movies, Nonsense, Nostalgia | at 7:34 am | 0 Comments
6th January 2013
by Michael

Favorite Books Read in 2012 – #’s 12 & 11

It really hit me as I prepared to write this blog entry, the high quality of writing and creativity in the books I read this year, because the fact that these two books didn’t crack my top 10 astounds me.  This is a pair of outstanding reads, beautifully written, imaginative, emotionally moving, and powerful.  What is perhaps even more remarkable is that both of these exquisite novels are debuts.  Congratulations to both talented authors.

#12 – The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

M.L. Stedman’s debut novel tells an emotional tale of loss, love, and lies, set on the isolated western coast of Australia in the early 1900’s. Tom Sherbourne is a decorated war hero trying to reconcile his role during the war, and his own difficult childhood. He takes an isolating job as a lighthouse keeper on the remote island of Janus Rock, but that doesn’t prevent him from meeting, falling in love with, and marrying Isabel. The two share a powerful bond and set up life on Janus Rock, but after three miscarriages and the doubtful prospect of having a child of their own, Isabel is consumed with grief. When a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a newborn baby, Isabel sees this as a sign from God that she should raise this little girl as her own, despite the fact that there is no sign of a mother. The choices Isabel and Tom make a difficult and will have consequences in their future that will shatter several lives. Stedman’s writing is adept in describing the isolation and beauty of Janus Rock, the power of the ocean, the grace and beauty of the lighthouse, and the complex ethical and emotional issues that emerge from the Sherbourne’s actions. The Light Between Oceans reminded me of my favorite film from 2011 called A SEPARATION (from Iran). The similarities lie in the fact that good people are forced to make decisions for which there is no good result, and we understand and even empathize with each decision made, knowing that the end result will be painful and devastating for all involved. This is a powerful read.

#11 – The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

Profoundly, beautiful coming-of-age story set to a slow, apocalyptic end-of-the world tale. When the residents of a southern Californian suburb first hear that the earth’s rotation is slowing, there is a brief panic, but human beings being the adaptable lot they are, soon things fall into step again, with some minor tweaks. But as the earth’s rotation continues to slow, and more, serious consequences begin to emerge, 12-year-old Julia, and others, begin to understand that nothing will be the same again. Yet even as the human race begins its presumed road to extinction, Julia must cope with the realities of being a young teen, including buying her first bra, negotiating the whimsical nature of friendship, and falling in love for the first time. Karen Thompson Walker’s debut novel is heart-rending in its tragic inevitability, yet hopeful in the way Julia move though adolescence into adulthood.

posted in 2012, Authors, Books, Movies, Reviews, Year-end lists | at 11:20 am | 0 Comments
26th March 2012
by Michael

In NYC, we saw…

Carrie: The Musical

Goodbye

Death of a Salesman

Death of a Salesman

Now. Here. This.

Now. Here. This.

Susan Blackwell

Susan Blackwell

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