Just Giblets

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

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
22nd August 2013
by Michael

Tusk!

Fleetwood Mac circa 1979I periodically go on a Fleetwood Mac jag, where I can’t get enough of their albums.  And not being a Stevie Nicks sycophant (although I do enjoy a lot of her work) but a Christine McVie fanatic, my Fleetwood Mac listening is not limited to their 1975 white album on, but goes back to the early 70’s, pre-Buckingham Nicks, when the likes of Bob Welch and Danny Kirwan were members.  My latest obsession from the last couple of weeks has been Tusk, their 1979 follow-up to the phenomenally successful, life-changing Rumours.

tuskTusk was a curious album.  There was no way the band was going to repeat the magic that emerged out of their personal break-ups and formed Rumours, number 10 on the list of best-selling albums of all time.  (You can see that list at http://www.celebritynetworth.com/articles/entertainment-articles/whats-the-biggest-selling-album-of-all-time/).  I’m sure the pressure from their label, Warner Bros. was pretty intense to do just that, but the band went in a completely different direction.  While it seems that Lindsey Buckingham was the driving force between the pseudo-punk, vaguely country tone of Tusk, certainly throughout all of his, the majority, contributions, his quirky production served Christine and Stevie’s compositions well.  Back in 1979, when Tusk was released, it was a rather shocking turn from Fleetwood Mac.  When listened to today, it seems even more incomprehensible juxtaposed with Rumours, but it works all the better for it.  The double album cost $1M to record, an exorbitant amount at the time, and with it only reaching #4 on the U.S. Billboard charts it is considered a disappointment.  Still, it did sell over 2M copies, earning a double platinum certification.

The title track was released as a single in advance of the album, and should have been a good indication that this was not going to be a Fleetwood Mac album like anything we’d expected.  From the jungle beat of the drums, the bizarre lyrics mumbled, then half-shrieked, and the overlay of the USC marching band, this was something visceral and different.  I was transfixed.  I ran around my high school (I was a senior) shouting Tusk!  I even included it as one of my quotes in the yearbook.

Now as I listen to Tusk some 34 years later, I am struck by how forward thinking it was, and how I think it might be Fleetwood Mac’s best album.  Okay, maybe not their best, but certainly Lindsey Buckingham does his best work ever with the band, or at least, most original.  Stevie Nicks turns in some pretty interesting work as well, and while Christine McVie has always been, in my opinion, the most reliable of the Mac songwriters, she doesn’t disappoint on Tusk.  While Tusk is arguably Lindsey’s album, it’s the way he pushes Christine and Stevie to the far reaches of what could be their comfort zones that really shines on Tusk.  (Although, part of me hopes that they all had fun trying out stuff they’d never usually perform – just take another listen to ‘The Ledge.’)

My current obsession is Christine McVie’s ‘Think About Me.’ It was a third single off the album, and is considered a minor hit for the band, only reaching #20 on the Billboard singles chart.  When I first heard ‘Think About Me’ it seemed a typical McVie single, reminiscent of ‘Don’t Stop’ and ‘Say You Love Me.’ Listening to it today, I am struck by the rock ‘n roll and punk influences, and the sparse, powerful mix of the song.  Lyrically, McVie injects a little wry sarcasm into the song, something she is not usually known for.  ‘Think About Me’ really features the power of McVie’s piano driving the song rhythmically forward, and Buckingham’s chunky guitar blends to create something truly rollicking.  Once again, McVie choses to alternate vocals with Buckingham, the former taking the lead on the vocals, the latter leading the bands trademark sublime harmonies on the choruses.  The vocal mix is perfect, with each of the unique voices easily picked out when they sing together.  Add to that the solid foundation of Fleetwood’s drums and McVie’s surprisingly flashy bass and it thrills me every time I listen to it.  McVie’s other contributions include the album opener, ‘Over & Over,’ the haunting ‘Brown Eyes,’ the gorgeously simple and heartfelt ‘Never Make Me Cry,’ the intricate confection ‘Honey Hi,’ and one of the best album closers ever, ‘Never Forget.’

Stevie Nicks’ most memorable song on Tusk for most people is ‘Sara,’ the second single from the album, and the highest charting, climbing to #7 on the Billboard charts.  I’ve always found ‘Sara’ to be rather uninspired, overlong and little boring.  The fourth single from Tusk was Stevie’s ‘Sisters of the Moon,’ a dark, pseudo-sequel to ‘Rhiannon.’  Nice enough, but pretty standard Stevie-fare.  Her other three compositions for Tusk are some of her finest work.  ‘Storms’ is a gently rumbling lament, beautifully constructed, and more complex than much of her Fleetwood Mac work.  ‘Angel’ is probably my favorite song Nicks wrote for Fleetwood Mac.  It’s got a bouncy, bluesy chord progression that makes it sound like a Christine McVie composition sung by Nicks.  The hauntingly lovely ‘Beautiful Child’ closes out Nicks’ contributions to Tusk.  Powered by McVie’s gentle piano and flush with the vocal interplay Fleetwood Mac is known for ‘Beautiful Child’ is a heartfelt ballad that highlights Stevie’s strength as a songwriter.  While Nicks’ songs are possibly the least affected by Tusk’s strangeness, Buckingham keeps the arrangements sparse and raw lending an urgency even to her most gentle numbers.

But it’s true, Tusk is really Lindsey Buckingham’s album, and his creativity and originality really show through on his songs.  Penning nine of Tusk’s twenty songs, Lindsey’s short, energetic numbers are like exclamatory punctuation marks sprinkled through the narrative.  His songs burst with heavy, distorted guitars and raucous vocal shrieks that convey frustration, anxiety and anger.  In some cases the bizarre lyrics seem interchangeable (and in fact, listening to the demo tracks included on the 25th anniversary release, snippets of lyrics are used on various songs).  The first of Lindsey’s songs you experience is the punk/country hybrid called ‘The Ledge.’  You might think, ‘he’s lost his mind, what the heck is this?’ but it’s a powerful locomotive of a song with the three vocalists harmonizing with wails and whispers the likes of which Fleetwood Mac had never explored before.  ‘Not That Funny’ is Buckingham’s punk response to Rumours’ ‘Never Going Back Again.’  It’s a bouncy pop ditty that leaps off the record with a high-pitched acoustic guidtar part that sticks in your head.  Along with ‘That’s Enough for Me’ and ‘I Know I’m Not Wrong’ these are three musical outbursts that highlight Lindsey’s new musical direction and his frantic energy.  ‘What Makes You Think You’re the One’ is almost traditional anchored by a pounding piano line that McVie once said made here wrists hurt after a day of recording.  ‘Save Me a Place’ and ‘That’s All for Everyone’ are lush, dreamy tracks that retain the quirky sensibilities of Lindsey’s current vision, but are less confrontational and again, use the trio’s vocal interplay to maximum affect.   Buckingham’s most beautiful number is yearning falsetto-powered ‘Walk a Thin Line.’  It highlights his adept vocals but it once again takes the expected Mac oohs and aahs and pushes them slightly left of center to remind us that we’re not listening to Rumours.

The first time I saw Fleetwood Mac live was during the Tusk tour at the Boston Garden.  It was a glorious show, and was the first of three (or maybe four times) that I was able to see them live.  I know they have had a bit of a return in the past few years, but without Christine McVie, it’s just not the same for me.  There was some sort of magic when those five made music together, and Christine McVie is one of my all time musical heroes.  I’m just glad the band has a long history of music to which I can return.

posted in Favorites, Fleetwood Mac, Music, Nostalgia | at 9:52 pm | 0 Comments
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