Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Book Review: The Declaration of Independent FIlmmaking by The Polish Brothers (2005)

The Declaration of Independent Filmmaking: An Insider's Guide to Making Movies Outside of HollywoodThe Declaration of Independent Filmmaking: An Insider's Guide to Making Movies Outside of Hollywood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"An independent film succeeds or fails on the choices of its creators. There is no safety net."

The Polish Brothers are my kind of filmmakers and this guide is my kind of beginners guide to making films. Honest, enthusiastic and filled with helpful tips.

As a first year film student we were prescribed The Guerrilla Filmmaker's Handbook as THE resource for making movies with next to no budget, even now it is a prescribed text at the university I am working at infact, but whilst that series is hip and trendy it misses out information that young people really need to know when contemplating how to proceed in their fledgling career as a filmmaker. The Polish Brothers Declaration of Independence should replace that text or at the very least work in conjunction with it. These guys have been there, fought the battle to make their dreams a reality, seen the horrors involved and gone back for more time and again and now their experience can be learned from thanks to this book.

Using examples from their first three productions, Twin Falls Idaho, Jackpot and Northfork, you are taken on a journey from concept to distribution that incorporates technical filmmaking advice with details of how a deal is made and encouragement to keep going through even the toughest of times. They have their own unique way of working and they readily admit that this book isn't foolproof but they are more than happy to share their working practices and help others achieve their dreams. If you want to be the next Michael Bay this guide might not be for you but if you have a desire to tell a heartfelt story and possibly go bankrupt then I recommend this book and the films of these brothers wholeheartedly.

I read it cover to cover because I had a real interest in what they had to say on the subject of filmmaking not because I am currently planning on making a movie. Some sections are incredibly dry and not necessary for casual readers but happily a glossary will make referring back to these lessons much easier in future when I have my technical head on. At other times it read like a production journal with fascinating and entertaining insights in to the goings on of a working movie production including how they came to get Nick Nolte involved in Northfork or how they made James Woods cry for example. Throughout I was reminded just how much I enjoy their work and now I appreciate it even more for the hardships that they endured in the name of their art.

And remember next time Zach Braff complains about creative control and being a true artist that to make a real independent film where the filmmaker is in charge creatively, one must sacrifice personal, financial, and physical well-being not just beg their fans for money via the internet or sell 15 second voicemail recordings for $150 a go.

Got a favourite film by The Polish Brothers? Read any other great books on how to kickstart your filmmaking career? Already a filmmaker and want to share your own advice? Comment below or tweet @bbbgtoby with #polishbros

Around the World in 30 Countries Project

Over on Letterboxd I'm taking part in Berken's exciting Around the World in 30 Countries Project this May. The challenge is to watch 30 films from 30 different countries over the course of one month. The only rules are that you shouldn't have seen them before and try not to pick something obvious like Slumdog Millionaire for India.

I sort of cheated a bit in making my selections, making the most of the movies I've had laying around the house being ignored for the past several years and taken advantage of the multitude of funding sources open to modern filmmakers in establishing the country of origin for each selection, essentially what I'm saying is that where more than one country was listed as country of origin I picked the one most convenient to my cause.

The full list complete with country of origin follows. Stop back over the course of the month for reviews as I go. If you want to join in come see the announcement page at Letterboxd.

Days of Glory AKA Indigenes (2006) Dir. Rachid Bouchareb (Algeria)
Tetro (2009) Dir. Francis Ford Coppola (Argentina)
Wake In Fright (1972) Dir. Ted Kotcheff (Australia)
Hidden AKA Cache (2005) Dir. Michael Heneke (Austria)
Mr. Nobody (2009) Dir. Jaco Von Dormael (Belgium)
Surveillance (2008) Dir. Jennifer Lynch (Canada)
Little Red Flowers (2006) Dir. Yuan Zhang (China)
Kawasaki's Rose AKA Kawasakiho Růže (2009) Dir. Jan Hrebejk (Czech Republic)
The Celebration AKA Festen (1998) Dir. Thomas Vinterberg (Denmark)
The Singer AKA Quand j'étais Chanteur (2006) Dir. Xavier Giannoli (France)
Dogtooth AKA Kynodontas (2010) Dir. Giorgos Lanthimos (Greece)
Tokyo Sonata (2008) Dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Hong Kong)
Children of Glory AKA Szabadság, Szerelem (2006) Dir. Krisztina Goda (Hungary)
Breaking the Waves (1996) Dir. Lars von Trier (Iceland)
Cairo Time (2009) Dir. Ruba Nadda (Ireland)
The Unknown Woman AKA La Sconosciuta (2006) Dir. Giuseppe Tornatore (Italy)
Yojimbo (1961) Dir. Akira Kurosawa (Japan)
Tulpan (2008) Dir. Sergei Dvortsevoy (Kazakhstan)
Julia (2008) Dir. Erick Zonca (Mexico)
Soldier of Orange AKA Soldaat van Oranje (1979) Dir. Paul Verhoeven (The Netherlands)
Reprise (2006) Dir. Joachim Trier (Norway)
Police, Adjective AKA Politist, adjectiv (2009) Dir. Corneliu Porumboiu (Romania)
Tears For Sale AKA Čarlston za Ognjenku (2008) Dir. Uros Stojanovic (Serbia)
The Man From Nowhere AKA Ajeossi (2010) Dir. Jeong-beom Lee (South Korea)
Jamon Jamon (1992) Dir. Bigas Luna (Spain)
Melancholia (2011) Dir. Lars von Trier (Sweden)
Home (2009) Dir. Ursula Meier (Switzerland)
Three Businessmen (1998) Dir. Alex Cox (UK)
The Girlfriend Experience (2009) Dir. Steven Soderbergh (USA)
Alice in the Cities AKA Alice in den Städten (1974) Dir. Wim Wenders (West Germany)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Book Review: The Pirates! in an Adventure With 5 Books (2004 - 2012)

Gideon Defoe is the creator of The Pirates! series of books which was recently adapted in to an Aardman Studios/Dreamworks Animated film, The Pirates! Band of Misfits. According to urban legend/his official authory blurb thing, when Defoe bumped into a woman he had pursued during his time studying archaeology and anthropology at Oxford, they began chatting about what they were up to. Realising that his job temping for Westminster council was not going to win him any romantic points, he told her that he was writing a novel. She asked to see it, at which point he found that he really was writing a novel. His manuscript was originally circulated among friends, who photocopied it and passed it on until, eventually, it fell into the hands of a literary agent. Then they spent $60m on making a movie of the first one.

Here is a brief look at the series book by book for those of you unfamiliar with the work. It starts with a bang and then repeats the formula with varying success. Pretty typical book series pattern I'm sure you'll agree.

The Pirates!: In An Adventure With Scientists
The Pirates!: In An Adventure With Scientists by Gideon Defoe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Words To Consider Before Embarking on A Piratical Adventure With Scientists:







If you feel you are not yet ready to become entangled with these and other similar words you may want to spend a week in your local library's section on Pirates! for Dummies before picking this book up.

Aaarghh! That scurby knave, Gideon Defoe, is some sort of comedy genius, his debut novel reads like a Frankenstein's monster-type creation that is part Lemony Snicket, part Douglas Adams, part Terry Pratchett with a dash of Monty Python thrown in for luck. It is a wonderful celebration of contemporary and classic British humour with the added bonus of starring luxuriantly bearded pirates and upon completion I would describe my mood as (c) excitable.

There is a not so subtle scene featuring a wrestling match between a scientifically created Man-panzee and a human created "Holy Ghost" and asks important scientific questions such as "who is the tallest pirate in the world?" I especially liked seeing which pirates were selected to walk the plank in to shark infested waters and how the main theme of the book is ham.

For those of you love a map this one features two, one on the inside of each cover, helpful for discovering the location of "The Tent With An Out Of Control Teen" and how to avoid sailing in to that great big compass in the corner of the Atlantic.

This was recently turned in to a movie by Aardman studios and quite unashamedly I am here today to admit my only prior knowledge of this book comes from having seen that movie several times. It's quite brilliantly funny, being simultaneously completely different yet entirely the same as the novel, a rare feat and provides you with two entirely separate adventures to burst your sides over.

I've seen this sold as a children's book and I've seen it categorised as Young Adult but unless the version with the movie poster as it's cover is abridged in some way I don't think I would advise giving this to a child, teenagers perhaps, but not children; there are multiple deaths throughout (including a fair maiden who takes a cannon ball to the head) and a fair amount of running through with cutlasses. But a pirate adventure without several people run through by cutlasses would be like asking a pirate not to eat ham, cruel and unusual.

If you stumble across this in any format I assure you that you will have a great time and if you;re ever looking for a gift for somebody there's no way you can go wrong with a book about pirates with luxuriant beards, especially if they are the significant hipster in your life.

The Pirates! In An Adventure With WhalingThe Pirates! In An Adventure With Whaling by Gideon Defoe

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Have at you, you scabrous coves! Here be humourous treasure as The Pirates! have an adventure with whaling that features that miserable old pirate Ahab.

Things you might learn about during this adventure:


Whale Conservation


Multiple uses for physeter macrocephalus

The migratory course of the accursed Great White Whale

How The Pirates! once had an adventure with a mosquito

All the things I said about the first book remain true for this one, Python, ham, Discworld, cutlasses, Snicket, 42, it's all there and this time it's a lot less episodic and more a case of humour squeezed in to the story of Moby Dick/desperately trying to avoid being sliced and diced by angry debtors who The Pirates! wish they'd never borrowed money from.

BUT it's just not as brilliantly stupid as the adventure with Scientists. There are a lot of belly laughs and it's still too rude to be suggested reading for children but it felt like Defoe had either run out of ideas or was desperately trying to be a bit sensible at times.

I am still looking forward to more adventures with The Pirates! especially as the list of titles listed as being available in the series include one with Jennifer Garner, one with the G.O.P. and one where The Pirates! get sexy. But first I shall move on to The Pirates! In An Adventure With Communists as it's the only one left in my local library.

The Pirates! In An Adventure With CommunistsThe Pirates! In An Adventure With Communists by Gideon Defoe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Avast, ye scurvy cur! The Pirates have returned in a further adventure to locate their missing prized ham in the silky folds of Karl Marx's bushy beard!

The Pirate Captain will astound you with his vast array of philosophical conundrums and entertain you with a book filled with both Wit! and Wisdom! You too can learn the true facts behind maintaining discipline whilst running a pirate boat, the existence of God and the Question of gravy stains!

This third adventure is filled with even more belly laughs than ever before. I was concerned that this might be one of those ideas destined to be ruined by ever diminishing returns, the same jokes regurgitated repeatedly to less effect, but Defoe has out Pythoned himself this time around, writing a story filled with brilliant imagery and wonderful facts told in a light hearted manner featuring characters that (quite surprisingly actually) seem to be growing from one adventure to the next. Marx, Engels, Wagner and Nietzsche are the notable guests this time around as Communists get blamed for drowning kittens, stealing valuable art, making women wear underwear and other assorted atrocities.

Remember folks life is like a big shanty. Everything will be fine so long as everyone sings in harmony. But if someone plays a duff note on the accordion or tries to break-dance at a sensitive bit, there there will be all sorts of trouble, mark my words.

The Pirates! In An Adventure With NapoleonThe Pirates! In An Adventure With Napoleon by Gideon Defoe

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Pirates! return in their fourth adventure, this time to a desert island to raise bees and argue with Napoleon. Only they seemed to forget to pack the humour in their suitcase for this trip.

Far from the gut busting, rib bruising hilarity of previous adventures this one barely raised a smirk, fatal to a series that relies on its humour to sustain interest through its meandering "plots" and absurd situations.

There was a four year gap between this and the fifth instalment, here's hoping Defoe recovered some of his wit and enthusiasm in that downtime.

The Pirates! in an Adventure with the RomanticsThe Pirates! in an Adventure with the Romantics by Gideon Defoe

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yes! Finally! Defoe blends his rapier like wit with an actual plot and finds success!

“Babbage's Three Laws of Difference Engines

First Law: A difference engine must have at least six cogs.

Second Law: A difference engine must be able to operate a loom.

Third law: A difference engine must be able to kill a man, should the mood so take it.”

Do you want to see Ruth squeeze ten ping pong balls in to her mouth? Would you like to witness a pie-chart that causes children to clap and laugh in delight? In this fabulous fifth adventure The Pirates! take to a boat that bled blood, win two tickets to a corpse factory and run around screaming "barnacle!" at every opportunity.

Hired by Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley and Charles Babbage to provide exotic adventures containing romantic elements, mild peril and foreign travel whilst on a dull vacation to Lake Geneva The Pirates! sail from Lake Geneva to the Romanian mountains in their most exciting, not to mention humourous adventure yet.

“You don't know what it is to live and laugh and love and run a man through! You've never tasted salty air on your tongue or waved heartily at a mermaid!”

If you were to take a poll of people reading you might find a lot of votes for great use of ham in a nautical setting, there may even be several readers who enjoy the excellent names created for the motely crew of pirates but guaranteed that majority will tell you that the best bit about reading a book about The Pirates! is all the running through that happens. Just ask Jeffrey Keeten about the time he ran a man through for daring not to wear a fencing cup in school colours if you are unsure of the unique pleasures a good running through can provide.

In true Defoe style this adventure meanders from one absurd moment to another but almost as if the five years away provided more than a huge paycheck from Dreamworks/Aardman studios, a refreshing break from what appeared to have become a dull chore for him and a chance to stock up on ham anecdotes, he must have studied with Robert McKee and managed to create a working plot and stick to it. I never had a real problem with his lack of plot before but when it appears from nowhere you realise what you;ve previously been missing.

Fear not Pirate lovers, this might be the fifth Pirates! book but it is not essential to have read them in order, if you have a willing seadog spirit begging to taste the salty air of a piratical adventure in the tradition of Monty Python and Douglas Adams then jump right in here, chances are you'll be an honourary member of the pirate crew in no time. And remember:

“You can't reduce passion and flair and eating ham to numbers, sir!”

View all my book reviews

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

12th Audi Festival of German Films in Australia 2013

The French Film Festival is out of the way and hot on it's heels is the 12th Audi Festival of German Films. Peugeot didn't get in touch to offer me a free car after all of my kind words about their product so this time there will be no praise of Audi from me. Although that car they built for I, Robot was pretty cool product placement.

Showcasing Germany's thriving creative industry, the festival brings a fine selection of contemporary, award-winning, internationally acclaimed German-language movies with English subtitles to Australian cities, towns and their communities.

The festival will visit the following cities:
Sydney 30 April - 14 May
Melbourne 1 - 15 May
Brisbane 3 - 9 May
Canberra 7 - 12 May
Adelaide 8 - 13 May
Perth 9 - 13 May

AND almost as if they'd paid attention to my previous rant about visiting only the major cities the good people of two smaller locations will get a condensed version of the festival:

Byron Bay 10 - 12 May
Newcastle 4 - 5 May

This one is a little on the short side here in Perth, quite scandalously Sydney and Melbourne get a full two weeks of interesting German cinema programming whereas Perth get a measly four days. It's going to be busy but this post will focus on what I hope to see at Luna Paradiso and what I recommend you fellow European film fans get out an experience whilst the opportunity is available.

Hotel Lux 
Dir. Leander Haußmann

1938, a comedian in trouble for impersonating Hitler in Berlin flees the country only to pose as Hitler's astrologer at the Moscow hotel, Hotel Lux. A comic drama, a series of unfortunate events,
an adventure between love and death.

Summer Window (Fenster zum Sommer) 
Dir. Hendrik Handloegten 

Starring Nina Hoss (Barbara,) Summer Window is a play on an science fiction old plot, what if you could relive part of your life over again? Would you change things? Would you be able to? Nina Hoss is transported back six months to before she met her current lover and experiences again the events leading up to a tragic situation and a major change in her life. A movie that manages to be interesting and intelligent while also working as a serious, adult character drama.

Two Lives (Zwei Leben/To Liv) 
Dir. Georg Maas 

A compelling meditation on identity, morality and family, set in the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Katrine was born to a Norwegian mother and shipped to East Germany to be raised as a member of the super race, for the past 20 years she has been living in Norway having been returned to her family by the Germans. Now her entire identity is under question in the face of a criminal trial against the Norwegian government.

Breathing (Atmen) 
Dir. Karl Markovics

The directorial debut from Austrian actor Karl Markovics, tells the story of a teenage ex-con trying to build a life for himself whilst dealing with the guilt of his crimes. It premiered at Cannes in 2011, and was Austria's official submission to the 84th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.

More Than Honey 
Dir. Markus Imhoof

The world’s bee population is diminishing by billions every year and with it the world moves closer to an environmental catastrophe. This is a new documentary that investigates this critical issue using state-of-the-art photographic equipment, bringing us up close and personal to the flying insects on whose wings so much of human life depends, Imhoof travels to three continents searching for answers to a mystery that has so far defied any easy explanation

Friday, April 5, 2013

Book Review: All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman (1999)

I was browsing the new release section of my local Indie bookstore last week when I came across Born Weird by Andrew Kaufman, another in a line of charming if a little hip stories that stretches back to 1999 with the release of one of my favourite book discoveries of 2012, All My Friends Are Superheroes. A very slight book it is filled with smiles and deserves to be read by everyone, a truly charming romance. So I dusted off an old book review to give you a little nudge.

All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blurb: All Tom's friends really are superheroes.

There's the Ear, the Spooner, the Impossible Man. Tom even married a superhero, the Perfectionist. But at their wedding, the Perfectionist was hypnotized (by ex-boyfriend Hypno, of course) to believe that Tom is invisible. Nothing he does can make her see him. Six months later, she's sure that Tom has abandoned her.

So she's moving to Vancouver. She'll use her superpower to make Vancouver perfect and leave all the heartbreak in Toronto. With no idea Tom's beside her, she boards an airplane in Toronto. Tom has until the wheels touch the ground in Vancouver to convince her he's visible, or he loses her forever.

Thoughts: This book is totally adorable. It's not going to change your life, it's not Earth-shattering prose, it's just plain unadulterated pleasure to read.

I wish I could've finished it in one sitting but it's difficult to finish 107 pages on the bus journey to work. But then again if I had finished it without pause I wouldn't have known what it was like to put it down and feel the need to pick it up again.

There's not much I can tell you without spoiling it BUT it is a wonderful love story AND the superhero metaphors work really well 98% of the time.

To list some comparitive adjectives may be the simplest way to review it: funny NOT hilarious, nice NOT brilliant, short and sweet NOT epic and overly descriptive, playful NOT absurd.

My least favourite aspect are the short interludes where Kaufman introduces some other superheroes, most of which are trying too hard to be funny and fail completely and I do mean eye-rollingly bad attempts at jokes that might have been funny if i'd read this when it was first released in 1999 and I was 17.

Andrew Kaufman is Canadian. Maybe that explains things? In Canada he might be known for writing reality TV, perhaps the perfect medium for developing bizarre yet inherently real stories that have become his literary canon, so why not check out his other novels or an episode or two of Rescue Mediums when you get a few minutes?

View all my book reviews

Monday, April 1, 2013

Movie Diary #9: March 2013

Welcome to April at Blahblahblahgay. I'm considering whether to put together a Best of the First Quarter post or whether to wait and do a First Third. Moving in to Autumn it feels like the right time but the year feels too young to start looking back already. Any thoughts?

March was pretty crazy, with 73 films seen bringing the YTD total up to 214. Of those 73 I was revisiting 20 films which was more than twice the combined total for the previous two months, and I am now at 28 movies rewatched YTD. Release dates are going a bit crazy at the moment, lots of films from 2012 are finding American cinema releases for later in 2013 and so my total New Release viewing is now at 14 according to imdb, despite having seen some of them last year.

This monthly roundup features mini reviews for 9 films that are really pretty shit, 15 that are really very good (4 rewatches) and a remarkable 12 masterpieces in my opinion. 10 of those 12 are rewatches but I am happy at having found 2 superb films in my ongoing exploration of the history of cinema, my first Roy Andersson and a blend of Kitchen Sink and Film Noir.

Of course The Lammy's were open for nominations this month, yours truly was nominated for an award which I decided not to campaign for. There are so many great blogs and bloggers in this wonderful community of ours that I feel like a bit of a fraud in comparison. For all who did vote for me, thank you. I'm sure I voted for you too, because you're all so well written.

It's Pretty Shit Really

Freaky Deaky (2013) Dir. Charles Matthau
Tedious. Caricatures. Awful costume design. Terrible acting. Dreadful adaptation.
Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991) Dir. Peter Hewitt
The only person who had any fun with this movie was William Sadler who is superb as Death. Sense of fun aside how does this movie differ from its predecessor? I'm blaming the director. One went on to direct The Mighty Ducks and Mr Holland's Opus the other Garfield and Home Alone 5. Peter Hewitt has to take the majority of the blame for this one.
Popeye (1980) Dir. Robert Altman
Wow. Wow. I think I must have been about 30 seconds in when I said WTF for the first time. What was Disney/Altman/Everyone involved with this film thinking? What was with the songs? I went in expecting weird but I didn't expect Robin Williams to channel Elliot Gould in the titular role. Altman has a very particular style that is suited to certain types of film, a children's comic book adaptation is not it. This might actually be the worst Altman I've seen so far, but then again Gingerbread Man was pretty terrible too.
Java Heat (2013) Dir. Conor Allyn
Kellan Lutz and Mickey Rourke are so bad in this movie that they make the Indonesian actors working in their second or third language look like Oscar contenders. I don't know whose idea it was to let Lutz become an "actor" but I don't think they'd ever seen acting before and as for Rourke, he seems to be playing some kind of generic Euro-villain caricature spouting cliche and mumbling a lot.
The Brass Teapot (2013) Dir. Ramaa Mosley
A strange and bizarre movie. For once Juno Temple keeps her clothes on. You know a movie is taking a dive when that happens.
Two down on their luck twenty somethings steal an antique teapot and then get greedy when they realise that it gives them cash when they hurt themselves. Really? This is the kind of crap that would have starred Ashton Kutcher once upon a time, please avoid shit like this in future Michael Angarano, Demi Moore is waiting to pounce on you.
The Last Rites of Ransom Pride (2010) Dir. Tiller Russell
$8m doesn't buy you much more than some colour correction tools it seems. The Last Rites of Ransom Pride is an attempt at a pulpy revisionist western by a Canadian film making team and seems to just get everything completely wrong. As somebody has said elsewhere, I was sick of this movie by the time the opening credits had rolled.
Sushi Girl (2013) Dir. Kern Saxton
Like a really boring QT movie. A complete waste of the talent available to the production. The absolute highlight was an enjoyable performance from Mark Hamill. More Hamill as bad guy please Hollywood.
Across The Hall (2009) Dir. Alex Merkin
Incredibly disappointing attempt at a neo-noir. Occasionally visually impressive but largely quite dull in its direction, the premise has potential but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Two guys, a girl, a gun, a quirky bellboy and a hotel that has seen better days. Twists and turns are promised and boy does the script just keep on twisting. At one point one of the generic guys says to the other generic guy "you see a straight road and you walk it crooked" and I have to assume that one of the screenwriters was telling the other one something.
The Neon Bible (1995) Dir. Terence Davies
Terence Davies is on record as disliking this film. Personally I don't think he did anything wrong with it. The faults with this movie lie in the source material. So perhaps an adaptation that never fixed those faults could be considered an error from Davies but visually he did just fine. The Neon Bible is a product of greed, the immature novel as written by a 16 year old boy should never have been published and the movie should never have been made.

Really Very Good Actually

The Last Stand (2013) Dir. Jee-woon Kim
Oh wow, there's so much wrong with this movie, like maybe 70% of it is absolutely terrible. But what it gets right, it gets right in spades and saves it from the forgettable shit I feared it might be before I went to the cinema.
Side Effects (2013) Dir. Steven Soderbergh
Easily Soderbergh's best film for quite some time, Side Effects left me thoughtful, excited and analysing the great man's career in the wake of news that this is supposedly his last film.
The Puffy Chair (2005) Dir. Jay Duplass
Surprisingly good from The Duplass Brothers, better than any of their recent work that I've experienced. Very real road trip that forces some uncomfortable moments on its participants causing a reassessing of relationships. Very enjoyable, although I wanted to push Rhett in to the fire rather than away from it. I can't imagine how awful it would be to know somebody like that, he wants to inspire love and peace (stupid hippy) but in me he inspires violence.
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) Dir. Robert Rodriguez
Pure entertainment from Tarantino and Rodriguez that's given a little credibility by the performance of George Clooney. I'm not sure I've seen a movie that's so obviously two different movies melded together as this but that doesn't dampen proceedings, it doubles the fun instead.
Wayne's World (1992) Dir. Penelope Spheeris
Entertaining, whimsical and yet relevant, with an underlying revisionist conceit that belied the films emotional attachments to the subject matter. It didn't suck.
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989) Dir. Stephen Herek
Sometimes you just want to have fun with a movie and the first Bill & Ted film is exactly that, pure entertaining silliness. A couple dozen watches and two decades haven't changed the fact that this is a great comic science fiction movie from Hollywood.

Donnie Darko (2001) Dir. Richard Kelly
There's this thing you may not know about Donnie Darko, it makes no sense. It's not like it needs to though. It's a fascinating multi-layered piece of cinema that holds up to multiple viewings over many years. I expected it to have aged badly but it's as good today as it was in 2002 when I first saw it. The music really stands out, and that tracking shot to introduce the high school is so perfect, tiny little moments you might miss if you're not paying attention, like Noah Wylie's face.
Slam Dance (1987) Dir. Wayne Wang
I feel silly putting this here next to much better films but this is beautiful to look at for fans of classic noir and has a strangely poetic feel to it if you ignore the actual plot. Here's the full review.
The Big Red One Reconstructed (1980/2004) Dir. Samuel Fuller
Samuel Fuller's semi-autobiographical film is brutally honest, it's not about heroes or heroics, it's about the realities of men trying to kill but not be killed and what that will do to you over a sustained period of time. Sure it's long and if you prefer set piece action and a specific plot (the saving of one lone private for nonsense reasons for example) then you might be disappointed. I however was not.
Battles Without Honor and Humanity (1973) Dir. Kinji Fukasaku
Very cool reinvention of the Yakuza movie. As you might expect from the guy who brought Battle Royale to your screens this is pretty damned gory and stylish.
As Tears Go By (1988) Dir. Wong Kar-Wai
Wong Kar-Wai's debut is visually appealing genre fare, with strong performances from Lau and Cheung, the only real problem I can find with the film is the awful soundtrack; it's a constant noise taken straight out of cheesy 80s Hollywood right up to and including a cover of Take My Breath Away.
Peacock (2010) Dir. Michael Lander
Full review here. Michael Lander directs with restraint to create a slow moving psychological drama filled with beautiful cinematography thanks to the wonderful Philipe Rousselot and a pervasive creepiness through interesting use of the mise-en-scene and subtle musical cues.
Peeping Tom (1960) Dir. Michael Powell
I tend not to appreciate horror films but a sense of dread permeates every frame of this film and builds to a shocking crescendo, it is something that is hard to ignore and even harder not to appreciate for any fan of the cinematic art form. This was my first Powell, despite watching bits and pieces during film school I was never tempted to watch an entire feature, what a silly schoolboy error that was.
Streets of Fire (1984) Dir. Walter Hill
This movie is a blast, a real fun ride from start to finish. It's completely batshit crazy of course, witness Willem Dafoe as some kind of sexy vampire fisherman villain for case in point, but this kind of thing is to be expected from a rock & roll fable that borrows heavily from Hill's own The Warriors.
The Long Day Closes (1992) Dir. Terence Davies
Terence Davies. Wow. Beautiful.
An atmospheric collection of childhood memories in Liverpool in the mid-50s. I am assuming they are the directors own. Poor kid. Whilst I accept the dreamlike qualities of the construction I still expected some form of narrative device to tie everything together. My expectations were not met, which in some ways makes the film even more memorable, if not better, and I'm left wondering, really, what was this film really about?

Masterpiece Cinema

You, The Living (2007) Dir. Roy Andersson
Roy Andersson is some kind of insane genius. This was my first experience of his style and it has totally blown me away. His carefully constructed mise-en-scene makes every single shot a work of art as he points his camera at the absurdity of the realities of modern life. So many times I found myself laughing hysterically at what ordinarily might be considered horribly sad events and I think that is the true genius behind this film. Andersson's humour and insight will certainly further reward repeat viewings, something I intend to do myself in the very near future.
The Ice Storm (1997) Dir. Ang Lee
Great set design and costume are the first things that strike you about this authentic feeling 70s suburbia. Ang Lee's direction seems to be paced perfectly and is aided in wonderful compositions by cinematographer Frederick Elmes. But it is so much more than pretty pictures and measured storytelling.
American Beauty (1999) Dir. Sam Mendes
Still one of the best movies of my lifetime, Sam Mendes and Alan Ball created something near perfect in American Beauty. Some people feel that it aged badly but after several years without seeing it this rewatch must bring me near to the 20+ mark now and I can't see it. Perhaps I am unable to remain objective when it comes to a film I have loved so much in the past and know so intimately but 13 years later it is as good as ever.
Blade Runner: The Final Cut (1982/2007) Dir. Ridley Scott 
I can't say anything that hasn't been said already. Blade Runner is simply wonderful, a mesmerising science fiction noir that is beautiful from start to finish and filled with incredible performances in every role.
I then sat down to, enjoy almost as much, the 3.5 hour long Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner. For fans of the film this is essential watching and incredibly interesting throughout.

Reservoir Dogs (1992) Dir. Quentin Tarantino
A near perfect piece of pulpy crime cinema, great storytelling, high quality directorial vision and a superb ensemble performance.
Vacation! (2011) Dir. Zach Clark
With Zach Clark's new film playing at SXSW this week I thought it was about time I revisited this film that was such a revelation to me back in 2011. I don't regret a single word from my previous glowing review, this film is excellent, even better on repeat viewing. Possibly the peak of the mumblecore movement alongside Cold Weather.
Starship Troopers (1997) Dir. Paul Verhoeven
Pure brilliance. Massively under appreciated. Always satirical. A masterpiece of both war and science fiction genres.
The Matrix (1999) Dirs. The Wachowski Siblings
Brilliant. Important. Impressive. Dated. Copied.
In Bruges (2008) Dir. Martin McDonagh
You're a fucking inanimate object. - Shit Oscar nominated actor Ralph Fiennes says in In Bruges.
Just might be the funniest filum of the 21st century if not ever. Must be at least the sixth viewing of it now and still I get tears in my eyes and pain in my side from laughing so hard.
Punch-Drunk Love (2002) Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
After There Will Be Blood this has to be my favourite PTA movie. Adam Sandler is a wonderful surprise in what is a really very charming and simple film told with great care by a master director. I haven't seen this in nearly 10 years now but I still remember the first time quite clearly, it was the moment I fell in love with Emily Watson, seeing her through Adam Sandler's eyes. Who'd have thought that?
The Border (1982) Dir. Tony Richardson
The Border is exactly what you get when Tony Richardson directs a noir genre movie set on the US-Mexico border. Sheer perfection for somebody like me who loves Richardson's kitchen sink realism and the gritty noir films of America in the 1970s.
That's enough recommendations for one month. I think I'll be working on a full review of The Border some time soon. Good luck to all you Lambs as voting commences and as always leave me some comments, especially if you disagree with me.