Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Taking Inventory as of December 24

Cinema Japan Series at PFA

The Ceremony directed by Nagisa Oshima; Japanese with subtitles; (1971)
Boy directed by Nagisa Oshima; Japanese with subtitles; (1969)
Black Rain directed by Shohei Imamura; Japanese with subtitles; (1989)
Onibaba directed by Kaneto Shindô; Japanese with subtitles; (1964)
Tokyo Drifter directed by Seijun Suzuki; Japanese with subtitles; (1966)
Violence at Noon directed by Nagisa Oshima; Japanese with subtitles; (1966)
A Last Note directed by Kaneto Shindô; Japanese with subtitles; (1995)
Where Spring Comes Late directed by Yoji Yamada; Japanese with subtitles; (1970)
Intentions of Murder directed by Shohei Imamura; Japanese with subtitles; (1964)

Dirty Dozen: The Films of Robert Aldrich at PFA

Attack! starring Jack Palance, Eddie Albert & Lee Marvin; (1956)
The Garment Jungle starring Lee J. Cobb, Richard Boone & Robert Loggia; (1957)
Ulzana’s Raid starring Burt Lancaster & Bruce Davison; (1972)
Twilight’s Last Gleaming starring Burt Lancaster & Charles Durning; (1977)

I Can't Think Straight (2008) - Official Site
Happy-Go-Lucky directed by Mike Leigh; starring Sally Hawkins; (2008) - Official Site
Baby (2008) - Official Site
Timecrimes directed by Nacho Vigolando; Spanish with subtitles; (2007) - Official Site
Milk directed by Gus Van Sant; starring Sean Penn; (2008) - Official Site

I saw I Can't Think Straight and Happy-Go-Lucky at the Roxie, Timecrimes at the Bridge, Milk at the Castro and Baby at the 4-Star.


I saw Milk at the Castro at a 4PM showing on a Tuesday afternoon. I was surprised at the crowd; I would guess there was over 750 people in the audience.

Although nominated for many Best Picture awards, I was not suitably impressed with Milk. Sean Penn transformed himself into Harvey Milk. As I recall from my teenage years when Penn dated and married Madonna, he was quoted using the word "faggot" in a derogatory manner when confronting paparazzi. Of course, that was many years ago and Sean Penn in 2008 doesn't bear much resemblance to Jeff Spicoli. Putting Penn aside, I thought the portrayal of Jack Lira (Diego Luna of Y Tu Mamá También fame) was pitifully shallow, unintentionally funny and less than one dimensional (if that is physically possible). After Lira commits suicide, Penn is forced to utter the following line through tears of grief - "I could have come home at 6:15!"

Josh Brolin's role as Dan White has elicited rave reviews. I have to admit that it is hard to take your eyes off Brolin when he is on the screen and his scenes with Penn show two actors at the top of their game. However, I wasn't sure if I was watching his scenes intently because of Brolin's performance or because I know what Dan White did. According to Penn's Harvey Milk, White was a closeted homosexual that created empathy from Milk towards White. I don't know if White was closeted; I have never heard that he was. However, by casting White's motivation in that die, White (the man and the character) is done a disservice. I didn't think Brolin was allowed to explore the depths of Dan White. Certainly the movie is about Harvey Milk so Dan White's motivations are secondary to his actions but I just didn't see the depth to his performance that I've read about in various reviews.

James Franco as Scott Smith and Emile Hirsh as Cleve Jones make the most of their screen time.

To be honest, I thought Milk was an entertaining biopic with the added bonus of being set in the 70's and filmed at San Francisco locations I'm familiar with. I don't think it is the Best Film of 2008. I was impressed with the opening title sequence which consisted of vintage footage of men being rousted by cops from gay bars in the 1950's or early 60's. Most men hid their faces but a few men didn't hide from the camera and their visages were ones of defiance, frustration, fear, anger and even apathy. There as also a fun split screen closing sequence where the actor was shown with the person they portrayed. The resemblance in many instances was profound.

Another observation - the first scene in the film shows Milk picking up Smith in a NYC subway station in 1970. I'm pretty sure that scene was filmed at Forest Hill Station in San Francisco. On the day I saw the film, I took Muni Metro Outbound. I wasn't paying attention and missed the Castro Station stop. I had to ride up to Forest Hill and catch the Inbound train back to Castro Station. I'm certain the scene on the stairs was filmed at Forest Hill Station.

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