Off on an Adventure!

1 Dec

Well I’m a little late but I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I know I had a great one! While I wanted to start my next wave of introduction and review, I’m leaving for Nairobi, Kenya tomorrow and  I will not have enough time to get it up. I’ll be back on the eleventh and will hopefully have both the intro and review up that same week. In the meantime, I’d like to show you all an interesting silent film that music was later added to. This is by far one of the best examples of music’s influence on imagery. Watching it silently versus with sound create hugely different effects on the viewer. It’s a little more than an hour but the images in the film are amazing. It is a Russian film from 1929 known as The Man With a Camera. At that time, it really was the first film of its type. Watch it!

It’s split into parts on youtube. Just click on part 2 and so on when you’re finished with that one. Make sure it’s the same user because it seems only that one has the added orchestral soundtrack.



The Glory and Pain of Exception

22 Nov

Film: The Graduate

Director: Mike Nichols

Year Released: 1967

Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross

Available on Netflix Streaming: Yes

Available on Cuevana: Yes

Rating: 9.8/10


Exactly how I mean may be the first question that pops into your head after reading that word. Don’t worry. The same thought crosses the mind of main character Benjamin Braddock, played by the wonderful Dustin Hoffman. However, taken in context with the entire film, this quote manages to summarize the entire establishment that Benjamin is fighting against. Plastics is the establishment and Benjamin is the exception. At first, it seems like that establishment manifests itself in one clear manner in The Graduate. However, there are several nuances to the theme of non-conformity in a world which demands conformity in our futures.

Benjamin Braddock just "drifting" on the pool

Even the way in which Braddock’s mind operates supports this theme. It’s really what makes The Graduate so good. All the characters are developed amazingly well and they all complement the film’s subject sensationally. Benjamin is an odd figure: well respected by all the adults and well liked by the majority of his class. He is handsome and gets along well with girls. This quality is what becomes the driving force of much of the film. In Benjamin’s desires to be different from his parents and his classmates, he ends up creating most of the action in the film.

The biggest action in this film is undoubtedly the relationship between Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson. It is an altogether unnatural and strange connection they share. Mrs. Robinson is about twice the age of Benjamin and casually demands an intimate and sexual relationship of him. Benjamin eventually follows her seductive advances, believing that Mrs. Robinson can be his way of shifting the norm. While all his friends and peers are out with their girlfriends at night and thinking about graduate schools during the day, Benjamin sneaks around during the night to visit Mrs. Robinson and drifts around on the pool during the day, apparently quite self-satisfied by his accomplishments. Not a thought is given to the future.

Their relationship instigates much of the intrigue of the film

And that’s what creates the central conflict in The Graduate. Benjamin hardly ever realizes that by pursuing a life so vastly different from the expectation, his future becomes extremely uncertain. From the very beginning shot of Benjamin moving on the moving walkway in the airport, where the camera deftly managing to hide what is in front of Ben, to the very end shot (won’t spoil that), the film creates this sort of anxiety in the viewer. The source of this anxiety is the tremendous amount of uncertainty that Benjamin faces in his life. Had he chosen to conform to the same standards as his peers and parents, his life would surely have more of a fixed route. This uncertainty can become unbearably troubling and creates a huge dilemma in choosing the unconventional.

However, director Mike Nichols completely insults such a mind-numbing lifestyle. He instead celebrates the uncertainty that comes with life and that has come to characterize much of the youth of the day. The so called quarter life crisis that sociologists speak of today was visualized more than forty years ago by Nichols. That’s probably where this film hits home the hardest. I plan on posting a short write-up on this topic. When you watch a film (that is the actual moment in your life) can significantly alter your perception and understanding of it. Watching The Graduate again a few months leading up to graduation, I found that my appreciation of the film’s subject and themes had increased exponentially. This has happened to me repeatedly and is one of the key reasons that watching films again is by no means a waste of time. Our attitudes shift, our lives change, and we connect to different things as we grow older. Well like I stated in the film introduction a week ago, this film is an absolute must watch for college students (especially those graduating soon).

This is the future that beckons Benjamin. Or at least what his parents want.

Alright, on to the music now. Simon and Garfunkel composed and performed the entire soundtrack. The hugely famous Mrs. Robinson is featured in the film and it’s catchy nature makes those moments when it plays in the film extremely fun to watch. However, the  track which I find absolutely remarkable is the track which plays at both the beginning and end of the film. The Sound of Silence has some nostalgic, regretful and somewhat hopeful quality that makes it incredibly complex. The lyrical quality is top notch here and the voice of Paul Simon is legendary. He has a softness to his voice that just goes straight to the soul. The songs are fairly slow so all may not be a fan of the slower, folksy quality. However, I think that most will find the soundtrack absolutely incredible. Each song complements the onscreen action very well and also connects to the film’s central themes as well. When The Sound of Silence plays at the end…wow that scene would simply not be the same without it. One of the best examples thus far in this blog of music’s impact on film.

I really don’t want to say much more about the film. It’s one of those stories that are best left discovered and interpreted by the viewer. It’s a terrific piece by Mike Nichols and definitely is his best film. If you are a college student and you don’t feel an ounce of what Ben feels, well then I honestly feel sorry for you. This is a film that will be relevant for years on end! Check it out!!/peliculas/3163/the-graduate

Rating: 9.8/10

Some of the great music:


The Next Step in Silence

14 Nov

Alright next on the chopping block is a fantastic film known as The Graduate directed by Mike Nichols. This is a wonderful film that manages to mix just about every great thing about cinema into one fine production.

I really want to review this film now because I am graduating myself in a little less than a month, and this film manages to convey an absolutely accurate portrayal of the crossroads of life. Dustin Hoffman plays Benjamin and like Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver, this role truly propelled Hoffman into stardom. The story centers around a recent graduate who is looking for some source of inspiration of where to go in his life. What he finds is particularly interesting. The character of Benjamin is also very interesting. He has some quirky characteristics and reacts to situations in an almost impulsive and erratic manner (like many graduates out of college).

Uncertainty is the key in this movie. The music composed by mainly Simon and Garfunkel nicely complements this theme. There are such good songs and sounds heard in this movie. It is truly one of the finest combinations  of imagery and sound in any film all time. Take a look at it. It is particularly relevant for college students (I know most of my readers are in college) and also resonated with me even more strongly when I watched it again recently.

Take a listen to one of the wonderful songs by Simon and Garfunkel called The Sound of Silence. Review should be up sometime this week!


Portrait of a Misanthrope as a Vigilante

9 Nov

Film: Taxi Driver

Director: Martin Scorsese

Year Released: 1976

Cast: Robert DeNiro, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepard, Harvey Keitel

Available on Netflix Streaming: No

Available on Cuevana: Yes

Rating: 10/10

Loneliness has followed me my whole life. Everywhere. In bars, in cars, sidewalks, stores, everywhere. There’s no escape. I’m God’s lonely man… June 8th. My life has taken another turn again. The days can go on with regularity over and over, one day indistinguishable from the next. A long continuous chain. Then suddenly, there is a change.

One of the views of Travis Bickle. He is truly complex.

Finding just one quote to sum up the entire sentiment of Taxi Driver proved extremely difficult because of the film’s many layers and multifaceted quality (look at the title of this review if you have doubts).  However, this line spoken by main character Travis Bickle, played by Robert DeNiro, seems to encompass the general progression of the basic intrigue of the film. Director Martin Scorsese first introduces us to the life of Travis Bickle and the environment that surrounds this man. The interaction between nighttime New York City and Bickle seems simple at first, but as the film moves forward, the viewer finds an increasingly complex dynamic in the psyche of Bickle. Then suddenly, as Bickle so daftly states, “a change.” The nature of this change cannot fully be stated nor understood. The motivations are arguable but the reasons (be they rational or irrational) lie solely within the mind of Travis.

And that is exactly what this film deals with: the mind and psyche of a lonesome New York City cab driver. He is an interesting figure; not because his life or personality is particularly captivating, but because he possesses both elements of a hero or a villain. What exactly does that make Travis Bickle then? It is difficult to say, and the film manages to convey that both literally on screen and also under the surface through subtle implications. Regardless of his character, Bickle does resolve to fight back against the scum that he reviles. That is his outlet against the monotony and the incurable, painful insomnia that plagues his entire existence. He is a misanthrope in all senses of the word. He has neither family nor friends. He is not well socialized nor does he attempt to become so. His thoughts are expressed solely in his diary. But Bickle’s ruminations border on a much more dangerous edge than simply misanthropic.

Cybill Shepard plays Betsy. Her influence on Travis is quite significant.

His thoughts soon become violent. The famous “You talking to me?” scene captures this transformation beautifully. Under the right pressures, a man can be pushed to commit a great number of terrible or heroic acts (they can be construed either way). The idea of legacy plays a key role in Taxi Driver. The imprint that we leave on our lives matters significantly to many of us. Will the world remember us as heroes or villains? Saints or demons? Or perhaps completely unmemorable. DeNiro’s constant monologues reveal this anxiety as he demonstrates his will and desire to stand out as one man who stood up against the filth and the scum.

Having said that, Bickle cannot be well understood without understanding the “filth and the scum” that drives him for much of the film. The constant reminders and backdrop of the presidential primary, which has the potential to change the face of New York City, play a huge role in the film. Senator Palantine stands in stark contrast to Bickle; a man going through the political institution to enact change. Not much is ever said about Palantine’s policies (conveyed through Bickle’s ignorance) but he serves as a higher being in the film. He is everything that Travis cannot be. Having said that, this contrast makes it difficult and maybe even impossible for Palantine to actually get rid of all the crime and misconduct in New York City. Bickle perceives the problem through a different lens and acts out violently to make his point clear.

Scorsese does a masterful job of establishing the disgusting back alleys of seventies New York City, and his visual scheme always displays some form of corruptibility. The sidewalks are littered with non-amiable pimps, junkies, whores, degenerates and everything in between. However, Bickle finally gains a friend in the form of young Jodie Foster’s character, Iris. This relationship is extremely complex and develops in a rather interesting manner. Through Iris, Bickle attempts to gain some form of redemption.

The music in the film concentrates mostly around the main theme that I posted earlier. It is a wonderful, recurring theme that places the viewer in a myriad of emotional states (much like Travis). The true magic of Scorsese’s work here is not necessarily the quality of the music (though it is awesome). What truly makes each moment when it plays amazing is how Scorsese manages to pull so many sentiments from the music, depending on the visual context of each scene. Take the beginning scene where it plays and compare it to the end scene where it similarly plays. The imagery is quite similar here actually, yet each scene is respectively infused with contrasting ideas. Here, one can begin to see how imagery and sound truly come together to push a certain message or feeling. The atmosphere depends heavily on this marriage in Taxi Driver. And it makes the film so successful. Earlier, in my review of Do the Right Thing, I commented how the jazz sounds were far too one-note for me. One could possibly wonder how I do not feel the same way about Taxi Driver. Fair question. It is the character development and integral quality of the jazz that makes it not only bearable in Taxi Driver but extremely enjoyable. It is a film that depends on its sound as much as its characters and imagery. Diary of a Taxi Driver is a particularly interesting piece on the soundtrack. All the songs complement each other very nicely and it makes for an all together solid soundtrack. Not necessarily music I would listen to by itself (which has not been the case for most of the music I”ve posted before) but it adds an essential element to the film.

The relationship between Jodie Foster's Iris and Travis is quite unique. A source of salvation in an unlikely place.

Undoubtedly, Taxi Driver has an indescribable quality to it. Some do not know how to feel when the film ends. The ending I will say is rather breathtaking and truly manages to round out the entire film nicely. This is one of those films that stays with you. Bickle is not necessarily relateable  but there are parts of him that we see in ourselves. His frustration, his desperation, his longing, his despair. Without DeNiro’s performance, Taxi Driver would simply not be the same. A character and a film that speaks about so many issues. It manages to do it all perfectly. It is that rare form of art that operates on a entertainment level as well. Masterpiece does not even begin to describe it.

Rating: 10/10

Some of the music:



All Around the World

4 Nov

The Bicycle Thief, Let the Right One In, Breathless, Run Lola Run, Pan’s Labyrinth.

What do all these films have in common? Besides being incredibly well-made films, they all come from another country and industry besides our own behemoth known as Hollywood.

Now take a step back…how many of these films do you know and how many do you know by their actual foreign title? I’m going to go ahead and assume that most of you have not heard of all these films. And I don’t blame you. I mean the audience is not to blame for not knowing about movies. It comes to down to what we are exposed to, and we are naturally exposed to films and movies that come from our own country.

However, there is a firm belief in some casual moviegoer’s eyes that foreign films are somehow not as good as their Hollywood counterparts. Not only is this untrue, but foreign films tend to think ahead of the curb when it comes to film quality. While American films sometimes generate standards for film, historically, it has been foreign cinema that has introduced new elements and styles to film.

Take the film Breathless for example: it introduced a style of editing never before seen in film. Now this was a major risk, one that could have totally backfired, but Jean-Luc Godard, the director, was fearless and believed in changing people’s perception of film. And this exact mindset is what made Breathless one of the greatest French films ever made (and one of my favorite films of all time). However, most people have not even heard of this movie. It has two things going against it. It is an old, black and white 1950’s film (I talked about this before: and it is a foreign film. However, this does not mean that it should warrant any less attention than your modern Hollywood flick (let’s say The Bourne Identity). Now let’s be clear. I love The Bourne Identity but many people like this movie because it was in English and a Hollywood product (something familiar). Now let’s imagine that the same film were in German. Would it have been as successful? Probably not. Most Hollywood flicks that take place in other countries (Tom Cruise’s Valkyrie for example) do not even attempt to speak the actual language of the country. Not only is this inauthentic but it is extremely lazy.

Some people do not like to read subtitles. This is unfortunate. While reading subtitles and watching a film can be difficult for some people, it does not suggest that the film is in any way less excellent. Foreign films often offer different perspectives than American films, and they include dramatic elements that are not frequently seen in Hollywood. It becomes extremely refreshing when you watch films like these.

Latin American films in particular appeal to me most. They have a quality about them that makes them very intriguing. The language and associated cinematography have a wonderful marriage with one another. It is what makes Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Alfonso Cuaron two of my favorite directors.

Nevertheless, all foreign cinema has a certain charm to it. There are so many films to discover. Wonderful ones. Whether they be Indian, French, German, Spanish, Mexican, Persian or Chinese, they all have something different to offer and it’s about time people started taking notice! Because there are films that exist outside of this country. And there is cinematic joy to be found all around the world!

Give ’em a chance!

Here are some good ones to check out:

Amelie, Y Tu Mama Tambien, The Red Balloon, Memories of Underdevelopment, Rudo y Cursi, Flame and Citron, Oldboy, Ip Man, The Secret in Their Eyes, Amores Perros, The 400 Blows, Battle Royale, Tsotsi, The Edge of Heaven.

So many more exist so go find them. The ones I listed at the top of the post are excellent as well!


Driving a Lonely Cab in New York City

1 Nov

Hope everyone had a wonderful Halloween! I know I sure did. I actually went ahead and did another to homage to Hunter S. Thompson by dressing up as him for Halloween. Picture below:

Fear and Loathing truly inspired me this year.

Anyways, I’d like to go ahead and introduce you all to the next film I will be reviewing. If I had a Top Ten favorite films list, this film would definitely be in the top five. I’m talking about Taxi Driver (directed by Martin Scorsese) starring Robert DeNiro in the principal role. DeNiro’s performance in this role definitely helped jump-start his illustrious acting career. The film tells the wonderful story of a solitary taxi cab driver who becomes obsessed with fighting back against the scum and immorality of seventies New York City. However, that summary does not even begin to do the film justice.

The score, done by Bernard Herrmann (his last score before he died), adds a wonderful layer to the film’s plot. It mirrors the easygoing elements of seventies New York City while also capturing the essence of the scum and venality that Bickle sees on the streets and in his cab on a daily basis. The main theme of the film just evokes so many sentiments of loneliness and despair while also conveying feelings of inner peace and acceptance. The saxophone and piano sound very jazzy and have a beautiful interplay with one another. This film manages to mix all these elements and create one of the finest final products of all time. Review will not likely be up until next week but in the meantime, check out the soundtrack (or even the film). It is unquestionably one of the best films ever made. Still Scorsese’s masterpiece in my opinion.


The Lost Ones

29 Oct

Film: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Director: Terry Gilliam

Year Released: 1998

Cast: Johnny Depp, Benicio del Toro, Tobey Maguire

Available on Netflix Streaming: Yes

Available on Cuevana: Yes

Rating: 9.1/10

Dr. Gonzo: Let’s give that boy a lift…

Raoul Duke: What? No! We can’t stop here. This is bat country!

Yes indeed, it seems the drugs have started to take hold. On many more than one occasion, Raoul Duke, portrayed by Johnny Depp, spits out some outlandish, absurd and frenzied comment on the current state of affairs, like the one quoted above. In effect, this film does not have a conventional beginning, middle and end; instead relying on highlighting the “now” and what state of mind the characters find themselves in at each moment. There is no real plan for these two. Therefore, its unconventional nature makes it somewhat difficult to review. Difficult but not impossible. The film essentially tells the story of two men searching for the American Dream, as they head to Las Vegas to cover a story and get lost in their insane world of psychedelic drugs.

A man too rare to die. The man Raoul Duke.

Starting off with our two “heroes” is probably the best starting point. Johnny Depp plays the particular oddity known as Raoul Duke, a Doctor of Journalism, whose eccentric behavior is nicely complemented by the terrifying fierceness and smothering attitude of Benicio Del Toro’s character, Dr. Gonzo, Duke’s attorney and drug buddy. These two characters represent the entire soul of the film. They make it what it is by infusing such overwhelming greed, gluttony and excess into each and every moment of the film. The first instinctual reaction is to be disgusted. However, take a closer look and one can see how Gilliam uses his characters to lampoon the American mindset and lifestyle. They are creatures of desire and not necessity. Their drug-filled adventures escalate further and further to multiple breaking points where one would imagine everything would collapse, and reason would win over the duo. Not the case for these two. In America, if things don’t turn out right doing it one way, we don’t change what we’re doing; we just keep doing what we’re doing until it becomes right.

Such is the essence of this film. It is easy to get lost in the shuffle of the numerous drugs, visuals and references that the film contains. At first glance, it may seem like nothing more than a pointless meandering on the lives of two drug-crazed individuals reaching the apex of depravity. However, at each turn, the film relays hidden messages. The endless possibilities in this country, personal freedom (and the loss thereof), rejection of conventional responsibilities as well as the meaning of the American Dream, in relation to the generation born out of the 60’s and 70’s, are all subtly explored by Thompson and placed on screen by Gilliam.

Raoul Duke narrates much of the film, ruminating on this experience with his attorney. His insights are mad, thoughtful, nonsensical and damn chock full of wit. His extremely deep reflection on the drug culture of the 60’s (particularly San Francisco) evokes such a nostalgic and regretful quality. The end monologue by Duke truly brings the entire theme and significance of the film together. The viewer realizes exactly who these two characters are and the context behind all the action in the film. It’s quite incredible.

You don't look so good Mr. Duke

Terry Gilliam has always had an extremely unique visual style and vision. It is no different here. Fear and Loathing constantly makes you feel like you are tripping right alongside Duke and Gonzo. The subtle change of colors, the onscreen shifting of objects, and the frequent off-center “canted” shots give an off-balance and unhinged characteristic to the film. The viewer can feel the inner tension of Duke and Gonzo, their anxiety, their zany view and perception of the world around them.

In addition, the music adds an additional layer to this visceral experience. It offers the sort of old-time tunes you would expect from 70’s Vegas but it still manages to retain this sense of frenzy and panic. For example, in the beginning where Brewer & Shipley’s One Toke Over the Line plays is just fantastic and truly builds the atmosphere and mystique of the two characters. White Rabbit has a tremendous significance in the film and that song is just awesome. Like I stated in the film intro post, the soundtrack is quite eclectic and despite what you may think of the film, it is hard to say that the soundtrack is not amazing. The drug score is just an incredible recurring track that gives those scenes a very out of world feeling. Simply put, this soundtrack captures the vibe and essence of old time Vegas beautifully.

People see this film for what it shows but rarely can they see it for what it signifies: the lost search for the American Dream, a lost generation, a lost sense of purpose. The journey of these two men dives straight to the center of those notions. They themselves are lost and are searching. It takes a little searching yourself to see it. If you come in with an open mind, you will most likely find yourself in love with the characters that move this story forward. They are despicable yet they are amusing. They are clueless yet indeterminably clever. All these contradictions establish a hysteria of interwoven, conflicting emotions and sentiments that come with doing multiple drugs at once. Regardless, Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo remain two of the most memorable onscreen characters of all time, and their antics reflect their completely uncertain future, leaving Las Vegas on a straight road, yet lost and astray.  Next stop: The American Dream.

"Well... I guess you're about ready, then, aren't you?"

Rating: 9.1/10

Now some of the great music from the movie:

A lot of the songs contain lines from the movie on the soundtrack. Also some have footage from the movie as well.

The whole soundtrack is really amazing! Give it a watch and listen!


Welcome Back to the World of Cinema (filled with Fear and Loathing)

24 Oct

After more than a month away, I have finally decided to return to the world of cinema. I am very glad to be back and I feel more inspired and ready to introduce you folks to some fine cinematic masterpieces out there. I have decided to restart with a new slate so I will not be reviewing The Usual Suspects as I said I would a month ago. Instead, I have decided, in honor of Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary, which releases later this week, to review the delightful yet frightening Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas starring Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro. Let me perfectly blunt. This is not a movie for everyone. It dives into just about the deepest depths of moral depravity and has consequently polarized folks very harshly since its release. I happen to fall onto the lovers side of the spectrum and I must say that Terry Gilliam, one of my favorite directors, truly did justice to Hunter S. Thompson’s masterpiece of a novel.

The film details the “trip” of an oddball journalist and his even stranger attorney in Las Vegas as they plunge into a series of intensifying drug-filled adventures. Again, be warned that this film may not be your particular cup of tea. However, if you’re still reading, I will say that despite what you think of this film, it has an awesome soundtrack. The music team really did a wonderful job with original compositional work as well as including some classic songs. Perry Como, Debbie Reynolds and Dead Kennedys all make an appearance. The beginning also features arguably the best cover of Favorite Things, made famous by Julie Andrews, and it plays over a very interesting montage that goes to the heart of the film. The essence of the American Dream and the American Life.

Whatever you think of this film, the first ten minutes of this film are incredible. Depp is just fantastically amazing in this. No one is better at playing weird than Johnny but he really plays a different type of weird here. Here’s the beginning cover by the Lennon Sisters. Review will hopefully be up on Thursday.


A Short Hiatus

13 Sep

Alright so I apologize for the uncustomary delay since my last post. However, with school having started and the approach of my sister’s wedding in two weeks, I have found that I do not have much time to devote to the writing of this blog. That does not by any means suggest that I am done. I plan to resume my work on this blog once my schedule clears up a little bit. I will be back in full force hopefully in a few weeks but for now, I do plan on taking a little break. I might periodically still put up music and movie intros in the meantime but do not expect any full fledged reviews for now.


Piano Noir

5 Sep

I would next like to review a film that is vastly different from anything I have reviewed to this point. The film is called The Usual Suspects and is directed by Bryan Singer. Like the film’s title might suggest, it does not feature your usual array of big stars but instead chooses to utilize a very strong group of typically supporting actors to build the film. Well, they all do an exceptional job because it’s the characters that become the spotlight of the film’s central thematic device.

This is a film that focuses on looking back at past events as an FBI agent interrogates a timid man as to how a string of murders was committed upon a ship the previous night. The soundtrack features a lot of piano to set up this mysterious effect (the film in effect is a play off the typical noir genre) and to give the film a very nebulous quality. Clarity is extremely hard to find sometimes in this film. It is that dynamic that keeps the film completely engrossing, thrilling and mystifying through and through.

So check out The Usual Suspects or wait for my review if you have reservations. In the meantime, take a listen to this beautiful track that plays over the opening credits. As I explained in a few posts earlier in August, music over the opening credits can really set the tone for the film. The end effect is no different here. Ignore the opening part of the video.