Can You Tell?

14 Aug

Wow it’s been a long time since my last post. It has been an awfully busy and fun filled week so since my last review for Do the Right Thing, I have not had much time to make it on here. But rest assured, I have not forgotten nor neglected my responsibilities on this blog.

So today I would like to introduce everyone to a song called We’re Going to Be Friends by the The White Stripes (a terrific band). Many of you have probably heard this song since it plays over the opening credits of the heavily polarizing film Napoleon Dynamite. Despite what you may have thought about the movie, the opening credits sequence is whimsical as well as clever, and the song adds an additional layer of anticipation to the film. The lyrics almost serve like a form of foreshadowing in the movie (especially the main chorus of I can tell that we are gonna be friends) so it’s quite cool. The song is very simple in addition, and it serves to accentuate the theme of the film as well as place foremost attention of the viewer on the visual aspect of the credits. It’s a neat little trick. The song on its own is fantastic and very peaceful in my opinion. It’s something I like listening to when I take a walk or go driving for example.

If you have not seen Napoleon Dynamite, I would definitely recommend you check it out since it’s a nice comedy that a lot of people love. I personally did not think it was amazing but it was enjoyable and I definitely loved the opening sequence. Meanwhile, listen to We’re Going to Be Friends and I’m sure you will not regret it. I can tell that you are gonna love this song.

 

-Cinemabeats

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Black and White. Right and Wrong.

9 Aug

Film: Do the Right Thing

Director: Spike Lee

Year Released: 1989

Cast: Spike Lee, Danny Aiello, John Turturro, Rosie Perez

Available on Netflix Streaming: Yes

Available on Cuevana: No

Rating: 9.0/10

The Mayor: “This is The Mayor talking.”

Mookie: “Alright. Alright.”

The Mayor: “Doctor….”

Mookie: “Cmon Cmon…What?”

The Mayor: “Always Do the Right Thing!”

Mookie: “…That’s it?!”

The Mayor: “That’s it.”

That’s it. It sounds so simple when you put it that way but director Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing is anything but simple. It’s a disturbingly accurate depiction of inner racial tension and sentiment exploding into deadly and chaotic force. Keep in mind that Spike Lee made this film prior to the Rodney King riots of 1992 (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodney_King_riots) and the film’s vision seems all the more foretelling when put into chronological perspective. Certainly much more believable and honest than that melodramatic trash that the Academy gave the Best Picture Award to a few years back.

Let me tell you the story of Love and Hate.

In my last review of Trainspotting, I asked you to consider the decision between choosing life and not choosing life; here, Spike Lee asks you to very seriously consider the choice between doing what’s right and doing what’s wrong. This is a very different decision in nature, altogether; in fact,  people’s views on the exact meaning and understanding of right and wrong have such little universal conformity, that the decision becomes almost impossible to make at times. Are you truly doing something wrong? Is standing up for what you believe in, even if it means using some form of violence, inherently right or wrong? Is everything circumstantial? Is Fighting the Power as Public Enemy so deftly demands something wrong? Spike Lee forces us to ponder these many questions and contemplate our own feelings regarding race, morals and our civic duties. Sure this film is about race: examining black and white. But it also equally implores us to realize that most things are rarely ever just that: black and white.

The film explores the lives of several citizens, during a single day, living in the predominantly African-American neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. It just so happens that New York is going through one of its worst heat waves in history and everyone around is scrambling to cool off and escape the heat. This is impossible: Spike Lee drives his characters into several interactions that push them closer and closer to their boiling point until they can no longer withstand anymore heat. It is no coincidence that this story takes place on an extremely hot day. Heat represents intensity, frustration and stress: an unstable, smoldering pot of ingredients just ready to blow at any time. The characters that Spike Lee generates allow his film to transcend its simple story by breathing such vivid and authentic life into the intrigue as well as by playing off the racial relationship between each other. There is love, there is hate, there is uncertainty. One thing is for sure: these incredibly realistic portraits of Brooklyn will stick with you and you will remember their little quirks and tendencies forever. The cast is quite a pleasant surprise as Spike Lee himself plays main character, Mookie, who works for pizzeria owner, Sal, played incredibly well by Danny Aiello. Sure it does not feature an all star cast but you will recognize faces all over the place. As much as music and sound headline this blog, viewers should pay special attention to Spike Lee’s unique visual style.

Rosie Perez opens the film with a bang

In fact, the visual and the audible go right together hand in hand. The colors and fashions of the characters are bright, saturated and painfully characteristic of 90’s flair. Camera angles range from canted to overtly off center in order to bring attention to the terrible realism of the film: the fact that all these characters are on the verge of something awful. When the viewer sees loud colors, the viewer hears loud and strong sounds. When Spike Lee introduces viewers to quieter and smoother characters, we hear equally smooth jazz sounds along with cooler tones. One of the best blends of these two distinctive styles (yet unmistakeably African American based in culture) comes at the very beginning of the film, during the opening credits, when Public Enemy’s Fight the Power is remixed to a jazz composition alongside it. The implications of the mixture of these different musical genres only becomes clear as the film progresses and slowly we begin to grasp the significance of the opening credits’ visual component. I do not want to mention it in this review since I find it quite unique and considering this was Rosie Perez’s film debut, it makes it all the more special.

I will say that the film’s score did not strike me as particularly memorable despite its orchestral adherence to the jazz genre (if you like jazz you will love the score; the tracks sound relatively the same at times and too much so at times for me). However, the film’s soundtrack, which features Public Enemy and Perri, achieved several milestones on the Billboard 200 and has some fantastic songs. A nice reggae-inspired track of Steel Pulse plays towards the middle of the movie and gives the film an additional layer of cultural verve.  Of course, the most prominent song of the movie as I mentioned before in my previous post is none other than Public Enemy’s Fight the Power. The importance of this song can not be lost on the viewer; it plays repeatedly during the film on one of the character’s boomboxes (yeah this film is retro) and serves as a reminder to everyone that they must keep fighting oppression and powerful forces attempting to subjugate them. At an early point in the film, a character with some form of cerebral palsy mentions that even though Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. are both deceased, we must still keep fighting.

Indeed, this film was extremely controversial upon release due to its brutally honest portrayal of racism and critics’s fears that the film could incite riots all over the country. Now just appreciate the magnitude of that statement. A mere piece of cinema has the potential to instigate fundamental responses out of people. Quite amazing I must say. Whether Spike Lee intended his film to inspire people to fight back is unclear but the motivation is altogether irrelevant if one person gets that message from the film anyway. It only takes one to say we must fight! And another to say, no…we must do the right thing! Wait, could they both be the same thing? Who knows? So many people have watched this film and interpreted it differently that no, one clear universal message can be taken from it. Everyone will take something different from it. And I hate to say this but sometimes your race may even affect how you feel about this film. Because Spike Lee does force you to identify with his characters, his music, his world; and if you don’t like it or you’re not used to it, too bad! Whether the film makes you uncomfortable means nothing to Spike Lee because he didn’t set out to make you feel good in this movie. No, he set out to demonstrate that racism still exists in our society and that making/determining the right decisions never comes easy. The solution and responses are neither simple nor singular. Several viewers argue over whether the actions of certain characters are for the best, whether they are right or wrong…

A hugely important reference in Do the Right Thing

However you feel about this film, one fact remains clear. Spike Lee has created something that many films aspire to but few films achieve: the illustration of deep, raw human emotion in the context of race and self-examination. It references so many different moments in history, belief systems and cultural norms that we truly know that this is America. This is the country we live in and these are the issues we face every day. It’s no wonder why critics thought the film would spark violence; everything about it is just so real. Spike Lee does not filter or pretend. And that is why I love this film. It is the penultimate standard for films on racial and moral exploration. So as The Mayor so bluntly tells us, always remember to do the right thing…and go ahead and let me know what that is for sure once you figure it out.

Rating: 9.0/10

Soundtrack and Score: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Do_the_Right_Thing#Soundtrack

Here’s a couple great tracks from the film:

Fight the Power!

6 Aug

Time to introduce you to another great film that I have to grown to love over the years, watching it repeatedly, and gaining a new perspective with each viewing. I’m talking about Do the Right Thing, one of director Spike Lee’s earliest films and still to this day, his masterpiece, according to me. Spike Lee actually came to Maryland’s campus where I had the great pleasure of watching him speak. He definitely poured a lot of his personal experience and heart into this cinematic marvel. It’s a simple film in its premise, but oh how its story becomes increasingly complex as the day continues. The story takes place on a single day during a record breaking heat wave in Brooklyn, New York. I figure since we have had some horrible heat this summer, it’s time to examine one of cinema’s greatest examinations of racial relations reaching a boiling point. Again, review to come shortly. As some of you might have guessed, the current background for the blog comes from one of the scenes in the film. I hope to provide you guys these hints and clues so you can know where the direction of the blog is heading and what reviews I’ll be writing soon. In this case, Do the Right Thing can make you feel so many different things but I think whether you like the film or not, it will resonate with you in some way. Or at least I hope it does. Definitely try and find it and check it out.

In the meantime, I’d like to post a song, which features prominently and essentially into the film. None other than Public Enemy’s Fight the Power. If you have never heard this song before, shame on you. Honestly, this song is extraordinarily ingrained in hip-hop and rap popular culture. I don’t care if you’re not a fan of rap or hip-hop; this song transcends its genre. Anyways, in the rare case that you have not heard it, please listen to it and specifically the lyrics of the song. The song is so important in Do the Right Thing that the film would simply not be the same without it. In fact, I can never think of the song the same way since watching Do the Right Thing. It will always have an additional meaning to me after watching the film. So do yourself a favor: listen to some Public Enemy and then go ahead and watch Do the Right Thing. A great song and a great movie!

-Cinemabeats

A Cruel Symphony

3 Aug

Well no, actually it’s a bittersweet symphony a.k.a life, according to The Verve’s lead vocalist, Richard Ashcroft. I’m sure several of you have heard this song; the strings in the background are just so damn fantastic. The song plays at the end of Cruel Intentions and manages to make the ending scene all that more poignant and resonant. If you haven’t heard the song, please listen to it and I hope you guys will check out the movie it plays in, Cruel Intentions, as well. For those of you who haven’t seen it, I would describe it as a Mean Girls for the nineties but that does not quite describe it. It has a great cast including Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Philippe, Selma Blair and of course the beautiful Reese Witherspoon. There is no doubt in my mind that the movie would not be the same without this song nor would the song have gained as much exposure without the movie. One of the great examples of film and music’s healthy, symbiotic relationship. Enjoy!

http://www.cuevana.tv/peliculas/1279/cruel-intentions/

It’s actually a pretty cool video too I think.

 

-Cinemabeats

Mob Men

3 Aug

Sharks aren’t the only ones being honored this week as AMC has its Mob Week going on Aug 1-Aug 7. I have no idea why Rudy Giuliani is hosting but most of the films they are showing are exceptional. I would be wary, however, since most of them are heavily edited for television and so it’s really not as good as watching the original version. But I thought I’d let you guys know anyway, since I have enjoyed watching scenes from two of my all-time favorite films (The Godfather Part I and II) the past few days.

Take a gander at the lineup (see link) they have for the week and maybe look for some of these films; but make sure that they’re in their original and unedited glory. Seriously, Goodfellas is simply not the same on TV. I guarantee you will like at least one of those movies.

http://www.amctv.com/movie-event/amc-mob-week

-Cinemabeats

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…

2 Aug

More than thirty five years later and it’s still not safe to go in the water. In honor of Discovery’s fabled Shark Week, I’ve decided to throw a little bit of Jaws lovin’ into your lives. This film is still a classic and while it’s not one of my favorites, it’s a fantastic film that combines action, thrills and drama pretty well. The well-known theme that builds suspense and terror like few other themes out there still sounds as terrifying as ever. Not well known is the fact that Jaws mixes a nice range of tense and fearful strings while also featuring calming, barely audible piano keys. Kinda like being on both the serene yet also unforgiving ocean I suppose…

Anyways, among Star Wars, Indiana Jones and even Harry Potter, people often forget that John Williams composed this great score. Not gonna review this one but I definitely think everyone should check it out if you haven’t already (it’s a classic for a reason). What’s a better time than Shark Week?

-Cinemabeats

The Difference Between Great and Favorite

2 Aug

Imagine a hypothetical situation:

“Mrs. Doubtfire?!! I love that movie!!” you loudly react as you overhear a film buff speaking to his friends. He looks at you grotesquely and says, “Uhhh no we’re talking about Man on Wire… (see: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1155592/)” as they scoff and turn their backs on you. You look at them and raise your eyebrow, turning away and muttering under your breath, “Douchebag.”

You’ve just been victimized by what most individuals (and myself) like to call a “pretentious film douche bag.” In fact, most cinephiles get a bad rep for the commonly held perception that most of us are arrogant, self-absorbed jerks who love telling you how bad your taste in film is. Indeed, some cinephiles do commit this rather nasty crime by ignoring a key distinction that makes taste in film purely subjective all the time: the distinction between a great film and a favorite film.

Often, these so called pretentious film buffs believe that in order for an individual to have great taste in film, one’s favorite films must belong to some master class of technically wondrous cinema. In my opinion, this is simply false. You can truly love watching a film without it being a masterpiece of cinema or some radically voyeuristic experiment. Take myself for example: I absolutely love the film 10 Things I Hate About You and if I see it on TV, unless there’s something I prefer even more, I’ll change the channel and watch it. It’s one of those films that I can’t watch enough times: that holds true for all my favorite films! Now I would not consider 10 Things I Hate About You a technical or narrative masterpiece; in fact, I wouldn’t even consider it a great film. Nonetheless, I still enjoy watching the film and it still connects to me on some level to the point where it is one of my favorite films; does that make my taste in film any worse than any other person? Absolutely not and that’s just the point I’m trying to make. There is no almighty, set-in-stone standard for liking films; either you liked the film or not. Maybe you even liked it to the point that you could watch it multiple times and never get bored. Whether that film is The Godfather or The Mighty Ducks does not matter. Just because one is (in terms of film aspects) clearly superior to the other, does not mean you cannot prefer The Mighty Ducks or furthermore, possibly not even like The Godfather (though I do find that highly doubtful). Whether you like a film or not is purely subjective no matter what any critic may try to tell you.

Moreover, it works the other way too. There exists a multitude of movies that I respect and admire as astonishingly well made films, yet they are not my favorites nor do I care for them particularly. This is okay too. Even if a film has the best reviews of all time does not mean that you have to unconditionally love it. Why even watch the movie in the first place then?? On the other hand, there are plenty of technically masterful films that are my favorites. It works in every way!

So I guess I’m just trying to tell you, as film viewers, to think for yourself and if someone tells you you’re stupid for liking or not liking a film, just ignore it. If someone says you just didn’t get it or you’re not intelligent enough, ignore it. Maybe the film spoke to them on some deep level, but not to you. You and you alone judge a film’s merits! Even here on this blog you can disagree with my assessment of films. In fact, I encourage it. It’s a great way to learn about other people and demonstrate your alternative preferences. So go ahead and love Mrs. Doubtfire! Just always remember that there is a difference between great films and your favorite films, and they do not always have to be mutually inclusive.

-Cinemabeats

Trademarks Suck

1 Aug

So it has come to my attention that there exists a site called Cinebeats, whose name closely resembles the name I came up with for my blog. Thinking like a producer, that’s a big no no! Anyways, I’m trying to think of alternate titles and domain names at this time. But hey they’re not exactly the same, right? So for the time being, the name stays! If anyone has any clever titles, let me know. I do still like the sound and meaning of cinemabeats for this blog so I anticipate it will take some time to find a better name. Well hopefully sooner than later…

The Tough Choices

1 Aug

Film: Trainspotting

Director: Danny Boyle

Year Released: 1996

Cast: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Kelly MacDonald

Available on Netflix Streaming: Yes

Available on Cuevana: Yes

Rating: 9.7/10

Renton and Spud fly down a busy Edinburgh streeet as police follow

Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suit on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourselves. Choose your future. Choose life… But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin’ else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?

Consider these wise words from main character Mark “Rent-boy” Renton, played by Ewan McGregor, the next time you go to class, have dinner with your family, go to work, or purchase your newest technical gizmo to add to your coveted collection. In a short soliloquy, played along Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life and over images of Renton sprinting from the police, director Danny Boyle manages to summarize the entire meaning and significance of our lives. And what a life that is. Then again, Renton’s alternative lifestyle does not seem to provide a better solution, as Boyle demonstrates throughout the film. So what life is Boyle trying to tell us to live? Well it seems almost obvious: everything is a choice! You choose what to make of your life.

Boyle’s masterful film tells the tale of a group of friends, afflicted with heroin addiction, residing in Edinburgh Scotland, as they attempt to kick the habit and live a “better” life. Filled with humor, drama, intensity and moral depravity, Trainspotting succeeds on every level. We are introduced to perhaps the most deplorable yet sympathetic characters, and the story takes us through several turns in their lives. Perhaps the best moments in this masterpiece remain the scenes depicting withdrawal of main character, Renton, as he struggles to resist temptation and his several issues become apparent to the viewer. As much as people like to say that this is a movie about drugs, it is not. Sure, heroin is by and large the narrative paddle of the film. It does give the plot a base and allows the story to progress; however, this film is truly a documentation of the 90’s British culture and allows us to see five characters, honest and pure, making it through life in Scotland. For Boyle, there are no filters or ideas of painting a prettier picture. Never does he point or wave fingers at the actions of his characters. They are who they are and their choices influence their future. This is truly a film about finding yourself. And the terrific music in the film enhances this central motif.

Throughout the film, upbeat tempos contrast with subtle, moody tones (sometimes overlapped), which create a wide range of sounds and subsequently a quite eclectic soundtrack that is simply put, one of the best movie soundtracks of all time. Rarely does music complement the tone of films, much less add an extra layer of depth to a film’s core meaning and principle; however, Trainspotting’s soundtrack enriches the plot, the setting and the characters to the point where certain scenes of the film gain a musical identity.

Meet Spud: Hard to understand what he's saying sometimes

The Scottish setting of the film creates an extra dimension of sound: the language. Indeed, Scots can sound like they speak a different language at times, and Trainspotting illustrates their foreign, filthy mouths beautifully. Each character has a different cadence to their voice; the character Begbie for instance speaks with curtness and bluntness that induces a cacophony similar to what blunt force trauma must feel like. The exact correlation of character and their respective sounding voice by Boyle, establishes an authentic sub-culture that we are immediately drawn into.

The influences of Brit pop in this film cannot be ignored either. Damon Albarn (who went on to form the Gorillaz band) has his Closet Romantic playing over the end credits while one of my favorite songs of his former band, Blur, plays during an exceptional scene midway through the film. The Brit pop revolution had hit its apex during the release of Trainspotting in 96 and the associated mindset, culture and lifestyle had permeated much of Britain’s youth at the time. Simply put, Boyle’s story spoke to much of Britain’s youth at the time by portraying identifiable characters and a story that detailed the lost and existential sentiments of the youth. These individuals had chosen not to choose life but rather to ignore the everyday responsibilities that beckoned them towards their adulthood.

On an interesting side note, the film contains no music from Oasis, whom critics popularly coined the kings of the Brit pop revolution. On the other hand, soloist Iggy Pop’s significance on the film is very apparent, as the characters often mention his music and their taste for it. At one point, one of the character’s girlfriends tells him, it’s either me or Iggy Pop. Therein lies one of the fundamental themes of Trainspotting: what do we choose?

Former frontman for Blur, Damon Albarn

Well by the end, you gain a very substantial explanation from Renton while Underworld’s Born Slippy (great song) hammers the point home. I do not want to describe the end scene any further but for me, it remains one of the more magical and impressive combinations of imagery, dialogue and music in film history. This is a story about finding our niche in life and Trainspotting utilizes music in every way to bolster the story on every level. So much so that the music spanned not one, but two soundtracks.

So while the choices that Boyle presents in this film are the tough ones, the choice of whether to watch this film or not is an extremely easy one; in fact, it’s not much of a choice at all. Go watch Trainspotting!

http://www.cuevana.tv/peliculas/844/trainspotting/

Rating: 9.7/10

Here’s some of my favorite music from the film:

Sing by Blur

Atomic by Sleeper

Carmen Suite No. 2 by Georges Bizet

A full link to the track listing of the soundtrack(s): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trainspotting_%28soundtrack%29

-Cinemabeats

Argentina’s Dirty Little Secret

1 Aug

No this isn’t a post about an Argentinian film or its seedy history (see: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0089276/ )

Actually this is to tell all you lovely followers that there exists a wonderful site which streams Movies and TV absolutely free in extremely high quality.

It’s called Cuevana and is an Argentinian site, which explains all the Spanish but it is all legal in fact cause the owners of the site won a lawsuit a few years back. I won’t question it.

Here’s the link if you don’t believe me but it’s been one of my biggest sources for watching new film and tv as well as old films that I missed when I was younger. Check it out!

http://www.cuevana.tv/

-Cinemabeats