Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Criterion Collection: Lacombe, Lucien

A French film. Never in my life did I think I would watch a French film.  However, for our next Criterion film Sam and I chose the 1974 French film, Lacombe, Lucien. It turned out to be a good choice.

The film was in French with English subtitles which I actually enjoyed. I prefer to watch foreign films with subtitles because I like to hear the language. This film deals with French collaboration with the Germans during World War II. The story follows a young man, Lucien, who first attempts to join the French resistance. When that doesn't work he informs on the resistance to the Gestapo and ends up as a new recruit. Lucien seems to have some sociopath tendencies. He relishes killing animals at the beginning of the movie and move easily onto killing men later. Sam pointed out that he doesn't even seem to care about the politics of the situation either. Neither the German cause nor the French cause seem to matter to him-- he just wants to be involved. However, he is a bit more complicated than I've explained. He does care about other people and even risks his life to save the lives of others from the Germans.

The film touches on the atrocities committed by the Germans and also the retaliations by the resistance. I was  struck by how familiar some of the tactics used by the resistance against the Germans. They reminded me of the news I see of insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. I saw the resistance fighters as heroes, but I'm sure the Germans saw them as terrorists. According to the Criterion page, this was the first French film to deal with the subject of collaboration. It must have been a difficult topic for the French to talk about let alone see a film about.

I enjoyed my introduction to French Film and will be looking forward to seeing some more.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Criterion Collection: Stagecoach

This is the movie that launched the long collaboration between director John Ford and actor John Wayne. Wayne would go on to appear in 24 Ford films over his career including The Searchers and The Man who Shot Liberty Valance. Stagecoach pushed Wayne to stardom and helped elevate the western movie genre from B-list to A-list. 

Stagecoach tells the story of a group of people on a stagecoach going through dangerous country during an Apache uprising. The fear of the characters is palpable whenever someone mentions the name of the legendary Apache chief, Geronimo. The stagecoach riders all have different reasons for taking the dangerous ride but have to work together in order to survive. The movie is tense while still being lighthearted at times.

I've had fun this year discovering how much I like John Wayne. Over the past few months I've seen eight or nine John Wayne films, all of them westerns and most of them directed by John Ford.

The Duke of Awesome
I enjoyed the movie. I was excited and entertained throughout the whole film. Sam, however, thought it was a little slow and when I told my brother-in-law we watched he made a derogatory noise. I guess he isn't a fan. While I don't think Stagecoach is the best western movie I've ever seen I can understand why it is important enough to be included in the collection. It launched the career of an American icon and helped future filmmakers produce A-list westerns.

Over his career John Ford's films would earn 13 Academy Award nominations and win seven.  Ford himself won four Oscars for best director, including one for Stagecoach. John Wayne would win one Oscar for best actor for his role in True Grit.

If you want some suggestions for great John Wayne westerns try The Searchers, Red River or Hondo. For something a little lighter try my mom's favorite, McLintock which also stars my wife's favorite actress, Maureen O'Hara. O'Hara and Wayne made five films together including another of my wife's favorites, The Quiet Man, which was directed by John Ford. See, everything is connected.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Criterion Collection: Walkabout

Sam and I went far outside of our comfort zones in picking the second film from the Criterion Collection to watch-- and we loved it. We picked 1971's "Walkabout" directed by Nicolas Roeg. Roeg has directed many films four of which are included in the Criterion Collection. He also directed a movie that may have scarred Sam for Life, "Witches." 
The film is the story of two Australian children lost in the dessert. They have very few supplies and are not sure how they are going to survive until they meet and Aborigine boy on his "walkabout," a right of passage into manhood, who helps them. He teaches them how to find food, water and shelter. This is a bare bones minimum description of what happens in the movie. All I can say is that Sam and I enjoyed it. The film stars Jenny Augtter, who I had seen and loved in "Logan's Run" and most recently as one of the faceless council members in "The Avengers," as the girl. The director's son, Luc Roeg as the younger brother. And finally, David Gulpili as the aborigine boy. Gulpili's real life story was fascinating. He grew up in a traditional culture and was discovered by the director who saw him performing traditional dances. He didn't even speak English when they filmed the movie. He became something of an ambassador for Aborigine's after the movie. 

Here is what Sam and I liked most about the movie-- we talked about the film a lot while watching it. We had to stop and talk because there was so much to talk about we couldn't wait until the end. Sometimes we had to stop the film and talk about what just happened and try to figure out exactly what was going on. I know that may make us sound stupid, but it was our favorite thing. We were completely engrossed and engaged in this movie and we wanted to talk about it with each other. This movie left us feeling so full we had to share it. We talked about the actors, the scenery, the music, the dancing and the heartbreak. In fact, with both movies from this collection we have a lot to talk about after watching. Honestly, when we finish most movies we see all we say is, "Did you like it?" and "Yeah, I liked it." No real discussion about the movie because most often there isn't much to the movie to talk about. That sounds stuck up, but give some of these movies a try and you'll probably understand where I'm coming from. 

We'll be watching another movie this weekend. I'll let you know how it goes. 

P.S. A word of warning to some of my friends. There is nudity in this movie from all three of the main characters.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Criterion Collection

For some time now my Brother-in-Law, Gavin, has been encouraging me to watch movies from the Criterion Collection. Criterion is a film distribution company that restores and sells important films. In fact, the Criterion mission statement says the company "has been dedicated to gathering the greatest films from around the world and publishing them in editions that offer the highest technical quality and award-winning, original supplements"(see http://www.criterion.com/about_us).  Many of you may be somewhat familiar with the Criterion Collection because of all the ads for it on hulu.com. Gavin made my a long list of films to watch and since I had just signed up for Hulu Plus I thought I'd give them a try. One of the first things I noticed from scanning through the popular picks section of the Criterion page on Hulu is that a lot of the films are about teenage sexuality. Most of those did not interest me and if they don't interest you either rest assured there are a lot of other films to choose from. Skip what everyone else on Hulu is watching and you will find something that interests you. For example, I like Samurai movies and there are a lot of those.

Not only did Gavin give me a list of films to watch he gave me a recommendation for a first film. My wife and I like spy movies so Gavin suggested we watch "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold." This is a 1965 film directed by Martin Ritt and stars Richard Burton and Claire Bloom. The only other film from Martin Ritt I've ever seen is "Murphy's Romance," which I enjoyed. As for Richard Burton, I've only seen him in "Cleopatra," and I saw Claire Bloom in "The King's Speech."  The film is about a British spy (Burton) during the cold war. He is conducting what he hopes will be his last assignment when he falls for a librarian (Bloom) who he is working with as part of his cover. The relationship ends up putting the complex espionage operation in jeopardy.

Let me just say I loved this film. I have to thank Gavin because it was the perfect introduction to the collection for me. It is a fantastic thriller that I most likely never would have found on my own. First and foremost, the thing I appreciated most was the steady camera shots. For a guy whose only spy thrillers have been Tom Clancy and Jason Bourne movies filled with their shaky cam and rapid fire screen cuts actually being able to see what's happening was a huge bonus. The slow steady shots in this film help set the entire pace and mood of the movie. This isn't a race to the end action thriller with car chases and explosions. This is a movie about smart people trying to out-smart each other. The two opposing sides in the film, the British and East Germans, are represented by thoughtful, intelligent agents who work hard to further their goals. Second, I actually loved the somewhat slow pace of the film. It helped me digest just how much was actually going on during cryptic conversations and shots of Burton's character seemingly wandering around acting like a drunk. One of my favorite parts of the movie is watching Richard Burton's character ride multiple forms of public transportation in order to ensure he isn't being followed. I also loved the long opening shot of the Berlin Wall, and I don't know if I've ever felt so tense watching a movie as I did watching Burton's character anxiously wait to see if one of his agent's will pass safely through the wall's checkpoint  Finally, the ending, which I won't spoil, is heartbreaking and beautiful.

I've made a long list of my own to go with Gavin's of movies from the collection I want to watch. As I watch them I'm going to try and write down a few thoughts about each of them. I'm not trying to write reviews of the films, but I do hope some others might decide to watch them after reading what I have to say. Mainly, I want to expand my tastes and appreciation of film. I love watching movies, but lately I've been let down by a lot of the new movies I see. I'd like to start seeing film as an art form and not just as a form of entertainment. I'm excited to see what these films have to show me.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Grown-up Life

What I thought I'd look like as an attorney.

I've decided that being a grown-up can sometimes be fun. Sure, there's all of the bills, paying rent, and buying things like health insurance, but it turns out there are a lot of fun things too. Sam and I are enjoying married life. It's been almost a year since our wedding, but we seem to like each other even more than we did then.

One part of this new grown-up life is having real full time jobs. I've been in school so long I got use to a certain lifestyle. Sam started working as an attorney for a social security disability firm. She works long hours, but enjoys the close contact she gets with her clients. She hears some heartbreaking life stories but she has a chance to help people. I, on the other hand, am a financial compliance attorney for Wolters Kluwer Finacial. I'm working on a research project for the company. It's only a contract position so I'll be looking for work again in September. However, we are making enough money to meet all of our expenses and even put some away in savings.
What I really look like as an attorney. 

My family is coming to visit this summer. We're both looking forward to that. We're also thinking about going on a road trip for a few days for our anniversary. Sometimes it's nice to be a grown-up.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Job hunt, wedding plans, and a law school diploma.

I have two big things in my life right now. Searching for a job and planning a wedding. The wedding plans are going well. Sam and I have put together an invitation list, called the temple, found a dress and suit, and have even picked the place for out honeymoon. We are both getting a lot of help from family and friends, and the process hasn't been too stressful. Sam's dress is beautiful. My mom and sister were a little shocked that I saw a picture of the dress, but Sam and I aren't very traditional. I decided to wear a suit instead of renting a tux, so Sam and I went shopping on Friday. We tried three different places and found a good suit at Macy's. Sam's dress and my suit together cost less than $600.

The job hunt is not going well. I've had six interviews in the last two months and haven't been able to get a job. I get rejections letters almost daily. I just received one that hurt a little. It was an entry level position as a publishing assistant. They told me I didn't have enough experience, but I guess I thought an entry level job didn't require much experience. It was sad because I think I would have enjoyed the job. I'll have to keep looking, but I am getting frustrated. I had hoped that a law degree would help me get a job, but nobody seems interested in it. They all want someone with experience, and I can't figure out how I'll ever get any without someone taking the chance and giving me a job.

On a happy note, my diploma arrived this week. It is a pretty piece of paper. It's comforting to know that I did, indeed, graduate from law school. Now I have proof.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Engagement and Wedding Plans

Sam and I officially got engaged on January 29th. We both knew it was coming, but Sam thought I was waiting until I had enough money to buy a nice ring. Unfortunately, the job hunt isn't going well and I realized if we waited until I had enough money we might have to wait a long time. I bought a relatively inexpensive wedding band and planned on giving her that as a place holder.
That evening we had plans to go see the Minnesota Orchestra in downtown Minneapolis. Since we would both be dressed up and going to a nice event I thought this would be the perfect time to propose. I picked Sam up and drove her to a park near the law school where we used to go on warm days. There is a particular bench in the park that we liked to sit at and where Sam also told me she didn't want to date me. I thought it was fitting to propose at the bench. When I pulled over at the park Sam knew something was up and she was nervous.  We couldn't make it to the actual bench because of the deep snow, so I stopped nearby on the sidewalk. I knelt down, pulled out the ring, and asked her to marry me. Sam started talking really fast and saying things like, "I can't believe this is happening" and so forth. All the while I was kneeling in the snow and my knee was quickly getting wet. However, she did say yes and the ring was too big. She liked it anyway. In fact, she liked the band so much that we found a nice, expensive one on sale and that's all she wants. Just the band without the diamond. It's a nice ring and I think if fits us and our relationship better than a big, gaudy thing.  I know Sam has gotten a few surprised looks from people when she tells them this is her ring, but she likes it so I'm happy.

The big day is August 13, 2011 in the Portland temple. There will be a reception that night in Roseburg, one in Logan, UT the next week, and an open house in St. Paul for all of our Minnesota friends soon after.