Monday, February 28, 2011

Top 5 Top 5 Lists Related To, But Not Including, In the Mood for Love

Top 5 Maggie Cheung Films:

1. Police Story (Jackie Chan, 1985)
2. Days of Being Wild (Wong Kar-wai, 1990)
3. Irma Vep (Olivier Assayas, 1996)
4. Centre Stage (Stanley Kwan, 1992)
5. Hero (Zhang Yimou, 2002)

Top 5 Tony Leung Films:

1. Chungking Express (Wong Kar-wai, 1994)
2. Hard-Boiled (John Woo, 1992)
3. 2046 (Wong Kar-wai, 2004)
4. Hero (Zhang Yimou, 2002)
5. Happy Together (Wong Kar-wai, 1997)

Top 5 Christopher Doyle Films Not Directed By Wong Kar-wai:

1. Last Life in the Universe (Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, 2003)
2. Hero (Zhang Yimou, 2002)
3. The Limits of Control (Jim Jarmusch, 2009)
4. Paranoid Park (Gus Van Sant, 2007)
5. Lady in the Water (M. Night Shyamalan, 2006)

Top 5 Chinese Language Films of the 2000s:

1. Millennium Mambo (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2001)
2. 2046 (Wong Kar-wai, 2004)
3. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee, 2000)
4. Oxhide II (Liu Jiayin, 2009)
5. The World (Jia Zhangke, 2004)

Top 5 Films of 2000:

1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee)
2. The Heart of the World (Guy Maddin)
3. Yi yi (Edward Yang)
4. Platform (Jia Zhangke)
5. Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Win Your Office Oscar Pool By Avoiding All of the Choices Below!

As is tradition amongst those with no tangible reason for living, Metro Classics puts a lot of stock in our misconceived and ill-perceived wisdom when the Oscars roll around.  Last year, as with every year since the Big Bang, Sean defeated Mike by one measly vote.  This may in fact not be true, as our fact-checking department was far too lazy to verify said claim, even more reason for you to take the following prognostications with a King Kong-sized handful of salt.  That's a lot of salt.  Speaking of sodium, the first and most important lesson when picking 2011's winners: do not give any award to action pictures starring Angelina Jolie.  Not even for sound mixing.  That's just stupid.

Leading Actor:

Mike: Colin Firth, the King's Speech
Sean: Colin Firth, the King's Speech

Supporting Actor:

Mike: Christian Bale, the Fighter
Sean: Christian Bale, the Fighter

Leading Actress:

Mike: Natalie Portman, the Black Swan
Sean: Natalie Portman, the Black Swan

Supporting Actress: 

Mike: Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Sean: Melissa Leo, the Fighter

Animated Feature:

Mike: Toy Story 3
Sean: Toy Story 3

Art Direction:

Mike: Inception
Sean: The King's Speech


Mike: True Grit
Sean: True Grit

Costume Design:

Mike: The King's Speech
Sean: Alice in Wonderland


Mike: David Fincher, the Social Network
Sean: Tom Hooper, the King's Speech

Documentary Feature:

Mike: Exit through the Gift Shop
Sean: Inside Job

Documentary Short Subject:

Mike: Killing in the Name
Sean: Strangers No More

Film Editing:

Mike: The Social Network
Sean: Black Swan

Foreign Language Film:

Mike: Incendies
Sean: In a Better World

Make Up:

Mike: The Wolf Man
Sean: The Wolf Man

Original Score:

Mike: The Social Network
Sean: the King's Speech

Original Song:

Mike: "We Belong Together" from Toy Story 3
Sean: "We Belong Together" from Toy Story 3

Animated Short:

Mike: Day & Night
Sean: Day & Night

Live Action Short:

Mike: God of Love
Sean: Wish 143

Sound Editing:

Mike: Inception
Sean: Inception

Sound Mixing:

Mike: Inception
Sean: Inception

Visual Effects:

Mike: Inception
Sean: Inception

Adapted Screenplay:

Mike: The Social Network
Sean: The Social Network

Original Screenplay:

Mike: the King's Speech
Sean: the King's Speech

Best Picture:

Mike: the King's Speech
Sean: the King's Speech

Friday, February 25, 2011

Links: In the Mood for Love

Roger Ebert once again knows what's what in his review of the film back in 2000, noting both the unique dramatics and the beautiful imagery in Wong's film:

"In his other films, like "Chungking Express," his characters sometimes just barely miss connecting, and here again key things are said in the wrong way at the wrong time. Instead of asking us to identify with this couple, as an American film would, Wong asks us to empathize with them; that is a higher and more complex assignment, with greater rewards.

The movie is physically lush. The deep colors of film noir saturate the scenes: Reds, yellows, browns, deep shadows. One scene opens with only a coil of cigarette smoke, and then reveals its characters. In the hallway outside the two apartments, the camera slides back and forth, emphasizing not their nearness but that there are two apartments, not one."

Stephen Hunter, though does not.  He even makes a nice and sensible comparison to the great Alain Resnais film Hiroshima, mon amour, but apparently he thinks being compared to that masterpiece is a bad thing:

"The affair itself is more like a slow-motion dance than a consummation of the sweaty flesh, consisting of a whole symphony of gestures and longing looks, chance encounters in the rain, almost-knocked-on doors, telephones unanswered, a general sense of groping but not gripping.

I wish I could report that a feverish erotic tension builds, but it really doesn't. In fact at times the film plays like Alain Resnais' notoriously elliptical "Hiroshima, Mon Amour," in which possibilities are suggested but physical and emotional clarity is not certain."

On a more academic front, Stephen Teo wrote about the film for Senses of Cinema back in 2001.  He situates the film historically both in the tradition of Chinese melodrama, including a comparison to the great 1948 film Spring in a Small Town, and within Wong's career as a underratedly literary director, including the fact that the film is an unofficial adaptation of a novel by Liu Yichang, whose The Drunkard was adapted into a fine film by Freddie Wong which I saw at last year's Vancouver Film Festival.

Finally, you can find all kinds of cool stuff about the film, including pictures and music at its official website.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Coming Attractions: In the Mood for Love

Wednesday, 2 March at 7:00 & 9:10 P.M.  Now on film!

Giveaways: 2046 DVD courtesy of Scarecrow Video and a gift certificate to Cinema Books, respectively.

Welcome to Hell!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hell is Other Movies: Children of Paradise

This week marks the start of our 12th Metro Classics series.  So far, over 102 weeks we've played 106 different films.  Perhaps because of this, Metro Classics Goes to Hell is probably our broadest theme yet, with a near unlimited number of films that could be considered as representative of one of Dante's circles of Hell.  To that end, we're going to try to discuss some of the films that aren't part of the series, but easily could have been here on the website.  First up is Marcel Carné's Children of Paradise, which might have been part of a three week addendum to this current series if we weren't perpetually behind schedule.

I first learned of Children of Paradise when, back in 1998 (pre-internet and stranded in Spokane, my home town) I read in the newspaper(!) a response to the AFI's recently published Top 100 American Films of All-Time list.  The writer, whose name I don't recall, but I believe he wrote for a paper in Arizona, made a list of the top 100 foreign language films to counter the blinders imposed by the AFI's mission (they are the American Film Institute, after all.  Which I guess they interpret as being the Institute for American Film, as opposed to the American Institute for Film).  Children of Paradise was #2, as I recall, behind only Jean Renoir's The Rules of the Game (which was coincidentally our last Metro Classic, last December).

Living in Spokane, the film was unsurprisingly unavailable at my local video stores, whose foreign film selections tended to consist entirely of the major works of Kurosawa, Fellini, Bergman, Gerard Depardieu and the dubbed Jackie Chan.  But, knowing I would soon be moving to Seattle, I clipped the list out of the paper as a guide to future viewing.

When I did move here, the first thing I did after unpacking my mom's minivan was walk the two blocks to Cinema Books.  After pouring over the packed shelves for an hour or so, I left and walked a further block to Scarecrow Video.  I spent a couple of hours wandering the stacks wide-eyed and open-mouthed.  I was like Lawrence catching his first glimpse of the Suez Canal after wandering the Sinai for days.  I didn't buy anything at Cinema Books, or rent anything at Scarecrow that first day: I was too intimidated.  But I woke up early the next day (and by "early" I mean around noon) and tried again. My initial stack of videos from Scarecrow was about twice as many as one was allowed to rent, so I had to put several back on the shelves.  But one of the ones I kept was Children of Paradise.  I watched it that afternoon (loved it!) and the next day I went to Cinema Books at bought the BFI monograph on the film by Jill Forbes (one of the first of many previously unavailable cinema books now lining my bookshelves).

But I hadn't watched the film again since then.  A few years ago I bought the Criterion DVD, but it had been gathering dust until last week.  I was afraid that my love of the movie was more about the context in which I watched it, both the novelty of the big city and as one of my first steps into serious cinephilia.  I'd toyed with the idea of trying to get my wife to see it, but the prospect of a three and a half hour black and white French film about mimes in the 19th Century is kind of a tough sell.  For the same reason, I've been reluctant to try and play it as a Metro Classic. Well, I'm happy to report that the film is just as great as I remember it.  And while it may not be the second greatest foreign film of all-time, it's still pretty awesome and is certainly the best film I've seen from 1945.

As novelistic as any film ever made (the common comparison as been to call it the French response to Gone with the Wind) it chronicles the complex love pentagon around the beautiful Garance (played by Arletty, who was shortly to be imprisoned for having an affair with a German officer during the war).  She's loved by the roguish, womanizing aspiring actor Frédérick Lemaître, the villainous thief Lacenaire, the shy and sensitive mime Baptiste and a rich aristocrat.  The first hour and 15 minutes of the film is breathtaking in the scope of its storytelling despite taking place entirely in the course of a single day.  Carné and his accomplished screenwriter, Jacques Prévert, introduce every major character, theme and relationship in the film while creating a fully detailed and realized world for those relationships to intersect within.

The film is structured almost entirely as a series of one-on-one conversations, intercut with performance footage of the actors at work (most memorably Baptiste's pantomimes and Frédérick's improvised, and crowd-pleasing mutilation of the terrible play he's starring in).  Every major character gets a scene with every other character, so in addition to the dramatics of the love triangle, and the fascinating of the details of 19th century theatre, we get to see a whole range of human interaction.  Whereas Gone with the Wind, to the benefit of the kind of story it's telling, I think, remains resolutely focused on its heroine's point of view, with every scene and most every conversation being about her, Garance at times fades into the background of Children of Paradise, allowing the men to become as fully realized as she is, if not more so.  The difference is that between creating a great character and a great world.

After the first third, the film is not quite as remarkable.  The relations and complications introduced in that first day play out, first a few weeks later, with Garance and Frédérick living together and performing in Baptiste's pantomime and then years later when Garance returns to Paris after running away with the aristocrat.  In the end, everyone meets and talks with everyone else, some people die and everyone is unhappy except the audience, the true residents of Paradise.  (Literally, that's what they called the theatre balcony).

Breaking News

Next week's showing of Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood for Love will be on 35mm film and not digitally projected, as initially advertised.  See the luscious images of the two greatest cinematographers of contemporary Asian film, Christopher Doyle and Mark Lee Ping-bin as they were meant to be seen: celluloidally.  One week from today at 7 and 9:10 pm.  Tickets are on sale now!

For all the latest Metro Classics news, be sure to "like" our facebook page.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

And Now, A Word For Our Sponsors

We'd like to welcome both Scarecrow Video, the world's greatest videostore, and Cinema Books, the world's greatest bookstore back to Metro Classics world this spring.  As always, Scarecrow will be providing a DVD for us to give away before the first show every week, while at the second show we'll be giving away gift certificates to Cinema Books.  So get ready for more awkwardly delivered trivia questions!

You can visit these fine establishments in person mere blocks away from the Metro, or via the internet at their websites (Scarecrow Video, Cinema Books) and on the Facebook (Scarecrow Video, Cinema Books).

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pre-Game Warm-Up: Hell on Film

Although our new series revels in writhing in the rings representing Dante's Inferno, none of the nine classics we will soon ever so proudly be presenting actually deal with the fiery plain of torture and suffering.


Thankfully, cinema has provided us with numerous depictions of hell since its inception and as a means of revving up for this unprecedented Classics program we have the following 6(66) suggestions for your viewing pleasure as you while away the days longing for the familiar smell of your own personal hell, Auditorium 10 at the Metro.  Enjoy!

First we time travel back to 1943 when Don Ameche arrived at Hell's reception area, pleading his case for inclusion in director Ernst Lubitsch's Heaven Can Wait.

In 1960 Japanese horror director Nobou Nakagawa set out to paint the most vivid version of Hell in his aptly named film, Hell (Jigoku).  If deceit, bloodshed and lots of eyeball-gouging are your bag, look no further, my man!

The first of our two animated offerings is in fact not from a film but from the greatest television series of all time, the Simpsons.  In the show's fifth season, Homer Simpson sold his soul for a doughnut, in the annual Halloween-themed Treehouse of Horror episode.  The fact that evangelical neighbor Ned Flanders turns out to be the devil, may be the greatest reveal in the history of storytelling.  Take that Wizard of Oz!

The second animated hell comes courtesy of purported purveyor of sugar-coated dreams, Walt Disney, in 1940's incredible Fantasia.  In the "Night on Bald Mountain" sequence, Chernabog, diety of slavic descent, rises to wreak havoc on a small village at midnight.  Although not exactly a depiction of hell (it's more of a hell-on-earth) the sequence deserves inclusion due to its influence, artistic achievement and the fact that it is easily the scariest slice of film out of this line-up.

Hell wouldn't be nearly as much fun without the witty banter of Mr Allen Konigsberg (he's definitely on the invite list for my arrival party in Hell).  In 1997's Deconstructing Harry Allen made an initial trip down below to get a feel for the place and who did he by chance happen to meet?  None other than Billy Crystal.  That seems about right.

Finally, in 1991 a sequel to a much-beloved cinema classic was released.  Like Deconstructing Harry, the film wore its Bergman allusions on its sleeve.  The protagonists, who had previously traveled through time, now voyaged across dimensions and galaxies, having philosophical conversations with God before bringing peace to the universe through the undeniable power of song.  Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey may be the defining film of my generation.  Yes way.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The New Flyers Are Here!

Available this weekend at your local Seattle Landmark Theatre, this season in a festive yet hellish canary golden yellow.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Metro Classics Goes to Facebook

Check us out on the social network!

Metro Classics

You can also like us at the bottom of this page.

But not Mike, because he doesn't believe in the internet.

Metro Classics Goes to Hell Update #5

The last two films are now confirmed: Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger's A Matter of Life and Death and no less than the greatest film of all-time, Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai.

Here is the full lineup:

March 02 - Limbo: In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)
March 09 - Lust: Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
March 16 - Gluttony: Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958)
March 23 - Greed: Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944)
March 30 - Anger: In a Lonely Place (Nicholas Ray, 1950)
April 06 - Heresy: A Matter of Life and Death (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1946)
April 13 - Violence: Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954)
April 20 - Fraud: Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)
April 27 - Treachery: Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (Frank Capra, 1939)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Metro Classics Goes to Hell Update #4

It's a total party circle, but we've set the bar high for Limbo, the First Circle of Hell.  Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung will waver indecisively between love and friendship in Wong Kar-wai's luscious In the Mood for Love to kick off this spring's series three weeks from today.

The lineup as it stands now, with only two films to be confirmed:

March 02 - Limbo: In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)
March 09 - Lust: Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
March 16 - Gluttony: Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958)
March 23 - Greed: Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944)
March 30 - Anger: In a Lonely Place (Nicholas Ray, 1950)
April 06 - Heresy
April 13 - Violence
April 20 - Fraud: Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)
April 27 - Treachery: Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (Frank Capra, 1939)