filmmaven's coffee chat

a morning discussion of film and popular culture over coffee



Spooky, weird and creepy — Movies that Hollywood borrowed and did almost as well…..

Let the Right one in (2008, Swedish, Dir: Tomas Alfredson) — I start with this interesting movie because its one that I adore —  – I saw the American version first and then was so blown away by this …..As with most incredible films, it doesn’t do much- there is so much mood, tension and design set up just through the place ( a frozen tundra with minimal daylight) that adding the actors and dialogue is like extra chocolate drizzle and two cherries on top of your incredible desert. Everything here works, the pacing, the editing, the sound, the actors, blending together to create a realistic spooky film that at the same time creates so much anticipation and is so mildly relaxing. Yet, its a complex human story about love, acceptance and fear. There are no answers just a beautiful story. So when comparing it to the American version, I’m tempted to say don’t bother ….but ……

Let me in (2010, USA, Dir: Matt Reeves) — What can I scared…be very very scared. This film does what many can’t, replicates its original by using place (a hot, fun filled New Mexico) to juxtapose the idea of dark hidden feelings and lives led away from the sun. Doing almost the same thing as the Swedish version of using the allowance of space / place to lead the story. The casting is what changes this from a simple, oh yea, I saw this ..into a OH NO! What the h…..? Even when you already know what to expect, you spend the film sitting on the edge of your seat. Will it, won’t it, is it, can they…..I won’t tell you. Just watch both films and then go….Wow….so good.

Nosferatu (1921 Germany dir: F.W.Murnau) — While not really Dracula (they could not obtain the rights and changed names etc..the film was ordered destroyed after the law suit, but a few prints remained -what we see is probably not the entire director cut of the film) – and difficult to compare – this film is the essential vampyre picture and the birth of horror monster films as a genre. I think you will THINK, no its black and white AND foreign so ….but seriously….this is an absolute must watch movie, if you are a film geek or a monster kid or just like scary movies.

Dracula (1931, USA, dir: Tod Browning, Karl Freund) — someone recently ranted about using over the top sexuality in Vampire culture today- stating that as monster movie fans as kids we were never subjected to the idea. I laugh in your general direction. Every monster kid I know was in love with the Bride, and was there ever a better ill fated lust story than Dracula and Lucy? As a feminist writer I could certainly make a strong correlation between the idea of awakening sexuality in the last 1800’s and the death of female characters in monster movies.  But ….I won’t..I will simply say that the German film Nosferatu took the story from Bram Stoker and visualized it in a way that every filmmaker since has not read the book for themselves but simply borrowed from the 1922 version. And that is not a bad thing. Bela is both gentlemanly and awkwardly seductive in this 1931 film – he knows what he needs and appears as most geeks would, surprised and yet determined to get the girl.


Do you think its Weird that my favorite films are strange?

2 important points for today –

1) My favorite films are very very strange, and

2) I had a few delightfully gorgeous moments with coffee this week …..

I’ve previously ranted about how much I hate lists and I won’t drone on too much this time about that ….but I was given a list of 500+ cult films with the idea of “how many have you seen”  and shockingly discovered I had only seen 306 of them …but many were Horror or Anime ..which are not typically my go to genres. Of course they had also left off several important cult films and used a few that were more representational of a Director when they really should have included a number of that person’s films. There was only one Tarantino movie and no Rodriquez, no Andy Warhol and only one Cohen Brothers, I saw only one Jarmusch but no Polish Bros. So as a representational set, it was seriously lacking. It was still fun to go through them and click off the ones I had seen and I think I need extra points for seeing some of them 5 or more times.

It was not a list that made me roll my eyes and I give the compilers credit for including some things that don’t usually make a list of cult favorites. SO this gives me the opportunity to share several, a few off that list and a few that should have been included …..and again, I have to question my own taste and think ..mmmmm…..John Waters really is a genius or I am very weird.

Let me also quickly say that French Roast beans, freshly ground with a dash of cinnamon and then just a small amount of hazelnut fake creamer is really refreshingly pleasant. We had a softly cool morning here in Michigan a few days ago so I grabbed the chance to sit outside with an article I wanted to read and this gorgeous cup of coffee. One of those perfect moments.

a few cult favorites: OR why you need to think out side the box of film-making. 

Twin Falls Idaho (1999) – Written and Directed by Michael & Mark Polish – Take away all you know about linear story telling, put on your post-modernist theorist cap and just enjoy those quirky little segments without thinking about what will happen. Yes, things happen – but that isn’t the point. Whats funny is ..what you think you know about them in the first few moments – is right! So trust your instincts and be delighted.

Mystery Train (1989) Dir: Jim Jarmusch – Yeah.. I said “MYSTERY TRAIN” but what I meant was any film my Jim Jarmusch that you can find and then watch all the rest of them. Because you’ll see one ..and you’ll think wow that was so good…that is my favorite …and then you’ll see another one and you’ll think, WOW that was so good that is my favorite. But then you’ll watch “Strangers in Paradise” and you think mmmmm that was pretty good, If I had seen that first it would have been my favorite but now I really think “Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai” is my favorite. Then you get on a Bill Murray kick and you’ll see “Broken Flowers” and think ..uh …wow…its good but maybe not as good as “MYSTERY TRAIN”. So….yeah.

Barton Fink (1991) – Dir: Joel & Ethan Coen – Why, you might ask yourself…>Would you pick “Barton Fink” as a cult favorite? Above “Raising Arizona” or “Fargo” …..well..because the other of Coen Bros Films are fairly mainstream and seen by a lot of people ….anyone who knows odd films will like those…but you have to be just a little more on the side of …ok…whatever….to really love this film. At first glance its not really likable….and then you think about it …and you have a bit of a laugh to yourself about certain things ….and then you recommend it to a bunch of people.

Do yourself a HUGE favor and watch the original HAIRSPRAY (1988) written & directed by John Waters – read his books, watch his films if you are a die hard FAN but if you are a filmie – just watch this first version. Its THE musical, of THE 80’s that you should see.

Please don’t be afraid of foreign films; I get all itchy when people say they don’t want to read a movie …if you are really paying attention to the dialogue…that you have to read it ….its probably not the film for you …..Watch and enjoy, then later watch it again to read anything you might have missed…..its so worth it. ( I just realized all of these selections are FRENCH, mon cher) 

Leon: the Professional (1994) – Written and Directed by Luc Besson – One of those rare films that is fine in English don’t really mind that is choppy and broken up a bit language wise; I saw it the other day on Television and even with the editing for commercials it was a fun albeit sick, weird film. Its another jumping off movie, you’ll want to see everything else with Jean Reno and anything written/directed/produced by Luc Besson.

The Triplets of Belleville (2003) – Written & Directed by Sylvain Chomet – I admit, I feel hoity toidy and snobbish about recommending this film….the music, the drawings, the story ….its so delightfully cultured …and yet ….so down home and soft. Its a homemade brewski with some 3000 dollar caviar.

Delicatessen (1991) – dir: Marc Caro – “Do I have something …right ….right” ..when you get that, you’ll have seen this film enough times. Its not for the faint of heart or the squeamish.

That is already a lot to think about …so I leave it at that….. PLEASE NOTE: This is not a list – its a few general off the top of my head suggestions — I don’t go with favorites or must see or TOP 10 or BOTTOM 5 or anything that indicates …a list. Just a few films, between you and I – that are important for filmies to watch.

BAD MOVIES ….you must love …..

Can I express the delight about BAD movies in mere words? How do I give you a turn of phrase to say this is emotionally, philosophically, musically, and culturally important and you should fall in love with it the way that I am? Then it becomes a question of tempering the excitement and expression so that you’ll be interested but not so set up for the idea of it that it can’t meet what is in your (our) heads ….

First, there is just bad so that its really funny …..Like ….

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) Dir; Ed Wood – really I love this and you should too …its funny and so sweet..and truly a good BAD movie that you watch with awkward questioning…is he serious? MOvie Poster

Then there is bad but it should be good and I don’t know why everyone doesn’t like it …….

Howard the Duck (1986) Dir: Willard Huyck – It’s just that the 1980’s were awful all around …with hair too big and those horrible shoulder pads? Everything from film to clothes to music seems to be a stoner’s elaboration of the 1940s…..

Howard duck

and of course…..the really good and why is this panned? I liked it ….

Jersey Girl (2004) dir: Kevin Smith – Its really not just that I adore Kevin Smith and he can do no wrong …don’t even think it…or say it …..I really loved this film.  Its true; Ben Affleck is stiff and completely lacking in charm in this role…but that works….he is supposed to be a really flawed human being in an uncomfortable place between what he should be, what he wanted to be and what he can be. and yet ……Raquel Castro as Gertie is beyond adorable, George Carlin is perfect as the grumpy grandpa and Liv Tyler is sweet, awkward and stoic. If the film had done the Hollywood angle and been focused on how he really gets back into being that rich guy and falls in love…it would be a better Hollywood / popular film but that wouldn’t in my opinion make it good. But let me just thank Kevin Smith for the amazing kids play sequences from Sweeney Todd …That is freaking brilliant. (We will talk about the cinematographer, Vilmos Zsigmond in a upcoming column) jersey

and lastly …there are really bad movies that I just don’t get it …Why is this considered good?

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) – Dir: David Fincher — I sat in the theater watching this film and being so excited about actors and moments; Jared Harris is always delightful to watch and his scenes were wonderful. Cate Blanchett had scenes that were visually stunning and Taraji P. Henson was heartwarming. Unfortunately, there were so many moments went I felt like , yah yah yah …get on with this ….and the people around me were tearful or laughing or sitting in rapt silence. My companions kept going over and over it as we walked out and still more at dinner…..and I was quiet, just thinking …mulling it over….what was it that I didn’t connect with? The premise is silly, but that has never stopped me from enjoying a movie. I respect David Fincher as a filmmaker so I still struggle with the elements for me that read no emotion in the film…I felt like I was watching people act. button

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