An amazingly good movie. Can’t recommend to anyone or they’ll laugh at me (tried a few times already).

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Plot is too convoluted to go through. Crockett is sad-faced Colin Farrell and Tubbs is determined Jamie Foxx. Gong Li is on the drug lords’ team, falls in love with Crockett. Tubbs has a lovely wife who is inevitably kidnapped by neo-nazis. Supposedly our heroes are rooting out a mole in the FBI / DEA / System but get sidetracked by so many other things. Shot on crazy-looking HD by Dion Beebe, guy who did Collateral and Holy Smoke.

Didn’t really know what to say about this one until I read an article about it in Senses of Cinema (see below). I loved the movie, loved the unique beauty of the images and the out-of-control propulsion of the plot, but hadn’t thought about what, if anything, Mann was trying to express, what deeper meaning lay behind all the gunfights and high-tech drug deals. The article (written by a french M. Mann biographer and translated by Sally Shafto) brings a lot to light. Reading it feels like I’ve been given permission by a film scholar to love a big-bang action flick that even the general public didn’t like (or just didn’t see).

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From Jean-Baptiste Thoret’s analysis in Senses of Cinema:
Miami Vice is above all a great film on the human condition in a time of flux. Everything progresses at top speed (the meetings, the love affairs, the reversals, the cars) but essentially nothing really moves forward. … In the blurred passage from the cop’s face to the re-framing of the camera on the flow of the traffic, the man has thrown himself under a truck, leaving only a scarlet stain on the pavement. To become integrated in the flux is also to lose oneself therein. … The film closes as abruptly as it opened: Isabella escapes from the flux by the sea (the eternal utopia of Mann’s characters), Sonny turns his back on the sea and returns to the flux. And loses himself therein. Life suspended on one side, perpetual flux on the other. No dead time or respite: the system runs at full speed but on empty, and possesses no other end than that of its own stability. … In the world in flux that Miami Vice follows, the human is only an event, a lost atom in the multitude, similar to the one described by the hired killer in Collateral. It is either arrogance and/or naïveté of the couple, Sonny-Isabella, to have believed that the human could be stronger than the flux. … The men of Miami Dade only conform to the programs that pre-exist them, to respond to the electronic stimuli (a telephone call, a reaction). They turn out to be incapable of taking control of a disarticulated narrative. … The disappearance of the human, its dematerialization in the heart of an urban universe governed by technology, and thus its capacity for resistance, constitutes one of the central themes of Mann’s cinema and finds in Miami Vice its most accomplished extension.”

He also talks convincingly about women being “the only ones to possess the power to divert the narrative”, about flux being technology “and technology is death”, and sums up the ending with Isabella (Gong Li) driving away from Sonny in the speedboat, Sonny’s returning to the flux: “The world rediscovers its balance but loses a little more of its humanity.”

So Amanda, the worst actor in the movie, is Jigsaw’s apprentice here, but she’s a cutter and a killer and an ex druggie and can’t be trusted despite her having once survived a beartrap and pledged her life to his games. And Jigsaw’s deathly sick with brain cancer.

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Now Jeff is Angus Macfayden, better known as Orson Welles in Cradle Will Rock. Retaining his hammy pained expressions from that movie, here he’s the dad of a living daughter and dead son on a revenge quest to kill the killer, judge and witness from the son’s car accident. His estranged wife (twist ending spoiler alert) is doctor lady Lynn, kidnapped and forced to take care of Jigsaw and operate on his brain or else he’ll blow her head up.

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Saw’s rounded up the witness, judge and killer and strapped ’em into terrible devices, and Orson/Angus saves some of ’em sort of but pretty much ends up getting them all killed, then stumbles into a mess of a time in the operating dungeon and everyone dies but him. No more sequels then, hooray (just kidding, part 4’s out this halloween).

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Not too good a movie, obviously, with too many flash cuts and flashbacks. Lots of nudity and gore (obviously), neither of them worth a damn, and nothing to make it all worthwhile unless you care about Amanda’s character development or whether Jigsaw lives or dies. Looking forward to part 4, obviously.

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Not as interesting as Sam Fuller’s later I Shot Jesse James, but a lot better than I’d expected. Maybe I can enjoy a Western more than I’d thought. Some story differences, too… for instance, Fuller’s movie has Bob Ford re-enacting the murder as a play pretty much the same way it happened, while Lang’s has the Fords camping it up onstage and acting the heroes. Don’t know which really happened, but each version was well-suited to its own movie.

Henry Fonda is James, hears news of Jesse’s death and sets out with young Jackie Cooper (not Jackie Coogan) to get Bob Ford (a nervous bearded John Carradine) and brother Charlie.

Not technically the last Fritz Lang film I have to see, but the last one available until Human Desire shows up on cable again. That’s 36 down, 1 to go! Guess I’ve been trying to watch all of Lang’s movies since college, so seven years. At around five per year, it didn’t go nearly as fast as my Sam Fuller quest. Even if I didn’t pick up on the geometric patterns hidden within Lang’s mise-en-scene that auteurists wet themselves over, it was neat to see forty years of cinema from one director’s perspective. He covered 1920 to 1960, the period I know least about, and Sam Fuller was 1950 to 1990. And they both made so many movies… gives me a convenient handle on chronology. Oh, 1953, that was the year Pickup On South Street and The Big Heat came out. Anyway, on now to Bunuel, Rivette, Marker and Resnais for a western european perspective.

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Ah, Preston Sturges movies… always worth watching over and over.

You’d think I’d really know who Henry Fonda is, but you’d be wrong. Anyway, now after this and Return of Frank James, I could probably pick him out of a lineup. Terrific, funny cast between him, Barbara Stanwyck, Charles Coburn as the card shark and William Demarest (the dad in Morgan’s Creek) as Muggsy. Writing is at least as good as the acting… was beaten for an oscar by a Robert Montgomery / Claude Rains comedy.

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Henry’s been up the amazon collecting snakes and meets Stanwyck on the ship back home. They fall in love while she’s conning him out of some money with partner Coburn, and when he finds out about the con he leaves her wanting payback. She reinvents herself as The Lady Eve and gets invited to his family estate via mutual monocled friend Eric Blore (played a valet in Sullivan’s Travels). They get married then she runs off and reappears as her card-playing self to have an “affair” with Henry… the end. Overcomplicated, but a proper comedy should be.

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Did Katy like it? Don’t know for sure but I’d think so.

Update Jan 2015: Katy definitely likes it.

Ashouk marries Ashima and takes her to NYC where they have kids Gogol and Sonia. Gogol is frustrated from having a funny name, dates a rich girl for a while, ends up marrying another girl who leaves him for her French ex. Changes his name from Gogol to Nikhil, confused by his parents’ choice of name until his dad finally tells him about the Gogol-reading train-accident that originally led him to the States.

Movie never gets bogged down in story, constantly exploring its theme of living in a foreign country, of cultural differences, leaving and returning home, families split and together. Uses color and music, costumes and props to develop further… every element serves the themes and characters perfectly. Lots of movies attempt this “foreigner moves to new place, sees it from a fresh outsider perspective, finds similarities between cultures/people, eventually fails/succeeds to fit in” idea, but hardly any have succeeded with such a smart, human story. I fell for it completely.

Saw again with Katy, still love it, she liked it too. Says the filmmakers seemed to have more compassion for the characters than the author of the novel.

What this movie has in common with Children of Men:
– nice monster long-shot opening the movie
– cool shootouts and motorcycle chases with no edits

What this movie has in common with Infernal Affairs:
– a cellphone chase between hero and villain
– actress Kelly Chen (the psychiatrist in IA), who I didn’t like in this one with her one facial expression, the “I’m in control” impassive look with the head-down eyes-up intensity.

Pretty good action hostage flick, ridiculous in parts, a fine waste of time. Not one but TWO fat comic-relief characters… and one farts a lot, so he’s the funniest. No cops die, all the baddies die (despite their inexhaustible supply of grenades). Most of the movie is set is a huge ugly apartment building. Oh and the title refers to the media manipulation going on by both sides. The media turns out to be very easily manipulated, and come out as the big losers in the end… by me, at least… that’s not a point the movie makes.

Good enough intro to Johnny To’s world. Still have to check out Election sometime.

Part of Bunuel’s really good stretch, this came between Viridiana and Simon of the Desert. Glad I finally watched it… probably one of my favorite Bunuel movies now.

After a dinner party, about twenty ridiculous upper-class people (and one waiter) are mysteriously unable to leave the room. And nobody outside can enter the house. They do get out, over a week (and three deaths) later, by recreating the moment when it first happened, standing in the same position they were at 3am the first night. Then they all go to church together and it happens again.

In between, we’ve got chicken feet in a woman’s purse, mountain vistas in the bathroom, dreams and voiceovers, sheep and bears running through the house, morphine, lovers dying mysteriously, and the total breakdown of high society.

Hard to keep track of who’s who most of the time, except for the gay guy who complains a lot. I occasionally recognized Silvia Pinal (the hostess, Tristana). The steward Julio is Simon of the Desert, and a few other actors from this one were in Simon (incl. Silvia as the devil). A couple of these guys were in Bunuel’s early Mexican movies, one woman was in Brainiac, and two people were in Samson vs. The Vampire Women, released the same year!

A Brazillian movie won the Golden Palm at Cannes that year, beating Exterminating Angel, Cleo from 5 to 7, L’Eclisse and The Innocents. The IMDB is probably stretching when it says this movie was referenced in both A Nightmare On Elm Street and The Blair Witch Project.