Archive for the ‘cinema’ Category

Dream Journal: Temple Of Bright Wings

I’m on another planet.

I don’t know how I know this. I just do. This dream must be inspired somehow by Avatar and its own influences. I’m in a tent with a young girl, maybe 16 or 17, so shades of Dances with Wolves and Pocahontas are in there too. The Western motif appears again. She is my guide to this new and strange culture. She talks, but I cannot remember what she said.

Next scene is in what seems like a ruined temple, although for some reason it is referred to as a “church” in the dream. It then gets very cinematic, as a “crane shot” rising above the temple reveals it has no ceiling, and I see there is a large courtyard .

Inside, a splendid sight reveals itself. I see men, and only men, wearing colorful wings. Wings in red and green, mostly. And the wings are large, wide, sprawling, like those of a hawk. But I am told, or simply knows, that the wings are not part of their body, but were simply attached to their backs by some method. Nevertheless, they seem to have no problem flying – well, not exactly flying, they mostly hover above the ground for a couple of seconds, fly a few meters, and then land back down again.
The court is full of people. It seems to be some kind of a festival. or a celebration.

And then, like in the end of Raiders Of The Lost Arc, the sense of wonder turns horror. I notice old men stand at the outskirts of the yard with their mouths wide open, like the clowns in an amusement park booth where you need to shoot water into their mouth to blow up balloons. Here, archers try to aim their arrows right into the old men mouths. I watch how one of them succeeds, and the old man, his throat pierced, falls back into the bushes. I notice that those same men, with their mouths open, are not tied or shackled in any kind of way, but stand there willingly, their mouths open and ready….

There are other horrendous things going on, but I mostly just hear about them, and don’t see them, and I will spare the reader of the details. Suffice it to say the place is a place of sacrifice and ritual, as if I’ve stumbled onto a Mayan pyramid. There is certainly something in this scene that reminds one of certain Native-American cultures. It’s beautiful and brutal and the same time, and it seems that the people of the this tribe are perfectly fine with it, and they’ve been fine with it for hundreds of years.

I am much more of an observer in this dream. I’m not taking part in anything that’s going on. I am the visitor, the stranger, the explorer.

But I know I’m on another planet. I can just feel it. Does it make any sense? Does it?

The wings. They were so beautiful, those wings,

I wake up.

Advertisements

Film Report #2

Movies watched recently:

All The Real Girls (USA 2003)

There’s a scene about half-way through All The Real Girls which is so brutal in its naked honesty it transcends acting and the definition of character. You feel like you’re watching real people in a real situation.
This is just a culmination of the naturalistic, realistic vibe that runs through David Gordon Green’s small but impressive relationship drama. Shot in a measured, composed style, it hardly has a plot, only situations which revolve around a young couple in a small town in North Carolina and their friends and family. The movie eschews almost all kinds of sentimentality and cinematic traditions of portraying lovers, which creates a viewing experience that requires some patience and acceptance from the side of the viewer – we’ve been conditioned to see love portrayed in certain ways in movies – but if you go along for the ride you find a rich character study peppered with beautiful cinematography. Nature is a big part of the story: The behavior of nature and animals vs. the behavior of man. The movie seems to live and breathe between the dialogue, between the words, in looks and feelings and small gestures. It’s not the most flamboyant or flashy movie in the world, but as a story which depicts love and heartbreak it feels extremely real and genuine.

Ghost Town (USA 2008)

David Keopp is one of the most high-profile screenwriters in Hollywood. Among others, he wrote the scripts for Spider-Man, Jurassic Park, Spielberg’s War Of The Worlds, and the last Indiana Jones adventure. He’s also a director in his own right, and as a filmmaker usually creates thrillers such as Stir Of Echoes and Secret Window, which is a pretty neat adaptation of Stephen King’s scary novella. In Ghost Town he goes back to dealing with the ghostly world, which he first tackled in Stir Of Echoes (which I didn’t see), but this time, it appears, on a much lighter note. The movie is billed as a comedy, but it plays more like a drama. Much more Ghost than All of Me. Ricky Gervais plays a misanthropic dentist who, following a botched anesthesia, dies for seven minutes and subsequently gains the ability to see dead people, and that includes Greg Kinnear’s ghost who wants Gervais to prevent his widow from marrying a stuck-up lawyer. The first 30 minutes or so are pretty amusing, but once the romantic plot kicks in it all becomes a little too familiar, and the third act makes it very hard to keep the suspension-of-disbelief going, ending on a too-familiar note. The subject matter was handled much better (and with no ghosts) in the brilliant As Good As It Gets (also with Kinnear). Still, the performances are good (Kristen Wiig almost steals the show as a hilarious surgeon), the tone is whimsical at times, New York in Autumn looks great, and the film is an enjoyable, but ultimately slight, fantasy.
One thing: I wonder why dentists are always such SOB’s in movies (and on TV, like Dr. Whatley on Seinfeld). Anyway, from what I’ve seen of Keopp directorial work, I would say he’s much better in thrillers than in this kind of fluff.

The Big Lebowski (USA 1998)

Trying to describe The Big Lebowski‘s plot line (if you can call it that) is a meaningless gesture, and also a headache inducing one. This movie, one of the Coen Brothers’ most beloved, lives and breathes in its characters and dialogue, which comes to life through some fantastic performances, especially from Jeff Bridges who plays the ultimate slacker, The Dude, and John Goodman, who is his friend, a traumatized Vietnam War vet who insists on keeping the shabbos and have no control whatsoever on his impulses or mouth. All these characters inhabit a hyper-realistic world which is classic Coen brothers territory. The movie is peppered with some imaginative and fun dream/hallucination sequences, but  the entire film, with its weird kidnapping tale and bizarre characters, looks and feels like one big dream sequence. The story is scattershot and unfocused, but the dialogue is very funny for the most part and the characters are memorable. I don’t think it’s the Coen’s best work by far, but it’s certainly one of their most quotable and giddily insane. Also, the amount of profanity is so staggering it’s almost like poetry.

The Bag Collector

There’s probably no better time than when I’m looking to move from my apartment to bring up a rather peculiar aspect of my life, and that aspect is that I collect bags.
When I say that I collect bags I don’t really mean that I collect them. I don’t go to antique bag stores in dingy alleys on a search for rare, old bags in mint condition. When I say I collect bags I mean that I find it hard to throw bags after I use them.
If you will open the cupboards under my sink or look above the desk in my workplace you will come upon hordes (okay, not hordes, but too many) bags in different shapes, sizes and texture. Stacked or meshed together in a dizzying display of colors and logos. In many of them you may find old receipts, which hearken back to the day the bags were originally used. Canada, where I reside, environmentally-conscious as it is, has recently implemented a five-cent price tag on carry bags. You bought something? You want a bag? Pay up. This can be annoying because sometimes you’re just walking down the street from somewhere to somewhere and want to buy something and you don’t carry a bag, because when you left the house/office/Turkish bath you didn’t know you were gonna buy that something and you find your self having to pay–

But I digress. The bottom line is that it is a good thing. No, not for the environment, for me! Yes, finally I have use for all the bags I’ve been saving! It even makes the bag-collecting more special, because each bag that is stacked in my house has been bought and paid for. It is a product, exactly like the things it’s carrying. So now I may have fewer bags, but the value of the “collection” is much higher. Of course, once in a while a bag is thrown, especially if it serves as a garbage bag. So yes, I don’t necessarily horde them, I use them when I can.
Because you see, that’s the whole point. My mother is a bag collector, and for some reason I followed her footsteps with the same twisted psychology which lies behind this bag-collecting perversion, and here it is:

You never know when you’re gonna need a bag.

That’s right. You never know! Why waste a good bag after a one-time use? Yes! I am the original environmentalist! I didn’t throw bags away before I used them at least a second time after the original usage. Now, I am sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t throw out bags after a one-time use, especially in this environmentally-conscious day and age, but still, I believe that I have taken the bag-collecting skills into a new height, because, well… you never know when you’ll need one!

I can say it without it sounding inappropriate so I’ll say it: there is something very Jewish in the not-throwing-stuff-away school of thought. Jews have been persecuted for many generations by many persecutors and always found it hard to stay in one place, so the order of the day was to move. Move. Move. And when you move, you need to pack, and when you pack, what do you need? You got it. Bags. Lots and lots of bags. So I’m pretty sure it is in our collective gene pool – to not throw packaging materials away. If I could save boxes without filling up my apartment and suffocating on carton fumes, I guess I would’ve collected boxes too, because, you know… you never know when you’ll need a box.

One of the greatest scenes in modern cinema is the scene from American Beauty – pretty much the thematic centerpiece of the film – where the bag dances in the wind, and it is indeed beautiful. One of the reasons it’s beautiful is because it is a bag being set free. It does not need to carry anything anymore. It does not need to obey the whims of man. It is a free spirit, doing as it pleases, jumps here, flies there, and dances.

If I had the guts to do it, if i could let go, I would’ve waited for a particularly windy day, and then take all my bags outside and set them free. I would watch them fly down or up the street, or get caught on a tree branch, or stick to a window like a squashed bug. I would let them all go, all the bags I’ve collected, and let them do as they will, or rather, let the wind do as it will with them.

Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s not really “green” to throw plastic bags all over the place, but it’s a metaphor, right? The metaphor.

Hmm… or is it?

Yeah, it’s a metaphor.

For now.

When saving the world was simpler

adventures-of-captain-marvelRecently I watched my first ever bona fide serial, Adventures Of Captain Marvel, which is actually the first time a comic book super hero was shown on screen. 12 chapters full of hair-raising adventures and ridiculous plot, and this serial, considered one of the finest ever made, sure gave me appetite for more.

Serials were short programs which ran in American cinemas during the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s before the main feature, just to wet the audience’s appetite. They usually had between 12 to 15 chapters and each chapter ended with what came to be known as a “cliffhanger”, a situation which left our heroes in some nasty trouble, and if you wanted to know how they escaped it you had to watch the next chapter.  A synonym for a serial is a “chapterplay”.
Indiana Jones and Star Was were hugely influenced by the old serials, and those movies in turn gave rise to a host of imitators and countless other pop culture phenomenon like the Lara Croft game series, for example.

The Sylvester Stallone film Cliffhanger has nothing to do with serials, though.

I sit and ponder (as I am fond of doing) the naivety of the old serials. Just like a child, the art of film was in its infancy back in those days. Today, especially following films like The Dark Knight and Iron Man, it’s hard to imagine a superhero story which concentrates solely on action and doesn’t bother at all with inner conflict of any kind or different shades of gray. AOCM tells the story of Billy Batson who, after a meeting with an old Siamese wizard (don’t ask) gets the power to turn into Captain Marvel in times of distress and danger. All he needs to do is say the word Shazam aloud and puff! Captain Marvel appears to save the day.
If this story would’ve been done today, surely the writers would have explored the way Billy Batson handles life with an alter ego about three feet taller than him and wearing tights. What does this do to his ego, to his social life? Does he see the world differently as Captain Marvel? What are the psychological ramifications of this new change in his life?

But do we really want to know all this? Let me quote Lt. Bookman from the classic Seinfeld episode “The Library”: “I remember when the librarian was a much older woman: Kindly, discreet, unattractive. We didn’t know anything about her private life. We didn’t want to know anything about her private life. She didn’t have a private life.”

This serial’s aim is to deliver escapism. In some ways, it makes it endearing and most importantly, fun. After being used to complex storytelling in film and especially TV, there’s something refreshing about it in a dated sort of way. Nothing is too complicated. There are one dimensional bad guys and one dimensional good guys and they all beat the crap out of each other. And the bad guys are great. Fantastic villain and superb evil henchmen. And when you’re doing a superhero adventure, it’s only as good as your villains. Some great stunts and effects in this one – this serial, done in 1941, preceded the famous Superman serial by eleven years – and Captain Marvel is no Superman, and I mean it in a good way. There’s a scene in which he grabs a machine gun from a couple of Bad Guys. When they turn to flee he… are you ready? Shoots them in the back! Yeah, he’s not superman. He’s mean and violent, he cracks their heads and throws them through windows. He’s almost like Superman would’ve been if he was Batman.

So I miss it sometimes. I miss simplicity. Really, being an adult is so complicated these days. Everything is so fucking complicated. One of the reasons I love old adventure films so much is because many of them were so straightforward.  In this day and age that wouldn’t fly (pun intended). We have become much more cynical, jaded and sophisticated viewers, just like the world we inhabit.

True, many of the old serials have retained their nostalgic value and not much else, but still, AOCM has a place in film history just for the reasons mentioned above. Its influence, and serials’ influence in general, can still be felt in current Hollywood popcorn movies.

The Watermills

Sometimes things in life converge in a peculiar way. For the past few weeks I’ve been practicing, or attempting to practice, some  forms of meditation to help alleviate stress and anxiety.  Stress and Anxiety which stem from personal difficulties, but also, I’m quite sure, from the nature of the actual world we live in. A world that puts first and foremost the constant striving for success and achievement, both personal and professional. The constant comparing with people around you, are they happier than you, do they have more money than you, are they in better shape than you. You find it almost impossible to just exist in your own skin without going all over the place and compare, judge and critique. The mind, the modern western mind, is in constant chatter. It always has something to say, and at least for me, most of the things it has to say aren’t really positive or nice. It reminds me of what I can’t do and what Iwas never able to do, no matter how much I tried. It lives almost exclusively in the past or the future, and almost never in the present.

So it was interesting to me, specifically in a time like this when i’m trying to subdue the mind-chatter by meditation (and mostly not succeeding for now, but at least I think I understand the concept), that I happened to watch Akira Kurosawas’s Dreams. Now, I hope I don’t need to mention that, but Kurosawa is one of the greatest filmmakers that ever lived and Dreams is one beautiful, mesmerizing film. It is made up of eight stories that represent, well, dreams. But those are not the dreams of The Sopranos for example (which if you ask me are more “realistic” portrayal of how actual dreams unfold) but a more subdued version, more like surreal short stories. The main theme of the film, as I see it, is of celebrating life and nature and it has a major criticism against science and technology as harbingers of pollution and misery. Of course, it is not technology itself but what Man does with it, which means this is ultimately a film about the spirit of man and its capability to create and destroy at the same time.

But the film is so visually breathtaking, and so slow and deliberate in its presentation (this is most certainly NOT a Hollywood action film), that,  if you’re in the right mindset for it- and after three weeks of partial-meditation I sure was – you may be rewarded by something which is akin to a meditative state. This film is magical.

It was exactly what I needed to see right now since it complemented perfectly my state of mind or rather the state of mind I was trying to achieve. There is something at the same time soothing and frightening in it. For some of the segments are truly beautiful and serene (Crows, The Peach Orchard) but some are grim and scary (The Blizzard, Mt. Fuji  in Red). In the end, I was especially struck by the final segment, titled Village Of The Watermills. It takes place in one of the most beautiful locales I have ever seen. I find it hard to believe a place like this can actually exist. It looks like paradise and not in the commercial, cliched way –  an island with white sands and palm trees – but actual paradise, the real one, up in heaven. It consists of a conversation with an old man followed by a rather joyous funeral procession filled with song and dance and I almost cried with the beauty of it all, and wished I could visit it.

The Village of the Watermills seems like a manifestation of what your own self should ideally feel like when you’re in a meditative state: Serene, peaceful, with nothing of the outside world barging in on you. A place which exists only for itself and which represents your inner being, after all the clutter and noise and bullshit of the modern world is swept aside.

At the end it’s just us and nature, from which we came and to which we return, and if we try and remember that, remember what the important things are, we may be in peace.

I think most of us deserve it.

Bring back the DVD Movie Guide

The DVD Movie Guide is/was a fat book full of short film reviews, with ratings which range from Turkey (really really bad) to five stars. The formal purpose of the book was to help in the decision which movies to rent or buy, but it also served as an indispensable pool of film knowledge, especially thanks to its director/cast indexes, where you could look up who did what and with whom. This was especially helpful in the pre-Internet age, and here lies the rub.

After 22 years the DMG’s publisher, Random House, decided to discontinue the book, citing the internet as the main reason for that. The logic behind it was that since we can find all film information on the net, nobody needs this book anymore. Right?

Wrong.

The DMG was a special book. I’ve been buying and reading it since 1993, when it was still called Video Movie guide. What made the DMG great wasn’t the indexes – those did lose their relevance in the age of IMDB, although it’s still fun to check them out just sitting on a couch with the book at hand, and I still do it from time to time with my old copies – No, the reason was pretty simple: The reviews.

The DVD Movie Guide was always a no-nonsense, down to earth, film review book, with honest, insightful and sometimes damn funny – reviews. While other film reference tomes of its kind, most famous being the Leonard Maltin guide, mainly review films from a critical, even snobbish point of view, what made the DMG special was it being a movie review book by moviegoers for moviegoers. By saying that I don’t mean that the reviews were written lazily or information was partial and wrong, I’m saying the entire approach in reviewing films was that all films no matter their genre, no matter who made them, no matter their subject matter, all deserved a fair chance. What made this book close to my heart was the almost perfect synch it had with my taste. I rarely go wrong by watching a film recommended by this book. that’s not to say that it was always prefect (you can’t honestly except a 100 percent anywhere in life). Few films which received five starts weren’t that perfect in my eyes, and  some films which got two starts deserved better, I thought (that’s where the “guilty pleasure” discussion comes in. On the other hand, a turkey is almost always a turkey). But for the most part I almost always agreed with their reviews.

There are so many movies out there, so when you find a reliable film guide you should hold on to it and treasure it. It becomes your best friend. It helps you separate the good from the bad and it helps you save time. And one more thing, perhaps the most important: What the DMG or any self-respecting film guide does best is not to tell you Casablanca is good and Ishtar is bad. You knew that already. What it needs to do is help you DISCOVER those films you never heard of or thought they were lousy just because of  prejudice or because you didn’t like the poster or the trailer. Not too long ago I persuaded friends to watch the wonderful Hot Fuzz. They weren’t too enthusiastic about it at the beginning. They never heard of the film before and the DVD art looked tacky. They thought it’s just a moronic comedy. Instead they discovered a clever, hilarious spoof of American action films and British rural mysteries. And that’s what DMG has done for me time and time again. Helped me discover those gems that I never heard of or didn’t much care for.

The DMG was edited and partially written by Mick Martin and Marsha Porter. They were assisted by a hardy group of film reviewers. (just like the Maltin guide. Although his face is on the cover, he cannot review everything by himself ). So it’s amazing that DMG managed to stay so consistent over the years. That’s what I call great editing, and the kudos here go to Mick and Marsha.

I had a short e-mail correspondence with Mick Martin where he explained to me what happened. DMG was discontinued on September 2006, right around the time when the last edition was published. He and Marsha tried their best to find another publisher but to no avail. DMG has its fans. People want it back. The decision to cancel it, while Maltin’s and other yearly review books keep being published is a real shame.

They’ve cancelled the best film reference book out there.

I don’t know if there was decline in sales. I don’t know if it’s for other reasons. I just know that the reason Random House gave Mick Martin was “because you can get it for free on the Internet”. I’m a heavy Internet user. I spend a lot of hours on-line, whether it’s at work or at home, and unless you’re a webmaster and that’s your job, I don’t think anyone ruins his posture in front of a computer more than I do. And if I’m ready to keep buying the DMG than I can’t imagine anyone else not doing the same thing.

“You can’t stop progress”, someone might say. “Books are a way of the past”, someone else might add. Well, screw that. (Yeah, I’m talking to you, Kindle).

DMG writers used to do something unique (at least as far as I know): Although it was extremely rare, from time to time they used to change a movie’s rating, their reasons being because times change, points of view change, or maybe a “movie just caught us on a bad day”. It’s a remarkably humble statement for a “critical” reference book.

Too bad Random House won’t do the same for them.

Any other publisher out there? Come on, people.

We’ll give you five stars,

Make ’em laugh

Getting ready for my screening at WILDsound Film Festival in Toronto, I started to think how nerve-wrecking it is to do a comedy compared to all other film genres.
With comedy, the rules are simple. If the audience don’t laugh, you’re screwed.
If you do a drama, a horror film, an action-adventure, you usually never know if your film worked until the credits start to roll. Then, either people clap, or boo, or couldn’t care less. You may know if it worked by talking to the audience, by looking at their faces or listening to their conversations when they’re leaving the theater, but comedy is the only genre where you absolutely know if your film worked WHILE it is shown.

But does a comedy HAVE to make you laugh to be considered successful?

Well… Yes.

I’m the first one to admit that my film, Hype, is not a laugh-a-minute-riot, nor is it a slapstick comedy or a comedy of errors. Instead, it relies on a certain punchline to deliver the laugh.
Whenever I watch it with a group of people I always get very anxious at the end, because i know that if people don’t laugh now, the film didn’t work for them.
So tonight, watching Hype with the (hopefully) largest audience I ever had for it, I feel excited but mostly anxious. You sit there and you know that if people won’t laugh, your film is a misfire, a dud, a waste of space. A comedy is meant to make people laugh through satire, irony, black humor, slapstick. Like every good film, it needs to say something about life and the world we live in, about the characters, and it needs to do so in a way that makes you laugh. Maybe not all the way, but I believe a good comedy has to have at least one big laugh proportional to its length.

Woody Allen made some great comedies. Some of them were funnier than others. Bananas and Love and Death were ribald and crazy. Radio Days and Mighty Aphrodite were much more subtle. All of those films made you laugh at one point or another. But while Allen’s first films are considered his funniest, his later comedies are considered to be more deep, more rounded and profound. They are more about something, while his early spoofs are more like 90 minute sketches.

But they are all comedies, and they all work in their own way. I love comedies such as Take The Money And Run and Airplane because I love nonsense humor, but I also admire comedies that are more mature. There’s a lot of leeway inside the genre confines, but the rule always stays the same:

Your audience needs to laugh. And laugh for the right reasons, too.

A comedy can sometime tickle your funny bone without causing you to burst uproariously with laughter. There are countless examples of that. But as I’ve said, it’s not enough. If you strive for a comedy, you need those laugh-out-loud moments. Because what comedy filmmaker would want to sit at a screening of his film and have everyone chuckle inside for 90 minutes, or 20 minutes, or 5 minutes?

No, when we do a comedy, we want to make ’em laugh.

And we will sit in the dark and hold our breath until then…

All the Hype

Well, I have an excuse. I didn’t write in the Blog since last November. I was busy.

Busy making a short film.

Hype, that’s the title, was a real energy drainer. It was hard work. It took 11 months to complete. I’m sure I broke some records as far as short films are concerned. Principal shooting began in September 2007 and went on until December. We only had 5 days of shooting, but they were spread over three months. Scheduling problems. Don’t ask. Weather problems. You can guess. Then came the post-production which stretched over 6 months, after I ended up, unexpectedly, as the editor and color-correction guy, and had to learn complex programs from scratch.

Oh, and I managed to have a couple of anxiety attacks in the process too. Fun!

But heck, it was all worth it. It was all worth it.

I had a great cast and crew I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

So I present to you, Hype. A short film about love, movies, love in the movies, love outside the movies, and small dogs.

Enjoy.


Fairy Dust

A few months ago I went to a huge SF and Fantasy convention here in Toronto. It had all the stuff you’d expect in a convention of this sort: Books and Comic Books, Action Figures, DVD’s, Vintage memorabilia, T-shirts, toys, posters, video games. The Common stuff and the rare stuff.

Yes. It was Geek Heaven, and I was relishing every minute of it.

I’m kind of used to seeing all that stuff from smaller conventions I’ve been to in Israel. It’s basically the same, only BIGGER.

And yet, there was one thing I wasn’t used to, and that got me very excited. That was the big roster of famous Science Fiction celebrities attending the Con and signing autographs.
That is, until I came to understand the dubious financial drive behind it all.

Let’s not pretend. SF Cons, or any Fan Cons for that matter, are a money making machine. A commercial enterprise. They exist, first and foremost, for the purpose of selling stuff to the fans. That’s how the game is played. That’s capitalism. And it’s fine. Nobody forces anyone to go to a Con and spend money. Fan Conventions are very similar to Casinos. They psychologically erode your resistance. They’re usually held in huge enclosed places with no windows. Bright lights, and a lot of noise. You find yourself lost, delirious, hypnotized by the oodles of goodies splayed in front of you, and thus, your ability to make logical decisions is compromised. It might be that if you were in a regular store you wouldn’t have bought that 25$ Jawa club because, well, you don’t really need it. You just bought it to make yourself feel better. Unless it’s that great book or movie you’ve always wanted to buy, you look at all this stuff you bought: The toys, the gizmos, the stuff, and once you’re home, without all the noise and clutter and bright lights, you ask yourself: Why did I spend 150 dollars if I swore to myself I won’t spend more than 20?

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Where was I? Oh, Celebrities’ autographs.

Continue reading

Catching up

I try to watch at least 2-3 movies a week. I don’t always succeed. Sometimes I’m too tired, too busy, too distracted. It doesn’t help that as of right now, I don’t really own a DVD player and TV set, only a laptop, which really isn’t the ideal choice for that. I cannot watch DVD’s using my laptop because of the copy-protect encryptions that the studios put into them. Sure, you can rip it, or watch it in fits and starts, but it’s really no fun this way, it makes the viewing experience tedious. Ironically, downloaded movies play with no interference at all. So the copy-protect method does not really prevent ripping out the movies, it just won’t let people who want to rent of purchase legit DVD’s watch them on their laptops, thus forcing them to explore (cough) other (cough) methods of watching movies. When will the corporations realize that fighting a technological war with millions of talented computer geeks is a lost cause? Just release the movies. People will buy them. People will rent them. So you’ll make 80 million instead of 90 million. As it is, the vast majority of people who are downloading movies illegally wouldn’t have watched those movies in any other way. It’s really a win-win situation. Laptops have become a viable viewing platform. Give us DVD’s with no redundant encryption methods that could be cracked by a ten year old. it’s just useless.
Anyway, I’m going on a tangent here. Whatever there is to be said about laptops as TV’s, it’s not the ideal viewing platform. The screens are small. You have to tilt them to get a good picture.

I’ve been going a lot to the cinema in Toronto. At first, it was about one movie a week. Now it’s more like one movie every two weeks. But still, I go to a lot more than I used to. I don’t really mind going to movies by myself here. It’s more fun when you’re with someone, naturally, but it’s not as depressing as it was back in Israel, which I didn’t do a lot just for that reason. I think it’s because a lot more people here go the movies alone, so you don’t feel like you’re the only one. I think Israel is a much more sociable country than Canada and the US. When you go to a movie house in Israel, you hardly see people alone. You see a lot of couples, groups of friends… Israelis love to be together, to be in groups, there’s even a term for is in local slang. It’s called “Hevre”. The closest translation I can think of is “Bunch of people”, but basically it’s untranslatable. I don’t think there’s another word like it in any other language.
So yes, it’s a very miserable experience going to the movies alone in Israel. In a country which is like one big family (including all the usual confrontations), doing inherently social activities all by your lonely self just feels wrong and depressing.

Anyway, I’ve watched a lot of movies over the years. It started very early, and after those early films, which were basically holiday revivals of classic movies, my “official” cinema viewing began with another revival showing of Star Wars in Tel Aviv, sometime in the beginning of the 1980’s. I can’t really say what I exactly felt back then, because I don’t remember. Also, I’ve seen this movie so many times since then, that I can’t recall my initial impressions. I do know that it made me thrilled and excited about the possibilities of Cinema. It was a movie that combined everything: Drama, comedy, special effects, great score, to an unbelievable effect.
In the years following that I watched a lot of 80’s dreck (yep, at some point, Police Academy was my favorite movie of all time), but we were kids, we weren’t really that demanding, we watched everything, as long as it entertained us. I’ll be the first to admit that my cinematic tastes weren’t particularly sophisticated, but that was a time when the main reason to go to the cinema was to have fun, and not ponder about life or the human condition. and to this day I think that having fun in the movies is nothing to be looked down upon.

Apart from the idiotic but enjoyable 80’s comedies, Spielberg was my main diet. Not only films directed by Spielberg, but the entire “Spielberg universe”. The Goonies is one of my favorite films ever, it reminds me of childhood innocence and great, straight-up adventure stories. The Zemeckis films, like Back to the Future trilogy and Romancing the Stone (with the shot where Michael Douglas’s head pops out of the water in the pool between Kathleen Turner’s white, long legs, which is one of the sexiest scenes I ever had the privilege to watch).
And of course, The Spielberg ones, when the guy was having an amazing streak with the Indiana Jones movies and E.T.

There are those movies that you need to watch if you consider yourself a serious film buff. It’s like being an art major and not seeing a famous Picasso or Van Gogh. Those films need to be seen because they have an importance in the wide context of the art of filmmaking, either in relation to a director, an actor, a technical innovation, or anything else that serves as some kind of benchmark in the chronology of film and filmmaking.

Some of these films I saw in real time. As my cinematic tastes expanded, I went back and caught up on some that I either missed when they first came out or wasn’t even born when they did. Even when I didn’t feel like watching an “important” film (because that word makes you look forward to a tedious experience, like those books they made you read in school and write a report on), but I tried to do it anyway. Sometime I didn’t know what all the fuss was about – I’ll admit that some of these movies have been copied and imitated many times and thus lost their initial innovative uniqueness. But for the most part they remained good movies. Some were indeed stupendous, and I couldn’t believe I’ve waited so long to see them.

And some… well, some had eluded me.

It’s hard to put the finger at the cause. It just happened. I never caught them on TV, there were always other movies I wanted to rent and I always said “yeah, I should see that sometime”. The bottom line is that there are some heavy hitters out there, classic, trend setting pictures that I haven’t seen to this day. I’m quite ashamed of that, really.
Some time ago I made a conscious decision to eliminate that shameful blight on my cinematic pedigree by picking them up one by one from Amazon – yes, actually buy them, as if to clean my conscious, but it didn’t really materialize. Also, I refuse to download them from (cough) certain (cough) sites. It just seems that if I’m about to watch them for the first time, this is not the way to do it, which is silly when you think about it – I mean, wouldn’t it be better to watch them than not watch them at all? Go figure. It’s not really rational, this whole thing.

So taking the 2007 AFI list of the best 100 movies ever made as a model, here they are, those classics that I have yet to see and don’t really have any excuses:

On The Waterfront (1954)

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

The Deer Hunter (1976)

Nashville (1975)

Cabaret (1972)

The African Queen (1951)

All the President’s Men (1976)

And some foreign titles from the top 250 films of all times from IMDB (a list that quickly loses it’s credibility thanks to what seem like hordes of impulsive teenagers):

The Seven Samurai (1954)

Cinema Paradiso (1988)

Yojimbo (1961)

Nosferatu (1922)

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)