This week’s Watercooler Musical Interlude is Luis Enríquez Bacalov’s theme song from Sergio Corbucci’s Django, a film which lent its name to Quentin Tarantino’s delightful spaghetti western/blaxploitation mash-up Django Unchained which opens Christmas Day. Not coincidentally, this theme opens Tarantino’s film.

That’s it from me, now it’s your turn because you’re what this column is all about. Has anyone seen anything lately worth talking about? Lay it on me.

11 Responses to “Djangocooler”

  1. Oh I love that theme song, and just heard it on a theatre screen four months back during a screening of the film at the Film Forum’s spaghetti western festival.

    As we approach Christmas Day 2012, many of us with faith and optimism can look ahead to a much better year than the past one has yielded. While I feel the right candidate won the presidential election and the movies were generally better this year than they were in 2011, the past twelve months brought us far more tragedy than any any year since the 9-11 attacks over a decade ago. Hurricane Sandy inflicted massive damage and human loss, the movie theatre killings in Aurora, Colorado, shocked and traumatized a nation, and just a little over a week ago an unspeakable act of depravity at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut has darkened the holiday season, broke so many hearts, and left many of us feeling guilty for going on with our lives. We must go on of course, and we need to stress the positive and think of all the lovely people we know and interact with, and the knowledge that the vast majority of people are good, loving and supportive. The week’s wrenching funerals in Connecticut have affected so many of us, and while we move forward with our plans, hobbies and interests we do it with the heaviest hearts, knowing that others not so fortunate will be grieving for the rest of their lives, with their babies taken from them.

    Lucille and I (and Sammy for some) saw:

    Zero Dark Thirty ***** (Wednesday night) Regal E Walk Cinemas

    Amour ***** (Thursday night) Film Forum

    Barbara ** 1/2 (Friday night) Angelika Film Center

    The Impossible **** 1/2 (Friday night) Landmark Cinemas

    The Perks of Being A Wallflower **** (Sunday) Landmark Cinemas

    Katherine Bigelow’s extraordinary ZERO DARK THIRTY, a thriller/detective story hybrid that chronicles the real life revenge enacted against Islamic terror master Osama bin Laden can also be defined as a non-partisan intelligence procederal with some serious moral implications. The latter concern, documented with uncompromising and searing authenticity over the first 20 minutes or so of the film chronicles the torture of “Ammar” by American CIA and security operatives, one of whom is “Maya” played with ferocious intensity by Jessica Chastain in one of the year’s greatest performances. Bigelow’s refusal to take sides has attracted the outcry of some politicians, but there is nothing here that leaves one believing that anything has been fabricated or enhanced. And it’s clear this kind of intense interrogation led to the wipe-out of the world’s most wanted figure in a brilliant green-tinted end piece in the Pakistani bunker the world is now familiar with. The film opens with a dark screen, withall the audio panic of 9-11, and contains a speculative period, where lead-in events bring the SEAL teams and the CIA closer to their target. Brilliant script by Mark Boal, and videography by Grieg Fraser. A strong contender for film of the year on a Top Ten list I plan to finalize for publication at WitD on Monday, January 7.

    The fragility of life and the inevitability of old-age check out is given austere treatment in an emotionally powerful film by Michael Haneke, AMOUR, which won this past year’s Palme d’Or, and has received some of the year’s most glowing reviews. Haneke makes no judgement on the deterioration of a relationship between two retired musical teachers, brilliantly played by Jean-Louis Trintigant and Emmanuele Riva, and with his customary clinical dissection he keep music out of the equation and leaves bare his examination of the last days of life. This is not a film one would probably want to see more than once, and it immersed in despair and the physical deterioration of old-age. As the daughter the great Isabelle Huppert, a past Haneke collaborator, tries to add some sense into the downward spiral, but the film makes it clear that there can never be a happy ending. There are some jolts here that will leave one disturbed, but there is no question this is filmmaking of the highest order, and one of the most wrenching depictions of old age on the screen.

    BARBARA, a critically-praised German film by Christian Petzold that won the director top priced at Berlin, has an interesting visual style and a striking lead performance by Nina Ross as a chain-smoking introvert, but the film is excrutiatingly dull and Ross’ character is extremely detached and unlikeable. Set in 1980’s Germany, there is an accurate air of oppression, but there is nothing to allow for emotional connection, including a resistance to music, which in this case may have helped to establish what was ultimately missing.

    THE IMPOSSIBLE, a wrenching drama about a real-life tsunami that delivers a lethal blow to Southeast Asia chronicles the separation and final reunion of five members of a family who miraculously survive, despite the high death doll. Naomi Watts gives a performance of exceeding physical endurance, while newcomer Tom Holland as the 14 year-old son delivers a scene-stealing turn as the pillar of strength in the nearly-apocalyptic aftermath that continues the separation. Spanish director J.A. Bayona pulls off the big set piece near the biginning with effective special effects, and while he uses Caucasians to fill in for a Spanish family (to conform with his preference to shoot the film in English) and thus violates the authenticity, I think it’s the spirit and resilience surrounding separation and the obsession for re-union that he is really after here. The composer Fernando Velazquez has contributed one of the most affecting musical scores of the year, and a vital component to this deeply-moving emotional equation.

    THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, written and directed by Stephen Chbosky is a deeply affecting coming-of-age drama set in Pittsburgh with a trio of exceptional performances by Logan Lerman (as the lead, playing a nervous and isolated high school freshman) Emma Watson and Ezra Miller. The film revolves around the lead’s opening up, after connected with his supportive English teacher Mr. Anderson, and after getting stoned on a spiked brownie. Various revelations and humor come through in the inspired script (a major plot point is revealed at the end) and the film makes excellent use of Bowie’s “Heroes” and the cult film “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Though the film received excellent reviews I still found it a major surprise.

  2. Bad Santa tonight.

    I also saw Double Indemnity again when they played it on TCM this week.

  3. Sam I’m delighted by your response to Zero Dark Thirty and not at all shocked by your love to Amore. What shocks me is your love of Impossible. A movie that’s controversial at best; Havent seen it yet so I can’t comment, I’m just saying.

  4. Alison, how did Bad Santa go over? I don’t need to ask about Double Indemnity because I know it rules

  5. Craig, believe me, I went in to THE IMPOSSIBLE fully expecting (and wanting) to like it. I had seen the trailers for weeks prior and figured on some serious manipulation. But Watts, young Mr. Holland, some eye-opening effects and a deeply moving story with wrenching periods of separation and eventual re-unions made for an immersive emotional experience. Valazquez’s music was magnificent as well. The review for the film are actually quite good, all things considered.

  6. I saw both The Guilt Trip and Perks of Being a Wallfower this weekend.

    Guilt Trip is a fairly cliched and predictable buddy road movie, but it smartly gives all the heavy lifting to Babs Streisand and lets Seth Rogan handle the roll of straight man. It’s not anything revelatory, but it’s certainly not horrible and delivers some good laughs and a nice conclusion to a mother-son story.

    Perks is also entirely predictable and somewhat clumsly in its use of John Hughes-esque cliches, but it excels with it’s able cast and its willingness to go for the throat in emotional resonance. Ezra Miller (The Truth about Kevin) injects a perfunctory feel-good gay character with all the pathos and realsim one could hope for. He is going to have an incredible career as a character actor. Emma Watson proves she is America’s favorite teen girl friend, taking the mantle of Natalie Portman’s quirk-tacular Garden State character and running with it. I really enjoyed her, as unrealistic and predictable as the character is. And Logan Lerman does able work as Charlie, even if the entire film is stacked to make him the Most Sympathetic Character Ever.

    I also rewatched The Bourne Legacy this weekend, which is an exceedingly efficient thriller that manages to close the door (effectively) on the original trilogy while also creating a new smart avenue for these characters to move forward. Honestly, I think this is the best action thriller of the year, few warts and all. (Note: I want to believe Zero Dark Thirty and Django Unchained rise above the “thriller” and “action” designations, but if I’m wrong then I will revise this approximation next weekend).

  7. Ezra Miller was the best part of Perks by a long shot.

    Saw The Hobbit last Saturday. For some reason, I found it the easiest of the Middle Earth films to sit through. Great cast, Freeman was superb and the 3D was worth it (which is rare to say).

  8. I watched “Red Hook Summer” and it’s one of my favorite movies of the year.

  9. meant to say in my final comment (#6) ‘wanting and expecting to HATE it.

  10. Ezra Miller was quite something in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”, which I fond in general to be excellent. Great use of “Heroes” too.

  11. Ari, I’m glad to hear someone singing the praises of Red Hook. As I mentioned in the most recent podcast (not sure if it got edited out because I haven’t listened yet) I’m saddened Clarke Peters is not being recognized

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