I re-watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi a few days before I saw Chef, Jon Favreau’s ode to food and its makers. While these films are certainly different in dish style and form (Jiro’s a documentary), they both focus on the chefs’ love of food. Jiro is about an eponymous sushi chef known for his perfectionism while Chef is about Carl Casper (Favreau), a man so devoted to his food his risks his career and integrity. From the outside, Chef looks like a tasty meal and its first bite is sweet and delectable. But after digging your teeth deeper, Chef loses its flavor and becomes stiff, stale, and generic, the same stuff we’ve tried before.
There’s no denying Orson Welles’ status as a Hollywood icon. He was an adept director, a powerful actor, and his voice alone was so commanding it made people believe that his reading of War of the Worlds was real. After watching Welles’ The Stranger, I feel like seeing some of his other pictures. Recently I purchased copies of Touch of Evil and The Magnificent Ambersons and F for Fake (which I haven’t), all of which I hope to write pieces of online. But before I do, I thought’d I’d ask what’s your favorite Orson Welles’ movie (other than Citizen Kane)?
Touch of Evil would have to be my choice. I purchased the Universal blu-ray that contains the theatrical, preview, and reconstructed releases (I don’t know which version I saw beforehand). It’s a superb thriller that has arguably the best tracking shot there is. I’ve seen parts of The Magnificent Ambersons before in film classes that really exhilarated me. If I were to count his non-directorial pictures, I’d say though The Third Man.
But what about you?
Orson Welles is perhaps the most influential figure in cinema’s history, but despite this accomplishment the director was an outcast from Hollywood. Welles spent his entire career fighting against studio executives but unfortunately he was never was a credible name for box office success: Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, and Touch of Evil, all heavily praised by contemporary critics, were flops. The Stranger is an exception; it’s the only movie Welles made that was profitable, yet film scholars today rarely talk about The Stranger. Welles himself dismissed the project, saying “The Stranger is the worst of my films . . . There is nothing of me in the picture.”
Time sure flies by; it’s already June and 2014 has been bombarded with major releases. While there’s still much to look forward to for the rest of the year (Inherent Vice), the first couple of months have been very strong with television, plus I’ve seen a few very strong new movies.
In a post-Breaking Bad TV landscape, I predicted that the golden age of television drama that’s been around since The Sopranos started has come to an end. Fortunately I was wrong. Louie, hands down the best sitcom on television, is also the best drama of the year so far, showing its strength with the magnificent “Elevator” series of episodes. Fargo also is the year’s brightest new show, with the black humor and philosophy of the Coens’ classic movie without being derivative. I can also applaud The Americans, Mad Men, and Game of Thrones for their excellent seasons as well as Archer, Veep, Silicon Valley, and Community for making me laugh. I also have to give much praise (which I will talk more about within the next few days) about Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which has quickly found its voice and has cemented a firm status next to the top-notch satire of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
As for film, I haven’t seen many current pictures. The Grand Budapest Hotel though was an absolute treat and like all We Anderson movies will certainly improve during a second viewing. I also very much enjoyed the documentary Tim’s Vermeer as well as the monster-romp Godzilla, whose characters never really come alive on screen but has some exciting action to make up for its faults.
But what has been a highlight of 2014 for you so far?
In my review of The Birds, I criticized the paltry condition of Universal’s blu-ray release, which had an erratic playback and sound features. It’s a movie that deserves a better treatment for viewers. So today I’m asking what film do you think deserves to be restored?
Besides The Birds, 2010: The Year We Make Contact really needs to have its current blu-ray release fixed. While I’m not a fan of the movie, the quality of the DVD distribution is awful and I would like to see a better edition come out. But what about you?
Alfred Hitchcock’s follow-up to Psycho, The Birds, is one of his most iconic and memorable pictures. Much like its predecessor, The Birds turns from small town normalcy to massive insanity, the kind of inspired lunacy Hitchcock had mastered by this point in his career. While not at the same level of perfection as Hitchcock’s upper-class pictures such as Vertigo or Rear Window, The Birds is a highlight of the director’s filmography.
After the tragic passing of Gordon Willis last week, I looked back on some of the highlights of his career, which include The Godfather and Annie Hall. This got me thinking about cinematography in general and some of the best examples in cinema.
Willis’ work in The Godfather trilogy can’t be ignored for its incredible use of lighting. Vittorio Storaro also created some of the best camerawork there was in Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola surely hired fantastic cinematographers). Gregg Toland’s photography on Citizen Kane was a game changer and utilized some revolutionary techniques.
But what movies do you think have the best cinematography?
On Sunday, the movie world felt a great loss as famed cinematographer Gordon Willis passed away at age 82. Willis was arguably the best cameraman there ever was and he was incredibly influential in the age of New Hollywood back in the 1970s, working on pictures such as Annie Hall, All The President’s Men, and Manhattan. But Willis’ greatest accomplishment was collaborating alongside Francis Ford Coppola for The Godfather trilogy. With his use of dark lighting and hues, Willis established the foreboding mood that became fundamental to the core story of The Godfather. May he rest in peace.
The original Godzilla, made in 1954, isn’t as much a monster movie as an ominous call to Hiroshima and the H-bomb. The beast, an enormous, radiation powered dinosaur hybrid, was a living representation of nuclear warfare come to wreak havoc on human society. Godzilla’s destruction of Tokyo was a way for Japan to convey their unease with such hazardous weaponry as the only country actually attacked by an atomic bomb.