Prometheus Unbound: Ridley Scott & Me

How much did I love Ridley Scott’s ALIEN (1979) after seeing it at the tender age of 11? Too much. The commercials for ALIEN terrified me and the film’s tagline (“In Space No One Can Hear You Scream”) sent unprecedented chills down my spine but I was determined to see it. I can’t remember how I convinced my mother to let me go to the … Continue reading Prometheus Unbound: Ridley Scott & Me

Velvet Goldmine: Celluloid Pictures of Living

“Histories, like ancient ruins, are the fictions of empire. While everything forgotten hangs in dark dreams of the past, ever threatening to return.” – Todd Haynes, Velvet Goldmine When Velvet Goldmine was originally released in 1998 it confused and frustrated a lot of critics who were turned off by its uninhibited style, hyper editing, abundant close-ups and nonlinear narrative structure. They also bemoaned the film’s … Continue reading Velvet Goldmine: Celluloid Pictures of Living

A Decade of Fear

It’s taken me a year but I’ve finally managed to compile a list of my Favorite Films of the Decade: 2000-2009 so I thought I’d share it. My introduction echoes some earlier thoughts about fear and cinema that I shared during Halloween and wanted to expand upon. Besides my alphabetical list of Favorite Films of the Decade I also compiled lists of some Favorite Documentaries, … Continue reading A Decade of Fear

A Look Back at 2009

2009 was an interesting year here at Cinebeats. It was the first year that I wrote about films made after 1979 and my blog traffic rose considerably because of it. While I appreciated the interest in my “Modern Monday” posts, I’m not planning on continuing with them in 2010. I do plan on sharing a complete list of my favorite films of the last decade … Continue reading A Look Back at 2009

Modern Mondays: Gus Van Sant’s “Death Trilogy” 2002-2005

“Ours is a culture notoriously uncomfortable with death. We’ve minimized and sterilized our rituals for processing it; we pack it away in Styrofoam and plastic wrap at the grocery store; we worship our children and pour our resources into the fantasy of postponing old age. Yet it courses into our collective consciousness with renewed insistence every day. Death in Iraq, death in New Orleans, death … Continue reading Modern Mondays: Gus Van Sant’s “Death Trilogy” 2002-2005

Modern Mondays: OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (2006)

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If you’ve been reading Cinebeats for awhile you’re probably well aware of my fascination and fondness for spies. From the smart and exceptional Prisoner to the ridiculously silly Last of the Secret Agents?, I never seem to get tired of watching spy movies or television shows as long as they have a good soundtrack accompanying them. So it should come as no surprise that I think the recent French spy spoof OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies aka OSS 117: Le Caire, Nid d’Espions (2006) is one of the funniest films of the last decade.

The movie was directed and co-written by Michel Hazanavicius who based it on the original OSS 117 spy novels by the prolific French author Jean Bruce. The original books featured an American born spy with French roots named Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath who worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). OSS 117 predated Ian Fleming’s more well-known spy James Bond, alias 007, by 4 years, but both characters seem to share a lot of similarities. I haven’t read any of the original Jean Bruce novels myself or seen the early French films based on the books but according to director Michel Hazanavicius OSS 117 isn’t as ironic or clever as James Bond.

Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, alias OSS 117, is played brilliantly by the handsome and very funny French actor Jean Dujardin. Dujardin has clearly based his character on Sean Connery’s Bond from the early ’60s as well as other self-assured male spies from the same period and he does a terrific job of mimicking their best and worst qualities. In the film agent OSS 117 is sent to Cairo to investigate the disappearance of his close friend and fellow OSS operative Jack Jefferson (Philippe Lefebvre). Finding his friend won’t be easy and over the course of the film OSS 117 becomes entangled in a web of international espionage involving Nazis, a fundamentalist uprising and two beautiful but dangerous women played by the lovely Bérénice Bejo and Aure Atika.

OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies takes place in 1955 and the film beautifully replicates the decade it’s boldly taking a jab at. Director Michel Hazanavicius clearly loves the movies he’s emulating and OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies comes across as a thoughtful homage as well as a clever parody. From the detailed set designs, to the stylized fashions and incredible soundtrack, OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies is a film that knows exactly what it’s doing while delivering a lot of laughs. The humor in OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies is slightly more sophisticated than the Austin Power films but the movie should appeal to Pink Panther fans and anyone who enjoys television shows like Get Smart.

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Modern Mondays: 28 Days Later (2002)

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I make no apology for my sincere admiration of British director Danny Boyle. Since I first sat through a late night showing of Shallow Grave back in 1994 I’ve been impressed with his frenetic and edgy directing style as well as his ability to get incredibly nuanced performances from his actors. I believe Boyle is one of our most interesting modern directors and 28 Days Later is one of his greatest achievements.

28 Days Later tells the story of young Jim (Cillian Murphy) who awakens from a long coma in an empty London hospital surrounded by a seemingly deserted city. While Jim was sleeping a powerful virus swept through the country turning its victims into murderous monsters that resemble zombies. Throughout the course of the film Jim becomes a reluctant hero who helps other survivors try to stay alive in a situation that becomes more desperate and bleak by the hour.

The film was impressively shot by cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle using digital film for most of its running time. Instead of it being a distraction, the use of digital film in 28 Days Later actually adds to the grungy feel of the urban landscape and gives the city of London an extremely menacing look. Writer Alex Garland wrote the script, which makes many references to other movies such as The Last Man On Earth (1964), The Day of the Triffids (1962), Omega Man (1971), A Clockwork Orange (1971) and George Romero’s Dead Trilogy. But in a decade that was littered with tired ‘reimaginings’ and lackluster remakes Danny Boyle was able to revitalize familiar themes and turn 28 Days Later into one of the decades most frightening, creative, entertaining and thought-provoking horror films. 28 Days Later managed to make zombies interesting again and it also made Cillian Murphy an internationally renowned star who has developed into one of our best working actors.

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Modern Mondays: Calvaire (2004)

When I first saw Calvaire (2004) it haunted me for weeks. No matter how much I tried to forgot the film’s snow saturated landscapes, strange characters, unhinged violence and unsettling atmosphere I just couldn’t shake the movie from my memory. Images from Calvaire haunted my dreams and threatened to consume my thoughts. This fascinating horror film was directed and co-written by Belgium born filmmaker Fabrice … Continue reading Modern Mondays: Calvaire (2004)

On DVD This Week: Left Bank!

Left Bank (aka Linkeroever) has been released on DVD from IFC Films/MPI Home Video just in time for Halloween! I was thrilled to find a quote by yours truly gracing the DVD cover that lets potential viewers know that I thought Left Bank was “Just as important as LET THE RIGHT ONE” and “One of the Best Horror Films of the Past 10 Years.” These … Continue reading On DVD This Week: Left Bank!