Tuesday, January 2, 2007

January 2nd Log

1974, Sam Peckinpah, Mexico / United States
1st Viewing, DVD

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia opens with a lyrical shot of a pregnant woman sitting by the lake under the sunrise. The tone quickly changes when the woman is asked to so see her father. Of course, this is a film directed by Sam Peckinpah, which explains the blend of brutal, disgusting, and uncompromising blend of violence with sudden moments of poetry. This was the only film Peckinpah considered his own without studio interference and it undoubtedly is his most obsessive, most personal, and most honest film. The plot is simple (the title says it all!), but Peckinpah complicates the emotions with an anti-hero trapped between good and evil amongst a brutal world that leave shim no choice. Essentially the film is about redemption for Bernie (played with an outstanding performance by Warren Oates), who finds personal meaning and respect for himself from the man who he’s been sent to find (a man who is already dead). Featuring Peckinpah’s trademark techniques (notably in the editing and the slow-motion violence), Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia is also a strangely poetic film (expressed best in the peaceful opening shot, and later in the closing shot- a gun barrel pointed directly at the audience). I still think I’d rate Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid as my personal favorite Peckinpah film, but if there ever was a film that defined him as a filmmaker, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia would be it. Like it or not, this is essential viewing.

2005, Thomas Bezucha, United States
Repeat Vieiwng, HBO

The Family Stone is an incredibly surprising film. What seems to be setup as a formulaic family holiday film, is ultimately a moving and equally funny feel good experience. Each character is given equal respect and depth and the audiences can both relate and react with each of them in different ways. You will deeply care for every one of the family members in their own way. Aside from the feel-good family warmth and romance of the film, there are some insightful observations here in detailing this families struggle to adjust to a potential new family member. In many ways the film examines the search for moral beliefs and individuality amongst a liberal family, who are welcoming a more conservative or anxious girlfriend (played by Sarah Jessica Parker). The characters are each likeable and often it's the smaller details of the script and of the performances that make it such. The entire ensemble is terrific with Diane Keaton especially good as the mother and Luke Wilson and Rachel McAdams as two of her five children. This is just an endless enjoyable film with moments that will make you laugh, cry, and cheer. I know that sounds cliche, but The Family Stone avoids cliches and focuses on its wonderful characters. This has more to offer then you’d expect and it ends with a fitting epilogue and nice final shot, which is effective even if the symbolism is a bit obvious.


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