Friday, April 27, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #17: Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life

I still think the best thing about listening to his music is that even though I don't understand the words, I know the intent is to make you feel kinda dirty... 

Grab a pack of Gauloises and curl up with this bio-pic treat. Originally reviewed for DVD Snapshot.

Official Synopsis:

Renowned comic book artist Joann Sfar's Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life is a completely original take on one of France's greatest mavericks, the illustrious and infamous singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg (Cesar winner Eric Elmosnino). Starting with his childhood in Nazi-occupied Paris, Sfar follows him all the way to pop superstardom as he romances many of the era's most beautiful women, including Juliette Greco, Brigitte Bardot, and Jane Birkin. Employing a witty, surrealistic style and a soundtrack of the musician's greatest hits, Gainsbourg: a Heroic Life is a quintessential time capsule to '60's Paris.

Our Take:

Gather 'round, children, and I'll tell you of a time when smoking was chic... and few smoked better than Serge Gainsbourg. Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life captures the musician and legendary lover with his ever-present cigarette and unusual worldview. Reformed smokers and drinkers should approach this with caution, but fans of music (and drector Joann Sfar's style) may jump right in.

Through a childhood during the Nazi occupation to stardom as a gravel-voiced pop poet, Gainsbourg is presented as a sophisticated Lothario even in youth. First a painter (Sfar's own illustrations are used here), he grows to be one of the world's most popular musicians, thanks to his jaunty, unusual, and frequently frankly sexual songs. (There's a sly reference to the double-entendre “Lollipop” song, while “Je t'aime... moi non plus” gets a wittily uncomfortable airing.)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #16: Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey

A delight reviewed for DVD Snapshot -  not the world's most illuminating documentary by any means, but it's got Muppets - so what more do you need?

Official Synopsis:

Beloved by millions of children around the world, Elmo is an international icon. However, few people know the soft-spoken man behind the furry red monster: Kevin Clash.

Narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey follows Clash's remarkable career, while also offering a behind-the-scenes look at Sesame Street and the Jim Henson Workshop. As a teenager growing up in Baltimore in the 1970's, Clash had very different aspirations from his classmates-he wanted to be a part of Henson's team, the creative force responsible for delivering the magic of Sesame Street on a daily basis. With a supportive family behind him, Kevin made his dreams come true.

Featuring interviews with Frank Oz, Rosie O'Donnell, Cheryl Henson, Joan Ganz Cooney and Clash himself, filmmaker Constance Marks's insightful and personal documentary tells the story of one of the world's most adored and recognizable characters and the visionary behind the icon.

Our Take:

As someone who does not have children, I may be at a disadvantage evaluating the impact Elmo has on them. I know my niece and nephew love him, while the parents who are my peers sometimes grit their teeth at his voice. However, if you grew up with The Muppets, and Sesame Street, as I did, there's something about Being Elmo that takes you right back to childhood. You'll note how children respond directly to Elmo, even with Clash visible... and you realize you'd do the same.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #15: Brainstorm (1983)

As an accomplished movie watcher, I can sometimes get surprised realizing that I haven't actually seen a movie I know a great deal about. Brainstorm is one of those. A bit of a flop, its fortunes were darkened by the death of Natalie Wood during the production. I also knew it was made in two aspect ratios, one being Super Panavision for the effects scenes. When I realized that was all I knew, I decided to get a copy and check it out.

I'm glad I did.

The story itself involves a team of scientists (Christopher Walken, Louise Fletcher, Natalie Wood among them) creating a device that perfectly captures sensory input and translates it for the subject. You can taste what the person on the other end is eating, feel what they touch, see what they see. When the device also proves to not only be dangerous, but also record emotions and memories, they're dismayed when the government steps in to exploit the device's potential as a weapon. The thrills come in when one when Dr. Brace discovers that the project was funded with brainwashing and torture in mind, and in his further quest to see the recording of one doctor's experience with death. Did the tape record the answers of what happens after?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #14: Ernie Kovacs: The ABC Specials

This week, it's not a movie, but rather a series of long-lost television specials that should by all rights be classic. Originally reviewed for DVDsnapshot, it's a real pleasure to share these with you.

Official Synopsis:

Before his untimely death at the age of 42, television pioneer Ernie Kovacs left us with a sublime body of comedy work whose influence can be seen on everything from Monty Python to SNL and David Letterman. He made eight TV specials for ABC in 1961, the final year of his life, and these show Kovacs at the peak of his creative experimentation with the medium, featuring many of his comic masterpieces and iconic set pieces. Five of these programs are presented here in complete uncut form, along with many of his celebrated – and delightfully offbeat – commercials for Dutch Masters cigars.

Our Take:

Many people currently only know of Ernie Kovacs by footnote and annotation, but this collection of 50 year old TV specials will change that perception for you, and you may never look at classic television the same way again.

A combination of (frequently silent) slapstick vignettes and visual poetry set to music, these shot-on-video specials surprise with witty, quick jokes that rely on physical humor and absurd setups There is also occasional imagery that may well have inspired David Lynch (a roasted chicken dancing in kinescope or the series of faces during “The Story of Water,” anyone?)