Question of the Week: What’s your favorite contemporary black & white films?

This week’s question is inspired by Sin City: A Dame to Kill For screening Tuesday night. Boy it’s been ages, almost a decade to be exact, since the first film was released.

SinCityDameToKillFor

To be honest with you, I don’t remember much about the story but the visual certainly is striking. The graphic novel came to live onto the screen, the term ‘graphic’ here has double meaning as the violence truly was quite explicit. Yet the stylish way it was filmed somehow made it somewhat more palatable if you will, enhancing that fantasy element to the noir story. So I kind of expect more of a visual feast with this sequel and not much else, but who knows it might surprise me.

So it got me thinking about other contemporary black/white films released in the past decade. Naturally the first thing that came to mind is Schindler’s List, but that was over twenty years ago. If we’re looking at just in 2000s decade alone, there are nearly 250 films in either partial or entirely done in black & white (per Wiki). Here are a some of beautifully-shot B&W films I’ve seen just in the past 10 years:

Memento
Memento (2001)
AngelA
Angel-A (2005)
SinCity
Sin City (2005)
TheArtist
The Artist (2005)
CaesarMustDie
Caesar Must Die (2012)
Nebraska
Nebraska (2013)

There are some recently-released ones I still want to see like Control, Persepolis, Blancanieves, Much Ado About Nothing, Frances Ha, Ida, etc. Hopefully I’ll get to those soon.


So what’s YOUR favorite modern Black & White films you saw recently?

Music Break: The Artist’s Waltz for Peppy

Happy Friday everybody. Hope y’all had a nice Valentine’s Day yesterday.

I listen to Classical MPR radio on my commute to work and yesterday morning there were a lot of Valentine dedications and they’re playing some beautiful, sweeping waltzes. One of them is Waltz for Peppy from the gorgeous soundtrack of The Artist. Oh I just love that music so much I wish I could play it on repeat!

TheArtist_Dance

Somehow I missed including George Valentin & Peppy Miller in my list of 14 favorite movie couples! So this is my way to make it up for them. I love this scene when Peppy auditions as a dancer and George spots her, and he then insists that she gets a part in Kinograph Studios’ next production, despite the studio boss’ objections.


Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo are simply sublime. Apparently director Michel Hazanavicius played music from classic Hollywood films throughout the shoot while the actors performed.

The soundtrack is composed by French composer Ludovic Bource and was recorded in Belgium by the Brussels Philharmonic. It has won pretty much every single film award that year, including BAFTA, César, Golden Globes, and the Oscar for Best original Score. The music is even more crucial and affecting the fact that it’s a silent film, and it fits the playful yet sweet tone of the film so perfectly.

I remember being absolutely enchanted by this film when I first saw it two years ago (I gave it a 5 star review). I haven’t seen it since. Listening to this makes me want to watch it again real soon.


Hope you enjoy today’s music. What do you think of The Artist?

FlixChatter Review: The Artist

Every once in a while a film comes along that ends up becoming the ‘talk of the town’ so to speak. This year, that film is this The Artist. I’ve been waiting to see this since I saw the trailer last May. A silent black and white film in this day and age is obviously a novelty, but fortunately, that format alone isn’t simply a gimmick, French director Michel Hazanavicius offers us something more.

The story centers on a 1920s Hollywood silent film era star George Valentin, he started on as being at the top of his game, being adored by his fans the world over and Valentin loves every minute of it. Jean Dujardin plays Valentin with a sly smile and a twinkle in his eye, the quintessential debonair movie star with the world on his feet… little did he know.

Valentin encounters an up-and-coming starlet Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) in one of those ‘meet cute’ moment, and later Valentin ends up helping Miller catch a small break in one of his films. Sparks fly and it’s obvious they had a thing for each other, but circumstances drive them to go their separate ways. Before Valentin realizes — as he choose to ignore the obvious — a change is coming as talking pictures (talkies) is taking over. Pretty soon, Miller’s career in gaining ground whilst Valentin’s crumbling right from under him.

There’s nothing groundbreaking about the plot, in fact it’s quite predictable, but the inventive way it’s told is what makes this film so remarkable. Oh the joy of silent film, where the tiniest body movement and every little facial gesture like a raised eyebrow means everything. The right expressions can be as powerful as any dialogue and all the actors here did an outstanding job in conveying their intention and emotion without overdoing it.

The entire time I was watching this I was truly enthralled by everything happening on the screen. I was in awe of the gorgeous visuals which was unlike any other film I’ve seen in years, but on top of that, I also connected with the characters, with their joy, their despair. You’d think a film this stylish would be a victim of style over substance, but that’s not at all the case here, and for that reason alone this film is a triumph.

If this is playing in a cinema near you, I highly recommend you seeing this its big screen glory… the set pieces, the costumes, the cars, all the vintage ambiance will transport you to a bygone era that’s long departed but hopefully not forgotten. There’s also a few wonderful dance sequences by the two leads that were done in a long, uninterrupted take… it’d make even Gene Kelly stand up and cheer.

As for the performances, I thought this would be more of Dujardin’s vehicle, but I was pleasantly surprised that Bejo’s role is equally substantial. In fact, it’s nice to see that the female character isn’t the one that needed saving. I’d definitely be rooting for Dujardin and Bejo come Golden Globes and Oscar time, they are both electrifying! Dujardin has the panache and whimsy to carry off the charming movie star role, as well as the ability to evoke real pathos when things aren’t so rosy in Valentin’s world. Bejo is radiantly beautiful yet affable, you can’t help but like her character straight away. She really imbues so much heart into this film… her affection towards Valentin appears genuine and sincere.

I have to give props to the supporting cast as well. John Goodman is excellent as a Hollywood studio mogul, and James Cromwell is sympathetic as Valentin’s chauffeur. Penelope Ann Miller seems a rather odd choice as Valentin’s unhappy wife but I think she acquits herself well in the role.

Major kudos to Hazanavicius for creating a film that’s not only enchanting and delightful but something so refreshingly different from anything we’ve seen lately. This is the first 5 out of 5 rating I’ve given this year, and I really can’t find a single darn thing wrong with this film. One review I read said he didn’t want the film to end, and that when the lights came up, he didn’t feel like facing the world outside. I can certainly relate to that… The Artist is an exquisite blend of artistic visual style and engaging storytelling, a truly a magical time at the movies!

5 out of 5 reels


Have you seen this film? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Christmas Weekend Viewing Roundup

Hello all, happy Monday! I hope a lot of you get today off as well as Christmas fell on a Sunday. Well, it’s been a nice, mellow Christmas weekend for me but boy did we watch quite a lot of movies!

The three new movies I saw this past week couldn’t be more different from each other… a silent film, an espionage thriller and a motion-capture adventure based on a beloved comic series. All of them are movies I’ve been waiting to see for a year or more!

Earlier in the week I got a pair of advanced screening tickets to see The Artist, thanks to my pal Ted. I’ve got the review done and ready to publish tomorrow, that’s the first film I gave a five out of five star this year. I highly recommend it if it’s playing near you, trust me you won’t be disappointed.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy lives up to the ‘smart thriller’ promise though if you don’t like a ‘quiet’ film where not a lot of things are happening, this might not be a movie for you. I watch it mostly for the top notch British ensemble cast and for that reason it did not disappoint. I should have the review up later in the week.

Now, The Adventures of Tintin is still pretty fresh in my mind as I had just seen it yesterday afternoon. As you know, I’m a huge fan of Hergé’s comics and I’ve been waiting for this movie for almost two years! The fact that I was at the Tintin panel at Comic-con made me even more excited for this, which is really quite a build-up leading up to finally seeing the movie. Well, I’ll write a full review for this also but for now I can tell you that I’m glad Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg did the comics justice! They are both fans of Hergé’s work and it shows.

Now, I also had time to watch a couple of Gregory Peck-related stuff for my Peck marathon… one is The Snows of Kilimanjaro, which was based on Ernest Hemingway’s short story. It’s the second collaboration of Gregory and his friend, the beautiful Ava Gardner.

I have to admit, that even though the story was engaging and the cast were great to watch, but the fake backdrop used in the studio-sets are quite distracting! Apparently the studios only sent the photographers to the actual locations but the actors all remained in the studio lot. What a pity considering the filming were supposed to take place in Africa (hence the title), Spain and France!

I also finished Gregory’s well-written biography by Gary Fishgall. It’s the first actor biography I ever care to read and it’s quite a page turner. It offers a pretty good history all the way to his childhood and his start on Broadway, as well as a plethora of trivia on his illustrious acting career and his numerous philanthropic efforts. Here was a man who had a big heart and admirable persona to go with that devastatingly handsome good looks. I also watched this warm and candid documentary done by his daughter Cecilia called A Conversation with Gregory Peck (part of the 2-disc of To Kill A Mockingbird), another fascinating glimpse into the life of a true Hollywood legend. You can watch the full doc on You Tube, here’s the first part if you’re interested:


l love that the opening sequence is done in the style of To Kill A Mockingbird, which understandably is the film he’s best remembered for. Oh how I wish I had been able to attend one of those Q&A sessions, but watching the doc allowed me to live vicariously through some of his fans.


So what did you happen to catch this weekend? Please share your own weekend viewing roundup in the comments.

Wishing you all a blessed Christmas!

It’s Christmas eve and the sun is shining outside with no hint of the white, fluffy stuff outside. So yeah, this year there’s no White Christmas in Minnesota, I’m sure travelers and last-minute shoppers rejoice not having to deal with extra traffic caused by bad weather, but there is something so charming about snow-covered streets that make those Christmas lights sparkle even brighter… like this dramatic fan-art rendition of Bedford Falls, George Bailey’s hometown in It’s A Wonderful Life (from fanpop.com). I so love that movie, no wonder it’s a Christmas tradition for a lot of you… more on that in a bit.

Unlike last year where I traveled to New England to spend time with my in-laws, this year is a pretty mellow one for me. We’re going to an afternoon church service later today, followed by a get-together at a friend’s family dinner. The rest of the weekend’s plans will probably include lots of movie-watching, yay! I’ve got The Help dvd and we might catch The Adventures of Tintin on Christmas day. I also got to see Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (finally!) which was somewhat unplanned, we were just at dinner and checking out what films are playing nearby. As soon as we saw this title playing in an hour at a nearby theater, we immediately decided to watch it. I should have the review of that and The Artist next week.

Well, I managed to squeeze in a Christmas classic this week based on the recommendations of people at the MTOS Twitter event, that is The Bishop’s Wife. It’s a cute and heart-warming movie starring Cary Grant, David Niven & Loretta Young where Grant played an angel (talk about the ultimate fairy tale!). I enjoyed it but it’s definitely not going to replace It’s a Wonderful Life as my favorite Christmas classic. I’ve been reading a bunch of wonderful posts dedicated for that Frank Capra masterpiece:

Of course there are other great Christmas classics for your holiday viewing:

  • Iba at I Luv Cinema explored a few of them in her Tuesday’s Overlooked Films post
  • The master of Top 10 Lists Dan Stephens have various Top 10 Christmas Movies from the 1980s all the way to the 2000s
  • Oh and don’t forget to check out Lesya’s Christmas in Genres, a collaborative effort with many movie bloggers including yours truly

Let me close with this wonderful score from It’s a Wonderful Life‘s opening sequence. There’s an interesting story behind that music however, which apparently is not exactly a joyous one.

With that, I want to wish you all a blessed and merry Christmas and thank you for being such loyal support of FlixChatter!