December 26th, 2014: Diva (1981)

diva

Cast and Crew: Jean-Jacques Beineix (Director); Irene Silberman (Producer); Frederic Andrei, Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez, Richard Bohringer, Thuy An Luu

What It’s About: Diva is a purely aesthetic experience.  It is about so much: art, honesty, friendship, love, corruption; it is about so little: accident, death, unbelievable plot coincidences.  Young motorcycle postman Jules has a borderline-stalker-grade obsession for opera diva Cynthia Hawkins.  While surreptitiously recording her performance and stealing her dress, he unknowingly comes into possession of a recording by a prostitute implicating the chief of police in the management of a large drug and human-trafficking ring.  Witnesses are eliminated one by one by a couple of distasteful homicidal pimps who aspire to look like Depeche Mode.  Our spineless hero randomly befriends a young Asian shoplifter and her mildly creepy meditating sugardaddy Gorodish, a gent who looks like the mythical offspring of a union between John Belushi and Robert Downey, Jr.  Jules and Gorodish each inhabit excruciatingly cool lofts, where one can park junked cars or go rollerskating.  Apparently director Beineix had some issues with the French film establishment, but for international audiences, Eighties Paris never looked so alluring as in this film.  Alternately satisfying and infuriating, it is a memorable experience.

Why Watch it Today?: On this date in 1770, Mozart (aged 14) premiered his first opera seria, “Mithridates, King of Pontus.”  It was six hours long.  As a genre, opera seria was not long for this world, but the visceral power of opera more widely has not dissipated.  Diva features two highly discordant musical genera.  On the one hand, you will experience the pure tones of Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez’ operatic range, lovingly recorded.  If you are even mildly musically sensitive they will send chills down your spine.  On the other hand, much of the soundtrack is primitive synthesized electronica, jarring and discordant.  This juxtaposition is actually quite suitable to the plot of the film, where art crashes headlong into crime, meditation into racketeering.

To get a feel for the movie, take a look at any YouTube film of the diva singing; or this odd bit from the guru, Gorodish, on bread:

Alternately, watch the trailer.  I must warn you, however: this movie may, possibly, have the worst trailer ever made.  It manages to give away spoilers for some major plot points without giving any hint of what the movie’s “about,” and is sonically discordant and obnoxious where the film’s soundtrack is actually well put-together.

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December 25th, 2014: Bad Santa (2003)

Bad Santa

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December 23rd, 2014: A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

A Charlie Brown Christmas

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December 22nd, 2014: The Day of the Locust (1975)

The Day of the Locust

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December 21, 2014: The Lost Boys (1987)

Lost_boys

Cast and Crew: Jason Patric, Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Kiefer Sutherland, Dianne Wiest, Jami Gertz, Jamison Newlander, Edward Herrman, Barnard Hughes, Alex Winter, Joel Schumacher (director)

What It’s About: Recently divorced Lucy Emerson (Dianne Wiest) moves with her two sons from Arizona to Santa Carla, California to live with her eccentric father (Barnard Hughes).  The two boys begin to realize there’s something not quite about the town, particular at night, when eerie undertones abound during the carnival like atmosphere on the boardwalk.  The older, teenage Michael Emerson (Jason Patric) is drawn to a young woman named Star (Jami Gertz), and through her, to her perhaps boyfriend David (Kiefer Sutherland).  Meanwhile, the younger Sam Emerson (Corey Haim) encounters the Frog brothers, Edgar (Corey Feldman) and Allan (Jamison Newlander) while shopping for comic books.  The Frog brothers proclaim themselves to be vampire hunters, telling Sam that the town is infested with them.

David takes Michael out of town and introduces him to his gang of teenagers.  Michael gives in to peer pressure and drinks from a bottle of wine offered by David, despite Star’s advice not to.  On the following day, Michael begins showing the telltale signs of vampirism; a thirst for blood and no reflection among others.  Now the race is on as Sam and the Frog brothers try to eradicate the vampires and cure those who haven’t fully succumbed, along with Michael struggling to save himself and Star.  Will they fall?

Why Watch It Today?: Celebrate Kiefer Sutherland’s birthday with one of his most iconic roles.  Remember whenever Jack Bauer saves America that it’s just a front for vampires.

December 20th, 2014: The Hebrew Hammer

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