My Top 10 List of Brilliant Films Where Nothing Happens

Can I be alone in my longing for inarticulacy, for a cinema that refuses to join all the dots? For an arrhythmia in gesture, for a dissonance in shape? For the context of cinematic frame, a frame that in the end only cinema can provide, for the full view, the long shot, the space between, the gaps, the pause, the lull, the grace of living.
  
  – – Tilda Swinton‘s State of Cinema address, San Francisco Film Festival

I have compiled a list of movies I really like where pretty much nothing happens. In this age of nonstop-action films, these films dare to show the pause, the lull, the in-between, that which we call life. To say that nothing happens in these films is, of course, an oversimplification, and while these films are not boring, not by any stretch, they are the furthest thing from the climatic feeling you get in other films where a mystery gets solved, or when the two main characters finally fall into each others’ arms.

These films are certainly not for anyone, but those willing to risk losing ninety minutes off their lives, might gain so much more.

 
Lost in Translation (Japan, 2003) – Director: Sofia Coppola

 
Himalaya (Nepal, 1999) – Director: Eric Valli

 
The Band’s Visit (Israel, 2007) – Director: Eran Kolirin

 
The Way Home (South Korea, 2002) – Director: Jeong-hyang Lee

 
Elephant (USA, 2003) – Director: Gus Van Sant

 
The Mailman of China’s Mountains (China, 2003) – documentary

 
Our Daily Bread (Germany, 2005) – Director: Nikolaus Geyrhalter – documentary

Entertainment Weekly Deems Israeli Film One of 50 Sexiest Movies Ever

If you haven’t had the chance to see the Israeli feature film Yossi & Jagger, here’s another reason why you should: Entertainment Weekly just released a list of the 50 Sexiest Movies Ever, and at 49th place the 2002 movie just made the cut. Here’s what EW had to say:

Yossi & Jagger DVD | Amazon.comThe titular men (Ohad Knoller and Yehuda Levi) are sturdy Israeli soldiers stationed at an icy outpost on the Lebanese border. Like a less tormented version of Brokeback Mountain’s Jack and Ennis, they keep their coupling a secret.
Sexiest Moment: The guys go at it, fully clothed, on a snowy hillside. Because we see mostly close-ups of their faces as they make out, joke, and laugh, what’s sexy is their sweet delight in one another.

You can buy the movie here, and download or rent it here. Check out Entertainment Weekly’s list of the 50 Sexiest Movies Ever, and their 25 Least Sexy Movies Ever.

Nobody Puts Swayze in a Corner

Following the troubling news about Patrick Swayze’s pancreatic cancer, and after reading Perez Hilton’s suggestion for a gesture, I thought I would do one better and watch Swayze’s hit movie ‘Dirty Dancing’ again – as I have only watched it once, 21 years ago.

A couple of nostalgia notes:
1. I first watched the movie when it came out in 1987 in the local cinema in my hometown. The coming of age of Baby (Jennifer Grey) was also my generation’s coming of age, and as 300 people left the cinema that evening (this is before the tiny cineplexes came around), all the boys wanted to be Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) and all the girls wanted to be with Johnny Castle.
2. Patrick Swayze’s song ‘She’s like the wind’, played when Johnny is forced to leave the vacation resort, was the song we all slow danced to in 4th grade. I can still remember the birthday party in which I danced to it for the first time with Amit Sadeh who would later be my first girlfriend and my partner to many other firsts that year.
3. While I knew it was inconceivable, for years I was certain that Swayze is singing ‘She’s outta Ma’alit’ (elevator in Hebrew). Have a listen before you dismiss it:

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Okay, so he actually sings ‘She’s outta my league’ – but my English skills did not peak until later on.
4. For years I was certain that Jennifer Grey and Sarah Jessica Parker are the same person. It may sound silly, but I think I tracked down a number of extenuating circumstances:
First, I think there is a general similarity between the two, which goes beyond the nose:
Left: Jennifer Grey (1987) – Right: Sarah Jessica Parker (1984)
Left: Jennifer Grey (1987) – Right: Sarah Jessica Parker (1984)

Second, both actresses played in the big dancing movies of the Eighties: Grey in Dirty Dancing (1987) and Parker in Footloose (1984).
Last, Matthew Broderick surely agrees with me, as he dated both actresses, was engaged to Grey and ended up marrying Parker.
Aside: Grey played Broderick’s sister in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), after which the two became romantically involved – Does that count as an incestuous relationship?

A couple of notes following my seeing the movie in 2008:
1. Even by today’s standards it is a very entertaining movie, although the protagonists are not given enough time to grow. This is especially evident when Baby delivers her memorable line about being “scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life, the way I feel when I’m with you”, which seemed to me as appearing too soon in the relationship.
2. Only after seeing the movie as an adult did I finally notice how Jewish the film is. All of a sudden it dawned on me that the only guests at Kellerman’s are the Housemans, the Pressmans, the Schumacher, and even “on the west porch, we have a symposium by Rabbi Maurice Sherman”. Then again, my only Catskills experience is watching PBS’s The Jewish Americans series.
3. I was surprised that twenty years later I vividly remember a lot of scenes from the movie, including tiny gestures by Baby like the double take on the bridge, the squinty head nod before the climactic lift, Johnny’s sweaty look after jumping off the stage – and worst of all, the entire chorus of the Kellerman’s Anthem (…voices, hearths and hands…).
Memorable Dirty Dancing scenes (from left to right): Baby's double take on the bridge, Johnny's sweaty look after jumping off the stage, the Kellerman's Anthem, Baby's squinty head nod before the climactic lift.
 
 

Hope Swayze gets well soon – I am off to watch Ghost (1990).

John’s Not Mad – Alin and Shani Aren’t Either

I have always been fascinated by Tourette’s syndrome, which naturally manifested in my seeing virtually every documentary ever made on the subject, including:

That is why I was very happy to find out that Israel’s Channel 10 will broadcast an Israeli documentary about the subject titled ‘Involuntary‘ (2007), directed by Boaz Rosenberg. The film follows Alin Tubul (30) and Shani Nulman (18), two young Israeli women very different from one another, as they struggle with severe Tourette over the course of three years. The US National Institutes of Health estimates 200,000 Americans have severe Tourette’s, which might infer there are 4,700 Israelis in predicaments similar to Alin’s and Shani’s. If there is, in fact, strength in numbers, I cannot imagine how lonely it must feel to have Tourette’s in such a small country as Israel.

After watching that many documentaries, I categorize Tourette’s portrayal in popular media into three depth levels:

  • Hollywood’s Tourette, as depicted in TV and movies, emphasizing the quote-unquote funny side.
  • Tourette 101, as depicted in every documentary made so far, emphasizing the day-to-day struggle with social stigmas.
  • Full-blown Tourette’s, which I have yet to have seen in popular media, revealing the typical comorbid conditions of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), intrusive thoughts and suicidal tendencies.

I can only hope future documentaries will deal with this third category.

Here is a fascinating news story about Alin and the documentary, by Channel 10’s Nesli Barda (Hebrew):
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TT9VqLrh0Gk
(Please note that for some reason Alin Tubul is referred to as Alin Biton in the story)

‘Involuntary’ will be broadcast on Israel’s Channel 10 this coming Saturday, March 1, 2008 at 11pm.

Aside:
Been thinking about Digital Footprints lately and the need to write an eloquent post about it. During the writing of this post I easily found a photo of the film director sitting naked on the toilet, as well as phone numbers (home and cell) of Alin, the film’s protagonist, along with her mental health history. What do your Digital Footprints reveal about you?

Beaufort Loses Best Foreign Film in Academy Awards

While it would have been nice to get the very first Oscar for an Israeli film, Joseph Cedar’s Beaufort was not Oscar material in my book.

Here is Cedar making his good-for-you-face to Austrian winner Stefan Ruzowitzky for Die Fälscher (The Counterfeiters):

Joseph Cedar (right) making his good-for-you-face to Austrian Winner Stefan Ruzowitzky (left) for Die Fälscher (The Counterfeiters)

More info on your mainstream media.

Academy Award Nominations Concur: America is at a Crossroads

With all the excitement of an Israeli film nominated for an Academy Award for the first time in twenty years, I did not pay enough attention to the Documentary Feature category:
Three out of five films nominated deal directly with the Iraqi conflict, including ‘No End in Sight‘, which I wrote about in a post titled ‘Watch This Film and Become a Better Citizen of the World in 90 Minutes‘. If you were not persuaded to follow my advice then, with an Oscar nomination you really have no excuse now.

Watch the No End in Sight trailer here:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGPp-WhgEXE

The 80th Academy Awards telecast, hosted by Jon Stewart (Leibowitz), will be broadcasted live:
USA – February 24th, 5PT/8ET, ABC
Israel – February 25th, 3am, Hot Gold (channel 12)

‘Vanilla Sky’ Film Quote About Intimacy

Don’t you know that when you sleep with someone, your body makes a promise whether you do or not?

Julie Gianni (Cameron Diaz) – Vanilla Sky (2001)

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Israel Losing Its Marbles Trying To Make the Holocaust Cool Enough For Kids

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day and Israeli Minister of Education Yuli Tamir, scraping the bottom of the making-the-Holocaust-cool-enough-for-our-apathetic-kids barrel, has declared a national project in which high school students will compete to gather the most glass marbles, in an effort to collect 1.5 million marbles, one for each Jewish child perished in the Holocaust.

Paper Clips is a 2004 award-winning documentary about middle school children from the city of Whitwell, Tennessee who tried to collect 6 million paper clips to commemorate the estimated number of Jews who lost their lives by the Nazis.
A young aid probably handed the minister a copy of the movie and she must have thought that this idea is, like, totally cool and stuff – and decided to create her own governmentally funded spin-off project.

I have watched the movie last year and thought it was very moving, so how can I be against a similar project this year? Am I just pro paper clips and anti marbles? Please watch the Paper Clips film trailer now before reading the rest of this post:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GP15cY3f7UA

Okay, now let us examine the differences:
The rural community of Whitwell has a population of less than 2000 residents, all of them white, all of them Christians.
A middle school history class about the Holocaust made the children aware of the fact that they have never met a Jewish person, nor can grasp the notion of six million people.
The children started writing letters to some people, explaining their project and asking them to kindly send one paper clip.
The project continued for a number of years.
Without giving too much away I will just say that this simple idea started a chain of events and made a difference in the lives of the students, the school and the city.
As a Jewish person, I have found the movie to be inspirational, as it documented contemporary kids who were not obsessed with pop culture and shopping, who were not apathetic when taught about events that happened half a century ago in a country they have never visited to a people they have never met.
That is why I did not linger over the gut feeling that linking paper clips and people is a bit simplistic and might be considered in bad taste by some people.

Now let’s get back to Tamir’s idea:
The esteemed minister initiated a government initiative in which school children from all over Israel will compete with other schools, to see who collects the most marbles.
Most of the children will most likely buy the marbles, to increase their chances of winning.
The project will probably be time-restricted, to make sure the attention-deficit youngsters will not lose interest.

These children will not be encouraged to meet a Holocaust survivor and learn about his ordeals.
These children will not be encouraged to investigate how many of their own relatives perished in the Holocaust.
These children will not be encouraged to learn about recent incidents of genocide.
These children will not be encouraged to investigate xenophobia in their own environment.

Oh no, these children are encouraged in a government funded project to collect marbles, in an effort to quantify the suffering and prove once and for all that our Holocaust was bigger and better than everyone else’s, and being in the Holocaust* was a total bummer.

I believe this is another clear sign the empire is sinking.

*Israeli children may often say ‘he was in the Holocaust’, subconsciously referring to the Holocaust as a physical place.

Who Says The Good Guy Has To Be A Guy?

[singlepic id=1 w=320 h=240 float=right]A couple of months ago when it came to my attention that Hilary Swank starred in the 4th Karate Kid film, The Next Karate Kid (1994), I was sure of two things: the movie sucks – and I absolutely have to see it.
Swank is one of my favorite female actresses since I left the cinema after watching Boys Don’t Cry, and could not speak for an hour, so when I stumbled upon this nugget of film trivia I knew I must witness how someone goes from a B-movie debut appearance to an Academy Award performance just five years later.

Well I managed to get my hands on a copy of The Next Karate Kid film and after watching it now I can honestly say it is everything I expected and even less:
A third sequel to a successful movie, taglined ‘Who says the good guy has to be a guy?’, this film had failure written all over it. The plotline was not believable, the characters had no depth, and I absolutely loved every minute of it.

As a Swank fan I watched this movie with fond eyes, the way only a mother could look at her child as he embarrasses the heck out of her, performing in the living room on a holiday in front of the entire extended family. The benefit of knowing this poor teenager (19 years old at the time of the shooting) would stand at the LA Shrine Auditorium in five years and accept an Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, knowing this made all the difference.

You can watch the movie trailer here and purchase the DVD here.

Trunk Shot – Tarantino’s Trademark Camera Angle

Quentin Tarantino’s trademarked the trunk shot camera angle and used it in every movie he directed. For your viewing pleasure, here is the visual proof, including 4 trunk shots, 3 reverse trunk shots, 1 hood shot and 1 reverse hood shot.

Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs (1992) - Trunk Shot
Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (1994) - Trunk Shot
Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown (1997) - Trunk Shot
Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) - Trunk Shot
Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof (2007) - Hood Shot

Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs (1992) - Reverse Trunk Shot
Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown (1997) - Reverse Trunk Shot
Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) - Reverse Trunk Shot
Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof (2007) - Reverse Hood Shot