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Found 10 results

  1. And so I did, tonight for the third time. When I saw "Barton Fink" in the theater, I swore it was one of the greatest films I'd ever seen, but I didn't have the first idea *why* it was. Tonight, I still think it is, and only now do I fully realize just how much of this film I don't understand. As I type this, I'm partially finished with this piece, an important analysis of "Barton Fink" - "'Writers Come and Go': The Greatness of Barton Fink" by Eric S. Piotrowski on medium.com
  2. *** MILD SPOILERS FOLLOW *** As a "companion pre-piece" to "No Country for Old Men" (2004) I watched (for the very first time) "Blood Simple" (1987), and I can sure see how one influenced the other. The difference being that "Blood Simple" is almost - perhaps is - a very, *very* dark comedy, in the tradition of Shakespeare's "Comedy of Errors," although "Comedy of Errors" is a farce, and "Blood Simple" is a carefully crafted, methodically worked, mistaken-assumption story that is so subtle that the audience, at times, also makes mistaken assumptions. I don't much care for the term "Neo-Noir," but in both of these Coen films, it's a very fitting description (I think I groused about the term's overuse in "The Usual Suspects," which just doesn't meet the requirements in my eyes). "Blood Simple" is so improbable that it *could have* fallen into farce, but it didn't, and the fact that it didn't shows you're being led along by two master filmmakers. The Coen brothers are positively brilliant, and I've always had "Barton Fink" on my all-time greatest films list - I need to watch that again. The ending of "Blood Simple" was as riveting, engrossing, and shocking as any ending I can think of that I've seen, and to say anything more about it (at least without a spoiler alert) would do the reader a great disservice. It is a monumentally great ending. And I have never seen a Coen film that I haven't liked - I've only seen perhaps half of them, so they're not off the hook in terms of batting 1.000, but they just may be my favorite living filmmakers when you consider their entire body of work. "Blood Simple," if you haven't seen it, is a *great* movie, and it's unbelievable that it was a "low-budget" film - it doesn't come across that way at all. If you loved "No Country for Old Men," you owe it to yourself to watch the Coen film that started it all. Superb!
  3. If you liked "A Fish Called Wanda" and "In Bruges," you'll like aspects of "Brazil." Terry Gilliam directed this 34-year-old, wants-to-be-classic film about a totalitarian state "sometime in the 19th century." "Brazil" is a strange mixture of "Modern Times," "Metropolis," and "1984," all seasoned with the comedic absurdity of Monty Python. At first, without taking itself *too* seriously, it comes across as an extremely powerful, disturbing, effective satire against the oppressive state. Then this film ultimately collapses under its own weight: Rambling and lost, it becomes tedious and pretentious, and tries to be arty for the sake of being arty, sacrificing all semblance of plot for imagery and tone - it's as if the entire last-third of the movie was written on-the-fly. "Brazil" is a good movie, but there's a reason you probably haven't watched it before - someone spent a whole hell of a lot of money making this, but for me, it was a chore to finish. I'm certain there are people who love this film, and I'm curious to hear their thoughts. There are apparently three versions of this - I watched the 2'15" version with Gilliam's original ending, which is more than disturbing.
  4. I just finished reading Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I am glad I read it. It is like nothing I have read before, including other works by him. It is challenging, but worth the effort. The 1,079 page story takes place in the future, at a junior tennis academy and a nearby substance-abuse recovery facility. It is brash, brilliant, funny (most of the novel takes place in the Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment), thought-provoking and tragic. Ninety-six pages are devoted to footnotes, located in the back of the book. These need to be read along with the text, as much of the story is told there. (A dear friend gave me book clips to mark my place in the footnotes, and they proved to be invaluable. I recommend them to anyone who reads a printed copy of this book!) Has anyone else read this book? Did you love it? Hate it? Put it down after about 600 pages? I would love to hear your thoughts. I am sure there is much I missed. After I finished the novel, for example, I went back and read the first chapter again. There were several hints in that chapter about what happened to the main characters after the novel ended. How do you think it compares to other works by David Foster Wallace?
  5. When "Get Out" debuted in theaters last winter, I couldn't wait to see it. It had a 99 percent positive critics' rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and friends whose opinions I value raved about it. I am not a fan of horror films, and I really didn't know what to expect. I certainly didn't anticipate what I saw--a thought provoking and highly entertaining film. This is a great film. It is a thrilling, darkly funny, mysterious movie that had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. "Get Out" is the directorial debut of Jordan Peele. My son is a fan of Key and Peele, so I expected this film to be funny in a slap-sticky, "Scary Movie," way. I couldn't have been more wrong. The humor is sophisticated and satirical. This movie feels like escapism, but at the same time, it made me think. It is the tale of a black man dating a white woman who goes to meet her family in their upscale country home. Nothing is as it appears during this bizarre weekend. "Get Out" reminds me of some of my favorite old films, combined in a way that is fresh and new. I watched it for a second time last night, renting it on Amazon. After the credits roll, an alternate ending is presented. The director explains why this ending--the original one--was abandoned. I enjoyed watching the film for a second time, seeing all of the nuances I missed the first go around, and I liked hearing about why the movie ultimately ends as it does. If you rent this version, be sure to watch after the credits to see this interesting addition.
  6. First, let me say that if you've ever had difficulty understanding the dialog in a film, you'll understand when I advise you to consider using Closed Captions for "Trainspotting" - a film largely spoken in the "language" of Scottish, and if you've ever had a conversation with someone from Scotland, you'll know exactly what I'm saying here. *** WARNING - SPOILERS FOLLOW *** I *love* the stop-motion introductions of the main characters - and here they are: "The Worst Toilet in Scotland" scene was hi-*lar*ious. It was also one of the single-most disgusting things I've ever seen in my life: I thought watching "The Walking Dead" would cure me forever of any revulsion while watching anything going forward: Nope. Thank *God* there was some comic relief with Renton's Thomas Pynchon-inspired swim. The scene, as a whole, is legendary, and will be considered a classic even fifty years from now, and I suspect you'll remember it for as long as you live. I've never seen Trainspotting before - it's a culture (the heroin culture) that I just don't relate to, and in a sense, this movie is a lot like "Go Fish" for me - an arthouse favorite that I've just never bothered watching because it didn't call out to me. (You can also rest assured that I wouldn't have mentioned Go Fish if I didn't have plans, in the back of my mind, of seeing it in the near future). However, I can tell just seventeen minutes into this ninety-five minute film that I'm going to pretty much *love* it - not five seconds have passed that I haven't enjoyed, thoroughly and immensely, and I have a feeling the subject matter may well be the only thing preventing Trainspotting from being considered one of the great comedies of our generation - although, maybe I should wait until the end of the film before making such a prediction. In terms of dialog, character development, and an overall "likability" factor, I think Trainspotting is going to rate pretty highly with me; again, let me not get ahead of myself. If I say this at the end of the movie, then you'll know to make a beeline to watch it on Amazon Prime, where it's *free*! One thing I've always wondered is: What does "trainspotting" even mean? Like "A Clockwork Orange," it's explained in the book, but not in the movie. From Wikipedia: "The cryptic film title is a reference to a scene (not included in the film) in the original book, where Begbie and Renton meet 'an auld drunkard' who turns out to be Begbie's estranged father, in the disused Leith Central railway station, which they are using as a toilet. He asks them if they are "trainspottin'." After that explanation, I *still* don't know what it means, but at least I have a better idea. Oh my *goodness*, the scatological humor in Trainspotting is abundant and dis-gusting! I know it's chocolate, I *read* that it's chocolate, but it's still as cringeworthy as anything I've seen in quite awhile. And even though you know it's chocolate, you still cringe. The Baby Dawn scene was one of the most bitter pills I've swallowed in a long, long time. And the extended scene where Renton's parents lock him in his room to become clean is quite powerful - there are a *lot* of memorable visuals in this film, some of which I'll never forget. You know, I was *just* about to write that the movie hit a slow spot not long after Renton got clean - it could either be that, or the fact that I'm getting sleepy (the same thing happened to me with Divorce American Style after the couple separated). I was just about to write that when Begbie is making out in the car with a prostitute, and all of a sudden, he sits up with a start and says, "Fuck!" It seems he put his hand in a rather private place and felt something down there he wasn't expecting. Ha! Ha! Ha! Surprise! Did I say earlier that this movie was a comedy? Well, it may have started out that way, but it shifted to an intense drama, with a heavy dose of suspense and intrigue. Trainspotting is a very good movie, and unlike anything I've ever seen. Highly recommended if you're of an exploratory nature - you won't be disappointed. It's not perfect, but few things in life are.
  7. It has been said that Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove is an anti-war film for those already convinced, and I suppose that's fair enough. But I've just watched it for about the 11th or 12th (or maybe 15th) time and I have to say that I think it's the greatest film ever made. It's visually ravishing, even though the process shots of the B-52 in flight are not as duplicative of reality as modern film graphics; they're still devastatingly beautiful. George C. Scott's performance is certainly his greatest in a long and wonderful career, and ditto Sterling Hayden. Peter Sellers's three performances are all precious treasures, but his performance in the title role is almost impossibly, almost uniquely brilliant. If you haven't seen it, you need to see it. You may not be aware that Sellers was supposed to play the Slim Pickens role as well as the others. I don't know if that would have made a better or a lesser film, but it's hard not to love Slim Pickens's performance. What prompted me to watch Dr. Strangelove just now was seeing Fail-Safe on TCM just before. Practically the same conception, released in the same year, except Fail-Safe didn't have any laughs or any genius. If you want another great anti-war film, possibly even for the unconvinced, watch Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory, another of my favorite movies.
  8. After months of trying, and attempting to recommend "Cold Fever" to people, I finally found it for rent online. It's not the easiest thing in the world to do, but it seems safe enough - it will take a leap of faith, however. Believe me, I've tried *everything*, and finally found something that worked, with one caveat. Go to icelandiccinemaonline.com, sign up for an account, and then comes the leap of faith: You need to purchase credits to watch films, in increments of 5 Euros. Renting "Cold Fever" requires 3 Euros of credits, and as of this writing, I have 2 Euros in my account - they're just sitting there, and probably won't be used, so I'll be happy to give them to anyone wanting to watch the film. The catch is that 2 credits aren't enough; you need 3, and so you'll need to purchase 5 more regardless. However, if you do purchase 5 more, I'll give you my 2, and you'll have a total of 7, which will give you enough to watch two films (assuming the second one is no more than 4 credits). I'll also need to figure out a way to either transfer my credits to your account, or give you access to my account, so just write me, and we'll figure this out together. Okay, now for the caveat: This is mostly an English-language film - the Icelandic parts are almost non-existent, but the very beginning is in Japanese, and when I saw this in the movie theater, 20+ years ago, I'm pretty sure the Japanese part was sub-titled into English; this version has no subtitles at all, so I'll need to tell you what they're talking about in the first 10-15 minutes of the film. Once I do, it will be extremely easy to follow: *** SPOILERS FOLLOW *** Hirata is a wealthy young Japanese businessman, played by Masatoshi Nagase with *hilarious* subtlety. His parents traveled to Iceland for a vacation, where they perished, and if I recall correctly, the anniversary of their death is coming up (it might be the one-year anniversary, or 5 year, but he's a young man, so it couldn't have been too long ago). It is customary to honor your parents by traveling to the place where they died, and performing a ritual at that location, which is what sends Hirata to Iceland in the dead of winter. That is the point where, about 15 minutes into the film, you see him boarding an SAS flight to Iceland, and that's the point where you no longer need sub-titles. *** SPOILERS END HERE *** I really didn't spoil much in the previous section, so it won't kill you to read it, and in fact, you'll *need* to read it unless you understand Japanese, because I'm telling you what happens in the non-sub-titled portion of the film - it won't ruin anything, and you'll need to know the set-up to enjoy the film. The rest of the movie is the "road film" portion, and it alternates between laugh-out-loud funny and darkly, strangely funny. I really recommend this film, not as a masterpiece, but as a 90-minute little gem - a "small film - that will be 90 minutes very well-spent. And, as I said above, I'll be happy to give you my 2 credits - get in touch. If you don't want mine, I might take yours - either way, the extra credits shouldn't go to waste.
  9. The only thing I know about <<La Règle du Jeu>> ("The Rules of the Game," a French film from 1939), is that it has a reputation of being one of the finest movies ever made. That's it - I know nothing else, so here I begin, in complete ignorance: To be honest, I didn't even know it was a French film until five minutes ago. I will, obviously, be giving my thoughts as I go ... The film takes place on the Eve of WWII, when (fictional) famed aviator André Jurieu (played by Roland Toutain) makes a trans-Atlantic crossing in 23 hours - 12 years after Charles Lindbergh's real-life 1927 flight which took 33 1/2 hours in the Spirit of St. Louis (which is housed in the National Air and Space Museum on The National Mall in DC). Call me a dweeb, but I love fictional films that interweave non-fiction - I love to learn, and any real-life info-nuggets I can pick up are always remembered. Note that "La Règle du Jeu" takes place in contemporary time - the events took place in 1939, and the movie was released in 1939. After Jurieu is swarmed by the media, he is greeted by his friend, Octave (Jean Renoir, the son of famed painted Pierre-Auguste Renoir (really!)) - Jurieux is clearly crestfallen that the girl of his affections - the very inspiration he made the flight - Christine de la Chesnaye (Nora Gregor) wasn't at the airport to greet him, and he doesn't take it well in front of the media - clearly, "love," or possibly "unrequited love" could play a central role in this plot. Christine was listening on the radio along with her (seemingly) faithful maid, Lisette (Paulette Dubost), with whom she seems to have a friendly, respectful, relationship. To create a liaison, Christine jokingly asks Lisette if she's having some sort of relationship with Octave - both Christine and Lisette are married to other men: Christine to Robert, Marquis de la Chesnaye (Marcel Dalio) for three years, and Lisette to Schumacher (Gaston Lodot), the gamekeeper at Robert's country estate, for two years - the French do enjoy their extramarital dalliances. Robert, meanwhile, is having an affair with Geneviève (Mila Parély), whom he sees the next morning (can you tell this is confusing yet? My *goodness* the relationships, and ex-relationships; the crushes, and non-crushes; in this film are mind-bending, and very difficult to keep up with, so *pay attention to the characters and their relationships with one another* - at least for the first twenty minutes of the movie.) I have a feeling it's going to be imperative, and will pay off in spades, to have these character relationships down pat inside your head before the movie progresses too far. I can see this film going in any of several directions - a mistaken-identity comedy a la "Marx Brothers," or a drama about lost or unfulfilled love, or something else entirely, but it's clear that human interaction is playing a crucial role thus far, and I'm only about 20% of the way through (overall, it seems more comedic than dramatic so far). Make the investment, and pay close attention to avoid needing to watch the opening more than once - at least up until the point where the film fades, and the automobiles are heading to La Colinière in Sologne. At La Colinière, Schumacher catches a poacher, Marceau (Julien Carette), and turns him over to Robert - who's impressed with his trapping skills, and hires him on the spot (much to Schmacher's dismay). The next thirty minutes are merely a "slice of life" about the upper crust in France, and their vacation lives of leisure at the country home, replete with interpersonal relationships, jealousy, shocking candor, and it leaves me wondering where this is all going. I'm almost halfway through this film, and for it to be considered "greatest-ever" material, it had better start improving, pronto - I just don't see it yet: I'm starting to fear this is one of "those" movies that all the critics like because they're supposed to like it. There are elements of well-played character development, but this all needs to have an end game, because it's not standing on its own - at least, not yet. Yes, it's a satire of the leisure class, perhaps to the point of being farce, but it needs to be more than this - I'm still hopeful, because there's been nothing "bad" about it whatsoever; it's just not compelling, or even all that witty. A discussion, at a gala, between two men having affairs: "You haven't seen me." "Why?" "Schumacher's after me." "What for?" "On account of his wife. We were playing around. He saw us and he's not happy. Oh, your lordship ... women are charming. I like them a lot. Too much, in fact. But they spell trouble." "You're telling me." "You've got it bad, too?" "Somewhat ... Ever wish you were an Arab?" "No, what for?" "For the harem ... Only Muslims show a little logic in matters of male-female relations. They're made like us." "If you say so." "They always have a favorite ... But they don't kick the others out and hurt their feelings." "If you say so." Meh, this is just not that good - I understand it's 77 years old, but it's still just not that good. I'm thinking maybe in context of France, 1939, this is considered pretty "bold" satire, making fun of the upper class like this, but if that's what makes this movie great - it's just plain dated. Still, I'm only halfway through ... onward. Okay, with about twenty-five minutes remaining, I've peaked at a few reviews, all of which say this is "one of the greatest films ever made." I'm afraid I'm going to need to be told *why* it's one of the greatest films ever made - I guess that's the difference between my knowledge of restaurants and films: with restaurants, I'm the one who can do the telling; with films, I guess that sometimes, I need to be told. Damn this is frustrating. I mean, I can see it's a scathing social commentary, I can see it's a farce, I can see it pits upper class vs. lower class, man against woman, and makes all sorts of fun against high society, but *one of the greatest films ever made*? Are there any film scholars here? If so, I ask for your help - this is like "Middlemarch" meets "Reefer Madness." Great works of art often go over my head the first time I experience them, and I'm willing to accept that such is the case here, but I'm going to need some assistance with this one. As great as "Citizen Kane" is, that film has plenty of detractors who wonder why it's so great - I don't think those people are Luddites; I think they honestly just don't get it. To me, "Citizen Kane" is *terribly* boring in parts - it really drags - but I can see greatness in it; I'm just not seeing that greatness in "La Règle du Jeu," unfortunately. I think its okay, but I'm not getting the multi-layered nuances it supposedly has. There's one line I just saw that sums it up for me to this point: "Corneille! Put an end to this farce!" "Which one, your lordship?" At the end of the movie, loose ends are tying themselves up, and it's clear to me that the upper crust values their lot in life more than they value humanity - *their* humanity. It's a savage beatdown, and a funny one, but not in a "ha-ha funny" way. The film is filled with stereotypes, and man it's hard to absorb on the first viewing - this is not a movie to watch alone; it's one to watch among other film lovers, and discuss as it's happening. Well, it was pretty powerful, all right - I watched it over two nights, and was very tired both evenings. I need to study it some more - much of it went over my head for sure, but I can sense how ruthless it is. "La Règle du Jeu" is free on Hulu - would a few of you all please watch it and tell me all the wonderful things I'm missing?
  10. Steve Cutts' home page is here - I'm not sure of his birth year. I generally don't condone political discussions here, but sometimes art, by its very nature, is political - all opinions are welcome.
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