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Posts Tagged ‘werner herzog’

Patton Oswalt is a stand up comedian extraordinaire and one of those actors who tries really hard to bring in as much originality, finesse and pure unadulterated awesomeness. As a stand-up, he’s dynamite on the microphone (and not just because he resembles a tub of nitroglycerin); explosively funny in delivery, brilliant in content and just under six feet of raging, scatterbrained intellect. Small town America’s repressed comedians turning into Dubya-hatin’, independent art-lovin’, under appreciated, over informed smartass social misanthropists is somewhat of a cliché but the ferocity of his commitment for original humour is something else. He’s great for the same reasons men like Lenny Bruce and Bill Hicks once were. They say it like they see it, without a filter, and secretly nurse a grudge with the world (or at least the 2% which appreciates good comedy) for laughing along with them.

After watching him in Robert Siegel’s Big Fan, I’m also convinced that soon we are going to watch this man receive a ‘best supporting actor’ Oscar statuette, nervously adjusting a ridiculous bowtie in a tasteless suit while sweating profusely and thanking his best friend, Toby the potted plant, for encouraging him through the journey. Then he’d spit at Meryl Streep and ask the Weinstein brothers if they’d like to kiss his ass for 3$ a cheek only to be escorted outside by security and never to be seen on television ever again.

It wouldn’t matter though since Patton Oswalt is one of the funniest fuckers around whether you’ve heard of him or not. Here’s a list of his cameos, movie roles, comedy tours and documentaries I’ve seen.

Down Periscope: Patton Oswalt made his feature film debut in David Ward’s comedy about a goofy submarine crew doing goofy stuff with their super serial Lt. Commander played by Kelsey Grammar. Patton barely gets any screen time as Stingray Radioman and the movie isn’t very good either except for this scene. Moving along.

Magnolia: In Paul Thomas Anderson’s 188 minutes of mindfuck of a movie, he plays Delmer Darion, a blackjack dealer stricken by fate in one of the opening montages. For what it’s worth, he makes a really mean and scurvy face after being accidentally scooped up by a firefighting airplane while scuba diving. Great performances by Julianne Moore, William H. Macy and John C. Reilly too.

Man On The Moon: He has a ridiculously short cameo in Milos Forman’s Andy Kaufman biopic as Blue Collar Guy, a sheepish-looking fellow. Nothing much to say here. Instead of moving along, maybe we could take this opportunity to discuss you, my dear minion. Tell me a bit about yourself. Did the cool kids treat you badly in high school? Do you miss listening to audio cassettes?

Zoolander: Not that it is anything to write home about, but he beats Ben Stiller (Zoolander) silly in the absurdity quotient as the Monkey Photographer. Once again he does his shtick for a few seconds and makes us giggle. I think Will Ferrell’s a barrel of hoots, but still I would have much rather had Patton Oswalt play Mugatu.

Run Ronnie Run: Troy Miller’s trailer park comedy stars a lot of people making idiots out of themselves. Considering David Cross and Brian Posehn co-wrote the script, this film’s excessive gross-out content was really disappointing…and I don’t seem to remember much of Patton did here. IMDB says he played Dozer – Editor #1. Sounds about right Oh Jeff Goldblum almost saves this film with his killer delivery of one-liners.

Calendar Girls: Nigel Cole’s 2003 comedy about none-too-desperate housewives posing nude to raise money for local hospital’s fundraiser is vaguely amusing, especially when Ciarán Hinds and Julie Walters are on-screen. The vendible valetudinarian from Virginia is barely noticeable as Larry in this, and for a wee moment, pops in and out.

Starsky & Hutch: Apparently Ben Stiller is a big fan of Patton. I bet Stiller walked up to director Todd Phillips and said, “Patton friggin Oswalt as a 80s disco jockey, man…call me when it sounds like a good idea to you?” Thank god he called. Patton and his swanky disco suit make a memorable appearance in this film and stage a douchebag dancing contest between a coked-out cop and a man child.

Blade Trinity: This was Patton Oswalt’s initiation into cinema. While his foreskin wasn’t grated and served back to him with a side order of chilli chips, he was expected to act in a truly horrendous film starring Wesley Snipes and stop it plummeting into the abyss. In David Goyer’s crapfest of a comic book adaptation, he plays Hedges – a socially challenged tech geek, which is spectacularly convenient considering Patton in real life is a socially challenged comic book geek. All sorts of Grecian justices were done here.

Reno 911 Miami: Read review here.

Ratatouille: It’d be easy to say that Patton Oswalt sold his soul by starring in a Pixar film, so you can go ahead and say it to your heart’s content. I actually liked the darn film. As irony would have it, he had the least interesting character (lead, but still) in this film but I’m at least glad to know he didn’t do anything stupid with the money like lose weight or star in another Pixar film. Just to remind you, Peter O Toole gives a glorious speech in Ratatouille as Anton Ego, the food critic.

Balls Of Fury: Robert Ben Garant’s kooky caper features one of his funniest cameos. He plays Hammer – a local table tennis prima donna looking to derail Randy Daytona’s (the film protagonist) path to greatness and awe-inspiring good ol’ American heroism. He’s barely on our screen for a couple of minutes but is hilarious enough for us to want more. Much more. The absurd cockiness with which he struts about the ping pong table makes me want to see him play a super villain. Are you listening, Nolan? You have the best man to play either The Penguin or The Ventriloquist right here.

All Roads Lead Home: So finally Patton moves up Hollywood’s ladder and ends up in the ‘main character’s best friend’ rung. Dennis Fallon’s 2008 family drama about broken hearts and sad puppies    (no, really) has the world’s smallest violin playing a stirring version of Iron Butterfly’s Inna Gadda Da Vidda (yes, kidding) halfway through the film. Patton Oswalt as Milo – a sensitive animal shelter worker and Peter Boyle (in his final film appearance), who plays a Clint Eastwood-like grandpa, give us reasons to go slow on the ‘skip’ button. Milo is sometimes sappy, but never annoying, and he’s constantly surrounded by cute puppies. Uh Oh.

Big Fan: Read review here.

Observe and Report: Read review here.

The Informant: Steven Soderbergh has a discernable talent. He hires A-list actors, gives them vaguely quirky characters and makes them behave like they took a crash course in existentialism. Credit to Matt Damon for not letting it bother him; he is surprisingly good in this film. As for the portly and paludicolous possum (don’t ask) from Portsmouth, he plays Ed Berst – one of the company lawyers out to prove Mark Whitacre (Damon) wrong. He sports a great facial expression when Whitacre unrelentingly bullshits in the conference room.

No Reason To Complain / Werewolves and Lollipops / My Weakness is Strong: He hates Republicans, hippies, bigotry, glam rock, Steven Spielberg, and politics, loves indie music, comic books, action figurines and the cleansing aura of nihilism. Plus, he’s tremendously funny. In the Werewolves and Lollipops TV special, he even gives a State Of The Urinal address, urging people not to pee on other people because it’s just not nice at all.  Yes, somebody actually peed on another person during one of his shows in Austin, Texas and yes, he’s that funny. Now I’m going to try and see of he’ll be my pen pal.

The Comedians of Comedy: This is, as Generation X and Y have so lovingly coined, the shit. In 2004, some funny people – Patton Oswalt, Zach Galifianakis, Brian Posehn and Maria Bamford – filmed one of their erstwhile stand-up tours and, with the help of Netflix, shot a documentary feature called The Comedians of Comedy. This is no Werner Herzog documentary where a collage of sounds, colours and ideas explodes in front our eyes, leaving them breathless and shivering. No need to fret about editing, the camerawork and sound-mixing either. They barely delve deep enough into their psyche to give Oprah a chance to even consider giving an itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dotted fuck. This is about four eccentric comedians trying to hustle some interest for their Gregg Turkington-influenced stand-up tour that features them performing at smaller indie rock venues instead of comedy clubs, and to bring the funnies, fast and furious.

Patton’s in usual form, transitioning from psychotic post-modern preacher mode to ‘funniest dude from college’ mode with ease. He makes Dane Cook’s jokes about society sound like Mickey Mouse’s farts against a cellophane sheet. Zach Galifianakis seems a bit like Jack Black, but not nearly as annoying. But he doesn’t get funnier after the first few minutes he’s in. I’m not a fan of pairing music with comedy either, so his song-style skits didn’t do much for me. As for Maria Bamford, she does great impersonations of people, both living and fictitious, and cute jokes about her dysfunctional family. I really liked the bits when wasn’t on stage and just chilling in front of the camera; also, she should start acting in indie movies since she has a fantastically dreary Hope Davis-like look.

Brian Posehn, for me, is the highlight of the documentary. You might know him as this guy from the sitcom Just Shoot Me, which incidentally makes you want to do just that. He is also a regular on the Sarah Silverman Program. As goes for most people who look like they skin city folks in a lonesome cabin by the hills and eat the rats that try feasting on the remains because mommy didn’t love them enough, Posehn has a great personality. While his jokes are mostly self-derogatory, the punchlines are so sharp and vicious that you never get tired of them. Plus, his uber geekdom towards comic books and arcade games are both creepy and adorable. There’s even a half of minute of proper cinematic goodness when he awkwardly hugs his wife before hitting the road with Patton.

I hope a special place is reserved for me in hell because I’m going to have to say, these guys are truly the comedians of comedy.

One more thing. Support independent musicians, film-makers and comedians. Given all the torrent-ing and thieving that happens, and will continue to do so, we should pledge our allegiance to them any way we can. So go on, order an album from Amazon, buy a DVD of eBay and more importantly, move your butts and watch them perform live.

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World’s Greatest Dad: I have never liked those wholesome family comedies or dramas. Hated Problem Child. Loathed ET. Cried during The Lion King for all the wrong reasons. Swore upon my grandma’s grave that I’d find and kill the Little Mermaid, Lassie, Flipper and those annoying 101 Dalmatians. That kind of sparked the anger I had as a teenager for Robin Williams. He starred in films such as Hook, Mrs Doubtfire, Toys, Jumanji, Jack, Patch Adams, and Bicentennial Man that tried enticing us with hyperbolic chirpiness. Over time I have grown tolerant towards him and as irony would have it, this comedian looks more convincing in tragedy. Exhibit A to E, Fisher King, One Hour Photo, Insomnia, House Of D and grossly underrated The Big White.

In Bobcat Goldthwait’s World’s Greatest Dad, he plays Lance Clayton – failed novelist, underappreciated teacher and grieving dad of a misanthropic pervert. He is nice enough chap, but lady luck has a habit of kicking him in the side of his head. There’s a young professor who keeps outperforming him in front of his girlfriend. His neighbor is an agoraphobic pot-smoking grandma and even she ignores him. To top it off, his son embarrassingly dies from autoerotic asphyxiation.  Poor old Lance Clayton. Everything he wanted in life kept vanishing into thin air, pausing only to break wind to add to the humiliation of his existence. Needles to say, everything gets turned around once a “suicide letter” is discovered and posthumously published. Few months later, Clayton is the toast of the town. Popular, loved and respected. Sounds cute, doesn’t it?

While the film had all the ingredients of a perfectly respectable indie movie, the second half strays too far from the morbidity that had grabbed me in the first. Even the accidental (hopefully, not ripped off) nod to the final scene in Thomas McCarthy’s fantastic Station Agent doesn’t help matters towards the end. I can only thank heavens that it wasn’t Anger Management climax-level bad.

All’s not lame however. The first half is both funny and fucked up and I quite liked it. Daryl Sabara has shaken off the Little Annie-look that he had in the Spy Kids trilogy; he is quite the revelation as Clayton’s immensely dislikable son – Kyle (who could have run amok the suburban streets with Alex, Dim and the rest of the droogs). Alexie Gilmore does a neat job playing Claire – Clayton’s girlfriend; something about the slyness in her eyes makes her captivating to watch. Oh and Robin Williams just jumped ahead of Marlon Brando on the list of men the world should have never seen naked. It isn’t lame as much it is evil.

Bad Lieutenant: I say this with a heavy heart. I enjoyed Abel Ferrara’s way more than Werner Herzog’s Port Of Call: New Orleans version. The original had Harvey Keitel in one of the grittiest portrayals of a rogue cop, investigating a young nun’s rape while sinking into new levels of decadence and corruption. Herzog’s had Nicholas Cage trying his best to come across as the bad guy. He investigates the drug-related assassination of a family of African immigrants while dealing with his drug addiction. Truth be told, I don’t get Herzog’s casting decisions. I have no friggin clue why he roped in Eva Mendes, Val Kilmer, and Xzibit; they were all sorts of bad, especially Val Kilmer (one would think he did more drugs than the bad lieutenant). Thankfully, some worked. Jennifer Coolidge and Brad Dourif (Billy Bibbit!) were impressive as the perennially-sloshed stepmom and the nervous gambler.

On to the Herzog-Cage experiment. One of my least liked actors being led by one of my favourite directors. Well, the thing is, Cage has tried really hard (he even picks up an accent about 40 minutes into the film), so it is hard to fault him. To be honest, it is one of his best performances (Weather Man remains his truest yet), but then again, that isn’t saying much. Unfortunately, this also happens to be one of Herzog’s least impressive films. Just so you know, it had nothing to do with the actors or his direction; it  is merely as petulant to expect him to ape another man’s vision as it is unfortunate  how little could have been done to make Abe’s version any better.

For me, the real surprise lies in the visual elements in the film; never has a Herzog film looked this mediocre. Cinematography had a role in making Keitel’s portrayal of the Bad Lieutenant seem more irreverant that he actually is. In this, Peter Zeitlinger’s photography is surprisingly timid as it plays second fiddle to Lt. Terence’s mental deterioration; quite the contrast to the disquieting beauty he conjured in the truly Herzogian Encounters at the End of the World and Wheel of Time.

Having said all that, you should defintely watch Bad Lieutenant, Port Of Call: New Orleans at least to see what once happened in 2009 when Werner Herzog actually directed Nicholas Cage. Two masters (one of new wave cinema, other of bad one-liners) trying to perfect a strange craft. Sort of like watching Jet Li wrestle Mike Tyson for the beach volleyball title. Awkward, vaguely intriguing and a frankly, very disturbing.

Fear Of The Black Hat: I love mockumentaries because of their silliness. Even the madcap entertainment of B-grade slasher flicks pale in comparison. From Christopher Guest’s pioneering This Is Spinal Tap to the more recent, Justin Lin-directed Finishing the Game, mockumentaries have generally thrived on satirizing popular phenomenon, be it art, religion, social fads, martial arts or whatever. Rusty Cundieff’s Fear Of The Black Hat is a hilarious take on the gangster rap culture. Focusing on the rise and fall of the controversial rappers in NWH (Niggaz With Hats), a very obvious dig at the gnarliest of west coast rap outfits NWA (Niggaz With Attitude), the mockumentary takes us on a tour in the lives and times of MCs Tasty Taste (Larry B Scott), Ice Cold (Rusty Cundieff) and mix master Tone Def (Mark Christopher Lawrence).

Larry Scott brings most of the funnies, with his character shuffling between spoofing Public Enemy’s Flavour Flav and rapper Too Short, I guess. Matter of fact, with the exception of Vanilla Sherbet (Devin Kamin), the archetypal whiteboy rapper, everything else about Fear Of The Black Hat is very funny. Props must be given to the three lead actors, who, despite the silliness of it all, have done a very commendable job. Seriously, go out of you way to see this.

CB4: The problem with Tamra DavisCell Block 4 (CB4) is that Fear Of The Black Hat was released a year later and had pretty much the same story going for it, but only funnier.  Also, at some point in the film, I think that Chris Rock (who wrote the film and starred in it) and the director started getting all serious instead of sticking to taking potshots at this genre of music and the lifestyle it demands. Charlie Murphy gets a few laughs as Gusto, but it was 1993 and he wasn’t even close to the awesomeness he brought to those skits in the Dave Chappelle Show much later. Not even a reworking of Sugar Hill’s Rapper’s Delight could save CB4. Pretty soon, the dialogues start to wear thin as inside jokes turn into semi-preachy one-liners. For instance, MC Gusto hears this from his dad a good hour into the film.

Albert Sr.: You ain’t tough. There are real some kids out there that are going to kick your narrow ass. You ain’t from the street, I’m from the street. And only somebody who wasn’t would think it was something to glorify.

Riiiight…that’s great. Thanks. Now why don’t go fight the power or something.

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session 9

Session 9: I didn’t know this until IMDB filled me in a few hours ago, but I have seen all of Brad Anderson’s films. In fact I have enjoyed everything he has done. Despite being little more than romantic comedies, Happy Accidents and Next Stop Wonderland escape the suck on the merit of its actors – Marisei Tomei, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Philp Kaufman. As many of you already know, The Machinist is fantastic and actually does justice to Christian Bale’s method acting shenanigans. Of course, there is that gratuitously updated Hitchcock train ride of 2008 – Transsiberian – which then brings us to Session 9 (co-written by Stephen Gevedon) that was released in the year 2001. I watched it a few days ago and I must say, it has left me in a deliriously creeepy state of mind (much ike Wolf Creek, Descent, Eden Lake). The sort in which, you are strangely at ease with not predicting false climaxes since you actually care about what happens to these characters; in which, you are also not cool with the director’s sense of justice, but you choose to make peace with it for the sake of cinema. Seemingly trivial stuff, but constant reminders that there’s more to the relationship between films and free time.

session9

So, this five-member asbestos cleaning crew goes to work on the Danvers State Mental Hospital (now an abandoned asylum) and well, something’s not right. The boss man – Gordon (Peter Mullan) – seems to be a little over the edge, his best friend and crew chief – Phil (David Caruso) – has gotten secretive about his professional intentions while the other two – Hank (Josh Lucas) and Mike (Gevedon…again) – seem more troubled than ever before. Oh there’s Jeff (Brendan Sexton III) too, but he’s just a slacker who’s afraid of the dark. As the film claws its way towards a feverish climax, you are desperately unsure about what exactly is creeping you out; and when you finally realize the cause behind all the bloody carnage, you sigh and think about how enormously frightening it must be for blind mice to find love. If you are one of those normal people, you’ll probably recoil in terror and mumble, “oh that’s messed up”.

Ahem…anyway, Peter Mullan and Stephen Gevedon give fantastic performances with the latter proving his mettle in scriptwriting, as well. Tight, atmospheric, and gripping, Session 9 is definitely one of the creepiest films I have ever seen.

quarantine

Quarantine: I love zombie films. If my fears about the swine flu were to ring true and the dead start coming back to eat the living, I would want George Romero to come over to India and shoot a film about that. Hell, he could even title the film as  Had To Joke About Pigs Flying, Didn’t You? and I’d still love it. Zombies = fun. Needles to say, I got a real kick out of Quarantine. John Erick Dowdle, along with his brother Drew, took the storyline from Jaume Balagueró and Luis Berdejo (who wrote the apparently superior Spanish original – REC) and gave it an ol’ American twist. For instance, they bring into account the distrust people had towards the Bush administration. In this case, a bunch of middle-class folks are trapped inside a building that has been sealed up by secretive government agents. Inside, a cop and a military officer try to rally up the forces to ward off those pesky zombies. I am pretty sure I have seen this a hundred times before in different films, but I have yet to dislike even one. However I must admit… The Poughkeepsie Tapes movie sounds infinitely cooler.

dead_mans_shoes

Dead Man’s Shoes: My consumption of Shane Meadows’ films begins with Dead Man’s Shoes. I have read too many nice things about him for me stay away from his work any further. I guess I’ll post a Shane Meadows edition in couple of weeks, so I’ll make this one brief. Dead Man’s Shoes is a tremendous low-key revenge thriller. The premise is not original, but the atmosphere certainly is. The lush sceneries that embrace the screen every ten minutes, along with the lovely music score, do wonders. The film begins with Richard (Paddy Considine) scouting lambs for the slaughter, as we are told that this former army officer is out to draw blood from all those who did horrible things to his younger brother. And then we meet the perpetrators – some callous, drug-addled men, others normal blokes who just had a wild night out. There’s almost this Woodsman effect (a film in which Kevin Bacon plays a sympathetic pedophile) which causes you to question Richard’s morality – and that’s exactly what makes this film utterly fantastic (and also why Azrael remains as one of the great Batman characters). I will write more about Shane Meadows soon.

bottle_rocket

Bottle Rocket: Wes Anderson’s films – Rushmore, Royal Tenenbaums and Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou – have redefined my expectation of humour from mainstream American cinema. Even the recent Darjeeling Limited was pretty great too. As much as I would like to habe them labeled as underground, they wouldn’t fit the billing. They have A-list actors, a decent budget and pristine production – elements that fortunately seem inept at tainting the humour quotient. Prior to watching this, I have heard a lot of nice people say that Wes was never quite as funny as he once was in Bottle Rocket. Well, I don’t know, man…I just wasn’t tickled by Bottle Rocket’s supposedly whimsical comedy. It was almost as though Wes Anderson let the more random of the Coen Brothers (not sure which one) take over the directing duties. While I could have thought of far worse directors to associate metaphorically with this film, it does lack the charm that accompanied his Wes’ films with Bill Murray.

The story is that Owen and Luke Wilson – two likable criminals desperate to play high stakes try to weasel their way into better lives. The jokes draw a laugh or two, but that’s mostly because of the over-the-top delusion of Owen’s character (Dignan). You can almost see where Wes Anderson got the idea for that Eli Cash character in The Royal Tenenbaums. Luke’s a miss in this one as his character channels the mild confusion that drives those kids in Beverly Hills 90210 and passes it off as existential grief. Together they get themselves entangled into silly situations until salvation reaches out to one of them. Unlike the film, life’s happy ending worked out much better. Mr Wes Anderson has grown to become an absolutely terrific director.

incident at loch ness

Incident At Loch Ness: So, this Hollywood producer (Zak Penn) ropes in Werner Herzog and a few others to shoot a film about the Loch Ness monster. Little does Herzog know that Zak just wants to make a blockbuster without actually giving a shit about cinema, art, German New Wave and all that. The thing is, another crew is already filming a documentary about Werner Herzog’s life so we, the audience, get to watch the making of The Enigma Of Loch Ness, and also the making of the making of the same. Of course, none of this actually true, so what we are left with is a confusing mockumentary that is both hilarious and silly in equal proportions. Directed by Zak Penn (who is friggin awesome as a mean-spirited asshole), and starring Herzog…wait, no really…dammit. Go watch Incident At Loch Ness and you tell me.

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Where the Green Ants DreamWo Die Grünen Ameisen Träumen (Where the Green Ants Dream): Sounds like a Philip Dick novel doesn’t it? (self high-five for 3,456th pop culture reference). Anyway, Wo Die Grünen Ameisen Träumen gives us the impression that it is based on an ancient, deep-rooted local folklore. The film takes us through an age-old confrontation between Australian aborigines and mining companies over land proprietorship. The companies want to drill through it whereas the Aborigines warn them about a potential threat to humanity. The greens ants can no longer dream if you disturb the land, they mumble to the head geologist (who is put through a satirical asskicking by Herzog) of the mining company. After a bit a research, I discovered that there is no such thing as the myth of the green ants. Herzog made that shit up for our pleasure. I bet he also instructed cinematographer Jörg Reitwein to paint the Australian desert with love and madness; breathtaking images, I tell you. Come on, good people…I know you’ve seen Wayne’s World, you know the drill…”We are not worthy, we are not worthy”.

cobra verdeCobra Verde: Let me get this out of the way. Cobra Verde is probably the most intense film of the entire collection. This 1987 grandiose adaptation of a Bruce Chatwin novel also marked the final time that Herzog and Kinski ever worked together. The novel (The Viceroy of Ouidah) is sort of based on the real-life exploits of Francisco Felix de Sousa, an African-Brazilian slave trader a.k.a “the greatest Portuguese slave trader”. In the film, Kinski plays a Brazilian rancher, Francisco Manoel Da Silva, who murders his boss, passes through a slave plantation, causes ridiculous amounts of carnage and ends up as a vicious bandit. Apart from the stunning visuals and the frighteningly surreal costumes, there is also a lush, provocative sensuality in the women who appear in Cobra Verde that somehow calms the madness around them. Try catching it when (if) you ever watch this. Useless Fact: There’s a neo-glam rock band from Cleveland who call themselves Cobra Verde.

Lektionen in Finsternis (Lessons of Darkness): Already reviewed here.

scream of stoneSchrei Aus Stein (Scream of Stone): The presence of this 1991 film in the collection made me feel better about the untimely exclusion of The Dark Glow of the Mountains. Surely, I needed to see what Herzog could do the already haunting and beautiful Patagonian landscape. Unfortunately it was all rather under whelming. Chronicling the story of a two mountaineers (Vittorio Mezzogiorno and Stefan Glowacz) who attempt to scale the unconquered Cerro Torre, Schrei Aus Stein is probably the least engaging of all Herzog films. Oh well, at least we got another weird glimpse of Brad Dourif’s a.k.a Billy Bibbit’s curious talent.

Tod Für Fünf Stimmen (Death for Five Voices): Herzog made this film for ZDF, a public service German television channel (first Heineken, now this…zee bastards). Following the life and times of Carlo Gesualdo, an 15 th century Italian music composer who invented vocal music compositions in chromatic language (read about this), something that was unheard of until the nineteenth century. In addition to that, he was also a Prince, a Count and a notorious murderer who killed his wife (his first cousin) and her lover and left their mutilated bodies outside the palace for everyone to see. Herzog is like a child at a candy shop as he explores nuances of Carlos’ character both as a musician and a murderer and he does so with typical creative aplomb. Forewarning: Fans of Renaissance music (yes, all three of you) won’t take kindly to the avant-garde styling of the music featured.

Little Dieter Needs to Fly: Already reviewed here.

My Best Fiend – Klaus Kinski (Mein Liebster Feind): Dam thing didn’t work. Thankfully, tai chi and herbal tea have calmed me down. I will review it when I steal a bittorrent version.

Sturz In Den Dschungel (Wings Of Hope): In 1971, LANSA Flight 508 craWings_of_hopeshed in the South American jungle leaving over 91 passengers dead and a single survivor. Sturz In Den Dschungel is about that survivor – Juliane Köpcke. Much like how he led Dieter Denegler back to the Vietnam, he leads Juliane back to the jungles of Pucallpa where the plane had crashed. What follows next is harrowing; not to watch, but rather to ponder about. Needles to say, Herzog’s re-telling gives the haunting tale an hallucinatory vibe that lingers long after the end credits have rolled. You know what else is eerie? Herzog was supposed to take that very flight during the shooting of Wrath of God on the same day it crashed.

Ten Minutes Older: The Trumpet: This is one heck of a collection of short films. Sadly, I have to take the coward’s way out and tell you that I am saving this one for a full-blown movie review post. Just to give you a taste of the sheer awesomeness, the collection also features Victor Erice, Spike Lee, Jim Jarmusch, Wim Wenders, and Aki Kaurismaki.

The White Diamond: Already reviewed here.

The Wild Blue Yonder: Already reviewed here.

Grizzly Man: The 2005 documentary follows the tragic and adventurous life of Timothy Treadwell whose love for Grizzly Bears ironically far surpassed his interest in life. Treadwell is not an easy man to understood. He’s dramatic, funny (hear him rant about the rain), introspective, fucking bonkers and insecure all at once. Needles to say, it makes for a captivating character study of someone real. But the documentary is not utterly perfect…I could have done without the melodrama in Grizzly Man. No really, grizzly manthe coroner, the ecologist, the hippie and actor/friend were all really annoying. Thankfully they don’t take up much screen time (except Marnie Gaede). The rest of the documentary looks sufficiently breathtaking. See, Herzog had access to hundreds and hundreds of hours of footage that Treadwell had shot during a period of thirteen lonely summers that he had spent in the company of the monstrous Grizzly Bears of Katmai National Park in Alaska. Leave it the man for handpicking some of the most exquisite scenes that I have seen this side of National Geography. The scenes involving the bee, the fox and the bear corpse are so magnificent that I am almost amazed that the director didn’t think of it. No, my friends, not at all. Life and tragedy had conjured that shit up for the sake of Treadwell and the legend that he was meant to leave behind.

Rescue Dawn: Already reviewed here.

Encounters at the End of the World: Already reviewed here.

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stroszekStroszek: In 1977, Werner Herzog wrote Stroszek in four days just to accommodate the maniacal talent of German actor Bruno Schleinstein (who, by the way, had no training in acting whatsoever). The brevity is quite startling considering how brilliantly Herzog has structured the story. Talk all you want about artistic impulse, but it takes more than a genius to pen something this wistfully tragic in four friggin days. As for Bruno, the main character of Stroszek, he really, really nails it. I dare you to find a character sent further astray by the crushing malevolence of life and I double dare you to find an actor who could re-do that final Thanksgiving scene with just as much brilliant absurdity. Based on a Berlin street singer’s painful pursuit of the American dream in Wisconsin, the film has him dodging the crevices of life along with a prostitute and two other friends. Also, there is a bank robbery scene that will have you in splits…and you know what won’t? When I tell you, “Ian Curtis, the lead singer of the band Joy Division, reportedly committed suicide a few hours after watching the film on BBC on May 18, 1980.”

nosferatuNosferatu: Based on the 1922 adaptation of Dracula by German director Friedrich Murnau of the same title, Nosferatu marked the second time that the two brutal forces of cinema – Herzog and Kinski – worked together. Herzog’s mind catapults the classic from its comfortable Expressionism perch into German New Wave-inspired surrealism. The nuances of change in the characters are also what make this film, in my opinion, darker than the original. For instance, in Murnau’s film, the Count (Max Schreck) is both righteously evil and charming; in Herzog’s version, Klaus Kinski is made to play the monster with vulnerability and confusion, as is hinted initially by the lack of a sexual identity in the earlier part of the film. I could even see a bit of insecurity that made us sympathize with the hunchbacked Quasimodo. I assure you, it is not without ample proof that I tell you that Mr Kinski is the fucking man.

Woyzeck: Woyzeck is an adaptation of a play by German dramatist Georg Büchner. Shot within 18 days, the film follows the life of Frank (Klaus Kinski), a soldier who tries holding on to his sanity despite being down and out. The poor man is put through medical experiments by the army just to make a bit of money for his mistress and illegitimate child. Then love puts him through something worse. Herzog does what he does best and that is to chronicle the tale of a man slowly going insane. Seriously, 18 days? I swear, Jimmy Page’s fingers and a Gibson guitar have had less artistic chemistry than these two wonderfully twisted legends of cinema.

god's angry manGlaube Und Währung (God’s Angry Man): In most of Herzog’s documentaries, the protagonist seems like he/she jumped right out off a Tom Robbins novel. They are almost always larger than life, holier than thou, and crazier than a mad cow. In Glaube Und Währung, controversial and popular televangelist Gene Scott is in focus. See, during the Seventies, pastor Scott got into trouble with the Federal Communications Commission over allegations of illegal fund raising. Of course, he rubbishes such claims and tries convincing Herzog that the government was just not cool with how much power he had over the (viewers) followers. Running for a little over 43 minutes, this bizarre documentary reaches another level of intensity when we realize how financially committed the man really is towards faith. I have never seen a man more tormented while asking for a mere favour.

fitzcarraldo klaus kinskiFitzcarraldo: Loosely based on the life of the slightly mad Carlos Fermín Fitzcarrald, a Peruvian rubber baron, this 1982 film has been dubiously known for the way it was directed (and also for a little matter concerning a 300-ton steamship). Herzog and Kinski reportedly had some of those most disturbing showdowns on the set. Thanks to the little kindness that irony sometimes bestows upon cinema, the simmering tension also made for many of Fitzcarraldo’s fantastically ad-libbed moments. And the expressions. Oh I tell you, the expressions on Kinski’s face as he orders his men around the frighteningly alien landscape of the Brazilian wild. Ladies and gentlemen, after much thought, I would like to reinforce the fact that Klaus Kinski is indeed the fucking man.

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wernerIt has been quite the pleasure devouring Werner Herzog’s filmography in high-definition. Unlike most other DVD box sets, never once did this collection seem even a trifle overwhelming in content. Whilst it would have made me a happier person if the TV specials – Herdsmen Of The Sun, The Transformation Of The World Into Music and a few others – had been included, I still can’t honesty complain considering that some of these films have made me feel incorrigibly wonderful for ever having stumbled upon this melancholic German fellow. Over the past weeks, the elation has reached such dizzying heights that I am almost at a slight loss for words. The reviews are shorter than usual to accommodate such delightful handicaps.

Letzte Worte (Last Words): Shot in 1968, this one’s an experimental short film about a strange man brought back to civilization from an isolated leper colony. Letzte Worte showed traces of the narrative style of filmmaking that Herzog later proved to be a master of. The humour is omnipresent and goes well with redundancies in dialogue a.k.a Iranian belch cinema.

LebenszeichenLebenszeichen (Signs Of Life): Later that year, Herzog released his debut full-length film about a German paratrooper going insane while patrolling the Greek island of Kos during WW II. For movie geeks out there, legend has it that this supposedly inspired Stephen King to pen The Shining, which of course gave the world the gift that was Jack Nicholson’s psychotic side. In Lebenszeichen, actor Peter Brogle holds it back so much during the initial moments that during when he eventually goes cuckoo, the audience is left breathless; not at the brutality of his actions, but rather at the extent of his change. Oh it is based on a short story called Der Tolle Invalide Auf Dem Fort Ratonneau by German writer Achim von Arnim.

Even Dwafs Started SmallAuch Zwerge Haben Klein Angefangen (Even Dwarves Started Small): His sophomore film was about a group of dwarfs rebelling against the guards and the director himself on the remote Canary Islands. It doesn’t take long for one to realize that David Lynch could probably be America’s answer to Werner Herzog in about ten years (with more maturity and less misogyny). Of course, by then, Herzog would be Germany’s answer to God. Engineered food fights, a pig killing, floral pyromania, a monkey crucifiction and a bunch of other epically surreal scenes had me asking myself, Then how come great directors don’t start small?

Fata Morgana: Herzog once described the 1971 film as “a documentary shot by extraterrestrials from the Andromeda Nebula, and left behind.” Who else thinks he should review films? He’d so sound like Ebert on downers. Based on the Mayan creation myth of Creation, Paradise and The Golden Age, Fata Morgana was shot on the southern Sahara region of Africa. Needles to say, the cinematography is breathtaking, as is the soundtrack comprising mostly Leonard Cohen’s ballads, Blind Faith and classical interludes. It should be said that Herzog has tried his best to keep Fata Morgana out of the sci fi category and despite the fact that it’s about aliens landing in the Sahara desert, he has succeeded. I’d sooner categorize this into ‘pleasant nightmares’.

Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes (Aguire, Wrath Of God): Not since words failed me a few hours after watching Clockwork Orange (they still do), have I felt this ill-equipped to review a film. I could try and probably pull off something vaguely funny and philosophical, but I’d be doing everyone injustice. I’ll lead you to the mind of Roger Ebert for a great review of my favourite Herzog film of all time.

The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver SteinerDie Große Ekstase des Bildschnitzers Steiner (The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner): Werner Herzog’s lifelong fascination with ski-jumpers comes alive in this 1974 short film that is based on the story of Swiss ski-jumping champion and erstwhile woodcarver Walter Steiner. Apart from filming the breathtaking ski-jump scenes that seem like the illegitimate children of Video Zonkers and Jacques Cousteau, Herzog also gives you glimpses of Steiner’s painful shyness, which moves you just as much. Popol Vuh’s haunting music only adds to the intensity.

The Enigma of Kaspar HauserJeder Für Sich Und Gott Gegen Alle (The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser): Based on the legend of Kaspar Hauser – “a mysterious foundling in 19th century Germany famous for his claim to have grown up in the total isolation of a darkened cell” – this 1974 film won Herzog a nice grand jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival. On a personal note, I’d like to say that this is my second-favourite film of the collection. With the Kaspar myth already drenched in mystery, Herzog adds to the mystique by casting German actor Bruno Schleinstein as the lead.

For those who don’t already know, Bruno had a fucked up life that made Drew Barrymore’s look like a Walt Disney animated feature with talking animals. Born “as the illegitimate son of a prostitute, he was often beaten as a child, and spent much of his youth in mental institutions.” Fantastically, much like Kaspar Hauser himself, Bruno too had a great ear for music. People say that he was quite proficient in the piano, accordion and glockenspiel. Come to think of it, this is the only Herzog film, in which the actor upstages him as a performer.

Mit Mir Will Keiner Spielen (No One Will Play With Me): It was only a matter of time before the director had something to say about innocence lost. This obscure (hahahaha) 1976 short film is apparently based on the stories, which he had once heard from the children themselves. It’s depressing, yes it is. Sort of like Children of Heaven, but without the miracles. Life, as Werner Herzog might tell you, is already a frightening miracle. Why want more?

heart_of_glass12Herz aus Glas (Heart Of Glass): I wish I had some sort of technical acumen when it comes to interpreting cinematography. Maybe then I could tell you in length just how friggin beautiful this film looks and feels. For now, deal with fanboy amateurism. Heart Of Glass is set in an 18th century Bavarian town known for a factory that produces red ruby glasses. When a veteran glass blower dies, so does the legend of the blood-soaked glasses. What it results in is not very pretty to think of but leave it to the director to squeeze every ounce of beauty from it. Why cinematographers don’t give free foot massages to Herzog, I’ll never know.

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My tri-weekly trips to the Rainbow DVD shop at Old Parsons Complex have yielded many sighs of delirious satisfaction. Like the time I got my hands on the Aqua Team Hunger Force feature film (No seriously, it is at a level of awesome that one would normally associate with Space Ghost Coast To Coast). Or the time when I delightedly shelled out 600 bucks for that Woody Allen Collector’s Edition set.

Today I purchased the complete works of Jim Jarmusch and Werner Herzog. Two men of film whose names should not mentioned without the use of a swanky jazz rhythm. Suffice to say, there’s a grin painted across my face that needs both gentle coaxing and sniffing of Marker Pens to fade away into the night.

Films bought/to be watched/ soon reviewed hopefully/this month/ whenever

Jim Jarmusch DVD box

Werner Herzog Collection

Long Good Friday (Bob fuckin’ Hoskins!)

Tyson

Death Of Mr Lazarescu

Dying Breed (some species better of dead, it seems..hmmm)

Man On Wire

The Indian Runner (Directed by Sean Penn, starring Viggo Mortensen and David Morse..ohh yeahh)

Citizen Duane

Art Of Travel

Great Buck Howard

Comandante

Synecdoche, New York

Harvey Krumpet

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