Movies We Like
Handpicked By The Amoeba Staff
Films selected and reviewed by discerning movie buffs, television junkies, and documentary diehards (a.k.a. our staff).
Even Dwarfs Started Small
There are some films that are so disturbing and bizarre that you can’t rationally explain them, you just have to experience it for yourself. Even Dwarfs Started Small is precisely one of those films. But seeing I love this film so much I’m going to try to describe it to the best of my ability.
Even Dwarfs Started Small, Werner Herzog’s second feature film, is about a group of dwarfs confined to an isolated institution of sorts. At the film’s start, the dwarfs find themselves left unattended at the institution they are confined to. The dwarfs feel unhappy and trapped in their surroundings and decide to rebel against their authorities. Over the course of the film, the dwarfs destroy anything they can get their hands on at the institution. The rebellion escalates to absurd and disturbing levels as the film approaches its bizarre and hysterical conclusion.Continue Reading
A vast industrial landscape, two towering smoke stacks, a rundown factory building, and a coal-covered ground as far as the eye can see. Somewhere in the distance a small white dot slowly moves over the black and gray landscape. This tiny dot is our main character, Wanda (Barbara Loden), attempting to find her way through the barren wasteland that has become her life.
Wanda is a meditative American Road Movie about a poor housewife who begins to feel lost and empty with the state of her life. After being accused by her husband of abandoning him and their children at a divorce hearing, Wanda aimlessly begins to drift from her home and take to the road. Unsure of her purpose and direction, Wanda finds herself clinging to another lost soul she meets on her journey, the short tempered small-time crook Norman (Michael Higgins). Wanda and Norman drift through highways and towns, committing petty crimes and robberies that eventually lead to tragic ends.Continue Reading
Signs of Life
Signs of Life is Werner Herzog’s first feature, and it is also my personal favorite out of all his films. In Signs of Life Herzog introduces many of the themes and techniques he would elaborate upon with each successive film. His cast of rebellious misfit characters, the remote exotic locations, and his hauntingly poetic images are all introduced and fully utilized in this film.
Signs of Life is the story of a soldier who is wounded during a war and reassigned to a remote Greek island with his wife and two fellow soldiers. Their task is to guard a useless munitions dump in a ruined fortress located next to the harbor in a small village. In an attempt to escape his feelings of entrapment, Stroszek goes out on a patrol of the bordering hills where he is gripped by madness at the site of something he sees over the horizon. This encounter drives Stroszek to madness propelling him to lock himself away in the fortress and declare war on both man and nature.Continue Reading
Aguirre, The Wrath of God
Dense tropical jungle, violent river rapids, hostile natives, hundreds of screaming monkeys, and one man's decent into megalomania and madness. Aguirre, The Wrath of God, is one of Herzog's most hallucinatory and disturbing films. Filmed in the remote Peruvian rainforest Aguirre, The Wrath of God was Herzog's first collaboration with the notoriously volatile actor Klaus Kinski.
With Kinski, Herzog created his greatest and most anarchic rebel of them all. Aguirre is a Spanish Conquistador who travels down the Amazon River in search of the lost city of gold, El Dorado. Over the course of the film, Aguirre assumes command of the expedition by murdering and manipulating his fellow conquistadors. As they drift further and further down the river, Aguirre descends further into madness eventually becoming obsessed with power and claiming himself the 'Wrath of God'. It's Aguirre's descent into madness and megalomania that propels his obsessions with power and domination to reaching god-like illusion.Continue Reading
The Big Trail
On the eve of the Depression, studio and theater owner William Fox decided that something new was needed in film exhibition. So he created Fox Grandeur – the first 70mm widescreen projection system. The process used to sometimes mind-boggling effect in The Big Trail, Raoul Walsh’s early sound Western.
The feature supplied the first starring role for the unbelievably young John Wayne, who plays Breck Coleman, a scout who signs on to lead a wagon train of settlers from Missouri to the Pacific Northwest. Along the trail, he romances a comely pilgrim (Marguerite Churchill), is menaced by a trio of deadly baddies (Tyrone Power, Sr., Charles Stevens, and Ian Keith), and faces perils ranging from a tribe of hostile Indians to the raging elements.Continue Reading
For a country not known for redefining or even perpetuating the horror genre, the French are starting to step up to the plate and show the world how it’s done. In recent years, we’ve seen several little horrifying gems come from a place better known for idiosyncratic comedies, dark fairytales and, essentially, the definition of modern cinematic storytelling. Such films include Irreversible, Haute Tension, Inside, and this film – Frontiere(s).
First of all, I have to thank Phil Blankenship for motivating me to check this one out. I had read a really good review in a recent issue of Fangoria yet I wasn’t convinced. Apparently, it was apart of the “8 Films To Die For” festival that takes place in November (that could very well be the reason I didn’t take this one too seriously upon discovery). It wasn’t until my conversation with Phil that I really took notice.Continue Reading
Cleo From 5 to 7
What defines the feminine experience? What does it mean to live, breathe, and die as a woman? Agnes Varda questions mortality through the eyes of a beautiful young woman on the edge of success in 1960's Paris. Cleo has been to the doctor and is waiting for the diagnosis, though she's convinced it's cancer. We follow her in real time for two hours and stand as witness to the fullness and frivolousness of a life coming to terms with itself.
Death and despair compel the coquettish Cleo into existential searching meeting with friends, lovers and strangers and we see her precise steps into and out of an other's preconceived perception. Coy lover, whimpering child, precocious beauty, passionate collaborator, old friend and lovely stranger: Cleo is all of these but then so much more as you realize she is fast forwarding the journey to find herself the anchor that she desperately needs to face her death and to fight for life.Continue Reading
The Delirious Fictions of William Klein - Eclipse from Criterion
One word.... FINALLY! Here's to hopes that Klein's name will extend out of the art house arena (and out of the jungle of highly sought out rare/bootleg versions of his films) ... thanks to Criterion's Eclipse imprint we can finally view three of the most aesthetically unique films of the 60s and 70s. An ex New Yorker that set up in Paris in the 40s, photographer William Klein embodied the bold and iconic early 20th century art styles, a visionary that sought to change how artists made art and how audiences viewed it. Edgy political and social commentary, haute-monde fashion experiments, a brilliant eye for composition and insightful narratives (and films that attracted the like of Serge Gainsbourg as one of his gonzo character creations!)...This is the psychedelic world of William Klein!...Continue Reading
American Psycho (2000)
Christian Bale provides a virtuoso performance that launched him as an adult leading man. From one moment to the next, he is distant and unreadable and on a dime, becomes manic and frenzied. He is both frightening and funny, which is always a great combination in an anti-hero.Continue Reading
Cinema 16: European Short Films, Vol. 1
16 shorts, 16 stories, 16 tales that prove shorts can have as much power as feature films. What makes these shorts stand out from others is the attention to detail, since shorts tend to be more focused. The styles vary as each work holds its own, and while it is interesting to see famed directors' shorts (often their first or beginning works), the ones that are from lesser-known directors are most refreshing. Yet– watching the works of directors such as Christopher Nolan or Lars Von Trier gives viewers more insight into what their visions were in a more attentive short form.
I was most inspired by "Before Dawn", by Hungarian director Balint Kenyeres. Simply told through its stunning visuals, the story is about refugees hiding in a high wheat field. The premise itself is challenging, and the way it unfolds is powerful and compelling. The cinematography is haunting, as the title may reveal.Continue Reading