Monday, August 23, 2010

To The Moon Alice! To The Moon!

This just came to The Leopard's attention: July 20th was the 40th anniversary of man's first landing on the moon. When you think about it, that's pretty f'in incredible. The Leopard remembers when I was just a cub in second grade. A TV was wheeled into my second grade class, and we all watched the live broadcast in awe. 

Back then, the technology that was available at the time - rooms full of old school reel-to -reel computers that all combined didn't have the memory or calculating power of one used cheap Dell PC today. The idea that we managed to send folks to the moon and back is almost beyond imagination. Astronauts were even able to bring back souvenirs (remember moon rocks?). And that's why I think more of our tax dollars should go to the NASA space program. Not so we can bop around the heavens picking up dust samples. But because literally hundreds of products, inventions and patents had to be developed in order for us to make that achievement. 

From self-flushing toilets to Tang, these commissions had to be developed by countless contracts, which in the end provides technology, jobs and income back into our society.

So, thank you brave men and women of Apollo. You hooked us up more than you ever could imagine.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Greatest Living Director

Austrian Director Michael Haneke
When discussing the latest films with colleagues and friends, the question often comes: what current filmmaker seems to be producing consistently the best films? Obviously, this is a matter of taste, as there are many genres of film that one can be attached to, and if a filmmaker stays within his or her specialty, it can be seen as a limitation. Stanley Kubrick and Billy Wilder are two examples of filmmakers who worked in many different genres but were able to maintain their individual styles. On the other hand, Hitchcock mostly created thrillers, and John Ford mostly headed Westerns. Does that make them any less great?

So this is a completely biased opinion. If I were asked right now, at this moment, whom I think is making the most original, intellectual, consistently innovative films, whose films I also enjoy for their challenging subject matter and thought-provoking themes, I‘d have to say the Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke. A triple threat auteur who writes, produces and directs almost all his films, Haneke has a distinctive, recognizable style, no matter what story he chooses to tell. Whether it be in the political thriller vein, such as “Code Unknown” or in a after-holocaust future, as with “The Time Of The Wolf”, or 1920’s Germany, the setting for “The White Ribbon”, his political agenda is  consistent, and his statements are his own. This is what true art is supposed to do: be an expression of an individual but also invite  discussion.

Here’s a Leopard’s list of recommended Haneke films:

Benny’s Video (1997)
Haneke’s first theatrical feature after a long career in television, Benny’s Video concerns a privileged young man named Benny who is obessesed with video and death. His obsession leads to tragedy and its aftermath.

Caché (2005)
His first film in French and featuring international star Juliette Binoche, Caché chronicles a troubled couple who receive a mysterious package which contains troubling images that may or may not unlock secrets of the past.

Funny Games (1997) & Funny Games U.S. (2007)
Virtually the same film, only one in German and the other in English with American stars (Naomi Wolf, Michael Pitt), Funny Games is a mysterious meditation on violence and media and their depiction in movies. A well to do family travels to their vacation home only to be victimized by two grotesquely polite young men.