FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Norman Jewison |||
Norman Jewison

Yes, he directed “Moonstruck” and two unforgettable musicals, but Jewison is also responsible for a trilogy of films focusing on racial-injustice, a whacky Cold War comedy and a signature film of Steve McQueen’s showing that he is one of the most versatile directors since Robert Wise.

This blueprint for good investigation dramas tells the story of a black Philadelphia detective investigating a murder in Mississippi who matches wits with a redneck sheriff. Groundbreaking for it’s time, this Oscar winning film is still relevant today and offers a gripping mystery with terrific dramatic performances by a complete cast of fully realized characters.

This is an amazingly funny and entertaining irreverent "Cold War" comedy about a Russian submarine stranded outside an isolated New England town, which throws the locals into a panic. Jewison does a delightful job of utilizing his all-star cast to their fullest, deftly mixing Capra-esq characters with Mel Brooks’s type situations (and vise-versa).

A bored millionaire (Steve McQueen in his prime) masterminds a flawless bank job as Faye Dunaway (an insurance investigator out to get him) identifies him as the mastermind and falls in love along the way. This is the original and the best, with all the arch stylized movie techniques of the ‘60s (including split-screen and fuzzy shallow focus) and the most erotic chess game ever captured on screen.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht

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One Missed Call (EdwardHavens)

By EdwardHavens

April 21st, 2005

If Takashi Miike’s “One Missed Call” is, as some have suggested, a parody of the rash of recent J-horror films, he has created a work that is too clever for its own good.


If not, and Miike is simply a latecomer to an already-passé trend, he’s created an uncharacteristically derivative work that might suggest sixty-three films in twelve years might be too much for a single filmmaker to take on before hitting their expiration date. Either way, this film is one missed opportunity to bring something new to a tired genre.

Think of all the J-horror (and K-horror) movies you’ve seen and heard about from the past five years, and think of all the clichés from those films. The dead grandmother. The crazy mother. The absent father. The things that hide in the closet. The strange convulsions. The quick-cutting and multi-speed shaky-cam zooming and darting about. The evil young girl with long black hair who comes out of nowhere. Someone who proclaims “It’s over, it’s okay,” followed by a moment of calm before something even worse happens. The cheap thrills using extremely loud sound effects in place of a genuine shock. The explanation that the evil comes from someone who died under adverse conditions. They’re all here. Every single one. It’s as if there was no script at all but a magnetic plot kit on Miike’s kitchen fridge, with various scenes arranged and rearranged until nothing made any sense, and only then did he decide to start shooting.

To be fair, there are a couple of interesting moments in “One Missed Call” (especially handling, no pun intended, the creepy post-accident dialing of a cell phone by a disembodied arm) but not quite enough to make it anything more than a curiosity for hardcore Miike fans only. Plot is rather simple… the friends of a staid young woman (Kou Shibasaki, so exceptional as the psychotic Mitsuko in “Battle Royale,” doing a complete turnaround of her most famous character) start to die in mysterious ways, all tied to individual voicemail messages left on their cell phones, dated three days in the future, in which their last moment alive is recorded for posterity. Determined to figure out what’s going on after her best friend gets one of these creepy calls (despite the fact the phone was shut off when the call came in), the girl teams up with a introverted funeral director whose sister died under similar circumstances to find the missing link and save the day.

I’m really not that demanding a filmgoer, unless expecting a modicum of respect from filmmakers of their audiences is considered being difficult. When I go to see a horror film, I expect some truly frightening moments. Scenes that build up the suspense until oppressed audience members are ready to burst if you don’t give them that visceral release and give it to them right now. Like almost every other recent Asian horror film, “One Missed Call” relies too heavily on the loud quick thrill that’s there and gone in the blink of an eye. If this was meant to be a parody of films like “Ringu” and “Ju-On”... well, a parody should be smarter than the films it is mocking, not more frustratingly obtuse. Miike is normally a smarter filmmaker than he is here, and will hopefully return to form with his future endeavors.

My rating: D+