Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top Ten Films of 2010 Update

1. Certified Copy
2. The Social Network
3. Another Year
4. True Grit
5. Blue Valentine
6. 13 Assassins
7. Uncle Boonme
8. Inception
9. Winter's Bone
10. Shutter Island

Honorable Mention: Black Swan, The American, 127 Hours

The 2010 "Film That Makes Me Hate People My Own Age" Award goes to: Tiny Furniture


I made a top ten list before I joined film club. It can be found here. Inception experiences a drop due to the foreign films that I've now seen. I will still defend it, though. I feel like Shutter Island and the three films listed in my honorable mentions are interchangeable; I like them all about the same...which isn't a lot, but it's enough to list them.

Like Ben, Catfish experiences a huge drop off. The mystique has worn-off; the gimmick is gone. Who cares anymore? Same with the other documentaries. I thought about listing Cold Weather in my honorable mentions, but honestly, if I were to do that, it would only be to appease John and Ben. Sure it's good, but I guess it needed a Natalie Portman lesbian sex scene or something. I still like most of Never Let Me Go, but now it's something just below honorable mention to me. Meek's Cutoff is a 2011 film in my mind.

Lastly, I just want to say that I love film club, too. I've had a lot of fun these past few months and I thoroughly enjoy interacting with all of you. What started as a pinky promise with Brandon has turned into something that brings a lot of joy to my life. Jason and Lisa, hopefully we can meet each other at some point. Ben, now that I know you exist, we should hang out. John and Brandon, I love you guys and it's a blast spending time & watching movies with you. Jeff, I knew it was you; you broke my heart.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Guy White's Top Ten Albums of 2011


10. Bon Iver - Bon Iver
      Favorite Tracks: Holocene, Perth, Calgary


9. Summer People - Teamwork, Summer People/Hotchacha - Do It
    Favorite Tracks: Fish Fry #1, Fish Fry #2, Elsewhere, Hired Liars, Hallelujah I'm a Bum, The Fox and the Hound, Baseball Bat


8. Tom Waits - Bad As Me
    Favorite Tracks: Chicago, Raised Right Men, Pay Me, Kiss Me, Hell Broke Luce


7. My Morning Jacket - Circuital
    Favorite Tracks: Circuital, Wonderful (The Way I Feel), Holdin On to Black Metal, Slow Slow Tune


6. Smith Westerns - Dye It Blonde
    Favorite Tracks: Weekend, Still New, Imagine Pt.3, End of the Night, Only One, Smile

5. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
    Favorite Tracks: Let England Shake, The Last Living Rose, The Words That Maketh Murder


4. Deer Tick - Divine Providence
    Favorite Tracks: The Bump, Main Street, Something to Brag About, Miss K./Mr. Cigarette


3. The Elected - Bury Me In My Rings
    Favorite Tracks: Babyface, Look At Me Now, Have You Been Cheated, See the Light


2. Girls - Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
    Favorite Tracks: Honey Bunny, Die, Vomit, Love Like a River


1. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
    Favorite Tracks: Montezuma, Battery Kinzie, Helplessness Blues, Lorelai, The Shrine/An Argument, Grown Ocean 

Honorable Mention (alphabetical order): The Antlers - Burst Apart, Beirut - The Rip Tide, Bright Eyes - The People's Key, Middle Brother - Middle Brother, Okkervil River - I Am Very Far, Real Estate - Days, Ryan Adams - Ashes and Fire, She & Him - A Very She & Him Christmas, The Strokes - Angles, Tennis - Cape Dory

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Certified Copy

I just wanted to let all of you know that Certified Copy is now available on NWI. I hope to watch it sometime soon, because like Ben, I want to update my 2010 list.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo


At the heart of all of this The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo discussion (amongst the film community) is David Fincher. As Brandon noted, we're seeing a ton of reviews stating the film itself is very similar to the Swedish version, but is more technically sound thanks to Fincher. Honestly, I walked away from the theater thinking along the same lines. With regard to my overall feelings on the film, I fall somewhere between Brandon and Jeff. Like both of them, though, I'm a huge Fincher fan, and this film exhibits a lot of the qualities that make him one of the best directors working today. Story and director are a perfect match here.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo doesn't disappoint; I assume I'm right in saying that Jeff wasn't disappointed by it. If he was, I don't necessarily understand why. I don't know how someone who hasn't read the book could be surprised to find that the film adaptations are similar in terms of the script/story. I have not the read the books, but did watch all three Swedish films. I found them to be okay, but never felt any sort of connection to the script or the characters (Noomi Rapace was great, though). Fincher's version is not only technically better, but I was able to obtain that connection with his film. I was able to understand things more clearly...despite missing out on the first ten minutes of the film (completely bummed about this and I'm trying to devise a plan to sneak into a theater to catch the beginning; I really want to see those opening credits). 

Anyway, we can say a lot of things about the book: "good trash,"an airport novel," etc. Brandon's right to want to shift the focus away from that. Although, if you've read the books, I imagine it's pretty tough to do so. As we read something, we sort of direct the film adaptation in our own minds. Readers of the books are often the harshest critics, so it's interesting to hear Brandon's positive reaction. For me, the story (now focusing on the film again) doesn't really seem trashy at all. Sure, it is nowhere near as compelling as The Seventh Seal or even Walter White's story on Breaking Bad, but it isn't without its merits. Sometimes we need these seedy underbelly stories to remind us that all some people have ever known in their lives is evil, and that much of the evil in our world consists of sexual violence against women. This is a story with an important message; the stakes are high.

John does make a great point about Breaking Bad, though, and I mostly agree. And there is no argument here (great last words when dealing with John) because you said that you prefer Walter's story to Lisbeth's. So this is just to say that while I mostly prefer a story like Walter's, I do have room in my heart for Lisbeth's. 

Mikael Blomkvist tells Lisbeth that he wants her to help him "catch a killer of women." Her willingness to help him stems from this fact alone, and not because she thinks Blomkvist seems like a nice guy. Her worldview has been shaped by the evil she has experienced from her childhood to adulthood, and through this case, she sees an opportunity to rid the world of one less scumbag. (At the end of Breaking Bad, we're going to need someone like Lisbeth to take out Walter. Someone get me Vince Gilligan's phone number quick, I need to make an important phone call!)

The teaser for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo gave us the loveable line: "The feel bad movie of Christmas." I've seen plenty of "feel bad" movies in the past, but haven't really seen any this year. So, I can't speak too much about what separates this film from something like We Need To Talk About Kevin (even if I did, I'd probably contradict myself), but like Brandon, I don't see this film as something that only makes you feel like complete shit. And I was able to find the good in what Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig brought to their characters.

As good as Rapace is as Lisbeth in the Swedish films, I loved Rooney Mara's performance so much more. After seeing her brief scenes in The Social Network, I was intrigued as to what she would bring to the character and had a good feeling that she would be excellent. She plays a range of emotions and portrays them flawlessly - be it some tough-as-nails chick who wears a "Fuck you you fucking fuck" t-shirt to a girl who has her heart broken at the end. 

I also enjoyed the Mara/Daniel Craig pairing. Daniel Craig is someone I've always been indifferent about, but here I am a fan. Lisbeth has been treated like shit by men her entire life, so maybe it would seem like a stretch for her relationship with Blomkvist to progress so quickly, but for me it worked. Based on their personalities, they seem compatible together. There's that great moment where they both admit that they like working together. 

But this is definitely a movie that plants something awful in your stomach. I love to talk about audiences in my reviews because it slightly interests me to see who shows up for these films. We had a few old people in our theater and under the assumption that they weren't familiar with the books, I can't imagine what was going through their minds during some of the scenes. We have Fincher and we have a book about rape; this is going to be a picture with extremely dark scenes. I read a review saying that the rape scene in the Swedish version is more brutal (albeit, shorter), but honestly I can't remember that scene at all (thank you, mind, for forgetting it). 

With Fincher's film, I want to forget it, but I can't (as is Fincher's goal, so as weird as it is to say, the scene is effective/successful). It's one of the most uncomfortable scenes you'll ever sit through if you're like me and don't go near films like Irreversible or shit movies like Human Centipede. This film is brutal, so if you haven't seen it, know that that's what you're getting yourself into.

Jeff, Brandon, and I enjoy revenge flicks. I watched 13 Assassins last week and loved it. Lisbeth gets some revenge in this, and of course the neo-nazi serial killer gets his in the end. I also enjoy mysteries, and was mostly satisfied with that aspect of the story, especially since it relied on old photographs and memories to solve the case. Having said all that, I do prefer Zodiac so much more than this film.

Like this blog post, the ending of the film does drag a bit too long. It kinda feels like a movie that doesn't know how to end. I can understand Jeff's want to walk out of the theater pumped up and in love, in the way that we came away from the theater feeling about Drive

My apologies for seeming like a mediator in the Jeff/Brandon debate. I agree with both of you cats on different points.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The pictures...they're coming...alive!

Random film and television round-up (SPOILERS THROUGHOUT):

Boy Meets Girl

I agree with John; the film seems completely disjointed. It's tough to tell whose story it is, and who the audience is supposed to be rooting for (at one point Cagney and O'Brien are helping out the British guy, and the next they're trying to get him busted; it just lacks identity). Obviously James Cagney is the star here, but there's nothing interesting about his character. I wasn't crazy about the Cagney/O'Brien partnership, but remain hopeful on viewing some of their other films together. The baby trailer was the best part - very smart and funny. But yeah, talking about Real Steel and that notorious racist Georges Melies at the Dunkin Donuts on Front Street was my favorite part of the evening. Can't wait to watch more films in the spring.

Yojimbo

I hadn't seen this Kurosawa film before, but I had seen A Fistful of Dollars. It's cool that the best Eastwood line in the film is stolen from Yojimbo - props to Kurosawa for that four coffins line. I absolutely love this movie; my favorite scene is the "fight" between the two gangs where they keep poking at air with their swords as they cowardly take steps backward. It has action, it has comedy, it has an interesting story - fantastic all-around.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

I re-watched this recently.  When I saw it, I absolutely loved it and put it high on my top ten list for that year. But I also admit that within a year or so, I completely forgot everything about it. I just knew that it made Christy Brown look like a jock. It's helpful to re-watch things, especially in this case. Julian Schnabel's film is creatively shot and Jean-Do's story is remarkable and captivating. And as much as Mathieu Amalric is great in this film, Max von Sydow is a scene-stealer. Good god, what a performance. His scenes are heartbreaking - especially when he and his son are trying to communicate on the phone. Also, this film wins my prize for most attractive ensemble of French women in a film.

I Confess!

John let us borrow this Hitchcock film, which we hadn't seen. I like Monty Clift and all, but I really feel like there wasn't enough from him in this film. I'm not saying it was completely dull, but it lacked the something I got from other Clift performances. I think the story is compelling and features an interesting moral quandary: should a Priest rat out a prisoner if he confesses to a murder during Confession? Personally, I don't think priests should adhere to "snitches get stitches." I'd rat out everyone who came to confess stuff to me. Kidding. I liked this movie, but it's not one of my favorite Hitchcock films. I also had an interesting thought while watching this - I think it would've been sweet if one of Hitchcock's cameos featured him fleeing a crime scene. That would be insane, and would be sweet because he'd get away with it.

East of Eden

Jeff will be happy to hear that I finally finished this movie (it's been sitting on our DVR for a month). James Dean was cool as hell, no one can deny him that. Watching this movie, I wanted to look like him, dress like him, and talk like him. Although, if I were to talk like him, my voice would sometimes have to be ADR'd in. Am I crazy? Is there a ton of dubbing in that film? Just seemed like it. I really enjoyed Julie Harris in this. She's got a great presence on the screen. Love the CinemaScope - a lot of well-shot, beautiful scenes. But other than everything I just listed, I didn't really care for the film too much. For whatever reason, it was just hard to get in to. This was part of TCM's Essentials and after the film Robert Osborne talked about how emotional the final scene is, and really, I didn't find that to be the case. Perhaps I'll revisit this one someday and enjoy it more. Sorry, Steinbeck.

Papillion

I'm not a big Steve McQueen guy. I know he has a large group of followers, but there are plenty of other actors who I feel are cooler. He does a hell of a job in this film, though. In certain scenes, he undergoes a complete transformation and looks like a broken down man. Dustin Hoffman doesn't have a lot to do in this one, but he's still great. The movie was all right; I assume The Great Escape is better, so maybe I'll check that out soon.

Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Brandon is absolutely correct on this one; I felt this was an awful movie and there's too many problems to list. I can give one, though. There's a scene where Beth Littleford finds naked photographs of her daughter, and she uses the word, "vajayjay." Now, I've got nothing against Beth Littleford; she was once on the Daily Show, so she probably can pull off that word in something else and make it funny. But in this film, it's only gimmicky. You know the screenwriter sat around and thought, "It'd be hilarious if I made a 40-year old mom say 'vajayjay.'" I don't know, this might be the one of the weirdest rants you've ever heard, but I hate it when scripts call for adults to use teenage slang just to get laughs. It's been done to death. I also hated the son, played by Jonah Bobo. He just annoyed the hell out of me and I couldn't root for him at all. Wow, I am one hateful dude. Back to love - Gosling...you complete me.

Our Idiot Brother

Watched this the other night, and actually was slightly interested in it due to Paul Rudd and Zooey Deschanel. Despite that, I also expected to hate this film, because even though I'm a fan of Zooey, she seems to end up in a lot of terrible movies. Our Idiot Brother was more bad than good, but looks like Citizen Kane compared to Crazy, Stupid, Love. But there really isn't anything in this film to be excited about. The only thing that I can think of is the message that the bond between man and dog is strongest. I liked the son in this one a lot better, comparing to Crazy, Stupid, Love. Give me slightly awkward kids, I'm sick of these damn precocious Dakota Fanning wannabe child actors. This kid seemed more like an actual kid to me.

Boardwalk Empire

I watched the finale today. Man...godamnit! The one thing I didn't want to happen, happened. I know I said I was going to include spoilers, but I'm not sure that I will in this case. I guess I'll wait for Jeff to get caught up. But yeah, shit. It was a good episode, but I was disappointed in one of the last few scenes. If you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about. Bad move, Winter.

Dexter

I'm not caught up with this show - I think I'm an episode behind. What a great season so far! From the return of Rudy to the revelation about Edward James Olmos' character, it's just been a lot of fun to watch. Hats off to the writing staff for this season, they've proven that the show is far from dead. And looks like we'll get two more seasons in the future. But the seasons almost seem to see-saw now; perhaps next season will suck.

Weeds

I wanted to comment on this because Jason did. I completely agree with your assessment of the season, man. I thought season 6 was much better than 5, but yeah, the show hasn't been the same since the days of Conrad and Agrestic. I thought season 7 was worse than 6. You'll continue to hate Nancy, and only really watch the show because of Andy. But yeah, you definitely feel more for Silas as the show goes on. If anyone else has finished season 7, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the finale. As much as the season sucked, it was kinda worth it just to see the final shot. Well, maybe not, but it was interesting.

Parks and Recreation

I love this show and it's doing a really nice job of filling the 30 Rock void. There's just a ton of likeable characters on the show and it's really found its voice in terms of comedy. The most recent episode had a great Jean-Ralphio gag at the end (where he's hired as a temp at an accounting office and is fired fifteen seconds later. It was hilarious).

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Helter Shelter


On to another writer/director, Jeff Nichols and his film, Take Shelter. I'd been looking forward to seeing Take Shelter for months now; I wasn't familiar with Nichols (I am now and am a big fan; Shotgun Stories was added to my queue immediately), but I was really looking forward to seeing Michael Shannon play the lead, especially in an interesting project like this one. Shannon is barely in Revolutionary Road, but he steals every scene that he's in. I've already praised his work in Boardwalk Empire on here; he's a guy that many people don't know, but always seems to take on each role with everything he's got. There are a couple of moments in the film that show you why Michael Shannon is perfect for the role of Curtis: The Lyons Club dinner, and the shelter scene near the end. Again, these might be obvious scenes, but I still can't get over either one of them. After the fight with Shea Whigham ends at the dinner, Curtis turns to his neighbors and confronts small-town gossip. His face suggests a man possessed; the look in his eyes is heartbreaking. You really feel for his wife, his daughter, and for him. No one wants to see a loved one like that, and no one wants to be perceived in that way by a loved one. Not only does Take Shelter allow the audience to connect with Curtis' financial concerns/problems, but I feel moments like the aforementioned scene, in which Shannon confronts his community, also fully fleshes out this story and this world.

The shelter scene near the end is probably one of my favorite film moments of the year so far. Curtis spends so much time talking about and preparing his shelter, that I almost forgot the fact that we would eventually be treated to a scene in which he goes down in it with his family. And once they do, it doesn't disappoint. In a lot of ways, it is difficult to watch, but it's impossible to look away. Another aspect that I enjoy about is the limitless possibilities. I knew the film was ending soon, so my mind raced through the different scenarios that could happen. I was almost pleading in my mind with Jeff Nichols to spare Samantha and Hannah (Curtis' wife and daughter). I didn't think that Curtis was necessarily going to kill them, but I thought we were going to be treated to a twisted version of a Twilight Zone episode in which Curtis traps them down there for the rest of their lives. Another scenario was a Meek's Cutoff ending. I probably would've liked this, but in a way, I'm glad Nichols didn't end the film that way. You needed something more.

As far as the ending goes, I'm not exactly sure what to make of it. I'm glad John shared with Jeff and myself what Jessica Chastain said about the ending - the look that Curtis and Samantha exchange is what makes the scene. I love that interpretation because it means that even if the ending is just another one of Curtis' dreams, at least he and Samantha are in it together. He no longer sees her as a drenched woman standing next to a knife. This is extremely crucial, because one of the most unfortunate things about Curtis' character is that he seems to abandon the people closest to him who had hurt him in his dreams; his dog and his best friend are the two casualties. Of course, we can't blame Curtis too much for this, after all, he's a man with mental problems. I touched briefly on schizophrenia in my Melancholia post, but with Shelter, Curtis' mother has actually been diagnosed with it. This helps in setting the mood for the film and in allowing the audience to feel for Curtis and his mother.

And speaking of mental problems, I like the fact that that's the reason for his visions of doomsday. He isn't a religious nut; he isn't a Mayan Calendar guy. The script has all of these compelling storylines and still maintains a secular, apolitical feel. I was reminded of this point when I tried to track down a picture for this post. I eventually pulled the photo above from the Christian Science Monitor review (their critic loved it, in case you were wondering).

The motor oil rain at the end leads me to believe that it is one of Curtis' dreams, but of course that's just a theory. Yes, we did get Inception'd. I love the first glimpse of the storm in the reflection of the beach house window. Brilliant shot.

The dream sequences themselves are all fascinating in their respective ways. Some of them almost make the film seem like it fits in the horror genre. The dream in which birds start falling from the sky was horrifyingly twisted and extremely well-done. I also love the shot where the furniture in the house shoots up into the air.

I need to acknowledge Jessica Chastain, because between this and The Tree of Life, I am absolutely smitten with her. She's incredibly beautiful and photographs so well. The trailer makes her seem a bit like a nagging wife, but there really is a lot of subtlety that she provides to truly make her character multidimensional. She looks fantastically creepy in Curtis' dream where she's standing by the knife...like a zombie or something. My favorite scene with her is when she's explaining to her husband that she wants to go to the pot luck dinner because she needs to do something normal. The look on her face was memorable.

Also, Tova Stewart (playing Hannah) is a cutie. There's an instant connection between her and the audience and she does a great job. And some might point out that Hannah being deaf is an obvious attempt at symbolism, but I don't care. As a plotpoint, it's one of the reasons why Curtis' can't lose his health insurance. But moving away from that, I feel that the fact that Hannah is deaf allows the audience to really root for/connect with this family. Jeff is correct, the crayon lipstick scene is captivating and enjoyable.

Overall, I was in no way disappointed by Take Shelter. It was extremely effective and it caused a response in me that only the important films seem to do.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Preston Sturges: Part 1

When we were making our director's lists, I wrote that I hadn't seen any of Preston Sturges' films, and that also he came highly recommended to me. The recommendation was spot-on. I love Sturges so far.

That was an interesting article that Jeff posted, as it acknowledges the whole "writer/director vs. director" debate. I had planned on mentioning that topic even before Jeff posted. Maybe it's because I enjoy writing and have attempted to write screenplays that I admire those who write and direct more (though mostly it depends on who we're talking about). I like the fact that the writer/director is completely involved in the process and his/her vision is largely held intact from pre-production to production.

Then again, because I have tried to write for the screen, I know that scripts aren't supposed to contain any sort of direction at all, unless it's crucial to the plot. And, of course, a great director puts his/or her stamp on a movie; you certainly know a Hitchcock film when you see one.

Preston Sturges has really impressed me so far. He adroitly pulls off both comedy and the more tender moments. His ideas/scripts also are original and highly entertaining. Reading the descriptions of each film was enough to get me excited about them. Here is what I've watched of his over the past two weeks...

Sullivan's Travels

I watched this shortly after watching Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent, so I got a double-dose of Joel McCrea, whom I really hadn't been acquainted with. He's perfect here in the role as John Lloyd Sullivan. Mainly I was able to respond to the revelation that Sullivan has at the end of the picture. It's a great moment when he tells the producers that he's going to make a comedy, claiming that laughter is all some people have. The scene in the church is very powerful when all of the inmates are laughing hysterically while watching the Disney cartoon. That scene also made me think of how laughter is universal, and I also thought back to John's Film Society event when The Pawn Shop and Way Out West were playing and everyone, from John's daughters to the oldest person in the room, was consumed with laughter. Also, I want to mention the chase sequence with the bus toward the beginning of the film; it's really all you get in terms of physical comedy, but it was damn enjoyable.

Unfaithfully Yours

This is probably my favorite Sturges film so far. I'm a huge fan of dark comedies, and I found this one to be very enjoyable. I love the script, especially since Rex Harrison's visions for revenge are set to/influenced by the music he's conducting. And his first vision for revenge was actually pretty clever; both the plan and Sturges' directing go off without a hitch. There's also some great physical comedy toward the end when Rex is locating his recorder. I think my favorite part of the film is the courtroom scene where Tony is charged with Daphne's murder and Rex Harrison lets out an evil, boisterous laugh. It was darkly hilarious and just a great moment. Here's hoping that the remake with Dudley Moore is just as good. Wait...what??

The Great McGinty 

I watched this the other night. I can understand why John felt underwhelmed; I enjoyed it, but not as much as the other two. Next time I pour you a drink, John, remind me to tell you my life story. The frame story is a bit played out, but I never hated that aspect of it. Anyway, I was a bit compelled by Donlevy. He has the face of a crook, but he's also able to seem endearing. Muriel Angelus was even more impressive, though. And I know John doesn't care too much about performances, and so it's true that they aren't incredible enough to improve the film too much. I did enjoy the story, and was interested in the McGinty/Catherine relationship. The movie is apt in terms of our current political climate. I wouldn't compare Obama to McGinty, but Barack seems like a guy who is very much caught up in a horrible system. I still really admire his character. Also, I've been getting a full dose of corruption in politics lately, from watching Boardwalk Empire to watching my close friend Rod Blagojevich sentenced to fourteen years in federal prison. Come on, who's with me? Free Rod! Free Rod!

Are we going to try and watch Christmas In July together (minus Jason and Lisa...I'm sorry) at some point? I thought that was brought up. I plan on catching that, The Palm Beach Story, The Lady Eve, Hail the Conquering Hero, and possibly one or two others before the month is out.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Jason

(This was intended to be a comment on Jason's latest posts, but I figure that if/when John attacks me, he should see what I have to say here, too).

Jason, your thoughts on Birth of a Nation make perfect sense, and you make some great/interesting points. And it is completely inaccurate for me to suggest that the film is essentially a day in the life of a KKK member, or is even racist throughout the entire picture. Without having seen the film, I was aware of that fact. My bad for making it seem otherwise; I deserved to be called out for that. So my Melies point is certainly weakened; Griffths didn't think to himself one day, "I need to make a film about how much I love lynchings!" And again, films that were made decades after Birth of a Nation were also racist. And so while I agree, and racism is racism, the tone is certainly more nefarious in BoaN. Maybe I'll see it someday and learn to deal with the simultaneous beauty and ugliness of it. But as of right now, my "protest" of the film is actually just a "I just prefer not" reaction. I'm not morally outraged in any sort of way by those who praise it or give the film its due.

 .........

I'm not sure which is worse, that everyone has an English accent in Hugo or the fact the none of the actors attempted a French accent. Actually...definitely the latter. And yeah, we'll probably never see subtitles in a "kid's movie," or will we...or have we???

Surprise, surprise...I don't see Midnight In Paris as a selfish film at all. I didn't find the message to be escapism, rather a message focusing on a love/appreciation of the past (similarly to Hugo). Owen Wilson's character doesn't choose to stay in the 1920s, he comes back to the present and starts flirting with the French chick who also loves old music, old writers, old movies (essentially the female version of John). Owen Wilson choosing to share his love for those things with her is what's truly important. It seems like you and John view the nostalgia in MIP as unhealthy for some reason. Maybe because it deteriorates his relationship with his fiancee? I know you've seen a bunch of Woody's films, so we both know that Rachel McAdams' character is a staple in his movies; she doesn't belong with Owen Wilson; they're not right for each other. Break-ups happen, and at times, should happen.

I can't comment on The Dreamers stuff because I haven't seen it. I'll let John tackle that instead. I know how much he loves talking about that movie.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Invention of Hugo Cabret


They should've stuck to the original title. But American test audiences love to ruin things, don't they? "Hugo" is a silly title. I felt like a turd walking into the theater and saying, "one for Hugo." Jeff and I were joking afterwards, saying that in order to sound cooler we should've been like, "one for the Scorsese picture." Of course then the joke plays out that the woman behind the counter doesn't know what we're talking and eventually gets us to say that ridiculous name. This is a weird rant.

Anyway...the only information about the film that I took into the theater with me was what I had seen from the trailer. The trailer was awful, god-awful. It looked like something Robert Zemeckis would love to slap his name on. Honestly, I had no real desire to see it, even though I love Marty. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised. Hugo is one of the most enjoyable films that I've seen in a long time.

Like Avatar, the 3-D was very impressive (even though I hate, hate 3-D). You truly feel immersed in the world and it made the giant clock setpiece a lot of fun to watch. Unlike Avatar, there was actually an interesting, well-written story to back up those impressive visuals. I see that James Cameron called Hugo a masterpiece. While I wouldn't go as far as JC, I respect the fact that he knows he sucks, ha.

The direction is what you would expect from Scorsese: impeccable. It seems strange to go from Shutter Island to Hugo, but of course he's capable of pulling off anything.

My one main criticism of the film is that I wasn't really a fan of the story until halfway through. I'll refer to the first half of the movie as, "Aladdin: with Clocks." The chase scenes with Asa Butterfield (Hugo) and Sacha Baron Cohen felt a little like contrivances (especially toward the end of the movie). I felt like I had bought a ticket to Night at the Museum or something like that. When Hugo is trying to retrieve the automaton at the end of the film, you know that he will eventually get away from Cohen, so that sequence does drag on a bit too long. I really just wanted to get back to the Georges Melies storyline.

Also, I didn't always find myself rooting for Asa Butterfield. What an asshole I am for saying that about a little kid who worked hard on this. But really, it's the truth. Sometimes I just couldn't get into the film due to his performance. He does have moments were he truly shines. When Baron Cohen finally catches him at the end (just before Ben Kingsley shows up to claim him), Butterfield begins to cry and the scene almost felt too real. Well done, lad.

The second half of the film was spectacularly done and made the movie for me. This is the perfect film club movie because it deals with many of the topics that we've discussed on here. Also, as Jeff noted, this is a perfect Scorsese film in its dealings with film preservation and film history. It's a salute to film and the magic that it holds over us. Awesome shit. I love the Georges Melies stuff and admit that I need to see his work. There's youtube, and I'm also hoping that TCM will run his films again sometime soon. But the sequences in Hugo where we're shown his filmmaking process were amazing. Thankfully these pictures still exist and we all have access to them. I am feeling thankful for that today.

But my favorite scene in the entire film is when Michael Stuhlbarg (who's great in everything he does; happy to see him in this one) cranks the projector as they all sit down to watch Le Voyage dans la Lune. Just seeing everyone's face after the film ends was a great moment. Film is powerful and allows for human connection/growth; you feel that here. Films are best seen together, aren't they Brandon? (ha, sorry, dude, I wasn't going to say anything, but whatever. You know I love you).

And while Asa Butterfield is underwhelming at times, Chloe Grace Moretz really shines. She's got a lot of energy and really seems to embody the character of Isabella. And yeah, she's done some work that's been praised before this, but I think she does her best stuff here. The Hugo/Isabella relationship feels more genuine than the Elle Fanning/Joel Courtney relationship we saw earlier this year with Super 8, which I know most of us liked at the time.

I like Sascha Baron Cohen and I like the fact that he can do something like this and something like Da Ali G Show. He amuses me, but a lot of the comedy in this is more for the kids than the adults. At best, you'll mostly smirk at him and chuckle once. It did seem like he improvised some of his lines, too, or at least as he started to run with the jokes, the comedy felt stronger. I also appreciated the fact that they gave him a sidestory. He's played off as the villain mostly, but his crush on Emily Mortimer really fleshes him out a bit more and makes this a different movie than a lot of these kid/adventure flicks. In fact, all of the side character's side-stories helped the script.

And even though I'm a bit critical of the first half of the film, I do appreciate the fact that the film contains both Hugo's story and Melies' story. Having just one or the other would've made this film worse.  And I also like the theme of the Hugo story; he's just looking for connection, whether it's with another human being or an automaton. You're nobody till somebody loves you, Dino.

John, this is the second best 2011 set in Paris ;-). No, but there are definite connections between Hugo and Midnight In Paris. Let's talk about 'em!!!

I don't want to say too much more because Jeff is also writing about this and I want to leave room for everyone else to speak.

So one last thing that I know I can talk about that no one else will really touch is that on the topic of D.W. Griffith. Again, I maintain what I said about him a couple of posts ago, but one of the reasons why I'm skeptical of him is because of what he chose to make a film about. He could've made an epic picture about anything...literally anything, because no one else was really in the game. Unfortunately, he chose to make a movie about the KKK. Georges Melies, on the other hand, used film to showcase his love for magic, illusion, and spectacle. Give me Melies, John.

Also, Jeff and I were talking about how white people have the privilege of revering the technical aspects of Birth of a Nation. Our friend James Brown (who is black) takes film classes at BU, but I can't see him ever appreciating Birth of a Nation in the same way. The horrific subject matter kind of overshadows everything, which maybe is unfortunate for Griffith. Maybe not, I still have no idea. And all of that has nothing to do with you being racist or not, John. You're a racist because you like Stagecoach :-). Sidenote: I did watch that movie the other day; it was awesome.

Back to Hugo. A jerk like myself wants to know: Why does everyone in France have an English accent?

Hugo-see it or: Fuck Avatar


That's you in the theater, enjoying Hugo.

My two word review: pleasantly surprised. I encourage all of you to see it (and in 3-D of all things). John, bring the whole family.

I'm too tired to do a write-up on this one, but I'll probably find some time to do a real post on it tomorrow/today. Happy Thanksgiving, nerds.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Let's Dance


As always, I appreciate recommendations from Brandon and John. And even before these director lists were made, I had plans to check out some of the older directors/movies first. But as of right now, I am the guy who's just discovering John Ford; it's shameful, yes, but it's something that I'm addressing. Label me a work in progress. Or as a human being, damnit!

Maybe I had no business filling out that list (which none of you are saying, I know), but I thought it was nice to start keeping a record. And again, it gave me to chance to narrow down my focus a bit...in a way. There really is so much to see.

John, your daughters would still be cooler than me even if I had seen more Chaplin films than them. The only solution that I can think of is for you to adopt me.

And yes, let's be clear here, Jeff knows much more about film than I do, and has seen so many things that I haven't. Jeff's obsession with film started while he was in high school; my obsession has sadly just begun within the past few years. But of course I've always been interested in film and had seen a handful of old movies when I was younger. When Jeff and I spoke with John after Way Out West, they talked about City of Conquest and then John had asked me if I watched it too. I said no (which is still true, but I'll get to it soon). I bring that up because the reality is that Jeff and I rarely watch movies together. That's my heartbreaking confession of the day.

D.W. Griffith thoughts: I won't write him off; I won't ignore him. He's worthy of the titles that are bestowed upon him and his work. But despite all that, I have no desire to watch a three hour movie that promotes the KKK. It's really just as simple as that. I prefer short films that promote kittens. 

I hope to see The Mill and the Cross before the year is out. And yeah, let's make Take Shelter happen soon, like next week soon, boyos. 

Brandon, the last time I saw Small Soldiers was probably in the theater when it came out. I looked up the cast on imdb and I see that David Cross and Phil Hartman were in it - I don't remember that at all, but that's cool. I do remember Kristen Dunst being in it and I admit that I had a crush on her at the time. Sure it's more fun than Zach Braff, but it fails miserably in the emo category. If Frou Frou wrote a song about toy soldiers coming to life, maybe then we could reach an understanding.

Maybe your fandom of the Twin Peaks movie is associated with Chris Isaak?? It is funny to watch the television series and then pop in the movie. Two completely different things, in a way. Jeff's correct, Eraserhead is one of the most unpleasant movie experiences. I love Lynch and all, but I won't even pretend like I'm a fan of that one. I'll have to ask Barnes and Nobel to throw out my application, won't I, Brandon?

I put down Seven as Fincher's best...but Jeff is correct again, it is Zodiac. Damn, that's a good movie.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Additional Directors

I remembered the one I wanted to (Hal Ashby, who nobody probably cares about anyway, but I was curious), and added a few others:

Hal Ashby: B = Being There/Harold and Maude, W = The Last Detail was meh.

Elia Kazan: B = On the Waterfront, W = the message behind On the Waterfront

Sidney Lumet: B = 12 Angry Men, W = Before the Devil Knows You're Dead; Network (for spawning Glenn Beck).

Sydney Pollack: haven't seen enough of his stuff.

John Landis: OS = An American Werewolf In London and The Twilight Zone: The Movie

Director's Best and Worst

This was fun. But I know even less than Jeff.

My Personal Key:
B = Best film (the director's masterpiece, based on what I've seen by him or her).
W = Worst film (using this in the way that Brandon did).
F = Favorite film (my personal favorite...sorry to patronize).
OS = I've only seen (comes in handy, as you'll see).

What's cool is that I/we can update this as time goes by. My Netflix queue is about to be bombarded, so I'm pretty excited about that. Here we go...

Lars von Trier: B = Europa, W = Melancholia (there's actually quite a bit I still haven't seen)

Alfred Hitchcock: B = Vertigo, W = didn't make a bad film from what I've seen. Suspicion is my least favorite so far.

Martin Campbell: OS = GoldenEye (same as Jeff, N64)

Curtis Hanson: OS = L.A. Confidential

Woody Allen: B = Annie Hall (F = Love and Death), W = The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (haven't seen Anything Else or Melinda & Melinda).

Martin Scorsese: B = Taxi Driver, W = Cape Fear

Fritz Lang: haven't seen any of his films; been meaning to watch M for the longest time.


Neil Jordan: OS = The Crying Game

George Stevens: Giant was on TCM yesterday (didn't catch it). I've wanted to see A Place in the Sun and Penny Serenade.

Max Ophuls: I'll check him out.

Clint Eastwood: OS = Mystic River (since we're only talking films directed by him).

Stanley Donen: B = Singin' in the Rain, W = Funny Face

Frank Capra: B = It's a Wonderful Life (F = Arsenic and Old Lace), W = haven't seen a bad film by him.

Carol Reed: OS = The Third Man

Robert Altman: OS = MASH (an insane film) and Gosford Park (which I kinda hated). Nashville, The Player, Short Cuts are all in my Netflix queue

Francis Ford Coppola: B = The Godfather (the best in the trilogy), W = Jack (what happened to you, dude?)

Werner Herzog: OS = Grizzly Man (wins my prize for best voice ever).

John Ford: OS = The Grapes of Wrath (yep, I suck); The Searchers is days away from being seen by me.

Joe Dante: OS = Gremlins, Small Soldiers (meh, and meh)

Wes Craven: B = Nightmare on Elm Street, W = Swamp Thing

John Carpenter: Haven't seen anything by him, but I want to see Halloween and The Thing. Also, one of my favorite Todd Harmon moments is of him explaining the plot to Escape From L.A.

David Cronenberg: OS = Eastern Promises and A History of Violence; I have his stuff in my queues.

George Romero: B = Dawn of the Dead, W = Everything but the last twenty minutes of Night of the Living Dead.

Bob Clark: B = haven't seen enough to say, W = A Christmas Story (if I could destroy all existence of a film, I would choose this one in a heartbeat).

Stanley Kubrick: B = 2001: A Space Odyssey (F =  Dr. Strangelove);W = I've enjoyed them all, but still haven't seen Eyes Wide Shut, Paths of Glory, or The Killing.

The Coen Bros. B = No Country For Old Men/ Fargo, W = Barton Fink

Wes Anderson: B = Rushmore (F = The Life Aquatic), W = The Darjeeling Limited ("disappointing" is more apt).

Tim Burton: B = Ed Wood/Big Fish, W = Planet of the Apes, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland (sorry, Tim)

Preston Sturges: I've been told to watch him, and I will.

Ernst Lubitsch: His stuff is in my queues.

Michael Haneke: OS = Das Weisse Band; Funny Games awaits (dead horse beaten, I know).


Sergio Leone: OS = A Fistful of Dollars (this fact will change soon).

Pedro Almodovar: OS = Talk to Her; I'll check out more of his stuff.

Robert Aldrich: Will check him out.

Michelangelo Antonioni: Same.

Ingmar Berman: B = The Seventh Seal, though I haven't seen a bad film from him.

Jean Luc Godard: OS = really, I think I'll begin and end with Breathless.

Francois Truffaut: OS = Shoot the Piano Player, 400 Blows is in my queue.

Henri Georges Cluzot: I'll look into him

Olivier Assayas: same as above

Mario Brava: same

Frank Borzage: same

Jacques Tourneur: OS = Cat People; definitely want to check out more of his stuff.

Jim Jarmusch: OS = Broken Flowers; will check out more of his stuff.

Robert Bressen: I'll look into him.

Luis Bunuel: The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie; W = haven't seen anything I've disliked.

Claude Chabrol: I'll look into him.

Charlie Chaplin: OS = The Gold Rush, The Pawn Shop (yep, I suck even more now). Of course I'll see more, though. I doubt he made a bad film.

Jean Cocteau: I'll look into him.

George Cukor: B = The Philadelphia Story; haven't seen anything that I've disliked.

Brian De Palma: B = The Untouchables, W = Scarface (ridiculous is a more apt term).

Claire Denis: I'll look into her.

Carl Theodor Dreyer: same.

Frederico Fellini: OS = 8 1/2; will see more.

David Fincher: B = Seven (F = Fight Club...sure, I'll go there), W = Alien 3

Terry Gilliam: B & F = Monty Python and the Holy Grail (2nd F = Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas),  W = Brothers Grimm.

DW Griffith: probably won't watch any of his stuff.

Jia Zhangke: I'll look into him.

Buster Keaton: OS = The General, will watch more.

Abbas Kiarostami: I really want to see Taste of Cherry and Certified Copy.

Brad Bird: B = Ratatouille (F = "Krusty Gets Busted"), W = haven't seen The Incredibles yet.

Harmony Korine: Maybe I'll check him out, probably not.

Akira Kurosawa: OS = Rashomon; this is embarrassing, but I'm addressing the problem.

Kenji Mizoguchi: I'll look into him.

David Lean: B = The Bridge on the River Kwai, haven't seen a bad film, but need to see more.

Joseph H. Lewis: I'll look into him.

Henry Hathaway: same.

Richard Linklater: B = Before Sunrise, W = haven't seen one I've hated.

Jospeh Losey: I'll look into him.

David Lynch: B = Mulholland Drive/Blue Velvet, W = Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, Eraserhead (Jeff and Brandon are both right).

Terrence Malick: B = The Tree of Life (sure), W = I've seen them all and have loved them all.

Joseph L. Mankiewicz: OS = All About Eve, will definitely see more.

Anthony Mann: I'll look into him.

Michael Mann: B = Heat, W = Public Enemies (because it was kinda boring, not because of the camera).

Leo McCarey: B and F = Duck Soup, haven't seen one I've hated or enough of his stuff for that matter.

James Cameron: B = Terminator 2, W = Avatar (much deserved, even if it's an easy target)

Jean-Pierre Melville: I'll check him out.

Paul Thomas Anderson: B = There Will Be Blood, W = Boogie Nights (sorry Jeff, I don't hate it, but I'm not remotely crazy about it).

Quentin Tarantino: B = Inglorious Basterds, W = I don't hate any of his films, Death Proof was the most disappointing, though.

Danny Boyle: B = Trainspotting/28 Days Later, W = Slumdog Millionaire

Vincent Minnelli: I will watch his stuff soon.

Sam Peckinpah: same as above.

Arthur Penn: OS = Bonnie and Clyde.

James Whales: OS = Frankenstein.

Tod Browning: Will see Freaks and Dracula at some point.

Edgar G. Ulmer: I'll look into him.

Robert Zemeckis: B = Back to the Future, W = Beuwolf, Polar Express, A Christmas Carol

Powell and Pressburger: I'll look into them.

Yasujiro Ozu: I have plans to catch his stuff.

Otto Preminger: same.

Nicholas Ray: OS = Rebel Without a Cause; will see more.

Jean Renoir: OS = The Grand Illusion; will definitely see more.

Nicolas Roeg: OS = The Witches; I'll look into him.

Eric Rohmer: Haven't seen anything; I'll check out those VHS's, John.

Roberto Rossellini: I'll look into him.

Douglas Sirk: same.

Steven Soderbergh: B = Traffic (F = Ocean's 11), W = Ocean's 12

Steven Spielberg: B = Schindler's List (F = Catch Me If You Can, Raiders of the Lost Ark), W = Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Lost World

Andrei Tarkovsky: B = Solaris; need to see more.

Jacques Tati: I'll look into him.

Paul Verhoven: haven't seen any of his movies because most of them look like shit (but who am I? a nobody).

Jean Vigo: I'll look into him.

Raoul Walsh: B = The Roaring Twenties (F = White Heat...maybe); need to see more by him.

John Waters: Why do I feel like I've seen one of his films?? But I haven't. Pink Flamingos has been in my queue for years.

Peter Weir: B and F = The Truman Show, W = haven't seen enough to say.

Orson Welles: B = Citizen Kane, W = haven't seen enough to say.

Wim Wenders: OS = Wings of Desire, but am definitely looking into him.

Billy Wilder: B = Sunset Blvd. (F = Some Like It Hot, Double Indemnity), W = haven't seen a bad film by him.

William Wellman: Haven't seen any of his films, but that will change soon.

William Wyler: same as above.

Wong Kar-wai: I'll look into him, but I believe this is the second time he is on the list, no?

Zhang Yimou: I must see his stuff; essential contemporary viewing.

Victor Fleming: B = Gone With the Wind/The Wizard of Oz; haven't seen enough of his work.

Mark Robson: I'll look into him.

Robert Wise: OS = West Side Story and The Sound of Music; will see The Curse of the Cat People at some point.

Josef Von Sternberg: I'll look into him.

Sam Fuller: same as above.

Roman Polanski: B = Chinatown; haven't seen one I've hated, but haven't seen enough.

John Cassavetes: I'll look into him.

John Boorman: OS = Deliverance

Tobe Hooper: I'll catch some of his stuff.

Robert Rodriguez: B = Sin City, W = Sharkboy and Lava Girl 3D crap-tacular

William Friedkin: B = The Exorcist; haven't seen enough to say.

John Huston: OS = The African Queen, this will change soon.

Mike Leigh: OS = Another Year, but definitely would see more.

Kathryn Bigelow: OS = The Hurt Locker, maybe I'll see her other stuff. I still like her better than her ex-husband.

Oliver Stone: Why all the hate? Oh wait, he sucks.

Spike Lee: B and F = Do the Right Thing (2nd F = 25th Hour), W = He Got Game

Gus Van Sant: B = Milk/Elephant, W = haven't seen a bad one yet, but haven't seen all of his stuff.

Hayao Miyazaki: I'll look into him.

George Miller: Maybe.

Darren Aronofsky: B and F = The Fountain, W = yeah, probably The Wrestler.

Spike Jonze: B = Adaptation (shame on you, Brandon), F = Being John Malkovich, W = Where the Wild Things Are...sure.
---

Directors I'm Adding:

Howard Hawks: B = Only Angels Have Wings; haven't seen a bad one yet, but need to see more.

Christopher Nolan: B and F = Memento, W = The Prestige, but I like it.

Cameron Crowe: B = Almost Famous, W = Elizabeth Town

Jean-Pierre Jeunet: B = Amelie, W = haven't seen enough.

People Brandon Forgot Because He Probably Didn't Want To Put Himself In a Sour Mood:

Mike Nichols: B = The Graduate, W = Closer

Sam Mendes: B = Away We Go, W = Jarhead

I had one or two other names, but I've forgotten. I'll try and remember them, though.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Melancholy Baby


Doing my best John impression, I watched The Roaring Twenties last night. In the post where I talked about The Caine Mutiny, I mentioned that it was interesting to see Bogart play something of a villain. Obviously I was able to write that because I hadn't seen The Roaring Twenties yet. Great stuff from Bogie, who actually plays more of a heartless gangster than James Cagney. But the star here is Cagney, rightfully so, and having him play a bootlegger with a moral code and heart was even more fascinating. I also enjoyed the story - three soldiers fighting alongside one another in WWI come back to America to form one of the most successful rackets in New York, each with different character traits and ambitions. Enjoyable from beginning to end. Oh, and kudos to Gladys George as well; I loved her performance as Panama. I'm lukewarm on Priscilla Lane.

You're right, Brandon, those were also some humorous points in The-Film-That-Must-Not-Be-Named. So it isn't a humorless film. And while humility should probably be the last word associated with Lars, or any filmmaker for that matter, I again find humility in the worldview that everything is absurd. We're all working on our silly projects; no one is more important than the other. That doesn't mean we should just shut ourselves off from the the world and refuse to engage (in the way that John does ;-) ) but I feel that we should at least realize that life is often taken too seriously. Lars realizes this, which again, is why I like him. Ben has some good thoughts in that first paragraph of his on this issue.

And Ben, my wording of that question was maybe misleading. I didn't mean to suggest that people fake depression or anything (but I do think some people are actually happier when they are depressed, if that oxymoron makes sense). And I don't have a copy of the DSM handy or anything, but of course there are many different kinds of clinical depression. Bipolar disorder vs. schizophrenia, for instance. And so really I was trying to address how serious we thought Justine's depression was, and in relation to the idea that by embracing or accepting death, we are able to truly live. A schizophrenic wouldn't able to fully live life in that way. Hopefully this makes sense. And obviously with Justine's condition, an audience with hindsight should be more forgiving of her behavior in Part 1. If I remember correctly, she isn't diagnosed with anything until Part  2 (isn't she? Doesn't Claire address it?). This again, is why I feel more sympathy for Justine than anyone else I guess.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Simpsonscholia

John knows how to get me typing; most Simpsons diehards (including Jeff and myself) think that season 4 is the best season. If I were stranded on a strange island that only seemed to have a television and a dvd player, I'd want The Simpsons season 4 to be the first thing in my possession. I'm excited you've started watching and can't wait to hear your thoughts on other episodes. Kamp Krusty does have a great first act, and also agreed, it does fizzle out after that. Favorite line from the episode: "Wait a minute, you didn't learn how World War II ended....we won!" The first disc of the season 4 set is probably the weakest, but everything after Lisa the Beauty Queen could easily make my best episodes of all-time list. I posted on season 4 awhile back, but if you want to post your rankings sometime down the road, John, I might do an update or something.

Okay, back to film. I agree with Ben that LvT sees most human life and social interactions as absurd (which is why I like the guy). And so, it is kind of odd that the limo scene is the only glaringly obvious moment of humor. Although John Hurt's character also provides some comic relief. But it's true, too, that vT's humor is mostly dark and subtle (like in the case of Dogville) so maybe if I watched it again, I could find the more subtle moments of humor. This is a man who takes very few things in life seriously, including himself and his films. Brandon talked about how that's a bit of a turn-off for him. I can understand his point, but I like it as a nice form of humility.

Would we agree that Justine's depression is due to a mental condition? I don't see her as girl who just one day chose to give up on life. And Ben qutoes/writes that by accepting death, we are able to able to truly live. I agree with the quote, but I don't think Justine carries this out. She can't even get in the tub on her own. In a way, she died well before Melancholia hit Earth. Right, though "a snake eating its tail." But again, there is that moment where she redeems herself at the end of the film; there is a form of growth for her. Maybe the second viewing will change my mind, but as of now, the only performance in the film that I really enjoyed was Dunst's. Sorry, Keifer, but I've seen a million better curmudgeons than you...and they didn't have your annoying face.

Rollins, you're wrong, dawg.

Jason, I have yet to really post on Meek's Cutoff. And while I won't really do that tonight, give me a few days because I do want to see if we can have a discussion on the film (since everyone else is probably tired of talking about it). But hopefully by the time I'm ready, you're not done thinking about the film. Tonight just isn't a night where I can really sit down and do it. Bear with me...if you want to.

I don't know if I commented on the fact that I watched Only Angels Have Wings. It's hard to write a lot about old movies, because there really is no debate to most of them. Either you really love them or you think they were just o.k. Mark me down as thinking it's one of the greatest movies of all-time. Sorry, everyone, didn't mean to blow your minds. I guess I could/should talk about the specific reasons why I feel that way, but I could also save that for another time. Unlike Justine and Claire, I've got all the time in the world.

I re-watched Kieslowski's Red the other day. It's my favorite of the three colors trilogy by far and just as Jeff hopes, I hope that all of you will check it out at some point (along with Blue and White). They're all very beautiful and meditative.

Bergman's Hour of the Wolf is one hell of a cinematic nightmare (which I mean in a good way). The man could do no wrong. There are many impressively creepy scenes in this one: the guy walking up the wall of the castle; von Sydow being attacked by that little boy while he's fishing; von Sydow finding the woman he had an affair with laying naked on the table only to have her sit up and start laughing at him...along with the other creepy-ass people laughing at him; the old woman telling Alma to read her husband's diary, etc. Damn I loved this movie.

 (a snapshot of my sailboat, proving that I have all the time in the world to comment on Only Angels Have Wings and Meek's Cutoff).

Sunday, November 13, 2011

PostScript

Jeff and I wrote these latest posts in different houses. We haven't really spoken about any of this stuff, other than the stuff that he says we spoke about. Kinda funny, and yeah, shit, we look like losers in this debate. I need a cliched boxing-movie comeback of some kind.

Must've been the House of Mirrors lens that we watched the movie from. But come on, guys, not everything is black and white. And if you really look into John's eyes, like I did yesterday, you can see that he hates Melancholia.

I belong to the blank generation

I had a really enjoyable time last night; The Pawn Shop and Way Out West were hilarious and fantastically wonderful. Makes me pine for the days of old, similarly to way Owen Wilson does in Midnight In Paris. It was also nice to meet part of the Owen family. I'll definitely be there for Boy Meets Girl - looking forward to it.Thanks for the invite, John.

Melancholia is growing on me, I admit. I don't want to admit it, but I'm definitely losing some of the hate that I felt toward it after our viewing; that doesn't mean you guys are right about anything, by the way, ha. Much of that turnaround is due to the character of Justine. I find it hard to take Kristen Dunst too seriously (I don't care to look up the correct spelling on that name, that's how too cool I am for her), and yet, I am finding myself more and more compelled by her character and her performance. Maybe it's because I'm beginning to project my own thoughts and feelings about who she really is in the way that everyone else in the film seems to do, but I'm actually beginning to feel more sympathy for her than for Claire or any of the other characters. Maybe that's just the juvenile punk in me, though. I must like Goth chicks or something. And it's not that vT was too mature with Melancholia, I guess it's just that his maturity wasn't interesting or fresh enough. Maturity and humanistic growth isn't always boring. As Jeff noted, the maturity of 2002's The Son was damn compelling and renews faith in humanity.

I'm not as much of a nihilist as Jeff, though I do find his ideas intriguing and I'd like to subscribe to his newsletter. When I consider mankind as a whole, I'm usually pretty optimistic - the good mostly outweighs the bad for me (though it probably shouldn't). When I do consider certain individuals or even certain groups of people (like those who tried to cover-up the Penn State scandal...don't worry, Joe-pa, I'm not talking about you) there is definitely evil in the world that should be wiped out. I don't always want mean from my movies, my directors, or specifically vT, but we all need reminders. Sometimes we live in Claire's world, but Justine's world and Melancholia always seem to find their way into our lives. We don't need another planet to hit Earth for the world to be ending. For my thoughts on 2012, check out my doomsday blog: http://yeahitsreallyhappeningpeopleitoldyouitwouldobamaistheantichrist.blogspot.com

Honestly, at this point, I don't really know how I feel about Melancholia, I just know that I like The Tree of Life and Drive and probably Attack the Block a lot more...so far.

There is also some humor to Dogville, I would argue. And sure, give me The Clash every single day of the week over The Sex Pistols.

Boardwalk Empire is sweet. That is all.

I'm also really digging on Dexter again, so that is a nice feeling. The writing staff has finally done something to change the dynamic of the show. They're taking risks again and it's pleasant to observe. I wish I could go into spoilers, but I'll just be patient instead.

Parks and Recreation has finally hit something of a stride; where has Nick Offerman been hiding all these years?

I finished season 2 of Bored To Death and I still feel the same way about the show that I did after season 1; I like male camaraderie as much as the next the guy who watches football games with me, but it's just an above-average show at best.

I will watch City of Conquest at some point here.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Lars and the Really Depressed Girl


I'll make my meanest comment first. During the scene in which Claire tells her son to stop showing them things about Melancholia on his laptop, I think Brandon made a joke about him not getting to finish his powerpoint presentation. I bring that up because that's the best format I see the film Melancholia working as...a powerpoint. Visually, it's stunning. Substance-wise, it's lacking.

That's as far as I get from not being a pussy, though. Melancholia is a good movie, and of course it shouldn't be a powerpoint. It is better than hundreds of other films that were released this year. Agreed. BUT my annoyance toward the film stems from the overall disappoint I felt while watching it (I had very high expectations for this one) and the way that the characters were handled/written. So I can't align myself with Brandon, Ben, and John.

Like Jeff, I didn't give a crap about any of the characters. I can't remember the last time I liked a depressed character in a film, if at all. Maybe Synecdoche, New York? The overall film is dark, and Caden certainly battles with depression. But there's also a lot of love in his heart. Anyways, it probably is impossible to pull off because no one enjoys being around someone who's depressed all of the time.

Another thing I believe Brandon said last night was that von Trier tends to hide from emotion and is often too timid in exposing the connections he feels toward his characters (this may also be in someone's post, I already forget). I can't argue that point very hard, but I can say that Lars maintains that consistency here. In fact, I'd be a little confused by someone who rejects Dogville but also embraces Melancholia; both can seem pretty pessimistic and heartless. (NOTE: Ha, I see that Brandon just commented on this). It was great to see Nicole Kidman get revenge in the end. It felt so rewarding, even if it was a little evil. There was no real reward here. Justine wants to die, Claire and her son do not and don't deserve death. Does every film have to be rewarding in that way? No, but I needed something from this film that I didn't get...even if that something was the most depressing thing I've ever seen. After watching Synecdoche, NY, I literally couldn't open my mouth to speak about the film; had I, I would've bawled my eyes out. Here, I largely felt indifferent.

Dogville ends in bullets (and Bowie) and Melancholia ends in the complete destruction of the Earth. And as much as Justine is an annoying bitch, it is true that she comes through in the end. She tries to be brave for Leo and is there to hold his and Clarie's hands. But with that, Jeff is right in saying that the film isn't bleak enough. It isn't an emotional rollercoaster in the way that it should be. The strongest comments uttered in the film are when Justine claims that people are terrible and that no one will miss Earth. That was one of my favorite scenes because it tried to focus not only on a larger theme, but it started to hit on the bleakness that should've been maintained throughout.

Part 1 was hard to sit through. I want to give this one a second viewing because maybe I'll see the light in the way that Ben did. There's no discreet charm here. Weddings in film are hard enough to watch as it is without having to watch so many selfish people. But whatever, I sort of sympathize with Justine in regard to her job and her boss. Without getting the full exposition, I was able to somehow to relate to the situation. We force all of these roles and expectations on people, and expect a handshake or a pat of the back in return. We expect our brides to be happy with their groom and their occupation, when occasionally those jobs and spouses are just settled on and not chosen. I don't know what I'm trying to say here, maybe just that I take the thing back about Justine being a slightly evil character. There is more to her than meets the eye.

The most interesting relationship in the film is the one between Justine and the planet Melancholia. Jeff had a great write-up on that nude scene.

I think we can all agree that the prologue was one the highlights; each shot stimulates the mind. And with Tristan and Isolde playing in the background, it fully immerses you in a world that you'd like to at least own a timeshare in.

I enjoyed the sci-fi/destruction film aspect of it, I feel that that stuff works, but needed more.

I disagree with John that Melancholia has more heart than Drive, but I know we've had that conversation before, so...meh.

But there is no hate here...just a guy who takes forever to write a post saying that he was disappointed by the film.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Chris Scared Stupid


I was hoping to post this before Halloween, but the weekend was busier than I thought it would be.

It would be too difficult for me to do any sort of rankings. I can say that the horror films I enjoyed the most are: The ShiningEyes Without a FaceThe OmenThe Exorcist, and Rosemary's Baby. To a lesser extent, I enjoyed The Amityville Horror. I enjoyed these movies because they offered more than just screams and the launching of popcorn into the air. They're interesting stories with memorable scenes. Sorry for being fairly vague, but I'm feeling a little on the lazy side tonight.

I also saw these movies in my later teens and early twenties (because I scare too easily). But I was just thinking that maybe it's best to catch the most respected horror films now; I probably wouldn't have been able to appreciate any of those movies had I watched them when I was a kid.

I still plan on catching many of Brandon's recommendations even though Halloween has come and gone. I'm excited to see the Lewton pictures; I've taped Cat People off of the TV and will watch that soon. I wasn't able to get a hold of any others, but there's always netflix. Or maybe I'll just save a bunch of films for next Halloween.

Jeff and I were able to carry out a few of our Halloween traditions this year. We usually watch the Treehouse of Horror Simpsons episodes (seasons 2-12), the Boy Meets World episodes "The Witches of Pennbrooke," and "And Then There Was Shawn," and then there's the unofficial tradition of checking out a bit of Hocus Pocus (Lisa knows what we're talking about). And then Jeff usually tries to get me to watch something that is actually scary (though he admits that he took it easy on me this year).

I don't know, I figured I would talk briefly about a few crappy horror movies that influenced my negative outlook on the genre.

Scream came out in 1996. I must have seen it that year or in '97, but so this is really just to say that my parents had no real control over the movies we watched as kid (I can only recall being banned from watching Bevis & Butthead, South Park, and there was a weird unspoken thing about not watching too much MTV). My brothers and I watched Scream quite a bit. I was ten/eleven at the time, and yeah, it led to quite a few restless nights.

Other movies that scared me that no one has talked about (again, these aren't movies that I like or anything): Pet Sematary: because the mother's sister was hideously frightening...a friend of mine used to do impressions of her all of the time, "Rachel!" Children of the Corn wasn't as scary as I thought it would be, but goddamn is that Malakai kid creepy looking. "We have your woman, Outlander!"

I also wanted to comment on The Blair Witch Project because it gave birth to a lot of the crap that's popular today. Mostly, I don't hate it, but it's pretty..."meh." Sure when you first saw it you felt freaked out and on-edge, but I never really found it too scary or anything (listen to how tough and cool I sound). I also remember having a sleepover at a friend's house in middle school, and we stayed up late to watch it. Those were the days. We also watched a very shitty movie called Dr. Giggles. Damn this selective memory of mine.

Some movies I watched this past week...

Attack the Block

I really enjoyed this movie; at the very least, it's an honorable mention. I'll be interested to what everyone else thinks, but I liked more than many of the other alien films that I've seen recently. District 9 was another highly acclaimed, low-budget alien flick that was supposed to be a refreshing take on the genre...but I absolutely loathe that movie. Where District 9 failed miserably, Attack the Block succeeds. ATB moves very quickly and doesn't waste a lot of time. There isn't as much comedy in it as Shaun of the Dead, but the jokes in it work well enough (some of them are stupid, sure). I read on-line that Joe Cornish wrote this screenplay sometime after being mugged. Considering that, I like the fact that he paints a bunch of teenage street punks as heroes. At least, I find it interesting because you have characters who are already very cocky who are ready to take on alien invaders. And because they're a bunch of kids they initially have no real fear of death. Semi-spoilers: I also like the dynamic of Sam having to look to the kids who mugged her earlier in the night for protection. It was an enjoyable pairing, I admit.

Peeping Tom

Jeff and I watched this the night before Halloween. I saw it on Glenn Kenny's list that Brandon linked us. It goes without saying that it's absolute bullshit that Michael Powell's career was ruined as a result of this film. Good god, that topic is worthy of its own two-hour rant. Anyway, long rant short, I'd say that it's actually tamer than Psycho. I really enjoyed Peeping Tom and would add it to the list in my first paragraph; Carl Boehm reminded me a little of Peter Lorre, actually. Very quiet and creepy. Also, he was able to turn affable on a dime - a really nice performance. I love the use of the camera in this film.

Trick 'r Treat

This was one Jeff suggested. In the end, it was right up my alley - it wasn't scary at all, but it wasn't boring or tame. What you have here is a fun film and a nice nod to Halloween traditions and stories. I was driving around the town of Oxford last night and I saw everyone walking around in their costumes. I immediately thought of this film and wondered how many people across the country were going to great lengths to scare their friends or themselves. I also recommend this one to all you.

Night of the Living Dead

Watched this last night and I have to say, up until the last ten minutes or so, I must've developed Dan Kois syndrome or something because I felt bored by it. I respect George Romero and the fact that he revolutionized the genre, but I guess I just caught this one too late in my life. When the little girl turns into a zombie and eats her Dad's brains - a big thumbs up. Little zombie girl stabbing her mom with a trough to death - thumbs up. The suckiness in which our hero dies - more thumbs up. Other than that, there wasn't too much else that I enjoyed. Another thing I took away from this film is that tucking a t-shirt into your pants is one of the most underrated get-ups. The film is a cult classic, but I'm not ready to join this cult just yet.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Blaffair To Rememblack



(My apologies for how crappy this video is. For whatever reason I can't get a better clip to imbed from southparkstudios.com. If you were annoyed and like links, click here).

Good advice, Brandon (and really, it's advice that we can apply to all genres). Yesterday I came to the decision that I wouldn't watch The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; I reminded myself that I don't want to spend the next week slightly freaked out. I still might see Halloween because the Michael Myers mythology/story interests me a tad. Seems that Lewton is a good place to start, though. I'll do that. Eventually the rest will follow. 'Tis the season after all; I can devote two weeks of the year to horror. And I'd like to participate in the horror discussion, but mostly I'll be standing in the background and making a lot of fart noises.

I've been meaning to watch Fritz Lang's M for the longest time. My senior seminar in college was on Vladimir Nobakov, and one day our professor played a few clips from M for us. I don't really remember why - I'm sure there's a connection, but my memory is crap and I've been feeling dumber and dumber since graduation...so if someone else can tell me why he did...

We also watched Kubrick's Lolita one day (for more obvious reasons). It was my favorite day of class, but then a few people in my seminar shit on the film because it "wasn't like the book." Assholes.

Shortly after I submitted my post yesterday, I turned on the TV and surfed past a movie being played as part of AMC's Fright Fest. I'm not sure what movie it was, but a black cat attacked a guy, jumped into his mouth and crawled down this throat and into his stomach. I was eating lunch at the time. You ruined my meal, crappy horror film!

Ben, I've also been wondering how faithful The Walking Dead TV series is to the comics. I'd check them out if my local library had them. And don't get me wrong, I didn't find the season 2 premier to be flawless. It didn't always work for me, but I found it to be better than the tail-end of the first season. Like Jeff, I haven't read City of Glass, but I'd be interested in checking it out. I'm currently not reading anything, and that needs to be remedied fast. I still need to watch the second season of Bored to Death - waitin' on Netflix.

Like Jeff: Part 2, I re-watched The Tree of Life. This time there were no funky smells or inconsiderate folks in the vicinity. And so, for those reasons (and more), I enjoyed it much more the second time around. The first viewing was definitely an emotional experience, but I actually teared up multiple times during the second viewing. The film communicates so effectively; each facial expression and/or line of voice-over somehow puts a million different thoughts and feelings into my head. It is certainly a experience you seldom get.

Jason, hopefully you're having a great time in France. And hopefully Midnight In Paris is playing in every theater over there for the rest of the year. All right, I admit that it's annoying that that film is doing so well that it's preventing other films from being shown...but not too much; the film is harmless, and as you all know, I like it. Anyways, I feel that it goes without saying that Back to the Future is better than Back to the Future II. It also goes without saying that using a sports almanac from the future to gamble with in the present is the real American dream. It was interesting to hear John's thoughts on BTTF 3, but at this point, I can't bring myself to watch it again.

Lisa, I'm with you on The Green Lantern. I haven't seen a second of it, but I know it would be a bad experience. John addressed the new Hulk - Ruffalo is one of my favorite actors, but yeah, he won't save that franchise. I rented the Eric Bana Hulk shortly after it came to DVD. I fell asleep while watching it. After I woke up, I had no interest in finishing it. As John said, "Incredible Hulk fans have been long-suffering."Agreed, Manhattan's fantastic, but what I'd really like every Woody Allen movie to be is Love and Death. I recommend it.