Saturday, November 26, 2011


(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 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


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


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:

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 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.