Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Rapid Response

The Paleface - hilarious, and not John Wayne approved. Thumbs up!

The Trial of Joan of Arc - very well done. Thumbs up!

Narrow Margin - a lot of fun. Thumbs up!

The Simpsons "Homer the Heretic" - we'd be here forever if I started talking about how much I love this episode. Thumbs way up!

My Suzuki Verona - a piece of shit. I want to beat it with a baseball bat. Thumbs way down...

Sorry again, John. Thanks for the food, the hospitality, the films, and of course, the fuel. Your next five beers are on me.

I'll write more on these films a little later.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Simpsons Episode Rankings: Season 9

Season 9 of The Simpsons gave us the beginning of the Mike Scully era (although Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein, Al Jean & Mike Reiss, and David Mirkin also produced episodes this season).

One of the more memorable episodes from season 9 is "Lisa the Skeptic." In it, Lisa uncovers a fossilized "angel" that serves as a warning to Springfield that the "end of times" is nigh.  Fittingly, many Simpsons fans, including myself, view season 9 as the beginning of the end for the series (the snobbiest ones will tell you that it occurred much earlier).

Honestly, this is the last season that I consider to be part of the "Golden Years" of the show, although upon re-watching a lot of these episodes again, my overall opinion of the season has become less favorable. There isn't a single person I blame for the decline of the show. After nine years/100+ episodes, it becomes increasingly difficult to come up with fresh storylines and jokes (Seinfeld's great run only lasted eight seasons). No matter what has happened and what will happen, I'm still very thankful for all of the great episodes and moments that the show has given me, and I will include the first seven episodes from my list below in that statement.

Numbers 8-15 on my list features episodes that are mostly good; numbers 16-25 are episodes that I'd really have to force myself to sit down and watch again. Maybe it's too easy to make All Singing, All Dancing my worst episode, considering the fact that it's a clip show. I know most Simpsons fans would probably list The Principal and the Pauper, the series' most infamous episode, at the bottom. While I still don't necessarily accept the ideas that are presented in the episode, I do think people are too hard on it. I would rather watch it any day over Girly Edition or The Last Temptation of Krust.

1. Lisa the Skeptic
2. The Cartridge Family
3. The Joy of Sect
4. Bart Star
5. Treehouse of Horror VIII
6. Miracle on Evergreen Terrace
7. Simpson Tide
8. Lisa the Simpson
9. Realty Bites
10. Lisa's Sax
11. Trash of the Titans
12. Lost Our Lisa
13. Das Bus
14. Bart Carny
15. The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson
16. Dumbbell Indemnity
17. The Two Mrs. Nahasapemapetilons
18. The Trouble with Trillions
19. Natural Born Kissers
20. King of the Hill
21. The Principal and the Pauper
22. This Little Wiggy
23. Girly Edition
24. The Last Temptation of Krust
25. All Singing, All Dancing

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lonely are the Brave Club Band

As evidenced by Jason's posts, regardless of how you feel about the ending, Lonely are the Brave is a film that the viewer can feel completely invested in. From the very beginning we're able to sympathize with and root for Jack Burns; this is a credit to Kirk Douglas, Dalton Trumbo, David Miller, and Edward Abbey. Luckily I get the benefit of writing this post after Brandon and John brought Trumbo and Abbey into the mix. Great points as always. But Jeff's right, too, this is a film that absolutely laments the Western.

Lonely are the Brave contains all the ingredients needed to make a good film. I agree with John and Jeff, the ending perfectly fits the tone/message of the film. A much bigger statement is made with the death of Whiskey/capture of Jack.

As Brandon writes, Jack Burns isn't a character we should sympathize with blindly; agreed, he earns our sympathy and respect, and does so relatively quickly. He's a man of honor and loyalty. He is the solitary man who doesn't do any harm to others. The bar fight with the one-armed man provided us a great moment in showcasing that, if confronted, Jack will always fight fairly (later he even shoots at a helicopter in a way that it can still land safely). Even the police officers note and sort of revere this about Jack as he's hauled into the police station. Not to mention the fact that Walter Matthau appears to be pleased when Jack escapes over the top of the ridge. Even the people who are trying to capture him at the end of the film are also secretly rooting for him to escape.  There's something to be admired about the "independent man," even if he's met with an untimely end.

More on that ending...John writes that Jack Burns had died chasing freedom. So in the end, I think we'd all agree that Jack Burns wouldn't change a thing if he could do it all over again (except for maybe avoiding the highway). If your ultimate goal is freedom, nothing else matters. You attain it the way you want it, or you choose death. I can't see Jack ever changing who he is in the way that Paul did. They share a compelling moment just before Jack breaks out of the prison. The "cowboy spirit" has left Paul for good; he's traded in his spurs for a set of handcuffs, and chooses life (one dictated by society) over extinction.

Jack Burns is a man, who like all cowboys, has always lived his life on his own terms and isn't concerned with ridiculous laws and borders. John is the West undergoes this modernized transformation, the cowboy becomes extinct. "The cowboy has been killed by modernity," as John so accurately states.

I also felt that the ending was a downer, because like Jason, I wanted Burns to escape with Whiskey unharmed. I'm overcome with an awful feeling in stomach whenever an animal dies in a film, too, Jason. Hell, I didn't even like it when Whiskey was being forced to climb the ridge. But of course, I recognize, as Brandon, John and Jeff do, that the film needs to end that way to make its point.

In Jeff's posts, he makes a point similar to the idea that Burns is a man living in the wrong time period. I, of course, would have to agree with that.

Jason argues that the cowboy and modernity can coexist. I like and appreciate the fact that he tries to make that point. That's definitely something to be discussed, but I think John does an excellent job of arguing against that idea. Modernity doesn't want the cowboy to exist. The policemen want Jack to have a social security number and a steady address. They want him to fit into their system, otherwise, he'll be imprisoned. But there isn't a cell in the world that the independent man doesn't think he can break out of.

Monday, March 5, 2012

In Like a Lamb

In an attempt to break the funk that I'm in with my lack of posting, I figured I would cover another movie dump/round-up. I know I should be posting on Lonely are the Brave (which, for the record,  I really enjoyed), but I'll probably wait for John or Ben to write something first. I don't know that I have too much to add to what Brandon and Jeff have already said. Anyway, here's what I've been watching recently...

Torch Singer

This was part of the Pre-Code Hollywood Collection DVD that also featured Hot Saturday. Of the two films, I enjoyed Torch Singer a lot more. Claudette Colbert plays a woman who bears a child out of wedlock, and because she doesn't have the financial means, she is forced to put her daughter, Sally, up for adoption. Years later, we find Colbert struggling to make it as a torch singer; because I'm only twenty-five years old, I wasn't familiar with that term and had to look it up on Wikipedia (if you're like me, I advise you to do the same). Anyway, Colbert eventually gets a job playing a character on a weekly radio show for kids. As her fame grows, she begins to use this show as a tool to help track down her daughter.

Anyway, I won't say too much more about the plot because I don't want to spoil anything. There was one scene that truly surprised me, though, that I really want to share. As Colbert is trying to track down her daughter, she receives a letter from a little girl named Sally. Thinking that her search is now over, Colbert goes to the address; when she arrives at the home and knocks on the door, a little girl named Sally, who also happens to be black, answers. Colbert now knows that this isn't the little girl she's looking for, but she is still so happy to see her. And the little girl in the scene is incredibly adorable. Anyway, I bring that up because the scene was so beautifully endearing and heartfelt, and especially so, given the handful of racist depictions of black characters in the movies around that time and well-after that time.

Kiss Me Deadly

This was my first Aldrich film and it has set the bar pretty high. It also sets the bar pretty high as I continue to watch more film noir. Obviously most noir films need a tough leading actor, and I'm a big fan of those kinds of characters (as long as the actors don't overdo it). Maybe to some Ralph Meeker (playing Mike Hammer) overdoes it, but for me, I thought he was amazing. The tone of this film is perfect and Meeker fits in perfectly to the world created by Mickey Spillane and Robert Aldrich. I love the opening credits - that shot will stay with me for a long while. And then I especially love the ending. I can't wait to watch this film again!

Anatomy of a Murder

Jeff had a little write-up on this one and I completely agree with everything he wrote. The running time definitely seemed daunting when we put in the DVD, but Otto Preminger's film almost feels like a short when you're watching it. Of course, it feels that way because the film is so captivating. The title is incredibly accurate, what you get here is the meticulously complete anatomy of a murder; the trial covers every single detail and it's fascinating. And what else can you say about Jimmy Stewart that hasn't already been said? The man is a legend and he's remarkable in this role. It's also fun to hear Jimmy say that word "panties" three or four times. And without the deterioration of the Code, we wouldn't have a funny moment like that. 

Where the Sidewalk Ends

I love the complexity of the script; the story is handled extremely well and I found it to be extremely compelling. Dana Andrews is one of those guys who pops up in movies every now and then, and you go, "hey, it's that guy." I enjoy seeing him in films because he has a great persona. I'm still warming up to Gene Tierney. I feel there's a lot to discuss about the film, and I could never do it justice in a little write-up like this. I'd love to talk about it with someone.

Monkey Business

I was really looking forward to this Howard Hawks comedy, and had I been picked by Jason or Ben for our movie selection project, I would've considered picking this. I think the description and the first thirty seconds of the film led me to believe that I was about to watch something as zany as a Marx Brothers film (well, maybe not that much, maybe something more like Arsenic and Old Lace). I love the gag at the beginning where the fourth wall is broken down and Cary Grant is told to wait for the opening credits to finish before he can open the door. Anyway, I figured the rest of the film would be more like that, but I was slightly disappointed to find that that wasn't the case. At times it felt like the script lacked focus. But that's as far as my criticisms go; otherwise it was a fairly enjoyable experience. I like the relationship between Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers, playing a mature but fun married couple.

His Girl Friday

I've just recently discovered that the plot to this Howard Hawks film is a slight variation on the 1931 play/film The Front Page (written by Ben Hecht). Anyway, that's not important right now, what is important is that this an excellent screwball comedy. Rosalind Russell was perfect for the part of Hildy, very strong and smart. She and Cary Grant have a nice chemistry. No criticisms here whatsoever; a great film from beginning to end.

Ball of Fire

Quite possibly, I might like Ball of Fire even more than His Girl Friday. Gary Cooper is the perfect sort of rigid nerd for the role and Barbara Stanwyck is very loveable as the vivacious Sugarpuss O'Shea. Again, great chemistry...and not only between her and Cooper, but especially between her and the seven other nerds/dwarves. I love this film; an early favorite! 

The Complete Works of Jean Vigo

Unfortunately, Jean Vigo died so young that he was only able to make four films. It truly is a shame; really the only fortunate thing about it is that one is able to watch all of his films in a single day (as I did). I wished I had watched Zero de Conduite before watching The 400 Blows, seeing as how it inspired one of my favorite scenes from Trauffaut's film (the children running through the streets when they're supposed to be sticking by their teacher). One of my favorite shots from Vigo's film is the conclusion of the pillow fight, in which feathers slowly float through the air and the children slowly march around the room (the slow-mo shot). A fantastic visual. Then of course, I was blown away by L'Atalante. What an enjoyable experience that was. I love all four characters and all the dynamics that played out between them. Michel Simon is the shit. I also loved the moments when he's walking around the ship with a cat clinging to his back. A great story. A great film.

Day for Night

I'm trying to see as many Truffaut films as I can; definitely an early fan. Day for Night is a film about a film, with Truffaut himself playing the director. Here we have a great behind-the-scenes look at the film process. More than anything, I view this film as a rare treat. We're given insight into the mind of a brilliant filmmaker and it's very compelling. And as Jeff mentioned to John during the Summer People show, there's a nice moment when Truffaut lays out books that he had ordered on a table - books on Hawks, Hitchcock, Bresson, Bunuel, Bergman, and a few others. It's a nice tribute to his idols.

Claire's Knee

I'm really happy that there are a bunch of Eric Rohmer films on Hulu plus (no offense to John's VHS tapes). I watched this over the weekend, and I'll probably catch a few more within the next week or two. So while I won't be going to Cinefest with you, John, maybe I can make up for it by watching some Rohmer films during that time. I love films that are dominated by interesting dialogue and I never tire of them. Claire's Knee was right up my alley. Beautifully shot and written, well-acted. I wouldn't change a thing.

Port of Shadows

I watched this last night because I had planned to see it at some point, and I knew John watched it recently. I finally got to read his thoughts, and he summed up the film much more eloquently than I ever could. Agreed, the Romeo/Bluebeard line is fantastic. Again, Michel Simon is the shit. There's also a definite irony to Jean Gabin's character and his desertion of war. He seems to end up in a place that is as equally violent and ugly as war. Another great film. Not sure that I can recommend this one to Jason Poole, though. Michele Morgan has beautiful eyes. I'd never want to be slapped by Jean Gabin. It would be the last thing that ever happened to me.

TV CLUB....(it's back, baby!)

Party Down

I caught the entire series (2 seasons) before Netflix took it down with the whole "Starz" thing; this show was on Starz a couple years ago. Paul Rudd is credited as one of the creators, but I don't think he was too involved on the show. Anyway, that doesn't matter because the show is still hilarious and a lot of fun to watch. The cast includes Adam Scott, Ken Marino, Lizzy Caplan, Martin Starr, Ryan Hansen, and Jane Lynch. Jane Lynch had to leave the show after the first season because she landed the Glee gig, and then the show was forced to cancel when Adam Scott got the role of Ben on Parks and Recreation. Anyway, by the third episode I was completely hooked. It's about a catering company in L.A. composed of people who want to make it "big" one way or another. It's a hilarious show with an authentic look at Hollywood. I bought the first season on amazon for seven dollars while I was on trial of amazon prime. A steal, if you ask me.


I'm currently undertaking a project where I'm going to watch every single Seinfeld episode in order...similarly to what I've done with seasons 1 through 10 of The Simpsons. I'm considering ranking each episode, but I'm not exactly sure what I'm doing with it yet. Mainly I decided to do it just to re-live all of the laughs. I'm in season 2 right now and I can't wait to re-watch some of my favorite episodes. As of right now, my favorite episode is The Couch, but we'll see if that changes upon these re-watches.

Life's Too Short 

I've seen the first two episodes on HBO. In terms of Ricky Gervais/Stephen Merchant projects, I've never finished The Office UK, but I did watch both seasons of Extras and the film. Extras is one my favorite shows and I recommend it to all of you. Anyway that you can get your hands on it, do so. Then there's An Idiot Abroad, which I'm also a fan of. Life's Too Short has humorous moments (like that clip with Liam Neeson that I posted awhile back), but mostly...I'm not that crazy about it yet. I'll stick with it, but hopefully it offers something more here soon.

Game of Thrones

The second season starts on April 1st. I cannot wait, and I'm going to spend some time this month re-watching the first season. It was nice to talk to Graham Feltham a bit about the books/show at the Summer People show. He's more than just a great moustache to me, John.


I'll never forget the time spent during my youth tuning into this show on the WB. That's right, I don't play this CW bullshit; I'm a WB purist through and through. Thanks for marathoning the show, John. Because of you I'm finally able to recall moments like when Lana is dating that weird, douchey guy who gave her an evil necklace.