Friday, January 11, 2013

Not ready for a 2012 list either...

I think I'll go ahead and steal John's idea. Here are my updated top ten lists for 2011 and 2010...


1. The Tree of Life
2. A Separation
3. Drive
4. Take Shelter
5. Le Havre
6. Hugo
7. The Kid with a Bike
8. The Skin I Live In
9. Attack the Block
10. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

HM (listed in order): Damsels in Distress, Midnight In Paris, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Mill and the Cross.

Since I posting a list last year, Drive has overtaken Take Shelter for the #3 spot. I have re-watched both since posting my list and, over that period, I've grown to love and appreciate Drive a lot more than Jeff Nichols' film...which is still pretty damn good in my mind. Drive isn't #1 on my list because I don't think it is the best film of 2012, but it probably is my favorite film from that group.

The Kid with a Bike jumped The Skin I Live In for the #7 spot. I've re-watched TSILI but have yet to re-watch TKwaB. This change is do the fact that Almodovar's film lost some of its appeal now that I'm aware of the "twist" in the film's story. It's still a really good film, though.

I really wish I could get Damsels in Distress on there somehow. I'm tempted to bump Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. I should really re-watch both and then decide. And I know I could add Whit Stillman's film to my 2012 list (I won't, though, for consistency), because it would definitely crack my top ten. Still have plenty of lost for Midnight In Paris as well, John. ;)


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

HM (listed in order): Shutter Island, The American, Toy Story 3, Black Swan, 127 Hours.

No changes since my last update...which, I don't even remember when that was.

I would really like to re-watch Certified Copy and Another Year. I don't own either, but the former is on NWI. I still stand by The Social Network; love that David Fincher.

Still standing by Inception as well; I still enjoy it. I can't say that I care too much about #'s 8-10 and my honorable mentions. I do like them and think they're better than the other films I saw from that year, but yeah, I admit that I'm not crazy about them either.

Before I make my 2012 list, I still want to see: Holy Motors, Tabu, Rust & Bone, and Zero Dark Thirty. Those are the films that I think would shake my list up. I still would like to see: Argo, Seven Psychopaths, Premium Rush, Silver Linings Killer Joe, Playbook, Life of Pi, though I have doubts that they would make it (for one reason or another). I probably shouldn't do that/view those movies in that way...but that's the way it is. I added Beasts of the Southern Wild to my queue, which is currently available on Netflix/DVD, but there's a good chance I won't get around to seeing it for a while.

Last year I wrote a post on my version of The Golden Globes with my own personal nominees and winners. I'll probably do that again after I post my top ten list.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

More Django Thoughts

Brandon, you had my curiosity. But now, you have my attention...

Ha, I figured you'd get a kick out of me relaying that Jeff story. And he's probably in need of some taunting. Hell, I'm probably in need of some taunting. Either way, I always enjoy it when Jeff shares some of your text convos with me--fun and interesting stuff.

Agreed, the Blazing Saddles comparison is a tad easy/lazy. But I disagree (slightly) with the KKK scene; it made me laugh as well, but, in my opinion, Tarantino seemed to loiter in the comedy a bit longer than he had for any of the other scenes. And I respectfully disagree about the comedy not dulling the dramatic impact. I think it does for me a bit, but definitely not enough to completely hijack/ruin the film. There are bigger problems, as we've mentioned. Tarantino is gifted at jumping between the genres within his films.

I'll let Jeff handle the more in-depth analysis of the KKK scene. I pretty much agree with what he'll write. (He might finish his post before me, though). We're both typing away at the same time here.

Good points about whether we should ignore certain topics for fear of what the public might do with them. And I know we both agree on the answer...and Tarantino would agree with us as well. QT made the film he wanted all the while knowing that it would end up offending someone.

And right, I overlooked the fact the you mentioned the brilliance of the handshake scene. Great points in your original post and I like your interpretation of Candie's extended palm. And I'm starting to agree with you more on this film being much richer than I had previously thought. That's a credit to you and the Big Media Vandalism post.

One idea I forgot to include in my post yesterday was that I'm glad Tarantino made the dentist/bounty hunter character a German. Me thinking that Tarantino wrote the character as a German only because he wanted his movie to star the great Christoph Waltz is probably not fair to QT's intelligence. I mean, hell, his last movie was about WWII. Spike Lee called slavery in America a "holocaust." I agree, and like the Holocaust in Germany/throughout Europe, it's our country's most disgraceful, disgusting moment.

In the past, whenever I heard the words "German" or "Germany," I would instantly think of Nazis or make a Nazi joke in my head. Lot's of people do it. But as I got older, I learned to get over that. And as a country, Germany has moved on from Hitler. Compare that to the American South where the Confederate flag still hangs in front of certain government buildings, households, and as bumper stickers and decals on cars/trucks. The South refuses to let the Confederacy die, and plenty of racist assholes (in the North and South) continue to worship the 'stars and bars.' For the love of god, end it. I had the same thoughts when we were watching Lincoln. End rant.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Some Thoughts on Django Unchained

As I wrote in my December round-up post, Jeff and I have been talking about Django on and off for the past weeek, but I hadn't spent any significant time thinking about it on my own. That is, not until I stumbled upon this great blog post:

I got the link from Roger Ebert on the twitter this morning (we're good friends). A bit later, I saw Hannibal Buress retweet it via someone else, so I'm sure plenty of people have visited/read that site today. And what a great read it is. If you haven't checked it out yet, I would encourage you to do so.

Anyway, first I want to focus a bit on Blazing Saddles. It's funny...when I saw those words in the Big Media Vandalism post, of course I immediately thought of Jeff. And then when I got home from work, Jeff told me that Brandon texted him to poke a bit of fun in saying that someone dismantled his Blazing Saddles argument. I'm pretty sure that was the only thing about the BMV post that I disagree with. I'm sticking with Jeff mainly because the Don Johnson/Jonah Hill KKK scene is pretty damn silly.

Now it's not as if the comedy in that scene came out of nowhere....both in terms of Django and Tarantino's other films--Inglourious Basterds is funny, Death Proof is funny, etc.--Quentin has a great sense of humor and he knows how to incorporate comedy into his films, no matter how dark the subject matter is. And there are a handful of humorous moments in DU before and after that aforementioned Don Johnson scene.

Also, I know no one is shitting on Blazing Saddles here, but I still feel like it should be said that comparing the two should not be seen as an assault on the work Tarantino has done with Django.

In Odie's round 3 post, he does make an excellent point about the differences between Blazing Saddles and Django Unchained. In the former, the people of Rock Ridge can't believe their eyes when they see a black man wearing a badge; in the latter, the people of (I forget the town's name) are stunned and angered by the sight of a black man on a horse. Fair enough, Tarantino's film resembles the zeitgeist a little bit more. But I still wouldn't say it accurately depicts what would've actually gone down back in the mid to late 1800s. The reality probably would've seen someone coming at Django to kill him, just for riding a horse.

So for me, unless I'm missing something, that's where the argument ends up--Quentin's movie isn't as much of a comedy as Mel Brooks' (there are clear differences), but they both handle racism and slavery with comedic gloves. And sure, both movies are funny. Though I admit that there were times, sitting in a theater surrounded mostly by white people, where it felt a little strange that everyone was laughing. This was mainly during the scene where the townspeople are scared and pissed because Django is riding a horse. (I thought the humor in the "how should I treat Django?" conversation between Big Daddy and Bettina was done very well.)

Here's a stupid Blazing Saddles/Django Unchained comparison...but I'll only make it because it'll serve as a segue for me--the directors both cast themselves in their respective films. I didn't really have a problem with Quentin putting himself in his movie; as we all know, he's no stranger to that. Sure his accent was terrible, but I didn't care too much about that either. What bothered me was, as Jeff wrote, how easy it was for Django to escape from him and Michael Parks. In a way, it ties in with what Django learned from Dr. Schultz--that he if speaks confidently and clearly, he can talk himself out of a jam. Fine, but really, the only reason why that scene exists (in my mind) is so that Django can get his hands on some dynamite.

Don't get me wrong, I wanted to see Candie Land blown to high hell and, but to tack on an extra twenty minutes just go it could happen seemed sloppy.

But I had no problem with the showdowns. This was something I've been thinking more about today--Dr. Schultz has to be the one to kill Calvin Candie and Django has to be the one who kills Stephen.

In Dr. Schultz's mind, Candie is the worst kind of scum. I love the scene where Schultz tells Candie that Alexandre Dumas was black. And I haven't seen much talk of that handshake scene. It was one of my favorites because in that moment, Candie becomes the unpredictable villain I expected him to be throughout the film. Granted, he does have a moment of unpredictable villainy when he threatens to bash Broomhilda's skull open with a hammer.

But I digress....was Candie just looking for a handshake? I asked Jeff after we saw it in the theater. I'm not sure if he's still sticking with this answer, but he told me that he thought Candie was going to kill them. It does make sense, and you'd almost expect it given, in his mind, the hell he'd been put through by Schultz and Django. But I disagreed and I wanted it to be the case where Candie was just looking for a handshake.

In that scenario, it gives more power to Christoph Waltz's character and to the decision he makes. All he has to do is shake Candie's hand and he's gone. He's safe. But no, Waltz loathes and is so sickened by this man that he cannot help himself; he must kill Candie.

In Django's mind, most people are the worst kind of scum. But then there's Stephen, a new kind of scum...a black man who, through spending his entire life serving a rich, white people, has grown to hate and destroy other black men and women. It's conceivable that through his upbringing, Stephen would grow to love the Candie family and hate anyone who would try to hurt or cheat them.

The feeling is mutual for Stephen. He sees Django on a horse with clean clothes and it tears him up inside. Stephen's mind has been so warped and polluted that he instantly identifies Django as his enemy. There's an obvious tragedy to that but the fact remains, Django has to be the one who kills Stephen..but not before he gets to witness Django walking out of the front doors of Candie Land to Broomhilda.

The ending is a spectacle (complete with dressage). It was the way to go, but it was dragged out far too long. And as the Big Media Vandalism post rightly points out, even though the credits roll, it'd hardly be the end for Django and Broomhilda; unfortunately they would be hunted for the rest of their lives.

So while the link at the top of this post got me thinking more on Django Unchained and got me to appreciate it a bit more, I still stand by the idea that it was ultimately disappointing. I've seen better from Tarantino and I agree with Brandon's thoughts about where he should go from here.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013



Rio Grande ****
Lawless **
Killing Them Softly ****
Gaslight ****
The 39 Steps ***
A Separation (re-watched) ****1/2
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey ***
Harvey ****
Django Unchained ***1/2
Cosmopolis ****
Amour ****


30 Rock season 7
The Colbert Report
The Daily Show
Dexter season 6
Downton Abbey season 2
Homeland (started season 1)
Parks and Recreation season 5
Sherlock season 1
The Simpsons (various episodes)

Notes: I watched She Wore a Yellow Ribbon at the end of November and watched Rio Grande at the beginning of December. That's two films from John Ford's cavalry trilogy down and I own a copy of Fort Apache so hopefully I can catch that soon. I had a top five John Ford list ready to go (the draft is still up on my blogger dashboard), but I didn't post it because it was obvious and similar to Jeff and Brandon's list. And maybe I'm still not sure which film I like more...The Searchers or The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. I know I included the former in my "best films of all-time" list but I'll be damned if I don't admit to being blown away by Liberty Valance.

Anyway, back to Rio Grande. I'd definitely rank it above She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (no offense to that film though).  RG offers a better story and a better flow. John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara make a great team, and their relationship was obviously one of the most important parts of the story; I didn't feel like John Wayne had enough to do in SWAYR. Anyway, my John Ford draft also had a line about how I wouldn't even try to do a write-up on Ford. Brandon said it all in his post. Beautifully done, my friend, if you don't mind me saying. 

I wrote the following about Lawless in another post that I never got around to submitting (I suck):

"I got Lawless in the mail from Netflix. Nothing about it stood out to me; it's very forgettable. And I'm sorry but there's nothing compelling about a relationship between Shia LaBeouf and Mia Wasikowska; I was bored just from typing that sentence. Tom Hardy and Jessica Chastain are just 'okay.' Maggie's relationship with the Bondurant brothers felt very forced and unnecessary. It made think a bit of Ida Lupino relationship with Bogart in High Sierra, but obviously that one was more developed and effective; the Maggie/Bondurant thing felt like a failed attempt at that.

And back to LaBeouf--I actually wouldn't mind him if he wasn't such a douchebag. People love Ryan Gosling, and part of the appeal is that he doesn't seem shamed by his Disney past. LaBeouf has failed miserably at trying to shake that off; he's trying way too hard to be taken seriously and he just comes off looking like an asshole. I was channel-surfing one day and I saw that Freaks and Geeks was on. Shia was in this particular episode and he played a weird little goofball (similar to his character on Even Stevens), and you know what, he was great and likable. He'd be so much more tolerable if he embraced who he really is and what he actually does well."

My apologies for putting High Sierra and Lawless in the same paragraph.

I also started to write about Killing Them Softly shortly after I saw it at AMC. But I never finished it because that day also happened to be the Friday when the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy occurred. I couldn't bring myself to write about anything violent. At this time, I will say that I enjoyed Andrew Dominik's film quite a bit. And while Softly's overbearing political presence warrants a groan or two, I would argue that it does not hurt the movie at all. If the film had an identity crisis it would, but Dominik knows who his characters are and what they want. I also loved the juxtaposition between mob justice and bureaucratic justice. I wish I could watch the last scene with Richard Jenkins and Brad Pitt right now. Great stuff.

I enjoyed Gaslight, but unfortunately I don't have a lot to say about it right now. 

The 39 Steps had its moments, but mostly I wasn't a big fan. I'm not about to criticize Hitchcock or say anything hyperbolic (gonna keep this dull), but it's certainly not one of my favorites. I want to see The Lady Vanishes soon; I have yet to see it. 

A Separation was just as good the second time. I still stand by ranking The Tree of Life ahead of it though. Are Jeff and I the only two to see this one so far? I'd like to hear another man or woman's opinion.

I agree with everything Jeff wrote about The Hobbit (shocker). Neither of us have read the book and I will say that's probably the only way one can enjoy it. There's definite fat to be trimmed, but mostly it's a fun adventure story. I also liked seeing more of Middle Earth and its other inhabitants. We meet trolls, goblins, and mountains that can move and fight. We also get to see more of the Dwarves and their history. In the review John linked but now hates, the reviewer noted that the scenes between Bilbo and Gollum are the best moments in the entire movie. Agreed 100%; really well done. Say what you want about Peter Jackson, but he and Andy Serkis created such an iconic character in Gollum. I would liken him to Darth Vader because as soon as you see him on the screen (or even hear him breathing) it instantly stirs up certain emotions. I don't feel like I'm alone in thinking that. Anyways, hats off. And honestly, no large complaints, but I'd be insane to list it among the best films of the year. It's a fun time at the theater...nothing more. 

Harvey is delightful. Jimmy Stewart is a legend. A third obvious thing. I loved the mix-up at the psyche ward when Veta is committed instead of Elwood.

Jeff also happens to be right about Django Unchained as well (Brandon too). It was a bit disappointing, though there were many things about it that I liked. Loved the Waltz/Foxx partnership. And while Leo was quite good in it and had some shiny/bright moments, I was mostly let down at how little Tarantino challenged him. Agreed gang, the ending is sloppy. Jeff and I have talked about this quite a bit already and we definitely agreed that it feels as if Tarantino rushed this one out. The ideas are there, but the execution is lacking. 

Cosmopolis was very interesting. I watched this one the other day, so I don't think I've fully processed everything yet. I'm not sure exactly how I feel about it, but I know that I liked it. It's definitely top-ten worthy and even though I'm not too familiar with David Cronenberg's work, this was the kind of thing I'd come to expect from him based on what I've heard and read. A Dangerous Method was too safe and took no risks whatsoever. Cosmopolis is the opposite. And hats off to Robert Pattinson for no longer playing it safe either. Granted, starring in something as shitty as the Twilight saga isn't exactly great for one's legitimate acting career. But R-Patts actually does quite well for what he's asked to do.

I finished Amour yesterday and afterwards I immediately read what Jeff and Brandon wrote about it. Great stuff. I can't talk about this film too much without mentioning the performances of Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva; even if the script was boring (which it isn't) and the photography was awful (it isn't), those two performances would've elevated everything. And even with the film being as good as it is, those performances do elevate it and make it that much better. Hopefully a larger discussion will follow. 

Tabu, This Is Not a Film, Holy Motors, and Rust and Bone soon. Thanks for that flash drive, John/Ben.


started Homeland and Sherlock this month. Both are enjoyable and I'll be sticking with them.

Maybe I can finally finish the second season of Downton Abbey soon; it's been somewhat of a struggle...just not as good as the first season.

I enjoyed the Dexter season finale. Maybe that wasn't hard for the writers to achieve given how shitty the entire seventh season had been. And even though I had predicted the final moment of the season a few months back, I did like how Deb's decision was presented to her. One more season to go.

I never do New Year's resolutions, but maybe I should make one to post more in 2013. I know I'd certainly like to. You're going down, Ben Spacey.