Thursday, December 29, 2011

Without a doubt.

Best moment of the year.

LE HAVRE rules!

Monday, December 26, 2011

I love film club.

Can you guys believe that Brandon and I used to have regular spats like this when no one was reading what we wrote except for the two of us?

That's the spirit of film club past, present, and future.

Write what you like regardless of whatever anyone thinks of you. Regardless of the fact that no one but one (and now six!) other person(s) cares about what you're writing. We're writing for ourselves and for each other, not for personal gain or any kind of success.

It's been such a great year. Film club has continued to be enriched by the presence of all of you. I certainly never dreamed that we'd have the beginnings of a mini-community established like this.

Brandon and I had a crazy whim. Then Jason, then Ben, then Jeff, then Lisa, then Chris. Thanks to all of you.

All of your posts give me great joy.

Except for Brandon's last post. That one pissed me off.


I'm done for the day. I'll let Brandon have the last word if he chooses to.


My tongue it doth chatter, it goes pitter-patter Here's good beer and strong beer, for I will not flatter.

"I get a totally different vibe from your comparisons. I get the vibe that you like to knock films off their pedestal and use lesser appreciated films that you love to do it. I get the vibe that you get annoyed by these films because of the love they are getting while other films get largely ignored (indiewire poll anyone?)."

Seriously? Now I am getting pissed at you. You're attributing petty motivations to me that I don't think are at all evidenced by my posts or any of my comparisons/contrasts. I don't doubt that you "get this vibe," but I don't think that you read my posts carefully at all. I think that you assume my motives and ignore what I actually write.

If you're referencing my 69th vs. 45th poll positions post, then surely you knew that I was being sarcastic and joking, right?

If you're referencing anything else, then I just don't get it. I'm trying to "knock" Dragon Tattoo off its "pedestal" because I've tried to make sense of what I don't like about the story by invoking Breaking Bad? Again, do I need to repeat that I haven't even seen Fincher's version? I'm interacting with the story as manifest in the Sweded version.

I'm trying to knock Drive off its "pedestal" by comparing it to Cold Weather? ?? In that instance, I was answering a question raised by Chris and exploring why I liked one film more than another, not trying to "de-throne" anything.

Green Lantern vs. Melancholia? I saw similar themes (apparently where no else did, so what?) and raised the idea that these films were doing similar things in very different ways. Was I trying to dethrone Melancholia and raise up Green Lantern? Hardly.

"To say “well a guy with a turtle bomb attached to his head is far better than a golf club to the face” pretty much ends the conversation for me."

Did I say this? I mentioned the turtle bomb as an example of a "pulpy" image that I loved. The point was that I can dig trash, not that I like one image over another. If you reread what I wrote, I think that it's clear that what I was contrasting was the "tone and setting" and the way in which the stories interact with an external morality. I was most definitely not saying that a turtle bomb is cooler than a golf club to the face (though it is; but maybe I shouldn't joke. I'm not sure that you understand me when I'm serious let alone when I'm joking).

"Do you get what I’m saying here? I’m not saying that you don’t have the right to see connections in your head but rather that when you make them I could just as easily "state “well I wasn’t aware that GWTDT was aspiring to be Breaking Bad.”"

Brandon, I'm honestly not sure if it's worth conversing anymore. I don't even think you read what I wrote. I think that you saw words and constructed some argument apart from what I wrote. The point of the comparison wasn't to say that GWTDT should be anything other than it is or that people who like it are dumb. I was trying to explain why I *personally* am not on board with the Tattoo story. I was not saying that GWTDT should be Breaking Bad. I was exploring why the story of one works for me while the story of the other fails beyond its basic thrills. I suggested that it was due to the type of moral universe that the characters inhabit in each. You might disagree with my distinction and insist that Tattoo is more than just bleakness. But, you don't do that. You construct some false argument to respond to rather than interact with the bare sketch of an idea that I laid out.

"Nothing is taboo here. You aren’t being attacked."

Again, seriously? I'm not being attacked? You've just told me that you think that my entire purpose of comparing films is to take pot shots at films whose success I'm annoyed by. WTF? This is after I just told you my purposes in comparing films. Your last post is basically you just barely veiling calling me a liar, like you're calling out what you think is my bluff. I can't help that you get that vibe. I just don't see it.

"Read the paragraph again and you’ll see that I’m just pointing a fact out."

Sure, but you also said that you don't get why I do it, which prompted my post. You said that you don't see how these films relate or what my point is, implying that I'm just being provocative with no substance. Now, you're telling me that you have a good idea (based on a "vibe") of the reason why I compare films and the reason is that I have grudges that I need to settle. How can I interpret this as anything but an attack? Even if it's friendly, it's still an attack.

"Nothing wrong with it per say just not sure that I buy it all the time. But please continue to utilize this as maybe I’ll learn to connect the dots eventually."

Um, let's kiss and make up?

Your next paragraph isn't quite directed at me, I don't think. I need to stress again that I've only been working with knowledge of the Sweded version and haven't made any claims about Fincher being above material. I haven't even claimed that those rape scenes serve no narrative purpose. So, I'll skip out on this section.

I don't dispute any of the claims you make about Fincher. He is a great director. The projects he picks, though, most often don't appeal to me.

I think that you're just lashing out at me because I think that Benjamin Button and Forrest Gump are the same movie.

I'm gonna have another drink and celebrate St. Stephen, whose martyrdom must have been a foreshadowing of this sustained film club persecution.

"And now for remembrance of blessed Saint Stephen
Let's joy at morning, at noon, and at even
Then leave off your mincing and fall to mince pies
I pray take my counsel, be ruled by the wise."


Man, it felt good to get all of that steam out of my ears.

It's gonna feel even better when I finally get Brandon in a closed room in order to "Swede" a certain scene from Dragon Tattoo.

:) <----Smiley to indicate continued good will; to make plain that I am only joking.

Bleakness is all.

I'm expecting company soon, but I'll scribble out a response quickly now.

"After seeing the TERRIBLE Swedish film that John can't seem to make up his mind about"

I think that I've been clear (of course I do) and I really think that we've had this argument before. I think that Sweded Tattoo does a more than competent job of telling its trashy story. Like Jeff, it's the story itself that I didn't care for. At the same time, I readily admit that the story is compelling in an "I can't stop looking at that anal rape" kind of way. Sweded Tattoo keeps a crisp and lively pace suited to its material. I really don't care what Glen Kenny thinks about this. For the record, I still haven't seen Fincher's version and never called it a copy of anything, so I'm not sure how Kenny's criticism applies. I believe you that Fincher's frames are Oh So Gorgeous. I'm merely stating that Sweded Tattoo tells its story just fine. And this is a fact. Evidenced by lots and lots of people having sat through a really long foreign film with itty little bitty words to read onscreen.

"John is the king of stating he prefers one thing to another. We’ve already had this out several times but he likes to take one work of art (in this case a television show which is far different from a movie) and hold it over another to prove his point (Cold Weather vs Drive, The Green Lantern vs Melancholia, etc.). What can I say? I don’t know how they relate or where that point is coming from"

It's the little Armond demon on my shoulder.

Seriously, though, it's called making a point by using an illustration. In this case, I tried to pinpoint what it is that I find lacking in Dragon Tattoo. The best way that I found to express that was by giving a contrasting example of what it is that I do enjoy and where I have found that sort of thing precisely in a work of "pulpy trash."

This obviously annoys you, but I don't think that my point is unclear or somehow invalid. Do you really not "know how they relate?" I already stated that they are both "pulp" entertainments. I explained above where that point is coming from and I (maybe mistakenly) thought that it was also clear in my original post.

"You have to admit that this is one of your indulgences and it often perks its little head up when you want to rub someone’s face in shit, specifically when they profess love for something"

I don't have to admit anything. Okay, I admit it. But, I deny that I'm rubbing anyone's face in shit (that's Fincher's happy job). I may be taking fun little jabs at times, but my intent is serious in making comparisons as a way of coming to terms (for myself primarily, but also definitely through wrestling with you guys) with why I will fall head over heels with one thing and not with another.

Haven't you ever written a comparison/contrast essay? Do you know that these things exist? How can you pretend that one film you watch doesn't interact in your head with every other film (and book and conversation and drink and song, etc.) you've ever encountered, especially the ones that you've also seen recently.

I'm not (nor have I ever been) strictly writing reviews here. In fact, I rarely do that. I'm just not interested in doing so. Instead, I'm having an open conversation with friends. Often, I'm just throwing out fragments and impressions and yes, it's absolutely true, I like to compare things that I've seen recently that do at least some things in the same way. If you can't see the similarities and dissimilarities between Drive and Cold Weather or Green Lantern and Melancholia, then maybe I didn't do a good enough job in comparing and contrasting them. For that, I'm sorry. I'm not sorry for comparing them. You seem to think it's some sort of wicked crime for me to do so and suggest strongly that this form of thinking and conversing is unhelpful. Well, I don't know. It's one of the ways that I work out how I feel about various things that I'm watching. I'm not attacking anyone. I'm trying to clarify my own position by making connections and relating things to each other. I see connections and relationships everywhere. I'm not sure why you don't. Sorting and ranking comes natural to most of us geeks. Why is it suddenly taboo when I vocalize this natural internal process?

Finally, for the record, I never doubted for an instant that your response to Fincher's Tattoo is totally honest. That's what we're all committed to here. I was just (in a strong teasing way; I know you can take it) pointing out that you were predisposed to like it. I believe you that you were nervous, but I also think that it was nervous excitement and that you went in to the film wanting to love it. Nothing wrong with that.

Me and Chris Hitch agree.

There is much sex but absolutely no love, a great deal of violence but zero heroism. Reciprocal gestures are generally indicated by cliché: if a Larsson character wants to show assent he or she will “nod”; if he or she wants to manifest distress, then it will usually be by biting the lower lip. The passionate world of the sagas and the myths is a very long way away. Bleakness is all. That could even be the secret—the emotionless efficiency of Swedish technology, paradoxically combined with the wicked allure of the pitiless elfin avenger, plus a dash of paranoia surrounding the author’s demise. If Larsson had died as a brave martyr to a cause, it would have been strangely out of keeping; it’s actually more satisfying that he succumbed to the natural causes that are symptoms of modern life.

Brandon is a total finching whore.

Nothing he says about the dude or his movies can be trusted. For lots of reasons, Brandon was primed to love Tattoo long before he ever stepped into the theatre. Brandon's Fincher meter always burns hot.

I'm only half-teasing.

I do think that Brandon has been wearing his pre-approved Fincher glasses that see everything all Finchery special all the time.

I suspect that Jeff is probably right that both Se7en and Zodiac explore similar material in much more interesting ways, but I don't think that Brandon would argue with that.

Anyhow, we all know that we go in to movies with expectations and demands and sometimes unalloyed affection. I know, for instance, that I can't approach a new Coens film with anything remotely approaching "objectivity." I know right now that I'm going to love the next ten films they make, even if the next one announced is an adaptation of Stieg Larson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Finally, I'm not sure why you guys are bashing the Swedish version so much. I thought that it was really well crafted (and I thought that I posted on this in the past, but again, I think blogger ate some of my old posts). I hardly felt the long running time pass as the film zipped along and kept me engaged in the mystery and developing relationship. I just don't understand why it's suddenly cool to hate on the Swedes just because Fincher supposedly made a "better" maybe flashier version.

Happy Wren Day.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo an underdog? Yeah right. Released in late December, it still managed to rank 45th on the Indiewire poll and everyone is talking about it.

My favorite dog in the 2011 race? Released earlier this year, it got the same amount of respect as Crazy Stupid Love and no one was ever talking about it or is talking about it now.

I'm the champion of the true underdog, you dragon-rape-loving-tattooed-pervert.

Lisa probably wins this game of one-downs-manship since Pooh came in at dead last on that stupid, worthless poll.

As far as Dragon Tattoo goes, I remember disliking the Swedish version, but finding it (in)decently compelling for all of its lengthy running time. I was also seeing it for free at Cornell. All I can go by is the Swedish film. I thought that the story was schlocky trash with too few redemptive qualities. And I love pulp trash. Two of my favorite moving images of the past few years are a head strapped to an exploding turtle and an ATM falling on a dude's head. Those are from Breaking Bad, the current king of lowbrow art masterpieces. There are lots of differences between Dragon Tattoo and Breaking Bad, but I think that the major difference is tone and setting. Breaking Bad has characters doing bad shit to one another in a structured, moral universe. The choice to break bad means something. Dragon Tattoo features characters doing bad shit to one another in a bad shit universe. There's no bad to break because it's all already bad. I don't think that this is necessarily what Jeff was getting at, but I'm throwing it out there. Also, I'm just going on memory and kinda BSing a bit. Maybe I'm wrong. I think that Blogger may have eaten some of my old posts. I can't find any mention of seeing Dragon Tattoo except for a brief mention in my Farewell post (which is another great movie that everyone ignored, including you film club no-gooders). I don't have much interest in seeing Fincher's tattoo besides Brandon's praise and wanting to check out what he loves. But that might not be enough. I did, after all, already sit through Benjamin Button. What more do you want from me?

Have a merry non-fincherite Christmas.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


I need to re-watch:
Pinocchio (lots of people)
Pinocchio was one of my favorite films as a youngster. I don't think I've seen it in 15+ years.

I still haven't seen:
The Mark of Zorro (Rouben Mamoulian), When the Daltons Rode (George Marshall), Dark Command (Raoul Walsh), The Return of Frank James (Fritz Lang), Virginia City (Michael Curtiz), Another Thin Man (W.S. Van Dyke), Go West (Edward Buzzell), The Doctor Takes a Wife (Alexander Hall), The Philadelphia Story (George Cukor), The Grapes of Wrath (John Ford), Rebecca (Alred Hitchcock), Fantasia (Lots of People), My Little Chickadee (Edward F. Cline), Waterloo Bridge (Mervyn LeRoy), They Drive by Night (Raoul Walsh), The Long Voyage Home (John Ford), Stranger on the Third Floor (Boris Ingster), You're Missing the Point (Juan Bustillo Oro), The Mortal Storm (Frank Borzage), Strange Cargo (Frank Borzage), Edison, the Man (Clarence Brown), Remember the Night (Mitchell Leisen), The Stars Look Down (Carol Reed), Murder Over New York (Harry Lachman), Contraband (Michael Powell), Pride and Prejudice (Robert Z. Leonard), Abe Lincoln in Illinois (John Cromwell), Santa Fe Trail (Michael Curtiz), Northwest Passage (King Vidor), Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (Ford Beebe and Ray Taylor), Escape (Mervyn LeRoy), Primrose Path (Gregory La Cava), From Mayerling to Sarajevo (Max Ophüls)

I'm sure that there are plenty of others worth hunting down.

My problem doing these lists is that I'm obsessive. I really think that my list is inadequate at best because I haven't seen any of the above films. Damned negligent at worst to be saying anything about a year's films when I've only seen a tiny fraction of them pre-selected for me as "the best." So many films get forgotten. It's the nature of these things. It's not going to stop me making lists, but it gives me pause whenever I'm tempted to think of myself as even half knowledgeable about films past or present.

My favorite recent example is Ed Harris' Appaloosa. After several repeat viewings, I'm convinced that it's a masterpiece and easily one of the five best Westerns of the past forty years. Hardly anyone has seen it. Those who have gave it no critical attention. I submit as evidence the 2008 Indiewire critics poll. Appaloosa doesn't even rank 69th. It doesn't get a single mention.

So, how many unknown Appaloosas were there in 1940 that are completely forgotten now? I know that most films achieve canonical status for very good reasons. I'm not concerned about those. I get all worked up about those gems that no one has bothered to polish or maybe not even bothered to pick up and look at in decades.

So, with more waffling and disclaiming than my 2011 list will receive, I present my very imperfect list of favorite films from 1940:


1. The Shop Around the Corner (Ernst Lubitsch)
2. Christmas in July (Preston Sturges)
3. I Love You Again (W. S. Van Dyke)
4. Foreign Correspondent (Alfred Hitchcock)
5. The Great Dictator
6. City for Conquest (Anatole Litvak)
7. The Man From Tumbleweeds (Joseph H. Lewis)
8. The Westerner (William Wyler)
9. The Ghost Breakers (George Marshall)
10. The Great McGinty (Preston Sturges)

HM: The Bank Dick (Edward F. Cline), A Chump at Oxford (Alfred J. Goulding), His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks), The Torrid Zone (William Keighley), The Thief of Baghdad (Ludwig Berger, Michael Powell and Tim Whelan), The Sea Hawk (Michael Curtiz)

The Shop Around the Corner is perfect. We're all agreed, it seems, that Christmas in July is delightful. I Love You Again is one of those gems that I'm glad I found. Foreign Correspondent is Hitchcock doing everything right as usual. If nations and peoples had been more mature (mature enough to laugh at themselves) at the time, the Great Dictator alone would have brought an end to WWII in 1940 (I just daydreamed of Ol' Adolf seeing this movie, laughing uproariously, then breaking down in tears of repentance). City for Conquest has already been raved about sufficiently here. The Man From Tumbleweeds is a bit of a guilty pleasure. The Westerner is so morally ambiguous that it should have been remade in the 70s (and probably was). The Ghost Breakers is good fun. The Great McGinty is carried by Donlevy despite the film's weak framing device.

There's my quick attempt to deal with 1940. I'm not done with this year at all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Coming soon: Film Club, Year in Review

In the meantime, a couple of quick responses.

Brandon, don't worry. I'm not losing any sleep over any critics end of year lists. I remain puzzled by the exclusion of Mill. I don't think that it even registered on the critical radar. Why should it, really, when there's Kevin to talk about? Those three mentions on the Indiewire poll were probably from the only three critics who participated that watched the blasted thing.

As far as my frown goes, I remain frowningly optimistic about the current state of cinema. I'm just not all that excited about seeing many of the films currently being lauded.

Lisa, I also enjoyed The Adjustment Bureau. It's ridiculous, but it gets a pass because the romance worked for me. I've wanted to see The Conspirator. Maybe I'll finally check it out now that I've heard someone say something nice about it.

Jason, you better follow through on your outing to see Christmas in July at the Dryden. I hope you're bringing your family.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

I just don't have the energy for anything more.

Critics are stupid. I just checked out the Film Comment poll. My favorite movie of the year, The Mill and the Cross, doesn't even get a mention. My guess why? Everyone was tripping over each other trying to talk about the next big thing being hyped, like We Need to Talk About Anything But the Cross. There's no time to stop and reflect on a beautiful work of art criticism as feature film.

Anyhow, I took the Film Comment poll and stripped it of its non-2011 titles (I'll do the same to the Indiewire poll eventually, but this one's shorter so it gets stripped first)! From 50 down to 28. Here are the results:

1. Tree of Life
2. Melancholia
3. A Separation
4. A Dangerous Method
5. Hugo
6. Le Havre
7. The Descendants
8. Midnight in Paris
9. Take Shelter
10. Margaret
11. Shame
12. Drive
13. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
14. The Interrupters
15. The Artist
16. Weekend
17. The Skin I Live In
18. Contagion
19. Martha Marcy May Marlene
20. Bridesmaids
21. Moneyball
22. The Future
23. Super 8
24. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
25. Terri
26. J. Edgar
27. Jane Eyre
28. Pina

I've only seen 9 (roughly 1/3) of those and I can't say that I'm all that excited about most of the rest.

Of course, there's also the "unreleased" list. A stupid joke. Most of the films on their "unreleased" list will get big mentions on 2012 lists. "Unreleased" here means that it played in one location (maybe Cannes or Venice) instead of three (Cannes or Venice PLUS Newd York and Lost Angeles). Many of the "released" films remain "unreleased" in the Binghamton area (unless you know some piratical tricks or unless you believe everything those big shots in NY and LA want you to believe).

It's my favorite time of year for being a movie nerd.


I haven't watched many movies lately. Only two.

Christmas in July is my new favorite Sturges film. At a tight 68 minutes, it doesn't waste any time. One of the best things about Sturges is his use of the same group of actors. This seems to be an essential element of the successful writer-director. Surround yourself with actors you trust and there will a whole lot less problems realizing your script.

I have a lot of respect for The Great Dictator. I'm having a hard time placing it on my '40 list. It's a ballsy movie. 71 years after its release, I respect it more than I love it. This film may be a victim of its own success. Hitler is now a joke. Chaplin has won. The subversive element here is undermined because we all now think that Hitler was a ridiculous little man.

Earlier this year, I read an Antoine de Saint-Exupéry memoir given to me by Ben. I think that Antoine would have really liked Chaplin's rousing final speech. I like to think that he got a chance to see this film.

Hugo. What can I say about Hugo that you guys haven't already discussed? It's a beautiful love letter to cinema (and literature and adventure and technology, etc). The 3D was fine, but it's still distracting to me. I can't appreciate it. I know that this was shot as 3D, but I'd like to see it again in 2D.

What do you guys think of the argument that Hugo is guilty of "The Parent Trap problem?" It's one of the more interesting (mild) criticisms that I've seen and I certainly thought about this while watching the film.

Other than that, I've been watching a lot of TV. 8 episodes of Smallville. 5 episodes of Justified. 2 episodes of Bored to Death. Season 4 of Smallville is the best yet. I love that Clark has really blossomed as a stupid jerk. The way that he indignantly gives everyone around him a "second chance" while he continues to self-righteously lie through his teeth (is there any better way to lie?) is always there in all of his interactions with all of his friends. Justified is a nice piece of police procedural meets modern Western. It's not as mind-numblingly-tingly-compelling as the soapish Smallville (or BSG), but it's a good "slow burn" character drama. Bored to Death annoyed me, but I'll give it a few more chances. The characters are uninteresting and I'm not sure how far the gimmick can be stretched.


I lament the fact that it doesn't look like there will another CR5FC event before the year is out. Just wait. I'm planning on throwing a film club members-only party in January or February. I'll prove to the Howard Bros once and for all that Benjamin Lainhart is something other than a fractured personality of my highly fragmented schizophrenic condition.

In the meantime, my advice is for everyone to enjoy a Trapped in Paradise/Blast of Silence double feature before or after Christmas (I'll also be happy to hear anyone's alternate suggestions for a Christmas movie double feature). Have a merry one.

I hope to squeak in at least one more post before the civil calendar ends.

Peace on earth.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thanks, Jeff. That is cool.

Chris, I hope that you watched the interview clip that Jeff posted.

In it, Shannon compares Take Shelter to...

Birth of a Nation

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Real Steel is the Real Deal.

That movie I was thinking of is called The Wizard, not Savage Fred and the Glove of Power.

I had a great time watching Real Steel.

The best $2 I've spent in a long time.

I'll defend it if someone sees it and challenges me on this. Otherwise, the Howard Bros got to hear me rave about it and I've pretty much gotten all of my initial enthusiasm out of my system. Henceforth, all questions related to Real Steel can be answered by either Jeff or Chris. Yes, Fred Savage played Hugh Jackman's son. And yes, Roman Polanski has deserved every bad thing that has ever happened to him in his life. Finally, yes, Georges Melies was most definitely a very bad racist.

Here's a clip of Woody Allen talking to Billy Graham.

[EDIT: Make sure that you watch Part 2, too.]


The BCF screening was a great time as usual and it was of course great to hang out briefly with Chris and Jeff. Boy Meets Girl, though, was a bit of a disappointment. A bit too zany. The dialogue was fast and furious in that stage play comedy sort of way. I couldn't keep up. The fake baby trailer was tops and there were enough funny gags to entertain throughout.


Some quick responses to recent posts:

I'm still waiting for Chris to write on Take Shelter before I jump back into the fray, but I've been loving the posts from Brandon and Jeff. I've made peace with the ending, as I somewhat explained to Jeff and Chris tonight. I'm still a little bit pissed that there's a question mark where a period should be, but I think that "the look" between husband and wife suffices as an appropriate ending.

Thanks, Chris, for reminding me of those great scenes in Sullivan's Travels. I like the movie even more than I remembered.

Chris wrote: "And I know John doesn't care too much about performances."

This is probably true. At least, that I pay attention to a lot of other things first. And that I can't give a movie a pass just for having great performances if I hate it in all sorts of other areas.

It's time to go upstairs and watch some Smallville. The introduction of Lois Lane this season has been handled skillfully. It's a tough challenge to introduce a character that the entire world knows will inevitably end up becoming the "one true love" of our hero. It's nice that there's no obvious chemistry, but that there is a smidgen of screwball spark to the new relationship.



Friday, December 9, 2011

who's got an attitude?

"minus the genre statements only because that brings us back to the previous posts which almost made me not want to watch the movie in the first place."

Right. So, what exactly do you object to? Let's hash this out.

My guess is that you're only responding negatively to the way that I framed things as Katz and Truffaut vs. Refn and Godard. If that's the case, then fine. But, what specifically do you object to in the way that I've discussed Cold Weather and genre?

Maybe "object to" isn't the right way to phrase things.

What different angle are you coming at this from? And why does it seem at least mildly antagonistic toward the way that I've framed the discussion so far?

You wrote, "I guess it doesn’t matter," so maybe you're not interested in discussing this, but I'm interested. From my perspective, it feels like you're taking little pot shots with your pellet gun, but you forgot to load the pellets. I'm concerned that you're aiming your gun at me, but I'm amused that you forgot the ammunition.

So, what exactly is your beef, boy? Bring it.

[p.s. I'm really looking forward to your Take Shelter post.]

I Flunked Film Club.

I'm going to be grounded once my parents talk to Brandon about my grades.


Since Thanksgiving week, I've watched a handful of classic films. Here's a quick look at what I've been watching. As usual, I don't begin to do justice to any of these films.


The Texas Rangers. King Vidor kills the competition right into the sound era. The "throwing rocks" scene beats just about any action set piece I've seen in any other movie from any other time. My jaw dropped. I felt like a little kid meeting Santa Claus and finding out for sure that magic is really really real. The world became a bigger and more exciting place at that moment.

Hangmen Also Die. This is tough subject matter at a tough time. Directed by one of our toughest.

Road to Zanzibar. Ranging from mildly pleasant to boisterously funny (I'm thinking of you, monkey wrestling scene), this was a nice movie to throw on the Thanksgiving dessert menu.

Suspicion. I love how this film works as a screwball/suspense mashup. There are definitely a lot of uncomfortable moments.

The Asphalt Jungle. Don't believe a word I say when I'm talking to Brandon about John Huston. I mean, how can I talk with someone who doesn't appreciate the music choices in Wise Blood? I get all flustered and say things like, "I hate The Asphalt Jungle," which is, of course, a bald-faced lie. I love The Asphalt Jungle.

The Torrid Zone. A Cagney film that I won't rave about. Maybe it was the moustache.

Go West. The Keaton version about a man and his cow. There were lots of funny moments, but the two shorts on the disc that we've already watched multiple times both beat this feature.

The Great McGinty. I was underwhelmed. I think that it comes down to the "bartender telling a story" framework failed for me.

I Love You Again. This is such a wonderful movie. Powell and Loy are always excellent together. Love You Again is no exception. It made me want to be a better person and cherish my wife more. Maybe more importantly for film club's context, it made me laugh a lot and is one of the best films of 1940.


That's it. That's what I've been watching. It's getting cold in the house again, so that means it's time for Smallville. We just started Season 4 and are only 2 episodes in. I'll be sure to keep you all updated with long, detailed analysis of each episode. Long live Superhero Soap Opera Club! Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


In a nice moment of coincidinky-diddley-doo, I had just watched The Great McGinty before Jeff picked Sturges for the month. And I've got a Christmas in July disc in the mail. Now, this had nothing to do with wanting to be in on the December director thing. I've been plugging away at 1940 and McGinty and Christmas both fit that date.

I don't have much to write.

I like Preston Sturges. I respect him tons, but I'm not a huge fan. I love Hail the Conquering Hero. I really like Sullivan's Travels. I like The Great McGinty. I could take or leave The Lady Eve.

I submit the above paragraph as my attempt at historical film criticism for the year.

So, there goes director of the month.

Sorry for being all fizzle and no pop.

Soft Boiled

"I also wonder if we are coming at this for the same reasons."

Alright, Brandon, I'll bite.

I love Cold Weather because:
- The characters and relationships and situations are developed skillfully in a way worthy of Rohmer (the Master as far as I'm concerned).
- The tone is playful, but never silly or stupid (Like Chesterton's angels, the film soars because it always takes itself lightly).
- The cinematography is gorgeous, pointing toward a glorious future of possibilities for low-budget digital filmmaking.
- The genre mash-up happenings are ten times more exciting than any straight-up genre film I've seen in years.
- As I've already written, the "genre conventions are filtered through personal and relational sensibilities" (in other words, this is a high-falutin' auteur picture in the best possible way).
- I relate to working in an ice factory.
- I'm inclined to love it simply because of the abundant inclusion of things I love: Carcasonne, detective stories, Swedish Fish, cheap pipes, plenty of slack.
- It features my favorite movie score since Moon.
- Like you, I was astonished by the way that the last 15 minutes or so plays out.

So, those are a few reasons why I love Cold Weather. Not at all an exhaustive list. Go back and read what I said about altars and gutters or whatever in the past.

Whenever I redo my 2010 list, Cold Weather will be there right at the top.

I'm really looking forward to Katz' western project.

Now, are YOUR reasons really all that different? Are you going to tell me that you loved Cold Weather because of the 3D severed penis floating in the water?

Now, I really want to watch Cold Weather again!

Saturday, December 3, 2011


In which I continue to ignore all of the Hugo talk and do my own selfish thing.

I saw Take Shelter without you guys.

At the Art Mission. Ugh.

The first 5:15 screening. This has been my most anticipated film for months now. I couldn't wait.

To say that I was disappointed is an understatement.

The problem is that I can't discuss my problems with the film without discussing the ending. And I don't want to spoil the ending. I can't even discuss my favorite moments because I want you to experience them directly instead of experiencing them while thinking, "That's the shot that John loves," or, "There's the moment that John said perfectly encapsulates the inner turmoil of a man struggling to provide for others while he can hardly care for himself." Bleh.

Therefore, this post remains a short and frustrated one.

Here's the thing. Y'all should see Take Shelter. It's worth seeing. Nichols remains one of the few American directors that I get really excited about.

There are images/moments of beauty in Take Shelter that rival anything else this year or any other year. It is often a beautiful film [though not in the same way that Melancholia or Tree of Life are often beautiful. Nichols' style is more efficiently economical and narrative-driven]. There are images/moments in Take Shelter that are so terrifying that they rival any horror film of this or any other year.

I repeat myself. Take Shelter is absolutely worth watching. Go see it.

We'll talk about it later.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

2007 in 2011

I'm giving thanks today for the films of 2007. What a great year in film.

2007 Top Ten (The 4 Years Later Proper Edition)

1. There Will Be Blood
2. The Romance of Astrea and Celadon
3. La France
4. Munyurangabo
5. No Country For Old Men
6. Mister Lonely
7. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
8. Ratatouille
9. The Simpsons Movie
10. Stardust

(There are a bunch of honorable mentions, too, but that's good enough for now. Funny Games is #11. I still really need to see The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.)

Jeff and Chris, I'm hoping to take the girls to see Hugo either today or tomorrow. It better be worth the bumped-up 3D ticket prices!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Racing after spooks.

In which I continue in my Birth-of-a-Nation-lovin' racist ways.

The Ghost Breakers is an enjoyable light comedy romp starring Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard clearing ghosts out of an inherited castle. Willie Best, too, is in this one. From the evidence here and from what I've read elsewhere, he was probably one of the finest character actors of the 30s, notably so considering his being BLACK in a Honky's Hollywood. He's really great here even though he's not given all that much to do. What's great is how many explicit jokes there are based on his color. He's got a great line about his "albeeno" blood that worked well.

Ghost Breakers is also notable as the film directed by George Marshall after Destry Rides Again. Marshall is one of those guys who has directed 100+ pictures, but gets no respect from the auteurist crowd. While I know that I couldn't have looked at Ghost Breakers and said, "aha, that's by the distinctive visual genius behind Destry!," I also know that these are two really fine motion pictures in a row and what I can find out about the Marshall suggests that this is no fluke. I'm excited to see more Marshall pictures soon, especially A Message to Garcia, which is on the BCF 2012 schedule.

Oh yeah, whatever else you've heard, Paulette Goddard is really hard on the eyes in this one. That's the story you'll stick to when talking to Abby, alright? Luckily, Bob Hope's astounding physique is there to relieve us from the dreariness of having to look at Goddard.

Also, Anthony Quinn is great in this, too, just like he was in Conquest. He's a great smarmy villainish character in these early roles of his. It's probably his questionable ethnicity that makes him look so dastardly. :)

Answering questions:

I haven’t seen LANCELOT OF THE LAKE. Do you have it?

Nope. The Ithaca Public Library has a copy. I watched it a couple of years ago.

I’d really like to hear your opinion about CASINO ROYALE. I think you would love it.

Do you have it on DVD?

Am I the only person who likes A CHRISTMAS STORY in Film Club.

Maybe Jason?

We should have a GODFATHER II night soon.


What would be your second and third favorite Joe Dante films?

I just realized that I left Small Soldiers off of my “all seen by” list. I have seen Small Soldiers. All that time and work and it's still not perfect. Dang it. Second and Third places would go to Gremlins and Small Soldiers, in that order. It's been way too long since I've seen Matinee or Innerspace or The 'Burbs.

What are your thoughts on De Palma?

I don't think about him much. I haven't seen his early films that he's lauded for.

I kind of thought meh for a while in regards to Fellini but NIGHTS OF CABIRIA changed my mind for now.

Yeah, I need to give him a chance, if only because he worked with Rossellini on The Flowers of St. Francis.

Do you still have SHOCK CORRIDOR? How about THE NAKED KISS? You need to see RUN OF THE ARROW. I love that picture.

I've got Shock Corridor. I saw Naked Kiss on TCM way, way back when. Do you have Run of the Arrow?

Interesting Gilliam pick.

It's actually always been my favorite Gilliam film. I think it's his best. Definitely Robin Williams' best. Not Jeff Bridges' best, but only because he's so good in everything.

I need to see RAWHIDE.

I love Jack Elam in Rawhide.

You need to see DOWN BY LAW.

Yeah, it's funny that I haven't seen any of Jarmusch's “big” 80s movies. I fail miserably, but I get extra hipster cred for having seen Permanent Vacation and for having seen and loved Strangers in Paradise as just a wee lad.

I thought you hated ADAPTATION.

I do. I still respect it. And it's the best of what Jonze has done.

Do you have A FACE IN THE CROWD?

Yup. I'll start putting together a care package.

Get off your ass and sit down again to watch CERTIFIED COPY.

I know.


Nah, I don't really need to do anything except that I need to quit spending time responding and get work done around the house.

I need to see THRONE OF BLOOD again. It didn’t really do much for me but I was on a tight movie watching schedule.

I need to see it again, too. It's been a long while.

I agree about Landis, THREE AMIGOS is great.


I want you to see some of the Lean pictures that came before 57.

I want to see them.

I have been cold towards Ang Lee lately. Not only because you have been slowly talking me out of it but also because I have been bored on my second and third viewings. Something feels off.


I can’t wait for you to see more Lubitsch.


You a George Miller fan?

Nah. I wouldn't consider myself a fan, but I'm not hostile either. I grew up watching Max.

How is Polanski’s Macbeth?

I haven't seen it since I was a teenager. I liked it a lot back then.

HUGO is going to rule!


I would say meh to Stevens as well but have seen some great pictures as of late. Don’t give up yet dude. Go get VIVACIOUS LADY.

Alright, I won't give up, but he's not at all a priority either.

Truffaut pick…….. really?


Verhoeven makes good trash.

I hate Verhoeven. I was going to give him a big “MEH,” but I have fond memories of Total Recall.

Good list. Again sorry if it ruined your life.

Thanks. I'll begin repairing the ruins now.

Hey guys how about we have director’s months? Each month a different person in film club selects a director and we all do writings based on viewings and personal opinion. Jeff, you come up with December’s director.

So, Jeff, who's December's director?

Monday, November 21, 2011

I hope you're happy now.

Warning: Long Post.

Alright, here it is. The list that wrecked my family life for more than a day. I don't even have any commentary. Just the list. I didn't do the “worst” thing, but I did list my favorite movie by each director, followed by a list of all movies that I've seen by that director. Plus, I put the directors in alphabetical order because it was killing me to see no order, nothing, no chronological, no alphabetical, just a jumble, like this sentence.

Jeff and Chris, don't worry about not having seen much. I'm still doing lots and lots of "catch-up" myself and won't ever be satisfied with how much I've seen. Jeff's already way ahead of me in terms of 30s films. Anyhow, this whole list thing is a way for Brandon to puff himself up about how awesome he is and how he knows the work of so many directors and he knows all about Randolph Scott, but doesn't have the "hots" for him anymore because that was just a childish part of his life and he's beyond that now and really only interested in talking about adult things like depression in the work of Lars von Trier.

Key: F=favorite, OS=only seen, ASBTD=all seen by this director, NSA= not seen anything, meh=I don't really like this director, not even one of his/her films.

Aldrich, Robert: F= Kiss Me Deadly, ASBTD= Kiss Me Deadly, The Dirty Dozen

Allen, Woody: F= Cassandra's Dream, ASBTD= Sleeper, Manhattan, Mighty Aphrodite, Deconstructing Harry, Sweet and Lowdown, Small Time Crooks, Cassandra's Dream, Midnight in Paris

Almodovar, Pedro: NSA

Altman, Robert: F= Popeye, ASBTD= MASH, Popeye, Pret-a-Porter, The Gingerbread Man,

Anderson, Paul Thomas: F= There Will Be Blood, ASBTD= Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punk Drunk-Love, There Will Be Blood

Anderson, Wes: F= The Darjeeling Limited, ASBTD= Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Limited, Hotel Chevalier

Antonioni, Michelangelo: F= L'Avventura, OS= L'Avventura

Aronofsky, Darren: F= meh, ASBTD= Pi, The Wrestler, Black Swan

Ashby, Hal: F= Harold and Maude, OS= Harold and Maude

Assayas, Olivier: F= Summer Hours, ASBTD= Clean, Summer Hours

Bava, Mario: NSA

Bergman, Ingmar: F= The Seventh Seal, ASBTD= The Seventh Seal, Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light, The Silence, Hour of the Wolf, Shame

Bigelow, Kathryn: F= The Hurt Locker, ASBTD= Point Break, Strange Days, The Hurt Locker

Bird, Brad: F= Ratatouille, ASBTD= The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille

Boorman, John: F= Excalibur, ASBTD= Excalibur, The General

Borzage, Frank: NSA

Boyle, Danny: F= Sunshine, ASBTD= Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Sunshine, Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours

Bresson, Robert: F= Lancelot of the Lake, ASBTD= A Man Escaped, Au Hasard Balthazar, Lancelot of the Lake

Browning, Tod: F= Freaks, OS= Freaks

Bunuel, Luis: F= Un Chien Andelou, OS= Un Chien Andelou

Burton, Tim: F= Mars Attacks!, ASBTD= Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns, Ed Wood, Mars Attacks!, Sleepy Hollow, Planet of the Apes, Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Alice in Wonderland

Cameron, James: F= The Terminator, ASBTD= The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, True Lies, Titanic

Campbell, Martin: F= The Mask of Zorro, ASBTD= The Mask of Zorro, Edge of Darkness, The Green Lantern

Capra, Frank: F= It Happened One Night, ASBTD= It Happened One Night, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Arsenic and Old Lace, It's a Wonderful Life

Carpenter, John: F= Big Trouble in Little China, ASBTD= Halloween, The Thing, Starman, Big Trouble in Little China, In the Mouth of Madness

Cassavetes, John: F= The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, ASBTD= Shadows, A Child is Waiting, Faces, Minnie and Moskowitz, A Woman Under the Influence, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

Chabrol, Claude: NSA

Chaplin, Charles: F= Modern Times, ASBTD= The Pawnshop, The Kid, The Circus, City Lights, Modern Times

Clark, Bob: F= meh, ASBTD= Black Christmas, Porky's, A Christmas Story, Baby Geniuses

Clouzot, Henri-Georges: NSA

Cocteau, Jean: F= Beauty and the Beast, OS: Beauty and the Beast

Coen, Joel and Ethan: F= A Serious Man, ASBTD= Everything they've ever done.

Coppola, Francis Ford: F= The Godfather, ASBTD= The Godfather, Dracula

Cronenberg, David: F= Videodrome, ASBTD= Scanners, Videodrome, The Fly, eXistenZ, Eastern Promises

Crowe, Cameron: F= Say Anything, ASBTD= Say Anything..., Singles, Jerry Maguire

Craven, Wes: F= Scream, ASBTD= Swamp Thing, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The People Under the Stairs, Scream, Scream 2,

Cukor, George: NSA

Dante, Joe: F= Gremlins 2: The New Batch, ASBTD= Piranha, The Howling, Twilight Zone Movie, Gremlins, Innerspace, The 'burbs, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Matinee, Trapped Ashes

De Palma, Brian: F= The Untouchables, ASBTD= Carrie, Scarface, Body Double, The Untouchables, Mission: Impossible, Snake Eyes,

Demme, Jonathan: F= meh, ASBTD= Silence of the Lambs, Storefront Hitchcock, Rachel Getting Married

Denis, Claire: NSA

Donen, Stanley: F= Singin' in the Rain, OS= Singin' in the Rain

Dreyer, Carl Theodor: F= The Passion of Joan of Arc, OS= The Passion of Joan of Arc, They Caught the Ferry

Eastwood, Clint: F= The Outlaw Josey Wales, ASBTD= The Outlaw Josey Wales, Unforgiven, A Perfect World, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Space Cowboys, Blood Work, Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Changeling, Gran Torino, Invictus

Fellini, Federico: F= meh, OS= 8 1/2

Fincher, David: F= Fight Club, ASBTD= Se7en, Fight Club, Panic Room, Zodiac, The Social Network

Fleming, Victor: F= The Wizard of Oz, ASBTD= Treasure Island, The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind

Ford, John: F= Steamboat Round the Bend, ASBTD= Just Pals, Judge Priest, Steamboat Round the Bend, Stagecoach, Young Mr. Lincoln, The Battle of Midway, My Darling Clementine, When Willie Comes Marching Home, Wagon Master, Rio Grande, What Price Glory, The Searchers, How the West Was Won

Friedkin, William: F= The Exorcist, OS= The Exorcist

Fuller, Sam: F= Shock Corridor, ASBTD= I Shot Jesse James, The Baron of Arizona, Pickup on South Street, The House of Bamboo, Shock Corridor, The Naked Kiss

Gilliam, Terry: F= The Fisher King, ASBTD= Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Jabberwocky, Time Bandits, Brazil, The Fisher King, Twelve Monkeys, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassas

Godard, Jean-Luc: F= Les Carabiniers, ASBTD= Breathless, A Woman is a Woman, Le Petit Soldat, Les Carabiniers, Band of Outsiders, Alphaville, Pierrot le Fou, Masculin Feminin, Meeting WA, Tribute to Eric Rohmer

Griffith, D. W.: F= The Birth of a Nation, ASBTD= The Birth of a Nation, Intolerance, Broken Blossoms

Haneke, Michael: F= Funny Games (U.S.) ASBTD= The Seventh Continent, Funny Games

Hanson, Curtis: F= Wonder Boys, ASBTD= The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, L. A. Confidential, Wonder Boys, 8 Mile

Hathaway, Henry: F= Rawhide, ASBTD= Rawhide, How the West Was Won, True Grit

Hawks, Howard: F= Only Angels Have Wings, ASBTD= Scarface, Only Angels Have Wings, His Girl Friday, Sergeant York, Red River, The Thing From Another World

Hitchcok, Alfred: F= Rope, ASBTD= Blackmail, The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, Foreign Correspondent, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Rope, Strangers on a Train, I Confess, Dial M for Murder, To Catch a Thief, The Trouble With Harry, North by Northwest, Pyscho,

Herzog, Werner: F= Aguirre: The Wrath of God, ASBTD= Even Dwarves Started Small, Fata Morgana, Aguirre: The Wrath of God, Nosferatu the Vampyre, Lessons of Darkness, Grizzly Man, Encounters at the End of the World, The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans

Hooper, Tobe: F= meh, ASBTD= Eaten Alive, Poltergeist

Huston, John: F= The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, ASBTD= The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Key Largo, The Asphalt Jungle, Wise Blood, Annie, The Dead

Jarmusch, Jim: F= Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, ASBTD= Permanent Vacation, Strangers in Paradise, Dead Man, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, Broken Flowers, The Limits of Control

Jeunet, Jean-Pierre: F= The City of Lost Children, ASBTD= Delicatessen, The City of Lost Children,

Jonze, Spike: F= Adaptation, ASBTD= Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Where the Wild Things Are

Jordan, Neil: F= The Butcher Boy, ASBTD= We're No Angels, The Crying Game, Interview With the Vampire, The Butcher Boy, The End of the Affair

Kazan, Elia: F= A Face in the Crowd, ASBTD= Panic in the Streets, A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront, East of Eden, A Face in the Crowd, America, America

Keaton, Buster: F= The General, ASBTD= The Scarecrow, The Paleface, Our Hospitality, Sherlock Jr., Go West, The General, Steamboat Bill, Jr., The Cameraman, Spite Marriage

Kiarostami, Abbas: F= Taste of Cherry, OS= Taste of Cherry

Korine, Harmony: F= Julien Donkey-Boy, ASBTD= Gummo, Julien Donkey-Boy, Mister Lonely, Act Da Fool

Kubrick, Stanley: F= 2001: A Space Odyssey, ASBTD= The Killing, Dr. Strangelove, 2001, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Eyes Wide Shut

Kurosawa, Akira: F= Throne of Blood, ASBTD= Rashomon, Ikiru, Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, The Hidden Fortress

Landis, John: F= Three Amigos, ASBTD= The Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London, Twilight Zone Movie, Thriller, Spies Like Us, Coming to America, Three Amigos, Oscar, Beverly Hills Cop III

Lang, Fritz: F= M., ASBTD= Metropolis, Woman in the Moon, M, Fury, You Only Live Once, The Big Heat

Lean, David: F= Lawrence of Arabia, ASBTD= Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago

Lee, Ang: F= meh, ASBTD= Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hulk, Brokeback Mountain

Lee, Spike: F= Do the Right Thing, ASBTD= School Daze, Do the Right Thing, Mo' Better Blues, Jungle Fever, Malcolm X, Summer of Sam, 25th Hour

Leigh, Mike: F= Happy-Go-Lucky, OS= Happy-Go-Lucky

Leone, Sergio: F= Once Upon a Time in the West, ASBTD= Once Upon a Time in the West, Once Upon a Time in America

Lewis, Jerry: F= The Nutty Professor, OS= The Nutty Professor

Lewis, Joseph H.: F= Terror in a Texas Town, ASBTD= The Man From Tumbleweeds, Gun Crazy, Terror in a Texas Town

Linklater, Richard: F= A Scanner Darkly, ASBTD= Slacker, Dazed and Confused, Waking Life, The School of Rock, A Scanner Darkly

Losey, Joseph: NSA

Lubitsch, Ernst: F= The Shop Around the Corner, OS= The Shop Around the Corner

Lumet, Sidney: F= Deathtrap, ASBTD= Long Day's Journey Into Night, The Pawnbroker, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, The Wiz, Deathtrap, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

Lynch, David: F= The Straight Story, ASBTD= Six Figures Getting Sick, The Elephant Man, Dune, Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, Lost Highway, The Straight Story

Malick, Terrence: F= The New World, ASBTD= Badlands, Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line, The New World, The Tree of Life

Mankiewicz, Joseph L.: NSA

Mann, Anthony: F= Bend of the River, ASBTD= T-men, Winchester '73, The Furies, Bend of the River, The Naked Spur

Mann, Michael: F= Collateral, ASBTD= The Last of the Mohicans, Heat, The Insider, Ali, Collateral, Public Enemies

McCarey, Leo: F= Duck Soup, OS= Duck Soup

Mellville, Jean-Pierre: NSA

Mendes, Sam: F= Road to Perdition, ASBTD= American Beauty, Road to Perdition

Miller, George: F= Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, ASBTD= Mad Max, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, Mad Max Beyond Thuderdome, Babe: Pig in the City

Minnelli, Vincent: F= Meet Me in St. Louis, ASBTD= Meet Me in St. Louis, The Long, Long Trailer

Miyazaki, Hayao: F= Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, ASBTD= Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, Ponyo

Mizoguchi, Kenji: NSA

Nichols, Mike: F= meh, ASBTD= The Graduate, Biloxi Blues, The Birdcage

Nolan, Christopher: F= The Dark Knight, ASBTD= Memento, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Inception

Ophuls, Max: NSA

Ozu, Yasujiro: NSA

Peckinpah, Sam: F= The Wild Bunch, ASBTD= The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs

Penn, Arthur: F= Bonnie and Clyde, OS= Bonnie and Clyde

Polanski, Roman: F= Macbeth, ASBTD= Knife in the Water, Repulsion, Rosemary's Baby, Macbeth, Tess, The Pianist, The Ghost Writer

Pollack, Sydney: F= meh, ASBTD= Jeremiah Johnson, Tootsie, Out of Africa, The Firm, Sabrina, Random Hearts

Powell and Pressburger, Eric and Michael: NSA

Preminger, Otto: F= River of No Return, OS= River of No Return

Ray, Nicholas: F= In a Lonely Place, ASBTD= In a Lonely Place, Johnny Guitar

Reed, Carol: F= The Third Man, ASBTD= The Fallen Idol, The Third Man

Renoir, Jean:: F= Grand Illusion, ASBTD= The Lower Depths, Grand Illusion, The Rules of the Game, The River

Robson, Mark: F= Isle of the Dead, OS= Isle of the Dead

Rodriguez, Robert: F= Spy Kids, ASBTD= El mariachi, Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn, Spy Kids

Roeg, Nicholas: F= Walkabout, ASBTD= Walkabout, The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Witches

Rohmer, Eric: F= The Romance of Astrea and Celadon, ASBTD= Charlotte and Her Steak, Suzanne's Career, The Bakery Girl of Monceau, Nadja a Paris, La Collectioneuse, My Night at Maud's, Claire's Knee, The Green Ray, The Romance of Astrea and Celadon

Romero, George: F= Dawn of the Dead, ASBTD= Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead

Rossellini, Roberto: F= The Flowers of St. Francis, ASBTD= Rome, Open City, The Flowers of St. Francis, The Taking of Power by Louis XIV

Scorsese, Martin: F= Bringing Out the Dead, ASBTD= Who's That Knocking at My Door, The Big Shave, Boxcar Bertha, Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, After Hours, The Color of Money, The Last Temptation of Christ, Goodfellas, Casino, Kundun, Bringing Out the Dead, Gangs of New York, The Departed, Shutter Island

Sirk, Douglas: NSA

Soderbergh, Stephen: F= Che: Part Two, ASBTD= Out of Sight, Erin Brockovich, Traffic, Solaris, Che: Part One, Che: Part Two, Contagion

Spielberg, Stephen: F= A.I., ASBTD= Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1941, Raiders of the Lost Ark, ET, Twilight Zone, Temple of Doom, Empire of the Sun, Last Crusade, Always, Hook, Jurassic Park, Amistad, Saving Private Ryan, A.I., Minority Report, Catch Me If You Can, The Terminal, War of the Worlds, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Sternberg, Josef von: F= The Blue Angel, OS= The Blue Angel

Stevens, George: F= meh, OS= Giant

Stone, Oliver: F= W., ASBTD= Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, The Doors, JFK, Natural Born Killers, W.

Sturges, Preston: F= Hail the Conquering Hero, ASBTD= The Lady Eve, Sullivan's Travels, Hail the Conquering Hero

Tarantion, Quentin: F= Pulp Fiction, ASBTD= Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill 1, Inglourious Basterds

Tarkovsky, Andrei: F= Stalker, ASBTD= The Killers, The Steamroller and the Violin, Ivan's Childhood, Andrei Rublev, Solaris, The Mirror, Stalker

Tati, Jacques: NSA

Tourneur, Jacques: F= Wichita, ASBTD= I Walked With a Zombie, Wichita

Trier, Lars von: F= The Five Obstructions, ASBTD= Epidemic, Dancer in the Dark, Dogville, The Five Obstructions, Melancholia

Truffaut, Francois: F= Fahrenheit 451, ASBTD= The 400 Blows, Shoot the Piano Player, Jules and Jim, Fahrenheit 451

Ulmer, Edgar G: NSA

Van Sant, Gus: F= Drugstore Cowboy, ASBTD= Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Good Will Hunting, Finding Forrester, Milk

Verhoeven, Paul: F= Total Recall, ASBTD= Robocop, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Starship Troopers, Hollow Man

Vigo, Jean: NSA

Walsh, Raoul: F= Colorado Territory, ASBTD= The Roaring Twenties, Manpower, Colorado Territory

Waters, John: F= meh, ASBTD= Pink Flamingos, Polyester, Cry-Baby

Weir, Peter: F= Fearless, ASBTD= Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Plumber, Witness, Dead Poets Society, Green Card, Fearless, The Truman Show, Master and Commander, The Way Back

Wellman, William: F= Battleground, ASBTD= Battleground, Buffalo Bill, Track of the Cat

Welles, Orson: F= F For Fake, ASBTD= Citizen Kane, Touch of Evil, F For Fake

Wenders, Wim: F= Wings of Desire, ASBTD= The American Friend, Wings of Desire, Don't Come Knocking

Whale, James: F= Frankenstein, OS= Frankenstein

Wilder, Billy: F= Ace in the Hole, ASBTD= Ace in the Hole, Stalag 17, Some Like It Hot

Wise, Robert: F= The Set-Up, ASBTD= The Body Snatcher, The Set-Up, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Tribute to a Bad Man, The Sound of Music, Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Wong, Kar-Wai: F= Ashes of Time Redux, ASBTD= In the Mood for Love, 2046, My Blueberry Nights, Ashes of Time Redux

Wyler, William: F= Roman Holiday, ASBTD= The Good Fairy, The Westerner, Roman Holiday, Ben-Hur,

Zemeckis, Robert: F= Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, ASBTD= Romancing the Stone, Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Back to the Future Part II, Back to the Future Part III, Forrest Gump, Cast Away, The Polar Express

Zhang, Yimou: NSA

ZhangKe, Jia: F= Still Life, OS= Still Life

Sunday, November 20, 2011

What a stupid waste of time.

I've spent the past couple of hours working on that directors list. I'm also listing every title I've ever seen by the director. It seems to me like just listing a favorite is meaningless unless you know the context of the other films by that director that I've seen.

Now, on to conversations...

Jason, I don't really have any problem with your reading of Meek. I'm just glad that you watched it. Now, you only need to POST MORE OFTEN.

Lisa, Pooh really is great. I wouldn't argue if you put it on the top of a 2011 list except that you're not keeping up with the competition. We're all discussing a way to rescue you from the depths of that evil PhD program so that you have more time for clubbing with us. When we're ready, it will look something like this:

Ben, yes, you need to watch more "classic" films. Start immediately with Only Angels Have Wings.

Jeff and Chris, first of all don't write off D. W. Griffith. Birth of a Nation has a deservedly bad reputation for its racism, but its good reputation as expert cinema is equally well deserved. This is one of the early high points of "movies as art." And it's worth seeing just to catch Raoul Walsh in an early acting role as John Wilkes Booth. I like Birth of a Nation more than Intolerance, which I guess makes me intolerant and racist.

Brandon's right about starting with the older directors and then maybe filling in newer holes.

One more modern exception is John Cassavetes, my favorite American director of the last 100 years. You need to watch everything he's ever made. Immediately. (To be fair, I still haven't seen EVERYTHING that he's directed). Brandon includes him on the "older directors" side of things, but he really straddles the line of classic Hollywood cinema and what we've come to think of as "independent" film (not that many of these films are independent in the same way that Cassavetes was or Jarmusch is).

Also, Harmony Korine. My boy.

I need to arrange a screening of Julien Donkey-Boy for the Howard Brothers. It's probably about time for Brandon to re-watch it as well. :)

Harmony Korine, strangely enough, is one of my favorite current directors. This is probably my most unpopular position in film club, but Brandon and I have hashed things out and come to an understanding of sorts. There's a few back and forth posts about JDB in our archives.

I haven't seen Trash Humpers yet and I have my doubts about it, but Humpers aside, Korine has matured with each picture he's made. I think that you guys should also love Mister Lonely, but maybe I'm wrong.

Let me state strongly right now that "nothing has impressed me thus far" in Brandon's responses to Korine's films. :)

Also, my oldest daughter, Mildred, is a huge Miyazaki fan. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is her favorite movie. Shame on both of you for your Miyazaki ignorance. Not to mention letting a 9-year-old (and her younger sisters) see more Chaplin films than you both. For shame.

Brandon, I'm hoping that you meant Mr. and Mrs. Smith as Hitch's worst film is still a precious gem to be loved and enjoyed.

This directors list thing sucks. I've just wasted a bunch of time on it and I'm hardly finished. Maybe I'll finish by the end of the week.


Majewski on Mill

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Colossians 1:17

I've long been a fan of Pieter Bruegel (the Elder)'s paintings. A print of Netherlandish Proverbs hangs on one of my walls. I don't know much about him.

The Mill and the Cross looks closely at one of Bruegel's paintings, The Way to Calvary. The film starts with various 16th century individuals going about their 16th century Flemish business. Cutting down trees. Taking care of the animals. Buying bread. Getting dressed for the day. Being tortured by the Spanish. Punching a brother in the arm. The grain mill turns.

This is all visually beautiful and about as far as can be from a traditional narrative. How do all of these disparate people and events hold together?

Luckily, Bruegel (played by Rutger "hobo" Hauer) shows up and explains it all to us neatly. The film never strays far from the structure of the painting and the painting is described and interpreted along the way. Honestly, the film works nearly perfectly as a silent film and didn't need any of the talking. All of the spoken word parts could have been intertitles. Or they could have been done away with completely.

What we learn is that everything is anchored in the Cross.

Besides the obvious spiritual aspects, the movie (following the painting) is heavily political, focusing on the Spanish occupation of the Netherlands and its heavy religious persecution of all "heretics." There are heavy-handed parallels here between these Spanish persecutors and the Sanhedrin and High Priests of the 1st century. We get a contemporaneous playing out of the Passion, complete with a token Judas character who shows up in the movie only to throw coins on a floor and then hang himself.

There is a lot of humor in the film. There's one lecherous man especially who can't stop ogling a woman though the whole earth is covered in darkness. God himself is represented by a stout miller who overlooks this localized creation. Even the crows pecking out an eye is a sort of dark humor.

I wish that y'all had been able to see it while it was playing on the big screen.

Top Five 2011 So Far
(No real surprises)

1) The Mill and the Cross
2) The Tree of Life
3) Melancholia
4) Drive
5) Winnie the Pooh

I'm getting really impatient to see Take Shelter!!!


(The title's there for the Howard bros. Don't worry, Brandon, there is no Simpsons content in the rest of this post.)

I haven't found any time yet to go through that director list and post my own, but I've read all of your lists posted so far. Maybe I'll comment on Tuesday. Don't count on it.

Ben was over this afternoon to hang out and play some games. None of this movie crap. None of this director list crap. Just some good old Cold Weather style Carcassonne. I wish I had some Swedish Fish left to share to make it even better, but Abby's pumpkin bread more than made up for the lack of Fish. Ben still wants to make it out to the Manlius cinema to see something sometime. I'm impatient to see Take Shelter. If he's available to drive on next Tuesday evening (and he's not sure that he is, but that's the time I could make it!), who's around to make the road trip to see Take Shelter?

I spent most of the day this past Tuesday cleaning and sorting while A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies played in the background. It's worth re-watching often. I could listen to Scorsese talk about movies all day long. I wish that it was a 40 hour set instead of a 4 hour one. If you guys are interested, I'll host a screening of Personal Journey some time. It's out of print and too precious for me to loan it out, but I'm more than willing to share the wealth with y'all.

Tuesday afternoon, I watched The Flying Deuces with the girls. It had its funny moments, but it paled in comparison to Way Out West. The gags are smarter in West. There's too much reliance on (un)romantic comedy in Deuces.

I never did get to that Scott western the other night. I watched Brandon's 13th favorite film from 1940 instead. The Westerner isn't as good as it should be. The cowboy vs. homesteader plot was oversimplified. Peck is a bit too much of a scoundrel to be altogether likeable (it might not be the character alone, though; in general, I just don't care that much for Cooper. So shoot me!). Walter Brennan, however, deserves every superlative in the book for his performance as Judge Roy Bean. SPOILER: I misted up a bit at the end when he's carried in to see Lily Langtree. What a ridiculous thing.

I did get out to Cornell yesterday and caught The Mill and the Cross. It might be my favorite film of 2011 so far. I think so. I'd like to go back out and see it tonight (tonight's the last night it's playing at Cornell and it absolutely deserves to be seen on the big screen), but I'm having an enjoyably peaceful day at home today and don't feel like going out to Ithaca or anywhere for anything. I'll try to have a Mill post up soon.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The other 10%

I wrote that Ben and I are about 90% in agreement. The other 10%, after all of the interpretation and reckoning is done, is me being hostile toward Melancholia at worst and ambivalent at best. I can't get excited about Melancholia. I can get excited about the Randolph Scott western I've got waiting for me in the other room.

Melancholia is ridiculous.

Sorry, Ben. I'm done talking about it. I'm glad you posted, though. I think that we're at least 90% or so on the same page.

Jeff, I totally sympathize with your "challenges of writing about old movies vs. new movies" thoughts.

In an attempt at solidarity, here's a lame couple of sentences on some classics, each one of them more deserving of many words than Melancholia.

Dumbo is fine. What it does, it does exceedingly well. I don't have any problem with you guys loving it, but I was slightly bored by it. I'm finding this with a lot of Disney movies from my childhood. It's probably just because I'm getting older and increasingly grumpier. An elephant with oversized ears for flying? Imagine what Hannibal could have done crossing the Alps with Dumbo. I want to see Spielberg make a film called The War Elephant. No, I don't.

Way Out West is brilliant. There is no way to do it justice without elaborately describing each gag. Even then, it's better to sit someone down for its short running time.

The Shop Around the Corner is high on my list of favorite romantic comedies. We should do lists some day, but I think I need to see a few more classics first.

Chris, I started on Season 4 of The Simpsons. "Kamp Krusty"'s opening "school's out" sequence had me smiling ear to ear. The camp stuff in the rest of the episode was okay, but those first two minutes or so are solid gold. What a way to start a season!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

It was a joke.

You guys know that I was joking about throwing Lisa in the gorges, right?

We haven't heard from her in a long time so I'm naturally wondering if maybe Jeff and Chris kidnapped her and tossed her in the gorges for still not loving Tree of Life enough.

Or maybe she ran off with Ryan Gosling?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Catching up on reviews.

Brandon posted the Zacharack review.

I just read Emerson's review. I'm mostly on board with his reading.

One of my favorite Oldham songs.

Brandon will label it irrelevant. It's my final commentary on Melancholia for the day.

You missed my point.

"John, now that I'm out of the doghouse can we talk about the movie?"

Quit talking about doghouses when I'm trying to talk about Melancholia.

Seriously, my whole point was that I was talking about aspects of Melancholia by pointing out how it relates to those aspects in other movies.

"But honestly man THE GREEN LANTERN isn’t about the end of the world"

Green Lantern features a guy who pretends to have it all together who is really immature and childish, who sabatoges relationships and puts himself in situations close to death because he experiences bouts of crippling fear. It features an object in space heading toward earth, which, once it arrives, will destroy the whole earth. The film then explores this character's response to this threat.

Do you not see that Green Lantern and Melancholia are doing similar things (in obviously different ways) and coming to much different conclusions? If Melancholia is to be compared to any other movies, shouldn't it be compared to the "things hurtling through space about to kill the Earth" movies?

Symbolically, Hal Jordan's life (as it was) comes to an end so that the life of the world can be renewed.

vT is instead making a true antihero film.

Hal Jordan is a privileged rich kid who has always gotten things his way. His family and friends put up with his mental illness and even cover for him. Fair enough? Now imagine a scene of Hal Jordan embracing his fear and longing for the yellow cloud to swallow him up. Imagine a long shot of Ryan Reynolds laying naked on a rock in ecstasy as the yellow cloud approaches.

But, an antihero is usually still our hero. In Melancholia, Justine's strength is in her connection to Melancholia. She wins her personal struggle against the world and against herself only by Melancholia crashing into earth. This is the true strength of Melancholia. Justine's depression is vindicated. She's not cured. Everyone else is. Death to everyone. In context, and contrary to vT, the end of everything is the happiest ending one of vT's films has ever had. The film is subversive in a way that vT's previous juvenile pranks never have been. Jeff can go play in his little kiddie punk playground. I'm glad that vT's grown up.

Chris, I get the ambivalence. I was feeling it hard during and after the movie. It wasn't until thinking about it on my drive home and then the next morning that I started to really appreciate some of what vT is doing. It helped that I had Green Lantern to compare it to. :)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Back Slapping Happy Club

"But as John pointed out in his incredible review (incredible until he starts comparing it to other non-relatable films),"

Yours is pretty great, too.

Instead of taking the compliment, though, I have to take issue with your "until he starts comparing it to other non-relatable films" jab.

My last paragraph was a bit of fun, but it wasn't just a piece of Armondian wankery. I'm having fun, but I'm not just being blindly antagonistic or making connections where none are warranted. Why not compare one film to other films, especially other films that I've seen recently? What, can Melancholia only be compared to Tarkovsky films? Screw that. I think that I WAS getting at a description of Melancholia precisely by relating it to so-called "non-relatable films."

I'll risk annoying you further by expanding the comparisons a bit.

Melancholia and Green Lantern are both about the end of the world. This is obvious. Melancholia is by far, by far, the better film. I was being flippant.

Drive is another lauded artsy-fartsy film. Drive was low on emotion (or at least low-key). Melancholia revs up the emotion, even if it's only to have the audience respond hostilely. Drive has slow buildup leading to sudden exaggerated moments. Melancholia has slow buildup leading to more slow moments.

Rachel Getting Married tries to make us love bourgeois weddings. Melancholia rightly gets us hating them.

Melancholia doesn't have half the wisdom of Pooh. Pooh celebrates small truths. Melancholia demolishes all truths regardless of size. If I had to choose one of these realities to live in, Pooh would win every time.

Tree of Life and Melancholia are the two Titans of this year so far. Of course they should be compared. Both may be prayers.

Finally, the attack on Midnight in Paris was just an attempt to stay in character. Someone has to stand up against that cinema tyrant and it seems like I'm the only one to do it.

I'm just having fun. Really, all I'm doing is externalizing the listmaking process, making it plain what sorts of comparisons and contrasts go into lining up movies in nice orderly numbered formation.

For what it's worth, right now I'd rank Melancholia second behind Tree of Life on a 2011 list, but I also, at the same time, don't really care about it. It's not a film that I ever care to see again. I'm discussing it now because it's fun and because I find that I can't just go back to 1940 and ignore 2011. I care about cinema past to present. I care about what's happening now. I was only half-joking in the car when I said, "Melanwhat?" I am really thinking about City for Conquest and The Shop Around the Corner. I'm forced to write about Melancholia because it's 2011 and not 1940 and it's what's worth arguing about. And I don't begrudge it that. I'm enjoying it. I'm still eagerly awaiting Chris' post and hoping that Ben will jump back into the fray now that four more of us have been initiated into the end of the world club.

My next post will be a long essay on the similarities and dissimilarities between Melancholia and Birth of a Nation. Just for Brandon.

Against my better judgment.

I've been checking obsessively today.

Brandon just put up a new post 3 minutes ago. I didn't get far before I reached a sentence that left me scratching my head:

"Before the newlyweds even step foot into the dining hall they are greeted by an angry Charlotte Gainsbourge (clitoris intact) and Keifer Sutherland."

So my question is, how do you know, Brandon? How do you know?

Because I couldn't tell.

It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.

"There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide."

"The man who kills a man, kills a man. The man who kills himself, kills all men; as far as he is concerned he wipes out the world."

Camus and Chesterton. Two of the many strange bedfellows lounging about in my mind. I've re-read the two fairly often, though not recently. Perhaps it's time. I'd enjoy an Orthodoxy/Absurdity cage match.

I'm impressed by Melancholia even if I was bored by it at times and wished I had been sleeping.

I haven't seen Antichrist, but I know that von Trier has gone to some dark places. I'm not sure that he had anywhere left to go except through death into death or through death into resurrection. I suppose the question still hangs in the air.

Von Trier had to kill the whole world to get beyond himself, to be able to create anything new. Everything had to be shaken down "that those things which cannot be shaken may remain."

I don't think that Melancholia is ultimately defeatist any more than I thought so of Haneke's The Seventh Continent. Melancholia, whatever else it is, is an attack on Modernism. Neither Von Trier nor Haneke offer any way forward, but they clearly show that we can't stay where we're at without courting death.

Von Trier particularly picks on Romanticism, its brooding pagan nostalgia and its restlessly destructive instincts.

It is, of course, interesting how much Von Trier is influenced by the visual arts. Practically every scene references one painting or another, sometimes explicitly, sometimes less so. This is Von Trier paying homage, but he also can't quite help himself from ridiculing his inspirations. There is an abundance of humor in Melancholia. This world that takes itself so seriously is rendered laughable. There is subtle visual humor and there is the really overt comedy of manners that comprises most of the first half of the film.

Since writing the above, I've read Jeff's post. I agree that the shot of Dunst and Melancholia is THE shot of the film. I also interpret it as being an attempt at a joke. Dunst may be the vT figure, but I think that vT is trying to laugh at himself. Melancholia is stupid.

Jeff's Rachel Getting Married comparison made me laugh. I was ready to leave and go home during all of the party crap (as evidenced by my two previous "live" posts). I like it all a lot more thinking back on it than I liked sitting through it.

A couple of Nat Shermans helped pep me up and I cared enough to stick around to the end. I'm glad I did. Melancholia wasn't any worse than Green Lantern and it was definitely better than Rachel Getting Married. It's got more heart than Drive, but less dazzle. It doesn't have half the wisdom of Pooh. Its questioning falls flat before Malick's world altar. Finally, I'd rather watch the world end every night than endure another 5 months under the Midnight reign.

I'm done thinking for a while. I've been writing these scraps throughout the day. Hopefully, some of it hangs together.

I'll meet you all at the 19th hole.

Great green melanpoo.

I've now seen three 2011 films in three days.

Green Lantern
Winnie the Pooh

Surprisingly, I liked all three. I didn't love any of them.

Green Lantern is about the end of the world. The world is about to be gobbled up by a yellow cloud of fear. Fortunately, our man gets his green gunk on and wills away the evil, driving it into the sun. Catastrophe diverted. GL ends on a note of humano-centric triumphalism. We're saved, in the end, because we deserve to be. Things just can't be any other way.

Melancholia is about the end of the world. An impersonal planet crashes into Earth and destroys all life. There is no hero to save the day. We're lost, in the end, because we deserve to be. Melancholia also ends on a note of humano-centrism (there's got to be a better word than this. Why am I drawing a blank here?), only this time we're faced with resignation, not exaltation. Our heroes have fled and our prophets have failed us. And this is the way things are.

Winnie the Pooh is about the end of the world. No, it's not. It's about being hungry and having friends and being scared and making things up and enjoying small adventures. It's the only adequate antidote to both Green Lantern and Melancholia.

I am tempted to compare the emotional states of Hal Jordan, Justine/Clare, and Pooh/Eyore, but I'll let that slide for now. There are only so many moments I can steal during the day to write.

More later.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


The number of reasons that sleep is better than Melancholia.

Live from Planet Melancholia

If people want to linger in a bath, stay at home.

I wish I'd followed Keifer's advice.

Live post from Film Club HQ

(written earlier in the day)

Conquest of the City features Cagney at his best. And Cagney at his best is better than them all.

Conquest seeks to give us a symphony of the city. By any measure, it succeeds. It's melodramatic. It's contrived. Its reach exceeds its grasp. It's a proletariat fairy tale. Maybe even a bit of a joke. It's a heart-breaking tearjerker. It loves its characters yet spares them no suffering. Conquest is all the more charming in that it "reads" like a Penny Dreadful rather than The Great American Novel. There's no varnish here. There is no pretense. There is only the life of the city and the love that beats at its center.

Elia Kazan, one of my favorite American directors, has a great cameo in Conquest. His small sub-plot is almost completely irrelevant to the main plot, but it packs one startling punch for all of its loose-endedness.

The romance. The goil's story arc. The brother's story arc. The Philosopher Bum framing. It's real because it's not "realism." LitFic be damned.

Throughout, it's Cagney that holds it all together, who keeps the thing from shipwrecking. There's none of the "slumming" that Chesterton describes so well in Heretics and that the Coens parody perfectly in Barton Fink. Cagney screams authentic common man.

Monday, November 7, 2011

11.11.11 - No Shelter

So I guess we're seeing The Immortals, right?

(p.s. I am actually half interested in the movie, but I'll wait 'til it hits the Saver. It would be fun to see it together, though!)

The long night is over. A new day dawns.

The following is from this week's Cinemapolis newsletter:

IT HAD TO HAPPEN SOME DAY: Yes, MIDNIGHT IN PARIS plays for its final times this week at 7:25 Monday through Thursday November 10. In the five full months it has been playing at Cinemapolis, we have noticed that the MIDNIGHT audience tends to burst out of the theater in a great mood--including those anti-Woodyites who had to be dragged into the theater by their friends. Two more reasons to catch it at Cinemapolis: it's not coming out digitally until late December, and it's a film that should be seen with an audience.

That's the good news. The bad news is that Take Shelter is NOT listed on the Nov 11-17 schedule. What's up with that?

Take Shelter now starts December 2.

Thumbs down from me.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Messing around

I've been messing around this afternoon.

Do you guys like this or do you like the side-by-side format better? I was getting sick of the side-by-side because the years never line up properly. They just never do. Anyhow, here's the new site I made. I've still got to add the '30s lists, but I'm done working on it for now.

Sorry, guys.

As Brandon mentioned, we'd already been over the veggie cult thing and I didn't have the energy to get involved this time.

I've only watched 2 movies since my last post. And I haven't watched any TV since we finished Breaking Bad and BSG.

I watched Isle of the Dead before Halloween. This might be my favorite Karloff performance. The story itself is just okay. All of these Lewton films are decent (or indecent as the case may be!), but I haven't really fallen in love with any of them. I did forget to mention how much I enjoyed watching Frances Dee in Zombie. I love that her and Joel McCrea were happily married until death did they part. Jeff, you should watch Four Faces West now while you're in a McCrea mood. It's easily on my Top Ten Favorite Westerns List. I need to get a copy on DVD eventually. I watched it last year (earlier this year?) on NWI. I just checked and it's still there so you have no excuse not to watch it INSTANTLY!

Redbox sent me a free rental code in honor of my 2 year anniversary of having rented something from a red box. So, I rented Attack the Block and watched it last night. I don't really have anything to add to what Brandon and Chris already wrote about this, except to say that the creature design is heads and tails (pun intended!) above anything else we've seen recently. Also, it was a happy coincidence that I heard this interview with David Kennedy on Fresh Air a few days before watching Block.

[p.s. I'm trying to get back to properly italicizing titles. I've written the last dozen or so posts on my netbook rather than my iPod, so I don't have any excuse. For those who didn't know, the large majority of my posts from the past two years have been written on and posted from my iPod Touch. It was difficult to format text on the default "notes" program so I pretty much abandoned all formatting.]

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Jean-Luc was right.

I forgot to mention that I had seen an hour of Your Highness the day before I watched The Dreamers. My faith in cinema is shaken.

Luckily, TV is alive and well. Ben knows that I share in his love for Captain Picard and all things Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Well done on the list, Ben. I definitely like all of your picks with the exception of Darkmok, which I can't remember anything about.

I would need to re-watch the entire series to feel confident making my own list.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I like Stephen King.

I can't say the same about Brandon's aughts horror list.

I've seen five of the top ten:
Halloween II
28 Days Later
Sweeney Todd
Let the Right One In
The Descent

I don't like any of 'em.

I nominate The Dreamers as best horror film of the Aughts. It was so effective that it almost made me hate all movies.

Dogtooth Dreamin' (on such a winter's day)

I forgot to mention in my recent post that The Dreamers reminded me of Dogtooth. Only I completely prefer Dogtooth to the Dreamers. And you guys know that I freakin' tore Dogtooth apart as best I could.

Of the two, Dogtooth is the true "love letter to cinema." (I think those were Jason's or Brandon's words about The Dreamers). Dogtooth effectively dramatizes the transformative power of pop movies. There is a real glimmer of the power of art to show us past pain and prisons of human devising. The Dreamers, on the other hand, chronicles cinema as enabler of masturbatory cinephilia. In Dogtooth, cinema is what opens up the world to the children. In The Dreamers, cinema is what closes the world off into an unhealthy life of childish games. The whole movie just feels childish.

No relief.

I was really pleased with the way that BSG Season 3 ended. The trial was a bit silly, but also great in the way that television show trials can be. The music in the walls (the half-heard raga that became Dylan/Hendrix) and the way that the characters shared in the words to a culturally iconic 20th Century Earth song. This could have been a big mistake and just a laughable moment and I'm sure that some people responded that way. I loved it.

I watched The Dreamers this afternoon. I hated it. Maybe that's not a surprise to you guys. Maybe it is. I hated it within the first half an hour and none of the crap in the middle or end changed my mind. The way that it made 1:1 correspondences to films, the way that it referenced films, was stupid. I love one sentence especially in Hoberman's review of the film: "Encrusted with classic rock (which, whatever its provenance, sounds like the work of tribute bands) and larded with film clips, The Dreamers at times suggests an inept Forrest Gump:" What a great comparison! And that's how I felt about the film, like it was Forrest Gump, trying really hard to skim the surface and hit all of the right points, hoping to give the audience a contact high since it doesn't have any real depth of its own to satisfy. Jason, Ben, and Brandon are all wrong about this one.

I'm gonna need a palate cleanser tonight.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lisa's unlimited access to I Love You, Man.

Only proves every point I was trying to make about ownership and the supremacy of Qwikster over Netflix.

[and sorry, Lisa, I've never liked Beetlejuice and still haven't seen Coraline]

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Arguing, so what of it?

I should be responding to Jeff's Rohmer thoughts. Instead, I'm distracted away by a fight. That's what you get for agreeing with me, Jeff. It's hard to muster up the energy to write a long, "oh yes, I agree, very well said" post. It was hard enough to care about this fight and I suppose it's better if everyone just ignores all of these ravings as the delusional scrawls of a man who watched two Val Lewton productions back-to-back and can't quite find his way back from the shadows. By the way, the Lewton double feature was screened from a DVD that I picked up at a yard sale last summer. I think that it was $2.50.

[slightly edited for clarity. I told you these were mad ravings.]

I can't totally agree with you, Ben, that "access trumps ownership." (though I'm not denying that the model of access that you describe works for you).

Ownership is still the best form of access.

One needs Internet “access” first in order to take advantage of these other kinds of “access.” Netflix and Hulu and Amazon Prime. Internet access these days typically costs about $50 a month (for a Cable or DSL connection that can handle streaming). Maybe less if you bundle it with a Cable package, but then we're still talking $80 or so a month for entertainment. Add on top of that the fees from the various streaming services. If you stop paying, you lose access. With DVDs, you only lose access if your equipment fails or if you stop paying the electric bill. Even so, I managed to find ways to watch DVDs when I had no electricity for an entire summer (I charged a portable DVD player while I was at work and had enough juice for any 3 hour or less movie when I got home. A 7” screen wasn't ideal, but it worked and it was cheap).

I'm still a fan of Netflix-by-mail (Qwikster from now on no matter what they say). It does seem to continue to be the best value in town with the absolute best selection. No home Internet connection required. Still, a semi-luddite like me has to worry when this service becomes devalued. Qwikster may be extinct in several years (whenever Qwikster decides it isn't making enough money). Where does access go then? There will be a lot less access. One would have to pay for Web service if he wants any kind of selection at all. Again, we're talking about lots of money.

It is because of DVD technology and because of Netflix's making most DVDs available cheaply to rent that we are currently in a “Golden Era” of “access.” TCM arriving on the scene in the mid to late '90s was another key boon to Movie lovers' gaining “access,” but again, this requires a Cable hookup. Renewed interest in classic titles built a market for classic titles on DVD. Access has opened up remarkably in the past decade. Only a 15 years or so ago, it was really tough to find any classic films outside of a University setting. What was available was often either butchered or cost a fortune (anyone here remember laserdiscs? Oh, how I lusted after laserdiscs!). Streaming is typically a downgrade in quality and necessarily comes with all of the monetary baggage that I've already outlined.

Redbox? Redbox is fine for what it is. It's not much. It's fine for catching up with recent Hollywood releases (and a tiny smattering of the indie and foreign releases that break through commercially), but it's worthless for anything else.

I'm not arguing that the forms of “access” that you list aren't great in their own ways. I'm only trying to suggest reasons why these don't work for me and why I can't quite be as enthusiastic about all of this so-called “access.”

All the above said, I've also become much, much more selective in my DVD purchases. It is so incredibly great that I can try an older movie by renting it and not having to blindly purchase it. There are plenty of classics that I'm glad I've seen (His Girl Friday springs to mind), but that I'm glad I haven't purchased. A couple of years ago, I blindly bought the Facets DVD version of Tarr's Satantango because it was the only way to see it. I still haven't watched it because it's so dang long and because I'm afraid that I won't like it after all. (It was worth the purchase, though, just for Tarr's Macbeth).

I bought a handful of Westerns around my birthday and I bought a couple of Chaplin movies and the Olivier Shakespeare set during the B&N Criterion 50% off sale. I probably bought a couple more DVDs earlier in the year, but that's all I can remember right now.

I've pretty much stopped buying contemporary movies.

I try to buy movies that I can watch with the girls now or that I can watch with them when they get a little older. Mostly “classic” movies. It's a good thing that these classic movies happen to be so good.

The entire family watched Modern Times tonight. Talk about a masterpiece. The gags at the beginning are stronger than at the end, but still a masterpiece and the ending is perfect. The Eating Machine scene and the subsequent chase out of the factory leave me crying each time I see them.

Generally, I'll only buy something if:
1) I've already seen it (with some exceptions)
2) I'm fairly confident that it will get watched a lot.

In the end, ownership is often the most convenient and affordable form of access, but only if one knows that he'd like to access the same movie over and over again. Otherwise, DVD rental-by-mail currently trumps all other forms of access. There's always the dreaded red envelope laying around for a month unwatched, but that's not nearly as bad as spending time frozen in front of a panel of Instant movies, unable to click on any of them, overwhelmed by limited choices that are available "instantly."

I'm firmly in the Qwikster camp. You streamers can shove it up your USB ports.