Friday, April 29, 2011

I forgot. One more thing.

We watched the second episode of the mid-50s BBC Robin Hood. The Money-Lender.

I found the DVD set for $10 in a bin at Wegmans and took a chance on the series, afraid that it might be too cheesy or downright bad. It's neither.

Robin's first highway robbery is quite funny. Also, the way this episode organically introduces Robin's rise to leadership of the bandits in Sherwood forest is about as narratively efficient as could be.

I must admit, though, that the truest pleasure of this series is watching it with the girls. They beg to watch another episode immediately. Then, I have to fight all of my instincts and inclinations to cave and start another episode. We need to wait until next Tuesday, I say, as my determination wavers. It's bedtime now! No more Robin Hood until next Tuesday!

End of April Dump.

Here's what I've watched lately...


Fruits Basket is nuts. I watched two episodes on a whim. It's too silly for me. I won't be watching any more of it. Are any of you guys Anime fans (besides loving Miyazaki)?


Smallville Season 3 is a mixed bag. We're ten or so episodes in and most of those have been meh. The "crazy Lex" episodes, however, are awesome. The blind Clark episode is fun.


The King's Speech deserves all of the praise heaped on it. It fits the "bromance" genre (a couple of dudes start a relationship, have a bad argument and split up, then have a happy reconciliation), but in a good 80s action way, not an aughts self-conscious way, if that makes sense.


Black Swan is ridiculous. Natalie Portman learns to masturbate and goes crazy. While achieving her dream. Then she dies. I don't have the words to tear this apart. I'm not sure I need to.


(Minor spoilers ahead.) Somewhere is frustrating. It opens with a shot of our protagonist, Johnny Marco, literally driving around in circles. Because, you know, he's not going anywhere in the life he has chosen. By the time he decides to become a real father to his daughter, when he embraces her and becomes a real parental figure while the mother is away, Coppola gives us the money shot of him driving straight ahead. And, of course, the film must end and does end with a series of shots of Marco driving straight on his own. There is a nice wrinkle in his abandoning his car and walking tall (after slouching through much of the film) because it's an odd feel-good moment that seems earned. If one is willing to ignore these shallow visual metaphors, there is also some nice father-daughter commentary going on here. I won't pick on Ben too much for liking this, but I'm still not in the Sofia Coppola fan club.


Easy A successfully captures the spirit of John Hughes. That's the best compliment I can give it. That said, I've never really been a Hughes fan.


Black Heaven (L'autre Monde) is basically an illustration of Proverbs 5:3-5. It's also maybe a silly exploration of online personas and relationships and maybe even a meditation on suicides. It reportedly was received well at a Cannes midnight screening last year. I liked it. Its available on NWI. If any of you decide to watch it, don't read anything else about it first. Then, come back here and tell me why I shouldn't like it.


I may or may not join in on the list-making fun you guys have been having. Know that I've been reading and enjoying your posts.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A man's got to believe in something. I believe I'll have another drink.

The Bank Dick was my very first W.C. Fields film.  It was enjoyable, but really not all that memorable.  The Marx Bros. were doing better comedy 19 years earlier.  Even so, I'm glad I watched it and I had a good time.  The film as a whole may not have been all that special, but the car chase sequence had me holding my sides as the belly laughs roared forth.

I fondly remember my hero William Troeller telling me the story of Fields on his deathbed reading a Bible.  His friends, bewildered, asked him what he was doing.

"Looking for a loophole."


I haven't met any other serious film lovers who don't like Cagney.  Everyone loves Cagney.  I can't imagine not loving Cagney.

Tribute to a Bad Man is one of the few Westerns that James Cagney made during his career.  It's partially an exploration of frontier justice and mostly a saucy domestic Soap Western with a few guys vying for a rehabilitated saloon gal.  I almost thought this thing was going to end on a really sour note and was amazed by the audacity of it.  Then, the expected happy resolution occurs and I couldn't even get angry because it felt so good.  I like this movie a lot.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Robin Hood Tuesdays or Lex, Rex

I've posted in the past about how all of my daughters are fans of the Curtiz/Flynn Robin Hood. They've also dipped into the print Pyle Robin Hood and various other children's storybook Robins.

I found a DVD set of the complete 1950s "The Adventures of Robin Hood" TV series for $9.99 in a bin at Wegmans. All 143 episodes. I couldn't resist.

Tonight was the first night of a new regular family tradition: Tuesday Night Robin Hood.

The first episode: The Coming of Robin Hood.

Mildred is covering my eyes right now. I can't see what I'm writing. She thinks this is very funny. She is laughing and laughing.

Okay, she left.

The Coming of Robin Hood.

This is the Robin Hood origin story that Ridley Scott wished he could have filmed. Robin comes home from the Crusades and finds his little slice of England in a lawless condition. His land and house have been given to a weasel and the local Sheriff is doing nothing about it except to counsel the weasel on how to properly kill Robin. Robin's letter from King Richard acknowledging him as a legitimate lesser magistrate sets up Robin's flight into outlawry

Mildred is covering my eyes again. I can't see what I'm doing. SAhe's laughing as I type with her arm in front of my head.

Okay, she left again.

Robin's becoming an outlaw is not simplistic. He does so because the law has been corrupted. Those in positions of authority have become tyrants and ignored justice. Robin knows the law and recognizes that the law/justice is not present in England. Robin thus is the representative of the law under King Richard (who is absent) and brings the Law with him into Sherwood Forest and this first episode sets up future possibilities. Robin is the true authority, forced into hiding by unlawful usurpers. And Robin will uphold the law wherever he is found.

The show reminded me visually of the early Dr. Who episodes I've seen, including more long takes than you'd expect from a film of the same period. There is also a lot less shot/reverse shot going on. More often, characters talking to one another share the same frame through a conversation. Anyhow, the show looks nice and sounds nice. I'm impressed. See you next Tuesday.


[I've been watching a lot lately and am behind on posting. Sorry. Expect a disappointing post soon in which I dump out a lot of single sentence non-reviews.]

Sunday, April 17, 2011

May 20th at Cinemapolis

Who's coming with me?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Spoiler Code


I want to write a bit more about Source Code, specifically the ending.

Jeffrey wrote:
"It’s a seriously (as you put it Brandon) life-affirming picture. It’s incredibly kindhearted, compassionate, and humanistic."

I disagree.

Here's why - Sean Fentress.

The ending here is triumphal. It's also pure cinematic fantasy/wish fulfillment.

Our guy gets the girl under false pretenses. If this is an alternate timeline and not a fantasy sequence, then we need to deal with all the messiness. Our guy gets the girl, but he either has to live a lie (continue to pretend to be the man whose body he is inhabiting) or he needs to convince this girl that he has been sent back from the future to inhabit the mind/body of Sean Fentress.

Sean Fentress, who gets no happy ending. He's either dead on a train or his body/mind and his girl have been robbed from him.

It all comes back to Sean Fentress.

The Source Code premise itself is ridiculous. A dead soldier is sent back into the last 8 minutes of memory of another dead man. How do we get from that premise to parallel worlds/timelines? It's to Jones' and everyone else's credit that the film moves along so nicely that we don't care how silly it is.

Source Code's happy ending is a subversively wicked little joke, completely disguised as a conventional happy ending.

Jones has his cake and eats it, too.

We get an intense cathartic experience; only for as long as we're willing to suspend our disbelief.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Jeffrey 2008

I agree that 2008 was a great year for movies.

It was also the year that CR5FC was born. Brandon and I started talking about movies in January of that year. By the end of July, these blogs arrived and now here we all are.

I'll interact with your list a bit...

1) Synechdoche, New York
I'd love to read your 10-page essay. Post the whole thing! I'm actually on the record saying that this may be the best American film of 2008. In another place, I compare the film to Tobe Hooper's Eaten Alive.

2) The Dark Knight
Batman is George W. Bush.
Seriously, Jim Emerson has done a great job tearing this film apart. Check out his blog archives.

3) Tell No One
I took Abby on a date to see this one at the Art Mission and we were the only ones there. It was a wonderful experience. This is a fine pick. Check out Farewell if it ever comes out on DVD. The director of Tell No One is the lead actor in Farewell.

4) The Class
I haven't seen this one. Likely never will.

WALL-E is the anti-Kubrick. I absolutely love WALL-E.

6) The Fall
I'm with you on this one. Not only visually stunning. I'm one of the few that thinks that the story totally holds up on its own.

7) Let the Right One In

8) Milk
I can't get behind Saint Harvey.

9) Revolutionary Road + 10) Ballast
I missed both of these.

There are at least three different versions of my 2008 top ten list floating around in my archives. For example, at one point A Christmas Tale was in the #2 spot. In the final list, it shares #11. Lists are silly and stupid. Lists are great. Here's a link to my final posted list:

Click on the link above for all thirty films listed in my top 12, but here are the top ten with some comments...

1. Mister Lonely
Julien Donkey-Boy is still my favorite, but this might be Korine's best film.

2. Still Life
I still think about the "spaceship" often.

3. The Romance of Astrea and Celadon
This is a film I would die defending.

4. Ashes of Time Redux
I dream of seeing this on a big screen someday.

5. Wall-E

6. Funny Games
Film Club's Dead Horse.

7. Appaloosa
Honestly, this might be my favorite film on the list.

8. La France
I was lucky enough to see this at Cornell in late 2008. I initially tried to make sense of it by comparing/contrasting it to Cold Mountain.

9. In Bruges
I watched this three times in a week, but haven't seen it again since.

10. Iron Man
A "guilty" pleasure. As far as I'm concerned, this is the best superhero movie that has been made so far. Make mine Marvel!

Note that back then I wasn't following my strict dating system. I should go back sometime and make a proper 2008 top ten and also reorder films based on how I feel about them now. Eventually.


Jason, it's good to see you back

Ben, I actually completed a "Cinematic Alphabet" list a year or two ago, but never posted it. I'm going to edit it a bit and post it soon.

Lisa, I'd be more jealous of Florida if the sun hadn't finally come out today. Enjoy your vacation.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A few from 2010

I'm burned out on 2010 movies for the moment, but here are some brief thoughts on five more of them.


Let Me In. I don't really have much to say about it that I didn't say about Let the Right One In. The Swedish version was running through my head during every scene, so I don't think I gave this anything like a fair shake. The early 80s Reagan-era setting did add a wrinkle of anxious good/evil security/insecurity context, though I think it may have mostly been an excuse to get some Bowie on the soundtrack. I'm not settled on the matter, but I think that the story may work better without this context. The music here is just as overbearing as the Swedish version, in a slightly different way. I think that Reeves' version has better cinematography. Metz isn't as terrifying as the Swedish girl, but she has an undeniable charisma that few actors/actresses of any age can match. The boy is fine. Richard Jenkins is great as always. Jack Shepherd's son turns out to be a badass.


Made in Dagenham is nothing if not easy to watch. The story has a strong feel-good momentum (with a brief suicide interlude from out of nowhere) that is hard to resist. It's got a great cast. Sally Hawkins. Bob Hoskins. The cause at the centre of the film (equal pay for equal work) is about as uncontroversial as possible for a message movie.


I didn't want to like Blue Valentine. I'm not sure why. I guess I just didn't want to watch two people act miserable toward each other. I was suspicious of the structure of the film. I also think that both of these actors are a bit over-rated.

What ended up being fascinating to me is that the "blame" is truly de-centered here. It's easy to see the husband as an irresponsible child-man. It's easy to see the wife as a respectability-obsessed witch. It's just as easy to see both of them in a positive way.

As far as the structure goes, it's perfect.


Never Let Me Go plays out like a dystopian Saved By the Bell; Only it's missing the Screech comic relief moments. I hated this one. I prefer my teen melodrama to take place in Smallville.


It's Kind of a Funny Story is kind of a funny movie. I know that that's the obvious opening line to any review of this movie, but I went with it anyway. This movie was a breath of fresh air after Never Let Me Go. The tone is uneven, maybe even schizophrenic, but what else can you expect from a psych ward dramedy? There isn't much profound here and I do think that it's a bit irresponsible in its portrayal of mental illness as a party, but the Queen music video had me tearing up a bit. That's right. I totally mocked Never Let Me Go while watching it, but got all emotional over some crazies lip synching a Queen song. Ridiculous.


Here's a comment from MrWooaa on Youtube:

i just want you to know that this is not what a pych hosptiel is like. i was commeted, ( not by my choise mind you), after a suiside atempt, and this movie is nothink like the real thing. imagen a horible mix of preeschool and prison. i was watched 24/7, and evry night, every five minuets on the dot, they would shine a light in my face to make shure i was still brething. there was a big hubub if i was in the bathroom for too long, or out of sight for 2 seconds. they treeded me like a crook.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Transmigration of Kubrick's Shit

[edited slightly in an attempt to improve clarity]

Sorry guys. I don't have the time or inclination to argue about Kubrick. You'll just have to live with my tea-bagging buzzery.

Jeff is right that my "anti-life" statement reflects my siding with all of the usual complaints against Kubrick. More than that, though, I suspect Kubrick of not liking physical bodily existence. Some day, if Kubrick could have his way, we would all be pure minds; no bodies. I base a lot of this opinion on Kubrick's absolutely faithful cinematic presentation of Clarke's 2001. I'm not going to spend the time to prove this, but I do find this "anti-life" (more properly stated as "anti-body," I guess) idea supported in his other work.

By placing the bathroom between the monolith and the deathbed, Kubrick signifies man's baseness as an obstacle which must be overcome.

Kubrick's "intellectualism" is not for me.

I enjoy a good shit. Cynicism is for the constipated.

One Seriously Hip Hipster.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Not Kubrick; Not Antichrist; Funny Games: the Dead Horse of Film Club.


Even though Antichrist has driven Funny Games out of your mind, you may still be interested in Jim Emerson's Funny Games Experiment.

I walked out of Rango

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

VLC media player... what Brandon wants.

That's Entertainment!

I'm working on a longish 2010 post, but I can't wait on this one film.

The Tourist.

I know. You saw the trailer and promptly skipped seeing it while it was in theatres. You made a mistake. I made that same mistake.

The Tourist might be my favorite film from 2010.

That's not true. It doesn't de-throne True Grit. Right now, though, I'm giddy from having watched The Tourist.

I'm not sure that I've felt this good about a straight-up Hollywood film since the first time I watched Mask of Zorro twelve or thirteen years ago.

I don't want to spoil any of the joys of this film. This is a vehicle for Movie Stars. The writing is smart. The costume design and art direction are fantastic. The thrills feel real instead of pre-fabricated.

And (minor spoiler), when Depp lights a cigarette, I almost cheered aloud. Wow.

The Tourist is a GREAT film. I dare you to not like it. You can't do it.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Argument Clinic

You are all wrong about Monty Python.



I guess the distinction isn't that clear in my mind. The only movies I think I maybe *should like* are movies that have both received a lot of critical attention and nearly everyone else besides me has liked. Why else should I feel like I ought to like something that I don't? I'm not sure what other criteria you want me to use. I "should" have liked Paul because I love Adventureland?

Looking at your list, it's constructed on the same principle that mine is - movies that are generally well-respected by proven directors. I just used the AFI list because I couldn't think of anything off of the top of my head. And I still can't. This isn't something that I think about a lot. In general, I don't really feel like I *should* like anything that I don't.

Yes, you do.

No, I don't.


A 2010 catch-up post will be coming soon.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Elvis Mitchell needs to apologize.


Great Source Code review. You made me feel guilty for taking the lazy way out by making the simplistic connections and not writing anything more. Still, a Scott Bakula cameo? Quantum leap me.

What about Elvis Mitchell?

If a certain complaint turns out to be true, then I've lost a lot of respect for him.

Here's his Source Code review:

I understand all of his criticisms and don't blame him for not liking the movie.

It's the following quote that gets me:

"It’s up to Jeffrey Wright, as the administrator supervising the Source Code — the machine that keeps firing Colter back, back, back to the recent past — and his eccentric brio to keep the silliness from piling up like ash from his pipe. That’s how you know this film is science fiction — someone is smoking indoors in the United States — and that Wright is a martinet whose malevolence must be checked."

Here's a tweet from Duncan Jones:
Find it odd Movieline choose to complain about Jeffrey Wright smoking a pipe, something in an old draft of the script thats not in the film.!/ManMadeMoon/status/53585077480853504

I really can't remember if Wright ever had a pipe in his mouth, but I'm more inclined to believe the director than the critic in this instance. It makes one wonder how closely Mitchell watched the movie and how much he wrote his review cribbing off of an old screenplay.

Odd is exactly the right word for this situation.

Here's my question for those of you who have seen Source Code:

Does Jeffrey Wright ever have a pipe in his mouth during this film?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Source Code

I'm a Duncan Jones fan. I'm a Quantum Leap fan. I'm a Groundhog Day fan.

Yes, I liked Source Code. Surprising to me, too.

Objects in Days of Heaven

Ben, your recent post reminded me that this essay exists:

On the Objects in Days of Heaven

Friday, April 1, 2011

I can't get behind that.

I checked out the AFI 100 Years... 100 Movies 10th Anniversary list to prepare for Brandon's assignment.

Here are ten films widely considered to be great that I just "can't get behind."

1) Raging Bull
Scorcese, in general, impresses me more than he satisfies.

2) The Graduate
Never seduced me. Turns me right off. Read Tim Hunter's analysis.

3) One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
I need to give this another chance. The only time I ever watched it was right after reading the novel.

4) Dr. Strangelove
I'm supposed to love this, right? I don't. Also, to disappoint you all, I'm not a Kubrick fan. I prefer Asphalt Jungle to The Killing. Solaris to 2001. And so on. Kubrick's films are anti-life. There, I said it.

5) The Sound of Music

6) The Fellowship of the Ring
Jackson can't direct. The adaptation is okay, but the thing is slapped together like a bad TV Western (which isn't a bad thing unless your movie is being lauded by all sorts of serious-minded people like this one was)

7) M*A*S*H
Just mean-spirited.

8) Jaws
Sorry, Brandon.

9) Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
I am actually coming around on this one. I'll let y'all know where it stands if I re-watch it.

10) The Sixth Sense
Shyamalan has (rightly) come under attack in the past few years, but his debut film was received with open arms and heapings of critical praise. I've never liked it and only slowly came around to Shyamalan after Unbreakable.