Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Quick Correction

I'm hiring a sister-in-law babysitter and taking my beautiful wife on a date to see Le Rayon Vert on Thursday, July 7th at 7:45pm. NOT July 11th. Just in case any of you want to meet us there.

I'm definitely not going to the July 1st Film Socialisme screening. I tried watching it again and made it about 22 minutes before giving up. I can't forgive Godard for the "Navajo" subtitles.

I am planning on going to the July 9th Binghamton Classic Films screening of Dangerous Corner. That should be a Film Club Event.

If you guys haven't watched Ben's video yet, you should do so immediately. Imagine what would happen if Malick was a judge on America's Got Talent. Completely inaccessible. Make sure to watch it through to the END. Enjoy.


Confessions of a Drowsy Moviegoer

"You are the guy who fell asleep to OLD JOY for goodness sakes."

Yeah, so what? I fall asleep during everything.

I fell asleep at the theater during the first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan. Bloody Omaha can't keep me awake.

I can't count the number of movies that I've fallen asleep to at home. Poor Abigail can tell you of the many nights that I fall asleep at a climactic moment in a movie/show while she suffers through my snores to complete watching to the end.

I'm only interested in the train movie for those rare nights of insomnia.

I'm taking a break from this non-stop blogging pace. I'll put up a new post after I've watched Rules of the Game and M. Otherwise, I'm going to be quiet for a while.


P.S. When did this become Musicals Club? Sheesh.



Your post was touching and all that. Wow, sad. Let's get to what's important.

The man who fell.

What did he think about Tree of Life?

You did ask him, didn't you?

You've been SHUT DOWN.

[I see that Jeff has already responded with a similar post, but I've already written all of this so I may as well post it. Now I check again and see that Lis has already responded to Jeff. Well, I'll still try to get everyone riled up again instead of letting the happy dust settle. :)]

What it comes down to is different styles.

"Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend."

I enjoy being antagonistic with friends. Arguing back and forth is one seriously good way to learn how and what and why I feel about something. Doing so with friends means that it's always friendly. There is an assumed respect. This doesn't need to be affirmed every time we have a conversation.

Lisa wrote:
"The reason I'm saying the conversation gets ended is that it feels like instead of actually entertaining what I'm saying and maybe thinking, "that might be an interesting point about this one individual film," or, "that's a different way to think about things than I do," or, "yeah, ok, maybe that might be worth considering for half a second even if I don't agree with it, I see what you're saying but here's what I'm thinking it might be instead," the response is "this is why you're wrong and this is the right answer and here is all the literary and historical and film criticism proof to shut you up.""

I'll never be that sensitive. Sorry. I think that my style assumes all of these things, though, without having to say them. If I didn't think that your point was "interesting" or "worth considering for half a second," then I wouldn't spend any time at all interacting with it. The very act of continued interaction implies these things. And as Jeffrey has already stated, no one is trying to shut anyone up. We responded as we did because we wanted more loud shouting, not a whimpering statement of "you haven't properly recognized my feelings."

Again, it's different styles. I get it. I'm still half making fun of you (because I think you can take it) because that's just my way of having fun while arguing. Even though I'm an insensitive lout, I can still understand that you engage in conversations in a very different way than I do. Neither one is right or wrong. Just different.

"And I still pushed to get to the discussion about accessibility and then got told why I was wrong,"

Right. I tried answering this. I guess I don't understand the "accessibility" complaint.

American Idol has millions of viewers. Yet it is completely inaccessible to me. I've tried watching Glee to understand this cultural touchstone. Inaccessible.

Why can't Idol occasionally throw a Dead Milkmen song into the mix so that I can relate? Why can't Glee be about antisocial bookworms instead of pop-chorus nerds?

I don't get the "accessibility" complaint. There's nothing inaccessible about Tree of Life. It welcomes all. People who complain about "accessibility" are usually just saying that they don't want to watch something that doesn't have the same structure as their favorite police procedural on Tuesday nights or whatever.

I know that I'm the only one in film club who really wants to see James Benning's RR (though this will likely never happen since there is no DVD release). I'm our resident snob. I value educated critical opinions. I rarely laugh at fart jokes.

But, there I go arguing again.

"John said, "he's not stupid, he's wrong.""

To be fair, I had a big ol' smiley face after the "he's still wrong" to indicate that I was joking. In that specific example, I understand why only 2 out of 10 people will enjoy Ruben & Ed. It does have a weird sense of humor and a far-out non-conventional plot and strange character conflict. I still think it's a masterpiece and would fight to the death over it. My problem is that no one wants to fight about it. It gets dismissed because it's weird and there can be no discussion. The exact opposite of what you're saying.

More about inaccessibility:

"Inaccessible" seems to be codespeak for "This isn't what I'm used to and I don't want to think in a different way."

I understand that most American Idol junkies won't like Tree of Life. Most Tree of Life fans won't like Idol. They represent two different ways of looking at the world. The Way of Accessibility and The Way of Inaccessibility. Always These Two Will Struggle Inside the U.S. Soul.

Despite my reservations about the film (and I was the first to bring up emotional sterility - though I think that Jeff has successfully countered this charge in his recent post), I'm firmly in the Tree of Life is Important, black and white is good, talkies ruined the movies, comedy isn't what it used to be camp. I'm here waving my snob flag.

Inaccessibly yours,
Snobby Snob-Face

P.S. Lisa, you don't want Brandon arguing for you. He likes Crank. And he's stupid.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

June Tubing, Destry, and Kaye

Don't worry, Jeff. No Tree of Life content here.

Here's a rundown on recent TV show viewing:

Battlestar Galactica s2e1-8
BSG continues its successful formula:
Big Ideas + Big Action = BIG ENTERTAINMENT.

The Killing e1+2
Solid. I'll get to it eventually.

Eerie, Indiana e1-3
This was my favorite television show in 1991. I was surprised (and simultaneously not surprised at all) when I discovered just recently that many of the episodes were directed by Joe Dante.

The Benson Interruption e1-3
I've enjoyed falling asleep to this.


As I've already mentioned, I love Destry Rides Again. The 30s were mostly a Western wasteland. John Wayne was active, doing lots of terrible work. Gene Autry and Roy Rogers were regular heroes of the silver screen. John Ford hadn't made a Western since about 1926. Hawks wouldn't make a Western until the late '40s. Boetticher and Mann wouldn't dominate until the '50s. The decline in quality of Westerns paralleled a decline in public interest in Westerns.

I'm not sure what it was about 1939, but it seems to be the year that marked the change in quality and quantity. Beginning in this year, the Western would be a major presence at the movies for almost 40 years. The popularity inevitably made it to TV, with a peak of 26 shows airing during prime-time during 1959.

The recovery began in 1939.

1939 gave us:
Destry Rides Again (Marshall)
Dodge City (Dodge City)
Frontier Marshall (Dwan)
Jesse James (King)
The Oklahoma Kid (Bacon)
Stagecoach (Ford)
Union Pacific (DeMille)

I recently watched Destry Rides Again and Jesse James.

Destry Rides Again plays out like a "revisionist" Western. In 1939! Here is a forerunner and influence on Blazing Saddles and Three Amigos.

Our hero refuses to carry a gun. He'd rather tell stories than seek conflict. In the end, he puts on his gun belt, but it's a stampede of women that saves the day.

This is radical, funny stuff. It's the kind of comedy that Jeff and Brandon and I were lamenting the passing of - there's nothing like it left today. It's also strangely moving in the end.

King's Jesse James may be the definitive "Hollywood" telling of the James story, the one that all subsequent tellings depend on. I just read that it was the 4th highest-grossing film of 1939, behind only the giants that are Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Today, we (probably rightly) remember Stagecoach as the most important Western of 1939. At the time even, Stagecoach was critically acclaimed while Jesse James was mostly just a popular success. Here's the thing, though.... Jesse James probably did more to re-popularize the genre. It was so popular that there was a sequel film released the next year - directed by our man Fritz Lang!

Finally, I watched The Inspector General last night with the girls. We all had a good time watching it. Danny Kaye should be a household name.

Right now, I'm thinking about finally catching up on all of the sleep I've missed recently. Three of the girls and I have been cleaning and doing chores and eating lunch while Abigail with Mildred and Pip are out running errands. We've taken a break and I've put on The Princess and the Pirate (Susannah's request). And now I'm feeling sleepy. and.. Mmmmmm.... nap.

Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly.

Lisa Quote #1
But I think in our long tradition of being a storytelling culture it's hard to enjoy something that SEEMS like it's going to have a narrative, and then doesn't really. I think people can "put up" with a lot cinematography- and editing-wise, but start messing with plotline and you're treading dangerous ground. Especially when it's set up like it's going to have a structural narrative. I mean, there are characters for heaven's sake.

This is partly what I was getting at with my "use narrative wrongly" assessment. I think that it is all over your last couple of posts. I'm not suggesting that you think that "there is only one way to use narrative," but that this seemed to be what you were wrestling with specifically and where you wanted the conversation to go. I may have failed to adequately address this, but that's what I was attempting.

Lisa Quote #2
Why don't we ask why it's so hard to understand? You can have the greatest most powerful most important message in the world, or be doing the most important thing in the world, but if you're not getting it out to all the people you want to get it out to, or they're not really getting it, what does that mean? (That was my only point about the poems.) If they can't truly understand it because of certain decisions that you made, did you accomplish what you were setting out to do? And if you don't care whether they did... why? If they are up for being challenged by a film but came out of it not quite sure what they were challenged about or what you meant for sure but they did know that it was beautiful and powerful in some way, is that fine? And a person can't say - you know, "I think everything being about the experience of the film itself is great, I was WITH him on that, but then why did he kind of set it up like it was going to be a narrative? That's a strange choice, I felt confused and duped by that." without everyone acting like they're stupid and telling them why they don't care about film enough. Why isn't that a valid question after seeing a movie like this?

Not only is it a valid question, it's a great question. I was gropingly trying to address this question with my references to The Waste Land and Picasso portraits and Beethoven symphonies. The symphony response was my attempt at showing how Malick is using narrative in a musical way rather than in a picture book sort of way. I'm convinced that the editing is the soul of this movie, NOT the cinematography and NOT the performances and NOT the "story," but ALL of those things as ARRANGED by the editing. Editing is probably always the most important part of filmmaking (my personal opinion). It becomes so to a greater degree when a film's reason for being is how its own images relate back to one another.

My references by association are weaker, but were intended to show that Malick is not making these choices to be difficult, but rather to be as clear as he possibly can be. I still do not understand The Waste Land. That doesn't make it any less of a poem or mean that Eliot hasn't accomplished exactly what he meant to. Ultimately, what I'm reacting against is the idea that we ought to know everything about something upon first contact (which I'm not saying is your position). If popular audiences watch Tree of Life or Lost Highway (and Lynch is one of the few other U.S. directors working at this same level of ambition, whether I like him or not) and grapple with understanding, then great. If they watch these films and wonder why they're not at all like an episode of CSI, then we've got a problem, and yes, I don't think those folks care about film or film history. Sorry. They don't. They're not stupid. I know lots of smart people who would hate Tree of Life. My friend Matt couldn't finish Ruben & Ed. I think that that film is brilliant. Is Matt stupid because he thought it was all pointless and and deliberately weird? Nope. Not stupid. He's still wrong. :)

Seriously, though, in order to address the question of "why so serious, Malick?," one has to start engaging the film on a structural level (which I'm just not prepared to do after one viewing, though my gut is telling me that it's worth the struggle of several more viewings). My experience with most people asking (turn on whiny voice) "Why's this so hard to understand?" is that they're not interested in actually exploring nuts and bolts. They don't really care about film as an artistic medium. They may love individual films. They may watch moving images every night. They may just want to get back to Wipeout (apologies to Tara). If one does not want to put in the work to deal with "challenging" films, then I will say that that person does not really care about Film. Any more than the person that reads a Dick Francis novel every week (as my one grandfather did) cares about Big 'L' Literature. AGAIN, I'll STRESS, THIS DOES NOT MAKE THEM STUPID.

And again, you always have to pick and choose. I'll probably never get around to watching Salo, though from all that I've heard, I'm sure that it's "challenging." I still haven't gotten around to watching much Fellini because the only thing that I've liked by him was his collaboration with Rossellini, The Flowers of St. Francis. I'm not into Antonioni. I still feel like I should be watching more films by these guys. The reason I don't is more a matter of time and interest, then that I don't want to be challenged. But, part of it is also that I don't want to be challenged all the time. That would get old fast. I agree with you about that. It's a lot easier at the end of the day to watch a couple of episodes of BSG than it is to deal with Fellini. And there's a place for BSG and I respect it and appreciatte it.

I understand why someone who has seen The Thin Red Line and The New World might articulate a profound dislike for Malick. I think that there are good reasons why someone wouldn't like Malick. I don't expect them to want to "waste their time" on Tree of Life. I feel this way about Christopher Nolan and Darren Aronofsky. Both of these guys are well-loved and critically-respected, even by my fellow clubbers here. I don't care for them. I don't get excited about their new films. The only reason I keep giving them chances is because others, especially here, keep raving about them. And I think that it's good that I do. I don't want to watch only what's comfortable for me or only what I'm already inclined to like (Malick, for instance).

Lisa Quote #3
I'm not saying everything has to be accessible, I'm saying we should be able to talk about why it's not and what that means. And I am not saying he uses narrative "wrong," I would never say something like that. I'm saying that it's frustrating that a person can't even have this conversation with someone about a film because it was a certain director.

Sure. But! I think that we're *trying* to have this conversation.

Lisa Quote #4
When I said "people" I really did mean "people," not "you guys."

I think that we've all been talking past each other more than a little bit. Partially, at least, because we're trying to have a conversation on several different levels at once. Jeff and I have been trying to respond to Lisa, but we've also been trying to respond to the not-Lisa general audience that she has been arguing on behalf of, distinct from but related to her own position. We've also been defending the "critics" (or rather, maybe, the critical [fanboy?] mindset) that make/s her/them so angry, while trying to set ourselves slightly apart from that crowd as well.

Lisa Quote #5
But instead the conversation gets shut down because "Lots of people with more knowledge than I have are already pretty much agreed on the issue." Maybe... but The Tree of Life isn't as old as Beethoven's 9th and I'm not so sure that there is a consensus on this film. And anyway doesn't that defeat the purpose of this club?

Again, talking on different levels and obviously not being clear. I wasn't speaking of Malick specifically then. I was, in broad strokes, trying to address the "care about film history and care about serious films" business. Those who attack critics today often dismiss all of film history as irrelevant because it has been filtered through a critical apparatus. Somewhere in our archives is a friendly debate that Jason and Brandon and I had about it.

I found it.

Here's one response from me. You'll have to search through Sep '10 archives to find all sides of the conversation.

So, back to the above, I'm not saying that there is any sort of critical consensus of Malick or specifically Tree of Life that we should submit to. We're privileged to be in the time and place to be part of the conversation figuring this all out. Film is still a young art. Who knows who will be remembered 500 years from now? It might not at all be like what we think. If I was a betting man, though, I'd place my money on Malick as being a name that sticks. HE'S IMPORTANT!

Part of the fun of digging back in the past is re-evaluating "classics" and championing the pics that most have forgotten. I like Henry King's Westerns and think that they should get more attention. That doesn't mean that I think that something like Rashomon is less IMPORTANT. Rashomon is undoubtedly more important. Every film has its place. As far as I'm concerned, Tree of Life is, so far, the undisputed King of 2010 (with the obvious disclaimer that I've seen hardly any films from this year and am only going based on reading about other films and based on my opinion of the level of quality of films of the past decade or so).

Lisa Quote #6
But that doesn't mean I don't care about serious film! I know you guys don't really see value in watching these other kinds of movies, like American indies or documentaries, and that's okay, but I do see value in it, and I don't think there's One Right Way. I protest that idea, always. Just because I enjoy films for entertainment value and watch indies and an occasional romcom doesn't mean I don't also take film seriously and don't enjoy and care about Serious and Important films, you know? It's not mutually exclusive.

We're actually agreed on this, though we're coming at it from different angles. Yes, I was being "provocative" with the wine coolers bit. Here's a better personal example. My staple drink of choice is Yuengling Black & Tan. It's getting rarer and rarer that I buy more expensive craft beers. That's usually reserved for guests. Anyhow, I like the comfort and familiarity of Yuengling Black & Tan. Likewise, I'm usually more interested in watching a Randolph Scott Western or a Danny Kaye comedy than I am interested in watching the Next Big Art Film.

As far as the Indie thing goes, I'm sure that there's value there. Absolutely sure. It's just not my calling to wade through that specific muck to find the gems. The work-to-rewards ratio is a lot higher than I'd like. A lot of work. Few rewards. That's not to say that no one should be doing that work. I need a whole lot of someones to go to Sundance for me and come back and tell me how great Moon is. I value that.

To speak for Brandon and Jeff, though, I think that our interests are such that we want to go as broad and deep as we can, stretching back to the '30s (and earlier) while looking to the future. Being familiar with the past helps us safeguard against both art-house wankery and multiplex mind-dumps.

Lisa Quote #7
Based on your metaphor, I think it's possible that you don't take my opinions seriously because you don't care for the kinds of movies I've been watching lately. What can you do, right? I don't take my opinions seriously about anything, so there you have it

I've always liked the Chesterton quote (and its context in Orthodoxy) that I used to title this post. Even when I'm being serious, maybe especially when I'm being serious, I try to take myself lightly (which, as Chesterton would well know, is somehow paradoxically often easier for us heavier guys). The aside about wine coolers was honestly meant to reassure you that I do trust your opinion because you've proven that you know a "pilsener from a pale ale." Of course, I was making a light jab at Indie movies, but the use of "inexplicably" should have keyed you to the fact that I just don't understand the appeal, not that there is no appeal or that you're wrong. The whole point of that beer metaphor was that you were bringing a challenging and unique perspective to the Malick Winter Brew, not that your wine-cooler-swilling ways automatically disqualifies you from conversation.


You're right, though, it's us vs. you. Battle for survival. And you're going in the gorges, kiddo. Murdered dead. Can't write home to mama.

Then again, we're all hoping you'll mature and that things won't have to come to that. Maybe when you're 28.


Finally, Jeffrey....

You wrote:
"The anguish to me is there, but its a soft, elegaic anguish. If the characters whisper to God its because they’ve been defeated and are hoping that even with their last, lingering whimpers he might be able to hear them (on a side note, Malick’s last two films also featured whispering to things greater than the main characters). The film is an anguished, whimpering Prayer to God. The kind of prayer you have after crying and anger have gotten you nowhere."

First of all, great post. Growing that beard has really helped the clarity of your thought. You should probably go back and re-watch Midnight in Paris with a full beard.

Second of all, I've been thinking about the above a lot. I'm wondering if the point of the Job quote that begins it all is to indicate that what follows is a post-"Job chap. 38 being put in place by God"-attitude. We no longer see bitter anguish. We see prayerful resignation.

Then Job answered the LORD, and said,

I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.


Okay, I've got to stop here. I've already killed too much time writing all of this. I woke up at 6:30. It's 10:30 now and I haven't gotten much done on my day off. I'll start something, then I keep coming back to this post. No more. Talk amongst yourselves now. I'm done for a while. At least until tonight. :)

Monday, June 27, 2011

June is not the cruelest month.

"What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water."

Lisa, I get it. And I'm also closer to your opinion of the film, I think, than I am to Brandon's or Jeff's.

But! I don't think that Malick is being purposefully obtuse any more than T.S. Eliot is purposefully obtuse in The Waste Land. Which is plenty obtuse!

I'm pretty sure that Eliot may have been the greatest English poet of the last century.

I'm pretty sure that Malick is Among the Great Directors of Our Time.

I don't think that it comes down to "fan or stupid." I know that tendency exists and I've seen it before. I'm 100% sure that's not the attitude you'll get from me or Jeff or any of the rest of us here. (Then again, maybe this is so unconscious on my part that I just can't recognize it as happening.) For my part, I'm just quick to confess that Malick has already proven himself and that he continues to prove himself as a major player with Tree of Life.

It's helpful to compare Malick to Eliot or Joyce or any other big guns who wrote nearly incomprehensible works that changed the face of their respective fields. Would I rather read a Damon Knight novel than wrestle with Ulysses? Sure. I've never read Ulysses and likely never will. I am, however, in the middle of a Damon Knight novel at the moment. Damon Knight was a great writer. He was an even greater anthologist. He's all but forgotten today and nearly entirely out of print while every English major knows who Joyce is: someone to reckon with. And at some point you've got to buckle down and be befuddled by The Waste Land.

That's all I'm getting at with the "important" talk. Like it or not, Malick must be reckoned with if you find that you care about movies as more than "mere entertainment." Tree of Life must be reckoned with.

What did you think of my music analogy?

I suspect that Malick is using bits of narrative as movements in a symphony, not as pieces in a puzzle.

You can either enjoy Beethoven's 9th or not. You either feel it or you don't. You could question why certain notes are placed in certain places or combined in certain ways. The fact remains that if you care about music, you have to reckon with Beethoven's 9th at some point (just as one stupid example). And just Beethoven in general. That doesn't mean that the Guns 'n' Roses fan on the street doesn't like music. It may and probably does suggest that he has a limited palate. We're a society of musical candy consumers. We often don't even know how to approach a musical asparagus. When we find one, it's easy to find fault in the asparagus.

So, back to Malick. I could feel the rhythm of Tree of Life, even if I often couldn't enter into it. Like Waste Land, I couldn't understand all of the "words" the first time or how they fit together.

After seeing it again, I may decide that there are further depths to explore and that I want to explore them. I may decide that it's a shallow exercise after all. What I don't want to do is to dismiss it without thinking long and hard about it. (nor do I think you do, but let's stop qualifying things so much, okay?)

What I wouldn't want to do is reject Beethoven's 9th Symphony because it's not a pop song. In general, I trust critical consensus, especially long-established critical consensus. I'm not going to dismiss Beethoven because I don't have the proper ear or proper training to appreciate him. Lots of people with more knowledge than I have are already pretty much agreed on the issue.

If someone tries Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout after a steady and exclusive diet of Miller Lite and tells me that they don't like it, then I don't really trust their opinion.

[(and I'm not saying that this is you in this example, so cool your comments right there, lady! If I wanted to extend the film-as-beer analogy to you, I'd say that you're someone who inexplicably drinks a lot of wine coolers - probably because they're tasty and easy to drink a lot of - but who has also sampled a few Belgian ales and could tell the difference between a pilsener and a pale ale or an IPA and a porter. To extend the analogy, it is clear that you think that Tree of Life is a complex brew. You're just not sure that those strong honey flourishes belong in a beer like this or that those nutmeg undertones really don't ruin what could otherwise be a remarkable beverage. {honey+nutmeg? Tree of Life must be a limited Winter special}. You're also really suspicious by the fact that a lot of people seem to be treating this seemingly flawed brew as the very Nectar of the gods.)]

If, on the other hand, Michael Jackson (the beer hunter, not the dead pop star) tries Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout and tells me that he doesn't like it, then I'll take notice. I'll re-evaluate my own tastes. Chances are good that I'll still love Old Rasputin.

Finally, as I said in my last post, Lisa, I loved your 4am attack. You made some great points. You did it with gusto.

But, saying that Malick uses narrative wrongly (to get at what the heart of what I think your objection is) is like saying that Picasso was really crappy at portraits and probably should have just gone all the way Rothko instead of sticking with representations. But, that's not what he was trying to do. To sound really simplistic, he was trying to look at the ordinary from an extraordinary angle. Malick is at least ambitiously attempting something similar. Whether he achieves it or not, I don't think it's fair to charge him with obfuscation. I think that he is trying to communicate a jumble of feelings and events and hopes and prayers and I think that he carefully, very carefully crafted these into an object that he thought MOST CLEARLY communicated something so simple that he couldn't find any other way to tell it (exactly like the audacious clarity of this sentence).

My main point? I don't know. I'm rambling and repeating myself, disjointed and vague. Throw in some dinosaurs and this post may be the film club equivalent of Tree of Life!

Bow down before my superior film club blogging skills! It's like music to your ears! Bow down! EXTERMINATE!!!

Wait, what?


Finally, let's stop apologizing so much around here. We're all cool, dig? Yeah.


We definitely argue here, but no one is trying to "win." We're dialoguing. To understand. Together.

That's CR5FC.

And nobody gets kicked out.



I knew we should have thrown her in the gorges.

(I'm mostly responding to Lisa below. I wrote all of this earlier, but I've been running around at work and away from an Internet connection. I see that Jeff has also responded. I'm off to read those. I'll probably respond more later.)

I do think that the closest parallel situation is with Tarkovsky, not with Godard.

The best short appreciation of Tarkovsky's Mirror can be found here:

"Each cut is an event, a moment not simply to collide images but also to layer the collage of the film: picture and sound, married and abutted, proffering new sights, new landscapes, new emotions and new realities in light. Andrei Tarkovksy’s Mirror is full of such event-cuts, each defining or sensing the cohesive whole of the film, like its maker, as discrete moments hung together through time, however disparate and dispersed its instances, like his limbs, may seem. To whittle a life into a film, as Tarkovsky attempted, may be impossible. However, Mirror does not attempt a picture of an entire life: it offers metonymic moments of a life caught across a celluloid timeline." - Ryland Walker Knight

Replace the word Mirror with Tree of Life and the name Andrei Tarkovsky with Terence Malick.

Tree of Life could never be someone's high school poem or someone's art school thesis. It is much too masterful for that. There's no doubt in my mind that this is a work of a professional. And think that should be obvious to anyone whether or not they've ever hears of Malick or whether or not they enjoy Tree of Life.

Why is Tree of Life important? Because it pushes at the boundaries of what narrative film is and can be. Is this for the masses? No, probably not. And not ever. Still, Tree of Life will be remembered long after Hangover 2 has been forgotten.

One neat aspect of film is that it absorbs all of the arts. Editing images is distinctly analogous to editing sound (read Murch on this). It's about rhythm. I don't think that it's best to compare Tree of Life to Joycean novels or modernist poetry.

It's better to compare it to a symphony, with pattern and variations layering on top of one another, stating a "theme" and circling around it in new ways, re-stating it and re-interpreting it as the whole moves forward and builds toward a satisfying resolution. It's about experiencing and getting lost in the "music" rather than following a traditional "story."

Sorry that you're still bitter about that high school poem rejection, Lisa, but don't take it out on Malick.

[I did love your post and the entire stepping up of playful aggression. Bravo.]

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Suggestion - 30s

Hey Jeff,

The decision is yours and I'm still waiting on it, but may I make a suggestion?

The Rules of the Game this week.

M next week.

Both movies expire in 26 days. I've seen both before, but this would be a good excuse to watch them again and others participating would enjoy them.

What do you think?

In related news, I should have a Destry post up by tomorrow. Is it any surprise that I loved it?

"Therefore I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul."

Some exploratory thoughts on Tree of Life. Spoilers ahead.

Tree of Life is undoubtedly the most important film of the year. It's the most ambitious American film I can think of. Period. Brandon invoked Bresson. I invoked Tarkovsky. Others have made Kubrick comparisons. That's the level we're talking about here. Major Leagues. Big stakes filmmaking.

I'm going to be negative below. Please understand that I respect and maybe even love this movie. I'm trying to figure out why I still have reservations.

As Brandon stated, Tree of Life is a cinematic prayer.

It is beautiful.

It is meditative.

It is sterile.

Ah, there's the rub.

Malick begins his film with God's "where were you?" challenge to Job.

Then, we're slowly introduced to one family's specific suffering and the context of that suffering.

Except that, as I said in the car, there is no emotional hook. The center of gravity in the film is the death of a son/brother. This is the center. I think. But, the reality of it is never felt. Brandon and Jeff related to the family dynamics, and I get that, but that's only part of the whole. Even that part I don't think was convincingly developed so much as you two read in personal experience.

Unlike the book of Job, there is no anguish here. This is supposed to be prayer, right? This is nothing like the Psalms or like Job's lament. In comparison, it feels clinical. Detached. The voiceover narrations that structure and guide the film-as-prayer are whispered and calm, almost resigned. There is no struggle. The images offer no further help. Even the dinosaurs are at peace. And cosmic awakenings are gentle.


Disclaimer: I watched Tree of Life on 3 hours of sleep. I do not function well in that condition. There were several times during the movie when I found that I had fallen asleep for a few seconds and then jolted awake. It was a struggle to stay awake.

I am going to see it again with Abigail, most likely the second week in July down on LI. I'm trusting that the wide release will happen and that Tree of Life will definitely still be playing somewhere down there at that time.

I'm done for now. Things to do.

Titles for sale. $1/word. Bulk rates available.

"What's the next '30's film we're tackling, did I miss it in the midst of the Midnight in Paris posts?"

Good question. What's next, Jeff?

You did miss one, though, and so did I.

So far:

1) The Blue Angel
2) The Lower Depths
3) Destry Rides Again
4) ?

I'm hoping to watch Destry today to get back on track. What are we watching this week, Jeff?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

What a great time.

Ben and Jason, I know I've been teasing a lot. Here's the truth: you were both missed.

Brandon, Jeff, and Lisa,
It was an absolute pleasure. Thanks.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I'm a twit.

I've started tweeting.

For Ben.

Especially so that I can "live tweet" the Film Club event this Saturday to keep Ben awake during his conference.

Also, I want to be like Woody, but I don't have $30M. Twitter will suffice.

I've hated on Twitter in the past. I strongly dislike Facebook. I'm just doing this to be contrary.

Follow me.!/johnowentrout

1:45, maybe.

I'm moving the planning conversation over to FB. I'll send out a group message tonight as soon as Jeff decides to be my friend.


Let's do something.


Three options:

1) Tree of Life - 4:20 showing @ Cinemapolis (I've got to work in the morning and I don't think I can leave earlier than 1ish, so I couldn't make the 1:45 even though that would be preferable). We could meet at 3 and have a drink on the Commons and chat or whatever. Then, 4:20!


2) Party at my place. I got the "okay" from the keeper of the keys of my home to invite you all up to our place. Maybe watch a couple of Buster Keaton shorts? Maybe watch Rubin and Ed, one of my favorite films that no one else has ever seen? Grill some veggie patties and empty some growlers?


3) A bottle of rum and Mr. Popper's Penguins.


Let's figure something out by the end of today.

Good Morning

Brandon - True Grit. I need to see it again. I wish that the Coens would do commentary tracks. I'd buy a copy of the DVD for myself and one for everyone else in film club. As far as education goes, I'm with the self-directed learning folks, but there's something special when you can find a great teacher. Most of my college classroom education was mostly worthless, but I'm really happy that I got to take that Art & History of Film class. It's not like you didn't have teachers. You had your dad. Quite right. And as you pointed out, you had Ebert. God save the critic.

Jason -

Ben - Yeah, I got a little bit defensive after hearing everyone else articulate variations on the idea of "just enjoy the story" or "just go along for the ride," implying that I privilege high-falutin' ideas and theme over narrative. Which is just dead wrong.

Jeff - You wrote: "I’m personally extremely annoyed by twitter (does considering it a device of self-glorification for a society already so narcissistic it might fuck itself to death constitute as annoyance? haha)." WAIT!!! WHAT??? IS THIS REALLY COMING FROM THE DUDE WHO JUST DEFENDED WOODY ALLEN'S LATEST $30M WANK-A-THON? ALLEN'S PETIT MORT MUST BE A SIGN OF THE IMPENDING GLOBAL MASTURBATORY JUDGMENT. (forgive the CAPS. I'm just having fun.)

Lisa - I had to look up Maroon 5 and I'm still not sure who they are, but I'm pretty sure that I don't care. According to IMDB, they have a song on the soundtrack of Smallville S4E2, so I'll be sure to comment on that specifically whenever I finally get around to Season 4. Enjoy the concert.

Everyone - What's everyone doing Saturday afternoon? Our movie options are crap, but maybe a quick drink somewhere? Or maybe lots of quick drinks and then Mr. Popper's Penguins?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Quick response to Brandon, then I'm done for the night.

Brandon, your review of the reviews had me smiling bigger than Heath Ledger or Jack Nicholson in their best make-up.

Really good stuff.

I want to respond to one thing:

"The caricature argument falls flat. Comedy has always featured clichĂ© bad guys. Allen’s heroes (The Marx Brothers, Chaplin, Keaton, Abbott and Costello) all used them in nearly every film. When one of you is ready to go head to head with any of those guys let me know. You will lose. But John seems to be referring to something that I need to see to truly comment on."

This is something that I was really aware of and made me hesitate in my argumentation. I was afraid that someone would use this against me. I guess my only response is that it feels different in Midnight. It feels mean and it feels self-serving. But, now I'm sounding like Jason as I moan on about my feelings. :)

Responding to Ben

"Sometimes I like a story because it's just a good story."

I don't have much fight left in me.

Just a little.

Sometimes I like a story because it's just a good story, too.

Not every film needs to be Meek's Cutoff (though that was a good story!)

I don't think that Midnight is a good story. For many of the reasons that I've already listed.

I'm not above "entertainment" movies. I'm the one who stood up for Edge of Darkness and Book of Eli. Centurion, Alice in Wonderland, and The A-Team. I've defended Repo Men and Frozen. I liked The Other Guys A LOT. Those are just a few examples from last year.

When this is all said and done, I don't want to be pigeon-holed as the guy who can't enjoy himself at the movies.

I love good stories. I dislike Midnight.


(I wrote this during some "downtime" at work. I see that there has been another post by Jeff and one from Ben since earlier today. I'll read them right away and maybe respond later.)

Thanks, Jeff, for that LONG post!

Here are a few quick thoughts:

1) I'll concede your points about referentiality in films and art. I don't have a problem with it. In fact, I love it. When done right. The Simpsons has become a pop culture reference machine. Tarantino carefully evokes images and moods from other films to bolster his own films. Scorsese casts Max Von Sydow in his pulp thriller and has him ask the protagonist if he believes in God. All of these instances work fine on their own, but reveal a deeper meaning to those "in the know."

What Allen does is explain many of his references as he makes them (through Gil's reaction or through other characters), helping the audience along. There's nothing necessarily wrong with this. It's just all easy and obvious and accessible. You guys see this as a strength. I disagree.

The main thing wrong with it is that it is all presented in a calculated way to make us identify more and more with Gil.

2) Woody Allen, like most comedians, desperately needs to be loved. I think he uses cheap tactics to have us relate to Gil. We don't see anything positive about Gil besides his nostalgia, yet we're rooting for him. My "caricature" criticism is primarily directed at the contemporary characters.

3) Even though those stupid girls didn't know the definition of "pedantic" (or maybe because they didn't know), I bet they still looked down at that character just like Allen wants them to. Same thing with the parents and the fiancé. I bet they enjoyed the free 20s spirit. Instead of real characters that we can form an opinion about, we get directed how to feel. I guess this is what I didn't like. I feel like Allen is directing the audience as much as he ever directed the actors. I don't like being directed.

4) Compare this to a minor masterpiece like Meek's Cutoff. Reichardt, for the most part, gives us complex characters and complex situations. And she never fully indicates how we should judge these characters. The audience is given a lot of room to think. Which, of course, means that we're left with lots of room to be confused.

5) I can accept a bit of this stock stereotype business in children's movies. And even enjoy it. I get tired of it quickly in an "art cinema" context.

6) About comedy and caricature. You're probably right. I just watched a Bill Hicks stand-up routine (inspired by Ben) and was struck by how effectively Hicks knocks down any chance at dialogue. His bit on pornography is what I'm thinking about. He talks about the Supreme Court being unable to define it past "images which cause sexual thoughts." Hicks then talks about Wrigley's DoubleMint girls and advertising causing sexual thoughts, culminating in a really funny proposed "Drink Coke" ad. Hicks them goes on to ask what the problem with sexual thoughts is, especially when the criticism is coming from "be fruitful and multiply" fundamentalists, and then he dismisses any concerns. Now some of the opponents of pornography are ignorant and ridiculous. Sure. That doesn't mean that there aren't serious arguments against pornography. In that moment, I realized how powerful Comedy is. There is no argument against porn that can trump a couple of Hicks' quips.

7) Don't take the above to indicate that I'm anti-comedy. I'm actually a bit of a Comedy nerd and watched a lot of stand-up on Comedy Central and HBO during the early '90s.

8) Am I a romantic? I don't know. Talk to my wife.

9) I'm not sure why I numbered this. It's all a bit rambling.

10) This "quick" response turned out to be a lot longer than intended.

Take Shelter in Paris

I almost forgot about this.

Jeff Nichols is a young director that I'm really excited about. Brandon and I both loved Shotgun Stories a couple of years ago. Have the rest of you seen it?

I had no idea that he had directed a new film. I haven't been paying attention. I didn't even realize that this new film had played at Cannes to overwhelmingly positive reviews and a critics' award earlier this year. I skipped most of the Cannes coverage this year figuring that I'd catch up with it all later in the year. Nichols' new film wasn't on my radar at all. Now, it's my most anticipated film of the year.

This trailer played before Midnight:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tree of Friday Night Life

What are you guys thinking about Tree of Life?

Brandon and I briefly texted about going to see it this Friday and I've talked to Ben in the past about doing the same.

I'm still up for it, but I'm also a bit hesitant.

Tree of Life opens in wide release on July 8th. This might be sacrilege, but I'm willing to wait two weeks longer after waiting two years. I'm not all that keen on sitting in a crowded Cinemapolis theater on opening night.

Brandon, Ben, Jeff - What do you guys think? If everyone else is committed to opening night, then I'm there. Otherwise, I can wait. (Though I'm also afraid that if we wait, then this whole thing will fizzle out from being a club event as we each find that we can't wait and give up and go individually.)

Lisa, when and how long are you going to be in town?

Jason, are you definitely going this weekend up in Rochester?

Hey, don't knock masturbation! It's sex with someone I love. -Woody Allen

Alright, I guess I'm not ready to quit yet. One more post. Only because I have the day off today.

At this point I figure that everyone else is either ignoring us because they haven't seen Midnight or ignoring us because they don't care. What I can't figure out is why Ben has been so silent. Where are you, Ben? Stick up for your "delightful" movie experience already! (although now I'm almost all argued out and ready to drop Midnight. Almost...)


You're right, Jason.

I meant "moral truth that is important to John."


I think I meant "all moral truth."

And I think that Midnight fails to deliver the goods. What little positive statement it may be making is forfeit by how it gets there.

Does it have a "moral?" (and this isn't quite what I mean by moral truth, but let's go with it.)

Sure. But, it's also got a tidy array of bullshit caricatures as the framework supporting it, draining whatever truth there is right out to the gutter.

"Learn to be happy where you are and with what you have"

Is that really the message of this movie? By the end of the film, the protagonist has abandoned his fiance, abandoned his career, and abandoned his home in favor of chasing a dream. He does not learn to be happy where he was or with what he had. You're right about the fact that this being a Woody Allen movie filters the way I see some of this, but it's very different than how you see it. I see a man who has left many lovers to go on to the next (often younger) lover, causing a lot of pain and heartache. I see him justifying what an asshole he is by making a movie in which everyone but the main character is a constant irritation. The audience "goes along for the ride" with Gil and is directed to sympathize with him, not with anyone else.

"Midnight in Paris challenges those of us who tend towards romantic or nostalgic idealism to acknowledge that there is potential for greatness and mediocrity in any age (and any situation?) and that running away from the present does not let you escape your own restlessness and dissatisfaction."

Okay, but this is a really shallow insight.

Also, like I pointed out above, I think that you're framing things wrongly here. Gil completely changes his present in order to be happy with it. He is revived by the Spirit of the '20s and decides to live by that Spirit in the present rather than live the same stifling way that he has been. He's not saved by escaping nostalgia. It is nostalgia that saves him.

"That it comes from Woody Allen, who is practically the king when it comes to dissatisfied and restless characters in his films, makes it that much more powerful a message. When Buddha says, "Be at peace," I say, "Easy for you to say." But when Woody Allen says, "Be at peace," I think, "This man knows what it's like to not be at peace." And I listen a lot more intently."

Again, I'm with you here, but I have to part company in the final analysis. It's partly because it's Woody Allen that I'm very skeptical when the protagonist finds happiness by leaving his fiance and walking off into the sunset (okay, the rain) with a pretty young girl. How long will it take before he realizes that all they have in common is sex and Cole Porter records? Maybe it'll take another trip back to the '20s to set him straight so that he can come back to the present and find another girl.

It's not about being at peace. It's precisely about finding the way forward through restlessness and dissatisfaction. Which may or may not be a fine conclusion. I just don't like how he gets there.

I'm done after this. Truce?

Ordinary Truth?

Here's an "ordinary" truth.

The color blue is different than the color red.

This is an ordinary truth no matter what your color blind friend may say.

Now, here's my proposal for a film.

90 minutes. Two shots. One shot of a blue wall. One shot of a red wall. The film alternates colors. 24 frames of red. 24 frames of blue. For 90 minutes.

There's your ordinary truth.

Except that you don't like "experimental" films like this. You've insisted in the past that you need narrative! You want something more than ordinary truth!

Narrative is necessarily moral. It must be. Because it is based on action and decisions and communication. Transformers 2 has a morality. Midnight in Paris has a morality. I think we're both agreed on that.

I guess my problem is that I find both to be overly simplistic and a bit skewed in the morality they are inhabiting and presenting.

I'm not even faulting you for liking them. I'm personally UNABLE to "enjoy the ride." It's quite tedious to me. Then again, I don't like roller coasters, either, so maybe I'm just UnAmerican or something.

I'll admit that there are pleasures in Midnight in Paris (I say as much in my first post). There are even some decent moments in Transformers 2. Overall, though, I'm dissatisfied by both and I think that I've done an okay job outlining why this is so in the last couple of posts.

I'm done with Midnight in Paris for now. At the very least I can give the film credit for keeping me excited about blogging for half a week. Maybe the Transformers comparison isn't quite right. Midnight in Paris may be closer to Inception; if only because I cared enough to hate on it for a while instead of easily dismissing it. Midnight in Paris may very well be the only Summer Movie worth wrestling with this year. I don't think anything opening in the next couple months looks even half as good as Midnight. We'll see.

-Captain Killjoy of the Extraordinary Truths Brigade

Monday, June 20, 2011

Back to the Future

The Seventh Seal received its North American debut in October 1958. Yet you list it as #2 on your 1957 list. I could go through all of your lists and point out several films like this. And not just foreign films. American films that had small releases or releases at the end of a year which most Americans at the time would have thought of as released the year they saw it and not the year before, even though we now date it by initial release.

I admit that I've just been goofing with the last few posts, but, seriously now, why change your criteria for dating a film based on its age? 50 years from now, most sane people will agree that Meek's Cutoff is a 2010 film. I'm just a prophet anticipating the future based on what we know of the past. I'm also aware that I probably won't convert you to my position any time soon. :)

Regardless of your position, Meek's Cutoff will still be a 2010 film and I will be vindicated in the future!!!!!!! :)

You're right, though, I'm in a really tiny minority with this opinion.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Did I mention that I hate Paris?

I lived there for a month in a nice little hostel around the corner from Notre Dame.

I've been to most of the touristy places in the movie.

It's not my favorite city in the world.

On to Jason's "feelings."

Jason wrote: "Like I said, I didn't get all the references."

Right. This doesn't cancel my point. It confirms it. You didn't get all of the references, but Allen flatters you. He treats you like you're in the know with him. He rewards you with broad strokes. There's an easy welcoming flattery. At least we're not pedantic.

You're on the artsy-fartsy fringe, but you have some "basic knowledge" of the characters. Allen plays easy caricatures and hits a homerun.

"Does every movie need to be challenging?"

No. But, if not, it should at least have a guy on a horse, some guns, and a girl worth fighting for. Even then, it ought to ring of some (dare I say it!) moral truth in order to satisfy.

Not Hemmingway and Dali and a Mia Farrow look-alike selling Cole Porter records.

Did anyone else think she looks a bit like Farrow?

I don't think I accused Allen of pretension like you think I did. Is the film genuine? Sure. Like I said, it's a piece of bourgeois fluff for bourgeois folk. If I'm not mistaken, I think Allen earnestly means every moment of it. You, too, feel the fluff, I believe, but that doesn't mean anything to me.


I just can't "feel" it.

I'll always lose in a battle of feelings. Every time.

I can feel it in my bowels. I need to poop now.



I haven't even read past your first paragraph, but here's a quick jab at your nose.

If that's how you want to date things, then FINE! Meek's Cutoff had its U.S. debut in NYC last October in 2010! Not 2011! Just like King Kong had its debut in NYC in 1933. But, I saw them both in the Bing./Ithaca area in 2011. Do you know for a fact that King Kong played in Binghamton theatres in 1933 or was it just NY and other big cities? I think that 2011 may have been its wide release. If you're sticking to Meek's Cutoff as a 2011 film, them I'm sticking to Kong as a 2011 film.

This has been fun, but I'm really waiting for Ben or Jason to stand up and defend that pile of nostalgcrap that is Midnight in Paris.

I'm gonna actually go and read your Meek's Cutoff post now.


The Lower Depths is not going to be streaming much longer:

Streaming and DVD (Streaming until 6/21/11)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Lower Depths

Sorry, Jeff. I don't have much to say about The Lower Depths. I liked it enough. It's a strong film, but one that I can't seem to feel strongly about. I agree with you about the friendship angle. I agree that there's some class commentary going on. I won't argue about Renoir being one of the first great directors in film history. I will simply say that there is some sort of flaw in me in that I can't get into his LitFic style. I feel like I'm reading some great fat Modernist novel when I'm watching one of his films. The truth is, though, that I'd rather be reading something a bit pulpier. What interests me most is what happens at the center of or in the margins of genre fiction. Big ideas and/or strong characters. Poor people rising above their situation is fine and all, but there's something lacking in The Lower Depths. What's the point of The Lower Depths? Being poor sucks, but laying in the grass is really nice sometimes? Sure. I get that. I enjoyed all that. But, so what?

[I may seem to sound negative about this film, but I did enjoy it at least as much as The Blue Angel and do think that it's a fine film. I guess I'm just itching to watch another Western. Destry Rides Again, here I come!!!]


Brandon, Jeff, Lisa:'
You guys need to see Midnight in Paris. I'm either completely right or I'm a terribly grumpy old man. That's a false choice. I'm definitely completely right AND a terribly grumpy old man. I'd still like to know what you guys think!

After Midnight

A few more thoughts on Midnight in Paris...

About my first point in my last post:
The film is flat-out flattery of its audience. Allen is telling us spectators repeatedly how smart and in-the-know we are. Besides our protagonist, the characters in this film are broad caricatures. The "pedantic" guy who we can feel contempt for. The stifling fiance we can resent. The neanderthal almost-in-laws we can sneer at. The cute junk shop girl who likes Cole Porter who we can crush on. All of the '20s characters we can be affirmed by. Jason is right to call this film a fantasy, but I'd argue that it's a simplistic art nerd's wet dream. Really, Midnight in Paris is the Transformers 2 of art-house Summer Cinema. It's entertainment that reinforces all of our cultural notions of how great we are as persons without being in the least bit challenging. Welcome to the art-house circle jerk.

Sorry, guys. I think I hated this movie.


On to other conversation...



You only disagree about 2011 because your dating system sucks.

By your system, I'm going to maintain that King Kong is the best film of 2011. Never mind that it played elsewhere in the world at an earlier date. Um, 1933. Nah, I saw it in 2011 so it must be a 2011 film. It reached Binghamton in 2011 anyhow. I'm sure that Rohmer's The Green Ray will be high on my list, too, later this year. And all those Joel McCrea Westerns I've been watching. Great 2011 films. This IS a great year after all.

Brandon and Jeff,
Agreed on Ace in the Hole. Definitely much better than Network. But not nearly as good as A Face in the Crowd. You both need to see Kazan's A Face in the Crowd. It's definitely the best thing that Andy Griffith ever did. If you only know him from Maybury or Matlock, then you're missing out.

I didn't make it to game night. You've probably already figured that out.

Two things.
1) A Scanner Darkly is my favorite Linklater film. School of Rock is a close second. I haven't seen Sunrise or Sunset and have no plans to do so any time soon. My complete disinterest is likely to get me roughed up around here before your respectful dislike is going to rile anyone up. Now, if you don't like The New World, there may indeed be a ruckus. :)

2) My stereotype of indie films isn't exactly that they "all deal with adultery." It's more like they "all deal with infidelity" and rarely truthfully deal with it as something damaging to all involved.

Yup. I'm not interested in this summer's Blockbusters. I'll have to look at the Dryden schedule and make you up an alternative summer schedule. As you can see from my Midnight in Paris post, though, I guess I'm not all that interested in this summer's Art films either. I guess it's back to watching 60-year-old Joel McCrea westerns for me. Or 80-year-old action movies with giant gorillas. Or maybe I'll even re-watch those two great Westerns from LAST year, True Grit and Meek's Cutoff.


Nostalgia Shop

I'm gonna be the hater.

Midnight in Paris fell flat in front of me.

Keep in mind two things:

1) I saw this with a packed house at Cinemapolis on a Friday night. I hated sitting with that audience as they raucously laughed knowingly at each carefully calculated literary/cultural reference in the film. As much as Allen's film may mock the one "pedantic" character (I forget his name), the film is carefully crafted to appeal to our hipster psuedo-intellectual selves. Us failed English majors feel SO smart as we watch this film. Makes me want to puke. I realize that this reaction then puts me in the dangerous place of thinking that I'm better than everyone else in the audience because I got the references AND I'm just way too cool to go along with the fun like everyone else. So be it.

2) SPOILERS. The "time travel" gimmick had already been spoiled for me. It's still charming. It just loses a lot of its power when the surprise is gone. I wish I could have walked into this one fresh.

There's plenty to like in Midnight in Paris, but I just can't jump on the praise wagon with Ben and Jason. Allen has made a fun little bourgeois film for a bourgeoisie audience, reinforcing how safe and fun our tidy world is. Welcome to the Nostalgia Shop.

-Bourgeois John

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I enjoyed this.

HOW MICKEY MOUSE BEAT THE SHIT OUT OF THOMAS JEFFERSON Even if you hate every Troma film there is, you've got to love their style. Listen to Lloyd.

One of my favorite books is Lessig's Free Culture. Check it out.

Binghamton - Summer Plans

Also, Binghamton Classic Films:

I'll be there:

July 9th
Dangerous Corner (Rosen, 1934)

(This is a must-see. Dangerous Corner has been on TCM before, but not recently and it is completely unavailable on DVD OR VHS)

August 13th
Trade Winds (Garnett, 1938)

(This one is also unavailable. It recently aired on TCM in May. Anyone seen it or have a DVD-R of it?)

Cornell - Summer Plans

The summer schedule is up:

I'm planning on going to the following:

July 1st
Film Socialisme
13 Assassins

July 11th
Le Rayon Vert

I'm not 100% certain about the 1st, but I'll be doing all that I can to make it on the 11th (which is also my birthday; I can't think of a better birthday present to myself than seeing a 35mm print of what many consider to be Rohmer's finest film, projected at my favorite local cinema).

Yes to Destry

One more thing...

I'm totally behind Destry Rides Again as next week's pick.

Fighting Temporary Blog Apathy

It's Summer. I've had things to do.

I've also been enjoying reading a long novel instead of staring at a screen.

I haven't had much desire to write here.

I definitely haven't had any interest in seeing any Summer Blockbusters.

I've seen two films recently.


Cyrus was much sweeter than expected. The film fails only because it feels like an extended riff on the kernel of a sketch-comedy-show-idea instead of a fleshed-out exploration of what is really a seriously interesting and complex situation.


King Kong was more awesome than expected. You guys missed a real treat. It is the Summer Blockbuster that should be playing at Regal.


I'll be watching The Lower Depths soon.

Friday, June 10, 2011

My Man Jeffrey

Peter Bogdanovich recently posted on My Man Godfrey. If you're not reading Blogdanovich, you should be!

Club's been quiet.

I haven't watched any films since Blue Angel.

My only viewing has been the last few episodes of Smallville Season 3 and an episode of Robin Hood.

King Kong tomorrow night.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Lack of Inhibition

More on Blue Angel - interacting with Jeff a bit.

It's late. I'm having trouble sleeping. I agree with you, Jeff, in your description of Dietrich. It is the easy confidence which is striking.

I do think that there is some indication that her character may have legitimately fallen for Teach based on his acting nobly toward her. She's not all bad and not entirely predatory.

As far as the film being close to a silent film, I agree totally. Von Sternberg, like King Vidor or Alfred Hitchcock or Chaplin knew how to tell a story visually and continued to do so skillfully into the talkie era. Confidently. In a way that far too few directors are capable of today. That said, Sternberg's use of sound is far advanced over what his contemporaries were doing. I've seen enough films from 1929 specifically and the early '30s in general to judge that Blue Angel has a great soundtrack. Particularly interesting is the "blocking off" of sound, most noticeable when the dressing room door would open and close, giving temporary access to the sounds on stage while open and closing off the characters in relative silence while closed. As you note, the singing is important and provides a commentary on the themes and relationships. Just in general, the film sounds good compared to some other films from the period which sound awful.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Hangover 2

Skip it.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


There's a handful of Westerns on NWI that are only available through tomorrow. I was able to see Jacques Tourneur's Wichita today, but I think I've got to let the rest go. Goodbye Joel. Goodbye Randolph. Goodbye Burt. Goodbye Glenn. I'll see y'all some other day.

Wichita is a good enough little Western chronicling an imagined first law office for Wyatt Earp. Earp has to clean up the town and he does. I'm satisfied.

Blue Angel

Spoilers, of course.

I need to confess that this is my first Von Sternberg film, my first Emil Jannings film, and my first pre-Code Dietrich film.

It's easy to see why Dietrich was an international success. She shows off her legs and underwear for nearly all of the film. The audiences didn't flock to Jannings' face. But, what a face! The whole story of a sad-sack teacher getting on in age suddenly discovering chivalry and romance with a burlesque whore is as magnificently achieved as it is far-fetched. The greatest moment comes during the wedding feast as The Teacher is fully transformed into a Cock following his animal instincts, temporarily liberated and emboldened, though soon to be shackled by that same baseness. I also love the early Clown, who mournfully moves through the first half of the film as a silent witness and prophetic warning.

It's worth discussing Dietrich's role further, but I'll leave that to the rest of you. I'm looking forward to your posts.

Friday, June 3, 2011

June 11th - Film Club Event?

Binghamton Classic Films is showing a 16mm print of King Kong at 7pm on the 11th at BCC. I'll probably be taking my three oldest girls.

Anyone else interested?

Free Silents - This Saturday

I'm not sure if I'll be able to make it to this.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Thanks to a crazy overnight shift and a strange sleep schedule today, I'm a few episodes into Season 2 of BSG. The 2-part Season 1 finale pulls together a lot of threads and answers some questions. I was impressed by the MAJOR SPOILER pregnancy reveal. Wow.

Now, I've got to track down some webisodes.

NWI Selection Sucks As Usual, But So What? Let's Do This.

Top Five Films I'd Like to Watch or Re-Watch
From Each Year of the 30s
Available on NWI
Listed Chronologically,
in Alphabetical Order


The Blue Angel (Von Sternberg)
Earth (Dovzhenko)
Murder! (Hitchcock)


Dracula (Browning)
The Front Page (Milestone)
M (Lang)
Reaching for the Moon (Goulding)
Svengali (Mayo)


Bird of Paradise (Vidor)
Number 17 (Hitchcock)
Rain (Milestone)
Scarface (Hawks)
Vampyr (Dreyer)


Duck Soup (McCarey)
I'm No Angel (Ruggles)
The Invisible Man (Whale)
The Private Life of Henry VIII (Korda)
She Done Him Wrong (Sherman)


Born to Be Bad (Sherman)
Imitation of Life (Stahl)
Judge Priest (John Ford)
The Man Who Knew Too Much (Hitchcock)
Triumph of the Will (Riefenstahl)


The 39 Steps (Hitchcock)
Black Sheep (Allan Dwan)
The Bride of Frankenstein (Whale)
Bulldog Jack (Forde)
She (Picel; Holden)


Dracula's Daughter (Hillyer)
The Lower Depths (Renoir)
My Man Godfrey (La Cava)
Reefer Madness (Gasnier)
Sabotage (Hitchcock)


The Edge of the World (Powell)
The Hurricane (John Ford)
Nothing Sacred (Wellman)
Seventh Heaven (King)
Young and Innocent (Hitchcock)


Alexander Nevsky (Eisenstein)
The Cowboy and the Lady (Potter)
La Bete Humaine (Renoir)
The Lady Vanishes (Hitchcock)
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (Dwan)


Destry Rides Again (Marshall)
Flying Deuces (Sutherland)
Gone With the Wing (Fleming)
The Rules of the Game (Renoir)
Stagecoach (Ford)

1930s - I'm in.

So, I just created a new simple site.

Top Ten Lists 1930-1939

I've added the pathetic 12 features that I've seen from '30-'39 since I've started blogging here. Why have I been ignoring the '30s? While reviewing my blog (which took way too long), I also came across a few pics from the '40s-'50s that I missed adding to that site, so that has been updated appropriately.

I'm just waiting for you guys to add '30s content and I'll keep the site updated. Maybe Ben, Lisa, and Jason will join in?

I've only seen 22 of the 100 that you've listed.

1930s talk excites me. 2011 sucks (I always think this about any given current year around about mid-Summer).

How do you feel about this?

At a certain time (say Saturday or Sunday), you pick a film from the 30s that you want to watch the following week that is available via NWI and post the name of the film to your blog. Some time that week, you watch that film. That film is also an assignment for the rest of us to watch. Some time that week, we will all try to watch that film. This way, we'll all be watching films at relatively the same time and we can actually discuss the movies that you're watching from the 1930s instead of the usual free-for-all here.

Get serious!


(I think that Brandon is currently living without NWI, but this is a minor problem since he's seen the majority of these films anyhow. Also, if we make him jealous enough, he'll cave and sign back up for NWI.)

Memorial Daze

Foreign Correspondent is Hitch doing things absolutely right. As usual. I can't think of any better way to spend a lazy Memorial Day afternoon.


The Man From Tumbleweeds is an early Joseph H. Lewis film. It's essentially kid's matinee quality acting and action, but the pre-Dirty Dozen "convicts released for a special mission" is a lot of fun and the story moves along at a nice Lewis clip, rising above similar B-grade oaters from the same period. At the very least, it makes for a really nice early evening cap to a festive Memorial Day.


I didn't care for 127 Hours. Blame it on the editing. Blame it on the script. Blame it on Boyle. You sure can't blame it on Franco.


We're almost done with Smallville Season 3. The Luther/Indian/Krypton direction that the show has taken is a bit lame, but it can't be Lana-Clark-Chloe love triangles all of the time. The best episode has been the Chloe Kryptonite fog truth serum episode. It's also the most ridiculous episode.


I'm almost finished with BSG Season 1. I'm still enjoying it a lot. There are a lot of threads that are really interesting to me. Cylon religion. Cylon emotions. Cylon sexuality. Cylon ethics. Human survival. I have a lot of questions and thoughts about all of the above, but Ben and Lisa are the only ones who would care and they couldn't discuss anything without getting into later season spoilers. Besides the themes above, I want to say that I love the models, the sets, and the special effects on the show. They're done right. I also like the "retro" 50s-ish feel of the series which I think may be easy to miss. Seriously, these characters SMOKE on a spaceship!


Adventures of Robin Hood continues to delight. I'll just repeat again how smart and funny these scripts are.


Meek's Cutoff's run at Cinemapolis is over. I've got a few more things I wanted to write about it and a couple of minor points to respond to Jeff with, but I've been lazy and mostly I've been waiting for Brandon's post. Stupid computer problems.