Sunday, July 31, 2011


Brandon is also on vacation.

I received this text message from him:

"hey can you update your blog and let everyone know that ill be on vacation for 7 day but to post away. i have my computer so ill have pages of shit by the time i get an internet connection."

I'll also be off-line from Monday through Friday, but I likely won't be watching or writing a thing.

Happy days.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cowboys and Aliens is silly and stupid and a lot of fun.

Michael Phillips summed it up nicely: "The component genre parts coexist, excitingly, without veering into camp or facetious desperation. Alien-invasion aficionados should be pleased. Western nostalgists may be pleasantly surprised. Fans of cowboys-versus-aliens movies, well, it's been a long wait and here's your movie."

I'm going on vacation. Be back in a week.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

10 Seconds

I'm unmotivated. Too much time on Facebook.

Super 8 is worth seeing. I've got to go back and re-read all your posts.

Breaking Bad is awesome.

Simpsons stuff sometime soon.

See everyone at SBTBC.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Proverbs 27:6

Thanks, Jeff.

I was really afraid that I was going to see another apology. Then, I'd really have to knock you guys on your asses.

I believe in monsters.

I've got another Batailles quote for y'all:

At last, one day at six, when the oblique sunshine was directly lighting the bathroom, a half sucked egg was suddenly invaded by the water, and after filling up with a bizarre noise, it was shipwrecked before our very eyes. This incident was so extra- ordinarily meaningful to Simone that her body tautened and she had a long climax, virtually drinking my left eye between her lips. Then, without leaving the eye, which was sucked as obstinately as a breast, she sat down, wrenching my head toward her on the seat, and she pissed noisily on the bobbing eggs with total vigour and satisfaction.

That doesn't have much to do with anything except that I've read Story of the Eye and think that Batailles is a joke.

You think that it's childish to believe in monsters? I think that it's foolish to forget what you once knew to be true: There be monsters.

Then again, your "progress" makes sense. You can't continue to believe in a dragon slayer if you've convinced yourself that there are no dragons.

It's so hard not to respond to off-topic topics. I'm really trying to abide by my last post, but I'm afraid that this post of mine has nothing to do with movies. I guess it has to do with movie club talk. I've restrained myself a lot, but I still need to let out a mini-rant.

I know that you guys are trying to throw me a bone by identifying me as one of the "good" Christians, but I firmly resist your patronizing. It's insulting. It's worse than straight-up name-calling and arguing differences of opinion.

I'm one of the "bad" ones. I believe those dogmatic beliefs that you have rejected. I'm numbered among the crazies. The ones that you're too smart to go back to now.

Enough hippie shit.

Let's stop patronizing each other, okay?

And let's start talking about movies again.

Proverbs 17:28

I'm with Ben on this one.

I'm all for talking about religion and politics and anything else when it relates to specific movies. My archives are full of such moments. I'm fine with autobiographical information. Who we are, where we have been, what we believe, and what we have done all affect how we approach a film. What we eat for lunch on a given day can affect how we feel about a film we watch later in the day.

There is no neutrality. No exceptions for amateur armchair film criticism.

Chris and others, I'm fine with what you've posted so far, but you'll have to excuse my not responding to any rants.

The temptation is to go through and respond point for point to all of these posts.

The inevitable result is that we talk less and less about movies [or TV :), --I'm thinking about unilaterally acting to change our name from "Film" Club to "Motion Picture" Club in order to justify my recent extended excursions to TV Land].

I've already made my opinions known regarding going too far off-topic.

However, I'm also with Brandon on this one. "I’m glad we can talk about this stuff openly, it fits into our club." Absolutely. I'm not trying to shut anyone up. I just want to make sure that the discussion remains (mostly) movie-centered.



A few quick responses:



Brandon wrote:
"I would also offer that APOCALYPTO continues Gibson’s belief that we only enter into grace and holiness through pain and suffering. It’s also a really good chase movie. I think some of you will agree with me on this one. John certainly doesn’t."

Actually, I do agree, especially with your first sentence. My problem with Apocalypto had more to do with the frat boy dialogue and the reliance on cliched nick of time rescues. I remember being harsh toward it. I've softened a bit since then.

I'm not quite a Sarris auteur theory guy, though I do hold that the director is most often the PRIMARY author of a film. My statement was meant to be broader. I think that Gibson is (and has been for a long time) working on the level of "auteur" in all that he does. He owns every role that he has been in. He has selected specific roles and then further roles that comment on the earlier roles. He has most often been in control of his career. There are plenty of "actor auteurs" like this, but few become directors. He is most like Eastwood in this regard. I'm hoping that he still has greater things to come, but it's hard not to think of Passion of the Christ as his Unforgiven or Gran Torino, participating in and commenting on all of the cinematic acts of senseless violence that he had participated in over the previous 20+ years.

I don't believe that art can ever be "neutral." I do agree that "religion is a big part of film."

I loved Birth of a Nation when I watched it 11 years ago. It literally changed the way I watch movies. Does that make me a racist?



It's always good to see you back here.

Tree of Life is definitely more "accessible" the second time through.

You're right about Cold Souls.

The more I think about it, the more I think that The Happening may be Shyamalan's best.

I'll catch up with all of those superhero movies eventually. Green Lantern's currently playing at the local $2 theater and I'm hoping to see it before its run ends there.



Despite what I wrote above, feel free to rant loud and often. And quit apologizing. You guys apologize too much.

I do want to respond to one Passion-related point that you made:
"The Passion is a bad movie - in my opinion - not due to the technical aspects of it...but MAINLY due the story and the message. This has a lot to do with my religious beliefs but like I told Brandon, I don't think it's the sole reason. Look at the story without the religious context - what do you have?"

I actually completely agree with this. There is no story without the context. This is one "flaw" of the film that is often mentioned. Gibson himself doesn't do enough to provide a framework or context for the events depicted onscreen. This is one aspect of the film, though, that makes the film most interesting to me. Passion is almost an experimental film. Its narrative begins at the end of a story and rarely gives any sense of a beginning. Gibson had a singular vision with this film and largely stuck to that vision (I remember feeling that the flashbacks are some of the weakest moments in the film). There's more to be said here, but I guess I'll wait and see if I ever get around to re-watching the film.



Your response is great. Points a and b are both valid and I do understand why someone would not be on board with the film for these reasons.



The last time we heard from you, you wrote that you were going to a bachelorette party. That was 3 days ago. At what point should we call the police?



What do we need to do to convince these neanderthals to watch Black Death? Maybe we need to make an ultimatum? Set a date beyond which spoilers shall abound?

Have you seen The Last Exorcism yet? I don't think that it's as good of a film as Black Death, but I like it just the same and think that it's worth talking about.


Put a fork in me. I'm done.

Monday, July 25, 2011

What it means to be a boy / What it means to be a Man.

I said that I was done, but I'm not done. I'm just frustrated that the conversation is less about aspects of the film and more about the peripheral context of the film. I don't write anything below that really changes that focus. I may need to re-watch this one.

Mel Gibson is an auteur. He has a strong and distinctive visual sense. He knows how to craft a film. He repeatedly explores (through his acting as well as his directing) the themes that matter to him.

Do I only care about Passion because it's directed by Mel Gibson? That's like asking if Jeff only likes Annie Hall because it's directed by Woody Allen.

The two things, director and movie, often cannot be separated. Of course, I only care about Passion because it was made by Gibson. Because Gibson knows how to make good films. No one else could have or would have made the same movie. It's as distinctively Gibson's work as Annie Hall is distinctively Allen's.

I just think that it's absolutely ludicrous to suggest that a talentless hack could have been behind this film.

Also, saying that there is "no other appeal" to the film is just wrong. The film is interesting in the context of Gibson's person and career, but it is also fascinating on its own and would be even if some unknown up-and-coming indie director had made the exact same film. The film is visually sophisticated and interacts with 2000 years of Christian art, 100 years of filmic representations of Christ, action movies, and man-on-a-mission movies as well as blazing boldly into the "torture porn" frontier.

I haven't addressed Jeff's reported concern about the film as Religious Propaganda, but I'll briefly assert that the film is less guilty here than, say, Midnight in Paris is guilty of Nostalgia Propaganda. Each film is going to necessarily have a viewpoint. The Passion of the Christ has one. Gibson opens the film with, "By his stripes we are healed." Then, he goes on to obsessively detail each "stripe.". I just don't see how this is any more propagandistic than any other film. It was co-opted by nutty church groups, but it wasn't really intended as a simplistic commercial for Jesus any more than Allen was making a commercial for nostalgia or Malick was making a commercial for life, as one recent critic put it. Allen did not set out with the purpose to make money for antique dealers. It would be weird if antique dealers bussed people in to see Midnight in Paris, but you really couldn't fault Allen for this if it happened.

Passion of the Christ is not a Propaganda Film. It is a meditative work of art.

Okay, I'm starting to convince myself to re-watch this film.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Breaking Bad Club

I've watched S4E01 a couple more times. I'm excited about episode 2 (will watch it tomorrow). Could you guys maybe keep the film talk down a little bit? At least for the next several months while Breaking Bad is on?

The Blind Leading the Naked is my favorite album of all time and has nothing to do with the contents of this post.

[I wrote all of this earlier this afternoon before I read the most recent posts from Brandon and Chris. I'll probably drop out of this conversation now. I haven't seen the movie in 7 years and so can't really discuss/defend specifics. 7 years ago, I mostly disliked the film and wanted to distance myself from the mania. There are a few things that I really respect about the film and I love Gibson for making it. Like Brandon, though, I'm a bit tired of defending a movie that I don't really care about. I know that it's high on my list, but I could toss every one of the films on my list into the trash and feel just fine. I only made the lists because Brandon was making Aughts lists at the time. I meant it when I said that I don't care about 2004 or the Aughts (or rather the early-mid Aughts, as Brandon rightly pointed out).]

Mel Gibson set out to make a feature length film about Jesus being tortured and killed. He lifted his "facts" straight from a crazy nun's diary and the Gospels. He cast mostly complete unknowns. He had his characters speak Aramaic and initially planned to show the film everywhere without subtitles. He was coming off of a super successful career and was well-loved for movies like Payback and What Women Want (not to mention all of his earlier work that had become part of the pop culture consciousness). I'm pretty sure that he thought that he would lose all of his money on this "vanity" project. It wasn't until much later that the waves of support arrived to make the film a cultural cash cow.

Kirk Cameron? To borrow Franky Schaeffer's phrase... he's addicted to mediocrity.

Surely, you're joking when you bring up Cameron. The Jesus Junk Shop folks who peddle mediocre "Christian" entertainments are much easier targets for accusations of cashing in on baptized fads than Gibson's crazed attempt at redemptive violence. These evanjellyfishes, my poor brethren, can't tell the difference between a piece of the true cross and a piece of the true kitsch.

The only thing that Passion of the Christ and Left Behind have in common is what most baptoid xians can't see--that they're both based more on 19th century fictions than on the Bible. If only Emmerich and Darby/Scofield could be receiving those royalty checks, right? I guess Lahaye/Jenkins and Cameron are doing alright for themselves. They're talentless hacks with a shallow scam, even if they've convinced themselves that they believe it all. They're gutless and make gutless films. Gibson, on the other hand, knows how to sin boldly. And he knows how to make motion pictures boldly. And I think that, as bad as he may be at times, and as much of a laughingstock as he has become, he probably knows more about grace then he lets on.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Jeff's 1953

Jeff, I added your list to the google site. I'm happy to see it there. I haven't seen any of the foreign films on the list. I can let you borrow I Confess. It's really good "minor" Hitch. It's been way too long since I've seen The Naked Spur. I think that Brandon has a TCM rip. I think that Pickup on South Street was the first Fuller film that I'd ever seen. It's great. Roman Holiday is probably my favorite romantic comedy of all time.

1953 is a special year. If you go all the way back in my archives to my first post, in July 2008, you'll find my review of Four Sided Triangle, a film from 1953 that no one cares about. It's definitely not going to de-throne any of the films on your list, but it's worth checking out. I'll always remember it as the film that launched Chasing Pictures.

Do any of you (maybe Ben?) know much about these Google sites? I can't seem to get the formatting to work properly. It changes all of the time depending on what computer/device I'm using and/or what browser I'm using. I just can't seem to get the years to line up where they should.

List Criteria

That's easy. The "best" movies of the year are always MY personal favorite movies of the year ranked in whatever order suits my whims on the particular day that I make a list. Sometimes, it's easy to rank films. Sometimes, it's gut-wrenchingly difficult. Regardless, my lists are always right. And always really wrong.

It's time to start saying mean things about Jason.

That always gets him back to blogging after he's been gone for too long.

Token contribution to the 2004 talk.

Here's the list I made two years ago:

Top Ten Films of 2004

1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
2. The Incredibles
3. The Five Obstructions
4. The Passion of the Christ
5. Undertow
6. Collateral
7. Million Dollar Baby
8. The Terminal
9. Saw
10. Primer

Honorable Mentions: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, Supersize Me

Most overrated: Spiderman 2

Singled out for hate: Sideways

I haven't watched any of these movies since 2004-2006 when I first watched them. I haven't watched any of them more than once.

Brief comments:

1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
You guys have already talked this one to death.

2. The Incredibles
I skipped this one when it first played and didn't see it until I won a DVD copy by correctly answering the "brain buzz" trivia question that we'd listen to (and call in to) every morning at my work up in Buffalo. I like it. It's better than 98% of all other superhero movies.

3. The Five Obstructions
Probably my favorite Von Trier film and the only one that I would recommend unreservedly. Abby insists that I fell asleep to this and never finished it. I think I finished it.

4. The Passion of the Christ
This is definitely a movie that is "cool to hate." I saw this with my friend Ben after a session at the Buffalo Brewpub. We had fun pretending that we were going to see a Summer Blockbuster and shared a giant tub of popcorn. There's plenty to criticize about all the events and people swarming around the cultural phenomenon that this movie was. [Aside: I especially find the evangelical orgiastic response peculiar considering the source material for the film. This film is really only very loosely based on the Gospel narratives. The Passion of the Christ is actually an adaptation of the "mystical" visions of a 19th century nun, Anne Catherine Emmerich. Besides that aspect, churches bussed in vans full of people to pack the theaters for this bloodbath. The irony of all of these folks flocking to an R-rated "torture porn" flick was apparently lost on all involved. On the other hand, so many critics jumped on top of one another to be the loudest to condemn the violence in this film, somehow forgetting all of the times that they'd gone to bat for equally gruesome films.] The film itself, though, taken on its own terms, is a marvel. Gibson's earnestness and sincerity shine through. Gibson films the Passion narrative as a war film and takes no prisoners. It's easy to hate Gibson. He's a complete screw-up and wears his sins on his sleeve. I'll still see anything with his name attached. Beaver, anyone?

5. Undertow
Oh, David Gordon Green, I wish you had watched Reefer Madness as a child and been scared sober. Judd Apatow can hang. Film nerds want you back!

6. Collateral
This might be my favorite movie of the year if it didn't fumble so horribly in the end.

7. Million Dollar Baby
I don't know. I only "kinda" like this.

8. The Terminal
I'm in a small minority that really loves this film.

9. Saw
Perfect double feature with Passion of the Christ, no? I liked this when it came out. I haven't seen it since.

10. Primer
I can't remember much about this one. I know that Ben loves it. I have his copy (borrowed since last Fall), which is probably the only reason why he hasn't re-watched it recently.

Okay. I'm done.

I haven't seen:
Before Sunset, The Motorcycle Diaries, The Life Aquatic, The Aviator, The House of Flying Daggers, Bad Education, Kill Bill V. 2, Dig!, Shaun of the Dead, Hotel Rwanda, A Very Long Engagement, Garden State, Crimson Gold, The Dreamers, Saved!, Wicker Park, The Door in the Floor, In the Realms of the Unreal, Spring.. and Spring, or most other movies honorably mentioned. I do remember falling asleep during Coffee and Cigarettes and never going back and finishing it. Lisa, I also really enjoyed I, Robot.

I really don't care much for the Aughts. I do still completely stand by my Top Ten Films of the Aughts List. Those are the films that I'll take away from the decade. Most of the rest can burn.

Quick clarification.

It was Gale's murder that I was referring to. It is equally valid, though, to say that Victor's death sets the tone for the season. This pair of deaths together really accomplishes a lot. Jesse has blood on his hands. Walt means business. Gus means business.

Listen to the latest Previously On... podcast episode for a good discussion on these two deaths. I just listened to it this morning. The next best thing to having a geeky conversation is listening to other nerds have a geeky conversation.

Friday, July 22, 2011

I don't care if you're finished with Tree of Life.

Tree of Life isn't finished with you.

My own Tree of Life post was going to be about innocence and experience, about The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, about boundaries and maturity, about death and bridges, and about penis fish.

Skip my post.

Below is a link to the best article/essay/review that I have yet read on Tree of Life. It's also easily the best piece of film criticism, in general, that I've read all year.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

You had it set to whore.

Homer shooting Marge in the face with the make-up shotgun is also really funny.

Briefly, Walt and Jesse may never truly be in danger, but there have been lots of times when I've felt STRONGLY that there's no way out of this particular situation, then the writers astonish me again. The murder/cliffhanger of Season 3 was only possible because of our two (anti)heroes being threatened by death. The story had gotten INTENSE. The stakes are always high and I'm not as confident as you that our two leads are beyond sudden death. Anyhow, that murder sets the tone for all of Season 4. And I'm diggin' it.

I'm going to have to re-watch Season 3. I remember the "left turn" mid-season that seems to bug you so much, but I wasn't ever bothered by it.


Jeff, I'm failing 30s Club. I tried to watch Rules of the Game and fell asleep. I really like the movie and was excited to watch it again IN THEORY, but I lose interest every time I actually sit down to watch it.


I also haven't watched a single episode of The Twilight Zone. My episode a day plan was clearly stupid.


Since I've been back from vacation, I haven't wanted to watch anything. Except for Breaking Bad and The Simpsons. I was talking to Brandon yesterday about how nothing looks good. The cinemas are full of crap. Redboxes are full of crap. NWI has a wealth of options and I can't bring myself to care. I don't want to discuss 2004. Blah.


I am thinking of taking the girls to see Winnie the Pooh next Tuesday morning. Maybe that will make me feel better.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

TV Club - No More Lousy Pajamas.

I don't care about Harry Potter.

I read the first book for a Senior Seminar class about contemporary literature. That was in Y2K. The book is fine. I read the next one or two books in the series. I never got excited about them.

I've been bored by all of the films that I've seen in the series. I'm not trying to be difficult. I want to like these movies. I want to be a Potterphile. I've enjoyed some isolated moments in some of the movies, but mostly the set pieces are uninspired and the emotional reality is lacking.

I also hate the Jackson LotR adaptations. Jackson is a hack. Brandon and I have already had these arguments. It could be that I love the books so much and don't want to see them altered. But, that's not it. I love the 12 hour BBC radio adaptation from a couple of decades ago.

Now that that's out of the way, let's get back to TV Club.


I agree that Lard of the Dance is just an okay episode. That's why my post about it was only about the one brilliant line that I had to immediately rewind and play over to make sure that I had heard it correctly.

The rest of the episode is mostly disposable (though I'd like to visit North Kilttown).

The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace has some good gags in it. I like the toilet recliner. I enjoyed Homer's Edison fascination.


I guess I don't share your concerns about credibility in relation to Breaking Bad's plot. The entire series is in-credible. It's a little late to start nitpicking now. Breaking Bad has always operated at an heightened level of reality that can only be described as "pulpy." Breaking Bad is a genre show working within genre boundaries. Credibility matters only to the extent that we need to believe that each action flows necessarily (however unbelievably) out of the last action.


I saw Tree of Life again tonight. It's better the second time. I wanted to mention something last time, but I wasn't sure if I was dreaming it since no one else mentioned it. The most gonzo moment in the movie is when the penis fish chases the vagina fish. It's there. My fear is that Malick shot that sequence with a straight face. I hope not. I had a lot more new serious thoughts about the film, but I want you guys to focus on those fish for now.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

MZS, Box Cutter

MZS on Breaking Bad S4E01:

Monday, July 18, 2011

Broke Bad: Extreme Measures

S4E01 is not a disappointment. Interestingly (or maybe naturally and of coursely), Jesse Pinkman becomes the conscience of Breaking Bad. If we're not killed, we wish we were so. The stakes continue to be raised. There's only so much bluffing here before a pair of deuces is called out for what it is. The main action in the meth lab is everything it should be, down to the box cutter to the neck. Skyler hunting for her husband is a bit of a surprise, though, right down to (and specifically revealed in) the weaponizing of her baby. We've all broken bad at this point and Hell is a constant companion. Let us now burn loud and long.

For my money (none spent so far), Hank's shitting in a bedpan is the heart of the episode and absolutely necessary. I'm excited to see how this all develops.

Badly broken,


"Without the grease, all you can taste is the hog anus."

That's a funny and memorable line. Hot Dogs = Hog Anus. Brandon loves it. And the rest of you carrot suckers. Veggie Delight.

Pass me another hog anus.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

You spoiled it for Hitler, too.

Put your wands away, boys.

I just checked out NWI. Looks like they don't have Season 4 of the Twilight Zone. I've got it and can share. We'll have to arrange a special (usb) wand delivery sometime. I'll make sure Hermione isn't around.

I'll start watching Twilight Zone tomorrow night with ep. 83.

Tonight, I'm going to watch an episode of The Simpsons. While on vacation, I picked up a DVD set of The Simpsons Season 10 for $16. During Season Ten, I would have been in my second year of college and watching these episodes in the Shenawana dorm lounge with the other geeks. This would also probably mark the last Simpsons season that I watched fairly faithfully. As I told Jeff, I was there for the Premiere when I was ten years old in 1989. I was a Simpsons fan while you Potter-Heads were still crapping your diapers. Eat my shorts. I watched pretty faithfully up until I left for college. At college, I watched most of the time. After college, I watched random episodes now and then as my overall TV viewing decreased significantly. I could probably count on two hands the number of episodes that I've seen in the last five years. But now! Jeff and Chris have made me want to watch The Simpsons again and I found this season for $16.

So, stay tuned for future Simpsons posts.

What's up with all the love for this little Watson girl?

I know your secret. You guys are all giving her a pass because you like looking at her more than you like looking at weasel or popper. Just like popper, you jerks are spending way too much time trying to control your pubescent crushes. Go eat some jelly fart beans and grow up.

Dobby's Voldemort???!!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

Seriously, I don't care.

Dobby's dead???!!??!?!??!?!

Thanks for ruining the end of an era for me.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Siskel and Ebert are idiots.

I still miss them.

Here, they are completely wrong about one of my favorite movies:

Maltin joins the hate parade:

Doc Holliday, Pull My Tooth

I couldn't sleep well because of a toothache.

I watched the first half of Kasdan's Wyatt Earp after abruptly waking up at 3am and finding myself unable to fall back asleep. It took about an hour and a half to find blessed rest. I hadn't seen this movie in over 15 years. It's fair-to-middlin'-to-bad. I'll finish watching it tonight, but don't expect my opinion to change much once it's all over. (And, seriously, 3+ hours is way too long for any Western).

I miss Siskel and Ebert.

Chris, I remember briefly talking with Jeff about your Twilight Zone viewing. How many episodes in are you guys? I've seen them all (I think) multiple times and would love to re-view them. It'd be fun to do it together, but I'm afraid that you guys are either watching at a pace that I can't keep up with or are just enjoying a random, erratic pace. But, if you guys aren't going any faster than an episode a day and would like to commit to an episode a day, then I could hop aboard at whatever number you're at (starting Monday when I get back from vacation).

I do love Firefly in particular and Whedon in general.

It's been too long since I've watched Twin Peaks and I never did finish the whole thing.

I'm not planning on writing about previous Breaking Bad seasons (I do have a few posts here in the archives, but I was always cautious about spoilers because I kept hoping that Brandon would start watching). I am planning on writing about this upcoming season (though I'll be watching all of the episodes at least a day late). Spoilers be damned.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Two Days.


Lazy, Lazy Daze

It's been a laid-back vacation so far....

Cars 2 is a lot of fun. It's not going to blow your mind like Wall-E or steal your heart like Up or give you a nostalgia overdose like Toy Story 3. It does deliver the Pixar goods. Even "minor" Pixar is major movie-making.

I didn't watch any Westerns last night, but I did watch a lot of TV: Big Bang Theory (sorry, Ben, it still sucks), The Office (a sweet episode with Amy Ryan), 30 Rock (I'm not as much of a fan of this as you guys, but, sure, it's fine), Louie (with a cameo by Joan Rivers; I didn't like this, but I'd watch it again to be sure), and The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

My brain was a bit mushy after all that TV.

Abby went to a water park with the older girls and my nieces and my sister. That sounded awful to me. I stayed back and watched movies and lazed around.

This morning, I watched Night Passage, a 1957 Western starring James Stewart and Audie Murphy. It's most notable for featuring Stewart singing and playing an accordion throughout the film. It gradually eases into an examination of brotherly love and moral boundaries. There's nothing super deep going on here, but it's all enjoyable. I do love the title. It took me a while to realize that it had nothing to do with any of the action. There is one (and only one) important scene that takes places at night, but the title is referring to the development of a soul, I think, and not to anything else.

This afternoon, I watched My Darling Clementine. I might get shot for saying this, but I think that I may prefer the lean efficiency of Dwan's Frontier Marshall to the positively Baroque flourishes of Ford's Clementine. Don't get me wrong. Clementine is fantastic. Ford is a Master. No doubt. There's just something over-the-top about My Darling Clementine that keeps it from having any sort of gut-level impact. The cinematography is gorgeous, but it almost seems like Ford is directing an abstract Western, with bits and pieces to hang on walls, but nothing to worm its way inside of you. I'm pretty sure that Ford would punch me in the mouth for saying these things. I'd love to get into a fistfight with John Ford. I can't imagine much anything better than that. I might go lay in the sun now and dream of being beaten to a bloody pulp by that cranky son of a bitch John Ford.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I Would Have Posted This Last Night If I Hadn't Been So Thouroughly Distracted by Absinthe, Homebrew, and Intolerable Cruelty. No Mushrooms.

I had a good time with an old friend last night. I mentioned to him that Intolerable Cruelty was the only Coens film I hadn't seen yet. He helped me immediately remedy that problem! Quick thoughts? I loved it. I laughed so hard that I was curled up in a ball and close to crying during the courtroom scene. "That silly man!" "I LOVE TRAINS!" Also, the Wheezy gag is inspired. A couple of weeks ago, Brandon and Jeff and I were lamenting the death of smart comedies. Well, here's a smart one. It's about as screwballish as comedies get these days.


Now, some quick catching up and explaining that I'm on vacation....

Dangerous Corner has a smart script, some good actors, and is a decent stage-to-screen cinematic adaptation. The film explores when and if it always best to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

In some sense, it's 1934's Inception (though I liked this much, much more than Inception) in the sense that it's a conversation starter. I didn't love the film, but I think that it'd be fun to argue about it if ANYONE of you had seen it, too. Alas, no.

My biggest problem with Dangerous Corner is that I have a hard time caring about spoiled, wealthy, selfish folks doing horrible things with and to one another.


BSG Season 3 kinda sucks so far. Is this where Lisa stopped watching? Abby described it as "like a parallel universe" populated by the same characters we've grown to love, but completely different.


I'm on vacation right now. My goal is to watch at least one Western a day for the next five days.

Yesterday, I watched Allan Dwan's Frontier Marshall. I'm beginning to love 1939. Between King's Jesse James and Dwan's Wyatt Earp, the seeds were sown for a lot of great historically inaccurate Westerns to spring up over the next few decades. On a side note, it's interesting that Nancy Kelly plays the "faithful woman" in both of these 1939 Westerns. I had never seen her in anything else before this, but I looked her up after seeing her in two films so close together. She had an interesting career as a child actress, starred in a few big films as an adult, won lots of acclaim for The Bad Seed, then spent most of the remainder of her career working for the small screen.


Watching Q Planes was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. It's a modest little thriller from 1939 about missing airplanes. Everyone in it seems to be enjoying themselves immensely. I fell into an afternoon nap after watching it, the perfect condition in which to process such a movie.


I promise that I'll catch up with the 30s marathon by next week. Scarface sounds like a good next pick.


Now, more coffee, then the beach. Maybe Cars 2 tonight. Definitely a Western later. Ah, vacation!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Against Brandon's Wishes, the Tree of Life Chatter Continues

My brother-in-law Joel, whom most of you have met, wrote the following after seeing Tree of Life with some philosophy buddies of his. He sent it to me this afternoon. I'm re-posting it here, with his permission, with the hopes that maybe some of you movie nerds will interact with his thoughts. Then again, maybe we're all burnt out on Tree of Life. The "wide release" has turned into a joke. I'm on vacation on LI right now. Only 1 theatre, a small arthouse, is playing Tree of Life on the Island. Pathetic. I'm hoping to take Abby to see it next Tuesday evening back up in Ithaca. Maybe I'll write more. Probably I'll just try to find an online clip of the frog rocket and post that, because it pretty much sums up my feelings toward the film.

Everything that follows is from Joel...

Sorry for the wall of text, but I’m got tired of trying to piece the film together when I wrote this on Monday, and don’t really have the desire to edit what follows.

The only position on the film that, without seeing it a second time, I’m willing to go to the wall for is its insistence that both grace and nature are essential ingredients of our universe – it does not ultimately present grace as necessarily preferable or superior to nature. The way of grace, while initially very attractive, has problems. When taken to the extreme, i.e. in isolation from the way of nature, it hinders growth, development, and maturity. It obstructs evolution. Acts of compassion, forgiveness, and selflessness – I won’t say ‘love’ because I think true charity involves both grace and nature: the love of God is a consuming fire – are among the greatest acts humans are capable of, but without the backdrop of the way of nature they are essentially meaningless. Also, I interpret the selflessness attributed to the way of grace in the film to be something that is basically amoral – although it definitely has moral implications for people who find it in themselves.

In contrast, the way of nature is a large part of the reason we are all in graduate school. It’s the reason we don’t still believe in Santa Claus and the Easter bunny. It provides the hard-edge, the impulse to create something of your own, as well as the (dangerously) impassive drive for personal perfection. As with selflessness, I interpret the selfishness which characterizes the way of nature as a largely amoral force. For although the way of nature is responsible for much of the brutality seen in the movie, it is also identified with the beautiful pipe-organ and piano music played by Brad Pitt’s character and the skyscrapers designed by Sean Penn’s character. I take from this that there is at least some good in the way of nature which is not derived from the way of grace.

If I had to choose between a world completely based on the way of grace or a world completely based on the way of nature I would definitely choose the former, but the film doesn’t give us that option. It drops us into the middle of the story – into history. The purpose of the film then, as I see it, is to question how we got here and why we do what we do from the perspective of someone who is stuck in the middle of a story he didn’t write and of which he is ignorant of its beginning, ending, and purpose. From this perspective it’s pretty easy to see the parallels with Job.

This is also why I think the way of grace as seen in Jessica Chastain’s character isn’t an unqualified good. If we lived in a completely docile world, then her character might represent the ideal. But that’s not the world we’ve got.

Okay, so if Malick isn’t setting up nature and grace as being completely opposed and isn’t claiming something along the lines of grace eventually triumphing over nature, what is he doing? Short answer: I have no clue. Here are some things I’ve been thinking about, though.

I think I’ve already mentioned the interesting way in which the way of grace and the way of nature come together in the parents to create life, so I won’t dwell on that here. I will say, however, that as I interpret the movie, the terms “nature” and “grace” could almost have been replaced by “cosmic masculinity” and “cosmic femininity” in a more primitive, patriarchal society without doing too much violence to the film. And looking back on the film there are several images, such as the meteor hitting Earth, which, in a very-weird-way-which-I-don’t-really-want-to-think-about could be interpreted as sexual symbols. And then there are Sean Penn’s skyscrapers… I love continental philosophy.

Actually, forget that last paragraph. I think I might be wrong.

Also, I think some importance should be given to the final shot of the film – a bridge – as an image of the good that comes from ways of grace and nature working together.

And I think the shot of the meteor hitting the earth also could represent this kind of creation through the coming together of competing forces.

The productive coming together of nature and grace can also be seen in the scene where the father accompanies on the piano the music that the middle child is playing on his guitar.

I have a lot more I’d like to write about how nature and grace when seen from the proper perspective and balanced correctly in one’s life give one access to the tree of life, but I don’t feel up to writing it all down. If you want to talk about it further, let me know.

Okay. I’m sick of writing. And I’m pretty sure everything I’ve written is only half-right. It’s an intentionally messy film and we’re probably not supposed to be able to find a single, uncomplicated “moral” in it. I think the film itself may be best example of the ways of grace and nature coming together to produce something meaningful and beautiful. Like a symphony or a Gothic cathedral. While both forces are competing, they are also complimentary, and when they come together, the greatest monuments to life are produced.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Tree of Death

Tom Stempel wrote:
"The opening twenty minutes of the film establishes the O'Brien family, although we do not get their name in the film, and we know they have children, but who and how many we do not know. The main "event" in this section is the news delivered to the family that one of their sons has died, but we have no idea which son. Putting the news of the death at this point in the film (you could recut the film and place it much later, after the main body of the family sequences) gives it an importance that the rest of the film does not support. It is like putting a tuba solo in the first movement of a symphony and then only getting a few notes from the tuba in the final movement."

I think that this is right. During the car ride home, I mentioned that if this film is about something, then it is "about" the death of a son/brother. Stempel's post articulates the reasons why I felt this way-- because the film does, to a large degree, lead us in this direction. The opening moments establish this death as a Major Event. That opening promise is never fulfilled, though, and that's at least part of the reason why I felt cold toward Tree of Life.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Blogged-again Christian

Brandon wrote:
"I read today in Film Comment that Malick supposedly converted to Christianity in between THE NEW WORLD and TREE OF LIFE earning him some negative press from certain syndicate writers who were lucky enough to see the film at Cannes."

In Film Comment, Scott Foundas wrote:
"I found many of the film’s detractors clinging to the notion that Malick had, in the interval between The New World and this film, become a born-again Christian. That may well be the case, but, to these eyes, The Tree of Life remains an open, porous, searching work, unmistakably rooted in the tradition of religious art, and yet unbound by any one particular dogma. To which I would add that there seemed to be far less objection when, only last year, the Palme d’Or went to another meditative film about nature, death, and possible afterlives—Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives—perhaps because there is no right-wing Buddhist conspiracy suspected of plotting to undermine Western democracy as we know it."

I'm pretty sure that Brandon either misunderstood Foundas or wasn't as clear as he could have been in alluding to his article.

I've heard multiple accounts of Malick's religious upbringing, from Eastern Rite Catholic to Episcopalian. I don't think that there's anything to suggest a recent conversion (though a recent "re-commitment" surely could be possible). I also don't know that we'll get a clarification on this considering Malick's notorious reclusiveness.

For what it's worth, I think that The New World is a much clearer "Christian" film than Tree of Life. I'll try to defend that statement after the next time I watch it. Strong hints of Malick working in a distinctively "Christian" artistic tradition/style are evident early on, but then really blossom in Thin Red Line and everything that follows. I need to re-watch Thin Red Line.

At the very least, I think that we can all agree that Malick is operating in the Bergmanian tradition.

Ingmar Bergman wrote:
"There is an old story of how the cathedral of Chartres was struck by lighting and burned to the ground. Then thousands of people came from all points of the compass, like a giant procession of ants, and together they began to rebuilt the cathedral on its old site. They worked until the building was completed - master builders, artists, labores, clowns, noblemen, priests, burghers. But they all remained anonymous, and no one knows to this day who built the cathedral of Chartres."

"Thus if I am asked what I would like the general purpose of my films to be, I would reply that I want to be one of the artists in the cathedral on the great plain. I want to make a dragon's head, an angel, a devil - or perhaps a saint - out of stone. It doesn not matter which; it is the sense of satisfaction that counts. regardless of whether I believe or not; whether I am a Christian or not, I would play my part in the collective building of a cathedral."

Slowly recovering from June's binge blogging.

Some TV viewing:
A few episodes of BSG.
Episodes of Robin Hood that I've forgotten to write about.


The Peacemaker, a preachy 1956 Western, was fun to watch with Mildred early in the morning. It follows through on the "no guns" problem-solving that Destry couldn't quite maintain to the end. Destry is still the much better movie.


I haven't gotten to Rules or M. Too busy. Too much BSG.


I did catch X-Men: First Class at the Cinema Saver. And you know what? I'm not a complete grouch after all. I enjoyed this perfectly disposable piece of pop decadence. Take that, snobface.


Finally, I took my lovely bride to see Le Rayon Vert at Cornell yesterday. I want to write about it, but I don't want to spoil it (even though I doubt any of you will follow through and see the film; for some reason there is an aversion to Rohmer here).

But, two things.

1) My love for Le Rayon Vert proves that I am indeed a romantic. For such a talkie talkie, Rohmer slowly ratchets up emotional tension, raising stakes in what seems like such an insignificant and petty problem (say, compared to giant alien robots trying to destroy humanity), but which is a real problem nonetheless. Le Rayon Vert is about the relentlessly real devastation of loneliness Again, I'm not going to say much. Rohmer continues his project here of stripping away the masks and maneuvering that constitutes sexual relationships generally and the social lives of restless 20th century Parisian youths specifically.

The final images and the accompanying sounds are among the finest moments in all of cinema. You're all a bunch of turkeys for skipping this one. I dare you to watch this film and tell me that I'm wrong. Especially you bozos who liked the sickly pseudo-sweet "romance" of Midnight in Paris.

2) I am definitely a blind fan(atic) in regards to Rohmer's films. I've yet to see one that I haven't liked. Moreover, I can't imagine not liking one.


Brandon, I'm with you in loving Aldritch. Kiss Me Deadly is awesome. I'm a jerk for not watching Vera Cruz yet. Hopefully, next week.


Chris, welcome. To both Chris and Jeff, did you guys love The Simpsons Movie? I don't remember seeing it on Jeff's list, but maybe I'm just forgetting this. I loved it. I even have a Spider Pig t-shirt.


Lisa, happy birthday! (tomorrow, right?)
May your day be filled with corny, catchy showtunes and gloriously oblique inaccessible ones, too! Buy yourself a copy of Le Rayon Vert (aka The Green Ray, aka Summer) on DVD and pretend it's from me.


Jason, I'm going to try to plan a pilgrimage to the Dryden before the year is over. Don't give up hope. Film Club shall invade Rochester!!!


Ben, Google+ is the most inaccessible social networking site I've ever tried. An artsy-fartsy performance piece challenging and frustrating our desires toward virtual communication.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

MSZ answers all of our questions

Here's yet another reason to love Matt Zoller Seitz:

Your guide to Terrence Malick's "Tree of Life"

Friday, July 1, 2011

An hatched dragon killed Rosie Larsen

What's up with Ben spoiling TV shows?

Last night, he let slip a big reveal about Game of Thrones.

This morning, he sends me a link via Twitter, the opening sentence of which gives away an aspect of the finale of The Killing.

One more slip up and I may have to cut out his tongue and break all of his fingers.