Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Jean-Luc was right.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I like Stephen King.

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

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

I don't like any of 'em.

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

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

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

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

No relief.

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

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

I'm gonna need a palate cleanser tonight.

Monday, October 24, 2011

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

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

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

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Arguing, so what of it?

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

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

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

Ownership is still the best form of access.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I've pretty much stopped buying contemporary movies.

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

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

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

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

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

Brandon is Horrible

I don't know if Brandon has forgotten about his lists from two years ago.

Here they are:

we accept you john owen, we accept you, gooble gobble, gooble gobble

come play with us johnny: forsaken horror suggestions part 2

don't forget the bride

Brandon's Top Fifteen Horror Films (as of two years ago)

Top Fifteen Horror Films:
1. Night of the Hunter (Laughton)
2. The Shining (Kubrick)
3. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (Barton)
4. Vampyr (Dreyer)
5. Dawn of the Dead (Romero)
6. Jaws (Spielberg)
7. Cat People (Tourneur)
8. The Creature from the Black Lagoon (Arnold)
9. Halloween (Carpenter)
10. The Thing From Another World (Hawks)
11. King Kong (Cooper)
12. Rosemary’s Baby (Polanski)
13. Bride of Frankenstein (Whale)
14. The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas (Guest)
15. Nosferatu (Murnau)

And some great honorable mentions:

Critters 1 and 2,The Fly (Cronenberg and Neumann), The Hound of the Baskervilles (Lanfield and Fisher),Them!, Donald Duck and the Gorilla, Frankenstein (Whale), Dracula (Browning), Freaks, The Curse of Frankenstein, The Tingler, Black Sabbath, The Haunting (Castle), Black Sunday, Planet of the Vampires, Repulsion, The Virgin Spring, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Hooper), An American Werewolf in London, The Thing (Carpenter), Videodrome, Gremlins 1 and 2,Dead Ringers, 28 Days Later, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Descent, Psycho (Hitchcock), Dracula: Prince of Darkness, I Walked With a Zombie, The Most Dangerous Game, Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn, Don’t Look Now, Black Christmas, Wait Until Dark, Sleepy Hollow, Trouble Every Day, The Mummy (Fisher), The Pit and the Pendulum, Day of the Dead, The Burbs, The Last Man on Earth
The Seventh Victim, Near Dark, The Exorcist, Audition, Shaun of the Dead, Alien, Silence of the Lambs, Manhunter, Peeping Tom, The Seventh Victim, Curse of the Cat People, The Wolf Man, Night of the Living Dead, Dead Alive.

Two Lewton Productions

I'm jumping aboard the October Horror Bandwagon.

I kicked things off last night with a Val Lewton double feature.

I had seen I Walked With a Zombie several years ago. I was definitely enriched this time by having seen Jane Eyre (the 2011 edition) first. This is the movie that Jane Eyre always should have been.

I can't do any better than this ringing contemporaneous endorsement from the New York Times:

With its voodoo rites and perambulating zombie, "I Walked With a Zombie" probably will please a lot of people. But to this spectator, at least, it proved to be a dull, disgusting exaggeration of an unhealthy, abnormal concept of life. If the Hays office feels it has a duty to protect the morals of movie-goers by protesting the use of such expressions as "hell" and "damn" in purposeful dramas like "In Which We Serve" and "We Are the Marines," then how much more important is its duty to safeguard the youth of the land from the sort of stuff and nonsense that their minds will absorb from viewing "I Walked With a Zombie"? ? ?

Next up was The Body Snatcher. Some slow development is paid off richly once we get to the menacing Karloff scenes. The film's horror is distinctively non-supernatural.

Both films have easily earned a way into my Top 50 Horror Films of All Time. Now, I've only got 48 to go! :)

Just kidding. I'm not the Horror Hater that Brandon makes me out to be. I pretty much have the same taste in (pre-1960s) Horror that he has. I just haven't seen as much.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Wrote this yesterday.

Not much viewing lately. Except for BSG. Almost done with Season 3. It's been enjoyable, but I've lost a little interest.

The Thing From Another World at Brandon's place last night. That was pretty great. I have a newfound respect for the vegetarians in our group. Keep up the good fight.

Before last night, I hadn't watched a feature since I Confess at BCF on the 8th. I Confess is one of my favorite Hitchcock films. The "tightening of the noose" in it is really splendid. There really seems to be no way out. Add to that the delicious irony that our protagonist could clear his own name at any moment, if he'll only betray his convictions, and you've got a sublime little thriller. I really love Hitch's late 40s "transitional" films before he became an auteur superstar. [Edit: I Confess is '53. I really just meant all of the Hollywood films from Foreign Correspondent in '40 to Dial M For Murder in '54.]

I tried watching Operation Petticoat and The Titfield Thunderbolt. I gave up on each one after about twenty minutes. I might like Thunderbolt under different circumstances. I was sick and cranky and it seemed to be a pale shadow of the sort of "community matters" comedies that Ealing Studios had already done so well in Whiskey Galore! and Passport to Pimlico (probably my favorite Ealing comedy, even over Ladykillers). I should give Thunderbolt another chance. Operation Petticoat, though, is rubbish and gets no more chances.

On to chitchat...


Dr. Lisa,

Meet Joe Black makes me think of my maternal grandmother. She had a thing for Brad Pitt at the time it came out. And for Dean Cain, too. I can't see a picture of Dean Cain without thinking of my grandmother.

I'm burnt out on superhero movies. Green Lantern is one of the few I want to see. Sorry that you were disappointed. I'm afraid that I will be, too.

It's a sad day when the only thing my inner comic book nerd has to be excited about is Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner. Incredible Hulk fans have been long-suffering. At least we got Bixby/Ferigno in the 80s. While far from perfect, it was better than most.

I have no interest in Crazy Stupid Love or Midnight in Paris. Wait. What? I already saw Midnight in Paris. I guess I'm feeling nostalgic for a time in my life when I hadn't yet been stained by my disgust for the film.

Midnight in Paris is continuing a crazy stupid long run at Cinemapolis. About 5 months. I'm taking bets right now. Will Midnight still be playing when Take Shelter opens on Nov. 11th?



I love Back to the Future Part III. I love the whole series. If I was out walking the streets of Paris after Midnight, I'd hope to be transported back to the future.

The third film is essentially the first two films all over again, this time in a western/steampunk setting. This was released when westerns were supposed to be dead and steampunk was still far away from being the cool trend that it is today.

Part III was so far behind the times that it was way ahead of them.

According to the prophet Huey Lewis, "It's hip to be square."

You're right that I don't care for the Duplass bros.

I'm really just having fun with the whole mumblecore thing. It is fair to say that I'm not a "mumblecore fan." I just don't want that statement to be taken as a blanket statement that I don't find anything of worth there. I obviously do like some of what's happening. Certain films like Cold Weather and Beeswax deserve to be championed.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Flight of the Slithering Thing From a Colorful VHS Past

Brandon's TNT-infused colorized atrocity.

Good times.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Jeff, did you delete a '30s list? I went to add your two latest lists and only found one.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Imagining Spaces

[NOTE: I just noticed that Brandon has a new post up and Lisa has finally abandoned her foolish dreams in order to wade in the cesspool with us gutter freaks for at least tonight. Sorry that I can't keep up with these current posts. I'm going to bed. Here's what I wrote earlier.]

A response to all three of you losers. Jeff first. Then, Brandon. Finally, Chris. Ben doesn't get a response because I think that he's mostly in agreement with me even if he hasn't seen Drive.

"John, your post alone made me watch Cold Weather, so kudos."

I admit that this was and is my primary purpose in all of these shenanigans. I didn't want to be Ben championing Black Death for months before the rest of the group reluctantly gets on board. Love it or hate it, I just wanted Cold Weather to be seen.

"There is one point you made that really interests me. It is the idea that Katz is constructive whereas Refn is merely reconstructive."

I admit that I was being a bit hyperbolic in making the distinction (though I do try to clarify the distinction a bit below). There is nothing new under the sun. Both are recycling bits of something and making something else new.

"I would say that Cold Weather is as highly constructed as a “film” as Drive is. It is cinematic even if it is working within a model of purported realism between people."

I agree. But, Cold Weather is cinematic in the way that Bergman's films are cinematic or Ozu's films are cinematic. It is not cinematic IN THE SAME WAY that most people mean when Drive is described as such.

"He makes an admirable film, but not the subversive piece of cinema you create it to be. This is no more revolutionary to me than Drive is. If Katz is preparing a feast, he is using the same Sundance menu as most other indie filmmakers at the moment."

It's a quiet revolution.

Honestly, I'm not sure what is "revolutionary." This is the point in your post when I started to realize that you were either misreading what I wrote or that I just wasn't very clear or both.

As far as your Sundance slam goes, I just have to beg to differ. I don't watch a lot of "indie" films because whenever I do, I get a little disgusted. The "Sundance menu" makes me gag. Cold Weather may use some of the same ingredients, but the finished product is quite different. You do acknowledge this, but, still, a low blow.

"Just because one is filming personal relationships doesn’t mean one is somehow outside cinema."

I'm certainly not claiming this.

"The only way to refuse to play the cinematic game nowadays is to not make a film."

That's always been the case. By "refusing to play the game," I did not mean a "cinematic game," whatever that is. I only meant that there is no winking. There is no posturing. Cold Weather draws on its sources without either worshipping them or becoming them or pretending to be cooler than where it comes from. It is a slacker gumshoe movie. I don't think it ever plays like an "arthouse Holmes" in the same way that Drive could be described as an "arthouse neo-noir throwback" or Antichrist could be described as "arthouse torture porn" (I'm just going on what you guys have said on that second one. I still haven't seen Antichrist.)

Cold Weather could be described as a detective movie stumbling upon an early Linklater/Jarmusch movie, but it's faithfully operating within both of those molds without a hint of irony. It's not apart from those things, commenting on them. It's not commenting on those types of movies (except indirectly). It's also not trying to be better than them. It's maybe trying to be one of them and that's endearing.

On the other hand, I don't get the feeling that Drive wants to be shelved alongside Michael Mann thrillers and Taxi Driver. I feel like it wants to be in the Criterion Collection.

"Still, I understand the point you are trying to make though. You believe that Katz is working in the spirit of Truffaut, which I totally get."

Yup. I'm also definitely not saying that Refn is anywhere close to the level of Godard.

Basically, the point is that Godard was making movies "about" movies. Truffaut was making movies "about" Truffaut. The distinction breaks down because of course Godard's movies are "autobiographical" and of course Truffaut's films are shaped by the movies he loved. Still, there's a distinction.

It was an imperfect analogy, but I do think that Katz and Refn both clearly fall down on one or the other side of this divide.

"I’ve explained why I think Cold Weather isn’t as innovative as you present it to be (I wouldn’t have used this as a point of criticism if you hadn’t brought it up though, and I don't mean it as a dig at all)."

As above, I'm a bit befuddled. I don't think that my reasons for championing Cold Weather have to do with revolutions or innovations. I don't think I used that kind of language.

I suppose that there's one paragraph in my post that could be construed as such. The one that ends with, "A way forward."

I meant a way forward for me, for Katz, for people. I didn't mean a way forward for movies.

My point was that Refn is engaged in deconstruction and I don't think he offers any way "forward" (not that he has to. Those aren't his aims.) Drive's exploration of (and undermining of) the "lone hero" mythos is astonishingly well-crafted. The way that it interacts with its cinematic predecessors is clever and almost cute. It's still a work of dismantling. It uncovers a lie. It doesn't offer us anything to replace that lie with. Instead, it almost, almost validates the lie by making the character's "truth" the central "true" climax of the film, thus maybe making it noble and stripping it of its subversion. I'm not sure. I do know that it will be hard to have any real un-ironic Man With No Name heroes from this point on.

Katz is not deconstructing anything. He's joyously building on something he loves and it shows. He's respecting past influences and he's able to move anywhere because he's not tearing up the road behind him as he walks it. Cold Weather does uncover a precious small chunk of truth and cherishes it. It never shrinks from its sentimental point, but it's also never mawkish about it. Because Cold Weather upholds what is good about its sources, there is room for further adventure. The Holmes detection legacy lives on.

"I only make this whole argument because I am reacting against your notion that Cold Weather is moving cinema into new places while Drive is too busy playing within its own cinematic cesspool."

I can only continue to protest that I must not have been clear enough in my silly metaphors.

I don't really think that "cinema" as a whole has moved to any new places in over a century. Put that in your Holmes pipe and smoke it!

I wasn't arguing that Cold Weather represents some "new kind of movie."

In fact, I think that it plays out much more like any "classic film" than Drive ever does. This is the old kind of movie pleasures. Cold Weather is practically this year's The Thin Man.

The unclear point that I was trying to make comes down to the simple idea that I find Cold Weather more spiritually edifying than Drive. That's about as blatantly obvious and biased as I can get. You can disagree with me, but that's what it comes down to. In the end, it's a matter of taste.

There is something life-affirming about siblings reconnecting that isn't found in a delusional maniac living out his hero fantasies.

It was probably always a mistake to frame things in terms of Drive vs. Cold Weather. I only did so because I watched them both around the same time and I preferred one to the other. A lot. I didn't want Cold Weather to be ignored.

My post was in response to Chris asking me to explain why I like Cold Weather more than I like Drive. I tried to do so.

"And I've decide that I like head stompings more than I like personal relationships! Long live violence in film! This is really what my argument comes down to."

Okay, you win.


Brandon, a lot of my responses to what you said would be similar responses to what I wrote above. I do want to pick in a few specific items, though.

"Relational personalism? I think I just fell asleep writing that."

Dang, I missed you.

"I hate everything you wrote about Tarantino and Godard. I’ve heard you rant on that before and it’s even more flawed now."

This is just silly. I like Godard twice as much as you do and I like Tarantino just about as much. I'm not the one saying, "Good for you Jason for crapping on Breathless. I don't like Godard. He's a poseur. He never made a sexy killer in the woods genre film. Let's have a sleepover and watch Bride of Chucky. We can share a toothbrush."

You might not like how I described their work, but it's no less accurate for you not liking it. Neither one of those bozos can be a Sam Fuller or a Joseph H. Lewis or a Budd Boetticher or anyone else. It's just a different type of film-making. Completely self-conscious and devoted to serving at the Temple of Cinema.

"It’s a straight forward picture about a guy who likes a girl and goes to dangerous and violent lengths to protect her."

No. Just no. It is not. It's an abstraction of a straight forward picture about a guy who likes a girl and goes to dangerous and violent lengths to protect her.

"What may I ask is so cynical about DRIVE?"

Cynical may not be the best word. I think I answer this question in my thoughts above about Drive as deconstructive.

"I refute the idea that showmanship is anything to stare down your nose at."

Okay. I agree. But showmanship is only half the story. I'm sure that the dudes burning on stakes to light up Nero's courts made quite the awesome spectacle. Jolly good show. Brilliant lighting choices (pun absolutely intended). One hell of a good showman, that Nero! I'm not really comparing Drive to an historical atrocity. I'm only trying to make an exaggerated point.

"It sounds as though you are going down that dreaded “soulless route” with this one."

Edge of Darkness and Murder, She Wrote are both still better than The Ghost Writer. Don't even go there.

"DRIVE may be violent and simple but it’s not impersonal."

I'll actually concede this point to you. I agree. It's personal. I overreached and overstated things by calling Refn a machine.

"Remember when it was cool to call NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN slick but soulless? That was lame."

Yeah. That was lame.

That's definitely not what I'm going for here (nor was it what I was going for in the silly Ghost Writer spat).

"It doesn’t matter what movie people are talking about years from now."

I'm not sure if you're responding to me or Chris here.

In a sense, it does matter. If something's not being talked about, then it's likely been forgotten. The whole reason we argue about anything here is because we think that certain films are worth remembering (and that other films should be forgotten).

"John, you found a single moment of transcendence in THE LAST EXCORCISM a scene that brought to mind Jacques Tourneur’s NIGHT OF THE DEMON. It lasts about 15 seconds and comes at the tail end of one of the worst plot twists in recent memory."

I'm guilty.


Chris, taking some pills, laying down, and focusing on beating the snot out of Jeff and Brandon was enough to distract me from my hurt for a short while. Now, I don't feel like writing any more. I almost think that your post was too respectful. I've lost that sharp anger to keep me focused and am lulled to relax by your warm fuzzies. Or maybe that's just Seal's vocals. Alas, I owe you a Simpsons post. I won't forget.


Despite my mild criticisms of Drive in these last couple of posts, I repeat that I dig it. I do. I'm not too cool for Drive.

I repeat what I wrote on FB for Jason:

"Reasons Jason should see Drive: bright colors, orgasmic violence, hip 80s soundtrack, Bryan Cranston, all of the other actors, the opening sequence alone, the quiet moments, the loud moments, the meta movie fairy tale stuff going on, the cars, the girls, the kid, the payoff, the fact that three of us film club dudes have already vouched for it, Bryan Cranston, that Gosling guy, a raised hammer, a botched crime, beautifully composed images, comedic timing, everyone else is doing it, doing it, doing it, watching Drive, and blogging it, blogging it. Or don't see it. I don't care."

I like Drive.

I just like Cold Weather better. :)


Sorry, guys, for baiting you, then disappearing.

I've had a nasty headache for a few days that I can't shake.

I've read and enjoyed your posts.

Don't doubt that I'll be back soon to spit in your faces and rip off your testicles.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Just like that?

I quote Jeff.

"I agree with all you have said John and with Ben too."

Debate is over. Ben and I win.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Idling high. In which I put on the Gosling gloves and slap you up and down a cheap hotel room.

Drive vs. Cold Weather Round 1

Both films play with crime genre tropes.

Drive does so by framing its action in terms of previous films. Drive only makes sense in relation to other films (other sources, too: fairy tales, mythic heroes; but primarily how these stories have expressed themselves through motion pictures). It's also got at least half the right tone of a seedy pulp novel. It never rises above the sum of its parts. It's a Frankenstein monster. We're astounded to see such a creature, but we're gonna have to burn the thing before it kills any more of our children.

Cold Weather, on the other hand, roots its action in personal relationship and character.

In Drive, "what you see" is what you get. There's a cool superficiality (and I don't necessarily mean this in a bad way but I probably don't mean it in a good way either). Drive may say a lot about movies. I'm not sure that it has all that much to say about anything else.

In Cold Weather, "who you are" is what you get. It may or may not be rooted in "realism." I don't much care for that concept (see Bordwell on realism as fig leaf). It is definitely rooted in personality and personal relationships. Individual and community. One and the many.

Drive gives us fractures. Cold Weather strives toward integrity.

Katz does almost as much as Refn does to work within a genre and poke around the edges. Katz does it with warmth and personal devotion. Refn may as well be a machine.

So, Round 1?

Relational personalism trumps superficialism. I give the win to Cold Weather.

(A film-historical analogy)

Why do I prefer Cold Weather to Drive? The same reasons that Brandon prefers 400 Blows to Breathless.

Brandon may step up to defend Drive (and I hope he watches Cold Weather soon!). Maybe. I know he likes it. I like it. I also like Alphaville and Pierrot le Fou and I love Les Caribiniers.

Refn, like Godard, seems to only know how to disassemble and reassemble. Rearranging pieces, sometimes in new and even dazzling ways. Unfortunately, this dead ends in madness and despair. Godard cannot be Hawks so cinema must be dead. Refn, like Tarantino (another of Godard's bastard children), is heir to a walking corpse. They make zombie films.

Katz, like Rohmer, knows how to build on the past, both cinematic and literary, in a constructive way. There's a tiny hesitant step forward instead of a stationary dancing over graves. No matter how modest or slight his achievement may be. This is true rebel cinema that tells irony and endless recursion to go fuck themselves. Except it engages in this offense primarily by turning the other cheek. By refusing to play the game. Cynicism empties itself on the embarrassing altar of sincerity, sacrificing all bitterness and anguish in an attempt to shake out what, if anything, remains. A way forward.

Dargis nails it in her review of Cold Weather:
“With only the most natural of conversations and an exacting relay of close-ups, intimate two shots and meditative landscapes, Mr. Katz reveals how the self-knowing individual becomes known to others, and me turns into we.”

Drive, at best, offers a sick parody of this.

You guys ought to know that you're Driving waist-deep in a Godardian sewage drain while a Cold Weather current floats by lazily and peacefully at the intersection of the Rohmer river and the Truffaut creek.

(Note to self: You really need to check out Chabrol's thrillers.)

The sewage drain may be fun to play in occasionally, flinging poo at one another and soaking in the graffiti, but you aren't going to find any real sustenance there.

Ten years from now, most film nerds may be talking about Drive. And Cold Weather may be forgotten. So what? Today, Godard is reverentially worshipped and Rohmer is largely forgotten. Godard is important. He's a genius. I get it. I respect him and like some of his films. So what? In the end, Godard's films are cool; Rohmer's films are nourishing. Refn is putting on a good show. Katz is preparing a feast.

The culture of decay temporarily has the upper hand. So what?

After forty plus years, Godard has given us Film Socialisme. Rohmer gave us the sublime Romance of Astrea and Celadon before he died.

These parallels aren't perfect. We don't know yet entirely which paths either Refn or Katz will take. All things considered, I'm more interested in where Katz is headed than Refn.

Finally, a disclaimer. I've already stated several times that I like Drive. The whole purpose of all of this post is to try to express why I prefer Cold Weather to Drive. This is all offered in a spirit of playful antagonism. It's a happy accident that we're discussing these two films at the same time. I don't think that anyone else in the world is setting up a Cold Weather vs. Drive cage match. The two films are obviously trying to do different things. There's room in the world for both of them. It's still really fun to fight and I eagerly await the responses from you Driven hedonists.

Jason is a mumblecore fan.

I'm something else. Definitely not a mumblecore fan. Just ask Jason.

I looked at the Wikipedia "List of mumblecore films."

I've seen:
Mutual Appreciation (Bujalski)
Quiet City (Katz)
Baghead (Duplass)
In Search of a Midnight Kiss (Holdridge)
Beeswax (Bujalski)
Cyrus (Duplass)
Greenberg (Baumbach)
Cold Weather (Katz)
and at least one not listed:
Goliath (Zellner)

I first heard of mumblecore from a Film Comment article back in 2007 or 2008. I didn't actively search out any of these films, but I've slowly come across them over the past few years.

I think I love the work of Bujalski and Katz.

The other guys, I'm not so sure. It's pretty clear (as mud) that Greenberg and Cyrus are actually straight-up Hollywood films with roots in "mumblecore" and not mumblecore proper, whatever that is. I haven't seen any Swanberg films yet. He seems to be the other mumblecore giant.

For what it's worth, I agree with Bujalski's assessment that the label is probably "a little reductive and silly."

I think that there are a bunch of us coming up now who have many of the influences, and the same anti-influences, i.e. some of the crummier aspects of the indie scene that we'd all like to bury. My new film, "Mutual Appreciation," premiered at South by Southwest, and there was some talk there of a "movement" just because there were a bunch of performance-based films by young quasi-idealists. My sound mixer, Eric Masunaga, named the movement "mumblecore," which is pretty catchy. I quite liked those other films that I saw, but I think it's probably a little reductive and silly to actually group any of them together. And if it is a movement I'm sure I'll want to get out of it and do something else. Again, not much point in making films that other people have already made, unless you've got something new to bring to it.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I'm going to bed.

But I just saw Chris's post.

You know what's funny? I almost put "The Day the Violence Died" at the top of my list. I like that episode a lot. It was hard comparing episodes. Especially when I watched the first two discs almost immediately after you gave them to me, then I watched the last two discs in the past week or so. I'll still stand behind my list generally, but the individual episodes may get shuffled around a lot if I go back and revisit the season. And I'm thinking about revisiting the season right away instead of moving on to another season. I'm rambling. I'm going to bed.

I'll put up some Cold Weather ideas soon. Hopefully, Ben will also jump to the film's defense.

Luckily for you, Drive and Cold Weather were never in contention. Cold Weather is definitely 2010. Drive is definitely 2011. Different years. Different lists. Ain't arbitrary geek distinctions grand? Still, I definitely prefer Cold Weather to Drive.

I'm going to bed.

No Comment

My head hurts.

Here's a list.

From the gut. Not much thought. No agonizing. After one recent viewing of each episode. I remember almost all of these from '95-'96, but I hadn't seen them since; until now.

I'll write more later, especially if Chris (or Jeff) decides to pick a fight.

Simpsons Season 7

1. “Bart Sells His Soul”
2. “King-Size Homer”
3. “Lisa the Vegetarian”
4. “Lisa the Iconoclast”
5. “The Day the Violence Died”
6. “Raging Abe Simpson and His Grumbling Grandson in “The Curse of the Flying Hellfish””
7. “Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield”
8. “Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily”
9. “Marge Be Not Proud”
10. “22 Short Films About Springfield”
11. “Bart on the Road”
12. “Two Bad Neighbors”
13. “Bart the Fink”
14. “Much Apu About Nothing”
15. “Homer the Smithers”
16. “Treehouse of Horror VI”
17. “Radioactive Man”
18. “The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular”
19. “Mother Simpson”
20. “Team Homer”
21. “A Fish Called Selma”
22. “Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming”
23. “Who Shot Mr. Burns? (Part Two)”
24. “Homerpalooza”
25. “Summer of 4 ft. 2”

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Making teenagers depressed is like shooting fish in a barrel.

Responding to Chris.

Simpsons list should be up tomorrow. Only one episode left to watch.

Jane Eyre's haunted house bits were a nice surprise. I haven't read the book. All of the actors are fine, but so what?

I do hope that you write some more about Meek's Cutoff, then read our ramblings, then write some more. I'm hoping to catch it again on DVD at some point.

Rope has always been my favorite Hitchcock film. There have been times in the past when I've answered "Rope" to that most difficult of all questions, "what is your favorite movie?" Without a doubt, it is a film that I unreservedly adore.

I wish I knew more about Dall. I think that I've only ever seen him in Rope and Gun Crazy. Definitely a great performance in both of those. Stewart's small part in Rope is also great. Have I mentioned before how much I love Stewart? The man must have been fearless. He was America's beloved small town boy, but he never shrunk from a villainous or morally ambiguous role.

Wings of Desire is another favorite of mine. While Rope is a serious Top Ten Desert Island Pick, Wings of Desire would be in the broader Top 50 or Top 100. Wings of Desire was one of the first "art" films that I ever watched. Besides helping to open up film to me, it created a lifelong love for Peter Falk. I'd go on to love Falk for Columbo and for his Cassavetes collaborations, but I loved him here first.

I'll probably break down and see Attack the Block on the small screen. I do want to see The Mill and the Cross pretty bad, though; it's one of the few films around that I'm really anxious to see.

I regret being so far behind on Dexter. I'd like to join the Season 6 talk. Same with Boardwalk Empire. I still have to watch all of Walking Dead Season 1. I've got Bored to Death Season 1 to watch. I guess I'll have some time now that I'm not obsessing about Breaking Bad each week.

Oh, Breaking Bad!

I'm off now to watch an episode of Robin Hood with the girls, then, after that, oh then, then the season finale one more time!

I'm going to go offline now.

I've been wasting time. That's what waking up and watching a season finale will do to this man.

Before I go offline for a while, I want to comment briefly on Ben's recent post.

Ben, I can get you both Small Town and Only Angels. We need to get together and swap stuff sometime soon.

I only skimmed your Melancholia thoughts. I do hope to see it soon. The tea party discussion party sounds great. I'm hoping that the viewing, though, involves a large pot of that other great meditative brew; the one from the banks of the Genesee.


So, I've been reading Breaking Bad discussions for half the morning. On the MZS comment thread, I came across an interesting visual parallel that someone had noticed. I downloaded the two pictures and mashed them together for everyone's benefit. Sorry, that I don't feel like spending time to give credit where credit is due. Whoever noticed this and posted these first, thank you.

Seriously, don't look unless you've watched the Season 4 finale.


Mark 8:36


What an outrageously delicious moment it is when Walt declares, "I won."

Of course, as Jeff points out, the tragic irony is that Walt is almost completely lost.

The real reason for my post, however, is that I just thought of and want to believe that Gilligan and his writers knew exactly what they were doing when they introduced Hector Salamanca and his bell way back in Season 2. I'm okay with it being a happy accident, too, but I don't think so. I think that that bell always had a nefariously efficient narrative purpose.

Philippians 4:8 and Breaking Bad Face Off.

EDIT: I had to edit this quickly after posting because my MAJORSPOILER tags disappeared! They have now been restored. Beware.

Mostly, I respond to Jeff's recent post in an attempt to shame the rest of you into posting.


It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway.... If you haven't been watching Breaking Bad, then you don't deserve to read any of this.

Actually, I don't have much to add to Jeff's show notes. I just wanted to insult all of you non-watchers who shouldn't be reading this.

"The great irony of the finale is that Gus's outward mutilation can't even match what's decaying inside our hero Walt."

Spot on, Jeff.

I also (obviously) love that the show often has a strong Western vibe.

Finally, I have to admit that I teared up a few times during the finale. Because I was so happy. Because the episode hit every high note just right. This may sound strange to some, but I was struck by the episode's beauty.


On to other things...

Yeah, I guess we have to see Melancholia. It sounds like Ben loves it. And it's going to suck to not read and interact with his post. So, I guess I'm seeing it.

Brandon, if you're reading this, how about next Monday night 8ish? I could also probably do this Thursday night if that works better for the Howard bros. But, I'd prefer a Monday night since that's the night I usually work late on and I'm used to not being home 'til late.

Let's definitely do Take Shelter. It's really my only “must-see film” for the rest of the year.

I'm also tempted to go to Cornell on November 18th for a double feature. The Mill and the Cross. Attack the Block.

And two more Binghamton Classic Films screenings...

November 12
Way Out West (Horne, 1937)

December 10
Boy Meets Girl (Bacon, 1938)

“Still just watching old movies because they make me endlessly happy.”

I second that. You guys really need to make it out to one of these screenings. It's a lot of fun watching great movies with an appreciative audience of like-minded filmgoers.

Sturges's Hail the Conquering Hero is pretty great. It might be my favorite film of his. G Men is great. Sure beats the hell out of FBI Story (that's a slam at Brandon).

I admit that I haven't seen enough Hawks films. I've been thinking a lot about Only Angels Have Wings, though, after reading a Saint-Exupery memoir that Ben gave to me. Ben, I hope that you weren't looking to get that book back, because I pretty much read it into oblivion, pages falling out as I turned them. Only Angels Have Wings does an excellent job of depicting the camaraderie among the men that Saint-Exupery describes.

Alright, I'm done.

I have found a tiny pocket of Internet in the corner of my home. I await your blog posts.

Monday, October 10, 2011

No Internet at Home...

[I'm having Internet problems at home and haven't had access for about a week now. I'm not sure if or when things will be fixed.]

Okay. Brandon's back in town. Let's cut all the TV chitchat and start talking movies.


Plot difficulties are resolved by the crazy wife burning down the house, then throwing herself off the roof; so that two soulmates can unite their honest passions with no further pangs of guilt.

I wish that I could at least enjoy the movie visually. I didn't. Was there cgi here? I think so. Really? Why does this look like a muddy mess? Dull. Dull. Dull. Visually, that is. The script sparkles with lively talk of livers being tied and stretched and birds squawking raucously or something like that. I was trying really hard to fall asleep, but it was all too damned romantic to give me any proper rest.

I'm not sure if I can clearly communicate how much I hate Jane Eyre.


A surprise. Every flawed decision is endearing. I'm wondering if the rest of you will dislike this film (if you ever see it) for all of the reasons I like it. The chapter breaks. The chorus commentary. The naturalism molded into what may be a forced genre box (the police procedural). The blatant religiosity. The ending.

The film is also beautifully shot. I would hang some of these frames on my wall.

Check it out.


Even better this second time. Almost makes me feel patriotic.


I've seen this a few times now. So easily watchable. Almost makes me feel patriotic with a cherry on top. An absolutely perfect double feature with Mr. Washington.


I'm probably not caught up with Jeff and Chris, but I've watched a few episodes. I might write about at least one episode soon. Can you guys guess which one I might have loved?


I think that I've written in the past about how I ditched VHS and adopted DVD pretty early on ('97 or so). It had nothing to do with image quality. It had everything to do with pan and scan cropping (disfiguring). I've always been okay with proper VHS releases.

About a year ago, I rescued a VHS Player from a garbage can. It's been great to occasionally find super cheap copies of older films (unaffected by any butchering).

This past weekend, I bought a couple of bags full of .25c VHS tapes from the Ithaca Book Sale. I got a lot of good stuff. The best find was Satyajit Ray's Apu Trilogy. I'm not sure if it's still out of print, but it was out of print on both VHS and DVD for several years.

I bought a few tapes just to give away, for whoever wants to claim them. Five of Rohmer's Moral Tales (on four tapes).
The Girl at the Monceau Bakery / Suzanne's Career
My Night at Maud's
La Collectioneuse
Chloe in the Afternoon

Obviously, my motives are selfish. I want you guys to adore Rohmer. That's worth $1 out of pocket.


Everyone, let's Take Shelter together.

Brandon, it was good to see you. Let's get demanding together.

Jason, give up your zombie strippers and watch something from the 30s. It'll be good for you and taste good, too. I was glad to read your Dogtooth thoughts. I would have been dismissive like you if Brandon hadn't previously proclaimed his warm fuzzies toward the film.

Ben, thanks for the Darren Brown link. I've already shared it with a few friends.

Jeff, keep the beard! Other than that, I'm disappointed in you. Two 30s lists and hardly any commentary on any of the films you list! A crime against film club, I say!! Deserving of being locked up in Grandpa Jason's hostel for a weekend with nothing to do but get to know a wooden spoon better.

Lisa, PHD or Film Club? Which is ultimately going to mean more to your life? If you had only given Film Club even half of the time that you've given to this other institution, we would have showered you with degrees and certificates and praise and chipped in to buy you a fancy cap and gown and given you as many letters behind your name as you could have ever desired. The pay here may be awful, but the rewards are great nonetheless.

Chris, I'm only two or three episodes away from finishing Season 7. I should have a list up by the end of this week.

Monday, October 3, 2011


who's coming with me?

p.s. no movie watching lately. been watching breaking bad, dr. who, simpsons, twilight zone.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Helter Shelter

So far, my most anticipated film of 2011 isn't playing anywhere near here.

Will it hit a cinema near here before 2012? Let the betting begin,