Monday, December 31, 2012

December 2012 Recap

December 2012

7 Features
Mind Game (2004) ****
A Single Man (2009) ***
Men in Black 3 (2012) ***
Premium Rush (2012) ***
The Campaign (2012) *
Django Unchained (2012) ***
Rio Rita (1942) ****

Docs
Collision

TV
Adventure Time pilot
The Daily Show
The Colbert Report
Arrow 2eps
Robin Hood 4eps
The Big Bang Theory 1ep
Star Trek:TNG 2eps
Doctor Who "The Snow Men"

Scraps

More pathetic than usual, here's a lame little post so that I can finish out the year with nothing hanging over my head.

Django Unchained was a good experience. Seeing it with an old friend after a few winter lagers was about the best way to see it. I'm with you guys, though, on the problems of the final act. I'm also troubled by Tarantino's gleeful commitment to exacting one's own revenge.

And I ended the year with one of Brandon's favorites, Rio Rita. Smartly written and perfectly executed, this is definitely one of the better Abbott and Costello films that I've seen. I'd rank it just below Meet Frankenstein. It might even surpass Meet Frank if I watch it a few more times.

Goodbye, 2012.

Let's take up the chase again in 2013.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

CR5FC Year in Review: 2012

It's been another fantastic year for Film Club.

While it's true that we all slowed down from last year, it's also true that last year we posted a ton. Who knows if we'll ever reach those heights again?

I'll probably post quantity stats after the new year. Right now, I want to focus on the highlights of 2012 as experienced by Film Club.

Specifics:

Arthur stepped up participation in CR5FC-FB. I hold out secret hope that we'll get him blogging in 2013.

Jerzy's biggest contribution to Film Club was starting Book Club, which has re-directed many of the hours that I would have spent watching films. Thanks for almost ruining Film Club for me, Jerzy.

Lisa gets credit for hanging around. Every once in a while, we'd get a shout from the gorge. Hopefully, this continues. I'm still waiting on a Wreck-It Ralph review. :)

Alex is a most welcome new addition. Just when I thought that we'd stalled out on new members, Alex showed up to give us a fresh voice. I've been bad at "conversations" posts this year so I haven't interacted with Alex's posts like I should have. Nevertheless, I've enjoyed each one and hope that we get many more in the new year.

I've said this before, I think, but I'll confess again that it took me a while to fully accept Adrienne in Film Club. Jason had been mentioning her repeatedly before she became an official member, but I didn't pay much attention. All of that non-film talk on her blog clogged up what could have been a great pure film blog! Fortunately for me, I've gotten over this silly hang-up. I can even make a second confession. Sometimes, I like Adrienne's non-film posts better than her film posts. My favorite post of hers from all of last year, though, is the short post in which she puzzles through why her husband loved Three Kings. Here, the personal and the film talk is indistinguishable. It's exactly the sort of personal film writing that I love. In which it is acknowledged that what we're doing in Film Club (by this, I mean both watching movies and writing about them, but primarily the watching part) is so much more than any so-called objective viewing. Three Kings is given more importance than it can possibly bear and a viewing of it becomes a wrestling match with the present understanding of the past instead of a trifling entertainment that is easily dismissed. Film watching becomes an exercise in imagined habitation of someone else's perspective. Besides that post I singled out, Adrienne wins the prize for being a lot nicer than the rest of us dirtbags in Film Club.

I'm pretty sure that it was Ben that instigated the mandatory viewing last year. I'm giving him credit for it so I hope I'm right. It was a great idea while it lasted and is Ben's top contribution to Film Club even if Ink did kill my computer. Ben's worst contribution to the Club? Introducing his girlfriends to CR5FC. One of my new year's resolutions will be to stop spending any time thinking about Lena Dunham. I also want to blame Ben for the hipster debacle, but I think that one was started by Brandon before I made it into something ridiculous.

I probably ought to give Ben credit for luring some of us over to Twitter. The credit goes to Chris, though, for keeping up the funny on Twitter. Not that it's always movie related, but it's almost always been fun. Chris's real top contribution of the year was the unveiling of his previous life as a professional reviewer. I wish I had a book of collected essays by Chris H on the films of Chris Rock. Of course, I could also always count on Chris to keep the focus on Breaking Bad when things got too filmy around the Clubhouse. I only wish that I could keep up with all of the TV that he watches so that we could have more TV Club interaction. The Twilight Zone blog (starting soon!) is going to be fun.

Jason's big contribution to Film Club was the opening of his optometry office. Ever since he diagnosed all of the eye problems in the Club, we've all been wearing glasses all the time. Swapping certain glasses for other glasses. Stomping on glasses. Wearing two pairs of glasses at the same time. Wearing glasses upside down. Wearing tinted glasses. Trading glasses with one another. Glasses, glasses, glasses. I've enjoyed all of Jason's posts, but I'm still waiting for him to wean himself off of Flixster and become more healthy and regular with his dumps.

Finally, Jeff and Brandon. Even without a final count, it's clear that these two are the reigning posting kings of Film Club this year. Jeff deserves praise for completing his 30s-50s project. Of course, Brandon has to one-up him by being ahead by an entire decade, successfully completing his 60s project. Between the two of them, the less prodigious of us have been kept stimulated by their steady flow of content. Well done, gents!

There were lots of great discussions throughout the year. Plenty of films got run through the Club mill. We brought up the old dead horses. We looked for new dead horses. As usual, there were repeated outbreaks of that perennial plague which is arguing about horror films and more generally about film content and where to draw the imaginary line in the imaginary sand.

Film Club successfully completed two major projects collectively over the year. I think that Brandon led the way on both. I am, of course, speaking of the All-time Top Ten and the Top 30 Aughts Lists. Really fantastic output from everyone during the times in which these lists were percolating.

And the stupidest, silliest group project of the year? One which I hope will stay active throughout 2013? You guessed it. BOO!







Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Boxing on the Feast of St. Stephen



It's been another slow month.

I haven't gotten out to see a movie all month and my home viewing was pretty minimal until this past week.

First, TV Club.

I watched every Colbert and Stewart episode for the first two weeks of December. Always entertaining, I'm still not sure that the time spent watching it is worth it any more than watching "real" news is worth it.

I tried getting into Arrow as a Smallville replacement. It's got the right ridiculous soap operatic attitude, but is lacking a big something. It's got no Wall of Weird. I gave up after two episodes.

Robin Hood continues to entertain. We watched the episode "Christmas Goose" last night, in which Friar Tuck defends a goose in court and Robin tricks a noble into mercy by fake beating a boy to death. Really great, as usual.

And I watched the "Gift" episode of Big Bang Theory that Ben tweet-recommended to me. The first twenty minutes or so, I started getting angry at Ben because the jokes weren't funny, the story wasn't interesting, and the canned laugh track was really irritating me. The last couple of minutes, though, redeemed the whole episode, revealing that all of those little unfunny jokes were elaborate scaffolding in an episode-long joke with a fantastic punchline. I laughed out loud.

Doc Club

I watched two documentaries this month. I fell asleep halfway through Little Dieter Needs to Fly. I need to return to that one.

The other doc was Collision, a documentary about Douglas Wilson and Christopher Hitchens on a debate tour. It gets my highest recommendation. Pending further viewings, Five Stars. My favorite moment is when the two men can't stop giggling as they trade Wodehouse quotes. I'll write more if I watch it again sometime soon.

And finally, narrative features. I've watched a few.

The Campaign is stupid. I laughed exactly two times, when the baby was punched and when the dog was punched. Otherwise, there's nothing worthwhile here. There's no insight on the political process. It's message of "tell the truth" is undermined by its goofiness. Movies like this help to maintain the status quo, as people laugh at it all and throw their hands up in the air. Not once does this film tell the truth.

Premium Rush was such a joy to watch. It reminded me of a cross between the best 80s action comedies and 80s sports triumph movies. Everyone in it is great, but Michael Shannon is over-the-top perfect in his commitment to his role. The movie's irresponsible follow-your-death-wish-talents-dream is as charming as it is unrealistic. But if you're watching Premium Rush for its realism, then you've already lost the race.

Men in Black III is the best time travel movie of the year (even if Looper is cooler and SNG is more emotionally satisfying). It's a lot of fun. The time travel is silly and stupid in a BttF kind of way. Also, Josh Brolin is perfect as a young Tommy Lee Jones.

Finally, A Single Man. I watched this one because both of the Howards ranked it high on their 30 Aughts lists. I respect the film. It is mostly successful as a study in grief and as a snapshot of a specific time and place. But I also think that the film undercuts its own power by the frequent use of flashbacks and short dream sequences. These moments are meant to reinforce the loss and strengthen our union with the primary character's perspective. They did the opposite for me, pulling me out of the narrative and weakening the cohesion of the whole, revealing the primary plot as rather thin. I was also put off a bit by the Ganymedan rescue at the end, when a naked young lad convinces this man that life is worth living. I guess this sort of thing may happen (whatever the sex involved), but it does lessen the impact of the grief that has been developed when all it takes is one flirtatious night to convince that all is right with the world.

I'm sure I'll watch some TCM while on LI. So, all y'all will get at least one more post before the CR5FC Year in Review festivities begin.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Brando's Soft Objections

It's about time that Brandon and I mostly agreed on something. And we are mostly in agreement. I won't argue that Softly is a masterpiece or that everyone should see it or that everyone will love it. I understand that the tone and the content will grate on some people. The socio-political subtext is so barely sub that it irritated many. I get that. But let me quibble with Brandon's quibbles...

"He chooses not to trust his audience's intelligence."

I disagree pretty strongly here. Dominick makes stylistic choices that may be obvious, but I don't think he ever talks down to the audience or leads them through any of the film by the hand. There's a difference between speaking plainly to an audience and speaking down to an audience.

"First, the soundtrack bothered me from time to time."

I'll grant that the soundtrack is too on the nose sometimes. It's closer to Bringing Out the Dead Scorsese than Goodfellas Scorsese. Still, it's a fine line and the music choices worked for me.

"Why (other than being obvious) does he announce Jackie’s arrival to Johnny Cash’s rendition of WHEN THE MAN COMES AROUND?"

I actually thought this one was really clever. Dominick purposefully chooses a portion of the song about judgment. On the nose. But, if you know the song, you know that "The Man" referred to is Jesus and the song is about justice in judgment. Cogan is identified as someone outside and above the current situation, brought in to be a fair arbiter of things. There is also irony in that he is not here to sort the righteous from the unrighteous. Everything's been leveled out and Cogan is there only for himself. For "business." There's also a hint that Cogan himself will be judged.

"Why are we hearing The Velvet Underground’s HEROINE as two characters get high? Why does the film end with Barret Strong’s MONEY (THAT’S WHAT I WANT) right after that killer punch line?"

Again, so much of the film is in this obvious vein. You either go with it or you don't. Each of these songs work perfectly. Your problem with them is that you've heard them before and you've seen them used before. That doesn't mean that they don't work here. I left the film smiling. I also think that the songs may reflect the characters' simple motivations.

"Also, why did he decide to kill Markie in super stylish slow-mo when the rest of the film is clearly using the same type of violence with an intentional/grim sobriety to match the film’s larger/loftier intentions?"

I think that the "stylish" slo-mo is a POV choice like the Heroin one. We're seeing a "beautiful" and "orchestrated" ballet of "soft" violence instead of the messy brutality of the thugs on the street.

We're agreed on the last scene. I think that the writing is great, but it definitely all hangs on the astounding performances of Pitt and Jenkins.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Mind Time

I'm not sure that I fully understood Mind Game. I left it a bit confused about a moment near the end that echoes a moment at the beginning. Regardless, this is the sort of "roller coaster" experience that I can get behind. It's zany in the best sense, exploiting (in a good way) the uniqueness of animation's ability to present the impossible. This film could not exist as a live-action film. Maybe it could, but the director would have to hire a whale.

Surprisingly, my favorite moment in Mind Game is a delightfully obscene moment of a young man squeezing a gun barrel with his butt cheeks. That this moment is astonishingly life-affirming is a testament to the ridiculous greatness which this film often achieves. I could quibble about other moments which I disliked, but I won't. For the most part, I was thoroughly caught up in the game.

I'm glad that Arthur brought this one to our attention.

I also watched the original pilot for Adventure Time, but don't have anything to say about it except that Jake downloading something from the Internet with his mind made Abigail giggle.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Mo Vember, Mo Movies

I guess I have to apologize to everyone for becoming a Kevin James troll on CR5FC-FB for a couple of days. Everyone was being all serious about Lincoln and all I had seen in a week was Here Comes the Boom. I decided to embrace the online identity of a hardcore Kevin James fanatic. Sorry.

So, what about Here Comes the Boom?

It's about what you'd expect. If you liked Paul Blart: Mall Cop, then you're going to like this one. Every Kevin James movie I've seen, I've seen during work hours. It's hard to get too upset about the guy when I'm being paid to watch him. I could rant about all of the problems with Boom, but what's the point? It's a very easy target. I will say briefly that I almost, for a moment, really did fall in love with this picture. There's a moment in which the James character reveals his game plan: he's going to save the school music program by LOSING repeatedly. His plan is to win by losing. My heart soared for a moment at this piece of cruciform logic. Of course, the character ends up winning by winning. He's cooler than everyone else and can win any fight because he can and he gets the girls because he's shown that he cares and all the immigrants get their U.S. citizenship because, damn it, this is Kevin James's America.

Dark Shadows was a fun watch. I'm still not sure what you guys have against Alice. There's just as much CGI in the Shadows and the story is much worse, just campy soap. But, I guess if you're in the mood for campy soap, then this is about the best you could ask for.

Saraband, Bergman's last film, proved to be tiresome for me to watch. I guess I'm tired of Bergman's schtick. I'm a little bit disappointed that this is the best he had to offer at the end. There's a resigned fatalism that Bergman has developed that I completely reject and detest.

Killing Them Softly walks a thin line in nearly overwhelming its crime narrative with ham-handed cultural commentary. A television or radio is often playing a political speech or talking head commentary throughout the film, which is set in 2008. TARP almost becomes a character in the film. "Troubled assets" is the air these men breathe. All of this set-up is rewarded by the end, just barely hanging together for a wonderful payoff.

There are no "good guys" in Softly. Everyone (and everything) is corrupt. The film shifts between the two primary perspectives of Jackie (Pitt) and Frankie (McNairy). Both know that they are alone. Both know that there is going to be no bailout for them. Frankie is the common man caught up in a general economic collapse that he can't escape. When he takes a chance in a criminal act, it's obvious that he's reached further than he can grasp. Jackie, on the other hand, rides the collapse, profiting from the meltdown of morals and money. The final scene might be my favorite moment in any 2012 film I've seen so far.

There are so many great moments. The film is often surprisingly funny (funny in surprising ways) and the script is grand. The abundant use of pop music is immediately reminiscent of Scorsese. The editing also has that musical Scorsese rhythm. Throw in Ray Liotta and it's hard to shrug off the Scorsese vibe. There are other discernible influences and I'm not at all saying that Dominick's film is merely derivative (it's not). Softly can hold its own and deserves a place on the shelf next to Goodfellas and Mean Streets.

I liked Softly a lot. Now, I'm just waiting for Brandon to see it and agree with me. :)

Friday, November 30, 2012

November 2012 Recap

November 2012

14 Features
Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) ****
The Sea Wolf (1941) ****
Deer Woman (2005) **
Cigarette Burns (2005) **
The Sound of My Voice (2011) ***
Out of the Past (1947) ***
Charlotte's Web (2006) ***
The Prestige (2006) ***
Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) ***
Catch Me If You Can (2002) ****
Dark Shadows (2012) ***
Here Comes the Boom (2012) ***
Saraband (2003) ***
Killing Them Softly (2012) ****

TV
Colbert Report
Daily Show
Shatner Roast
Parks & Recreation
Robin Hood

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Catching Up (If I Can)

I've been enjoying watching movies again.

Here are some mini-capsules:

The Sea Wolf (1941) was even better than I had hoped. There are some interesting parallels to The Master here and I wouldn't be at all surprised if PTA is a fan. My favorite moment is the romantic not-kiss between John Garfield and Ida Lupino. It's one of the greatest non-kisses in cinema history. The entire struggle between Everywildman Garfield and JeffHowardianSuperman Robinson is appropriately epic, sprinkled with the appropriate self-sacrificial efforts of a WriterMan Knox and increasingly passive worrying of Lovely Lupino.

Sound of My Voice (2011) is a waffle, wavering to and fro, cashing in on a vogue for ambiguity. It finds its own voice successfully about halfway through the film and becomes an almost interesting suspense thriller. I may be spoiling it to even say that twists follow twists, but I saw the end coming and it was unsatisfying because it played out as a "thought piece" instead of a satisfying resolution.

Out of the Past (1947) remains the representative perfect Noir film despite my ambivalence toward it. I keep watching it every few years, trying to understand why THIS film is the one that so many point out as The Perfect Noir Film. I can't fully get behind it. Part of it may be the flashback frame. Part of it may be how it shifts focus mid-film from a gritty romance to a sort-of revenge one last job get out of the business con the world film. I don't know. I like the film. I want to love it and I don't.

I've already written about Safety Not Guaranteed and The Prestige.

I watched two movies with the family: Charlotte's Web (2006) and Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005). I fell asleep during both. Any excuse to catch a nap. I watched the majority of both, though, and both are pleasant and fun movies.

Catch Me If You Can (2002) is one of Brandon's picks for Best Film of the Decade. It's really high on his list. Brandon's Appaloosa, if you will. Brandon and I used to talk about movies A LOT when we worked together every day. I remember his devotion to this film from back then. I probably saw Catch Me back in 2003 or 2004 on DVD. I liked it, but didn't think that it was a Great Movie. I'll say now that I was wrong. It is easily one of Spielberg's best and I'm okay with putting it up there with the best films of the decade. Its strengths are many, including the jaunty fun of watching a too-smart trickster character surviving on his own as he's lost in the world. The key, though, is that being lost in the world. Frank is running from he knows not what and heading toward he knows not where with he knows not what goal, except maybe to please his Father and win back his Mother. But, dang, he's doing it all in top style. DiCaprio had already proven his acting chops many times by 2002. He's great here. Hanks is also a tremendous presence. The Christmas Eve calls are beautiful. The strategic use of the one PG-13 f-bomb is probably the best PG-13 f-bomb ever. Knock Knock. My favorite comedy moment, though, in a movie filled with good ones, is the "Lutheran" prayer: There were two mice. A funny moment, but also the most revealing moment in the film, that Frank has no grounding except for what he's received from his father. It's become his unceasing lived prayer to keep afloat no matter what. Great pick, Brandon.

Finally, back to Mehsters of Horror. The last two Mehsters films that I've watched were both better than all of the other ones that had come before.

The Deer Woman
Directed by John Landis
Written by Max Landis, John Landis

Cigarette Burns
Directed by John Carpenter
Written by Drew McWeeny, Scott Swan

The Deer Woman is genuinely funny at times. Men are found trampled to death after walking off with a woman. This provides for humorous situations as characters discuss what kind of creature could be causing these deaths. It's still a stupid horror film, but I was surprised by how often it worked as a comedy. Landis delivers. Cigarette Burns, though, is an attempt at a self-referential cinematic pure horror. A film collector seeks out a film that has caused chaos and madness in each audience that has seen the film. Things end about as badly as they can as everyone gets what they want. This is close to what I like in horror. No one is happy and everyone is dead. Carpenter delivers. While I'm not really recommending either of these, they both stand out as better installments in what has been a disappointing series.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Soul Club


“I mean, abortion debates with John don’t seem that productive if one of us believes in souls and the other doesn’t.”

Hmm.. I’m not sure, based on that sentence, which one of us believes in souls and which one doesn’t. Even if I could tell, I’d still have no idea what that sentence above means.
What are you even talking about, Jeffrey?
That you don't believe in souls and that's why it's okay to kill babies? Because you don't have a soul or because the baby doesn't have a soul? I mostly want to know if it's okay to kill Chris because he doesn't have a soul? Is that what you're getting at? Or is it that I don't believe in souls and that's why I'd protect the life of the innocent soulless because I have sympathy with anything else that doesn't have a soul? Like rocks? That I don't have a soul and that's why I'd dare question anyone's "reproductive rights?" Or are you merely trying to say that we can't argue about anything unless we first settle this soul question? I tend to agree. Because if you're just a pile of meat and I'm just a pile of meat, then all we're doing is using our randomly produced chemically charged meat minds to flap our meat mouths at one another and why does it really matter anyhow? I've got other meat parts that I could be sticking in meat places. It's tough being sentient meat. Sometimes, I almost think I'm more than meat. Then, I think that meat doesn't think. I think.

That sentence of yours makes no sense to me.
Maybe I'm being deliberately thick, but I don't think so.

Also, the sentence was obviously partially there to bait me. I'm biting the bait and asking you, What are you talking about? And why did you even go there?

Also, for the record, I'd tear your freakin' arm off.

Also, for the record, I've always assumed that conversation is a good thing, on any subject. My objection to politics on the blogs has always been that our focus here is on moving images and only ever tangentially on anything else. I don't like responding to this crap here. I just can't resist responding to something that has my name attached to it. At least Brandon had the decency to rant while pretending that he wasn't ranting at anyone in Film Club.

I wanted pretzels, I got The Prestige.

We need a word for this elvish craft, but all the words that have been applied to it have been blurred and confused with other things. Magic is ready to hand, and I have used it above, but I should not have done so: Magic should be reserved for the operations of the Magician. Art is the human process that produces by the way (it is not its only or ultimate object) Secondary Belief. Art of the same sort, if more skilled and effortless, the elves can also use, or so the reports seem to show; but the more potent and specially elvish craft I will, for lack of a less debatable word, call Enchantment. Enchantment produces a Secondary World into which both designer and spectator can enter, to the satisfaction of their senses while they are inside; but in its purity it is artistic in desire and purpose. Magic produces, or pretends to produce, an alteration in the Primary World. It does not matter by whom it is said to be practised, fay or mortal, it remains distinct from the other two; it is not an art but a technique; its desire is power in this world, domination of things and wills.
 -J.R.R. Tolkien

The Prestige is Nolan's best/worst film. In it, Nolan is absolutely clear about his aims as a filmmaker and about his techniques for achieving these aims.

Nolan sees his art as the art of lying. Misdirection, reversals, gimmicks, whatever it takes. According to Nolan, the audience enjoys being lied to; that's why they come to the movies. They want to be dominated by a greater will. That's why he makes movies.

Nolan never successfully produces a Secondary World for the audience to enter. That would involve worldbuilding rooted in truth and flourishing in truth. Nolan doesn't believe that his audience wants truth (and I suppose they don't). Nolan's audience wants to be fooled, then let in on the trick so that they can feel oh so smart.

What about The Prestige? It's all technique. It's one big elaborate magic trick. Mechanical and lifeless. Do the fans of this movie really care about any of the deaths that occur? I didn't. There is no emotional truth in this film. There are shifting degrees of allegiance that the audience is asked to give to each magician character, but we're never dared to love either one, any more than these characters love anything else besides the great reveal. The audience is slowly prepared, throughout the film, to be properly stunned by each twist and turn, settling in to that happy "aha!" moment. It's as deterministic and boring as any roller coaster ride, which we've long ago established that I hate.

Not only is there no emotional truth, there is no further demand of any kind of truth. In a terrific sleight of hand trick, Nolan unfolds the story in a specific time and place, distracting us with set design and costumes. The appearance of a place and time does not necessarily make for a place and time. Instead of a rich background that seems alive of its own, we're given all of these tidbits as one more mechanistic piece in service to the trick, the lie. Like the magician who leaves out his makeup to disguise the fact that he's not using makeup, except for when he is.

Nolan lies to his audience with a broad wink. This is all good fun.

Well, it's all immensely clever, I concede.

As usual, though, Nolan shouts his cleverness as the chiefest of virtues. Doing so, he avoids wrestling with anything more substantial. He's content to exert his dominance over his audience, leading them by the nose. And his audience is pleased to be so led.

It should be obvious why I've included these Tolkien quotes. Tolkien is addressing Fairy stories specifically, but his descriptions of "sub-creation" and Secondary Worlds" is applicable to any fiction and not just Fairy Stories. The day before watching The Prestige, I had listened to a lecture on Tolkien's essay "On Fairy-Stories" (which essay I've read many times). Yes, I'm harder on The Prestige than I probably would have been if I hadn't had these words fresh in my mind.

To the elvish craft, Enchantment, Fantasy aspires, and when it is successful of all forms of human art most nearly approaches. At the heart of many man-made stories of the elves lies, open or concealed, pure or alloyed, the desire for a living, realized sub-creative art, which (however much it may outwardly resemble it) is inwardly wholly different from the greed for self-centred power which is the mark of the mere Magician. Of this desire the elves, in their better (but still perilous) part, are largely made; and it is from them that we may learn what is the central desire and aspiration of human Fantasy—even if the elves are, all the more in so far as they are, only a product of Fantasy itself. That creative desire is only cheated by counterfeits, whether the innocent but clumsy devices of the human dramatist, or the malevolent frauds of the magicians. In this world it is for men unsatisfiable, and so imperishable. Uncorrupted, it does not seek delusion nor bewitchment and domination; it seeks shared enrichment, partners in making and delight, not slaves.
-J.R.R. Tolkien

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Top 30 Thirties

1. The Adventures of Robin Hood
2. The Lady Vanishes
3. Modern Times
4. Frankenstein
5. City Lights
6. M.
7. It Happened One Night
8. Grand Illusion
9. Destry Rides Again
10. A Farewell to Arms
11. Scarface
12. King Kong
13. The Thin Man
14. Stagecoach
15. Only Angels Have Wings
16. Port of Shadows
17. Trade Winds
18. The Texas Rangers
19. My Man Godfrey
20. Way Out West
21. Make Way For Tomorrow
22. The Rules of the Game
23. You Only Live Once
24. Duck Soup
25. Ninotchka
26. Frontier Marshall
27. China Seas
28. G Men
29. Fury
30. Rhythm on the Range

Top 30 Forties

1. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
2. The Shop Around the Corner
3. Christmas in July
4. I Love You Again
5. You Were Never Lovelier
6. The Maltese Falcon
7. Force of Evil
8. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
9. Four Faces West
10. Colorado Territory
11. Passport to Pimlico
12. Rope
13. My Favorite Wife
14. Rome, Open City
15. The Paleface
16. Foreign Correspondent
17. The Great Dictator
18. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
19. Suspicion
20. Citizen Kane
21. Hail the Conquering Hero
22. Sullivan's Travels
23. The Set-Up
24. Meet Me in St. Louis
25. Hangmen Also Die
26. The Big Sleep
27. Red River
28. Bicycle Thieves
29. The Wolf Man
30. Whiskey Galore!

Top 30 Fifties

1. In a Lonely Place
2. The Flowers of St. Francis
3. Roman Holiday
4. On the Waterfront
5. The Ladykillers
6. The Seventh Seal
7. The Narrow Margin
8. Terror in a Texas Town
9. 3:10 to Yuma
10. Diary of a Country Priest
11. Pandora and the Flying Dutchman
12. Throne of Blood
13. A Face in the Crowd
14. Decision at Sundown
15. Rawhide
16. Touch of Evil
17. The Hidden Fortress
18. Seven Samurai
19. The Searchers
20. The 400 Blows
21. A Man Escaped
22. The Tall T
23. I Confess
24. Rashomon
25. The Asphalt Jungle
26. Strangers on a Train
27. Gun Crazy
28. Tribute to a Bad Man
29. The Thing From Another World
30. The Court Jester

Top 30 Sixties

1. Samurai Rebellion
2. Andrei Rublev
3. Blast of Silence
4. The Hustler
5. America, America
6. Faces
7. The Carabineers
8. The Naked Prey
9. Cleo from 5 to 7
10. Once Upon a Time in the West
11. Winter's Light
12. A Man for All Seasons
13. Au Hasard Balthazar
14. 2001: A Space Odyssey
15. Shoot the Piano Player
16. 101 Dalmations
17. Through a Glass Darkly
18. Ivan's Childhood
19. La Collectioneuse
20. Band of Outsiders
21. Woman in the Dunes
22. Psycho
23. The Trial of Joan of Arc
24. The Killers
25. My Night at Maud's
26. Pierrot le Fou
27. Fahrenheit 451
28. Umbrellas of Cherbourg
29. The Steamroller and the Violin
30. Lonely Are the Brave

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Top 30 Seventies

1. Stalker
2. Solaris
3. Badlands
4. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
5. Minnie and Moskowitz
6. Lancelot du Lac
7. Dawn of the Dead
8. Aguirre, the Wrath of God
9. Wise Blood
10. The Great American Chase
11. The Plumber
12. Macbeth
13. F for Fake
14. A Woman Under the Influence
15. The Muppet Movie
16. Days of Heaven
17. The American Friend
18. Woyzeck
19. The Outlaw Josey Wales
20. The Godfather
21. Love in the Afternoon
22. Claire's Knee
23. The Taking of Pelham One Two Three
24. Picnic at Hanging Rock
25. Star Wars
26. Harold and Maude
27. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
28. Tess
29. Mean Streets
30. Let's Do It Again

Top 30 Eighties

1. The Green Ray
2. Wings of Desire
3. Stranger Than Paradise
4. Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind
5. Labyrinth
6. The Empire Strikes Back
7. Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
8. First Blood
9. Raising Arizona
10. The Princess Bride
11. Back to the Future
12. The Neverending Story
13. Excalibur
14. Return to Oz
15. Three Amigos!
16. Throw Momma from the Train
17. Superman II
18. House of Games
19. River's Edge
20. Willow
21. The 'Burbs
22. The Seventh Continent
23. Damnation
24. Pauline at the Beach
25. Videodrome
26. The Lost Boys
27. My Neighbor Totoro
28. Heathers
29. My Left Foot
30. Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

Top 30 Nineties

1. Rubin & Ed
2. The Fisher King
3. Julien Donkey Boy
4. Fearless
5. Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai
6. In the Company of Men
7. The Big Lebowski
8. Trapped in Paradise
9. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
10. The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb
11. Bringing Out the Dead
12. Pulp Fiction
13. Twelve Monkeys
14. The Mask of Zorro
15. Taste of Cherry
16. Magnolia
17. The City of Lost Children
18. Slacker
19. Apollo 13
20. Dead Man
21. A Simple Plan
22. Waking Ned Devine
23. Mars Attacks!
24. The Straight Story
25. Hard Eight
26. Braveheart
27.Toy Story
28. Misery
29. The Apostle
30. Jurassic Park

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Top 30 Aughtiez

1. The Romance of Astrea and Celadon
2. Appaloosa
3. There Will Be Blood
4. The New World
5. La France
6. La Moustache
7. A Serious Man
8. No Country for Old Men
9. Munyurangabo
10. A Scanner Darkly
11. Adventureland
12. The Limits of Control
13. Moon
14. Ashes of Time Redux
15. Mister Lonely
16. Still Life
17. In the Mood For Love
18. Reign Over Me
19. Joyeux Noel
20. Ponyo
21. WALL-E
22. In Bruges
23. School of Rock
24. Inglourious Basterds
25. Beeswax
26. Offside
27. Che
28. The Astronaut Farmer
29. Dear Wendy
30. Cold Mountain

Thrown together quickly. Gut-stuff. I'm forgetting films, I'm sure.

No No November

I'm not at all a fan of politics on the blogs, except when it is a natural expression of convictions while interacting with a specific film. Then, I love politics on the blogs. I agree that all of our prejudices and opinions, hidden or stated, are relevant to our film viewing. I've always been in favor of very personal criticism.

I'm here to talk about films. Talking about films is a political act. It is a moral act. I look forward to us disagreeing and discussing differences. But I always want the focus to be on the films. Like Jeff, this makes me happy. Adrienne ought to know that it took me a long time to accept her in film club because her film posts were scattered throughout a personal blog! Very upsetting.

I'm happy to talk politics or whatever. I just don't want to do it explicitly here. How 'bout that Twitter? :)

So, some brief comments on films.

I've stalled out on the Mehsters of Horror Mehrathon. I didn't even like the Dante film. It was bold, but I think it was also over-the-top and not-at-all-subtle in making its point. The film Chocolate is the worst in the series so far. Blech.

On a positive note...

I re-watched Safety Not Guaranteed. The problems that I had with it are still there and seem even worse, but the parts I loved seem even more outrageously lovely. With some reservations, I highly recommend this one. I'd be happy to get into spoilers on this one once more of you have seen it.

Parks & Recreation is a new favorite. I watched the very short Season 1 and enjoyed it. By all reports, it only gets better from here.

My excuse for infrequent posting is that I haven't watched much. I'm reporting it all right now. I've kept up a 100% success rate in writing (however briefly) about every single film I've watched in the past years since starting this. One of my biggest pet peeves of film club is that guys like Brandon and Jeff are watching five features a day and never writing about them. As Uncle Ben said, With great quantities of film viewing comes great responsibilities. You guys are totally shirking your responsibilities. I'm calling you out right now. Meet me in the streets at noon. I'll have my whaling harpoon ready.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Silence

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October 2012 Recap

October 2012

13 Features
The Killers (1964) ****
The 39 Steps (1935) ***
Honkeytonk Man (1982) **
Return of the Jedi (1983) ***
Bernie (2011) ***
Dark City (1998) **
Roy Colt and Winchester Jack (1970) ***
Incident on and Off a Country Road (2005) **
H.P. Lovecraft's Dreams in the Witch-House (2005) **
Dance of the Dead (2005) **
Jenifer (2005) *
Chocolate (2005) *
Homecoming (2005) **

TV
Simpsons Season 1 3eps
Revolution 1 ep
Parks & Recreation Season 1
One Thursday Night NBC.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Psalm 27:1

I've decided that it's true that I'm not a horror fan. I can count on one hand the number of horror films I've found truly scary and/or worth my time. The Wolf Man's pining for death in the somewhat goofy Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is sadder and scarier than anything I've seen in the horror genre in the past 30 years.

Part of this is that I could care less about "thrills." We've already established that I'm not a "roller coaster" type of guy. This is the same reason why so many action films fail for me. I don't find them all that thrilling. There's nothing scary about roller coasters until they start falling apart and dropping folks on their heads. I might be interested in horror that "goes off the rails." Most horror, though, is about as safe and dull as any roller coaster.

Part of this is that I'm aware of editing. Watching an eye get drilled through isn't all that terrifying if you see the editor's cut instead of the imagined slasher's cut.

Part of this is that I think that the genre is overwhelmingly and nearly completely morally depraved. While I acknowledge that Jason and Brandon and the rest are not monsters, I do seriously question what good it can possibly be for hardcore fans to fill their heads with gross images of violence, specifically the favorite violence of the genre, violence against women. I'm sure there may be a few out there, but I don't personally know many Rob Zombie fans who are happily married who treat their wives with loving respect and dote on their many children. Maybe I'm wrong. I don't think so. The Binghamton WKGB demographic does not strike me as being a model of virtue. They talk (and sing) about women and treat women in degrading ways. They do not value life beyond any sort of self-gratification. I don't think that I or anyone else is going to suffer or be wounded for life for watching any horror (though there may very well be individuals for which this is true). There's a great promo bit on WHRW that has a guy saying something against censorship, that there are no words that, upon hearing them, will send the listener straight into a burning pit for all eternity. I believe this. I'm not afraid of any of these movies any more than I'm afraid of hearing (or even using) the word "fuck." Nevertheless, I am convinced that habitually putting these things before your eyes and (necessarily) internalizing them is a recipe for suffering, just like the guy who substitutes "fuck" for every other word has lost all sense of proportion and probably has lost the ability to say anything worth listening to.

Part of this is that most horror films are poorly crafted. I hope that Chris still has my back here. It's easy to get the Howards (and other little girls) scared with the jump moments. It's about as easy as it is obvious. It's much harder to convince the audience (or at least this audience member) that there are any real stakes involved. (I'm remembering now that I did actually like that ski lift horror film, Frozen, from a couple of years ago. It just popped into my head is why I mention it).

So, why am I even bothering right now? Well, it's because you guys love the genre. I am interested in exploring what it is that separates us here.

In an effort to explore this issue, I've decided to watch through all of Showtime's Masters of Horror series. This seems fair to me. Maybe you'll disagree and say that I really need to watch 100 films by two dozen directors before I can make a final judgment. Nah. I think I'm on safe ground here. For those who don't know, this series featured an impressive collection of the genre's "greatest" directors often filming adaptations of the "greatest" of literary horror (and often with the assistance of these writers). This seems to me like a horror fan's dream come true. It appeals to me because each of these films/episodes clocks in at 50-60 minutes. Brandon and I agree on this definitely: Short features are often great features because there's no fluff.

I'm excited about this because, after watching these films, I can say that I've watched a film by each of these directors. Maybe I'll find a few directors that I want to explore further. At the very least, I'll have concrete reasons why I don't like many directors.

So far, I've watched the first four films. I'm calling this project the Mehsters of Horror Mehrathon.

Here goes:
(stars out of five as usual)

Incident On and Off a Mountain Road **
Directed by Don Coscarelli
Written by Don Coscarelli, Joe R. Lansdale, Stephen Romano

Basically, a woman has an accident on a long stretch of abandoned road. She's found by a slasher-killer named Moon-Face who finally gets what's coming to him. Along the way, we've got an old man dancing a jig for our amusement.

Right from the beginning, we're presented with a female character who has been made strong through abuse. This has got to be a favorite theme of abusive men. The final twist at the end must be very satisfying to those who love talking about empowered womyn. This episode highlights the theme of the victim becoming the perpetrator of violence and presents this in a favorable "retributive vengeance" light that the audience must be supposed to revel in.

H.P. Lovecraft's Dreams in the Witch-House **
Directed by Stuart Gordon
Written by Dennis Paoli, Stuart Gordon

I'm pretty sure that Lovecraft would have hated this adaptation.

There are cracks in the walls of a house, allowing a witch and her human-faced rat familiar access into our world. They use young men to kill toddlers for them. A young student goes head-to-head with this witch, wins then loses and loses some more.

Besides the goofy rat, this one fails to do anything interesting. I could have been convinced to like this one. I might have liked it a lot if the college student had killed the boy instead of fighting the witch. This one ends with a jolt and a rumble, but it's still your standard safe roller coaster ride.

Dance of the Dead **
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Written by Richard Christian Matheson (adapting story by Richard Matheson)

In a post-WWIII world, kids will be kids and they'll all be on drugs and zombie dance raves are the new craze.

The concept here is really great. This is probably my "favorite" of the films so far, because it reaches far even if its reach exceeds its grasp. The story ultimately doesn't work because none of the characters are developed enough. They all seem pretty stock. The actors do a lot with very little, but not enough to save it all. The ending is rather bleak, suggesting a transmission and triumph of care-free painless pain, bowing to the wisdom of doping up and dropping out when all else fails. This is all presented as a great thing and we're all glad to be rid of the controlling authority figure.

Jenifer *
Directed by Dario Argento
Written by Steven Weber

A wild child disfigured woman is rescued from being murdered, only to prove to her savior that she really ought to be murdered.

This was by far the worst of the bunch. If I tell you guys that the opening short of V/H/S is far better than this one, you'll just have to believe me. There's a twist at the end that's so easy to spot that I literally groaned at the obviousness of it. There's a kernel of an interesting idea here, but it's never developed in any but the most obvious ways. To all of you horror nerds, I boldly say: Argento sucks.

That's all I've got right now. I'll keep watching.

A Happy All Hallow's Eve to all of you. You all can keep your wandering monsters below. I'm not afraid to look at them. I just don't much like them and would rather not spend all that much time with them. I'll choose instead to spend my days with those fearsome Monsters congregated 'round the Throne.

If you haven't yet read Chesterton's The Nightmare, well, what are you waiting for?
http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mward/gkc/books/nightmare.html

And all of this has reminded me of my favorite Wovenhand song, appropriate enough for All Saints' and All Souls', so why not link to it here, whether you'll like it or not...




Addicted to Mehdiocrity

Roy Colt and Winchester Jack was an entertaining romp from start to finish. It dragged at times, especially when it was indulging in long broad comedy setpieces. Still, it's rare that comic Westerns do as much right as this one does. It's no Destry or Paleface, but it definitely deserves a place as their little brother.

Dark City irritated me. I blame most of this on Sutherland's breathy performance (which can probably be blamed on the direction), but I also thought that the sf premise was lame and any serious philosophical explorations of memory and/or identity are brushed aside in favor of fight scenes and special effects. I remember liking this one back when it came out. It doesn't hold up so well.

Mehbe it's just me. Mehbe this grump slump of mine will never end.

Coming soon, either later today or tomorrow: some horror talk.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Stop the Mehdness

Eastwood's Honkeytonk Man is a dud. As a showcase for a catchy tune, it succeeds. Otherwise, it's a fantasy-comedy about a time and a place that never existed, in which brothels are the best place for a boy and there's not much better under the sun than a chronically drunk uncle schooling you in life.

Return of the Jedi was a childhood favorite of mine. Watching it now, as a grumpy old man, I was pleasantly distracted by it, but I'll also feel just fine ignoring it for another decade before I come back to it again.

Bernie is a strange film. It might be the most daring comedy experiment of the year. It's a good fit for what 2012 has been for me so far. I respect it tons and had a good time watching it, but I don't really love it. I'm going to re-read whatever Brandon wrote about it. Maybe I'll write more about it.

I haven't yet gone back to finish the Bava Western.

I also haven't get watched any Horror films at all this month.

TV Club

Thursday night, I thought that I was going to go to sleep early. I laid down at about 7:59 and, in a rare move, decided to see what was on broadcast TV. I was right on time for NBC's Thursday Night Must See TV.

30 Rock leaned so far left that I had to prop my television up with Russell Kirk books to keep it from toppling over on its left side. I would have been able to forgive this "liberal bias" if the jokes had been funny, but not many of them were.

Up All Night surprised me simply by not being nearly as bad as I'd thought it would be. Parts of it were downright sweet.

The Office was a bit of a letdown, but only because I've watched most of the entire show's run and this was only a serviceable episode, not a great one.

Parks and Recreation is the big winner for me. I'm a converted fan. I may even go back and watch all of the previous seasons. The balance of serious emotion and clever gags/jokes is pretty perfect, reminiscent of the best of The Office and even the best of what The Simpsons once was. I know Chris is a fan. Anyone else?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

chit and chat

Conversations...

Brandon,
If you can't figure out Boo, then call this number and leave a message. I'll post your message to Boo for you. 607 323 1853. You can call that number any time during the day or night. It goes straight to my google voice voicemail. I probably won't be able to post messages until the evening or the next morning when I'm home on the desktop. That goes for any of you. Any of you who didn't want to join Boo can instead call the above number and leave a message and I'll post it. I know that Boo is silly and stupid, but that's part of its charm.
As for your post...
Pulse is one of the worst movies I've seen in recent memory. It's a good poster child for all of the reasons that the horror genre constantly fails me. Like most horror, the concept is scarier than the execution.
I'd like to see The Addiction. I remember that a friend hosted a screening for Houghton's philosophy club, The Gadfly Society, way back in '99 or so. I never made it to that screening.
I wish that Seven Psychopaths would play at AMC. I've got two free tickets burning a hole in my wallet. Oh well. I'll try to catch it at Regal before its run ends. I do agree that McDonagh is a terribly smart writer.

Jason,
Sorry that I never responded to your dump.
You do need to give Videodrome another try. I don't at all condone its exploitation as critique of exploitation, but it is thoroughly effective as a horror film. One of very few films that has ever given me nightmares.
I think that you're way too hard on Brave. The film does focus on feminine characteristics, portrayed emotionally. The entire film is "about" emotional reconciliation. That it revels in emotional connection in the midst of action is a strength, not a weakness. Girls like thrilling horse rides and bear fights just as much as little boys do. That the girl hero got to participate in exciting action while acting like a girl is a positive thing, not a negative one. The film dramatizes, in an exciting way, simple family conflicts. I think it's a great film, maybe the best from this year and the best Pixar film so far.

Ben,
I guess that you and I are going to have to keep the Film Club torches burning for ST:TNG since no one else will step up. It might be time for a re-watch on my part.

Jeff,
Booing has been fun. I'll definitely keep it up. Doing those short recordings prompted me to sit down and write out this longer "Conversations" post.
I will give Bava a chance. I checked NWI and saw that they've got a Bava Western available. That's what I'm going to watch first! Roy Colt and Winchester Jack.
Looper Spoilers follow...
My problem with Looper is that I'm a complete hard determinist/fatalist when it comes to time travel in fiction. I have to side with Stephen Hawking. Travel to the past is either impossible because of the feedback involved or, if possible, it's only possible within insanely limited naturally enforced restrictions. Looper decides to sidestep the issue and embrace the paradox, something which can be done on film because film, as a dreamscape, need not follow any rigid logic. We're in Back to the Future territory here, which works for a light comedy film like BttF, but seems too light and silly for the heaviness of theme and subject that Johnson is going for with Looper. Regardless, I guess I just wish that Johnson had been consistent with his own decisions. The way he constructs things disregards Hawking's logic. It also disregards alternate timelines and parallel universe solutions by having actions done in the present affect characters from the future who happen to be in the present even though that makes no sense because if actions in the present affect characters from the future who happen to be in the present, then those characters from the future would no longer be in the present. Why does a death cause a future character to disappear, but changing the timeline in any other way doesn't? Why would the death affect the future character at all? But granting that in this story's world, it does, well then, why does the future character disappear when the present character dies? Why doesn't his corpse lay there also? Wouldn't the present body have to disappear in order for the future body to disappear? Why not have the future body laying there with a hole in its stomach in the same way in which a future body has a hole in their hand when a present body loses fingers?
Whatever. I could rant for a lot longer. Despite my issues, I did like large chunks of Looper. Johnson is a great director. I really do think so. Like M. Night, though, I wish that he'd shoot scripts written by someone else.

Lisa,
Where are you? The echoes have stopped coming from the gorge and we're worried.

Chris,
I've got Halloween traditions, too. Mostly, they involve taking candy from my children after they've done the hard work of trick or treating.

I'll use this space to post my Simpsons Season 1 rankings. The rankings here are almost arbitrary. There wasn't a bad episode in the bunch. The ranking is probably definitely affected by me watching the first disc episodes nearly a month ago and most of the rest within the past week and a half.

1. The Call of the Simpsons
2. The Telltale Head
3. Krusty Gets Busted
4. Bart the General
5. Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire
6. The Crepes of Wrath
7. Life on the Fast Lane
8. Homer's Night Out
9. Some Enchanted Evening
10. Bart the Genius
11. Moanin' Lisa
12. Homer's Odyssey
13. There's No Disgrace Like Home

Adrienne,
I suspect that you haven't watched anything since The Master. Maybe I'm wrong. Regardless, it's about time that you treated yourself to watching another movie, then treat us to a new film club post.

Alex,
Once again, welcome to CR5FC. I've been enjoying your posts. I haven't seen Hellraiser. It's been a very long time since I've seen anything by Waters. So, I just haven't had a point of contact to interact with you at length yet. Keep those posts coming.

Everyone,
Boo.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Booing at Jeff

A silly little response in which I'm glad that Jeff has seen Bringing Out the Dead, I don't care about Mario Bava, and I skirt the Looper question.

Boo Ya

It's been an extremely slow viewing month.

I did catch The 39 Steps. I've seen it several times now. I guess I've got to confess that I don't love it. I do love the screwball moments, but the thriller part of it is a letdown. Maybe you can tell that I'm grouchier than usual when I'm not watching many movies and I'm tearing down Hitchcock features. Meh.

I've watched two more episodes of Simpsons Season 1. Watching them reminded me of when they were first on and I'd record them on VHS, paired with episodes of In Living Color, to send to my older sister.

What about Revolution? I've watched one more episode. It's watchable, but it's pretty bad. I'll probably give it one more chance, but if Giancarlo Esposito doesn't get more screen time, I'll likely give up on it.

I fell asleep to the first ten minutes of Eastwood's Honkeytonk Man. Otherwise, I haven't watched a thing.

I'll try to watch a horror movie before the month is over. Maybe even Hellraiser.

In the meantime, I found a new audio-focused social network and recorded something for film club. Embedded below (but here's a direct link just in case: http://audioboo.fm/boos/1010141-bootroduction)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Dead Already

I'm a big fan of Don Siegel's made-for-TV-but-killed-by-the-censors film Ernest Hemingway's The Killers. It's exceedingly ironic that Hemingway's name is attached because the film has no connection to the Hemingway story at all. It's barely even a re-make of the Siodmak picture that it's ostensibly supposed to be. The Siodmak version opens with a great ten or so minute adaptation of the story, then quickly veers off into its own terrain. The Siegel version forgets this opening and re-imagines the rest.

I love the way the action is framed throughout. There is a real menace that slowly develops, bursts, then unravels in pure noir fashion. There's also a melancholy that hangs over the film in a way that is both familiar to noir, but more concentrated here, as if this were some grand operatic work of doomed romance instead of a gangster/heist movie.

Siegel's direction is great, but part of this is that he knew how to cast great actors and got great work out of them. If Chris could finally warm up to John Wayne after The Searchers, then I think he might find himself loving Ronald Reagan after watching The Killers. The final shot of Reagan is nearly perfect. For that matter, the final shot of Marvin is way up there with the best endings of any movie in cinema history.

Cassavetes is great, too. Angie Dickinson holds her own. The stars, though, are Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager as the titular killers. There are some seriously frightening moments each time these men muscle someone for info. Marvin is precise and cold-blooded. Gulager is off-the-cuff sadistic. Both characters apparently take great pleasure in their work.

The next day after watching it, I texted Brandon asking him why it wasn't on his '64 list. I knew he'd seen it because I let him borrow it back in '08/'09 or so. He responded that he didn't like it. Fair enough. It's got its problems. The flashback device, in particular, was worn out long before its use here. I find the movie fresh and strikingly off-kilter, but it does also cycle through some tired noir tropes.

The Killers may not be one of "my essentials" but maybe it is. It always surprises me into respecting it. It's a film that I really enjoy returning to every few years (I think it's been five years since the last time I watched it). Give it a chance and let me know what you think.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

September 2012 Recap

September 2012

6 Features
Brave (2012) ****
V/H/S (2012) **
Why Did I Get Married Too? (2010) ***
The Master (2012) ****
Looper (2012) ***
Damsels in Distress (2011) ****

1 Short
La Luna (2012) ***

TV
The Simpsons Season 1 6eps
The X-Files Season 1 4eps
Breaking Bad S05E08
Robin Hood 3eps
Rocky & Bullwinkle 3eps
Revolution 2eps
The Office New Season e1
Parks and Recreation Ditto
Big Bang Theory Ditto

Saturday, September 29, 2012

2012: Total Bummer Edition

Looper became my most anticipated film of the year after seeing this season's Rian Johnson directed episode of Breaking Bad. Unfortunately, my opinion of Johnson remains unchanged. He's a much better director than he is a writer.

Looper was a huge disappointment. Which is too bad because for the first five or so minutes I was grinning ear to ear, thinking this MUST be the glorious masterpiece of the year that I've been waiting to love.

I guess I'm a bit of a time travel snob. I do really enjoy all three of the Back to the Future movies, but they're silly and hardly make sense. Looper follows the BttF model of time travel and tries to do so with a serious straight face. If I'm going to watch this kind of goofiness, I need a Huey Lewis soundtrack.

I can't go into any more detail without getting into spoilers. Maybe I'll get into it if one of you comes back loving the movie.

Before heading home last night, I hit a Redbox and got a copy of Damsels in Distress since Abby hadn't seen it yet. Watching Damsels again was a good palate cleanser. I haven't changed my mind since my last review so I direct y'all there.

I'm not too optimistic about the rest of 2012. It's been kind of a bummer year so far. Brandon would probably point out that I always feel this way this time of year and that there's good yet to come. Okay. I guess. Still, I'm bummed at the moment.

Monday, September 24, 2012

More Master Spoilers

Just stay away for a while if you haven't seen The Master yet.

I'm awaiting more posts and any interaction.

A little bit more rambling on the ending.

Saturday night, I think I thought of the ending as cynical. I made a joke about Quell using the "Master's" words as a pick-up line.

I didn't know how to feel about the ending. It felt like a throwing up of hands and a shrug, as if this man Quell could only go on to more drinking and start enjoying some "a-roving" with the village maids. I'm convinced now that this moment is more significant. I was thinking about it all morning today. As I wrote in the last post, I believe that the physical positioning of Quell in the frame is important. Throughout the rest of the film, he has been sexually aggressive, the one who mounts and destroys, as is evidenced in the sand scene at the beginning, but also evident in the aggressive way that he pursues other women in the film. In the end, though, he is brought into a relationship of opening himself up rather than closing himself off. He is out of attack mode and his defenses are down. Again, this is abstractly communicated through his position on the bed. That may seem like a stretch, but for a careful filmmaker like Anderson, why else present Quell in this way? Why else would Quell's sand woman be whole once more as if she had never been violated? I think that it's a cautiously optimistic end.

You Got Served

My Impressionistic Fumblings

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
*The Master*
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

---
Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man.

I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy.

Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his son's name, if thou canst tell?
---

The kingdom of man is like hooch down the hatch while every primordial recollection screams condemnation.

The kingdom of man is like fucking a sand sculpture while the tide rolls in.

The kingdom of man is like roiling, rolling, and roaring.

The kingdom of man is like a slow boat to China, never arriving.

Babelic assertions of power. Serpentine grasps at the divine. Gnosis utmostest.

The Master is an Impressionistic work of representation, not a "realistic" one. The narrative of The Master is much more straightforward than something like Malick's Tree of Life, but it nevertheless grasps at its narrative as if shepherding the wind.

As evidenced above, I'm convinced that Anderson is working toward the filmic equivalent of a string of parables and proverbs, dark sayings of old. Let the wise understand.

I'm impressed by Anderson's vision. I'm especially impressed by his mastery in constructing a scene visually and in conducting his actors.

And the story.

Quell is first introduced as landlocked, unable to deal with the shifting sands of life ashore. Dodd is first introduced as master of the waves, completely in control of his kingdom on the water. Yet even Dodd must dock and face the crowds ashore. Life on land is no kinder to Dodd, however, as he deals with one mouthy pig fuck after another. These two men are both happier adrift. One man fancies himself as the only anchor while the other man must live unmoored. Both need to be set apart in order to feel at peace with the world.

The father/son brother/lover dynamics are pale perversions of the Trinitarian mutual self-giving that is the center of the life of this world. Dodd and Quell struggle to love and live as friends and maybe as equals with differing roles, but the relationship fails because Quell cannot live under tyranny and Dodd fails to see that he who would be exalted must be servant of all. Dodd does not know how to glorify anything or anyone other than himself.

---
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
---

Quell (is this an ironic name or not?) may (or may not) find peace at the end of the film. I'm not sure. It does seem as if the real and the unreal have begun to blur and bleed together (if indeed they had ever been separate). All I know is that Quell seems open to experiencing wonder as he shares the words that worked for him. He laughs in a way that Dodd talks about, but can never achieve. Quell is maybe a little ridiculous. He's vulnerable. It is interesting and probably exceedingly important that, at the last, he utters Dodd's "processing" words, as a way of pleasuring someone else in a playful way, while in a relaxed physical and emotional position of submission.

---
There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not:
The way of an eagle in the air;
the way of a serpent upon a rock;
the way of a ship in the midst of the sea;
and the way of a man with a maid.
---

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Prepping for The Master

The only movie I watched in between V/H/S and The Master was Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married Too.

I am not the target audience, but I enjoyed it just the same. There's something comforting about these Perry pictures, catering to ridiculous people with ridiculous foibles right where they are. Still, my man Perry always gets serious. This one ends with a death that allows all of the characters to reconcile and heal. It's more than a little bit of a cheat, but I don't think that Perry's capable of exploring the depths of pain and suffering that not dying would have entailed.

That's it. I had to get that out of the way before any Master talk ensues.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Film Fatigue

Since the V/H/S party, I've watched an episode of the X-Files, an episode of The Adventures of Robin Hood, and two episodes of The Simpsons. I also fell asleep twenty minutes into watching Labyrinth with the girls. That's it.

Jeff, the hitch-hiking scene in It Happened One Night is even funnier when your daughters re-enact it for you. I hope you have that pleasure some day.

I do have a few more Rohmer films that you can borrow. And I'm glad that you liked Varda's Cleo.

I'm exhausted. This movie watching conversation blogging stuff is tough. I'm gonna go take pictures in the grocery store now.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

September already.

Conversational catch-up

Mostly written last week and finished today.

Jeff,
It's good to see you becoming more ruthless and handing out more 3-star ratings, but you've done so to some of my favorite movies. Ladykillers and You Were Never Lovelier might both get "essentials" posts some day. I am glad that you enjoyed Minnie & Moskowitz. Some days, I think that it's Cassavetes' best film. It's certainly one of my all-time favorites.

Did we talk about The X-Files? I recently bought (off of eBay) X-Files Season 1 and The Simpsons Season 1. These were both favorite shows of mine way back when. It's nice to revisit them.

I can't make it opening night (or anytime opening weekend) to The Master. :(

Chris,
It was good to read your Brave thoughts. I took the whole family to see it again yesterday at the Cinema Saver.
Everyone,
It was nice to see all of those lists. I'm going to try to make it a priority to watch films from everyone else's lists in the next few months.

Like the rest of you bums, I've been behind on blogging.

House of Bamboo is worth a watch. It's one of the few truly hard-boiled Technicolor Noir films. It's also fine melodrama. This is the film Douglas Sirk might have made if he had tried his hand at crime pictures.

Big Deal on Madonna Street is no big deal, but it's plenty entertaining. I liked it.

I was happy that I watched Diary of a Country Priest mere hours before Jeff posted it as his #1. It's a worthy NĂºmero UNO, worthy of many re-watches.

Brandon and I are in agreement regarding Lawless. It's a mess.

I already wrote about V/H/S.

See CR5FC-FB for why I didn't like AGOT.

The Breaking Bad semi-finale was great.

I'm enjoying The Simpsons. The X-Files isn't grabbing me, but I'll keep slowly plowing through the first season. It's solid, just not great. Started watching Robin Hood with the girls again on Tuesdays after a long Summer of being busy. I fell asleep watching Labyrinth with them the other day.

I've got Internet access at home again. Maybe I'll get back to streaming now and then. I do at least want to finish The Big Combo. I watched the first twenty minutes several weeks ago and was very impressed.

I saw a girl wearing a shirt I liked in Wegmans. I sneakily took a picture. It would have been easier if I'd had Jeff's spy glasses.

Here's the picture:

Friday, September 7, 2012

I'm upgrading to laserdiscs.

V/H/S is yet another entry in the long line of perennial doomed-to-failure anthology films. All genres have had their turns at this sort of showcase. The horror genre is the one genre that's doggedly stuck at it the longest.

Like all of its predecessors, V/H/S is a mixed bag.

Tape 56, the framing story, is entirely uninteresting. It establishes the stupid gimmick and that's all.

Amateur Night immediately strains the VHS gimmick by establishing that the footage was taken by a pair of eyeglasses with a built-in spy camera. Regardless, it fits the found footage theme well. I guess I wish it was scarier (and this might be the most effectively scary short of the bunch). Without spoiling things, I'll say that the short ends on a punchline. This little gag twist at the end undercuts some of the horror, but it's also the only reason that I'm somewhat impressed by this installment.

Second Honeymoon wasn't as great as our wonderful host, Brandon, thinks it is. It wasn't even the best short of the anthology. It looked decent, but it felt like Rod Serling trying to turn an episode of the Twilight Zone into a snuff film. Wait. I guess that doesn't sound all that bad after all.

Tuesday the 17th is the obvious dud of the bunch. It's too bad, too, because all of Brandon's hating just gave me a big ol' fondness for McQuaid. I looked him up and his feature I Sell the Dead looks like a lot of fun. http://www.isellthedead.com/media.html

The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger really pleased me. It was definitely the most "high concept" of all of the films. It felt like a super-condensed X-Files scenario. Not much padding here and a nice twist at the end.

10/31/98 is definitely the best of the bunch. It's well done, yes, but part of its charm is that this is the first of the films in which we get goofy real characters who just seem like they're having fun instead of participating in a horror sketch. The story is nice and tight (though I think the ending is weak), the acting is great, and the fx are fantastic.

Here's how I'd rank them all:

1) 10/31/98
2) The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger
3) Amateur Night
4) Second Honeymoon
5) Tuesday the 17th
6) Tape 56

I'm being too kind here. The film isn't really worth watching. If you must watch it, though, I recommend that you watch it at Brandon's place with some of his buddies and a few Film Clubbers.

Friday, August 31, 2012

August 2012 Recap

August 2012

8 Features
The Lady Vanishes (1938) *****
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938) ***
The Paleface (1948) ****
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) ***
House of Bamboo (1955) ***
Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958) ***
Diary of a Country Priest (1951) *****
Lawless (2012) **

TV
Breaking Bad Season 5 eps 4,5,6,7
Breaking Bad Season 2
A Game of Thrones Season 1
The X-Files S1E1

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bride of Frankenjohn

"To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in the cinema or at home, to love and to cherish 'till warring film lists do us part."

Yesterday, I asked my lovely wife to make a list for me. She hadn't yet seen my list nor had we talked about it beforehand.

She sent me a good list off the top of her head right away. Then, she agonized over the idea for half the morning, finally deciding to just go with those first films that hopped into her mind. There are certainly many more films that she's forgotten and that she'd slap herself on the forehead for forgetting if she was the type of person to slap herself on the forehead for forgetting.

I thought about including some of the funny correspondence of her trying to remember the names of these films, but I'll leave the list without further ado.

Abigail's Top Ten (if you asked her on the morning of August 24th, Anno Domini 2012)

Julien Donkey-Boy (Korine, 1999)
Encounters at the End of the World (Herzog, 2007)
There Will Be Blood (Anderson, 2007)
Tree of Life (Malick, 2011)
Ivan's Childhood (Tarkovsky, 1962)
The Mill and the Cross (Majewski, 2011)
Mr. and Mrs. Smith (Hitchcock, 1941)
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Miyazaki, 1984)
Modern Times (Chaplin, 1936)
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Hughes, 1968)
La France (Bozon, 2007)

Honorable mentions:
Every Hitchcock film she's ever seen.
Any film starring Carey Grant.
30s romantic comedies.
I Love You Again.
Blast of Silence. Shoot the Piano Player. The 400 Blows. Days of Heaven. The Apostle. On the Waterfront. James and the Giant Peach. Trapped in Paradise. Woman on the Moon.

If you know how to count, you'll probably notice that I let her get away with 11 picks besides the honorables. That's partially because I was so pleased that she put La France as the 11th movie. It's a great, great film that the rest of you have ignored for far too long, even though I've been praising it for five years.

Also, how about that JDB pick, eh? I showed JDB to her on our wedding night and I told her that she had to love it unconditionally just as she loves me and she said, "I do." Just kidding. I didn't even own a DVD copy until maybe five years ago, which is probably about when she watched it. She saw the good in it that Brandon refuses to see. Which is just one of the many, many reasons why I am married to this beautiful, intelligent woman and not to my Film Club compadre.

Brandon, you'll be happy to hear that Abby was trying to get the title of another film out of me when I arrived home yesterday evening.

Night of the Hunter.

It got a strong last minute honorable mention. I wasn't expecting it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sir Nod

Brandon, thanks for hosting a fun evening.

Your couch is comfortable, your burritos were excellent.

I enjoyed the first twenty and last ten minutes of Last Days of Disco. Thanks to Andy for bringing it.

Chris proved that Howards pay their debts.

I've got Jeff's back in any Turin Horse argument. My only concern about the movie is that it may not be long enough.

Good night.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity

The Sight and Sound poll is stupid. All lists are stupid. Remind me again why we love lists so much.

I can't find some magic objectivity inside me that would allow me to distinguish the "greatest" movies from my personal favorites. More than that, any attempt to show some sort of comprehensive knowledge is doomed to failure. Even if I had watched every film ever made (or even the "important" ones that form something of a critical consensus), how could I choose ten and only ten? The task would only become that much more impossible. Is Keaton's The General really greater than Chaplin's City Lights? Is one more important than the other? Do we want to give up either one? Is Lang's M. really greater than his Metropolis? Can one pick a single John Ford film or do they all cancel each other out because they're all so consistently good? And so on.

What follows is a list of the ten greatest movies of all time, excepting the fifty others, just as great, that I've left off the list and the thousand others that I haven't seen.

Top Ten

1) Stalker (Tarkovsky, 1979)
2) There Will Be Blood (Anderson, 2007)
3) Rubin & Ed (Harris, 1991)
4) Terror in a Texas Town (Lewis, 1958)
5) The New World (Malick, 2005)
6) A Woman Under the Influence (Cassavetes, 1974)
7) The Flowers of St. Francis (Rossellini, 1950)
8) Modern Times (Chaplin, 1936)
9) The Adventures of Robin Hood (Curtiz, 1938)
10) The Seventh Seal (Bergman, 1957)

I'm going to leave out the commentary for now even though I know that's the most fun part.

At this moment in time, those films above are my desert island picks. THE GREATEST FILMS. THE MOST IMPORTANT FILMS OF ALL TIME. THE MOST BEAUTIFUL FILMS. YES, INDEED, MY FAVORITES. There you are, Sight and Sound. Mr. Musa, I hope you're happy now.

But, of course, I already regret the above list. It is missing many, many of my favorite films. Why Stalker and not Andrei Rublev? Why not include them both? How do I dare include Rubin & Ed? Where are the Rohmer films? Isn't On the Waterfont pretty much perfect? Well, where is it? Why are there no animated films on this list? Isn't Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein more entertaining than every film on the list? Where are the rest of the foreign films? Where are the rest of the Hollywood studio films? And on and on.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Easter Eggs for Hitler

I'm going to try hard to stay current.

Captain America: The First Avenger is plenty of fun.

It's nowhere near as fun as the Hulk film I'm imagining. Written and directed by and starring Mark Ruffalo.

Looped

Catching up.

I've decided that I can't write about Safety Not Guaranteed without spoiling it. I love the ending. Whatever reservations I still have about the film are mostly due to the film's sense of humor, which I felt too often devolved into a That 70s Show level of not-that-funny.

I also watched a forgettable Western at the end of July. War Arrow. Maureen O'Hara is the best thing about it.

Now, it's August. My viewing has slowed down a lot.

I've watched a few things with the girls, including The Lady Vanishes.

The Paleface might become essential. I enjoy it more every time I watch it.

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm is surprisingly enjoyable. Directed by one of cinema history's greatest action director. Starring one of cinema history's greatest cowboy actors. And Shirley Temple. Huh? It works.

I don't have much more to say about it.

Here's Graham Greene on Shirley Temple:

"Watch the way she measures a man with agile studio eyes, with dimpled depravity. Adult emotions of love and grief glissade across the mask of childhood, a childhood that is only skin-deep. It is clever, but it cannot last. Her admirers—middle-aged men and clergymen—respond to her dubious coquetry, to the sight of her well-shaped and desirable little body, packed with enormous vitality, only because the safety curtain of story and dialogue drops between their intelligence and their desire."

Yikes.

I'm getting rid of a giant collection of Greene's film writing. Anyone interested in it?

Other than those movies, I've continued to keep up with Breaking Bad. "Fifty-one" is one of the greatest episodes in the series' astoundingly great run. Most episodes are good. Many are great. A few are better than just about anything else on screen, big or small, now or up against anything in the past. Of course, these episodes are built on the cumulative strength of previous episodes so it's hard to consider them in isolation.

Rian Johnson's Looper has become my most anticipated film of the year.

Finally, a train heist? A train heist?! A train heist!!!

Don't bother me. I'm busy composing The Ballad of Jesse Pinkman.

Friday, August 10, 2012

My Essentials: The Lady Vanishes

The Lady Vanishes has it all. Like most Hitchcock films (especially the 30s ones), Lady finds the right balance between holiday hijinx, screwball romance, international espionage, and all-out action.

Lady starts at an inn, in a small and forgettable town in the middle of Europe. The inn is overcrowded due to a train being delayed there by inclement weather. One could be forgiven for assuming that this is a charming comedy as our cast of characters is introduced.

All is fun and games until we're shown a single startlingly shocking shot of a singer being strangled.

Nevertheless, the dominant pleasant tone more of less continues as the long-awaited train arrives in the morning. By this point we've identified our protagonist, the young and privileged Iris, who is returning home from one of a string of vacations. Her intent in returning home is to settle down in marriage with a young man as rich and spoiled and loveless as herself. We've also been introduced to the elderly Miss Froy, a kindly Governess on her way back to England after working abroad as a Governess for several years.

As everyone prepares to board the train, it's easy to forget about that brief image of murder that we've seen. That is, until a flower pot shoved out a window, intended for Froy(!), hits Iris on the head and nearly knocks her out.

Froy takes care of Iris on the train. After having tea together, the two return to their train car and Iris sleeps off the effects of her near-concussion. When she wakes up, Miss Froy is gone. Worse, the passengers in her car deny ever having seen her. Not a single passenger on the train will confirm that there was ever anyone matching Miss Froy's description on the train. Iris's panic and frustration is palpable now.

These feelings of disorientation and despair as the world is turned upside down are preoccupations of Hitchcock. Hitchcock is so excellent at detailing this modern anxiety, both visually and thematically. He does so without resorting to mopey introspection, but uses the tropes of the suspense genre to externalize emotion and display it relentlessly moving forward just as the train in Lady chugs along, in which stopping does not necessarily mean rest. Stopping the train (the momentum of the plot) is a means of highlighting decisive moments. As in the best Westerns, indeed as in the best movies, ACTIONS reveal character.

Lady Vanishes is never preachy, but it is indubitably morally instructive. Heroism and sacrifice are quietly lauded in a reserved and peculiarly English sort of way.

And the ending? I suppose it's a bit of a spoiler to mention it. The ending is delightful. There is something so satisfyingly right about it that my heart wells up with syrupy sweetness, knowing down deep that everything is and shall be good and right in the world.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July 2012 Recap

July 2012

16 Features
Red Dust (1932) **
Boudu Saved From Drowning (1932) ***
Freaks (1932) ***
Ride the High Country (1962) ***
The Most Dangerous Game (1932) ***
Brave (2012) ***
The Amazing Spiderman (2012) ***
A Farewell to Arms (1932) ****
Cause for Alarm! (1951) ****
I Was Born, But (1932) ***
No Blood Relation (1932) ***
Planet Hulk (2010) ***
Scarface (1932) ****
The Old Dark House (1932) ***
Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) ***
War Arrow (1953) ***

1 Doc
Golden Saddles, Silver Spurs (2000) ***

Shorts

TV
Breaking Bad Season 1
Breaking Bad Season 5 E1,2,3
The Big Bang Theory Season 1
The Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! Season 1
Usagi Drop S1E1

Saturday, July 28, 2012

1932

Here's a brief rundown of the 1932 movies that I've watched recently.

Red Dust features a very similar plot to China Seas and the same two leads. China Seas is charming once it gets going. Red Dust is suffocatingly mundane in its exploration of the same themes.

Boudu Saved From Drowning is a disarmingly confrontational film. Boudu confronts silly bourgeois conventions, but is also just as clear that the anarchic spirit of this lower class guest is not to be desired.

Freaks is remarkable for its genuine tenderness. The "freaks" on display are humanized because, well, they're human.

I'm not sure if Chris has seen The Most Dangerous Game, but he should. Killing creatures for sport is under the lens here and it doesn't come out looking all that great.

A Farewell to Arms was the big surprise. I'm not sure why I like it so much. The staging and photography are incredible. The relationships are meaningful and the realities of war are fully on display. It's probably the most insistently human of all of the films on display in 1932.

I Was Born, But felt like an arthouse edition of The Little Rascals. There are some great moments in this, but I'm not a big fan of children in movies and I'm not really convinced by the movie's message.

No Blood Relation would put Brandon into a coma. It opens with one of the greatest whip-pans in cinema history and is immediately striking in its use of the camera. Naruse has discovered zooms. By the end of the film, Naruse has lost control of his camera. Every shot is a zoom, focusing intently on faces and responses.

Scarface is a lot better than I had previously given it credit for. I may possibly be influenced by watching this in the light of Walter White's rise to power, watching Scarface and gaining satisfaction thinking about White's end.

The Old Dark House has some good moments, but fails because it's not really scary and because none of the travelers are all that interesting in their interactions. I'm a James Whale fan, though, and is touches are evident all over this picture. I'm looking forward to seeing more of his films.

So, after that binge watching, here's my current '32 list. Notably, Chain Gang has fallen significantly. Mostly, this is because I can never remember anything about it. The last time I watched it, I was surprised to discover that I had already seen it. Thinking about it the other day, I realized that I could not remember a single thing about it. I had to read an online plot synopsis to remind me. So, based on its strong forgettability, I've decided to lower it way down on the list.

My Top Ten 1932

1. A Farewell to Arms (Frank Borzage)
2. Scarface (Howard Hawks, Richard Rosson)
3. One Hour With You (Ernst Lubitsch)
4. Boudu Saved From Drowning (Jean Renoir)
5. Freaks (Tod Browning)
6. The Most Dangerous Game (Irving Pichel, Ernest B. Schoedsack)
7. I Was Born, But... (Yasujiro Ozu)
8. Once in a Lifetime (Russell Mack)
9. No Blood Relation (Mikio Naruse)
10. I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang (Mervyn LeRoy)

Honorable Mentions: The Blood of a Poet (Jean Cocteau), Horse Feathers (Norman Z. McLeod), Vampyr (Carl Theodor Dreyer)

Mentions: The Mummy (Karl Freund), The Old Dark House (James Whale), Red Dust (Victor Fleming), Trouble in Paradise (Ernst Lubitsch),

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Friday, July 20, 2012

s5e04 is titled 'fifty-one'

I'm predicting bacon. Probably not veggie bacon.

It definitely looks like the premiere's pre-title credits sequence is setting us up for a one-year jump. Maybe to be played out over the second eight episodes of Season 5? Which I only just recently discovered won't be airing until NEXT July! I knew there was going to be a split, but I was expecting December or January. Not July!

This morning, I found the following Breaking Bad timeline. It's only through Season 3, but it's helpful as a general recap and specifically in pointing out all of the time references.

http://www.vulture.com/m/2011/07/breaking_bad_calendar.html

Chris, let's keep Breaking Bad club alive. I'm planning on at least one spoilerific BB post every week for the next eight weeks.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Magnets Yo

I don't feel much like writing. Even so, the blog demands it.

Ride the High Country was a disappointment, if only because I was expecting so much from it. It's a fine movie and I enjoyed it.

Brave is another great Pixar film. As someone who liked Cars 2, I can honestly say that Pixar's streak of perfection remains unbroken.

The Amazing Spider-Man is much better than I was expecting it to be. I think I like it better than Raimi's. Andrew Garfield is our best screen Spidey so far.

Planet Hulk is okay, but could have been amazing if the animation had stuck closer to Carlo Pagulayan's pencils. The story is condensed a bit, too, and doesn't quite pack the same emotional punch as Pak's story does on the printed page. Planet Hulk was the last great Hulk storyline. I can't tolerate all of the Red Hulk crap going on in the series right now.

Golden Saddles, Silver Spurs isn't even boring enough to fall asleep to. The narration is enough to make any cowhand want to give up and start a new life as a city banker, because anything must be more exciting than this.

I watched The Big Bang Theory Season 1 and The Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! while cleaning and sorting and transferring data from a laptop that kept crashing. Both shows benefitted from this state of divided attention. I'd have a hard time sitting still to watch either one, but they both worked well as "amusing enough" background entertainments.

Finally, Breaking Bad.

I was able to watch the season premiere live, but I almost regret doing so. Watching with commercial breaks sucks. Not getting to watch the end credits sucks. I've watched the episode a second time. The look on Skyler's face at the end of the episode is much more effective when followed by a cut to black and rolled credits than it is when followed immediately by a lame AMC promo.

It's hard to write about the premiere without sounding like Chris Farley. Wasn't it awesome when they used the magnets and the laptop went flying and Jesse shouted Yeah Bitches and everyone was happy and Walt is such a badass-Because I Say So!-and how could it get any cooler and can't you just not wait to find out how that machine gun is going to be used?

Seriously, I was not disappointed. I love this cast. I love the direction. It's pretty amazing how much emotion these actors are able to convey with the slightest changes in facial expressions.

As always, the show looks great. I could post a couple dozen screen shots.

Narratively, it's nice and concise. The shifting roles and relationships in the aftermath of Season 4 are clearly delineated. All of the characters, including Walt, are re-oriented toward and relativized by Walt's new position of power. This is often uncomfortable. The way that the episode ends is radically awkward.

Lastly, the magnet set piece is an incredible short "heist" sequence! It's an ingeniously destructive "theft" that has never been seen before (at least by these eyes). Earlier, I posted the picture of the junkyard man shouting "Yes!" after a successful trial run. That's exactly how I feel while watching Breaking Bad. YES!

I've also watched (and re-watched) eight features from '32. I should have another post up soon.