Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January 2012 Recap

20 Features
Septien (2011) **
Bellflower (2011) *
Warrior (2011) **
The Muppets (2011) **
Another Earth (2011) ***
The Set-Up (1949) ****
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) ****
Moneyball (2011) ***
The Guard (2011) ****
The Mark of Zorro (1940) **
The Secret of Kells (2009) ****
Winchester '73 (1950) ****
Rhythm on the Range (1936) ****
Vampyr (1932) **
Rhythm on the River (1940) ***
L'Age d'Or (1930) ***
City Lights (1931) ****
The Mummy (1932) **
One Hour With You (1932) ****
Horse Feathers (1932) ****

3 Documentaries
Brother Born Again (2001) **
The Legend of Masty Huba (2010) ***
Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl (2011) ***

2 Shorts
Small Fry (2011) ***
The Red Balloon (1956) ****

Justified Season 1
-"Fathers and Sons"
Robin Hood
-"The Knight Who Came to Dinner"
-"The Wager"
-"The Prisoner"
-"A Village Wooing"
Smallville Season 4
Smallville Season 5
Battlestar Galactica
The Golden Globes
The Story of Film 1-4


January's almost over.

There's not much to say.

One Hour With You is an enjoyable Lubitsch musical from '32. I should write more about it, but I probably won't.

Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl and The Legend of Masty Huba are two documentaries that I enjoyed, proving that I get along just fine with the genre.

Horse Feathers is through and through enjoyable. The world might be a better place if one-hundred-million-plus people all watched Horse Feathers at the same time this weekend instead of watching the Super Bowl.

I was going to get a flat bottom, but the girl at the boathouse didn't have one.

And more Smallville. Highlights have been a vampire sorority and Lois working as an undercover striptease dancer. Most episodes have about 30 minutes of ridiculous fluff mixed in with 10 solid minutes exploring the background mythology and advancing the show's core story. When it's good, it's great. When it's not good, it's ridiculous. I've lasted this long. I'm starting to doubt whether I can make it through five more seasons of this. The reason that I keep watching is because it's easy to do. By the time I'm ready to sit down and watch something, it's usually about 9:30pm and I'm ready for bed. It's easier to swallow 42 minutes of goofy Smallville and get some sense of completion instead of starting something 120 minutes and falling asleep (or, even worse, staying up and not getting enough sleep).

Sorry that this post is so pathetic. Hopefully, whatever movie Ben picks for February will inspire me to get back into a regular writing habit.

I plan on posting a January recap later today. I tried doing this a couple of years ago, but gave up after a few months. I'm hoping to keep up with it this year. It'll make year end review a lot easier. Also, I'll be giving star ratings. I know that you've all been waiting for this. It's a simple 5-star system. No half points. I stole it from Netflix/GoodReads. *=Hated it, **=Didn't Like It, ***=Liked It, ****=Really Liked It, *****=Loved It. Nice and lame and emotional. It should go without saying that this is in no way neat and tidy even though it may look that way.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Maybe he got too gay with the vestal virgins in the temple.

While I was sick, I watched two Bing Crosby pictures.

Rhythm on the Range is nearly perfect. It's a standard RomCom plot boiled to just the right temperature. I was at the height of being sick when I saw this and it was just what I needed. Seriously, my medical insurance should have covered the cost of this DVD.

Rhythm on the River is entirely pleasant, but nowhere near as delightful as Range. The ghostwritten lyrics/tunes plot couldn't be any more relevant in our age of abundant copywrongs.

Jeff may be happy that I dig Bunuel in '30.

L'Age d'Or is often funny so I can give it a pass. It's ten times more interesting and exciting than Vampyr. At least, it's funnier. This is only the second Bunuel film I've seen. Cross my fingers, I'm a fan.

I can also totally agree with Jeff's '31 pick.

City Lights is just as good as it always is. I love that Chaplin will hold on a gag long enough for it to not be funny, to the point that it's funnier.

Most recently...

I really wanted to like The Mummy. It's just fine. Okay, it's a huge disappointment. I only wish I'd seen it in early adolescence, the perfect time to enjoy a vestal virgin obsession. As it was, I admit to being more than a little bored.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

We could be arguing about snow.

Jeff, I'm not feeling the Birth of a Nation comparisons. Sit down and watch the whole Griffith masterpiece with Chris and you'll know I'm right about that one.

Griffith makes racism fun. Dreyer makes vampires boring. I know who I'm siding with.

I'm being silly, but the point is that Griffith's film is emotionally engaging while Dreyer's isn't. I respect that this is entirely subjective. Here I stand.

I conceded that there were some interesting images in Vampyr. Sure. I also got sick of the gauzy cottony look pretty quick. I think that there are a few interesting things here. Enough to steal and use in a better movie. Not nearly enough to hang my hat on in this one.

"If you can't admit that VAMPYR is great merely for its "how" instead of its "what" then you need to call BIRTH OF A NATION a piece of trashy, low-brow garbage passed off as one of the greatest films ever made right now!"

BUT! It's precisely the "how" that I'm calling into question here. Specifically "how" Dreyer uses text in the film. This relates to the entire "how" of the visual structure of the film. I think that it breaks the flow, neatens things up, and renders the whole ridiculous. I think that Dreyer fails in his "how" by trying to tidy things up. I also think that the main actor is a doofus.

I'm starting to realize how great it is that the whole world, but especially Denmark, has moved past the 1930s.

Jeff's Round Rump.

I'll join the chorus singing Jeff's praises. Those 30s lists are tops.

I decided to stop diddling around and get serious like Jeff. I decided to start with his #1s from each year. I decided to start with my copy of Vampyr that I bought a couple of years ago at a Hollywood Video going out of business sale and have never watched.

What a stupid idea.

I went in with high expectations.

I'm trying to start most of these sentences with "I" to indicate how subjective this all is. I hope I'm getting through to you.

I disliked Vampyr.

I feel guilty. I feel like I should feel more guilty. I feel like I don't care.

Apparently, Vampyr was considered a terrible mistake, the absolute low point, in Dreyer's career for decades. I agree with this assessment.

Unfortunately, recently, Vampyr has been critically rehabilitated and everyone loves the damned thing.

I think it's a mess.

There are some fantastic images and some interesting camera motion.

So what?

The narrative is lame. Lame. Lame. Lame.

The use of so much text is not some quaint throwback to the silent era. It's a weird crutch that delivers lots of information that that makes sense of the film which is otherwise senseless. A man delivers a book that says, "open if I die" (or something stupid like that), then the man dies and we get pages and pages of the book to read that let us know that we are dealing with a scary vampire. Seriously, Dreyer, you're really good at making images. Why so much text? The vampire story is stupid. Heck, I'd probably like the movie better if it made less sense and was just a series of dreamy images strung together. The text reveals the bald face of the stupid story.

I feel like I should log this thing on GoodReads instead of posting about it here.

Maybe I'm just angry at Dreyer for making something so trashy and low-brow and trying to pass it off as an art pic.

Some people say that this should just be enjoyed on the level of "mood" or "atmosphere." My problem is that I couldn't get into any mood or atmosphere. If I'd been in one of the original audiences, I would have had fun howling insults at the screen and laughing while throwing jujubes and popcorn.

"It is incomprehensible that Mr Dreyer has spent time, money and talent on this screenplay which is not worthy of the effort. (…) However, the generally macabre tone of the film makes it difficult for the acting to change the overall impression that we are here dealing with some fantastical nonsense […]. It is worth neither clapping nor hissing at."

Of course, I feel inadequate railing against all of you uber-film-nerds who really understand Dreyer and how special Vampyr is.

Next up: L'Age d'Or. I can't wait to smack Jeff around and tell him how wrong he is about that one. :)

Bleh. Being sick stinks.

After finishing a couple of errands, I plan on spending the rest of the day laying on a couch and watching movies. There are some perks to feeling bleh.

I wrote the following a couple of days ago, but never posted it...

I've fallen behind, I know. Blog fatigue, early winter edition, is setting in. I've also been grumpy and sick. We need something good to argue about.

Mark of Zorro, Mammoulian style, didn't really do anything for me. Give me Robin Hood any day.

Secret of Kells is a beautiful animated tale. It's the most striking animated feature I've seen in a while. I want to celebrate its innovation, but I'm sure that at least a dozen Japanese films did it all first.


Brother Born Again showcases everything I dislike about documentaries.

I'm going to reconcile with my brother. This is serious emotional territory. Why don't I film it to advance my career?

If my sister came at me with a movie camera, I'd punch her in the lens cap.

Who looks at their family life and thinks, "This situation I'm worrying about would be better if I documented it on film." I don't like people who think that way. I don't like MTV's The Real World or any of its devil spawn. I don't like these sorts of documentaries.

I know it's not Tuesday yet, but that was spoiler-free and I'm tired of sitting on the film. End rant.


I thought that the action in Smallville would pick up post-graduation, but things have been dull.

The BSG made-for-TV movie Razor was just okay. I'm looking forward to completing BSG in 2012, but I'm taking it slow.


I watched The Set-Up earlier this month and forgot to write about it. I love Manny Farber's review of this movie. Farber was a boxing fan and could smell out the phony parts. He also couldn't deny the power of Ryan's performance.

I watched Winchester '73 last night. Way back when, it was my first Anthony Mann film. It holds up even better than I remembered. I think that I might prefer Night Passage (same screenwriter, similar themes without the hokey Winchester thread, some of the same actors, different director), but Winchester delivers the goods. I've been sick the past few days and a good western was exactly what I needed to perk me up.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The virtue of vulgarity, or the other way around.

Chris is right about Moneyball. Its biggest failing is that it's only really good and not great. It does everything right that a Hollywood movie should do. It's smart and interesting and easy to watch. And then, when it's all over, you feel satisfied, but not in any lasting way. I'm starting to warm to Sorkin. The film's greatest strengths and weaknesses are found in the script. Sorkin's biggest flaw, as far as I can see, is that he'll often have characters deliver plot points instead of proper dialogue. This keeps things moving along briskly, but the characters are always in service of an Idea. Character doesn't matter as long as we get the point.

The Guard, on the other hand, offers an abundance of pleasures. And an abundance of Character. There is a "moral" or a "Big Idea" here, but it only finds expression in and through personality.

The film is a bit uneven and often, especially in the beginning, errs on the side of silliness. This would be a weakness if the silliness weren't so danged endearing. Okay, it's still definitely a weakness. Your enjoyment of this movie will probably depend on how much you're able to smile along at the winking.

The protagonist, the guard Boyle, is extremely likable. At least, I like him.

I had a fond, emotional response to this film.

Boyle goes about his job in a manner I can only respect, lightheartedly avoiding all the layers of bullshit (always present) while finishing the real work set before him, the important "relational" (what a stupid word, I just put Brandon to sleep again) parts; proving to others that the only way to take your work seriously is to take it all lightly. Get the work done and ignore the bureaucracy.

Brief indiscretion with a pair of prostitutes aside, Boyle is a fucking role model. I admire his work ethic.

(Pardon the sudden lapse in language. It is obligatory to drop at least one f-bomb in any review of any film written and/or directed by a McDonagh.)

The film also features the best philosophically-minded criminals since the Dude and Walter faced off with those Nihilists.

In so many ways, this is the same "unorthodox cop" genre movie that you've seen dozens of times before. It knowingly comments on that genre with a wink and a nod in several directions at once. Still, this isn't a deconstruction in the sense that Drive is. The Guard laughs at some of the genre constructions, but ultimately upholds them and especially values self-sacrificial Virtue.

Brendan Gleeson is fantastic as always.

Finally, I want to point out that the Calexico score is among the best of the year, if not THE best of the year.

I won't say any more. Watch it. I expect some of you to disagree with me. I'm looking forward to hearing what everyone thinks.

There's a quieter moment in the film that marks the exact spot that I fell in love.

Here's a picture:

Killing Little Protestants. That's Funny.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Carrot Head

I started experimenting with my iPhone camera this afternoon. I made a short film about making carrot juice using my dad's homegrown carrots. Annie's the star of this one, though most of us make an appearance. I'm not completely happy with the editing, but it's good enough for the short time that I spent on it. I'm also not happy with the video. I didn't realize that shooting in portrait mode would box the frame so much with no way to undo this (or is there?).

But really, it's just a lame home movie.



I need to clarify just in case someone tries to "get" me for something that I wrote below.

A few years ago, I put La France on my 2008 list. My entire 2008 list is a mess of years. Still Life and La France and Romance of Astrea and Celadon and others. Half of my 2008 list consisted on non-2008 films.

Now, I know better and I consider La France a 2007 film. It's still one of the best films I saw in 2008, but it's a 2007 film.

Once I changed my dating system, I could finally agree with Brandon that 2007 was one of the unrivaled best years in recent film history.

Just because I was curious. I started looking at box office stats.

Meek's Cutoff
Weekend Gross
$920 (USA) (21 August 2011) (2 Screens)
$2,197 (USA) (14 August 2011) (4 Screens)
$4,224 (USA) (7 August 2011) (4 Screens)
$9,037 (USA) (31 July 2011) (7 Screens)
$6,796 (USA) (24 July 2011) (5 Screens)
$13,702 (USA) (17 July 2011) (13 Screens)
$9,063 (USA) (10 July 2011) (12 Screens)
$15,236 (USA) (26 June 2011) (17 Screens)
$42,121 (USA) (12 June 2011) (41 Screens)
$68,910 (USA) (5 June 2011) (45 Screens)
$84,416 (USA) (22 May 2011) (39 Screens)
$96,990 (USA) (15 May 2011) (30 Screens)
$61,337 (USA) (8 May 2011) (19 Screens)
$34,724 (USA) (1 May 2011) (11 Screens)
$35,791 (USA) (24 April 2011) (6 Screens)
$14,092 (USA) (17 April 2011) (2 Screens)
$20,042 (USA) (10 April 2011) (2 Screens)

So, at one point on one weekend, Meek's was playing on 45 screens in the US. That's the maximum that it ever played. That's really respectable for a film its size. A film like La France, by contrast, has no info listed on IMDB because it probably never played on more than one screen at a time in the US. Meek's Cutoff is a blockbuster compared to La France. Avatar, on the 3rd hand, peaked at 3,452 screens at one time in 2009. It earned $77,025,481 that weekend alone.

Avatar didn't hit any theatres in Russia until later in 2010, though, so it's probably a 2010 film, right? Also, I haven't seen it. And if I haven't seen it, then a film remains dateless. Yup, that's my new system. A film remains dateless until I watch it and then roll 4d6 to come up with an approximate date.

"when a film was released in the US"


As I already suggested, "when a film was released in the US" is also contested. How many places does it have to play? For how long? Meek's Cutoff played in two different U.S. cities in 2010. It then got a "limited" release in 2011. How many cities did it play in then? Not too many. It never got a "wide" release. Some films don't even get a "limited" release beyond NY, LA, Chicago, and a few other places. We're sometimes, sometimes, lucky to see some of the rarer films play at Cornell months later. I remember being glad to see La France a few years ago. It played maybe 3 places in the entire U.S., showed at Cornell for 2 screenings, then didn't make it onto DVD for three years afterwards. It made it on my 2008 list, but no one else besides a handful of big city critics had seen it and even now that it's become available, it never got any kind of attention. No one besides Cinema Scope and the art film snobs in the big cities were talking about it. How do you date something like that? The Mill and the Cross falls here, too. It has been fortunate enough to get an immediate DVD release, but otherwise has had little to no attention and no real "release." If, instead of getting the DVD release, it suddenly got lots of attention and opened wide this month, would it then be a 2012 film?

Enough already. You guys already know my position without me repeating it in a variety of different ways. Bleh.

I don't care.

Really, I don't.

Make your lists however you'd like.

Your organizing principle can be that you have no organizing principle, only a nebulous notion of what you think came out this past year.

For my part, when I make a list, I like to know what I'm doing. Quite simply, what does "2011" mean?

My system: Trust IMDB. IMDB gives a film a date based on the best information available establishing a film's first theatrical presentation regardless of location. I like this. Film culture is larger than American Film culture. I may not be able to see all of these films, but I recognize that they exist and that they were actually screened somewhere. I might not see a 2011 film until 2014. That doesn't make it a 2014 film.

Most critics follow the NY/LA system of the Academy. If a film was released and played a week in NY or LA, then it qualifies. One problem with this is that you get the Army of Shadows effect. A film from the 60s that never ever got a theatrical release in the U.S. now qualifies as a 2006 film because it played in the U.S. for the first time in 2006. More often, it's not this drastic, but it's often the case that films from the past few years are only just now getting to us to qualify.

Another problem is that NY and LA aren't really any more relevant to my movie-watching life here in the Binghamton area than Cannes or Berlin are relevant. All four of those cities are too far away for anything played there to matter (okay, I could drive to NY if I REALLY wanted to see something, but practically, this never happens).

The above is fine for critics in NY or LA, but what's a guy supposed to do in Binghamton, NY? Why follow the critics when most of those films never played anywhere close to here? Why not modify our personal lists to reflect only the films that opened within an hour's proximity to Binghamton?

Why not just rank every movie I saw this year regardless of what year it is from? I mean, they're all new to me, right?

I've already made these arguments plenty of times and more fully than I do here. I'm happy with my system. I think that it makes the most sense. I won't fault anyone for using any other system. I'll just pick on them a bit, all in good fun, and only to amuse myself and to continue the running film dating joke that has begun here.

Whenever I do "get on someone's case," it's only me being playful. I'd love for everyone to agree with me, but I'm not really getting upset or worked up over the fact that no one agrees with me.

I guess all I'm really fighting for is for everyone to pick a method, clearly describe what that method is, then stick to it. My method is best, but you can pick your own. :)

Is it arbitrary to rank films by year? Sure, but once we've decided to arbitrarily rank films by year, let's at least be clear about what we mean by a year.

All that said, you make really good points about time being the most necessary ingredient in proving a film's worth. I agree. Well said. No insults.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Restless, not listless.

Some responses

I'm going to stay out of the Woody Allen talk. I just haven't seen enough of his films to offer anything of worth to the conversation.

Chris, I'd check out The Kid with a Bike, but I'm not dying to do so. I've never seen a Dardennes film, but Aronofsky kinda killed them for me. After The Wrestler, I don't really want to see a Dardennes film.

You should definitely watch The Court Jester. Have you seen The Adventures of Robin Hood? You should watch that first.

I'm glad that you took down A Dangerous Method. I'm bored just thinking about that movie.

Lisa, more We Are Marshall posts, please. Not about We Are Marshall. I just mean more posts. If they're about We Are Marshall, that's a bonus.

Now, on to list talk....

Adrienne, there's been a lot of talk about the so-called "Jason Poole system," but we all know that that's the wimpy way. The Adrienne system, on the other hand, is perfectly valid and masculine through and through. Your mention of The Descendants is enough for me to not completely write the film off. I'm not a fan of Payne and I wasn't looking forward to this particular pain, but I'm willing to give it a chance with a relatively open mind. I've at least sort of warmed to the trailer after seeing it a couple of times.

Jeff's List

1) The Tree of Life
2) A Separation
3) Take Shelter
4) Le Havre
5) Drive
6) The Kid with a Bike
7) The Skin I Live In
8) The Mill and the Cross
9) Hugo
10) Meek's Cutoff

I still haven't seen A Separation, The Kid With a Bike, and The Skin I Live In. Meek's Cutoff is definitely a 2010 film. That leaves six films. Of those six films, each one of them appears on both of our lists. There's nothing to disagree with here and I won't quibble over placement.

Ben's List

1) Meek's Cutoff
2) Melancholia
3) The Tree of Life
4) Bombay Beach
5) The Skin I Live In
6) Trust
7) Another Earth
8) Circumstance
9) Black Death
10) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

How many times do I have to tell you guys that Meek's is a 2010 film? Otherwise, I've seen 'em all except for Bombay, Skin, Trust, Circumstance, and Tinker. Which is a lot I haven't seen. And, oh yeah, Black Death is also a 2010 film. Which leaves us with three titles. Tree of Life and Melancholia have become sort of fused in my mind. Those two films are both unique in the giganticness of their very personal visions. I'm with you in defending Another Earth against these neanderthals if it comes to that.

Jason's List

Wait a second, you didn't make a top ten list. I think I'll skip responding. I'm glad that you like The Way Back so much, but I'm not sure how it's possibly a 2011 film. It did get a theatrical release in the fall of 2010, but the studio just didn't know what to do with the thing, it played hardly anywhere, and disappeared. I'm looking forward to seeing Win Win. I don't know why I let that one slip through the cracks for so long. I'm a moderate fan of the director and the actors, so what am I waiting for?

Other than that, I'll say that, yes, I love Joyeaux Noel. I also greatly enjoyed Carion's more recent film, L'affaire Farewell.

Brandon's List

1) The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
2) Certified Copy
3) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
4) Hugo
5) The Skin I Live In
6) Le Havre
7) Attack the Block
8) 13 Assassins
9) Take Shelter
10) A Dangerous Method

I put off my 2010 list for a long time because I never watched Certified Copy. Maybe it'll make it onto my 2012 list. I don't have much to comment on your list that I didn't already write. I'm glad that you put Attack the Block on there. That movie deserves all of the love and attention it can get.

That's all I've got in me for now.

2012 looks like it's going to be great. It's a shame that you guys will have all of those films on your 2013 lists.

The Best of a Decade: 2010 to 2019

I figure that if no one else can keep a film's release date straight, I might as well join the party and jumble my years all up. The following is a list of my favorite films so far from 2010 through 2019, listed in alphabetical order. Each one of these films is a five-star film in my book. I've decided to embrace this entire decade and start a list now. We'll see if these films hold up in 8 years. Right now, these are the films from the last two years that I absolutely adore.

Cold Weather

Meek's Cutoff

The Mill and the Cross

Take Shelter

True Grit

Most of those will come as no surprise. I've championed Cold Weather often in the past couple of months. My affection for Meek's Cutoff has been widely known. Mill and the Cross strikes the right non-narrative/narrative balance and is utterly unique. True Grit was raved about by me at the end of last year. Take Shelter might be the biggest surprise. I was initially disappointed, yes, but it has stayed with me in a way that no other film this year has. I think about it often and as I've said before, Chastain helped me reconcile with the ending.

So, those are the films I love. The ones that I cherish. Those happy few films that I could watch over and over again, would recommend heartily to all friends, and that I think will pass the test of time.

If that's not good enough for the lot of you, here is my updated (but still very much incomplete) 2010 list, followed by a preliminary 2011 list.

Top Ten 2010

10) Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
9) Blue Valentine
8) Toy Story 3
7) Black Death
6) The Way Back
5) Small Town Murder Songs
4) Shutter Island
3) Cold Weather
2) Meek's Cutoff
1) True Grit

Top Ten 2011

10) Hugo
9) Another Earth
8) Melancholia
7) Drive
6) Tree of Life
5) Rise of the Planet of the Apes
4) The Guard
3) Le Havre
2) Take Shelter
1) The Mill and the Cross

I'm not really happy with this list. I'm just posting what I've got currently to get it out of the way and stop obsessing about it. I am happy and do feel strongly about my "Best of the Decade" list above. I refer all of you back to that list.

The Top Five of this 2011 list are the ones that I get really excited about. I get seriously enthusiastic. From six down, I find myself having a cold respect instead of a warm regard. I'll focus briefly on those first five...

I've got a Guard post coming soon, in which I celebrate the vulgarity of virtue. Rise of the Planet of the Apes just does everything that its type of movie should do. It does it so right. It does it well and it does it in 90 minutes. There is something so aesthetically CORRECT about an ape leading a cavalry charge on the Golden Gate Bridge. Le Havre was probably my favorite theatre-going experience of the year; the joy overflowed. Take Shelter met with some initial resistance in my callous heart. Maybe I wanted to distance myself from it and not give myself totally over. It won me in the end, which is amazing considering that the end is precisely what I got hung up on. The Mill and the Cross is an immersive experience film. Better than the hours I'd spend staring at paintings at the Met, Majewski successfully brings a painting alive; he walks us through a landscape of images, clarifying and sharing love without ever being didactic. A truly astonishing accomplishment. I stand astonished.

Finally, to make everyone happy. Here's me using the Jason Poole System:

2011, The Wimpy Way

All lists are in alphabetical order, unless otherwise noted.

Note: These are ALL of the 2011 films I've seen this year.

Best of the Best (meaning my favorites, not the objectively technically abstract "best"):
The Guard
Le Havre
The Mill and the Cross
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Take Shelter

Almost Made It (start the angry responses now):
The Tree of Life

On the Fence (all strong presences):
Another Earth
Attack the Block
Winnie the Pooh

One Night Stands (don't expect any lasting relationship, but go ahead and call again):
The Adjustment Bureau
Cars 2
Cowboys and Aliens
Real Steel
Source Code
Super 8

Meh - What's All the Fuss?
(Jason didn't have this category. I felt that there had to be something between "one night stands" and the "toilet." These are films that others liked that I was lukewarm toward.)
Deathly Hallows 2
Jane Eyre
Midnight in Paris
The Muppets

These Belong In the Toilet (There are moments in each, however brief, that show promise; you still gotta flush that shit):
Your Highness

I Should Probably Give Another Chance Eventually Because I Treated It Unfairly

Special Ranked Superhero Movie section (why are we ranking these and not the others; oh, the inconsistencies of the Jason Poole System!):
1. X-Men: First Class
2. Green Lantern
3. Thor

I Really Wanted to See These Films:
J. Edgar
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
A Separation
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Win Win
I'm sure that there are others I'm forgetting.

Stick a fork in me. I'm done.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tree of Apes

Is it wrong to currently feel warmer toward Rise of the Planet of the Apes than I do toward Tree of Life?

(Okay, Jeff, stop freaking out. Yes, I'm half-teasing about ToL. But, that half-not-teasing... Oh no. At least I still like The Tree of Life I've seen more than The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo I haven't seen.)

Rise is my favorite big budget Hollywood Blockbuster since Iron Man and I already like Rise a lot more than Iron Man.

The cg apes are better than any cg creatures I've seen since Spielberg's Jurassic dinos. 

There are some weak moments (the over-the-top ape hater at the ape shelter, the boss that throws aside every safety concern for a quick buck, the underuse of Lithgow, etc), but even the film's reliance on a few stereotypes/shortcuts can be forgiven considering everything else that works so well.

The emotion is real and is what carries the film. If you don't/won't/can't buy Caesar's awakening intelligence and the social/moral implications that come from it, then I'll guarantee right now that you won't like this film. The action made me giddy. Like Iron Man, this movie may fall out of my favor. Right now, it's everything I'm looking for in a piece of not-so-serious entertainment.

I wouldn't mind sitting through a Rise/Contagion double feature. For those who've seen both, you know what I'm talking about.

Dang, y'all've been posting too much.

Responding to recent posts.


Great list. I still haven't seen half of the films you love (Tinker, Skin, etc.). You'll be sure to get more feedback from me as I catch up with these. I'll probably post a preliminary 2012 list by the end of next week.

I will say that Carnage looks bad. When we saw the preview before Le Havre, I leaned over to Jeff and whispered, “I'd rather watch The Immortals. Twice.” I'll give Carnage a chance, though. I did enjoy seeing a production of Art while I was in London 12 or so years ago.

Speaking of the historical beginnings of film club (which Brandon did), TSPDT just posted their revised 1,000 picture list. Everyone should check it out: http://www.theyshootpictures.com/gf1000_all1000films.htm

Early on, Brandon and I printed out the then current list and discussed and compared how many we had seen. Who knows how many work hours we wasted on this list?

I will say a bit about Midnight in Paris. I totally confess to the audience context affecting my reaction, BUT I think that my complaints about the film still stand. I might have framed things in a bit more of a positive light (I don't hate the film and I do see things to praise in it) if I had seen it under different circumstances; I don't think (who can say?) that I would have had a completely different reaction to the film.


I was going to write a short story about a stubborn donkey working in a neighbor's field that I coaxed onto my property, only to beat him with a rod each time production slowed; how this method produced results for a time, but how eventually I had to trade in my rod for a bag of carrots when the donkey just wouldn't take it any more.

I haven't had time to do small responses, let alone get fancy with some fiction. Here's a carrot tossed your way, though. :)

I am, of course, pleased that you love Cold Weather and The Way Back. I don't have the inclination to write more now, but I pretty much agree with all that you write. I hadn't realized that you'd seen The Plumber. What a great film! I love Weir. I also want to agree with you that Katz has an awfully heavy burden on his shoulders. I'm going into his next film (whatever it is) with HUGE expectations.

And yes, your haikus are great. You are so valuable and we all love you.


I suppose I'm still talking to Jason, too. I appreciated the analysis of Drive's hope (or lack thereof). I'm more and more convinced that the Cold Weather comparison served an important function. I do stand by my thoughts of “constructive” vs. “de-constructive.” Putting the films side-by-side helps to showcase this. Unlike Jeff, I'm not sure that the debate was entirely about “style vs. substance.” Both films are heavy on both style and substance. At least from my angle, the debate was about the aims of the substance as manifest in its style.

I've been enjoying the frequent posting. Keep it up.

Oh yeah, thanks for grabbing The Story of Film. I'm looking forward to watching it.


I've got to get those lists of yours up on the lists page. I'm impressed by all of your TCM/Hulu+ watching.

Jeff, you are Drive's best champion. I agree with all that you've written about the film. I think that Drive is pretty perfect as what it is and I think that the ending is perfect for what it is. Saying that I value (and naturally gravitate toward) one type of cinema (“constructive”) over another type of cinema (“de-constructive”) is not saying that the latter serves no function or can't be excellent. Again, I bring up Godard. Les Caribiniers is “de-constructive.” It gleefully wages war on war and particularly its expression as found in the War Film genre. Drive tears apart the Man With No Name Loner Save the Girl and Saves the Town Fairy Tale. It does so wonderfully.


More posts!!!


If you're not a Shakespearean jester, you must, at least, be the Danny Kaye kind.

But, let's talk book club.

You wrote: “One of the arguments that I wanted to make while we were discussing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is that most contemporary literature is crap.”

Sturgeon's Revelation: 90% of everything is crud.

"And I do feel that every fan of his should eventually outgrow his work. If there are sixty-year-old dudes walking around quoting Tyler Durden in the future, may god have mercy on us all."

This struck a nerve with me because I recently read almost the same sentence about Kurt Vonnegut in a NYTBR piece. I haven't "grown out of" Vonnegut. Whether I like it or not, I've "grown into" him. I disagree with him more than ever, but I think I love him even more.

It is interesting to think of the differences between growing "out of" something and growing "into" something. The best fiction (the best anything) continues to teach us something and change us somehow each time we encounter it. This presupposes that we want to encounter a work repeatedly. Much contemporary fiction isn't up to this task. Most contemporary readers don't re-read anything. It's "one and done." (The exception is obviously the weird fanboy fiction. Harry Potter. Twilight. I know a girl who has pretty much read nothing but the Twilight books repeatedly for the past couple of years).

There are films that I want to grow into and spend a lot of time with. I've been thinking for a while now that one of the best things about film club, the drive to watch it all and discuss it all, is also one of the worst things about film club. Do I really need to watch another 2011 film? Do I really need to perfect my 1940 list or make complete lists for every other year?

My 2012 film club resolution is to enjoy more films that I've already enjoyed. Enjoy them deeper and more often. Enjoy them repeatedly. 


It was nice having you around for a few days. Too bad it doesn't look like this is going to work out. Check your mailbox for your official warning letter. Malick Hating is a serious crime around these parts. We expect a repentant apology detailing all of the reasons why you are wrong about Tree of Life.

Seriously, nice 2012 post.


I was just talking to Brandon this afternoon about ToL. I try and try to think back to it and remember something positive. I can hardly remember a single worthwhile moment. I remember flashes of actions/motion, but it all seems abstract and apart from any meaning. The only concrete thing that pops into my head is an image of a penis fish chasing a vagina fish. That's the handle I have on ToL. Then, I have a hard time taking ToL seriously any longer. At that point, I can't figure out why anyone likes it at all. I think I'm in trouble.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

T.S. Eliot on Justified Season 1

You still shall tramp and tread on endless round of thought, to justify your action to yourselves, weaving a fiction which unravels as you weave, pacing forever in the hell of make-believe which never is belief.

T. S. Eliot: Murder in the Cathedral.

Muppets in Paris

The Muppets is downright vulgar in its nostalgia mongering. I'm an 80s kid. I grew up with the Muppets. I don't think that this recent movie successfully captures any more than the barest hint at the the essence of the Muppets.

This nostalgiathon cheaply packages up the Muppets as product. They're almost used as a shorthand for some nebulous concept of commercially packaged shared pop culture joy. That probably is what the Muppets have become. Which is a shame because Henson himself and, by extension, his creation was once overflowing with the real deal.


Another Earth shouldn't work. Its sf premise is implausible. Its relationship drama is implausible. The camerawork is often distracting and the script gets talky/preachy at times.

So, why did I like it?

Often, throughout the film, I thought that I could feel the presence of Rod Serling, as if he were always in the background smiling. My biggest frustration with Another Earth is that Serling wasn't there at the beginning or the end to properly frame the story for me. Another Earth, in the end, succeeds as an eminently interesting film, operating distinctly in the borderlands of... The Twilight Zone.


Moving on to TV shows...

Robin Hood "The Knight Who Came to Dinner" is the best episode of Robin Hood in a while. It's a light-hearted broad comedy of Friar Tuck and Little John trying to get a decent meal. The heroics and contests of wits in the show are always enjoyable, but the show is at its best when it explores humor through character.

The last three episodes of Justified Season 1 ("Veterans," "Fathers and Sons," "Bulletville") bring a satisfying open-ended conclusion to the season. Raylan is less and less of a hero even as everything turns out (almost) alright. The title is apt. The entire show explores how and why we justify our actions to ourselves and others.


Friday, January 6, 2012

But I'm ready for one.

I almost forgot. I should have a "conversations" post up soon. In which I say all of the nice things that Jason has been yearning to hear his whole life.

I can't remember the last time I was in a physical fight.

Will Brandon believe me when I write that I enjoyed Real Steel a lot more than Warrior?

Should I bother mentioning that Redbelt is probably the only fight movie of the last ten years worth watching?

Should I stop comparing movies and start complaining about Warrior's unsuccessful variations on a tired formula? Warrior tries too hard to tie too many threads together. It over-reaches and, in doing so, never properly develops any single story strand.

Should I rant about the unlikable characters? I'm supposed to care about a state teacher (paid more than enough money and excellent benefits for working half the year) who can't budget properly? Who defies the odds and wins back his wife's favor (not to mention the fawning school principal) by being a Real Man? Am I supposed to care about a whiny ex-soldier who hates himself and everyone else? Really, deep down, he's a hero, too, right? AM I SUPPOSED TO CARE ABOUT NICK NOLTE??? The wounded old man thing was interesting the first few times he did it. I want to see Old Man Nolte in the ring next time.

I didn't care about any of the characters. I certainly didn't care about how they relate to each other.

The MMA fight scenes were less interesting than sitting through a regular UFC match. Not very interesting.

It's never a straight hero story or underdog story, though it plays around in that territory. Both brothers are fated to succeed without any real consequences. The manufactured tension is created by having these two brothers go head-to-head in the championship match.

Unfortunately, the stakes never mattered.

I think that my problem here is that no one is really humbled, excepting maybe the dad, but even he reconciles with his sons by reconciling with the bottle. Contra TMBG, Everybody does get what they want and that is... beautiful? Hardly.

Back to the comparisons...

Real Steel had some worse story flaws, but...
It had a lot of straight-up goofy unapologetic schmaltzy heart to make up for it.

And robots.

Monday, January 2, 2012

CR5FC: 2011 in Review

Twenty Eleven was the best year in film club history.

Three new members!

Lots of smack talk!

The satisfaction of throwing Lisa in the gorges!

Let's start by reviewing # of posts....

John: 247
Brandon: 221
Jeff: 162
Ben/Chris: 109
Jason: 74
Lisa: 73

I'm only on the top this year because Brandon was away on tour for so long.

Jeff made a strong showing despite getting a late start. Chris and Ben aren't really tied considering that Chris posted the same as Ben in less time. Jason and Lisa? Again, Jason definitely had the time advantage here. I'm willing to give Lisa a +2 PhD handicap to boost her above Jason, revealing him as the slacker he is. Not enough time? I don't think so. It's priorities. After he's done playing with his Star Wars minis and reading through Wednesday's new stacks of comics, he's too exhausted to spend much time chatting film.

The grand total? 886 posts in 2011. That's an average of 2.4 posts a day! And that's pretty awesome.

In general, CR5FC seemed to stress growth and community this year. Film club live events have been grand.

In addition to lots of love, there have been a few great fracases this past year. Lost in Translation. Dogtooth. Midnight in Paris. The Passion of the Christ. Tree of Life. Drive. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Now, on to individual contributions.

Ben: Ben's insistence on Black Death was an inspiration to me. Not only did I love that movie, I was inspired to plead my own nearly hopeless causes later in the year. I wasn't afraid to repeat praises of Cold Weather ad infinitum because Ben had opened up the path with his championing of an unlikely choice.

Chris: Chris, more than anyone else, encouraged me to do more TV talking here, and for that I'm grateful. His Simpsons encouragement was a welcome relief to me. There's no doubt that certain Simpsons episodes I watched this year brought me much more joy than the large majority of 2011 film releases that I watched did. It was also great to have a bit of BB interaction this year. I only wish I could keep up with Dexter and Twilight Zone and too many others.

Jeff: Jeff brought lists back into fashion around here. It's not that they were ever uncool, but things had slowed down a bit. Jeff got us started on revisiting the aughts and, more importantly, he got us looking back at the 30s. Also, as mentioned above, Jeff is the #1 non-founder poster around here. Not only does he step up to the plate often; he's got one hell of a swing and always brings his 'A' game.

Lisa: Lisa's best achievement is just sticking around. I'm not talking about staying in the car with "buzzed driver" Brandon and a bunch of strangers she just met. Nor am I referencing holding her own in a no-holds-barred ToL cage match. I'm talking about sticking around and posting at all while struggling with mind-numbing academic work. More posts in 2012, please.

Jason: Jason didn't disappear quite as often this year. Faithful blogging is good blogging. Also, Jason won on the FB front. I resisted for a long time, but finally was convinced. FB groups are what did it for me and are the main reason that I'm now a FB Freak. Jason was right all along. All apologies.

Brandon: What can I say? The king of film club. Let's keep him from touring in 2012 so that we don't have any Brandon post famines in the New Year. Brandon's best film club moment this year was probably when he was ready to intervene to stop Jeff from killing himself in an intense moment of despair related to a film club argument. Of course he had to take Jeff seriously. Brandon knew too well that intense despair based on all of those moments in which my cruel, thoughtless posts have driven him to the edge of the abyss.

I might come back and single out my favorite posts from each of you, but there's a general overview.

2011 out.

Tired New Year

Brandon tattooed my face for Christmas.

I completely agree with everything that Jeff wrote about Le Havre. I can't say it any better than Jeff already has. Le Havre is easily one of my favorite films of 2011..

I'm on vacation right now and I've watched a couple of crappy movies.

Septien is not just bad. It's spectacularly bad. It at least becomes something interesting at the 3/4 mark when it becomes a pederasty revenge pic.

Septien was "bad" but interesting. 

Bellflower was just a flop. It didn't help that I was expecting it to be something else. I'd heard Mad Max talk and got excited. Instead of literal wastelands, Bellflower explores bad relationships as an apocalypse one is never fully prepared for. At least I think that's the idea. The metaphor is stupid and Bellflower doesn't work as genre film or character study or romantic entanglement indie film. I hated it.