Saturday, June 30, 2012

June 2012 Recap

28 Features
Judge Priest (1934) ***
Doctor Bull (1933) **
Albuquerque (1948) ***
Whispering Smith (1948) **
Duel at Silver Creek (1952) ***
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010) ***
The Innkeepers (2011) ***
Prometheus (2012) ***
China Seas (1935) ****
Ponyo (2008) ****
A Run for Your Money (1949) **
Cabin Fever (2002) **
Jeff Who Lives at Home (2011) ****
Carnage (2011) **
Jeff Who Lives at Home (2011) ****
Ninotchka (1939) ****
Pauline at the Beach (1983) ***
The Wind (1928) ****
The Descendants (2011) ***
Moonrise Kingdom (2012) ****
Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) ***
Born Yesterday (1950) ***
La Bête Humaine (1938) ****
La Grande Illusion (1937) ****
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) ***
Red State (2011) **
Ministry of Fear (1944) ***
The 'Burbs (1989) ****

The Wire
Robin Hood

Saturday, June 23, 2012

I'm not mehd at Brandon, but I take a few cheap shots at him below for good mehsure.

I've been foolishly trying to watch 30 movies in 30 days of June. So far, I'm 21/23.

I'm going to keep this short. I wrote more than my recent usual about Jeff Who Lives at Home and it only got me grief.

Meh. Here goes...

Ponyo holds up. Three of four times in, I still laugh at each ham joke.

A Run for Your Money was painful to get through and I admit that I didn't pay attention very well. Ealing comedies are hit or miss with me. I tend to either really love 'em or really hate 'em.

Cabin Fever had a couple of decent laughs, but no great scares. I was yawning as the gal shaved the bloody scabs off her legs. Bleh.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home. Y'all know how I feel about this one. I watched it twice.

Carnage is fine. I saw a performance of Reza's Art way back in 2000. I liked it at the time. Carnage, though, felt a little too mean and a little too staged.

Ninotchka is delightful. I'm going to show it to all my Marxist friends and convince them of the glories of us dirty capitalist pigs.

Pauline at the Beach is good, but not great Rohmer. It felt like a lazy Shakespeare comedy. I mean that as a compliment, because maybe only Rohmer could pull it off, but I still mean it as a bit of a backhanded one.

The Wind might be the first silent film I ever loved. I think I saw it before even Birth of a Nation and before any Chaplin and Keaton. The story is fairly lame, but the mood/atmosphere is intense. The special effects are great and Gish is fantastic.

The Descendants trailer is better than The Descendants feature. It hits all the major plot points without all the padding. That said, I mostly liked The Descendants.

Snow White and the Huntsman had some great moments. At its best, it was almost at John Carter levels of Restoration of Wonder. It lost me in the end. The final siege/battle/confrontation almost put me to sleep. Besides failing to thrill, it seemed very rushed, making the resolution (what there was) unsatisfying.

I may or may not write something a bit longer about Moonrise Kingdom. I'm going to give it another day.

Finally, I'll fight a little bit.

What was Brandon's stupidest complaint about Jeff, Who Lives at Home?

"I haven't seen enough films about white morons getting themselves into trouble so this scratched that itch"

This describes most U.S. comedies (and dramas and nearly every other genre) from the "Golden Age" to today. If Brandon is really so upset by white morons getting into trouble, then he better just give me his Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein DVD right now.

Or maybe Brandon only means that there have been enough films about white morons and he doesn't want to see any more. From now on, he only wants to see films about black morons and red morons and yellow morons and green morons.

Or maybe he wants to see more stories about white morons who aren't in trouble.

Or maybe he wants to see movies about smart white people who don't have any problems.

I just don't know.

As for the zooms, I get it. If they irritate you, they irritate you.

They're gimmicky shots like that Renoir punk and that deep focus crap or something like that.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The foolish things of the world to confound the wise.

Minor spoilers for The Wire Season 5 and for Jeff Who Lives at Home.

Regarding psychological realism, Žižek makes a compelling case that by seeking to understand why the various citizens of Baltimore behave as they do, The Wire fails to truly capture the horror of the situation. He argues that an evil act is essentially non-logical, and so to best capture the nature of an evil act, one must present it as comedy. Evil must be farcical to be truely shown, because evil acts do not fit with the way almost all humanity agrees the world best works. Only comedy, with its constant skewering of expectations might concretely depict the plight of the citizens of Baltimore, Žižek argues. Elijah Davidson on Žižek's Wire lecture.

Ben and I often have similar tastes. Not here. Not now. Ben is very wrong.

Season 5 is the best season of The Wire. As I wrote before (on FB, I think), Season 5 works as a parody of and commentary on all that has come before. It is the blackest of comedies when McNulty's serial killer scheme initially fails to work. As the "killings" escalate, the story (and the actions that accompany the story) becomes more ridiculous, until homelessness becomes the issue that matters. Then, things change. Except that things don't change. The game's the game.

Focus on the press in Season 5 highlights and explores the line between telling the truth and tweaking the truth and manufacturing the truth. These are themes that were explored in previous seasons, but here the lens is turned on how The Wire itself has been presenting its story. The Dickensian Aspect.

I won't write any more. Maybe we'll get into it more when Jeff finishes the series or if Ben wants to push back on why Season 5 is worst of all seasons.


It’s a “Sword in the Stone”- type of journey near the parking lot of Kmart. For us, we’re probably never going to make a “Camelot” movie. This is our version of a “Camelot” movie. -Jay Duplass

What makes Jeff special to us is that he’s looking and he can see beauty and magic and mystery inside a package of doughnuts at 7-Eleven. And we have lost that, somehow. And while that is ridiculous and Jeff is kind of an idiot, maybe he’s not. -Mark Duplass

In Jeff Who Lives at Home, we are *maybe* far away from "psychological realism."

So, why does it feel more real than The Wire?

It is good to be shown the "beauty and magic and mystery inside a package of doughnuts at 7-11." Maybe the "ridiculous" ought to be our starting point, the eyeballs we're using to look out of a pair of Jason's patented poop-proof glasses.

Jeff Who Lives at Home is the successful cinematic demonstration of this simple truth, that the world is more fearsomely strange and beautiful than we dare to hope.

I want to suggest that Jeff at Home delves deeper in its realism because its near-mythical (or at least exaggerated) moments present the proper grounding for all else. When the film presents painful moments, they are genuinely painful moments. As Adrienne pointed out, this film, in its short running time and while it is focused primarily elsewhere, captures a realistic, convincingly unsensational authentic portrayal of a widow. It also authentically captures a couple in the act of decoupling and a loser who lives at home waiting for a meaningful purpose. Yet this film would never pass a Realism Exam.

Radically, amazingly, the Duplass brothers are brave enough to resolve these crises in simple (not simplistic) ways, bringing all things together in a satisfyingly happy ending. Thus, Jeff at Home joins the Strong Happy Ending Club of 2011. Le Havre. Damsels in Distress. The Guard. These are deep comedies. 2011 is turning out to be a Great Year.

Jeff Who Lives at Home deservedly, demonstratively, declares its proper place amid this fine filmic flowering of humbly humorous, hesitantly holy, humanism.

Alliteratively Yours
Jukin' Johnny

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Test 3

This is a TEST

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hungry Freaks Daddy

This is just a quick post responding to various bits from all of your blogs.

Brandon wrote: "Has anyone else noticed that we don’t talk a lot about acting on these blogs? Why is that?"

I can't speak for everyone else. I know that Chris mentions acting/performances more than the rest of us. For myself, it's long been established that I'm a story/themes guy. Those are the things that excite me. The performances are (important) means to ends. When I see a bad performance (meaning one that doesn't contribute properly to the story), I'm more likely to blame the director than the actor. I'm probably a Bressonian in this way.


Do you have Community Seasons 1-3 in a sharable format? I'd watch it based on your repeated recommendations.

I'm thinking about doing a Top Ten Films I've SEEN Since January 2012. Maybe at the end of June, a proper six month mark.


Great Prometheus review.

I completely agree with you about The Bakery Girl of Monceau. It's my favorite of the Moral Tales because "It's a perfectly short and sweet summation of Rohmer's aesthetic."

"makes me wonder why you value certain "intellectual" filmmakers but dismiss others. Bergman, Tarkovsky, Passolini, and Bresson are all highly intellectual filmmakers just like Antonioni, Fellini, and Resnais."

I can't answer this for Brandon, but I'd suggest that there is a spiritual depth and richness to the one group (even if it is a "negative imprint") while the latter group represent a barrenness that does not truly edify, even when attempting to build something constructive. I could probably unpack this with examples, but it's not my fight. As you were, boys. Enjoy your cage match.

Lisa, once again, it's good to see you post something. More, please.


You just posted your Prometheus review as I'm writing this. I bet that the Prometheus ending that Jeff would like has a Treehouse of Horror flavor to it. If not, then it should.

"If you can't be with the films you love, love the ones you're with."

This is a great line. Your whole last paragraph is gold. Except that "Love the One You're With" is a stupid song and stupid advice. Let me respond with the best part of the song, "doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo." I'll take The Zombies over Stephen Stills any day of the week. Tell her no.


A little while back, you picked on Ben for watching the AGOT series before reading the books. You may be in a minority on this issue in film club. I can't remember when we discussed it, but I think that most of us are in agreement that if you haven't read the books, you should just go ahead and watch the adaptation. This is especially true if you never plan on reading the source material. The funny thing is that I think that it was Jason who was the strongest holder of this view. Maybe you need to give him some lashes when he returns to the library?


Finally, Zappa and the Mothers sum up The Wire Seasons 3 and 4:

Jason's Dump Rides Again


You need to take a break from your post-surgery movie marathoning and give us a new post.  All those movies watched and nothing to say about them?

As far as your last post goes, I haven't seen many of the movies that you listed. I'll comment on the ones I have seen...

Porco Rosso is one of the few Ghibli movies that we don't own on DVD and that the girls haven't seen.

I saw The Sandlot way back when, probably in 1993. I remember liking it. I don't follow pro baseball, but I've always liked the game and have a soft spot for lots of baseball movies.

You already know how I feel about The Avengers. Hulk Smash!

I've seen bits and pieces of the various Final Destination movies. I don't really see the appeal.

I think about Melancholia more often than most movies I've seen in the past year. In some ways, it reminds me of Haneke's The Seventh Continent in its chronicling broken social structures and in its systematic dismantling of misplaced hope.

I'm glad that everyone liked Battleship Potemkin. Film Club should be watching more silent films.

Julien Donkey-Boy. I've got nothing to say about this one. ;)

Primer also puzzled me. I want to like it, but I don't quite. TimeCrimes is more fun.

I can't remember why I didn't like Criminal. I don't remember much about it at all.

The Secret World of Arrietty is pretty perfect.

I watched part of The Castle in the Sky with the girls. I'm not sure what distracted me, but I never watched all of it.

I've softened toward Cabin in the Woods. I still have all of the same problems with it that I did before, but I can admit that I appreciate where it stands in the horror canon. It does seem proper that both Cabin in the Woods and Tucker and Dale were both delayed until 2012 to come out at roughly the same time.

Broadway Danny Rose is a trifle. Brandon knows it.

Tucker & Dale vs Evil is going to place high on my 2011 list whenever I get around to updating it again. It's just a lot of fun.

Eaten Alive should be the official horror film mascot of CR5FC.

The Crazies wasn't so crazy. I remember thinking that it was just okay.

Lonely are the Brave only works because of that ending. You need to reconcile yourself to that fact.

I had some friends in high school that loved Romper Stomper. I didn't really understand it then and I don't understand it now. I guess I'm just an American History X type of guy.

I haven't seen The Illustrated Man, but I wanted to comment on this line: "Steiger overacts a bit in the by-the-lake scenes." Here's the general truth about Steiger: He always overacts. The man is a walking ham.

Ink. Isn't that the name of a computer virus?

I prefer Slacker to Waking Life as well.

And now we're all the way back to Brother Born Again. Which reminds me that we all need to get serious and watch Cinema Paradiso. It's harder to enforce these mandatory viewings once summer hits.

I'm hoping to watch Cold Weather again before the year is over. I've already watched it twice and a third time with the commentary track on. If it holds up on another viewing, I might have to write a "my essentials" post about it.

I haven't really had any desire to re-visit Drive. I might feel differently if we all had matching scorpion jackets. I've been thinking of filming a home movie version of the elevator scene.

The Ghost Writer. Was this an episode of Murder, She Wrote?

I haven't seen The Curse of Frankenstein, but I thought I should mention that the director, Terence Fisher, will always have a place in my heart. My very first Chasing Pictures post was about a Fisher film. I need to catch up on all of these Hammer films.

I watched Miracle on 34th St. a lot when I was a kid. It's a deserved classic.

Whew. That's it. Let's see some more regular posts from you, Jason.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Saved by the Stringer Bell

I owe you all some conversation/responses, but my heart's not in it. Instead, here's some barebones catching-up.

I was disappointed by The Innkeepers, if only because Brandon and Jeff had raised my expectations. I appreciate a lot of it. I do like the slow development and "mumblecore" underpinnings. The film fails in the end because it devolves into near incomprehensibility once the ghost ruckus begins. I was also watching this with Abigail, who jumps at all of the scares, but also yells frustratedly as characters do all of the wrong and stupid horror movie things (like go back in the basement) that stretch any legitimate credibility that the film has earned so far. Anyhow, I'm really prejudiced. I've never had much patience for late night ghost stories.

So, here's where I admit that I really, really enjoyed Tucker and Dale vs Evil. It suffers from its own third act failings, but its easy charm carries the film all the way through to the end credits. It's hard not to compare this to Cabin in the Woods. I prefer Tucker and Dale in every way, but primarily because it locates evil in the human heart instead of in some cruel indifference of the cosmos. Also, there's the idea that evil isn't always "with malice aforethought." Sometimes, evil is just a case of maddeningly determined idiocy. I might write more about Tucker and Dale, with spoilers, if I watch it again soon (which I want to do).

A week of so ago, I watched two John Ford/Will Rogers pictures. Judge Priest is by far the stronger of the two and fully satisfies that good ol' boy Americana itch. Doctor Bull is operating on the same level, but its small town gossips couldn't provide the same hook as the trial in Priest.

I also caught a few Westerns while "spring cleaning" the basement. Ben Spacey will be pleased that I'm finally using the giant TV that he helped me move.

Albuquerque is the worst Randolph Scott film I've seen so far, but there are probably worse out there. Albuquerque is nothing new or particularly interesting, but it is pleasant enough.

Whispering Smith, on the other hand, failed to keep my attention at all. Maybe Alan Ladd wasn't made for Westerns.

Duel at Silver Creek is enjoyable, if only because it's fun watching baby-faced Audie Murphy act tough (which he always was).

The Wire Seasons 3 and 4.
It's obvious by this point that the City of Baltimore is the main character here. That's probably why I'm failing to fully engage. I'm not sure that The Wire has any character that I really care about. Maybe I'm not supposed to. I'm also a little bit irritated by the education scenes. Maybe this is a case of criticizing what I know that I would have missed otherwise (like the dude doing the film archery evaluations).

To tighten up the story, Prez is shown as teaching the same class repeatedly. In "real life," he would have had at least four different classes consisting of 20-30 kids in each class. This simplification is obviously to streamline the narrative, but, in doing so, it simplifies things that aren't simple and robs one theme among many of its proper weight. I feel like The Wire is guilty of this across the board, trying to hold too many strands together and never properly tying them together or even stopping to look at what each strand properly consists of. The Wire tries to be a stunning panoramic of Baltimore, but it fails. Instead, we get a diluted, underexposed picture of someone's grand idea of Baltimore.

I'm a few episodes into Season 5 and just want it all to be over.

What about Prometheus? I waited too long to write anything and Jeff already wrote my post better than I could have. Read his post again and pretend I wrote it. All I have to add is this: It's difficult to stay awake in those new AMC recliners. I didn't fall asleep, but my body and the recliner were both telling me that I really ought to.

China Seas started slow. I seriously thought about leaving. Jean Harlow's character is grating and the love triangle plot seemed labored.

I'm glad I stayed. Once the typhoon hits and the piratical assault begins, this becomes one of the best action movies I've ever seen. Then, in the end, the love story I didn't care about won me over and a somewhat subversively happy ending had me grinning ear to ear.

Okay, brief comments:

Lisa, it was good to see you post. More, please.

Adrienne, I'm glad you liked Roman Holiday. It's one of the best.

Jason, I'll give you your own special response sometime.

Ben, Brandon, Chris, Jeff, when is a good time for Chimes? I'll throw out a couple of dates on FB soon.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Jeff's hug.

"I've been hearing people vouch for him for a long time, but mostly in terms of taunting me into trying to stomach and handle him."

Those people don't love JDB. I'm just saying. They giggle at Gummo. They don't care about JDB. I saw JDB at the cinema three times in one week when it opened while I was living in London. Not once did I think I was some masochist macho man. I felt broken and weak and JDB gave me a bit of crooked hope. I've seen it at least a half a dozen times since.

I think that Korine has gained a reputation among scumbags that he doesn't deserve (or at least only partially deserves). I haven't had to deal with the "fans" that you've had to deal with, but I'm certain that they are idiots.

I'm not a fan of Kids. I half-like Gummo (but I haven't seen it since it came out). I unreservedly love Julien Donkey-Boy. I respect Mister Lonely and really love parts of it (I watched it three times). I haven't seen Trash Humpers yet. I don't like Korine's music videos. I'm looking forward to all of his future projects.

Brandon is dead wrong about Korine.

I'd be glad to loan you JDB.

Jeffrey needs a spanking.

"At this point in my life, I have exactly zero interest in watching a Harmony Korine film."

I just don't understand this. I'm being serious. I can't remember; have you seen any Korine films yet? Maybe Gummo? The Korine-scripted Kids does not count. On what are you basing your zero interest? One of Brandon's quick dismissals?

Does it not matter at all to you that I will personally vouch for JDB as one of my Top Ten of ALL TIME? Is my taste in film so suspect? Have I ever steered you wrong? Don't you have even the slightest interest as to why I would stick up for a film which is so reviled?

Even if you've heard bad things about JDB, what about Mister Lonely? Outside of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Mister Lonely has the greatest Abraham Lincoln in film history. Neither Fonda nor Day-Lewis can touch this performance.

Finally, am I supposed to take this statement of yours at all seriously considering that you just recently sat through Hostel 2 and spent who knows how much time thinking about and writing about Funny Games?