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) ****


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"


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.


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. :)