Thursday, May 31, 2012

May 2012 Recap

14 Features
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011) **
In Time (2011) ***
Damsels in Distress (2011) ****
Following (1998) **
Gremlins 2 ***
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) *****
The Saint Takes Over (1940) ***
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) ***
The Avengers (2012) ***
On Stranger Tides (2011) **
Make Way For Tomorrow (1937) ****
The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012) ***
Ride Lonesome (1959) ****
Comanche Station (1959) ****

TV
Girls - S1E3
Family Guy - S10E19 and S10E
Robin Hood
The Wire Seasons 1 and 2
Sherlock (a couple of episodes)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Lonesome Comanche

I watched Ride Lonesome and Comanche Station this evening. Ride Lonesome definitely wins for having the greater showdown and finale. I liked Comanche Station, but it didn't seem to have anywhere near the same stakes or level of tension as previous Boetticher films.

Of the 5 Boetticher/Scott Westerns that I've seen, I'd rank them as follows:

1) Decision at Sundown
2) The Tall T
3) Ride Lonesome
4) Buchanan Rides Alone
5) Comanche Station

All 4-star pictures with Decision maybe being a 5-star "essential". All highly recommended.

End of the Month Reckoning

I'll briefly mention The Saint Takes Over since I forgot to write about it. It's always a good time at BCF and this time was no exception. I was glad to take my dad with me and it was great to see a nice no-nonsense crime film with plenty of action, a few twists, a light sense of humor, and a dash of doomed romance.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits, in its best moments, reminded me of a Marx Brothers film. There's a lot of silly wordplay and odd happenings, but it's smarter than the odd and non sequitur heavy humor of CN kids programming. Pirates gives us plenty of silliness and throws in Charles Darwin, Queen Victoria, and Jane Austen, too. I had a good time while watching it.

Make Way For Tomorrow is definitely one of the best. Beyond its generation gap commentary, I love how ell it works as a love story. This is one of the great onscreen romances of all time. And what a great cast! This one may become one of My Essentials. I need to watch it a couple more times.

Speaking of My Essentials, I owe you all an Adventures of Robin Hood post. I watched it a few weeks ago, but never got around to writing that post. I'll watch it again before the year is over and write that post.

Finally, TV Club.

I'm done with Smallville Season 6 and probably completely done with Smallville. If six seasons was good enough for adolescent Chris, then it's good enough for me.

The Wire Season 2 is even better than The Wire Season 1. Sometimes, I got the feeling that Amy Ryan's character was only there to smile. Then, I thought, "You know what? I'm cool with that. Amy Ryan should sit in the background of more shows and just smile."

I'm two episodes into Season 3 and have at least momentarily lost interest. The Wire is no longer the same without Ryan's smile.

That's about it.

I've skipped all of The Innkeepers talk because I'd like to see it eventually.

I'll watch Funny Games again eventually. I'm not at all sure what Brandon means when he quotes me on the "beauty of suffering." I probably said something like that, but, if I did, I no longer know what I meant by it in a Funny Games context.

I cancelled Netflix a few weeks ago. I'm going to try to focus, at least temporarily, on watching the mountain of DVDs that I own.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Let's argue about this on FB, then tweet about it.

"Even if I keep digging myself into holes, I'm absolutely relishing this back-and-forth because its taking place entirely on the blogs. It's GREAT to get some discussion going back on here."

This is fine for you jerks discussing bad horror movies and 30s movies that I haven't seen at all or any time recently and NC-17 sex addiction movies about some guy named Brandon who has a movie blog (wait, did I just make up that last part?).

What about those of us who have been dying for action on the blogs, but have been waiting patiently for civilized discussion of Damsels in Distress or how The Wire works within the police procedural "formula"?

As far as formulas go, some are just better than others. I have no problem saying that the lone hero saving the girl formula (Drive) is better (or at least more interesting to me) than the kids getting killed in the woods (or wherever) formula (Cabin, Hostel).

Some day, I need to get back into the Funny Games fracas.

About Following...

I wish I could have gone in blind and not known it was a Nolan film. I admit to being biased. I can't give him anything close to a fair shake. You guys are right that he plays with noir "formulas," but I submit that he doesn't quite capture the spirit of noir. There's the twists and the Gotcha, but there's no heart. Nolan doesn't do anything to get us to care about our sad sack protagonist or really join us into his depraved snooping ways, so the reversal at the end doesn't pack the punch it should. There are plenty of pathetic noir men in the history of film and there are plenty of betrayals and double-crosses and lots of foul play, but that's not what noir is. The best noir always reaches into that existential soft spot and packs a moral punch that hurts. Or at least stirs the emptiness. Following isn't noir because it isn't dark enough because there's not much human about it. It's all gimmick and surface glam. It's all manipulating formula without the heart of the formula. It's a disgusting Frankenstein monster that's going to throw your children into the water. There's nothing to do but burn this vile creature. We admire the work of Victor Christopher Frankenstein Howard Nolan, but we don't want his work sharing the streets with our children.

Chris, are we going to see Dark Knight Rises opening night? Let's plan this out now. I'm there.

I haven't watched anything else worth talking about.

I'm lukewarm toward The Avengers. I had fun while watching it. The Banner/Hulk moments were good, even really good, so I'm satisfied.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail is another old favorite that I've lost interest in. Most of the jokes still work, though, and, like Gremlins 2, I'll always have fond memories of it.

I tried watching PotC: On Stranger Tides. I gave up after about 40 minutes. I've been in an anti-action funk lately, which is a bad mood to be in at the start of the Summer Blockbuster season. This one had less pirate charm and more pirate battles, rather dull.

One episode of Smallville Season 6 left. I officially hate Clark Kent. I want LutherCorp to take over the world and keep us safe from this foul √úbermensch.

Jeff, I'm ready for that lengthy back-and-forth argument about Damsels any time now.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Wire Season 1

13 hours. In 3 days

My one sentence review of The Wire?

It makes you stupid.

I had 13 hours. To read. To think. To write blog posts.

All of that time. Gone. Gone. Gone.





I obviously felt that the show was compelling enough to watch all of way through in semi-marathon fashion.

It's no Breaking Bad. :)

At least not yet.

It is a way-above-average cop show.

I'll keep watching.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Besides Damsels

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol turned out not to be my thing. It's a non-stop one-note high-intensity spectacle.

In Time is a pleasant surprise. It took its concept seriously and utterly literally all the way to the end. Time is money. Nothing special, but an enjoyable diversion.

I'm not sure how to unbiasedly approach Following. I wish that I hadn't known that Nolan had directed it. I could see in seed form here everything that I hate about his later movies. The man does "clever" and "twisty" like he's just dying to be congratulated. I'm just not convinced that there's all that much there once the smoke and mirrors have been removed. The premise of following people is interesting. Instead of delivering on the promise of this premise, we get something clever. Bleh.

Gremlins 2 has some really great moments, but the whole of it isn't as good as my memories of it.

That's it. Not much to get worked up about.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Geometry of Love

An A to Zed Cliched Review

AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION IS WORTH A POUND OF CURE

Violet, our lead damsel, and her friends daily face an onslaught of indifference and outrage as they seek to change the world, one heartbroken near-suicide after another. The suicide jokes repeatedly brought to my mind the much darker, less consistently good, high school documentary, Heathers. Okay, maybe Heathers isn't a doc, but it seemed realistic and not at all over-the-top to me at the time.

Damsels emphasizes preventative measures. A hot shower with a good bar of soap will transform barbarous morons. A dance sensation will make the world a better place. Listening to others will temper our own speech.

Fortunately, in Damsels, we get an ounce of prevention AND a pound of cure. There's a moment when a minor character achieves a break-through in determined self-education that brought me to tears. I controlled myself to little more than a misting lest Ben notice and take a photo and post it to FB.

BEAUTY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

Brandon identified frat boys as maybe the most despicable of all despicable people groups.

Damsels achieves something rare by making the frat boy lovable without making him desirable or cool at all.

Throughout Damsels, we're presented with a perspective of love. Grace Glasses, if we want to push Jason's metaphor. We see idiotic behavior and misguided behavior and lurches toward real connections and we see it all sympathetically.

As a matter of fact, the only person/group that possibly fits into any sort of hated villain role is the journalist. I'm not entirely sure what to do with this so I'll pass it over for now.

CALL A SPADE A SPADE

Identity is a strong theme present in Damsels. More specifically, what is examined is the continuing construction and deconstruction and reconstruction of identity that happens throughout a lifetime.

Each of the characters exhibits different degrees of self-awareness and self-deception and other-awareness and other-awareness.

DON'T DO ANYTHING I WOULDN'T DO

Damsels explores the ways in which we give advice to one another and model behavior. Violet's answer to the charge of hypocrisy leveled against her is a defiant assertion that we must be bold in our judgments.

EVERYTHING BUT THE KITCHEN SINK

There are so many threads in this film woven around one another that it becomes difficult to hold on to the last word spoken as a new conversation has begun. Still, everything holds together. I'd argue that we even get the kitchen sink in the end.

FAT CHANCE

The mathematics of love can cover both playing it safe and taking wild chances. There is no certainty in romance.

GLUTTON FOR PUNISHMENT

There are several moments when the damsels dwell in distress. They won't give it up. Staying distressed becomes a way of avoiding the possibility of future distress.

HAVE THE LAST LAUGH

The end of the film is glorious, but the climax that precedes the denouement is one of the most beautiful moments I've ever seen on film. Stillman gently mocks his characters, but he never scorns them. The ridiculous is redeemed and renewed and all of life looks miraculous.

IF I'VE SAID IT ONCE, I'VE SAID IT A THOUSAND TIMES

Stillman's writing is excellent and, as Ben already wrote, Gerwig's performance is perfect. The rest of the cast holds their own.

Here's as good a place as any to point out how the artificiality of the language and dialogue serves to establish a heightened realism instead of a grotesque parody. The four couples who walked out probably disagreed. Then again, they probably prided themselves on sitting all the way through Tree of Life. This movie is, instead, doggedly unimportant and a glorious "waste of time."

JOINED AT THE HIP

While the film explores individual identity, it also explores life in community, specifically that bizarre never-never land of college life. Private and social lives collide and the friendships that persist through shifting identities and allegiances are to be valued.

KNOW THYSELF

I'm just repeating myself now. This gimmick is harder than I thought it'd be.

LOOK INTO YOUR HEART

So, really, most of the time, introspection is stupid. Stop knowing yourself and know others. Don't look into your heart. Look around you. That moron has a heart, too. That doofus over there is named Christopher.

MY STOMACH IS TIED UP IN KNOTS

Yet introspection persists and the stomach gets involved.

NAKED AS THE DAY YOU WERE BORN

I just wanted to make the quick point that Damsels covers all sorts of sexual ground, from love and loss and maneuvering between the sexes to diverse forms of sexual activity. And all we see is some lip smacking and some flashes of leg during a dance routine. We never once have to see Lena Dunham naked. I'm only bringing this up because in the past I've argued that depicting a sex act is probably the laziest and least interesting way to explore sexuality. There are so many parallels between Damsels and Girls. I insist that Damsels is more interesting and more honest at every narrative turn.

ONE MAN'S GARBAGE IS ANOTHER MAN'S TREASURE

A multiperspectivalism is at work in Damsels that pulls together the cosmos, in an admittedly microcosmic way, in ways that more expansive projects have failed to do for me. It encompasses all virtues and forgives all vices. It's hard not to love the whole world after seeing Damsels.

PUT THAT IN YOUR PIPE AND SMOKE IT

The movie generated plenty of good conversation for the drive home and continues to satisfy me as I reflect on it.

QUICKER THAN A NEW YORK MINUTE

Damsels zips right along. I don't think there's a wasted moment.

Chris just wrote about Eisenstein's rhythm and the way in which Eisenstein's editing has a musical flow to it. It's more subtle (most of the time) in Damsels, but the timing is always just right. Besides the editing, the way in which Stillman uses music in this film is better than almost anything else I've seen in the past two years.

ROME WASN'T BUILT IN A DAY

No, it wasn't.

SILENCE IS GOLDEN

Except when it's not. Many of the best elements of this movie are aural delights.

THAT WHICH DOES NOT KILL YOU MAKES YOU STRONGER.

But, jumping off a two story building will probably only break your legs.

USELESS AS TITS ON A BOAR HOG

That's how this post will be remembered.

VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE

I'm in this thing until the bitter end.

WE'LL CROSS THAT BRIDGE WHEN WE COME TO IT

In this context, obviously referring to the letter X

X MARKS THE SPOT

The spot in this post way past which you all stopped reading.

YOU CAN'T MAKE A SILK PURSE OUT OF A SOW'S EAR

And you can't make a readable film review out of this demented hodgepodge.

ZIGGED WHEN HE SHOULD HAVE ZAGGED

Well, Stillman zigs in all of the right places and zags when appropriate. I know that I'm gushing about the film. I can't help it. Damsels was a joy to experience. You should all get out and see it, then come back here and tell me how cliched and hackneyed my response to it is.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Sleepless Nights

Waking up in the middle of the night and not going back to sleep means that I'm going to be tired tomorrow.

Oh well. Here's a quick 3am half awake post.

Brandon wrote:
"To me the show boils down a character who pokes fun of the lesser thans whilst fearing becoming one of them. This is reinforced over and over (AIDS, Abortion, poverty). She doesn’t realize in the process that she is the saddest of the bunch, a rich girl who couldn’t appreciate her means until it was slightly less at her disposal."

This is also part of my problem with the show, but I want to anticipate Ben's response here. I think that Ben would agree with your description. Then, I think that he'd point out that this is Dunham's character's position, not necessarily Dunham's own current position. One could maybe argue that it's exactly because Dunham realizes that this character is the "saddest of the bunch" that the show works. The "privileged hipster" "reality" is undermined by its "honest" portrayal. Dunham bravely skates that narrow comedic line of inhabiting a character/persona that isn't altogether likable, but may for that reason be relatable.

I'm having trouble copying and pasting from Facebook with my phone so I won't copy and paste Ben.

About being unflattering to self, go for it. I've tried to do the same here often. There's no room for vanity in film club.

As for my examples "not being equivalent," I have to protest. Dunham's show is not some magic realist really real reality keeping it real. Girls is just as highly structured/constructed and "artificial" as either Jersey or Housewives (now I may have to watch the first few episodes of each of these shows to do a proper comparative analysis of their respective contents. Maybe I can get Chris to join me in this project). Each of these shows is attempting to communicate something about the "place of women" in contemporary America through their own unique heavily stylized lenses. You think that Girls may be more honest. I don't know. I do sympathize with your simple explanation that these Girls are similar to Ladies you've known and been around. Just like we have a dozen different CSI show locations, maybe some day we'll have Girls: Vestal with you listed as executive producer.

That wasn't worth staying awake for. I'm comforted to know that the rest of you are most likely safely sleeping through my Girls-induced sleeplessness.

Maybe I can get a couple more hours sleep now before the sun rises. Good night. Good morning.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

WE'RE THE LADIES


"Of course a bunch of dudes who sit around talking about old movies don't like the show. It is not about or for us."

The money line of Ben's review/defense. And it's a great sentence.

I'm just not sure it matters.

Us Statlers and Waldorfs also don't like Glee or Dancing With the Stars or the Duggars (I have no idea who this dude is, but everyone tells me I'm just like JoeBob except that I'm pretty sure I'm not like anyone that signs his family up for a reality show).

Your defense of the show is to say that it is a mirror that certain people see themselves in and relate to. Us cinephiliac cranks just don't like it because our mirror is the old dudes talking about old movies mirror. (Okay, I'd watch a weekly series about old dudes talking about old movies).

Lots of girls must like Jersey Shore because it relates to their life, right? Desperate Housewives. Whatever that talk show is in the morning with Whoopi. Why haven't these shows grabbed Ben's sensitive-wanna-relate-to-
Lena-and-be-her-girlfriend attentions? In the abstract, would Ben relate more to Jersey Shore if he had spent his 20s in an extended hedonistic haze? Would he dismiss Lena's pathetic attempts at meaning?

I guess that I'm not all that interested in Mirror Cinema.

(Go ahead and challenge me on this one, Ben. I haven't had a chance to swear at anyone since that whole Hipster Horror debacle went down).

Especially if the lives being mirrored are lives that I wouldn't recommend to anyone. Two episodes in, there's no way forward. Only uncomfortable screw-ups and maybe the solace of having a few friends. This is the true miserabilist entertainment. These girls are just like us. Now, I feel better about being just like these girls.

Nah.

I like escapism.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Catching Up - End of April Edition

It was a mistake to let the girls watch Battleship Potempkin with me. There's been a subsequent Bolshevik uprising in the house. I, who was once Tsar of this house, have been reduced to degradation and humiliation. The slave labor I had once enjoyed from my daughters has been smashed by their hammers and sickles, toys have been equally distributed, and allowances have soared to ridiculous rates. Red October came in April this year.

Seriously, the film is brilliant. It, alongside Birth of a Nation, was the film that taught me to love silent films. The visceral visual thrills of the film are hard to argue with. And, to be clear, even though I'm always wearing my "meaning glasses," I enjoy a well-crafted film as much as the next person, even when I can't get on board with a film's "meaning" or "message." My problem with Cabin had to do more with its construction than with its conclusions.

I watched both Demon Messenger and Seven Samurai on the same day that I watched Cabin. Seven Samurai is as good as it ever is, a true "classic" in every sense, maybe the best action film of all time. Demon Messenger, on the other hand, is very much an object of its time. I had plenty of problems with it, especially the sound design, but I found myself able to forgive its no-budget faults and enjoy its local humor and relevance.

Garden of Evil was a disappointment. Gary Cooper and Richard Widmark make this watchable, but there isn't much to care about here. Sergeants 3 has the same problems. A great cast and uninteresting action. Another disappointment.

Bedlam, on the other hand, has a great cast and delivers the goods. Things are never quite as "mad" as they ought to be, but a real degree of menace is achieved and the message comes through loud and clear, if maybe also a bit too clean and sanitized.

What about BSG? We're finished. The finale is emotionally satisfying and effective in tying together all of the show's dangling loose thematic threads. After 55 hours or so (my rough calculation based on average episode run time) spent aboard Galactica, I can report that I was pleased with the end of the show.

What about Girls? After two episodes, I can safely say that I'm not at all a fan. I am really looking forward to Ben's epic defense.

I am now going to lose a lot of hipster cred by admitting that I prefer Diablo Cody's writing to Lena Dunham's writing. I watched Young Adult this evening and was really surprised by how much I liked it. I can't help but compare it to Girls. There's naughty jokes and a woman behaving poorly, but there's also a real undercurrent of pain and confusion. Girls, on the other hand, feels too glib in its non-explorations of not "growing up." Young Adult refuses easy answers or tidy morals, but it also doesn't mind being soft for a moment in hinting at a more mature way forward. That it allows its heroine to maybe miss the point doesn't negate the point's having been made.

Finally, I watched Kill List, a "horror" film that got a lot of buzz last year. I didn't know anything about it going in except that it was a well-regarded recent horror film. I'm still puzzling out how I feel about the film. It's a mess, but it might just be a glorious mess. I can't write a thing about it without major spoilers. Avoid reviews and see this one as soon as possible. I especially want to know what Brandon and Jason think of this one.

EDIT: I forgot to write about Danny Rose! It's an enjoyable little trifle. I'm always impressed by Allen's use of music and his general sense of rhythm. Comedy and music are both fundamentally built on time and timing. Duration matters. Rhythm matters. Hitting that one note at just the right moment in the context of the whole.