Thursday, February 28, 2013

My Essentials: 3:10 to Yuma

"There is a lonely train,
Called the 3:10 to Yuma.
The pounding of the wheels,
Is more like a mournful sigh."

Some movies are so perfect and so perfectly suited to a specific viewer that they're nearly impossible to write about.

I feel myself overwhelmed by 3:10 to Yuma. It is so easily watchable. That beautiful theme, sung by Frankie Laine over the opening credits, is a haunting little song. It recurs throughout the film. Sometimes, as a strand of the score. Sometimes, as a wistful whistle from the characters acting out a drama larger than themselves, the whistle an acknowledgment that all are caught up in stories and forces and functions that are far beyond their control. All of this to highlight and underscore that each moment is within our control as far as every choice we make matters.

"There's a legend and there's a rumour.
When you take the 3:10 to Yuma,
You can see the ghosts,
Of outlaws go riding by, (riding by)
In the sky (in the sky),
'Way up high."

This is a movie that one needs to submit to immediately. If the Lane song doesn't transport you into a realm of legends and rumours, then you're not in the right frame of mind to watch this movie. At the same time that the movie approaches tall tale territory, it is rooted in an insistently grim realism, the tale of a family farmer at the mercy of the elements. Everything he has worked for in his life could be lost because of something out of his control. Taking ahold of what one can control and seeing it through is one key theme of the film.

"The buzzards keep circling the train,
While below the cattle are thirsting for rain.
It's also true they say,
On the 3:10 to Yuma,
A man can meet his fate.
For fate travels everywhere."

The family farmer is given choices. He's given opportunities. And he acts on them regardless of the difficulty and the danger. This is a simple and a straightforward message, but it's one that inspires me every time.

"'Though you've got no reason to go there,
And there ain't a soul that you know there.
When the 3:10 to Yuma whistles its sad refrain.
Take that train (take that train)
Take that train."

Six Star Salute

On Letterboxd, I wrote that Cosmopolis is Cronenberg's best film since Videodrome. To be clear, I'm no Cronenberg expert. What films of his I've seen have mostly been seen long ago. I have a love/hate relationship with Cronenberg. His films seem to me to be oppressively uncomfortable and unpleasant. I'd have to re-watch them all to explore whatever I mean and defend that nebulous feeling I'm having a hard time properly identifying. Regardless, Cosmopolis resonates as a prophetic commentary on present hopes/fears related to our media environment in the same way that Videodrome probed into hopes/fears related to the media environment of its time. I don't know.

Rebel Without a Cause is a smart film. It's a shame that the parents who needed to watch this film and repent of their loveless keeping up of appearances were probably the same ones that led crusades to keep this film out of their small towns.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Following Chris

I've added a few Oscar categories that Chris omitted. Otherwise, I'm just following his lead.


Best Film: John Carter

Best Director: Andrew Stanton, John Carter

Best Actor: Joaquin Phoenix, The Master

Best Actress: Greta Gerwig, Damsels in Distress

Best Supporting Actor: Michael Shannon, Premium Rush

Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams, The Master

Best Original Screenplay: Whit Stillman, Damsels in Distress

Best Adapted Screenplay: Andrew Stanton & Mark Andrews & Michael Chabon, John Carter

Best Original Score: Jonny Greenwood, The Master

Best Soundtrack: Moonrise Kingdom

Best Animated Feature: Brave

Best Foreign Film: Amour

Best Cinematography: Mihai Malaimare, Jr., The Master

Best Costume Design: Kasia Walicka Maimone, Moonrise Kingdom

Best Film Editing: Leslie Jones & Peter McNulty, The Master

Best Sound Editing: The Master

Best Sound Mixing: The Master

Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Premium Rush

Best Original Song: “The Sambola! International Dance Craze” from Damsels in Distress

Best Production Design: Adam Stockhausen, Moonrise Kingdom

Best Visual Effects: LOOK! Effects, Moonrise Kingdom


Best Drama Series: Breaking Bad

Best Comedy or Musical: Parks & Recreation

Best Miniseries or TV Movie: Sherlock

Actor, Drama Series: Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad

Actress, Drama Series: Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad

Actor, Comedy or Musical: Nick Offerman, Parks & Recreation

Actress, Comedy or Musical: Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation

Actor, Miniseries or TV Movie: Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock

Supporting Actor, series, miniseries, movie: Andrew Scott, Sherlock

Supporting Actress, series, miniseries, movie: Lena Headey, Game of Thrones (I'm just going with Chris here)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Quick List Response to Brandon's Recent Post

My Completely Objective and Totally Correct for Everyone Top Ten Best Picture Winners

1. On the Waterfront
2. No Country for Old Men
3. It Happened One Night
4. A Man for All Seasons
5. Braveheart
6. Unforgiven
7. Lawrence of Arabia
8. Casablanca
9. The Godfather
10. The Deer Hunter

Numbes 1-4 (maybe 5, too) are all 5-star films in my book and could get My Essentials posts written about them in the future. 6-10 are all solid pics that I respect, but don’t love. Overall, I’m not all that impressed looking over the history of Best Picture winners.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I'm still the winner, winner, winner.

Writing three sentences to beef up your post count is so lame.

Brandon is Psychopath #8

"but like you guys I found it funny and entertaining. I don’t know when or why but there was a point in which these two pivotal attributes got tossed aside in FC."

This is just silly, Brandon. How have these "two pivotal attributes" been "tossed aside"?

I'm the one who championed John Carter. I've been itching to re-watch it recently. It will rank high on my 2012 list. I'm the dude who ranked Rise of the Planet of the Apes higher than Tree of Life. I think that Do-Deca-Pentathlon is "funny and entertaining" enough to forgive some very annoying visual tics. Besides those, though, I also found Godard's 2 or 3 Things to be both funny and entertaining. I've also been itching to re-watch that one.

You're just annoyed that Jeff and I don't find 7 Psychopaths to be as funny and entertaining as you do. I thought it was fun. I never thought it was great fun. I never laughed riotously and didn't smile through the whole film like you did. I just didn't connect with the material like you did.

Unrelated, I really enjoyed watching the documentary Side by Side. It's a great survey of the different perspectives involved in the film vs. digital conversation. There is just enough technical detail balanced with the right amount of talking heads. It'd be a five-star film if it didn't have an annoying score. Lucas and Nolan are also both annoying, but this is balanced out by good content from Scorsese and Lynch and cinematographers whose names I can't remember. Finally, what the heck is Gerwig doing in this? I guess it's a young actor's perspective (from someone who started in an all digital environment), but her presence seemed odd amidst all of the directors/cinematographers.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Jeff's posts today have spurred me into posting again. I can't let that brittle-boned woodyite outpost me!

February was the month I bought a Wii. I blame it on Mike getting me all excited about video games. I couldn't quite justify a PS3 purchase so I settled for the family-friendly option. Wii boxing also burns more calories than catching up on Criterion titles.

I've been on a contemporary streak so far this month. All 80s+ films.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off, like all of Hughes' high school films, highlights the best part of public schooling, the friendships that make such a hellish place tolerable. FBDO perfectly captures the dreamlike intensity of just hanging out with friends. It is an ode to the triumph of liberty and liberal self-education over against the dreariness of bells and hall passes.

The Hole has many trademark Dante-isms. What should have been an excellent Eerie, Indiana film plays out too often like an episode of Goosebumps. All of it resolves too tidily. For all of the well-crafted scares, there's little depth to a movie that's supposedly making us face the abyss in our own basements.

Sleepwalk with Me is an honest portrayal of a guy who chooses a career in comedy over a stable relationship. This is all well and good as long as Birgiblia's failures at connecting with a romantic partner aren't taken as normative. I don't think they're presented as such, but I do think that his story is a fair microcosm of a larger generational story being played out in the broader culture right now.

The Do-Deca-Pentathlon wins lots of points for being 2012's best film featuring an arm wrestling match. As Jeff knows, these gems are too few in number. The Duplass zooms that Brandon hates are worse here than in JWLAH. I hope you all can forgive the zooms and give this one a chance. I've slowly become a Duplass fan.

Like Jeff, I'm a Martin McDonagh fan. I saw one of his plays (Lonesome West) performed in Binghamton last year. Seven Psychopaths has all of the wild moral and verbal flourishes of a McDonagh script and McDonagh direction. The interweaving of meta-narrative conceits and semi-aware characters living out a story of their own making as they search for material for a proper script is all deftly handled. It's certainly a lot of fun to watch. I'm just not sure that it adds up to all that much in the end and I don't feel a burning need to re-watch it any time soon. I watched In Bruges three times in a row a few years ago. I was hoping to be enamored like that again, but it didn't happen. Also, in my imaginary Oscars world, Sam Rockwell has already won best supporting actor.

P.S. Brandon, I don't think there are any libertarians in CR5FC.

Friday, February 8, 2013

"An effort of imagination for the study of real objects."

Dang it. I'm behind again.

Here are some lame Letterboxd "reviews" to catch up. Now I know how dirty Jason feels when he takes a Flixster dump.

Blonde Ice 1948 ★★★

Watched Jan 19, 2013
A B- noir in every way. Second rate actors. Everything occurs in a few limited indoor locations. A hokey script with a really bad psychoanalytic ending.
But there are also charms. Most notably, Leslie Brooks. She makes it easy to believe that all of the men around her are completely powerless in her presence.
Besides the final act, the film is convincing (and a lot of fun) in its portrayal of a woman with ice in her veins. This is the worst sort of femme fatale, the kind who will do all the dirty work herself, then pin it on you in the end with nothing pointing toward her.

Compliance 2012 ★★

Watched Jan 20, 2013
I remain non-compliant.

2 or 3 Things I Know About Her 1967 ★★★★

Watched Jan 21, 2013
I'm waffling on whether or not I really like this one and how much, if so. It's unquestionably an ambitious film. Maybe Godard's best. What do I know?

Moonrise Kingdom 2012 ★★★★

Rewatched Jan 21, 2013
I'm also still troubled by the adolescent sexuality. I imagine Anderson directing the young boy to feel the young girl's chest and I can't come to any reason at all why that is justified.
But, I can't argue with the power of the film. This is definitely Anderson's best film yet.

21 Days 1940 ★★★

Watched Jan 25, 2013
There's a lot to like here, but it doesn't all hang together like it should.

A Colt is My Passport 1967 ★★★★

Watched Jan 26, 2013
A fantastic mash-up of Western/SpaghettiWestern/Gangster/Yakuza/Noir/Hitman/SNAFU/BuddyBadGuy film styles and substances. With a lovely score.

Tears on the Lion’s Mane 1962 ★★★

Watched Jan 27, 2013
Japan's On the Waterfront? There are a few great moments (a thrown dog, a rockabilly outburst) and a few tender moments, but the film dragged for much of its not-all-that-long running time.