Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Again, Lazy

We should hang out sometime.

This is a quick response to Brandon. Like usual, we're mostly agreeing on this one.

I had just watched Sunset less than 12 hours before watching Midnight. I was (and remain) offended by its sensibilities. The audience is expected to smile and feel overwhelmingly happy that these two have united at last. The film ends with a shot of Delpy dancing and Hawke wolfishly grinning, suggesting that they're about to "black out the windows and have sex for three days" (or something like that, as it's described in Midnight). We are happy about this. Maybe, some in the audience, will reflect on the fact that we shouldn't be, but I fear that most of the peeps who like the first two films think of them as one great love story. There's this "romantic" notion of TRUE LOVE, all else be damned.

I think that you're right that Midnight does call much of this into question. Everything is more complicated and facing consequences is at the heart of the conflict of the film. Even so, the film never really seriously calls into question whether these two do or do not BELONG together. This is true love, all else be damned. We want these two to work things out. We don't want Hawke to leave his lover and reconcile with his ex-wife. It is only ever Jesse and Celine. And, of course, the film ends with another wolfish grin and we get to feel relieved that "love" has struggled through and won once again. It doesn't even matter what the characters want. What I'm trying to point out is that we, the audience, are only and always hoping for these two to succeed. The beauty of Midnight is that it goes out of its way to show to widen the scope of the story and explore how hard their romance is to maintain once it has become entangled in the lives of others.

As for your last paragraph, yeah, sure. I was only pointing out Jesse's words and how they are indicative of a mindset that is self-centered and not other-centered. It's one moment in the film in which Jesse admits that his problems right now are his social entanglements. Being bound to other people restricts his own life. He seeks to be free from these bonds and live with some sort of pure personal freedom. This is surely representative of many people in our general age group, trying to get by without any permanent bonds to anyone or anything. This is inhuman and harmful to one's self. I guess we could argue about this, but I'm not sure that we're really disagreeing.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

After Before

Before Sunrise. Before Sunset. Before Midnight.

I watched all three for the first time in less than 48 hours.

And I'm feeling too lazy to write much about any of them. But, here's a little bit...

I've always been a Linklater fan. These three Before films only solidify his reputation as an American Master for me. At his best, in these films, he is working on a continuation of the Rohmer Project, the documentation of a nebulous world of love and sexes and philosophies. In Before Midnight, I even felt a Cassavetes vibe. So, yes, high praise for Linklater from me if I'm describing his recent film as a Rohmer/Cassavetes mashup.

Still, I'm a little uneasy. Rohmer and Cassavetes never let their men off the hook easy. Selfishness and self-destruction and failures of nerve and failures of love are dissected and laid bare.

The best thing that I can say about Linklater is that he loves his characters in the same way that Rohmer and Cassavetes loved their characters. This shines through.

My problem with Linklater is that I think that Linklater might be too soft to do more than wink at the selfishness of Jesse (or Celine). He doesn't quite have it in him to portray them in a negative light. For all of the talk of perspectives, we are never given one crucial perspective, that of Jesse's ex-wife. For all of their fighting, the two of them are still the "soulmates" that we *know* belong together.

I call bullshit.

Jesse and Celine are big kids who have failed to grow up. They are self-centered. The key line in Midnight is when Jesse says that the best time in a person's life, the only time in anyone's life in which they are truly free, is the time between when they are away from their parents and before they have children. In other words, the time in one's life (often over-extended to a ridiculous degree in today's man-child environment) when one can be most selfish, free from any and all relationship cords, bonds, duties, responsibilities toward anyone other than self.

I ranted a bit to Ben and Jeff and Chris after the movie tonight. My main beef with Sunset and Midnight is the way in which the adulterous affair is portrayed. Brandon has agreed with me in the past that the offended spouses in these situation are often given short shrift. This is the case here. In Sunset, the wife is referred to as a frigid bitch that Jesse could not love. Jesse only partially owns up to this being his fault. Instead of loving his wife, he leaves her. Now, in Midnight, the offscreen bitch is described as an abusive alcoholic, an angry woman, and a bad mother. All of this serves to reinforce the audience's cultivated prejudice in favor of Jesse and Celine and against this terrible woman that stood in the way of their pure love and its continuation. It is also notable that Jesse and Celine's love is expressed by non-marriage. Contrary to Brandon's post, the movie does make a point of saying that the two have not married. Jesse, ever the man-child, does not want to be put in "institutional bonds put in place by someone else." It's clear enough that Jesse has problems. The thing about the film, though, is that Jesse's man-child charm wins the day. He talks his way through any objections (including dismissing a casual infidelity from the past with not much more than a wave of the hand and some smooth talk) and comes up with a nice little time traveler persona as a way to win his way back into a night of steamy sex. The audience is happy for him. I'm not so sure that we should be happy.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Garlic is as good as ten movies...

Catching up....

Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers is a fantastic documentary. If you don't watch it because you love garlic, watch it for the young Herzog cameo.

To Be or Not to Be is a deserved classic. More than anything, I admire its bravery in brilliantly mocking Hitler near the height of his power. I've got to wonder if Adolf ever watched this one and what he thought about it.

I've gone over my thoughts on Sightseers in the previous two posts. It's definitely not for everyone. And I won't even go too far in defending it.

Androcles and the Lion was a stinker. It never finds its comic balance and has no real moral center despite all of its blathering on about proper ways to die. Its also overly long for such a slight story.

I wrote the following on Letterboxd about Like Someone In Love:
I agree with everything in Jeff's excellent review. All the same, I'm not as sure that it's as complex as Jeff thinks it is. Or, rather, it is visually complex in a very straightforward way. I don't feel like I need to return to it to get any more out of it. That might sound cocky or ignorant or both, but it's how I feel, yo.

Besides those few films, I've moved on to Parks & Rec Season 5 with Abby and have resumed watching Robin Hood with the girls (I couldn't find the discs and then there was a technical glitch that kept us watching for a while, but we're back at it now). Both shows, in their very different ways, continue to entertain.

Rough Rumbling - Response to Brando

Thanks, Brandon, for responding to my 2012 rant. I'll briefly respond back at ya below.

I agree with your assessment of The Comedy. I think that it's strength is also it's big flaw, like many of the other works that I listed; it is unwilling to fully commit to denouncing the empty lifestyle it depicts. Like so many gangster movies that inspire devotion from gangsters, I can see this becoming the rich hipster's manifesto movie instead of the eye-opening life-changing call to change that it could have been. I don't think it's necessarily Alverson's purpose to condemn. The Comedy is a character study and Alverson presents his deeply flawed character with love (without ever excusing vice), which is all that I can ask of a director. If this life isn't presented as negatively as I would have liked, well, the film also doesn't present it as anything more positive than it is.

You've seen Sightseers now. Based on our text conversation, I'd say that we're agreed on Wheatley's talent and his fruitful collaboration with his editor and DP. I think that the Sightseers script is much better than you give it credit for and I also think that almost all of the gags land. That could be chalked up to differences in our senses of humor or it could just be a result of the differing moods we were in when we watched it. I went in blind and was very gracious toward the film as it continued to surprise me. I think that you knew more about it going in and felt that the premise grew old quickly. I'm sure that we'll both be continuing to follow Wheatley's career.

We're agreed on Killing Them Softly. I need to get around to seeing Assassination.

Mostly agreed on Django.

I knew you were going to call me out on the Friedkin comment. I almost put a little disclaimer in there. Oh well. I've only seen The Exorcist and Killer Joe. I've been meaning to see The French Connection and Sorcerer for a long time. It hasn't happened yet. I have no interest in the rest of his filmography. Anyhow, I won't deny Friedkin's directing chops. But, from what I've seen and from what I've read about his other films and him, I'm not all that big of a fan of Friedkin. And even without all of that getting in the way, Killer Joe stands on its own as a "vile and disgusting" film. You're worried about The Comedy? I can only imagine how many KGB listeners have had Killer Joe parties.

I don't know about Seven Psychopaths. I want to see it the way you're seeing it. But, I don't.

Cosmopolis might be even better than I gave it credit for. I'm not sure that it amounts to all that much, though, and I know that I have little interest in watching it again.

Yeah, Lawless is a big ol' mess of a disappointment. I included it on this list over a couple of other movies because of the common thread of all of these films having directors worth watching even though I have problems with either the content or the delivery in all of their work. Hillcoat is more frustrating than all of the other directors above. I don't share your love for The Proposition. I haven't seen The Road. My impression of Hillcoat is that he can't quite deliver. He's worked up a certain style and atmosphere, but hasn't quite found the right balance in execution. The Proposition gets a feeling right, but is sloppy in the way its story develops and ties up at the end. Lawless is sloppy in both the feeling and story departments, meandering back and forth between a hard seriousness and a slapstick cheerfulness.

I do think that you were too kind to Dark Shadows in your initial response. I still respect Burton, but I haven't really cared strongly about any of his films since Big Fish (though I did like Alice more than any of you).

I can only interpret your silence on Here Comes the Boom as disgust that I've brought up this film once again for CR5FC's consideration. You're welcome. :)

Thanks again for the interaction. I'm still hoping that there are 2012 films out there waiting to convince me of how wrong I've been about the year.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Not feeling this quiz

Brando's most recent quiz....

1. What film hit you at the right place and right time, pertaining to and illuminating things that were happening in your life the moment you saw it?

I don't know. Every film does this.

2. What would be your top 5 ranked Pixar films?

I've seen every Pixar film and can safely say that they have not made a dud yet. This list is plenty arbitrary. The top three could be swapped around. Toy Story has lost some of its power over me, but it remains an important historical film for me. It was the first film that I ever went to see three times at the cinema. That was 1995. The next time I would do that would be Julien-Donkey Boy in '99. Then, not again until There Will Be Blood in 2008. Then, Adventureland in 2009 (though this repeated viewing was due to a double showing while I was ushering at Cornell). Those are the four movies that I've seen three times at the cinema. But, I'm getting further away from the question. Here's the list:
2) Ratatouille
3) Brave
4) Toy Story
5) Toy Story 3

3. To reiterate Cheddar’s question…. What movie/movies had the biggest negative effect on you?

This is a good question. I think that you meant it as "which movies have emotionally wounded you?" but I'm taking it as "which movies have actually changed your life for the worse?" Maybe seeing Monty Python's Meaning of Life or so many Rodney Dangerfield films (Back to School, anyone?) too early in life shaped my humor in a negative direction. I'm sure that there have been films that have had me contemplating a life of crime and violence. I could probably come up with a good list of "negative effect" movies if I looked at a list of all the crap I watched from the 80s.

4. What seasons seem to inspire you to see and write about films the most and least?

I don't even know. It'd be interesting to look back over stats. Oh, wait; I did that once and no one cared.

I think I have a natural ebb and flow throughout the year in which I'll binge on films and then take a three week break without watching anything, then binge again. I do know that Breaking Bad inspires me to be a raving lunatic fanboy.

5. What are five movies that you love that you feel comfortable never seeing again?

This question is not for me. The movies that I love are, by definition, the ones that I want to see again. They're also the ones that have settled deepest in me, though, and that I don't always feel the need to see again soon because I feel like they're with me even though I'm watching other lesser movies.

6. What anticipated 2012 film/films are you feeling the most uneasy about expectation wise?

Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing. I have high hopes, but I get nervous over any contemporized Shakes adaptations.

7. Likewise, what former favorite actors are trudging down dangerous territory for you, also what actors have already strayed down the path to the point in which their name now means nothing? I’m realizing now that this is a mean sounding question.

Maybe my answer is meaner than your question. I've never really cared about actors as much as writers and directors. So, the career decisions of Nic Cage and Johnny Depp, for example, don't really bother me. I think that both are still enjoyable actors who are fun to watch. The problem I have with the movies they've been in have to do with writing and direction more than their performances. I can't think of a single actor who has "strayed down the path to the point in which their name now means nothing." These actors are just waiting for the right writers and directors. I like The Gos, but that doesn't mean I'll watch him in Crazy Stupid Anymovie. I like Bryan Cranston a lot, but only because of what Gilligan and the BB team have given to him and received from him. Cranston as cameo in Rock of Ages doesn't interest me. Cranston as director of Modern Family doesn't interest me. And so on. I'm basically a Bressonian actor as model kind of guy.

8. What is your take on a screenwriter’s impact on a film’s success, in other words how much of an auteurist are you?

The script is the most important part of a film, but it's still the director that takes the script and puts flesh on its bones. Ideally, the director has written the script or has worked closely with the person who has written the script.

9. What types of “provocative” cinematic trends/ideas still feel fresh, which seem to be losing their oomph in the modern age of self awareness?

I'm not sure what you had in mind here. Just shock cinema? Porno tricks? Those were old before they were new. Maybe ironically, I think that the "self awareness" (or interiority) of a Bergman or a Rohmer or a Tarkovsky (etc) is still fresh and provocative and their heirs continue to stand out in an age of mass spectacle.

10. What’s your favorite horror film of the 1990s (that isn’t SCREAM Cheddar!)?

Probably Misery. I haven't seen it in several years, but I'm pretty sure that it holds up.