Thursday, January 31, 2013

January 2013 Recap

January 2013

15 Features
The Wild One (1953) ****
Amour (2012) **
New Jerusalem (2011) ****
Total Recall (2012) **
Ruby Sparks (2012) **
The Loneliest Planet (2011) **
Dark Horse (2011) **
Killer Joe (2011) **
Blonde Ice (1948) ***
Compliance (2012) **
2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (1967) ****
Moonrise Kingdom (2012) ****
21 Days (1940) ***
A Colt is My Passport (1967) ****
A Flame at the Pier (1962) ***

20 Shorts
Silly Symphony - The Three Little Pigs (1933) ****
Flotsam/Jetsam (2005) ***
Wandering Willies (1926) ****
Butter Fingers (1925) ***
One Week (1920) ****
The Boat (1921) ****
Cops (1922) ****
At Bear Track Gulch (1913) ***
Two-Gun Gussie (1918) ***
The Adventures of Dollie (1908) ***
A Corner in Wheat (1908) ***
Those Awful Hats (1908) ****
A Trap for Santa (1909) ***
Patterns 1 (2005) ***
Patterns 2 (2006) ***
Robbie (2012) ****
Don't Hug Me I'm Scared (2011) ***
A Day in the Country (1936) ***
A Day's Pleasure (1919) ***
Patterns 3 (2006) ****

1600 Penn
-"Meet the Parent" ***
Fawlty Towers
-"A Touch of Class" *****
My Little Pony
-"Friendship is Magic, Part 1" ***
-"Friendship is Magic, Part 2" ***
The Office
-"Customer Loyalty" ****
Robin Hood
-"Brother Battle" ****
-"My Brother's Keeper" ***
-"An Apple for the Archer" ****
-"The Angry Village" ***
The Simpsons
-"Simpson and Delilah" ***
-"Treehouse of Horror" ****
-"Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish" ****
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
-"The Emissary" ***
-"Past Prologue" ***
-"A Man Alone" ***
The Twilight Zone
-"Where is Everybody?" ****
-"One for the Angels" ****
-"Mr. Denton on Doomsday" ****
-"Sixteen Millimeter Shrine" ***
-"Walking Distance" **

Friday, January 18, 2013

A Few Cards Short of a Full House

What Brandon failed to mention in his post is that I caught him, once again, watching Full House at work. This time, it's fully understandable. Who wouldn't need an Uncle Jesse palate cleanser after watching the grotesque Killer Joe?

You summed up our conversation very well.

My disappointment in Killer Joe is that it is not a noir film. Except that it is. It's a sort of hybrid comedy-noir. Contract killer. Double deceptions. Weakness for wily women. Really bad money troubles. A one-time job. Guys who are in over their heads.

Yesterday, I said that what I love about classic noir films is that they make me FEEL the depths of depravity and it doesn't feel good. It is, as you say, a hit in the gut. To immediately contradict myself, I'll say that it does feel good when it's all over. There's a moral clarity often achieved that makes sense of the darkness. It's good to be beat up in this way because it makes you understand how much you've taken for granted and how much every little choice matters.

In Killer Joe, the darkness is simply reveled in. You're right about the characters and the world they populate. This is low-income low-intelligence lowlife land. Instead of getting an honest portrayal of this life, we're given broad caricatures that fit into "redneck" "trailer trash" stereotypes. Again, this is a broad comedy masquerading as a noir film.

Young Chris can't pay his debts. He'll be killed if he can't pay up. So, he concocts a plan to kill his mother for her life insurance plan. This is a classic set-up. Can't pay because you've made a bad decision. Make an even worse decision in a desperate attempt to get out of the six-foot hole you've dug for yourself. Then, there's even the moment when Chris repents of his actions only to find out that it's all too late. A turning of the noir screw.

The most upsetting part of the film is the Sister Dottie subplot. Dottie is sold by her father and brother into a role as sex slave to a deranged killer. This could have been the basis of a very dark and disturbing twist, but instead we see that Dottie really likes the arrangement and is happy to find a lover. This is the darkest humor in the film. And I think that, in the end, as this relationship is the one that survives, it is winked at and given approval. It's a sly wink and a dark approval, but it's there. This girl who exists as nothing other than sexual fantasy fulfilled is happy to fulfill her role. That's the final lesson of Killer Joe.

You wrote, "Instead it rubs your face in its foulness, incessantly and without even a few moments to catch your breath." Right. But, not quite. There's also a bounciness to the whole affair. The humorous touches that you appreciate keep things light enough to mask the foulness, or at least to make it all digestible. The film wants us to laugh at all of this dishonor and indecency instead of confronting it. Throughout and in the end, we're left in a position of feeling superior: haha, that could never happen to me like it happened to those freakin' idiots. Compare this to the best noir, in which we are implicated in the crime, throughout and in the end understanding that it's only a thin line between where we're at now and the deep well of heinous actions that we could fall into at any moment.

There are positive things that I could say about Killer Joe. But, this is supposed to be a black and white rock em sock em debate. I think I just knocked your head off your shoulders.

Maybe Ben will weigh in. I can't remember if any other clubbers have seen it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Slow Conversations

I haven't been watching much lately. Only 1 feature since my last post.

Dark Horse. I wanted to see what all the Solondz fuss was all about. I saw Welcome to the Dollhouse back in '95 (I probably saw it in '96). I remember seeing it at a house out in Southampton, with some Center Moriches Catholic school girls, one of whom was the daughter of a man who owned a baseball card shop. I don't remember the names of those girls or how I met them. I sure don't remember anything about the movie. I already wish that I could forget Dark Horse.

I watched a handful of silent shorts with the girls today. That was fun, reminding me that I love silents and that I love movies that I can watch with the girls. I already logged all those views on Letterboxd. Since they're shorts, I won't repeat the process here.

I've been enjoying Twilight Zone club lately. I've especially been happy that my friend Mike has joined us. Both of his posts have been superb.

Brandon, your last couple of posts have been great. I really appreciated your 2012 in review. You know I love you and love your writing. Let's keep on doing this.

Your Bergman/Bresson/Dredd comparison post may have outdone my Green Lantern/Winnie the Pooh/Melancholia posts. Well done.

Jeff, I'm not sure if you really broke your arm or not, but that'd certainly explain why you're falling behind on blog posts. I was waiting for you to respond to Brody's Amour takedown, but I guess I won't get it. I still respect Amour, but I also really hate it. Anyhow, maybe we'll get some more Boos out of you during the healing time? :)

Ben, let's get a proper blog post about all of those indie films you've been watching. I hope to catch up on a few of them in the next month or so. Joining Fandor, though, has me excited about silents again at the moment. I'll have to wait until this temporary silents infatuation dies down.

Chris, your 2010 and 2011 lists reminded me that I still need to catch up on a few films: Certified Copy, Another Year, 13 Assassins, A Separation, The Kid with the Bike, The Skin I Live In, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. That's a lot of movies that I still haven't seen yet.

Jason, Alex, Lisa. What can I say? I miss you guys. Put up new posts. Please?

Adrienne, it was good to read that you had seen and enjoyed Strangers on a Train. Now, you really need to watch Throw Momma from the Train. It's one of my favorite comedies of all time.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

More Reasons Why I'm Not Reading Infinite Jest

Early Tuesday morning, I watched New Jerusalem, a film which I may write more about. I sent Factory 25 an email asking about a DVD release. I haven't heard back yet. I don't want to buy a "digital download." I could maybe think about doing that if it didn't mean DRM download. New Jerusalem is a quiet character study of two friends slinging tires and talking weariness. I liked it a lot.

Tuesday afternoon, I went upstairs to take a nap with Zeke. I got distracted by boxes that needed sorting and furniture that needed moving. I watched Total Recall and Ruby Sparks while sorting and moving, so half-distractedly. Total Recall is a disappointment only because it's such a generic action movie; built on really strong and interesting ideas that never get any more than minor lip service. The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was a much better Total Recall re-make. Ruby Sparks also starts with a fantastic idea and it even runs wild with it for about 10-20 minutes. Then, it settles down into a tame "learning the lessons of life and love with other real people" lecture. Bleh.

Finally, this morning. The Loneliest Planet.

Now I know that Brandon and Ben have jumped off the jagged edge of crappy indie mountain together. What a piece of crap. Long stretches of landscape with a terrible score serve to highlight why no one would ever want to visit this place. Sorry, Georgie.

Two uninteresting people do uninteresting things with a third uninteresting guide. They walk for a long ways. Then, IT happens. Local farmers show up! Things change. In a quiet way, of course. The intrusion of (the threat of) violence, its reactions, and how it brings all else into focus is an interesting idea. I guess the way that it plays out is all too obvious. Of course, the gal starts gravitating toward the alpha male that acts strong (in a quiet way, of course, because this is a quiet movie). Of course, something else happens (another little burst of quiet violence) that once again illustrates the puppy's inability to protect his bitch while the alpha dog rushes in. This was all done much better in Appaloosa, which had better gunfights in it, too. :)

I'm not interested in this side of world-traveling. What is the purpose of this trip? And why is it such a grim trip? After the opening with the children, where is the joyous eating together? Where is the focus on Georgian cheese and beer? Where are the Georgian bookstores? Who wants to go to Georgia anyways? But if you did (which you wouldn't), then why go out in the middle of nowhere with a complete stranger? This movie is really about people who have flown halfway around the world in a giant magical flying transportation machine in order to hike through random rocky hills? Things can't end well for crazies like that. At least they get to hear a moderately funny Chinese castration joke.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Not ready for a 2012 list.

So, instead, here are updated 2010 and 2011 lists.

Top Ten 2010

1. True Grit
2. Meek's Cutoff
3. Cold Weather
4. The Secret World of Arrietty
5. Shutter Island
6. Small Town Murder Songs
7. The Way Back
8. Black Death
9. Toy Story 3
10. Blue Valentine

Top Ten 2011

1. The Mill and the Cross
2. Take Shelter
3. Damsels in Distress
4. New Jerusalem
5. Le Havre
6. The Guard
7. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
8. Tree of Life
9. Melancholia
10. Winnie the Pooh


Keep in mind that I still haven't seen many favored films from these two years, including many favorites of others in CR5FC.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Better Loxd

I tease Jason about Flixster, but Letterboxd really does remind me of Flixster c. 2008, the year that I think Jason and I both joined Flixster.

I got tired of Flixster because I'd have to add older titles to the db if I wanted to log them. It wasn't instant either. I had to wait for some monkey to approve them. At that time at least, it was a user-generated db exactly like Letterboxd is now. Also, I was sick of the years being wrong. Again, exactly like Letterboxd now. I know it's not a big deal to many, but it really irks me. Flixster and Letterboxd kick IMDb's butt on the social side, but they're both lacking on the info-side.

So, Letterboxd is essentially the same thing as Flixster. It just as a nicer interface and looks cooler. It also doesn't have all of the commercial baggage that Flixster has developed. At least not yet.

Also, for a long time, there was no RSS capability via Flixster. I see that that has changed now. I guess it's not a big deal if you're following reviews from within the established ecosystem, but getting updates outside of visiting a site is always a perk for me.

I started Flixster at about the same time I started blogging. If Brandon and I hadn't started this thing, then I probably would have just kept on logging films on Flixster like Jason has. I did log films and star ratings on Flixster for a while, maybe through 2009. Brandon wasn't interested then. I guess he's ready for it now that a certified cool site like Letterboxd exists for the real cinephiles.

Oh yeah. I think that Flixster also originally had a character cap on posts. I'm not sure if they still do. I know this because I had to tighten up my Burn After Reading review to fit the character count limitations.

This wasn't quite a rant.

Not quite sure what this was.

Maybe a hat tip to Jason.

Because Brandon falling so hard for Letterboxd and stars in his eyes and all that must look amusing to faithful Flixster user Jason Poole. Because that's all Letterboxd is, Flixster dressed up in skinny pants and horn-rimmed glasses.

I'm just poking fun as usual.

I'm also enjoying Letterboxd. I like it a lot and I'm glad that Brandon found it in time for the new year. I'm really hoping, like Brandon is, that we can draw in more friends to use Letterboxd who would never go so far geek to start bloggety-blogging along with us.

The real reason that I stopped using Flixster is that it wasn't the social experience it was promised to be. None of my friends (besides Jason) were actively using the site. Letterboxd is already better from the very start for that very simple reason.

I'll never use Flixster again (suck it, Jason. 2013 is the time to migrate to Letterboxd). I'll definitely continue to use IMDb for listing movies seen during the year. As seen in my previous stats post, it really is the easiest way (outside of a personal spreadsheet or database) to see at a glance what you've watched in the previous year, with the ability to sort out by year and even by genre.

It'll be interesting to see if Jason does migrate completely to Letterboxd. I know that a large part of what he liked about Flixster was its integration with Facebook and being able to get comments on his reviews on FB from FB users who would never spend time on a site devoted entirely to film. Jason, are you currently posting to both sites?

I'm especially glad that Letterboxd might be the vehicle through which Film Club gets to see regular Arthur reviews. I sure hope so.

In case anyone needs links:

My Flixster profile:
My Letterboxd profile:

See you on Letterboxd.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

More 2012 Stats

Viewing Stats.

The nice thing about keeping an IMDb list of every feature I watched in 2012 is that it's simple for me to do things like this...

A breakdown of what I watched in 2012, by decade:

173 Features

1910-1919: 2
1920-1929: 7
1930-1939: 36
1940-1949: 18
1950-1959: 17
1960-1969: 6
1970-1979: 4
1980-1989: 7
1990-1999: 3
2000-2009: 20
2010-2012: 53

Letterboxd Post

Amour 2012
★★★½ Watched 06 Jan, 2013

This review reportedly contains spoilers.

The entire film was ruined for me by the sentimental sludge of an ending. We get a murder (assisted suicide, if you must), followed by some bird-brained symbolism, then a long-awaited reunion. Up until the ending, I'm mostly in agreement with Jeffrey's evaluation of the film.

The Wild One 1953
★★★★ Watched 06 Jan, 2013

Brandon gave this to me on DVD way back when. Maybe 2009. I just got around to watching it.
Brando's "What've ya got?" is one of the greatest lines delivered in cinema history.
Mary Murphy, an actress I'd never heard of, is wonderful to behold as the good small town girl that trips up Brando's bad boy. There's a bizarre garden scene in which Murphy strokes Brando's motorcycle in the best Code fashion, expressing a barely contained lust for life that needs an outlet beyond the squares she serves at the local cafe.

Friday, January 4, 2013

More Stats

173 Feature Films Watched in 2012:

Monthly Viewing Average: 14.4 films

Weekly Viewing Average: 3.33 films

Daily Viewing Average: .47 films

The above excludes documentaries, shorts, and television shows.

Total blog posts: 128
Avg: about 2.5/week

Offense Unchained

I guess I don't have a Mandingo in this Django fight.

Like many other 2012 films, I've just been unable to fully connect with the material and how it is presented.

But, I liked Django Unchained. I mostly had a good time with it. I'd see it again, but it's never going to be a favorite that I repeatedly return to or think of often.

It seems that you guys mostly want to talk about three things:

1) The "KKK" scene.

I do side with those who think this was funny. The moment when the man rides away because these other guys have been ribbing him about his wife's work on the masks is just a nice little touch.

What I'm not sure any of you mentioned (though maybe Jeff did in his first post) is how nice the payoff is on the bouncing tooth gag. In what has to be a nod to The Paleface, Scultz's dentist's wagon is a real delight. I smiled each time I saw that tooth bounce in the first parts of the film.

2) The finale.

It wasn't too long ago that I watched Bava's Roy Colt and Winchester Jack. I'll remind everyone that this is my only experience with genuine spaghetti westerns. But generalizing from that specific movie, it seems like spaghetti westerns are absolutely gonzo nuts. After the capture of Django by Stephen and the Candie henchmen, it felt like Tarantino went full on spaghetti.

The end particularly reminded me of Bava's film because of the gleeful use of dynamite. The horse dance and the dream-like fairy tale feeling also felt like a heaping pile of spaghetti. There are crazy moments prior to this finale, but I think that this is the primary place where QT stops being serious, really lets out his inner fanboy, and works some spaghetti-style exploitation magic.

But, spaghetti westerns are the anti-message pictures. Hollywood got all serious with its Westerns in the 70s. Italy got silly. Tarantino's mash-up of these two major 70s Western strands never quite ties together in a satisfying way.

Maybe the point of this final act is to show how movie magic is stronger than historical fact. Maybe. I can't help but think that it would be a stronger film if it ended with Django neutered and then tortured to death. Or maybe a montage of the next five years of his life broken down in a work camp before he dies alone under a fallen rock. Instead, Tarantino gives us an uneven mix of satire and social conscience picture.

In the end, he chooses to go full spaghetti in an attempt to please the audience (primarily himself). In doing so, he undercuts the power of some of the more horrific moments by giving the audience an easy out.

3) The movie causing offense.

I think that Brandon is too callous in turning on his friend here.

The use of the word 'nigger' 1,000+ times (whatever, I didn't count) is enough to cause offense.

To try to get at this from another angle: It'd be like a movie about Willowbrook in which every other sentence included the word 'retard'. I've heard persons medically diagnosed as being mentally retarded describing others as "retards." That doesn't mean I can write a spaghetti western about 'retards' being 'retards' on horses because some 'retards' have a sense of humor about being 'retards' or are inconsistent in their relationships to others, using language that would be hurtful if directed at them. Now, exchange the word 'retard' above with the word 'nigger' and you have Django.

I don't think that's okay.

The Vandal guys argued that we need more slavery movies. Sure. I guess. But, what about more movies about slaveholders and KKK activities? Why not realistic portrayals of these realities? They are complicated historical realities. I'm sure the word 'nigger' was used loud and often.

I've heard black men describing other black men as "niggers." I've seen Chris Rock acts on TV.

This word "nigger" was once a common descriptive term, akin to a medical diagnosis. Saying, "That man's a nigger" was like saying, "That man's black." That doesn't mean it's an okay descriptive word today. But, Tarantino seems to be very comfortable with the word (in a playful context). I'm not so sure that it's continued use is beneficial to anyone. At one point, it meant "black." At another time, it meant "inferior sub-human." What does it mean today? And why does Tarantino make it sound so fun?

I'm sympathetic to Tarantino's use of historical realism within a highly stylized western revenge fantasy. But, I can see how others might dismiss Tarantino's "realism" as an excuse to use one of his favorite words.

Beyond the word 'nigger', there's clearly offense in the depiction of violence. For a moment there, I really thought we were going to get an onscreen practical effects castration. But prior to that, we'd already had a bloodbath, emotional violence, both calculated and casual killings from our heroes, a man killing another man with his bare hands, and a man being ripped apart by dogs. The most giddy glee is present at the end, but it's also there in almost every other moment of violence. Tarantino loves pretend violence. And he wants others to love it, too.

Maybe the offense lies elsewhere. I haven't been reading anything about the film besides what you guys have written and linked to.

Finally, I leave y'all with something special.

An exhibit of the guns of Django Unchained:

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 Posting Numbers

Film Clubbers, Ranked by Number of Posts in 2012

151 - Brandon
147 - Jeff
128 - John
63 - Ben
62 - Chris
53 - Jason
32 - Adrienne
8 - Lisa
8 - Alex