Saturday, August 31, 2013

The World's End is the best film of 2013

I was wrong
I was wrong to ever doubt
I can get along without
I can love my fellow man
But I'm damned if I'll love yours

In a bar that's always closing
In a world where people shout
I don't wanna talk this over
I don't wanna talk it out
I was quite impressed until I hit the floor
Isn't that what friends are for?
Pain looks great on other people
That's what they're for

Friday, August 30, 2013


Brandon, are you all caught up with Breaking Bad? I'm itching to argue over the racism of Breaking Bad. All of the "minority" characters have been killed and it's just a bunch of white dudes scheming at each other now. I've stopped watching.

As for the Ford kerfluffle, yeah, I'll agree that "we are essentially in agreement here". I don't have it in me to keep arguing. And Ford doesn't need me to defend him. I only wish he was around to punch Tarantino in the face. If Tarantino lost an eye in a fistfight with Ford, then had to wear an eye patch, I'd probably respect him a bit more and let him get away with saying whatever he wants.

As for Birth of a Nation, I re-read Ebert's fantastic Great Movies entry on the film. I get quickly tired of anyone who wants to dismiss the film because of its racism. Yes, it is obviously racist. It is also a powerful work of art. Ebert's review is helpful because he pokes around at this tension, exploring how "great art" can be "in the thrall of hateful ideologies." We've all struggled with this tension here on the blogs. I know that I have struggled at times to communicate why certain formally excellent films are abominations. 

I've got to go to work so I'll leave this all rather half-baked.

I've been having a hard time caring about watching films lately. Maybe my body is waiting for colder weather. I'm having a movie party with the girls tonight. Not sure if we'll watch some Abbott & Costello or maybe a western. Maybe I'll pull out Ford's Steamboat 'Round the Bend for a fresh watch.


Who 2

Getting through Season 2 of the Who reboot was often a slog. Too many filler episodes. But! At its best, it's about as good as TV gets. It is ridiculous and manipulative and I can't help smiling and crying. Again, I'm not going to write about any of these since none of you have seen it to interact.

Here's how I'd rank Season 2.

1) "The Girl in the Fireplace"
2) "Army of Ghosts" & "Doomsday"
3) "Rise of the Cybermen" & "The Age of Steel"
4) "The Christmas Invasion"
5) "New Earth"
6) "Tooth and Claw"
7) "School Reunion"
8) "The Impossible Planet" & "The Satan Pit"
9) "Love & Monsters"
10) "The Idiot's Lantern"
11) "Fear Her"

Not feeling it - Recent Letterboxd logging copied and pasted

Upstream Color 2013 ★★ Watched 22 Aug, 2013
I stopped watching after about 40 minutes. I blame myself as much as the film. I wasn't willing to put in any work at the time that I was watching it and the film wasn't willing to cater to my laziness. Carruth deserves all of his fans. I wish him well.

Only God Forgives 2013 ★★ Watched 20 Aug, 2013
I can't give it one star because I ended up having a lot of fun watching it. Five stars for the experience combined with -1 stars for the film averages out to about two stars. Hell, I almost gave it three stars when I started thinking about the pickles I was eating.

Apart From You 1933 ★★★ Watched 07 Aug, 2013
Okay melodrama with some nifty Narusisms (zoom and pan, baby!)

The Baron of Arizona 1950 ★★★ Rewatched 06 Aug, 2013 Not at all bad. This is my second time watching it and I think I'm done with it. The long con is interesting but the way the story is told is less than fluid.

Man of Steel 2013 ★ Watched 04 Aug, 2013
This film needs a strong dose of Richard Pryor.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Responding to Brando's Not-Yet-Published Boos

Brandon, thanks for entertaining me with your voicemails last week (or has it already been two weeks?) at work. I got busy and never responded. In fact, your Boos still haven't been uploaded! I'll fix that now. Consider this a preliminary rambling response. I didn't do any research or re-watching before writing these maybe ill-informed opinions. I think that my general impressions here are right. Correct me if I'm wrong.

John Ford would have been 20 years old when he agreed to a bit part in a film directed by one of the hottest directors in the world. Coming from Maine in a pre-media-saturated world, I doubt that Ford had any great notion about what a "Klansman" was. Ford had just moved to Hollywood the year before and was trying to break into pictures by working in his brother's shadow. Do we really need to think that he was a terrible racist to take a bit part in what was one of the biggest films of the time when he was just starting his career? Even if he knew exactly what he was doing, so what? I bet you also made bad decisions at age 20. If we're going to talk about Ford's treatment of "blacks" and "reds", then we ought to at least look at the man's own mature films.

I haven't seen as many Ford films as you guys have, but I have a hard time seeing him as any sort of black-hating racist. He gave work to Stepin Fetchit and others when others in Hollywood wouldn't go near any "black" material if it wasn't blackface or hard mockery. The Stepin Fetchit roles in Judge Priest and Steamboat Round the Bend are both sympathetic comic relief parts. They are not at all representative types of all black men. That would be like saying that all Oliver Hardy films are racist because they tarnish the image that we have of all white men. I'd have to re-watch them, but I remember Fetchit's character in both films (but more so in Round the Bend) as likable and decent. If Fetchit is a Coon, then Rogers is only a thinly veiled society version of the same. Maybe there's some stereotyping going on, but no more so than in any Laurel & Hardy sketch or Abbott and Costello routine. Neither of these films are focused on 'realism' in any way. I also remember reading that Priest originally had a scene featuring the Judge putting a stop to a lynching of a black man, but the studio took the scene out because they knew they wouldn't make any money in the South if they left it in. I would never say that Judge Priest is entirely uncomplicated in its treatment of "race relations", but Ford does have Will Rogers and Stepin Fetchit acting as friends in a time and place in which this wasn't the easiest of relationships.

As far as treatment of "Indians" go, I'd say that Ford's record is even better. It's easy for us to forget how terrifying it was for white settlers heading West to be attacked by Indians. Most average folk were innocent in their actions toward the natives. They were defending their lives and trying to make a new life for themselves in a new land. In a world before mass communication, they were living in terms of their environment based on the best knowledge they had, including often being told that the tribes were savage and ruthless. And, to be fair, the tribes often were savage and ruthless. Even the cavalry men were often honorable (though, of course, not always). They were following orders and trying to live up to an ideal. It was the U.S. leaders who were constantly breaking treaties and acting wickedly. The men with money in the game were the men betraying all others, both white and brown and black. Again, I don't think that Ford is often concerned with 'realism', but I do think that he was trying to explore what it meant to be an American forging an identity amid an often violent and antagonistic land.

It is important to keep in mind that John Ford was an Irishman. His father was an immigrant from Ireland. So, Ford himself wasn't ever a slave like many other Irish in America (, but he lived in a land with a history of hating the Irish, in which Irish men, women, and children had been enslaved and were rarely thought of as anything but inferior, if they were thought of at all. Depending what part of the country you were in, to be Irish in America was not much better at times than being African or Asian. We can't imagine this kind of hateful "white on white" racism, but it was indeed commonplace. Today, the Irish have come a long way in that now we only dismiss them as fun-loving drunks instead of as subhuman inferiors. What is amazing is that John Ford loved America in spite of this complicated history.

In conclusion, Tarantino is a freaking idiot. I'm not sure if he's ever seen a John Ford film.

I'm now going to post Brandon's Boos, listen to them again, and re-read the Kent Jones article:

Monday, August 12, 2013

Hello Carol

Spoilers will abound in any Breaking Bad post.

Call me slow. I didn't recognize the pool. Re-watching the episode, it is marvelous how the first few shots and specifically one overhead shot of the pool and backyard quickly and efficiently establish the devastation of the White home without being flashy or at all heavy-handed. I didn't realize what was going on until Walt unscrewed the outlet cover. Then, it hit me hard. Before I could properly register this, though, we get the nice comic beat of the neighbor dropping her groceries. Well played. That little moment communicates more than ten minutes of expository dialogue could have done.

These flash forwards are tough teasers. Why is the house abandoned? Where is the rest of the White family? How long has it been? Walt's definitely done with chemo since he's grown such a gnarly beard, right? Is he a dead man walking? What the hell is he going to do with that machine gun??? Is the ricin for personal consumption? Or will there be more children to poison?

What will be interesting to watch is how the leap is made from the contemporary story to the flash forward story. The way that the action ramps up in this episode is a good indication that there will be no filler ahead. There will not be any wasted moments in the next seven episodes.

More later. Stupid work getting in the way of my Breaking Bad obsession.

Tread Lightly: The Return of Breaking Bad Club

He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven by William Butler Yeats
Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
I've got to get to work. Later today, I hope to post a full recap/review of last night's Breaking Bad. Who else is watching? Jeff? Chris? Of course. Is Brandon fully caught up? Do we need to strap Ben to a chair Clockwork Orange-style? It's nothing but Breaking Bad for the next two months, gentleman. Heck yeah.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Is it August already?

As you guys could tell, my enthusiasm didn't last long.

I watched Wheatley's Down Terrace and fell in love with the movies all over again (I'll get to Down Terrace at the end of this post). Then, I watched The Last Exorcism Part II and gouged my eyes out with a dull pencil. Ed Gass-Donnelly, you got a screenplay credit for this one so I can't even pretend that you were saddled with a bad script. You knew exactly what you were doing when you let me down. To be fair, I didn't make it all the way to the end. Maybe there was something worth watching by the end, but I doubt it. At least Last Exorcism had me simultaneously loving and hating it the whole way through, provoking a response up until those glorious last few minutes made up my mind for me. Part II only had me bored and rolling my eyes. Blech.

I half-watched The Muppet Movie with my youngest kids while the others were out somewhere. It never gets old for me, even the running Hare Krishna joke still makes me chuckle.

And I tried re-watching The Avengers because I really wanted to see Mark Ruffalo say that he's always angry. I couldn't get into it. I fell asleep after about 45 minutes and never finished it. I watched this instead:

And this beautiful montage:
and this:
and this:
and about a dozen more.

Mostly, I wished The Avengers was as good as Dr. Who. I'm a few episodes into Reboot Series 2 now and still loving it. These are all re-watches for me. The last time I watched them was not long after they were first aired. I think that we first started watching after we moved down here in 2006.

Here's how I'd rank Series 1:

1) "Dalek"
2) "Father's Day"
3) "The End of the World"
4) "The Empty Child" & "The Doctor Dances"
5) "Aliens of London" & "World War Three"
6) "Bad Wolf" & "The Parting of the Ways"
7) "The Unquiet Dead"
8) "Rose"
9) "The Long Game"
10) "Boom Town"

I'd be willing to talk or write about any of these, but no one else has watched them except for Jason. Maybe this will get a post out of him.

Other than Who, I've watched a little bit of Breaking Bad to warm up for the approaching final season and I've watched a couple of other TV things, Fawlty Towers and My Little Pony. I'm still a Cleese fan and I'm still a Brony.

Finally, Down Terrace. It's one of the best films I've seen all year.

I'm really glad that Jeff (and Mike) have both recently watched and enjoyed Kill List. That movie stayed with me long after I finished it. I've finally come to terms with the fact that I'm a huge Wheatley fan. Maybe I'll watch A Field in England this afternoon.

Down Terrace is a remarkable family gangster film. Brandon and I have argued about how much certain films like Goodfellas still glorify gangster life despite their anti-gangster final messages. I'm convinced that those movies make gangsters look cool. Down Terrace does not make gangsters look cool.

Down Terrace is, I think, closer to the homespun reality of "gangsterism." There is family loyalty and there is family dysfunction. There is the closeness of camaraderie and the paranoia of doing something illegal in a situation in which anyone could betray you at any time to better their own life. I love the sense of intimacy that Wheatley creates. I love the humour. And I love his brand of constructed realism.

Wheatley's pacing is always right-on. I'm a bit nervous to see Hill's name absent as editor on Field in England, but I think that Jump having worked with/under Wheatley/Hill for Kill List and Sightseers is a good sign. I think that Wheatley's (maybe intuitive) editing chops come from two sources, his obvious love of music and his background in comedy. Timing is everything in both music and comedy.

The music in Down Terrace is central to everything. Wheatley uses traditional folk music as a rooting device. The music grounds the characters in history. They are not only enmeshed in local and family drama. They are actors on the stage of England, bit parts in the UK's grand narrative. They are folk heroes and tragic lovers and workingmen and yearning spirits. Alongside the way that music frames and undergirds the story is the way in which the passage of time is highlighted by title cards displaying the day of the week. One day is as the next and each day is guarded jealously. Murder is a fair and bright alternative to "doing time."

Let no man steal your thyme. And, of course, that's a pun.