Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top Ten Films of 2010 Update

1. Certified Copy
2. The Social Network
3. Another Year
4. True Grit
5. Blue Valentine
6. 13 Assassins
7. Uncle Boonme
8. Inception
9. Winter's Bone
10. Shutter Island

Honorable Mention: Black Swan, The American, 127 Hours

The 2010 "Film That Makes Me Hate People My Own Age" Award goes to: Tiny Furniture

I made a top ten list before I joined film club. It can be found here. Inception experiences a drop due to the foreign films that I've now seen. I will still defend it, though. I feel like Shutter Island and the three films listed in my honorable mentions are interchangeable; I like them all about the same...which isn't a lot, but it's enough to list them.

Like Ben, Catfish experiences a huge drop off. The mystique has worn-off; the gimmick is gone. Who cares anymore? Same with the other documentaries. I thought about listing Cold Weather in my honorable mentions, but honestly, if I were to do that, it would only be to appease John and Ben. Sure it's good, but I guess it needed a Natalie Portman lesbian sex scene or something. I still like most of Never Let Me Go, but now it's something just below honorable mention to me. Meek's Cutoff is a 2011 film in my mind.

Lastly, I just want to say that I love film club, too. I've had a lot of fun these past few months and I thoroughly enjoy interacting with all of you. What started as a pinky promise with Brandon has turned into something that brings a lot of joy to my life. Jason and Lisa, hopefully we can meet each other at some point. Ben, now that I know you exist, we should hang out. John and Brandon, I love you guys and it's a blast spending time & watching movies with you. Jeff, I knew it was you; you broke my heart.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Guy White's Top Ten Albums of 2011

10. Bon Iver - Bon Iver
      Favorite Tracks: Holocene, Perth, Calgary

9. Summer People - Teamwork, Summer People/Hotchacha - Do It
    Favorite Tracks: Fish Fry #1, Fish Fry #2, Elsewhere, Hired Liars, Hallelujah I'm a Bum, The Fox and the Hound, Baseball Bat

8. Tom Waits - Bad As Me
    Favorite Tracks: Chicago, Raised Right Men, Pay Me, Kiss Me, Hell Broke Luce

7. My Morning Jacket - Circuital
    Favorite Tracks: Circuital, Wonderful (The Way I Feel), Holdin On to Black Metal, Slow Slow Tune

6. Smith Westerns - Dye It Blonde
    Favorite Tracks: Weekend, Still New, Imagine Pt.3, End of the Night, Only One, Smile

5. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
    Favorite Tracks: Let England Shake, The Last Living Rose, The Words That Maketh Murder

4. Deer Tick - Divine Providence
    Favorite Tracks: The Bump, Main Street, Something to Brag About, Miss K./Mr. Cigarette

3. The Elected - Bury Me In My Rings
    Favorite Tracks: Babyface, Look At Me Now, Have You Been Cheated, See the Light

2. Girls - Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
    Favorite Tracks: Honey Bunny, Die, Vomit, Love Like a River

1. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
    Favorite Tracks: Montezuma, Battery Kinzie, Helplessness Blues, Lorelai, The Shrine/An Argument, Grown Ocean 

Honorable Mention (alphabetical order): The Antlers - Burst Apart, Beirut - The Rip Tide, Bright Eyes - The People's Key, Middle Brother - Middle Brother, Okkervil River - I Am Very Far, Real Estate - Days, Ryan Adams - Ashes and Fire, She & Him - A Very She & Him Christmas, The Strokes - Angles, Tennis - Cape Dory

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Certified Copy

I just wanted to let all of you know that Certified Copy is now available on NWI. I hope to watch it sometime soon, because like Ben, I want to update my 2010 list.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

At the heart of all of this The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo discussion (amongst the film community) is David Fincher. As Brandon noted, we're seeing a ton of reviews stating the film itself is very similar to the Swedish version, but is more technically sound thanks to Fincher. Honestly, I walked away from the theater thinking along the same lines. With regard to my overall feelings on the film, I fall somewhere between Brandon and Jeff. Like both of them, though, I'm a huge Fincher fan, and this film exhibits a lot of the qualities that make him one of the best directors working today. Story and director are a perfect match here.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo doesn't disappoint; I assume I'm right in saying that Jeff wasn't disappointed by it. If he was, I don't necessarily understand why. I don't know how someone who hasn't read the book could be surprised to find that the film adaptations are similar in terms of the script/story. I have not the read the books, but did watch all three Swedish films. I found them to be okay, but never felt any sort of connection to the script or the characters (Noomi Rapace was great, though). Fincher's version is not only technically better, but I was able to obtain that connection with his film. I was able to understand things more clearly...despite missing out on the first ten minutes of the film (completely bummed about this and I'm trying to devise a plan to sneak into a theater to catch the beginning; I really want to see those opening credits). 

Anyway, we can say a lot of things about the book: "good trash,"an airport novel," etc. Brandon's right to want to shift the focus away from that. Although, if you've read the books, I imagine it's pretty tough to do so. As we read something, we sort of direct the film adaptation in our own minds. Readers of the books are often the harshest critics, so it's interesting to hear Brandon's positive reaction. For me, the story (now focusing on the film again) doesn't really seem trashy at all. Sure, it is nowhere near as compelling as The Seventh Seal or even Walter White's story on Breaking Bad, but it isn't without its merits. Sometimes we need these seedy underbelly stories to remind us that all some people have ever known in their lives is evil, and that much of the evil in our world consists of sexual violence against women. This is a story with an important message; the stakes are high.

John does make a great point about Breaking Bad, though, and I mostly agree. And there is no argument here (great last words when dealing with John) because you said that you prefer Walter's story to Lisbeth's. So this is just to say that while I mostly prefer a story like Walter's, I do have room in my heart for Lisbeth's. 

Mikael Blomkvist tells Lisbeth that he wants her to help him "catch a killer of women." Her willingness to help him stems from this fact alone, and not because she thinks Blomkvist seems like a nice guy. Her worldview has been shaped by the evil she has experienced from her childhood to adulthood, and through this case, she sees an opportunity to rid the world of one less scumbag. (At the end of Breaking Bad, we're going to need someone like Lisbeth to take out Walter. Someone get me Vince Gilligan's phone number quick, I need to make an important phone call!)

The teaser for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo gave us the loveable line: "The feel bad movie of Christmas." I've seen plenty of "feel bad" movies in the past, but haven't really seen any this year. So, I can't speak too much about what separates this film from something like We Need To Talk About Kevin (even if I did, I'd probably contradict myself), but like Brandon, I don't see this film as something that only makes you feel like complete shit. And I was able to find the good in what Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig brought to their characters.

As good as Rapace is as Lisbeth in the Swedish films, I loved Rooney Mara's performance so much more. After seeing her brief scenes in The Social Network, I was intrigued as to what she would bring to the character and had a good feeling that she would be excellent. She plays a range of emotions and portrays them flawlessly - be it some tough-as-nails chick who wears a "Fuck you you fucking fuck" t-shirt to a girl who has her heart broken at the end. 

I also enjoyed the Mara/Daniel Craig pairing. Daniel Craig is someone I've always been indifferent about, but here I am a fan. Lisbeth has been treated like shit by men her entire life, so maybe it would seem like a stretch for her relationship with Blomkvist to progress so quickly, but for me it worked. Based on their personalities, they seem compatible together. There's that great moment where they both admit that they like working together. 

But this is definitely a movie that plants something awful in your stomach. I love to talk about audiences in my reviews because it slightly interests me to see who shows up for these films. We had a few old people in our theater and under the assumption that they weren't familiar with the books, I can't imagine what was going through their minds during some of the scenes. We have Fincher and we have a book about rape; this is going to be a picture with extremely dark scenes. I read a review saying that the rape scene in the Swedish version is more brutal (albeit, shorter), but honestly I can't remember that scene at all (thank you, mind, for forgetting it). 

With Fincher's film, I want to forget it, but I can't (as is Fincher's goal, so as weird as it is to say, the scene is effective/successful). It's one of the most uncomfortable scenes you'll ever sit through if you're like me and don't go near films like Irreversible or shit movies like Human Centipede. This film is brutal, so if you haven't seen it, know that that's what you're getting yourself into.

Jeff, Brandon, and I enjoy revenge flicks. I watched 13 Assassins last week and loved it. Lisbeth gets some revenge in this, and of course the neo-nazi serial killer gets his in the end. I also enjoy mysteries, and was mostly satisfied with that aspect of the story, especially since it relied on old photographs and memories to solve the case. Having said all that, I do prefer Zodiac so much more than this film.

Like this blog post, the ending of the film does drag a bit too long. It kinda feels like a movie that doesn't know how to end. I can understand Jeff's want to walk out of the theater pumped up and in love, in the way that we came away from the theater feeling about Drive

My apologies for seeming like a mediator in the Jeff/Brandon debate. I agree with both of you cats on different points.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The pictures...they're coming...alive!

Random film and television round-up (SPOILERS THROUGHOUT):

Boy Meets Girl

I agree with John; the film seems completely disjointed. It's tough to tell whose story it is, and who the audience is supposed to be rooting for (at one point Cagney and O'Brien are helping out the British guy, and the next they're trying to get him busted; it just lacks identity). Obviously James Cagney is the star here, but there's nothing interesting about his character. I wasn't crazy about the Cagney/O'Brien partnership, but remain hopeful on viewing some of their other films together. The baby trailer was the best part - very smart and funny. But yeah, talking about Real Steel and that notorious racist Georges Melies at the Dunkin Donuts on Front Street was my favorite part of the evening. Can't wait to watch more films in the spring.


I hadn't seen this Kurosawa film before, but I had seen A Fistful of Dollars. It's cool that the best Eastwood line in the film is stolen from Yojimbo - props to Kurosawa for that four coffins line. I absolutely love this movie; my favorite scene is the "fight" between the two gangs where they keep poking at air with their swords as they cowardly take steps backward. It has action, it has comedy, it has an interesting story - fantastic all-around.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

I re-watched this recently.  When I saw it, I absolutely loved it and put it high on my top ten list for that year. But I also admit that within a year or so, I completely forgot everything about it. I just knew that it made Christy Brown look like a jock. It's helpful to re-watch things, especially in this case. Julian Schnabel's film is creatively shot and Jean-Do's story is remarkable and captivating. And as much as Mathieu Amalric is great in this film, Max von Sydow is a scene-stealer. Good god, what a performance. His scenes are heartbreaking - especially when he and his son are trying to communicate on the phone. Also, this film wins my prize for most attractive ensemble of French women in a film.

I Confess!

John let us borrow this Hitchcock film, which we hadn't seen. I like Monty Clift and all, but I really feel like there wasn't enough from him in this film. I'm not saying it was completely dull, but it lacked the something I got from other Clift performances. I think the story is compelling and features an interesting moral quandary: should a Priest rat out a prisoner if he confesses to a murder during Confession? Personally, I don't think priests should adhere to "snitches get stitches." I'd rat out everyone who came to confess stuff to me. Kidding. I liked this movie, but it's not one of my favorite Hitchcock films. I also had an interesting thought while watching this - I think it would've been sweet if one of Hitchcock's cameos featured him fleeing a crime scene. That would be insane, and would be sweet because he'd get away with it.

East of Eden

Jeff will be happy to hear that I finally finished this movie (it's been sitting on our DVR for a month). James Dean was cool as hell, no one can deny him that. Watching this movie, I wanted to look like him, dress like him, and talk like him. Although, if I were to talk like him, my voice would sometimes have to be ADR'd in. Am I crazy? Is there a ton of dubbing in that film? Just seemed like it. I really enjoyed Julie Harris in this. She's got a great presence on the screen. Love the CinemaScope - a lot of well-shot, beautiful scenes. But other than everything I just listed, I didn't really care for the film too much. For whatever reason, it was just hard to get in to. This was part of TCM's Essentials and after the film Robert Osborne talked about how emotional the final scene is, and really, I didn't find that to be the case. Perhaps I'll revisit this one someday and enjoy it more. Sorry, Steinbeck.


I'm not a big Steve McQueen guy. I know he has a large group of followers, but there are plenty of other actors who I feel are cooler. He does a hell of a job in this film, though. In certain scenes, he undergoes a complete transformation and looks like a broken down man. Dustin Hoffman doesn't have a lot to do in this one, but he's still great. The movie was all right; I assume The Great Escape is better, so maybe I'll check that out soon.

Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Brandon is absolutely correct on this one; I felt this was an awful movie and there's too many problems to list. I can give one, though. There's a scene where Beth Littleford finds naked photographs of her daughter, and she uses the word, "vajayjay." Now, I've got nothing against Beth Littleford; she was once on the Daily Show, so she probably can pull off that word in something else and make it funny. But in this film, it's only gimmicky. You know the screenwriter sat around and thought, "It'd be hilarious if I made a 40-year old mom say 'vajayjay.'" I don't know, this might be the one of the weirdest rants you've ever heard, but I hate it when scripts call for adults to use teenage slang just to get laughs. It's been done to death. I also hated the son, played by Jonah Bobo. He just annoyed the hell out of me and I couldn't root for him at all. Wow, I am one hateful dude. Back to love - complete me.

Our Idiot Brother

Watched this the other night, and actually was slightly interested in it due to Paul Rudd and Zooey Deschanel. Despite that, I also expected to hate this film, because even though I'm a fan of Zooey, she seems to end up in a lot of terrible movies. Our Idiot Brother was more bad than good, but looks like Citizen Kane compared to Crazy, Stupid, Love. But there really isn't anything in this film to be excited about. The only thing that I can think of is the message that the bond between man and dog is strongest. I liked the son in this one a lot better, comparing to Crazy, Stupid, Love. Give me slightly awkward kids, I'm sick of these damn precocious Dakota Fanning wannabe child actors. This kid seemed more like an actual kid to me.

Boardwalk Empire

I watched the finale today. Man...godamnit! The one thing I didn't want to happen, happened. I know I said I was going to include spoilers, but I'm not sure that I will in this case. I guess I'll wait for Jeff to get caught up. But yeah, shit. It was a good episode, but I was disappointed in one of the last few scenes. If you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about. Bad move, Winter.


I'm not caught up with this show - I think I'm an episode behind. What a great season so far! From the return of Rudy to the revelation about Edward James Olmos' character, it's just been a lot of fun to watch. Hats off to the writing staff for this season, they've proven that the show is far from dead. And looks like we'll get two more seasons in the future. But the seasons almost seem to see-saw now; perhaps next season will suck.


I wanted to comment on this because Jason did. I completely agree with your assessment of the season, man. I thought season 6 was much better than 5, but yeah, the show hasn't been the same since the days of Conrad and Agrestic. I thought season 7 was worse than 6. You'll continue to hate Nancy, and only really watch the show because of Andy. But yeah, you definitely feel more for Silas as the show goes on. If anyone else has finished season 7, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the finale. As much as the season sucked, it was kinda worth it just to see the final shot. Well, maybe not, but it was interesting.

Parks and Recreation

I love this show and it's doing a really nice job of filling the 30 Rock void. There's just a ton of likeable characters on the show and it's really found its voice in terms of comedy. The most recent episode had a great Jean-Ralphio gag at the end (where he's hired as a temp at an accounting office and is fired fifteen seconds later. It was hilarious).

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Helter Shelter

On to another writer/director, Jeff Nichols and his film, Take Shelter. I'd been looking forward to seeing Take Shelter for months now; I wasn't familiar with Nichols (I am now and am a big fan; Shotgun Stories was added to my queue immediately), but I was really looking forward to seeing Michael Shannon play the lead, especially in an interesting project like this one. Shannon is barely in Revolutionary Road, but he steals every scene that he's in. I've already praised his work in Boardwalk Empire on here; he's a guy that many people don't know, but always seems to take on each role with everything he's got. There are a couple of moments in the film that show you why Michael Shannon is perfect for the role of Curtis: The Lyons Club dinner, and the shelter scene near the end. Again, these might be obvious scenes, but I still can't get over either one of them. After the fight with Shea Whigham ends at the dinner, Curtis turns to his neighbors and confronts small-town gossip. His face suggests a man possessed; the look in his eyes is heartbreaking. You really feel for his wife, his daughter, and for him. No one wants to see a loved one like that, and no one wants to be perceived in that way by a loved one. Not only does Take Shelter allow the audience to connect with Curtis' financial concerns/problems, but I feel moments like the aforementioned scene, in which Shannon confronts his community, also fully fleshes out this story and this world.

The shelter scene near the end is probably one of my favorite film moments of the year so far. Curtis spends so much time talking about and preparing his shelter, that I almost forgot the fact that we would eventually be treated to a scene in which he goes down in it with his family. And once they do, it doesn't disappoint. In a lot of ways, it is difficult to watch, but it's impossible to look away. Another aspect that I enjoy about is the limitless possibilities. I knew the film was ending soon, so my mind raced through the different scenarios that could happen. I was almost pleading in my mind with Jeff Nichols to spare Samantha and Hannah (Curtis' wife and daughter). I didn't think that Curtis was necessarily going to kill them, but I thought we were going to be treated to a twisted version of a Twilight Zone episode in which Curtis traps them down there for the rest of their lives. Another scenario was a Meek's Cutoff ending. I probably would've liked this, but in a way, I'm glad Nichols didn't end the film that way. You needed something more.

As far as the ending goes, I'm not exactly sure what to make of it. I'm glad John shared with Jeff and myself what Jessica Chastain said about the ending - the look that Curtis and Samantha exchange is what makes the scene. I love that interpretation because it means that even if the ending is just another one of Curtis' dreams, at least he and Samantha are in it together. He no longer sees her as a drenched woman standing next to a knife. This is extremely crucial, because one of the most unfortunate things about Curtis' character is that he seems to abandon the people closest to him who had hurt him in his dreams; his dog and his best friend are the two casualties. Of course, we can't blame Curtis too much for this, after all, he's a man with mental problems. I touched briefly on schizophrenia in my Melancholia post, but with Shelter, Curtis' mother has actually been diagnosed with it. This helps in setting the mood for the film and in allowing the audience to feel for Curtis and his mother.

And speaking of mental problems, I like the fact that that's the reason for his visions of doomsday. He isn't a religious nut; he isn't a Mayan Calendar guy. The script has all of these compelling storylines and still maintains a secular, apolitical feel. I was reminded of this point when I tried to track down a picture for this post. I eventually pulled the photo above from the Christian Science Monitor review (their critic loved it, in case you were wondering).

The motor oil rain at the end leads me to believe that it is one of Curtis' dreams, but of course that's just a theory. Yes, we did get Inception'd. I love the first glimpse of the storm in the reflection of the beach house window. Brilliant shot.

The dream sequences themselves are all fascinating in their respective ways. Some of them almost make the film seem like it fits in the horror genre. The dream in which birds start falling from the sky was horrifyingly twisted and extremely well-done. I also love the shot where the furniture in the house shoots up into the air.

I need to acknowledge Jessica Chastain, because between this and The Tree of Life, I am absolutely smitten with her. She's incredibly beautiful and photographs so well. The trailer makes her seem a bit like a nagging wife, but there really is a lot of subtlety that she provides to truly make her character multidimensional. She looks fantastically creepy in Curtis' dream where she's standing by the a zombie or something. My favorite scene with her is when she's explaining to her husband that she wants to go to the pot luck dinner because she needs to do something normal. The look on her face was memorable.

Also, Tova Stewart (playing Hannah) is a cutie. There's an instant connection between her and the audience and she does a great job. And some might point out that Hannah being deaf is an obvious attempt at symbolism, but I don't care. As a plotpoint, it's one of the reasons why Curtis' can't lose his health insurance. But moving away from that, I feel that the fact that Hannah is deaf allows the audience to really root for/connect with this family. Jeff is correct, the crayon lipstick scene is captivating and enjoyable.

Overall, I was in no way disappointed by Take Shelter. It was extremely effective and it caused a response in me that only the important films seem to do.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Preston Sturges: Part 1

When we were making our director's lists, I wrote that I hadn't seen any of Preston Sturges' films, and that also he came highly recommended to me. The recommendation was spot-on. I love Sturges so far.

That was an interesting article that Jeff posted, as it acknowledges the whole "writer/director vs. director" debate. I had planned on mentioning that topic even before Jeff posted. Maybe it's because I enjoy writing and have attempted to write screenplays that I admire those who write and direct more (though mostly it depends on who we're talking about). I like the fact that the writer/director is completely involved in the process and his/her vision is largely held intact from pre-production to production.

Then again, because I have tried to write for the screen, I know that scripts aren't supposed to contain any sort of direction at all, unless it's crucial to the plot. And, of course, a great director puts his/or her stamp on a movie; you certainly know a Hitchcock film when you see one.

Preston Sturges has really impressed me so far. He adroitly pulls off both comedy and the more tender moments. His ideas/scripts also are original and highly entertaining. Reading the descriptions of each film was enough to get me excited about them. Here is what I've watched of his over the past two weeks...

Sullivan's Travels

I watched this shortly after watching Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent, so I got a double-dose of Joel McCrea, whom I really hadn't been acquainted with. He's perfect here in the role as John Lloyd Sullivan. Mainly I was able to respond to the revelation that Sullivan has at the end of the picture. It's a great moment when he tells the producers that he's going to make a comedy, claiming that laughter is all some people have. The scene in the church is very powerful when all of the inmates are laughing hysterically while watching the Disney cartoon. That scene also made me think of how laughter is universal, and I also thought back to John's Film Society event when The Pawn Shop and Way Out West were playing and everyone, from John's daughters to the oldest person in the room, was consumed with laughter. Also, I want to mention the chase sequence with the bus toward the beginning of the film; it's really all you get in terms of physical comedy, but it was damn enjoyable.

Unfaithfully Yours

This is probably my favorite Sturges film so far. I'm a huge fan of dark comedies, and I found this one to be very enjoyable. I love the script, especially since Rex Harrison's visions for revenge are set to/influenced by the music he's conducting. And his first vision for revenge was actually pretty clever; both the plan and Sturges' directing go off without a hitch. There's also some great physical comedy toward the end when Rex is locating his recorder. I think my favorite part of the film is the courtroom scene where Tony is charged with Daphne's murder and Rex Harrison lets out an evil, boisterous laugh. It was darkly hilarious and just a great moment. Here's hoping that the remake with Dudley Moore is just as good. Wait...what??

The Great McGinty 

I watched this the other night. I can understand why John felt underwhelmed; I enjoyed it, but not as much as the other two. Next time I pour you a drink, John, remind me to tell you my life story. The frame story is a bit played out, but I never hated that aspect of it. Anyway, I was a bit compelled by Donlevy. He has the face of a crook, but he's also able to seem endearing. Muriel Angelus was even more impressive, though. And I know John doesn't care too much about performances, and so it's true that they aren't incredible enough to improve the film too much. I did enjoy the story, and was interested in the McGinty/Catherine relationship. The movie is apt in terms of our current political climate. I wouldn't compare Obama to McGinty, but Barack seems like a guy who is very much caught up in a horrible system. I still really admire his character. Also, I've been getting a full dose of corruption in politics lately, from watching Boardwalk Empire to watching my close friend Rod Blagojevich sentenced to fourteen years in federal prison. Come on, who's with me? Free Rod! Free Rod!

Are we going to try and watch Christmas In July together (minus Jason and Lisa...I'm sorry) at some point? I thought that was brought up. I plan on catching that, The Palm Beach Story, The Lady Eve, Hail the Conquering Hero, and possibly one or two others before the month is out.