Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Yes, I'm Gonna Marry a Carrot

Ben, I don't mean to suggest that Julia only documented this story on film to further her career or achieve her fifteen minutes of fame. In my post, I wrote and tried to make it clear that Julia's goal, first and foremost, is to reconnect with her brother. But the question I'm still asking is: why film it?

You do cite her film studies background, and that does provide a clearer answer. And I admit that there's something to admire about Julia for putting herself out there. I could keep this back-and-forth going, but I have nothing against her and would never want to make it seem like I'm attacking her for making this film. I just wasn't impressed with her documentary, and I tried to lay out the specific reasons for why I felt that way.

And yes, almost everything an author writes is personal to him or her, but I just prefer the fictional stories that are based on those personal experiences (e.g. To Kill a Mockingbird). I have no interest in reading memoirs. We can decipher good fiction from bad fiction, but how do we judge something so personal like a documentary or a memoir? There's almost no way to critique it without sounding like an asshole.

And my comments on reality television were just an attempt to vent frustration on the direction of society as a whole. I would never say that Julia's story is comparable to what you would find on The Bachelor or Undercover Boss. But what they do have in common is the need of the people involved in those respective projects to be seen by a larger audience (how do you like my blog, everyone?) And I hate to sound like a curmudgeon (that's not true), but I'm completely exhausted by the youtube generation (except for rickrolling...never gets old). Sure, I want the site to exist (fuck you, Lamar Smith!), but most of the videos on that site are unnecessary and/or are dumbing down our culture.

Moving on, I forgot that I wanted to comment on Jeff's Oscar thoughts. I'm happy to see that the Academy took my threats over The Tree of Life seriously. What a surprise that was...and the best director nom for Malick, too. Wha? But whatever credibility the Academy regained with that pick, they lost it with the Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close nom.  But perhaps I should do some research; if all of the profits from the film are going to 9/11 families, I'll get off its back.

Brother Bored Again

I couldn't resist.

Anyway, I read Adrienne's post this morning and I completely agree with her assessment that the story works best as a 'This American Life' segment. But unfortunately Ira Glass wasn't around to save this documentary.

I also agree with John, Jeff, and Adrienne about its technical failings and it representing "everything there is to hate about documentaries." I vacillate when it comes to amateur film making, but mostly I view it negatively. Sure, no one should be banned from telling a story or making a film. Having said that, everyone has a story to tell, but that shouldn't make us all filmmakers. A reality TV show can be found on every channel; millions of people make youtube videos hoping to hit it big. Lost in the shuffle of all of this is...talent. And in writing all of that, I'm referring to those who are trying to further a career or become famous. Because, on the other hand, you have something like John's carrot juice video that he shot with his iphone. It was very fun to watch, and I hope he does more. And I found it to be more compelling than Brother Born Again.

Agreed, one of the thoughts I had after the film ended was, "the story seems too personal to be a documentary." Julia's goal in all of this is to understand her brother. So that's something that she's looking to get out of this by reaching out and interacting with him. But what is the audience supposed to get out of it? I agree, Ben, most of us can relate to the situation, but that doesn't always translate when a film is trying to get us to truly care. I'm all for Julia reconnecting with her brother, but why am I being brought into that relationship?

The discussions that Julia has with her brother had potential, but mostly they didn't seem to find any sort of direction. There's a point when Mark tells his sister that she's getting away from what her documentary is about. I feel that criticism can be leveled at the entire film. In the end you have an old lady telling her nephew that what he believes is a lot of crap, but there's still that, "I love you anyway" moment. I just seems like everyone's "misunderstanding" of Mark is overblown. Yes, they were raised Jewish, but no Jewish member of his family seems to take issue with Christianity. Julia has one of the strongest cases because she's bi-sexual and her brother admits that he doesn't accept that part of her. And yet, Julia only spends about two minutes on that issue. And in saying that, I don't mean to suggest the film should be longer. At the end of the day, it's one of those "I'm not changing my mind, you're not changing yours, but we still love each other." That's great for them and all, but again, "so what?" for the rest of us.

Side-rant: Why does the Bible contain the Old Testament? In it, the Jewish people are referred to as the "chosen" people. Awhaa???

But it was an interesting pick, Jason, and I'm glad we're doing this so we can all interact with each other again. The record-setting amount of posting that we were all doing at the beginning of the month has fizzled out, so I'm glad that we're all starting to get back into the swing of things.

I really wish I had seen Vampyre so that I could jump into the debate that's going down between Jeff and John. I never miss an opportunity to expose John as the evil racist he is. Don't let his new, happier blog layout fool you, gang. See, I miss you guys. It's fun to blog with y'all.

Brandon, yeah, I don't really have anything to say with regard to your 60s project, but I will say that I can't wait to read those posts.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Simpsons Episode Rankings: Season 8

Season 8 was the second and final year with Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein as showrunners. At a time when the show could have easily been on the decline, Oakley and Weinstein gave us some of the funniest episodes in the show's history.

Somewhere in my house is a VHS tape with a record version of The Springfield Files. I remember watching that episode hundreds of times as a kid, and I can even recall watching it live (the syndicated version doesn't contain the Water World joke, so I know this for a fact). For that reason, and for the reason that I can quote the entire episode, The Springfield Files gets my number one spot. A Milhouse Divided does provide ideal competition, though. My appreciation for that episode rises each time I watch it, and it features one of my all-time favorite quotes: "Crackers are a family treat. Maybe single people eat crackers, we don't know. Frankly, we don't want to know." Also, Kirk Van Houten's song "Can I Borrow a Feeling?" always gets me laughing hysterically.

Episodes 1-7 on my list, I absolutely love; episodes 8-20 are pretty good; and then unfortunately there is a drop in quality for 21-25. A lot of Simpsons fans give Ken Keeler hell for writing The Principal and the Pauper, but I think that Brother From Another Series is a much, much worse episode.

1. The Springfield Files
2. A Milhouse Divided
3. Mountain of Madness
4. El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer
5. Bart After Dark
6. You Only Move Twice
7. The Homer They Fall
8. Homer's Phobia
9. Homer's Enemy
10. The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show
11. Burns, Baby Burns
12. Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment
13. The Secret War of Lisa Simpson
14. The Twisted World of Marge Simpson
15. Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious
16. Treehouse of Horror VII
17. My Sister, My Sitter
18. The Canine Mutiny
19. Grade School Confidential
20. Lisa's Date with Density
21. The Old Man and the Lisa
22. Hurricane Neddy
23. In Marge We Trust
24. The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase
25. Brother from Another Series

Monday, January 16, 2012

Facts vs. Truthiness

I'm a lazy researcher. And in the case of Meek's Cutoff, I went with truthiness over fact. After kicking the hornet's nest, I'm back to say that I agree with John. And I take back what I said about it being silly to call Meek's Cutoff a 2010 film. And not because I'm a pussy or because John broke my will (again), but because of the fact that Meek's played in multiple cities in 2010. In my mind, no matter how limited the release, as long as it plays in multiple cities, I'm going with that year.

And John wanted a number on how many cities it needs to play in. I'll go with two. When I submitted my post yesterday, I was under the impression that Meek's Cutoff only played at the Toronto Film Festival in 2010. I also completely agree that it doesn't matter which system we use, as long as we use one. Jeff makes a great point about A Brighter Summer Day. He makes another great point about Ewoks: The Battle For Endor. Anyway, I have no plans to challenge any of your lists, and I don't think we really need to keep this going. I'm just going on record with my revised system and now my revised 2010 list:

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

HM: Shutter Island, Black Swan, The American, 127 Hours

On the fence: Cold Weather

Toilet Bowl: Tiny Furniture

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Handing Out My 2011 Awards


Best Film: The Tree of Life

Best Director: Terrence Malik, The Tree of Life

Best Actress: Jessica Chastain, The Tree of Life & Greta Gerwig, Damsels in Distress

Best Actor: Ryan Gosling, Drive & Michael Shannon, Take Shelter

Best Supporting Actress: Sareh Bayat, A Separation

Best Supporting Actor: Albert Brooks, Drive

Best Original Screenplay: Whit Stillman, Damsels in Distress & Woody Allen, Midnight In Paris

Best Adapted Screenplay: Hossein Amini, Drive

Best Original Score: Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Best Soundtrack: Drive

Best Animated Feature: The Adventures of Tintin

Best Foreign Film: A Separation

Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki, The Tree of Life

Best Costume Design: Jacqueline Durran, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Best Film Editing: The Tree of Life team

Best Sound Editing & Mixing: Joel Dougherty and Kirk Francis, The Tree of Life

Best Makeup and Hairstyling: the Attack the Block team

Best Original Song: Little Bob's song in Le Havre

Best Production Design: Wouter Zoon, Le Havre

Best Visual Effects: The Tree of Life team


Best Drama Series: Breaking Bad

Best Comedy or Musical: 30 Rock

Best Actress, Drama Series: Kelly MacDonald, Boardwalk Empire

Best Actor, Drama Series: Michael Pitt, Boardwalk Empire

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

Best Actor, Comedy or Musical: Nick Offerman, Parks and Recreation

Best Supporting Actress, series, miniseries, movie: Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones

Best Supporting Actor, series, miniseries, movie: Michael Stuhlbarg, Boardwalk Empire

NOTE: I did not watch a single Miniseries or TV movie this year.

2011: A Top Ten Films List

10. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

 9. Attack the Block

8. The Kid with the Bike

7. The Skin I Live In

6. Hugo

5. Le Havre

4. Drive

3. Take Shelter

2. A Separation

1. The Tree of Life

Honorable Mention: The Mill and the Cross, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Midnight In Paris, The Ides of March, Moneyball, Melancholia, The Adventures of Tintin, Source Code

On the fence: Super 8, 50/50, Jane Eyre, A Dangerous Method

One-night stands: The Green Hornet, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

I defended you once, but now I just don't care: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

Toilet Bowl: Beginners, Crazy, Stupid, Love, Your Highness

Still want to see...I guess??: Shame, The Descendants, The Rum Diary, War Horse, J. Edgar, The Artist, Another Earth, Carnage

The movie I'll rip-on most despite not seeing it: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Theme of the Year: The protection of family

Additional comments:

So where's Meek's Cutoff? I admit, John has officially broken my will. I stand here a defeated man, and I will update and add Meek's Cutoff to my 2010 list even though it only premiered in ONE Canadian city in 2010. Seems silly, but whatever, it actually helps me in the end because there were so many films that I felt bad about leaving off of my 2011 list.

The top five films on my list are ones that I absolutely love from this year. The Tree of Life is the hands-down favorite. I was in love with the film the moment it ended, and even if I ever started to question my feelings after that point, my second viewing only enhanced my opinion of the film. It's an ambitious film that delivers in every sense.

Choosing between A Separation and Take Shelter was difficult. Ask me to choose between the two tomorrow and I might go with Take Shelter instead. Both are quite brilliant.

I'm a little embarrassed, I took all of this time and I don't even have write-ups for each film. I started to do that, but a lot of what I wrote completely sucked. I just want to skip the part where I dance around what each film is about (refraining from the use of spoilers) and move to the discussion part. I can't wait to discuss The Skin I Live In...should be a lot of fun. I prefer to write a longer post on a single film anyway. And I probably will write some individual posts for some of the films that I saw recently...like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Surprise, Jeff!

As far as my honorable mentions are concerned, I really love The Mill and the Cross, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Midnight In Paris. And it really pains me that none of the three made my list. I think we should all make top thirteen lists from now on.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Top Ten Woody Allen Films

1. Love and Death
2. Annie Hall
3. Hannah and Her Sisters
4. Manhattan
5. Crimes and Misdemeanors
6. Bananas
7. Sleeper
8. Take the Money and Run
9. Match Point
10. Zelig

HM: Midnight In Paris, Whatever Works, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Manhattan Murder Mystery, A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy, What's Up, Tiger Lily, Scoop

Great list, Jason. I'm glad we agree on Love and Death (Bob Hope and Woody Allen is a match made in comedic heaven). I'm definitely more of a fan of his "earlier, funnier films" but I admit that I haven't seen Bananas or Take the Money and Run in a long time; I wanted the DVDs for Christmas, but I think they've stopped making new copies and the price is ridiculously high on both :(

What's Up. Tiger Lily might be controversial for the number two spot, but I'm glad you like it so much. It's hilarious and underrated; I remember laughing a lot when I saw it.

Midnight In Paris needs to sit with me more before it can crack the top ten. I bought the DVD but I haven't gotten around to rewatching it.

Annie Hall might be a popular pick, but there's a lot to love about that movie, and I feel it's his most complete film.

Crimes and Misdemeanors and Match Point are obviously similar, but I love both for their differences. Match Point is a sexy, young drama unlike anything Woody has ever done. And Crimes and Misdemeanors features one of my favorite comedic teams in all of cinema: Woody and Alan Alda. Alda plays the pseudo-intellectual role to perfection.

I need to rewatch Zelig, it'd probably be higher on my list if I did. I still haven't seen Bullets of Broadway or Mighty Aphrodite...which I know many people hold in high-esteem.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Kid with a Bike

Because the title only gives you so much information, the latest film by the Dardenne bros., The Kid with a Bike, is about a kid, Cyril, who is abandoned by his father. His father also happens to sell his bike in order to make some extra cash. As Cyril attempts to track down his bike and his deadbeat Dad, he meets a hairdresser named Samantha, who helps him in his search and agrees to let him stay over at her house on weekends.

The Cyril/Samantha relationship is the most essential one to the film, and if it fails, so does the film. Fortunately for the viewer, their relationship is absolutely captivating. The above photo is from a scene toward the end of the film when Samantha and Cyril go on a bike ride together; it's one of the most rewarding shots in the film. It comes at a point when Cyril realizes what he truly has in Samantha, someone who loves and protects him. She gives him the unconditional love he fails to gain in his relationships with his father and with a streetpunk named Wes. Another great moment in the film is when you know that Samantha begins to take on the role as Cyril's mother - when she chooses him over her boyfriend without hesitation in the car.

After I watched this film, I watched Trauffaut's The 400 Blows (which made for a perfect double-feature). If Antoine Doinel had someone like Samantha in his life, he never would've ended up at that juvenile center. And Cyril has some spunk to him. At the beginning of the film he's a handful and can seem annoying at times. But young actor Thomas Doret does a good job with the role and his character begins to grow on you toward the end.


The bike is an obvious symbol, but it's still very effective. Not only is it the only thing Cyril has left of his father, it's the mode of transportation that allows him to track him down. It's also because of the bike that Cyril meets those who change his life forever, for better and for worse. Because not only does the bike lead him to the best relationship of his life, and one he sorely needs, it also leads him back to the father who wants nothing to do with him, the dealer who tries to turn him into a thief, and the father/son duo who almost kill him.

The Kid with the Bike is about the choices you make, and if you make the wrong one, it can put you in precarious and/or dangerous situations. As Cyril hangs from the tree at the end of the film, you think back to how he got there and how quickly his situation spiraled out of control. And all because he wanted to connect with an older male figure, and was happy to do anything for him because he wanted to feel love and acceptance. It's a great moment when Cyril realizes that what he wanted the whole time was something he got almost instantly from Samantha.

The ending is powerful, because for a brief moment, you think that Cyril's newfound love and acceptance for Samantha will be short-lived. I have no idea how I would've felt about the film had that been the case. It would've been one of the most insane film endings I've ever seen. Luckily, I don't have to think about that too much. In end, Cyril picks himself up, brushes off the dirt, and heads off to the barbecue that you so badly want him to attend.

Lastly, I just want to comment on the father/son duo (Cyril's victims). What a strange moment it is for the father to say that if his son had murdered Cyril, he'd lie to the police about it. And yet, if any of us were in the same situation, we'd probably do the same. I don't know, it was a very interesting moment and it has stuck with me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


What's up with all of you lumberjacks trying to chop down The Tree of Life? How is there so much pretentiousness in a simple story about a family? The film has always felt genuine and sincere to me. If you're a Malick fan, this doesn't seem too far from The New World or The Thin Red Line. If you're not familiar with his work, why is it so off-putting to watch something new? I can understand not liking it or thinking it's boring, but I still fail to see why it's so awful or pretentious.

John, glad to hear from you again. But between your new ToL thoughts and this newfound "respect" for Midnight In Paris, I think Bizarro John must have tied you up somewhere in Long Island during your New Years vacation.

Perhaps I am the Danny Kaye kind; I wish I could know for sure, but the a-holes over at Netflix don't seem to have a copy of The Court Jester available. Missing out.

Yeah, I think I'd unhesitatingly apply Sturgeon's Law to contemporary fiction. But I also admit that some books are crappier than others. I'd rather read Steig than Stephanie Meyer. I also admit that I've read the Harry Potter series more than once. Those books just speak to me, though. In a way, they end up reading me. Okay, this is starting to get silly. Nowadays, books only seem to be written for specific audiences, so it becomes harder and harder to compare and contrast. Harry Potter is written for children and people like myself who can't seem to grow up. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is written for adults. It's easy to call both trash when they're trying to do two different things. I don't really know what I'm trying to say. I'll just keep giving contemporary fiction back-handed compliments.

Maybe I can't do this, but my statement doesn't apply to Vonnegut. I consider that actual literature, and I think most people would. No age limit required for his stuff, as long as you're old enough to try and understand what he's talking about. I don't think fans should discard the things that Chuck writes. But more than anything, I wrote that as a joke. The image of old men walking around saying, "You're not your fucking khakis," amused me. But yeah, my book club statements needed to be challenged. For a second there, I thought I got away clean.

I completely agree with your assessment that the best of anything teaches us something new and changes us each time. I think you'd find that in The Tree of Life if you gave it another shot. You must be thinking of Uncle Boonme with that penis fish and vagina fish talk. I wish I had two digital copies of ToL so I could've given you one as well.

A Dangerous Method

I want to comment on your entire list, Brandon, but before I do that, I'd like to catch a few of the films on your list that I haven't seen. A Dangerous Method was one of those films, until I finished it last night.

Because I didn't hate the film, and because it's number ten on your list, this is hardly an attack. The only reason it might seem like one is because you rank Cronenberg's latest higher than Malik's latest. But you probably knew this would come eventually, and it already came in the form of Jeff's response to your list. I'll try to move away from comparing the two films because you've addressed your feelings for The Tree of Life on more than one occasion, and recently. Instead, I'll focus my argument on the idea that A Dangerous Method is simply an okay film that's only honorable mention-worthy at best.

After I finished the film, I took a moment to consider how I really felt about it. One comparison that instantly came to mind was Atonement. I made that connection unaware of the fact that Christopher Hampton wrote both screenplays. So maybe we're getting into Eric Roth territory, because honestly, the only issue I have with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is the script (there a few moments that I really love, though). But that's a cop-out, I guess. If I'm not crazy about a film, blame needs to be put on the director because it's his/her job to make the film interesting as well.

Regardless, that's how I view A Dangerous Method; I attribute its failings to the screenwriter, because like Atonement, there were some interesting scenes here and there, but as the credits started to roll, my ultimate reaction was "so what?" There are no memorable scenes and the film failed in establishing a connection between audience and characters, and characters and each other. For a film that tackles psychoanalysis, an intimate study of the human psyche, I felt the film lacked intimacy. And whether you agree with the respective ideas of Jung/Freud/Spielrein or not, the fact remains that these three people impacted each other significantly. But in the film, you're told this and are hardly shown it.

A Dangerous Method is 99 minutes long; it should've been longer. In fact, I was a little surprised to find that it was so short, given that biopics are usually unbearably long. The film jumps through the years too quickly without fully rooting itself in anything.

The subject matter does interest me, though. I like psychology. And while I don't necessarily agree with everything Carl Jung wrote, I love listening to ideas on the mind and human behavior. There are moments in the film that raise plenty of interesting questions and feature intriguing back-and-forths. Also, the history lesson contained in the film doesn't seem too glib or anything.

In terms of individual performances, I enjoyed Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen, and Vincent Cassel. Similarly to you Brandon, I feel that performances can rescue a film. In this case, the performances were good, but all three of those guys have done better. The scenes with Cassel and Fassbender were probably my favorite, though. The film gained momentum when they met, but that momentum was as transient as Cassel's character.

With Keira Knightly, I vacillate. There are moments when she seems quite brilliant, and then there are moments when I felt she was trying too hard. But that's what you get with Knightly, unless she's hanging out with pirates, she always brings her A-game. So in that sense, I'll always respect her and say that's she's talented. But I suppose I would say that Knightly helps the film, now that I think about it.

With David Cronenberg, I'm more familiar with his recent work. Eastern Promises and A History of Violence were both impressive and made my top ten list for those respective years. But I can't really comment on what this film means in the full scope of his career. One thought I had while watching ADM was that I would've liked Cronenberg to direct another 2011 Michael Fassbender film, Jane Eyre. It probably would've greatly improved that film, but that's a different discussion for a different day. Clearly Cronenberg knows how to do his job skillfully, but I wanted more from him in this case, and from the rest of the film in general.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

They pay me $800 a week to tell a cat and mouse what to do!

Jeff stumbled upon something interesting today, but because he's currently in Syracuse, I get to break the news. Le Havre is on Hulu plus; I'm not sure that any of you have it, but they offer 1-week free trials. Check it out.

Like Ben, I am almost comfortable with my 2011 list; how's about the rest of you? In no particular order, here is my list of 2011 films that I still would like to see: The Kid with the Bike (which I'll watch soon), The Ides of March, A Dangerous Method, Shame, A Separation, The Skin I Live In (it's playing at the Art Mission), The Descendents, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (it's playing at regal), The Rum Diary, War Horse, J. Edgar, The Artist, Another Earth. A lot to get to, but I don't care as much if I miss out on the last five films that I listed...so actually, there is a particular order, I guess.

John is watching The Muppets right now. Unless he likes it more than The Mill and the Cross, I'll probably pass on it.

I've really been in 2011 mode lately; Netflix keeps sending me a bonus DVD, so I have The 400 Blows and The Ox-Bow Incident at my house. And yet, I can't bring myself to sit down and watch them yet. But I did admit to John that I am on his side with regard to the "access vs. ownership" debate. 30 Rock is on NWI, but I asked for all of the seasons for Christmas this year. I also obsess over mailing back my Netflix DVDs as quickly as possible so that I can get the next one. Those 2011 films are hindering that obsession.

And since a single day cannot pass without us mentioning Ryan Gosling, I checked amazon and saw that Drive is available on DVD/Blu-ray on January 31st. Time to start saving up my pennies.

Jason, I don't really like 3 Musketeers; there's nothing to the fluff. But my least favorite candy is Pay Day. I always feel cheated whenever I open one.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Edit: I wrote this before I saw Ben's "drive like crazy" post.

John, I loved the write-up for 2011. Not that it really matters, but I'm not sure that I beat Ben in the end; a handful of my posts were youtube videos and/or were non-film/TV related. Anyway, your individual contribution, in my mind, is that you've challenged all of us to view/critique film in a whole new way - a way that has made us all better film critics.

Brandon, reading about the genesis of CR5FC was much more stimulating than listening to Genesis. True, that isn't saying a lot, but still, I've always wanted to hear that story. Agreed, discussing modern film has been more interesting...especially new releases because most of us can catch them at the same time, even if we don't all live in the same area. I can't wait for all of us to unveil our 2011 top ten lists. Also, in my mind, you and John are both the Kings of Film Club. I view myself as something of the film club court jester, and not the Shakespearean kind.

Jason, fighting words work best. I did like the haikus, though. And you wrote the first haiku that I've ever disagreed with (the Zodiac one)...assuming that you feel asleep because you thought it was boring. I listed Black Swan in my honorable mentions for my 2010 update. I'm starting to lose some of the admiration that I had for the film after seeing it in the theater. Despite that, there's isn't enough Aronofsky love in this club; it's disappointing. The suspense in Black Swan is built-up and paced magnificently. I also felt that the ending was a perfect one. Essentially we have a thriller that is synched up to ballet, how cool is that? However, I also agree with Brandon's criticisms of the film and, at times, it's hard to take the film seriously. But overall, I'm still a fan.

Lisa, you had an interesting write-up on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It's always important to hear a woman's perspective on things, but especially with material like this. I completely agree with on Rooney Mara. She's slowly overtaking the Gos in terms of my biggest cinema crush.

Ben, did someone hand you a copy of Fast Five and tell you it was Drive? I say that as a joke, of course, and like Brandon, I completely respect the fact that you didn't like Drive. It's moments like these that make film club truly interesting, and I'm glad you elaborated a bit on why you didn't like it. I also feel like you could've gone further, because right now it just looks like an attack on Chuckie P. I agree with Jeff and Brandon, so I have nothing else to add with regard to Drive. I also feel like we (Jeff, Brandon, and, myself) laid out why we thought there was plenty of substance AND style in Drive in the posts we wrote a few months back. So, with that in mind, I don't assume you were addressing us at any point and I certainly don't take any of it personally.

Transitioning to Book Club...

Like most males my age, much of my teenage years were spent reading Chuck Palahniuk. And I think most of us only read him due to David Fincher's Fight Club. And thinking back on it now, the only Palahniuk books I really loved were Invisible Monsters and Survivor. Anyway, by the time I reached college, I had completely outgrown his work, but never looked back on it with any sort of animosity. And I do feel that every fan of his should eventually outgrow his work. If there are sixty-year-old dudes walking around quoting Tyler Durden in the future, may god have mercy on us all.

Yes, Palahniuk is largely for those who don't like to read, but I feel that if we call him a hack or a terrible writer, we're going to have to keep those words on our label maker as we label most contemporary writers. Palahniuk is an intelligent guy with a clear and distinct voice; how is he any different from the millions of other authors writing today? And I say all that while simultaneously admitting that his writing is gimmicky. One of the arguments that I wanted to make while we were discussing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is that most contemporary literature is crap. It's not popular to point out that these books suck, though, until they're adapted on the big screen. Soon we'll all hear a lot more about why The Hunger Games is horribly written.

It's strange to consider what's actually popular within our society, and yes, when you hold a microscope up to those fans, you find a lot of morons and frat boys. You find the people that Lisa argued with about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - people who might be decent folks, but expressed that deplorable opinion on the rape scene vs. the revenge scene.

But yeah, Ben, you're absolutely right to attack meat heads and frat boys. I'm with you one hundred percent on that, but I guess I just haven't heard too many frat boys praising Drive. That's also research I'll never want to go out into the field and gather either.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Jumble, Jumble: 2011 Films

I was hoping to do individual posts on all of these films, but every time I sit down wanting to write a couple of paragraphs on each of them, my brain seems to shut off. December was a slow month for me; I need to get back into the swing of things. This is me taking baby steps, I guess.

The Mill and the Cross

Simply put, the visuals in this film are beautiful and stunning. Even though the film only deals with one of Pieter Brugel's paintings (The Way to Cavalry), each shot in the film is inspired by his work. Watching this also gives you a sense of director Lech Mejewski and his background as a modern day Renaissance man. His sense of framing is fascinating; this is the kind of film that makes you want to hang some of the stills on your wall. It would have been interesting, had it been a silent film, but I did enjoy the brief moments of dialogue. The spider web metaphor is pretty damn cool, and I love Michael York's line about capturing a moment and wrestling it to the ground. This is a very impressive film.

Le Havre

This film has charm in spades. And visually, this is another film that is a lot of fun to look at; the colors are very retro and immediately set the tone for the film and put the viewer at ease. Not only do I love this film for what it is, I love it for what it's not. It's not one of the many hundreds of films that are so cute they make you hate everyone and everything. And that's a credit to Aki Kaurismaki, who is a very adept filmmaker. This film is also nothing like The Blind Side (how's that for weird comparisons, Brandon?). There's no undertone of white people acting as guardian angels toward the black youth. It's a film that handles the topic of immigration with humanism and a strong sense of community. I'll also compare moments of this film to the ending of It's a Wonderful Life, because that's the mood it puts you in: one that celebrates the human spirit that could potentially exist. And, of course, the film has Little Bob. Need I say more? Oh, thanks for going with us, John.


Most of what I have to say about the film is positive, but it's one of those cases where, at the end of the day, there are just so many other films out there that do more and are better. I enjoyed Capote, but feel no strong connection to Bennett Miller. Moneyball is enjoyable for three reasons/people: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, and Aaron Sorkin. You get some great performances from the aforementioned actors, and Sorkin demonstrates again that he's one of the best screenwriters out there.

"How can you not be romantic about baseball?" is a question that is asked a few times by Brad Pitt's version of Billy Beane. I hate baseball and it befuddles me when people say that they think soccer is boring, and they go and watch people hit a ball with a stick for five hours. Anyway, this film challenged my hatred of baseball for a couple of hours, but in the end, I'm right back to where I started. But one cool thing about the script that I liked was that it gave a behind-the-scenes look at sports. It was interesting to see how general managers talk to each other and how trades are made, etc.

The Adventures of Tintin

My feelings for this film are similar to Moneyball (pretty good, but not great). Because Spielberg is at the helm, many have compared this film to Indiana Jones, and they're right. What you get with this film is a lot of fun and adventure. And because it's animated, Spielberg can achieve so many things that he couldn't with a live-action film. There are two sequences that I really enjoyed: the chase scene through the streets of Bagghar, and the fight sequence between St. Francis and Red Rackham aboard the Unicorn. I'm glad Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish got a chance to write this (along with Steven Moffat); they complimented Spielberg's style very well, I felt, to make this a fun film to see with family and friends.


I wanted to see this film because of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who has been doing a lot of great work lately. JGL keeps it going in this instance. Seth Rogen is a little on the played-out side, but I still enjoy seeing him in things...mostly. In this, Rogen plays your standard rom-com buddy. But admittedly Rogen plays the role better than the thousands of turds who have picked up that role before him. There are few moments that reminded me of Knocked Up, which is an arena he works best in, so I didn't hate his performance.

Anyway, JGL's fellow cancer patients are great (played by Phillip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer), Angelica Huston was good, Bryce Dallas Howard was awful. Well, let me rephrase that, she was good, but it's her character who truly hurts this film. She exists purely to give the audience someone to hate; it's too easy and doesn't work for me. In fact, most of this film didn't work for me because of the script. It's every movie you've ever seen before with a couple of scenes here and there that try to get you to overlook that fact. But mostly that's all I'll remember about this film a year from now. But you can find the best scenes in the film toward the end: the scene when JGL sees fellow cancer-patient Mitch interact with his loving wife at their home, and the hospital scenes when JGL is going in for surgery at the end. In those moments, you get some powerful scenes with heart, but it's the rest of the film I could do without.


I mostly agree with Jeff. I like Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer. Melanie Laurent is beautiful and talented (I was wondering when we would see her again after her great work in Inglorious Basterds). Too bad the script tries too hard. The Christopher Plummer storyline tries to save this film from ruin, but ultimately fails. I liked most of the scenes between Plummer and McGregor, as it does try to stir up your emotions and get you to feel something. The McGregor/Laurent relationship is extremely disappointing. There's nothing there...just Mike Mills telling them to be cute together and to try and show the audience what true love is supposed to look like. It's formulaic and even if the two actors have some interesting chemistry, it all goes to waste.