Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Thirteen relies too heavily on the "nightmare scenario." That nightmare isn't necessarily unrealistic; I'm sure there are plenty of Mom's out there who have gone through what Holly Hunter's character goes through in the film. That's all well and good, and I agree that it's important for the film to exist. It just ain't my cup of tea. Like Brandon, Evan Rachel Wood ain't my cup of tea either (but I believe I've liked her best in Woody Allen's Whatever Works). Holly Hunter usually is, but this time the HH tea wasn't as palatable as it usually is.

Sorry I'm not writing any of this in our new Zooey Deschanel thread on the facebook. Apparently Brandon got a little too carried away with his woman bashing and he crossed the line! Kidding. What's wrong with Zooey? You mean you didn't enjoy her in Failure to Launch or Yes Man? You guys touched on some of her other films on FB, and I admit that she's been in a lot of crap. Despite those bad films, there's something very charming/endearing about each of her performances. I can understand Brandon's feelings about (500) Days of Summer, but of course I just disagree. I really enjoyed her on Weeds and thought she was hilarious. Her impression of one of the Olsen girls was the only funny part about that SNL skit (okay, Kristen Wiig, too). I haven't watched New Girl at all, and I probably never will. I have heard good things about it, though. But because of the show, she's finally popular enough to host SNL (I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner; she seems like a natural to host, though). Popularity can kill a lot of things for me, but I hope it doesn't do that in this case.

I'm really happy to hear that John Owen is a fan of M. Ward; it made my day. I love She & Him and I love Zooey's voice and her songwriting. She's able to do a lot with her voice as well; at times she sounds as good as Diana Ross and some other notable female Motown singers. Very soulful. Other times it's just beautiful. "Take It Back" by She & Him is a prime example of her singing prowess. And of course Zooey is cute as hell. I find her more attractive than most actresses.

All right, I could probably talk about Zooey all day, so I'll shut up and move on. Your point about Oldboy isn't unfair, Brandon. I just respectfully disagree. The film isn't without its problems, but what impressed me about the film seemed to overrule those flaws.

More Brandon comments...

The joke in Dogville is a bit sick, yes. Again, in presenting my list I acknowledged that the more endearing films like Big Fish and A Mighty Wind won out over it, but I still had plenty of room to love and praise Dogville. There's definitely a lot of misery, but for whatever reason, it feels very appropriate for the film to work the way it does.

I think Kill Bill Vol. 1 is so high on my list almost by default. I just enjoy it more than films 5-10 on the list. I'm not TOO crazy about it; again, like you, I love Volume 2 so much more. Maybe if I were to re-watch Dogville it would usurp Kill Bill Vol. 1.

My favorite Lord of the Rings film is The Two Towers. Go ahead, ask me why...if you want.

Right, I know you saw plenty of shitty movies as a kid; we all have. I was just noting that I'm a bit envious of your childhood in terms of your exposure to old films. Are you still a fan of Phonebooth, by any chance? Haven't seen it in a looonnng time.


The "top ten list from the year we were all 14" sounds cool; we should all give it a shot. Haven't seen Park's other revenge films but would like to. Cabin Fever was interesting as far as horror films go, and like Jeff, I enjoyed the ending the most...that and the fact that Shawn Hunter (Rider Strong) is in it. Ye-yeah!

Thanks for clearing up your Ink thoughts. I can only apply that system to commercials (I guess?)...not films. Maybe there are one or two examples where I have done that for a film. But it has to be all about the execution...and it's increasingly becoming the case. Ink is definitely ambitious, but I almost feel like Winans should've waited before making it. He should've made some indie dramas to make some money, and then when he had a bigger budget...that would've been the time to do a sci-fi film. But who am I, the film police? Oh wait, I am.

And I was concerned about how I came off in that post because we have yet to meet. After I meet you I'll be a little meaner. But probably not, because it's not in my nature, really. We shall see, I guess.

More girl talk...

I finished Tina Fey's book Bossypants. It was a great read - highly entertaining; informative and fun. It also provides some nice perspective on women in the entertainment industry, and more specifically, women in comedy. I feel like I can see more clearly now.

Lastly, Judd Apatow produced a show for Lena Dunham (director of Tiny Furniture) on HBO called Girls. I didn't like the film, so I'm disappointed (after watching the preview) to see that the show is essentially Tiny Furniture: the show. I was hoping for something else.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

My Top Ten 2003 Films

I've spent some time revising all of my aughts lists (my updated lists can be found HERE). Now that I'm on the John Owen/imdb system, I want to be consistent throughout the years. In doing so, I've lost The Son, 28 Days Later, and Dirty Pretty Things from my 2003 list. And unfortunately now, I like my list less, but at least it no longer mirrors Jeff's list (I probably would've gone with The Son as my number one film, too).

For a second there, I was worried that a 28 Days Later discussion would ensue, and I wouldn't even have it on my list. But thankfully there's Dogville to dominate everything.

10. All the Real Girls (Green)

It's no Your Highness, but it's still pretty good. In all seriousness, I feel that Shotgun Stories is a better low-budget, rural indie drama, but All the Real Girls presents an interesting story about a womanizer who seemingly changes his way after meeting the right girl. Oddly enough, Paul Schneider plays a similar character during the first two seasons of Parks and Recreation. Anyway, I'm a fan of Schneider, and he adds something likeable to a character that is normally repugnant. And as usual, a shout-out to Zooey Deschanel is needed...I love you. I would write more about this, but I'd have to see it again, first. Also, slightly sorry to say that it only made my list because those three aforementioned films were dropped.

9. Lost In Translation (S. Coppola)

After I saw this for the first time, I enjoyed it but was never crazy about it. Like All the Real Girls, it only makes my list because of the '02 films that were dropped. Sure the film is popular and SOME of  its fans are annoying to listen to, but I don't really understand the hate either. Infidelity is a negative word, and it's absolutely a nefarious act. For me, though, the Bill Murray/Scarlett Johansson relationship doesn't feel nefarious. It feels pure and genuine, and it's more about making a connection with someone who cares for you, and yes, pays attention to you. I can appreciate this film for demonstrating that love isn't always black and white. It can come in many forms and can be complicated at times. And yes, you're right, Jeff, Bill Murray was robbed!

8. Goodbye Lenin! (Becker)

The third and final "new addition that otherwise wouldn't have made it." This is a charming film about inevitable change/growth and wanting to preserve what we're used to and comfortable with. As we're all aware, the world is constantly changing and we can all relate to the feeling of not being able to always keep up with it. The performances are very good, the story is interesting...that's all I've got.

7. Elephant (Van Sant)

For me, the film represents a realistic and tactful approach to teens, high school, and the violence that potentially surrounds them. It's certainly one of the "must see" films from the year. Haunting is definitely fitting here, Jeff. You'd hope that events like Columbine and then even films like this would actually allow for political discourse on stricter gun control laws. I'm two seconds away from going on a political rant...better stop here.

6. Oldboy (Park)

As far as revenge films go, I love this movie, despite it being completely dark and twisted. The Skin I Live In reminded me of this one a bit, given the extreme lengths that one can go to in seeking revenge. It's partly a mystery/puzzle, but you aren't given a lot of the pieces until the last twenty minutes or so, but I found it to be very well paced. I'd like to watch this one again, but there are definite scenes that have stayed with me over the years. I love that big fight sequence in the building - very cool...hopefully my vague description does it justice.

5. Dogville (von Trier)

I'm late to the debate; I agree with Jeff (for once) about the humor/satire involved in the film.  I love the ending, even though I mostly don't advocate violence. Based on what the people of Dogville did to Grace, they deserve death; it's completely justified. If you're told to treat people the way you wanted to be treated, it should work the other way around, too. I especially love the transition from the shootings to the closing credits with "Young Americans" playing. Right then and there, the joke has been told. Whether you see this as an Anti-American parable or a more universal one about accepting others, there's an important message about the evils of xenophobia and ethnocentrism. And call me what you will, but I also enjoy the stage setting and the chalk-outlined homes...very fun and very Lars.

4. Kill Bill Vol. 1 (Tarantino)

I prefer vol. 2, but this is still a lot of fun to watch. The fight sequences are perfectly choreographed and unique. The "bride" story is interesting/awesome, and it's great to see film about a woman who goes on a killing rampage in the name of revenge. Eh, that's all I got, but it's number four on my list, so you get it.

3. A Mighty Wind (Guest)

Let the potential Christopher Guest battle begin - I actually prefer this film to Best In Show. Fred Willard is hysterical in both, so the difference/tie-breaker lies with Eugene Levy. Mitch is a great character, and I love those album cover jokes (I used the Calling It Quits one as my profile pic once). This film also allowed Guest, McKean, and Shearer to write some songs for us again. I really enjoy the soundtrack and the "serious" parts of the film that Brandon seems to dislike. For me, it provides more depth to the world that these characters inhabit.

2. Big Fish (Burton)

For all of the cynical films and/or revenge films this year, it's the heartfelt, sincere ones that scored more points with me. Big Fish is definitely up there when you talk about Tim Burton's best. It's easy to fall in love with the story, with a young Marion Cortillard, and with the relationship between Jessica Lange and Albert Finney. What you find on the screen is real emotion and love - the bathtub scene, for example. Also, the ending is beautiful and even as I sit here just thinking about it I'm beginning to feel a little emotional. Yes, the guy who cried for blood at the end of Dogville literally cried at the end of Big Fish. Aren't films great?

1. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Jackson)

Not my favorite from the trilogy, but here it stands as my favorite from '03. Like the other two LOTR films, I saw this in the theater multiple times. This was my generation's Star Wars...even though my generation very much embraces and loves Star Wars...but you know what I mean. Seeing the entire trilogy play out on screen was a captivating, emotional ride. It was one hell of a journey and provided me with theater experiences that I'll never forget. Since I hadn't read the books, I remember trying to predict what would happen with my brothers and my friends (who also hadn't read the books). This film made 2003 a very exciting year, even if it wasn't a great one for film. Hats off to Peter Jackson for absolutely doing things the right way. And by that I mean shooting all three films back to back, and certainly with the casting. Here's hoping that The Hobbit films are just as good.

Honorable Mention: Mystic River, Cabin Fever

Haven't Seen: Finding Nemo, The Five Obstructions, 21 Grams, American Splendor, Monster, Coffee and Cigarettes, The Cooler, The Dreamers, Intolerable Cruelty, School of Rock.

Additional thoughts: I was 16-17 years old when these films came out; I didn't see Dogville, Oldboy, and Goodbye Lenin! until a few years ago. The rest, I saw in the theater or when they were released on DVD.

Like Jeff, I watched a lot of shitty films when I was a teen (like most, I imagine...unless your name is Brandon Musa). I can recall being a fan of Phone Booth when it came out. John should be more ashamed of that than of me being a mouthy atheist.

But, I am excited to finally announce that Jeff and I disagree on something: Elf. I'm with you, Brandon, I'm not a fan and I think it's overrated. The only thing I enjoy in it is Zooey Deschanel's voice/self. Otherwise, the film's forced cuteness is completely suffocating. The moment it hit the theater it was considered an instant holiday classic; seems you don't have to work too hard to achieve that these days. A shame, though, because it's got Bob Newhart and he's the shit.

Since Jeff referenced all the crap from this year, I wanted to throw another log on the fire - anyone remember seeing the A Man Apart trailer a million times in the theater? And in it, we were basically shown the entire movie. At least I was smart enough to relentlessly mock it when I was a teen.

Ben, I had to watch Thirteen for an on-line film class I took through Herkimer Community College. One thing that stuck with me was the feeling that I never wanted to have a teenage girl. I sort of maintain that if I do have a daughter someday, I'm putting her up for adoption the moment she turns 13. This film was no fun to watch. Good performances or not, it just was a sucky experience. Sorry again. Damn, we need a film to bring us together again real soon.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Evil Urges/Good Intentions

There's an episode of The Simpsons called "Hurricane Neddy." In it, a hurricane hits Springfield, but only Ned Flander's house is destroyed. Shortly thereafter, the citizens of Springfield band together to rebuild Ned's house. But as Homer and others give him a tour of the rebuilt home, Ned discovers it's poorly constructed and eventually it collapses.

Ned, who is already frustrated by the hurricane and has even begun to question his faith, then begins to rebuke all of his neighbors who tried to help him. Confronting Ned's hostility, Marge explains that the townspeople had good intentions. But Ned's reply is that his family can't live in good intentions.

I don't know, maybe that's too long a story given this segue, but I want to apply that idea to what you wrote about in your Ink posts, Jason. Because it seems to be me that you're awarding Ink points due to its good intentions.

Are we supposed to pat anyone on the back who makes a film? I don't mean to be a jerk to you or to any filmmaker that we talk about on these blogs. Personal attacks on strangers are so pathetically common on the blogosphere, and I never intend to stoop to that level. But by the same token, I don't want to give credit to strangers or throw them a bone if I think their films stink.

I'm not saying that you weren't genuine in your assessment of Ink, Jason. I think you were completely honest and I do respect your opinion. I just want to address what you wrote about seeing through the flaws of the film, thereby allowing you to interpret what a scene or actor is really trying to communicate. But maybe I don't fully understand the point you're trying to make. Forgive me, if that's the case. But again, it does feel like you're trying to give Ink points for good intentions. I would agree that Winans has good intentions, too, but his film still stinks in my mind.

I realize that a lot of what I criticized about Ink is probably considered an "easy target," but that doesn't make those points any less valid. Winans wrote a sci-fi drama, and mostly it comes off looking worse than a Syfy original movie...and it often feels too ridiculous to be taken seriously. Like Ned, I can't live in/love something that only has good intentions; maybe I can deal with visitation rights?? But I need to see something valuable up on the screen for me to give it props.

And I know I've never addressed you in this kind of way before, Jason, but know that I'm just trying to get some friendly debate going on here and am in no way looking to pick a fight. Even though we've never met, consider me a friend who's speaking to you in a way that isn't pugnacious at all. Ben, feel free to address any of these points, if you want to. I like a lot of the points that you made about the film in your post, even if I don't necessarily agree. But I thought you laid your thoughts and feelings out very clearly. Love both you guys.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


My feelings for Ink are similar to John and Jeff's; I figure I'd start there so that you could choose to stop reading if you wanted to, Ben ;-)

I can understand liking some of the ideas behind Ink, but the execution is very poor. I see that Jamin Winans directed, wrote, produced, edited, and wrote the score for Ink. Out of all of that, his best work was done on the score. And in keeping with that idea, this movie gave me the impression that he'd probably be better off directing music videos or something. He has some interesting visual ideas, but his writing and direction for Ink doesn't work. Like Jeff, I'm curious what is it about the movie that makes it one of your favorites from 2009, Ben. And like Jeff, I mean that in a sincere way...which I hope goes without saying.

I'm not exactly sure what the movie wants from me. Does it want me to take it seriously, or should I be amused by most it in an awesomely bad kind of way? I realize it's a fantasy film and certain disbelief needs to be suspended, but I'm not even talking about the story...I'm mainly referring to the corny dialogue and acting. Any scene that had potential was often ruined. For example, at the beginning of the film, John and his daughter share a fairly nice moment where she's pretending to be carried off by a monster, and eventually John rushes to her rescue. As he does, though,  he shouts the word "asshole" at his invisible adversary. His daughter then uses the word, "bastard." I get the sense that Winans is amused by a father swearing in front of his daughter. To me, it seems a little ridiculous and immature to add those words to a scene like that. And I like to swear in front of kids as much as the next asshole.

I looked at some of the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, one of which being from our very own Jason Poole. Anyway, one reviewer not named Jason wrote that the pacing of the film was deliberately slow/meticulous and was well-done. I didn't find this to be the case at all; given the script, time is not on Winans' side. There's a lot of wasted time in the movie, and it would have been better off with a running time of 80-90 minutes. As tweeted by John, there was too much exposition. And the viewer was often shown the same bit of exposition just dressed up slightly different each time.

For me, it just seemed as if Winan's didn't make the right choices with his story because when he does move through it at a quicker pace, any sort of character development feels rushed. Ink is hell-bent on offering Emma as a sacrifice, but within five minutes he starts to feel sympathy for Liev and Emma because Liev doesn't attempt to fight back?? I don't get it. The only explanation that I can think of is that since Ink is really John, there was always a good part of him and so it makes sense that this change of heart would move fairly quickly. I guess I just take issue with the specific reasoning for the change of heart.

The alternate timeline idea for the twist ending is interesting, but I'm not sure that I follow exactly. In an alternate reality, John is so grief stricken by Emma's comma that he shoots himself. Then he turns into Ink and enters another timeline in which Emma isn't in a comma, and he snatches her from her bed? That or Emma was taken while she was actually in the comma?

The rivalry between the Incubi and the storytellers is underdeveloped, but the movie is trying to juggle that along with John's backstory, so I guess it's understandable for a lot of details to get lost in the shuffle.

Anyway, Winans fails because he hasn't learned that when you're dealing with inexperienced actors and actresses, as a director you need to play to those actor's strengths. Cliched storylines and dialogue aren't the way to go. The guy who played the pathfinder was completely ridiculous...as was the guy Ink fights in the warehouse. I forget what his purpose was, but he was guy who claimed that everything was his. That guy was definitely hamming it up.

I think Jerzy's Power Rangers comparison is accurate; the woman in the wedding dress who wants Liev's hair seemed to come straight from that show with those over dramatics.

To be fair (kind of), I did watch Anatomy of a Murder and His Girl Friday (two great films) before watching Ink, so really, this film was fighting an uphill battle from the beginning.

Forgive me, Ben. I hope we can still be friends. I really didn't want to lay into the film as much as I did, but when I think about the overall experience of the film, I came away with nothing.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Bringing the Hammer Down

Brandon, I was going to respond to you yesterday, but Jeff pretty much covered most of what I had to say. But now I think/hope I have some things to add.

I don't think the word "fight" ever accurately describes what we do on here. It always comes across as debate to me, especially your thoughts on Blow-Up. And unless you write personal criticisms of me on your blog, I'll never feel attacked by you. Trust me, I want you to feel free to attack the movies I like. And in the case of Blow-Up, overall I like the film, but not as much as Jeff does...hence his staunch defense of it. I do award the film points, but I'll also take some off, too. I stand by the statements I made in my last post about it. Hopefully they all come across clearly; if not, I'd be happy to elaborate.

Jeff is spot-on about John Wayne. I've always been more familiar with his politics than his films. Again, that's beginning to change and I do like John Wayne the actor. I wrote what I wrote about The Searchers because it gave me something to talk about...instead of me just saying how much I loved the film.

I admit, sometimes it's easy for me to get caught-up in the politics or personal lives of actors, directors, producers, etc. But now I'm trying to keep it on the screen, so to speak. That's why I'm still critical of D.W. Griffth (though I probably will watch Birth of a Nation someday). But with a guy like Woody Allen, it annoys me that so many people don't even give his films a chance because of decisions he made off of the screen.

I want to be critical of films on here, and less critical of the people who create them. If that's true about Bunuel, it's very unfortunate and it was douchey of him, but I still enjoy his films. Same with Woody; it's unfortunate that he married his adopted daughter, but I'm gonna keep spending money on his movies. It's pretty f'ed up about Roman Polanski, but Rosemary's Baby is still good. Phil Spector murdered someone, but Death of a Ladies' Man is still one of my favorite albums to listen to. Speaking of which...

I can't wait to buy the next Summer People album; I don't care how much frog blood is on the hands that provide the groovy bass lines on it.

And since we have a mini-thread going about films with great endings, I watched Kiss Me Deadly last night. I loved it and I'll probably write something up on it in the near future.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Love Serving Fifteen

It's probably best if Jeff fights all of my battles for me, considering he's more intelligent than I am. But since I'm not one to start something and then never finish it (an Antonioni, if you will), here are some thoughts for you, Brandon.

I expect the ending of Blow-Up to lose points for 95% of its viewers. It's the type of ending that would result in a chorus of groans and/or boos...especially given the beginning and middle of the story.

And there's so much potential for the story: a photographer inadvertently photographs a murder. The trouble is, that storyline only makes up about ten minutes of the film. The rest of the time, the photographer snaps shots of strangers, walks around, drives around, sleeps, buys a propeller, etc. There isn't a whole lot to be interested in, and I definitely didn't feel as if the movie had some important, hidden message buried within the beginning and middle of the story. But now, I can really appreciate Jeff's interpretation that Thomas' life is empty EXCEPT for when he's taking pictures or is trying to solve this murder. Regardless of the outcome of this "murder investigation" (because outcomes are almost always unpredictable in general), the drive is at least there for Thomas.

If it weren't for the ending, I probably would've hated Blow-Up. Ironically, the ending allows for the rest of the film to come across more clearly, despite its ambiguity and strangeness. As Jeff argues, the ending matches up perfectly with the rest of the film. If the beginning, middle and end were sold separately, I wouldn't necessary buy any of it.  But with beginning, middle, and end combined, the film begins to show its value.

Not only is Thomas buying into a pantomimed game of tennis, thereby mirroring the audience buying into an imaginary world representing truth and reality, it also represents Thomas buying into the role of a homicide detective. He chooses to get involved in both. And at one point he sees the body with his own eyes, the next, it's gone. There is no tennis ball at the beginning of the game, but when Thomas throws the "ball" over the fence, he begin to hear an actual tennis ball moving back and forth. I love that audio cue. It made me appreciate having to sit the through the beginning and middle of the film.

As far as John Wayne is concerned, I've always been one of those people who hadn't spent a lot of time with John Wayne's films, so it was easy for me to judge his personal life - specifically his politics. It's the same thing with Charlton Heston. So outside of politics, I absolutely have nothing against him. And now that I've actually seen some of The Duke's films, I do like him more than I ever did. I completely agree with Scorsese's assessment of Wayne, and would add that he was always more of an icon than an actor. Don't worry, man, I'm coming around.

Yes!! I really enjoyed Don't Look Now. Crazy, thought-provoking stuff that I wish we all could discuss right now. Very effective filmmaking from Roeg.

Glad the tour is going well. Can't wait to see you guys play in Oneonta. Maybe then we can argue over Blow-Up, but hopefully you can find a minute or two to post a response to those goddamn Howard brothers.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

One Big Dump

As you can see, it's been a while since I've done a round-up (or dump, as Jason aptly refers to them) of the films I've seen. My apologies for not being able to resist toilet humor.

Monsieur Beaucaire (Marshall)

After watching the Woody Allen documentary a few months ago, I became very interested in seeing a Bob Hope film. And in that Woody doc, they showed a hilarious clip from Monsieur Beaucaire. When Netflix let me down by not even having a copy available, I went straight to Amazon and bought the Monseiur Beaucaire/Where There's Life double feature DVD. I'm really glad that this was my first Bob Hope film because I got everything I wanted from it - alotta laughs and a smirk on my face throughout the entirety. It's no wonder that Woody wanted to emulate Hope. And I'm thankful that both this film AND Love and Death exist. I tried thinking about who I'd rather see play a cowardly character in a film..but then I remembered that it's best if they both do it. I look forward to re-watching this one in the near future. 

Trouble In Paradise (Lubitsch)

A pickpocket and a conman fall for each other -  the plot alone was enough to get me interested in this Lubitsch film. Hebert Marshall adds a lot of great complexity to his character, Gaston Monescu; you can tell he's always scheming and planning his next step. I found this pre-Code story to be very fun and interesting; even if it hit a rare point of predictability, it was still fascinating to watch. A very enjoyable film from beginning to end. 

The Princess and the Pirate (Butler)

Monsieur Beaucaire had more laughs, but this was still a very enjoyable Bob Hope film. As far as "Princess and the ____" films go, this one is far and away the best. And I'd pay money to see Bob Hope going up against a bunch of tough, bloodthirsty pirates any day of the week. Walter Brennan plays his usual lovably goofy, incoherent character. And then we also get a massive treat at the end of the film in the form of a cameo. What's not to like?? 

The Exterminating Angel (Bunuel)

It'll be interesting to see where Brandon ranks this for his 1962 list. Like Jeff, I'm very much a fan of Bunuel. I'm glad to see that Ben, John, and Brandon have all watched some of his stuff recently. I think that if you took this concept/story and put it in another director's hands, it wouldn't be as effective. The subject matter is perfect for Bunuel and he makes the most of it, even if it seems obvious at points. I really enjoyed watching this and I look forward to catching more Bunuel. 

Paths of Glory (Kubrick)

Until a few weeks ago, this is one of maybe three or four of Kubrick's films that I haven't seen. I think Brandon had this listed as Kubrick's best film, and while it's too early for me to agree or disagree, I can understand where he's coming from. The cinematography and story were both gripping. Surprise, I also love the anti-war message behind this one. Kubrick was certainly talented enough to exist in any film decade, but he fits in perfectly for the 1960s-1980s. There was so much happening in the world between that time and he found a way to capture the zeitgeist brilliantly. The battlefield pans were amazing. 

The 400 Blows (Truffaut)

I briefly mentioned watching this in my Kid with the Bike post. Count me among the Truffaut fans because I absolutely love this film. Watching it, you get a sense that Truffaut is doing so much more than capturing a day in the life of boy; he's captured what it means to be young and live in a world that desperately seeks to get a stranglehold on you. I really can't even put in to words what he was able to achieve with this film; it's brilliant. I also enjoyed the fact that it features both drama and comedy; I love the scene where the teacher is walking with his class through the city streets, and the students all head off in different directions as his back is turned to them. 

The Ox-Bow Incident (Wellman)

I'm trying really hard to write meaningful comments on these films without resorting to statements of generic praise. I'm going to break that trend here. No, immediately I can recall the story and the ending. I highly recommend this one if you haven't seen it. At a running time of 75 minutes, this is a very economical film; there's no wasted time here. I wanted to do an individual post on this one and title it, "Insane Cowboy Posse." Given my Simpsons background, I'm a huge fan of mobs in the comedic arena. But obviously, once we move into more dramatic circles, it's clear how quickly a mob loses any sense of morality. I love the ending of the film, as it makes the message more powerful that way. 

Blow-Up (Antonioni)

I fell asleep as I watched this film...only because I was already feeling sleepy anyway. This isn't going to be an anti-Antonioni post, though I wouldn't necessarily say I'm an early fan. I need to see more and see how they sit with me. Obviously this film moves like a paraplegic turtle, and when it does pick up, there isn't a whole lot that's going on. I don't know, it'd be interesting to discuss this one if anyone's up for it in the future. There is something about this film that I can appreciate and feel fascinated by. I loved the ending and it's allowance for endless interpretation. 

The Double Life of Veronique (Kieslowski)

Oh, Irene Jacob, je t'aime. Jeff isn't usually right about things, but I agree with him completely on Kieslowski. There's definitely a point of mutual interest between us in terms of what makes a good story. It's almost as if he films novels. There's an abundance of symbolism and other literary techniques at work here and in his other movies. There's also no denying his talent for shooting a film. There are so many creative shots in The Double Life of Veronique; the shot on the bus through the lens of the glass ball in Irene Jacob's hand instantly comes to mind. 

Road to Morocco (Butler)

One more Bob Hope movie and I get a free sub. This was my first "Road" movie and I look forward to seeing all of them. Bob Hope and Bing Crosby are one hell of a team. There's something special about watching old movies with vaudevillian roots. You're always completely entertained, be it The Marx brothers films or something like Road to Morocco. Songs, jokes, adventure, excitement...a jedi might not crave those things, but luckily I do when I watch old movies. 

The Searchers (Ford)

I was looking at some of my old posts the other day, and I think I mentioned that I was going to watch The Searchers two or three months ago. Good god, I have no idea why it took me this long to see it. I should've seen it ages ago, considering how great it is. And while I've never been John Wayne's biggest fan, I really liked him in Stagecoach and Rio Bravo. It's tough to like him in this, but I acknowledge the good performance here. Of course, it would be funny if it turned out that Wayne was just being himself. But who knew the Camanche were so scalp-happy and evil?? Oh well, at least Wayne's character makes the right decision in the end. How have I written so much about this and not mentioned John Ford? A beautiful, beautiful film. I'd love to see this one in a theater. As I told Jeff and Brandon the other day, even the sets in this film are gorgeous. 

Comanche Station (Boetticher)

I agree with everything Brandon and Jeff had to say about this one. I'll join in on the Randolph Scott crush session, too. The ending is fantastic and provides a very powerful note to end on. I also love the fact that while there are, let's say, politically incorrect depictions of native Americans in this film, there's also a white villain in the form of Twilight Zone alum Claude Akins. But, as Brandon noted in conversation, Akins' character does have something of a moral code, as displayed in one scene. It's great for adding complexity and definition to his character, but again, I think it's good that this white man was depicted as greedy and immoral in a land full of "savages." 

Don't Look Now (Roeg)

After the first ten minutes of this film, I immediately thought of The Omen or The Exorcist. There's a definite 1970s horror film feel to it. The camera movements and editing are also reminiscent of Hitchcock. I'll refer to this film as one of the most surrealistically realistic films that I've ever seen...whatever the hell that means (with exception of one or two scenes). It's also completely disjointed and has a house of mirrors effect. Everything seems off, and the theme of communication (and a lack thereof) is played out extremely well. Jason, you should see this one, if you haven't already. And that ending...oh, my. 

Hot Saturday (Seiter)

I just finished this 1932 film a couple of hours ago. For those not familiar, it has both Cary Grant and the aforementioned Randolph Scott. In it, they're both looking very young (and handsome, I might add) and they're sorta competing for the affections of a small-town bank clerk, Ruth Brock (played by Nancy Carroll). But this ain't some Tom Hardy/Chris Pine gimmicky, bullshit love triangle. I enjoyed the theme of the evils of small-town gossip, and how it can be used to destroy a young woman's reputation. Also, because it's pre-Code, we get some "scandalous" scenes of women being stripped of their undergarments.  The film was all right; if I, too, were making golden age top ten lists, this one probably wouldn't make the cut.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rise of the Planet of the Descendants of the Apes

Reboots are unnecessary, but Rise of the Planet of the Apes is actually able to exist on its own. And the film is silly in the way that the original Planet of the Apes is, so I'm not really going to fault it for that. I don't think Jeff is really taking too many points off for that either. 

It's by no means a perfect film, but it's also true that no one is walking into the theater or popping in the DVD with those kind of expectations. The Tom Felton character is necessary to the story for what he represents, but it feels poorly executed. The CGI looks fantastic at times and possibly does look better than Spielberg's dinosaurs, but then there were other moments when they looked like something out of a video game. Still, you gotta love that Andy Serkis.

The emotion in the film was a bit surprising, and agreed, it's also done in a very refreshing way, given the summer blockbuster crap factory. I've been seeing Alzheimer's/dementia storylines in a lot of films lately, and bringing in John Lithgow to play Franco's father was the right call. Also, if the Franco/Cesar relationship fails, there's no reason to be interested in the movie. For a movie that's a bit on the silly side, their relationship is handled with absolute maturity and heart. In the end, though, this film doesn't alter my top ten list; it's an honorable mention for me.


The Descendants, like Rise of the Planet of the Apes, receives mostly a positive response from me, but there are definite elements to be critical of. Alexander Payne's film about unpredictability was mostly predictable. I agree with Brandon that one of the worst moments of the year is when Sid laughs at George Clooney's mother-in-law because she has Alzheimer's. But from the very first scene with Sid, I knew the film was trying to get me to hate him. I also knew that he would eventually be given a scene where we're proven wrong about him. Usually it's nice to have characters who are fleshed out in the way that he was, but in this case it felt a bit cliched.

The growth of Clooney's daughter, Alex, feels more genuine than the growth of Sid. Our first scene with her makes us think that she's an immature, brat...and she is. As the film rolls along and Alex finds out her mother is dying, she begins to grow and mature. There's more of a performance with Shailene Woodley. And speaking of performances, I thought that this was one of Clooney's better ones. It had more emotion and a down-to-Earth quality. He felt more like a father than the charming, likeable character he always seems to play.

You also have some strong scenes in the hospital when the family talks at Elizabeth. It does make for very compelling storytelling to have these characters show anger and frustration at a comatose woman. Those scenes were packed with emotion and felt genuine. The growth of the Matt King and his two daughters is handled extremely well and it demonstrates how powerful a family can be.

However, this film doesn't alter my list either.