Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Old Thoughts: Now Newly Phrased!!

90% of horror films are crap. There's a definite link to Sturgeon's Law here; I would say the same of other genres. 90% of action movies are crap...hell, 95%. Comedies, dramas, indies? Uh huh. A lot of this has to do with the influx of movies each year. Quantity will almost always lead to a deterioration in quality. And I am speaking more of contemporary films (the past thirty years or so). I really like what Brandon wrote in his last post on this subject (the Pissed Jeans paragraph). Does anyone else agree?

It's not as if horror is my whipping boy; it is a genre known for cheap thrills, but action movies are guilty of the same. But the "killings" aspect of horror is interesting, though, because certain people come to expect that there will plenty of bloodshed in a given movie, and often become disappointed when there isn't enough of it. Sure it can desensitize those people, but more than that, it drives them to become cheerleaders for brutality and murder in that moment.

Disclaimer: all horror fans are not cheerleaders for murder. And because these movies are fictional...I can't say that I care too much. Last time I checked, horror films aren't a gateway drug to serial homicide.

Anytime I note the over-reliance on sex and violence in horror, Jason and Brandon redirect my attention to slasher films, and rightfully so. I also want to include torture porn in that as well. We all know I hate torture porn with a passion, but with slashers, I only hate the newer ones. I can give props to the original slashers of the 70s and 80s; I bet I wouldn't find faults in Halloween. And even though it's possibly a cheap shout-out at this moment in time, I do want to remind everyone that I really like Club Dread ;)

So we've covered slashers. That leaves us with...

Haunted house movies: I don't have a problem with them...other than the fact that they make me shit myself. I love The Shining and The Others, and I imagine I would find some things to enjoy about The Innkeepers if I watched it.

Zombies, vampires, monsters, and alien invasions: it really depends. It seems like most people are either big into zombies or vampires...which is why True Blood and The Walking Dead get great ratings despite their mediocrity. Maybe that's a source of slight annoyance for me as well. You throw a zombie or a vampire into anything and it will sell...unless it's Tim Burton's Dark Shadows.

Vampire/zombie films that I really enjoy: Let the Right One In and Shaun of the Dead.

If 90% of all horror movies suck, 10% are great and worthy of praise. Because I mean this proportionally, this assessment seems more than fair to me. It's not as if I think that are only ten good horror films out there (I mean, come on, I've only seen six anyway). I respect the genre, even if it isn't my thing.

But "my thing" be damned, sometimes someone makes a great film that transcends its genre. The problem with horror is that too often people who make horror films get lazy. We talk about critics/bloggers being lazy, but goddamn, how many times are we going to see the same characters, plot points, and scares? It's for this reason that I enjoyed what Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard did with Cabin in the Woods. It came at the right time and was mostly well-done.

And sure, fans come to expect certain things, which is why they don't grow tired of seeing the same thing over and over...but I'm not really one of those kinds of people. That does not make me smarter or better than anyone else (and certainly not braver). Allusions I can understand and appreciate. I am aware of the community aspect of horror and sci-fi and can respect it.


Also, if we're discussing the idea that calling something "shit" is being too dismissive...might I also point out that calling something "pretentious" is just as lazy/dismissive.

Brandon writes: "I can’t speak about PROJECT X honestly because I haven’t seen it but I was appalled by the marketing campaign. That director (the douche who made the stupid HANGOVER films) has marketed films that nurture adult’s prolonged adolescence. He promotes every type of stupidity imaginable and has made heroes out of misogynists, homophobes, and GASP! preppies. He’s the devil as far as I’m concerned and PROJECT X seems like his latest “let’s do molly and get girls to strip for us” mantra. Sorry if this is fiery but I have been extremely fed up with the youth of today lately. I love the idea of having a good time, even if that means sex, drugs, law breaking, and boozing is involved. But this “all I do is party” scene is running rampant, we have JERSEY SHORE morons running amuck calling dude’s like Jeff and I faggots while driving down the streets (actual incidents… yes plural). I’m sure you’ll have a lengthy response to this so I’ll take my answer off the air. Haha."

If anyone ever asks me why I like Brandon, I'll direct him/her to this paragraph. I couldn't sum it up any better myself.

I think a good test for you, Jason, is to see Ted. If you like it, I'm afraid we're really gonna have to challenge your glasses theory. None of us are getting paid to blog, so it's understandable/acceptable that we'll write some lazy criticisms every now and then. But guys like Seth McFarlane are getting paid millions of dollars to come up with the most mind-numbing shit. A movie about a teddy bear who curses, drinks, smokes, and hangs with hookers must die a horrible death. It's way too easy, and the Jersey Shore morons Brandon referenced will eat it up by the barrelful.

Sorry, I just can't pat anyone who makes a film on the back. I don't want to be the guy who hates on movies - I love them and I love going to the theater to watch them. But filmmaking isn't for everyone and hundreds of movies are absolutely worthy of wrath and indignation. I think it's fair to draw the line at personal attacks. Just because I hate Seth McFarlane's writing doesn't mean that I hate him or want him out of the business. I just wish he would challenge himself and his audience more.

Anyway, feel free to ignore my 90% comment, Jason. After all, you can come up with statistics to prove anything; 14% of all people know that.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


I've never seen Alien or Aliens. End review.

Luckily, I didn't have to, as Damon Lindelof assures me that Prometheus is not a prequel. But by not seeing any of those installments in the Alien franchise, I didn't walk into the theater with the same kind of expectations that Jeff or Adrienne might have had. But I do know that Jeff's expectations were pretty low going in. I also happen to know of an alternate ending that would've pleased him. In a way, he's correct in saying that there isn't much to gain from this film. Yes, really the only revelation is that humans were engineered by a race of albino supermen.

I can be critical of Lindelof as well; after the whole Lost experience, it's clear he's only interested in asking the big questions, not answering them. Even if that outcome is realistic, it still gets old fairly quickly. I would've like to have gotten more from Prometheus, too, but I never expected to get as much from it as, say, a Charlie Kaufman project. But that's probably because I feel that emotions/relationships are the bigger driving force in our lives, not a God or a Creator.

What I did take away from Prometheus was sufficient enough. I think most of our interests are piqued by medium-to-big-budget sci-fi films. My Twilight Zone roots have established a need for stories about space exploration and finding the answers to life's biggest mysteries. It's one of the main reasons why I was able to connect with Noomi Rapace's character very early on in the film. Taking a moment to commend actors for a second, I really loved what Rapace brought to the film. She was fantastic and I'm happy to see that in a short amount of time, she's gone from playing Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy to leading lady in an American blockbuster.

Equally fantastic is, of course, Michael Fassbender. With a Peter O'Toole/T.E. Lawrence inspired performance, Fassbender's David steals most of the scenes that he's in. Adrienne acknowledged the scene at the pool table with David and Charlie as being the best in the film. It's definitely up there for me, despite Logan Marshall-Green's forced antagonism. But through that antagonism, Charlie and David end up having a powerful and interesting discussion.

As John can attest, I don't believe in God. But when I was younger, I felt differently, having been raised in a Methodist home. I remember a time in my life when I asked the big questions and only wanted answers from God. I have a pretty good feeling I wasn't alone in doing so. For that reason, it's easy to understand the drive in Dr. Elizabeth Shaw. The mission must go on...and on and on.

Slight annoyances in Prometheus are due to the archetypes, but they're not significant enough to hurt the film. It is a little refreshing when Idris Elba (who is also great in this film...and, fyi, an Arsenal fan) calls out Meredith Vickers for being stiff and robotic. Over the years, we've seen millions and millions of tightass characters who are only concerned with the task at hand. And yet, Elba challenges her and breathes some life in a predominantly stale character.

Another Jeff qualm was that Prometheus wasn't scary enough. He'll get no argument here, but obviously we differ on whether that's good or bad. Despite never being christened into the Alien franchise, I'm familiar with the John Hurt stomach scene. I get the sense that if I saw those two flicks, even at the age of 25, they'd make me feel uneasy. Brandon, Adrienne, and Glenn Kenny all do a great job of describing the unsettling ambiance that those films created for them back in the day.

I never thought of Prometheus as a horror film, and I don't necessarily think that anyone should. I mean, I understand the preconceived notions, given Ridley Scott's role and whole "prequel" thing. But this is really thriller territory, and as a thriller, the film works well. The C-section scene was pretty damn disgusting, but it got its moment in the spotlight because it was so engrossing.

The movie has plenty of squeamish moments and still plays with certain fears - like being attacked by unknown creatures, being penetrated orally (as Brandon talked about), and/or finding out that your creator is some asshole who'll rip your head off. This is all to say that I don't necessarily see the film as something tame either.

While I was at work yesterday, Stephen Stills' "Love the One You're With" came on the radio. I think it was a message letting me know that a bunch of aliens want me to come and find them. In the end, the song has a good point about Prometheus, John, Jeff, Adrienne. If you can't be with the films you love, love the ones you're with. Disclaimer: obviously I don't apply that rule to all films; many of them deserve the most vitriolic hate. But Prometheus held my attention, (in spite of those cozy seats), didn't waste a lot of time, and was a fun little experience.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Make Way For Tomorrow

Before I went into work yesterday morning, my Dad and I helped move a sofa chair from an upstairs bedroom in my grandparent's house to their living room. After a couple minutes of heavy lifting, we set the chair down in its new spot and I gave it a look over. There was something very familiar about the chair, like an old friend from the past. It turns out, the chair had rested in their living room before...when it was my great grandmother's chair. In that moment I was reminded of the days when my Great Grandma Snow stayed there and was taken care of by my grandparents (her daughter and son-in-law).

Obviously this little story allowed me to reflect on Leo McCarey's Make Way Tomorrow and to consider the message behind it.

The film is a real gem and it comes as no surprise that we (Brandon, John, Jeff, and myself) all see eye-to-eye on it. Because I haven't seen enough films from 1937, I can't say too much about any of your Golden Age lists, but I have seen both Grand Illusion and Make Way For Tomorrow now. These are two exceptional films and it'd be difficult for me to choose between them.

Films with messages as perspicuous as the one in Make Way For Tomorrow can easily come off as being too preachy; there's a thin line to walk. But at no point during McCarey's film do you feel like you're being preached to. The writing and the performances are pure in heart, and as John wrote, Bark and Lucy Cooper comprise of one of the greatest on-screen romances of all time.

In fact, Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi play their roles so well, it's easy to feel cheated when they aren't sharing a scene together. Of course, the writing and performances are great all-around, so this isn't necessarily the case.

But there's a definite magic to Moore and Bondi. I was glued to the screen when Bark and Lucy spent the last ten minutes of the film together in New York City. There are so many great moments to choose from and each one allows you to experience a wide range of emotions. There's so much going on during those scenes; I can't rave enough about them.

Of course, the conclusion really brings you down. Very touching, very heartbreaking stuff. Brandon talked about it being disturbing for his parents, and I kinda have to agree to extent, despite my youth. Knowing that the film was minutes away from ending, I was unsure of how it would all go down. I think ultimately the ending is realistic, and there is joy and happiness to be found - knowing that Bark and Lucy had a perfect day together.

The moment with the car salesman lets you know that this is a special film with a lot of heart. Car salesmen epitomize sleaze and greed. And yet, this particular car salesman couldn't help but be swept up in the love shared by Bark and Lucy. I don't think anyone can blame him there.

Monday, June 4, 2012

New Post

Top 5 reasons why Jeff is the coolest Howard brother:

1. He was the lead singer in a band. Brent Howard was too, but his band sucked. Abandonship ruled!

2. He is the only one out of the three of us who can grow a full beard (he is also the youngest).

3. He's the smartest of the three. If the Big Bang Theory has taught me one thing, it's that smart nerds are cool.

4. He's a trend-setter; he started sporting the Buddy Holly/Woody Allen glasses before everyone else...oh wait...

5. He's the best at coming up with five reasons for something.

All right, Brandon, if a Bainbridge crew was there, then yes, I probably knew some of those guys. And that would also help to explain some those reactions; anyone from Bainbridge is a sick, twisted soul.

Right, we definitely aren't unaffected by the barrage of sex and violence in Game of Thrones, but I imagine we'd both be loyal followers of the series even if there weren't any of that stuff in it. Yes, it helps to keep things lively, but we're more than mostly hooked on the drama of it all, right? Or am I alone here, you buncha horn dogs.

I don't agree with Haneke's views on violence and sex either. Again, I'm more attracted to the discussion of what he's saying vs. what he's actually said. It was never a case of, "buy what Haneke is selling or starve, dumbass." This isn't an elitist rant. I guess my beef still only lies with the the "torture porn" peoples of the world. They're the ones I'm writing off.

Soccer tomorrow night! ...hopefully with Brandon. We'll bring along my Dad's EMT kit. But seriously, though, most of us are out of shape. I think you'd be just fine.

Prometheus this weekend, anyone?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Two Cents

On Following :

John wrote..."You guys are right that he plays with noir "formulas," but I submit that he doesn't quite capture the spirit of noir. There's the twists and the Gotcha, but there's no heart. Nolan doesn't do anything to get us to care about our sad sack protagonist or really join us into his depraved snooping ways, so the reversal at the end doesn't pack the punch it should."

Adrienne wrote..."Following seems to want to be in that antidepressant category, but it failed to upset me because it didn’t generate enough empathy for the main character. He was sketchily drawn, and I never got emotionally invested in his fate."

Even though I'm a big Chris Nolan fan, I completely agree with this criticism. At no point did I ever care about the main character, and it absolutely hurts the film. And so, I just wanted to acknowledge that Nolan should be rebuked in this instance. I do feel that he's improved with character development over the years (a criticism I still hear about his movies that seems unwarranted to me).

On Funny Games and "douchebags" :

Brandon, I guess it might seem like I'm getting a little carried away with my disdain. Although, there is a huge difference between "poking fun at something to counter the shitty reality of it" and "being stoked by violence and sexual assault." We all know how immature some guys can be, so when you used those words in setting the scene of Jesse and Becca's viewing, my mind had nowhere to go but to that judgmental/slightly offended place.

Also, just to be clear, I wasn't distancing myself from those dudes as if to say that they aren't worthy of being my friends. In truth, I really don't know a ton of people from Binghamton. Jeff has always been the cooler, more renowned Howard brother.

I know it sounds like I'm applying a hierarchy to those who watch Funny Games, but it's really a simple hierarchy that you might be more accepting of...assuming I can explain it clearly. At the bottom are those who mindlessly cheer for the violence and sexual assault (the Human Centipede/Saw fans of the world); at the top is everyone else, whether they like or dislike the film. All I'm asking for is that people give some thought to what Haneke is saying. I'm not writing off the people who watch it and criticize it. I'm writing off those who view it only as a source for cheap thrills.

Funny Games is NOT an example of film that you either "get" or you don't. It isn't La Dolce Vita or Blow-up ;)

I hope you were serious when you told Graham that you'd come and play soccer with us in Bainbridge. That would be a lot of fun...and we could continue some of these discussions on the pitch. Maybe instead of a spanking I can receive a nice kick to the shins for all of these elitist thoughts of mine.

If Jeff watches Julian Donkey-Boy, so will I. If I hate it, I'll hold nothing back. If I like it, I'll give John a nice pat on the back.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Zombie Invasion

Brandon, it's interesting to see what horror movies bring out in us; I can understand the appeal with that in mind. And I think you give me too much credit...I probably only know Todd and Jesse from that group. Having said that, I'm sure if I met some of the other dudes who were watching the movie with them, I imagine we'd get along. But I still stand by what I said...I don't know how you can react to the film in that way. I guess some horror fans put themselves in the shoes of the victims (like Jason)  and others are so removed from the characters that they can revel in every nasty little thing that happens to them.

And yes, it's not as if these guys witnessed this kind of thing happening in real life and did nothing to stop it. They were just watching a movie and knew it was a movie. Still.

I guess when I pictured these guys in my head, I envisioned the type of people who think that certain women are asking to be raped based on what they're wearing. There are a ton of fucked up people (men) in our society.

There are a handful of horror films that I enjoy and would recommend to others. It's refreshing when someone comes along and makes a great horror film, one that really challenges the audience. I'm a big fan of The Others, too.

I know that every market is flooded with shite. With horror, the shite meter is at about 90%. As a result, certain critics/fans lower their standards.

I think at one point I overheard John and Jeff or Brandon and Jeff talking about whether or not there's nudity in the American version of Funny Games. In the Austrian version, the camera stays on the boys while the wife undresses; there isn't that much of a payoff for the perverts of the world.

Oddly enough, I think that only the film snobs will walk away with a better understanding of what Haneke is trying to say. The morons will bask in the violence and the sex without thinking about what the film is about--the film only exists to feed their twisted vices.

It kind of reminds of Chappelle's Show and one of the reasons why Dave stopped doing the show. The people who weren't racist laughed at the jokes and understood the ideas behind them. The racist assholes only laughed at the slurs and stereotypes while entirely missing the point.

The sweet tooth seems to be much more sweeter among the morons.

Switching gears...

Yes, "Blackwater" was one hell of an episode! Obviously George R. R. Martin has a better understanding of the characters than anyone else, but you really got a strong sense of that with last week's episode. That was far and away Lena Headey's best performance (as Cersei). Huge turning point for The Hound - great stuff. Jon Snow and Daenerys haven't been up to much lately; I'm hoping something interesting will happen to both during the finale. Peter Dinklage is brilliant; I listened to the commentary on the pilot and Benioff and Weiss said that he was their only choice to play Tyrion. Perfect casting. Lastly, I'd be heartbroken if Jaqen H'ghar didn't show up again for the rest of the series - not including his scene with Arya in the season 2 finale.

I will watch The Innkeepers eventually. I just hate that uneasy feeling.

No doubt The Avengers is better than most of the summer blockbusters, but I see that as both praise and something that is easily achievable. But to be clear, I don't think it's a bad movie. I had a fun time watching it with a friend of mine...even though he kept ripping on Captain America. Don't tread on Cap!

I, too, have my qualms with vigilantism. Of course there's a great Simpsons episode that tackles the issue (season 5, Homer the Vigilante). I also think back to The Ox-Bow Incident.

That's a great John Ford quote. In fact, as I was watching Red River, I started to reflect more on John Wayne's performance. It's one of the best I've seen him give, that's for sure.

I need to start watching The Wire...and Deadwood. After I finish the second season of Downton Abbey, I think I'll start one of the two. There are a lot of great characters on the Abbey. I've become quite fond of the show in recent weeks.

Lisa, Following was a good pick. As Jeff said, it's not your fault that the discussion was lacking. I was glad to have an opportunity to watch it again...and John needs to confront his Nolan hate. It would seem that I'm with John and Ben when it comes to District 9. Zodiac is phenomenal, though, we agree on that. Hmm, I've never seen The Blues Brothers and I don't know that I've ever seen Caddy Shack in its entirety. I guess I was too busy watching Coneheads and Stay Tuned when I was younger.

John, you should get a medal for completing six seasons of Smallville. Hopefully we can see a movie together soon. I need to get that beer to you as well.

Jason, my have you been busy. It's been fun reading through some of those reviews. Maybe I'll find something in there to argue with you about.

Ben, I definitely agree with the little bit that you wrote about Moon. I need to re-watch that one again soon. Also, there's some guy pretending to be you on Facebook.

Month of May

Features (17)

The Earrings of Madame de... *****
Damsels In Distress ***1/2, maybe ****
Ninotchka *****
Stolen Kisses *****
Mighty Aphrodite ***
The Saint Takes Over ***
Following ***
Shame **
Funny Games ****
Thirty Day Princess ***
Kiss and Make-Up ***
The Magician ****
The Avengers ***
M *****
Divorce Italian Style ****
Red River *****
Make Way Tomorrow *****

Stand-up specials

Aziz Ansari - Dangerously Delicious


Game of Thrones season 2
Mad Men season 5
Doug season 4
Downton Abbey seasons 1 and 2
Parks and Recreation season 4
30 Rock season 6
The Daily Show
The Colbert Report
Real Time with Bill Maher
The Ricky Gervais Show season 3
Seinfeld season 3

Notes: Jeff once asked me if I thought Greta Garbo was attractive. I think I responded with something along the lines of, "eh." To be fair, when he asked me that question, I hadn't seen Ninotchka. Now that I have, I have truly seen the error of my ways. Garbo is irresistibly adorable in Lubitsch's film. I love the moment when Ninotchka is trying champagne for the first time - the way her face lights up after she takes a sip. Unforgettable....that's what you are, Greta.

I really love Stolen Kisses. I wonder what that says about me in the context of Damsels in Distress; don't believe it, John and Ben. I mean, I'm quickly becoming a huge Truffaut fan, so it comes as no surprise to me that I enjoyed this one. But it does feel a lot better than "simply enjoyable." Seeing Antoine Doinel fail at various jobs was fun, but I love the idea of him as an inept private investigator. Good stuff.

I watched Mighty Aphrodite for the first time, and have heard great things about it for the longest time. While I did enjoy it, I have to say, I thought I would like it a lot more than I did. Granted, the idea of an R rated Woody Allen is intriguing as hell. Mira Sorvino is loveable...but there's something about her character's voice that feels slightly over-the-top. But the Lenny/Linda relationship is a nice gem. Up to that point, the Woody character had never really interacted with a prostitute, and it's definitely a situation ripe with comedy. 

The Saint Takes Over was fun. I didn't think I would like it as much as I did, but how you can hate on even a decent mystery/noir? Jeff and I talked about this a bit, and we agreed that George Sanders did a great job with The Saint. Not sure what Leslie Charteris was smoking. Sanders definitely has the ability to pull-off a debonair detective who plays by his own rules; he's a charming guy too.

I'm really happy that I finally saw Funny Games. I should not have waited as long as I did. A reminder to be less tentative about certain films. But now I make sure to always lock my doors...and I'm never giving eggs away to anyone. Sorry John, no omelets for you.

Thirty Day Princess and Kiss and Make-Up were two early Cary Grant movies. Both were decent, but I liked Thirty Day Princess more of the two. An interesting tidbit about that film is that Preston Sturges co-wrote the script. 

The Magician is interesting. Bergman always seems to blow my mind. All of his films are worth seeing because you'll walk away from them both confused and enlightened.

I texted John a one-sentence review of The Avengers. I think I called it "a cute bed-time story." Wow, who is this snide asshole? But really, there isn't much to say about it. I've never heard anything negative said or written about Joss Whedon...and I'm not about to start right now. The film isn't shit at all, but really it felt very similar to a Jon Favreau Iron Man film. I can understand people praising it simply for the fact that it could have easily been a gimmicky disaster. The themes are more well-written and better explored than most of the non-Nolan superhero movies, but at the end of the day, I say, "meh," but will end on, "Mark Ruffalo is the coolest."

M is brilliant. Note to self: watch more Fritz Lang films. There are so many great shots in this film, and the story takes us to some interesting places. I love the idea of criminals paying homeless people to keep an eye out for the murderer--in the hopes of catching him before the police can (doing something virtuous for selfish reasons). And the "courtroom" scenes are fantastic. Between this film and Funny Games, I've been thinking more on the topic of how to prosecute murderers. Hans Beckert is a danger to society, I don't care if he's insane or not, a guy like that just can't be on the streets/a part of our society. Kill him or lock him away for the rest of his life.

Divorce Italian Style is essentially the Italian, slightly darker version of Sturges'  Unfaithfully Yours. Both are comedic films that deal with similar concepts. DIS is enjoyable; the performances are well-done and characters play off of each other in a humorous and interesting way. The story unfolds in a fun way, too. Insert another vague comment. Has anyone else seen this one? I don't want to give anything away.

Watched Red River last weekend. And really guys, I am a born-again John Wayne fan. What can you say, the guy is great and I love that he's a little more of a villain in this one. I joked with Jeff that we should all do "Top Ten Mutiny" film lists; I can only think of three or four. I'm sure Brandon and John could surprise me. John Wayne - great. Howard Hawks - great. Monty Clift - equally great and now I'd like to see more of his films (only seen From Here to Eternity, I Confess, and now Red River). Clift's life story is such a tragic one. A nice little wikipedia read if anyone isn't too familiar with him.

I'll do a post on Make Way For Tomorrow soon. We can all share in the love. I also want to comment more on some of the things that everyone has written recently. Nice to see Lisa posting again.