Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bran Quiz

1. What film hit you at the right place and right time, pertaining to and illuminating things that were happening in your life the moment you saw it?

Like Cheddar, I'm not one for allowing movies to illuminate things that are happening in my life (it's the same with music/lyrics). But if I have to choose something, I think I'll go with 2002's ORANGE COUNTY. My senior year of high school, I wanted to be a writer but was afraid I wouldn't be able to pursue that, and I would be stuck in my awful hometown for life. But thankfully, as you all know, I've moved away from Oxford and I've been dubbed the next Jonathan Franzen by various literary magazines. Good things come to those with no talent.

2. What would be your top 5 ranked Pixar films?

2. Toy Story
3. Ratatouille
4. Up
5. Brave

This is probably a boring list, so I'll just add that there are some Pixar movies I've staunchly avoided. MONSTER'S INC. was one I avoided for a while. But when I did end up seeing it, I enjoyed it quite a bit. I'm sure I'd have a similar reaction to THE INCREDIBLES and possibly FINDING NEMO--both I still have yet to see. I'm going to continue to avoid CARS, though...based on what I've heard and so that I can continue my long-standing Larry the Cable Guy boycott.

3. To reiterate Cheddar's question... what movie/movies had the biggest negative effect on you?

REQUIEM FOR A DREAM is a good answer. ANTICHRIST too, but I haven't felt the desire to see it because I know that it would destroy my mind. As you all know, I love, love, love SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK but I couldn't speak for about twenty minutes after I saw it. Had I opened my mouth to talk about it, I would've broken down completely.

4. What seasons seem to inspire you to see and write about films the most and least?

The winter is pretty rough. Post-December, there's not much to see. By the time spring rolls around, I really miss going to the theater. Summer has some hits, but mostly misses; something interesting stuff, though. The fall is really the best time, in my opinion, for seeing movies. As far as writing is concerned, I think this blog is evidence for the fact that I'm not often inspired to write about them. But when I am, it's a great feeling.

5. What are five movies that you love that you feel comfortable never seeing again?

"Love" and "never" are strong words. I really liked BLUE VALENTINE but maybe I won't ever watch it again; hell, I probably will at some point. I don't love any of the following movies, but I liked them at one time or another and I'll probably never watch them again: SIGNS, JUNO, AN EDUCATION, THE FIGHTER, THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES.

6. What anticipated 2013 film/films are you feeling the most uneasy about expectation wise?

MUD is one, only because I've gotten the impression from Jeff and others that it doesn't exactly build off of the great work Jeff Nichols has already done. I think we're all mostly fans of his and we want to see a nice progression with each film. I really hope ONLY GOD FORGIVES is a great time at the theater and obviously critics have been tearing into it. So that should be interesting. TO THE WONDER, definitely.

7. Likewise, what former favorite actors are trudging down dangerous territory for you, also what actors have already strayed down the path to the point in which their name now means nothing?

Man,'re a jerk. Jeff and I were talking to someone recently (probably Brandon or Cheddar) and I think Jeff made the point that Ryan Gosling was sort of wearing out his welcome a bit. I don't know that I'd settle on him for my answer, but I thought that was an interesting point.

I think THIS IS THE END could be a turning point for me. I still like Danny McBride, Seth Rogen, Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, and the rest of that crew...but maybe I won't like the movie and I'll grow out of liking them a bit.

And hey, Vince Vaughn used to be a legit actor...clearly I'm just fucking around now.

8. What is your take on a screenwriter's impact on a film's success, in other words, how much of an auteurist are you?

As Cheddar mentioned, I have a massive amount of respect for the directors who write their own scripts. We were talking about this a bit at Graham's. Gentile is an auteurist...Brandon is not anymore. Mostly, I don't buy into the auteur theory. But as I said on Sunday, I recognize that David Fincher and other directors, despite not writing the scripts, review and approve every word of them.

But I definitely agree with Brandon in that filmmaking is a collaborative effort; simply slapping an "author" label on a film isn't fair to the handful or hundreds of people who worked on it. Not to mention the fact that without producers/backers, these projects wouldn't even get off the ground.

The coach/manager of a professional soccer team sets up tactics and picks the guys who will play in games. Like that of a director, it's a position of power, control, and oversight. But the guys on the team still need to perform and play well in order for that team to be successful.

As far as screenwriters are concerned, they definitely play a big part. But it's really a matter of how respected a screenwriter is that determines his or her influence on a film. A guy like Tony Kushner deserves a ton of credit for LINCOLN. But those who are getting their first scripts greenlit are always pushed to the sideline, have no input whatsoever, and their script will be altered by the director, the producers, and/or an actual successful, seasoned screenwriter.

9. What types of "provocative" cinematic trends/ideas still feel fresh, which seem to be losing their oomph in the modern age of self-awareness?

I know we're all gonna give subjective answers here, but are there any provocative trends that are sort of universally seen as losing some oomph? I don't feel like there are. I think trends only exaggerate with time. People keep pushing that envelope and even if something grows stale, it's stuffed in a closet for a few years and then it's brought back. I realize I'm being vague here, but I just wanted to make that general point. The torture porn stuff still has an audience even though that shit got old the moment HOSTEL's closing credits rolled.

David Cronenberg is probably better off being provocative (though EASTERN PROMISES and A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE are exceptions to that).

10. What's your favorite horror film of the 1990s?

SLEEPY HOLLOW. It's pretty great.

Friday, May 17, 2013

March and April in May


Laura ****
Le Corbeau ***1/2
Les Diaboliques *****
Midnight ****
Seven Brides For Seven Brothers ****
Spring Breakers ***
Captain Blood ****
Unforgiven ***1/2
The Magnificent Ambersons ***1/2
A Face In the Crowd ****
Down By Law ****
Swing Time ****
Close-Up ****1/2
The Place Beyond the Pines ***
The Spiral Staircase ****


Burning Love seasons 2 & 3
Comedy Bang! Bang! season 1
Deadwood (one episode)
Extras Christmas Special
Game of Thrones seasons 2 and 3
Human Giant season 1
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (various episodes)
Mr. Show season 2
Parks and Recreation seasons 2, 3, 4 5
Seinfeld seasons 6 and 7
The Simpsons (various episodes)
The League (one episode)
Trailer Park Boys season 1

Notes: Since I watched a lot of this stuff two months ago, I'm finding it difficult to do write-ups. Being lazy doesn't pay off...unless you continue to be lazy forever, I guess. Then it works quite well.

Out of those films, I enjoyed LES DIABOLIQUES, CLOSE-UP, and THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE the most. Slightly below those three would be LAURA, SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS, SWING TIME, and MIDNIGHT.

LES DIABOLIQUES was the best of the bunch, though, and I'm only disappointed that I didn't see it sooner. It moves from the plotting of murder to something of a haunted school/ghost story. And as I wrote on Letterboxd (a site I've sadly neglected as of late), the ending was everything I wanted it to be. Love the bathtub shot. Brilliant stuff.

THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE has a nice, creepy feel to it. I saw the ending coming, but it still works great. SPOILERS: I'm glad that the old lady shoots the killer; and I like the moment when she apologizes to her son for assuming he was the serial murderer. Like ROPE, it does a nice job of condemning those who take social Darwinism into their own hands.

Maybe someone noticed that I only gave UNFORGIVEN three and a half stars. I'm not looking to pick a fight here, but it wasn't as good as I thought it would be. The film starts off strong and there are some great scenes with Gene Hackman, but aside from that I can't really single any moments out as being favorites. And I don't really pin it on Clint Eastwood--I think it's beautifully shot--but rather screenwriter David Webb Peoples. Maybe I'm missing something, but the guy has yet to really connect with me; I had a similar reaction to BLADE RUNNER (which I have still haven't finished watching). Not trying to be a snob in any way, just stating that it wasn't necessarily my thing. Now stop accusing me, willya??!!

I've thought about SPRING BREAKERS on and off since we all saw it together but I've never actually sat down to write much about it. I'm sticking with my mixed review and the idea that, while I do respect it, I probably won't give it a second viewing. To be clear, that doesn't mean I'd refuse a second viewing though, just that I won't really seek it out when it hits retail. I loved the discussion held on these blogs about it, though, and was happy that Jason got to get in on the proceedings. Just like old times.

THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS is boring, Jeff. I wish I liked Joseph Cotten as much as you do; I'm just not there yet. I wish I could see Welles' original cut; I'm sure the extended version is better. Everything felt a bit underdeveloped because at no point did I care about either family. Maybe I'm just an asshole. That's it...isn't it?

A FACE IN THE CROWD has great performances from Andy Griffith and Patricia Neal - really impressive stuff. I had a very short attention span when I watched both this and AMBERSONS, so maybe I didn't give either a fair shake. I know I was definitely feeling distracted for parts of AFITC and so I don't really remember most of it. I did enjoy the theme and the ending. It reminded me of Gabbo's downfall in the Krusty Gets Kancelled episode of The Simpsons, which obviously came after this movie. I'm trying to remember if the producers/writers reference the film in the commentary...but actually I think they based it on a real-life event in which an actual TV clown called his audience "SOBs." What were we talking about again? Oh, right, The Simpsons...

CLOSE-UP is a fascinating documentary that I'd recommend to anyone. SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS has great facial hair and cool fight & dance sequences. It's not a musical, it's a mansical. Oh, wait, no..."mansical" isn't a word; it is actually a musical.

SWING TIME is damn enjoyable but why did it have to have a blackface musical number? Sonofabitch!

I'm with Jeff on THE PLACE BEHIND THE PINES. I think I enjoyed the second act more than he did, but by the time the third act rolled around, it just got to be too contrived. And hell, only the first half of the second act was something I enjoyed...the Serpico stuff dragged out far too long as well. I do admire Derek Cianfrance for sticking with the story and allowing it to play out a bit more, but eventually it does collapse under its own weight. I still like the guy and await his next film; he does some things really well, as you guys talked about. I think he does a great job of capturing real-life awkwardness.

Because of my short attention span toward the end of March, I decided to watch more TV than I usually do.

I decided to check out COMEDY BANG BANG due to its grand assemblage of guest stars: Amy Poehler, Adam Scott, Jon Hamm, Zach Galifanakis, Paul Rudd, etc. I love this show (which was first a podcast...something I've also cozied up to these past few weeks) and it's on NWI if anyone else is interested in irreverent humor. Consider me a big fan of Scott Aukerman now, and he Reggie Watts are a great duo on the show. Season two (20 episodes) is being filmed now...can't wait.

I watched the first episode of DEADWOOD and eventually I'll complete the series. I liked it but I'm looking forward to it being even better as I get more invested.

I was happy to hear that Brandon is an EXTRAS fan. See it if you haven't; I've got the DVDs for anyone to borrow. And as much as I like Ricky, I will agree with you, Brandon, that he needs to get back to making more stuff like EXTRAS. I wonder if his new show DEREK is that project. It was supposed to come to NWI this spring, but I haven't heard any updates lately.

GAME OF THRONES is still the most entertaining show on TV but these past few weeks have been "punctuated" only with more pot boiling. I have a feeling that all of that will change this Sunday with some major shit going down, but we're just gonna have to wait and see.

At one point I told John that MR. SHOW was one of the best/funniest sketch comedy shows I'd ever seen. I still stick by that statement, but in watching the complete second season, I feel that the second half was slightly weaker than the first. All of it was pretty brilliant/hilarious, though. I wish HBO would put the entire series up on HBOgo. Until then I'll continue to get the DVDs on Netflix. Worth it so far; I love it. And speaking of Scott Aukerman, I look forward to seeing him in season 4 (I think) of MR. SHOW.

I watched one episode of THE LEAGUE weeks ago because of Paul Scheer and Jason Mantzoukas (PARKS and REC alums and HOW DID THIS GET MADE? podcast hosts). I hated the one episode I watched. It was lazy and stupid and it had undone the work of SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED, which kinda endeared me to Mark Duplass. Our Jason likes the show...which is fine. It's always a nice feeling to discover a new show that brings us joy. But again, I hate the "guys being guys" shows. It's been done to death and it ain't funny. I agree with John on this one, but I still have two more episodes to watch (eps. 4 & 5) before I possibly change my mind (not looking good, though, sorry Jason).

One night when we were at Brandon's, he was watching TRAILER PARK BOYS with Tara and Dean. I wasn't too aware of the show up until that point, but after seeing some of it at the Musa household, I enjoyed it enough to check the first season out on NWI. I've been watching episodes here and there. It's funny; I like it.

ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT returns May 26th. 15 episodes all streaming at once. I can't wait to watch. The teaser was promising.

I saw about 10 minutes of THE OFFICE finale before I changed the channel. I'm a snob and I just want to stick to watching seasons 2-4 on DVD. I'm a much happier person that way. But having said all that, cheers to The Office for entertaining me and making me laugh over the years.

I stole...and I robbed...and I kidnapped the President's son...and held him for ransom.
And I never got caught neither!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Looking Forward To...

Ben, like you, I'm eagerly anticipating BEFORE MIDNIGHT and ONLY GOD FORGIVES. To a much lesser extent, I also want to see STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS.

I check out daily (which is one of the reasons why I've been thinking more and  more about expanding TV club), and they had a preview for this summer's non-blockblusters. Here's the link to that article:,97506/

That article also has a link for their blockbuster preview as well; both are pretty helpful/informative and I'd recommend giving them a glance.

In the non-blockbuster write-up, I did see the trailer for Joss Whedon's MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. It looked interesting, but I don't think I'd ever pay money to see it. If I can see it for free and I'm feeling a little bored, I might check it out. And sure, the film is perhaps worthy of a better endorsement than that, but still...that's how I feel right now.

I don't know what to think of BLING RING; actually, I think I can muster up, "it looks vomit-inducing." There's a chance it has something interesting to say, but I can't say that I care too much about what that would be. I do like Sophia Coppola, though, and even gave SOMEWHERE a chance. It was all right, but agreed, she can do much better than she has been lately.

Even though I didn't really like DISTRICT 9, I'm pulling for Neil Blomkamp. Hopefully I can someday enjoy one of his movies as much as people seemed to enjoy DISTRICT 9. But I'm very skeptical that ELYSIUM will do the trick.

BEFORE MIDNIGHT and ONLY GOD FORGIVES seem to be the cream of the crop this summer. Like Jeff, I've avoided all teasers and trailers for BM. Although I'm quite sure I accidentally read a spoiler in a Julie Delpy interview the other week. Damn you, Delpy! I'd like to re-watch BEFORE SUNRISE and SUNSET before seeing the third installment, so hopefully I can find the time.

In my mind, it's going to be tough for Nicolas Refn and the Gos to top DRIVE; I'm still expecting ONLY GOD FORGIVES to be very damn good, though. Slick looking trailer, indeed; it's a fun one to look at.

I've never been a Star Trek fan but I did enjoy J.J. Abram's 2009 film. Yeah, it was good enough, but there was plenty of room for improvement; so I do hope the sequel surpasses it. I'm a big fan of the Benedict Cumberbatch, and I'm looking forward to what he can do as a villain. I'll probably see this one with Jeff and our Dad (who is a legit trekkie).

Also on my radar:
  • FRANCES HA. It could easily be a non-experience, but I've got somewhat high hopes for it. I like Noah Baumbach and all, but admittedly, he really needs to step up his game.
  • Alfonso Cuaron's GRAVITY looks pretty rad. It definitely has my attention. I'd make a joke about Sandra Bullock being lost in space, but who has the energy for that kind of thing anymore?
  • MAN OF STEEL. Excited for a Zack Synder/Russell Crowe film? You bet I...ah, wait...what? No, I am excited for this one despite the casting for both paternal figures to Kal-El/Clark Kent. But come on, Michael Shannon is General Zod...that's must-see stuff. I'm also intrigued by the way Superman is going to be portrayed in this one. It's a Hollywood film, so he'll ultimately be mankind's hero. But he does appear to come off as a little indifferent in the trailers. There's a complexity to Superman that hasn't been explored in any of the previous films (minus SUPERMAN 3 with Richard Pryor).
  • BLUE JASMINE (dir. Woody Allen). TO ROME WITH LOVE was better than I thought it would be; Woody is still making fine work. BLUE JASMINE has Cate Blanchett, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Louis C.K. so there are plenty of reasons to see it, in my opinion.
  • I'M SO EXCITED (dir. Pedro Almodovar). Should be funny and enjoyable.
  • I'm really like these bullets.
  • And hey, maybe PRINCE AVALANCHE (dir. David Gordon Green) will be's possible, right? What do you think, JohnO?
  • I still need/want to see MUD and TO THE WONDER.