Monday, May 23, 2011

Meek's Shut Up

Hey! Will all y'all quit talking about that $&@*! movie you saw without me in your &@$*! posts that I can't even read if I want to see the movie myself and respond to my &#*@! movie reviews, or anything at all in one of my posts? Lisa, this doesn't include you. That is all.

Weekend Recap

Go, Rochester! Tree of Life opens on June 17, only 3 weeks after its initial release. It's going on my calendar...

King of the Hill (Soderbergh, 1993): It's rare for a film that portrays genuine suffering and loss to be upbeat without feeling like a Hallmark movie, but King of the Hill accomplishes that precisely. It's the Depression, and Aaron's family (living in a hotel) is at the bottom of the barrel. His brother gets sent away, his mother goes to a tuberculosis sanitorium, and his father finally gets a job--as a traveling salesman. Aaron has to learn to fend for himself without knowing whether or not he's going to get back anyone or anything he's lost. Through it all, his indomitable spirit keeps him alert and resourceful through a number of trying situations. Jesse Bradford nails the role, and the supporting cast manages to shine while keeping the focus on the young man and his adventures. Cameron Boyd is cute and funny as the younger brother, and look for Katherine Heigl and Adrien Brody in early roles.

Hot Fuzz (Wright, 2007): This is even better the second time around. It's got a little bit of everything--action, comedy, suspense. I appreciated even more the sound effects and cinematography and how unique that particular kind of quick-cut style is to Wright, going all the way back to Spaced. I enjoyed Scott Pilgrim, but Wright does so much better with his own stuff. Frost and Pegg have a great dynamic, very Abbot and Costello. Has anybody seen Paul? Is it any good?

Dr. Strangelove (Kubrick, 1964): Of course this was fantastic, and of course I loved it. It is a masterful satire, with excellent acting, writing, camera work, and social commentary. It's nearly flawless. Sellers surprised me with his over-the-top physical comedy as Dr. Strangelove in the final scenes; his other characters (as well as Strangelove earlier in the film) are more reserved. But the shenanigans with the gloved hand are like something out of a Mel Brooks film. It works, but only precisely when and where it happens. Dr. Strangelove is like a well-made clock, with all its disparate pieces working together for the sake of the whole. It does take a little while to hit its stride, but once it gets going, the ambiguity of the first 15 minutes or so dissolves entirely.

John, you still haven't answered my question about what makes a movie fun for you--I was really surprised you didn't like Thief of Baghdad; I thought it was fantastic. I'm beginning to think we have very different tastes in film. I guess we'll always have Lady in the Water--though for entirely different reasons, I'm sure.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Strobe (Adagio in D Minor)

Here's one of the tracks I mentioned last post.

David Gilmour, Eat Your Heart Out

I got distracted last night and accidentally watched The Dark Side of the Moon on NWI. Apparently the devil lives in the Bermuda Triangle and apparently there is also a "Bermuda triangle" on the moon. And if you draw dotted lines in outer space between the two, you can steer your spaceship clear and keep the devil from trying to take over your ship. Also, when the devil does take over your ship because you didn't steer clear, your sexy-android, low-cut cleavage ship's computer will sit uselessly in her chair and eventually get her head taken off. By the devil. Who is a Luddite, contrary to popular opinion.

The day before that, I finally found the time (3 hours!) to watch Short Cuts, which was a much better film than The Dark Side of the Moon. I could probably say a lot about it, but one of my favorite aspects was how Altman didn't insult his viewers by telling too much about the characters. You learned eventually how they were connected to each other, even the more obvious ones, through the events of the story, which is a far more organic way to do it. He didn't waste any time on exposition. It makes a film like this more challenging at first, but the payoff is much more satisfying. It reminded me of Crash and Magnolia, but wasn't quite as melodramatic as either. There were melodramatic moments, but it didn't have the same intense tone overall as the other two. That's not to say that it's better, just different. I'd have to watch the other two again to make a more qualitative assessment. There's a fair amount of infidelity that goes unpunished, John, so you might want to skip this one.

Lisa: I love Patricia Clarkson, too! Have you seen The Station Agent? It's probably in my top 50 favorite films. Also, I loved your science film rundown. I like a lot of that stuff, too. And NWI has a pretty good selection. I bet you'd like this: Ring of Fire: An Indonesian Odyssey. It's not in print, but you can get it through Netflix (or the library, perhaps).

John: I'm sorry Thor was so disappointing to you. I'm curious as to why you disliked it so much. Do you ever like a film simply because it's a good ride? Can you enjoy a film that has no real substance but is fun to watch? I presume you can, but what kind of other standards do such fluffy films also have to abide by in order for you to enjoy them?  No criticism intended here; I'm genuinely curious. I thought Thor was great fun. Not great, but good, and entertaining. I liked the Asgardian scenes better than the earth scenes, but certainly wasn't sorry I'd spent my money. Also, I get what you're saying about Brokeback, but I think there's a lot more going on for the main characters than struggling with their sexuality. I think it's also a film about intimacy in general, and maybe specifically how hard intimacy is for men, whether straight or homosexual. Intimacy and honesty early on in the film could have saved a lot of heartache for a lot of the characters.

Brandon: Junebug is where my crush on Amy Adams started. So far, she has not been able to make a film unappealing enough for me to not want to watch it solely because she's in it. Not even Leap Year. That's not to say that she hasn't starred in a number of excellent films as well. Doubt, Sunshine Cleaning, and Julie & Julia come to mind. And I actually really liked Enchanted. The music, especially. Wolf Creek made me finally decide I was done with torture porn horror for awhile. That one blurred the lines between fantasy and reality a little too much for my liking. And I saw the unrated version to boot.

Kick Ass is fun, but read the comic, too. It's better, of course. Did any of you recognize the 28 Days Later (In the House-In a Heartbeat) music in the soundtrack to the movie? There's also one that's a variation on a piece in Sunshine (Adagio in D Minor).

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The New World is Alive and Breathing

A couple of times the sentiment has been expressed that The New World would be just as good as a silent film. Perhaps I'm interpreting the words too literally, but I beg to differ. I would say that it's the first film I've ever watched where I noticed sound editing without actually paying attention to it. The visuals are stunning, yes, but only when combined with the power of the not-silence of nature--the frogs, the bugs, the breeze, the gentle lapping of water--does The New World gain the ability to truly hypnotize.

Side interests

Music gets mentioned every so often in film club. I like music, so I started a tumblr blog where I link to music videos of artists I'm listening to. I called it, in a stroke of creativity, What I'm Listening To. Check it out, follow it, comment here or on the blog, or on facebook, or on your blog, or ignore it altogether.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Blind Men and the Elephant

Brandon, don't think I haven't given myself a mild complex over not being able to "get" these great directors. Maybe I will someday. But I have to be able to release myself from that before anything else. I guess, on a deep level, I feel that film should tell stories--important stories about what it means (or doesn't) to be human. Sometimes when I watch a film, I feel that story is being sacrificed for something else, to say something else--sometimes even to mock the story itself. And that just seems pretentious to me. It's not like I'm against the abstract in art. In many ways I prefer modern art to classical, and many of my favorite artists hail from the late-nineteenth to twentieth centuries. So I don't completely understand why I don't have a taste for abstract film. But, truth be told, on a deep level I feel that it's a waste of time and money. STORY! Film should be about STORY!
P.S. Don't expect me to be consistent about this. I won't argue with you if you try to point my inconsistency out, either.
P.P.S. It's probably to my advantage not to spell it out, but I don't want anyone to miss my title. Let's say, hypothetically, that it says something about how I feel about certain kinds of critics. And let's say that it also says something about why, while I don't agree with John that it's his best, I still consider Lady in the Water to be a vastly underrated and excellent film.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


I enjoyed the film very much. I don't go into these superhero films with high expectations, usually. I'm not the sort to fawn over the latest trailer and read post-production notes on the internet about the next upcoming Marvel blockbuster. But I do tend to enjoy them and am rarely disappointed. Because Thor is tied up in Norse mythology as well, that part of the story (and it's a significant part) gives it a bit of an LOTR feel, which sets it apart from the other superhero movies. The Natalie Portman love interest portion of the story is boring and cliched, but whatever. It didn't interfere in the plot to much, so I didn't mind. It's fun to watch Thor's first exposure to Earth culture, and the supporting cast (Norse and Earthers alike) do great jobs and are fun to watch. Heimdall is one of my favorites, and I got a kick out of Hopkins's Odin. Even as I write about it, I find myself liking the film more. I was never a big comics Thor buff, so I didn't get too distracted by comics backstory in my head. Except for this: in the comics, Loki is Thor's half-brother. That's a pretty important part of his character, in my opinion. I won't say any more than that. This definitely ranks among Marvel's better entries. A good start to a blockbuster summer I'm looking forward to: Green Lantern, Captain America, X-Men First Class, Cowboys and Aliens. If Thor is a sign of things to come, it's going to be a lot of fun.


Brandon, if this film is still playing anywhere near you, get your ass out and see it. If not, pick it up first chance you get. It's probably one of the best horror/ghost movies I've seen. Period. I think it ranks up there with The Others and The Orphanage in terms of inventiveness, but is still its own thing. And it's scary.

What can I say about it that won't give too much away? It starts out as your standard haunted house movie, things moving around, strange voices in the baby monitor, shadows moving across the windows, etc. and the pacing is probably better than average. Like I said, the slow tension build reminded me of The Others, so it's very effective. BUT, at a crucial point in the plot, the wife says, "I can't spend another night in this house." And the husband says, "Okay, we're gone tomorrow." What? One of the key draws of horror films is the audience's sense of superiority over the characters: they often don't do the smart thing and get the hell out. That convention serves the audience in a few ways, but an important one is that it lets you detach from horror to some degree because, well, you would never make such a dumb decision in the same circumstances.

But in Insidious, everyone believes in ghosts. And while you're watching it, you will, too.

So the family moves to another house, but, you see, there's still a good hour or so left in the film, so you know there's a bit more coming. And I will be very surprised if you anticipate what's coming.

There are cheesy moments, but they're actually nice and even a little nostalgic because the rest of it is so good. And I could have done without the ending. But the important part in a horror film is whether or not it's a good ride, and this one most definitely is.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Don't Mess with the Source Material

Did anybody have any idea that Don't Mess with the Zohan was based on an actual person? Truth is stranger...
9 Absurd Movies Premises That Actually Happened


...was one of the best horror movies I've ever seen. I've only seen it once, so I don't know how well it stands up to repeated viewings. A big part of its power is how you can't guess what's going to happen next. It is truly relentless. Although enough time has gone by that maybe I'll have forgotten some of it and be scared/surprised all over again. It's interesting to note that the American ending is different from the British ending. More hopeful, obviously, since that's what we Americans like. It made me think immediately of the two different endings of 28 Days Later--again, one American and one British. I preferred the British ending of Descent, but, believe it or not, the happier American ending of 28 Days Later. There was something powerful about the image of the the three of them in the countryside, able to breathe for a moment but not yet totally safe.

Jeffrey made a comment about the pedophile in Little Children having a "wide range of emotion," which made me think of The Woodsman, which goes even further towards suggesting that there might be redemption for what is probably the most despised kind of sinner in our society. I thought it was a gutsy film and wished that it hadn't held back in the ways that it did. Definitely thought-provoking and I'd like to see it again. Has anyone else seen it? Any thoughts?

Lisa: Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang, is so TOTALLY underrated. You're right in that it looks like it's going to be a mediocre film and then turns out to be really clever. I watched it with Adrienne and we both were kind of dumbfounded that it was as good as it was. Especially since I picked it out, and I'm not always good at picking out films for us to watch together. It makes for pleasant reminiscing, though, so there's that.

I think my comment on Inland Empire was exactly the same as Brandon's--I tried to watch it twice and fel asleep both times. It's funny how being a part of film club has let me see that it's okay for me to not like Lynch as a director. It's freeing. He's definitely one of those if-you're-serious-about-film-you-must-like-Lynch types of directors. The Straight Story, however, is pure gold.