Wednesday, February 29, 2012

P.S. to Brandon

I always forget how personally attached we all get to films that we like. I'm sorry I said that the movie was stupid. I don't really think it was stupid, but, as I said in my response to Jeffrey, the film left me feeling very discouraged and raw. So imagine me saying "stupid' the way a six year old might, and you get the tone of the title of my post.

Furthermore, learning that Trumbo wrote it may actually entirely change the way I see the picture. Now, instead of a director trying to make a point in an obvious and manipulative way, you've got an individual who is full of frustration and been hurt by the system writing a personal story about how he feels about it. This change of opinion probably makes me sound wishy-washy, but I've been afforded the oportunity to view the film from a different perspective. And honestly, the film looks entirely different now. The ending feels like a punch in the gut because Trumbo feels punched in the gut--he'd put his heart into an industry that sold him out.

It still doesn't change the points I made about a film not having to be negative to talk about negative things, but those things may not apply to this film at all. When it comes to someone's personal story, all bets are off.

and regardless of my ranting and raving, you can see that the film impacted me in a significant way. I never tried to say I thought it was a bad film. I actually loved it, right up until the end. And then I was angry with it for leaving me feeling hung out to dry. Which is probably how Trumbo felt, so it makes more sense now.

Lonely Are the Literalists

I understand what you're saying, Jeffrey, and I don't even think you're wrong, but I didn't like it. I think that you can also mourn a thing's passing without destroying it in the process. As I mentioned, I got the message in the first five minutes. And I thought it was clever. I loved the way so many scenes set up in a classic idealistic western way, only to be resolved in a completely unromantic but realistic and modern way. From the opening scene you mention with the plane to Kirk seeing Gena to the jailbreak, we are mourning how different things are from the way they used to be. An ending in which Kirk rides off into the sunset doesn't undo any of what happened before, it just allows the dream to continue in some fashion: the old has passed away and even some of the values that went along with it, but there is hope that there can still be resolution between the past and the present; that the two can somehow coexist, that there can be some compromise. To say that they can't is not a fact; it's a perspective. And one that I don't subscribe to. You say that Kirk cannot ride into the sunset; I say why not? It doesn't change the present or the direction in which society or films or whatever is going, but it does allow him to leave with some dignity instead of wet and delirious at the side of the road, the horse he's worked so hard to save dead not twenty feet away.

And then there's just my emotional response, pure and simple. I wanted Kirk to escape; I didn't want the horse to die. The ending made the rest of the film seem pointless. All that effort, all the suspense, all wasted. And it felt like director was leading us to believe he was going to make it, because there was about 6 minutes left in the film, and what bad thing could possibly happen in 6 minutes? Well, a kick in the balls and a punch in the throat, that's what. Thanks for nothin'. I can still hear the pathetic whinnying of that poor horse. It was like a lead weight in my gut.

I wasn't try to say Lonely wanted to mock western films, but it did, in my opinion, belittle them by allowing the protagonist such an inglorious ending. Maybe there wasn't as much cynicism behind it as I initially suggested, but I was fresh off watching the film and feeling emotionally raw.

The High Noon reference was about a western not being just a western but about something else as well. High Noon also (more subtly and effectively, I thought) used western stereotypes in a self-aware way to communicate something about modern society.

"Sometimes you need things to end badly to get your point across." Yes, sometimes you do. I just didn't think so in this case.

War Horse is an EXCELLENT example of a film that doesn't shy away from the bleakness of its subject matter and ends happily--or at least with some resolution. And you liked it, didn't you? There are plenty more examples. But there are people who don't like it for that very reason. People who think a film has to be bleak to make a point about suffering or death or whatever. And I also don't think every film has to have a happy ending. I'm just saying I don't like being smashed in the face, my kidney removed, and left in a bathtub full of ice covered in puke in the last five minutes of a film. I kind of resent it, if you hadn't noticed :).

I'm a huge Coen Brothers fan, but so far I have refused to watch Fargo again, because I felt like it did the same thing--too many punches in the gut. It made me feel queasy afterwards. And this coming from an avowed horror fan!

Lonely Are the Brave is a Stupid Movie

Don't get me wrong, I get it: death of the western and all that. But my reaction is similar to the reaction I had to Drive, only more pronounced, because I genuinely thought it was going to end differently (black and white, code-era--the chances were pretty good, you must admit). Silly idealist me thought (or perhaps tried to convince myself) the whole time that the truck was going to be how he made his final escape, but of course...Of course.

Funny thing is that the film made its point long before the ending. The juxtaposition of the modern day setting with classic western tropes makes the western seem silly and outmoded. So the ending pissed me off because I felt it was completely unnecessary. Okay, Mister Director, I know you want to be all clever and show how you're so above making a genre film. Show everyone how cool you are because you can turn a genre stereotype on its head, right? You know, Mister Director, genre films are the only reason you can make your high concept, below-the-belt crapola. Genre films are the foundation of filmmaking, as well as its bread and butter. So here's an idea--rather than knock the western on its ass, why not give it a proper sendoff? Why not let Douglas and his horse get away and ride off into the sunset, and we'll all wave and say It Was Nice Having You Around While You Were Here and Good Luck To You In The Future (let's say, sometime in the late eighties or early nineties)? And we'll all think to ourselves, Well, Yes, It Was Time, but What a Time It Was, eh?

But, no, no, Mister Director (whose name, by the way, I can't even be bothered to look up), you've got to be edgy and blow the whole thing up in the last 5 minutes after emotionally manipulating us for the first hour and forty. You been watching a lot of Godard lately, or what? Prick.

Hey, Mister Director, ever hear of a film called High Noon? It did what you were trying to do much more cleverly ten years earlier. Maybe you should have watched it a few more times first.

Here's the second reason the ending pissed me off. Aside from the obvious metaphor--oh,  and in case we didn't get it, let's rest the lens on the wet crushed cowboy hat in the middle of the road at the very end. We already killed the horse we've been rooting for all this time; might as well beat it, too. Aside from the obvious metaphor, films like this present a bleak view of life that I absolutely do not subscribe to. A view that I actually despise. That after all of our hard work, the carpet's going to be yanked out from under us. It's not only that I'm an idealist, it's that I have to fight that notion frequently in my own life. I tell myself all the time, You can make it and save the horse, too. I tell myself, Just over that ridge is all the answers. And if they're not over that ridge, then it's the next, and the next. And until the day I die, all the answers are going to be just over the next ridge. But doesn't life challenge that notion!! Wouldn't it just be easier to push the stone up the hill, knowing full well it's going to roll right back down again, than to try to believe that I'm making real progress. Well, screw that, and screw the ending to this movie.

I'm not going to say it's a bad film; certainly it made an emotional impact on me. But I don't appreciate being led to believe that there's going to be a happy ending only to have the whole thing turn 180 degrees at the end. And that's the rub with films like this, I think. If I go into a film knowing it's likely to be tragic, I'm able to prepare myself for it. It's the glasses again, you know? I like to be surprised, yes, but I also like a degree of familiarity when I watch films, whether they're happy or sad or weird. I want to be able to relate on some level. But to change direction suddenly at the end really feels like a cheap shot.

I can hear Adrienne in my head saying, Didn't you see it coming? It was so obvious! And, probably I did. I just really wanted the happy ending. The world we live in is not made for idealists. What can I do?

Monday, February 20, 2012


I thought I'd catch up with y'all and respond to the last several of your posts individually...


Great 2003 list--all good films. And I know because I've seen all of them! In fact, of the four lists (including honorable mentions) I've only not seen 5 films. I like it when we get on a trend of discussing more modern films because then I feel less like a chump for not having seen more than maybe one film on someone's list from anything before 1970. Sigh. I really just love color films. What can I say? Too bad more people aren't interested in the eighties and early nineties, when I was a young adolescent myself. In 2003, I was working exactly where I am now. Ha! I feel old. We should all do a post on the top 10 films from the year we were 14.

The Oldboy hallway hammer scene made an incredible impression on me as one of the most raw and real fight scenes I've ever witnessed in a film (that line makes it sound like I've witnessed some more intense ones in real life, but I haven't. Or have I?) before or since. The ending was a bit unbelievable, even fanciful, but the film was still epic--not just because of what it was about, but how it presented itself. It's a film with balls. And a great soundtrack as well. I keep meaning to see the other films in Park's revenge trilogy but haven't thus far.

I was suprised and pleased to see Cabin Fever on yours and Jeffrey's lists. Brandon and I have championed that film for some time now (Adrienne is a fan as well), so it's nice to see non-horror-fans giving it props.

I only have one point of rebuttal to your response to my Ink post. I know it's not a great film. And I may have misrepresented myself by speaking of giving a films points for trying. It is more specific than that. I will give a film extra points for having good ideas, even if they're not executed well. So it's not a simple matter of understanding what a director is trying to say and going the rest of the way for him; it's recognizing when a filmmaker has an idea that is too big for him to execute well--and yet he/she tries anyway. That takes guts and I admire it. Because if the quality of SFX these days, it's harder and harder for a low budget filmmaker to get away with cheesy SFX. The low budget films that are the most successful are ones that aren't so ambitious as Ink. But it's not just the ambition, as I've said. Winans presented a fictional universe that really captured my imagination. It wasn't something I'd seen before, and I liked it. I've seen plenty of low budget sci-fi movies that tried hard; I mean, on some level, don't they all? But I'm less interested in someone trying hard as I am in someone who has good ideas who doesn't necessarily express them as effectively as they could. Sure, there's a line at which something is so bad that it doesn't matter, but I don't think Ink fits into that category. In Ink's case, the the sum of its better parts is greater than the whole, and maybe that's how I draw the line.

P.S. I wasn't offended at your strong words at all, Chris, but it was honestly sweet of you to be concerned. Which is more than I can say for others (take the bait, John! Do it!) in film club.


I liked War Horse! I was conceding Adrienne's points, but I was completely taken in by the emotion and drama of the film. I still think the WWI war scenes (particularly in the trenches) were expertly filmed.

I also really liked Elf. I'm a Will Ferrell fan, for better or for worse. It's the same with Adam Sandler. I get some kind of perverse pelasure out of watching the same film and watching Sandler play the same character over and over again. Don't ask me why. I did draw the line at Jack & Jill, though. That movies looks horrible. Anyway, the combo of Ferrell and Deschanel (<3 <3) is more than enough to make Elf watchable for me.

I was surprised to see 28 Days Later on your list (like Cabin Fever). I suppose it's a testament to the quality of the film that someone who doesn't necessarily gravitate towards horror would appreciate its excellence. Don't forget the killer soundtrack, either! John Murphy's "In the House-In a Heartbeat" is one of the most effective pieces of film music I've experienced.


I just noticed the Guttenberg quote on your blog--gnarly! Bonus points!

I liked Thirteen, but don't remember enough to comment intelligently on it. I would wager that you and I are drawn to similar aspects of the film due to our girlish natures. It is a bit like an after school special, but its largely because of its subject matter. I think its emotions are meant to be exaggerated to some degree.


I have enjoyed all of Guest's mockumentaries, but I think I still like Waiting for Guffman the best. I saw it after I saw the others and how funny it was surprised me. Best in Show didn't do much for me, but I'm not really a dog person, so maybe that's it. I think I probably need to see it again. A Mighty Wind was also fantastic. For Your Consideration sucked, and I stopped paying attention to what Guest is doing after that.

The main reason I liked Dogville nobody has really talked about yet. Wasn't it totally cool the way he filmed it as if on a stage? I thought it was freaking brilliant. Creative, original, presumptuous...fantastic!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ink Again

Okay, I've read what everyone has to say and am writing some more now. Again, not in the mood to write well, just want to barf things out onto the screen.

It's interesting that while we both liked the film, some of the aspects that Ben loved the most are some of the things that I saw as being cheesy or oversentimental. It's not that I don't think a story about family and redemption could be told with this film, it's that Winans took the easy way out in the way he told it. I wasn't bothered by the time warping; I think Ben's right that you can't order the logic of the film in a linear way--it's about possibility and consequence and opportunity, like an MC Escher drawing. You follow a line and it doesn't end where it's supposed to, but if you step back and take in the whole, you can appreciate its complexity--as long as you're willing to let go of it totally making sense.

I thought the Pathfinder was great, I thought the drifters were great. I guess in retrospect, I can see what people are saying about their respective performances, but I guess I saw through the flaws to the ideas they represented, and was impressed.  In fact, when it comes to low budget films in particular, I find that I do that a lot. I interpret what I think a scene or story or actor is trying to communicate and I judge it on that basis. I love ideas and get excited by them and will give lots of points for original ideas. It's really tough to actualize an idea of any sort, and if you can't see through the flaws of an idea's execution, you will sometimes miss an exciting idea forever, because it only comes around in that particular way once. I definitely use a different set of criteria when I'n watching truly independent (read: low budget) film. I wear my indie glasses!

I agree with Ben also that the film is sincere and genuine; I think Winans is telling a story from his heart. And I guess seeing that also helps me to be more forgiving of Ink's flaws.


I haven't read anyone else's posts, so this is just my reaction to the film. I'm not feeling much inspired to write in any coherent manner, or complete sentences for that matter, or even look things up that I don't know, so hopefully you can make some sense of this.

What I liked about the film:
-cool choreography--the fight scene in the beginning, where the furniture gets destroyed and goes back together again was really rad. In general the fight scenes were pretty good, and and SFX that are good in a film with a $250,000 budget gets extra points in my book
-I liked the characters and thought the acting was decent. the dream rangers were likeable and while the dialogue was definitely inspired by fantasy novels, they related easily to each other. There was good chemistry among the cast, I guess is what I'm trying to say. The lead especially acted well.
-the whole first hour really had me hooked because I didn't know what was going on or where the film was going. There wasn't a lot of exposition, as I've mentioned, and so I was exploring this alternate universe along with the characters and it really sparked my imagination. I kept thinking in my mind, I hope they don't explain all this away later on...
-As I stated above, the world-creating was very effective. From the TV-face guys' HQ (and the TV face guys themselves--creeepy) to the dream rangers' woodlands to the hallway with the flickering windows to other dimensions, I was introduced to new and unique worlds, and that was exciting.
-Ink himself was also a lovely enigma--we weren't sure if he was good or bad, or what his story was...

I just thought of something it reminded me of--Terry Gilliam's Brazil and Time Bandits in particular, but in general Gilliam's imaginative worlds. Ink wasn't on the same level, but the reality Winans created was definitely better than a lot of fantasy films with much bigger budgets. And he definitely has the creativity to do work on Gilliam's level. I do believe that. Just watch his short film that Ben posted. Crazy creative, it is.

So here's the rub. Once you hit the hour-or-so mark, and the twist is given away early, a lot of mystique disappears. And it's almost as it the film knows it's given itself away, because then the characters start explaining everything and the mystery goes away. I kept trying to get back into it, kept wanting the mystery to return, but the film lost a lot of its power at that point. I was more interested in the alternate reality aspect of the story, and I guess I cared less about what happened to the girl. I mean, I did, but I wanted it to be a lot more interesting than the whole thing revolving around the absent father-abandoned daughter dynamic. Then throw in the dead wife, and it's all been said and done before, and much better. The ending of Time Bandits is unexpected and brilliant, because it surprises and captivates all the way to the end. The film Ink doesn't trust its own amazing creativity and falls back on too-conventional tropes and is less for it.

I chalk a lot of that up to Winans being a rookie. Now I know there are plenty of directors who are amazing first time out, and go on to do better work, but there are also plenty who have great potential but need a little more experience and perhaps guidance. I see Winans as being the latter.

It's one of the reasons I like independent film so much, even when it's not great. I love the new ideas, even the ones not executed as effectively as they could be. I like that it's art that's a lot closer to me, art that's within my reach to create or be a part of, and that's exciting to me. These guys have to be creative: they have to do the best they can with the talent and locations and equipment they can afford. And if you're a guy who loves fantasy and isn't satisfied with the types of stories that can be told more easily on a limited budget (stuff like Ellie Parker, or Clerks, or pretty much anything mumblecore), you're going to take a chance on something like Ink. And believe me, I've seen so much worse done for more money. Winans has got the spark to be a great filmmaker. The jury's still out, but he deserves a decent chance.