Sunday, April 29, 2012

21 jump street

It’s awkward going to a comedy that has an unreasonably high laugh quota and hearing a chorus of jokes, crickets, and then tumbleweeds. 21 JUMP STREET attempts a joke about every 10 seconds, lands some, but ultimately crashes under the weight of its own unsounded expectations. It thinks it’s funny but underneath the majority of deliveries you get the sense that everyone involved is thinking “oh well we’ll get em on the next one.” The sad thing is that it has the right formula to actually go somewhere. High school films can afford to color within the lines because it offers a plethora of tools for your disposal in almost every classroom and hallway. The location alone allots for a handful of jokes and familiar scenarios while the overall shared acquaintance with being young and stupid usually ends up good for at least a few chuckles and earned sentimentality. How do you fuck this up?

Well I think I’m going to have to stick with the joke quota theory. Too much time is wasted on trying to recapture some of the better moments from better comedies of recent years. This is no SUPERBAD, it’s no HOT FUZZ, and it’s no ADVENTURELAND. Thankfully it’s also not scraping the bottom of the barrel a la THE HANGOVER or ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO. It has a good heart and often makes good use of it but more often than not scenes are reduced to failed punch lines and those damned fucking pesky pop culture references. What's the deal with those? Don't these people know that GLEE will eventually be forgotten like every other crappy show? What good is that joke then? The best scenes are either jokes or gags that land (again too far and in between) or moments that one might call sincere.

Hollywood has toyed with the idea of adults going back to high school undercover. Does anyone remember that terrible Drew Barrymore movie where she is writing some report and falls in love with the teacher and nobody bothers to think twice about the dangers of a male teacher falling deeply in love with a girl he believes to be underage? 21 JUMP STREET is much better. It successfully plays with the notion of adults playing the adolescent role, a popular trend in modern comedy. Our culture is obsessed with that unhealthy desire to be young, dumb, and full of cum. It’s not necessarily a new trend but I’ve noticed more and more the glorification of teenage hedonism, a trend that ultimately leads to nihilism and stunted mental growth. This film makes a few noble efforts to at least balance the natural desire to party and rebel with the desire to learn and eventually care. Early on one of the main characters mistakenly associates “popularity” with indifference. If only this picture bothered to be more intuitive about "theeese keeds" it might have been great.

I liked the cast, especially Tatum and James Franco's brother who plays the villain rather nicely. The penis gag at the end is pretty hilarious albeit in a really stupid way but for all of its minor victories, including a good cameo, I left this one feeling blue. Like high school, I couldn’t help but yearn for what could have been. C+

Thursday, April 26, 2012

guest post from my bestest pal alex gentile!

I wonder, had I seen Cape Fear (1991) without knowing before hand, if I'd be able to tell that it was Scorsese's work. I say this not to discredit the film, because I really enjoyed it, but it is certainly a plot-line that doesn't lend itself to his canon--we sympathize with a group of white-collar squares being terrorized by an ex-con, rather than with the womanizing criminals of Goodfellas or Mean Streets. However, in this film, Scorsese achieves the same means masterfully, as we see the dark complexity in law-abiding citizens rather than complicated light in hardened criminals.

My only problems with the film lie in the moments that make the film seem like an average 90's thriller--Bowden's (Nolte's) arguments with his wife, leaving Dannie (Juliette Lewis) feeling alone and isolated seem insincere, are uninterestingly filmed, and seem as though filler scenes that could have can found in hundreds of other films of the decade that portray arguing parents and the result of the disgruntled 90's teen. Furthermore, Scorsese's challenging and interesting trademarks are few and far between--we see no long takes, mostly traditional camerawork and editing and the use of music is almost entirely resigned to the theme of the original Cape Fear (1962). This minimal use of music, I think, is the aspect of the film that brings it so far from films Scorsese's other works, especially of this time period . However, differences from his other films sometimes work to set Cape Fear apart from lackluster thrillers of the decade, rather than blend in with them.

For example, the sequence in which Cady and Danielle talk in the school theater is mostly silent, which creates an intense, almost fearful and chilling sensation in the viewer. Danielle's complex relationship with Cady is something that make the film truly interesting and commendable. Furthermore, beautiful and interesting sequences like that in which we see Cady's silhouette in the movie theater at the film's beginning and that in which Cady's tattoos are examined, as well as intense and disturbing sequences like the rape of Bowden's associate and the incredible interrogation of the beaten withered Bowden by the scorched judge Cady make the film truly Scorsese, and truly valuable.

Monday, April 23, 2012

king of the underworld

I should have written to you sooner about TITANIC Adrienne, my bad. I’ve been busy battling with Cerebrus Owens over the use of pejorative words in regards to popular art. He’s been snarling at me with his trinity of heads but luckily I slayed three moose (or is it meese?) and used their bones as a peace offering. For now he’s licking his chops but he’ll be back for more any second now so I have time to talk about the ship of dreams with you my friend.

First of all I need to point out that I love reading your posts because they allow me to know you better and specifically where you came from. Sometimes a work of art is best represented by the circumstances surrounding you at the time you first experienced it. For instance I have to admit that I was touched to read about your financial struggles as I’ve also dealt with similar ups and downs though I’m sure it doesn’t compare. Secondly, I’ve read twice now about your husband and I’m loving the fact that you are allowing me and the gang to slowly get to know him through these stories. It’s a great honor Adrienne; I hope you don’t mind me saying so.

Anyway, it seems that every James Cameron film gets this mysterious bad press before its eventual triumphant release. Either we doubt this guy too much or he creates his own bad press in hopes to get the hype machine boiling. I love how you point out the importance of seeing a film fresh and avoiding the approaching hype or lack thereof in hopes to come away with an honest gut reaction. I’ve been stressing this a lot lately, especially to myself. But I agree that the film’s flaws are easily overshadowed by the dedication on deck here. I’m almost ashamed to add that I’m still a FACE OFF and STARSHIP TROOPERS fan but neither film would outrank this one.

I think I hear the hellhound barking in the distance, it seems that he and I have misunderstood Rose's final words to Jack "never let go."

john wears his meaning glasses all the time

I think you should retitle your post ADRIENNE, JASON, CHRIS, JEFF, and BRANDON NEED A NEW EYEGLASSES RX. I don’t doubt your genuine dislike for the film though your constant jabs about hype would lead even the most trusting person to suspect otherwise ;) I actually expect you to generally dislike every film I throw your way; I fault the original Film Club for this as nearly every film I sent your way came back with a “meh” at best. You are a hard man to please. That’s why I love you. I'm more like Jason I guess. I generally like a lot of shit.

I’m not going to get into too much here other than to briefly address the “change” issue as I think we’ve found plenty to agree about but still some points at which we will have to peacefully go our separate ways. I mostly wanted to address it because it seems to be the crux of many arguments against a film, “ultimately it didn’t leave me with anything to chew on.” I understand how that can be frustrating and I think that most films ought to aspire to inspire food for thought or fodder for discussion. What it seems you are trying to say about the difference between an admittedly trashy and immoral film like CABIN and a simple but pure Randolph Scott western is that one inspires you to think about doing something better with your life while the other just lies there lifeless wallowing in its own decadent swill. It’s hard to argue against such a point but still I believe in the latter’s right to exist as well as the admirer’s right to enjoy. I also appreciate good craftsmanship.

You say rather disparagingly that I could make a case that CABIN offered more than “stoner thrills” if I wasn’t so content to call it a “nice ride” as though I should go fishing for its right to exist outside of the visceral/immediate pleasure of going to a theater and enjoying it. Well I say that the need to find meaning is silly. Note the use of the word need. I say that watching a film (sitting down for over an hour on a couch or chair) and being inspired to be less lazy is an oxymoron (jk). I say that you generally seem to find more meaning (positive and negative) in every film than I do which is to say that a big part of my film going pleasure is the experience and I would hope that this is just as valid as being touched by “the beauty of suffering” in a film like FUNNY GAMES (neigh!).

If I wanted to be lame I would try and find something similar to admire in this film and honestly there were a few moments worth noting. I liked Chris Hemsworth’s face after watching his girlfriend’s head get sawed off; it was one of the few moments that I felt the “beauty of suffering” came through, perhaps accidentally. He had the look of delirium and it felt true, I’m kind of excited about his future stuff now. But even mentioning that feels forced and insincere to this viewer. That tells you something about me, not the film. I could admonish the themes or perhaps invent some (eco responsibility, sacrifice for the greater good of humanity ie the wars we are involved in now) but that would be disingenuous and you would be able to spot it from a mile away. Eli Roth insisted that HOSTEL was a film about war and torture and wanted us to view it as a commentary about Guantanamo or whatever. Gross.

Ultimately I don’t care that you disliked it. I don’t care if people prefer horror to swashbuckling or homoerotic 50s westerns. I’m certainly more inclined towards those films than horror flicks and my golden age lists should prove that once and for all. I think you might even misunderstand how many issues I had with the film but I think that’s because I was still gushing like a little girl when I walked out of the theater.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

cabin in the woods

Jason has patented the “bring the right glasses” theory. For those of you who have forgotten what this is let me give you the gist, movie=expectations=mental preparation=optimum enjoyment. I think we all do this from time to time, I also think that we decide what films to try to like and what films to dismiss beforehand. For example, I wanted THE DARK KNIGHT to be a masterpiece therefore I forgave its third act. I didn’t want to like THE HUNGER GAMES so I went in ready to spot its faults and ignore its strengths. Great films can overcome this handicap. Good films usually fall victim to cynicism.

There is no need to rehash our intense brawl about “hipster horror” or “meaning” ;) but it’s hard not to address some of those discussions when talking about the newest FILM CLUB usurper CABIN IN THE WOODS. I am surprised that this film was so divisive though the more I think about it the more I believe that we are all pretty much in agreement about certain aspects of the film. I also believe that everyone had a good time despite their better judgment. I think John liked watching this movie but had a change of heart and I won’t tell you what I am suspecting is the thorn in his side to avoid WWIII.

The main reason I liked Whedon and Godard’s film so much was the constant sense of humor. I laughed more at this film than 90% of the comedies from the last 10 maybe 15 years. I wouldn’t call this one a spoof but it certainly teeters, the only thing keeping it from SHAUN OF THE DEAD territory were blasts of disturbing content though I think it was Adrienne who pointed out that almost all slasher films, especially the “so good its bad” ones are borderline comedy. I can’t fault a film for being clever and perhaps drawing attention to its creators. I pictured them both smoking a roach and laughing their asses off at the little girl’s diary or the merman. They are obviously having fun a la homage and I found it easy to have fun with them.

I’m still struggling with the whole “walked away unchanged” complaint. I would argue that most films don’t “change” us but perhaps remind us or fortify our predisposed sentiments. I think it’s great for films like CABIN to exist because they exist for hard working stiffs like me to kick back and enjoy an hour and change at the theater. I had a great time. Graham hit the bowl before the show and argued that this picture is actually a far better “stoner” movie than most “stoner” movies. This quest for meaning seems futile and unreasonable and it seems that it often leads to a general view that certain types of films belong up here while others get thrown in the disregard pile. I feel the same way about certain musical genres for example the more melodies and glockenspiels a band has the more they are associated with “art” while dirty bloody punk/hardcore bands get dismissed as junk.

I’m getting off the track here. Without the company men the film would be merely disposable, Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford added that new dimension to elevate it to the cult status that it seems destined to achieve. That status will inevitably tempt the haters and contrarians to rain the parade but that comes with the territory. It seems that gushing does this picture no favors so it’s best to tread lightly with the superlatives. The film is not, to these eyes, groundbreaking or even game changing so I think those champions are doing the film a disservice in a sense as a: they are inviting some rowdy objection from some otherwise potential fans and b: they are setting the bar too high for those less cantankerous patrons.

I agree with Jason here: “Why I think Whedon's film could be important is because it's been marketed to a much wider audience that the other two films I mentioned, and has the potential to reveal to a much wider audience some of what us long-suffering horror fans have known all along: horror is awesome.” It’s interesting that CABIN could be a gateway drug to other horror films because I went to see it with my friend Graham, a non-fan to say the least, and he walked out smiling ear to ear. I can see why some would find this annoying as the film undoubtedly seeks to please a much wider demographic but I guess I was just happy to have a good time with my friend. You can probably call this a populist film and not lose sleep but I think it doesn’t compromise its spirit in the process, the light stuff works as well as the disturbing stuff (husband’s bulge anyone?).

I liked how the company men had to manipulate the college kid’s personalities to make them fit the sacrificial lamb criteria/slasher film prototype. I thought the five kids were good characters; I rooted for them to survive. I didn’t find them douchey nor did I feel that the “purge” sequence contained torture. It was just massive bloodshed all done in a “wink wink I know this is ridiculous but just go with it” way. I can understand not liking that part of the movie but I have to admit that I was laughing fairly loud during the elevator gag. I was also disappointed by the third act but I’m entertaining the notion that I just missed the other characters and specifically their cohesive dynamic. I liked the jock (I laughed so hard at the dirt bike scene) and was relieved to find out that he is actually a sociology major with a full scholarship. In this way I was impressed by the whole “deconstruction” facet.

The punch line isn’t as good as the setup, I’ll give you that. But all in all this is a good time at the movies. Hopefully there is still some room for debate/discussion here. I’m sorry I came in so late. A-

Friday, April 20, 2012

white people problems

GIRLS, like many of the great HBO series of yesterday and today, brings us a dose of reality without network television restrictions. This means we get sex, violence, drugs, and dirty language. The show is the work of an auteur, a young woman who seeks sarcastically to be the voice of her generation and represents herself perfectly. She films herself in unflattering situations and is often the brunt of her own jokes. I agree with Adrienne that I found her appearance to be fascinating; I couldn’t stop looking at her though I wouldn’t necessarily say that I found their look as stunning. I applaud her for rejecting the notion of being a manufactured television presence but rebuke her for being a manufactured modern hipster ;)

The thing I was trying to say when beginning that thread on the old FB was that I’m torn. I find her honesty both refreshing and annoying. I find her circumstance and financial situation both true and incredibly insulting (to those of us less fortunate). I appreciated her self awareness and found it, at times, empty. I liked how the script didn’t shy away from modern life (Sex and the City and Facebook) but found most of the references stupid and once again annoying.

I’ve admitted before that I’m not really interested in this particular story but only because I’ve encountered it one to many times in real life. I could explain myself here but I’ll try and make it real simple. I play NYC a lot and end up at a lot of parties and apartments. I meet a lot of people in that gentrified demographic and while I don’t dismiss them or hate them, I find a lot of the key elements of that culture boring a conformist. I’m not a punk, I never have been so please don’t take that that last sentence as a lame anthem for the kids who hop trains or whatnot. Instead I mean that in a concerned way. We are seeing the next wave in popularity favor the likes of Dunham and her cronies. This is fine but I, being a total asshole, can’t help but think to myself that these kids are the pop punk kids of yesteryear only now they take pride in being pseudo-intellectual grumblers who can be identified by look and soundtrack selection. They even have their own uniform and yes it's bland and unflattering.

I don't find the lack of glamour too refreshing. I have seen plenty of actresses brave the camera without a great make up job. I've seen Kathy Bates get into a hot tub naked. I've Chalize Theron in MONSTER. None of that really impresses me.

I am aware of how mean I’m being right now (I guess that makes me self-aware right?) but I’m only half serious. Don’t you see? That’s what Dunham does to me, she splits me in two. But I understand the appeal here; she is funny and smart and knows how to deliver a promising scenario. In the end I’m with Chris more than Ben and Adrienne (sorry guys) in that I don’t really think Dunham has thus far addressed the ridiculousness of her situation in an interesting manner. She's made a nice joke out of it sure but she has yet to really address it. She is taking a lifetime of privilege and opportunity and crying when dealt with the same problems you and I face on a daily basis. I know she’s aware of this but I’m not satisfied with the way she is dealing with it one episode in. I guess to keep with the 50/50 split concept I’m siding more with the mother here.

ps that homeless dude was truly offensive to me. not sure why she decided to slip that in there. perhaps this is a truly honest portrayal. yipes!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

the last word

The worst imaginable conclusion to beautiful mess would be for people to play it safe. I’m thankful for it because it brought John out of his fake “I hate Film Club and love twitter” hibernation. So please by all means say “fuck you” and start threads that occasionally get kind of weird. I love it. I can take it. I always have and always will. If I misread your sarcasm, it’s on me not you. So please don’t go soft on me and please post more on your blog and delete your twitter account.

I’m also passing time in a sense. It’s been a slow week on the live social interaction front. I had a friend over once on Monday, otherwise I’ve been working and doing this. Fucking pathetic right? But honestly it’s a great way to spend my time because a: it was fun and b: I came away with a better appreciation for a dear friend (cue the Full House crowd sighing). But enough of this, back to our discussion.

I don’t think I irrationally singled out the word hipster in your post you fucking moron. I singled it out because the rest of your post made a lot of sense and the term “hipster horror” didn’t, at least not to me. I wanted for you to elaborate. I don’t need to ask you to tell me what you consider “beautiful” because as long as FC exists (may it never end) I’ll keep learning via your posts what that word equates to as for as cinema is concerned. It was more the combination of words that caught my eye. I should have pointed out the positive elements first and then snuck in “hey John, what the hell does that mean?” but I’m pretty sure it would have led to the same thing, which I love.

I could ask you what “wondrous worldbuilding” meant but I think I grasped it enough to not warrant that. Plus, I WAS being playfully antagonistic in a sense. Like I said before, the combination of terms really intrigued and confused me so I wanted you to elaborate. Be expected to qualify certain aspects of your “reviews” whether or not they are “deeply thought out.” News Flash! I read your posts and respond to them. I think that’s a compliment right? I am going to continue to ask you questions. I am going to continue to question you. I’ve been doing it for a long time now and I’m not about to stop.

I don’t think the correct context was there in the first review so I inquired. I got what I wanted and some more. As for the word itself and specifically your curiosity about why I singled it out, I’ll bite. I might be revealing my youth here but I have certainly heard the word more in the last four years than ever. Webster defines it as:

“a person who is unusually aware of and interested in new and unconventional patterns (as in jazz or fashion)”

Most people who use the word today don’t go by that criteria and when that happens the word itself starts to take on new forms. I heard somebody call somebody else a hipster for having a beard the other day. It reminds me of Alanis Morissette’s IRONIC, by the end of the song you are wondering to yourself “wait, what is irony?” Perhaps being involved in music has put me in closer proximity to the misuse of the word and consequently the rendering of it becoming ambiguous in our culture. It most certainly has become an exclusively hipster term.

I could go on about other words that have lost their meaning but for the time being I’ll stick with this one. I’ll save dork and nerd for another post.

It’s funny. Now that I’ve gotten out of the doghouse (wink wink I’m aware that I wasn’t in the doghouse) with John I find myself in the doghouse with Tara. I am officially public enemy number one and fucking proud of it.

Ps I’ve never really been a big Fleet Foxes fan. On top of the whole “wow we love the Beach Boys when they aren’t singing about girls and cars” vibe they also have a knack for beating around the bushy beard lyrically. On top of finding them generally boring, I find them extremely careful and that takes away from some of the power they should radiate.

i love john

My God this has gotten out of control! Let’s look back to how this started and try to figure out how I ended up on John’s lap once again being scolded and mocked in front of the whole court of Film Club nerds ;). I wrote the following on FB which is probably where I went wrong in the first place as the FB forum has overtaken the blog forum leaving us more susceptible to misunderstandings:

“What exactly is "hipster horror?" What exactly is a hipster in your opinion? You seem to like the word and consequently define it as something quite opposite to your own likes and interests. Do you think of yourself as the anti-hipster and therefore films like John Carter are safe from being labeled by that ambiguous term? Just wondering.”

I can see how that got taken the wrong way. There is a certain antagonistic vibe to it that I sort of intended albeit to be taken lightly and not with such pugnacious pizzazz :). It even led to perhaps Film Club’s first direct “fuck you” which I don’t take lightly though I’m willing to let slide for the time being :). But I should note that if I had posed my question with half of the self-defensive/patronizing tone that he presented I think my thread would have somewhere in the thousands of comments ;). ----For the record I’m pretty sure that post broke the FC record for FB responses, suck on that John. John's Face C====3

I thought it was settled when I brought the fact to his attention that I wasn’t upset by his use of the word but rather curious of what he meant by it. I also noted that I loved his post and that it helped me understand his feelings towards certain types of horror more. That’s my way of playing submissive for the alpha male ;). But then I fucked up again. I read Jason’s post and then John’s response and couldn’t help myself. I had to try and weasel my way into the conversation writing something so utterly offensive that it broke John and I’s sacred peace treaty. If you have young children in the room please….. ear muffs:

“I actually understood a lot about John’s aversion to the genre thanks to his post. But unfortunately I continue to not understand the term hipster in regards to horror or much else for that matter. The word (which I’ve also used a few times) says more about the person using it and less about the person or thing being accused. I would go on but I’m pretty tired.”

I dared suggest that those who choose to use the word hipster (which I have argued is far more ambiguous in meaning in this day age) are saying more about themselves than the person or thing being accused thus booking my room in hell. More on this later.

So John thinks that I have a problem with the word. He thinks that I have been somehow insulted by it rather than befuddled. Or perhaps he’s mad that I’m befuddled. I’m befuddled by his reaction, that’s for damn sure :). I don’t know what it is about me that gets his panties in a bunch but I’m certainly capable of raising him temp more than any of you hipsters ;). So not only do I get to hear about a problem I don’t have with a word I get to wonder how the fuck I’m going to clear myself of the crime I wasn’t aware I committed not once but twice.

So here is my sad attempt at making John stop being a jerk to me on Facebook :). It’s ok ladies and gentlemen, I’m in a band, I’m used to being in the doghouse.

John…. Fuck you. Now we are even. Ok I’m off to a bad start. Let me start that one over.

First of all let me say that I don’ t think either of us should be watching our backs or re-reading our posts in hopes that somebody won’t take it the wrong way and have their period all over the blogosphere :). I know you approve of that so I’ll speak very freely and directly and trust that you believe what I’m saying is true.

I’m sorry if you think I’m attacking you on this stupid hipster topic. I’m willing to admit that it might have appeared mean or condescending the first time around. The second in which I said that using the term hipster says more about the person speaking than the person or thing the word is directed at was not in any way an insult. What I meant, IF YOU MUST KNOW YOU SENSITIVE SCROTUM, was that it tells me more about your viewing experience and gives me greater insight into your subjective point of view. It helps me understand how you were feeling when these “cool self-aware detached irony” moments occurred. It helped me understand more about you than the filmmakers. PS cool and hip are quite different, no?

If you called me a hipster because I wore a Tom Waits shirt (which I’m pretty sure you did at some point) it wouldn’t mean that I’m a hipster necessarily. It WOULD mean that you think people who wear Tom Waits shirts are “cool self-aware detached ironic people.” Does that make sense? Does that bring the temperature down? I hope so. It’s as simple as that. If I call Jeff a hipster because he masturbates to The Blood Brothers, or Chris because he twists his nipples to Garden State, or Jason because he’s tall, or Ben because he knows how to read, or Adrienne because she is a librarian, or Lisa because she’s lying dead in a gorge somewhere, or even you because John Carter will someday be regarded as a modern day DUNE (Lynch is totally a hipster director right?) it would say more about me than you. It would say that I associate those things with the word that shall not be spoken.

I’m not sure why you think I’m butt hurt by the use of it. I don’t really care if you use it. I’m just convinced that its meaning is far less clear than you fucking insist ;). But you don’t like to back down so I’m sure we will be down this road again.

So, I love you and I’m hoping you still love me. We are, after all, the two kings of film club thanks to NY States legalization of same sex monarchy. I really hope the conversation continues, I love that we are all back to write/fight/cry about our love for film. Hopefully, I’m off the slab for a few days at least :).

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

horror and meaning

I wanted to point out a few things outside of the public arena of Facebook. First, my question posed at John was quite literal and not meant in any way to suggest angst or annoyance. I just didn’t understand the term. I understood everything else John wrote. I just didn’t know what he meant by that. Obviously that backfired. But John pointed out that this was just playful antagonism and threatened to use smiley faces and little indicators to reassure me that he was joking. May this never happen. I use the annoying “haha” to comfort my friends when I’m half kidding and half pissed. If you see a “haha” that means I’m only half pissed I guess.

I actually understood a lot about John’s aversion to the genre thanks to his post. But unfortunately I continue to not understand the term hipster in regards to horror or much else for that matter. The word (which I’ve also used a few times) says more about the person using it and less about the person or thing being accused. I would go on but I’m pretty tired.

Jason seems to suggest that this horror film can serve as a gateway drug to other perhaps better or more insider sports horror films. That’s a good thing. It shows a certain craftsmanship that has been missing lately. Ps, I totally would love to make a top ten horror films for non-horror fans. Ideally I’d like to make that list consist of different recommendations for different types of movie fans (arthouse, sissies, weak stomachs, etc). I’ll get on that.

CGI does get in the way of my horror enjoyment. Nothing can beat a good old fashioned make up job.

Horror films and meaning? I understand the desire to find meaning in art but I agree with Jason on this one but perhaps for different reasons. I also enjoy the craftsmanship and aesthetic present in a good horror film. I think you would be a fool to disregard the talent it takes to pull that off. Connecting emotionally with a horror film is a tall order I think, but you are right about the visceral connection. Likewise I think the smug superiority is perhaps misinterpreted as I find myself connecting with the prey rather than the killer. Call it vicarious pleasure, the pleasure of being in danger without actually being in actual danger.

“Transgressions must be punished in these types of horror films, but the audience gets a pass. We get to enjoy others being punished while we sit safe and smug and identify with the folks getting away. We squirm a little, but walk away unchanged.”

I also hate the sanctimonious “people who fuck or smoke dope die first” mentality of a lot of 80s slasher movies. I’m not sure I want to necessarily “change” or even "learn" but I understand the annoyance of witnessing a clever filmmaker follow those boring moral tropes. As far as sitting safe and snug, that’s part of any film experience right? We see dangerous things happen and come away unscathed.

Seriously, why does everyone want to “change” so much after watching a movie? Let me change the nature of that question. Do you really “change” when you see a high art film? Did A SEPERATION or A SERIOUS MAN really “change” you or even change your mind about things or did it just reinforce feelings and sentiments you already had? Or perhaps both films were incredibly effective.

AO Scott sucks.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

what say ye of titanic?

I don’t know how to write about TITANIC. If you are my age (and it seems that at least a few of you are) you probably remember the hysteria and if you were a male you remember all of the ladies losing their shit. I remember rolling into the theater with a large group of friends (co-ed) with the juvenile/devious intention of spoiling the experience for anyone susceptible to its charms. Little did I know that I was also predisposed to be swept up in the spectacle. But even as the film worked a certain undeniable magic I combated my own susceptibility by taking pot shots in order to ward off you know…….feelings. I remember humming John Williams’ JAWS score when Jack was giving Rose her “have lots of babies” speech much to the disapproval of the older woman sitting in front of me. I also remember my friend screaming “MY VIRGIN EYES!” during the Winslet booby scene spurring a few “shut the fuck ups.” The hype lasted well beyond that theater going experience and over time I grew a strong dislike for the film knowing that arguing against/snickering at its fans would be an easy battle to win.

Fifteen years later I was given another chance to see it on the big screen thanks to my card carrying TITANIC fangirl wife Tara. I’m finally with her. I’ve conceded my stubborn hatred and officially flip flopped which leaves me virtually defenseless as detractors can bring evidence (insufferable lines of dialogue, Cameron’s hypocritical social/political ideology, Celine Dion) to the fight and hammer away. It’s kind of like faith pumping deists arguing with science wielding atheists but hopefully without the weeping and gnashing of teeth. I’m hoping that my admission brings a nice dialogue to Film Club as I’m sure there has to be at least a few snarky contrarians (John who is in rare meanie form these days..... ps I love when he gets in that mood) ready to duke it out. I’m ready for you.

So this is my official invitation to tell your own TITANIC stories either old or new. I'm also curious to read defenses and pans in hopes to kick up some dust and/or read some good jokes. Perhaps this can be a good segue into the upcoming romantic film list as I think this movie gets that aspect 100% right albeit in an unmistakably 90s fashion. I kind of hate the whole "old school epic" defense as the film seems more inspired by the work of Ron Clements and John Musker than Griffiths and DeMille. Anyway, is anyone interested?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

i don't hate romantic comedies

I was going to make a Romantic Comedy list but I’m seeing a lot of the same great films being picked and acknowledged for their excellence. I also saw a lot of films that I can’t get on board with being repeated. Instead of making this a contrarian rant I wanted to do a couple of things that I consider pro-active. But before I get to that I think I should clear up a few things. First, I don’t think that the genre is reviled in Film Club despite our consistent dismissal of modern entries. This brings me to Adrienne’s description which is getting much deserved praise and consideration. I think that we should writer to Wikipedia and Webster’s and demand that this be the official definition. Seriously beautiful stuff Adrienne but………….

Under that criteria I would argue that many films of recent times, including ones on everyone’s list thus far (in some cases the honorable mentions list) don’t contain a drop of emotional truth. I would argue that many of them don’t teach us a thing about navigating relationships and I would argue that most of them don’t focus primarily on the wonder of falling in love. I see a lot of cynicism, classicism, and sexism (almost always against women and specifically the way the protagonists almost always adhere to the boring Katherine Heigl archetype). The filmmaking is getting more and more inept as well, not only are they regurgitated but also not willing to learn any new tricks or even improve on the old ones. This isn’t to say that I haven’t seen some good/great ones but in this age of self-awareness this genre seems to have suffered the biggest setbacks.

So I just wanted to clear that up. I love romantic comedies but only when they are done right. Perhaps I’ve underestimated the skill it takes to re-create those feelings we are all so familiar with. Jeff is right about love, it’s strange and capricious just like life. I don’t understand either. I can’t really define love right now, it confuses me. Is it something that comes naturally or do you need to fight for it? Why does something so seemingly strong die? Do we let it die? I’m not sure that it’s a romantic comedies job to answer our questions but rather to make us laugh and give us butterflies. Not all of the great romantic comedies accomplish the same goal or goals and in that fact I think the genre is incredibly budding. So instead of repeating all of the same picks I thought I would name a few that I didn’t see on any of your lists in hopes that you get a chance to see them. ----PS I love all of your lists as well. For some reason I’m on the ropes feeling like a cynical rom com hater.---- Here are some rom coms that I like/love that weren’t brought up before.

Vivacious Lady, Pat and Mike, Irma La Douce, Fools Rush In, Can’t Buy Me Love, Spanglish, You Can’t Take It With You, Raising Victor Vargas, Monkey Business (Hawks), Brown Sugar, The Awful Truth, My Favorite Wife, Heaven Can Wait, and Corpse Bride.

I tried to sprinkle in some less than obvious/questionable films just to ensure you that I’m not a total snob. I DO love the genre and I have high hopes that it’ll get out of its current slog. Perhaps we should do the more serious version of this list later. Do I smell a top ten romance films list?

Friday, April 6, 2012

for john

I know this is a stupid post. It probably should be a comment unfortunately John's comment section is guarded like the Kremlin (or I'm just computer illiterate). Your post made me cheer up and get swollen with anticipation. I've wanted to see that since it came out but now I'm really excited. I don't think you've oversold the thing. This guy made WALL-E and FINDING NEMO and that's enough for me. I was hoping for a DUNEesque disaster and it's looking like I can safely expect more.

hitch's best

Ranking Hitchcock is really hard. I can’t imagine doing it and being satisfied. We all love the guy for different reasons. We all love the guy period. I’m sticking with ten because it would be far too hard to go beyond that point. I’ll try and explain my picks and I hope that all of you that haven’t seen these films can get a chance to do so. There is no snobbery here, no film classic vs. modern film clash of the wills. Everyone should see as many Hitch films as possible because they are for everyone. He didn’t pander to any particular demographic therefore it’s no coincidence that films snobs and novices alike consider him the best.

I ranked these by favorite.

10. Psycho: I would have to go with the shower sequence over the staircase simply because the thing took 50 cuts. I have to say that this film is one that seems to be more respected than loved and it’s easy to see why. It’s really disturbing and incredibly sustained in its anxiety. One thing I love about it is the way it plays with moral reckoning; in that respect this movie is downright terrifying.

9. Rebecca: I once lost a toe nail while watching this movie. Gross right?

8. Dial M for Murder: Hitch had a way of restricting his films to a central environment. I’m not sure why he did this but part of me wants to believe that this is a way of challenging himself into using his creativity to get our blood pumping. More on this later.

7. Foreign Correspondent: I used to think the ending was ridiculous but now I love it. The silo scene is perfecto as well.

6. North by Northwest: I’m not sure where I would go with that Hitch/Grant or Hitch/Stewart poll but I can say that I also have a special place in my heart for this one. I watched it with Tara only months after we had started dating. I was hoping that she would be a fan of older films and sure enough she was a fan of NBNW and my questions/prayers were answered. I also remember that after we watched this film we learned of Joey Ramone’s death so the night was bittersweet.

5. Notorious: This is Jesse Martin’s favorite Hitchcock movie. I actually saw this one for the first time not too long ago, maybe 8 years. It’s not a light film. The scenes in which we see Bergman slowly dying of poisoning are hard to watch. In the 40s you get a real sense of urgency to his films, probably a result of the anxiety of knowing his family was in Europe closer to the marching Nazi army.

4. Shadow of a Doubt: Yeah, this is a terrific Hitchcock film. I like how Cotton’s character is mostly viewed through the eyes of an impressionable young girl. We are let down with her as we learn more and more about her evil uncle Charlie. It’s probably the film on the list, along with REBECCA, that I want to see again the most.

3. The 39 Steps: As far as entertainment value is concerned I don’t think you can get much brisker than this. It moves along effortlessly. The wrong man treatment was never as much fun as here and I think that sometimes, perhaps like John, I prefer this side of the master. On top of being a great suspense film it also manages to be a great comedy and romance picture as well. We’ve learned that it’s hard to juggle genres but apparently not in Hitch’s case.

2. Rear Window: I had a hard time choosing between this and my number 1 (which should be higher on Jeff’s list). As far as formal experiments are concerned I can’t think of another film that works this effortlessly. People forget how tense it gets and how helpless we feel when the ante is upped. We are trapped and immobilized like Stewart, left biting our fists sweating and hopeless. The score is amazing too. Oh and the Simpsons spoof is amazing as well.

1. Vertigo: Duh!!!!

I won’t bother telling you my 11-21 or whatever because this list was hard enough to do in the first place. I had a hard time leaving about 5 films off the list. They were THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY, THE LADY VANISHES, TO CATCH A THIEF (John is wrong), and MARNIE. If you would like to know why those and why not others, ask.

the turin horse

I had seen the name Bela Tarr before but never took much notice until John started talking about a 9 hour film that he wanted to see but probably never would. I think he was trying to brag about his ability to endure such seemingly exhausting cinematic odysseys. I don’t want to sound like Dan Kois but I don’t think I’m capable of it right now in my life; perhaps I can blame that on an extremely low attention span. But I’ve made it through some long ones and some slow ones and even found myself surprised at how much I understood and loved what was going on. So Tarr’s stigma has changed a lot since his name first had meaning to me.

My first film from the Hungarian director is presumably his last, at least that’s what he’s insisting. It’s called THE TURIN HORSE and it runs at about 146 minutes. Before you start wondering what my obsession is with running times I have to say that in this picture’s case it becomes very important to this viewer. There is a masterpiece buried somewhere within this excessively long feature. As an aesthetic choice I don’t disagree with the template, a series of mundane and repetitive actions played out in real time. The problem lies in how many times said actions are played out and how often the point gets absent in the reverie. A 90 minute version would, in my opinion, have a stronger impact especially considering the power of the final twenty minutes.

The film sets up camp with a hansom cab driver and his daughter…. oh and their horse. The film opens with the following narrative: "In Turin on 3rd January, 1889, Friedrich Nietzsche steps out of the doorway of number six, Via Carlo Albert. Not far from him, the driver of a hansom cab is having trouble with a stubborn horse. Despite all his urging, the horse refuses to move, whereupon the driver loses his patience and takes his whip to it. Nietzsche comes up to the throng and puts an end to the brutal scene, throwing his arms around the horse’s neck, sobbing. His landlord takes him home, he lies motionless and silent for two days on a divan until he mutters the obligatory last words, and lives for another ten years, silent and demented, cared for by his mother and sisters. We do not know what happened to the horse.” From there we are thrust into a long sequence of the driver and the horse trudging through a brutal wind. It’s here that we are introduced to the film’s sole musical accompaniment, a great menacing loop of a song that fits the film’s deliberate purgatory.

From there we go to the house where the horse and driver reside and meet his daughter. THE TURIN HORSE is essentially 30 long takes, most of which seem like replicates of one another with the exception of two sets of visitors, a beggar who bears an “anti-Bible” and a group of grotesque gypsies. The routine consists of undressing, sleeping, going to the well in the wind, shoveling shit, cooking potatoes, eating potatoes, and doing it again and again and again. Tarr claims that his final feature is about the “heaviness of human existence” showing us the terror in monotony and purity. This is all measured and I’m sure for fans of the director it’ll come as no surprise pace wise how this thing moves. I’m a rookie but I was aware of his preferred technique and therefore didn’t find myself antsy or bored. But I stand by what I wrote before, a lot of what happens here (or doesn’t happen) could have been said with just as much panache if it had been confined to a less vexing running time. I’m curious to read what you guys think about this one.

the hunger games

I remember when my wife first started talking about a book in which kids are selected from separate districts to fight to the death in a government sanctioned game. I remember thinking to myself “wasn’t that called Battle Royale?” Nope. This is the chaste version, one in which the gory details are spared to ensure that the demographic is able to attend the inevitable big screen adaptation. This is the latest teeny bopper sensation, instead now we move away from wizards and vampires and find ourselves in science fiction territory. Rest assured rudiments of those two cash cows will find their way into this one---- our tomboy (who can also dress up and play girly girl) heroine is torn between two Abercrombie and Fitch hunks and battles with a Slytherin gang of evil blond haired killing machines (evil black haired girl from The Orphan notwithstanding)---- but to the film’s credit THE HUNGER GAMES establishes enough of its own identity to live on.

I’ve read five chapters of the book and I can safely say that I enjoyed it. I liked the way it brought the struggles of youth to a precise context. This could be any teenage story except replacing the cafeteria with a huge arena full of killer CGI dogs and scientifically engineered wasps. I can see why it’s a sensation and I might even try and read the books at some point, but I have to say that I feel kind of bad for those loyal fans going to see their beloved book adapted to the big screen. It’s not a bad film, it’s just surprisingly forgettable.

Let’s face it; most of what will see and hear from this point on will call to mind something else… something better. This is a dystopian smorgasbord with visual and thematic references peppered throughout. A little of Gilliam’s BRAZIL here, a little bit of Truffaut’s FAHRENHEIT 451 there, and if you look to your left you’ll even spot Besson’s FIFTH ELEMENT. Aesthetically this thing is a mess but I can’t say that I expected much more from Gary Ross who hasn’t technically attempted something like this before, his oeuvre thus far = PLEASANTVILLE and SEABISCUIT (Yeesh!). In this film’s world we have two basic forms of existence, life in the districts and life in the capital. Life in the districts is akin to life during the Great Depression; dirty, starving, and full of good people in perpetual sorrow. Here we meet Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence of WINTER’S BONE fame) a 16 year old girl who hunts and gathers for her younger sister and mother. She is a symbol of strength through suffering, perhaps one of the 99% if you want to go there. She is up against a powerful society built not only to squash an uprising but to debase them every year with a cruel contest.

The Capital holds an annual lottery to select a male and female from each district to partake in the aforementioned duel to the death. The lottery stratagem was a nice touch, calling to mind the Shirley Jackson short story that I was inexplicably forced to read at very young age. Katniss’ sister is chosen despite the odds being overwhelmingly in her favor and big sis volunteers herself in her stead. Now we know what we already knew, she is a young woman with moral integrity. *Note to self: root for her.

The boy chosen immediately throws after her tosses his name figuratively in a separate bowl, the “who will she choose” basin commonly utilized in the teenage book version of adult romance novels. The other potential love interest appears to be a neighbor and friend of the family. He doesn’t get much screen time thankfully. From there we have goodbyes and a train ride where we meet Woody Harrelson and his new wig. Apparently he is the only person to have won the games from their district and the killing has taken its toll on him as we see him (GASP!) drink whiskey like twice.

From the dustbowl we go to the capital, a place inhabited by men and women who like to dye their hair funny colors. It’s a drastic change in setting but one that ultimately says nothing that hasn’t already been said in better films (and with much more nerve and transparency). This is a consistent problem with THE HUNGER GAMES, every blade is curved in order to spare us the point. There are big ideas here buried beneath Ross’ spineless studio appeasing direction, only hints of what could have been. Once the players are trained and fed to the public in order to ensure sponsorship it’s time for battle. Once again we get no surprises here. The bad guys are bullies and the good guys are….. well good. The evil empire is a bunch of weird looking boring aristocrats who occasionally mirrored our reality TV obsessed middle/upper class culture. They are morally neutral and all about appearances. Sadly the film is too far in bed with this demographic to actually say something on the matter so we skip ahead to the “violence.”

Sidenote: We’ve all heard it said before that we are being desensitized to violence. As much as I don’t like the guy’s films I agree with Darren Aronofsky when he says that the ratings system is ass backwards with violent content. We should be scrutinizing films and filmmakers in this day and age for making a bullet wound look like fun. We should be terrified of what could happen and how that would look, smell, and feel. THE HUNGER GAMES is about kids being forced to kill one another. The ages seem to range from 9 to 18 so the author obviously had no problem with the notion of this thing being disturbing. This is why I feel that Lion’s Gate and Ross have done the book, it’s writer, and the fans a disservice by looking away.

The opening moments of the game set the pace for what lies ahead, great buildup and poor execution. Look at the scene in which we get are treated to an intense countdown only to lead to a shaky cam massacre in which murder is blurred and skewed just enough to be unmistakably PG-13. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t want to see kids being obliterated in a gory set piece. Instead I would like these deaths to have more of an impact, perhaps don’t show us anything and let us hear it instead. But what we find with Ross’ blunted social commentary is that we mustn’t offend anyone, the only time in which death can be graphic is when it’s inflicted upon the predestined evil teens. Ross even has the nerve to include a scene in which an evil character rubs in the death of an obviously purer character right before getting her comeuppance. Thanks dude, we really needed that extra exposition in order to prepare us for the murder awaiting.

Good performances and strength of source material aside I found this film vexing. Every time the momentum started to pick up something knocked it down. After a while I gave up and let the thing sputter to the finish line. I gave up asking what it really wanted to accomplish outside of the obvious ($$$$$$$$). I gave up hoping for a bold message and like most of the characters watching the games from their futuristic television sets found myself settling for entertainment. I guess what I’m trying to say is that THE HUNGER GAMES left me starving. C+

Thursday, April 5, 2012

alright i'll come clean

I just wanted to start another war so that we can rekindle Film Club. By Film Club I'm referring to the one you blasphemed earlier today. Remember that Film Club John? So this was my attempt to burn down the field and start a beautiful harvest for us all. I actually love SUSPICION as well. Your defense of it, though short, is really well taken. I think that it really does subvert the romantic comedy and keeping us in doubt until the final frame and even then I wonder what might happen when the two get home alone.

As for MR. AND MRS. SMITH I don't have anything else to add. I think I'm the one who should be on the ropes with this one. I just didn't like it that much when I saw it. It wasn't as low as something like TOPAZ but it felt slight at the time. I'll definitely check it out again.

I'll try to start another fight soon. Hopefully then I'll be more successful.

I plan to write about THE TURIN HORSE soon as well as post those top ten lists. To the peeps who haven't seen more than ten films, make it a top five. At least we will all be singing the praises of the master.

a few more responses and a little astonishment

I’m just going to dive in here Jeff.

I’m completely content with CAT PEOPLE being credited with the economic scare trophy. It was revolutionary and when compared to the films that came before it’s all the more impressive and encouraging as a work of art. Think about it. Lewton worked for a company that was going head to head with giants, RKO had to find some way to compete with the little money and resources they had. Also, they didn’t have the stars on their payroll. So they hooked up with great artists, men who understood human nature and reaction and told them to turn the water into wine. Don’t forget, Lewton worked for those titans and continually clashed with their megalomania.

RKO needed someone who could turn a huge profit using their imagination and ingenuity. To take the sound of bus brakes and make it horror gold isn’t in the typical big budget director’s repertoire. Not all low budget art works but when it does you just might find the more expensive film on the lower end of the marque. That’s a beautiful thing and Lewton’s films themselves are not just clever marketing schemes but legit works of art (at least most of them are). I was just entertaining that notion because sometimes it gets real boring to simply gush over great films, sometimes questioning their stature is the best way to appreciate them. Great art stands the test.

I’m constantly nagged by the notions of “what if?” For me I would wonder how we might rank 42 if I MARRIED A WITCH was on every AFI list and CASSABLANCA was just now being offered on Hulu Plus. What if the roles were switched? What are the stipulations that effect and cloud our judgment? So basically when I asked that question and came up with answer I was just illuminating my own insecurities and neurosis. I can’t trust my own intentions. List making is tough. But I wanted to look at something you wrote and pick at you a little here.

“Honesty is the best way to go here. I think it's something that AFI needs to learn, something that IMDB raters need to learn, and something I constantly have to remind myself: go with what you love.”

I don’t want to defend the voters at AFI or IMDB but I wonder why we wouldn’t include Senses of Cinema, They Shoot Pictures Don’t They, and every other group of people who make lists with the intention of countering what these big organizations declare. These upcoming lists will really bring my point home. Some of us will have cliché Hitchcock picks and others (John’s list already comes to mind) will be there waiting to mix it up. Honesty is key but sometimes I think our honesty is clouded by outside factors, things we know that get under our skin.

Since we’ve both acknowledged that we like to champion the underdog I wonder if that sometimes gets in the way of that honesty. CASSABLANCA is incredibly unhip, it’s easier to bash than CITIZEN KANE or THE GODFATHER. It’s ripe for a lack of appreciation. But I wonder what would happen if the film had been removed from that stigma. Don’t you?

I’m totally down to do the cinematography list.

I’m glad you loved THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE and SEVEN MEN FROM NOW. I think the first film is startling. It seems like it came from a different time and place. It’s even somewhat revolting at times. The scene in SEVEN MEN where Scott is beneath the wagon kind of reminded me of the scene in the hallway in DRIVE, the way sex can happen with all of your clothes on and with a bridge of distance between you and someone else.

John, I’m going to eventually talk about your Hitch and Romantic Love top ten list. I need to add ROMANTIC LOVE to my list of lists that I need to list. It’s interesting to see your number three and four on the Hitch list. I vehemently disagree with both picks. I’ve never really been a fan of Mr. and Mrs. Smith and found SUSPICION to be good but nowhere near other films you ranked lower. I’m curious to find out why NORTH BY NORTHWEST, THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY, THE 39 STEPS, and FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT ranked so damn low. I know you are a fan of those films. Please defend yourself.

kill list

Some films immediately strike me with their tone. There is something in the atmosphere that triggers my sense of safety and puts me at a sudden state of caution. And while it’s not exactly a sign of talent or inspiration to pull this off it signifies a certain way with the language of cinema. KILL LIST understands the importance of interjecting that teasing ominous dread to an otherwise routine film about everyday men who kill people for a living. It’s quite intriguing at times though I don’t know if I would consider the ending satisfactory.

I don’t want to get into it too much because I’d like for some of you to be able to see it with little to no foreknowledge of what waits ahead. The film is building up towards something and the film does a good job of disguising what that actually is. By the time it reveals itself I can honestly say that most viewers will find it at least a little surprising. What I liked is how well it handled the initial shock, the way the director used location and claustrophobia to add to the already mounting tension. What I found disappointing is the final five minutes in which anyone who had caught on to the film’s overt cynicism would be able to call it without much thought or effort. It simply exists to shock and appall and I don’t think it successfully does either.

Still, this is very good when it’s good and only disappointing when it flounders. It’s never bad. It’s never unfocused. I think if I were to go back and watch it again (which I won’t) I’d be impressed by how clear the vision really is here. The violence is extremely effective, especially a scene in which a blood oath in unexpectedly struck. I felt like I could feel the sharp sting of a clean slice. I urge anyone who wants to see this to avoid the Rotten Tomatoes site as a few of the reviews compare this film to a very famous one from the past and hereby ruin the surprise. I wish I hadn’t read that beforehand. B

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

broadway danny rose.... a few thoughts

I don’t think Woody Allen will ever top BROADWAY DANNY ROSE. Like Adrienne and Jeff said, it deals with some serious shit in rather hilarious ways. That's the best formula a comedy can offer. The opening scene really does set the pace beautifully. It also establishes an island of misfit artists that I found more endearing than anything the director has conjured up before or since.

The idea here is that business can swallow everything including love and friendship and especially art. It’s a bit unfair in regards to artists taking the opportunity to move ahead in life but shows the way money and success almost immediately change a performer’s outlook on what they do and how they treat others. In my short musical career I've noticed that those who are willing to make those ME ME ME choices almost always end up making the big bucks. All they have to endure is a few snide comments on message boards and zines. So while I find Danny a bit idealized I know that what Allen is saying about the biz is absolutely true and ultimately tragic. Sometimes real life is cruel.

I think Adrienne and Jeff said all that I meant to say. I find the jokes to be on point and the scenarios are handled like a true classicist should. The black and white photography works like a charm. The chemistry is perfect. The music is great. What can I add? This is his masterpiece.

I think we might try and do another top ten list for all of us partake in. Any ideas? Perhaps it'll get us all back on the Film Club wagon.

Monday, April 2, 2012

jeff's 1942 list

Picking on Jeff for his number placement seems stupid as he obviously exhibits impeccable taste in film, especially the old black and white ones. Maybe for the sake of argument or even to get myself back in the game I’m going to try and take mild issue with perhaps my favorite comedy of all time not being at the number one spot. I think it was Mark Twain who said “To be or not to be…. that is not a question.” See! Even Twain thinks that you got your number one and two switched. I think what he meant to say was “To Be or Not to Be….. no question.”

I know you stress over these picks so I don’t mean to bust your balls. I think that THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS is great. It made my number 4 slot but could easily sneak past the other two on a rainy day. Ranking is so arbitrary and yet I find it irresistible. So instead of griping (or fake griping in my case) I’d like to interact with you on your picks.

The Magnificent Ambersons: 50 minutes of lost footage aside this is a great film. Wait a minute! How can I just shrug off 50 minutes of footage?! That’s a lot of film to account for. What if that footage brought the film down as a whole? That’s rather doubtful. Welles’ had one of the more peculiar careers as far as missing footage was concerned. Who put that hex on the man? Was it William Randolph Hearst? As far as comparing it to KANE I don’t really want to play king of the mountain with that one. I don’t think Welles ever topped it but I think it’s fair to hold each of his films up to it all the while I avoid doing that very thing. So why do I have it below a shitty Abbott and Costello comedy (the funniest and perhaps most inspired of their collaborations) and a low budget horror flick? I simply need to see it again. I’m excited to bask in the qualities that you exonerate. I’m interested in the cultural/historical parallels that exist, the ways in which the industrial age connects with a country knee deep in what some consider a “just war.” Great pick Jeff, even if you neglected my personal fave of the that year.

To Be or Not To Be: I can’t believe you brought up Jack Benny’s facial reactions. That exact thing had my gut busting. He has an uproariously expressive face and the situations that have him utilizing it work perfectly. I can’t think of many films as successful as this one. It has a clear objective and doesn’t waste a second accomplishing it. This isn’t the easiest material to succeed with, like most Lubitsch movies it mixes the risqué with the light and makes something that can only be described as the touch. Has anyone else seen this one?

To get this out of the way I haven’t had a chance to see Ozu’s THERE WAS A FATHER, I MARRIED A WITCH, as well as RANDOM HARVEST. I’ll probably try to check them out soon to improve my admittedly weird list for this year. Jeff really gets wild for Ozu.

Cat People: I wonder if this film can/should be credited with ushering in a new era of low budget horror. I know this is the general dialogue going around but I’m not so sure that Lewton is the pioneer of shoestring creativity in the horror genre. I know that most horror films of that era were lavish and expensive, especially the great Universal pictures of the thirties. But I also think of M, FREAKS, and THE BLACK CAT to entertain the notion that a lot of the big scares in CAT PEOPLE were inspired by earlier films. I’m probably way off here and Lord knows I adore Lewton’s amazing RKO run but I wonder if that notion is 100% historically accurate. Stupid quibbles aside (man I’m really itching for a big group discussion!) I think I would have to agree with you about those scares. To refer back to Welles’ I think it was he that said the worst handicap an artist can ever have is a lot of money. I’m botching that quote but the message there is that when faced with financial restraints an artist is forced to dig deeper for that mode of expression. It’s always brought up but when talking about CAT PEOPLE it’s hard not to think of Minnelli’s masterpiece THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL and the scene where Kirk Douglas simply flips off the light switch.

Casablanca: It seems impossible to separate this film from its reputation and status. Curtiz’s film has been America’s b&w gateway drug for a long time now along with IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. In both cases I would argue that ignoring the hype and simply watching and appreciating it outside of the pantheon is important. But is that possible? Like many I seem to enjoy exalting the underdog or going with the more esoteric choice but in many cases I find that the love is earned. On a technical level I think Curtiz might have been in the top five American directors. I’m interested in why we both ranked this one so low.

The Palm Beach Story: It’s easy to get your Sturges’ all knotted up. I know I love this picture but I’m not sure what it’s even about. Better go back and re-watch it.

Saboteur: Like Welles, people always seem inclined to measure his films against each other. You read a lot of “not essential Hitch” or “not one of the master’s best” or “middle of the road Hitch.” This begs the question “what if he hadn’t directed it?” Jason’s glasses analogy is becoming more and more relevant as time goes on. SABOTEUR has a lot in common with the director’s other “wrong man” films and as Jeff correctly points out it has grander ambitions. The Statue of Liberty finale is really ballsy stuff. I like Robert Cummings and Priscilla Lane in this one, though to fall in line with the others I prefer THE 39 STEPS.

Bambi: Recently I heard a podcast in which Andrew Stanton claimed that this film is his favorite cartoon of all time. I trust the man’s opinion. It’s easy to underrate the early Disney features, gladly neither of us are susceptible to the allure of adulthood. Truth be told, these are incredibly mature films made by men and women who took art very seriously. If you don’t believe me just take a look at some of the individual frames here. Look at the detail. This is the first film I remember seeing in theaters, back in 1988.

That’s all for now. Please send me that list of 1962 films that you’ve all seen. I’d like to post that list in the next two weeks. I probably won’t be nearly as ambitious about getting that done as I was before tour. It just doesn’t really get me excited right now. That doesn’t mean I won’t be watching a lot of film. Sorry if I’m not responding to everything that everyone has written. I’m trying to go back and write a thing or two but that won’t happen for most of what has been posted. Sorry.

rare exports and the killing

It’s time to get back to writing about movies. First up RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE.

This is perhaps a more successful Spielberg homage than last year’s SUPER 8. It captures the fears and triumphs of a young child when confronted by something adults don’t understand. In this film’s case we have a lonely child who has lost his mother. He isn’t particularly sensitive, able to endure a good amount of yelling, grabbing, and threatening. His father loves him but understandably loses his temper when his son puts a bear trap at the bottom of the chimney. His friend straight up beats on him while the other adults knock him down or straight up ignore his existence. He handles it all with a shrug. SPOILER!!!! When his father’s livelihood is threatened by an army of evil elves he rises to the occasion and saves the day. We get camera flares, slow motion, a Williamesque score, close ups of a boy’s face filled with wonder or fear, and legitimate tension along with an ending that might seem more akin to Bob Clark, Joe Dante, or Larry Cohen . This is a satisfying film indeed. B+

I’ve been watching THE KILLING lately and despite some extremely worn and uninspired reoccurring tropes I have to admit that I’m completely addicted. It takes plenty of cues from both cinema and television, almost always from superior sources but has enough aesthetic value and overall diversion to suck one in. Call me a sucker.

lonely are the punks

So Jerzy was kind enough to come bearing gifts when we met at Big Snow in Brooklyn. He brought me a compilation of Cometbus zines numbering 44-48, almost all a glimpse into the mind of a dude who claims to be a punk rock anthropologist. It’s basically an accumulation of short stories about people he’s encountered, mostly of the punk rock persuasion. I loved this book despite the inherent contradictions that present themselves when one person dedicates a whole dialogue and prose to that particular scene.

I’ve been a part of it for years though I wouldn’t claim to have ever been in an actual punk band. The term can be stretched, I’m sure, to fit some aspects of the some of the songs that I’ve written but I’m not entirely convinced that I’ve ever done something that would meet Aaron’s approval. That’s not the point here, the point is that he is willing to be an honest person and I didn’t realize how refreshing it is to read the thoughts of someone without that chip on their shoulder. Despite some eye rolling moments I was completely enthralled. Thanks a ton Jerzy!

How does this relate to film? Well if you are willing to go there with me I’ll gladly relate it to LONELY ARE THE BRAVE, a film that I interpreted as the death of the individual. Like Aaron Cometbus, Kirk Douglas’ Jack Burns is faced with the extinction of this way of life. Both pine for the old days and inevitably sound kind of perturbing but that’s all they have left. The retentions of those days that somehow brought meaning seem to give them the relevance they need to get by, especially as they see these old faces either die or heed to the pull of society. In both cases the message hit home.

As reality has been slowly catching up with me I felt akin to the man on the horse trying desperately to cross the highway to freedom. I haven’t been quite derailed yet but I can sense the oncoming traffic. In both cases I think there is something ugly and beautiful about these men. There is something realistic and yet idealistic within them. They both contain a pure love for humankind as well as a very real sense of disdain for humanity. These contradictions are honest and in the case of Mr. Cometbus they are almost always checked and examined. This is the type of real introspection you hope to see in an artist. Once again, thanks a lot Jerzy.