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Screening Log 2005 - What did you watch this week?
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Monkeypox
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Joined: 17 Jul 2003
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Location: TX

PostPosted: 02.09.2005 10:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I felt they were far into the realm of caricature. Half of my family lives in trailers, but I've never seen anybody like that in my life. They were one-dimensional, and I can't believe people would applaud the film for that. The villainous "Drago" fighter was also ridiculous and unbelievable, IMO.
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matt header
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PostPosted: 02.10.2005 12:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's the most obvious problem I found with Million Dollar Baby, the portrayal of Maggie's family -- a glimpse of humanity overshadowed by an eventual role as villains and caricatures. But I agree that it's one of the few faults of the film, which is otherwise outstanding.
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beltmann
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Location: West Bend, WI

PostPosted: 02.14.2005 12:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

2/7 ? 2/13/05

Good week, mostly because I?ve been sick for most of it and sat in front of the TV more than usual.

In preferential order:

The Battle of Algiers (Pontecorvo, France-Algeria 1965)

Hotel Rwanda (George, Canada 2004)

Time of the Wolf (Haneke, UK 2003)

I Remember Mama (Stevens, USA 1948)

Random Harvest (LeRoy, USA 1942)

Intermission (Crowley, Ireland 2003)

The Divorcee (Leonard, USA 1930)

The Clearing (Brugge, USA 2004)

Ready (short; Dellicour, UK 2002)

Marathon (Naderi, USA 2002)

The Merry Widow (Lubitsch, USA 1934)

King Arthur (Fuqua, USA 2004)

Dad?s Dead (short; Shepherd, UK 2003)

The World of Interiors (short; Schendler, UK 2001)

Gozu (Miike, Japan 2003)

Good Will to Men (short; Hanna and Barbera, USA 1955)

Wish I had time to elaborate. Maybe I?ll post further thoughts later. I?ll just say that I never want to meet Takashi Miike in person, and that I agree with Danny that Hotel Rwanda is better than The Girl Next Door.

Eric
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mfritschel
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Joined: 27 Jun 2003
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Location: Port Washington, WI

PostPosted: 02.14.2005 2:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In order of preference as usual:

Bad Education (Almodovar, 2005)

We Don't Live Here Anymore (Conran, 2004)

The Grudge (Shimizu, 2004)

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (Conran, 2004)

Sky Captain really started out as an interesting movie and had me captivated for the first 15 minutes but then it slowly dropped off till by the ending I had lost all interest and was just left waiting for the all to predictable ending. As far as the Grudge goes it really wanted to accomplish nothing more that make you jump in your seat, which it does rather effectively. It seemed to have more to offer that the Japanese version, being mostly that it made an actual attempt at a plot and the obvious much better effects and general movie atmosphere, the characters resemble something a slightly more intimidating then the people just painted blue that were found in the Japanese version.

As far as the other to We Don't Live Here Anymore seemed to contain much of the same type of on screen poeticness of All the Real Girls, but seemed to fall a little short, it was a solid and intersting movie but just seemed it could not put it all together by the end. And then there was Bad Education which I am still pondering over, a rather intersting and provactive movie experience that was much different then I was expecting, but still maintained a type of Almodovar-esque feel to it.
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 02.14.2005 4:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

2/7/05-2/13/05

Boogeyman (Kay, 2005) - Well-made, above average spookfest with some genuine surprises...and then the ending comes along and ruins it.

Cat People (Tourneur, 1942) - Next to Karloff?s creature in Frankenstein, Irena is the most sympathetic ?monster? in horror film. Not only is this poor foreign girl wrestling with a troubling ancestry, she?s treated abysmally by her husband, her friend, and her psychiatrist; and in the end even God gives her the finger. At least the psychiatrist is up front about his piggishness. Cat People remains the most visually striking of the Val Lewton horror movies, very noir in style, yet it plays thematically like an anti-noir, wherein the femme fatale is male, and the repression of sexuality, instead of sexuality as an impetus, acts as the main character?s undoing.

The Million Dollar Hotel (Wenders, 2000) - This is the first Wim Wenders movie I?ve seen that I actively disliked -- and I even mostly liked Until the End of the World. I did like some of the dialogue, and cinematographer Papmichael composes at least a dozen or shots that are wonderful enough to frame and hang on the wall. But the inmates are running the asylum here. The cast?s performance is shrill and self-conscious (every scene is in desperate need of a straight man), and while Jeremy Davies? work is singularly awful, it?s at least consistent throughout the course of the film; the intensity of everyone else?s delivery seems based on the amount coffee they drank before the take. The performances, however, might at least be bearable if the story was at all interesting.

Finding Neverland (Forester , 2004) - While this movie ostensibly wishes to champion the creative mind, it lacks any insight, and ends up presenting a rather facile view of the pleasures and values of imagination. It?s not a bad movie; it just possesses more conviction than perception. Weakest of the Best Picture nominees I?ve seen so far.

Million Dollar Baby (Eastwood, 2004) - Really good movie, probably my favorite this year, second only to (still) Eternal Sunshine. I read over Monkeypox?s objections, and I think we saw different movies. First, I never felt an ounce of manipulation. Indeed, what exactly is the movie attempting to manipulate the audience to feel or think? It left me with a great amount of emotional and intellectual ambiguity, and was certainly nothing like a self-conscious feel-gooder or tear-jerker. Second, the members of Maggie?s family are, in my experience, more than caricature; I have encountered people who really are so infantile, self-obsessed, and mean, and not all of them live in trailers. But even if I disagree with Monkeypox?s judgment, I still respect his opinion, since it?s based on his own considered perception. Michael Medved, on the other hand, ?hates? this movie because he thinks it disagrees with his adopted ideology, and that I cannot respect. SPOILERS Medved sees everything through a haze of religio-political dogma, and is so obsessed with advancing his own propaganda that he only understands everything else in terms of propaganda. Politicizing the third act of MDB strikes me as singularly bizarre. I understand that Medved objects to the course of action the two main characters follow. I too think they made the wrong decision. But in his hysterical, knee-jerk mindset, he fails to realize that the movie virtually sympathizes with his views; or at least it perceives the troubling and regretful consequences of Maggie and Frankie?s decision, though it understands the situation from a practical and psychological perspective. Yet it is this very angle, I think, that is Medved?s stumbling block. The movie observes the moral decision Frankie makes, even though the narrative itself remains morally irresolute, and leaves the viewer to consider the consequences of Frankie?s action himself. Since Medved sees the world only in terms of black and white, panic strikes him when a thing comes along that is ultimately indefinite; and since MDB is not perfectly aligned with his views, his only intellectual recourse is to assume it to be in opposition to them. By stating that Eastwood and Shank?s ?star power glamorizes assisted suicide?, he takes the simple-minded tack that so characterizes current political discourse and reduces oppositional views (or views he perceives as oppositional) to careless superficiality. But his moral certainty is bereft of nuance and is utterly incapable of discerning how the human condition is separate from the society and the institutions it creates. MDB views the world as a place that requires constant compromise and guarantees no rewards. A movie that forces him to consider such a world, I think, is what really provokes Medved?s ire.
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beltmann
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Joined: 26 Jun 2003
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PostPosted: 02.14.2005 10:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well-said. I agree with every word, NW, and would add only that this is yet another example of how Medved's reactionary politics limit his usefulness as a critic--he's so determined to root out Eastwood's "political agenda" that he blindly misses how the moral ambiguities of this story are exactly what make it an important work. Assigning political motives to what is clearly intended to be a particular story about two particular people and their particular circumstances betrays a serious lapse in taste as well as judgment.

Eric
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Jim Harper
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Joined: 29 Feb 2004
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Location: Totnes, Devon, UK

PostPosted: 02.14.2005 10:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I haven't seen the film or read Medved opinions but I don't consider him much of a critic. The Golden Turkey books are way too smug for my liking.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 02.14.2005 10:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is from the Focus on the Family review:

SPOILERS

To be fair, the movie doesn?t specifically tell us whether Frankie?s choice to help Maggie end her life is right or wrong. To a point, it leaves that up to us. The glaring problem, though, is that the story seems to sacrifice the integrity of its characters for the sake of the issue. Maggie has exhibited far too much courage and tenacity throughout the film for us to buy the fact that she's giving up now. So the filmmakers try to recast her (assisted) suicide as an act of gutsy heroism, of defiantly seeking death out on her own terms rather than waiting around for it to find her.

I disagree with the judgment that the film "sacrifices the integrity of its characters for the sake of the issue." In fact, I feel the reverse is true: MDB is less an "issue picture" than a specific portrait of a tormented and torn man whose confusion is only intensified when faced with a very real moral dilemma. Personal uncertainty is the real "issue" of the movie, and Eastwood manages to use that subject to cast light on the vastness of our spiritual interiors. Christians ought to be praising this movie, not attacking it.

Eric
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 02.14.2005 10:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jim Harper wrote:
I haven't seen the film or read Medved opinions but I don't consider him much of a critic. The Golden Turkey books are way too smug for my liking.


One of the worst books I've ever read about the movies is Medved's Hollywood vs. America, which predicates every single one of its arguments upon a profound misunderstanding of how art actually functions. The problem with that book is precisely what NW articulated above: "Medved sees everything through a haze of religio-political dogma, and is so obsessed with advancing his own propaganda that he only understands everything else in terms of propaganda."

Perhaps I should mention that I last read the book a decade ago. I've never forgotten it, though, mostly because I found it so exasperatingly simplistic.

Eric
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 02.14.2005 10:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What made me so enraged against the Medved case was his failure to recognize the idea of tragedy in a narrative. He is, a very insightful political commentator, but he doesn't understand the first thing about concluding a film. While it is questionable if the very liberal Paul Haggis wanted to include a liberal theme, that is insignificant. How else could the movie have ended? Do we really have to agree with what characters do? Medved liked We Don't Live Here Anymore, which promotes adultery no more than Million Dollar Baby does euthanasia. This is one of the few instances that I want to say [i]it's only a movie, even if that statement dillutes the idea of filmmaking itself.

Not to mention, he gave Fahrenheit 9/11, which is mostly blatant propaganda, a higher grade than Million Dollar Baby, a deep, multi-layered story, which simply wants to be told and admired. The Right's reaction to Million Dollar Baby seems to me like The Left's reaction to The Passion of the Christ. Jumping on ridiculous conclusions, they are denying a director's right to tell a story. If you look at Eastwood's own political stance and the depiction of Maggie's family, how in the world do you come up with the movie being liberal? And, even so, does it really matter as long as it triggers emotional response? Sure, I can see that you would no longer think Maggie is as good a character by the end, but does one really have to agree with someone to like them?

Now, more than ever, I'm eager to pick up that copy of Medved's Hollywood vs. America sitting in the corner of my room.
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 02.14.2005 11:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not familiar with the complete Golden Turkey list, but if Plan 9 From Outer Space tops it, then I can only say that the Medveds have been fortunate in their collective movie-watching experience. I ought to send a copy of St. John's Wort or Lamberto Bava's Devilfish their way to introduce them to the real world.

I believe Focus on the Family missed the boat too, but I guess nothing else can be expected from a group that comprehends art through the prism of "issues".
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Monkeypox
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Joined: 17 Jul 2003
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PostPosted: 02.14.2005 11:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, my views on Million Dollar Baby have very little to do with its supposed agenda (which I don't really believe it has, anyway).
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 02.15.2005 12:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

the night watchman wrote:
I believe Focus on the Family missed the boat too, but I guess nothing else can be expected from a group that comprehends art through the prism of "issues".


I don't mind commentators trying to place films within a social or moral context--some of my favorite criticism falls under that umbrella--but the problem with groups like Focus on the Family is their simplified tunnel vision. Their agenda warps all sense of perspective. We might argue that a critic like David Walsh, of the World Socialist Website, also writes from within a tunnel, but his comments always start from a sophisticated place--his agenda is at least informed by a very real sense of how and why art has power. While his analyses attempt to expand how we think about art, Focus on the Family does the reverse.

Eric
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 02.15.2005 5:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

beltmann wrote:
While his analyses attempt to expand how we think about art, Focus on the Family does the reverse.


That's what I meant to say; they have the idea the purpose of art lies within some sort of clear didactical objective.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 02.15.2005 7:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

the night watchman wrote:
beltmann wrote:
While his analyses attempt to expand how we think about art, Focus on the Family does the reverse.


That's what I meant to say; they have the idea the purpose of art lies within some sort of clear didactical objective.


Their mistake is in believing that's the only possible function of art.
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