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Screening Log 2005 - What did you watch this week?
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Jim Harper
Director


Joined: 29 Feb 2004
Posts: 226
Location: Totnes, Devon, UK

PostPosted: 02.17.2005 1:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

11/02/05-18/02/05

Lovesick Dead (dir. Kazuyuki Shibuya, 2001)*

Focus (dir. Satoshi Isaka, 1996)*

World Apartment Horror (dir. Katsuhiro Otomo, 1991)*

Thirst (dir. Rod Hardy, 1979)*

Gemini (dir. Shinya Tsukamoto, 1999)*

Tetsuo II (dir. Shinya Tsukamoto, 1991)

Donnie Darko (dir. Richard Kelly, 2001)

The Trollenberg Terror (dir. Quentin Lawrence, 1958)

Blue Spring (dir. Toshiaki Toyoda, 2001)*

20 Millions Miles to Earth (dir. Nathan Juran, 1957)*

Resident Evil: Apocalypse (dir. Alexander Witt, 2004)*

Very pleased with this week's viewing. Lovesick Dead is a decent Ito manga adaptation, and head and shoulders above even the best of the Tomie series.

Focus is one of the best low-budget films I've seen in a while. It's the story of a loner exploited by a film crew, and while there's little in the way of humour, I would say it's better than Man Bites Dog.

World Apartment Horror is fun comedy-horror from the director of Akira. It's not perfect- it takes a turn for the serious that doesn't quite work and the 'message' is put across in terribly saccharine terms- but I did enjoy it.

Blue Spring is also excellent. Depressing and largely plotless, but a very good look at youngsters dealing with the futility of their lives.

Donnie Darko is still one of my all-time favourites.

My appreciation of Tsukamoto's work tends to vary upon my mood; sometimes I can't stand what he does, other times it's absolutely perfect.

20 Million Miles to Earth was good, but relying upon the alien's ugliness to mark him out as a villain didn't really work. The alien was clearly the victim, so there seemed little heroism to the hero's actions. Fun, but flawed.
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beltmann
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Joined: 26 Jun 2003
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PostPosted: 02.20.2005 11:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

2/14 ? 2/20/05

The Wings of Eagles (Ford, USA 1957). John Wayne plays Frank "Spig" Wead, the real-life Navy man who battled for advances in aviation before a tumble down a staircase snapped his neck. This is a good story, but Ford doesn't seem half as interested in Wead's recovery, his rocky marriage, or his emotions?once Wead?s body goes limp, so does the movie. This is about a love affair, maybe, but about the one Wead has with the Navy and his "boys." The Navy has never looked more like a glorified fraternity.

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (Stoppard, UK 1990). I loved the clever wordplay?especially the verbal game staged like an intense tennis match--but what sticks to the ribs is how Stoppard meditates on the nature of fate and destiny.

The Notebook (Cassavetes, USA 2004). As she shoved the DVD into my hands, a student ordered me to watch this over the weekend. I didn't love the movie, but I didn't really mind it, either. (In this case, the saccharine romance at its center is somewhat justified because it's meant to represent the idealized memories of a now elderly couple.) Mostly, the film got me thinking about why I enjoy melodramas and tearjerkers, even manipulative and dishonest ones. It?s routine to justify horror movies on rollercoaster grounds?the ?safe? sense of fear can be entertaining, and it can also teach us how to confront and understand that emotion. Why can?t the same logic be applied to movies that provide similarly exaggerated and "safe" versions of love and sadness? If we can accept action and horror movies that go way over the top, and find artistic glory in their excesses, why can?t we extend the same courtesy to emotional melodramas? Surely we can find the same art in tears as we can in blood? (If some of that sounds familiar, it?s because I cribbed a chunk of it from an earlier screening log entry.)

Lust for Life (Minnelli, USA 1956). I may be in the minority, but I think Kirk Douglas? performance as Van Gogh is extraordinary, and helps Minnelli capture a degree of agony and passion that seems unrivaled in his other work. Despite the reliance on melodrama and didactic conversations about painting theory, this still ranks among my favorite movies about artists.

plus 7 short films

Tenth (Kovalakides, USA 2002)

Pishadoo (Ricci and Canzoniero, USA 1999)

Sleep (Thompson, UK 2002)

Fish Never Sleep (Denis, UK 2002)

Coda (Sakurai and Spirk, USA 2001)

Non-Abductees Anonymous (Powell, USA 2002)

Earthquake! (Brett, UK-US, 2002)

Eric
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 02.21.2005 12:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

2/14/05-2/20/05

Marathon (Nadari, 2003) - At first I thought this picture was documentary about an individual?s pursuit of a world?s record in crossword puzzles. It?s actually fictional, but it?s a fascinating character study that suggests (to me) that the outside manifestations of our obsessions may have very little to do with the inner force that drives it; that the forms it adopts may in fact be utterly arbitrary. I liked the skillful visual and sound design, and how they?re used to reveal story and character. Actress Sara Paul gets kudos for bearing nearly the full dramatic weight of the piece.

Dracula: Pages from a Virgin?s Diary (Maddin, 2002) - Next to Careful and The Saddest Music in the World, I think I like Dracula the least, mainly because I didn?t care for the way Maddin filmed the dancers. Is it churlish to say that? How about to observe that Keir Knight is too effeminate to play Quincy Morris? I do like how blatant it is in its wry depiction of the story?s misogynistic subtext; it knows we know, and it knows we know it knows, so instead of being sly it just cuts to the chase and renders the whole subject moot, which is always how I?ve felt about it anyway. Zhang Wei-Qiang makes for a pretty cool Count, too.

Sideways (Payne, 2004) - The best comedies, it seems, are dramas in disguise; and maybe they?re even better than straight dramas because they recognize life?s absurdity.

Cane Toads: An Unnatural History (Lewis, 1988) - Highly entertaining and often funny, this doc about the Australian Hawaiian sugar cane toad epidemic also functions as a subtle lesson in ecology and natural selection.

The Fancy (Subrin, 2000) - I?m only marginally familiar with photographer Francesca Woodman, and while a deeper understanding of her work may lend greater appreciation for this documentary, which seems to want to achieve the abstraction and arrested motion of Woodman?s art, I found it a sometimes engaging, sometimes dull 40 minutes. Woodman?s photos don?t appear here at all (copyrights, probably), so one section entitled ?Enactments? reproduces some of it using clothed models in the positions and going through the presumed motions of the figures in Woodman?s photos. This is the film?s most interesting portion, and the result is like recordings of the repetitive activities of schizophrenics. For some reason I really like the title ?The Fancy.?
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beltmann
Studio Exec


Joined: 26 Jun 2003
Posts: 2341
Location: West Bend, WI

PostPosted: 02.21.2005 1:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

the night watchman wrote:
2/14/05-2/20/05

Marathon (Nadari, 2003) - At first I thought this picture was documentary about an individual?s pursuit of a world?s record in crossword puzzles. It?s actually fictional, but it?s a fascinating character study that suggests (to me) that the outside manifestations of our obsessions may have very little to do with the inner force that drives it; that the forms it adopts may in fact be utterly arbitrary. I liked the skillful visual and sound design, and how they?re used to reveal story and character. Actress Sara Paul gets kudos for bearing nearly the full dramatic weight of the piece.



I didn't like Paul's performance nearly as much as you did--I found most of her "dramatic" scenes forced and irritating--but I did like the central idea that her character uses the cacophony and screeches of NYC streets to hone her concentration. I agree totally with your interpretations, but for me the real subjects of the film are noise, ambience, and the subway rattles (not to mention the way the tracks mirror the geometric beauty of puzzles).

Incidentally, when I first looked at this movie months ago, I too thought it was a documentary! I suppose that's entirely to Naderi's credit.

Eric
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 02.21.2005 1:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

beltmann wrote:
The Notebook (Cassavetes, USA 2004). Mostly, the film got me thinking about why I enjoy melodramas and tearjerkers, even manipulative and dishonest ones. It?s routine to justify horror movies on rollercoaster grounds?the ?safe? sense of fear can be entertaining, and it can also teach us how to confront and understand that emotion. Why can?t the same logic be applied to movies that provide similarly exaggerated and "safe" versions of love and sadness?


Interesting question, although since movies are artificial and separate from the real world, any kind of emotional reaction they provoke, no matter how exaggerated their technique, would necessarily be "safe," wouldn't it? Maybe I misunderstand.

On a personal level, emotional manipulation in a drama feels disingenuous and lazy to me; it's like the film doesn't take seriously the sorrow or joy it expects us to feel, or that its understanding of these emotions is so trite it must resort to hitting us over the head to provoke a reaction. On the other hand, manipulation is part and parcel to the method of the horror film; the feelings of dread or unease it stirs is partly a result of the audience's sensation of being beguiled and exploited. In other words, the audience shouldn't feel at odds with the movie while watching a drama, and it should while watching a horror movie.

beltmann wrote:
If we can accept action and horror movies that go way over the top, and find artistic glory in their excesses, why can?t we extend the same courtesy to emotional melodramas? Surely we can find the same art in tears as we can in blood?


Again, I think it comes down to a method, or a degree, that, for me, works in one type of movie, but not in another.
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mfritschel
Cinematographer


Joined: 27 Jun 2003
Posts: 143
Location: Port Washington, WI

PostPosted: 02.21.2005 3:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (Berlinger and Sinofsky, 2004) - an interesting look at the band, the different egos at work, and the dynamics that they intern form. The questions it brought to my mind was how it portrays the band as the complete opposite of the image they are trying to portray. When one thinks of Metallica, they think of in your face music and macho attitude, not a band who needs a group psychologist and needs to come to grips with being famous. How will this intern change people's perception of the band? Will it and if so, will it adversely or positively affect the bands image and overall sales?

Friday Night Lights (Berg, 2004) - as far as sports dramas go this one was subpar at best. It never really brought the characters to the for front, the story was just to formulaic to even evoke any type of emotion and almost lulled me to sleep. When compared to such other sports dramas as Miracle then one leaves much to be desired.

Son of Dracula (Siodmak, 1943)

House of Dracula (Kenton, 1945) - I have to admit the old Universal monster movies are a great gulity pleasure of mine and I cannot but help enjoying myself while watching these movies.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 02.21.2005 3:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

mfritschel wrote:


Son of Dracula (Siodmak, 1943)

House of Dracula (Kenton, 1945) - I have to admit the old Universal monster movies are a great gulity pleasure of mine and I cannot but help enjoying myself while watching these movies.


I just bought the Dracula Collection this morning, through Amazon. I always preferred the Frankenstein cycle, but these are great, too.

Eric
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 02.21.2005 3:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

the night watchman wrote:
Interesting question, although since movies are artificial and separate from the real world, any kind of emotional reaction they provoke, no matter how exaggerated their technique, would necessarily be "safe," wouldn't it? Maybe I misunderstand.


No, that's exactly what I meant.

Quote:
On a personal level, emotional manipulation in a drama feels disingenuous and lazy to me; it's like the film doesn't take seriously the sorrow or joy it expects us to feel, or that its understanding of these emotions is so trite it must resort to hitting us over the head to provoke a reaction.


I largely agree, of course, but can't we say that these types of "dramas" aren't aiming for realism but for something else? Fantasy, perhaps, or catharsis? Maybe we shouldn't even refer to them as dramas. Their scenarios may sometimes be superficial, but isn't there some kind of skill involved with tapping into familiar emotions and goading audiences into identifying with them?

Quote:
Again, I think it comes down to a method, or a degree, that, for me, works in one type of movie, but not in another.


But doesn't that lock down these stories, boxing them into your preconcieved notions about what such stories ought to do rather than what they can do?

I'm just playing devil's advocate here...

Eric
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 02.21.2005 5:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's difficult to discuss generalities. When I think of melodrama or tearjerkers, I think of Somewhere in Time or Love Story or It's a Wonderful Life ... movies that drive me to distraction. On the other hand, genres like horror, action/adventure, science fiction and fantasy routinely employ melodrama in their scenarios, and I don't object to the mode when I'm watching, say, The Lord of the Rings, The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Dead Zone, Die Hard, or Master and Commander. I also like some of the classic melodramas like Dark Victory. I suppose I apply negative connotations to the word "melodrama" (and "tearjerker" is derogatory anyway), and I might be overlooking movies that fall into the category I do like simply because I don't consider them such.
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juhsstin
Camera Operator


Joined: 07 Jul 2003
Posts: 87

PostPosted: 02.22.2005 5:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

beltmann wrote:
2/14 ? 2/20/05

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (Stoppard, UK 1990). I loved the clever wordplay?especially the verbal game staged like an intense tennis match--but what sticks to the ribs is how Stoppard meditates on the nature of fate and destiny.

Eric


lol i watched this movie in my senior year high school english class. probably one of my better classes... :X
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 02.27.2005 8:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

2/21/05-2/27/05

Midnight Cowboy (Schlesinger, 1969) - Good performances by Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman do not a good movie make. I can only assume this film?s reputation rests solely on the quality of their work, because it really doesn?t add up to much. I did like the ambiguity of the flashbacks, which lends narrative texture the rest of the story lacks; and Joe Buck?s small Texas town reminded me of a Joe R. Lansdale story. But the movie lost me completely during the obligatory ?60s drug party sequence. I should have gone to see Constantine.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 02.28.2005 8:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

2/21 ? 2/27/05

Not much time this week, but I scurried over to our local moviehouse Thursday night to catch Being Julia before it fled the city. I also watched the Canadian short film nominee Ryan online. Neither one was particularly remarkable, but Ryan has some wonderful animation and Julia has a terrific scene where Bening upstages a young upstart merely because she can. I felt filthy rooting for her.

And I?m happy Million Dollar Baby won Best Picture. Doesn?t mean much, but I take pleasure in knowing that Michael Medved spent the night grinding his teeth.

Eric
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 03.02.2005 12:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

2/1 - 2/28 (Yep...it's been a whole month since I last chimed in, on this thread).

Listed Chronologically:

Coffee and Cigarettes (Jarmusch, 2004)

Hitch (Tennant, 2005)

Mean Creek (Estes, 2004)

Because of Winn Dixie (Wang, 2005)

P.S. (Kidd, 2004)

Being Julia (Szab?, 2004)

Fight Club (Fincher, 1999)

Racing Stripes (Du Chau, 2005)

Constantine (Lawrence, 2005)

Cursed (Craven, 2005)

Saw (Wan, 2004)

Son of the Mask (Guterman, 2005)

A thorougly uninspiring month at the movies. OUt of these, my favorite is probably the very funny Being Julia, although that isn't saying much.

I applaud the honesty of Mean Creek, but I sometimes found it to be very uninvolving, simply because I deal with teenagers like the characters, everyday. Great performances and a melodic, moody score allow it to be the solid effort that it is, though.

I belong to Fight Club's opposition, thinking it to be a rather ridiculous exploration of instinct and social effect.

Horror is becoming the genre of cinematic atrocities--rather than those of human-kind--and Saw and Cursed go to prove it. The first is a pointless, unscary exercise with bad acting and a laughable sense of brutality. The second, while often very amusing, is an even worse movie. Christina Ricci and Jesse Eisenberg give terrific performances, but their work is bogged down by its confines. While the "boo!" moments do not succeed, the worst surprises it has to offer are those of the characters. When one of them reveals that they are gay, I literally considered that I was hallucinating. The narrative is an utter mess. I expected it, yes, but the wasted talents of the cast never cease to be frustrating.

Not much else to comment on, as most of the rest is mediocre. Now that I realize that I am uncapable of not seeing any theatrical releases, period, I need to work on matching the number I see of them with older ones.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 03.06.2005 11:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

2/28 ? 3/6/05

Another slow week, I?m afraid. Too many work and domestic obligations, not to mention an exhilarating trip to Chicago for the solo Jeff Tweedy show and extensive gushing afterwards.

The Fall of the Roman Empire (Mann, USA 1964). Too many of the political scenes feel like oversimplified, didactic speeches, but overall it?s a beautiful and large work that obviously inspired many of the thematic threads present in Gladiator. Mann?s sense of space and spatial relationships is perhaps his strongest asset as an artist.

Mr. Blabbermouth! (Wrangell, USA 1942). World War II propaganda film in which a blabbering naysayer gets his comeuppance, as the film tosses charts and graphs at the screen to prove his anxieties false?and to prove the Allied forces to be in full control. I suppose there?s some inherent value in calming down the public (rather than using, say, fear as a strategic tactic, hmmm) but no person of reasonable intelligence would buy either reductive point-of-view as presented here.

Eric
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matt header
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PostPosted: 03.07.2005 6:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

First of all: three hours of sleep in a night makes a man quite tired.

Second of all:

Constantine (Lawrence, 2005) D

Jules and Jim
(Truffaut, 1962) A+

McCabe and Mrs. Miller
(Altman, 1971) A

Undertow
(Green, 2005) B

Shaun of the Dead
(Wright, 2004) B

Black Girl
(Sembene, 1966) B

I'm becoming more and more convinced that Francois Truffaut is a god, if not the God.

McCabe is one of the most unique movies I've ever seen. I found it to be a rather disconcerting, and therefore exciting, experience.

Black Girl is an analysis of modern slavery under the guise of Africans working overseas as maids or servants by Ousmane Sembene, "the master of African cinema." The voiceover narration works extremely well and for a while this is a refreshingly proud and powerful viewpoint; SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!!! when the main character commits suicide at the end, however, the film suddenly seems manipulative and mutes its potentially empowering naturalism. Moolade, which is the only other film I've seen by him, is quite a bit better.

Constantine seems ripped from the third level of a video game. It doesn't even have as many hilariously inept Keanu Reeves moments as I thought it would! Without those, what's the point?!
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