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Screening Log 2005 - What did you watch this week?
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 09.11.2005 2:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Michael B. Scrutchin wrote:
Gallo is an egotistical asshole (although I sense his nastiness might be borne more out of insecurity than misanthropy), so I can understand why he'd be such a popular target for many people.


Yeah, he did curse cancer on Ebert. Maybe he's not someone to cross. Laughing

Anywho, does anybody have and interpretations of the title? (Mega-spoilers ahead, natch.) Most obviously, "The Brown Bunny" seems to be a reference to Daisy's apparently long-lived, eternally youthful pet. If the rabbit's unnatural state is taken literally, the movie can be read as magic realism, and Daisy's manifestation at the end can be seen as more than some sort of fantasy or delusion. Of course, Bud and Daisy's mother's impaired memory opens the door for a more prosaic explanation. I kind of like that the narrative hesitates between one or the other.EDIT:To be clear, the bunny is being "kept alive" unnaturally by Bud and Daisy's mother in the same way that the two keep Daisy "alive."
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 09.11.2005 6:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

9/5 ? 9/11/05

Time for only two features this week, both on DVD. In preferential order:

Off the Map (Scott, USA 2005)

Das Rad / Rocks (Stenner and Uibel, Germany 2003; short)

The Wild Bunch: An Album In Montage (Seydor, USA 1996; short)

The First Three Lives of Stuart Hornsley (Jackson, USA 2004; short)

Deathdealer: A Documentary (Watts, USA 2004; short)

The Ring Two (Nakata, USA 2005)

I?d recommend only the first two, but the Wild Bunch documentary is mildly informative.
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 09.12.2005 10:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

8/29 - 9/12

Grizzly Man (Herzog, 2005) - It's funny, scary, and fascinating all at once, chronicling the many seasons bear-expert Timothy Treadwell spent living with the type of animal that ultimately killed he and his girlfriend. The film is an amazing study of the line between passion and madness, not only with Treadwell, but those around him: his friend who wears bear earrings when giving her interview, the coroner who seems all too interested in his death, his girlfriend who only appears in his hundred hours of video-tape three times. Director Werner Herzog, who has mainly tampered in fiction before, sometimes provides profoundly ridiculous voice-overs, but the sheer power of the material stands for itself. The movie is haunting, but at the same time also cooks up so much intrigue that we, as an audience, can't bear to take our eyes off of it. No pun intended.

Walk on Water (Fox, 2005) - The social dynamic created here, which commentates on everything from the Israeli/Palestinian conflict to homosexuality, never feels manipulative or plot-centered. However, aside from actually confronting the issues, it never does much to tackle them or build any type of story around them. The exercise gets mopey.

The Transporter 2 (Leterrier, 2005) - It's a huge improvement over the first, but I dunno if I'd go as far as to say that I liked it. Parts of it are way fun--I've actually gone in to watch a lot of it again on breaks at work--but only because of the ingenious ridiculousness of the action and Jason Statham's performance in the lead role (The Next Bond? Please?). The rest--from the sub-plots to the supporting cast--is weak. It's hard to really blame the movie for this, but the fact that we've seen it all before makes it that much harder to digest.

Monster-in-Law (Luketic, 2005) - It all feels like a bad dream consisting of a bunch of Hollywood stars playing dress-up or something; Jane Fonda is doing awful slapstick, Jennifer Lopez is falling for plot-devices, Michael Vartan is reciting mind-numbing dialogue, and Wanda Sykes is delivering dead one-liner after dead one-liner. But, with that being said, it's not really atypically bad--more of an unpleasant reminder that this is what Hollywood has become over the years.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 09.19.2005 1:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

9/12 ? 9/18/05

In preferential order:

The Constant Gardener (Meirelles, USA 2005)

A Tale of Two Sisters (Kim, South Korea 2003)

Shall We Dance? (Chelsom, USA 2004)

Sahara (Eisner, USA 2005)

Equilibrium (Wimmer, USA 2002)

One of the things I liked best about A Tale of Two Sisters is the way Kim uses the idyllic lakefront country as counterpoint to the mental torment occurring within the characters. Likewise, the spare, elegant style is punctuated with surreal images that conflate memory, nightmare, and fantasy. But this not a typical evil-stepmom horror show: Once we realize that we're actually watching two distinct sets of delusions unfolding, the story becomes a credible, compelling psychological portrait of grief. It starts slowly, but as the pieces come together, the movie gains resonance and stature. Also, I was most impressed by how the revelation that Su-Yeon is dead is not the deepest revelation to come?there?s much more here than just an Asian reworking of The Sixth Sense. This is certainly one of the best Asian horror movies I?ve seen.

Even though it replicates pretty much everything from the Japanese story, Shall We Dance? is a glossier, more cartoonish version. But it has a modest, congenial spirit of inclusion, and Gere and Sarandon are both wonderful, which makes it easy to give in to the movie?s mushy celebration of long-term marriage.

Sahara doesn?t really work, but it does have a scruffy, lackadaisical, boyish charm in spots.

Few recent films have perplexed me more than Equilibrium, which cribs from the best sci-fi and yet has ideas that vacillate between fascinating and awful all the way through. The best thing I can say for it is that the production design is wonderful to look at.

The Constant Gardener is light years beyond Fernando Meirelles' last movie, City of God, and might be a masterpiece, not least for having an intricate, impassioned socio-political agenda. Speaking of social observations, I noted the following reactions to the before-show trailers. Bear in mind that I was watching in Wisconsin's most conservative county:

An Unfinished Life: "We need to see that. I'll enjoy anything with Redford. Or Morgan Freeman. Period."

The Ice Harvest: "Definitely! That looks hilarious! Sweet!"

Brokeback Mountain: --crickets--

Eric
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matt header
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PostPosted: 09.19.2005 3:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's what I've seen!:

Or (Mon Tresor) (Yedaya, 2005, France/Israel) B

Junebug
(Morrison, 2005, USA) A-

Cul-de-Sac
(Polanski, 1966, UK) A

Alexander Nevsky
(Eisenstein, 1938, Russia) C+

[b]The Beat That My Heart Skipped
(Audiard, 2005, France) A-



Or is beautifully shot and acted - and, I might add, one of the most powerfully depressing movies I've seen in a long time (I was going to watch Breillat's Anatomy of Hell tonight afterwards but immediately scrapped that idea since Or was so hard to watch. I do think Yedaya allows it to go on too long for no reason, but it's a stunner of a film.

The one that really made me weep, though, was Junebug, although it's as funny as it is poignant. It's probably the best-acted film of the year and has so breathtakingly poetic moments. Come see it at the stately Oriental Theatre!!!

Cul-de-Sac is so laugh-out-loud funny that you don't totally realize until afterwards how subversive, complex, and powerful it is. It ranks among Polanski's best work, I think.

Alexander Nevsky isn't the masterpiece it's purported to be: Eisenstein's fabled editing is striking as always, and the battle on the frozen lake is quite the climax, but it's too damn propagandistic for me to ignore. (Yeah, so is Potemkin, but the Odessa Steps sequence and Eisenstein's craft makes you forget all about socially-sanctioned filmmaking; Nevsky reeks of government intervention.) It ends with Alexander saying - directly into the camera, no less - "Anyone who enters Russia with sword in hand will fall by our sword!," only to have a title saying the same thing appear onscreen immediately afterwards! Man. It makes Leni Riefenstahl look like Fritz Lang or something.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 09.19.2005 3:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

matt header wrote:
The one that really made me weep, though, was Junebug, although it's as funny as it is poignant. It's probably the best-acted film of the year and has so breathtakingly poetic moments. Come see it at the stately Oriental Theatre!!!


I tried to persuade my wife to see Junebug this afternoon, but we were just too busy (and the drive isn't short). It's number one on my must-see list, though.

Eric
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Jim Harper
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PostPosted: 09.19.2005 7:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

beltmann wrote:
A Tale of Two Sisters (Kim, South Korea 2003)

One of the things I liked best about A Tale of Two Sisters is the way Kim uses the idyllic lakefront country as counterpoint to the mental torment occurring within the characters. Likewise, the spare, elegant style is punctuated with surreal images that conflate memory, nightmare, and fantasy. But this not a typical evil-stepmom horror show: Once we realize that we're actually watching two distinct sets of delusions unfolding, the story becomes a credible, compelling psychological portrait of grief. It starts slowly, but as the pieces come together, the movie gains resonance and stature. Also, I was most impressed by how the revelation that Su-Yeon is dead is not the deepest revelation to come?there?s much more here than just an Asian reworking of The Sixth Sense. This is certainly one of the best Asian horror movies I?ve seen.


It's possibly the best Korean horror movie ever made. It's also proof that the South Korean film industry can occasionally release a product that rivals the greatest Japanese efforts in that genre. I hope they keep it up. Ironically enough, it's the desire to compete with the Japanese industry that results in so many lacklustre, derivative efforts.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 09.25.2005 6:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

9/19 ? 9/25/05

In preferential order:

Bright Leaves (McElwee, USA 2004)

Layer Cake (Vaughn, UK 2004)

The Longest Yard (Segal, USA 2005)

The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl (Rodriguez, USA 2005)

Although I enjoyed the first two immensely, I slightly preferred Bright Leaves, a scruffy documentary that ambles through the North Carolina of Ross McElwee's youth, searching for loose links between his family's tobacco farming past, current Southern geopolitics, contemporary smoking awareness, an old Gary Cooper melodrama that may or may not have been based on the life of his great-grandfather (a tobacco baron and inventor of the Bull Durham cigarette), and his own relationship to his son. That probably sounds like a rambling affair, but trust me, McElwee's personal, philosophical reflections on these topics are vibrant, human, and surprisingly thoughtful. (Although McElwee's been around for ages, I've only seen his 1986 Sherman's March, which I didn't like nearly as much as I liked this one.)

The last two on my list are both quite poor, but Sharkboy and Lavagirl is particularly unwatchable. If digital video has ruined Abbas Kiarostami?s career, hi-def has completely neutered Rodriguez?s skills as a storyteller. I'm tired of watching his lousy, cheesy cartoons that are no more than lousy, cheesy special effects demo reels.

Eric
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matt header
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PostPosted: 09.25.2005 8:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd be interested in hearing your response to Layer Cake. I really disliked it, although I'm sure it's better than The Longest Yard and Sharkboy and Lava Girl.
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 09.26.2005 2:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

matt header wrote:
I'd be interested in hearing your response to Layer Cake. I really disliked it...


Ditto.
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matt header
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PostPosted: 09.29.2005 3:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here are some movies:

Anatomy of Hell (Breillat, 2004) C-

2046
(Wong, 2005) B+

Memory of a Killer
(Van Looy, 2005) D-

The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks
(Kuleshov, 1924) B



I guess that's it, sadly. Anatomy of Hell is ridiculous, although it's almost worth watching for its bevy of good ideas, though they may be smeared with crudity and simplicity. It's ostensibly a film about antagonistic gender relations, though really it's a film about Breillat filming a vagina in close-up.

2046 is far from perfect, but I was really wowed by its grandiose, melodramatic view of love as something timeless and overwhelming, indestructible and destructive at the same time. (I haven't seen In the Mood For Love yet, blasphemously.) Technically it may be the most impressive film of the year - and that's, of course, because its special effects and its aesthetic are deeply tied to the film's theme and compassion.

Imagine an episode of Law & Order in Dutch. There's Memory of a Killer for you.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 09.29.2005 7:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

matt header wrote:
Anatomy of Hell is ridiculous, although it's almost worth watching for its bevy of good ideas, though they may be smeared with crudity and simplicity.



I agree that Anatomy of Hell is awful, but my reasons are in reverse: I felt the movie was made with sophistication, but in the service of really bad ideas about the gulf between the genders.

Eric
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matt header
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PostPosted: 09.29.2005 11:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was intrigued by Breillat's ideas about sexual repulsion and its origins, and how we may blame an internally rooted hatred on external, physical qualities. I'd even admit that the film is shot beautifully and its nightly structure allows it to play out like a very theatrical dissertation (which seems appropriate with Breillat's style). I think her ideas are delivered stupidly, though, because the dialogue is so inane; these characters talk to each other with ridiculous shock-value language and reasoning so simplistic and bland it's nearly impossible to approach from a theoretical angle. Since realism and philosophy are thrown out the window, Breillat's script really ruins it for me.
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 09.30.2005 1:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Blues in the Night (Anatole Litvak, 1941) - This thoroughly enjoyable musical melodrama-cum-film noir is hobbled by an abrupt and unsatisfying conclusion, but well worth it until it gets there, especially just to catch the expressionistic, surreal montages cut by none other than Don Siegel!

Nixon (Oliver Stone, 1995) - Okay, so this movie takes place in the Oliverse -- that familiar yet oddly slanted alternate universe that is Oliver Stone's prefered version of the 60s and 70s -- like its companion piece JFK, but movies aren't supposed to and shouldn't be history lessons. It is a deeply engrossing and richly layered character study of the title character, as fictionalized as he may be. Hopkins' performance is gripping and amazingly self-consistant, and I enjoyed the apperance of many big-name stars in supporting roles, like Ed Harris, David Hyde Pierce, E.G. Marshal, J.T. Walsh (much missed), James Woods, and Larry Hagman ... Larry Hagman, fer chrissakes!

I'm planning on seeing A History of Violence and Serenity Monday. Can't wait.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 09.30.2005 2:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

the night watchman wrote:
but movies aren't supposed to and shouldn't be history lessons. It is a deeply engrossing and richly layered character study of the title character


Agreed on both counts. The people that complained about the historical veracity of JFK and Nixon just didn't seem to grasp how art works.

I just recently picked up that massive DVD collection of Stone's movies, and have been re-watching passages from all of his films. To my eyes, he's one of the most interesting filmmakers we have.

Of course, I just watched Alexander tonight, and pretty much all the interest lies with how ill-conceived nearly every aspect is. Never boring, though.

Eric
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