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What did you watch this week?
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 09.20.2003 3:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

beltmann wrote:
Not my favorite type of film--there's something off-putting about its willingness to find exhilaration in mass slaughter.


That's interesting. You know, since LOTR is a purely fantastic movie, it's portrayal of a strictly black-and-white morally coded cosmos doesn't really bother me, which normally is a world-view I strongly resist.
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The Third M?n
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PostPosted: 09.21.2003 6:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Today I saw The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers for the third time. Loved it even more.

The Two Towers doesn't just surpass the original in every single aspect, rather, it dwarfs it. Immense in terms of scope and grandeur, The Two Towers doesn't bother with providing the audience a re-telling of what occurred in the original, as it immeditaely plunges us into the middle of the story. The core story of the film is much darker and uglier than in the original; there is a palpable sense of cruelty and malevolence in the film, and the intimacy and togetherness which was in the first film is now lacking, as the central characters have all ruptured; but, of course, this was all meant to be the way it is. The film introduces us to Gollum, the most effective and credible computer-generated character to have ever been put on cellulloid so far. Acting-wise, the actors seem even more confident in their roles, and for me, it is Sean Astin who seems to have flourished a powerful assurance to the role of Sam. Granted, the rest of the cast also do a very fine job; Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, Bernard Hill and Ian Mckellen just to name a few are all remarkable. But it is Peter Jackson's direction which makes the film so special. The Battle of Helm's Deep is arguably the most skillfully executed and breathtaking battle scene in the history of cinema; seldom have I been as impressed as when I contemplated that particular sequence, utterly in awe. The CGI characters are all well done, the set pieces are unbelievable and the cinematography is no exception: once again, it manages to capture a sense of awe and beauty very few others could, with its abundant aerial shots, elegantly sweeping camera moves and extreme close-ups. The Two Towers is a colossal film. It's all about spectacle, and this one has plenty of it.


Last edited by The Third M?n on 09.22.2003 8:28 pm; edited 1 time in total
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 09.21.2003 7:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

9/16-9/21

The Howling (Dante, 1981) My favorite werewolf movie; just got the SE on DVD. While it?s usually compared unfavorably to Landis?s An American Werewolf in London -- since the two came out the same year and utilized the same types of special effects -- I personally think The Howling is the wittier of the two. Plus, the werewolves are way cooler, and the cast includes Dick Miller. Can?t be bad.

Cabin Fever (Roth, 2003) While it contains way too much comedy to be effective as a ?scary? movie, I still enjoyed it. I think Roth might have a good horror movie in him yet. If nothing else, it?a return to no-budget horror; I liked it?s grainy, no-holds-barred aesthetics.

Underworld (Wiseman, 2003) Great looking movie, and the werewolves were muy cool. As I wrote in my review: ?The biggest problem with Underworld is, once you get past the style-for-style?s-sake cinematography you soon realize that the movie is all back story. Characters spend scenes delivering exposition about the war between the immortals. There is much gnashing of teeth and bulging of eye to be found in the performances, as though the cast is making up for the fact that their dialogue can in no way advance the plot. Characterization suffers because everyone is living in the past and are motivated entirely by the generalities of a conflict 600 years old.?

Harold Lloyd?s World of Comedy (various, 1962) Made from clips of Lloyd?s movies and shorts. I haven?t seen a Lloyd film since I was around 11, so this was sort of a return home for me. Still, I think I?d just as soon watch an entire short. Also, I didn?t know Lloyd did talkies.

The Seventh Seal (Bergman, 1957) Definitely a movie that?s meant to be watched several times and contemplated. There were more than a few scenes I really liked; particularly the ?strawberries and milk? scene with the Knight and the family. I was surprised to learn Seal was made so late in the decade. It has the feel of a silent movie.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 09.21.2003 7:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm a tremendous Harold Lloyd fan, and while The World of Harold Lloyd showcases a few highlights (lengthy scenes rather than clips), I agree that I'd much rather watch an entire short, with the gags in full context. By the way, some of his talkies aren't bad. I enjoy Movie Crazy, Feet First (recycled in World of...), and even The Cat's-Paw, mostly for its folksy tone. Tough to reconcile with the vigilante justice at the end, though.

Eric
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 09.21.2003 7:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, I'll definitely look those up. I have to say it was strange hearing Harold's voice. It was nearly exactly the way I heard it in my mind.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 09.21.2003 7:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So true. The voices of Chaplin and Keaton are jarring, but Lloyd, Laurel, and Hardy all sound exactly the way they look.

Good luck trying to find some Lloyd. VHS is rare--I have copies of a bunch, but not all--and DVD is even rarer. The last time I communicated with the Harold Lloyd Trust (a few months ago), they confirmed that some kind of DVD package was being prepared. We'll have to see what's going to be included. I'd snap up a set as quickly as I bought Kino's The Art of Buster Keaton collection to replace my videotapes.

I'm a bit of a silent film geek, I know. But I prefer the term "silent film historian"...

Eric
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 09.21.2003 7:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the info. Smile I checked VideoETA.com for any word on upcoming Lloyd releases, but nada.
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matt header
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PostPosted: 09.22.2003 1:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What do you fellows think of Buster Keaton's talking movies? I saw my first one yesterday - "The Sidewalks of New York" - and it obviously couldn't compare to his silent classics, while the verbal byplay seems a bit desperate. Still, a lot of Keaton's visual comedy is still intact, and there's a bit with a phonograph that absolutely could not be done with a silent movie.

Are any of his other talkies worth watching? What did you think of this one? I love Keaton, but "The Sidewalks of New York" is my least favorite so far.
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Mark Dujsik
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PostPosted: 09.22.2003 1:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cold Creek Manor (Figgis, 2003)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Columbus, 2001) (repeat)

The Limey (Soderbergh, 1999) (repeat)

Matchstick Men (Scott, 2003)

Secondhand Lions (McCanlies, 2003)

Underworld (Wiseman, 2003)

Zero Effect (Kasdan, 1998) (repeat)

My thoughts on Secondhand Lions in a review soon, and my thoughts on The Limey and Zero Effect will appear later in the week with something special.

I'll be watching The Philadelphia Story tomorrow to get ready for auditions on Wednesday.

EDIT: Added link to review of Secondhand Lions.
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10 Best Films of 2006

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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 09.22.2003 1:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Do you know, the only Keaton movie I've ever seen, talking or otherwise, is It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. Guess I got some more chatching up to do.
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 09.22.2003 1:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was really impressed with The Limey and Zero Effect, even though it seems most reviewers gave the latter the shaft.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 09.22.2003 2:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

9/15 - 9/21

Ten this week:

The Good Thief (Jordan, 2002). Melville's version is infinitely superior, although this fizzy, busy update has a few pleasures, most notably Nolte's shaggy, elegant performance.

Russian Ark (Sokurov, 2002). Hypnotic, thrilling, mesmerizing--I only wish it was more so. I think its failure to sweep me up in its scope has something to do with the fact that its troll through Russian history is like a serene, conventional postcard--where history is loaded with passion, blood, terror, altruism (all the stuff of humanity), this version is a textbook that settles for stateliness. Like history, art ought to have even more pizazz, more kick--and the Hermitage's art on display, often blocked by gauche actors, has the raw power which the film entire lacks. I know I'm talking about personal preferences here, but there it is.

A Guy Thing (Koch, 2003) and Just Married (Levy, 2003). Since both looked like obnoxious teen movies I avoided them in the theater, but I think I made a mistake in one case. I'd like to explain my preference for one by way of contrast. Where Just Married is designed like a typical comedy, A Guy Thing has a better, more interesting approach that actively rejects the standard, crude mean-spiritedness of the genre. For example, JM's humor is predicated on revealing the characters to be less likable than we initially thought, which is a fairly standard way to squeeze laughs. GT, on the other hand, takes the tougher road and bases its jokes on revealing even minor characters to be sweeter and kinder than we first suspected. An even larger difference is in the gag construction. While JM builds into greater chaos (again, the obvious route), GT subverts our expectations of the same: As we wait for Jason Lee's pyramid of lies to crash on top of him, the movie instead gets laughs by having his plans actually work out on a regular basis. A third major reason why I preferred GT is because Jason Lee and Julia Stiles are exponentially more likable than Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Murphy. One was like hanging out with talented goofballs, the other like being stuck in a closet with screeching idiots. (Plus, A Guy Thing features both the Eels and Wilco on the soundtrack, so that's a major bonus.)

Thirteen (Hardwicke, 2003). The rough, faded visual style works to establish a sense of documentary intimacy, but there are also prefabricated visual pleasures, such as the stuttering camera leaps and a backlit night scene involving sprinklers. Evan Rachel Wood and Holly Hunter are both terrific. Still, this story pins an awful lot on simplistic peer pressure, pushes too many hot-button issues (was the self-mutilation detail really important?), and relies, I think, too much on sensational, puritanical hysteria.

Step Into Liquid (Brown, 2003). Spectacular, pleasurable, kinda dopey, this documentary/commercial about surfing does everything a summer popcorn flick ought to, and better than most. Mostly, I could relate to its defense of indulging our obsessions.

Ripley's Game (Cavani, 2002). John Malkovich as Tom Ripley. As a whole, the film is rather crudely made, with a dull visual sense and choked-up performances.

Cradle 2 the Grave (Bartkowiak, 2003). Once again Jet Li is utterly wasted. What is this movie really about, other than loud punches, cracking bones, and DMX's scowl? I zone out during most action scenes--nothing's ever at stake--but here I zoned out during everything.

The Hunted (Friedkin, 2003). Most of the settings are pleasing to look at--lots of warm greens and sharp, glistening water--but the action never really amounts to much. If there's any real positive here, it's in Friedkin's lean, no-nonsense approach; he dials it down rather than ramp it up. Bartkowiak ought to pay close attention.

Gone in 60 Seconds (Halicki, 1974). An ode to engines, grease, speed, car chases, and smashing stuff. I was bored to tears. There's something to be said for Halicki's initiative and independent spirit--the movie truly is a by-the-seat-of-his-pants production--and it sure looks like he got the exact movie he set out to make, but macho machinery doesn't hold a lot of appeal for me. The acting is strictly amateurish, and the "plot" is merely pretext for the stuntwork and braindead 40-minute chase that closes the film. I guess it's a forbear to the excessive, nonstop carnage of The Blues Brothers, but at least that film had a sense of wit to the flying fenders and crushed chrome. Probably preferable to the Nicolas Cage remake, though.

Whew. Sorry.

Eric
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 09.22.2003 2:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Actually, I really liked The Hunted, precisely for its -- refreshingly -- realistic action sequences, and the fact that shows people contenting with such phenomena as gravity and fatigue, and feeling pain when their flesh is bruised by pummeling fists, or pierced with a knife. Plus, unlike many current action movies, The Hunted remembers to do what many action films forget; namely, provide a backbone of character and plot on which to hang its action sequences. Instead of catering to the willfully attention-deprived, The Hunted succinctly yet keenly fills us in on who these people are, why they are who they are, and what they mean to each other. By the time the second half of the movie kicks in, when it really becomes an extended (and superbly crafted) chase sequence, I found I actually cared about how things would turn out, and feared that even the best outcome would be tragic.
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 09.22.2003 2:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This week, five. I tried to sit through Formula 51 on Showtime, but I only got through 20 minutes before changing the channel.

The Rainmaker - For law class of all things? I guess I'm cool with that; it's a good movie, but nowhere near a great one.

Cold Creek Manor - Review.

Anything Else - Review.

Levity - Offers a great performance by Billy Bob Thorton and some interesting direction. I liked it quite a bit, but most of the supporting characters are quite one-note, and ultimately disposeable.

Secondhand Lions - Review Coming Very Soon - I don't know what's worse--being gravely disappointed or hating a film you knew was going to be bad. Duvall and Osment are good, but Caine is miscast. The script has some fun moments, but the movie is just another run-of-the-mil family film, that would've been released direct-to-video if it weren't for the big names in the credits. The final act is tremendous, but the first two are flat. A total mixed-bag; when it comes on pay-per-view or HBO, it'll be a worthy watch to pass the time, though.

I was planning on seeing Dirty Pretty Things, Step Into Liquid, and Thirteen, but it didn't happen. I'll try to catch them, along with Once Upon a Time In Mexico during the week. And, I sware I will get to watching Nicholas Nickelby soon. But that's why we have Netflix; no late fees Very Happy .
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matt header
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PostPosted: 09.22.2003 6:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sept 13 - Sept 20

A pretty good week, overall:

"Masked and Anonymous" (dir. Larry Charles, 2003) The definition of vanity. Bob Dylan stars in a Bob Dylan-conceived movie in which famous fans stand around and talk about Bob Dylan (although in the movie he's named Jack Fate - oh, man). As Dylan sleepwalks laconically through a wartorn America, awful, mystic dialogue runs rampant. Perhaps there is an overarching theme to all of this, but honestly, I doubt it.

"Identity" (dir. James Mangold, 2003) That final twist is really, really terrible - almost ruins the movie, in my opinion - but everything else is genre fun, told with a maximum of bravado and creativity. The ability with which it manipulates time, jumping from present to flashback to flash forward and so on, is very impressive; the multiple personality twist is unpredictable, also. The characters are far from round, but easy to care for anyway.

"The Bourne Identity" (dir. Doug Liman, 2002, 2nd viewing) I liked this a lot more the second time, especially since I recently watched "Die Another Day" and "XXX," both of which I disliked. Liman and his cast and crew seem to be reaching for pedigreed escapism - nifty car chases and fight scenes give way to some cynical dialogue and appearances by Chris Cooper, Brian Cox, Clive Owen, etc. - and for the most part they succeed.

"Glimpse of a Garden" (dir. Marie Menken, 1957) Menken runs around her garden, randomly filming plants with her Bolex 16mm. Sounds of birds chirping assault the ears. Amusingly energetic and curious, but ultimately quite unsatisfying, even annoying.

"Bouquets 1 - 10" (dir. Rose Lowder, 1995) Similar to "Glimpse," only Lowder exposes two separate images of swaying flowers on the same film so it looks extremely blurry and pulsating. The movie portrays nature in a beautiful light by distorting it through surreal editing, but it ultimately grows old, as there is little actual subject matter to Lowder's technique.

"Notes on the Circus" (dir. Jonas Mekas, 1966) Extremely fast paced editing and camerawork records an insane circus, as superimpositions and fast-motion exquisitely portrays the relentless energy of the circus. Clowns, acrobats, and elephants abound, and Mekas does a superb job at comparing the art of watching a movie to the art of watching a circus: both are exhilarating exercises.

"Variations" (dir. Nathaniel Dorsky, 1992 - 1998) Over six years, Dorsky lugged around a 16mm camera and recorded random images that struck him as gloriously beautiful or lifelike, ultimately editing them together into a silent essay on how joyous and perfect life can be. The colors (reds and greens melt into one another), the complete silence, and the exquisiteness of the images blend into a stunning, trancelike meditation; really, really great.

"Anything Else" (dir. Woody Allen, 2003) I liked it, but I also love Woody Allen. After his ludicrous love interests in recent movies (Tea Leoni, Helen Hunt, etc.), Allen wisely hands the main storyline to young Jerry, played by Jason Biggs, whose neurotic love for writing and for his impossibly bizarre girlfriend Amanda (Christina Ricci) echoes Alvy Singer from "Annie Hall." Initially there are problems with Biggs mimicking Allen's usual nebbish, but I grew comfortable with it, and would actually like to see him in a similar role sometime. Allen deftly compares a love story to the creative process and to "growing up," while writing dialogue funnier than anything in "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion" or "Hollywood Ending." One of my favorites of the year so far.

"Run Lola Run" (dir. Tom Tykwer, 1999, 4th viewing) Man, every time I see this it just gets better. The idea of replaying the same twenty minutes three times over is much more than just a gimmick: Tykwer plays with ideas of fate and choice and optimistically asserts that life is a game that can be "restarted," if you have the right motivation (i.e., true love). Lola's character is almost Godlike: there isn't a single event in the movie that isn't propelled by her actions (and every scene that doesn't have her in it is filmed in grainy video). Dizzyingly entertaining, but with much to analyze.

"Lost in Translation" (dir. Sofia Coppola, 2003) Better than "The Virgin Suicides," and my second favorite of the year so far (after "All the Real Girls"). The performances by Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson are brilliant, I'd say: Johansson's gravelly voice is at one sad and seductive, while Murray plays a character who is funny out of desperation. The idea that the characters are displaced both geographically and personally is controlled extremely well by Coppola's dialogue and by the suggestive cinematography. The relationship is extremely difficult to portray - they're soul mates but not lovers, they have desires but don't lust after one another - but the movie succeeds. Really gorgeous and vibrant.

"Sidewalks of New York" (dir. Zion Myers & Jules White, 1931) It's disconcerting seeing Buster Keaton in a talkie movie: it just doesn't work as well, and a lot of the verbal byplay seems forced. Still, some of Keaton's visual shtick is intact, and there's a gag with a phonograph that could only be done in a talkie, and it works.

Those were a bit longwinded; sorry. If you can, though, see "Lost in Translation"; it really is a glorious movie.
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