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What did you watch this week?
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Danny Baldwin
Studio Exec


Joined: 26 Jun 2003
Posts: 1354
Location: San Diego, CA

PostPosted: 11.25.2003 12:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanksgiving weekend will allow me to catch up. This week:

Expiration (2003, Heffernan)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003, Nispel)
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beltmann
Studio Exec


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

PostPosted: 11.29.2003 1:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

matt header wrote:
I just saw "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" last night, and I was wonderfully surprised - it is my favorite movie of the year so far. The way that Peter Weir depicts the nobility, brotherhood, and humanity of war is astonishing, without losing the intensity of the several battle scenes. Crowe and Paul Bettany are both wonderful, it's technically flawless - this is almost, I think, a perfect movie.


I tend to agree. Besides the color and wonderful acting, I was most impressed by Weir's expert evocation of a very specific time and place--I felt consumed by its verisimilitude, plunged into the world aboard this vessel. I understood the characters, and--best of all--I was absorbed by the script's driving need to exemplify what it means to lead. All of the subplots directly or indirectly relate to that theme, and I appreciate the intelligence behind that tight, subtle construction. Gripping, eye-popping, and loaded with human beings--it's a classic adventure yarn. I haven't felt this pleased with an adventure movie since I was, oh, about twelve.

Eric
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 11.29.2003 1:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think it lacked the characteristics and power that an epic should. At the end, I didn't feel any punch, which is definitely a problem. I admire it a lot, but I didn't like it much. I do have to watch it again though, since I'm clearly missing something.
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beltmann
Studio Exec


Joined: 26 Jun 2003
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Location: West Bend, WI

PostPosted: 11.29.2003 2:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Danny Baldwin wrote:
I think it lacked the characteristics and power that an epic should.


Which characteristics are missing? Perhaps a better question: Is there an established set of characteristics that all filmmakers must conform to when making an epic?

I guess I wouldn't want to label Master merely an epic. It achieves much more beyond an expansive scale--in fact, its best qualities are more introspective, especially in terms of theme and psychology.

Eric
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 11.29.2003 2:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

beltmann wrote:
Danny Baldwin wrote:
I think it lacked the characteristics and power that an epic should.


Which characteristics are missing? Perhaps a better question: Is there an established set of characteristics that all filmmakers must conform to when making an epic?


Well, to rephrase that, all the characteristics that it needed.

It lacked: triumph, feeling, and resonance--just to name a few.

It did have a stunning ability to captivate, though, which is commendable.
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beltmann
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Location: West Bend, WI

PostPosted: 11.29.2003 2:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fair enough, although I felt all of those characteristics were abundantly present. Could you list some "epics" that you feel are more successful, that better embody those qualities? (In other words can you clarify by way of contrast?)

Eric
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 11.29.2003 3:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Disregarding the great emotion in Master, here's a list of recent ones:

The Lord of the Rings

Antanarjuat: The Fast Runner

Gangs of New York

Nowhere in Africa

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matt header
Studio Exec


Joined: 26 Jun 2003
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Location: Milwaukee, WI

PostPosted: 11.29.2003 6:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree that those four movies are all good examples of epic filmmaking, but despite the resounding grandness of "Atanarjuat" and "The Lord of the Rings," the simple sight of Paul Bettany's character standing on the Galapagos Islands and seeing the enemy ship in the distance - knowing that he must forsake his own passion for his captain, and best friend - trumps all of those movies in emotion by itself.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 11.30.2003 12:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

matt header wrote:
I agree that those four movies are all good examples of epic filmmaking, but despite the resounding grandness of "Atanarjuat" and "The Lord of the Rings," the simple sight of Paul Bettany's character standing on the Galapagos Islands and seeing the enemy ship in the distance - knowing that he must forsake his own passion for his captain, and best friend - trumps all of those movies in emotion by itself.


I bought that, too. Great stuff. And I haven't found any emotion in Lord of the Rings, despite my admiration for its other achievements.

Eric
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 11.30.2003 12:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, the emotion is phenomenal in Master, but I think that there are many other things that should be higher on its priority list. I didn't really buy that segment at all, to tell you the truth. Parts of the film are fabulous, but all it does is leave you desiring more, because of the beauties that it does have.

The violence best communicates the emotion, too--I think that it should've been stressed more. The amputation scene is the strongest in the film.
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beltmann
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Location: West Bend, WI

PostPosted: 11.30.2003 2:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Danny Baldwin wrote:
The violence best communicates the emotion, too--I think that it should've been stressed more. The amputation scene is the strongest in the film.


I agree that scene works wonderfully, but I'd argue that it gains its effects through rather pedestrian ways--especially when compared to the subtleties achieved during any one of the conversations between Crowe and Bettany. In those scenes, you hang on their every eye blink and shoulder droop, because their body language says even more than their words do. There's an entire backstory being told underneath the dialogue, and it's a beautiful one.

No one can miss the overt power of the amputation scene--and while it matches the power of every single episode of ER, it doesn't surpass them, either. That kind of surface effect only goes so far, which is why I appreciated that Weir didn't settle just for externalized action. The best, most compelling action occurs inside their heads, not in their knives.

Eric
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mfritschel
Cinematographer


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

PostPosted: 12.01.2003 12:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's been an extremely slow two weeks as far as movies are concerned.

28 Days Later Boyle 2003 B+ - Just an overall good horror movie epitomizing the horridness of human nature in pressure situations.

Elf 2003 C - My girlfriend made me go, and I have to admit it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be, I even found myself laughing on several occasions. Why is it though that my girlfriend can never pick good movies!

Lord of the Rings: Two Towers Extended Jackson A- : I liked this version considerably better than the normal version, the extended version always seems to add so much more to the plot, character development, and help relate it closer to the book. In a day and age to rereleases, alternate endings, and additional footage that never really adds up to anything significant, these movies reallly seem to pull it off. Almost to a point were I am wondering why they just don't release this version as their original theatrical release.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 12.01.2003 3:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

11/24 ? 11/30

Highly Recommended

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (Weir, 2003). I?ll just reiterate that it ranks favorably against the great adventure films.

Shattered Glass (Ray, 2003). As a faithful TNR devotee, I?ve been eager to see this for months; I can?t specifically recall reading one of Stephen Glass? fabricated stories, but I?m sure I did. I was fully engrossed by Ray?s dramatization, in the same way that All the President?s Men makes unraveling a dirty secret a gleeful, gripping event. It?s not quite in that league, but it is wonderfully acted, especially by Peter Sarsgaard and Hayden Christensen who?s like a puppy-dog sociopath, using apologetic flattery as his weapon. What?s creepy is the way the movie gets how truth and entertainment have been confused by American culture for so long, a guy like Glass barely seems responsible?the vulnerability of truth might be more American than our veneration of the free press.

The Station Agent (McCarthy, 2003). Low-key quirkiness, corralled by a director who clearly is infatuated with human beings. It was a pleasure hanging out with these characters?I?m looking forward to doing it again.

Highly Recommended Only For Bela Tarr Fans

Gerry (Van Sant, 2003). Two guys, both nicknamed Gerry, embark on a strangely unfulfilling hike, searching for "the thing" and wander off the beaten path. They get lost, and spend the rest of the film walking and walking and never getting anywhere?in fact, the landscapes keep changing so incongruously, that we wonder whether they have wandered into the land of Existential?a psychological rendering of Beckett, Kiarostami, Hou, and Reggio. There's hardly any dialogue, but there's minute after minute of silent travel, and the movie has an oddly hypnotic, beautiful effect; I couldn't wait for each endless shot to end, but strangely, when they finally did, I still wanted more. (And when the movie was over, I wanted to watch it again, immediately.) Perhaps most memorable is how Van Sant produces Death Valley images unlike any others I?ve seen.

So-So

Washington Heights (De Villa, 2003). When a popular Dominican cornerstore owner is gunned down and paralyzed, his son, an aspiring graphic artist, is forced to take over the store. Those elements are rife with human qualities that are easy to identify with, and for a long time De Villa manages to keep his compass pointing north--the acting is natural, and the emotion simmers just underneath the story contrivances. But that all goes to crap in the last act, as the plot devolves into just another minorities-shouting-and-pulling-knives affair. Perhaps De Villa thought he needed to spice up this small-scale domestic tale, but enough spice was already there--he's spoiled the food with too much ketchup.

View From the Top (Barreto, 2003). There are a few pleasant, unforced gags tossed in front of the blandness. This is hardly commendable stuff, but at least it?s utterly harmless, and loaded with nice people doing nice things for each other--it's preferable to the kind of raunchy, mean-spirited comedies that make you feel less like a part of the human race. I?d rather see this again before Just Married, Head of State, or Bringing Down the House.

Just No Good At All, Darn It

Matrix Revolutions (Wachowskis, 2003). Sheer laziness (or perhaps disinterest) leads me to quote myself from another thread: ?I might describe it as eye-popping, except I felt like it was merely the greatest screensaver ever. To my eyes, all of the mystery and human appeal set forth in the first picture has been completely abandoned; both sequels are so controlled by CGI, hardware, and technique that it's clear the machines have already won. (When our most popular trilogy about saving humanity is dominated by endless, endless, endless machine guns, it's game over.) Ever since Neo left his humanity behind in the first film, I haven't identified with a single one of these stoic characters--they're so monotone, so robotic, they might as well just admit they have more in common with the machines than with us. (I'd rather hang out with the Frenchman and Bellucci than any of the heroes--at least they have personalities.)?

Eric
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beltmann
Studio Exec


Joined: 26 Jun 2003
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Location: West Bend, WI

PostPosted: 12.01.2003 4:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

matt header wrote:
"Koyaanisqatsi" (dir Godfrey Reggio, 1983) I'd heard wonderful things about this movie, but I still wasn't prepared for it; a really astounding experience, in my opinion. For an hour and a half, you're subjected to some of the most amazing compositions of sight and sound you'll ever see in a movie. Wow! A+


I saw Koyaanisqatsi back in 1991 when a teacher loaned me a copy, and my initial reaction was one of contention; I remember arguing that Reggio makes a simple-minded mistake by never considering civilization as anything but inherently evil. Still, this was the movie that introduced me to the possibilities of non-narrative cinema, and I've been obsessed ever since. I've also revised my opinion of this picture, although I still believe Reggio is a tad too doomsday for my tastes. (Seriously, does he advocate we restore the planet to "balance" by removing ourselves from the equation?)

Now you need to see the rest of the "qatsi" trilogy: 1988's Powaqqatsi: Life In Transformation (my personal favorite), and last year's CGI-driven Naqoyqatsi: Life at War, which is more like Brakhage than the other installments, but still a worthy companion.

Eric
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 12.01.2003 4:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

matt header wrote:
"The Thin Blue Line" (dir Errol Morris, 1988) Famous documentary that depicted the wrongful conviction of Randall Adams, who was sentenced to death row for killing a Dallas police officer when all of the evidence points to someone else. Morris' precise and dramatic reenactments lend the film a dramatic punch, as does Phillip Glass' hypnotic score; a bit overlong, especially since the latter half is composed largely of talking-heads interviews, but absolutely convincing. B+


Matt, have you seen other Morris films? For my money, he's among the finest documentarians currently working, next to Broomfield, Kopple, and Varda.

I'd rank Morris like so:

Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. (A)

The Thin Blue Line (B+)

Gates of Heaven (B)

Stairway to Heaven (B)

A Brief History of Time (B-)

Fast, Cheap, & Out of Control (C+)

Vernon, Florida (C+)

I must also mention his recurring TV series, First Person, which present 30-minute documentaries of interesting individuals. Absolutely sublime.

Eric
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