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What did you watch this week?
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beltmann
Studio Exec


Joined: 26 Jun 2003
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Location: West Bend, WI

PostPosted: 12.01.2003 4:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

matt header wrote:
"Pather Panchali" (dir Satyajit Ray, 1955) This will shortly go on my list of favorite movies of all time. The first part of Ray's legendary Apu trilogy, I had foolishly seen the second part, "Aparajito," several years ago, before this one. "Pather Panchali" is one of the most completely realistic and warm films ever made - there isn't a single frame that doesn't seem real or heartbreaking, and I confess to crying at the end. What an experience. A+


If I believed in the "A+," the Apu Trilogy would be it. One of the single greatest cinema experiences I've ever had was watching all three back-to-back-to-back, and forced to choose, I'd name this as the greatest trilogy of all time. I'm thrilled they have finally been released on DVD, and thank goodness Christmas is approaching...

(Still, I might ask for The Ben Stiller Show instead. That is some seriously funny stuff.)

Eric
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matt header
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PostPosted: 12.01.2003 4:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Beltmann,

I admit I can see Godfrey Reggio's doomsday nihilistic tendencies in "Koyaanisqatsi," but for some reason they didn't really put me off. More often, for me personally, they equated the rush of civilization to the blurry wonder of nature: the fast-motion car lights resembled those rolling thunderclouds. That's what intrigued me the most, the way that Reggio harshly contrasts a natural and a civilized world while, at the same time, displaying their wonderful and odd similarities. Still, by the time that rocket horrifically explodes at the end, Reggio's ominous tendencies become prominent, and that tumbling, fiery rocket seems to symbolize all of humanity itself, which is an idea I don't entirely agree with, either. Still, I'd like to think that Reggio is not suggesting we eliminate humans entirely from the world; since the movie is about "a life out of balance," he seems to be stressing a more harmonious and less destructive balance between human and natural forces. It's also the most enthralling non-narrative movie I've ever seen.

I've seen no other Morris films, though I've heard his praises sung to the heavens from nearly everybody, and I enjoyed "The Thin Blue Line." I'm horribly uneducated in the documentary genre; I've seen, oh, maybe about ten. I'm seriously looking forward to "The Fog of War," too.

As for the Apu Trilogy, I've seen "Pather Panchali" and "Aparajito" (in reverse order, unfortunately) and both of them are beautiful and heartbreaking. I'll watch "The World of Apu" soon.

Several times in the past I've considered eliminating my "A+" grade, putting "A" at the top of the list, but I just get a giddy rush whenever I see a movie that is, to me, absolute perfection, that has a special place in my heart (aww!). When I see a movie like that, despite all logical reasons otherwise, an A+ seems only fitting.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 12.03.2003 2:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Comments about all the stuff I saw at this year's Milwaukee International Film Festival can be found here

Eric
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 12.03.2003 2:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This week

Elf (Favreau, 2003)

Together (Kaige, 2003)

The Haunted Mansion (Minkoff, 2003)

The Human Stain (Benton, 2003)

I've got a ton of older stuff lying around, but I'm not getting to it. I'm digging through S1 and S2 of Alias before S3 comes on the air. Embarassed
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 12.04.2003 1:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Danny Baldwin wrote:
Together (Kaige, 2003)


What did you think?

Eric
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 12.04.2003 3:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I enjoyed it quite a bit, and I think that the emotional conflicts that Kaige is able to develop are astounding. He really allows us to think about who really knows what's best for Liu Xiaochun, as the answer is not always clear-cut, until the end of the film, I suppose. I also was strangely able to relate, as I have a Chinese friend whose parents ship him all around the state to play in violin compotions--even though the subject matter itsef isn't the greatest of focuses. I did feel that some scenes were a bit unnessecary, but I deserves a recommendation, to say the least.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 12.04.2003 4:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, I'd recommend it too, with some reservation. Kaige has made a weeper that earns its tears--sentiment placed within a more authentic emotional context--even though it exists entirely in a fantasy world, not reality. To me, its subject is NOT how much hard work is required for a musical prodigy, but about the choices we all face, and the love that surrounds us. As I recall (I saw it over the summer), it felt good to give in.

Whenever I hear about it I have to remind myself it's not Together, the Lukas Moodysson movie from a few years ago.

Eric
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 12.08.2003 4:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

12/1 ? 12/7

Hell?s Highway: The True Story of Highway Safety Films (Wood, 2003). Documentary about the company that produced shock-educational flicks in the ?50s. Wood doesn't really get at the required cultural issues--Are the safety lessons worth the nightmares? Are kids today truly immune to this kind of material? Was it exploitation?--but there's enough interesting information here to make it worth seeing.

The Guys (Simpson, 2003). Fire captain Anthony LaPaglia loses eight men to 9-11, and asks writer Sigourney Weaver to help him prepare speeches for their funerals. The movie is set almost enirely in Weaver's home, as they two meet and discuss these "guys" whose lives have been stolen via violence. It?s really just a solemn, mummified tribute to the "humanity" of these "heroes," who--in case we didn't figure it out already--had families and lives and interests. As Stanley Kaufmann said, this adds nothing to our experience (and understanding, I think) of 9-11 or terrorism in general. Still, the two leads give it the ol? college try, and muster up some understated emotion.

Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, and Blonde (Herman-Wurfeld, 2003). How could this supposedly ?bright? lawyer be surprised when her trivial, corny comments are roundly mocked by Washington politicos? The movie never figures out a way to reconcile that central miswiring, although I can somewhat forgive the contradiction since the movie is designed as a disposable fable. In comparison to the original, this seems like a calculated reprise, and far less diverting.

Cinemania (Christlieb and Kijak, 2003). Documentary about New Yorkers who spend their days going to the movies, and little else. I was fully engaged throughout, but only one of them is interested in justifying his obsession on philosophical grounds. That?s the area that fascinates me, and I wish the movie went further into the ideological reasons for indulging our passions. Yet passion?or even art?isn?t really the subject here; these people are mostly just obsessive-compulsives, which means this movie is less about ?cinemania? than about disorder. If that sounds critical, I admit my disappointment has more to do with my unfulfilled expectations than with the film?s actual achievements, which I think are estimable.

The Last Samurai (Zwick, 2003). Let?s face it: This is pretty hokey stuff, especially in terms of its cultural simplicity. Yet, as a kids? adventure legend, it is gorgeous, intelligently designed, well-acted, and rather rousing. (Think of it as the most expensive Boy Scouts movie ever.) I certainly maintained interest in between the clear battle scenes, which surely means this is a major step ahead of most action-adventure flicks. Not nearly at the level of Master and Commander, though, let alone Kurosawa.

Love Actually (Curtis, 2003). Manifold vignettes, simultaneously told, weave into a tapestry meant to represent how love is all around us. Complex it isn't--at least not in tone--but it is confident, funny, romantic, and genuinely optimistic. Complaining about the lack of character development seems to me a major mistake--why lock Curtis? script into a standard box that doesn?t fit?--especially when the structure so clearly reveals that he?s working at a different kind of game. Composed almost entirely of minor human moments (some work better than others, no doubt), this movie zips by offering all kinds of opportunities for us to recognize our own lives, emotions, and fantasies in these characters. Curtis relies on witty, bracing, sometimes acerbic shorthand to force our psychological identification with situations rather than characters, which may, in fact, be more difficult than a conventional romantic arc. This is a movie that loves the human condition, and if it chooses to focus on the aspect of love, that?s Curtis? prerogative and I see no reason to quibble: Some wrongheaded critics seem to wear their hostility as a badge of honor, as if cynicism is more ?valid? (and more cool) as a worldview. If credibility is linked to cynicism and nihilism, and if art can?t meditate on the simple virtues of love, then we might as well throw in the towel. Besides, doesn?t this film offer enough versions of love?romance, friendship, grief, innocence, etc.?to ward off accusations of being saccharine? (In short, I had a blast.)

Eric
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matt header
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PostPosted: 12.08.2003 4:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, I love "Love, Actually" also. If I favor any type of movie in particular, I guess it's the genuinely optimistic (but not schmaltzy) and life-affirming ones; it still astonishes me that a movie has the ability to turn you from depressed to overjoyed in a matter of two hours. (Which is why I love "Amelie," and why "Top Hat," "His Girl Friday," and "The Lady Eve" are among my favorite movies of all time.) With "Love Actually," it doesn't hurt that every single person in the movie is simply likable.
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 12.09.2003 12:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm surprised neither of you mentioned the Wisconsin jokes.

This week, very slow. Again.:

The Last Samurai (Zwick, 2003) - A lot less melodramatic and corny than I thought that it would be. Visually impressive, too. I can't say it's my absolute favorite of the year, or that it'll make my top 10 list, but it's up there.

Owning Mahowney (Kwietniowski, 2003) - Phillip Seymour Hoffman is downright astounding, once again. Damn he's good. This movie may be repetitive for the right reasons, and is enhanced because of it, but that seems to hold it back a bit. Still very good though; I really liked it.

A Civil Action (Zaillian, 1998) - Well, I hate teachers that seperate viewing of a film between two class periods when we do have an hour and fifty-five minutes of time a period. But, the first half of this one isn't exactly pleasing; if my reaction changes after watching the second half tomorrow, I'll let ya know.
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beltmann
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Location: West Bend, WI

PostPosted: 12.09.2003 1:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Danny Baldwin wrote:
I hate teachers that seperate viewing of a film between two class periods


Yeah, at our school we have 48m periods, which means films always get halved. Not the best way to respond to art. This year I was pleased to help pilot flexible block scheduling (there's only 4 of us, out of nearly 90 teachers), which means I'm paired up with a biology teacher and we can agree to "block" periods as we see fit. If I'm showing a film, for example, we can block classes into 100m periods. Rather convenient. (Perhaps surprisingly, I very rarely show entire films, because it's hard to justify spending that amount of instructional time on one activity. I show short clips constantly, though. One example: To illustrate the concept of anaphora, I showed one of Denzel's speeches in Malcolm X.)

Incidentally, I'm not a fan of A Civil Action--it's too concerned about the sacrifices lawyers make, at the dramatic expense of the actual victims. Erin Brockovich came out at about the same time, and whatever flaws it has, it's still a marked improvement.

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

PostPosted: 12.09.2003 1:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Review of the last ten days or so.

Ju Dou Yimou - I have loved all of Yimou's movies that I have seen so far and this one is no different. Between its great use of color contrast to set emotional tones, to its Shakespearian irony and grandeur, this movie was great. I loved the emotional power of this movie, Gong Li is such a great actor. I especially like how Yimou always empowers the females in his movies, and really presents men as the the weaker character, and the female as the driving force behind the plot.

The Last Samurai Zwick - What can I say but that I am a sucker for epic battle scenes and samurai. Sure this movie played off like a huge play for the oscars, never really settled on a topic it wanted to follow through, but it was beautfully shot and the actor who played oppposite of Cruise was really good. But god didn't Cruise look ridiculous dressed up as a samurai, and I am sure that a white army general was the last samurai who presuaded the emperor of japan. Thank god for suspension of disbelief.

Nowhere in Africa - Another great movie, it really reminded me of Yimou's To Live, and all the trial and tribulations that married couples have to go through, it kind of struck home. Another example of the social outcasting of Jews, how they never could really find a home, and how sometimes all one's needs is an idealistic attitude that anything can be accomplished.
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matt header
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PostPosted: 12.09.2003 7:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here are mine!:

"Shattered Glass" (Billy Ray) B Intense, compelling journalistic drama of a New Republic writer who starts fabricating all of his stories. I think it could work better as a play - all of its good qualities seem stagebound, including fast-paced dialogue and completely believable characterizations. There's not much done "cinematically" (through camera, sets, editing, etc.) to enhance the story, but then there doesn't really need to be.

"Love Actually" (Richard Curtis) B At times the thick, syrupy sweetness of dozens of British couples finding true love around Christmastime can be a bit much, especially when the corny theme music rolls around. But how can you look a gift horse in the mouth? Really charming, totally optimistic, and filled with absolutely likable performers. Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson's storyline may be the most untypical and strongest, though I still smile when I think of Jamie and his Portuguese maid driving home in adorable silence.

"Blue" (Derek Jarman) B- A true art film, composed of a single blue screen for 80 minutes as Jarman and a few others perform writings from Jarman's diary. Made to correlate with Jarman's deteriorating eyesight and collapsing health due to AIDS, Jarman attempted to make a nonconformist, non-sentimental AIDS film that brought across all of his frustration and rage. He succeeded. An audacious experiment that allows one's mind to wander in neat, unexpected directions; the movie doesn't really hold your interest completely throughout, but it's commendable nonetheless.

"Pretty Village, Pretty Flame" (Srdjan Dragojevic) B+ Brutal, stylish, relentless Yugoslav film depicting the Serb-Muslim war from the Serbian point of view, as a group of angry, exhausted Serb soldiers are holed up in a tunnel with Muslims on all sides. Flashbacks depict the cyclical and horrendous violence of the war. Hard to take, but completely believable in its depiction of endless, senseless bloodshed.

"The Matrix Revolutions" (Wachowski Brothers) C- I posted my response to this film on a different thread, but suffice it to say the philosophies are uncreative, unsubtle, and repetitive, the imagery almost transparently sleek and mind-numbing, and the storyline obvious in its heavy-handed allusions. Sloppy filmmaking; how did the Wachowskis go from Wunderkinds to sellouts in a matter of four years?

"Drunken Master" (Yuen-Woo Ping) B- Great kung-fu film, though overlong and hampered by Chan's usual sense of screwball humor. Not as good as the sequel (which was rereleased here as "The Legend of Drunken Master"), but still worth watching, with fine, dizzying fight scenes.

"Chungking Express" (Wong Kar-Wai) B The work of an obvious film-lover, showing two parallel stories of bizarre, stylish love that only barely intersect. Some of Kar-Wai's clever, goofy dialogue crosses over from believability to plain silliness, but he crafts a visually impressive movie: hazy, vibrant, and restless. There's no denying the charm and optimism of his vision, too, even when true love doesn't come to the rescue.

"Safe (Todd Haynes) A One of the most important films of the 1990's, in my opinion. Julianne Moore (in a brilliant performance) becomes allergic to everyday household chemicals, forcing her into a self-help group that may be equally as destructive. Cynical, perhaps, but complex, suspenseful, and perfectly made; it has emotion to it, but a rather cold and disturbing emotion.

"X2: X-Men United" (Bryan Singer) B+ I sang this movie's praises to the high heavens when it first came out, and I still like it: after "Darkman," "Batman Returns," and some others, it's one of my favorite comic book films. It does what "The Matrix Reloaded" should have done, and wanted to do: propel an intriguing storyline in unexpected directions with stylistic flair and suspense.

"Solaris" (Andrei Tarkovsky) A- The first Tarkovsky I've seen, and one that, I hear, typifies his slow, dense, mystical style of filmmaking. I liked it, certainly, but I'm not in love: there's something offputting about Tarkovsky's intentional reluctance in letting the audience in on the secret. Still, the movie is composed of stark, brilliant scenes, my favorites being a montage sequence on a weblike array of city streets, and the climax involving some pretty surreal religious imagery. Leagues better than Soderbergh's version, at least.

"Ararat" (Atom Egoyan) C+ Egoyan's twisty look at the Armenian genocide committed by Turkey in 1915, which Turkey still denies ever having existed. Egoyan attempts to explore the role that past atrocities play in the modern world, and also how we choose to present them through art, movies, etc. Admirably complex, but the acting can be weak; I like Egoyan, and he can be a terrific actor's director ("The Sweet Hereafter,") but there is little fire to a lot of these performances, although there should be.

"Elf" (Jon Favreau) B Sort of a one-two punch of holiday cheer with this and "Love Actually"; everything I said for that pretty much goes for this, too. Can be corny and thickly sweet, but is also hilarious and completely charming. You gotta love the stop-motion animation characters, too.

"Once Upon a Time in the West" (Sergio Leone) A+ I love, love, love, love, love Leone (he's probably my favorite director), and this movie maybe more than any other one has had a tremendous influence on the movies I would want to make if I were a director. Epic, grand, intense, creative, stylish, awesome - a masterpiece.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 12.15.2003 12:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

12/8 ? 12/14

Charlotte Sometimes (Byler, 2003)

Boat Trip (Nathan, 2003)

Deliver Us From Eva (Hardwick, 2003)

Millennium Actress (Kon, 2003)

Bubba Ho-Tep (Coscarelli, 2003)

Moonlight Whispers (Shiota, 1999)

Stuck On You (Farrellys, 2003)

Of those, I would highly recommend only Millennium Actress, a breathtakingly creative piece of anime that channels the passion of unrequited love while also charting the history of Japanese cinema (at least in terms of visual styles). Bubba Ho-Tep was mild fun, but Bruce Campbell is terrific and my wife laughed hysterically throughout. Moonlight Whispers, which realistically documents two teens as they discover, to their horror, that one enjoys masochism and the other sadism, sticks to the ribs?I was engaged throughout, even though I felt a little abused myself. Stuck On You is perfectly amiable and perfectly forgettable; it?s certainly no Shallow Hal, which, to my eyes, remains the best Farrelly Brothers movie.

Eric
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 12.15.2003 11:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This category really keeps the discussion going, single-handedly.

This week:

Stuck on You (Farrelly, 2003) - Amusing and fun; if only we could get a tiny bit more original plot structure. That'll be the day.

Something's Gotta Give (Meyers. 2003) - People are giving Nicholson a break because of his history. This movie, aside from an enjoyable first hour, is a piece of shit.

Gigli (Brest, 2003) - I didn't think it was terrible, but I didn't think it was good either. The one character that destroys it all is their retarded hostage.

4th Viewing of Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Jackson, 2001) - I actually like it better than the second one now. My liking of it grows with every viewing.

2nd Viewing of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Jackson, 2002) - How great. I enjoyed it more on the big screen, but it still remains one of my favorites of last year and a riveting epic. Me + It + Cardboard Sword = A Rocking Time.

All I can say is, bring on Return of the King. I may watch something tonight, but we will see.
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