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What did you watch this week?
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Danny Baldwin
Studio Exec


Joined: 26 Jun 2003
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Location: San Diego, CA

PostPosted: 02.03.2004 2:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm so tired of writing about movies with all the year end stuff...so I'll give in and just give some grades...I'll even be super daring and do letter grades instead of the 4-star scale. Laughing

Thirteen (Hardwicke, 2003) A

Capturing the Friedmans (Jarecki, 2003) B-

The Secret Lives of Dentists (Rudolph, 2003) D+

Spellbound (Blitz, 2003) C

Girl With A Pearl Earring (Webber, 2003) B+

Jeepers Creepers 2 (Salva, 2003) F

And I also watched Seabiscuit (2003, Ross) a second time, which is in A- territory, for me.
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beltmann
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Location: West Bend, WI

PostPosted: 02.03.2004 2:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

mfritschel wrote:
The Girl With a Pearl Earring (2004) - Rod Stewart sang how every picture tells a story, the this movie is a perfect example. It's just too bad that some stories are more interesting then others. I loved the cinematography and how the movie seemed to take on the feeling of art and paintings from the time. But I never really related to the characters, and just never got into the flow of the movie. It just didn't seem to do enough to capture my imagination.


Did you just quote Rod Stewart? Dude.

By the way, good analysis of CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS. There's so much to unpack when discussing that film--when people talk about "layered" work, that's what they're referring to.

Eric
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 02.03.2004 2:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Danny Baldwin wrote:
I'm so tired of writing about movies with all the year end stuff...so I'll give in and just give some grades...I'll even be super daring and do letter grades instead of the 4-star scale. Laughing

Thirteen (Hardwicke, 2003) A

Capturing the Friedmans (Jarecki, 2003) B-

The Secret Lives of Dentists (Rudolph, 2003) D+

Spellbound (Blitz, 2003) C

Girl With A Pearl Earring (Webber, 2003) B+

Jeepers Creepers 2 (Salva, 2003) F

And I also watched Seabiscuit (2003, Ross) a second time, which is in A- territory, for me.


Danny, I completely agree about Pearl Earring, and I'd love to hear why Friedmans didn't work very well for you. I'm surprised by your grade for Dentists, which I briefly considered for my Top Ten. Here's what I wrote a while back: "It has a great psychological idea: a meek, reserved dentist conjures an imaginary pal, who manifests himself as one of the dentist's most belligerent patients--he's the aggression the dentist needs when he begins to suspect his wife is carrying on an affair. Best of all, both Campbell Scott and Hope Davis expertly bring out the emotional undercurrents of this tale of domestic discord, and Rudolph stages everything with a light, true, subtle touch. I wonder, though, if unmarried people will respond as deeply as those of us who recognize some of these domestic scenes, scenes that breathe only after many years of strange, unglamorous, familial intimacy?"

Is it possible that my position--someone married for 10 years--accounts for the disparity in our responses? (Those students of mine that saw it shared your reaction, and I asked them the same question.)

Eric
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 02.03.2004 4:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Capturing the Friedmans almost struck me as counterproductive. Even though the intent is to be two-sided, it feels like the makers want us to gain some kind of odd sympathy for them, and I just didn't get into it. I felt more sickened and assured of their guilt than I did open to their humanity, and the closing footage only added to this, because I had made up my mind early. I think, in a sense, Jarecki is digging himself into a deep hole once he finishes discussing Arnold's case. But, most of all, I felt like I was less an observer than I was subject to opinionation. The fact that the case did go to court and they were sentenced makes the emotion in the home videos feel sort of invalid, leading us to, really, not care. But I do have a strong admiration for any of the other elements in it, however.

With The Secret Lives of Dentists, I really felt it was a case of spoiled potential. It has a few make-or-break moments, which, sadly, end up being breaks. I was certainly captivated by the ideas Rudolph presents and the fantasies he creates, but I suppose you could blame the failure on lack of development. He creatres this suburban household unflinchingly, and can be accredited for setup. But the whole movies is just this, merely setup. However, it's too imaginary to be considered realist--this contrast almost makes for a visceral feeling (specifically the "throwing out" his wife vision), which disagrees with the general situation. I am aware that this is the intent, but it's so strikingly offbeat, I can't say that it works. Then, of course, there's the loose symbolism and untied ends. It's a great idea to make the Davis and Scott characters dentists, but this seems to be merely hanging there, leaving us to ponder what should've been shown. There's no room for reflection in context. I can clearly see where you're coming from, but it left me with a deeply negative reaction.

[Note: I edited these messages a tad to add some things.]
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matt header
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PostPosted: 02.03.2004 5:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Thirteen (Hardwicke, 2003) A



To me, "Thirteen" is the most overrated movie of the year. I can't deny the power of most of the performances, which are strikingly realistic. I also don't agree with the critics who said it was unrealistically immoral: accuracy is, indeed, one of its strong points. But the fault that many found with Gus van Sant's "Elephant" is the same one I found with "Thirteen": what's the point? Does it teach us anything about this teenager's descent into moral baseness? It seemed aimless to me. It can't be a cautionary tale about the morass of desperate crime children will turn to if given too little parental attention because Holly Hunter's mother is caring, loving, and always there for her children (at least emotionally if not literally so). Does it suggest the terrors that occur when teenagers assume that crime, drugs, sex and alcohol will allow them to be accepted into their social circles? That seems sort of a presupposed lesson, and the movie adds little to the "peer pressure" issue. Is it perhaps a satire on commercialism and status-symbol glitz pervading all of modern society, including schools? This aspect worked the best in my opinion, with flashy jump-cut editing highlighting the importance of clothes, make-up, etc., in Tracey and Evie's lives. I also think the movie can be oddly proud of its sensationalism - moments such as Deborah Kara Unger's botched facial surgery and the almost-three-way with the lifeguard seem to add nothing to the movie's arguments, except some shock value.

I totally know I'm in the minority on this one, and I can definitely appreciate the cast's performances; but I never really got into it.
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 02.03.2004 3:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can see that point of view, but I feel that the true power of the images sweeps us away in it. As for the point--it's obviously to inform those unaware and to shock those experiencing it firsthand--simply because it's so real. It's so personal feeling, we're left wrapped up in every second of it. The Secret Lives of Dentists may have needed a point, but this one has one that is much worthier than most films; it's not just to provoke the plot, but to leave a trail of destruction throughout the aisleways of the theatre. The performances are terrific, but the writing under them will go ignored, thanks to some flashy, but appropriate direction. It's almost bottled itself up, as a picture, so it's clearly a love-it-or-hate-it experience, even if you fell somewhere in between. I loved it. Plain and simple.
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juhsstin
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Joined: 07 Jul 2003
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PostPosted: 02.03.2004 4:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Danny Baldwin wrote:
Capturing the Friedmans almost struck me as counterproductive. Even though the intent is to be two-sided, it feels like the makers want us to gain some kind of odd sympathy for them, and I just didn't get into it. I felt more sickened and assured of their guilt than I did open to their humanity, and the closing footage only added to this, because I had made up my mind early.


that's pretty interesting, i actually felt the opposite, like they were unjustly treated. and that the police were stupid and pretty much fucked that family over much more than they deserved...
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matt header
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PostPosted: 02.03.2004 7:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
As for the point--it's obviously to inform those unaware and to shock those experiencing it firsthand--simply because it's so real. It's so personal feeling, we're left wrapped up in every second of it. The Secret Lives of Dentists may have needed a point, but this one has one that is much worthier than most films; it's not just to provoke the plot, but to leave a trail of destruction throughout the aisleways of the theatre.


If the movie left a trail of destruction throughout the theatre - a trail that blows over many uninformed viewers and forces them to take a more cautionary look at their own children - then the movie has achieved a great goal. But to me it didn't. The shattering experience missed me entirely: theoretically I was unstimulated by the film's arguments, and I left feeling informed but not changed, informed of things I was already aware of yet not presented with any new point of view (I'm not saying the movie has to try to explain its characters' descent into debasement, but it fails as simply documentative realism because of its intention to present as much moral destruction as possible). The movie did work emotionally at moments (my favorite scene consists of Tracey staring at herself in glum make-up at a bathroom mirror, seemingly finding traces of the sweet girl still hiding inside her) but I was never able to forget that I was watching a movie instead of becoming part of Tracey's life; this may be due to the fact that I don't have my own children, or because the grainy digital cinematography and the intentionally elaborate editing constantly bring attention to the movie's own stylistics. I agree with you that the point is probably to inform the unaware of the violent turbulence of today's teenage years, to bring new depths of understanding to the age group by shocking all audiences with blunt honesty, which leads me to believe that I may be the worst viewer for this film: having just escaped similar teenage-year situations, I am already informed and saw only impressive determination and style in the film's (very real, and I will admit very well-done) trail of destruction.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 02.03.2004 10:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When it comes to Thirteen, I'm afraid I side with Matt. I didn't feel that I gleaned anything important--in fact, I was mildly irritated by its reliance on standard "troubled teen" tropes--and I certainly didn't feel that it left a trail of any kind. I think Matt is on to something by admitting his age is probably a factor; while I'm older than Matt, I'm also not that far removed from my teenage years, which might account for why the movie held no revelations for me. (Those students of mine who have seen it, however, think it's marvelous.) The story pins an awful lot on simplistic, badly dramatized peer pressure, pushes too many hot-button, after-school-special issues (does the self-mutilation detail add anything?), and relies, I think, too much on puritanical hysteria. By preying on our fears regarding "wild" teens, the movie becomes realism undone: I'd argue that the film would have more relevance if it weren't so keen to traffic in isolated sensationalism. Still, I don't want to overstate my case. I think there's plenty to admire in the movie, including the uniformly terrific acting, the faded, intimate visual style, and the use of music. Overall, I guess I would describe it as merely good.

Mostly, I'm interested in how age, experience, education, and maturity alter and evolve our tastes, affecting our responses to art, especially ones that deal with specific stations-of-life, such as Thirteen and The Secret Lives of Dentists. No doubt I would have liked Hardwicke's film much more than Rudolph's back when I was 15, but I'm twice as old now. Perhaps I've grown out of one type, and into another.

(Does that mean I'm gonna love Cocoon and I'm Going Home some day?)

Eric
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 02.03.2004 11:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

beltmann wrote:
Mostly, I'm interested in how age, experience, education, and maturity alter and evolve our tastes, affecting our responses to art, especially ones that deal with specific stations-of-life, such as Thirteen and The Secret Lives of Dentists. No doubt I would have liked Hardwicke's film much more than Rudolph's back when I was 15, but I'm twice as old now. Perhaps I've grown out of one type, and into another.


It would be very neat to see some kind of survey on that sort of thing. However, I do think that people generally stick with their tastes, so it would be hard to gauge things accurately.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 02.04.2004 1:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Danny Baldwin wrote:
I do think that people generally stick with their tastes, so it would be hard to gauge things accurately.


Are you sure? Maybe that's true. I can only speak from my own experience, which contains many fluctuations in taste over the years. I like to think that my tastes have continued to evolve, becoming more open, more inclusive, more inquisitive. Perhaps those "new" tastes were always present, just waiting to be awakened?

Eric
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 02.04.2004 4:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm speaking of the general population. Not film-buffs. Laughing
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 02.04.2004 11:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Danny Baldwin wrote:
I'm speaking of the general population. Not film-buffs. Laughing


Surely the evolution is more acute for types like you and me, but the maturation process occurs for everyone and doesn't end at 18, or 30, or even 50. I would hope that over time tastes refine--even marginally--for most people. Too optimistic?

Eric

EDIT: Fixed the crazy typo.


Last edited by beltmann on 02.05.2004 12:45 am; edited 1 time in total
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 02.05.2004 12:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Actually, originally I meant people only watch movies according to their tastes, but thiscould become quite interesting...so let's continue.

I almost feel as though people, generally, stick with the movies they've liked over the years, in combination with their taste's evolution. For example: I think I'll always like The Fast and The Furious, but if a third installment was made in twenty years (I hope then I will have outgrown liking them), I wouldn't like it, despite the exact same subject matter and execution.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 02.05.2004 12:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think we do retain fondness for the movies that affected us when we were younger. But I think the reasons we continue to like them often shift and evolve--for example, I continue to enjoy Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, but while my teenage taste once loved it as genuine entertainment, I now enjoy it only for nostalgic reasons. It no longer satisfies my tastes.

Then there are other films that can't even slide by on the nostalgia factor. Some of the movies I enjoyed as a teenager I can't stomach now--I think of UHF, One Crazy Summer, Three Amigos, or Enemy Mine. Those are tough, tough to sit through now, and no amount of nostalgia can rescue them.

Eric
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