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What did you watch this week?
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beltmann
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Joined: 26 Jun 2003
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Location: West Bend, WI

PostPosted: 07.09.2004 9:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Michael B. Scrutchin wrote:
Recently:



  • China White Serpentine (Stanze/Garrels, 2004) D+

  • House of Wax (De Toth, 1953) C+

  • Replay (Bonner, 2003) B-

  • Gaslight (Cukor, 1944) B

  • Magnificent Obsession (Sirk, 1954) B



House of Wax is a rather pedestrian affair. It probably would have vanished into obscurity by now if not for Vincent Price's presence, which almost single-handedly makes it watchable and kinda fun. Even a midnight chase through the foggy New York streets isn't as suspenseful or atmospheric as it could have been due to the perfunctory direction. I haven't seen the original film based on the same story, Mystery of the Wax Museum, which I hear is better. Oh, and there's a remake in the works starring (God help us) Paris Hilton. I quite liked George Cukor's Gaslight, a psychological thriller on par with second-tier Hitchcock; it features a strong performance by Ingrid Bergman and wonderful mise-en-scene. And while not up to par with some of Sirk's latter melodramas, Magnificent Obsession is either a highly emotional tearjerker or hilarious over-the-top camp; for me, it was a little of both. That Sirk. Reviews for China White Serpentine and Replay coming soon.


I completely agree with your assessment of Gaslight, which I've never forgotten, but I like House of Wax much more than you do. I've always felt that de Toth directed the entire project--which is often at the mercy of the 3-D gimmick--with impressive care, elegance, and intelligence. As for the remake, isn't Paris Hilton already encased in wax?

Eric
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Michael Scrutchin
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PostPosted: 07.09.2004 9:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

beltmann wrote:
I completely agree with your assessment of Gaslight, which I've never forgotten, but I like House of Wax much more than you do. I've always felt that de Toth directed the entire project--which is often at the mercy of the 3-D gimmick--with impressive care, elegance, and intelligence. As for the remake, isn't Paris Hilton already encased in wax?


:lol:

If House of Wax shows up on TCM again, I might give it another shot.

Have you seen the British version of Gaslight (aka Angel Street), made a few years prior to Cukor's film? I'm kinda curious about it now; I think they're both on the same DVD, so I might Netflix it.
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 07.10.2004 12:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've never seen House of Wax; I really need to get back into the habbit of forgetting about all the new releases and catching up on older stuff.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 07.11.2004 9:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

7/5 ? 7/11/04

Time only for two this week:

Anchorman (McKay, USA 2004). Will Ferrell plays Ron Burgundy too broadly?this is his least interesting, least daring screen character yet?but I still had a reasonably good time. Most of the best jokes in this deeply silly movie are also its most incongruous. For example, the bits about the rival news teams seem transplanted from another movie, but I kept cracking up at McKay?s decision to write and shoot the encounters as if they were rumbles from a square ?50s biker movie, right down to the music and sweaty dialogue.

The Story of the Weeping Camel (Falorni and Davaa, Mongolia, 2003). Much more effective as ethnography than as storytelling. When one of their camels gives birth to a white calf and rejects it, a family of nomads attempts to nudge the mother into accepting her needy offspring. That's the whole story, but the movie?a strange hybrid of documentary and fiction, featuring actual nomads?is really about life in the Mongolian desert: We are given glimpses of the natural Gobi desert vista, shots of swirling sand as a windstorm approaches, information about nomadic rituals and commercial outposts, and even insight into the tribal dynamics. Those moments are far more gripping than the central drama, which suffers from slack tension and zero variance in pacing and tone.

Michael--I have not yet seen Dickinson's 1940 Gaslight, although I've wanted to for years. I read somewhere that MGM tried to destroy the negative when they hired Cukor to remake it.

Eric
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 07.13.2004 6:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

7/6 - 7/12

King Arthur (Fuqua, 2004) - It's silly and all but I enjoyed it, as all of the actors embraced their roles, and punched through the dialogue. Clive Owen and Keira Knightley work in the leading roles, and actually mold quite the involving picture. The ice battle is something else, too.

Porky's (Clark, 1981) - While Arthur brought the teenager out of me, this movie made it hide deep within. I had heard about all of the comparisons to American Pie, so I gave it a shot. The only difference is, this isn't funny.

Anchorman (McKay, 2004) - Sometimes Ferrell becomes far too masturbatory in his performance, but, for the most part, this one is a riot. The writing isn't abundant in comedy, but the performances are, and every member of the cast pulls through, by the film's end.

What the Bleep Do We Know!? (Arntz, Chasse, Vicente; 2004) - Before I saw it listed on my local one-screener's line-up, I hadn't heard a thing about it, but then word of mouth began to flow, and I found myself sitting in the fifth row of a near sellout crowd. A fascinating combination of a documentary, a fictional story, and animation. The ideas of quantum physics are chronicled with passion, in a surprisingly involving manner.

Repeat Viewing | Men In Black (Sonnenfeld, 1997) - It just never gets old, and even though the sequel isn't all that spectacular, it's underrated. I found it on TBS, and wound down to it for the night, nicely. Funny and imaginative fluff that seems wholesome in its hollowness. But the disguise will always work--at least for me.

Two Brothers (Annaud, 2004) - As opposed to The Bear, this entry on Annaud's resume has a sounder structure and some terrific acting on the part of Guy Pearce. It's all just silly, but the animals won me over, and I didn't care at all about the frequent usage of contrivance.

Bonnie and Clyde (Penn, 1967) - So I finally get to think out all the controversy for myself, even though the work doesn't seem anywhere close to provacative, in current day. Nevertheless, we'll always be able to look at it as a well-acted and multi-layered crime drama.
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beltmann
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Location: West Bend, WI

PostPosted: 07.14.2004 2:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Danny Baldwin wrote:
Porky's (Clark, 1981) - While Arthur brought the teenager out of me, this movie made it hide deep within. I had heard about all of the comparisons to American Pie, so I gave it a shot. The only difference is, this isn't funny.


Porky's is really quite awful, isn't it? Putting aside the loathsome, hateful tone--this is a movie that considers malicious gang-sex jokes to be hysterical--its worst offense is its brutal misogyny. Porky's views women with utter contempt, as strange creatures whose only function is to provide fuel for unchecked libidos. I'm no fan of American Pie, but at least that one seems to like its characters.

You know what other "classic" American comedy from that era I can't stomach? Caddyshack. I don't care how many 35-year-olds tell me otherwise, that crap is not funny. I disliked it in the '80s, and I detest it now.

Eric
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 07.14.2004 3:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with all your statements. I really don't know how such crap survives the twenty some years since its release.
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matt header
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Location: Milwaukee, WI

PostPosted: 07.15.2004 2:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I love Bonnie and Clyde: in my opinion, it's one of the greatest American movies ever made about violence and its rebellious allure. As Bonnie and Clyde orchestrate their crimes, there is a certain flirtatiousness to them, sort of a violent pas de deux that basks in its rollicking bluegrass music. Then there is a scene of sudden realistic intensity - especially the climactic shootout, but also Blanche's shooting, or the dreamy scene with Bonnie's mother - that provides a jarring contrast to the cops-and-robbers excitement of the rest of the film.

And I agree about Porky's and Caddyshack. Crap indeed.
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mfritschel
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PostPosted: 07.16.2004 11:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey Schmails! Fifty bucks says you slice it.

Bushwoods is not a betting course, besideds I never slice.

You really have to be a golfer to enjoy the vast complexities of this movies.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 07.19.2004 1:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

7/12 ? 7/18/04

Shoah (Lanzmann, France 1985). Nine-and-a-half hours of testimonial from survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust. Lanzmann focuses on minutiae, such as how the trains were loaded, how the ovens were built, how the ghetto was run, etc. He intends to create an overwhelming wave of details, woven into a rich tapestry of historical value. This is essential as historical record, but as cinema it is by turns profoundly moving, exhausting, and monotonous. To reiterate: 566 minutes long.

Black Ice / Study in Color and Black and White / Stellar / Cracked Glass Eulogy / The Dark Tower / Commingled Containers / Love Song (all Brakhage, USA 1993-2001). I?ve spent the last 14 months studying the works and writings of Stan Brakhage, but have finally exhausted all that I own. Of these, I most admired Love Song, a series of 2-D paintings rendered on celluloid. Brakhage called it a "hand-painted visualization of sex in the mind's eye." In other words, this is what the act looks like behind the eyes: a swirl of colors, emotions, physicality, and biology, all morphed into abstract form. I think this is one of Brakhage's greatest works, for its sophisticated representations but also for its sense of collision and union, and its sense of humor. (I won?t describe.)

Barbershop 2: Back in Business (Sullivan, USA 2004). Forgettable, but it has a certain lackadaisical charm.

Butterfly Effect (Bress and Gruber, USA 2004). Ashton Kutcher is never good, but at least he?s finally trying.

The Dreamers (Bertolucci, France/Italy 2003). Michael Pitt is an American in 1968 Paris who moves in with twins--a brother and a sister--while their parents are away, to indulge their shared passion for cinema, drugs, and sex. (The idea is that their "secret" existence, coupled with their political idealism, is a kind of dream state, not much different than the secrets formed in a movie theater between the audience and the screen.) Although I wasn?t alive in May ?68, I?ve always been fascinated by how the dismissal of Henri Langlois?beloved but disorganized director of France?s Cinematheque?served as a metaphor for how governing bodies both fear cultural exchange and underestimate the value of art. I was hoping Bertolucci?s film would do more than wax nostalgic about those heady days, but it probably isn?t fair to gripe about what the film doesn?t do. Instead, I?ll gripe about the shallowness of Bertolucci?s nostalgia. Isn?t true cinephilia about more than superficially debating Keaton vs. Chaplin, or re-enacting sketches from old pictures? Where is the theoretical debate? The rage and arrogance of the New Wave? The deconstruction of Bazin? (In other words, where is the content that made the ?68 street demonstrations so vital; where is the substance that linked Langlois? firing to the labor rallies that nearly shut down Paris?) These three film maniacs are more like simpleton fanboys than aficionados, and that same wistful, irrelevant version of nostalgia emerges when Bertolucci tries to connect their sexual gamesmanship to a political awakening.

Napolean Dynamite (Hess, USA 2004). The pleasure?and discomfort?of this utterly absorbing deadpan comedy lies in its refusal to deny the humanity of its geek characters even as it asks us to mock their idiosyncrasies. That complex contradiction informs the movie?s best gags, which exist in the cosmic space in between compassion and condescension. That I never quite knew whether to laugh or cringe is entirely to the movie?s credit.

Before Sunset (Linklater, USA 2004). What's astonishing is how the weight of years?on their lives, on their emotions, on their faces?deepens the context of Jesse and Celine?s conversation. While Before Sunrise was fueled by the bloodrush of spontaneous idealism, this new, more mature picture courses with regret, hope, reflection, the fearsome power of memory, the betrayals of dreams. You won?t be able to tear your eyes?or your ears?away. (Is it worth noting that my wife and I are nearly the same age as the characters? We responded to the original film back in 1995, and revisiting Jesse and Celine nine years later had the peculiar effect of transforming the screen into a mirror.)

Eric
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Michael Scrutchin
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PostPosted: 07.19.2004 1:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

beltmann wrote:
Before Sunset (Linklater, USA 2004).


I desperately need to see this. Glad to hear you dug it.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 07.19.2004 1:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Michael, I don't suppose your close proximity to Austin somehow affects your relationship with Linklater's work? I'm curious--how are his releases generally treated and discussed in Texas?

Eric
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mfritschel
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PostPosted: 07.20.2004 1:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Nipsel, 2003) - much more of the slasher genre and quick scares, then the more disturbing approach that the original seem to take. Still as a guilty approach I rathered enjoyed it.

King Arthur (Fuqua, 2004) - Can't say I was expecting greatness from this movie, but it did fall short of my expectations. I think trying to bury itself in factual historical context, yet never really taking itself serious rather hurt this movie. At least with Pirates of the Carribean, the movie never tried to be somewhat factual or provide any type of slight historical context, and yet this one opens by stating that the movie couldn't have been made without recent archaeological discoveries and follows up with a shell of nothing. Finally, I was very disappointed with the performance of Stellan Skarsgard, he really brought no evil nature or anything to his character for that matter. He just appeared as a stock bad guy.

Osama (Barmark, 2004) - One of the best of the year so far. Deeply moving and insightful look about life in Afgahanistan during the reign of the Taliban and the horrible state of women in the country. The opening sequence with the riot and repeated imagery of the this moment was very well played out through the course of the movie.

Spartan (Mamet, 2004) - It would have been great if this movie had some type of plot or character development. The general idea of the movie was rather interesting, but if failed to run with it at all.

Station Agent (McCarthy, 2003) - I really don't know what to make of this movie. The story interested me at times and the characters were compelling, but never really proved or did anything.
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Michael Scrutchin
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PostPosted: 07.20.2004 2:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Light week for me:



  • The Butterfly Effect (Bress/Gruber, 2004) C+

  • The Wolf Man (Waggner, 1941) B

  • Point Blank (Boorman, 1967) B+



I almost liked The Butterfly Effect. It might have been a guilty pleasure if the movie hadn't been rooted in the subject of child abuse, which makes it too dark and distressing to get any "pleasure" out of it. And yet it's too silly and over-the-top to take seriously. There's actually a really touching scene in the director's cut in which Melora Walters, as Ashton Kutcher's mom, reveals something something to him after being upset by a psychic's insistence that he has no lifeline and shouldn't be alive. Walters is great here, and even Kutcher is pretty good in that scene (other times it's pretty funny when he tries to emote). I'm not sure if that scene is in the theatrical cut, since it's actually a setup for the director's-cut ending.

The Wolf Man is fun.

And Boorman's Point Blank is damn good. It has a wonderful dreamlike rhythm, mostly thanks to the elliptical editing -- sounds and images collide and expand, ebb and flow, reach a crescendo, die back down, and start up again. And, of course, there's Lee Marvin as the emotionless tough guy who wants his money and will stop at nothing to get it.

I taped the four-hour version of Greed on TCM last night, so I'll be watching that sometime this week.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 07.20.2004 3:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Michael B. Scrutchin wrote:
I taped the four-hour version of Greed on TCM last night, so I'll be watching that sometime this week.


I think that's one of the greatest movies ever made. I've only seen the 4-hour cut; pity we'll never see Stroheim's intended version.

Eric
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