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What did you watch this week?
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HoRRoRFaN
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PostPosted: 08.10.2004 1:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

beltmann wrote:
I think that's true here, and also with Signs and Wide Awake, but I still believe that Sixth Sense and Unbreakable add up to something. What's frustrating is that those two films set the bar high, and it now seems clear that Shyamalan doesn't have the taste, wisdom, and maturity to live up to his own hype. Both Signs and The Village seem contrived by a man detached from everything in life except the movies (and B-movies, at that). The comparisons to Spielberg were obviously premature.


Haven't seen WIDE AWAKE and I probably need to see UNBREAKABLE a second time. But about THE SIXTH SENSE and SIGNS, you're right when you say that it doesn't seem as if he can live up to his own hype. He has that masterpiece in him, which will one day come out hopefully. For now, he is too caught up and fascinated with a twist ending that this is a approach that only negatively affects the movie in this case. With THE SIXTH SENSE, I loved the twist, precisely because it did not tremendously change the way I viewed the story and how I connected to it. Now that you mentioned it, there really is sumthin Bergmanesque with THE VILLAGE when we realize the religious themes... I guess I just thought that it was a perfect change for Shyamalan to deliver lots of depth in his messages -- the parallels are certainly here -- but I suppose that it's a different movie with a different agenda. Still, just image how great the movie could have been had these themes hit home with its post-9/11 world, outside from the village. That's what I was disappointed in, the missed opportunity.
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 08.10.2004 8:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

8/3 - 8/9

I've got to hit the sack soon, so I'll try to keep this short. In preferential order:

The 400 Blows (Truffaunt, 1959) - Amazing cinematography and direction, with a beautiful focus on its images correlation with the character's emotions, its classic-status is certainly justifiable. Devastating performances, too.



Before Sunset (Linklater, 2004) - Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are better than in the first film and the dialogue is richer. This one may be a tad less interesting, but its as good as its predecessor, if not better.

Hero (Yimou, 2004) - I finally got around to watching my Cantonese copy, after seeing Jet Li on a few talk shows. The beautiful asthetics are breathtaking, and the typical themes conveyed in this type of movie are taken in a different direction, here. Despite the American release carrying the credit "Quentin Tarantino Presents", this is far deeper (and, at times, funnier) than Kill Bill: Volume One could've ever hoped to be, as a homage.

Broken Wings (Bergman, 2004) - Devastating and heart-breaking, as the main characters little brother takes a three-meter dive into an empty pool as a stunt, allowing the plot to take on a higher purpose than it did, prior to the incident. The music scenes serve as flowing poetry, allowing the audience to understand the main character far more than we could've. Social status is also high on its agenda, and it masterfully presents the idea.

Crimson Gold (Panahi, 2004) - In one of the few incidents in which I prefer showing the outcome of the story in the first scene, this is one of the more complex stories of crime and its effects, as well as the current (as well as not-so-current) state of Middle Eastern society. The main character is a sympathetic one, and a deep-thinker; the fact that we know what happens to him as we witness this account of the events leading to his jewlery store robbery and suicide all the more tragic.

The Man on the Train (Leconte, 2003) - Wonderfully crafted characters with terrific dialogue; if it weren't for those two assets this one would simply be a cookie-cutter crime-drama. But, with them, it's absolute magic, and has two great leading performances, also. That said, I still was a tad lukewarm on it, despite being almost entirely won over.

The Manchurian Candidate (Demme, 2004) - Jonathan Demme, as one of my favorite directors, updates the 1962 version of the film, which I just saw a week and a half ago, competently. The remake is far more engaging than the original, but its less surprising and well-written. I prefer Frankenheimer's version, certainly, because of the unpredictability of it all. Had I not seen it, this film would probably been more enriching. Great acting all around, here, too.

Malcolm X (Lee, 1992) - Spike Lee's movies have never really appealed to me; they're all experiments, in my book. His best film, in my mind, is 25th Hour, the only one with a clear sense of a narrative. Nevertheless, his concoctious "Joints" almost always ream to be rewarding, and this one serves as no exception. Denzel Washington gives his best performance ever here, too--far superior to his Oscar-winning work in Training Day.

The Door in the Floor (Williams, 2004) - Like many other forgotten low-key dramas, this one tries to juggle too many ideas at once, and is unsatisfying in the end. For the first two acts, though, when it doesn't have to rush and attempt to complete the gigantic task of actually wrapping itself up, it's incredibly engrossing. I just don't think concluding five multi-tasking stories with a simple explanation of a horrifying and life-changing event in the main family's past is sufficient.

Collateral (Mann, 2004) - Great performances from the leads, as well as amazing direction from Michael Mann. The writing, though, proves to always either be boring or rediculous, and in the end, it turns out bloated and preposterous. Its ambition is unignorable, though, and turns out to be somewhat rewarding, if uninspiring.

Ned Kelly (Jordan, 2004) - Bland and cliched, despite its embracing several great techniques. Rather awful performances, except on the part of Naomi Watts, and cheesiness ensue. The typical revenge story usually hooks me in, but this one left me detatched, for nearly the entire running length. I think the title character's hanging at twenty-five would've been more interesting than how he supposedly undeservingly arrived at such a point. Simple text explaining what happened to him "after the movie" doesn't really do the character, or the plot, any justice. The picture certainly isn't entertaining, either.

Beer Muscles (Marks, 2002) - I was sent a screener copy of this low-budget indie, and despite having some hilarious jokes, the terrible performances and unnecessary sense of crudeness weigh it down. Totally misguided in terms of tone, too. From the half-techno half-elevator music to the cheap costuming to the tone of the cast's voices, at times, I thought that everyone was about to take their clothes off and begin to do very naughty things.

Final Destination (Wong, 2000) - Some creative moments of tension and humor make this almost tolerable, but the awful death scenes (aside from the first two) and incomprehensibly bad performances suck all of the fun out of it. I still have a strange curiosity to see the second film in the series, though, and once I recover from this abysmal experience, I might give it a try.

I was also bored enough to watch The Lizzie McGuire Movie six times, in addition to my first viewing, last year. I think baaab's cult has a new member, but I certainly don't read into it as far as he does. But, my near 2,200 word review may allow many of you to prove me wrong. Nevertheless, it has generated more hate-mail towards me in two days than my Fahrenheit 9/11 review did in two weeks. I suppose that's cool. It actually has a great repeat value (even though most of you will never get to that point, Laughing). But, I enjoy it, and I don't see anything wrong with watching it nightly; it's entertaining, and carries many valueable metaphors, themes, and even thoughts on pubescent society. But, no, unlike baaab, I'm not about to debate POV's involving DV cameras in it, and things like that...It certainly makes for a more enjoyable sit than House of Sand and Fog did a second time. Despite its mastery, which I was able to immerse myself in, during my first viewing, all of the tragedy was lost because I knew the outcome. The performances and writing still hold up, though, and I still would highly recommend it.
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HoRRoRFaN
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PostPosted: 08.10.2004 2:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Glad to see that you liked CRIMSON GOLD, Danny. I saw it last year and have been wanting to see it again, it's an amazing film, great Kiarostami script full of insight.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 08.10.2004 4:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

HoRRoRFaN wrote:
Glad to see that you liked CRIMSON GOLD, Danny. I saw it last year and have been wanting to see it again, it's an amazing film, great Kiarostami script full of insight.


I rank Panahi among the most important filmmakers currently working, and confess that I prefer his work over Kiarostami's. Here's what I wrote about Crimson Gold when I placed it on my Top Ten last year: "While The Circle thundered against the marginalization of women in Tehran, Jafar Panahi's latest act of social protest aims at a different kind of subjugation, one that ought to resonate with Americans at least as much as Iranians. Class disparity is targeted here, as a dour pizza delivery boy is rendered so invisible by his scruffy job that he passes unnoticed through the socioeconomic strata of the city. Like Taxi Driver, this natural, reflective work places you deep inside the psyche of a frustrated, alienated, quietly seething man, exposing how social polarization creates a form of purgatory on earth."

Danny Baldwin wrote:
Spike Lee's movies have never really appealed to me; they're all experiments, in my book.


Danny, you say this like it's a bad thing. Smile

Danny Baldwin wrote:
I was also bored enough to watch The Lizzie McGuire Movie six times, in addition to my first viewing, last year. I think baaab's cult has a new member


You're starting to creep me out, dude.

Eric
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matt header
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PostPosted: 08.10.2004 5:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I find Malcolm X to be Lee's best movie, although it is probably his least adventurous. (As Leonard Maltin says, "[Lee] remains on his best behavior throughout," which I guess means he doesn't take any outlandish risks.) Washington's performance is his best and ranks among the greatest I've seen; Lee infuses pride, respect, and beauty into this basic biography, allowing Malcolm X to become a symbol for all of his own ideology and all of the movie's themes.

The Corporation (Achbar & Abbott, 2004) B Another in the long line of left-leaning documentaries (after Fahrenheit 911, Control Room, etc.), this extensive (it's 150 minutes) but never-dull analysis of corporate barbarity and cruelty. The Corporation mostly wears its liberal heart on its sleeve, picking apart the insensitivity of corporate oligarchs by analyzing their destruction of the environment, its low wages and sweatshop conditions, its suppression and distortion of the media, its manipulation of children, and so on. But, as I thought with Fahrenheit 9/11, its subjectivity isn't a detractor; although both contain great deals of straightforward evidence and information, they act just as well as persuasive "cinematic essays," passionate expressions from the filmmakers' point of view. The parts that work best, though, address the basic conundrum of corporations' existence: legally they are described as one individual body, but that also means legally they must make decisions that reflect an individual's good will, and of course it is impossible for a "corporation" to act upon good will in and of itself.

Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself (Scherfig, 2004) A-- Set in drab Scotland and with many characters that are either dying, ill, or wanting be dead, Scherfig's dark comedy-drama is surprisingly life-assuring and very funny. By the bittersweet end, happiness and tragedy are both found, but we know life will simply go on for these characters; its realistic spell allows us to take a glimpse into what seems like a trio of easily relatable lives. The acting is superb all around.

Yu-Gi-Oh The Movie (Tsuki, 2004) D Nearly all kids' movies are at least subtly made to promote tie-in merchandise, but Yu-Gi-Oh is a horrific example: a 90-minute commercial, in which literally all that happens is product endorsement. If The Matrix sequels practically amounted to watching other people play video games, this is watching other people play card games: flashing Yu-Gi-Oh cards in front of young minds and waiting for the parents' wallets to empty after they leave the theater. At the sneak preview I saw, the theater packed full of kids cheered and laughed afterwards, so it at least pleases its target audience; but so did Finding Nemo and Ice Age, which had the good sense to view them as an audience and not as consumers.

The Village (Shyamalan, 2004) C+ I made brief comments about this before, but this is the most blatant example of Shyamalan's storytelling flair being unable to cover up for inconsistencies in dialogue and performances. The acting is generally quite poor, especially William Hurt and Sigourney Weaver, who seem strained in their roles, to say the least. Its twist ending is its most fascinating aspect -- on a thematic level, at least -- but even this falls flat, and the rest of the movie is a gorgeous but fairly hollow exercise.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (McKay, 2004) B+ Yeah, I loved it. And, surprisingly, I don't feel a twinge of guilt for it. Being a great fan of stupid but not vulgar comedy -- Airplane!, Top Secret, Super Troopers, etc. -- I almost have the urge to purge myself after loving movies like Zoolander. But Anchorman is artful in its stupidity, resembling a madcap farce in which the story doesn't really matter, the jokes don't tie into the story, and nothing ever really makes complete sense. The most I've laughed in a movie theater since Gigli.

The Bourne Supremacy (Greengrass, 2004) B The harsh, verite visuals Greengrass used in Bloody Sunday return with superb effect: the battles in this sequel (physical, mental, and otherwise) seem brutal and inescapable. The movie has a great knack for making you aware of its setting and feeling every blow. If the espionage dialogue can sometimes become too Tom Clany (or, for that matter, Robert Ludlum) for its own good, it brings the audience right back in with another Damon scowl or another exhilarating set piece.

I needed to check up on a lot of movies now in theaters, so I saw no older movies this week, tragically; but I just bought Lon Chaney's Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera, Belle du Jour, and Badlands a couple days ago, so I'll be seeing them soon.
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 08.10.2004 6:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

beltmann wrote:


You're starting to creep me out, dude.


Eric, you say this like it's a bad thing. Laughing
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HoRRoRFaN
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PostPosted: 08.10.2004 7:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Guess I need to see more Panahi, cuz I've only seen CRIMSON GOLD and I thought that THE WHITE BALLOON (also written by Kiarostami) was just charming, enjoyable, and innocent all the way through. Reminded me of WHERE IS THE FRIEND'S HOME? at times, too. I am pretty sure that I got THE CIRCLE laying around somewhere, I just need to find it and watch it finally. Can't find THE MIRROR anywhere, I remember wanting to check it out... Anything I'm missing that I should check out by him? Kiarostami, as you know, is one of my favorite filmmakers. For me, his films function on so many levels, proving to be significantly deeper and richer on each viewing.
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stefanieduckwitz
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PostPosted: 08.10.2004 7:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Danny Baldwin wrote:
beltmann wrote:


You're starting to creep me out, dude.


Eric, you say this like it's a bad thing. Laughing


Heh. Sorry, that just struck me as really funny.
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HoRRoRFaN
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PostPosted: 08.10.2004 7:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

About Spike Lee, his films never felt like experiments to me... His newest film, SHE HATE ME, definitely sounds like one, though. I actually wanna give it a shot because while it looks so terribly bad, it at least looks like an interesting mess. Ebert's comments on the film interested me because he is well aware of all of its flaws and it still amused him. Maybe I am just going to wait for it to be released on DVD... I think Spike is an intelligent man, and SUMMER OF SAM, 25th HOUR, MALCOLM X, BAMBOOZLED, DO THE RIGHT THING, and CLOCKERS are all great. I like HE GOT GAME, too.
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PostPosted: 08.10.2004 11:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

stefanieduckwitz wrote:
Heh. Sorry, that just struck me as really funny.


You appologize for just about everything. You'd do well on Dr. Phil.
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 08.11.2004 12:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Re: The Village

beltmann wrote:
Night Watchman is correct that the twist renders the entire mythology essentially arbitrary, but I don't view that as a betrayal, perhaps because I was far less interested in the "creature" aspects of the story--quite silly on its own terms, IMO--and much more interested in why this fraudulent mythology had been concocted. In other words, unlike NW, I was not particularly curious to see how the "creature" plot would resolve itself. The movie's gravest flaw is in raising political questions without ever really mining their allegorical or social potential.


The political and/or religious allegory seemed tossed by the wayside to me too, but I felt that the "creature aspects" were connected directly to that allegory, and so needed to be resolved -- whether or not the creatures were real -- within the narrative. As it is, this particular thread, and all it encompasses, is left dangling. All we're left with is the town elders essentially hanging their heads and kicking shamefully at the dirt, saying, "Maybe we done a bad thing."

beltmann wrote:
To answer NW's question about emulating THIS particular historical era, I'd argue that the neo-Puritan setting signals how many contemporary fears, as well as current isolationist agendas, are founded principally upon old habits of Puritan hysteria. The setting makes metaphorical sense, but it also stands as a practical choice. These people would naturally cling to a faintly familiar American culture, while still selecting an era in which communities were disconnected and easily isolated from outside influences.


I can buy that, and in a better movie it might have seemed plausible, but within The Village it just feels as though Shyamalan is using the 19th century mock-up as sleight of hand.

matt header wrote:
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (McKay, 2004) B+ Yeah, I loved it. And, surprisingly, I don't feel a twinge of guilt for it. Being a great fan of stupid but not vulgar comedy -- Airplane!, Top Secret, Super Troopers, etc. -- I almost have the urge to purge myself after loving movies like [/i]Zoolander[/i]. But Anchorman is artful in its stupidity, resembling a madcap farce in which the story doesn't really matter, the jokes don't tie into the story, and nothing ever really makes complete sense. The most I've laughed in a movie theater since Gigli.


I laughed a lot during Anchorman, too. It's refreshing to see comedies of this type in which the characters aren't complete assholes. Ron Burgundy and crew are chauvinists, but not out of maliciousness. Rather, they are more like immature little boys who are at least open to the possibility that girls are people too. But, then again, that's probably looking for to deep into a movie about 70s anchormen involving a gladitorial battle. Anyway, Tim Robbins's part has to be the funniest and slyest cameos this side of Dodgeball's Lance Armstrong.
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PostPosted: 08.11.2004 1:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

the night watchman wrote:
Re: The Village and Setting

I can buy that, and in a better movie it might have seemed plausible, but within The Village it just feels as though Shyamalan is using the 19th century mock-up as sleight of hand.



I tend to agree. And here's a related question: WHY would this group of people, once they formed the village, decide to suddenly start speaking in such an old dialect? That seems to me an unfair cheat, included only to throw off audiences.

Oh, and I too found Anchorman rather amusing. Robbins cracked me up, but Vince Vaughn had me rolling. His first scene is some kind of classic.

Eric
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HoRRoRFaN
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PostPosted: 08.11.2004 3:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

[quote="beltmann"]
the night watchman wrote:
WHY would this group of people, once they formed the village, decide to suddenly start speaking in such an old dialect? That seems to me an unfair cheat, included only to throw off audiences.


There are many, many gripes and contrivances that I found with the plot, and this was one of them. Since I took time to think about the movie and some of these problems that I had, I think that the dialogue (which really annoyed me sitting through the movie) is necessary in the way that these people decided on an old dialect to reflect the time. Still, you are right that the awkward dialogue only exists to throw us off.
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PostPosted: 08.11.2004 5:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Then again, since these people were afraid of the consequences of modern society, don't you think that they merely are trying to simulate a safer time? Since there is no way to actually see whether such a style of speech has correlation with dangerous ideas, aren't they simply doing the best they can to not take any risks?
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 08.11.2004 4:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Re: dialogue in The Village (has anyone on this board not seen the movie yet, so we can dispense with the "spoiler color"?)

Good thought, Danny. At first, I assumed the dialogue represented a weird dialect that was a result of the community's isolation. (I hadn't realized we were dealing with first generation villagers.) Afterwards, I assumed it was simply bad dialogue. But maybe the convoluted language is an attempt to strike out "bad words," i.e. words with negative connotations?
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