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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: 09.03.2003 9:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Funny how activity on the board drops precipitously the week that school begins. I for one have been absolutely swamped all week--teaching is exponentially more existence-consuming (and stressful) than studying ever was--but I still managed time this week for two movies on video: Identity is pretty good fun, at least for the first half. Bringing Down the House, on the other hand, is a narrative mess, and also terribly unfunny. I feel racial content is fair game for art (for example Bamboozled is wonderful), but in this case I was troubled: it wallows in the same racial stereotypes that it purports to subvert. To me it's the kind of misguided fluff that inadvertently reinforces stereotypes for bigots, reminding them of why they fear black people. Eugene Levy has some good zingers, though.

Eric
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Mark Dujsik
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PostPosted: 09.03.2003 10:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

beltmann wrote:
Funny how activity on the board drops precipitously the week that school begins. I for one have been absolutely swamped all week--teaching is exponentially more existence-consuming (and stressful) than studying ever was--but I still managed time this week for two movies on video: Identity is pretty good fun, at least for the first half. Bringing Down the House, on the other hand, is a narrative mess, and also terribly unfunny. I feel racial content is fair game for art (for example Bamboozled is wonderful), but in this case I was troubled: it wallows in the same racial stereotypes that it purports to subvert. To me it's the kind of misguided fluff that inadvertently reinforces stereotypes for bigots, reminding them of why they fear black people. Eugene Levy has some good zingers, though.


So far this week, I've seen one movie, and it was Jeepers Creepers 2. My roommate's watching Apocalypse Now now (uhh... yeah), but I think I'll only jump in and out of it as I try to do some writing.

Identity reveals too much too soon, although even if you figure out the big twist that's coming halfway through, it's still interesting to watch how the motif is developed. As for the last big twist, you just need to notice that a certain character leaves at the most opportune time. I liked it, nonetheless, particularly for its successful suspense and striking imagery.

As for Bringing Down the House (or as I sometimes jokingly dub it "Bringin' Down the Hiz-ouse") I agree completely, although I thought even Levy was a shadow of his usually hilarious self.
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 09.03.2003 11:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I saw Winged Migration Monday and will probably have time to watch Spider tonight.

I liked Identity simply because I was desperate for something half-decent, at the time I watched it. The ending was way too predictable, though. And, I didn't like the whole 'one guy' thing--the hotel concept is cool, but the movie has a half-assed execution. Still fun and exciting, though. A worthy watch.

Even though I didn't think Bringing Down the House was good, I found it entertaining most of the time, unlike you two. The material is pretty awful, usually, but I think Martin and Latifah save it. It was enjoyable for me.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 09.04.2003 12:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I guess I'm ambivalent about the twist. What most struck me about Identity is its visual economy; the shot composition is quite strong, and there is very little extraneous data.
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matt header
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PostPosted: 09.04.2003 5:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I moved into Milwaukee only three days ago (school started yesterday), and since then I've seen only two movies: American Splendor and 2/60: 48 Heads (that latter one was required for one of my classes, so I'm not sure if that counts). American Splendor was quite good, humorous, and surprisingly inspiring, given its always-pessimistic main character. It got a bit longish and didn't juggle its several plots particularly well at the end, but I still enjoyed it.
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 09.04.2003 7:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Man, I had a blast with Identity. Like De Palma's Femme Fatale, which was discussed a while ago on a different thread, Identity is a "movie" movie. It's one you experience purely as a film-watcher. I revelled in the cinematics of the whole thing, the cinematography, the stylized acting, the plot progression. I also like how the twist came some 30 minutes before the conclusion. Very neat; I'd never seen anything like that before. No, Identity certainly isn't a deep movie, but I thought it was a hell of a lot of fun.
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 09.07.2003 6:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

9/2-9/7

Laura (Preminger, 1944) Anybody heard the Spike Jones (the comedian, not Spike Jonze the actor/director) version of the theme song? I had to chuckle every time it played on the soundtrack. Anyway, good movie, but I couldn?t quite buy Lydecker (Webb) and Laura?s (Tierney?s) relationship, I guess because Lydecker so embodied the way homosexuals were so often portrayed in movies from that era.And **SPOILER** can I be blamed for immediately suspecting Vincent Price as the murderer? (I still think he done it.)

Sunset Boulevard (Wilder, 1950) I can?t believe I put off watching this movie for so long. It might well become one of my all-time faves. Swanson?s performance was surprisingly affecting; this role could have easily turned into caricature, but she was able to lend humanity to a character who is constantly in a state of performance. No easy role, this. Von Stroheim?s was especially affecting too, and Wilder?s direction was tops.

No Maps for These Territories (Neale, 2000) Interesting documentary about William Gibson, annoyingly made. Gibson has some interesting things to say, but he?s trapped in the backseat of a limo for the duration of the film, and the image is often intentionally (and needlessly) overexposed while distracting visual effects take place outside the car window. Still, I?d recommend it.

Alien (Scott, 1979) My favorite movie. I?ve been trying to hold out for the theatrical re-release, but I?m so hyped I cheated and watch it early.

Chaos (Nakata, 1999) A twisty De Palma-like mystery/thriller that?s a lot of fun, but I have to admit I?m a little unclear as to why one character does what she does in the final frame. That aside, this is definitely, and refreshingly, a movie to watch with your brain in the locked and upright position. No slacking with this one.

The Life of David Gale (Parker, 2003) I was deeply disappointed to find out this movie makes no mention at all of Gale?s role as Dr. Hill in Re-Animator. Kiddin?. Actually, I thought it was a highly watchable movie, but I?m afraid it makes exactly opposite the case it wishes to. As a movie it?s pretty good. As a political statement it?s stunningly miscalculated.
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Mark Dujsik
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PostPosted: 09.07.2003 11:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

9/1 - 9/7

A very slow and very weak week for me:

Jeepers Creepers 2 (Salva, 2003)

The Medallion (Chan, 2003)

The Real Cancun (de Oliveira, 2003)

The Order (Helgeland, 2003)

I'll have a review of The Order early this week (I've got some homework, reading, and monologue choosing to catch up with first and foremost), but it's pretty much a dark (meaning not lit well) mess of mumbo jumbo with a really bad first act, a surprisingly fascinating second act, and a third act that makes you rethink what you thought about the second--in a bad way.

EDIT: Added link to review of The Order
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Last edited by Mark Dujsik on 09.11.2003 1:18 am; edited 1 time in total
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 09.08.2003 12:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Slow for me, too:

Winged Migration

Spider
(Twice; Almost Back to Back; it's that intriguing)

2nd Viewing of: My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star

[EDIT: I didn't get a chance to watch Nicholas Nickelby]

I'm actually just about to watch Nicholas Nickelby, after I finish up the last of my homework. Highly recommended on that list is Spider (barely). I liked Winged Migration and I think Big Fat still retains its charm, the second time around. Dickie Roberts actually isn't half-bad, but it's not exactly half-good, either.[/i]
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Mark Dujsik
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PostPosted: 09.08.2003 12:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Danny Baldwin wrote:
I'm actually just about to watch Nicholas Nickelby, after I finish up the last of my homework.


I really, really enjoyed it; hope you do as well.
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 09.08.2003 1:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I liked Spider a lot, too. I was surprised by how direct and unambiguous it is for Cronenberg; perhaps because he was working from someone else's script -- and yet, even with someone else writing, all the Cronenbergian themes are covered with almost schematic precision. This is probably his most accessable film since The Dead Zone and The Fly. I'm surprised it didn't do better business.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 09.08.2003 3:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I admire Spider a good deal, but I found it frustratingly pedestrian at times, sometimes as shallow as it is hypnotic. I'd rank it below both Dead Zone and eXistenZ (which is, to these eyes, Cronenberg's finest work).

9/4 - 9/7

Pistol Opera (Suzuki, 2001). Mesmerizing. Although the plot pilfers Suzuki's own Branded to Kill, made 35 years earlier, I'm reluctant to call this a remake, since Branded was black-and-white and nearly everything I adore about Pistol has to do with its use of color. I've never seen a Suzuki film I liked--years ago I found Branded's mix of formal gimmicks and hedonism rather off-putting, and Tokyo Drifter is genuinely awful--so I was hesitant to catch this new release. While still retaining the same heady, structural-busting goofiness of Suzuki's old work, Pistol Opera is something new: stately, woozy, abstract, lushly bloodied by candified colors and surreal composition. The visual stylings keep growing in ambition and absurdism, mixing elements of Noh drama, Kabuki theater, gangster noir, and beyond. I think I loved it, despite having zero emotional connection to anything on screen.

The Secret Lives of Dentists (Rudolph, 2003). Rudolph's strongest work in years, perhaps his best since Afterglow. 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?

American Splendor (Berman and Pulcini, 2003). My wife and I enjoyed a Hope Davis double feature on Saturday. (We've been fans since Daytrippers and Mumford.) Plenty has been said about the wonderful acting of Davis and Paul Giamatti in this Harvey Pekar "biopic," and I concur. Mostly, though, I'm fascinated by the cubist qualities of this bizarro, which fuses elements of narrative fiction, documentary, and comic strips to shape a new, exhilirating kind of formalism. I'd like to add that I never found the narrative portions very convincing, but that's entirely to the film's credit--those scenes seem like caustic splinters from Pekar's mind, perfectly capturing the way he thinks in terms of exaggerated features and thought bubbles. I think it's one of the best movies of the year.

Stevie (James, 2003). Still mulling over this one, the latest documentary by Steve James. It raises all kinds of questions about liberal guilt, the responsibilities of society, and the ethical obligations of documentarians. I haven't decided yet how successful it is, but I concede I've been thinking about its implications for several days now.

I'm Going Home (de Oliveira, 2001). Slow, meditative, hopeless. I know a lot of critics fell under its spell, but I found this story about old age (and the humiliations associated with it) repetitive and glib. I dunno why some find its obvious, familiar, beaten-to-death assertions "poignant," but I question whether de Oliveira's age--he's now 94--is a factor in the glowing reviews. If so, isn't that a rather contemptible form of condescension?

A Decade Under the Influence (Demme and LaGravenese, 2003). Film buffs don't need to be convinced that the Seventies were a golden age for American moviemaking, but this documentary about the era has little else to say. I didn't learn a single thing from this blindly reverent, self-congratulatory affair, although there are two things worth catching: First, there's a very brief passage that discusses how the decade's art was primarily about maleness (the lack of good female roles is now mirrored by the lack of female participants in this project). Second, actress Julie Christie is a surprisingly insightful film critic--she's just about the only one here trying to offer some perceptions. I guess I enjoyed the film clips, though.

Eric
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matt header
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PostPosted: 09.08.2003 6:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I thought I'd pitch in my opinion on "Spider": it's interesting, but awfully hard to care about Ralph Fiennes' character, although his mumbling, grandiose performance has him at least showing some personality (something he does very rarely, I would say). I've seen very few Cronenberg movies ("Dead Ringers" is my favorite). I'll admit "Spider" is certainly worth a look, though.

9/03 - 9/07

Only two films: All the Real Girls and Japon.

I'm in the hooray-for-David-Gordon-Green category for All the Real Girls: it was the most emotionally shattering, beautiful film I've seen so far this year, and my favorite, also. The way the visuals compensate the characters' emotions is nothing less than stunning; I'm going to buy it as soon as I can.

Japon is determinedly abstract and austere, with pacing that self-consciously draws out the movie's ambiguity, but it certainly is interesting and original. Some of the very random scenes had strong themes of man's animalistic nature or modern commercialism (I think); others had seemingly no point whatsoever. But there are wondrous moments, and the cinematography in the movie is always intriguing.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 09.08.2003 9:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

matt header wrote:
...although Fiennes' mumbling, grandiose performance has him at least showing some personality (something he does very rarely, I would say).


A common complaint about Fiennes. I know I'm in the minority, but I'd argue that he usually shows a great deal of personality; it's just a very different kind of personality than we're used to seeing on screen. His meditative, simmering, internalized style doesn't really fit in with the bombastic styles we've been conditioned to expect. I think we're fortunate that an actor with his unusually quiet (and admittedly more challenging) take has been allowed to exist in current mainstream cinema, which too often resembles a carnival of external spectacle--we're top-heavy with showboats mistaken for brilliant actors. I would trade all of Al Pacino for Fiennes' commanding work in Schindler's List, The End of the Affair, Sunshine, and especially Quiz Show. (Okay, maybe I'd hang on to Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon.)

Eric
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 09.08.2003 9:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

matt header wrote:
2/60: 48 Heads (that latter one was required for one of my classes, so I'm not sure if that counts).


I'm not very familiar with Kren's work--hard to get my hands on it--but I'm always interested in that sort of stuff. All I really know is that 2/60 refers to his second film, made in 1960. For what reason did you study it in class? Tell us more, Matt! Tell us more!

Eric
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