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What did you watch this week?
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 10.11.2004 5:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was very impressed with Elephant. I had always wondered if it was possible to translate into film the jarring suddeness and sense of randomness of experiencing an event that literally comes out of nowhere, has nothing to with those involved, yet changes absoutely everything. Elephant is like the moment of a car accident or receiving a phone call that your spouse has died. The moment when the thought crosses your mind, How did this come to pass? At what point did my life take this track? But it's that moment effectively stretched out over the duration of the movie, so that the viewer may contemplate it in a way a quick shock would never allow. No mean feat that. There is no plot and no development of character that is relevent to the tragedy, and it even manages to foil expectation again and again, since many developments simply have no pay off. I was also surprised by just how suspenseful the movie manages to be. Thirty minutes in, I was literally on the edge of my seat. And yet, when the violence commences, it's shocking, surreal in its disconnection from the mundane events we've witnesses so far. In the way it follows its intentions, Elephant is as perfect and pure a movie as I've ever seen.
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matt header
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PostPosted: 10.11.2004 3:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
No one will ever accuse you of being a snob, Matt.




Hallelujah!



I too was impressed by Elephant. To be honest, its unsettling formal beauty is enough for me, but I also think it successfully achieves its goals, to portray school violence as an incomprehensible monster that can't be tidily understood or explained away. (Scenes of the killers sharing a kiss, playing video games, watching Nazi documentaries, etc., are the most unnecessary in the movie, but they also suggest that no singleminded excuse will kill the elephant.)
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 10.11.2004 4:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The kiss was the only unnecessary part, I thought, but then again I wasn't sure exactly what it was meant to reveal. Obviously, suggesting that the two killers are homosexual is too incongruous and simplistic. Perhaps Van Sant was trying to show the bond the two boys formed with each other transcended concepts like sexuality, identity, anger, and morality. Still, the moment struck me as jarring and tacked-on.
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 10.12.2004 12:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Past Two Weeks in No Particular Order:



I'm going to do the link thing, as it's easier. Very Happy



Seen At Festival:

Complete Festival Coverage

Dear Frankie (Auerbauch, 2005)

The Ride (Kurosawa, 2004)

Around the Bend (Roberts, 2004)

Finding Home (Foldes, 2004)

Primer (Carruth, 2004)



Seen In Regulation:

Raise Your Voice (McNamara, 2004) - Review

The Motorcycle Diaries (Salles, 2004) - Review

Shark Tale (Bergeron, Jenson, Letterman; 2004) - Review

Friday Night Lights (Berg, 2004) - No review yet, but I liked it a lot, especially Thorton's peformance, which allows the movie to remain real, even when the script becomes melodramatic and drifts into the land of the "typical sports movie". Beautiful, original score, with some intense, gritty camera work, which parallels with the narrative rather well. It's always a pleasure when this type of thing makes it into multiplexes.
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Niloc
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PostPosted: 10.12.2004 4:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just saw Saints and Soldiers. It rocks.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 10.18.2004 2:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

10/11 ? 10/17/04



Chronologically:



Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson and the Story of SMiLE (Leaf, USA 2004). Too often the movie settles for unblinking, barefaced hagiography?is Wilson truly a musical genius on the order of Mozart??but it's informative and sometimes moving.



Walking Tall (Bray, USA 2004). Sleek, lean, well-groomed revenge fantasy without an ounce of inspiration?yet another fascist screed in which due process is for chumps, and guns are really really cool. The Rock?s character justifies his violent vengeance as ?self-defense? by saying the law is unwilling to protect him, as if there is no higher authority than the corrupt local sheriff. Even worse, the movie gleefully coasts on that illogic, using his noble indignation as a means to perpetuate rote hero-villain confrontations rather than build a story. Couldn?t the script at least have roused the locals out of their moral complacency?



Lonelyland (Collins, USA 2002). Fifteen-minute film about a hefty, sweaty college guy who suffers from anxiety, loneliness, and feelings of inadequacy. Eventually he has a meet cute with a girl in the parking lot; both of them, at various points, end up flat on their faces, prostrate on the blacktop. Although I was interested in the movie?s dry, deadpan style?which finds awkward humor amidst the discomfort?ultimately the laughs are hollow and there?s not much else going on.



Young Adam (Mackenzie, UK 2003). Ewan MacGregor is a Scottish bargehand who seduces his partner?s wife; his lecherous, determined poise functions as a tractor pull, tugging helpless women towards his crotch. Despite that confidence, he recognizes the hollowness of his compulsion; when he looks in the mirror, he?s less disgusted than disappointed, resigned to his own cruel egotism. Yet his worst fault is an inability to take real action?he?s a frustrated writer?and to take responsibility: When one of his lovers accidentally drowns in his presence, he does nothing when a local plumber is accused of murder. What?s astonishing is how the picture depicts the toll on his interior?this is a moody, deliberate psychological drama about a soiled soul that builds in intensity as it progresses. I suppose the lulling style takes some getting used to, but it?s always riveting to watch the performances (Peter Mullan and Tilda Swinton are both exceptional) and to absorb the details about working life on the river.



Eric
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 10.18.2004 2:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Danny, I was just reading your SDFF festival summary, and came across these words: "Between my having a small cold, participating in tennis lessons, and wanting to watch the Presidential Debate last Thursday, I decided to not attend the festival that night. Not many big pictures were showing then; mostly small-scale documentaries were in the spotlight."



I think you and I have a different idea of what qualifies as a "big" picture. The beauty of film festivals is that they afford us brief access to cinema's fringes, where the budgets and marketing might be small, but the ideas are often big. Some of my favorite movies of the year--the ones with the biggest ideas--have been "minor" documentaries that too many people routinely shrug off: Detained; Live From Shiva's Dance Floor; Persons of Interest; Remembrance of Things to Come; The Agronomist.



Eric
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 10.18.2004 5:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

beltmann wrote:


I think you and I have a different idea of what qualifies as a "big" picture.


I read over that, and really hit myself over the head. I meant that not many feature films were playing and that most were short programs and 45-minute documentaries made by student filmmakers. I need to change that; bottom line: they didn't strike up much interest for me.
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matt header
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PostPosted: 10.18.2004 3:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey, Eric, you'll be able to find some mighty big pictures at this year's 2nd Annual Milwaukee International Film Festival, starting this Thursday!!! Anything you're really looking forward to seeing?



Or anyone else in Wisconsin?
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 10.18.2004 3:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

matt header wrote:
Anything you're really looking forward to seeing


I'm looking forward to all of them; I'm planning to catch roughly 40 programs over the 11 days. (I may drop dead afterwards, but it will be a good death.) If I had to pick a few highly anticipated titles, perhaps I would list Women's Prison, Disbelief, Since Otar Left, Death in Gaza, The Snow Walker, Infernal Affairs, Witnesses, Anatomy of Hell and Incident at Loch Ness. Still, who knows what great films will be tucked away in the festival's obscure corners?



Despite my hefty roster, I'm still dismayed I couldn't find room for Moolade, Chinese Odyssey 2002 and Tarnation especially; too bad also about Ong-Bak, Word Wars, Man of the Year, Tulse Lupar Suitcases, Sexual Dependency, The Days of Being Wild and a few others.



Eric
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matt header
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PostPosted: 10.18.2004 3:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A good week. In preferential order:



Entr'acte (Clair, 1924) A+

Un Chien Andalou
(Bunuel, 1929) A

L'Age d'Or
(Bunuel, 1930) A-

The Brown Bunny
(Gallo, 2004) A-

The Smiling Madame Beudet
(Dulac, 1922) B

Mean Girls
(Waters, 2004) C+

The Motorcycle Diaries
(Salles, 2004) C+

Ichi the Killer
(Miike, 2002) C

Buffalo Soldiers
(Jordan, 2004) C



Rene Clair's short film Entr'acte was premiered at one of the first Dadaist conventions ever held by Tristan Zara, and it's a brilliant, hilarious study in absurdity. Dadaism (although I'm definitely not an expert on the subject) was an absurd, senseless way to address the global instability in between the world wars, and Clair's film amazingly echoes that all-consuming lack of reason or logic while emphasizing film's ability to inflict order and form to the most nonsensical material. When a man literally jumps through the film's closing "Fin" title, it serves to emphasize film as an abstracted illusion, the most logical manifestation of absurd/surreal philosophy.



Speaking of surrealism, I also saw Un Chien Andalou and L'Age d'Or, both of which were awesome. (I'm a huge fan of absurdity, by the way.) It's hard to dislike a film where a man, in a getaway from the law, kicks a blind man into the gutter and steals his taxi.



My review for The Brown Bunny is here: http://www.uwmleader.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2004/10/13/416daa263dcf1. I'm still reeling from it and thinking about it.



Mean Girls has glimmers of good ideas, but rarely are they delivered intelligently. I like Tina Fey a lot and she could someday write an outstanding comedic script, but in Mean Girls we can only find traces; it never really transcends its teen-comedy stature, although it's above most. Lindsay Lohan's costuming is awe-inspiring...



For a film about Che Guevara's initiation into idealism and political conscientousness, Motorcycle Diaries is too hurried, cliched, and simplistic to portray an identifiable main character, much less one that would become so influential. Pedestrian scenes, like Ernesto heroically swimming across a river at a leper colony that divides the staff from the patients as both sides cheer him on, play on for too long, contradicting the idea that "this isn't a story about heroes" by lionizing his nobility at every turn; meanwhile, scenes that should be longer, like a philosophically liberating stay at Macchu Picchu or bedside discussions with ailing leper patients, are much too brief, edited obligatorily and ending before the audience feels any real satisfaction or change. That happens to be one of the film's main problems: it details Ernesto Guevara's development into an idealistic, politically profound individual, but we never any feel any real change in him; he feels like a glorified humanist from the beginning. It's well-shot, and Gustavo Santaolalla's score is outstanding, but it rarely works dramatically or ideologically, which is where it should excel.



Miike's Ichi the Killer ostensibly takes a look at the sadist and the masochist in every one of us, our desire to inflict pain and to receive it. Turns out Miike is 100% sadist, though: he takes obvious delight in littering his frame with bowels, blood, cut-off tongues, removed limbs, geysers of blood spouting from jugular veins, peeled-off skin, and other pleasantries. Nothing is wrong with a violent movie, but when it makes a thematic claim early on and then ignores it for cool-looking gore, one can't help but feel Miike has started with an idea and descended into immaturity. The character of Ichi himself is very interesting, a mild-mannered, wide-eyed young man who plays video games until he's coerced into enacting revenge on the "bullies" that ridiculed him as a kid (or did they?), and the film could have intelligently spun off of this idea of violence permeating society and perpetuating even more violence. Alas, it's content to depict a yakuza bloodfest of revenge and sadomasochism.



Finally, I also attended the 42nd Annual Ann Arbor Film Festival, which had its ups and downs. As I usually find with experimental films, the more formalist, playful abstractions were more successful than the self-absorbed experimental narratives. Robert Todd's heavily superimposed Stable and the digital animation Pattern were standouts, while Tony Gault's Not Too Much Remember was the best found-footage film I've ever seen, detailing how visual narratives inform and distort our memory. Meanwhile, narrative/documentaries like The Invisible Hand and Thunder Perfect Mind felt either pompous and didactic or self-consciously weird, respectively; Thunder Perfect Mind especially felt like some dude takes LSD, apes Fellini, and mistakes nonsensical rambling for elegance. Jeebus! It did have one awesomely entertaining "documentary," a travelogue called Buses, Planes, Cars, and Trains, which has a scene in a rent-a-car company that's some sort of classic.



P.S.: I'm listening to the song "Please, Tends L'Orveilles" by Bams and U-God off of The World According to RZA right now, and it's unbelievably cool.
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matt header
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PostPosted: 10.18.2004 3:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, I'll be able to see very few at the Film Festival since I'll be working at it (and will still have class, of course), but I'll see everything I can. I just had three papers and a film due last week, and it was hell, but now I don't have a ton of work to do over the next two weeks, so I'll do what I can.



I'm also really looking forward to the Cinema for the Ear program, which has a short called The Super Friends Versus Professor Vinyl, which can not logically be bad. Smile
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 10.18.2004 10:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Judging by the titles Eric listed, you guys have a better lineup than we do. I really want to go to the Palm Springs FF, though. Maybe.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 10.25.2004 4:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wish I had more time to elaborate on the last week, but I'll just report that Smell of Camphor, Frangrance of Jasmine is one of the more satisfying of the many meta-experiments that marked Nineties Iranian cinema.



In the past three days I have also seen 14 films at the Milwaukee film festival, along with 15 shorts. It's been a blast, although I desperately need some sleep.



Eric
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DontKnowFist
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PostPosted: 10.25.2004 8:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sleep *is* good...
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