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What did you watch this week?
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matt header
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Joined: 26 Jun 2003
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PostPosted: 01.11.2004 7:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My favorite scene in the movie: where the soldiers lie Natalie Portman's baby on the ground and raid her home. Despite the rather Hollywood-style violence inflicted upon them, the scene is incredibly well-done, I think.

Or Brendan Gleeson and his bandmate singing that melancholy song right before...well, you know. Those two scenes stand out in my memory.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 01.11.2004 7:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

matt header wrote:
My favorite scene in the movie: where the soldiers lie Natalie Portman's baby on the ground and raid her home. Despite the rather Hollywood-style violence inflicted upon them, the scene is incredibly well-done, I think.

Or Brendan Gleeson and his bandmate singing that melancholy song right before...well, you know. Those two scenes stand out in my memory.


My favorite? Jude Law and Portman chastely, awkwardly lying next to each other--he meets her needs as an act of kindness, she accepts the kindness despite realizing it's only a gesture. More touching than anything in the central romance.

Plus anything involving Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Eric
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 01.12.2004 1:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

1/5 ? 1/11/04

Pieces of April (Hedges, 2003)

21 Grams (Inarritu, 2003)

Girl With a Pearl Earring (Webber, 2003)

The Cooler (Kramer, 2003)

Medea (Von Trier, 1988)

Big Fish (Burton, 2003)

I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (Wayans, 1988)

The Ace of Hearts (Worsley, 1921)

Laugh, Clown, Laugh (Brenon, 1928)

Of those, my favorite was Girl With a Pearl Earring, especially as a celebration of the minutiae of painting as a craft, and as a restrained, psychological story about how some people have an innate, abstract understanding of how art works. I liked Pieces of April much more than I anticipated, particularly at the fringes where some interesting things were happening, especially in terms of performance. 21 Grams seemed a major disappointment?remove the non-linear triptych, and you?re left with a supremely shallow movie. It felt like a talented young director knowing he must top his last masterpiece, and failing to know how, merely reformulated his previous success. The acting is very compelling, but is it any good? I?m not sure those are human beings on screen. Big Fish was fun, but instantly forgettable; plus, I related far more to Crudup?s frustration than with Burton?s romanticized assertion that fiction is always more true, and desirable, than the facts.

I was mesmerized by Von Trier?s Medea, because it does an admirable job of replicating the spare, startling expressionism of Dreyer, especially by forcing the story and faces into the foreground. I can?t say the film was good?the DVD transfer is so cloudy and washed-out, it might have been taped from a TV set?but I found the compositional qualities fascinating.

Eric


Last edited by beltmann on 01.12.2004 2:02 am; edited 1 time in total
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 01.12.2004 1:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Favorite Cold Mountain scene: Renee Zellweger's entrance and the destruction of the devil rooster. Laughing
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matt header
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PostPosted: 01.12.2004 6:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I really disliked "Pieces of April" - I didn't find a single piece of it convincing, from the unengaging familial drama to the strained, usually senseless attempts at humor. I couldn't say I cared in the least for Holmes' and Clarkson's characters, which is the key to really getting into the movie (the dramatic aspect, at least) and which left me twiddling my thumbs in indifference. Derek Luke and Oliver Platt give performances that are at least likable, but the I generally wouldn't want to spend a five-minute Thanksgiving feast with this family.
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mfritschel
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PostPosted: 01.13.2004 12:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Aguiere: The Wrath of God - I don't know I just couldn't really get into this one. Maybe it was the German's playing Spanish Conquistadors that did me in, but I just didn't really see what all the hype is about.

Big Fish - I really liked this movie, all movie long all I could keep thinking was it was just a positive version of "Death of a Salesman", but I still really enjoyed it. It was uplifting, well done, and interesting. It did what I expect most movies to do, in that being just tell a good story and keep our spirits high. I mean movies are really nothing more that an escape from reality and this movie was the perfect drug.

The In-Laws - I guess when you're really not expecting a whole lot, it's kind of hard to dissapoint. But yes the movie was terrible.
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Michael Scrutchin
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PostPosted: 01.13.2004 2:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

mfritschel wrote:
Aguiere: The Wrath of God - I don't know I just couldn't really get into this one. Maybe it was the German's playing Spanish Conquistadors that did me in, but I just didn't really see what all the hype is about.


Same here. I saw it about half a year ago. The only Herzog film I've seen so far, but I intend to see more.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 01.13.2004 2:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm surprised by the chilly response to Herzog's mad vision about madness. I was completely engrossed by it. Their journey is carefully documented as a matter-of-fact account of human folly, especially as Aguirre becomes more ruthless and bloody in his schemes. Death is more than just a plot device, it's a motif of poetic force. For me, the images carried immense weight, especially those featuring Klaus Kinski, who makes Aguirre into a tilting snake, a limping intimidator with eyes that pierce into the psyche of his men. I've never forgotten it.

I'm not crazy about Herzog's NOSFERATU, but FITZCARRALDO is a great movie (all three star Kinski). That last one I picked up at a used DVD store for about $4--a real find.

Eric
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 01.13.2004 2:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

beltmann wrote:
21 Grams seemed a major disappointment?remove the non-linear triptych, and you?re left with a supremely shallow movie


Finally, someone who agrees.
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matt header
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PostPosted: 01.13.2004 5:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Of Herzog's work, I've seen "Aguirre" and "Nosferatu" and I've really liked both of them. I agree with Eric that I was captivated by the madness in "Aguirre," the way that journeying farther downriver is seen parallel as plunging deeper into madness - and Kinski absolutely personifies cold insanity. "Nosferatu" is, I think, a witty, wicked, and unpredictable remake that, if it doesn't match F.W. Murnau's original, it certainly spins it and creates its own tale out of it. The scene with the plague running through the town stays strong in my memory.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 01.13.2004 11:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think Herzog's Nosferatu is kind of a mess, but I still like it, especially for Kinski's crazy-spooky performance. (I love the bit where he tries to resist the urge to attack someone else's bloody thumb.) The visuals are really something, too, what with mice running everywhere.

I'd like to also mention Herzog's recent Invincible, about a Polish blacksmith recruited to work as a strongman in a Berlin cabaret circa 1930. Although it takes as its subject the Nazi uprising, it doesn't seem right to call this tale a drama, since Herzog is clearly aiming for something else, something more fable-like. I felt like I was watching a modern-day silent film, with all the melodramatic glory and velvety visual grandeur that implies. (In fact, the often wooden dialogue, inexplicably in English, is easily the film's greatest failing; perhaps true silence would have been better?) The settings, which are often elaborate palaces of trickery, are marvelous, and so is Tim Roth's performance as a bogus, power-hungry hypnotist. It was widely dismissed, but I'd rank it among my favorite Herzog pictures.

Eric
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 01.19.2004 4:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

1/12 ? 1/18

On Her Majesty's Secret Service (Hunt, 1969). I think George Lazenby is an exceedingly bland Bond, and some of the fight scenes here are ridiculous?lame fisticuffs, often speeded-up and choppily edited?but the second half has some nice scenes with Blofeld, and a nifty bout on a speeding bobsled. Now I just need to see Live and Let Die and I?ve seen all the Bond pictures. I?ve always been rather delinquent with this series?the Cold War sniffling, the infatuation with gadgets, and the rampant misogyny never really settled well with me.

The Best of Times (Spottiswoode, 1986). Long before he made a Bond film, Spottiswoode directed this by-the-numbers sports comedy, about former high school football stars who blew a big game. Now, 13 years later, they decide to challenge the old team to a re-match. Despite a script by Ron Shelton, not much fresh happens in terms of athletics, but what?s surprising is that the movie is more about men trying to repair their marriages. I kinda enjoyed it.

The White Sheik (Fellini, 1952). When the large bosoms, little people, and traveling circus folk started filling the frame, I asked my wife (who was walking by) to guess the director. ?Who else?,? she said. ?Fellini.? Yeah, this movie is vintage Fellini, and I?m okay with that. Nearly 15 years ago Fellini was integral to my education in foreign cinema, and for that he has a special place within me. This one is the first ?fresh? one I?ve seen in years, and while I?ve always preferred his earlier work to his later, more extroverted, rambling mosaics, this particular one ranks fairly high.

M. Hulot?s Holiday (Tati, 1953). I recently re-visited Tati?s Mon Oncle, and while it?s impossible to miss his debt to Buster Keaton, I appreciated his singular comic vision more than ever. The gag construction in that picture is astonishing, and the compositional qualities only enhance his jabs at the absurdity of the bourgeoisie. Some might call Tati slow, but I?m thankful for the opportunity to relish the architecture of his comedy. Holiday is not the equal of Oncle, but there are still sublime moments; my favorite involves Hulot sitting in a beached rowboat, painting from a pail that keeps drifting out to sea, only to wash back just in time to accept his dipping brush. The central joke (the silliness of human beings forcing themselves to have fun) surely resonates even today. I must add, though, that I still think Hulot is a lesser comic creation than Chaplin?s Tramp or Keaton?s determined Everyman?Hulot is more distanced, and in his bumbling mook obliviousness, more obnoxious.

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Fassbinder, 1974). I?ve been negligent when it comes to Fassbinder, perhaps because my first few exposures were less than pleasant. Yet I?m glad I took a chance on Fear Eats the Soul, because not only is it the best film I saw all week, it ranks among my favorite pictures period. The central May-December romance between an elderly German cleaning lady and an Arab foreign worker can be read, obviously, as allegory: I saw it first as a racial allegory, then a sexual one, then, finally, a historical one--especially since the dialogue alludes to Hitler several times. The movie becomes a complex document of uneasy times, of how society divides itself in order to define itself, and how lingering doubt--in this case, residue left over from the Third Reich--continues to poison for many years. I was completely drawn in, thanks to the Sirkian melodrama and primary colors, and also the compositional qualities that swivels between kitchen-sink realism and powerful formalism ( I loved how Fassbinder uses doorways to frame essential material). The performances are also quite moving.

Tartuffe (Murnau, 1926). F. W. Murnau is one of the great geniuses of cinema, but this is a lesser effort, I think. When he realizes his grandfather has altered his will so that his housekeeper is the sole benefactor, an actor schemes to show him a movie of "Tartuffe," exposing the maid as a hypocritical, evil woman who just wants his money. This movie-within-a-movie makes up the bulk of the running time, and we get the sense that the framing is designed merely as a gimmick, and the characters, who we barely meet, are used merely as symbols for the audience. The "Tartuffe" staging is suffocated by costumes and melodrama--is the original play this cumbersome?--although Murnau does give it some visual elegance, at least.

Lan Yu (Kwan, 2001). Stanley Kwan?s Actress and Rouge rank among the greatest Hong Kong pictures, but this new effort, the first to gain wide American release, is quite awful. A Beijing businessman has a homosexual fling with a college student, but cuts him off to marry a woman, because his desire to fit the "mold" of money and success is more important to him than his very real feelings for the young student. The movie is well-acted, and contains a few scenes of intimacy that seem close to life, but the narrative arc strikes me as creakingly formulaic (right down to the tragic, tearjerking ending). Vague, impersonal, and?worst of all?rather shallow, Kwan doesn?t achieve anything here that Wong Kar-Wai didn?t do much better in the similarly-themed Happy Together.

Two-Lane Blacktop (Hellman, 1971). Making a challenge in New Mexico, two young car freaks wager that their souped-up, stripped-down Chevy '55 can beat a new GTO to Washington, D.C. Along the way, the two cars help one another out and become something like friends, predicated on their love of the road, freedom, and a specific vision of America; from their shared, unspoken ethos, a subtle version of respect grows between them. Some have called it existential--maybe it is--but I was more interested in the way it creates a new kind of humming narrative; it never hits the gas, but it always seems to be idling, ready to shift into gear. James Taylor is the stoic, unnamed ?driver,? and Warren Oates is terrific as ?GTO,? who regularly picks up hitchhikers and adopts a new persona each time. Hellman?s realistic staging engrossed me?this might be the first ?engine? movie that I?ve thoroughly enjoyed.

The Hills Have Eyes (Craven, 1977). And yet they still can?t see how utterly ridiculous, lame, laughable, and stereotypical Craven?s follow-up to Last House on the Left really is. This is a truly terrible terror picture, marked by slack suspense, wooden dialogue, and some of the most atrocious acting I?ve seen in some time. What?s-her-name spends so much time endlessly screaming that I kept cheering on the cannibals, hoping they?d start with her vocal chords. Plus, has there ever been a more manipulative use of a baby for cheap horror? And don?t get me started on the outfits.

Avanti! (Wilder, 1972). I?ve always been a big admirer of Billy Wilder, but for some reason I never caught up with this late-period comedy. Jack Lemmon is a businessman in Italy to retrieve his father's corpse, and he learns that while his father was very popular in the small villa, he also died in a car crash alongside his mistress of 10 years--whose daughter is also here to pick up a body. They meet cute, and sort-of develop into a couple, but the movie is a very different kind of romance--Wilder and Diamond take aim at romantic comedies (this is, after all, a tribute to the enlivening virtues of infidelity), obnoxious American tourists, rock-and-roll, and good taste (many jokes are rooted in gallows humor). It?s way, way too long, but there are sublime, caustic one-liners and Lemmon is terrific. I?d say it?s one of Wilder?s most underrated efforts.

Ikiru (Kurosawa, 1952). Takashi Shimura is an aging bureaucrat who learns he is suffering from stomach cancer. After sulking at length, and lavishly spending money on two new friends (including a young woman who finally decides that he's "creepy"), Watanabe dedicates his last five months to turn a local cesspool into a community park. The last third takes a dramatic narrative shift, beginning with his funeral and allowing his co-workers to drunkenly piece together how he made things happen. Kurosawa says that we should spend every moment trying to make a difference, but also acknowledges how social forces make that intensely difficult--he's like a Transcendentalist dramatist. To my eyes, this is Kurosawa?s most intense, poetic, and wise picture?it?s a masterpiece.

Eric
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mfritschel
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PostPosted: 01.20.2004 12:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Big push to compile my list for the year, plus the over 10 movies sitting on my shelf I still have to watch were great motivators

Freddy Vs. Jason[i] (2003) - I wasn't expecting greatness and the movie delivered perfectly. The plot lines were outrageous and laughbly stupid, but thats what makes the movie what it is. My favorite the CPR scene and the kids in the mental hospital.

[i]The Third Man
- Of course it was great and brillant, I especially was drawn the cinematography of post war Vienna, and the famous speech by Wells.

The Cooler - Aside from Alec Baldwin basically expanding and reviving a very similiar role from Glengary Glennross the movie did not impress me that much. What was really the point of the sex scenes in the beginning?

The Man on the Train - I am surprised by the limited reaction to this movie, I loved it. I thought it was really well done and made some great commentaries on life and the ruts people can get caught into. As well as the way people are perceived by society and how this effects there place and the reactions they receive from people.

All the Real Girls - Finally a cold hearted, true romance about young love and lust. It was great.
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 01.20.2004 11:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is a two-week list since I've neglected to post recently (1/7-1/20):

The Housekeeper (Mellville, 2003) - What the hell? Do we have to see every uninteresting incident in the characters days? It's not really about much either, almost too idealistic for its own good.

Galaxy Quest (Parisot, 1999) - I laughed some. Okay, a lot. I'm not sure if I completely enjoyed it, but I found myself having a good time, and that's really all that matters.

Big Fish (Burton, 2003) - The visuals and imagery are purely and almost shockingly wonderful. And while it may be a bit thin on actual story, even though it's about stories itself, the look never ceased to amaze me.

Underworld (Wiseman, 2003) - We finally get a vampire and werewolf movie that's got a cool story and a neat style, and what does it end up being? So anti-climatic that it's hard to take.

Out of Time (Franklin, 2003) - It's so dumb, cliched, and rediculous, I'm amazed I liked it as much as I did. While it takes a long time to get going, there's real adrenaline here. And it's a fun ride.

Two dives into Swimming Pool (Ozon, 2003) - Not that I don't admit to my own personal bias here that I love the cast and the makers, I must say, it's pretty damn great in its own right. Ludivine Sagnier is fabulous.

Along Came Polly (Hamburg, 2004) - The formula is dying on me. I stayed in longer than most, but, jeez. I just wanted to slap myself as this thing came to a conclusion. Ben Stiller makes a fool of himself playing this idiot.
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Michael Scrutchin
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PostPosted: 01.20.2004 11:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

From Jan. 10 to Jan. 20:



  • Zero Day (Coccio, 2003) B-

  • Capturing the Friedmans (Jareki, 2003) B+

  • L'Auberge Espagnole (Klapisch, 2003) C

  • Northfork (Polish, 2003) C+

  • Ozone (Bookwalter, 1994) B-

  • In Praise of Love (Godard, 2002) D+



Regarding Northfork: I kinda/almost liked it, but whaaa?

I almost didn't finish In Praise of Love. Dear God. Loved the music, though.

Review of J.R. Bookwalter's 1994 S-VHS B-movie epic Ozone coming soon.
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