Thursday, June 30, 2011

I'm getting all emotional here

I just want to clarify the argument I was making on the possibility for emotion in TTOL. I was distracted by your "big dumb face" puerile comment Brandon and I started making an argument that I wasn't trying to make. I think I just wanted to refute you at all costs, you scoundrel.

Anyway, you said "So NO you don’t bring any emotions, at least not willing fully." I agree about the fully part, but would say that on some level you can always choose. I think you CAN bring certain emotions to anything as long as you can control them (I sound like I'm training you to be a Jedi). However, in the context of the TTOL, I don't really care about this argument. What I was originally trying to say about TTOL is that by not limiting the range of emotion anyone can have for it through pigeonholing emotional cues (a la Titanic, Super 8, or hell any movie practically), it allows different people to feel different emotions for it.

I believe we are in agreement on this. You said the film doesn't make its emotions universal. Totally. That's why you and I could feel emotional watching it while John could not. I'm arguing that the film is not emotionally sterile, it is, in fact, quite emotionally liberating. By not telling its audience how to feel emotionally, it allows one person to feel one way, another person to feel another way, and so on.

I think the film respects the emotions of its audience by not pandering to them while sticking solely to its own aesthetic. I really don't think I ever said (or at least never meant to say) that the film is trying to evoke an emotion from you. It isn't. What I'm saying is that because it is not, it gives its audience the freedom to feel many things or no things. Certainly different people can have different emotions for something like Titanic, but with a film like that it is trying to get its audience to feel one way (some will or some will resist). To me, something like Titanic is more emotionally black-and-white than something like TTOL. Do you know what I'm saying?

This was my original argument. You just had to go and make it about something else, you big meanie.

P.S. War Horse, hell yes! Spielberg's back baby. I'm stoked.

P.S.S. Keep up the troll bug Brandon. Your post had me laughing hysterically.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I can't believe that law passed

What’s next, people marrying couch cushions? Jesus, I can’t believe people who love each other are allowed to get married all of the sudden. It sickens me. I’m gonna go shoot a wolf from a helicopter to take my mind off everything.

John, I've got blog fever too.

Lisa, don’t let that clown Brandon debate for you. You may have gotten baby faced Brandon on Saturday, but 9 times out of 10 he’s rocking a nasty stache. Don’t let him fool you. He’s a dirtbag at heart.

I’m not familiar with musicals, but you made your point clearly and I understood what you were saying for sure. The jerk side of me says that people are at fault for not caring about challenging art. But the non-jerk side of me realizes that certainly many people have not had the proper education or home life that ever encouraged embracing challenging art. My beef is with people who have the means and should know better but still choose to disavow challenging art (Many of my friends even fall in this category, and my ex-girlfriend was like this, which was something I didn’t like about her). I think TTOL is extremely difficult to decipher, but I kinda wouldn’t have it any other way, you know? People who are interested in vapid shit get a majority of the tv shows and a majority of the movies. Can’t we who like to be challenged have something for ourselves? haha. I get the idea that it would be great if something as beautiful as TTOL could be enjoyed by more people, but I really would never want it to compromise itself.

I think Malick is one of the few consistently great directors that I love (Kubrick and Kieslowski too). It’s probably because he’s made so few films. Certainly, not all the directors I love are like this. I love Bergman and some of his stuff is weaker than his greatest films. But I can have an intransigent love for everything he does because I am in love with his style. So I’m guilty of stubbornly adhering to directors a lot. I was just arguing that Malick is different to me.

Paul Thomas Anderson is a modern director who is consistent as hell too. He’s never made a bad film. David Fincher is someone who has made one mediocre film (not counting Alien 3) which is Panic Room, but even that I dig because I love Fincher. I guess it depends on the filmmaker. Sometimes I’m a snob and sometimes the films speak for themselves.

I hate when people pretend to love or understand something just because they want other people to think they do. I'm with you. I really try to check myself on this because I think it’s a lousy practice. I’m comfortable with what I love and I don’t feel the need to show off (who would I show off to?). I think we are all like that here, which is awesome.

Ben, that’s some unbelievable, off the hook juggling. Did you have to make it so inaccessible to non-jugglers like me though?

Oh and Brandon, after you’re done watching Piranha 3-D again, save a bud light for me bro.

If you didn’t choose to bring your “big fat sap” emotions to Titanic than you chose to bring your cold, critical, detached emotions to it on some level. I think their is some choice there. I can feel instant emotions but I can also use reason to change/alter those emotions so that they don’t get the best of me. Titanic was trying to cue you to be a fucking crybaby, but you chose to resist. Think about Super 8. There’s that moment like in every blockbuster when Joe is applying make-up to Alice and that emotional piano comes in the background to cue you to feel the tenderness towards her that he does. The movie is giving you two choices. Feel what he feels or be critical and feel like you’re too smart to fall for that trap. Now think about TOL, does it ever cue you into an emotional trap where you have to feel one way or the other? If so, let’s debate that shit! I don’t think it does though. I think you can watch the film and feel a wide range of emotion because it allows you to. It’s not cuing you in to feel one way or the other. So I guess all I’m trying to say is fuck you.

You didn’t bring your big fat sap emotions to Titanic? What are you made of stone?!

Okay, all antagonism against you aside, I do agree with you about lots that you said.

“I don’t know, Malick looks at things like I do. He is taken aback by things that seem to bore the American Idol crowd. This is where I become a snob. I admire him for being THAT GUY."

Yeah man, that pretty much sums it up for me too. I feel like he's a kindred spirit. Also, I can understand the pressure of feeling like you needed to defend the film afterwards. That protracted ending was just adding undue pressure. I was actually scared for it to end. My heart was pounding. I didn’t know what final image it would leave me with, and also I didn’t want it to end. I don’t think I ever lost my trance (maybe because I expected it to require all my patience?) and didn’t really in The New World either. I can understand not wanting to be pulled away from the beautiful world of the Natives, but the contrast of civilizations was necessary. Pocahantas needed to see her own “new world” in England too, even if it is a shithole by comparison.

Again I probably am a bitch about certain directors. Woody Allen anyone? I adored Scoop for christsakes.

But also again, I still stick by my love for Malick as not being bitchy. He’s never made a bad or questionable film.

Haha We definitely were the biggest creeps on Saturday, watching the Real L Word and salivating like 13-year-olds. I can’t wait to watch it again. This time I will be jerking off on your couch for sure (sorry Tara). In fact, you’ll probably find me passed out in the morning, dick in hand, with the show paused on the tv. Be prepared brother.

Yeah...This beard should probably go. It’s apparently made me a clear thinking, sarah palin loving, gay marriage hating, perverted, snobby creeper. Or maybe it has just unleashed my true inner spirit. Woohoo! Let's have some assault weapons for all, gay marriage for none, and tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy while pretending like we actually give a shit about the well-being of all Americans! Who's with me?!

"Lisa, it's your birthday"

That title has nothing to do with anything other than your name is Lisa and its a Simpsons quote. Anyone want to tell me from which episode? That's a softball.

I'm never ever mad at anyone on here. Also, my tone is always playful. Think of me like a Jerry Seinfeld. Even when he's yelling he sounds funny. Or like Woody Allen. Can he do mad well? No, he just sounds silly. That's me.

First Lisa, great response. You may have said you weren't trying to argue any more, but you were defending your positions from my questions and that's all I wanted you to do. Great stuff. I totally get where you are coming from.

"But on the flip side if I question one film from an important director, I'm not taking film seriously or willing to challenge myself, and that's the way it is, period. That was where my reaction came from, I felt attacked by the style of debate instead of engaged."

This I completely understandable. You're just not used to the style of debate where people go after what you say and tell you why you're wrong. I would say that the preliminary "that's a great point but..." or "I see what you're saying, but I disagree because..." is all implied here. I, for one, always think that when I read someone's point. Sometimes I write it but other times it doesn't seem necessary because I want to get to the meat of my argument without trying to qualify it. It's a writing thing. If we were talking I'd be talking in the most respected tones. With writing (when I'm actually taking the time to care about what I'm writing) it's all about being clear and direct. Cut the fat, they always say. Anyway, I'm sorry if I'm ever being too direct. I'll try to write in more respectful tones to you so that I can engage you instead of just making you feel shut down (though you've done a great job of being in engaged by responding to all of this clearly and emphatically, you gotta have more confidence in your opinions though!)

"It's just that telling me all the reasons why I'm wrong and you're right and will always be right isn't what I mean by a discussion of the issues."

I totally see this too and can understand. That is incredibly annoying. Perhaps where we differ is that when I hear all that I'm going to come back at that person telling them all the reasons why they are wrong. It's just different ways of responding to the nature of debate. I won't shy away from it if it's something I care about (clearly John and I care more about Malick than you, which is why we will stick to our guns. I guess we should have been debating with an actual Malick hater instead of someone who actually really dug lots of parts of the one film they have seen by him haha).

I am glad there are points you loved in the movie (we seem to be on the same page on a lot of things in it, which is cool). I think it's fun to respond to the stuff you didn't love though. In doing so, I probably used you as a scapegoat for talking to a much larger group of people I thought you were defending. Sorry for that, but thanks for letting me get a lot of nerd frustration out.

My brother was watching High Fidelity last night. Are we like the film equivalent of all the guys working in the record store?

Lisa, sorry you've had to be on the cutting board on this one. But, soon I'll post my 2004 list, and I know you love Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind just like Brandon and Me. We can all gang up on anyone who doesn't like it and tell them to eat shit. Hopefully that will be the remedy you need (you're on your own on Before Sunset though haha).

Seriously though, great points and great posts from you as always.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Jeffrey Rides Again

Great post title or greatest post title? haha

John, dude, I'm right there with you on Destry Rides Again. It's actually very interesting that this is a "revisionist" western so relatively early in film history. Most of the iconic westerns you hear of or the ones that I'm familiar with started after the 1930s (not including Stagecoach from the same year). You can definitely see it as a precursor to films like Blazing Saddles, but also Little Big Man and even Rio Bravo (in terms of wanting to revise High Noon). This film is very much responding to a trend it sensed in western films up to that point.

"You shoot it out with 'em and for some reason or other, I don't know why, they get to look like heroes. But you put 'em behind bars and they look little and cheap, the way they oughta look."

Jimmy Stewart's Destry is a new type of hero. Like you mentioned, he doesn't carry a gun and he'd much rather talk or reason with someone than rough em up. He's a revisionist sheriff coming out of his father's shadow. In the end, he does take up his gun, but only because it seems the story needs to go there to be resolved. Also, you're right, it is the stampede of women that come to the rescue. Destry's influence over the town has worked; the townsfolk are ready to defend themselves against the corruption that has run rampant in their town for too long. I did find the end moving too, at least the point when Destry and the boy share a moment. You sense that Destry will take him under his wing like a son and mold him into a sheriff much like himself and also that he will be able to pass down this new image of a hero that he has created for himself to a younger generation. The boy has someone to look up to and Destry has someone to pass his legacy onto. Perhaps this wasn't exactly what you found moving, but I found it sweet.

What I really like in westerns about Sheriffs dealing with corruption are the Shakespearian themes of order and chaos. Westerns present these highly chaotic, almost lawless settings and the men who try to order or bring some sense/stability to such chaotic forces. That may sound very simple, but to me that's just a cool and actually weighty theme. We are all constantly trying to quell the forces of chaos through various forms of order or stability– dare I say it's part of the human condition? This condition is really put to the test in a place like Shakespeare's drama or a really gnarly western (many other cool places too).
Anyway, that's why westerns are awesome and cool. They play out epically with big themes and big characters.

Enough of the seriousness. Yes, this is a funny film. The comedy is smart and never cheap in a way that reminds me of our pining for the comedy days of old. So much great comedy just out of Destry's interactions with the locals. He's deliberately odd and he shakes everything up. How about that extended fight sequence between Dietrich and the other woman? Or Dietrich and Jimmy Stewart? Good ol' rowdy stuff.

Can't help being a pussy

(I wrote a lot of this before your latest post Brandon, but I have read it and I will say that this:

TREE OF LIFE Nutrition Facts:
Cinematography 55% of your suggested daily diet
Story 10%
Acting/Performances 50%

Transformers Nutrition Facts:
Fat 100%
Cholesterol 100%
Sodium 100%
Unnecessary Action 100%
Flashy Editing 100%

made me smile from ear to ear. Fucking awesome!)

Lisa, I’m glad there were no hard feelings. I really wasn’t trying to be bullish, just defending my cause. It seemed like I really pissed you off, so I am still sorry for that. John, as Brandon has aptly stated on more than one occasions, I am a pussy and will always apologize anytime I upset someone. I can’t help it.

John said everything I wanted to say in response to some of Lisa’s points, and he said it better than I ever could. I still really like some of the points he was going on and would like to elaborate on them for my own pleasure. Also, John, I think the beard has helped me write clearly and being out of school has helped too. It’s nice to actually have the time to sit down and write while carefully weighing my thoughts. As soon as school starts again, I’ll go back to my usual vapid self. Don’t you worry. I’m still right about Midnight in Paris though.

Lisa, I definitely don’t think that John or I were trying to kill all debate, to shut you up, or to say like the film or you’re an idiot. We were trying to engage in debate with you because you wrote some great things that were conducive for a debate. We like to debate about movies here-hence our very contentious (but also playful) debate on Midnight in Paris.

Lisa you are completely allowed to ask questions. I knew that’s what you were doing with your first post. John and I just gave you our answers to those questions. You asked the questions, did you really not expect us to respond to them? Your first post was terrific because it made arguments and raised questions. It allowed John and I to respond to both. For instance, I said the film was the most important of the year. Then you wrote back questioning this claim. I then proceeded to defend my claim in more depth. We were engaging in a debate, I thought. I wasn’t trying to kill the debate. I was hoping you’d come back with something to one up me!

Seriously, Lisa, we love you here. I know we are all thankful to get your unique perspective about things. You questioning things gives us the ability to write responses. So thank you.

Now I just want to write more about Malick because how often do I get the chance to?

First, I just want to write more about the importance of challenging or unusual art because I just think it’s something that’s worth defending. This isn’t directed at anyone personal. It’s just a general reflection on how I feel about Malick and art. I will use literary references just for the sake of my own clarity, not to be pedantic.

I tend to be defensive of challenging art when I think it actually has real depth to it. I constantly hear people criticize things they think are challenging just for the fact that they are challenging. That’s been my life.

I deal with this idea a lot as an English major. As soon as literary theory comes up, poststructural philosophy follows. Many of my peers question the writing styles of guys like Foucault or Deleuze and then call them terrible for being so hard to understand. Why can’t they just write simply? Why does it need to be so seemingly convoluted? I often ask myself these questions, especially afer a couple of hours of grappling with them and wanting to smash my head into a wall. I find them to be unbelievably challenging but also just as unbelievably rewarding. Once you get over the abstruseness, you start to see a method to the madness. I think Deleuze just might be the most important philosopher of the 20th century. Many people wouldn’t agree with that assessment and that’s fine. If any of you have ever read Deleuze (whether you hate or love him) you know that his writing is very difficult and oftentimes inaccessible. I thought it was gibberish at first. Then I started to realize that he was using his form to communicate his content. He was writing against common sense and every idea you ever had about how philosophy should be written or read. He was writing against everything you thought you knew as true or safe. I still don’t understand most of Deleuze, but I appreciate and love him for challenging me to not be so complacent or stable with my adherence to traditional structures.

The Tree of Life challenged my adherence to traditional structures of storytelling and I loved it for it because I thought it executed it’s own way of storytelling perfectly. To me, it was a beautiful symphony.

(Now I’m going to mention Faulkner and I don’t bring up his name to make any of you feel like you’re stupid if you don’t like him. If anyone here is a fan though, I’ll love you forever.) To me, there’s nothing greater in the world then sitting down and grappling with a Faulkner novel. They are incredibly beautiful but also as challenging as anything I’ve ever read. They just aren’t written the way other novels are. They have a way of communicating that is uniquely and entirely their own thing. Most people find them inaccessible, but that doesn’t make them pretentious hogwash to me. No one really gave a shit about Faulkner during his lifetime, at least not until he won the Nobel Prize. If Faulkner didn’t really have a big audience, am I upset by this? No because I realize that he wasn’t writing for other people. He wrote because he felt like he had to and he wrote in a way that he thought was honest. To me, he’s someone who was committed to Literature as a form of artistic expression. He cared more about the medium itself than making money or reaching the largest number of people. To me, that’s genuine.

Malick to me is like that. I don’t think he’s pretentious at all. Pretentious means you are actively trying to impress people by pretending there is more to something than there actually is. If Malick is more interested in telling something in a way that is dear to him, that he finds honest and true, than telling something that will be true for a million people, how is he pretentious? I think that’s someone who is sincere about their art.

There are some great directors who are pretentious as hell. I can totally see that criticism. I don’t think Malick is one of them. I’m not just glossing over him because I love him. There are directors that I really really adore that are often pretentious and I’ll admit that about them.

Malick’s way of telling a story in The Tree of Life is challenging and unusual. I don’t think it’s a fault though. I think its just a different way to tell a story, and I appreciate it’s vision and the fact that it makes me work or that it challenges me. I wouldn’t want to watch a hundred movies like the Tree of Life, but when something like it does come along, I’m ready to dig in.

But, I can still also completely appreciate something that is told plainly and told well.
I lot of older films are very clearly told. The first film that pops into my head is Double Indemnity. I think that film clearly and effective communicates itself while also leaving room open for interpretation. It’s lucidly structured so that one scene follows from the next and every shot propels the narrative forward. Great, effective, intelligible filmmaking. I can totally appreciate it for that.

I can also appreciate a movie that is just badass like Terminator 2 or something.

Now, Lisa and Brandon, you both mentioned a distaste for an excessive adherence to directors.
I agree that being unwavering in anything is not helpful, but can’t you adhere to directors just because you love them and not because you are an intransigent snob?

I’ll use a music reference here to make my point. I love the Beatles. I know that both you do too. I’ve seriously reached the point in my Beatles love that I adore every single song they ever wrote. I can listen to and enjoy them all because I think they all have something that is worth enjoying in them. That doesn’t mean I can’t hear a discussion on why certain Beatles’ songs suck. But I would still defend my love for their songs against this.

Terry Malick isn’t the Beatles of filmmaking, but he has made films that I all consider masterworks. I love all his films because he’s always working at the top of his game and there is always something of value in them. The Beatles seriously were this way with music.

I only bring this up because I would argue that adhering to Malick comes from a place of genuine appreciation for him as an artist And just like the Beatles, can’t I love him for the way his films sound, feel, look, and make me contemplate and feel? I don’t think I’m being delusional about him. He’s seriously been consistently great throughout his career.

(“If I love the author I am going to be able to find value in even the least of his/her efforts. It’s a curse dude.”–this is spot on to what I’m saying!)

I do have to ask this of you Lisa and it isn’t meant to be bullish or snobby. I’m really just defending myself here. I would ask this, how come when John and I defend Malick or the Tree of Life we are automatically assumed to be snobs stubbornly defending a director while simultaneously preventing any discussion on him and drawing a line in the sand saying, “you have to like this film or you are stupid”? But, if Brandon questions the film like you he is praised! Grrrr...haha. You are absolutely free to praise Brandon (he’s very lovable), but why did John and I get written off as fanboys unwilling to enter debate?

I just say this because I really really loved The Tree of Life. Can’t I love it without just being a bullheaded follower of Malick? (not directed at you Lisa but anyone who thinks I’m just sticking by my man Malick because his name is Malick) He made a great film that I couldn’t have asked more of. All of his films are like that. He just perfectly encapsulates everything I’d want in a film and he always does it masterfully. If he puts out a bad film that doesn’t connect with me the way his others do, I’ll be the first to call him out on it. Until that time, I’m just going to continue to defend him because I’m so amazed by his consistency as a filmmaker. Brandon, I know you think there’s point in a lot of his films where you can’t follow him fully. For me, he’s made very few missteps and even if they were missteps, I loved where they took me.

Also, Brandon, I disagree about the emotion in the film. You said. “I think he’s just telling his story without caring whether it resonates within us or not. This is cinematic venting.” I agree that it is cinematic venting, but the fact that it doesn’t supply you with emotions or cue in where to be emotional, it allows you to bring your own emotions. If you don’t want to bring them you don’t have to. If you want to, you will. I wanted to bring them to it and I did. Malick presents images like a field of sunflowers for you to look at or a human face in anguish. They aren’t telling you to be emotional. You feel something for both images if you want to. It’s the beauty of a simple image. It has absolutely no intrinsic meaning or value in itself but it is imbibed with meaning by humans. You bring the meaning/feeling you want to it.

Okay...I’ll write more soon. I gotta stop now.

No one write till I get back!

I'm working on a long response to John, Brandon, and yes, you Lisa (If you don't want to debate, then you are free to not respond, but I'll still use your important thoughts as a platform to build my own stupid thoughts on). I'm going golfing with my brother, so I don't have time to finish the post now. I'm sure by the time I get back there will be 10 new posts and all will be lost.

Doesn't it suck in film club when you write a really long post only to just about post it and find there is a whole new one you feel compelled to respond to? I'm just gonna start doing like Brandon and let people know it's old and post it anyway.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sorry Lisa

Sorry–I thought you were in fighting sort of mode. Obviously I read your post as playful but also aggressive in a good way, like you wanted to debate and wouldn't mind going at it. You made some great statements in your first post questioning certain aspects of the film like its importance. I was just trying to defend my position. If I made references to older directors or to the idea of film history, I was just using those as my reasons for finding the film important. It wasn't a personal attack, it was just a general defense of my positions on the film.

If my post was aggressive, I apologize. I thought you inviting that with your post. Obviously, you met me. I'm one of the least aggressive people you could meet. I know it's hard to read tone in someone's writing, but seriously my post was just me defending my positions and nothing personal. You read my Midnight in Paris post to John and also my posts to Brandon. I'll tell them why I think they are wrong and then they do the same. It doesn't mean either of us is right. When it comes to Malick or the Tree of Life, I'm not right. I will defend the way I feel about both if I'm questioned on them, but I'm not correct or right about anything in anyway.

Looking back on my post, I can see how my comment on the importance of the film being related to "a serious interest in film history" seems like I'm saying you're not interested in film. I'm sorry for that. It was not intended as personal at all. I was just defending why I think it's important. You could obviously strike back at that and tell me that you don't need to know anything about film history to appreciate/dislike the film, that it's an irrelevant comment. I would have thought "great point" and then tried to come up with a new or better defense. I'm sorry about that but I was really just trying to debate with you.

Also, my thoughts on the film's themes were not directed at you or intended to be pedantic (there's a good use for that word). I was just working out my ideas on the film's themes. They probably were obvious or shallow insights, but those definitely weren't arguments directed at you. I know you said you understood the themes in your post. The parts that were directed towards you were only my responses to you questioning Malick or the film's importance. Again, I'm wasn't trying to throw you to the wolves. I was hoping you'd write back and tell me why Malick wasn't that important or why the film wasn't the most important film of the year. You can tell me I'm dead wrong at any time. I probably am a lot.

Also, I know you're smart. You're working on your Ph.D in the fall. I guarantee you're a hundred times smarter than me. I don't doubt that for a second. I didn't make literary references to be pretentious or to make you feel stupid. I put them in because I knew you could relate to them. Literature is my main focus and I use it a lot for comparison, just for future reference everyone. I didn't say Nabokov's name as an assumption that you wouldn't know who he is. I said his name because it fit the description and also because I knew you'd know who he is or maybe really like him. I was just trying to defend myself by making comparisons to things you'd know. Sorry.

Listen up film club! My posts are never personal. I may make them more aggressive as time goes on but only because I don't want to hold any punches and I know the rest of you will not either. But they are seriously all in good fun. I like all of you too much to ever mean anything by them. We are all friends here. I'm sorry if I ever make any of you feel bad. Please, take nothing personally unless I make a personal attack. Even those will be in good fun. Y'all can pick on me all you'd like. I can take it!

Again, I'm sorry Lisa. Just trying to debate with you.


I forgot to say this in my rant there, but Lisa you definitely aren't a philistine for not liking or getting The Tree of Life. I don't entirely get it myself. It's a very, very challenging film that asks a lot of you. It's not for everyone. Hell, it's not for most people. But, also, if you didn't like it, then don't let me make you think you should. If you think I'm wrong, let me have it. Debate is fun, especially over something so rich as this film.

Brandon, can't wait for that review dude!

Lisa's got her dukes up!

(This is too long so I'm sorry to anyone who reads it)

Wow, Lisa, way to take us to task. I like that. You got some fight in ya. Let’s go at it! I'll try to defend myself to you and John too. This will take a while.

I really like that you say this:

“And no matter what Malick makes, it will be genius. His name is more important than the movie itself, and in another 8 years, everyone will be saying his next film is the most important film of the millennium, because he made it.”

And then you say “NOTE: I'm not saying this is you guys, I just mean in general.”

The sad thing is that I AM that guy haha. I will be saying that the next time he makes a movie but that’s only because I love him unconditionally and he has always left me in awe. If Kubrick rose from the grave and made another film, I’d probably call it the greatest thing ever made in the history of time. That’s just because I’m psychotic, but also because he never ever made a bad film. Every time I saw one of his films I felt like it was the greatest thing I’d ever seen. That isn’t so much indicative of his name as it is of how incredible and consistent his films were.

So, where I would disagree is that it isn’t all in the name but in the quality of the film. I’ll use an example:

I love and worship Ingmar Bergman. One of the great artists in any medium of the 20th century. Now, Bergman didn’t make a theatrical film for 20 years and then suddenly came out with Saraband. I loved that film but wouldn’t call it the greatest of the decade at all. It’s a great film, but it doesn’t contain the quality or the weight of his greatest films. Kubrick’s films always contained the same quality and weight to them. He never disappointed or steered me wrong. The same thing with Malick. He’s never lost it. So when he makes a film, you know you’re in for an event that is comparable to his other works which are already among the greatest films ever made. The hype is there, but I think it’s for a very good reason (the enormous time between his films probably helps like with Kubrick).

There are definitely people who love everything a director makes just for the name (John will probably take this, quote it, and then write “Says the guy who loved Midnight in Paris”). I might be guilty of this at times and if someone called me out on it, I’d admit it. But it would be hard to do this with Malick because in my opinion he’s never made a questionable film that truly tested the name versus the quality.

I think it might be unfair to lump Terry Malick in with someone who would shoot a 10 hour film of a brick wall or something. I think he’s too genuine and sincere for something like that. If someone like Hanake (who I really like mind you) made a film like that, I wouldn’t be surprised because he’s an asshole and he likes to pontificate. Malick isn’t like that to me though. He really is sincere, almost naively sincere you’d think at times. He’s just a kid with a movie camera who is in love with everything he sees. He treats every image with reverence. He’s Ginsburg at the end of Howl shouting “Holy Holy Holy Holy Holy Holy.” He’s got an earnest poetic spirit that is just rare for a filmmaker, which is one reason I love him so much. He’s one of the only people who can shoot an image of grass swaying and REALLY REALLY mean it.

If someone had made this exact film instead of Malick, well, A.) I’d think it were a rip-off of Malick but B.) If Malick didn’t exist, never made a film, and then someone just made this film out of nowhere I’d probably have a new favorite director. I’d probably love the movie even more than I do because I’d think, “wow, who’s this little shit who thinks he can blow everyone else out of the water and just did.” With Malick, I expect greatness because he’s never made a bad film. He’s only made masterpieces. But if someone made this who I had never heard of, I’d be shocked and bow down to them because you can tell they really really meant it.

I think The Tree of Life is entirely genuine. I don’t think the film is trying to fuck with us or to be needlessly showy. I think it’s consistently devoted to itself without any pretension involved. It’s a very, very difficult and challenging film. I can understand not getting it at all; there were many things I didn’t understand about it myself. But I never felt while watching it that it was confused or out of control. I felt throughout that Malick was in complete control and if I were lost at points it was because he was way ahead of me.

There are certain writers like Shakespeare, Faulkner, or Nabokov that are like that. Sometimes I read their stuff and can’t fully understand it. I’m just not seeing what they are seeing. But with guys like that, I would never say “this is just pure obfuscation and therefore bad writing.” I always can recognize that the deficiency lies with me, and that these guys are just 30 steps ahead of me. If I can’t always see what they are seeing it’s because I’m not a genius and they are.

Malick probably is a genius (he’s a Heideggerian scholar for christsakes). I will always give him the benefit of my confusion because I respect and admire his intelligence as a filmmaker.

Does that all make any sense, Lisa? I’m really just trying to clumsily articulate why I think Malick is different than most filmmakers and why people like me get so excited at the thought of him. I’m not trying to attack you for disliking the film; I’m just trying to give you a defense, albeit very poor, for MalickMania.

I do stand by the opinion that The Tree of Life is the most important film of the year, though of course that opinion is going to be relative. Here’s why I say so: Malick is a titanic filmmaker who rarely puts out films, so when he does it’s going to be important to anyone who has a serious interest in film history. Film history is composed of auteurs who have propelled the medium forward, much like literature is composed of authors who have done the same. Malick is like a great, indispensable author who comes out with a new book. People who seriously care about literature are going to be paying attention. Malick's a living legend who’s still on top of his game–something to always look out for no matter the medium. Also, the epic scale and sheer ambition of this film alone make it unlike anything you are going to see this year. A 2 and 1/2 hour prayer to God and the Universe and a meditation on the birth, struggle, and death of all living things doesn’t come around very often. In fact, the reason Brandon, John, and I bring up older filmmakers like Tarkovsky and Kubrick is because (I hate to speak for you guys but sadly I will) we really haven’t seen something like this since those guys. This is where our interest in film history really comes into play. I know I’m certainly looking at it from a film evolution perspective. I truly think it’s a landmark film, something that will be reflected upon for ages like 2001.

It’s the most important film of the year to someone like myself. But you’re right. The Tree of Life probably won’t be the most important movie of the year to most people. The Hangover 2 will be!

All right, suddenly I feel like defending the film’s emotional qualities against you and John. First off, I think this film wears its tenderness on its sleeve. I think it asks you to be emotionally involved through empathy. It asks you to bring your emotions and consideration for things instead of just telling you to be emotional. If anything, it should be commended for not going for cheap emotional cues. It’s not directing you emotionally–you have to direct yourself. I don’t need to know how one of the kids died to know that it is hurting everyone like hell. I don’t need to know what is going on in Jack’s adult life to know that he is struggling with his past and his reflections on his parents and childhood. If I feel emotions for him, it’s because I can relate but also because I want to relate. To me, the film obviously cares about its characters, which I appreciate immensely so I direct myself to care, be invested, and empathize. The same with the film’s care for nature. I think the film has a reverence for every image it depicts; it practically dances around everything it sees as if to see it from all sides. It’s trying to communicate this reverence to you in a way that I would hope makes you feel something. I have strong emotions for nature, and the way Malick and Lubezki film nature lets me know that they do to. I bring a lot of my own emotions on nature to the film but only because the film lets me.

The anguish to me is there, but its a soft, elegaic anguish. If the characters whisper to God its because they’ve been defeated and are hoping that even with their last, lingering whimpers he might be able to hear them (on a side note, Malick’s last two films also featured whispering to things greater than the main characters). The film is an anguished, whimpering Prayer to God. The kind of prayer you have after crying and anger have gotten you nowhere. It’s an anguish not at just the death of your family member but at God’s silence throughout all birth, struggle, and death (this is where the Bergman comparisons are strong). It’s Jack and the mother begging God to give a shit. At the end, whether the trip to heaven is real or not, it still expresses a desire for there to be something to protect life and to take responsiblity for it.

I’m a comitted atheist, but dammit, I can understand Malick’s hope that there is something there to take and accept your brother when he dies and hold all your loved ones like a treasure box. I don’t know if Jack was just fantasizing about heaven there. If he was, I’ve fantasized about it too.

You now, I really think this film is about creation. The family story follows the coming together of two people (a big bang of sorts), the birth of their children (the genesis of living things), and how they raise them (evolution of those living things). The creators of Jack are his parents, and they are the forces that shape him much like an ocean shapes a canyon. He knows who created him and who has shaped him. He reflects on his creators often when he is considering who he is as a person and how he became who he is. When he starts reflecting on the death of his brother and maybe even the universe around him, he starts thinking about an even bigger creator. Who created the universe itself? We see the universe unfold and the birth and evolution of life that has lead to the creation of a family like Jack’s. Who’s responsible for giving birth to and shaping all things?

In this way, the film is a relection on the forces that shape you as a person (your childhood and family) and then a questioning of the invisible forces that have shaped everything else and led to you. Has it all come through nature or divine grace? Or like Jack, has it come through both?
I think this film is a prayer for the existence of both–a nature that has developed all things and a grace that will someday save them. I think Malick is much more hopeful than I am about his, but there is still something sincerely beautiful about his deeply personal and hopeful epic prayer.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


John, sorry I forgot to post a pick for this week. I was distracted by idea of actually writing something on The Tree of Life.

The Rules of the Game sounds like a great pick. I planned on watching that again sometime and now I'll have the proper motivation to do so. I really don't remember it well at all, but I do know that many consider it one of the finest films ever made. Definitely worth having others see it and discuss it. The same goes for M. Worth re-watching and for others to see it for the first time too. Anytime you want to recommend a pick, please feel free to (anyone else too).

I'm glad you loved Destry. I really dug it too. I can't wait to read your post. I'll be sure to respond to it with my usual shallow insight.

Tree of Life (Lite edition)

Lisa - an absolute pleasure to meet you. Nice people who are easy to talk to are the best! You're real cool. Don't let any film talk make you feel inferior. Ever.

John and Brandon- a pleasure as always. I had such a great time nerding out.

Ben and Jason- We missed you both!

More film club gatherings are in order.

As to The Tree of Life...

I'll do a longer write up once I've done a better job of processing the damn thing. For now, here are some cursory thoughts. John, thanks for breaking the ice.

In terms of purely aesthetic beauty, probably too majestic for words. It's one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen, and probably the most beautifully photographed film I've ever seen. Many times films can just win me over with cinematography alone. I think that even if you aren't invested in the story or are confused as hell as to what's going on, you'd still have to admit that this film is a visual feast unlike any other. But, I don't think a lot of people are prepared for something like that. Most people aren't expecting to go to a movie and watch visual poetry for 2 and 1/2 hours. You've got to really either love Malick unconditionally, love film in general, or failing both, have just an astounding amount of patience for beauty to unfold slowly to really dig this movie.

Luckily I've got all three, so I loved the film. But it's damn challenging. I wouldn't recommend it lightly. It's overwhelming, at times incredibly slow and repetitive, and just about as esoteric as epic films get. John's absolutely correct–this is the most important film of the year. It's probably one of the boldest and most ambitious films of the last forty years. You really have to take it back to guys like Bresson, Tarkovsky, Kubrick, and Bergman to get this level of ambitious filmmaking. It's just that singularly artistic and unabashedly personal.

John, you're right. Brandon and I probably brought more emotional punch to the film then it supplies you with. It really either hits home as something from your life or leaves you feeling empty. Kubrick references are pretty appropriate here. While TTOL is certainly not a cold film by any means, its transience (in terms of shot and scene length) and odd detachment make it hard to get emotionally involved much like a Kubrick film. But the way Kubrick tells a story and films it is so unique and advanced that it seems as if the film itself is operating on a different level than you're used to. I would say the same about this film. It definitely asks you to watch or think about film in a different way, and for that I'd say it is an unbelievable achievement in this day and age.

I loved it. I can't wait to watch it 30 more times. It's confounding and beautiful beyond words.
We can debate it more soon, especially all the little stuff that happens that makes you go, "what the fuck?" like a chair just moving from a table on its own with zero context or explanation given. Totally awesome and bewildering and worth discussing.

A caveat though: be careful who you take to see this film or tell to see it. Let them know what they are getting into. Maybe the best preparation for this film is to show someone The New World and then tell them it will be 100 times more abstract and meandering. Then have them watch 2001 (maybe a double feature with Stalker or Solaris to really test their patience). Then maybe watch a few hours of Planet Earth with the sound off and a Brahms record playing.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I knew I forgot something

I meant to mention something about Saturday in my earlier posts. I'd love to get together. All options can work for me.

option 1.) Tree o' life at 4:20. I could make it to Binghamton. I don't have the funds or the proper vehicle to make it to Ithaca (my car is a travesty). I'd have to snag a ride to Ithaca with someone. Though, I might also add–If someone is driving to Ithaca by taking 81, getting off at Whitney Point, and going from there, that'd be awesome. I'm actually much closer to Whitney Point then Binghamton. I could meet someone at that really big gas station in WP on Rt. 11/79 (do any frequent takers of this route have any idea what I mean by my vague description?). If this is feasible for anyone, then we can obviously share cell numbers and all that to make sure the timing is accurate. If no one is taking this way that is willing to drive, then I can meet in Binghamton somewhere. Not a problem, for me at least.

option 2.) I'm sure I could make it to your place at any time, John. Sounds awesome.

option 3.) We might need more than a bottle of rum for Mr. Popper's Penguins.

Whatever the majority sayeth, I'm in. Though apparently there's no Jason or Ben. Rats!

This wouldn't be a fair fight

Hey, not so fast!

A very fine and amusing point, John, (especially in all caps), BUT you forget that I don't see Midnight in Paris as the self-congratulatory, ego-inflating, masturbatory-inducing affair that you do! I see it more as a riff on the historical and romantic idea of Paris with one man being the voyager through this idea.

The way I see twitter compared to the way Ben sees it is a nice analogy for the way you see Midnight compared to the way I see it. Who's right in all this? Probably not me either way.

I was mostly joking about twitter when I wrote that line (hence the "haha"–Ben, I'm not trying to be mean). I really don't have that much of a problem with twitter other than being annoyed by it. Ben proves that twitter can be used for lots of important things. I think I just like the image of a "a society so narcissistic it might fuck itself to death" a little too much. While twitter can certainly feed into narcissism for many, it isn't the only culprit in our society. I think reality tv and advertising deserve more of that blame.

And you know what, even if Midnight is narcissism (though I won't concede this), at least it's the kind of narcissism I can get behind–neurotic nerd narcissism. My favorite.

(in Homer Simpson voice) Mmmmm...neurotic nerd narcissism.

Also, Jason and John are both right about education. You can have great teachers (I've had some great ones) that make schooling worthwhile, and it's always important to be humble with what you know. Which is why I'm always the first to admit that I don't know anything.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I guess I can write at night

This is a general response to a bunch of things. It's all over the place.

I will definitely admit I can be an asshole (in my head mind you) towards people who I think aren’t as smart as me, but this is always geared towards people who have the means and should know better (usually idiots in my college classes –which only proves you don’t have to go to college to be intelligent). I didn’t mean to belittle anyone who has dropped out of college or doesn’t go to college by having contempt for those girls in the theater with me (they could have gotten a degree for all I know). I had more contempt for them as people who can’t shut their mouths during a movie; their stupidity just fueled my contempt at that point.

I’m almost done with college (and I plan on going to grad school) but even I will admit that it’s a waste of time and money. I work hard at college because I know I need to play the game. Any real knowledge I have has mostly come on my own, like you Brandon. I’ve taken one film class on Cinema at War and I got nothing out of it. My favorite authors are the ones I looked up on my own in high school. My vocabulary has come from forcing myself to read a thesaurus and dictionary when I was a teenager. I’m like you Brandon. I’ve taught myself most the things I really care about. I would never lump you in with those girls in my theater because you didn’t finish college. You’ve actually gone out and learned tons of things on your own. In many ways that is much more impressive then just graduating college. You know more about film history than most kids I know who are cinema majors. Jesse Martin didn’t graduate college and he’s one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met. He can talk more fluently with me about literature than any person I’ve ever met in an English class.

Ben is right, just because someone doesn’t have a degree, it doesn’t mean they are not educated. The inverse is true too. Just because someone has a degree, it doesn’t mean they are educated.

John, thanks for responding. I'm glad you weren't ready to throw in the towel just yet. Thanks for your posts too, Brandon and Ben. Everything has been a blast to read and I'm just overwhelmed by having to respond to such great stuff.

The references in Midnight in Paris are easy to anyone who has knowledge about art or history. No question. I never made the argument that they weren’t obvious references. I was just arguing that (to me) the intention of the film was not to flatter its audience with its references but to do its own thing and hope others can follow along.

I can understand that if you aren’t with Owen Wilson’s character as a protagonist then you might not enjoy his development at the expense of the other characters. I guess I’m just so used to Woody’s movies doing this that I have no problem with it. I always like the Woody character because, well, I like Woody Allen.

I also can totally understand not wanting to be directed. I’m with you. I’m willing to be directed if I like where I’m being led (I usually do with my man Woody), but if I don’t then I hate it. Reading Meek’s Cutoff in the same discussion with Midnight brings me back down to Earth quite a bit. Of course, Meek’s Cutoff is a far superior film. There’s no question. I sometimes forget to compare Woody’s films to other films because I’m so used to comparing them to his other ones. He so rarely comes out with a truly inspired effort anymore so when he does I’m quick to praise him like a kid who finally hits the ball of the tee after whiffing twelve times.

Brandon, you make a good point about Tarantino’s references not being crucial to the scene itself in Inglourious Basterds. Certainly one can appreciate the gravity and dexterity of the scene without having seen a Leone film. I was just using this example to stress that if you have seen a Leone film, then you are in-the-know about this reference. It was just an example about how references work. To understand or identify them you need to have some knowledge about them.

(This would be a pointless debate but I see the opening of Inglourious as more of an homage to The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. Specifically the scene where Angel Eyes comes to Steven’s House, sits at his table, interrogates him, and then kills him. The two scenes are very closely related. Though I guess you could say that coming to kill the family is also an homage to Frank showing up and killing McBain and his clan in Once Upon a Time in the West. Is this what you had in mind? Sorry, I’m nerding out too much.)

I think you might have been too hard on Super 8 too. I think it's mostly a successful tribute and a pretty solid blockbuster considering some of the other fare out there. The alien work is so heavy-handed, but there is enough to like elsewhere to actually appreciate this flick.

I agree that we are all romantics here. New film club motto: Be Romantic Forever.

I’m an Ebert fan too. I can often disagree with him, but I still respect the hell out of him and always read his well-written reviews. His championing of Kubrick and Bergman means a lot to me. So does his estimation of Synecdoche, New York. He and I may be among the only ones to rate it so highly. He definitely is a film lover and a very intelligent person who I probably could get along with real well if I knew him. His comment about Ryan Dunn may have been true, but was there any need to post it other than the fact that a computer was probably sitting right in front of him at the time? Thinking something in your head or sharing something with a friend is one thing, but promulgating something snide for all to see is just ego-inflation. What’s the point?

I’m a big fan of people who are considerate for other people’s feelings. I appreciate the person who before tweeting thinks: “Should I post this potentially hurtful message so that I can personally be right or should I abstain from posting it out of consideration for the possible harm it could have on others?” (yeah, dream on Jeff). Being considerate is all about thinking less about yourself and more about the fact that there are other people in the world besides you.

Roger’s tweet about the Huck Finn controversy was a different thing all together. There shouldn’t have been controversy about it. There probably shouldn’t be controversy about his Ryan Dunn tweet. In all honesty, he’s one fucking person, who gives a shit what he says? I still think he should be considerate and not post something that could be hurtful to others but only because our society already puts too much stock in something as trivial as tweeting. Why do we care so much about tweets and why are they news-worthy? Anthony Weiner tweets a picture of his chest and is forced to resign, but Goldman Sachs execs cheat thousands out of their money and homes and don’t even get a slap on the wrist. Our world is so upside down that at times I think I’m living in a nightmare.

I’m personally extremely annoyed by twitter (does considering it a device of self-glorification for a society already so narcissistic it might fuck itself to death constitute as annoyance? haha). But, seriously all jokes aside, if you get some great things out of it Ben then stick to it my man. I’m sure it’s useful for all types of things, as you suggest. I think when used in a way as you do (or for something like the Arab spring movement) it can be a beneficial and exciting tool. Don’t let my curmdgeonly attitude towards it or other forms of technology influence your opinion. I’m probably just too out of touch.

Super 8 and other stuff

I’m in a writing mood today. That Midnight in Paris rant got me fired up. I wish I had been in film club when y’all were debating Inception just because I liked it a lot and it would have been fun to jump in the ring. Oh well. I smell a huge The Dark Knight Rises debate coming next summer. I can’t wait.

Anyway, I watched Super 8 yesterday. I’ll interact with Brandon and Jason a little bit. Spoilers probably will abound.

I agree, Jason, that the kids are great. They do a very nice job. Very much recreations of kids from the 80s adventure films that were brought up. I didn’t mind this because I like those movies too and you can tell Abrams does even if he’s forcing it a bit. Joe and Alice’s relationship is probably the best part of the film. Their secret connection to one another makes their union all the more touching. I agree that the scene where Joe and Charles hash out their differences over Alice is pointless and underdeveloped though.

The monster/alien is not well developed either. I agree, the film doesn’t know whether it should be the alien from Alien, ET, or a prawn from District 9. When he builds his ship at the end, do we care that he gets to go home? Not really because he’s woefully underdeveloped. One scene of him staring into Joe’s eyes doesn’t make him ET. I think the film would have benefited from making the alien a little less cluttered. With that being said, I know that Abrams has stated that they put less focus on the design of the alien and more focus into the story (a rarity nowadays). That’s admirable, but they still could have done better with the alien.

I will say though that when the alien’s ship is departing, it isn’t that important that this misunderstood creature is finally getting to return home but that Joe and his dad and Alice and her dad are watching its beautiful lights ascend together. Joe reaches over and holds Alice’s hand showing that its all about these characters witnessing something together. Fathers are reunited with their kids, the kids are united together, and a painful division that has separated these two families is starting to heal. Abrams gets most of the human elements right, I agree. The alien is just handled clumsily. Perhaps something more opaque like the aliens in Close Encounters would have worked better, I don’t know.

I was thinking watching the film that it seems a little too scary/violent for little kids (scarier than ET I mean), so I think this movie is geared towards adults who remember kids adventure films, as there are many cliche or overly cinematic elements that do make it a kids movie. This one’s way more nostalgic than Midnight in Paris. But, as you suggested Brandon, it’s probably better than most blockbusters one will see this summer and I agree. I liked certain things about it and didn’t like others. I wasn’t really expecting anything from it, so I can say that I liked it mostly. I’m somewhere between you and Jason.

I could write more about it, but I don't know what else to say at the moment.

On to a few other things, quickly...

I get what you guys are saying about The Lower Depths, John and Jason. Renoir does have a LitFic/Modernist/old-fashioned style that can seem uninteresting to some. I happen to love his style because it is those things. I’m an unabashed lover of Modernist and Victorian lit. (my areas of interest at school) and Renoir’s films are a part of both traditions. I can understand your desires for something more pulpier or more original. We have different tastes. I’m glad you both like the friendship between the two leads though–it makes the movie.

John, Take Shelter looks awesome. I want to see it too.

Brandon, great comments on Ebert. My sentiments exactly. Twitter is certainly a mind-to-mouth filter destroyer if there ever were one. It seems like everyday you read the news online you see someone new posting a controversial “tweet.” A.) why do you need to post the first stupid thing that pops into your head as if millions of people couldn’t see it? and B.) why the fuck is your stupid comment news?

I’m with you on the release date issue, obviously. But my criteria is solely based on which year the film fits best into my list. For instance, I have Saraband in my 2003 list (it’s European release) because I like it better in my 2003 list than 2004. I’ll probably stick Meek’s Cutoff on my 2011 list unless there are too many great movies this year (yeah, right) then I’ll revise my 2010 one.

Lisa, I really liked reading your Before Sunrise/Sunset thoughts. I’ll interact with them more if I ever post my 2004 list.

Coming to Jason's defense (a little too late though)

This is going to be too long...I’m sorry in advance.

Damnit, I wish I had seen Midnight in Paris earlier so that I could have gotten in the middle of your terrific debate, John and Jason. Now I feel like a guy who’s shown up late to a fight and with everyone gone home starts punching the air. Well, I guess I’ll punch that air and if anyone feels like taking a swing back...just let me take off my glasses first.

SHOCK: I quite liked Midnight in Paris and will stick up for Jason and Ben. I know, can you believe that the resident Woody Allen apostle and frequent apologist liked the new Woody Allen movie that’s supposed to be his best in years? Shocking. Considering I really like and maybe even love more recent films by Woody Allen than any person rightfully should, it should be pretty (painfully) obvious that I’d dig this one too. I just love the guy’s films, what can I say? He’s meant a lot to me in my life. He’s been validating my skinny, neurotic nerdiness since I was 16. I even wear his glasses in honor of him (though they are so trendy now that no one would notice or care). As Jason mentioned, his adeptness at mixing high and low comedy is what really spoke to me as a nerdy teenager. I was the kid in a hick-town high school with 90 kids in his graduating class who wanted to talk and make jokes about literature and films with absolutely zero friends interested in doing the same. I remember discovering Woody and finally feeling validated for my interest in such things. Here was a guy who not only was hilarious but was interested in books and movies and philosophy and was constantly using them as gags/elements in his movies.

In Love and Death there is a joke about line from T.S. Eliot’s Prufrock. Did I appreciate the hell out of this because I knew and loved the poem? Yes. Did it make me feel like I was in-the-know? You’re goddamn right it did.

I feel like I’m in-the-know every time The Simpsons makes a reference to a Stanley Kubrick film or any other film or cultural artifact I’m aware of. Are they doing this just to flatter my knowledge of film and culture? Maybe. Or maybe they are including these references because they are things the writers and producers are interested in or want to make fun of, and they are hoping that others are aware of these things so that they can appreciate the joke. And if they aren’t aware of these things, they hopefully they will seek out these things. Jason’s right, if someone doesn’t know Hemingway and sees Midnight then maybe they’ll want to find out who Hemingway was and maybe even read a book by him (I’d prefer this to someone hearing about “twitter” in a movie and then deciding to join the site to be in-the-know). I appreciated seeing Luis Bunuel in the film because I love him and I got the reference to The Exterminating Angel and smiled at it. If someone never heard of Bunuel or this film, then maybe they will check him out and watch this movie. That’d be awesome.

Taratino makes copious references to pop culture and has various homages to films he loves in his films. The opening of Inglourious Basterds is a nod to The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. I can imagine that Tarantino did this at least partly because he loves that movie and he’s hoping others do too or that they’ll want to check it out.

Jokes and references are all about being in-the-know. If I knew nothing about current events I might not laugh at the jokes Stephen Colbert makes.

I get your gripe that Midnight flatters the audience’s knowledge of various people and things John, but I just can’t stick with it as a legit criticism because it can be extended to soo many things. Does part of your pleasure for westerns stem from your knowledge of the genre and does seeing a western you love validate your love for guns, horses, story, character, etc.? We will be discussing Destry Rides Again soon, I’m sure. It’s feasible that a western film lover could derive pleasure from that film because it’s aware of other westerns at the time and seems to comment on them. That doesn’t mean the film is bullshit flattery for people who like westerns (or if it is then all films can be reduced to bullshit flattery on some level).

I’m sorry to give you the old reductio ad absurdum, but I just don’t like the flattery argument. I will say that I understand where this argument is coming from considering your theater going experience, and trust me, I can sympathize. I might be annoyed by it too.

There were two annoying, airheaded girls sitting close to me during Midnight and at times I could hear their superficial and inane chatter. The first time the word “pedantic” was used in the film they both turned to each other and asked what the word meant. One the girls pulled out her cell phone and proceeded to look up the word and share it with her friend. This means the film was working on many levels. I’ll explain: 1) the film exposed their stupidity and rudeness to me 2) the film made me feel superior to them 3) I knew what the word meant so I felt validated as an English major haha 4) despite my incredible arrogance and contempt for people I think are stupid, these people learned a new word! haha I use this anecdote to validate your hatred for the film John. It’s because of people like me. I’m an asshole (in my head at least).

All jokes aside, I don’t think Woody included the word pedantic in his script to elicit this sort of arrogant response. I think he used it because he knows the word and it was the precise word he was looking for. I do the same thing with my own writing. If I use a fancy word it’s probably because I like the word (its sound and shape) and because it has the closest definition to the idea/feeling I’m trying to express. If my reader knows the word, then awesome, and if they don’t they’ll look it up.

I would say the same for Woody’s inclusion of all the various people in the film. To me, the film played like Woody wanting to bring to life and write for all these characters he admires from a different time period. I bet he’s fascinated, like many of us, with the idea that Stein, Picasso, Hemingway, and all these great artists were hanging out in Paris together. If he included all these references to these people its because he’s fascinated by them and not because he’s trying to reward us for being English or art majors.

My only two real complaints with the film (it’s over-cuteness at times aside) are that my hero Faulkner wasn’t characterized but only mentioned (Hemingway’s great and all, but I wanted to hear Faulkner’s southern drawl) and that Woody is too old to play the lead character. Owen Wilson is one of the better Woody surrogates in some time because he doesn’t overdo it and sticks to his own charming guns instead. Still, I always envision Woody in the Woody role! I can always hear his nagging voice through the dialogue and I pine for him to recite it. Having Woody gush over sitting with Hemingway would make it all the more better because we see that he included Hemingway not to flatter the audience but because he’s thrilled at the idea of sitting with him and also getting to write for him. (By the way, I do a really great/awful Woody Allen impression...ask me to do it sometime if you see me).

Okay, I’m starting to ramble too much on this flattery issue. I sound insane. I’ll mention another point of disagreement I have with you John and then I’m done. I won’t get into the moral truth argument because then I’d never finish this already too long post.

About the characters as caricatures. Woody often makes his characters into caricatures because he’s a comedian. Usually, his protagonist is a well-developed surrogate for himself and the characters around him are comedic elements to play off of. Michael Sheen plays a one-dimensional, pedantic, pseudo-intellectual in Midnight because this caricature is a Woody Allen staple for comedic derision. The same character repeats throughout his films (Alan Alda in Crimes and Misdemeanors being one of my favorites). The same thing with the nagging wife/girlfriend who is fed up with the Woody-surrogate’s various neuroses and complaints. A Woody Allen stock character. I understand the point that these characters are caricatures, but he’s using them for comedic purposes (as comedy often will).

I would actually agree with you John that the “moral” of the film isn’t to dash people’s romantic dreams. If anything, it tells you to keep being romantic forever. In this way, while the film certainly reminds of The Purple Rose of Cairo, it has radically different message from that film. This is definitely one of his most idealized and least cynical films.

I’ve seen almost all of Woody’s films from the last 20 years (I think You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger is the only omission), and I have to say that this is certainly one of his more livelier efforts. It seems as though the idea of Paris really inspired him to try something new, which is awesome. I’m always rooting for Woody to make another great film. Midnight is easily his best since Match Point, and beyond that, I’d have to see it again before making a much bolder statement. This is indeed a delightful film because you can tell how much the idea and history of Paris delights Woody. He’s not looking at it through this objective lens but through a skewed one of imagination and idealization. The fantasy elements in the past are as much fanastical as the “normal” ones in the present. Owen Wilson and the cute blond walk away into the rain and there is no fear that their romance will deteriorate. Not in this Paris because this isn’t the real Paris. This is the romance capital of the World Paris. The city of dreams where love never dies Paris. It’s a fantasy Paris, but it’s the Paris that’s been represented to us for ages. If the film is overly romantic its because Woody is paying homage to this romantic idea of Paris. He doesn’t live there so he doesn’t know what it’s really like. But he’s seen a lot of movies so he knows how it’s fantasized.

John, if you’re not a romantic and you hate Paris then I can see why you don’t like this movie haha. Thank you so much for being the naysayer on this one though. If you hadn’t I wouldn’t have gotten to ramble on like this or be challenged about the film. You’re awesome, seriously. Thanks for all your responses to John too, Jason. You gave me a lot to chew on, as well. You’re awesome too.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Way Behind

Lisa, sorry I didn’t follow up on Midnight in Paris over the weekend. I got busy, and frankly the days fly by so quickly that a week feels like a day and I forget to post. I’ve also been waiting to see it with my brother (a fellow Woody Allen devotee) and he was busy all weekend so I couldn’t go. However, he did have some free time this afternoon so we decided to go–a spur of the moment kind of thing. Unfortunately, I wasn’t near a computer to invite you or any others to see it with us (blogging is a really inefficient way to get a hold of someone). I would have really liked to have seen it with you and Ben! Thanks for the invite though–much appreciated.

The Tree of Life. So, Lisa and Ben can’t make Friday and Jason doesn’t live near us. That only leaves Brandon, John, and myself. If you fellas want to go Friday, then I’m with you. If Saturday works better for you Lisa, then could we make that happen instead fellas? I’m down with either day if anyone else wants to work something out. I also wouldn’t mind going mid-week with Ben or waiting like John suggested for the wide release. Whatever time works where we can get the most of us together would be ideal. I’d like this to be a film club event too John.

If we do go Friday though Lisa, then I’d be interested in getting together to meet you before you leave. I’d be great to meet you. I want to meet everyone in film club at some point. It’s just really nice to finally meet someone you only know through writing so that you can read their stuff with their voice in your head instead of some imagined one. John you seemed pretty intimidating through your writing and then I met you and you’re just the nicest guy.

I seem pretty stupid through my writing, and then you meet me and I’m...pretty stupid. D’oh!

I also saw Super 8 immediately after MIP. I’d post about them both now and respond to everyone but there’s waaaay too much to say, and unlike Lisa, I can’t write anytime after 10 pm. My brain shuts off at night.

I’ll post about Midnight and Super 8 tomorrow and respond to all the juicy debate that’s been happenin’. I’ve been jealous of it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Nolan, Fincher, Malick

How cool is this?

The Tree of Life featurette

So much to say

Brandon, great to have you back dude! I’ve missed you. I figured you’ve seen most of the films from the 30s that I’ll be watching. Fuck you for having your ’33 list almost done. I’m way behind, but slowly getting there. ’36 and ’39 are probably the first ones I’ll have done. Can’t wait to see your lists. Also, can’t wait to hang out again!

Awesome news about Summer People. Good luck with those songs, dude! I can’t wait to hear ‘em. I played soccer with Alex the other night and he kicked my ass as always. I hope everyone else in the band is doing well! Glad to hear the tour was such a blast.

I’m stoked that Stalag 17 is your favorite Wilder film too. We are certainly in the minority, but that’s awesome. I agree completely that Ace in the Hole is far superior to Network. It hits at the heart of what Network is trying to do with more economy and precision. It’s razor-sharp and scathing, but first it builds character. I agree totally.

There is something that rings hollow about Trouble in Paradise. There are certain things that I really enjoyed about it, but it might be missing the Lubitsch touch, as you suggest. I’m going to watch Heaven Can Wait this week, and I can’t wait to see it.

I’m with you on Powell. After the Thin Man will be high on my list too.

Ben, congrats on finishing your work. No worries too dude. You can watch/skip any of the films from the 30s that you’d like. That goes for everyone else to. Watch any of the films if you have the time and desire to do so, and if not, totally cool. There’s already too many movies to watch as it is; I don’t want to put any undue pressure on anyone to watch even more.

I don’t know how I missed this from before, but Bill Hicks is awesome. I really want to see that documentary on him; I’m jealous. Glad you liked and and are a fan of him as well. He was a monumental dude, and each year that passes it seems like we need him now more than ever.

Also jealous that you’ve seen Midnight in Paris. Can’t wait for it. Glad you dug it. I will try to see it this weekend. If I do decide to go, I’ll post the date and time I’m going and if anyone wants to meet me there, that’d be awesome! Lisa, if you’re still down for it, it’d be great to meet you.

Also, Lisa, great to read your thoughts on The Blue Angel. I think you’re right about shifting the focus to Rath; he certainly does idolize Lola. She’s like an opening into a whole new world for him, and he obviously wants her all to himself, singing and dancing just for him. I probably put too much culpability on Lola, when, as you mentioned, she remains true to her character throughout the film. She is who she is, and if Rath sees something different then he’s just deluding himself (ain’t that 90% of relationships?). I think those legs would delude any man into thinking she only had eyes for him.

Glad you watched and dug Blue Valentine. It’s great for all the reasons you gave. Brandon is right, it is Cassavetes realism in the best sense.

I haven’t seen Following in a long time, but I really liked reading your thoughts on it. Can’t wait to read your Linklater post. I’ve got a lot written already on Before Sunset for my 2004 list, but I’m waiting to finish up writing about the rest of the films before I post it.

Jason, you really liked Super 8, which makes me want to see it. Brandon, you didn’t really like it, which makes me not want to see it. I’ll probably end up waiting for this one on dvd (like most of the 2011 movies–I’m gonna be way behind). I still want to see X-men though.

John, I hear you about blog apathy. I go through it too often. I love reading what everyone else has to say, but mostly don’t care about what I have to say.

I’d love to check out the 30s movies that are playing at BCF, especially since they are unavailable. I’ll try my best to make it to those.

You recommended Rohmer to me. I need to see some of his films. How have I not seen even one of the them? For shame.

I watched The Lower Depths yesterday. I really enjoyed it. Brandon, glad you’ve seen it and are a fan too. It’s got our man Louis Jouvet in it! He’s so incredibly likable in this. I love the opening POV shot of him–it’s a very interesting way to open the film. The relationship between his character and Jean Gabin’s (a class-act as always) is my favorite part about the film. There’s a lot to say about the film’s treatment of class issues and social (im)mobility, but for me the friendship between these two really propels the film. From their first surprisingly benevolent encounter to their bittersweet farewell, I was enjoying all of their scenes together. Renoir can add incredible warmth to a film as well as anyone. I seriously love him as an auteur. When all is said and done, he might be my favorite director from the 30s.

I could add a ton more about this film, but I’ll wait to hear what you have to say John and anyone else who sees it and wants to write about it.

I haven’t seen the Kurosawa version, but have always wanted to and would certainly love to now. I’d also like to read Gorky’s play.

I like this from Criterion, especially Renoir’s comment on Kurosawa’s film: Jean Renoir's The Lower Depths.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Lower Depths

Thought I'd change the color scheme for the blog. That baby blue wasn't doing it for me.

I guess my pick is going to be Renoir's The Lower Depths (1936). Feel free to watch it whenever you want and write about it whenever you want.

John, have you seen Destry Rides Again, yet? I'd like to make that next week's pick because it is streaming through Starz and they tend to remove their titles pretty quickly.

Also, I should follow blogdanovich just for the name alone! Thanks for that post.

Brandon, can't wait to have you back in full swing. Midnight in Paris is playing at Regal right now...if you are free sometime, we should make that happen. Anyone else interested?

Friday, June 10, 2011

"What is food?"

Jason, I have friend who is also an enormous X-Men fan, and he had a similar reaction to the new film. He enjoyed it, liked the interpretation, and thought it remained true to the spirit of the characters. I’m interested in seeing it; the trailers make it look like harmless fun and kind of badass. To me, it looks like the best superhero flick coming out this summer. Didn’t see Thor (though I know you enjoyed it), Green Lantern looks way too CG, and I don’t know how I feel about Captain America. If someone recommends it, perhaps I’ll try to see it, but I have no intense desire for it on my own.

If anyone sees Super 8 soon let me know what you think. My brothers are interested in seeing it, but before I spend the little money I have on it, I’d like to know if it’s worth it.

I think the only other blockbuster I’m interested in seeing this summer is Cowboys & Aliens. And I definitely want to see Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark at the end of August. Still waiting on Tree of Life...

Also, Jason, glad to have you on board for this 30s adventure. I guess the idea is that I pick a movie on either Saturday or Sunday and we are all supposed to watch that movie within a week of the next pick. You can watch The Blue Angel at your leisure–no rush. I’ll most likely provide the next pick tomorrow, but you can post on The Blue Angel whenever you’d like, and it will definitely be welcome and appreciated.


I watched My Man Godfrey (1936) on NWI the other day. I absolutely loved it. It comes with the highest recommendation. If anyone else wants to watch it, I’ll totally be down to discuss it further. John, you’ve seen it–what a great movie! I love William Powell. He’s effortlessly entertaining and humorous, such a charismatic guy. He’s fantastic as Godfrey. I also love Carole Lombard. She’s fantastic as Irene. I loved the scenes when she is performing her depression for everyone after she thinks Godfrey is married. I had a huge grin on my face watching them. I also loved the character Carlo. He’s absolutely absurd and the way the family treats him is hysterical.

This is a great screwball comedy because it’s hilarious throughout and also a pretty scathing satire of the rich. It works on so many levels that it’s kind of a miracle. 1936 is already going to be impossible to rank. With this, Modern Times, Dodsworth, and After the Thin Man all in the mix...damn, what a great year!

I can’t wait to watch Godfrey again. It put me in such a great mood after watching it. It’s seriously a lot of fun.

I also watched Lubitsch’s Trouble in Paradise (1932). It’s cool to see this pre-code film that was later banned under the code until the 60s because it’s incredibly tame by today’s standards but obviously racy for the time. There’s quite a bit of innuendo and an ending that the code just wouldn’t allow. This one is worth discussing further if anyone has seen it (Brandon, if you can read this, you probably have).

I’m pretty sure I can’t make King Kong tomorrow because I’m vehicle-less...bummer.

Also, I plan on putting up my 2004 list soon, but I’ve been waiting for Brandon to get back from tour and for his computer to be fixed. Miss you dude!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Falling in love again

John, I suppose you’re right that Dietrich’s character had some genuine feeling for Rath initially. He was probably a different sort of character than the ones she was used to. At the wedding feast she does look at him with joviality, so there had to be something there. I guess I just read her more as a seductress than a legit lover. But I didn’t see her as entirely responsible for Rath’s ruin; he definitely forged his own path.

I forgot to ask, did you think there was any social commentary involved in the film? In the scene where Rath comes out on stage as the clown, the announcer makes it clear to the audience that this former professor and intellectual has debased himself and become consumed by this sort of bawdy underworld. Do think this was just one man’s downfall or a potential comment on a society moving away from intellectual endeavors towards sexual pleasure and base spectacle. It’s definitely possible to read the film in this way or in a way like it, but I was just wondering if you had any similar thoughts or if you completely disagree with this. That goes for anyone else who has seen the film too.

If the film is a comment on society in that way, then does it see itself as somewhat complicit in this? Is the film a spectacle too? haha I sound like one of my English professors. Just trying to stir up some debate.

John, you’ve seen more films around the time of this than me so I completely trust you on the sound of this film. Once I’ve seen more of the new talkies, I can probably do a better judgment of it compared to others. I’m sure you’re right though.


I’ve seen some other 30s pictures recently...

Wyler’s Dodsworth (1936) is one of the best I’ve seen in a while. It’s fantastic, heartbreaking, and very well done. It has a literate, well-written script with some absorbing character work and many entertaining scenes. The direction by Wyler is just spot-on. He keeps the film fluid and interesting and really lets us care about the characters. The film is so strongly developed. It basically follows the disintegration of a marriage while on a trip to Europe. Dodsworth is a newly retired automobile tycoon out to see the world and his wife is a quickly aging (but still young) woman looking for romance, adventure, and European sophistication. They grow apart pretty rapidly in the film, and it is terribly sad to see despite the film’s fairly lighthearted tone. There is one scene early in the film where Dodsworth is looking at a lighthouse flash from the shores of England and tries to get his wife to see it with him. It’s a very tragic scene that foreshadows the rest of the film. You can’t help but feel for poor Dodsworth in that moment. Great stuff.

Walter Huston gives a masterful performance as the title character. Ruth Chatterton is great as his superficial and naive wife (a pretty solid variation on Emma Bovary). Mary Astor is so lovely and a young David Niven is suave as hell. Terrific performances all around. This one will be high on my ’36 list.

Vigo’s Zero de Conduite (1933) is a much more whimsical and fanciful verison of Lindsay Anderson’s If....It has some neat camera work and some nice bits of absurdity. It’s pretty amusing.

The Adventures of Robin Hood is still awesome and so is King Kong. I’d love to make that showing this weekend. I don’t know if I can make it, but if I am around I will let y’all know.

I forgot to add Renoir's The Lower Depths to my '36 list. I definitely need to see that and may choose it as the next film to see.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Der blaue engel

This is my first go with von Sternberg and Emil Jennings too. And my first look at Dietrich in the 30s. Previously, I had seen her only when she was older in some films from the late 50s. I’ve got a few more films on my lists with her in them; I look forward to seeing more of her.

What’s interesting about her in this film is that she isn’t astonishingly beautiful. She has a pretty face and a nice pair of legs, but what really makes her so appealing is her lack of inhibition. She flaunts herself as though she doesn’t give a shit. She could be naked the whole picture and still strut around with maximum confidence. Most of the film she is in her underwear or exposing her legs and she does it all like a natural. She has a liberated sexual presence that I’m sure made her insanely desirable to film audiences all over at the time.

Jennings has a great face, I agree. Definitely the face of a silent film actor. He’s splendid in the role of Rath, especially near the end when performing on stage as the cock turned cuckold or when lurking around backstage after going mad. I don’t know if he performed in any horror films at the time, but he certainly had the face for ‘em.

I’d also agree that the set-up for the film is pretty preposterous though it seems to work. It plays like a fantasy turned nightmare, which isn’t a bad thing at all. There’s no way Dietrich would be interested in Jennings unless her character makes a habit of seducing and devouring men without a thought. This is probably the case, as her first moves when meeting him are to undress and drop her underwear on his head. The uptight Rath becomes a desiring animal for her after that. This initial meeting is almost like Hawk’s Ball of Fire. The stuffy professor meets the sexually unrestrained performer and gets a taste for a whole new side of life. But obviously this plays out much differently as the professor lowers himself considerably and the “performer” doesn’t really have a heart of gold.

I like the clown in the first half of the film too. A presage for Rath’s eventual degradation and his future role. It’s a nice touch.

Does anyone else think this plays like a silent film? You can tell that von Sternberg was just making his transition into using sound. The dialogue isn’t that great or even that necessary (though it is helpful); most of the film is communicated through its images and visual performances. Dietrich's singing is really when the sound is needed the most.

Friday, June 3, 2011

1930s: Let's do this shit!

Awesome! I'm surprised and happy that so many are interested in the 1930s thing. John, thanks for stirring up interest and for being interested yourself. I'm excited about the 30s too. It should be a fun project. I'm down for picking a film for everyone else to try to see as well each week. I'll probably end up seeing three or four films a week from the 30s, but I don't expect everyone else to keep at this pace. I'll just pick one that we can all focus on. With that in mind, I have decided that my first pick will be...

Von Sternberg's The Blue Angel (1930).

It seems like a great inaugural film. First year of the decade, first sound film for von Sternberg (one of the first popular sound films in German too), and world cinema's first real introduction to Marlene Dietrich. von Sternberg and Dietrich are figures that will dominate the 30s. Let's get acquainted with them.

I'll definitely be watching My Man Godfrey at some point in the next week and possibly Lubitsch's Trouble in Paradise on youtube and Jean Vigo's Zero de Conduite (1933) through google videos (a film I forgot to add to my 10 because I thought it was unavailable). If anyone else wants to watch those please feel free to.

If anyone hasn't seen the Marx Bros' Duck Soup, I would absolutely recommend it. It's on NWI and it's one of my favorite movies of all time. Also, through that open movies link Ben posted you can access Chaplin's City Lights. If anyone hasn't seen that, see it! It's one of the greatest films ever made.

Also, if anyone has cable, there are plenty of 1930s films being shown on TCM this month and the next. Here's some notable ones (sorry I didn't mark down the times):

June 4th: Dodsworth (1936)
June 4th: King Kong (1933)
June 5th: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
June 5th: All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
June 11th: Horse Feathers (1932)
June 13th: David Copperfield (1935)
June 13th: Captains Courageous (1937)
June 18th: Bringing Up Baby (1938)
June 18th: Twentieth Century (1934)
June 18th: The Awful Truth (1937)
June 20th: Grand Hotel (1932)
June 22nd: The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)
June 23rd: Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)
July 8th: The Petrified Forest (1936)
July 25th: Fury (1936)
Aug 3rd: Jezebel (1938)
Aug 6th: Stage Door (1937)