Thursday, July 28, 2011

Golden age roundup

Mad Men
is my favorite show on television. Looking forward to watching 1-4 again with some whiskey and a carton of cigs.

In all honesty, I've realized that I have little to no interest in watching Black Death. However, I will try to watch it this weekend. If I don't, you guys can officially kick me out of Black Death club. I'll just have to deal with it.

Ben, yes I've often considered watching Ma Mere, but have never gotten around to it. I love Bataille a lot. I'd say he had a bigger influence on guys like Foucault, Blanchot, Deleuze, and Klossowski. He was basically a Nietzsche disciple who championed the man's work when no one else would. He wasn't really a philosopher, more a writer who believed in being honest, telling jokes, and transgressing boundaries. The Story of an Eye is all kinds of nasty, but it's meant to be transgressive and ridiculous. If it's a joke, it is meant as one. Bataille refused to take himself seriously.

Interestingly or not, I also find Derrida and Baudrillard lacking in terms of philosophical insight, but I think Lacan is actually quite insightful, just a bitch to read. If you ever want to talk philosophy, Ben, I'm always down. Who cares if the shit is film related or not? Just say the word auteur and bring up Howard Hawks every now and then and we're set. Ben and I are starting are own philosophy club. No squares allowed.


Now onto film talk.

I guess I was mislead by TCM on The Thing From Another World. They presented it as Howard Hawks’ The Thing From Another World and discussed all of its Hawksian traits as if he were the director. I didn’t research the film beyond watching it, but noticed all the Hawksian traits, so I just assumed he was the director. I probably should have looked up the film to realize that he wasn’t even credited as the director. I’ll give credit to Christian Nyby now though. If he did indeed do most of the directing, he does a pretty meticulous Hawks impression. This is from IMDB:

“It is generally believed that Howard Hawks took over direction during production, and it has always been acknowledged by director Christian Nyby that Hawks was the guiding hand. However, in an interview James Arness said that while Hawks spent a lot of time on the set, it was Nyby who actually directed the picture, not Hawks.”


“As opposed to that interview with James Arness, the film's Star, Kenneth Tobey has maintained in many interviews that it was indeed Hawks who directed the film. Tobey said that he had worked with Nyby after this film on many occasions and he was a fine director, but Hawks did call the shots on most of the film.”

Who the hell knows? Anyway, if you were the director, Nyby, I apologize. Me and TCM done you wrong. Fucking Bill Hader.

I've watched Ford's Young Mr. Lincoln, Lang's Fury, and Wellman's The Ox-Bow Incident all within a week of each other. Totally fascinating triple feature. They share a lot of the same themes about justice, mob rule, and order/chaos.

Young Mr. Lincoln is one of the numerous masterpieces of 1939 (and one of two masterpieces by Ford in the same year). Fonda owns every frame he's in. He stands tall and proud, and has the charisma that some only ever dream about having. And Ford calls all the shots like the expert he was. I have high hopes that Spielberg's Lincoln will be a more than worthy companion to this film. I'm stoked for that one.

Fury is Lang doing what he does best–looking down deep into darkness and never blinking once. This one's a little more redemptive than you'd imagine. And it's thoroughly fascinating cinema. How great is the moment when the fiancee arrives on the mob scene and sees Spencer Tracy hanging onto the jailbars in the window with flames surrounding him? Her reaction is pure horror. And then the cuts to the joyous faces of mob members surrounding her as her loved one is left to die. There's another The Wicker Man comparison if there ever were one.

Is it weird that I'm all about preaching non-violence in real life, but love revenge movies? I was kinda hoping Spencer Tracy would come back to that town and shoot everyone up Dogville style (I bet the Code would love that one). I guess I get all my violent fantasies out through movies. Sublimation, baby. I still think torture and excessive gore are icky though even if I am a big fan of violence in movies.

The Ox-Bow Incident is like a Twilight Zone episode (I bet ya Rod was a fan of this). Right down to the ending too. It's an incredibly condemnatory film, and I thought it was as terrific as it was haunting. It's got all the themes I love in westerns. This one needed Fonda to don his Lincoln hat and save the day.

Hawks and Rossen's Scarface (there I gave both credit. You happy now? Mr. I grew up on classic films blah blah blah) would be a propaganda film just like you mentioned. It makes itself clear with a little PSA at the beginning. It's supposed to be an anti-gangster picture (and anti-governmental complacency), but I wonder if it actually ends up succeeding in making gangsters like Muni into heroes? It's like Jimmy Stewart's comment in Destry about how shootouts with the bad guys end up making em all look big instead of small behind bars. Angels With Dirty Faces seems to comment on this too. I don't really know the answer, but I know that this film is violent and deliberately excessive and I thought it was awesome. How does Ebert have De Palma's Scarface in his great movies list instead of this? I guess he thought the original needed more blow.

Sherman's She Done Him Wrong was my first date with Mae West, and boy was she a confident, saucy gal. The movie's only like an hour long, so it's pretty quick and easy entertainment. I had fun.

Cukor's Dinner at Eight is a film that owes a lot to Grand Hotel, but it surely holds its own. It's a testament to Cukor's talent to balance all the stories and characters and pack a lot into each scene. It's smart by being comedic and tragic precisely when it needs to be, and ends the only way it should. For a film titled Dinner at Eight, it certainly is interested in much more (there's my rotten tomatoes review tag-line).

Stevens' Swing Time is considered Astaire and Rogers' best film together. I thought it was a breeze. Light and enjoyable, with some incredible tapping (Ooh and black face! Yay!) Everyone, I'm just gonna throw this out there and if you don't like it just send it right back. It might be too bold and inspired to say this but...Fred Astaire was a really great dancer. Give that one a moment to sink in.

Brown's adaptation of Anna Karenina knows it isn't going to match the novel. So, it sets out to focus on telling the meat of the story and telling it very well. I love Garbo. I could look at her in this all day, even with her ridiculous mullet-esque haircut.

John, you're a little behind on our 30s quest. I expect no less than 1,000 words each on The Rules of the Game, M., and Scarface. Didn't you see how extensive and completely non-vague my own reviews of those films were?

If you are interested, I'm watching Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky next. If not, just write back to me with, "Alexander Nevsky? More like Alexander Never-sky," (Also, a great rotten tomatoes review tag line).

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


This isn't film related, but film club related.

Okay, so here's how it all went down. It's actually pretty hilarious. A perfect storm if you will.

Brandon posts this to me after he thinks I'm being too serious with my first post on The Passion:

"Jeff, don’t be bashful dude. I don’t think it’s gotten out of hand. Is anyone truly angry or hurt here? If so then stop taking yourselves so seriously and make a joke or something."

So I respond with:

"haha Brandon, I wasn't getting too serious was I? I didn't mean to be so, at least. I know no one's feelings are hurt on here. Mine certainly never are."

Then John does a post making fun of me and Bataille and asks everyone to stop being so PC and apologetic. I knew he was being playful here. So, taking Brandon's advice, I post a joking attack at John and God. I knew that John wanted this out of me instead of some apology, and he even thanked me for it. There was nothing serious about it and I thought that was understood, hence the "I hate movies" comment.

Then, Brandon texts me saying "are you ok dude? your last post seemed kind of serious."

I immediately thought he was joking and referencing his call for me to be less serious.

I thought, "surely he's being sarcastic because my post was obviously in jest."

Still, I was about to write back, "I'm fine man, I was just messing around," but then I thought that if I did this, he would call me a pussy for backing down and for not recognizing that he was joking himself.

So, instead I write back, thinking he knows I'm joking, that I am depressed and cutting my wrists.

He writes back, "wait dude, r u serious?"

Here, I'm about to write, "no I'm not being serious. Just joking." But again, I think he's still joking and that he'll call me out for backing down. So, I write, "are you being serious? cause I'm not. I'm listening to Dashboard Confessional while crying."

I think the Dashboard reference gave the whole thing up. But still he writes and asks if I'm being serious because he's about to leave his anniversary dinner to check on me. Again, I almost think he is fucking with me and I'm about to keep it going, but then I realize that he hasn't been joking from the beginning and his original text was serious. I quickly let him know it was all a joke and am surprised that he hasn't been joking himself.

This is why texting is so much fun!

It's a pretty great prank–too bad I didn't know it was one. I don't mind fucking with you so much Brando, but I feel terrible for texting you during your anniversary dinner with Tara. Tell her that I'm really sorry. Awful timing on my part.

I think (and hope) you are the only one who thought it was a serious spat Brando. Come on, I'm never that serious, ever. Especially not on here. As soon as I start being mean, you know its sarcasm. I'm surprised you of all people took me seriously. You're getting a little too sensitive in your old age. Quit being such a pussy :)


What ever happened to these kids anyway?

That's it!

Ouch, reducing Bataille solely to Story of an Eye and then calling him a joke is cold. You're going down Owen!

Give me Bataille's theories on immanence and even his Story of an Eye any day over bullshit fantasy afterlives and magical bearded dudes in the clouds who can hear your thoughts, direct the course of your life, and make sure you hang out with your pals in some perfect perpetual world after you die instead of burning in some fiery pit with Hitler and Pol Pot.

Here's another favorite Bataille quote of mine:

"Pathetic creatures on their knees...tirelessly, naively repeating, 'Don't take our word for it! Alas, we're not all that logical. We say God–though in reality God is a person, a particular individual. We speak to him. We address him by name–he is the God of Abraham and Jacob. We treat him just like anybody else, like a personal being....' So he's a whore?"

Comparing believing in God to believing in monsters was a mistake. It's an insult to monsters.

Fuck film club. I hate movies. I'm gonna turn this blog into my own space for rants against Christians, Republicans, Pro-lifers, and the elderly.

End transmission.

So, you guys wanna talk about My Future Boyfriend? It just got added to NWI. It looks good. It looks damn good. I've been waiting years for Michael Lange to come out with a new film. If the word "auteur" ever deserved to be applied to anyone, it's him. I never thought he'd be able to top his last film, Breadwinners, but with MFB it looks like he just might have.

Oh, yeah

I forgot something. Chris talked about this a little bit too. Jason, I think Sleeper is very funny, and I like it a lot. I rank all of Woody's 70s comedies very highly. I, like Chris, though think that Love and Death is his best strictly comedic film from the 70s. But, in terms of ranking Sleeper in Woody's oeuvre, I would have it in my t0p 10 of all his films. If you asked me to rank my top 10 right now it'd look something like this:

1. Hannah and Her Sisters
2. Annie Hall
3. Manhattan
4. Crimes and Misdemeanors
5. Love and Death
6. Broadway Danny Rose
7. Sleeper
8. The Purple Rose of Cairo
9. Take the Money and Run/Bananas
10. Stardust Memories

Clearly, I tend to value Woody's dramedies more than his strictly comedic fare. But I still love his comedies.

Also, I'm glad you liked Captain America. I'm interested in seeing it as well as Brandon and have higher hopes for it than some of the other super hero flicks this summer.

Anyone going to Cowboys & Aliens this weekend?

Got to be a chocolate Jesus

Context definitely helps illuminate where Chris and I are coming from with The Passion. We spent a majority of our lives being taught the Christian faith and even believing in it ourselves. We both have gotten away from this and feel like we have seen the light in doing so. I know that I am happy to have moved away from religion. I consider it personally stifling and hollow. And when I think about believing in God or that Christ is my savior, I think its like a childhood fancy like believing in monsters or something. You know, I'm over it, and believing in it again would feel like moving backwards when I wanna go forward with my life. So, I think that Chris and I feel relieved to have moved away from the ideas we were taught as kids. Atheism is still very appealing to us. It may be hip within intellectual cultures, but it isn't hip in general. Religion still dominates a majority of this country and the world. And certainly, it is all around our family. Plus, I think that religious hypocrisy and religious violence has kinda destroyed the whole game for us. With the predominance of Christian hypocrites in this country, especially those in power like say, I don't know, Sarah Palin, we feel like Christianity has become mostly deleterious. In some ways, we are like less psychotic versions of Daniel Plainview. Religious hypocrisy gets under our skin and kinda spoils the whole thing for us. However, I know there are some great Christians out there (John and Jason) and I respect them supremely. Christ taught some beautiful messages that are actually in accordance with my own moral ideas. I like a Christian who believes in humility, forgiveness, and love because I believe in them too (aww yeah, bring on that hippy shit).

Anyway, what I wanna say is that Christianity isn't a bad thing. It's all the rotten apples who pretend to be Christian that give it a bad name. And I wanna say that I am personally an atheist, but not a militant atheist. I feel certain that there isn't a God, at least not the anthropomorphic dude in the clouds, and that Jesus was just a man (though a liberal and very wise man). However, I'm always willing to admit that I know nothing, just like people who do believe know nothing. We are all in the same ignorant boat.

The philosopher Georges Bataille in his book Inner Experience has a great passage that reads:

"Mockery! that one should call me pantheist, atheist, theist...But I cry out to the sky: 'I know nothing.' And I repeat in a comical voice: 'absolutely nothing'".


haha Brandon, I wasn't getting too serious was I? I didn't mean to be so, at least. I know no one's feelings are hurt on here. Mine certainly never are.

Brandon, you make all great points and you certainly come at everything with a level head and an even hand. It's nice.

When I saw The Passion in theaters I had to have been 14 at the time, so I watched it as a kid would. I think the rest of you all had to have seen it at an age that is closer to my own now, so you probably had more adult perspectives on it. At 14, I think I was in a confused stage about God and Christianity. I was starting to doubt, and that scared me. I thought that if God could hear my thoughts then I could be punished for questioning him. It's a frightening thing when you first start non-believing. The Passion did make me feel guilty when I saw it. Guilty for questioning the divinity of this man who suffered for me. And I didn't like it for that reason. It hit me on a visceral level that I felt was trying to evoke guilt from me. Also, I felt kinda sad watching it. Torture, no matter who the person is, makes me feel crestfallen about humanity and reminds me of all the suffering that people have dealt with in history and experience in the modern day. I think if I saw it now, I would feel a little sad. Jesus wasn't the son of God in my mind, but he was a man and its sad to see anyone tortured. But, I wouldn't feel guilty seeing it now. I would think it was trying to evoke guilt from me and I would dislike it for that reason, but I don't think it would have the same impact on me. It's important to remember the age I saw this at. You may have been 20, Brandon, but I was still a middle schooler.

I'm not a fan of gore dude. I can handle stylish gore (a la Kill Bill) or certain types of gore that aren't too nasty and just kinda cool. But, mostly I think gore is icky and I don't like it. I think that's why most of my favorite horror films are haunted house or ghost movies–they are bloodless. I think gore just unnerves me a little too much. It sticks in my head and makes me not want to eat for a while and I'm skinny enough as it is. But, I'll admit, gore is damn effective. It's meant to unnerve and it does.

Speaking of gore/non-gore, I watched Hawks' The Thing From Another World sunday night on TCM's Essentials Jr. (Bill Hader is the host–a cool and funny dude who knows his stuff). I loved it. It has all the Hawks signatures to it and is a pretty great Horror film to boot. It's a definite precursor to slasher films and of course the Alien series. The tension in the film is just terrific, and it packs some nice scares as well. It's just such a wonderfully scary premise and it's carried out by a true master of storytelling and a master of all genres.

Now, I've seen Carpenter's The Thing and I think that film is absolutely disgusting, which means it is doing something right. It's a nasty movie, in a good way. But, give me Hawks' The Thing any day over Carpenter's strictly on a gore/non-gore level. I don't like being grossed out. I like watching movies.

Also, Brando, I feel bad for going after Eastwood recently. I seriously love him and love his westerns. I don't know why I was trying to say that he didn't have a style or wasn't that great. I just was noticing that I had zero Eastwood films in any of my 2000s lists, and realized that I hadn't seen a film I liked by him since Unforgiven. I think I was trying to say that his recent fare doesn't seem to have that much distinctive style to me; they seem like someone else's films. And his recent fare has made me question whether he is a true master like a Scorsese or a Spielberg. He just hasn't been that consistent. Still, you're right, he is a born storyteller and there's nothing postmodern about him. He's an old-fashioned filmmaker. I will try to see the films you suggested and really give his non-western material another look. I don't think his non-western stuff is bad, I've just never brought myself to care about it. I'll try to do something about this.

Ben, I'll squeeze Black Death in amongst the parade of 30s films I gotta watch. It will certainly be a change of pace. I'm down to discuss.

Monday, July 25, 2011

How did I get dragged into this?

This Passion of the Christ talk is getting too passionate for my tastes. I just don't care enough to definitively come done either way on it. But, since I've been dragged in and name dropped, I guess I gotta say something.

I did tell Chris that I thought the film was trying to a) proselytize and b) glorify Christianity; however, I wouldn't use the word propaganda. Maybe I threw this out there as I was fumbling to articulate myself, but, as you said John, I wouldn't consider this film anymore propaganda then I would consider Midnight in Paris as propaganda for nostalgia. Obviously, all films can be read as cultural texts that have distinct points-of-view and messages that are trying to sell you something, whether conscious or not by the filmmakers. John, you dislike the viewpoint of Midnight in Paris because you don't like what it is trying to sell you, right? You don't like the messages the film is giving about nostalgia, art, selfishness, and bourgeois flattery, and that's a totally legit criticism to have. I dislike the viewpoint of The Passion of the Christ because I don't like what it is selling me either. I, like many people my age I'm sure, was forced to see this film with my parents, who are both religious. Now, I know why my father brought me to this film. He wanted me to feel the extent of Jesus's suffering for my sins. He told me so.

I can remember being little and my father removing a sliver from my foot. When I winced in pain, he told me that Jesus suffered much worse pain than I was feeling so I should be thankful. You know what that felt like to me? A fucking guilt trip. It made me feel like I should be guilty for any pain I ever feel or guilty for ever questioning the divinity of this man named Jesus because he suffered so, so much. Instead of allowing me to believe in this man because of the love I was told he felt for me, I was made to feel guilty by his torture for me. That's the way I felt watching The Passion of the Christ. I felt like I was being asked to feel guilty for his suffering instead of being asked to witness the scope of his love. The film certainly details every one of his "stripes," but I would question why this is being done. John, you may read it as detailing the extent one man went through so that we all could be healed. I'm sure this was Gibson's intention. The Passion of the Christ certainly affirms Christianity for its Christian viewers (this isn't a point of criticism, I'm just stating a fact). However, it also can be read as an attack on doubters and non-believers (this is a point of criticism). I'm not saying that this is what the film is. I'm just saying that this is how I read the film, a lot like how you read Midnight in Paris the way you did John.

If the film is sending us a message we don't like, we can criticize it. If you think that a film sends you a message that infidelity is awesome, you're gonna criticize it John. If I think that a film sends me a message to feel guilty for not believing in Jesus, I'm gonna criticize it. This is where my proselytizing criticism comes in. To me, the film sent the message: doubters should feel guilty for not believing and here's why (cue extensive torture sequences). I didn't like what it was selling me. This isn't the only thing it is trying to sell, but this is how I read it.

Also, I said the film glorifies Christianity, but I really don't mean that as a point of criticism. I love many films with religious messages. It's a Wonderful Life is religious, and I love it to pieces. The Passion is a Christian film and I don't mind that any more than I mind The Tree of Life's religious messages. At the same time, I think that the film (whether intentionally or not) can be used to make people with doubts about Christ feel guilty for questioning or doubting belief in him. That I don't like. I'd much rather have The Tree of Life's loving grace than the Passions' bloody guilt.

Those are my reasons for not enjoying the film. However, I will say this–I do respect the film for its technical quality and craft. It is surely made by someone with talent, not a talentless hack like Kirk Cameron or M. Night Shyamalan (haha). It is a piece of art, whether I like it or not. And it should be treated as such. It is no Left Behind.

I told Chris this, but I will express it here. I'm not a fan of the argument that if another director had made The Passion, people like John wouldn't like it as much. This is irrelevant to the film. We are discussing Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ not someone else's. If Kirk Cameron had made his version we wouldn't be discussing the same film. Let's stick with the film and director we have.

And I'm not a fan of criticizing a film through personal attacks at the director. This is ad hominem and says nothing about the film in question. Mel Gibson is a disreputable person who I dislike. However, this has nothing to do with Mel Gibson's performances as an actor or the films he makes. I judge or evaluate them separately because they are separate.
I mean, I don't like John Wayne as a man, but I like him as an actor. Similarly, Woody Allen and Roman Polanski have done some pretty awful things in their lives, but I consider that irrelevant to the art they make. I know you agree with this Chris.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Sorry, I was trying too hard to provoke. I'd say that Eastwood is a great western director. His style matches his persona in those films, and he tells them with a true passion for the genre. I'm not knocking his westerns. I said that I'm a fan of them, and I wouldn't argue against you on Unforgiven. It's an incredible film, no doubt. It's his other non-western films that I can't seen to get behind. This is based off of only seeing Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Blood Work, and Mystic River. Those probably aren't the best films to base his non-western directorial credentials off of, though Mystic River was highly thought of, but I don't remember liking it. Saw it a long time ago though. So, what are some non-westerns made by him in the last 20 years that I should see and that do warrant him being a great director, period? (this isn't sarcastic, I'd really like to know what else to see. Trust me, I wanna love Clint as a director no matter the genre. Maybe I'll just see Million Dollar Baby, will that change everything?).

I saw Letters from Iwo Jima as well and can't remember specifics enough to know how I felt about it. I admired the idea of it and I believe I liked it, but I have an awful memory.

It's shit like Invictus and Hereafter that gets me down on Clint as a director. I just don't care about them. Again, I'll reiterate, Clint's a great western director. I guess I'm just a brat and want only westerns from him.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Preliminary 1953 list

Here are my top 10 films of 1953 so far:

1. The Wages of Fear (Clouzot)
2. Stalag 17 (Wilder)
3. The Big Heat (Lang)
4. The Earrings of Madame de...(Ophuls)
5. Ugetsu (Mizoguchi)
6. Sawdust and Tinsel (Bergman)
7. I Vitelloni (Fellini)
8. Tokyo Story (Ozu)
9. Pickup on South Street (Fuller)
10. Roman Holiday (Wyler)

Lots of the same films as your list, Brandon, just a little reshuffled. The three of us all have Stalag 17 and The Big Heat high on our lists. Awesome!
I still haven't seen Hitch's I Confess or Mann's The Naked Spur though. I'd be interested to see both. If I see any other films that I prefer to any of these, I'll be sure to post an update.

My '57 list will be done by the beginning of August. Just waiting to watch one more film.

I'll do another 30s post soon. My first 30s list should be done by early August too.

2004 vol. 2

My lists always reflect my personal preference. I do a combination of what I feel is the best and what is my favorite, but usually just go with my favorite. For instance, I have strong personal preference for The Motorcycle Diaries due to my interest in the subject matter, but is it the third best film of 2004? I have no idea. I’d say go with what you like the best. It’s honest that way.

Brandon, I thought you said great things about all the movies on your list and don’t have much too add or challenge. I’ll do my best though.

You should see Dig! It’s a lot of fun. As a musician and member of a band, you would probably enjoy it. And The Brian Jonestown Massacre is an awesome/fucked up/fascinating band.

Kill Bill Vol. 2 - I guess you’re right that it can stand on its own and proudly so. It is the better half. However, I really would like it to be one film. It was written and initially intended as such. I like the idea of a good old fashioned 3+ hour epic revenge western/samurai/action film. I think the epicness (yep that's a word) and boldness of it being one film would have knocked my socks off. Anyway, that’s my lousy reasoning. I don’t think you are wrong to have it at number 1. Looking at your old list in the archives, you had it much lower. Perhaps I need to revisit it too and see if it rises for me as well. I’m all for changing lists at any point and for any reason.

The Motorcycle Diaries - This is a coming of age story, but one that doesn’t make you feel the loss of childhood as much as it makes you appreciate the type of consciousness that can come with adulthood. It’s a little like Kerouac’s On the Road in that it begins with the wildness of youth as a foundation for adventure and travel. On the Road as a manifesto for youth tries to resist the idea of adulthood, for with adulthood comes the idea of settling down somewhere and embracing a conventional, stable life. It’s a nomadic book that celebrates youth as much as it pines for its loss. On the Road is tinged with a sadness for the passing of time and the idea of having to come of age. I’d say that TMD does not resist maturity or express much of a sadness for the loss of youth. Young Ernesto, basically a poet at heart, goes on a youthful adventure and develops a conscience for the existence of others. He is coming of age in that he is beginning to imagine the existence other people as subjects, which is even beyond just empathasizing. The ability to imagine other people as being subjects just like yourself is the saving grace of maturity and I think of humanity. The problem is that so many people, many adults included, have never actually realized that other people exist in the same way that they do. That’s why we have evil people who massacre kids at a summer camp. It’s a failure to imagine the existence of subjects beyond your own personal fucked up self–the othering of the world, the tyranny of solipsism. Guevara’s coming of age is the type of awareness of others that makes maturity worthwhile and humanity worthwhile. I often get down on humanity for being a disgusting, deleterious plague on the earth (especially when I hear about mass killings or think about factory farming). But only because I know it could be better. TMD is all about realizing your own potential to imagine and be conscious. It celebrates adulthood by redefining what it means to be an adult. Adulthood isn’t about settling down with kids and dressing poorly, but about this newfound awareness. But at the same time the film still appreciates that which is beautifully wild and youthful–the spirit of adventure. I really couldn’t give a fuck less how critics attacked this film. I love the book and thought this was a very fine adaptation and stand alone film in its own right.

Okay, rant over. On to more stuff.

I really love Eastwood as an actor, but am mostly uninterested in him as a director. I like his westerns (Outlaw Josey Wales, High Plains Drifter, Unforgiven, etc.) because he was raised on classic westerns, and it shows in them. Beyond that, I don’t get much out of his films, and I don’t think he has much of a style (sorry). Not that he’s a bad director by any means. He’s perfectly capable as a director, but I wouldn’t consider him a master my any means (now there’s some debate fodder). I would still be interested in seeing Million Dollar Baby though and maybe someday I will. I trust your opinion on this one.

I really would love to see House of Flying Daggers again. I guarantee it would rise on my list. You say it is worthy of Kurosawa or Mizoguchi. I haven’t seen it recently enough to agree or disagree with that statement However, if you believe this is so, why is it only at 7 on your list? I think that should make it skyrocket.

I like The Life Aquatic the best because I think it’s his funniest film. It’s so deadpan and dry, and Bill Murray is given ample space to flaunt his terrific aloof persona. I am interested in Wes Anderson as a comedic writer/director first and foremost. The visual detail and general quirkiness is just a bonus for me.

I loved getting pulled back and forth by Bad Education because I always felt that Almodovar was in complete control. The complexity of the storyline and the complexity of the characters make it pretty dazzling, I’d say. It’s Almodovar digging deep into his love for cinema, particularly film noir here, and being unabashed about it. There’s not a lot to pick my brain about here. I am a big fan of complex mysteries and throwbacks to older noirs. I appreciate gritty filmmaking that isn’t afraid to handle big issues, and I dig the hell out of Gael Garcia Bernal. I should really watch this film again. It would probably rise in my list as well, and I’d have more specific points to make about it.

I haven’t seen Crimson Gold or The Dreamers. I know of Bertolucci’s film, and was interested in seeing it at one point, especially due to the presence of the great Michael Pitt. But it never panned out. I’ll try to see it in the future.

I spent the entirety of Collateral making out with a band groupie in a theater in Corning. I actually wanted to see it. I like Michael Mann. Oh well.

Okay, Brandon, The Brown Bunny was heavily shit upon by critics, so I hate to join in with them. I remember wanting to see it and wanting to like it for the reason that it was so hated. I even saw it at a time when I was interested in anything strange or rebellious (a la Gaspar Noe). However, I found it to be dreadful bullshit wankery even at 16.
I had no real problem with the blowjob or the unconventional style of the film. But I thought it had a dubious sense of artistic merit. I should see it again though. Perhaps I’d feel differently and more rebellious now? I’m curious for your defense of this one. I think Vincent Gallo’s gonna find this post and come after me.

I do like A Very Long Engagment. Give me Audrey Tautou eye candy any day.

I do think Anchorman is funny. Will Ferell’s shtick wasn’t that old then.

Garden state is probably cool to hate. I liked it at the time, but feel mostly indifferent towards it now.

I didn’t see We Don’t Live Here Anymore, but am a fan of all its actors. I should see it.

Primer is pretty okay. I wanted to really like it, but I don’t think it did much for me. I appreciate its insistence on actual science/math reasoning, but would have liked some real actors. Sorry, my bias against indie films is shining through here. I’d like to see Carruth’s next film though, if it gets made.

Crash premiered at the TIFF in 2004 but didn’t receive an actual release in the US until May 2005. When it won an Oscar it won it for 2005, so I would consider it a 2005 film. With that being said, Crash is really cool to hate and really easy to hate. It’s garbage. It makes The Brown Bunny look like Citizen Kane haha.

I'm feeling pretty damn cool right about now. I'm gonna go re-read the entire Harry Potter series dressed up as my favorite character–Justin Finch-Fletchley.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Thought I'd finally post this. I wanted to write a lot about each film, but am feeling no motivation to do so in this heat. I'll write more about them if anyone else (most likely Brandon) wants to engage.

Top 10 films of 2004:

1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Gondry) - As truthful a statement on love and relationships between lovers that I've ever encountered. Having gone through an extremely difficult breakup myself recently, this one only rings truer. And the fact that they are willing to go through it all over again in the end is just beautiful. A real Nietzschean amor fati. Brilliant film.

2. Before Sunset (Linklater) - doesn’t even feel like a film. It feels like looking in on real life people who really haven’t seen one another in 9 years. Watching it, I wasn’t even aware of the shots or the camera angles or anything cinematic about it. I was just enraptured by this remarkable conversation and the amazing presence of these two people I felt like I knew and cared deeply for.

3. The Motorcycle Diaries (Salles) - In 10th grade I read John Lee Anderson's epic Che biography and Che's Motorcycle Diaries within a very short time frame for a school project and became very fascinated by Guevara as a flawed yet romantic figure. The film, I think, captures the spirit of his journal extremely well. It has beautiful images, a lovely score, charismatic performances, and it captures the wildness of youth, and the growing awareness and maturity of adulthood. It meant a lot to me when I saw it because I thought it was a nice gift after all my studying of Che.

4. The Life Aquatic (Anderson) - Still my favorite film of his. It operates entirely within its own world and I'm always delighted to spend some time in it.

5. The Aviator (Scorsese) - Biopics are a tired genre at best. But when you are in the hands of a master, just about anything can be illuminated. Case in point. You can tell Scorsese had a blast recreating a bygone era that has meant a lot to him as a filmmaker. It's all handled with remarkable dexterity, and it has such a grandness to it that instantly puts it above any other biopics of the time. And it solidified Leo Dicaprio as one of the best actors alive.

6. The House of Flying Daggers (Yimou) - Haven't seen this one since it came out, but even my 16-year-old self thought this was lush and elegant poetic cinema. I'd love to see it again. I'd probably like it even more now.

7. Bad Education (Almodovar) - My kind of mystery film. But also a testament to Almodovar's love of cinema and his willingness to address risque or controversial themes but not be bogged down by them. I own a copy of this and should give it a re-watch. It's been a long time.

8. Kill Bill Vol. 2 (Taratino) - I should re-watch this too. I have a feeling it might climb in ranking. Absolutely superior to its first half because its filled with the type of engrossing scenes and meaty dialogue that made Inglorious Basterds such a masterpiece. But it probably falls for not being entirely complete. Had it not been chopped into two halves, I might rank it much higher. I guess I should just watch them back-to-back, but surprisingly I've never done it.

9. Vera Drake (Leigh) - I rented this from the library many years ago and have only seen it once so I remember it less than most on here. But still, it has all the trademarks of Leigh, so I found it to be totally absorbing cinema. His characters just bubble and pop off the screen. And so does his compassion. Gotta see it again for sure.

10. Dig! (Timoner) - Introduced me to The Brian Jonestown Massacre so I'm incredibly thankful for it. The Dandy Warhols suck though. Despite it being narrated by them and told from their perspective a lot, they actually come across as vain and not particularly interesting. Anton Newcombe may be strung out, but he's absolutely fascinating, and he made incredible music. My eldest brother, Brent, loves this movie. I do too. It made me want to start my own 60s revival movement.

HM: Shaun of the Dead (fun and funny, but my interest in zombies beyond Romero and 28 Days Later is at nearly zero percent–sorry dudes), Hotel Rwanda (remember admiring it but haven’t seen it in a long time), The Incredibles (fun), I Heart Hukabees (funny), Club Dread (actually quite funny and quite underrated).

The Tom Waits/Iggy Pop segment in Coffee and Cigarettes may be one of the greatest things ever filmed. Could we just make that into a feature length film? I'd be in heaven.

Sorry, didn’t see but probably should have: Million Dollar Baby, The Sea Inside, many others.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Season 10

Chris and I know The Simpsons seasons 1-10 like the back of our hands. We have 11 on dvd (it's atrocious) and 12 (a little less atrocious). Neither of us has any interest in any of the seasons beyond that. There are a few decent episodes sprinkled here and there (the Christmas episode from 15, 'Tis the 15th Season, is a rare gem...and boy do I mean rare), but mostly its garbage. I won't even get into how awful the show is now. Has anyone ever just turned on a new episode and watched it for kicks? It makes you want to smash your head into a wall.

It's interesting that you stopped watching after season 10 John. The show really loses it after that.
10 is kind of a transitional season. It's the second year of Mike Scully's tenure as showrunner, and you can notice a definite change in the show compared to season 9 or 8. Chris and I know all the episodes in season 10 well, so if you want to start writing about any of them, we'll be able to chime in. We are currently revising our rankings of seasons 1-10. Chris and I both made rankings of these 2 or 3 years ago, but we wanted to do updated versions while watching the episodes in order. We are in the middle of season 6 right now. We probably don't even need to watch the episodes in order to rank them (we've seen nearly all of these episodes at least 50 times), but we just love re-watching them, so we figured why not.

Neither of us are interested in ranking seasons 11 or 12, so you don't have to worry about those if don't want to.

Chris has seasons 1-12 on dvd and I have seasons 3-8 (the golden years for sure). We can make an arrangement sometime.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bunch of squares pickin' on potter

I pity the person who isn't a Potter head. Seriously, you just don't know what cool is.

Cool is catching a pint of butterbeer at Hogsmeade with your pals after repotting some seedling Mandrakes in Prof. Sprout's Herbology class all afternoon.

That's what cool is.

Jeesh...ya'll a whole bunch of squares, I tells ya.

Not better than the book

spoilers probably.

I'll wear my dork badge proud here. I've seen several articles floating about claiming that latest Harry Potter movie is better than the book. Having read the book and seen the movie, I can definitively affirm–not a chance.

I agree with you Brandon that this is the best of the movies they have made. It's certainly the one I enjoyed the most. Still, every time I watch one of the movies, I find something lacking and off. The movies just move too quickly, gloss over too much, and don't let scenes develop the way they should (or overemphasize the wrong scenes). This is definitely a result of having read the books. Also, I find that when actual actors start speaking the language of the books (like John Hurt talking about wands), it all just seems terribly silly. I love the books, but having them acted out seems, at times, kind of ridiculous.

I will never be able to watch any of the movies in this series as movies. They will always in the shadow of the books. I'm really curious to hear the opinions on the movies of people who haven't read the books. That's why I liked reading your post Brandon. It's good to get an outsider's view of the series.

One thing I really liked about the movie: They did a fine job with Snape. He got the send off he deserves.

One thing I really did not like: They included Rowling's original ending (which I'm a fan off) but decided to keep the same actors and give them little to no make up. It just looked stupid and took away from the emotion of the sequence.

Reading the final book of the series for the first time was an amazing experience. I got it the day it came out and read it in two days, doing my best to make it last as long as I could. Reading the last sentence of the book and then closing it was an incredible emotional experience. Most Potter nerds would probably say the same thing. That's a lot to live up to for the movie version, so for me there's no way it even came close to touching that original reading experience. But still, it all could have been handled much worse.

All in all, a solid end to an honorable film series.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Uncle boonme & certified copy

Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives

Uncle Boonme is a beautiful film. It’s very slow moving and tranquil, but I was never bored by it. I think because it is immediately gripping, in terms of reaching out to my own sensibilities. Before the film even starts, we hear sounds of nature and the forest played over the credits (it was at this point that I knew I’d love the film). We then open with a sequence of a water buffalo wandering about, and the cinematography here is immediately dark and otherworldy. From here we cut to bright day and a car driving through a town. This is such a jarring transition that I was instantly intrigued. Shortly there after we arrive at the farm and that night we are greeted by the ghost of Boonme’s wife and his ghost monkey son (I agree Brandon, the creature design up close is almost laughable in that it looks like something from Land of the Lost. I was glad at this point that I was watching it alone because if I were with friends, I have a feeling they would have ruined it with ridicule). The fact that Boonme and the others aren’t too taken aback by the appearance of these two furthered my interest. They are surprised to see them both, but it doesn’t seem that out of place for them to be there. It’s just a part of this very spiritual world the film is presenting and placing the characters within.

From there on, the film had me completely. It just seemed mysterious, magical, surprising, and weird. I couldn’t wait for the next image to appear. I was hooked.

I even really enjoyed the slower, less magical moments of people sitting around the farm talking. It just seemed realistic and perfect. I can image that this is what really went on most of the time. The same thing with the ending in the apartment. Just people sitting around watching tv.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the final images. I don’t think I’m ready to come up with a proper analysis of the ending. Are we watching an alternate timeline, a sort of quantum physics branching of time? Or after Boonme’s death are the characters just more aware of the idea of parting with themselves? Are they looking at themselves as if spirits departing from their bodies? I have no idea. But I appreciate how challenging these final images are. And I appreciate how unabashedly spiritual this film is.

“But Joe as we know him seems to understand the sentiments I hold in regards to creation. He may not always make sense (at least not to me) but he doesn't seem to be reveling in his obscurity.

“Some directors like to make you feel inferior, I don't think this is Joe's intention. I think he'd rather you feel than understand. Well I felt a lot when watching this film.”

Well said, Brandon. I agree. There is a lot to think about with this film, but it is also interested in making you feel many things. It’s very beautiful and very effective. I loved it.


Certified Copy

I gave up trying to wait for this one on dvd and just searched for it online. I found a pretty good quality link and never looked back.

I didn’t read your post on this Brandon because I was waiting until I saw it. I’m glad I finally got to read it (and glad I didn't read it then for its spoilers!). It’s a great post.

You were right about this one too. It’s a wonderful film. I loved it as well.

In the first half of the film, the Before Sunrise/Sunset comparison is very apt. My obvious brain thought of this too, just because we are very closely following this first meeting and introductory conversation between two people as it unfolds. Once the twist occurs, I thought more of Blow-up, L’eclisse, and even the ultra-hip Last Year at Marienbad. These are probably all obvious too, but oh well (It’s interesting that you liked this film but aren’t a fan of Antonioni–I think this one is a lot like his films).

“The car ride to a village nearby is awkward, but James seems unfazed by it. Why? Just when I found myself starting to wonder why his alarms weren’t going off Kiarostami switches POV to show the beautiful cypresses on either side of the road. James somehow fit’s the trees into their debate. He talks about how they all come from the same molecular structure and yet you will find no two alike. At this point I couldn’t care less about his point, if I want to hear an interesting argument about the validity of fakes I will listen to Orson Welles.”

I agree with all of this. Their initial exchanges are very awkward and unusual. This adds an immediate level of mystery to the film. Juliette (I’ll give her this name too, she’s terrific by the way) seems aggressive, capricious, and oddly emotional when talking to James (who we assume is a complete stranger). James does take it well, and I was wondering why myself. I knew that something was going to be revealed eventually between them from this opening awkwardness; I didn’t know exactly what though. James’ ideas on art are pretty stuffy and almost satirically postmodern, and you immediately understand that Juliette is out to get him for this. She’s putting a real world test to his arm chair philosophy (His ideas of fakes and validity had me thinking of Walter Benjamin, and yes, Welles too).

When they go the restaurant, and Juliette begins pretending that they are husband and wife with the owner, I hoped that the film would go where it eventually does. The idea of switching their relationship in the middle of the film seemed ingenious to me. I wished I had thought of it instantly. It kind of reminded me of Bunuel’s That Obscure Object of Desire too at this point (loved that Carriere cameo!). When they do start speaking to each other differently, the film just had me completely from there on. I think because at that point you are embroiled in the mystery and want to learn more about their relationship and possibly get clues as to what the real situation is. I agree Brandon that any reading of this film could work because it leaves just enough ambiguity for multiple interpretations.

“Is it a game? Have they transformed into another couple? What the hell just happened?”

Absolutely. I won’t come down on any answer because I just don’t know. I loved the ambiguity.

Also, “This film isn’t a certified copy however, it’s a true original.” I’m totally with you. Despite it evoking several other films, I did find it to be a true original and a fascinating film. More viewings of it are in order for sure.

Well, in conclusion, these are two terrific films. I wish I had seem them earlier so that I could have interacted with you back in April, Brando. Whether I decide to include them in 2011’s list or revise 2010’s, they will still be quite high on either list, I’m sure (maybe the rest of this year will surprise me though).

quick responses

Chris, you already know all this because I’ve told you before, so I’ll just repeat for anyone else interested. I agree with everything on The Thin Red Line. Obviously an incredible film and a masterpiece. I wrote a ten page paper (like my SNY paper) on this one that I have unfortunately lost. I’d really like to read it again and see what 19 year old Jeff thought of the film. Blue and Red are two undeniable masterpieces. I’d say the greatest films of the 90s. They bookend one of the finest trilogies ever forged. White can’t compare to the dramatic density and haunting beauty of its counterparts, but it is still a terrific film and a great middle chapter to lighten things up in the overall arch of the trilogy. Still, I can’t blame you for thinking it can’t hold up to the other two.

Has anyone else seen The Three Colors Trilogy or The Decalogue? I think they are masterpieces of the highest order. Kieslowski was a complete master and genius. I rate him very highly.

Heavyweights is one of the movies from our childhood that we loved that still holds up well and cracks me up. Who cares what anyone says, it is and shall always be hilarious. The 90s may be fraught with a lot of shit, but it is still OUR decade and I love it for all its memories.

In response to Joel’s post,

“I think the film itself may be best example of the ways of grace and nature coming together to produce something meaningful and beautiful”

I totally agree, for what it’s worth. I think the examples of shots Joel gives for the productive coming together of nature and grace are very well pointed out. I’d have to see the film again before I could come up with more myself and feel comfortable about it but those are very fine examples. I definitely agree that nature and grace are two mingling currents flowing throughout the film and that Malick seems to be trying to reconcile the two. I don’t think he wants to come down definitively either way. And I think what is interesting is that if the film is about nature and grace shaping everything, the film opens with the immediacy of nature and we wonder where grace is. One of the O’Brien children is dead–a horrible act of nature, and then we are shown the development of a potentially graceless, indifferent natural universe. It is only at the conclusion of the film that we are reconciled to God’s grace. Until then, we wonder where this divine grace is.

I’ve said this before, but I stand by this– I think the film is depicting a world being shaped by nature and the grace that will someday save it. It's a pretty beautiful and loving sentiment. One I wish I could share with Malick. I'm still stuck in the first act wondering where the fuck this grace thing is.

Great thoughts Joel!

I really need to see TOL again.

John, I watched Intolerable Cruelty with my mom several years back. We both were laughing and having a great time with it. I’d have to watch it again, but from what I remember it was a deft throwback to classic screwball comedy. The Coens are great like that.

Can’t wait for your M. and Rules of the Game thoughts.

Brandon, thanks for your comments on the 30s post. They were fantastic to read and I’m with you entirely. I especially loved your comments on Renoir. I think you captured his finest qualities perfectly. If you watch Rules of the Game again, I’d certainly be down for interacting more with it.
I don’t understand the Lean detractors either. I love his films.

All right, I’m kinda tired of writing. I’ll post about Boonme and another little film called Certified Copy later tonight. I can finally interact with those post you made about both back in April, Brandon!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"Heaven is overrated"

I want to respond to Joel's TOL thoughts, Brandon's 30s thoughts, and Chris' 90s thoughts, and I will soon.

But first, I just have to say that I watched Uncle Boonme last night and absolutely loved it. It just got added to NWI, and I recommend every else who hasn't seen it to do so. It's beautiful, weird, and worth talking about. Much like TOL.

AND it has ghost monkeys.

I'll post more about it soon too.

Monday, July 11, 2011

30s roundup

I've watched and re-watched a lot of 30s movies that I've said nothing of. I'm finding it hard to come up with things to say about them because I've at least liked all of them and loved most of them, and for obvious reasons. Movies were just smarter and more pleasant back then. Not necessarily pleasant always in terms of content, but always pleasant to watch the way listening to an old record is pleasant; it just feels comforting. Anyway, here are some cursory thoughts on just a few of the movies I've seen.

M. is darker than I even remember it. Peter Lorre's child murderer is like an early Jaws. The techniques used by Lang to introduce him are astonishingly inventive and chilling. This movie is way ahead of its time, and it's bleak as hell. That final image of the mother's lamenting that no verdict could bring back their children is a real gut punch.

The Rules of the Game is even better than I remember it. Much has been said about it's use of deep focus lenses and gliding camera movements, and watching it again I was better able to appreciate these things than when I saw it at 16ish. It's a beautifully crafted film, and it's remarkable how well it was able to be restored. The story is much more complex than it seems on the surface. It plays as a country house, class-mingling farce but it reveals deeper themes about existence and society. The film is all about playing games–hunting games, games for amusement, games between lovers. But who's governing the rules of these games? The ending might suggest that no one is, that games are played without a ruling body, that people can become entangled in others' games, that people can be playing the wrong game, that people can break any rule they desire. It's a look at a society and an existence functioning under tenuous rules that can be transgressed at any moment. Silly games can have dire consequences when there is no one there to make sure they are played fairly.

Cukor's David Copperfield (1935) is a terrific adaptation, perhaps rivaling David Lean Dicken's adaptations in quality. I was heavily enjoying the performances and didn't think the film moved too rapidly the way many literary adaptations often will. This one's a salient example of how you streamline a gargantuan novel into a satisfactory film.

Rene Clair's Le Million (1931) is even more lighthearted than a Capra film. It's infectiously sweet.

Walsh's The Roaring Twenties (1939) is very entertaining (and a clearly influential gangster picture). Cagney is electric as always. I liked this one a lot–it's the wannabe gangster in me.

Welman's Nothing Sacred (1937) confirms my unconditional love for Carole Lombard. I wanna go back in time, steal her from Gable, and make sure she never gets on that plane. My god, she was beautiful and funny. Just a complete package. What an absolute tragedy to have lost her so young.

I started Hawk's Twentieth Century (1934) and was loving it until my DVR didn't tape the whole thing (which is fucking weird and incredibly annoying). TCM is doing a star month in August and they have a Carole Lombard day. I'll have to catch the rest then and every other movie with her in it. I can't get enough.

Speaking of beautiful women I want to go back in time to marry, Lubitsch's Ninotchka (1939) is an absolutely great comedy featuring an absolutely adorable Garbo. I once read someone say that when you watch Garbo smile, you feel like you would do anything to keep her smiling forever. I agree. She had such a beautiful, expressive face. In Ninotchka, she's fantastic, and so is Melvyn Douglas (you really believe that he's the guy to melt her Soviet heart). A lot can be said about this film's critique of Stalinist Russia coming from Wilder and Lubitsch. I won't go into all of that. As a strict playful comedy, this thing is is just wonderfully intelligent and sharp. The type of smart comedy that made me think of you both John and Brandon. There's a great scene with Garbo and Douglas drunk after a party. Garbo bemoans her betrayal of her home country and says she deserves to be placed before a firing squad. Douglas grabs her and places her next to the wall while blindfolding her. He goes over to a champagne bottle and opens it with a load pop. Garbo falls to the floor as if shot. A seemingly pretty subversive and dark joke, but actually just a perfect comedic moment. Comedy today is rarely as visually sharp as that. (I think the only comedic thing that is as visually and intellectually sharp as classic comedy from the golden age is The Simpsons during its peak years. I'm absolutely convinced that The Simpsons' Season 4 is one of the [if not thee] greatest comedic achievements in the history of humanity). I loved this film and love that Lubitsch touch.

I should say, my three current 30s loves are Lombard, Garbo, and Myrna Loy (has any man who's seen The Thin Man not fallen in love with her?). Jean Arthur is a close fourth. My three current 30s male heroes are William Powell, Cagney, and Jean Gabin. This 30s project is one of the best decisions I've ever made.

John, I know the 40s and 50s website you made is called John vs. Brandon, but would you be interested in adding me to the mix? I'm slowly trying to work on my lists for both decades. After I'm done with the 30s thing, I'll focus my attention to the next two decades. I should have my 1953 and 1957 lists done soon though. They are close to being finished.

Also, I've concluded that I should have my 1931, 1932, '36, '37, '38, and '39 lists done by the end of August at the very latest. I'm excited.

John, interested in Hawks' Scarface as the next pick?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

All quiet on the film club front

Whispering in Malick films can be overly delicate at times. I get that for sure. I'm never really annoyed by it, but probably because I rarely hear whispering in films, so it's not that tired for me.

Malick a Christian? Well, whatever he needs to do to get by. Still, I kinda like him as man asking questions not buying into answers. TTOL seems kinda Christian in a non-Christian sort of way though (in that it is religious and spiritual but most Christians would probably not be interested in it).

I see that Ignatiy gave Transformers a good review. Yikes. Hopefully he finds this blog post and lets me have it. Maybe after three Transformer shitfests you are just so worn down and beaten that you give in and start finding specious reasons for liking it like the 3-D is awesome.

I've watched a ton of 30s movies lately and I gotta finish The Rules of the Game. I could post on all that stuff, but I'm too lazy. I hear you Brandon. Bring on Season of the Witch!!!

All right, so Brandon neglected to mention that he wants my brother Chris to join film club. I'm all for having him in, I just warn you all that he and I have practically the same exact opinion on all the movies we see. We have extremely similar tastes only I seem to watch more older and foreign films than he does. I'm slowly trying to get him into lots of the classics. Anyway, his name is Chris. He's a great dude and my best friend. The blog he has now is one where he posts all kinds of things. You can see his and my Simpson episode rankings!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Jason's Tree of Life

Jason, I’m glad you finally saw TTOL. Your nutritional facts for our debate were pretty spot on haha. It sounds like you had the same reaction to the film that I did. I think you and I are the only two in our club so far who love the film without reservations. I can’t wait to see it again too. I’m with you on everything you wrote.

“But there is no pretension in Tree of Life, no guile, no double entendre”
Absolutely. I think its one of the most sincere films you’ll ever see (and I’ll stick by this). It’s almost a miracle how little pretension is involved in Malick’s style. Maybe on first glance someone could mistake this, but after seeing all of this films I think you’ve got to realize that he really means everything he does. If you can’t see this, I really think you aren’t looking hard enough.

I hear you about not caring if you get everything in the film. While I was watching it, I just thought it was so beautiful that I didn’t care whether I was always following it. It’s like my favorite novel of all time, Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!. I don’t always get it, but it’s so beautifully written and told that I don’t care. (sorry that I keep bringing up Faulkner everyone, but I really think there are similarities between him and Malick and I’ve always thought so).

I am an atheist and not even remotely spiritual, but I do love nature and poetry. Also, I’m a huge romantic (and lover of Romanticism). Malick appeals to all of these sensibilities. He tries to do visually what guys like Wordsworth tried to do with words.

Interestingly, Days of Heaven is my favorite Terry Malick film. It might be just because of my preference for the look of older cameras, but I really do think it’s a perfect film. Nick Schager at Slant calls it the greatest film ever made. While I woudn’t say that about any film, I do think he hits upon every reason why I think the film is perfect because he emphasizes the word "film. " Days of Heaven is a simply told (though highly symbolic and profound), unbelievably beautiful combination of sight and sound. Malick’s films are basically all like this, but perhaps I just prefer the look of this film to any of his others, and I just love the Ennio Morricone score with the Carnival of Animals: Aquarium thrown in (There’s a similarity between Kubrick and Malick–they know how to use music wonderfully in their films).

Also, I’d just like to ask because this has come up (through I believe Brandon and John), what’s your take on whispering in this film and whispering in Malick films in general? With The Thin Red Line, Malick films have moved away from using direct first-person narration (a la Badlands and Days of Heaven) to a series of seemingly disconnected whispers and ruminations. He’s kept this style up with his last two films. Brandon questioned the use of whispering in his films and I think John questioned its use in TTOL specifically because he felt the voices should have expressed more anguish. Now, I gave John my take on why I think whispering works for TTOL. Here’s my thoughts on the importance of whispering in Malick’s films in general. Chime in anyone if you'd like.

I can’t remember if The Thin Red Line has a lot of whispering but I do know that it has the same poetically musing style of TNW and TTOL. Certainly, the latter two films are composed of whispers.

I think whispering is used for two main reasons and I think it is effective for both reasons:

First, intimacy. Is there anything more intimate in a film than someone whispering through voice-over? Voice-over narration already has a note of intimacy through suggesting a direct relaiton between you and the film itself. But with whispering, it becomes so intimate that you are almost eavesdropping. It’s like you are hearing private thoughts. I think that Malick likes to balance the intimacy of the narration with the intimacy of the shots. A lot of the times, the shots look like they are whispering to you too. I think the voice-over and shots compliment one another. They are both intimate, tender, poetic, and most of all quiet. I think Malick’s love of nature has influenced his love for quiet things. I’m right there with him. I wish more people could watch his films and appreciate being quiet.

(also, I think whispering alongside shots of nature suggests smallness or humility. You aren’t overpowering nature; you are blending in with it. You are just one animal amidst a vast world of natural life. If its a symphony, you are just playing your part, not taking over the music for yourself.)

Second, I think it’s important to keep in mind Malick’s background. He’s a Heideggerian scholar, so his philosophical grounding is in phenomenology. He’s certainly gotta be interested in the relationship between consciousness and phenomena, and I think his films stress this. You definitely get a sense of the connection between the two in his films. To him, perhaps whispering is more evocative of conscious experience. I'm guessing he does a lot of philosophical whispering in his head in real life. Just a hunch.