Wednesday, June 27, 2012


I'm going to steal Brandon's picture/caption list style for my own here. Party out of laziness, and partly out of a desire to make it more open to discussion. I'd rather get the list out there so we can talk about some of the films on it then try desperately to write the perfect paragraph for each film. Anyway, here's my favorite movies of 1943. There are some good ones here. Feel free to write back if you get a chance, Brandon, and any one else interested:

My love for SHADOW OF A DOUBT and Hitchcock in general should be well known by now. I re-watched this little masterpiece a few weeks ago and was not at all surprised by how much I continue to love it unconditionally. Everything about it is perfect. I was thinking it could almost be a disturbing companion piece to MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS: a sort of alternate vision of that film's idealized domesticity and small town life. Either way, it would make for a great masterpiece double feature.

I think one of the hallmarks of the Lubitsch touch is this uncanny ability to balance dark themes with buoyant whimsy. Lubitsch could bring charm and warmth to any picture, but he also never deterred from contemplating profound and altogether grim issues such as death and eternal remorse. This is one instance where Lubitsch was able to do just that and the result is as deeply moving as it is quietly melancholy.

One of the few directors to rival Hitchcock's genius and thrills was surely Fritz Lang. This is another great anti-nazi thriller from the German master who seemed to be perpetually on fire. To me, this one boasts one of the most satisfying denouements in film history. It's the ultimate case of the long con done to perfection, and damn does it unfold beautifully.

Just might be the crown jewel in the consistently terrific Powell/Pressburger filmography. A tremendous, emotional epic. Unbelievably gorgeous cinematography from Georges Perinal mixed with a stalwart performance from the underrated Roger Livesly. A lengthy film, but worth every second of your time.

Probably the most disturbing picture on this list. An unabashedly devastating look at the horror of mob rule and hopeless injustice. A lot of the classic "message" films pack a mean wallop and this is one of them.

Visconti's gritty version of THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE is perhaps the best ever put on screen. Considered to be one of the first neo-realist films, this is a noir story filled with rawness, earthiness, and hard-edged emotional despair.

A landmark serial killer film with a few moments that rival the excruciating tension and nerve-wracking shocks of CAT PEOPLE. Love the first kill scene with the blood seeping underneath the door; it's brutal and beautiful. Another home run for Lewton and Tourneur.

My favorite Stevens film. It's very funny, charming, and it features two of my favorites in Jean Arthur and Joel McCrea. A delightful comedy.

Another great and terrifying film from masters of horror–Lewton and Tourneur. What a year for them. This maybe the most ornately stylish film they made together. The creepiness comes from their incredible attention to atmosphere and chiaroscuro detail. I mean, just look at that picture.

Fear and Loathing in Denmark. A real horror film of sorts about the vicious circle of suspicion, repression, and cruelty.

1. Shadow of a Doubt (Hitchcock)
2. Heaven Can Wait (Lubitsch)
3. Hangmen Also Die! (Lang)
4. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (Powell, Pressburger)
5. The Ox-Bow Incident (Wellman)
6. Ossessione (Visconti)
7. The Leopard Man (Tourneur)
8. The More the Merrier (Stevens)
9. I Walked With a Zombie (Tourneur)
10. Day of Wrath (Dreyer)

HM: Northern Pursuit (Walsh), Sahara (Korda), Le Corbeau (Clouzot), The Seventh Victim (Robson), Cabin in the Sky (Minnelli), The Outlaw (Hughes), Girl Crazy (Taurog), Watch on the Rhine (Shumlin)

The first four films in the honorable mentions slots, I feel very strongly about. They could have easily made the list. I still highly recommend seeing all of them.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Return of the Round-ups

I should probably get back into the habit of writing at least a sentence about some of the movies I've seen. Here goes:

LANCELOT DU LAC is one of Bresson's best films. It's even better than I hoped it'd be. I love how Bresson dismantles Arthurian mythology, favoring earthiness over enchantment. The immediate conflict appropriately focuses on the knights' relationships to their ideals, their faith, and their conceptions of God. These are defeated and brutal men who live and die by the sword. The constant clanging of their unwieldy armor reminds us how shackled they are by their own sense of self-importance and godly pomp. The final image of their bloody bodies in a heap while a bird flies unfettered overhead is perhaps one of the best evocations of the Malickian nature versus grace dichotomy. Give me a few more watches and I might do a longer write-up for this incredibly rich film. Bresson is officially one of the highest contenders for my favorite director spot. Bergman and Kubrick, you've been warned.

Speaking of great directors, Fritz Lang's WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS is hands down one of the best noir films I've ever seen. I am in complete awe of it. Brandon, see it as soon as possible because you will absolutely love it. I mentioned HIGH AND LOW in relation to Fincher, but here we truly have the ultimate precursor to the SEVEN/ZODIAC procedural legacy. This is a great investigation film, a stylish serial killer film, and an all-around great film about obsession, manipulation, and burning the midnight oil. It has such an incredibly star-studded cast, and I think the best thing about it is how thoroughly it lives up to its title. This is a film that just feels as if everything is happening in the subterranean and furtive hours of night when no one who matters ever sleeps. It only helped that I watched it late at night like I do most movies. This one spoke right to the night owl in me. It's a serious must-see.

Another film that I'd definitely recommend seeing (especially for John) is Cukor's THE MARRYING KIND. It stars the perfectly matched Aldo Ray and Judy Holliday as a couple recollecting the history of their relationship as they consider divorce. It's very funny and beautiful written by the real-life couple Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon (who did consistent great work with Cukor, it must be said). The great thing about it is its genuine depiction of the ebb and flow of a relationship à la Woody Allen, and the interplay between Ray and Holliday. It's nice seeing two completely imperfect actors team up together. His voice is too hoarse, hers too shrill, but together they form a terrifically endearing pair of odd-ball lovers. Thank you Quentin Tarantino for making me aware of this one.

Speaking of Judy Holliday, I watched BORN YESTERDAY for the first time recently too. It's the sort of film that makes you lament the inane state of mainstream comedy today. It's a super smart and legitimately funny comedy with a big heart and an idealistic message that today's lousy politicians would do well to heed. As good as Holden and (Broderick) Crawford are, this is Holliday's movie 100%. She completely owns her role and is frequently hilarious as the lovable but dim-witted Billie. The "card game" scene is such a hysterical visual gag. Very charming film.

Godard's LES CARABINIERS is a wickedly absurd depiction of war that reminded me a lot of the simultaneous insanity and horror of Heller's CATCH-22. Godard is less less preachy here than he is focused on just having wildly ridiculous fun. I mentioned to John how much I loved the "post card" scene. It's hilarious. The whole thing is just pure anarchical bliss. I loved it.

I'll probably save talking about BONJOUR TRISTESSE for my 1958 list. I loved it though, and I think it's one of the best testaments to Preminger's talent, visual acumen, and unrelenting darkness. Boy, this picture sure looks gorgeous.

Minnelli's GIGI is gorgeous too. The story and songs are perfectly serviceable, but the real star of the show is the beautiful cinematography and art direction, which are both just out of this world. Minnelli rules.

JOHN CARTER is solid entertainment. It did speak to the boy in me who grew up loving 80s adventure films just like I hoped it would after reading John's review. I'm surprised more people didn't go see it because, in my mind, I really think its the perfect modern-day adventure film for kids to stare agape at. I don't understand why it was so neglected by the public or by critics. As I said to John, I think the problem may be that Stanton brought the earnestness of an animated film to a live-action setting. Perhaps we've grown so accustomed to winking and camp in our live-action epics that we no longer recognize sincerity when we see it. To me there is really nothing unappealing about JOHN CARTER, apart from the fact that it may be too old-fashioned in its filmmaking to captivate a generation weened on the stupidity of the new STAR WARS films and AVATAR. It's certainly not the "mess" critics depicted it as. In fact, there are plenty of films the majority of critics have championed that are much more messy, confused, and thoroughly underwhelming. JOHN CARTER didn't get a fair shake.

I am definitely ready to say that I really liked MOONRISE KINGDOM. It's Anderson's most visually rich and assured film and his most sincere attempt to champion the spirit of community. Whether you believe the love story or not is of no strong importance. To me, understanding the film is all about whether you buy into the bonds of friendship the film tries to forge or not. Anyway, I'll try to do a proper review for it soon.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

1935 Response

I should probably do a MOONRISE KINGDOM review soon, but first...some belated 1935 talk.

Brandon, great list. Sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you. I tried to sit down and write about a lot of these films and couldn't. I still don't think I've done a good job, but here's some thoughts regardless:

There's no point beating around it, BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN is the best horror film of the 30s and one of the best horror films ever made, period. It's often praised for having these subversive or taboo subtexts to it (it's definitely rich in this regard), but it's also just this incredibly stylish and emotional piece of raw entertainment. It just works on so many levels.
A horror spectacle that is infused with deep pathos and lingering sadness. Plus, it's pretty short and easy to watch. That's something not to be undervalued.

RUGGLES OF RED GAP is a criminally undervalued and underseen comedy from the great Leo McCarey. It's so damn funny. The interplay between Laughton and Charles Ruggles is just as gold as comedy gets. Two genius comedic performances. Thank you Edward Norton for having this in your five favorite films list on Rotten Tomatoes. Hadn't even heard of it until I saw it on there. How is this film not talked about more?

(Speaking of Laughton, if you ever need proof of how incredible an actor he was, look no further than this year in which he performed in polar opposite roles as both the hilarious Ruggles and the odious Captain Bly in MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY. Amazing.)

The genius of Hitchcock fully emerges in THE 39 STEPS. Probably his first masterpiece and perhaps the quintessential wrong-man picture. What a ridiculously entertaining one it is too. The thing I love about this film (and a lot of Hitchcock's films) is how truly well-written, funny, and gregarious it is in between moments of suspense and thrills. What makes Hitchcock so great is that he was able to create complete films like this one where everything is done right in addition to all the stylish set-pieces and terrific action. Hitch's films are wonderful as a whole, masterworks in the details.

TOP HAT is my favorite Astaire/Rogers picture. All the films they made together in the 30s were pretty similar in plot, and some would say, probably just expensive excuses to perform dazzling dance numbers, but TOP HAT stands out to me as one that works perfectly as a romantic comedy even without all the astonishing dancing. It's incredibly witty, charming, and delightful as a gauche love story between the immaculately paired duo. That being said, there's no reason to take anything away from the dancing and singing either. Astaire's dancing was obviously on another planet, and anytime he gets on screen and begins tapping, it's a spectacle to be cherished and dazzled over. Also terrific are Berlin's songs, with "Cheek to Cheek" being probably the most well-known song from any of Astaire/Rogers films and having one of the most famous dances in movie history. This is a magical film.

John Ford's life-long interest in his Irish roots and the IRA comes out strong in THE INFORMER, a gorgeously framed and deeply moving moral tale about betrayal, contrition, and the unfathomable depths of forgiveness. Victor MacLeglan was often used in comedic roles later in Ford's career, but here he's completely devastating as a man who sells his friend out for a chance at a new life. How about the final moments of this one? A real knock-out.

I haven't seen THE DEVIL IS A WOMAN, BARBARY COAST, or ROBERTA. I'd very much like to see them all.

G-MEN, I love, obviously due to the genius of Cagney. He makes everything great and endlessly watchable. This one finds him challenging his gangster persona and fighting on the other side of the law, making heroes out of Hoover's boys. Again, what makes this one work so well and rise above mere propaganda is the man at the center of it all. The depth of Cagney's sincerity means you utterly believe everything he says and does as an actor, and you are right there along side his character's trajectory.

I just watched SYLVIA SCARLETT last week or so. I really like it a lot. Grant and Hepburn are such an inimitable pair. They are both a lot of fun in this one, and even quite moving towards the end, when Grant sacrifices himself to give Hepburn the love and happiness she wants. It's a really sweet final moment. It reminds me why I love old movies in the first place.

I obviously love A NIGHT AT THE OPERA more than you. It's probably the last truly great Marx Bros. film.

You definitely should see Ford's THE WHOLE TOWN'S TALKING. It's a great and rare comedy from him. You'll love it.

I'd definitely recommend DAVID COPPERFIELD as well. It's one of the best Dickens' adaptations right alongside Lean's.

I apologize for not having more to say or offer. My brain's in a rut this weekend.

Anyway, here's my latest 1935 list. I'm still dying to see GOLD DIGGERS OF 1935. I'll probably watch ALICE ADAMS on TCM in a few weeks. And, of course, I'm really looking forward to watching A TALE OF TWO CITIES at BCF next month. You should come out for that one, Brandon.

1. The 39 Steps (Hitchcock)
2. Bride of Frankenstein (Whale)
3. Ruggles of Red Gap (McCarey)
4. A Night at the Opera (Wood)
5. Top Hat (Sandrich)
6. The Informer (Ford)
7. “G” Men (Keighley)
8. The Whole Town's Talking (Ford)
9. David Copperfield (Cukor)
10. Sylvia Scarlett (Cukor)

HM: Captain Blood (Curtiz), Mutiny on the Bounty (Lloyd), Anna Karenina (Brown), A Midsummer Night's Dream (Dieterle, Reinhardt), The Ghost Goes West (Clair), Triumph of the Will (Riefenstahl), Hands Across the Table (Leiser)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

3D Rant in E-Minor

All this talk about greedy Hollywood studios reminds me how much I absolutely hate 3D. It's an ugly gimmick designed to steal your money and create a false sense of immersion. It literally adds nothing to a frame that couldn't already be achieved through a deep focal lens and great storytelling.

Ben and John recently brought up Walter Murch. He has a great takedown of 3D that he sent to Roger Ebert a while back. In that letter, one of his best lines is this: "And lastly, the question of immersion. 3D films remind the audience that they are in a certain 'perspective' relationship to the image. It is almost a Brechtian trick. Whereas if the film story has really gripped an audience they are 'in' the picture in a kind of dreamlike 'spaceless' space. So a good story will give you more dimensionality than you can ever cope with." The man couldn't be more on point. Great filmmaking silently and painlessly immerses you in an image, while 3D abrasively forces itself upon your eyelids, clumsily trying to hypnotize you into believing you are "there." Besides, an absorbing story will already appeal to you in numerous dimensions (emotional, philosophical, moral, etc.). 3D adds nothing to this age-old process of pure storytelling craftsmanship.

In a conversation about 3D, Scorsese brought up the deep focus cinematography of films like THE RULES OF THE GAME and THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES. He said that Renoir and Wyler were trying to create the first "3D" films at the time. There's no question that these films are shot in a way to draw the eye and mind towards as much depth and absorption as possible. But the difference between them and something like AVATAR is that they are natural photographic images; they did not need to be converted to another format, and you didn't need to wear special glasses to see them. Those past films aren't proof that 3D is the wave of the future; they are proof that 3D immersion is already available through the process of film. Say what you will about Chris Nolan as a storyteller, but frankly, I admire the guy as a filmmaker. He is someone who has been staunchly opposed to 3D, no matter how much Warner Bros. have tried to sway him so they could reap all that outlandish profit. In a discussion about why he refuses to shoot in 3D, he said, "3-D is a misnomer. Films are 3-D. The whole point of photography is that it’s three-dimensional." Amen, brother.

To me, 3D is a complete joke, but it points to a much more serious problem. This brings me to my next object of scorn: digital projection and an increased frames-per-second rate. I don't know if any of you have heard or not, but Peter Jackson shot and is trying to display THE HOBBIT at 48 fps as opposed to the standard 24 fps our eyes are accustomed to when we watch film or television (There's an article about it here). The whole point of shooting it at a higher frame rate is so the 3D becomes even more immersive, and it seems like you are actually sitting there with the actors. The problem with this, as people who've seen footage from it have written, is that this completely removes the gloss, filter, and aesthetic distance of film. It takes away the beauty of a film image (both its lighting and specificity of its lensing) and replaces it with ugliness of a cheap TruMotion HD tv or a hideous camera from a low-budget 70s tv show. The illusion of immersion a higher frame rate will certainly give you, but a better looking image? Not a chance.

Supposed "innovators" of movie technology like James Cameron and Peter Jackson are trying to destroy film. 3D, digital projection, and an increased fps rate are the death knell for the beauty of sitting in a theater with that glorious old-fashioned beam of light from a film projector stretching over your head towards the screen.

They are also the death knell for paying a reasonable price to see a movie. In that article, it's mentioned that Cameron wants to shoot the next AVATAR films at 60 fps. Increasing the frame rate on projectors this much will be very expensive for cinemas that want to display them. So, seeing the next AVATAR film in 3D at 60 fps on digital projection will probably cost you over 2o bucks. That'd be like paying 8 dollars a gallon for gas that ruins your car. When will we learn to just say no?

Take the Money and Run

"No passion is stronger in the breast of man than the desire to make others believe as he believes. Nothing so cuts at the root of his happiness and fills him with rage as the sense that another rates low what he prizes high."
- Virginia Woolf, ORLANDO

I've wanted to post that quote for a while now, and finally remembered to do so after reading Glenn Kenny's blog this morning. It's amusing/terrifying to read the emails and comments he gets from people over movies he writes negatively about (e.g. the Adam Sandler email). They are pretty much psychotic. People are fucking weird. Anyway, Mrs. Woolf's quote, though intended to be humorous, is about as truthful as anything I've ever read.

Now for some responses.


One is always at the mercy of the almighty dollar. I know that. School's out and I'm currently unemployed. Like I said in my last post, I understand that if you value doing and having things that cost money, you need to make some. I also understand how much money goes into putting out an album or making a film. The many costs and financial complexities of both are daunting and absurd. I don't look upon either in a trivial light.

I'm absolutely sure PTA and Tarantino are worried about money, don't get me wrong. They need money to live on just like any of us. They also need advantageous financial results to ensure they can continue making the films they want to make. I just don't think that either of those guys is dreaming up their latest picture with giant dollar signs in their eyes. I think they make the best film they possibly can, something that reflects an essential part of themselves, and then hope that as many people as possible can see it and connect to it. I'm sure the biggest problem Tarantino had over the failure of GRINDHOUSE was knowing that a lot of people didn't see it, not that it didn't reap him exorbitant financial rewards. He certainly wants his films to do well, but if he cared more about getting that paycheck then having people see one of his passion projects, he could go direct the next HUNGER GAMES movie. You know what I'm saying? The whole point of bringing up Tarantino and PTA against someone like Michael Bay is to say that Bay is a complete mercenary out to make millions while the former dudes are out to make a great film that they can share with people they know will appreciate it. Like you were saying, you want people to go to your shows because you want them to love what you have worked very hard on. You also want someone to buy your album or one of your t-shirts so that you have money to keep making more albums. This all means that you value the ability to create your art and share it with people. Money isn't the bottom line–the art itself is. To me, that's a crucial difference. If money was all that mattered, you'd just try to be the next Fall Out Boy, right?

Also, to be completely fair, I understand that sometimes you gotta do shit for the money. Chris has a friend who's guest acting in some shitty Syfy show soon. I doubt it's the ideal work she wants as an actor, but I'm sure she needs the exposure and the rent money.

And, apparently, despite the success of THERE WILL BE BLOOD, no one would finance THE MASTER. I don't know if you followed its production history, but it came dangerously close to never seeing the light of day. A billionaire's daughter, Megan Ellison, had to swoop in at the last second and save the picture from the trashcan. Phew!

Jade loves I MARRIED A WITCH as much as I do. She IS a great gal.

As to your horror conversation with Chris, I obviously agree with you. I must certainly confess to cheering on the moments of violence in a horror film. Not that I particularly love seeing violence, I just love the anticipation of something frightening or shocking happening. Like you said, it's that vicarious danger of a horror film that makes us watch it. Seeing characters getting hurt or killed isn't exactly fun, but getting scared is. Plus, I'm entirely aware that what I'm seeing is fake and simulated. I can appreciate a good looking kill because that means someone did a hell of a job in the make-up department. Seeing violence in a horror film is as much appreciating how it has been constructed as anything else.

I like slasher movies more than torture porn. The kills are usually quick and inventive as opposed to being drawn out and elaborate. All the fun is in the anticipation of the kill anyway, not necessarily the kill itself. This is what creates tension and makes us scared. Ti West is such a good horror director because he understands this better than most.

PROJECT X looks awful. Meatheads fucking suck. Well said, to the both of you.

Seth McFarland's television shows are among the most unfunny, idiotic, annoying pieces of shit imaginable. But, how did TOSH.0 escape this meathead bashing unscathed? Daniel Tosh is the Todd Phillips of television. He's a total fucking wanker, and the lord of douche bags everywhere.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Quit butting in, you butt


Wow, man, that response post to Jason was epic. You both should be proud for having the attention span/ambition to write that much. I seem to lack both. I glad you guys don't.

The only thing I'll say back to that particular post is that "troll of the clubhouse" is probably the greatest phrase of the year. Maybe because I picture an actual troll in a clubhouse, I don't know. Anyway, I think you're right. We are probably all guilty at one time or another of getting enjoyment out of being the dissenting voice amongst a sea of praise. This isn't necessarily a bad thing all the time either. Sometimes it's fun to kick the dust up, especially if you don't really care either way. Like you said about starting fights, it forces the other person to think more about why they really like something or maybe why they don't like it as much as they thought they did. But I'd say that mostly being a contrarian for its own sake is really bad form and annoying. I try to avoid it. Those positive instances are rare.

You did kick me right in the nose, but it was worth it. There's nothing more fun than singing along at the top of your lungs to your friends' songs. It makes me incredibly proud to know such talented people. As for your "tiny penis" quip....looks like it's time to pull out the ace: takes one to know one! haha Yes! Got 'em!

THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL has tremendous style, and I think it won me over instantly with its super-retro opening title sequence. Ti West is a seriously intelligent filmmaker. I really admire the guy's aesthetic. He's young but he's already cultivated a voice for himself and become a real stalwart within the genre. I think those two films are enough to know that he's legit. Can't wait to see what he does next. I count myself a big fan.

I'm also a big fan of apologies because I genuinely regret nearly everything I say or do.

I can only ever be scary on a blog...and maybe on a soccer field. In any other setting, I sound like an even wimpier and more shrill version of Jerry Seinfeld trying to get angry. It's pathetic.

You're right, sometimes it's just easier and lazier to call something shit and move on. I feel like doing it all the time. And some things deserve a simple dismissal, especially when they are particularly egregious.

I was just having the conversation about money and art with a friend not too long ago. She paints, and she was telling me that she feels uneasy about selling her artwork for money. I told her that at one time I wanted to be a writer, but felt uneasy about trying to sell anything I wrote as well (not out of any real sense of artistic integrity, mostly just feeling like anything I created wouldn't be worth paying for). I understand that if you want to be an artist, you gotta make some money or else you can't really do it anymore. I also understand the reticence over turning something very personal into a product that is bought and sold like Crest Tooth Paste. But, I was in a band once too, and I had no problem making music and selling it. Like you said, selling records and making money off shows means that you get to make more records or play more shows. Plus, it's not like it's a purely selfish thing, making money from your art. People get pleasure out of it and are willing to pay you for that enjoyment. I think as long as your intentions with your art are square, you're doing it for the right reasons. So yeah, I understand what you're saying, Brandon, but I also didn't really mean that all money making in art is wicked. What I specifically meant in terms of TRANSFORMERS is that I feel that the people behind that didn't care about making a good product, they just cared about all the bank they would get from it. To me, that's evil and corrupt. You're purposefully manipulating people for your own gains. Fuck that.

Dude, the only thing to love about the current Hollywood system is the talented individuals that provide the artistic visions we love so much (your PTAs, your Tarantinos, Your Scorseses). Most of the actual Hollywood brass behind pictures nowadays is pure evil. We're talking massive corporations with one goal in mind: how to exploit people into getting more money. It's one of the reasons why there are so many shitty movies released every year. The major studios have shifted away from making a few quality pictures a year towards making an inordinate mass of inferior pictures to bleed us all dry. Studios obviously want PTA and Taratino's movies to do them a solid financially. But, do you think PTA and Tarantino are sitting their licking their lips over how much profit they will reap from their pictures? No, they make movies because they love doing it and because they strive for no less than a masterpiece with each one they make. To me, that motivation is much different than Michael Bay saying, "dude, let's make another TRANSFORMERS because the last one made a shit load of money." I know I'm preaching to the converted here.

This segues nicely into your quality vs. quantity/old movies vs. new movies talk. I love the old Hollywood system as well. Obviously, its motives weren't entirely pure (they wanted money, for sure), but back then, the studio heads were mostly visionaries who cared about making quality products and giving the reins to talented people they knew could deliver. Today's massive market economy demands more, more, more, more–all the time. It has literally changed every artistic output, especially filmmaking. But, I think the problem with Hollywood, new technology, and just wider availability means that the supply has far exceeded the demand. We are constantly being inundated with so many products, which is why you see so many movies flop at the box office or so many tv shows cancelled after two episodes. I think greed has taken over completely at this point. Greed increases the quantity exponentially and the quality suffers for it. Wow, I'm just ranting at this point. haha. Do you think this stuff makes me mad?

"Born in the wrong generation" for sure. I think Jade and I have this conversation every time we bump into each other. I enjoy the escapism of older things more than the hard-hitting realism of today. One of my favorite novels is FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD, and I think I respond to it so much because it takes place in this old-world agrarian setting where one could live completely isolated and free on one's own land. It's simple and idyllic, and in a lot of ways that's what I pine for. Old movies have this similar straight-forward and beautiful simplicity to them that I find very endearing.

I guess you and I just gotta meet Jason. Hopefully, I'm a little less douchy in person. No guarantees though.

Feel free to pick on me all you want, anyone and everyone. I can take it (wipes tear from eye and goes in the corner to cry because Brandon called him a wiener).

Good talk!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Jason is Entitled to his Opinion As Well

Wow, you wrote a very sincere response back to my dumb, sarcastic one. haha. I think I owe you a more genuine one now. I'll do the whole copy-paste thing because its easier that way.

"My opinion is that if something is not to my taste or if I simply don't like it, that's one thing, but to relegate it to the trash bin simply because I personally can't see the value in it indicates a lack of balanced perspective on my part."

A very healthy perspective to have, indeed. Honestly, I only put things in the trash that I think really deserve it. These are usually things that I think are designed purely for profit. I'm not a fan of manipulating people for your own gains be it in the form of banks, bad movies, politicians, mega-churches, what have you. I respect your ability to see the positive value in things, but I firmly believe in calling a spade a spade. Plus, me calling something "shit" is so meaningless and and marginal that it borders on non-existence anyway, so I have no problem saying it.

And I do understand that calling something "shit" is a throwaway line. That's what it was when I wrote it and what it will always be. You're right to call me out on it. But, I'm always willing to give reasons for why I think something is shit; just ask me to clarify. For instance, TRANFORMERS is shit, to me, because it's dull, loud, extremely money-hungry, has flat characters, awful writing, no excitement, no thrills, etc. But, like I said, that's just me.

"They're not idiots or shit-lovers; they just are looking for something different in a moviegoing experience."

I agree. You're no idiot for liking TRANSFORMERS. I don't expect my opinion to influence anyone or to be a universal standard for judging quality. My hatred and disregard for it should have no impact on anyone's enjoyment of it. And it doesn't: TRANSFORMERS 4 will come out and make a billion dollars whether I like it or not. And feel free to be excited over it coming out! Don't let my indifference waylay you. Like what you like, my man.

"You didn't think I was referring to you with the no personality comment, did you? I'm not that subtle, to be honest."

No, I didn't think it was directed at me or anyone in our club. I just couldn't resist such an easy opportunity to take a cheapshot at myself.

"I just associate you so strongly with old movies and loving them almost unequivocally (I said "almost") and then conversely holding the newer stuff you see (particularly what's mainstream) to what seems like much higher standards."

I would say that Brandon does this exact same thing, BUT I'll put that aside for the moment. I won't try to hide from my bias towards older things. I just like older movies more because they make me happier. I also like old books, big band jazz, old cars, and old clothes. My effortless enjoyment of all old movies isn't so much about intellectual reasons as it is about purely sentimental ones. I just know what I like and what makes me happy. Newer films are easier to criticize because they are already handicapped by not being old (sorry new films). And then even easier to criticize if I think they are poorly written or poorly made (mainstream and indie films are both equally guilty here). I'm just biased.

"You don't write about watching horror movies nearly as much as Brandon and I (and Adrienne, even) do, so I know less about your experience with them."

I usually have horror marathons in October (I'm big into seasonal traditions), so I think most of my horror talk is limited to right around then. I've been on a horror kick since watching THE INNKEEPERS though, so perhaps I'll do a nice horror round-up for you soon. I seriously love watching horror movies, and I would defend the genre with you guys. As you can imagine, I can get down with just about any old horror movie (30s through 80s even) any day. I tend to be more discerning with modern horror films because I'm more discerning with everything modern. I loved THE INNKEEPERS and THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL so much because they felt like such throwbacks while also forging their own voice. I'm always curious to see a good, new horror film though. I just need a solid recommendation to go on and I'm there.

"On a side note, speaking of you and old movies, where on earth do you get what you watch from? And how do you even know what to watch?"

It's a combination of Turner Classic Movies, buying movies off Amazon, Netflix, NWI, Hulu+, youtube, "illegal" streaming websites, public library, and burrowing movies from John and Brandon. One of the great things about modern life is that, ironically, it makes just about everything old I love accessible. As for knowing what to watch, Brandon's and John's lists were good starting points. Ed Gonzalez's lists were a big help too. Knowing directors and actors you like gives you a lot of choices, as do films that are the most acclaimed or are recommended elsewhere. The more you see and the more you know makes it easier to find deeper cuts as well.
I seriously just have a word document on my computer with lists of movies to see for each year and I put a star next to the ones I've seen. Each year has grown from 10 movies to like 30 or 40 even. The more you see, the more you learn, and the hungrier you are for more.

"But I do consider 'you have a limited experience with it so you don't understand it' to be completely valid."

I agree!

"But you and John do seem to dislike a fairly decent amount of films, at least relative to someone like me, and I can't figure out how to account for it."

EVERYONE dislikes a fairly decent amount of films relative to someone like you. haha. You like just about everything! How is that the standard for comparison?? :)

Plus, why are the rest of the film club members left out of this? Brandon writes negative reviews all the time. As does Ben. As does Adrienne. As does Chris. If Lisa were posting, I'm sure she'd have a few more nasty ones about. We're not the only guilty ones. We all have our tastes and we stick to them.

Let's look at it this way, do you like all the music you hear or do you have specific type that you really respond to? If there's a type you really like, then you can understand how I feel about movies. A good movie to me is like hearing a song that sounds exactly right to my ear (mmmm...Bob Dylan). A bad movie is like hearing Nickleback.

Anyway, I'm glad you have posted so much recently AND that you went for the insults. That is the best way to get a response. Just ask Brandon :) Thankfully, I knew your posts were in good fun, unlike Brandon's. I thought he was trying to suckerpunch me, and I got it completely wrong. Lesson learned.

Father of the Blog

I spent my Father's Day with a wicked hangover (thanks Summer People), a jug of orange juice, and Preminger's BONJOUR TRISTESSE. I'm a bad son. But, let's talk movies:

Great show Saturday night; sorry we didn't get to hang longer. I apologize myself for misreading your post. I think I read it as an attack in response to me not really liking PROMETHEUS, which is pretty silly. Re-reading your post again, I realize that you do make a point of it being sarcastic and you even have a wink face in there! Sorry I completely missed all that. But, these types of misunderstandings seem to happen to all the time on here. Tone is hard to read through flat, impersonal writing. All I hear is my own voice reading it back to myself, and my voice always sounds a bit snotty.

Anyway,when you staged dived the other night, you kicked me in the nose. I think I deserved that for being a little bitch. Karma indeed. haha.

I watched THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL and loved it. I am very much a Ti West fan. He's got a signature style and I like it.

I don't know if there's really anything to get into over PROMETHEUS. I understand why you had a blast with it. It's got some really strong moments, and some awesome acting, but ultimately it just felt pointless to me. I think you saw it as big, dumb fun whereas I saw it as trying to be something more profound than any of the ALIEN movies and failing to deliver–sucking the fun right out of the thing. Maybe I need other pairs of glasses. But, as John can also attest, it's just TOO much fun not liking something. Much more enjoyable than actually liking it. ;)

With all these emoticons being used to clear up misunderstandings, goodbye film club; hello babysitter's club!!


Anytime you wanna watch CHIMES, I'm down.

I really need to catch up on THE WIRE.

I would very much be interested in a Rohmer post. I'm a big fan of all the Moral Tales. But, I do understand how hard it is to write about them. They are better movies to discuss in person, where one can free associate and communicate complexly they way the characters in the films do. Let's have a nice long chat about them the next time we all get together. Until then, let's settle for second best and try to unreasonably sum their many intricacies up in some vague and broad blog posts. Get on it!

I've learned my lesson about letting sardonic posts get to me. No angry Jeff here...for now!

Listen, the only reason the formula for the first HOSTEL and the formula of THE CABIN IN THE WOODS gets to me is because I expected both to be original enough to forge their own path (in terms of narrative structure). HOSTEL to me was a disappointment because it was supposed to be really brutal and shocking. It's definitely brutal, but its over-reliance on a very standard thriller three act structure sort of took away a lot of the shock value for me. I don't know; I was expecting something more original in terms of structure (I had the same problem with the THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO). As I clarified to Brandon, the first HOSTEL isn't shit; it's just not my thing. I do think the second part is shit however because it shows no creativity and is designed purely for profit. And, yes, I reserve the right to call anything I want "shit" because I'm ultimately just a poor, skinny nerd typing on a blog that no one reads. : )

Speaking of which, I think it's perfectly okay to hate on TRANSFORMERS and call them shit. What's wrong with that? To quote BOOGIE NIGHTS: "if it looks like shit and it smells like shit...then it must be shit!" I saw the first TRANSFORMERS and was so bored I started looking at the architecture of the theater I was in. Where you see tireless hard work, I see rich people making an inferior product, selling it to us at a ridiculous price, and getting more stinking rich off of it. Michael Bay sucks. His movies are soulless money-grubbing pieces of shit. I don't care how much money they make or how many people love them. A lot of people love TWO AND A HALF MEN too. Does that make it above reproach? :). Appealing to populism and defending the extremely wealthy against the extremely minuscule is not the way to go, Jason! I think we need to start occupying Michael Bay's mansion now to teach you a lesson. UNLESS, he decides to grace the world with BAD BOYS 3. That would be delightful.

"And there are people out there without personalities. And I feel sorry for them."

I feel sorry for me too... :(

I was a bit saddened by the ending of THE INNKEEPERS as well. I really liked Claire. BUT the good thing is that we have the perfect set-up now for the sequel–THE INNKEEPERS 2: CLAIRE MEETS CASPER.

"No offense, Jeff, but I chalk up your inability to see these distinctions to your lack of experience with the genre. Granted, a lack of desire for familiarity with the genre doesn't help either, but relegating films for which you don't understand the appeal to "shit" may be a little harsh."

I think everyone in this club confuses me with Chris and vice versa. Brandon seems to have a running gag where he gives Chris credit for movies he's never seen when he's referring to something I wrote about a movie. Anyway, I think you are somehow lumping me under Chris's admitted horror hatred and overall neophyte awareness of the genre. I've seen lots of horror movies and have unconditionally loved many of them. I admitted to Brandon that my TRANSFORMERS analogy didn't work well with HOSTEL. I hate the first TRANSFORMERS and think it's terrible but don't feel the same way about the first HOSTEL. I understand the appeal of the first HOSTEL; hell I even understand the appeal of the second. Does that mean I can't criticize it? Since when did criticizing something for being awful turn into "you just don't understand it, man." That argument could be used for ANYTHING. That officer who shot the zombie in Miami? He wasn't trying to stop a horrible act; he just didn't understand the joy of chewing someone's face off. :)

"But I think maybe some people enjoy not liking movies (John, Jeff?) and feeling superior to them"

Guilty as charged! I paid 20 bucks to see THAT'S MY BOY opening night in 3D IMAX. It was awful and I loved every second of it! They say that money can't buy happiness, but every terrible Adam Sandler movie I see to flatter my already outrageous smugness continues to prove otherwise.

Oh, Jason, I love you buddy. :) Thank you for posting so much the other day.


p.s. Who is every1 babysittin' 4 dis weeknd? 1 of des nites we need 2 have a slumba partay! ;) :*

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


I had a pretty terrible day dealing with a few unruly shithead kids, so I'm not in the best of mind to pick up the boxing gloves. I feel like I already went 10 rounds. I'll try to do a better response post tomorrow for you Brandon. For now, I'll just say that I wasn't mad by your post. I was just peeved by it, but in an obviously friendly way. I'd probably never get truly angry at you or anyone in film club. I seriously just thought of John the moment I finished reading what you wrote. He would never take you blowing his question completely out of proportion lightly, so I thought I shouldn't either.

Anyway, I think what irked me was your insistence that I was somehow creating a canon of intellectual filmmakers. Saying things like "your dubious list" provoked me into feeling like you had just turned a simple question for discussion's sake into a diatribe about how snobby I am over loving foreign directors and thinking American directors are philistines. I definitely was not trying to create a list of the ultimate film intellectuals. I was just trying to think about classic foreign directors you like and classic foreign directors you don't like. Purely off the top of my head without much forethought. I just limited it to foreign guys because I've never really heard you criticize any American auteurs from the Golden Age. I used guys like Bergman and Bresson as examples of foreign intellectual filmmakers you like merely as foils against what I assumed was your dislike of two big foreign intellectuals in Fellini and Antonioni (you did call them hipsters before, and not in an affectionate way). I was really just trying to root at why you could get down with Bergman's intellectualizing in THE SILENCE but not Fellini's in 8 1/2. I assumed you were just writing 8 1/2 and Fellini off as "pretentious."

To be clear: I was not trying to make a statement about foreign directors vs. American directors. That is what ticked me off. I don't like having my words distorted, and I wasn't aware that it was 100% sarcastic. I'm allowed to defend myself after such an attack, right you big meathead bully? :)

And to be even more clear: I was not and am not mad by your post. I said it riled me up, but I didn't mean it that it did in an aggressive way. It mostly just astonished me, like hearing someone tell you that you're wrong for wanting to confront PROMETHEUS with a brain. :) ;) : *

Monday, June 11, 2012


I have no idea what to write about PROMETHEUS. It doesn't do enough for me even to feel strongly for it one way or another. It's an extremely neutral, middling affair. Despite its enormous tonal and philosophical ambition, it's neither scary nor particularly fascinating. It has a few decent thrills, some solid performances (Fassbender's T.E. Lawrence wannabe robot is the obvious eye-catcher), lovely visuals, and one truly grueling scene involving a self-performed c-section, but for the most part it seems largely eventless and vapid. I couldn't really say that anything really stood out to me in any strong or impacting way. Perhaps the problem is, having finally seen it, it doesn't really feel all that necessary. It's just one expensive set-up to both the ALIEN franchise and its own desire for sequels, but not a stand alone film in its own right.

The best description I've read of PROMETHEUS is from John Semley at Slant who calls it "high-minded fan fiction." That's exactly they way it comes across, like some super-fan saw ALIEN, loved the idea of the Space Jockey carrying a cargo of ultimate killing machines, and decided to write a story following his origins. This seems like a cool idea in theory, just like I'm sure the idea of telling Anakin Skywalker's story seemed like a cool idea back in 1998. But once the film starts developing, you realize that some mysteries are better left unresolved and that the tantalizing image of the Space Jockey from ALIEN will forever be more interesting than anything PROMETHEUS has to offer. And what does PROMETHEUS have to offer about the Space Jockey that we couldn't already deduce from ALIEN? Before PROMETHEUS, anyone could have told you that the Space Jockey was likely from an advanced alien race that had massive stockpiles of weapons designed to destroy any lifeforms it encountered. This is implied from ALIEN. Now, in the context of PROMETHEUS the only thing else we learn is that the Space Jockey and his race is, in fact, responsible for creating human life. Why his race of superior beings did this and who created them is left for a different movie entirely. So, what's the point of PROMETHEUS then? It feels less like a film and more like someone poking around in the ashes of a fire, trying to rekindle it again.

This is the huge problem with PROMETHEUS: It's not that it's pretentious or so overly ambitious that it falters under its own weight, it's that it is so narratively and thematically underdeveloped that all it can do is wallow in its own half-answers and barren mythology. Exactly like SHAME, it just doesn't do anything in itself but simply exists as a foregone conclusion. As a narrative, it goes no where towards answering its copious questions and leaves you right back where it started. When the the iconic xenomorph alien is birthed in its final moments, all we have learned from the film was something that was revealed to us in its opening two minutes and all we have to look forward to is something that came out in 1979. But wait! A sequel following the adventures of Shaw and Fassbender-head you say? Where they finally find the engineers' real planet and grill them on the mysteries of the universe? I'm afraid that just like the engineers the characters want to question, there's almost no answers a PROMETHEUS sequel could give us that wouldn't be disappointing. Like I said, some things are better left unresolved.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

1963 Response

Brandon, I haven't seen a lot of the films on your list so this will likely be a weak response post.
Sorry dude. Great list though! Let's chat:

I am really glad to see HIGH AND LOW at the top of your list. It would be right near the top of mine if not first. It's one of Kurosawa's best and most complex works. Definitely "one of the greatest detective thrillers in history" too. Here's some of the stuff I wrote about it back in April while you were on tour:

"The opening 60 minutes of the film take place entirely within Gondo's enormously spacious condo, as he communicates with the kidnapper and contemplates paying the ransom (thereby destroying his social status and economic standing) or letting the boy die. I won't give anything else away. All I'll say is that the first act is riveting, rich, and profound like great theater. The moral crisis is real, and it's impossible to take your eyes off of Toshiro Mifune as Gondo. Plus, the widescreen just makes the condo look massive and Kurosawa's use of blocking within the extended frame is masterful.

I actually thought the entire film would take place in the condo, until it shifted gears and became this wonderfully meticulous police procedural and tense thriller. The film is basically a play in four acts, and each act is as interesting, exciting, and thought-provoking as the next. It's an impressive and ingenious bit of filmmaking from the first second to the last. If you love procedure, detective stories, bold socio-economic and philosophical themes, and the richness of great literature then you will be floored by the film. I know I was."

You think Fincher's a fan of this one? It has ZODIAC inspiration written all over it. Lisa, you'd dig it.

We were just talking about THE GREAT ESCAPE, and I don't know if I have anything more to add on it.
It's great entertainment as well as just one of those quintessential POW stories that speaks to the desire for freedom and redemption in all of us. It'd be high on my list as well. THE SIMPSONS do a great parody of it (and even reference THE BIRDS at the same time):

I haven't seen CHARADE in SOOO long. I don't even really remember it. But, I'm sure it's completely great and, like you said, one of those vestigial remnants of the Golden Age aesthetic that were increasingly rare as the 60s moved onward. I gotta make plans to see this one again soon.

I haven't seen IRMA LA DOUCE, but I really want to. Haven't seen A CHILD IS WAITING either.

THE LEOPARD I have seen, and worship. It's a GORGEOUS film. You were right to bring up Ophüls. Visconti effortlessly evokes the sumptuous and stately visuals of the late German master. Oddly enough, Visconti was originally one of the foremost neo-realists of the 40s. OSSESSIONE and LA TERRA TREMA are two great examples of earthy and unadorned realism. But then, in the 50s and 60s, his style broadened and he started making incredibly ornate, visually detailed, and beautiful period pieces like THE LEOPARD. Visconti is probably the most underappreciated of the great Italian directors, but to me, he was one of the best. THE LEOPARD is a strong testament to his greatness, both as a visual genius, and a classical storyteller. This is old-school filmmaking of the epic kind.

I like THE BIRDS, but don't necessarily love it. I have great disdain for Tippi Hedron's inability to convey any acting talent, but let's put that aside for the moment. THE BIRDS, in terms of pure filmmaking, is terrific. It's great shock and terror cinema. My mother, who doesn't really watch any old movies, still considers it the scariest thing she ever saw. I'm sure it had that impact on a lot of people. I really enjoy THE BIRDS for all its technical achievements and the pure craft involved. The only thing that holds me back from loving it is just not feeling connected to the characters or story. This isn't a huge hang-up, just enough of one to make me prefer a lot of Hitch's earlier films.

You're very right about THE SILENCE. It's pure cinema. It's one of Bergman's more enigmatic and stylish films. He seems to be contemplating space and sound (or lack thereof) in a way he never had before. It's an incredible mood piece, one of doom, like you mentioned, but also of intense pain and the desire for relief and safety. I don't know exactly what is on Bergman's mind with it either, but I know I love trying to guess what it is.

I haven't seen LILIES OF THE FIELD.

I love both SUZANNE'S CAREER and THE BAKERY GIRL OF MONCEAU, and pretty much for the same reasons. Rohmer has an uncanny ability to completely humanize his characters. He grounds them in the barriers of subjective thought, moral and ethical limits, and the vicissitudes of desire. All of the Moral Tales muse on the same theme, but they are each beautiful and unique in terms of characterization. If you loved SUZANNE'S CAREER then you are going to love the rest of the Moral Tales, Brandon. If you were underwhelmed by THE BAKERY GIRL, then watch the rest of the Moral Tales and come back to it. It's a perfectly short and sweet summation of Rohmer's aesthetic.

I haven't seen the rest of your list except for WINTER LIGHT, which you know I'm a fan of. It's alternate title should have been FEAR AND LOATHING IN SWEDEN. It's a dark picture dealing with serious uncertainty, terror, remorse, and emptiness. "The moments before he died, Christ was seized by doubt. Surely that must have been his greatest hardship? God's silence." Mmhmm.

As to your honorable mentions, I definitely would put THE SWORD AND THE STONE on my list, and very high up on it too. It's my favorite Disney movie. If I ever needed something to cheer me up, I'd put that in and bliss out.

I'm a big fan of THE HAUNTING. But a bit surprised that you aren't as well. It's legitimately scary.

One of the films you left off your list I would probably put at first or second on mine, and that's, of course: 8 1/2. The very first foreign classic film I ever saw; it's also one of the best films about filmmaking ever made. Some give it shit for being too discursive and inscrutable, but really I think it's just a beautiful, expressionistic look at how we dream about art, childhood, sex, work, and our weird place in a vast and indifferent universe. I'm glad to hear you say that you mostly love the film. I really think you should give it another chance. Fellini's heart and soul is in it. To me, it's a bit of reverie to get lost in.

For some reason, seeing 8 1/2 off of your list and seeing THE SILENCE on it makes me wonder why you value certain "intellectual" filmmakers but dismiss others. Bergman, Tarkovsky, Passolini, and Bresson are all highly intellectual filmmakers just like Antonioni, Fellini, and Resnais. I'm not trying to be contentious or "get you" over disliking these guys. I understand that there are huge differences between all of these filmmakers. I'm just truthfully curious about why some are deemed pretentious and others are not? You know what I'm saying? Really, I'm just trying to stick up for my homies Fellini and Antonioni.

I saw CONTEMPT a long time ago and don't remember it enough to have any love or...contempt for it. I know Fritz Lang's in it and it's about making a film version of THE ODYSSEY. That's about it.

Anyway, sorry I couldn't be more of a discussion partner this time around. I love the list though. Sorry it gave you such a hard time. 1935 surely will be the cure to all your ills.


Switching gears, I forgot to mention in my May recap that I finally watched X-MEN: FIRST CLASS. I didn't really like it. I thought the best thing about it was Michael Fassbender: Nazi Hunter. Those vengeance scenes with him were cool, but the rest of it was too unnecessarily different from the actual origin story, too corny, too contrived, and all around too dull. I didn't really have high hopes for it, but I was at least hoping it'd be a lot more fun than it was. Oh well.


Y'all have no idea how excited I am to be getting LANCELOT DU LAC from John. I've been going through so much Bresson withdrawal that I re-watched PICKPOCKET and AU HASARD BALTHAZAR within the last two days. I've even started writing emails to Criterion begging them to release THE DEVIL PROBABLY, A GENTLE WOMAN, and FOUR NIGHTS OF A DREAMER either on DVD or Hulu. It's a serious crime that 9 of his 13 films are either unreleased or out of print in this country. Merde!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

1936 Response

1936 is definitely one of the best years in film history. No question. Now you know why I originally had the start period for cinematic greatness marked this year. I have long been blown away by the sheer quality of the films released during these 12 months of glory. Let’s gush over ‘em:

Rosenbaum’s right about Chaplin. A working-class stalwart and the godfather of humanism in cinema. Have you ever looked at those director’s top 10 lists for the Sight and Sound poll? Just about every great director has a Chaplin film in his/her top 10. Even Bresson (who supposedly was iffy about films) has THE GOLD RUSH and CITY LIGHTS listed as his two favorite films. It’s no coincidence that he was and still is so universally beloved. He was a genius. A true artist and also one of the funniest people to ever live. MODERN TIMES is a great film, as you said, mixing romance and heart with meticulous social satire. I’m actually going to watch it again soon after seeing how high you ranked it. I haven’t seen it in a few years, and was ranking it based on the adoring memory I have of it. It’s probably better than I even remember. Great pick, of course.

You and I see completely eye to eye on THE THIN MAN series. I respond to the formula very strongly as well. I can get down with any film in the series any day. Even if the same mystery formula kept been reused and some of the writing and directing lost its sharpness (losing van Dyke hurt the series a bit), each film is still a treasure if only because it affords us another opportunity to spend time with the prized couple that is Nick and Nora. The best marriage in cinema history, indeed. Their charming and deliciously snide interactions together make every film glorious. You can tell how much they love and worship one another, yet both always have a drink and a wise-crack handy to give the other a playful jab in the ribs. A hilarious, but truly loving relationship. Anyway, AFTER THE THIN MAN is so good because it literally picks up right where the first left off. The bliss continues for another hour and a half and Jimmy Stewart even makes an appearance. What more could one ask for?

Actor of the year, William Powell? By a landslide. As Ebert once wrote, “William Powell is to dialogue as Fred Astaire is to dance. His delivery is so droll and insinuating, so knowing and innocent at the same time, that it hardly matters what he's saying.” I think you once referred to Powell as an “auteur actor,” Brandon. That’s dead on.

Speaking of the great Powell: MY MAN GODFREY is my favorite film of the year and one of my favorites of all time. Insane, hilarious, and one of the most acerbic satires of the wealthy ever put on screen. I watched it again a few weeks ago (and I’m just realizing I left it off my May recap); I love it more each time I see it. Powell oozes class and dignity as Godfrey, Lombard gives her best performance as the scatter-brained, childish, but loving Irene, and the rest of the supporting cast is just amazingly funny. Special mention should be given to Jean Dixon as the surly maid Molly with the host of hysterical one-liners and Mischa Auer as the freeloading Carlo. This is absurdism at its very finest and most scathing.

FURY is terrifying. We talked about it a bit back when I watched it along side THE OX-BOW INCIDENT and YOUNG MR. LINCOLN. Mob rule is a vicious maelstrom, and films like this force us to confront the horror of its violence first/questions later mentality. It’s also a tough film, like HANG ‘EM HIGH, because it asks us to be better than our anger and violence, even if the people who have done us wrong so seemingly deserve our wrath. If we give into the impulse for vengeance, are we any better then those who caused us harm to begin with?

DODSWORTH is Wyler’s best film. I haven’t even seen all of them, but I can’t imagine him making a better one than this. It’s a beautiful, heartbreaking movie. Its emotional profoundity seriously floored me. Like you wrote, Brandon, Dodsworth is chewed up and spit out in the most base way, only to find comfort and love in the arms of the lovely Mary Astor at the very last second. I was sweating over the finale too. Walter Huston is just devastating as Dodsworth. At the end, after all you’ve seen him go through, you are just praying for that hand to swoop down and lift him from the midden. One of the best of the 30s, in my opinion.

I hadn’t even heard of THE STORY OF A CHEAT, but I’m glad I have now. I’m always looking for new 30s fare to dig into. I believe this one’s on Hulu, so I’ll have to check it out.

Okay, every list you seem to bust out some film that I’ve been dying to see but have had no success finding. Who the fuck do you work for? The UCLA Film and Television Archive? haha. I really need to see THE CRIME OF MONSIEUR LANG. So, what’s your secret on that one?

I really need to see MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN again too. The last time was on VHS from the local video store. It does have a great cast, and I do remember liking it a lot. Have you seen Capra’s LADY FOR A DAY, yet? I think you’re gonna love it if you don’t already.

LIBELED LADY is such a great time. Anything Powell and Loy wins my heart with ease. But throwing in Harlow and Tracy just makes it even stronger. What a cast!

I haven’t seen THE PRISONER OF SHARK ISLAND, but I want to now because it’s got an awesome title and it’s John Ford.

Great list, dude! Not an easy year to rank. These lists been so much fun to read and chat over. I’m really glad you’re doing them, and now I just can’t wait to see John’s. Keep ‘em coming!

My ’36 list has changed a bit over the last few months. I’m still not sure about the order, but here’s how it looks at this moment:

1. My Man Godfrey (La Cava)
2. Dodsworth (Wyler)
3. After the Thin Man (van Dyke)
4. Modern Times (Chaplin)
5. Libeled Lady (Conway)
6. The Petrified Forest (Mayo)
7. The Lower Depths (Renoir)
8. Fury (Lang)
9. The Only Son (Ozu)
10. Partie de Campagne (Renoir)

HM: Osaka Elegy (Mizoguchi), Sabotage (Hitchcock), Swing Time (Stevens), Bullets or Ballots (Keighley), San Francisco (van Dyke), Camille (Cukor), Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (Capra), Gold Diggers of 1937 (Bacon, Berkeley), Show Boat (Whale)

The ranking’s mostly abitrary. I love all of these films and many in the honorable mentions, as well. PARTIE DE COMPAGNE is so beautiful, I only wish it were longer. And I clearly have a stronger connection to THE PETRIFIED FOREST than you do. Emotionally, it just resonated very deeply for me. It’s a melancholy little movie, dealing more with love and sacrifice than gangsters and violence. Some have described it as too “talky,” but for me its literacy and ability to communicate so perfectly is what makes it so absorbing. Oddly enough, Carl Dreyer is a big fan of THE PETRIFIED FOREST as well, and even included in it in his top 10 films of all time. Maybe we found the same beauty in it. I also found THE LOWER DEPTHS to be beautiful, as it is filled with all that typical Renoir humanity. The endearing friendship between the two leads is the emotionally backbone of the film, and it wins because of it.

'63 next? I've got a '49 list coming yer way this week too.

Quickly, before my '36 post...

John, you see how much I do respect your opinion on films? I woke up from my nap, wrote that post explaining why I didn't want to watch JDB, then realized it didn't sit right with me. I have always trusted your film judgment, implicitly. Why renege now? I'll give JDB more than half a chance because of your faith in it. Like I said, I owe you that much.

And I do believe you love it for all the right reasons. The supposed Korine fans I've met have all been those who seem to treat film viewership like a gauntlet. They're the same ones who tried to defend Todd Solondz to me. I've always considered GUMMO to be a part of that HAPPINESS/KIDS gimmick crowd, just because of the way its fans seemed to encourage its depravity along. So, I've gathered a bad impression of Korine as a result. Brandon's and Ben's repudiations seemed like the death knell.

However, I'm ready to look past all of that and give JDB a chance, just for you John. In fact, if you put Bresson's LANCELOT DU LAC in my hand at some point, I will watch JDB at your command. haha.


I just woke up from a nice long nap to find myself getting spanked. Ouch!

I am dismissing Korine with out much exposure, this is true. I've seen KIDS (bleh), and started watching GUMMO with friends at Manhattan College, only to stop watching due to a total lack of interest mixed with a hatred of animal violence. MISTER LONELY is likely tolerable and maybe even quite good. I fell asleep watching it instantly (mostly because it was late–I hadn't even gotten into the movie yet). Maybe I'll watch that one if you lend it to me. JDB? Probably not.

I don't even think having you vouch for Korine helps. I've been hearing people vouch for him for a long time, but mostly in terms of taunting me into trying to stomach and handle him. That sort of baiting should only be used when trying to encourage watching a horror film. Are Korine's films in the horror genre? HOSTEL PART II may be easier to sit through if only because it's pure garbage, and FUNNY GAMES easy to sit through if only because it's so explicitly fake. Also, both horror films, so I know what I'm getting into.

After hearing Brandon rail against Korine, the icing is really on the cake with Ben's dismissal. Yes, you read that right, Ben "I have no problem sitting through the miserablism of MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE" Lainhart couldn't even finish JDB! He found it to be too unsettling! Yikes. What chance do I have?

May Recap

Stromboli (1950) ****
Partie de Campagne (1936) ****
The Glass Key (1942) ***
Where The Sidewalk Ends (1950) ***
Love Crazy (1941) ***
Fort Apache (1948) ***
Criss Cross (1949) ***
Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936) **
The Band Wagon (1953) ***
The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) ***
The Blue Dahlia (1946) ***
The Furies (1950) ****
Summertime (1955) ****
Dark Waters (1944) ***
Blithe Spirit (1945) ***
Moonrise (1948) *****
Nightmare Alley (1947) ***
The Champ (1931) ***
Ministry of Fear (1944) ****
Under Capricorn (1949) ***
People Will Talk (1951) ***
Ballad of a Solider (1959) ****
Summer Interlude (1951) ****
The Far Country (1954) ****
Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941) ***
San Francisco (1936) ***
Lady for a Day (1933) ****
Little Women (1933) ***
The Burmese Harp (1956) ****
Morning Glory (1933) ***
The Outlaw (1943) ***
The Lusty Men (1952) ****
Manpower (1941) ***
The Merry Widow (1934) ***
Libeled Lady (1936) ****
Topper (1937) ***
Holiday (1938) ****
Three Comrades (1938) ****
The Saint Takes Over (1940) ***
The Mortal Storm (1940) ***
Heaven Knows Mr. Allison (1957) ***
Jamaica Inn (1939) ***
The Innkeepers (2011) ***
Following (1998) **
Hostel Part II (2007) No star


Repulsion (1965) ****
An American in Paris (1951) ****
Sullivan’s Travels (1941) *****
The Philadelphia Story (1940) ****
Funny Games (1997) ****


Game of Thrones Season 2
Mad Men Season 5
The Bob Newhart Show
The Wire
Downton Abbey


May Life Lesson: Despite any thoughts you may have had to the contrary, freebasing bath salts WILL turn you into a zombie.


a few responses:

I can't believe Brandon and I have to talk some of you into watching THE INNKEEPERS. It's seriously not that scary. And even if it were, y'all should want to see it. Any modern film that is legitimately scary needs to be seen and cherished immediately. We don't get enough of them.

Ben, I haven't read HOUSE OF LEAVES. You know I can't get down with contemporary lit. But, I think a friend of mine has it, so maybe I'll borrow it and give it a glance. I do appreciate the recommendation.

At this point in my life, I have exactly zero interest in watching a Harmony Korine film. I don't blame you.

I dig the ranking of the films you've seen independent of release year. It's a neat idea. I've probably seen up to 180 or so films since the start of the year so I would never be able to do an outright ranking. I have a hard enough time ranking films by their release year.

Lisa, great to have you back! I love THE LAST WALTZ. Scorsese and The Band rule and Bob Dylan even makes a rare appearance for him at the time. Gold. I also think THE OTHERS is a great horror film indeed, and of course, ZODIAC is still one of the best films of the last decade. Keep writing if you get the chance!

Brandon, I'll write back to your '36 post today


A PROMETHEUS CR5FC event, gang? I hope it doesn't suck. I have a feeling it will.