I don't know if there's any point in arguing whether THIS IS THE END is funny or not. It'd be like arguing whether each of us finds a certain food to be delicious or not. As you mentioned Brandon, comedy, like our individual tastes for foods, is purely subjective. I personally found at least 90% of THIS IS THE END to be flat-out hilarious therefore I readily forgive all of its faults and decidedly weak ending. It made me laugh (a lot) at a time when I was experiencing some awful, debilitating anxiety, and for that I welcome it with open arms. If you didn't like it or didn't find it funny, then that's cool. To each his own.
I'm not sure what I can add to what's already been written about BEFORE MIDNIGHT. I essentially agree with most of what's been laid out here. It's definitely the best movie I've seen this year, even as it remains the most difficult to come to terms with. The painful fissures on display here are undoubtedly the logical movements for these characters regardless of how emotionally taxing it is to see them reach this nadir. If the first two films are more like miraculous, inebriated dreams then this is truly the sobering wake-up-call to the consequences and realities outside those dreams. I'm inclined to agree with Brandon and Chris when they say that the ending does nothing to cover or nullify the cracks that have formed in Jesse and Celine's relationship. The ending is surely a call-back to the youthful insouciance of the first film, but like their one-night courtship in Vienna, this romantic hotel getaway is likely only to last for a night as well. Just as they woke up in Vienna to a sunrise of transience and separation, they will wake up in Greece to one of calculated sadness and division. Too many wounds were opened, too many problems laid bare for these two to simply pretend that all is forgotten and forgiven. I don't think anyone would be shocked to find them divorced in another nine years. Sad to see, but probably necessary in terms of their arc.
I was glad to hear John mention Rohmer and Brandon to mention Kiarostami because Linklater is definitely working within the realms of both masters here. I can't think of too many other contemporary American filmmakers (apart from PTA) who would put so much faith in their actors and let their filmmaking be almost exclusively mapped by the intricate webs of personal relations. I also can't tell you how joyous and refreshing it is to see a couple of people talking breathlessly in long takes in front of a static camera. That, in itself, is a miracle.
It's great to see your 2003 list, Brandon. And I commend you for posting as much as you have lately (you too, Chris) when things have been eerily quiet on the blogs. If I weren't going through a mild depression and actually had the motivation to write, I'd be happy to join you more frequently on here. As it stands, I just need to get out of whatever funk I'm in and start getting some shit typed up. I'll start with your list.
I'm terribly pleased to see you take to THE SON so affectionately. I knew that if you just gave it a chance and looked beyond the shaky-cam that you would love it unconditionally like me. It's just too masterfully executed and powerfully resonant to resist, in my opinion. The intense claustrophobia and rapid dizziness of the camera movements can be stifling at first, but once you realize that it serves a very exact purpose for the content of the film, it is easy to look past and eventually easy to admire. I think the scene in the car when the boy is sleeping in his seat is one of the most harrowing I've ever witnessed. And the ending is easily one of the most moving knock-outs I've ever beheld. It's an unbelievable lesson in the power of forgiveness and the mysteriousness of mercy. It's easy to see why Bressson gets evoked a lot when talking about the Dardennes. "What does it matter? All is grace."
MYSTIC RIVER: I've made my lack of interest in post-UNFORGIVEN Eastwood pretty transparent on here. I still haven't seen MILLION DOLLAR BABY, but from what I have seen, I don't really think that a lot of what he's made over the last twenty years is really worth a damn. I can't even remember enough of MYSTIC RIVER to expound upon why I don't like it though. My memory for movies is terrible. I'd say that I'd see it again, but I don't really care if I ever do or not. Is that wrong? haha.
I haven't seen MASTER AND COMMANDER (never really got into Peter Weir much). Or BALSEROS, DEMONLOVER, THE FOG OF WAR, IN AMERICA, WINGED MIGRATION, RAISING VICTOR VARGAS, THE COMPANY, THE GOOD THIEF, LOONEY TUNES, or OPEN RANGE. I have a lot of blind spots here, as you can tell. Just wanted to get those out of the way.
LOST IN TRANSLATION: It's been years since I've seen this, but I'll admit to still being a fan for the most part. It still manages to charm despite some subtle xenophobic digs and an unmistakable orientalist framework (It would be easy to criticize the film for using Japan as merely a colorful backdrop against which an existential crisis and tryst brews between two affluent Westerners). I'm much less concerned with the "adultery" argument against it, if only because I don't find the emotional relationship between these two to be all the problematic. Do I need to get married first for shit like this to bother me? ;)
I still love BIG FISH. It's a warm-hearted and generous little fairy tale of a movie. The ending still gets to me too.
SCHOOL OF ROCK is charming and funny, but it also didn't stand out enough to win me over. I like it, just not in love with it. I also love ELF though, so what the hell do I know?
ELEPHANT: I re-watched this a couple months ago. It submerges you in this haunting, gut-sinking sensibility. I love how every tiny gesture seems eternal and meaningful in the wake of the doom that lingers just beneath everything.
CABIN FEVER: I'm actually toying with adding it to my own list. I'd like to see it again to be sure, but as it stands I have nothing but fond memories of this one. The ending has stuck with me so vividly that I still get a wry smile thinking about it even now.
28 DAYS LATER: Pinpoint accuracy on what makes this so effective. The film loves its characters and consequently so do we. Killer ending.
DIRTY PRETTY THINGS is actually a surprisingly adept thriller. I had to re-watch it for a class a few years ago and thought it held up well. A smart lesson in drawing you in through strong characterization.
FINDING NEMO: Still don't like it. I don't doubt that it's heartfelt; I just wish it were more creative.
THE BROWN BUNNY: Still hate it. Dullness and stupidity under the guise of sincerity. A blow-job is the least of this thing's problems.
Since I'm adhering my lists to John's rules, THE SON is now on my 2002 list. Writing about it above convinced me to put it atop that list, as well. DOGVILLE is now my top film of 2003 because I'm a cynical little jerk. But we don't need to open the DOGVILLE argument again...
Great, comprehensive list though, Brandon! Are you planning any other years of the 2000s or is this just a one-off thing?
ONLY GOD FORGIVES this weekend, y'all?