Hey Brandon. Thanks for the kind words, my friend. It's always hard to admit to people when you're feeling depressed, but I figured it was worth mentioning so as to offer an explanation for why I've found it so hard to write lately. I've been feeling slightly dejected for the past month or so, but in the last couple of weeks I've basically descended into some full-blown depression. It's nothing new for me and certainly nothing to worry about (I'll get over it), but it is enough of a problem that I've had trouble being motivated to do things or to find pleasure in the things I usually do. So writing has taken a back seat for a while. We all have our ways of coping with depression though. I think for me its all about re-establishing a rhythm and routine to follow and be comfortable with. Writing has always been a healthy thing for me, so I think getting in a pattern of writing more frequently will ultimately be beneficial. Seeing you and the family this weekend will also be great. Let's make that happen.
Anyway, I'm glad you were able to write so much back to me (so much rich stuff that's conducive to discussion too). I know I didn't really give you much material to work off of, but I appreciate how much you sent back my way. I'll do my best to help ya out on my end too.
Toally fair enough on THIS IS THE END. I don't think we'll ever reach common ground, and I'm completely fine with that. I don't begrudge you for not finding it funny either. I'm happy to stick up for it though. At least we'll always have SUPERBAD and PINEAPPLE EXPRESS.
I realize I'm way too late to the game on BEFORE MIDNIGHT. That's what happens when you wait so long. I'm glad I finally got something written on it, but I'm more than happy to let it rest for now too. You guys already said it all anyway in much more eloquent terms than I could.
After watching THE SON, I knew I'd be a Dardenne fan for life. I was initially disoriented by it, as well, but by the half hour mark I was thoroughly riveted. And by the end of it I was practically floating in thin air I was so touched and elated. THE KID WITH A BIKE had a similar impact on me (in terms of being so emotionally floored), but it was obviously much less arduous to sift through from the beginning due to the fluidity of its construction. I would highly recommend seeing ROSETTA to you, also. It has the same quality of grace and compassion to it, and while maybe not as instantly moving as these other two movies, it's just as impossible to shake or forget.
Man, there's nothing to do but shake your head at those who find the message in THE SON to be simple and expendable. What rock are they living under? In a world where vindictiveness so often serves as the primary solution to a problem, one small act of forgiveness can reverberate like a thunderclap and glow like a miracle. I pine for the day when our compassion has become so luxurious that the Dardenne's message is no longer necessary but redundant. As things stand now, however, we unfortunately need that message more than ever. I welcome their "simple" lesson on compassion, forgiveness, and mercy with open arms. More people should too.
I love Eastwood as an actor and as a director of westerns (hell, I even got a picture of the guy on my wall). So I've got nothing personal against him, despite some highly suspect political affiliations that I disagree with. In fact, quite the opposite. I like him a lot. I've just yet to be impressed or even mildly interested in any of his recent output. Again I haven't seen A PERFECT WORLD or MILLION DOLLAR BABY so my post-UNFORGIVEN worthless comment might not hold that much water. I would be interested in seeing these two films though. I'm not rooting against the guy. I'm just waiting for him to win me over. MYSTIC RIVER isn't totally worthless; I just don't really care about it. The same for the rest of the movies I've seen of his from the 2000s. They're all well-made, but uninspired, run-of-the-mill type shit to me. I don't know what any of the fuss is about. I also wonder if I'm just missing something?
To be fair though, I'm compounding my lack of interest in his recent work to full blown scoffing merely for the sake of argument. I don't mind playing the "Eastwood hater" if only because it gives us something to disagree about. I really don't feel that negatively towards him currently. I'm just mostly indifferent. But, I should say, you have Dave Kehr (and many other great critics) thoroughly ensconced in the Eastwood camp with you, so I think you've probably already won the Eastwood debate.
I would be interested in seeing MASTER AND COMMANDER if only because I trust you implicitly. I'll add that to my ever-growing list. I should see some of Peter Weir's 70s films too.
I'm glad you didn't exactly take it easy on my marriage comment. Even with the wink, I did say it to be deliberately provocative and hopefully spark a reaction. It was also said in jest. I don't need to be married or even be in a relationship currently to know how painful it is to be betrayed by someone you love or even to have them stop loving you. I've never been cheated on (at least not to my knowledge), but I have watched girls I loved lose all their feelings for me, and its basically the most painful non-physical hurt I've ever experienced. So, I don't want to create the impression that I'm callous to adultery and betrayal when it comes to their representations on film because that just isn't the case. I just meant that the relationship in LOST IN TRANSLATION didn't bother from a lens of adultery (same as with BEFORE SUNSET). I think both of those films make it pretty explicit that their main characters are: a) not happy and b) not in love with their partners anymore. This definitely has to be sad for their unseen or underdeveloped partners (I can sympathize with them, believe me), but they'll eventually have to realize that you can't change the way another person feels about you. Those main characters just aren't in love them anymore. And can they really help those feelings? If Bob and Charlotte don't love their respective spouses, but find enjoyment and maybe even love in each other, is that totally their fault? Sleeping together would be a decision and 100% their fault because they made that decision, but feeling something for each other wasn't necessarily a decision they made. It just happened, the same way it just happened that they no longer love their spouses. I'm not sure what is precisely meant by the term "emotional adultery" but it does seem less nefarious to me than a physical act of sexual adultery if only because one implies a deliberate choice while the other can be merely happenstance. You can feel emotion or desire for another person other than your partner and still not act upon it.
With all that I'm getting at here, I just want to stress that I believe that if you don't love someone anymore, you don't have to be tethered to them forever. It wouldn't be healthy for either party to stick together if there was no longer love between them. To my understanding, this is what is happening in LOST IN TRANSLATION. I feel for the neglected spouses, but I can also understand where Bob and Charlotte are coming from. Being the spurned party fucking sucks, but it happens and there's nothing you can do about it. People can be fickle, and if you want and care about them, you are unfortunately subjected to the uncontrollable reality of their freedom and individuality. It's a terribly brave and terrifying thing to love someone.
I liked SWEENEY TODD, as well. Though BIG FISH is far and away Burton's last great film. I'm still hoping he's got a couple more in him before he's done.
Not a huge Van Sant fan either, but he works wonders on ELEPHANT.
I'm also hoping that Eli Roth has a good career ahead of him. I think it's important to remind myself that he has only made three films (one of which was essentially a carbon copy of another), so he still has lots of time to set things right. CABIN FEVER is visceral, funny, and inspired enough that I'm still rooting for the guy, even if I hated his last two films. I did decide to add CABIN FEVER to the ten spot on my list. I actually remember a good deal of it, which is way more than I can say for many films from 2003. It had a positive enough impact that it's stayed with me all these years. (P.S. I don't know if you noticed, but I also previously added THE DESCENT and MARTYRS to my top ten lists for their respective years. Those are two other horror films that I've been unable to shake the impact of).
I'm not going to be that much of snide ogre and bad mouth FINDING NEMO too hard. It is, after all, just an endearing kids search-and-rescue movie. However, it strikes me as dull or uninspired (like CARS) when standing alongside the wonderful, brilliant Pixar output that would come later in the form of RATATOUILLE, WALL-E, and UP.
I also haven't seen THE BROWN BUNNY since it came out, so perhaps seeing it again would soften the pessimistic stance I have towards it. I can just remember being exceedingly bored by its pretenses. The blow-job at the end at least gave the film some character. Before that, it's just a whole lot of nothingness (haha this movie hasn't even been relevant in years, so I'm glad we're bringing up the old arguments for and against it. THE BROWN BUNNY lives! Gallo wins.)
Really, really great points/criticisms about DOGVILLE. I actually agree with you completely, though I do find Von Trier's myopic finger-wagging to be important in its way and not entirely self-serious. He does hammer a very specific, cynical point home about these characters and the nastiness they represent. The nature of the film is conducive to this though because it's basically a fairy tale. The characters aren't fleshed out; they are just one-dimensionally vicious and wanton because they are fitting an archetype. Von Trier has created a fairy tale or parable about the overarching harmfulness of closed, xenophobic communities. The chalked staging à la OUR TOWN should be enough to suggest that he's not actually trying to achieve realism with it but to suggest a very deliberate, generalized idea about human behavior.
It is funny that an unabashed Chaplin and Dardenne lover such as myself would find Von Trier's cynicism so personally indispensable. I guess I'm just glad that both THE SON and DOGVILLE exist, even if they are basically polar opposites. I think it's just that I want very badly to be the Dardennes, but deep down I'm afraid I may be Von Trier. The fact that I carry both of their opposing views on humanity inside of me makes me appreciate both visions. Long live both, I say.
Good talk, Brandon. Thanks for encouraging me to write. And thanks for the encouraging personal words too. Looking forward to your 2005 list whenever ya finish it.
P.S. My friend Dan and I have been watching horror films fairly regularly these past few months. I watched a few newer ones recently, so I'll try to get up a post on them soon. I'll probably do a letterboxd roundup on here too sometime.