Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Lovely, eloquent write-ups for your 2002 lists, Brandon.  And to think you often disparage your writing ability...how wrong you are my friend.  Exemplary job.

I'll do my best to respond, but I'm sorry if I don't have a lot to say.  We are in almost total agreement here:

CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, I haven't seen in a dog's age, but I appreciate your towering estimation of it.  I remember it being entertaining, but I'd have to see it again to dig deeper than that.

25th HOUR is a great, furious piece of work.  I also haven't seen it in a while, but I can still vividly recall its sense of cosmic frustration and overwhelming regret.  It's a movie about undesired consequences, the immobility of anger, and the impotence to erase this ubiquitous "fuck you" attitude of the world.  I'd love to see this again, but I already know that it's a major film in Spike Lee's oeuvre.

I want to see FAR FROM HEAVEN.

Speaking of major films, PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE may be the greatest romantic comedy since ANNIE HALL.  It's certainly a momentous film amongst similarly momentous films in Paul Thomas Anderson's brilliant, diverse career.  I love how much of a transitional piece it is for him.  It finds him treading into newer, more bizarre, more avant-garde territory but also retaining his wonderful sense of humor, energy, and classical filmmaking.  I also love how strongly this film recreates that sense of invigoration and apprehension when we think we might be in love.  The more I think about it the more I can't imagine a movie being more singularly perfect at what it is.  Give me PTA over anyone else making movies in the last 15 years and now.

SPIRITED AWAY is such a marvelous feast for the eyes and heart that it's difficult to translate what makes it so special into words.  It just transfigures beyond expression.

I remain an enormous fan of MINORITY REPORT and think it's one of Spielberg's best, most entertaining yarns.  It's a terrifying concept realized in one of the most inventive, visually precise, and terribly antiseptic visions of the future that I can recall on film.

GANGS OF NEW YORK is still a bit of a mess, but to borrow a turn of phrase from John, it's a glorious mess at that.  Daniel Day-Lewis is at his most imperious here.

Despite owning it, I haven't seen TALK TO HER since it came out.  It was my initiation into Almodovar, as well, and I fell completely in love with it and him when I saw it.  I should give it a re-look...

I haven't seen TROUBLE EVERY DAY, but I've heard it contains a particularly gnarly scene that takes George Costanza's "having it all" dream of combining sex and eating to a whole new level.  Is that the scene you skipped, Brandon? I'm morbidly curious to see this one, though maybe count me out for that scene.

I haven't seen Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN since it came out.  I lent my copy of it to Craver and haven't seen it since.  I have no idea if it still holds up.

I love, love, love ADAPTATION.  It's as clever and funny as modern filmmaking gets, in my opinion.  I can understand people finding it annoying or self-indulgent to a fault, but I have to completely disagree.  I think it's just such an honest expression of desire, anxiety, and failure - almost painfully so.  It's self-involved (consciously), but it's never self-serious.  It's a purposeful laying the ego bare for the sake of consummate amusement.  Kaufman, along with Woody Allen, remains the ultimate chronicler of modern neuroses.

I like that Chris Nolan's INSOMNIA is just a well-made, no-nonsense thriller.  It's easily his least convoluted film, and it's reminder of the type of tight filmmaking he's capable of when not being bogged down by bigness and budgetary excess.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited, or at the very least curious, to see what he does with INTERSTELLAR, but part of me would like to see him return to smaller, more modest filmmaking like INSOMNIA.

I like PANIC ROOM quite a bit, and think it's still underrated.  Fincher paints textured gloss and decay like no other.

In terms of generating anxiety and wonder, most of SIGNS is actually remarkable.  I can remember some scares in it being impeccably delivered and its brooding sense of terror and mystery being almost unbearably potent.  It is a shame that the ending is such an incorrigible letdown and so obliviously idiotic that it undoes so much of what came before it.  But it is still a worthy honorable mention.

I think that's all I gots for now.  Stellar list, dude.

In other news - ONLY GOD FORGIVES is unconscionably awful.  It makes me not want to see another Nicolas Winding Refn movie for as long as I live.  It's the epitome of meretricious, soulless, hopelessly inane filmmaking.  Not even the most merciful of movie gods would forgive this horrendous piece of shit.  Refn has unfortunately descended into self-parody.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

It is August Already? Shit...

I owe Brandon some response to his 2005 list, as well as some extra horror talk.  I would have written '05 thoughts sooner, but looking over your list, Brandon, I realized that I either hadn't seen a lot of those movies or just hadn't seen them since they came out.  If y'all have learned anything about my movie habits since you've known me, it should be that I have a terrible memory for things I've seen.  I can hardly remember how most movies I've seen six months ago ended let alone 8 years ago.  I'm awful.

Anyway, let me start by finishing off some of our horror talk:

Again, I think we're in a similar spot on THE CONJURING.  We both recognize its myriad problems and particularly clumsy denouement.  Obviously, where we differ is that I'm mostly willing to forgive its mistakes in favor of applauding just how effectively frightening it is as a whole.  It's a bit similar to how I felt about THIS IS THE END, another flawed genre film with highs so sublime that they glossed over the considerable lows therein (strange that I'm the one defending flicks like these when usually it's the other way around).  I agree with you that the scene in the bedroom where we see the witch for the first time is exemplary.  It's one of the scariest and most well constructed horror scenes I can remember.  There are a several other scenes like this (e.g. Vera Farmiga alone in the basement - contrived but damn effective) that paid off beautifully for me.  I don't want to let Wan completely off the hook for his missteps here, but if the restraint and accumulating tension he builds throughout most of the movie start to catch on again in mainstream horror, I'd be pleased.  If he lets his unfortunate taste for pointless escalation consume him eventually here, it's too bad - before this he shows an uncommonly deft and patient hand.  Any hope the THE CONJURING 2 will correct these mistakes?  I doubt it, but well see haha.

I like how much the addiction metaphor in EVIL DEAD worked for you.  I think you make a strong case for it too.  It certainly gives the film more weight, or at least a fascinating undercurrent to chew on.  I definitely don't want to give Alvarez too much credit for being brutal either; the EVIL DEAD remake doesn't work purely because its vicious but because it remains appropriately amused despite its copious amount of bloodshed and brutality.  I guess what I'm trying to say here is that it never feels miserable even as truly gross and horrendous things are happening.  I appreciate that its unrelentingly intense (like THE DESCENT) while also keeping you somewhat removed by being off-kilter.

I think giving the ending of KILL LIST that interpretation is one of the only ways of saving it from being practically a gimmick.  If you consider it as more of a condemnation of Jay's choices throughout the movie than a gag for shock value, it becomes downright profound.  I'm starting to like that interpretation of it a lot, as well.

I apologize in advance for not having really anything to say about 2005, Brandon.  As stated above, I either haven't seen or haven't re-seen a vast majority of the films from your list since '05.  And interestingly enough, apart from THE NEW WORLD, our respective lists from that year have zero parallels.  I think that makes it harder to respond to anything since I'm not as familiar with most of the flicks from your list.  Maybe if you were a fan of L'ENFANT things would have been easier ;)

I haven't seen KINGS AND QUEEN, BEST OF YOUTH, MEMORIES OF A MURDER, NOBODY KNOWS, JUNEBUG, 2046, WOLF CREEK, or THE ICE HARVEST, but would like to see most of them.

Other than that, I have a minute recollection of MYSTERIOUS SKIN, MUNICH, GRIZZLY MAN, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, and GOODNIGHT AND GOOD LUCK.  By that I mean that I remember liking them and that's about it.  I don't have enough of a foundation to make arguments for or against them.  Sorry man.  I should have re-watched some of these to better interact with you.  2005 just happens to be a particularly nebulous year for me.  I promise to have 2002 thoughts up today or tomorrow though.  I have a better memory for some of those on there.

Stray thoughts/updates:

 - I've updated my top 10 lists to include 1960-65.  That's as far as I'm going for now.  Someday I hope to add in the rest of the 60s and see a bunch of the films for '60-'65 that I still need to see.  What I've got is a decent start for now though.  General impressions?  I like the early 60s and think there some true gems there that are invaluable to cinema.  I still vastly prefer the mid '30s through 50's, however.

- I leave for Philly in little over a week.  Let's def do ONLY GOD FORGIVES sometime.  I've heard it's awful, but I'd be stoked to get together and see it with y'all.

- Great thoughts on BREAKING BAD, John. (SPOILERS AHEAD)  I also was slow to recognize the now abandoned and graffitied White household. Some terrific moments in this episode too - with the tense, painfully raw showdown between Walt and Hank being obviously prominent.  In a very solid review of the episode for the AV Club, Donna Bowman wrote about how this confrontation tragically plays right into Walt's hands: "Making meth was never what Heisenberg was all about. Having an enemy to crush, whether it be in business or in the struggle to survive—that’s the essence of Walt’s alter ego. And he seems to grow a foot taller when he’s able to set that side of himself free."  Well said.  I think this essential character flaw of unbridled ambition and the desire for dominance is one of the things that makes Walt's decline so gutwrenching.  The awful things he does become mere gratuitous exercises for his wounded ego.  Cannot wait for more episodes.