Friday, March 22, 2013

Vengeance is Mine



I feel slightly ambivalent about revenge.  I mostly see it as a hollow pursuit–an often physical act of destruction falsely signified as a positive act of fulfillment.  At its core, vengeance doesn't really correspond to a corporeal reality in-and-of-itself.  It's more an idea than a reality.  It's a belief that a spiteful action you are taking is laden with more meaning than it actually possesses.  It's an illusion, really, producing no substance in-itself.  This is why I find OLDBOY so ultimately effective.  It's a film about dueling notions of vengeance with no clear winners and only the hollowness of Pyrrhic victories.  It isn't a revenge fantasy, but a revenge nightmare.

But I also understand that revenge can manifest itself as raw emotional truth for someone.  To the parents from IN THE BEDROOM, I'm not sure the rational voice telling them that killing the man who murdered their son in cold blood and yet walks free is ultimately a shallow act would be much consolation to them.  In fact, it isn't.  They've mulled over the idea of living concurrently with this man and they find it unimaginable.  When the father gets revenge, I can't necessarily say that I blame him or that his action is meaningless.  Their son is still dead and will never come back, but the smiling, careless face of his murderer will also never come back to remind them of what they've lost.  I'm not saying their vengeance is ideal, but that I understand it, and I think the film does too, without glorifying it.  This is also not a revenge fantasy, but depiction of revenge as a unfortunate surrogate for emotional justice.  It is revenge taken painfully but efficiently–there is nothing gleeful about it.

I've mentioned this before, but in purely theoretical terms, I find violence and retribution repugnant.  But if backed into a corner and/or flung face-to-face with the reality of someone I love being hurt, I can't necessarily say I'd be the pacifist I want to be in my heart.  I don't know.  Thankfully, I haven't been put in that situation.  I'm at least enough of a pragmatist to realize that there is nuance to every reality and that vengeance, like everything else, is never purely one thing.  To me, it would be too simple to say it is merely 'wrong.'  Running with this idea, I suppose I like my revenge films to treat vengeance complexly–to engage in a reflexive conversation with their actions instead of driving one point or another home.  This isn't to say this is the only type of revenge cinema I like, but the kind that challenges and speaks to me the most.

There are at least a few distinct types of revenge cinema.  There's the post-DEATH WISH revenge fantasy film where vengeance is taken as a sort of macho, exuberant romp.  There's the purely moral revenge film that tries to remind us that two wrongs don't make a right.  And then there is the ambiguous revenge film–the one that seems to honestly portray the emotional desire for revenge while not shying away from its consequences.  I've found merit and enjoyment in all three types.  Tarantino and Leone have created some of the best seemingly guiltless revenge fantasies.  The old Hollywood system was full of great moral tales on the pitfalls of vengeance.  And it was even full of complex ones where vengeance wasn't just denounced but held up to the light and inspected earnestly (THE BIG HEAT and PURSUED are two great examples that come to mind).  I've enjoyed all types of films dealing with vengeance.  And I don't actually believe that a filmmaker has to take a moral stance against vengeance, or that he/she should feel always compelled to portray it in all its complexity.  I personally think the revenge films that have meant the most to me (or had the greatest impact) are the ones that have made me question my perhaps baser desires instead of granting me an easy release or instant emotional fix.  But this isn't to say I haven't dug plenty of films that are less introspective in their use of violence to solve vendettas (e.g. DOGVILLE).

I can't be sure if our fascination with vengeance on screen directly impacts our promotion of violence in this country (The United States' loving relationship with violence at this point is just a giant clusterfuck).  I will say that it is interesting how easily we qualify violence based on the notion of revenge in this country.  Random violence is seen as always wrong because unmotivated violence makes us feel like we are vulnerable as potential victims to said violence.  But violence that is attached to revenge is seen as appropriate because it puts us in the place of the aggressor and we feel powerful or in control.  We hate the idea of being attacked, but we love the idea of getting payback.  Therefore, violence is acceptable in one instance, deplorable in another.  This sort of relative stance on violence works its way into our film watching.  We hate to see the violence of villains in horror films or torture porn (because we imagine ourselves as the victims), but we cheer for the violence that is done back to them at the end of the movie (because we imagine ourselves as the righteous inflicters of the violence).  It's interesting how differently we treat violence, depending on the motivation we ascribe to it.

One quick final thought:  the film IRREVERSIBLE, whatever you think its merits or lack thereof, is actually quite moral in its stance on vengeance.  I can't exactly say I endorse this film or what it represents, but it's hardly the exploitative, immoral piece of thoughtless art you might all imagine. By opening the film with an act of vengeance, and an obscenely brutal act at that, any potential glory and emotional triumph derived from it is striped bare.  Towards the end of the film, when we see the horrific rape that set off the violence in the beginning of the film, we feel helpless.  There is no emotional payoff for us to look forward too.  All we are left with is the idea that violence destroys and that its carnage is, indeed, irreversible.

Anyway, that's all I got for now.  What are some of the rest of y'alls thoughts?  Thanks for getting the ball rollin', Brando.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

My Quiz

1. Best use of Technicolor on film? (Best use of color, period, will work).

I wish I had a list of the best I’ve ever seen to choose from right now.  There’s been so many times when I've been watching an old Technicolor film that I've thought, “Wow.  That’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”  Unfortunately, I haven’t been writing them down.  Based off of pure memory and what jumps out the most in my mind, some of the best are:  CANYON PASSAGE, DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK, LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN, and (though shot in EastmanColor) LOLA MONTES.

But the best has to be BLACK NARCISSUS.  Otherwordly color images.

2. What’s your favorite film score?  Favorite composer?

Good question, Jeff.  Also, a very difficult one.  I’d be lying if I said the STAR WARS score hasn’t meant a lot to me in my life.  I also think Bernard Herrmann’s score to VERTIGO is a thing of great beauty and ethereal melancholy.  My favorite film score at the moment, however, is Ennio Morricone’s from ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA.  It’s the one of the few purely aesthetic things in this world that might instantly bring me to tears.

Morricone is probably my favorite film composer.  Herrmann and Tiomkin are great too.

3. What’s your favorite film from the year you were born?


Claude Chabrol’s STORY OF WOMEN (1988)

4. Robert Mitchum or Dana Andrews?

Mitchum is one of my favorite actors of all time.  It has to be him.  However, I do really love Dana Andrews, so it isn’t a painless choice to make.

5. (In terms of acting) Frank Sinatra or Bing Crosby?  David Bowie or Tom Waits?

I do love Bing in the Road films with Bob Hope, but I have to go with Sinatra here.  He had the more varied acting career.  His work in something like SOME CAME RUNNING puts him over the edge, in these eyes.  And as much as I love both (as musicians and, oddly enough, in films) I also have to go with Tom Waits.  He’s just one of the coolest dudes to ever live.  DOWN BY LAW!

6. What’s your favorite film with a woman’s name in the title?

NINOTCHKA.

7. Who is your favorite foreign-language film director working today?  Who is your favorite foreign-language film director of all time?
Today: Abbas Kiarostami – with the Dardennes coming in second.  My favorite of all time could be one of these three depending on the day you ask me:  Robert Bresson, Ingmar Bergman, or Yasujiro Ozu.

8. If you could have written any screenplay, what would it be and why?

I would be immeasurably proud of myself If I had written THE BIG SLEEP.  It’s just got some of the wittiest one-liners ever written.

9. Name the character from a film that scared you the most as a child.  Name the film character, if any, that scares you the most now.

As a kid:  I was terrified of Edward Scissorhands (which, I know, made me as myopic and superficial as every suburbanite in the film).  I don’t remember watching the whole movie, but only the part towards the end where he retreats into the darkness of the mansion.  The image of him emerging from the shadows and attacking Anthony Michael Hall gave me plenty of nightmares.

Now:  there isn’t anything now, thankfully, that keeps me up at night like when I was a kid.  I guess if I had to choose, I’d say that I find those characters from THE STRANGERS scary.  Just the idea of masked home invaders who want to kill you for no reason is enough to give me the creeps.

10. What’s the first R Rated film you remember seeing?

Hmmm I can’t really be sure.  I remember seeing TERMINATOR 2 pretty young.  I also remember staying up late to watch Jean-Claude Van Damme in SUDDEN DEATH with my brothers and dad when I was a wee lad.  Let’s go with that one.

11. Name your favorite moment of vengeance in a film.  And which film has portrayed the  complexity of vengeance most accurately to you? (interpret that any way you’d like).

Charles Bronson gunning down Henry Fonda in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST is probably my favorite moment of vengeance on screen.  Almost the entire narrative of that film builds towards this showdown, and when it happens it’s not drawn out histrionically, but remains as sanguine and efficient as Bronson’s character throughout the film.  It’s revenge exclusively on his terms.

There are a lot of films that I think have dealt with revenge in a complex and ambivalent manner.  Fritz Lang’s FURY is one of the best classic films about revenge.  It gives a highly effective moral argument against the flagrant self-interest of pursuing vengeance.  SHOTGUN STORIES is a great modern example of a film that also argues effectively against vengeance by utilizing the strength of familial bonds and showing the pointlessness of mutually assured destruction.

IN THE BEDROOM is fascinating because it convincingly seems to argue for vengeance.  It seems to suggest, even as it remains ambiguous, that to heal a wound, we must first remove the thorn.

These are all wonderful examples of complex treatments of vengeance, but I think the film that deals with it the most effectively (or at least stands out most prominently in my mind) is actually OLDBOY.  When the central antagonist (so we think) gets his vengeance at the end and then blows his brains out immediately afterward, the hollowness and futility of vengeance is revealed like some great, dawning chasm.  This man has made it his life’s work to get revenge, and when he finally has it, he realizes it has not filled the hole inside of him nor has it brought back to him the loved one he lost.  He is as empty as he ever was.

12. It is okay to depict a positive story out of something as horrific and destructive as the Holocaust  (e.g. SCHINDLER’S LIST).  Agree or disagree with this statement.

I included this question because I keep seeing it pop up in film discussions.  It’s a debate in cinephile circles that’s had basically anytime anyone even mentions SCHINDLER’S LIST.  I honestly don’t feel strongly either way on this issue because I don’t think it’s my place to say what is “right” to show on film.  I think it’s best to answer this question on a case-by-case study.  Look at the film and determine if it has done justice to the event it depicts.  Personally, I have no major problems with SCHINDLER’S LIST and think it’s one of Spielberg’s most effective and harrowing works.  Does that answer the question? Probably not.  Oh well.

13. Which war film, if any, had the greatest emotional impact on you?

THE THIN RED LINE - for juxtaposing the mystical beauty of nature alongside purely nihilistic acts of destruction (which is what war only ever is).

14. Name the five best looking films you’ve ever seen.

DAYS OF HEAVEN
BARRY LYNDON
BLACK NARCISSUS
THE SEARCHERS
THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS

15. Which film title would you use to describe yourself?  Which film title would you use to describe each member of film club?
Myself: THE PALEFACE
John:  JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN
Brandon: DRUNKEN ANGEL
Gentile: A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS
Adrienne:  VIVACIOUS LADY
Graham: WAY OUT WEST
Ben:  GENTLEMAN JIM
Jason: LITTLE BIG MAN
Lisa: GONE, BABY, GONE
Chris:  THE WOLF MAN

16. David Lynch or David Cronenberg?

Lynch.  Cronenberg is a great director, but I find myself gravitating more towards Lynch’s nightmares than Cronenberg’s.

17. Is there a book you would like to see made into a film?  If so, by which director?


Right now I’m reading D.H. Lawrence’s THE RAINBOW.  I keep thinking how amazing it’d be to see Terrence Malick’s version of this on film.

18. What’s the most overrated film of the 90s?

THE USUAL SUSPECTS.

19. You are a guest programmer on Turner Classic Movies.  You get to choose any four movies
to play.  What are they?


WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS
LE PLAISIR
FOOTLIGHT PARADE
PHANTOM LADY

I don’t know why these four exactly.  Why not?

20. It’s ark time.  You are only allowed to save films from one country (excluding the United States).  Which country and why?

It has to come down to France or Japan.  Russia and Italy are both uniquely important to film history, but have no where near the wealth of world-renowned directors like France and Japan.  This is a difficult choice to make, but I’ve got to go with France.  Here’s why:  Vigo, Renoir, Carn√©, Bresson, Clouzot, Becker, Tati, Melville, Varda, Chabrol, Truffaut, Godard, Rohmer, Akerman, etc.

One could certainly offer a formidable rebuttal to this, however, with:  Ozu, Mizoguchi, Kurosawa, Naruse, Ichikawa, Imamura, Kobayashi, Teshigahara, Miyazaki, etc.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

quizmaster

So, Brando's quiz was fun.  I've been asked by him to create the next set of questions.  I'll do my best to make it extra difficult/exclusive with questions like "name your fifth favorite Ray Enright film."  Should be a blast :)

For now, I'll also do my best to respond to some of the quiz answers that caught my eye.  I don't think I could respond to everyone's answer for each.  I'll probably just limit myself to a defense against Brandon's outlandish attacks on me ;).  Just you wait until I make and grade the quiz, buddy boy.

OVERRATED

haha Ben.  You're right.  I thought SHAME was polling at like 92–94% on Rotten Tomatoes.  I just checked it and it's only got a 79%.  Hardly overrated by any stretch of the imagination.   I really thought critics were loving it more than that.  Mea culpa.

I guess I should have picked something like THE ARTIST instead.  Thought that'd be too easy though.  I don't really have a pick that will shame me like Brandon picking A SEPARATION.  I'd have to start lying in order to do so.  I guess I'd agree with Adrienne that AMOUR is overrated.  It's definitely not Haneke's best, yet it has gotten the most acclaim/attention of any of his films.

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS is pretty overrated.  Woody's been making decent, charming films just like it for years and they've been completely ignored.  MELANCHOLIA - also overrated, though I've come to really appreciate it within von Trier's oeuvre.  I can't think of any others right now.

In response to Brandon's A SEPARATION choice - first of all, a bold and brave pick and I commend you for it.  Second of all, I disagree immensely.  In some ways, it is just as complex as LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE in terms of its ability to suggest the various ways we are disconnected from one another.  It's a lot less ambiguous and intellectually exhausting as Kiarostami's film, but it still has tremendous power as a riveting social drama.  I'm not really a fan of this comment here: "It’s a good movie but part of me wondered what people would think of it if it was just another American indie film."  Again, I commend you for being honest and putting yourself on the chopping block here.  I understand where you are coming from.  You think the film is being overrated because it is foreign and therefore deemed more important than an American film.  I get the frustration.  But at the same time, that's such an arbitrary criticism to make and you know it.  You could literally apply it to every film ever made. Films are not made in a vacuum.  They can be very specific to a culture or historical moment.  A SEPARATION is a film that has universal themes but is tied very tightly to the culture of modern Iran.  Part of its appeal is in how well it depicts the ways people can be separated there.  It wouldn't be nearly the same film if it were set in America and directed by the Duplass bros. haha.

EMBARRASSED - FILM AND TV

Here's two better picks I'm ashamed to still really like - SUPERMAN RETURNS and BATMAN BEGINS.  I love both DC characters - even irrationally.

Brandon, you shouldn't be embarrassed to love AVATAR.  Get off the Internet, go out into the Oakdale mall, throw 50 rocks and hit 50 people who think it's the greatest thing ever made.

DIRECTOR PROBLEMS

I guess I'm much more of an auteurist than you Brandon (thumbs nose at you). If a filmmaker has a voice that I relate to and they are consistently expressing it, then I'm completely on board.  This is not me establishing objective rules of greatness, but merely finding authors I like and putting my trust in them.  I really like INLAND EMPIRE.  You know why?  Because it's pure David Lynch and I personally love David Lynch.  Anyone who hates him or is just mildly interested in him probably won't give a shit about it.  That's fine.

Tim Burton is a great choice for this category.  I completely forgot about him when I was thinking of directors with tons of problems (that's how bad he's fallen recently).  I would agree that he is a great director, but I've been sweating over some of his awful choices for years.  In a similar vein, I'm worried about Johnny Depp too.  A once tremendous performer who now seems more content to play dress-up than actually do any acting.  As I write this, he and Burton have probably just signed on to remake EXCALIBUR.

Terry Gilliam is also a great choice.  I wonder what the hell he's up to nowadays?

FILM ERA

I like the one we are in too.  There are some amazing films still being made.  I would never deny it.

The 50s are the ideal intellectual choice.  By that I mean, they clearly represent a point when world cinema and Hollywood reached a creative peak together.  I still choose the 30s or 40s, if only because I'm a sucker for the Hollywood dream factory.  I just want to crawl inside those films and live there forever.  Watching ROBERTA the other day confirmed that:



CRITICS - FAVORITES

I really like reading Fernando Croce, too.  He's got this highly poetic, somewhat bizarre, but fearless way of writing and describing things - like William S. Burroughs.  I notice a lot of younger writers trying to copy his style on twitter and letterboxd.  The results are fairly hazardous.

DIRECTORS WE ARE WORRIED ABOUT

I thought about putting down Tarantino.  If he hadn't made INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, I'd be real worried.  But as it stands, I have enough faith in him that his next will be fantastic.  I'm hoping he moves away from the the whole historical-revisionist wet dream thing though.

I'm a little worried about Malick too.  I don't know how I feel about this new workaholic version of him.  Part of me wouldn't mind waiting another 5 to 8 years for his next.  They feel more like events that way.

Brandon, I'm assuming you haven't seen Green's THE SITTER?  No man could watch it and not be worried about its director's well-being/sanity.

One director I'm not at all worried about is Kiarostami.  Goddamn.  He's like the anti-Woody Allen with this world tour he's on right now.  He's actually making great films within a culture instead of just creating brochures (I kid.  I love Woody and have liked most of his world cinema films, but Kiarostami makes him look like Brett Ratner at this point).  I have complete faith in Kiarostami at this point.

ACTOR AND ACTRESS THAT MAKE US WATCH UNINTERESTING FILMS

I know you are fucking with me Brandon, but I'll defend myself anyway.  There honestly isn't a single actor or actress today that I'd see anything with them in it.  I really like Leo Dicaprio, but I had no interest in seeing BODY OF LIES.  That takes him off the list.  I really like Daniel Day-Lewis, but I couldn't even get through the first 20 minutes of NINE.  Also takes him off the list.  I really like Laura Linney and Bill Murray.  You couldn't pay me to sit through HYDE PARK ON THE HUDSON.  That takes them off. And so on.

Ginger Rogers on the other hand?  Would watch anything with her in it.  Have watched several bad movies she was in and would gladly watch several more just to catch a glimpse of her.

(Ok. Actually I'll bite.  I'd sit through a shitty movie with the sound off just so that I could drool over Melanie Laurent as well).

DIRECTOR THAT MAKES US WATCH AN UNINTERESTING PLOT

haha John's right.  Malick's BREAKING DAWN: PART I and II would be the film events of the decade.  They would just be shots of nature and shit while Pattinson and Stewart played with each other's hair.

INTIMIDATING FILM QUESTION:

I'm currently not a fan of L'AVVENTURA.  There I said it.  Haven't seen it since I was 17, but whatevs.

You all HAVE to love UNCLE BOONME.  Anything less is unacceptable.  Duh.

THE MASTER is intimidating.  It's also still a masterpiece.  We should revisit that one.

UNHERALDED DIRECTORS

F to Brandon for not being specific with this question.  Did you mean unheralded by the Slant crowd or unheralded by the Devin Faraci's of the world?  Either way, I still don't have an answer, so I'm keeping my F.

UPCOMING LISTS

Top 20 Westerns?  Let's do it!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Rapid Response: Like Someone In Love

There's almost too much to say about Abbas Kiarostami's latest masterpiece LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE, yet it feels so elusive, so deliriously complex that it almost defies any form of verbal analysis.  I'll do my best to give some quick, impromptu reactions  [Spoilers abound in the last few paragraghs.  You've been warned]:

-Like CERTIFIED COPY and CLOSE-UP before it, with LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE Kiarostami seems fascinated by role playing and the fluidity of identity.  The obvious play on identity comes with Takashi adopting the role of grandfather and caregiver to Akiko, and Akkio adopting the role of granddaughter and damsel-in-distress.  I love how neither really strives to appropriate either identity but how each merely falls into place.  They are both mistaken and assumed identities that are put onto them and then are conveniently accepted.  That the two seem to gain pleasure from taking on these roles speaks to an underlining and unspoken desire between them to fill these missing roles from their lives.  Takashi substitutes for the grandmother Akiko is painfully trying to avoid - he is the loving family member who knows the truth of her profession and yet still accepts her.  And Akiko substitutes for the progeny that never visits Takashi – she is the child in need of Takashi's care and affection (and, as is pointed out, she even looks like Takashi's daughter and granddaughter).

-Kiarostami's framing is typically masterful.  Each meticulously constructed shot reveals a myriad of meanings and subtleties.  Notice the many instances when characters who are speaking or objects that are referred to are never shown within the frame.  It deliberately distances and disorients us.  Take the first shot for example – a static establishing shot of a crowded bar while a person's voice is heard talking off screen.  We wonder who we are listening to and where the voice is coming from.  This sort of visual ellipsis in what we see makes us question the reality of framing and surfaces and what could be outside of our scope or comprehension.  Just as in this first shot, throughout the film we are constantly being asked to question what is in and what is outside the frame and more symbolically what is inside and outside our perception of truth and reality.  What is inside and outside our own frames when we look at the world or even ourselves?

Also notice the copious instances where characters are separated by gossamer and pellucid surfaces: the many instances of characters separated through glass (the car window, as in many Kiarostami films, serves as a metaphor for paradoxical alienation and connection - a glass prison that also moves us freely, almost securely, within the space of the outside world); Akiko's spatial separation from Noriaki as she sits behind him in Takashi's car; the neighbor's separation from Akiko through her snowy curtain (and her physical separation from the outside world, glanced only through the tiniest of windows); Takashi's separation from the naked Akiko, as her body is obfuscated in the reflection of a picture behind him; and in one of the best shots in the film, Akiko's separation from her grandmother (even while she is connected to her voice through her headphones) by the dividing strip in a car window (it's almost like this big dark line is ripping them asunder before our eyes).  There are many, many more shots like these, and they are all highly complex and near esoteric in their visual profundity (like great paintings, all of them).  Kiarostami is working on a whole other intellectual level than most current filmmakers here.  It's breathtaking.

-Akiko, as she admits herself, resembles so many people  So who is she?  I love how easily she blends into her variegate roles.  She looks like Takashi's granddaughter; she looks like the woman in the painting; her fiance says she looks like the call girl in the ad he's holding (she is, but he doesn't know it); and on the surface she looks like the normal college student she likely wishes she could simply be.  Is it possible that she is all of them?

-Like is the the imperative qualifying word in the title and the film.  Is everything we are seeing and experiencing like something else or the real thing?  Is there a real thing?  Kiarostami never tells, but only makes us rigorously ponder.

-What do we make of the ending?  In a final gloriously tense invasion scene, our conceptions of the film are literally shattered to pieces.  What seemed to be a simple but quietly profound piece on the nature of appearances and demarcations turns into an aggressive enigma, forcing us to confront all we have previously seen and perhaps taken for granted.  When Noriaki breaks the glass at end, what is he doing to us and the film itself?  Is he the harsh, dangerous world breaking down the feigned domesticity between Akiko and Takashi?  A cruel reminder that their relationship is only a form of play-acting and must be destroyed by a world hell-bent on establishing definitive truth?

Or is he a brave figure?  A pragmatist out to shatter the impersonal surfaces that block us from one another?  With all the surfaces and barriers isolating characters from one another and even the missed connections through turned off cellphones and phone calls being cut off - interaction and involvement always seems unyoked through a glass darkly in this ultra-modern environment.  In the final moment with the door to Takashi's apartment locked, has Noriaki finally become fed up with these makeshift barricades within modernity?  In one fell thrust, is he shattering the demarcations between everyone and everything and saying "no more"?

Or is he merely a impersonal force propelling itself at us, to shake us out of apathy and get our brains churning before all cuts to black?  The fact that we do not actually see anyone throw anything through the window is again another highly telling visual omission.  All we see is the glass shattering as Takashi falls to the ground.  The entire world might be crashing down for all we know.  What do we think about this?  Kiarostami's final curveball is hurled at us like a bone through a void.  Our eyes are open.

Friday, March 15, 2013

CR5FC Quizzzz

[Questions courtesy of the great Brandon Musa]

1. What is the most overrated film of the past 5 years and briefly explain why?

Hmmm.  I'm not sure.  The first thing that springs to mind is Steve McQueen's SHAME.  An awful and obvious film with nothing to say that is ultimately filled with hackneyed contrivances in a lame attempt to seem bold and edgy.  This is the type of bad faux-expose cinema that seems rampant nowadays.
 
2. What are your 3 favorite television shows currently running?


1. GAME OF THRONES
2. BREAKING BAD
3. MAD MEN

p.s. my two favorite shows of all time are THE SIMPSONS and SEINFELD.

3. Name one film and television show you are ashamed to admit to liking?

Film:  I'm almost ashamed to admit how much I like PRETTY IN PINK.  Almost.  Other than that, there are probably several Ben Stiller/Will Farrell/Adam Sandler movies that aren't good that I still laughed at.  I'm only human!

TV show:  FRIENDS

4. What do you look for in a film writer?

A genuinely fascinating ability to read and interpret film (structure, shots, technique), draw connections, and write clearly and persuasively.  I like writers who are more interested in what they are writing about than themselves.  Gimme some passion.

5. Name a great director (in your opinion) who also has enough problems to make you wonder why you hold him/her in such high regard.

Christopher Nolan - Actually wouldn't refer to him as a great director, but I do like him despite how obviously flawed (and full of logical and continuity errors) his scripts are.  He needs to work on simplifying his shit, and also needs to cut out the repetition-of-previously-heard-dialogue motif.  It's not that clever.

Also, Michael Haneke - impeccable formalist with an arrogant sense of superiority over his viewers and a penchant for shock value.  I can recognize his hang-ups, even if I still like him a lot.

6. What is your favorite film era and why do you think this era speaks so much to you?

Either the 30s or the 40s.  I like old things.  And I just think the films were leaner and more dreamy back then.  In the the formative years of the talkies, film just seemed to glow like lambent fire.  Also, they seemed sweeter and more genuine back then.  They were for all ages.  They made the soul swoon.  All that good stuff.

7. Name your favorite five working film critics?

Dave Kehr
Kent Jones
Jonathan Rosenbaum
Glenn Kenny
Roger Ebert

Honorable Mention:
Ed Gonzalez
Manohla Dargis

8. Name your five least favorite.

Armond's become too much of a joke to even take one's hatred for him seriously at this point.  So I won't include him.

Kyle Smith/Rex Reed (The obvious hack category)
Stephanie Zacharek (Controversial pick, I'm sure.  She's a good writer, but she doesn't know much about film yet argues like she thinks she does)
Calum Marsh (Don't even get me started on this twerp)
Richard Roeper/Peter Travers (Lumping them together because neither of what these two write could ever be considered "reviews")
Richard Corliss/Richard Schickel (Two idiots who work for TIME)

Whoops.  That's a lot more than 5.

9. Name a few directors whom you have liked in the past that you are worried about and briefly explain why.

David Gordon Green.  Obviously.

Darren Aronofsky.  I thought his first few films were more auteur driven, but his latest seem to lack a personal touch.  I don't have the highest of hopes for NOAH.

Judd Apatow.  He's made some very funny films, but he seems to be quickly running out of ideas.  Stoked for THIS IS FORTY-FIVE in a few years.

I must be missing some?


10. What actor and actress would make you watch an otherwise uninteresting film?

I'd basically watch anything with Cagney or Jimmy Stewart in it.  Ginger Rogers too.

Modern actors?  I can't think of anyone.  I'm drawn more to filmmakers than actors when I watch movies today.

11. What director would make you watch a film with an otherwise uninteresting plot and why?

All of my favorites.  I suppose Terrence Malick is the best choice just because his films are so visually immaculate that the plotting hardly seems essential to appreciating him.

12. What film did you feel the most intimidated to like despite some heavy reservations (be honest here)?

I don't think I understood L'AVVENTURA at all when I saw it.  But it was supposed to be one of the greatest films of all time, so I felt bad for not being immeasurably stunned by it.  I haven't seen it since, so I don't know how I'd feel about it now.


The first time I saw THE RULES OF THE GAME I felt a similar pull to love it despite not really being all that impressed.  But seeing it again with a more knowing eye changed that entirely.  It's an indisputable masterpiece and deserves to be considered one.

13. What is your favorite documentary?

I don't watch a lot of documentaries.  But I do really love Bob Dylan, so I suppose my favorite is either DONT LOOK BACK or NO DIRECTION HOME.  Also, highly respect NIGHT AND FOG and the bits and pieces I've seen of SHOAH.

14. Billy Wilder or Preston Sturges?

Jesus...I suppose I'm going to go with Billy Wilder just because in addition to the many great films he made (in many various genres) he also wrote some tremendous screenplays for Ernst Lubitsch and Mitchell Leisen.  This is a really tough call though.  Shit.  I change my mind.  It's got to be Sturges.  I can't live without HAIL THE CONQUERING HERO or SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS and he's the better writer.  But wait.  I also can't live without STALAG 17 or DOUBLE INDEMNITY or NINOTCHKA and Wilder's probably the better director.  I don't know.  I want both.


15. Jean Gabin or Humphrey Bogart?

Bogie, but again, another tough call just because of how much I love Gabin.

16. Director you want to like more than you honestly do.

I really like Cassavetes and Altman but I'm not in profound love with them like I feel I should be.  I wish I were.  I also wish I knew more about Brian De Palma and Jonathan Demme, but I feel less bad about mostly ignoring these guys.

Oh yeah.  And Eastwood.  I wish I liked Eastwood as a director.

17. 5 most anticipated films of 2013?

Before Midnight
Like Someone In Love
Spring Breakers
Inside Llewyn Davis
To the Wonder
The Place Beyond the Pines

That's 6.  Oh well.  I'm probably forgetting a bunch.  I'm also not really sure what's coming out later this year.

18. What is your least favorite current sub-genre or film scene?

The modern biopic is pretty soulless and terrible.  I'm pretty much over superhero movies, and I'm sick of fantasy/CGI-fests like OZ and JACK THE GIANT SLAYER.  Take your pick of any of these.

19. Name your 5 favorite unheralded modern day directors in a critical sense.

I'm not sure.  I think most of the better directors today (or at least the ones I like) have all gotten some amount of praise.  Hmmm.  I have no idea.

20. What top 5 or 10 list would you most likely do in the near future if offered by a handsome member of Film Club?

Top 10 westerns?  Top 10 musicals?  You bet.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

SLIFR Film Quiz


      So, I follow the Self-Styled Siren on Twitter, and noticed a link of hers to the latest film quiz by Dennis over at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule.  I thought it might be fun to contribute some answers.  Wish I had better ones though.  Maybe others want to join in?

1) The classic movie moment everyone loves except me is:

I don't know if everybody loves it, but I certainly have no love for the "Come Back, Shane!" moment in the eponymous SHANE.  I find that kid's voice excruciatingly annoying.

2) Favorite line of dialogue from a film noir


"She tried to sit in my lap while I was standing up." - Marlowe, THE BIG SLEEP.


3) Second favorite Hal Ashby film

The only Ashby I've seen is BEING THERE and I love it.  First and second favorite.


4) Describe the moment when you first realized movies were directed as opposed to simply pieced together anonymously.

Hmm it might have been while watching A CLOCKWORK ORANGE when I was 13 or 14. Everything seemed deliberate and precise – nothing an accident.

5) Favorite film book

I don't read as many film books as I should (I'm a charlatan, I know). But, I've read through a lot of THE BOOK OF FILM NOIR (edited by Ian Cameron) and found it incredibly insightful/helpful.

6) Diana Sands or Vonetta McGee?

I'm not really familiar with either of these gals.

7) Most egregious gap in your viewing of films made in the past 10 years

There are many. I probably should have seen GOSFORD PARK and FAR FROM HEAVEN by now. Anything by Claire Denis too. Would be curious to see SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY. And so on.


8) Favorite line of dialogue from a comedy

I could go with many Bob Hope or Groucho Marx lines, but I'm going with one of my favorites from the deliriously funny (even if it isn't a straight comedy) STAGE DOOR:

"Don't chew the bones and give yourself away!" - Ginger Rogers to Gail Patrick, as the latter is leaving for dinner.

9) Second favorite Lloyd Bacon film

Probably 42nd Street with A SLIGHT CASE OF MURDER in 3rd. FOOTLIGHT PARADE is my uncontested favorite.

10) Richard Burton or Roger Livesey?

Livesey. THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP is all I have to say.

11) Is there a movie you staunchly refuse to consider seeing? If so, why?

THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 1 & 2, A SERBIAN FILM, any other vicious torture porn.  I've given my reason for not wanting to see these on numerous occasions and in great detail.  Life's too short and time far too precious for these.

12) Favorite filmmaker collaboration
 
Goddamn this one is difficult to narrow down to a single favorite. But I think Jean Gabin and Marcel Carné were made for each other.

13) Most recently viewed movie on DVD/Blu-ray/theatrical?

DVD: THE DARK CORNER (Hathaway, 1946)
Blu: THE MASTER
Theatrical: ZERO DARK THIRTY

14) Favorite line of dialogue from a horror movie

"Do you know what she did, your cunting daughter?" - THE EXORCIST

15) Second favorite Oliver Stone film

I don't know even know what my favorite is. Not a Stone fan.

16) Eva Mendes or Raquel Welch?

Not too familiar with either, but Welch for the SEINFELD connection.

17) Favorite religious satire

Bunuel's THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY or THE MILKY WAY.

18) Best Internet movie argument? (question contributed by Tom Block)
The torture porn discussion we had here on CR5FC was a lot of fun.

19) Most pointless Internet movie argument? (question contributed by Tom Block)

We've had many.

20) Charles McGraw or Robert Ryan?

Robert Ryan - no contest.

21) Favorite line of dialogue from a western

"A man can chose his own gods, Cornelius. What are your gods?" - Dana Andrews, CANYON PASAGE

22) Second favorite Roy Del Ruth film

IT HAPPENED ON FIFTH AVENUE. TAXI! or LADY KILLER in a tie for first.

23) Relatively unknown film or filmmaker you’d most eagerly proselytize for

I'd go to bat for Andre De Toth's CRIME WAVE, Frank Borzage's MANNEQUIN, Jacques Tourneur's CANYON PASSAGE, Ozu's THERE WAS A FATHER, and Gregory La CAVA's PRIMROSE PATH any day of the week. Among many others.

24) Ewan McGregor or Gerard Butler?
 
McGregor.

25) Is there such a thing as a perfect movie?

Mrs. Farran Smith Nehme's answer is what is perfect, so I'm going to steal it and paraphrase. "Intellectually - no. Emotionally - yes."

26) Favorite movie location you’ve most recently had the occasion to actually visit

I wish.

27) Second favorite Delmer Daves film

BROKEN ARROW. JUBAL and 3:10 TO YUMA are currently tied for favorite.

28) Name the one DVD commentary you wish you could hear that, for whatever reason, doesn't actually exist

Would love to hear Lubitsch discuss any of his films. A Ford/Wayne commentary for any of their collaborations would be a treat too.

29) Gloria Grahame or Marie Windsor?

Gloria Grahame. For many reasons - namely, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, THE BIG HEAT, IN A LONELY PLACE, and THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL.

30) Name a filmmaker who never really lived up to the potential suggested by their early acclaim or success

I'm not sure about classic filmmakers. I wish Archie Mayo had done more beyond his two fantastic films THE PETRIFIED FOREST and MOONTIDE. Modern times? David Gordon Greene.

31) Is there a movie-based disagreement serious enough that it might cause you to reevaluate the basis of a romantic relationship or a friendship?

Hating black-and-white would surely be a dealbreaker.

Friday, March 1, 2013

February Recap


Dancing Lady (1933) **
Stroszek (1977) ***
L'Enfant (2005) ****
T-Men (1947) ***
Barbary Coast (1935) ***
Princess Mononoke (1997) ****
Human Desire (1954) *** 1/2
The Flame and the Arrow (1950) ***
Bitter Victory (1957) *** 1/2
The Hanging Tree (1959) ****
Jubal (1956) ****
Imitation of Life (1934) ***
Westbound (1959) *** 1/2
Sergeant Rutledge (1960) ****
Flying Down to Rio (1933) **
Pillow Talk (1959) ***
Wichita (1955) ****
The Bounty Hunter (1954) *** 1/2

Re-watched:

Singin' in the Rain (1952) ****
Stalag 17 (1953) ****

TV:

Game of Thrones Season 2 - Looks gorgeous on blu-ray.
The Wire Season 4 - Started the first two episodes months ago, and finally got through most of the rest within the past few weeks.  It's still fantastic.
Parks and Recreation Season 5 - Consistently charming and hilarious.
30 Rock Season 7 - Sad to see it go.