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Thursday, April 22, 2010

April 22nd 2010, Week relating to 4/6/2010 – 4/12/2010

Movies seen: *first time viewed
Raging Bull*
Eyes Wide Shut
The Hurt Locker
In the Mood for Love (Fa yeung nin wa)*
How to Train Your Dragon*

I love movies, I don’t know if that is clear, but when pursuing one’s passion when it is not towards the betterment of human-kind (see what I did there?), how does one justify the time spent? The only answer I can give is that the improvement of one’s self is also to the betterment of everyone. I don’t believe that the expansion of my film knowledge is going to assist anyone, even myself necessarily, but the writing of this blog does help me organize my thoughts, making life seem a little less dizzy everytime.

Raging Bull (1980 Martin Scorcese):
You ever step into a situation without really thinking about the consequences? That intimidation you might feel, that’s what I have now. Raging Bull is required viewing for any film lover, considered one of the best movies of all time by almost any film critic of note. I have been thinking about this all week. See, what I do is at the end of each week of film (my film weeks start on Tuesday) I write up the first part of my blog entry, which is just a list of the movies as you can see above. If I am so inspired, and honestly I am usually too lazy to do this, I take a crack at writing up the first couple of films. Unfortunately, this time around I started off with a show stopper. My ego demands that I do not come off as an idiot when talking about important movies, lest people find out the truth: I am an idiot. Of course, part of me now is saying that this is only my cowardice coming up with an excuse in the case that I do not represent exactly what other people want. This is it! I have to tell that part of my brain only one thing: SHUT UP! So… Raging Bull. It was a mistake watching this movie right after Rocky, which I tried to. The first thing I noticed was how much more choreographed the fight scenes looked in Raging Bull. At this point, I am slapping myself upside the head. The fight scenes in Bull are not about being realistic. It is a representation of the “sweet science” as a ballet, and in that case it is done extremely well. The character study of Jake LaMotta (Robert DeNiro) is brutal in its honesty. This was not a wise man; this was an animal that had to be constantly handled by the people around him. I don’t know how he could have functioned in life without his brother and wife (Joe Pesci and Cathy Moriarty respectively). I love every piece of dialogue that was uttered in this film scripted or unscripted. Everything was so raw and so potent. The eruptions of violence, of passion, of madness and pain displayed in the film were felt all the way down my spine and back up again. After the movie was done I felt like I had gone 12 rounds with Sugar Ray. This is just my opinion, by I am guessing that Scorcese is some kind of genius. Alright, I’m done talking about the movie like I know anything. I am going to have to buy the film and study it if I ever want to get a true handle on it greatness.

Eyes Wide Shut (1999 Stanley Kubrick):
When it comes to a Kubrick movie, I have yet to be disappointed. Of course, I believe I have only seen two of his movie (this and 2001). Eyes Wide Shut was the first Kubrick directed movie I had seen, sent to me in the mail direct from Washington by a young Sarah, who even at that time had me heart and soul. I can admit freely that although I very much liked the movie at the time, I did not understand it. The sexuality and maturity of the subject matters were beyond me at that time in my life. Now with slightly more wisdom in my years, I believe I have a much firmer grasp on the material. I can imagine the direction of Stanley Kubrick, scene by scene, pain-stakingly slow to the point of madness for the victims (i.e. Cast and crew). That is the price of working with someone with such a clear vision of film. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman are amazing in this movie, playing the generic socialite couple who feel that every bit of their life is a blessing, but also WELL deserved. All it took was one drug induced discussion to send Cruise on a night of insanity, where his experiences shake him to the very core. How could they not? His mettle isn’t tested in the film because of the extremely odd situations he finds himself, but more because the man is not sure what he wants (and is at a reckless pace to do something about THAT). Is he motivated by revenge for an affair that did not happen? Or is it the same as in Raging Bull, the Madonna/Whore complex (which I just read about in a review of Raging Bull by Roger Ebert!)? That part makes sense to me, because for any man to even try to walk away from a life, so set on the right side of the tracks that it seems perfect, is someone who doesn’t see the woman he loves as anything but black and white. You are either with me or not. I love the film, in case that hasn’t come through. It is beautifully shot, which is just the way Kubrick works, and scripted very well. Something I am just learning about is editing, and from what I recall this film is almost flawless. A bit of advice, if you ever want to enjoy cheap movies again, do not get into editing.

The Hurt Locker (2009 Katheryn Bigalow):
Perhaps you have heard of this movie now? I heard it won an award or something. Third time I have watched the movie, once again on the big screen in my American films class. Now, why would we watch this movie you might ask (as I did myself)? It was because the topic of that day was stars. The concept of Hollywood stars is a heavy one, and there are quite a few books on the subject that are not just tabloid filth (no offense to tabloid lovers, but you know it’s dirty too!). The stars in this movie, and there are a few, are used for a specific purpose: To disarm the viewer. It is hard when watching a movie that has relatively unknown actors to gain an attachment to any character on screen, at least for the average viewer. Now, when you see someone perfectly recognizable (like say Guy Pierce?), you may feel a certain reassurance that a good actor is going to be in the movie, someone you can trust to deliver the goods a film needs to capture the imagination. And that my friends, is the perfect time to pull the rug from under your feet! When my teacher explained this concept to us, I was astonished at how it had gone right over my head. It seems to me, that this is part of what True Romance tried to do, but The Hurt Locker did it much more effectively for me. This is also a trick that can be over used, so I am hoping that not too many people catch on to it. What’s that? Executive Decision did the same thing with Steven Seagal? How dare you bring that up!

Delicatessen (1991 Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet):
I believe Jean-Pierre Jeunet is the genius behind Amelie. I could verify this by looking it up, but I am feeling especially lazy right now. Delicatessen has the same surreal feel as Amelie, with a lot of morbid thrown in. One of my first reactions to the film was that this is what Tim Burton used to do, and do very well. I have to look back at his classics to be reminded of when he had a Edward Gorey like sense of humor and was not just into making goofy movies with Johnny Depp. Delicatessen was good, but it was not enchanting the same way Amelie was. It was a beautiful film though. Its dark tones were mixed with colorful people, and a spirit in the actors that makes everyone smile. Unless the child in you is dead (I’m talking to you Randy Jordan). I wish I had more to say. Delicatessen is worth a watch for sure. Oh, and although it has a morbid premise (a butcher in a post-apocalyptic world that serves only a certain kind of meat) it is hardly at all violent.

In the Mood for Love (Fa yueng nin wa) (2000 Kar Wai Wong):
In my World Cinema class, I am getting the feeling that my teacher is a fan of this director’s work. We have already watched his film Chungking Express, and now this. I did not get Chungking Express, and I can see why people refer to Wong Kar Wai as an MTV director. In the Mood for Love on the other hand is pretty much the opposite. It is slow paced and beautiful. It takes place in the year 1962, which is funny because while watching the movie it is easy to forget that time period. The lack of computers and other perfectly normal devices that are common place today should have made it obvious for me. Wong has such a way with shots. He emphasizes the colors of objects and the shapes of rooms. He does entire scenes filmed with someone’s head blocking the view, and swings the camera around to capture the same scene in an enlightening view. Long takes are prominent in this movie, and are very beautiful to watch. Chungking was full of cuts and edits and jumps, and I guess my brain had a hard time adapting to that. The best part of Mood for Love is a reliability of its script. The longing felt by the protagonists has been felt by everyone, and while the plot toys with audiences assumptions (did they get it on or not?), there are no tricks in the couple’s relationship. What happens in the film is this: The main characters pretend to be each other’s spouse and act out what might have happened, had there been an affair. And while that may seem weird, it isn’t so far-fetched that one cannot recognize themselves in the characters and their situation. Everyone has had imaginary conversations in their head; these people are just taking it to the next level. It was a wonderful movie, and I would like to own it. I can’t wait to watch more of Wong Kar Wai’s work.

How to Train your Dragon (2010 Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders):
Why didn’t I write up a new movie review for this film? Well, it’s because to my knowledge, America had already decided that this movie was not going to be successful. Now I see that the movie is still making money and that audiences are warming up to it. GOOD! It was a real delight to see in the theaters, and I have been itching to go see it in 3D. Hopefully I won’t have missed my chance when I can afford to go again. How to Train your Dragon was an excellent adventure/comedy, something both children and adults should be able to enjoy. My favorite thing about it? Compared to Shrek, the DreamWorks franchise, there were ZERO pop culture references. Animated movies didn’t used to have to rely on jokes like that just to be funny, BACK IN MY DAY. I think that Dragon will go down as a classic, something that can be shown and loved by every generation. And I doubt it hinges on 3D like some features in the near future undeniably will. I cannot recommend the movie enough.

I was originally going to talk about A Serious Man (2009 Coen Bros) but after trying to remember details about the film, I find that I should probably watch it again. I liked it; it reminded me of the way Barton Fink and Fargo were. I hope you like how this blog entry turned out. I am kind of proud that I was able to write so much. Any questions or comments please send them to or post them on my Facebook page. Thanks for reading.

Monday, April 12, 2010

April 12 2010. Week relating to 3/30/2010 – 4/5/2010

Movies Seen: *First time viewed
Ghost in the Shell*
True Romance*
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
All the President’s Men*
Henry & June*

Ghost in the Shell (1996 Mamoru Oshii):
I think I missed my window on this one. All I know is, before I was watching any anime at all, people were talking about how bad ass Ghost in the Shell and Ninja Scroll were. I own and love Ninja Scroll, it is just a great little flick. Ghost in the Shell will not be in my collection. I just don’t see what the big deal is. Someone told me that for when it came out, people in this country hadn’t seen animation so cool out of Japan. All I can figure is, a lot of horny teenagers made this movie what it is today. To say it had a few boob shots is to say that a few people love Jesus. I didn’t really dig the voice acting either, but I only had the option of watching it dubbed in English. I am sure it’s better in Japanese, because most anime is. If you are one of those people who love this film, maybe you can fill me in on what I missed. I would be glad to hear about it.

Rocky (1976 John G. Avildsen):
This movie sure pulled a fast one on me. I was trying to take notes, doing my usual ADD thing (which involves stopping the movie every 15 minutes to do some random task), and then suddenly, I was not. The notes stopped, my eyes were glued to the screen. How did this happen? The dialogue is not particularly awesome, and the story is kind of predictable, so where did this movie go so right? My only intuition on this is that the reality of it made me love it. Well, I say reality accepting that heavy weight champions do not fight average Joes, unless they are drunk. Rocky’s plight was the realistic part to me. He was a man that did not have high expectations for himself. He had found a comfortable limit and had decided that was really it. So when the fight fell in his lap, he didn’t want it. The movie is probably most famous for the training scenes, but unless you see Rocky from front to end, you can’t really see the evolution of his character. That is why the movie is so inspiring, not because he was a nobody who became a somebody, but rather I think it’s due to the message, which to me was that your excepted limits are never your actual limits. And that’s why I intend to eat 5 hot dogs this time! I know I can do it! Sorry, off topic there. The music really is great, and the acting is pretty awesome too. I swear I’m not crazy, please tell me I’m not crazy!

True Romance (1993 Tony Scott):
Ok, it’s official, I’m crazy. For those of you who know me, I mean REALLY know me, what I like, what I hate, what I like to sniff, you know I should love True Romance. Written by Tarantino, having stars in it like Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, Gary Oldman, Michael Rapaport, sounds like the stuff of winners! I hate to say this, and I know many of you are going to go “WHHHHHAAAAA???!!!!” but I didn’t really like it. When I told Sarah this, her reaction was, and I quote “…I don’t know what to say to that.” I love her, have I ever mentioned that? Anyway, I don’t hate the movie or anything; I can certainly see the merit of it. The story is pretty entertaining, and I like Christian Slater in it a lot, which says something because I do not consider myself a Christian Slater fan. There are just something’s I could not get past. The music, I don’t care if you love the music in this movie, in my opinion the music was horrendous. Not just the digital score in the back ground that someone cooked up for the quirky touching parts, but also the actual songs they chose to put in scenes. The only thing tolerable in that soundtrack was the Elvis tunes, and I am not an Elvis fan. Next on my list of beefs (mmm, beef) is Patricia Arquette. Now wait, before you jump all over me for that, I thing she is a fine actress, emphasis on the FINE (!), but that squeaky southern accent she had the whole movie made me want to drive a railroad spike through my ear. Her narration of the beginning and end of the film had me turning the volume down on my speakers. My last little teensy weensy complaint is this: HOW COULD YOU HAVE AN AMAZING CAMEO BY CHRISTOPHER WALKEN AND NEVER HAVE HIM APPEAR AGAIN IN THE MOVIE??!!! Although I did really like James Gandolfini, at the end there were just a bunch of anonymous bad guys. Why did that do that? Tell me why, give me a good reason, and I will buy you a sandwich. I get to choose from where.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004 Michel Gondry):
If I were a smarter man, perhaps I could put my finger on what makes this movie so special. I have watched Eternal Sunshine several times since its initial release in theaters and it has yet to lose its magic for me. I don’t know if it’s the performances, the entire cast is amazing from the minor Mark Ruffalo and Elijah Woods parts, to Kirsten Dunst’s and Tom Wilkinson’s strange duo, to the main characters portrayed by Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet. I mean, just for instance, who knew that Kate Winslet was capable of that? And don’t you dare say “didn’t you see Titanic?” because I will digitally slap you silly. Perhaps it is the imagination of Michel Gondry that sky rocketed the film to pure greatness. About that I have my doubts, although I do love the man’s music video work, I did not really enjoy the science of sleep. I believe the man needs structure to contain all his creativity, and working within that structure, he is able to make amazing stuff. Perhaps it is the way the musical score blends in so well with the cinematography. I don’t know, at this point I am just throwing out ideas to chew on. What I really need to do is sit down with the movie and take a steady stream of notes. Eternal Sunshine is one of my favorite movies of all time, and I just want to point out that it isn’t because of some sentimental attachment (the main guys name is Joel, just to let you know). I watched this with my new critical eyes and I still did not see any holes. A magnificent movie; that is my opinion.

All the President’s Men (1976 Alan J. Pakula):
Have you seen this movie? It’s actually very good, and it isn’t just because it’s Hoffman and Redford. The representation of what Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein did is fascinating. I am guessing almost anyone over the age of 20 has heard of Watergate, and has an idea of what went on there, but the idea that it almost got completely swept under the rug is amazing. Not that I don’t think that kind of thing has happened before or since, but the uncovering of said event by these two reporters is absolutely astonishing. What I learned from the film is that I will never have the back bone these two men had. Respect. I’d also like to point out some of the great camera work done in the movie. One part that stood out was in the library of congress, which you have to see to understand what was so great about it. The camera move a bit at a time, higher and higher to show the concentric circles of the library. They were so small in such a big world, that world being the US political system.

Henry & June (1990 Philip Kaufman):
So, that stinkaroo I mentioned on the facebook page? Yeah, this is it. Now, it may not be the movie people are thinking of. I do not mean the movie starring Johnny Depp. That movie is called Benny and Joon. This was an erotic piece of garbage, about a French woman named Anais Nin who meets the author Henry James before he became famous, and proceeded to have weird sexual encounters with him, his wife, her own husband, some other chicks I assume. I got through the first hour of the movie, stopped it and looked to see how much longer there was. Another hour and a half, translation, NO FLIPPIN WAY!!! It was all bad acting mixed with crappy story mixed with weird sex. Not my cup of tea. This marks only the second movie since I started the blog that I haven’t been able to finish. Not bad for someone as impatient as I am!

An explanation: I am not an expert. I do not want people to assume that I think what I say is right or wrong, that things are as black and white as that. Just because I did not like a movie, doesn’t mean it isn’t great. When writing out these little summaries, I am simply working out how I feel about the films I watch. I also use it as an exercise for writing in general. Just because we disagree on something (You being the reader, as opposed to me), doesn’t mean I think that your opinion has no merit. On the contrary, I am very glad to hear anyone’s opinion on these films I talk about. You never know, you might convince me. Any questions, comments, or secret information pertaining to the whereabouts of Jimmy Hoffa’s body, please send them to Or post them on my handy dandy Facebook fan page.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

April 06 2010, Week regarding 3/23/2010 – 3/29/2010

Movies Viewed: *First time seen

What? That’s it? All I can say about that is having the week off of school (or rather, taking it off) and American TV sucked away my film attention span. Lost season 1 finally got a hold of my soul and refused to let go for even a moment. Not that I missed much I suppose, although I have been sitting on a copy of True Romance for about 3 weeks now. I consider my time off a bit of battery recharging. Or on the other hand, I probably killed off my film brain cells by watching television for the first time in a long while.

Manhattan (1979 Woody Allen):
The movie is about the usual cast of characters in Woody Allen’s movie, including Allen himself as Issac. Smart people in the middle of New York living New York lives. I apologize if that sounds condescending, I really do enjoy Woody Allen movies, but the pattern is unmistakable after a few. While watching this with Sarah, I told her that I thought this movie must be Annie Hall Jr, meaning I thought that Annie Hall was basically a remake of Manhattan. I was wrong; it is actually the other way around. So the way I figure it, and spoilers for both movies, is that Allen took the character Annie Hall and separated her into two different characters for Manhattan; one played by Diane Keaton again, and the other played by Mariel Hemmingway. I even saw a few scenes that looked like they were pulled straight from the other movie, but I am sure it is just that Allen likes to film in certain spots in Manhattan (the city, not the movie). The cafĂ© scene is the one I am talking about specifically, it seemed almost identical to the one in Annie Hall. I also noticed that Allen is a fan of the stationary camera, by which I mean he leaves the camera in one place and has the actors move around, using onscreen and off-screen space. I personally love this, because it adds a realism that Hollywood mainstream doesn’t usually go for. If you aren’t seeing the action, then how can you know what’s going on? Well, that’s real life isn’t it? It was a good movie, and I may have even liked it better than Annie Hall, probably because it was more serious.

And because I cannot simply ignore the hours I spent watching Lost, here is a list I came up with.

Things I learned from Lost season 1:
-If it’s bleeding, put pressure on it.
-Cardio may help a person survive on an island, then again there’s Hurley.
-Dynamite is dangerous.
-Almost everyone has something to hide.
-Everyone should be an expert at something.
-Never piss off the fisherman.
-If you speak more than one language, please tell everyone else.
-Reading too much is bad for your eyes.
-Sometimes all you really need is some peanut butter.

And that is my lame list! Any questions, comments, or sad tales of life on the open sea, please send them to Or post them on my Facebook fan page.