Monday, May 23, 2022

Archive for April, 2012

[At the end of every month I post a rundown of the movies I saw that month, tallying them according to how much I did or didn’t like them. You can always see my recent watches here and my ongoing list of bests for the whole year here.]

Yes, I realize this is now exactly one month late. I blame two things – the TCM Film Fest and how gorram difficult it was to pound out that Blind Spot review of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which I wanted to finish before posting this recap which includes it. But now it’s done and I’m already working on April’s, so hopefully I should have that ready soon. Though it is extremely large, given the aforementioned TCM Film Fest. By the way, I haven’t posted anything on that here outside of the initial preview – I meant to, but time has been short – but there are a few reviews and more on the way over on Row Three.

What I Really Liked

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

So after I struggled quite a lot figuring out how I wanted to rate and review this film (see my Blind Spot entry for it), it ended up coming in the respectable high 600s on my Flickchart, which is basically square in my “really liked it” section. I’m not sure I actually “really liked” it, but it’s probably a fairly good spot for it, considering how many sides of me were warring over the film. For the record, when I FIRST ranked it immediately after watching it, it was in the 1100s somewhere. So it has definitely gone up in my estimation with a few weeks to mull it over. Anyway. I wrote a lot about it in the other post, so I won’t bother writing more here.

1966 USA. Director: Mike Nichols. Starring: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Sandy Dennis, George Segal.
Seen March 21 on DVD.
Flickchart ranking: 621 out of 2901

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

This was one that was on Jonathan’s list for me to see, and I pretty much went into it knowing nothing about it. Even though I had no expectations, it was not what I expected. 🙂 Mostly because I always forget it’s directed by Terry Gilliam – whenever I remembered that, the batshit insane things going on onscreen made sense. Er, “made sense” is a poor choice of expression. Nothing in this movie (purportedly about a journalist heading to Las Vegas to cover a race) makes sense, but that’s what you expect from Gilliam – and apparently Hunter S. Thompson, though I have no familiarity with his work beyond this. Basically this movie is a very long, very whacked out drug trip, and while that description doesn’t usually appeal to me, this movie is almost non-stop WTF fun. And it’s definitely the best thing I’ve seen Johnny Depp do for a while (“this here’s bat country”). Like most Gilliam movies, it goes off the rails at the end (how could it not, in this case?), and I had some issues following the chronology that made some of the later parts a little less enjoyable, but I really had fun with it overall, even if I spent three quarters of the movie with my jaw dropped going “I can’t believe that just happened.”

1998 USA. Director: Terry Gilliam. Starring: Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro, Tobey Maguire, Ellen Barkin, Gary Busey, Christina Ricci.
Seen March 30 on Criterion Blu-ray.
Flickchart ranking: 622 out of 2901

The Raid: Redemption

I first heard of this film after a few glowing reviews from friends who saw it at TIFF, who praised it for its non-stop, well-choreographed, high-octane fighting, even though the story of a SWAT team invading a drug lord’s apartment building is a little sparse. For a little while I was afraid I’d misheard and it was gonna be all guns, which would’ve been boring and just needlessly violent (in a boring way). But then the hand-to-hand stuff started, and all of that was awesome. So yeah. Just enough story to string a nearly 100-minute long fight scene on, and that was enough. Also, it was surprisingly well-paced for basically being a long fight scene, with some breather sections in there at just the right times. Definitely had fun with this.

2010 Indonesia. Director: Gareth Evans. Starring: Iko Uwais, Ananda George, Ray Sahetapy, Yayan Ruhian.
Seen March 24 at Arclight Hollywood.
Flickchart ranking: 991 out of 2901

The Hunger Games

The immense amount of hype and some decently cut trailers got me into the theatre for this even though I haven’t read the book, and I wasn’t disappointed in the least. Not that the film is a perfect one – the direction is lackluster and the camerawork and editing falls into all the traps of chaos cinema, using closeup shakicam and frenetic editing for no purpose whatsoever. That did kind of settle down a bit as the film went on, though most fight scenes were still indecipherable. And yet, I truly enjoyed the film anyway, because Katniss Everdeen is simply a great character, and Jennifer Lawrence does a great job of portraying her. She’s everything a hero should be – brave but not arrogant, intelligent but not infallible, trying to do the right thing, but often conflicted. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more of her onscreen, so I’m hoping that Gary Ross’s replacement will not have quite as much affection for annoying camera and editing techniques.

2012 USA. Director: Gary Ross. Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Wes Bentley, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks.
Seen March 31 at AMC Burbank.
Flickchart ranking: 964 out of 2901

Possessed

This film has a pretty killer opening, with a sans-make-up Joan Crawford stumbling down a Los Angeles street in a daze, calling out the name “David” over and over again. She soon collapses and is taken to a hospital, where she eventually becomes well enough to tell what happened to her. The film settles into a more conventional noir melodrama, but as with any of these films, the interesting bits are in the details. The David she was searching for is Van Heflin, a man who she’d been obsessed with earlier, but who hadn’t returned her love. He’s basically an homme fatale, taking the place of the femme fatale so much more common in noir – he pops in every once in a while to turn the emotional knife in Crawford’s gut, with never a care in the world beyond himself. Eventually she snaps, falling into a schizophrenia that has her believing all sorts of things happened that didn’t, and the film is told closely enough from her point of view that it’s often hard for us to tell what’s real and what isn’t. The film may try to do too much, between the unrequited love, eventual loveless marriage, love triangle, stepmother-stepdaughter conflict, nurse-patient trauma, schizophrenia, murder/suicide/accident plot, and whatever else. But Crawford holds it together, and the noirish cinematography makes it often very interesting to look at. There’s a tracking shot near the beginning as she’s being wheeled into the hospital – her POV, so all ceilings going by until the exam room and two doctors pop their heads into the frame to exam her/the camera. Very nice, and alerts us immediately we’re in her shoes for the duration. That’s not an isolated good shot, either – the film is full of them. Not necessarily flashy or attention-grabbing, but effective and effortless.

1947 USA. Director: Curtis Bernhardt. Starring: Joan Crawford, Van Heflin, Raymond Massey, Geraldine Brooks.
Seen March 22 on DVD.
Flickchart ranking: 1224 out of 2901

What I Liked

Lilac Time

Capitalizing on his memorable single scene in 1927’s Wings, Gary Cooper played a WWI pilot again in this film, which is not nearly as great a film, but still quite watchable and with some very endearing parts. Colleen Moore is cute as a button as the French girl who tends to a contingent of British pilots stationed in France. They’re “her boys” as she feeds them, entertains them, carefully counts their returning planes and mourns for any losses, but when Cooper joins them, her affections run a little deeper for him. The film is really solid until the melodrama of their probably doomed romance takes over everything else, kind of ruining the great group dynamic the film had worked so carefully to balance for the first three quarters. Even so, it was an enjoyable watch, Moore was enchanting (especially in the lighter earlier sections), and it’s fun to see Cooper so young.

1928 USA. Director: George Fitzmaurice. Starring: Colleen Moore, Gary Cooper, Burr McIntosh, George Cooper, Cleve Moore.
Seen March 7 at Cinefamily.
Flickchart ranking: 1499 out of 2901

Rewatches – Loved

Modern Times

I ended up writing a whole long post about this film after seeing it at Cinefamily a few weeks ago, so I won’t belabor the point here. It’s in my all-time Top Twenty on Flickchart, so it’s pretty clear how much I adore this film. Even though I would probably now tend to favor Keaton et al over Chaplin et al, there’s not much that can come close to my love for Modern Times.

1936 USA. Director: Charles Chaplin. Starring: Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard.
Seen March 14 at Cinefamily.
Flickchart ranking: 19 out of 2901

Rewatches – Liked

The Circus

It had been quite a while since I last saw The Circus, which is sandwiched up between The Gold Rush and City Lights in Chaplin’s filmography and rarely gets as much attention as either of those films. And granted, it may not be quite as amazing as they are, but it is still a pretty freaking awesome movie. Chaplin’s Tramp runs into a circus as he’s being chased by the police (this is after a tremendously funny and exciting chase through an amusement part, with way more sight gags and baits-and-switches than I remembered) and ends up inadvertently becoming the hit of the show. But not all goes as well for him on the personal front, as he falls in love with the ringmaster’s daughter, who only has eyes for the tightrope walker. The story invokes all of Chaplin’s trademark pathos, and has a lot of magnificent set-pieces as well – the most well-known are when Chaplin tries the tightrope walking himself, and when he accidentally locks himself into a cage with a lion. This film is definitely a worthy entry in Chaplin’s filmography, and gag for gag, probably as funny as any of them.

1928 USA. Director: Charles Chaplin. Starring: Charles Chaplin, Merna Kennedy, Allan Garcia, Harry Crocker, Henry Bergman, George Davis.
Seen March 28 at Cinefamily.
Flickchart ranking: 728 out of 2901

Sunshine

I still think the third act falls apart, though I will say I didn’t mind it as much on a second viewing, when I knew what to expect and wasn’t totally thrown off-guard by the tonal shift. I still much prefer the more meditative part before they find the Icarus I, but I can understand better now where that last bit was trying to go. I just don’t think it totally worked. That said, I did have a fun time this go-around finding comparisons to Apocalypse Now (I hadn’t seen it yet last time I watched Sunshine). Even with the third act let-down, it’s still a pretty top-notch sci-fi movie, and I like the film overall enough to still rank it pretty highly.

2007 UK. Director: Danny Boyle. Starring: Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, Chris Evans, Michelle Yeoh, Hiroyuki Sanada, Troy Garity, Cliff Curtis, Mark Strong.
Seen March 24 on DVD.
Flickchart ranking: 854 out of 2901

A Shot in the Dark

When this popped up on Instant, I was seized with a sudden desire to rewatch it, since I hadn’t in a very very long time, so I made Jon watch it, too (he hadn’t seen it before at all). It’s easily the best of the Pink Panther films, with Clouseau taking center stage and getting himself into some pretty ridiculous situations. I will say, though, that the comedy was a lot slower and less hysterical than I’d remembered – it really takes its time setting up gags and letting them play out perhaps a bit longer than necessary. I won’t say I was disappointed – I still think it works quite well as both a comedy and a mystery, but memory had amped up the hilarity more than is actually the case.

1964 UK. Director: Blake Edwards. Starring: Peter Sellers, Elke Sommer, George Sanders, Herbert Lom, Tracy Reed.
Seen March 2 on Instant Watch
Flickchart ranking: 749 out of 2901

Monday, April 30

8:00pm – IFC – Moulin Rouge!
Baz Lurhmann admittedly has a love-it-or-hate-it flamboyantly trippy aesthetic, especially in the informal Red Curtain trilogy which Moulin Rogue! closes. And sure, it’s over the top; sure, the story is fairly routine; sure, the acting is so-so. I love it to pieces anyway.
2001 USA. Director: Baz Lurhmann. Starring: Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, Jim Broadbent, John Leguizamo.

10:45pm – IFC – Night of the Living Dead
Zombie movies can be conveniently subcategorized into pre-Romero and post-Romero, so influential has this film been. Eschewing voodoo and zombie masters, Romero posited a zombie created by our own nuclear follies and motivated by nothing more than insatiable hunger. More than that, the layer of social commentary makes Night of the Living Dead far more than the B-movie schlocker it seems like on the surface. It changed zombie films, and probably horror films in general to an extent, forever.
1968 USA. Director: George A. Romero. Starring: Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman.
(repeats at 2:30am on the 1st)

12:45am (1st) – IFC – Evil Dead 2
The sequel/remake to Sam Raimi’s wonderfully over-the-top demon book film, set in the same creepy wood-bound cabin, with even more copious amounts of blood and a lot more intentional humor. I’m still not sure which I like best, but either one will do when you need some good schlock. (I still haven’t seen Army of Darkness, I’m shamed to admit.)
1987 USA. Director: Sam Raimi. Starring: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks.

Tuesday, May 1

6:30am – IFC – Caché
Very deliberate but intensely thought-provoking film from director Michael Haneke, delving into issues from privacy and surveillance to war guilt and revenge. It’s a difficult film, and one that stretches the limits of the suspense thriller, but if you’re willing to go along with it, it’s well worthwhile.
2005 France. Director: Michael Haneke. Starring: Daniel Auteuil, Juliette Binoche, Maurice Bénichou.
(repeats at 12:30pm)

Wednesday, May 2

9:30am – Sundance – Encounters at the End of the World
Werner Herzog has made the savage beauty of nature one of his themes throughout most of his fiction films, so perhaps it’s only natural that he has moved onto explicitly non-fiction explorations of some of nature’s most remote locales, in this case, Antarctica.2007 USA. Director: Werner Herzog.
(repeats at 4:15pm)

5:00pm – TCM – My Fair Lady
George Cukor finally won an Oscar in 1964 for this film, a high-quality adaptation of Lerner and Loewe’s musical, itself an adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, itself based on the Greek story of Svengali and Trilby. Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn acquit themselves well as phonetics professor Henry Higgens and street urchin Eliza Doolittle. I guess I just find it a bit overlong and overproduced, as most 1960s musicals were, but I’m in the minority.
1964 USA. Director: George Cukor. Starring: Rex Harrison, Audrey Hepburn, Stanley Holloway, Wilfrid Hyde-White.

8:00pm – IFC – The Thin Red Line
Breaking Terrence Malick’s twenty-year filmmaking silence since 1978′s Days of Heaven, this film applies his contemplative and poetic view of the world to a WWII story. It remains a favorite among Malick fans, and an interesting counterpoint to Spielberg’s action-oriented Saving Private Ryan, released the same year.
1998 USA. Director: Terrence Malick. Starring: Sean Penn, Jim Caviezel, Nick Nolte, Elias Koteas, Ben Chaplin.
(repeats at 1:45am on the 3rd)

8:00pm – TCM – Sullivan’s Travels
Sullivan’s Travels is a slightly more serious turn for Preston Sturges, but ultimately upholds his comedic tendencies. Joel McCrea is a filmmaker known for his comedies who decides he wants to make a serious film about the depression; but as a successful Hollywood director, he doesn’t know anything about poverty and the working class, so he embarks on an odyssey to learn about them, picking up waifish Veronica Lake as a traveling companion.
1941 USA. Director: Preston Sturges. Starring: Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake.
Must See

9:45pm – TCM – The Palm Beach Story
Similar in tone but less consistent than The Lady Eve, this Preston Sturges film follows bickering couple Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert as she leaves him to gold dig for a richer man. He follows her, pretending to be her brother, and they get all entangled with a wealthy brother and sister. The ending is a weak bit of trickery, but there are enough moments of hilarity to make it worth watching.
1942 USA. Director: Preston Sturges. Starring: Claudette Colbert, Joel McCrea, Rudy Vallee, Mary Astor.

11:30pm – TCM – The More the Merrier
A World War II housing shortage has Charles Coburn, Joel McCrea and Jean Arthur sharing an apartment; soon Coburn is matchmaking for McCrea and Arthur, and we get a wonderful, adorable romance out of it.
1943 USA. Director: George Stevens. Starring: Jane Arthur, Joel McCrea, Charles Coburn.

Thursday, May 3

9:45am – IFC – Away from Her
A very strong directing debut film from actress Sarah Polley, about an older woman (Julie Christie) suffering from Alzheimer’s and her husband’s difficulty in dealing with essentially the loss of his wife as she has more and more difficulty remembering their life together. It’s a lovely, heartbreaking film, bolstered by great understated performances.
2006 Canada. Director: Sarah Polley. Starring: Julie Christie, Gordon Pinsent, Olympia Dukakis, Stacey LaBerge.

8:00pm – TCM – In Cold Blood
The film version of Truman Capote’s chilling retelling of the murders committed by Dick Hickcock and Perry Smith, and their subsequent incarceration and trial.
1967 USA. Director: Richard Brooks. Starring: Robert Blake, Scott Wilson, John Forsythe, Paul Stewart.

Friday, May 4

7:45am – TCM – The Ladykillers
One of the most delightful of the Ealing comedies, with Alec Guinness leading a bunch of crooks (including a young Peter Sellers) whose bankrobbing plans get flustered by an unlikely old lady.
1955 UK. Director: Alexander Mackendrick. Starring: Alec Guinness, Cecil Parker, Herbert Lom, Peter Sellers.
Must See

9:30am – TCM – The Lavender Hill Mob
Alec Guinness leads the Ealing Studios regulars in this delightful heist comedy, one of the greats among a bunch of great late ’40s, early ’50s Ealing films. Also look for a really young Audrey Hepburn in a walk-on (this is her first film, I believe).
1951 UK. Director: Charles Crichton. Starring: Alec Guinness, Stanley Holloway, Sid James, Marjorie Fielding.

6:00pm – TCM – Wait Until Dark
Audrey Hepburn is a blind woman set upon by a trio of home invaders in search of some smuggled heroin they think ended up hidden at her house – an all-around good little thriller, with a fantastic climactic set-piece.
1967 USA. Director: Terence Young. Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin, Richard Crenna, Efrem Zimbalist Jr.

8:00pm – IFC – The Prestige
Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins follow-up, a wonderfully twisty and evocative period thriller about a pair of stage magicians and their potentially deadly rivalry. Some great ideas elevate this far above what you might expect, and solid performances all around carry it through nicely. Definitely deserves mention among the finest thinking-man’s films of the past decade.
2006 USA. Director: Christopher Nolan. Starring: Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall.

8:00pm – TCM – The Three Faces of Eve
Joanne Woodward portrays a woman with multiple personalities in an Oscar-winning role; Lee J. Cobb is allowed an uncharacteristically sympathetic role as her doctor (usually he’s the villain, or at least antagonist).
1957 USA. Director: Nunnally Johnson. Starring: Joanne Woodward, Lee J. Cobb, David Wayne.

9:45pm – TCM – 12 Angry Men
A brilliant exercise in minimalist filmmaking; after a brief courtroom scene, twelve jurors discuss the fate of a young man accused of murder. What’s assumed to be a cut-and-dried conviction is contested by Henry Fonda, who isn’t convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt, and slowly works through the evidence to pull the other jurors one by one to his side. The stifling heat, claustrophobic room, prejudices and preconceptions of the jurors, logic and emotions, everything plays into this film, which is much more engaging than it has any right to be.
1957 USA. Director: Sidney Lumet. Starring: Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Jack Klugman, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Ed Begley.
Must See

2:00am (5th) – TCM – They Live
3:45am (5th) – TCM – Escape from New York
TCM’s hitting some newer classics, bringing out a pair of John Carpenter favorites. They Live is one I haven’t seen yet, though I really want to, about a man who finds a pair of sunglasses that when worn, reveal that aliens have taken over the world unbeknownst to anyone else. Sounds just crazy enough to be awesome. And of course, Kurt Russell is on hand to save the President when he crash lands in the high security prison of futuristic Manhattan.
1988 USA. Director: John Carpenter. Starring: Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster.
1981 USA. Director: John Carpenter. Starring: Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine.

Newly Featured!

Saturday, May 5

6:00am – TCM – The Thief of Bagdad
An early Michael Powell film (in collaboration with several others), before he teamed up with Emeric Pressburger, but no less an impressive display of stunning Technicolor cinematography on the fantastic Arabian Nights story.
1940 UK. Director: Michael Powell, Ludwig Berger. Starring: Sabu, Conrad Veidt, June Duprez.

6:00am – Sundance – Grizzly Man
Werner Herzog’s fascination with the duality of nature’s beauty and destructiveness continues into documentary, as he brings the story of grizzly researcher Timothy Treadwell to the screen.
2005 USA. Director: Werner Herzog.
(repeats at 2:30pm)

5:00pm – TCM – The Bridge on the River Kwai
British prisoners of war are commanded to build a bridge over the River Kwai for their Japanese captors – a task which becomes a source of pride for old-school British commander Alec Guinness. But American William Holden is having none of that and makes it his mission to blow the bridge up. One of the great war films.
1957 USA/UK. Director: David Lean. Starring: Alec Guinness, William Holden, Sessue Hayakawa.

8:00pm – IFC – Training Day
A rookie cop heads out with a seasoned detective to learn the ropes, but the experienced cop isn’t exactly on the straight and narrow. Denzel Washington won an Oscar for his portrayal of the volatile detective.
2001 USA. Director: Antoine Fuqua. Starring: Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Scott Glenn.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 10:30pm)

12:00M – TCM – Written on the Wind
Whenever I’m tempted to use the term “melodrama” in a derogatory sense, I stop and remind myself of Douglas Sirk, and especially of this film. Taking lush domestic struggles with soap opera potential and making them into stunning films was Sirk’s specialty, and this is one of his best, chock full of alcoholic husbands, love triangles, nymphomaniacs, and class prejudice, but with a heart and sense of tragedy that turns “melodrama” into a compliment. Add in Sirk’s exquisite eye for composition and a deservedly Oscar-winning supporting turn from Dorothy Malone, and this one isn’t to be missed.
1956 USA. Director: Douglas Sirk. Starring: Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall, Robert Stack, Dorothy Malone, Robert Keith.
Must See

Sunday, May 6

2:00pm – TCM – Jane Eyre
The definitive classic-era version of Bronte’s gothic novel, with a touch of noirish style to add to the overall moodiness. Joan Fontaine isn’t quite plain enough or fiery enough to be believable as Jane, but Orson Welles (only acting here, not directing) is a fairly imposing Rochester. Also be on the lookout for a very young Elizabeth Taylor in one of her first roles as Jane’s childhood friend Helen Burns.
1944 USA. Director: Robert Stevenson. Starring: Joan Fontaine, Orson Welles, Margaret O’Brien, Peggy Ann Garner, John Sutton, Sara Allgood, Henry Daniell, Agnes Moorehead.

6:00pm – TCM – Marty
Ernest Borgnine won an Oscar for his role as the schlubby, lonely title character, resigned to being unloved, until he meets a plain schoolteacher whose similar resignedness might make her his perfect match. The idea of having unlovely people in lead roles was a new one in Hollywood in the 1950s, and Marty capitalized on Paddy Chayefsky’s story with great results.
1955 USA. Director: Delbert Mann. Starring: Ernest Borgnine, Betsy Blair, Esther Minciotti.

8:00pm – IFC – Fight Club
This film is so good on so many different levels, it’s difficult to even know where to start. Masculinity, consumerism, terrorism, black comedy, mindbending narrative…yeah, those are not all parallel, making it a poorly-structured list. I don’t really care, you’ve all probably seen this movie before, but here’s a chance to see it again.
1999 USA. Director: David Fincher. Starring: Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham-Carter.
Must See
(repeats at 11pm)

8:00pm – Sundance – Thank You For Smoking
Jason Reitman’s breakout film was also one of my favorites of 2005 – sure, it’s a bit slight and isn’t perfect, but its story of a hotshot PR guy working for cigarette companies struck just the right note of cynical and absurd humor. The really high-quality cast doesn’t hurt either, with everybody, no matter how small their role, making a memorable impression.
2005 USA. Director: Jason Reitman. Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Katie Holmes, Rob Lowe, Maria Bello, David Koechner, J.K. Simmons, Adam Brody, Sam Elliott.
(repeats at 1:05am on the 7th)

New Release Pick of the Week

The Innkeepers
Easily one of my favorite films of last year (it even made my top ten list), Ti West’s take on the haunted house is equal parts well-played comedy and atmospheric horror, and both parts work perfectly. I loved every second of this film, and I’m looking forward to revisiting the Yankee Pedlar soon.
2011 USA. Director: Ti West. Starring: Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis.

Other New Releases

11-11-11 (2011 USA, dir Darren Lynn Bousman, stars Timothy Gibbs)
Albatross (2011 UK, dir Niall MacCormick, stars Felicity Jones)
Cinema Verite (2011 USA, dir Shari Springer Berman, stars Diane Lane)
Dark Tide (2012 USA, dir John Stockwell, stars Halle Berry)
The Fields (2011 USA, dir Tom Mattera/David Mazzoni, stars Tara Reid)
Let the Bullets Fly (2010 Hong Kong, dir Wen Jiang, stars Chow Yun-Fat)
Night Wolf (2012 USA, dir Jonathan Glendening, stars Gemma Atkinson)
Return (2011 USA, dir Liza Johnson, stars Linda Cardinelli)
Some Days are Better than Others (2010 USA, dir Matt McCormick, stars Carrie Brownstein)
The Theatre Bizarre (2011 USA, dir various, stars Udo Kier)
Titanic (2012 USA, stars Peter McDonald)
Young Goethe in Love (2010 Germany, dir Philipp Stölzl, stars Alexander Fehling)

Click here to read more!

This has been an extremely difficult review to sit down and write, largely because this film elicited such strong and conflicting reactions from me both while viewing it, and thinking back on it afterwards. I have never felt so in turmoil about a film, even while in the midst of watching it, my thoughts and emotions swirling back and forth even within the same scene. Loving it, hating it, sympathizing, being repulsed, being moved, understanding, feeling detached, exasperated, annoyed, intrigued, heartbroken, unresolved. Of course, maybe that’s utterly appropriate, given that the film is about a couple constantly at each other’s throats, except when they’re in each other’s arms, who drag a younger couple along with them on a night of “fun and games.” But what is the game, and what are the rules, and who’s having fun? The answers to those questions shift as often as my emotions did, and with as little warning or explanation.

George and Martha are a middle-aged academic couple, respectively a professor in history and the daughter of the university’s long-time president. As the film opens, they’re wending their way home after a university party, chatting quietly while lovely and calm background music plays. But even at this most peaceful point in the movie, they quickly fall into a rhythm of argument, clearly their default mode of interacting with each other. As they return home, Martha quotes one of Bette Davis’s campiest characters, proclaiming “What a dump,” then hounding George to tell what movie it’s from. At this point, the movie was already grating on me pretty badly, and it’s only getting started!

Soon a young couple comes over to continue the party, but they don’t know what they’re getting into any more than I did. The night wears on, Martha goading George continuously and flirting with the young man, while his wife gets more and more inebriated. But George, though far wearier and less vulgar, can give as good as he gets from Martha, his barbs carrying an air of intellectualism that makes them cut even deeper. Meanwhile, the younger couple aren’t innocents, either, but have their own skeletons in the closet. The film is almost a one-room drama (as the original Edward Albee play was), focusing on the four characters’ ongoing conversation and interactions. Most of it is very antagonistic, quite mean-spirited, and rather stagey and histrionic.

And yet. And yet. I can’t simply write the film off, and not only because I know how highly regarded it is. Somewhere about halfway through it started getting under my skin, and I’ve found it often popping up in the back of my mind since I finished it. As more details start to come out about George and Martha’s past and the “games” they play with each other (as George says, “we’re not ‘at’ each other, we’re just exercising what little of our wits is left”), I found myself more and more intrigued both by these people and by the structure of the film itself. It lets us in only slowly, at first only showing us George and Martha as they are now, a bitter couple who have grown almost complacent in their antagonism. But there’s more to them than this, a depth that soon becomes apparent in Burton’s weary eyes, his sighs as he accepts or counters yet another of Martha’s hurls.

Really, if it hadn’t been for Burton, I doubt I would’ve made it through the entire film. Taylor’s performance is often praised (and she won an Oscar for it), but except for one or two times when she quieted down and revealed some of the pain behind her own animosity, her performance largely tends toward shrill and histrionic, and I rarely if ever believed her. Burton, though, I believed all the time. All his emotional beats worked completely for me, and I felt every catch in his voice, every callback to old pain revisited. I will say that Taylor came very close to redeeming herself for me in the final scene, by which time the film had put me through such a confusing emotional wringer that I was as drained as she and Burton (the kids are there mostly as audience surrogates and something for George and Martha to play off of; they have their own stuff going on, but it’s relatively insignificant in comparison).

So by the end, the film’s power had definitely gotten to me, but I still don’t know if I could rewatch it any time soon. And yet…I do want to rewatch it. I want to study why it had the effect on me that it did. Very rarely am I this confused about my reaction to a film, and on the one hand, I know the film is powerful for affecting me the way it did, and the last act is pretty devastating however you slice it. Meanwhile, the first act is viciously funny (it worked better for me after I opted to think of it as a comedy – until somewhere in the second act, that becomes impossible). Also, I credit Mike Nichols and cinematography Haskell Wexler for some greatly affecting lighting and camerawork, which did a whole lot to balance out the theatricality of the dialogue. Even when I was recoiling from the characters and the mean-spiritedness on screen, I was still usually fascinated by the way it was shot. Even so, I can’t in good conscience say I think everything in it worked. Sandy Dennis also won an Oscar for her role, which I don’t understand, because she’s largely just acting a silly drunk girl the whole time, and she’s almost more annoying (if more innocuous) than Martha. Taylor I can’t get behind totally, and the young man is pretty dull.

And one thing about the ending. Vague spoilers follow.

The ending depends on the revelation that something George and Martha have been talking about the entire night is actually an elaborate fantasy, the breaking of which fantasy because reduces Martha to nothing. Now, I have in my life indulged in an awful lot of elaborate fantasy, which has, at certain times in my life, been very real to me. But despite the undeniable sincerity with which Burton and Taylor treat this aspect of the film, it stretched my suspension of disbelief to the breaking point to believe that two well-educated adults had kept up a fantasy just between the two of them that has this kind of power over them. It’s one of those things that worked while I was watching the film because Burton and Taylor put it over, but five minutes after the film was over, I was going “wait, really?!”

The “who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf” is an academic variation on “who’s afraid of the big bad wolf,” and in this case, apparently, the big bad wolf is a life free from illusions, free from facades – a life that Martha in particular fears to face. But I got that from a Wikipedia article, not from the film, at least not on a first viewing. And even with that, I’m not sure WHY she fears it so much, and why George, who seems better adjusted, would help her keep up such a strange and elaborate fantasy for so long, and then finally break it that night. Those are questions that will have to wait until I get to another viewing. But returning to the world of George and Martha will be exhausting, and I’m not sure when I’ll be ready for it. At this point, I’m inclined to rate it highly simply because I think the extremely unsettled feeling I had both while watching it and thinking back over it is intentional. On the other hand, I’m still not sure I like that, and while certain scenes worked like gangbusters, as a whole I can’t say I enjoyed watching it. But not every film is made to be enjoyed. So I end up where I started – conflicted.

New Release Picks of the Week

Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol
This film got much better reviews than I ever expected it to, and that’s after I was already interested due to Brad Bird and Jeremy Renner (sorry, Tom). Busy holidays kept me from it, though, so I’ll have to catch it on DVD…which is sadly not IMAX-sized.
2011 USA. Director: Brad Bird. Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner.

Shame
A divisive film in many ways, with some praising Fassbender and the film’s style, while other were put off by its lack of depth. I didn’t manage to get out to see it in theatres, but I definitely want to catch up with it before too long.
2011 UK. Director: Steve McQueen. Starring: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan.

Other New Releases

After the Banquet (2009 South Korea, dir Kim Yoon-cheol, stars Sin Seong-woo)
American Dad!: Volume 7 (2011 USA, creator Seth MacFarlane)
Bob’s Burgers: Season 1 (2011 USA, stars H. Jon Benjamin)
The Divide (2012 USA, dir Xavier Gens, stars Lauren German, Michael Biehn)
Garbo: The Spy (2009 UK, dir Edmon Roch, stars Nigel West)
Girlfight (2011 USA, dir Stephen Gyllenhaal, stars Anne Heche)
A Heavenly Vintage (2009 New Zealand, dir Niki Caro, stars Keisha Castle-Hughes)
Hell’s Labyrinth (2011 USA, dir Drew Maxwell, stars Leah Rose)
The Last Rites of Joe May (2010 USA, dir Joe Maggio, stars Dennis Farina)
Man on the Train (2011 USA, dir Mary McGuickian, stars Donald Sutherland)
7 Below (2012 USA, dir Kevin Carraway, stars Val Kilmer)
Up from Slavery (2011 USA, dir Kevin R. Hershberger)

Click here to read more!

Here are my top five picks out of the movies playing this week on cable. All these happen to be on TCM, which isn’t too surprising – click over to Row Three to see the full post, which also includes some really nice choices from IFC and Sundance. Lots of good stuff on this week, and a lot of stuff that hasn’t appeared in the column before, too.

The Searchers

Tuesday at 8:00pm on TCM
Deservedly considered one of the greatest westerns ever made, a high point in the careers of both John Wayne and John Ford. Wayne is the almost anti-heroic main character Ethan Edwards, driven by anger and revenge to find the group of Indians who killed his nearly estranged family and kidnapped his young niece. Along with the contemporary films of Anthony Mann, The Searchers marks a point in the Western genre where we can no longer necessarily accept the motives of the good guys to be pure, and in fact, are forced to question if the good guys are actually good – perhaps the beginning of the revisionist western. Ford’s command of cinematic space and the language of the frame here is unparalleled, and the performances and everything else in the film match it.
1956 USA. Director: John Ford. Starring: John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Natalie Wood.
Must See

Eyes Without a Face

Tuesday at 10:15pm on TCM
This French horror film relies on atmosphere rather than actual scares, with a doctor single-mindedly pursuing a skin graft treatment that would restore his daughter’s scarred face, resorting to grave-robbing and worse to get experimental tissue. The dreamy and detached feel of the film sets it apart from most horror films, in a way that makes it sneak under your skin (heh), becoming more disturbing as you think back on it even than it was while viewing.
1960 France. Director: Georges Franju. Starring: Pierre Brassuer, Alida Valli, Juliette Mayniel, Edith Scob.

Lawrence of Arabia

Wednesday/early Thursday at 12:30am on TCM
Most epics are over-determined and so focused on spectacle that they end up being superficial – all big sets and sweeping music with no depth. The brilliance of Lawrence of Arabia is that it looks like an epic with all the big sets and sweeping music and widescreen vistas, but at its center is an enigmatic character study of a man who lives bigger-than-life, but is as personally conflicted as any intimate drama has ever portrayed.
1962 UK. Director: David Lean. Starring: Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness, Jose Ferrer.
Must See

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

Saturday at 9:15am on TCM
One of the most genius comedy-horror mashups ever made, with the duo playing bumbling freight handlers responsible for shipping the remains of Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster – until Dracula escapes, taking the monster with him. Some genuine scares and many, many earned laughs ensue, with The Wolf Man also making an appearance, trying to stop Dracula. Most of Abbott & Costello’s movies are throw-away fun, but this one is top-notch on any scale of quality, thanks in no small part to having many of the original actors playing the monsters.
1948 USA. Director: Charles Barton. Starring: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., Glenn Strange, Lenore Aubert.
Must See

Written on the Wind

Sunday at 4:00pm on TCM
Whenever I’m tempted to use the term “melodrama” in a derogatory sense, I stop and remind myself of Douglas Sirk, and especially of this film. Taking lush domestic struggles with soap opera potential and making them into stunning films was Sirk’s specialty, and this is one of his best, chock full of alcoholic husbands, love triangles, nymphomaniacs, and class prejudice, but with a heart and sense of tragedy that turns “melodrama” into a compliment. Add in Sirk’s exquisite eye for composition and a deservedly Oscar-winning supporting turn from Dorothy Malone, and this one isn’t to be missed.
1956 USA. Director: Douglas Sirk. Starring: Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall, Robert Stack, Dorothy Malone, Robert Keith.
Must See

Featured Links

Remaking Metropolis by David Kalat at Movie Morlocks

Once again, David Kalat blows me away with one of his wide-ranging and highly informative posts. This time, he approaches the Complete Metropolis with some trepidation – not because the restored version of the film isn’t amazing (it is, and he agrees), but because the push to market it as the full version of what we’d only known in part before downgrades the earlier cuts unfairly. After all, that shorter cut is what most people have known and fallen in love with for the past 75 years. On his way to this argument, though, he also details the production and troubled distribution of the film, discussing in detail how the cuts got made in the first place and why, and the seemingly subtle but actually quite significant changes to the story that resulted from them. Probably the best post I read all week.

A Meditation on Mad Men by The Lady Eve at The Lady Eve’s Reel Life

The Lady Eve has been hosting a whole series of excellent posts about Mad Men on her blog (most of which seem to be relatively spoiler-free, discussing the overall aesthetics and appeal of the show rather than specific plot details – which is good for me, since I’m still back in S3 somewhere), and this collection of thoughts from the Lady Eve herself captures a lot of the major themes of the show – the sense of nostalgia that calls us to a show about the ’60s even as Don Draper uses it to hearken to an even earlier time in his ad campaigns, the search for identity that haunts Don and his family and to some degree the ’60s as a whole, and of course, the exquisite detail of the production design and scripts that seem to bring not just the look of the ’60s, but the hopes and fears of that era into startling reality.

The Psychology of Betty Draper Francis by Terry Towles Canote at A Shroud of Thoughts

Yes, another Mad Men-related post. What are you gonna do about it? Just please don’t take this opportunity to spoil me on what was apparently a brilliant episode last night, because I am a season and a half behind. This post pulls some stuff from season 4, I think, but not enough to bother me. Betty is pretty much a shoo-in for least-liked character on the show, and Canote certainly doesn’t whitewash any of her frankly horrible behavior throughout the show, but he does take the opportunity to psychoanalyze her a little bit, in terms of her family background, life with Don, and the social atmosphere of the ’60s. I don’t always agree with psychoanalytical approaches, but this one manages to discuss an awful lot about the show in general, and the way the writers have set Betty up to be the person she is.

Memories of Midnight Movies by Will McKinley at The Cinementals

A simply delightful post, relating Will’s experience with midnight movies on Long Island in the ’70s and ’80s. He discusses the midnight movie phenomenon in general, even though he was too young at the time to really be a part of it, and the first time his dad took him to a midnight movie – not Rocky Horror Picture Show or Eraserhead, though those were two of the films to popularize the concept in the late ’70s – but a midnight screening of classic Three Stooges movies. I guess we know why Will’s a Cinemental!

Pioneers of the Corman Film School by Alex Withrow at And So It Begins

Alex reminds us that without Roger Corman, we’d be unlikely to have the many of the most talented directors of the past few decades, and New Hollywood itself probably would’ve been a very different time. Known for his low budget, quickly shot B movies, Corman used his studio AIP to give young directors a shot at making films the same way he did – quick and dirty. But by giving them the freedom they needed, he ended up launching careers for people like Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Peter Bogdanovich, and more. Alex runs through a bunch of these directors, talking a bit about the films they made for AIP and what they went on to do later. Thank you, Mr. Corman, for your contribution to American cinema.

Playing by Different Rules: Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray by Marilyn Ferdinand at Ferdy on Films

Classic Hollywood loved to pair the same actors together over and over again, with many costarring teams becoming almost inextricably linked – Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, William Powell and Myrna Loy, Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. Marilyn Ferdinand points out that Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray costarred no fewer than three times together (not quite as often as those other teams, granted, but still a decent amount), and yet all their films are so decidedly different that it’s tough to consider them a “team” in the same way as some of the others. She takes a look at these three films and at Stanwyck and MacMurray’s performances in them.

More Links!

Cool Trailers, Videos, and More

Noteworthy News

  • Nicole Kidman will play Grace Kelly in an upcoming film from Olivier Dahan (La vie en rose) – if you don’t believe that’s great casting, just watch her in The Others and get back to me
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt won’t be in Django Unchained after all; he has a scheduling conflict due to his directorial debut. That’s a good reason, I think, but still.
  • Apparently Greta Gerwig is a director now, with a surprise film headed for festivals this fall
  • David Michôd’s debut Animal Kingdom turned a lot of heads, including in Hollywood, but he’s following it up with another small Australian film – good for him, and I’ll be there to watch it
  • Vincenzo Natali is set to follow the underrated Splice with backwards ghost story Haunters, with Abigail Breslin in the lead

Netflix interface on the Xbox 360

Back when Netflix was a fledgling DVD-by-mail rental company, still only hoping to take the world by storm but not yet having done so, they popularized the concept of a rental queue, a list of DVDs you could set up and organize so Netflix would (depending on availability) send you the DVD you wanted most. Other companies picked up this idea, whether the correlation was exact or not – Netflix competitor Greencine has a queue that works the same as Netflix’s, Gamefly has a queue to send you video games in order, while streaming-only site Hulu set up a queue to keep your shows in order, basically treating it as a playlist so you could watch your shows continuously.

But with the ongoing transition from physical to streaming media, the queue needs to die. The concept of the queue is based on linearity. You watch this movie, send it back, get another movie, watch it, send it back, get another one, etc. Its whole purpose is to keep the list of movies you want to see but can’t yet in order, so Netflix(/Greencine/Gamefly/etc) knows what to send you next. In streaming media, there is no linearity, at least not in terms of what Netflix, et al, needs to know. You many only be able to watch one thing at a time, but there is no reason whatsoever for you to keep an ordered list of what else you want to watch, in order of how soon you want to watch it.

Netflix Canada and UK users are jumping up and down right now screaming that they’ve never had a queue. And it’s likely that Netflix realizes that a queue, as it exists right now, is not particularly useful for streaming media, and that’s why they haven’t bothered to implement one for users who have never had DVD subscriptions through them. They may very well take the queue away from US users as well. But that’s not optimal, either, because with a wide range of streaming possibilities, we need a way to keep track of the things we want to see, or might want to see again, and to separate them from the thousands of movies we have utterly no interest in seeing ever. The queue as currently implemented for US users is workable for this, but not ideal – the linear nature of it makes it difficult to navigate, and the 500-item limit isn’t large enough.

My queue on Netflix; it generally runs around 480 titles long

So the Queue should die, and in its place should come the Collection. That is, a way for each user to mark any film on a streaming service as part of their “collection”, and they should be able to manipulate that collection in all the same ways you can manipulate the entire Netflix library. So if I’m in the mood for a comedy, I should be able to browse comedies, but be able to optionally limit the results to the comedies I’ve marked for my collection. Note I said “optionally” – you should always be able to pull back and browse the whole library, too. There would be no limit on the size of this collection, so you’d never have to worry about having to declare that you’re no longer interested in one thing just in order to declare your interest in another thing. And, if films you’ve marked for your collection expire off Instant Watch and are later added again, they should be returned to your collection automatically.

I’ve been speaking about this idea in terms of Netflix, but for every streaming media service I know of, the collection concept would work much better than the queue or playlist concept. (More on playlists in a minute.) Hulu is a great example. I have HuluPlus on my Xbox, and it’s great to watch Criterion films at the drop of a hat. But the queue is an utter nightmare. TV shows and movies aren’t separated out, which wouldn’t be too bad except that on my Xbox, the queue lists individual episodes separately, so I could have three episodes of a show, then five movies, then two more episodes of it, then ten more movies, in that order. That’s messy. Plus the HuluPlus queue is difficult to reorder, since it’s on multiple pages – my queue right now is some 20+ pages long, and it’s a nightmare to try to get things in some semblance of order, and even then, it still has the problem of being linear when it doesn’t need to be. If instead I could just browse all the shows or movies I’ve marked for my collection, without regard for order and without individual episodes clogging the works, I might actually use HuluPlus outside of the few times a month I go to watch a specific film.

HuluPlus interface on Xbox 360

In streaming subscription music, the Collection concept is useful as well. I love Spotify, but the fact that the only way I have of keeping track of music is by adding it to a playlist drives me NUTS. Playlists definitely have their place, for curating specific music or songs either for your own use or for others, and I’ve gotten great use out of Spotify’s playlists. Here I’m not suggesting that playlists need to go away, but merely that they’re not suitable for every task. Right now I have a playlist of 2012 albums, because I don’t know any other way to keep track of them so I can listen to them and evaluate them for my Tunes Worth Hearing series and my eventual year-end lists. That playlist is now over 600 songs long, and it’s only April! That means by December, it will have over 2000 songs in it, and that’s a ridiculous amount of content for a linear organizational system.

And that doesn’t even begin to cover all the other music I want to check out. I had a playlist for a while called “music I want to check out.” Between indie bands I’d heard of through friends, classic rock I wanted to catch up on, jazz music I wanted to learn more about, back catalog music from bands I grew to love late, etc., the list ballooned to unmanageable before I could blink. Separating those things out into genres didn’t help much, either. What I need is a way to mark songs for my Collection, so they’re organized not linearly by all the songs, but browsable/searchable by genre, artist, and year of release. That would make Spotify 1000x more useful to me than it already is, which is a lot.

My 2012 Albums playlist on Spotify; 652 tracks, and we're barely into April

When I suggest things like this, I usually get a few people telling me to just search for what I want. Well, yes. All these services are built strongly on searching (or on recommendations). And that’s great, for people who are searchers. People who know what they want to watch or listen to and can just go get it. I’m much more of a browser. I’m much likely to think, “I want to watch a movie tonight, what should it be,” and then browse through available options. With so MANY available options, I need a way to tap quickly down into what kind of thing I’m interested in right now, and I need those results to include not just things Netflix or Hulu thinks I might want to watch, but what I’ve earmarked as things I want or need to watch. I can’t be the only person like this. So for us picky browsers, streaming media companies ought to move away from the idea of a linear queue and towards the idea of a non-linear collection.

Featured Links

The Golden Age of Inappropriate Behavior in Movie Theatres by Glenn Kenny at Some Came Running

With a recent study coming out suggesting that over 50% of young theater goers would like to be able to text in movie theatres, a bunch of film blogs have offered their opinions on the subject, mostly aghast at the idea. Glenn Kenny doesn’t directly disagree, but offers a very entertaining account of attending rowdy second run theatres in the ’70s as background for why he can’t get very worked up over the whole texting thing. He does bring up an interesting point, insomuch as our tendency to complain about current audiences implicitly suggests that audiences used to be much more polite and respectful, which my research doesn’t bear out any more than Glenn’s experience, but I still think there’s a difference. The audiences he’s describing (besides being at second run theatres) are at least still engaged either with the movie or with each other – it maintains a communal experience that clearly generates memorable stories. Texting on the one hand isolates the texter from the audience around them and imposes the texter’s non-movie, non-communal activity on those around them, and generates nothing memorable in return. Still, Glenn’s point that there is no mythical “golden age” of perfect cinema audiences is well-taken.

The Films of Billy Wilder: A Retrospective by The Playlist

Billy Wilder is one of my favorite filmmakers, and I’m far from alone; as The Playlist mentions in the opening paragraph, The Artist director Michel Hazanavicius thanked only one former filmmaker in his Oscar speech, and that was Billy Wilder. The man made a few mediocre films, but he has an extraordinarily consistent output of great films, and The Playlist goes through them all chronologically, with a well-written and informative paragraph about each one.

The Cinementals Episode 3: Scott McGee by Carley & Will at The Cinementals

I’ve known Carley before thanks to her blog The Kitty Packard Pictorial, and Will on Twitter, and now they’ve joined forces with some other classic movie fans to create The Cinementals, what looks to be an invaluable classic film site. They’re already off to a strong start with one of the best classic film podcasts I’ve heard, and this episode is particularly solid thanks to special guest Scott McGee, a producer at TCM (he produces a lot of the promotional and tribute videos that play between films on the network). With the TCM Classic Film Festival looming, they talk a bunch about that, but also about Scott’s experience seeing the Napoleon restoration in San Francisco, the fight to save Pickfair Studios, and more.

Perils, Pitfalls, and Predicaments Galore: The Silent Serial Queens by Brandie at True Classics

A major stereotype of silent film serials is the damsel in distress threatened by a mustachioed villain – as parodied in Dudley Do-Right, for example. But actually, an awful lot of early serials had female heroines, who were often quite capable of taking care of themselves. Brandie runs down a few of the most prominent (the only one I’d heard of before was The Perils of Pauline) ones. Of course, there were also plenty of male-centric serials in the teens (Les Vampires, etc.) and even more into the 1930s, when comic strip-type adventure heroes took over. But that’s a topic for another time.

Veneration and Its Discontents by Doug Dibbern at MUBI

It’s old news at this point that film studios are planning to go all-digital in the near future, but many cinephiles are still conflicted about the inevitable shift from film to digital. I’m conflicted myself, and Doug Dibbern does a great job of articulating the myriad of feelings we have about this. Taking the occasion of a demo of a DCP film shown side-by-side with its 35mm counterpart, Dibbern points out that part of our concern is an irrational veneration for physical, as if “the film” (in a Platonic sense) exists there more purely than anywhere else, as if different prints and different screenings weren’t already unique due to many different factors. As he says, DCP projection is often excellent, and it’s hard to find rational reasons to complain…but as he finishes in a more elegiac tone: “I know it’s not rational to revere film as a manifestation of a Platonic ideal, but that misplaced reverence, irrational as it is, may be why we were all drawn to art in the first place.”

The New Cinematic Dystopia of The Hunger Games by Landon Palmer at Film School Rejects

Holding Out for a Hero: Katniss and the New (Female) Role Model by Shelagh M. Rowan-Legg at Twitch

I’m putting these two together, both very worthwhile articles about the newest box office blockbuster, The Hunger Games. I finally saw it this weekend, so I got to read all the articles about it. These do both contain spoilers. Palmer points out that while many dystopian stories go from ignorance to knowledge to action, while The Hunger Games eschews the ignorance portion – even with the prevalent and misleading media, Katniss knows that the system is bad, she just needs a call to action and an opportunity to take it. Meanwhile, Rowan-Legg talks about Katniss the character as a hero, specifically in the tradition of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, suggesting that it both does and doesn’t matter than she’s female. It’s a good, strong reading of a well-written and well-played character.

More Links!

  • Dan at Public Transportation Snob catches up with In the Mood for Love, and gives it an extremely solid review
  • Ed Howard at Only the Cinema highlights Castaways from Turtle Rock from overlooked New Wave director Jacques Rozier – I admit that I’ve not heard of Rozier, but I’m intrigued now
  • Bilge Ibiri at They Live by Night reprints an article about Jacques Rivette’s notoriously difficult to find 13-hour film Out 1 – and makes me want to seek it out myself
  • Steve at 1001 Plus gets to Magnolia, which is easily my favorite PT Anderson film – Steve liked it too, though his commenters are mixed. 🙂
  • Roderick Heath at Ferdy on Films liked John Carter quite a lot, and writes it up in his usual extremely compelling way – I was already curious, but now I actually really want to see it
  • Tyler at Southern Vision writes up INLAND EMPIRE as one of his all-time favorite films, an estimation I agree with whole-heartedely
  • Emil at A Swede Talks Movies picks 9 Director-Actor Teamups he wants to see – great choices all across the spectrum; who would you want to work together?
  • The Playlist picks out both actors and actresses they think are on the rise in 2012 – lots of these people I haven’t even heard of, but I’ll be looking out for them now!
  • Martin Scorsese recommends these 39 foreign films to an aspiring filmmaker. I’ve seen 23 of them; how about you?
  • Stevee Taylor of Cinematic Paradox bemoans the state of current DVD shops, from an insider’s persective
  • Over at Comic Alliance, Lauren Davis wonders if Batman has a moral obligation to kill the Joker (in the comics) and brings in noted philosophical positions to argue it out

Cool Trailers and Videos And Other Stuff

Noteworthy News

My Tunes Worth Hearing post for albums released in March will be out one of these days, but until then, here’s a collection of live performances my favorite band from February performed for Laundromatinee recently. They follow the same black and white aesthetic that the band’s single video for “Parted Ways” did, which I think works really well for the band’s old-school rock country sound, with Erika Wennerstrom’s signature emotion-filled growl leading the way. Incidentally, “Parted Ways” is still sitting atop my playlist of favorite 2012 songs.

Enjoy!

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