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movie thread for movies and not TV
  • Not looking to start some war about cultural distinction here, just speaking for myself in saying that my eyes glaze over at all the discussion of television shows and I think they act—again, just to me personally—as a disincentive to post about movies. So here’s a thread for that.

    I’ve been watching a LOT of shitty films from 2012 this summer, for no particular reason except that I’m in one of those mental states where the role of film in my life is as cognitive tune-out after lengthy work days. Thus, I dunno, Richard Gere being a douchebag in boring-ass tripe like Arbitrage.

    But I also finally saw Godard’s Tout va bien last week for the first time. I’d always been under the impression it was dry-as-dust verite-style with Jane Fonda and Yves Montand hanging around a labor strike, but I actually found it really cinematically vibrant, smart, and admirably unresolved in its effort to reconcile with the aftermath of 1968. I like it a hell of a lot more than some of his late-60s works. Any opinions on this one?

    The Criterion DVD also carries Letter to Jane as a co-feature, the weird 50-minute Maoist semiotics lesson Godard and co-director Jean-Pierre Gorin offered through a deconstruction of a single photograph of Fonda in Vietnam. Again, it’s way more engaging than what I’d read would lead one to expect, though there are ugly layers of sexism and hypocrisy in two male directors haranguing their own female star over her efforts at peace activism and their gross, didactic, above-it-all analytical stance, which seems to think they can escape their own bourgeois privilege by denouncing that of others. But as problematic as it is, it’s a smart, compelling little film-thing, and I’d recommend it to anyone with an interest in this kind of project. I’ve never seen Godard’s 70s Maoist anti-films, but there are a bunch on UbuWeb, Vimeo, and YouTube, so I think I’ll watch more if I have downtime in the hotels I’ll be living in for the next two weeks.

  • Last night watched Twilight’s Last Gleaming, Robert Aldrich’s semi-lost 1977 nuclear thriller with Burt Lancaster. Not a great film—fairly bloated at a thick 144 minutes—but shocking in the angry vitriol of its scathing condemnation of U.S. involvement in Vietnam (an angle that I didn’t see coming). I don’t think I’ve ever seen the film mentioned among American films about Vietnam, but it should be (although it’s not set there)—and it makes me realize, I don’t know much about Burt Lancaster, but he made a string of fiery left-oriented revisionist films in the 70s about everything from genocide against Native Americans (Ulzana’s Raid—also by Aldrich) to the JFK assassination (Executive Action) to his grim Vietnam military film Go Tell the Spartans. Huh.

  • huh I hadn’t realised Apache was Aldrich too, which I guess is where the long term Lancaster collabs come from (with Lancaster red-facing it up as Geronimo.

    I should see more Aldrich - Sister George and Attack! are both ones I’ve been meaning to see some time. The latter mainly because I remember my dad saying he really liked Attack!, and that the poster perfectly represented the way he felt as an adolescent.

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  • ADF said: Last night watched Twilight’s Last Gleaming, Robert Aldrich’s semi-lost 1977 nuclear thriller with Burt Lancaster. Not a great film—fairly bloated at a thick 144 minutes—but shocking in the angry vitriol of its scathing condemnation of U.S. involvement in Vietnam (an angle that I didn’t see coming). I don’t think I’ve ever seen the film mentioned among American films about Vietnam, but it should be (although it’s not set there)—and it makes me realize, I don’t know much about Burt Lancaster, but he made a string of fiery left-oriented revisionist films in the 70s about everything from genocide against Native Americans (Ulzana’s Raid—also by Aldrich) to the JFK assassination (Executive Action) to his grim Vietnam military film Go Tell the Spartans. Huh.

    You know what, there was precisely a recent Burt Lancaster cycle at the local theater here that featured both Twilight’s Last Gleaming and Ulzana’s Raid. I had a fairly similar reaction to Twilight as yours; I get why Ulzana’s Raid is classified as a revisionist western, to the extent that its misanthropy is more evenly distributed than in other similar films, but it’s not particularly kind to the Apaches at all, though - the thing in that movie is that every twenty minutes or so the character of the young US lieutenant who witnesses all the horrible Apache murders asks a fellow rider, well, why are the Apaches so mean? - which I originally thought would work as a set-up for some backstory that would go some way toward explaining that, but the answers he gets, up until the end of the movie are mostly along the lines of “well, DUH, cause that’s the way they ARE”.

    That retrospective also featured Huston’s The Unforgiven, which is worth seeing if not without faults, and a clearer (and earlier), if a bit heavy-handed, statement on racism against Indians. I wanted to see Elmer Gantry, but missed it - should I rectify that when I get the chance?

    My personal Peckinpah retrospective has for now come to a grinding halt, since I was horrified to find yesterday that the DVD of Junior Bonner I bought for cheap on the Internet does not have the original English version, just the French dubbing. Just ordered the right DVD this morning, so hopefully my foray into his 70s works continues sometime next week. Earlier this week, Straw Dogs was genuinely harrowing - so much so that I don’t really feel like talking about now; a pretty dramatic change of tone after the general affability of Cable Hogue

  • wish i had time to respond to all of that, but instead let me just urge you in the name of everything that is right and holy to never, never, NEVER watch the Straw Dogs remake. it is truly one of the worst films of this decade, just an abomination.

  • I would never have considered that, I believe, but thanks for the warning all the same!

  • ADF said: But I also finally saw Godard’s Tout va bien last week for the first time. I’d always been under the impression it was dry-as-dust verite-style with Jane Fonda and Yves Montand hanging around a labor strike, but I actually found it really cinematically vibrant, smart, and admirably unresolved in its effort to reconcile with the aftermath of 1968. I like it a hell of a lot more than some of his late-60s works. Any opinions on this one?

    have you seen Jerry Lewis’s Ladies Man? makes Tout va bien even better.

  • I bought a bunch of VHS tapes from the tip shop for 50 cents each yesterday, which means if i don’t like em, I can hand them on to another 2nd hand shop I guess. Quadrophenia; 9 to 5; Willy Wonka and the Chocolate factory; some Black Books; the Marx brothers’ The Big Store. I’m kicking myself a little that I didn’t also pick up the tape of Len Lye shorts and Tetsuo 2:Body hammer that were there, but I just kno they’ll sit in my house with me not feeling like watching them forever, and i’ve been trying to limit my purchasing to things I’ll actually use, because lord knows I can’t afford otherwise

  • go back and get the len lye!!

  • I think I shall. I’ve seen most of the ones on it (being NZ they’re sort of a staple at film archive and gallery exhibitions) but yeah, it is prolly a good idea to own them.

    I rewatched Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory last night, having not seen it since small times, and not really expecting to like it very much. it’s actually pretty good! I remember feeling like it was interminably long, but I guess the current thing of kids films being 2.5 to 3 hours long on the regular means I’m inured to that now. it also has the Wiches on the same tape, which I’ve never seen, and did not realise was a Roeg film! Huh. So that’s on for tonight, as a reward for actually managing to write something today. I thought I had such bad writers block that I was broken forever.

  • Computer Chess is a film I pretty much loved, in every way. Formalism, cats, and a weird psychosexual nexus, basically my cinematic trifecta. I never actually saw Bujalski’s Beeswax—his first two were so wrapped up in my whiny self-pity period of moving to Philly and being dumped that it just carried unpleasant baggage—but now I need to catch up on it.

    Grace, did you watch the Witches? I haven’t seen it since around when it came out, but I loved it as a kid. And speaking of Roeg, I picked up Castaway on VHS—it’s not on R1 DVD, I think—for two bucks in Hollywood, looking forward to seeing that again. kudos on breaking the writer’s block, too!

  • Huh, I wonder if you were at the same screening of Computer Chess as my mom. Her review, via email: “p.s. i saw computer chess and was quite enchanted by it. It had a wry wit especially visually. but what a group of NERDS!!!”

    I went to a sparsely attended screening last Monday—I was in town for one day to do research at NYU, and when the research went pear-shaped I figured I ought to call it a day and catch a flick. Not a single person in the audience laughed the entire film. It was really disconcerting. I, however, enjoyed myself immensely.

    And one other thing about Buljaski and my family: brother was an extra in Beeswax. So watch for the back of his head and, if I remember correctly, his elbow. It’s in a diner scene. Oh yeeeahhhh!

  • That’s funny, we saw a Monday mid-afternoon matinee in Philly, also sparsely populated, but this one woman quite frequently lost her shit cracking up laughing. I appreciated her awkward presence, it seemed appropriate.

    I’ll keep my eyes peeled for your brother when my copy of Beeswax shows up at the library!

  • Whit, I did watch the Witches, and it was TERRIBLE. A decently spooky intro, but the really gross end of the worst sort of slapsticky kids film. Most disappointing.

    I haven’t seen that much great lately - 9 to 5 was…cute, but in retrospect could’ve been so, so much better. Paperhouse, the Bernard Rose one (based on the great children’s book Marianne Dreams) that Peacocks was talking about a while back was really strange. Not in a wholly recommend way, but I’m glad I saw it. I wondered how many drafts there were where both the children die at the end, and actually thought that might’ve been more narratively satisfying (not in a mean way, it just would’ve matched the strange tone of the rest of the movie better).

    It’s the film festival, and I’ve not been to anything except Behind the Candelabra, which I had free tickets to. Going to Upstream Color tomorrow, and Hannah - finally getting to see Leviathan, as well. Really looking forwards to that one.

  • Oh, man, I wish I could see Leviathan again! Such an incredible work. Please let me know your thoughts!

  • I’m leaving on Saturday so sadly I’ve been missing most of the film festival. Yesterday I went to see the year’s top NZ short films, a few of which were really good, and one of which a friend was involved in, so that was cool. I really wanted to see upstream color - I’ve seen it before, and while I didn’t love it, it’s the kind of sensual experience you should see on the big screen, but I just don’t have the time. Also there’s a documentary about The National that I’ll miss.

  • After considerable thought (because that’s what it asks of you) I decided I really liked Upstream Color. It was great seeing it at the Embassy, partly because it looks great, but mainly because it sounds great. It also had an openendedness that meant that, while satisfying, it avoided the pitfalls of a lot of puzzle films, where the fimmakers often seem to be giving you something narratively complex that you’re supposed to tease out and find the answer, whereas this gave you a lot more to emotionally and intellectually grapple with, and to which any answers are going to be pretty subjective and ambiguous.

    Ernest and Celestine was in the category of ‘didn’t think that much of, but glad I saw it’, and in a couple of hours I’m heading to the new Jia Zhang-Ke, A Touch of Sin. And maaaaaybe this year’s Hong Sang Soo tonight. The festival has one every year, and I always go, but I’m not 100% I can afford that many more non-daytime screenings.

  • Hoshi said: Whit, I did watch the Witches, and it was TERRIBLE.

    9 year old thermos wants to fight you

  • I had a productive film watching weekend:

    Lonely Are the Brave (Edward Abbey penned anarcho-cowboy movie from 1962) Throne of Blood (Kurosawa—that final screen with the arrows is one of the best things ever) Murderball (interesting) Jurassic Park (hadn’t seen this one in a while)

    Next up: The Passion of Anna (Bergman) Tales of Earthsea (Miyazaki the younger—I’ve heard this is not very good) Shadows (Cassavetes—the only other one of his I’ve seen was Opening Night, which I thought a little tiresome, although I can see its charms)

  • Thermos said:

    Hoshi said: Whit, I did watch the Witches, and it was TERRIBLE.

    9 year old thermos wants to fight you

    i believe 30 year old hoshi could take 9 year old thermo in a fight. maybe.

  • i would agree but i still don’t know who the hell any of you are

  • Ha, don’t we have a dramatis personae thread up here somewheres?

  • Yeah, this one. Alternatively, this one.

  • Well I didn’t post in either of those threads, so I must still be an International Man of Mystery.

  • You’re on the second page of the first thread. Ruined your chances of impersonating Illest Waffle.

  • Hey so realistically I can’t make all of these, and possibly not even Tarkovsky because I’ll be headed back from DC/Baltimore that day (which will at least give me the grim satisfaction of missing Tarkovsky films in NYC, L.A., and Philly too. Fucking YAY).

    So for the rest of the series “Sergei Parajanov: Surrealist Poet of Soviet Cinema,” any suggestions as to what I absolutely, certainly should not miss? Behold: http://ihousephilly.org/parajanov

  • also, how does The Passion of Anna hold up? I loved that film when I was young, and am squeamish about revisiting it because I enjoy loving it and worry that I might be disillusioned to see it now.

  • ALSO also, saw The Act of Killing today, which is imperfect but unsettling, and still reverberating in my mind. There are aspects of it (this is the documentary about leaders of Indonesian death squads cinematically recreating the atrocities they committed in the 1960s, with pride) that I find questionable, but there’s no question it has some powerful fucking scenes.

  • I thought The Act of Killing was pretty incredible.

    Can’t help you with Parajanov, sorry!

  • Bah, that Big Star documentary was pretty rotten. But, seeing as they barely talked about the actual music in it all, I’ve put on #1Record to remind myself how fucking awesome they actually were.

  • ADF said: So for the rest of the series “Sergei Parajanov: Surrealist Poet of Soviet Cinema,” any suggestions as to what I absolutely, certainly should not miss? Behold: http://ihousephilly.org/parajanov

    You should definitely see (from my most to least favorite): The Color of Pomegranates; Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors; The Legend of Suram Fortress; Ashik Kerib. Absolutely, certainly do not miss any of them, but if you can only make one, make it Color of Pomegranates.

  • P.S. Grace, did you make it to Leviathan?

  • ADF said: also, how does The Passion of Anna hold up? I loved that film when I was young, and am squeamish about revisiting it because I enjoy loving it and worry that I might be disillusioned to see it now.

    I went on a Twin Peaks bender and haven’t watched it yet…but I’m thinking I’ll watch it over the weekend and report back.

  • adf, I’ll second Color of Pomegranates and Shadows of Forgotten Anscestors. (the latter is a blast, the former more abstract) I would looove to see some parajanov in a theater.

  • hannah said: P.S. Grace, did you make it to Leviathan?

    Sadly, I didn’t, mainly because I was too broke to go to really more than one evening screening, and because of the likeihood of it coming back in some way shape or form is higher than the likelihood of Hong Sang Soo’s ‘Nobody’s Daughter Haewon’ coming back, that won out. It was fantastic, so that helps. Still eager to see leviathan, though, and really hoping that there will be some chance to see it in a theatre.

    I also enjoyed Computer Chess! I didn’t find it AMAZING, but I definitely had a total ball seeing it with a pretty appreciateive crowd. And omg, little Wiley Wiggins is all grown up and unrecognisable

  • I thought The Passion of Anna was great and probably my favorite Bergman so far. It’s psychological, desolate, existentialist, and all that…and a beautiful-looking movie to boot. And handsome bearded Swedish men living in isolated cabins full of books while smoking pipes in the Scandinavian gloaming…

  • I’ve never cared for Catherine Zeta-Jones and still don’t, but had an accidental double feature of her 2013 films with Broken City and Side Effects. The former was more of the Mark Wahlberg-dumb-fun shtick of Shooter and his other more frivolous work—some ridiculously goofy twists, but some nice 40s-noir throwbacks, and I’ve grown to love Russell Crowe’s craggy-old-man thing (after long finding him unbearable). Has has some great scenery-chewing hardboiled dialogue as NYC mayor.

    Side Effects was a nicely nasty slow-burn thriller. This might just be me aging into an old crank, but I truly can’t tell all of these wispy post-Zooey Deschanel actresses apart—which makes the blank-slate affect of Rooney Mara perfect for the central role. Actually, I dislike most of the cast—Zeta-Jones, Jude Law, and the bafflingly popular Channing Tatum, but Soderbergh puts them to good use. For a while this one seemed kinda obvious, but it’s smarter than it seems.

    midnight_augury said: I thought The Passion of Anna was great and probably my favorite Bergman so far. It’s psychological, desolate, existentialist, and all that…and a beautiful-looking movie to boot. And handsome bearded Swedish men living in isolated cabins full of books while smoking pipes in the Scandinavian gloaming…

    Okay, this combined with the fact that I’ve only seen it on a VHS that I assume was panned and scanned does make me want to revisit. I was also thinking of it the other day because we started watching The Corner, and the character-interview sequences remind me a bit of late-60s Bergman.

  • “bafflingly popular”? dude, have you seen Magic Mike?

  • hannah said: “bafflingly popular”? dude, have you seen Magic Mike?

    Yeah, idk, soderbergh just knows how to make Tatum seem good.

  • I mean, I haven’t seen him anything not directed by Soderbergh (I don’t think?). But I love how Soderbergh uses him—as capitalism personified!

  • Agreed, and I almost made a side note of that—yes to Magic Mike! But outside Soderbergh’s hands (well, and also inside, in the lackluster Haywire), dude comes off like a less-hot meathead version of Brendan Fraser, minus his goofy charm. Although I guess I shouldn’t hold Stop-Loss against him, that dreadful piece of crap ruined even the usually invincible Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

  • ADF said: dude comes off like a less-hot meathead version of Brendan Fraser, minus his goofy charm.

    BURRRRRRRNNNNN

    I watched The Life and Death Of Colonel Blimp the other day, which was a lovely thing to watch given that I’ve been cranky, sore and groggy with a flu all weekend. I didn’t love it as much as some of the other Powell/Pressberger films I’ve seen, but I do so love how kind they invariably are to their characters (even when, as in this film, the characters are total Tools of Empire). I also love the scenes where a character will stop, stare into space and talk, and the camera will just look at them talking, and the other characters will just listen, and it’ll be absolutely gripping and then you’ll suddenly realise you’ve just been looking at some human being’s face talking for several uncut minutes.

    Those take-you-out-of the film moments that make you notice something about the actual medium happen to me a lot watching their films. There was one scene where the (very beautiful, Criterion) transfer flickered a little, and I mean, this was doubtless aided by my fever-brain and my general distinterestedness in haptic analyses and whatever, but I had this jolt of whoa! I’m not watching people talking, I’m watching the light-on-plastic traces of long-dead actors in front of machinery and this is completely Platonic and bizarre and completely fucking awesome. I dunno, often getting jolted out of a film experience like that is a killer, but with a few filmmakers - Powell/Pressberger, Bresson? it does something different. The difference between like “It’s just a movie” and “Holy fuck, this is a MOVIE” or something.

  • I almost never watch movies these days (too much else on in my life, and too tired at night) though the boys do it on a regular basis. The Bloke is taking E through the Marx Brothers’ canon, and I sometimes catch a bit of whatever is the current favourite. Last couple of weeks it’s been The Big Store, which many claim isn’t one of their best, but I’m pretty fond of it. At least it has Margaret Dumont.

    We are, however going on A Date to the Movies this very afternoon. Gonna see Elysium and hope it doesn’t suck. The bloke has a thing for Jodie Foster, and apparently she gets to show off her Francophone side in this a bit, so there’s that I guess.

  • Jodie Foster’s French is an incredible thing, incidentally - if you didn’t know who she was, you’d never guess she isn’t a native speaker. Have fun!

  • It wasn’t too bad! It rang some asylum seeker alarm bells for us, which is always useful, and came with a reminder that if you think your paradise is too small to fit everyone who wants to be in it, you can always redefine what it means to be a citizen of that place. Mary Damon’s Bruce Willis impersonation was amusing, and Jodie Foster’s character was a bit two-dimensional.

  • Oh, autocorrect! Matt Damon.

  • We saw Fruitvale Station yesterday and it was really pretty powerful. I wrote more about it elsewhere, but I really appreciated the more understated approach it took, and Michael B. Jordon continues to really wow me.

    An aside — a woman took her children with her to the movie. Maybe four kids, aging from like 5 to 12. I guess I can’t say it was inappropriate exactly, or that children should be made to avoid films that make them think about death or injustice or whatever but it still seemed kind of strange to me.

  • Parajanov postscript: I made it to, in order, The Legend of Suram Fortress and The Color of Pomegranates. Both very impressive, though Legend was a little insular in that my total lack of knowledge about Georgian folklore kept me constantly aware that I was missing a good deal of what was happening; even just engaging with it as a series of fascinating images, though, it carried me along with its dreamlike flow. Color was slightly more accessible, in that Meditations on Art tend to carry across cultural barriers to some extent, and it was also gorgeous to look at. The International House also brought a guy who’s about to publish the first English-language monograph on Parajanov, and he added a lot of useful context. At the Q&A afterward I asked whether the director (who was sent to the gulags on a number of charges, including “deviant homosexuality”) should be considered part of queer film history, and while he didn’t seem super enthused by the topic, he did label him bisexual. Which makes it interesting to me that the University of Wisconsin Press is marketing the book pretty exclusively, as far as I can tell, to Slavic Studies, when at a sheer numerical level I’d think “recovered queer filmmaker” would find a broader (albeit still small) audience.

    Anyway, glad I went. In between those two rigorous art films I also saw Butter, the 2011 Jennifer Garner film whose main virtue is allowing me to use the word “execrable.” Because it was. But M loves state fairs AND butter sculptures, so it was for her, and she got what she wanted out of it.

  • Things I disliked about Upstream Color: the use of Walden. The excessive pig intercutting that becomes unintentionally funny. Too much malignant Malickian malarkey. That hyperlit visual sterility that I always recoil from, even when it serves an aesthetic end.

    But while it’s a flawed—fairly deeply flawed, IMHO—film, I do still admire it. The narrative swerve around the half-hour point is genuinely surprising, and it hits effective emotional notes that don’t have to resolve. The scene of sound-recording is wonderful unto itself, and I agree with Grace’s comment above about the open-endedness generally working. So, mixed bag, but glad I saw it. Would definitely benefit from the big screen—the fake-independent semi-arthouse theater chain in Philly has some nefarious contractual resistance to actually independent films, so it did a weird one-week stand at the Franklin Institute, which I sadly missed.

  • Upstream Color is one of two movies in 2013 to straight up put me literally to sleep. The other one was that Tina Fey/Paul Rudd afterthought