Damn, I only have time to watch movies on weekends part 03: AJDaGreat and the last crusade

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  • 1. Camp (2003) - Well, let me start off by saying it's nice to see a movie about teenagers interested in theater rather than all the movies about teenage athletes, and nice to see a movie that's not afraid to be about homosexuality, one which portrays the evils of homophobia. Also, many of the subplots of this movie that involve the many quirky characters are fun and original. And the musical numbers are amazing, the performers very talented, etc. Unfortunately, the main plot about the romance, involving some kind of love polygon I won't even begin to describe, is mostly cliche, and when the script isn't giving us stuff we've seen so many times before, it's pretty bad. Some of the "romantic" dialogue goes beyond cheesy and becomes just plain awful.
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    First Vlad does the stereotypical bitch, then he goes for the girl everyone knows he's going to end up with in the end. Then there's the standard "guy kisses other girl for no apparent reason, only to have girlfriend walk in on them" scene, then a FOURTH girl gets involved, and finally, the girl forgives the guy and all is well. As one of my friends put it, the message is: If you're a hot straight guy, you can do whatever and whomever you want, and everyone will still love you. If you're a gay guy, you'll always have no friends, parents who hate you, and a shit life.
  • 2. Futurama Season 2 DVD (1999-2000) - Okay, this show isn't as good as "The Simpsons." But stop trying to compare it to "The Simpsons", because it features a different type of humor. Sure, the Groening touch is always there, but "Futurama" and "The Simpsons" are different shows with different characters and very different premises. "The Simpsons" is about a dysfunctional family in suburbia; "Futurama" is about a crew making deliveries to other planets in the year 3000. "Futurama", in my opinion, is more experimental, more ambitious; its experiments don't always succeed, but I ignore those, because when the show's at top form, it's a barrel of laughs. "Futurama" may be Groening's second-best show, but it's still a very good show. This DVD set was very funny, and I'm eager to see more seasons when they come out.
  • 3. Bowling for Columbine (2002) - My father is a very peaceful man. One time, he got a speeding ticket, and one time, a camera caught him going through a red light that had been yellow just nanoseconds beforehand, and he got another traffic ticket - but that's about as reckless as he's been with other people's lives. As you may know, he had quadruple-bypass surgery this summer, which left him in a weak, lethargic state. As I said, he's pacifistic by nature, but after the surgery, I doubt he could hurt another human being even if he wanted to; hell, he wasn't even allowed to lift a ten-pount weight! Anyway, my mother dropped off my father at a place where he could have an X-ray taken. Not a real hospital, just a local place for medical emergencies. I don't remember the name, but I think the word "Care" was in it. Anyway, my dadwent in to have some X-rays done, but when the receptionist asked for an identification, he realized he had left his wallet at home. He calmly said that he did not have an ID, but suggested that the receptionist phone his doctor at Johns Hopkins (where he had had the surgery done). The receptionist said she could not take him unless he had an ID. My dad asked to talk to her supervisor. The receptionist replied that if my dad did not leave the building, she would call the police. So my dad stood outside the building - his muscles atrophied, his body having suffered enough - while my mom came to pick him up.
  • I do not know what was going through this receptionist's head that she thought my poor, weak, overweight father, with enormous scars going down his chest, forearm, and lower leg, was there to cause her harm. I do know, however, that this is an example of the unfounded fear that Michael Moore is talking about in his wonderful documentary. "Bowling for Columbine" suggested that the American media warn us about every possible threat, that they have trained us to be too fearful a nation. The media turns us into a people so afraid for our own self-defense that we go out, buy guns, shoot first, and ask questions later. This is what's different about America. Other nations have more poverty, violent movies, violent video games, violent music, and ethnic diversity than we do; however, America has more gun murders than anyone else in the world.
  • I think that Michael Moore's documentary is so successful because it's not so extremely liberal, as he usually is. I mean, its ideas are often liberal, but Moore does criticize the actions of both George Bush and Bill Clinton in the movie. This is unlike Moore's actions at his Academy Award acceptance speech. After watching the movie, I realize just how hypocritical his speech is. In "Bowling for Columbine", Moore criticizes Charlton Heston for holding a pro-gun rally shortly after a six-year-old is killed in Flint, Michican; but Moore has no problems with bashing Bush DURING the time that innocent American soldiers are fighting and dying because of the love of their country. Don't get me wrong - I'm a liberal like Moore, but I think that kind of extremism is dangerous no matter what your political affiliation.
  • But back to the movie. "Bowling for Columbine" is an excellent movie that is often brilliant in making its points. It really is unfortunate that the movie is rated R (I believe Chris Rock says the f-word once, and the "South Park" guy says it twice; also, there are some images of bloodied corpses from wars, images similar to those that could probably be seen in most history books), because every child in America should see this movie.
  • 4. Schindler's List (1993) (watched again) - I watched this movie again with my film class (20th Century Images). While it's hard to not become engrossed in the film, my teacher asked us to try to concentrate on the technical artistry of the movie, which indeed is beautifully shot. Say what you want about Spielberg, but he is a master craftsman. As for the level of sentimentality in the film... well, c'mon guys, it's the maudlin Steven Spielberg - it could've been a lot worse. At least the film didn't hold back in depicting the cruelty of the Nazis. My favorite part is still one of the more sentimental though - when Oskar Schindler breaks down because he could have saved more people. What a beautiful movie.
  • 5. The Grapes of Wrath (1940) - I didn't expect to like this movie very much, despite all the acclaim it has received. The premise never struck me as a movie I'd be interested in. As it is, the message is clear, but the movie rambles on, taking the Joads here and there and here and there, on and on. I haven't read the book, but I imagine the story probably makes a better book, where we can really get into the heads of the characters, and the thought is more important than the action. Perhaps a possible choice for my Movies I Can't Connect With list, even though I did like it.
  • 6. Matchstick Men (2003) - Elsewhere on this site, people are bemoaning the fact that Ridley Scott seemed to have lost his directorial ability in "Gladiator." I haven't seen "Gladiator", but "Matchstick Men" is very well-directed, so perhaps Scott has redeemed himself. Both Scott's directing and Cage's wonderful performance really help us get into the head of Cage's neurotic character. The script of the movie, too, is really intriguing in its portrayal of the con artist and the daughter. One part of the movie I loved was Cage's distinction that everyone he has conned actually gave him the money freely, albeit under fraudulent reasons. It reminded me of how Pacino drew the line in "The Godfather." The rest of the screenplay is also very smart. An excellent movie. One thing I forgot to add. This movie has a plot twist in the end that's not particularly difficult to figure out. I'm really bad at guessing movie endings, but I was halfway there on this one. However, this doesn't detract from the movie, because the movie isn't about the plot twist.
  • 7. Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003) - This isn't a great movie, but it sure as hell is a fun movie. I love it because it's so damn cheesy! The script doesn't take itself seriously, but the characters do, which makes for a good combination; there's just something so awesome about Johnny Depp's soberness in uttering a corny line like, "Are you a Mexican, or a Mexican't?" It's no work of art, but it makes for a good time on a lazy Saturday afternoon when I don't have any freaking electricity. Lousy hurricane.
  • 8. X2: X-Men United (2003) - What makes a good superhero movie? Is it enough to create a fun action movie, or should it go deeper? Or if I'm looking for character depth, am I asking too much of a superhero movie, or missing the point? I did an IMDB PowerSearch for the 5 highest-rated feature-length superhero movies (with at least 50 votes). #5 was "Batman", in which Tim Burton chose to keep Bruce Wayne a total enigma. And the Dark Knight probably should remain cryptic, but wouldn't it have been much bolder to allow the audience to peer into the mystery of Batman's life just a little bit? #4 is the original "X-Men" movie, which I haven't seen. #3 is "Spider-Man", in which we do see a little bit into the lives of the characters, but, IMHO, the character drama is poorly-written and hokey. #2 is "Iron Monkey", which I haven't seen.
  • And, as you probably could've guessed, the #1 highest-rated superhero movie is "X2: X-Men United." Here's one time that I'm inclined to agree with the IMDB voters. As someone who didn't see the first "X-Men" movie, never watched the "X-Men" television show, never read any "X-Men" comic books, and knows very little about the X-Men, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this movie. It managed to blend all the elements of a good superhero movie with all the elements of a good movie, and by that I mean that these mutants felt more like real people than Bruce Wayne and Peter Parker in their respective movies. The script deals with human issues in mutant ways. For example, the kid who has been keeping his mutantness a secret from his parents reminds us of other secrets that teenagers have. Or the couple that has been trying to kiss but can't due to Rogue's powers reminds us of other couples with problems that keep them from physical contact. Not to mention the racism against the mutants. "X2" contained plenty of action, but it did not sacrifice its script for its action.
  • 9. Night and Fog (1955) - Watched during my film class. We were comparing the realism of "Schindler's List" to an actual documentary on the Holocaust. "Night and Fog" focuses on an unflinching portrayal of horrifying images, rather than character drama like "Schindler's List." Certainly a very different approach to a Holocaust film, but both styles work for different reasons. Enough comparison. This is a fascinating short film with some very disturbing images. It is very well done. I had a problem with the ending narration though. It got a little too obvious in talking about its message, that history will repeat itself if we don't learn from it. I think the images would speak for themselves with a bit less narration. But if you have a chance to see this horrifying short film, do so.
  • 10. The Sealed Room (1909) - I should probably change the title of this list to "Damn, I never have time to watch movies but I'm making a list anyway." Sorry this list has been pretty slow lately. Anyway, this is an 11-minute short directed by D.W. Griffith. It's pretty much your standard silent short - overacting, goofy wigs, and Griffith's favorite trick, parallel editing. The plot, based on a Poe short story, is actually fairly interesting; however, I doubt many people would watch this for anything but an interesting piece of film history.
  • 11. The Asphalt Jungle (1950) - I guess when you reach a point of seeing enough crime-doesn't-pay movies, you start to expect a little more, something that this [supposedly classic] movie doesn't really deliver. I mean, yeah, it does a good job of setting up the bleak, urban, crime-filled atmosphere, but so do many other movies, and many of those are much better. The whole thing is so anticlimactic -
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    the movie seems to be structured like this: These are the people who committed the crime. Then they caught this guy. Then they caught this guy. Then they caught this guy. Then this guy died. The end. I didn't like this episodic structure of catching the criminals. Not to mention the random anti-resolution of the subplot where Emmerich tries to double-cross. Jeez, what was going through Bob Brannom's mind? "Well, they seem a little annoyed that he doesn't have the money - so I'd better PULL OUT MY GUN!!! Yeah, pulling out my gun is cool, even though I completely just gave up our entire plan! Check out this cool gun!" Then Brannom dies and the other guys are WAY too forgiving of Emmerich, who just tried to steal all their money. Slap on the wrist, and then everyone is friends again. And then when Brannom dies and the cops interrogate Emmerich, he hardly seems to care, and the cops buy it. And speaking of lame performances, note Dix's dying words, which reminded me of those cliche scenes in which a comic-book superhero is losing his power. Must... regain... strength... Must... talk... in... fragments...
    Not to mention, where's the cool dialogue? C'mon, guys, film-noir movies of the 30's, 40's, and 50's are supposed to be overflowing with brilliant dialogue. There were a few good lines, but overall I was pretty disappointed in that department. "Asphalt Jungle" is supposed to be a great movie, but I'll stick to other film-noirs, thanks. I found this one pretty sloppy.
  • 12. Rear Window (1954) - Of the Hitchcock films I've seen, this is the only one that could give "North by Northwest" a run for its money as my favorite. It is a suspenseful, well-plotted mystery in the cooped-up, private room of L.B. Jeffries's apartment. We see the world through his eyes; almost every shot either has the action taking place in the apartment, or has the action being seen from the apartment.
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    I think the key to the movie is towards the end, when in the climax of the movie, Thorvald asks Jeff, "What do you want? Money?" But Jeff was never trying to blackmail Thorvald. At the same time, Jeff, Lisa, and Stella never saw the murder from a moral standpoint, or even a legal one. They do all of their actions for the sheer voyeuristic interest in the matter - all of the plot not because murder is immoral or illegal, but because it's exciting.
    I liked all the characters, even the ones we never meet. A very interesting movie that is both fun and deep.
  • 13. Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) - John Ford made so many movies that were both great and important. Why did my film class have to watch this one? I didn't like this movie very much. Nevermind the trial's conclusion, one of the most ludicrous plot twists ever put on film (
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    Can anyone explain to me how Ward Bond can run up from the trees, stab Scrub White with a knife, and run back into hiding, without either brother noticing him, without the mother who is watching the whole thing noticing him, and with all of this occurring in a matter of seconds?
    ). But nevermind this lame twist; it's just a gimmick to show Lincoln in action. The movie attempts to paint a picture of Lincoln's life using the iconography that is already ingrained in every American's mind. And "Young Mr. Lincoln" even fails at that. Forget about shrewd lawman Lincoln. Lincoln is a pretty bad lawyer, and he never would have won the case (yes, he wins the case, and it's obvious he will, so it's no spoiler) if not for the deus ex machina present in the spoilerized message above. Other than that, Lincoln's legal methods mainly consist of making the courtroom erupt in laughter at his unrelated tangents. It's ridiculous to think that a courtroom could ever function in such an anarchic manner. But I'd be more forgiving if Lincoln's jokes were any good - Lincoln, after all, was a very witty man - but alas, the movie relies on some really lame humor, including, yes, a character named Jack Cass. How about other iconography? Honest Abe? The guy who walks three miles to return six cents to a customer? You don't see much of that in this movie. This is a Lincoln that threatens to bash two men's heads in unless they pay him. I mean, sure, it's meant to be funny, but the men are intimidated, and they do pay him, after all. So what does that leave us with? A few moments are cool; for example, the very ending shot of Lincoln walking off into the distance, juxtaposed with statues of Lincoln. But my favorite scenes were the ones with Ann Rutledge, where we see a gentler side of Lincoln, as opposed to the vulgar, unpleasant Lincoln that the movie usually depicts. Don't blame Fonda - he does his best with what the idiotic script provides. I don't think we should blame Ford, either, except maybe for choosing to direct this awful movie. He should've only made two movies in 1939, those two that are more acclaimed, that we should've watched in my film class. But no - we were stuck with "Young Mr. Lincoln."
  • 14. Dog Day Afternoon (1975) - This is a very well-done movie that manages to be both disturbingly tense and bizarrely hilarious at the same time. This is a movie where the societal pressures are weighting down on Pacino's shoulders, causing him to be abusive towards those who love him and eventually rob a bank, and yet, we only see Pacino as a nice guy. He's kind to his hostages, and they like him. The crowds outside like him too. This is a movie where a dark, creepy bank robber tells a hostage not to start smoking because "your body is the temple of the Lord." It's so absurd, and yet, it's so grounded in reality that it's frightening.
  • 15. Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) - I'm afraid I have nothing new to say here. I'm just going to slip into agreement with the general Listology trend. This. Movie. Is. Awesome. Tarantino mixes so many kinds of footage (we go from fast-paced fight scenes to the slow, building scene with Sonny Chiba to black and white footage to anime), he pays homage to so many of his favorite filmmakers, he creates quite a complex movie - and all of it works so well. Tarantino is one of the few men who could take this kinda stuff and make it work. Huge blood spurts where limbs and heads used to be, a man is spanked with a samurai sword, and yet, it's never corny. It works in the serious, disturbing parts and also in the silly parts. The performances hit all the right notes, uniformly high energy levels to make the movie thrilling. I can't wait for part two.
  • 16. Mystic River (2003) - Sean Penn's daughter dies, but that is only the MacGuffin, a set-up for a tense character drama-thriller. Not that I didn't enjoy the investigation component - the mystery interested me far more than AAA. But the heart of the movie is the explorations into the psyches of the characters. The real excitement comes from learning more and more about the history of the neighborhood, the connections between the characters. The script is fascinating, and it certainly helps that the three leads give uniformly strong performances. And that is also not to undermine some other great performances in the movie, such as Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden, Tom Guiry, etc. I think my favorite part of the movie was probably the conclusion to Bacon's story, which almost brought me to tears (I don't usually cry at movies).
  • 17. School of Rock (2003) - This I greatly enjoyed too, but in a different way. Its strongest asset is Jack Black's performance. He is surely one of the funniest men in Hollywood today. He knows how to create a hilarious, over-the-top performance without making it seem too forced or too silly. (IMHO, however, the funniest moment comes from the great Joan Cusack, in a moment I wouldn't dream of spoiling) "School of Rock" avoids most of the lame conventions of modern-day comedies; Richard Linklater and Mike White clearly know what they're doing. And thankfully, the child actors almost always avoided irritating the hell out of me. The characters have more depth than you'll see in most modern comedies - each one finds his or her own way of "sticking it to the man." There was only one bad part of the movie: Billy, the stereotypically gay kid, who becomes the band's stylist and proves once again that Hollywood does not know how to portray gays in film. But these lame gay jokes don't hurt the movie much. Don't think it was a huge fault. I'm just pointing it out because most of the rest of the movie was great. The movie doesn't spend too much time with the one-dimensional Billy, and returns to the other characters for some big laughs in this good-natured, hilarious film.
  • 18. North by Northwest (1959) (watched again) - While "Rear Window" was a masterpiece, I think that "North by Northwest" has retained its position as my favorite Hitchcock film, mostly because it's so damned entertaining. Is there meaning to the film? Sure, but it's not heavy-handed. I do think the film has a lot to say about identity and false identities; there are so many facades and confusing falsehoods in the plot. In fact, I think it probably had a heavy influence on the great "Memento." But primarily this is the Master of Suspense doing what he is best at, and the result is a movie that is both engaging and visually stunning.
  • 19. The Matrix Revolutions (2003) - The third and worst of the "Matrix" trilogy is not horrible, but it is horribly uneven. The first sequence of saving private Neo is unnecessary, but mostly interesting. Then we have a lot of boring, trite dialogue. The Wachowski brothers' method of writing dialogue seems to be to have one character say one line, and have another character say another line that contradicts it in a "witty" way. For example: "You've never believed in the One" / "I still don't. I believe in him", or "It's impossible" / "Not impossible, inevitable", or "It's been an honor" / "No, the honor is still mine", or the worst example yet, "You did it" / "No... we did it." After that, things get worse. Those damned sentinels finally attack Zion, and we are treated to a sequence that feels like it lasts four hours, in which machines keep shooting each other and exploding. For all the money and CGI the Wachowskis invested in this, it's incredibly boring, in my opinion. In the previous "Matrix" films, the action scenes were well-choreographed. Some of the scenes were brilliant; the highway scene in the 2nd movie comes to mind. But this attack on Zion seems to be made under the premise of "the more loud explosions, the better."
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    The scene of Bane attacking Neo isn't much better, and blind Neo seeing everything as fire (???) was really too nonsensical for me. Furthermore, the scene of Trinity dying was also peppered with that awful Wachowski dialogue.
    At the same time as the Zion attack, Neo is doing something else that is far more interesting, and it culminates in the fight with Smith that you all saw in the trailer. This was the stuff I liked. In my opinion, that fight and the ending are brilliant, except for the last minute or so, which is rather cheesy. So I enjoyed the first and last parts, but the middle was bogged down with a boring action setpiece and awful dialogue. I'd like to end with the following:
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    Let's discuss this final installment in terms of the Christ allegory. I'm not a Christian, so my analysis may be muddled, but I think this is what each character represents in the Bible: Neo = Jesus. Agent Smith = Anti-Christ. Architect = God. Bane = Judas. Morpheus = John the Baptist. Merovingian = Satan. Oracle = ??? (the Virgin Mary?). Trinity = ??? (Holy Ghost?). The machine whom Neo makes the deal with = ??? (Another version of God? The Architect is God of the Matrix, the machine is God of the real world?) Please post your thoughts.
  • 20. Bowling For Columbine (2002) (watched again) - The documentary I watched for my film class. Sure, Moore's movie is manipulative, but the point at the heart of his movie, his thesis if you will, is certainly correct. I am currently reading The Culture of Fear by Barry Glassner (who is interviewed in BFC), a book that strongly reinforces this point with great detail. Anyway, most of BFC is interesting and / or entertaining. If I was going to be more critical of the movie, I'd point out the weakness of two specific scenes: (1) shots of the poverty-stricken hometown of the Owens kid (the 6-year-old who shot another 6-year-old) are just too maudlin, and (2) the "interview" with Dick Clark was pretty pointless. But I'm not going to be so critical, because it's just nice to see such an intelligent documentary with a strong point being made. I'm eager to check out "Roger and Me."
  • 21. Punch-Drunk Love (2002) - A movie about a reserved man who discovers the girl of his dreams? Sounds banal, right? Sounds like something you've seen before, right? I can't tell you how wrong you are. The basic framework may fit other movies, but "Punch-Drunk Love" still feels fresh and new. It is visually stunning, a joy to watch, and the time passes quickly. Its themes and characterizations are present but subtle: note the moments of honesty, the moments of loyalty, the moments of secrecy. The audience is not beaten over the head with the significance of these moments. And it helps that the movie is wickedly funny in its bizarre way, a totally different humor than most Adam Sandler movies (thank God). This is a minor flaw, but the last fifteen minutes of the film do indeed contain a few scenes that are overstated or obvious. It seems like Anderson was unsatisfied to simply imply certain things, and those moments don't work so well. But thankfully those times are rare, and I can forgive them because the rest of the movie is so wonderful.
  • 22. Blood Simple (1984) - This movie starts off with enough promise. The tensions are established nicely, and it seemed like it was going to be a taut, fascinating thriller. Dan Hedaya's performance is quite good, and M. Emmet Walsh is rather funny. Then the film hits the halfway mark, and everything goes downhill. Characters begin behaving in completely inexplicable manners.
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    Why Walsh kills Hedaya, I'll never know. But Getz's actions are even worse. Let's think about these. Problem: I find my boss shot dead in his bar. I didn't do it. Response: I'll clean up the blood with my clothes, drag him into my car, and drive out to the middle of nowhere. Problem: My boss is still alive! Response: Run away! Then come back. Problem: He is weakly crawling down the highway. Response: What a good opportunity to kill him, when he's vulnerable. Problem: He is still weakly crawling down the highway. Response: Awww, so pathetic. I can't kill him. I'll just bury him alive instead, for no reason whatsoever.
    After that, the movie becomes immensely confusing. I couldn't follow it at all. But hey, it doesn't matter: the Coens were just joking around with us, as they tell us in the closing shots. The ending doesn't resolve anything; it's supposed to be funny. That the Coens have ended the movie this way really kills the dark tone of the film. Still, "Blood Simple" has a lot going for it. It just needs some work.
  • Update (1/4/04) - I do believe that in my original review, I missed the point of the movie. It's all in the title, "Blood Simple": these characters make stupid decisions when it comes to blood, murder, and all that jazz. Still, I think some of these decisions go beyond "simple", and in fact go beyond comprehension. Not to mention the very confusing last half-hour. I'm gonna leave it in the third tier, but I think I get the movie better now. If I ever decide to rewatch it, it might move up to the second tier.
  • 23. Bad Santa (2003) - Let's look back on some 2003 comedies I enjoyed. "Bringing Down the House" had an OK script, but what really made the film were the energetic performances by Steve Martin and Queen Latifah. "Bruce Almighty" had a decent script, but what made the film was clearly Jim Carrey. "School of Rock", a better movie than either of the above, had a good script, but what really made that movie hilarious were the great performances by Jack Black and Joan Cusack. Are you noticing a trend here? "Bad Santa" is an uproarious dark comedy that finally achieves some balance. The actors are great, especially Billy Bob Thornton and John Ritter (may he rest in peace), but the performances don't need to carry the movie: the actors are put onscreen by a very funny script and a director who clearly knows what he's doing. This bizarre, twisted movie may be the funniest I've seen in theaters all year.
  • 24. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) - This is the longest film I've ever seen. Ordinarily I have a low tolerance for films this long, but "Lawrence of Arabia" transcends all normal qualms about length. Maybe this is because, even at a 216-minute running time, no minute of film feels wasted. David Lean certainly deserved his Best Director Oscar for this one. The scenery is so gorgeous, so exquisite, and they must've been a pain in the ass to shoot. It's marvellous how Lean makes takes a bunch of sand and makes it into such beautiful, sweeping landscapes. O'Toole really got screwed out of a Best Actor Oscar though. He really hits the mark, playing Lawrence with such zest, and really nailing the complexities, eccentricities, and perversions of the character. All in all, a classic epic film that still holds up well today.
  • Back in Florida, so expect the rate of movies to be picking up. Be warned, however, that I have an ungodly amount of homework for a winter break.
  • 25. Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001) - This is the first really forbidden movie, that I was able to watch now that I'm 17. Some of you may bemoan the fact that, for such an important movie in my life, it's no classic (though it is quite good). And yeah, you'd probably right. But don't worry... there's plenty more where that came from.
  • Now, as for my thoughts on the movie. This is an excellent film, much bolder than anything mainstream Hollywood would ever produce. It's not only fresh in its approach to sexuality, it's fresh in its approach to its characters: two lifelong friends who learn more about each other on a brief trip to the beach than they have in their entire lives. They discover that maybe life isn't all about swimming and masturbation. The catalyst to spark all this is Luisa, wonderfully played by Maribel Verdu. The script is revealing, the cinematography is pitch-perfect for both the grandeur of the landscapes and the eroticism of the sex scenes - I got nothing to criticize here. Well, maybe except for one small quibble - Luisa's last words to the boys, revealed only in narration, are just really hokey. I'm not sure why the narration took the time to mention that. But thankfully, that only took up about 5 seconds of footage.
  • 26. Blue Velvet (1986) - At one point in the film, Kyle MacLachlan, overwhelmed by the horror he has seen, says, "Why is there so much trouble in this world?" My immediate reaction was that that was a rather lame, banal line. But then I realized: that's the point. Jeffrey's reaction is trite out of the jarring shock he is experiencing. All throughout his life of suburbia, he's never known such a world, and now that he has seen it, he is at a loss for words. He is simultaneously drawn to and terrified by this underworld, in the gripping "Blue Velvet." The movie is appropriately twisted and bizarre, with great direction by David Lynch. I think this is my first Lynch movie, and I'm eager to see more.
  • 27. A Fistful of Dollars (1964) - Eastwood is great, of course, but who really shines here is Sergio Leone. This is my first Leone movie, and I found his direction stunning. That guy can really create atmosphere. I brought some more spaghetti westerns down to Florida, so I hope to soak in some more Leone while I'm here. His direction more than makes up for some of the script's cheesy lines and a few annoying performances (maybe they worked better in Italian). "A Fistful of Dollars" may not be as good as "Yojimbo", but Sergio Leone is easily as good a director as Akira Kurosawa. My favorite part of the movie:
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    Eastwood, beaten and powerless, must get away from his pursuers, but he can barely move. With the enemies distracted, Clint slowly lights a match and throws it where he has just crushed a huge wine barrel. It creates a huge fire, giving him just enough time to escape.
  • 28. Badlands (1973) - This weird drama is a good movie but, in my opinion, not a great one. It does many things right. Malick does a very nice job, both in the script and direction, of creating the tense, moody atmosphere of the film. Martin Sheen is excellent as the inwardly dark male lead. However, the problem here is with Sissy Spacek's character. She seems to be the protagonist / narrator, but I have no idea what she thinks about all this. She rarely expresses any opinions on the matter, and worse, she rarely expresses emotions in her role. I mean, this is a small town, innocent Texas girl, in this killing spree way over her head, and she shrugs off every one of Sheen's murders as if he is brushing his teeth. I mean, I have nothing against low-key acting, but this is going too far. She just doesn't feel like a genuine character. This hurts the movie, but hey, it's still a worthwhile flick.
  • 29. Pulp Fiction (1994) - First I saw "Reservoir Dogs"; while flashes of Tarantino's style showed through in that movie, it was more focused on the very intelligent script. Then I saw "Kill Bill: Vol. 1", where the story was good but mainly served as a template for Tarantino's stylistic orgy. Now, after years of waiting this one out, I have finally seen "Pulp Fiction", which is a happy medium. Don't get me wrong; the other two Tarantino films are great, but in "Pulp Fiction", everything seems to go right. Somehow, QT makes a film about hit men, where the hit men are more focused on conversation than on crime, where the first third of the story is about a hit man taking his boss's wife out for the evening, and managed to make it immensely engaging. The dialogue is so rich, yet not so much to make the characters seem unrealistic. Quentin really nailed it here. This is his show, but of course, a lot of credit has to go to the actors. Much praise goes to Uma Thurman, who would be alluring even if she weren't so damn hot. Also to Samuel L. Jackson, who is always fun to watch. But all the performances are great. P.S. Between "Pulp Fiction" and "Blue Velvet", I've learned my lesson: if you're snooping around someone's house without their knowledge, never EVER go to the bathroom.
  • 30. Boogie Nights (1997) - "Boogie Nights" is not a great movie, but it's a pretty good one, in my opinion. I can't really nail down what didn't work for me. It bored me at times. I don't really have much to say about it, except that "Magnolia" and "Punch Drunk Love" will most likely stay in my memory long after "Boogie Nights" has been forgotten.
  • 31. The Station Agent (2003) - I don't always care for this kind of character-driven movie, where not much happens - we just mainly see the characters interacting. But "The Station Agent" is so well-done, so captivating, so charming, that it has become one of my favorite films of 2003. In fact, it may be my pick for the best film of 2003, at this point. We've all seen this very American-esque story arc before, but here it is done in such a fresh way. The three leads are excellent in their roles, the script is intelligent and often quite funny. I think kbuxton and I are the only ones around here to have seen this movie. If it's playing near you, I urge you to give it a chance.
  • 32. Elephant (2003) - Here we return to the age-old "best vs. favorite" debate. "Elephant" is a film that spends 75% of its running time following around students as they go about their school day. Their lives aren't particularly interesting, but that's what makes the film realistic. I would be lying if I said that the first hour of the film never bored me. On the other hand, it was never Gus Van Sant's intention to really interest the audience in the first hour. He was trying to paint a picture of average high school lives. At that, he succeeds. What I'm driving at is that "Elephant" is a damn good film that I somewhat enjoyed. But I wouldn't want to watch it again anytime soon.
  • Now, is there anything that mars the true quality of the film? Well, it doesn't really accurately portray the troubled teens, but hey, what film does? "Elephant" comes closer than most. This isn't really a beef with "Elephant", but movies in general have problems with portraying teen angst. At least going on my own observations and experiences (under the assumption that my school is your average high school), there are two main problems with film portrayal of teen angst: (1) It's very rarely a public thing. Note how, in "Elephant", two of the teenage girls get into a fight about how one of them is spending too much time with her boyfriend. That wouldn't happen in real life. It would be more private. One girl would talk about the other one behind her back, badmouthing her for spending too much time with her boyfriend. Teens aren't that confrontational. (2) No matter how big a loser a teen is, there just aren't any totally isolated loners at school. Almost everyone has friends, or at least one friend, and those that don't have friends at least have people whom they cling to and call friends. "Elephant" thankfully avoids this mistake. Well, that was a largely unrelated tangent. Now back to our movie review.
  • So I don't really blame "Elephant" for not portraying angst as accurately as it could. But there was another part of the movie that really made me groan: the two villains playing a violent video game (speaking of which, I've never seen a video game before where your only objective is to walk around in the snow and shoot innocent bystanders; must be a Microsoft release) and watching a documentary on Hitler. Gimme a break.
  • 33. The Simpsons: Season 3 (1991-1992) - You can really tell that this is a transitional season for the Simpsons. Watching the DVD set, you really notice how the animation becomes less crude and the wit becomes sharper as the season progresses. I usually say that the 4th and 5th seasons are my favorites, but the last 1/3 of season 3 is probably on par with those. An excellent season, and I can't wait for what's coming up next.
  • 34. Natural Born Killers (1994) - Oliver Stone is one bold director. This is a very polarizing movie, and I'm closer to the "love" side than the "hate" side. This movie can only be described as a mind-f*ck; it's the triumph of style over substance. But that doesn't hurt the movie; in fact, it seems to be the point of the movie. The American media and public are obsessed with mass murderers - not because they feel sympathy for the victims, but because it's interesting, dammit! They've missed the substance for the superficial glorification of killing. So how could "Natural Born Killers" NOT be style over substance? This dark comedy is certainly not for everyone, but it definitely appealed to me.
  • 35. Nosferatu (1922) - Great silent horror film. Certainly an inventive, influential film for its time, a worthy retelling of the story of Dracula, with the names changed around a bit for legal reasons. The visuals are appropriately dark and creepy, the story is suspenseful enough. A very interesting film from the silent era.
  • P.S. Can you tell when I can't really think of much to say about a film? I barely squeak by with a couple of lines. :-)
  • 36. Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989) - Wow, I think some of that went over my head, but I really liked this movie. It's an interesting exploration into the heads of four interesting characters with messed-up sex lives. Spader and MacDowell are both great in their roles. I loved how simultaneously intriguing and repulsive Spader's habit could be. A very clever movie with a very talented director.
  • 37. 21 Grams (2003) - "21 Grams" is not an easy film to watch. It's an intense character drama that is not afraid to shock us or challenge our notions about death. It breaks the rules, including one of the most fundamental ones:
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    little kids don't die in grisly accidents
    . The film evokes so many powerful emotions without ever feeling manipulative - with the help of three excellent performances by Naomi Watts, Sean Penn, and Benicio Del Toro. If the film has a flaw, it's that its un-chronological narrative technique doesn't really add anything. In fact, it's rather irritating. However, this doesn't detract from this very strong film, much.
  • 38. Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1973) - The eerie score of this movie immediately sets the scene for this story about a trip down the river. This is a chilling, methodical movie, not so much about the story as about the mood - which, of course, is appropriate for a movie about a search for a place that doesn't exist. I really enjoyed the mysterious feel of the movie, especially Klaus Kinski's twisted, swaggering performance as Aguirre. I think also that the film was heavily influenced by Conrad's Heart of Darkness. The story is different but there's still the element of the stupidity of imperialism. Note how the South Americans are perfectly peaceful until the Germans try to force their culture onto them. Unfortunately, not much has changed in our modern times. In 1561, they tried to force "savages" to convert to Christianity. In 2003, we try to force "savages" to convert to democracy.
  • 39. Friends: Season 5 (1998-1999) - Above, I said that season 3 was a transitional season for "The Simpsons." Watching this one, I also noticed that season 5 was a transitional season for "Friends" - for the worse. After everyone found out about Chandler and Monica, the jokes became more sparse, not to mention just plain worse. The last half of season 5 still beats the pants off anything in season 9, but I still think this was the beginning of the downfall of "Friends." Still, season 5 had many great highlights for me. Phoebe and Chandler play a game of chicken. A tiny, energetic girl hits Joey. Ross wears leather pants; also, he fails miserably at flirting with the pizza delivery girl. Bob Balaban gives a great guest performance as Phoebe finally reconciles with her father. Yeah, anyway. I have to catch up now and check out season 4.
  • 40. For a Few Dollars More (1965) - First, a sidebar. I wasn't really planning on seeing the 2nd or 3rd "Lord of the Rings" movies anytime soon. I wasn't wowed by the first, and despite the heaps of critical acclaim the latter two movies have garnered, I just didn't feel like sitting through them. I think it might be in my genes. My brother forced my dad to see "Return of the King", and my dad said it was one of the worst movies he'd ever seen. My brother didn't like it much either, was lukewarm to the first movie, and only liked the second movie because he loves fight scenes.
  • In any case, the reason I bring this up is because recently lbangs said that the LOTR films form the most consistent trilogy he is aware of. I haven't seen "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" yet, but I'm pretty sure the Man With No Name trilogy is up there. Leone continues to impress me with this wonderful movie - more complicated, more expensive than the first. Does that make it better? Not necessarily - I'd have a hard time deciding which one I preferred. But there is no denying: this is a great movie. The performances all hit the right notes, from the leads to the huge cast of supporting characters (I liked the little boy who served as Eastwood's informer). The script was complicated and involving, but once again I gotta mention Leone. His direction is faaaaaaantastic. That's 2 for 2, and from what I've heard about "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly", it can only get better from here.
  • 41. Mean Streets (1973) - My favorite Scorsese so far (read = better than "Gangs of New York" and "After Hours"), it reminded me of Fellini's "Roma" in some ways, in that there's no real coherent story structure. There are characters, atmosphere, and dialogue. However, this movie works without much of a story, better than "Roma." Why? Perhaps because of the interesting lead characters, played expertly by DeNiro and Keitel? Perhaps because of Scorsese's distinctive directorial style? Bah. I'm not gonna ask questions. Suffice it to say that the movie DOES succeed despite the lack of a coherent plot, and that's that.
  • 42. Roger and Me (1989) - Michael Moore is a pigheaded, extreme liberal jackass, and if he weren't one, his films would suck. You may complain about Moore's methods, but I'm thrilled that he's a stubborn, self-righteous ass who makes such bold, shocking independent films. God bless him and his liberal mindset. He's clearly pissed off the conservative MPAA, which gave this film an R rating for, what, one or two f-words? But hey, they're just protecting traditional family values, right? No. This is a controversial independent film that really got the MPAA's goat. And me, I love it. Moore is more liberal than I am, but I'll be damned if I don't love his passionate left-wing rantings. Here he has made a very thoughtful film about the General Motors layoffs. Like the end of "Bowling for Columbine", his main point seems to be putting the humanity back into cold, brutal capitalist endeavors, be it firing 30,000 workers or holding an NRA rally shortly after a 6-year-old was shot. Keep on making documentaries, Mr. Moore, and I'll keep watching them. I fully intend to see "Fahrenheit 9/11." Oh, BTW, if you see this film, stay till the end of the credits. You'll see the closing message: "This film cannot be shown in Flint. All the theaters have closed."
  • 43. Something's Gotta Give (2003) - Well, after a good movie and an overpriced dinner with the family, I'm back at home to celebrate the new year online. And I bet you're all wondering what I thought of the last film I saw in 2003. Well, I'll tell ya. Before I say anything good about it, I want to talk about the film's three biggest flaws: (1) Keanu Reeves, (2) Keanu Reeves, and (3) Keanu Reeves. I was even lightening up on the guy before seeing this movie. I'll concede - I'm willing to accept Keanu Reeves as a big Hollywood star, despite a total lack of talent, but only if he keeps acting in films like "Speed", "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure", or the "Matrix" films. Why, oh why does Keanu Reeves even consider roles in chick flicks? First of all, here he has to play a doctor. Gimme a break. Second, he has to be immensely interested in Diane Keaton's plays, and if "Something's Gotta Give" is a chick flick, Diane Keaton's plays are chick plays. But this deadpan action star is so interested in them that he falls madly in love with a woman twenty years his senior. Okay. Now take his wooden acting and add it to a character that doesn't have any right to be in the movie in the first place. Seriously, Reeves's character adds nothing to the film except another stupid plot convolution that disappears when it's supposed to (and the disappearance feels artificial). So we're left with a poorly acted, unnecessary, unbelievable character, the removal of whom would have made the overlong movie appropriately shorter.
  • Rant over. Fortunately, Reeves is only a supporting character, and the rest of the cast is much better. Nicholson is as good as he always is, and Keaton's performance is hampered only by the fact that she seems to be begging for an Oscar. Frances McDormand's brief moments are very good as well. Despite some bad career moves ("Saving Silverman"; "Simply Irresistible"), I always like watching Amanda Peet. Jon Favreau doesn't have much to do, but he's good too. Oh, and did I mention Keanu Reeves sucks? But we're moving on now, to Nancy Meyers. She has written a LOT of really crappy screenplays - but here she finally seems to pull it together. The characters are likable, their dialogue sparkles, and despite a couple corny lines, I'd say it's a good script. All in all, an enjoyable lightweight comedy, but I suggest holding your ears and closing your eyes whenever Keanu Reeves is onscreen. Don't worry, you won't miss much of the plot.
  • Anyway, have a happy and healthy new year to everyone out there!
  • 44. Big Fish (2003) - Tim Burton directs with bells and whistles galore, including many scenes involving circus sideshows, but his film never feels like a circus sideshow itself. It's a very sweet, evocative movie about a man whose stories about his life have aquired a certain mystical mythology. Occasionally, Burton plays up the sentiment too much; occasionally, some of the bizarre events are just too damn nonsensical, even for the life history of a senile, embellishing old man; but as a whole, this is a bold, exciting movie that I enjoyed quite a bit. It's helped by some great performances by actors who clearly know what they're doing. Ewan McGregor plays the small-town youth with a delightfully wide-eyed exuberance, Billy Crudup is great as the skeptical son tired of his father's games, Jessica Lange and Alison Lohman are both very good at playing Sandra, Steve Buscemi is very funny, Danny DeVito actually plays against type (and has a nude scene! Ugh!). But the people who really stand out here are Albert Finney and Helena Bonham Carter, in my opinion. The former has received all the attention - with a Golden Globe nomination and a probable Oscar nomination - but I thought Carter was fantastic in her dual roles.
  • 45. All About Eve (1950) - Ordinarily, when I watch a movie, I'm remembering that I'm going to write a review on this list and then rank it in my tier system, and I'm keeping those thoughts in the back of my mind. But "All About Eve" swept me up so well in its story and characters, that I forgot all about the fact that I'd be writing a review here and now. Few movies are able to do that, but "All About Eve" was really so fascinating in its depiction of the ruthlessness of the theater. It reminded me of King Lear in some parts, in that Margo Channing couldn't come to grips with the fact that she was aging and the young Eve Harrington was a rising star. Eve, however, is the best character here; in fact, you could say that the movie is all about her. Sorry!
  • 46. L'Avventura (1960) - As I popped this one into the DVD player, I wondered why I had bought this in the first place. This was probably going to be a dry, slow-paced foreign film that I wouldn't like despite its acclaim, I thought. I should've bought a different DVD. Hell - at Criterion's prices, I could've bought three different DVDs. Still, I pushed play nonetheless. My prediction was half-right. It was a slow-paced foreign film, but much of it was rather interesting. I enjoyed it. It drags in the middle, but still, the complex characters are enough to carry the film for a while. I'm sure that much of it still went over my head. Maybe I'll revisit it later. But for now, it'll only be on my second tier.
  • Back from Florida, and my score was the same as last year - 22 movies. There was a time when I probably could've watched more, but nevermind that. I had a lot of homework to do this trip. Also, I watched two entire seasons of television shows, and those DVD box sets take up far more time than regular movies. But hey, I'm not complaining. Except about the fact that I'm going back to school tomorrow. And about my biology test.
  • 47. Requiem for a Dream (2000) - Bizarre and stylish yet emotionally grounded, hypnotically engaging, "Requiem for a Dream" is not a movie I'd want to see again anytime soon. It's a very intense movie, stunning in its portrayal of drug addiction, showing how everyone's lives slowly declined into turmoil, due to the shattering effects of the drugs. Ellen Burstyn is amazing, but the other actors definitely held their own. I was surprised by Marlon Wayans, who not only managed to achieve the feat of "not sucking" (impressive for a Wayans), but also was actually pretty good. However, not to undermine the very realistic performances, but the real star here is Darren Arronofsky. He made "Pi" on only $600,000 and it was still as fascinating as it was. Here he has a lot more money, though it's still only $4.5 million. And yet he uses it so effectively that he was still able to create such a complex film. He doesn't waste it on cheesy special effects; he directs with a certain flair and style that is very appropriate for his subject material. I'm very eager to see what this director does next.
  • 48. Amateur (1994) - Reading the IMDB comments for this film, I wondered if I watched the same movie. So many people commented that they hated the deadpan acting and the unrealistic dialogue. Watching the film, I noticed this, yeah, but jeez, it wasn't so immensely distracting as they would have me think. Even so, you have to put the dialogue in its proper context in the film. It's Hal Hartley's style, bizarre and surreal as it may occasionally be. But it works very well because this is an inherently bizarre premise. It's about a nun in the porn industry, fer cryin' out loud! If it were a human drama, maybe the bizarre style wouldn't have worked so well. For example, take Ingmar Bergman, a Swedish director of very surreal films. I thought his abstract style worked well in "The Seventh Seal", as that's an already bizarre movie about Death personified arriving at a Medieval town and a guy playing chess with him. I didn't particularly care for Bergman's style in "Wild Strawberries", which is a movie about a professor reflecting back on his life while taking a trip. I thought the latter should have been a more personal film, and the abstract nature distanced the viewer from the real emotions. It would have worked better with realism.
  • But anyway, back to "Amateur." If you couldn't tell, I loved Hal Hartley's stylish film. It grabbed me right away with its hypnotic opening credits. I was hooked, enjoying it immensely, through the very end. It's nice to see a good plot-twist movie that is not simply about the twists. The twists are there, they're believable, they're interesting, but they're not the point of the film. As for the actors, Damian Young almost steals the show, but he's got some tough competition from Isabelle Huppert, Martin Donovan, and Pamela Stewart (whose character the Coen Brothers must have nearly photocopied to create Marge Gunderson). Finally, I really loved the film's off-beat, quirky humor. I could tell you the parts I laughed at the most, but why spoil them? See the movie for yourself.
  • After only one viewing, am I going to jump on lbangs's sparsely-populated bandwagon which believes "Amateur" is the greatest film ever made? Of course not, but I do think it is a great and certainly underrated film.
  • 49. Lost in Translation (2003) - They brought it back to a theater near my house, and I knew I'd have to catch it. I wasn't planning on studying for my calculus exam very much anyway. And judging from both of the audience members in the theater, this will probably be its last day.
  • "Lost in Translation" is very funny when it should be, it is romantic when it should be, and it is charming pretty much throughout. The script throws all these adjectives at Bill Murray and he knocks 'em all out of the park. He is fantastic in this movie and hits all the right notes. For the first time since "Kingpin", a movie has allowed him to be funny. He has some good lines that are reminiscent of his 80's cinema, but seem a bit watered down, and I think that is the point, keeping with the whole washed-up movie star thing. His straight-man reactions to Japanese culture are also very funny, often with a deadpan face that reminded me of Buster Keaton's. But he nails the dramatic stuff as well. It's just an all-around great performance, and if the Academy doesn't recognize that, well, they suck. Scarlett Johansson is also very capitivating. There's something very appealing in her face that I just can't describe. Good to see she is back on her feet after "Eight Legged Freaks." Of course, these performances would all be for naught if it weren't for the very talented Sofia Coppola, who provides them with sparkling character-driven dialogue, and shoots them over the marvellous Japanese backdrop. I could describe some shots I liked, but forget it. It has to be seen for itself, as it is surely one of the best films of 2003.
  • 50. Dark City (1998) (watched again) - Inventive, stylish, and very enjoyable, this futuristic noir has certainly retained its spot on my top tier. In fact, I think it's probably the best sci-fi film of the 90's. Sure, it's easy to get bogged down with some logical flaws, but really, what's the point? In fact, since the Strangers are seen as cold, logical beings compared to the humans, maybe the logical flaws in this human-made film are part of the point. Okay, that's a stretch, but what I'm really trying to say is, "Dark City" is a fascinating and underrated film.
  • 51. Last Tango in Paris (1972) - This movie affected me in strange ways that I'm having trouble coming to grips with. Thinking about it after the film, I was reminded of Jim's recent review of "Solaris." I think the central irony of "Tango" is that Marlon Brando plays a dual role - he is both very emotional and very superficial. He projects the superficiality as a result of his emotions. All the loneliness, all the bitterness, all the unwillingness to accept his past, that is all converted into a release, where his libido runs wild, he refuses to get to know Maria Scheider's character, and he makes crude jokes about eating rat assholes. Man, what a character. These thoughts might make it sound like I truly understood this movie, but really, I feel like I have only scratched the surface. An excellent choice for my first NC-17-rated film.
  • 52. Mulholland Drive (2001) (I'm sorry, but I refuse to call this "Mulholland Dr.") - Loved it, of course. Lynch struts his stuff and manages to evoke emotions even when we have no clue what's going on. Naomi Watts deserves major, major kudos for wearing so many hats and doing everything so well. I'd like to spend the rest of this review talking about my quest to determine what the movie means.
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    Okay. When I finished the movie, here's what I thought. The blue box is some kind of bizarre object that captures souls. The last 20 minutes of the movie happen first chronologically, and end up with both Camilla and Diane dead. Their souls enter the blue box. Then in the beginning of the movie, their souls are somehow released, and they continue through the movie as different people, encountering pieces of their old lives, until they're both gradually sucked back into the box. This theory, while interesting, leaves a lot of loose ends. I spent a few minutes scouring Google for some ideas, and people kept saying that the first part of the movie was Naomi Watts's dream. That was all well and good, but it still left some things unresolved. For example, if Naomi commits suicide at the very end, why would the two of them walk in on her dead body - exactly as it looks in reality - within her dream? I mean, she had to be alive when she had the dream, right? But the dream theory was tempting, and there was plenty of evidence to support it, a lot of references to dreams, such as when Naomi Watts comments that her Aunt Ruth's apartment is a "dream place." Finally, I stumbled upon this [WARNING: If this link shows up outside of my spoilerized messsages, that site contains MAJOR SPOILERS], which is the best explanation I've seen. It explains my qualm about the dream theory, though it's still kind of a stretch. Additionally, it makes a lot of sense. So click that link for my favorite theory.
  • Spoiler: Highlight to view
    Now as to David Lynch's 10 Clues to Unlocking This Thriller. You probably noticed my poll on that elsewhere. They actually are pretty helpful. Here's what I can make of them. 1. Pay particular attention in the beginning of the film: at least two clues are revealed before the credits. / We see Diane with her parents (the people in the blue box) as she wins the jitterbug contest. Then we see her go to sleep, and she starts to dream... 2. Notice appearances of the red lampshade. / I think this lampshade is at the side of Diane's bed. I'm not sure about this one. 3. Can you hear the title of the film that Adam Kesher is auditioning actresses for? Is it mentioned again? / I didn't hear it mentioned in the dream, but I'm guessing it's "The Silvia North Story." 4. An accident is a terrible event... notice the location of the accident. / It's at Mulholland Drive, kind of. Fact is, when I first saw the accident, I only noticed the sign saying Sunset Blvd. Then, when the guy who had the dream about Winkies said that his dream occurred at about half-night (i.e., sunset), I thought I was really only something. 5. Who gives a key, and why? / The hitman gives Diane a key after he has Camilla killed. 6. Notice the robe, the ashtray, and the coffee cup. / In the last part of the film, Diane's neighbor picks up her ashtray, then Diane is making coffee wearing a robe. That scene immediately transitions to a scene where Diane is naked, she's carrying alcohol, and the ashtray is back. It's to show you that the time frame is all messed up. 7. What is felt, realized, and gathered at the club Silencio? / The girls realize that everything is an illusion --> Diane's dream isn't real, and that everything in their relationship is actually all messed up. 8. Did talent alone help Camilla? / Of course not. The gangsters helped her. It's Diane's ridiculous explanantion for why Camilla got the good roles and she got crap parts. She didn't want to acknowledge that Camilla was a better actress. 9. Notice the occurrences surrounding the man beind Winkies. / I really have no clue for this one. 10. Where is Aunt Ruth? / In the dream, she's in Canada. In reality, she's dead, and she left Diane money.
Author Comments: 

Continuing to rip off jgandcag's series, here is my own commentary on the movies I've recently seen.

AJ congratulations on filling up two lists. Of course the way i have been working on my lists lately, I say you pass me by next march. I still think I watch more movies than you but you are much better on keeping up your writng

I try to write the reviews as soon as possible after seeing movies so I don't lag behind. By the way, how are things going with the adoption?

AJ, I once had the same noble goal of trying to write down my thoughts soon after watching a movie but alas the wonders of getting old include serious time constraints. Which is a blatant seque to answering your next question which is we head back to Russia September 11 to bring our little daughter home.

Thanks for asking

Great BfC writeup, and obviously very personal. I'm sorry your Dad had to deal with the beaurocratic troll in ANY state, forget about a weakened state! I hope he called and later spoke to her supervisor (or that your Mom did, to spare him the stress). Of course, above all I hope his recovery goes well!

As for Futurama, I can't help but compare them, even though I know I shouldn't...

I think he was planning to speak to her supervisor, but in the end, he just figured it wasn't worth it. We decided never to use their services again. As for his recovery, his doctor appointments have gone very well, and I think he should be back to work in another week or so. Thanks for asking.

By the way, your summation of Camp's message is pretty similar to what I felt afterwards. I liked the movie on some levels (being an actor, I got a lot of the "in jokes") but Vlad was so unlikeable and...well, uninteresting, that I ended up not caring about the main love...conflict.

Thanks! Yeah, the movie is definitely better if you're a teenage actor. Even I didn't get some of the theater jokes (my friend had to explain to me the line about "Wit").

I see on your list that you have praised "Lost in Translation" very highly. I'll definitely have to check that one out; it sounds like a winner.

BTW, did you get hit by Isabel too?

Here in PG County, Isabel was sorta dissapointing. We had off Thurs. and Fri., but the storm ended up just causing a lot of power outtages and downed trees. I still have power, and no damage was done to my house.

Thank goodness, or else I'd have gone insane...no electricity?! Perish the thought.

I'm really looking forward to Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Have you seen El Mariachi and Desperado?

I haven't seen either. I'll probably check them out though.

COMPLETELY agree on Billy. He had a few funny scenes, but you're absolutely right about Hollywood's inept treatment of gay characters.

Howdy AJ, regarding Revolutions (which I saw last night), did you see this post (and associated link) I put up awhile ago?

Yes. I read most of it. I'm not sure how much I buy into it, but it was pretty interesting. Are you talking about my analysis of the Christ metaphors in my review? Was that in there? I must have missed that, if it was.

I'm not sure I buy into it either (for one thing the author transposes "protagonist" as Bruce Lee and Superman in regards to Reloaded and Revolutions just to make it fit), but it's a intriguing take on the whole thing nonetheless.

The article doesn't go much into character-mapping like you do, but it does say "the original Matrix film is aimed squarely at the heart of the Judeo-Christian mindset, which is why the film did so well in America and with worldwide Christianity. This is why the story has the classic Aristotelian narrative arc of set-up, crisis, resolution, and denouement with the savior figure arriving at the end. The medium is the message: by translating comic book moments through video game motion into cinematic eye-candy, the film succeeded by being the latest, coolest retelling of the greatest story ever told." Then in the chart at the end there are a few more references.

I personally think you can't really map the whole trilogy to any single religion. The movies are definitely religo-philosophical gumbo.

Please check out Roger and me,their is something so oddly beautiful and sad about this movie.Maybe,I love this movie because I come from the Midwest and have experienced entire towns vanishing because of factory closing down.

REALLY happy to see your love for Lawrence of Arabia. It's a top ten film for me, and certainly one of the best epics of all time. What a marvelous film.

I'm so glad you enjoyed Blue Velvet it usually disturbs most people and because it disturbs them or makes them think outside the box,they hate it.

I think I liked Sissy Spacek in Badlands for the very reasons you hated her. She narrates everything in a bored, "how I spent my summer vacation" kind of way, that I think is great. Oh, well.

I didn't mind the narration so much, it was just a testament to how emotionless she is throughout the movie. I think a suburban Texas teenage girl would react with a little more emotion if her boyfriend killed her dad. Shock, terror, glee - I didn't care, just gimme something

Pulp Fiction - Whee-hoo!

Congrats. Seeing that it hit in your top rankings for 1994 on another list, I trust you enjoyed?

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Lordy, look at all these reviews! I love it when you're on vacation AJ.

Me too. :-)

Wow, I really like your Elephant review, especially the teen angst tangent. It may not be the most interesting movie ever, but it seems worth checking out. I'm not exactly sure it's the kind of movie I want to see in a theater, but I'll get to it eventually.

So you agree with the inaccuracy of the movies' teen angst? I wasn't sure if my high school is all that average.

Well, I can't really comment on that movie, since I haven't seen it. But you were kind of talking about movies in general, right? I think your comments were pretty insightful for how a lot of movies deal with teens. And even if your school isn't that average (and it probably is, for a private school... I just mostly know public school kids.), how much can kids vary between schools?

While I liked Elephant considerably more than you did (a solid top tier entry for me), I do understand some of the points you make about flaws in the film.

While I wasn't as bothered by the killers' fascinations as others were, I can see why it is off-putting. But, I don't think that Van Sant is trying to explain their actions, I think that he is just laying out every pat explanation used to explain the corruption of youth. I think that Van Sant's point was that these kids could have every single one of these fascinations, but that doesn't really come anywhere close to explaining how human beings could do something so truly awful.

I'm jealous that you got a chance to see The Station Agent...I'm hoping to catch it during the Winter holiday.

I think a more interesting statement would be not to give them all the stereotypical terrorist fascinations, but to have them doing the exact same activities as the normal teens. It was far more interesting when they were playing piano than when they were watching the Hitler documentary.

"The Station Agent" is a great movie. I think you'd like it.

I'm so glad you enjoyed Big Fish.

AJ, where on this list did you turn 17? I'm interested in seeing how your movie watching selections have changed since then.

Well, let's see. I definitely watched "Y Tu Mama Tambien" when I was 17, and I definitely watched that when I was in Florida. My 17th birthday was December 9th, and I arrived in Florida around the 20th. The movie right before "Y Tu Mama" was "Lawrence of Arabia", and AAA commented on that one on December 6th.

Which is basically a long-winded way of saying that "Y Tu Mama Tambien" was the first movie I wathced when I was 17.

Actually, watching Requiem at the same time may not be that weird. When I was talking to Mary, she mentioned that she was surprised that you hadn't seen it yet. I told her I hadn't either, and she said I should. I'm guessing she recommended it to you, too?
Well, even if that is the case, I think it's pretty amusing that this keeps happening to us.

Yeah, I had just bought a lot of DVDs from the deepdiscountdvd promotion that dgeiser13 told us about (BTW, thanks, dgeiser!), including "Requiem", and Mary told me to watch that one first. So maybe it wasn't that weird.

Wow, Requiem for a Dream and Amateur in a row!

Great comments. I'm really glad you liked both. I don't think anybody likes Amateur as much as I do (probably, despite jgandcag's suggestion, not even his mother), but I'm thrilled you liked it at all. So many don't...

Groovy.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Well thanks for the recommendation!

In browsing through the IMDB comments, I found one that made me laugh out loud. The guy said that "Amateur" was one of the greatest films ever made. He was especially complimentary of Isabelle Huppert's performance - the best acting he'd seen since "Vertigo."

I'm not even sure how to react to that. ;)

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I think you maxxed this one out too AJ. Your Flint review is cut off. Here's the rest:

Keep in mind that this demand is that ALL weapons are destroyed internationally; no country will have an advantage to attack other countries. When Flint is captured, the evil organization shows him that they are a peace-seeking group; note how you can't find any guns anywhere in their top-secret HQ. Then later as Flint is defeating the bad guys (which should be no spoiler), three scientists tell him that their weather machine could create excellent improvements for the world, regulating the temperature where it was unsuitable for life, turning wastelands into beautiful areas. Flint begins destroying their weather-controlling machine, and the scientists panic. One says, "Ours would be a perfect world! Why?" Flint replies, "Because it's YOUR idea of perfection, gentlemen. Not mine!"
_(pause)
_HUH??????
_That's the kind of movie this is. The villains make more sense than the heroes.

That should give you enough to piece your Flint review back together as the first review in your fourth installment.

Thanks, Jim!

RE: Blood Simple.

Getz cleans everything up because he suspects he'll be implicated in the murder, even if he didn't do it. And, if a dead guy came back to life in your back seat, wouldn't you freak out for a while? And now that Getz tried to conceal everything and haul him off to bury him, Getz doesn't really want him to 'tattle' on him, so he just finishes the job that way almost done in the first place.

I just didn't really have any problems with that whole sequence.

Yeah, I had a similar discussion on another list about the film where more of this was explained to me. Not only that, but I think I missed the whole point of the title, in complaining about illogical behavior from "blood-simple" characters (i.e., people who become clueless and frantic at the site of blood). I suspect that a rewatch might cause me to appreciate it more. But don't hold your breath for that one.

RE: Y Tu Mama Tambien.

It's comforting to hear that I'm not the only one on the planet who wasn't allowed to watch whatever he wanted when he was younger. Though, I feel your pain :-)

Amen, bruthah. Hey, have you seen this list of mine? It was one of the first things I did around here. Fortunately now it's anachronistic.

BTW, nice to see that some of my old ramblings are still getting read. Makes me feel all special inside.

So much good stuff here, it's fun to DISCOVER it. Especially since so much of the new content is stupid shit like 'guess celebrity by specialized attire' and 'IMDB & RT Disconnects.' :-)

Yeah. Who comes up with that drivel anyway? ;-)

I'm tellin' ya, when I find the bastard...

hehe, that's list is funny. But damn if you haven't risen through the ranks at Listology despite your age!

It sounds like you weren't quite sure what to make of L'Avventura. I had the same problem, but went a little more in depth on my confusion :-)

What do you think?

I read it earlier, and I think it sums up my feelings pretty well: too unconventional to review (and often too unconventional to even comprehend), but certainly innovative filmmaking.

hehe - it's too unconventional to reivew? That might be true!

But, did you mean - it was too unconventional for you to review, or too unconventional for anyone to really review?

Well, the latter really, but the former even more so. It's one of those movies that's just too out there to apply any rules of cinematic or dramatic structure, but at the same time too important to just ignore or dismiss.