Damn, I only have time to watch movies on weekends part 05: because people don't always look both ways before crossing the road to ruin

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  • 1. Decalogue 8: "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor" (1988), Decalogue 9: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife" (1988), Decalogue 10: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods" (1989) - I'm feeling really lazy, so I'm combining these reviews into one, stringing my random comments together. First of all, I'd like to say that the Christian version of the ten commandments really needs to get its act together. Come on, separating coveting into two commandments? That's just lame. I like the Jewish version better, but then again, with the Jewish version you get the first commandment just being "I am the Lord your God", and that's not really commanding you to do anything. So really, I think there should be nine commandments. You may notice that I am stalling because I really can't think of much else to say about this series. My revelation about the whole series came in #7, and so now I'm at a loss for words. #8 and #10 were fantastic; #9 dragged a bit in the middle, but really pulled it together for an amazing final act. In fact, I may ignore the times I was bored and put it in my top tier anyway. In the end, my least favorite entry was #1, but if you asked me to pick a favorite, I wouldn't be too sure. I did love #5 (as noted in "Damn" part 4), but #4 and #10 were also fantastic. Anyway, I'm glad I put in the time to watch this series. It was a very interesting journey that Kieslowski took me on.
  • 2. Mallrats (1995) - This was a fun little movie, more mainstream than "Clerks", but certainly with a good helping of bizarre humor. There are some genuinely funny jokes and some obviously ironic bits, such as Silent Bob's slapstick antics, which are funny because they are so corny. But there is some middle ground, and I wasn't sure if I should give Kevin Smith the benefit of the doubt, for stuff like the stink-palm scene. Is he trying to be funny and failing, or is he making fun of movies or people who think jokes like that are funny? I certainly don't know. Anyway, the acting is more or less passable except for Jeremy London, who sucks. But in the end, I must admit that I enjoyed this movie. If it's not a great movie, it's certainly a fun one.
  • 3. National Lampoon's Van Wilder (2002) - A member of this movie's target audience, who has plenty of guilty pleasures with stupid humor and penis jokes, and I only laughed once. This movie is part of the camp that thinks you can put more, more, more outrageous stuff into a movie, and it gets funnier, funnier, FUNNIER! Don't worry about being clever or witty; all you need is MORE! This is a movie that names the evil fraternity Delta Iota Kappa, so they can make even more DIK jokes. The epitome of this movie is in one scene where a fat character auditions for the role of Van Wilder's assistant. The fat guy takes out his fat stomach, which by the way is fat, and makes violent farting noises by mushing around the rolls of fat. But farting wasn't enough; at the end, the guy fell down. Farting is funny, but we need MORE! Falling down is funny! More falling down! Of course, maybe I should be thankful for the farting and falling down, because when the movie tries to be serious, it's even worse. We get hammy acting and heavy-handed messages; it's as sappy as in the worst of chick flicks. In fact, it's even worse, because they're trying to force drama with these one-dimensional, cookie-cutter characters, and it plays very disjointed from the semen scenes. The end result is a big mess, a sad, sad showing from National Lampoon.
  • 4. half of Saving Private Ryan (1998) and half of Osmosis Jones (2001) (watched again) , which together should make one movie - I should explain that the last two movies, along with these halves, I watched at Bethany Beach, Delaware, where I was staying with some friends during senior week. Anyway, the first hour of "Saving Private Ryan" was engaging and interesting enough, but I was so damn tired that I couldn't keep watching. I took a half-hour nap, and then, not wanting to watch the end without seeing that half-hour, I did other things instead. I'm not sure why I watched "Osmosis Jones", exactly, except that everyone else was. It still sucks. The live action scenes are absolutely Godawful. The animation scenes are slightly better, because it is a good concept for a movie and some of the visuals are interesting, but once you get past the concept, you still have a boring, cliche story with few redeeming values. A shame for the Brothers Farrelly. The strangest part was, I don't think anyone else really liked it either, but we kept watching it anyway. Maybe our brains had gone numb by that point. But I want to see someone else do a better movie about cells inside a human body, one that is fully animated and only takes place inside the body, and is funnier than "Osmosis Jones."
  • 5. Futurama Season 1 (1999) - I've seen most of these episodes far too many times. But the commentary is often interesting or at least amusing, so I found something new to enjoy where the material was too familiar. And these episodes were certainly funny when I first watched them, because it was before Futurama got too damn weird in the last season or so. I think it started off as a very funny, original show. I liked every episode to some degree or another, which is more than I can say about plenty of TV seasons on DVD.
  • 6. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004) - So many cinematic offerings at the local art house theater, and my friends want to see "Dodgeball." Actually, this is a rather refreshing, often hilarious comedy. It has no pretensions; hell, it admits to being an underdog sports story with a cliche plot in the very title. Indeed, the plot of this movie is easily predictable, and just as predictable is the required moment where things start being funny and everyone loses faith in the underdogs. This is, of course, the worst part of the movie, the required forced drama that happens at the beginning of the last act of every mainstream American comedy for the past 15 years. Fortunately, things get back on track soon enough and never become all that preachy. Well anyway, let's stop focusing on the bad and talk about the good parts of this movie. (1) Ben Stiller's hilarious over-the-top performance as the pretentious asshole from Globo Gym, and (1b) his attempts to woo Christine Taylor; (2) the concept of ESPN 8 (for all the idiotic sports that the other ESPN networks won't show) and (2b) the announcers; (3) the educational dodgeball instruction film featuring Patches O'Houlihan and (3b) Rip Torn's incredibly bizarre performance as the sadistic O'Houlihan. It also features Vince Vaughan as a fine lead, Christine Taylor as an attractive romantic interest, and Missi Pyle as an even more attractive romantic interest. Certainly not must-see, but a twisted, funny take on a feel-good movie.
  • 7. Jules and Jim (1962) - Though "Jules and Jim" is a pinnacle film in the French New Wave, Francois Truffaut was never as pretentious as some of his contemporaries, and his films are more honest and character driven than one often sees in classic foreign films. Truffaut was talented and creative enough to not give "accessible" a bad name. This may be the best Truffaut film I've seen so far; it creates fresh and exciting situations from normal interactions. The film can do this because it has well-defined characters, fantastic performances, and gorgeous cinematography. Thank God "artsy" doesn't always mean confusing and impenetrable.
  • 8. Friends Season 7 (2000-2001) - Damn, I go through TV seasons faster than a greased pig in a henhouse! I'm not exactly sure what that means, but anyway, here "Friends" is treading on thin ice. I don't think the show started to suck until the middle of season 8, but there are certainly a few plotlines here are not quite as inspired as the earlier episodes. However, it's still an enjoyable sitcom in the 7th season. Some of my favorite moments are here, such as when Ross dresses up as the "holiday armadillo" in a pathetic attempt to teach his son about Hannukah, or Monica's solution to un-invite Janice to the wedding, or when Rachel and Phoebe have a contest to see who gets to be Monica's maid-of-honor, or Susan Sarandon's guest appearance, or Joey's attempts to get a part in a movie where he plays a Catholic man. This episode also ends with the best cliffhanger "Friends" ever had, and it also contains a game where you name all the states you can in 6 minutes. The beauty of the game is that you name a lot in about 3 minutes but inevitably forget a few, and then you kick yourself for the last three minutes trying to remember the rest. I played and forgot Louisiana and Kansas.
  • 9. About a Boy (2002) - This movie is much better than it has any right being. I'm not sure from where it draws so much charm, but I'm guessing Hugh Grant, Toni Collette, Nick Hornby, and Badly Drawn Boy all have something to do with it. This kinda thing (strange friendship, each learns from the other) has been done before, but it hasn't always been done this well. Part of it is because the Weitzes don't beat you over the head with the messages; it's more subtle, which leaves plenty of room for wit and character. The film is all the better for it.
  • 10. Black Narcissus (1947) - The beautiful Technicolor scenery is the most striking thing about the movie, and it must have influenced David Lean in "Lawrence of Arabia." Unfortunately, I think Powell and Pressburger are at times too focused on their stunning, colorful visuals. Some of the characters and situations are not as well-developed as they should be. Fortunately, the central plot involving a jealous rivarly driven by the forces of isolation and frustration from the setting of the religious community in the Himalayas, is nicely developed and ends in a climax that had me on the edge of my seat. In the end, a solid second tier movie, but I'm eager to check out some other Powell / Pressburger collaborations that feature better scripts. And it would be nice if we didn't have five characters that all dressed the same, with robes that covered up all but their faces. It was hard to tell those nuns apart at times.
  • 11. Ugetsu Monogatari (1953) (a.k.a. Ugetsu) - This is the kind of film that critics fawn over, but most viewers have never heard of, much less seen. A shame. "Ugetsu" is a haunting drama, a whirlwind of a plot about lust, greed, and temptation. It was also years ahead of its time. The multiple-layers-of-reality stuff that we're seeing nowadays in films like "The Usual Suspects", "Memento", and "Fight Club", that started in 50's Japanese film, both in "Ugetsu" and "Rashomon."
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    And you wanna know where M. Night Shyamalan got the idea for "The Sixth Sense" from? Right here, baby, and here the twist is done better.
    I would say that the film reminds me of Kurosawa, but that would not be fair to Kenji Mizoguchi, who certainly makes a film all his own in this masterpiece. This is definitely well worth a watch if you can get your hands on it.
  • 12. Brief Encounter (1946) - And so the master of the historical epic has made a lean (pun intended) 86-minute character drama. The film does a fantastic job of sucking you into its characters and getting you to truly care about them. There are many interesting touches about the film that really appealed to me. I love how Laura thinks the things that she could never actually say aloud, getting a small taste of this forbidden activity, just like she is doing in her relationship with Alec. Surely one of the most romantic films ever made.
  • 13. Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) - I miss the good old shock value of a film. Americans aren't ubiquitously shocked anymore. Oh, sure, I'm sure a few gross-out comedies have caused the more conservative members to gasp, but nothing compares to the shocks of the last line of "Gone With the Wind", of the shower scene in "Psycho", of the web of mystery of "Chinatown." I can't decide whether it's the MPAA's fault for censoring the most shocking parts of films, or if it's Hollywood's fault for desensitizing us to it all. Either way, the situation sure makes me long for some good old-fashioned controversy.
  • Good thing we have Michael Moore around. Disney's refusal to distribute "Fahrenheit 9/11" created a controversy just enough to give Moore plenty of publicity. Moore's opinion is biased, one-sided, and (probably) occasionally misleading, but it's a voice that we don't often hear publicized. So I salute Michael Moore for making a movie for those of us who commented around the water cooler: "Man, Bush is a f***ing idiot." Although I am sure I would be singing a different tune if I didn't agree with Moore, I think he has made one hell of a film. More or less, the first half of the film establishes connections between Saudis / the bin Laden family and members of the Bush administration, while the second half discusses the war on Iraq, showing some very affecting shots of civilians (both American and Iraqi) whose families died in the war. And all this is served up with heaping amounts of Moore's ironic humor (especially hilarious is his analysis of the Patriot Act). However, the second half of the film does bog down in parts. There are some shots that are weird and unnecessary, creating a rather unfocused feel. Despite that, though, I'm convinced: Vote Kerry '04!
  • 14. Supersize Me (2004) - Yesterday before watching "Fahrenheit 9/11", I saw a commercial for a new version of Coca-Cola. It's a Coke with half the carbs of normal Coke. That's right. The carb-haters finally got to Coca-Cola. When I told my mom about this, she told me that the other day she went into a bagel shop and saw "reduced carb bagels" for sale. Upon closer inspection, she saw that they were really smaller than normal bagels. Damn, will I be glad when this idiotic no-carb fad passes and America's dieters move on to something else.
  • Of course, once we're past this fad, I'm sure they'll come up with another food group to demonize. And they'll create ridiculous devices and pills to help them avoid exercise or dieting. The fact is, when Americans finally start to care about their weight, they're still not serious about it. 60% of Americans are overweight or obese, and obesity-related deaths are second only to smoking-related deaths in the leading preventable causes of death in America. I learned that from "Supersize Me", a wonderful documentary about how McDonald's and the food industry makes America the fattest country in the world. Morgan Spurlock eats McDonald’s three meals a day for a month, and the results are, well, disgusting. The movie is informative, hilarious, and repulsive. However, I think there are so many opportunities out there that Morgan Spurlock didn't investigate. He focuses mainly on the unhealthiness of McDonald's, without exploring (1) other fast-food chains, (2) sit-down restaurants, (3) how the food industry lobbyists control the government (though this is touched on briefly), (4) heart disease (surprisingly, most of the negative impacts on Spurlock as a result of the experiment are on his liver; his heart is barely mentioned), etc. The film is very effective as far as it goes, but alas, it is somewhat narrow-minded.
  • You may remember my "American Pie" review last summer where I pledged to lose some weight. To be honest, I haven't lost any weight since last summer, but I have been eating a lot more fruits and vegetables and fewer fried foods, junk foods, and meats. As a result, I feel healthier, though the scale might suggest otherwise (mainly because I still eat a lot). Of course, if I was on Atkins, I wouldn't be able to eat fruits because of the fructose. To each his own, I suppose.
  • 15. Metropolis (1927) - Today, we might not quite grasp just how influential this movie is on the science-fiction genre. Much of it seems so familiar to us now. But "Metropolis" invented these cliches; in fact, I can't think of a single action or scifi movie that doesn't draw something from "Metropolis." Perhaps that statement is hyperbole, but surely it is one of the most innovative movies of all-time. Which would of course mean nothing were it not so damn enjoyable. It is a wonderful story with dark connotations about technology and the working / upper classes. And even as a silent movie, it is quite exciting.
  • 16. Tokyo Story (1953) - Damn, and I was doing so well with appreciating classic films too. Actually, this movie is a bit of a paradox. It's about shiny happy people in their reunited family, all smiles, but the point is that they don't like each other as much as they let on. Or that they're more depressed than they let on. Or some combination of hidden emotions. This is revealed through very subtle ways. But the paradox is that this idea is done too well. As a result, you get a family that engages in cheerful small talk for most of the movie. As you can imagine, this is incredibly boring. Actually, it does pick up around the hour mark, but the first hour (aside from a few sparse scenes that were interesting) had me yawning quite a bit. Nothing happens. Literally. Thankfully, in the last hour and fifteen minutes, things actually start happening, and Ozu's point is still delivered well. In fact, the second half of the movie is pretty great, with plenty of interesting / touching / revealing moments. I would give the first hour a Fourth Tier ranking, and the last hour and fifteen minutes a Top Tier ranking. I figure that averages to about a Second Tier.
  • 17. Three Colors: White (1994) - A very different mood than "Blue", this is actually a rather funny dark comedy. Kieslowski's style is actually rather appropriate for this sort of dry, subtle humor. It helps to have Zbigniew Zamachowski as your clever hero, and Julie Delpy is also good. And hot. But what I'd really like to talk about is this revenge element. So many sources call this a revenge movie, and really, it baffles me.
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    When Karol becomes rich and has everything he wants except for one thing, I don't think he's tossing and turning because he needs revenge on Dominique. I think he needs Dominique. He tries to call her, but she ignores him. I think the whole will thing was to get her to finally listen to him, and essentially come back to him. I don't think he knew that she would be arrested. I mean, come on, did you watch the final scene? Are those the tears of a man who wanted revenge on his ex-wife? I think not.
  • 18. Tamago (2004) - No, don't try looking this one up on the IMDB. This is the name of the movie that I did for my senior project. It was directed by my friend Alan, and starred me and two of my friends (Jon and Matt), but it featured a cast of dozens from throughout my school. I just watched it for the first time today.
  • I think the best thing about the film is Alan's visual composition. He has quite a career ahead of him as an independent film director; he certainly has the talent for it, anyway. His choice to use a tripod while at school and a shaky camera outside of school was very interesting.
  • I think the worst thing about the film is the sound. We didn't have a boom mike, so unless the shot is very close-up, the dialogue sounds either distant or dubbed (and the dubbing sounds pretty fake).
  • As for the performances, they're all pretty mediocre. Most of the people we used were either (1) stage actors, whose performances were often too theatrical, or (2) people who had never acted before, whose performances were sometimes actually good but sometimes false or wooden. Only Matt and I had acted in movies before (all Alan's). I thought I did an okay job, but when I'm trying not to overact, sometimes I can start to mumble for some reason. I think the best performance in the film was Matt's. He's used to Alan's direction by now, and he rarely acts on the stage, so he's nice and subtle.
  • All in all, it is an uneven film. But I think if you consider (1) the sound limitations I discussed earlier; (2) that we used all amateur actors who didn't get paid a cent, as well as some people who had never acted before; (3) that our budget was $2.50, which we used to buy cigarettes for a smoking scene; (4) that everything was shot on location and all props (besides the cigarettes) were one of the actors' property; and (5) that it's a two-hour movie shot in about a week and a half, it is a masterpiece.
  • By the way, the title is Japanese for "egg." If you have any other questions about the movie, feel free to ask.
  • 19. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) - To call this movie a mind-f**k is an understatement. I have rarely seen movies this ridiculously surreal. And I'm at a loss as to what to think of it. On the one hand, it seems to be surreality without much plot, purpose, or point. On the other hand, it kinda has a point: I guess the point is that the upper-middle class are a bunch of hypocritical, hedonistic idiots - but not in a sadistic way, in a we-can-all-laugh-at-ourselves way. On the one hand, perhaps it is a brilliantly irreverent work of post-modernism. On the other hand, perhaps it is a total piece of shit (it's a thin line). On the one hand, I'm baffled as to how this movie is so critically acclaimed. On the other hand, it is incredibly entertaining, so much so that I will have to put it on my Top Tier. So I recommend this movie. I think.
  • 20. Nights of Cabiria (1957) - My first instinct tells me that no ordinary humans act like the characters in this movie, and as this is one of the early Fellini films that goes for realism, that's a bad thing. However, on further reflection, I think that Cabiria's horrible history, which causes her to put up a shield to the surrounding world, trusting no one, is enough to form her into this constantly defensive, abrasive yet pitiful, character.
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    And considering Oscar fell in love with Cabiria's innocent grace, I suppose the realization that she was a prostitute was enough to make him act the way he did. I'm still not quite sure why he took the money, however...
    Hmm. I mainly watched this for more of a crash course in Fellini before attempting "8 1/2"; I didn't expect such a complicated film in such a straightforward story. But as for "Cabiria", I do think it is quite a great film, after some analysis.
  • 21. Ikiru (1952) - Before this, the only Kurosawa movies I had seen were "Rashomon", "The Seven Samurai", and "Yojimbo" - all bold, ambitious, sweeping samurai epics. Imagine my surprise to discover this contemporary, quiet little film about unremarkable characters in boring jobs. The message of this film has been done many times before, but rarely has it been done this well. We sympathize immediately with the main character, and thus his journey throughout the film is gripping, even when not much is happening. The first few minutes of the last third of the film rubbed me the wrong way, but soon I saw what it was doing:
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    The main character has changed his life in such a way that he is remembered and talked about even after his death. At the same time, no one quite grasps the point of his efforts, perhaps because they don't know what it's like to be in his shoes.
  • 22. Pickpocket (1959) - A fascinating portrait of a Nietzschean criminal, who steals not because he needs the money (c'mon, this guy can't find a job anywhere?), but because he seems to have some fetish for pickpocketing.
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    This makes the ending of the film all the more meaningful, as now that he can no longer get off by picking pockets, he finds love to replace it.
    The subtle performances are wonderful, and the stealthy pickpocketing scenes are a fantastic visual feast. This is truly a masterpiece, and at only 75 minutes, Bresson sure gets a masterpiece across concisely.
  • 23. Spider-Man 2 (2004) - "Spider-Man 2" contains a look that gave me goosebumps. It also contains a speech that gave me an ulcer. In fact, it is such a shame how much potential this movie had to be great. If only there weren't so much ham-handed rattling on about dreams and heroes and God knows what else. If only the CGI looked a little more alive (though it is an improvement since the first installment). If only the writers realized that bad romance-movie cliches in a superhero movie are STILL bad even though they're not in a romance movie. And if Peter Parker is so worried about his identity coming out, why is he always so eager to take his mask off? Also,
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    the one thing I hate about "Friends" is that it has the tendency to drag the characters down to being hated by their loved ones or by important people in their lives, but then the heroes always talk the antagonists out of it with a warm, heartfelt speech. The anger is immediately turned into smiles by the speech. It's just not very realistic, no matter how convincing the speech is. So you can imagine my disgust when Doctor Octopus is convinced to save the city by one of Spiderman's speeches. Gimme a break.
  • But damn, the good parts show so much promise. The film's story is solid enough; I liked Doctor Octopus's evil scheme (helped by Alfred Molina's very good performance) as well as the idea of Peter grappling with the choice to be Spider-Man. Some of the action scenes are pretty well done. The film has plenty of humor, much derived from J.K. Simmons's great character performance, but also the elevator scene is really quite hilarious. The Tobey / Kirsten stuff started off as slow as ever, but by the end, I was convinced: they have real chemistry, and their last scenes are some of the best in the film. If only we didn't have that stupid subplot about her boyfriend.
  • The film is best when it's more subtle, dammit. When Aunt May is lecturing to him about heroes for five minutes (without knowing that he's actually Spiderman, of course), I just wanted to retch. But the beauty conveyed in that one look...
  • If anything, this one is better than the first one. But I'm really not sure why all the critics are creaming in their jeans over the film. Have they been hypnotized by hokey Hollywood treacle? Sounds like an evil plot of Doctor Studio Executive!
  • 24. Greed (1924) - "Greed captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit" - Gordon Gekko
  • "There is a sufficiency in the world for man's need but not for man's greed" - Gandhi
  • "Let's go over and sit on the sewer" - Trina
  • A message the echoes through the ages, told with characters that never just seem like cardboard cutouts in a fable (hell, some even have dialects in this silent movie, fer cryin' out loud!), this movie is more infamous than famous today. Director Erich von Stroheim originally gave a nine-hour cut to MGM. They trimmed it down to this two-hour running time, infuriating von Stroheim, causing a fistfight between him and Louis B. Mayer, and causing him to disown the edited film. Ironic that this story is almost echoed in the movie. Be it rolls of film or gold coins, you have to realize when it is time to part with your possessions. Just as ridiculous as Trina's behavior is in "Greed", it is equally ridiculous to demand audiences to sit through a nine-hour movie. And both times, the egotism leads to violence.
  • 25. Wages of Fear (1953) - Suspense is a loaded situation where you know at any time, something dangerous could happen. This is a movie about two "good guys" driving one truck and one "semi-bad guy" and one "relatively unimportant guy" driving another truck, both of which contain highly unstable nitroglycerine; the slightest jerk, vibration, or added heat can cause a huge explosion. However, they're driving the trucks for an hour and a half of the film on completely desolate dirt roads, with a few obstacles, sure, but without any surprises. Do you see the problem here? There's a situation about 45 minutes before the end of the film where the trucks are in danger of blowing up. But... what kind of movie would it be if everyone died 45 minutes before the movie ended? And the movie never even attempts to build any suspense besides that relating to the truck blowing up, so really, what's the point? I don't think Clouzot is as suspenseful as he thinks he is. However, there are plenty of other reasons to like the movie. The drama and characters are interesting enough, even if it doesn't really work as a suspense movie. The "suspenseful" setpieces are certainly well-shot and engage the audience well. The performances of Yves Montand and Charles Vanel are very good, totally believable. But Clouzot has been compared to Hitchcock, and I really only saw that once: the very last scene is as forced as the very last moments of "Vertigo." Alas. "Wages of Fear" is certainly no failure; it is a good movie. But perhaps I'll like "Diabolique" better.
  • 26. Lenny (1974) - "Old lady judges watch people in pairs / Limited in sex, they dare / To push fake morals, insult, and stare" - Bob Dylan
  • "I'm not a comedian. I'm Lenny Bruce." - Lenny Bruce
  • "Cabaret" was a great movie, but "Lenny" hits closer to home. I've made plenty of off-color jokes in my day, I've heard plenty of off-color jokes, and I've always thought that society took itself too seriously. Lenny had it right. His act wasn't always funny, but damn, was he incisive at pointing out society's hypocrisies. He also revolutionized stand-up comedy. What was considered so shocking in Lenny's time is what every comedian does today. He got arrested for saying a word that starts with "c", ends with "ing", and has a "suck" in the middle. Nowadays almost all comedians use that word freely. Even around here, it'll only get your post spoilerized. This movie is a fascinating portrayal of Lenny Bruce, in an almost Christlike way. It is beautifully shot (thanks to the great Bob Fosse), and the title role is brilliantly acted by Dustin Hoffman. I loved seeing how Lenny's home life with his wife was echoed in some of his most famous jokes. The trial scenes are also fascinating. I really loved this movie more than I ever expected to. See it now.
  • 27. A Letter to Three Wives (1949) - Director Joseph L. Manciewicz was not really much of a visual stylist, but he really excels at getting the audience interested in the characters and plot. I wrote about "All About Eve": "'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..." Here again Manciewicz has enchanted me with a clever, charming story about three women who receive a letter informing them that their friend Addie Ross has run off with one of their husbands. We then see flashbacks from each woman's life as they go throughout their day out. This whole concept was intelligently conceived and written and comes to a fantastic ending, with Manciewicz humbly leading us all the way. Of course, I would be remiss if I put all the credit to Joe; certainly, the six stars help carry the weight of the film. Linda Darnell and Kirk Douglas are especially impressive, but really, this is an ensemble cast, and everyone's acting is very strong. Another very underrated film.
  • 28. Letter From an Unknown Woman (1948) - I suppose I've lately been interested in dramas told in flashbacks about letters to or from women. This is another excellent example of this very small genre. Far bleaker than "A Letter to Three Wives", it is not always an easy film to watch, but it is rewarding in its great character revelations. Ophuls's style is dark and shadowed, showing elements of a real auteur here. A truly fantastic film.
  • 29. The Simpsons Season 4 (1992-1993) - In a recent Entertainment Weekly list of the 25 greatest Simpsons episodes ever, the 4th season was best represented, with 20% of the list coming from the 4th season. Indeed, it is probably my favorite season, and it is very popular among many other fans of the series. While earlier episodes were more plot-driven and less funny and later episodes had nonsensical plots that were merely excuses for a handful of good jokes, the 4th season is where they found the best balance. The strange thing is that episodes from the 4th season show up so rarely in syndication. Can you explain this to me? Here is a season that is beloved by Entertainment Weekly, casual Simpsons fans, and diehard fans alike, and syndication shows these episodes so rarely. Indeed, way back when I taped every episode that showed in syndication in an attempt to see every episode, the last three episodes I hadn't seen were all from the 4th season.
  • However, many episodes from the 4th season were already released on video, and some 4th season episodes were syndicated far more than others. As a result, I've seen some of these episodes so rarely and so long ago, and I have others practically memorized. Of course, I laughed the most at the episodes I was not as familiar with ("Itchy and Scratchy: The Movie", "Brother From Another Planet", "Whacking Day", "Marge in Chains"), and I watched the episodes I knew ("A Streetcar Named Marge", "Treehouse of Horror III", "Duffless", "Krusty Gets Kancelled") by nostalgically reciting the punchlines in my head ("Dad! You killed the zombie Flanders!" / "He was a zombie?").
  • The commentaries are consistently interesting and funny. I wish the cast members were available for more episodes, but at the same time, Julie Kavner was rather useless in the 3rd season commentaries. Luckily, cast member Hank Azaria, guest star Jon Lovitz, and writer Conan O'Brien provided plenty of laughs in a few commentaries. The 4th season was probably the most influential season of the Simpsons; I never noticed this before, but their cutaways to flashbacks, fantasies, or television-within-television (as "Family Guy" uses so often) are far more frequent here than in any other season. Ironically, as I learned from the commentaries, many of these were done to add time because the episode was short. I was surprised at how often the episodes just barely squeaked by in terms of the running time. I guess that's why they so rarely include deleted scenes on these things.
  • If you buy any one DVD of the Simpsons, this is probably your best bet. It contains many classic episodes - "Marge vs. the Monorail", "Last Exit to Springfield", "Mr. Plow" - as well as many of my personal favorites - "Lisa's First Word", "Homer's Triple Bypass", "I Love Lisa". Even the clip show isn't bad.
  • P.S. (In court, after Homer was thrown out of an all-you-can-eat seafood restaurant)
  • Lionel Hutz: Mrs. Simpson, please tell us what you and your husband did after you were ejected from the restaurant.
  • Marge: Well, we pretty much went straight home...
  • Hutz: Mrs. Simpson, you're under oath.
  • Marge: (sadly) We drove around until 3:00 am looking for another all-you-can-eat fish restaurant.
  • Hutz: And when you couldn't find one?
  • Marge: (breaking down in tears) We went fishing.
  • Hutz: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, do these seem like the actions of a man who had ALL he could eat?
  • 30. The Last Picture Show (1971) - Teenagers are dependent on the same things that smaller kids are dependent on. The only difference is attitude. Teenagers have to seem independent to be cool. Moreso than anyone else, teenagers are good at hiding their emotions. They can put so much angst aside in the name of independence or simple camaraderie. They are complicated. Few movies truly know what it's like. They simplify everything. But not this film. This may be the best depiction of what it's like to be a teenager I've ever seen. Here is a boring small town, where the only means of entertainment are playing pool, going to movies, going to the diner, or having meaningless sex. And yet despite the overwhelming feeling of isolation and boredom, the teenagers seem like they're having a good time. But this is a subtle film that knows its characters so well, and we always get the sense that there are layers of events going on. Oh, the cinematography is beautiful too, but plenty of movies can manage that; far fewer can depict such characters this well.
  • 31. Don't Look Now (1973) - At many points during "Don't Look Now", the suspenseful music swelled, giving the sense that something important or scary was happening, and at many points, I was completely baffled as to what I was supposed to be scared of. This is a film that is less about plot and more about atmosphere, but the film is so confusing that all its atmosphere is for naught. Oh, it starts out fine, and after the first hour, I was really into the film. The set-up had a lot of promise, the acting was very good, the cinematography was beautiful, and the sex scene was one of the best I've ever seen. But then Julie Christie leaves Venice, and she takes all of the movie's logical sense with her. The film plods along in a bunch of nonsense that's supposed to be all moody and chilling, but none of it works. Things finally start making sense again at the end of the film, but the ending is just so ridiculous that you'll wish you didn't understand it.
  • Let me ask you something. If your wife was in a different country, and for one fleeting second, you saw her pass on a boat along with two other women whom your wife knew, what would you do? (a) Assume you were mistaken, since, y'know, YOUR WIFE LEFT THE COUNTRY; (b) Contact your wife and see if she is where you thought she was; or (c) Have the two women arrested. If you picked (c), then maybe you will understand the characters' logic in this film better than I did. Also, you probably have something wrong with your brain.
  • 32. Raging Bull (1980) - This may be the best example of k3vin's theory about expectations for films I've seen. Perhaps my expectations were built up unbelievably high before watching this movie. Perhaps that's what I should blame on my lukewarm reaction to it. All I know is that at this point I am tempted to call it "good but overrated." Oh, I can understand why critics and viewers would fawn over this film. It features uniformly excellent performances, and through the visual composition, the dialogue, and even the sound, you can see that Scorsese is a masterful, stylish craftsman. It is certainly very influential. But some parts of it I just didn't buy. The parallels are just too simple (jealousy ==> rage in the ring, violence in boxing = violence at home, etc.) Worse, the characterization of Jake LaMotta as a jealous man is ridiculously blatant and irritatingly belabors the point. I just wanted to shout at the TV, "OKAY! I get it. LaMotta is a jealous guy. Doesn't trust his wife at all. Let's stop showing me scene after scene of LaMotta doing something stupid as a result of - oh, NOT AGAIN!" I hate to say it, but though De Niro gives the character life, the original portrayal of LaMotta in the script is almost one-dimensional. It's a shame that the script couldn't be better to match Scorsese's brilliance. And De Niro, Pesci, and Moriarty's performances; they are really quite fantastic. They almost sell this material. Almost.
  • 33. Bob le Flambeur (1955) - Another great, little known movie that I was fortunate enough to see. It succeeds at creating characters, each with his or her own goals, and then setting them up in this entangled web of treachery, all up until the great climax. Unfortunately, I can't think of anything else to say.
  • 34. Pickup on South Street (1953) - The strangest thing about this movie is... well, okay, the strangest thing about this movie is how a policeman checks to see if a woman is dead not by checking her pulse, but by opening her eyelid. But the second-strangest thing about this movie is where I heard of it and why its title was rattling around in my brain when I was in the video rental place. I could've sworn I saw it on some greatest movies list, but it's not on Filmsite's top 100 (or even in the all-films index on that site!), it's not one of Ebert's greatest movies, it's not on the entire top 1000 list at They Shoot Pictures, Don't They, and no Listologist ever really recommended it. I suppose I could've gotten it from its fairly high rating at the IMDB (7.6), and I decided to rent it because it was a Criterion DVD, it was a lean 80 minutes, and it was a film-noir, but ordinarily just that isn't enough; I feel that there was some other source that made me think this film was one of the greats. In any case, it isn't one of the greats, but it's certainly not a bad movie. It feels very dated in its ham-handed lambasting of communists. The message of the movie is basically: pickpocket fine, communist EVIL. Aside from that and some cheesy dialogue, it's a good film-noir, an interesting story of deceit layered upon deceit, with a great performance from Thelma Ritter. It also has a really bizarrely hilarious scene featuring Victor Perry in a cameo as Lightning Louie. The fistfights are actually very well choreographed, and Samuel Fuller is a competent director. I think if the whole communism element were removed from the film, it could be more timeless and would be more appreciated today. However, as it is, it is merely a product of its era, and while that's not a bad thing, it will never be considered one of the greats, despite what my confused little brain had thought.
  • 35. The Long Goodbye (1973) - Often very funny, but never sacrificing the storyline of the movie, "The Long Goodbye" is a very creative take on 1940's detective movies. This actually might be my new favorite Robert Altman movie. The film establishes a different Philip Marlowe, played by Elliot Gould as a deadbeat who is totally out of place in 1973. I mean, what kind of detective movie starts with the private eye going out in the middle of the night to buy cat food? Robert Altman's trademark of overlapping conversations works surprisingly well in this film-noir, with Gould's wisecracks juxtaposed against the villains whose 1970's mentalities contrast with Gould's 1940's persona. Just listen to him tiredly mumble to himself about his topless neighbors, and the role of Philip Marlowe is revolutionized. Any fan of "Zero Effect" should really see this film.
  • 36. Apocalypse Now (1979) - This is a very obscure comedy that coincidentally shares its name and release year with some other movie. It was made in Swaziland and is so obscure that it's not even on the IMDB. But it is a very funny movie about a professional wrestler named Apocalypse and his quest to win the championship belt of the Swaziland Wrestling Federation...
  • Okay, I am kidding, but I've been watching so many obscure movies lately, I was unwilling to throw you a bone by watching this masterpiece. Actually, you may be wondering why I waited so long to watch it. The reason is that I taped "Apocalypse Now Redux" off some movie channel a long time ago, but as the reaction to the extra hour of footage was lukewarm at best, I didn't feel like watching the 3.5-hour version. I have a short attention span for movies longer than 3 hours. So I waited, and rented the 2.5-hour version from Video Americain. But after watching "Apocalypse Now", I actually want to watch the "Redux" version. I figure that's the best recommendation I can give of this stunning film.
  • This is a triumph in so many ways, but perhaps most evidently, it is a directorial triumph. I have rarely seen such ideas conveyed so effectively through visuals, as what Coppola does here. The source material (Heart of Darkness) is a wonderful novel, but though Coppola is standing on the shoulders of giants, he still manages to elevate the material to a new, updated level, both in his direction and by co-writing the script. Of course, he would be anchored if not for for the fantastic performances from Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Marlon Brando, Frederic Forrest, Dennis Hopper... I could go on. Coppola also ought to send a big thank-you note to Jim Morrison.
  • Anyway, I'm rattling on. This is a true masterpiece about the horrific surrealism of war, how it brings out the primal instincts of men, and how this drives Kurtz insane. It is a rare occasion when I want to see the longer version of a two-and-a-half-hour movie.
  • 37. Yo, Robot (2004) - Comencé mirando la película con... oops, sorry. I started off watching the movie (which in English would be "I, Robot") with a cynical eye. One of the opening scenes, with Will Smith thinking a robot is snatching a purse, is an unbelievably stupid mistake to make. The style of some action scenes seems stolen from "28 Days Later", and the futuristic design seems stolen from "Minority Report" or tons of other future scifi movies. The ties to Hansel and Gretel are a bit too corny, and not really necessary to the story. The product placement is pretty shameless. The police chief is the same character we've seen a million times before. But then... something happened. About midway though the film, there's a twist, and we learn more about Will Smith's past. This is actually pretty well done. I can't really explain it, but I started to buy into the movie. I was genuinely surprised by the twist at the end, and I really enjoyed the closing action scenes (which contained some amazing camera work - I knew the director of the great "Dark City" wouldn't let me down!). The leads have enough charisma to carry the film, even if they ain't winning any Oscars, and in the end, I would be lying if I said I did not enjoy the film. Maybe it's just that summer has eroded my brain away.
  • 38. Touch of Evil (1958) - Charlton Heston tries very hard to make this movie suck, but all of his efforts are in vain. The rest of the movie was so awesome that I began to simply tune out his shitty performance. Orson Welles looks so sleazy and ominous as Hank Quinlan, truly a repulsive character. Welles's direction is also fantastic (not that I expected anything less). In truth, there are many reasons why this low-budget B-movie, which Orson Welles originally wanted nothing to do with, should not work, and yet it does, through some unexplainable phenomenon. This is the best movie I've seen since... well, "Apocalypse Now."
  • Note: These comments apply to the 1998 version, which was re-edited based on a memo that Orson Welles wrote to the studio executives (who screwed up his initial cut of the film). Find it on TCM.
  • In Florida. You know what that means.
  • 39. Donnie Darko (2001) - I can see why this film has its cult following. The director is very good at creating a weird, spooky atmosphere, and the film is significantly weirder most of the other films you see today. However, it is not really more intelligent nor more compelling, in my opinion. That certainly doesn't make it a bad film, but after my expectations were built up to somewhere around the second coming - well, I just felt like something was lacking. It is a good film, but a better script could have made it a great one. And I usually love cult films like this one.
  • 40. Days of Heaven (1978) - I guess I don't really understand Terrence Malick. The photography in his films is always beautiful, but then he has all his actors sleepwalk through the movie. I mean, I know that humans natually suppress their emotions and that modern acting is based on subtlety, but I don't think Malick knows when a little more emotion is needed and when it isn't. I just think there is a problem when I miss key plot points because they are SO DAMN UNDERSTATED that I don't think anything is happening. So I focus on the cinematography instead, which is immensely more compelling. This movie is sometimes regarded as a classic, but I think it is just a beautiful, boring film.
  • 41. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) - The first ten minutes of this movie are dull and humorless. They seem to think that merely saying certain words or phrases (like "heinie", "mentally retarded", and "testes") or actions (punching a fat guy in the crotch) are inherently funny. I thought I was in for the stupidest movie ever. I remember the exact turning point where the movie found its charm and became funny. It was when Paul Rudd put on that ridiculous cologne. After that, the movie picked up and was really quite hilarious (though it occasionally strayed from the hilarity in some lame scenes, but generally I was laughing out loud). I say this to make sure anyone trying this movie doesn't get discouraged right off the bat and get in a bad mood for the rest of the movie. In fact, come ten minutes late. Nothing important happens anyway. Most of the movie is great, silly fun, with plenty of camp value and character humor. Will Ferrell is hilarious, as are Fred Willard, Steve Carell, and oftentimes even Paul Rudd (whom I had pegged for a straight man ever since he started dating Phoebe). After the first ten minutes, the movie understands humor. (Note: This spoiler doesn't give away any plot points, but it does spoil a great joke from the movie)
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    When Will Ferrell gets a huge erection, that alone is not funny. But when he explains it by saying that it's the pleat of the pants, now THAT's funny.
  • 42. Ivan the Terrible, Part One (1945) - It seems that making a brilliant film like "Battleship Potemkin" can give a director plenty of carryover goodwill from critics, causing them to elevate this pretty good film into a classic. It's not. It features a decent story, very theatrical acting, and some competent direction with maybe a few interesting shots. All this adds up to a pretty good movie that was a bit lower than my expectations. I'll have to see if Part Two is any better.
  • 43. High Sierra (1941) - Like "Pickup on South Street", this movie could've been a classic, but there was something holding it back. In this case it was a rather racist, over-the-top portrayal of a wide-eyed black man named Algernon. My guess is that it sat the wrong way with modern-day critics, who shunned the film despite its merits. In fact, I think it made me realize something. I notice that there are few African-American characters in the classic films, and I always assumed it was because studios were racist and wouldn't hire black actors. But perhaps the causation is reversed. The films that hired black actors would have them play racist caricatures, and over time, these films began to seem dated and were lost to history. It's not that classic films wouldn't hire black actors, it's that films that hired black actors didn't become classics. It's just an uncorroborated theory, though.
  • Anyway, this film contains two interesting plots, both very strong... and hell, how can you go wrong with Humphrey Bogart? Algernon isn't really in the film that much. It's actually a rather enjoyable little-seen gem, though an imperfect one. On the downside, it has got to feature one of the stupidest cops in the history of cinema. You know how you sometimes see the good guy running away from a bunch of bad guys who are shooting at him, and you think it's improbable that they would keep missing, but you're willing to suspend your disbelief because the good guy is moving and the bad guys are far away? Well, this is the only movie I've seen to have a cop shoot at a non-moving person about three feet away, and miss completely.
  • 44. The Bourne Supremacy (2004) - The thing about "The Bourne Identity" is that, while I enjoyed it in the theater, it didn't really resonate with me. I remember the beginning where Matt Damon was on a boat and had amnesia, and I remember the ironic twist in the very end, but the middle is hazy. I had to keep asking my brother about plot points during this movie (though he didn't really remember either), and I really couldn't tell you how much this story connects with the first one.
  • How much of a movie should I really remember two years afterwards? I dunno, but I tend to have a more vivid recollection of the other movies in my Second Tier of 2002. "Blood Work", for example, is not a movie that (as best as I can recall) is better than "The Bourne Identity", but I remember many elements of it far more clearly. It's kind of odd. I mean, I've heard of films trying to get the audience to identify with the characters, but actually giving the audience amnesia...
  • Is this a valid criticism? I'm not sure. Is it too much to ask for a movie to stick with me long after I've left the theater? Does anyone else have this Bourne Syndrome, about "The Bourne Identity" or other films? It's baffling. Well, anyway, I guess what I'm basically trying to say is, though I thought "The Bourne Supremacy" was a fun, enjoyable, solid film, don't expect me to think so in a couple years. I'd better get a review up while I can still remember it. It has many thrilling moments, many clever moments, even a few touching moments. Its ambition is solely to entertain, but entertain it does. I will surely see the next "Bourne" movie, but by that time I will probably have forgotten about this one.
  • 45. Shrek 2 (2004) - I haven't seen a truly great film of 2004 yet, and "Shrek 2" isn't gonna change my mind. It is a lot of fun, though. While the first film was a twist on a traditional fairy tale (princess trapped in high tower is saved by disgusting ogre who is acting for personal reasons), this film abandons any sort of resemblance to a fairy tale structure, and actually shows the characters' personal sides better. But hey, just because it is not a spoof doesn't mean it doesn't pack the film with countless references to fairy tales and pop culture. Antonio Banderas nearly steals the film, but there is so much wonderful voice acting going on here. The film's plot is not without holes (
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    How did Pinocchio, Gingerbread Man, etc. get to Far, Far Away in just a couple hours when it took Shrek such a long time? Couldn't the film have offered some explanation, some kind of shortcut or super-fast mode of transportation?
    ), but who really cares? The animation is great - some of the characters are getting close to being indistinguishable from real humans! They're not there yet, but soon... soon we will take over the world. Er, uh, I mean, good film.
  • The 1932 Film Festival

  • Why, you ask? Simple because it's there!
  • 46. I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang (1932) - In its time, this was a shocking film revealing the horrors of chain gangs, and helping to open the people's eyes and lead to the illegalization of chain gangs. The film was banned in two Southern states. I love a good controversy, so of course I had to see this film. It covers a huge span of a man's life in a mere 90 minutes, rushing through the plot at breakneck speed. I rarely say this, but this film is too short. Some sections are not as developed as they should be. There are so many elements of this man's life, and some of them are given short shrift in favor of the movie's main point - chain gangs are bad. So this is a good movie, but perhaps an overrated one. It certainly has many good traits, including an excellent performance by Paul Muni as the main dude. Some scenes are thrilling and very well-paced. But the whole thing just felt rushed to me.
  • 47. Shanghai Express (1932) - I bet you've never heard of this film. I'm actually not sure why this never caught on. It's actually a damn good, or possibly even great, film. The always-sexy Marlene Dietrich is fantastic as Shanghai Lily, a love-'em-and-leave-'em type who's finally ready to love again. The film is a sort of adventure, and those scenes are great, but the heart of the film is Dietrich's relationship with Clive Brook and an interesting message about having faith in one's lover. It was easy to get wrapped up in the story and the many characters. A very underrated film.
  • 48. Freaks (1932) - There would never be a movie like this today. In those rare occasions where not every character in a modern film has to be pretty, the movie would probably portray the freaks as either poor, innocent, pitiable wrecks who cry into their pillows at night, or evil weirdos in some kind of twisted horror movie. But this 1932 film is not afraid to portray the freaks in shades of grey. They are generally easygoing people, but they have a code of ethics that they live by very seriously. It's a film with a dark center, but with many side plots that have a certain lightness to them. The sideshow attractions do have a certain weird charm to them. And at 64 minutes, "Freaks" was over in no time at all.
  • Thus concludes the 1932 Film Festival

  • 49. On the Town (1949) - Ridiculous propaganda from Uncle Sam. Listen to these lyrics: "Look over there, the fleet / Doesn't she look sweet? / What did we leave it for? / What are we doing on shore? / We're simply crazy about the navy / We love it more than we can say." Even worse is the song listing all of the places in America where you can possibly register for the military forces. It's about 40 minutes of constant singing, listing every single registration place. And the portrayal of Harry Truman as a Christlike figure who can do no wrong was just ludicrous.
  • I am of course kidding. This is a wonderful movie that glorifies the navy only very briefly. It isn't as good as "Singin' in the Rain", but hey, what is? I still found it an enjoyable romp through New York City. The characters are clearly defined and likable, the music is toe-tappingly catchy, the dancing is well-choreographed, the humor is fun, and the subliminal messages are nearly unnoticeable. Uh, wait. Scratch that last one.
  • 50. Bound (1996) - This film was made with a modest amount of money, it grossed a modest amount of money, and it passed by nearly unnoticed. Hopefully, now that the Wachowski brothers are world-famous, people will go back and see this film and it will get the recognition it deserves. It is living proof that when the Wachowskis aren't working with bad actors and millions of dollars worth of CGI, they can be brilliant directors. It is also proof that when they are not trying to put melodramatic dialogue, forced philosophy, and hokey allegory into their scripts, they can also be brilliant writers. This is a simple, small, down-to-earth little film that is consistently more gripping that the last two "Matrix" films combined. Parts actually reminded me of "Shanghai Express" when they were talking about faith and trust in your lover and all that jazz. The female leads are fantastic, but (and sorry to sound sexist) Joe Pantoliano is the one who really shines here. Check out this fairly obscure film. I picked up the DVD at FYE, the most ridiculously overpriced CD / DVD store in existence, for only 8 bucks.
  • 51. The Insider (1999) - This is a big-budget Hollywood film that really wants to be a low-key, independent drama. Sadly, this didn't work for it at the box office, as it grossed less than half of its budget. It doesn't go for cheap thrills; it is subtle and quiet for much of its running time, which gives its very emotional moments even more of a wallop. If you've only seen Russell Crowe in big, showy epic films, come see his restrained performance in this small character drama. That said, if it's true that you should write what you know, I am totally unqualified to write this review. I don't know a confidentiality agreement from a hole in the ground. I don't know if the logistics, politics, or legal matters of this movie are legitimate or pure malarkey. All I know is that I bought it, and I truly enjoyed this great spin on the dependable formula of the little guy tackling the big, evil corporation.
  • 52. Following (1998) - The concept of linear time is a Eurocentric one. Indeed, the Native Americans (before coming into contact with Europeans) tended to think of time as a sort of cycle, not as a straight line. I guess that's a pseudointellectual way of saying that, if a director feels the narrative of his film would be better structured with the scenes in a non-chronological order, that's okay with me. If it seems gimmicky to you, then fine - keep embracing Eurocentrism, but watch out for the socialist revolt. It's coming, my friend. Viva la revolution!
  • Oh yeah, back to the movie. Not as good as "Memento", but since it was filmed with someone's spare change, I can understand. I still thought it was a fascinating character study with a great twist in the end (like "Memento" - but unlike "Memento", this twist actually comes at the chronological end of the film). I think Christopher Nolan may be my favorite "new" director, and more than anyone else, I'm excited to see what he comes up with next.
  • 53. Rosemary's Baby (1968) - This doesn't put up very serious competition for the brilliant "Chinatown" as Roman Polanski's best movie (in my book, at least), but it's still a great movie. This sort of plot, where the main character doesn't know who she can trust in this crazy conspiracy, has been done so poorly, that it was refreshing to have this done so chillingly. Mia Farrow is so wonderful throughout. I do have problems with the ending, but not enough to displace it from my Top Tier (maybe because I don't really feel that strongly about my criticism).
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    I mean, with such an ambitious film and such an ambitious twist, you kinda wish for a little more. I mean, somehow you would think, since the anti-Christ has just been born and all that, the movie would manage to make me give a damn. But as I said, I don't feel that strongly about it. The ending is not out of character for anyone, and it is not too much out of the mood of the film. I just longed for something more.
  • 54. The Manchurian Candidate (2004) - Roger Ebert's mantra is something to the effect of "It's not what a movie's about; it's how it's about it." I guess the point is that you shouldn't criticize a movie for it's premise alone, but see how it is treated. Me, I disagree with this statement; I could think of a few premises that could just make a movie suck no matter how the movie is about it. And perhaps one is to make a totally unnecessary remake of a classic masterpiece like "The Manchurian Candidate."
  • I guess I really wasn't in the mood to watch this movie. Maybe you shouldn't judge whether you'd like the movie by my review. That said, I'm just telling you my honest thoughts. I just thought they took a brilliant film, changed some minor details, and made it into a conventional thriller with nothing really special about it. Denzel Washington plods aimlessly through the film, and Liev Schreiber does his best Laurence Harvey impression. Aside from a handful of interesting scenes, the movie mostly bored me. You wanna hear the quintessential difference between this movie and the 1962 version? The 1962 version triggers brainwashing when Raymond Shaw sees a Queen of Hearts. This movie triggers brainwashing when Shaw hears his name three times. That was style; this is boring.
  • To me, all this movie has going for it is a few intriguing scenes, Meryl Streep playing against type, and a great unknown actress named Kimberly Elise, who has the film's best dialogue. But hey, don't listen to me. You're talking to a guy who loved the original so much, this one could never measure up.
Author Comments: 

Comments are welcome, as always.

Regarding another movie taking place inside a human body, have you seen Innerspace? It's live-action and only partially takes place inside a person, so it fails your criteria, but it's as close as I can get. I remember liking it. Then again, I was 17 at the time, so it probably sucks.

Heh. Sounds interesting. Maybe I'll check it out.

Farenheit 9/11 was...well...affecting. I cried three times.

My vote for scene of the year so far? "This is all staged..."

That was a great scene, though I was perhaps more moved by the Iraqi woman crying out to Allah after her family had been killed by U.S. soldiers.

On the other side of the spectrum, I did love the scene of the Fresno group. Some of them even have two cookies...

Aaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!!!

P.S. See rant in "Supersize Me" review.

You have a lot of hands, AJ! :-)

Looks like your movie-watching has expanded now that it's summer, which makes followers of this list like me very happy. :-)

Actually, I credit it more to my discovery of this amazing video rental place called Video Americain. So many classic movies for cineasts. You never see stuff like "Metropolis" in Blockbuster. I'm obsessed with the place.

Another Lenny fan!

I'm tellin' ya, Bob Fosse is one of the most under-rated directors in history, and Lenny is certainly one of the more over-looked films. It still has my favorite Hoffman role...

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Favorite Hoffman role, now that is a tough one. Such a versatile and consistently great actor. But anyway, yes, "Lenny" is a great movie. In fact, I think I will put it on my list of movies I wish more Listologists would see.

This just reminds me - check out the Academy's Best Picture noms for that year:

Chinatown
The Conversation
The Godfather Part II
Lenny
The Towering Inferno

Sure, that last film is out of place, but just look at the other four! Incredible!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

That is quite an amazing line-up, from the days when the Academy had their heads on straight.

I just discovered a rather funny bit of trivia in the IMDB trivia section for "A Letter to Three Wives." The original novel by John Kempner was called "A Letter to Five Wives." When Manciewicz and Vera Caspary were done adapting the screenplay, it had been reduced to "A Letter to Four Wives." Manciewicz still thought the screenplay was too long, so he asked 20th Century Fox executive Darryl F. Zanuck how to shorten it, and Zanuck replied, "Take out one of the wives!" And so the weakest segment of the four was cut out, and the movie became "A Letter to Three Wives."

I know, Letter To Three Wives is a great film and entertaining as heck. Why do you think it gets no respect?

Tallyho

:?)

Maybe it was pushed aside as all the critics fawned over "All About Eve", ignoring the rest of Manciewicz's canon? Perhaps because the ensemble cast doesn't include any real big stars except for Kirk Douglas (whose role is relatively small, at least compared to the women)? Or maybe we're just completely insane and no one else likes the film as much as we do.

#3 might be the answer. But it's not us that crazy...it's everyone else.

Tallyho

:?)

That's just what a crazy man would say.

Yeah...crazy like a fox, baby.

Tallyho

;?)

Cool, stepping away from the computer for a few days is quite a treat when I get to come home to all these new reviews! Quick notes, since I'm still recovering from the vacation backlog:

After reading your Pickpocket review I rushed over to Netflix to rent it, and was crushed to discoverer isn't not available on DVD. Sigh. On to the long-term to-see list it goes...

Now that you've seen Wages of Fear I'd recommend Sorcerer. Less existentialist allegory, more action.

Very nice Listology tie-in to the Lenny/c********r observation. :-)

Finally, I'm psyched you liked The Last Picture Show so much! Definitely would get a spot on my never-to-be-attempted top 100 list (okay, never say never).

Pickup on South Street was on EW's top 100 list!

Hmm... I guess that might've been it. Thanks for the tip!

Oh yeah and it also was in a bunch of other places, like:

Combustible Celluloid/ Daily Morning News 100/ EW’s Guide To Great Movies/ Facets Movie Lover’s Video Guide/ Guiness Book of Film/ Manly Movie Guide/ AMG 3/ BB 4.5/ Cinebooks 4.5/ Halliwell 4/ LM 4.5/ Movies On TV 3.5/ Rex Reed 4/ Seen That Now What? 5/ Time Out 4.5/ TLA 4.5/ Variety 3.5/ VH 4/ VMG 4

But who's a big enough freak to list them all and keep it catalogued. Oh yeah...me...whoops.

Tallyho

:?)

Thanks, but I don't think I've seen the majority of those sources. I think the Entertainment list is most likely, but even that I'm not entirely sure about. I just can't understand why I decided to pick it up... but I bet those commie bastards had something to do with it.

I'm glad you loved The Long Goodbye, I can still remember watching it and thinking, this is hilarious. When he tries to fake out his cat by trading cat-food labels I just about crapped my pants laughing. The insane crime boss who harms his girlfriend to get across a point and his reaction to his doped-up uber-hot new-age female neighbors is priceless. Great ending too, I was mighty impressed.

P.S.: I like Redux better. Nice Swaziland plot-line BTW you almost had me there.

Tallyho

:?)

I love the mob guy's reaction when the guy at the gate does his Walter Brennan impression.

I started a comment on The Long Goodbye, but wrote a small article instead.

Love your review of Days of Heaven. I haven't seen the movie, but I often feel that way about movies (though I had never identified the problem quite so clearly).

I love the T-Mal...which means I understand the point you're making. He does tend to layer subtleties in his film (other than Badlands that is). The story is actually about a poor married couple who decide the wife should wed a rich dying man and they live off his money and other stuff. He tends to linger on shots for long periods of time letting the viewer decipher meanings and context (which some people find incredibly boring)and I love that stuff. Life is sometimes so slow it barely trickles, it's amazing that a film-maker can translate that to film.

Anyway, I was lucky enough to watch Donnie Darko way back when it was first released and noone had heard of it. I was stoked over this cool little film. But it has since picked up a rabid cult following and hype that far excedes the actual merrit. That's too bad cus it was rather stunning way back when.

T'ho

:?)

You are indeed lucky to have seen "Donnie Darko" before the hype. I remember having a similar conversation like this with grizham1 about Radiohead's OK Computer.

Actually, I was partially referencing "Badlands" in my review as well. I saw it and, while I found it easier to follow, I still felt some subtlety was misplaced. I think an innocent, naive girl like Sissy Spacek's character would react with a little more gusto if her boyfriend killed her dad.

Alas. There must be something about T-Mal I don't understand. Chalk him up to me as David Mamet is to Jim.

Yes, I also caught Donnie Darko before the hype (but not OK Computer, unfortunately). Now I'm glad I did.

OK Computer 2. I bought it at Costco the day it was released. It was mind-blowing, and is actually worth every bit of hype it's gotten. Fantastic album.

T'ho

:?)

I definitely have a problem with forgetting some movies, and do (in some cases) take that as a knock against those films, since I have no problem remembering other movies. Once my mind really goes and I start forgetting them all, I won't deduct points for my own shortcomings.

Anyway, I didn't have that problem with The Bourne Identity in particular, but I do recognize the phenomenon.

Re: Shrek 2 comments - have you seen the trailer for The Polar Express? The CGI humans look a lot more like humans in that one than in Shrek 2 or The Incredibles. Same goes for Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (which, oddly enough, was release several years ago now).

I have not seen the "Polar Express" trailer, nor the "Incredibles" trailer, nor "Final Fantasy." Shows what I know.

In any case, I didn't think all the humans looked realistic, but some of them. I was especially impressed with the goons in the fairy godmother's carriage.

Lol. The Incredibles is actually not too human-like because it's meant to look somewhat cartoonish, but Final Fantasy and Polar Express are both extremely life-like, 10x more so than Shrek 2.

Jim, I'm baffled. When I tried saving originally, it told me that the list was past the 65,000 character limit. I condensed a bit, and it let me save, but then it retained very little of my "Scarface" review.

I clicked back a few times and salvaged the review, but I think there might be a glitch in that feature.

Hmm. I'll look into that, thanks for the heads-up!

Regarding Following, I think nonlinear conceptions of time only apply over the long haul (reincarnation and all that). Over the short term, everybody knows breakfast is the "first" meal of the day. :-) Anyway, glad you liked it!

Well, the remark was largely tongue-in-cheek. I'm certainly no expert on the subject; in fact, my only knowledge of the subject comes from this essay I read from the reading comprehension section of my SAT. But it seemed to be saying that Native Americans have an entirely different conception of time in general.

My reply was flip as well (see the smiley). I find the idea of "no concept of linear time" fascinating though, probably because I can't conceived it, at least on a day-to-day scale. I can't bring myself to eliminate the concepts of "before" and "after" from my mind.

Anyway, I do think it's a gimmick, but all storytelling devices are gimmicks - the magic is in how effectively they are employed. I thought it worked in Following to its benefit. See 21 Grams for an example of the gimmick used ineffectively.

Yeah, it's a mind-bender.