Damn, I only have time to watch movies on weekends part 07: this monkey's gone to heaven

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  • 1. Kids in the Hall: Season 2 (1990-1991) - Some hilarious skits here, but ultimately I didn't like this one as much as the first season. I still got much merriment and plenty of laughs out of this box set though. Some highlights include Gavin; Simon and Hecubus; Darrill; and the guy who wanted his check fifteen minutes ago.
  • 2. Last Year at Marienbad (1961) - Last year I took a film class with my friend Alan, who has directed some movies of his own. One day we spent most of the class analyzing the composition of shots in Schindler's List. As we left the class, Alan said he thought most of that was BS. "Directors don't think about the effects of their structural composition," he said, "they just think about what looks cool." I wondered if he was right.
  • Last Year at Marienbad's cinematography is so gorgeous that it's like a massage for the eyes. And the thing about a massage is that you can get one from a trained professional masseuse who uses techniques that were picked up in massage college, or you can get one from a layman who's just doing what seems right. Sometimes you can't even tell the difference, but all you can tell is what feels good. I feel the same way about Alain Resnais. I'm not sure if every stylistic trick he uses here has deep significance and meaning or if he's just doing what looks cool, as Alan would say, but what I do know is that the movie feels good. Its style is hypnotic. It drew me into the mystery even when I had little idea what was going on. Perhaps it's a masterpiece of absurdism (the hotel guests shout out strategies for the stick game, but it never matters since the same guy always wins) or postmodernism (a concrete memory always seems to elude us), or perhaps it just looks cool. All I know is that I loved it.
  • 3. Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) - Brad Silberling doesn't know what the hell he's doing. Sure, he got some good work out of his special effects people and art direction people, but he has no clue what to do with his actors. He's just lazy, and as a result, this movie is very one-note. He has no idea how to appropriately vary the tone of the film for different scenes. During the film's climactic scene, I didn't realize it was supposed to be the climax until the film ended. Many peole die and no one seems to care. On second thought, maybe that was a good move: the kids have one emotional scene early on in the film, and that was enough for me. The kids' dramatic acting was pretty bad.
  • It's too bad, because this movie has a lot going for it. The story is clever, inventive, darkly humorous, mysterious, compelling, and weirdly fun, though this was all probably a credit to the author more than anyone involved in the film. I did like the sets and costumes, pitch-perfect in conveying the oddness of the movie. Jim Carrey, Meryl Streep, and Billy Connolly were delightfully bizarre. These assets were enough to make me like the movie to some extent, but if only they had hired a better director. What was Alfonso Cuaron doing?
  • And then there's Jude Law. You certainly hear him talk more here than you did in The Aviator, but the movie makes up for it by never letting you see his face. He makes a nice silhouette though. I guess when you're in six movies per year, you don't really have time to show your face in all of them. Now I almost don't want to see Closer, since his performance will probably be good and I won't be able to make fun of him.
  • 4. La Strada (1954) - An early film for Fellini, and it's easy to tell. He hasn't quite found his directorial style. In fact, besides the harrowing closing image, I would almost say the direction borders on pedestrian. But no matter, Fellini was clearly developing his artistic style here, especially with Giulietta Masina, who played more or less the same character in Nights of Cabiria and Juliet of the Spirits. The story is excellent here, and I'd be satisfied with merely comprehensible. All in all, a pretty great film.
  • 5. Closer (2004) - I have a confession to make. After Garden State and Closer, I have fallen in love with Natalie Portman. Closer took me through a wide range of emotions with Natalie. When she flirts, I want to kiss her. When she cries, I want to comfort her. When she strips, I get jealous. I think her character is the most interesting one here. And wow, what a twist her character takes at the end. It's so subtle and yet so meaningful. The other actors are great too, even Julia Roberts, who usually annoys me. And after three tries, it was very nice to finally see Jude Law act, and it's a damn good performance too. I wonder why there hasn't been much buzz for Best Actor for him. No matter; everyone's creaming in their jeans over Jamie Foxx anyway.
  • The four performances are the centerpiece of the movie as well as its best asset (in fact, hardly anyone else speaks in the movie besides these four). Mike Nichols deserves much credit simply for orchestrating this great acting from his leads. It could've been a dreary, depressing movie without them. However, the script is also quite brilliant. The dialogue is so good you just want to eat it up (whatever that means), and it all creates a powerful theme that really resonates in the end. The ending shot is perfectly set up:
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    Early on, we hear Portman talking about that "moment" of love when you can either succumb or resist. Later we hear Law talking about the magic of the moment when he first saw Portman; he knew he'd fall in love with her right then and there. In the end, we see Portman walking down the street and men turn their heads to stare at her as she passes. Every man is experiencing this moment. Jude Law is not special, his experience is the same as everyone else's.
  • 6. My Life to Live (1962) - This is a fascinating story with some even more fascinating direction. To make the characters seem repressed, Godard dehumanizes them with his camera. At times he refuses to let us see faces. In the first scene, we see two people talking for a few minutes, and all we see are the backs of their heads. Later on, Nana is in a cafe with another woman who is talking to her, but while she is talking, we only see Nana listening to her. Other times he refuses to let us hear them talk, turning the film into a silent movie in homage to The Passion of Joan of Arc (which Nana watches at one point). It's really great stuff, and the film is worth seeing for the camera work alone, even though the story is interestng enough to hold together on its own. In Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts informed Richard Gere that it's a rule to not kiss on the lips. That's boring. In My Life to Live, a male customer tries to kiss Anna Karina on the lips but she frantically dodges his head. That's style.
  • I am going to have to deduct points, however, for the last minute or so. The ending is just ludicrous. It seems like something that belongs in a parody of French new-wave films. You can artistically justify it all you want, but watching it, it just looks ridiculous.
  • 7. Blow-Up (1966) - This really feels like two movies rolled awkwardly into one. One is an artsy film about a disillusioned photographer who thinks he sees a murder mystery in his photography, with the ending scene to tie everything together. I will accept the logistical flaws in this story (such as how Vanessa Redgrave knows where David Hemmings lives), because they seem like part of the artistic purpose. The second movie is an even more artsy film. It follows a day in the life of this photographer and is mostly plotless. He photographs women at his studio. He goes for a drive, sees some protesters. He buys a propeller. He wrestles with some naked women. He goes to a Yardbirds concert. All this stuff in interspersed in that mystery plot but has absolutely nothing to do with anything. The result is really an unfocused mess. I'm willing to accept an overwrought postmodern comment on a lack of objective reality, but I'm baffled by all these pointless scenes. Yes, they're all quite gorgeous, filmed in outrageous 60's technicolor, but why are they in the film?
  • 8. Sideways (2004) - As I've said before, I never get tired of this formula (girlfriend / friend bring shy man out of his shell). But Sideways is a little different because the shy man has to do much of the work himself; the object of his affection is not nearly as outgoing as Natalie Portman in Garden State. As a result, we see his internal struggle between going the extra step to seize the day or just relaxing by himself with wine and pornography, and Paul Giamatti handles it beautifully. Another thing this movie adds to the formula is that it is hilarious. It's not consistently funny, but the second half definitely has some big laughs in it. All in all, it's a wonderful movie, and the two hours just speed by.
  • The acting has gotten some Oscar buzz, but I would be surprised if either Thomas Haden Church or Virginia Madsen won anything. Both their performances seemed a bit too easy, and the Academy probably won't pick up on the subtle complexities of their characters. Giamatti's great, but I'm not even sure he'll get nominated. I could see Best Director, but he'd have to beat Clint and Marty. I won't get my hopes up for Best Picture, even though IMHO it's the second-best 2004 movie I've seen (after Before Sunset).
  • As a side note, I noticed that purely by chance, the last three movies I saw contained nude scenes - strippers, prostitutes, and random models respectively. This one contains a nude scene too, but not the kind that anyone wants to see.
  • 9. The Elephant Man (1980) - David Lynch has made some mindbenders, but this movie is all heart. Oh, Lynch works some weirdness in at the beginning and end but restrains his madness during most of the movie, and that works for this story. The film is sweet, innocent, and endearing in its own way. In fact, it may be a little too sweet. I'm guessing the real Elephant Man's story was a little more complicated than this simple movie with its one-dimensional villains. But no matter; what biopics really are true to life?
  • Well, I'm back from Florida. It was a pretty short vacation due to my schedule conflicting with my brother's. As a result, I only watched 14 whole movies and 2 TV seasons on DVD. A little disappointing, but I'll probably squeeze in some movies in the next week (I don't go back to school till the 10th).
  • 10. Kinsey (2004) - I was going to turn this review into a political statement, but I'm sure that now that the election's over, you don't want to read any of my left-wing rantings. Then I was going to make a societal statement about how I think the world should be more honest about sex (in the movie, we see a time when Americans would not even publicly think about any sort of sex besides marital intercourse - and all that does is make the other kinds of sex more intriguing to young people), but then again, maybe that's a bad idea too; after all, at one point Alfred Kinsey wondered what America would be like if our settlers were rogues instead of Puritans, and one of my friends commented that we'd be having so much sex, we'd all starve to death. So no matter. Everyone knows America's ideas of sex are messed up, right? My guess is it's just a compromise between old conservatives who think we should be less honest about sex and young liberals wo think we should be more honest. Hence, I think Alfred Kinsey is a brilliant, revolutionary man, and Liam Neeson plays him extremely well. The acting is pretty much great all around; Laura Linney was great too (as always). The script avoids the cheesy, unrealistic dialogue and maudlin situations that characterize most biopics, though it does get a bit muddled towards the end of the movie, and Bill Condon does a terrific job of tying all this together. This is an important movie, especially if you believe rampant adultery is the cause of earthquakes.
  • 11. Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station (1895) - OH MY GOD IT LOOKS LIKE THE TRAIN IS GOING TO JUMP OUT OF THE SCREEN AND RUN ME OVER!!! AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!
  • 12. Arrival of the Congress (1895) - OH MY GOD IT LOOKS LIKE CONGRESS IS GOING TO JUMP OUT OF THE SCREEN AND RUN ME OVER!!! AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!
  • 13. Baby's Meal (1895) - This, along with the last two shorts, are Lumiere Bros. films I watched in Film 101. There is an interesting deconstruction of the image on IMDb but on the surface this is just a simple film of a couple feeding a baby, a great experiment with the subtleties of the new technology.
  • 14. Grandma's Reading Glass (1900) - An early example of POV shots. Other than that, not very interesting, though the extreme close-up shot of Grandma's beady eye is a little unnerving.
  • 15. The Kiss (1896) - Good God this is hot.
  • 16. The Kiss in the Tunnel (1899) - OH GOD THERE'S THAT TRAIN AGAIN!!! RUN AWA - oh, wait, I'm okay. Let's look at a man on the train kiss his wife.
  • 17. The Big Swallow (1900) - A surreal masterpiece, at least for its time. Seriously. It's hilarious too.
  • 18. Gay Shoe Clerk (1903) - What's a gay shoe clerk doing kissing girls?
  • 19. A Trip to the Moon (1902) - A group of astronomers are enclosed in a shell, which is launched onto the moon. They encounter a primitive moon people, but luckily they soon discover the moon-men's secret weakness: umbrellas. Then they head back to earth by having the capsule fall off the edge of the moon. Revolutionary for its time, classic camp now, and very entertaining.
  • 20. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) - Not too many new insights. In reality, waiting to write the review probably just made me forget it more. It's hard to watch a film like this in 2005, as it's so influential that many revolutionary elements of it seem familiar to us now. I tell ya, between this and Metropolis, those Germans pretty much shaped every scifi / horror movie ever made. Not only that, but Caligari's plot twist is a likely influence on the plot twists that we see so much of today (hmmm, I never would've realized that Fight Club was influenced by German expressionism). Loved the sets, the weird intertitles. The story is a little weaker than the style, but even that holds up pretty well today.
  • 21. Teddy Bears (1907) - This is a pretty straightforward retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, with two twists: (1) at one point Goldilocks looks at a peep show of stop-motion animation involving seven small bears, and (2) Theodore Roosevelt shoots and kills Mama Bear and Papa Bear at the end but refuses to kill Baby Bear. The second twist was topical humor for the time, based on an event when Roosevelt was going hunting and found a family of bears. He killed the parents but had mercy on the poor baby bear. The media made him out to be a big softie towards animals, and that's why someone named the teddy bear after him. Of course, I never would have understood this reference, or even realized the hunter was supposed to be Roosevelt, had my professor not told me so. The dated in-joke and plot don't really make this short worth watching, but it is worth watching for that great bit of animation, and perhaps for the early chase scene.
  • 22. The Physician of the Castle (1908) - Some early cross-cutting makes this influential, but it's actually a fairly compelling film on its own. Some pretty good suspense here.
  • 23. A Corner in Wheat (1909) - Believe it or not, I have actually seen this film before. I watched it in the film class I took last year but apparently forgot to review it. But when I saw that scene of
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    the wheat falling and suffocating the greedy tycoon
    , I knew for sure I had seen that before. This is a very good short from Griffith. The social commentary works well with the haunting imagery.
  • 24. Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) - I can easily see why this is a cult film, but I wasn't really a big fan. You can talk all you want about the allegory and metaphors, but let's work on making the film coherent, shall we? Characters drift onto the screen for no good reason and then leave as if the writer just forgot about them. Very rarely do the characters feel like more than pawns in an existentialist's chess game. I've seen films before that are so detached from reality that it seems like the film is about detachment, but without anything interesting or original to say about the subject, this film ends up pretty boring. And it doesn't help that the cinematography is grainy and uninteresting. Sorry stooky, but this film just isn't for me. Forgive me.
  • 25. The Simpsons Season 5 - This is The Simpsons during its peak era. So many classic episodes here (Cape Feare, Boy-Scoutz N The Hood, Deep Space Homer, and 100th episode Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song, to name a few), and many that almost inspire a sense of nostalgia in me because I've seen them so many times. It is great to see them with the syndication cuts restored and with plenty of bonus deleted scenes though. The commentaries are great as always, and I really liked the new illustrated commentaries - even when the illustrations were just an excuse for the speakers to mess around. Actually, make that "especially." All Simpsons fans should definitely own this.
  • P.S. Homer: Moe, I need your advice.
  • Moe: Yeah?
  • Homer: (suspiciously) See, I got this friend named... Joey Jo-Jo... Junior... Shabadoo?
  • Moe: That's the worst name I ever heard.
  • (A man runs out of the bar crying.)
  • Barney: Hey! Joey Jo-Jo!
  • Homer: Oh, what the hell, it's me! I'm attracted to another woman! What am I going to do?
  • Barney: Your infatuation is based on a physical attraction. Talk to the woman, and you'll realize you have nothing in common.
  • Homer: Barney, that is so insightful. How did you come up with that?
  • Barney: It was on one of these bar napkins.
  • 26. Entr'acte (1924) - As Hollywood began to take over the international film industry, there was a group of French people who reacted to Hollywood conventions more and more. It was the beginning of the avant-garde. Entr'acte is non-narrative, surreal, and to be perfectly honest with you, downright entertaining. Maybe I just have a taste of the bizarre, but while the avant-garde is often criticized as being pretentious, boring, or self-indulgent, I found this subversive short film a real delight to watch.
  • 27. Close-Up (1990) - Though Abbas Kiarostami is hugely acclaimed in Iran and in the festival circuits, I feel like I've made a great discovery with this film. Kiarostami is not very well-known in America, and based on the intelligence and heart of this film, I'd say that's a damn shame. I can't think of another film that combines documentary footage with recreated earlier scenes, using the actual people to whom the events happened as actors. I can't say for certain that it's never been done before, but I doubt it's ever been done this well. Close-Up is a wonderful study of a very compelling character; it's very talky and the cinematography is gritty, but somehow that just makes it all the more appealing.
  • 28. Million Dollar Baby (2004) - A female boxer wants a retired boxer who currently works as a trainer to help her get to the top, but the trainer insists that he doesn't train girls. But she is very persistent, and eventually he agrees. He does his best to help her get to the top. Determination. Courage. Heart. To tell you the truth, this movie should be a real piece of shit.
  • It's not, though. Here are the three reasons why. (1) It's not a sports movie. Oh, there's plenty of boxing in it, but we never feel like there are any stakes if Swank wins or loses. I was very grateful that there were no "bottom of the ninth, losing by three runs, bases loaded, two outs, two strikes, if we win then the rich guy gives a billion dollars to orphans, if the we lose then they fire us all and we die friendless and alone" moments. In fact, at first Hilary Swank is so good that she knocks out all of her opponents halfway into the first round, and Eastwood tells her to let them fight a little longer, because no one will want to fight her if she'll just embarrass them like that. That's right, the trainer encourages the athlete to do worse. When has that ever happened in a sports movie? (2) It does the formulaic stuff very well. Okay, so the movie avoids some cliches, but it doesn't avoid others. The trainer doesn't train girls, but she is so determined that she talks him into it; another boxer makes fun of her for being a girl, and she returns it with an even better burn; etc. But thanks to the performances and great direction, you rarely get that sense that you're watching stuff that has been done before. (3) The last third is extremely emotionally affecting. With (1) and (2), you get a good movie, but (3) makes it a fantastic movie. I won't spoil anything, but it is some really brilliant drama. And while some may find the resolution of one plot element unsatisfying, I think it is just a great example of the film avoiding easy answers and explanations.
  • Throw this all together with some top-notch acting by Swank, Freeman, and Eastwood, some wonderful direction by Eastwood, and great music by, er, Eastwood, and you get a near-inevitable Best Picture. I still like Sideways better, and The Aviator might provide enough competition to avoid calling the win inevitable, but I will still be very happy if producer Eastwood walks home with some Oscar gold.
  • 29. The Battleship Potemkin (1925) (watched again for Film 101) - In watching this film again, I was struck with how it simultaneously feels like a mainstream action movie and a strange work of art. The editing is fast-paced, the camera angles are very modern, and the action comes fast and furious - but at the same time, this is a very unique film in that there are hardly any characters. Oh, there are people who seem to become protagonists for parts of the time, but really the characters are just huge masses of people. This wouldn't work, of course, if the visuals were not so exciting and compelling, but luckily Eisenstein knew what he was doing, and the result is an acclaimed classic.
  • 30. Amelie (2001) (watched again) - Just as sweet, colorful, and quirky as the first time. Still one of my favorite films of the decade. You can argue over the film's artistic merit, but I think it's impossible to not enjoy this movie.
  • 31. The Last Laugh (1924) - A story told purely through visuals. Not only is this a silent film, it also has no intertitles, so all we get is stylized acting excellent camerawork that was revolutionary for its time. Some may think the film lays it on too thick, and they might be right, but it didn't bother me - that's pretty consistent with German expressionism. Another great film from the brilliant F.W. Murnau, with a wonderfully sardonic twist in the end.
  • 32. Broken Blossoms (1919) - The back of the DVD informs me that this film is partially a response to claims that Birth of a Nation was racist. If this film was supposed to prove that Griffith wasn't racist, it doesn't do too good of a job by today's standards. But I suppose if we position ourselves in the social mores of 1919, this film might seem pretty kind towards Asians, despite the fact that the character abides by every Asian stereotype in the book and is constantly referred to as "the Yellow Man" or an even worse racial slur which I will not repeat. No, Cheng Huan is at least a kind, sympathetic character, unlike the African-Americans in Birth of a Nation, and he is portrayed marvellously by Richard Barthelmess. He and Lillian Gish give quite fantastic performances, and the acting is surprisingly modern in spite of the, uh, silentness. In addition, we get all the wonderful camerawork and thrilling action that we expect from D.W. Griffith. Though Birth of a Nation was far more influential, I found Broken Blossoms much more interesting, and it's half as long.
  • 33. Seven Chances (1925) - In 1938, someone decided it would be a good idea to take a pre-existing play - Room Service - and adapt it into a movie starring the Marx brothers. I thought it was a terrible film. Now we have Seven Chances, which someone thought would be a good idea to adapt into a movie starring Buster Keaton. It's a good film, but not among Keaton's best, for many of the same reasons. There's just too much plot, too much structure for the normal mania that occurs in a Keaton movie. There's too much unfunny build-up, and the plot gets rather repetitive. The pay-off (i.e., last 20 minutes or so) is better, though not really worth all that came before it. A decent Keaton film, though I can recommend at least four or five that are better.
  • 34. Aliens (1986) - "Ripley, Casey doesn't have bad dreams because she's just a piece of plastic" - Newt
  • "I can see why some people enjoyed Aliens more than [Alien]. Many people enjoy roller coasters more than playing Chess. I like them both but I always prefer a good game of Chess more" - jgandcag
  • When I first read this quote, I thought about this conundrum. Which one did I prefer? I ultimately decided that the contest is unfair, since a roller coaster ride takes only a couple minutes, and a chess game could take around an hour. If a roller coaster ride took as long as a chess game, it might get boring, and I might prefer the chess game. But I dunno. I guess it doesn't help that I'm not very good at chess. I always thought of myself as more of a big-picture person, not a detail-oriented person, and chess is a game that requires you to notice all these little details. Like that knight that's in prime position to take my queen, but alas! I don't notice until it's too late. I guess what I'd really like is to play chess on a roller coaster. That would be awesome. So anyway, that's why I liked Aliens.
  • 35. L'Age D'Or (1930) - Many artistic movements in film (usually foreign film) have been artsy reactions to the narrative mainstream that Hollywood personified, but surrealism was not quite like any other. Could you show a film in which a giraffe gets thrown out a window in neo-realism? German expressionism? French new wave? Post-modernism? I think not. This is my third Bunuel film I've seen, second one I loved (I wasn't a big fan of Belle de Jour, which, aside from a few bizarre touches, was rather unsurrealist). If you understand the significance behind the symbolism in this movie, great. If you think it's totally meaningless, even better. Either way, let the imagery wash over you, embrace the bizarre, and don't be afraid to laugh at the occasional kicked puppy.
  • 36. Rome, Open City (1945) - I saw this five days ago, but I've avoided commenting on it because I was really tired when I watched it, and I couldn't focus enough to follow the characters and storyline for the first half of the film or so. The last act, however, was extremely moving, excellent drama and excellent filmmaking, so I feel like if I had paid more attention earlier I would have enjoyed what I saw. I'm going to put this as "Good" for now, but hopefully I'll see this again someday.
  • 37. Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 2 - Last year, one of my favorite bands, They Might Be Giants, released a new album: The Spine. The Spine wasn't as good as their best albums, but when you listened to it enough, it kinda grew on you, and you realize the CD has its own sorta charm. It wasn't what I really wanted from They Might Be Giants, but I was content enough to enjoy the good parts.
  • I feel pretty much the same way about Curb Your Enthusiasm. What to do now that Seinfeld is gone? Well, you can turn to Larry David's own show. I guess The Spine is not really a fair comparison, as Curb Your Enthusiasm is much higher-quality than The Spine. But in the end, it's really just something for Seinfeld junkies who need their fix. It's a lot like Seinfeld, with complicated interlocking subplots and realistic dialogue. In fact, the dialogue is too realistic - it's improvised. I'm not sure I really like that idea. I think dialogue that is written and planned out tends to be funnier than spontaneous dialogue, even if the latter creates a more realistic feel. Seinfeld was a comedy about real life, but it was comedy first and real life second, and I think Curb Your Enthusiasm should move the balance closer to the "comedy" side.
  • I'll grant you, there are differences. Curb Your Enthusiasm is darker, edgier, and more like Fawlty Towers, in that it shows how one man can screw his life up as much as possible in thirty minutes. And I'm really spending too much time pointing out the bad qualities of a show I do enjoy, and will probably watch more DVD sets of. But I'm lucky the Penn library has a copy of this DVD set, because I didn't really feel like paying for it, and I guess that says something.
  • I think I've said enough. Curb Your Enthusiasm is a show that is often very funny, well-plotted, and enjoyable. It's just not Seinfeld.
  • 38. La Jetée (1962) - Sorry to start my second review in a row with an unrelated tangent, but I was a big Dr. Seuss fan when I was a kid. I had some videos in which Dr. Seuss books were basically narrated over Seuss-like images. Like a Ken Burns documentary without the talking heads, it's a story being told while they show you photographs of imagery from the story. I knew it was only a matter of time before an avant-garde director turned a cheap Dr. Seuss video into an artsy short film...
  • No, I'm kidding - for all I know, La Jetée influenced those Dr. Seuss videos - but really, who wants to watch a filmed slideshow? This is what passes for style in 1962? Oh, sure, the images are pretty, but still. This film actually makes me appreciate Twelve Monkeys more. To take this and make a semi-comprehensible story out of it must have been quite a feat. This film is content to have the main character meander through time and space, his only purpose being to get to the inevitable ending. At least Twelve Monkeys provides a reason to get to that ending. This is often considered a classic short film, but I wasn't a big fan. Some classic foreign films seem to exist solely for their stylish cinematography, but this is the only film I know of that eliminates acting, dialogue, movement, and coherence in favor of a collage of photographs.
  • 39. Ray (2004) - Blazes through Ray Charles's life at a relentlessly breakneck speed, hardly ever giving the audience time to think or feel anything at what is going on - and yet, it's still too long, by virtue of the fact that they seem like they're trying to cover every aspect of Ray Charles's life in the 50's. Eh, no matter. The filmmakers knew what they were doing. They knew they wanted to make a movie that included (1) Ray Charles music and (2) Jamie Foxx acting, and the plot would just be the thread that held the good parts together. Some parts of the script are actually rather touching, but since they cover so many aspects of the story, everything is underdeveloped. If only the film could've slowed down enough to let the story get an emotion in edgewise, and cut out about 27 scenes that, while not bad scenes in and of themselves, only served to lengthen the movie, we'd have a decent story here. Unlike some other people 'round here, I don't think Taylor Hackford is a hack; some aspects of the direction were actually very interesting, in my opinion - but no time for them, we need to get to more music and Jamie Foxx doing things. At times the film even uses fast motion - not for stylistic effect, because real life JUST ISN'T FAST ENOUGH.
  • Well, you get the picture. Ray needs to give us some room to breathe. As it is, the music is great and the Jamie Foxx doing things is great, but the actual plot is a lot of wasted potential.
  • 40. Un Chien Andalou (1929) - I'm tempted to just write: See L'Age D'Or, and replace "giraffe gets thrown out a window" with "eyeball sliced open", but that would just be too half-assed. Actually, speaking of that famous eyeball scene, we watched that in my film class, and my film professor pointed out that the man who does the slicing is wearing a tie, whereas the man we see at first is not, so this was Bunuel's way at poking fun at the mainstream film language that had already begun forming at this time, since we naturally assume that the man holding the razor is the man who does the cutting by the way the film is edited. I guess that sums up Bunuel's early work pretty well - the absurdism that suggests humans try to find meaning in their insignificant, futile lives. That he expresses this by having a man pull two ropes attached to a piano, two priests, and a dead donkey is the trumph of Bunuel's style.
  • 41. Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974) - After the first half of this movie, I was all set to write a review bashing this film as self-indulgent, tedious meandering. After the film ended, I was convinced I'd seen a masterpiece. In my opinion, many acclaimed foreign films start slow, setting out to develop too much atmosphere and character before getting into the plot; I think so, at least, though compared to the fast pace of Hollywood films this technique would seem even more, well, foreign. But Celine and Julie Go Boating really makes the first half come together through the second half. Things begin to make more sense, or if not, the film convinces you they weren't supposed to. That's the magic of the film. I love Mulholland Drive, but David Lynch should really send a thank-you note to Jacques Rivette. I would really encourage anyone to see this gripping film, but don't get put off by the slow start. Stick with it, and you'll find its rewards.
  • 42. Finding Neverland (2004) - I must admit that I'm on the favorable side of this divisive film, albeit with slight reservations. For a story so dependent on fantasy, early scenes of Finding Neverland aren't as whimsical as they really should be. Sure, the boys' games are transported to the setting where their imagination holds them, but didn't Rugrats do that better about 10 years earlier? I can't decide whether to blame Marc Forster or the screenwriter for that one, but one way they really succeed is in getting us emotionally invested in the characters. In spite of a couple cliché lines (10-Year-Old Kid: "I don't know what to say" / Johnny Depp: "Say yes), I found this drama to be really touching, and towards the end, I will admit that my eyes were misting over (not as much as my mother's, though). The acting is fantastic, even the child acting, and there are a handful of brilliant shots from Forster. And to think I only wanted to see this great film so that I could have seen all five Best Picture nominees...
  • Speaking of which, this is a proud day for me. This is not only the first year when I will have seen all Best Picture nominees as I watch the Oscar ceremony (Sideways is still my personal favorite, FYI), it is also the first time I have ever seen all five Best Picture nominees of any year, ever. Yay!
  • As a side note, is there any actor so prolific and consistently great as Dustin Hoffman? The IMDB loves Finding Neverland - the rating has pushed it up to Hoffman's second-highest-rated movie, meaning his top 5 are from 1967, 2004, 1976, 1988, and 1969. I guess the 90's were a bit of a slump for him, but still...
  • 43. Heavenly Creatures (1994) - Seeing as this is the film which the Listology Movie Club is discussing in February, I'm not going to review it traditionally, but here is a link to the discussion.
  • 44. House of Sand and Fog (2003) - You may think that I watched this based on Jim's recent favorable review, but the truth is it was just a coincidence. I'm seeing Ben Kingsley speak on Sunday, and I wanted to watch one of his movies beforehand. I was actually hoping for Gandhi, but the video store was out of it. But Kingsley is pretty amazing in this movie; in fact, last year's Best Actor prize was always between Penn and Murray, but Kingsley might give them a run for their money in terms of the actual performance. He plays a Middle-Eastern man without it ever seeming caricature, and he remains a sympathetic character even when he is being an asshole - which is more than I can say about Ron Eldard, who is the weakest link in the cast (and rereading Jim's review, I see that I am only parroting him, but hey, Jim nailed it). Jennifer Connelly is great as always, but she needs to stop walking to the end of a pier. Seriously, this is the fourth Jennifer Connelly movie I've seen, and the third in which she stands at the end of a pier. Does every director have some sort of sexual fantasy involving Jennifer Connelly at the end of a pier? If so, count me out; her eyebrows have always weirded me out.
  • It is a fantastic story as well. The script does a great job of creating multi-dimensional characters. We sympathize with the characters on each side of the feud, because they're both right. That is pretty rare. How many movies do you know of where all the characters in a fight are well-developed, and none of them is the villain? The directing is gorgeous but ultimately non-intrusive; Vadim Perelman wisely decides to let his actors and his own screenplay take center stage. They are pretty strong elements, after all.
  • 45. Shaun of the Dead (2004) - Shaun, a man trapped in a dead-end job, is a little annoyed when he sees a zombie in his backyard. He is a hero who can't shoot a gun straight, someone whose only goal is to round up the people he loves and hide out in his favorite bar. He doesn't belong in a zombie movie, but damn is it funny when he's placed in one. And thank God this is a British movie and not a Hollywood movie, or we'd have long, revelatory speeches about how fighting zombies makes Shaun realize his purpose in life. Fewer people would die if it were a Hollywood film too. No, this is a movie where a touching dialogue between Shaun and Ed involves Ed apologizing for farting (Disclaimer: But don't think this is a typical fart-joke movie because of that; it's actually very intelligent, clever humor).
  • Best zombie movie of all-time, perhaps? I searched the IMDB for highest-rated films with the keyword "zombie." Top 5 were: 1. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), 2. Shaun of the Dead (2004), 3. Dawn of the Dead (1978), 4. Evil Dead II (1987), 5. Night of the Living Dead (1968). I haven't seen the other four; maybe I have to catch up on my zombie-related films. Or not.
  • 46. Back to the Future (1985) (watched again with friends) - The science is laughable, the dialogue is dated (when was the last time you heard a grown man use the term "butthead"?), but damn, this film is loads of cheesy fun.
  • 47. Andrei Rublev (1969) - I didn't always follow the plot, and being unfamiliar with 15th-century Russian history I didn't always understand the historical significance of the events, but no matter. This is the kind of visceral film where you can just let the astounding imagery wash over you. As an added bonus, this film contains philosophical discussions that are appropriate in context (unlike the ones in Waking Life, which were in no context), and I found them for the most part interesting. This is a film that demands to be watched multiple times, and I intend to see it again in the future, when I'm older and wiser.
  • 48. The Battle of Algiers (1965) - A few movies ago, I was in awe at how House of Sand and Fog could make neither party in a disagreement seem like the villainous one. Battle of Algiers also succeeds at neutrality, portraying both the French soldiers and the FLN as people with their own agendas on either side of a dispute. Both the French and the FLN have their corrupt methods, but neither side seems unreasonable in their objectives. However, in the film's efforts to maintain neutrality, it leaves all of its characters severely underdeveloped, as if the audience would be too likely to side with one party or the other if we saw more of who the characters are. This worked for a film like Battleship Potemkin, but Potemkin had scenes of such powerful emotion (like the Odessa Steps sequence) that it could get away with it. Battle of Algiers has scenes that are just as bloody, but since the film is so neutral, the audience feels emotionally detached.
  • Don't get me wrong; Battle of Algiers is a good film, and a very realistic, intelligent one. But it is so realistic that it almost seems like it has nothing to say - it's only mimicking documentary footage. This approach creates plenty of captivating images and fascinating scenes, but since we don't know much about the characters and we're not supposed to be siding with one side or the other, it's hard to connect with the film on an emotional level.
  • 49. 24: Day 3 (2003-2004) - Each episode of 24 is about 43 minutes without commercials. I've now watched three seasons, of 24 episodes each. That's almost 52 hours of television, or a little over two full days. If you had two full days of your life where you didn't have to sleep or eat, and you had no responsibilities to perform, what would you do with this time? Would you watch three seasons of 24?
  • I know I would. I have no regrets. But that's just my 24 addiction talking. When you get hooked on this show, there's no turning back.
  • The third season of 24 is another thrilling day with Jack Bauer. Though not quite as consistently awesome as the second season, the third season does provide some amazing payoffs when all's said and done. Kim annoyed me less this season, perhaps because she wasn't given as much to do so she had fewer opportunities to annoy me. Of course, she did get her one episode to finally shine, and she was awesome in that one, proving that it's the writers' fault that Kim is so useless, not Cuthbert's. Unfortunately, there was another character who took over as Most Annoying Character: Dr. Anne Packard. Luckily, her boring plotline only existed for 1/3 of the season, and then David Palmer was given better things to do. As I mentioned earlier, this season was a bit more uneven than previous ones; it drags in the middle as they have to build up the plot more. Luckily, it's worth it, as the last episodes are simply breathtaking.
  • I was going to say that with three amazing seasons, the creators of 24 have really nailed what works. But of course, they never stick with what they have, do they? I took a peek at what happens next season and found out that they're getting rid of literally all the major characters except for Jack. Sure, some deaths in season 3 necessitated this, and I've also seen that at least two characters come back as guest stars, but damn, what kind of TV show does this kinda thing? Lukeprog, if you want to see changing characters and new situations in TV shows, you should really get hooked on 24. If you start from the beginning of a season and don't get hooked a few episodes in, you're a stronger man than I.
  • 50. Victim (1961) - Some people want to turn everything into a political statement. This has never been more ridiculous than the attacks on Million Dollar Baby, which turned an emotional character drama into an endorsement of what happens in the film, without even considering the filmmakers' opinion on it - the mere fact that the action exists is enough. This is like saying every film where someone is killed is an endorsement of murder.
  • Which brings us to Victim. The back of the DVD says that "Victim is widely regarded as the film that provoked the British parliament to begin amending its cruel and archaic laws against 'homosexual acts.'" If that actually is true (which I personally doubt), you'd never know from watching the film. Far from an overtly political film, Victim is a wonderful character drama and a wonderful mystery. It is in every sense an entertaining film, and any political message than one reads arises naturally from the story. In some ways its ideas about homosexuality are dated, but in other ways they are decades ahead of their time. In films today a homosexual character is either a topic of a joke (e.g. School of Rock) or a dark, emotionally distant person (e.g. Far From Heaven). It's shocking how few homosexuals are actually portrayed as multi-dimensional characters in Hollywood.
  • But I digress. Victim resists making such an overt statement; it's far subtler, which leaves room for plenty of character development and plot, and I applaud it for that. The acting is excellent across the board, and the direction evokes a great portrait of 1960s London. A very underrated film.
  • By the way, in case you were wondering, Victim was indeed banned in the U.S. Oh, don't act so surprised.
  • 51. L'Atalante (1934) - Another film that is so influential that it's hard to realize it today. I suspect this film had a huge influence on the French new wave; it contains many elements of the movement. As these techniques have become integrated into indie film culture, however, a casual viewer may wonder how this film became so acclaimed. It's a simple story, sure, but Jean Vigo worked wonders with it. The cinematography is gorgeous, the influence is far-reaching, and damn, Pere Jules is such a wonderfully bizarre character. Perhaps all this doesn't add up to the 13th most acclaimed film of all-time, but take the film for what it is and I doubt you'll be disappointed.
  • 52. Ghost in the Shell (1995) - As someone whose only real anime exposure has been to Hayao Miyazaki, I must say I am very intrigued by the idea of a futuristic gritty anime cop action / drama. The animation isn't quite as whimsical as Miyazaki's, but it's just as stunning. It's not without its flaws; the dialogue is occasionally stilted and artificial, and the music is occasionally annoying, but all-in-all I thought this was a pretty exciting film. The 82 minutes just fly by.
  • 53. The Princess Bride (1987) (watched again) - Still a brilliant movie with endlessly quotable dialogue and remarkably fun performances. Give me this over that boring, stuffy Fellowship of the Ring any day.
  • 54. Gattaca (1997) - "The child is still you - it's simply the best of you," two parents are told. It's the future, and we can make a baby who is the Greatest Hits of Its Parents' Genes. I think most of the time, studio albums have more personality.
  • Gattaca is a great film, but certainly not a flawless one. The scenes between Vincent and Anton are often kinda hokey. The romance doesn't work as well as it should; Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman may have ended up as real-life lovers, but in Gattaca I think Hawke and Jude Law have far more chemistry. Their moments together are fantastic. In fact, much of the film is, and my complaints seem pretty trivial considering just how simultaneously clever, exciting, and beautiful Gattaca manages to be, and how rare that triple threat is in a mainstream scifi film. Even watched in Yokelvision on my roommate's dinky TV set, Gattaca managed to be compelling and visually impressive. And it was awesome to see Xander Berkeley (whom I love from 24) in a movie, however supporting his part may be. I'm pretty excited to see how Andrew Niccol's next screenwriting projects turn out...
  • 55. Be Somebody Or Be Somebody's Fool! (1984) - This is a motivational video for teenagers starring Mr. T. Mr. T teaches us some great lessons during the course of this brilliant film, and I sure as hell learned a lot. For example, if you do something absoludicrous, like trip and fall on a crowded city street, you need to recoup. Do so by pretending you were going into a breakdance. Or take peer pressure - some kids find cigarettes and beer in a trash can, and when one kid doesn't want to smoke, they literally try shoving the cigarettes in his mouth. I also learned that the first time Mr. T tried to play the cello, he found himself incapable of sitting in the chair. God, I wish I was making this up.
  • Anyway, this contained some really entertaining segments, but they're spliced together with some truly abysmal songs, so if you're going to embark on this journey with Mr. T, you might want to have the fast-forward button ready. Or you could go here to download some clips from the film and read a more detailed review.
  • 56. Sin City (2005) -
  • Original review (posted at 3:04 am) - Caught a 12:30 showing of Sin City. It was pretty packed, so we had to sit in the third row. God, what a masterpiece. God, I need a bath.
  • Review after I recovered - Imagine a film-noir loaded with enough to push the limits of the R rating, and told as a living, breathing comic book. Or imagine a musical, where the musical numbers are replaced by violent dismemberments, played with the same stylized energy and exuberance. Yes, this film is its own genre - a dismembermentical. One friend who I saw the film with said she thought the sex and violence was gratuitous. I would argue that that's impossible, since the sex and violence is the point. It's a film called Sin City, and it's about no small quantity of sin. If that sounds unappealing to you, then don't see this movie. Granted, this description does short-change the plot, dialogue, and brilliant cinematography of the film, all of which truly impressed me. And then there's the acting. If there were ever a need for an ensemble cast Oscar, here it is. Everyone is excellent, from the three leads Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, and Clive Owen; to tough women Rosario Dawson, Jaime King, and Jessica Alba; to actors who shine in supporting roles like Powers Boothe, Carla Gugino, Nick Stahl, and Benicio Del Toro; to Nicky Katt, whose cameo is the funniest moment in the film; to Josh Hartnett, who must be this year's Jude Law (don't blink or you'll miss him - he also has four more movies scheduled for 2005). The film even manages to make Elijah Wood creepy (and how!). My one cast complaint is that Michael Clarke Duncan really isn't given enough to do. But really, wow. Depending on where his career takes him, Robert Rodriguez has the potential to go down in film history as one of the greats. He is one of the most original, bold, and exciting directors working today.
  • 57. Survive Style 5+ had only a few seats left by the time I showed up to the screening (30 minutes early), and I didn't get in. Since Oldboy is sold out too and since I have a ton of work this week, I'm just about ready to give up on the Philadelphia Film Festival. Sorry guys - I still might see something in it, but don't hold your breath.
  • 58. Beauty and the Beast (1991) (watched again) - Still the whimsical masterpiece it's always been - in fact, it's more good-natured than I had remembered (I guess the Beast kinda spooked me when I was 5). You can pour money into your CGI animation, but coming up with plot and music as good as this is pretty rare. The story is subtle, and thank God there's no ham-handed moralizing. It's a Disney film that never feels like you're watching a children's movie (welllll... maybe Gaston slaps Lefou one too many times, but 99% of the time, it never feels like you're watching a children's movie).
  • 59. The Pirates of Penzance (1983) - Too often, plays and musicals that were written long ago are performed as drab historical costume dramas, rather than as the ambitious, bawdy works of art they should be. Director Wilford Leach must have seen some bad productions of Gilbert and Sullivan. After about 90 minutes of campy art direction, ridiculously over-the-top acting, and singing from the likes of Kevin Kline, Linda Rondstadt, and Angela Lansbury, he has the characters burst into a really boring-looking production of HMS Pinafore attended by rich snobs, showing how this movie is the antithesis to all that. Perhaps, but I could see how this interpretation could annoy some people as well. The policemen are ridiculously spastic; the Pirate King asks the Major-General to repeat a verse of his song at such a fast speed that you fear his head might explode; women start crying for no reason; one line of "Sighing Softly to the River" is actually sung by flowers that sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks; etc., etc. Well, whatever. Gilbert and Sullivan fans will enjoy the faithful adaptation, talented cast, and references to other shows, though they might be a bit put off by these "WTF" moments; as for an introduction to G&S, this is probably a good one if you don't mind the overacting. And Kevin Kline has an awesome voice.
  • 60. A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005) - The thing about the Hitchhiker's Guide book series is that it's scifi, philosophical comedy, where the scifi and philosophy are complete malarkey. C'mon, an infinite probability drive? It just makes no sense even by its own logic, and that's the point. The book isn't good because of its science or its philosophy, it's good because the writing is extremely witty, the ideas are absurdly funny, and the random tangents from the actual Hitchhiker's Guide are a delight to read.
  • The problem with this movie is that it just isn't funny enough. We need enough humor to distract us from the fact that the plot is utter nonsense, and the movie doesn't really deliver. The filmmakers tried to be faithful to the book without translating it to the screen word-for-word, but it just feels like a clumsy mishmosh of ideas. I could see this working as a film with a more coherent plot than the book while retaining some of the humor. I could also see it working as a rapid-fire joke-after-joke film with as many tangents as the book goes on. But this movie is a lame duck in between the two, and it doesn't really work at doing either one.
  • It's just kind of a dumb movie. When it is witty, that's usually because Stephen Fry is reading direct quotes from the book. It does manage to get in some slapstick, but that's not funny enough to get us by. And the characterizations are not very interesting. I hated that they turned the egotistical badass Zaphod into an apathetic lunatic, 90% of whose dialogue makes no sense. And the added plotline with John Malkovich is just stupid.
  • Well, whatever. Maybe I'm asking too much - considering how difficult this book would be to adapt to the silver screen, I guess they did an okay job. It's a really gorgeous movie, as well. But all the beautiful vistas in the world don't hide the fact that this adaptation really doesn't work. In conclusion, read the book.
  • 61. Passion Fish (1992) - A talky, slice-of-life character drama that has charm bursting out of every frame. It's not the kind of film that mainstream audiences will embrace, but it's their loss for missing this quiet gem. Mary McDonnell is excellent at playing a bitchy, alcoholic character that we need to sympathize with, and Alfre Woodard a great foil for her. John Sayles's bittersweet writing manages to pull off the melancholy and the sardonic beautifully, so despite being about a woman who must adjust to paraplegia, it is never a downer. A fine film from Mr. Sayles, though it it a bit long.
  • 62. Contempt (1963) - Apparently Jean-Luc Godard made this movie to convince everyone that he could make a mainstream film, and at the same time to to satirize mainstream filmmaking. I think he has succeeded at the latter intention, but of the former, he has certainly failed. I'm fine with the elements that satirize Hollywood filmmaking. I'm fine with the color, widescreen shots of the gorgeous scenery (even though that's not what I watch a Godard film for). I'm even fine with the characters talking through interpreters, since it's certainly a Hollywood cliche to have all foreign characters speak English. But there are some elements that don't really fit anywhere and just don't work. There's a long, long stretch in the middle of this film that seems like a watered-down version of Breathless, with dialogue that is just as artsy but much more boring than the dialogue in Breathless. Maybe the idea was that mainstream films are boring, but why would I want to watch a film that is trying to be bad?
  • I love plenty of mainstream films, and I love the other Godard films I've seen, but Godard is clearly out of his element here; he just wasn't meant to make mainstream films. In the end, it's a nihilistic satire of the film industry that is very hit-or-miss.
  • 63. Crash (2004) - I guess I'm a sucker for an ensemble cast movie that features characters just going about their lives and improbably running into each other. Crash is also about racism, but there are no ham-handed points, no heroes, no villains. Well, except one - every movie like this has one plot that's a weak link, and here it is Sandra Bullock. Most of the other stories have some sort of plot or purpose to their racism, but Bullock just says racist things until we come to the idiotic ending. Everything besides Bullock's part is great, and though it is a bit melodramatic, Crash seems all too real most of the time. It's not about the racism that enslaved a nation, but the kind we encounter in our everyday lives, and the fact that it takes place in Los Angeles means that they feature characters who work for the infamous LAPD. The cast is fantastic - even Ludacris, who seems to be playing a new-millennium version of Samuel L. Jackson's character in Pulp Fiction. Paul Haggis still has some kinks to work out, but I think he's shaping up to be a great screenwriter, and he ain't half bad when he directs either.
  • 64. Cowboy Bebop: Session 1 (2001) - Jim was nice enough to mail this to me back in early December. I watched the DVD really slowly because I suck so much. Do not assume from my slowness that I dislike Cowboy Bebop; on the contrary, I think it is a great show. As I said, the reason is simply that I suck. Cowboy Bebop has confirmed my belief (see my review of Ghost in the Shell) that anime is just as awesome when it's in action-movie form as when it's in a Miyazaki-esque fantasy, if not awesomer. But even disregarding the animation, Cowboy Bebop just has great writing; it's much better-written than 95% of the action/dramas on American TV. That, I think, is what really makes the show - the writing. In any case, since I didn't really do anything to deserve this DVD, I'm willing to mail it out to anyone who's interested. Let me know.
  • 65. Do the Right Thing (1989) - Lee says he has been asked many times over the years if Mookie did the right thing [in the end of the film]. Then he observes: "Not one person of color has ever asked me that question." - Roger Ebert's Great Movies review of Do the Right Thing
  • I loved this movie, but reading some of Spike Lee's ideas behind it, especially the one quoted above, was a little disheartening to me. I will try not to let Lee's opinions spoil my fondness for his film; his film is even-handed and the morality of it all is certainly open to interpretation. If Lee's own interpretation is different from mine, so be it. But is Lee really so sure that Mookie does the right thing? Really?
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    I mean, Radio Raheem's death is a tragedy, sure, but does Sal really deserve his fate? All Sal did was smash the annoying boom box, and as a result, gets strangled and gets his pizzaria destroyed. He didn't ask the police to kill Radio Raheem, and we have no reason to believe he wanted Raheem dead. I don't think inciting a riot in the pizzaria is the right thing to do. If Mookie had instead trashed the police station, I would be far more understanding, but the policemen escape without any blame even though they are the ones who kill Raheem.
  • Do the Right Thing will certainly open up many debates about its morality, but few debates about its quality. It's a really fantastic film, and coincidentally, it's much like Crash. It has the similar motif of multiple characters in one city constantly interacting with each other (though in a smaller area than L.A., so these constant interactions are more believable), and it is also about the racism we face in our everyday lives. Do the Right Thing, however, is far better directed than Crash, and there is no weak thread in this film. Every character is very interesting, and if you don't agree with their views or actions, it is not hard to see where they are coming from in today's society.
  • 66. The Killer (1992) - John Woo gets a bad rap in Hollywood. For some reason, his English language films never seem to fare too well with the critics. He has a distinctive style that is violent yet in many ways poetic, manic yet beautifully framed. When I was learning about John Woo in my film 101 class, I thought what perfectly summed him up was the fact that for the costumes, he tried to find "clothes that looked good in slow motion." It's not the style that doesn't translate to America, since the Wachowskis did the same thing in the Matrix films; perhaps American screenplays just weren't meant for the style. This is a pretty awesome action film, but some of its best moments are the subtler ones, such as when the policeman and the killer pretend to be old high school buddies for the sake of the mostly-blind woman.
  • 67. A Woman Under the Influence (1974) - John Cassavetes tried to make the atmosphere as realistic as possible in this film, with Altman-esque overlapping dialogue and a Dogma-95-esque shaky camerawork. It's too bad that the characters aren't believable for a second. These aren't real people, they're bizarre, irrational archetypes for society's roles for men and women. I like plenty of movies where the characters seem more stylized than realistic, but here it really makes the film lose its credibility, and as a result, it is pretty damn boring.
  • 68. Kung Fu Hustle (2004) - This is an exciting and quite funny movie, but I do think it's been blown out of proportion by the critical response. I can't shake the feeling that if American filmmakers tried this stuff - live action versions of the cartoony stuff they did in Warner Bros. shorts, physically impossible stunts, ridiculous amounts of CGI, a guy who fights like a frog (?) - the film would be trashed as idiotic and goofy. But make no mistake: this is a very entertaining film.
Author Comments: 

Comments welcome. Come on. You know you want to.

If the devil is six, then AJ's seven, then AJ's SEVEN, THEN AJ'S SEVEN.

Alright, that was too silly... :)

Your review of Last Year at Marienbad raises some interesting questions about how intentional mise-en-scene usually is.

I suspect framing a shot, like most art, is a hard process to study. Some directors probably mull it over intensely, some probably make conscious decisions based on visual psychology and art theory, and some probably have an internalized sense of the second option, able to simply set the scene up and 'know' that it works. I suspect many do all three.

I think I just clumsily said what you said, but you did get me thinking...

Anyway, it is a very good, interesting review. Thanks!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Well, Alan's comments were specifically directed towards mise-en-scene, but for the rest of the review I was really speaking on a larger scope about the many stylistic techniques that Resnais uses. Have you seen the movie? There's this one part where the man and the woman are talking at a bar, and then we cut away to a frame of a bedroom for a split second, then more action at the bar, then back to the bedroom for slightly longer, and the cuts to the bedroom keep getting longer and longer until the scene in the bedroom finally starts. Now, is this supposed to be a dim memory gradually becoming more and more clear as it slowly materializes in the characters' brains? Or is it just an awesome technique?

I definitely hear what you're saying about mise-en-scene though. There's this one simple shot in Schindler's List where Liam Neeson and Ben Kingsley sit at opposite sides of a desk; the structure is symmetrical but there are subtle differences on each side of the scene. I remember proposing in class that the desk lamp on Schindler's side looked strong and upright while the lamp on Stern's side looked weak and flimsy, showing that Schindler was the dominant one in the relationship. Later Alan insisted that Spielberg didn't actually care about symmetry or desk lamps, that he just thought that set-up would be cool, and I suggested that maybe it looked cool to Spielberg because it was symmetrical. And maybe the difference in the lamps looked cool too. That's pretty much what you mean with the third option, right?

Thanks for the kind words at the opening of my seventh in the series. By the way, Jim, if you're listening, I think the feature that tells you when you've hit 65,000 characters is a bit off. I posted the first two reviews on my #6 list and it told me that I hit 65,000 somewhere in the middle of the Last Year at Marienbad review. So I posted the KITH review on #6, but I could barely get two words out before it cut me off. Maybe the html is throwing off the count or something?

I have only watched parts of that film, and it is obviously a huge gap in my movie knowledge (I have another huge gap I am hoping to fix this weekend!).

Yes, your thoughts on Schindler's List were exactly what I was trying to say. If certain set-ups are effective because of visual psychology, they can be just as effective on an intuitive level for the artist as for the audience.

Many, many great artists have known squat about theory.

I am very happy to see this excellent series continue!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

A huge gap being fixed, eh? I am intrigued. I'll keep an eye on your "Seen in..." list, whether it be December's or January's.

Oh, and I really think you'd like Marienbad too.

I will certainly seek out an opportunity to watch it. Unfortunately, my living arrangement means that the gap I hoped to fill last week is still glaring at me.

Soon.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

That sounds good. By the way, I had a dream last night that you, me, Jim, and lukeprog went out to lunch with two of my high school friends. It was awesome.

Wow, that beats the dreams I had last night by a country mile!

I always thought a Listology meet-up of sorts would be incredibly fun, if incredibly unpractical.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Yeah, the geography is a problem, but it would be a blast!

Why, all my life, have I had such problems with geography?

La vie.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

where was i? bastard!

Hey, it's not my fault. Talk to my subconscious, maybe he'll invite you next time.

If you dislike Jude Law, you have to see Closer. He gets his comeuppance.

Oh, I don't dislike Jude Law. It's just that this is the second review in which I've made fun of him. I hope he knows it's all in good fun. Maybe I should call him up so he knows there are no hard feelings...

We should call him "Jude the Ubiquitous".

That is so funny. (and) Much better than the legal motions I denied. ("I saw the Law and the... Law won.")

Who are you? I've seen you around, but you have no listeses.

"I am nobody."

In truth, I'm a shurker... and I'm shy, fearful of being recognized. Perhaps no one objects

I really do enjoy zesty, snappy, smart discourse. While I like all kinds of puns, allusions and turns of phrase I take particular delight in classical references (especially when they're devoid of self-congratulation.) They make me feel that both the writer/reader and I are smart... and possibly funny. You were funny. I hope that was intentional. At least I got a hardy laugh out of it.

I'm here trying to improve my writing. I can run windsprints here and practice a new style of writing. I am unconvinced about putting up lists. I find that I learn more and have better interactions with people if it is about topics/areas/issues that they care about. That way I don't have to convince anyone of the importance of the subject.

Besides, I doubt most people would be much interested in my obsessions, favourites, peeves and pecadillos. I also don't feel responsible/reliable enough to tend to a page. I never check there to be e-mailed responses to my post so I often get lost in the barn. I usually meander aimlessly, tending to those who like me and those who respond in kind.

I love talking culture with people who are emotionally invested and intellectually curious about it. Diversity is my favourite aesthetic. I know that sounds quite sophisticated and intellectual but it really isn't. I will talk about why Legolas/(Orlando Bloom) is so smokin' hot. I will talk about multiculturalism in "The Simpsons." I will talk about why Dennis Brain might have been ("might have been"? was!) the greatest horn player of the last century. I will talk about... ermm pick something literary, I don't read much. I will talk and talk until the cows come home. Then I will bore the cows. Having done that...

Argus will know who I am.

"I doubt most people would be much interested in my obsessions, favourites, peeves and pecadillos."

I would!

Thank you, you're too kind... so just this once here's the most mainstream thing I can think of:

TWENTY-ONE BEST SF CHARACTERS
Spock
Ender
Ripley
Dr. Who
Roy Batty
Han Solo
HAL 9000
Winston Smith
Arthur Dent
Takkata-Jim
Guy Montag
Morpheus
Odo
Paul Atreides
Worf
7 of 9
Sam Lowry
Data
Jeffrey Goines
George Jetson
Enik

Twenty-Five Wistful Cuts
Alien Queen
Bender
Bishop
Borg
Brundelfly
Deckard
Doc Brown
Dr. Zoidberg
Gul Dukat
Kang
Khan
Kirk
Koozbanians
Link Hogthrob
Logan
Marvin Martian
Mike the Computer
Mork
Priss
Spaceman Spiff
Sun Ra
Terminators (T-800 Model 101, T-1000, T-X)
Tribbles
Zaphod Beeblebrox
Zira

Ten Good Reasons
for a Time Machine
and a Death Ray

Alf
Barbarella
Frank the Pug
Friday
Jar Jar Binks
Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space
Lieutenant Ilia
Neelix
Robby the Robot
Wesley Crusher

Thank you for indulging me. Great list too! Nice conglomeration from many different media, and amen especially to Ender, HAL, Winston, and Arthur. Me, I'd include Dr. Zoidberg on the top list, and switch Morpheus for Agent Smith (assuming you're talking about the Morpheus from the Matrix and not some other Morpheus). But I've actually never seen a single episode of Star Trek, so I can't comment on those guys. Who is 7 of 9, by the way?

What kind of ignorant peasant are you?!!

I was talking the Morpheus/Matrix talk. While I do adore (oh! that is such the wrong word) Agent Smith as an implacable foe, his character is flat screen to me. I have little interest in figuring out what makes him tick (or hum.) Morpheus is more interesting to me; he's the Messianic leader searching for a Messiah. I'd like to think that these twenty-one individuals would make up the best possible guest list for an SF cocktail party or sit down dinner. Actually, it would have to be a buffet.

7 of 9 was a character on Star Trek: Voyager. She was an assimilated Borg trying to make the conversion back to humanity (if you don't know, don't ask, I won't tell... the back story is so/too good and so/too complicated.) Suffice it to say she was played by Jerri Ryan (who's so hot that she could torpedo a senatorial campaign) in a skin tight neoprene suit. 7 of 9 is one of the best of the (increasingly) frequent post-modern waif characters in the New Testament Star Trek Universe. She is also one of the better Pinocchios found in the Roddenberiverse... and she kicks ass. [I just noticed that fully one third of the Top 21 List are Pinnochios. Just more proof that SF is the genre most focussed on defining humanity and philosophy.]

I am surprised that you haven't seen any 'Trek. I thought that the WHO had exposed everyone to Star Trek at the same time that they were stamping out smallpox. Indoctrination, innoculation and potable water are the building blocks for that bridge to the 21st Century. I'd highly recommend sampling the most successful (and one of the best) visions of a future that SF has ever offered. Unfortunately, being introduced to Star Trek is like being introduced to Rap Music: it was so easy until the late 80s, now you don't know where to start.

But start you should (I suppose.) A full baker's dozen of the characters above are from the Star Trek universe which says something. Probably about me. In my defense, I would beam three of those characters down to the planet when the sun goes supernova. If only I get the chance.

Live long and prosper.

Yeah, since Agent Smith is a sort of computer program, it wouldn't be very interesting to find out what makes him tick. In terms of style, though, I think Agent Smith kicks arse.

I'll see if I can catch some Star Trek. But don't hold your breath, as I hardly watch any TV at college.

I'm not sure that I'd bother with Star Trek. I know that I sound like an ignorant peasant but there's nothing sadder than someone who "sorta" likes Star Trek. The world should be separated into zealots, rabid oppositionists and bewildered onlookers. So why gamble when the best payoff is a thousand hours of programs/movies to suck your existence into the space-time continuum? Besides, it takes a while to catch on to the character driven vibe of ST:TOS by which time it is almost over.

All subsequent series take time to find their feet and rhythm (and the wholes are very much more than the sum of their parts.) Except for ST:V which charged right out of the blocks and, after a season, began to fade rapidly until they beamed aboard the one-woman/borg rescue party known as 7 of 9.

ST:E has sucked right from the get-Bon-Jovi-go.

But my point is: You're right. Agent Smith is so cool you could store sashimi in him for a month. And in that spirit:

TWENTY-ONE SF CHARACTERS
OF INFINITE DUENDE
Agent J
Agent Smith
Bean
Bishop
Buzz Lightyear
Case
Cpl. Hicks
Creideiki
Dirth Nader
Dr. Zoidberg
Gul Dukat
Han Solo
Jean Rasczak
Lore
Marvin Martian
Robocop
Roy Batty
T'Pol
The Terminator
...
...(original model only)
Zaphod Beeblebrox
Zoe

There's irony in someone who values diversity trying to post something "mainstream".

Instead of thinking of the Beatles song, I was reminded of the existence of the Thomas Hardy novel (You got a "hardy" laugh--hehe), although I've never read it, and I thought "ubiquitous" an apt antonym for "obscure". That's all of the credit I can take. You supplied the humor, by using your own brain to make the connections.

There's an unintended connection in that Jude of the novel was a libertine, and so was Alfie. Having not read the book, I wouldn't have known that tidbit, so thank Wikipedia.

To find the intellectually curious, leave a trail of bread crumbs (preferably numbered or with bullet points).

I have nothing against irony (or do I?) but I'd like to make the case for unironic mainstream diversity. Not that this was your point at all.

Diversity has come to mean a wide, varied and "representative" selection. [I say "representative" because there are just so many meanings that it... err, represents; I'm not using "air quotes."] Diversity is now a political battlefield. My philosophy (and absolutely everyone should agree with this) is that mainstream should have a position in diversity. Defining and confining diverse to include fringe elements, and only fringe elements, encourages much the same prejudice that ostrasized the fringe elements. Everyone... everything... all art forms... all cultures oh drat! You know what I mean. Parts of a group should be judged solely on their merits, not their position in relationship to other parts of the group.

This is not a call for a "colour-blind" society. It is very far from that. It is a plea for a "colour full" society. It is very dangerous to people in a society if attempts at homogenizing culture (especially by exclusion) aren't recognized as such. But if such attempts at a monoculture are identified, commented upon and become part of artistic analysis the (entire) culture is enriched. Bigotry, racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, all the big-bads become artistic shortcomings. They are limited ways of seeing things. Being able to identify and label such failures of imagination enables everyone to enjoy it fully for what it is. (What is it?)

If we all think this way (and anyone who doesn't is condemned to burn in hell for all eternity. If you believe in hell, that is. and eternity) Anyways, if we all think this way then we can wallow in what we enjoy. Bring on the ABBA! Bring on the Roxette! Bring on the Ace of Base! Bring on whatever cultural travesty the Swedes have planned for this decade! Screw those throat singers from Tuva, I never trusted their kind... you know. Their kind: Musicians. Everyone can eat Big-Macs for all I care. That's as long as they know that Kobe Beef is out there. And fugu. And doro wat. And tofu. And fries with that Big-Mac.

If only I could show up with my cacciucco and be thought of as someone who makes society better and not the one who makes a mess in the microwave. That's all I ask about my taste in culture.

For some reason I always get hungry whenever I talk about art.

From E.B.White, the guy who gave us Stuart Little (the book, thank you very much) and The Elements of Style : "Humour can be dissected as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind."

I remember you. I once tried to bait you into a conversation over exploitation. I even used a link to the MEF with a picture of George W. Bush and an analysis of his administration as cheese for my conversational glue trap. (They've since moved on to other matters, but that was designed for you. I can't remember why I thought that would work but I'm sure that my logic was unassailable.) Don't you know that its a fool who plays it cool by making his world a lit-whoops! I hear the cowbells.

Diversity, as a value for its own sake, is worthless. Nature requires us to discriminate, between good and bad, healthful and harmful, nice and mean. We are more likely to find the good, the true, if we are willing to be unprejudiced in our search, but we must not ever think it a virtue to value everything equally, because then you value nothing truly.

Exploitation requires a victim and a profiteer. In show business, how do you tell which is which?

I agree with you: "We are more likely to find the good, the true, if we are willing to be unprejudiced." Except that I think we all carry with us the prejudice of what is "good" and what is "bad." And I believe that means, a priori, that we are unable to value everything equally.

When I wrote of a "colour full" society that did not mean that everyone's favourite colour should be white (or black.) People should pick their own special colour but if that colour is viewed in anything but the full spectrum of light (Mr. Roy G. Biv) it may be different than it appears.

I was thinking of "exploitation" in the context of "blaxsploitation," "nunsploitation", etc. To pursue your question I'd paraphrase Deep Throat: Follow the power.

When Nature discriminates Diversity does become a value, Darwin's Finches and all that....

I can't see Sideways winning any acting awards, but I think its pretty-much a lock for the supporting nominations. I would love to see Paul nom'ed, seeing as how it's my favorite performance in the film.

I definitely agree with all that. Giamatti needs more respect. He was great in that film. Of the actors who have a decent chance of getting nominated, I'd root for Giamatti so far, though there are still some films I need to see.

Re: Kinsey. Perhaps people talk more about sex than I'm aware of because of my past and present environment, but I whole-heartedly agree that people need to talk more about it. It's such a hugely important part of most people's lives, it has great effects on our own wellbeing and on others', and yet we talk so little about it. When we do talk about it, it's either jokingly or in some terribly brief and surface-limited way.

The result is especially disasterous, I imagine, at the puberty stage, where kids grow up thinking they're strange or perverse when they are neither, and they haven't the faintest clue about how to make sex safe, pleasurable, or useful beyond a quick fix (which is not to say a quick fix is useless).

Even in my sheltered surrounding, I've spoken with sexually active males in their late teens and early 20s who, for example, don't know what 'hymen,' 'clitoris,' 'diaphragm,' or 'cunnilingus,' mean - let alone how to use them effectively. Perhaps our 'modern' age is not so modern after all.

And, while I may always interpret God's will as stating that extramarital sex is forbidden, I wouldn't be surprised if this unhealthy, unwise lack of sexual understanding in our culture is the fault of, primarily, religion.

In a way, the sexual revolution needed to happen, but it was a failure. You could say (perhaps this is a stretch) that it make sex free like 'free beer' instead of like 'free speech.' So, the sexual revolution, meant to radically change and improve on 50s sexual ignorance and repression, instead made things worse: people were sexually rampant without being more mature, knowledgable, or skillful about it.

I'd the imagine the vast majority of people's sexual education begins with what they see in movies and read in magazines, which presents a wholly inaccurate picture of sex. Later, their own sexual experiences will better educate them on the reality of what sex usually is like. However, their view of what sex can be still relies on stupid movies and magazines instead of real data on how to make sex safer, funner, more useful, better. After all, these are the adjectives that could be applied to 'movie sex,' but the movies provide impossible means to that end, so the majority of people futily try to replicate the wonderful sex of the movies using impossible methods.

Hope that makes as much sense written as it did in my head, but probably not.

America is very culturally divided when it comes to this issue. You're from Minnesota, right? Of the seniors in my all-male graduating class in Baltimore, I don't think there was a single person there who didn't know what a hymen or clitoris was. When I first came to Penn, there was a girl from Wisconsin who was totally clueless about this sort of thing; I live in a part of the Quad called the nipple, and she would giggle uncomfortably every time I said the word "nipple." The east coast was a big culture shock for her.

I would tend to agree with your fourth paragraph, but oddly, said girl was not religious at all. Maybe religion influences the culture even for people who aren't religious.

The culture shock is really exemplified by the reactions to Kinsey. I read two reviews of the film - one that said Kinsey was not nearly bold or interesting enough and was only acclaimed because it made liberal critics feel superior to 1950's prudes; and one that said, as evidenced by the controversy that Kinsey stirred up, that Kinsey's ideas are still shocking today and that America hasn't progressed much since the 1950's. The former is from a list of reviews by a man who also runs a porn site; the latter is from the parental guidence web site screenit.com.

I agree completely with most of what you are saying. Adults have it all wrong. They think they are protecting their kids by not talking about sex, but adolescents are curious about sex by nature, and they're going to find out some way. The way to ensure healthy sexual attitudes is by preventing a kid from getting his mentalities on sex from watching Porky's at his friend's house without his parent's permission.

I disagree with your fifth paragraph though. People were still sexually rampant in the 50s; it was all just kept very private.

I do have a question about your comment on religion. When you say "extramarital sex", do you draw a distinction between that and "premarital sex"? Or is sex sans marriage all lumped together? If the latter, can you tell me where in the Bible it says that premarital sex is forbidden? I'm not questioning that it does say so, I'm just wondering if you could provide specifics.

As I said, some of my perception has to do with my environment. I grew up in a Christian home and went to a small Christian school for all but my senior year. That, combined with the fact that I remain 'proudly but unhappily' a virgin (God's idea, not mine) means that I'm not the most qualified person to speak on sexuality. But strangely, it seems I know much more about sex than my sexually active peers (at least in Cambridge, Minnesota).

"religion influences the culture even for people who aren't religious" - this is exactly what I was trying to say, just never got around to it :-)

Re: people being sexually rampant in the 50s. In my 'rampant' sentence, I didn't mean to contrast that with the 50s, only that it was hush-hush or 'shameful' in the 50s, but in the 60s people were more open and receptive to it.

extra = outside. Extramarital sex = sex outside of marriage. Therefore, sex before marriage (premarital sex) is, of course, a form of extramarital sex.

God's distate for adultery and prostitution is clear in the Bible. The Bible's case against premarital sex is much shakier. Most preachers will endlessly quote verses that speak vaguely against 'sexual immorality' but do not give any indication of what is sexually immoral or that pertains to premarital sex.

Some rather stretched arguments can be found in 1 Cor. 7:1-2 - "...It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband." The context reveals that 'it is good for a man not to marry' because a spouse requires devotion, time, and attention - which means there's less of all those things for God. The perfect man is one who is 100% devoted to God - this is why priests, monks etc. do not marry. But, God recognizes that he has given us all strong sexual urges, and apparently he wishes us to marry if we cannot control these urges (which most of us can't, as he knows), so that our sexual activities happen 'safely' within marriage.

Another common argument is that, because premarital sex was especially considered sexually immoral at the time the Bible was written, that all references to 'sexual immorality' obviously include premarital sex.

But many of God's laws - especially those in the Old Testament - were made to protect us. For example, laws against eating pork. Now, we understand why God made a law against us (it's not just arbitrary): pork is an especially dangerous meat if not cooked thoroughly. But now that we're aware of this and can be sure of safely prepared pork, do we still need this law?

The same could be said of God's sexual laws. Now that we know how to have safe sex with anyone, anywhere, and as long as we're willing to ensure safe sex, do we still need laws that restrict sexual behavior?

Of course, if God upholds these laws in our modern age, it doesn't matter much whether we 'need' them or not - it's his world, we're just living in it.

Anyway, it should be noted that the Bible is often mistaken as a manual for good living. It's not. It really is more like a story - a history of God and his people. Now, this story reveals a lot about what God likes and dislikes, and can certainly be applied to our lives, but as a 'manual for living' it fails, because it was never intended as such. If it was, it would explicity explain principles for living in all areas - sexual, political, lifestyle, conflict, relationships, etc.

So the Bible isn't quite the 'authority' on these subjects that perhaps I'd like it to be. It'd be best, I suppose, if all my life's principles were revealed through a close-knit relationship with my Savior, but I haven't quite figured out how two-way communication works with Him yet (I'm working on it!), so I use the Bible and what I think are logical extensions of its principles as a guide for the time being.

I may not like a great many of God's laws, but I'm willing to do what I can to do things his way because I 'owe him big time', and life in heaven sounds way cooler than anything I could achieve on earth, anyway.

When my dad is around, I'll ask him, too. He knows a lot more about this than I do.

Before we talk more about sex, I would like to talk about linguistics. Extra may mean "outside", but "extramarital" implies that there is the existence of marriage. For example, the term "extracurricular activities" refers to something that a high school student does outside of schoolwork, like a sports team or play. But if a 40-year-old man tries out for a play, you would not call it an extracurricular activity.

Thank you for the information about the Bible. I definitely agree with your [counts] 11th paragraph. The sad thing is that oftentimes the Bible is so ambiguous that people can interpret it to assert anything they want.

I find your paragraphs 8-10 very interesting. Maybe God would impose very different rules in our modern age, but He hasn't because it's not like He's going to write another Bible.

I think I get your point about the sexual revolution now - that we became more open about it in the 60s, but our views still stayed equally immature, right? I still think the 60s were an improvement. Have you seen Kinsey? There's one part where a newlywed tells Alfred Kinsey that he was afraid to perform cunnilingus on his wife because he heard it causes sterility.

re: linguistics. Okay, sure. Don't care. I should've just stated more clearly what I meant rather than pretending to give an English lesson when I'm not an English expert.

re: 11th paragraph. Exactly. Again, it's only 'ambiguous' because it was never meant to be exact. Probably the most exact passage is the ten commandments, which only appears as an important scene in a very, very long narrative.

A good example of this is that before the civil war, the Bible was used to 'prove' that God approved of slavery. Now it's used for just the obvious. Go figure. (aside: I still think it indicates that slavery is an acceptable practice, though there's as much responsibility on the master's head as on the slave's)

One might say that God's character doesn't change but his methods certainly do - most obvious in the OT/NT split around the sending of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Jesus also ended up making lots of OT rules obsolete. Who's to say he hasn't changed some methods in the last two thousand years? We must remember that the Bible was a loose, somewhat random collection of small books and letters from dozens of authors that was, for some reason, compiled as an 'authoritative document of God's Will' hundreds of years after Jesus' life on earth.

I'd argue that several works by contemporary, equally God-inspired authors (McLaren's A New Kind of Christian could be a recent example, who knows?) are God's way of revealing his wisdom and plans for us in this modern age. The problem is that nobody has compiled the most important and God-inspired (how would you judge something like that?) of these works into a collection as definitive as the Bible.

Besides, the Bible has hundreds of years of acceptance and unquestioned authority - most would say it's heresy to say God has new, or even just 'more' truth for us, today.

So, God never really 'wrote' the first Bible anyway, but if it's easier to think of it that way, then I'd say he's writing 'another Bible' right now. We have to be very careful in distinguishing his truth from the truth of the deceiver, but God is constantly revealing his truth to us.

Haven't seen Kinsey, though I'm excited to.

It might be that the 60s made people finally realize that masturbating wouldn't cause blindness, cunnilingus wouldn't cause sterility, etc. but one still might blame the sexual revolution for the devestation of AIDS and other afflictions, millions of destroyed relationships, and more. Had we first been informed by Kinsey, THEN become more open about sex (yes, I think this new openness about sex did increase its national regularity, though that's based on common sense and not a respected study), then perhaps the sexual revolution would've been a success and not caused more harm than good.

I should again state that, in my view (which includes premarital/extramarital sex as against God's will), the 'good' of the sexual revolution does not include people having more premarital/extramarital sex, but to the new openness about sex in our culture.

Very interesting comments on the Bible. But I still think the sexual revolution made things better. I don't think the new openness caused as big a change in sexual activity as you think. We only think so because no one ever talked about sex in the 50s (and when they did, it was only marital intercourse), so we assume that they were more innocent times.

But even if the 60s did bring about more sex, I seriously doubt that having more sex actually destroyed millions of relationships. Spreading disease? Maybe, but (a) AIDS didn't work its way into the West until 1959, so there's a more obvious reason why AIDS wasn't spread in the 50s; and (b) I think one of the causes of the sexual revolution was the development of new and better contraceptives. So again, disease was spread, but probably not as much as we think.

"Had we first been informed by Kinsey, THEN become more open about sex" - But we were! Sexual Behavior in the Human Male came out in 1948, and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female came out in 1953. Both were tremendous commercial successes, and both were widespread enough to create a big stir about this Kinsey guy. While it took the public a little while to catch on, I'd say the Kinsey reports were a big reason of why the sexual revolution happened.

Well, it's a good thing somebody's doing their research! :-)

Anyway, what I should've said is "Had we first listened to people like Kinsey, then become more open about sex..."

Though I'm sure Kinsey's books were commercial successes, it's quite obvious his books weren't read by the majority of people. Hmmm... did they have sex ed classes in the 50s/60s? If so, I wonder what they taught?

Also, Kinsey was just one author who touched on a few subjects. In general, it might be said that the new openness about sex of the sexual revolution spurred most of the useful (and even moreso, useless) books and studies about sex, not the other way around.

I'm the first do admit everything I'm saying here is very hypothesised.

I think you're underestimating Kinsey's influence. His books were read by many, many people. At the time, I believe they were the best-selling science books ever. Everyone was wondering if what they were doing was normal, and that's what Kinsey provided. No one else talked about sex like this at the time. In the movie, we see a sex ed class pre-Kinsey, and it is basically just a class that preaches Biblical morality about sex, saying that sex should only happen in marriage and as intercourse.

People were informed by Kinsey by the time they became open about sex. I'm not sure why you think that listening to Kinsey more would have made the sexual revolution better though. Kinsey never preached that we should have less sex or safer sex or that we should be careful not to let sex destroy relationships. He was interested in science and data. He tore down the myths that Biblical moralists put into our heads about sex (myths about the facts, that is), and he collected data about how and why people had sex.

I would certainly agree that the sexual revolution caused more studies about sex to be done, but Kinsey is the one that preceded the 60's. No one had ever done what Kinsey was doing because it was so controversial.

Not saying you're wrong, but then why is it that most people I talk to - including those who lives through the 50s and 60s - had never heard of Kinsey before they saw ads for the movie?

Well, he died in 1956, a mere three years after his female volume came out, so after that the controversy that followed him wherever he went kinda died down. If the people you're referring to were old enough to be paying attention to the news in 1948 or 1953, they probably would have heard of him. But that was 50 years ago, and they may have forgotten reading about him.

Kinsey's influence was very significant though, and it cannot be understood simply by a test of name-recognition. In fact, if you go to the wikipedia entry for "sexual revolution", you will see:

"In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Alfred C. Kinsey published two surveys of modern sexual behavior. In 1948, Alfred C. Kinsey and his co-workers, responding to a request by female students at Indiana University for more information on human sexual behavior, published the book Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. They followed this five years later with Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. These books began a revolution in social awareness of, and public attention given to, human sexuality.

It is said that at the time, public morality severely restricted open discussion of sexuality as a human characteristic, and specific sexual practices, especially sexual behaviors that did not lead to procreation. Kinsey's books, which among other things reported findings on the frequency of various sexual practices including homosexuality, caused a furor. Many people felt that the study of sexual behavior would undermine the family structure and damage American society."

I'd say it certainly does undermine the family structure... but I'm not ready to argue whether that's good or bad.

Why do you think that studying sexual behavior would undermine the family structure? I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you, I'm just curious.

Sorry: I didn't mean that studying sexual behavior would undermine family structure. I meant that being more open and comfortable with sexuality (which, of course, means being more open and comfortable with non-marital sex) undermines family structure.

Well, I've thought about this, and this is more a theory than anything else. But here goes.

I don't believe people can choose their sexual preferences. Genetics and other outside factors shape them into who they are. One man may be personally inclined to have lots and lots of premarital sex. Now he can either (1) accept this part of his personality, and have lots and lots of premarital sex, or (2) deny this aspect of himself. Choice #2 will probably make him sexually repressed and will most likely lead to unstable relationships. I think choice #2 undermines the family structure more than choice #1. Obviously, choice #1 is more likely to be chosen if we are more open and comfortable with non-marital sex.

This is also why I don't think homosexual marriages will hurt traditional family structure either. Without them, a homosexual man has two choices: (1) not get married, or (2) deny his homosexuality to himself and wed a girl in an incredibly unstable marriage. Neither one of these options helps family structure.

I disagree that someone can be genetically inclined to have lots of premarital sex. The idea that genes could make someone irresistably attracted to sex when a piece of paper (marriage certificate) is involved, and less so when it is not, doesn't make any sense to me.

But it's obvious that some people are genetically more sexually aroused/active people that others.

That's a good point. Could you accept, though, that some people are just not predisposed to monogamy, that their sexual preferences include having it with a lot of different people?

Actually, I think that everyone is predisposed to having multiple sexual partners. It's a little cruel of God, I think, to demand serial monogamy, but then, there was never any mention that God had any problem with David or Solomon's hundreds of partners - again, the Bible, not a manual, can't really provide many of these answers.

"I think you're underestimating Kinsey's influence." I think we're singing the same tune. (Wait for the third verse, 70 seconds.) I'm certain that Cole Porter had a special affinity for Kinsey's findings although I'm sure that a majority of Americans had never gone to a Broadway show. The one-two punch of Kinsey and penicillin probably caused the ground to shift but you and I are in harmony over the effect that the Pill had on mores. (More mores, eh?) I'd also propose that the increasing empowerment of women and the new roles that they filled helped to orchestrate what went on in '60s. Besides, those damn boomers screw everything up... so to speak. If you want to see the social change in stage-to-celluloid form then I'd suggest watching the wunderbar (occasionally heinous) Kiss Me Kate with the shaggy Hair as a movie musical duet. My one discordant note is that I think that Kinsey wasn't instrumental in when the curtain went up (or possibly went down) on the sexual revolution. I hope I'm not preaching to the choir.

"Before we talk more about sex, I would like to talk about linguistics."

Is there something wrong with me, as a male, in that I didn't immediately react to that statement with: "What the hell? Fuck linguistics!" :-)

Okay, I asked my dad about the premarital sex thing and he pointed out that the Greek for what the NIV calls "sexual immorality" and the KJV "fornication" quite clearly includes things like adultery, premarital sex, and homosexuality. He also pointed out that 'sexual immorality' has almost always meant at the very least these three things, and so while premarital sex is often not considered 'immoral' today (though I'd estimate the majority of the world's population still thinks so), it was when the words 'sexual immorality' were written, and so that's what it means. Make sense?

So the Greek specifically identified what was immoral, and the English translation made it more vague? That's weird. Well, thanks for the information.

I hope you don't feel like I harp on little things too much (like the term "extramarital sex"), but you've actually got me curious about whether the majority of the world's population finds premarital sex immoral. Those who would probably find it immoral would include Afghanistan and most Middle East cultures, the Bible Belt, religious Christians in Europe (which is probably fewer people than you think), Buddhist monks, and most Hindus. That's a lot of people, but considering that atheists, people who do identify with a religion but tend to ignore the religion's views on sexuality, Buddhist non-monks, and probably most unadvanced cultures would probably not find it immoral, I think the latter group might have the former group beaten.

This of course is vast speculation and it stereotypes groups of people. I really couldn't tell you an answer that was anywhere close to definitive.

"So the Greek specifically identified what was immoral, and the English translation made it more vague?"

Well, not really. The first translation to English, the KJV, called it 'fornication,' which quite specifically meant sex outside the context of marriage. And the NIV translation was released in 1978 by and for 'fundamental Protestants' like Baptists, Methodists, and evangelicals - all of whom understood perfectly that 'sexual immorality' referred to premarital sex, adultery, and homosexuality.

BTW, it's important to note that NIV is translated from the original Greek and Hebrew, not adapated from the old KJV translation, and is usually considered more accurate than the KJV.

But sometimes, there simply isn't an English term that will completely represent the meaning of certain Greek words.

re: most people are fine with premarital sex. I'm not sure it's there yet, but like you said, neither of us could possibly pretend to be accurate about that, and I do think that belief is becoming more popular each year.

Ah, early film history...

I LOVE your reviews for the trains and Cogress flicks! I laughed...

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

What a wonderful class. The time just flew by. We didn't get to The Great Train Robbery today, but for the sake of my nerves, maybe that's a good thing. :-)

Let me help you with the review:

OH MY GOD IT LOOKS LIKE THE GUN IS GOING TO STICK OUT OF THE SCREEN AND SHOOT ME DEAD!!! AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!

No, no, don't thank me; any time.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

No, that was Lumiere's 'Arrival of a Train at [some train station]', with the famous story of people leaping back in their chairs as the train rushed toward the screen!

EDIT: Bwahahaha, I'm a moron. That's exactly what AJ said in his review of it, and what you were referencing. BTW, this 'lukeprog' is no relation to the 'lukeprog' that posts stupid lists on 'longest movie titles' and the like. I'm new here, it's my first day. Jim, you really ought not to let two people register under the same name.

Funny. Two users I like using the same name... ;)

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I couldn't help but notice you didn't mention Warren Oates in your Two-Lane Blacktop review. Any thoughts on his role?

I don't think Taylor and Wilson were ever meant to be anything but blank, generic characters - extentions of the "all business" attitude of the '55 Chevy. Oates carried the flair of his new GTO as if it was an extention of the stripe on the side of the car.

That's true, Oates did have more personality than the others, but I don't think he had much more depth than the other characters, and it bugged me that he just seemed to fade away from the movie.

Heh, your 'review' of Aliens cracks me up. :-)

Yeah, that kicked puppy was great. Way better than the one in Anchorman (or was it Harold and Kumar? Or Dodgeball. Sigh... they're all the same to me).

May I also be, erm, amused by the occasional sucked toe?

Anchorman, though in that case it actually had relevance to the plot, making it less funny.

Sure, feel free.

I'd argue that "Belle de Jour", though outwardly more conventional, is just as surrealistic and inventive as "L'Age". It's just more subtle about it.

Explain.

I'm guessing Cosgrove didn't notice this post since it would look very vague on the Recent Activity page. Cosgrove, would you mind elaborating more on Belle de Jour? Thanks.

I love these coincidences, and I'm glad you liked House of Sand and Fog as well. I found quite a few reviews after I wrote mine up that thought it overrated, but I was quite impressed.

So true about Eldard. He tried, but he was out of his league. In such a strong movie, this was almost painfully obvious at times.

Yay, another Shaun fan! Such a fun movie, and I can certainly see it as a contender for "best zombie picture."

I think I noticed Eldard's mediocrity most when he first encounters Ben Kingsley and tries to intimidate him. He just couldn't keep up with the Joneses - or in this case, the Behranis.

Do you know what you've done? You've defamed a cornerstone of Bakersfield P.D. , that's what you've done.

My bad. He's probably better in a cop sitcom than a serious tragedy film.

Woah... Twilight Zone moment. My inclusion of 'The Battle of Algiers' in my 'Best Films of All Time' list has always been bothering me, but for the life of me I couldn't figure out why. Just yesterday I realized my problem with it: it is neutral to a fault (though, a slight one). And now I see your review (with the same central complaint) a few moments after updating my my list (by removing Algiers, among other things). Wooaaaahhhhh... creeeeeeppyyyy.

That is really weird. To make it even stranger, my thoughts were tough to put into words on this film, and the review went through a few revisions. I'm sure I used the exact phrase "neutral to a fault" at some point.

This list continues to consistently entertain and enlighten me, and no, I am not saying that just because you watched Andrei Rublev, but that can't hurt...

Terrific!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Thanks very much, lbangs, and thanks for pushing for the wonderful Andrei Rublev. I would've heard of the film's acclaim otherwise, of course, but it always helps to hear that Listologists like it!

BTW, have you been keeping up with the new season of 24? If so, how is it?

I've caught every episode so far; it is quite better than season three. I'm not sure it tops season two, but it is probably in the running.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Ah, what good news! I'll have to make my dad buy season 4 as well.

Season 2 is probably my favorite so far too. I'm still in awe of that episode where George Mason crashes the plane with the bomb in it. The ending sequence of everyone's perspective in seeing the explosion... perfection.

That was some rather gripping stuff. Even seeing the climax of the episode coming a mile away, I was still rather moved.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

So glad you liked Gattaca! I've long thought that movie was pretty seriously underrated. Good call on the Ethan/Uma/Jude chemistry though.

Man, that Mr. T. video sounds bahd! I pity the fool who passes it up!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

AJ digs Sin City! Yipee!

I can hardly wait to see it again.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I'm not quite so eager. I have a limit for how much carnage I can take in one month, ya know. Which of course doesn't the change the fact that AJ really digs Sin City.

You were FIVE when you saw Beauty & the Beast for the first time?! I keep forgetting how young you are (really, I keep forgetting how old I am).

Of course, I'm happy as a clam that you loved it. It's one of my favorites.

Heh. Yeah, doing the math, I was born in 1986 and the film came out in 1991. It's actually the only film I ever remember seeing twice in theaters with the same people (i.e., my mom and brother). And yeah, fantastic movie, of course.

AJ, did Nicky Katt play the character who got shot with the arrow?

Yeah, that was him, though I only knew that thanks to the IMDB. That was so hilarious.

I'm glad you liked Passion Fish! I'm sure I've said this elsewhere, so forgive my blabbering on and on, but that is truly my favorite Sayles movie. I agree with you about the length (goes on too long), but the acting and strong sense of place are just wonderful. I love the scenes riding around the swamps on the fanboat and the dance scenes with the zydeco music in the background.

Johnny Waco

In fact, your recommendation of Passion Fish as your favorite Sayles movie was mainly what made me want to see it recently, so thanks! Those scenes are definitely standouts for me too, along with the very funny scene when May-Alice's annoying childhood friends come to visit her.

I didn't ask for the anal probe...

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs (yup, Passion Fish is probably his fave Sayles as well...)

I actually put that line as my away message after I watched the film, probably baffling many of my friends.

Interesting review of Crash; overall, I liked it, but not quite as much as you did. I felt that it was too derivative of Magnolia, especially towards the end, when a long Aimee-Mannish type song plays over all of the characters, and then the snow comes down as a unifying device--seems to be related to the rain of frogs in its purpose. I do think it contains some nice acting, and I agree that the racial tension and slurs don't come off as gratuitous--they feel natural in the conversations of the different characters.

I also thought Sandra Bullock did a good job with her character. But regardless, I'd like to get your opinion on something involving her subplot: a strange coincidence, but I had just the day before I saw Crash been reading through a book on foreign nannies and housekeepers, and the difficult and complex relationships they have with their employers. So much of that was echoed in that subplot, including the way the employers vacillate between treating their domestics as family and as, basically, slaves who should go above and beyond because of the love they have for the family. When Bullock hugs her domestic, and says, "You're my best friend in the world," I read it as a false realization for her because the domestic doesn't respond verbally and we never really see her face. I believe that Haggis meant for there to be a sense of ambiguity, but the friend I saw it with believed it was supposed to leave Bullock's character in a good light. What do you think?

Johnny Waco

Ah, but wasn't Magnolia just derivative of Short Cuts, and wasn't this style also derivative of playwrights like Thornton Wilder and, going way back, William Shakespeare? I could see how you could think that about the ending, but snow is a much more ordinary unifying device than raining frogs. I actually had another interpretation of the snow. When we first see it, it's falling on Terrence Howard, who was earlier told by a white man that, when he tried to speak in proper English, he was talking "too white." Now all of L.A. is about to be bathed in a sea of whiteness, but Howard brushes it off his coat. He refuses to be overtaken by the snow. Might be a stretch, but I think the snow has more meaning than just a stylistic device.

Oh, and I didn't mind Bullock's acting so much; it was mainly the writing of her character than annoyed me. Maybe if the movie had captured the essence of that article better, but I hardly ever saw Bullock treating her maid like family until the end. That's why I thought that moment was pretty hokey. I don't think she would say that to her maid, even if she did come to that [yes, false] realization, and the only reason I can see to include that is to leave Bullock in a good light. So I guess I agree with both you and your friend.

I thought the falling down the stairs scene was even hokier. I actually started laughing at that point, with the tragic music and slow motion as she slipped and dropped the phone. C'mon, Haggis, let the girl fall down the stairs like a normal person.

i see curb more as the seinfeld reality tour... larry david is the REAL seinfeld... and although I love the first 4 seasons of seinfeld(back when david wrote the bulk of the stuff), I'd take any curb episode over a seinfeld mr. david did not write... I also think it proves that jerry was a nice touch but in the end the show was all about Larry David, and he's a comic genious... as far as i'm concerned Larry without Jerry(curb) works much much better than Jerry without Larry(Later season's of seinfeld), but obviously they were best together.

Well, considering that almost all the dialogue in Curb Your Enthusiasm is improvised, I'm not sure Larry David is the writing genius you give him credit for. All he can write is the plot outlines of the episodes. And those plot outlines are kinda hit-or-miss in my opinion; sometimes it's pretty predictable to see how offending someone will come back to bite Larry in the ass. I've seen Larry David write a script by himself in the movie Sour Grapes, and it was not pretty.

There are occasional bad spots in later seasons of Seinfeld, but IMHO the good stuff overwhelms the bad by far. Just my opinion, of course. Keep in mind that I haven't seen any episodes from the 3rd or 4th seasons of Curb Your Enthusiasm, so it's possible that the show just took two seasons to get off the ground. Also keep in mind that I am a Seinfeld fanatic. So I do enjoy Larry without Jerry, but I believe I prefer Jerry without Larry (though Larry still had plenty of input into later seasons, so it should be Jerry with some Larry).

that is a good point... but i think it's pretty obvious that while a lot of the dialogue might be improvised, for the most part everything that happens is either planned by Larry, or like most of the funny stuff is simply said by Larry... so even if it is improvised most of the funny stuff comes out his mouth so i would still consider that to be writing, and the fact that he'd be doing it on the fly is even more amazing... keep in mind that as you are a seinfeld fanatic, I am a Larry David fanatic... so much so that most of my recent enjoyment of older seinfeld episodes has come from associating plotlines and situations to Larry David and his curb show which basically takes them to the next level, imo. Another thing to keep in mind is that i do personally believe that the 3rd and 4th season of curb blow the first two right out of the water, although i love every single episode.

Point taken about Larry's improvised dialogue, though I think there's a difference between improv acting and actual planned writing. When you write a script, you have to make the dialogue seem realistic; but improvising takes care of that for you. At the same time, while Curb Your Enthusiasm is more realistic than Seinfeld, I do think that Seinfeld's dialogue is usually funnier than Curb's, even in many Seinfeld episodes that Larry did not write. But I agree, Larry David is indeed a very talented improv actor, and considering that everything is on the fly, perhaps the fact that Curb is funny is a greater accomplishment than the fact that Seinfeld is funny, all things considered. I must admit, though, I still usually enjoy Seinfeld more.

I will look into the 3rd and 4th seasons of Curb Your Enthusiasm. I heard about the arc of the 4th season where Mel Brooks wants Larry to star in his musical, and that sounds really hilarious to me.

yeah, any episode with ben stiller in it is a hoot(about half of the musical episodes)... completely understandble... your a seinfeld guy who likes curb, i'm a curb guy who likes seinfeld.

you know it's on four times a night every night if you have HBO Comedy and Comedy West... thats where I've watched all the episodes.

Sadly, I do not. However, I'm moving into a new house in about three weeks which I believe will have either satellite or digital cable, so I might get those channels then.

Wow, I'm glad you enjoyed Cowboy Bebop so much! Nice of you to volunteer to send it along, too, although I certainly wouldn't mind if you kept it. Sounds like it found a happy home.

It did, but I'm willing to spread the joy. It's a great show. Thanks again for sending it to me!

You're welcome! Oh, and how 'bout that theme song? Love that tune.

Oh yeah, I love it too.

i'd be interested in watching, but you wouldn't have to mail it and i could give it back if someone else wanted to watch it.

I'm interested as well. Just send me an e-mail when it's my turn. Thanks!