Damn, I only have time to watch movies on weekends part 14: WGA strikes, you're out

  • 1. Away From Her (2006)
  • I have noticed a bizarre social phenomenon regarding this film. I have had multiple conversations that have gone like this:

  • Me: You wanna watch Away From Her with me?
  • Someone Else: What's it about?
  • Me: Well, there's a woman who has Alzheimer's...
  • Someone Else: Stop. No. I never want to see that movie.

  • Mind you, these aren't people who only like movies like Blades of Glory. I've had these conversations with people who like emotional stories. Hell, one such conversation was with a girl whose favorite movie last year was Children of Men. But it seems like Alzheimer's is the kryptonite, the dealbreaker, the one subject that if anyone made a movie about it, no matter the content, it would be too depressing to watch.

  • This social phenomenon, I think, explains why this film had to be made very carefully, and I think it completely succeeds at walking a fine line. The subject matter is obviously sad, but never is the movie too depressing because the film doesn't lay it on thick. It presents characters and ideas while wisely resisting the urge to punch up every emotional moment. This could be too depressing to watch, but it's not; it's very watchable, it has a terrific script and great acting, and Julie Christie will deserve the Best Actress Oscar that she will almost certainly win. Some of the imagery surrounding the actual disease is kinda lame, so not every scene works, but this is still a very well-made film.

  • 2. Sicko (2007)
  • Some of my friends watched Fahrenheit 9/11 and said it made them want to move to Canada, but to be honest, as much as I hated the War on Iraq and everything it stood for, it never made me want to flee the country. Nothing has ever made me want to move away as much as watching Sicko. And let's face it: I'm more a have than a have-not. But while Michael Moore focuses on the health care industry, he really delves into the quality of life in other countries, and while it is tempting to think of the U.S. as the most prosperous country in the world if you're living here, there are many ways in which citizens have it better in other parts of the world. It is Michael Moore's best film, much more intelligently argued than Fahrenheit 9/11, and deeper and more convincing than his other films. True, his style of filmmaking can be gimmicky, but aside from a few times when the cheesy melodramatic music put me off, none of it bothered me here. I could see how the whole ending sequence might bother some, but I just loved Moore's boldness. What a gloriously magnificent jackass.

  • 3. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)
  • I'm not sure if this film is more about Jean-Dominique Bauby or Julian Schnabel. That may sound like a complaint, but it's not. Schnabel's direction takes center stage, establishing him as a really brilliant auteur. Bauby's tale is fascinating as it is, but with Schnabel helming the camera, the film really becomes sublime. Like Away From Her, it doesn't lay it on thick or punch up every emotional moment (also a wise decision here), but it does do an excellent job of getting inside Bauby's head. No wonder this is the foreign film with the most awards season buzz since I don't know when. It's a really amazing movie.

  • 4. I'm Not There (2007)
  • I'm Not There is a marvelously ambitious attempt to tell Bob Dylan's life story in a style inspired by the way Dylan himself would tell stories through his lyrics: freewheeling and intricate, with images that inspire emotions rather than tell straightforward stories. It's a wonderful idea for a film, and I would like to say I loved it just for its premise. I think, however, that I didn't like it quite as much as I could've, or perhaps as much as I should've. The thing is, the mood of the film does often inspire connections to Dylan's lyrics, but the thing about Dylan's lyrics is that there's a certain universal quality to them. You don't really need much background knowledge to find them evocative; you just have to be reasonably thoughtful and open-minded, and living your life. I'm Not There, however, relies on its audience's pre-existing knowledge of Bob Dylan's life for one to really identify with the imagery. I have a fairly good knowledge of Dylan's work and life in the 60s, so all those parts of the film worked very well for me. I don't really know any of his music or anything about his life after Desire, and I think that era is represented by the Billy the Kid character, and I felt like that section of the film (along with a few other scenes) had some images that just kind of hang on the screen without really doing anything for me. I imagined while watching the film that someone who knew nothing about Dylan's life or work might like a few scenes but would ultimately probably find the film very confusing; and indeed, I later realized have a friend unfamiliar with Dylan who saw the film and did indeed have that experience.

  • I dunno. I feel very conflicted in writing this review because I really thought much of this film was truly fantastic. It just had some scenes that rung hollow to me for whatever the reason, and I couldn't help feeling like if I was a bigger Dylan fanatic, they might have worked better. The film gives me the impression that it has the very narrow target audience of Dylan fanatics. As a big fan of the man's music but someone who is not incredibly knowledgeable about his life story, I did not become totally enraptured by this film, but I did like it a lot.

  • 5. Take the Money and Run (1969) (watched again)
  • This movie is very funny at times. Other times it gets rather tedious, or features jokes that are chuckle-worthy but just aren't that funny. It's fair, but I think Woody Allen was still finding his footing, and doesn't reach the level of consistency that he hits in Sleeper and Love and Death (not that those films are perfect, but they're much more consistently funny than Take the Money and Run).

  • 6. There Will Be Blood (2007)
  • Some have criticized this movie as being all about Daniel Day-Lewis's character, Daniel Plainview. My responses are: (1) That's true, and (2) That's not a criticism. Yes, the interesting part of this movie is watching Plainview, his rise to wealth, his relationships with others, his alcoholism and madness, but damn is it interesting. I honestly expected to be really bored by this movie, I did, but Paul Thomas Anderson has crafted a film about an emotionally disturbed and disturbing character that is so gripping, it's hard to turn your head away from the madness. The story could have been a morality tale about greed, but P.T. Anderson's bizarre twists make things too weird to be that clear-cut. In spite of the events, the film takes on a certain non-judgmental quality and merely lets us watch with our mouths agape. I must say that while I like the classic stuffy British Daniel Day-Lewis, I greatly prefer the more recent out-of-his-fucking-brains American Daniel Day-Lewis. He is phenomenal here and gives one of the best performances of the year, maybe the best. See the film for him, if not for the fantastic direction, screenplay, score, or Paul Dano.

  • 7. The Savages (2007)
  • Put Away From Her and Sideways in a blender and this is what you might get: a character-based indie comedy that also delves seriously into the topics of aging and dementia and how it affects the people who must deal with it. It's a very good movie featuring some excellent performances, but I couldn't help feeling like it could have dug a little deeper, could have actually gone for somewhat weightier material, and probably would have ended up better for it. As it is, though, it's a nice, subtle character film, one that I would still definitely recommend.

  • 8. Persepolis (2007)
  • Persepolis is an autobiographical film, an episodic account of the life of Marjane Satrapi, who wrote the graphic novel on which the film is based and also co-directed and co-wrote this film. It is not without its flaws - it has a fair share of cliché jokes and hokey moments, and sometimes it is silly when it really should be more honest. On top of that, it doesn't so much end as just fizzle out, as if Satrapi just decided to stop telling her story at this point. It is, however, cute and entertaining, and the visual style is really awesome. Perhaps more importantly, the film shows us all that even in cultures far removed from the Western world, with drastically different values, there are people who have the same hopes, desires, and emotions as Westerners, and so really, you can go to all ends of the earth and find that in certain ways, people aren't all that different when you get right down to it. I was going to break out into a chorus of "We Are the World," but I think I'll just leave it at that.

  • 9. The Orphanage (2007)
  • I was expecting something like Pan's Labyrinth, but what I got was something more like The Haunting. Don't get me wrong, this film is scary and all, but I really get the feeling that if this were an American film, it would have found the critics fairly nonplussed and been quickly forgotten. It may have been produced by Guillermo del Toro, but the direction is really nothing special here, especially compared to some of the amazing artistic accomplishments I saw in 2007. Some scenes work well on an emotional level, and Belén Rueda gives a terrific performance, but the movie is pretty predictable, not that original, and ultimately, a bit of a disappointment.

  • 10. In the Heat of the Night (1967)
  • Sidney Poitier ends up in a small Mississippi town where a murder has occurred. An engaging mystery scored by Quincy Jones follows as Poitier shakes things up and discovers the underbelly of this town. I guess the atmosphere of the film is what I liked most about it; it kinda felt like a funky version of a 1940s detective film much of the time (albeit with some now-cliché buddy movie stuff between Poitier and Rod Steiger). While I did really like the movie, I think the fact that it was controversial at the time probably contributed to its acclaim and Best Picture win. Today it is easy to see that The Graduate and Bonnie and Clyde are much better films. I wouldn't even bother saying this, except In the Heat of the Night is still rated higher than Bonnie and Clyde on the IMDB. On top of that, I apologize if this is blasphemous: I appreciate all the steps Sidney Poitier made for racial unity back in the 1960s... but he's a pretty hammy actor.

  • I will say this though. At one point, he rushes out of a store and slides across the pavement in his shoes. It's probably the best thing ever.

  • 11. Sleeper (1973) (watched again)
  • I've seen this film four times, the most recent time being a year and a half ago, but even now I remembered some jokes I had completely forgotten. I think that's a testament to how many jokes are packed into this movie.

  • 12. Zelig (1983) (watched again)
  • This is still one of my all-time favorite Woody Allen films, a highly underrated mockumentary about a "human chameleon." Unlike Take the Money and Run, this is so well-structured it looks like an actual documentary. The effects are impressive, the imitations of early 20th century pop culture is spot-on, the scenes in which Mia Farrow is interviewing Allen are great, and all this amounts to something really hilarious.

  • 13. Annie Hall (1977) (watched again)
  • I've seen this film three times, and it keeps getting better as I get older. I think it might be the film that explores Woody Allen's persona best. Who is the man behind the neuroses? When he makes a self-deprecating joke, how much rejection did he have to go through in order to come up with it? I think it's telling that the film opens and closes with Allen using old jokes to tell something about his life, adding depth to this familiar humor. At the same time, I think I picked up on more of the character development than the last time I saw this movie (at the age of probably 13 or 14). It's not just interesting in the fact that Allen is finally making films about something (unlike his early films), but the characters have real dimension too, and it really means something when Annie Hall falls in love with Los Angeles. Another one of my favorites by Allen.

  • 14. Interiors (1978)
  • This film, on the other hand...

  • I'm taking a Woody Allen class, which should explain the abundance of Woody lately, and when we discussed this film, about half the class hated it and half the class really liked it, which should tell you what a polarizing film this is. I was arguing more in the "hated it" category, but I probably liked about half of it, which makes me think maybe those who liked it were focused on the good parts and those who didn't were focused on the bad parts. The dialogue is very obvious; there's no subtext to it at all, and some scenes that could have subtlety or depth become boring because the characters are just plainly saying exactly what is going on at all times. We talked about how that pays homage to Ingmar Bergman, but Bergman made it work, and here it just seems ridiculous. Similarly ridiculous is the color scheme - no really, literally everything is so beige and gray and other drab colors except for Maureen Stapleton and occasionally Kristin Griffith. It's so blatant that it's the first time I've ever actually laughed out loud at a color scheme. A couple of scenes play as particularly poor (Diane Keaton's existential breakdown,
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    the attempted rape scene that doesn't go anywhere

  • There are, however, good parts as well. I can't compliment the overall cinematography due to those colors, but some of the mise-en-scene is excellent. A few scenes are really quite great, most of them involving Geraldine Page (the church scene, the duct-taping scene, the ending). And a lot of the acting is very good. But ultimately the actors can't sell this drab, humorless, awkward material. Sorry, Woody.

  • 15. Manhattan (1979) (watched again)
  • I must say that Manhattan fared better in my second viewing of it than it did in the first viewing. I was pretty young the first time around, probably not mature enough for a movie that is really very sophisticated both in tone and in the content of the dialogue. One thing I loved this time around is the cinematography. I tried to watch Manhattan again in between the first time and the second time and told myself that the cinematography is annoying in its bizarre use of mise-en-scene (especially the scenes that are almost entirely dark). That is just not true. The film has astoundingly gorgeous cinematography, which very clearly and unequivocally establishes this film as Woody Allen’s affectionate tribute to the city he loves. Allen’s opening narration that talks of how he romanticizes New York made me think, "Yes, he certainly does." One thing is very clear about this film: Woody Allen thinks of Manhattan as a magical and beautiful place. Isaac Davis may go through relationship after relationship, but his love for New York City will remain forever.

  • This still isn't one of my favorites by Mr. Allen. I still don't think it's as witty as his best work, and there's something off-putting about characters so egocentric that they make me unsure about how genuine their romantic gestures really are, an uncomfortable feeling that I don't think the film intended because it is pretty inconsistent with Manhattan's tone. However, that's also a tribute to how interesting and complex the characters are, so Manhattan is certainly an impressive film in my book.

  • 16. Stardust Memories (1980) (watched again)
  • I found it hard to wrap my mind around this film. A movie that simultaneously seems to be Allen’s version of 8½ and also to parody 8½. A movie about a character who seems to be exactly like Woody Allen himself, but whom Allen has said is not an autobiographical portrait at all. A movie that is at times as ridiculous as Allen’s earlier, funny movies, but at other times pokes fun at audience’s obsession with Allen’s earlier, funny movies, and at still other times seems as serious and artful as an Ingmar Bergman film. I think because of the episodic nature of this film and the way that it shifts from one artistic tone to another, it is best to just think of Stardust Memories as Allen’s diary, his list of brainstormed thoughts. It is the movie where Allen takes a lot of things he has thought about and a lot of sequences he has always wanted to try and throws them all at the audience in one colossally polarizing film. It defies criticism because it appears that Allen was aware of everything one can say about it. It is intentionally disjoint, intentionally abusive to Allen’s audiences, and intentionally veers between shallow mockery and profound imagery. I believe Allen was very conscious of what he was doing in this film, and even though it was a critical and commercial failure, Stardust Memories is still one of Allen’s all-time personal favorites. As an audience member, it strikes me as one of his weaker offerings, but that probably didn't matter to him.

  • 17. Veronica Mars: Second Season (2005-2006)
  • Veronica Mars really takes off this season. While the first season was basically about Lilly Kane's murder with a series of single-episode mysteries, the second season erupts with about a dozen complex, intricate arcs all occurring at the same time. You'd think it would be a lot to wrap your head around, and it is, but if you can keep up, things build perfectly to the explosive finale. Furthermore, we go well beyond focusing on Veronica's life; the second season really helps us explore all the other characters in Neptune, and I really felt like we got to know all the inner workings of the city and pretty much everything about the characters. There are even a number of glimpses into the history of the characters of the town. It always amazes me when a narrative is able to introduce us to millions of fascinating subtleties about loads of different characters while still remaining focused. That's actually one of the things I love about the Harry Potter books. I've already started watching the 3rd season of this show, and the show's still great, but it honestly would be really difficult to top this amazing season of television.

  • 18. The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) (watched again)
  • This film is for the most part a charming comedy about people who find escape by watching purely entertaining movies and makes the point that while it is easy to get wrapped up in this fantasy world where everything always works out for the best, real life is not like that. I've reviewed this film before and said that although Woody Allen loved this film's ending, I dislike it greatly. What follows is an expansion of that:
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    The part that raises concerns for me is Gil Shepherd’s decision to leave Cecilia, without the movie giving us any explanation for this behavior whatsoever. The idea is not just that the moviegoer must confront reality, but also that reality is unreliable. Reality will let you down. However, reality is rarely as depressing as the end of this movie portrays. The film has a fresh-faced, honest-seeming Gil Shepherd appearing to fall in love with Cecilia and (seemingly) earnestly begging her to come back to Hollywood with him and then leaving without a word. Reality is very rarely like these scenes portray. Sure, there are exceptions, but a man who appears to be earnestly falling in love with a woman usually is earnestly falling in love with a woman, and such a man would not just leave his lover with nothing. In reality, there would be some indications that this man is not all he seems – indications that might not be apparent to the woman, but which would be apparent to the audience. In reality, people tend to be fairly consistent creatures and do not behave in the remarkably contradictory way that Gil Shepherd does here. In fact, the character who seems completely innocent but turns out to be duping us all is a movie cliché, and the contrivances that cause Cecilia to end up alone fail to make her real life come across as "reality." Instead, they come across as, well, contrived. If Allen cannot convince us that this "reality" is the way real life works, then his points are significantly undermined, and hence, the movie fails for me on this level.

  • 19. The Simpsons: The Complete Tenth Season (1998-1999)
  • If you ask most diehard Simpsons fans, they will tell you that while the 9th season was the beginning of the decline, the 10th season was where the show really took a turn for the worse. Casual fans probably wouldn't agree, because even the worst episodes in this season (IMHO) seemed to be crowd-pleasers. Take Sunday, Cruddy Sunday for example, the Superbowl episode. While the first two-thirds of the episode have some funny moments, the third act is so filled with inane idiocy (not to mention a go-nowhere Marge and Lisa plot) that it's easy to look past the goodwill that the earlier parts created and see this as a really crappy episode. Throughout seasons 10 and 11, the writers turned the show into a show celebrating Homer's wacky adventures, with Homer being as annoyingly in-your-face as possible in every episode. A lot of the jokes also became really disgusting, creating humor that was definitely too gross to be funny. Like the Superbowl show, a lot of episodes start off great but soon completely plummet into moronic humor (Homer to the Max starts with an awesome plot about Homer changing his name, but ends with some environmental bullcrap; Maximum Homerdrive starts with a hilarious steak-eating contest, but ends with everyone trying to kill Homer as usual). Still, there's a certain quality to this season; the show still feels like The Simpsons, and I was surprised to find that I still enjoyed this season in spite of a lot of terrible decisions. Some episodes, of course, are still just awful.

  • 5 episodes I really hate from this season: When You Dish Upon a Star, Homer Simpson in "Kidney Trouble," Viva Ned Flanders, Sunday Cruddy Sunday, Maximum Homerdrive
  • 4 episodes I really like from this season: Treehouse of Horror IX, Lisa Gets an A (easily my favorite of the season), Mayored to the Mob, Wild Barts Can't Be Broken
  • 3 episodes that are better than I had remembered: Bart the Mother, Marge Simpson in "Screaming Yellow Honkers," Mom and Pop Art
  • 2 guilty pleasures: The Old Man and the C Student, Monty Can't Buy Me Love
  • 1 overrated episode: 30 Minutes Over Tokyo

  • And the quote:
  • Principal Skinner: We can buy real periodic tables instead of these promotional ones from Oscar Mayer.
  • Mrs. Krabappel: Who can tell me the atomic weight of bolognium?
  • Martin: Ooh! Delicious?
  • Mrs. Krabappel: Correct. I would also accept snacktacular.

  • 20. Seinfeld: Season 9 (1997-1998)
  • What's funny is listening to the people behind Seinfeld talk about the ninth season episodes, because it almost seems like they become Seinfeld apologists. They recognize that the series had grown pretty silly by the ninth season, and they realize how many people criticized the final episode, and they address these facts pretty honestly, without a hint of resentment. And yeah, the show had gotten a bit too weird and ridiculous by this point, but there's still a good deal to like in this season even if it's far from Seinfeld at its prime. I've gained a greater appreciation for David Puddy than I had when I watched these episodes for the first time, I loved finally seeing The Puerto Rican Day which was pulled from reruns, and The Betrayal, despite being a little gimmicky, has always been a favorite of mine. Parts of this season seem a bit too callous to the characters, especially George; meanness should not serve as a replacement for humor. In terms of The Finale, I think it was an incredibly impressive feat to get all those guest stars back, but in the end, I think the episode represented a lot of bad decisions rolled into one. Nonetheless, I still got a fair amount of enjoyment out of this season, even if it seems to have progressed from a show about nothing to a show about way too much.

  • Here we go...
  • Jerry: (reading a cartoon that Elaine drew) It's a pig at a complaint department.
  • Elaine: And he's saying, "I wish I was taller!" Ha ha! See? That's his complaint!
  • Jerry: I get it.
  • Elaine: Do you?! Because that's not a normal complaint.
  • Jerry: How 'bout if it was something like, "I can't find my receipt - my place is a sty."
  • Elaine: Everything with you has to be so... jokey.
  • Jerry: I'm a comedian.
  • (Later, Kramer writes a different caption on the cartoon and shows it to Elaine.)
  • Elaine: The pig says, "My wife is a slut"?
  • Jerry: Now THAT's a complaint.

  • 21. My Name Is Earl: Season Two (2006-2007)
  • To me, My Name Is Earl has always seemed like a sitcom with a strange tone. For those of you not in the know, it's about a guy whom all the publicity materials refer to as a "ne'er-do-well" who realizes that karma affects everything in the universe and decides to make good on everything bad he's ever done. The result is a show full of other ne'er-do-wells and flashbacks complete with Earl ne'er doing well, but in the end, it's a highly moralistic show. It's a bizarre combination of a lot of sadistic and raunchy humor as well as a lot of afterschool-special-type values. The result is a nice diversion, though it's too sentimental and not really funny enough to be a great show.

  • This quote is just awful. Awful...ly hilarious:
  • Orphan Girl: Is there anybody on your list who wants a daughter?
  • Earl: Let me check. (checks list) Yeah!
  • (The orphan girl looks delighted.)
  • Earl: Ohh... he wants a son.
  • (Awkward silence.)
  • Earl: Yeah.

  • 22. Veronica Mars: Third Season (2006-2007)
  • This is still a very good show, but compared to the second season, it was hard to not find this one disappointing. Unlike the past two seasons of the show where we had single-episode storylines and then full-season story arcs, the third season was originally going to have three mystery story arcs, one right after another. However, the third story arc never happened; since the show was in danger of being canceled, the producers decided to end the season with five self-contained episodes to appeal more to newer fans. These last five episodes are pretty disappointing; Veronica Mars is a show that always ended its seasons with a bang, so it seems inappropriate for the series finale to end with a whimper. Towards the end, they got way too obsessed with the characters' relationship drama, and it becomes too much like a typical teen soap opera. Every episode contains like five break-ups, and it really gets tiresome. Worse, the last episode of the second mystery arc really has a very lame way of getting the truth out, and the solution is really very disappointing as it is. There's still a lot to like here, but I suppose the second season of Veronica Mars is the only one that's truly masterful.

  • 23. Futurama: Bender's Big Score (2007)
  • This direct-to-DVD movie has a special feature with the voice actors from the show doing a reading from a comic book that tongue-in-cheekly describes how Planet Express had its delivery service canceled by the Box Network (a division of 20th Century Box), was then trapped by the Carton Network and forced into a time loop that made them re-run all their deliveries over and over again, but was finally freed from the time loop by rabid nerds who demanded new deliveries. Thanks, rabid nerds - this DVD is quite good. It's pretty much what you would expect from a feature-length Futurama episodes: plenty of nerdy scifi humor, loads of in-jokes, a good deal of playing with the different time periods of the show, a heaping helping of Fry longing for Leela, and a double-scoop of plot twists. It's really awesome how all of this plays out, and the movie passes by in no time at all. If I have one problem with it, it's that the main plot twist is way, way too predictable; I'm usually terrible at guessing plot twists, but I guessed this one almost immediately. Still, this movie has a lot of clever stuff in it, it's as good as the best episodes of the show, and dare I say, it is much better than The Simpsons Movie.

  • 24. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) (watched again)
  • If you haven't noticed, I'm taking a Woody Allen class that is allowing me to rewatch a lot of Allen's films that I was probably too young for when I first saw. I always loved Hannah and Her Sisters, but now that I've rewatched it, I think I can safely say that I love it even more. Allen has always been able to create such profound beauty with deceptively simple stories about people just living their lives, and this is one of the best examples of that.
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    I think the most striking thing about this film is the interplay between its optimism and its pessimism. I mean, this is a film that features its director playing a character who buys a rifle because he thinks he has cancer, realizes he doesn't, tries to find meaning in life, fails, and then tries to blow his brains out anyway. This may be the most depressing moment in all of Allen's films: the character has decided that those who are terminally ill ought to kill themselves and those who are not are just leading pointless lives and also ought to kill themselves. Of course, he then has a life-affirming moment at a Marx Brothers movie, not in a sudden shock sort of way, but in a way that comes from the same rationalizing and waffling that Allen is always doing. In the end, after so much emotional tragedy, pretty much every character is better off. The conclusion is far more optimistic than Allen's films usually are, and he seems to have regretted giving the film such a happy ending, but it's Allen's most commercially successful film and beloved by common filmgoers and Allen fans alike. Maybe everyone had just wanted happier films from Woody Allen all along, or maybe everyone viewed this film in terms of Allen’s overall canon and saw this film as a change in his worldview – that Allen was happier and found life worth living more so than he had previously, and that made the film truly praiseworthy. In any case, Hannah and Her Sisters leaves audiences feeling good at the end while also giving us one of the pinnacles of Allen’s charm, wit, and fascinating character development.

  • 25. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) (watched again)
  • I kind of expected to come to some sudden realization while watching this film again, but unfortunately that never came. I still think this film is a bit overrated. I think the themes that Crimes and Misdemeanors seeks to explore are interesting, but the film seems so intent on explaining its themes to the audience in a very straightforward way. There are at least two conversations and one concluding voice-over that talk so explicitly about morality that it seems less like characters living their lives and more like Allen beating you over the head with his philosophizing. It doesn't help that the themes seem similar to (or rather, a more specific version of) the themes explored in Hannah and Her Sisters, which deals with these ideas better and more naturally, and a good chunk of Allen's plotline seems pretty similar to what happens in Annie Hall. This is still a very good movie with many interesting, well-done scenes, a few huge laughs, and a lot to say, but the execution of all this could have been better, methinks.

  • 26. Husbands and Wives (1992)
  • Woody Allen set out in this film to break all conventions of filmmaking, allowing the actors more freedom and shooting and editing as he pleased. It resulted in a film with a sort of experimental style, but I'm not convinced the experiment was a success. The reason why these rules exist is that they result in more visually interesting filmmaking; breaking them is an essentially an attempt at being interesting by being unconventionally boring. Which admittedly is somewhat interesting, but it's mostly boring. It doesn't help that the story of the film is so long and dreary. It's not manipulative, but it sure does layer on the misery, which makes it a difficult film to watch, and one that I'm not sure is worth the time.

  • Good things about the film? Well, this is still Woody Allen so there are a number of interesting scenes. Plus Judy Davis's performance is hilarious, the sole respite from the gloom. Other than that, I think you can stick to Allen's many better films.

  • From here through #40, I'm going to keep my comments brief unless I'm particularly inspired, as a means of playing catch-up.
  • 27. Mr. Show with Bob and David: The Complete First and Second Seasons (1995-1996)
  • Excellent sketch comedy, in general more consistent than SNL or Kids in the Hall.

  • 28. Rome, Open City (1945) (watched again)
  • The last time I saw this film, I was too tired to pay much attention in the first half and felt I didn't appreciate the film well enough. This time I was focused throughout, and still really only got into the film in the second half. Once again, I didn't find it all that memorable. It's an innovative film in Italian neo-realism, but it's not the most interesting film today. Still a very good film.

  • 29. Bullets Over Broadway (1994) (watched again)
  • Bullets Over Broadway seems to me like a new Woody Allen, an Allen distancing himself from his overtly philosophical, character-based films of the late eighties, and moving towards more traditional narrative-based films that still have a great deal of depth. At the same time, Bullets Over Broadway’s style very much reminded me of the plot of one of Allen’s earlier works: The Purple Rose of Cairo. Just as the Mia Farrow character in The Purple Rose of Cairo literally steps into an old-time movie, Bullets Over Broadway is about the John Cusack character figuratively stepping into an old-time movie. All the characters are very broadly drawn, and although the actors breathe life into these characters and the film explores them in new and original ways, it is only John Cusack and Mary-Louise Parker who come off as real people, trapped in this Hollywood-style world where they do not belong. The way they interact and deal with this world makes for very fine cinema.

  • 30. Sweet and Lowdown (1999)
  • Excellent mockumentary about superficiality, emotion, and how they affect art. Funny and heart-wrenching.

  • 31. Match Point (2005) (watched again)
  • When Match Point came out, many critics praised Woody Allen for trying something new, for completing a film that was so unlike any film he had ever done before. Along these lines, many critics commented about the fact that the movie was a very serious, dramatic crime film with few jokes. I do not think, however, that Match Point is all that different for Woody Allen in terms of its genre or themes, given that he has made films like Interiors, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Husbands and Wives, etc. The reason why Match Point is different from all other Woody Allen films is because of the characters, especially the leading man. Most Woody Allen characters are really very much like Woody Allen. They are often introspective, shy, bumbling, uncool, neurotic worrywarts, constantly rationalizing and equivocating. Jonathan Rhys Meyers, however, is nothing like Woody Allen. He is debonair, attractive, suave, and sophisticated. When he first meets Scarlett Johansson, he is very forward with her, confidently uttering dialogue that sounds straight out of a film noir antihero’s lips. Compare that to Woody Allen’s awkward shyness and attempts at self-deprecating humor whenever he talks to a woman in his films.
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    Unlike Martin Landau, who dealt with similar problems in Crimes and Misdemeanors, we never see Rhys Meyers grapple with the thought of the crime he will commit before it actually occurs. We just see him execute the perfect murder with cold precision. Sure, he feels some sadness and guilt after the fact because he is not a killer, but he can justify his emotions to himself: the innocent had to be sacrificed to protect his own comfort. He is the ultimate Machiavellian villain, the complete opposite of the typical Woody Allen character.

  • 32. Cheers: The Complete Fourth Season (1985-1986)
  • This show isn't quite the same due to the untimely passing of Nicholas Colasanto. Woody's good, but he doesn't quite have Coach's charm. They did the best they could, though, and this season is another excellent one from Cheers.

  • 33. Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
  • After The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Superbad, these guys hit another home run. I've really grown accustomed to just losing myself in this type of movie; this style of humor mixed with endearing character drama is familiar to me now, so I can just kick back and let the laughs wash over me. Seeing the same actors show up in Hawaii as in the other Apatow films is like waiting for some eagerly anticipated friends to arrive. "Oh, there's Paul Rudd! Ooh, here comes Jonah Hill, I bet he'll do something funny! Hey Bill Hader, how's it hanging?" Perhaps I'm going insane thinking of each movie like another reunion; I guess I'm just glad there are people out there actually making great comedies. I don't think I liked this quite as much as the other three films I mentioned, but it would be a very close call.

  • 34. Iron Man (2008)
  • Unlike Superman movies, Spiderman movies, X-Men movies, and especially Batman movies, I went into Iron Man knowing absolutely nothing about our hero, having no idea what to expect, and I must say I really enjoyed this movie. I think the movie is good because the story is so good; it would function well even without any special effects or superhero elements. The film has some real meat to it, unlike a lot of action films that are just full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. I look forward to future installments, and I hope they have even more of Downey Jr.'s sarcastic rambling.

  • 35. Animaniacs, Volume 3 (1994-1995)
  • Some people say Animaniacs jumped the shark somewhere in the middle of these DVDs, but as a kid I liked the newer episodes just as much as the older ones, and honestly, I didn't notice any significant drop in quality here. They do overuse some characters in Discs 3 and 4 (I got sick of Mindy/Buttons, Katie Ka-Boom, and the Goodfeathers), I think the last episode on Disc 4 and Disc 5 are very strong. The songs especially are top-notch (I've always loved "A Quake, A Quake," the Presidents' song, the Tiger Prince song, etc.). High quality programming.

  • 36. Häxan (1922)
  • Far more interesting than I expected a silent documentary to be. It is a bit dated; it seems to stress teaching points that are accepted as common knowledge today (for example, the fact that a few centuries ago, people thought of the earth as the center of the universe), but overall it is a both creepy and well-reasoned exploration of witchcraft.

  • 37. Lone Star (1996)
  • My guess is that the creators of House loved this movie. The flashback sequences that blend seamlessly with the rest of the film seem lifted directly into House, and the final plot twist
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    is the exact same as in the House episode "Fools for Love"
    . This twist may be a bit too predictable, but for the most part this is a wonderful movie. The unraveling of the mystery is as compelling as the drama that arises from living in this mixed-race town.

  • 38. Gone Baby Gone (2007)
  • Hiding beneath the gritty Boston atmosphere and immensely intriguing mystery, this film is basically posing a moral dilemma. Many morally complex films delve into the interplay between utilitarianism versus ethical codes, and this is among the best explorations of that idea I've seen. The film asks questions, and while characters arrive at answers, I'm not sure that the film itself has any easy solutions for us. It's not a film for those who can't deal with ambiguity. Those who can will discover a fascinating directorial debut from Ben Affleck that includes a rightfully lauded performance by Amy Ryan and a tragically overlooked performance by Casey Affleck, who effortlessly earns his newfound leading man status.

  • 39. Horton Hears a Who! (2008)
  • A fun, fairly clever film, that probably wouldn't be as entertaining if not for Jim Carrey's manic energy bringing Horton to life. There's a lot of other stunt casting in the voice talent, but everyone is very talented so I'm not complaining. I know the religious right stole Horton's "a person's a person, no matter how small" to use as a pro-life slogan, and I doubt any commentary on abortion was intentional, but I must say it's hard to not read this story as a God allegory, given the way that the Mayor of Whoville points up at the sky and assures everyone that there's a being up there protecting us all and we have to believe in him even though we can't see him. The fact that this being happens to be a giant elephant in this movie is a mere trifle.

  • 40. The Counterfeiters (2007)
  • A film about the members of a concentration camp deemed talented enough to take part in a counterfeit money operation, which the Germans intended to use to weaken other countries' economies. Although these men were far luckier than other members of the camp, this film does do a good job of depicting concentration camp life with gritty realism. It's a very good film, although I still somehow doubt it was the best foreign film of last year.

  • 41. The Wire: The Complete First Season (2002)
  • For anyone wondering why I've been watching so much television lately, this is Exhibit A. TV as a whole is becoming much more mature and provocative than it ever has been, and The Wire is one of the prime examples. It's intelligent, realistic, and extremely rewarding for those who have the attention span for it. The plot takes its time to unravel, but every scene reveals fascinating, subtle details about its characters and environment, and it soon had me so hooked that I loved hanging on for the slow-moving ride. The Baltimore references became an added bonus for me, of course ("Wow! They mentioned Cold Spring Lane!"). I am eager to pick up future seasons.

  • 42. Gone With the Wind (1939)
  • Somewhere in the course of this four-hour epic, I began to wonder if I should even bother reviewing it. What would be the point, given that (1) this is not the sort of movie I particularly enjoy, (2) I am generally pretty good at predicting how much I will like a movie, and (3) I watched the film more because it's been a huge gap in my viewing for so long than because I actually wanted to view it? Let me say this: I found myself wishing the film weren't so long; it drags; it's melodramatic; it's pretty dated in its portrayal of African-Americans; the glorification of the Confederacy was a bit much for me; and at times (especially towards the end), the storytelling breaks down and is replaced by a disconnected series of scenes. Let me also say that I knew I would feel almost all of these things before I watched the film. I will also say that I expected to find the film enjoyable in spite of these flaws, and I was right.

  • What surprised me, you may ask? I was honestly surprised to see how intense some of this film is. Sure, the Hays Code and the technicolor prevent the film from being too gruesome, but even without the rawness, I found a lot of this pretty shocking for 1939.
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    How many other classic films feature a husband raping his wife and then indirectly causing the miscarriage of the pregnancy that results from this sex act?
    In addition, I found myself really moved by certain parts of the film, and well, that did surprise me a little. Finally, I was surprised by the ending. I obviously knew some elements of the ending of the film because they're so iconic, but I did not realize
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    the film is so open-ended. It's very out of character for epics, I think, to depict years and years of these characters' lives, and then end it with Scarlett saying, "Oh, I'm sure I'll be able to solve this problem! But not till tomorrow."

  • Anyway, I've rambled on for long enough. This is Part Two of my quest to catch up on epic films, started with Ben-Hur over winter break. Now that I've graduated college and am still seeking employment in today's bone-dry job market, hopefully future installments will come shortly.

  • 43. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
  • My main concern when I heard about this fourth installment was that Harrison Ford is getting too old for this, but that is really the least of this film’s problems. The other Indiana Jones movies were a bit outlandish, but this film doesn’t just abandon credibility, it also slaughters the guy who invented credibility and then pisses on his grave. This applies not just to the plot developments but also to the superhuman feats of agility, strength, and invincibility that the characters employ. Worse, it applies to the fact that oftentimes the bad guys seem to be just dawdling long enough for Indy to come up with an escape plan or to crack a bad one-liner. It often seems to be visually quoting the other films in the series, but at least that is more successful than when it seems to be quoting Legends of the Hidden Temple. The characters are paper-thin, of course, but all this would be more forgivable if the film’s mysteries were more interesting. Every twist the audience experiences, every puzzle Indy figures out, is either predictable or completely nonsensical, and they’re all pretty boring. It’s not a terrible film, as it really only exists to create spectacle, and the spectacle is glorious and not without a certain wit (I found myself laughing a lot). In fact, I might have given the film a faint recommendation before I saw some of the atrocious jungle scenes and horrible ending. Spielberg can still make the screen look pretty, but this is a pretty hollow film. As I say this, do keep in mind that I’ve never been a big fan of the earlier Indiana Jones films, so maybe there’s something I just don’t get.

  • 44. The Band's Visit (2007)
  • I may be throwing out any credibility I had as an online critic by saying so, but I found this slow, subtle, quiet film to be highly overrated, especially at Rotten Tomatoes (where it has a 98%). I feel like a lot of these critics are just praising the film because it makes them feel smart to praise it. It's a pretty slight, unremarkable foreign film that milks every single shot with a ridiculously tedious pace, an artistic decision that might make it seem deep. It's not. Sure, every silent pause may look like a meaningful comment about humanity if that's the way you want to read into it, but what I saw was a film trying desperately to seem more meaningful than it actually was. I didn't dislike the film; it does have a pretty consistent stream of chuckles, and it gets in some interesting character development, but by the time it comes, you've already sit through a good chunk of the film, bored out of your mind. It's not without its charms, but if you're even the slightest bit tired when you see it, you might want to bring a pillow.

  • 45. Rebecca (1940)
  • Some of Hitchcock's later films are more about his direction than the story he's telling, but I think in Rebecca, his first Hollywood film, he strikes a perfect balance. The result is easily one of his best works, heralded by many as a masterpiece, and now I can join the club. In many ways, Hitchcock allows Rebecca's strong, gripping story room to breathe here; and in other ways, his direction takes center stage to create the perfect mood of eerie unease. I actually had no idea what to expect going into the film (
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    I thought this was a ghost story... and I guess in some ways, it is, just not one with a tangible ghost
    ), but I was immediately hooked by the character drama, and I found later developments even more engaging. The ending is also masterful;
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    I was wondering if our protagonists would meet a bitter end or if we'd get an all is well, happily ever after sort of ending. We get neither, of course, but instead one that continues the creepiness to the very last frame.

  • 46. The Band Wagon (1953)
  • As I began to write this review, I started to worry that all my reviews of Fred Astaire musicals sound the same. Then I realized that all my reviews of all movies sound the same, so I stopped worrying. Still, while it would be easy to write the same things here that I wrote when I reviewed Swing Time, a similarly plotless, mildly witty Fred Astaire vehicle, let's focus on what makes this movie different from his other works. (1) Color. Never seen Mr. Astaire in color before. (2) No Ginger Rogers. I liked Cyd Charisse in this, but must confess I prefer Rogers. (3) Metahumor. Astaire is basically playing a formerly famous star of musicals who feels like a has-been by 1953; the one man, one woman writing team is based on the famous musical writing team Betty Comden and Adolph Green, who wrote this musical; etc. (4) Extremely plotless. I think the movie actually suffers because of this. It has been a while (about 5 years) since I saw Top Hat and I don't remember much of it, but I do remember loving it more than many other old-timey musicals, and reading my review of the film, I comment that it actually has a funny story. Swing Time had less of one, and The Band Wagon has next to none. In fact, even the show-within-a-show, when we finally get to see it, doesn't seem to have an overarching story, despite the fact that we heard the writers describing the story to us in some detail. Maybe I'm the only one who cares; I just think musical numbers are more fun when they have a point, instead of just becoming a musical revue.

  • Still, the movie does put together a ton of well-done spectacle and a lot of awesome numbers, and for that, it is an entertaining film, if not a great one.

  • If you've been paying attention, you'll know that I've been trying to catch up on epic films that I've been putting off for some time. I have debated as to whether to include the next two films as part of this effort. They are both historical, long but under three hours, and pretty acclaimed although not really considered among the pantheon of classic epic films. I've decided to count them each as half-epics and call this Part 3 of the series.
  • 47. Sophie's Choice (1982)
  • Meryl Streep's performance in this film has been called one of the greatest filmed performances ever, and watching the movie, it's hard to disagree. To be fair, at least half the credit for every great performance probably belongs to the opportunities that a script presents to an actor, and Sophie Zawistowski is a hell of a character. A Holocaust survivor who now spends most of her time cavorting with her friend and boyfriend, hiding her emotional scars; who spends the rest of her time dealing with the emotional ups and downs of her volatile relationship; who must be weak and worn down by her life's turmoil yet vibrant and sexy enough to be alluring to two different men; and who must spend much of the movie speaking perfect German in a perfect Polish accent. Streep tackles the many different layers and tones of this performance marvelously, and her notorious method acting proves her here to be the finest actress of her generation, for anyone who isn't convinced already. The rest of the movie isn't quite the tour-de-force that this performance is, but the other elements are still terrific. The script is funny, engaging, and heartbreaking in all the right moments, Peter MacNicol hits all the right notes as the young Southern man in over his head, and Kevin Kline is even more outstanding in his complex role. Kline's would easily be the best performance in any movie that didn't also star Streep. He is great, but there's just something about the way that the camera lingers right on a close-up of Streep for so long as she's speaking. No action, little movement, just Meryl Streep talking, and you sense that the director thought the audience would be transfixed by every word she says just looking at her face. Watching this film, we know he is right.

  • 48. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)
  • The last time I reviewed one of these Powell/Pressburger collaborations, I pointed out how A Matter of Life and Death was less acclaimed on They Shoot Pictures than certain of their less accessible films, yet rated higher on the IMDB. Of course, now AMOLAD is lower-rated on the IMDB than Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes, and Colonel Blimp. The moral is, the IMDB is fickle and you should never try to make a point based on any findings on the Internet.

  • At this current moment, 2:30 am on June 4th, 2008, Eastern Standard Time, Colonel Blimp is the highest rated on the IMDB, and still highly acclaimed (although now less so than AMOLAD... oy), and indeed, this is another film that is both well-made and highly enjoyable even today. I prefer Powell/Pressburger when they have a sense of humor; The Red Shoes and Black Narcissus are both great, but a bit too melodramatic for my tastes. I didn't think my opinions on the quality of this fantastic film would be all that interesting, though, so instead I'd like to talk about how certain devices in this film seem surprisingly modern. Did it invent these devices? Probably not, although I don't recall seeing them in films anywhere near this old. Case in point:

  • 1) You know how sometimes a character will say something that seems like an offhand remark, but it will prove meaningful later on? The quote will be referenced or flashed back to, and it will seem eerily prophetic? It's become a cliche in the past couple decades or so; I know Million Dollar Baby does this, just off the top of my head. It's also done in Colonel Blimp, years ahead of its time.

  • 2) You know how sometimes when a film starts in medias res and then goes into a flashback, when you get back to the scene that we started with, we see the scene again, but from a different perspective? And maybe from a point of view that wouldn't have made sense to you the first time you watched the scene? It's done in pretty much every movie that showcases multiple perspectives. The TV show Alias did it like every other episode. And yes, it's in Colonel Blimp too.

  • 3) Also, you know how a lot of comedies will have one actor play multiple characters? This isn't that new; it's been done at least since the early sixties when Peter Sellers did a lot of this, but Eddie Murphy has garnered a notorious reputation more recently for playing multiple parts. Well, say hello to Deborah Kerr, the Eddie Murphy of her time.

  • 4) And finally, this movie pokes fun at the most iconic movie ever made: The Wizard of Oz. That may not seem significant, but I always thought it only became iconic more recently (at least within the last 30 years).

  • 49. Dexter: Season 1 (2006)
  • Like The Wire, this is another great reason to watch TV nowadays, one that perhaps sacrifices the other show's staunch commitment to realism in order to provide a twisty plot full of fascinating character revelations. How unbelievably bold to make a TV show with a character like Dexter as the protagonist. Someone who talks constantly about how his ASPD prevents him from feeling emotions, who spends his days brutally murdering people and never asking for forgiveness, but whom we end up rooting for anyway. The show itself could have been just as cerebral as its antisocial protagonist, focusing on the impact of the gore and the twists of the plot, but instead it gives us some truly heartfelt character drama. Indeed, the second-to-last episode of this season is the most emotional and character-focused, and the last episode is perhaps the most plot-driven, and both are equally compelling. Extremely compelling, in fact.

  • By the way, in pretty much every episode, Rita has a moment where she illustrates how painfully oblivious she is to Dexter's secret life. Be sure to watch out for these moments, as it just gets more and more hilarious how clueless she is.

  • 50. Intolerance (1916)
  • Part 4 of my attempt to catch up with epic films, this is actually sort of four epic films in one. A part of me felt early on that Griffith should have just told the story he had originally wanted to tell (the Modern Story) and left the other claptrap out of it, but as the other examples of Intolerance became more developed, I think they justified their existence in this movie for the most part. While the Modern Story was a touching melodrama, the other stories provided a greater sense of action and spectacle that provides the film with more of an epic feel. The Babylon Story worked best of the historical tales; although parts of it were hard to follow, it was visually fascinating. While I don't normally like battle scenes in war movies, watching a war where the weapons are spears and boiling oil was a new one on me. The French Story was along the same lines, although it doesn't work quite as well; the more modern massacring was less interesting to watch, the characters aren't as well developed, and the segment seems poorly paced, with too little development in the first half of the film and too much in the second half (too long after we've seen the setup scenes). The only scene I found particularly interesting in the French Story is the one where the king appears to have a fit of raving lunacy in response to a request to permit an act of genocide, but it was more morbid fascination than anything else. The Judean Story was really less a story than a few iconic scenes from Jesus's life, and while I didn't really mind them in the film, I didn't think they were all that necessary. The Modern Story is fairly standard for Griffith, but unlike Birth of a Nation, it holds up surprisingly well today, perhaps because Griffith could be a damn good storyteller when he wanted to be, featuring a lot of universal elements in the Modern Story that still resonate in 2008. Overall, the film does contain some interesting story parallels, but it comes together as a little uneven, a little preachy, and a little bloated. Still, this film represents a very good effort for such an ambitious undertaking, and it's certainly incredibly influential on filmmaking language, but you probably already knew that.

  • 51. Straw Dogs (1971)
  • I think I might be among the minority for finding the first hour or so of this film actually pretty interesting in its characterizations of a married couple who have a superficial playfulness but really aren't right for each other. Of course, the tension and the fact that this is a Peckinpah film means it's all largely a set-up for violence, and this particular violence has been controversial for the past 37 years. While The Wild Bunch shocked audiences in its time but seems pretty tame by today's standards (showing, perhaps, how influential it is), Straw Dogs pushed the boundaries so far it still shocked me today. It has inspired choruses of denigrators and defenders, and I think that for the debate it inspires alone, it can be seen as a worthwhile film. Great art is supposed to make us think and feel, and the film - with all its ambiguous morality - certainly does that.

  • 52. Barry Lyndon (1975)
  • Part 5 of my quest to catch up on epics I haven't seen. This, fortunately, is more an epic in name and in subject matter than in style. Rather than grand melodrama, the acting is more subdued, with most of the actors communicating so much with very little dialogue. The narrator fills in a lot of the gaps, and while Barry has a good deal of speaking time, Lady Lyndon really barely speaks at all. Visually the film has been said to try to mimic 18th century paintings; to accomplish this, they used very little artificial light, which gives the film a sort of natural, earthy look, and an interesting contrast with Barry's artifice. The film is really terrific, though, in the way that it can make us really sympathize with Barry (
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    particularly in the scenes with his son dying
    ) whereas others just make us think he's a greedy bastard. In a genre filled with archetypes, Barry is clearly a character with many nuances. I've probably blabbed on enough, and I haven't even mentioned all of the excellent, memorable moments from the film, from the opening scene that is erotic in its simplicity to the tense final duel sequence that had me on the edge of my seat. This is a really great movie, definitely one of Kubrick's best films, and that is saying a lot as he is one of my favorite directors.

  • 53. The Exterminating Angel (1962)
  • Deliciously bizarre satire by Bunuel that is, sadly, not available on DVD. Come on, Criterion, what are you waiting for? It's absurd without being random (although I love his films where giraffes are thrown out the window too), in a similar vein as The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, a film that I loved without really understanding why at the time. I should rewatch that one, I think. Anyway, much has been said about the way this film skewers the upper class and paints a cynical view of the underbelly of human nature, but since Bunuel [probably facetiously, to be fair] says that the film has no meaning, let's just say that it is damn hilarious and entertaining.
Author Comments: 

The title refers to the Writer's Guild strike currently going on as of 1/14/2008, but which may be a very dated joke by the time this list is through.

Or may not, given the way things are going.

Comments are always welcome, always have been, and always will be.

I have a recommendation for you; it's a recently released on DVD documentary called "The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters", which follows two men as they battle for the high score at Donkey Kong - one, the reigning champion with an impressive resume of classic arcade accomplishments (including being the first person to ever score a perfect game of Pac-Man), who comes off as somewhat of an arrogant prick, but has the mindset and attitude of a real champion (and delivers some pretty thoughtful lines), and two, the "hero" - a normal family man who happens to be obsessed with Donkey Kong. It's actually fairly brilliant, regardless of whether or not you're big into classic arcade gaming or not (and if you are, you'll no doubt enjoy it all the more for nostalgia reasons), as it's not just a documentary about Donkey Kong, but rather what it takes to be a world champion at ANYTHING. It's my second favorite film of the year (next to Hot Fuzz), check it out!!

Wow, I'm almost done this list and I've only gotten one comment so far? I've never received less than twenty before. That makes me sad. You all must be too busy posting about Scaruffi and the Beatles.

1) "...almost done with this list." What happens then? Never mind, I don't want to know.

2) Don't be sad. (or) I have become a liar.

3) I think I get overwhelmed by so many uninterrupted lines of text. When I get to spoilerized fields of white I almost choke on my whatever-it-is-that-I'm-eating-at-the-moment thing.

4) I don't think I've discussed Sophie's Choice since I walked out of the theater where I saw it. (When I read this over I realized how negative it sounds. It isn't. I just found the movie to be shattering.)

5) In a career of more than forty years why did your class watch seven movies from a ten-year period and six movies from the other thirty+ years? How old is your professor? You graduated?! Congratulations! (Are you sure you really want to do that?)

6) Positive, informative, supportive posts about the joy and artistry that an Italian contrarian critic and the Fab Four bring to all of our lives? That sounds awesome. Sign me up!

7) I'm sorry. I've been busy doing something(s)... and my desktop kablooified itself.

I do want to find out more of what you learned about Woody Allen. That can wait. (Although I do have to ask, in the thirteen movies you watched, how many people of colour did you notice?) But what I really want to say is: I thought the last Seinfeld episode was brilliant. The very idea of a series finale is an oxymoron of an impossibility. How do you say a tearful, tender goodbye to "No hugging. No learning."

I could make a half-baked case for a theoretical lens/framework through which to view the show. But if Seinfeld has taught us anything, it has taught us nothing.

1) Nah, I'll probably keep on writing my thoughts on these films and sending them into the abyss. I like to keep my brain thinking about film, and this might be the best way to do it.

3) Do you think I should reformat these with breaks of white between each review? Break them into paragraphs with white space in between?

4) Sophie's Choice certainly is shattering. I'm not sure how well I could've taken it if I were a mother or had a more personal experience with the Holocaust.

5) Zelig was actually my personal choice to watch (we had to watch a film that we weren't covering in class), so it's really six and six. Still, it does seem focused on that ten-year period, perhaps because Annie Hall was where Allen began to find his footing as a more complex filmmaker and it's interesting to explore where he went from there. My professor wanted a variety of different film styles, so that's probably when he was experimenting the most. Or maybe it's just that these films are the ones most often canonized as Allen's greatest.

I did graduate, and yeah, I would've probably preferred to stay at school, but I decided it was time for me to start making money instead of spending it, even if the work is less enjoyable and intellectually stimulating.

Allen does tend to focus on the upper-middle-class honkies, doesn't he? There is a black maid in Hannah and Her Sisters, and Annie Joe Edwards plays maids in Bullets Over Broadway as well as the film-within-a-film of The Purple Rose of Cairo. Yeesh.

Rewatching the Seinfeld finale, I really felt like the style of the episode was very different than any others, and not in a good way. What I love about the show are the interweaving plot threads that often seem like an excuse to, as Elaine puts it, "pore over the excruciating minutiae of every single daily event." You don't really get any of that here. It opens with the characters just lazing about seeming bored, and then by some ridiculous plot contrivances (par for the course in season 9), goes into a story that has all the characters not really experiencing anything besides a reliving of a lot of their past mishaps (isn't that what the flashback episode was for?).

I didn't want a tender goodbye, and I actually kind of like the end result, but the episode doesn't feel like Seinfeld to me.

Great to hear from you, 0dysseus. Glad you've made it back to Ithaca.

"Allen does tend to focus on the upper-middle-class honkies, doesn't he?" Well, you do what you know. There's little harm in that as long as we recognize it when it goes on. I'm just very surprised (and a little alarmed) at the portrait Woody Allen whitewashespaints of his beloved New York City.

Allow myself to quote yourself:
"What I love about the show are the interweaving plot threads that often seem like an excuse to... 'pore over the excruciating minutiae of every single daily event.'"


"and then by some... plot contrivances [which serve as an excuse to have] all the characters not really experiencing anything besides a reliving [and poring over the excruciating minutiae of] a lot of their past mishaps[including daily events.]"

That is part of the genius that I see in the finale. Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer remain blissfullymiserably unaware of their condition. But the audience, you and I and the other umpteen million viewers, are left to pore over the excruciating minutiae of the shows entire history.

To quote Elaine again, "I am George... I'm George... I'm George."

Jerry and George even return to one of the original nothingnesses about buttoning a shirt. They only guess at their stagnation. We, the audience, know their pointlessness and inanity. The finale hits us over the head with it. Jerry et al are literally (and figuratively) trapped within the series and are given a chance at self-reflection. It is a chance for redemption.

If they had redeemed themselves then, then we would have something to talk about. And that would betray the entire ethos of the show. If they had done that, if we knew that there was some warm and fuzzy "Very Special Blossom" conclusion to the series, it would ruin every episode.

I prefer to pore over the excruciating minutiae with you, safe in the knowledge that Newman is and always will be irredeemably evil, Puddy is impenetrably dense, Uncle Leo is inopportunely annoying... yadda...yadda...yadda.

Thank you, but I feel like I'm still halfway to Troy.

Right, but the reason I don't think it feels like Seinfeld is that the plot developments pretty much end after the first fifteen minutes or so, and the supporting characters flashing back to past stories is no substitute for the clever way that Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer talk about their daily lives.

Your analysis of the finale is very interesting though, and I do love the return to the shirt-buttoning discussion. I guess I would've preferred that they had taken these ideas and used them without making me feel like I'm watching a show with an entirely different style.

Like the format of this list any better now?

I find the format much easier to navigate... except for the sense of guilt over a change that might matter only to me.

Now if only the title(s) font could be made larger and on a line above the text of the review.

...and a paragraph first line indent, Georgia titles with Book Antiqua text, bolded titles with regular italicized dates and a more elegant, different-coloured typeset for spoilerized text.
Durn it! Now I have to hunt down my formatting palette.

Ummm... I will grant your first wish. The rest will probably only be accomplished if I can outsource the formatting to you, or at least someone more HTML-competent than I am.

Wow, have I really not commented on this?

As much time as I spend reading it?


I really enjoyed reading the Allen film-by-film. Now I want to watch several of them again!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Yeah, it was really great to rewatch those films. Like I said in some reviews, most of them I had watched before I was old enough to really appreciate them, both from a holistic character relatability standpoint and also from a standpoint focused more on the littler things (hell, I watched many of these films before I even knew who Ingmar Bergman was). So I picked up on new references and revelations this time, but also felt the nostalgia of having watched these films as a teenager. Adding to that sense is the fact that even the depressing moments of his films tend to be warm and engaging.

Thanks for the post!

I started loving those films when I was in junior high, and one of the great delights of them is how they improved as I grew older! ;)

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I think you're a bit harsh on "My Name Is Earl". It doesn't push the sitcom format as much as, say, "Arrested Development", but 'sentimental' seems a bit too critical to me.

Still loving these reviews though. I want to check out "Dexter" soon.

Oh, it doesn't have to push the sitcom format for me to like it, but when I'm watching it I often feel like it's about as moralistic as a show aimed at much younger audiences. Maybe if it didn't constantly explicitly spell out the moral lessons Earl learns, or if these lessons were a little less straightforward... I think I'd be more forgiving if the show were a little funnier, too.

I think Earl's narration is an attempt to mimic J.D.'s narration in Scrubs, but the latter has always worked better for me. Perhaps because J.D.'s narratives usually feel more personal, realistic, and complex.

I think TV is oversaturated with narration at the moment, everything from "Desperate Housewives" to "Grey's Anatomy" has narration and it's generally unnecessary. But I will agree "Scrubs" has probably the best narration of any of the current set.

However, I genuinely don't find the morals to be anywhere on "Earl" near as overbearing as "Scrubs". (Not that I find them very overbearing on "Scrubs" either, but I think they're at least more obvious there). Guess we'll have to agree to disagree! (If only the Scaruffi/Beatles debates would conclude in such a manner ;-) )

Really? I think the morals on Earl can't help being overbearing given that the show is based on an extremely simple moralistic concept (due to karma, good things happen to good people --> I should start doing good things and making up for bad things) that almost every episode revolves around. So I guess Scrubs's morals aren't any more or less overbearing in terms of how they are put forth, but I just feel like My Name Is Earl generally tends to have the same moral over and over again (I did good things --> it made people's lives better and made everyone happier, including me), whereas Scrubs's morals vary and feature some more thoughtful analysis into people's personal lives.

Even in addition to the narration, I feel like Earl has more moments that don't really sit well with me, either because of their sappiness (example: the end of Sticks & Stones when they're all jumping into the pool) or the corniness of the humor (example: the solution to dealing with the students in G.E.D.). Not that Scrubs doesn't have its misfires too, of course.

We may still have to agree to disagree, but I'm not sure my earlier posts stated my thoughts clearly enough, so I just wanted to say this.

I think I should remark something about Moore's Sicko. Good film, but when he went to Canada and interviewed those old people, I couldn't help but feel a bit uneasy. They said that when they go to the hospital, they only have to wait for 45 minutes maximum, or something to that extent. Well, that's bullshit. Total bullshit. I've lived in Canada all my life (great country, if not somewhat dull), in different provinces & urban/rural areas, and in my experience you can expect to wait at least 2-3 hours in the initial waiting room before they move you into another waiting area that takes 30-60 minutes. The last 3 times I went to the hospital (over the course of the last couple years) I waited between 4-6 hours each time. Perhaps it will take you 45 minutes if you go at 8:45am on a Sunday morning, but generally the hospital is busy as fuck. In fact, it's common knowledge here that you're going to have to wait and it's widely regarded as a maddening experience. These old people are not representative of Canadians as a whole. Mind you, we're 'proud' of our system, but it's not as effective as they made it out to be. I love these reviews AJ.

Hmm, good to know. I guess I'll think twice about my plans to move to the Great White North in search of utopian health care.

Well, there's always utopian homoerotic man love with strange, lonely listology users who work out a lot and think that it's hard to find someone as sensitive as you. (isn't that reason enough?)..