_Musings on Movies #1

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  1. As my tastes and perspectives evolve, many old reviews no longer reflect how I now feel about them.
  2. The Policeman's Little Run (1906) - features one of the first lead performances by an animal that required significant training. It's also one of the earliest movies that made me laugh consistently.
  3. Intolerance (1916) - D.W. Griffith followed The Birth of a Nation, the biggest blockbuster of its time, with the most expensive flop of its time: Intolerance. The movie is a disorganized, unsuccessful combination of four stories (only two get any screen time, though) that supposedly explore themes of intolerance. In the end, Intolerance fails to intrigue or make a point.
  4. One Week (1920) - One Week is the best silent short I've ever seen (yes, better than Sherlock, Jr.). The physical and sight gags are absolutely brilliant, and Keaton once again shows himself to be quite a stunt man. Constantly hilarious.
  5. Safety Last! (1923) - Safety Last! is simultaneously a harrowing cliffhanger and riotous comedy. The physical gags, dialogue, and situational comedy provide a new laugh every 5 seconds. What's more impressive is that the drama is a perfect construction of rising action and endless complication for our hero. In Safety Last!, the filmmakers have boiled down perfect dramatic structure into a simple tale of a man climbing a building.
  6. The Last Laugh (1924) - good story and good acting, but the real star of this film is the camera, which is more active and subjective than in any other film I've seen from that time. Some particularly memorable shots feature a drunk looking about and the camera showing the world through his eyes - distorted and fuzzy.
  7. The Thief of Baghdad (1924) - The acting is a little over the top even for its time, but the action, adventure, heart, and bits of comedy are great. The sequence of the Mongol Prince's men taking over the city is incredible. The quickest two and a half hours I've experienced in a long time.
  8. The Lost World (1925) - One of the first feature-length sci-fi features is an excuse for primitive stop-motion animation with virtually no story and certainly no heart. For the same tale told better, see King Kong (1933).
  9. The General (1927) - The General is a simple story well told, with endless laughs and great dramatic structure. It's the story of a man who singlehandedly chases Union spies who steal a train, through enemy lines and back again. Buster Keaton's finest picture.
  10. Freaks (1932) - Never before have I so thoroughly enjoyed every second of a non-comedy, pre-1935 film. A fairly simple love/revenge tale told against the fascinating backdrop of circus freaks, Freaks is brilliant, intriguing, entertaining, and touching, with a killer of an ending.
  11. King Kong (1933) - an epic adventure film that still defines decades of overblown eye candy blockbusters. Its weak characters and spectacle-serving plot may be partially forgiven by its historical context, but it's still a more important film than it is an excellent one.
  12. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) - An innocent adventure film that gives no apology for its simple morals and character archetypes. Fantastic action and Technicolor that holds up surprisingly well today. It's basically a manual on the construction of the classic mythic story.
  13. The Rules of the Game (1939) - Much as the network is the protagonist in Network (1976), the entire bourgeoisie seems to be the protagonist in Rules of the Game, Renoir's biting criticism of French aristocracy, and one of the most elegant, carefully constructed movies I've seen. It may take a few views for a modern foreigner (or indeed, anyone) to navigate its seemingly chaotic structure, numerous characters, and heavily layered scenes. It's a shame that it requires so much hard work to survive the above and thusly find that this is one of the most brilliant films ever made. A film I respect more than I enjoy.
  14. Wuthering Heights (1939) - I generally don't go for weepy, romantic chick flicks, but I have to take an objective step backwards from this film and admit that it's superbly crafted and acted. Why it hasn't been remade in big Hollywood fashion (ala Sense and Sensibility) is beyond me.
  15. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) - I like ghost stories, and this is a very effective and original one. The occasionally clumsy dialogue slightly hinders an otherwise great ghost/love movie. Excellent camerawork.
  16. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) - terrific acting, a great story, and effective dialogue. The film's primary weakness is how suddenly and inexplicably Blanche moves from a competent human being to an all-out psycho.
  17. You for Me (1952) - quick, witty (and often corny) dialogue keeps the film interesting, if not believable or respectable. Actually, the pace, dialogue, and plot make the film feel more like a 70-minute TV sitcom episode than a movie. Totally dispensable silliness. Today's comparison film might be Along Came Polly.
  18. The War of the Worlds (1953) - Wow, fantastic visuals for 1953! The scenes that pad the sci-fi action are much better than those of other notable 50s sci-fi flicks. However, several major plot holes, a let-down ending, and flat characters keep it from greatness. It's interesting that Independence Day not only stole its story from War of the Worlds, but also the look of its 'scientist that has all the answers.'
  19. The Bad Seed (1956) - Damn, if this movie isn't creepy. Every 10 minutes there's a plot point that makes it twice as creepy, until it accelerates towards its finale, which is absolutely horrible (in a very good way). On top of that, the acting is awesome, the characters are well developed, and... did I mention its creepy? Creepy cool. And the ending is great (the actual, non-censor-imposed ending, anyway).
  20. La Jetee (1962) - a French science fiction masterpiece. The short philosophical treatise (disguised as an immensely effective fictional tale) is told in still images and voice-over narration. The still image approach allows each frame to be a brilliant composition of beauty and power, and (along with the narration) eliminates the need for dialogue and expository scenes. This results is a full-length cinematic story told in a brisk 29 minutes. With its brevity, stylistic approach, and subtle commentary on memory, destiny, warfare, humanity, childhood, loss, and more, La Jetée is cinema's closest cousin to poetry.
  21. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967) - It's systematic calculation isn't as well-disguised as it needs to be, but this remains a tender story with great characters and dialogue.
  22. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) - it's mediocre acting and directing, weak ending, and throwaway plot can't deny that this is the funniest film ever made.
  23. Clash of the Titans (1981) - not a terrible film, story-wise, but badly acted and written, and visually two decades before its time. Watch Disney's Hercules instead.
  24. Tron (1982) - An excellent premise and a great use of primitive computer technology to realize it, but the story, characters, dialogue, and scenes weren't handled with the care of, say, War Games. Recommended for nerds and nostalgiacs (yes, that's a NEW word), and few others.
  25. The Last Starfighter (1984) - Why this movie isn't better known is beyond me. Sure, it's 80s sci-fi cheese, but it's pretty tasty 80s sci-fi cheese. A fun fantasy adventure if you don't take it more seriously than it takes itself.
  26. Splash (1984) - Despite featuring the perfect female (constant, unwarranted sex, no talking) at the outset of the movie, Splash fails to intrigue, impress, or achieve scene-to-scene plausibility.
  27. Dune (1984) - I wanted to like this film, and it has a lot going for it: breathtaking visuals, effectively presented technology, culture, and history, and decent acting. However, the annoying and unnecessary 'talking thoughts,' disjointed plot, and too-numerous, under-developed characters keep me from enjoying and recommending this film.
  28. Ran (1985) - celebrated by film geeks and fan boys for its stylistic and technical choices, but I feel that Kurosawa's work here is self-indulgent and inconsiderate of the audience, cutting short glorious spectacles and overusing and too-long, static shots. All this is not to say it isn't still a good, possibly great movie.
  29. To Live (1994) - A touching and effective story on every level. Somehow, it's no worse off for lack of driving goals, as, much like Forrest Gump, you just can't wait to see what happens next in the life of this family. One of the best films of the year, and surprisingly palatable for the American tongue.
  30. From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) - What the hell? This is two totally different movies, combined just like they should NOT be. The first half is decent, the second half is pretty bad. Putting the two together is very, very, VERY bad.
  31. The Arrival (1996) - an alien invasion movie obviously overshadowed by Independence Day, but surprisingly effective. I was captivated by the film from start to finish, despite its shortcomings.
  32. Starship Troopers (1997) - This movie is a lot of fun to watch. Unfortunately, it tries too many things, and as a result, accomplishes none of them. And, it never answered one MAJOR question: why the HELL don't the humans just nuke the bug planets?
  33. In the Company of Men (1997) - one of those wonderfully simple stories drawn out to its fullest extent. The dialogue is excellent, full of character, context, philosophy, and subtlety. The acting is solid, though not Oscar-worthy. A great movie that unfortunately makes more sense as a play.
  34. The Matrix (1999) - an excellent film with great story, plot, characters, action, understated humor, and effects. It's detractors are perhaps too blinded by the bombastic thrills to see the strong backbone and excellent storytelling. A few decades from now, this will be remembered alongside Blade Runner and Metropolis.
  35. American Beauty (1999) - American Beauty is a perfectly scripted, wonderfully acted, confidently directed, beautiful movie. I once believed it was the best film ever made. I no longer hold that view, but it's still way up there.
  36. Moulin Rouge (2001) - Buz Luhrman's attempt to revive the Hollywood musical by making it 'hip and modern' with MTV-style editing falls flat on its face. Even the large-scale musical numbers fail to impress because they are shown in quarter-second close-up shots rather than sweeping wide shots that flaunt the glamor and spectacle of the hundreds of performers. The most grating direction and editing since Hulk. I understand that it aspires to be an over-the-top, frenetic modern musical but the result is a cinematic drug overdose that left me withered and blind.
  37. Shrek (2001) - A cinematic confection that dates itself faster than a J. Lo marriage. Not a bad movie, per se, but a relentlessly irritating one. Perhaps the most 'mainstream' movie ever, with the possible exception of Shrek 2.
  38. Winged Migration (2001) - While narration is sparse, the movie wouldn't lack without it. The film is a visual feast, and has more in common with Koyaanisqatsi than most documentaries. Perhaps the most stunning and beautiful film of the year, and completely without special effects.
  39. Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) - I figured the writing would improve after the opening expository scenes. It didn't. Everything about this movie feels half-assed: the writing, the animation, the characters - at some points, even the voice acting. For a better story, better characters, more magic, better voice acting, and more fun, try Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (video game).
  40. Hearts in Atlantis (2001) - an extremely mediocre film. In general, the story works, but its elements are so cliche that if I didn't know better, I'd swear I'd seen the film before. The lead character is poorly acted, the dialogue and many of the scenes are cheesy and very predictable. A very 'safe' film, to its loss.
  41. Chicago (2002) - I'm not generally a fan of musicals, and I hated Moulin Rouge, so I was expecting to dislike Chicago. But after good music, great acting, and effective scenes and story, I was left with nothing to complain about. In appreciated efficiency, the film's musical numbers spice up the plot in metaphorical dreams rather than interrupt it.
  42. Code 46 (2004) - succeeds (for the most part) in creating a believable future world, but this Brief Encounter wannabe doesn't falls somewhere short of the original and Lost in Translation.
  43. Miracle (2004) - Kurt Russel's performance fails to elevate cliched construction and mediocre direction above 100 other sports movies that have shown us the same conflicts and characters, better.
  44. Collateral (2004) - The first ten minutes of the film and the name Michael Mann made me feel very safe with this film. And, despite some complaints too minor to mention, I found Collateral to be a smartly constricted, always-engaging thriller.
  45. Scarface (1983) - better than it has any right to be, Scarface is a mix of over-the-top camp and gritty realism that is, astonishingly, successful in this film alone. De Palma and Pacino believed in this movie, and that's what made it work.
  46. Andrei Rublev (1969) - though it spends too much time philosophizing, I was seduced by the classy and dynamic camerawork, the fantastically dreary Medieval setting, and some of the best direction I've ever seen. Not to mention the hordes of naked women.
  47. The Black Pirate (1926) - can a film that begins with "...being an account of buccaneers & the Spanish Main, the Jolly Roger, golden galleons, bleached skulls, buried treasure, the plank, dirks & cutlasses, scuttled ships, marooning, desperate deeds, desperate men, and - even on this dark soil - romance" be any less than 'really cool?' Certainly not.
  48. Casablanca (1942) - This film can be found in most critics' 'top 10' lists, but I've heard many people say it's overrated. I recently watched the film for the first time since childhood, and came away assured this movie belongs in those 'top 10' lists. The impressive thing about this film is all the different levels it works on. The dialogue, acting, characters, and several layers of story flow together more beautifully than in nearly any other film I've seen. Believe the hype, this one's a winner.
  49. Day of Wrath (1943) - Haunting. This whole movie is haunting. Lisbeth Movin's performance is haunting. The camerawork, scenes, story, everything - incredibly well done and incredibly, you guessed it, haunting. Loved it.
  50. The Parson's Widow (1920) - Carl Dreyer directs a comedy? As you might guess, the result is something like Harold and Maude. Though, perhaps surprisingly, not for it's tone; it involves a 'romance' (well, a marriage, anyway) between a young man and an elderly woman. The comedy isn't as physical or hysterically funny (except for a hilarious-looking devil-costume scene) as a Keaton or Chaplin silent, but just as broad. One of the best films of the year, though I'd never heard of it before I caught it on TCM.
  51. Michael (1924) - basically a heterosexual 'Gods and Monsters,' though not done nearly as well. Probably the most average, forgettable, and 'uncommentable' full-length silent film I've seen (though, not the worst). Skip it.
  52. M (1931) - a really good film that defies, me, personally, to like it. For someone who's favorite directing style is Tarkovsky's, M's continuous close-ups are grating. It was also difficult to appreciate a film not about characters, but people. To me, it's really a film of images more than plot, but, as a detective story, I was expecting plot! Repeat viewings might improve my estimation of the film. At the moment, though, it stands beside the likes of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and The Rules of the Game as a movie I respect but don't really enjoy.
  53. Gone with the Wind (1939) - After being pleasantly surprised that Casablanca really was 'that good,' my repeat viewing of Gone with the Wind left me disappointed. It's storytelling and dialogue is damn good, and the film looks great (I'm sure I saw a 'restored' version, but still...), but it has too many flaws to be 'one of the best films ever.' The first half of the film is pretty great, but it's second half languishes. Had the second half been cut down to its essentials, around half an hour, this would've been a much better film. Two hours of Scarlett trying to decide if she loves Rhett is a real let down after the spectacular, exciting, interesting first half.
  54. Grant Hotel (1932) - I kept waiting for the characters of this ensemble to be brought together in a highly dramatic way (I was hoping for a Die Hard situation). Alas, the film ends up being 'much ado about nothing.' It's also unfortunate that the dialogue and performances dated so badly. A good film that could've been much better.
  55. The Prisoner of Zenda (1937) - Much like Day of Wrath, this movie came out of nowhere and floored me. Great storytelling, characters, dialogue, and adventure. Yet another candidate for 'they just don't make 'em like they used to.' And, the only problem I had with the movie I later realized not to be a problem at all:
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    I thought, how could Michael & company be so sure that soon-to-be-king Rudolph had drunk the drugged wine brought to him when he almost decided not to drink it that night? I realized later, the steward who had brought the wine, of course, reported to Michael that he had drunk it, since he was not there in the morning like the maid, who had also been in on the plot.
  56. Snowball Fight (1896) - This aptly titled short is the single, most broadly entertaining film of the entire 19th century! It depicts the unstaged scene of adults and children, in suitcoats and hats, pummeling each other with snow in unadulterated fun. How the times have changed.
  57. Billy's Balloon (1998) - Not that I'd ever admit this to any woman who might sleep with me, but I don't like small children, especially infants. So, a film about cut balloons beating infants to death, and then playing with their dead bodies, REALLY makes me laugh. The comedic timing and sound effects are absolutely perfect. Ohhhhhh... you MUST see this.
  58. The Killing (1956) - man, 1956, and it reminded me most of Pulp Fiction! Quite a feat by Kubrick! It's a shame the unnecessary and over-the-top narration kept butting in to irritate an otherwise well-structured and captivating thriller.
  59. The Cathedral (2002) - know how I've always wanted to see a movie made entirely of concept art? Well, this is it. This is the most stunningly beautiful movie I've ever seen, and it wasn't made on a $150 million budget. A MUST SEE.
  60. Un Chien Andalou (1929) - A highly disturbing and irrational avant-garde film meant to shock and unnerve and nothing else. In this, it succeeds, but it's too bad that the daring content was not justified or made more powerful by a story or message.
  61. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) - While impeccably plotted and structured, the film's stylistic choices clash. The realism of makeup-barren faces and its dedication to the source writings about Joan war with the impressionistically unbalanced sets (which reminded me of Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and I later learned they were designed by the same person) and the claustrophobic cinematography, which pulls the audience out of the film because they cannot see the scene. A good film, but its daring direction does not fully succeed. A perfect example for the theory that today's critics are far more forgiving of early films than of today's.
  62. Noah's Ark (1929) - Though daring and progressive in structure and theme (similar to Griffth's Intolerance, in some ways), this film panders to the masses in every conceivable way. Not all of this is bad, but it does leave you with quite a uninteresting (if often spectacular) film - much like I feel about Hell's Angels, which came a year later.
  63. Pillow Talk (1959) - Geez, for a movie without any sex in it, this flick sure has a lot of sex in it! It's an enjoyable and barely memorable 'sex comedy,' with a great performance by Doris Day and a terrible one by Tony Randall. I think the biggest reason I didn't enjoy this movie was that it was too obvious and simplistic, with no surprises whatsoever. There are several scenes where you know exactly what's going to happen, but it takes 10 minutes for it to happen, and you're just waiting the whole time to get to the next scene.
  64. Singing in the Rain (1952) - I'd forgotten how much this movie rules. By far, it's the most enjoyable musical ever made. The musical numbers are awesome, the narrative never really stops for the music, and the story and characters don't serve the musical numbers (it's the other way around, as it should be). Another classic that I'm glad to say deserves its praise. "Make 'Em Laugh" is truly one of the greatest film scenes ever.
  65. Passing Parade (1938) - I'm not sure which short 'episode' I caught on Turner Classic Movies channel, but it was one narrated by a handgun. One interesting sequence shows some boys playing with the gun, with one nearly shooting himself but then accidentally shooting his dog. As the narrator says, 'As if I were to blame, I was disassembled... how sentimental these Americans are.' This would point to a pro-gun stance, but the end of the film reads: 'There are millions of war souvenirs in repose today...Some of them are potential killers - a menace to children...' Its contradictory message and strange POV approach were interesting, but little else was.
  66. Leaves from Satan's Book (1921) - Dreyer's second film is nearly an exact clone of Griffith's Intolerance. While Dreyer's stories are more evenly developed than Griffith's, they are told less imaginatively and spectacularly. The film is so literal and bland, especially for the early stories - not to mention heavily commented with overused title cards - that it is thisclose to being a documentary about Satan's activities rather than a fictional film. At least Intolerance was a noble and spectacular failure; this is just a cheap ripoff that does its job far worse than its predecessor.
  67. Battle Royale (2000) - Everything has to be 'extreme' today. This is "eXtreme PaintBall 2000!!!". The premise is rather silly: 42 inexplicably combat-competent teenagers are forced to kill each other on an uninhabited island. But the story is told with such conviction and skill that the film rises above its central idea. The opening exposition is handled obviously but entertainingly, so things get started pretty quickly and never let up. Unfortunately, several characters' decisions and attitudes I couldn't swallow if they were dipped in smooth chocolate kept it from being the great film it could have been.
  68. Angel on My Shoulder (1946) - the evil version of Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941), starring Claude Rains in virtually the same role. Not as good as its predecessor, but a worthy followup. The early sequence in Hell is very memorable: appropriately creepy, atmospheric, and, well, hellish. As a matter of fact, it's the best part of the movie, and the film never quite lives up to its opening, despite giving a good effort.
  69. Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) - Lorenzo Carcaterra's 'Sleepers' is supposedly an autobiographical work, but the movie it resulted in - Sleepers (1996) - might as well be a remake of Angels with Dirty Faces. The same characters, settings, structure, and much of the story are all there. The Cagney pic is a great tale, and not quite as heavy-handed as the 1996 'version' (and thus, more moving, I think).
  70. Faces of Gore (1999) - This is the first full-length film I've seen purely out of morbid curiosity (the second will probably be Salo, or The 120 Days of Sodom). The movie is essentially a collection of real death and mutilation caught on videotape, introduced and narrated (quite terribly) by the fictional Dr. Vincent van Gore. While the video collected is extraordinary, the editing and narration is downright horrible. Definitely not recommended for the squeamish, the film opens with a crew of workers having to use a crowbar to pry loose a man's head that was split open and wrapped completely around a wooden post. Trust me, the imaginations of today's goriest filmmakers can't touch the gruesomeness of this real stuff. So, if that kind of thing peaks your interest, check it out. If you're squeamish or looking for a good documentary, avoid it like the gruesome deaths the film depicts. It should be noted this is not a snuff film, as the cameramen did not perpetrate what they filmed. This collection is often far more gruesome than the short snuff films I've seen, though.
  71. Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1987) - This short (43 min) documentary suffers from being extremely "80s." It's technique of showing all the Carpenters as Barbies and other small dolls is interesting for 5 minutes and then becomes annoying. The voices are obviously not supplied by the Carpenters, and aren't well-acted. The musical interludes are too long and do not contribute at all to the film. Black text is repeatedly placed over a partially dark background, so you can't read it. I won't, however, fault it for 'unnecessarily' covering a subject that is better understood today. Not terrible, but highly overrated.
  72. Solaris (1972) - After enjoying Tarkovsky's attention to both "wow-factor" photography and touching human drama in Andrei Rublev, I was excited to see what he would do with a film set in space. But Solaris is the anti-2001; the story is told almost entirely through the characters, and does not utilize the spectacular setting at all. In retrospect, it feels like Tarkovsky does not like science fiction, and yet he does allow occasional snippets of 'hard' science to slip into his deliberately paced character drama (neutrinos, etc.). I'm sure my reaction to the film results somewhat from my unmet expectations, but Solaris cannot compare to Andrei Rublev in its direction or overall artistic mettle. Though I wish it had been set entirely in space like the novel, it's still better than the recent Soderbergh adaptation.
  73. Sixteen Candles (1984) - This movie is important as a historical record of everything that was wrong with the 80s. The pop music, the fashions, the styles, the speech... and the movies. When people start calling this a 'classic,' something is seriously wrong. I don't understand it, really: the 70s were going so well, and could've led straight to the 90s, but instead we had a decade-long black hole of cinematic teen fluff. Not that there weren't good movies made during the 80s, but there was a whole lot of highly popular worthless dreck masquerading as meaningful, relevant studies of teen life. Sixteen Candles is one of these.
  74. The Maltese Falcon (1941) - a well-plotted mystery noir with excellent dialogue, memorable characters, and an archetypal performance from Bogart. There are numerous great, surprising plot twists, but it's unfortunate that several of them are played out in long, clumsy, expository speeches.
  75. The Corporation (2003) - I saw the original 3-part, 3-hour TVO broadcast from which the 145 minute release was cut. Strangely, there is no mention of this in the IMDB entry. It's a chilling and well-edited documentary. There aren't really any segments that should have been cut, but rather dozens of 15-30 second pieces that could have been cut to make the film more powerful. Until I see the DVD release, I'll give it the benefit of the doubt that it improved upon the original cut slightly, which is excellent already.
  76. Immortal (Ad Vitam) (2004) - Mix Blade Runner with 1999's The Mummy, use the style and 100% CGI approach of Sky Captain, replace all but a couple of the human actors with crappily animated alternates, and you've got Immortal: a French comic book adaptation about Egyptian gods who want to procreate in a futuristic New York. It's certainly imaginative, and often stunning, but pretty boring and silly. The animation is often about 8 years behind the times. Notable as part of a group of simultaneous films shot 100% against CGI sets and backgrounds, and certainly not for any artistic merit. Not a terrible film, but pretty disappointing, after the knockout trailer.
  77. Vampyr - Der Traum des Allan Grey (1932) - Vampyr (like Joan of Arc) is great but overrated. The sound mix is terrible, even for its time. A quarter of the movie seems to consist of characters reading from a book about vampires - one of the most blatantly clumsy expository techniques I've ever seen (only because it was used so much, though. This is supposed to be a movie, not a book! That being said, Vampyr is perhaps the earliest movie to 'unnerve' me (along with Nosferatu). Characters that exist only in shadow, supernaturally moving skulls and skeletons,
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    the main character becoming a kind of ghost
    , and other imaginative (for the time) techniques effectively bring an intense atmosphere to the picture.
  78. Taxi Driver (1976) - I love this movie. While there's plenty of plot, I think the real focus is the character of Travis, his inner feelings, his motivations. His 'descent' is one of the most fascinating and perfectly realized I've ever seen, and certainly leads to quite a climax. Performances are fantastic all around. I could talk for hours about how cool this movie is, but if you've seen it, you know that already.
  79. Super Size Me (2004): After the apocalyptic The Corporation, Sperlock's Super Size Me was a welcome breather. Sperlock is a regular guy who hasn't sterilized himself for the big screen. The real surprise triumph here is the way Sperlock manages tone and pace - better, I thought, than Moore's work in Fahrenheit. But while the featured doctors and I were surprised at the severity of the McDiet's effects, I came away wondering, 'what's the point?' Everyone knows McDonald's is unhealthy, and we all knew that McDonald's reps are lying when they say otherwise.
  80. Groundhog Day (1993) - Great! The film even tricked me twice into thinking Murray would wake up the next day before that actually happened - which is not to say I was waiting for the movie to end. Just like Bruce Almighty, I felt the film missed a lot of opportunities with its premise, but it would have been difficult to keep the film as 'together' and streamlined while implementing more jokes. Throughly entertaining from start to finish.
  81. Army of Darkness (1993) - Wow! What an effective sequel! While it's very similar to Evil Dead 2, the change of setting was a brilliant choice to make it fresh. Again, this movie requires an understanding of its intent to be appreciated - this is not a neo-realism flick. This is an over-the-top horror/comedy joyride. While there's nothing here to top the dismembered hand sequence of Evil Dead II, I enjoyed Army of Darkness more. There was more action, more fun, more spectacle (just like any good sequel). The battle at the fortress was amazing, and I'm a tiny bit less impressed with Jackson's Helm's Deep sequence having seen what Raimi did here a decade earlier and with a much smaller budget. Certainly one of the most rewatchable films I've ever seen. Gotta show my friends this one. Bruce Cambell is a force of nature.
  82. Grave of Fireflies (1988) - While I still dislike anime (it's cheap, corner-cutting, stylistically irritating crap), I really enjoyed this one. It also provides another argument for convincing my foreign-phobic friends of the importance of overseas cinema; would a film about the US firebombing 100,000 Japanese civilians to death ever be made stateside? The story quite touching and well-structured. I occasionally wished it was manipulating me in less cliche ways (small cute child crying loudly, etc.), though. There were a few great moments for which the expense is rarely spared in American animation: for example, when Seita is in the tub with Setsuko, and he entertains her by trapping air in a cloth or something: she pushes it underwater, but of course it pops up again, and they laugh. Also, the two singing in the rain under an umbrella in need of repair. These and other moments I found very touching.
  83. Ju-on: The Grudge (2003) - Ugh. This film was thisclose to avoiding my 'garbage' category. Cheap scares, cliche... everything, altogether uninteresting, flat characters, no story to speak of. I'm sick of writing about it already.
  84. The Mascot (1934) - Woah... this was made in 1934??? This is Wallace & Gromit quality stuff, here. The stop-motion animation is superb and extremely varied: dozens of highly active, totally different creatures confront our hero: a stuffed animal who embarks on a quest for his child master and encounters a remarkable array of challenges and characters along the way. Like a short predecessor to Toy Story, but with more intense and 'scary' content.
  85. Alphaville (1965) - My first Godard film was surprisingly unexperimental. It catered to my tastes in cinematography and story, but the futuristic world was realized ineffectively (if at all), and the 1960s decor and technology clashed with the occasional futuristic device. Dialogue like "[a certain computer] is 150 light years more powerful..." makes me wonder if Godard bothered to read a single book on science before writing a science fiction story. But perhaps most maddening is that the effective story does not depend on any of the science fiction elements, and would have been much better told in the present. The result is a good story told inconsistently in the wrong setting. Also,
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    I have a hard time believing the police would not disarm Lemmy when they took him in for questioning before Alpha 60 near the end of the film.
  86. The Innocents (1961) - The suspense doesn't build as naturally, nor are the performances as strong as in The Bad Seed or The Others, two obvious companions. The less-than-stellar performances meant that I didn't believe what was happening in most scenes. Still, it's very creepy, and has more possible 'jump' moments than other films of the time (excepting Psycho). A disappointment, but still good.
  87. The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (1929) - The film is notable for featuring nearly every major MGM star of the time. It also makes a noble attempt utilizing the power of film to present something that could not be seen on a stage (though the entire film takes place on a stage). However, there isn't a single laugh or particularly interesting song number in it. Very 'blah.'
  88. Alexander Nevsky (1938) - Like Modern Times (1936), this is almost a 'half-silent.' There may be fewer than a dozen sound effects in the film (and those might have been added for the DVD). I'm not sure why people talk about the cinematography in this film - it seemed pretty stale and unremarkable to me, but I'll always be a philistine. I will say this film had the best helmets of any film ever made (and that includes Spaceballs). Overall, I was pretty underwhelmed by the movie, but I'm not sure anything I could have seen would have lived up to its poster.
  89. Rushmore (1998) - The great thing about this movie is that it places several well-developed and distinct characters together and lets the plot evolve from their personalities and interactions. It doesn't hurt that I was gleefully giggling (I mean, heartily guffawing in a booming voice) throughout the picture. Alas, the movie nearly falls apart after Max and Herman make up in the graveyard. The denouement that begins there takes far too long to finish. Thankfully, it finishes triumphantly in the best 'school play' scene I've ever scene.
  90. Bottle Rocket (1996) - I'll go out on a limb, here, and compare this one to The African Queen in that every step of the plot coincides with a shift in the central relationship. It's a great way to make a movie. However, Bottle Rocket isn't as consistently successful as Rushmore (nor The African Queen, of course). One moment in which the 'bully hecklers' pull up in an SUV and stop just to give Dignan a hard time comes to mind. Like Rushmore, it starts to drag after the first 45 minutes (just when it should be accelerating) - until the final heist. A good movie in many ways, a mediocre movie in nearly as many.
  91. Roger Dodger (2002) - I love finding these unthinkable comparisons. I'm going to draw a parallel to Return of the King. All of Roger Dodger's power is focused upon Nick's return to his 'normal world.' The film ending where it does is like excluding the Scourging of the Shire from Return of the King. Thankfully, Roger Dodger at least hints at how Nick has been empowered by his adventure, but I'd loved to have seen more. Still, a relentlessly engaging film (and probably educational, though Nick's level of innocence has probably dropped back to only tweens in just the two years since the film was released).
  92. Control Room (2004) - A good documentary that doesn't suffer for lack of narration (contrary to lbangs' thoughts, I think the movie made it clear who people were and what their biases were before it allowed them to say controversial things, so that you had the right saltshaker in hand whenever anything was said). Interestingly, an investigation of the biased reporting of the Al-Jazeera network ends up revealing just as much bias in American propaganda. An American soldier interviewed for the film summed up everything quite nicely: "It benefits Al-Jazeera to play to Arab nationalism, because that's their audience, just like Fox plays to American patriotism... because that's their demographic audience, and that's what they want to see. The part that disappoints me is that Arab nationalism has to include the anti-Americanism." Combined with this year's Outfoxed, Big Media is getting a bad name. It must be time for... bloggers!
  93. Fahrenhype 9/11 (2004) - It's frustrating that one of the most important films of the year is rendered less effective by making the same mistakes as the movie it counters. Moore's film often pushed too far to make it's point and was too obviously a propaganda film for the elections, and so is Fahrenhype 9/11. Still, if you've seen Fahrenheit 9/11, it's very important that you see Fahrenhype 9/11. It documents more than a dozen outright lies in Moore's film, and makes the case that America is a great country and that its soldiers are noble (as opposed to Moore, who hates America and debases our its soldiers in his film). What we need now is a third film that finds the truth and Machiavellian statements in both arguments and presents them without bias.
  94. Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941) - A serial film with what must be some of the best action of its time, but, unfortunately, little attempt made at art. The dialogue is pretty bland, and some of the characters' actions are ridiculous. Still, it's a grand adventure with fantastic action, and worth checking out. Could be the epitome of the action/adventure serial, though I have yet to see 'Buck Rodgers.'
  95. Dementia (1955) - (free download available) An interesting but failed experiment. The film has no dialogue except for the occasional over-the-top voiceover. It attempts to explore the unsettled psychological landscape of a young woman. There seems to be no real purpose for excluding dialogue from the film, as it moves and plays just like a normal movie rather than taking some unique approach more suited to a movie about psychology instead of characters and situations. It's also strange that character's voices are audible when laughing or crying or whatever, but they are silent when they begin speaking words.
  96. Trailing the Killer (1932) - Here's my theory: you can never have too many dogs or puppies in a movie - not even 101 is too many, as we've seen many times before. Technically, I guess this movie is about trailing a killer, but it's really got more about great shots of animals being wonderful and cute and smart and everything - kind of like Milo and Otis, but better.
  97. Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954) - What's this? A respectably-represented red-haired main character? No, 7! Also: when I walk into a store and announce that I'm going to marry a young girl by day's end, the girls in the store scowl instead of giggle. Maybe I need to grow a mustache. Or lift heavy sacks of grain every day. Seriously, though, this has got to be one of the best musicals ever made. As a film, though, it's not quite up there with Wizard of Oz or Singin' in the Rain. This is an innocent film with pretty colors, fairy-tale characters, and not a hint of cynicism - which means I'll never like it as much as American Beauty or The Matrix, but still: good times, good times.
  98. Night of the Living Dead (1968) - Riddled with cliches. But for once, that's not a bad thing; Romero's classic invented so many excellent techniques of horror that nearly every horror flick since then has copied it. And I just love this kind of movie - a simple idea and situation played out, claustrophobically, to its fullest. Every time our characters get a bit of hope - something terrible happens and their hopes are dashed. It's a simple but effective way to make a fully engrossing movie.
  99. Sex Madness (1938) - While it makes the 60s look a bit less controversial, let me give you a few examples how bad this movie is: (1) When an actress noticeably messed up a line, caught herself, and 'fixed' it, they used that take. (2) During a long shot showing several couples talking with each other, all is silent, and then suddenly the sound comes in (without a cut) on the last line in a joke - as if he was whispering and then suddenly shouted the last line (only, that wasn't the case). (3) A man is telling a woman about syphilis. During his monologue, the camera shows what he's talking about, with him continuing as voiceover. The shot goes back to the scene, and the man says, "Now, I've shown you what can happen..."
  100. Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election (2002) - Damn it! Can we please have a real documentary leading into this critical presidential election, instead of deceptive partisan propoganda? I'm gonna pull a Jon Stewart and say, "Michael Moore, Richard Perez, Dick Morris: stop, stop, stop. Stop... hurting America." We need somebody who is willing to show the good and bad of both sides. I'll give you one particularily frustrating example of the film's blind bias. Throughout Unprecedented, the filmmakers point out that Republicans wanted some votes thrown out due to legal technicalities, without considering the voter's intent. Later, they praise the Democrat's move to throw out absentee ballets on a legal technicality without consideration for the voter's intent. Now, I learned a lot that I didn't know before, but I had to consume it all with a lot of salt.
  101. The Grand Illusion (1937) - Ah, so this is the film ripped off by The Great Escape and Stalag 17. A fantastic POW film about people, not about an escape (though, that's in there, too). It's also a rare war film without the 'war is hell' mentality. I was especially impressed with the cinematography and with the use of everyone's native language - rather than making everyone speak the film's langauge and just giving them an accent. It always disturbs me when Russians, Germans, Frenchmen, and everyone else all speak one language in a movie (with the notable exception of The Hunt for Red October, with its awesome 'language transition').
Author Comments: 

Feel free to request quick reviews of movies I've seen.

I don't write up every film I see, but I do list them all as I watch them. So, feel free to request comments on, or a quick review of, any film you see on that list.

So what do you guys think? Should I order it as I am now with new reviews appearing at the bottom, or should I order them chronologically? Alphabetically (I don't have many here yet)?

i think your ideas great and i like the quick easy to read reviews, thats great but i have on issue and its oyur harshness on "Shrek", why?
I Thought for a Animated movie it was clever, funny and never too itself to serious.
it had many cultural referenes and was more adult than other cartoon movies.

i know this is just my opinon and i respect your views but i think shrek is great anf maybe deserves another watch?

I've seen it three times actually (always with other people). It's not a bad film, and it has lots of stuff for older viewers (but nowadays, all popular animated features do).

Nice list. I'd like to discuss your review of "Fahrenheit 9/11", which you've been raggin' on a lot lately.

First of all, I don't think Michael Moore was every attempting to deny that the film is an all-out attack on Bush. His agenda is most certainly to prevent Bush from being re-elected. That's why he made the film, that's why he's in such a hurry to get it released on DVD, and that's why he has actually allowed for it to be pirated - because he wants as many people as possible to see it and realize what an idiot Bush is. And I think if Moore wants to make a movie with the point that Bush is a jerk, that's fine with me. I don't see why that would be a criticism of the movie.

Second of all, do you really think the ending makes the film less powerful? I think there are a good number of scenes that pack a real emotional punch, including the scenes of wounded Iraqis, and the Michigan mother whose son dies in Iraq. Moore knows how to tug at the heartstrings; I think his bigger problem is that the emotional moments are not always founded in the logic of his point. Every war has generated mothers who were upset because their sons have died; that scene alone is not particularly effective in proving Moore's point that the war on Iraq is a useless war.

Finally, I'm curious, what do you consider to be your political ideology? Or are you pretty much apathetic to that whole thing?

I agree that it's not Moore's best. Of the three Michael Moore movies I've seen, I would say that "Fahrenheit 9/11" is the worst (worse than "Bowling for Columbine" and "Roger and Me"). But I still think it is a good movie. It is intelligent at times, funny at other times, and tragic and moving at other times.

BTW, what do you think is the best documentary of the year? The only other one I've even heard of is "Supersize Me", which I do think is a good movie, but it is of a somewhat smaller scope. I think Moore's film is at least more important and probably better as well.

My bad. I've seen one other Michael Moore film - "Canadian Bacon", which is significantly worse than "Fahrenheit 9/11."

lol, I didn't even realize that was a Moore-directed film!

It surprises me that you haven't seen Bowling for Columbine. Is that still true? You really oughtta check it out, it's one of my favorite documentaries, even if I don't agree with most of what Michael Moore believes, generally.

Are you talking to me? If so, what I meant by "I've seen one other Michael Moore film" was in addition to my post above, where I told you I had seen Fahrenheit, Bowling, and Roger.

Bowling is great, but I think it is a bit weaker than Roger and Me. I do, however, really buy into his main point about the media - so much that I decided to seek out a book by Barry Glassner (who is interviewed in the movie) called The Culture of Fear, a wonderful book that offers a very detailed analysis of sensationalism and fear-mongering by the media.

lol yeah, sorry. I stumbled across your post and didn't bother to read the one above it! :-) Sorry.

I think we are more in agreement about Fahrenheit 9/11 than you realize.

Here's a good summary:

Worse than "Bowling for Columbine" and "Roger and Me". But I still think it is a good movie. It is intelligent at times, funny at other times, and tragic and moving at other times.

Oh wait, that was YOU :-) Might as well have been myself.

I think in my review I focus on the negative because I'm comparing it to Bowling for Columbine. That's why I have to end it with 'still, a good film' or whatever. I just think it's overrated. I haven't seen Supersize Me or The Corporation yet, but The Corporation especially sounds much better than Fahrenheit 9/11.

I don't get into politics much. I don't plan to vote this year because I don't like either candidate, and I can't even decide the lesser of two evils. There isn't a political party that approximates my political values, so I guess I'm independent.

As a snapshot, and in no order, here's me:

-Space is irrelevant. Stop throwing billions at it.
-Financial accountability is more important than throwing more money at a problem.
-Our growing deficit ($4 trillion) should be a top-5 priority.
-I'm pro-life (come on now, which is more important? Somebody's choice, or somebody's LIFE?)
-The patent system in the US is just plain WRONG (they recieve no funding, so they hand out patents to anyone so they can keep afloat)
-Get our soldiers the FUCK out of Iraq.
-Marriage is between a man and a woman.
-DMCA, INDUCE, and proposed legislation to fund the RIAA's suing campaign against its customers with taxpayer money are all evil.

If you want to know something I didn't list, feel free to ask.

Interesting. Do you believe that abortion should be allowed when the woman has been raped? How about when the pregnancy could cause serious injury or death to the woman?

More importantly, a year after you were delivered from the womb, did you say you were one year old? Or one year and nine months old? ;-)

When a woman has been raped? Tragic, but no excuse for murder. With regard to the latter, that's a toughie, as with any sitaution where one person must die for the other to live. If there's no hope for the child anyway, the best thing to do would be to save the mother. If the mother isn't going to make it, get the baby outta there.

As per your 'age' question, that is one of the things I considered in my own wrestling over this issue about 2 months ago. I was also drawn to things like even those who believe abortion is murder (and thus, the killing of a life) saying things like "We have three children, with one more on the way" instead of "We have four children."

It's a very tricky dispute, but in the end, I made a religious decision, as the Bible seems to indicate that God values us while in the womb.

But, I'm still a little uncertain as to what I should think, as the Bible doesn't even come close to spelling it out. I'm certainly convincible of the opposite stance at this point.

I certainly respect your choice to rely on your faith. In my mind, however, they never had anything close to our fancy abortion clinics in Biblical times, so I think it makes no more sense to look to the Bible for that answer as it does to look to the Bible for what to do about, say, the RIAA.

I'm Jewish, myself, and I know for a fact that ultra-orthodox Jews, who oftentimes see eye-to-eye with conservative Christians, believe that abortion is okay as long as it is within 40 days of conception. I would be surprised if that tidbit didn't come from somewhere in the Old Testament (I have no idea what the New Testament says about it). Of course, I think few ultra-orthodox Jews are actually getting abortions, what with all the being fruitful and multiplying they're doing.

If you want to speak scientifically - technically, yes, an embryo is a collection of living cells. But so are plenty of other cells in your body that die every day. I mean, trillions of sperm and billions of eggs go to waste every year. Why should it only count as killing when the sperm and eggs are together?

P.S. I'd contest your stance on gay marriage too but it just seems pointless.

The issue the Bible seems to have with abortion has nothing to do with the method (abortion clinic or primitive surgery), but with God's love for a person while in the whom.

I have read through the whole Bible, and I don't recall anything about '40 days after conception.' Though, it might be in the expanded Jewish Bible.

I have no interest in discussing the scientific arguments - they do not influence my belief regarding abortion.

Perhaps I should look over the specific verses in the Bible that indicate God's value of the unborn child.

Yeah, I could be wrong about the "40 days" thing being in the Bible. It could be in some other sort of Jewish mysticism, or it might be an issue that's still up in the air among Orthodox Jews. I do know, however, that if a pregnancy threatens a woman's life, the Jews wholeheartedly support abortion. Even ultra-conservative Michael Medved admits that.

That's cool.

Though, the beliefs of Michael Medved, Orthodox Jews, or conservative Christians do not affect my own personal belief. I read the Bible and use my head and figure out for myself what I think - that's a lot better than adopting a worldview through osmosis.

More power to you. I wasn't trying to make you believe what Michael Medved believes (indeed, I don't). It's just that our conversation made me curious enough to do a little research on it, and I was just reporting my findings.

yeah, 'it's gravy' :-)

There's something to be said for tempering personal interpretation of source material with a little osmosis. Otherwise, unless you're omniscient, you end up reinventing a lot of wheels. "Standing on the shoulders of giants", and all that.

I'd argue with the abortion and marriage stances, but in my experience if one side is citing the Bible exclusively and the other side is secular, there isn't enough common intellectual ground upon which a compromise can be balanced. But at least on the marriage thing, I'm comfortable saying that it's perfectly all right for any church to place any restrictions it wants on marriage. Freedom of religion. But it is not okay for the state to confer civil and legal benefits on some unions, but not others. Either all marriages should be "civil unions" in the eyes of the state, or they should open up the (state/legal) definition of marriage to be non-discriminatory. Just my opinion, of course.

As for the space thing, it seems pretty short-sighted to say it's irrelevant. If we don't diversify ourselves planetarily, humanity is looking at a pretty short shelf life. Either death by war, death by asteroid, or death by resource depletion. It may be that we should wait for technology a bit, and manned space missions are premature when robotic ones will do, but to shrug the whole program off as irrelevant narrows our chances of long-term survival (again, IMO).

I agree with some of your other stances though.

Space is not irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, only right now. There are 20 other things far more important that we need to be devoting time and money on, and NOT space (especially since I believe there are no aliens, no life on Mars, etc.)

As a chronic sloth, I love osmosis as much as the next guy, but for certain things I'm willing to reinvent the wheel to be sure I actually like the wheel I'm working with.

A few arguments regarding marriage:
1. Marriage is not a secular institution, it is a Christian institution that was adapted by other religions and athiests when Christianity was virtually the only major religion in the world. Of course, I won't try to convince anyone else of this... :-) That's why it's important that marriage remain between a man and a woman. If the state wants to make up something new called a 'civil union' that applies to everyone, that's fine.
2. This country was founded as a Christian nation. There was freedom of religion, but virtually all founding fathers and early leaders were Christians. The 'seperation of church and state' inferred from your arguments is not written in any early legal document (it was in a private letter found decades later).

In most cases, it's true that someone arguing on Biblical terms and someone arguing on other terms will not likely convince each other because they arguing from different sources of truth. However, because I make decisions based both on the Bible and the mind God gave me (especially where the Bible is an inadequate guide), I find these types of arguments particularily interesting and occasionally, persuading.

I won't argue opinions on these matters on Listology, but some of the above facts just are not correct.

Marriage predates Christianity by centuries, if not longer. Of course, you may be trying to claim the Hebrews as Christians, in which case you only have history and present-day Jews (well, OK, me too) to argue against.

Besides, wasn't Abram (later Abraham) married before the call of God? Or would you date the religion before even that event?

Additionally, it is a huge leap of logic to claim that since the founders of the nation were Christians (a dubious claim at best, unless one is foolish enough to mistake public rhetoric as personal belief despite evidence to the contrary), therefore America was founded as a Christain nation. The founders were all white and built racial inequality into the legal code. Was America also founded as a white nation? If so, should we keep it that way just because of that fact?

You are entitled to believe as you will, and I (at least on this site) would rather not debate your opinions, but the 'facts' are a different matter...

Anyway, I hope you take this as the friendly disagreement I mean it to be and not as a hostile attack.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Oops, I'm sorry, you're absolutely correct. I meant to say that marriage is one of God's institutions, predating Christianity by millenia.

I'm not really sure when the Jewish 'religion' began, I'd say probably not really until the time of Moses. But marriage was instituted between a man and a woman as early as Adam and Eve, which is pretty damn early :-)

Your argument about Christian America and White America is very interesting, and an argument I've never heard before. Of course, I would answer that Christianity is worth keeping in America, while racial inequality is not :-)

As far as the founding fathers not being Christian, what evidence is there to the contrary? Remember that Christianity doesn't mean Christians don't sin or aren't decieved, only that we don't go to hell for it (how nice).

Also, just to be sure we're clear: while racial inequality is certainly wrong and doesn't make sense, slavery is provided for under Biblical law (including the 'update' made when Jesus came).

A fascinating discussion that I'm sorry to hear you don't wish to follow too in-depthly on Listology.

As far as the founders of our nation go, many were Deists, thinking that God created the world and has left all well enough alone since then. This is rather contrary to Christian doctrine, especially since most Christians see the life of Christ as direct divine intervention into the affairs of the world.

I am not where I can post too much proof at the moment, but read around. It is out there aplenty. The difference I am speaking of is doctrinal, not a value call on actions or lifestyles.

As for Christian vs. White America ideas, I am not trying to use that as any sort of support for a non-Christian America as such, but I am trying to point out that it really is weak support in and of itself for arguing the other way (that America should stay a Christian nation). The debate should be about merit, not historical precedent, since precedent can bite pretty nasty both ways.

As for the opinion portion of the debate, I really try to stay away from politics or religon on this site. I love Listology because of its rotation around the arts, and I don't really want to upset that orbit too much.

Sorry! Look around. You can certainly find me on other sites of the web debating these issues quite fully.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I'm sure marriage as a religion-sanctioned bond between two people predates Christianity, but I'm happy to concede that we're talking about Christian marriage in this debate. And I've already said the church can restrict marriage as it sees fit. But insofar as the state has co-opted "marriage" as a legal institution with social and legal benefits, it should do so in a secular and non-discriminatory manner. I say this fully understanding that I believe in the separation of church and state far more than our founding fathers wrote about, or probably even intended. There are plenty of examples in the world that demonstrate what a harmful combination it is when you mix the two, and I'd just as soon keep them completely apart then try to draw the line somewhere on the slipperly slope.

Anyway, I'll probably shut up now. I've been drawn into political/religious/hot button debates on Listology before, and I've never really found it the best forum for it. Like a moth to a flame though. I'd be happy to take this off-list if you want, if you have more you want to say on these subjects.

Oops, I see now LBangs already tackled some of this. My ISP was down for a bit.

I respect your viewpoint, especially with all the concessions you make :-)

I, however, cannot seperate church and state as my beliefs (I don't like the worlds church or religion, really) ARE my worldview, which includes my political viewpoint.

But, I can certainly understand the importance of government not forcing a religion on people (I wouldn't want to live in a Buddhist-enforcing nation, for example). Also, Christianity experienced some of its darkest days when Rome c. 300 A.D. had a Christian emperor and forced Christianity on everyone.

Your perspective of the state co-opting marriage as a legal institution causes me to think about that. I guess it should be the state's right to do what it wants with its own instituation (even one it borrowed from a religion), so my argument against gay marriage is widdled down to my Biblical stance against homosexuality in general.

That being said, it should be noted that I'm not a 'homophobic' person, nor do I actively harass gay people (just as I don't harass people who, for example, have premarital/extramarital sex or steal or whatever). After all, I'm guilty of most Biblical sins by this time, anyway.

"I'm guilty of most Biblical sins by this time, anyway."

Sure, don't you remember the eleventh commandment? Thou shalt not mxxxxxxxxx wxxx uxxxxxx fxxxxxx xx xxx xxx. :-)

Oh no, I checked. That's one's not in there. It's all good.

:-) Cool.

I'll try to move the above discussion back over to the left of the page, here. :-)

I should also note that 'facts' are slightly overrated, whether I'm quoting them or you are. Mankind has constantly spouted 'scientific fact!' that later (whoops!) turned out to be incorrect (flat earth, light as merely another form of energy, many more). These days, this seems to happen on a yearly or monthly basis. Also, historical record is not always accurate (or, accurately interpreted). Indeed, I admit that the Bible has not been 100% the same throughout its history (since its parts were compiled into a single volume in, what, the first millenium A.D.?, despite the blind claims of many Christians.

And yet, I have a hard time carrying on an intelligent discussion with people who believe that Jesus never even lived (let alone was God, etc.), when dozens of Roman records document him (not to mention other accounts, such as those found in the Bible). And, there's the little matter of splitting the account of time in history in half (A.D. = anno domini = 'in the year of our Lord' and B.C. = [can't remember original phrase, but it translates to same first-word letters anyway] - "before Christ").

Fair enough, although I would be quick to point out that some facts are theories in disguise while other facts have quite a bit of proof supporting them.

As far as the 'intelligent discussion' part of the issue, I'll just say I would be quite shocked if anybody on this site could nail down most of my religious or political beliefs accurately. It is dangerous to assume too much about a person based on a few stray comments... :)

I'm tempted to make a joke about you moving to the left a bit, but that would be too lame... ;)

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

hehe, I laughed anyway.

I'm very impressed and grateful for the sane nature of all Listologists that have participated in this discussion so far. I've had similar debates on numerous forums with less 'heated' topics, and get a lot of flame and flak but little debate or argument. My respect for Listology and its members has only just grown slightly.

Yeah, I love how Listologists usually tend to keep their cool. It's totally the opposite of the IMDB forums, and whenever I go there, I roll my eyes at all the useless flaming that goes on.

Actually, the IMDB might not be the worst perpetrator. I once saw in a video-game-related forum the quote "i hope this doesnt offend u but u suck."

Wow. Nice constructive criticism, dude.

Anyway, sorry to originally jump on you so quickly after you posted your political views, but I think it has definitely turned into a constructive discussion with no feelings hurt.

I didn't feel jumped upon at all.

Yeah, I've read so many stupid quotes like that on so many forums, and often directed at me, that I very rarely bring up a discussion like this anymore. But since YOU did, and it turned out quite well, all is good.

Damn it! Every time I read some else's mini-writeups on films they've seen it only discourages me from continuing to try to write anything half as efficient, clever, or useful about anything I've seen. DAMN YOU ALL!!!!

LOL! Don't stop though. I, for one, am digging your mini-reviews, and you make interesting viewing choices.

Bah! I see through your lies, but I probably won't stop anyway.

lol and to think the first post here was me rambling about "Shrek" lol :-]

No one wants to request a snapshot review for a movie I've seen? I'm hurt. :-)

BTW, in regard to my The Rules of the Game (1939) review:

I say 'modern foreigner' above because, first, life, society, and culture were much different in 1939 than they were now, and second, the film is a French one that concerns French characters and life. So, as a modern foreigner (of France, anyway), I found it very difficult to follow all of the cultural, societal, and occasionally historical subtleties of the film. The DVD commentary helped a little.

I should also note that, for each viewing of The Rules of the Game (I watched it twice), I could only watch it about 30 minutes at a time, with 10 minutes of rest in between, to allow my mind to churn over what I'd seen and comprehend it. Those who understood it perfectly the first time AND enjoyed watching the film, I envy you.

hey luke, i just posted a response to your question on "Yet another movie veiwing poll"

just wanted to know your thoughts

FYI, I always tick 'check here to be e-mailed responses to this post' for discussion on Listology itmes that aren't mine.

lol :) sorry...:) i wont say again, saves my fingers! ;]

Did you say we were allowed to Ask for a review??

ok..Scarface (1983)

ok, I'll cook one up :-)

alright, it's up! Sorry I couldn't go into any more detail than a snapshot review allows. If I were to post a full review, I'd want to watch the film again, first (which I certainly wouldn't mind doing some day).

Nice review. i think your right at times it is over the top. to me it takes the 80's, then takes every aspect of the 80s and pushes all of that to the extreme! but i think it really benefits from that.

it is a great gangster movie, one of my all time faves.

great review luke and Ty!

I'm with you on Casablanca. Lately I've actually seen a little critical backlash on the film. I dunno, maybe people just object to the fact that it doesn't "feel" like a classic film in the way Citizen Kane or 2001 do. But that's the point. It's a simple story about little people, people whose problems don't really amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. And it's a movie where everything just goes right.

I should see this movie again. Maybe soon...

Yeah, it was a real treat to have it turn out as good as it did.

I need feedback!

My mini-reviews aren't inspiring as much discussion as I was hoping. Is anyone reading these? Does anyone have any thoughts?

Perhaps, there isn't any discussion because my mini-reviews just aren't any good (if it's true, that's fine). Or, perhaps they aren't long enough?

Let me know!

Almost 50 posts really isn't bad for a list that's only been up for a month! I do read and enjoy your reviews.

Well... but it's all just one debate and Rushmore notifying me of a post on another list :-)

But thanks for the positive feedback... though what I was really looking for was constructive criticism. Do you have any of that, too?

'fraid not. Just keep writing 'em. Personally, I find it very hard to be interesting in just a few sentences (or at any length, for that matter), so the mini-review form was very hard for me initially. I feels easier now (although the jury's still out on whether or not it's any more interesting). Practice, practice, practice.

Changed the title to 'Musings on Movies' (#1, because at #150 or something I'll move to a #2). I feld 'Luke's Snapshot Review Center' was too bland and cold.

I never read this list because I thought you were reviewing snapshots (aka pictures, aka images). I kid you not.

WOW! I hadn't considered that! Well, good thing I changed the title, then :-)

I agree with you on Kirstan Dunst's limited acting abilty, but I never really considered Sherlock Jr. A short in any way. I relize that most people regard it as one, but to me, it is a lot more complex and the plot is more developed than most of the shorts being done at the time.....

Basically, I just do it this way: if it's roughly an hour in length (if I were forced to choose a cutoff, I'd say 55 minutes), then it's full-length. Any shorter, and it's a short. An arbitrary assignment, but a far easier one to make than deciding whether or its complexity and plot and character development rival that of other shorts. :-)

More on The Passion of Joan of Arc:

The film is also an example of a stubborn and unmovable filmmaker (which certainly describes Dreyer) refusing to 'kill his babies' to make his film better. Instead of letting things go to the benefit of the film, he clings to all his 'pets' and uses them. One singular, specific example (besides the broad stylistic choices described above) are the couple of shots looking down at people walking/running on a path in a way that looks up-side-down. They are completely out of place with the rest of the shots in the film, and distract more than anything.

In comparison to the other Dreyer film I have seen so far, Day of Wrath, I prefer Day of Wrath because it is stylisticly whole and thus, its impression on the viewer is more powerful.

I might also draw comparison to Kurosawa's Ran, which is brutal in its use of its expensive sets. Even when Joan of Arc moves outdoors to some giant and spectacular sets, we almost never see them due to the predominance of close-ups or shots against a basically white background (fog, or an unfeatured white section of wall, a choice continued from the interior sections of the film).

The Passion of Joan of Arc is also often compared to The Battleship Potemkin. I'll let you know I greatly prefer the latter, though I didn't have any problem enjoying The Passion of Joan of Arc. I just think the Battleship Potemkin is a better film, by far.

lol, more thoughts:

I just noticed my quick review of M (1931), above. In it, I point out that the constant use of closeups 'grated' on me. I did not feel that way at all about Joan of Arc (in regards to enjoying the film, anyway). It's possible this is because my viewing palate has grown to accept a wider range of filmic flavors since I watched M. If not, then I have no idea what the difference between the predominance of close-ups in both films is. Anyone have any ideas?

Anyone who has seen The Passion of Joan of Arc, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE discuss - this film is certainly asking for discussion.

Okay, fine. My honest opinion is that, instead of the movie being an example of how critics "go easy" on older films as compared to newer films, it is more likely an example of you going harder on a very solid film simply because it is so damn acclaimed.

That said, yeah, it just might be overrated, at least if you look at the They Shoot Pictures list, which places it as the #16 most acclaimed film of all-time. I don't think it's the 16th greatest film of all-time, but I did love it quite a bit.

But did you really think the faces of the people in the movie were supposed to be realistic? Really? I thought they were as impressionistic as the sets - the hard, withered faces of the stern men, and the wide-eyed sobbing of the seemingly naive Joan. I think the performances and makeup, along with the rest of the movie, were supposed to be exaggerated, bizarre, disorienting, and hypnotic. I see Dreyer going for realism very rarely in this movie, to be honest with you. Yes, an exception to this might be the accuracy with the actual history of Joan of Arc (not really knowing the story of Joan of Arc very well, I couldn't tell you if the movie is accurate one way or the other), but is historical accuracy really part of the directorial style of a movie? Even if your answer is yes, I still don't think it's enough to call the film realistic.

Yay! Thanks for your candid thoughts.

I'm certain the faces were chosen quite carefully, but... what makeup? There was no makeup.

I respect your thoughts, and I still think it's a good, possibly great film, but I really felt that Dreyer was just trying everything he could think of to cram it all in one movie where most of it doesn't belong. I vastly prefer the more consistent (in theme, mood, and look) Day of Wrath.

My problem isn't really that's it's overrated, I was just pointing that out because I think it's true.

Thank you for your (grudgingly proffered) thoughts :-)

You mentioned makeup in your review. I was merely going off of you. Anyway, I think we'll have to agree to disagree on this one. I think the film feels closer to being too brief and simple than to being so crammed that it feels disjoint.

oh, I said 'makeup-barren' as in: completely devoid of makeup.

Yeah, ok, I agree to disagree. Thank you for sharing your own musings!

I was surprised to learn that Pillow Talk won academy awards for best story and best screenplay. Normally, I have a soft spot for best screenplay winners, but this one just didn't impress me.

Sorry you didn't dig The Passion of Joan of Arc more. You asked for my $0.02, so here goes. You write:

The realism of makeup-barren faces and its dedication to the source writings about Joan war with the impressionisticly unbalanced sets (which reminded me of Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and I later learned they were designed by the same person) and the claustrophobic cinematography, which pulls the audience out of the film because they cannot see the scene.

Where you see a flaw, I see perfection. This is a movie designed to play out in the faces of the protagonists, and shooting the faces in such stark close-up and ultra-focus and making the sets more expressionist only emphasizes this, much to the films success IMO. Why on earth would you ever want to wide-out from such fab performances?

I understand what you're saying. The blank white walls (and, outside, the white fog) definitely force the eye to the faces. I think my problem with the film is that I wish every movie had Tarkovsky behind the camera, and this one is clearly meant to work differently.

So, as I mull this over in my head, I'll have to decide if this is just one of those films that I can respect more than I enjoy, or if my original argument that realism and style clash to the film's detraction holds up.

See, now, you can still do something with two cents.

I'll tell you why. To give the audience a break. I found the closeups claustrophobic. I had the feeling I was in prison along with Joan.

You can feel free to judge whether this works for you or not, but I'd say Dreyer did a good job of helping you empathize with the character then, eh?

I don't think the film should have 'given the audience a break' - the film is more powerful as it is now.

I've had some time to mull this over, now, and I've decided that there IS a clash between the impressionistic sets and the gritty realism that results from playing the film out on unadorned faces. But, I now realize this is only another technique for effecting the film's purpose. The unrealistic sets only further remove them from the character's faces, where the film is meant to play.

This is probably one of the only cases where impressionistic sets are NOT meant to draw attention, but focus attention on another element!

I still don't understand those few shots of the guards entering (then, later, exiting) the fortress where the camera is directly above them and tracks with them so it looks like they are walking up-side-down (anyone remember this? Do you know what I'm talking about?).

Powerfully unpleasant (to me). Perhaps I'm such a finely tuned, sensitive soul, that I can't bear it.

I'm afraid so. I empathized whether I wanted to or not. I wished for a little more detachment.

Hey there, I didn't want you to think I was ignoring you, but really I'm just going to echo what's already been said: I think this points to the film's effectiveness. If you're wishing for detachment, it's working!

Effective at making me suffer. Well, that doesn't mean I have to enjoy it!

Not at all! Why I (or anyone else) would voluntarily watch tragedy and thus be saddened is one of life's great mysteries. And yet I do, and "enjoy" it, nonetheless.

Sorry to bring this debate again back to religion, but I have a story that this reminded me of. I heard a speech during some synagogue services that partially dealt with one month of the Hebrew calendar that is called cheshvan. This month has a bad name, in fact; in Hebrew, this month has a nickname that basically means "bad cheshvan." If you look at the schedule for cheshvan, there are no notable days at all. The question posed, though, was why this month with nothing good or bad has a bad name, when there are months with days of fasting, mourning, and tragedy that don't have bad names? I mean, there's one day in the Hebrew calendar that somehow marks a lot of tragic events - both temples were destroyed on that day, and some other bad things happened too.

But the answer proposed was that days of mourning bring us together as a Jewish community. We mourn and fast on this day all together. And perhaps this happens on a larger scale with other tragedies. It's not that we enjoy the misery of others, but that we can all come together and find solace in each other a little better because of it. It makes us appeciate our own lives more.

So, I'm not sure if that's how you feel about it, Jim, but it's a thought.

Could be, it's certainly an interesting thought. I don't think I personally watch tragedy and come away with a stronger sense of community though. For me it's more introspective, but I've never really been able to answer the question to my own satisfaction, so maybe a sense of the larger humanity of it plays in more than I realize.

I second that, but for me, I probably don't feel stronger fellowship through tragedy because I simply don't ever involve myself in many 'communities.'

I found the setup of Battle Royale absurd, but not the resulting mayhem. I think a lot of your problems evaporate if you accept the unremovability of the collars. Using your numbering system:

(1) Nobody will try to remove the collars after they've been told they will blow up if tampered with

(2) If I were in that sitation I'd assume the collars worked like those invisible dog fences. Leave the perimeter, get a really nasty jolt.

(3) Only possible if The Professor is in your class, and he can fashion you a radio out of some palm fronds and Gilligan's hat.

(4) The one attempt to band together met with a plausible end. And what happens to the enclave at the lighthouse was a particularly good scene, I thought. But even leaving those aside, I would assume there's a "blow all collars" panic button somewhere, and that would quell any rebellion right quick.

(5) After the brutal introduction to the rules of the game, there is no reason not to take Kitano at his word as to what will happen if there's more than one survivor.

Mmmm... yes, you're probably right, except:

3. They had access to computer attached to a network to hack the HQs system - they can probably communicate with someone off the island.

The most blatant examples of my complaint about kids killing long before they've exhausted their options occur early - for example, the first few deaths and the two that jump off the cliff to kill themselves.

Also, was there some explanation that I missed for the other oddities, like:

1. That the kids are immediately quite good in combat and with weapons.
2. That several of them (the girls, anyway) are cheerful and laughing minutes after their friends are murdered.

RE "3": I don't think we're given any reason to believe they have Internet access on the island.

RE "Blatant Examples": if you throw a population as large as 42 people into such extreme circumstances, I don't think it's unlikely that a small percentage would react as depicted.

RE "1": Obvious explanation for this for the two "transfer students", power of being just plain vicious for the girl (probably some kind of high school clique/pecking order commentary there), and don't really recall other egregious examples.

RE "2": Don't recall.

I'm certainly able to give the film more credit as time (and discussion) goes on, but there were still half a dozen moments/scenes I couldn't buy at all.

Because I've slightly revised my review of Battle Royale in light of our discussion, I'll post the original one here so it's obvious what you're replying to... for posterity :-)

Battle Royale (2000) - Everything has to be 'extreme' today. This is "eXtreme PaintBall 2000!!!". The premise is rather silly: 42 inexplicably combat-competant teenagers are forced to kill each other on an uninhabited island. But the story is told with such conviction and skill that the film rises above its central idea. The opening exposition is handled obviously but entertainingly, so things get started pretty quickly and never let up. My biggest problem was that the kids start killing each other (and themselves) long before they've exhausted their other options, such as (1) finding a way to remove the bracelets around their necks, (2) finding a way off the island (three days is plenty of time to build a raft), (3) finding a way to communicate with someone outside the island, (4) banding together to defeat the soldiers (and perhaps the few 'dedicated' players), or (5) waiting to see what really happens if more than one person survives after the allotted time. So, while I enjoyed the film, this pervasive problem (and the remarkable cheeriness of certain characters immediately following the murder of their friends) kept it from being the great film it could have been.

I don't want to make a full post about Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) because I didn't like it but I'm not sure why. I just want to say that by far the coolest thing about the movie is the long-distance flame-thrower tanks. We definitely need to see more of those in movies. And they get like 5 whole minutes of screen time here!!!

BTW, the most interesting thing about 'Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story,' by far is that is was sued into the ground (rightfully, for once) by Richard Carpenter and Mattel. Carpenter's songs were played throughout almost 100% of the short, and Mattel dolls were used through, oh, 65%. Neither Mattel nor the Carpenters were contacted or paid by the filmmaker for the extensive use of their products.

hi luke, i've posted a response to your "godfather" question HERE

yes, I read it :-)

I didn't think it required a response...

lol :) okay dokay, just checking :]

I'll soon be posting LOADS of interesting screen captures on my blog if you want to see more of the movie.

A few other thoughts:

This is a French film, but either the movie was originally shot with the actors (and CGI characters) speaking English, or it has the best voice dubbing I've ever seen.

The sex scene was pretty bland and didn't reveal just how big a dick a GOD has.

The score includes some stuff that sounds exactly like Sigur Ros' second album, but it's probably not.

It's quite possible that my soft spot for gorgeous cityscapes alone kept this movie out of my 'Garbage' category.

The gods' mouths do not move when they talk, but their throats/voice boxes do. I don't get it.

Here's the part with links to the images:

By far, my favorite part of the movie were its cityscapes (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11), but I'll also provide you with some shots of its crappy character animation (1 2 3) and some miscellaneous shots (1 2 3 4 5).

may i ask for a review of Taxi Driver?? please

It's up.

I'm no expert on the subject, but I'm pretty sure that Gertrud and Ordet are more acclaimed than Vampyr and Day of Wrath. I think Joan, Gertrud, and Ordet are generally assumed to be closer to Dreyer's big three.

Hmmm, okay. Well it probably varies from critic to critic, so I'll just remove that reference.

And, that's too bad about Day of Wrath. I haven't seen Gertrud yet, but Day of Wrath is better than any of the others :-)

*grinds his axe*

Your comments on Alphaville remind me of my thoughts on the Adventures of Pluto Nash. That movie took place on the moon, but the moon setting was rarely used, and for most of the movie I wondered why they bothered setting it there.

Of course, that just resulted in a shitty story told inconsistently in the wrong setting, in this case.

I was also dissapointed with Tarkovsky's Solaris in this respect. I saw Andrei Rublev first, and that was so beautiful and utilized its environment to great effect, and Solaris kept trying to hide the fact that it took place in outer space. But at least Solaris had a bunch of scenes on a spaceship that kinda looked futuristic: Alphaville was just... plain. But the story was actually pretty good, unlike (I'm assuming) The Adventures of Pluto Nash, which I have no intention of seeing.

So what did they spend those $100 million dollars on, then?

Certainly not the script. That probably went for about seven dollars and change. There were some relatively interesting futuristic settings, and Eddie Murphy probably commands a big salary, but really, I have no idea how they spent that much money.

However, this has made me realize something. Jim, I told you that Cutthroat Island was the biggest flop of all-time, but I must have heard that statistic before Pluto Nash came out. Pluto Nash cost eight million dollars more and grossed almost the same as Cutthroat Island. I would definitely respect your decision not to see Pluto Nash even out of morbid curiosity, though.

If you go by pure dollar difference between budget and gross, a new 'record' will be made every couple of years due to inflation.

Me, I like to think the biggest flop of all time was, perhaps, Cleopatra, which cost the equivalent of $375 million in today's money and and was a huge flop. It also nearly bankrupted Fox, which at one point had only eight people working for them. Thankfully, those 8 people were working on one production: The Sound of Music, which turned out to be the highest grossing film at the time. I mean seriously, can you imagine of a $375 million film grossed $20 million today? That would easily be considered the biggest flop of all time. Besides, that The Sound of Music situation makes it such a great story to tell anyway. :-)

For the 'second edition' of Musings on Movies, I plan to make my reviews generally longer and better. But I need your help in determining which movies to review (I still don't intend to review ALL of them).

So, please tell me: would you prefer that I call attention to rarely seen films of which you're likely unaware by reviewing obscure movies? Or would you prefer I review the important and popular films that already have enough coverage elsewhere but provide more opportunity for discussion due to the number of Listologists who have seen them?

Or, a bit of both, perhaps? If I don't get enough of a response here, maybe I'll put up a poll about it.

Personally, I generally prefer reading reviews of movies I've seen, or at least heard of. I don't really use random reviews to seek out obscure movies; I already have more than enough movies that I'm intending to see. I'm sure other people might have different opinions though.

P.S. The exception to this is movies with really interesting stories behind them or really interesting experimentation. For example, I recently heard about this movie called Mr. Payback, the first interactive film, with buttons on the armrests for which outcome you want to see. I read Roger Ebert's review and found it fascinating.

ok, thank you for your opinion!

I feel the same way.

good to know!

I might also not that Hollywood Revue of 1929 also contains what may be the first filmed version of the classic 'Singin' in the Rain' musical number. The number was used in countless musicals all the way up to 1952's Singin' in the Rain, which is the version most people remember.

Actually, it's probably the most interesting number from the otherwise dull Hollywood Revue of 1929.

I'll also note the several color sequences. Of course, not anywhere near the first color sequence used in a movie, but certainly 'early.' The Black Pirate (1926), for example, was a silent done entirely in color.

I'm also convinced that the Noah's Ark background for the final number was stolen from the film Noah's Ark (1929), or vice versa. I can't find any 'trivia' to verify this, though.

I was surprised to find the songs "Singin' in the Rain" and "Good Morning" in the movie musical Babes in Arms (1939), with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney.

glad you liked Rushmore and bottle rocket. i gather you like rushmore more, i would have to argue that but hey, who am i to judge ? ;)

so if you were to comprae Rushmore to Bottle Rocket, what would you say rushmore did right that bottle rocket didn't?

Well, I'd say that Rushmore did just about everything much better than Bottle Rocket did. Watching the two movies on the same night really showed me that Wes Anderson had simply grown a great deal as a filmmaker from Bottle Rocket to Rushmore - and, I suppose, from Rushmore to The Royal Tenenbaums - which makes me all the more excited to see The Life Aquatic. Can you imagine if it was better than Royal Tenenbaums? Then it'd be your new favorite movie! :-)

yeah, if tis better than royal tenenbaums that would have to make it the best film in the world!!! :)

it looks reallly good. theres this line that bill murray says..here..:

(steve (murray) is being questioned about his plan to find and kill this shark who killed his best friend)

Scientist: but what would be the scientific purpose of killing it?

Steve: Revenge.
------------------
class! actually luke i'll go one better than that..here you can watch the Trailer! hope you enjoy!!

Yeah, seen the trailer. It looks cool. I'll see it, though not necessarily in theaters (I see VERY few movies in theaters right now).

Personal thoughts on the issues discussed in Unprecedented:

The opening bit about disenfranchising thousands of people due wrongly calling them felons is pretty nefarious, if true.

Sure, the ballots could be better designed, but it's not like Florida Democratic counties were the only counties these ballots were used in.

I think the system of the electoral college is kind of silly and outdated. It's silly to bitch about the winner of the popular vote not being president, because that's NOT how our president is chosen! But maybe it should be...

I'm pretty sure I'm not looking forward to the potential bloodbath of this year's elections. If it's as close as it looks like it might be, it could get ugly and confusing and damaging.

The electoral college is the stupidest voting system I could think of. I remembered seeing a map of the 2000 presidential election that was posted at my high school that showed which party each state voted for, and what percentage voted for the winning party. Now, in my high school, you needed a 70 to pass. But I looked at the states' percentages, and I noticed that no candidate "passed" any state (by my high school's standards, anyway) EXCEPT for one: Washington DC, which voted 85% for Al Gore. So if no state has 70%, that means that at least 30% of the American public's votes are just completely ignored. And some states came close enough to be 55% or so. That means 45% of the votes in that state are just tossed out so that all of the electoral votes can go to one single candidate. That's pretty ridiculous if you ask me.

Yeah, it's pretty infuriating. In Minnesota, it's always been a Democratic state, but this year it could be almost 50/50. So, roughly 49% of Minnesotans' votes (that'd be several million) may be totally 'thrown out'.

I used to feel the same way, until I read this fascinating article that defends the electoral college.

Brilliant. It even compares the electoral college to the World Series (focusing on the 1960 Pirates/Yankees Series). It's very long, but quite readable, and well worth the time.

Interesting, but WAY to long. I've distilled the article here.

Glad you found it interesting (and convincing, I assume, from your blog intro to the distillation?), but I fear what you have there is more of a teaser than a distillation. Had someone pointed me to your version first, I wouldn't have been convinced, but the original piece won me over pretty easily.

Hmmmm... okay. I just included the points that most convinced me. What parts that persuaded you did I leave out?

Everything, basically. To these eyes, you've included the conclusions without any of the supporting material, arguments, or logic.

Oh, right, that was my intention - just to make the points without the miles of evidence and number theory. In that way, I guess it might not make the best candidate for distillation.

The article is quite interesting, and caused me to doubt some of my objections to the electoral college, but I'm still not convinced. I'm not sure the comparison to the World Series is all that accurate. At least the teams are stacked the same way from one day to the next. On the other hand, no matter how hard John Kerry campaigns, there's no way he'll win Texas, and ditto for Bush in Washington DC. So the article claims that we can't simply stop at equal voting power, but a Democrat in Texas and a Republican in DC each have approximately zero voting power. Is that fair? I would prefer equal voting power for everyone rather than trying to maximize it. Even if districted voting power is eight times non-districted voting power, one person's voting power is so tiny anyway that I'm sure this difference is almost negligible.

I think the system also forces the candidates to compromise their principles in order to have a more ubiquitous appeal. For example, why do you think Kerry's campaign put out all those "Kerry is a hunter, he's pro-gun" commercials? Because Kerry sincerely does not believe in stricter gun control, or to appeal to the NRA members who would voted for Bush in 2000 but might possibly lean left if the Democrat appealed to their gun-toting sensibilities?

I don't know. Maybe the sports analogies are only there to explain everything in layman's terms, but I'd like to think that the system that determines the president of our country is more perfected than the system that determines the winner of the World Series.

And for someone who can't vote, I think I'm taking this election way too seriously... :-)

A few quick responses to your main points...

I think the World Series is just an illustration to make the point, and should not be considered an representative microcosm of the problem.

I prefer maximizing voting power. Instead of thinking of it as maximizing voting power for the people, think of it as minimizing power to the candidates/politicians. Anything to keep those snakes in check. I like having a balanced two-party system so very little gets done, and I appreciate the sentiment that anyone capable of getting elected is clearly too smarmy to be a good leader (I'm paraphrasing - too lazy to find the original).

I think your NRA example scores a point for the other team. One of the points of the defense of the electoral college is that it prevents candidates from merely pandering to the majority, and from letting that majority run roughshod over everyone else. I do wish politicians could ignore the NRA in particular, but I don't wish they could ignore every fringe group (like the environmentalists, for example).

I wish you could vote!

Not half as much as I wish I could vote! Alas, a December 9th birthday leaves me a month and a week short. I was always one of the youngest people in my grade, and when I think of some of the idiots in my grade older than me who can vote, that just adds salt to the wounds.

Let me make this clear: of course, if there was a system that maximized everyone's voting power, then yeah, I'd love to do that. But the electoral college does crazy things to each individual's voting power. Washington DC voted 85% Democrat in the 2000 election. How much voting power do you think a Republican in DC has? Virtually none. There's nothing he / she can do, so what's the use of even going to the polls? In fact, Democrats in DC would find little point in going to the polls as well. Everyone knows the outcome. Granted, someone in Ohio or Florida would have more voting power than in a nondistricted voting system, and the electoral college helps maximize that, but I don't think that's fair. I'd prefer to go by a popular vote than to have such an imbalance. Michael Moore is apparently encouraging people who live anywhere near swing states to drive out and vote in them. I think a system that encourages stuff like that is kinda ridiculous.

I think my NRA example references the same part of the article you're talking about, but I would seriously doubt that NRA members are the majority of this country. The article says that politicians can't simply appeal to one area, they need to have a more universal appeal. I think the pro-gun commercials is Kerry's way of reaching out to, as Howard Dean would say, the gun-toting, pickup-driving, tobacco-chewing Bible thumpers. I think the electoral college forces candidates to pander to some interest groups that are in reality a bit out of their radar, and should stay that way.

Yes, it sucks to be a Republican in DC, but not nearly as much as it would were that situation magnified to cover the whole country. This is what the article says the electoral college helps prevent, which makes it a-okay in my book (especially given the huge influence the fundamentalist vote has). It doesn't make it impossible for one group to seize control of the country, but it makes it harder.

As for the NRA example, I'm not entirely sure I understand your response. I haven't re-read the article in awhile, but wasn't one of the key points that the electoral college protects MINORITY groups (including those we'd rather it didn't, like the NRA)? While we wish politicians could ignore the NRA, aren't we glad they, by extension, can't ignore environmentalists (for example). Are you really advocating a system where (if you believe the article) more power is consolidated in the hands of the largest, best-organized voting blocks?

But the thing is, I don't think it will be like DC, because one political party hasn't consistently won the national popular vote of late. I dunno, maybe nondistricted voting will inspire more people to go to the polls, and throw off all popular vote trends. But I think it's worth a shot, at least. I think it would do some of the same things that the article claimed the electoral college does. I mean, Gore won the popular vote in 2000; maybe his Southern drawl evoked a positive image in some Southerners' minds, and he appealed to them even though they would normally vote conservative.

I got a little confused with the NRA example too. I guess I kinda agree with you, I'm glad politicians can't ignore some minorities, but I'm disappointed that the system forces them to acknowledge others like the NRA. But I guess my point is that I think Kerry, as a liberal, would appeal to environmentalists anyway, that it's part of his political ideology. On the other hand, I don't think that pro-gun commercials are part of his natural political principles; he's just trying to squeeze some votes out of NRA members by compromising his political ideology slightly. Kerry wouldn't need to compromise anything to appeal to environmentalists. That's what the system does.

Hey, instead of districting by state, what if everyone just voted per issue, and the candidate with the most preferred positions on issues won? Like, the voting booth asks you which policy you prefer on abortions, then which policy you prefer on North Korea, etc. It would still force candidates to appeal to minorities, it would prevent people from voting without knowing jack about the candidates, and it would stop people from voting Republican simply because they want lower taxes! Hooray!

I realize you were probably joking about issues-voting, but taking it seriously:

It would have to be a weighted voting system, and one that changes year to year. For example, a 'war' issue would have to have more influence on the outcome than the NRA, and also more influence than in the previous election. But who would determine how much weight each issue was given?

If you didn't weight the issues for voting, then something like gun control would have as much effect on the election as economic policy or war, which is not something I think most people would like.

Oo, voting by issue, imaging the hanging chads in THAT scenario!

Ah, The Grand Illusion... Wasn't it, umm, grand? I loved seeing all the stuff I assumed originated in later movies show up here.

Yes, that was exactly my experience.

I wasn't quite sure what to think of the long sequence following the escape - it seemed a little too long, disconnected from the rest of the film, and the ending wasn't very interesting. Sure, they finally, truly escaped into Switzerland, so the movie ended - but after spending so much time (months?) hanging out safely with the woman, it hadn't seemed like they'd been in danger ever since the soldier talked to the woman through the window their first night with her.

But, the rest of the film was absolutely... yeah, grand. So, like Full Metal Jacket, the really, really, really, really great parts of the film place it on such a high tier that the less satisfactory parts of the film can't drag it down too much.

What did you think of the third (or, I guess, the fourth) act?

I don't recall having a problem with it, or thinking it was too long or out of place. But perhaps it was just euphoria from the rest of the movie leaving me heady.