Seen in 2005 Part I

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  1. THX 1138 (1971, George Lucas, USA) ** Like most low-budget sci-fi, THX 1138 is brimming with interesting ideas about technology and society, but doesn't tell a great story or achieve technological constistency and believability.
  2. Destiny (1921, Fritz Lang, Germany) *** Frequently portends Lang's future greatness, and its artistic execution matches the technical wizardry. Too many titles.
  3. The Dreamlife of Angels (1998, Erick Zonca, France) ** Throughout the movie, I was trying to decide if this was a quiet triumph of human commonness or a shallow social commentary. The infuriating final minutes revealed it as the latter.
  4. Gotti (1996, Robert Harmon, USA) [TV] * Insultingly derivative in every scene and line of dialogue.
  5. In the Name of the Father (1993, Jim Sheridan, Ireland) *** Not quite Bloody Sunday or The Shawshank Redemption, but damn good nonetheless.
  6. Thesis (1996, Alejandro Amenábar, Spain) * I'm a brutalist, so I should like this acclaimed director's debut about snuff videos, right? Not when it's this sloppily directed, written, and scored.
  7. Star Wars (1977, George Lucas, USA) [rewatch] ** Hold your pitchforks. Star Wars and King Kong have got to be the two most over-rated movies ever. Neither are well-written or well-directed, feature good dialogue or good acting. Both are significant for their editing and special effects. Pixar's role in making kids' movies watchable isn't that overrated; Star Wars is on-the-nose, relentlessly impractical and inconsistent (within the rules of its own universe), and morally simplistic. It probably seems unfair that I so quickly dismiss the common merits of an entire genre, but I think pornos and chop-socky flicks typically suck, too. At least Star Wars is fast-paced and often fun to watch (when Ford or Jones are speaking, usually). The legacy of Star Wars (besides its importance for the movie industry) is the unmatched, epic scope of its fully-realized universe and, like King Kong, its revelation of the possibilities of cinema to show new creatures and worlds. Okay, I've had my say: bring on the pitchforks.
  8. Birth (2004, Jonathan Glazer, USA) *** From the opening I shot, you know you've got a great director, a good score, and a high-potential concept. To see the spectacular idea paid off with an unspectacular script is beautiful. In case you missed it,
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    the kid is a reincarnation of Sean, who decides to tell Anna he isn't Sean because he doesn't want her to know about him and Clara, and maybe he realizes it just won't work.
  9. Spanglish (2004, James L. Brooks, USA) [rewatch] *** Yeah, I know it's aggressively cute and blatantly manipulating, but I had so much fun watching this, I can't help myself.
  10. Drumline (2002, Charles Stone III, USA) * Barely better than You Got Served.
  11. D.O.A. (1950, Rudolph Maté, USA) * Maybe it was formative for film noir, maybe not. I understand the style of the times, but D.O.A. still feels like an amateur, cliche narrative with horrid dialogue.
  12. Nobody Needs to Know (2003, Azazel Jacobs, USA) *** The sound mix is sometimes lacking, but I don't care: Nobody Needs to Know is told in an original, reflexive style, with plenty of (quietly or loudly) desperate humanity and effective shot manipulation on display. Feels like a student film in a good way, for once. Download it from the Internet Archive.
  13. Videohaut (2004, Thorsten Fleisch, Germany) [short] * Stupid.
  14. Superbitmapping (2000, Thorsten Fleisch, Germany) [short] * A strange and definitely worthless computer experiment.
  15. Silver Screen (2004, Thorsten Fleisch, Germany) [short] * Flesich's worst.
  16. Más Fuerte (2004, Thorsten Fleisch, Germany) [short] * Just as annoying in live-action.
  17. Kosmos (2004, Thorsten Fleisch, Germany) [short] * Frenetic but irritating. I'm beginning to think Fleisch makes films just to piss people off.
  18. K.I.L.L. (2004, Thorsten Fleisch, Germany) [short] * Pointless.
  19. Hautnah (2002, Thorsten Fleisch, Germany) [short] * Like Blutrausch, but with skin.
  20. Gestalt (2003, Thorsten Fleisch, Germany) [short] ** In the same vein as _grau, but more mathematical and less interesting.
  21. Friendly Fire (2003, Thorsten Fleisch, Germany) [short] ** Don't ask me.
  22. Blutrausch (1999, Thorsten Fleisch, Germany) [short] * Flesich smeared his own blood on a roll of film and lets it fly by, fast, furious and messy.
  23. The Boat (1921, Buster Keaton, USA) [short, rewatch] ** I don't want to rate all the silent slapstick shorts, the Disney and Warner Brothers shorts, etc. There's million of them, and they are all roughly the same. There's nothing wrong with The Boat, but it doesn't stand out.
  24. Since Otar Left (2003, Julie Bertucelli, France) *** I've just been waiting for one of these quiet, foreign-film-fest-favorite dramas to be a bad film, I just haven't seen it yet.
  25. First Daughter (2004, Forest Whitaker, USA) * Puts Katie Holmes on a level of abhorability I didn't know existed. This is a sub-Paul-Walker level of distaste, folks. It was like eating poop.
  26. The Machinist (2004, Brad Anderson, Spain) ** Brad Anderson is a name to watch. His direction and Bale's frighteningly frail figure are highly effective mood manipulators, and the movie is propelled by very strong need-to-know-what-happens-next hooks. But: whose first guess at the hangman game after we get "ER" isn't
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    "KILLER"
    ? And there are a few plot holes, like
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    after evading the police, Trevor can go back to get his truck from the front of the police station because they didn't check for his other set of plates and look outside? And how did Trevor not check on his bleeding freezer the first time he saw it?
    Also, the last 30 minutes felt like a waste because by then we're
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    sure it's all in his head, and we're probably sure he's feeling guilty about killing that kid somehow in real life, which caused his insomnia (especially if we've read the movie's tagline).
  27. Mystery Men (1999, Kinka Usher, USA) ** An imaginative, underrated movie with a great concept and jokes and characters that are actually funny. It pains me that it still fails with the other half of the jokes that suck. 50/50 is a pretty rare ratio for successful jokes in a movie, but alas, that doesn't mean Mystery Men is a good movie, just that most comedies really suck.
  28. The Clearing (2004, Pieter Jan Brugge, USA) ** You know, I actually liked this movie for a while for all the wrong reasons. It's cliche, unspectacular, and non-thrilling, with no memorable characters or dialogue. Strangely, enough, that's what I liked about it for a while. It was a simple drama played out semi-often in our country told without contrived action, twists, or intensity. Every character involved is the obvious character who would be involved in the story - as even the characters themselves know. But I guess the filmmakers decided they needed to throw in some predictable Hollywood twists and "intense" scenes for the climax. And in the end, it is possible to make an unassuming, realistic drama not so cliche, and I wish they had.
  29. Memento (2001, Christopher Nolan, USA) [rewatch] ***** Memento uses a highly innovative and effective reverse-forward-reverse-forward chronology. That Memento succeeds so brilliantly on every other level, too, makes it one of the best films of all time. The opening shot is of a grisly murder-scene Polaroid fading away as it fades in Leonard's memory - but of course the shot is rolling backwards because a Polaroid would fade into focus. We then see shots of the murder play backwards as an introduction to the reverse chronology of the film. From then on, the shots play forward but the scenes play backward, except for those in black and white, which play forward. Memento also works as another step forward for Neo-noir: its characters, especialy Leonard, are not only alienated from their surroundings, but from the story and even from themselves. As a thriller, Memento is fairly standard but effective... considered chronologically. The film, of course, literally turns that on its head and still thrills playing in reverse - how many thrillers could do that? As a narrative, Memento is impeccable - perfect pacing, planting and harvesting of mystery, and character development. The oft-cited problem of
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    "How could he remember his condition?"
    must be forgiven because everything else about the film is genius. The ending is one of those rare triumphant finales that is utterly surprising and convincing. It even
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    turns our sympathetic hero into a twisted, vengeful serial killer who not only keeps killing to find purpose in his life, but one-ups killers without guilt because he can't remember anything to be guilty about.
  30. The Woodsman (2004, Nicole Kassell, USA) *** I have a real weakness for movies about broken, wounded, messy people because I'm diarrhetic over the portrayl of humanity nearly ubiquitous in all visual media: happy, rich, beautiful people who rollerblade to the corporate "cush" job and must choose to date one of 6 happy, rich, beautiful people at a ski resort. Even (especially) in "reality" television, nobody's keepin' it real. Our one redeeming character may be the sitcom fat father. I find solace in movies like The Woodsman about hurting, hurtful people who console each other (and sometimes not), and most certainly don't just "get better." Naturally, a movie like this strikes deeper when you know many people who have absued and been abused. The Woodsman is a very well-handled, powerful human drama, unlike The Man Without a Face or, say, The United States of Leland. At least four scenes nearly made me cry. Not as daring or good as I Stand Alone.
  31. The Golem (1920, Carl Boese, Germany) ** I feel much better about my "masterpiece" rating for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari after having seen this failure of German expressionism from the same year. Where Caligari was claustrophobic, psychological, and artistic, The Golem is half overblown Griffith epic and half clownish vaudeville.
  32. My Left Foot (1989, Jim Sheridan, Ireland) *** The touching, quirky, amazing story of Christy Brown, who was born with cerebral palsy but learned to write and paint with his only controllable limb: his left foot. An utterly fantastic performance by Daniel Day-Lewis.
  33. Driving Miss Daisy (1989, Bruce Beresford, USA) *** A very simple story is used as a framework to comment on the people and culture of the period. Quite interesting. Oh, and since it's the first thing you'll ask: Is it slow? No.
  34. East of Eden (1955, Elia Kazan, USA) *** Seems to have lost something from Steinbeck's novel and gained nothing from the medium of film (including James Dean's overrated performance). Still a good story.
  35. Returner (2002, Takashi Yamazaki, Japan) * Actually much worse than Murder by Numbers.
  36. Murder by Numbers (2002, Barbet Schroeder, USA) * Every moment is unbearably awful.
  37. It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963, Stanley Kramer, USA) * So banal and idiotic, I think Rat Race was actually an improvement.
  38. Patton (1970, Franklin J. Schaffner, USA) [rewatch] **** Not much of a war movie, but a profile of a fascinating character. If ever a mainstream film succeeded over its faults through panache, it was Patton. I shudder to imagine that Rod Steiger, Lee Marvin, Robert Mitchum, and Burt Lancaster each could have said "yes" to the fantastic lead role and robbed us of George C. Scott's immortal performance.
  39. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920, Robert Wiene, Germany) [rewatch] **** It's sooo difficult for me to judge primitive film. There's no denying the innovation and importance of something like Dr. Caligari, but even its best moments appear naive and silly by today's sophisticated, cynical standards. The earliest movie I can think of that I could digest with complete seriousness is Murnau's The Last Laugh (1924), and Dr. Caligari came nearly 5 years earlier (in the 20s, film was developing so quickly that 5 years made an enormous difference - compare Nosferatu to Sunrise, for example). Though certainly not perfect, if you compare Dr. Caligari to anything before it, you'll be startled by the stylistic, structural, and atmospheric innovations it made. This is one of the earliest significant feature-length films to so thoroughly attempt film "art" beyond technical wizardry.
  40. Goodfellas (1990, Martin Scorsese, USA) [rewatch] **** Once you accept that it's a voiceover narrative, Goodfellas is told with so much energy and insight, it's irresistible.
  41. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, Stanley Kubrick, UK) [rewatch] ***** Gets better every time I see it. So much has been written and said about A Space Odyssey that I'll try to leave the obvious points alone. 2001 is probably the best film a modern moviegoer is likely to see in his or her lifetime. Kubrick structures his epic painting of man's evolution as a four-act opera, complete with an opening overture and half-point entr'acte (of noisy dark-ambient space music, very cutting edge at the time), a killer opening theme (Strauss' Also sprach Zarathustra), and four distinct acts. 2001 is the most important film to recover what was lost in filmic, visual storytelling since the arrival of the talkie. It represents perfection of all the best elements of film: beauty, originality, mystery, visual storytelling, epic scope, profound human commentary, technical innovation, music and sound excellence, and more. 2001's most significant failing is that of every science fiction film ever made: inability to correctly predict the future on all counts. But it does succeed where nearly all other outer-space movies fail: space travel is terribly boring, outer space is silent, etc. Anyway, it's disappointing to watch even another masterpiece directly after experiencing 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  42. Lost Highway (1997, David Lynch, France) ** Lynch's meaningless escapade melds neo-noir, horror, Persona, That Obscure Object of Desire, Hitchcock, and steamy erotic thriller. At times, it's high art. Other times, it's cheap C-grade filmmaking. At all times, it's confusing and holds no reward for those who try to figure it out. That worked for Un Chien Andalou. Here, it just means all our frustration is for nothing.
  43. Ulysses' Gaze (1995, Theo Angelopoulos, Greece) N/A Either very bad or totally over my head. I'm really not sure which, so I won't assign a rating.
  44. Amores Perros (2000, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Mexico) *** A decent Mexican Pulp Fiction without the style or inventiveness of its progenitor.
  45. Eternity and a Day (1998, Theo Angelopoulos, Greece) *** Touching. An old writer is told by his doctor he will die in a couple days. He runs into an Albrnian refugee boy and decides to take him on a trip as he explores the meaning of life, etc. I think the wedding dance scene is pointless.
  46. Fantasia/2000 (1999, James Algar and others, USA) *** Obviously less groundbreaking than the original, and sometimes the combination of CGI and hand-drawn animation doesn't work. And it's too bad they chose one of the lesser segments from the original (Sorcerer's Apprentice) to repeat here. Still, Fantasia/2000 is beautiful, imaginative and energetic.
  47. _grau (2004, Robert Seidel, Germany) [short, rewatch] **** Fantasia for a modern avant-garde composition with computer-assisted, transformative animation. Spellbinding. Powerful. To say more, I'll need to quote Matt Hanson: "[_grau] does not deliberately ape the abstract pioneers of abstract cinema, and it is worlds away from the motion graphic masturbation of many of those enamoured by digital animation. Seidel's work is impressionistic, melding biological and emotional currents." Download it now.
  48. Fantasia (1940, James Algar and others, USA) [rewatch] **** Disney's animation again leaps forward - into a mixed bag whose incredible strengths smother its weak parts. The first two acts (Bach's Toccata and Fugue and Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite) are brilliant and bursting with creativity. Taken alone, the first two acts would make one of the greatest films of all time. The first is a big-budget, mainstream realization of abstract cinema, and the second could be called the precursor to all worthwhile music videos of today. The third act (Dukas' Sorcerer's Apprentice) is somewhat dopey. The fourth act (Stavinsky's Right of Spring) is mostly mesmerizing. The thankfully brief fifth act is like a media player visualization. The sixth act (Beethoven's 6th Symphony) is boring. The seventh act (Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours is the worst of the film. The finale (Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain and Schubert's Ave Maria) is extremely effective.
  49. The Replacement Killers (1998, Antoine Fuqua, USA) * Ugh.
  50. Million Dollar Baby (2004, Clint Eastwood, USA) ** Eastwood is a fine director, especially of his actors, but Haggis' lazy, cliche, ironic script rubbed me the wrong way over every inch. The unnecessary narration, the on-the-nose dialogue, the obvious characters and plot developments... ugh. At least there's no romance forced into the story and no tacked-on happy ending; I'll give it that much. As for the ending being too manipulative: yeah, it's frustrating we never saw an imperfection in Maggie's character, but shitty things happen to perfectly wonderful people all the time. Still a far more interesting movie than 95% of the crap out there.
  51. Nostalghia (1983, Andrei Tarkovsky, Italy) **** Nostalghia doesn't throw every character trait and plot development in your face like a Hollywood movie (for dummies!). It dwells on the lives of people - the quiet moments, the insipid dialogue, the long walks across a landscape. And the photography is, of course, gorgeous. Its oneiric composition has a quieter Fellini feel. The movie lulls you to sleep, and in this rare case that's not a complaint.
  52. Team America: World Police (2004, Trey Parker, USA) [rewatch] ** I'm really surprised this didn't play better abroad. It's a grisly criticism of American poop culture and blind patriotism from the people most qualified to launch such an attack: Americans! Trey Parker and Matt Stone offer another gem of hilarious, raunchy, timely social satire with Team America, and escape a bevy of potential one-joke breakdowns you'd expect from television writers. Still, Team America presents the best and worst of Trey & Matt. Their critiques are unflinching and accurate, but they'd rather fling lewd rants at everything they hate than support a better way. They (and I) have great fun mocking Bruckheimer, actors who think they are politicians and philosophers, narrow-minded American zealots, and Michael Moore. But it's lazy to make a movie that's "purposely" bad instead of crafting a good one.
  53. Distant (2002, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey) *** Feels like late Bresson. Distant is cold, sterile, slow, and, of course, distant. It concerns two men who live together but always find a great distance between themselves. It's intimate and downright... undramatic. It's also very natural - the sets feel lived-in, the acting feels natural and un-movielike, the scenes play out simply; unpoetic and uncompressed. The final shot (okay, 3rd- or 4th-to-last shot) is stunning, but you have to watch the movie and see it in motion to get the full effect.
  54. Zoolander (2001, Ben Stiller, USA) [rewatch] * Not funny.
  55. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004, Wes Anderson, USA) *** Funny.
  56. The Truman Show (1998, Peter Weir, USA) [rewatch] *** A bit predictable, but loads of fun.
  57. Requiem for a Dream (2000, Darren Aronofsky, USA) [rewatch] **** None of the filmmaking methods here are original, but never before have they been so focused, unflinching, collaborative, and effective. The parable of Requiem for a Dream speaks of a director pushing an old story and old techniques to near perfection through sheer force of will and vision. The only thing keeping this from being one of the greatest films of all time is the ending, which is the weakest part of the movie when it should be the strongest. The treatment of the drug addicts at the hands of medical staff is unbelievable and probably a relic from the 1970's original novel. And, during the finale, which cuts between the four main characters and their suffering, three are in awful circumstances and one (Tyrone) in the comfortable inconvenience of incarceration. The film tries unsuccessfully to put all their suffering on the same level. These problems are easily fixable, and it's a shame Aronofsky didn't rectify them.
  58. Charade (1963, Stanley Donen, USA) [rewatch] *** My favorite film for several years, Charade is a Hitchockian thriller and Grant/Hepburn charmer that provides nothing new to the genre but succeeds on all counts. If there's a short list of 10 films that I'd be dumfounded to find someone didn't enjoy, this is on it.
  59. Pulp Fiction (1994, Quentin Tarantino, USA) [rewatch] ***** A delirious fusion of 20's pulp magazines, film noir, New Wave, spagetti western, black comedy, Cassavetes, and Kubrick's The Kiling, Pulp Fiction is simply better than most of its ancestors (and all of its descendents).
  60. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004, Quentin Tarantino, USA) ** Different but just as bad and good as Vol. 1, Vol. 2 once again shows Tarantino pushing style over substance and forgetting how he achieved both in his earliest films. This is Quentin amusing himself, not making a good movie.
  61. Hotel Rwanda (2004, Terry George, UK) *** "We must shame them into sending help." Well, they can try. Maybe this movie is so overrated on IMDB because viewers want to assuage their guilt for ignoring all the atrocities in the world going on right now by rating the movie highly and recommending it to everyone they know (who do nothing but the same). I'll just live with my own guilt. When I finished the film, I said, "My God, that's awful" and put in Kill Bill: Vol. 2.
  62. Primer (2004, Shane Carruth, USA) [rewatch] ***
  63. Primer (2004, Shane Carruth, USA) *** This film makes a point about visual narrative that few films since the silent era have made: dialogue rarely matters. Half the time I had no idea what was being said, but I always knew something was happening, and I could read the emotions of the moment in the character's face and body language. I was hooked from beginning to end of this very technical, confusing movie. It's more difficult because the character don't speak like movie characters - one at a time, slow, and carefully enunciated. They speak quickly, taking shortcuts they know their close friends will be able to follow, overlapping each other, using abstruse dialogue. Primer is also the only movie I can think of that's actually about time travel (rather than about so-and-so in a on a quest in a different era). Unfortunately, there are some amateur problems (focus, dubbing) which are occasionally the fault of the miniscule budget, or occasionally of the first-time director. I hope bigger budgets and more experience doesn't diminish Carruth's vision.
  64. Un Chien Andalou (1929, Luis Buñuel, France) [short, rewatch] ***** "[It] shattered my skull, realigned my synapses, made me nervous, made me laugh... It wasn't just the fusion I'd been waiting for: it was a whole new universe, a completely realized and previously unimaginable landscape..." - Lester Bangs. "If there has been anything in the history of [this medium] which could be described as a work of art in a way that people who are involved in other areas of art would understand, then [this] is probably that work." - John Peel. Lester Bangs and John Peel were talking about Trout Mask Replica, Captain Beefheart's rock album, but their statements work equally well in describing Un Chien Andalou.
  65. Vanilla Sky (2001, Cameron Crowe, USA) [rewatch] ** This movie holds a special place in my heart for several reasons. First, the soundtrack features "Everything in Its Right Place", "Svefn-G-Englar" and "Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space". More importantly, the movie (a remake of Amenábar's Open Your Eyes (1997), which I haven't seen) is very similar to a screenplay I was developing when I first saw it, including the
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    millionaire main character's "recovery" from a serious injury via virtual reality, his confusion at people being different than he remembered, his eventual realization of the fantasy world, and the escape from that fantasy by jumping off a tall building in the climax.
    But I stole all these elements from my favorite Batman: The Animated Series episode, "Perchance to Dream" (1992). Go Batman! But while Crowe and probably Amenábar made better movies with the ideas than I could have, Vanilla Sky is too pretentious.
  66. The Life of David Gale (2003, Alan Parker, USA) * I don't have to write up all the movies I don't like, do I?
  67. Carlito's Way (1993, Brian De Palma, USA) ** De Palma has vision but no consistent style. This movie is a thoughtful crime drama, a hokey romance, a melodrama, and a corny action flick (really, Carlito, you take ou drug dealers with a stupid pool shot rather than just grabbing the gun from from one of their belts?), and they don't all work together.
  68. Confidence (2003, James Foley, USA) *** Nothing new, but the plot twists and characters were good enough to make me happy.
  69. War of the Worlds (2005, Steven Spielberg, USA) * Nobody blows up shit like Speilberg, but you can drive a tank through Worlds' holes in logic.
  70. eXistenZ (1999, David Cronenberg, Canada) * As with all Cronenberg, eXistenZ is enjoyably weird. Unfortunately, it's also half-assed in every department: writing, directing, acting, editing, and concepts. I guess I just can't surrender to the silly fantasy.
  71. The United States of Leland (2003, Matthew Ryan Hoge, USA) ** Ultimately says nothing by saying way too much in voiceover, and by treating an unsafe scenario safely and cutely. Zach Braff plays Ryan Gosling's role better in Garden State.
  72. 21 Grams (2003, Alejandro González Iñárritu, USA) [rewatch] ***** Is it better to be stone or clay? Dirty Harry always kicks ass, but I think he just hides his emotional problems instead of confronting and (re)solving them. You all know by now I'm Clayface himself, having now radically changed my film ratings scale twice, my attitudes toward evolution and abortion, my view of rock music, and my social comfort zone - each in the blink of an eye, and in the last few months. Change makes things really messy, especially when I'm trying to maintain a database of every film I've seen, but I think all these recent changes are making me better (or at least more arrogant). Anyway, it's time to be honest about my film reviewing: I have a hard time relating to and fully comprehending most foreign films. I'm not exposed enough to the relevant context to gork their beauty. Also, I'm dishonest with some reviews. Pickpocket was boring as hell, and I gave it an 8. Besides, isn't it the same thing Bresson had already done with Diary of a Country Priest and A Man Escaped? Also, I hereby admit I love really fucked-up films about fucked-up people. I will never respond to The Wizard of Oz the way I do to Requiem for a Dream. And that's okay. I really believe Requiem is the better film in any case. Oh, right... about 21 Grams. Nearly all movies' scenes are ordered according to time, whether it be Casablanca, Memento, or even Pulp Fiction. And though 21 Grams would be a perfect film played chronologically, Iñárritu juxtaposes the scenes in a way that maximizes the emotional intensity and scope of the picture with complete disregard for other concerns, except one: the careful and steady revelation of all the shocking pieces of the story, even though the movie isn't ordered chronologically. It's really stunning, if you think about it. Furthermore, this is one of the best acted movies I have ever seen - which isn't quite as impressive as it sounds because all of the best-acted movies of all time have arrived in the past decade (acting, at least, always gets better with each passing era). Still, I was floored by the talent that blossoms here. It's possible that each major actor gave their best career performance in this single film. The only weakness is the pointless (and thankfully brief) epilogue. But with a film this perfect and effective, I cannot complain. This film gave me an epiphany about the way I think and feel about film; it's that good. The second-best film of the decade so far (behind you-know-what).
  73. Hostage (2005, Florent Emilio Siri, USA) * Preposterous.
  74. The Village (2004, M. Night Shyamalan, USA) ** Fails not because it isn't scary or because we're all expecting the twist(s), but because it's simply not that good. Like Frailty, The Village is a great idea that just wasn't executed that well. It's sad that Shyamalan's directing has taken precedence over what he was first known for - his screenwriting. Shyamalan has to cheat a great deal
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    (do you really think Noah could make such growling sounds in the suit?)
    to achieve his wasted attempts at suspense, and the mood of the film is achieved solely with shot placement/duration and the score, not the content of the story. Still, it's fun to see Shyamalan wrap it all up so nicely at the end like he always does
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    (for example, against all logic, it does make sense that Walker sent a blind girl through the forest)
    , even if he can't escape a few massive leaps of logic. The Village isn't a good movie, but I'll keep watching Shyamalan flicks.
  75. Cries and Whispers (1972, Ingmar Bergman, Sweden) **** Aptly titled, Cries and Whispers hovers beside the slow agony of several women. What is it with Scandinavian directors and pain, suffering, and despair? Maybe it's the weather. They're obsessed with the stuff, and damn good at it.
  76. Batman Begins (2005, Christopher Nolan, USA) ** Batman improves on Spidey's soap operas, X-Men's adolescence, and the other live-action superhero movies' fecundity. You've likely heard oodles about Goyer's fleshed-out origin story, Nolan's grounded, plausible take on Batman, Gotham's splendor, Bale's performance, and more, and that shouldn't diminish the impressiveness and rarity of those feats. But there were several problems. Katie Holmes can't act, and her character doesn't justify her existence in the film. The billionaire Wayne family exited the opera into... a slum alley? The filmmakers tried to cram too much into too short of time, and the breathless pace steals any impact the scenes could have. And I wanted to see the Batman beating the shit out of people, but the camera was shaky and cut too quickly. I had this sitting with three stars for a while because it is better than the X-Men and Spider-Man movies, but no: too many problems. The sequels can be better if (1) the studio doesn't look at the weak box office and wrestle more control away from the filmmakers, (2) they dump Katie Holmes, and (3) the editing slows down.
  77. Hitch (2005, Andy Tennant, USA) ** Color me shocked. (That's white, right? Or is it neon orange?) This is the first competant mainstream/formula romantic comedy I've seen this decade. I was actually beginning to think I would never see another decent Ephronesque movie. And it stars Will Smith, for crying out loud. Shocking. And really, there's nothing that special about Hitch, except that everything else in the genre has been so awful for so long. Still, props to the writer for working the formula and making me laugh and care.
  78. Kingdom (1994, Lars von Trier, Denmark) [miniseries] ** Pretty damn good... for TV. I'd rather sleep in Michael Jackson's bed than watch 5 hours of E.R., but Kingdom went by briskly. I've heard some say that the medical political drama and especially the supernatural horror are satire, but if they are then you'd think they'd be more exaggerated (or maybe that's just American satire and I've been watching too much South Park). I just took it for what it was and found it engaging but nothing special. I'm pretty dumfounded by the people who call it a "masterpiece". And the device of using the two dishwashers to say spooky things every 30 minutes was pretty annoying pretty quick.
  79. Alexandria... Why? (1978, Youssef Chahine, Egypt) ** As I've come to expect from "popular" movies of the "2nd" and "3rd" world, every aspect of this film was just a bit lacking: acting, directing, writing, and especially the sound. Quite enjoyable, though.
  80. Kinsey (2004, Bill Condon, USA) *** Show of hands: for those who read my reviews, who thought I wouldn't love Kinsey? Thought so. Kinsey is a well-crafted biopic that is nevertheless messy, dangerous, surprising, and anti-Hollywood - just the way I like 'em. Just as in something like American Beauty, it's the themes that really appeal to me: especially that Kinsey himself had serious problems (dude, you punctured your what?). The movie even had Kinsey admitting research errors. I do have two small complaints: Laura Linney's performance disappointed me at times, and the conversation scene after Kinsey and Clyde were digging in the garden was awful. The rest of the script was excellent, but that one scene felt like it had been left in its first-draft state. Weird. Loved this movie, though.
  81. Weekend (1967, Jean-Luc Godard, Italy) ** Godard's self-parody is "laughably" indulgent but not that funny (for the most part). Still pretty exciting and unpredictable, though, and it's Godard, so of course there's some fun for film buffs.
  82. Amarcord (1973, Federico Fellini, Italy) **** My, what fun! These vignettes of Fellini's childhood are priceless. Touching, hilarious, unpredictable, gorgeous, and oh so... human.
  83. Himalaya (1999, Eric Valli, France) ** Yet another film I watch mostly for a glimpse at far-foreign culture and am disappointed by how Westernized either it or its filmic portrayl is. As a film or narrative, Himalaya is competant but has little to offer.
  84. Satyricon (1969, Federico Fellini, Italy) ** Fellini is a virtuoso director, but his decision to so literally adapt the ancient, peurile source material so literally was a poor one. He even cuts off scenes in mid-sentence where part of the source is lost. An interesting experiment, but not a good one.
  85. Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (2004, Joe Berlinger, USA) ** Thoroughly honest but thoroughly average.
  86. Hannibal (2001, Ridley Scott, USA) [rewatch] * Julianne Moore does a mean Jodie Foster, and the film has a few admirable qualities, but this is all a bunch of silliness.
  87. Maria Full of Grace (2004, Joshua Marston, USA) * Shallow.
  88. The Harder They Come (1972, Perry Henzell, Jamaica) ** A 100% Jamaican production, The Harder They Come is naive but not intolerably amateurish.
  89. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968, Sergio Leone, Italy) **** Magical. It's pretty funny that this ultimate portrait of the mythical American Wild West, with its rough mountains & rougher men, long stares and short talk, was made in Italy. And God, what a great score but Morricone. It's hard to say what makes this one of the greatest westerns ever. Everything just adds up perfectly; the actors, the script, the sets, the editing, the direction, the score.
  90. The Amityville Horror (1979, Stuart Rosenberg, USA) * Basically, lots of creepy stuff happens in a house. There's not much plot or even character development, the house really is the main subject of the movie. Though many parts are effectively creepy, the overwrought ending was one of the least-scary scenes in the movie.
  91. The Aviator (2004, Martin Scorsese, USA) *** Scorsese used to be a great filmmaker. But that was a long time ago, and somehow I still haven't reconciled with the fact that he's now merely a very good mainstream craftsman in the vein of Peter Jackson and (occasionally) Steven Speilberg. This is definitely a film about Howard Hughes, as every other character is a well-dressed cardboard cutout. Scorcese's shiny direction elevates the formula script, but I couldn't help but be disappointed. One scene in particular just didn't work for me: the XF-11 crash. I saw Scorcese trying to make it look messy and violent, but the whole thing was extremely clean. He shot the thing in too many shots, way too close - just like a fist fight, it'd be more violent if shot from a distance so you can actually see what's going on. Even Hughes' escape from the cockpit when he's bloody and screaming seemed half-assed. I dunno, something really bothered me about that scene. Anyone else?
  92. The Story of the Weeping Camel (2003, Byambasuren Davaa, Germany) *** Is Hollywood completely incapable of making quiet movies? Or, more fairly, are American audiences incapable of enjoying quiet movies? Even something like Finding Neverland is fast-paced, complex, and loud compared to the simple beauty of Weeping Camel. And after seeing one of the loudest movies ever made, Revenge of the Sith, I was certainly ready for the tranquil pleasures of Weeping Camel. The movie spends nearly as much time on the camels as the humans. There are very few fictional films about animals (unless they are very personified, as in Disney cartoons or Milo & Otis). The best example I can think of is The Bear, and Weeping Camel approaches that kind of intimacy and attention for its titular character. The human story is just as unassuming. The IMDB plot outline is sufficient: "When a Mongolian nomadic family's newest camel colt is rejected by its mother, a musician is needed for a ritual to change her mind." And that's it. And it's beautiful.
  93. Revenge of the Sith (2005, George Lucas, USA) * Why did I rush out to see a movie I knew would suck? Despite its R-rated content, Revenge of the Sith is a children's movie in all the worst ways. Lucas discards all logic and subtelty in favor of what looks cool and plots & dialogue a monkey could follow. Lucas is his own worst fanboy, emotionally retarded by success. Droids inexplicably elicit the kinds of light emotional irony I hoped would be reserved for a 1980s Ewoks cartoon. Wookies swing into battle with a Tarzan roar. Actors struggle with dialogue so insipid it intensifies the pain they're trying to express for the scene. This movie didn't just have bad moments; every scene was unforgivably flawed in almost every way. Even the score was mailed in. The only people trying futilly to make an omlet of this rotten egg were the special effects people, who bumped it up a notch from Attack of the Clones, and Ewan McGregor, who occasionally triumphed over his ridiculous dialogue to make a few pieces of certain scenes actually work. Thankfully, one of those moments he made work was the climax of his battle with Vader: "You were the chosen one!" And that is why I rushed out to see a movie I knew would suck: the mythic story, the legendary characters, the untoppable stakes, the epic action. In addition, Revenge of the Sith is a rare breed of movie; not only is it an epic space opera with the most fully realized universe ever, but it's the only blockbuster I can think of whose ending is truly tragic. Not bittersweet like Titanic or Gone with the Wind, but tragic. Naturally, Lucas is dumb enough to undermine even the height of tragedy when Vader pulls a Frankenstein lurch and cries, "NOOOOOOO!" I burst out laughing. And now that this Evil Empire under Darth Lucas has supposedly come to an end, I can look back and laugh at all the pain. Now please, show me a Peter Jackson epic.
  94. Attack of the Clones (2002, George Lucas, USA) [rewatch] * Oh my God. So much worse than I even remembered. This is amateur filmmaking from a billionaire veteran of movies. The scripts for the original trilogy were at least decent, as was the acting, the comedy was funny, and the sci-fi action and environments were jaw-dropping and exciting. Everything in this film is a snooze, and the CGI environments and characters don't stand up well next to the special effects work in Spider-Man and Two Towers of the same year. And man is the dialogue and acting ever horrible. I'd love to see a reel of the takes that didn't make the cut. Lucas' money has made him a child, a madman. More importantly, he's still a mind-control wizard; I'll probably shell out to see Revenge of the Sith in theaters this week.
  95. Mother and Son (1997, Aleksandr Sokurov, Russia) **** Okay, ranting time: I think film has the loftiest potential of any art form because it can incorporate each of the other forms: music, sculpture, painting, narrative, poetry, acting, and set design, along with its own unique art of moving images. Because of this, I truly believe something like Citizen Kane is every bit the worthy companion of Beethoven's Eroica or Dali's The Persistence of Memory, and that film has the potential to surpass even the greatest works of fine art. It hasn't done so yet (and might never) because film relies on all these art forms and on so many craftsmen (often thousands instead of one), and because it is the most popular art and therefore is burdened most heavily by commercial concerns. I have mixed emotions, then, when a film aspires for an art form that is more capable of purity but has less overall artistic potential (because less artistic elements are involved). For example, I'm disappointed by the filmed stageplays of the 1930s (even the good ones) and Andy Warhol's ridiculous Empire. Mother and Son is about a man who takes care of his dying mother. It's full of very long, static, silent shots. I first thought it would make more sense as a novel than a film. It's a very quiet, intimate, internal film, and I imagine a novel with page after page filled with reflections on life, the world, the characters, and perhaps God. But then I realized that I've read all those words before; they are unnecessary, and anyway, not up to the task. So what we have is a film that tells the 'story' in the best possible way: with wind in the grass, dying embers, trees in bloom, broken sunlight, and most importantly: the human face. I've found many films like this to be boring beyond belief, but somehow I couldn't stop looking at the brilliant photography. With its unadulterated focus, you might expect Mother and Son to 'go deeper' than other films that deal with slow mortality, but the film is not especially profound. And here's a funny bit about film criticism: if I like the movie, I can say "... and that's what's so great about Mother and Son; it aspires to be exactly what it is - a quiet, simple portrait of mortality." And if I don't like the movie, I can say, "...and that's why Mother and Son is a complete waste of time." But I like the movie. And here's where I work the obligatory sex reference into my review. It's been said that if a nude shot is in focus, it's porn, and if it's out of focus, it's art. Because of the heavy lens distortion (which probably speaks to the distorted view of reality impending death causes) applied to Fyodorov's gorgeous photography, it's obvious Sokurov is more interested with the art of his film than with making really pretty pictures for us all to ooh and ahh at.

  96. Older, inaccurate reviews for 2005 are here
Author Comments: 

Most recently seen at the top. Rewatches preceded by an asterix. Ratings breakdown:

***** one of the best films of all time.
**** masterpiece.
*** quite good.
** poor.
* burning needles up my urethra.

Cloned From: 

The ending of Cinema Paradiso had me crying for 5 whole minutes.

And what a musical theme by Morricone!

'Aparjito'(!).

I saw Ray's 'Pather Panchali' recently and can't wait to feast myself on the rest of his work. Have you seen 'Jalsaghar'?

Alas, no. Of Ray's work, I've only seen the Apu Trilogy. It's on my to see list.

Pather Panchali was my favorite of the Apu Trilogy, but they were all great.

Not good. At this rate, I'll see nearly 1,000 films this year. I need to slow down! :-)

and now, I certainly have. At this point, I'm watching almost nothing but Netflix movies, which comes to only 3 a week right now - perhaps because I'm requesting films they only have one copy of? Maybe it'd be just as good to switch to GreenCine so I could finally see Les Vampires and Sunrise. Too bad they don't have a free trial.

So Ong Bak's no good? (I've heard many different opinions on it.)

If you watch it more as a circus (collection of death-defying stunts) or a ballet (powerful and graceful moves) you'll dig it. If you watch it for the plot or acting, you'll likely be disappointed.

I hope lukeprog won't mind if I note that he is fairly adverse to the genre in general. :-)

Absolutely, Jim's right.

This kind of movie likes to think it's worthwhile without decent plotting, dialogue, acting, direction, or even scoring, and I don't buy it. I enjoy Jackie Chan flicks, but they are not good movies. Ong-Bak is like a Jackie Chan flick but even worse because there is no comedy. It is helpful to note that I didn't even like Enter the Dragon.

This kind of vapid martial arts display should either be supported by solid elements of filmmaking or not be a movie at all but a demo reel or something. I love those THPS skateboarding demo reels because they don't pretend to be something they're not. They show off mad skills and that's it. If you want to show off some awesome martial arts skills but can't bother putting together a decent movie, just show me a real-world demo reel and save me the hour+ of your movie that is crappy dialogue and plotting between the action scenes.

A circus is fun, but imagine if most of your time at a circus' show was filled with two amateurs making up terrible dialogue, interrupted occasionally an amazing trapeez stunt or an elephant balancing on a ball (does that happen outside of Dumbo?).

Is this what's called a chop-socky flick? If so, I usually hate chop-socky flicks.

Sounds like Kung-fu porn.

I should add though that for me Tony Jaa made the whole thing work. Not only for his physical prowess, but for his screen presense in general. I cared for his stoic, humble, ass-kicking farm boy, so that made the movie work for me. Most everything around him or the action pieces is pretty weak though.

My acting eye is almost racially blind (yeah, I need help), so I wonder if Jaa's inevitable leap stateside will show he can act and speak English, unlike Jackie Chan and others.

Shoah gets a 2 star, ouch! can I get an explanation of that low ranking?

and can you give some star ratings on the newer movies, I wanna know what you thought!

:?)

Sorry, I had a review of Shoah that I forgot to publish. It's now over here.

The movies that are lower on the list (viewed earlier in the year) do not have a ranking because I recently changed from a 100-point scale to a 5-star scale. Not only did the scale change, but my criterion for fitting films on that scale changed. So, every film that got a 75 would not necessarily be given **** or *** or whatever.

I made the change in rating system around the time I saw The Wages of Fear, I think. Because my criterion, and not just the scale, have changed, I am wary about going too far back in my recollection of film viewings to assign new ratings. At the time, I was 'looking for different things' with which to apply a rating, so to speak.

However, I will try to work my way back as far this year as I dare with the new ratings system. But I want everything I've assigned a star rating to adhere to my newer, stricter, more carefully considered criterion, so I don't want to lazily assign new star ratings to films that I really didn't watch under this mindset. If there are particular films you'd like to hear comments on, let me know. Otherwise, I'll do my best to fill in star ratings on the ones I remember all the details about clearly enough.

Lol, whaddyaknow. I was having trouble with My Darling Clementine and Open City in the same category as Girl, Interrupted, so I had to go to a 10-point scale, just now. :-) Still very different ratings criterion than the 100 point scale, though.

For the first time ever, a repeat viewing of Citizen Kane has made me less certain of its status as the best film ever made. The narrative isn't quite as successful as the filmmaking; the opening news reel, especially, seems like like a lazy technique, but so much else works wonderfully. But that's like saying that A Scarlet Letter isn't Hamlet. Or something. You kow what I mean. It's still the best film I've seen, but at least now I'm hopeful that it's possible there's a better film out there, somewhere.

Anyway, I can't quite get past the 'Let's go to the window!' line. You're not doing radio, anymore, Welles - you don't need that.

Banish all doubt from your mind. "Best" can be a nebulous term at best, but "Great" is a word made for Citizen Kane . Think of the wondrous use of storytelling done in flashback (and often within flashback.) The technique of using a news reel to introduce the death of Charles Foster Kane was (nigh on) revolutionary. It was only a couple of years earlier that The Mercury Theater players terrified the world with Martians landing in Grovers Mill, New Jersey. That broadcast was in the form of a (fake) newscast. Just because it is a brilliant technique that has been ripped off by directors vastly more talented than Orson Welles' little finger does not mean that it is or was "a lazy technique."

Off the top of myhead I can't remember "the 'Let's go to the window!' line" but Citizen Kane was the first thing that Welles produced after the sensation he had made in radio. He was creating and remaking the very ground rules of film so -- Who knows what he needed? Remember that people hated this movie when it came out and it flopped in a huge way. That is what happens with anything that is great. How can you hope for a better film?

I do think the newsreel was a cool idea, but I think that once Welles happened upon this device he overused it to explain everything up front like the Star Wars opening crawl (which I also dislike).

I can always hope for a better film, but I think the deepest core of my brain knows that is foolish. Kane was so inventive and effective with such a wide range of burgeoning techniques (camera movement & placement, sound design, narrative structure) that perhaps there aren't enough 'virgin elements' in filmmaking that could theoretically be used to blow us away in comparable totality to Kane.

Perhaps just as damning to the notion that a better film could be made today is the realization that people don't watch good movies anymore. Can you imagine films like Blowup or La Dolce Vita being as popular today as they were upon their release? I realize Citizen Kane was a failure, but when was the last time you saw an artistically daring film break the $100 mark? (Passion doesn't count just for using dead languages.)

This factor becomes especially important as you consider that perhaps the 'freshest' filmmaking tools are CGI techniques that, when used to great extent in a film, are too expensive for 'art filmmakers' to utilize. Going back to my earlier question, could you imagine 2001 being a financial success today? Could you imagine it even being financed?

I still say there are a small chinks in Citizen Kane's armor, but I know it may be impossible to find a film that is brilliant and groundbreaking in so many ways. That doesn't mean I can't hope, though!

The first time I ever saw Citizen Kane I needed the full run down on Charles Foster Kane just to have a chance to keep up. Once the warp is laid down the genius comes from how the weft is used to weave the tapestry (of our lives... or something else just as insipid.) I haven't tired of the news reel upon repeated viewings because I'm always eager to rewatch how Welles unravels the fabric of Charles Foster Kane's life from those few biographical underpinnings.

In the '40s movies were a true mass medium and a young one at that. Everyone went to the movies. That's obviously not true anymore and you can see the emphasis on taking teenaged boys' money that has resulted from the attempt to squeeze the most profit one can out of each movie. It is a death spiral that I can't imagine Hollywood will be able to pull out of.

Actually, I can imagine 2001 being an even bigger success today than it was then (however big that was.) It seems to me that M. Night Shyamalan is painting from the eerie part of the Kubrick palette and I can certainly see Kubrick making the same amount of money that other movies make in a single M. Night.

I admire your faith and hope in the unimaginable.

I guess the newsreel, for me, works like a highly compressed and more obvious version of the first hour of The Godfather, which was very compelling and great filmmaking, but was a little too obvious. So, it helped the audience get into the movie smoothly on first viewing, but it weakened future viewings. I think a measure of true masterpieces is that they are just as good, if not better, every time you re-watch them (an excellent example for me would be Mulholland Drive).

Shyamalan movies are fast-paced, every scene makes sense, and they have meaningful dialogue and action. 2001 has very little of any of these. Even with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, Kubrick could only make $55 million in 1999 with Eyes Wide Shut, a film I think is more easily comprehensible than 2001, and certainly faster paced.

I love Citizen Kane's newsreel. Not only does it give us a public biography the rest of the film will compliment/undermine/enhance, it also plays as a rather funny spoof of newsreels in general. The grammar alone cracks me up, as well as the pathetic, abrupt ending. After several minutes of the man's life, we just get a, "he died," followed by march music and the end.

Sorry, but it amuses me.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I hadn't thought of the newsreel as a public biography that the 'real' story can play for and against. That's nice. I agree that the newsreel is sort of funny, but it's like the 'bumbling assassin' scene in Mulholland Drive - it's the funniest scene in the movie but also the weakest because there's almost no reason for it to be there. Of course, if you think so much exposition is necessary, than you'll disagree with my 'no reason for it to be there' analogy.

I find the humor of the newsreel much more subtle than the scene you mentioned from Mulholland Drive. In fact, many people can watch it and never realize it is meant to be somewhat funny.

I do think the information and, perhaps more vital, the image it provides of Mr. Kane is pretty important background and contrast material for the rest of the film, and I find the newsreel is a rather clever, entertaining way of providing that.

Like the motion of the film's opening shot, it is the long shot which the rest of the film will attempt to telescope into a close-up.

Again, just MHO.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I've only seen a couple M. Night movies but it didn't seem to me that they were "fast-paced" and if every scene in The Sixth Sense made sense then they would've called it "The First to Fifth Senses."

0dysseus, I found you out! I just know you're the one who wrote the forward to American (The Book) in the voice of Thomas Jefferson. So, that makes you one of the following: Jon Stewart, Ben Karlin, David Javerbaum, Rich Blomquist, Steve Bodow, Tim Carvell, Eric Drysdale, J.R. Havlan, Scott Jacobson, Tom Johnson, Rob Kutner, Chris Regan, Jason Reich, or Jason Ross. And so, you're probably male.

BTW, 0dysseus, in your silence, I'm going to assume you're male.

I think we've gone through this before, but I can't remember where for the life of me. Anyway, I'm almost positive she's female.

Well, that's what I thought, but I couldn't find it either, and 0dysseus is a male character, after all. 0dysseus, you fiend!

This was bugging me so much I pursued it. From what I can find, there are imperfect arguments for and against (a comic book readin', crude jokin' Trekkie) the notion that 0dysseus is female. And another for (comments on Shrek, "them") it. And I'm sure there's a revelation buried here, but my shovel hasn't clanged yet. She (tentative) also has a sister whose daughter was born 6 months after June. If we can get 0dysseus to admit US citizenship, we've got her narrowed down to 130 million people or so. It'd help if we could speak the dog-language of Argus.

A 5 for "Baby Cart to Hades"? See, I knew you had no soul! :-)

It is surprisingly well-shot, but like most of its kind, Baby Cart is stuffed with stupid. It is quite entertaining if you can laugh at the stupidity instead of being annoyed by it, which is what I suspect its fans do, right? I feel the same way about Jackie Chan movies - very entertaining, but as film or narrative art: worthless. The entertainment factor is the only reason it didn't get a 4.

I think my desire for films to be good in addition to entertaining is what keeps me from liking certain genres very often.

So if, as even you admit, it's well-shot, how does that make it worthless as filmic art? (I also take issue with the idea of it being narratively worthless, but then again it makes more sense if you, ya know, watch the films in order instead of starting with Part 3.)

It's difficult for me to explain why I thought the narrative was so terrible without doing a scene-by-scene commentary, and I've already returned the DVD. Simply, I found the characters undeveloped, the story all but nonsensical (but you're right, it may have helped if I'd started at the beginning of the series), the dialogue terribly bland (don't know how much of this is translation, though), and the action was, as you know, quite silly. Walking on weapons and high-powered baby cart subautomatic bamboo rifles and slicing the air to cut off a limb two feet away - these things are funny, but they'd don't keep up with the cinematography (and whatever else goes into positioning objects within a frame). I hope you understand that a '5' simply means that it's a 'decent' film with nothing specially or notably good about it (which in my harsh terminology is a 'failure').

What a lameass answer. I'm sure to be destroyed if you and other Baby Cart fans try to hold a serious debate about the issue with me; I'm unprepared and unenthusiastic.

Take note that I also gave Ray a '5'. I thought it was shot decently enough, and Jamie Foxx's performance was great (though overrated), but nearly every scene was very cliche, and some were downright horrible (the part where Ray's wife tells him not to play a gospel song comes to mind). The elements I liked couldn't make up for all the elements that didn't work.

On the other hand, I gave Girl, Interrupted a '7' despite hating the last 10 minutes. Why? Because I thought the performances, the characters, and the scenes worked extremely well throughout the majority of the movie. And, the movie worked a whole because it was a mad film about madness and I always wanted to know what was going to happen next and was often surprised. I didn't even know which characters were 'right' half the time. I love all that. With so much that I loved in that film, I could somewhat forgive the last ten minutes. I feel the same way about the studio-tacked-on ending of The Bad Seed. That ending was ludicrously awful, worse than the Girl, Interrupted ending, but I loved the rest of the movie so much I could forgive those few seconds of atrocity.

"very entertaining, but as film or narrative art: worthless."

Can't a film succeed (and warrant the label "film") by merely entertaining well?

This is tricky to explain. I mostly judge films as art. A film can 'succeed' for an indivdual (me or you) through sheer entertainment, but what people find entertaining is so variable that I don't want to rate films solely based on how well they entertained me, though I don't mind commenting on it. I find Evil Dead II extremely entertaining, my friends don't, and I gave it a '5'. All my friends were entertained by 'Along Came Polly' and I wanted to shoot myself while watching it. Most people are wildly entertained by 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' but some find it too silly. I don't have any issue on people who rate films based solely (or heavily) on how much it entertained them. In fact, that's probably just as useful as me trying to come to some kind of 'objective valuation' of a film.

Now, let me qualify that earlier statement "I mostly judge films as art. A film can 'succeed' for an indivdual (me or you) through sheer entertainment..." Entertainment usually does factor into my valuation of a film, especially for films that are meant to entertain (most Hollywood films, for example). If a comedy's jokes fall flat or if an action movie's action isn't thrilling, it fails.

As you can see, I'm finding this a bit tricky; doesn't paragraph #1 directly contradict paragraph #2? I know exactly what criterion I use to judge films (I have to point that out because, as you know, it's not true with everything I think), but I'm not sure I know it in an articulatable fashion. If you understand what I'm trying to say, nod your head. If you don't, shake it left to right and ask some helpful clarifying/elaborating questions.

BTW, I think you misunderstood "very entertaining, but as film or narrative art: worthless." By "film or narrative art", I meant "film art or narrative art". I don't know what the term for that grammatical device is, but I was just slicing up my... adjectives? Stupid English language. Anyway, of course Baby Cart qualifies as a 'film'.

I'm not sure I'm any clearer on where you're coming from than I was before, but it wasn't really fair of me in the first place, as it's so much easier to pose conundrums that wriggle out of them. :-)

No, it's fair. There's always a chance I'll be able to solve the puzzle. Let me give it another shot. Simplistically, I ask three questions when evaluating a film:

1. What is the film trying to achieve?
2. How effectively does it achieve those goals?
3. Are those goals impressive and valuable?

Three examples:

Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The film is trying to get as many laughs as possible out of the audience. It succeeds in that more than any other comedy I can think of (it has made me laugh more and harder than any other film). Endless laughter is the ultimate goal of any comedy, but it would be even more impressive if it also succeeded in being an acting and directorial powerhouse.

American History X. The film tries to be an edgy, gritty examination of racism and reform. It succeeds in grittiness, but it's tale doesn't quite succeed because of several far-too-expected characters and especially basic dialogue. It does have some wonderful things to say about racism and deception, however. Its story goals are partially achieved, but it makes no attempt at surpassing mainstream direction.

The Evil Dead II. The film is shooting for over-the-top, cheesy horror/comedy. It succeeds well enough. The goal of cheesy horror/comedy is not a high one because in fact it relies on what could just as easily be symptoms of amateur, skill-less direction, acting, scripting, scoring, etc.

That's another way of looking at it. Any better?

I'm with you on [1] and [2], but personally I'd replace [3] with "what is my emotional response?" I don't know what makes a goal "impressive and valuable." I mean, there are some movies where you obviously say "what was the point of making that - even had you done it well it would have been meaningless", but I don't come across those very often. Otherwise, I think pure entertainment is impressive and valuable. As for Monty Python and the Holy Grail I think had they made it an acting and directorial powerhouse that would have blunted the humor.

When rating a film, a try to ignore my emotional response. And, for simplicity's sake, let's say I ignore entertainment value, too. What I mean by "impressive and valuable" is that I like a movie to shoot for the stars. Do something original, do something completely, and/or do something powerful. Kubrick's films, for example, don't just have great stories and characters and dialogue. Everything in the direction, cinematography, and scoring compliment the mood/theme of the film instead of just 'being there.' Requiem for a Dream is an excellent recent example.

As far as "valuable" goes, maybe that wasn't necessary and only confuses things. I think I was trying to say something about that Evil Dead II bit where the point is to make a bad film. I can be entertained by that, but I don't appreciate it on any other level. But yeah, that doesn't make the film value-less.

I think a successful comedy is very impressive, because comedy is hard. But some films can be hilarious and strongly (inventively, resourcefully, etc.) directed without blunting the humor. This is extremely rare, unfortunately. In fact, it's so rare that I can't come up with a true example. I think Dr. Strangelove and Eternal Sunshine suggest that this is possible, anyway, though neither are hilarious as Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

It sounds to me like you will always rate pure comedy and other less artistically-minded genre films lower than movies with loftier goals. That's cool, but for me, I suspect I value pure entertainment just as much (in an apples and oranges kind of way).

Have I misunderstood you?

No misunderstanding. I respect the way you evaluate films and acknowledge that I'm among a stuffy minority in how I evaluate them.

I was with you up to #3. I personally couldn't give a naked fig if a film's intentions are impressive and valuable -- if it sets out to do one thing and does it well, that's all I ask. Who says all art needs to be Rembrandt?

And ignoring your own emotional response when engaging in personal artistic criticism, IMO, is like trying to evaluate pornography whilst discounting the bulge in your shorts. Just my two cents.

You have no respect - no respect! - for the naked fig.

Dammit, it oughta put some clothes on. Ain't proper for a fig to be runnin' 'round all nekkid-like.

I now feel free to jump in with both feet placed securely in my mouth. Feel free to use that around the house.

I want to take lukeprog's side. More specifically, I want to take his perspective. Feel free to dismiss me from this post and/or document my failure.

I think that there is a difference between "films" and "movies." Films aspire to artistic statements. Movies are products. Unfortunately for films, there is a hurdle that both must clear in terms of financial viability. So films have to be functional in the market place in much the same as windchimes have to chime, bands have to sell and television shows have to have viewers. This is the distinction he is making between "film art or narrative art" and "most Hollywood films.." I don't find it strange or surprising that he comes down on the side of artistic formalization. Naïve and head up his clouds, but not surprising nor unreasonable. However, throwing harsh terms about such as "worthless", "stuffed with stupid" without softening the blow and/or explaining oneself might be considered unreasonable. I consider it an absolute failure of basic communication... but understandable and/or I'm making a joke about what I just said concerning "softening... explaining."

"What people find entertaining is so variable...." From what I can glean from many posts, lukeprog is searching for objective criteria with which to judge movies, films, the media... the world. If so, it is an admirable quest in a veritable wind farm powered by hot air (present company excepted... although I'm not absolving myself of any specific tilt.) Unfortunately, this stirs up Trouble with a capital 'T' that rhymes with 'C' and that stands... thank goodness 'T' doesn't rhyme with 'F' as you can stir up some sweet music, man. But ya gotta know the territory!

An attempt to achieve objectivity while requiring certainty and high standards (from himself and others) is difficult and inarticulateness might be a hiding place. But consider how hard it is to intelligently explain strongly held beliefs/opinions even as they are forming and morphing. It's made exponentially more difficult if you're conversing on a high intellectual level and in blinding earnestness. There are bound to be internal inconsistencies and paradoxes that would make anyone appear to be an oxymoron. I confess that, when reading his stuff, I am sometimes frustrated by his tendency to tap out of a discussion and his failure to dig deeper but it takes two to have a conversation or fail to have a conversation. Besides which, if you spend your time digging deep that just stops you from running around and figuring out the lay of the landscape. Some of us are badgers, some of us are otters... and some of us lick mr. toads. I envy and admire lukeprog's attempt to widen his horizon in both the artistic and non-artistic senses of the word. I wish that I had his enthusiasm for... just about everything.

If it is important to consider artistic intent, and I'd argue "Yes," then the methods of reaching a goal(s) are important and should be considered when experiencing art. Of course, this can lead to enjoying stuff that you just don't like. This is a road that I have marched down many a time, usually with good results but always with the nagging suspicion that I shouldn't be such a snob and that I should learn to just enjoy life. A beautifully conceived, designed and constructed building that is ugly should be unpleasant (and, well, ugly.) Likewise, a poorly imagined, badly thought out and shoddily built with a rusted tin roof that is beautiful should be loved (and, well, beautiful.) It is here that I think you contradict yourself in an unforgivable way (yes, "You." You're the only one who's still reading.) I think that you have cut the audience out of the artistic equation....

"My seven-year-old could've drawn that!" or some such statement is often uttered about works of art that people fail to understand. Don't get me wrong, sometimes their daughter could've done "that." Jackson Pollock was very precise and impressive in technique, goals, vision, execution and so on. Sometimes I just don't get it, sometimes it looks like a 3rd grade art project. Knowing the discipline that went into his paintings not only informs his work, it deepens our appreciation and serves to put his pieces into context. Pollock deserves all the acclaim that has been spattered on him. But the audience must be included. If I don't know who did this work in oil paints on construction paper I can still have an emotional reaction to it; it effects me in an emotional way, even if it was done by a second grader. That shouldn't change. What does change, when you consider the artist, is the kind of emotion that you have. That may be a distinction without a difference but you can still have an emotional reaction, an artistic experience, without the artist. I think that it enriches the experience of art when you know if it the product of years of dedicated application to a craft by a renowned artist or the result of an incredibly creative daughter. The first might make me sigh, the next might make me cry. Still, sometimes artistic intent doesn't matter, even as the artistic experience always matters.

I think that an attempt to "ignore my emotional response" to a work of art is unfortunate, if not tragic. Art, by its very definition, is created to elicit an emotional response. I think that such a stance negates what an artist is trying to do. If Kubrick was alive today I can just imagine you telling him how great his movies are. And his question: "Did you like them?" If you have the temerity to tell him that you try to "ignore entertainment value" then you are a better man than I. Personally, I would run when confronted by the undead corpse of a famous director who died six years and one day ago. But I do admire your attempt to imbue everything with a higher purpose/calling but just because you're not going to the moon on a rocket that doesn't mean that a nice ride in the country isn't a thing of beauty... or that it should be directed by Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail wouldn't be improved by the inclusion of comic actors Hugh and Cary Grant nor the direction of Preston Sturges. In fact, I hope that the very idea of their involvement is pretty darn funny. It was meant to be pretty darn funny. Lastly (and there was much rejoicing) I want to quibble about the "acting and directing powerhouse" that is Monty Python and the Holy Grail . Edmond Gween was right: "Dying is easy, comedy is difficult." The Pythons' careers have now extended over three decades. They are still in demand and, more importantly, they are still funny... even the undead corpse of Graham Chapman. You are right when you say that, "comedy is hard." I can't think of any other group of actors who could inhabit such a multitude of characters without a trace of irony. Even a trace of winking at an audience would ruin exchanges between the characters. "And that, my liege, is how we know the earth to be banana-shaped." "This new learning amazes me, Sir Bedevere. Explain again how sheep's bladders can be employed to prevent earthquakes." Combine this with the ability to make a series of disconnected scenes hang together into a cohesive whole and the direction of the Two Terrys... I don't know what more you could be looking for. Unless it is aspiring to a loftier goal than finding a shrubbery.

...and I know that your aspirations are indeed loftier.

This post is a definite surprise. Your hyperlinking of obvious member profiles is an expected amusement.

I understand how you can differentiate the often interchangeable terms 'film' and 'movie'. I've never heard my casual moviegoing buddies call the latest Adam Sandler flick a 'film', but I think the term is attractive to movie-lovers because it sounds formal.

I agree that 'stuffed with stupid' is not the whole story, but nothing ever is and I don't know where to draw the line. I stand by 'stuffed with stupid' with the acknowledgement that stupid sells and that smart people stuff movies with stupid because stupid sells. Because stupid is safe. And that's what most moviegoers really want. And that's just fine. I'm just unreasonably upset that the financial might of Hollywood isn't steered to please me.

I know the above paragraph aligns my tastes with 'intelligent' and Jim's love for Evil Dead II with 'stupid.' But Jim isn't stupid. And his affection for Evil Dead II is stupid. In fact, I suspect it means Jim will receive more joy from movies than my crusty, persnickety self. And if someone doesn't think Evil Dead II is stupid, we can agree upon friendly disagreement.

Add a chronic inability to work hard at anything and you'll better understand why I don't spend enough time working out my thoughts on a film or articulating them competantly. 0dysseus, if you had my enthusiasm for everything you wouldn't be... wherever the hell you are now. I think. I don't have a clue.

I "ignore my emotional response" when trying to 'objectively evaluate' a film, but I've also acknowledged in my films that "I'm a sucker for mise-en-scene" and how I love that the most secure, capable character in American Beauty is an abused drug dealer. And though I try to not let such personal G-spots </obligatory sexual reference> affect my evaluation of a film, I doubt I am entirely successful.

How would I direct Monty Python and the Holy Grail differently? Maybe I'll do an alternate commentary audio track for that. Probably not. Lukeprog, tapping out.

P.S. But I appreciate when you, Jim, and others drag me back in.

Damn, meant "his affection for Evil Dead II isn't stupid."

You may very well have been right the first time!

Well then. That was a fun exercise in make-believe. I'd be (surprised and) disappointed if I knew exactly where you were coming from... but I have no idea what you're thinkin' when you watch a movie. Or why.

Even after I looked up mise-en-scene I don't understand how someone can try to ignore the personal impact of films. I don't think I would enjoy supressing my enjoyment. But leopards can't change their G-spots.

Look forward to seeing you in drag.

I guess I'll have to learn the joys of being mysterious, then. I've only known spotlight nudity. Any pointers on enigma, enigma?

I haven't always been this masochistic about filmwatching; I have changed my G-spot before. Why I moved it where it's harder to reach I'm not sure - maybe it's more potent there: I'm pretty sure I'm the most orgasmic Mulholland Drive fan here. But truthfully, I don't suppress my enjoyment of a film. I just remove it from the equation when I'm tallying its 'worth.' I laughed a fair bit at Anchorman and simultaneously resented it. It gets a B for entertainment and a D for quality.

Me in drag: I recently took this test to learn my 'brain sex' ("Yes, please"?), but after finishing the test it won't let me view the results in Firefox.

What do you think about taking such a "scientific" test? It doesn't "answer" anything.

How great/poor is your musical ability? (Your 2D:4D measure is certainly in tune.)

While taking the test, I noticed it was intended to help researchers more than me. I took it for fun. One of my favorite sites used to be (several years ago) Emode (now Tickle), until I exhausted all the tests I was interested in taking. I think I probably have great musical ability but it's another skill I haven't put in the work to really deveop. These days I just pick up my guitar and solo over one of my favorite songs or sit down at a piano and find chord progressions I like (though I don't know most of their names) and make a simple song out of them. I can't sing too well, but I can whistle anything I hear (usually, guitar solos).

I was trying to figure this out. If my ratio is .92, and the average for men is .96, is that supposed to indicate that I possibly have more testosterone than most men? Or is it less?

Wow, lots of great reading all over that page to which you linked. Thanks.

See? Science can be fun and easy! Musical ability exists without formal instruction and it sounds like you have more than I would ever lay claim to.

I believe that a low 2D:4D ratio is indicative of lots of testosterone while in the womb. I have no idea if this means that you should be very chest hair manly now. (By "no idea" I mean that "I think it does but can't remember learning that fact specifically." whew) So you probably have more testosterone....

Thank you. I don't think I was all that coherent or persuasive but... well, I'd rather be the latter than the former, given the choice.

Rock on! (and on and on...)

Watch out; I now have a secret weapon.

Man, I wish more children were like the young girl in Griffith's In the Border States (1910). She's brave, confident, cultured, capable and articulate (as well as I can tell through the conversations she has with adults, sans dialogue cards). At one point she even covers her eyes and fires a gun at an intruding group of officers (it's set in during the Civil War). That's obviously a 'dont try this at home, kids!' situation, but I wonder if children in that time were more capable than most of today's children because they were given more responsibility and experienced more hardship and had higher standards on their education and cultural upbringing. I suspect that children weren't depicted any more realistically in films of the early 20th century as they are today, but it's a nice thought. I'm raising my kid(s) to be like the little girl in In the Border States; that's all I'm saying.

For no reason at all, here are some shots from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1916).

yet another fleeing female prat fall
Captain Nemo
I guess she thinks sleeping in a small tree is more comfortable than a sandy beach
Boom
pre-voyaging Nemo
Squiddy

Oh, and this 1:40 movie has a ten minute intermission.

American Beauty gets an '8'? My, how the mighty have fallen! Probably one of the highest 8s I'll give. I still think it's a really hilarious movie, and often brilliant, but there were too many small problems for me to justify a '9'. I didn't care for Thora Birch's performance, and I thought it was too on-the-nose often (Lester's opening monologue, Angela's "There's nothing worse than being ordinary" line, the scene between Jane, Angela, Lester, and Carolyn after the game).

More thoughts: the last 30 minutes are still impregnable to me. And I love the original way the film looks at its characters: the most sexually explicit character is a virgin. The most confident and capable character is a drug dealer. The MC has the best days of his life when on pot, basically unemployed, and when he knows his wife is cheating on him. Two teens are happiest when they're going to run away to New York together. A middle aged man nearly has sex with a teenager but he's a hero because he holds back because she's a virgin, and he helps her feel better about herself.

I'm so bored with the traditional ways that characters and morality are portrayed in 95% of films that American Beauty is a wintermint burst of freshness. This is also why I liked the thought that the killer in Frailty really was acting for God with his killings. Next up? How 'bout a film about a successful and beneficial intimate young-teen relationship? Not that I 'approve' of such a thing, but I'm pretty sure it's uncovered territory (unless you count Heavenly Creatures, another film I liked).

Luke, where do you get the time to watch all these movies???

I'm living off savings, so I don't have to work (for now). Also, I don't bother sleeping much.

i just last week saw Eulogy (2004) it was amazing, very funny and very dark. just thought i'd say, i think if you get a chance to see it you'd like it

I saw that at my local video store but had no idea what is was. I'll put it on my to-see list, slot #4889. :-)

Damn, Luke, did you really watch "The Shipping News" twice in a row?

Damn, Luke, did you really watch "Persona" three times in a row?

Damn, Luke, maybe you should lay off the caffeine pills and get some sleep. ;-)

The commentary track on The Shipping News turned out to be good.

Watching Persona three times in one night almost killed me. I did it in preparation for my upcoming fan commentary audio track on the film. I'll probably watch it two more times before I can record the damn thing. And then I will never record another fan commentary ever again. I swear, I'm going to really, really hate watching that movie any more.

Yeah, I have a big headache from not sleeping.

I don't know, Luke. I certainly admire your determination to learn as much as possible about a movie and I'm sure that your fan commentary will be an interesting one, but...I'm with David Lynch on DVD commentaries. I don't like 'em. (Well, except maybe for the one Parker and Stone did for "Cannibal! The Musical.") I just do not want to know that much about any movie, even the great ones.

Good for you, you can spend more time watching movies you've never seen. I like to know things about films.

What the...? Cahiers du Cinema's Top 10 list for 2004:

1. Tropical Malady (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
2. West of the Tracks [Tie Xi Qu] (Wang Bing)
3. S-21 (Rithy Panh)
4. The Village (M. Night Shyamalan)
5. Shara (Naomi Kawase)
6. Rois et reine (Arnaud Desplechin)
7. The Brown Bunny (Vincent Gallo)
8. Gerry (Gus Van Sant)
9. Cafe Lumiere (Hou Hsiao-hsien)
10. Kill Bill 2 (Quentin Tarantino)
10. Saraband (Ingmar Bergman)

Gerry also appeared on their 2002 list. Magic.

Transformers- The Movie: wow, that sounds pretty interesting... ;)

Apparently, lots of people think it is the greatest animated kids movie ever. Apparently, lots of people are braindead.

Oh my! Rear Window drops all the way down to a 9? Did it fade in memory for you?

I still love Rear Window as much as I always have. But I started to notice that it didn't quite fit the types of films I was giving the elusive '10.' It's flawless, but its 'commentary on the voyeuristic nature of film' and wonderful mise-en-scene wasn't quite enough to justify that '10'. Chinatown is a good comparison flick: absolutely flawless, wonderfully acted, and its setting is impressively realized. If it was shot expressionistically or tried something just a little bit more, then it'd definitely be a '10'. As they are, Rear Window and Chinatown are flawless mainstream linear narrative films, but they aren't quite the singular works of art that Citizen Kane or, to a lesser degree, Mulholland Drive are.

Persona IS a 'singular work of art,' so why did it get a '9'? Because I didn't think it was as successful throughout its length as those films I gave a '10'. You can't throw in meaningless shots or pointlessly confuse things and convince me it's better because of it. That's why Mulholland Drive got a 10: the confusion wasn't pointless (to me), there were no meaningless shots, and it was still an infinitely layered masterpiece of psychology and painterly images.

Does that make sense?

Absolutely. That's actually why I divided my original five-tiered rating system into seven tiers - so I could separate the great films to the ones that go that extra mile. Of course, it's still easier to get in my highest tier than to get a 10 from you, but I think I'm pretty positive about films in general.

I suspect I may be a film curmudgeon. But like you, I feel it's not that I give awesome films like Chinatown and Rear Window a '9' because I think they've got problems, but because I want to honor those 'extra special' films with a '10'. I could, I suppose, just give those films an '11' and my feelings might be clearer, but that's just... funky. Likewise, there are many films I really enjoy that get a '6' or even a '5'. I hope not too many people think that a '6' means 'better than 50% of movies'. That has nothing to do with it. If I had to guess, '4' probably means 'better than 50% of major films across the world' by coincidence. (Wait, I'm forgetting Bollywood. Make that a '3'.)

There, I went the extra mile! Do I get a '10'? No. There was nothing artistic about the paragraph, the narrative was weak, and the characters were undeveloped. [3].

The Professional (1994) [6], 6!!?? 6, really?

Yeah. It had some really great ideas, and could've been an '8', but it had so many elements that bothered me that it dropped to a '6'. For example, much of the action is very silly. Why lower a noose around someone's neck when you could shoot them in the head? How would you possibly gather 300 cops to go after one guy? And the relationship betwen Leon and Mathilda didn't have to be as ridiculous as it was if the filmmakers had chosen to take their ideas all the way. I recently watched Eastwood's A Perfect World, too, and I feel the same way about both: I'd love to rewrite them each and see what I could come up with. Both films had such potential but didn't commit fully, made mainstream concessions and didn't fully convince me.

I've got every movie I've ever seen in an MS Access database. Here's some random number crunching on it (as of March 17, 2005):

I've seen 2491 movies (including 609 shorts, 10 straight-to-video movies, 6 TV miniseries, 4 TV movies, and 3 serials). The average year of release for films I've seen is 1971. I've rated 140 of them under my new ratings system (a 10-point scale). The average of those few I've rated is 5.7. I've seen films from 43 nations.

Wow, look at all those re-watches! I should probably re-visit movies more often. It can be an enlighting experience. I usually find that I only like to do it a good couple years after the initial viewing -- about the point it starts feeling like an old friend whose facial features I can't quite completely recall. :)

Any particular reason for watching "Dark City" again? Did you dislike it that much the first time?

In 2003 and 2004 I barely ever saw a film more than once. It's stunning how differently I can feel about a film after only a couple years. Since I've seen 80% of the movies in my life in the last two years, my perspective has certainly changed drastically. I really liked Dark City 2 years ago, and my brother was at the video store looking for a good movie to rent, so I recommended it. I watched it with him this evening and hated it (he did, too). Some rewatches have really saddened me because the films didn't live up to my memory of them (Men in Black or, to a lesser extent, American Beauty). Some survive rewatching just fine (Rear Window, The Seventh Seal).

Also, I've been quite sick the last two days. I've estimated that I'm too sick to do schoolwork or writing, but just well enough to watch lots and lots of movies that are lying around the house. :-) (My town has the worst video store ever and I'm boycotting it - my brother went to the next town's video store for Dark City and others.)

My recent rewatch of Star Wars reminded me that I have it memorized. So, I'm not going to bother rewatching Monty Python and the Holy Grail or a hundred other movies I've seen a dozen times. But there was much of Dark City I did not remember. When you watch a thousand movies a year, even ones you've seen not too long ago tend to 'blur' a bit. I can't decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing. I do enjoy 'rediscovering' a good film I've forgotten. But so far they usually turn out to be worse than I remember. I'm really dreading my Metropois rewatch (but I'm still hopeful about seeing M again).

Goodness, I'm longwinded without being humorous or clever. Hope you either survived all that or gave up on it.

I've had the same thing happen in the past few years, and I'm sure it happens to anyone who's seriously dedicated to movies. It's not something to be depressed about, though, I'm sure. Like anything one spends a lot of time with, there's a kind of chiseling effect that happens with movie tastes. Gradually, we whittle away the components of films that don't speak to us, that feel unnecessary or uninspiring, until our own personal vision of movies is achieved. It's different for everyone, and I think that's what eventually leads to unique creative talent in the filmmaking world, be it criticism or filmmaking itself.

It's definitely a strange feeling to watch a movie from my past and realize that it simply isn't now what it was to me then. The growth is integral and important, and sometimes it can take a long time -- in any event, I don't think it's preventable. It's an especially volatile time for people like you and I, who've still got a lot of living/watching to do. Given all the changes in tastes we've experienced in the past few years, can you imagine how "honed" the tastes of someone who's twenty or thirty years older are!

As an example, this is what surely leads to what's considered "the peak period" of a great artists career. Those five, ten, fifteen -- maybe less or more -- years when a director/painter/writer/musician appears to be in complete control of not only their craft, but their art. They've explored and have now found and contained those personal tools that are exactly what they feel they need to express what they want to.

As not only a film-watcher but also a hopeful filmmaker, I find each of these changes and shifts in my opinions to be very worthy of examination, and very helpful towards hopefully procuring the vision to express what I want to say in exactly the way I want to say it.

[Talk about long-winded.] ;)

Once again, I'm too lazy to really review these, but:

Scent of a Woman was mostly decent, except for the stupid 'Ferrari' scenes and the fucking awful 'coutroom' scene. See Rodger Dodger instead (a recommendation I've made twice now, for very different reasons).

Leaving Las Vegas: Why on earth would Sera date an obvious loser like Ben? I don't hold that as being unrealistic, though: I know very few people and I'm only 19 but even I know 4 women who stay with similarly hopeless losers, even ones who repeatedly abuse them. A question to women: dear God, why do you do it?

The Stepford Wives: disappointing, especially for a William Goldman script. But not too bad, and I applaud it for not bothering with a happy ending (well, not happy for the women, anyway). And now a question for the boys: If you could take an absolutely flawless, submissive robot that was completely indistinguishable from a real woman, would you? I would, but the pals I watched the sequel with apparently wouldn't (inferring from their disapproving looks).

What do you mean by "take" one? Sure, I'd take it, if it wasn't prohibitively expensive, but I wouldn't see it as a replacement for a real relationship.

For those who practice serial monogamy (most of us), I meant 'take as your primary intimate relationship'. I interpret your reply as meaning that you would 'take' one, but would also have an intimate relationship with at least one real woman. Is that correct? If so, what would she think of your 'taking' one? :-)

I would definitely 'take' one, but I'm less dependent on human relationships that anyone I know, so it makes sense that I would and others wouldn't. Of course, if I 'took' one, I wouldn't cease to have real relationships with real people.

I guess I meant that I'd gladly use the robot if I weren't in an actual relationship, but I wouldn't use it as an excuse to not look for a real relationship. If I were in a healthy relationship, I wouldn't continue to use the robot; I wouldn't need to. Dirty thought: I'd basically just use it as a more realistic form of, erm, other types of self-pleasure.

Okay, yeah, like a 'real doll 3000'. Okay. Neato. I'm pleasantly surprised that the question got a response from (so far) two people! Thanks for sharing your hypothetical feelings.

If something is "completely indistinguishable" from a real woman, isn't it (she) a real woman? And if it/she is NOT completely indistinguishable, what are the differences? Does this robot have free will? Can it get pregnant? Does it have a sense of humor?

Oh sorry, good catch. I meant 'physically indistinguishable unless you cut her open', and I was also assuming the robot was able to carry a conversation and be mildly intelligent and inventive. That's all getting extremely hypothetical, but it was hypothetical to begin with. It can't get pregnant. It does have a slight sense of humor (better suited to laughing at jokes than making them, I'd suspect). No free will.

Gotcha. In that case I can't really see myself having much more interest in such a robot than I would a blow-up doll (which is zero interest, all you jokers out there).

Fair enough, thanks.

I suspect the way I rate movies is fairly predictable. I'd like to test this theory. I hope at least a few of you will bother: Please guess how I rated these recently viewed films:

The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)
Closely Watched Trains (1966)
Employee of the Month (2004)

I hope you'll help me out. Remember that your guesses and their correctness will say much more about me than they will about you.

Alright, I'll try, but these are fairly uneducated guesses...

Motorcycle [6]
Gospel [7 or 8]
Trains [8]
Employee [4]

Thanks, AJ. Step right up, challengers! Don't let this joker win by default!

Oh well, only one player. Here's the breakdown:

The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) [6]
The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964) [5]
Closely Watched Trains (1966) [7]
Employee of the Month (2004) [2]

Good call on Motorcycle! Gospel was another noble failure of a Jesus movie - I'll post a review of it soon. I was tempted to give Trains an 8, but no. Employee was awful in every regard in every moment. Scarily, it reminded me of how I'm sure I might have written the movie about two years ago! Yikes! Have you seen it?

Nope, never even heard of it before you mentioned it.

damn employee of the month, i really wanna see that! but i may not anymore..it's a shame becuase Steve Zahn is a great actor

Re: Young Adam. I think the one-eyed trouser snake is still far from being integrated into mainsream cinema. Note that two of the films you mention are rated NC-17, and The Cooler had to be edited to get an R. Señor Johnson is still seen as dirtier than the female body parts, more suited for pornography than for real movies, even though we've worked so hard at improving his image by giving him cute names like Willy, Mr. Happy, the little general, etc.

As a side note, not every actor can be well-hung, can he?

Male nudity is definitely not as popular as female nudity... yet, and it probably never will be, but I think in 15 years male nudity will be even less rare than it is now.

No, obviously not every actor is well-hung, but it's possible that actors who are auditioned for a role that requires nudity might be selected like actresses are for a role that requires nudity (beyond cut abs, etc.). Of course, 'penis size' will possibly never be as public as 'bust size', so I admit it'll be a slow, slow process and we'll never see as much male nudity as female nudity. I do think we're beginning to see the start of a trend towards more male nudity (but we're nowhere near the Tipping Point).

Hmm. Well, I think funny male nudity is becoming more prevalent (see The Good Girl, Sideways), but sexual male nudity will always just be a feature of independent NC-17 films.

Niiiice Tipping Point reference.

I'm not so sure that sexual male nudity will always be limited to NC-17 films because of 'ratings shift.' Or, NC-17 will continue to very slowly lose its stigma and more NC-17 movies will be made and people wlll actually go to see them.

As for the former, I don't think it will be totally limited to NC-17, but primarily. As for the latter, I wouldn't mind that, and could see it potentially happening.

I wouldn't mind NC-17 losing its stigma, either. I'm sure its future relative acceptance will be abused, but it'll also mean a few people might see something like Requiem for a Dream in theaters. (The film received an NC-17 rating, but Aronofsky refused to cut the film and released it as unrated - which meant basically no play in cinemas. Later, an edited version received an R rating.)

That would be nice. Until then, whenever we want to see penis, we'll have to look somewhere besides Hollywood.

Erm... uh... did I just say that out loud?

As an enthusiast of grindhouse/exploitation cinema (with an emphasis on '70s sleaze), I can say that Hollywood has actually regressed in terms of genital allowance on screen. Or, in other words, wangers were more apt to show up (or out) onscreen thirty years ago than they are today. What does that say about us?

Clarification: Dicks seem to be showing up a little more in real movies. :-)

Depends on how you look at it. From where I stand, "Basket Case" is not only just as 'real' as "The Dreamers" but also actually worth watching, which is more than I can say for Bertolucci's lazy mock-porno.

I can't comment on Basket Case because I haven't seen it, but I know I didn't dismiss The Dreamers so easily (read: at all).

i heard your roommate might know where to look.

Not only has another person watched Bloody Sunday, but somebody also liked it!

I am very happy. That's a great review, much better than my own for the film.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Thanks, lbangs. Let's get the word out, shall we? :-)

I'm working on it, believe me! I expected a boring political tract. I didn't realize what realistic passion the director would bring to the film. I found it incredibly powerful stuff.

Although I must not be too good at it; I couldn't even convince the person closest to me at the time to watch it... :(

It was my favorite film of 2002, though Talk to Her was not far behind...

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I think it may be my favorite film of 2002 as well, though Talk to Her, Irreversible, and Y tu mama tambien may challenge it if/when I rewatch them.

I haven't seen Irreversible, so I'll have to investigate it. My other close call for the year is Far from Heaven.

I liked Y tu mama tambien, but not quite as much as most folks did.

Great stuff.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

And Victim too! Actually, I think your review of Victim might be better than mine too, since you edited out some of my long-winded, off-topic blabbing. :-) Anyway, glad you liked it!

No, the content of your blabs filled out your review nicely - I just wanted to steal the 'bare essentials' to quote in my review.

You know what I'd like to see more of? Major gay characters in films whose homosexuality has absolutely no bearing on the plot or how they interact with the other characters. Like how inconsequential hair color or height can be. It definitely shouldn't always be that way, but I'm with you: it'd be nice not to always have homosexuality be such a big deal in movies, either hyperbolized for comedy or tragedy.

Good call. That would be much closer to reality, at least - the homosexuals I know aren't effeminate caricatures or dark enigmas. In fact, I can't think of hardly any movies that do what you described. Maybe Wonder Boys.

Wonder Boys is a good example. I too think there should be more normality with homosexuals in films. I liked the part in 5x2 where you witness the "normality" of a homosexual couple.
I'll sure include homosexuals in my films (when I shoot some more ;-)).

If it makes you guys happy, I'm having Bloody Sunday waiting on my shelf, and I'll surely watch it this year.
Strange that only few people have seen it, when it won the golden berlin bear (a tie with spirited away).

Well, that wouldn't have helped me find it. I've never heard of the golden Berlin bear.

Excellent!

I'm afraid that the Cannes awards are the only foreign festival garlands that are widely known and reported in the states, and even then, only film fans tend to know of them.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

That's too bad since the berlin film festival is the third biggest festival in the world.
I thought that everyone interested in film knows at least cannes, venice and berlin. There are numerous other important film festivals like locarno, san sebastian, pusan, tokyoex, etc.
My favorite is Rotterdam, though.

I don't get to go to any of them, and my 'to see' list doesn't need to get any bigger, so...

But every now and then I hear the word on the latest film festival from Greencine Daily or other blogs.

Never heard of the Golden Berlin Bear? Wow. I'd have thought it as well-known as Cannes or Sundance...

Not in America. I've never heard of it either.

Uh? Every year there are quite a lot of international film stars there. Here the bear.

I agree wholeheartedly about Ugetsu, and am very glad you checked it out. It's such a shame that most Mizoguchi greats are MIA from DVD.

Everyone will have their own complaints about any given film, and I suspect most people will think I've overrated Pixote with my '9'. I do want to address what I think is the biggest story weakness of Pixote. When the boys team up with Sueli the prostitute to rob her clients, Sueli actually engages in sex with most of them before the boys rush in with their guns to rob the john. Now, she's a prostitute and maybe she doesn't mind or perhaps even enjoys sexually pleasing strangers, but there's certainly no reason for it. All Sueli needed to do was get them to the secluded location for proposed sexual activity and perhaps, if the client is armed, have the boys surprise him with his pants down, nothing more. Any thoughts on this from those who have seen it? Do you think Sueli got pleasure or a feeling of power from pleasing these men when she knew the boys were going to show their faces any second to frighten and rob the john?

178 movies seen already! Far out! Congrats! ;)

Thanks. But at this point, it's more indicative of a serious problem than achievment. ;-)

Haha. :)

A conversation from 'Osaka Elegy (1936)':

MAN: "Darling?" "Yes, dear." That was a happy period. Oh, for the days of my youth!
WIFE: Let's go back to the "darling" days again.
MAN: Don't be absurd! Look at yourself in the mirror
[She's actually still quite lovely, but is not offended, and quickly and nonchalantly suggests:]
WIFE: You could find a young mistress.
MAN: And listen to your jealous outbursts?
WIFE: [laughs good-naturedly] What conceit! You think I'd be jealous?

Japan in 1936 apparently had some very interesting cultural quirks. But I remember reading some statistic on Japanese relationships recently that suggested it's not so different there today. Anybody know the one I'm talking about? I can't find it. Something about how a large percentage of wives know their husbands have frequent affairs (with whores or otherwise) and don't seem to mind too much. Or something.

Wow, do I ever want to see Bela Tarr's Satantango. Review quotes:

There are clear reasons behind the happenings in the film, but they are not easily labeled as "good" or "bad". There's a definite, non-Hollywood, assertion that the working class consists mainly of lemmings that ache to be controlled, if only to give their lives some meaning... Just as the film eschews typical filmic moralizing and simplification, it also casts off the typical language of film. The film's camera is far from static, and cuts are so rare that each is a monumental event... [Tarr] overlaps time in the same way that Kubrick did in The Killing or Tarrantino did in Jackie Brown. We see the same event happening from several perspectives, each giving it greater importance.

That makes two of us! I've been waiting for this one to hit DVD for years!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Now, what's this? A full-length cut on Region 1 DVD? Is there something I don't know about that release? Why don't Netflix or Greencine or any library in Minnesota carry it?

It smells fishy. Only one vendor is offering it, and if you scan the comments for the seller, many people mention how they bought a DVD they could only find through that vendor. I suspect they made copies off of an foreign DVD, but I don't know.

Of course, they might be very good copies... :)

I've also been dying for the director's Werckmeister Harmóniák to hit disc...

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I saw Werckmeister Harmóniák in my library system on DVD, but it's new and buggy and I couldn't request it today, so I'll try again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next.

Do you have a region-free player? That entry states that the disc is region 2.

I tried to Interlibrary (ah, you thought I was joking about spelling that word!) Loan it once. Few libraries had it on video or DVD, and none of them were willing to loan it out yet. I should try again. Some libraries release media after a year or so.

If you did get to see it, let me know your thoughts!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Lol, I knew there was a reason I posted that screenshot, though I couldn't have told you at the time! No, I didn't notice it was Region 2, and I don't have a region-free player. Strange that a Minnesota library would carry a Region 2 DVD, donchyathink?

Hmmmm... even though I don't want to risk a scary firmware update to make my PC DVD drive region-free, I could apparently still rip the DVD region-free. I'll give that a try.

Good luck! Let me know how this goes, if you don't mind.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I <} Huckabees, i just got that, i'm watching it tomorrow, could i get some of your thoughts on the acting, direction, mise-en-scene and thoughts. i'll post back when i have seen it! Thx in advance.

I felt the acting was good and the direction was semi-frenetic which fit the material without alienating too many viewers, but really it was a script-driven movie. I fully understand why many people ranked it among the best of the year, and I hope you really enjoy it. I just didn't react to it very strongly. I wish I could point out specific grievances, but most of my problems were moment-to-moment or scene-to-scene problems and I can't remember them now (that's what you get when you couple a bad memory with a rapid movie consumption rate!). Also, I saw the movie in pan-and-scan, so that may have affected my feelings toward the movie.

Hope you enjoy it!

Hey you, great review on M. This is exactly how I felt about this film. "More important than it is good". Excellent.

Oh, and if you don't keep this list up, I'll chew you up alive. :)

Thanks for the support! For fear of watching you gnaw on my flesh, I will keep the list up.

The recent DVD releases for Birth and Primer have made me crave my abandoned Netflix account, but as you can see, my various libraries are amply filling that void - I have no shortage of good movies I can get my hands on, and I'm saving $20 a month! Way to go, tax dollars!

Ah, I used to love Encyclopedia Brown. How was Lady in the Lake plotwise? Could you solve the case before Philip Marlow did?

It was strange, you know. They kept dropping not-too-subtle clues in every scene and then 'paying off' those clues one minute later at the end of the scene, so only a very few clues actually had anything to do with the very ending. Truthfully, though, I didn't pay much attention to the clues (not that I needed to) because everything was done so poorly (especially the acting). But it didn't matter - it's fairly easy to guess the truth because of the way the characters are set up in relation to each other, regardless of any 'clues'. The setup is very cliche. Lady in the Lake is an amusing curiosity, but as a 'solve the case' adventure it is much easier and not as much fun as Encyclopedia Brown.

Don't know where else to post this: As an aspiring screenwriter, this hurts. But I'm not giving up yet.

Nice observations in that Mother and Son review, particularly the first two sentences.

Does that mean you agree (with the first two sentences)?