Seen in 2005 Part II

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  1. VeggieTales: Lord of the Beans (2005, Phil Vischer) [short] Awful. I did laugh at the word Flobbit and when the mass enemy appeared, "unnatural creatures, not quite spoon, not quite fork: sporks!"
  2. Dawn of the Dead (1978, George A. Romero) Awful.
  3. Scotland, Pa. (2001, Billy Morrissette) Awful.
  4. Punch-Drunk Love (2002, Paul Thomas Anderson) PTA makes films I love. He doesn't necessarily make masterpieces, but he does make films seemingly tailor-made for me to enjoy.
  5. Careful (1992, Guy Maddin) Bwuahahaha! What the hell? Ah, who cares, what fun! It would be foolish of me to pretend to quantify the mettle of such an outrageous film. Nobody makes movies like Guy Maddin. Will probably be tortorous for most viewers.
  6. Kill the Day (1996, Lynne Ramsey) [short]
  7. Gasman (1997, Lynne Ramsey) [short]
  8. Small Deaths (1996, Lynne Ramsey) [short]
  9. Ratcatcher (1999, Lynne Ramsay) A deceptively great film. It's not showily excellent like Dead Man or Godfather, but is rather great for simply being a perfect portrait of people. Each detail is neither pretentious, showy, contrived, or dull: a nearly impossible feat! I kept hoping the movie would end before a weak moment arrived, and the film never faltered. Your mileage may vary, I suppose. An excellent choice for the Criterion treatment. BTW, there's not much ratcatching.
  10. Danny Deckhair (2003, Jeff Balsmeyer) Obviously fluffy and derivative, but not so bad that it's impossible to enjoy if you're really trying to.
  11. Must Love Dogs (2005, Gary David Goldberg) I'm running out of synonyms for "very, very bad." This is why I don't like to watch movies with my friends, especially if they've chosen the movie: my friends are idiots. (But I love you, guys!)
  12. Belle de jour (1967, Luis Buñuel) Buñuel's first big-budget film is polished unlike his earlier works, and it was a huge financial success despite its surrealism and dumfounding coda. Though I wouldn't call Belle de jour a masterpiece, I ache for a time and place where a Buñuel film rocks the box office. Today, I guess that would mean Mulholland Drive or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind had hit $80 million. One can dream. Anyway, the film: the story and "progressive" elements of the film are handled with Buñuel's usual panache. The surreal and the fantasy were clearly seperated (to me) until the final scene, which is beyond explanation. However, I always felt a certain distance to this film, especially in the scenes with Pierre. Many scenes felt staged and formulaic. A good movie, but something's missing (though I applaud the film's economy).
  13. Dead Man (1995, Jim Jarmusch) Even better the second time. After his fiance dumps him, William embarks on a soul journey, illustrated by a metaphorical, stylized Old West quest populated by a fat Indian who reads English poetry, a cannibal bounty hunter, and other unlikely characters. Frequent impossibles and Neil Young's rumbling guitar-noise score (perhaps the most innovative of the decade) remind us of the spiritual allegory and force us to search for the real story; the slow instruction of William's broken soul that ultimately fades to black anyway. A film so simultaneously deep and entertaining is extremely rare.
  14. The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005, Judd Aptow) Lots of laugh-out-loud moments, several jokes that fall flat, decent writing, a damn good time.
  15. The Bourne Supremacy (2004, Paul Greengrass) Relentlessly stupid and still one of the best Hollywood action movies of the last several years.
  16. Far From Heaven (2002, Todd Haynes) YES! What a great movie! Haynes has crafted a masterful throwback to 50s film dialogue, color, and acting. The most impressive thing is the emotional weight behind such dated conventions, simplicity, and speech. Much of the credit for this must go to Julianne Moore's incredible performance. The rest belongs to the utter perfection with which such the delicate style was handled. I've now unwittingly watched two movies in a row essentially based on Sirk's All That Heaven Allows, which I've not seen. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul is raw and great, and Far From Heaven is soul-crushingly beautiful.
  17. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974, Rainer Werner Fassbinder) More easily likable than In a Year of 13 Moons, and far more predictable. I guess I might as well mention it's a post-Munich-events look at fear and prejudice that's obviously just as relevant post-9/11. But hey, I need to stop watching so many movies. I just returned to the library some movies I've been waiting to see for ages (Vasque d'or, Death in Venice, À nous la liberté, and Ashes and Diamonds) without watching them, something I've never done before. I've also selected two dozen of the 5000+ movies I want to see as high-priority: ones I'm quite sure I'll love, and all quite recent. I should do the same with music, too.
  18. Bad Education (2004, Pedro Almodóvar) A very interesting work of metafiction, wounded sexual exploration, and the slightest dash of Hitchcock. Anyway: I'm thankful to have seen the R-rated version, which blurred out unnecessarily explicit oral sex. I'm sad that so many of today's best films deliberately push superfluous sex into the frame. Does no one have the class to tell a sexually explicit story without actually showing a penetrating member? Why do so many talented directors need to splice the lowest-brow pornography into their high-brow (well, upper-middle-brow) films? I hope this is just a phase. Another thing: I never thought I'd say this, but after watching three movies about devouring depravity, I'd really like to start watching more movies with a redemptive arc. My complaint is that most redemptive arcs in movies are cheesy, inauthentic, timid, and actually insignificant. I'm hoping for something like I Stand Alone, but with a longer, more responsible, more proactive, more likely, more elaborated redemption. Or, like The Woodsman with another hour of Kevin Bacon fighting his demons and finally, winning. Any suggestions, Listologists? Or will I have to write one myself?
  19. Boogie Nights (1997, Paul Thomas Anderson) Yup, still a great joy to watch. P.T.A., where are you?
  20. In a Year of 13 Moons (1978, Rainer Werner Fassbinder) Lives of unsurprisingly loud desperation. The filmmaking is impeccable and challenging, though it reminds me of Godard; not in form, but in its obsession with form and subject, and in its final relative irrelevance. Fassbinder wants this to be an Important Film, and maybe it is, but it isn't particularly groundbreaking, significant, or fun. It is fun, however, to imagine how someone like Speilberg would direct a scene in which a transvestite speaks with a man while he hangs himself, compared to how Fassbinder directs it.
  21. The Triplets of Belleville (2003, Sylvain Chomet) What a joy to watch! I was giggling the whole time.
  22. Emma (1996, Douglas McGrath) Simplistic and boring. Not offensively bad.
  23. The Great Raid (2005, John Dahl) The true story is amazing, the movie is worthless.
  24. Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005, Doug Liman) Very, very, very stupid, but honestly, quite fun. Except for the final shootout, which is one of the worst scenes of 2005. I so would've preferred the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ending they were alluding to.
  25. Spider (2002, Cronenberg) Spider is an improvement over previous Cronenberg flicks (though not as fun as The Fly), which makes me all the more excited to see A History of Violence. With Spider, Cronenberg has shirked silly, incomplete nonsense but kept his distinct flavor. Cronenberg still hasn't realized his full potential. Great performances.
  26. Mean Creek (2004, Jacob Aaron Estes) A valiant but failed effort by inexperienced actors and director. Major plausibility issues after the turning point in the movie. Still better than 90% of all movies.
  27. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975, Terry Gilliam) The problems and weaknesses become clearer after each repeated viewing (I think I'm around #30, now), but still funny as hell.
  28. King Kong (2005, Peter Jackson) [Review]
  29. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005, Andrew Adamson) [Review]
  30. Kanal (1957, Andrzej Wajda) A completely solid war film with fantastic sets, black-for-black darkness, and an unredeemed, hopelessly tragic ending.
  31. The Bridges of Madison County (1995, Clint Eastwood) Repugnant.
  32. The Magdalene Sisters (2002, Peter Mullan) It's easy to say, "No way it was that bad." And really, it wasn't: the film depicts several years of all the worst moments condensed into 2 hours, with none of the best moments and few of the majority (tedious) moments. In my endlessly disappointing search for good and great movies, decent movies with interesting subject matter really stand out. EDIT: God, I'm a heartless bastard. This movie unveils despicable horrors committed to thousands of women in the recent past, and I say it's a decent movie with interesting subject matter.
  33. I'm Not Scared (2003, Gabriele Salvatores) Simple, jolly fun, though not without a slightly deus ex machina ending and several improbables:
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    Michele's sister's glasses are left on the metal sheet over the hole, but the metal sheet was not discovered then, only when Michele went back for the glasses himself. After he discovers Filippo, he doesn't bother to ask who he is or why he's chained in a hole until his fourth visit. The man guarding the caves investigates when there's the equivalent of a twig snapping, but not when the pigs go hog wild 10 seconds later. Etcetera.
  34. Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town (1970, Jules Bass) [TV] Hilarious.
  35. The Message (1976, Moustapha Akkad) As bad as a Cecil B. DeMille Biblical epic, but The Message is a singular curiosity: an English-language Islamic epic in which the main character (Muhammad the Prophet) does not appear in accordance with Muslim beliefs. This is the story of the beginning of Islam, approved for accuracy by a Shiat group of scholars. The requirement that Muhammad not be imitated has some strange consequences. For example, when characters speak to Muhammad, they speak directly into the camera, then respond to unheard dialogue.
  36. Vera Drake (2004, Mike Leigh) No serious complaints, which easily makes this one of my favorite 2004 movies. The characters and settings aren't a gimick to be flaunted as in most period pieces; they just suck you into the story. The dialogue is simple. The presentation of morality is left ambiguous. The acting is superb. Really, it's nothing "special", it's just totally solid, which is a rare enough trait to make me ecstatic.
  37. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005, Tim Burton) More than Gaspar Noé films or Japanese seizure robots, Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a terrifying assault on the senses I survived only with great emotional scarring. Also, it's a very bad film. Got me thinkin', though: Burton is so preoccupied with set and character design, why isn't he a painter? Or a storybook illustrator? Stop inflicting these vapid, nightmarish mutant movies on us, Burton!
  38. Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War (2004, Je-gyu Kang) In the original horror spoof Student Bodies (15 years before Scream), a teenage girl opens the front door because she heard a sound, finds nothing and goes back inside. The camera swoops up to the doorknob; it's unlocked. The camera pulls back and swoops down again for emphasis. Finally, a flashing arrow appears with the word "Unlocked!" Student Bodies is a parody, but many serious movies beat the audience over the head almost as badly. Tae Guk Gi is the Asian Oscar-bait Saving Private Ryan clone you suspected from a glance at the poster, but is far more irritatingly unsubtle than the Speilberg film. Yes, I said more unsubtle than Speilberg. Most of the movie is also quite silly. I think the word is "shmaltzy." At least there are rivers of blood. Like, the Amazon and the Nile.
  39. Gunner Palace (2004, Petra Epperlein) Bad as a movie and as a documentary, though the subject matter is, of course, interesting. Oh, and it's got more uses of "Fuck" than any other PG-13 movie, at an astounding 42.
  40. Family Guy Presents: Stewie Griffin - The Untold Story (2005, Pete Michels) [video] The formula Simpsons taught me to love is abused and set on a soul-withering 30-second repeat pattern. The formula is followed so tiredly that most of the jokes are predictable or, simply, have already been done in the TV show. I laughed only twice (for those who have seen it, at "Holy Freaking God No" and "Captain Syphilis").
  41. Dark Days (2000, Marc Singer) Wow, this is the first movie I've seen in nearly two weeks. The Listology movie recommendation service (1 2) scores another winner. Dark Days, made on a nothing budget, profiles underground squatters near Penn Station. They are normal people who got badly hurt and made poor decisions. They've made a life for themselves underground. They are not happy but they are comfortable enough not to seek another way of life. It's fascinating and honest. I did think it was too short and the "third act" was too abrupt and... storyless.
  42. The Elegant Universe (2003, Julia Cort) [Miniseries] I gave up on the book, but the miniseries helped to illustrate the far-out concepts of string theory. It all still seems a little pointless to me, though, since none of it can be proven or observed. That's not science!
  43. We Don't Live Here Anymore (2004, John Curran) Mediocre, meaning it's better than 95% of all movies. I mostly watched it for Naomi Watts, so I got what I wanted from it.
  44. Drugstore Cowboy (1989, Gus Van Sant) Woah, Matt Dillon is good in a good movie. Drugstore Cowboy is so simple and yet so profound and so well done. The delight is in the details. An excellent score from Goldenthall you won't remember.
  45. Crash (2004, Paul Haggis) Perhaps a little better than Million Dollar Baby, except for the acting. At least I enjoyed watching it, though Crash is definitely not a good movie. Paul Haggis tries too hard and hasn't got an original idea in his head. But at least he takes on interesting, potentially challenging subjects. For that, I'll allow him to keep making movies. I just hope he gets better.
  46. In the Mood for Love (2000, Kar Wai Wong) If Before Sunset/Sunrise was Philosophy of a Brief Encounter, and Lost in Translation was Fun & Funny Brief Encounter, In the Mood for Love is simply Brief Encounter 2000, done with the style, panache, and excellence expected of modern cinema masters. There's little innovation here, but In the Mood for Love is a totally solid film. It's told as much through the quiet moments as the overt ones, and the rich setting allows for plenty of cultural commentary, 99% of which I probably missed.
  47. Band of Outsiders (1964, Jean-Luc Godard) This film might be praised and remembered mostly for the "minute of silence"/dancing scene, and I thought most of the rest was boring.
  48. Taste of Cherry (1997, Abbas Kiarostami) In many ways, Taste of Cherry is little more than "a better Bresson," but it's also flawless and impeccably naturalistic.
  49. Walkabout (1971, Nicolas Roeg) Loved it. In case you're wondering, I've decided to only review new films at 101866.
  50. Gates of Heaven (1980, Errol Morris) It's hard to say whether a particular documentary is a good or great film, but if you want great subject material, Morris never fails.
  51. Chasing Amy (1997, Kevin Smith) I'm disappointed in myself. Three years ago I would have really liked this movie. It's interesting, kinda daring, has interesting characters and dialogue. But now I can't appreciate it because my mind has been polluted by better movies. Kevin Smith's bad traits, evident and kinda cute in the ultra-indie Clerks, are fully inflamed here: he reaches for shock value, structures for maximum irony, verbosely preaches, and writes ridiculously rapid and coherant dialogue. It is kinda fun watching poor Holden bumble around despite his quick wit. There were a few good scenes.
  52. Clerks. (1994, Kevin Smith) Bad in an innocent, low-budget way.
  53. A Guy Thing (2003, Chris Koch) So here's the dilemma: do I walk out on this awful, awful movie and offend my friends, or do I waste 2 hours of my life on its excruciating idiocy? I usually choose the latter in these circumstances, and always regret it. But hindsight is not 20/20.
  54. Unfaithfully Yours (1948, Preston Sturges) I think I may have lost my taste for Sturges' cute, reflexive, obvious, barely funny brand of writing. The details of each scene are preposterous. It's a "style", I know. It's just a bad style.
  55. Bon voyage (2003, Jean-Paul Rappeneau) Bad.
  56. H20 (1929, Ralph Steiner) [short]
  57. The Incect's Christmas (1913, Wladyslaw Starewicz) [short]
  58. Lord of War (2005, Andrew Niccol) [Review]
  59. Three Songs About Lenin (1934, Dziga Vertov)
  60. Kino-Eye - Life Caught Unawares (1924, Dziga Vertov) Definitely no Man with a Movie Camera, Kino-Eye deceitfully claims to be "the first non-fiction film thing without a script, without actors..." and to have "life caught unawares," but it's clearly staged propoganda. The sequence of a bull moving backwards through time in a slaughterhouse (entrails put in, skin put on, coming back to life) is very interesting.
  61. The Sea Star (1928, Man Ray) [short]
  62. Emak-Bakia (1926, Man Ray) [short]
  63. Ménilmontant (1926, Dimitri Kirsanoff) [short] I'm sure there's an even earlier prototype for the modern thriller, but this one's a near-exact replica in story structure - and, to some degree, even editing - for most movie thrillers from Lodger to today.
  64. Anemic Cinema (1926, Marcel Duchamp) [short]
  65. The Society of the Spectacle (1973, Guy Debord) Guy Debord's films are long, whiny complaints of the least interesting nature, fit for inducing sleep in the students of a lazy classroom instructor and nothing else.
  66. Refutation of All the Judgments (1975, Guy Debord) [short]
  67. Entr'acte (1924, René Clair) [short] An odd, surrealist story with too much indulgence in camera technique that does not contribute to emotion or story, though the accelerating, rollercoaster (literally) ending is solid.
  68. Rain (1929, Joris Ivens) [short]
  69. Cirque du Soleil: "Solstrom" [TV Show] 13 episodes of this modern circus. The horrible introduction and mediocre storylines get in the way of some great modern circus acts by contortionists, jugglers, clowning, and trapeze artists. I quickly learned to fast-forward from act to act. The music is fun and diverse. The cameraman recording the acts is mediocre. But the incredible acrobatic acts got me thinking: why aren't these guys taking all the Olympic gold medals? The least impressive of the performances was better than anything I've seen from an Olympic acrobat. What gives?
  70. Electrocuting an Elephant (1903, Unknown, USA) [short]
  71. Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. (1999, Errol Morris, UK)

  72. [Introduction to full-length movie reviews]

  73. Au hasard Balthazar (1966, Robert Breson, France) *** A minimalist near-masterpiece that is irritating at first because the subject matter, in addition to the photography and story, is minimalist. If nothing else, Balthazar is unassuming and has a unique premise. I applaud Bresson's craftsmanship, but I still think there are better ways to use film than minimalism.
  74. The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988, Philip Kaufman, USA) ** Huh. It's a novel adaptation/quirky sex comedy/indie drama/political dirge/historical biography/erotic photoshoot/contemplative retreat, scored by Leos Janacek. Perhaps the novel had time for all its themes and stories, but the movie forgets half of them its rush to get through, which still lasts nearly three hours. Why doesn't the line "Take off your clothes" work so well for me? I guess I'm not a handsome brain surgeon.
  75. Fast, Cheap & Out of Control (1997, Errol Morris, USA) *** It's not fair that Michael Moore is getting Errol Morris' glory, but at least I can understand why.
  76. 9 Songs (2004, Michael Winterbottom, UK) * What reviewer convinced me to watch this movie? I can't remember now, but I want to beat the little shit because I feel like a moron now. This is porn. I skipped through much of this movie once I realized what it was, but I'm sure I didn't miss anything to change my opinion of it.
  77. The Sea Inside (2004, Alejandro Amenábar, Spain) ***
  78. Angels in America (2003, Mike Nichols, USA) [miniseries] ** A solidly directed ensemble piece in a formula I most indentify with Six Feet Under: lots of complicated, messy people speaking quick, ironic dialogue and enduring confusion about love, life, death, drugs, truth, sex, and religion. It's still a formula I like. I was worried for a while because I'm always disappointed when film tries to portray the spiritual realm like a costumes-and-wires passion play. Just when I thought it would fall under the weight of its attempted and failed splendor, the hilarious angel sex scene came along and I saw the whole thing in a different light. This isn't a dirty human melodrama like 21 Grams, it's a spiritual satire and cultural comedy, and quite an effective one. Alas, there is one horrible scene involving the line "Have you no decency?", and from then on the writing heads downhill.
  79. Traffic Crossing Leeds Bridge (1888, Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince, UK) [short]
  80. Roundhay Garden Scene (1888, Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince, UK) [short] Holds the distinction of being the earliest film ever made (possibly).
  81. Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (2004, Tetsuya Nomura, Japan) [video] * Much more like the video game cinematics we've seen in Final Fantasy games for years than the previous FF movie, Advent Children is sure to please hardcore fans of the game and few others (which is more than The Spirits Within had going for it). The Spirits Within is still the most realistic all-CGI movie around if you ask me, but Advent Children is damn impressive for a straight-to-video release. But the soundtrack, story, "acting", and sweeping, epic shots feel as cheesy and dull as they always have for me. The best part of the movie was a cellphone ringtone joke. Six hundred FF fans are giving this a 9.2 on IMDB, so if you like FF in-game cinematics, I'm sure you'll love this movie. I thought it sucked. And I still think its sad that the Japanese are making their modern mythological heroes entirely white.
  82. Downfall (2004, Oliver Hirschbiegel, Germany) ** Exactly the same kind of Oscar bait as The Aviator, Downfall is well-acted and well-shot, but its story is uneven and about 40 minutes too long. At the end, we get the usual true story wrap-up text. For example: "6 million Jews were killed in German concentration camps" - but who hasn't heard that statistic 100 times already? Anyway, Downfall reaffirms my belief that movies portray World War II as simultaneously the most romantic and most brutal war ever fought. And it's nice to see Nazis as people for more than 5 minutes. Certainly more engaging than most disposable movies, but still disposable.
  83. Kung Fu Hustle (2004, Steven Chow, China) *
  84. Baraka (1992, Ron Fricke, USA) **** Heavily indebted to Koyaanisqatsi, but a masterpiece in its own right. The single most beautiful film I have ever seen. 'Nuff said.
  85. Flora (1989, Jan Svankmajer, USA) [short] ** Amusing.
  86. Surprise! (1995, Veit Helmer, Germany) [short] ** Rube Goldberg cuteness.
  87. Tuvalu (1999, Veit Helmer, Germany) *** Gilliam-esque character and set design, Chaplin-esque shooting, no important dialogue, and extremely quirky all around. "They used to be called moving pictures, and the captivating Tuvalu reminds us why."
  88. Naughts (1994, Stan Brakhage, USA) [short] *
  89. The Chartres Series (1994, Stan Brakhage, USA) [short] *
  90. Black Ice (1994, Stan Brakhage, USA) [short] *
  91. Stellar (1993, Stan Brakhage, USA) [short] *
  92. Tryst Haunt (1993, Stan Brakhage, USA) [short] *
  93. The Harrowing (1993, Stan Brakhage, USA) [short] *** The rapid passage of abstract shapes against darkness in this film has a magical quality that produces a "harrowing" atmosphere without sound or music, and makes you see hundreds of shapes (for me, it was mostly faces) that aren't there. I'm not sure why this one was so powerful and the others were not.
  94. Ephemeral Solidarity (1993, Stan Brakhage, USA) [short] **
  95. Three Homerics (1993, Stan Brakhage, USA) [short] **
  96. Study in Color and Black and White (1993, Stan Brakhage, USA) [short] *
  97. Autumnal (1993, Stan Brakhage, USA) [short] **
  98. Night Music (1986, Stan Brakhage, USA) [short] ** An eye-popping thirty seconds.
  99. The Princess Bride (1987, Rob Reiner, USA) *** An incredible good/bad joke ratio, a great distillation of fairy tale myths, unending fun. There's some shoddy exposition and less-than-inventive moments, but: "fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles..." You must be chemically imbalanced not to love this movie.
  100. The River (1951, Jean Renoir, France) *** Expectedly handsome, but nothing special - except that it hosts a bevy of strong red-haired characters, fighting auburn prejudice aside Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
  101. The Green Butchers (2003, Anders Thomas Jensen, Denmark) ** A decent story with some decent laughs and a few major plot holes surrounding Astrid, Bjarne's girlfriend.
  102. Orson Welles: The One-Man Band (1995, Vassili Silovic, Germany) *** A vital documentary about, and containing excerpts from, Welles' unfinished films. It adopts the specialized film essay form of F for Fake.
  103. F for Fake (1974, Orson Welles, France) **** A very special kind of film essay on fakery, lies, and truth. The editing is vibrant and fun, and indeed Welles tells much of the story from an editing room. It's engaging through every moment, and I was very sad to see the end credits roll. One of the few documentaries I've seen to do something interesting - beyond what information it presents - with the documentary form.
  104. The Private Life of a Cat (1944, Alexander Hammid, USA) [short] *** Just like is sounds, with some fun kitty POV shots and surprising emotional content.
  105. The Very Eye of Night (1958, Maya Deren, USA) [short] ** Today, it would be instantly assumed to be a music video for some obscure avant-rock band. The "trick" of the film wore off for me pretty quickly.
  106. Meditation on Violence (1948, Maya Deren, USA) [short] N/A This is entirely a piece of performance art, caught on film. I know nothing of performance art.
  107. Ritual in Transfigured Time (1945, Maya Deren, USA) [short] **** Another silent exploration of parallel realities, discontinuous narrative, and experimental editing, this time chronicling performance art and dance. Probably the most blatant precursor to Last Year at Marienbad. The film vanguard definitely works best in short doses. Damn that ending shocked me.
  108. A Study in Choreography for Camera (1945, Maya Deren, USA) [short] ** Pretty much what it sounds like.
  109. At Land (1944, Maya Deren, USA) [short] **** The films of Maya Deren are "filmic" to the core, as they explore the flexibility and power that film alone holds as an art film. It can juxtapose and fuse otherwise irreconcilable planes of space, time, and consciousness. I'm pleased to see Deren still so confident and innovative with her sophmore effort. At Land is less dense (and therefore, perhaps more watchable) than Meshes of the Afternoon. At this point, I'm beginning to wonder if, in only a few productive years and exclusively through shorts, Maya Deren is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. Then again, my exposure to early avant-garde film is so slim that my respect for Deren's work may wane if I find similar innovations that precede Deren's, for example on the Unseen Cinema DVD. And, dare I mention this: I'm slightly surprised to find such an intelligent and challenging artist as Maya Deren so physically attractive. Our "24/7 celebrity watch" culture has conditioned me to suspect that nearly all stunningly beautiful people are morons. Forgive me. Very interesting cameo casting of John Cage in this experimental but silent work.
  110. Meshes of the Afternoon (1943, Maya Deren, USA) [short, rewatch] ***** Damn, you have to play close attention to this one! And I still have to rely on the thoughtful analysis others to get it. Deren uses simple objects like a key, a knife, and a phone to ground loosely overlapping narratives: some real, some inferred, some being extracted from foggy memory, some subconscious; and it's difficult to tell which is which. The particular and varied mise-en-scene techniques are perhaps our only clues to which "world" and narrative each shot belongs, as almost everything is discontinuous. On top of all this, there are so many symbols here it's almost impossible to keep up. It's much easier to follow the same principles when they're stretched to feature length by Alain Resnais. I think the shot of the thrown bread knife shattering the man's face is just as shocking and memorable as the eyeball-slicing shot in Un Chien Andalou, and demanding of more reflection.
  111. Meshes of the Afternoon (1943, Maya Deren, USA) [short, rewatch]
  112. Meshes of the Afternoon (1943, Maya Deren, USA) [short, rewatch]
  113. Tarts and Flowers (1950, Bill Tytla, USA) [short] * Don't ask me why I bothered to download this from the Internet Archive.
  114. Beauty and the Beast (1946, Jean Cocteau, France) ** Let's just say it's not what I expected from a director whose last film before this was the sophisticated and challenging surrealist work The Blood of a Poet. This is definitely a children's movie, and Cocteau pleads us to adopt the innocence of a child while watching with a post-credits on-screen note. Try as I might, I cannot think like a child (though some argue otherwise). I reacted to this film like I did The Thief of Bagdad (1940) - it's "magical" and "enchanting" and all that crap, but it's also mind-numbingly stupid and basic. Cocteau's direction and one very strong sequence when Belle first enters the castle aren't quite enough to redeem the film. Disney's version is better. The original score is a bit annoying, and I preferred to listen to the fully synchronized Philip Glass opera available on the Criterion disc, though it's not Glass' most inspiring work.
  115. Kitchen Stories (2003, Bent Hamer, Norway) ** A cute little movie with a cute litte premise that doesn't quite reward the patience it requires.
  116. American Beauty (1999, Sam Mendes, USA) [rewatch] **** The planets were aligned tonight. Paul (my brother) and I live with our parents. Unknown to me, he took his copy of American Beauty to his girlfriend's house so she could watch it for the first time. Unknown to him, I played my copy for a couple close friends - also their first time. Paul's girl cried 20 minutes through the movie and 20 minutes afterward because the film is so beautiful. My pals were often offended and grossed out. And they think I'm a bit of a psycho. American Beauty is an excellent person barometer; I love to watch it with first-timers! Can they handle human ickiness? Do they cling to cliche? Do they prefer "shiny happy people" movies? Where do they see beauty in this ugly world? American Beauty tells all.
  117. Be Cool (2005, F. Gary Gray, USA) * Nauseating.
  118. Office Space (1999, Mike Judge, USA) [rewatch] *** I guess comedies get special treatment in my ratings when they make me laugh this hard. A thriller, horror, action, drama, or romance movie with this many problems would still get ** even if it thrilled, horrified, excited, or moved me (see my reviews of Star Wars, The Machinist, Million Dollar Baby, Vanilla Sky, and others over here). So much fun.
  119. The Goddess Bunny (1998, Nick Bougas, USA) [short] * Bizarre home video short.
  120. The Empire Strikes Back (1980, Irvin Kershner, USA) [rewatch] *** I'm not prejudiced against kid flicks or sci-fi movies - I promise! I am prejudiced against the techniques of bad filmmaking so frequently present in those genres. Straightforwardness (characters announcing what's happening and speaking without subtext), looks over substance, banal dialogue, etc. And let's not forget ridiculous implausibility, even within the film's own universe: come on, the best way the all-powerful Empire can attack a tiny rebel base is to send easily-tippable robot elephants after them? But then, I never had a problem with The Incredibles' cartoonish implausibility. Maybe because it was, well, a cartoon? So, am I saying filmmakers aren't allowed to put cartoonish elements in a live-action flick? No, I guess I'm just willing to forgive some cartoonishness if there's plenty of good character, story, thematic material, dialogue, comedy, and social commentary to go around. In all these areas, The Incredibles bests Empire. But Empire is a big improvement over Star Wars. This time, the budget was available to make the movie look as it should look, Kershner is a much better director than Lucas, the story, comedy, and characters are better executed, and the action is more interesting. Oh yeah, great twist, too. Plenty of problems, but... ah, shucks, it's just so much fun! I'd still love to see someone as reliably excellent as Pixar try a Star Wars-esque epic space opera war movie series, especially in live-action.
  121. Greed (1924, Erich von Stroheim, USA) [rewatch] **** Though it can't compare to the complicated, twisted narratives of today (e.g. Charlie Kaufman movies), Greed is a more mature and modern tale than I've seen come before it. It also can't compare to the single-minded power of The Last Laugh, and I doubt the 7 extra hours of the lost director's cut would've made the movie more cohesive, but at this point Stoheim is already a recognizable master behind the camera. And, what a finale!
  122. Looking for Langston (1988, Isaac Julien, UK) * IMDB plot pummary: "A black and white, fantasy-like recreation of high-society gay men during the Harlem Renaissance, with archival footage and photographs intercut with a story." Unfortunately, it's an annoying little film that says nothing about Langston Hughes, African Americans in the 20s, artists, homosexuality, or anything. Or maybe I just didn't like it because it's very, very gay and I am very, very straight. I hope not.
  123. "The Simpsons" Season 16 [TV show] Like AJDaGreat, I'll start reviewing TV I watch. Though the longer production time of The Simpsons keeps it from being as instantly relevant as South Park, I love The Simpsons' current-issues satire on getting cheap drugs from Canada, gay marriage, viral Internet videos, American Idol, and more. So, when does a Simpson get a podcast? And damn, The Simpsons is packed with jokes. And references to everything from Fitzcarraldo to Northern Exposure to Deus Ex Machina. And I never get tired of rough rips on the Fox network. It's great to see The Simpsons continue poking at the dark undersides of "American" values (any of them) in a humorous, playful, but insightful way. Episode 4 about Marge's high school friend Chloe who is now a successful TV reporter is great, and this season made me believe there's still more to see in Springfield.
  124. Impostors (1980, Mark Rappaport, USA) * Boooooring!

  125. Part I is 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: 

Just to clarify two things... (1) I only review TV shows after I watch a whole season on DVD, in some cases skipping episodes I've seen before and disliked. You can certainly feel free to do things differently, of course. (2) I don't think it's Fox ripping on itself, I think it's the Simpsons creators ripping on Fox. The Simpsons staff hasn't always had the best relations with Fox and its limitations (for example, forcing the Simpsons to do lame clip shows). You may have noticed that one clip show was apparently written by Penny Wise and directed by Pound Foolish.

As for the actual show, I wasn't too impressed by season 16, but to be fair, I've seen less than half of its episodes.

One of the season 16 episodes was the worst Simpsons episode I have ever seen (excluding clip shows), but I like a good number of them.

Couldn't Fox choose not to air the episodes, though? So, Fox may not be ripping on themselves, but they're allowing themselves to be ripped on.

Ooh, which one did you think was the worst? There's an episode guide here if you don't know the titles.

I doubt Fox would choose not to air any episodes, for financial reasons and because most episodes that make fun of Fox only have one or two jokes about it. But they could force the Simpsons staff to cut out the jokes, so you are right, Fox is allowing themselves to be ripped on in the name of humor.

By the way, my favorite Fox joke comes during the credits of the season 10 episode Screaming Yellow Honkers. The end of the episode has the Simpson family talking about the merits of NBC, and Fox is not pleased with Homer...

In season 16 there's an episode that shows massive Bush/Cheney posters plastered all over the Fox media van.

I've seen every single Simpsons episode, and "Thank God It's Doomsday" (16x14) is the worst non-clip-show episode I can think of right now.

I guess I was lucky to miss that one. I caught the rerun of The Heartbroke Kid last night though, and I thought it was probably the funniest episode I had seen in the 16th season. I was cracking up at the twist on the usual theme song, and of course Albert Brooks is always wonderful.

I caught the rerun of Thank God It's Doomsday tonight, and I must confess I thought it was decent. I laughed a good number of times, and I don't think the plot was as appallingly bad as some other plots are. It's not great, but not even my least favorite of the season; I hated Future-Drama (since when is everyone in Springfield besides Lisa pathetic, poor white trash with no future?), and I liked it better than Homer and Ned's Hail Mary Pass too. Do you think you may have reacted differently because of your Christian faith?

Honestly, no. I just thought the comedic timing was a bit off, the jokes weren't very creative. It just felt slightly ascew from the rest of the episodes, and I watched them all in one sitting.

If those were the only flaws of the Simpsons episodes I dislike, I would be pretty happy. My problem with recent Simpsons episodes is not with their jokes, but with their appallingly ridiculous and stupid plots. Besides, I think plenty of other episodes have far worse jokes.

This guy holds the record for "Longest movie-watching marathon" at only 53 hours. Sounds like a record I'll have to break. All I need is to get those Guinness World Records clowns to watch me for 70 hours straight. I suppose if I had a webcam and broadband I could record evidence of my record that way.

Not that it relates directly to this list, but looking through your content (mostly the archived stuff) I see you have quite a lot of praise for The Shawshank Redemption; would you consider among your all-time favourite films, if you ever were to come up with such a list? (a la me! :-)) And what aspect of the film did you enjoy the most?

Yes, it might be one of my favorite films, though I haven't seen it in quite a while. It's so pleasing on the most basic and effortless level, you gotta love it. I definitely wouldn't say it's one of the best movies I've ever seen, unless we're talking "best at making me feel good for a little while I after I see it."

Nice thoughts there. Thanks for letting me know, and I'm of course glad you enjoy it so much.

Curious: does anybody else use a certain movie as a "person barometer" or a "friend barometer" the way I do with American Beauty?

I wouldn't say I have one single film I could pinpoint for that purpose. However, people who love Independence Day and/or Armageddon probably aren't the sorts of people I'll go see films with.

I do find I have a real affinity for people who love Anne of Green Gables . I managed to land me a guy who was moved by that film - how lucky am I? And anyone who's seen and enjoyed Arsenic and Old Lace usually turns out to be a pretty fast friend.

There's too much of a disparity between my tastes and anyone else I've known to make a judgment on any one movie. For instance, I thought American Beauty was a formulaic and condescending imitation of a quirky arthouse flick. It reminds me of Kenny G, a talented musician who is always trite and boring.

I do love Anne of Green Gables.

So why exactly did you hate "Kung Fu Hustle" so damn much?

Um, yeah, I second that. "The Green Butchers" gets two stars and "Hustle" only gets one? Explain please.

The Green Butchers at least had some half-decent story and character development. Kung Fu Hustle was trite, empty, mindless, derivative, and constantly annoying. It was a 50s Warner Brothers cartoon that just kept telling the same jokes, less densely, for way too long. I'm a little biased against comedies altogether, and especially against really stupid ones. It's a matter of taste. Maybe I slaughtered my funny bone years ago.

When you said "a little biased against comedies" you forgot to say "... and very biased against kung fu movies." Taken together, I'm thinking the movie was already wearing kiss-of-death lipstick on its cheek before you even had a chance to dip into your popcorn. :-)

See? Jim understands me! ...except that I don't eat popcorn. I'm still curious to see the revered A Touch of Zen, perhaps with a bagel.

Don't bother. You'd hate it. It's kung-fu cinema, but it runs three hours. I'm thinking you'd attempt suicide by the halfway point.

:-) What I don't understand is why you rented it in the first place? If ever a movie trailer cried out "lukeprog will hate me", Kung Fu Hustle was it.

So many critics, and so many fans, loved it. Same reason I rented the even worse Returner.

Wait --- someone loved Returner?

Yes, and they must be killed to save the future of the human race. Seriously, I'm not sure where all the positive reviews I read are now, but I did see several of them at the time.

How could you not know "9 Songs" was porn when you walked in? That's all any review of the film talks about, man.

No clue. Because I get most foreign films through interlibrary loan, there is often a 1-month difference between when I read a review and request a movie, and when I receive it. It's even possible I was thinking of a similarily-titled movie, saw "9 Songs" come up, and absent-mindedly thought that was the one I was looking for. Yeah, that's my story. I'm going with that. Shit.

Aha! Nine Queens! That's what I'd wanted to see. Stupid frickin' brain.

"Unbearable Lightness": Good movie. GREAT book. The fact that they were able to make a film at all out of it, let alone one as good as what came out of it, is astonishing in itself.

Also, what's wrong with minimalism?

nothing

Minimalism is fine. I like Bresson and Gus van Sant. But if you set out from the beginning to accomplish less than, say, Persona or The Mirror or Citizen Kane, then you will. I guess one theory is that by stripping all else away, minimalist films become more focused, more powerful, but I think it's possible to create busier, more aspiring films that are just as powerful.

I prefer minimalism in music rather than film, because I can easily do other things while listening to music so I don't get bored.

But that's exactly why I don't prefer minimalism in music -- it's too easy to get distracted and miss the point.

With film, it all depends on the material. There are minimalist films out there that do set out to be just as illuminating as, say, "Persona" (which, when you strip away the third-wall framework, is also pretty minimal). I'm thinking primarily of Tsai Ming-Liang here, but there's others. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with action, but occasionally it's nice to have to do some heavy lifting.

I'll have to try some Tsai Ming-Liang.

And after that some Sarunas Bartas, and I`ll promise you, you`ll be on a trip if you switch on MTV afterwards. :-)

I think Entr'acte is a popcorn film for avant-garde absurdists. It doesn't have much emotion or story to speak of, but damn is it fun!

Popcorn avant-garde; I like that. Then how do you feel about Un Chien Andalou?

Avant-garde Oscar bait. Some find it stylish and meaningful, others find it stylish and pointless, but you can't deny its popularity.

What's an avant-garde masterpiece?

I dunno. Persona? I'm just making this stuff up as I go along.

Color me disappointed that most of my half-assed, unedited, 30-word non-reviews have elicited more response than my painstakingly conceived and edited full-length review of Lord of War. I'm pretty sure it doesn't suck, but I'd appreciate any feedback that would help me to be as fun and insightful as, say, Ebert (or whoever you read).

Wow, another Luke blog! I'm now subscribed. I can't really comment on your review of Lord of War, as I won't see it until it's on DVD.

In general though, I think you're plenty insightful and passionate. But are you really striving for "fun"? I know you have a sense of humor, but when it comes to your film reviews you are always very serious, searching for meaning, and expecting goodly amounts of meat in your art. Your welcome message on the blog seems to stake out anti-fun territory, actually. So I'm surprised "fun" gets equal billing with "insightful" in where you'd like to go with this.

True, but it might be possible to use entertaining phrases to say serious things. Here's hoping!

... and I hope you've unsubscribed from any of my "ghost town" blogs (1 2 3 4) you may have subscribed to in the past. :-)

I caught only the second half of Unfaithfully Yours once and it seemed like an anomaly for Preston Sturges. Doesn't most of it involve Rex Harrison fantasizing about agonizingly long, complicated revenge plots, and then screwing up when he tries to carry one out?

Yup. The scene where Rex slashes his wife to death caught me off guard, coming from Sturges, but the dialogue and writing is still very Sturges-ian. Plus, there are several long scenes of nothing but Rex directing an orchestra. Blech.

Hmm. See, I seem to remember that there was hardly any dialogue at all in that movie. I guess it's been too long since I saw it, but I still think it's an anomaly for Sturges. I think the humor is in a very different vein from that of Sullivan's Travels, The Palm Beach Story, Miracle of Morgan's Creek, etc.

Because matinee is only $4 in my town, I'd like to see more recent movies, especially so I can review them. But I can't (without spending lotsa money on gas) because my town's 5-screen cinema doesn't play any good movies. They never showed A History of Violence or The 40-Year-Old Virgin (a wide release), and now they're not showing Serenity (another wide release). A movie has to be Shrek 2 or Lord of the Rings to get showings in this stupid town. Grrrrr...

I just realized I've now seen more than 2000 films (not including shorts, miniseries, serials, TV movies, straight-to-video, etc. which would bring the number to about 2700). Ummm... "Yay"? I'm not sure this is a good thing.

Just watched the first nine minutes of Serenity. Terrible. So glad I didn't pay to see it in the cinema.

Ah, exactly how I felt about Au hasard, Balthazar. It's the only Bresson I have seen though.

>>God, I'm a heartless bastard. This movie unveils despicable horrors committed to thousands of women in the recent past, and I say it's a decent movie with interesting subject matter.
I know, I dwell about the same thing. Though I wouldn't call myself a heartless whatever - these (based on) events strike me heavily, but just the cans (these events are compressed in) strike less.
PS. Recently my mother got really angry with me, when I spoke not-so-goodly about Passion of the Christ; she wouldn't let it go when I said it's "just a movie". x)

Thanks for assuaging my guilt. I feel better about criticizing cans. TPOTC sucked, and since there are a dozen other movies depicting the same events, it's is easier to call "just a movie" than The Magdalene Sisters.

So you're now saying that if there are certain themes/events represented less on movies/are canned, we should care more about these cans then the ones that are represented more. Don't know, maybe is indeed "better"; more of different movies show us more different points od view and often more of those we don't like much.

I haven't the foggiest what you've said with any part of this last post. Could you rephrase?

Arghhh my sucky English. ×) 'Said nothing smart much, just laid a thought that do we appreciate more the movie which is the only one that is based on some events, than a better movie that is based on events, that a lot of other movies are based on as well. Again, nevermind my suckingness. ;)

I'm damn sure you speak my native language better than I speak your native language.

2005 sucked. Seriously. And the box office is biting it big time. December won't change that. King Kong has crappy special effects and unpopular actors; it will disappoint. Chronicles of Narnia turns off hardcore nerds by being too kiddy and too fresh on the heels of LOTR, and it turns off the Christian audience by replacing the core of the story - forgiveness and Aslan's sacrifice - with (yawn) an epic battle scene (or so I've heard).

Do you mean that "King Kong" will disappoint in terms of quality or in terms of box office? Because if you're talking about the latter, that's a sucker's bet. You're going to be proven wrong. (I also hope you're proven wrong about the former point, but we all know quality and profitability are unrelated.)

Both. And by disappointing box office, I mean less than $300 million. :-)

I think I can agree on that. Actually the trailer for King Kong looks IMO really bad, and the special effects suck indeed. I'll have a look at it anyway, as I was also wrong with Episode III which wasn't after all a bad film (Ok, I know you don't agree on that.).
P.S.: I heard something interesting in the radio this morning: For an unknown reason, King Kong will have its premiere here in Luxembourg, approximately 5 minutes earlier than in the whole rest of the world. What an honour! :)
The trailer of Narnia looks terrific. But a fast cut trailer doesn't necessarily mean a good film, eh?

I may be remembering incorrectly, but I don't think you actually see a member in Bad Education, though the movement and sounds make it very obvious what is going on. I still would not call it pornographic by any means.

The way the shots happened, and the timing of the blurring convinced me that cock-in-mouth was shown on frame in the NC-17 cut, but looks like I could be wrong.

Having viewed the NC-17 cut, I can assure you that nobody's cock winds up in anybody's mouth onscreen.

Okay, thanks. My argument is unfairly exaggerated, then. Sorry.

...why isn't he...a storybook illustrator?

He is! :-)

Duh, I should've checked up on that one first. Thanks!