Stook's 2005 Movie Suppository

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  1. 29 Palms (2002)*1/2

  2. Tepid, Tarantino-light with pointless technique from an untalented director, proverbiably shooting every scene in the foot by overloading it with crap composition and pointless, jumbled cutting. Any sense of tension is lost in the jumbled mess, leaving the actors to flail at each other, hoping something will happen. Nothing happens however and the film drags on for an interminable 98 minutes then thankfully fades into credits.
  3. A Nouse La Liberte (1931)*****

  4. Aguirre, The Wrath Of God (1974)****1/2

  5. Aguirre is a minor player on a Spanish expedition of the Brazilian rainforest, an intelligent hunchback obsessed with power and holding the firm belief that he is the only person who can possibly find the lost cities of gold. He and a small group are sent ahead to find water, food or anything else that could help the failing traverses. It is certainly true that he seems the only person equipped to make any actual progress, but his unabashed bloodthirstiness doesn’t endear him to his companions. Aguirre on the other hand uses this chance to vie for power and eventually kill the party general, a dim but gallant individual who simply cannot lead these men. Herzog as usual creates definitive cinematic images, introducing us to breathtaking, claustrophobic jungle that no other filmmaker can, bustling with kaleidoscopic colours. This is matched by Kinski who blazes with insanity (he was a complete nut) his contorted face and grotesque body movements are simply mesmerizing. The rapturous beauty is butted against a maddening pace, heaving with bloody violence and then instantly shifting into lethargic scenes of the party crumbling without a consistent leader. The constantly shifting atmosphere has a person at the edge of their seat, fascinated by the internal destruction and constantly wondering what will happen next. The film is an enigma that fuses grotesque brutality with monumental poetic imagery. This is probably Herzog’s best film, encapsulating all of the director’s contradictions in a marvellous whole, and a terrifically entertaining assault on the senses.
  6. Ali: Fear Eats The Soul (1974)****1/2

  7. All About Lily Chou-Chou (2001)*****

  8. Allegro Non Troppo (1976)****1/2

  9. Alphaville(1968)*****

  10. Godard invests this goofy sci-fi with so much imaginative invention he totally spurns the need for special effects, you just “feel” like the city is extremely remote, located in another universe. He cinematically slams together several styles: noir, cheesy 50’s sci-fi and paranoia thriller then stirs them around until it produces a wickedly absurd film you realise is wonderful the next day when you can't get it out of your mind. The basic gist is a spy (with the wonderful name REMMY CAUTION) goes to Alphaville to capture a mad scientist (there’s always a mad scientist) before he can take over the world using his ultra-computer whose speeches sound suspiciously like a gravely voiced person. In Godard’s hands the simplicity gives way to the usual discussions of cinema, sex and authoritarian control with characters travelling about discussing the meaning of life and how it got slowly siphoned out of the present society. Yet none of the usual cynicism is present, the story seems preoccupied with romantic notions; humanity can be saved by love instead of drowning inside it. The positively upbeat tone is a revelation, reinvigorating the complex filmmaking with a vibrant emotionality, not to mention endearing humor, missing since “Breathless”. Godard has never been one of my favorites, I usually find his movies soggy marathons of cinematic thumb twiddling but Alphaville is invigorating enough to change anyone into a believer.
  11. Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgandy ***

  12. A mixture of highbrow film concept and lowbrow execution that's damn funny, somewhat enjoyable and way too long at 90 minutes. The same joke hammered at for that time frame can get a tad repetetive and dull. Luckily Will Ferrel is a magnificent comic actor in his glory as Ron Burgandy, an overconfident fool boasting dull insights that you can't help but feel endeared and repulsed by at the same time. Although the funniest scene comes not from him but via Jack Black punting a small dog off a bridge; stuff like that generally doesn't get included in films, not in the hilariously explicit manner in this film for sure, it's outrageous. As for everything else, I liked "Anchorman" with it's infantile humor, wickedly overipe violence and random weirdness that makes for a good vacation from the brain cells.
  13. Ashes And Diamonds (1956)***

  14. Hokey, political Wannabe Rebel Without A Cause that put me to sleep, boring.
  15. Ashes Of Time (1994)*****

  16. A bizarrely existential chop-socky flick containing very little fighting and much discussion of what it means to live, die, live while dying, die while living and basically just have a tough time with the whole hired killer racket. All inside a sublimely textured visual package containing several awe-inspiring action scenes shot in stunning slow motion. The camera following the characters in close-up as they stream through lines of attackers, never bothering to identify impact, more interested in the reaction in his/her face. An unusual tact that goes against basic movie theory of cause and effect but manages to be far more effective, how I’m not sure. Scenes of bloodletting are also curiously rare, the action intended as part of the mood rather than dramatics, keeping pace with the introspective pacing. Visual beauty above all emanates from every scene, obsessed with people isolated into landscapes and the way they merge, the camera becoming a dominating force in the story telling. Wong Kar-Wai loves his actors and shows that in the way he films them, in turn they provide uniformly strong performances. The only problem is lucidity of the story, which contains a large group of characters and interchanges them with hardly a cut (which the director is prone to do) leaving the viewer drowning in incoherence for several scenes. I needed another viewing to clarify several points in the story and sort out which character is which. It didn’t help that the DVD has horrible subtitles that begin before and after characters speak, leaving you wondering who said what to whom. An irritating foible that kept the film from being one of my favourites, I can only hope a re-release of this film that will fix this problem. Still, do not mistake my attitude, this is an exceptional piece of cinema and you should watch it now if you already have not had the pleasure.
  17. The Atomic Cafe (1982)****1/2

  18. Hilarious in an extremely satirical way, the film splices together clips of early government films about the Atom Bomb and the way they tend to clash with 1) Common sense 2) Propriety 3) Reality In General. Duck and cover being on of my personal favorites along with the military planning what they call an "Atomic manoeuvre" in which troops should trample through an area just obliterated by an Atom Bomb. Wow.
  19. Audition (1999)****1/2

  20. The beginning is all abstracted tension, a series of obscure, low-angle static shots of people doing the dishes or sitting in restaurants that hover and peep in a disturbing way. Nothing happens that could seriously be considered even mildly horrible, yet the tension mounts without any such qualms and simply insinuates something is very wrong. When his friend announces his distrust of this woman you can understand, something about her just isn’t right. Tiny fragmented scenes of Asami in her apartment make a person incredibly uneasy and seem to justify these feelings. Yet the films interest in family activity leave some doubt as to what exactly, if anything, is going on. The film introduces to Aoyama in a scene typical of a romance, he sits at his wife’s death-bed wrapped in misery, as she dies their son enters the room with a bouquet for his mother, and upon realizing her death he consoles his father. This relationship punctuates the entire film, and indeed his son is much wiser that him in many ways, the father relying greatly on his son for stability. Director Miike is adept at juggling the lethargic unease without actually establishing his film as horror, romance and bizarre drama by making scenes of familial inconsequence compelling by serializing the hero’s life while hinting at his descent into estragon hell. Then creates an extended scene that is truly astonishing, working as the cornerstone for the everything, capping the unrelenting atmosphere with a catharsis so extreme it’ll have you squirming and horrified at the edge of your seat. If it’s true that horror films are all about the end then “Audition” ranks among the best.
  21. The Aviator(2004)****

  22. The Bad And The Beautiful (1952)****1/2

  23. Bad Education (2004)****

  24. The Balloonatic (1920)***1/2

  25. Funny but eratic early Keaton.
  26. Batman Begins (2005)***

  27. The Battle Of Algiers (1966)*****

  28. Realistic reenactment of the fight for Algerian liberation that was really quite violent and tawdry for a psuedo biodrama. Mostly a bashing of French political motives and the way a dominating force attempts to dominate the subserviant country. Choices to cut retaliatory actions together create much suspense and the masterful camerawork (a wildly rotating shoulder camera creates a sense of visual drama, swirling into stairwells or quickly panning upwards giving locations a spacial concept and distinct geography in a short time) gives these scenes of violence a riveting dominance, creating focus upon the characters and their motivations. Brilliant.
  29. Beckett (1964)****

  30. La Belle Noiseuse (1991)*****

  31. The artistic process, or more precisely the art of painting, is a bashing out of ideas in an attempt to find the truth. The truth of course if different to many people, in this case the subject is a painter of portraits sunk into a long dry spell by happiness and complacency trying to finish his epochal work La Belle Noiseuse. This process takes an interminable amount of time and much deep thought, preferably quiet, about ideas, figures, spatial concepts, drawings, weight, shape, etc. The movie process in comparison is a flashy form that bashes out a subject, usually in 2 hours, and seeks to entertain with melodrama, laughter or horror, whatever the case the feelings must be huge and attained quickly. In the face of this uphill battle Jacques Rivette completely avoids the subject (as he is prone to do) and creates a miraculous drifting document of the seething battle between artist, model and the indefinable artistic process, the only drama available in a mental tête-à-tête. The film functions in a series of scenes (that can be seen as acts if you like) comprising the levels of their ever-deepening relationship that coincides with the creation of the painting. The film first introduces them separately, her young, sly and full of naiveté towards herself and her environment, him aged, bored and completely happy in his artistic suffering. Obviously Rivette is showing us a combination for upheaval in both, spiritually as well as sexually. The next meeting involves the loft, in which he pays very little attention to her almost not looking her in the eye, avoiding the subject of a nude portrait that is obviously what he wants. The scene is a prolonged battle of wills, he is obviously attracted to her and at this point would welcome any sexual contact, she knows it and scowls at him like a petulant child judging him for being such a lecherous old man and determined to retain her clothing. Inter cut between this brilliant, subtle interplay is a beautiful (sometimes awkward) series of sketches, done by an artists hands of his model, sculpting lines of black onto the blank pages. The pens haven’t been cleaned in months and take very little ink, the scratching of the pen on the pages showing the artists obvious aggravation at his tools and an inability to portray his new subject effectively. In subsequent meetings her clothes are relinquished and his once sexual fire is replaced by an obsession with his artwork. In fact everything in the film is a service to the art of painting and creation in general, Frenhofer & Marianne’s time is filled in heated discussion of that very artistic process, ranging from his need to discover her true self to the very sexual nature the painter/model ebbing dominant/submissive relationship. He pushes her naked body into obscure positions to sketch her, each of these sketches being perused and judged later for becoming the eventual outcome of La Belle Noiseuse. Portrait painting is an extremely debilitating process if one seeks the level of gratification show in this film, you begin to feel as mentally numb as your model, ever molecule of your body just wanting to take one of the easy ways out, make love and settle for that or simply abandon the project altogether (this too is shown in the film in the form of his wife). This is insular drama, the horrendous, draining, joyful melodrama of mental creation in which ideas are discarded, revitalized and discard in an ever-changing process, an internal battle if you will. A fabulously gorgeous film created through Rivette’s gentle rhythms and luxurious style that interprets an internal drama for film through the inter cutting of the encompassing emotional drama outside the studio, emotional battles in the studio and documentary footage (the beautiful creations of the artist on paper). This is the epitome of drama, “Platoon” for people who like their wars to be internal instead of external.
  32. Black Orpheus (1959)*****

  33. A grand, almost maniacal energy pervades through every element of Black Orpheus. The film invariably finds its centre in music and dancing, the entire culture surrounding Carnival garnering a beautiful magic through a Jobim/Bonfa soundtrack and incredibly complex, elegant storytelling. Creating scene after scene full of incredible exuberance and enthusiasm that in the back of your mind you believe can’t last; yet it does maintain that stunning perfection without faltering. Shifting gears during a finale, juxtaposing Orpheus’ descent into the land of the dead with metaphorical bureaucracy that stills holds weight today, in which Orpheus returns with his beloved Eurydice in a stellar, heartbreaking finale. The fact that the film contains nary a misstep is exceptional, but to keep such invigorating pace until the finale is the sign of a truly great movie, in my estimation this is easily one of the 100 best films ever made.
  34. The Blood Of A Poet (1931)***

  35. Le Boucher/The Butcher (1969)***

  36. Bound For Glory (1976)****

  37. Broadway Danny Rose (1984)****

  38. Broken Wings (2002)***1/2

  39. Buffet Froid (1979)**

  40. Avoid this crap.
  41. Bus 174 (2002)***1/2

  42. Calle 54 (1996)****

  43. The Captive Heart (1948)****

  44. The Cat Returns (2002)***

  45. A stilted animated film about finding yourself, being yourself and all that feel-good stuff, which stretches about 30 minutes of worthwhile film into 80 minutes making for a boring, if mildly interesting, night on the couch.
  46. Chaplin (1993)***

  47. Charlie Chan At The Opera (1937)***1/2

  48. A Chinese Ghost Story (1987)****

  49. Chloe In The Afternoon (1974)***

  50. Chushinguru (1968)***1/2

  51. Code 46 (2004)*****

  52. Michael Winterbottom’s wonderful romantic mystery attains nirvana about 30 minutes into it’s running time. Maria (Samantha Morton) has just invited empath William (Tim Robbins) into her tiny apartment. Earlier this day William has lied knowing full fell Maria is responsible for a crime, yet has no idea why, he simply felt compelled. An elegant scene follows culminating when they embrace on her bed as they start peeling away clothing and caressing. What follows is a glorious close-up of Morton’s face; we see what Matthew sees, her exceptionally erotic movements, open mouth and those beautiful eyes. At that very moment the movie fades away and you can understand, even though this is a movie and neither of these people exist, why Matthew is in love with Maria. Just remembering it causes my brain to float on a tide of synapse butterflies. After such a scene I was left bereft, wondering if the filmmakers could possibly attain such perfection again. Scenes followed, excellent scenes, but nothing that could compare and just as hope was drifting away they managed it again. The very end of this film is simply mesmerizing, Coldplay floating under the surface; Maria bathed in golden light as the camera focuses on her for the last time. I realized after the film had ended several things, the cinematography was among the best I’ve ever seen, Morton is fantastic in an almost life-altering way and I absolutely adored this film. I’m sure it’ll be in my thoughts for a long time, my mind fumbling over it until it becomes part of my unconscious.
  53. Companeros (1970)***1/2

  54. **Companeros finest achievement happens to be Ennio Morricone's obnoxiously catchy title track that sounds something like a crazed group of mariachis playing for their lives while a choir shouts "comp-comp-comp-comp-companeros" until your sanity starts to faulter. The film itself is an over ripe spaghetti western loaded with gratuitous violence (one main character takes to swinging about a gattling gun) and silly crosses and double crosses and double double crosses. Which makes a person think, does 5+ doublecrosses in the same movie make it a quintuplecross? Regardless of the answer to that question there seems to always be one character in peril while several others haggle over getting said character out of trouble.
  55. Control Room (2004)****

  56. The Corporation (2004)****

  57. Coup de Torchon (1981)*****

  58. A brilliant modern film noir, laced with the nastiest form of black humour possible, that is a treat of unstructured elegance. Lucien is a lazy, lacivious constable of a small African township in the twenties, married to a woman who hates him and the constant recipient of negative attention. One day he asks another constable for help and finds the strangest kind of liberation from the answer. Unforced, unhurried, and simply uninterested moral pretentions Coup De Torchon creates a spell with idiosyncratic story, adeptly creating something unique with it's careful, entrancing technique and pace.
  59. The Crowd (1928)****

  60. Cutter's Way (1977)**

  61. The Day After (1979)***1/2

  62. Day Of Wrath (1943)****1/2

  63. A passionate rendering of an elderly priest and the corruption of his adoring wife when faced with the knowledge of her incredible power is probably more about consequence than any other subject. The priest has used his position to marry a beautiful young woman by reprieving her mother from accusations of witchcraft. She finds herself trapped into a life of servitude under the watchful iron of the priest iron willed mother, devoid of love, sex and any inkling of happiness. The parsons grown son arrives the same day an aged witch seeks refuge in their house, both having a defining effect on the young woman’s life and eventual fate. The resulting film is incredibly complicated, mixing paranormal with societal issues, plumbing through each character’s motives, revealing the depths of lies, deception and sin that define their lives. The parson seeks to keep his young wife in an attempt to rekindle his youth but remains unable to perform his duties as it were so she turns to his son for satisfaction. This of course reeks havoc on the household, giving her a newfoud assurance and injecting sexuality and defiance into the pious, sombre household. The viewer realizes that she is indeed a powerful witch whose power is unleashed on her suroundings because of the parson and his morbid mother. What a person comes to realize is that these people are irrevocably linked through their actions, the son is not against the idea of their adulterous affair but seems compliant to let the blame rest wholly on her while his grandmother’s brimming hate drives the young wife towards her eventual fate. The ramifications of the interactions of people have rarely been plumbed so effectively and it makes for powerful if hardly upbeat cinema.
  64. Desert Bloom (1986)***1/2

  65. The Deserter (1932)*

  66. Deadly boring communist/strike/coming of age/bull malarky manifesto that you want to end after 30 minutes but drags (and drags is the operative word) on for a soul depleting 105 minutes of unbearable mental lashing akin to the Chinese water torture with orchestra crescendos working as the drops of water.
  67. Don's Party (1971)****1/2

  68. Brilliant, bawdy black comedy about a party celebrating a pivitol nascent Australian election.
  69. The Dreamers (2002)***1/2

  70. Early Summer (1951)****1/2

  71. The End Of St. Petersburg (1927)***1/2

  72. Eraserhead (1977)****

  73. Enthusiastically phobic film that rarely reaches its full potential but creates a powerful feeling of repulsion (intentional) in spite of its failings. Very weird.
  74. Europa Europa (1991)****

  75. Faces (1968)***1/2

  76. 125 minutes of grim realism and staged excess about the facades people put on for other people and vice versa that drains every loose morsel of energy from your body as you are confined like a rat to the couch while endless minutes of human tragedy flog you about the brain. In all of this gruesome stew some astounding scenes take place, including a brilliant moment when a couple argue while laughing hysterically, it seems completely staged and utterly spontaneous at the same time, a transcendent moment bookended by yelling and ugly closeups, sometimes together that limit it’s power but don’t snuff it altogether. Cassavetes seems to revel in his fast paced whirling dirvish as characters laugh and yell and jump about as he whips around corners with his camera causing actors to lurch about in an attempt to get out of the way while spouting gruesome dialogue (probably unscripted given the confusing, infantile nature of some of it) and invariably whipping his actors into an overzealous uneasiness. The high pitched nature of this material can get on a person’s nerves, but the filmmaking bravado seems to temper the agony as it’s filled with astounding photography and brilliantly crafted set pieces. I must admit that it keeps your attention, but at what a cost, I for one feel very sorry for Gena Rowlands as an actress in this role. I sometimes get the feeling that her confused, angry, sad look is not entirely acting and she’s being pestered by her hyper director, I hope I’m wrong about that.
  77. Fat City (1972)**

  78. Football and boxing movies hold a special place on my list of things I cannot stand. John Huston has now made his, about a loser and a younger loser and the way their lives run parallel. I couldn't stand this film, it grated on every one of my nerves.
  79. Fiend Without A Face (1958)****

  80. Attack of the invisible vampire brains, hilarious.
  81. Fireworks (1997)***1/2

  82. Five Corners (1988)***

  83. Five Fingers (1952)***1/2

  84. Floating Weeds (1954)****1/2

  85. The Four Musketeers (1975)****1/2

  86. Funny Face (1956)****

  87. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)*****

  88. Marylin Monroe, Jane Russell, same movie.
  89. Gertrud (1964)****

  90. The Go-Between (1972)****1/2

  91. The Golem (1921)**1/2

  92. Goodbye Dragon Inn (2003) ***1/2

  93. I have no actual way to know whether I enjoyed this film since I was irritated at every moment I watched it. Phone calls, rampaging dogs, people wanting attention, conversations while I watched it, the DVD remote died and above all the last 20 minutes were filled by someone cracking walnuts and eating them as loud as possible. I've now effectively seen the entire film 3 times and at no point was I left to watch it, I dare not venture into it again for fear of what else will happen. Sheesh.
  94. Gozu (2002)***

  95. The Grudge (2004)*1/2

  96. The Harder They Fall (1953)***1/2

  97. Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle (2004)****

  98. Head (1968)***1/2

  99. Heidi (1937)****1/2

  100. Hobson's Choice (1954)*****

  101. I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang (1932)*****

  102. A great example of film as social protest, startlingly realistic for it’s time, that chucks in some romance to elevate this from powerful entertainment to one of cinema’s great tragedies. Paul Muni is emphatically great as Allen James, fugitive from the chain gang, delivering his lines with a “make the audience feel it” zeal that’s downright zesty. Of course he’s aided by a story so wild it would have to be true that offers him plenty of chances to mug outrageously. The studio obviously thought the material a tad harsh and a conniving blonde and understanding redhead are thrown in to balance the grittier parts of the film. Mervin LeRoy is obviously in full control, creating a tight, fast paced and damned entertaining feature at the same time he wags his cinematic finger about. Sadly his supporting cast sometimes lets their director down, most obvious is the horribly stilted father at the beginning of the film, apparently mistaking the material for low-rent Shakespeare, who weirdly pops up later as his brother. Thankfully this and other badly acted roles are relegated to the periphery and don’t really affect the tension. Plus the excellent black & white cinematography and intelligent script more than make up for the minor faults in this wonderful film.
  103. I Am Curious Yellow/I Am Curious Blue (1966/1967)***/**

  104. As a voice tells you at the beginning "this is one film that is actually two" meaning same characters, same story, different content. Yet, using the word story would be a tad misleading, there was no script, the entire project was director and cast improvisation; a technique not unusual today but in 1967 it probably blew filmic appreciators collective minds and influenced a new generation of filmmakers to make experimental cinema. A precise definition of this film goes far beyond experimental however, it’s cinema without boundaries where several movies coexist and constantly butt up against and influence each other. One dimension of the film involves actress/activist Lena Nyman playing herself, interviewing people on the class system of Sweden while she gets her sexual liberation freak on having sex with several men and actively pursuing her married leading man. Which in case you’re wondering is another part of the movie, in which she cuckold’s the director (played by the director) for a thinner, better looking actor, who in turn gets to have sex with her in the other story. Integrated in between these two stories are her mother and father (fake) and her search for her mother (real) played by an actress in the film. If you are confused by now, don’t worry; it didn’t make much more sense watching it. The story of how such a film could be made is far more interesting, in 1966-67 director Vilgot Sjöman (with dorky Swedish beard) got 100,000 meters of black-and-white film and complete freedom to make a film (every director’s wet dream) and he came back to the studio with complete nonsense that he split into two films so each part would have half the nonsense. The outcome, no matter how great the intentions, is an incredibly influential, very average film. The best parts play with the audience, asking us to join in the nonsense, which gives those scenes some kind of humanity and intimacy that is lacking from so much of this material laden with unflinching sexuality, full frontal male nudity and pointed political discussion. Yet in the end, the fact that the film has no restrictions hinders rather than helps, and the eventual failure is mostly due to an inability for the content to justify not only the length, but also it’s being made at all. I Am Curious is influential but dull.
  105. I Heart Huckabees (2004)***1/2

  106. I Know Where I'm Going! (1945)****1/2

  107. I Robot (2004)*

  108. Dishearteningly dumb and ghoulish goulash, nothing like a good verbal pun, that left me wondering why such a movie would be attempted. Since: Obviously paring down so many stories is going to leave a disturbingly fluctuating film experience, Will Smith is the “Most Likely To Mug Onscreen” star of the 21st century, you can’t be hard-edged without getting realistic and a little nasty, the ideal way for the movie to play out involves centring the middle sequence at the beginning, dissolving the beginning and adding explanations towards the end to add a little more confusion and film the closing sequence in less light. I hate it when people direct movies without following the main rule of action/adventure cinema; keep the audience in a state of tantalized confusion, because when they realize what’s going on is when you lose their full attention. Of course I would also re-write the script, introducing more exposition on Smith’s character and possibly dragging a sub-plot to the 1:10 mark then hit em with the funk so fast and hard the audience would collectively s**t their pants. But there’s the little problem of me not being a director and no one is going to invest 100 million in my film presentation. The film does however prove one thing; I was right about Alex Proyas needing time to grow as a director.
  109. Iceman (1984)**

  110. Boring, silly, idiotic and pretentious muck that manages a story that goes something like this: Iceman is discovered, Timothy Hutton from Ordinary People tries to communicate, Iceman & Tim bond, Iceman makes funny noises and gallops about, Tim brings his hottie to meet Iceman and she almost gets raped, modern world intercedes,
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    Iceman does a half gainer from a helicopter plunging to his death with a big smile
    . Egad.
  111. The Importance Of Being Earnest (1952)****1/2

  112. In A Year Of 13 Moons (1979)*****

  113. Irma Vep (1996)***1/2

  114. La Jetee (1961)****1/2

  115. Joe Vs. The Volcano (1990)****1/2

  116. Whimsy is an almost impossible mood to assemble onscreen through the moviemaking process, people spend no little amount of time trying to evoke such things (this means you George Lucas) and failing so miserably their movies become cynical and lifeless through their attempts. Or they become the opposite, comical bouts of idiocy that seek their irreverence to be taken seriously. Joe Versus The Volcano on the other hand creates a feeling of whimsy with what seems like very little effort, exposing itself so naively as to create a gauntlet of enjoyable silliness which the viewer has to traverse. Ultimately that means that some scenes come off as comedic toss-offs, but in an endearing way. The happiness with which this film flings itself forward into the next life-affirming debacle is liberating, for me at least. Finding no bounds in the general order of things the film seems content to flow out like a dream drummed up from the director’s unconscious, equal parts cinema and personal experience. The opening scene sets up the feeling of the entire film, creating a parallel world that closely mimics ours but has slightly altered layers of reality. Joe steps from his car on the way to work to find his foot ankle deep in a puddle, then stumbles like a zombie with many other faceless people to his hideous job, then to a doctor who tells him he has a brain cloud that gives him 6 months to live. Tom Hanks is incredibly likeable as Joe, neurotic turned danger seeker with the simple knowledge of his imminent death. That knowledge sets in motion a series of miraculous events as scatterbrained as they are imaginative, making sense only in hindsight. Meg Ryan is Hanks’ perfect foil (the two generate sparks on the level of Bogie & Bacall) playing three different women in what could be the finest performance of her career. Yet what truly matters is the emotional honesty this film manages to purvey while having incredible charm and child-like wonder. Halfway through the film one of Ryan’s characters says, “My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement.” It’s something to write such a thing into a script but it’s certainly another to make a film intrinsically linked with that simple but profound statement. Joe Vs The Volcano is a great film because you get the feeling that the director believes that tenet whole-heartedly, and manages to make you a willing compatriot in such a glorious ideal.
  117. Ju-On: The Grudge (2002)***1/2

  118. King Of Hearts (1967)****1/2

  119. The Knack (1965)*****

  120. Kikujiro (2000)***1/2

  121. Kinsey (2004)***

  122. This film is creepy and dirty, it made want to shower after watching it and later when I thought about the scenes I couldn’t help feeling disgusted certain scenes and Liam Neeson is just plain disturbing in this film, exuding a distinct perverse quality that just made me slightly embarrassed watching him. The problem, for me anyways, can be stated like this: Half the movie was Mr. Holland’s Opus, all gooey and filled with birds tweeting and an air of peppiness that makes my skin crawl, mixed with the Ken Russell movie of your choice. The amalgum is so disconcerting as to make the film very disturbing and as I said before, very creepy.
  123. Lady Snowblood (1973)***

  124. L'Age D'Or (1930)**1/2

  125. YAAAAAAA-------AAAAAAAAAAAA------WWWWWWNNNNN!
  126. Land Of The Dead (2005)*****

  127. The Last Laugh (1924)*****

  128. Lassie Come Home (1952)****

  129. The Last Metro (1980)****1/2

  130. The Libelled Lady (1936)****1/2

  131. The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp (1958)*****

  132. Little Dorrit (TVM, 1988)*****

  133. Funny, dramatic, sad, satirical, intellectual and incredibly entertaining Little Dorrit is surely the single best television presentation I've ever had the pleasure to see. Split into two 3 hour sections which comprise the same story told from different viewpoints this seems like a mammoth enterprise to undertake until you've gotten 30 minutes in and can't stop watching. Both a technical marvel, in the sense that the costumes, sets, language and overall atmosphere are completely matched to the time-line of the material, and a masterpiece of pure entertainment the filmmakers manage this exquisite balancing act and produce a six hour film which is far too short for my taste. Yes it is that good.
  134. Lola Montes (1955)*****

  135. Lone Wolf & Cub: Baby Cart On The River Styx (1974)****1/2

  136. The Lost World (1925)***

  137. Enjoyable lightweight action-adventure that seems pretty standard today because it most likely invented every cliche in the adventure genre. A lot of fun, but damn long. A shorter film would have suited me better and bizarrely enough there are several 70 minute prints of this film hovering about. I may have to check them out and see if I enjoy those versions better.
  138. Louisiana Story (1948)***

  139. "Daddy, that gator killed my 'coon" "We'll get im son". Whatever.
  140. The Lower Depths (1953)****

  141. Maborosi (1995)****

  142. Startlingly beautiful yet emotionally hesitant story that works sporadically, and drifts in a pleasing way the rest of the time.
  143. The Manchurian Candidate (2004)****

  144. An excellent remodelling of a classic film which produces the same intensity if not the skill, which suprised the hell out of me. The intensity comes via Denzel's uniformly great performance and some interesting queeks of the old plot. Meryl Streep is no match for Angela Lansbury's bad assed momma, Meryl simply oozes an offensive quality while Lansbury seemed to embody everything wickedly evil. Granted these are different films, but in a cat fight I'd bet on angela. Other than that all I can say is that this was a effective, enjoyable thriller finely crafted by a talented director (demme) aided by his talented cast.
  145. Male And Female (1919)****

  146. Both sadly contrived and actually affecting this film is a sloppy triumph detailing the reversal of societal roles when a family and their butler are shipwrecked. Muddled by an inability to contain the directors aspirations into the storyline the movie eventually intigrates footage of Babylon by revealing that it's characters are actually star-crossed lovers from thousands of years before who've been cursed to constantly be together. The fact that they remember this puts a damper on any hopes of any normalicy coming out of the picture, yet at that precise moment reality makes a valliant return and effectively tries to dismiss this earlier discourse. I can only see Male And Female as a lark, and taken as such it's damned entertaining, full of manly deeds and feminine whims. The overall dumbness and narrative idiosyncracies just add flavour to this pulpy gumbo.
  147. Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky & The Media (1987)*****

  148. The Man Who Loved Women (1977)***1/2

  149. Marat/Sade (1966)****

  150. Mean Creek (2004)***1/2

  151. Medium Cool (1969)***

  152. Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster (2004)****

  153. The high/low point of this film is hard to discern, but I’m going to suggest Dave Mustaine’s heartfelt speech about the torture his life has been since he was ousted from Metallica. There is a certain morbid curiosity to seeing a grown man talk about his abhorrent recurring mockery by indignant Metallica fans and his constant wish he would have gotten rehab instead of the boot. Apparently Megadeth is second best to Metallica and it has plagued his life with insecurities only an infantile heavy mettler can truly harness. The brilliance of this scene as well as most of the other material is the silly heights these people manage to achieve by simply being who they are. Brooding, slamming doors, throwing all sorts of hissy fits and eventually learning the true power of psycho babble lies in the ability to start every sentence with “I feel”, and to actually garner some attention with those two words. Which means they wander about telling each other what they feel, how they’re feeling it and sometimes what the feeling is. During all this proactive gushing they manage to write the insanely bad lyrics that pepper “St. Anger”. Phil, an entertainment psychoanalyst who guides Metallica through various pitfalls such as, not yelling at one another, it’s pointless to call each other names and sometimes you need time alone, makes all these breakthroughs possible. He hangs around the periphery giving sage advice and pulling 40,000 dollars a month for the better part of 2 years and in a quirky twist becomes something of a cloying groupie. This is the material Rob Reiner could only hope to convey with This Is Spinal Tap, the ultimate mockumentary because these are real people. The documenters are smart enough to sit back and let this soap opera play out, starting every new scene with a title stating “day 248, day 304, etc.”, as if they were filming a horrible disaster befalling a group of men marooned in the Amazon forest. Of course they are filming a disaster, but of a much different type, you have to watch this movie.
  154. Midnight (1939)
  155. A Midsummer Night's Dream (1934)***1/2

  156. An early Shakespeare adaptation done in a strictly hollywood vein, the big budget allowing for marvellous sets and major actors. The results are quite good with Mickey Rooney providing a truly great performance as Puck, the mischevious fairie. Suprisingly the actors handle the material well, even James Cagney whose bluster remains but tongue seems able to wrap around the complicated words. This version was a lot of fun.
  157. Le Million (1931)****

  158. A fun, funny and whimsical musical comedy by Rene Clair bristling with various forms of innovations. The last 20 minutes are a hilarious blend of slap-stick, physical and I guess you'd call it metaphorical comedy that outstrips the first hour. An enjoyable whole that was considered one of the ten best movies ever made (during the 50's), and although it's not THAT good, it's still damn fine entertainment.
  159. Million Dollar Baby (2005)*****

  160. Million Dollar Baby is one of those rare, exceptional films that insinuate themselves with a false, yet completely compelling visage before revealing incredible layers of complexity and emotionality which are completely unexpected. This has nothing to do with a shock twist at the end, or an about turn in the fortunes of a character (although that is present as well), the revelation was there all the time but you fail to see until Eastwood is ready. This is obviously made possible by Clint’s incredible direction which is the apex of 30 years work and which will undoubtedly assuage any question of whether he is one of the finest auteur of the late 20th/21st century. Yet like all masters of cinema he allows the scenes to exist without visual fiddling, the emotionality is so pure it lacerates you to the core.
  161. Frankie (Eastwood) is a guilt ridden cut man cum boxing trainer whose single minded love of the sport is exceptional but emotionally limited. He passes his days with Eddie (Freeman), his best friend, a former title contender whom he feels responsible for crippling whether that is true or not until Maggie (Swank), an indomitable middle aged woman blows into their lives and coerces Frankie into coaching her. That summation would be a standard boxing film with a female twist if the characters weren’t so excellently drawn, Maggie is dirt-poor and understands this is her last, desperate chance to make something of herself before she becomes a welfare case. Appropriately Frankie has used up his last chance, confining himself to his business, looking for no more bumps in the road. The complexity behind their frail friendship hardens into something quite exceptional by the centre of the film as the story swings into a marvellous apex of boxing entertainment, triumphant spectacle whose agile filmmaking that rivals Rocky in its brutal entertainment. Probably the best 90-minute red herring ever foisted upon a willing audience because the film is not about boxing.
  162. Million Dollar Baby, after hustling up so much vigorous entertainment, creates something truly astounding with the last 20 minutes. In these final, paralysing scenes you realize what seemed to be movie about fighting, will power and strength is revealed to be a movie about dreams, love, forgiveness and the power of friendship. This reveal is also true of life, what seemed to one thing when you were young slowly becomes something else, and the fact that Clint managed to make a film that contains that is as glorious as it is unexpected.
  163. Les Miserbles (1935)****1/2

  164. An absolutely fabulous film until the final 20 seconds which takes absurdity to new levels.
  165. Mona Lisa (1986)*****

  166. Mona Lisa has been one of my favourite films for 10 years, while others have been lost to age or film knowledge, this one I still find compelling for completely personal reasons. The Dante like traversal of the London underworld by an impish criminal recovering his life and finding it shaken by a woman who invariably changes him is general movie fodder but the characters are quite unusual, as is the storytelling. They appeal to my romantic sensibilities, and I find more than a little of myself in George (considering the arc of the character I would presume that true of most men) and the mad obsession with an unattainable wounded person is such a wonderful way to wallow in male fantasy that I still love every second. This is the epitome of male romantic fantasy (of us wounded romantics anyway) full of sex, emotional confusion and devotion to romantic idolatry, attaining the same satisfaction women get from An Affair To Remember.
  167. Moonlighting (1982)****

  168. Grim realism of incredible economy and power, blessed with a marvellous performance by Jeremy Irons. Four Polish construction workers fly to England to illegally work on a mysterious, wealthy man's flat. The crux of the story however lays in Nowak (Irons) keeping a secret that Poland has been undergone a political coup and severed ties from the outside world. How Nowak keeps this secret increasingly shows signs of an allegory for the actual event by a filmmaker unable to make such a film in his own country. Indeed this is a sobering film about the intrinsic link between good intentions and sordid cruelty on a social level. Yet the director knows how to entertain as well, focussing on dramatic minutia that is always interesting and spurning the"foreign movie" penchant for drawn out conversations and stoicism. In fact the film merges on being a great piece of entertainment, the fact that the filmmakers wrapped intelligent metaphor in a sugary coating is probably not responsible for its quality, but it makes a heck of a lot easier to watch.
  169. Mother Teresa (1986)****

  170. The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)****1/2

  171. A coming of age tale about "Che" Guevara's youthful journey across a continent and forming the initial beliefs that made him an important leader of his generation is a powerful tale that inverts usual coming of age storylines and inserts something real in its place. The tightly paced direction creates an episodic style, introducing events by kilometers, which is a tad irritating but easily forgiven, and selecting what seems to be the minimum amount of information to give each piece the maximum effect, something like minimal style given a complicated presentation. The result is quite exhilerating and gives the film a much needed momentum, relaying the events, which are almost always minor, with a directness that gives the story honesty and importance. Bernal (who should have won best actor for his performance) is exceptional as Guevara, creating a picture of morality, charisma and strength onscreen without ever resorting to mimicry. He gives the film the extra punch, not to mention star power, needed the raise Motorcycle Diaries above the recent glut of biopics and reveal itself to be the best of the lot.
  172. Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)***1/2

  173. Good looking, entertaining rose scented crap that glorifies violence and death whilst force feeding you brand names and misogony. I enjoyed it quite a bit.
  174. My Architect (2002)**1/2

  175. My Life To Live (1962)****

  176. My Night At Maud's (1968)****1/2

  177. The Naked Killer (1992)*

  178. Incredibly silly Hong Kong actioner concerning a group of man-hating, limb severing, obsesively castrating female hitpersons and an impitent, gun shy cop. Everything happens fast; the cop and a hit woman fall in love almost instantly after she mutilates a girl-friend beaters' genitalia, seemingly forgetting that stabbing a person in the penis is illegal and goes straight for hot and heavy land. Things get stranger and characters are introduced so quickly I got confused for a while as to which hottie was which. The problem solved itself as these women's defining charactaristics do tend to seperate them; one keeps serial rapists chained in her basement, another is madly in love and the third enjoys cutting of men's penises. Definately a diverse group of ladies. At no point could I take this film seriously and I didn't think it was any good either. Yet while I flipped through a book of Toulouse Lautrec paintings I got a few laughs out of the horendous schlock that they call a script, the acting and the sheer vapidness of the direction. My favorite scene involves the heroes partner guzzling down a severed penis while saying "you can't have any of this!". What's with the spate of penile influenced material I've been watching lately, it's starting to make me paranoid.
  179. Naked Prey (1960)***1/2

  180. Dramatically poignant survival flick with an incredibly small amount of dialogue, the characters react to their environment rather than each other, and scenes are generally restricted to people running and trying to survive. The brilliant first hour is stunningly orchestrated minimalism concerning a white man running for his life from an African tribe he’s offended. After that point however, signs of dramatic confusion and political mugging start to crop up leaving in their wake several enormously silly scenes that waylay everything. They don’t ruin the film but they limit its effectiveness, which is a shame because things start of with such promise. The eventual conclusion is cliché and I found myself fond of the film but disappointed by several glaring failures.
  181. Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind (1984)****1/2

  182. The Neighbors (1921)****

  183. Nobody Knows (2005)*****

  184. Exceptional, heartbreaking film telling the story of four children abandoned by their mother and their struggles to live. Directed by the man who made "Afterlife" (one of my favorite films) this one could probably garner a top 200 placing.
  185. The Old Dark House (1932)****1/2

  186. Ordet (1955)****1/2

  187. Orpheus (1949)***1/2

  188. Cocteau has an ability to bore me like no other director of his generation and it seems that this film is no different. However, the ending is excellent, but that in no way makes up for the proceeding 60 minutes. The beginning is all very beautiful and dramatically poetic to be sure, but I couldn't care less.
  189. Otello (1986)****1/2

  190. Pauline At The Beach (1984)****1/2

  191. Finally, a Rhomer film that entertained me as much as I've been wishing one of his films would, if that makes sense. An intrigueing film about a young girl surrounded by good looking but shallow people that, over the space of a week, tries to teach how to love. An excellent concept brought to fruition through an unhurried and inviting directorial style.
  192. Persona (1964)***

  193. Never have I watched an Ingmar Bergman film and had this thought, “Did I just see an erect penis?” Regardless of the answer to that question it gives the viewer some idea of the following film. Crammed full with dialogue and subtle shifts in emotion caught by a roving, insatiable camera the film literally stalks the actresses like some kind of “Wild Kingdom For Unhappy Women”. Technically Persona is outstanding, acting, direction, script (probably mostly improvised), camerawork; it’s truly a defining moment in Bergman’s catalogue. With cinematic perfection comes a resolutely austere atmosphere that’s impenetrable for the average viewer (myself) which leaves the incredibly complex conversation(s) decipherable but emotionless. To be honest I suppose after the 20 minute mark you’re either interested or picking your toes, sadly I was the latter. I say that sadly because Bergman is one of my favourites for doing the exact same things he does in this film, but this time I just didn’t care.
  194. Pixote (1980)****1/2

  195. Porco Rosso (1992)****1/2

  196. Il Posto (1961)***1/2

  197. Puppetmaster (1993)****1/2

  198. Rachel, Rachel (1968)***1/2

  199. Ray (2004)**

  200. Because Ray garnered a best picture nomination, and because my feelings about the film haven’t changed in the last week, if anything they have deepened, I’m rewriting my review. The original review went something like this “Ray Charles was a brilliant musician, without dispute one of the most important of his generation, and the movie Ray reaches it's lively peak during a rapturous rendition of What'd I Say. Any subsequent peaks in this monotonous filmmaking visage usually entail the writing or playing of his music. Unfortunately that leaves the rest of this syrupy mess dragging along with the "personal" facts of Ray's life, done in the most hammy, manipulative ways possible by director/hack Taylor Hackford. Violins, slow motion, corny dialogue and the ever present dishevelled junky make their odious appearances only to be outdone by leaps and bounds in a crappy ending that slouches into the closing credits with a crass whimper. Hackford seems to labour under the impression that Charles’ life wasn’t interesting enough to carry the film without buttering up every scene with a gooey shittiness. Listen to the music and spare yourself this dreck.“ but I have much more to say, so here it goes. Any movie which begins with the main characters mother standing in blowing sheets encapsulated in a slow-motion zoom shot is bound to be ridiculously clichéd. I cringed upon seeing this scene because although I hoped different I had an inkling what I was in for. The fact that he cut frames to add a slight shock when she delivers her line “don’t let no one make you a cripple” is a nice touch but a little like licking a wound you’ve already made. And so begins the “good part” of the film, or should we call it the first 40 minutes, in which Ray’s evolution from “street-savvy blind man who baffles a bus driver with bull-crap” to “disappointed reject of a juke band” is shown in a series of showcases. This is the part where you are wowed by Jamie Foxx ability to turn a smile upside down and do a little less bobbing of the head to convey Ray’s diminishing happiness. The tone of the film is kept light however, and the vignettes are compact which is a blessing since the storytelling is a travesty, showing no more “harsh reality” than I Want To Live!. Corrupted obviously by an inability to understand Ray’s reasons for anything the movie simply implies that he wanted to be hip, he wanted to belong, he wanted to shoot heroine. Nothing in life is ever this simple, there are reasons for any action but Jamie Foxx’s superficial performance and Hackford’s inability to understand his subject don’t even attempt to delve into such things. Apparently it’s alright to show the nastier side of an icon just as long as no one understands the reason behind the actions, which I suppose is closer to reality than 50’s biographies that simply altered the truth but lacking the emotional depth which those 50’s films managed to plum with their altered facts. I will surely admit that these are small quibbles but I actually enjoyed this part of the film. These scenes apex in his tour for Atlantic, which brings into focus what Ray the entertainer, in these fleeting scenes Foxx nails his performance, he’s full of bravado, skill and charisma. Then the film takes an about turn, jettisoning any of the good sense shown at the beginning by slowing the film and obsessively detailing his slide into heroine abuse. I don’t care about the subject matter, if Hackford wants to portray that certain element more power to him; the man however is not talented enough to juggle the dramatic downslide with all the other aspects he’s seeking to include, his crumbling marriage, philandering, etc. He somehow throws the pacing off, making the last hour of the film a muddled downer, sprinkling little bits of his classic hits to show the man hasn’t lost his musical skill and then sinking into a maudlin portrayal of heroine abuse. I am so tired of seeing the couch-ridden junkie answering a phone I could spit, but that’s probably just me. At this point the woefully underused female actresses get their chance to yell a lot and try to eke out some piece of the movie for their anaemic parts. The fact that every character in the film other than Ray is given the shaft is slightly aggravating, but these two women blow Foxx off the screen. To limit their parts is a major mistake by the filmmakers. At this point the film seems to revert to some horrible parody of its earlier scenes, replacing the sharp storytelling with bloated drama purloined from a cheesy TV movie. Then abruptly ends with a completely implausible, new agey scene implying that Ray kicked his heroine habit because he finally battled his inner demon, something akin to the scene at the end of Good Will Hunting in which 10 years of abuse is settled by a doctor saying “it wasn’t your fault” like a mantra, only about a 100 times worse. Seemingly so embarrassed that they just did that the filmmakers do a photomontage of the real Ray and roll the credits. This is the closest I’ve seen a film come to abusing an audience, attempting to portray reality without seeking any, attempting heartfelt emotion by eliciting tawdry drama. If that weren’t enough, Foxx is okay in his part, he looks a lot like Charles which certainly helps, and the man can certainly weave his head about but he simply looks like an actor impersonating a musician. I always thought the idea was to become the character you portray, but apparently I was wrong since he’s a lock for a best actor Oscar, read what you like into that choice.
  201. Safety Last (1923)*****

  202. Saint Jack (1976)****1/2

  203. Samurai 1: Musashi Mijamoto (1954)*****

  204. Samurai 2: Duel At Ichijoji Temple (1955)*****

  205. Samurai 3: Duel At Gonryu Island (1955)*****

  206. Saw (2004)**1/2

  207. Banal attempt to make Se7en without any of the poignant moral questions, adept direction or anything else that could cause a lasting sense of fear. Diabolical serial ringmaster rigs up elaborate ways for people to kill themselves and others while staying too many steps ahead of anyone else for them to notice anything and always having the perplexing ability to know exactly what will happen even when the events are completely out of his reach or influence. I have heard that this film was incredibly gory (it isn't) and a brutal assault on the senses (only if they meant a shear lack of attention) and that the acting was good (it isn't) so it fails on most levels including a twist ending so twisty as to make the viewer sigh and say "I really don't care". Horror films should frighten, Saw just makes you wish the plot weren't so ludicrously complicated and so ridiculously dramatic.
  208. The Scarlet Empress (1934)****

  209. Secret Ballot (2003)****

  210. The Seduction Of Mimi (1974)*

  211. Lina Wertmuller is a famous Italian director, responsible for Swept Away, Seven Beauties and a few other sexually provocative sleazefests, that I must admit I liked much more than this one. I think it's an abstraction of the Italian political climate, but to give a film that much thought, I would first have to believe it more than a complete waste of time. A film not laden with bulging eyeballs, dialogue laden with heaving breasts and extremely uncomfortable sex that always turns out badly. The comedy got lost inside the absurdity, for me at least leaving only the right side of my brain to deconstruct her precocious but tepid directorial stylings.
  212. Seven Chances (1925)****1/2

  213. Sherman's March (1986)*****

  214. Shock Corridor (1963)***

  215. Sideways (2004)*****

  216. Silverlake Life: The View From Here (1988)****1/2

  217. Sin City (2005)*****

  218. A brilliant blast of anarchic and incredibly violent pessimism, serving perpetual gloom and death in such a wildly entertaining way that us sickos who’ll enjoy this type of stuff will love this film, in all its raunchy glory. Roderiguez makes the most of Frank Miller’s amazing style creating awe-inspiring visual panache from computer manipulated cut-outs part vivacious animation and part moving comic frame, masterful camera angles and hyperactive editing. Taking the time to throw many scantily clad women, such as a very hot Jessica Alba who finally gets a role the fully utilizes her many talents, for extra measure. The movie itself expands and contracts with such quick and violent momentum, introducing a barrage of seedy characters giving the great cast ample opportunity to spout the tawdry dialogue, half of which comes straight from the comic pages, that no time is left to reflect on what you’ve seen. Mickey Rourke of course gets almost all of the best lines and the seminal character in Marv, a hulking psychopath given purpose by a gentle woman, and lavishes an incredible performance on his role. Of course those people with weaker constitutions, moral qualms, kids, nagging worries about violence or concerns about movies revelling in gratuity will hate this film. In fact the woman sitting just behind us at the theatre considered Sin City arguably the most atrocious film she’d ever seen, but she seemed pretty high strung to me so perhaps she didn’t expect such a violent whopper of a film. I did however and I had a blast, Sin City is a great movie.
  219. Sisters (1973)***1/2

  220. Sky Captain & The World Of Tomorrow (2004)*****

  221. Majestic, incredible entertainment that creates a new level for imaginative filmmaking, from its sterling special effects to the great camp performances and ff that weren’t enough to endear anyone the film is rated PG, complete with no swear words, bloody deaths or raving sexual metaphor, that naiveté is certainly welcome in a major Hollywood release. Sky Captain, a fabulous smirking Jude Law radiating charm, is asked to save the world from a scientist bent on destruction, with the help of Polly Perkins of course, a luminous Gwenith Paltrow. Even Jolie manages to evoke a power without resorting to tawdry sexuality. There seems to be a fantastic wide-eyed element that few movies attain, akin to Raiders Of The Lost Ark or Fantastic Planet, but emanating something completely unique. Unique is probably the best word to describe such a movie, the sheer weight of its invention and unfettered imagination goes beyond anything your wildest dreams. Simply put this is the best piece of pure entertainment I’ve seen in years, gratifying, elegant and precociously enthusiastic.
  222. The Spiral Staircase (1953)*****

  223. Springtime In A Small Town (2002)***

  224. Good, standard Chinese cinema that is so ubiquitous it doesn't make much impact at all. The story never fills out and seems to reverse momentum halfway through. With so many options open to them I have no idea why the filmmakers chose the path they did?
  225. The Story Of The Weeping Camel (2004)***1/2

  226. Sweet natured, semi-boring documentary that is both interesting on a superficial level and yet so emotionally austere as to make the ending the only part that makes much impact.
  227. Summer (1986)****

  228. A Summer's Tale (1989)**

  229. Sweeney Todd (1982)****

  230. Sweet Sweetback's Badasssss Song (1971)****

  231. Sword Of Doom (1955)***

  232. Ten (2003)***1/2

  233. La Terra Trema (1947)***1/2

  234. The Testament Of Orpheus (1959)***

  235. Things Change (1988)****

  236. This Man Must Die (1968)****

  237. Tick: The Complete Series(2000)*****

  238. Topper (1937)****

  239. Topper Returns (1940)***1/2

  240. The Tree Of Wooden Clogs (1978)****1/2

  241. Brilliant slice of life.
  242. Triumph Of The Will (1936)***

  243. Twentieth Century (1933)*****

  244. Two English Girls (1972)****

  245. The Twilight Samurai (2002)****1/2

  246. Vagabond (1985)****

  247. Vera Drake (2004)****

  248. A Very Long Engagement (2004)****

  249. I Vitelloni (1953)*****

  250. War Of The Worlds (2005)****1/2

  251. The Wild Child (1973)***1/2

  252. A Woman Is A Woman (1962)*****

  253. Fabulous Godard entertainment that makes up for his long winded earlier expositions.
Author Comments: 

***** = Mammoth Greatness
****1/2 = Petit Greatness
**** = A Fine Film
***1/2 = Good
*** = Average
**1/2 = Whatever
** and below = Crap

Wow, all that work making year-based lists and you're just going to abandon it?

I was reading AJ's film log late last night and realized that the immediacy of the "diary" format appealed to me more than hunting down the years and putting them in categories. I'm down to 500 films I want to see, and that's including crap that peaks my interest plus new releases which is incentive to just put them all in the same file. It's kind of sad, I may have to find a new hobby or finally get off my butt and make a few myself, who knows? Lately I've been longing for the days when my brain could sink into a real bad film and enjoy every last ounce of nonsense. Pangs of nostalgia and all that stuff.

T'ho

:?)

Wow, really, 500 movies and then your done with the entire art form?! That's wild. I guess that doesn't really surprise me when I look at your year-by-year breakdowns and realize that you've probably already seen more movies than I aspire to see before I'd consider myself "caught up". Well, with a fair western lean to my "to see" list, anyway. I imagine if I could acquire the taste I could take a whole separate lifetime grokking Bollywood movies.

I've been a ravenous cinemaphile for over 15 years now, averaging probably 400-500 movies a year. My eagerness to watch film led me to search hard for what I wanted to watch, putting a large part of my income into the search. The sad part is I've boxed myself into a cinematic corner of sorts, these last few films I avoided usually don't appeal to me very much, hence not seeing them for 15 years. Eric Rhomer for example is a director I have never really cared for in the past, and now that I've seen the films that peaked my interest in his catalogue I can admit I dread watching the last 5. It's come down to films I should watch, not films I want to watch. It's all downhill from here, peaked of course by the ocassional satisfying moment (Children Of Paradise), I'm now a movie adventurer wondering which of these last few I will actually adore. I envy the people on Listology who have so many wonderful films in front of them they've yet to discover.

I think I'll have to leave the Bollywood for someone with a tad more energy than myself...the music, the dancing, the extremely fast sub-titles, holy cow!

:?)

So how do you handle the forthcoming tides? Are you sufficiently versed now you can pick mostly winners from the trailers and reviews alone? No need to hunt and peck for the hidden gems? Or is that what Listology is for? :-)

Of course I intend to keep abreast of current movies, although I tend to want to see less films each year. Is it just me or are the caliber of films lesser these days?

Not that I want to toot my own horn but I can usually tell you how good a movie will be from it's trailer, or even plot summary, sometimes even the people involved. I tend not to trust reviews very much anymore, not that they aren't a good barometer for a good film, but lately I've been having problems with critically acclaimed films. One of my favourite films of the last year was "Napoleon Dynamite" a film that was not well received while one of my least favorite "House Of Flying Daggars" was mammothly overrated.

Hidden gems: You are exactly right, I enjoy listology a lot for that very reason, people see the weirdest films and by reading the generally good reviews by the members I can discern the miniscule great ones, one of which was indeed Napoleon Dynamite.

:?)

I envy your position in having seen sooooo many flicks that it'll probably take me those 15 years to see, but I don't envy having my 'to see' list widdled down to just titles I dread watching.

I'm curious: when was the last time your tastes significantly changed/expanded? I've had my tastes do both quite rapidly over the last, eye-opening 1.5 years. Some landmarks that came at the right time to really change my perspective on film include Metropolis, Umberto D., and The Blood of a Poet. Are there certain films that stick out to you like that as being a milestone in your history of watching movies that changed or expanded your perspective and ability to appreciate film?

And, have your tastes/perspectives continued to shift throughout all those 15 years, or were you pretty much 'set' after the first few years?

Finally, on a scale of 3 to 21.4, how much do you wish services like Netflix had existed 15 years ago?

Luke, you have a knack for asking very interesting questions.

I'm pretty sure the first major change was finding I had an intense dislike for action movies after realizing My Man Godfrey & All About Eve were far more exciting.

It's hard to explain, but I'll give it a try. About 4 years ago I realized as soon as a fresh idea evolves talented people are already re-inventing ideas that have just recently been stretched, the art form moving much faster than I'd given it credit for in the past. It's like a puzzle that gets filled in with every new film I watch. I'm not sure if I am influenced by films so much as they influence me to understand movies I've watched in the past. Gangs Of New York for example makes a lot more sense after watching Children Of Paradise, mainly because Scorsese seems to have borrowed an entire character and several plot-points wholesale and then mimics the rhythms of the film to the best of his ability; Children may be far more elegant but they share much of the pessimism and oppressive atmosphere. The film that influences and the film that was influenced almost become one in the same, using the other to inform style, narrative gaps, etc. I hope that makes sense.

On the subject of which movies changed my views or tastes, I'd say that happens rarely at this point, with only about 2 films a year truly altering my perceptions. The movie this year would be Before Sunset, I know I haven't felt the same after watching it, and my tastes have somewhat altered in a far more romantic direction.

I've always thought that you never know everything about any artform, I would hope I am never set in my tastes. There is far too much invention in the world to understand everything, you may think you have attained understanding but it's only one isolated moment in time, you'd have to ignore progress as if history started and stopped with you. People like that are creepy.

20.6 is the answer to that and it's losing points only because mail order movies are slow. :?)

:?)

Ah, yes, that's how I feel! Film is a giant puzzle, and I'm filling in pieces in a completely random pattern. At first, Die Hard, Metropolis, Diary of a Country Priest, Koyaanisqatsi, and The Wind Will Carry Us seem lightyears apart, but the more movies I watch, the closer I get to filling in the space between them, and the more it all makes sense.

Which leads me to wonder: how massively awesome would a 'MusicPlasma for movies' site be? Woah.

I'm surprised to hear you say that the art form is moving so quickly. I think film is still a medium in its relative infancy, but the more I watch the more I realize that everything I can concieve of has already been done. Indeed, it's rather annoying, because I had dozens of 'great, fresh, new ideas' about a film I could make, and then I watch some 50s Italian movie and find it's already been done.

If the art form is moving very quickly, where's it moving? Where has your eye caught movement? What are some groundbreaking films for the 2000s? If there isn't any groundbreaking going on, then where are ideas being stretched?

How very strange that Before Sunset would change your perspective, assuming you'd already seen Before Sunrise years ago.

I'm getting around to answering, just give me a couple of days.

|:?P <---out of breath stook

Take whatever time you need, but I'm still eagerly awaiting your response here (and over here). :-)

BTW, anyone else who wants to add their own two cents is more than welcome. The question is: "If the art form is moving very quickly, where's it moving? Where has your eye caught movement? What are some groundbreaking films for the 2000s? If there isn't any groundbreaking going on, then where are ideas being stretched?"

I ask because I haven't seen too much movement. But maybe I'm just watching the wrong films. Even the films that stand out really aren't standing out because they are doing anything new with the film art. I wonder if film art has already virtually exhausted itself (damn, that was quick!) except where technology still enables it. Examples include Russian Ark and perhaps Cameron's 3D work.

Surprisingly, this persepctive doesn't make me pessimistic about the future of film. There are some great artists out there who can make wonderful, powerful films without breaking a single inch of ground (Million Dollar Baby?), or with just slight innovation (Gerry, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Saddest Music in the World).

"Is it just me or are the caliber of films lesser these days?"

It's not just you. Thankfully, there are still plenty of films I enjoy these days, because they take place in my own context and technology has allowed for visually gorgeous movies everywhere that were once rare cinematic achievements.

But I did realize that the caliber of films is lesser these days when I thought of it this way:

In the 20s, we had Keaton. In the 30s, Renoir. In the 40s, Welles. In the 50s and 60s, Fellini, Kurosawa, Bergman, Hitchcock, and Kubrick. In the 70s and 80s, the best of Coppola and Scorsese. Who, today, is working at the level these masters reached? Nobody I can think of.

Well, how about PT Anderson, Terry Zwigoff, the Coen Brothers, Quentin Tarantino, Michael Haneke, David Mamet, Guy Maddin, Claire Denis and/or Lars von Trier?

And remember... it may seem like there's more bad films around than yesteryear, but how many of y'all remember Larry Buchanan? Hugo Haas? Coleman Francis? The only reason we look at the past through rose-colored glasses is because most of the crummy B-level entertainment that kicked around back then is either unavailable or just forgotten.

There have always been terrible films (Tillie's Punctured Romance, anyone?). And there are several excellent, exciting directors out there. But nobody is in that top tier I was mentioning. Admittedly, I haven't seen anything by Zwigoff, Haneke, Denis, but Anderson, Coen, Tarantino, Mamet, and von Trier can't compare to the greatest achievements of Fellini or even Keaton. I'd say that Tarantino may have reached the Bresson/Rossellini/etc. level, but that's no Fellini.

I realize it's kind of silly to be making 'tiers' for these directors, but I think you understand what I'm trying to say.

And, of course, this is all very subjective, so feel free to disagree, but I haven't seen anything as artful, innovative, complex, imaginative, and engaging as, say, Fellini's La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2 for the past couple decades.

Maybe a couple decades from now we'll have better perspective on this era of filmmaking that will reveal some revolutionary, important works (after all, many of the greatest films of all time weren't recognized as such right away)

Oops, have seen and liked Zwigoff and Denis, just didn't recognize the names. Good 'ol IMDB, should've checked you first...

Fascinating Persona review. For me it underscores just how impossible it is to quantify what makes a film work. I guess that's why they call it art rather than science.

Sometimes I watch films, like this one and no matter how much I admire them there's an inability to connect present. I would love to hear your thoughts on this film (when you get around to watching it. I know, I know, I'm always asking you questions about movies you haven't seen) since your tastes runs in quite a different direction than mine and your reviews are usually very clear (that's a good thing).

:?)

Alrighty, just for you, because I'm still riding that crest of happiness at your return to Listology. :-)

It's funny though, I've always thought our tastes were more similar than different. There are notable divergences, but I see lots of overlap in our various tiers. Or maybe when I look I just tend to focus on the similarities rather than those "what in tarnation?!" moments.

It's nice to know that I indeed do get my way once in a while. Note to self: more wheedling in the future.

Thanks. :?)

Woohoo, The Twilight Samurai!

Yeah, I can't wait for that one! I've actually had it for a little while, but I'm waiting for the right mood.

Great review of Twilight Samurai, I have one question though, on a scale of 1-10 how much action/hacking-and-slashing is in the movie?

:?)

Oh, probably.........2.

I probably should have warned Jim about the movie, since it's more straight drama than anything else. Parts of it might be slow going for most folks. I still loved the movie, and loved the one action sequence I can remember right now (Seibei w/ a stick vs. another samurai w/ a sword). The Last Samurai this ain't (thankfully).

I second Impostor's "2" in terms of quantity of action (but not quality (which I know is not what he's saying)). What little action there is is fairly understated and realistically done. I hope I didn't give the impression in my review that the lack of action (as much as I enjoy a good action movie) was a problem for me. I really liked--perhaps loved--the movie. For me though, I really expected the movie, based on the first half, to produce in me a huge welling up of emotion by the end (joy or sorrow). I was a bit deflated when that didn't happen (at least not to the degree I was expecting), but I can't for the life of me decide if that was intentional on the part of the filmmakers or not.

Oh no, I was only wondering how much action was in this film for a simple reason, I want to watch a bloodthirsty violent film and I was hoping I could find one that didn't suck gonad. The search goes on as usual, they have naked Killer down at Blockbuster.

:?)

Have you seen Lady Snowblood yet?

God, why would he want to?

ha!

:?)

No I haven't, should I? please list reasons.

:?)

No you shouldn't. It's crummy. Watch the "Lone Wolf and Cub" series instead.

(And I'll get to the narrative/non-narrative discussion tomorrow -- it's my day off.)

Sure, go ahead. It's sheer revenge, cane swords, blood and snow (as advertised). It must cost a fortune to dry clean the blood off those white kimonos, too.

I'll also recommend the Lone Wolf & Cub series, since it's got the most heavily armed baby cart I've ever seen.

Ain't that the truth, leaving open the chance for a few bad puns involing "cart blanche" and "'stroll'ing dealer of death.

I'm for it, after watching "Naked Killer" any choice will be better.

:?)

I would be shocked if you didn't love The Twilight Samurai.

It's just not in the cards it seems, I can't get it through the clubs and noone has it in town. I'll just have to put it on the too see list and wait. :?(

Video stores suck! :?)

You finally saw The Twilight Samurai! I said I'd be surprised if you didn't love it, and I'm happy to not be surprised.

I probably need to rewatch Persona, because the biggest thing I came away with was, "I DID just see an erect penis!"

At this point, it's one of those 'I don't get it, and I'm too lazy to figure it out' things, as with early Bunuel and (to a lesser extent), Cocteau's The Blood of a Poet (but thankfully, not the latter two of the Orpheus trilogy).

BTW, I've loved every review you've written here so far. Great writing, great thoughts. Keep it up. We love you.

I also think I prefer this format to the by-year breakdown, because it saves me the trouble of looking at 10 different pages to see recent reviews by, for example, you, Jim, and AJDaGreat.

To respond backwards,

I like it too, however annoying it was to find the movie in seperate years you can double that trying to find the place to put them. I'm much happier with this style.

Thanks!

I've found out in the last 2 months (hence the import of Before Sunset) that I'm generally a purist when it comes to films. The thematic wrangling that goes on in most of these new wave films just bores me silly. I say viva narrative storytelling, down with pointless technique!

I was going to check, but it felt really dirty going back and seeing if that was in fact...a penis. And it would also ruin the main point of it's inclusion in the film, "did I just see a" as a narrative device, kinda brilliant really.

:>)

Hey, now here's a discussion to jump on (and pull others into as well). Jim? AJ? Others? You hearing this? We're talking about narrative vs. non-narrative films.

I usually prefer a good narrative film to a good experimental or non narrative film. But, I love documentaries because even I have seen so many movies that I do occasionally tire of seeing the same stories again and again, however well they are done.

Now, new wave films are not 'non narrative' in that they do not tell a story, but of course their exploration of and commentary on the medium of film is just as important as the story (to me, this is most obvious in Godard's Breathless and Contempt).

My respect for 'film essays' and other mostly non narrative films ('city symphonies,' experimental films, etc.) stems from my general willingness to concede the good or great in films I don't particularly enjoy.

In some ways, this is conceit - for how can I say that The Blood of a Poet or Persona are good films if I don't understand half of either, or that Ordet is a good film though it bored me to death? It's a kind of pseudo-objective estimation of the mettle of a film that I try to apply to film but not, for example, music or the 'fine arts' (this may be partly because I know more about film than the fine arts or even music).

In another way, it's an attempt to be 'fair' in the same way that criticing Monty Python and the Holy Grail for lacking the 'depth' of Decalogue is unfair - they are two completely different kinds of films, and each succeed marvelously in their intentions.

Contempt and It's a Wonderful Life, too, are completely different types of film. I vastly prefer It's a Wonderful Life, but there is much about Contempt that excites me (besides Brigitte Bardot) and the possibilities of filmic representation and import.

I'm excited by the idea of film as art (albiet the most difficult, complicated, and expensive art), and if one truly believes film is art, one must accept that it is a medium which lends itself to more than just storytelling.

The most obvious comparison for this fine art philistine would be from 'art films' or experimental films to the later work of Pablo Picasso. His famous paintings are obviously an examination not of mainstream asthetic or reproduction of reality - but of the technique of his medium and its possibilities.

The same comparison might be made to ambient music, which I often enjoy, or more obviously to something like 'sculpture music' (sending a sound through an oddly shaped, arranged, and textured room and recording certain frequencies of the resulting reverberations).

Again, I typically enjoy Hopper to Picasso and Metallica to sound sculpture, but I can still respect Picasso (still don't know what to make of sound scultpure, though) as a great artist.

Also, I think that the best parts of several 'narrative' films are non-narrative. Examples including 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Battleship Potemkin (and no, not just the Odessa Steps sequence), and Crazy Pete (which I think tips just in favor of being a narrative film with lots of nonnarrative commentary as opposed to a film essay with lots of narrative, like most of Godard's other films).

I expect most Listologists prefer narrative films, as I do. But do other Listologists appreciate more artistically experimental films?

P.S. I'm by no means an experimental film buff, but I suspect that 'experimental' films are a bit of a misnomer today becuse I frequently discover very early (20s-40s) experimental films that precede and greatly resemble recent 'experimental' films. So, in this way, most recent experimental films may not truly be experimental at all - but really just a modern incarnation of an established, though never remotely popular, style of filmmaking.

For example, Koyaanisqatsi didn't 'experiment' with anything not already tried in Man with a Movie Camera or several similar 20s short films. And indeed, less popular recent experimental films than Koyaanisqatsi often have definite precursors in earlier experimental films less popular than Man with a Movie Camera.

P.P.S. For example, what we now call Cubism (in painting) was experimental at first, now it is an established 'genre' of painting. It's just that more people are familiar with Cubism than old, experimental films - to the extent that various types of early experimental films have no label, and so we cannot apply a label to their modern counterparts, either.

Well, my favorite film of all time is "Un Chien Andalou", which is about as experimental as it gets. I've also professed a love (or at least an appreciation) for many, shall we say, difficult films, from Bill Morrison's "Decasia" to Stan Brakhage's "Mothlight".

My favorite thing, of course, is still a good story well told. But I think, because of the nature of the medium, any true film fan eventually finds themselves drawn to films which express the full sensory power of the medium, often at expense of the narrative. Note, for example, "Mulholland Drive", my favorite film of 2001. The story makes no sense, but god it's such a extraordinary film. The striking visuals, combined with the exacting sound design, make for a fulfilling cinematic experience. I wish I could expound further on this subject, but it's late and I'm not really eloquent enough anyway (nor am I well-versed enough on film theory). Anyone else care to contribute?

'Un Chien Andalou' is your favorite film? Where are my handcuffs!? - I'm not letting you leave before you mindfuck me until I like it (and resultingly, Un Chien Andalou).

I'll infer from your thoughts on Mulholland Drive that, for you, comprehension is not a prerequisite of adoration. Does that mean you can't explain to me what the hell is going on in Bunuel's freaky image assault? Or, if nothing is happening, does it mean something? Or, if it doesn't mean anything, are you purely celebrating its exploration of technique in lighting, framing, and elsewhere?

I also loved Mulholland Drive, and not just for Naomi's ohsofuckingamazing performance, the lesbian love scene, or the powerful cinematic elements - I actually understood the story (admittedly, only after repeated viewings) and loved it.

I'll grant you sleep, but don't flee for lack of eloquence or film study! I'm no writer (as passionately as I aspire). Any claim I have on film theory is in comparison to the average moviegoer or The Movie Blog writers, not Andre Bazin, Pauline Kael, or even several other Listologists. But I love to debate these things anyway. Please don't sidestep a good discussion because it won't be perfect with perfect contributors.

Or, if my moral appeal doesn't grab you, stay with us because I hear film discussion increases pheromone production.

I agree with Luke, obsessing about what's right or wrong never makes for a good conflab, let it loose.

:?)

There's no explaining "Un Chien Andalou" because there's nothing to explain. It was deliberately created as a series of images that had no relation to one another. Not that people haven't tried -- in a surrealism course I took in college, we spent one whole class talking about its sexual and Freudian meanings, which are of course wholly invented by the viewer. Maybe that's one reason I love it so much: It was one of the first films to introduce me to the concept that different people can interpret the same artwork in different ways. It celebrates the malleability (did I spell that correctly?) of art.

So to answer your question, I appreciate the film on a aesthetic level, but the fact that it's meaningless doesn't also keep me from enjoying the obviously puckish spirit that gave birth to it. (I think that's why Bunuel is my favorite filmmaker of all time -- even at his most oblique, he always allows the audience in on the fun.) And that brings me to the larger idea -- no, I don't think total comprehension is necessary for total enjoyment. "Mulholland Drive" is a good example of that, as is the recent "Primer". Both films are formally striking, yes. But they're also both really difficult to get a bead on by design. (In fact, that's part of the genius of the latter film: it goes beyond mere confusion into a weird sort of ambiguity, where the narrative obfuscation becomes a window into the subtetxt -- that knowing anything might just be an impossibility.) Granted, that doesn't mean I enjoy everything that shows me a pretty picture and expects me to not care about anything else. All I can say is it's a matter of assumed intent, and thus completely subjective. (Although I think you would agree that there's a marked and noticeable difference between deliberate ambiguity and poor plotting or construction.)

So where does this put us in regards to non-narrative? Frankly, I'm not sure -- the examples that have been tossed around so far, with the execption of "Andalou", have still conformed to some semblance of narrative (recurring characters, sequenced events, etc.). The only other examples I can think of right now that I've seen are several other surrealistic shorts ("Ballet Mechanique", "Entr'acte", etc.) and a few Stan Brakhage works. And I can't really explain why I find "Mothlight" (for example) to be so frickin' mindblowing. Again, I think it's purely aesthetic -- if nothing else, the film has shown me a new way to look at cinema, and thus the world.

Or it could just be that I'm warped. As I write this, I'm listening to the Boredoms, who do for music what "Andalou" and other works like it do for the movies -- destroy your preconceptions of what the art should consist of.

What I want to know is, does auto_matt_ic have anything to say on this subject?

Hmmm... so it can be the meaninglessness itself that makes it so great. It has no meaning - so it must be assigned meaning by the viewer, and of course those meanings will vary greatly from person to person. I think you're saying something like that, no? Interesting.

So where does this put us in regards to non-narrative? Frankly, I'm not sure -- the examples that have been tossed around so far, with the exception of "Andalou", have still conformed to some semblance of narrative (recurring characters, sequenced events, etc.). The only other examples I can think of right now that I've seen are several other surrealistic shorts ("Ballet Mechanique", "Entr'acte", etc.) and a few Stan Brakhage works.

Actually there was a movement of Canadian animators who did purely interpretive short films by scratching images into celluloid. Weird stuff, mostly floating balls, dancing lines, etc.

But I wasn't being that restrictive with my use of the term non-narrative. I was thinking more of films that flout straightforward storyline in favour of a series of, for the most part, unrelated events. Although you are right in your interpretation of meaning, hmmmmmmmm.

But if your appreciation is purely on an aesthetic level doesn't that also make the film a form of entertainment? Cutting sequences into a juxtapositions that will excite your brain and all that jazz, and in some strange sort of way doesn't that make the film narrative in the sense that the director chose placement for scenes to offer the most impact for the viewer. Narrative separate from form, in essence placing narrative continuity up to the viewer, which is probably just repeating something you've already typed, but what the heck.

:?)

Sorry luke, I see your invite, but I simply haven't seen enough non-narrative film to have an informed opinion.

Fair enough. Thanks for the notice.

Well, I like to think that I am willing to accept films for what they are. Some films are more like novels, and some are more like poetry or music. I love, for example, the song "Elevate Me Later" by Pavement, and I find the line "The courthouse is double-breast / I'd like to check out your public protest" fascinating, but I couldn't tell you what it means. I think film is a very versatile art form, as it can be used for many different purposes.

I think non-narrative film is more subjective than narrative. With narrative, you can at least tell if the plot is interesting or dull, original or cliche, sound or illogical, and the performances are generally supposed to resemble real human beings. With non-narrative, the director pretty much has free reign; the plot might not be important at all. If the images and ideas appeal to the viewers, they like it; if not, they don't. That's pretty much how I evaluate non-narrative films. Not being a distinguished film analyst, I don't have the always have the mettle (or desire) to interpret all of a non-narrative film's techniques, so I merely go on what aspects strike a chord with me. When I dislike an acclaimed non-narrative film, I do try to acknowledge that although my personal taste prevents me from finding the film compelling, I still appreciate that it's a pretty great film.

But I definitely think you can like something without entirely understanding it. Haven't you ever seen a totally abstract painting where you were just like, "Damn, that's amazing", even if you had no idea what it was supposed to be?

That's a great point, I sometimes have no idea what is happening in a film (The Fourth Man) and I still enjoy the sequence of images and wit in the script. Although I never enjoy them as much as films I can understand.

Another great point would be the objective quality of non-narrative film, far more than the given standard (narrative). Fantasia has always been my favorite film of this kind (although some people say that there's a story, but if that's so what do the dancing hippos pertain to) it just makes me giddy.

You da man.

:?)

I'll start by providing a link which I don't generally agree with but will give a simple bite-size overview.

My opinion on narrative film? Narrative is, in my opinion, the sequencing of events in an ordered way, each event sharing context with the next until a whole develops. Movies like Pulp Fiction, Molholland Falls etc. I would place under this term, they may scramble their narrative but an eventual storyline develops.

Non-narrative would be the exclusion of or expulsion of specific pieces of story-line, therefore making a whole in terms of story impossible, Un Chien Andalou would be a perfect example, meant to be a film with no connective links between scenes it succours and repels the viewer, no narrative context can be taken from the images.

Now I can put all this pointless blabbing to rest and give an actual opinion.

I can concede that I respect technique but I in no way appreciate these films, in my opinion they suck and I feel I should warn as many people as possible of the over-rated suckage. Being technically fabulous at something does not make your art worthwhile, just ask Robert Bateman. Here’s what I generally feel about this: you’re giving me obscure film technique, pointless amounts of overly complicated dialogue, pointlessly obscure story to match the pointlessly obscure camera angles. Well thank you very much guy/girl, do you want me to lick the sweat off your genitalia while I’m at it. Good grief.

I have a problem with experimental film because it generally doesn’t get the point. Aesthetics is an important part of art, the human brain feeds on it and as life gets longer you downright need it, to deny this in favour of mental wanking seems bad, to me at least. I want to be stimulated in a real way, I’m as open as possible when I’m watching a movie, I wish for the same from what’s coming from the screen.

This doesn’t mean I don’t like experimentation; some of my favourite movies, such as “Stalker, Drowning By Numbers and Mullholland Falls (yes I love it too)” are heavily symbolic in their content and all are beautiful, aintensely emotional, balancing technique and powerful storytelling. Yet they will never be high on my top 100 (which I’m narrowing down) because they simply can’t touch me the way “King Kong or Afterlife” can, it’s just personal preference.

Non-narrative films bug me; I get very little from them because my imagination is a much better instrument to string together random images in a random storyline.

Another problem I’ve always had with experimental films would be Prospero’s Books. What is Prospero’s Books? Probably the most avante film I’ve ever seen, Peter Greenaway directed it and although it isn’t very good it’s light-years ahead of most anything else. Using layered images, incredible use of computer graphics merged with endless linear shots that scroll like theatre. What causes PB to fail is the story, there’s not enough space for The Tempest to effectively mount. Therefore it is my opinion that experimentation usually comes with awesome length, incoherence or a complete disregard for story and I love story telling. Call me old-fashioned but I don’t really care about mental push-ups, I just want to laugh, smile, cry, etc.

Replies?

:?)

Great link.

If one of the 'front lines' of experimental cinema is interactivity - don't we already have that? They're called video games. We even have photographic ones - think Myst and its sequels.

I like your point about good technique alone being insufficient for worthwhile art. If I was judging a narrative film with flawless technique but a horribly cliche plot and undeveloped characters, I would decide it's a bad film. Should I reverse this criterion for purely technical films?

The answer is not obviously 'yes.' After all, I certainly change my criterion for less-seperated genres like comedy and thriller. In this way, it makes sense to also adjust my criterion for non narrative film.

I agree that several experimental films end up being pointless and failed explorations of useless techniques. In a way, it's good too at least try these techniques to see if they work, but if they don't, the film should probably be described as a 'failure.'

It's clear that I respond most fully to narrative forms with human characters (or animals that have 99% human characteristics), but I am occasionally moved by abstract use of light and color - for reasons not as clear as those for narrative film.

But must every film exist to illicit an emotional response? And should something like an 'obscure camera angle' be derided simply because it is obscure, as in, 'not used often'? I don't think a medium as flexible as film should be constricted to such a narrow use.

And, I'm still waiting to hear what Cosgrove loves so much about Un Chien Andalou.

But must every film exist to illicit an emotional response? And should something like an 'obscure camera angle' be derided simply because it is obscure, as in, 'not used often'? I don't think a medium as flexible as film should be constricted to such a narrow use.

My derision of obscurity in most forms of art pertains to use of said technique simply for it to exist. I’ve never found that a movement is headed by such a film; usually the attention comes after another party exploits the technique with more assurance and usually inside the constraints of a storyline. For example: I Am Curious Yellow is the obvious inspiration for Hi Mom!, but where the earlier strains to include the layers of its tangled story, merging documentary, fantasy, sex and politics without losing focus the later functions much more smoothly and is more likely to provide a model for future enterprise in the area. I agree that it is important that a director invented this new filmic definition, but to call the film important or even great for that reason alone is pointless. My personal opinion is that you have to wait for at least a couple of revisions of the ideas before they’re even ready for mass consumption. I think it would be much more appropriate to hail the person who developed the idea and not the film. That said the best experimental films (in my opinion) are usually short films that ask for your attention in 20-30 minute increments, it’s much easier to digest.Of course when I view painting or sculpture I share the exact opposite opinion but that form is far more immediate and viewing can be done in a short period of time.

I'll admit that boundaries should be pushed, BUT film is a form of entertainment and the people who practice this art form shouldn't forget that.

Come back Cosgrove.

:?)

Oh-ho-ho waitaminute. "BUT film is a form of entertainment and the people who practice this art form shoulodn't forget that." Now, I MUST take issue with that.

Film can be a form of entertainment, but it isn't always a form of entertainment. It certianly began as an entertainment medium, but that doesn't mean that all films must be entertainment.

Films can be entertainment only, art and entertainment, or art only. I prefer the second, but that doesn't mean I deny the existence or the acceptability of the third!

P.S. Film can also be other things, like education and propoganda, but that's not what we were discussing, so left other alternatives out of the above paragraph.

Most people do, I've had to argue this point for years and usually with people who get more red faced as the disussion furthers. The problem with film being education is simple: a 200 page book takes about 10 hours to translate effectively, twice as long as it would take to read the book. Literature is a far more effective way of emparting information to an individual. Film does make wonderful propoganda on the other hand, but doesn't propoganda have to entertain to be effective on a large scale.

I conceid that film is basically artistic expression of a group of individuals who have a unanimous vision and decide to inflict it upon the outside world, therefore it is art.

My point about entertainment is the dressing up of a subject in such a way as to make it easily accessible or enjoyable on some level to the audience. "In Cold Blood" for example may not immediately seem entertaining because the subject matter is rather grim, but Brook has taken the time to make the cinematography especially striking, growing more beautiful as the movie drifts further into hellishness. There's also the use of first person perspective...identification with the criminals so their crimes become part of their personalities, making the two killers harder the label and dismiss. He also uses deliberate pacing that peaks in the centre of the film and then decends to the last scenes, which are laden with expositions by the unlikable characters, creating audience sympathy until their eventual deaths may seem justified by sad nonetheless. He's beautified the story in such a way to entice the audience into the story and be transported along. It is a form of entertainment, granted it won't appeal to a large group of people, that is designed to attract a certain social group. Documentaries also use dramatic devices to propel their scenes. I think sometimes directors forget that and make films that are boring, contrived and preachy.

:?)

Your first paragraph brings up the familiar and infuriating argument of 'the book is always better.' It's not always true, but it usually is - and only because (duh) it was originally written as a book, playing to the strengths of a novel. You'll always lose something when you try to adapt it to a non-native format. Have you read many 'novelizations' (i.e. original films adapted to novel form)? They're not usually that good, either.

So, a book is better for imparting certain kinds of information. But film has obvious strengths for visual education. Take Powers of Ten, for example. You'd think a book would better communicate such number-heavy information, but Powers of Ten is a short educational film that triumphs more than a book ever could on that short subject because images stick in our heads better than words. We are visual thinkers. Many popular 'memory enhancing' courses are based around the principle of assigning a memorably strange image to everything you wish to remember, because you'll recall images better than words or abstract idaeas.

'Inflict' it upon the world? Grr... :-)

I agree that wrapping artful subjects with entertaining devices is my favorite approach, but I don't despise all films that have different aspirations than to entertain.

Yeah, virtually all recent documentaries I've seen try very hard to present their information in a nearly narrative form, and that may be a cause of their growing success and popularity.

Infuriating because it's generally true. To make an example, I would mention a book and movie, which are both good, but for much different reasons, that would be The Dead Zone. Stephen King's book, overloaded with detail and having the habitual bloated ending, is full of minor but thrilling insights crowding through its twisting plot. Cronenberg's film on the other hand is a wonder of simplicity, streamlined to the absolute essentials that destroys some character development but gives the story immediacy. My favour would be towards the film, but I learned more reading the book, and do I like the film because of the information that I learned from the book?

Novelizations (is that a word?) are another thing, they are instantly limited by having to explain a visual medium which is almost as impossible as showing a written medium through visuals, but my point was not the inherent problem with adaptation, merely the context best suited to imparting information.

Agreed that film is a great form of education, especially for spatial disciplines, but that leaves a rather small part of film for relaying information and one that not many people will show interest in. I believe that your synopsis that "we are visual thinkers" is half right and half wrong. Mainly concerning gender, men are visual but a majority of women (that I've met anyway) intake information quite differently usually having an easier time with verbal or written forms of communication. I would be interested in knowing if that were true for most of the ladies on listology?

Perhaps I'm sounding like I hate every film that tries to do anything other than entertain (although I would say there are very few), which is certainly not true. I just generally show as much interest in them and as a rule I never watch them again.

Most older documentaries use dramatic cutting to propel their chosen subject through a sort of story, think of Olympiad, Nanook, etc. This is certainly because you can't show the 100 hours of footage you have, so a story eventually emerge.

In the last few years I’ve started to judge movies not by their importance or tactical display of mental didactics (whatever that means) but by how much I actually enjoy them on a gut level. How does everyone else judge his or her film experience?

:?)

Well, I'll hold that the native form of a story is usually its strongest form (with MANY exceptions), whether that means a book is better than its filmic adaptation or that a movie is better than its novelization.

Regarding your last question. I've long been trying to take an 'objective' stance and judge films on some estimation of their worth and quality of execution that sits apart from whether it moved me or whether I enjoyed it. I thought this was the most 'professional' or 'fair' approach, but I've lately been wondering if this means all my reviews are a lie. It's probably more pure to simply state one's personal reaction to a film. If that means that I pan dozens of 'masterpieces' and celebrate my enjoyment of several crappy comedies, then so be it - at least I'm being honest.

And, however much I defend film as art, I most appreciate films that move and entertain me, and there's probably nothing wrong with judging a film based on their ability to do those things.

But then, I'd find it difficult to ever use words like 'best' or 'greatest' or 'perfect' in favor of 'favorite.'

There's also the question of which is more useful to the reader - an attempt to 'objectively' measure the strengths and weaknesses of a film, or to tell the reader how you liked the movie? After all, the reader is unlikely to have your tastes, and your tastes would come through much more with the latter approach to film reviewing than with the former.

Then again, I've seen many a well-reviewed film that I didn't enjoy at all, as we all have, so maybe that last one is a moot point.

I also struggle in making the step you've taken with regard to film reviewing because I will always be predisposed toward huge genres of film. There are very few musicals I enjoy, for example. And even the best Westerns often have me bored. On the other hand, I have yet to see a Neorealist picture I didn't love. What if my readers love musicals and can't stomach Neorealism? They'll certainly be turned off by my obvious, across-the-board bias.

Grr... there's just no way to win either way. Except for giving up film reviewing altogether, which is the path I've all but decided upon. After all, there's more money to be made in making movies than talking about them (unless you're Roger Ebert or Syd Field).

I believe that you can win "either way." Besides which, if you don't review movies from your perspective who will? Would you like it if all reviewers were Ebert & Field? I wouldn't (but that may just be my Siskelitis acting up.) I think you are selling yourself short.

You say, "What if my readers love musicals and can't stomach Neorealism? " If that truly is the case then I think that they would be someone else's readers. That certainly doesn't mean that you won't have readers. Trust your gut. I think you've made the case for individual bias and have done it in tandem with an intelligent ability to appreciate films on their own terms. If everyone agreed with you think of how boring your interactions with other film-lovers would be. (They're not boring.)

To use the example of one of your favourite artists: What if Michael Moore worried about what the religious right, conservatives and tall thin people thought of him? He might become a rumpled, overweight curmudgeon... perish the thought! It is a well-respected career strategy to have your readers/listeners/viewers hate you. Somehow I think that you would find readers/listeners/viewers who agree with you. If not, you can certainly try to convert them.

I think that expressing your taste is quite valuable. I would, however, propose that if you can say that you "have yet to see a Neorealist picture I didn't love" then you either haven't seen enough Neorealist pictures or you have very indiscriminate taste. If no one shares your taste in art it could mean that you have unique taste or very bad taste (and perhaps both.) I believe that you could be successful on whatever path you choose.

Finally: I Frankly can think of only one writer who has gotten Rich loving musicals. And, as Lily Tomlin said, "The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat."

No, I haven't seen enough Neorealist pics yet. And, Michael Moore is most definitely not one of my favorite artists.

Anyway, thanks for the insight!

Yes, but in a sad twist of fate, rats get more sex, money, debacle type fun, ass-kissers than...I guess you call them mice. To be honest the only reason I don't agree with that certain path is because I couldn't make it in the rat race if I tried, being slightly concerned about other people and holding "do unto others" type of view.

As usual Odysseus said everything in a far more interesting way than I could. :?|

I like opinionated reviews because you know what you'll get from a reviewer, when Roger Ebert praises a film because the film technique is astonishing it doesn't mean much. I've been through his books and when his personal taste comes into it the movie are usually pretty rank. He seems to take the high ground and the low ground when it pleases him, so you never know whether you'll get agrandizing Ebert: Lover Of Film Medium or gut level Ebert: Lover Of Tacky Sexuality. I try to ignore his opinion as much as possible.

:?)

As a side note, I think Ebert tends to think a movie is automatically artsy if it is slow and methodical. He doesn't always realize that fast, flashy movies are good until they have already become acclaimed. For example, he didn't like Reservoir Dogs originally, but once everyone realized that Tarantino was a masterful director, Ebert caught on and has given him nothing but four-star reviews since.

Aren't we all guilty of that sin? A movie gets critical acclaim so I watch it, I feel safer going to that film, it may even effect my judgement. My only excuse for such behaviour is this; I am not independently rich, I don't have the money or time to watch everything released. How does this pertain to Ebert? I may have a minority opinion but Ebert and his fellow critics have very little to destinguish them from anyone on listology. Surely they have more knowledge about the intracacies of film but when it comes down to judging a film straight up, we are all newbies. Sometimes everyone needs a push in the right direction, granted Ebert more than others.

:?)

You make a good point, but I was mainly pointing out Ebert's obsession with slow movies. However, it's true that though I thought Reservoir Dogs was great the first time I saw it, that opinion may have been influenced by its critical acclaim.

Thanks again for the encouragement. I have some new thoughts about this here.

Alphaville is another I need to rewatch. I saw it a LONG time ago, before my cinematic horizons had been stretched to where they are now - indeed, it was the first Godard film I saw, and I was like, "What the hell is this? Crappy 50s sci-fi with no special effects or action? Blech!"

Now, I've seen several Godard films (Crazy Pete aka Bonnie & Clyde Film Essay is my favorite). He still isn't my favorite director, but I respect his mastery of craft and his daring at inspecting the medium of film and discussing it via his films.

---

Now, help me out: this is your 'to see' list? Or, your 'to rewatch' list? Or... what? And what does it mean when a film is bold but has no review? Or not bold but has a review?

Also, I noticed that Judex isn't on here. :-)

BTW, I posted my mini-review of The Scarlet Claw here and am ready for my next assignment, even if I don't get to it for a while. This list might assist you in recommending something I'd love.

I find Godard very hard to identify with being a young Canadian in the 21st century. Alphaville was a nice suprise however, I think you should definately rewatch.

Left to see list. Bold films are films I've recently watched. No review means I'm lazy. Your next film is All The King's Men (1949) if you haven't seen it and Narrow Margin (1949) if you have.

:?)

Okay, All the King's Men is #4 on my Netflix Queue.

I'll also add Narrow Margin to my general 'to see' list. Are you referring to the one by Richard Fleischer?

Exactly right, from 1952. The wrong year probably had you wondering.

I've also added it to the game.

:?)

I do not recommend you bother with Aelita: The Queen of Mars. Empty, pointless trash with a few cool images, and that's it. Notable perhaps for being the first full-length truly sci-fi film (why did it take so long?), but otherwise it's utter trash. Of no interest whatsoever.

And, I plan on tackling Shoah pretty soon as well. Good luck!

Can't wait for your review of Man with a Movie Camera, though my appreciation for it had to be augmented by reading a great deal about it after having first seen it. I knew I was seeing something incredible, I just didn't know how or why until I read a bunch of articles about it.

Thanks for the warning, I'll cross it off the list (didn't really wanna see it anyway but I'm a sci-fi nut), Aelita bites the dust.

Shoah, how does one prepare for a 9 hour holocaust documentary?

:?)

call in sick to work, grab a couple 2-liters and order pizza, I'd imagine.

;?)

Continued:

I'm prompted to continue this discussion of film criticms for several reasons. One, I'm reading Pauline Kael's excellent books of film criticism (starting with the Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, of course). Two, Slate's Movie Club has had a lot to say about the state of film criticism. Three, Movie Club clone the Conversation has spawned some good discussions on intellectual criticism vs. film enthusiasm vs. film opinion vs. whatever.

I'm certain that if I ever return to writing film reviews, my approach will be very different. First, no more 100-point scale. If I use any 'grading' technique at all, it'd probably be more like a 5-star grade, without even half-stars. Second, I'd probably simply write my pure reaction to a film, while making occasional concessions.

But at times, it seems that reviewing individual films is not only inefficient but ultimately futile.

The opening essays of Kael's 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang' praise and dismiss certain types of films in broad strokes. Bazin's 'What is Cinema?' essays do the same, though both also reviewed individual films.

For example, there are huge numbers of poorly-written, poorly-acted, pointless B-movie horror and sci-fi films with bad or, at best, pedestrian direction which could easily be judged in a single essay. This may not be fair, but I can't imagine myself reviewing 20 of these individually and trying to find something new to say about each one.

What's more, reviewing films in such a way is a clearer way to reveal one's biases and intellectual criticisms of the art of film. Rather than making your points as they come up in relation to a particular film, one could write an essay on, for example, Italian Neorealism, reality in film, and sentimentality.

This may sound like an argument that has been settled for decades: both approaches coexist - indeed, in most cases, they coexist even within the work of individual authors.

So, it's probably more efficient to discuss a certain element of numerous films in a single essay, rather than a complicated film of diverse elements, each of which have been discussed by the same author in countless other reviews.

For example, does it make sense for me to state that an overly commentative musical score detracted from my appreciation of a film in every such film? Or please, can I simply write my argument against commentative film and reference several obvious examples.

Must I write in every third positive review that I commend the film for its efficient but possibly realistic dialogue, or may I simply write my argument on what makes good dialogue and list several examples?

Now, most film critics succeed in finding something new to comment about for each film, but this is more in service to a review's readability than in the review's truthful assessment of the film. For, if I found that a commentative score weakened the film, is it not more honest to speak of this than to skip over that element simply because I also mentioned it in the last review?

But, of course, the reason we do not mention these recurring elements in every review is because nobody wants to read the same thoughts in every review. So, the solution cannot be to endlessly repeat ourselves. But I also think that skipping important factors on our estimation of a film because we commented on the same factors in the last reviews is also not the best solution. So perhaps the best solution is to argue our points strongly, and then point from element to films, rather than from film to elements?

But then, how do we handle new films? I'm still wrestling with this myself, and would appreciate input.

BTW, my argument about not repeating oneself and comprehensively 'true' reviews of a film do not apply to the mini-reviews that are so popular on Listology.

once again, please forgive my lack of editing. My posts may never be as brilliant as Odysseus' or as carefully flawless as Jim's. I'm lazier than either of them. Or perhaps I'll play the 56k card again and hope you don't notice I've already used more of them than appear in a deck.

I dunno Luke, looks pretty well-edited to me! I wish I could help you pin down what you mean, but you seem to be striving for something completely different in your writing than I am in mine. I like writing about movies because it makes me think about them in ways different from when I'm just completely passive about my entertainment, because I like sharing my thoughts with others, because it helps me remember the movies (what's the point of spending all this movie-time if I'm just going to forget them!), and because I like improving my writing for its own sake. My reviews are miniature because I'm lazy. Mainly, though, I do it because it's fun, not because I'm trying to craft an overarching theory of film, or film criticism (both would be a lost cause anyway, considering some of the dreck that I love, and the masterpieces I don't).

Frankly, if I were going to state my true opinion, it would be that all film critics are essentially full of crap (including myself) aggressively trying to achieve some deeper meaning in cinema. If they actually understood cinema they'd be making it (myself included) because the artistic process is far more pure than criticizing a film, creation instead of dissemination. For example, this review is quite funny but actually tells you nothing about the viewing experience. He’s covered every obvious reason why the film sucked technically, but what did he think? Technically any variably astute cinemaphile could tell you why a certain shot is lacking skill or why choices in direction failed. I’m interested in a discussion; the deeper meanings or emotional bond people draw from film. Why do I love Code 46 for it’s beautiful, passionate love story while Peter Traver’s hates the love story and finds the story blatantly obvious? We saw the same film, but disagreed on the same subjects so I suspect that inside our heads the movie was different. I saw a beautiful love story about hope and risk in a stifling society while Pete (what does he care if I call him Pete?) saw a too conventional movie about incest. The fact that Pete only tells me technical faults in this film doesn’t offer me much; he’s far too distanced. His brain is cutting him off from cinema, constantly saying, “that’s a nice shot” or “effective lighting”, I find that infuriating (although I tend to do the same myself when I dislike a film). The flaw of criticism is it’s harder to tell someone why you loved a film, because it’s all roiled up in emotions, expectation, personal experience, etc. As apposed to a negative review where you can completely lambaste every pointless shot because your neurons weren’t firing and had a chance to dissect in detail. Sadly, somewhere along the line critics decided it was better to disseminate that share their experience because is gives another viewer a standard opinion to latch onto, quotable things like, direction, lighting, casting, acting to ignore the emotional elements of watching movies. I heard a group of men going to “Without A Paddle” discussing the calibre of acting in Harold And Kumar as if it were important to a film about total nonsense, there was no sense that it was a good movie because it was fun and endearing, the acting had to be great. It’s turned into a cultural limitation to endlessly use crappy catch-phrases to describe a beautiful art form, therefore limiting it’s power and making it accessible to people who would otherwise be watching “Baywatch” (not that there’s anything wrong with that). It makes me want to print a T-Shirt that says “Movies: Feel Something Or F**k Off!”.

I know I generally try to tell people the exact reason I loved or hated a movie from a purely emotional level. I don't succeed every time but I try none the less.

What can I say, The Village made me cranky. I'll probably be in a better mood tomorrow, maybe I'll have more to say.

:?)

Jim: Yeah, I'm referring to a kind of more 'serious' (probably paid) film criticism than many Listologists bother with.

stook: very interesting points about personal experience and negative vs. postitive reviews.

And, couldn't it be that the acting of Harold and Kumar affected their emotional reaction the film? Maybe that's not how they were talking about it, but I know that acting usually affects how I react to a film.

You said you're cranky, I know, but at this moment it sounds like you don't feel that typical film criticism has much value because a movie should be an emotional experience, not a piece of art. Or are you only saying that you prefer them as the former, for yourself?

I think it's more important that these people felt the need to qualify H&KGTWC with a well represented film critic term instead of saying "That movie rocked man, it was so damn funny." I used to feel uneasy when people made such statements but that was because I was a blow-hard movie loving aesthetist wanker. Sometimes movies just rock, they don't need further explanations.

Art is an emotional experience, that's the point, you connect, infer, relate, hate, cry, laugh, feel sorrowful, get anxious, etc. when coming in contact with art. I do prefer films that try to connect rather than the hideously boring marathons of finger-pointing or flag waving.

:?)

Just an opinion of an old guy who has seen more movies that he should have ever sat through in his life, movie criticism is the ultimate mental masturbation. Forget delineating them and disecting them and just enjoy them. By all means talk about them share your opinions but ultimately movies are a visceral medium meant to attack you on an emotional level. Sit back and let it happen.

Movie Critics are probably higher on the food chain than, say, lawyers but that aint saying much. ultimately I have to agree with Stooky, If they knew as much as they think they do about movies. They would be making movies.

Thanks. You two are beginning to win me over, which could actually be a relief.

This is sorta related: if film criticism is mostly for the pleasure of critics themselves, but sharing opinions and feelings can be worthwhile, then I propose Fan DVD Commentaries.

I can't imagine I'm the first to think of this, and maybe it even exists already, but wouldn't it be great if fans (preferably, intelligent, humorous, well-spoken ones) recorded their (hopefully somewhat pre-thought) commentary on a film while watching it, then compressed it to MP3 and distributed it (bittorent being the obvious method) for others to listen to hear? Downloaders could play the DVD (sound muted) and the commentary MP3 at the same time, and it could be really fun. Perhaps best of all, there could be a fan revival of MST3K for films that desperately need the MST3K treatment (Catwoman and Garfield come to mind).

You could either play the muted DVD and the MP3 simultaneously on your computer or, if you have a computer and TV/DVD player in the same room, simply play the DVD on the TV and the MP3 on the computer. If you have a portable CD-player, you could even burn the audio to a CD (rewritable, if you don't wanna waste CDs) and play that while watching the muted DVD in a room without a PC.

Critics could even release their commentaries on some of their favorite films, much as they'd release a book analyzing a film, they could simply release a commentary track - which have the advantage of being timed to a movie ("See now, right... THERE you can see how the windows are larger than they seem in Citizen Kane").

If I had broadband, I could easily record, compress, and upload (through Bittorrent) my own commentary for any DVD I watch - not that anyone would want to listen to it, I'm just saying it'd be really easy.

This would be a little more complicated, but you could even have an audio conference over a broadband connection and record that while everyone is playing the DVD at the same time - so a variety of commentators wouldn't even have to be in the same room. They'd just all have to have cheap little mics/headsets.

Yup, as I suspected, this has already been proposed - by Roger Ebert, no less. His original article is apparently no longer online, but it's been discussed here.

RosieCotton (who has a Netflix blog): this would be a particularily killer feature for someone like Netflix to implement to seperate them from the competition. And they already have infrastructure in place to provide for 'rating' fan commentaries to distinguish the good from the boring, etc.

If this became popular enough, such technology could be intrigated into DVDs themselves, so that if they are played on a net-enabled computer, you could 'select Internet commentary...' from a menu on your DVD playing software or something.

I neglected to mention one major issue. Usually, a DVD commentary track is mostly voice, but the original soundtrack is still slightly audible. The solution, of course, is simply to put the DVD's volume on very low instead of muting it, as it would be illegal to rip the DVD's soundtrack and mix it with your recorded commentary track, then upload it.

Yes indeed, some people are already doing this. My, what a little research (Googling) can do!

Lol, I'll just keep posting 'till somebody stops me!

Of particular interest might be the Mulholland Drive commentary track by critics Sean Weitner and Andy Ross:

David Lynch's Mulholland Drive competed with Memento for the illustrious honor of Most Talked About Film of 2001. But even more so than Christopher Nolan's time-bending existential thriller, Mulholland Drive proved to be a difficult subject to capture on the page. The movie's symbols, allusions and mind-warping structure come at you so quickly and, sometimes, peripherally that it can be hard to be sure just what you saw, and harder still to recall it well enough to piece it all together afterward.

The movie's alleged incomprehensibility has been used as Exhibit A by its detractors, and it's been praised in equal measure by some of its most fervent fans. But, as Flak writer Andy Ross said in his original piece on the film, "the filmmakers clearly went to great trouble to give Mulholland Drive a logical, complex structure, and giving up on the search for that structure does the film a disservice." As an aid to putting it all together, Flak offers an mp3 audio commentary for the film. It's not concerned simply with reconstructing the narrative; the Flak commentators hold court on the movie's themes and symbols, craft and artistry. It's the audio track you wish the DVD had included, but didn't.

Why didn't the DVD include commentary? Because Lynch doesn't want to explain the film — and hearing an artist tell you exactly what's on his mind can be terribly reductive. This commentary doesn't seek to reduce the film, either; it poses as many questions as it might answer, in an effort not to quash discussion of the film, but to encourage it.

But that's not intended to sound like a loophole to justify elements we can't explain. We hope you'll find our commentary complete — and we'll even tell you about the blue box.

Now I have even more reason to buy Mulholland Drive on DVD, or at least rent it again.

I'm downloading it right now.

:?)

Let me know how it is, okay?

I may have to cut Ebert some slack, great idea! I'm up for hearing a commentary by someone other than the filmmakers, particularely Ridley Scott's incredibly boring commentary on Gladiator, dude is mucho boring.

:?)

Some new thoughts about the most memorable part of your post: "movie criticism is the ultimate mental masturbation."

The context of your post reveals that you refer to mental masturbation in a negative sense: it's bad or useless or something.

But I can scarcely imagine how mental masturbation can be less useful than the kind of masturbation that might describe watching movies for fun or for a short-lived emotional response. Mental masturbation of this kind, while being obviously pleasurable for those who engage in it, just as movie-watching is pleasurable for most of us, also can sharpens our minds. Movie watching will most likely just fatten our bellies.

So, perhaps studying movies is actually even more useful than just watching movies (for those who have the time and desire to do so).

The problem with stooky's suggestion that if critics knew so much about movies they'd be making them is that writing about movies requires far less resources than making them. Everyone, especially through the Internet, can write and even develop an audience very cheaply. Very few people can gather the $25 million it costs to make a relatively small movie.

So, maybe you don't want to write movie criticism - or even read it too much. But that doesn't invalidate film criticism (for the reasons given above).

I still choose to mostly abandon film criticism, because I would like to attempt to make movies instead. But maybe if I can't fund my projects or sell my scripts I'll try film criticism instead :-)

I think it's not that film criticism is bad as it is a pointless exercise to fullfill the person doing it. I've read maybe 200 reviews (don't ask me to list them) that truly went beyond a simple critique and actually became a form of art unto themselves. Small, well executed literature that takes a film and dissects it with such wit, perception and literary skill as to change my entire impression of it. The Colour Of Pomegranates review in Film: The Critics Choice being a primary example, explaining just enough to entice me to want a re-watch and just enough to prepare me for its complex pleasures. This is a rare thing indeed.

I also bite the hand that feeds me because I rely on criticism to eliminate the dreck from my "to watch" list.

Studying movies is important for any film fan, to know structure, technique, the difference in film stock, lenses, sets, color wash, etc. is important to fully understand what you are watching, to appreciate film on a platform somewhat equal to the person making it. A mental equal who can share ideas, and perhaps even further ideas by creating a new piece of art based on these films.

Here is an example of the reason why I usually spurn critics, most complain that their quotes are being used on film posters to sell films, yet they write in an easily paraphrased, didactic style that allows small bits to be easily edited from their writings. To say something is "a sterling masterpiece of crap" and not expect a film company not to put "a sterling masterpiece..." on their poster under your name is a tad naive, if not pointedly stupid. This relates to the general quality of most reviews today,

A review picked at random:

"Just as advertising must shock or amuse its way past viewers' innate resistance to being sold a bill of goods, romantic comedies have to seduce or dazzle their way past an audience's acute familiarity with the genre's conventions."

interesting comments

"After all, the gods of cinematic romance dictate that the male and female leads will inevitably end up together, no matter how many obstacles they face."

true

"In that respect, romantic comedies and advertising overlap considerably, especially in Hitch, a slick new meta-romantic comedy selling a transparent yet strangely irresistible fantasy of upscale romance among the beautiful but guarded."

I didn't know you had to advertise this

"The film shills shamelessly for a fairy-tale version of New York (in addition to Grey Goose vodka and Google, whose status as a verb as well as a noun gets quite a boost), but mainly it sells the formidable brand that is Will Smith, who produced the film and stars in a role that expertly exploits the immense likeability and non-threatening charm that's made him an icon."

Yeah but isn't Will Smith "Actor Most Likely To Mug Onscreen" anyway? should this man be suprised about this turn of events?

"He's also found the perfect partner in Stuck On You's Eva Mendes, a radiant combination of nuclear sexuality and unforced sweetness."

Well?

"Oozing movie-star magnetism, Smith plays a romantic consultant who specializes in helping sad-sack schlemiels score the women of their dreams. TV vet Kevin James co-stars as one of Smith's more desperate clients, a pudgy pencil-pusher out to win the heart of a wealthy celebutante (Amber Valletta) in whom Mendes has a borderline-obsessive professional interest. Because of her job as a gossip columnist, Mendes automatically suspects the worst in people—bachelors in particular—but Smith's dogged perseverance and near-scientific approach to l'amour wear down her defenses until the obligatory third-act complications conspire to tear the couple apart."

Yes I understand that it's got a crap plot.

"By making Smith a professional cupid of sorts, the filmmakers have pushed the mechanics of romance to the forefront, a move that pays off in a lively early Smith/Mendes exchange that doubles as flirtation and a sort of meta-commentary on flirtation."

Yeah, and?

"Smith's professional wisdom seldom transcends the kind of advice found in the average women's magazine, but there's precious little mystery to love in romantic comedies, where the path to romantic bliss generally runs a course as predictable as a mathematical equation."

It does if the movie is bad.

"The real mystery in Hitch is how a comedy so formulaic can be so seductive. The answer has a lot to do with intangible qualities like chemistry and charisma, as well as the gullible heart's strange power to override the strenuous objections of the skeptical mind. —Nathan Rabin"

Okay so let's recap:

Hitch is a third rate rip off of The Knack gussied up so rich people (apparently a target audience) can get laid. The plot is crap, the acting is crap, the leads have chemistry and you'll like it if you are extremely gullible.

Questions:

Why on earth did this man like this film since he can't stand most of the plot, the acting, the direction & the script? Can you simply like this film simply because the actors have good chemistry? Can anyone truly enjoy Will Smith's mugging (yick)? is he the gullible guy he mentions later? Does that mean this man's reviews should be avoided at all costs?

Assumptions:

Do not watch this film, Nathan Rabin is a scary reviewer with a gullible heart.

Why doesn't this review work, because it makes no good case for wanting to watch the film (the man himself obviously liked it, yet has an inability to explain why). Here is my explanation, Mendes made his tackle vibrate like he was 13 again and therefore everything took on a rose tinged hew. If so why didn't he just say that?

:?)

Wow, sweet breakdown.

My Heartbreakers review: Jenniffer Love Hewitt made my tackle vibrate like I was 13 again so I didn't care that the movie was mostly crap.

Thanks,

It happens, I myself love Charlie's Angels 2 for no other reason than the three ladies getting watered down in short skirts is something of an epocal moment for the stook + tackle connection. Good stuff right there.

It's my feeling that honesty is the best solution in such cases.

:?)

it's funny how people make a big deal about you ONLY having the desire to see 500 more movies... I know you've seen just about everything there is... but even now in my infant stage of watching a shitload of movies i couldn't possibly come up with 500 movies i have a desire to see... i'm stretching it with my current to see list at around 120... i'm sure i could get it up to 500... but not after 15 years... not even close.

The fact that you've narrowed down what you want to see at this point is a good thing, but you gotta cut this free-ranging (comparitively) old fart some slack, I've never found one genre I love more than any other so it kind of fills out a too see list. Plus, at this point I'd recommend adding Lola Montes to your list, it's a great movie.

:?)

I invariably add 3x as many movies to my 'to see' list every week than I subtract.

true... but could you do the same after seeing an average of around 80-100 movies per release year from 1930 to the present, like stook... i know i couldn't.

Oh yes, definitely. I'm just saying that right now... my 'to see' list seems insurmountable, even given 15 years, so it's very strange to think of someone coming to the end of a similarily long list :-)

how was the wrath of god?... i've heard from multiple boards on the internet that it's pretty damn amazing... i've never seen a herzog film but i am a huge fan of klaus kinski, but have only seen him in spaghetti westerns.

It bored me to death when I saw it, but that was very early in my cinemaphilia stage, when my filmic muscles hadn't been stretched. I definitely need to rewatch it now.

I'd love to read a review of Black Orpheus, if you get a chance.

Thanks stook! That is one of a bunch of movie to which I surely owe a rewatch. Maybe in five years or so I'll have seen enough that I feel like revisiting rather than breaking new ground.

Companeros: Doesn't A Fistful of Dollars also have a gatling gun scene? What did you think of that?

I think I should have explained more clearly, the hero actually grabs the gun in his hands Arnie style and takes to swinging it about, mowing down unsuspecting bad guys (Clint merely swivels his about).

:?)

Hahahaha. Like Serious Sam. That's hilarious.

yeah... that happening at the same time as a mexican throwing a 2ft knife/sword into guys chest, pulling it out and repeating... it really is a great film... i hope you liked it stook.

I'm watching Shoah. "9.5 hrs" doesn't begin to give an accurate impression of how long this movie is, much as "1 trillion light years" doesn't begin to let you conceive of such distance.

I look forward to seeing what you think of Alice (1988). I actually thought it was just style over substance - but it's happened before that I simply miss the substance on first viewing because I'm too distracted by the style.

Of course, not the case with Dogville!!!!! Woo-hoo!!!! I know it's not the best film ever, but I sure loved it.

Would love to hear your Million Dollar Baby review, stook, if ya don't mind. One of many I'm looking forward to on DVD. Sure wish my life supported more theater trips.

There ya go.

:?)

Thanks stook, I'm looking forward to me more than ever now! I wish I could respond more to your review itself, but that'll have to wait for the DVD release. Remind me then!

Well, you know I'm not gonna let that high rating for Tom Hanks Vs. Meg Ryan slide without some ocmments. I haven't seen it for a while, but I remember thinking it was slightly inferior to the already mediocre Nora Ephron confections.

So, what's so great about Joe Vs. the Volcano?

Mmm... "La Belle Noiseuse"! A film where one can indulge their voyeuristic tendencies whilst still defending it as high art. Awesome.

Indeed, "Noiseuse" was probably the shortest four hour movie I've ever seen, it was damn entertaining. Although, after a while you get so used to her nakedness it starts to seem a bit tame, but all the same I vote for more high-brow movies with a ton of nudity.

:?)

I figured now would be a good time to remind you how much I enjoy reading your reviews (but I know they take some work).

funny thing about his reviews is that i can never tell whether he liked a movie or not... i doubt you've ever liked a movie enough not to say something bad about it(which is a good thing, and why i suck at writing reviews)... i have to look at the star rating.

Okay, that tears it, based on several Listology reviews Ray was tottering on the back end of of my "to see" list, and your revised review has successfully pushed it off the edge. Thanks!

I think I'm totally missing the point of La Belle Noiseus. It's a mostly quiet, tedius film about an admittedly interesting relationship triangle. I liked it well enough, but I didn't see anything too special about it. If you have the time, would you please share why you think it is a 5-star film?

I'm looking for someone to change my mind about it so I can give it more than a '6' :-)

Certainly, I'll work on it tonight.

:?)

I don't suppose saying "it's really good, trust me" would work. (snicker snicker)

:?)

Maybe I can make this easier for you. Is it great because it's a deliberate examination of 'real' relationships that doesn't skip over the boring or ultimately inconsequential pieces like most movies do? Is it great because it is directed well (I wasn't blown away)? Is it great for some other reason?

Or maybe it's good because it's effective on people who somehow haven't yet been desensitized to nudity on film.

I'd still love to hear your thoughts, but I used MRQE to come across some reviews (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) that helped me understand what is so great about the movie, and I can agree with them.

I always wonder what people refer to when they talk about direction. Anyone who can link together a series of scenes could be called a variably good director, even Michael Bay (yick).

I have this feeling that a lot of younger people, encamped in the styles of Tarantino & Godard believe that great direction is an obvious process, the interplay of style with substance, something tangiable for the viewer to see. Indeed it is exceptional that these men can perform such a feat but there are other grand styles.

Rivette's direction is exceptional because he creates an internal drama externally through a series of discussions, footage of art and brilliantly produced character dramas (the dinner for example) in which he plays visually with their faces as the camera creates a series of counterpuntal shots across the table. Without his seamless, effective style the film would implode, much like The Basketball Diaries.

Deliberate is the right word, his slow examination is important to defining his subject. Without it the process would seem easy, which it is anything but, his subject is art, the very seat of the inconsequential in the which the product is founded on many hours of work. Imagine a small documentary about Luke's Life with the defining subject being one of your scripts. Of course David Lynch countered the same material in Naked Lunch by making the process entirely surreal, which funnily enough is quite a bit easier (which is why most people do it). I would rather see Luke's endless hours of toil to his creation, I find it more interesting.

:?)

We keep replying over each other.

:?)

You make an excellent point about direction, but I'm not sure younger people are more likely to see obvious style and substance as great direction (sorta like how obvious acting always wins Oscars). Citizen Kane is favored so widely because it's very obvious with its own genius. It flaunts it in an instantly noticeable way like Diary of a Country Priest doesn't.

Exactly. Nice to know we're on the same algorithm as it were.

What about the reviews changed your opinion? What do you think now? Will you watch it again? (if you don't mind me prying).

:?)

I won't watch it again because the film is fresh enough in my memory that I can 'run it through processing' again and have a different reaction to it. I think now that I always knew the reasons for the film's greatness, but I couldn't really feel them because I couldn't articulate them. But the film's greatness does lie where I began to suggest when I was asking you about it. The film doesn't rush, it just dwells on these relationships, on the strokes of the artist, on the quiet heartbeats of life as well as the thumping ones - so to speak.

Glad you loved Safety Last! Do you intend to add all these titles to your yearly lists once you've seen them? I see some of them on your yearly lists and some not.

Safety Last is almost the perfect action/adventure movie, I can't imagine anyone not liking it a lot.

I don't know, incentive to do a lot of listing is waining these days.

:?)

Porco Rosso was a worthwhile Miyazaki movie, eh? It's one you don't hear much about.

Glad you liked Europa Europa! I remember really liking that when it came out.

Miyazaki's early films are pretty darn interesting, My Neighbor Totoro being by far the best, but Porco & Nausicca are excellent films even by comparison. You haven't seen them? and you have a daughter. Get busy. :?)

Europa is suprisingly entertaining for a movie about the holocaust, excellent lead performance as well.

:?)

Two daughters, even! I really should get busy. I've seen all Miyazaki's feature length stuff except Porco Rosso, The Castle of Cagliostro and the not-yet-released-here Howl's Moving Castle. The girls have some catching up to do, although they have seen Kiki, Totoro, and Spirited Away. I think Princess Mononoke might still be a bit intense.

Your intro text: Are you sure that isn't "the squalor which 99% of cinema sinks to"?

Sky Captain: Such naiveté is indeed rare. I'll admit to prefering modernist cynicism (read: acknowledgement of reality) or even exaggeration of the harshness of reality. I loved Raiders, but thought it was much better entertainment than Sky Captain. It's been a while since I saw Sky Captain and I don't intend to see it again, but I simply never cared about anybody or anything so the mystery and wonder was wasted.

I also thought the special effects simply weren't that great, though everyone seems to disagree with me. The style was great, but everything needed better textures and more polygons and better keyframes and more particles.

I do wonder, though, how I loved The Saddest Music in the World and not Sky Captain. If I get really bored and see every other film on my to-see list, I'll have to watch them back to back and figure that out.

I'd love to see someone else take a similar style and naiveté and do it right, though!

my movies are disappearing, what's goin' on here?

:?)

Is this frustration what provoked the list title change? Like, "My movies are disappearing! WTF? Maintaining this list is a pain in the ass."

What do you mean?

He used to have 500 movies on here, remember? I think he must have hit the 65,000 character limit.

That's exactly what happened, and movies started disappearing off the end of the list as if the computer were judging my list and slowly getting rid of a few titles. Astute AJ.

:?)

I think Jim might be able to get them back for you, though I'm not sure. Jim?

Sadly, no. Stooky has since pared down the list and saved it, so that stuff is gone.

Quite awhile ago I added a validation to warn you if your data was too long. When you try to save a too-long entry, the edit screen reloads, and this error message appears next to the list edit box:

"This post exceeds the 65000 character limit. 'XXXXX' has been inserted in your post at the cutoff point."

But, being the idiot that I am, the cutoff is really 64000, so that explains why it wasn't triggering for you, but you were still getting truncated. Very sorry! My bad. Fixed now.

No problem, I've been working on a project that will replace my yearly lists, now in an alphabetical format with a list of major review sources to accompany the titles. Woohoo. Go ahead, you can say "stook is the man!", I won't hold it against ya.

:?)

You da man! I can say that comfortably without seeing this new project based on everything else to date. :-)

Can't wait to see it!

I've carefully avoided pointing out spelling, punctuation, diction, or grammatical errors on Listology, because I make them myself, and nobody's perfect. However, this one is too funny to ignore.

I apologize if I'm being nitpicky, but did you really mean to use the word "suppository" for this list?

From Webster's
"sup·pos·i·to·ry : a solid but readily meltable cone or cylinder of usually medicated material for insertion into a bodily passage or cavity (as the rectum)"

I think the word you're looking for is
"re·pos·i·to·ry : one that contains or stores something nonmaterial "

You're exactly right Rosie a suppository is not a repository (unless written on tiny paper and then inserted into your body), and yes I did in fact mean a small tablet or spherical object that can be placed up your rectum (mostly, although I suppose it could mean your ear or nostril). I even checked dictionary.com to make sure of the spelling, if that makes this list a tad more appetizing to people so be it. I figure nothing I write could possibly be good enough to become a repository, therefore I chose to use a little highbrow bathroom humour to describe my babbling. :?D

I'm actually glad someone noticed.

:?)

I'm sorry for underestimating you by assuming it was an error! Very funny :).

Do you really think Buñuel's L'Âge d'or only deserves a yawn? :)

In my opinion too much is made out of surreal elements and too little has been said about the fact that this movie has aged like raw ham left out of the fridge for a couple of weeks (that would be not very well). On a side note I thought I had seen this film but the mistaken movie was far more daring than this mammoth yawn-fest, now I have to track down the title. Weird.

:?)

Have you seen Un Chien Andalou? If so, what did you think? And, you'll have to let us know if you figure out what that 'more daring' film was. If you provide the details you remember, perhaps another Listologist will recognize it.

Beckett: An IMDB 8.0 movie with 1500 votes that I've never heard of? Sweet, gotta check that out, especially since you liked it.