Movie Log, 2009

  1. [No] Prayers for Bobby (2009, Russell Mulcahy) Based on the true story of Mary Griffith, a conservative Christian who raises her children according to the Bible, including its condemnation of homosexuality. Unfortunately, one of her kids is gay. Terrified, Bobby tries to “get healed” through prayer and psychotherapy, but both fail and he commits suicide. This causes Mary Griffith to reconsider her beliefs and reach out to the gay community. Not an aesthetically good movie, but maybe a morally good movie.
  2. [Really Liked] Love Exposure (2008, Shion Sono) Four hours long and not boring for a second. Shion Sono is one to watch! Incredibly Japanese. Upskirt martial arts photography, religious psychosexual perversion, more Bible quotes than almost any Christian movie I've seen, and one seriously hot Japanese chick. Nonstop unpredictable human mayhem.
  3. [No] The Invention of Lying (2009, Ricky Gervais)
  4. [Really Liked] Up (2009, Pete Doctor) After the originality of Wall-E, this was a return to formula, but as usual Pixar works the formula to perfection.
  5. [Liked] An Education (2009, Lone Scherfig) Totally delightful and then totally devestating. Superb lead performance. Kinda kitschy, but it all works. Get over it.
  6. [Loved] The White Ribbon (2009, Michael Haneke) Watch this movie understanding that Haneke made it to illustrate "the origin of every type of terrorism, be it of political or religious nature."
  7. [Meh] Public Enemies (2009, Michael Mann) Technically brilliant, but fails to engage.
  8. [Liked] 9 (2009, Shane Acker) Geez this moves fast. This movie has a lot more depth than many people are going to think. It could have been a masterpiece with better pacing and character development. Many individual moments are stunningly well done, but the movie itself has flow problems.
  9. [Liked] Invictus (2009, Clint Eastwood) Mandela is written to be the most articulate person in history, but hell, it's a movie. Weirdest soundtrack choice is "Colorblind" by Overtone, which sticks out like a sore thumb in this mind, both for not fitting the feel of the movie and also for being a shitty song.
  10. [Liked] The Messenger Great portrait of America circa now.
  11. [Liked] Where the Wild Things Are (2009, Spike Jonze) Actually, I can't really think of any way to have made a better adaptation.
  12. [Really Liked] The Take (2004, Avi Lewis) THIS is the stuff Americans need to know about. Nothing could be more relevant to our current situation.
  13. [Meh] God's Cartoonist
  14. [Liked] Choke (2008, Clark Gregg)
  15. [Liked] Morvern Callar (2009, Lynne Ramsay)
  16. [Meh] Harry Brown (2009, Daniel Barber)
  17. [Liked] Klass (2009, Ilmar Raag)
  18. [Meh] Goodbye Solo (2008, Ramin Bahrani)
  19. [Liked] Precious (2009, Lee Daniels) But why does the teacher always have a halo of angel light around her? That was annoying. But the scene with Precious and her mom with the social worker made it all worth it.
  20. [Meh] Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel (2009, Gareth Carrivick)
  21. [Loved] Inglorious Basterds (2009, Quentin Tarantino) Wow. Tarantino is back! The next-to-last scene is staggering brilliance and satisfaction.
  22. [Liked] Julie and Julia (2009, Nora Ephron)
  23. [Nah] Ghost Town (2009, David Koepp)
  24. [Meh] Collision (2009, Darren Doane)
  25. [Meh] Funny People (2009, Judd Apatow) Some very funny points, and some parts that don't work. Uneven.
  26. [Meh] Broken Embraces (2009, Pedro Almodóvar) Too boring for me.
  27. [Liked] You're Welcome, America (2009, Will Ferrell standup DVD)
  28. [Really Liked] Food, Inc. (2008, Robert Kenner) WOW. Superb! Extremely well-produced, and also a highly moral film.
  29. [Nah] Moon (2009, Duncan Jones)
  30. [Really Liked] A Prophet (2009, Jacques Audiard)
  31. [Hated] Expelled (2008, Nathan Frankowski) I watched, to see if it really was as bad as all that. It was.
  32. [Really Liked] Paranormal Activity (2007, Oren Peli) Better than Blair Witch, and scarier! I suspect there is one moment in particular that you will never forget. As you know I do not believe in the supernatural but I had to turn on all the lights in my apartment about half way through the movie.
  33. [Meh] Surrogates (2009, Jonathan Mostow) Could have been so much more profound, but it wasn't bad.
  34. [No] Taken (2008, Pierre Morel) Very, very annoying until the action starts and then it is at least entertaining.
  35. [Liked] Schindler's List [rewatch] (1994, Steven Spielberg) I miss Kubrick.
  36. [Loved] 12 Angry Men [rewatch] (1957, Sidney Lumet)
  37. [Meh] Inside the Koran (2008, Antony Thomas)
  38. [Liked] Star Trek (2009, JJ Abrams) Huh. Nothing special but not bad, either!
  39. [Nah] Over the Edge (1979, Jonathan Kaplan)
  40. [Meh] Antichrist (2009, Lars von Trier) Certainly an interesting film, but not one I think succeeds.
  41. [Nah] The Girlfriend Experience (2009, Steven Soderbergh)
  42. [Liked] I Am Legend (2007, Francis Lawrence) Jesus that's intense. Bad CGI, though.
  43. [Liked] Ocean's Thirteen (2007, Steven Soderbergh) Silly, but surely entertaining.
  44. [Loved] The Hurt Locker (2008, Kathryn Bigelow) I did NOT want this movie to end!
  45. [Really Liked] The Brothers Bloom (2008, Rian Johnson) Not quite as perfect moment-to-moment as Brick, but still brilliant.
  46. [Really Liked] District 9 (2009, Neill Blomkamp) A thinking man's sci-fi and two hours of non-stop action. The relentless plotting leaves little room for character development, and of course there are the usual technology absurdities, but nothing that will stop you from loving this film. I'm so glad Bungie dumped the Halo project so Blomkamp could make this instead.
  47. [Meh] I Love You, Man (2009, John Hamburg) Pretty funny, even though it only had a few different jokes that it used over and over again.
  48. [Meh] Nothing is Private (2007, Alan Ball) A bit forced.
  49. [Meh] Jerusalema (2008, Ralph Ziman)
  50. [Really Liked] Duplicity (2009, Tony Gilroy)
  51. [Liked] Juno (2007, Jason Reitman) [rewatch]
  52. [Liked] Swingers (1996, Doug Liman) Living in L.A. doesn't make this a better movie, but it does make it more fun.
  53. [Liked] Bruno (2009, Larry Charles) Not as funny as Borat for me, but certainly more extreme.
  54. [Liked] Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008, Kurt Kuenne)
  55. [Liked] Hancock (2008, Peter Berg) What's wrong with this movie? It's not great, but there aren't any huge problems here. Why wasn't this one a huge hit? Way better than fuckin' Transformers, for example.
  56. [Liked] The Hangover (2009, Todd Phillips) Color me shocked, they did it right!
  57. [Nah] Cloverfield (2008, Matt Reeves) These handcam movies are always kind of weird - why are you still filming!? One solution to this is jump into the future when some of us have a camera recording our lives at all times behind one eye, and just play that back. Then again, why am I complaining about that, in a movie filled with physical absurdities? Silly me. I just need to shut my brain up and have a good time with a fun monster flick and lots of destruction.
  58. [Meh] Seven Pounds (2008, Gabriele Muccino)
  59. [Meh] Blindness (2008, Fernando Meirelles) I seriously have NO IDEA what is wrong with this movie, it's just not quite... there.
  60. [Liked] Frailty [rewatch] (2001, Bill Paxton)
  61. [Liked] Winter Light [rewatch] (1962, Ingmar Bergman) It's no secret that I prefer his more adventurous work, but Winter Light is a strong redux of Diary of a Country Priest.
  62. [No] My Blueberry Nights (2007, Wong Kar-Wai)
  63. [Loved] Badlands (1973, Terrence Malick) [rewatch] Cinema doesn't get much better than this.
  64. [Loved] Home (2009, Yann Arthus-Bertrand) It's just a bunch of beautiful natural videography, but that's all I need to fall in love. The final ten minutes made me cry.
  65. [Nah] Tropic Thunder (2008, Ben Stiller)
  66. [Liked] The Rage in Placid Lake (2003, Tony McNamara)
  67. [Liked] Role Models (2008, David Wain)
  68. [No] Quantum of Solace (2008, Marc Foster)
  69. [Loved] Watchmen (2009, Zack Snyder) I was speechless for about 40 minutes after seeing this movie. It wasn't a masterpiece but holy crap was it an experience! In my usual habit, I then went home and skimmed through the reviews to find one that approximated my reaction, so that I didn't have to go to the trouble of trying to write my feeling coherently. This time, it was Hoberman I most agreed with: "Zack Snyder Didn't Ruin Watchmen, he just sapped it of its superpower... neither desecratory disaster nor total triumph... Snyder's movie is too literal and too linear. Social satire is pummeled into submission by the amplified pow-kick-thud of the sub-Matrix action sequences; not just metaphysics and narrative are simplified, but even character is ultimately eclipsed by the presumed need for violent spectacle... Moore not only deconstructed the idea of comic book super-heroism but pulverized the very notion of the hero—and the hero-worship that comics traditionally sell. For all its superficial fidelity, Snyder's movie stands Moore's novel on its head, trying to reconstruct a conventional blockbuster out of those empty capes and scattered shards."
  70. [Liked] Elegy (2008, Isabel Coixet) When Conseula fell in love with her professor, 30 years her senior, I was bored. When David's best (only?) friend died, I sensed this was a sort of unflawed movie - in its own pedestrian way. When the characters ruminated on the power their relationships had on their lives, I was bored again. And then Conseula called and wanted David to photograph her body before she underwent surgery for breast cancer, and the movie took on a whole 'nother meaning. Why? Why I should I be bored by the rest, and found profundity in this turn? My mother had this when I was young, but it meant very little to me at the time and I keep forgetting she ever had it. I think it is this. I think I felt this way because I am arrogant about my ability to never be controlled by another human, to never be emotionally dependent on a relationships, to never even feel jealousy. But cancer I cannot beat. There are many things that dash the most beautiful things in all humanity, even if we didn't keep screwing it all up through stupidity. It is the curse of consciousness for the human race to wrestle with this, and... well, harmony begs me to add a line about "...and the blessing of consciousness to blah blah blah" but that would be a lie. We will never control all the world. All we can control is our desires. Was Siddhartha right? Is the only path to bliss to master (eliminate) our desires? Or are the romantics right, that it is better to love deeply and be broken completely than to have never been smitten at all? Elegy leaves that question open, too. I think it might be possible to burn with desire and satisfaction but not be broken by an indifferent universe... I'll give it a go, let you know how it goes.
  71. [Loved] Synecdoche, New York (2008, Charlie Kaufman) Critics have called many films "poetic." I have called many films "poetic." I suppose that means a film has the qualities of great poetry: brevity, profundity, cadence, rhyme (but of ideas, not of words), surprise, a free-flowing train of thought, humanity, passion. I'm sure there are many great films that possess this quality, but I always felt a little uneasy applying that descriptor to a movie. I always imagined there was a way to make a film that was more precisely and literally "poetic" than any I had seen. Until this film. This is the film I had always imagined was possible. Of course, we all have peculiar notions of what the "perfect poem" is, or what it is for something to be "perfectly poetic." This film just happens to be exactly what I always envisioned a "poetic" film would be. It is a masterpiece of intermixed story and symbol, and able to pack innumerable layers of meaning and delight in each tiny scene. Kaufman may be the most gifted writer alive, in any field. I say "may be" because I know almost nothing about literature, and my opinion should not count for anything. But he may be. Once again, I think Kaufman is making the films Fellini probably wished he could make, but 10x denser. Fucking. Brilliant. Better even then I thought it was going to be, and I thought it was going to be great. Oh, another thing this movie does is that it eases you in to its complexity and layers. The movie begins "like a normal movie" and slowly becomes more tangled, surprising, abstract, symbolic, and... well, "poetic." It is almost like Kaufman is training us throughout the movie to be able appreciate the next scene, and then the next scene, and then the next.
  72. [Nah] Angel Heart (1987, Alan Parker) A neat twist at the end, though it could've used some early-Shyamalan polish. :)
  73. [Liked] Vicki Cristina Bacelona (2008, Woody Allen)
  74. [No] Snow Cake (2006, Marc Evans) Forced.
  75. [Liked] Burn After Reading (2009, Joel Coen) Hilarious. Great characters. And more insightful than Slumdog Millionaire. (That one's for you, AJDaGreat!)
  76. [Loved] Rachel Getting Married (2008, Jonathan Demme) What does anyone even say about a movie like this? Flawless! Engrossing! I was not on planet earth for 2 hours. A Bergmanesque family drama, but with 10x the content, because our attention spans are 10x shorter now.
  77. [Meh] Australia (2008, Baz Luhrmann) Captivating and beautiful and stupid. Did anyone else notice the part of the soundtrack that is nearly identical to part of Arvo Part's Tabula Rasa?
  78. [Meh] W. (2008, Oliver Stone) I feel bad for Stone. There's nothing particularly wrong with W., it just never "hooks." I think it would have done better as a play.
  79. [Hated] Earth (1998, Deepa Mehta) Poor acting, writing, directing... it's Bollywood!
  80. [Meh] Three Monkeys (2008, Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
  81. [Liked] Waltz with Bashir (2008, Ari Folman) Spectacular animation, a stylistic smorgosboard, a unique genre, and shocking ending... but too much talking.
  82. [Loved] Doubt (2008, John Patrick Shanley) Wow, much better than expected! This movie just works, from moment to moment. I love movies like that. There's this part about an hour in where Hoffman and Adams are talking outside the church and the camera suddenly shifts to be looking up at them and it so profoundly changed the mood of the scene - without any shift in music or content - that I felt my tear ducts fill up. I love when that happens.
  83. [Liked] The Reader (2008, Stephen Daldry)
  84. [Loved] Frozen River (2008, Courtney Hunt)
  85. [Liked] Frost/Nixon (2008, Ron Howard)
  86. [No] The Pagan Christ [TV] (2007, Cynthia Banks)
  87. [Nah] Let the Right One In (2008, Tomas Alfredson)
  88. [Loved] Happy-Go-Lucky (2008, Mike Leigh) Just like what it sounds. Unabashed fun.
  89. [Liked] Marjoe (1972, Howard Smith) An Oscar-winning documentary about an atheist revival preacher who raked in the cash at tent revivals in the 1950s. How had I not heard of this before?
  90. [Loved] Hunger (2008, Steve McQueen) Wow. Along with Brick, Hukkle, Primer, and George Washington, one of the best debut films of the decade.
Cloned From: 

glad ot hear Brick mentioned as one of the greatest debuts of the decade, can't agree more.

" Throw one at me if you want, hash head. I've got all five senses and I slept last night, that puts me six up on the lot of you " - Awesome line from the film

Not only that, Brick was maybe the funnest debut of the decade, too!

Is this a cartoon?

I'm not sure if you actually think Burn After Reading was insightful or you're just implying that the comparison sets the bar pretty low. More importantly, though, what the hell is this "Nah"? Is this a rating of yours that I've just never noticed before? A completely new rating to encompass whole new emotions previously unexpressable by your rating system? Or just a bizarre hybrid of "Meh" and "No"?

I think I've used Nah before. It's between "Meh" and "No."

I did actually think Burn After Reading was fairly interesting: the brainless stud who, for some reason, has no life. The treasury guy who has a set of routines for bedding women but is very insecure. The gym manager who learns to say "yes" to life again after he lost the priesthood, and gets killed for it. These are just slightly more than cliche (though certainly not great, like Hunger or even Rachel Getting Married). Plus it was fun, and pulled a Psycho. That's a move that still gets points from me. :)

More and more, I'm abandoning any intellectual or objective pretense behind my ratings. This is not a measurement. The numbers up there mean something, I think, but I don't know quite what.

Of course its Cancer, its an Isabel Coixet movie, she has a hard on for that.


Love your Synecdoche review, and I'm glad that I was justified in recommending it.

I just stumbled upon this Charlie Kaufman interview that is almost as much of a mindfuck as the film itself. Definitely worth a look if you haven't seen it:

Fellini was a genius, Kaufman doesn't start to come close.

I really didn't enjoy Synedoche, New York. It was submerged under layers of self-pity from start to finish that goes in no direction. Caden is drowned in sorrow because he's a mortal-- but who cares? Nothing else is being said, no progression throughout the film is made. It's as if Kaufman is trying to utter some universal truth (we all die in the end) but really it's a cliched one. It's about as interesting as saying the earth is spherical. It's true, but it's not much of a statement.

Plus Kaufman is completely clueless and myopic. The thing is Caden's condition isn't universal, and that seems to be a message Kaufman is bent on delivering. His state of being is one where there is one cause for misery (mortality); and it's a condition that afflicts all of us. Isn't he privileged, though? If we should all be so lucky. Synedoche completely fails on all levels when it comes to actually exploring the issue on hand. People who's misery is derived from their children starving would embrace Caden's life if all his worry is a product of the inevitable. Kaufman expresses absolutely zero awareness; surely not everyone in the synedoche would exist in Caden's state of luxury.

Pather Panchali is poetic, Synedoche is shallow.

You once said of Eternal Sunshine that 'Fellini wishes he could make a film this good' and regarding your comments on Synedoche, New York (which are also quite critical) gives the impression you don't like Fellini. However, on your greatest films list I seem to remember 8½ being ranked 5th, and I'm not sure I fully understand why (unless of course the list takes into account historical significance). Could you please explain?

No, Fellini is awesome. 8 1/2 is more impressive in 1963 than Eternal Sunshine in 2004 (barely). Eternal Sunshine benefits from the greater creative and other resources available in 2004. If both movies had been released the same year, Eternal Sunshine would be clearly "better."

Strongly disagree with you there. Eternal Sunshine is great but do you really think it will be held to the same esteem as 8 1/2 forty years from now? 8 1/2 is nearly perfect from start to finish and is a much more powerful film in my opinion. The performances are timeless and the photography is absolutely captivating. I see it as undeniably more accomplished, more profound, and a more mature voyage that resonates like few works can. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a good movie, perhaps uncommonly good, especially those surreal sequences; but it doesn't hold a candle to 8 1/2. Gondry's film may be more technically accomplished than Fellini's, but for me that doesn't make it better. Star Trek isn't better than 2001: A Space Odyssey.

I could say all the same things about Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It is basically perfect, with great performances and awesome cinematography. It is also quite profound in psychology and philosophy, and also in its montage.

I do agree that Star Trek ain't better than A Space Odyssey.

I don't really see the brilliance in the performances. Jim Carry didn't particularly blow me away though Clementine and the supporting cast were great (Ruffalo, Dunst, the Doctor). Anyways, I mean, I can't really fault you for loving Eternal Sunshine, it is very good (and profound). I just happen to have a monstrously raging hard on for 8 1/2, which makes me a bit territorial.

Your cock was made for thrusting, not for thinking. :)

That's very true. I wonder though, if language was strictly made to be taken literally?

oh by the way: I'm insanely jealous of you. That's probably why I'm being so mildly hostile. (careful Elston, you're neuroses' are spilling everywhere!) I mean Christ, 100,000 views on Best Movies Never Made? Has anyone topped that? (that's right, placate him with petty admiration, maybe then he'll endorse you *rubs hands together expectantly*)

That one was only because that page got Dugg - like 2 years after I wrote it. :)

Ah, that would explain some of it. You know, us daemonic Romantics have the ravenous soul of a gay man. We want nothing more than to see you ardent Rationalists show some frivolity in your humble lives. It becomes a bit of a game eventually. Anyway, I tip my hat to you for not giving into it (though I still say we should jump on the bed).


how do I delete comments?

Hey lukeprog, I enjoyed your review of Synedoche - thought it was well written and I totally agree with you about Kaufman's talents. It really felt like he was taking cinema to new places that hadn't really been explored yet. Film is clearly not dead! Now I'll have to go back and watch Eternal Sunshine and see if I wasn't being horribly and blindly unfair to it.

Thanks, Elston. Kaufman is a genius.

You were right, Eternal Sunshine is a brilliant movie. But you must atone, my son, for your blasphemies against Fellini. The cinema God will not be on your side until you show some reverence. I'll be praying for you.

Synecdoche, New York affected me so much emotionally it's crazy, I'm still feeling the aftershock. Your review is perfect.

It's just mind-blowing that every single one of his films, one after another, is INCREDIBLE.

Thanks for the compliment.