28 January 2010

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)

In Roger Ebert's 2000 review he said that while the original audience would have seen this film as an attack on others a modern audience would see it as an attack on itself. I feel like he means the audience when he says 'itself' but I think it's more accurate to say the film is an attack on itself. I found it smug and dated. The movie itself seemed bourgeois. It made me want to watch The Third Generation or The Madwoman of Chaillot instead. C

27 January 2010

What Have I Done to Deserve This? / Rohmer? Chabrol?

It's true, I only watched one movie yesterday. Pedro Almodovar's fourth feature film. These were the thoughts I posted on Facebook afterward:
I just watched WHAT HAVE I DONE TO DESERVE THIS? again for the first time in several years. It really stands apart in his filmography. Like it's grittier and more realistic. It's really interesting that he made that particular movie at that point in his career because it was such a step forward from the films he had made before it and the movie he made next, MATADOR, took him in a totally different direction, which at least in the case of MATADOR wasn't an improvement. I'm not sure he ever returned to the spirit of WHAT HAVE I DONE TO DESERVE THIS? That I can think of, it seems like the closest he ever got to that kind of gritty realism again was in LIVE FLESH... Perhaps this is Almodovar being someone else, Fassbinder or a Neorealist or something, before embarking on his own, more colorful style. It's a strong movie but I'll have to see how it all goes over the next few weeks with the rediscovering Almodovar project.

Actually, Fassbinder is a little off. It reminds me of a lot of European and Mexican movies from the 80s, even Fellini perhaps, but more like something I can't think of. It reminds me of a lot of the movies I watched as a teenager when I was just getting into foreign films. It reminds me of so many things that my mind is swirling as I'm trying to get myself to bed...

I don't think I appreciated some of his movies enough before because I wanted to put them in a specific Almodovar box, like they were all in the vein of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown or something. So I didn't appreciate this one for being more serious and I appreciated Matador too much for being silly. A/A-

In generally unrelated news I saw a movie once that I thought was by Eric Rohmer (or Chabrol?) but am possibly mistaken on that and I can't think of what it was called. It's about a hairdresser and his wife who move to his hometown of Lyons or somewhere with a big cathedral (Chartres?) and she ends up being unhappy or I don't know since I can't remember it so well and I saw it in Germany so it was either dubbed or subtitled in German. It's driving me crazy.

26 January 2010

35 Shots of Rum / Comedians of Comedy / In the Loop / The White Ribbon / Matador

I went to see 35 Shots of Rum the other night. I'd like to watch it again and I'd like to watch more of her films. I came pretty close to squealing a big gay squeal when Ingrid Caven's name came on the screen. She was fabulous in it but the sudden trip to Germany was one of those dramatic sections of the movie that didn't completely make sense to me. I feel ambivalent about the film. I liked the way the movie seemed to be alive. I mean, it had this magical quality to it. My feelings haven't come to rest on this movie. I don't know if I'll have a chance to see it again while it's still playing here at the Music Box though. A-

Also, in a mood to lighten up a little, I watched The Comedians of Comedy: The Movie on Netflix.com. It was all right but kind of dull. It was meandering and could have done with longer, more cohesive stand-up sets. They mentioned Sarah Silverman at the beginning and I couldn't help thinking how much better this would have been with her in it. I liked the lady with the voices. I liked some of the political humor, even though it was a lot of cheaps shots for the benefit of the choir. C-

I actually thought that In the Loop was pretty great. It was really funny but more than that it also came across as so brutally accurate. I know some people thought it was kind of blah and all I could think about that is that maybe they didn't know very much about the run-up to the Iraq war. For someone like me who started off as an NPR-fanboy before graduating to C-Span and ultimately shutting it all off to preserve my sanity, it was really great. Not only was this satire therapeutic, it was also pretty great because it seemed so honest and in this mendacious age a little bit of honesty feels like a sudden burst of oxygen to a slowly asphyxiating man. A

Then yesterday we went to see Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon. My first thought was that as a student of German it was beautiful to watch because of the language. It's crisp and somewhat poetic. I kept thinking it'd be a great film to show German students because most of the speech in the film is pretty much standard German the way you'd learn it in school. Based on the trailer and my past experience with the director I was expecting something less controlled. More dramatic, more deranged, more painful to watch. It almost seemed light and airy compared to my expectations. I think what I wrote on Facebook after seeing it was that it was like a Herzog movie where the audience and the characters could breathe. It's beautifully shot. Lovely and atmospheric. The performances are great. The writing is great. I found myself wanting something more dramatic but I think that's a result of all the hype. I guess I was desperate for this to be the one big powerhouse film this year but I'm starting to think there just wasn't one. I'll definitely be watching this one again. B+

I keep thinking about how last year I loved so many movies it was hard to think of what my favorite might have been. This year though it's more that I really liked a lot of movies but there aren't so many that I loved and the ones I did love are semi-obscure foreign movies. I didn't expect to be here scratching my head and wondering if Raging Sun, Raging Sky or Strella might really have been the best movie of the year.

EDIT: I almost forgot. I watched Pedro Almodovar's Matador last night. I had only seen it once, like ten years ago, and I don't even think I saw the whole thing. Now I've seen all of his films from start to finish at least once and I'm going back and rewatching them all, I think. I just watched the first three and now the fifth one. I have What Have I Done to Deserve This? on VHS so I'll be watching that in the next few days and then I'll move forward from there. As to the film, it seems like one of his weaker efforts. I liked it, I guess, but it seemed dated and I don't really relate to the ideas in the movie. As usual, the acting was good. In some ways it seems better than Dark Habits but it might also be less interesting. I guess he's doing some interesting things here reflecting back at cinema and playing with thriller genres but it didn't quite gel for me. B-

24 January 2010

Pedro Almodovar / Kathy Griffin / Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn

In which I watched two more Almodovar films, checked out the new Kathy Griffin standup movie, rewatched an Almodovar film, and got around to watching Jamaica Inn, which I had started months ago and never finished.

First up was Dark Habits, Almodovar's third feature film. Now that I've seen all of them I think I can say with a fair amount of certainty that this is his weakest film. It definitely feels interstitial. He's working on finding his voice here. There are scenes that work and there are parts that are delicious visually but it doesn't come together as a whole. It reminds me of that bit from Crimes and Misdemeanors: "When it bends it's funny. When it breaks, it's not funny." It's his usual colorful parade of drug addicts and perverts and iconoclasts but it just doesn't sing. C

Then I watched The Flower of My Secret, which is the final piece in my Pedro Almodovar viewing puzzle (not including the Super 8 films and so forth) and it feels like a piece in a puzzle, too. It seems like a nexus almost, where there's all this stuff that he returned to later with other films, especially All About My Mother, Volver, and Talk to Her. I think some of the male aspect in the film can be seen in Live Flesh as well. It reminds me of the way Tennessee Williams would first write something as a short story, rewrite it as a one act play, and rewrite it again, if necessary, as a three act play. It seems like the bastard child of the Almodovar filmography because it seems pretty much universally panned but even after watching it twice I think it's a pretty strong film. It's a gorgeously executed melodrama that's more mature than the films that came before it but less serious than the films that came after it. It's also beautifully shot. My boyfriend and I both loved it. Marisa Paredes is wonderful in it, as are Chus Lampreave (as her mother), Rossy de Palma (as her sister), and Manuela Vargas (as the maid). And of course Kiti Manver as the character that seems to have become the protagonist of All About My Mother. I don't know how to explain to someone what make Almodovar's films so good and why they mean something to me and why this exquisite, lightly comic melodrama is one of my favorites but there it is. A

Kathy Griffin's She'll Cut a Bitch is probably the weakest stand up special I've seen of hers. I usually kind of like them. I mean, I've always been entertained by them, whatever you might think about that, but there seemed to be something sort of tired, forced, or desperate about this one. Like success has made a failure of our home. It also seemed to ramble and it also seemed like there had been portions of the show edited out, which was strange for the DVD version. I streamed it on Netflix so maybe there is more on the DVD. It's weird though because the amount of swearing makes me think it wouldn't have been shot to be shown on Bravo but it seems like it must have been, given the length. C

Jamaica Inn seemed strong at the beginning when I first started watching it. It seemed so lurid and cool. But when I watched it last night, the more it went on, it lost all that mystery that reminded me of an Iris Murdoch novel and it just started to seem kind of convetional. It was all right but by the end I didn't care too much. B-

Sundance Shorts

Next up were a series of short films from Youtube's Sundance Film Festival page. Para Fuera is a profile of a surgeon who also composes music. It didn't really interest me all that much except where he talks about learning to be tolerant, which reminded me that the trouble with surrounding people who think like me and so forth is that I'm in many situations intolerant of people who think differently than I do. It got me thinking that I should try harder to do things with people who are different from me and that I should work harder to be less judgmental about the way other people think. C

Old Fangs is an animated short about these forest creatures that go out so the wolf (or fox?) can visit is estranged father. I didn't really connect to it all. C

Glottal Opera was more engaging but also kind of too creepy. It's this Australian girl group in the vein of the Andrews Sisters or something and they're singing a poppy number except that the video is of their epiglottis or voice box or whatever it is. I learned long ago that body parts never look anything like they do in textbook diagrams and I was too creeped out by the singing alien vaginas to process what was happening and connect that to what I learned in my intro to linguistics class in 2003. I should have liked it but I'm too squeamish. Also, the end credits are more than a third of the running time, which seemed weird. C

Thompson is a portrait of a couple of juvenile delinquents at the onset of adulthood. I watched these a couple of days ago and mostly recall liking this one but feeling ambivalent about some aspect which I currently cannot remember. C

Voice on the Line is, as I remember it, a mix of live action (found footage?) and animation. It's about a presumably fictional program where the CIA got people to blab on the phone about all their secrets by using certain kinds of operators and things. It was fun but I feel like I sort of tuned out toward the end. B

Frankie won the best short award at the Berlin film festival or something. It's about a fifteen year old boy from a British council estate trying to prepare himself to be a good father for the child his girlfriend his carrying. I liked some things about this. It was a good idea and there are bits of it I quite liked but some of it comes across as cheap, such as the ominous shot of the boy walking away from the stroller to check out someone's new car. I guess he won't break the cycle after all but what kind of fool would expect him to? Maybe that's the point? B-

It seems like the one I liked the most was Mr. Okra. It's a profile of this guy who drives a vegetable truck around the 9th Ward in New Orleans. It was good. He had (has) an interesting life. B+

constantine's sword / moon / pepi luci bom / labyrinth of passion

Constantine's Sword is a documentary about the relationship between the Christian churches and the Jews and between the church and the military. It's a really poorly done film about a worthy subject. Sort of. I mean, the stated subject of the film is interesting. The actual subject of the film is kind of silly and gross. Basically you have this guilty Catholic guy who basically crawled out from under a rock one day and was horrified to learn that all sorts of things happen in the world and now how was he going to cope with his guilt on account of being a Catholic with bushy, out of control eyebrows. Some of it gets really silly. I didn't finish it on account of sleep seemed preferable to watching the rest of it so maybe it got less glib and superficial and narcissistic as it went on. It would have been nice to see a better movie on the subject. Maybe this one could be edited to be a better film. D+

Moon seemed kind of like a low budget amalgam of familiar ideas. I feel kind of ambivalent about it. It's like, I wanted to like it but it didn't really seem to follow through for me and there seemed to be a couple of things that seemed illogical to me at the end. Although I was getting tired by that point so it's possible I missed something. I felt like I needed to watch it again but didn't really have the desire to. B-/C+

When I returned Moon to the video store I rented the four Pedro Almodovar movies I hadn't seen, on a whim when they were out of In the Loop. I watched them in chronological order so I started with his first (theatrically released) feature film Pepi, Luci, Bom.... It was kind of raw. I get the references to Paul Morrissey and John Waters and it really reminded me of German director Rosa von Praunheim. It's about these assorted women, though Carmen Maura seems to be the main protagonist. She's a drug dealer saving her virginity so she can sell it until she gets raped by a cop after she tempts him with her vagina when he's fixing to bust her for her pot plants. She seeks revenge and hooks up with the wife, a latent masochist, whom she hooks up with her 16 year old friend the punk singer. Hilarity ensues. It doesn't follow a conventional narrative path but it's relatively entertaining. B-

Next up was his second film, Labyrinth of Passion. It's kind of a patchwork of the demimonde of Madrid and it plays like an outsider screwball comedy. It has drug addicts, perverts, terrorists, new wave punk bands, even the director himself performing as a sort of new wave emcee. It's kind of long-winded but I found this one really entertaining and it reminded me even more of Rosa von Praunheim. B

still more to follow...

23 January 2010

Wild Side / Wanda Sykes / Kings and Queen / Bukowski

It's been a while since I updated. I was feeling under the weather so I had this combination of falling asleep during everything and then not being sure if or what to write about anything.

First I watched Sebastien Lifshitz's Teddy Award winning Wild Side and I quite enjoyed it. I mostly watched it because I was curious about the Antony Hegarty performance, which it turns out I could have seen on Youtube and which is in the first few minutes of the movie. I ended up quite liking it. I mean, I didn't love it. I don't know what it is about this particular film template but I don't really love it. This was kind of enchanting though and I really am keen to watch it again. B+

Wanda Sykes's stand up movie Sick and Tired was funny but I dozed off. I guess it wasn't anything other than I had expected. B-

Since I wasn't a particular fan of Arnaud Desplechin's A Christmas Tale, I was really interested in checking out Kings and Queen. They both reminded me of My Favorite Season, I decided. There's something more mature and adult about them than most movies but I'm not altogether sure I buy completely into the world they present. I like though the way you're primed to want this man to take care of this boy and you're primed to empathize with the protagonist and then the movie turns on you and says, GROW UP YOU'RE BEING STUPID. I don't know. Again, I feel like I need to watch it again. B

The problem with Bukowski: Born Into This is that I don't buy into the central premise of the movie that Charles Bukowski is a great artist worthy of frothing over. D+

more later...

17 January 2010

Caligula/Ink/Into Temptation/The Odessa File/The Girlfriend Experience/Big Fan/The New Twenty

Since the last time I posted here I've seen seven movies. I haven't gotten around to posting anything because I wasn't sure I had anything to say about any of them. Or maybe I've just been feeling blah lately.

First was Bob Guccione's Caligula, which was one of the more entertaining movies I've watched recently. I found it to be generally deserving of its cult classic status although Fellini Satyricon is obviously better. Malcolm McDowall plays young Caligula, biding time until his grandfather (or was it his uncle?) Tiberius dies and he can take over. He indulges in numerous vices, including incest with his sister, and he takes out anyone who might want to infringe on his leadership. C

Next on the agenda was Ink. I haven't come to rest yet as far as my feelings for this movie are concerned. I generally liked it. It's an indie movie with a relatively unique feel to it about a little girl who gets taken off to the nightmare kingdom so she can be sacrificed there so that a disfigured soul can become an incubus. It's not quite as colorful or spectacular as I had imagined it but there's something kind of poetic about it. It almost sort of made me think of waves of modernism or something. There's all this stuff about the girl's father and his sort of existential crisis and it sort of smacks of amateurish mumbo jumbo but I found something winning about it. B

Given all the camp possibilities for a movie about a priest played by Jeremy Sisto trying to help a hooker in trouble played by Kristen Chenowith, you'd think Into Temptation might have been a little more fun. I liked the ambiguity of the ending and the movie was generally engaging but it was kind of hohum altogether. C

The Odessa File is a cheesy thriller based on a novel by Frederick Forsyth. It stars Tom Voigt as a German journalist who catches a trace of a secret organization of former SS officers and goes off in search of the Butcher of Riga or whoever. It's kind of silly but I enjoy these silly, clunky old thrillers even though I recognize that they're kind of bad. The accents range from surprisingly good to surprisingly bad, sometimes in the same scene. The writing isn't so hot either but it's entertaining. It did sort of bother me that film indicated that it was based on actual events when "inspired by" might have been better way to put it since the events in the film didn't actually happen and the characters the movie uses are based on real people but their fates and situations are so completely distorted it's a wonder they'd make such a claim. C/C-

Steven Soderbergh's The Girlfriend Experience is about the life of a high priced escort at the peak of the hysteria surrounding the current financial crisis and the 2008 presidential election. I like that the film is so specific to a certain time and place that actually means something to most people watching it, although some of the dialogue seems rehashed though I think a lot of people actually talk like that so maybe he's just disposing of the convention that people in movies be more articulate or interesting than regular people. The film ranges from intriguing to creepy and tiresome. I might watch it again. C

I was sort of intrigued by Big Fan after I heard a piece on NPR about it. I feel like I've sort of outgrown NPR with its seemingly indiscriminate boosterism. The movie was really promising though. I mean it was all primed and set up to make an interesting examination of an idea I haven't seen looked at so much before. I kept thinking when I was watching it that it's true that you don't have to be a sports fan to appreciate the movie. It could really be about any unhealthy obsession or outgrown coping mechanism gone awry. Sadly, the film goes off the track at the end and lands in disappointmentsville. C-

The New Twenty is a sort of blah soap opera of 30-year olds making their way in New York. It's kind of like St. Elmo's Fire but less fun. It's really not fun at all. I generally felt indifferent to all the characters and their situations... D+

13 January 2010

The Girl Can't Help It (Part II) / Silent Light / Fados

I finished The Girl Can't Help It. It's really kind of boring but it reminded me of this essay by a former professor of mine about how Gold Diggers of 1933 is protofeminist because the women are using the tools they have to achieve upward mobility. And here, too, there seems an aspect at the end of Mansfield exercising control to the extent she's able to. I don't know, it's interesting enough to think about and Abbey Lincoln's performance is incredible but I suppose that's it. C

As to Silent Light, I thought it was really lovely and unique. When it went off to another place at the end I didn't really go with it. It was beautiful though and I'd watch it again. B+

Fados is described as a documentary about fados, the Portuguese ballads. It's not really an ordinary documentary though because it's basically some text at the beginning that gives a brief explanation of what the music is and how it developed and then a series performances with modern dance accompaniment. Kind of like music videos. I thought the music was great and it's great to have the lyrics subtitled, for the most part. What's classic here feels classic. Oddly though, whenever there's anything that's meant to be more modern, it already seems dated. The videos seemed monotonous after a while though and I finally just let the music play in the background. The songs on an album would make a nice compilation. I didn't like the hip-hop take on fado but I feel like it would sound all right if you didn't know what they were saying... C

I feel like I'm slacking off on this entry but it's been a long couple of days; I'm on my third eight hour shift in two days. I'm ready for bed. If only it were eight hours from now...

12 January 2010

Treeless Mountain / Avatar revisited / Up in the Air / Valentino: The Last Emperor

A few days ago I watched So Yong Kim's Treeless Mountain. One of the things I caught on to in 2009 is that Korea has a pretty strong film scene. I don't know why it seems so surprising but there it is. This movie is about these two young sisters whose mother seems to have been beaten (?) and abandoned by her husband. The mother takes the two children to their paternal aunt's place and leaves them there so she can go searching for their daddy. She gives them this big piggy bank and says that whenever they're good their aunt will give them each a coin to put in the pig and when it's full that's when she'll come back for them. The core of the film is the longing of the girls. Their aunt is hardly the alcoholic monster she's made out to be in some of the reviews but she isn't ready to take care of children and she's not particularly nurturing. There's a neighbor woman who has a son with Down syndrome and there's something really magical about her. I really thought this movie was beautiful and I really identified with it. I know that ache well; from childhood but also from adulthood. It's shot beautifully. There's something kind of magical about the dress the smaller girl wears through much of the movie. I disagree with Manohla Dargis's assertion that there isn't anything inherently interesting about the lives of children. I mean, I felt like this was one of the most compelling depictions of a child's life I've ever seen, perhaps because it's unsentimental and unpatronizing. I feel like this winter is calling on me to get all Ozu and Ozu-esque in my film consumption. I think this film and Still Walking have both lit a spark for me to go back to Ozu, whom I've always neglected in favor of the more glamorous Mizoguchi. A

My boyfriend's trip to LA ended up canceled at the last minute this weekend so we took the opportunity to go see Avatar, which I had seen an advance screening of and which he hadn't seen at all. It's not quite as powerful as I thought it was the first time and the imagery is a little kitschier than I remembered it but I still think it's a strong movie. In fact, the cheesy dialogue bothered me less this time, although I remained impatient with the clumsy exposition. I think so much of the criticism of this movie is so absurdly absurd I'm not sure I'd even know how to address it. I think that all the racial groups who think it's about them, and there seem to be very many, are missing the whole point of this movie. I mean, this is right out of Joseph Campbell. It's a hero myth about leaving a corrupt civilization and returning to something more in line with what are often regarded as our inherent values. I don't think the Na'vi are portrayed as "noble savages" like the criticism goes. I mean, these stupid academics know what a Bildungsroman is. The fact that they dismiss everything in terms of marxist sociology and identity politics only reinforces Camille Paglia's indictment of the state of the American university. How easy and lazy is it to look at a text and be content to call it reactionary in terms of identity politics and leave it there. I think it's great that he couched a condemnation of the Iraq war and the values that got us there in a familiar myth. He condemns imperialism and takes issue with the war on terror in a manner that in these times where everyone is trying to conform seems very bold. I really think these criticisms that the film is racist illustrates clearly what Naomi Klein wrote about in her book No Logo: people have been so concerned over the past few decades about identity politics and social issues that they haven't even paid attention as everything they had was swiped out from under them. So here you have a movie that's trying to use a fairy tale to tell us how we're making our own graves and betraying our own values and destroying our planet and all that and all we can do is focus on whether the use of a tribal dance is a slight against Polynesians or whether the story was robbed from this movie or that. Good grief. It does share common elements with those other films because the stories are based on the archetypes that Joseph Campbell spent his lifetime studying. They're the same sorts of stories we've been telling since the storytelling ape started telling stories. Furthermore, whether this movie is or isn't like Dances with Wolves is completely irrelevant since this is a superior movie. I feel like people are lazy and shallow sometimes and this constant demand for something new is part of that. Like we can't be bothered to appreciate or reassess something that is familiar to us, except that people spend so much time watching movies and television shows that you could basically recite the dialogue to without having seen the movie if someone gave you a two sentence description of the premise. B+

Last night we went to see Up in the Air, which is another in a string of overrated Hollywood movies. It surprises me how weak the year has been for Hollywood. I actually liked this movie to start with. The first half, I guess. I thought at one point, "This movie is really about right now, just like Summer Hours. This might actually be really good." Then halfway through, it chickened out and went and hid under its sister's skirt. It makes sense, psychologically, that this movie is so popular right now because that's where we are as a country. We really feel bad about where we've gotten ourselves but we aren't ready to own up to it or handle the situation like adults. We want to go home and we want to return to sentimental truism approaches to life and we want to wander off into wish-fulfillment land and hope that we or the world or what ever will heal by the time we've done our wandering or spent whatever coins we have to show for the past thirty years. Of course, it won't heal because we aren't prepared to admit that Ronald Reagan was wrong. That life isn't all Gordon Gecko playing around in some gigantic McDonaldland Playland. I thought the bit where he walks away from his speech was phony. I thought a lot of the second half was phony. I liked Vera Farmiga and I thought Anna Kendrick seemed like another dogfaced Anne Hathaway clone. I don't get where all the hype about their performances comes from. I thought Vera Farmiga was good and Anna Kendrick was fine, if a little boring. I feel like the image of America I'm seeing lately is one of dithering whiners. I guess I need to take this insight and turn it against myself. Aside from the fact that the movie lost its teeth partway through, I also think it held back from seriously addressing the dominant issue. For how little there is there, it just didn't seem like enough fun. C

Finally, last night we watched the documentary Valentino: The Last Emperor and I found it captivating. I should have been annoyed at the excess because it's so against what I believe in but it really intrigued me. I don't know what it is about fashion movies that I find so interesting. Who knew former Soviet bloc nation Bulgaria had a princess that pals around with and serves as a muse for Valentino? I had no idea they still had royalty there and it kind of surprises me that a country in Bulgaria's position puts up with that kind of extravagance. There's really something epic about the decadence in the film and when it all ends because of the global domination of financiers, it really seems sad. It's another example of what Naomi Klein and Gore Vidal have been warning us about. Of course, one wonders why he sold his successful company in the first place but it probably paid for one or more of his jewel encrusted villas... Regardless of who pulled the string that shut the curtain, it's another great portrait of the end of an age. B+

10 January 2010

Jayne Mansfield and the Girl Who Can't Help It, Part I

I've been having trouble getting into the Jayne Mansfield classic The Girl Can't Help It. First of all, Tom Ewell, whom you probably know better as the star of The Seven Year Itch, is one of my least favorite actors of the 50's. I think he's smug and irritating. The movie is about a tired old agent who gets hired by a mobster to turn his talentless protectee (?) into a star in six weeks. Thing is, she doesn't want to be a star, she just wants to settle down and clean up after a man and make him souffles. It's kind of like they took a Judy Holliday vehicle, blended it with a Marilyn Monroe vehicle, and then drowned it in the kind of misogyny that plagued all too many Kim Novak vehicles and such. I love Kim Novak but Hollywood was not good to her in the 50s. She was really amazing but I feel like they used her a lot to show how women needed to be kept down and not allowed to get too uppity. That's kind of how this movie feels. It's funny, it almost seems like this kind of reactionary gender attitude should make the movie campy and I keep thinking it would have been funny even ten years ago. My initial thought was that it's because there's so much regression in America in the last decade that what seemed absurd and funny in the 90s seems kind of ugly and scary today. Maybe I'm wrong? Is it just me who has changed? Am I more mature? Too serious? Too corrupted by higher education? I don't know. Mansfield is appealing here but I keep falling asleep. My roommate says it's his new favorite movie. My goal is to finish it by tomorrow.

09 January 2010

Where the Wild Things Are (Spike Jonze, 2009)

It was okay. Kind of blah. Too violent for children, it seems geared toward adults with unresolved childhood issues of the playground/broken home varieties. I liked a lot about the visual style but didn't find the movie particularly engaging or insightful. I liked the Karen O music, too, but thought that the pattern of talky adventure interrupted by interludes of frolicking to quirky Karen O music was laid on too thick. I'd find myself thinking: Here we go again.

That's what I posted on Facebook when I got home from seeing the movie this morning. It's funny, ever since I saw that stupid Funny People movie I keep seeing that trope that was mocked in that movie, where the character in the fake Adam Sandler movie has to be a baby to learn how to be a man. I thought it was a nice change to have the boy need to be the mother to be a good boy or something. Much of the stuff seemed kind of shallow to me but I guess that's true to life. I mean, I look at the way people interact and maybe the movie is pretty right about that. I didn't identify with it though. C-

08 January 2010

Lorna's Silence / Anvil / Sunshine Cleaning / Gomorrah

It's true, I watched another four movies last night. There's something really satisfying about looking up from your movie to see the sun is rising and the falling snow is being lit by a soft, blue morning.

We started off with Lorna's Silence, oddly enough the first movie I've seen by the Dardenne brothers. Somehow I never got around to seeing Rosetta despite that it sounded up my alley. The story is basically that this Albanian woman is in a sham marriage to a Belgian junkie so she can gain citizenship, get rid of the junkie, and marry a Russian crime boss so he can gain citizenship and use the money she earns to open a snackbar with her boyfriend. She starts to have second thoughts when the junkie husband cleans up his act and she wants to get a divorce instead of killing the guy but the shady guy brokering the deal is not so keen on that idea. Hilarity ensues, as it were. It's a really engaging and beautifully shot film. I like the way it leaves the most dramatic episodes of the story out of the film so it doesn't ever feel like you're being distracted with fireworks or anything. The reviews I read suggested that the film is about the position of real people in international commerce. The effect currency has on people and what they'll do to get it. That actually seems to be a big theme for a lot of the movies I've been watching lately. I've also been reading Uncle Tom's Cabin and I guess I've been seeing everything through that lens, where people are trapped in their ugly situations and what choices they make when they don't really have any real and viable choices to choose. I sort of liked the ending, perhaps, which is kind of ambiguous and not quite literal but it didn't really gel for me. The only thing that didn't seem to make sense in the story was why the crime boss didn't just marry a Belgian woman: a junkie, perhaps. Perhaps I'll have the opportunity to watch it again some time. B+

Then, I fell prey to the hype surrounded by Anvil: The Story of Anvil. My boyfriend liked it. He said I'm too cynical. I'm not sure if he was teasing or not. I thought the movie was kind of sad and silly at the same time. Perhaps I'm too arrogant for these people. Maybe they're too much like the people I grew up around to have the same kind of trailer park tourist appeal that they must have for many of these professional film critics. It's hard to say right now but it probably warrants further consideration. The movie is about some heavy metal band from Canada who purportedly did what they did before Metallica and Megadeth did it. I grew up surrounded by white trash heavy metalloids and I can't say I've ever managed to nostalgize that scene. I admit to feeling some kind of pity for these people, who mostly seemed detached from reality and kind of ridiculous but I also thought they were annoying, unlikable people who belonged on one of those self-help type reality shows. It was interesting though, perhaps in a kind of emotional pornography way, though it was also interesting to watch the behind the scenes reality on their tours. The making of the album was sort of interesting but I could have done with less petty squabbling. It made me think of those people who attach themselves to a certain mythology and then live entirely in the tropes and the cliches of their myths. I kept feeling that each episode in the story started out interesting but overstayed its welcome. C-

Sunshine Cleaning was something I thought looked promising but stayed away from because of tepid reviews from friends as well as from critics. As I sort of expected, I kind of liked it. I mean, it's the kind of movie that 3.5 on a scale of 5 was made for but in this case that's kind of a good thing. I enjoyed it and would watch it again. Basically, Amy Adams and her sister Emily Blunt are a couple of beautiful women with working class troubles. Amy works as a maid and her son is more or less kicked out of school so she needs to find time inbetween cleaning houses and boffing her high school sweetheart Steve Zahn, a married cop, to make a way to get her son into a private school of some sort. Emily, on the other hand, is a deadbeat who gets fired from her job as a waitress in a cheap restaurant. Add an eccentric patriarch and some issues surrounding the departed mother and the pieces are in place. The cop hooks them up with these lucrative jobs cleaning up crime scenes and things and it's engaging and sweet and intermittently funny, if also intermittently annoying. A pleasant surprise, since I hadn't paid attention to the opening credits, was the appearance of Mary Lynn Rajskub as a sapphic phlebotomist. Me likey. I always think the sudden appearance of Mary Lynn Rajskub is a jolt of 'good' in any film. There were really only two things that bothered me about the movie, Alan Arkin and an explosive sort of deus ex machina that propels the story forward. I guess Alan Arkin seemed too Little Miss Sunshine and his zaniness was tiresome to me. The event that mixes everything up seemed dishonest and silly. Nonetheless, I felt like it was a really winning film. I liked some of the emotional/psychological bits and I thought the ladies turned in good performances. B/B-

After Sunshine Cleaning, I felt like something serious and foreign and although I was in the mood for something more lyrical I decided it was high time to get around to watching Gomorrah, which, it turns out, was kind of lyrical, just like what review I read before watching it said it was. It really is a well-made film and it has this sort of epic quality to it where the characters seem to represent the everyday people who live those sorts of lives. There are multiple characters and story lines that mostly revolve around this certain housing project in what I believe is Naples. There's a mafia war going on between two warring factions. There's a high body count. Narcotics trafficking. Loan sharking. Extortion. Illegal disposal of toxic waste. Rigging the textile industry in the world of haute couture. The film definitely wants you to believe that everything it shows you is true and representative. It also has that theme I was talking about with Lorna's Silence where you have these people living in impossible situations with no good choices, the daily reality of millions of people I think. Like so many films a friend of mine might disdainfully refer to as ghetto safari films, I really think it's about what people do when the closest thing you have to a noble goal is making sure you're not the next to fall beneath the wheel. A/A-

07 January 2010

Summer Hours / Of Time and the City / 9 / Peter and the Wolf

The other night I watched Olivier Assayas's Summer Hours. It's been on all these critics' lists but it always sounded dull or severe or heady or, mostly, like it would be one of those off-putting movies that expect us to get all worked up about the petty concerns of people with too much wealth. Fortunately, it wasn't quite what I feared it sounded like. The story is basically that the matriarch of a French family has a birthday party with her three children and their families there and there's a lot of talk about her uncle, a late famous artist, and the art collection, housed in the country house where she lives, because she's getting older and so forth and recognizes she's going to die. Once she dies, the children need to decide what they'll do with the house and the art. Whether they keep things or sell them. And it's really about how you have the one son (Charles Berling) living in France who's still attached to these things, then the other son (Jeremie Renier) who's working for PUMA in China, and then Juliette Binoche as the daughter whose life is in America now. I mean, it's really about the way the French have to come to terms with their heritage as they're moving toward the future. And, as an American where most things are so new, where my pre-War apartment building seems older than most things anywhere you go, I kind of identify with the grandchildren in the movie who don't have a choice about holding on to their heritage. I guess one of the questions is about the value of heritage. I feel like the movie doesn't really put forth a strong opinion on the subject. That it's more a document of a transition from one era to another. It's really lovely though. I particularly love the scenes with the matriarch and with the housekeeper. I also feel like the cinematography is amazing. The light in the movie is exquisite. And I like the way the light has such a different quality based on where they are. It kind of seemed to change after the mother died. It was like things felt so lyrical and then came to feel more modern, and then at the end there's this party with some grandchildren at the house and it almost makes you think of children playing about in some old ruins or something. I guess this movie made me feel very present in the passage of history. A

As for Of Time and the City, I don't think I was in the right mood to watch it. It's sort of an experimental documentary about Liverpool, England. I've heard it described as a film essay, so maybe that's what it is. Aside from the feeling that I might have already seen it before on Sundance in my last apartment where I had cable television, the main thought I had while watching the movie was, "I could be watching Derek Jarman's The Last of England instead." I think I'll have to watch it again but I'm not sure it worked for me, aside from it being fun to pick out the literary quotes and things. C

Then last night we watched 9, the animated science fiction thing produced by Tim Burton. My boyfriend thought it was cliché and that there wasn't enough plot or character development. I think my roommate agreed with him. I really didn't though. I liked that it was kind of spare. It reminded me of when I saw The Bourne Ultimatum with my old roommate and I said it was the best one and he said it didn't have enough plot, whereas I felt that it was the best one precisely because it didn't waste time with all these plot conventions which aren't usually ever that interesting anyway. In most cases, I'd rather be spared unconvincing dialogue and phony relationships. I liked this movie. I thought the original short was kind of nice as well. B

After that we watched the Oscar winning animated short film Peter and the Wolf (2006). It's the music and the story by Tchaikovsky. It was nice. Cute, right? The music was nice. The duck was darling. The cat was funny. It was charming. I didn't really connect to it though. C

06 January 2010

favorite movie list of 2009

There are some things I haven't seen yet which I will probably like, The White Ribbon in particular, but as it stands this is my Top 25 list, roughly ranked with Summer Hours at or near number one.

Summer Hours
A Woman's Way (Strella)
Raging Sun, Raging Sky
Cherry Blossoms
Who's Afraid of the Wolf
A Woman in Berlin
Still Walking
The Baader Meinhof Complex
The Beaches of Agnes
A Serious Man
Lorna's Silence
You, the Living
The Headless Woman
Two Lovers
Fish Tank
An Education
Broken Embraces
Flame & Citron

Honorable mentions: Antichrist, Drag Me to Hell, Easy Virtue, Every Little Step, A Frozen Flower, Half-Life, Jerichow, The Rapture of Fe, Ricky, Vincere, Women in Trouble

Most overrated would be The Hurt Locker, with A Single Man and Star Trek right up there and a nod toward Inglourious Basterds.

Tyson (2008)

Everyone's been saying this movie was good even if you don't like boxing and it certainly is a fascinating movie. I kind of loved that it's all just Mike Tyson telling his own story from his own perspective. It's a wonder Don King and the woman who charged him with rape haven't sued over this movie, if they haven't. I was tired when I watched it. I guess it was a mostly passive experience. The only thing I really thought during the movie is that it would skip from one event to another event two to four years later and I wanted to know what happened in the interim time. I also wanted to know what Robin Givens had to say about it. That scene where she's sitting next to him and telling Barbara Walters how awful he is is something else. It's nice he doesn't hold a grudge though.

This doesn't really have to do with this movie but people always say that the parade of celebrities is one of the bad things about the movie The Hangover. I have to say, I thought it was one of that movie's few redeeming qualities and I actually kind of liked Mike Tyson in the movie even though the movie itself was pretty bad.

I could see myself watching this movie again just to examine more closely how it's put together.


05 January 2010

The Detective (1968) / Tokyo! (2008)

I have to say, however blah the movies were last night, I'm really blown away by the quality of the video I've been getting. I don't know if I mentioned that I finally got a blu-ray player and it's hooked up to my roommate's projector in the living room. I've been told that we need a new cable to get the full blu-ray experience so I haven't even watched the blu-ray disc that was given to me with the player (There Will Be Blood). We've been playing with the Netflix streaming feature and I just can't believe how good the playback is through the projector. I'm sure someone more technically savvy would talk about how it isn't sharp enough or something but from my perspective, the colors are amazing and it's kind of awesome to be able to sit down in your living room and have the option of projecting any of the 350 movies on my Netflix instant queue.
As to the films, The Detective was all right. I put it on mostly because I had always meant to watch it and I felt like getting my Lee Remick on. Unfortunately Lee Remick isn't put to very great use here. It's a sort of cop drama with Frank Sinatra and it's about him trying to solve this grisly murder of a homosexual and also all this stuff about a cabal of businessmen playing real estate and development games that defraud the citizenry and lead to any number of social ills. There are a number of flashback sequences that show his life with his wife, Lee Remick, and his life as a New York police officer and so forth. I think these are the parts I found most interesting. The movie deals with several controversial subjects of its day and it's definitely interesting as a historical artifact. On the one hand, the film's attitude toward homosexuals seems much more humane than some of the other films of the sixties and seventies. It sort of shows the darkness of their lives and the torment they're subjected to by the world and it shows the hero Frank Sinatra being all compassionate about it. On the other hand, it also shows them as generally silly and deranged. I was actually a little surprised at the frankness of some of the dialogue, particularly the scene where they talk about what the victim might have had a bottle of mineral oil for and how one guy says it's not for the butt sex because you need something thicker, like Vaseline, and responds to the shocked comerades that men and women also use such lubricants. The film also tries to wrestle with drugs and addiction, if not in an all too serious manner. There's a guy giving a lecture about the benefits of LSD usage, which Sinatra chooses not to stick around for, and there's this bit about a teenage junkie prostitute that leaves Sinatra making a snarky comment about it being part of the Great Society and then later attributing that sort of thing to the kind of housing available in the city. There's also this whole other story about how Lee Remick, the ex-wife, is a nympho and how they couldn't stay married because Frank can't abide no whoring wife, although they still sleep together from time to time. The movie is really very fascinating as an artifact that stands between the production codes of the past and the deluge of more adult content that was loosed upon America in the late 60s and in the 1970s. Looking at the reviews from its time, it seems that a lot was made of the realism of the film, from the gritty realism of police work to the naturalism of the dialogue. The dialogue is really interesting because it is more naturalistic than in a great many previous films but it also seems sort of interstitial, a kind of missing link or something. Maybe that's what makes it feel like it's from the Isle of Misfit Films or something. I'm also surprised to discover that the movie is based on a novel whose sequel was filmed as Die Hard. Go figure. As I'm typing this it occurs to me that this film seems to be one of those that is more fun to consider than to watch. Perhaps I'll watch it again some time. C
The other movie I watched last night, Tokyo!, was less interesting to me. It's three short films set in Tokyo by three non-Japanese directors: Michel Gondry, Leos Carax, and Joon-ho Bong. The only one of these shorts I really cared for was the one by Michel Gondry. It's about this couple who have come to Tokyo and are trying to find jobs and apartments while living with a friend. The welcome wears thin. The girlfriend can't find a job, the car is towed. Things take a turn for the surreal. I didn't love it but I enjoyed it pretty much. Then is the Leos Carax piece which I didn't get at all. A few times I thought I might have figured out something that made it interesting or worthwhile but then I just got irritated by it again. It's this weird, grotesque business about a trollish man who comes out of the sewers and wreaks havoc, is arrested, is defended in court by a weird trollish lawyer from France, and is executed. It all came across as pointless and off-putting and I just didn't dig it. I actually decided to watch it because of the Joon-ho Bong thing but I was so alienated after the Leos Carax film that I couldn't really focus. Either that or it was kind of blah. It seemed all right. Like I said, I just couldn't focus... C-

04 January 2010

Two Days, Six Movies: Humpday, Half-Life, Paris 36, Taken, Strange Culture, Funny People

So, keeping up with my renewed commitment to keep track of the movies I watch this year I have six movies to post about from this weekend: Humpday, Half-Life, Paris 36, Taken, Strange Culture, and Funny People. I also watched the first episode of the British series Skins, which my roommate put on because a mutual friend was a fan of it and we were waiting for my boyfriend to come over after work so we could play with my new blu-ray player/Netflix player, which is currently hooked up to my roommate's projector and is just about the most heavenly thing I've acquired in some time, I guess.

Five of the above listed films were rented from a video store where I had a bunch of credits because I had a friend spend an extra night in Chicago and it was too cold to do much of anything else than have a movie marathon. Strange Culture is what I watched via Netflix streaming with my roommate and my boyfriend last night. By the way, there's something really fun about going through the movies on the blu-ray player which is way better than using the queue online. It also feels more movie-ish to not watch them on a computer monitor so I feel like this development will finally get me to watching some of the hundreds of foreign films on my instant queue...

The weekend's movie binge started off with Humpday, which I was very skeptical about and only got because it was on a few critics' best of the year lists. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. I mean I won't get into the end because that's kind of a spoiler thing to do and I don't know whether it's possible to make a cut on here and it's conceivable that someone at some time might actually read this thing. What I liked about it though was the dynamic between the husband and wife. It sort of reminded me of me and my boyfriend when we're fighting about something. I thought it was interesting though, the way it played with masculine psychology, though being a man with scant masculine psychology I can't say if it's really that accurate or only seems so to me the way that The Hurt Locker seems realistic to people who lack a fully formed notion of realism, in my opinion. I also liked how it deals with that phenomenon where we lose track of parts of ourselves and find ourselves doing pretty silly things to recapture those neglected fragments. I mean, it's not a great film but not every film needs to be a great film. I like the indie aesthetic. It kind of seems to blend the 90s independent film with a more contemporary sensibility. B

Next up was Half-Life. Of the movies I watched over the weekend, this is the one I wanted to watch again. (Unfortunately I won't have time to do so.) It's another movie that picks up the neglected thread of that spirit of independent filmmaking that had me so fascinated in the 1990s. It's this movie about these Korean Americans in some ostensibly Californian city in what seems to be the near future or alternate present where global warming has led to various problems including an explosion of the jellyfish population which is destroying the fishing industry. All this quasi-apocalyptic stuff happens in the background though and is made more a part of the setting than the plot and I really liked that. The story is basically about this family of a mother, her boyfriend, and her two daughters and the family of said eldest daughter's gay adoptee best friend (His mother is played by LA Law's Susan Rattan!). There are animated sequences periodically and the whole thing leads to a surreal, dreamlike quality which I naturally adore. I was kind of distracted but I really enjoyed it. B+

Paris 36 (aka, Faubourg 36) is a French movie about this theater in a Parisian suburb (I think) in 1936. It gets taken over by some gangster developer who wants to tear it down but somehow he decides he wants to be beloved by the people so he lets the theater put on their variety show. Beyond that it's sort of blah blah blah plotwise. A friend of mine who hosted one of those Sunday morning screenings of it last spring told me it was a mess and looking back on it, I guess it kind of is a mess. It's kind of a dull mess though so it doesn't really come across that strongly as such. I rated it three stars on Netflix though because it was pretty and engaging, even if I was reading blogs and things online during the last third. It's the kind of thing I wanted to like but I guess it didn't really do enough for me. Maybe I'll watch it again and see if it's any better if I'm paying closer attention. I'm not sure it will be. C

I thought Taken looked all right when it came out, based on the trailer, but the reviews weren't that great so I stayed away. I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. I mean, there's no pretense at art here but it seemed somewhat original in its tone. The things that make other films of this genre kind of cheesy were implemented with a lighter touch here, despite shootouts with gangsters and lurid sex slave stories. I'm not surprised that the director is French. There's something not quite American about this film and I quite liked it. I mean, I don't know if I'd watch it again but it kept me engaged from start to finish and I had a smile on my face through most of it and that counts for something. I mean, I guess the whole sex slave thing can be viewed as opportunistic or exploitive but I liked that it tried to inject some contemporary relevance into a genre film. I felt like the theme of governments and criminals colluding for financial gain was very topical. It's an age of corruption but the movie never got sanctimonious about it and there's no big scene in the movie where Parisian sex slave trafficking gets wiped out, you know, like in those movies where the primary victim is rescued and then there's music and slow motion and sombre faces as bad guys get arrested and countless victims are taken into the arms of the good guys. So, while my appreciation for this film is mostly for executing a tired genre in a fresh and engaging way, I also appreciate the moral ambiguity and the realism that doesn't try to redress the world's calamities in 90 minutes so that we don't have to worry about it at night anymore. B

We streamed the documentary Strange Culture via Netflix.com through my roommate's projector and while the quality wasn't really what you'd get from a DVD, perhaps, it was really kind of impressive, given that you're projecting a movie streaming from the internet onto a screen that large. I mean, I'm not sure how big the actual projection is but it's probably around six feet squared. As to the film, I quite enjoyed it. The story was fascinating to me. It has also those liberal pet themes like government overreach, big business, the dark side of the food industry, man versus the machine, speech. It's about a guy who was part of an art collective that tries to educate people about things like genetically modified foods. One morning, this guy, Professor Steve Kurtz, discovers that his wife has died in her sleep. A paramedic sees science equipment and suspects terrorism. Homeland Security gets involved and tries to paint Mr. Kurtz as a terrorist, despite that all the bacteria in the petri dishes are completely harmless things he ordered from the internet. FBI agents find an invitation to an art show that has some Arabic writing on it and decide that it's proof he's operating as part of a terror cell or something. Eventually, they realize he doesn't have weapons of mass destruction and charge him with mail fraud because he didn't submit a requisition form to the universtity for the $256 worth of supplies he bought. This case went on for four years and the movie doesn't stick around for the verdict, which is one of the things I really liked about this movie, because if you finish with the trial it becomes about the court case and not about something much larger. I think that aspect is particularly fantastic. I also quite liked the way they use actors (including Tilda Swinton) to reenact certain events, particularly at the beginning, and then it switches to a more conventional mode with the real people, then switches back and forth between interviews and reenactments until it goes a little meta and the actors speak as themselves and so forth. I thought it was great. It's experimental and innovative. It tells an important story. It has Tilda Swinton in it being fabulous as Hope Kurtz and fabulously zany as herself. A

Then, finally, we watched Funny People. I actually watched the first half hour before I went to bad that morning and I thought it seemed all right. Like it might have potential. Sadly, I soon discovered last night that the potential was quickly disposed of and it went on for way too long. I'm going to get all SPOILER here because it was a bad movie and it doesn't seem like I shouldn't. Anyway, this movie would have been better if Adam Sandler stayed sick. Or, even if it ended shortly after he found out he was going to live. Instead it sticks around for another hour or three with this dull story of him trying to get back his ex-girlfriend, who has been married for 12 years to Eric Bana, with whom she has two children. The bits with Seth Rogen and his friends are slightly entertaining but there's too much about this irritating comedian and his irritating movies which look somewhat worse than his actual movies. I sort of like the way the movie shows us these clearly awful movies and shows how people are still fans of them. I think it's great that people in California can be that in touch with reality. I could go on about how stupid this movie is but, like Jewel Mayhew indicated of Miriam Deering in Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte, I'm not prepared to give another minute to this movie. D

PS- I'd love to know if the words "full-throttle body shock" are in the press release for The Hurt Locker. Every bit of praise I see for that movie uses that phrase or something similar about an adrenaline rush. Puke. Also, I kind of liked Police, Adj. but why in the hell does every review of it refer to the climactic conversation as "exhilarating"? I can't imagine that's the word for it. Watching it when I did, I felt like it was clunky but that I appreciated idea enough to like the movie as a whole. I feel like most journalists must have IQs of 115, give or take seven points.

02 January 2010

Baby Jane, My Mother, Your Mother, Bashir, J.Lo

This last week my boyfriend has decided to mix things up by going and renting old DVDs of his own choice. Early in the week he rented a bunch of sort of classic films he'd never seen: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, All About My Mother, Waltz with Bashir, and Y tu mama tambien. Then last night he picked up Out of Sight with George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez. In effort to keep a better record of the films I watch in 2010 than I did in 2009, I feel like I should begin by noting down my feelings about the movies I just mentioned. You see. I actually feel more interested in talking about the various books I'm trying to read right now but as it falls outside the scope of this blog, we'll stick to the subject at hand. Or what have you.

Watching What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? again after all these years confirmed my belief that Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte really is quite superior. I mean, I enjoy What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? well enough but it's not like I'd ever really need to possess a copy of it and return to it like with Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte. I actually dozed off halfway through so I can't really give too many thoughts about the movie itself, except they be memories of previous reflections. One thing I've noticed about watching these digitally mastered DVDs of things you've only ever seen on VHS or on TV is that sometimes it seems like a revolution of some kind and other times, like in this case, it seems to alter the mood of the film in a somewhat alienating way. I guess I preferred the dark and murky quality to the VHS version, which is kind of a weird thing to find myself thinking. I feel like I'm getting nostalgic about VHS (even though I don't even have a fully functional VCR) ever since I discovered the rich assortment of out of print movies my local video store has on VHS. I guess the most I have to say about this movie is that it made me nostalgic for any number of other Bette Davis movies, most of all the one mentioned above. The BF didn't really see the big deal about the movie but I don't know that it's really his kind of movie. He didn't believe me that he should watch Now, Voyager instead... B

The BF did however quite like All About My Mother. I like it, too, but watching it again after several years has taught me that people are perhaps right that Talk to Her really is the better film. I remember watching this one for the first time though and thinking it felt like a revelation. It spoke a lot to who I was at the time it came out: who I was, what I liked, what I was up to. I've been going back and watching some older Almodovar movies lately (like the High Heels, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and the underrated gem Kika) and I kind of feel like I still prefer his less mature 90s era films even though I can honestly say I've never seen a Pedro Almodovar film that I didn't like. I've seen all of them except the first three and The Flower of My Secret and I'd rate them all at least four out five stars. Strangely, the one I've felt least enthusiastic about is his new film, Broken Embraces. I've heard I need to watch it again. I'm sure I will. What's funny to me about watching All About My Mother again is that it doesn't seem as powerful or relevant or moving as it did ten years ago. I guess the things that were shocking or surprising then are no longer shocking or surprising and that I'm nearly ten years older as well. This movie made my best of the decade list, which wasn't really numbered but it was probably at about number five. Watching it again, I don't know that I'd keep it there and it's caused me to want to go back and watch everything from the last ten years all over again. B+

The other night was the first time I watched Waltz with Bashir since I saw it in the theater the night of the Super Bowl, which must have been in January (?). I wonder if the difference in the way I experience it comes from the lack of surprise and suspense that comes from a first viewing or if it's more to do with the difference in scope of watching a movie on a large screen in a multiplex and watching it curled up with my boyfriend on his couch. Maybe the trouble with watching movies in our homes is that we're too comfortable in our own space. Maybe it's just me. Maybe I was just too cozy for this movie. Or maybe it just needs to be seen large or maybe it just doesn't warrant repeated viewings like I thought it might. I remember being surprised and enchanted by the scene from which the film pulls its title but when I watched it again on DVD it didn't really seem to have the same surprising poetry. I think I wept a bit when I saw it in the theater. The moment where it switches from animation to documentary footage hit me like a boot to the stomach the first time around and it's still a relatively powerful part of the movie. I guess movies are also like drugs in the way they keep you trying to reproduce the same highs you've had before. B

I was actually glad he got Y tu mama tambien because it's on SOOO MANY of these best of the decade lists I've been going over and I wanted to see it again because I didn't really get the big deal when I saw it the first time around. I'm still not sure I do. I think one problem is when the film came out it seemed to have this reputation that it was this very risque, homoerotic film. It didn't seem all that risque to me then and it certainly wasn't as homoerotic as I wanted it to be. I guess I had really gotten excited to see a gay movie that wasn't completely terrible. Oh, well. In any event, my expectations this time were completely different than when I first saw the thing and I kind of appreciated it in some ways. I kept thinking to myself: This movie seems to be doing a similar sort of thing as The Headless Woman so why am I reacting so indifferently? I guess I felt like the only thing that seemed to interest me about the movie very much were the relief shots of daily life for the hoi polloi in Mexico. Maybe I should have tried watching it again and see if the information at the end of the film made what came before it any more meaningful. It was pretty, I suppose, but essentially it just seems like a soap opera about some privileged boys in an underprivileged country. Perhaps I've sat through too many Wes Anderson movies to care much about privileged young people and their exploits? I mean, I guess the characters aren't completely uninteresting but shouldn't a great movie be beautiful or show us some new insight or anything? What makes this movie better than Marie Antoinette? B

That brings us up to last night when we watched Steven Soderbergh's Out of Sight. It was all right. I mean, it was bad, but it was entertaining. I appreciate that some of the things that make that sort of movie so annoying sometimes were very understated here. The movie sort of has potential but it just didn't do it for me. I noticed when I looked it up beforehand that it was nominated for Academy Awards for editing and for adapted screenplay and I couldn't help but smirking at the dialogue sometimes but I can kind of see what's good about the writing. The cast was kind of good, even though it seemed like George Clooney was playing himself and like Jennifer Lopez was kind of miscast. Maybe that's what didn't pull off the movie enough for me, that she doesn't really seem believable here. She's not strong enough or serious enough and she's too pretty. It's like, her lipstick was a little too perfect, you know? I sometimes have felt that growing up in the 80s and 90s we got the short end of the stick culturally. Maybe it's just that now, in this moment of decline, America is kind of the pits. It really seems like a sort of dead culture. I hope there will be life in the world, yet. Maybe someone will figure out a way to make Erich Fromm or Joseph Campbell fashionable and we'll all write poetry and stop buying so much crap. I don't think so though. C