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Film Snobs VI--Oh, no, not another thread!

Literary Snobs

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Jan 19, 2010, 8:59am Top

Er, isn't this supposed to be BOOK group?

Anyway, last night I ordered the following films, which I found for a very modest fee:

"China 9, Liberty 37" (Directed by Monte hellman)
"Our Daily Bread" (King Vidor)
"Naked Kiss" (Samuel Fuller)
"Underworld USA" ( " ")
"Fata Morgana" ("Werner Herzog)
"To Have & To Have Not" (Howard hawks)
"Four Nights of a Dreamer" (Robert Bresson)
"Hidden Fortress" (Akira Kurasawa)
"Z" (Costa Gavras)
"The Wannsee Conference" (Heinz Schirk)

Please note (he says, with the sort of arch smugness only a REAL snob can summon), that there IS NOT ONE FUCKING CGI SHOT IN ANY OF THE FILMS ON THAT ROSTER!! No green screens or digital touchups or manufactured frames.

Some of these movies have been on my "must see" list for ages. Great viewing in the weeks ahead...

Jan 19, 2010, 9:33am Top

To Have and To Have Not, that's gotta be Hemingway's worst novel. Did it turn into a decent movie?

Jan 19, 2010, 10:23am Top

Hey, Bogie and Bacall--Howard Hawks directing, you'd better believe it's darn good. Apparently, the film bears but slight relation to the book and one of the screenwriters who worked on it was none other than Billy Faulkner...

Jan 19, 2010, 10:42am Top


Jan 19, 2010, 10:47am Top

Another roundup of my watchings (and readings too, of course) - see here.

Edited: Jan 19, 2010, 12:09pm Top

Well, well, you HAVE been a busy lad.

I asked in a previous film thread if anyone had seen "Pandorum"--how about you, Ian? It's just been released over here and I think I'll be giving it a peek later this week. Looks to be better than average SF--but that's not exactly a compliment these days, is it? It was released the same week that Bruce Willis movies about clones came out and I think "Pandorum" got lost in the shuffle of summer movies. Might it be a sleeper?

Last night I watched Werner Herzog's strange Antarctica film, "Encounters at the End of the World". The South Pole certainly draws some diverse, interesting characters and Herzog is clearly more intrigued by them than he is the cruel environs outside. The shots under the ice are spectacular, exotic. And the account of the single-minded penguin will warm the hearts of iconoclasts everywhere.

(I should mention, this is the two-disk edition and there are lots and lots of juicy extras--including an hour long movie shot entirely in the water, no voice-over, only spacey guitar rock accompanying the breath-taking vistas under the sea ice...)

Jan 19, 2010, 12:09pm Top

I saw a review of "Pandorum" in Sight & Sound. They were almost nice about it. I shall probably pick up a cheap copy if I see one on eBay.

Jan 19, 2010, 12:10pm Top

...and review it.

Jan 19, 2010, 5:22pm Top

There may be no CGI in Z, but I do remember product placement, namely motordrive Nikon cameras.


Jan 19, 2010, 5:31pm Top

How do you not have product placement, when things have brand names on them?

Jan 19, 2010, 6:05pm Top

Product placement in a 1970 political thriller? I dunno, Monsieur Durick...

Jan 19, 2010, 6:10pm Top

The camera and microphone both loved that Nikon. Gathering evidence was central to the story, but the attention called to that device was excessive. I was buying Nikon at the time and was enamored but wrong.

I think product placement was bemoaned back then and that Costa Gravas might have wanted to try to make a few extra bucks is not far-fetched.


Jan 19, 2010, 8:51pm Top

Can't get enough of that Terry Gilliam guy:


(From Gord, of course.)

Jan 20, 2010, 8:27am Top

Went for a bimble around HMV at lunch-time, and picked up... a DVD of the film adaptation of Houellebecq's Atomised. I didn't know it had been made into a film. Was only a fiver too. Bargain.

I also bought "In the Shadow of the Moon", which I saw when it was broadcast on Channel 4. It was only £5, too.

Jan 20, 2010, 12:15pm Top

I'd be very curious to see how they adapt that guy's novel into a film. Another author I've been meaning to read. Maybe after Hollinghurst, a nice dash of radioactive misanthropy from Monsieur Houellebecq See how he stacks up against Celine and William S Burroughs

Jan 20, 2010, 1:04pm Top

Personally, I like his work (what I've read) and have no problem with his personal nastiness, views, etc. Makes literature a bit more interesting. Too many authors are automatons: dull-witted and unoriginal in their work (and this also manifests itself in their personalities and worldviews)...

Jan 20, 2010, 4:36pm Top

Don't forget pandering to the market and/or their fanbase. People expect their authors to be like political candidates, an idealistic personification of perfection, good behavior, and moral clarity.

Despite Houellebecq's nastiness, that doesn't make what he says inaccurate. Sometimes saying the truthful thing alienates people. When preconceptions are smashed, that usually happens.

Of course personal nastiness isn't a precondition to literary genius. Homophobic dingbat Orson Scott Card is utterly lacking in talent and is still coasting on the success of Ender's Game

Jan 20, 2010, 4:49pm Top

Don't mince words, man. I want to know what you really think of Orson Scott Card.

Edited: Jan 20, 2010, 5:12pm Top

"Underworld USA" is another Sam Fuller.

"Hidden Fortress" has slowly moved up to #1 in my Netflix queue. It may not be CGI, but it the father of the great CGI "Star Wars." I saw "The Bad Sleep Well" last weekend.

"Fata Morgana" is loosely linked to "Gates of Heaven" by Errol Morris, "Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers" by Les Blank, "Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe" by Blank, "Fitzcaraldo" by Herzog, and "Burden of Dreams" by Blank.

When Herzog was teaching at at Berkeley, student Morris kept saying: "When I make my first feature film ...." One day Herzog had enough and shouted: "Errol, when you make your first feature film, I'll eat my shoe." "Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers" was being filmed at Chez Panisse when Herzog bursts in after flying from the middle of shooting "Fata Morgana." Herzog takes off his desert boots and proceeds to cook them (with lots of garlic). Why? Because "Gates of Heaven" is going to be premiered that night. Herzog eats his shoe on stage in front of the premier. Blank documents the Herzog meal. They become fans. Blank documents the making of "Fitzcaraldo."

All are must sees.

Jan 20, 2010, 6:48pm Top

Yeah, I'd read that Lucas was influenced by "Hidden Fortress" when he made the first (er, 4th...er...fuck it) "Star Wars" movie.

Sam Fuller was a very under-rated director. One of those guys, like Val Lewton, who's rep just keeps on growing.

I love Herzog--sometimes he's full of shit but I really do believe he knows and understands the human heart. That is one boast he makes where I have to bob my head in acknowledgment. And he has the nerve to back up his ego and talent, which makes him a formidable artist...

Jan 21, 2010, 11:27am Top

The AV Club is running a feature on the New Cult Canon. Since we've once again become ensorceled by the Old and the Nostalgic. "You damn kids with your video games and your CGI and your lack of an industrialized, monopolistic Studio System."


From the article:

"When I first saw Requiem For A Dream in a screening room before it hit theaters in 2000, my A.V. Club cohort Keith Phipps leaned over to me during the closing credits and said, “Well, that’s the end of Darren Aronofsky’s career.” Keith was wrong about that—even Aronofsky’s subsequent film, The Fountain, a classic career-killer if there ever was one, couldn’t do it—but it wasn’t so outrageous a prophecy, given how punishing, uncompromising, and commercially negligent the film appeared to be. Even Aronofsky doubters, of which I include myself in some respects, have to concede the go-for-broke daring that animates Requiem For A Dream. He’s pushing audiences to the very edge of what they will tolerate (and going well over, for some) and he doesn’t seem to care about the consequences. There’s integrity in that."

Thought about Cliff while reading the last couple sentences.

Jan 21, 2010, 11:36am Top


I rather like that, Karl.

Thank you for the compliment. I'd say the remark cuts pretty close to the bone...

Jan 21, 2010, 2:36pm Top

Real Art isn't based on the market, focus groups, and work-shopping something into commercial-friendly, family-friendly, eco-green, inoffensive pap. That's what James Patterson is for. And who will remember him when kicks the bucket? Will his fate be similar to Eric Segal? Aka "Who?" Or VC Andrews? Living on, reanimated as her series drags on interminably, appealing to the non-demanding demographic that is her main audience?

What's the subtle difference between fanservice and pandering?


Jan 21, 2010, 3:30pm Top

"Fanservice"? Now that one's new to me...

Jan 21, 2010, 3:45pm Top

You can spend all day on "TV Tropes." A very informative and addicting website. But also a good resource to see whose done what tropes well and not so well.

Jan 22, 2010, 3:34pm Top

Just watched Hitchcock's "Notorious" - damn good movie.

Jan 22, 2010, 4:23pm Top

26: One of my favorite Hitchcock movies along with "To Catch a Thief" and "N by NW"...

Jan 22, 2010, 4:28pm Top

I saw Avatar in IMAX 3D again yesterday. It is a beautiful movie.


Jan 22, 2010, 4:29pm Top

26, 27: My family just watched "to Catch a Thief" a couple of weeks ago. My husband and I are introducing our almost 14 year-old daughter to Hitchcock. We started with "Rear Window." Really wish she (and us) could see "Psycho" on the big screen, though. That's how I saw it my first time (at a festival when I was a teen, not when first released) and that's the best way, obviously.

Jan 22, 2010, 4:57pm Top

I saw Psycho when I was seven. Thanks, crazy aunt. The shower scene didn't faze me too much, but Mama Bates sitting in the basement gave me nightmares for weeks.

Jan 22, 2010, 5:06pm Top

30: Seven, huh? Wow. Yeah, Mama Bates and the fly at the very end of the film did it for me.

Jan 22, 2010, 5:22pm Top

I'm currently watching "It's A Wonderful Life" for the first time... and I'm finding it surprisingly charming.

Jan 22, 2010, 5:36pm Top

32: My son saw it for the first time last Xmas when he was 16 and really liked it. It was nice for me to see it through his eyes - I appreciated it more.

Edited: Jan 22, 2010, 5:37pm Top



David Cronenberg once said that "It's A Wonderful Life" was actually a horrifying film--the entire town rendered evil and rotten without the presence of one good man. It's a truly downbeat and pessimistic view of human affairs, despite its "feel good" reputation.

All I know is that it is one film I avoid like an angry cobra. Seen innumerable times (at Christmas) during childhood/youth and that was good enough for me. Ditto "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington". Capra-corn.

And all of you Hitchcock fans should be checking out Georges-Henri Clouzot: "Wages of Fear" and "Diabolique" and "Le Corbeau". To me, he wipes the floor with Hitchcock...

Jan 22, 2010, 6:31pm Top


Jan 22, 2010, 7:10pm Top

Cliff, that's a bit unfair. I've now seen the film, and while Potter is quite clearly a capitalist shit, it's not true ti say that the town is evil without George. If anything, the film can be read as a paean to socialism, as George's views are socialist.

Jan 22, 2010, 7:23pm Top

Hey, that was Cronenberg's interpretation, not mine. I just got a kick out of a horror-meister claiming that a film as tepid as "It's A Wonderful Life" provoked that reaction.

In my case, I can't watch it because of the smarminess and cloying sentiment--endemic to Capra pictures...although I do quite like "It Happened One Night":


Jan 23, 2010, 3:15am Top

I didn't actually find it overly sentimental. The ending is sentimental, obviously; but the bulk of the film before that isn't so much. Mind you, I do like Sirk's films...

Capra also made "Lost Horizon", which is good.

Jan 23, 2010, 5:03am Top

>37 CliffBurns: - I would have thought that was "Arsenic and Old Lace".

"It's a Wonderful Life" - a film about the evil of a rampant unfettered banking system, it's a film for our times.

No recommendations for Eric Rohmer following his recent death - one of the best, and most, French directors of the last 40 years. Nothing really happens in his films but they are wonderful - "Clare's Knee", "The Green Ray", or "An Autumn's Tale" are all good places to start.

Two other French films worth searching out, and Ian agrees with this one (see his blog for details), "Un Coeur en Hiver"; and, "Une Liaison Pornographique".

Jan 23, 2010, 5:13am Top

The new Ian Dury biopic, "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll" is worth seeing, although it helps if you like Dury's music.

In the film Andy Serkis, who is very good again, sings the songs with backing from the original Blockheads, which is fine, better than trying to lipsynch most of the time but why are these versions released on a soundtrack - does anyone really want to hear Serkis or Joaquin Phoenix singing as Johnny Cash instead of the original versions?

Jan 23, 2010, 5:52am Top

Jimmy Stewart gives up his dreams in "It's a Wonderful Life" - his plans of travelling overseas, college, and even his honeymoon and the money he'd saved for it - in order to thwart evil banker Potter. That doesn't strike me as especially sentimental. He empowers the towns folk, and improves their lot by encouraging them to share their wealth and manage their finances collectively.

Edited: Jan 23, 2010, 10:38am Top

Cut Clarence the angel out, that's one big improvement.

Jargoneer, chum, I'd forgotten about "Arsenic & Old Lace" and, you're right, that one's a pisser.

As for releasing soundtracks with the actor's voice instead of the original singer, no matter how good the impersonation, THAT is a fucking disgrace. Wouldn't buy one any more than I would buy an album of "Jimi Hendrix Songs as played by Zamfir"...

Jan 23, 2010, 10:44am Top

I just saw Timecrimes (a.k.a. Los cronocrímenes). Time travel sci fi. Pretty good.

Edited: Jan 23, 2010, 10:58am Top

Don't know that one, lad--is there a trailer or something you can link to? Care to toss in a short review?

Edited: Jan 23, 2010, 11:04am Top

A short review, eh? (No tossing involved.)

Man gets mixed up in strange shenanigans, ends up by going back in time accidentally. Tries to put things right by interfering with original self (thereby becoming part of original self's present). Makes things worse. Goes back again ... no more spoilers.

Spanish. Subtitled. Low-key and engrossing.

How are things around here anyway? I used to frequent this joint, oh, months ago, but I drifted away. Now I drifted back. Hola!

Jan 23, 2010, 11:18am Top

And welcome back, Dave, ya know you're always welcome in my library/den (just bring along a decent scotch with you)...

Jan 23, 2010, 11:20am Top

Here's the trailer for "Time Crimes"--looks pretty good:


Jan 23, 2010, 11:21am Top

Good grief, you remembered me, Cliff. That's a pretty impressive form of time travel in itself.

Speaking of which, I've remembered another time travel film that I've seen only once, back in the days when BBC2 would actually show foreign films in "prime time" (of course, we didn't really have prime time in those days) on a Saturday night - "Tomorrow I’ll Wake Up and Scald Myself with Tea".

Anybody else remember that? I loved it, and I almost don't want to see it again, in case it doesn't live up to expectations.

Jan 23, 2010, 12:17pm Top

Don't know that one but what was the name of that fucked up film I watched once and could not, for the life of me, figure it out. Hang on, now I have to run downstairs to look--

"Primer", that's the one. Dunno if I was too drunk but the movie made no sense and yet it got these lovely reviews from places like ESQUIRE. Must give it another viewing (while sober).


Jan 23, 2010, 12:44pm Top

we really liked "Primer" Friends who've been closely involved w/ high tech, physics based, startups vouched for the accuracy of the principals' behavior.

Can't deny it wasn't confusing though.

Jan 23, 2010, 12:57pm Top

I will give it another look-see.

And I'm glad someone else found it confusing.

Edited: Jan 24, 2010, 7:56pm Top

I got about 2/3 of the way through Werner Herzog's "The Wild Blue Yonder" last night and it was a huge disappointment. I usually enjoy Herzog, even his minor efforts, but this one just doesn't work. A compilation of scenes shot under the Antarctic ice and aboard the space shuttle (unused 16mm footage Herzog found in the NASA archives), assembled around monologues by "alien" Brad Dourif (if anyone can play an alien, Dourif can).

It's not credible, it's totally contrived and although I'll finish it later this morning, I doubt it's going to get much better.

Meanwhile (last night), my wife, our son and his girlfriend were downstairs, watching "Rosemary's Baby" and getting the piss scared out of them...

Jan 24, 2010, 6:47pm Top

A piece on the Tolstoy film, "The Last Station", starring Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren:


Jan 24, 2010, 7:25pm Top

With Primer, think of it more as a study in behavior - reactions to inadvertent discoveries; stresses in intense small groups. The sci-fi bit is kind of a macguffin (?)..Just take it as a given and the rest of the film is a lot easier to deal with. I think we saw it 2x in the theater and 2x on dvd.

Jan 24, 2010, 7:56pm Top

I've kept it upstairs and will rewatch "Primer" in the coming weeks. If it doesn't make any more sense when I'm sober, you owe me a six-pack, Robert...

Jan 25, 2010, 9:40am Top

Ever wonder where the next Michael Bay, Zack Snyder or JJ Abrams is going to come from? Your answer is here:


Jan 26, 2010, 2:11pm Top

My little piece on Nathan Rabin and his series "My Year of Flops":


It's nice to see someone focusing on the cinema of failure as opposed to following blockbusters.

Jan 26, 2010, 11:25pm Top

Saw "Pandorum" tonight.

Can I ask a question:

When was the last time a PURE science fiction film was released? Every fucking sky-fy flick I can remember seeing in the past ten years (at least) had some sort of horror element tacked on and, frankly, I'm tired of it.

Here we have mutant creatures hunting our crew through the claustrophobic confines of a ship and--

Ho hum.

Lots of dark interiors and screeching mutants with over-sized mouths and a sweaty chick with impressive cleavage and Dennis Quaid (likable actor wasted, yet again); the script meanders all over the place and tries to throw out all sorts of red herrings that only succeed in rendering the whole thing incoherent. It seemed over-long to me and when it was finished the film definitely did NOT pass the "So what?" test. I'll watch a few of the extras tomorrow; they'll likely be better than the actual film...

Jan 28, 2010, 8:35am Top

Watched Boris Karloff in "Ghoul" last night. A bit creaky, definitely showing its age but a very effective little chiller for the early 30's. There's a scene where Karloff emerges from his crypt, looks at the wrapping on his hand, realizes a certain jewel isn't there...closeup on his face as about 5 levels of rage harden his face and fire his eyes.
If I was a kid in 1933 seeing that part of the film, I'd have to flee for the bathroom...

Jan 28, 2010, 8:38am Top

I watched a Mario Bava film, "Hatchet for the Honeymoon". I had to review it. I'm tempted to say it was stylish tosh, but it's from 1970, which is not a period noted for its aesthetic...

Jan 28, 2010, 8:47am Top

Yeah, there are folks who celebrate the films of Bava and Argento and praise them for their style and suspense. From what I've seen of Argento (in particular), he was a hack-meister with the aesthetic sensibilities of an inept butcher.

Jan 28, 2010, 8:54am Top

"Secrets of Sex" was better, and that was completely bizarre. The DVD also included a pair of b&w shorts written by, and starring, William S Burroughs.

Jan 28, 2010, 9:34am Top

60: Speaking of Karloff, I just watched The Body Snatcher from my Val Lewton collection. Great performances. Very creepy.

Jan 28, 2010, 10:45am Top

There's a lovely menace to Karloff...when he's silent. But that lisp of his can be a tad distracting. Glad you're enjoying the Lewton flicks. He could do so much with so little...

Jan 28, 2010, 4:02pm Top

Finally saw "There Will Be Blood" today. It was like a crazy mash-up, stylistically, between Terrance Malick and Stanley Kubrick And a wonderfully prescient indictment of capitalism.

Jan 28, 2010, 4:26pm Top

...and Daniel Day Lewis doing a killer impersonation of John Huston...

Jan 28, 2010, 4:40pm Top

His accent was strange and mesmerizing. He is just an oil man, after all.

An impressive portrait of Modern Capitalism as Cthulhu-esque Abomination. Never have milkshake metaphors and bowling pins been so scary.

Jan 28, 2010, 6:30pm Top

None of you nerds noticed the death of Miramax today?

Not that it matters. I just thought you guys would care.

Edited: Jan 28, 2010, 6:51pm Top

The Weinsteins sold out their stake in Miramax (for a pretty penny)--Miramax was a bit of a dead duck (as far as I know).

Now, when the Weinsteins die--hopefully of nasty, painful, wasting diseases or absorbed by their own fat and hubris--then I'll sit up and take notice.

Jan 28, 2010, 7:09pm Top

LOL, well put.

Jan 29, 2010, 2:59am Top

I watched "As You Like It" last night, the 1978 BBC version with a young Helen Mirren as Rosalind/Ganymede. There were a couple of mildly amusing jokes in it - they were probably hilarious 400 years ago. The music, with all its "hey nonny nonny no", was bloody awful. Ganymede was actually a really annoying character, and the ending was right out of the Great Big Book of Deus Ex Machina - courtier rides up and says, "the duke was on his way here to kill you all, but he met a monk and got chatting to him. And now he's converted to religion and has abdicated, and everyone in exile can come back, and you all get your land back." Wasn't too sure about the bits where Orlando woos Ganymede, pretending that she's his Rosalind. Which, of course, she is. Except, back in Old Bill's day, this would have been a man playing a woman playing a man who's being treated as a woman by another man...

Jan 29, 2010, 10:05am Top

Re: "Can I ask a question:

When was the last time a PURE science fiction film was released? Every fucking sky-fy flick I can remember seeing in the past ten years (at least) had some sort of horror element tacked on and, frankly, I'm tired of it."

I'll echo that. I was so disappointed, almost angry, after watching Danny Boyle's Sunshine. Such a promising, visual start, yet half way through Boyle had to wrench the wheel and make a beeline for the nearest space zombie laden rest stop. Payload indeed.

Has anyone seen moon with Sam Rockwell?

Jan 29, 2010, 11:24am Top

"Moon" is terrific--there are things that don't work (no spoilers) but I thoroughly enjoyed the film.

I'm with you on "Sunshine"--piece o' crap...

Jan 29, 2010, 3:20pm Top

Glad to hear it. Finally, Guy Fleegman gets his own space movie.

Jan 29, 2010, 3:26pm Top

And those of you who HAVEN'T seen "Galaxy Quest" don't know what you're missing...

Jan 29, 2010, 3:43pm Top

By Grabthar's hammer, you speak true, Cliff!

Jan 29, 2010, 4:10pm Top

76 and 77: Thanks! :) I adore that movie. It's like the novel Bimbos of the Death Sun in its right-on-target depiction of Sci-Fi/Fantasy fans, only not as dated.

Jan 31, 2010, 12:09pm Top

Finally got around to seeing "Shine." Quite a change to see Geoffrey Rush as someone who isn't an archvillain or Machiavellian sociopath.

Jan 31, 2010, 1:22pm Top

Is that the one where the guy playing his father (Mueller-Stahl?) practically chews the furniture? Rush is terrific but that guy needed serious-ass directing.

Jan 31, 2010, 11:33pm Top

80: Yeah, I agree, I was waiting for him to launch into a speech about milkshakes and then beat teen David with a bowling pin.

Feb 1, 2010, 10:51am Top

The worst films of 2009--the Golden Razzies shortlist:


Feb 1, 2010, 11:14am Top

Watched "Passenger" by Andrzej Munk last night. The director died before the film was finished, so at least half of it comprised stills and voiceover. Which actually focused the story more on the flashback - which had been filmed - and strengthened it. At tines, it felt as though a completed version would not have been as strong.

Feb 1, 2010, 11:54am Top

Helluva way to make a film--reminiscent of "La Jetee", perhaps?

Feb 1, 2010, 11:58am Top

He didn't intend to make it that way, AFAIK. The film has two narratives. One set aboard a cruise liner - which is all stills. And another set at Auschwitz - which is the film part.

Feb 1, 2010, 12:28pm Top

Sounds like it might be up my alley--do you give it a strong recommendation?

Feb 1, 2010, 1:15pm Top

Let's just say it's... interesting. Worth seeing, but I'll not be dashing out to buy my own copy.

Feb 1, 2010, 11:38pm Top

More Gord goodies--dunno how he finds this stuff. Movies so terrible, they're "unmissable":


Feb 2, 2010, 11:34am Top

Best review of Avatar ever!


It's a bit long, a bit cynical, but dang funny.

Feb 2, 2010, 12:02pm Top

"sympathy scientists from the university of p$#@!"

what a boss review.

Feb 2, 2010, 12:07pm Top

And making a comparison between Avatar and The Garbage Pail Kids movie is a stroke of demented genius.

Feb 2, 2010, 12:45pm Top

#89 OOh, I loved his takedown of Phantom Menace. But I'm at work. Will have to view later.

Feb 3, 2010, 2:30pm Top

Another "Worst Film" roster--dunno why these things amuse me so much:


Feb 3, 2010, 2:54pm Top

>93 CliffBurns: - that's a typical Empire list, dominated by big budget movies. (Empire is the kind of magazine that when they list the big films of all-time they ignore films before 1977 and ones with a script written by an adult). Batman & Robin - the worst film? It's not even the worst film on that list, step forward, Sex Lives of the Potato Men.

I think the UN have officially recognised White Chicks as the worst film ever.

Feb 3, 2010, 3:30pm Top

Okay, couldn't resist it--here's my "Worst Film List", just plucked out of the air in the past five minutes:

1) Titanic
2) 300
3) Sound of Music
4) Pearl Harbor
5) Last House on the Left
6) Friday the 13th
7) Medicine Man
8) Last Action Hero
9) Inserts
10) Lust in the Dust
12) City of the Walking Dead
13) Porky's
14) Marnie
15) Cabin Boy
16) Always
17) A.I. (two Spielbergs in a row)

I'm sure I'm missing some that will make me slap my hand to my forehead and go "Of course!" but those will do for now...

Feb 3, 2010, 3:45pm Top

No Manos, The Hands of Fate? What about Glen or Glenda? Beast of Yucca Flats? Oh, never mind.

Feb 3, 2010, 4:02pm Top

What was that POS with Arnold Schwartzenegger where he supposedly spoke "perfect Arabic?" With Jamie Lee Curtis screaming a lot? That sucked.

I would put the first three "episodes" of Star Wars in the top 5, along with Titanic. And Tootsie. I hate that misogynistic POS. Tied with Pearl Harbor, which my husband forced me to see in a theatre.

The thing is, I rarely go to see POS big budget movies anymore. They are so easy to avoid: the trailers pretty much give everything away, especially on movies designed to attract the largest possible audience.

Edited: Feb 3, 2010, 4:36pm Top

I can't remember the last time I saw a movie in a theater that wasn't one chase followed by another chase with any number of explosions sprinkled throughout. Some of them varied the story by having strange and often repulsive creatures, others just Ka-Boom and chase. They all seem to be the same movie! Mostly mindless bullshit. Even the best movie of the year, at least of the ones I saw, District 9 was little more than formulaic. Have not seen Avatar. Don't know if I ever will.

Give me my Turner Classic Movies any day. One has to look hard for a chase scene and to get a chase and an explosion in the same movie requires watching Public Enemy or some of the propagandistic war movies of the forties. Of course they occasionally play a Mac Sennett silent reel or two in which the chases are real and the trains aren't CGI'd in and don't stop for anything.

Of course to enjoy most of the movies on TCM one must be able to follow a conversation and a storyline. For the most part they replace the chases and ka-booms with you know, like, conversation. Oh, the horror. Who ever heard of using conversation to advance a story line? What a bummer, having to listen to people talk! Of course, to be honest, there is "Hiroshima, Mon Amor" (We'll always have Hiroshima) the dullest movie this side of "Eraserhead".

I haven't seen a movie in probably ten years or more in a theater that I thought was more than an entertainment. I can get all the entertainments I want from TCM, and for all their formula they are generally crafted better than the modern entertainments one is asked to pay a small fortune to watch.

Feb 3, 2010, 5:04pm Top

You are a passionate guy, Gene. I was trying to come up with a few, or even one, modern nonchase, non-kaboom movie to counter your discourse, but it seemed churlish to even try. Bravo!

Feb 3, 2010, 5:05pm Top

Gord just sent me this. Criterion is reducing the prices of some of their classic films because they've lost the rights. Here's the roster:


Feb 4, 2010, 2:49am Top

#97> I think you're trying to remember "True Lies". I thought it was a bit of a stinker as well.

Feb 4, 2010, 5:30am Top

>95 CliffBurns: - Cliff, can't say I think any of those movies are particularly good (although I would have to defend a couple of doing what it says on the tin) but the list asks an interesting question - how do you define (your) worst films?
Are they the most technically inept? Plan 9 From Outer Space.
Are they the most disappointing? The Phantom Menace.
The ones that annoy you the most? White Chicks.
The ones that get praised or become successful despite being awful? Titanic.
It's not easy to decide. People keep saying Plan 9 is the worst film ever but in some ways it is much more watchable than technically efficient films. The Phantom Menace may be puerile and boring but it's not aimed at the audience that saw Star Wars when first released.

>98 geneg: - that is a fair analysis of the modern film aimed at the multiplex - the studios are obsessed that every potential cinema goer is suffering from ADHD. A BBC reviewer said of Jim Carey's A Christmas Carol that if someone read the book after watching the film they would be surprised by the lack of chase scenes in it.
Of course, this is the consequence of making films based on set story methods, demographics, and the lowest common denominator. Film-making driven by fear.

Feb 4, 2010, 8:22am Top

jargoneer, that BBC reviewer wouldn't be Mark Kermode from 5 Live, would it? He is a superb film critic/snob and would definitely have an audience here. I need to catch up with his reviews.

Mark Kermode/Simon Mayo film reviews

Feb 4, 2010, 8:37am Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Feb 4, 2010, 8:39am Top

Our greatest TV reviewer, celebrating 40 years in the business today, is Nancy Banks-Smith.


If nothing else, read her review of "Longford". Then, of course, you'll want to read them all. And to throw yourself at her feet, in a gesture of helpless devotion.

Feb 4, 2010, 8:40am Top

Best film reviewer is Nick Lowe from Interzone.

Feb 4, 2010, 9:32am Top

"Plan 9" and "Robot Monster" have a camp quality, you're not supposed to take them seriously. Whereas most of the films on my list--with the exception of "Lust in the Dust" and "City of the Walking Dead"--gained wider release because they were "legitimate" films. I could watch "Plan 9" again, especially if I was intoxicated on something, but I wouldn't watch "Titanic" or "Pearl Harbor" a second time even at GUNPOINT...

Edited: Feb 5, 2010, 4:56pm Top

My pick for the best movie of 2009...

(wait for it)


and the winner is...

The Hurt Locker (by a quarter mile)

Feb 5, 2010, 2:07pm Top

It's enough to make you vomit--here are Hollywood's top earners:


Welcome to the era of "movies for morons"...

Feb 5, 2010, 4:06pm Top

Interesting only two women in the top 20. And the highest paid woman was #14 (Emma Watson).

Feb 5, 2010, 4:42pm Top

Good point. And on its face, an obvious blemish on the film industry.

Feb 5, 2010, 4:53pm Top

That particular face has more blemishes on it than a thirteen year old on the eve of their first school dance...

Feb 5, 2010, 4:55pm Top

Kathryn Bigelow directed "The Hurt Locker." I wager we will see a lot more fine films from her (particularly if she wins an Oscar).

Feb 5, 2010, 4:58pm Top

Michael Bay is to film as Ayn Rand is to literature: lowest common denominator, badly written, overlong spectacle for idiots.

Edited: Feb 5, 2010, 5:07pm Top

She (Bigelow) already has a pretty lengthy career, not all of it first rate material:


"Blue Steel"? "K-19"? Dreadful stuff. "Hurt Locker" may actually be the high point of her career--after this, she may return to mediocrity...

Feb 5, 2010, 5:08pm Top

Well Cliff, people do not always get first rate material to work with in Hollywood, particularly when they will take any job to put food on the table, while they are building a career. I haven't seen Blue Steel or K-19, (not likely to), but after seeing "The Hurt Locker", I would rate it in my top ten.

As you know, the system in Hollywood does not allow one to have much choice, or creative control even when one is established. I would start judging her work from this point forward.

Edited: Feb 5, 2010, 5:18pm Top

Eric, what you say is undoubtedly true--then again, there are artists who refuse to work in Hollywood and take on those shitty movies. Ms. Bigelow's oeuvre is not an encouraging one. Besides the two I mentioned (which were out and out godawful) , there's the very silly "Point Break" and the noxious "Strange Days" (though part of the blame for that ones lies with her one-time hubby, James Cameron). To my mind, other than "The Hurt Locker", the only film of note she's managed is "Near Dark", which is fun but hardly brilliant cinema...

Feb 5, 2010, 5:25pm Top

The Hurt Locker hasn't gone down too well at the US box office so I doubt even an Oscar will make much difference. ($16m at the last count).

It is worth remembering that she also wrote Blue Steel and produced K9 so she is picking her own projects.

Feb 5, 2010, 5:32pm Top

I wonder if the academy holds your earlier work against you when they vote? Would anyone be unscathed? These are not rhetorical questions, I seriously wonder if they consider your body of work.

Also, even though the oscars are highly problematic, for a host of reasons, they can give people enough clout to make better movies than what we have been getting the last 20 years or so.

Saw Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner: The Final Cut" last night, and it made me wonder why he let the studio mess up the theatrical version. I mean, he already had made "Alien". why mess with him so much?

Feb 5, 2010, 6:21pm Top

Because the studios get the last word, and they have no faith in the viewer's intelligence -- thus the mess they made of Blade Runner.

Feb 5, 2010, 10:58pm Top

120: The Director's Cut of Blade Runner is far superior to the idiotic studio cut. And while it isn't a literal rehashing of the novel, it is the gold standard of sci fi cinema. If you want a literal take on a novel to a film, the first Harry Potter flick will do ably as an example.

Is it me, or does the whole "The book was better than the film" argument smack of philistinism? Seriously, film and literature are two different with two different sets of conventions. I'd rather see the film of Jurassic Park than read the book. And the film and book of Naked Lunch succeed in their own bizarre way.

Feb 5, 2010, 11:14pm Top

The Red Riding Trilogy.

This sounds pretty sweet:


Feb 6, 2010, 4:19am Top

Saw that when it was broadcast on British TV. It's very good.

Feb 7, 2010, 12:32am Top

Just got back from watching the restored version of "Metropolis" avec the Saskatoon Symphony players and it was an amazing experience. One of the high points of my film-going life. An old, classic film in an old, restored theatre, live music...it was like being transported back in time to when film was an art form instead of mental junk food. The audience gave conductor Victor Sawa and his magnificent musicians a well-earned standing ovation.


Feb 7, 2010, 10:11am Top

Ah, the National Film Theatre used to do that sort of thing in London, once a year. Maybe they still do, but I saw in consecutive years in the 80s "The Wind" and "The Crimson Pirate" with brass, strings and the whole damn thing. Wonderful.

Feb 7, 2010, 10:23am Top

Of course, in London, England this same experience probably would've made me SWOON. But last night was pretty darn good. Tonight, "Dr. Parnassus"...

Feb 7, 2010, 1:15pm Top

Oops. I wasn't trying to detract from the all-round wonderfulness of the Saskatoon experience, Cliff. Just chiming in with a more or less on-message reminiscence.

Dr. Parnassus, eh? Sounds fun, with or without an orchestra.

Feb 7, 2010, 1:22pm Top

The Crimson Pirate? You mean the movie with Burt Lancaster? That was the first movie I ever saw in a theater, about a million years ago. My father took me.

Feb 7, 2010, 1:26pm Top

128: damn, no I don't, although that's what I said. I meant The Black Pirate, with Douglas Fairbanks - a much better idea.

Feb 7, 2010, 1:28pm Top

Ah, Douglas Fairbanks. I'm old, but not that old.

Feb 7, 2010, 1:28pm Top

124: Sounds like a great experience. I was wondering why the name Victor Sawa sounded so familiar to me, and now I realize that he'd spent a number of years here in Kitchener-Waterloo before moving west. Nice to see that he's doing so well.

Feb 7, 2010, 1:29pm Top

Your message was seen in the light it was intended, Dave. And I'm wildly envious of your good fortune.

The Symphony has plans to do more of these silent movie efforts--would love to see Abel Gance's "Napoleon" or Dreyer's "Vampyr" in such a setting. Griffith's "Intolerance". The silent version of "The Lost World". The mind boggles...

Feb 7, 2010, 1:31pm Top

I saw "Napolean" years ago, with a full orchestra, at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. It was an unforgettable experience.

Feb 7, 2010, 1:34pm Top

You lucky thing! That's about as good as it gets...

Feb 7, 2010, 1:53pm Top

#133 Was it in the early 80s? Was Carmine Coppola conducting? If so, I was there too. It was an unforgettable night.

Feb 7, 2010, 2:14pm Top

>135 EricCGibson: That was the one!

Feb 8, 2010, 9:50am Top

Back to Primer...Sci-Fi, no monsters, no chases, just a few bright. people, semi-accidental tech, and what if???

Feb 9, 2010, 7:06pm Top

Back from Saskatoon--I know, I know, you all missed me terribly.

Well, you could at least PRETEND. Bastards...

Saw "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus"; I had high expectations (as you know) and the film surpassed them. It's a superb movie and, surprisingly, not disjointed, loose ends all over the place. A wonderful performance from Christopher Plummer (definitely Oscar-worthy) and astonishing visuals, which are used in elaborate and colour the storyline, without utterly dominating it. Loved it and will definitely see it again, to enhance and deepen my understanding and appreciation for a movie that rewards multiple viewings (and deserves them)...

Feb 9, 2010, 7:54pm Top

Oh my God Cliff where have you been? Saskatoon, you say? We missed you so much!

Feb 9, 2010, 8:10pm Top

That's more like it...

Feb 9, 2010, 8:42pm Top

Thank God you weren't kidnapped by the Saskatoon gangsters!

Feb 9, 2010, 10:07pm Top

It was the wind chill that nearly did me in--hovering around -30 (Celsius) the entire time we were there. Fortunately, the hotel had a plug-in for our vehicle...and I had my lovely wife to keep me warm.

Edited: Feb 11, 2010, 9:07am Top

Saskatoon! Frozen tundra! From a (great) distance it sounds like Jack London, whose reality I would rather read about than inhabit.

Feb 10, 2010, 9:15am Top

Cliff, you had just visited Canada's most romantic city.

Feb 10, 2010, 9:43am Top

Well, it was the most romantic city while Sherron and I were there, I'll tell ya that. I really do love Saskatoon. We stayed at a hotel overlooking the river valley and while Sherron was attending her meetings, I walked about (yup, even in that bitter cold) and had a ball at bookstores, music places and, as previously mentioned, the library. We'd meet at 4:00 and have the rest of the afternoon/evening to ourselves.

Feb 11, 2010, 8:53am Top

I really liked visiting my uncle and aunt in Saskatoon...in late August, when NC summers are pretty unbearable. Still miss going up there, but will need to get a passport now.

The only time i was there in winter, for Ivo's funeral, the temps were (relatively) warm...in the 20s(F) during the day. Got to see a snowy owl which was pretty nifty.

Feb 11, 2010, 9:05am Top

Summer in Saskatchewan--can't beat it. And this dope usually spends most of it in his office, locked away like Howard Hughes. I'm such an idjit...

Feb 12, 2010, 4:07pm Top

Norman Bates celebrate his 50th (please reserve your room ahead of time, Mr. Bates can be difficult):


(Courtesy, Gord)

Feb 13, 2010, 5:52pm Top

I bundled up reasons to cross town yesterday. Hurtlocker is back in town; I missed it the first time. It was pleasant enough to sit through. A Barrett has a nice cameo role. People get shot and blown up. Quasi-adult males confront their emotions. Coming away from it I'm not sure that I got to bring a whole lot.

Errands en route got me to the shopping center fifteen minutes too late to see Crazy Heart so it remains on my list.


Feb 13, 2010, 6:29pm Top

Here's the trailer. Jeff Bridges is an amazing actor:


Is this his "Tender Mercies"?


Feb 13, 2010, 7:37pm Top

Bummer, I'm just too busy and just missed War and Peace (1956) on Turner Classics. Oh well, I'll have to settle for Roman Holiday.

Feb 13, 2010, 9:59pm Top

What, no Olympics? You can catch Roman Holiday next week, or the week after (I'd bet) C'mon! Pageantry! Speed skating! Jumping! Obscure geo-political posturing! What's not to like?

Feb 13, 2010, 10:06pm Top

Feb 14, 2010, 9:16am Top

Saw "Up in the Air," the Jason Reitman-directed movie about George Clooney firing people. The more I think back on it, the more I think I like it; don't think it's going to do too well at the Oscars, though.

Edited: Feb 14, 2010, 9:34am Top

An interesting but hardly commercial film: The Last Station, about the final months of Tolstoy's life. Cast includes Christopher Plummer (as Tolstoy), Helen Mirren as Tolstoy's wife, Paul Giamatti as Bulgarov, head of the Tolstoy Society. Certainly worth seeing, if you can find a place that shows such films.

Feb 14, 2010, 9:51am Top

I'd really like to see both those films. What a year for Christopher Plummer; two amazing performances in "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus" and "Last Station" and the guy's close to 80, isn't he?

Last night I watched Andrei Tarkovsky's "The Mirror"--what a great film. Clearly his most personal and autobiographical. The camera work, acting, story and structure were all first-rate. No wonder this guy was Ingmar Bergman's favorite director. This is a library film but I'd going to seek out my own copy--it will reward multiple viewings, I'm sure...

Feb 14, 2010, 10:33am Top

"Mirror" is my favourite of Tarkovsky's films.

Feb 14, 2010, 12:19pm Top

No wonder he and Chris Marker had such an affinity: both are obsessed with memory, the effect the past can have on the present and future, the interplay in time. I really loved the way "The Mirror" was conceived, the way it so seamlessly moved through the various periods of life; perfectly mimicking the mind's miraculous ability to instantaneously travel back and forth through time. The brain as the ultimate time machine...

Feb 14, 2010, 1:04pm Top

157: Christopher Plummer is still going strong. He'll be playing Prospero at the Canadian Stratford Festival this summer. There's no way I'm going to miss that. There are roughly 50 performances scheduled. Pretty impressive for an 80-year-old!

Feb 14, 2010, 1:06pm Top

That would definitely be one to see--and I wish i could have taken in a performance of "King Lear"; as my boys would say, I bet he "owned" that role...

Edited: Feb 14, 2010, 1:41pm Top

153 et al,

Still veering off topic but here's today's NY Times' exceptional primer Canada, with an emphasis on Vancouver street walkers:

Crib Notes on Canada, From a Canadian

Bienvenue à Canada! We want you to enjoy your stay here at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver but we also hope you’ll take this opportunity to travel beyond the Olympic village. Canada, you know, is the second-largest country by area in the world — almost a third larger than your United States. Fortunately, most of it is empty so you’re not missing much. But what there is to see may surprise you.

If you’re like most Americans, Canada conjures up words like “efficient,” “pleasant,” “boring,” “socialized medicine,” “Is Gordie Howe still playing?” and, “I’ve been to Minnesota. Isn’t it the same only bigger?”

But if you look closely, you’ll discover what we call the other side of the cereal box (“l’autre côté de la boîte de céréales”). Previous Olympic hosts try to cover up their gritty side, as the Chinese government did when it bulldozed slums in Beijing and cracked down on the local habit of spitting.

That’s not how we roll here. You see, there are really two Canadas, just as there are two kinds of bears you might meet hiking in our great wilderness. If you come across a grizzly bear, you should lie down and pretend to be dead. But if you stumble across a black bear, you must run for your life. Or perhaps it’s the other way around. The point is that there are two kinds of bears and either way you’re in a lot of trouble.

Outside the happy Olympic village, you’ll find that other Canada — a dark and edgy place. Just wander down to Vancouver’s seedy Downtown Eastside neighborhood where you’ll find homeless people, prostitutes and addicts “jonesing” for illegal drugs just as you would in any midsize American city. To help you find your way, there is even a government information center there with free pamphlets to answer all of your questions. So if you want to “see where the action is” or “take a walk on the wild side,” please go downtown and visit “our government information center.”

And that’s really just the start. Since this is the first visit for many of you, we’ve prepared the following guide to fascinating Canadian facts (“faits fascinants sur le Canada”). We think you’ll discover that Canada is not only a lot bigger than Minnesota, it’s just as interesting.

National Symbols

Canada has two national symbols, the Maple Leaf, a symbol of nature and growth, and the Beaver, which represents industry and loyalty.

According to Roman legend, the beaver, when cornered, will chew off its testicles and offer them up to the attacker. Modern biologists have dismissed this as myth. Beaver will only chew off their testicles if you ask nicely. But that’s our point: you have to ask.

National Anthem

“O Canada,” although it is permissible to substitute “God Save the Queen” or “Working for the Weekend” by Loverboy.

National Sport

We know what you’re thinking: hockey. Wrong! Our national sport is actually lacrosse, a rugged game taken from the Iroquois word meaning “to kill time until the pond freezes over.” As much as Canadians love hockey, the fastest game on ice, they enjoy curling, the slowest game on ice, even more. In fact, we’ve dominated Olympic curling except for in 2002, when the entire Canadian team tested positive for barley.

Biggest Export (By Volume)

Celine Dion, followed closely by oil.


“From Sea to Sea.” Also acceptable: “You had your turn. Give the other guy a go.”

Know Your Canadian History!

Here are some dates to remember.

1000: Leif Ericson becomes the first European to land in what is now Canada, then immediately gets in a dispute over the pronunciation of “Newfoundland.”

1600: Early settlers in what is then called New France are decimated by hunger and the harsh winter. The next year, more settlers arrive to replace them and they die of exposure and scurvy. The next wave arrives, prompting the local Iroquois to ask, “just how bad is Old France?”

1867: Almost a century after America declares its independence from Great Britain through the bloody crucible of revolution, Canada declares its sovereignty after filling out the necessary paperwork.

1937: Famed Montreal Canadiens center Howie Morenz dies after a devastating on-ice collision but still finishes the game.

1951: Famed Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Bill Barilko disappears in northern Ontario on a fishing trip, leaving generations of Toronto players to say, “Gee, I wish I’d thought of that.”

1954: Hurricane Hazel sweeps northward through southern Ontario. More than 80 people die, mostly from excitement that something from New York came to Toronto.

1976: Quebec elects its first separatist government, leading to several late-night drunken calls from English Canada saying it promises to change and French Canada eventually asking for its Leonard Cohen records back.

1980: Margaret Trudeau, the wife of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, is photographed cavorting in a Toronto hotel with a member of the Rolling Stones. A swell of national pride ensues until it is discovered that she was only with Ron Wood.

1982: After scoring an astounding 92 goals in a single season, hockey star Wayne Gretzky is declared a wimp who never helps out in his own end.

1988: Ben Johnson is stripped of his gold medal in the 100-meter sprint after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Humiliated, Johnson is reduced to running in a charity race against a horse and a stock car. He loses but the horse is later seen at a Gold’s Gym with Mark McGwire.

2009: After a devastating worldwide financial crisis, economists point to Canadian banks as a model of restraint and probity, completing neglecting to account for the hookers in east Vancouver.

Just memorize these dates and soon your new Canadian friends will treat you like a native, greeting you with a hardy “Way to go, guy,” or, “I’m sorry. You’re standing on my foot,” or “Le docteur ne peut pas vous voir pour encore six mois” (the doctor cannot see you for another six months). When you return to the United States, please tell all your friends about the great country of Canada. And don’t forget the part about the hookers.

Feb 14, 2010, 11:38pm Top

Saw Clueless tonight. A witty re-take on Austen's Emma

Feb 16, 2010, 5:29am Top

Watched The Class - while a lot of films recently have tried to duplicate the feel of a documentary this one really did feel like one. Well done - made you see the issues on both sides.

Also watched Cadillac Records, a film based on the story of Chess Records. Theoretically this couldn't fail - simply stop the story every 5/10 minutes and perform a classic from the vaults. (And they really have a lot of classics to choose - Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Etta James, Chuck Berry, Buddy Guy, Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker, et al.) Unfortunately, this is one of those films where the actors/singers get to do their versions - not a good idea, virtually all of them fail. Especially Beyonce, who plays Etta James, but sings more like Sid James (her acting is closer to Ed Wood standard).
Did one good thing though - went back and listened to some of the original music again.

Feb 16, 2010, 6:07am Top

I watched "In the Shadow of the Moon" last night. It was a rewatch. The first time I saw it when it was broadcast on Channel 4, but last night I watched the DVD. Which has an extra hour of deleted bits. Definitely worth getting on DVD.

Feb 16, 2010, 8:09am Top

>164 Jargoneer: Do you mean the French movie, The Class, jargoneer? That was a fine movie, I thought, one that anyone in the teaching profession should see.

Feb 16, 2010, 1:58pm Top

An ESQUIRE profile of film reviewer Roger Ebert and his struggles with cancer:


Edited: Feb 16, 2010, 4:25pm Top

Why ... just why?


Maybe they'll get uber-hack Terry Brooks to ghostwrite this yarn.

Feb 16, 2010, 5:08pm Top

Dear God, that's depressing.

I have developed an abiding and visceral hatred for James Cameron. That AV Club article just fuels the fire...

Feb 17, 2010, 4:45am Top

Watched "Secret Ballot" last night. It's an Iranian absurdist comedy about a young idealistic woman sent to a remote desert island as election agent. She has to travel around the villages, accompanied by a laconic solider from the island, to collect votes. One of the funniest black comedies I've seen for a long time. Stick it on your netflix / lovefilm queue.

Feb 17, 2010, 9:25am Top

Can you smell "turkey"? It ain't your oven:


The making of the new "Wolfman" movie--with the execrable Joe Johnston directing.

Feb 17, 2010, 12:42pm Top

Good news for fans of documentary films. Check out the free stuff that's now available:


Feb 17, 2010, 3:33pm Top

A list of literary works that shouldn't be adapted to film or TV again:


Feb 19, 2010, 9:19am Top

Yesterday I watched two films at the HotDocs site I mentioned:


The films were Alan Zweig's "I, Curmudgeon" and "Lovable" and they were both first rate. Those two films, along with "Vinyl" (a doc about obsessive fans of vinyl records), form a kind of trilogy about weird, disaffected people, trying to survive, stay sane and find love within the hubbub and hurry of the 21st century. I think folks here would find a lot of appreciate in Zweig's work.

The films wouldn't play at first but then I switched to the Flash Version (click on somewhere at the top right, if I remember) and they played just fine, even in full-screen.

A bit more about Zweig's oeuvre:


Feb 19, 2010, 9:33am Top

>173 kswolff: -re: Dracula entry - I second the motion for somebody to make George R R Martin's Fevre Dream. (Not that we actually need another vampire film, novel or TV series).

Edited: Feb 19, 2010, 10:03am Top

OK i think we saw the WORST movie that wasn't intended to be a parody..infact evidently it was intended to start a franchise aka Starwars, LoTR, etc..... Van Helsing
Thank goodness one doesn't have a lot invested in any one netflix flic. We attempted to watch Van Helsing w/ Hugh Jackman (generally good) and Kate Beckinsale (started out good but has sure been typecast as the female lead in a lot of stinkers) and it is up there in the anti-pantheon of the worst movies ever made. It had vampires, werewolves and ...uh vampires and werewolves AND Frankenstein's monster. It totally lacked dialog, plot, coherence. We kept waiting...far too long, about an hour, for at least a vestige of a plot to emerge - but gave up. Patty's fondness for Hugh Jackman couldn't outweigh the total awfulness of this...whatever. Officially displaced "the black hole" - (not counting inadvertent crap like Plan 9) as worst SF/horror/fantasy ..hell, maybe just movie, ever,.

We streamed "New York I love you" the other night:
New York I love you" - a follow on to "Paris je t'aime." While none of the segments were the equal of the best of "Paris" there were some sweet and amusing segments amongst the schlock. Mira Nair's segment about a Jain/Orthodox Jewish diamond merchants (with Natalie Portman as the soon to be married Jewish woman); Sunji Iwai has an amusing piece featuring Orlando Bloom as a film composer having "issues" with the director and Christini Ricci as the film director's go-between offering constant suggestions via cell phone. Finally when the director suggests that the composer needs to read a couple of long, bleak Russian novels to "get the feel" ..for what looks to be a light anime, Orlando throws up his hands in slow reader's despair and Ricci finally shows up to do a custom cliff notes; Eli Wallach and Cloris Leachman are excellent as an elderly, fond couple married for 60+ yrs just out for a walk/shuffle on their anniversary - probably the best segment; and there's a very sexy conversation between Chris Cooper and Robin Wright (Penn?) standing outside a restaurant sharing a smoke.
Worth a netflix instant download or rental for a light, generally amusing set of vignettes and/or extended jokes (though one could easily pass on the Minghella/ Julie Christie oddly constructed piece, unless one just wants to appreciate how gorgeous Ms Christie still is.) This is a dream of New York populated by naught but beautiful and "interesting" people. New York as Vogue.

But doesn't compare w/ the Jeeves and Wooster series...just started season 2 last night.

Feb 19, 2010, 10:07am Top

Poor Bob: "Van Helsing"? That one rated too high on my stink-o-meter and I stayed well away from it. I'd say from your review that it was a wise move on my part.

I picked up "Paris Je T'Aime" on used DVD a few weeks ago (my wife and I have a fantasy of going there some day) but we haven't watched it yet.

Feb 19, 2010, 1:42pm Top

Watched Von Stroheim's "Greed" (based on the Frank Norris novel, MCTEAGUE). Very bleak...and that ending...wunnerful! wunnerful!

Feb 19, 2010, 3:38pm Top

178: Anybody get get a bowling pin to the noggin in a conversation about milkshakes?

Feb 20, 2010, 11:01am Top

Watched "China 9, Liberty 37" last night. A Monte Hellman western but also, fatally, a Spanish-Italian co-production. A spaghetti western with the attendant flaws, including a good-looking lead actor who appeared to have learned his lines phonetically. He made Terence Hill look like Olivier. But there were some good shots, Warren Oates and...Jenny Agutter. Ah, Jenny Agutter...

The main reason I picked up the film was that it features a cameo role by Sam Peckinpah as one of those dime store western novelists. A really solid performance--old Sam could act, possessing a luvly sense of menace...

Feb 20, 2010, 1:44pm Top

My son and I saw "Sutter Island" last night. Wow, I really thought it was good. Very dark, but good. This is the kind of Scorcese movie I can get behind.

Feb 20, 2010, 2:50pm Top

I was curious about "Shutter Island"--but Scorsese's been on a downward track since "GoodFellas" and I hate Leonardo. Plus I read the book awhile back and didn't think it hung together, not nearly as involving and entertaining as Lehane's MYSTIC RIVER.

But I note "Shutter island" has been getting good reviews so maybe it's a case (like "Jaws" and "The Godfather") of the movie being far superior to the original source material.

Feb 20, 2010, 3:52pm Top

And it might be better or worse, too, if you go with your son or daughter.

Feb 20, 2010, 4:01pm Top

There are other movies in town to see first, but I am tempted by Shutter Island. Synthesizing from reviews and comments, one goes to it to see Scorsese making a movie, not for the drama. I can do that even if it is not my first interest.


Feb 20, 2010, 4:09pm Top

While I am admittedly a die-hard Scorsese fanboy ("You had me at Pesci and mob violence."), dude needs to get over his DiCaprio fetish. He could really do some powerful film-making if he put Daniel Day-Lewis, in full bowling pin and milk shake ferocity, with Robert DeNiro together. Then again DeNiro might be booked making a Rocky and Bullwinkle sequel or some rote policier. That guy needs a new agent double-quick.

Feb 20, 2010, 5:25pm Top

Maybe so, Karl, but I agree with an earlier assessment: Scorsese ain't what he used to be, and that can't entirely be laid at Leonardo's door.

Feb 20, 2010, 5:49pm Top

I have always been rather proud of disliking DiCaprio, but he was really good in this last movie and for once I was not irritated by him. He has grown as an actor. Which is good because Titanic was one of the worst movies I've ever seen in my life and I have avoided his movies or refused to see them as good just because of his presence, but I have to admit the guy can act and he has grown up.

I'm also not a Scorcese fan not being into gangster movies and having seen so many of them (parent of two sons, yep, we've seen a lot more action and gangster movies than I would have chosen), but this movie was really good. I like psychological thrillers, and I have to say, I really thought he did a great job with the score. It was intense and beautiful and powerful and I did not think it was overdone even though some of it was pretty dramatic.

Feb 21, 2010, 7:51am Top

DiCaprio is now a better actor than De Niro - at least he can move beyond B, not that he needs to; De Niro has been stuck on A for the last 20 years. (Note to RDN - you are not, never have been, and never will be funny).

It is now more fun listening to Scorcese talking about films than watching the ones he makes.

Saw a little of Doctor Who - Dalek Invasion 2150 yesterday - I'd forgotten how bad it is. Despite being set almost 200 years in the future London looks exactly like 1965 - no technogical or social change at all.

Feb 21, 2010, 10:02am Top

Finally saw Moon, and it is very well done. Rockwell deserves some sort of award for his performance.

Feb 21, 2010, 10:08am Top

I got past the whole "hating DiCaprio" thing after Titanic left the theaters. Yes, as an eighth-grade boy, I was annoyed that every girl in my grade was madly in love with him. Once he got to stuff like "Catch Me if You Can" I'd decided he was alright, and sticking with Marty is a good move for any actor. I'm also looking forward to his Christopher Nolan movie coming out this summer.

Feb 22, 2010, 2:21pm Top

Saw The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Philip Kaufman and edited by Walter Murch. Quality stuff ... a beautiful blend of eroticism, philosophy, politics, and cinematic craft. With "Being" and Henry and June, not to mention Quills, Kaufman remains the undisputed master of intellectual erotica.

Feb 22, 2010, 3:07pm Top

Saw the Oscar-nominated animated shorts on the weekend. Logorama was great!

Feb 22, 2010, 5:03pm Top

Yesterday I saw Crazy Heart and The Last Station.

The latter had a contrived script and mannered acting, cinematography, and editing. I felt all the time like there was a big overlay or maybe a subliminal billboard saying, "This is an art film. You must admire it." I love Tolstoy, especially when I take him religiously; this could have been an entertaining destination.

But I watched it after Crazy Heart. This is going on my good list just below Precious based not on my analysis but on my reaction. In the acting I saw that the up and coming performer loved his mentor. I found myself saying (not aloud, I was in a theater (though that constraint apparently didn't apply to others)), "Don't take him in there," and "Don't drink." I wanted to sob, but I was in a theater, so I just thought about supper (which I never got). A film this good can dull one's appreciation of another simple little work, but I think my criticism of the Tolstoy movie remains apt.


Edited: Feb 22, 2010, 5:13pm Top

I like Colin Farrell, but I could not suspend my credulity long enough to accept him as the country mkusic star he portayed. I think the producer or directors should have gone with an unknown, maybe an actual CW guy.

But Lebowski was terrific, and believable.

Feb 22, 2010, 5:12pm Top

Robert: Sorry "The Last Station" didn't grab ya. I'm usually leery of biopics but, jeez, I thought, with those two leads, how could it possibly go wrong?

I think I'll wait for it to hit the bargain bin. Ah, well...

Feb 22, 2010, 5:22pm Top

Cliff, I don't want to discourage you from seeing it. If you have the feeling that there is less there than meets the eye you can accept that and be entertained.

I noticed members of my church coming out of the earlier showing. I'll corner some of them and see whether their favorable comments (they are that predictable) hold up against my opinion.


Edited: Feb 22, 2010, 5:26pm Top

I thought The Last Station was okay, Cliff, and I said about it, above, that it's worth seeing. But I have a sense of what Robert is saying. Given the cast and subject matter, it seemed it should have been better.

Feb 23, 2010, 12:15am Top

Happy Birthday, Luis Bunuel:


(That Gord guy again)

Feb 23, 2010, 3:16am Top

I watched "The Interceptor" last night, which is another of those Russian action/thrillers with fantasy overtones and amazing stunts but a story that doesn't really make much sense...

Feb 23, 2010, 8:59am Top

Is that the one with the flying car?

Watched the first episode of Dennis Potter's "The Singing Detective" last night--second time through for the series and I'm still very impressed. Michael Gambon astonishingly good.

Feb 23, 2010, 9:00am Top

Yes. The Singing Detective is all right!

Feb 23, 2010, 9:05am Top

Cliff, there's no flying car in "The Interceptor" that I remember. But there is one bit where a 4WD gets blown up and as it somersaults in the air, another car drives beneath it.

Feb 23, 2010, 9:24am Top

Nope, I'm thinking about a different movie, one I alluded to in a previous thread. Guy becomes a superhero because of special powers in his old beater of a car.

There, I just Googled "Russian flying car superhero" (or something like that) and came up with "Black Lightning". I'm sure I posted about this previously. Here's the trailer:


Jun 16, 2011, 12:39am Top

Finally saw Danny Boyle's Sunshine. Admittedly, I was half-working while I did it. But still, a piece of crap, as gonzobrarian and CliffBurns said. The first half—heck, 2/3 was fine. It felt like it was going somewhere. Then it became Event Horizon—worse than Event Horizon.

Jun 16, 2011, 8:44am Top

My condolences. Such a waste of everyone's time.

Jun 16, 2011, 9:03am Top

204: What's wrong with Event Horizon?

Jun 18, 2011, 12:52am Top

Jesus, when, oh when, are we gonna get another decent sci fi flick?

"Event Horizon"--yeeks. That one and "Supernova" are about as bad as the genre can get.

Edited: Jun 18, 2011, 10:53am Top

Come on, Cliff, have a heart. It has Joely Richardson in her skivvies and Sam Neill as, well, that would spoil it. Suffice to say, he plays a character a bit less mendacious and sociopathic than his portrayal of Cardinal Wolsey on The Tudors

Event Horizon isn't 2001 or Solaris Not did I expect it to be when watching it. It's The Shining ... IN SPACE! Then again, I rate things based on their own merit. Yes, it's a crap cheeseball scare-fest, but it's a half-decent crap cheeseball scare-fest. Alien vs. Predator, on the other hand, is utter shite.

Put it another way:

"Garcon, I am dissatisfied with how you prepared my steak."

"Sir, you ordered a cheeseburger."

I found "Event Horizon" entertaining (even for non-Joely Richardson-related reasons), but I'm not about the nominate for the AFI 100 Best Films (sci fi or otherwise). And if I do, then I'm posting on LT drunk.

I did see 101 Dalmations last night (the animated version). Probably my favorite era of Disney animation. It did have a plot and didn't have subtitles, so that probably down another rung as a film snob. Now Empire, by Warhol ... that, my friend, is cinema!

Jun 21, 2011, 9:57am Top

Watched "Dog Day Afternoon" for the first time in about 30 years. Still holds up pretty well, though smarty-pants Sherron pointed out some inconsistencies in Pacino's character that made him more likeable than he should have been. Another fine performance by the under-appreciated John Cazale. Terrific editing by Dede Allen, very kinetic, adding to and enhancing the unfolding drama.

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