January-February 2013 Movie Journal
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Most of the first few movies on this journal are year-end 2012 releases, as part of trying to catch up with all of the awards contenders that get released at the end of December and beginning of January. I had also temporarily suspended Netflix (which means I didn't get to see as many older movies during the first two weeks of January), but look forward to getting back on it in the next few days.
Hitchcock works as a cool curiosity more than anything else. It's solid entertainment at that, and I think Helen Mirren gave one of the strongest performances of the year here, as the film's emotional epicenter.
"I think I maybe see you a little differently than you see yourself. Yes, I see the person who fucked up, but I also see the person who saved me from being knifed over a giant-ass panda, who introduced me to psychotropic chocolate-chip cookies, who stood up for Joel, and who doesn’t make apologies for herself. You can’t just avoid everybody you screw up with."
There's nothing better than watching a movie you love after almost two years of not seeing it, and not only realizing that you still love it, but also realizing that now that you're more mature, you're able to love it in a different way and even appreciate certain things more. That's what happened here for me. When I first saw Adventureland, I could relate to the situation of the movie, because I was precisely at the "I just finished college, what the fuck do I do now?" point in my life. While that phase of my life may be over, watching Adventureland today still certainly gets the nostalgia going, and while I'm not in that situation anymore, there are a lot of other, "bigger" things in the movie that speak to me more now than they did in 2009.
Infancia clandestina (2012)
The folks at Film Movement obviously have great taste. They've distributed about a dozen films or so, and the two I've seen so far have led me to think I need to seek out all the others. Last month, I had the pleasure of seeing The Dynamiter, a great slice-of-American-life film. Now we have the Argentinian Clandestine Childhood. Here's a film that spoke to me ideologically and rattled me emotionally, both at the same time. The fact that, in the process of doing that, it also offers its share of admirable visual flourishes only makes it better. Even if you're not generally interested in movies that have at least something to do with political movements, this one is worth a try. This should've been eligible in 2012's best foreign language film race, and it should've received a nomination.
^ The weirdest doctor's appointment I've seen on film
(This is the first and only time I rented Cosmopolis, but I confess I had to watch it again the next day before I returned it, because I really needed a rewatch to make sure I knew how I truly felt about the movie)
You might feel very differently than I did about Cosmopolis. But I have no doubt that you'll understand what I'm talking about when I tell you that this movie totally absorbed and enveloped me. I'm sure this is something you've experienced: you might find a million flaws in the movie, but not one of them is off-putting enough to extinguish the hypnotic spell it had over you. Cosmopolis could've taken a shorter amount of time to say the things it says, and it definitely emphasizes and re-emphasizes certain points more than it needs to, but in spite of that, I can't say I ever grew weary of listening to it.
Zero Dark Thirty (2013)
The situation with the "Oscar hopefuls" this year is so: Lincoln looks to be the preference of those who vote on who wins the Academy Awards, most of whom are AARP members. The masses prefer Argo, and now even more so, as dozens have united themselves in outrage at Ben Affleck not getting nominated for best director. And it makes sense- Argo's not only a very good film, it's also super easy to like. Then there's Zero Dark Thirty, which is, as far as cinematic craft and artistry are concerned, the best of these three films, yet it's also maybe the more challenging to like, because this is more entertainment of the get-under-your-skin variety, and it's the only one of these three films that dares to ask difficult questions. I've already written in two other lists about this film, so I won't say much more except I feel compelled to point out once again that it's very narrow-minded to say that this film promotes torture. Just because a character in a film does something, that doesn't mean that the filmmakers believe in what the character is doing or agree with it. Rather, filmmakers may have a character do something, so that audience members will witness what the character does and will then find themselves pondering as to what's right, what's wrong, and all the gray stuff in between that. And that's what Zero Dark Thirty does. Stop thinking about things in black-and-white terms. This film showcases a recent and highly important historical development and it poses difficult questions about it, and the questions are there for you to answer them and discuss them with others. That's what great films do.
The Impossible (2012)
This is one of those cases in which you might feel "insensitive" if you didn't like this movie. "Come on, man, this is a true story! That poor family!" Luckily, I guess I'm not that much of a dick because I can't tell you I disliked The Impossible, even if I wasn't a fan of the fact that I felt like the score was constantly telling me how to feel.
"All human beings are becoming humanoids. All over the world, not just in America. We're just getting there faster since we're the most advanced country."
I can't believe this film came out in 1976 and that it still holds so much relevance for today's Facebook/Twitter/YouTube era. Remains one of my all-time favorites.
Ruby Sparks (2012)
"I cannot help but write this for her, to tell her 'I'm sorry for every word I wrote to change you, I'm sorry for so many things. I couldn't see you when you were here and, now that you're gone, I see you everywhere.' One may read this and think it's magic... but falling in love is an act of magic. So is writing. It was once said of Catcher In The Rye, 'That rare miracle of fiction has again come to pass: a human being has been created out of ink, paper and the imagination.' I am no J.D. Salinger, but I have witnessed a rare miracle. Any writer can attest: in the luckiest, happiest state, the words are not coming from you, but through you."
And the words I've written about this unforgettable film can be found here and here
Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
I actually feel that, for the movie's sake, it's too bad that it got so many Oscar nominations. That may sound strange- why would it be bad for a movie to get Oscar nominations? In this case, I think that if someone who has NOT seen it decides to see it now as a result of all the awards it's up for, that person's going to be pretty disappointed. The "greatness" suggested by all those nominations is nowhere to be found in Beasts of the Southern Wild, and it occurs to me that people may have more easily appreciated something like this if it didn't have those astronomical expectations attached to it.
For some reason, I expected that this would be the type of movie that would communicate its ideas visually rather than thorough the script. But that wasn't the case at all- in fact, the ideas are communicated way too forcefully, and it's all done through a voiceover by the lead character and through convenient appearances that are made by secondary characters. No subtlety whatsoever.
For its first hour or so, Beasts feels pretty aimless. I find myself able to recommend it because I do feel it finds its footing during the last half hour and becomes more interesting, and because I do feel like if this weren't saddled with all the Oscar buzz it's got surrounding it, people might seek it out as a curiosity and like it for what it is.
The Conversation (1974)
The Conversation registered with me much more as a commentary piece than it did as a character study. There's a feeling that the film is aiming for both, but for some strange reason, only the former resonated with me. Yes, I know that it's a 1970's Coppola film and that I'm therefore "supposed" to consider it a masterpiece, but well, as far as that's concerned, I refer you to the boxed text on the upper right side of this page. Still, there are several powerful visuals during those last few minutes that made this well worth watching to the end.
Les Misérables (2012)
This was the "Oscar movie" that I had sworn off seeing. And I had absolutely no intention of seeing it. But I was a little too emphatic about how opposed to seeing it I was, to the point that a friend of mine made it a point of dragging me to see it with her, and as you can see, she succeeded. I was afraid that this movie would be exasperating from start to finish. Incredibly, of the two hours and 40 minutes it runs, I think I only felt exasperation during those last 40 minutes. Prior to that, there's no doubt I was entertained, and yes, I'll admit it, I was even moved more often than I wasn't. While Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway are both very deserving of their nominations, that girl you see pictured above is every bit as deserving as the two of them. Speaking of acting, a big thumbs down to Eddie Redmayne for two years in a row of appearing in Oscar-bait movies and being the weak link of the cast, basically ruining several scenes. He did it in My Week with Marilyn last year, and again here this year. This is a guy who relies exclusively on wide-eyed stares and doesn't do much of anything else.
I thought I had sworn off musicals as one of the genres that simply doesn't gel well with me. The fact that I liked this (and that I may have LOVED it with a few changes here and there) makes me wonder about that. As she was physically dragging me to the theater to watch this, my friend told me that all I needed to do to enjoy the movie was "let myself go." It occurs to me that I might be doing better at that now than I was in the past. So, as shocked as I am to say this, I really don't regret watching this.
The Host (2006)
Rarely do you see a movie that combines comedy and suspense so well, but without letting the suspense lose any of its seriousness and/or without making you care any less about the survival of the characters. Maybe it's because we believe so much that these people all care about each other, and because the moments of comedy aren't tacked-on for the hell of it, but rather, they feel like an organic part of the mayhem that's taking place. Many thanks to Mackenzi for this one. :)
To Rome with Love (2012)
The quartet of Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig and Ellen Page give us what had the potential to be a great, funny story to watch for 100 minutes. The dialogue between the four them is fresh, and this story is told in a particular way that gives us more insight than usual into the characters' desires and apprehensions. Unfortunately, this is only one of several storylines in To Rome with Love, and the rest of the storylines are all devoid of charm, comedy, dramatic heft or anything that would make them at least mildly interesting. They're just filler, and boring at that.
The Paperboy (2012)
The Paperboy technically has a plot, related to a group of journalists who are investigating whether or not a convicted murderer on death row is actually guilty. But there's no real reason for this plot to exist. The film doesn't care about it. It cares about being awkward, random and exploitative, and the problem is that I felt it was more awkward and random than it was exploitative, which ruined any possibilities for me to consider this a guilty pleasure- it occurs to me that there was a certain other 2012 Matthew McConaughey film that handled this type of craziness much more effectively and with the consequence of much more entertainment. It doesn't help that The Paperboy is also saddled with one of the most disposable voiceovers I've listened to in a while.
End of Watch (2012)
Ignore the End of Watch trailer. This is not an episode of Cops. Rarely does a film like this do such a great job at carefully developing its characters, to the point that we actually care deeply about whether or not they'll survive a shoot-out. I felt dizzy even thinking about the idea of a "cop movie" that was partly shot using supposed "found footage", but End of Watch is shot so nimbly and skillfully that that's never a problem. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena are truly fantastic in a film that gives them the chance to inhabit characters who are much more than just two guys with guns and badges. This is the kind of movie that reminds me that it's a good idea, from time to time, to watch something that you wouldn't normally watch, because you might be surprised, as was the case for me here.
Mama makes the same mistake that was made last year by The Woman in Black, and it's apparently a mistake that a lot of modern "horror" movies are making: thinking that atmosphere equals terror. It doesn't. If you ask me to add up the number of seconds of this film during which I felt tension and/or scared, they'd probably add up to about 15 seconds. And when I say that, I mean 15 seconds cumulatively, not even that that there was one single scene that managed to sustain the level of fright for 15 seconds. At least The Woman in Black had a decent ending, but I can't even say that for this one.
I know that there are those who will appreciate the "artiness" involved in creating a movie that's drenched in atmosphere and supposedly ominous visuals. I'm sorry, but if a film is supposed to be classified as horror, my expectation is that it's supposed to have scenes that have me on the edge of my seat, and in which I find myself dreading what will happen next. I'm not just sad about the fact that Mama fails at this- I'm sad about the fact that horror movies that get released in theaters nowadays simply don't do that anymore. It occurs to me that I was lucky to be a teenager in the late 90's, because I had so much fun going to theaters to see horror movies with my friends/siblings/cousins back then. Movies in the vein of Scream may have had a lot of gore, but they were also downright suspenseful and nerve-wracking at times. They may not have been as "visually interesting", but when it comes to horror films, I much prefer fear, tension and goosebumps over atmosphere and artistry. But that's just me.
One of Gregg Araki's least imaginative and visually striking films, Splendor is about a girl who's in love with two guys, and since the two guys feel just as strongly for her, they all decide to enter into a three-way relationship. It might sound edgy and titillating, but the problem is that, although the female character is easy to like (and her "confessionals" are a hoot to watch), the two guys are absolute tools, with no redeeming qualities whatsoever, which makes it very hard to sympathize with her plight over whether or not to stay with them. The movie has the sheen and the music of a soft-core porn film, which I disliked at first, but I eventually found it to be pretty comical, as soon as it became obvious that it was on purpose. But this would've been much easier to like if the two male leads weren't such gawking idiots.
West of Memphis (2012)
If you've seen the Paradise Lost documentaries, you've basically seen this film already, as West of Memphis doesn't really offer much that's new. But that's as far as I'm gonna take that criticism, because Damien Echols (who co-produced this film) has heard the same complaint from other people, and has given a response that I totally understand and respect: "God forbid I should be able to tell my own story." So, yes, it's nothing new, but that doesn't make this story any less important or infuriating. This film isn't up to par with Amy Berg's last documentary (the terrific, horrifying Deliver Us from Evil), and none of the four films about the West Memphis Three has ever reached the masterful heights of Capturing the Friedmans, but West of Memphis remains a chilling, enveloping piece of cinema, regardless of whether or not you're already familiar with the story.
Barton Fink (1991)
If we had to lump the Coen brothers' movies into two categories, I'd say they have some movies that revel in silly irreverence to make some form of commentary, and then there are the more serious, nuanced films that aim to have dramatic heft. Barton Fink does a very nice job of straddling the line between both categories. I can't say it's a favorite of their filmography, but it's not something I'd mind seeing again.
Clean, Shaven (1993) (1995)
Ignore my rating. I don't really know what the correct rating for Clean, Shaven is. There were times at which I found myself deeply haunted by it and there were other times at which I felt like things were dragging. But my reaction here is definitely more positive than negative, because I can't help but give credit when I finish watching a movie and I tell myself "Well, this is not something you see every day," and that's certainly what I thought when this ended.
Warm Bodies (2013)
Warm Bodies is as thinly plotted as movies come. This is one of those classic cases where if you've seen the trailer, you've seen the movie. If you've seen the trailer, you know that the movie's concept is "he's a zombie, so he doesn't feel anything, but then he meets a human female, and suddenly he starts feeling things." That's all the trailer tells you- which is perfectly fine. The problem is that that's also all the movie tells you- which is certainly not fine. The movie stretches out the idea of "zombie starts having feelings and comes alive" for a full 90 minutes, and in doing so, it gets very repetitive and monotonous. In an attempt to try to disguise its absolute lack of ideas, the movie's got a voiceover that's peppered with quips of the "teen angst" variety, but they quickly become tiresome as well. There's a dream sequence that I enjoyed and even found a little surprising, and there are hints that the film may be interested in making commentary on how things in the iPhone era have become very impersonal and people no longer communicate with one another, but those are small bits of respite in a film that otherwise doesn't say or do anything of interest, as it simply limits itself to stretching out its unoriginal, thin premise for 90 minutes.
I'd sign any petition asking Quentin Dupieux to continue making films. We're in desperate need for more moviemakers like this. If the two of his films that I've seen are any indication, this guy has a masterful grip on weirdness and unconventionality- and I absolutely love him for it. Wrong will bore some people to tears, and it'll piss off a lot of others. It had me smiling throughout the entirety of its running time. I savored this. I loved being constantly clueless about what would happen in the next scene, and more importantly, I loved the fact that whatever did end up happening in the next scene usually resulted in much hilarity of the dark variety.
Rubber was a terrific start for Dupieux. But it now occurs to me that perhaps one of Rubber's limitations was that the main character was a lifeless object whereas the humans were mere pawns of the plot. With Wrong, Dupieux continues his delightful focus on the bizarre, but we now get the opportunity to see him do so while giving us a human protagonist that we can feel for and connect with, which makes it an even more satisfying experience. We're all amused by different things- and you can think whatever you want of me, but this movie practically hits the nail on the head for me in terms of what I find amusing.
Tadpole (2002)... (2002)
"Sometimes you don't listen so good."
"So well. Listen so well."
"See, you correct, or you add facts... or you give your own little anecdotes... but you don't really absorb the reason... the person is saying the thing that she is."
"Me, I mean. The reason I'm telling you something."
"Hmm, that's interesting."
"And silence, dad."
"Listen to what it tells you. Sometimes it's peaceful, sometimes it's a shrill scream."
I don't like calling Tadpole a guilty pleasure. It cheapens it. And I'm not gonna use a term that cheapens a movie that I happen to adore. For me, Tadpole is what I'd call a go-to film. In moments of stress, or when I need a guarantee that I'll watch something that'll definitely tickle my funny bone and make me smile, this does the trick perfectly for me. It won't have that effect on other people, though. I recognize this film's flaws- there are times at which it's pretty pretentious. But I still love nearly every moment of its 75 minutes (and you know you really love a movie when you actually wish it were longer than it is, so that you could spend even more time with these characters). Still, if there's one thing there's no doubt about, it's that Tadpole contains the funniest dinner-table scene I've ever seen. I've seen it so many times, and I still snort, laugh and gasp all the same.
I can't really recommend this film to other people, and in fact, don't take this the wrong way, but I kind of don't want other people to see it, because I'd feel like I'd be letting something I treasure very much be exposed to getting trashed by someone else who sees it- so yes, I considered not adding it to this journal and keeping my rewatch a secret, but hey, if it's a movie diary, I'm supposed to be telling you everything about my movie-watching experiences, especially the very personal ones, right? So, yes, I love it, and as bad as it sounds, I think I'd rather continue being alone in loving it.
American or not, movies about bullying always seem to have a hard time giving us villains that are more than just one-dimensional mustache twirlers. These films focus entirely on the suffering of the victims and don't care enough to explore the motivations and/or backgrounds of the perpetrators. It's the classic sin of looking at problems through a black-and-white filter- by doing that, it's easier to entertain the audience, but the opportunity to challenge them and to make them think is essentially wasted. Luckily, even though Evil is guilty of that sin, it's better than most films of this ilk, because the performances are solid and there are times at which the violence is downright raw and discomforting.
"Now no matter, child, the name
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for"
It is Margaret I mourn for. Because Margaret could've and should've been a great film, and my decision to watch it for a third time can only be attributed to a desperate desire to find in it what I may have possibly missed on the first two viewings. Because this is the type of film that I tend to love. The only thing I can conclude is that this movie is a mess, but within that mess, there's a lot that I like. I really, really like a lot of the individual scenes in Margaret, but I'm not as much of a fan of the way it all comes together. I can think of so many ways in which these scenes could've been reorganized or changed in a way that could've turned this into something amazing. It's too bad. It's not often that I find myself so fascinated by what "could've been."
"If my Aunt Helen were still here, I could talk to her. And I know she would understand how I am both happy and sad, and I'm still trying to figure out how that could be."
You don't know how badly I needed to finally be able to watch this one in the comfort of my living room.
Milwaukee, Minnesota (2003)
This one relishes its quirks and weirdness, and happily, makes it very easy for the viewer to relish them every bit as much. There's a supporting character in this movie who looks like every guy from both Minnesota and Wisconsin that I've met in my life, and the fact that he's a testicular hypochondriac made me 1) know within the first 5 minutes that I'd really like both the movie and the character, and 2) realize that this film won't be everyone's cup of tea, but hey, that's what different tastes are for. So, my thanks go out to a certain blonde, pale-skinned person from up north for bringing this hidden indie treat to my attention. :)
The Kid with a Bike (2011)
"Don't be upset if it's not the way you dream it'll be."
A friend who loved it as much as I did purchased the beautiful Criterion edition of The Kid with a Bike and shared it with me. One thing that shocked me, and that I didn't remember, was how short this movie is. My memory of it was that it inspired such an avalanche of feelings on first viewing, and indeed it did once again when I rewatched it, but it's kind of shocking that this film accomplishes so much in so little time and with such a simple story. Still remains the best cinematic experience I had last year.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2012)
This is not food porn. It's so much more, and so much better than that. This movie could've banked on just showing tantalizing images of sushi-making, which would've obviously limited its target audience to those of us who are fans of all things sushi, but Jiro wants to do something more worthwhile with its 80 minutes. This isn't a film about a chef and his various cool recipes; it's about an artist at work. I thought I was going to get some informative entertainment from this and that I'd salivate a lot; instead, I felt stimulated and even moved at times, and I'll always remember this movie whenever I find myself experiencing true, complete umami. :)
Beautiful Creatures (2013)
Beautiful Creatures has two things to say:
1. As you grow up, you're gonna lose some of your innocence, and therefore, you're likely to become a "darker" person (take a shot every time the word "dark" is used in this film, and you'll be having a great time by the 1-hour mark)
2. Love conquers everything.
If you think you'd enjoy watching a movie that repeats #1 over and over for two hours and then does a poor job of convincing us of #2, then by all means. This movie needed more Emma Thompson.
Okay, so I'll try out the monthly movie journal, and see how it works for me. 2013 is gonna bring more responsibility than I've been used to in previous years of my life, but I'd like to think that it won't keep me from getting a decent amount of movies watched. But since I'm afraid it's possible that there'll be months in which I'll watch many more movies than in others, I decided to do it bi-monthly for now, and see how it goes.
For those of you who haven't read anything I've written before, you should probably know that I've got a preference for character dramas and comedies over empty-brained action films and over-the-top musicals. But I'm open to trying any recommendations, because there's nothing better than being pleasantly surprised by a movie. As for ratings, I think this is something that's different for everyone and that really shouldn't matter much, because what's truly important is what one thought about a movie and not whether 3 or 4 stars were assigned to it. But in case you're curious, I give a film a 10 when it's that rare miracle of a movie that I know I'll treasure till I die. 7-9 means it's somewhere in the range from very good to great. 6 is my standard rating for when I considered a movie to be merely good: nothing more, nothing less. 4-5 means it's somewhere in the mediocre realm. And anything 3 or below ranges from plain bad to painful.
Perhaps the most important thing that I like to make clear is that there's no such thing as being "right" or "wrong" about a movie. We react to movies. Reactions are based on one's personal experiences and on what one knows. So, a reaction can't be correct or incorrect. If it's your honest reaction, then it's the correct reaction. I have a general hatred towards this whole idea that one is "supposed" to like (or even love) a movie because it won x number of Oscars or because so many people regard it as a masterpiece or because it was directed by so-and-so. If these are "movie diaries" we're making, then they need to be honest reflections of what we thought of a movie, and we damn well aren't obligated to say the same thing that everyone else has said about a movie. If you "disagree" with something I wrote, it doesn't mean either of us is wrong- we just had different reactions. I think it's great fun to share those reactions, and I'm happy to have started the monthly journals so that I can do that with the rest of you. Enjoy!
9 votes2013 Movie Journals (7 lists)
list by lotr23
Published 7 years, 5 months ago
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