Film Journal 2008

* after title indicates film was seen on dvd/video
^ after title indicates film was unfinished.

Title in italic indicates that I had previously seen the film

Title in Blue is TV.

001. (Jan 01) THE KINGDOM (2007, Peter Berg)* 35

002. (Jan 01) THE ORPHANAGE (2007, Juan Antonio Bayona)*

003. (Jan 01) HATCHET (2006, Adam Green)* 37
Not to pick on an inexperienced craftsman but Will Barratt's cinematography really hurts this film; the night scenes are overlit when they should be dark and moody, like they should be showing on a television (a violent episode of Goosebumps perhaps or a very low-end Masters of Horror) and not in a theater on a bigscreen. There are some gruesome killings after the lugubrious setup, but they add very little beyond fodder for the Fangoria crowd.

004. (Jan 02) THERE WILL BE BLOOD (2007, Paul Thomas Anderson)* 95

005. (Jan 02) ZODIAC - DIRECTOR'S CUT (2007, David Fincher)* 78
Third viewing, first of Director's Cut (which is barely different from the theatrical cut). No change in grade from last viewing.

006. (Jan 03) THERE WILL BE BLOOD (2007, Paul Thomas Anderson)* 95

007. (Jan 04) HARD TIMES (1975, Walter Hill)*

Second viewing, last seen 05-13-07. Same grade for this genre classic.

009. (Jan 04) DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978, George A. Romero)* 99

Umpteenth viewing, first since 10-25-02. Grade was 100. First film ever seen on a blu-ray disc.

010. (Jan 05) BADLANDS (1973, Terrence Malick)* 96
Second viewing, first in ten years.

011. (Jan 05) THE NEW WORLD (2005, Terrence Malick)* 93

Third viewing, second of theatrical cut. Last seen 5-18-06, given 92.

001. (Jan 06) THE WIRE 5.1: MORE WITH LESS (2008, d: Joe Chappelle, s: David Simon)*

002. (Jan 07) THE WIRE 5.2: UNCONFIRMED REPORTS (2008, d: Ernest Dickerson, s: William F. Zorzi)* 71

012. (Jan 11) SUNSHINE (2007, Danny Boyle)* 68

No Change in grade. The third act shift makes this one of the major heartbreakers of last year but it has stretches of greatness.

s001. (Jan 11) DAD'S DEAD (2002, Chris Shepherd)* NR

s002. (Jan 11) MOLE HILLS (2006, Dan Arnold)* NR

013. (Jan 11) SHOOT 'EM UP (2007, Michael Davis)* 25

014. (Jan 12) WAR (2007, Philip G. Atwell)*

015. (Jan 13) THE HEARTBREAK KID (2007 Bobby & Peter Farrelly)* 36

Malin Akerman is terrific here but this is pretty dire material and the Farrelly's can't do much to humanize these grotesque characters.

016. (Jan 13) THE HOAX (2006, Lasse Hallstrom)* 58

003. (Jan 14) THE WIRE 5.3: NOT FOR ATTRIBUTION (2008, d: Joy Kecken & Scott Kecken, s: Chris Collins)* 68
A transitional episode that is clearly setting up some awesome stuff to come.

004. (Jan 19) THE WIRE 3.1: TIME AFTER TIME (2004, d: Edward Bianchi, s: David Simon)* 83

005. (Jan 20) THE WIRE 5.3: NOT FOR ATTRIBUTION (2008, d: Joy Kecken & Scott Kecken, s: Chris Collins)* 70

006. (Jan 20) THE WIRE 3.2: ALL DUE RESPECT (2004, d: Steve Shill, s: Richard Price)* 86
"Where do you guys get those hats with the bills over the ear like that? I go into all the city stores and the only ones I can find are the ones with the bills in the front."
"No, it's the same. You just turn it sideways on your head."

007. (Jan 20) THE WIRE 3.3: DEAD SOLDIERS (2004, d: Rob Bailey, s: Dennis Lehane)* 78

008. (Jan 20) THE WIRE 3.4: AMSTERDAM (2004, d: Ernest Dickerson, s: George Pelecanos)* 84

009. (Jan 20) THE WIRE 3.5: STRAIGHT AND TRUE (2004, d: Daniel Attias, s: Ed Burns)* 79

010. (Jan 21) THE WIRE 5.4: TRANSITION (2008, d: Daniel Attias, s: Ed Burns)* 82

017. (Jan 26) STREAMERS (1983, Robert Altman)* 53

Second viewing, first in 10 years. Grade was much higher and I have no idea why.

018. (Jan 26) MAD DETECTIVE (2007, Johnny To & Wai Ka-Fai)*

019. (Jan 27) MAGNOLIA (1999, Paul Thomas Anderson) 93

Umpteenth viewing, second viewing in theater (last was 1999).

020. (Jan 27) BRINGING OUT THE DEAD (1999, Martin Scorsese)*

011. (Jan 28) THE WIRE 5.5: REACT QUOTES (2008, d:Ahnieszka Hollan, s: David Mills)* 74

021. (Feb 01) BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997, Paul Thomas Anderson) 90

Umpteenth viewing, second in the theater (last was 1997).

022. (Feb 03) CLOVERFIELD (2008, Matt Reeves) 47

023. (Feb 04) THE KING OF KONG: A FISTFUL OF QUARTERS (2007, Seth Gordon)*

024. (Feb 09) WE OWN THE NIGHT (2007, James Gray)*

012. (Feb 11) THE WIRE 5.6: THE DICKENSIAN ASPECT (2008, d: Seith Mann, s: Ed Burns)* 61

013. (Feb 11) THE WIRE 5.7: TOOK (2008, d: Dominic West, s: Richard Price)* 76

025. (Feb 16) GONE BABY GONE (2007, Ben Affleck)*

014. (Feb 18) THE WIRE 5.8: CLARIFICATIONS (2008, d: Anthony Hemingway, s: Dennis Lehane)* 79

026. (Feb 18) TORSO - US THEATRICAL CUT (1973, Sergio Martino)

The grade for the uncut DVD version remains 83. This version lacks a good deal of the violence and coherence of the preferred Anchor Bay cut of the film.

027. (Feb 23) MURDER PARTY (2007, Jeremy Saulnier)* 56

028. (Feb 24) THE NAKED PREY (1966, Cornel Wilde)*

029. (Feb 25) HALLOWEEN - UNRATED DIRECTOR'S CUT (2007, Rob Zombie)*
I assumed the gang war that broke out during my theatrical viewing of Zombie's Halloween had detracted from the experience. I assumed incorrectly, this is even spottier on second viewing where you can really see the wheels turning in the plot mechanics and trite back story elements of the first half. Zombie's flaws as a filmmaker have never been more pronounced than they are here; scenes don't have any structure or form to them, strange camera choices (usually close-ups) that strike a dissonant chord even in a piece that is already more or less tone deaf. No major differences between the "Director's Cut" and the original theatrical version, even though apparently about 12 minutes were added to the films bloated length.

030. (Feb 28) 30 DAYS OF NIGHT (2007, David Slade)* 28

031. (Feb 29) CHICAGO 10 (2007 Brett Morgen) 41

015. (Mar 01) THE WIRE 5.9: LATE EDITIONS (2008, d: Joe Chappelle, s: George P. Pelecanos)*

032. (Mar 01) THE DARJEELING LIMITED (2007, Wes Anderson)* 61

My problems with the busy art direction have calmed with this film on DVD and some of the plot mechanics are also less bothersome to me now, probably because I focused less on them and just went with the emotions of the piece.

033. (Mar 02) THE DAMNED (1969, Luchino Visconti) 44

034. (Mar 08) LA PROMESSE (1996, Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne) 70

035. (Mar 08) DARKTOWN STRUTTERS (1975, William Witney) 39

036. (Mar 09) BE KIND REWIND (2008, Michel Gondry) 50

016. (Mar 10) THE WIRE 5.10: -30- (2008, d: Clark Johnson, s: David Simon)* 64
Overall Average Grade for S5 is 73.

037. (Mar 11) PAYDAY (1973, Daryl Duke)* 54

039. (Mar 14) HARD TIMES (1975, Walter Hill) 83

040. (Mar 15) BEOWULF (2007, Robert Zemeckis)* 58

041. (Mar 16) KIDNAPPED (1974/2001, Mario Bava and Lamberto Bava) 48

I was much higher on the Rabid Dogs cut of this film (it's on my top ten list) and I really need to rewatch it to see what the hell went wrong here in this remixed version by Lamberto Bava. The only things that standout as being different working just from my memory are the inserted scenes of police procedural elements and a different, quite terrible score.

042. (Mar 16) SHOCK (1977, Mario Bava [and an uncredited Lamberto Bava]) 40

043. (Mar 22) SATANTANGO (1994, Bela Tarr) 62

044. (Mar 23) DAN IN REAL LIFE (2007, Peter Hedges)*

045. (Mar 23) IN BRUGES (2008, Martin McDonagh) 47

046. (Mar 23) THE BANK JOB (2008, Roger Donaldson) 43

047. (Mar 23) DOOMSDAY (2008, Neil Marshall) 40

048. (Mar 23) FUNNY GAMES (2007, Michael Haneke) 84

This is a scene-by-scene, shot-by-shot remake of the 1997 film which I saw most recently in 2006 and gave a 87.

049. (Mar 25) SNOW ANGELS (2007, David Gordon Green) 78

050. (Mar 28) THE FAMILY [aka VIOLENT CITY] (1970, Sergio Sollima) 35

051. (Mar 29) BOARDING GATE (2007, Olivier Assayas) 66

052. (Mar 29) ROSETTA (1999, Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne) 60

053. (Apr 04) THE LAST MOVIE (1971, Dennis Hopper) 31

054. (Apr 06) THE FASTEST GUN ALIVE (1956, Russell Rouse) 65

055. (Apr 06) WICKED WOMAN (1953, Russell Rouse) 62

056. (Apr 06) THE STORY OF MOLLY X (1949, Crane Wilbur) 44

057. (Apr 10) THE MAN BETWEEN (1953, Carol Reed) 70

058. (Apr 10) ONE WAY STREET (1950, Hugo Fregonese) 33

059 (Apr 12) STRANGER ON THE THIRD FLOOR (1940, Boris Ingster) 27

060. (Apr 12) THE FACE BEHIND THE MASK (1941, Robert Florey) 68

061. (Apr 12) GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH (1990, Joe Dante) 81

062. (Apr 13) THE PRIVATE FILES OF J. EDGAR HOOVER (1977, Larry Cohen) 64

063. (Apr 13) MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS (2007, Wong Kar-Wai) 51

064. (Apr 13) THE RUINS (2008, Carter Smith) 71

065. (Apr 19) THE VERDICT (1946, Don Siegel) 58

066. (Apr 19) WRONG IS RIGHT (1982, Richard Brooks) 26

067. (Apr 19) MANDA BALA (SEND A BULLET) (2007, Jason Kohn)* 44

068. (Apr 20) RED HEAT (1988, Walter Hill)* 46

069. (Apr 27) FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL (2008, Nicholas Stoller) 59

070. (Apr 28) SHOTGUN STORIES (2007, Jeff Nichols) 67

071. (May 01) SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT (1999, Trey Parker)* 65

I wasn't a fan of the show at the time the movie came out and so I never bothered to see the movie, despite the acclaim from practically everyone upon release, but I have come to like the show more in recent years and always meant to catch up with the movie. I think this movie shows the early seasons of South Park in the best possible light; putting the scatological humor in a social commentary that has some bite to it, but Parker and Stone's more intelligent material surfaced after this movie when they became more critical in their observations and more experimental in the ways they tweaked their craft. The movie feels too long at 81 minutes and runs out of innovation early, padding out a typical storyline with too many songs and riffing on previous jokes rather than expanding upon them.

072. (May 04) SUNSHINE (2007, Danny Boyle)* 68
Third viewing, no change in grade.

073. (May 04) RAMROD (1947, André de Toth) 40

074. (May 04) BULLFIGHTER AND THE LADY (1951, Budd Boetticher) 52

075. (May 06) BATTLE SQUADRON (1969, Enzo G. Castellari)

076. (May 06) HIGH CRIME (1973, Enzo G. Castellari)

077. (May 09) A QUIET PLACE IN THE COUNTRY (1969, Elio Petri) 61

Very effective early when it is all mood and Ennio Morricone's brilliant abstract score adding tension and dissonance when there is no apparent reason for it. Shifts towards a ghost story eventually but it's too bad the film couldn't just maintain the level of abstraction of the opening section which is so wild and unpredictable. Great opening credits that recall Persona from three years previous.

078. (May 13) UNTRACEABLE (2008, George Hoblit)* 35
I think Hoblit is better than most at these disposable thrillers and he brings smart casting and a strong sense of location to a very dumb script that probably shouldn't have been brought to the screen by this particular group of players because the message and conviction they bring is continuously soured by hypocrisy.

079. (May 15) STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE (2008, Errol Morris) 55

080. (May 16) LITTLE MURDERS (1971, Alan Arkin) 74

Seen approx 8 years ago on VHS, first viewing in theater.

W/O. (May 16) DEATH LAID AN EGG (1968, Giulio Questi)
Walked after two reels because the print was terrible (a better version can be found on dvd/torrent sites) and I wasn't particularly engaged with it at roughly the half-way mark.

s003. (May 17) ANASTASIA (1962, Albert and David Maysles) mixed

s004. (May 17) CUT PIECE (1965, Albert and David Maysles) pro

s005. (May 17) IBM: A SELF PORTRAIT (1964, Albert and David Maysles) PRO

081. (May 17) THE BOOST (1988, Harold Becker) 52

082. (May 18) REDBELT (2008, David Mamet) 44

083. (May 18) MULBERRY STREET (2006, Jim Mickle)*

084. (May 23) DILLINGER IS DEAD (1969, Marco Ferreri)

s005. (May 24) MEET MARLON BRANDO (1965, Albert Maysles, David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin)

s006. (May 24) ORSON WELLES IN SPAIN (1966, Albert and David Maysles)

s007. (May 24) A LOVE STORY (1974, Albert and David Maysles) mixed
Not listed on IMDB or the Maysles website, this is a featurette made for Martin Ritt's Conrack (1974)

s008. (May 24) UNTITLED (1966, Albert and David Maysles) pro
Not listed on IMDB or the Mayles website, this is a film that covers the European film scene of 1966 with a visit to the set of Grand Slam (?) with Edward G. Robinson doing his best impersonation of Edward G. Robinson, Fearless Vampire Killers with Roman Polanski doing a sketch of himself and Grand Prix with James Garner pointing out that the helicopters fly aggressively to follow the cars.

s009. (May 24) WITH LOVE FROM TRUMAN (1966, Albert Maysles, David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin) pro
I could have sworn the title was "The Nonfiction Novel: A Conversation with Truman Capote," but what do I know?

085. (May 25) RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981, Steven Spielberg)* 54

First viewing in probably about twenty years.

086. (May 25) PLAYTIME (1967, Jacques Tati) 78

Partially viewed before on DVD before I gave up and opted to wait for a 70mm screening. This was that 70mm screening and it is indeed a graceful and funny film in that format. The final sequence of ordinary life turned into an amusement park is absolutely dazzling.

087. (May 26) DJANGO KILL ... IF YOU LIVE, SHOOT (1967, Giulo Questi)* 36

088. (May 26) LEGENDARY WEAPONS OF CHINA (1982, Liu Chai-Liang)* 69

089. (May 26) INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE (1989, Steven Spielberg)*
First viewing in 19 years, when I liked it but was 8 years old. I average 44 on the original trilogy and I'm second-guessing even seeing the new one at this point.

090. (May 26) RECOUNT (2008, Jay Roach)* 53

091. (May 28) RAMBO (2008, Sylvester Stallone)* 45

092. (May 31) ZARDOZ (1974, John Boorman) 37

093. (Jun 01) FIRST BLOOD (1982, Ted Kotcheff)*

Might have been a good film with a more even-handed approach to the cop characters.

094. (Jun 04) RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II (1985, George P. Cosmatos)* 21

Stupid and inept film that answers the Studio question "How do we get Rambo back to Vietnam when the war has been over for a decade?" with a retarded grunt and a declarative "I like violence."

095. (Jun 05) CLEANER (2007, Renny Harlin)* 33

Stupid and nearly inept. My respect for Renny Harlin as a competent workman continues to decline.

096. (Jun 08) DIRTY HARRY (1971, Don Siegel)* 63
Second complete viewing, first in widescreen. Hugely influential on the Italian poliziotteschi and American exploitation films of the 70s with the jazzy, abstract score, go-for-broke cop and beautiful scope compositions. Otherwise, this film creaks a bit because it is so simple-mindedly plotted and many of the set-pieces have been recycled for years now to the point where they have become genre standards.

097. (Jun 08) MAGNUM FORCE (1973, Ted Post)* 60

Confronts the criticism that Dirty Harry was a fascist film with a set of villainous cops who are actually a fascist elite squad that take criminals into their own hands and so the bad guys are allowed slightly more dimension than the Scorpio cartoon from Dirty Harry, but the film doesn't really have much interest in confronting the social commentary implicit in the plot and is too busy recycling the plot elements from the previous film in lazy but entertaining ways. Also, Ted Post is sure no Don Siegel.

098. (Jun 08) BREEZY (1973, Clint Eastwood) 53
Far more interesting as a 60s versus 50s generational critique rather than the March-December romance that develops in an increasingly formulaic manner.

099. (Jun 08) HONKYTONK MAN (1982, Clint Eastwood) 65

Partially viewed previously as a youngster. Aimless and wandering but never-the-less entertaining coming-of-age story that serves as a precursor to what Eastwood would succeed at to a greater extent a decade later with A Perfect World.

100. (Jun 11) FRENCH CONNECTION II (1975, John Frankenheimer) 77
This basically abandons the cinema verite style of the William Friedkin original for an abstract, muscular-minimalism that still maintains much of the authenticity of the original. I would wager there are fewer than a dozen lines in English that actually move the skeletal plot forward which allows Frankenheimer the opportunity to make a very stripped down film. The middle section where the tables are turned on Doyle and his character is turned inside out is fantastic; as is the final action sequence which leads to one of the great abrupt endings I've ever seen.

s010. (Jun 13) BEER PARADE (1933, Dick Huemer) pro

101. (Jun 13) MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH (1976, Rene Daalder) 54

Second viewing, last seen about ten years ago on VHS, when I liked it much more.

102. (Jun 14) THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008, Louis Leterrier) 42
I was in the same grade neighborhood on Ang Lee's HULK five years ago and I think a lot of the problems lie with the Hulk story. The relationships are too conveniently lined with coincidence and the Hulk to too impervious to attack and disconnected from humanity to be engaged with. Norton, Penn and Leterrier try to add some humor to the Hulk mythology which is effective but the film is never light on its feet and could have been more effective at a leaner running time.

103. (Jun 14) IRON MAN (2008, Jon Favreau) 46
Speaking of more effective at a leaner running time, there is no reason this film needed to be over two hours and it's too bad that Favreau didn't stick to the material that was more in his range; the light, verbal comedy rather than the bloated action nonsense that engulfed the final third of the running time.

104. (Jun 15) THE SIGNAL (2007, David Bruckner, Jacob Gentry and Dan Bush)* 56
The breakdown goes'a something like this:

105. (Jun 15) INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDON OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (2008, Steven Spielberg) 40

106. (Jun 15) THE STRANGERS (2008, Bryan Bertino) 65

107. (Jun 15) THE HAPPENING (2008, M. Night Shyamalan) 27

108. (Jun 16) [REC] (2007, Jaume Balaguerò & Paco Plaza)* 80

109. (Jun 16) THE FLOCK (2007, Andrew Lau)* 31

110. (Jun 19) THE MACHINE GIRL (2008, Noboru Iguchi)* 6

111. (Jun 20) HEARTBEAT DETECTOR (2007, Nicolas Klotz) 65

112. (Jun 20) LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008, Tomas Alfredson) 42

113. (Jun 21) THE MONEY PIT (1986, Richard Benjamin)* 33

I last saw this when I was about 6 years old, I quite enjoyed it then.

114. (Jun 21) LA FRANCE (2007, Serge Bozon) 56

115. (Jun 21) ELITE SQUAD (2007, José Padilha) 30

116. (Jun 22) THE ENFORCER (1976, James Fargo)* 49

117. (Jun 22) EIGHT DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER (1983, Liu Chai-Liang) 75

Second viewing, last seen 10-05-04 on dvd.

118. (Jun 23) SUDDEN IMPACT (1983, Clint Eastwood)* 58

Secon viewing, first about a decade.

119. (Jun 23) MCCABE & MRS. MILLER (1971, Robert Altman) 98

Third viewing, first in theater.

W/O. (Jun 24) THE MAKIOKA SISTERS (1983, Kon Ichikawa)

120. (Jun 24) MY WINNIPEG (2007, Guy Maddin) 76
Maddin operating near peak form with casually funny observations about Winnipeg and his own autobiography and previous film works. He creates something here that is perhaps most similar to The Fiery Furnaces underrated masterpiece "Rehearsing My Choir," where reality and fantasy are layered upon each other to create a personal history that combines different forms and texts into a metahistory; commenting upon the need to create a history, while also creating something dauntingly original and moving.

121. (Jun 24) FEAR(S) OF THE DARK (2007, Blutch, Marie Caillou, Pierre Di Sciullo, Jerry Kramski, Lorenzo Mattotti, Richard McGuire, Michel Pirus & Romain Slocombe) 63

Striking Black & White animation and a sustained tense atmosphere overcome the usual limitations of the anthology genre. The use of black in the final section is particularly awesome.

122. (Jun 25) THE DEAD POOL (1988, Buddy Van Horn)* 51

123. (Jun 25) CHOKE (2008, Clark Gregg) 39

Fight Club by way of High Fidelity but something goes deeply wrong when combining those two world views and embracing elements of satire from the former into a new age, whining Romantic Comedy.

124. (Jun 25) SHADOWS (1959, John Cassavetes) 54

s011. (Jun 25) THE NEW YORKIST (2007 Dana O'Keefe) con

125. (Jun 25) THE PLEASURE OF BEING ROBBED (2008, Joshua Safdie) 60

Somewhere between Mumblecore and French New Wave you will find this slight, precious film which just floats from moment to moment barely bothering to build scenes or sequences; it's all about small moments. Kind of built to evaporates right before your eyes but, surprisingly, I have found myself thinking back on it even more fondly than the grade would indicate. Safdie is one to watch.

126. (Jun 26) BALLAST (2008, Lance Hammer) 34
Unconvincing regional realism; with a mannered screenplay and performers not up to the heavy-lifting that is required of them.

127. (Jun 26) CARGO 200 (2007, Alexey Balabanov) 41

The plot is strung with such outrageous coincidences and twists of logic that I can't help but read it as a parable about the evils of communism in its waning days. However, as such it is toothless and mechanics are too confused to have much impact beyond disgust at the visceral sadism.

128. (Jun 27) BAGHEAD (2008, Jay Duplass & Mark Duplass) 66

129. (Jun 27) BAY OF ANGELS (1963, Jacques Demy) 73

130. (Jun 27) MODEL SHOP (1969, Jacques Demy) 58

131. (Jun 28) REUNION (1989, Jerry Schatzberg) 40

132. (Jun 28) THE YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT (1967, Jacques Demy) 93

133. (Jun 28) THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG (1964, Jacques Demy) 99

134. (Jun 29) HELLBOY - UNRATED DIRECTOR'S CUT (2004, Guillermo Del Toro)* 46

135. (Jun 29) ROMAN POLANSKI: WANTED AND DESIRED (2008, Marina Zenovich)* 61

s012. (Jun 29) PRESTO (2008, Doug Sweetland) NR

136. (Jun 29) WALL•E (2008, Andrew Stanton) 49

137. (Jun 30) PREDATOR (1987, John McTiernan)* 67

Umpteenth viewing, first complete viewing in more than ten years.

138. (Jun 30) WHITE DOG (1982, Samuel Fuller) 68
Second viewing, first in theater; last seen 6-19-03 on bootleg DVD when the grade was 70.

139. (Jul 01) WANTED (2008, Timur Bekmambetov) 42

140. (Jul 02) PERSEPOLIS (2007, Vincent Paronnaud & Marjane Satrapi)* 59

141. (Jul 02) ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD (2007, Werner Herzog) 70

142. (Jul 02) ALICE DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE (1974, Martin Scorsese)

143. (Jul 03) BAD BOYS (1995, Michael Bay)* 25

Second viewing, first since theater thirteen years ago. I would have probably been in the 50s then.

144. (Jul 03) CALIFORNIA SPLIT (1974, Robert Altman)* 91
Third viewing, last seen 8-18-04. Grade was 92 on last viewing.

145. (Jul 04) CRUMB (1994, Terry Zwigoff)* 80

Third viewing, last seen 12-13-07. Grade was 82 on last viewing.

s013. (Jul 06) HOLD ME WHILE I'M NAKED (1966, George Kuchar) mixed

s014. (Jul 06) KNOCTURNE (1968, George Kuchar) con

s015. (Jul 06) LEISURE (1966, George Kuchar) con

s016. (Jul 06) HOUSE OF THE WHITE PEOPLE (1968, George Kuchar) con

s017. (Jul 06) MOSHOLU HOLIDAY (1966, George Kuchar) con

s018. (Jul 06) ECLIPSE OF THE SUN VIRGIN (1967, George Kuchar) con

s019. (Jul 06) COLOR ME SHAMELESS (1967, George Kuchar) mixed

146. (Jul 07) VANTAGE POINT (2008, Pete Travis)* 44

The TV plotting here where everything builds to a series of cliff-hangers every ten minutes or so, will ensure that this film will play very well in five years from now when it's on TNT.

147. (Jul 08) DEFINITELY, MAYBE (2008, Adam Brooks)* 51
Inventive, sharp writing successfully maneuvers through Rom-Com cliché and convention until it succumbs to them and then finally surrenders most of the goodwill it earned. Terrific work from Isla Fisher and Rachel Weisz, less than terrific work from Ryan Reynolds.

148. (Jul 08) THE YEAR ONE (2009, Harold Ramis)^ 46
First test preview of Harold Ramis' director's cut (or director's assembly cut) of The Year One and if Apatow's producing track record is any indication this will probably test heavily in the next year and the jokes are refined and the clunkers removed; so this grade is subject to change. The problems here are actually similar to most of the other Apatow joints thus far: the film is funniest when episodic and falls apart when it becomes slave to more conventional plotting (ie. Judd Apatow is where third acts come to die). Two other things becoming obvious: Michael Cera is always funny, even when he isn't given anything to do, and Jack Black needs to add a few more moves to his arsenal if he wants a prolonged career as a leading man.

149. (Jul 09) STOP-LOSS (2008, Kimberly Peirce)* 62

Very nice regional flavor and some terrific work from Ryan Phillippe but unfortunately the narrative paints itself into a corner early and there is very little contrast in the character studies.

150. (Jul 09) THE LAST SEDUCTION (1994, John Dahl)* 86
Umpteenth viewing, last seen 6-02-03. I was higher on it before. This film looks more and more like a fluke with career best performance by Fiorentino, a funny screenplay by Steve Barancik (who hasn't worked much since) and confident, stylish direction from Dahl. Even the supporting cast is terrific: Bill Pullman like a put-upon Daffy Duck, J.T. Walsh making an impression while talking on the phone in his office and even (hack director) Peter Berg is ideally cast as the ball-less loser that Fiorentino chews on for awhile before spitting into a meat grinder.

151. (Jul 10) THE TRACEY FRAGMENTS (2007, Bruce McDonald)* 30
My only previous experience with McDonald was The Love Crimes of Gillian Guess which was a similarly frenzied, radically stylized take on the downfall of a girl. Both films seem to use narrative as a means to play around with style rather than an visceral engagement with the material; which irks me to no end.

152. (Jul 11) THE FLY (1986, David Cronenberg)* 92

Fifth viewing, first in 6 years.

153. (Jul 11) LOVE AFFAIR (1939, Leo McCarey) 48

154. (Jul 11) HOLD BACK THE DAWN (1941, Mitchell Leisen) 69

155. (Jul 12) ANOTHER 48 HRS. (1990, Walter Hill)* 34

Second viewing, first in 15+ years. This film marked the beginning of the nasty 90s decline for Hill, who is not engaged with this lame material and substitutes buckets of broken glass for coherent or exciting action sequences.

156. (Jul 12) GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS (1992, James Foley)* 79

Sixth viewing, first in about 8 years.

157. (Jul 13) THE BUCKET LIST (2007, Rob Reiner)* 51

Not as bad as I expected but the whole thing is too soft: the illnesses should have been portrayed with more seriousness in the first third, the relationships more conflicted in the second third and the final third shouldn't have completely collapsed into a gooey mess. Still a decent effort considering the premise.

158. (Jul 13) THE VIOLENT PROFESSIONALS (1973, Sergio Martino) 59
Funny and snappy middle section almost puts it over the top, but it is too unfocused and the action is not particularly well-shot or convincingly edited.

159. (Jul 13) BIG GUNS (1973, Duccio Tessari) 37
Seen with the title NO WAY OUT. Also known as TONY ARZENTA. It could have been called THE VIOLENT PROFESSIONALS.

160. (Jul 14) HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY (2008, Guillermo del Toro) 50

Del Toro does have a consistent vision but I'm still not convinced that is a vision worth serious consideration; he seems stuck in pre-adolescence.

161. (Jul 14) GATTACA (1997, Andrew Niccol)* 55

Wait, why don't people ever look at pictures anymore?

162. (Jul 15) PROFIT MOTIVE AND THE WHISPERING WIND (2007, John Gianvito)* 62

A poetic monument that occasionally overreaches its established style; sometimes to minor annoyance (the on-screen text and one early jump-cut) and sometimes to major distraction (the coda).

163. (Jul 15) 2010: THE YEAR WE MAKE CONTACT (1984, Peter Hyams)* 53
Hyams obviously has an eye and it's refreshing to see him play so many scenes in very wide shots where the humans are dwarfed by the landscape (both natural and mechanical). Unfortunately, the film does get quite labored in its sci-fi nerdiness and expositional voice-over; which probably delighted fans of the Clarke novel but too often makes the film look like a lost episode of Star Trek.

164. (Jul 16) CONTEMPT (1963, Jean-luc Godard) 80

Second viewing, first in theater. I liked it a little more before.

165. (Jul 16) S.O.B. (1981, Blake Edwards) 52

Second viewing, first in theater. I liked it a little more before.

166. (Jul 16) THE PARTY (1968, Blake Edwards) 70

Hilarious and exhausting; often at the same time.

167. (Jul 17) THE BOXER'S OMEN (1983, Kwei Chih-hung)* 38

In case you ever wondered what it would look like if Lucio Fulci directed a Shaw Brothers film, well here you go.
Interesting only if you are fascinated by lo-fi horror effects or want to trace the history of Shaw Brothers films past their prime into the non-shawscope, low production value world of exploitation films. It even has a healthy does of nudity, which is a rarity for Shaw Brothers films (at least from the ones I've seen so far).

168. (Jul 17) DEEP RED (1975, Dario Argento) 75

Umpteenth viewing, first in theater. I guess I was formerly so excited by Argento's style that I was willing to overlook some of the sillier plot elements and character motivations. Still very exciting filmmaking, especially the way Argento cuts so frantically whenever he wants to express tension or the way he rhymes a camera set-up as a storytelling shorthand. The wind-up toy that storms into the room is one of the great creepy moments of the horror genre. I should re-evaluate TENEBRE and OPERA soon.

169. (Jul 17) THE SECRET OF DORIAN GRAY (1970, Massimo Dallamano) 30

Eurotrash take on the Oscar Wilde story is comically wrong-headed and misjudged.

170. (Jul 18) STANLEY KUBRICK'S BOXES (2008, Jon Ronson)* 62

This is like grading a DVD extra. The premise is terrifically exciting and Ronson's willingness to track down small details from the boxes is exemplary but he doesn't really find anything all that noteworthy in the boxes and ends up drawing some conclusions that don't seem warranted in the documentary.

171. (Jul 18) THE DARK KNIGHT (2008, Christopher Nolan) 68

172. (Jul 18) HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT (1937, Frank Borzage) 71

173. (Jul 19) BEAUTIFUL GIRLS (1996, Ted Demme)* 65
Umpteenth viewing, first in 10 or so years. Pretty easy to see how I thought this was the pinnacle of good writing when I was a teenager but now it is far too cute and pleased with itself (not unlike Rosenberg's script from the previous year THINGS TO DO IN DENVER WHEN YOU'RE DEAD, which I also loved as a teen). The scenes that really do work here are between Hutton and Portman (still her best performance) and my familiarity with it from years ago makes it like putting on an old forgotten record and enjoying the way it used to make me feel.

174. (Jul 20) THE MERCENARY (1968, Sergio Corbucci) 76
Print was missing the opening credits and closing "The End" moment. Also, the second half of the third reel was shown before the first half due to a lab mistake.

175. (Jul 20) NAVAJO JOE (1966, Sergio Corbucci) 69

176. (Jul 21) LA VIE DES MORTS (1991, Arnaud Desplechin)* 72

177. (Jul 24) THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966, Sergio Leone) 83

Second viewing, first in theater. This is the happy medium between the pulp of the first two Dollars films and the abstraction of ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (which, for me, crosses over into self-indulgent); the painstakingly composed widescreen is there and so are the pauses, but it is all about the storytelling. The virtuoso sequences have plenty to do with the characters and the best of Leone's career is, perhaps, Tuco's search for the grave sight that will change his life. The importance of Morricone's score cannot possibly be overstated, it is one of the best of his career and his career is definitely nothing to sneeze at; his scores for THE MERCENARY and NAVAJO JOE are just about as terrific.

178. (Jul 25) MILANO CALIBRO 9 (1972, Fernando Di Leo)* 70

Great score and unexpectedly twisty plot make up for ugly, overexposed photography and some terrible performances.

179. (Jul 25) CLUNY BROWN (1946, Ernst Lubitsch) 61

Somewhat of a mixed bag as far as Lubitsch is concerned, but still funny enough for a pass.

180. (Jul 26) UNDER THE VOLCANO (1984, John Huston) 41

Apparently a great novel. Peter O'Toole would've knocked this role out of the park, but Finney is annoyingly mannered to my taste.

181. (Jul 28) FINGERS (1978, James Toback) 81

Second viewing, first in theater and in 10+ years. Toback's personality is still an annoying feature here; his bravado and bluster, and Keitel's character feels at times like Toback indulging his masturbatory fantasy of himself. However, there is a vulnerability here and that is probably the important feature that opens the film up to the viewer and eventually makes it such a powerful film. Keitel's nervous energy (along with the information that most concert pianists make it by the time they are 10) strikes him as an overgrown enfant terrible, stuck between the two forces of his parents which also show the dichotomy of his character and ultimately highlight the nature of the tragedy. The scene where Keitel stands back to watch the girl he loves embraced in a ménage à trois while he tries to communicate his love to her with music they'd shared is one of the most heartbreaking scenes I've ever seen in a film- fragile and humiliating. I also love the expressive jump cuts on Keitel's face after he has fulfilled his revenge and blood strikes his face.

182. (Jul 28) EXPOSED (1983, James Toback) 53

A mess that's neither convincing as a woman's picture or a spy thriller. However, Nastassja Kinski is alluring, naive and sultry; needing to be saved but also perfectly able to explode. No wonder so many male filmmakers created testaments to her image in the 1980s; she was the ultimate Madonna-whore.

183. (Jul 29) KES (1969, Ken Loach) 74

Second viewing, last seen 6-23-03 when grade was 92. This just didn't seem as focused or coherent to me on this viewing and the odds too stacked against our protagonist; with the bet coming out of left-field, almost like an excuse for the downfall of the third act. Still, the emotional payoff to the film is quite heartbreaking and Loach does find ways to introduce welcomed humor (funniest bit being the soccer match with the pushy P.E. coach).

184. (Jul 30) INGLORIOUS BASTARDS (1977, Enzo G. Castellari) 76

Second viewing, first in theater. I doubted that a second sober viewing would live up to my stoned viewing last year, but I was wrong. This film is just a terrific piece of entertainment. Last year, I wrote: It’s easy to see why Tarantino wants to pay homage to this in an upcoming film because it is already so clearly an homage to the countless war action films that came out of America in the 50s and 60s (Dirty Dozen, Where Eagles Dare and a touch of Bridge on the River Kwai for good measure). This is easily as entertaining as those films and is quite loving in its adherence to familiar clichés while constantly trying to surprise you with a left-field battle sequence or some odd-ball, non sequitur bit of character development.

185. (Jul 31) THE BAND WAGON (1953, Vincente Minnelli) 78
Second viewing, first in theater. The "Girl Chase" ballet is one of the best musical sequences ever filmed and is truly the highlight here; but there is still plenty of other notable numbers and laughs enough to get through some of the choppy plot mechanics and the long shadow of the masterpiece SINGIN' IN THE RAIN from the previous year.

186. (Jul 31) BRIGADOON (1954, Vincente Minnelli) 39

A year after THE BAND WAGON finds Minnelli slumped into the cinemascope technicolor broadway musicals that dominated the rest of the fifties and basically sucked most of the air out of the genre. Minnelli doesn't yet seem sure of how to use his scope compositions and makes the film feel more stagebound than it needed to be and long stretches rely on just the charm of the performers to get us through the silly story and unmemorable musical numbers.

187. (Aug 01) HARLAN COUNTY U.S.A. (1976, Barbara Kopple) 87
An interesting contrast to last year's PROFIT MOTIVE which took a very theoretical approach to this struggle while Kopple focuses on the faces and songs of these people and captures something that is both powerful pro-union propaganda and cultural anthropology, showing a view of Kentucky that is never condescending or openly supportive of their behavior.

188. (Aug 01) THE LINEUP (1958, Don Siegel) 59

Some very modern crime material wrapped up in a very square DRAGNET package of procedural filmmaking.

017. (Aug 02) MASTERS OF HORROR: JOHN CARPENTER'S CIGARETTE BURNS (2005, d: John Carpenter, s: Drew McWeeny & Scott Swan)* 68

189. (Aug 02) NAKED GUN: FROM THE FILES OF POLICE SQUAD! (1988, David Zucker)*
Seen it a hundred times before and it is never not funny to me, even as I can recite the jokes as they play out.

190. (Aug 02) RONIN (1998, John Frankenheimer)* 63

Why do all the Europeans drivers flash their lights at the cars as they drive towards them on the wrong side of the freeway? Perhaps these are the nicest drivers ever in the history of the car chase.

191. (Aug 02) HARAKIRI (1962, Masaki Kobayashi) 92

Brilliantly structured mystery and subversion of samurai myth.

192. (Aug 03) THE DARK KNIGHT: THE IMAX EXPERIENCE (2008, Christopher Nolan) 68
No change in grade. IMAX format sure does allow for some beautiful sky-line shots.

s020. (Aug 04) BUGCRUSH (2006, Carter Smith)* pro

Intriguing body horror work from Smith shows that he deserves to share credit for the successful adaptation of THE RUINS this year with that other Smith.

193. (Aug 05) SYDNEY (1996, Paul Thomas Anderson) 79

Third viewing, first theatrically and first with the title "SYDNEY" and no opening credits.
Feels more carefully scripted and thoughtful in language than the Anderson films that followed: with Jimmy telling Sydney that "You're one of those old timers, I've got respectability for that" trying to sound smarter than he is; while Sydney is controlled and measured in everything he says, which is perfect for his character who is the directing all of the action in the first two acts: inviting Clementine into John's room slyly insuring that they will hook-up and then inviting her to go out shopping with him. The big events that challenge Sydney and reveal different parts of his personality are perhaps too blunt and forceful for the material, but they also allow for terrific performances and exciting filmmaking.

s021. (Aug 06) LONDON STORY (1980, Sally Potter) con

194. (Aug 06) HIGH HOPES (1988, Mike Leigh) 42

I guess those that rise above the income level of the working class are immediately transformed into cartoons; once they are cartoons though there is nowhere to go with the material except allow your working class heroes to look down upon them with extreme pessimism for the state of the human race.

195. (Aug 06) MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE (1985, Stephen Frears) 46

So many misguided directorial interferences here that it was definitely a good thing that Frears soon sold out to Hollywood and provided competence and wit to strong source material.

196. (Aug 08) EDEN LOG (2007, Franck Vestiel)* 37

Minimalist sci-fi film that begins intriguingly mysterious but just grows increasingly frustrating and eventually starts to look like a glorified Role-Playing Game, one in which the rules are never clear and the visuals are not particularly impressive.

197. (Aug 08) PUSHOVER (1954, Richard Quine) 66

198. (Aug 08) DRIVE A CROOKED ROAD (1954, Richard Quine) 82

Two compassionate Noirs from Quine. The first is hurt by the conventions dictated by the production code: you know that MacMurray is doomed to escalate his criminal maneuverings because of his initial actions and so his character becomes less conflicted and interesting as the film goes on and he is forced into unnecessary actions to appease the direction the film is forced into. That said, there is still quite a lot to like in PUSHOVER, especially in the ways Quine tweaks the DOUBLE INDEMNITY storyline with minor character revisions that allow for much more humanity and eventually tragedy. The much better film is DRIVE A CROOKED ROAD which is a genre splice of a sweet romantic melodrama with a fairly nasty noir, that draws you into the plot mechanics with careful character study and then turns the film towards its crime plot after having created characters that we feel a lot of warmth towards. Mickey Rooney is actually a real discover here as the scar faced driver that is so desperate for love that he is willing to turn to crime; it's quite a performance.

199. (Aug 09) EMPEROR IN THE NORTH POLE (1973, Robert Aldrich) 49

Very much a product of the 70s, with Marvin's A No. 1 fighting the establishment's Shack who has absolutely no tolerance for the bums that try to get a free ride, but the film doesn't play remotely fair with its dichotomy and finally is reduced to a stacked deck power struggle primed for ultimate audience satisfaction.

200. (Aug 10) THE MOON IN THE GUTTER (1983, Jean-Jacques Beineix)* 40

Occasionally dazzling cinematically and very impressive production design, probably a film that demands to be seen on a big screen (not that I'm holding my breath waiting for someone to show this film maudit) but Beineix was clearly reading too many of his press clippings for DIVA or otherwise had no ideas about the Goodis pulp other than in terms of tone; he just seems lost as to telling a coherent story or building scenes with momentum. It looks like I was right when I wrote about Kinski as being a Madonna-whore, so much so that she is either violently out of control or (more often) angelic, floating above the gutter with her glowing eyes and fluffed out hair; a dream sequence addresses this conflict directly in the film with Depardieu cradling a statue of the Virgin Mary after marrying Kinski and then met with a vision of her replacing his raped sister.

201. (Aug 10) THE VIKINGS (1958, Richard Fleischer) 67

Surprisingly entertaining considering my usual distaste for the historical swashbuckler genre.

202. (Aug 10) THE BADLANDERS (1958, Delmer Daves) 51

Western based on W.R. Burnett's "The Asphalt Jungle" is more plot heavy than most of the westerns I've been seeing lately but the overall impact is very slight and the characters are not particularly witty or memorable.

203. (Aug 11) DEAD BANG (1989, John Frankenheimer)* 47

Sure the hero is flawed and an outsider in the police force but so was every other cop in an action movie in the late 80s. Frankenheimer seems content here just to keep everything as routine and straightforward as possible.

204. (Aug 11) MAN ON WIRE (2008, James Marsh) 59

Mike D'Angelo: "Undeniably stirring, but I have multiple issues: Nyman, 9/11, abrupt denouement, was PP independently wealthy?"

205. (Aug 12) STRANGERS WHEN WE MEET (1960, Richard Quine)* 76
I like how these melodramas come with such handy signifiers built into the character: Larry Coe is a architect literally building a house while destroying a home and the house construction lasts the duration of his extra-marital affair. The career as an architect is divided into artistry and business; with the mistress supporting the artistic side while the wife pushes him into conforming to model houses which are more profitable. There is a lot of that stuff here, even the way the supporting characters are drawn as allegory for the result of continued behavior in either direction, but at the same time the characters are full-blooded and novelistic in their breadth of character detail.

s022. (Aug 12) LITTLE FLAGS (2000, Jem Cohen) mixed

s023. (Aug 12) BLESSED ARE THE DREAMS OF MEN (2006, Jem Cohen)

s024. (Aug 12) LUCKY THREE AN ELLIOTT SMITH PORTRAIT (1997, Jem Cohen)

This is really haunting now with all its flash frames of Smith disappearing while his angelic voice soars through three of his best songs.

206. (Aug 12) CHAIN (2004, Jem Cohen) 41

Should have been a non-narrative short.

207. (Aug 13) WAZ (2007, Tom Shankland)* 34

DVD title in the US is the generic THE KILLING GENE.

208. (Aug 13) ANGEL HEART (1987, Alan Parker) 80
Third viewing, still awesome.

209. (Aug 13) BIRDY (1984, Alan Parker) 57

Some very good scenes, two good performances and a very helpful score by Peter Gabriel but still I'm not quite sure what to make of this film. It's not simply about male friendship and it certainly isn't about the troubles of veterans losing their innocence in a foreign war because these two were already damaged before they were drafted. So what then?

210. (Aug 14) DEEP END (1970, Jerzy Skolimowski) 86

Second viewing, first in about 10 years. I had forgotten that the first act was roughly all pitched at comedy and that the bitterness really drifted in gradually with mixed signals from the characters until it breaks out into a full blown tragedy of manners. The middle section of hot dogs, sex shows and a leg-cast wearing prostitute is masterful in its deft mixture of comedy, surrealism and nervousness: it actually captures just about every nuance of adolescent sexuality.

211. (Aug 14) THE WITCHES (1967, Luchino Visconti, Mauro Bolognini, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Vittorio De Sica) 43
The Breakdown:
Bolognini's SENSO CIVICO - con
Rossi's LA SICILIANA - con
De Sica's UNA SERA COME LE ALTRE - mixed

212. (Aug 15) MY SISTER EILEEN (1955, Richard Quine) 61

213. (Aug 15) BELL BOOK AND CANDLE (1958, Richard Quine) 58

214. (Aug 16) ROGUE (2007, Greg Mclean)* 62

Routine but still effective take on the "When Animals Attack" subgenre finds a suitably desperate situation and milks it for a few good scares and some very tense sequences. Few surprises but genre fans should enjoy the slight variations and atmosphere. Radha Mitchell is welcome in any movie but it would be nice to see something that challenges her more, she certainly has about twice the chops necessary for the role she plays so warmly here.

215. (Aug 16) OPERATION MAD BALL (1957, Richard Quine) 69

216. (Aug 16) THE NOTORIOUS LANDLADY (1962, Richard Quine) 60

217. (Aug 17) MIRRORS (2008, Alexandre Aja) 44
A really stupid film with quite a few moments of unintentional humor and cringe-inducing performances, but Aja still manages a few geniunely creepy moments and Baxter creates a very cool opening credit sequence. I'm certainly not writing off Aja but he needs to concentrate on telling less story with visuals and emotions, he should remake this year's THE STRANGERS.

218. (Aug 17) TROPIC THUNDER (2008, Ben Stiller) 55

Opening credits are very funny and so are some of the more satiric jabs at film actors, especially the Downey Jr. speech about going "full retard," but like most Hollywood comedies of recent years this becomes limp after a promising set-up.

219. (Aug 18) VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA (2008, Woody Allen) 81

220. (Aug 19) MURDER BY CONTRACT (1958, Irving Lerner)* 78

221. (Aug 19) THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960, John Sturges) 65

Second viewing, first in theater. Great casting and a very memorable score but this is really dwarfed by Kurosawa's SEVEN SAMURAI, which is paced and staged with such brilliance that it seems shorter than this film, even though it is actually an hour longer.

222. (Aug 19) THE PROFESSIONALS (1966, Richard Brooks)

223. (Aug 20) THE ART OF FAILURE: CHUCK CONNELLY NOT FOR SALE (2008, Jeff Stimmel)* 38

Haphazardly structured and ill-conceived visual design (especially when it comes to all the split screens of talking heads and paintings) but the thing that really kills this film dead is the lack of distance from the subject; basically the film is a very cynical product designed only to inflate prices for Connelly's paintings and not to provide any insight into the man or his work. This is a shame because the subject matter of an artist fallen out of favor and into debt is very intriguing indeed.

224. (Aug 20) ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (1933, Erle C. Kenton) 73

225. (Aug 20) KONGO (1932, William J. Cowen) 67

226. (Aug 21) STREET KINGS (2008, David Ayer)* 61

227. (Aug 21) ERIC ROHMER - PREUVES À L'APPUI (1994, André S. Labarthe)* 56
There are certainly some insights in this two hour documentary that will fascinate any Rohmer fanboy but I was annoyed tremendously by the offbeat stylistic quirks: the typewriter sound coming in under the dialogue (thankfully contained to the first hour) or the sudden and completely bizarre narration about the world outside the interview. However, Rohmer talking about his approach to moving the camera in pans while showing clips from his films (on a VCR/TV set-up in his office) or pulling out a 40 year old notebook to show the genesis of PAULINE AT THE BEACH is something for which I'm glad to have seen.

228. (Aug 21) MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY (2008, Bharat Nalluri)* 58

The actors are having all the fun here and Nalluri seems ill-equipped to keep up with them; this is a job that would have been perfectly suited to Peyton Reed (as demonstrated in his handling of DOWN WITH LOVE). There is some fun to be had with these talented players encouraged to play to type (Amy Adams & Frances McDormand) or stray from type and show unexpected range (Ciaràn Hinds), but this doesn't add up to anything beyond pastiche.

229. (Aug 22) QUID PRO QUO (2008, Carlos Brooks)* 36

230. (Aug 22) FAT GIRL (2001, Catherine Breillat) 79

231. (Aug 22) TWO RODE TOGETHER (1961, John Ford) 72

232. (Aug 22) RESERVOIR DOGS (1992, Quentin Tarantino) 85

233. (Aug 23) THE WHOLE TOWN'S TALKING (1935, John Ford) 57

John Ford just doesn't excel at comedy and his pace is far too slow here to reach the kind of hysterial screwball level that would help most with this far-fetched storyline. Someone like Hawks or Sturges would have knocked this script out of the park, especially with the great work Robinson does with his dual role.

234. (Aug 24) NIXON (1995, Oliver Stone) * 76

Umpteenth viewing, first in more than ten years although there was a time in high school when I would watch this almost weekly. I'm not quite sure what attracted me to that extent back then but I still find there is plenty to admire here, especially the brilliant edit scheme Stone and his editors work out here: pulling out shots to accentuate the psychological motivation towards what is being said or, in the case of the brilliant showdown with Sam Waterson that's exclusive to the director's cut, build images in contrast to the meaning of the scene to create a new meaning in a way that is Eisensteinian. Viewing it now, it is clear to me that Stone is too much a slave to the typical bio-pic downfall: forced to hit all the major historical landmarks even if it flies in the face of the particulars of the character portrait he is trying to build. The overall impact is still quite impressive but it seems like more work now than it did to me back when I was a teenager which certainly flies in the face of conventional wisdom.

235. (Aug 26) OF TIME AND THE CITY (2008, Terence Davies) 53
A few striking moments, usually when dealing with contrasts: the classical music over the kids dancing to rock music or the urban decay surrounding the Queen's procession. However, there is a major "These kids and their damn music" vibe to Davies' narration and his found footage doesn't build or have much narrative continuity.

236. (Aug 26) CASINO (1995, Martin Scorsese) 90

237. (Aug 27) SHUT UP & SING (2006, Barbara Kopple & Cecilia Peck)* 58

238. (Aug 27) SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (1977, John Badham) 74

239. (Aug 28) SHINE A LIGHT (2008, Martin Scorsese)* 51

240. (Aug 28) STREET KINGS (2008, David Ayer)* 62

241. (Aug 29) RATCATCHER (1999, Lynne Ramsay) 60

242. (Aug 30) THE SWORD OF DOOM (1966, Kihachi Okamoto) 65

243. (Aug 31) DIGGSTOWN (1992, Michael Ritchie)* 67

244. (Aug 31) UNDISPUTED (2002, Walter Hill)* 63


An effective short documentary that could have benifited from more depth and some pointed follow-up questions - maybe if Thomas had interviewed Thomas.

246. (Aug 31) TRAITOR (2008, Jeffrey Nachmanoff) 29

This is a terrible looking film and the cheapness of the budget really shows through in the production design. To make matters worse, Nachmanoff's script is riddled with plot holes that render many of the big moments completely illogical.

247. (Sep 01) BLOOD DIAMOND (2006, Edward Zwick)* 47

Zwick has always been two parts Stanley Kramer to one part David Lean. In BLOOD DIAMOND I think Zwick is using violence very cynically as an outside force to move the plot along and make things superficially exciting while he allows various digressions into political journalism (Zwick started as a journalist), like Kramer the plan is to give the medicine with the sugar but this time the sugar has a bitter taste of its own.

248. (Sep 02) DARK CITY: THE DIRECTOR'S CUT (1998, Alex Proyas)*

First viewing in about 9 years, although this was one of the first DVD's I owned and spent a lot of time looking at it back then. Proyas certainly has an eye for striking visuals even if they all owe a debt to sci-fi work done in the past (from Lang to Cronenberg) and he allows the mysteries here to unfold very gradually so that the film is very enveloping, it's really just after the world is fully uncovered that you realize that the silly meter is hitting red.

249. (Sep 03) VENUS GOLDMINE (1998, Todd Haynes)* 59

250. (Sep 04) MY NAME IS JOE (1998, Ken Loach)* 75

251. (Sep 05) SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS (1961, Elia Kazan) 69

252. (Sep 05) 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968, Stanley Kubrick)

Second complete viewing, both have been in 70mm.

253. (Sep 06) MR. MAJESTYK (1974, Richard Fleischer)* 68
The life of a watermelon farmer is intense.

254. (Sep 07) HOW THE WEST WAS WON (1962, John Ford, Henry Hathaway & George Marshall) 41
First film viewed in the Cinerama format (3 projectors) and I can officially say that I think it is a terrible format to shoot a film in and I can suffered the same fate as many of the other fads from the late 50s or early 60s. The three screens never line up very well and you end up staring at the seams rather than the image and no matter how properly the bulbs in the projectors, they will never allow the blue skys to match across the screen. There is also the problem of strange mixed perception that you get with the Cinerama format: giving a nearly deep focus look but with different focal points out of focus. The idea of three different projectors on a huge screen brings to mind the promise of some kind of radical video art where three very different images are used at the same time to create a constant montage but instead they are all just pointlessly expanding the 2:35 ratio in a way that is barely discernibly different than, for instance, the difference between 35 and 70 mm. The film is actually barely worth note, except to say that this film is just as spectacularly pointless as the format in which it was shot.

255. (Sep 07) YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES (1985, Barry Levinson) 39
Second viewing, first in theater. When I last saw this I was five years old and thought the opening hallucination sequence was one of the most terrifying things I'd ever seen. It's not so scary now.

256. (Sep 07) THE WARRIORS (1979, Walter Hill) 67

Second viewing, first in theater. I liked it quite a bit more this time but I still think Hill doesn't get quite as much mileage from his awesome premise as he should and SOUTHERN COMFORT covers similar ground in a more strenuous manner, but the humor here is very welcome and the film has a great look.

256. (Sep 07) LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE FABULOUS STAINS (1981, Lou Adler) 62

s025. (Sep 11) MEA CULPA (1981, Bruce Conner)* pro

s026. (Sep 11) BREAKAWAY (1966, Bruce Conner)* PRO

s027. (Sep 11) VIVIAN (1965, Bruce Conner)* mixed

s028. (Sep 11) THE WHITE ROSE (1967, Bruce Conner)* pro

s029. (Sep 11) MARILYN TIMES FIVE (1973, Bruce Conner)* pro

s030. (Sep 11) REPORT (1967, Bruce Conner)*

s031. (Sep 11) TAKE THE 5:10 TO DREAMLAND (1976, Bruce Conner)*

s032. (Sep 11) VALSE TRISTE (1977, Bruce Conner)*

257. (Sep 11) THREE O'CLOCK HIGH (1987, Phil Joanou) 58

Uneven mixture of John Hughes and RISKY BUSINESS. Joanou's directorial flourishes take too much of the edge of the black comedy but the tension builds effectively (despite the ticking clock shots) and this film deserves some of its cult status for getting as close as it does to the anxiety of Scorsese's AFTER HOURS.

258. (Sep 11) STATE OF GRACE (1990, Phil Joanou) 61

This sounds really great on paper but there are surprisingly few scenes of energy or genuine pathos; most of the scenes feel like they are being checked off "Genre Expectations" checklist rather than spilling from the souls of these damaged characters. Ed Harris probably fairs best of this dream team cast.

259. (Sep 11) BURN AFTER READING (2008, Joen & Ethan Coen) 75

260. (Sep 12) MY NIGHT AT MAUD'S (1969, Eric Rohmer) 94
Fourth viewing, first in theater.

261. (Sep 12) A GOOD MARRIAGE (1982, Eric Rohmer)

Second viewing, first in theater.

262. (Sep 13) CLAIRE'S KNEE (1970, Eric Rohmer) 98
Third viewing, first in theater.

263. (Sep 13) THE MARQUISE OF O (1976, Eric Rohmer) 83
Second viewing, first in theater.

264. (Sep 14) WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY (2007, Jake Kasdan)* 60

Kadsan and company are very well studied on the ways of the musical bio-pics and eviscerate them in a very intelligent way, but for me the funniest jokes were the dumbest: Dewey's teenage wife: "What about my dreams?"
Dewey: "I told you I can't build your candy house! It will fall apart, the sun will melt the candy, it won't work."

265. (Sep 14) PAYBACK: STRAIGHT UP - THE DIRECTOR'S CUT (1999/2006, Brian Helgeland)* 62

Second viewing of film, first viewing of superior and quite different director's cut. Gone is the blue tint from the original that came from a bleach bypass process (Helgeland thought better of it this time but keeps things desaturated and contrasty, it looks very good) and gone also is much of the third act where gangsters hammer on Gibson's toes (probably Gibson's idea: a Passion of Parker moment). It still isn't a great movie but it's one thats far more faithful to Stark's "The Hunter" than Boorman's experimental riffs in POINT BLANK where you have much more of a sense that there are genuine artists clashing with each other to create something, while Helgeland is allows less space for himself and can't match Stark's stark prose with his filmmaking. Pretty great supporting casting though: Gregg Henry, Maria Bello, David Paymer, Bill Duke, John Glover, William Devane, James Coburn; hell even Lucy Liu is cast perfectly for a change (as the S&M whore).

266. (Sep 15) THE HOUSE BUNNY (2008, Fred Wolf) 51

267. (Sep 15) RIGHTEOUS KILL (2008, Jon Avnet) 14

268. (Sep 16) HUSTLE & FLOW (2005, Craig Brewer)* 64

269. (Sep 16) BARTON FINK (1991, Joel Coen) 73

270. (Sep 16) MILLER'S CROSSING (1990, Joel Coen) 87

271. (Sep 17) PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE (2002, Paul Thomas Anderson) 95

272. (Sep 17) A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971, Stanley Kubrick) 83

273. (Sep 18) EL SUR (1983, Victor Erice)* 76

274. (Sep 19) MICKEY ONE (1965, Arthur Penn) 45

275. (Sep 20) THE KEEP (1983, Michael Mann) 52

276. (Sep 21) ZODIAC (2007, David Fincher)*

Fourth viewing, no change in grade. This film holds up very well on repeat viewing but it still falls short of greatness because of the Graysmith section. I'll probably watch it annually just to make sure.

277. (Sep 21) FOUL PLAY (1978, Colin Higgins)* 46

278. (Sep 22) ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ (1979, Don Siegel)* 69

279. (Sep 22) THE GODFATHER (1972, Francis Ford Coppola) 99
Second viewing, first in a decade and first in theater.

280. (Sep 22) THE GODFATHER: PART II (1974, Francis Ford Coppola) 96

Second viewing, first in a decade and first in theater. I preferred the sequel to the original at the time but clearly this is not quite the case anymore.

281. (Sep 23) DECISION AT SUNDOWN (1957, Budd Boetticher) 65

282. (Sep 23) BUCHANAN RIDES ALONE (1958, Budd Boetticher) 74

s033. (Sep 24) GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE EXPOSURE: POISED FOR PARABOLAS (2003, Lynn Marie Kirby) pro

s034. (Sep 24) BLACK BELT TEST EXPOSURE: SENPAI JAMES FINDS HIS LINE (2004, Lynn Marie Kirby) pro




s038. (Sep 24) MOUNT ST. MARY'S CHAPEL EXPOSURE: GALICAN IMPORT (2004, Lynn Marie Kirby) pro


s040. (Sep 24) REFRACTED CASE HISTORIES: TRIPTYCH (2004, Lynn Marie Kirby) pro



283. (Sep 24) SPEED RACER (2008, Andy Wachowski & Larry Wachowski)* 54

284. (Sep 25) LEATHERHEADS (2008, George Clooney)* 64

285. (Sep 25) REPULSION (1965, Roman Polanski) 83

286. (Sep 26) RUN FATBOY RUN (2008, David Schwimmer)* 28

287. (Sep 27) WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN (1988, Pedro Almodòvar) 61

288. (Sep 27) THE STING (1973, George Roy Hill)*

R.I.P. Paul Newman.

289. (Sep 28) DECEPTION (2008, Marcel Langenegger)* 46

There is some trashy fun to be had here even when some plot elements are head-scratchers and others are handled very clumsily, with a title like "Deception" the filmmakers need to be very careful with their plot foreshadowing and they too often tip their hat to twists much in advance of the actual plot twist. Michelle Williams looks very different than she has previously and is somehow convincing considering the weak writing of her character and the amount of narrative weight she is forced to carry.

s043. (Sep 28) UNE CATASTROPHE (2008, Jean-luc Godard)* mixed

s044. (Sep 28) UNE CATASTROPHE (2008, Jean-luc Godard)* mixed

290. (Sep 29) TENDER MERCIES (1983, Bruce Beresford)* 74

291. (Sep 30) THE SCHOOL OF FLESH (1998, Benoît Jacquot)* 72

292. (Oct 01) ILS (2006, David Moreau & Xavier Palud)* 57

I love these cat-and-mouse horror films (THE STRANGERS and HAUTE TENSION are better recent examples of the genre) because it is easy to relate to someone being spooked while alone in a house, ILS excels in those early scenes where a dog is barking and the couple is awoken in the middle of the night. Moreau and Palud are not actually all that adept at slowing down time and creating tense moments, the actions all run into each other and they don't allow much space once the horror begins. Also, they bite off more than they can chew with this house, which is huge and features and incredible attic which is a whole extra haunted house in itself. Unfortunately, the gains of the first half are undone by the silliness of the last few minutes.

293. (Oct 01) WAIT UNTIL DARK (1967, Terence Young) 66
This is more of a thriller than a horror film but the last ten minutes or so are tense like a horror film and I think Mancini's score was very influencial on horror films in the 1970s.

294. (Oct 01) EXPERIMENT IN TERROR (1962, Blake Edwards) 53

295. (Oct 02) BODY BAGS (1993, John Carpenter & Tobe Hooper) 45
The Breakdown:THE GAS STATION (John Carpenter) mixed

Shows how good Carpenter can be while nothing much is happening but also shows how lazy a storyteller he can be when he turns on autopilot.
HAIR (John Carpenter) mixed

Actually very funny until the left-field ending that doesn't work at all.
EYE (Tobe Hooper) con

An eye transplant leads to visions and headaches, you can fill in the rest - anyone could.
The wrap-around morgue stuff is really just TALES FROM THE CRYPT-lite.

296. (Oct 02) THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES (1971, Robert Fuest)* 63

Ideally this would have been viewed with a full midnight movie crowd, just to feel an audience manuever through the art deco fussy, the Victorian camp, the nuanced tragedy of Vincent Price's Phibes and the silly grotesquerie of his murder schemes.

297. (Oct 03) NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968, George A. Romero) 89

298. (Oct 03) DAY OF THE DEAD (1985, George A. Romero) 58

299. (Oct 05) APPALOOSA (2008, Ed Harris) 60

There are some obvious detractors here: the opening and closing narration spells out character motivations so clearly they must have been studio imposed fixes, the score is awkward and conventional, and Harris is far too fond of medium close-ups that make this look like a TV movie. But then, there is a lot to love here: the slow talking scenes are unexpectedly strange and humorous, the violence is so quick is barely registers as unscreen spectacle (leading to the hilarious exchange "That was over quick." "Yeah, well we all shoot good.") and Harris gets all the faces right and the performers on point. Even when the plot moves in a conventional way it is usually accompanied with a surprising character motivation or something insightful about the transition from the Wild West to Americana. It's annoying to see critics overlook this while they fall over themselves praising 310 TO YUMA for its con... what's the word I'm looking for? Conventionality.

300. (Oct 06) DON'T DELIVER US FROM EVIL (1971, Joël Séria)* 69

301. (Oct 06) BLINDNESS (2008, Fernando Meirelles) 43

302. (Oct 07) SALEM'S LOT (1979, Tobe Hooper)* 52

303. (Oct 08) MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS (1945, Joseph H. Lewis) 65

304. (Oct 08) THE CHRISTMAS TALE (2005, Paco Plaza)* 62

305. (Oct 09) THE CHANGELING (1980, Peter Medak)* 79

306. (Oct 09) FOUR NIGHTS WITH ANNA (2008, Jerzy Skolimowski) 48

307. (Oct 10) UNHOLY (2007, Daryl Goldberg)* 57

Astonishingly ambitious Direct-to-Video film that is so convoluted and twisty that it holds attention through some sloppy technical failings and increasingly silly plot elements. The twists end up undermining the emotional climax but the circular narrative is pretty clever.

308. (Oct 10) KURONEKO (1968, Kaneto Shindô) 60

309. (Oct 10) SEASON OF THE WITCH (1972, George A. Romero) 45

A battered 35mm print (from a personal collection) that ran about 90 minutes. This doesn't feel complete or coherent as a woman's melodrama or as a surrealist exercise but it does show that perhaps Romero had lofty goals post-NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and that he was a student of the European cinema of the time (especially Bergman's WILD STRAWBERRIES and Bunuel's BELLE DE JOUR). Not a complete failure but any means but this does feel like the shapeless film someone would make before achieving a masterpiece and not after.

310. (Oct 11) LORD OF ILLUSIONS (1995, Clive Barker)* 68
Second viewing of Director's Cut, third viewing of film. This is an underrated film, truly horrific bookends with a very entertaining neo-noir center section. Evidence here suggests Famke Janssen should be cast immediately as a femme fatale.

311. (Oct 11) QUARANTINE (2008, John Erick Dowdle)

The cast of recognizable character actors undermines the documentary conceit of the original and there is some unnecessary additional exposition about the disease that slows down the still minimum length from the breakneck pace of the original. I like what Jennifer Carpenter does with the opening scenes in the fire station, where she is less believable as a newscast member than Manuela Velasco but a more talented comedic performer that earns some laughs and keeps the mood light before the horror starts.

312. (Oct 11) BODY OF LIES (2008, Ridley Scott)

313. (Oct 12) FEAST II: SLOPPY SECONDS (2008, John Gulager)* 25
Sloppy indeed, I don't think I've seen worse blue screen work in quite some time than what is featured prominently in the second half of this film. The first film used its scant budget well, staying in a small space with few actors, this film looks to have spread its small budget far to thin and the resulting film is sub-Troma aesthetically and the fun invention from the first film has turned tired and conventional here. Hopefully Gulager will rebound but according to IMDB a third FEAST film is next up and one can only hope he has more to work with and finds his voice again.

314. (Oct 12) JOY RIDE 2: DEAD AHEAD (2008, Louis Morneau)* 51

Way better than should be expected from a straight-to-dvd sequel with much of the torture being purely psychological hazing (mostly variations on the forced streaking in the original film) which actually makes the situations more tense than the typical slash-and-run sequences that would be expected in this genre.

315. (Oct 12) FRONTIER(S) (2007, Xavier Gens)* 34

Walked out of this at TIFF07 because I wanted to get sleep for Rohmer new film at 9AM the next morning. It sure is violent and gross but who cares.

316. (Oct 13) HITCH-HIKE (1977, Pasquale Festa Campanile)* 74

317. (Oct 16) DANCE OF THE DEAD (2008, Gregg Bishop)* 29
Plays to and flatters its target audience to no end (the heroes are sci-fi nerds and awkward loud mouths who kill the zombies and get the cheerleaders) but fails on both as both horror or comedy and kept help reminding of all the better horror-comedy to run this gauntlet with more skill and intelligence. Also, it looks like ass.

318. (Oct 17) THE ROUND-UP (1966, Maklós Jancsó) 60

319. (Oct 17) MONKEY SHINES (1988, George A. Romero) 69

320. (Oct 18) I SAW WHAT YOU DID (1965, William Castle)* 59

321. (Oct 19) THE HIDDEN (1987, Jack Sholder) 66

322. (Oct 20) STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER (1975, Andrea Bianchi)* 50

323. (Oct 22) BLAME (2006, Narciso Ibáñez Serrador)* 51

324. (Oct 24) THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS (1949, David Lean) 62

325. (Oct 25) THE CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE (1944, Gunther von Fritsch & Robert Wise) 62

326. (Oct 26) RACHEL GETTING MARRIED (2008, Jonathan Demme) 45

327. (Oct 26) W. (2008, Oliver Stone) 59

328. (Oct 30) THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN (2008, Ryuhei Kitamura)* 61

329. (Oct 31) MY SEX LIFE... OR HOW I GOT INTO AN ARGUMENT (1996, Arnaud Desplechin) 94

330. (Nov 01) SUMMER HOURS (2008, Olivier Assayas) 66

331. (Nov 01) TWO LOVERS (2008, James Gray) 77

332. (Nov 01) THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD (2008, Kim Jee-woon) 60

*A weird rating note: All three grades given today were identical with the grade I gave to last film I'd seen by each filmmaker (BOARDING GATE was 66, WE OWN THE NIGHT was 77, A TALE OF TWO SISTERS was 60).

333. (Nov 02) LA VIE DES MORTS (1991, Arnaud Desplechin) 72

334. (Nov 02) L'AIMÉE (2007, Arnaud Desplechin) 61

335. (Nov 02) HUNGER (2008, Steve McQueen) 82

336. (Nov 02) A CHRISTMAS TALE (2008, Arnaud Desplechin) 80

337. (Nov 02) REVANCHE (2008, Götz Spielmann) 56

338. (Nov 03) EXTREME PREJUDICE (1987, Walter Hill) 78

Second viewing, first in theater. I think I initially overrated this Walter Hill homage to Sam Peckinpah because of how thoroughly forgotten it is by everyone now, even by those that have affection for Hill as a stylist. Hill has a great eye for faces and he fills the cast with some of the best tough B-movie actors working in the last 30 years and he gives them incredibly hard-boiled things to say before shooting off thousands of rounds of machine gun fire and blowing shit up. It is the kind of pulp exercise that can be so easily dismissed but Hill executes it with such grand style and overblown machismo that I smiled throughout.

339. (Nov 03) JOHNNY HANDSOME (1989, Walter Hill) 66

340. (Nov 05) LION'S DEN (2008, Pablo Trapero) 65

341. (Nov 06) THE HEADLESS WOMAN (2008, Lucrecia Martel) 69

342. (Nov 07) GOMORRAH (2008, Matteo Garrone) 58

343. (Nov 08) THE BROTHERS BLOOM (2008, Rian Johnson) 70

344. (Nov 08) WENDY AND LUCY (2008, Kelly Reichardt) 79

345. (Nov 08) THE CLASS (2008, Laurent Cantet) 67

346. (Nov 09) AFTERSCHOOL (2008, Antonio Campos) 57

347. (Nov 11) RED (2008, Lucky McKee and Trygve Allister Diesen)* 63

Hard to know exactly what happened to cause Lucky McKee to be fired and replaced from this film but what remains is a skillful B-movie with a powerful (and very theatrical) performance from Cox that carries the movie through some silly plot escalations in the third act.

348. (Nov 16) CHANGELING (2008, Clint Eastwood) 73

349. (Nov 16) SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK (2008, Charlie Kaufman) 75

350. (Nov 19) TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE (2007, Alex Gibney)* 60
I watched this for research purposes at work on my laptop. This splits the difference between the flash-point presentation NO END IN SIGHT and the hyper stylization with which Morris suffocated STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE. This is pretty hard to fault eventhough it tackles a subject well-worn by now, I also liked the touching postscript with Gibney's WWII interrogator father which helps explain what compelled Gibney to make the film.

351. (Nov 19) BILLY THE KID (2007, Jennifer Venditti)* 64

I wouldn't really argue with anyone that wanted to take Venditti to task for staging some scenes for camera or manipulating the action for the benefit of storytelling but what she captures is quite compelling as both a character study and an offbeat romance.

s045. (Nov 21) 6/64: MAMA UND PAPA (1964, Kurt Kren)* mixed
Um, maybe I shouldn't be watching this art scat film at work. I will file this INDEX dvd on my shelf at home until I am brave enough to give the rest of these "action films" a look.

352. (Nov 23) A CHRISTMAS TALE (2008, Arnaud Desplechin) 93

353. (Nov 30) SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK (2008, Charlie Kaufman) 75

354. (Dec 06) FROST/NIXON (2008, Ron Howard)* 49

There is clearly some dramatically compelling material here but Ron Howard directs his films aimed to the cheap seats, allowing no room for subtlety or audience participation. The faux interview bits with the side-players seem like an especially obnoxious intrusion on Howard's part: telling us what every beat of the story means before it happens and then how to feel about it after it happens. Good work from most of the performers, especially if you enjoy seeing filmed theater acting.

355. (Dec 06) FROZEN RIVER (2008, Courtney Hunt)* 30
Directed by a first-timer and man is that evident, Hunt really doesn't know how to stage actors convincingly for the camera and her HD photography is in the register of ugly murk. Leo's performance is passable, but only compared to the weak work from all the other inexperienced members of the cast.

356. (Dec 06) QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008, Marc Forster)* 24

It was a big mistake to carry over so much plot from the previous Bond film CASINO ROYALE; it creates a confusion on the plot level that never allowed me to settle into the story - I never knew what anyone was doing. I also think the action sequences are very poorly edited: there is no sense of space in the opening car chase (pre-credit), the foot chase that follows is really confusing to follow and tips its hat way too early with cross-cutting to the horse race outside, the fight intercut with the opera later is arty but I don't understand what this particular juxtaposition is trying to say. I mildly liked CASINO ROYALE but I hope the Bond franchise returns to the tongue in cheek fun that they were previously built upon, Daniel Craig initially seemed like a good idea but is now only allowed to be mired in depression which is a poor choice for this character. Perhaps the worst Bond movie.

357. (Dec 07) I'VE LOVED YOU SO LONG (2008, Philippe Claudel)* 65

Subtle and interesting character drama that loses it's way in the final act when things are resolved in far too neat and conventional a manner. What's left are some very strong performances (especially the buzz-worthy turn by Kristen Scott Thomas) and a well-written script of slow-drip revelations.

358. (Dec 07) TIMECRIMES (2008, Nacho Vigalondo)* 44

Starts dumb and gets progressively more ridiculous as it goes along; complete with perhaps the least logic-driven time travel plot ever conceived for film. I am baffled that some notable critics seem to be going for this film.

359. (Dec 14) JULES AND JIM (1962, François Truffaut) 94
Third viewing, first in theater. Truffaut's boldest work as director: with a strong attention to rhyming shots together and elliptic, strange editing schemes to signify the emotions of the characters and tapping into many of the themes that would become refined over the next decades of his career. It is a young persons film; even as it gradually turns melancholy and fumbles towards death.

360. (Dec 14) MILK (2008, Gus Van Sant)

MILK is conventional only in the context of Van Sant's work; which has lately been anything but conventional and genre based. However, I admired how often GVS was able to steer clear of the trappings of the bio-pic and actually make a fairly exhilarating picture about political involvement. My usual complains about GVS are still featured here, especially his weakness when it comes to female characters who are either not allowed the same weight as the male characters or are treated with a great deal of condescension by Van Sant's gaze. He needs to make his FAR FROM HEAVEN immediately.

361. (Dec 20) TRANSSIBERIAN (2008, Brad Anderson)* 48

362. (Dec 21) SURVIVE STYLE 5+ (2004, Gen Sekiguchi)*

There is a lot of awesome comic invention to be found here in some of the threads: especially the wife killing thread which is probably the most similar to LOONEY TUNES but adds a nice twist of growing progressively more tragic as the comedy starts to have some bite and you realize its actually a fairly clever metaphor for relationships. That's probably the only thread that could have actually been expanded to its own feature film, most of the rest are better as briefly seen skits; the only bit that continually failed to make much of an impression on me was the one with the three minor criminals flirting with homosexual lust.

363. (Dec 21) SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (2008, Danny Boyle & Loveleen Tandan) 45

I like my fairy tales with less overt manipulation and far less exploitation of human tragedy for maximum underdog baiting. I also thought the story framework with each question equaling a tragic flashback to the Slumdog's past quickly wore out its welcome and undercut much of the dramatic urgency of the story; even though Boyle and his editor work overtime to make sure you feel that urgency with every strange cut and aggressive music cue.

364. (Dec 22) ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD (2007, Werner Herzog)* 70
Herzog seems to be engaging in self-analysis with these recent documentaries about people who find themselves driven by odd obsessions to the corners of the earth in search of themselves (and like-minded people). His most asked question is "What brought you to Antarctica, the end of the world?" which he gets some very honogenized answers from the various social misfits he encounters. As a portrait of the people and their stories, this is undoubtedly a fascinating and often very funny document, unfortunately I think it is a little boring when it turns to just nature documenting; with the striking landscapes stuck with new age chanting that could have been compiled by a hack with half of Herzog's talent.

365. (Dec 22) BURN AFTER READING (2008, Joen & Ethan Coen)* 80

The Coens continue their trend of following up their highly acclaimed oscar films with seemingly trivial throwaways (FARGO was followed by THE BIG LEBOWSKI, this follows their NO COUNTRY FOR OLD ME) but I think this will have nearly as healthy a life on video as LEBOWSKI. I love the way Carter Burwell's score leads the film along a serious spy-movie tome to continuously lead to a big comic payoff (the best probably being the device Clooney is building in the basement, which is played with the utmost seriousness before its revelation). The Coens' negative view of human beings is held over from their previous film but here is comes with a satire of self-absorption that the Coens slam against Washington D.C. with glee.

366. (Dec 24) DEATH SENTENCE (2007, James Wan)* 50

367. (Dec 25) UNIVERSAL SOLDIER (1992, Roland Emmerich)
* 29
I was apparently an idiot at 11.

368. (Dec 26) GRAN TORINO (2008, Clint Eastwood) 77

Very funny potboiler that is tweaked enough by Eastwood to become more than just the sum of its rather coarse parts; particularly in the way Eastwood plays with his own persona from the DIRTY HARRY films (and even UNFORGIVEN, to some extent). Some of the Asian actors are quite bad but otherwise this is pretty irresistible filmmaking.

369. (Dec 28) DOUBT (2008, John Patrick Shanley) 66
I love these theatrical chamber pieces where great actors play characters at conflict with each other discussing grand themes. This one is hard to fault except for its lack of cinematic innovation: oddly placed canted camera angles and a mis-judged sequence of magic realism to illustrate a sermon from the pulpit. Actors, unsurprisingly, all terrific at breathing life into what could become pawns in lesser hands.

370. (Dec 28) THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON (2008, David Fincher) 57

Wise observation overheard from a teenage girl (perhaps old for her age) coming out of the theater: "The last hour felt like it could have been it's own movie." I think there is way too much going on here and Fincher's penchant for being fancy, along with the excessive length, really just makes this feel way more self-indulgent than it needed to be. It could have been pared down to just the strained father-son relationship and the doomed love affair without compromising any meaning (beyond the awe-shucks fate angle and some non sequitur jokes that were better suited to FORREST GUMP). A few sequences have power and there are a lot of good ideas here (the Hurricane Katrina thread definitely not being one of them) but this is a miss by one of the most talented American directors working right now; which doesn't seem all that surprising considering how mis-matched he is with the material on paper (Jeunet or Spielberg would have probably pulled all the strings much more efficiently).

371. (Dec 31) THE STRANGERS (2008, Bryan Bertino)* 58

372. (Dec 31) TROPIC THUNDER (2008, Ben Stiller)*