Viewing Journal 2013
* 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 05) STOP MAKING SENSE (1984, Jonathan Demme)* 90
Umpteenth viewing, first in a few years and first on blu-ray. I think this is Jonathan Demme's crowning achievement as a director and it best shows off his foremost strengths as a filmmaker, notably his humanity, his ear for music and especially his careful attention to mixing up shot sizes in order to keep each scene looking distinct and different. Together with David Byrne and cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth they are constantly giving the viewer new and changing visual information which is quite astonishing considering this is a filmed stage show. The sets are constantly in flux, new characters come in and receive proper introduction and both the lighting and shot sizes change to reflect something within the song or something about the people we are watching and the way they interact with each other. You can even sort of piece together a visual narrative of David Byrne as you watch him perform and open up, starting as the straight-laced awkward yuppie alone with his boombox for "Psycho Killer" then running madly like some crazed fitness instructor then a parody of a self-help guru finding religion and finally to the kid playing with a lamp or wearing a suit much to big for him, it's a progression that usually would not be allowed in a concert film, especially one that doesn't stop for behind the scenes details or interviews.
A joyous experience that captures the Talking Heads at exactly the right time in their career, any earlier or later it wouldn't have been as compelling and the construction of the band onstage gives a great sense of how the band came together and then was forced to grow as their ambitions changed from punky grooves to the more dance-y, funk & disco influences.
The shot from the side of the stage as David Byrne, Tina Weymouth, and Jerry Harrison walk forward and back strumming and plucking their guitars in trance falling in and out of lockstep with each other is worthy of comparison to Tarr.
002. (Jan 07) DARK HORSE (2011, Todd Solondz)* 61
Like LIFE DURING WARTIME, this is almost compassionate towards the characters while still relentlessly mocking and sadistically drowning them with misfortune. Pointed use of Seinfeld (or Seinfeld-like sitcom) in the background but this is the sad, distorted version of that sitcom with similarly one-note characters but real pain that doesn't get refreshed when a new episode starts. Abe's disappointed shout out to American Idol is also important given Abe's hyper-inflated sense of himself and confidence in the face of so much evidence that it's completely unfounded, something that's new to Solondz worldview and makes the film feel more topical than his other recent efforts. A lot funnier than recent Solondz too with a satirical bite that sometimes reminded me of Mike Judge's underrated EXTRACT. Best gag: the jump cuts to punctuate each of Abe's yellow Hummer's five-point-turn.
003. (Jan 08) ARBITRAGE (2012, Nicholas Jarecki)* 60
Mostly notable for the good work from Gere, Roth and French cinematographer Yorick Le Saux. More interesting to watch the plot in motion than to see the way they wrap everything up, but then I guess that's true of most thrillers.
004. (Jan 08) FLIGHT (2012, Robert Zemeckis)* 63
I forgot that Zemeckis was actually a pretty strong filmmaker and I credit him for keeping this so watchable when it so often seemed like it could dissolve into lifetime addiction movie of the week at any moment. Everything aboard the plane is brilliant, not just the crash landing but also the take-off through bad weather, this seems like the section that most had Zemeckis' directorial attentions. I'm not really sure why we needed to Kelly Reilly's Nicole character before Washington's Whip Whitaker meets her in the hospital, that mucked up the pacing during the opening and I don't think we really needed to see her character bottoming out of context of Whitaker's story. Very nice work from the cast, especially Washington & Cheadle.
005. (Jan 09) NOT FADE AWAY (2012, David Chase)* 66
The father & son dinner scene and the abstract, death of an era ending pushed me into solid territory on this film which has a lot of very routine story elements and romanticizes an era that has already been romanced to death by boomers aplenty. Too loaded with character and incident but Chase still finds plenty of time for small, touching observations.
006. (Jan 09) THE SESSIONS (2012, Ben Lewin)* 50
Aloof and light-hearted when it could have been so much more complicated by the messy emotions brought up with such a relationship on both sides. Lewin seems to think his only job is too keep the viewer from being confronted with anything too difficult so he avoids any messiness with Mark O'Brien's condition, turns him into a saint (blessed to have sex by long-haired hippie priest) and generally keeps things light and fluffy, basically it plays like a Sundance audience award winner.
007. (Jan 14) UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING (2012, John Hyams)* 65
Imaginative reinvention of UNIVERSAL SOLDIER as a nightmare mashing styles as disparate as James Cameron, Gaspar Noé with a dose of APOCALYPSE NOW here and a pinch of HARD-BOILED there. John Hyams (son of DP/Director Peter Hyams) has a strong sense of atmospheric lighting and evocative sound design and while he's stealing elements from other (better) films, he also judges wisely which elements to steal and they make his storytelling more viscerally compelling. However, the story he's telling is pretty damn silly and Hyams does sometimes slow things down too much for exposition, but when he does it's usually at least he's still keeping it visually compelling (the shack with graffiti art, the warehouse that (I guess) doubles as a meat market). It will be interesting to see what Hyams does when he can work his style on material slightly less idiotic but now I also want to see Gaspar Noé get to work on a pulpy genre piece.
008. (Jan 16) TINY FURNITURE (2010, Lena Dunham)* 62
There are some mumblecore elements here notably Dunham's apparent lack of vanity regarding her appearance and her willingness to show herself in the least flattering light but I was also fondly reminded of 1990s indie filmmaking, especially SPANKING THE MONKEY and WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE. I don't think this is quite as good as those two films but is has a similar blank, unflinchingness about the way it embraces the awkward and embarrassing. Dunham eyes today's youthful with equal amounts of empathy and apathy, allowing them to make mistakes and look like selfish pricks while they do it, but never turning them into complete cartoons. You recognize behavior and it makes you feel gross but it's not as if ignoring this behavior will make it disappear. Dunham also manages to get some pretty decent performances from her amateur cast (including her family) which is quite an accomplishment of its own. I'm now very curious about GIRLS.
009. (Jan 17) THIS IS 40 (2012, Judd Apatow) 55
010. (Jan 20) THIEF (1981, Michael Mann)* 87
011. (Jan 20) CHARLEY VARRICK (1973, Don Siegel)* 83
012. (Jan 21) WHORE'S GLORY (2011, Michael Glawogger)* 53
013. (Jan 21) KILL LIST (2011, Ben Wheatley)* 56
014. (Jan 21) WAKE IN FRIGHT (1972, Ted Kotcheff)* 75
015. (Jan 21) HOFFA (1992, Danny DeVito)* 48
016. (Jan 21) THE DAY OF THE JACKAL (1973, Fred Zinnemann)* 80
017. (Jan 22) V/H/S (2012, Matt Bettinelli-Olphin, David Bruckner, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez, Glenn McQuaid, Radio Silence, Joe Swanberg, Chad Villella, Ti West, Adam Wingard)* 66
018. (Jan 24) SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (2012, David O. Russell) 68
019. (Jan 26) LIFE OF PI (2012, Ang Lee) 72
020. (Jan 27) YOUR SISTER'S SISTER (2011, Lynn Shelton)* 56
021. (Jan 27) END OF WATCH (2012, David Ayer)* 44
022. (Jan 28) IT'S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY (2012, Don Hertzfeldt)* 80
023. (Feb 03) SINISTER (2012, Scott Derrickson)* 65
024. (Feb 04) ZODIAC (2007, David Fincher)* 87
025. (Feb 08) THE BOURNE LEGACY (2012, Tony Gilroy)* 45
026. (Feb 09) BULLET TO THE HEAD (2013, Walter Hill) 62
027. (Feb 09) DREDD (2012, Pete Travis)* 64
028. (Feb 10) UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING (2012, John Hyams)* 65
029. (Feb 12) SKETCHES OF FRANK GEHRY (2006, Sidney Pollack)* 63
030. (Feb 17) THE RAVEN (2012, James McTeigue)* 37
031. (Feb 17) FATAL ATTRACTION (1987, Adrian Lyne)* 51
032. (Feb 18) TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY (1991, James Cameron)* 74
033. (Feb 21) SIDE EFFECTS (2013, Steven Soderbergh) 45
034. (Feb 22) SAFE (Boaz Yakin)* 57
035. (Mar 02) STOKER (2013, Chan-wook Park) 62
036. (Mar 03) BREAKDOWN (1997, Jonathan Mostow)* 72
037. (Mar 04) UPSTREAM COLOR (2013, Shane Carruth) 70
038. (Mar 05) AFTERNOON DELIGHT (2013, Jill Soloway) 44
039. (Mar 10) THE UNTOUCHABLES (1987, Brian De Palma)* 74
040. (Mar 10) MANHUNTER (1986, Michael Mann)* 70
041. (Mar 10) THE GOLDEN CHILD (1986, Michael Ritchie)* 42
042. (Mar 11) AS GOOD AS IT GETS (1997, James L. Brooks)* 67
043. (Mar 14) STOP MAKING SENSE (1984, Jonathan Demme) 90
044. (Mar 14) TRUE STORIES (1986, David Byrne) 48
045. (Mar 21) COLORS (1988, Dennis Hopper)* 64
046. (Mar 25) ROOM 237 (2012, Rodney Ascher)* 72
Like any movie about passionate obsessive characters, it's hard not to fall into their obsession a little bit and even the more obtuse theories begin to seem to have some merit or at least take on their own creative force. Oddly enough, I felt most compelled by the theories involving Kubrick's faking of the moon landing and Kubrick including clues to his involvement (the Danny Apollo 11 shirt and the moon being approx. 237 thousand miles from the earth are fairly persuasive) but once he gets into his theories that Kubrick is also exorcising his guilt about lying to his wife by addressing it in the film, he starts to lose me. The holocaust theories don't seem terribly sound to me (the obsession with the number 42 in the film harkens back to the Jim Carrey film THE NUMBER 23 in a bad way). I also don't really think this film is about the genocide of the Native American people completely but I think it is about that tangentially (the hotel is said to have been built on Indian burial grounds). I'm pretty impressed by the use of clips by Rodney Ascher and I'm very curious how he was able to clear all of these clips without paying out millions of dollars to license these clips for theatrical release. The juxtaposition of different Kubrick shots (e.g. the hotel bathtub scene in THE SHINING with the end sequence from 2001) was shockingly effective. I also now regret missing the exhibition of superimposed forward and reverse SHININGs that they did at AFIfest last year, I really hope someone does that because it seems like a fun way to experience that movie, even if I suspect all the most effective visual harmonies are probably featured in ROOM 237.
047. (Mar 26) HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE (2012, David France)* 41
A sprawling and exhausting slog through the AIDS epidemic through the eyes and cameras of the activists. Clearly a lot of compelling candid footage to be found but the film feels sloppily unfocused and oddly the weight of the epidemic and the loss of lives barely registers. When the film later cuts to the current faces of the surviving activists, I didn't have enough invested in them to really register it as the emotional catharsis that it was clearly aiming to be. Probably should have been a 10 hour miniseries or focused in on just one or two activists or a shorter span of time.
048. (Mar 31) STAKE LAND (2010, Jim Mickle)* 56
049. (Mar 31) WARGAMES (1983, John Badham)* 61
050. (Mar 31) ROOM 237 (2012, Rodney Ascher)* 72
051. (Apr 01) HIGH FIDELITY (2000, Stephen Frears)* 79
052. (Apr 05) SPRING BREAKERS (2012, Harmony Korine) 75
I love the overwhelming sensation of dread and anticipation over everything. The way Korine will give us a flashed image that we don't understand within the context of a fun party scene or the way he keeps pumping in non-diegetic loud sounds of guns being loaded or cracking of skulls. The story roughly continues and fleshes out TRASH HUMPERS with idiotic characters caught in a vicious cycle of violence, drugs and bikini party rocking (standing in for the humping of trash cans, but just as arbitrary). It's all very stupid and a celebration of stupidity and of course very titillating while also undermining the titillation factor at every turn, just as Korine's scripts have done since KIDS. However, Korine has also developed an eye nearly the equal of Larry Clark's and his images are stylized and beautiful with particularly evocative use of colored lights and a very well realized mix of media, morphing digital images together to give them a painterly and plastic quality. I was on the fence about Korine before but now I'm definitely a fan.
053. (Apr 06) CAPOTE (2005, Bennett Miller)* 72
054. (Apr 07) DR. NO (1963, Terrence Young)* 65
055. (Apr 08) THE DEAD ZONE (1983, David Cronenberg)* 87
056. (Apr 09) TRANCE (2013, Danny Boyle) 49
Idiotic and incredibly belabored about it. Partially redeemed by Boyle's stylish direction, constantly finding new ways to refract the image. He is never afraid to embrace the trashy pulp at the heart of this script, something that gives it a leg up on the equally idiotic, joyless trash of SIDE EFFECTS a few months back, but like that film, the more you find out about the plot, the less you care. However, there is totally naked Rosario Dawson and the plot somersaults involved to provide that reveal and make it integral to the plot is a special inspired brand of bad screenwriter wizardry.
057. (Apr 10) TO THE WONDER (2012, Terrence Malick) 64
Oddly enough, this put Bresson on my mind and not so much his film work but his writing in "Notes on the Cinematographer" and the way he talks about actors as models rather than performers, objects to move around in order to achieve effect. That seems to be what Malick is largely up to here, using his actors for their visual quality and trying to illicit emotion from the way they interact with the rest of the composition. However, there's a thin line between what Malick is achieving with his images of happy couples in picturesque locations and what is achieved in the typical Cialis commercial. I don't want to sound glib because I think this is a very heartfelt work from Malick but this is also the first time that it feels like there is a cap to his abilities when it comes using his images expressively, which I largely think has to do with how little weight is given to any shrugs towards narrative or character development. It's all behavior as portrayed through images of exhilarated joy, so often portrayed with characters running through fields with arms outstretched that it starts to feel like self-parody. He is even less successful when it comes to the images of the agony of a break-up but that might have less to do with the images than the meaning behind them because the film doesn't allow you to bring much to them, there isn't really anything invested in the characters. This is the first Malick film that hasn't engaged me emotionally which is odd considering how much emotion is being portrayed onscreen with Malick's elaborate emoticons. I know he has two others films currently in post-production and I really hope one of them has a return to more conventional narrative for Malick to use as a starting point for his visionary cinema because I think that his greatest successes come from grace notes found within a narrative.
058. (Apr 13) OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (2013, Sam Raimi) 57
059. (Apr 15) COLOR ME OBSESSED: A FILM ABOUT THE REPLACEMENTS (2011, Gorman Bechard)* 59
060. (Apr 18) STAVISKY (1974, Alain Resnais) 54
061. (Apr 18) YOU AIN'T SEEN NOTHIN' YET (2012, Alain Resnais) 63
062. (Apr 28) JUST LIKE BEING THERE (2012, Scout Shannon)* 60
063. (Apr 28) THE THING (1982, John Carpenter)* 88
064. (Apr 28) BETTER THAN SOMETHING: JAY REATARD (2011, Alex Hammond & Ian Markiewicz)* 65
065. (Apr 29) MAN ON THE MOON (1999, Milos Forman)* 58
066. (Apr 30) BUSTING (1974, Peter Hyams)* 74
067. (May 02) IN COLD BLOOD (1967, Richard Brooks)* 63
068. (May 05) THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012, Drew Goddard)* 66
069. (May 05) LAST DAYS HERE (2012, Demian Fenton & Don Argott)* 61
070. (May 06) SHOTGUN STORIES (2007, Jeff Nichols)* 65
071. (May 08) MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (1995, Brian DePalma)* 65
072. (May 08) THE HUNTED (2003, William Friedkin)* 74
073. (May 11) THE THIRD MAN (1949, Carol Reed) 100
074. (May 13) PHIL SPECTOR (2013, David Mamet)* 42
075. (May 14) CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013, Paul Greengrass)
076. (May 15) THE FEARLESS FREAKS (2005, Bradley Beesley)* 61
077. (May 21) PORTRAIT OF JASON (1967, Shirley Clarke) 76
A very tricky film that exists somewhere between documentary and performance art. Jason or Aaron is compelling as a storyteller and a charismatic presence as he commands the room with a drink in his hand and laughs through tales of living off the kindness of strangers or working as a houseboy for rich white people. However, the film is manipulative as is his performance, you are supposed to get the impression that the film is just rolling and the fades are dictated by the mag changes but if you pay close attention the images are being constructed and manipulated. Similarly, Jason's stories seem to flow and he is sometimes prompted by off screen calls from either Shirley Clarke or other people involved with the production, they ask for stories and something from his stage act and eventually start prompting him for memories of his mother and more crudely prodding him with name calling. All this gives the film the same structure as the one Jason describes when he talks about his dream stage performance which is to start with stories, move onto impersonations and then eventually reveal the sad clown and some tears, which is exactly what ends up happening with the film. So, by the time the calls from offscreen are mocking tears from Jason and telling him to stop performing, you realize that the performance he's giving is exactly what the filmmakers are after and the mean-spirited prodding is likely for the benefit of his performance.
078. (May 22) SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN (2012, Malik Bendjelloul)* 44
Not much here really. The mystery doesn't have much urgency and once the search is over you don't really find out much about what made him go away in the first place. The filmmaker doesn't really seem interested in asking any tough questions, it just feels like a fluff piece. I don't think the music is all that memorable either.
079. (May 26) JACK REACHER (2012, Christopher McQuarrie)* 46
I haven't read the book but this thing seems to be overly faithful to the source material and indebted to every turn of the plot which really slows down any momentum and makes what is essentially a pulpy, genre piece almost utterly devoid of fun. More importantly, there's no reason to pay slavish attention to a plot that could so easily be seen on network television. A disappointment from McQuarrie who seemed like he might have a more interesting film in him judging from his unfairly maligned debut THE WAY OF THE GUN (over ten years ago), but apparently not so much.
080. (May 26) THE PAPERBOY (2012, Lee Daniels)* 12
Wow. Even worse than I was expecting. You don't even really get to enjoy the camp and overheated lurid sexuality because Daniels doesn't have his heart in exploitation at all. Imagine what Craig Brewer would have done with this material (or better yet just rewatch BLACK SNAKE MOAN). So stunningly incompetent and ugly that it's hard to imagine that it was made by a crew of professionals, maybe Daniels is such a massive force of nature that he is capable of making everyone suck at their job.
081. (May 26) MARGIN CALL (2011, J.C. Chandor)* 64
Watched in wake of good buzz for ALL IS LOST, I really didn't care to watch a fictional account of the financial crisis as it was very fresh but I' glad I finally caught up with it. Chandor is very good at creating tension out of very dry scenes of people in board rooms and staring at computers and he put together a hell of a cast. Sometimes overwritten and obsessive about making sure all subtext is spelled out firmly by the characters at regular intervals but there's also some nice subtle work being done managing the character interactions. Spacey hasn't been this good in quite awhile and I don't think I've ever liked Paul Bettany this much.
082. (May 26) THE LAST STAND (2013, Kim Jee-Woon)* 54
A comfortable throwback with minimal stakes and very modest aspirations. Kim Ji-woon clearly knows his way around an action set piece and manages the chaos with a nice touch of cartoonish absurdity, he seems like a natural fit for Hollywood. It's also nice to see Schwarzenegger back even though he's given much less to do with his persona than Stallone did in the superior retro BULLET TO THE HEAD.
083. (May 27) BEHIND THE CANDELABRA (2013, Steven Soderbergh)* 65
084. (May 31) BEFORE MIDNIGHT (2013, Richard Linklater) 80
085. (Jun 03) THE STEEL HELMET (1951, Samuel Fuller)* 79
Tough and cynical as I've come to expect from Fuller and mostly lean until the final battle sequence which goes on a little too long and shows just how little budget they had to make work. That Fuller is able to smuggle in talk about racism against blacks and the American internment of Japanese into the small talk among soldiers shows how acutely Fuller was observing the atrocities in war and back at home.
086. (Jun 03) STAR WARS (1977, George Lucas)* 76
087. (Jun 03) THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980, Irvin Kershner)* 86
088. (Jun 07) 48 HRS. (1982, Walter Hill)* 90
089. (Jun 09) IRON MAN THREE (2013, Shane Black) 62
First two IRON MAN films were barely serviceable as action films with Favreau (and really his second unit guys) having all kinds of problems with coherence, geography and staging. However, they were increasingly funny in a nice smart ass way that was refreshing as a counterpoint to the increasingly dark Batman franchise. This one is both more funny than the previous IRON MAN films but also more serious and dark.
There are a lot of loose political metaphors floating around this movie, and will add another chapter to the inevitable Post 9/11 Film books we will get in the future. Stark is facing demons created years ago with arrogant slights that he can barely remember and finds himself having crippling panic attacks every time "New York" is mentioned to him. Reacting to his fears, he isolates himself and relentlessly creates new weapons. The recurring motif of technology failing our heroes from Stark to Bond to Batman to Ethan Hunt is probably also a 9/11 reaction too, right? There's also the injured vets who are literally ticking time bombs. The drone Iron men who no longer need a man inside (and playfully can also take over diplomatic matters when your lady is mad at you). I'm not sure all of this added up to much in terms of a coherent political message but it sure gave me something to think about while less interesting stuff was going on.
There's also the matter of new director Shane Black, who is clearly somewhat out of his depths in terms of the action filmmaking challenges presented by this project and also is stuck working with a rigid Marvel Comics style sheet but manages to make this very clearly a Shane Black film. His comedic dialogue is almost as easily recognizable to me as Woody Allen at this point and I delight at his obvious glee at being cruel to the little things, this time a kid who helps Stark when he's down, even though Stark calls him a pussy. Black also seems to have a pet theme when it comes to post-traumatic stress as that has played a common thread through much of his work. Also, it's always Christmas with Shane Black. That dude must have his mansion decorated with Christmas lights year round.
090. (Jun 10) RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983, Richard Marquand)* 64
091. (Jun 11) FRANCES HA (2012, Noah Baumbach) 81
Joyous. A star making role from Greta Gerwig, who seems to have a half-dozen star making roles in her pocket at this point. Baumbach has never been more loving towards his characters but his humor is still capable of drawing blood. Truffaut references aplenty hit a sweet spot for me but then there's also the lovely nod to the most memorable sequence from Carax's MAUVAIS SANG. Harris Savides gets a dedication and it's too bad he wasn't well enough to shoot this film, his work with Baumbach was always some of his most inspired work.
092. (Jun 20) ONLY GOD FORGIVES (2013, Nicolas Winding Refn) 38
Slow, languid and dreamlike but without a rigorous enough approach to the style for it to really be effective. The Kristin Scott Thomas character in particular is completely at odds with the silent & nightmarish quality that exists in most of the scenes without her. She is the only one allowed verbiage and it makes her feel like an expatriate from a different movie. Winding Refn's style is also not all that expressive once you get beyond the first 20 minutes or so, he repeats his visual ideas until they have little meaning, which could be more effective if he had been even more rigorous but there's all this silliness with the karaoke, KST and some of the more absurdly campy bits of comedy that kill any sustained dread. A come-down from DRIVE and VALHALLA RISING which suggest that Winding Refn isn't a one trick pony, but perhaps he will have a similar career trajectory as Miike and only create something truly exceptional when he is given strong material (ONLY GOD FORGIVES is not) or when he simplifies to the essence of his chosen genre or style.
093. (Jun 23) JAWS (1975, Steven Spielberg)* 96
094. (Jun 24) SLEEPY HOLLOW (1999, Tim Burton)* 53
095. (Jun 25) THE AVENGERS (2012, Joss Whedon)* 63
096. (Jul 01) KABOOM (2010, Gregg Araki)* 48
...but actually more affectionate towards this one than the score would suggest. This has a lot of charm and energy in the ways it combines different styles into a jumbled mess that barely tries to be tonally coherent. Sci-fi paranoia and queer teen sex comedy are not exactly harmonious genres to fit together but Araki doesn't really care about harmony, it's the way things clash with each other that makes this mostly compelling viewing even though it also feels like Araki is throwing everything at a wall to see what sticks. Araki has also never met a silly transition effect that he doesn't love and use to give this a jarring, homemade feel, which is either charming or annoying (for me it was both simultaneously). My grade dropped pretty significantly in the last 15 minutes when every plot point is explained and every minor character interaction becomes a conspiracy and Araki, for some reason, feels the need to try to pack this 15 ton elephant into a tiny carryon suitcase with an infuriating rush of exposition that really torpedos the film. A near miss from a director that I mostly don't ever seem to be on the same page with (except for his direction of Anna Faris' SMILEY FACE).
097. (Jul 01) TUFF TURF (1985, Fritz Kiersch)* 45
I'm always pretty skeptical about laughing at badness especially when you get the sense that the people making the film were just inept but were actually trying to achieve something personal. This is why I still haven't brought myself to watch THE ROOM, despite the strong assumption that it will probably be as hilariously bad as it is reported to be. However, I am very susceptible to bad genre films and for some reason the lone good guy versus a gang of bad kids at school in particular holds a special place in my heart. I have seen THE SUBSTITUTE and THE PRINCIPAL countless times without growing tired of them and I'm sure I will watch both countless more times before my short time on earth is up. This is definitely still part of that sub-genre and features James Spader and Robert Downey Jr fighting a pretty damn unthreatening group of 80s gang bangers. It also features plenty of 80s music, some good: Marianne Faithful "Love Hates" gives a lot of energy to the opening scenes and The Jim Carroll Band shows up briefly with Robert Downey Jr on drums to play "It's Too Late" & "Voices" and later his phenomenal "People Who Died" scores one of the only genuinely suspenseful sequences. There are a few hilarious dance numbers and a weird middle section where Spader, Downey Jr and Kim Richards invade a Country Club and Spader sits at the piano to serenade Richards. It ends violently, as these films always do. Worth watching but probably better with a large crowd at midnight.
s001. (Jul 02) THE BLUES ACCORDIN' TO LIGHTNIN' HOPKINS (1970, Les Blank)*
Equal parts study of Lightnin' Hopkins and of the late 60s rural and predominantly black section of Texas. Not the kind of film where you feel like you learn much about Hopkins but you do get a chance to sit on his porch and listen to him spin yarn, argue with his woman and casually pick away at the guitar, often breaking into song. The ethnographic sections of the film are just as strong, giving us a sense of culture, style and the personality of the area.
098. (Jul 02) SISTERS (1973, Brian De Palma)* 54
Second viewing and I liked it a little less this time. Clearly De Palma is still finding his footing stylistically and drawing heavily from Hitchcock (the plot is PSYCHO then REAR WINDOW) but none of the set pieces work as well as do when De Palma recycles them for DRESSED TO KILL and BODY DOUBLE. Margot Kidder is sort of terrible too.
099. (Jul 07) THE PARALLAX VIEW (1974, Alan Pakula)* 77
Pleasantly surprised to find that I had actually not seen this movie before and that it was quite excellent. Very strong, long sequences of suspense with hardly any dialogue form the glue holding together a pretty minimal plot. Pakula does a great job of creating rhyming suspense sequences that create certain expectations and then using prior knowledge to sustain dread, especially in the correlation between the boat scene and the plane scene. Great DP Gordon Willis and production designer George Jenkins work together harmoniously to guide your eyes along the edges of the frame and using oppressive light sources to create tension. Also, John W. Wheeler or whoever cut together that centerpiece Parallax image montage, which Fincher paid loving homage to in THE GAME, deserves much kudos for his excellent juxtaposition, timing and tension. Excellent example of the 70s paranoid thriller.
100. (Jul 07) THE MUMMY (1932, Karl Freund)* 62
W/O (Jul 07) SERENITY (2005, Joss Whedon)*
I felt lost not having seen the series FIREFLY but more importantly this just didn't seem like my kind of thing. Too much self aware winking and the actors didn't seem up to the task (to say nothing of the production values which are TV level or lower). Not my thing and Whedon seems to have come a long way in terms of his voice and his staging of action.
101. (Jul 08) LINCOLN (2012, Steven Spielberg)* 39
I was actively dreading this one and that's why I caught up with it a full six months after theatrical release. Steps very wrong from the first scene but recovers a bit during the middle section when it gets deep within the minutia of congressional politics and buying votes, most of the stuff when Lincoln is not onscreen (which is a surprising amount). Then it comes full circle and gets completely awful again and stays that way for much of the last twenty minutes. Day Lewis is a great actor and he does a lot to humanize Lincoln but he is given such awe-schucks folksy dialogue to deliver much of the time that I kept expecting him to put a piece of straw in his mouth. Spielberg lays the mawkishness pretty heavy too and is now completely unwilling to let a moment pass without telling you how to feel about it or what it means, despite how bluntly obvious the meaning has been set up and delivered. There's also the problem of Janusz Kamiński, easily my least favorite of the major cinematographers, blowing out every scene and generally making artificial pictures his stamp of distinction. He is a man of very narrow range of ability.
102. (Jul 14) THE BLING RING (2013, Sofia Coppola) 57
Solid attempt at very tricky subject matter that really couldn't be pushed too far into satire because it would seem like it was shooting down at easy targets but playing things too aloof might seem like endorsement of either the Bling Ring or the victims. So Copolla falls in between which isn't really playing it safe, more like playing it smart, with more attention paid to mood and tone than to hitting the audience over the head with what it all means. I would have been fine with this film just being a series of robberies without any outside context and ending before the justice is served (spoiler) because that's where Copolla's heart seems most in the material and it fits neatly into her oeuvre of disaffected people in pretty places where they don't belong and don't understand. Once again Harris Savides, who died during shooting and gets a opening dedication, does a bang up job of capturing beautiful low light images and he will be severely missed. He was really a master of understatement.
103. (Jul 15) THE CALL (2013, Brad Anderson)* 41
Very simple Larry Cohen-esque plot and a nifty, mostly effective thriller as it stays with Halle Berry on the phone with a in peril Abigail Breslin. Too bad the writer Richard D'Ovidio wasn't able to find a way to keep Berry and Breslin on the phone for the entire course of the movie because it takes a very stupid turn once the phone call ends and just keeps getting worse until the credits finally roll. Brad Anderson is a capable journeyman as usual and finds a nice balance between naturalism and mild stylization during scenes of duress and he keeps things moving at a good clip but he doesn't do anything to overcome the shortcomings of the screenplay for the last stretch, just begrudgingly falls into the hacky exploitation motions required of the material.
104. (Jul 20) VENUS AND SERENA (2012, Maiken Baird & Michelle Major)* 51
Glossy and surface level doc with very questionable narrative structure that forces a very conventional comeback sports plot onto some compelling archival footage. The filmmakers don't really delve deep into the personalities of the sisters and never completely differentiate them from each other. This is best when it is just documenting their process, drive and childhood years of endlessly training under their father's tutelage. Not by any means a great doc but I was fairly entertained, although I also find both Williams sisters very sexy, which surely helped.
105. (Jul 26) BLUE JASMINE (2013, Woody Allen) 86
Woody Allen's best and most confident film in several years. Allen is especially perceptive with his social satire of the classes but he also allows for the melodrama and comedy to exist within the same space, which is a very hard task but it works brilliantly. Allen also employs a non-linear structure in an incredibly effective way to comment on the supporting scene, reflect Jasmine's state of mind but also to surprise you with rich complication as the hand is slowly revealed. Cate Blanchett is magnificent, game both with comedy and unraveling tragedy which she often has to play simultaneously.
106. (Jul 29) CHARLES BRADLEY: SOUL OF AMERICA (2012, Poull Brien)* 44
Great human story and great music (I've seen Charles Bradley live and very much enjoyed his first album) but there's not much here cinematically and the structure of the film isn't very compelling. Very conventional portrait of someone who deserves better handling.
107. (Jul 30) PARADISE LOST 3: PURGATORY (2011, Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky)* 56
Strongly put together but still definitely the weakest of the three parts. Spends most of the running time reworking the entire case and presenting new evidence in piecemeal, including some new evidence that puts another step-father in question (this time Terry Hobbs, questionable with the lengthy film apology to John Mark Byers here that they offer for PARADISE LOST 2). Lengthy epilogue shows that they probably rushed the gun releasing the film and should have allowed the circumstances of the case to largely rework the entire film.
108. (Aug 02) PACIFIC RIM (2013, Guillermo del Toro) 36
Mistakenly expected a nearly plotless series of battles between robots and monsters and I wish that were the case but there's so much time spent with lame exposition, delayed reveals that are hardly revelatory and war/fight movie cliches piled high. However, the film also failed to live up to even my modest expectations of delivering the goods with the battle scenes which were too dark, too murky and too close to the action to really establish any sense of geography or coherence. That the best fight scene in the movie is not in a robot suit says a lot about the failings of the film and Del Toro.
109. (Aug 09) MUD (2012, Jeff Nichols)* 61
Nichols once again finds himself with a strong premise, good performances and massive third act problems. He is like a precision pilot who never learned how to land a plane. However, he remains aces when it comes to finding a suitable, exotic location for his stories and milking those locations for tone and authenticity, which makes some of his other failings here in terms of pace and managing supporting characters seem like less of a deal breaker than they would be in lesser hands. He just needs to learn how to land the damn plane already.
110. (Aug 10) THE ACT OF KILLING (2012, Anonymous, Christine Cynn, Joshua Oppenheimer)* 51
Not really the powerful experience for me that everyone else is describing. I think part of my disconnect is with the central device of allowing Congo to film and recreate his atrocities in the style of his choice allowing him to come to terms with his horrible actions and some catharsis, which he arguably achieves (or is that also for the cameras benefit?). I don't care about his catharsis.
111. (Aug 11) COMPUTER CHESS (2012, Andrew Bujalski) 63
Feels rigorous to the conceit at first but then starts spiraling out of control into increasingly comedic, surreal and ridiculous territory.
112. (Aug 11) DRUG WAR (2013, Johnnie To) 74
A very impressive procedural crime film that becomes a spectacular action film. There isn't much transition between the two genres, it's just like a switch flips and suddenly there's massive prolonged shoot-out set pieces that Johnnie To executes terrifically, with great attention to spacial relationships and fluid camera movement.
113. (Aug 16) LCD SOUNDSYSTEM: SHUT UP AND PLAY THE HITS (2012, Will Lovelace, Dylan Southern)* 53
Indifferently shot concert footage of what appears to have been an excellent and very memorable concert. Day after footage doesn't really have much resonance and neither does the framing interview by Chuck Klosterman, although he does ask some very thoughtful, pointed questions that mostly get answered honestly. The concert film genre remains mostly useless which is really odd because there are few things more compelling than attending a great concert and they allow for a very interested visual challenge to a filmmaker because you have to find new and compelling ways to visualize something that is more or less remaining the same for 2 hours. Jonathan Demme's thoughtful approach to STOP MAKING SENSE and his other concert work remains the pinnacle of the genre because of how thoroughly orchestrated and planned out his visual scheme was and it's very apparent in the films. Just as it's very apparent here that the filmmakers didn't have full control or access to the area and weren't really thinking about keeping their visuals fresh and interested for every song. Concert films need to be opened up much like film adaptations of plays or you just end up with a recording of a great event rather than an artistic interpretation of that event.
114. (Aug 19) EVENT HORIZON (1997, Paul W.S. Anderson)* 44
Decided to check this out again since I mostly had fond memories of it from viewing at age 16 and also curious about Anderson's enduring reputation as a worthy auteur of unworthy genres. A reputation that I somewhat understand because of Anderson's abundance of stylish camera moves, canted Dutch angles and colorful lighting schemes. However, I don't find Anderson's stylistic flourishes compelling enough to overcome the overwhelmingly stupid material that he always finds himself serving and he isn't particularly good at brushing by stupid plot reveals or exposition in an artful way. So, you just end up with occasionally visually striking dumb films like EVENT HORIZON which gets most of its mileage from riffing on ALIEN and HELLRAISER and SOLARIS. I guess I should check out some of Anderson's later RESIDENT EVIL films just to make sure that he hasn't developed into a more interesting filmmaker in the last ten years.
115. (Aug 19) THE BAY (2012, Barry Levinson)* 48
Found footage gimmick removes any attachment to the characters because we're detached from the action and the fragmentation of the footage is too great to really focus, so it ends up being as coldly, anti-humanist as CONTAGION but it seems like that was an accident here and was by design there. Like CONTAGION, this made me long for the slick, commercial & completely silly OUTBREAK.
116. (Aug 20) CLOCKERS (1995, Spike Lee)* 65
Umpteenth viewing, first in several years and big downgrade. Compares unfavorably now with THE WIRE which is truer to the spirit and attention to procedural detail of Price's excellent book CLOCKERS, even though that isn't a straight adaptation. This has a lot of Spike Lee problems and I assume that it was either because he was riding high off several successful projects or he was overly confident in the material and wanted to put his stamp on it. There is a lot of unnecessarily showy camerawork (including Lee crowbarring in several of his trademark shots to very little effect), there is a lot of overbearing non-diegetic music that is supposed to counterpoint but just ends up distracting and Lee can't help but fill in his thesis in every corner with "No More Packing" billboards aplenty (even in Strike's toy train set). The part of the film that holds up best is the cop procedural stuff which maintains the macabre, cop banter that Price is so great at writing and the murder mystery is fairly compelling but much of the street hustling stuff really looks pale in comparison to THE WIRE, with too much preachy speechifying and dialogue meant to convey meaning rather than sketch out the characters. Keitel is very strong here, some of his best work, as is Delroy Lindo who is far too absent from recent films.
117. (Aug 27) THE BARON OF ARIZONA (1950, Samuel Fuller)* 71
A different film than I was expecting, very dedicated to the procedure of Baron's fraud then taking a sharp turn towards heated, romantic melodrama. Vincent Price underplays (for him) and is very effectively cast as a regal nobleman who also happens to be a con man but he is also very capable at staying with the turns of the plot and tone when things become more heated. Slightly overlong (not usually a problem for Fuller) but the plot is pretty delicious so I forgive Fuller for relishing the details with his reporter's delight.
118. (Aug 28) CARNIVAL OF SINNERS (1943, Maurice Tourneur)* 69
A fun take on Faust with an artist making a deal to become a successful painter that's made with a lot of style by Maurice Tourneur (father of Jacques, who was making I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE the same year). The near end sequence where the painter encounters a gallery of former talesman owners and he hears of their downfall is a particular highlight, playing like something Powell & Pressburger would have dreamt up but employing a style owing much to German expressionism. I'm very intrigued my Maurice Tourneur from his work here, I will have to explore his filmography in more detail to see what other gems are waiting to be rediscovered.
119. (Sep 01) YOU'RE NEXT (2011, Adam Wingard) 71
Joins DEATH PROOF and CABIN IN THE WOODS as another horror film that's as interested in exploring and subverting the nuances of the genre as it is in delivering upon genre expectations. Like those films, YOU'RE NEXT is perched between horror and comedy, finding a sweet spot balance that doesn't allow the comedy to counteract the horror completely and vice versa. I bet this was a blast at 2011 TIFF Midnight Madness.
120. (Sep 02) THE WORLD'S END (2013, Edgar Wright) 67
A lot of fun and Wright/Pegg do a very good job of weaving the growing up vs. selling out theme throughout both halves of the film.
121. (Sep 03) PASSION (2012, Brian De Palma)* 51
The first hour is closest De Palma has come to directing a MELROSE PLACE episode; bad casting decisions, horrible line reads, completely implausible plotting and a lot of scheming. Then everything becomes dreamy and De Palma starts going Dutch and finally there's a couple of stellar De Palma set pieces that approach the quality we would expect from De Palma of the 70s or 80s and he even spikes the cocktail with a hint of giallo. However, all the sweat from the second half don't erase the first half or the flaws that remain plentiful even when he actually seems to be trying.
122. (Sep 03) JADE (1995, William Friedkin)* 38
Worse than I remembered. An interesting case study to compare how Verhoeven handled the equally silly script for BASIC INSTINCT with his sleek maximalism, VERTIGO fetishism and keen eye towards gender politics and Friedkin goes sleazy instead of sexy, more concerned with the male politics and overdoing the exoticism of Chinatown every time we leave the police station or rich houses.
123. (Sep 04) BIG STAR: NOTHING CAN HURT ME (2012, Olivia Mori, Drew DeNicola)* 65
The never-ending quest to make a documentary about every cult band and Big Star is a big one to check off that list. Their story doesn't follow any helpful arc for a filmmaker and so this does a pretty nearly sweeping job of telling their story and following them through side projects and eventual deaths. A very sad story actually, with Chris Bell an especially tragic figure, not as fully revered as the Lennon-to-his-McCartney Alex Chilton, the film skates around his heroin addiction and hints at his inner turmoil over his born again Christianity blocking off his (homo?) sexual urges. Doesn't feel completely satisfying as a film but I'm pretty sure this will be the best we will get, too bad it wasn't made a few years earlier because maybe it would have brought some more attention to the band when Chilton was alive and he could have participated in the film. Now back to the checklist, where is the film on Jonathan Richman?
124. (Sep 04) LORDS OF SALEM (2012, Rob Zombie)* 68
A very welcomed correction from Rob Zombie, who has been careening off track ever since he ventured into the HALLOWEEN franchise. He shows a lot of patience here, letting the story unfold slowly and the atmosphere and production design do a lot of the work. When the film does go off the rails, it does so in spectacularly silly fashion, allowing Zombie to plunge into the deep end of surreal, psychedelic horror effects that resemble everyone from Lynch to Jodorowsky to Anger, comparisons that are maybe slightly unfair to Zombie, who does have a vision that is clearly and unmistakably his own. I'm also continuing to warm to Sheri Moon Zombie as a leading lady, I think she should probably be working with other directors to continue to develop (but I'm not sure if Zombie will let her out of his sight, she seems to be his muse). I hope Zombie continues making stuff like this, more art films and less hack for hire franchise building.
125. (Sep 07) THE CONJURING (2013, James Wan) 70
I probably should have held out for a home viewing, instead I opted for a $5 bargain theater in Highland Park surrounded by idiots talking back at the film and a girl sobbing for the last five minutes of the film. I'll probably check it out when it comes out of blu-ray (just in time for Halloween), so I can figure out just how truly scary this plays when the viewing mood is correct. However, I can confirm that even in less than stellar viewing conditions, I was very scared for a good deal of the running time. In fact, I was tempted to rate this a 1/2 star higher given how chillingly effective I found it and how refreshing it was to see such old school scare effects brought into modern horror. Wan did some of that with INSIDIOUS, although that was a good deal sillier and flimsier than this film, but he seems to be perfecting his game in terms of delivering the genre goods. The last bit with the exorcism pretty much falls flat and takes the movie down a more familiar Exorcism movie path that isn't nearly effective as the Haunted House movie that preceded it.
126. (Sep 08) THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES (2012, Derek Cianfrance)* 59
A huge improvement over BLUE VALENTINE but the structure gives this a similarly predetermined, mechanical structure. Cianfrance's filmmaking skills still run laps around his screenwriting, so I hope he finds the right collaborators in the future to tame his weaker tendencies.
127. (Sep 09) NOW YOU SEE ME (2013, Louis Letterier)* 47
Incredibly silly and ludicrously plotted, which is a huge problem for a heist film with twists and turns because if nothing is impossible than nothing is really at stake. It's also completely overdirected by Leterrier who hasn't met a swooshing camera move that he didn't like. A waste of a strong cast and potentially fun premise.
128. (Sep 09) OBLIVION (2013, Joseph Kosinski)* 43
As sleek and utterly unmemorable as Kosinski's previous film. I'm pretty sure Kosinski has an eye and maybe with a decent script he will eventually make a decent film but it will require a sense of humor, a sense of how to handle exposition and better attention to pacing. He also doesn't really know how to direct action yet.
129. (Sep 22) SIMON KILLER (2012, Antonio Campos)* 37
I liked Mati Diop's work. I didn't like much else. Campos' tendency towards narrative obfuscation was somewhat apparent in AFTERSCHOOL and is a major problem point here and I think it's troubling that he is using it as a device to give his lead character a superficial level of psychological depth.
130. (Sep 22) THE WORLD ACCORDING TO DICK CHENEY (2013, R.J. Cutlet)* 55
Needs more Dick.
131. (Sep 23) PARKER (2013, Taylor Hackford)* 41
This is actually a very weird film. Let me take a shot at what I think happened. It feels like they might have started with a pretty hard-edged script faithful to Richard Stark's Parker series but then Statham and a significant budget got attached and they started making major compromises. Parker's character got turned into a Robin Hood type crook with a heart of gold and he must get payback but not for the money, it's more of an honor thing. Then J-Lo got attached and her people wanted a page one rewrite to give her more agency in the plot and some sexual chemistry with Parker, which pads out the middle section of the film quite a bit but is also the only section of the film that feels like it has a charm that's not borrowed from other sources. Final action scene is more or less by the numbers and Hackford gives the film a lot of old school polish (including some odd blooming visual effects that make the film look like a perfume commercial). It's way too long and feels like every major choice was a compromise but it's not a complete waste of time. Definitely doesn't honor Westlake though, I felt bad when the first title card was a dedication to that great writer, he deserved better and so did his character Parker.
132. (Sep 23) THE OTHER F WORD (2011, Andrea Blaugrund)* 32
i want to be stereotyped i want to be classified
i want to be a clone i want a
i want to be a statistic i want to be masochistic
i want to be a clone i want a
i don't want no hippie pad
i want a house just like mom and dad
133. (Sep 23) GET SHORTY (1995, Barry Sonnenfeld)* 62
First viewing in more than a decade. A little too pleased with itself but Leonard's ear for colorful dialogue is certainly present and the cast is confident and competent.
134. (Sep 23) WORLD WAR Z (2013, Marc Forster)* 50
I actually thought the first section of the film worked pretty well, when it was just Brad Pitt and family running away from the twitchy, superfast zombies. Forster's lack of geographic competence during the action actually not deal breaking because he stays so tight on the family that it feels a little more akin to a video game than a normal disaster movie. However, when it goes for big scale action scenes, it is much less successful and the final stretch is both lifeless and largely idiotic.
135. (Sep 23) SERPICO (1973, Sidney Lumet)* 74
Second or third viewing, first in over ten years. Less conventional than I remembered, with Serpico seen as both righteous but also something of a weirdo and an eccentric. I bet if they made this movie now they would take out some of his flouncing around, reading about ballet, playing with pet mouse, etc, but these details add so much color and make for a much more compelling and unexpected character study. The plot structure by Wexler and Salt is also admirably eccentric, relaying information is a very loosely procedural manner like a series of blows against the integrity of the police department than focusing in on one case or one kind of corruption. That looseness gives the film a real sense of authenticity that is hard-earned and feels uniquely a product of the spirit of filmmaking in the 1970s.
136. (Oct 12) CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013, Paul Greengrass) No Grade
First time with 100% complete score. I worked on this film in 2012.
137. (Oct 13) GRAVITY (2013, Alfonso Cuarón) 62
The sublime and the hokey. Jaw-dropping visually, even though I think some of the impact could have been heightened by sharp editing rather than showy long takes. The whole concept of having explosions in the sky occur without sound is rather stunning, I wish they'd gone one step further and done less with the score. Ultimately becomes about overcoming the loss of a child, which is emotional baggage that this film didn't need. Biggest awesome direction to silly script deficit since, um, CHILDREN OF MEN.
138. (Oct 19) NOAH (2014, Darren Aronofsky)* No Grade
I just started working on this film, I'm very curious how many times I will watch it in the next 8 weeks.
139. (Oct 22) NOAH (2014, Darren Aronofsky)* No Grade
140. (Oct 26) NOAH (2014, Darren Aronofsky)* No Grade
141. (Oct 31) NOAH (2014, Darren Aronofsky)* No Grade
142. (Nov 04) NOAH (2014, Darren Aronofsky)* No Grade
143. (Nov 15) NOAH (2014, Darren Aronofsky)* No Grade
144. (Nov 17) NOAH (2014, Darren Aronofsky)* No Grade
145. (Nov 18) NOAH (2014, Darren Aronofsky)* No Grade
146. (Nov 18) NOAH (2014, Darren Aronofsky)* No Grade
147. (Nov 18) NOAH (2014, Darren Aronofsky)* No Grade
148. (Nov 19) 12 YEARS A SLAVE (2013, Steve McQueen) 61
Starting to think that the rhythms and style that made McQueen's HUNGER work so well for me were a fluke and he's really much more concerned with narrative than I would have ever imagined. This is pretty straightforward dramatically, hitting notes similar to most prestige biopics that come out this time of the year. I can imagine a Steve McQueen version of this story that stripped away much of the clutter of incident and became more about the rhythms of slave labor, the pain on the body, the emotional terror and the boredom of working the fields and then being tied up in a room full of other slaves. This is too reverential to the story to really explore any territory that doesn't feel overmined. McQueen finds several expressive grace notes along the way, but this feels like a missed opportunity. Hans Zimmer's score here sure sounds reminiscent of INCEPTION, no?
149. (Nov 24) THE COUNSELOR (2013, Ridley Scott) 58
Very conflicted about this one. The dialogue is very well written but the film still feels much too talky, I suspect it's not the nature of the dialogue but the feeling that they are mostly talking about the same thing in ever scene, with only minor variation. The incidents are seen usually without context, which makes it so you constantly have to catch up with the narrative but the dialogue is also largely elusive, referring to things we don't know or haven't seen. So the film has the weird feeling of moving too fast but also too slow at the same time, you get lost in the puzzle and then you get lost in the dialogue, so the clever lines don't stick but neither does the action. It's a little like watching a sport you don't understand being broadcast in a language you don't speak. Ridley Scott is oddly subservient but he's not alone, it doesn't feel like anyone wanted to get in the way of the text and there was no effort to find any creative space to work through the material. Cameron Diaz is also a big problem, not convincingly as a femme fatale or someone capable of hatching such a labyrinth plan.
150. (Nov 26) THE CONJURING (2013, James Wan)* 70
151. (Dec 02) BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR (2013, Abdellatif Kechiche) 67
152. (Dec 08) ALL IS LOST (2013, J.C. Chandor) 69
153. (Dec 09) NOAH (2014, Darren Aronofsky)* No Grade
154. (Dec 11) THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013, Martin Scorsese) 61