Author Topic: Respond to the last movie you watched (2013-2016)  (Read 420904 times)

1SO

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Re: Respond to the last movie you watched
« Reply #4860 on: April 22, 2015, 09:15:40 AM »
The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach (1968)
* 1/2
If you've been following my posts recently you know I've been watching a lot of the kind of acclaimed cinema that doesn't appeal to me. (There are a few interesting titles in there too, like The Swimmer.) This is a prime example. What seemed like a harmless docudrama about the life and music of Johann Sebastian Bach as presented by his wife, Anna, is in fact an exercise in tedium only slightly more cinematic than watching a Bach concert while someone occasionally narrates in bits of information. Okay, so probably a poor choice for me right now. No need to be hostile about it.

And then I'm doing my post-viewing research where I find this quote.

“…may continue to send Matrix-weaned mouth-breathers screaming from film classes, wondering what they’ve gotten themselves into.”

Seems a bit hostile, don't you think? I wasn't going to piss on this film, but here is a fan of the movie taking a shot at my film tastes. How about this?

"minimalist auteur vision as temporal torture to the modern viewer."

That's taken from a positive review of the film. Praising the filmmakers ability to torture the viewer? I can see Bondo saying to me "I told you so."

Quote from: MartinTeller
I hate to criticize a film by going after its fans.

I won't link to Martin's review because he says he regrets his first sentence, though I found it to be fair and accurate. As I read through reviews by Martin of other films made by Danièle Huillet, Jean-Marie Straub it suddenly became clear.

CINECAST! This Movie!
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roujin

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Re: Respond to the last movie you watched
« Reply #4861 on: April 22, 2015, 10:54:17 AM »
Looking forward to it.

Bondo

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Re: Respond to the last movie you watched
« Reply #4862 on: April 22, 2015, 01:51:57 PM »
The Hunting Party (2007)

If the passing of history can ravage great films, just think what it can do to average films. The Hunting Party, based on a true story of journalists who had covered the Balkan conflicts of the 90s decided to casually search out one of the most notorious, at-large Serbian war criminals, has ending intertitles that play up Western conspiracy to not capture war criminals like Radovan Karadžić, the one fictionalized by this film, and also mocks efforts to capture Osama bin Laden. Well, Karadžić would be captured a year later and bin Laden would be killed a few more after that. Maybe they were stirred to action by the release of this mostly obscure film (apparently the article it was based on, published in 2000, was not sufficient motivation). So yeah, history kind of takes the punch out of one of the film's thematic points.

The more interesting aspect for me was what plays as quite a condemnation of journalism and the idea of impartiality. What we demand from journalism is an unemotional kind of tourism to atrocity. It is "if it bleeds it leads" without actually demanding that we see the horror in a way that actually outrages us, because the people it happens to are so remote to us. It actually had me thinking about a comment from the Culture Gabfest discussion of About Elly that was released today, about how watching this film about Iranian film, you don't want to bomb them. This comment was pointing to how coverage of Iranian politics makes them this evil entity (part of an axis) to which bombing is just a strategy without actually having to consider the people who would pay a price. So the film was somewhat effective here but wasn't really focused enough to take full advantage.

What was less effective was the film's more stylish bits or efforts at broader comedy. There's a weird thing with a UN guy using an intercom to speak to his secretary sitting about 10 feet away. Maybe it happened, but it is odd. There's a whole thing with one of the guy's girlfriends waiting for him for a vacation, which serves a purpose, but the minute or two they actually spend developing it undercuts it completely. Finally, Richard Gere's out of control correspondent character strains belief too often. This being my second Richard Shepard film, following The Matador, which I adore, it feels like quite a disappointment, both in getting the best from the story and in failing to managing the odd tonal balance that he managed in the prior film.

C

MartinTeller

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Re: Respond to the last movie you watched
« Reply #4863 on: April 22, 2015, 11:11:00 PM »
Thanks to goodguy for putting this one on my radar:



The Strange Little Cat - A tidy whirlwind of everyday activity as a family gathers and prepares for a large dinner.  First-time writer/director Ramon Zürcher employs a minimalist narrative that's remarkably casual.  The action and conversation couldn't be more mundane, and yet tiny bits of chaos flutter around the edges.  A light bulb is broken.  A sausage defiantly squirts its juices when cut.  Someone has vomited in front of the house.  No less than three shirts are damaged.  It's all perfectly ordinary stuff but the absence of broad, dramatic obvious conflict gives the confluence of these minor occurrences just a hint of unease.  And with little prompting from Zürcher.  He rarely points to anything and says: "Isn't this weird?  What do you make of that, huh?"  A couple of times the camera seems to pause on a character, an ellipsis that lasts just long enough to arouse suspicion.

And it's also a wonderful little family portrait.  The parents and siblings have utterly authentic chemistry, developing in-jokes and making little jabs of playful passive-aggression.  Rarely are films where "nothing happens" so enjoyable.  And there are these captivating monologues.  Again, the content itself is far from exciting.  The mother relates an incident in a movie theater where a stranger sitting next to her accidentally put his foot on hers.  The father talks about traffic.  A daughter describes how orange peels always fall with the white side up.  A son talks about a drunk woman at a party who made people uncomfortable.  And yet these prosaic speeches, delivered in an emotionless (but not robotic or monotone) fashion, connect with the viewer.  They have a universality, you get a glimpse of the world through someone else's eyes and recognize it.  And they seem to point to an anxious alienation.  Except the orange peel.  What's up with the orange peel?

Zürcher isn't telling.  It's a puzzler of a film, but done with so little pretense or willful obfuscation that I never felt like I was being kept at arm's length.  I felt invited in.  Come in, look around, explore.  Breathe in the air.  Is it red or green?  Be a spectator for the purring cat.  Oh yes, the titular cat.  There's a dog too.  Neither seems to be especially significant, although the cat does appear to have his own soundtrack.  Zürcher was reportedly inspired by "The Metamorphosis" (how curiously coincidental that the last movie I watched was Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life).  Is the cat Gregor Samsa, the creature in the bedroom no one wants to acknowledge?  But they talk about it, pick it up.  Nope, it's just a cat.  Or is it?  Is the title just a flirtatious tease?

The film draws comparison to both Tati and Akerman.  There's some of that in there.  It was also conceived during a Bela Tarr workshop.  There's some of that in there, too.  But these comparisons are too easy.  It's domestic minutiae, so it's Akerman.  It's slow, so it's Tarr.  It has light comedy featuring people confounded by objects, so it's Tati.  Influences, yes, but it's neither a copy of their styles nor some kind of hybrid soup of them.  It's something familiar and yet different.  It's warm and it's cold.  It's mildly comforting and vaguely sinister.  It's a slippery little mother of a movie, one that gets better the longer it sits with me.  I want to see this again.  Rating: Great (90)
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Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: Respond to the last movie you watched
« Reply #4864 on: April 23, 2015, 06:43:35 AM »
Oh man, I need to go back and see this. Forgot all about it.

mañana

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Re: Respond to the last movie you watched
« Reply #4865 on: April 23, 2015, 07:12:04 AM »
Hoping to get to that this weekend.
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1SO

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Re: Respond to the last movie you watched
« Reply #4866 on: April 23, 2015, 10:19:35 AM »

Cutter's Way (1981)

"I watched the war on TV like everybody else. Thought the same damn things. You know
what you thought when you saw a picture of a young woman with a baby lying face down in a ditch?
You had three reactions, Rich, same as everybody else. The first one was real easy: 'I hate
the United States of America'. Yeah. You see the same damn thing the next day and you move up a notch.
'There is no God'. But you know what you finally say, what everybody finally says, no matter what? 'I'm hungry.'


I'd much prefer a mystery to lose sight of its ....mystery and present an interesting set of characters, like Chandler or Inherent Vice
or this.

Like The Swimmer, here's a film with major cult appeal, open to interpretations, resting comfortably on some strong performances. A portrait of children of the 60s, living in a world they no longer understand. Their illusions shattered and their future bleak. Bone (Jeff Bridges) is an old beach bum who sleeps with middle-aged women for money. His best friend Cutter (John Heard) is a crippled, alcoholic Vietnam vet who spews insults in all directions. His wife Mo (Lisa Eichhorn) has been worn down by Cutter. She is a depressed shell of a human being. One rainy night Bone thinks he sees a man disposing a body and days later he sees that man again as the guest of honor at a parade. Cutter jumps at the opportunity to take down this rich tycoon, needling Bone to help him.

As I hinted at with verbALs quote, the mystery here isn't of much concern, but what's interesting is how the characters respond to the events, and how it reflects on their personal struggles up to this point. Heard has the big, showy role and with his raspy delivery he does overdo sometimes, but it's a great theatrical performance. I've seen a lot of early Jeff Bridges work in the past year and this one's my favorite. The two work well off each other. However, their scenes with Eichhorn are even better. Where did she come from and where did she go? This is the Best Supporting Actress performance of 1981. Eichhorn strikes the perfect balance between the blustery Cutter and the lazy hazy Bone. She uses their identities to create her own, which only points up how much of herself has been lost over the years.

It's to the film's credit that the energy doesn't drop when she's not around, and a 4th character played by Ann Dusenberry is also really good. Czech director Ivan Passer does an excellent job capturing Americana just before the selfishness of the Reagan Era broke into the mainstream. It's a bold choice to stick so closely to characters that are impossible to like, yet for a film that seems so relentlessly pessimistic, it becomes more hopeful as it goes along. There would've been a lengthy Spoiler Thread for this film if the Boards existed in 1981.
RATING: * * * - Good
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1SO

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Re: Respond to the last movie you watched
« Reply #4867 on: April 23, 2015, 12:29:45 PM »
The Murder Man (1935)
* * * - Good
Swiftly-paced murder investigation starring Spencer Tracy as a crack reporter. The mystery is fairly obvious, but Tracy is just effortlessly great. Though this is a drama, there's a strong His Girl Friday vibe from the crackling dialogue and a gallery of police reporters which includes William Demarest and James Stewart (in his feature film debut).
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Bondo

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Re: Respond to the last movie you watched
« Reply #4868 on: April 23, 2015, 01:47:50 PM »
Into The Woods (2014)

This musical certainly starts off strong. With I Wish and Into The Woods, you have two intercutting songs that effectively establish the relevant characters and their aspirations. Problem is, the music is rarely as useful ever again. The fact is, though I'm a big fan of musicals, I just don't like Sondheim. I like melodies and he too often focuses on recitative delivery of his lines. For that to work I feel like I need better than I get here. If you aren't going to sell me on melody, I want Shakespeare. I want a usage of language that becomes musical in its eloquent construction.

Storywise, it falls apart at the happy ending in the middle of the film. I get that the point of the musical is the second act, it is about the cost of the happy ending. The story is saying something about unintended consequences, about using others as means to your ends, about grudges, maybe about being happy with your lot or aiming for good enough. It's all a big mush of meanings without feeling earned. Now, maybe a lot of this is lost in adaptation. I don't know, maybe I just can't handle negative endings for a group of people bound by poverty, infertility, familial abuse and binding moral piety. Maybe the ending speaks to pragmatism, but I will forever rage against the dying of the light. I think Red Riding Hood's arc is the most baffling (and creepy), painting her at once the target of a predator and perhaps a girl wanting to engage her passions and sensuality, but these things are rather toxic put together. And it is problematic to have the story shame her for it in either event.

So ultimately I leave from the experience confused, and with neither songs nor story to carry the day, it's hard not to see this as a failure. It also continued the streak of Meryl Streep getting nominated for being awful in things.

C-

1SO

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Re: Respond to the last movie you watched
« Reply #4869 on: April 23, 2015, 02:19:37 PM »
The opening is the movie's high point, as opposed to the show which has many high points, though most are in Act I. It would outrage the purists, but I would've just adapted the first Act, which has more than enough for a good/great feature.


It also continued the streak of Meryl Streep getting nominated for being awful in things.
I would say it continues the streak of Meryl Streep being great in movies that are not up to her level. Here's what I've seen.

Into the Woods
August: Osage County
The Iron Lady
It's Complicated
Julie & Julia
Doubt
Mamma Mia!

Doubt is arguably the last time the movie was as good as her performance.
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