Author Topic: Corndog Watches Your Favorite Film  (Read 43956 times)

Corndog

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Re: Corndog Watches Your Favorite Film
« Reply #280 on: June 23, 2016, 09:39:05 AM »
sdedalus
Ordet (Carl Th. Dreyer, 1955)

Much of my movie watching of late has been extremely structured. I wrote about how that's not necissarily a bad thing, but even something like watching ORDET has a purpose. Thanks to the wide range of tastes of filmspotters, and their ability to discover and celebrate films which I would likely not otherwise think of watching, this marathon thread in particular has been a joy and a way for me to see an array of films of different styles and from different eras. ORDET is no different thanks to longtime filmspotter Sean. I have seen Dreyer most famous work, THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, but my knowledge of his talents stops there. So getting a chance to see ORDET, knowing very little of the film going in, was a true joy. There is no Maria Falconetti performance to fuel the picture, but ORDET is just as good, moving, and thought-provoking, if not more so.

As I began to settle into the film, I could not help but think of Ingmar Bergman. I'm not sure whether you can count Denmark as part of Scandinavia (I have heard arguments both ways), but the film has a certain Bergman flair to it (or maybe Bergman films have a Dreyer flair to them and I'm missing the point). This is to say, however, that the first thing that jumped out to me was the beautiful black and white cinematography, which features stark contrasts, impeccable framing, incredible lighting, and camera movement that seems unique only to this film. The camera manages to float around the scenes, producing a room like quality, placing the viewer directly into the setting of these characters and conversations. Also Bergman-esque are the themes of the film, which indulge largely on the faith based musings of a farm family at odds with each other and those in their rural town. Again, perhaps this is merely a popular theme in Scandinavia (if we're allowed to call Denmark that).

While there is no Falconetti performance, as I said, the ensemble cast here are all very good and contribute a great deal to the rather laconic pacing of the film, and reflective atmosphere produced by Dreyer. ORDET is a film which challenges its viewer in not just their definition of their own religious faith, as it certainly separates personal faith from organized religion at large, but it also challenges the viewers perception and acceptance of the faith of others. Each character brings an important element to the story, making it rather convenient, but Dreyer executes it in a very believable manner. The staging of the film is such that this could easily be a stage play, which is in no way an indictment on the film itself. I often enjoy the style of film based on a stage play, where intersecting characters interact in only a few, select settings. They are often powerful, full of great performances. ORDET is no different and would come highly recommended to anyone who is intrigued by the exploration of personal faith.

***1/2 - Great
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oldkid

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Re: Corndog Watches Your Favorite Film
« Reply #281 on: July 24, 2016, 05:50:53 PM »
Yep, yep, yep.  In my top 100.
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Corndog

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Re: Corndog Watches Your Favorite Film
« Reply #282 on: July 25, 2016, 12:49:37 PM »
roujin
Los Angeles Plays Itself (Thom Andersen, 2003)

Los Angeles Plays Itself was an endlessly intriguing title on this list for the longest time. Of course, at nearly three hours, it's not surprising (at least to me) that I didn't get to it earlier. But I am glad I was finally able to take the plunge, even if the resulting film was a little less than my expectations. The concept behind Los Angeles Plays Itself is fascinating, as filmmaker Thom Andersen takes a look at the city of Los Angeles, and how its landscape is used in films, how the city is portrayed, and in some cases, how the city is derided or downgraded by its depicted on the Silver Screen. This is such a wonderful concept, but what I found was that the topic translated poorly into the framework of this documentary film, becoming far too academic and standard in its delivery, leaving me the feeling of watching some sort of dissertation whose author is biased, angry, and looking to direct his research to support his hypothesis instead of letting the material lead him to a conclusion.

Andersen's framing and voice over quickly became grating and unwelcome, as he sounds very disappointed and entitled to the city he claims is his. I found the selection of films used to be rather obscure as well. Of course there are exceptions, and more familiar films are used, but time and again he returns to examples of films I've never heard of. And while I am not a walking encyclopedia of Los Angeles films, surely there were more options to choose from (though perhaps not the kind which supported his mission). For this reason, the film struggled to keep my interest on numerous occasions, especially at its three hour length. Where the film succeeded most was when Andersen was able to take a single location and depict how the industry has used it time and again, many times in various ways, like the Bradbury Building.

I guess my main struggle with the film was a general disinterest and lack of knowledge of the city of Los Angeles itself. The history lesson aspect of the film is fine, and even had me wondering what similar films for the cities of New York and Chicago would look like. And Andersen explores many intriguing tangents. But ultimately it was not a film that engaged or intrigued me enough. Andersen could have perhaps benefited from a more organic approach than his curmudgeoned response to Hollywood's depictions of his "beloved" city. So few films have been made in Columbus, Ohio (my hometown) that maybe I just don't understand the offense of Andersen, but inconsistencies in locations depicted, or such petty qualms as these seem just that, petty and wanting. Andersen's vendetta does not mix well with his praise, which takes a rather bland film and makes it seem even more misguided. It's fine overall, and has its moments, but in general it is not a film I have any interest in exploring ever again.

**1/2 - Average
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Corndog

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Re: Corndog Watches Your Favorite Film
« Reply #283 on: July 26, 2016, 12:46:55 PM »
Strong Opinions
Wet Hot American Summer (David Wain, 2001)

Aside from having seen Role Models, a film I remember liking a good deal, David Wain's filmography is missing from my cinematic experience. I can't really explain that, especially since I like Role Models, and similarly I can't really explain why this is the first time I have seen Wet Hot American Summer, a funny movie featuring funny people that is generally considered funny. Ironically, my daily calendar quote of the day, which features quotes from movies, is "I just like to smile. Smiling's my favorite." from Elf. And while Elf is not Wet Hot American Summer, if that's where you thought I was going, the quote is right! I do like smiling! And Wet Hot American Summer makes me smile, and outright laugh on numerous occasions. Why did it take me so long to watch this!? Why haven't I seen more of David Wain (or perhaps more importantly, why hasn't David Wain made more movies)?

Not to be confused with 1SO, of Filmspotting Forum fame, Strong Opinions came and went with just 45 posts, but left me with an assignment to watch their favorite film of all time, Wet Hot American Summer. It was a film that stood out to me as different than most member's picks, but after having seen it, and understanding such a perspective since Forrest Gump was my #1 for so long, I can totally understand how such a film could be long lasting with an individual. It is not just a film that is funny, but it's also nostalgic. While the humor can be hit or miss at times, the impression of a summer camp in the 80s is rather indelible. The greatest strength of this film is the cast, which is chock full of big name players before their breakout, or a number of names and faces your familiar with, but just might not remember their names. Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter, Christopher Meloni, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, David Hyde Pierce, Jeanne Garofalo, Molly Shannon, Jo Lo Truglio and Judah Friedlander, along with even a few more faces you may recognize. The cast makes this movie tick with great performances, and moments enough for everyone.

The setup for the film, the last day of a summer camp in 1981, is rather simple, but it allows for the perfect setting for the comedy of the film to unfold. This is not your standard comedy, and it does try too hard at times, even those moments can be funny for being just so off kilter. It is a blessing and a curse, as the film has some moments which derail the film for a little bit before we cut back to another hilarious scene or moment. There are enough laughs throughout, mostly thanks to the film being chock full of things trying to get you to laugh, which will likely play differently for different viewers. For me, there was more than enough hilarity to balance out the moments that didn't quite work.

The cast is just fun to spend time with, which makes the recent mini-series even more tempting, as with such a large cast, we get plenty to latch onto with these characters (a feat within itself), and yet, I could easily see myself spending even more time in their zany company. The film is paced perfectly, never lingering too long on any moment or side story, progressing at a rather fast pace through the interconnecting story lines. In fact, the film even has a wonderful classic feel to it, as though the film is very "lived in". It has the feeling of a film that sits in the lake house and gets seen every year as part of tradition, because it is a classic that means something to a generation who grew up with it, or perhaps grew up going to this type of summer camp in the 1980s. It's far from perfect, but immensely watchable, full of plenty of laughs for a good time. I am certainly tempted to seek out the mini-series now.

*** - Very Good
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Corndog

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Re: Corndog Watches Your Favorite Film
« Reply #284 on: January 17, 2017, 02:36:06 PM »
DarkeningHumour
Ran (Akira Kurosawa, 1985)

After recently catching up with Kurosawa's High and Low, I remarked that I must make it my mission to seek out more of Akira Kurosawa's work, as I have had a great appreciation for the handful of films by the master which I have seen. That brings me to Ran, which was singled out by DarkeningHumour as the film I should watch as part of this marathon in his behalf. I must admit that immediately Ran feels different from the other Kurosawa I have seen. It's in color! I'm not a Kurosawa scholar, so i don't know how many of his later films were in color, but I can say that I found Kurosawa to be a master at photographing in black and white, so right away I missed that aspect. However, the film more than makes up for it in its use of color and grand landscapes. I must admit to having watched the film on a rather subpar blu ray copy (the StudioCanal version), which seems both grainy and lacking the true pop of color the palette seems to suggest for this film.

The film is purportedly a loose adaptation of William Shakespeare's King Lear. Of that I know very little. I know littler still of Mori Motonari, whose historical story, I learned, was truly the inspiration for Kurosawa for production. Going in fairly cold, I felt most excited to see the type of Japanese culture that flooded my childhood after seeing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, and subsequently re-watching the film countless times. There was something so intriguing about this time period and Japanese culture. I was a weird kid, I will admit it. I did, afterall, end up with a degree in History, so it should be of no surprise to learn historical things are what get me most excited. The costumes, which won an Academy Award for Ran, are among the visual highlights of the film, as well as the tremendous use of color throughout. The big action/battle scenes brought a sweeping epic feel to an otherwise smallish film from a story standpoint. The political and military maneuvering of the three brothers, Taro, Jiro, and Saburo, and their father, the aging warlord Hidetora, at first seem fairly silly. But as the hunger for power sweeps through all but one of the four, we begin to see the issues with human nature, family or not.

I will admit, however, to having difficulty getting into the film. It begins rather slowly, with an unexciting sequence on a mountaintop, and the characters never seemed wholly dynamic to me, that is, until the final act of the film. I struggle with films like these, whose merits are celebrated almost universally, and I can see why. But it's also a film which, in my opinion, takes a while to develop and pull me into the narrative, which begs the question: if a third act saves the film, does that bring merit to the sections before it which I found to be good, but not great? Perhaps an eventual re-watch will bring greater clarity to the film for me. Or perhaps I wasn't in the right mood for this film on this viewing (always possible). But that is not to say at all that I didn't appreciate the filmmaking here. Kurosawa is shooting very high with the epic scale of the film, and mostly lands it with that incredible third act which brings it all together. I just didn't fall head over heels in love with it as almost every other person has (according to Letterboxd). Count me in the minority, but also don't crucify me over it, afterall I DID LIKE THE FILM!

*** - Good
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DarkeningHumour

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Re: Corndog Watches Your Favorite Film
« Reply #285 on: January 19, 2017, 08:51:07 AM »
I didn't even know you were allowed to mention Ran and TMNT 3 in the same post.

I don't see the characters as non-dynamic. I you compare acting styles in Ozu and Kurosawa, Kurosawa's characters are loud, bombastic, emotional and full of physical energy. That mountaintop scene (wonderfully theatrical) gets going as soon as the last son shows dissent, which can't be more than five minutes in.

Kagemusha is in colour too and it's a wonderful movie. It is a lot less epic in scale and the most important thing about it turns out to be a character arc. It is almost as gorgeous as Ran. I don't think there is any other samurai movie of his in colour. You must make sure to watch it with better quality sometime.

The Japaneseness of these movies, with the historical specificity of it, is one of my favourite things too. There really aren't enough samurai movies around.
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1SO

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Re: Corndog Watches Your Favorite Film
« Reply #286 on: January 19, 2017, 11:07:58 AM »
The Japaneseness of these movies, with the historical specificity of it, is one of my favourite things too. There really aren't enough samurai movies around.

How many have you seen? Maybe there aren't enough that you have access too, but there whole lists of allegedly good samurai films.
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MartinTeller

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Re: Corndog Watches Your Favorite Film
« Reply #287 on: January 19, 2017, 11:21:44 AM »
Yeah, there's a couple dozen adaptations of the "47 Ronin" story alone.
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DarkeningHumour

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Re: Corndog Watches Your Favorite Film
« Reply #288 on: January 19, 2017, 12:15:07 PM »
I have only seen a handful of them if you exclude Kurosawa. I don't think I am likely to stumble onto one unless I am actively looking for it.
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Corndog

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Re: Corndog Watches Your Favorite Film
« Reply #289 on: February 22, 2017, 02:24:15 PM »
1SO
The Day of the Jackal (Fred Zinnemann, 1973)

I love it when a member's favorite film is out of the ordinary. I don't mean that I think 1SO's tastes are contrarian, or some such nonsense, but rather that for a project like this it is very easy to find a number of canonical films which I have either already seen, or know are huge blindspots in my own personal film experience. But when I come across something like The Day of the Jackal, which doesn't get much talk around here, or anywhere for that matter, I get excited because I don't know much about the film. I can come at it fresh, with no pre-conceived notions about it. To prove my point, I watched films such as Vertigo, The Graduate, and 8 1/2 as a part of this marathon, albeit many years ago. The Day of the Jackal, while perhaps a film held in high regard, flies under the radar and allows it to surprise me. And it did just that, even if it made 1SO's list 3 years ago (and may have changed since), it doesn't change my view of this as a great film.

It surprised me in the best possible way because it was a slow burn thriller with tremendous atmosphere and tone throughout. It's mysterious, calculated, cold. It plays as a procedural, where we get to follow along the journey of both criminal (Edward Fox) and detective (Michael Lonsdale). But for a film about a political assassination (the target is General Charles de Gaulle of France), it is not political at all. It passes no judgement on either side of the coin. Rather it chooses to focus in on the process, for both sides. In doing so, the film is tense throughout, with masterful strokes of editing by the filmmakers, bringing the film to a tremendous crescendo. The game of cat and mouse left me guessing. I couldn't get a beat on why, necessarily. Why was the Jackal pursuing the kill? Why was he continuing as the heat was on? What was it about Lebel which compelled him to go to the lengths he did to find the assassin. Some of these answers may be easy, but it was the pursuit, it was the journey which proved to be the destination for this film.

The slow burn of the film kept me engaged throughout. I think I have found that these types of films always seem to appeal to me (think Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which I should rewatch sometime soon). If the story is constructed as well as this, the slowness, the quietness of the proceeding only serves to enhance it, to add tension and anticipation. The Day of the Jackal does it so well, I could easily call this film a masterpiece of the genre, and one day I just may do that. I feel as though I could uncover so much more with repeat viewing, which is probably why I restrained myself from that masterpiece rating, for now, on first viewing. I loved this movie though, and would easily recommend it to anyone else who may enjoy this type of film. It really is extremely well done and impressive, understated filmmaking. I will be curious to hear 1SO's response, and to seek out one of his reviews of the film (or other comments elsewhere).

***1/2 - Great
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