companion short to the darjeeling limited. i guess it’ll be most well known for the nude scene with natalie portman. it does a good job of telling a story without telling a story and it has the wes anderson look. not sure why this was a short instead of part of the film. i suppose it doesn’t really fit with the rest of the film, which follows the three brothers while they’re together. this short follows only jason schwartzman’s character so it is a bit out of place in the context of the film.B-
probably the most enigmatic of anderson’s films. i just never knew exactly what anderson was doing with the film. it’s certainly a film about three brothers and their unique relationship with each other. it’s also a film about the different ways in which they coped with the death of their father. in the end they literally let go of his baggage and are able to go on with their lives. in this way i suppose it has the potential to be anderson’s most poignant film, but that honor still belongs to rushmore, if you ask me. the broad strokes of the film are pure wes anderson and couldn’t be mistaken for anyone else – a set of idle rich people embark on various adventures, relationships are oddly honest and mercurial, the look of the picture is anything but conventional, and the music is great. most people probably won’t like the film, but that’s the essence of anderson and there’s nothing wrong with that.B
there’s not much real about this film. what’s his face’s performance was interesting, but not nearly as good as his work in half nelson. the pop psychology was so transparent, obvious and obnoxious that i was actually annoyed by the time the film finally wrapped up. there was a certain potential in the symbolism of the doll and lars’ delusion, but there simply wasn’t enough meat to make for a feature film.
the most interesting thing about this movie is that i know the guy who does many of the dolls featured on the webpage in the film. he was a parttime tattoo artist in davis and he made plenty of money making lonely guys happy with plastic dolls.C-
the film is billed as a comedy and the large audience certainly received it as such, but i couldn’t help watch it as a tragedy with only one possible outcome: he doesn’t get the girl. dan’s predicament (he unwittingly falls in love with his brother’s girlfriend) is the kind that doesn’t lead to a marriage, unless you’re talking about one of the jerry springer variety. it just didn’t feel right.
the film is definitely hedges – sondre lerche does the soundtrack just as stephin merritt did for pieces of april. the film is also about a large family gathering and death looms large in this story as it did in pieces of april and what’s eating gilbert grape (which he wrote).
steve carrell does a fine job. depressing film, but i’m probably the only one who thought so.B-
a brilliant film. hughes’ depiction of family life, teenagers, his work with john candy (the apex of both their careers), his use of sound, his writing are all notable and truly top notch in the comedy genre. one of the best of the decade.A+
short documentary from kubrick. tough to find. nothing amazing, but kubrick directed it so it’s worth watching for the completist.C+
not bad for a first effort as a director. the title is annoying for two reasons: i always want to say “gone daddy gone” because of the violent femmes song and it comes from a line in the film that was delivered by the film’s worst actor; or at least its worst performance. casey affleck is effective as the moral center of the film. i heard people talking after the film was over about the decision he had to make near the film’s end. they remarked that it was a tough decision to make, but i felt it was quite easy to make the decision, though tough to actually do it. the film i saw afterwards (rendition) addressed the issue of making a vigilante decision because one thinks that it’s the best thing to do in spite of established laws. when we eschew laws and morality and make judgements based upon our limited knowledge things fall apart. this is why affleck’s decision was easy, in spite of some audience members’ thoughts to the contrary. hubris mixed with good intentions account plenty of problems in the world and casey affleck’s character refused to be a part of that when given time to think about it.
recommendable enough in spite of the run-on-sentence of an ending.B
spoiler warning. not as powerful as it could have been, but a strong film nonetheless. good performances across the board. the film’s structure, though, provides the most interesting element. we see a few different storylines running in what we are assume parallel tracks, but it isn’t until the end that we realize that one of those storylines hasn’t been on the same timeline as the other two. rather, it’s ending is essentially the beginning of the other storylines. viewing this particular storyline without knowing that we’ve already seen its conclusion makes the revelation of that fact all the more powerful. especially when we think of the implications that has for the egyptian father/politician. the structure alone is worth watching the film.B+
if you’re asking why they’re (rodriguez/tarantino) making these movies then they’re (the movies) not for you. this one was fun shlock, but too long and sprawling with too many characters. i liked the cheeseball ending and the action/gore. rodriguez is a true auteur and has stayed true to his aesthetic since el mariachi.C+
one of the child molestor’s apartment triology. i’ve never seen the tenant and i thought that rosemary’s baby was very overrated. liked chinatown, but didn’t love it. i guess he’s just not my style. plenty of repressed sexuality and psychology here, just nothing that i’m interested in. well shot.C+
features a wonderful performance from emil jannings. meryl’s film textbook alleges that the porter essentially gets a dose of his own medicine when he is fired and relegated to the role of a lowly bathroom attendant. in the early part of the film he receives accolades from his neighbors and a glass of water from a younger porter, but these things i see as signs of respect, and he doesn’t seem to take the treatment for granted. he doesn’t show them the same callous indifference that he is showed by bathroom goers that ignore him after his demotion. he greets his neighbors with pride, he comforts a bullied child outside his home and admonishes the other children for their poor treatment of the smaller girl. to me, the porter is the everyman – he takes pride in his work, is a decent citizen and is respected by his co-workers and neighbors. those who shun and ignore him after his demotion are the villains of the film.
the movie is wonderfully filmed – the camera moves in ways you don’t normally see in a 20s film. when it isn’t moving its static state allows a story to be told (e.g. the opening scene near the revolving door, signaling the forthcoming change). murnau has a way of making very sympathetic characters, tabu is another of his films that is successful in this way.
i wasn’t a huge a fan of the ending. if you buy the premise that he’s getting a taste of his own medicine then i suppose it makes sense on some level, but it is still an overly obvious device. i think that murnau calls attention to the author here to have his cake and eat it too. he acknowledges that the grim reality is that the porter would have nothing to live for and would be miserable for the rest of his life, but he also acknowledges the commercial realities and gives the audience what it wants – a happy ending. in doing so we are forced to ask questions about happy endings in general and why they typically satisfy our “bleeding hearts.” why do we hope for the fantasy turn of events that murnau depicts here? don’t we know it’s pure artifice? we do, and yet we still accept them. why?
a thoughtful and heartfelt film.B+
i’ve fallen asleep while watching this movie both times i’ve seen it. it’s a good and highly inventive film, but it gets a little slow about half way through. the characters are great, the sets and direction are top notch and the music is perfect. that said, i’m a live action kinda guy. watched this in disney digital 3d at the theater.B
not so sure about the title and the opening credit sequence, which features still photos of nyc cops in generally a bad light. it made me think that the film was going to be about police brutality when it really wasn’t. felt incongruous to me.
joaquin phoenix really drives the emotion of the film, and if you don’t buy into his character and his changes, then you may not like the film. there are occasionally saccharine moments, but they are forgivable because the majority of the film is poignant or thrilling or just plain solid. there are some good lines in the film, stuff like “it’s better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6” or, when talking about the police going vigilante, “you can’t piss yourself and stay warm for long.”
it feels longer than it is which one could say adds to the epic-feeling story it tells. however, if you don’t like it then it’ll just feel too drawn out.
there are a few scenes that are really well done and you’ll know them when you see them. gray uses sound and the camera in natural (for life, unnatural for film) ways that put you in the action and heighten the tension.B
reminded me of high noon and silver lode because it’s a western where time is of the essence. in all three the protagonist needs to rally people behind him to fight evil in one form or another. van heflin and glenn ford both turn in good performance and delmer daves (dark passage, red house) directs another fine film. it’s full of good shots and tension building. glenn’s character is manipulative and uses emotion as a tool to get what he wants, which makes the ending unbelievable, but i suppose you could say he lives by a code and isn’t as self-serving as most villains.B-
an international chase that felt like an old version of the usual suspects, but wasn’t. it’s a good flick with a less than satisfying ending. greenstreet and lorre are both legends.B-
examines the psychology of mobs and the ease with which they are manipulated (eventually they are subdued by misinformation, which just happens to turn out to be truth). all the while you have a fight between good and evil and a marriage hanging in the balance. a good, lesser-known flick.B
probably the worst douglas sirk film i’ve seen so far, but i’ve only seen about a half dozen (tarnished angels, written on the wind, all that heaven allows, imitation of life, all i desire). some of his usual motifs arise here (characters appearing in reflections or in enclosed spaces) which generally strengthen his themes of isolation or repression. it also has the usual sordid characters living their fucked up lives. watch imitation of life first.C+
great film. another good one from 1967 and another film with paul newman that starts with “h” – hud, hombre, hustler. paul newman plays a white man by birth, but a red man by upbringing and he does a better job than the great dustin hoffman did in his portrayal as an indian in little big man.
it reminded me of stagecoach or the searchers, only it was better than both of those, at least upon first viewing. the characters are well drawn, newman’s performance is solid, and the writing is witty and dry. recommended.B+
a good, but not amazing film that won the oscar for best foreign picture. mühe, who plays an east german secret police agent, is the best part of the film. his transformation from party-line-toer to humanist isn’t completely believable, but is good enough. it shows the invasive and dehumanizing practices of the east german regime without humor (as the subject had been depicted in german film in the past) or excess. cast is good all around and the pacing is fantastic in spite of the 130+ minute runtime.B+
early anthony mann flick with a joel mccrea look alike (ralph edwards) who doesn’t cut the cheese. thankfully the guy acted in only 4 films. outside of some poor acting, the story and direction were nice enough. mann definitely benefited from his partnership with stewart because the majority of his non-western films aren’t all that notable for me.C+
one of my favorite hitchcock films. it’s short, filled with suspense and a very technical film, but not overly so. this belongs with dial m for murder, lifeboat and another hitchcock film that takes place solely on a train, because they’re all claustrophobic, one-set films.A
if you like the farrelly brothers then you know what to expect here and you won’t be disappointed. there’s plenty of juvenile humor, stiller doesn’t stray too far from his stock character, and there are plenty of shocking moments. you either dig their kind of no-holds-barred outrageous comedy or you think it’s beneath you. i happen to think it’s great stuff, like getting wasted for a couple hours complete with all the release and fun that that entails, but without the monetary cost, addiction and hangover that it brings. the farrelly brothers aren’t out to solve the world’s problems, but their films are genuinely funny and usually have a sweet side with some harmless, uplifting message that we endure because their characters have charmed us so much during the previous 90 minutes or so. the secondary characters are all well cast and directed; corddry and jerry stiller are especially good.
some might complain that the farrelly brothers just make formula films or are constantly trying to remake there’s something about mary. the difference between a formula film and one marked by an auteur’s unique vision, is that the former is one that isn’t liked. it’s like the difference between calling someone “weird” and “eccentric;” they mean essentially the same thing, but we use “weird” when the person we’re describing bothers us. the truth is that no one gets on ozu or inarritu’s case for making the same damn film over and over again, they just lap it up because they like their style.B+
a well-shot film that i sorta slept through.C+
there will likely be spoilers in this review…
i don’t like emile hirsch or sean penn so i was really hoping that the film succeeded in spite of them. my hope went unfulfilled. this movie was bad in almost every single way and i say that not only because i liked the book so much more. i actually think that if i hadn’t read the book i would have disliked the film even more. the reason being that i was able to enjoy chris (the protagonist) as a character at least somewhat in the film because i had read the book. had i not read the book i think i would have disliked his character. sean penn and emile hirsch’s representation of chris lacked much of the nuance, intelligence, purpose and impact that he had in the book, and apparently in real life. for example, one of the most profoundly affecting interactions in the book is between chris and the old man in salton city. the old man asks chris to be his adopted son and this is depicted in the film and is one of the films few successes. what the film doesn’t address, though, is that the old man prayed for the well-being of chris after he left. when he heard of chris’ death, the man renounced god and took up drinking again after many sober years. this is the same man who was inspired by chris’s words so much that he left his comfortable life of solitude and traveled on chris’s advice.
the storytelling of the film was very herky-jerky. if i were to film the story i probably would have opted for a more linear telling with flashbacks to fill in pertinent background information as the story unfolded. in the book, krakauer tells the story out of chronological order and it works well, but he also chooses to give away chris’s death on the cover. conversely, penn tells the story out of chronological order and doesn’t reveal chris’s fate until the end – an anti-climax if you ask me. penn also plays up the broken home angle to a startlingly degree. how much of his dramatization of chris’s home life is true to life is unknown, but i think it goes beyond what is suggested in the book. perhaps he knows something krakauer didn’t, or perhaps krakauer kept this element a little less developed than penn.
there were also minor errors in penn’s telling of the story, but most of these are fairly forgivable. he depicts instant hunting success by chris when he goes to alaska, which wasn’t at all the case. this is minor, but it depicts him as a natural, rather than showing the learning that chris had to do in a new situation. another minor error which actually bothered me was in the epilogue where penn states that moose hunters came across chris’s body two weeks after his death. in fact, it was closer to three weeks (19 days to be exact) later that the moose hunters found chris’s body. one the one hand this is a minor thing, but that point slices both ways. if it was so minor why couldn’t he just get it right? my theory is that he wanted the death to see all the more tragic by showing that chris was only 2 weeks away from being rescued. it’s just an unnecessary manipulation of our emotions. conversely, penn gets some of the minor elements right, minor points which can be especially appreciated by someone who has read the book. i finished reading the book just 15-20 minutes before the film started so it was especially fresh when penn shows the jeans patched by a blanket that chris wears in alaska.
hirsch’s performance is another hindrance of the film. his performance just doesn’t capture chris as the book depicted him. much of this was penn’s awful writing and directing, but some of it can definitely be blamed on hirsh’s “try hard” style of acting. he tries hard to depict his characters with sincerity, but he falls flat in every instance. he was so-so in the girl next door, awful as the titular character in alpha dog, and awful here. to be fair, it’s a tough role to pull off. we need to see chris’s intelligence without having him come off as pedantic or cocky. we need to see his intensity and passion without making him appear like some crazy treehugger. we need to see the principled young man who is striking out on his own, but he can’t come off as pious or a rebel.
as someone who has been on several road trips and lived on the road for varying periods of time and gone hitchhiking and train jumping and lived on a glacier i feel somewhat qualified to comment on “life on the road.” penn’s depiction of this life did almost nothing for me and probably even less for someone who doesn’t have actual experience to draw upon. the film was artistically shot and had a lot of pensive space to it, which is true to the experience, but it somehow didn’t translate to a realistic depiction of life on the road. times when we see chris on his own are often too cutesy (him talking to himself or his food, etc.) or too falsely profound (him floating downstream naked in a jesus christ pose, etc.).
eddie vedder’s soundtrack was mostly pretty good, but i think an ambient or postrock soundtrack would have been even better. the cinematography had some nice moments.
with all that sean penn did wrong, he did one thing that worked amazingly well for me: he gave me a quality photograph of chris. it’s the same one that’s in the front of the book, but that one is too small and grainy and is in black and white. seeing it more clearly and in color and on a 30 foot tall screen was like seeing chris for the first time and it brought me near tears. i see a lot of him in me and feel as though, with my principled take on life and hatred for many elements of humanity, i could have become him had a couple things gone differently. hopefully the movie will inspire people to read the book, because the movie really doesn’t do justice to chris the way the book does. of course that could be a byproduct of books in general. they give an idea of a person, but you don’t actually see that person move and talk the way you do in a film. it may be that the people who knew chris could watch the film and find it to be extremely accurate, in which case my reading of the book would have been completely off base. you can make up your mind, but i encourage you to read the book first.D