The very first NFL Tackle podcast, with me, Clinton Shaffer and Tom Suitt, is now up and running at Chud.com. Go there and listen, PLEASE.
The very first NFL Tackle podcast, with me, Clinton Shaffer and Tom Suitt, is now up and running at Chud.com. Go there and listen, PLEASE.
The Thin Red Line is playing on Sundance Channel right now, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t like Terrence Malick. It’s not that I’m not a “deep tone poem” guy; I have no problem toning it up. The Master had plenty of tone poem-y moments but I was mesmerized. But Malick, man…I don’t know.
I’ve seen the following Terrence Malick films: Tree of Life, The New World, Days of Heaven and Thin Red Line. I feel this sample size is enough for me to make the lazy generalization (we’ve already discussed this) that 80 percent of Malick’s output consists of drawling rubes babbling shitty poetry over visuals straight from a perfume commercial. Re-reading that sentence, it seems harsh.
Malick’s films are all beautiful and filled with wonderful nature shots and gliding camerawork and painterly precision. I get why some folks slather all over the guy. It’s not like he’s untalented. He also gets some of the greatest actors in the world to appear in his pictures in order to get the films financed before cutting much of their work out of the film entirely. I give him credit for that, because I think that’s funny.
Still, for me, his films haven’t been worth the journey, and maybe that’s because my brain is hard-wired to find a story with a plot. I can sense the ambition in something like Tree of Life, but do I want to see it again? Honestly, no. I’m tired of people whispering questions to their parents. “Mother of the world, do you remember your son? Do you know where I put my car keys?”
I concede that some filmmakers clearly use Malick’s influence. I don’t think The Master would even happen without Malick’s meditations. (“Movies” doesn’t really feel right.) For many people, he’s an icon. But when putting together my stupid list, I never once thought about any of his films. What does this say about my taste? For a lot of people, it would be proof that I had none. Considering that I just changed the channel from The Thin Red Line to Wheel of Fortune, they may be right.
(By the way, on Wheel of Fortune, a lady guessed that the title of a song that was spelled “I _a__ The _ine by Johnny Cash” was called “I Have The Wine”. That will stick with me long after close-up Magic Hour shots of grain recede from my mind.)
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS GALORE. If you don’t want to be spoiled, I’ll just say this: If you like challenging cinema, you pretty much have to see The Master. I didn’t say you were going to like it but you should see it. It’s certainly Anderson’s most difficult movie, but come on, it’s Paul Thomas Anderson, one of America’s best directors. Check it out. Or don’t. It’s really none of my business. Now onto the spoilers.
So, hmmm. Uh..welp. Hm.
I’ve spent 4 days thinking about Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master and I’m still trying to process what I saw. The Master is confounding and bizarre and strange and beautiful and frustrating and there’s also a scene where a dude farts.
Joaquin Phoenix gives an awesome, shiny bauble-worthy performance as Freddie Quell, a traumatized former sailor in the Navy who spends his post-war days drinking chemicals and brewing up weird concoctions with paint thinner and Lysol and anything else he can get his hands on. (He’s troubled, you see.) After he poisons a co-worker on a migrant farm (co-farmer?), Freddie runs away and stumbles onto a ship housing Lancaster Dodd (the also-awesome Philip Seymour Hoffman), who leads a Scientology-like group called The Cause and blahblahblah you know the plot already right?
Anyway, I’m not sure what I was expecting, but while the film does have parallels with Scientology, it’s about the relationship between Phoenix and Hoffman’s characters, and it’s superbly acted, but damn is it puzzling. It seems like Anderson made the conscious decision to remove any exposition, so half the time I was disoriented by the film’s woozy rhythm. The Master is hypnotic, like a paint thinner bender. Lots of the scenes in the trailers, some of which seem to clue the viewer in more on the specifics of the story, are gone, as if the plot PTA originally came up with became boring to him, and he chose to focus on what really interested him, which were the relationships within the story itself.
There’s also lots of bizarre sexual imagery, with Phoenix imagining (I think) a roomful of naked women and Amy Adams whacking off Philip Seymour Hoffman, among other things. If anything, The Master is one of the top 8 films I’ve seen in which a character jacks off in the ocean.
One thing I’ve wondered ever since watching the film: Who or what IS The Master? Dodd is called “Master” throughout the film by his acolytes, but even he is a pawn in the hands (or hand) of his controlling wife, who is in turn subservient to The Cause itself. It’s a tribute to Paul Thomas Anderson that all of this weighty stuff can be found in the film. It has a lot on its mind but it’s hesitant to tell the viewer about them. If you’re looking to be spoon-fed, do not watch this movie. Check out The Avengers and wait until you’re in the mood.
Anderson shot The Master in 70mm, and I’d love to see it on the biggest screen possible, with Phoenix’s pained grimace glowering down on me. Seriously, give this guy all of the shiny baubles. Hoffmann is great (and I often don’t like him), but Phoenix is extraordinary. Freddie Quell is a tortured, mentally unstable mess, and it all comes through in Phoenix’s performance. Well, that and the dude finger-bangs a sand lady.
One interesting thing: It seems that after Freddie goes through these extensive exercises (based on actual Scientology ritual), he does in fact sober up. At the very least, he’s not drinking paint thinner anymore, so that’s good right? At the very least, it’s shown that The Cause had some benefits, but in the end, it seems that Quell remains an impulsive horndog. So, does that mean The Master was his penis all along? I’m only slightly joking.
SHILL: The Master
I rarely go to the theater anymore, because it’s expensive and I have a perfectly acceptable A/V setup at home that allows me to avoid the screaming dullards that inhabit our nation’s cinemas. (That’s a lazy generalization, but I’m a lazy generalizer, and anyone that disagrees with me is stupid and inferior). However, I tend to make exceptions for certain things: The films of Tarantino and Scorcese, or Paul Thomas Anderson and the Coen Brothers. I also make an exception for the Batman movies of Christopher Nolan, because they are loud and shiny and cool and an intriguing take on the one comic book hero that interests me. It’s strange…I’m so damn sick of superhero movies, but I had to see the conclusion of Nolan’s trilogy in the theaters on opening weekend. I watched it on a Saturday morning on IMAX, and left the theater invigorated by the loud, busy nonstop sturm und drang of Nolan’s latest.
After seeing the movie a couple of more times, I think it’s safe to say that I was wrong, and this movie kinda sucked. I hate the “kinda” addition, like when people say “I kinda hated it.” Either you hate it or you don’t, Mr. Too Many Extra Words. Still, The Dark Knight Rises is only kinda terrible. There are parts of this movie that I LERRRRVE. Anne Hathaway kills it as Catwoman, Tom Hardy’s Angry-Walrus-With-A-Gas-Mask performance as Bane was fun and memorably odd. I found a lot of the action to be much clearer and easier to follow than The Dark Knight, despite TDKR’s dopey story.
And that’s the thing: The story is dumb. Well, maybe not “dumb”, per se, but so convoluted and silly and jam-packed that it becomes like homework, and it was especially tough to sit through when I rewatched it. Dark Knight Rises is one of the most rushed three-hour films I’ve ever seen. It’s like they had a six-hour story, but they had to cram it into a too-short running time. It’s the exact opposite of Peter Jackson Syndrome.
I hate to break this down with a checklist, but that’s exactly what I’m going to do, so maybe I don’t hate it all that much? Anyway, here’s what I liked and didn’t like about Dark Knight Rises:
– Anne Hathaway. I always thought Anne Hathaway was a good actress, but she never gave me a case of the “DAAMMMMMMN GIRL!”s until this movie. She’s funny and sexy and calculating and pretty much perfect, as perfect for Catwoman as Ledger was for Joker, although I concede that Ledger was in a better film.
– Batman gets a happy ending after 8 hours of grim grimness. I thought this was actually the ballsiest possible ending: A Batman movie that ends with Bruce Wayne being (GASP) happy? I found it unexpected and earned. Wayne spent 3 long movies getting his ass kicked. He deserved a vacation.
Some thought it was cheesy, and maybe it was, but many of those people also thought dressing up like Ledger’s Joker was cool. We’re all lame for different reasons.
– When the Batplane goes PEW PEW PEW and the other stuff goes KA-POW! The action in this is big and bombastic, a satisfying capper to the end of a comic book trilogy. I also cringed when Bane broke Batman’s mask. It was as thorough a beatdown as you’ll ever see, which makes their mano-a-mano rematch twice as silly. (More on that later.)
– Tom Hardy and that weird-ass voice he uses. I was especially impressed with the way Hardy used his eyes to convey so much of what Bane was thinking. His stuffy British professor voice was an acquired taste, but I liked it, although I recall his voice being much muddier in the theater; his lines have been noticeably overdubbed for the Blu-Ray.
– The Joseph Gordon-Levitt storyline, to a point. It was an interesting idea to attempt an origin story in the middle of wrapping Bruce Wayne’s story, but I don’t think it was as effective as it could have been. It feels muddled, and giving the guy the middle name of Robin made me groan. Like the other subplots, it isn’t given enough time to be fully felt. This movie could have been a trilogy by itself.
– The callbacks to Batman Begins. I especially liked Bruce Wayne being trapped in a pit of doom similar to the Bat Cave in the first movie. Another idea that works on its own but ends up being muddled once all the other crap is piled on top of it.
ME NO LIKEY NO WAY UH-UH
– The lack of Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman. I would have rather spent time with them than with Matthew Modine’s awful character.
– The “just go with it” pacing. As I said above, this film is overstuffed, and there are moments where it feels like the authorial fast-forward button is pressed just to get on to the next thing.
– Bane destroys Batman in a one-on-one fist fight, and Batman comes back and beats him in a one-on-one fistfight. Really? That’s all he had to do? Punch harder? Bane threw him around and smashed him to bits, but in the rematch they have equal strength? Oh wait, I remember that Batman dislodged Bane’s mask thingie. None of Bane’s other hundreds of fighting opponents tried to do that in the last few decades?
– Bane was in love all along BA-DERRRRRP. So it turns out that Marion Cotillard’s character is Talia Al-Ghul and Bane’s her guardian protector and zzzzzzzz. I would have preferred that this had been revealed earlier rather than delayed for the sake of mystery; as it is, it comes across as a cheap twist. I kept thinking, “So why have we spent 9/10th of the movie with Bane?” It’s something I might not have quibbled with from a lesser film, but this all felt so sloppy.
– Bruce Wayne’s Magic Spine. One good kick to the vertebrae and just like that, he’s good to go!
– Nolan Ain’t Funny. Nolan often goes for those “movie” comedy moments, like the old cop in this one saying “YER IN FER A SHOW TONIGHT SONNNN” or whatever, and they always come off awkwardly. I hate bad jokes in action movies, because they’re almost always spotlighted, and when they fumble, they fumble badly. Like that callback joke in Batman Begins: “Didn’t you get the memo?” OH SHUT UP
– The Mincing British Kid Singing The Star-Spangled Banner. Maybe the most tin-eared moment of Nolan’s often tin-eared career, the fact that Gotham would hire Oliver Twist to sing before a damn football game made me wish, nay, demand that Bane would take over the city and box the ears of all its citizens.
Flawed and bombastic, exciting and silly, The Dark Knight Rises is filled with flaws, but for me, the loud outweighs the dumb. Of course, while I was typing this, I was sent a video that sums up the movie’s flaws much faster than I could. (“HIEST”?)
[embedplusvideo height=”337″ width=”550″ standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/j2tE-BCwZtw?fs=1&hd=1″ vars=”ytid=j2tE-BCwZtw&width=550&height=337&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=1&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=¬es=” id=”ep1963″ /]
NOTE: The Blu-Ray version of the film cleans up Bane’s voice a lot. This led to complaints that Bane’s voice was TOO clear. You can’t win on the Internet.
This is part of a series where I talk about my favorite movies. Read the intro here.
Here’s a controversial statement that’s gonna blow the doors off the Internet: Kieslowski’s Three Colors Trilogy is the best trilogy of all time. Yes, better than Star Wars and The Matrix. Yes, better than Lord of The Rings. Yes, better than that one Hobbit thing that’s being padded out to 10 hours. YES EVEN BETTER THAN TRANSPORTER.
The final film of the trilogy, Red, is the most widely acclaimed of the films, but for me, the trilogy peaks with its first film, Blue. (The other two are also classics, however; I’ll get to them at some point.) Juliette Binoche stars as the wife of a famous composer. Her husband and daughter are killed in a car accident, and Blue looks at Binoche’s recovery from this traumatic event. Here, let the trailer wash over you:
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I think what makes Blue so special is that it’s emotionally complex, but the narrative is clear and clean. As an “art movie” it’s simple to grasp what’s going on, but it’s not obtuse to the point of being incomprehensible. The visual storytelling in this film is stunning; Unlike other, more staid art films with long takes and desaturated color palettes, Blue is all about using form and color to convey point-of-view and emotion. It’s probably a good time to point out that I’m not that great at in-depth film analysis. (No, for real!) I can tell you how Blue made me feel, but there are many things under the surface that I didn’t catch. For example, according to Wikipedia:
A symbol common to the three films is that of an underlying link or thing that keeps the protagonist linked to his/her past. In the case of Blue, it is the lamp of blue beads and a symbol seen throughout the film in the TV of people falling (doing either sky diving or bungee jumping), the director is careful in showing falls with no cords at the beginning of the film but as the story develops the image of cords becomes more and more apparent as a symbol of a link to the past.
Wow, REALLY?! I had no idea. There are also apparently several things that serve as metaphors for the unification of Europe, but all of that sailed over my head. I think that’s what make Blue so rewatchable: When I watch it, I know that what I’m seeing is brilliant, but that genius is felt more often than shown. The themes are personal and universal and can relate to anyone (What does it mean to be truly free? When in pain, how does one find needed catharsis?), even to goobers who “don’t wanna read a dang ol’ movie.” (I’ve heard that phrase a lot, right down to the “dang ‘ol”.)
I love the ending of this film, in which the final piece is played as we look at a montage of the characters. It’s muted and triumphant at the same time, in that way only super genius-y types can achieve. You should watch Blue. A lot.
What a strange, confounding, brilliant, frustrating, odd, mesmerizing film. Joaquin Phoenix is incredible, the cinematography and direction are gorgeous, and I have no idea what I just watched.
I’m gonna need to see this 10 more times to make heads or tails of it, but will write more about it later. But…wow.
Sight & Sound released their once-a-decade Top 10 Movies of All Time poll recently, and it inspired me to sit down and come up with a Top 10 of my own. I ended up having 148 nominees for those 10 slots, so I figured I would talk about them some on my bloggity-blog. I hope to get to them all over time, and I’m sure I’ll add more as I go. Hopefully, I’ll inspire you to seek out some flicks you should have already seen, and who knows? Maybe we can discuss that here.
Here’s my list, which will be updated with links as I post new blogs. Please note that I came up with this list in about 30 minutes, so I reserve to add and remove films at my leisure:
Some brief notes about my choices:
1. I tried to think of films throughout movie history, and not just, say, the best films since 1980. I know several people who roll their eyes and get bored by older films. To those people I say, “You’re terrible, your lack of curiosity is terrible, and your opinions are terrible, too.” So nyah.
2. This is definitely an incomplete list. I’m guessing the bulk of films I choose will be ones that most people have heard of. There may be a few surprises, but even those you’ve probably heard of.
3. The list will be alphabetical. So, for example if I post about “Vertigo” and I have #143 beside it, it just means it’s #143 alphabetically, so don’t get all testy.
4. I have lots of blind spots in my cinema-watching experience, and there are several filmmakers left out that a more advanced cinephile would consider sacrilege: Ozu (haven’t seen), Antonioni (I struggled through L’Avventura during my first semester of film school. It was brutal, in part because I was a young, impatient goober. I also don’t really like Blow-Up that much), Satyajit Ray (haven’t seen) and Tarkovsky (haven’t seen). I have Bergman on my list with Persona and The Seventh Seal, but would you believe those are the only Bergman films I’ve seen? I’m lame.
5. I’ve seen several Godard films. The guy’s a genius, and I respect his advancement of the form. I also don’t want to see any of his movies twice. If there’s one thing all of the films on my list have in common, it’s that I’m eager to see them twice. Yes, even Schindler’s List.
6. Only about 15 percent of my list consists of foreign films. Hopefully that number will grow as my list grows.
So there you have it. Look for my reviews to start appearing Monday. How fun!
A man, a plan, a canal….A MASTERPIECE.
Bizrq’s “We Still Be Doomed” is the long-awaited sequel to their landmark debut “We Be Doomed”, which posited that the gadgets with which we’ve become dependent on in our daily lives will one day turn on us, starting a revolution that makes the La Paz Revolution of 1809 seem like a jaunty picnic. In this amazing follow-up, Bizrq takes the vital ideas found in WBD and expands on them with a swagger acquired from years of perfecting their craft.
Bizrq’s love/hate relationship with the machines in our lives is illustrated in the push-pull dynamics of their compositions, with analog and digital modes swirling in a miasmic stew. This may be the rare concept album in which the concept is illustrated *within the music itself.* “We Still Be Doomed” makes “Pet Sounds” sound as hasty and poorly thought-out as the latest Ke$ha single.
If I were to compare this to any other work of art, I would not choose music but rather David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest”. Both are sprawling tomes bursting with ideas and a deep sense of morality vis a vis man’s place in the universal firmament. The only difference is that Bizrq will make you dance.
And the humor! Walter Cornish, Anundson’s beloved creation last heard on the late, lamented Mangy Dog Radio Hour Whoopdee-Doo (which you can find at comedypodcast.com) provides a warm, soothing presence. Cornish’s gentle good humor adds a significant layer of depth to the already-proven Bizrq formula, leading to a moving climax that left this reviewer devastated. Yes, Dear Reader, I learned that I, in fact, can cry.
Witty, fun, exuberant, thrilling, smart, joyous and funky as all hell, “We Still Be Doomed” by Bizrq has swooped in on the last week of the year to be, easily, the best CD of 2012. Buy 4 copies and hand them out to strangers. YOU WILL BE CHANGING LIVES.
You can buy “We Still Be Doomed” at Bizrq.bandcamp.com
Supposedly, Rian Johnson’s Looper has a lot of plotholes related to time travel that caused a lot of people to not like the movie. I don’t really care about that crap. Complaining about the implausibility of something that’s impossible seems a little goofy to me. It’s like complaining about the magic rules in Harry Potter or nitpicking about whatever the hell it is that Hobbits do. Looper is flawed, but its refusal to play by “proper time travel rules” is the flaw that interests me the least. No, the biggest flaw in Looper is a second act that’s deadly.
Looper is about Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character Joe, who’s a hitman in the future that kills people with a blunderbuss. He’s also apparently a drug addict, I’m presuming because of the horrible plastic surgery that was done on his nose. (More on that later.) Jeff Daniels also plays a crime overlord from the future who blahblahblah, and also telekinesis is involved for plot-motivated reasons. Anyway, the narration in the film will get you up to speed on the ins and outs, but this is all building to a showdown between JGL and Bruce Willis. At least, it seems that way, and that’s kind of what happens, but…hm.
Which brings us to the back half of the film, which is primarily set on Emily Blunt’s farm. There are several shots of Blunt chopping on the same tree stump with an ax that made me laugh for some reason. (Does the entire farm run on tiny splinters?) Emily Blunt’s kid has telekinesis, and is going to be Jeff Daniels in the future (I think?), so Bruce Willis goes back in time to try and find the kid and kill the kid before he grows up to be eeeeeeeevil and so Bruce Willis can preserve his fond memories of the pretty Chinese lady he was married to after he “closed his loop” back in the day. (Just see the movie for further explanation on all this stuff.) Is Emily Blunt’s kid the one that Bruce is looking for? I don’t want to give anything away but of course he is.
This all leads to a surprising, clever ending that maybe doesn’t have the emotional resonance it’s meant to. I think that’s my issue with the work of Rian Johnson. I love all of his films as ideas, but I run hot and cold on their quality as movies. I’m reminded of Johnson’s second film, The Brothers Bloom, another intriguing, well-made film that seems to wander for a bit before it closes. Johnson uses these moments to try and add an emotional layer, but in both these films, the wonky structure stops the movie in its tracks. On a scene-by-scene basis, Johnson’s work is outstanding, but I’m not sure he’s made a film yet where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
There’s some interesting world building going on here. This is one of those movies set in the future where things aren’t TOO futuristic save for the occasional flying motorcycle. I liked all of that very much. However, I was somewhat distracted by Levitt’s makeup. I get that they wanted him to resemble Willis, but that’s what the acting is for. Putting Levitt in a crude version of WillisFace was an odd decision that didn’t quite work for me. When watching actors play older/younger versions of each other, I’ve managed to suspend my disbelief for decades now. Why bother?
There’s much to like in Looper, and it’s impossible to deny Rian Johnson’s ambition and ability. His films are easy to like, but difficult to love, and pacing seems to be his constant downfall. I flat-out blanked for 10 minutes during the second act. For me, his best work has still been the two episodes of Breaking Bad that he’s directed.
UPDATE: Jeff Daniels was playing a different character, not the evil Rainmaker guy. I think.