Thursday, June 30, 2011

"You have a corpse in a car, minus a head, in the garage. Take me to it."

Haha Brandon I'll look forward to reading your review of Django Unchained, before it's released. :)

Two things I forgot

Jeff - yes you guys TOtally are like the guys in High Fidelity. In a good way though. :)

Ben - awesome video... although I think you should try working Rigby into your juggling act.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"Into the woods, it's always when you think at last you're through, but then..."

As far as accessibility goes, I think you guys are right in what you're saying. I'm probably always going to be the guy defending the American public simply because I think it's too easy to write them off. Let me just say that as a heads up. :)

I get into the Sondheim/Andrew Lloyd Webber discussion with theater people all the time. (Bear with me here, this is a musicals reference, sorry in advance for that.) Everyone dismisses ALW because he uses repetitious themes in his musicals (musical themes I mean, not like plot themes), they think his music is too simple and too popular. They act like it's too accessible. I call bullshit. He's the most popular (and commercially successful) composer because his stuff is good. That's NOT always true, of course (American Idiot the musical was popular because it had Green Day music in it, but it was a piece of shit) but people are fans of ALW because you can sing along to his music, his productions are creative, his music provides an emotional connection, his stories are beautiful and important, etc. So shoot us, right? I'm equally a fan of Sondheim, and he is certainly challenging. And without Sondheim the door probably wouldn't have been opened for some of my favorite composers, like Jason Robert Brown. Maybe Sondheim is some veggies, and ALW is like a big bowl of pasta. Sondheim is so important to the history of musicals. He's the one who wrote Merrily We Roll Along, the musical I mentioned recently, which is backwards in time. His music is SUPER complicated and not always fun to listen to. (Believe me, I was Cinderella in Into The Woods. Every damn song is a mouthful, and the songs are so fast it's hard to catch what people are saying.) I'm not crazy about all his musicals, and some are way more accessible than others, I will say that. When my sister and I perform (we do cabaret type things where I play piano for her and she sings), we'd perform ALW songs before performing something from Sondheim. Because Sondheim's songs are confusing and kind of boring to be honest and focused on wordplay and all these complicated musical patterns. But sometimes we do throw in a Sondheim, albeit usually a more relatable song. Because Sondheim's stuff is super important, and we do think people can handle challenged by Sondheim, even if they don't want a musical revue full of recitative. And most of them CAN. And our hope is that maybe if they hear her sing "Send In The Clowns," they'll consider going to see A Little Night Music, the musical it's from. We play the ALW music because we want people to like musicals. Once they start appreciating musicals instead of writing them off, we sprinkle in the Sondheim, just in case. But then you have the "sons of Sondheim." Michael John La Chiusa, Ricky Ian Gordon, etc. They are composers who have really really important things to say also. And they also challenge the medium. Like to the extent of almost making the medium unrecognizable. (Modulating into strange keys, letting form and structure fly to the wind, sometimes atonal, no musical line, etc.) I mean, I listen to their music sometimes. (I love the singer they use, she's fantastic.) And it is... complex. But I'm not so sure it's in a good way. It's like they took the awesomeness of Sondheim's complexity and challenging nature and almost went so far with it that because of the way their musicals are, nobody can ever perform them. And even if they did, nobody can even sit through them. Does it mean they shouldn't have made them? NO! But my point with accessibility is that these guys have really important things to say, and I worry that nobody is hearing it because of how far they took what they were doing and how inaccessible they made it.

I mean I think the easy scapegoat is American Idol, right? It's the opposite extreme from TTOL. You're right about what you're saying, Idol junkies aren't going to be driving up to an art house theater in Ithaca to see TTOL. But the "stuff" in that film is so beautiful and powerful that they SHOULD see it. But it's just like one tiny notch past what would have been just accessible enough. Maybe not for someone who's not interested at all, right? But maybe for someone who enjoyed the one Sondheim song we put in our revue and then actually liked A Little Night Music, and wants more, and maybe that someone NEEDS to hear what Michael John LaChiusa has to say because it's so powerful. But it's just one slight click too far and then only theater critics rave about it, but nobody actually listens to it because it's kind of annoying to listen to, and nobody performs it, so more people don't ever get to see it, even though what he has to say is super important. Does that make sense? I know it's a roundabout way to explain my thoughts on it, and it might not make sense if you aren't that familiar with musicals.

People shouldn't dumb down their art to pacify the American Idol viewers, I am not arguing for that. I just wish that it didn't have to go SO far that they couldn't even start to get into it if they wanted to. Because I think more people should hear what these people have to say. Jeff makes a good point that Faulkner was writing what he wanted to write because that's what he wanted to write. Totally dude. I don't think Faulkner or probably Malick are pretentious, it's their art and they're honest. (I do think Michael John LaChiusa is probably pretentious based on what I know of him. Of course, hey, so is my favorite musical composer Jason Robert Brown. He's an asshole.) Anyway I do still say they should be honest with their art, it should not be sacrificed. And so then it's always going to be this situation, right? If this is truly how they express themselves and everything, then it is what it is whether or not people get their message, and that's art, baby. (What I take issue is with SOME artists who I think actually may be so pretentious as to just do it on purpose so that people don't understand it, or just to prove a point, that's annoying, and I think that does happen sometimes.) Anyway I agree it will always be a struggle inside the U.S. soul. And there's no resolution really. I'm just a bit of an idealist, I wish it didn't have to be so polarized. And I always have to ask, did this do what you wanted it to do, if your audience is just theater critics and die-hard theater fans? To Jeff's point, I guess maybe so, and that's ok. But boo, what a shame! You know? I'm not even saying necessarily that TTOL took anything too far, yet again I'm talking more about the issue in general terms, TTOL is just getting in my way at this point. Haha. No but what does it mean if it did, maybe even versus like The New World (which I haven't seen yet). It would be too bad that TTOL has something important to say too but it's just one click far enough that it's not accessible at all and might be in danger of going the way of LaChiusa. What a bummer that more people can't experience it and get something from it. You know? Not that everyone cares about that, but I do!

But hey, I hope I'm wrong. If history serves me correctly, I probably am.

Jeff to your point about blind love of directors, I think you can adhere to a director in the sense of, I'm probably going to like the next movie because I love this guy's style. What's confusing to me is when people (and there are people who do this, definitely not you, but I know people who do) are going to like it no matter what. And can't see an individual film and think about it critically... or logically (or at all?) because it's by a certain director. All directors aren't as consistent as some of your favs probably. I find a lot of my friends who are Tarantino fans to be like this. How can you have the same exact vague opinion on every single Tarantino movie, and already on the next one that's going to come out, even though you haven't seen it yet, just because it's Tarantino? It doesn't make sense to me. Or worse, you know how it is when like you KNOW someone didn't understand something, but they're like, "that was amazing, that was epic, that was genius" because it was a certain director, but they can't tell you what they mean because they don't know, they actually didn't understand it either? They just don't want the other people they're with to think they didn't understand something, because they would die at the stake over this director and it's so cool to like the person. Or whatever. Am I the only one with friends like this? Haha. Now on the other hand, I think you can absolutely love a director without being like this, you're living proof! Am I making sense?

Those are just a few rambling thoughts I'm generally agreeing with you guys, I just think this stuff is interesting to consider.

(Also, don't be fooled by my love of musicals - I hate Glee.)

OK I just read Brandon's post after I wrote all this. I AM going to have you debate for me from now on. Crank and all. So now I'll just say, "what he said."

Anyway I better go guys, I think So You Can Dance starts soon, and I need to go out and get some more Miller Lite first.

Oh good you got what I was saying

Haha Jeff now I'm seeing your latest post. I'm glad you understood what I was saying even if I was writing it at 2am. I think it's what you said - that I wasn't actually a hater of the movie so I was like, AHHH guys stop ok nevermind!! I'll work on being more confident in my opinions though, I don't want you guys to feel like you can't debate with me, I'm just trying to get used to it. Sorry about that everyone. Okay anyway thanks!

What I was trying to say

When I start responding to this stuff at like 1am I start like totally freaking out, sorry. What I was trying to say is that I didn't mean to be lumping you guys in with the pretentious film critics I'm talking about. You've sufficiently convinced me that you like the movie as it is! And I knew you guys did anyway, even from your first reviews. Sorry if that wasn't clear - Like John said, with trying to talk around each other about these more general thoughts, it's tough. I did think that at first the response I got was an example of shutting down the discussion, but all along I've been talking about that more generally too. You guys have refuted what I said quite aptly. Sorry I've been so unclear. And I am trying to get used to this style of debate, it's taking time for me. I'm sure a little at a time would be fine but I think the spotlight being on me for this long is just getting to me, I'm shy and not used to it. :) But I'm working on it, but I might need to take a little break from TTOL posts because worrying about it is taking over my life. Haha.

re: Jeff's post - P.S.

P.S. Jeff I really liked your latest post too in its entirety, and I do think you are granting the premise there again. I only responded to the part that was directly addressed to me because I don't really want to talk about this film anymore right now but it was a great post.

re: Jeff's post

Jeff - My reaction wasn't really to your post to be honest, and I wasn't writing you off as anything, I'm sorry if it came across that way. The reason I'm saying the conversation gets ended is that it feels like instead of actually entertaining what I'm saying and maybe thinking, "that might be an interesting point about this one individual film," or, "that's a different way to think about things than I do," or, "yeah, ok, maybe that might be worth considering for half a second even if I don't agree with it, I see what you're saying but here's what I'm thinking it might be instead," the response is "this is why you're wrong and this is the right answer and here is all the literary and historical and film criticism proof to shut you up." Some of my friends "discuss" things this way too, and it also tends to happen with superfans of a director. It's just that telling me all the reasons why I'm wrong and you're right and will always be right isn't what I mean by a discussion of the issues. Arguing that if I took film seriously enough I would this or that, it's just not what I mean by discussing something, it just leaves me feeling cut down. I know I'm just overly sensitive, I'm sorry. But that's why I say you can't have a discussion with superfans about it, because their response is set up such that all I can say in response is "okayyyyy.... I guess I'm an idiot, sorry." I had a positive response to Brandon's post because he was like, I liked this film but hey Lisa might have a point, but either way here's what was good and bad for me about this film. I felt like it was a response that granted the premise of what I was saying and respectfully disagreed (and agreed) without attacking. Seriously my reaction was not to your post Jeff, I had planned what I was going to write in response to your initial response, but then John's came in soon after and like I said earlier John got my Irish up. Haha. If you remember correctly in my original post I actually complimented both of your original posts about the film, I didn't think you guys were oozing over it just because you like Malick, I felt like your defenses of the film were commendable. Along with all the good things I had said about the film which have been long lost here :) what I said was that my personal beef with movies like this is with superfans in general who aren't looking at the film individually, and that I have issues with the philosophy behind that in general, and I was a bit confused by the intention behind the use and then non-use of narrative, and I thought lack of accessibility was an issue worth discussing, and what I challenged from your posts was that I didn't understand what you guys meant by important because that seems like something people just SAY and I wanted to know why you would say that. And then I was told why I was wrong. And I still pushed to get to the discussion about accessibility and then got told why I was wrong, with helpful metaphors about Beethoven and TS Eliot and whatever. I mean, I get it, this is why I'm wrong, I totally hear what you guys are saying, it's just hard for me to relate to the style of debate here, I can't engage in it, I feel like I'm being scolded and told what's right and what's wrong and that's IT. That's just not how I see things. John said, "he's not stupid, he's wrong." Well, okay... but there's nowhere for the other person to go from there. There's no granting of a premise. There's no conversation, it's a lecture. It's black and white, absolute. It's limiting, it ends the conversation. And that's fine, you guys know way more than me, and you ARE right. I just don't know where to go from there. I mean when I discuss something like this with my sister or my friends or whatever, the reaction is, "hmm okay that's interesting, that's not how I see it but I think that makes sense and here's how we differ," or, "that's a good point actually, ok so if we go with that then maybe it's like this..." or, "I'm not sure I'm on board with that, do you think maybe.." or "I hear that, but maybe this is something that will change your mind." That's why I'm saying the conversation gets shut down, it's not that someone is defending the issue, it's the way the defending is happening. It shuts the other person down. Unless they're a master debater I guess, which I am not. Or less sensitive than I am I guess, that's a personal flaw. I know I don't know what I'm talking about, but if anything I'm saying is interesting at all, just telling me why I'm wrong about it doesn't make sense to me. This is all just my opinion. I think it's probably just a personality difference. It's a common style of argument, but I just don't respond well to it. Seriously I don't care who loves what film, I really couldn't care less. If you loved the movie and I didn't, that's awesome, I don't think that makes you pretentious. (That wasn't what I was saying.) You can like whatever films you want. But on the flip side if I question one film from an important director, I'm not taking film seriously or willing to challenge myself, and that's the way it is, period. That was where my reaction came from, I felt attacked by the style of debate instead of engaged. My issue with pretension has to do with the tendency of snobby film critics to discount accessibility as an issue worth discussing. The same thing happens in theater. It bugs me. Brandon gave a way better explanation of it than I ever could. But anyway that's all I was saying about that, I wasn't saying you guys were pretentious for liking the movie, I don't care about that, seriously. I think I've been unclear throughout my posts but seriously I don't know how to clear it up, I'm sorry. I'm just not good enough at articulating what I'm trying to say, and I'm not enough of a match for you guys to engage in that style of debate. It's totally unnatural to me, and I get overwhelmed and just don't have the backup for it on my end because that's not even the way I'm thinking or the way I'm trying to discuss something or half the time even what I'm trying to discuss. I think I'm probably just not smart enough and don't really know what I'm talking about. And at this point I'm so sick of losing sleep over it that I'm just ready to concede the whole damn thing. You guys are right, I'm wrong, and believe me I definitely don't know what I'm talking about, I never should have questioned this stuff. Just forget everything I said, erase it from your brains. I hope I didn't hurt anyone's feelings, I'm sure I didn't mean anything I said, and if I seemed more pleased with one person's post over another, I was probably just lacking sleep and coherency. I probably don't even take film seriously enough to be still debating this!

Please god someone else go see this movie, my turn on the cutting board has to be up! Pretty soon I might just jump in the gorges myself instead of letting you guys throw me in there. The New World is getting moved wayyyyyy down in my queue.

Brandon: I am letting you debate for me from now on. You said exactly what I was trying to say way better than I could. I especially liked the Barnes and Noble anecdote. That's how it was in my master's program too, and it really irritated me. Anyway, just what I was trying to get at, said in a much better way. Thanks for putting it clearly to aid my ambiguous blather.

Ben: That's a horrible story. I hope the man is okay. :( Sorry you had to go through that. Those kinds of experiences always put things in perspective for me. I would probably still be crying. :-/

Okay anyway, I'm gonna go pop open a wine cooler and eat some candy. Later haters. ;)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"You're going in the gorges" :)

All great points John. You are a formidable foe. PS I agree about editing potentially being the most important part of filmmaking.

I think "you're going in the gorges" just might catch on. I'm going to start using that one.

I'm always willing to be challenged, by Malick included. A second watching of The Tree of Life might leave me with different thoughts after knowing what to expect. Although that probably won't happen soon since I don't know anybody else who would see it. Especially after following Jeff's prep instructions - The Thin Red Line, then a couple hours of Planet Earth with the sound off and Brahms in the background. I think they'd flatline. Like I keep saying, I think I will like his other films based on what I'm hearing. God help me if I don't though.

Time to drive back to NYC. The road is life!

"Don't ask. I'm tired of my own complaints."

Jeff - I know it wasn't personal, don't worry, your posts don't come across as personal attacks. (Sometimes John's do though haha.) I understand what you were saying and I have all along, don't worry, I know you were just trying to debate!! My beef really isn't with either of your posts, I have a general frustration in this area. When I said "people" I really did mean "people," not "you guys." :) Like you said Brandon, there are a lot of directors I can think of that tons of people I know behave like I explained in my 4am rant toward. Malick is just one of them. And I disagree with it on principle. That's my issue. But I'm getting tired of my own issue. Oy.

John - you're getting my Irish up with these responses. Haha. I just protest in life to generalities like "if you care about film as something serious and not pure entertainment, you have to..." no matter what you finish that with, I'm probably going to disagree with you. I think that a person's individual way of seeing things isn't always the way everyone else must see them. I think it's entirely possible for someone to take film seriously and care about it for more than entertainment and yet not be totally convinced about one individual film from one director, no matter who that director is. It's also not that I'm not willing to wrestle with Malick or this movie. Me asking these questions IS me trying to wrestle with it, it's probably just not the same way you wrestle with it. I'm not dismissing it. And I'm not saying, there were things in this film I didn't understand so it was a piece of shit and so is the director. That's not what I'm saying at all. But I don't think it's wrong to ask why about aspects of the film. But instead the conversation gets shut down because "Lots of people with more knowledge than I have are already pretty much agreed on the issue." Maybe... but The Tree of Life isn't as old as Beethoven's 9th and I'm not so sure that there is a consensus on this film. And anyway doesn't that defeat the purpose of this club? I get the symphony metaphor, but what you're saying about Beethoven vs. pop music is trivializing what I was getting at. I'm not saying everything has to be accessible, I'm saying we should be able to talk about why it's not and what that means. And I am not saying he uses narrative "wrong," I would never say something like that. I'm saying that it's frustrating that a person can't even have this conversation with someone about a film because it was a certain director. At this point I'm not even really talking about Malick or this film in particular. I don't know what I'm talking about... I'm so tired right now, I need to wrap this up. Oh wait, but one more thing I just thought of - the movies I've been watching lately (which I think you're referring to as "wine coolers"? thanks dude lol) is partly because for the last 5 years I've been working 80 hour weeks in a shitty cutthroat industry in a very stressful New York City with an anxiety disorder, sadly. Picture walking through Times Square twice a day just to get to your transportation. As you can imagine, coming home and watching a serious film isn't always what I feel like doing. But that doesn't mean I don't care about serious film! I know you guys don't really see value in watching these other kinds of movies, like American indies or documentaries, and that's okay, but I do see value in it, and I don't think there's One Right Way. I protest that idea, always. Just because I enjoy films for entertainment value and watch indies and an occasional romcom doesn't mean I don't also take film seriously and don't enjoy and care about Serious and Important films, you know? It's not mutually exclusive. I've been watching Serious and Important films forever. I like film so much that I like watching all kinds of films (except when I get too scared like with horror films, that's because of my anxiety issues). Based on your metaphor, I think it's possible that you don't take my opinions seriously because you don't care for the kinds of movies I've been watching lately. What can you do, right? I don't take my opinions seriously about anything, so there you have it. As Jason said in the name of his blog, "You win, John." :)

My only point with this entire stupid argument is that I think the world of film and film criticism can be really snobby and pretentious and it irritates me and I wish everyone entrenched in the film world was more open to questions and discussions about a film from a beloved director regardless of the positive or negative charge of the questions. (I know you guys aren't pretentious, we hung out in person, and that just solidified my knowledge of that - again, I am just talking in general about Film with a capital F.) I'm not trying to say anything to disparage Malick or this film. I liked it. I'm just raising questions. I think the three of you see things very similarly in terms of your approach to films and as the new kid it's easy for me to start feeling a bit ganged up on I think. But I know I was invited in to the group to bring a different perspective. It's just that sometimes coming from a different perspective makes me always feel like I'm wrong and I have 5 people telling me why. Sadly I don't ever really have much fight in me, I'm sensitive and lack confidence in this area and am not a good debater especially against the championship debate team of the internet, you guys should enter some kind of competition. ;)

Brandon I really loved your review too. It is the total opposite of the frustration I was expressing, which made me so happy, especially since you wrote the first half of it before I even bitched. You were grappling with the same stuff I was grappling with too, I love that. I like that you explored the intentions and what this what about and whether it worked, I was with your train of thought the whole way. And this is where I live my life: "And as I think about it more and more there were plenty of things that I would say I disliked about TREE OF LIFE. It’s a letdown. It’s also everything I had hoped it would be. It’s groundbreaking and as such it’s in desperate need of revision." This is the kind of stuff I say all the time. I live in that grey. It's hard for me to see things as strictly black and white, all or nothing, right or wrong, that kind of stuff. So it leaves me questioning things a lot of the time. And the fact that my friends who are die-hard Lynch fans or whatever won't even entertain a conversation about it all pisses me off and leaves me writing 4am rants. ;)

Monday, June 27, 2011

What was I thinking, I suck at debates.

First let me say that obviously most of what I write is hyperbole. My entire other blog is hyperbole. I use extreme examples and say things like I say to get a point across, or whatever. I enjoyed the film. I am not actually comparing it to 8 hours of b-roll of a building. I am not comparing it to my high school poetry, and by the way, my teacher was right, John.

I am also not stupid. I was always first in my class, blah blah blah, and I hope I have enough general knowledge to hold my own in most discussions. I've also been obsessed with literature and film and music and art and theater since I was little. I've been a classical pianist since I was 7. Nabokov is my favorite author, by the way. With Kafka as a close second. (And I also like Kubrick, guys.) I also got the creation theme, I thought that was obvious purely based on the images haha, and also the power of nature, and the arbitrariness of life and death, and the power of God or the universe to give and to take and what that means for our little lives. I understood these things. My paragraph about the themes was a little glib, intentionally. (SIMBA!) I also understood that he wanted you to experience the film and it was about the experience itself. I did get that and I said in my post, I was actually on board with that.

But all this is exactly my point. A person can't question some of the choices a director like Malick makes without getting this reaction, and it shuts down the discussion. The person just gets put down and put in their place and gets old literature and classic film references thrown in their face that they can't refute, or oh you should read this critic and then you'd be smarter about this. And then someone says, but I mean, it's okay, I wouldn't expect you to understand it (with your feeble little mind), don't worry. Shh shh shhhhhh.

This is just my opinion but I think the furthering of the art form is not only going to happen with a bunch of film critics sitting around telling each other how great it was and how much better they are than everyone else because nobody else understood it. Why don't we ask why it's so hard to understand? You can have the greatest most powerful most important message in the world, or be doing the most important thing in the world, but if you're not getting it out to all the people you want to get it out to, or they're not really getting it, what does that mean? (That was my only point about the poems.) If they can't truly understand it because of certain decisions that you made, did you accomplish what you were setting out to do? And if you don't care whether they did... why? If they are up for being challenged by a film but came out of it not quite sure what they were challenged about or what you meant for sure but they did know that it was beautiful and powerful in some way, is that fine? And a person can't say - you know, "I think everything being about the experience of the film itself is great, I was WITH him on that, but then why did he kind of set it up like it was going to be a narrative? That's a strange choice, I felt confused and duped by that." without everyone acting like they're stupid and telling them why they don't care about film enough. Why isn't that a valid question after seeing a movie like this? Why can't a person say, you know, it made it more confusing that he had all this different footage but then also went in to character development and essentially STARTED cutting it together as if there was a story... for example, if there had been just one additional shot somewhere in the film of an older brother pushing his younger brother into a river and the younger brother, who was born in to this world out of both nature and humanity, drowns, essentially at the hands of nature and humanity together, would that have been what he was getting at and would that be the one thread that connects all these stories? I get that. All the nature footage makes sense in that context. I just wish I was more clear on the context. If it doesn't matter whether they're connected, okay, but why? Why combine an "experience" type of film and a plot type of film, why put a bible quote at the beginning, why did a chair fly out from the table by itself or whatever, did each of these choices contribute to the meaning of the film? Maybe they did. If some of the smallest choices had been different, would it have had a different meaning? But why am I a complete idiot for asking these questions? Why did the guys who had fathers like the character in the movie empathize with the characters, but people who grew up in a family of two daughters with parents who weren't like that - BUT who WANTED to feel something (I really wanted to, I always do, it's not that I didn't want to or didn't care, like I said, I was REALLY into this movie during the whole thing! and I think anyone who knows me in real life would immediately describe me as empathetic), why didn't she feel something? Was it me, or was that a miss? What could have connected that for me, and why didn't it? Isn't that worth asking instead of just dismissing it because it's Malick?

Please, I'm not saying he's not a professional, I don't want you to mistake that. I thought it was masterful, beautiful, and I've never seen anything like it. He clearly deserves his reputation, which is why I'm looking forward to the rest of his films. I liked the kind of stuff he was doing, a LOT. I'm also not ACTUALLY lumping him in with people who shoot 8 hours of a brick wall, and I agree that he's sincere. And I was joking about him being like, this was about not knowing what it's about, so screw you. Seriously, that was a joke.

But what bugs me is that a person can't ask questions about a film like this and the director's choices without getting slammed as if they think he's a hack. (Even if they're raising their questions in an indelicate way... sorry about that.) I know he's a filmmaker who has this great reputation because his films have been so great. But what's wrong with challenging the fact that then people look at his films differently and don't see them individually and might not challenge apart from the fact that it's by this director whether it did what it set out to do, because they waited 8 years to see it and I mean come on it's MALICK. People do that. And there's something about that that irritates me. Always in life I challenge that kind of thinking, I can't help it.

Obviously the way I wrote the post was aggressive and I guess it's hard to translate my personality over the web but obviously I was not being completely serious about everything and I was using extreme examples on purpose because I know you're all going to write raves (didn't you get a tip off from my Will Smith reference? lighten up guys!), and I knew everyone was going to attack me. I think he's genuine and the film was devoted to itself and all that, I agree with that. And I didn't mean to come across otherwise. But I do think making a film like this and then not worrying about whether it's accessible IS actually pretty pretentious. And I also think there's a difference between a film being for the masses and a film being challenging in terms of form and content but also accessible enough to be discussed by people who may not have been waiting the last 8 years for this movie to come out. Not that I'm saying everything has to be accessible, I'm just asking a question about it, I am not making a statement either way, but I should be allowed to ask that question. What does it accomplish if it's not? Art for Art's sake? Filmmaking for Filmmakers? Or is it more, even if it's not that accessible? But you can't even bring up any of this without just getting shut down by all these superfans of the director who are on the defensive and don't want to discuss this stuff with someone who they see as being below their intellectual level or something like that. Two camps: fan or stupid. That irritates me to no end.

Anyway, I'm done, I'm not a good debater, I hate confrontation and conflict, and I am never confident enough in what I think to debate anything. I fold like a cheap card table. I guess because what I think about things changes constantly, I'm always exploring. I probably shouldn't have been so playfully hyperbolic in my post since it's easy to be misinterpreted. It was 4am, what can I say. I also knew my feelings on it really have no chance against everything you guys are going to say, so what the hell throw it all to the wolves. Sorry for that, I was kind of just being funny about what I had to say because you are all a force to be reckoned with and I don't know what I'm talking about. I really liked the film a lot more than I think came across in my post. I really did. You guys are all really smart, and in your rebuttals to my flippant post you've made great points, most of which I agree with. "A nature that has developed all things and a grace to save them" - I like that Jeffrey. But I do have questions about the execution of that. And I don't think wondering about it makes me an idiot. But hey, who knows, maybe a second viewing would answer everything and make me want to watch this film every day. I definitely want the soundtrack.

"Always you wrestle inside me. Always you will."

This is going to be long, sorry in advance. The version of The Tree of Life we saw in Ithaca was not real - just a prank by me to test whether you guys could sit through my review of the movie. :)

I've been wrestling with what to write about the film since we saw it. Kind of like how I was wrestling with what to say when we came out of the theater and ended up just not really saying anything except: "That was intense guys." I need time to process things, I'm not good with immediate reactions. Compounding that problem is the fact that you guys are all huge Malick fans, and I have not seen any other Malick films. I'm sure I would have a completely different reaction to this film if I had seen his others. But hey, maybe that's why it's worth throwing in my two cents on the thing as maybe a representative of the "average" viewer.

I liked the discussion you guys were having in the car about the film critic who asked about a Godard film (I think) - would you have liked it so much if you didn't know it was Godard and thought you were watching a student film? And you guys were saying something like that that doesn't really even make sense because you have to take a film in the context of the rest of the author's work. Clearly I do not have such strong allegiances to directors (i.e. I love Wes Anderson but Bottle Rocket put me to sleep and I thought "Hotel Chevalier" was bizarre), and as someone who has not seen anything else by Malick, honestly I think the critic had a decent point. When the screen went black for the 800th time and inexplicably the credits came on and I saw that big name Terrence Malick flash on the screen, I was thinking that it could have been 2 and a half hours of a big red dot with ants crawling around it, and no matter what it was, all these Malick fans would say "wow that was fucking GENIUS" "that was the greatest movie of the century" "I can't wait to get that on DVD" and like be masturbating in the aisles even if they didn't understand it at all. Because all the other Malick fans would be saying the same thing, and nobody could admit to each other that they were a little confused, or didn't quite understand the themes, or didn't love it, because then they wouldn't be in the cool club. And no matter what Malick makes, it will be genius. His name is more important than the movie itself, and in another 8 years, everyone will be saying his next film is the most important film of the millennium, because he made it.

NOTE: I'm not saying this is you guys, I just mean in general. John and Jeff, I loved your reviews, and I was glad you weren't just like, OMG THAT WAS SO FUCKING AMAZING AND EVERYONE WHO DIDN'T GET A HARD-ON FROM THAT MOVIE SUCKS. Haha. By the way Jeff the end of your post about watching Planet Earth with the sound off and a Brahms record playing in the background? I laughed out loud. That's good stuff. :)

My problem with this whole phenomenon with a director like Malick is that to me the fact that he actually probably could pull a Warhol and release an 8 hour film of the Empire State Building and everyone would think it was genius just diminishes the amazingness of their individual films and robs everyone of the discussion and maybe even some worthwhile feedback, because the answer from the superfans is just, "you just don't get it." I mean, I know why people have that reaction. And art is art, I know that, and that's cool, I'm a musician, I understand.

But I remember when I was in high school I wrote some poems and my teacher was like, I don't get this stuff, I'm sure this all means something to you, but the way you're expressing it, it's hard for someone else to relate to what you're trying to get at, and with poetry you want someone else to feel this too. With a movie like this, that's kind of what I want to say to Malick. Like, I'm sure this makes total sense to you dude, and obviously you're working through some shit, and that's awesome. But I didn't quite catch all that.

And it's not even that I didn't "get it." I mean... I thought I was getting it. I like all the themes (or non-themes) a LOT, I think these are such big important issues to deal with in film, and where better to do that than in an epic film like this. I also don't mean my comparisons literally, I didn't think it was like watching 8 hours of footage of the Empire State Building by any means, I just wanted to make a point.

I think my problems with it stem a lot from what John said earlier - it didn't make an emotional connection. I mean, obviously Jeff and Brandon you brought your personal pasts into the context of the movie, and you were able to relate to the characters, so it worked for you. But let's be honest guys, me not having an emotional reaction of any kind to a movie is... unusual to put it mildly.

I do think I have a pretty open mind when it comes to movies, which I think is why I watch them so indiscriminately. I am completely open to a nonlinear movie. I actually love when movies are told "out of time," I've said that a few times on here. Part of why I watch so many indies is because they can and do try out different, cool stuff, like in Conversations With Other Women where the entire movie is split-screen and sometimes it's showing memories instead of present action. Pi: Faith in Chaos. I drooled through that movie. MOARRRR!!!! I love seeing experimentation, I have not bought into the Hollywood film 'there is only one way to make a movie' nonsense. Memento. Eternal Sunshine. Magnolia. Shit, the musical Merrily We Roll Along is told backwards. The musical The Last Five Years is told BACKWARDS AND FORWARDS AT THE SAME TIME ON A FUCKING STAGE. Blows my mind. There are a billion examples, I could list them forever. My point is that I love love love this kind of stuff.

Here's what else I love. Aesthetically it was absolutely by far the most beautiful movie I've ever seen. The footage was GORGEOUS. And I absolutely LOVED the music, I can't remember a film whose score I loved this much. I thought the way he tied together the footage and the music was fantastic and lovely and brilliant. Every frame, every image (except the CGI dinosaur) was delectable. Including the Bill Murray cameo, right John? (HA - just kidding!) And I thought the performances were terrific. Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain impressed me, but the real win for me were the kids. Great acting, visual perfection, and I would even say brilliant editing. I loved the prayer dialogue. I didn't fall asleep during the movie. And it didn't bother me at all that it dragged so much. (It did drag.) It was beautiful to watch, it really was kind of like watching a nature documentary at some points, and I thought that was a truly inspired idea. I was into it though, I had patience for it, I was with him on all of this stuff.

But I think in our long tradition of being a storytelling culture it's hard to enjoy something that SEEMS like it's going to have a narrative, and then doesn't really. I think people can "put up" with a lot cinematography- and editing-wise, but start messing with plotline and you're treading dangerous ground. Especially when it's set up like it's going to have a structural narrative. I mean, there are characters for heaven's sake. One thing people don't like about indie movies is that a lot of times the ending is ambiguous. That annoys people. This was that times a billion, the whole damn thing was ambiguous.

What was the center of the story? Who or what were we focusing on? Was it Sean Penn's character? Or the little boy version of him? Was it the brother who died? Or was it just about the dynamic with the parents and the boys (which was all that 4 out of the 5 guys in our group could talk about when the movie ended)? If it was about Jack and his father, why even have the brother die and why have all this prayer stuff in it? If it was about the brother dying, why have Sean Penn in it as the modern day character and why focus enough of the movie on the stuff with the father and the son to make you guys come out talking mainly about that? Was it somehow purely supposed to be about faith? Beauty? Grace? Regret? Suffering? Job? Or God? Or the gods? Was it nature? The actual tree itself, literally? Childhood? Adulthood? Love? Death? Life? That all life is related? The *circle* of life? SIMBA?!


Without at least a single theme that I could be sure of, I became convinced we were going to find out at the end how the boy died, to tie the whole thing together. Like, that Jack killed him because of the temper he inherited from his father and because of his anger with his father manifesting itself in these weird ways, and his need to be his mother's favorite, and then he pushed him over some rocks or something, and that was going to mean something Very Important. I fell back on reliance on the plot, because I didn't even have a clear theme to hang my hat on. Why were all these themes, or non-themes, put together in one movie? I couldn't process this. I knew with all those shots at the end, the movie must be ending, and I thought, "please please don't be the ending, please don't just cut to black after one of these shots..." and it did.

I think I could get behind all of it anyway, if then it had provided something emotionally. It didn't, for me. If it was about what I thought it was about, I wanted not only emotion but like John said, anguish. Anything. I know people whose young children have died. This was nothing like that. I wasn't touched by anything emotionally in the film. I was touched by the beauty of the shots. But nothing with the characters or story. When she gave her son to God at the end, I didn't care. I didn't know why I was supposed to care. Was this about her all this time? She was barely in it. And I didn't know why all those people were on the beach, were they dead NOW and all in heaven? Why was Sean Penn the only one who was older though? Oh my god was this the apocalypse? Where the hell was Will Smith with an oozie and a rabid zombie dog, then?

Maybe the point of the movie was to not know what the hell the point of all of that was, because what is the point of life, anyway. Or something like that. ;) Like, "Everything in life is connected... but we don't know how. Suck it." Maybe he's messing with us. If so, it worked on me.

You guys say it's the most important movie of the year. I have to challenge that. Important to whom? Is it important in terms of important to watch? I think it's pretty inaccessible for the general population, who even if they saw it (not likely, unless they thought it was Benjamin Button) would honestly probably not be getting much from it. Tara slept through it and said it was not her cup of tea - I think that's the reaction you're going to get from most everyone who watches it. NOT that I'm saying you should go by that. But it also didn't teach me something about myself, or about you guys, or about humanity, I can't say it's necessarily important in the life scheme kind of way. Is it important because it's a different kind of filmmaking? Or because it's Malick? Important because it's a different kind of filmmaking AND because it's Malick? I have a hunch that if this was an indie film I made you watch and it was by NOT Malick, you guys would not be saying it's the most important film of the year. Is it important in terms of like breaking boundaries for filmmakers? I don't think he's the first filmmaker ever to do something interesting like this, but I would still probably buy that argument anyway... but Jesus if all the films from now on have no coherent plots I'm going to stop watching them. ;)

I like that the movie made me think about all this stuff, but I can't help but think of the teacher who criticized my poetry. Why did Malick make this movie this way? It seems selfish. Like she said, I wanted to feel it too. But the way this is expressed, I can't understand it. But I really really want to feel it too.

You might call me a philistine, and that's okay, that's why I switched from a concentration in film criticism to one in TV and pop culture. ;) I liked watching this film, it was beautiful and a great film-going experience. I wouldn't be booing it at Cannes or walking out of a theater on it, obviously. I don't want my criticisms to outweigh the good things I thought about it. But I can't help challenging the unconditional MalickMania. I know all the film VIPs are salivating over this movie, and I know I "just don't get it." Ah well. I can't wait to watch other Malick films to see what they're like though - honestly from what I've heard I think I'll like them better. Sorry this was rambling, it's 4am!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

I want to hire John to ghostwrite my subject lines

Hey guys, I had a lot of fun today -- John, thanks for organizing the outing, it was awesome, and Brandon thanks for driving (and for the communal Genny). It was great to meet Tara! And Jeff thanks for showing up with your awesome new beard. :) I was so happy to meet you guys in person, you are all so awesome and likeable. Film club rocks. Also, you didn't murder me and throw my body into the gorges. Yay! Ben and Jason, you were definitely missed. I really wish you both could have been there, and I know everyone else felt the same. We'll have to do this again.

I have to say, I've never been questioned like that about my taste in American indie films (and I guess documentaries), it has never seemed weird to me before that I like watching them and I think I gave a horrible defense/explanation for why I do. I actually think I failed the film club test in general... you guys are all sitting there talking about auteur theory and all these directors, and I'm the idiot sitting there with "indiscriminate" taste in which movies I watch. ;) I really am not film-intellectual enough (I just made that up, good term right?) to be in this club I don't think, I am definitely questioning my own taste at this point. Hopefully the in-person outing didn't solidify my place as the first ever person to be kicked out of film club, I was kind of hoping it might get me re-admitted, but now I'm not so sure about that. Maybe things will turn around once I turn 28 in a couple weeks, right Brandon? ;)

I missed The Lower Depths I guess, it's gone from NWI. And Jason, Meek's Cutoff is also gone from theaters in NYC, I'm pissed about that too. What's the next '30's film we're tackling, did I miss it in the midst of the Midnight in Paris posts?

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Hey guys! Saturday sounds good. I have this cookout thing I'm supposed to go to at my friend's house that is supposed to start a little after 6, but I can always go late, depending on what we decide to do. Hanging out at John's sounds fun and might be a little easier in terms of timing, but it's pretty hard to pass up seeing Tree of Life with you guys, so I'll make the timing work either way. Is Brandon in to make the deciding vote?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tree of Life/Midnight in Paris

Hey guys, I just got into town this past Friday. I was planning on staying until at least next Tuesday, but I may stay a bit longer, my timing is kind of arbitrary - I don't really have a specific reason to stay or go. I'd love to attend a film club event. :) But Friday night I have tickets for the Maroon 5 concert at the BC Open (yeah that's right Maroon 5), so I won't be able to go with you guys to see Tree of Life if you go for opening night. But if you decide to go another time while I'm in town, I am totally down.

Speaking of which, Jeffrey, are you out there? Did you end up seeing Midnight in Paris? If not, I am hoping to see that before I leave town since it's so much cheaper up here, and Ben has kindly offered to come with me. It'd be cool to meet you in person, if you want to come. I can give you a ride if you need it, I just washed my car and everything. ;)

(Yes, I'm only ignoring the banter about the movie because I haven't seen it. But I've been reading all your posts!)

If anyone else wants to get together in person while I'm in town, that would be sweet. Being in film club means I "talk" to you guys more regularly than most of my friends. ;) It would be awesome to put faces to names.

Ben, it was so great to see you today. :)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Re: No One's Getting Kicked Out

Jason, thanks for your kind and understanding response! I woke up a little nervous about my post. So I really appreciated your reply, it kind of made my day, along with the article you posted on Facebook today. You rock. :)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sunrise, Sunset

Before I get into the Linklater films, a few things:

- Jeff: I loved that featurette that you posted! It made me want to run out and see The Tree of Life before all of you. Let me know about Midnight in Paris, I'm jazzed to see it so hopefully I'll be free whenever you plan to go.
-Jeff/Brandon: I really want to see Stalag 17 now. I love Network but I always wanted something more from it. Maybe this is what I was looking for.
- John: I might be home for some of those films - if I am I'll come with you guys. My birthday is July 10th!
- Jason: I'm hoping to see a bunch of blockbusters this summer too. We can compare notes.
- Ben: Yes, see you soon! :)

Ok the moment of truth... Linklater.

- Tape: I really liked this. I don't know how I forgot that the movie was called "Tape" while I was watching it, but I was so into the scene he created and the performances of Hawke and Leonard and lost in their world that I actually audibly gasped when he pulled out the tape recorder. I was not expecting it. I think this is what I really liked about all of Linklater's films - you are THERE with these people living and feeling the situations they are in, it's like you forget you are watching a movie, you feel like you are in a motel room, or Vienna, or Paris. Tape is not written by Linklater, it's based on a play, and I have to say (don't hate me) this was my favorite of the three I watched. I was experiencing the situation with the characters, and I was just as confused as the guys were at Thurman's reaction to the rape story. And like the guys, I also really thought she called the cops. I thought it was so well done and I really liked the handheld camerawork. It was great. I loved that everything was so scaled down, it really made the ambiance perfect.

- Caveat: Before talking about Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, I have to say that part of my problem with watching movies in general is that I seriously differentiate between "best" and "favorite." The best movies aren't necessarily the ones I like to watch again and again. I see value in both categories, and they are not the same to me (except on those rare occasions when they awesomely overlap). Also, I went into this aware that I may not like these movies, since they were basically the reason Ben decided you needed a girl in this club. But I wanted to prove Ben wrong about girls not liking them.

- Before Sunrise & Before Sunset: And here we are again at the distinction between appreciating something and really enjoying it. I feel very conflicted about these movies. I really appreciate them, and I like Linklater's style a lot. The shots at the end of Before Sunrise of all the beautiful places they had been together, with them no longer in the shots? Genius. It was lovely and powerful. And like I said when describing Tape, I felt like I was with them in Vienna. The scenes he created were magical and wistful and so perfect for young love. STARDUST! I loved that whole speech by the palm reader lady. It was just perfect. There was so much I loved about the movie, everything was beautiful. And the scene at the end of Before Sunset? It was perfect. It perfectly wrapped up both of the movies, in that moment I felt like it ended the way it HAD to end. It was fantastic. Everything was so perfect, it's the only word I can think of.

And yet, I mean, I hated watching them. Both of the movies were SO sad to me. My heart was breaking, I could feel it in my chest. They were exactly what I feared Blue Valentine would be (thankfully it wasn't). This was NSFL. Ben I remember you saying in your post about how the quality of these movies isn't really about Linklater's style, it's about the emotion. That was the problem. I wish I had watched Before Sunrise 10 years ago, I think I would have loved it. But now I really identified with Celine as she was in the second film. The girl who used to be the person in the first film, but now is the person in the second film, whose exes are all married, who had something great once that got ruined and now keeps getting screwed over and is scared to try to be in a real relationship ever again. It's really depressing to watch that play out on screen. I was crying and crying through these movies, I was so sad. It was showing me something about myself that I didn't want to see, I guess.

I know 10 years ago I would have loved the first movie and thought it was totally dreamy and would be convinced they would come back 6 months later and be together forever. But watching it now, all I could think was, this relationship would never work out anyway. He's kind of a dick in some parts of that first movie. And the things he criticizes and argues with her about in the first movie are the things that if they spent more time together, would be irreconcilable. I mean I guess I'm that person who is too much of a cynic to think the 'book' has a happy ending. But I think what was so sad for me was recognizing how much differently I would have felt about the movie when I was younger.

I was glad to see them meet again in Before Sunset. It was sad that they were so unhappy. But I liked that he was softer than he was in the first movie, and that she was harder. I think that was truthful. I was also glad for the ending, because I do think he stayed. And me thinking he stayed gives me hope that maybe I'm not a total cynic. But it was still so sad. The waltz she wrote? Heartbreaking. I couldn't bear it.

I did want to mention the dialogue. I thought it was kind of annoying... I'm sure that's a sacrilege, but everyone hates me by now I'm sure, so I might as well keep going. People don't talk like that. Even if they did, not on a first date. If they do, I want to learn how. I hate when they show this kind of stuff in movies. I'm always amazed at how the female characters are written to seem so charming and perfect and easy to fall in love with when they've just met a person, like obviously the main guy is going to fall in love with them, because they're so strong and vulnerable at the same time, and just complicated enough but not THAT complicated, and totally confident and smart and interesting and passionate and all this, and somehow they say all the perfect things that reveal just enough hopes and dreams and insecurities about themselves to somehow seem so obviously and perfectly loveable, but not neurotic. I really need to go to a class or something to learn how to do this on a date. I am incapable of this. I never know what to say on a date, but what I do end up saying doesn't show what people who've known me forever like about me, I don't think. Have any of you ever tried saying the kind of stuff these people come out with on a first date? I'll tell you how it ends: awkwardly and early. Ben I remember you said something about how you want to find someone like Celine, who can talk with equal passion about mundane and important things. I'm sure all guys watching this would think that. But I would say to you that any girl would probably be exactly like Celine if they had an accent and a scriptwriter who was focused on making a movie with stream-of-consciousness dialogue that's supposed to sound intellectual and passionate. I'm being glib obviously, but I don't think people really come across this way when you meet them, and it really really irks me that female characters are always written to be this way during meet-cutes in indie romances. Obviously. :)

Anyway, I hate writing about these two movies because I feel like I'm talking about myself the whole time. But I don't think it's possible to really talk about them without talking about yourself? And I don't really want to talk about myself, and not about relationships. So it's hard that Linklater's style is not what the movies are about. I really wanted to like these movies. And I thought they were fantastic. But I did not like them. I'm really not usually this bitter, writing about these movies makes me feel like totally messed up or something. But I think it's clear that my problems with the movies are actually my own. My own cynicism and my fear of my cynicism and also my overidentification with characters, yet again. I do think though that all of these feelings I'm having are a great credit to Linklater.

- Hands down my "favorite" Linklater movie so far is... School of Rock. ::ducks while film club throws fruit at my head::

- Sorry for writing a book, I guess I didn't really know how to organize my thoughts on this. The New World is the next movie in my queue after the one I have here... I hope to god I love it. I'm aware that I might be pending removal from the club at this point, and I'm sure that would truly be the last straw. ;)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Before Linklater

Before I get into the Linklater stuff, here's what else I've watched lately. (I know, it's a lot. I haven't been able to sleep. Obviously, since I'm posting this at 3am.)

Following: This was so great. It was a really short (1 hr 9 min) black and white "neo-noir" film from Christopher Nolan. I'm sure some of you must have seen it. I absolutely loved this, and I'm mad at myself for waiting so long to watch it. It reminded me of Nolan's Memento, another favorite of mine, in its stylistic elements (I've now seen all Nolan's films and I actually think those are his only two films that have that style, his others also have a distinct style but they're a lot different). Basically it was about a writer who starts following people, at first out of sheer curiosity / to get inspiration for his stories. But once one of the people he follows confronts him, everything changes, and he gets wrapped into a storyline that even he couldn't have concocted. I thought this was really creative and exciting and so well made with great use of light and shadow and camera angles and editing. I love stories that are told out of time. (Also, fun fact - one of the main character's names was Cobb. Inception anyone?)

See You in September: This was a little indie about a group of New Yorkers whose therapists all go on vacation during the same summer month, so they decide to try forming a group where they give each other therapy, without their therapists. The script had some gaping holes in it I thought, but it was cute as far as the romance department goes, I really like Justin Kirk (he's Andy from Weeds), so I'm happy to watch him in anything, even an un-perfect little film like this one.

All American Orgy: This was actually a pretty good movie, I'm surprised it was so poorly marketed  - it's not really a comedy, and it's also not porn. Three couples having serious relationship issues go off to a farm to have an orgy and everything goes exactly how you'd expect it to go when people with this many issues start thinking about sleeping with each others' significant others. It was strange but interesting. I think it was really truthful, it played out the only way I could have seen the scenario playing out, especially considering the fact that the "leader" of the whole orgy idea was a complete sociopath, and I think the acting was actually pretty good for a film starring people I've never seen before. This was a simple film and it if it was marketed to the indie crowd instead of the horny boy crowd, I think it would have been more successful... instead of playing on Showtime at 2am.

Joseph Campbell: Mythos I: This is a 5-part lecture series with Joseph Campbell, who I love. It was great to hear him lecture about his theories, but hard to watch him so close to when he died, he was hard to understand at times and I thought that was sad. Anyway, most people probably find this kind of stuff boring, and his theories about mythology in religion are probably a bit offensive to some people, but I really enjoy it. Mythos II is about eastern religions, so I'm excited to watch that soon.

The God Who Wasn't There: Horrible documentary that was trying to be some kind of Michael Moore-like expose but just left me cold. I would not recommend this to anyone, it was really poorly made and just left me thinking the director (who also somehow made himself the star of the film) was an asshole.

Yay Brandon's Back!

Hi Brandon - CONGRATS on the label and the release, that is so awesome!!!! You have to give us the details so I can go out and buy it since I couldn't come hear you guys play in NYC. :) Also, I just wanted to say I totally agree with you about the article I posted. It's actually why I ended up hating the master's program I was in. Everyone was so pretentious and couldn't watch a fun movie without bashing it and then would like swirl their wine and say, we should watch Last Year At Marienbad to wash that taste out of our mouths, and I mean, that's a good film and everything but like, seriously? I don't know if anyone here watches South Park, but the portrayal of Stan in this past week's episode reminded me of them, they thought everything that wasn't surrealist or black and white or French was shit and couldn't just enjoy a movie for what it was, which I hated so much. Which is all to say I totally agree with you, I usually find myself straddling that fence (obviously since I'm the idiot posting on here about romantic comedies), and I actually felt like the authors of the article could see the merits of watching both types of films, which was why I liked it. Anyway thanks for the post! Also, I'm jealous that you worked at Barnes and Noble, I've always wanted to work in a bookstore. ;)

You guys, since my last post I've watched 3 Linklater films. I'll post about them probably tomorrow, I need time to process.

Also, I get so excited every time I see a Film Club post in my Google Reader - I'm glad I was invited to join.

That is all!

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Blues

Yay Brandon great to hear from you! We've missed you too.

Jeffrey - I like the new color scheme, looks great. Also, I am coming back to Endicott on Friday and will be home for at least a week and a half if not longer, so if you guys decide to see Midnight in Paris while I'm home I'll definitely join.

You'll all be glad to know I finally watched The Blue Angel and also Blue Valentine.

I liked The Blue Angel -- especially Jannings, I thought he gave a great performance. I agree with you guys about it playing like a silent film, most of the time you didn't really need the dialogue at all. That struck me right away. Jeffrey, I guess sometimes I read too much into things but I definitely did see some social commentary in the film. I was definitely thinking about the very themes you were talking about while I was watching it. But mostly I was taken up with the dynamic between Rath and Lola. I thought it was interesting - I can see how Lola could easily be blamed for the downfall of the situation and the deterioration of the professor like you guys mentioned (she's a hussy, she probably never loved him, etc.). I could even see people taking it almost as an Eve type of story that shows the dangers of womankind or something like that -- it actually reminded me of this song from the musical My Fair Lady called "I'm An Ordinary Man" where the main character, a professor, sings about how everything is fine for a man until he lets a woman in his life and then she ruins everything in his entire life because women are so stupid and frivolous. ("You want to talk of Keats and Milton, she only wants to talk of love. You go to see a play or ballet and spend it searching for her glove.") But I didn't take it that way. I'm sure I'm wrong about this, but I like to think of it more that the core problem was that Rath idealized Lola, instead of dealing with her as she really was - maybe because everything was so mundane in his own reality, which I thought was really well symbolized by the marching clock figurines every morning and the repetition of the classroom situation. But the reality of her life and them being together was going to be a certain way (and it obviously wasn't going to be her cooking him breakfast and staying at home all day like it was that one morning). Ultimately her job was what it was, obviously she was going to have to continue to travel around and flirt with men and all that stuff. But it was like Rath put her on a pedestal, creating a version of her in his mind that transcended her real lifestyle. But that wasn't reality. And when you've created a version of a person that's not really them, the more you're faced with reality, the bigger fool you feel/become, and your own reality falls apart. That was at least how I wanted to see it, instead of Lola just being a minx. (Hopefully what I just said makes sense.) Anyway, I really liked the film, it got me thinking, obviously, which is always good.

Blue Valentine was fantastic. It was so well done, and I agree with what you guys have said about their performances. I have always been a Michelle Williams fan but not really a Ryan Gosling fan, but I thought they were both fantastic, it was the best acting I've seen out of either one of them as of yet. It was so realistic, in almost a weird way. I actually watched the special features on the disc because I couldn't believe how well done and weirdly realistic it was, I was curious whether they dated in real life or something. Did anyone else watch? It was interesting, apparently the movie was a long time in the making. He built the characters around Michelle and Ryan themselves, things they actually said, etc. There was a "script" but they had been working with it for so long (6 years for Michelle [!], 4 years for Ryan, 12 years for the writer/director), he was worried it would seem too stale, so he made them only loosely use it and instead had them actually get to know each other on screen. They had been working with it individually, so he just basically turned the camera on them when they met (which was the scene where he comes to her parents' house, that was the first thing they shot) and let their natural chemistry guide what they were doing. The scene where they're walking on the street having fun, he had them actually do whatever they wanted to do just to get to know each other. He also told them to keep a special talent in the back of their mind and then had them actually surprise each other with them in that scene where she dances and he sings - they were learning it about each other in real life as we were on screen. They filmed all the "past" stuff first, and then he made them live in a house together for a month with the kid (I'm assuming they didn't live there ALL the time, but he actually rented and fully stocked and furnished a house for them) to create real memories to help them with the "present" section of the movie where they had to transition from just getting to know each other to actually having a shared history. So anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say is that part of how it was so realistic was that it WAS actually real, kind of. Anyway, all that aside, this one was a win for me, I really liked it. Ben I see why you had it at the top of your 2010 list. Thanks for forcing me to watch it everyone.

I feel like I've been writing a novel here. I watched another great movie this weekend from the Christopher Nolan collection but I'll save it for my next post. Happy Monday!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Jason's right

Jason - you really have me pegged, that's actually exactly why I like indie movies -- although you articulated it much better than I probably could have. :) I'll check out Roman, thanks. I love getting recommendations.

I also love the X-Men franchise (well, the movies and video games - I haven't read any of the comics). I really am looking forward to seeing the new movie. I didn't really like X-Men 3 or the Wolverine movie though, so I was a little worried - but I'm glad to hear it's pretty good! You're not the first person I've heard that from either.

I was wondering the same thing about the deadlines for the '30s movies. I'll try to watch it today or tomorrow, sorry I haven't gotten around to it! The whole idea of a clown wandering through the movie scares me. ;)

I haven't watched many movies lately since it's been so nice out. The only ones I've seen are:

- Something Borrowed: Horrible. It has such a terrible message. Basically girl steals best friend's fiance, who's a dick to both of them anyway. It's the worst movie I've seen in a long time. I can't express how much I hated it, I can't believe the book is so popular.

- Walking and Talking: This is an indie about two friends and the transition of their friendship from childhood to adulthood -- and what happens to their friendship when one of them gets engaged. As a single girl whose friends are all getting married off, I found it to really be a bummer, honestly. I cried through it like an idiot. Plus it's always hard for me to buy Anne Heche playing a straight character. Meh.

- Conversations with Other Women: John you would hate this movie. It plays right into your stereotype of indies focusing on adultery. I wasn't that crazy about the storyline - basically two people used to be married when they were younger and meet again like 20 years later at a wedding and the woman is remarried and the guy isn't, and they're both unhappy with their lives, they end up sleeping together, and it ends with them going back to their lives and still unhappy. A real upper. I really liked how it was made though, it was basically shot from two different camera angles, and then the entire movie was cut together in split screen. Sometimes one of the screens would show what the character was thinking instead of what was happening, including "memories" in the form of flashbacks from the past, while the other screen carried the present dialogue. The rest of the time it just showed everything from their two different perspectives. It was a really artsy and well-used gimmick. I also thought Aaron Eckhart and Helena Bonham Carter gave great performances. But overall just based on the content, I also give this one a 'meh.' It was really depressing.

- Ralph Nader: An Unreasonable Man: This was a biographical documentary that followed Ralph Nader's career trajectory from consumer activist star to controversial presidential candidate. I didn't really know anything about Nader, to be honest, so this was interesting for me. Even though all documentaries clearly come from a certain point of view, I thought the great thing about this one was how the interviews really followed the trajectory of his career and almost mirrored public opinion - when he was demanding seatbelts and airbags be put in cars and doing all his consumer advocacy stuff everyone loved him, and then as he waded into a political career, and as the storyline and the interviews went on, everyone was harshly split down the middle, with some still loyal to him and some outright hating him. I thought for a documentary involving politics it was really well made and informative, and for a biographical documentary it was not always that flattering, which I like. But he's kind of a compelling guy, in a weird way. He reminds me of my uncle. I can't help but wonder if he reminds a lot of people of their weird uncle. I think he's just that guy.

Friday, June 3, 2011

"In Defense of Slow and Boring"

Back when I was getting my master's in theater/film/TV criticism, A.O. Scott was always one of my favorites to read. I thought you guys might be interested in his latest article, which defends Meek's Cutoff and Tree of Life in the world of Hollywood blockbusters. Here you go!

As far as the King Kong showing goes, I am coming home the following weekend, so I was not really planning on coming home... but it's only a 3 hour drive and I really have no plans except a date I don't want to go on. So if film club decides to go see it, I will definitely drive up and come with you guys. I actually have never seen it! Just let me know what you guys decide.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I always forget something

No Ben I haven't seen The Fountain because I hate things about cancer. But if you recommend it, then maybe I'll watch it. Also, just the name of that workshop sounds fantastic. Congrats on being a week away from the end! Keep some of that free time open for when I come home in June. :)

I'm in

I'm in for the 1930s thing - everyone watching the same movie each week is a great idea. What's the first one we should do?

I'm also almost done with season 3 of BSG. I'm glad the discussions on here pushed me to continue it because Ben you are right it is still fantastic and gets back to the old goodies after the first couple episodes of the 3rd season. I'm getting re-obsessed, I can't stop watching it. Good TV is good TV. And John, I had the same reactions to the show's themes. In fact, I have to say the themes continue to get more diverse and interesting as the episodes go on. The show is brilliant in that respect. But you're right, definitely hard to talk about without giving away spoilers. Also, the smoking on the ship - so funny, right? :) I love the stylistic elements of the show too.

Ben, I'm glad to hear you liked An Education. I've been toying with watching that one for a while now. Maybe I'll pull the trigger on it this weekend.

Speaking of which, I have been sitting here staring at the Netflix envelope for Blue Valentine all week trying to get up the courage to watch it.

In other news, I guess I should probably see Meek's Cutoff soon I guess if it's going out of theaters already...