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Monthly Archives: April 2007

Since the last post ended up being pretty long, I thought I would include another sample of my tastes in a separate posts. These were my top ten lists for the past few years:

2004

  1. Kinsey
  2. Sideways
  3. The Dreamers
  4. Intermission
  5. The Assassination of Richard Nixon
  6. Baadasssss!
  7. The Mayor of the Sunset Strip
  8. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  9. Saved!
  10. Shaun of the Dead

2005

  1. Brokeback Mountain
  2. Caché
  3. L’Enfant
  4. Broken Flowers
  5. Millions
  6. Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
  7. Capote
  8. Street Fight
  9. Edmond
  10. The Matador
    Honorable Mention: Good Night and Good Luck, The Lost City, Match Point, The Squid and the Whale, Tideland

2006

  1. Perfume: the Story of a Murderer
  2. When the Levees Broke
  3. Little Miss Sunshine
  4. Tristram Shandy: a Cock and Bull Story
  5. Jesus Camp
  6. Conversations with Other Women
  7. The History Boys
  8. Pan’s Labyrinth
  9. A Prairie Home Companion
  10. Children of Men
    Honorable Mention: Half Nelson

Just so you can have an idea about my film tastes, these are some of my favorite movies. I’m in love with plenty other movies than just the ones I list here, but I can’t list all of them.

The Top 25 (in alphabetical order):

8 1/2, 2001: a Space Odyssey, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, Au hasard balthazar, Apocalypse Now, Being There, Belle de Jour, The Bicycle Thief, Citizen Kane, The Conversation, F for Fake, Five Easy Pieces, The Godfather I & II, It’s a Gift, The Last Laugh, The Lost Weekend, Man with the Movie Camera, Modern Times, Sherlock Jr., Shock Corridor, Sleeping Beauty, Sullivan’s Travels, The Third Man, Ugetsu

 The others (in alphabetical order):

3 Women, 12 Angry Men, The 400 Blows, Aguirre: the Wrath of God, Airplane!, All That Heaven Allows, All That Jazz, Amadeus, Angels with Dirty Faces, Annie Hall, The Apartment, Autumn Sonata, The Band Wagon, Beauty and the Beast (1946), The Best Years of Our Lives, Big Deal on Madonna Street, The Big Red One, Black Orpheus, Blazing Saddles, Bonnie and Clyde, Bringing Up Baby, The Browning Version, Carnal Knowledge, Charade, The Children are Watching Us, The China Syndrome, The Circus, City Lights, A Clockwork Orange, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Come Back Little Sheba, Coming Home, The Court Jester, Cries and Whispers, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Dark City, Day for Night, The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Deer Hunter, The Devil and Daniel Webster, Diner, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Divorce Italian Style, Do the Right Thing, Don’t Look Now, Down by Law, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932), Dr. Strangelove, Duck Soup, E.T., Easy Rider, Eraserhead, A Face in the Crowd, Fantasia, Frenzy, Full Metal Jacket, Gentleman’s Agreement, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Gimme Shelter, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, GoodFellas, Grand Hotel, The Grapes of Wrath, The Great Dictator, Great Expectations, Grey Gardens, Groundhog Day, Harvey, Heaven Can Wait (1943), How to Marry a Millionaire, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, Imitation of Life (1959), It’s a Wonderful Life, Joe, The Kid, The Killers (1964), La Strada, Little Caesar, The Long Good Friday, M, M. Hulot’s Holiday, The Man Who Would Be King, Manhattan, Marty, Mon Oncle, Monsieur Verdoux, Moonstruck, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Mulholland Dr., My Darling Clementine, My Man Godfrey, My Neighbor Totoro, My Night at Maud’s, Natural Born Killers, The Navigator, Network, Ninotchka, Nosferatu, Oliver Twist (1948), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ordinary People, Our Hospitality, The Palm Beach Story, Paper Moon, Paradise Lost, Paths of Glory, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Peeping Tom, Persona, Pinocchio (1940), Pixote, Playtime, The Producers, Psycho, Raging Bull, Rashômon, Rebel Without a Cause, Requiem for a Heavyweight, Robocop, Roger & Me, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (TV), Safety Last!, Scarface (1932), Scenes from a Marriage, The Searchers, Secrets & Lies, The Seven Year Itch, The Shop Around the Corner, The Shop on Main Street, A Shot in the Dark, Singin’ in the Rain, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Some Like it Hot, Spirited Away, Taxi Driver, This is Spinal Tap, Throne of Blood, To Be or Not to Be, The Trial, Trouble in Paradise, Two for the Road, Un Chien Andalou, Walkabout, Wings of Desire, The Wizard of Oz, A Woman Under the Influence, Written on the Wind, Yellow Submarine, You Can’t Take It With You, Young Frankenstein

What’s hard about reviewing a movie like Grindhouse is that one can’t just review the two movies and the trailers included in the presentation and average their ratings together. The film has to work, overall, on its own. While there were some things I really enjoyed about it, Grindhouse doesn’t completely deliver. 

Allow me to first discuss the presentation as a whole: Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino are such film geeks (and I really do mean that in a good way) that they want to deliver the double-bill-B-movie experience to the part of the audience that has lived through the scratchy (and sometimes intentionally missing) film reels, and the part of the audience who is not even old enough to remember this breed of moviemaking. I am personally in the latter category, but I greatly enjoy exploitation films. There’s one problem with Grindhouse, and it is kind of major: the set-up of the movie. Is it clever? Yes. Do I like the idea? Yeah, that’s why I decided to go see it. (And, as of this writing, it’s at 82% on Rotten Tomatoes, so that helped in my decision-making.) But, does it work as one singular movie? No. 

If I were to judge each included movie by itself:

Planet Terror **

Okay, okay, we get it. In the days of B-movies, the film was scratched, dialogue was stiff and unintentionally funny, and the plot really got out of hand. Frankly, I believe Rodriguez aimed his efforts in the wrong area. In Planet Terror, he is too focused on making a crappy half of a double bill (probably trying to play the “bad scenes” for laughs). Because he was so concerned with his segment resembling a ’70s-era horror flick and getting laughs, he actually came off, ironically, as being too serious about the whole movie. Rodriguez knows he’s making a B-movie (bad), the characters know it (worse), and the audience knows that Rodriguez knows (worst). So even though it is kind of cool seeing Rose McGowan gun-down a row of people with her gun-for-a-leg, that one bit of joy just has no capability of outweighing the faults that lie in the style and tone of the picture.

Death Proof ***½

As its own movie, Death Proof is one Tarantino’s most thought-provoking movies and, in effect, one of his best. Kurt Russell is great as Stuntman Mike, a maniac who drives in a stunt vehicle (and is, thus, “death proof”) and gets off on killing people, or at least scaring the bejesus out of them, with his car. This is clearly a Tarantino film: his trademark dialogue and repartee are evident in most of the scenes, but I found he was a little more restrained. He didn’t hold back; he simply was more in control instead of allowing himself to go completely wild. All of his movies feel like homages, but this felt like it was “a Quentin Tarantino film” and not a rearrangement of images from old B-movies. The film has its pacing problems, and the screenplay could have used some restructuring, but once allowed to soak into the meat-and-potatoes of the story (which takes some time), it’s definitely worth the price of admission.

Back to the picture as a whole: 

Sadly and disappointedly, Grindhouse is no more than the sum of its parts: it clocks in at 191 minutes, according to IMDb. That’s about an hour-and-a-half for each movie, then four or five trailers at two or three minutes each. And that’s all it is: two movies and some trailers. If one could go to a drive-in or an independent theater and experience Planet Terror and Death Proof as two parts of a double bill, then this whole idea of bringing B-movies back would be a complete success. The issue is, though, that Grindhouse would no longer be a movie: the incorporated movies and trailers would be separate entities. At least each unit can work on its own merits instead of parts of a whole laboring toward an idea like a movie completely based on a song: the movie ends up not feeling real or organic and instead feels forced.

From The Big Lebowski:

LEBOWSKI: What, what makes a man, Mr. Lebowski? […] Is it, is it, being prepared to do the right thing, whatever the price?  Isn’t that what makes a man?

DUDE: Mm, sure, that and a pair of testicles.

The Dude’s pot-induced retort seems to completely sum-up the philosophy of the film 300, one of the newest in a slew of movies to not only further abuse the use of special effects technology introduced to audiences by the likes of The Matrix and Sin City but also attempt to adapt the comic book “look and feel.” Some may argue that since I am not a fan of comic books and not familiar with the comic book-style graphic novel the movie is based on, I cannot fathom how similar to the source material the celluloid images actually are. However, a movie should be great on its own merits, and an outside influence (say, that of a graphic novel) should not heavily weigh-in on the greatness of a movie. There’s a couple of issues with 300, a few things keeping from achieving greatness or, for that matter, succeeding.

I don’t think Zack Snyder, the film’s director, understands what the movie is really about. While the movie shares the Dude’s philosophy of what a man is (the kind of red-meat-eating patriotic American portrayed in so many action films), 300 acts as if it’s trying to achieve the former definition of a man. On the surface, the story seems to be about underdogs who fight to keep their dignity, but the focus is really on how cool the fighting looks. The violence is over-glorified, which I found in no way entertaining. The movie definitely tried to come off as an inspirational piece with the low-angle shots of our heroes, the black-and-white definitions of “good” and “evil,” and the speech at the end. So the movie was “inspiring” to the audience not because of its underdog story, but because of the massive amount of bloodshed (an idea I, frankly, find a little disturbing). If that’s how the movie was pitched and structured, as a rock-’em-sock-’em kind of action movie, I may have enjoyed it more. I love a really good action movie, but it has to either a) be all-out action and know it’s just an action movie or b) have some depth (e.g., the Die Hard trilogy or The Man Who Would Be King, respectively). Because there’s so much extraneous material aside from the fighting, the plot itself seems superfluous. In effect, when the dramatic storyline actually surfaces, it slows the movie down. Because the plot seems only decorated in the margins of the film, 300 ends up feeling preachy: when there is no violence, there are soppy speeches, or the odds are being stacked against the Spartans.

I’ve heard a lot of good things from friends about 300, but they mostly praise the violence in the movie, which reminds of the zeal surrounding the violent scenes during Gladiator. I remember people standing up and cheering during the fight scenes, and they seemed to be part of the Coliseum, part of those cheering death in the film. (Maybe Ridley Scott intended it, but I doubt it based on his emphatic use of constant graphic violence.) All of this makes me feel kind of worried about the direction movies are, well, moving. Violence is glorified, sex is something dirty, and God forbid a studio puts out a challenging movie once in a while! Movies really aren’t how they used to be…

This is my first blog post. Ever. I’ve never had a blog before. Hopefully some interesting discussions on movies (and maybe some other topics) can generate here. I like to write, and I like to talk about movies, so I’m going to try to mesh these two things together.

I’ll try to update as much as possible, probably whenever I see a new movie I find worthy of discussion. I will be posting some reviews soon: I had my second moviefest just yesterday. (A “moviefest” is when I go to the movie theater and watch about five movies in a day. I only get a chance to do it every few months, but it’s well worth it.) I saw Hot Fuzz, Blades of Glory, Grindhouse, 300, and Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters. I will provide reviews for Grindhouse and 300. My ratings are as follows:

Hot Fuzz ***
Blades of Glory *1/2
Grindhouse **1/2
300 **
Aqua Teen Hunger Force Movie ***

In the meantime, I’ll be working on school (which ends in two weeks) and writing some essays for the blog. I’ll post again sometime within the next week.