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About Christian

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  • Interests
    Film, religion, jazz.

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  • Favorite movies
    Dardennes brothers, Tarkovsky, Dreyer, Coens, De Palma, some Kubrick
  • Favorite music
    Hard-bop jazz.
  • Favorite creative writing
    Junot Diaz, Matt Labash, Marilynne Robinson

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  1. Pulling this thread up to highlight today's new release, which I had no idea was coming.
  2. A Criterion fan I follow on Twitter has retweeted a follower of his claiming the Barnes and Noble Criterion sale starts July 10. I don’t see confirmation on bn.com yet, but I’m hoping this report is confirmed soon. It’ll be the first such sale under the chain’s new owner. I wasn’t sure he’d continue with the Criterion sales, so I’m encouraged.
  3. AFI offered Do the Right Thing as a free rental in late June (it's July 1 as I write this, so that offer has expired) and then hosted a Q&A with Spike Lee. The whole thing's worth watching, but I want to especially commend the final 10-or-so minutes, which veer into discussion of Da 5 Bloods and the broader political situation and political moment in the United States right now. You don't have to agree with everything Spike says (although I don't find much, if anything, to disagree with), but Lee really brings the heat in those closing minutes.
  4. Christian

    Da 5 Bloods

    I loved those three sequences, too, Andrew. The Lindo monologue is the one where he's walking through the jungle, toward the camera, eventually (or maybe throughout) directly addressing it, right? I have that image, or those images, in my mind, but I already feel like I should watch the film to make sure I haven't seared into my brain images that I haven't somehow distorted in my memory. Also, was there a second Lindo monologue? Maybe I'm thinking of him singing just before ... well, that would be a spoiler, assuming, again, that I haven't misremembered the scene in question. That Apocalypse Now nightclub scene is really something special - the movie/bar logo in the background while the four friends walk and dance, side by side. But I admit to spending a good amount of the first hour thinking the cinematography, while serviceable (I'd clearly underrated it), wasn't Dickerson-level work (Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X). And yet, by the end of that hour, those long shots of mountains/terrain, which I found undistinguished, gave way to closer shots of the men and their circumstances. Maybe the setting simply had to be established before the camera could draw closer. Seems obvious in retrospect; I just wanted more memorable vistas, with stronger focal points, in some of those shots. What didn't I like in Da 5 Bloods? There were one or two things, lest you think my enthusiasm means I was completely blinded to certain flaws. The lack of de-aging in the earlier sequences might have thrown me off more had I not read about it before seeing the film, so that wasn't a big hang-up. It was clear from the shifted aspect ratio when we were in the "past" in the film. Indeed, I found the transitions much easier to follow in Da 5 Bloods than the transitions in the beloved Little Women remake, but that's just me. And I liked Little Women in any case. More irritating were a couple of plotting elements - things I don't notice unless they're screamingly absurd. So, when a man walks alone down a hillside and just happens to see some gold half-buried in the hillside - that's a little too easy, no? And when he steps on a mine that will detonate as soon as he lifts his foot, and the bomb defusers he met earlier just happen to be passing by at that exact moment - ridiculous! But aren't those great scenes - especially the latter? I loved the suspense, got very caught up in the character's fate. And by then I was hooked by the film. Those moments didn't derail me, although I recognize they might be bigger hang-ups for others.
  5. Christian

    Da 5 Bloods

    Oh, it's clearly a major Lee film, although I've gotten some of the same sense you have that some consider it minor. Maybe because Netflix produced it? I, too, wish I'd heard the first half-hour of last week's call. I hadn't seen the film at that time. I now have. I flipped for it in a way I haven't flipped for a film in a very long time. I'm not sure if it's familiarity with Lee's directorial emphases/signatures, but this film felt like, if not a summation, a vehicle in which those things worked together in a way they haven't in other of his films. (I was, to put it mildly, not a fan of BlackKklansman.) Even the multiple endings and of-the-moment political tie-in felt, well, organic here - or simply less forced than it sometimes has in Lee's earlier films. There's a lot to dig into in this film, but I'm rather reluctant to do so, knowing discussion of the film's merits can result in only one outcome for me: to lessen the film's impact and appeal. I was completely knocked out by Da 5 Bloods, to the point where, although I keep telling myself not to do this, I'll regret it, I ended the film thinking there's no way another 2020 release is going to touch this one. For those who haven't seen it, here's my tweet storm, written right after the film concluded. I'm bad with pasting these things, so forgive the formatting. Christian Hamaker @christian_ham · 3h Back from the pool. Kid's in bed. It's time for DA 5 BLOODS. Christian Hamaker @christian_ham · 29m Stunning. STUNNING. This is top-tier Spike Lee, which means DA 5 BLOODS is an All-Timer. Christian Hamaker @christian_ham · 27m I knew I loved this movie before the first hour was up. So I held my breath, waiting for it to fall off. It never did. I'm sure that, with time, the parts I deeply love will separate themselves from the parts I merely love, but for now, I'm going to enjoy this huge movie high. Christian Hamaker @christian_ham · 22m I was in the tank even before the beautiful prayer, the forcefully recited Psalm 23, the big moment of forgiveness (I was moved in the moment but knew I wasn't going to cry; two seconds later, waterfalls). I've never been so surprised by Lee's spiritual content as I was here. Christian Hamaker @christian_ham · 20m I'm even amazed at the lead character's political affiliation (which I don't share). Sure, he takes some heat, but Lee allows him much more dignity than I was expecting. The film is better for that. Christian Hamaker @christian_ham · 18m I love Spike Lee's movie-a-year (or thereabouts) output, but it's resulted in a lot of undercooked films. This is one of his masterpieces. Didn't expect it. I'm ecstatic!
  6. This film opened in AFI Silver's Virtual Screening Room this past Friday. I'm intrigued. I'd not heard anything about the film and was surprised to find a mention of it here at A&F. Has anyone seen it? Worth the $9.99 rental fee? I have four kids who have enjoyed GKIDS films, but this one, according to AFI Silver's Silver Streams podcast, has been compared to early Terrence Malick (by Matt Zoller Seitz, they said on the podcast), and that might be too much for the youngsters. If you've watched it with children, let me know how they fared.
  7. Christian


    I've seen only one other Josephine Decker movie, Madeline's Madeline, which was among the best movies of its year. I'd heard mixed things about Decker's follow-up, but enticed by the low price point - could've sworn it was $1.99, but Prime gave me only the $2.99 HD option, which was fine - I watched Shirley last night. I'm mixed on the film. Decker's camerawork held me throughout, but the story didn't strike me as particularly meaningful. I generally trust storytellers - it's rather rare for me to find myself wondering, while watching a movie, "What's the point, exactly?" But that's what I was asking myself during the story's second half. I never really bought Stuhlbarg's character, and he seems key to the whole thing, doesn't he? I read Richard Brody's review (a rave) after the film, and rather than nodding in agreement or at least finding myself challenged to rethink what I'd seen, just sort of shook my head throughout. Not in fervent disagreement, but more in puzzlement. Perhaps I just missed Decker's intent, but Shirley is one of those films that, while it started strong (I was surprised at how frankly sexual this story is, which may mean I wasn't ready for the points Decker wanted to make), got less interesting as it went. I hate it when that happens. I just stopped caring, even though those camera angles and performances kept me watching.
  8. Tonight's streaming choice is Shirley, which is just $1.99 on Prime. A friend is going to host a discussion of the movie, and Decker is an interesting enough filmmaker for me to want to give this one a try despite Andrew's downbeat review.
  9. I didn't want to start an album-specific thread, but last week I stumbled - I don't recall how - onto the album Angular Blues, by a trio consisting of Blade on drums, Scott Colley on bass, and Wolfgang Muthspiel on guitar. I was familiar only with Blade from that trio, but loving much of the drummer's other work, decided it might be worth a listen. It is. Indeed, I think it's the best jazz album - trio or otherwise - I've heard in a few years. The interplay is bracing, and Blade in particular is in fine form. I found myself growing more and more impressed as I listened to the album, but having grown pretty rusty with my new-music listening, thought I'd test my reaction against reviews of the album. I began my investigation by visiting AllMusic, where I discovered a very impressive 4.5 stars (out of 5) rating - and a review written by Thom Jurek! It was gratifying to know that my reaction wasn't off-base, and a pleasure to read Thom again.
  10. I ended up watching "I Am Cuba" instead. It was free on the Milestone site - I'm not sure it still is - and I'd wanted to see it since hearing great things about it in the early 1990s. It's pretty dazzling on a technical level. I have no idea how the filmmakers executed certain shots/sequences.
  11. As posted elsewhere on this site earlier in the week, I really want to rent Satantango from the Film at Lincoln Center site ($14.99 for three days), but I don't think I can make that happen today. I'll be out most of tomorrow, and Sundays are usually booked solid for us. So ... When I posted about the film elsewhere this week, I was told Satantango could be streamed for free via Kanopy - if I had access, which, alas, I do not. Sigh. I still think the film is probably worth the $14.99 fee. I just have to carve out 7.5 (!!) hours to watch it.
  12. I do not, but I appreciate the tip! Part of my hesitancy has been whether, if I rent the movie with a day left in its availability at Filmlinc.org (it's been extended a couple of times, but as of the last time I checked, there was no mention on the site of the movie continuing beyond this Thursday), I'll be granted the full three-day window of rental availability. I admit that it seems unlikely I wouldn't be granted the full window, but streaming through local theaters (or, in this case, not so local theaters) is still new to me. A movie of such length is a multi-day investment. I don't want to pay full price only to be told, halfway through my viewing, that the movie is no longer available on the platform from which I rented it. Has anyone gone through this? If so, please set my mind at ease. Thanks! (Oh, and sorry for yet another digression from the main thread/discussion, although the length of Mysteries of Lisbon means there may be application for that title as well as for Satantango.)
  13. I take it most folks here already know, but just in case: Mysteries of Lisbon is currently streaming as a 6-part miniseries - the first time it's been available in the U.S. in that format. I wasn't as taken with the film as others here were, but the relative dearth of new releases via streaming has me considering Lisbon again. Still, for $14.99, I'm much more interested in seeing Satantango. I just have to find 7.5 hours over a three-day rental window. That's proved challenging.
  14. Christian

    Young Ahmed

    I have a couple of things I want to address, or expand upon, in this thread, but I also don't want to detract from Joel's question in the post above this one. (Please read it if you've pulled up the most recent post in this thread and found this one instead of his.) For now I just wanted to thank Jeffrey for the reminder about The Sacrifice. After saying I'd never seen anything like the body-on-body sequence in First Reformed, I appreciate being checked. I'd completely forgotten about The Sacrifice! That's kind of embarrassing - I own a copy of the film - but frankly, it's my least favorite Tarkovsky film. I've always struggled with it. The film was restored and reissued not too long ago, but I didn't make the retrospective screening at AFI Silver. I was hoping seeing The Sacrifice on the big screen, in a restored print, would be transformative. Back to Young Ahmed. I want to explore something else that came up during our Zoom call - something that frustrates me, although I don't want this to come across as personal. (In this case, I think it was Jeffrey who brought it up, but again, this is a much broader point) What's bugging me is this: I'm really weary of comparison-as-criticism. What I'm thinking of is the statement that, in so many words (sorry, I don't have an exact quote), boils down to: "The Dardennes made The Son, which is a masterpiece. This movie isn't as good as The Son. Therefore, I was disappointed." Come to think of it, regardless of who brought this up, the comparison was expressed by more than one person during the call. Here's the thing: We all draw comparisons in our reviews, but that's where this discussion started for some of us. Is that a fair starting point? Should all movies be compared to the greatest movie in their genre, or from the same filmmaker? Is that the standard against which films are to be judged? Maybe it is. But I know that - and this goes back years for me - reviews that draw comparisons to this film or that film quickly exhaust me and leave me wondering if the critic is more about making pop-culture references and connections rather than judging a film on its own terms. So, what does "its own terms" mean? That's the rub. Maybe those terms are hard to discern, or maybe the terms can be sussed out only through comparisons to the best of that film's genre or filmmaker's output. I'm not sure. That's why I'm bringing this up. But I also don't think my skepticism is groundless. Does anyone else share it? If this latter part of my post would be better as part of a new thread - "Comparison as Criticism," or something like that - please feel free to move it, moderators. I don't mean to distract from the Young Ahmed discussion. Thanks for indulging this possible digression.
  15. Christian

    Young Ahmed

    Thanks for that, Joel. I do think transcendental style is, in large part, about what it's doing to the viewer, especially at the climactic moment (as opposed to a merely formal debate about what we're seeing on-screen), and it was this feeling, not dissimilar to what I felt at the end of First Reformed, that got me thinking about the application of Schrader's ideas to Young Ahmed. You brought up my response during tonight's Zoom call, so I wanted to pivot and say that I was surprised at the hostility directed toward First Reformed during the call. I suppose the callers weren't representative of the Top 100 voters, who placed the film high on our list. The criticisms of the film during the call didn't, to my surprise, really center on the film's conclusion, which has been the most controversial element I've read about First Reformed. Instead, people on the call seemed more broadly dissatisfied with the overall film. If I could have countered, I'd have said that while I'm not the film's biggest fan, I find it hard to believe that any film with a sequence as arresting as the body-on-body sequence in First Reformed could have generated so much ill will. Sure, it's just one sequence (toward the end), but for me, it will always be the Best Sequence of the year First Reformed was released. I've truly never seen anything like it. The crowd I saw the film with (a D.C. premiere) fell dead quiet during the sequence, and you could hear one woman, trying to whisper to her companion, say during the sequence, "This is so weird." Which struck me then, and still strikes me now, as maybe the highest compliment you could pay First Reformed, whatever you think of the ending. Along those same lines, Young Ahmed strikes me as another candidate that has been rather quickly dismissed by some here. I realize some of you who dismissed it said specifically that you want to see the film again, and that tonight's discussion helped crystallize some things that could lead to better thoughts about the film down the road. And that's great! That's what our discussions, on the board or on Zoom, are for, right? But I was looking at the clock at various points during our talk tonight, and I thought, more than once, "How interesting that a film so quickly dismissed has spurred an hour-plus of discussion so far." Maybe the length of discussion doesn't mean much, but I, for one, was very edified by tonight's discussion. It was robust and considered. And it was great to hear from Joel! To put my cards on the table after that critique, I should say that I'm not entirely on board with Young Ahmed. I think I liked it much more than some of you, but I think that's in large part because I found the ending edifying and hopeful rather than something that might have been filled with dark intentions. Tonight's discussion didn't change my view, although Joel's comment about multiple endings being shot led me to wonder what, exactly, the brothers wanted us to take away from the final moments.
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