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StephenM

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About StephenM

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    http://petrifiedfountainofthought.blogspot.com/
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  1. Blade Runner 2

    Also: 1. The original is still superior on a visual level. 2. Anyone comparing this to Stalker is really, really reaching.
  2. Blade Runner 2

    Yeah, I didn't like it. I mean, I wanted to like it, and it was really very impressive in many ways, and there were 2-3 really excellent scenes, and a lot of potentially interesting ideas, but ultimately it just doesn't add up to anything particularly coherent or meaningful. And it takes forever to get there. The original is a slow movie, but that works to its benefit because the mood is so impeccable you can just slip right into it and float. The neon blinking and Vangelis's all-time great score carry you along. This one just dragged every scene out with the assumption that they would be better if they had more room to breathe or something, but without adding atmosphere or advancing the plot or ideas. There's a dozen different things I could complain about here (from the murkiness of the dramatic throughline to the incoherence of the nature of replicants to the massive potholes to the set design mostly borrowed from a dozen other movies and video games), but I'll just mention two: Everything about Jared Leto's character is awful, from the writing to the design to the acting, and the scene where he murders the naked woman is sickening to no apparent purpose. He is a cartoonish exaggeration of Tyrell from the first film, transformed from an old-school industrialist into a tech billionaire who (of course) takes sadistic pleasure in torturing with his own hands. Outside of maybe Bond Villains, this trope needs to die. Second, I found the sex scene disquieting. While it is visually one of the most striking scenes in the movie (primarily from a SFX standpoint rather than old fashioned cinematography), it is also clearly a rip-off of a similar scene in Her. But where that scene turns into a disaster of awkwardness that emphasizes how wrong this whole concept of surrogate sexual partner is, this scene seems to want us to find it beautiful and erotic and even romantic. Considering this is about a man (sort of) having sex with a prostitute while imagining she is his computer hologram girlfriend who probably doesn't qualify as an actual person anyway, I find that hard to do. It seems to reject the whole concept of body & soul humans uniting in a procreative act of carnal love that is so central to a proper understanding of sex. But anyway. I guess what I'm most disappointed in is the lack of that old Blade Runner poetry. Everything here was so literal--or else clumsily unexplained. The constant pull toward abstraction of the original is abandoned--as is the genuinely strange and primal behavior of Roy Batty and his pals. Nothing here takes tonal risks like that, and nothing here moves me the way that film does.
  3. Stalker (1979)

    Got to see this on a big screen on a restored print a few weeks ago. I'd seen it before, but still: Magnificent. So many details I had forgotten--the dog, the cup moving at the very beginning (while the daughter is asleep), the ringing telephone (so stunning at first, perhaps a theophany, then immediately domesticated--just a wrong number), the Stalker's wall covered in books (his wife's?), the wife's monologue (reconfiguring these men's search for meaning with some hardwon feminine wisdom), and the faint stirrings of Ode to Joy right at the end. In the Zone, Tarkovsky is constantly bringing the four elements--air, earth, fire, and water--together in combinations that seem to positively vibrate with primal meaning and mysticism. But in the "real world" the water is just puddles on the ground, the air is choked with pollution, and fire is machine-made; the industrial world has not just lost a feel for the environment, but concealed the true life and import of the very elements of creation. And yet, the elements are still there, if anyone would look. One of the greatest movies ever made.
  4. Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry (2016)

    That's a great trailer. It's coming to the Indiana University Cinema near me October 24.
  5. Lucky Logan, dir. Steven Soderbergh

    This movie deserved to be a big hit, its a pity it tanked. Guess maybe it was too country and non-sexy to make it with urban audiences, and too critical and mocking of Southern and rural audiences to catch on. Not that it was too mocking--it came from a place of real experience, and real affection for its characters and region, while still having an overall critical appraisal of the ways Southern culture allows itself to be exploited by business and cultural elites. There's so much detail here, and so many points it wants to make! It may be a little much, honestly; it certainly goes on 10-15 minutes longer than it needs to, even allowing for thematic wrap-up. It's never as purely fun and fleet as Ocean's Eleven, but it's also a good deal more enjoyable than Behind the Candelabra or Magic Mike XXL.
  6. Wind River

    I really liked this movie. It has a couple awkward structural aspects to the way the narrative unfolds and the way Elizabeth Olsen's character is written, but I don't find those particularly damaging. I just like the way Taylor Sheridan tells stories. Its an old-fashioned vibe you get from classic crime and western novelists, Tony Hillerman or early Elmore Leonard or something, studded with sharp cultural observations throughout. We cpuld use more of this type of filmmaking.
  7. Isle of Dogs

    Well, I think that trailer looks amazing. Can't wait.
  8. Mother! (Darren Aronofsky)

    Same.
  9. Mother! (Darren Aronofsky)

    SPOILERS As an aside, the number of reviewers who seem blind to how intensely Biblical virtually every incident in the film is, is rather remarkable. I found the the allegory pretty headsmackingly obvious by the time the man and woman broke the crystal, but I would think everyone should have picked up on by the time Cain and Abel showed up. This review by Michael Koresky notes the Cain and Abel comparison, but only in passing, and seems to regard the early events of the film as realistic and grounded, claiming there's an abrupt turn away from realism in the second half. Did he miss the first 2 minutes, with the earlier mother burning up and Bardem using the crystal to restore the house? The whole plot is set up as mystical and allegorical from the first shot! Koresky doesn't notice the flood narrative or the distribution of the Scriptures, and doesn't even mention there might be Christ imagery in the film. He describes Cain and Abel as the moment that "forever taints the seemingly heretofore untouched paradise," skipping over the exile from Eden and the literal boarding of the door that happened moments before. Are secular audiences really this ignorant of basic Bible stories?
  10. Mother! (Darren Aronofsky)

    Hmm, I would have thought this thread would be a booming place on here. Have not enough people seen it yet? ___ I did not like the movie. I found it ugly, unpleasant, and grueling to sit through, and I don't think its allegory leads anywhere particularly interesting. But it certainly hasn't left my thoughts much since I saw it Sunday. SPOILERS As to interpretations: The idea of Mother as the devil, is, I agree, rather crazy, and goes against all the signals the film is sending us about who to sympathize with. But there is a way you can see her as a sympathetic rendering of a Satanic figure, finally rebelling against an unjust God's cruel system, in some sort of twisting of Paradise Lost. (I'm kinda thinking of The Amber Spyglass here, a little bit? Though that comparison is really tentative.) But Mother clearly isn't set up as Satan in any normal way (she gets tempted, not the other way around, and since when did Lucifer give birth to Christ?), and you only get to that interpretation in a rather vague structural manner. You certainly shouldn't end up seeing Bardem as good and her as evil, unless you're just willfully misreading. I think the Gnostic reading has a lot more potential, though I find that Reddit poster's more-spiritual-than-thou shtick rather laughable. There's definitely a sense in the film's parallel/parody of the Biblical narrative that it's resurrecting a number of old critiques of that narrative, whether Gnostic or Pagan or New Age. Accusing God of being inconsistent and unworthy of worship, or being needy and cruel, or imagining the Eucharist as cannibalism, or viewing the material world and humanity as irredeemably corrupt, or mounting feminist and environmentalist critiques of traditional theology, etc. Of course, the movie doesn't actually add up to anything profound with all this material, just a bunch of sound and fury about how tough it would be to be Mrs. God if there were such a person, but, you know, there's not. So where does it get you? God is only out for himself and can't be trusted, and humanity is incapable of decency or restraint on any level whatsoever? None of that, to me, is edifying, or even all that compelling. Your mileage may vary.
  11. First Reformed

    Who knows when I'll be able to see this, but I am very much looking forward to it. ☺
  12. The Red Turtle

    This movie deserves more viewers. Its clearly the best animation of the year, with every little movement feeling carefully alive, and every cut perfectly timed. Utterly gorgeous on a visual level. I confess I don't think its themes are quite as deep as others do (its ode to the life-cycle is simply that and nothing more as far as I can see), and its metaphors are perhaps a little awkward, but it makes up for it all with beauty.
  13. A Quiet Passion

    This came to my local community-sponsored art movie program last week, and I was all excited to go. But then I got there and realized I had to pay in cash and hadn't brought any with me. I had to park 10 minutes walk away, and I was on the campus of a university closed for the summer and the weekend, so there were no ATMs anywhere nearby. I wandered around for awhile looking, but the movie had already started, and at best I would have missed the whole first act, so I ended up just going home. Guess I'll have to wait for home viewing.
  14. TWIN PEAKS

    I don't have much to add, except that this is clearly the cinematic event of the summer, and probably the year. It's clearly not for everyone, yet I really feel like any cinephile who isn't watching is really missing out.
  15. Silence (2016)

    I saw that article, too, and thought it was terrible! They get a literature professor to review the movie in one the 2-3 most important book review publications in the country, and she barely acknowledges the movie is even based on a book?? Not only has she not read the book, she doesn't appear to have done any other research on the story or its historical background, adding in all sorts of assertions about colonialism that have very little to do with the movie. If she had a real historical knowledge of the period and was critiquing both film and novel on their depiction of historical colonial and missionary activity, that would be one thing, but she makes all sorts of assumptions and anachronistic assertions that tell you she doesn't know what she's talking about. She talks as if the priests were sent by the Portuguese political authorities. Is Kichijiro really treated as a "running joke"? Were the priests really thinking about their own "whiteness," and was their any "homoeroticism" about Rodrigues's "attachment to his fellow priests"? More offensive is this sentence and the points that follow it: "Scorsese thus attempts to give Catholicism a philosophical gravity that its flattened popular versions often lack." Because Catholicism doesn't have any natural philosophical gravity built on 2000 years of thought/debate/theological structuring (fed by several of the greatest minds the world has ever seen) and laying the foundation for the Western intellectual tradition which she is writing from/within or anything. (I am confused on the Son/Sun thing, though--some quick Googling suggests that Francis Xavier had problems because the Japanese names for the Christian God got confused with first a Buddhist deity, then with a word for "big lie." Is the Son/Sun thing just an English translation of that? Because that would be a weird and unnecessary dumbing-down that you would think the translator could more easily explain with a footnote or something.)
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