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StephenM

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Everything posted by StephenM

  1. Thanks, Ken. I saw the list at that link, but I had not previously realized that there are intros/short essays on each of the films posted when you click on them. I guess my assumption was that it would be published on the Image website like the various other lists, rather than simply on the forum in discussion-board-site format. Is the partnership with Image no longer happening?
  2. Yeah, when are you guys gonna put up the whole list for the public like you usually do? I've looked over the list on here and on Letterboxd, but I wanna share it. (It's a beautiful video, by the way, terrifically well done.)
  3. Also: 1. The original is still superior on a visual level. 2. Anyone comparing this to Stalker is really, really reaching.
  4. 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.
  5. StephenM

    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.
  6. That's a great trailer. It's coming to the Indiana University Cinema near me October 24.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Well, I think that trailer looks amazing. Can't wait.
  10. StephenM

    mother!

    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?
  11. StephenM

    mother!

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

    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.
  14. StephenM

    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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.)
  17. Saw it on Sunday night. Liked it quite a bit. Doubt anyone not already on board with the series will like it at all, though. As Ryan H. said, the cutting here went absolutely insane. Anderson brought in the guy who cut the Crank movies, and then cut up every fight scene into a million pieces going about as fast the human eye is capable of following. This is in sharp contrast to the other movies in the series, especially the last two, which have remarkably clean, clearly defined action. I hated it at first, and I didn't exactly like it by the end, but eventually I felt like there might be a strategy to it. 1. The movie as a whole is clearly indebted to Mad Max: Fury Road, and the cutting here resembled a few of the sped-up sequences there. 2. The action sequences did appear to be blocked in a coherent way, and the shots all showed different angles on the action clearly, even if they went by in split seconds (the camera here wasn't shaking documentary style or anything). 3. The movie just had so much stuff to get through that speeding it up like that might have been the only option to get it in under 2 hours (it's still by far the longest in the series). Anyway, as an overall story it was actually pretty satisfying. It put all the focus on Alice (and a little on the villains), not on the expendable side characters which never have much personality anyway, and gave her character a real emotional fulfillment and ending, which means that it was probably the most dramatically compelling movie in the series. It also had some religious elements to it: Ian Glen's character (or one of them, anyway) turns out to be an evil religious fanatic--which had never been part of the series before. It's a tired trope, but it kinda worked within the almost Medieval framework of the film (dragons, castles, etc.). He (or another him) also makes the argument that causing an apocalypse and restarting the world with a chosen few worked before with Noah and the Flood, justifying this movie's apocalypse. It's terrible logic, and giving the only religious views in the movie (series?) to villains like this is pretty offensive and stupid, but it does end up putting the villain in a situation of falsely playing God, meaning defeating him is more like defeating the Antichrist than an actually religious or Christlike figure. In fact, Alice herself is given more of a Christlike, sacrificial role, and the whole film seems structured like the testing of a saint or something (which fits in with the Medieval stuff again). Sean Gilman (a terrific blogger and an authority on modern Asian cinema) takes this significantly further than I would here:
  18. @Peter T Chattaway I haven't read through the whole article yet, but apparently Film Crit Hulk agrees with you on that voiceover. Here's the relevant paragraph {SPOILERS AHEAD}: Whole thing here.
  19. I found this incredibly moving. Second most-moving film of the year, for me, after Silence. There's probably some personal qualities that make it so powerful for me--I know what crippling guilt and depression feels like, though thankfully not for anything all that bad comparatively, and I know the pain of trying to put right something that it's too late to fix. I found the Tom Hardy film Locke an incredibly moving film for similar reasons. Nevertheless, I confess I don't really understand Darren's objections to the film at all. They seem to ignore all the little details of place, class, culture, and character that make this film so authentic and insightful. And I did not sense any hint of amateurishness in the directing or editing of the film--indeed, I was struck by it's confidence, smoothness, and sense of mastery. Am the shots of snow-covered sidewalks and rooftops, the quiet choral music, that felt just perfect to me, though I've heard a couple others object as well. The one bum note was that Matthew Broderick scene, which was just kind of terrible. Where everything else had felt so authentic, even when the characters were awkward or uncomfortable, that scene felt awkwardly written/acted/directed. It played into certain stereotypes of evangelicals that are not totally false, but as presented here come off as clangingly inaccurate, and rather mean. But its overall placement in the narrative and thematic importance worked well enough, so I didn't feel it hurt the movie unduly. And that dialogue exchange between Patrick and Lee, where Lee defensively points out to Patrick that "we're Christian, too"--that line has layers and layers of implications, both in personal motives and cultural tensions. Anyway, I really liked this movie.
  20. StephenM

    CHiPs

    That looks deeply unpleasant.
  21. @Joel Mayward That's weird. I don't know what you're picking up on, but I thought it had one of the best sound designs of the year, and I read a couple other reviews that thought so, too. If there is an issue, I'm sure they can fix it on the Blu-Ray if they're aware of it. I thought this movie was incredible. Probably the movie of the year for me. I just saw it Wednesday night, and I'm already reading the book as well. It's interesting so far, because while the movie was more immersive than the book's early chapters, the efforts Endo goes to to recreate the historical perspectives of the characters really pays off. There seems to be a much clearer sense of the language and cultural barrier between the priests and the Japanese, and a subtle, unconscious, but clear sense of superiority that the priests have over the peasants. This complicates things more than I was aware in the film, at least in the first 45 minutes or so. I find it interesting that those non-Christians who praise the film--the people at Reverse Shot, for instance--seem so eager to point out the distance we supposedly have from Rodrigues, and how critical of him we should be. While watching, I was identifying with him very closely, imagining my own reactions in his position. Scorsese nearly always pours himself into his lead characters; their pain becomes his, their evil and their tragedy are made real to us by the way he looks through their eyes. I suspect Scorsese has made the story more intimate and immediate than Endo presents it in the novel, though I cannot say for sure yet. I'm not sure what to think of that voiceover at the climax. Presumably it's from the book? I wondered if it was Neeson's voice at first as well, but I quickly concluded it wasn't. Was the cock crowing three times right after that a perfect touch, or was it too much? I'm not sure.
  22. StephenM

    Into Great Silence

    Andrew Sullivan wrote a new piece in New York Magazine titled "I Used to Be a Human Being: My Distraction Sickness--And Yours," about being addicted to the internet to the point of danger to his health. After quitting blogging, he detoxed by going to a meditation retreat center, and at one point he mentions this film:
  23. I'm a big Western fan, but I gotta say, I saw One-Eyed Jacks a couple years back and found it severely disappointing. It is somewhat interesting in terms of the historical development of the Western genre, anticipating the styles and concerns of the movies from the late 60s and 70s, but as a narrative it's just kind of a shambling mess. The characters are all unsympathetic, and the supposed increase in psychological insight isn't very interesting or revealing. It seems to have quite a cult, but I confess I'm really not sure what the film's appeal is.
  24. The Weeping Angels in Doctor Who recur in several other episodes as well. I think The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone two-parter is as good as Blink. And of course the show has a long history of mannequins coming to life that foes back to the Third Doctor's first episode, I believe. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the White Witch turns various people including Mr. Tumnus into stone, and later Asian restores them to life. Not sure if that counts. Hmm. There are many movies where paintings come to life, but that's not quite what you want, is it?
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