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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

MOVIE REVIEWS #85: "IN A WORLD...", "SNITCH", "JUG FACE", "THE STORY OF LUKE", "HARA-KIRI: DEATH OF A SAMURAI", "ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER", "MARINA ABRAMOVIC: THE ARTIST IS PRESENT", and MORE!

Well, it's been a dismal week for me. Exhausted, chaotic, broke. Especially broke, I couldn't afford my Netflix this week, so instead of the movies I planned on watching, I was scouring through my Roku for any and all titles, I could quickly kick off my queue this week. Considering that I have 500 movies in my queue, and there's about, 100+ channels on my roku, you'd be surprised how often I couldn't even find a movie available, and it was particular rare for me to find them for free, which I could barely afford. There's a few holes in the story that I won't reveal quite yet, but let's just say, it's been a frustrating week all-in-all. So, I wish I could pontificate a little bit on the death of Mickey Rooney and Letterman's retirement and stuff like that, I might do the latter later, but for now, let's keep it short and sweet, folks and...,

Get right to this week's edition of our RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEWS!


IN A WORLD... (2013) Director: Lake Bell

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When you hear Stockard Channing of John Krasinski's voices on a commercial for sub-prime mortgage companies or something like that, something that you might not realize is how those actors had to really fight for those roles. I know a few people in the voiceover world, and it's very competitive; and in many ways, it's actually heavily closed off from the rest of Hollywood to some extent. A lot of actors actually have separate agents and managers, just for their voice over work in commercials and trailers, and the agents work in that field exclusively, and they can be just as ruthless as regular agents, and the world is just as insular. People who get jobs doing voiceovers, of some kind, tend to get a lot of work, doing the same kind of voiceovers. Some people get animated characters, others get commercials, and the really special rare ones, they get the movie trailers. The title, as most of you should know already, is the famed trailer opening lines used by the legendary voice artist, Don LaFontaine. The line, first becoming infamous for action film trailers, before his voice became so cliche for them, that eventually, he usually ended up doing mostly comedy trailers that parodied his old action trailers. He passed away a few years back, (And that was a sad day in the industry btw) and since then, "In a World..." hasn't been used. There's a very limited number of people who get the voiceover work, and they keep those jobs for years. Carol (Lake Bell, who also wrote and directed the film) is the daughter of the biggest name in the business, since LaFontaine left, Sam Sotts (Fred Melamed, himself a major voice over artist for work like "The NFL Today" on CBS). She's a bit of a mess, who mostly works as a voice coach for people, especially for actors/actresses who have to work on re-dubbing their lines when they don't hit them perfectly in on stage, like in the wrong accent or inflection, or sometimes they just mumble so much that their recorded sound is useless. (Marlon Brando used to do most of his work in a sound studio, not even bothering to remember lines on the day, and then, essentially did most of his later performances, in the sound booth). There aren't a lot of female voices used for film trailers. In fact, I could only think of one, for a film called "Mr. Stache", and that was just a short film that won an American Express contest, and the voiceover was an integral part of the film to begin with. So, when she sneaks in and takes a job from her father's protege Gustav (Ken Marino) for a film trailer, granted, it's just a bad children's rom-com, it's a big deal. and she begins to get more gigs. Now, Sam and Gustav don't realize that Carol's the one who took his job, when Gustav throws a party, and Carol sleeps with him. She's not really interested, in him, but it's a realization for everyone. There's also a subplot about her sister Dani (Michaela Watkins) who's a hotel concierge who almost has an affair with a Irish visitor Terry Pounder (Jerry O'Mara) who Carol wants Dani to record his voice, because she's needs to get an Irish accent right, and the more kinds of voices you can do, the better. (One of my friends who does voice over work has dozens of voices and characters. She plays six or seven different traffic reporters in town, a different one for each station.) Her husband Moe (Rob Corddrey) himself, was worried about a neighbor girl using a shower, when Carol walked in, to sleep on their couch between work and homes. I'm recommending the movie, but there's issues with it. A lot of these subplots, sorta just flutter in, and really don't have great arcs of any kind, so they seem like filler. Even the potential romance between the two voice over actors, is quickly diminished by Carol's recordist, Louis's (Demetri Martin) crush, who finally gets the nerve and control over his vocal abilities to ask her out. It's a cute little movie, with some nice cameos from Geena Davis, Eva Longoria, and Cameron Diaz, and we get an inside look at the voice over world that we haven't really seen much of before. The ending comes at the Golden Trailer Awards, (Yes, they're a real thing btw, and their award for Best Voiceover is named after the late LaFontaine) where Sam is getting a Lifetime Achievement Award and a trailer for "The Amazon Games" is premiering and all three voices inevitably submit work for the trailer, competing for it. I think, this could've been explored a little better, and that the plotpoints, really needed to either be more crucial to the film, or be dismissed altogether. The pacing of the movie is off, and the dramatic tension is really lacking for much of the middle. I still enjoy it enough to recommend it, and it's always good to see a new writer/director with a distinct point of view, and giving us something to think about, as there really is no logical reason why there aren't more female voiceover artists working trailers, and elsewhere ever. I always liked Bell, I remember her from "Boston Legal" among other series and shows she's shown up on sporatically, this is her first feature film and a director, and she's occasionally done voiceover work as well, most notably as a witch in "Shrek Forever After". I liked the idea of "In a World..." than I did, the execution, but there is something here; I just wish there was a bit more. That's the kind of response I'd rather get out of a trailer, than a film.


SNITCH (2013) Director: Ric Roman Waugh

˜1/2


In the six or seven hours after I've seen "Snitch"; I've been, basically doing whatever I can to delay writing a review about it. Watched some old British episodes of "Whose Line Is It Anyway" on youtube, fell asleep watching old pro wrestling, played a few games on Facebook and Pogo. Re-watched that old BBC Top 100 Greatest Cartoons List, I'm in the middle of that now actually, I don't know what's weirder that "Looney Tunes" was only 20th, or that people voted for "Legends of the Overfiend". Anyway, I was trying to figure out what or why I should write about this movie. But I finally think I did stumble onto the film's problem. When you're doing this kind of action-hero led movie, you can only really go about this genre, in two different ways. There's one way where, plot is almost inconsequential, and has no real meaning other than, getting the action star in a position to, basically, kill or destroy everyone. I guess, almost like a video game essentially. Or, the other way is to make the movie, too far the other direction where you're striving for much more than an action movie, something transcending the genre and having a message or being overly important. "Snitch"'s problem, is that it tries to have it both ways, and kinda, be in the middle too much, and when that happens, it won't come out right, and the audience is sorta, either gonna like one aspect or the aspect, if they succeed at anything they'll like one or the other, and half the movie is already down the tube to begin with. John Matthews (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) owns a construction company, and his son, is incredibly talented, but ever-so-slightly hung out with the wrong people after his divorce, and now is in jail for accepting a package full of ecstasy that his roommate was gonna get, and now the roommate turned on him, in order to avoid the mandatory minimum jail sentence of 20-30 years. This is outrageous, and they make a point about it being outrageous that this kid, about to go off to college, is ruined by this. (And that's a real thing btw, mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes) It's the kind where Susan Sarandon, plays a prosecuting D.A., who outright says, tactlessly "I'm in favor of mandatory minimums," despite the evidence they just stated doesn't work. Hell, most of the police and the justice system don't like mandatory minimums anymore, and I'm not sure anybody's like them since the mid-90s. Anyway, Josh strikes a deal with Joane Keeghan (Sarandon) by promising to go undercover into a drug cartel and eventually turn on a kingpin, or some other higher-ups, in order to give a lighter sentence to his son Jason (Rafi Gavron). He manages to uses an ex-con employee, Daniel (Jon Bernthal) to set up a meeting and eventual, he's provided transportation for transferring drugs, and eventually money. There's a few explosion and car crashes and fight scenes, not as many as you'd think, that's a little different, but there was still very little surprise in "Snitch"; I could basically predict every plotpoint from a mile away, plus they laid it on so thick, and so badly-written dialogue, especially in the beginning, somebody has to study exposition for closely, 'cause this is simply a terrible example of it. It takes you out of the movie completely, you lose the subtlety of Benjamin Bratt's performance for instance, or Barry Pepper's under that makeup; it just turns into, every other drug dealing action film. There's no real surprise or compelling twist that makes "Snitch" into anything more than an action film, and even when it tries, like when Daniel's wife Analisa (Nadine Velazquez) is frustrated that her husband's back in the trade, even though it's against his will, that she gets upset, it more-or-less comes off as another convention of the tired old plot. "Snitch", is nice to put on, if you want something on that will help you in getting other things done like housework perhaps, or a high score at spider solitaire, 'cause you don't miss too much when you're distracted not watching it.


JUG FACE (2013) Director: Chad Crawford Kinkle

˜˜1/2



If you've never seen a face jug, they are usually creepy and googly-eyed, and otherwise disturbing. I've seen a few on "Antiques Roadshow" and "History Detectives" and other PBS programs over the years, they date back, probably to the slave culture in America, although it was probably somehow adapted from African tradition, and I believe the South Carolina-Georgia border, around there, is where most of the earliest examples can be traced back to, but other than those few facts or suspicions, they're a bit of a mystery in terms origins and use. Some suspects that the face jugs, or ugly jugs as they were also called, were intended to thwart off spirits, which is why they were purposefully designed to be so hideous-looking. The mystery about them does leave them open for interpretation and use in literature, although "Jug Face" is the first film I can think of where the mystical factors about them play a role. It's a southern gothic horror actually, although, it might as well have originated in a Shirley Jackson world. It's a secluded southern community that's aware of the outside world, but mostly lives in fear and trust of something called "The Pit", which is, a ghastly, pit, that seems to be both a life and destructive force of the world. Basically, it's that volcano on ancient tribal islands that virgins used to be sacrificed to in order to keep it from blowing it, although instead of a virgin, per se, it's an image created on a face jug that's also thrown into the pit. When Ada (Lauren Ashley Carter) sees that the new face jug has a resemblance to her, she takes and hides it before it can get thrown into the pit, and soon, unusual deaths and disturbances begin to haunt the community. Ada herself, a teenager is in a bit of trouble, having been secretly having an affair with Dawai (Sean Bridges) which has led to her getting pregnant, this she finds out, after having been setup to marry Bodey (Mathieu Whitman) in an arrange marriage. This isn't something that's appealing to her mother Loriss (Sean Young, yes that Sean Young, and I can't remember the last time I saw her in anything other than in a catsuit on "The Joan Rivers Show" either.) but as deaths start occurring, and it becomes clearer and clearer that whatever's happening is because of her, she and the rest of the community.... Well, I think you can guess from there. Larry Fessenden plays Ada's friend who makes the local face jugs, and the film's from a first-time director named Chad Crawford Kinkle, who's from this obscure area of the country, so he gets a lot of the tones. The violence and gore, is minimal but effective, he's good at building some tension. The film, gets a little bit too convoluted and messy at the end, at it seems to screech towards an inevitable end, so the scares aren't there, granted he's going more for mood, so he's effective. I can't quite recommend it outright, there's enough flaws to worry concern me but it's a talented first-time filmmaker, who, maybe could be better in a different, more slice-of-life drama in this world instead. This idea of the closed off inbred-cult society in most of America, even parts of the Deep South, is a bit old, even for horror, but "Jug Face" is a promising debut for him, and there's some pretty good acting in this film, especially from Carter. A lot of promise all around, I hope soon we'll get the upside with Kinkle's next project.


THE STORY OF LUKE (2013) Director: Alonso Mayo

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A word of advice to writers, if the characters don't know why they're telling something to another character, so much so that they continually tell him such things as, "I don't know why I'm telling you this...", then, well, don't have them tell him. Not only was that such poor exposition in "The Story of Luke", a lot of it was, not just arbitrary, some of it was just; I mean it barely needed to be a plotpoint. Actually no it didn't, there's a side plot in the story involving the conflict between Paul and Cindy (Cary Elwes and Kristen Bauer van Straten) that basically, boils down to, they're a couple with two kids, and they're both frustrated because they're not having sex. I mean, they're frustrated with each other, and it's getting in the way of things, but that's basically it, they're two parents of teenagers, and they're in a dry spell sexually at the moment. That's weak enough, and now, both of them will talk to their nephew Luke (Lou Taylor Pucci) who's a high-functioning autistic, who's grandmother just passed and his grandfather (Kenneth Welsh) isn't able to take care of him, or their house, and now he's living temporarily with them, until they figure out what else to do with him. He's graduated from high school, although it was a home-schooling, and he's a very good cook; he knows 23 dinner recipes, and the way Rain Man used to watch "The People's Court" and "Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune" he does with cooking shows, although, he knows that, in order to live on his own, he needs a job, and that might just mean sacrificing the cooking shows in order to search. He also wants to get laid and do other things that normal people his age do. While he stumbles his way through a couple pseudo-sexual adventures, he gets a trainee job with the verbally-abusive Zach (Seth Green) who's also a little bit damaged mentally, but he is a computer genius, and Luke manages to keep up with him, and hold his own. The main climax of the story involves Luke's mother who abandoned him years earlier, another thing that gets brought up to him often through unnatural exposition to him. They almost treat him like a bartender at times, I swear. Despite some of those problems there's enough here to recommend actually. The film is the first theatrical film from Documentarian Alonso Mayo, he needs some work to do with dramatic films as a writer, but the directing isn't awful. The acting helps save this movie, and Pucci, he's okay at this kind of autistic character. It's a bit of an acty-showy performance, and with my personal biases, I'm always a little iffy in regards to autistic characters  and roles, but he's not too unbelievable here. It's an average indy film, so I can't recommend it too highly. It wasn't nearly as funny as it tried to be, but-eh, I guess I'm in a decent mood today, so I'm recommending it.


HARA-KIRI: DEATH OF A SAMURAI (2012) Director: Takeshi Miike

˜˜1/2



I know what he's trying to do, and I know that to some extent, Takeshi Miike's latest "Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai', succeeds, but, I gave it two shots all the way, and I'm not completely sold there's as much here as it seems. Far wand away, his least violent effort year, Miike's attempting to channel the great Masaki Kobayashi, who directed numerous Samurai movies that were more about the emotional trevails of the characters than about the fighting and other more typical aspects of samurai films. Even the title, "Hara-Kiri..." is borrowed from one of Kobayashi's most beloved films. I've only seen one of Kobayashi's movies, "Samurai Rebellion", and that one, while also well-regarded, didn't have much effect on me either, so maybe it's a taste thing, but I think the issue with Miike's film is the structure. It begins with Hanshiro (Ebizo Ichikawa) arriving in town to request an audience so he can partake in the Ancient tradition of seppuko, the famed ritualistic Samurai suicide method, where a man slices up his stomach with his knife. His reasons, are solid; he's unable to care for his family after his tribe as his house was poverty-stricken and he can't take care of his family. The feudal house warriors, suspects a bluff, as many former samurais from other defeated tribes in the battles, have been arriving to threaten suicide, as an attempt to extort money. Then, there's two stories told, one by the warriors about a previous bluff attempt, where the man was forced to use a bamboo sword to kill himself, unsuccessfully. Then, Hanshiro tells a tale of his own, and somehow, these two stories are related to each other as we see that same man's family, teetering on survival and failing, after the man they sent, didn't arrive back from his desperation claim. I found it really tricky, trying to relate the two tales, I couldn't grasp how they viscerally came together, and when the movie, ended in a final battle, I more of less begrudgingly wondered why he went that direction, when he didn't need to. I think the film, was trying too much. It was doing these multiple stories, inside the main story, I guess a la "Rashomon", or maybe more recently, something like "Hero" I think, the Jet Li film, kinda did that, and they devolving as the story gets told, to the inevitable fight scene, but I think because it was done in this peculiar, that I couldn't really get into the film. I kept feeling like, I was being shifted through, flashbacks against my will, and it didn't really answer any greater truth or ask a new question. Because we got these, two perspective on the truthfulness of the Samurai requesting hara-kiri, that are both, relatively equal perspectives, at the end, I didn't have an opinion one way or another what happened to him, and that was ultimately depressing for me. There's a lot of skill and talent on screen; Miike is a great director; I've argued that his "Audition" is the best of the Asia Extreme films, even ahead of "Oldboy"; his "13 Assassins" was a great exercise in kinetic action, but I felt less for this film, the more I watched and considered it. I guess I'm going against the prevailing winds considering the standard we're at, but despite some good stuff here, it doesn't come together for me....- I'm definitely reluctant on this, 'cause I still feel a little like I'm missing something, but I just can't recommend it all the way, 'cause I don't think it really leads to much, when you try to construct the entire story back, and he's set such a high standard for himself here, maybe I'm being tougher but, it just doesn't really work the way this film was constructed.


ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER (2012) Director: Timur Bekmambetov

˜1/2


Well...,  if Solomon can be a master of demons, then I guess, Abraham Lincoln could've been a vampire hunter in his spare time. ("Testament of Solomon," it's in the Apocrypha; one of the gospels that didn't get canonized in the Bible, he was a mystic who fought off demons, when he wasn't threatening to slice disputed babies in half. Oh nevermind, it's not relevant.) Anyway, "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter", um, yeah. That's basically it. I don't know what to say about this film. Is it good, no. Is it supposed to be, probably not in the traditional sense. The movie begins with a young Lincoln, (Benjamin Walker) witnessing the murder of his mother at the hands of a vampire, as well as saving a young slave, Will Johnson (Anthony Mackie) from the vampire as well. Apparently, the whole Civil War was basically inevitable because of this moment, and Lincoln's determination to win it came from here too. While, he's not railsplitting, or taking his 3rd grade education to become the most successful lawyer in Illinois, he spends his nights killing vampires under the tutelage of Henry Burgess (Dominic Cooper), himself a vampire, but one of the few on the side of the North-, I mean, on the side of Good. He trains him, and eventually, with the law and politics and a guise, Lincoln kills over 60 vampires, but has yet to kill the one he really wants Jack Barts (Marton Csokas), the one that killed his mother. I don't know, there's a half-decent idea of inserting the supernatural into history, but that rarely works under the best of circumstances. Here, the movie, is too ridiculous to be truly taken seriously, and it takes itself too seriously and for it to be appreciated as absurdist camp. It's kinda like, a bunch of dead air on the screen really. That's the real problem with the movie, it doesn't go far enough in any direction; it feels like, despite all the logical reasons not to, the film tries to treat the scenario as possible, and then, try to dive into Lincoln's life too much. Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) starting to lose it after vampires took their young son, and then, add the politics events that correspond and how his frustration with vampires led him to double down on Gettysburg, and- I don't know. I don't know; I don't know; I don't know! I've said that about a dozen or so times during this review, and really that's basically what they give us to make of the film. From conception to execution, the movie plays it right down the middle so much, that amazingly, the movie not only turns boring, but safe and indecisive too. The movie was based on the novel from Seth-Grahame Smith, who also wrote the hit novel, "Pride & Prejudice & Zombies", which is also being adapted into a feature film. He likes this idea of inserting the supernatural in familiar stories. The key word there is stories, 'cause here, he's messing with history, and there's only so much you can interpret and re-imagine, without being tired of going, "Oh, that's from that. That's about that. That's cute how they tied that in, sorta....." Still, the movie, it's so ugly and dark; there's nothing really fun about it. It was boring!; I mean, how can this movie be boring? It's "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter", and the worst sin of all, is that they made it, as boring as they could've made it. It could've been anything with an idea, this fucking ridiculous, but not boring, and somehow they pulled off. I guess it's sorta an achievement, but I wouldn't want to brag about it.


MARINA ABRAMOVIC: THE ARTIST IS PRESENT (2012) Director: Matthew Akers and Jeff Dupre

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Marina Abramovic's work-, no, that's not the right way to describe it. I don't know what is either. Yes, art will do, but,- to the far extent that all art, is essentially performance art, and to the barest extent, there's performance art, and then there's, performance art. And Abramovic, might've been the inventor of the latter to some extent. Just reading about her work and those who witnessed it is disturbing, much less seeing much of it here, in old footage, and new in "Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present". The film chronicles her for almost a year as she prepares a display of her most famous work at the Museum of Modern Art, the MoMA in New York City, which is considered a career achievement for her, and a sign of the general acceptance of her work. She's doing one part of the performance herself, a piece where she sits still in silence, at a table, across from her audience, during the entire exhibition, which was running for a couple months, only taking occasional breaks at closing. Other artists were brought in, and trained to recreate her most famous works, like of the two naked people standing in the doorway entrance, which visitors must be walk between to enter; the symbolism of life and birth is powerful, and one of my favorites. Other times, she's beating, whipping herself, cutting herself on stage, or letting the audience do things to her. One infamous performance, involved her standing still, with a table full of objects that the audience was allowed to use against her, for the six hours she stood passively. Objects included everything from items of pleasure and nourishment to weapons, including a loaded gun. Her body is her canvas, and whether alone, or working together for a time with her lover Ulay, another performance artist, she is unusually strong-willed and determined a person, able to force much torture and self-mutilation and other punishments against herself for long period of time. Ulay and Marina's final performance "The Lovers", involved them walking along the Great Wall of China for three months, from one to the other, until they met in the middle, ironically, to say goodbye to their relationship. As people as famous as Lady Gaga and James Franco would view her exhibit, and sit with her, the more the performance gained public notoriety. She had a tough live, born out of a violent and broken home from Yugoslavia, it's clear that she's capable of numerous kinds of art, (I actually viewed a short film she directed for a controversial conceptual collection of films called "Destricted" called "Balkan Erotic Epic". She even discusses a possible collaboration with David Blaine for awhile, before it became clear that, the world of illusion is the exact opposite of her art. She wants us to witness her bare her soul, body, and everything else on display, and we see that in the performance, and in the film. She let's us in, seemingly forgetting we're here when not being interviewed, but an artist like her, is always on display, so it's difficult to tell where Marina the artist begins and Marina the person ends, which is the point of her work. When Ulay sits across from her, after having not seen each other in over a decade before, she ever-so-slightly reaches for him, the only time she remotely breaks from the part. Even she can be effected when her, as the audience, is challenged. This is a very good documentary on a very important artist of our times, and seeing her process and work behind the scenes is quite stirring. It's nice to see her, just cutting vegetables for guests and cooking, and laughing as she plans out the exhibit. The documentary was in theaters for a couple weeks in New York, before it debuted on HBO; it's one of the better documents of artist in recent years, and having watched it a couple times, the power of the film, and of her art, is something, you kinda just have to experience, 'cause analyzing it is okay, but, that's the thing with performance art, you kinda have to witness it somehow. Probably participate too in Marina's world.


THE GENERAL (1926) Directors: Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman

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While I'm glad to finally get it off my shame list, Buster Keaton's "The General" is usually listed as his best and most important work. I'm not so sure I share that opinion actually. Oh, it's an amazing film, and the feat of athleticism and comedy he manages to pull off are quite special, but ironically, something I notice with this film is how simple it actually is. Some of his other works, like "Our Hospitality," seem to be more elaborate, and filled with taking pieces of humor to some absolute zeniths. The worlds were more imaginative too, where he would be reacting to the strange things going on as much as anything else. "The General" on the other hand, is really, Buster Keaton, minimalism oddly enough. It's him, and a train basically. Yeah, the Civil War comes into play, and Keaton, always the buff, always loved his Civil War pieces to be in Kentucky, which is the area of the country most divided by the War, and by divided, I mean, brother against brother, literally. When the war breaks out, he gets rejected, Johnnie Gray (Keaton) and this disappoint Annabelle Lee (Marion Mack), who mis-believes that he didn't enlist, when in fact, he did everything to enlist, but being a train engineer, it was determined that he was more important here. Then, his train, "The General" gets stolen by the north, who this begins a second act, that seems to be just one long elaborate train chase. Multiple chases act, and they are elaborate. The movie was actually based on an actual incident in the Civil War, and there advisers on set, who were actually involved in the incident. Maybe that's why it doesn't rank as one of his more laugh-out-loud films. Maybe that's it's secret. It was one of the most elaborate and expensive films of its time. The train, that Keaton is nearly run over by multiple times, is a real train that nearly ran him over. So it the car that's set on fire and abandoned in a tunnel that Johnnie Grey heads straight towards. And the other, on the bridge that eventually collapses, actual train, long before David Lean did it. He manages, some of his other favorite conceit, like switching uniforms to sneak back into Kentucky and help foil the Northern advance, and a few different gags with canons, one on a train, another during battle. Keaton's best work here, isn't so much, the comedy, it's his acting strangely enough. He always played his roles seriously, to make the comedy even more hilarious, when they occurred, as he often stood as counter to it. Roger Ebert's Great Movie review notes that "We don't laugh at Keaton, we identify with him." It's true actually, we don't laugh as much at "The General" as we do, his other works. Perhaps, if we did, we wouldn't get so caught up in it. It wouldn't be the epic war story that it really is. The music is driving and pushing battle music; it almost reminds me of the score for "Stripes" of all thing, which is probably the kind of music that film was parodying. The film isn't parody or satire, it's actually based out of the smarts and know-how of the engineer, who may or may not be army material, but he knows trains, and how they can be manipulated and how he can use that knowledge to outsmart the Northern Army. The lowly workingman, who manages to be craftier and more determined that most of the rest of the military. "The General" is certainly essential viewing, although I don't know if, that film alone, is a good piece to get the entirety of Buster Keaton; I'm not sure it's the synecdoche for Keaton's career that other might claim. Of course, that's a good thing, since that means, we have to go through the rest of his work, which is almost always great. It also reveals just how talented Keaton actually was.


GOOD DICK (2008) Director: Marianna Palka

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I know, that I have written this into a script before, on multiple occasions even, so it's a bit ironic coming from me, but exactly how often and how much do women watch porn? And even if they do, how often do they masturbate from it? I think a decent portion watch it, almost ironically, the way Janeane Garofalo's discussed it in her stand-up a few times, how she hates sex, but enjoys porn, "Hey, I watch the food network a lot too, that doesn't mean I'm gonna bake a cake!" And, in this day and age, how many still, go to a video store for their porn? Personally, I wish that they did, since, I miss video stores, and since our family's old video store chain, might've been the last one that kept a regular porn collection, I certainly have fond memories of them, but this is more a conceit from a bad writer than based in any form of reality. Somebody has screwed up mentally as "The Woman" (Marianna Palka, the film's writer/director) would most likely be so insular and hermit-ish to spends all her days masturbating to porn and rejecting the outside world, and apparently have enough money to not have a job and live in an apartment her father paid for, and have a trust fund, would probably not go to a store; she's probably just a buy a computer so she can watch her porn more that way. Maybe she prefers the to watch porn the old-style way, as a film, with a bit of a plot like an old Emmanuelle movie or something, but still, there's ways of getting that without leaving the house. I know, I almost took a job once writing reviews of porn on a website, they send you the latest porn titles to review in little envelopes, and there's plenty of company's....- Maybe I'm being snippet about "Good Dick", but it really did frustrate me too much. "The Man" (Jason Ritter) who insists on trying to know her, manages to con his way into her apartment, and together, not much, he just watches a lot of porn with her. Occasionally there's a funny exchange of repartee, and one scene involving Ritter, bent over the dining room table and Woman makes Man experience metaphorical what sex is like from a woman's point of view. He's fallen for her as the clerk at the video store, which is apparently one of the only places she visits, that and the mailbox. Something's screwed up with her, and it involves some psycho-sexual abuse from her father (Tom Arnold, who's cameo is probably the best thing in the film until the scene starts). who she confronts at the end and everything is still vague. Man never gets to the bottom of the problem, and she never reveals it either. Occasionally, we learn one or two unimportant things about the characters, like Man's homeless and sleeps in his car, and apparently an addict of some kind; I guess that the excuse for why he sees a need in her that he's willing to force his way into her life against her will, but he doesn't do much about it either, except try to get in her pants. (And I don't know why his name at least, isn't Dick, if for nothing else to match the title?) Marianna Palka, probably has some talents at acting, and she's got a new directorial effort coming out later this year. Apparently, she's  pupil of David Mamet and Bill Macy, so I suspect that she can do better than this, and maybe a variation on this story might've worked on the stage. Person a two-person show, involving the masturbating woman and the clerk, forcing his way in and the whole thing taking place in that apartment; that might've been interesting, but "Good Dick", just fails at, seemingly everything from the concept to the execution. Todd McCarthy might've put his finger on it, calling it a "Therapy script" that shouldn't have been made. I hope that's the case, and I hope Palka can do better next time in that case. Or at least, give us more of a reason to care about these "characters."


THE LADY (2011) Director: Luc Besson

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Aung San Suu Kyi (Michelle Yeoh) is one of my personal heroes, and she should be to everybody else for her accomplishment. She won the Nobel Peace Prize, but wasn't able to accept it 'til fifteen years later, as she was in her native Myanmar under house arrest. Her father Aung San, (Phoe Zaw) was the right ruler of Burma, but was assassinated through a military coupe. Suu Kyi would spends much of her life outside the country, even marrying and having kids with a British writer/professor, Michael Arias (David Thewlis), and she wasn't even allowed to visit him, as he died of cancer while she was imprisoned. I've known about her life for awhile, as I'm sure most everybody has. She's only recently had her house arrest expunged and while Myanmar's fragile state inches ever-more-slowly towards, not only diplomacy, but a place in the world scene, she now a member of it's newly-formed Congress. She once won an election for President, but another coupe led to her arrest. She's realizes and loves politics, realizing how it really is the things the government does that effects what happens to the people of her very poor country. Before watching "The Lady", I, had seen a few things on Burma, including some really good, and risky documentaries about the country that's the 2nd most shutout from the outside world, next to North Korea of anywhere. "The Lady" is a decent biopic on Aung San Suu Kyi, although it's a fairly traditional tale about an otherwise revolutionary person. I certainly wish it was more than that though. Luc Besson, interestingly enough chose to direct "The Lady", that's not a typical choice from the director of "La Femme Nikita" and "The Professional", but he's certainly competent enough, and we certainly get a good, theatrical overview of Aung San Suu Kyi, we also get a lot of her long-suffering husband, a bit more than we probably should've as I think, her alone or her actions were far more interesting. I think there's better films about Myanmar and Suu Kyi, but most of them are documentaries. I think this could've been better, and won't call it the definitive statement on her, but it'll be a decent introduction for those unfamiliar, not much more than that though.


THE WOMAN (2011) Director: Lucky McKee

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Ugh. I'm still a bit nauseous after watching "The Woman", the latest from director Lucky McKee. It's his fourth feature film, but the first one I've seen since his debut feature "May", which was one of the most interesting and charming slasher horror films I've seen in a while. There isn't much charming or enjoyable in this film, although, that might be part of the plan, but still, this one's just disturbing. The Woman (Pollyanna McIntosh) is some kind of disturbing uncivilized, supposedly tribe of cannibalistic creatures, but it seems more like she was raised by wolves and the Linda Harrison character from "Planet of the Apes", only more primitive and violent. She's spotted by a country lawyer Chris Creek (Sean Bridges) and is soon captured. What a normal script would happen next, would be that, while they may go to a few drastic lengths to keep her temporarily immobile, they'd call the police, scientists, maybe the National Enquirer, perhaps but plenty of applied psychoanalysts and other professors of the humanities at the major universities, and begin trying to turn Frankenstein into Eliza Dolittle, possibly with some gruesome results. That's not what happens however, as she was kidnapped and taken by the wrong country lawyer. Without revealing too much else of the actions, let me say that, Chris, is a family man, with a wife and three kids. The eldest girl, Peggy (Lauren Ashley Carter, in the second horror I'm reviewing her in this week) is suddenly and unusually quiet and sick. She was dating a boyfriend recently, but now, her teacher Genevieve (Carlee Baker) suspects that her bouts of illness and distract classroom behavior, are symptoms of a pregnancy. Her younger brother Brian (Zach Rand) is curious by the woman his father's brought home, as he's beginning to have some of the same violent psycho-sexual neuroses that his father has, which have all very suddenly it seems been ignited, or maybe they've been there all along. This is one of those, almost classically is disturbing, a la, "I Spit On Your Grave", or these old early eighties, disgusting anti-women horror films, and there is an effectiveness to it, that's hard to dismiss. This is a skilled filmmaker at work here, and McKee is wise enough, to not spend too much time through the perspective of the villain, so it is a detached film, as opposed to one that praises the material, but it's still, not very pleasurable. Apparently, according to some critics, when they sent out screeners of the film, they sent barf bags with them. You know, part of being a critic is in recognizing the skill involved in work that, otherwise, I don't like. That said, there's a think line between enjoying and appreciation; "The Woman" is really hard to enjoy. I could make just a technical argument, not to recommend it, 'cause those certain problems with the story and the filmmaking even; there's an early error involving the way the desks are set up in a classroom that clearly was illogical, and they basically had to reset the desks a certain way in order to get the shot they wanted, but it means that the room would never be set up that way, but that's minor; the implications of the story and the characters, as well as their actions, that much more traumatic and gruesome, and in many ways, just disgusting. I'm conflicted here, but I can't imagine, recommending this movie for anybody, there isn't really an enjoyment factor in the film, something that you're gonna come out of it with any positive experience. It's a work of art for sure, it's based on a Jack Ketchum novel, and he co-wrote the film's script, but I can't really recommend it.


KANDAHAR (2001) Director: Mohsen Makhmalbaf

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When "Kandahar" got a surprise American theatrical release back in late '01, the film's timing was not coincidental as it had been rushed into limited release theaters after 9/11 and despite acclaim from numerous film festivals. More of us know now, where Kandahar is, and at least for now, it's not control of the Taliban, unlike the way it was when the film was made. For the geo-politically lacking, "Kandahar" is a disputed territory, generally considered a part of Afghanistan, although Afghanistan and Pakistan have fought over the territory for centuries, and much of the time, it's been a rogue nation-state, that isn't considered a part of either, and until the war, was run by the Taliban. "Kandahar" is about Nafas (Nelofar Pazira) was born in Afghanistan, but hasn't been there since she was young. Her family, went off to live in Canada, but her sister stayed behind. Now, she's returned to the Taliban-controlled region, alone, and has to find her sister and get her out, after she wrote a letter saying she stepped on a landmines and lost both of her legs. The real story, is Nafas's journey behind the cloak and into the world. It takes a lot just to get into Afghanistan. She needs a male to go with her to Kandahar, and eventually finds a young ten-year-old named Khak (Sadou Teymouri), who was thrown out of school for the day, a school where the Qu'ran, is repeated, literally repeated by the students to memory, and they bob up and down, repeating it like a mantra, before getting tested on the basics of modern machine guns and other weapons. The kid, is a hustler, constantly trying to get more and more money out of the girl as they head out across the desert, hopefully to Kandahar. She soon gets sick, and goes to see a doctor, Tabib (Hassan Tantai) who can only treat her by looking through a sheet with an eye hole. He turns out to be an American, keeping a fake beard so as to treat the locals, and Nafas's is the only English-speaking person around. The trip is slowed down at one point, after a skeleton is found. Nafas is flipped out, Khak tries to sell her the ring that was on it. The kid is used to skeletons, I guess. These are the events of the movie, and are essentially  the main point, to show the life of people under the Taliban rule. The film was directed by Iranian Director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, who switches back and forth from dramatic films and documentaries; it's the first film of his I've seen. I think it's more of a curiosity than a truly effective feature; it gives us a small glimpse inside a world thank, hopefully won't exist anymore, anywhere, although in the thirteen years since "Kandahar" came out, I would've liked to have been able to be able to have been a little more confident about the Taliban's end than that.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

CANON OF FILM: "SOME LIKE IT HOT"

SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959)

Director: Billy Wilder
Screenplay: Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond based on the story by R. Thoeren and M. Logan



Would this film work if Marilyn Monroe wasn’t in it? The answer is probably yes, but whether Billy Wilder “Some Like it Hot” would work as well as it does, probably not. You don’t just need the acting abilities of Monroe, you need her for the iconography. Half of the jokes twice as funny because they get the added joke that the girl is Marilyn Monroe. Oh, the acting is important though.  She’s been teasing men with her innocence for decades now through the lens of the camera, and probably in real life too, and nobody would be able to sing “I Want to Be Loved By You” the way she does. It’s hard to realize how often actors, are constantly looking for the subtext in the dialogue, to make it sound for realistic, but Monroe could do the impossible, read the line, without any subtext; She reads the lines, and sing the songs as though it’s literal and do so without irony. This is perfect for comedic fodder, but we can believe that she doesn’t quite get the subtext. Except, she does get it, and that’s what makes her such a conundrum. Like the scene where Curtis is attempting to seduce her, and she’s holding serve with every pun and innuendo. It’s so difficult to tell where Monroe, the person ends and where Monroe the actress begins, and who knows if Monroe herself is just a put on from Norma Jean, but let’s not try to dive into the sadder aspects of Monroe, especially for this film of pure fun and titillation.  

“Some Like It Hot” has aspects of a few genres, but all of them are just fodder to support the ridiculous screwball plot, this movie is purely and single-mindedly about sex. The film involves two jazz musicians during prohibition-era Chicago, Joe and Jerry (Tony Curtis and Oscar-nominee Jack Lemmon) who, through a series of unfortunate events, witness the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and have to hide out in Florida. Oh, and they have to pretend they’re women, long story. On the train, they join Monroe’s band which is all heading to perform in a resort to Florida, and in one of the funniest series of moments in film history, Monroe goes to Daphne’s (Lemmon in Drag) bed to thank her for something, and somehow this turns into a booze party that’s seemingly situated inside Lemmon’s top train bunk. I still am not sure just how many legs are actually hanging out of his bed. Anyway, when they get to Florida, Joe (Tony Curtis, who’s already pretending to be “Josephine,”) decides to try court Sugar Kane (Monroe) by pretending to be the heir to Shell Oil fortune named Junior. Tony Curtis said that when he acted as ‘Junior,’ he decided to do it as though he was Cary Grant. He then somehow gets Monroe convinced that he’s…- Well, I mentioned that seduction scene, but it’s probably best I let you guys watch that part, but let’s just say that he has a “problem” that if Marilyn Monroe can’t fix it, then probably no one can. Meanwhile, Jerry, as Josephine has caught the eye of a billionaire Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown) a man who changes wives as often as he changes his socks but, has the money to do so. This would be what Sugar calls getting the fuzzy end of the lollipop, but soon, Jerry becomes somewhat enamored anyway, despite the obvious problems. This leads to the arguably the best ending line in cinematic history.

The other that’s spectacular in the film, is the cinematography; never has great use and placement of shadows been more frustrating to the viewer, as they perfectly cover the parts of Monroe’s infamous white see-through dress that probably would’ve given the censuring board a seizure. The rest of the film is sharply lit and Wilder and legendary co-writer I.A.L. Diamond pepper the script with intriguing visual gags everywhere, that are just as funny as the dialogue.

The American Film Institute named “Some Like it Hot” the funniest American movie ever made, and watching it now, it’s just as racy, sexually suggestive, and funny as ever, and maybe even moreso. The film received six Oscar nominations and won for Best Costume Design. There’s also great supporting work, from one of the few actors of that era who might’ve been harder to work with than Monroe, George Raft, one famously waited out his contract when he didn’t want to be cast in the film that would become “The Maltese Falcon”. Monroe’s difficulties on set, are notorious, but strangely, you’d be hard-pressed to find them in the film, and after “The Seven Year Itch”, she had respect for Wilder; she even signed off on the film being shot in black and white, which was odd, her contract has a clause that required her films to be shot in color unless otherwise stated, and I suspect that she strived to do her best work in this film, even if it was a pain to get it out of her.   

Thursday, April 10, 2014

THE TEN GREATEST MOVIES OF 2004! Man, that was a decade ago? Ugh! I wish these lists would stop making me feel so old.

2004 is very memorable to me. I was arms deep into what almost became a minor in Sociology and taking community college classes that were incredibly enriching mentally and knowledgeably engrossing, but basically was only immediately useful for becoming a hippie, something that, according to many people, was either a skill I already had, or at least already had the hair for it. That was the first and only year my Eagles went to the Super Bowl in my lifetime anyway; we loss, and we're still having trouble keeping the most talented wide receivers, or at least convincing them to not join a division rival after we release them. (Ugh, sorry Chip Kelly; I still trust you, but I'm really missing Andy Reid right now.) And that was the '04 Election; the first one I voted in and participated with a few PACs and groups like MoveOn.org; the election which I'm still convinced John Kerry could've won on an Ohio recount (I'm still convinced the math never added up there for me) and we were doomed to four more years of Bush cutting taxes and doubling down on the war, and my family living in that temporary apartment for another five years. Well, things have definitely gotten better in some ways. Now, we have youtube for instance. I never trusted the American people again, but other than that.... Curiously the best films that year, seemed to have very little to do with the events of the time, and all seemed to be personal artistic pieces instead. Well, there were a few exceptions. The Oscars were interesting, but the People Choice Awards probably said more about the tone of the country at the time. "Fahrenheit 9/11" won Best Film, while the Best Dramatic Film, went to "The Passion of the Christ" (Neither made this list.); I strongly suspect that neither choice was voted on much out of quality of the films available (Something that's rare with those awards anyway) but out of an relentless and determined insistence on the continuously polarized views of the country, which reached it's zenith that year. No wonder, the best films, chose, probably wisely to avoid such nonsense, and instead, just tell great stories that most all of us can emotionally relate to, or at least be entertained by, but in any case, movies/filmmakers turned more inwardly artistically, and that's why so many of the really good films that came out that year, seem to exist in their own vacuums, and not try to make larger points of the world, and really dealt with the personal struggles of it's characters and tell a great story.

For those new to this, we've been doing this for a while, going back through the naughts decade and looking back each year, and determining the TEN GREATEST MOVIES of that year. For those who missed the previous lists, here's those lists, as well as links to their corresponding blogposts:

2003
1. Lost in Translation
2. City of God
3. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
4. Love, Actually
5. Monster
6. The Fog of War
7. Dirty Pretty Things
8. The Twilight Samurai
9. The Barbarian Invasions
10. The Shape of Things
http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-ten-greatest-movies-of-2003-year.html

2002  
1. Adaptation.
2. Minority Report
3. 25th Hour
4. Spirited Away
5. Y Tu Mama Tambien
6. Bowling for Columbine
7. Frida
8. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
9. Lovely & Amazing
10. Far From Heaven
http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-ten-greatest-movies-of-year-2002.html

2001
1. Mulholland Dr.
2. Dinner Rush
3. Waking Life
4. The Royal Tenenbaums
5. Gosford Park
6. Monsters, Inc.
7. Amelie
8. Audition
9. Ghost World
10. Memento
http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-ten-greatest-movies-of-year-2001.html

2000
1. Almost Famous
2. Amores Perros
3. Traffic
4. Requiem for a Dream
5. Chocolat
6. Best in Show
7. Wonder Boys
8. High Fidelity
9. 6ixtynin9
10. Cast Away
http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-5-obstructions-blogathon-objective.html

Well, that's where we've been, we're about to hit the halfway point now; let's take a look now, at the best of 2004!

TEN GREATEST FILMS OF 2004

10. HOTEL RWANDA



This is the first time since I started making these for each year of the decade that I didn't add any movies to my Top Ten, which is a bit of a shame 'cause my 11th choice "Saved!" was a film I really wanted an excuse to showcase, but while I couldn't find a spot for that or many other films,  I did end up switching a few around. "Hotel Rwanda" at the time, I probably would've been in my Top 5 of that year, and frankly if you really go back, it's still strange how the film was oddly snubbed at Oscar time, only getting three nominations, and I was convinced it was gonna get the Best Picture nomination that ended up going to "Finding Neverland". Don Cheadle's performance, is surprisingly still his only Oscar nomination, and I still thought it was the best of the year. He plays Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager at the only 4-star hotel in Rwanda, back in '94, right at the time of the notorious genocide that killed a million people in literally, months. Paul was a Hutu, although  his wife Tatiana (Oscar-nominee Sophie Okonedo) is Tutsi, and head off to a UN refugee camp, while Paul, begins using his skills as a hotel manager to hide refugees in the hotel. At the time. What are the Hutu and Tutsi, they're competing tribes in the very small country, and once the Hutu took power, they slowly began the abomination. Machetes from the thousands are shown being shipped in from China in one memorable scene. In another, through a series of intense phone calls and letters, Paul purposefully tries to strike the correct emotional cord to help get out the 800+ refugees he's hiding, by convinces foreign nations and families to send help and money to fight back, and also to help the rest escape. The movie the film is most-often compared to is "Schindler's List", it's not at that level, but based on a true story, the way Paul continually maneuvers through the systems, political and managerial is quite inventive, and was how he managed to keep the refugees alive before there was total genocide. There's some strong performances as well from people like Nick Nolte, Tilda Swinton and Joaquin Phoenix in supporting roles. In hindsight, some of the flaws of the movie are more apparent. The cinematic nature of the narrative, staying a little too true to the three-act structure and the dialogue at times, especially the ones that scream "Symbolic line" don't exactly hold up, although in the moment, they still come off as right, but perhaps director Terry George, could've taken a more neorealist approach to the material, and possibly have come off with a better film, but this still remains the Northern Ireland-born director's best work, despite some previously good films like "In the Name of the Father" and "The Boxer". It also hits all the emotional notes it's trying to correctly, so, for being as well-made and well-acted, for what it is; it helps it remain powerful, and it still holds up very well. Still one of the best documents about the Rwandan genocide in a theatrical film as well. A lot of people died and a lot more people did nothing about it either, until it was too late, and this was the one story about the guy who did all that he could.


9. MILLION DOLLAR BABY



Strangely, this is the first time one of the decades Best Picture Oscar winners has appeared on any of  these lists. That said though, I think there were two directors American directors who I think you can firmly say were the premiere filmmakers of the decade, in terms of both consistent amount of quality and a consistent amount of quality. One of them was Steven Soderbergh, who won the 2000 Directing Oscar, and the other, somewhat more surprisingly is Clint Eastwood. He was in his 70s when he earned his 2nd directing Oscar for "Million Dollar Baby". Based off of a short story from former boxing trainer Jerry Boyd, written under the alias F.X. Toole, Eastwood, seemed to make the film suddenly, and on whim, purposefully leaving in obviously errs and inconsistencies in the Paul Haggis script (which was memorable for not having any colored pages in it, meaning nothing in the script ever changed at any point of production, something that's unbelievably rare), like the voice over and P.O.V. of Scrap (Oscar-winner Morgan Freeman), who narrates the film. Eastwood never cared about making a film perfectly, as he instead, would rather focus on the emotional cords of a film. This film, about a rugged old boxing trainer, Frankie Dunn (Oscar-nominee Eastwood) who's become too conservative in his training methods over the years, missing numerous opportunities to train/manage a champion. He's not inspired by the young untrained power-punching girl Maggie (Oscar-winner Hilary Swank) who's hanging around his gym, insisting on Frankie teaching her to fight. These three lost souls, eventually end up together, as Maggie's natural gift and Frankie's training earns her fame and even fortune, despite all three coming to terms with their own baggage, past and present. The film is pure classical filmmaking. This movie could've been made in the '40s, and fit in perfectly on a double-bill with "Mildred Pierce" perhaps. Boxing is the motif, but the story is about the three people, and the journeys they all go through, and how they effect each other, and the decisions they end up making or asking, and insisting upon of each other. Even supporting characters at the edges of the screen, have interesting backstories, and play more crucial roles then we think. The biggest choice, at the end, 'caused controversy and debate at the time, it still does, although curiously, I never thought that was the intention of the film. I always interpreted it, as simply, a part of the actions between these three specific characters, and what they would do, and how they'd react to them, and despite the fact that film, could've used an extra draft, that's the part that still holds true. Swank, won her second Best Actress Oscar, in a particularly weak year, and once again, we're reminded of how great a physical and transformative actress she can be, having trained for months as a boxer just for the role. It's definitely one of Eastwood's masterpieces, as both a director, actor, producer, he even did a memorably beautiful score for the film. All his best films, have emotional complicated relationships between complex characters at their core, and it takes some good actors to make those parts stand out. "Million Dollar baby", might be a little too simple, but it's still pretty powerful, and that's really a tougher trick that it looks, especially with this film, that really could've gone wrong 100 different ways; this was really a force of will to get this made by Eastwood, and a masterful directing achievement. And the fact that's he's only become more ambitious over the years as a director; this might be the film that separates Eastwood actor with Eastwood as a director, but also Eastwood, as the artist.


8. A HOME AT THE END OF THE WORLD

Extra Large Movie Poster Image for A Home at the End of the World

If you've ever doubted Colin Farrell's acting range; I'd bet money that you probably haven't seen the least-known film on this list, the wonderful "A Home at the End of the World". It's somewhat curious actually that the movie didn't seem to connect with most people at the time or since really. The movie was written by Michael Cunningham, and based on his novel, and this came out shortly after his more well-known book "The Hours" was adapted to an Oscar-winning feature, and while that's a good movie, I actually prefer this transcendent and beautiful film, about three lifelong friends who form a makeshift family. That's a very simple description of what's going on though, and this movie could've really gone horribly wrong without Farrell hitting the right notes as Bobby. Bobby's seen more than his fair share of tragedy in his life. He saw he brother die after a disastrous accident, and watched over his father fall to illness as a teenager. With his mother long passed, he moves in with his friend Jonathan's (Dallas Roberts, as an adult) family. Jonathan is a shy kid, often picked on and teased. Bobby, befriends Jonathan because, he needs a friend, and he has a strange, inate way of feeling exactly what it is that everyone around him needs, and is very persuasive. When they get caught with pot, by Bobby's mother, Alice, (Sissy Spacek) Bobby convinces her to join in, and get enchanted with the experience as Laura Nyro's "It's Gonna Take a Miracle", opening up her housewife perspective, and inevitably, freeing her up. Even after Jonathan leaves for New York, Bobby stays with the family  'til his mid-twenties, and works as a baker, when he moves to New York where a more flamboyant Jonathan's living with an older adventurous roommate Clare (Robin Wright), who becomes entranced with Bobby, and eventually decides to sleep with him, a tougher conquest than normal for her, since Bobby is a shy virgin. It's hard to describe why this movie is so great without really showing Bobby, and Farrell's performance. Horrible life experiences happen to him, but he's forever going out of his way, to be, whatever that person particularly needs him to be. It's almost an angelic performance, and a character, that, 99% of most actors, would've gotten completely the wrong notes. He's not gay, straight, or seemingly anything in particular, and he only seems to be able to feel the needs of others. If we didn't know his backstory, he might not have been a believable character. Instead, not only does he some believable, he is the heart of the movie. Jonathan's in love with him, but since Bobby's not really anybody's he starts sleeping around. He's not really Clare's boyfriend, but she wants him too, she even has a child with him eventually, after they all move up to Woodstock to live together, as a three-person family unit. This was the debut feature for director Michael Mayer; he's mostly directed and produced television since, but he created a heartbreaking and touching film about a character who, not only puts his own emotions aside, it's sometimes hard to tell whether he has any, other than the need to make sure everyone else is happy. When he makes a final choice, he makes it based on, who needs him to be around more. Taking place from the '60 to the '80s, the movie chronicles three decades of Americana life through these eccentric but loveable characters, who have tough decisions to make as life and love unfolds for all of them. It's a must-watch, 'cause there isn't a movie quick like it that's as good as it is, and trust me, you'll understand exactly why the movie is so difficult to describe if you've seen it.


7. THE FIVE OBSTRUCTIONS



From one movie that's like no other film emotionally ever made, to a movie that's unlike any other cinematically ever made. From the cruel twisted mind of Lars von Trier, "The Five Obstructions" is the filmmaking equivalent to reality TV. I added this film already to the Canon of Film, link below:

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2012/04/canon-of-film-five-obstructions.html

and there are the long-rumored remakes of the film in some sort of development, the latest one being that Von Trier would be challenging Martin Scorsese to "The Five Obstructions" challenge. (My initial though would've been to have Werner Herzog do it but that might be too easy.) The film documents Von Trier challenging his hero and friend, director Jorgen Leth to recreate his famous short film "The Perfect Human", five different times, each time, under strict new guidelines and conditions. It's hard to make one movie, and usually when it's done, it's such an undertaking that the last thing a filmmaker would want to do is remake it, much less, five more times. It's intriguing, challenging, sadistic in many ways, and utterly fascinating. A called it a demonic science experiment, yet it also reveals the ways in which the artist creates and is inspired to do so, even under the most treacherous of circumstances, as we see how a filmmaker can reexamine and reanalyze his work in ways that he haven't seen before. . I could hardly believe it when Von Trier, out of nowhere tells Jorgen to make it a cartoon after everything that's happened so far. Until there's another one, if there's another one, there's no real equivalent to this film, even among documentaries about filmmaking, they're usually just behind-the-scenes stuff, here's a way to turn filmmaking into this socioanthropological study, and Von Trier, of all people, pulling the strings of his hero, no less, and being the ultimate puppet master. It's a unique experience, one that, I hope we do get to see recreated again, from other directors, to even get a more elaborate perspective on the art of filmmaking, and the way the mind of an artist works and struggles to creates.


6. KILL BILL: VOL. 2



I had a few queries and complaints about my 20003 list, one of the ones that was observed more than once was that I didn't have "Kill Bill Vol. 1" on that list. Well, it was certainly a great film, worthy of such a list, but 2003 was a great year for film, and therefore, it didn't make my list. The next year, "Kill Bill: Volume 2" came out, was a better movie than Volume 1, and sure enough, it shows up here in my Top Ten of '04. This Quentin Tarantino film, is not a sequel, but one of the first examples of a film, being broken into two parts for release, so this was essentially just, the second half of the story more than anything else; it was originally supposed to be apart of a long 3+ hour epic, and is his great revenge crime story, a la, a martial arts film. Separated into ten chapters, like a book, free from linear three-act structure, "Kill Bill" follows The Bride (Uma Thurman) as she seeks revenge on Bill (David Carradine) and his cohorts who tried to kill her, after she got pregnant and decided to escape the hitman life. We see the wedding events, pre-the wedding massacre, shot in black and white, and the first time we see the notorious Bill Driver, her former boss, and lover. Both films, were Quentin Tarantino's first features after a six-year hiatus after making "Jackie Brown", and "...Vol. 2", is arguably his greatest directing work, channeling everybody from Sergio Leone to Kurosawa to Brian De Palma, during a really well-done two-shot, with a great fight scene between the Bride and her arch rival  Elle (Daryl Hannah). The "Kill Bill" movies are probably the most entertaining and fun of Tarantino's career, and that's saying something, consider how fun his movies usually are. This film eye candy for the ultimate cinephile. Great Tarantino dialogue, the best actions scenes, not as much blood and violence as the first one, but more tension and more pure filmmaking. It's over-the-top and ridiculous, but utterly fascinating as well. It's pure Tarantinian pulp. Every character and performance is memorable and eccentric, and every shot, is filled with ideas. This is Tarantino pop art, and it's enjoyable on every viewing, with the first part, without the first part. Just watching a couple scenes here and there, between while waiting for something else to get on, even the '70s style credits, just light up the screen, and just give you that great feeling, that you know you're in for a lot of fun.


5. THE AVIATOR



I actually have a few good Howard Hughes stories, not only did a few members of my family work for the Hughes Corporations from time to time, one of them arrested him. Yes, my grandfather's brother was Andy Baruffi, and he at one of point, was the head of the Las Vegas bureau of the IRS, and he arrested Hughes for tax evasion. He, loved "The Aviator", and said that, DiCaprio really nailed his performance. Now, the Martin Scorsese film, doesn't document his Vegas years that made him legendary here, like my favorite story of him buying the Desert Inn, so he wouldn't have to get kicked out of his hotel room, but we do get a great biopic, that starts from his days, taking his father's drillbit money to Hollywood to make "Hell's Angels", then, the most expensive movie ever made, taking three years, numerous months to shoot, and then reshoot entirely to record sound. It's there we see his interest in airplanes, and his quests to fly around the world, designing and building planes and buying TWA, competing with Juan Trippe at PanAm over the rights to fly the international skies. For a guy, known for his excessive OCD as well as his excessive fortune, he lived one of the greatest of young lives before seeming to retreat completely away from life entirely. He dated Harlow, Hepburn, Gardner, among other starlets, made movies, flew the world, became the richest man alive, and couldn't get out of a public bathroom until someone new came in, and he could sneak out without touching the doorknob. Scorsese loves stories with a rise and a fall of a great character, Hughes was certainly a character. There's been numerous good movies made about him, like Jonathan Demme's "Melvin and Howard" and Lasse Hallstrom's "The Hoax", but they were just stories about fringe characters in Hughes's life, very fringe in fact. I think there's about ten or twelve other films you can make on Hughes and still only scratch the surface of him. There's never a dull moment but even Scorsese outdoes himself in matching his exuberant life with an audacious spectacle of a film to give us a glance at both Hughes, the rich neurotic playboy who could build toys for himself, others or the U.S. government upon request, including the infamous Spruce Goose, which despite much ridicule, he did manage to get in the air, to the more reclusive and mad soul, tortured in his own mind and unable to escape or live in the outside world anymore. Scorsese uses every classic and new tool at his disposal to tell this story, and in many ways, he probably used more of his skillset than any other film of his previous and since. A sequence involving Jude Law, in a cameo as Errol Flynn, could be in a film book of shot analysis, right next to Eisenstein's "The Battleship Potemkin" Moscow steps sequence and Hitchcock's cropduster sequence in "North By Northwest", it was so elaborate, and brilliant, and in the same movie some amazing special effect sequences as a plane crash through numerous homes in Beverly Hills, to the great zoom-in shot of DiCaprio flying the Spruce Goose, sequences like that, he can then show us how to make a great sequence, at a dinner table, and involving a pea, probably a sequence that was incredibly more difficult than the special effects to pull off, and he absolutely mastered it. It's a great combination of classic Hollywood filmmaking, mastery of the modern CGI filmmaking, and of Scorsese's signature style. The sad thing is that, Scorsese's made so many good movie, that "The Aviator" might rank, 9th or 10th maybe on a list of Scorsese films, and legitimately so, but almost any other director, this would be their grand achievement.


4. ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND



Titled after a line from a poem by Alexander Pope, curiously, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" has become the most accessible and beloved of the film scripts from the great Charlie Kaufman. He won his Oscar for this film, along with director Michel Gondry and performance artist Pierre Bismuth, who worked on the idea of the film in it's early stages, but they both let Kaufman and Kaufman only, speak after winning the award. In 2002, he wrote two of the films that made my Top Ten of that year, including "Adaptation.", which I ranked number one. Yet somehow "Eternal Sunshine..." seems to transcend even those who weren't as inspired by his previous voyages into the inner workings of the mind like "Being John Malkovich" and his first collaboration with Gondry, "Human Nature", and have embraced this one, I think because it's not so much a philosophical or anthropological dissection as it is, as it deals with something, much more simple. Love. Losing love, heartbreak, the torturous one goes through after a breakup, and how that kind of symbolic pain can't hurt more than any physical one. Joel (Jim Carrey) is figuring that out, as he's unable to get over Clementine (Oscar-nominee Kate Winslet), his now-ex-girlfriend, who he then finds out, has erased her from her memory through a process developed by Dr. Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson), where he is able to break into the mind of a patient and find all the memories he has associated with someone, and inevitably, he erases them. Joel is currently going through the process of losing these memories, we find out soon enough, of Clementine as a matter of revenge of sorts, but as he's having the procedure which involves Mierzwiak's underlings Patrick, Stan and Mary (Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo and Kirsten Dunst) breaking into Joel's house at night, inserting a strange helmet on him which connects through a laptop, and essentially deletes his memories. He, however, is fighting back against the process while it's happening. Hiding those memories in other memory banks, even going back into those supposedly erased memories, until they have to bring in Mierzwiak to finish the job, and have other secrets and revelations get revealed. The movie is a film that challenges out appreciation of the love and pain in relationships, and how we perceive them. One painful moments seems to be able to erased numerous good ones in the moment, but is it possible that true love, or does the need to feel remain so strong that it can trump anything, including a couple erasing their own memories of each other? Kaufman seems to conceive of his movies through long transcendental games of "what if..." and makes his movies around the logic scenarios that build up in his mind, like what would happen when a man enters his own portal into his mind, what would he see? It's the coolest looking of his films, with the gorgeous cinematography from Ellen Curas makes the movie both cold and soft with the gorgeous blues she tints much of the film with. It's Gondry's best film as a director by far, but it's really Kaufman's work that's the centerpiece of the film as he manages to use numerous strange flashbacks and flash forwards and whatever the hell you'd call such scenes to as he dives deeper into the mind of Joel. It's a film that requires one or two  viewings to make sure you catch everything, but they're definitely worth it. Essentially, it's a love story at it's core, and that's why it's his most popular film, and it succeeds well at that, as some people might not be able to fully appreciate the disdains and tribulations of having to write a movie about orchids, everyone can appreciate the pains of love, and with "Eternal Sunshine..." it gives us a hopeful view that reveals that a spotless mind, might not be preferable to having loved and lost before.


3. BEFORE SUNSET



While "Before Sunrise" had become a minor hit, and earned a cult following, there wasn't exactly what you'd call a popular groundswell for a sequel. Hypothetically, we would've been okay not knowing whether or not Jesse and Celine (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, who received Oscar nominations along with Director Richard Linklater for Writing) were to have met on that day at that train, six months after that famous day and night they spent talking about....- well, just general pontificating on life and falling in love on that summer day in Vienna. So when they made a second (and then later, a third), it was a bit of a surprise, but it was also clearly a labor of love. I've written on the film already as a Canon of Film post, link is below:

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2013/06/canon-of-film-before-sunset.html

It is a better film than "...Sunrise", and in many ways, it's a much more riskier film. Taking place nine years after their first meeting, in Paris this time, and  using lots of long takes, many of them tracking shots, that almost make it seem like real time as opposed to the magical dreamlike night before, that seemed to never end. It's a riskier more adult conversation, and requires some incredible acting. People think most of the scripts for these films have a lot of improvisation, they don't, and they require the great of acting, to accomplish, and with "...Sunset" in particular, probably the greatest directing job as it had to remain so tightly constructed. Yet, a lot goes on in the film, more than many people might realize at first. I wrote in that Canon entry that more happens in the final two words of "Before Sunset" than in most movies, and just isn't too many movies that can make that kind of claim; that's a kind of skill, that, frankly can't be matched.


2. THE INCREDIBLES



I've yet to find anybody who didn't at least like this film. This was Director Brad Bird's second feature after "The Iron Giant", which was under-promoted from Warner Brothers, so much so that according to legend, they sent him flowers and an apology note after the film flopped and would later go on to be a cult classic. Moving to Pixar for his next project, he made a conscious choice that he was gonna tell the story he wanted to make, and he wanted to make a superhero film, and "The Incredibles" is a really fun one. (The Oscar-nominated screenplay from Bird, was the first time a Pixar project had only one credited screenwriter; a feat that's especially rare for animated features.)  I don't know if the idea of a family of superheroes is new, but I can't think of it done better. Bird took great care in creating the characters, matching the family unit to appropriately symbolic heroes and abilities. He also toys with the genres cliches, the rich villain with his own island, for instance, and maybe the best creation of the film, voiced by Bird himself, the costume designer to the superheroes, Edna E. Mode, who's short bob hair and glasses, evokes the great costume designer Edith Head. The sharp twist on the superhero genres, is that, after too many lawsuits against superhero who accidentally saved people who didn't want to be saved, like foiling many suicides, they have to go into hiding. This is just as Bob and Helen Parr, aka Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl (Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter) have gotten married, and now have three kids, who are developing their own super abilities. When Mr. Incredible finds possible secret work for his powers again, he hides it from his family, as begins doing some superhero work on the side, landing him into hot water, as he finds Syndrome (Jason Lee) a millionaire inventor who's made it his life's mission to begin finding and taking out the old superheroes, who are now hiding in regular menial jobs, or motherhood in Elastigirl's case. It's a fun premise, and it's a fun film overall. It wouldn't this high if it wasn't consistently entertaining, and this film ranks, really high among the very best of Pixar's work, and in a decade where animation really broke out and turned into an art form as legitimate and accepted as film the way live-action always has been, "The Incredibles" stands out as one of the very best, and Brad Bird, in particular, one of the very best storytellers of animation. Best writers too, this is an incredibly well-written screenplay as well.

1. SIDEWAYS




If there's a flaw at all in "Sideways", I've yet to find it, and there aren't too many movies I've watched more from this decade than this one. Alexander Payne had already made some wonderful films like "Election" and "About Schmidt", but "Sideways", is another league completely. I've written on it before as well, the Canon of Film post is below:

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2012/01/canon-of-film-sideways.html

I think it's one of the rare "perfect movies" where no shot or cut or angle was even wrong. It's introduced terms into the lexicon, like "Drink-and-dial", it singlehandedly increased the sales of pinot noirs, and more than that, it's one of the best comedies of the decade, and a script that is brilliantly subtle in the ways that things get revealed. That's the great twist of the movie, how even the smallest details add so much more to the film. To just recite the plot that two guys head up to California Wine Country for a week, and have a misadventures with a couple of waitresses they pick up, that's way too misleading, considering how much else is going on. Miles Raymond (Paul Giamatti) is a struggling novelist and an oenophile, who tries to take his best friend Jack (Oscar-nominee Thomas Haden Church) an out-of-work actor to wine country for his lack week, before his wedding, hoping that he'd soon appreciate the subtleties of wine like he does. He's still getting over his divorce, and his novel's on it's last rights in terms of publication, and Jack's idea of cheering him up is to finally get him laid during the holiday, whatever the cost. The two women they find are Maya (Oscar-nominee Virginia Madsen) a beautiful divorcee who's seen enough of the worst of men like Jack to give Miles a chance, and Stephanie (Sandra Oh), Maya's friend and a flirtatious wine pourer who puts her heart too much on her sleeve for others. The ways things play out for these four separately is one story, together, it's another, at the deepest levels, are the characters themselves, particularly Miles, whose life of quiet desperation has more emotional pitfalls than he can handle. "Sideways" works every time, and ages better on every viewing; the Oscar-winning script, I'd argue as one of the best adapted scripts of all-time, and it's the best film of 2004.

Monday, April 7, 2014

"HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER": DESTINY, TRUE LOVE AND THE STRUGGLES OF SEARCHING FOR BOTH: A STORY THAT SO LEGEND-WAIT FOR IT...- DAIRY, THAT'LL LAST FOREVER!



I think a lot of the people who don't really like/understand sitcoms don't realize that, you really just need, one little twist, something slightly different than what came before, and then, you can pretty much borrow and steal from everyone else, (Well, everything good if you can) and suddenly, a sitcom can become truly special, even a classic. "How I Met Your Mother" borrowed from a lot of places. "Friends", for the relationships among the characters, "Seinfeld", for the comedic freedom in a 3-camera structure, "The Wonder Years", for the flashback voiceover. But, they had that, one little twist that no other show had before, and it's that clever twist that's kept us waiting and wondering for all nine seasons of show.

The conceit of the show, even I laughed at originally, that the entire series was a part of a long story being told to the future kids of Ted, telling them about how he met their mother, seemed strange and ridiculous and, daring at the time. This came on during a period where a lot of shows, dramas mostly, "Lost" in particular comes to mind, where a lot of the show was the finding out of some big reveal about the show. That said, the show was a much bigger undertaking than simply having a gimmick reason to keep watching the show until the bitter end. (Some would say, very bitter end, we'll get to that.) TV series have something called a bible. It's what it sounds, it's actually a crucial tool for most series, and what it is a book that you write in that basically gives a detailed history of the show. The backgrounds and major events in character's lives, bios, stuff like that, and they're constantly updated as a show goes on, and in some series that may last a long time, (Think those really long-running soap operas that predate television, some of them.) there could be multiple bibles just on the characters, much less the events. They tell everything about the content of the show, and they also keep track of everything. For instance, if a character gets a Christmas gift from his mother, yet, in an earlier episode we learn that that character's mother had passed away, (That's a famous "M*A*S*H" faux pas that I'm referencing) then, that means somebody didn't read into their bible well enough. (And numerous people screwed up in not catching it.) Now, that said, it's not terribly uncommon that there's an occasional error or an anomaly on any series if you're paying attention, but a few shows occasionally, have to live and die by it's accuracy. I always think of one other sitcom in regards to a show really making sure that the bible is kept to the letter to such a degree, and that was "Soap". That show only lasted four years, for various reasons, but that was the first sitcom to use the soap opera format, and more importantly with that show, but it wasn't just, what was on the show that had to be documented; they had to have an explanation for the condition of the characters on that show. It was a rich side and a poor side of the family, despite them being linked by two sisters, as the opening of the show famously points out, but only late in series did we find out why the disparity. A crucial flashback episode revealed the scenario where Chester married Jessica and not Mary, despite Chester having just slept with Mary, in order for Chester to protect his family from going to prison after stealing money from the sisters' father. This was a huge, "Oh!" moment for that show, as suddenly, everything was explained, and I would argue that the show, strangely went downhill from there, almost as though we had finally found the key, and now that we've opened the chest, and found what's inside and taken it in, now it's empty.

"How I Met Your Mother" probably learned from this, and decided that, if that's the moment that will explain a series, than maybe that should be at the end, the final explanation. That way, they have something to build up to, and the unique hook that so many sitcoms desperately need. (And it was planned ahead, Josh Radnor has admitted that he's known since season one what the reveals at the end would be.) And since that core of the show, was so strong and so ingrained, strangely it allowed for them to then, play with the structure of the sitcom, and even reinvent the format in other ways. The big obvious way this is done is with the visual format of the show. Technically, it's a three-camera show, and shot on a set like one, but it doesn't have a studio audience, and it takes full advantage of it. A lot of shows used this technique before to some extent, "The Partridge Family" comes to mind, but not, recently, and not the way "How I Met Your Mother" did. They used it to their full advantage, doing all kinds of comedy that usually can't be constrained by the 3-walls of a set, as well as musicals and dramatic moments  that most shows don't. Weird angles, and a certain freedom with set design, quick-cut flashback, and forwards, and interjecting in them and playing with the structure and forms of a sitcom, allowing to seemingly completely get rid of the Bob Saget voice over whenever they felt like, or abandon it completely to go on numerous divergents and running gags. Strangely, the limitation of the set-up of the show, provided, complete freedom for the show to explore pretty much anything else. They made characters as ridiculous or over-the-top and absurd as they wanted. They could break into songs as easily as they could punch you in the stomach with a sudden emotional cord that can destroy you, sometimes in the same episode. Yeah, sometimes they really caricatured Canada too much for my taste, but they had already set their own structure, they were correct to set their own rules. They're own catchphrases, inside jokes, moments, symbolic objects, etc.. It's already from a skewed point-of-view, so the comedy can come from one as well, or as many perspectives as it wanted to. From the traditional sitcom to the surreal and back again, as long as they can keep the stories straight, and the core premise alive, they were able to do anything. Dropping a hint here and there, and advancing a story, as we get closer and closer, and closer to the moment, that ironic beginning that would end the series. In many ways, while it might not have revolutionized the sitcom, it's definitely become an original and seminal one, not solely for the one little twist in the sitcom structure, but for the ways in which its also expanded the kinds of comedy possible in the 3-camera format (And expanded the format in general). Still, it's tough to put "How I Met Your Mother" on the same line of the really great sitcoms for some reason though, which might be a bit unfair, oddly enough. It really attempted something no other sitcom tried before, and it succeeded at it unusually well.

Alright, we've looked at why the show was successful and different, and looked at it's place in television history. Now, to discuss that controversial final episode. (SPOILER ALERTS READ AT OWN RISK) Actually, I've been discussing it for the last week, almost everywhere. I've seen it three times, and the last two times, I was crying, and the more I think about it, the better the episode gets. Yes, certain things get unresolved (Apparently the pineapple incident had more of an impact on others into the internet community than me; (Which is weird on my part actually, since I usually have an instant callback on anything decent involving Danica MacKeller) and it didn't exactly end the way, that, maybe we wanted or hoped for. But since when did this show ever cowtow to our expectations anyway? Well, we can dissect this episode in dozens of ways. How tearful it is that, when he met Tracy we already had the knowledge that she wasn't gonna survive to see her daughter get married, (Which is partly why Ted's telling the story.) or the numerous real reasons, besides Robin's job that her marriage to Barney ultimately didn't work out, like the knowledge that she couldn't provide him the kid that he really wanted to ultimately settle his own paternal issues. Or to believe that Robin's cold feet was apart of a long realization that she should've been marrying Ted. Some have complained that the show, which used it's entire last season to cover a few days, suddenly decided to jump ahead and cover years in it's one hour finale; that's actually a dumb argument considering the whole structure of the show has played fast and loose with time lines from the very beginning, even in conception. And why wouldn't it by the way? He's telling a story to his kids, they pretty much know the rest of the story already; at this point, Ted's job is to just fill in the last few details The show literally jumped years into the future and past at will to begin with, so I don't understand that complaint per se. I also think, people aren't realizing the parables between Tracy's first love, having passed away years earlier, means that, this was the 2nd time she found the love of her life, but Ted's first, (or second depending on how/when we count Robin) so they both go through the same grieving period and changes before moving on to their next true loves, or attempt. (Something else that's barely mentioned is that, we don't actually get an answer to Ted's question to Robin at the end, nor, if that answer is yes, whether or not that relationship would was gonna work out either.) And that Ted, asking his kids for permission to date Robin, parallels Tracy's looking up to heaven and talking with Max, about whether to marry the guy she was dating before Ted. There's a lot more intricateness to the series finally than meets the eye actually. Callback jokes and references abound, there's quite a bit of emotional parallels in the episode, that only make the rest of the series grow more. Some are more obvious than others. The yellow umbrella, the bass guitar, the ukelele, the ducky tie. In fact, not since "Seinfeld" has a show made so many previously innocuous sayings or jokes or objects becomes such instantly noted references in the American lexicon. Most shows are lucky if just one thing is remembered from them. ("Seinfeld" was another show that constantly challenged the parameters of the three-camera series, and has just as big an influence on "...Mother" as "Friends" does.)

I can, and many have already write an entire blog or two to analyzing the episode, something which normally, I try not to do, and I also discourage it, since I think it best to analyze a series as a whole rather than the parts, and if ever a network show has made us do that more, it might be this show. Strangely, I have half-broken that rule with "How I Met Your Mother," before, I devoted half a blogpost to discussing it's episode title "The Symphony of Illumination", an episode that ended with such an emotional punch that I felt compelled to discuss it's technique compared to other famous similar episodes once, most specifically the "Scrubs" episode "My Occurance". That post is below:

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2011/12/scrubs-secretly-one-of-most-influential.html

Now that we have the whole series, we realize how much of a personal and artistic story we've been told, and how rare it is that a comedy can have such an elaborate and carefully configured emotional thread. Drama series make us care about every little reference and point all the time now, but in a comedy, in many ways, especially when it's done this well, it has more relevance. More realistic strangely, more down to Earth, as opposed to up in the stratosphere with Goliath National Bank. For the moment, fans will be split on the final episode, the emotional strain and seeming deception of the central conceit of the show, but the more they, and I think about it, it's a beautiful and perfect last chapter to a landmark show that gave us a lot of what we've seen before, done a lot of it better than before, and showed us a lot of new approaches to the sitcom genre that's gonna be imitated and copied now more than simply borrowed. The series will probably never get the credit it really deserves; it never did with the Awards, only once getting a Best Comedy Series Emmy nomination, and an occasional nomination for Neil Patrick Harris and a few techincal Emmys here and there. When I conducted a poll on the "TEN GREATEST TV SHOWS OF ALL-TIME!", "How I Met Your Mother" got only one vote out of 100 ballots. I bet if the show was made thirty years earlier, it would've shown up on more, as then, we could've really seen just how different and unique it really is. Still, though, it, like many great sitcoms of today, often playback on what's come before and a lifetime or two of great sitcoms that came before and that they've engrossed. So many shows before have been about love, relationships, sex, the emotional struggles of them, even a few have touched on destiny and true love, and marriage and hope, and the search for the one, but how many have fully embraced these ideas and treated them as though they were the literal most important things in the universe? And do it seriously, and not just say they do for a laugh? Not enough frankly. That's the ultimate legacy of "How I Met Your Mother"; it takes that kind of seriousness to that subject matter, that makes a blue french horn, be something so much more than simply, a blue french horn.