Tuesday, October 30, 2012

HOW COME VAMPIRES GET ALL THE GIRLS, WHILE ZOMBIES GET SHOT IN THE HEAD? and OTHER RANDOM THOUGHTS ON VAMPIRES!



If there's been an oversaturation of anything in entertainment over the last few years, it would almost have to be vampires. Some of these are good, like the Alan Ball series "True Blood," which in many ways seems like the way, I would react to vampires, and wish that vampires would react to me. Others have not been so good, like "Twilight," or "The Vampire Diaries", which seem to go back into a cliche that I always believed about vampires, and that certain horror fans, especially women, will watch anything with vampires, because on some level, they have a sexual fetish for them. I'm not criticizing, and I understand it; vampires are clearly the sexiest villains, and by a mile too, but I would think people would be more picky about them, that's all, but once I realized Anne Rice's popularity was never gonna let up, I started thinking this way about the phenomenon. What I didn't plan on, was that other horror film supernatural staples, would have their own kind of popularity. I talked about zombies last year, where I hypothesized about the motives of zombies, and how they'd probably do nothing if they weren't getting their heads shot off every movie. What really inspired me to write that fun satirical piece, was that many of my friends, especially on Facebook, were really big fans of zombies. Well, "fan," is a little questionable word here; most of them were preparing for a Zombie Apocalypse, which I found, well, I found it creepy. Not that I think something like that is impossible (I'm pretty sure a zombie apocalypse is impossible), but actually, I figured that, I wouldn't particularly be afraid of a zombie apocalypse, and if anything, there could be a lot of positive outcomes to that, and I'm not even taking into effect the possibility that they could really kill some people who, shouldn't be living. (Hmmm. Let's start with Rush Limbaugh, then you Ann Coulter, and then, that slow sonofabitch who's driving in front of me, ten miles below the speed limit in the fast lane on the freeway...) Although, actually, I'm not sure that's a great idea, because once they kill people, wouldn't they then become zombies themselves?

Ah-, anyway. Of course, to some extent, all these beings have some fans who are immediately attracted to them, in some kind of fetishistic fashion. On that level, vampires fandom, does make the most sense to me. Vampires have personality. They don't attack their victims blindly without cause, or with sophisticated murder weapons like knife or chainsaws. They're more creative, and have more tools at their disposal. Sure, they need to suck blood to survive, and they can fairly easily suck the blood of whoever they want to, without any real effect, but that's not nearly as interesting to them. They can hypnotize their victims, into being seduced by them. They go out to parties, have fun all night. Sure they sleep during the day, but there's really nothing good on television in the morning anyway. (Sorry Ellen, you know I love you.) Strangely, they're susceptible to garlic and crosses, and they don't like silver that much either, but not as much as werewolves hate silver. (Another one, I'm not a fan of, werewolves. Don't really.... Well, I'm pretty anti-social, so the idea of having to be in a pack seems weird to me in general.) There's some mythology explaining the cross, but garlic? I wonder if vampires like tic-tacs, or what's the big one now, altoids...-? Well, I don't know why they hate garlic, do you? It's natural, I put it on everything. Maybe that's why there are never any Italian vampires?

So these vampires, what do they do? The live forever, unless they get killed, which is okay, 'cause they're already dead, they stalk the night, and seem to somehow seduce people, usually women, sometimes men, and suck their blood, which is their life force. You think they would've died out after AIDS, but now, they have a synthetic blood, which can be used instead of real blood, which is cool, kinda. They want to pay taxes and vote, so that's pretty cool. Helping out the country. They are very sexual creatures. How come can be undead and get all the pussy they want, but zombies, who are also the walking dead, they just want to kill and eat your brains? Vampires are so much more creative, you know? And sophistocated. That's the other thing, most of the horror storylines involve stupid teenagers, doing everything possible to basically, right in the spot for them to be sliced and diced. Not when vampires are involved. We're talking, the upper crust of society. The "going-to-the-opera," crowd-type people. Not all of them, a lot of them are in Louisiana, but they still tend to come off as smug, arrogant, and confident. They're very well-mannered and polite. They don't even go into their home unless you invite them, very corteous. They know poetry, music and history (Well, some of them just were around that long, well, they know it anyway, however they learned it) and have some opinions and great battles of wit. They're almost always good-looking too. Handsome, or if it's a woman, they're provocative and beautiful. Always in the most stylish and seductive outfits, which is strange considering they can't see themselves in the mirror. They must have some really good stylists to help them. Let them know what looks good, and what doesn't. You can't really look like a bum or a hippie and be a vampire can you?

Vampire's always have something going on, in their minds, don't they? That's probably what makes them so intriguing. Good ones, bad ones, there's always an ulterior motive, and they're always up to something. They're always trying to get to you. I like that about vampires. They have ideas and motives that are simply intriguing. That's why these vampires who are constantly falling in love and remaining virgins until marriage are kinda weird. You can do so many things as a vampire, but love. It goes against their nature, and teenage puppy love at that, ugh. Not even teenagers really, 'cause real teenagers, (Well, not me) but most teenagers are experimenting in sex so much already. Thank God they are, or Maury Povich would be out of a job. So these vampires are repressing the sexual urges, just to be with a human, who they're madly in love with, ready to spend eternity with them, but they won't turn their partner into a vampire? WTF! I mean, if you're gonna fall in love, and be madly in love forever, and you have the ability to do that...! Jesus Christ! This is an answer as humanly possible, isn't it? I mean, maybe you weight until she's at her absolute peak of beauty, I can see that. It'd probably be better to turn most girls, after they get breast implants then before. (Well, it'd have to be, you can't perform plastic surgery on a corpse, can you?!) So, if she wants that, then maybe wait a bit. Don't wait too long, or she'll be all wrinkly, but other than that, they're just typical masochistic teenage boys, and that ain't attractive, really, not in the long term.

So, some vampires, are really cool and others, well, they kinda su- (Nah, too easy). You get the idea though. Some like them a lot. I certainly can understand the appeal and the attraction, and some of the disturbing animalistic sounds that friends of mine makes when they're thinking a little too intently about vampires, which some of them do, surprisingly often, (I gotta get some normal friends at some point) but like anything else, if you're using vampires, it has to be done well, just like anything else. Just like zombies, just like ghosts, witches, goblins, werewolves, werepanthers, fairies,... there's a lot of fucking supernatural shit out there, isn't there. Well, at least they don't all go out on one night a year and berade and terrorize the neighborhood in search of something stupid, like candy. Thank God for that-

What do you mean, that's what they do? Who? Everyone!? I thought we did Halloween last year! Oh for (bleep)'s sake, why are they doing it again!? Oh that's stupid. Every year! Who's bull(bleep) idea is it to let those (bleep)s out and egg and toiletpaper my house again and all that other crap like last year. Those (bleep)ing pricks-----

(BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!)
TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES PLEASE STAND BY.

(4 1/2 MINUTES LATER)

Happy Halloween everyone.

(O.S.)
We're done.

No way those (bleep)ing kids are getting candy out of me, those (bleep)s.

(O.S.)
Oh, sorry, David, sound's still on.

What?

Oh (Bleep)!

(BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!)
TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES PLEASE STAND BY

Saturday, October 27, 2012

MOVIE REVIEWS #46: "PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4", "FOOTNOTE", "CHICO & RITA", "WANDERLUST", "GOODBYE FIRST LOVE", "MARGARET", "THE DOUBLE HOUR" and MORE!

I apologize for starting off with a political rant, but if you'll bare with me a second, I have something to say about this election. Frankly there's many trivial things to say about it, like how tired we are of it, and how frustrating it is to have to deal with it, and the media's goings-on about it, but this has to be said. Yes, like in '08, I will proudly be voting for Barack Obama. I'm a Democrat. My politics are Socialist in nature, but I am a registered Democrat, because they're the side that's right. Not right, ideological, right, as in, not wrong. Or least wrong if you want to put it that way, but there isn't much that they're wrong about for me to even bother with the word "Least" anymore. I don't say that as a belief, or an opinion, it's a fact. You can go through the last 100 or so years, and practically every important political position you can imagine, that's been debated, discussed and decided my side's been right, and their side has been wrong, and I used to think, that their side couldn't get any wronger, and somehow, they get, even the simplest things wrong, now. They're far-right ideologs, have gone so far on the pro-life issue, that now, they're justifying rape, as an argument for being pro-life. That's it, I'm calling it on the abortion issue, their side is wrong. I use to understand, the difference of opinion. The choices, and the moral ambiguity that such a decision involves, and I still do, which is the precise reason I'm pro-choice, not because I'm a Godless liberal who likes abortions, I don't, but because having a kid is a life-changing decision that can have so many unintended consequences that no one can imagine, and that eliminating any option, simply on what some other person thinks or "be-lieves," (That word is any religious connotation should be illegal in politics) is just wrong, and even if it wasn't, what good are we to force a pregnant woman, or anybody else into something he/she doesn't want to do, and in many cases, they shouldn't do, so all options should be available. Some are better than others, but that's the whole point of options. My response to anybody who says that they're against abortions has always been, "Don't get one then." Now, they're all debating, whether rape is okay if you get the girl pregnant. I'm sorry, this isn't ideological anymore. I have one rule that I find to be a good determinate of which side is right, if I'm ever in a bind, and here it is, "When you're arguing, for the right to be stupid, you lose the argument." Freedom ends at stupidity! That's the entire basis, literally of, every position a liberal or a socialist or whatever-you-want-to-call us has ever taken, from seat-belt laws, to drinking age, alternative energy, to war, ro role of government, to animal rights, to wearing a helmet when riding a bike.... I am pro-freedom, but anti-stupidity, and certainly anti-rape, and btw, women's rights issues, are also Men's Rights issues. I care as much about whether Planned Parenthood is around as much as every woman I know, same with birth control, and everything else, that effects me, and all men, and not just women. The point being, I'm not standing back, and letting anybody be stupid anymore, especially in politics, I can't take it. Nobody in my party can. That's why we kicked out Congressman Weiner. We didn't care about the affair; we cared that he was stupid, and we're not having that in the party. Yeah, we have extremists too, but our extremists are people like PETA, who want to be the ACLU for animals. Yeah, they're annoying as hell but Christ, they're right about 80% of the time, and anybody that supports such idiotic rationality as one that considers woman being impregnated by rape as some kind of blessing, ought to lose the right to vote, 'cause obviously, they're not informed enough to make a rational decision on anything. Again, I remind you, those people are on their side, not mine, and if you still think that a few bad apples is worth dealing with, if you still think the other guy isn't that bad, you want to know the character of a man, look who hangs around them. The people who reject Darwinism, global warming and all other science, are on their side, the stupid side. They are never on our side, and if they are, they aren't for very long anyway.

Now, as to, why I'm voting for Obama, there's a lot of reasons, but the one I want to really focus on is how the economy is in incredible shape. Yes, you read that right, considering what he had to start with, an economy that had been lousy since 9/11, and yes, the economy was crappy and made-up, before the '08 recession and was for years, that's just when they started calling it bad, because the rich people were having problems; the economy was bad, for years, and those times when they called it good, were fictional. That's why the housing bubble broke, it was a fucking bubble! It was full of hot air, and fictional. Just because a line of a graph of the stock market index, goes up and down, doesn't mean the economy is good or bad, it means that somebody screwing with us, especially when it goes up and down, up and down, up and down, completely erratically, like it's been since the '80s. Here's what Obama has set up. More money in Pell Grants and cheaper college tuition, I can vouch for that one myself, I got more money in Pell Grants and Student Loans, after he was President than I did before, which means, more education, which means, more educated workers in the workforce. Not right away, but eventually. There's at least three million jobs available for people, hiring now, that people don't have the education for. The more education, the more jobs will be available. We're on our way, and for thirty straight months, unemployment's gone down. It's not going up, at the pace it was, but that's because it's going at the right pace. Those jobs in the past, were created, because the fictional economy, run by the Wall Street guys with no government oversight, which we also now have some of, not what we should, but some, when they were inflating their pocketbooks with false earnings on bad investments, they started hiring way too many extra people, thinking they could afford it, and when they found out they couldn't, that 4.7 unemployment, skyrocketed eventually to the 9.9, that Obama had to deal with. Economies shouldn't, if done right, shouldn't go up and down every year, like a damn elevator. They're slow, patient, steady, and ultimately moving forward, that's what's going on now, and that's the way it should be, and how it should've been. Oh, and by the way, I don't have to go broke if I get sick anymore, which means I can spend more of my money, which helps the economy. If I'm blaming anybody for why the economy isn't better, I'm blaming the rich people, at the head of those Fortune 500 companies, and all the other millionaire business owners, who aren't hiring people the way they should, which makes no sense to me. More employees, mean more people who can afford products, putting more money back into the system, which means which will go back to the people at the top eventually, and that makes them richer. Those 3million jobs we don't have the education for, that is a problem, and we're solving it, but there's still a million or two jobs available that we are educated for, but they aren't hiring?! At worst, that's an overabundance of caution, that's not only uncalled-for but dangerous, cause it can hurt the economy more by not hiring, and at worse, they're just greedy, and we know how greedy they've been in the past, so that's entirely plausible. I'm glad for all the good things Obama did, including kill Bin Laden, and that's hardly the most of it. I'm also disappointed that health care wasn't universal health care, and that Guantanamo is still open, and that he hasn't reversed enough of the policies in the Patriot Act, and a few other things too, but it's the economy, stupid, and I'm sick and tired of hearing how crappy it is, when it isn't. Once, again, their side is wrong! When my side starts being wrong, and their side starts being right, I'll switch, in the meantime, they're wrong. and reversing the steps Obama has put in, is disastrous, and I'm not letting that happen.

(Deep breath).
Okay, sorry for having to rant about politics today; I intend for that commentary to be a one-time thing. Now, onto what we really should, and what I really want to talk about, the RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEWS, including a SPECIAL EDITION review this week of "Paranormal Activity 4"!

Everybody ready, good. On to this week's Reviews!

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 (2012) Directors: Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman

2 1/2 STARS

I went out with a couple of my old film school friend this week. My friend Lillian took us to see "Paranormal Activity 4", and then we walked across the street to visit some haunted houses, which I'm not gonna lie, wasn't particularly something I had ever done before, and frankly, since I'm not a big Halloween fan, I was, eh-, let's say apprehensive about it, but I went anyway. It's was nice to get out of the house. Anyway, I liked one of the haunted houses, because it wasn't that scary, although it did involved a lot more electrocution and groping then the other two, and for some reason, I found that relatively enjoyable. Long lines though. We ending up playing Fuck, Marry, Kill at the end to kill time. That's always fun.

What was I talking about?- Oh, "Paranormal Activity 4", right I almost forgot. I rarely watch horror movie sequels to begin with; I'm trying to learn, but frankly I'm not a big horror film junkie to begin with, however, I had seen, the original "Paranormal Activity," a couple years ago, and thought it was quite great, possibly the best use of the found footage conceit, in the horror genre. (Although that said, it's become a cliched and tiresome conceit now.) I haven't seen "Paranormal Activity 2" or "...3" however, so I'm definitely, a little bit behind the eight ball going into "...4". The film takes place in Henderson, Nevada, which got a laugh from me, since that's where I was ten minutes before going to the movie. Apparently, Katie (Katie Featherstone) from the original film, has since, begun, killing most of her family, but I'm still confused on that, so I'm gonna talk about Alex (Kathryn Newton) a-eh, sorta typical rich teenage girl, who's for some reason dating someone way more immature than her, Ben (Matt Shively). Matt often has a camera, and much of the time they're Skypeing to each other, or something like that. (I'll catch up on computer technology later, I swear) Soon, the weird kid across the street, Robbie (Brady Allen) who's been coming over unexpectedly lately, has to stay over for a little bit, while his mother/guardian (I don't remember) is in the hospital, after some kind of accident. Needless to say, some strange stuff begins happening, once Robbie comes into the house. Alex's adopted brother Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp), especially starts suddenly questioning his past. On the computers, yes they have multiple laptops in this house, as well as stairs, which is very strange for Henderson, Nevada, by the way; that's even strange for Green Valley, which they set up to start trying to get documented footage of some of the weird sounds and events that have suddenly been occurring, their seems to be a presence, that can only be seen through UV nightvision mode. Other times, chandeliers start shaking and falling, and not-so-randomly either. (Clearly, they do not know the rule about chandeliers in movie. Or in general, actually. Those are a waste of money, a stupid thing to have, and basically a ready-made death trap. They might as well have a half-faced phantom organist in the basement) Some of this is effective, in the classic horror thriller tradition, which was part of what made the original film work so well. Doors opening, splashes of light and subtle motions, objects vanishing without any explanation, etc. etc. There's also some creepy things going on at Robbie's house across the street, especially after Katie comes back from the hospital. The reason the first film worked so well, was because we really didn't know what the "boogie man" was for much of the movie, or how/what it was going to do. It was made well, classically, surprisingly, it was the found footage conceit, very effectively, and the ending of the film, was a legitimate "Holy Shit" shock that really was effective, and really did grab the audience. With this film, I can't say I really hate it that much. I can't honestly recommend it; it's not that good, maybe I was in a good mood that day, but a lot of it was effective to me, a lot of it, garnered some good "Mystery Science Theatre 3000,"-like smartass comments at the screen, I commented on how after everyone was killed, they could use the found footage from the computer, for posting the housing interior online, to sell the house. I had a few others ribs at it, but basically the film is short, and relatively entertaining at times, whether it was the right kind of entertaining or not, I don't know. It was directed by two good filmmakers in the team of Joost & Schulman; they directed the great documentary "Catfish," a couple years ago, so I think they made about, as good a movie as they could've with this film. Really, unless you're one of those people, who just love anything horror, just go rent the original one again, and maybe catch this one of cable, late night some time.

FOOTNOTE (2011) Director: Joseph Cedar

4 1/2 STARS



A nominee for last years Foreign Language Oscar, the Israeli film "Footnote," is a quirky little film about a misunderstanding, that takes place in the world of the intellectuals. I mean, those college professors intellectuals who you may find smooching around at a New York party or two, discussing such tedious and boring detailed minutia. In this case, the field of study is the Talmud. The film is about a father and a son. The father is Eliezer Shkolnick (Schlomo Bar-Aba). He has spent years as an unpopular college professor who worked for thirty years on an interpretation of the Talmud, that was proved correct, when before he could publish, the key that he had spent decades deciphering, was unexpectedly found by one of his rivals, who beat out Eliezer to the publisher. His entire career achievement, is a footnote, in his Idol's book. The introduction in his book. He's not well-liked or respected among his peers, and is very critical of their work, including his own son, Uriel (Lior Ashkenazi). His son is also a professor in Talmudic studies, and the two couldn't be more different other than that. Their relationship has been strained and at a distance personally, and professionally for years. He's published several articles and a well-respected book. He admires, and loves his father, and couldn't be more excited and happy for him, to find out that he had won the Israel Prize. I had to look this up to by the way, but the Israel Prize, is sort of the Israel equivalent to the Nobel Prize, or the Congressional Medal of Freedom, or something along those lines, where once-a-year on Israeli Independence day, a special ceremony is held to honor the achievements of the experts in their fields. They give out prizes in many areas and, it's probably the highest honor awarded to someone for Jewish or Rabbinical Studies. Eliezer got the phone call, announcing he had won. Unfortunately, he didn't. In half of a windowless closet, the committee quietly tells Uriel that he was the winner of the prize, and due to some confusion involving a phone call and an announcement in the mail, Eliezer, who had been entering his name for decades, was incorrectly informed, and announced as the winner. Uriel knows, this will devastate his father, and insists on rejecting the prize and keeping the committee in on giving him the prize. Unfortunately, there's a couple rivals of him on the committee, including Grossman (Micah Lewison), a former colleage, who published the article that proved Eliezer's theorem, and claims knowledge that even his footnote shouldn't be accredited to him. "Footnote," was directed by Joseph Cedar, who was also an Oscar-nominee years ago for the film "Beaufort". "Footnote," is a sly comedy, about a family, that seems to just happen to be about something as major as the biggest prize in Israel. It uses some interesting techniques, especially early in the film for some quick exposition, but once it gets into the story, it's hard to turn away. The study is strikingly simple, as are the comtradictings of such a big honor, being screwed up by such a simple error, as it the father-son relationship, and how both men strive to eventually salvage it, and make sure that everybody is happy. "Footnote," is a sharp comedy that is equally part satire and father-son story. That's wrong, actually. They're both inherently connected to each other. These are two men, defined by their work. One is loved and appreciated for it, and is light years more successful because of the modern age and popularity, while the father is an intensely workaholic who's stuck in a stone age. This story can be told, literally about any occupation, but maybe it's best that it involves the most empirically trivial as changes and interpretations of the Talmud. It doesn't sound as funny or enjoyable when describe written down, but "Footnote," really is, quite a sharp film.

CHICO & RITA (2011) Directors: Tony Errando, Javier Mariscal and Fernando Trueba

4 STARS

"Chico & Rita," was one of the Oscar nominees in the Animated Feature category last year, and it's quite a beautiful piece of animation, telling a classic story of love and lost, that's based around the late '40s latin jazz scene in Havana. Chico (Eman Xor Ona) is a talented piano player and songwriter, the best in Havana, who nobody knows about. Rita (Lemara Meneses, with vocals by Idania Valdes) is a singer, who's a born star. Chico loves Rita. He's got a girlfriend at the time, and that's not particularly convenient, but he loves Rita anyway. She loves him. Together onstage, they make a great team. They win a radio contest, get a hit record, and soon, it isn't just Havana calling. Rita insists on bringing Chico with her to America. She regrets that, because Chico, has a tendency to philander a bit too thoughtlessly. She soon breaks up with him. She begins becoming a worldwide star on the radio, and later in Hollywood. Chico still works in New York. Occasionally, they run into each other. They know they're each other's true love, but something, and oftentimes someone, comes between them. This doesn't exactly sound like an animated film. It feels more like a old Hollywood melodramatic romance, and that's probably accurate. The story itself isn't particularly special, although the wonderful music, and the animation style, which uses some bright colors, and has some really amazing background scenes, particularly of Havana, and New York are quite memorable. I don't know, how much it really adds to the film, the fact that it's animated; other than showcasing some great skill and craft, it could've easily been shot live action. Well, maybe not easily anymore. The movie is told in flashback, as an aging Chico, now back in Havana years later, after being deported, has quit playing piano and spends his days as a disgruntled shoeshiner. There's some easy criticisms, but I rather enjoyed "Chico & Rita," for what it is, a great piece of animation, and a classic love story. I don't think it was aiming for anything more. Well, maybe that, and to show off some great jazz music, and it succeeded at all three. The film also had three directors. Errando & Mariscal are new filmmakers, Trueba's, also one of the film's screenwriters, has been making films for decades, including the wonderful "Belle Epoque". I think this is his first venture into animation, and I hope he does more. "Chico & Rita," is more of a general blueprint, than a finished film, but it's still quite good.

WANDERLUST (2012) Director: David Wain

2 1/2 STARS

"Wanderlust," is one of those strange films where they have a decent premise, but they made the wrong genre. It's got some funny moments, especially at the end, and I'll admit, it really does end well, but for much of the time, I was wondering what they were making fun of. Are they mocking these strange communal living places with excessive veganism and hedonistic sleeping situation, or whatever the hell they do, or were they making fun of the stuffy Manhattanites trying to adjust to these living conditions? I usually like these films where characters become intrigued by a new world that they enter, and begin choosing to let themselves be swept over into it. Lisa Cholodenko made two of the greatest films like these with "High Art," and "Laurel Canyon", and I couldn't help but to keep thinking of those films, while watching a lot of "Wanderlust". Let's meet George and Linda Gergenblatt (Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston, hey a "Friends" reunion. [Remember, Rudd was Mike, the guy Phoebe married at the end; even though she should've went with Hank Azaria's David, the shy but emotional scientist guy. What do you mean, I'm the only one who thinks she should've went with David, c'mon?! David was pining over her for years, he was studying in Minsk thinking about her, she met Mike practically by accident-... oh, forget it!]). George works tirelessly at a job that he hates. His wife, who switches career paths every other year or so, is now a documentarian specializing in stories of suicidal penguins, and she's about to make a big pitch to HBO. They've also just bought an Upper West Side loft that's a little out-of-their-price rance, especially after George loses his job when his boss is arrested for, being a Wall Street broker I think, and HBO didn't buy the documentary 'cause it lacked female nudity. The start heading out to Atlanta to stay with George's obnoxious and successful brother Rick (Ken Marino), but soon, they decide to run away from that. They end up going back to this Bed-and-Breakfast Commune called Elysian where they flipped their car over one night, after trying to back away from a nudist winemaker, Wayne (Joe Lo Truglio). The peaceful environment, seems somewhat appealing to them, despite some of their unusual living conditions, like no doors, anywhere, and the drinking of hallucinogenic teas, free love partner-swapping hedonism, and, pretty much everything that happens to Almond (Lauren Ambrose) regarding childbirth, before and after her pregnancy. There's some good comedy actors here. Alan Alda is funny as the wheelchair-bound founder of the community, one of the founders. Justin Theroux, Malin Akerman and Kerri Kenney-Silver also give some strong performances as some of the members of the commune. There's a dumb subplot regarding a deed to the land that's missing, and this led to a scene that shoulda been funny, and wasn't. You see, this was a Judd Apatow production, and as we all know, Apatow likes to have penises in his movie, because he thinks they're funny, and he's not inherently wrong there by the way, but female nudity, can be funny too, when done correctly. There's a scene in this movie, involving the commune, coming together for an impromptu protest, after developers begin breaking ground for a casino. Nobody's taking them seriously, and the media is leaving to go find some other story, Aniston's character suddenly decides to get everyone's attention, by standing in front of the bulldozers, topless. Now, this was a funny joke, that's been set-up, through most of this film. She's a coffee-a-day New York, who's always working, fairly conservative personally, can never be passionate enough to do anything, and suddenly, she's gonna start a topless protest to stop this production, but as soon as she rips her shirt off, they cut to people being shocked, the media coming back, and then everybody else taking their clothes off, etc. etc. Had they shown her breasts, this scene would've been hilarious, and I don't why they didn't; maybe Apatow doesn't find female nudity funny, ever, or whether or not Aniston has a no nudity clause, which is still stupid, 'cause they could've easily found a body double for the scene, and there's plenty of nudity in the movie, male and female, so it's not an attempt to lower the rating... but this was great opportunity for a laugh, and they really kinda blew it, and I don't understand why they did that. Now the other laughs, and it was one of those movies I'm tempted to recommend because it did get funnier, as it went on, but I think the film was saved by good comedic talent, in an otherwise flimsy film. I'm tempted to recommend it, but I have too many problems with it, it blew, what might've been the best joke in the film..., this was a minor entry in the Apatow production line of comedies at best, ah, no I can't fully recommend it. There's better films they made; there's better films and comedies out there.

GOODBYE FIRST LOVE (2012) Director: Mia Hansen-Love

2 1/2 STARS

Director Mia Hansen-Love, likes making movies about moving on from one's previous life. The comparisons, between life then, and then, life now. Her last film, the very good, "The Father of My Children," followed a father of a family around for the first forty minutes, until he suddenly died, and ended with the family, having fully adjusted and comes to terms with his death, and all that he did when he was alive. "Goodbye First Love," is a very accurate title. It begins with two teenagers, thrust in the blissful emotional of love, Camille (Lola Creton), who's 15 and Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky), who's 19. The movie begins in 1999, and as the movie progress, we get sudden constant updates on when it is. For a while, it's not progressing much, despite Sullivan's soon departure to explore the world. He's suddenly going to the Andes, backpacking through South America for ten months. He sends her postcards, from his travels. Suddenly, it's 2007, and Camille is now in architecture school, and has begun forming a bond with her critical but helpful mentor Lorenz (Magne Havard-Brekke). It's around this time, that Sullivan and Camille meet again. What happened during this time, I won't describe, but you can probably guess. Their obsession and so-called love, was a time in their lives, that once ruled over everything, and now, has reach it's inevitable end. I don't think this is as strong a film from Hansen-Love as her last film. She's young herself, only 31, started as an actress in an Olivier Assayas film, and is quickly becoming on the most creative minds in all French cinema. I look forward for her next films. Saying that though, this one is a bit of a letdown from her last film. I'm tempted to be lenient on her, but film didn't have the emotional interst as her last one, and frankly, wasn't a story I haven't heard before, or in a different enough way, and frankly, I was somewhat by this film. I know what was gonna happen, and basically you're waiting for it to happen, than it does happen. It's a shame, but she'll, much like the way Camille came back from losing her first love, she'll come back from this and make a better movie next time.

MARGARET (2011) Director: Kenneth Lonergan

2 1/2 STARS* (Review Incomplete)

Late last year, quietly, Kenneth Lonergan's film "Margaret," was finally released into theatres after six years of court cases, involving the editing of the film. Fox Searchlight sued Producer Gary Gilbert, for not funding the final cost of the production, and Gilbert then sued Lonergan and the studio, for their refusal to allow him to participate in the editing process. Lonergan, who wrote and directed the wonderful film "You Can Count On Me," with Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo, as well as screenplay for films as wide-ranging as "Gangs of New York," to "Analyze This", had "Final Cut," of the movie in his contract, and Fox Searchlight, chose not to break their contract, and take it away from Lonergan, although eventually, Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker, were brought in to finally finish the editing, and Lonergan finally gave approval to release their cut of the film, however his original version of the film floating around on special edition Blu-Rays, which I have not seen yet, and at least according to Jim Emerson's blog on the film, despite the movie's current 150 minute running time, there's about a half hour of film edited, that really seems to have completely altered, at least in my mind, this film, especially when you compare it to the full-length screenplay. Therefore, I've chosen to stick to my negative review, however I'm gonna add an asterick, and call this review "Incomplete", until if/when I see Lonergan's full version three hour version of the film.

Below is Jim Emerson's aforementioned blog on the film:
http://blogs.suntimes.com/scanners/2012/07/margaret_the_masterpiece_that_.html

This version of the movie recieved mostly positive reviews, and showed up sporadically on a few Awards ballots, but I gotta be honest here, this film, at times has moments that were great, even exceptional, but by the end of this film, this movie felt like a chore that I, as a film critic had to finish so I could move onto something else. The title "Margaret," comes from a Gerard Manley Hopkins that isn't the name of any character in this movie. Maybe I missed an opera reference or something, poem and the main character is Lisa (Anna Paquin) a precocious and somewhat shallow teenager girl in a Manhattan private school. She lives with her mother, Joan (J. Smith-Cameron), a well-respected theatre actress, on and off Broadway, currently doing a workplace comedy most every night. Lisa's father Karl (Lonergan, doing a cameo) lives on the West Coast with his new trophy wife, Bonnie (Enid Graham), and at first, Lisa's somewhat excited to be spending a week or so in Summer on his ranch. During a search of 5th Avenue, for a cowboy hat of all things, she ends up distracting a bus driver, Maretti (Ruffalo) who ends up running over Monica Patterson (Allison Janney). She ends up dying in Lisa's arms on the street, asking about a daughter, who's also named Lisa. From here... well, let's just say, it gets complicated. She lies to the police about what happened. At one point, she tries to find the bus driver and confront him about the accident. She also finds Monica's family, a lifelong friend Emily (Jeannie Berlin), hears her story, and eventually begins pondering any kind of lawsuits that can happen, especially after any criminal pursuit would be pointless after Lisa officially changes her story. I'm describing some plot points, but this isn't about the plot, it's about behavior. Lonergan's dialogue, and it is spectacular, is really special in the way that everything that said, never seems to come out of the character's mouths the way they intend it to come out, particularly Lisa. I'm not sure exactly how well Paquin was fully able to handle this dialogue, I think I've seen her stronger in other works, but this is a tough character for anyone. In some ways, this movie may have been a little too complete and detailed though. Take Jean Reno's character, Ramon, who begins dating Joan after seeing a preview of her play. He's a nice guy and all, and they begin a down-low but passionate romance. Really, it's simply another device to add onto Lisa's frustration with the world, her reaction to the guilt she's feeling for her part in the accident. She confides in one teacher, Mr. Aaron (Matt Damon), who relationship is more well-defined in the script. There's also some supporting work here from Matthew Broderick, Rosemarie DeWitt, Kieran Culkin, Olivia Thirlby, and Sarah Steele. The movie is good, and I hate to give it a bad review, but in seems to take the situation as far as it possibly can go, and sometimes, it was exhausting. It didn't help that sometimes, they seem to move forward without proper preparation and causation. There's a great film somewhere here. This isn't quite it, and you could feel that, and that was the real problem. Maybe it would've helped me be more sympathetic to Lisa's quest for a forgiveness that she can never recieve. The hardline conflicts the character insist upon, get straining after a while, and every scene seems to have multiple interpretations. In many films, that can be a good thing. Here, it seems like great conflict without a greater purpose.

Again, I remind everyone that this film review is "Incomplete", and only reflects the theatrical release of the film, and not the Director's Cut.

THE DOUBLE HOUR (2011) Director: Giuseppe Capotondi

1/2 STAR

Where do I begin? Why does every movie now, have to be a mind-bender where not everything is as it seems, and something else is going on, and instead of telling a story, we get, a bunch of sound and fury, signifying nothing. I'm getting a little sick and tired of being asked to care, only to find out, ha-ha, it was a trick. Ah, no it wasn't. Maybe it's all a trick, maybe it's not a trick, maybe it's a dream, maybe it's a dream, based on what happened, maybe reality is a dream, and the dreams are real, or maybe-... Maybe, once in a while, I want to just watch a fucking movie, how about that?! I get it, when it's a puzzle film, and done exceptionally well, like "Mulholland Drive," "Memento," or either "Abre Los Ojos," or it's American remake, "Vanilla Sky," or "Shutter Island," to name a recent one, it can be great, and it can be special. But, you gotta have a reason to do it. "The Double Hour," does it just to screw with the audience, and that's where I draw the line. This Italian film begins with Sonia (Ksenia Rappoport) a Serbian maid in a hotel who meets Guido (Filippo Timi) on one of those speed dating events. Guido's a former cop, who now works security at some high-rise place. They hit it off, and begin to have a slight romance. Soon, Guido and Sonia go on a weekend getaway. I should tell you what happens there, because a movie this bad, should probably be ruined for everybody so that I can save people from wasting their precious time of their life, but then I'd have to explain the rest of the movie, and I'm only at the twenty minute mark, and I don't want to relive it. Let's just say that something you won't see coming, triggers the rest of the movie off, into this mind-bending audience annoying puzzle of a film, that completely undermines the entire movie beforehand, and it does that a few times by the way. If I had seen this movie before I made my Worst Ten List from list year, which I rushed through placing on the bottom of my Ten Best List blog last week, I would've found a spot for this film. This movie won a Award at the Venice Film Festival by the way; it must've been a bad year at that festival. "The Double Hour," in the title, refers to a military time, where the hour and minute numbers are both the same, like, 11:11, or 23:23. It's used as an occasional pointer in the film. Other than that, there's no real need to have that in there. There's no real need for this film. It's twenty minutes of a touching beginning to a possible relationship, and a bunch of filmmaking masturbation after that. In case you haven't figured it out, I did not like "The Double Hour."

SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952) Directors: Gene Kelly and Stanley Donan

4 1/2 STARS

Alright, I finally knocked this one off my shame list. Yes, until now, I hadn't actually seen "Singin' in the Rain," in its entirety. Well, I like to come off as a well-rounded cinema viewer, and I am, but I am weak in certain areas, and one of them is the classic Hollywood musical. Actually, I'm weak in musicals across the board really. (Note: I've gotta start looking up Bollywood later.) Anyway, after a few failed attempts, I must say that I do relatively enjoy "Singin' in the Rain". I don't know if it's the great Hollywood musical everyone claims, but it's certainly got some amazing moments. One of the more fascinating things about the film is how it wasn't perceived as a great musical until years later. They famous title number for instance, wasn't as publicized as the exceptionally long "Broadway Ballet" number with Cyd Charisse and Gene Kelly, which is a number that almost seems like a different film entirely and doesn't ever really need to be there. It does benefit somewhat by this being a musical made especially for film. The movie was based on some old songs producer Arthur Freed wrote. Only "Moses Supposes" was written for the movie. The movie written by Betty Comden and Arthur Green, is an imagined tale about film's sudden transition from silent to talking films. Don Lockwood (Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Oscar-nominee Jean Hagen) are the big romantic pair of silent film in Hollywood. They've been paired together for several films. Lockwood is an old vaudevillian who fell into films after his act with his partner Cosmo Brown (Donald O'Connor) didn't exactly pan out. The studio tells the press that they've been together onscreen and off, although that couldn't be further from the truth. Lamont's a passive-aggressive dumb blonde with a fairly irregular voice that would've led Professor Henry Higgins to suicide had he tribe to teach her proper dialect. She also, believes her own fake press, and thinks that she actually is in love with Don, and vice-versa. After escaping his adoring fans, Don ends up in the car of a young stage actress, Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) who's unimpressed with the overdramatic acting in the films. She's not wrong, although she is lying about not seeing Don's films, but she is perfect for talkies. However, without able to get rid of Lamore, they decide to reshoot their latest film, which was shot with sound, or they tried to at least, by turning it into a musical, while they start dubbing in Kathy's voice over for Lina. This leads to some amazing scenes at the end, which involves Lina trying to perform and sing in front of the audience. The movie's real greatness are the musical numbers though. I think there's something incredibly magical about Donald O'Connor's death defying "Make 'Em Laugh" routine, even more than Kelly's to some extent. There's not a bad number in the film, and as a piece of Hollywood folklore, it holds up well. Not my favorite, but I'm definitely glad I finally got around to watching "Singin' in the Rain," and be able to appreciate it.


CLAIRE'S KNEE (1971) Director: Eric Rohmer

5 STARS

"Claire's Knee," is only the third film I've seen from legendary New Wave director Eric Rohmer, and the second film I've seen of his famous "Six Moral Tales" series. I enjoyed the first one I saw, the last to be made, "Chloe in the Afternoon," a lot, and I even enjoyed Chris Rock's American remake of that film, "I Think I Love My Wife". I'm not watching the moral tales in order obviously, and unfortunately, but I'm gonna get to all of them eventually. (Many are available on Hulu Plus) This tale involves Jerome, (Jean-Claude Brialy) a cultural attache who's spending the summer with his friend Aurora (Aurora Cornu) at Lake Annacy, which is the French part of Lake Geneva, on the Switzerland border, a popular resort getaway. Jerome is engaged, but that doesn't seem to particular bother him in regards to having an occasional summer fling, as long as he goes back to his fiance later. Aurora sets Jerome up with Laura (Beatrice Romand), the housemaid's daughter, who's a spunky and precocious teenager. The days go by, and while Laura and Jerome have some fun, their relationship seems headed down the path that most such flings go, and it that does, but while that's transitioning, Laura's half-sister Claire (Laurence de Monaghan) arrives. She's 16, has a fairly obnoxious boyfriend, Gilles (Gerard Falconetti), and is tall, blonde and skinny. Then, during an afternoon get-together with everybody, Claire climbs up a ladder in a dress, and it's then, that Jerome notices her right knee. Jerome doesn't seem to have a knee, which is certainly a strange one to have, but he's fascinated anyway, obsessed even, with her knee. He's knows it's a silly infatuation, but there, something happened to him, and now, he has to figure out, how to get this obsession out of his system, in a way that isn't, animalistic in nature. "Claire's Knee," like all of Rohmer's films (Well, the one's I've seen anyway) are about one's thoughts and desire, way more than they are about action and plot. Jerome's struggling with how he can manipulate the situation, in order to rest his desires. Action and movements are subtle, but they're all done with such meticulousness that just the act of touching a knee takes greater care and is far more important with drastic rammifications than say, the way most murders are in Hollywood action films. I've been wanting to dive more into Rohmer's work, and now I'm glad I'm finally getting around to doing that. I think I prefer "Chloe in the Afternoon," as per his Moral Tales, over "Claire's Knee," but there's still four more for me to get to.

DELICATESSEN (1992) Directors: Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro

1 1/2 STARS

Jean-Pierre Jeunet is best when his films have a blissful and whimsical tendency in them. with a freedom of storytelling that propels that springs his movies forward in some wild and unexpected directions. (It doesn't hurt that also, he usually uses Audrey Tautou acting for him, who might be the only actress in the world who seem normal in his world) "Delicatessen," the breakout film from him, and his former directing partner Marc Caro, is not that blissful and whimsy, not as much as it'd like to be, and frankly it's downright disturbing. It's got some of his quirks, like the scene where the entire apartment building become in tuned to the springing of a bed that, let's say is, being used, but they seem, almost out-of-place here. To name another one of his lesser films, there's a few odds and ends and micmacs in this film, but there isn't much joy or point to them; they're simply there to be there, and that's disappointing. In this post-apocalyptic, cannibalism has become an acceptable practice. The apartment building I mentioned before has the titled delicatessen on the bottom floor, and the tenants are their customers, all of whom, have come to grips with the Butcher, Clapet's (Jean-Claude Dreyfus) practice of hiring a temporary assistant, who he keeps around in one of the rooms for a week or so, and then, serves him for everybody else. His shy mousy daughter Julie (Marie-Laure Dougnac) has a small habit of feeling sorry for the guy, and she really starts to care about his latest apprentice Louison (Dominique Pinon) a former clown, who's old partner, Livingston, was eaten in Africa, and now's just looking for some steady work before he can get back into showbiz. Julie, unbeknownst to Louison or her Dad, begins working with a group of underground citizen called trogs, who only eat grain, to help stop her father before Louison..., well you get the idea. There are some amazing visuals as there always is in Jeunet's work, but "Delicatessen", really isn't that enjoyable a film. Apparently they had a low budget, and couldn't make the film they wanted to make, which would later become their film "The City of Lost Children", so this was scrounged together on a showstring. I think it does show their ingenuity. I think this film was more-or-less really just a sample project of there's so that they, especially Jeunet, could begin making their more insightful and ambitious projects. Maybe on that level, "Delicatessen," does in fact work. Still, I'm fairly surprised this film, it's been held in similar esteem as their others films.

HUSBANDS AND WIVES (1992) Director: Woody Allen

4 1/2 STARS

It's strange to turn on a Woody Allen film, and to see the unmistakable look of a handheld camera being moved around a small darkly lit apartment. I think what people may not realize is how experimental a filmmaker Allen can be. On top of the unusual handheld style, "Husbands and Wives," also uses a narrator, as well as a never-seen psychologist character(s), who many of the films characters, main, supporting, and not in the story, use to provide informantion in the film, and at least one of these psychoanalyists, is videotaping them, for some kind of, documentary. Oh, and it often uses flashbacks. Allen is known for finding his movies in the editing room, but what people don't realize is how much he must write and then film, in order to find the movie in the editing room. Take the character of Gabe Roth (Allen). He's married to Judy (Mia Farrow), and it seems like they're relatively happy, however, for a brief moment, Gabe discusses the love of his life, Harriet. (Galaxy Craze, really, that's the actress's name? That's awesome!) Harriet was full of life, and was unpredictable and insucient. How unpredictable, she was crazy. I say that, not-metaphorically and Gabe informs of that she had to be committed eventually. She was too much, she was insane, but she was still the love of his life. He loves Judy still, and he knows there's something wrong with being in love with Harriet, but that's how he feels and he can't help it. Anyway, during this brief piece of exposition, we see Harriet, only that one time. He didn't need to get an actress to play this character, but he probably wrote more about this relationship, maybe a whole section of this movie. We know all these characters only seem to know a small fraction of everything that's going on, but we get more information, although not always at once. Gabe and Judy's friends Jack (Sydney Pollack) and Sally (Oscar-nominee Judy Davis) come over, as they're getting ready to go out to dinner like normal, and they announce that they're getting a divorce. They seem strangely calm about it while Gabe and Roth start quietly freaking out. They can't believe it. We later wonder, how they didn't see it before. He was having an affair with Sam (Lysette Anthony) an aerobics instructor who obsesses about eating right, and her horoscopes. Judy soon sets up Sally with her friend Gates (Liam Neeson), who's she's always had a little bit of a crush on. She doesn't say that, but she has. Gabe, a novelist and now a professor, starts to begin admiring his young but talented student Rain (Juliette Lewis). She's an admirer of Gabe, as her family read his stories when she was young. She's got a boyfriend though. Things slowly start escalating, somewhat predictably, and strangely parallel. There's a rainstorm that brings all three stories together in ways that don't seem possible at the beginning of the film. There's no happily ever afters at the end, they just start ending. Some people get together, others get divorced, others end up alone. It's the triumph, tragedy and collateral damage of relationships. "Husbands and Wives," is one of Allen's most intriguing films.

THIS BOY'S LIFE (1993) Director: Michael Caton-Jones

2 1/2 STARS

"This Boy's Life," marks a first. Their first introduction to Leonardo DiCaprio, as a serious actor. I can't disagree with that. He's charismatic here, and more than good enough to hold his own with Robert De Niro, even at this young age, but by the end of the film, based on the famous Tobias Wolff memoir, I found myself struggling to truly accept the story. Toby (Dicaprio) isn't that good a kid; he's always finding himself in some kind of trouble, but he also lives with a mother, Caroline (Ellen Barkin) who's erratic behavior can be tough to live with. Her and Toby are constantly heading out west, hoping to get further and further away from whoever Caroline's last bad choice for a sexual partner was that's coming after her now. She's been divorced from Toby's father for years. He has an older son that the father got custody of, but she's trying desperately to find a permanent loving home for Toby, and someone would can at least, reasonably manage him. Soon enters Dwight Hansen (De Niro), an over-the-top character who's self-hatred runs so deep, he won't let anything happen unless he's in complete control of every aspect of the situation. I believe his character was realistic, but De Niro was still a little too over-the-top for me to completely believe. The other strange problem for me was that DiCaprio ages about seven or eight years in this film. It shows how talented he is, that he can play this character at multiple ages, that young, but it did come off strange, his voice having never changed for instance. Yes, his acting out is justified as Dwight is an unreliable liar, who says and does anything to get what he wants, sabotaging, and stealing from Toby and his now-doormat mother at every turn. When Caroline wants to work on the Kennedy campaign (The movie takes place in the fifties,) he says no, 'cause there are too many Republicans that shop in his store. Caroline finally starts defying him anyway. The reason Toby would be fighting with Dwight for his childhood, is mainly because this was the marriage that Caroline insisted on trying to work. They're both victims of circumstance as much as anything else, and as Toby grows up and realizes this, he begins forcing his way out. I think the movie really just wore me out by the end of it, that's probably the biggest reason why I can't really recommend it. It probably works a lot better as a memoir actually. As a film, it seemed to be somewhat unnatural, almost like an acting exercise, come in, play these roles, and we'll see what happens. That can often be good, but matched with some questionable choices of directing, like how they really overplay the dramatic ending when finally Caroline and Toby run off and leave, I had a hard time fully embracing the film. It might actually have "The Boy's Life," and I certainly feel sorry for him, but it wasn't that entertaining a film, and again, for that, I feel sorry for him.

DUCK (2007) Director: Nicole Bettauer

3 STARS

Photographs tend to cliche in film, but the opening Nic Bettauer's film "Duck", begins with photographs that show the life of Arthur Pratt (Philip Baker Hall), an old man, who's wife has just passed away. Their son Daniel died when he was 18. He loved his wife, and it seems when he's now alone, in an apartment with a sublet, Mr. Janney (Larry Cedar), who's such a tightass prick, that he doesn't even allow plants, for fear they'll eat up all the oxygen, among his many heartless quirks, Arthur looks and seems like he's spent most of his adult life in a perpetual state of sadness. He goes across the street to a park to bury the ashes of his wife, along with where his son's ashes were placed, many years before. He's taken a giant tin full of pills with him. It's at that moment, that a small duckling appears before him. He's clearly a little lost, and has only just been born. He searches for his mother, only to find that she, and the rest of the ducklings were hit by the car. He takes the duck in, and names him Joe. He doesn't know much about ducks, but he feeds him and takes care of him. Joe believes Arthur to be his mother, and Joe has found a new partner for his travels. At first, he considers going to a nursing home, after being thrown out of the apartment, but then he moves with Joe into the park, which, he later learns, is actually a landfill. More than once, he has to save Joe from swimming in contaminated water. When this option finally falls out of favor, Joe and Arthur begin a slow trek to the beach, figuring it the best place for both of them. He meets a kindred spirit in Norman (Bill Cobbs) another homeless bum, planning on taking his pet to live in the beach. Arthur and Joe go through a lot. Some good, some bad. They even go to a Halloween party, where Arthur, bringing a duck, is temporarily confused for a costume. "Duck", was on my Netflix for years because I'm always interested in any lead performance that the great Philip Baker Hall gets. He's one of those character actors you've seen a million times, but you might not know his name. Robert Altman directed him in the one-man show "Secret Honor," where he played Richard Nixon; most of you might know him from his work in P.T. Anderson films, like "Hard Eight (aka Sydney)" or especially as the game show host in "Magnolia". He's one of the best actors alive, and it's nice to see him in a lead, even if it is in this small, quirky, little independent film. There's a few easy comparison films, Paul Mazursky's film "Harry and Tonto," which earned a Lead Actor Oscar for Art Carney, probably comes to mind quickly, as well as a few other stories of a man and his loyal animal companion hitting the road, and "Duck," is a nice one, with a few good actors and some inventiveness.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

CANON OF FILM: "8 1/2"

8 ½ (1963)

Director: Federico Fellini
Screenplay: Ennio Flaiano, Tullo Pinelli, Federico Fellini, and Brunello Rondi based on the story by Federico Fellini & Ennio Flaiano




Considered the greatest movie about making movies ever made, (although a more correct analysis would be the greatest movie about not making movies ever made) Fellini’s “8 ½”annoys all those who think he should’ve remained in his neorealist beginning, but for me, remains the zenith of the eccentric style that’d lead to the term, “Felliniesque.” I think style has won out, as it remains one of Fellini’s most beloved films worldwide, although there are some critics. Even within the movie, one guy continually criticizes the movie as we’re watching it, as though Fellini had predetermined to expect the reactions he would get for abandoning all of his neorealism ideals like in “La Strada,” and simply just go above and beyond his tendencies to show images and not be as interested in the story. The opening sequence of the film involves a dream sequence, one of many, where our hero, Guido (Marcello Mastroianni), the director, escapes through the window of his car, which is stuck in a traffic jam, and begins to levitate over the cars, crucified-like and begin floating into the sky, before his assistant director pulls him down with a string that’s tied on his foot like a kite, and this doesn’t even rank among the top 5 most memorable and/or amazing images in this film. Guido, a famous director, (obviously a stand-in for Fellini himself) basically spends the whole movie trying not to make a film that he’s supposed to make. He’s got a producer building huge elaborate sets that he doesn’t want to use, he’s flown in actors from other countries to play parts that don’t exist anymore, or may have never in fact existed, all the while juggling between his wife and his mistress, and juggling them very poorly. Almost every character from the smallest extra to the pope himself seems to have something to say to him, and he isn’t the least bit interested. Instead, he divulges into childhood memories, and dream sequences, and even fantasy sequences, the most infamous of which is one where all the women in his life, or have ever been in his life are living in some sort of castle awaiting their hero’s return, because they all want Guido, although they start to turn on him when one of the women must go upstairs forever because she has turned 30. It’s a Freudian wet dream gone to its wildest, most ridiculous, most logical, and most insane conclusion. If you’re having trouble making heads or tails out of this, don’t worry, you’re not the only one, the whole point of the movie is that none of it makes any sense, even the title is completely nonsensical. A Broadway Musical based on the film called “Nine,” tried to make sense of it, and it doesn’t work out that well. (Especially not the recent movie adaptation) The film is simply about the chaotic circumstances under which films are made, and the circus-like atmosphere that makes logica- thinking people feel like they’re ringmastering. Really, isn’t every boss just a guy trying to keep all his plates spinning on sticks? “8 ½” is Fellini’s best movie. His most beloved film is “La Dolce Vita,” but nothing shows the true art of Fellini as well as this film. To describe the movie is simply to describe one amazing image after another, and that’s the way the movie should be enjoyed. To sit back and watch, and one more thing piles on top of his troubles, whether they’re real, in his head, or both.

Monday, October 22, 2012

POLL UPDATE: "TEN GREATEST TV SHOWS OF ALL-TIME" POLL! Again, only ONE F***ING NEW PERSON PARTICIPATING! Guys, c'mon. SUBMIT YOUR BALLOTS ALREADY!



Well, I'm not 100% sure what's left that I can add or say to convince you, the readers, to enter your ballots for the "TEN GREATEST TV SHOWS OF ALL-TIME"! This will be my forth update blog, since I first proposed the issue, and so far, only me, and now, four other people, have chosen to submit their lists. It took a lot of convincing btw, to get those people to participate. I'm not sure exactly why this issue seems to have created so little interest among my ever-growing readers. Yes, they are evergrowing by the way. Right now, I'm on track to approach, and possibly pass 3,000 Hits in October. I'm proud of that. Last October, I had only 200 hits, so I'll definitely take a 1500% increase.

As for television, I'm proud of television. I was discussing the TV show "Scrubs," recently with some people. I wrote a blog on it once, years ago, but we were discussing the reasons why the show was funny. I think the person who asked was expecting me to not come up with an answer, but I gave quite a few. For instance, how it was a modern-day M*A*S*H, but more importantly, the reason I am particularly fond of "Scrubs," was that it was, much of it's humor was based on the fact that it accepted the fact that the audience was incredibly knowledgable about television. That may sound like it's funny, but it's true. It's not the only show either. Much of "Family Guy"'s humor is that the show is based on that fact. We've watched and studied television most of our lives now. We should have an incredibly wide knowledge of it. It's seeped into our everyday culture, and it's stretched across all generations. Not just shows being aired in reruns, either. Starting with cable, especially with networks like "Nick at Nite," and TV Land, most of us have grown up, essentially with an entire history of television. We should've anyway. Wake up hungover, on a Saturday, and even by accident, you would've seen at least two episodes of some version of "Law & Order".

TV is how we reference things now. It's apart of our language, whether we watch it or not, eventually, the really great and quintessential parts of television, stick with us, showcasing, and often creating the pop culture landscape, we might not even realize it. It took me years to realize that "Shrinkage," wasn't a real word. I learned my alphabet from watching "Wheel of Fortune"; I betcha a lot of other people have too. From Carson to Kramer from Lucy to Tina, "Perry Mason," to "Monk", from Mockingbird Lane to "Sesame Street", television shapes our lives, for good or bad.

So, despite these lackluster numbers, I'm gonna continue pushing for this "Sight & Sound"-style list to form the "TEN GREATEST TV SHOWS OF ALL-TIME". It's never been done, even marginally well before, and besides, I think it's a great way to honor television. Probably not what Farnsworth had in mind when he invented it, but he'd probably appreciate it if he wasn't dead.

Okay, for those who are new to this poll, there are two rules.
Rule #1: As long as it originate on television, it's eligible for this list. So, this means that you can essentially pick almost anything for this list. Comedy, Drama, Reality, Game Shows, Talk Show, TV Movies, Miniseries, Soap Operas, Children's shows, Cartoon, News Magazines, Cable, Satellite, etc. etc.... You want to pick Bob Ross Paintings, it's allowed. So everything is essentially on the table.

Rule #2: This is a Top Ten list, so you MUST pick ten shows, and ten shows only. There's no jury prizes or anything like that. I won't require you to rank them, although that's preferred, it's an option, but you can't pick 9, you can't pick 11, you must pick ten.

And that's it. Those are the only rules. So far, I've had five participants, including myself, the latest being my friend, Lillian Pancakes, a wonderful actress/writer/director friend of mine. She submitted her ballot, and change some of the results by the way.

LILLIAN 'PANCAKES' NADEAU
1. Quantum Leap
2. Queer as Folk
3. Roseanne
4. Friends ('94)
5. Cheers ('82)
6. Taxi ('78)
7. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
8. Breaking Bad
9. Rocko's Modern Life
10. Melrose Place ('92)

With her list, now "Roseanne," "Friends," "Cheers," and "Queer as Folk," have been selected twice, so now there's 6 six shows, (along with "M*A*S*H" and "The West Wing") with 2 votes, and with the rankings being a tiebreaker, "M*A*S*H" and "Queer as Folk," are now tied for number one, which is certainly a sentence I never thought I'd say, but there it is. So, take a little time, make your own list, put it in the comment section of this blog, or Facebook me or Twitter me with the list if you can. (I'd prefer Facebook or Comment though), then tell your friends to do the same.

Friday, October 19, 2012

THE TEN BEST MOVIES OF 2011! (Sorry about the, sigh, 10-month delay) OH, AND A FEW SECONDS OF TEMPER TANTRUM, AS I TALK ABOUT THE WORST MOVIES OF 2011!


Well, it's that time of year again, almost. Where I've finally caught up with nearly every major film that came out the year before, long after most every other film critic has already long done it, and I've compiled a list of the absolute Best Movies of the year, this case 2011! Why so late. Well, 'cause I hadn't seen everything yet. Still haven't. As I'm writing this prologue in fact, I'm in the middle of watching "Footnote," the last of the five Foreign Language film, Oscar nominees from this past year. That actually wasn't a requirement for me to begin making such a list, as I outlined last year when I made my 2010 list, but on top of winning the Foreign Language Oscar, the film "A Separation," also recieved a nomination for Best Screenplay,a category, that I did deem, was an essential to have seen every film in, before one should be eligible to compile a Top Ten List. (My Best Films of 2010 blog can be found at the link below.)

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2011/08/best-movies-of-2010-sorry-for-8-month.html

I also detailed in that blog, all the requirements I self-inflict upon myself, before I allow myself to make a Ten Best Films of a Year list. Basically, I try to watch everything that is essential to have watched, on top of everything else I watch from that year. Now, there's different definitions of "What is essential?", but I believe at a minimum, all the nominees for Oscars, in the main categories, should be the minimum. Those categories being Picture, Director, Writing, Acting, (Sigh) and Animated Feature. I'm sighing at that one, because unfortunately, I'm gonna have to break my rule in this case, 'cause so far, I've only seen 3 of the Best Animated Feature nominees. I'm hoping to say that I would've seen "Chico & Rita," before I post this, 'cause it's available on Netflix, and I'm planning to watch "A Cat in Paris," ASAP! (It's in the Top Ten on my Netflix.) Now, I don't watch only those films. I try to watch everything I can. I use other Award shows for guidelines as well, and critical reviews, and box office, a little bit, important names and directors of course. In total, I have seen as of 4:49pm, Wednesday 17th of October, 2012, I've seen 228 movies, from the year 2011! In case your curious, when I made my list last year, I had probably seen, somewhere around 140 at the time. (I also wrote that list out, two months earlier in the year than I'm doing this year. [It was only 8 months late]) So, you can imagine, why I'm a little bit itchin' to finally get around to doing my list for this year. For one thing, I've seen a lot of frigging movies! There was also fewer movies I had to see last year. When I added up the categories, I came to only, 18 or 19 different films I had to watch. This year, nine Best Picture nominees, only 5 of which got screenwriting nominations (Weird), so 10 Writing nominations, that's five more, 14, all five directing were nominated for Best Picture, but acting,... 7,8, 9 other nominated throughout the categories, plus the animated films, so that's yikes, 28, total, some of which haven't been available on DVD until, like yesterday. Haven't seen two of the animated, like I said. Haven't seen 3 of the documentaries yet. Normally, I'm on top of those, but not this year. I've also got to remember to catch up on "Harry Potter," at some point; I'm four movies behind on that. (Note: Call my cousin, ask to borrow his DVDs.) A few other minor categories that I've missed so far, but I'm gonna say that, for the sake of, well my sanity, I'm gonna say that I've seen enough to make at least an official, albeit unofficially-official, Top Ten Films of 2011 list, keeping in mind, that like all such lists, they're completely subjective, and of course, subject to change. Saying that, I'm fairly confident in this list though.

I must also say that, although, I was critical of the some of the so-called, Top Films of 2011, overall, there were a ton of great films this year. I can legitimately understand, 30 or 40 other films, at least, being on somebody's Top Ten Best Films list from 2011. Had my Top Ten films, not been made, and I posted my 11-20 list instead as my Top Ten, it still would've been a great year for films. This was not an easy list to make this year, and frankly, I'm happy about that. When it's easy, it means it hasn't been that great a year.

Alright, last time, I started at number one, and went down to number ten, I'm gonna switch it up this time, and start with #10, and count down, to number 1!

THE TOP TEN BEST FILMS OF 2011!

#10 We Need to Talk About Kevin

The most frightening movie of the year, was Lynne Ramsey's portrait of parental hell, "We Need to Talk About Kevin". Tilda Swinton gives, maybe her best performance yet, and that's saying something, in this film, about her sociopathic son Kevin, and how he spends his young life, terrorizing his mother.

From my original review:
"Out damn spot!", was the line made famous by Lady MacBeth. That line gets completely redefined forever in my mind after watching Lynne Ramsey's "We Need to Talk About Kevin". This is her third feature-length film,...but it's only the first one I've seen, and it's a frightening masterpiece. There's no easy way to go into this next line, but to all current and future parents out there, the movie, might as well be a horror film....The movie goes back-and-forth through time, from image-to-image, but this isn't a mind-bending puzzler. We know that Eva's (Swinton) son Kevin (Ezra Miller, as a teenager) is in jail. She's visiting him. These collisions of times and images, instead represent, her perspective of events, and how being a mother and having her son grow up in front of her eyes, all these events essentially happen simultaneously. Yes, there's the debate about nature vs. nurture, fighting in her mind, but it's also the battle she's fought his entire life. Kevin is evil. He did a very evil thing. She knows he's evil. Why is he evil? She's searching for answers. Did she try hard enough when she was younger? Did she really want him to begin with? At one point, Eva tells the infant Kevin in a desperate outpouring of rage how she used to be happy until he came around, which her husband Franklin (John C. Reilly) accidentally hears. He gives a disappointing shake. He's oblivious to Kevin's evergrowing sociopathic tendencies. I'd say Eva was in denial, but she isn't, but there also isn't any clear thing that it seems she could've done differently. The simplest acts, like Kevin biting off his fingernails, seems like an act of terrorism, directed against his mother. Strangely, the only seemingly happy memory of Kevin she has, is of him being sick. She read to him, and he genuinely wanted and needed her care and devotion, the care and devotion she desperately tried to give. Even the devil spawn of "The Bad Seed," and "The Omen", needs his Mommy when he's sick. Except when we think about it afterwards, even that becomes...-. I can describe the details of the movie, but the emotions of watching the movie feel real. The hopelessness, the inevitability, the disturbing reality that the worse thing to ever happen in your life could've come from your own loins.

I'll tell a bit of the trade secrets, here, I had actually started writing on this blog, about another film, much higher on this list actually, and originally I had, "We Need to Talk About Kevin," 11th, and instead, I pushed the other film down, which was quite a good film, but I pushed it off the list, to add this film, and I'm glad I've changed my mind. I don't know, what some people call a "horror" film, or not, or whatever, but this is a horror film. This is the hardest-to-watch and most frightening and disturbing film on my list, or probably anybody's list. It's one thing to talk about, the truly nightmare scenarios about being a parent, and there've been films about the parents of those kids, but what really separates, and makes this film special, is that, it's about the mind of the parent. The way it's shot, cross-cutting between time periods, cross-cutting images, real, and imagined, the extreme close-ups. especially on the mouth of Ezra Miller, etc. To be able to get inside a mind of a character, very difficult to portray in a visual medium; this is as much a directing achievement, as any film this year, and let's not forgot, a female director too, Lynne Ramsey, getting inside the mind of a mother,-. This film needed a great female in front of, and behind the camera, one of the best films of the year.

#9 Margin Call

There were a couple films about the financial collapse, but JC Chandor's claustrophobic debut feature, "Margin Call" was the best. Taking place, inside one of those Wall Street financial institutions, an All-Star cast leads us through a day and night, that begins with massive cutbacks, and ends with a fire sale, after one laid-off employee, gives a USB drive to a man he trusts, which shows just how in a whole, they actually are, as big guns are brought in, just ot figure out how to account for their errors, and explain to there hundreds of stockholders, the losses they're about to take in, and the mistakes they've made.

From my original review:
There's seems to only be a couple different kinds of people who seem to be in this profession, the highly-intelligent, educated and skilled, and those who are overly-ambitious, cocky and hungry for the wealth that the job provides, or at least it did....This is the kind of movie where it helps that most of the actors are instantly recognizable. For one thing, it helps us to separate them, for the other, the movie is almost all dialog-driven, and requires the best actors to come in, with there characters already firmly developed, so as the tensions between certain characters remain throughout, but put on hold while they have to handle this crisis....Writer/Director JC Chandor earned a well-deserved Oscar nomination for the screenplay, for this, his feature-length directioral film. It actually reminding me of "The China Syndrome," another movie that's mostly dialogue-driven, about what just might be the end-of-the-world is approaching, right as no one listens to the one guy who knows for sure. That film was also a fiction film based obviously on real events. "Margin Call," is quiet, but incredibly intense; this is one of the best thrillers of the year! It's also one of those films that shows just how it's possible to believe that not only are there smart people working on Wall Street, but show exactly how they could've just screwed up, and how they are able to reason that, while simultaneously destroying the lives of others. Nobody in this movie is a bad guy, none of them wishes harm on anyone, and none of them want to do what they absolute have to do. With the reports about some companies that actually did blew up stock they knew to be worthless to jack up the stock price out there, that makes that, possibly the only unrealistic part of the film. That's the correct choice by Chandor though; a bad guy would've made us want to defeat somebody. This is movie about men who learn a little too late, that they've already been beaten.

Also, this film stuck with me since first seeing it. It's one of those films, that seems like it could've been a great play. This really intense, quiet, but low-key film, but it's also the one movie, that really dives into the source of the financial crises, and does it well, in a way that, you really feel that this scenario, could've easily happened at any Wall Street firm, even though we know most of particulars weren't as caring and thoughtful as the ones in this film, even the ones who are somewhat clueless as to, what's going on, you can see how, even the best of intentions and safeguards, and preventions, and doing everything right, after you realize the problems, and still, people are gonna get hurt. It's a small film, but very powerful.

#8 The Descendants

Director Alexander Payne's first film since "Sideways", earned him his second Oscar for Adapted Screenplay. It's also more proof that George Clooney, can absolutely do anything. It's also probably the best American Family drama from last year, and surprisingly, it's very funny, as Clooney plays a man who's a descendant from both the original Hawaiian royalty, and the originals Europeans who came to Hawaii, has a big decision to make on a piece of land that his family's owned for centuries, all the while, having to deal with his wife being in a coma, that she won't come out, only to find out, she's been having an affair.

From my original review:
You can tell how difficult it's become to take the camera off of George Clooney by watching "The Descendants". More than a few times, director Alexander Payne, keeps it on his face, even when others are talking, he's refusing to cut to them unless absolutely necessary. I don't blame him one bit. Clooney is that unusual kind of actor who is both an incredible actor and is simply mesmerizing to watch on screen, as he acts. His handsomeness makes the obvious comparison actor to be Cary Grant. Grant was incredibly underrated as an actor in his day, partly because of his looks; Clooney has evaded that problem....He (Matt King [Clooney]) learns that his wife has been having an affair. I don't want discuss any other events of the film. They should be discovered by the viewer watching the film. The same way that Matt discovers them. Sometimes by searching for answers, other times by finding them accidentally.... The farther away I've gotten from this film, the more I've found myself dwelling on it. It's about losing a love one, it's about discovering someone you thought you knew, it's about discovering yourself, and yet, ultimately, the film is about family. At the end of the movie, there's one perfect last long take. It's of Matt and his two daughters at home. Not much is said. Nothing needs to be; they've been through a lot already.

Alexander Payne's name really should be put up there, as one of the great directors of our time. His films, don't seem, to be epic in scope or grandeur, they're hard to categorize, you can't get the full effect of them, by simply describing the plots of the films, there's so much more to them. Their subtle, they really dig at human behavior, in ways that most filmmakers can't get to. "The Descendants," is so perceptive and well-made. The way we learn information in this film, one piece at a time, is dead-on. Any little piece of this movie, being off, and it falls apart, and few filmmakers can perfectly live at that edge, and make great movie after great movie, and he's one of them.


#7 Young Adult

It takes some brass balls to make this movie, and thank God for Diablo Cody, and Jason Reitman, who's quickly becoming, like-, he is just a natural director who makes, great movie after great movie. Charlize Theron, might have created, once again, the most memorable character of the year, but when she did it with "Monster," that was, at least, a real person to base it on. This came out of Diablo Cody's head, and the way she structure this movie, and this character around the film, wow! Know the rules, then learn how to break them, she demolishes them, and it's brilliant.

From my original review:
Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron), sleeps in two positions, either on her face, with her body laid out over whatever she happened to fall on the night before, or on her back, under the arm of some one-night-stand. She awakes to the sound of bad reality TV, before she chugs diet coke from a two-liter like it's a baby bottle, this before a constant assault of alcohol in her body for the rest of the waking day. She's a self-centered, delusional, narcissitic, former prom queen, and the fact that she looks like Charlize Theron, makes her that much more depressing. She is a complete and utter trainwreck of a person. Do not think that by me saying that, that by the end of "Young Adult," she'll be a changed person well on her way to bettering herself. In some ways, you could say she might end up worse by the end. It has to take a special mind like Diablo Cody to not only come up with this character, but to actually find a way to admire her, and it takes a special actress like Charlize Theron to take this part and engulf herself into it.... "Young Adult" seems to take the sensabilities and wit that Cody has used in her dialogue, and instead of creating worlds where it makes sense... but now, she's placed it in a character while the world around her isn't in sync with her.... I've struggled writing this review, in fact I spent a long time debating how many stars to give it. It's not the easiest film to digest, but the more you do, the more you find in it. Oswalt and especially Theron have created two of the most complex characters in years, and the more you go into it, and peel away, the richer and darker they get. That this film is a comedy is more of a necessity for us in the audience. They say a good comic looks at the world and thinks it's funny; a great comic looks at the world and thinks it's not. These characters think it's not, and make us laugh because they insist on asking "What the fuck is wrong with all of you!" There's too much in "Young Adult" to ignore, and it's just gonna stick with you for days on end. It might not be the most pleasant filmviewing experience, but it's an absolutely great film.

You know, it did take awhile to write that review, and to digest this film, but that's because, there's so much in the movie. The subtleties, of behavior, and how characters react and respond to things, especially Charlize Theron's character, but not just her, everyone. The ex-boyfriend she's trying to win back, his wife, the Patton Oswalt character, her parents,... and that's just one part of this film. You know, if one thing for a film to defy your expectations, and suddenly do something you're not expecting, whether it's the story itself, or what you heard about the film before you got into it, etc.. By the end of this movie, I forgot what my expectations were. This movie is original, it just broke down every barrier I had up. It wasn't easy, it is as discomforting as it funny and as it tragic.... "Young Adult," is a truly original film, from an original artist. Nobody, but Diablo Cody could've written this, and that is a sign of an artist.


#6 Leap Year (Ano Bisiesto)

Probably the least well-known film on my list, Mexican Director Michael Rowe's debut feature "Leap Year" or "Ano Bisiesto," is a Mexican film that won the 2010 Camera D'Or Award at Cannes, it got released in America in 2011, and in many ways, it's almost like the flip side of "Young Adult," if the main character had less ambition and practically never left her apartment. It's also the most erotic and sexually graphic film on my list, as the film follows Laura, in a brave performance by Monica Del Carmen, as a journalist, apparently, who lives alone, and has some kind of sexual death wish, as she engages in a sadomasochistic relationship, with what at first seemed like, another one-night stand.

From my original review:
...One of the strangest and most fascinating characters I've seen all year. She apparently works as a journalist in Mexico City, although you never see her working. You hardly see her doing anything, in fact. She sits around her apartment all day, usually in various stages of undress, sometimes she talks on the phone. Her editor seems to have fired her at one point, and she has a younger brother, who occasionally visits. When she occasionally does go out, it's to find a guy at a club, for a one-night stand. Soon, she meets Arturo (Gustavo Sanchez Parra). At first, he just seems like one of her long line of fucks, but soon, they develop a routine. She prepares the house, for him to come over. She's wearing, whatever he asks, if anything at all, and they're relationship gets progressively more violent and sadomasochistic. It enthralls her. The more humilating and dangerous, the better.... In some ways, their isn't much (about Laura) to reveal, 'cause their isn't much to Laura. In other ways, there's so much deep dark emotions and pains inside her, that we find ourselves wondering about her. Her motives. Her secrets. Her seeming insistence on this lonely and closed-off lifestyle that she's chosen, and "chosen" is the correct word.... She a mysterious character, who I still want to know more about.... Few movies are capable of giving us so little, and keep us so utterly fascinated.

You know, American movies, for the most part, tend to be plot-driven. Everything's about, what amazing thing is going to happen next, and actually that alone. We know, and have seen, most every conceivable plot ever created, although there's certainly valid points about deconstructionist perspectives, but what's really intriguing, is simply, finding a great character, and getting enthralled in their lives. Especially one's whose actions we can't predict, or even understand, because that actually, makes them more mysterious to us. The movie's been compared to film's like "Last Tango in Paris," which is a good comparison film; I thought about, the heroine's in Kieslowski's "Three Colors Trilogy," for instance, or the Catherine DeNeuve character in "Belle de Jour", and other rich characters, when I think of Laura. We don't have, detailed explanations of what their doing, or why they're acting this way, and in many ways it's refreshing to have to think about films and characters, in other ways, it makes them seem more realistic. This character could be your next-door neighbor, and you'd have no idea. It's this appeal, that makes "Leap Year," so hypnotically fascinating.

#5 Life in a Day

The only documentary in my Top Ten, was the poetic, Youtube-produced mosaic of life, "Life in a Day". This was a conceptual film, in which people around the world were given camera, and given the only instruction to shoot, whatever was going on, one day, July 24, 2010, and upload all the footage onto Youtube, which was then edited together, to create this ever-encompassing portrayal of life.

From my original review:
I don't use this word often, but I can't think of any other way to describe this..., "Life in a Day", is some kind of miracle. Not technically or anything like that. I can pretty easily describe and explain what they're doing and how they did it, while that part is interesting, what's miraculous is this incredible mosaic of everyday life that the filmmakers created.... It takes place in more countries than I could count, and shows nothing more than the day-to-day activity of people. This sounds boring. It's not. Some of it may be finding poetry in the banality of life, but those moments are just as fascinating as the more dramatic ones. To describe what happens in the film, would be useless, and would frankly just be a description of one event, and then another and then another, until the end. Sometimes themes keep recurring and there's edited together in montages, but nothing unique or magical about that except that, people might eat or drink, or go to the bathroom, just like we do. Somewhere, somebody is shaving their face for the first time. Somebody is going to be engaged today. Somebody might be getting married. Somebody else be dying, maybe brutally and uselessly. And somewhere, somebody comes home late at night, looks out into the rainy night, and ponders that nothing very interesting happened today.... The result is just one of those few existential slices-of-life in it's entirety that simple imagination and creativity just can't come up with on it's own. I hope they make another one of these,... maybe one every five years so that we can continually get a new collection on life, like the 7Up Documentaries that goes back and follows what the same people have been doing every seven years. As a piece of modern-day anthropology, it's entirety is unequaled. As a piece of film, it's one of the most amazing, life-affirming things I've seen, maybe ever.

There really is no other film quite like "Life in a Day," and for that reason, alone it should be considered for most of these lists. You can't really use film, to equate something to this. You could, try making some comparisons, I even compared in my review to a film, that I might mention later in this blog (hint, hint), but equivalents to this are really, these large art projects, like the Aids quilt, of the Earth Day concert, or even, on a smaller scale, the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony for instance, these projects that aren't just one person's vision, it's these global, communal projects, that aren't about the visionary behind them, so much as how everybody's contribution, helps make a greater whole. This is a film transcends it's medium. It's the cinema's version of these kind of grand artistic expressions.

#4 Midnight in Paris

When even my Mom, kinda likes the Woody Allen movie, then it's a good Woody Allen movie. There were quite a few films last year that created magic by going deep into the past, particularly the 1920s, to tell their stories, all of them really good, two made my list, and this first one, "Midnight in Paris", was one of the most fun movies of the year, particular if you're a literature buff, and what can you say about Woody Allen. He earned his 4th career Oscar, third for writing for this film, and I know it's a little debatable, but he's made at least, one great movie, in each of the last, six decades! Unbelievable.

From my original review:
Normally, I prefer to keep spoilers out of reviews, but in this case I can't help it. So, fair warning, for anybody who hasn't already seen Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris," go see it as soon as you can, (particularly if you happen to be a fan, aficienado, or any kind of Literature buff, especially American literature, absolutely see this film!), and until you have, stop reading this review right now,.... "Midnight in Paris," is certainly one of most distinctive among his recent work, and a lot of fun, and the whole thing takes place in the city of Paris, which is just fine with Gil (Owen Wilson). Gil is a hack Hollywood screenwriter who's trying to write a novel about a man who works in a nostalgia shop that specializes in the 1920s, in the days of Hemmingway and Fitzgerald, and other guilded age legends that paroused Paris back then. He's thrilled and amazed at how beautiful Paris is, although his fiance Inez (Rachel McAdams), and her parents (Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy), are conservative Americans who are strangely unimpressed with the city.... Then one night, Gil walks alone, half drunk in Paris, and the clock strikes midnight, and an old car pulls up an offers him a ride. It is at this moment, the movie enters the surreal. Or the fantastical as some might same. It is certainly ideal romanticism.... The conceit of traveling to the past is frankly a conceit to examine that classic culture conflict or the pragmatist vs. the romantic, or if you prefer, the realist vs. the dreamer. Gil is certainly a romantic, and this '20s is certainly fantastical and probably very unrealistic and cliched portrayals of the era and that's part of the point and part of the fun. There's something quite amazing to suggest an idea for a film to Luis Bunuel, knowing he'd make the movie some time later.

Well, it's been over a year, so I'm gonna presume, that, at least by this point, most everybody has seen, "Midnight in Paris", and to some point, it is just this wonderfully insucient fun movie, that you just want to watch, and kinda get swept into, but it's one of those films for people who read. The pseudo-intellectual version of fantasy. Yes, it's got a lot of the same Woody Allenisms that we're used to in his films, but it does ponder this question of romanticism vs. realism, not just in literature, but as a lifestyle point-of-view. Yes, to be an artist of any kind, you have to some kind of romanticism, and even a little nostalgic, but he explores, and comes up with some very interesting answers, and it isn't all black-and-white, or one versus another, and that's really what's at the center of "Midnight in Paris". It's enchanting, it's light, it's fun, and it's all that, about serious philosophical issues. Plus, it's just a great film by a great filmmaker, and that's all you need sometimes.

#3 Hugo

If "Midnight in Paris," took place in the twenties and was about the love of literature; "Hugo," took place in the '20s, but is about our love of movies. Technically, at least by Martin Scorsese's standards, it's his first childrens movie. Wonderful images and beauty, especially in 3-D, it's the best classic Hollywood-style epic of the year, and it's a visionary lovesong to true loves of cinema, everywhere.

From my original review:
Scorsese must’ve smiled when he first read “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” the children’s book that “Hugo,” his latest and one of his best and certainly the most magical of his films, is based on. Probably the one thing he’s never done is make a film with, for and starring kids, and to top it all off, he’s shooting in 3-D, something a proper film historian and preserver, like Scorsese knows is a fad that’s never fully been mastered. Scorsese’s best films are undeniably his most personal films.... In recent years..., his priority interest has been film preservation.... Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) lives in the walls of a Paris train station, constantly looking down from the clocktower towards the people of the station below. A stern man who run a toy shop named George Melies (Ben Kingsley) hires him on to work after Hugo had stolen a few of his tools. Film scholars who are reading this, know the name George Melies, and have just smiled (and now understand completely why Scorsese chose 3-D,...) Those who don’t are in for an amazing discovery, especially after George’s goddaughter Isabel (Chloe Grace Moretz) decides to help Hugo finish building the automaton, and hopefully find out George’s long-kept secret.... Scorsese was a sickly-child who spent most of his days either looking out the window of his Little Italy bedroom where he observed the local kids and hoods that inspired much of his early work, like the way Hugo looks down on the world of the station, or by watching movies. He’s made many a film capturing the reality he saw from his window. “Who’s That Knocking at My Door?”, “Mean Streets,” “Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull,” “Goodfellas,”… now, he’s managed to capture his dream-like imagination that must have made movies a fascination for him as a child.

You know, while I'm ranking "Hugo", incredibly high, and I'm not the only one, by any means, the movie won five Oscars, and was nominated for eleven, including Best Picture, Director, etc. I don't know, how many kids, or even teenagers, are gonna walk into this movie, and even understand who George Melies is, even with the clues that the movie gives us. This is one of those movies where, the more knowledge and appreciation you have for film, and film history, in particular, the more your going to love "Hugo". Saying that though, I've talked to some people, who knew who he is before the movie, and those who didn't, and they both seemed to love the movie, so it probably transcends such eras. You could show this film to your kids, and they're gonna like a lot. They're not gonna appreciate it, until they're much older, and they revisit it again, and again and again. This is one of those movies like "The Wizard of Oz," or "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," or "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," it's gonna be beloved by children of all ages for generations, because it's gonna get better with each viewing. It's almost impossible to compare Scorsese films, as it is to compare Woody Allen's, there are so many great and legendary films, "Hugo," really could be up there though. and to make something, of that caliber, at this time in one's career,...- I mean, what can you say that hasn't already been said.

#2 A Separation

I came really close to putting "A Separation," #1 by the way. The Iranian film is a complex and human tale about a bunch of people, all trying to do the right thing, the best thing, for themselves, their family, and their faith, but they're in a situation that prevents anybody from getting what they want, what they need, and causes far more unintended consequences than anyone could foresee.

From my original review:
"A Separation," this year's Oscar Winner for Foreign Language Film, feels like an old Hollywood film, that could've opened right next to "Casablanca," or "Mildred Pierce," or those other great old Hollywood movies with incredible, realistic adult characters, where there's no good guys, no bad guys, just good people in a bad situation. The separation in the title is Nader (Peyman Moadi) and Simin (Leila Hatami). We meet them, arguing in front of a judge, in an early divorce court proceeding. Simin, wants to begin living abroad, but Nader won't leave his father (Ali-Asghar Shahbazi), who's suffering from senility and Alzheimer's. Their daughter, Termeh (Sarina Farhadi) has chosen to live with her father, who's a good student, and wise beyond her years, and very good in school, partly because of her tutor, Miss Ghahrail (Merila Zare'l) who often works with Termeh at home. Nader does what he can with his father, but has to hire some help, Sarieh (Sareh Bayat). She seems to be somewhat competent at a very tough job, which often includes taking her young daughter Somaya (Kimia Hosseini) but one day, Nader's Father gets out of the house, and she has to go after him. She tries to set it up so that her out-of-work husband Hojjat, (Shahab Hoessini) could replace her, without him knowing that she was working there before, (or at all), but he gets taken into jail by creditors, so she shows up for work again. When Nader arrives home afterwards however, her father is tied to the bedpost, fallen to the ground and barely breathing. There's money supposedly missing, and Sarieh and Somaya aren't there. She arrives later, claiming she had to be somewhere, There's a confrontation as she gets fired, and Nader throws her out, or does he? Later, it gets revealed that she had a miscarriage; she blames Nader. Nader says he didn't know she was pregnant, Miss Ghahrail says he didn't, but she knew. It didn't look like he was overly violent, and he did say the money was missing, but worse, his father had just nearly died, and was left alone.... It gets far more complicated and intricate than that, as the situation slowly unravels,.... This is the kind of movie, I want Hollywood to make more of, and they could actually.... "A Separation" is a great, great film, about a sad situation that nobody wants to be in, but they have to be in, and make choices that will effects more lives than just their own, and they're all too aware of their actions. This is a masterpiece!

One of the parts about "A Separation," that I don't think got talked about enough, was the incredible acting the film has. Both leads won Awards at the Berlin Film Festival, and Maodi and Hatami, as well as everybody else, really helped make this movie, seem believable and the story, universal. Admittedly, it's hard to describe the movie, and explain to people why they should see "A Separation." The title, pretty much does explain what the film is about though. Two people, separating from each other, who don't want to, but are driven to because of their own needs. This is a great family drama. I've heard a few other films mentioned as premiere family dramas this year, that some claimed were really special, this is the real one that's special. This is the film about a family falling apart, and the heartbreaks and struggles that kind of event has on everybody. Themselves, each other, their kids, their parents, innocent bystanders, etc. It's a simple film, about a tough subject to make a film about, and Writer/Director Asghar Farhadi, got it exactly right.

Drumroll, please...
And now, my pick for the #1 film of 2011!
(Drumroll ends)




#1 The Tree of Life

There were a lot of really great films this year. Some were over-the-top, some were epic in scope, some created visual poetry that isn't comparable to anything else in the art form, some were magical, and some tried to dive headfirst into ideas about life, death, religion, childhood, the day-to-day banalities, the extraordinary events, and everything in between, and make some profound statement about the way we shape our lives, or how they've been shaped for us. And then, there was Terence Malick's "The Tree of Life," the movie, that amazingly seems to do all of this, say it better, more thoughtfully, more beautifully, more magically even. No matter how you sliced, every film that came out last year, basically would have to be compare to "The Tree of Life", and while a few of them tried, this was just in another league.

From my original review:
I got a phone call a couple weeks ago from a friend of mine who just had to tell me about what she called, let me see if I can get this right: "The worst fucking movie she had ever fucking seen." That movie was "The Tree of Life," from the great Terrence Malick. Malick, a notoriously reclusive filmmaker who has a reputation of only working when he feels inspired, and this had led to one of the most intriguing filmographies of anybody. He once went nineteen years between finished films.... Yet "The Tree of Life," might be the biggest clue yet as to who Terrence Malick is. It also is his most ambitious work. Hell, I'm putting that mildly; this might be the ambitious movie ever made.... The movie is told through the mind of a grown-up Jack (Sean Penn). It begins with.... I just realized there's no way I can finish that sentence. The movie seems to be told in flashbacks, but it's actually told in the mind. Jack is in conflict about the nature of life. The greatest of all philosophical conflicts, and he, like all of us, isn't exactly sure what to think about it. He works in a cold New York City skyscraper, where every room seem to have a tree or a plant somewhere in it. Man at conflict with nature has always been Malick's core theme, as well as Man arguing against his core self, but never like this exactly. He apologizes to his Dad on the phone, about something he said about his brother, who died when he was 19 in the Vietnam War. The rest of the movie, is Jack in conflict about the meaning of life. That is a simple definition and explanation for the rest of the movie. Jack's mind is in conflict, as he searches for an understanding of how he is a man who is a mere grain of sand compared to the universe, yet with distinct memories and experiences that lead to us being uniquely oneself. If you think I'm being metaphorical with that last sentence, strangely I'm not. Jack experiences are of a 1950s childhood in an unnamed town (Probably Waco, Texas, where Malick grew up). His father (Brad Pitt) is a strict disciplinarian at home. He's a failed inventor who once dreamed of being a musician before family got in the way. His wife (Jessica Chastain) is more forgiving and nurturing, although she's mischievous at times. Any other description of what happens in the movie, would only contain a list of scenes, but they're all scenes that are apart of Jack's life. Some of clear memories, others might be more subjective. Some seems to exist only as told through others. Almost everybody I'm sure, will have some kind of flashback to memories of their own childhood in the film. The right angles of a child's viewpoint of the world alone perhaps. How does Jack go from this childhood to the place where he is today? How does anybody get anywhere?

After I posted my review, my friend later reminded me that she also said "The Tree of Life," was the most artistic movie she had ever seen. It isn't a film for the casual moviegoer, that's for sure. I got into a few words with another blogger who criticized the movie as being about everything, instead of Malick's picking something to make the movie about. It is about everything, but not in the way he says it, like Malick's throwing stuff on the screen like a bunch of thought bubbles he wrote down and didn't edit. "The Tree of Life," is about "everything," in the philosophical sense. This movie doesn't just ponders the big questions of the universe, it explores them, and even embraces them. It's the most autobiographical film Malick's ever made, and yet, like all autobiographies, they're completely unique and individual, and yet, they're simply a speck of dust on a grain of sand, floating through the giant landscape known as the universe. "The Tree of Life," is about a man, who's come to the point in his life, where he now thinks about these things, and he struggles with the double-sided nature of it all. "The Tree of Life," can and will be analyzed thousands of different ways over the rest of our lifetimes, we're all going to come up with our own meanings and theories regarding it, all of them, complimentary and contradictory to each other's and we're gonna to be discussing it, for years on end. You may like it; you may hate it, but any movie that can instigate so much passion and theoretical debate over it, at minimum, can't be ignored, and at best,-, well, at best, it's the Best Film of the Year.

Well, there you have it. The, as-of-the-date-I'm-posting-this-blog, List of my Top Ten Films of 2011. Again, sorry for being late, really late to post such a list, but now that I have, I can start moving on to seriously look at 2012's greatest movies. Although, before that, there were lots other spectacular and great films, that just didn't make my Top Ten cut, so alphabetically, here's a short list of, lets say Jury Prize Recipients, other movies from 2011, that I highly and enthusiastically recommend, and their directors.

LIVE-ACTION AND ANIMATED FEATURES
50/50-Jonathan Levine
The Adjustment Bureau-George Nolfi
The Adventures of Tintin-Steven Spielberg
The Artist-Michel Hazanavicius
Beautiful Boy-Shawn Ku
A Better Life-Chris Weitz
Cedar Rapids-Miguel Arteta
Certified Copy-Abbas Kiarostami
Crazy, Stupid, Love-Glenn Ficara & John Requa
A Dangerous Method-David Cronenberg
Drive-Nicolas Winding Refn
Footnote-Joseph Cedar
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo-David Fincher
The Green-Steve Williford
The Guard-John Michael McDonagh
Higher Ground-Vera Farmiga
House of Pleasures (aka House of Tolerance)-Bertrand Bernello
I Saw the Devil-Jee-Woon Kim
Illegal-Olivier Masset-Dupasse
Le Havre-Aki Kaurismaki
Martha Marcy May Marlene-Sean Durkin
Melancholia-Lars von Trier
Monsieur Lazhar-Philippe Falardeau
My Week with Marilyn-Simon Curtis
The Myth of the American Sleepover-David Robert Mitchell
Pariah-Dee Rees
Poetry-Chang-Dong Lee
Putty Hill-Matthew Porterfield
Rampart-Oren Moverman
Rango-Gore Verbinski
Shame-Steve McQueen
The Skin I Live In-Pedro Almodovar
Student Services-Emmanuelle Bercot
Submarino-Thomas Vinterberg
Take Shelter-Jeff Nichols
Terri-Azazel Jacobs
Thor-Kenneth Branagh
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy-Tomas Alfredson
Tomboy-Celine Schiamma
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives-Apichatong Weerasethakul
Win-Win-Thomas McCarthy

DOCUMENTARIES FEATURES
Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest-Michael Rapaport
Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey-Constance Marks
Conan O'Brien Can't Stop-Rodman Flender
Into the Abyss-Werner Herzog
Pearl Jam: Twenty-Cameron Crowe
Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold-Morgan Spurlock
Project Nim-James Marsh
Public Speaking-Martin Scorsese
The Interrupters-Steve James
Tabloid-Errol Morris

Well, I saw a lot of good movies, as you can see, and like I said, this is a short list. However, since I have seen so many film, Easily over 200 films, as of today,- I didn't do this last year, but since, I've seen so many films this year before getting to this, I thought, maybe real quickly, I'd get some pent-up frustration out of my system, and talk about the Ten worst, giant, godawful pieces of turds of a movies, I saw this year as well. Now, I try, I really do, go out of my way as much as I can to avoid, many of these really, really bad films, because life is short quite frankly, and I don't have an editor that makes me go see whatever crap Adam Sandler put out this year. But even still, there has been some really crappy films I've unfortunately sat through, so to the Top, or I should say, Bottom Ten, real quick.

#10 The Mill and the Cross

A boring art-school thesis, disguised as a boring film about a painting, 'cause spending two hours looking at a painting, is kinda like a movie. Not really though.

#9 X: Night of Vengeance

Two prostitutes, the old-retiring pro, and the underage rookie, team up, and get the hell beaten out of them and that's the beginning of the dreadful night for those two in this piece of garbage action thriller.

#8 Saving Private Perez

If this film was serious, it was way too over-the-top, if it supposed to be a comedy, it wasn't funny. I think it might have been offensive to six different ethnics groups, and too much mind-numbing violent at times, but basically, it just annoyed the hell out of me.

#7 Paul

Seth Rogan, did not need to be an alien. Seriously, if he wasn't an alien, this movie wouldn't have changed one bit. It still would've sucked, but....

#6 Vidal Sassoon: The Movie

A propaganda documentary, made to sell a book on Vidal Sassoon, as well as a bunch other Vidal Sassoon stuff. I'm okay with Vidal Sassoon, but not ok, with this dreadfully unnecessary film.

#5 The Hangover Part II

I wasn't the biggest fan of the original, but they could've done hundreds of cool things with this sequel, and instead, I think they through a dart at a map, and began literally cutting and pasting the old script. Worse and worse the more you thought about it.

#4 Restless

The great Gus Van Sant directed this unwatchable love story between a dying cancer patient and a kid who's obsessed with death and funerals. Yeah, "Harold and Maude," meets "Love Story," that's what I wanted to see. Gus, what were you thinking?!

3. Immortals

Tarsem Singh, what were you thinking?! So many bad plot loopholes, a ridiculous script, and loads of excessive Greek mythology violence, oh, and btw, everybody is a God or something, so despite all this blood and violence, hardly anyone ever fucking dies! So, more gruesome blood and violence. Ugh!

2. Cowboys & Aliens

Jon Favreau, another good director, but what the hell were you thinking?! This movie was a boring video game, and it wasn't good enough to be entertaining, even by that standard.

And yet, despite all this crap, amazingly, so far for 2011, I only gave one film, a ZERO STAR rating, but man, did they earn it, and I still can't get over it.

#1 Winnie-the-Pooh

How in the hell, they managed to completely f--- up "Winnie-the-Pooh," is beyond me. It still hurts my head to think about it. "Winnie-the-Pooh," very unfortunately, is my choice, for the absolute worse piece-of-crap film of 2011!