Sunday, March 31, 2013


I'm not gonna lie, It's been conducting this poll for almost a year, and still, I'm having trouble getting people to participate. I know that I'm getting more hits and readers than ever before. Yeah, this March was the single biggest month this blog has ever had, I'm getting 100+ hits/day, and yet, this time around, I only got two new ballots in, for my "TEN GREATEST TV SHOWS OF ALL-TIME!" poll, since last the last update. My goal is 100 BALLOTS, and it's open to everybody, and yet, so few people ever participate. So, I hope to get a lot more people this time around.  I still need 38 ballots to reach my goals of 100 participants.    I'll keep this up, but you guys have to help me out and get more people to participate. Tell people who love television, to submit their ballots. This isn't just a television response/equivalent to "Sight & Sound"'s movie poll, this should also be a fun way to express oneself. What do you consider, the greatest of all television shows! It isn't just a personal opinion, it's a personal expression about oneself, and what one represents. It's as much apart of you, as one favorite colors or foods, or anything else that's a personal and unique part of you. That should be expressed for the world to hear and see, and expressed loudly, at-the-top-of-yours-lungs, even. So, let's get some more ballots this time around!

Thanks to those who did submit this time, and here are the latest ballots.

1. The X-Files
2. M*A*S*H
3. ER
4. Kolchak: The Night Stalker
5. All in the Family
6. The Shield
7. South Park
8. The Sopranos
9. Deadwood
10. The Wonder Years

The Beverly Hillbillies
Burn Notice
Cheers ('82)
The Simpsons
South Park
Married... with Children
Two and a Half Men

With so few ballots, and so few repeats votes, their wasn't much change at all at the top of the results. Despite "South Park", getting two votes, the most significant jumper was "The X-Files", which jumped into the Top five. Other than that, not much change at all, with "Seinfeld" "M*A*S*H", "All in the Family" and "Cheers", still ahead in the pack.

Alright, that's your update, now let's go over the rules to, what I expect, will be the dozens of new participants I should get this time around. To submit your ballot, either comment on this blog, on one of the dozens of FB posts that of this blog, which you can find on my FB page, TWITTER me your ballot to @DavidBaruffi_EV if you want to ever, or get a hold of me on the street and tell me your ballot face-to-face. (Well, please try to avoid the stalking option but you get the idea.) However you do it, do it. Message me of FB too, if you want. You don't have to rank your choices, that only counts in tiebreakers. Oh, and be as specific as possible. Sometimes there's multiple TV shows with the same title, like "Hawaii Five-O" for instance. I tend to use the year, the show came out, but make it clear which show(s) you want to vote for. I don't want to have to guess. Oh, and not that same note, make sure you leave a name. I'm not counting Anonymous ballots. These are your choices for the GREATEST TV SHOWS of ALL-TIME, this shouldn't be something that you feel the need to keep secret anyway, no matter what shows  you vote for. Besides, just like "Sight & Sound", I post everybody personal ballot. Also, keep a name and some way for me to contact you, just in case I have any questions, or for instance, may have to have you clarify, or in rare cases, when I may have to disqualify a vote. Oh, before I forget, here are the eligibility rules!

RULE #1: As long as it originated on television, it's eligible for the poll, regardless of genre. That means that you can vote for anything you want. Sitcom, drama, talk show, reality show, soap opera, news magazine, children's show, animated show, instructional show, miniseries, TV movie, network, cable,... etc. as long as it originally aired on television, it's eligible. (ie. you can't vote for "M*A*S*H", the original movie, because that was first shown in movie theatres, but you can vote for "M*A*S*H", the TV series, 'cause that aired on TV.)

RULE #2: You must select 10 and ONLY 10 shows. No picking more, no picking less. Just 10.

Those are the rules. When I say I've disqualified a few votes, it's usually something like "The Three Stooges" or "Looney Tunes", which were shorts films, that pre-date TV, and originally aired in movie theaters, so yes, with certain things, be careful, and make sure that you're picking television programs.

Alright, that's everything as far as I can tell. Now, let's get some more ballots in!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Whew! Sorry I'm late with this blog. Well, it's been a rather busy and stressful week for me lately, but things are looking up. Finally got my Netflix back recently, so I didn't get a chance to watch as many newer films as I like to, (That's why I was late, wanted to get one more recent one in)  I apologize for that, but I did get it back, and we should be going more smoothly for the foreseeable future.

Among the good things, the LAMMY Awards are coming up. Some of you may remember that I recently joined the LAMBs, the Large Association of Movie Bloggers, there's a link to them on the right side of this blog; it's a collection group of well-known movie bloggers, and after the first nominating process, I'm happy to say that I'm eligible for seven different Awards! In promotion, I was asked to make a banner, so I can advertise my blog and possibly get more people to the blog, and of course, potentially more votes for the LAMMYS, so here's that banner!

Okay, obviously I suck at making banners. Probably one of the reasons I didn't get a mention for Best Design. Anyway, I'll try that again later I guess. Anyway, if you happen to be a member of the LAMBs, or know someone who is, the website to link to the ballot is below:

There you go. And, remember to vote for me. I am eligible for:
BEST BLOG (Which I should definitely win)
BEST MOVIE REVIEWER (Which, should be a cakewalk, 'cause I am clearly better than everyone else at movie reviewing, as you'll soon see, once again)
BEST NEW BLOG (I'm only eligible this one this for this one, once and there's less competition, I should definitely win this one)
BEST AWARDS COVERAGE for my OSCAR COVERAGE (I should at least be nomination for this one)
BEST FILM FESTIVAL AND CONVENTION COVERAGE  for my work covering the LAS VEGAS FILM FESTIVAL (That one would be nice, but I think it's a longshot, I should definitely gets some votes for this one.)
BEST RUNNING FEATURE for my CANON OF FILM SERIES (Well, I should easily win this, but I'm annoyed that I didn't gets any votes consideration for my "GOOD ON TV?" series, or for the OYL AWARDS for that matter. Somebody's screwing me on this one, so I need all the votes I can get.)
MOST KNOWLEDGEABLE WRITER (Well, that the thing that separate me from every other blog, my supreme knowledge of film, so, again, no reason I shouldn't win this award.)

Anyway, if somebody's willing to make me a better banner, to promote, just how great I am, go ahead. I should easily win many of these awards, if not all of them. So anyway, after I'm done with this, I'll be promoting that when I can, and hopefully with a better banner.

Anyway, enough talking, let's start walking! Onto my latest edition of my RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEWS!

THE MASTER (2012) Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

3 1/2 STARS

P.T. Anderson, since he began making feature films, has always been the most polarizing of directors. Few filmmakers get so much praise and equally so much criticism, for nearly every film he's done. I've been in his camp, loving all his films , especially "Boogie Nights", "Magnolia" one of my all-time favorite films, and "There Will Be Blood", all three are masterpieces and all three have their detractors. "The Master" is the first time however, where I'm legitimately wondering to myself, "What exactly is he trying to do?" Sure, you could've asked that with any of his films, but his other films, even the lesser ones like "Punch-Drunk Love" and "Hard Eight (aka Sydney)", seem to be creating characters, and giving us something new to say, or showing us a world or many worlds sometimes that are striking and definitely worth seeing, if nothing else, but for the experience of being taken on the journey that the master filmmaker leads us on. Sometimes his ideas, seemed to be jumbled together, but usually there's a purpose or theme a-brewing. The common image of "The Master", is the naked sand woman. We first see her in the beginning when Freddie Quell (Oscar-nominee Joaquin Phoenix) is humping her as a few of his fellow midshipmen are on shore leave, and building her on the sand. WWII has just ended and Quell, is suffering from, what we now call PTSD, what would've then be called "battle fatigue" or "shell shock". He's clearly problematic. He's an alcoholic, an undiagnosed sex-addict of some kind, and he's got a bad temper. After the war, he gets a job taking photos at a high-class department store, where he occasionally bangs the salesgirl, Martha (Amy Ferguson). He loses that job, and took another in California, being accused of poisoning a migrant worker with some kind of alcoholic drink, probably is poison, based on the mix and the ingredients which can be found in some bathroom sinks. That drink that is found on him, when a cruiseship spots him and takes him aboard. When he recovers to realize where he is, he interests the curiousity of Lancaster Dodd (Oscar-nominee Phillip Seymour Hoffman), aka Master. He's a man of many skills and talents, and has developed some kind of new program called "The Cause", that's somewhere between religion and cult. Lancaster likes the drink, and takes a liking to Freddie, and begins slowly teaching him the ways of The Cause, trying to save his life, supposedly. Change his way, or something along that nature. During a recall mechanisms, that's a form of hypnosis, we learn about Freddie's pre-war life in Lynn, Massachusetts, and the girl, Doris (Madison Beaty) that he's in love with, and promised to return and marry, before he started losing his way mentally. He seems to be a muse for Lancaster, who's preaching of The Cause, is starting to get more followers, and he's begun work on "Book Two" of this new mystical religion, that preaches a theory of people having numerous lifetimes and oftens people having met each other, before in earlier times and places. Lancaster's wife, Peggy (Oscar-nominee Amy Adams) is less impressed with Freddie, and while Freddie makes great strives and efforts to become with The Cause, she believes him to be a spy, or someone who isn't willing to be saved, and correctly realizes that he's in love with her daughter Elizabeth (Ambyr Childers). Although, Freddie seems to just see the world sometimes as a bunch of naked women, so that's not particularly impressive. "The Master" received three Oscar nominations, all for acting strangely enough, not a single nomination for anything else, even the technical categories, were overlooked, and the film was heavily derided by mixed reviews, as well as it's controversial story, that seems to be about the beginning of the Church of Scientology, with Dodd as an L. Ron Hubbard-type. I think a more interesting clue to the film is how on the Blu-Ray DVD, Anderson gave us a copy of John Huston's documentary, "Let There Be Light", one of the earliest films documenting the mental struggles of soldiers, after they returned home from war. The story is really Freddie Quell's and I think that disappoints us, because we're naturally more interested in the ups and downs and advancements and troubles of Dodd and "The Cause" more than anybody else. It's Quell's world however, that's a naked lady made of sand, that you can fuck and fuck and lie down beside listening to the ocean all you want, but nothing will happen, and soon she'll disintegrate. It's hard to tell, just how much, or how little The Cause helps Freddie, but the movie ends with him, in an embrace with someone real, and he repeats some of the lessons grilled into him by Dodd, and he's able to laugh and not take them so seriously. I can't quite rank "The Master" as one of Anderson's best films. It looks like one of his films, it's audacious, operatic and daring enough but I'm not quite sure what Anderson wants us to think of this material or these characters. That left the movie flat for me, normally he's so much better and giving us a clear opinion on his characters. I struggled just trying to figure out how many stars to give this film. It's not among his best, so I can't give it 5 STARS, I can't give it a straight negative review, it's too interesting and people should see it to form their own opinions. Well, maybe I could actually, but I just think that'd be pointless. I think I'll appreciate "The Master" more on multiple viewings, but it's unusual for P.T. Anderson to be so unopinionated in his own work. I could understand him doing that on purpose, but I don't think it makes it as good. This is the quintessential mixed review, but definitely see "The Master" and come up with your opinions, we'll be discussing them for years.

COSMOPOLIS (2012) Director: David Cronenberg


What the hell was this?! I came into "Cosmopolis" expecting to see the latest from David Cronenberg, and instead, I get-, seriously what the hell was this!? This is one of those movie, where we go from character to character, and have some kind of moral or philosophical discussion about the ways of the world, and I know that I just made this film sound like it's something interesting like one of Richard Linklater great films like "Slacker" or "Waking Life", but no, don't be fooled by that. Comparing "Cosmopolis" to those two films is like comparing the taste of caviar and horse manure. The movie takes place at some kind of future where Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) is some kind of uber-uber-uber rich stock market manipulator. He travels around town in his limo, which might as well also double for his home and office. The President is in town making travelling in Manhattan, somewhat more complicated than normal. In this limo ride, he talks with his co-workers, about him losing hundreds of millions as he bet against the yuan, right as he's betting against it. He talks occasionally about his two private elevators, and his planes which are decaying in storage because they're so rare and illegal, they can't find parts for them. He's out considering whether to buy some paintings as well. Occasionally he chases Elsie (Sarah Gordon) into a library or coffee, but her part still feels a little underwrittern, but she seems to be something he wants. He also has sex with a couple other people in the meantime, in the car, including a couple hookers. Juliette Binoche has one of the sex scenes, and that I'm always in favor of, but that falls into morose and dulldrum conversations as well. He runs into a couple anti-capitalist protests or something of that sort. Oh, by the way, this is all on the way, to Eric, just getting a haircut. "Why can't you have a barber come to your office or you car?" a friend asks. Why not, indeed? I don't know what the symbolism of the barber shop is, or all the talk about the stock market or capitalism or how insanely rich he is, or the ways of the world today. I guess "Cosmopolis" is supposed to be some kind of sci-fi parable about modern society and the future impact of Capitalism on how it's eventually gonna implode on us, as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, but Jesus, can the rich at least be interesting. Never in my life, have I ever wished for a Robin Leach voiceover than I did with this film. You can lose billions of dollars in a day, and you're biggest concern is taking a limo ride to get a haircut, be a little happy about it. The final half-hour, involves him getting shot at, and a long conversation with his attempted killer a former employee of his, Benno Levin (Paul Giamatti), and I guess they're representing the two sides of Capitalism or something or another. Cronenberg apparently wrote this in six days; I'm a huge Cronenberg fan normally, I was excited to watch this film, I'd been watching crap most of the week, but this movie barely exists. Like, it's this sort of uber-philosophical, wordy, talky, rebuttal to Ayn Rand; it doesn't even exist as that, much less work as anything. This is an anomaly, boy I hope it is. Cronenberg made the great "A Dangerous Method", last year, one of the best films from last year in fact, he's made amazing films over the years, like "Videodrome", "A History of Violence", "The Dead Zone" to name a few. This is,- egh, this is,-. Hmm. "Cosmopolis", is-, eh, I don't know what to say here. It's one of the worst films of the year, and even worse than that, it's one of the most disappointing films of the year, that's really what stings.

KEEP THE LIGHTS ON (2012) Director: Ira Sachs

4 1/2 STARS

"Keep the Lights On", has some of the cliches of a typical on-again/off-again romance, but that would be simplifying the film, trying to fit it in a genre, and frankly the film refuses to let us do that. Writer/Director Ira Sachs, says that the film is autobiographical, and I can believe that. This is the second film of his I've seen after "Married Life", which was a good overlooked dark comedy about a couple in the '50s. This one takes place in New York where Eric (Thure Lindhardt) is a documentarian making movies that nobody sees and rejects offers to work at PBS. Already, I'm think about Woody Allen's character in "Crimes and Misdemeanors," but that's me, trying to jump ahead of a story, which I shouldn't do. Through a phone sex chat line, (I guess people actually use those) he meets Paul (Zachary Booth) a young lawyer, who has a girlfriend and has similar features with longer hair. (Okay, he doesn't actually have longer hair, but I couldn't resist the Melissa Etheridge reference) Soon, they go from casual sex to a relationship that often friction-filled, and based mostly on sex. Eric has a sister Karen (Paprika Steen) who plays the part of the nagging mother for him, and a chummy gal pal, Claire (Julianne Nicholson) who's mostly a hanger-on, but has some ideas having Eric father her kid in the future. The movie jumps ahead a couple years suddenly. Eric and Paul aren't exactly still together, but they aren't exactly broken up either. Erik begins getting more acclaim and awards for his films, and Paul, falls into a world of cocaine. They occasionally run into each other, and they don't seem to have much in common anymore, but they often find themselves taking another shot at a relationship, or at least try to push their latest one-night-stand into one. I think a lot of relationships are like this, in real life. Not exactly a relationship, little more than fuck buddies, just people who occasionally, even randomly come in and out of our lives, who we care about despite knowing that it's doomed and we probably shouldn't put such emotional strength into it, but at certain times in our lives, we do, even when that person isn't around. The movie really creates this effectively, and they don't do it with a tunnel-visioned, Pinteresque lens on their relationship like one would think. No, we get glimpses, into their lives at random points, see how they change and evolve, or devolve, with each other, without each other, everything we would expect in a relationship movie, except for the happy ending, that's nowhere to be found, as it shouldn't be. "Keep the Lights On", quite surprised me, and definitely makes me want to look more deeply into Ira Sachs's filmography. So far I've the two films of his I've seen quite a bit, and they're two very different films, but both are about the struggles and complications of relationships, and he's making very good ones at that.

THE WOMAN IN BLACK (2012) Director: James Watkins


I can kinda understand how some people would consider film critics jaded, when we give out bad reviews sometimes, particularly to films they might like. One of the interesting, last resort refrain from this point of view in the argument, is that, "Well, you've just seen too many movies." Well, I've seen over 3400, so maybe that's too many. I'm also a screenwriter by trade, so I've studied film structure rather intently. Sometimes, you could say, that we just want to see something different. "The Woman is Black," is not that different. It's not necessarily a poorly-made or acted film, but I trudged along with the film, watched where it was going, and eventually,- well, I wasn't predicting what will happen next, too far in advance, but essentially you realize the track your on, and that it's going to a certain place you've been before, and it's not making any new detours. "The Woman in Black" begins with a London lawyer Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe, in I guess what would have to be considered his first adult, Post-Harry Potter movie role) who raises his young son on his own, after his wife dies at childbirth, has to go up to a creepy haunted house in the north of England to investigate some papers of the deceased. When he arrives in town, he's instructed by everybody not to go up there, and is shunned by nearly everyone. He finally finds a friend in Daily (Ciaran Hinds) who is not as superstitious as the townsfolk. The house is reportedly haunted by it's tenant, who died shortly after her son died, a son which never knew she was her mother because she was raised by her sister. Every time the woman in black appears, one of the village kids, dies, usually violently. The opening image of the movie, shows three creepy little girls, jumping out of a window, and all the adults throughout the film, are in grief and mourning over their child. The film is very moody. There's much time inside the house where Arthur is alone, often with bizarre objects starting to work, and the typical creepy nightmarish haunted house stuff. Reminded me a bit of one of my old professors, David Schmoeller's film, "Tourist Trap", just without the telekinesis and anthropomorphism, and the blood and slasher film stuff, of course. There are long periods of this movie, where there's almost no dialogue, especially in the house. Much of it is interesting to think about and analyze, moreso than it actually is to watch. Radcliffe, still only 23 now, he's 22 when this was filmed, still looks a little young for these kind of roles, but he's certainly a good actor for them. Janet McTeer, also shows up as Daily's wife, who's going through behavior modification put through from the grief and superstition of the house, but it doesn't seem to be working that well. There's something classical about "The Woman in Black". In fact, this is the second film based on the Susan Hill novel, the first was a popular TV movie in Britain back in '89. To me however, it's one of those films where, you might enjoy it, if you've never seen a haunted house ghost story before. However, I have, and unfortunately, it's a detriment. I saw the process of the movie, as it was going through, more than the movie itself. I won't begrudge anybody for recommending it; I guess I'm glad I watched it,  but I really can say I enjoyed watching it.

FAT KID RULES THE WORLD (2012) Director: Matthew Lillard

4 1/2 STARS

I never noticed something before about the really good-looking girls in high school, the ones that, if you happen to catch them alone, are genuinely friendly, but are always hanging around a bunch of asshole guys. I always used to think about, how could they not see that they're total dickheads that they're hanging out with, and why would they hang out with people like that. However, there was a scene in "Fat Kid Rules the World", where I realized that, it's probably only the assholes that go up and talk to them. Seriously, the smart and the shy kids, particularly the ones who aren't that good-looking wouldn't go up to her. The girl is Isabel (Lily Simmons), and in the middle of a hallway conversation with Troy (Jacob Wysocki, you might remember him from the great film "Terri"), she trips one of these friends, as he's passing in the hallway, playfully so, and then they turn and exchange a few words as he moves on. The friend she tripped, Manoj (Tyler Trerise) was an old friend of Troy's who stopped hanging out with him years ago, after Troy became more inward and started gaining weight after his mother died. Isabel turns to him, and tells Troy what a jerk he is. Yet, she's friends with him, the same way she kinda once dated or went out with Marcus (Matt O'Leary) who saves Troy's life one day, when he tried to jump in front of the bus. Marcus then tells him he's his friend, and says he needs twenty bucks, and insists he give it to him. Troy, is the fat kid, in "Fat Kid Rules the World", the first feature film directed by actor Matthew Lillard, you might know him most from playing Shaggy in the "Scooby-Doo" movies or from "Scream", I remember him from movies like "The Descendants" and "Serial Mom". Troy's fantasizes either about his death, and occasionally about sex with the cute girl in high school, with her thong sticking out of her jeans, but his real life, is a boring mix of school and multiplayer role-playing games. His father, (Billy Campbell) is a former marine, who's been grieving since his wife's death, and has been beaten down by life, although he gets along somewhat better with Troy's younger brother Dayle (Dylan Arnold), but he's otherwise struggling doing the best he can to raise his kids. Marcus is a strung-out dropout who happens to be a great guitarist, whose been kicked out of his band, and is now homeless. He decides to use Troy to bullshit his way into their house, and promises to have Troy be in his new band as their drummer, and play a major gig he's booked for five weeks from now. Marcus is an otherwise unreliable drug-addict and when he's not flipping out on stage, getting into fight with his band and/or the audience, he's getting high. He's talented as all hell on guitar, but Troy doesn't even have rhythm, much less a drumset, but he goes along anyway. He's lonely, and frankly, he needs any friend he can get. He's not like the hot girl, who gets her pick of losers who talk to her; he takes the first one that saves his life. There's so much subtlety in "Fat Kid Rules the World", and much of it is surprisingly believable. Troy occasionally has fantasies that reveals his inner thoughts, almost all of them are about the situation he's about to confront, and range from his worst fears to he wildest dreams. There really is no in-between for these kinds of troubled people. I should know. I'm not gonna say, I relate very much to Troy at this point in time, and have related to him in that past. Not always because I was fat, which has fluctuated but often because of my shyness, and struggles talking to people, and that inner anger that one's social inadequacies leads to. Jacob Wysocki and Matt O'Leary give two really good performances here, as troubled teenagers who end up together helping each other out, even when neither one of them really wants the help. "Fat Kid Rules the World" is a surprisingly touching and heartwarming tale, that never has an off-beat. It balances it's tightrope really well. None of this feels artificial. It doesn't go overly-emotional, no character takes to unbelievable a leap or a change, even the parties and gigs, seems like the way they'd occur. The movie's based on a novel by K.L Going and the screenplay by Melvin M.B. Galvina and Peter Speakman, is the surprising star of this film. This could've gone wrong in a million different ways, but it's too smart to do it. I'm always skeptical of high school films, too many of them feel false to me, but this one, feels like it gets it all right.


1/2 STAR

The Cristeros War or, La Cristiada, took place from 1926-29, and was a rebellion of Mexican President and Atheist Plutarco Elias Callas, to persecute the Roman Catholic church. It was the largest rebellion in Mexican history, and many of the gunrunners of the war, including many women, have been canonized as Saints by the Catholic Church. In case you're wondering where I'm getting this information, it's from wikipedia. The reason I'm going to wikipedia, is that I've been staring at my blank computer screen for over an hour and a half, and couldn't remember a single detail of this movie, other than it took place in Mexico, there was a big epic, long drawn-out Civil War of some kind, and the movie starred mustaches where occasionally you'd recognize Andy Garcia behind them. If you learned anything from "For Greater Glory: The True Story of Cristiada", God bless you, but this movie felt like the Hallmark Channel was trying to make a David Lean-style epic. Everything is sweeping and important and grand and big and mustachy, but my god, I can't remember the last time a war movie left so little of an impression on me. This movie is long, way over two hours, and in the middle of all this, there's some kind of family melodrama going on. There was some title cards at the beginning, describing the events, but I forgot what they wrote after two hours, but I remember thinking as I read them, that they were really good title cards. You, know, you may think, I'm embellishing this, or being lazy, but I dare people to watch this movie, and remember something significant from it. I sat there watching it, and couldn't remember anything, even as it was happening. Now, I don't know how accurate or inaccruate it was, but I dare anybody to have learned anything significant about the Cristeros War from watching this film. You can watch this film, connected to an I.V. full of Starbucks, and your eyes peeled open like Alex in "A Clockwork Orange, and you'd still fall asleep through this movie. Or at least, drift off while awake, into some imaginary land, a happy place, or you know, think about what you need to buy at the grocery store that day. "For Greater Glory" is ambitious, and well-intended, but "For Greater Glory" is every bad, cliched war movie ever, all shoved together. It was the first film directed by Dean Wright, who's mostly known as a visual effects artists; he even has an Oscar nomination for his work in "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe", I think he should stay in special effects. There's gotta be a good story, true untrue about this forgotten piece of history, but this is not it.

BOB LE FLAMBEUR (1959) Director: Jean-Pierre Melville


"Bob le Flambeur" or "Bob the Gambler", (Roger Duchesne) is another in these long line of hard-boiled Melville characters, like Maurice in "Le Doulos" or my favorite, the assassin Jeff Costello, in "Le Samourai". "Bob..." was the first of these characters however, and it was Melville's first feature film, and in many ways, it's outdoor location shooting, it's story of a loser in life, and it's little toying with genre, many might rank it as the first French New Wave film. Despite the American release date I wrote, the movie was made in '54, so it does predate Truffaut's "The 400 Blows" by five years, so their is a decent claim, I'd say. I'd say, however, that it's Melville's least successful film of his, among the ones I've seen anyway. That doesn't mean it's not good, it is. In fact, it was good enough for a recent American remake, "The Good Thief" with Nick Nolte. As I said, Bob is an old-time criminal. He's legendary when he walks into a bar, and talks with some of the other old-timers, but he's spends all his money gambling, and lives in a run-down little hole of an apartment. Once upon a time, he lent money to Yvonne (Simone Paris) to help her buy her bar, which he frequents along with other criminals and some friendly police. He's been out of the crime game, since before the war, but after he befriends Anne, (Isabelle Corey) a young teenager who's falls under the spell of Marc (Gerard Buhr) a local pimp, it helps spring Bob back for one more heist, this one involving, robbing a casino. "Bob le Flambeur" is one of the original heist movies with a twist ending, in fact it mgiht be the original one come to think of it. Yet, the movie ends with Bob, after the botched robbery, wasting away, and betting big at the very casino he was robbing. He isn't a crook so much as a gambler, and that's his real love. As I said, I didn't find this as intriguing as Melville's other films like "Army of Darkness" or "Le Samourai", but you can see the seeds of those really memorable films being born here. It didn't really catch on for me however, I think my problem were the inconsistent tone. Melville is usually intense and here, it more downtrodden and false; the movie never felt truly entertaining for me, even though I gave it a few tries to see it all the way through. Love Melville, but while I admire and respect "Bob le Flambeur," I consider it overrated.

F FOR FAKE (1973) Director: Orson Welles


I have a confession to make: I am a liar! Me, David Baruffi, am a fraud. A fake, a liar! All artists are. In order to create and tell a story, we lie.  Creation, is itself, a form or lying. When I write a script, I start with a lie. A make up a character who doesn't exist, and tell stories that never happened, give you emotions that aren't real. If any artist, of any kind tells you otherwise, they're lying to you. This is the indisputable truth that makes "F for Fake", so interesting to me, and it's subject matter, so interesting for Orson Welles. This free-form pseudo-documentary was one of his last films; it didn't get much of a proper American release at the time, like most Welles film didn't, but now, it reveals itself as a playful little addition to the master's canon. It combines footage from an actual documentary, as well as some footage Welles added and shot himself, and begins by telling the story of Elmyr de Hory, who's renowned for being the greatest art forger in history. His paintings have fooled the experts at many of the world's most famous museums. Many of them. His paintings probably line the halls of the Louvre right now, at least the way he's described here, and describes himself. The movies jumps between footage of him  and his life in Ibiza, where he doesn't admit to forging paintings, per se, but everyone knows, and he's admired by many for this skill, almost if not moreso, than the real paintings of Picassos and Modigliani's. Welles ferociously cuts and jump cuts, and double backs through the film, often from the editing room where he's cutting and recutting the film, many times out in the street performing a magic act. Among Elmyr's admirers, is an even more interesting figure, Clifford Irving, his biographer. He became well-known during the shoot of the documentary for a more-famous biography he wrote, the fake one about Howard Hughes, where he successfully convinced many that he had access to the notorious recluse, so much so, that it cause Hughes to speak on the phone, and deny him to the media, something he rarely did late in life. (There's a good movie starring Richard Gere on Irving called "The Hoax" that also documents this story) Welles, reflects on his lies, on himself. The film recreates Welles's first world-reknowned lie, his radio production of "War of the Worlds", which was down in the form of an actual news broadcast causing mass hysteria across the world. One man in South America did a remake afterwards and was thrown in jail for it. He made up a martian invasion, and irony of all ironies, when Welles was originally conceiving of "Citizen Kane", instead of basing it on William Randolph Hearst, he originally planned to me the movie on Howard Hughes. Welles, is intrigued with fakery, and it's place in the art world, as well as the so-called "experts", who are the ones being conned. Without experts, their wouldn't be fakes, would there be? Then, what would Elmyr be? Some thoughts we ponder as Elmyr paints us a portrait of another former art forger, Michaelangelo. The last third of the movie, is a wonder to behold, as Welles reveals an even more elaborate forging story, one involving dozens of Picassos and a mysterious woman, who new all three of the people involved up until now, and how she might know more about the forging scandal than we we're led to believe. Of course, that story is just a story, as Welles reveals to use finally, and all storytelling, including and especially filmmaking, is just simply, the telling of lies. "F for Fake", is one of Welles's best and most orignal films!

I AM CURIOUS--BLUE (1970) Director: Vilgot Sjoman


I AM CURIOUS--YELLOW (1969) Director: Vilgot Sjoman


Usually when movies come in multiples, I review them separately. I just did that recently when I added the "Three Colors Trilogy" to my Canon of Film series. I guess I could talk about the "I Am Curious" films separately, but I think it's better talking about together. (Also, frankly they're not exactly worth much discussion) Despite the American release dates, actually "...Blue", was made before the more famous "...Yellow", and both films star many of the same actors, and the films, have essentially the same plot, the same characters, the same style..., basically they are two versions of the same movie, just told a couple slight different ways. What happened was that, despite the American release date given above, "I Am Curious--Blue" was actually shot first, and started without a script, and the director didn't like the finished product, which is often compared to the structure of"...Tristam Shandy", and like "Yellow", it involves two characters, Lena and Vilgot (Lena Nyman and the film's director Vilgot Sjoman), who are starting a relationship, right as Vilgot is making this movie, that combines the sexual revolution of the sixties with this discussion of the changing politics of the world, and Swedish (Well, the fictional Sweden in this film), in terms with the recent Fascist Franco regime in Spain. It's very schizophrenic, and very Tristram Shandy, if you know that famous book, about a guy who procrastinate so much in telling his own story, he never actually gets around to his birth. "...Blue," different "I Am Curious--Yellow" also involves Lena, getting caught up in the middle of a couple relationships, including a lesbian one, and there's a lot of graphic sex in both movies, which is probably the most famous aspects of the films. "I Am Curious--Yellow" in particular, was banned in the Massachusetts originally because it's graphic sexual depictions. (Translation: A girl kisses a penis. There's other sex, but that's the part that caused the banning) This lead to a landmark court case, where both sides won during multiple stages of the deliberations. Both films use extreme conflicting imagery. In "...Yellow", Lena's room is filled with images of concentration camps, and a blackboard, counting the days her brother went off to fight against Franco's army. In both movies, there's also these documentary-style interview segments about the Class system in Sweden, but in "...Yellow", there's a memorable part where these interview question are put with archive of Dr. Martin Luther King. I don't particularly know, what they're saying with this avant-garde approach, but it's always startling to hear Dr. King talking I've noticed. There are other films that were bitter fit avant-garde films from that era across Europe, that were constantly reconciling the politics of the world with the sexual revolution, the best one I've seen is "WR: Mysteries of the Organism", the Yugoslavian film that begins as a documentary on Wilhelm Reich, and turns into a political fictional parable, that was also graphically sexual, but did a far better job of mixing the two extremes. Both "I Am Curious" films are interesting curiosities  and especially "Yellow", can be described as a bit of a landmark. Many argue that it's one of the major films that brought upon the rise of the more artistic and popular softcore pornography in the seventies, like "Deep Throat", and "Debbie Does Dallas" to name a few. I can't quite call them good films, but I had to chose "Yellow" is somewhat better, and don't even mind recommending it barely, but I think both are for the hardcore film scholars and historians who shop for DVD titles with the words "Criterion Collection" on them.

A LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN (1971) Director: Lucio Fulci


One of the leaders of Italian gore, "A Lizard in a Woman's Skin" is the first feature I've seen from the controversial director Lucio Fulci. He's most well-known internationally for horror films, like "Zombie", a film some consider a pseudo sequel to George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead", and he's often characterized as a horror filmmaker, but a closer look at his filmography, reveals to be a little all over the map, genre-wise. "A Lizard in a Woman's Skin", is both erotic and gory, and really quite a fun little mystery. Carol Hammond (Florinda Bolkan) is the daughter of a prominent police detective, who's currently seeing a psychiatrist, Dr. Kerr (George Rigaud), and discussing in detail dreams she's having of her neighbor, the bisexual Deborah (Silvia Monti) and, eh-, let's just say they're really good dreams, most of them. The last one she has however, involves her stabbing Deborah to death in a fit rage after another sexual encounter. These scenes are hallucinogenic in nature, they even come with hippies, much less the shooting and editing style. However, after her latest dream, Deborah is killed, naked in her bed, and because of the in-depth detail of her dreams, she's naturally considered a suspect. Also a suspect is the psychiatrist, and also her husband, Frank (Jean Sorel), who is good friends with Dr. Kerr, and has been having affairs of his own, and it's not unlikely that he was having an affair with Deborah, who, let's just say, constantly had visitors. Inspector Corvin (Stanley Baker) is investigating the case, and while some of the criminology doesn't quite seem realistic, even by 1970s standards, the film turns into a fairly interesting procedural, especially when somebody starts taking multiple shots at the Inspector, and a few other people, including his daughter McKenna (Franco Balducci), who gets way too involved in the mystery, way too late to be useful. The movie is as much about tone as anything else, and the tone is certainly alluring. As violent as it is sexual, even during the most mundane and cliche of scenes, this undertone is erotic. I'm not gonna lie, it's not the complicated mystery film of all-time; I figured it out pretty quickly myself, but of course, the great part of a mystery, is seeing all the places that the investigation takes you, and the investigation went to some pretty fun places. "A Lizard in a Women's Skin" is  powerful. It's a bit trashy and cliche, but it's good trash, and it uses some good cliches. Definitely have to remember to look out for more Fucli films.

HUMAN NATURE (2000) Director: Michel Gondry

3 1/2 STARS

Every time I see something written by the great Charlie Kaufman, I think about what Catherine Keener said to her agent after she finished reading the script for "Being John Malkovich". "Who the fuck is Charlie Kaufman, and what the fuck is wrong with him!?" "Human Nature", was the one film of his that I hadn't gotten to until now. The first feature film directed by Michel Gondry, who'd later team up with Kaufman, for the masterful "Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind", "Human Nature" is probably the most minor piece written by Kaufman, but it's still quite entertaining, and just as strange and whimsical and bizarre as everything else of his. The story is told in multiple flashbacks, including one from beyond the grave, one during a Senate hearing, another told to police detectives about a story, involving three, people. Let's start with Lila Jute (Patricia Arquette, in a brave performance), who has a rare condition where she grows hair all over her body like an ape. Originally, she hid it the best she could, and occasionally worked in a freak show with a dwarf named Frank (Peter Dinklage) but eventually began rejecting the civilized world and started living in nature with the apes, which she wrote a few articles and bestsellers on, as she let all her hair grow out. However, after a while being alone with the animals, she starts a process of having her hair removed by an electrologist (Rosie Perez), because she was horny, and started looking for a man. The second person is Dr. Nathan Bronfman (Tim Robbins), who works on his government-funding project to teach table manners to mice. His parents (Toby Huff and Mary Kay Place) were very stringent on Nathan as a kid, and now, all of his energy and passion is devoted to training and teaching others manners of behavior. He's currently with his old assistant Gabrielle (Miranda Otto), but soon, when he's with her, and hires Lila as an assistant, he begins being with her. Then there's Puff (Rhys Ifans), which is the name given to him, after he is found in the wilderness, by Nathan and Lila, and they believe him to have been raised in the wilderness by apes. This is actually partly true, but he's also been civilized once before, and now is acting as though he hasn't been, as he's placed in a glass box, and begin being taught table manners himself, and eventually, when he's civilized enough, the repression of his sexual desires in public, with one of the final test of course, being at Hooters. I don't want to give away all the details of what happens, I couldn't if I tried; it too convoluted and classically screwball, just set on that thin line between Darwin, Nature vs. Nurture and Frued. That very thin line, I must say. I can guarantee that you won't see another movie quite like it, and the path the film takes to get to that point where we see two mice, holding up a sign, trying to hitchhike to New York, is absolutely priceless. I don't know what the fuck is wrong with Charlie Kaufman but thank god something is. Nobody creates more unique and original screenplays in Hollywood right now. May every screenwriter have "Human nature" as their worst script.

IDIOTS AND ANGELS (2008) Director: Bill Plympton

4 1/2 STARS

Bill Plympton's a bit of a cult figure in the world of animation. Two of his shorts have recieved Oscar nominations, and his unusual style this hand-drawn pencil-like animation is quite remarkable. He's passed up opportunities to be a more major name in animation, but he's remained that more intriguing figure over the years. One of my friends gave me a VHS copy of his film "The Tune" awhile back; I keep meaning to get to that one, but then again, I also keep meaning to set-up my VCR to watch it, and never turns out like I plan either. "Idiots and Angels", is a fairly cool twisted introduction to Plympton. There isn't much dialogue in his films, although at one point, a Tom Waits songs starts getting played. , and here, it's mostly silent, but we follow a guy named Angel, a gun dealer who spends most of his days in a bar and wakes up an attacks chirping birds his with chirping alarm clock. After getting into a conflict with one guy, he ignites the guy's gastank on his car. In the bar, he has his way with the bar owner's wife, molesting and attacking her, riding her figuratively and literally during one intoxicated salsa dance. Suddenly however, he wakes up one morning, to find wings growing out of his back. Angels are always an intriguing film subject, I think because there's such limitless possibilities with them. The new twist I've seen recently in this film, and in a French film I reviewed awhile ago called "Ricky", this idea of humans, suddenly taking on literal physical characteristics and behaviors of angels, is a cool new foil to it, and it's perfect for animation, as it is here. He tries to get rid of the wings, which not only are a burden, but also can be very desirable by others, so he tries to hide, but eventually, he's unable to go through his normal evil misanthropic motions, and starts fighting with the bar owner, who wants his wings, and is naturally pissed at Angel, for being with his wife, but he wants the wings so he can fly, and then, uses them for profit by tossing hand grenades to all his competition in the middle of the night. He also has the help of a ghastly over-bearing prostitute, the bar's only other regular patron. The story is naturally absurd, but you never know where the hell it's going, and the animation, once you get used to it, is quite unique and very special. The film is dark and film noirish, and wonderfully moody. Plympton can and has been more colorful, but this one is filled with grays and outlines, it is, what it looks like, just somebody who's drawing. Just starting with idiots and angels as characters, is already half-way to a pretty good movie right there, and the completed film is certainly a bizarre, surreal and fun treat.

MAX (2002) Director: Menno Meyjes

4 1/2 STARS

One of the most important facts about him, and one of the most critical aspects into understanding him, is that Hitler wanted to be an artist. I've heard, and even said that refrain myself on multiple occasions, and sure enough, if you really want to study the Holocaust, it's clear that the Third Reich has much the same qualities of an artistic expression. The film "Max", the first film directed by Screenwriter Menno Meyjes, he wrote the script for "The Color Purple" and the third Indiana Jones film, among other things, gives us a fictional, but no less improbable account of a young Adolf Hitler (Noah Taylor), the struggling artist, who came home to nothing after WWI, and Germany's surrender, left the country in shambles. The title character however is Max Rothman (John Cusack) a Jewish art dealer, who himself was a potentially great painter who lost his dominant right arm during the war. What little I know of Hitler's paintings, and yes, there are a few that are actually around, he was a traditionalist, who detested, and of course, later banned the abstract art that was more popular at the time. There's a few sketches and paintings in the film, many of them seem to have potential but lack the point of view that Rothman continually tries to force it out of him. I once heard that Hitler's painting are structural, architectural in nature, and can at times be skillful in that regard, but he never quiet draw the faces so well. (Sure enough a quick Google search of his art, finds many paintings of buildings, and land, but obscured views of the people) Hitler does start becoming a well-known name on the Army propaganda circuit, which is the early forms which became the Nazis, built from the ashes of frustrated WWI vets, who are disgusted at the government's unconditional surrender, and begin blaming their loss on the Jews. Ironic, Hitler himself is reluctant to participate, but is such a gifted orator, that he keeps getting invited to talk, to more and more people. Rothman is a Jew, and while he certainly doesn't like the rhetoric, he sees the passion in Hitler's political performances far more than in his paintings and sketches. It's easy to place the film in context with, you know, history, but the movie itself, correctly doesn't quite know that yet. It's heading that way, and the film isn't a justification of Hitler's actions, nor an explanation, just a hypothetical. A plausible hypothetical. Charles Manson famously was rejected by the music industry. Something to think about, but the core of the film is the tenuous mentor/mentee relationship between Max and Adolf. Max isn't frustrated not that he can't paint, at least not outwardly, but manages to channel it int his new performance art, as well as his wife, Nina (Molly Parker) and his mistress Liselore (Leelee Sobieski). At the beginning of the movie, he seems to be living the full life that Hitler craves. Envy can be just as powerful an emotion as denial. "Max" is quite a striking film. A good one, one that asks us, not to revision history, but to think carefully and closely about how one human, and yes, Hitler was a man, can become so powerful, and create such destruction and devastation. "Max" is quite a good film, about a very troubling subject.

Saturday, March 23, 2013



Director/Screenplay: Hayao Miyazaki

Hayao Miyazaki is Japan’s most popular filmmaker. Not “animated” filmmaker, filmmaker. His work continually set records within the country and his films have won numerous Japanese Academy Awards. In recent years, America has caught on to the realization that he may be the greatest Animator of all-time. His film "Spirited Away" won the Best Animated Film Academy Award, and even Disney considers him the master of animation; for a time even, Disney completely gave up working with hand-drawn animation to focus solely on computer animation, pretty much solidifying Miyazaki’s status. “Princess Mononoke,” which was intended to be his last film, is one of the greatest animated movies ever made. Not just in technique, which does have more computer-generated effects than most of his films, it's still predominantely hand-drawn, but also in story and scope. it's his most ambitious tale. The story takes place during the Muromachi Period in Japan, the time when the Industrialization of the future is in conflict with the nature gods that rule the ever-dwindling forests. The movie’s protagonist is, Ashitaka, an Emishi Prince, (The Emishi themselves a small tribal group in japan who many thought was longago extinct) who’s forced to leave his tribe to investigate a disturbance that made its way towards his village in the form of a giant boar god that had become demonized after it was pierced with a led bullet. The boar injured him in the attack, causing an evergrowing scar, as well as unusual god-like strength, that reveals itself suddenly and violently. Into the forest and towns he trembles where he runs headstrong into the conflict, one side led by Lady Eboshi, a ruler of a construction town known as “Irontown,” which she has populated with her own army along with dozens of former brothel girls whose contract she’s bought out to work the mines. Her “Irontown,” and weapon constructing is in direct conflict with the forest gods and creatures which are lead by Moro, a Wolf God who seems to act as a head of the forest, more wise and intuitive about the battle than maybe even she wishes. She has raised a human child, San, as her own, who’s grown up believing her true self is as of the wolf, and is very hateful towards humans, although Ashitaka’s presence appears to make her slightly uneasy. She's the one, also referred to as Princess Mononoke in the title, but that's more of a description. (A "mononoke" is actually not what you'd call a common Japanese word, but it does get used to reference a general spiritual monsterous creature) Also involved is a monk, Jigo, who at first seems to be one who follows his own path, but is working with the Emperor who’s overseeing the struggle from afar with his own interest, and then a forest spirit, who walks the forest at day as a deer-like creature, and at night as a protective light that protects the forest from the darkness of the outside world.  All these struggles will inevitably collide with each other, but the story evolves even deeper than just different societies fighting for survival. Ashitaka, coming in as an outsider vehemently refuses to take sides, to the chagrin of some, and the fact is that, there is no good guy or a bad guy in this conflict, just two groups fighting for survival, and fighting for the future, knowing that for one side to succeed, the other must fail, even as Ashitaka tries to get them to live together in harmony, the survival of Irontown, would mean inevitably, the destruction of the forest. Even after the battle reaches it’s climax, the movie ends on an ambiguous note that makes it appear that a struggle will continue.

This is one of the few films that really feels like mythology, in the best and grandest sense of the word. That's something that's really hard to do in film by the way. Whether it's old school Homeric tales, or modern made-up mythology like "Lord of the Rings", 'cause while some of them can be good stories, when told or read, they don't translate well on film, because essentially, you either have gods controlling the humans or watching them from afar, and not doing anything, so it's either using the human race for puppetry essentially, or the humans are fighting the gods and they're just gonna lose and get destroyed 'cause nothing kills the gods, even when it's done well, it never works all the way, but "Princess Mononoke" is a major exception to this, 'cause it's not simplistic. Yes, we have it all, Gods and Mortals battling it out over technology, characters that are not one-dimensional and all POVs are valid, and even an heir of destiny and fate reigning over the entire film, and yet, because it's set in this transitional time period, it isn't just a simple mythological or just a straight-forward morality play. This is one of those films that works on a lot of different levels. (I myself, once wrote an English paper comparing the film "Gilgamesh", and on that level, there's quite a few parallels.) Let's not forget, the amazing look of the movie. Even Miyazaki's lesser films like "Porco Rosso" or "Howl's Moving Castle", are so visually striking, with this incredible hand-drawn animation that it's impossible not to become enriched by the world. This film can be taken apart frame by frame, and hung up as paintings, in any museum in the world. Like all of Miyazaki's work in recent years, "Princess Mononoke", was redubbed in English, with big stars like Minnie Driver, Claire Danes, Gillian Anderson, Billy Crudup and Billy Bob Thornton to name a few; I recommend that version as much as the original Japanese-language one. An epic that’s not a struggle to watch, and is filled with images that can only be seen because of animation. When I run into animation skeptics, especially Japanese animation skeptics, the first film I show them is "Princess Mononoke," and more often than not, it's the film that wins them over. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


I had earlier written a note to write a blog where I was going to discuss, defend and deride all the criticism that Seth MacFarlane was getting after the Oscars, (And probably use a lot more alliteration, eh, discussed defend, deride, yeesh.) but time passed, and I have moved on to other things that were tickling my fancy, but apparently it's still the subject of discussion and controversy. I saw this article on HuffPost: Comedy, just a couple days ago, where the producers of the Oscars, Neil Meron and Craig Zadan, at the GLAAD Awards discussed with The Hollywood Reporter said that they still defend Seth MacFarlane's hosting performance, in particular, the now-infamous heavily-criticized "We Saw Your Boobs" routine. Here's the link to the post:

Frankly, I agree with nearly every word that Meron and Zadan said, and after watching these past Oscars, which entertainment-wise, I consider one of the very best in recent years, I basically looked at the criticisms and was thinking, "Alright, I give up. You tell me, what do you want in an Oscar host?". I mean, where there are parts of MacFarlane's hosting gig that didn't work, yes their were. A few of the jokes in between announcing the presenters, weren't that great. During the opening monologue, the joke/routine I didn't like was the sock puppet parody of "Flight"-, well, actually that was funny enough, but the part that I really didn't laugh at was where MacFarlane joke where he confused Denzel Washington for Eddie Murphy, that joke wouldn't work, even if it was told correctly (And it wasn't, the timing was off), and the ending with Kristen Chenoweth, calling everybody losers over the closing credits, especially after Michelle Obama, that really fell flat. (In their defense of that sketch, when Neil Patrick Harris was hosting the Tonys, and he did an entire song and dance number about the losers, perfectly timed with the credits ending, that was incredible, partly because, you realize that, they were writing a song through the entire show, that he suddenly had to perform, so there's a genesis of a funny version of that bit, but it didn't work at all here, because the timing and chemistry was bad, and it totally missed why it was originally funny.)

There are some complaints that I kinda understand, that MacFarlane's humor was too sexist, I can see that perspective, but honestly, most of it was funny. The Rihanna/Chris Brown joke was funny. (I'm sorry, maybe I don't have sympathy for either of them, but it's funny.)

And you know, here's how I look at the Oscar gig. If you get the job of producing the Oscars, your first job is picking the host. Before anything else, that's the job, and whomever you pick, that's gonna be who you base the Oscars around, and including former hosts, I can write a good shortlist of about 20 or 30 people who I think we'd all consider good potential hosts, so whoever it is, your job is to use that host's abilities with the sensibilities of the Oscars. At least, that's what I think is the job, and my feeling is that most of the critics of Oscars hosts, and it's not just MacFarlane, I've noticed these criticisms with nearly every Oscar host for awhile, especially with the internet now pumping out criticisms at a higher rate and speed than ever before, that they tend to criticize, how the host, didn't shape to the Oscars, the other way around. That's one of the reasons why I ranked MacFarlane's performance so high, I think it's one of the best in recent years, 'cause it did exactly that, it combined the two-sides of MacFarlane's personality really-well, the more childlike, satirical side that we associate with his comedy, and also the more Rat Pack old-school charm that we associate with his music, his style and demeanor, which is very much, already half-in-tune to the traditions of the Oscars anyway, and not only did I think they do that, I think the way they did it, was really sharp, very smart, and at times, incredibly funny. I laughed for a week at "We Saw Your Boobs", not because it was a stupid and immature song, but the way it was presented. As a stupid and immature song, that would surely (and according to some people it has) make MacFarlane the worst Oscar host ever. That's why Shatner came down and stopped the travesty. He told us, it was offensive and don't do it, which he actually didn't do! Everyone's remembering the punchline, but they're forgetting the set-up, that it was alternate reality Oscars that almost happened but didn't at the last moment. So in reality, it didn't actually happen. Had MacFarlane, actually gone onstage, and performed the number, in earnest, thinking that him pointing out how we've seen so many stars boobs, and those, this was his way of admiring how talented the women, then it would've really been offensive, and I would've been writing a different piece right now, but no, he's making fun of the types of people who do think that way sometimes, and MacFarlane's own perception by people of the kind of host, some suspected he would be. Think "The Producers", they're not actually putting on "Springtime for Hitler" to succeed, are they? Same joke essentially, different forum, and it worked, it was funny as hell, and when Emmy time comes around, I hope smart people, nominate "We Saw Your Boobs", for Best Original Song. To some people, they're never gonna understand that, and others who do understand it, are gonna say that it doesn't matter, because it still says something about the person who's telling the joke to begin with. That's true to some extent; I was the one for instance last year, who said I was worried about Eddie Murphy hosting and possibly pissing people off with some of his anti-gay humor, (This was after last year he quit the Oscars after last year's producer, Brett Ratner resigned after saying a homophobic slur on a rado show), but it also says something about the person the way you react to that joke, and every joke for that matter. I found it funny, Jamie Lee Curtis found it offensive, Jane Fonda, thought that children might be watching, but also thought that they could've also done a "We Saw Your Penis" rebutle for the men, which I would've laughed at too. I laughed a great deal at MacFarlane's humor, I especially loved his Rex Reed joke after Adele's performance. I like the Hitler joke tied in with "Amour", 'cause as Mel Brooks tried to do his whole life, anytime you can laugh at Hitler....

Basically, MacFarlane and the Producers, succeeded at the Oscars. Not every joke worked, but that's okay, that happens, and frankly the "Chicago" loving was a little much for me (Mahon and Zadan produced that film, that' why all the way over-embellishing it's importance) and I didn't think the "Dreamgirls" bit was worthy of being there (Nothing against Jennifer Hudson, but "Dreamgirls", but why?), but so much of it worked. They did the In Memoriam, the correct way, it was filled with entertainment. Sure, it was long, but it's the Oscars.

You know, that's something that I think is a big criticism too. I think a lot of people, just hate the Oscars, and are gonna criticize it, no matter what. 'Cause I've heard many of these excessive criticisms for years, and frankly, I come back to my original question, what do you want at the Oscars? The Academy Awards are an event, where the best in Hollywood is honored, by the best in Hollywood. I mean, what do you want, no envelopes, no presenters, what? Seriously, that's what it is. That's like watching going to the Kentucky Derby, and going, "Well, it's a fucking horse race," well, no shit! If it was something else, it'd be something else! We do it differently every year, we pick new hosts, new producers, sometimes it's more comedy-driven, sometimes it's musically-driven, but the Oscars are the Oscars, and I don't want to see them become the Teen Choice Awards or whatever. I think too many people who do criticize, and it's not just this year, it's been every year whether it was deserved or not, really just don't like Award shows in general, and want to say shit like "they're pretentious," or "they're kissing their own ass," or whatever. They only give out 24 of these a year, it's not easy to win one, and frankly, I'll tell you a secret, most people in Hollywood, hate the Oscars. It's a job, it's part of their to show up when they're nominated and what-not. One of this year's Oscar winners was Mark Andrews, who co-directed "Brave", he was gracious enough to come and talk at my film school one time, a couple years ago, and he talked about, how didn't like the Oscars. When he's walking the red carpet, most of the fans outdoor, were heckling everybody, he had to get a suit, the Oscar luncheon was a pain in the ass, etc. I'm paraphrasing what he was talking about, it is work for these people. And they're themselves at the Oscars. They only give out 24 of these a year, not counting Lifetime Achievement and technical awards, they only give out 24 on average. There's over 3,000 members of the Academy, most of them aren't winners. Many aren't even nominees. They're people who work in the industry, honoring those who they feel is the best at their job. Honoring oneself would be, if I were to hold an Award show, honoring the best Movie Blogs of the year, and I would present myself with all the Awards. Okay, I'll admit, I do kinda want to do that now, but that's not what the Oscars are. Many organization and people have similar honors. It's a part of their work, every year they honor the best at their profession. That's why Daniel Day-Lewis keeps winning, he's the best! Now, it's subjective, but that's part of the fun too, debate afterwards. I mean, if you're not gonna like them to begin with, don't bother criticizing.

Now to some of the other critics, but have this very narrow view of what the Oscars should be, they're the ones who I really am getting upset by. You know, Bob Hope's dead. Billy Crystal isn't doing it every year anymore, and he's not always gonna be great at it either. (Last time, Crystal was good, but it wasn't his best.) There have been a few bad Oscars in recent year, not as many as everyone says, but there's been a few. The worst by a mile for me, was two years ago when Anne Hathaway and James Franco were co-hosting, and in that case, it wasn't just the hosts problems (In fact, I think Anne Hathaway was quite good), but the jokes and the writing were terrible. Bruce Vilanch hasn't done an Oscars since, probably won't for awhile, and the sad fact is that he hasn't been funny for a bit. James Franco was probably right to be stoned (Allegedly) quite frankly. The jokes weren't good, yeah, he wasn't his best either, but neither were natural stand-ups, and the material sucked, it wasn't funny. The year before with Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin wasn't good either. Both can probably be good separately, and we know when Steve Martin really cares he can be extraordinary, Again, the comedy on that one was badly-written as well, and again, it was Bruce Vilanch. I don't mean to pick on him, but c'mon, "Damn Helen Mirren," ugh! I knew that show was in trouble, when they had to open with Neil Patrick Harris, to make it interesting, and he was so good, we spent the whole show wishing he was hosting. Honestly, in recent years those, those are the only two really bad ones. A couple that Whoopi Goldberg hosted were sub-par but the first couple times, were great. Jon Stewart, great both times. Ellen DeGenerous, great, Chris Rock, great, and Sean Penn needs to get a stick out of his ass. Actually, in preparation for this, I looked up David Letterman's hosting highlights, who, I grew up, understanding that, he was the notoriously worst of all-time, unless you wanna count the '88 year with no host, but that ghastly Snow White and Rob Lowe performance that-eh,-, well, let's just not count that one, but supposedly Letterman was the worse, as I understood it growing up. I went and found his Oscar monologue on youtube, not posted by the Oscars youtube site, btw, but it was funny as hell! Yeah, Uma, Oprah, a lot of people didn't get it, but you got David Letterman, that Letterman's humor, and rest of the routine, was pretty funny. It wasn't the greatest by any means, but it was pretty damn good, and it was Letterman, mixed with the Oscars. I really do think that's all you can ask for. It's an impossible job to begin with, and frankly, looker deeper than that, seems a little too critical to me.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

THE POLITICS OF TV WATCHING! or THE IDIOTS I DEAL WITH! A rant on the delusion of America

(Frustrated Sigh)

A lot of you may know, that I am a member of many film and TV discussion/debate groups on FB. I go there to hear what they're talking about, occasionally I jump into a conversation if I think I have something to say, and I also post my latest blogposts there as FB links. Many of the participants in my "TEN GREATEST TV SHOWS OF ALL-TIME!" poll, participated after seeing my blogposts in these groups. Usually I'm up for spirited conversation and even debate, but recently, a few of the people on these groups have made me lose my cool. You see, a couple of these sites are apart of a group of sites until the title "Annette's Debates". Now, Annette, runs a bunch of different debate sites, most of which are political in nature, but I've only applied for, and am a member of "AD's You're the Critic", which is a Movie debate site, and "AD's TV Critic", a Television critic site. Now, normally, everything's fun. Favorite screen couple, or some other fun topics. I often like to go on, and get in on a game of "Movie Lines", where we're given a line of dialogue and we have to figure out what movie it's from. One of my favorites to challenge people on is "I'll bop 'em on the head, you do the skinnin'." they never figure out what that's from, and yet, when they hear the answer, they all can't believe they couldn't figure it out. Anyway, a few of the people who insist on talking politics in the entertainment sites, have been getting on mine and everyone's nerves. When one person kept insisting on it, I called him out on it, and insisted he keep the conversation to the subject at hand, or I'd message Annette (Who I am FB friends with) and petition to have him banned, and after he posted on one of my posts about the Oscars, how the Oscars sucked because they had the First Lady, Streisand and "Hanoi Jane," (His words) I made true on my promise, and petitioned Annette. [40+ years ago, she was right to do it then, and people are still acting crazy about it... UGH!] Now, I don't know whether my petition had any effect, last I checked in fact, he's still a member of the group, but to that person's credit, he hasn't said anything like that since in that group.

However, this time, another member of the group, really got under my skin because of his unbelievable stupidity, and I, correctly exploded on him, after this person made this comment on the FB post of my recent "GOOD ON TV?" post on CBS, this after having written numerous pieces recently, on the demise of NBC and they're ratings. Here's what he wrote:

NBC is nothing but socialist BS. They have for years been tying in their entertainment programming to their central message. The Today show has gone from great to crap, the news is nothing but propaganda, hell they even try to make political commentary during sports events. NBC stands for Nothing But Crap

Well, I wasn't gonna let that go. This level up stupidity and ignorance, political or otherwise, I cannot let go, unanswered. So here's what I wrote back (I've only deleted the person's name)

{DELETED], Are you fucking kidding me? First of all, if we're talking political commentary during sporting events FOX takes that honor, by a mile. They have been bragging about the troops overseas, and showing most of the time, unnecessarily, the National Anthem at the beginning of all sporting events, just to show how damn patriotic they are. They're the ones with the politically corrupted sporting events, 'cause that's every major sport they do that for, every game. Bob Costas says one opinion, that was a quote from someone else, that was completely relevant to what was happening in the NFL and the sporting world in general, and I'll say it, he was prophetic, and you're calling them propaganda. I'm calling bullshit on that claim. Second, "The Today Show" was never fucking good. None of the morning shows are, none of them ever were. They're two hours of people trying to kill time, and "Today" is four hours now, including the Hoda and Kathie Lee hour, which is just more wasting time, and basically is nothing but material for SNL, but even in the beginnings of the show, it's still two hours of repeating the same news stories, and trying to come up with two hours of live air, trying not to have a blooper, is really what it is. Even at their best, if there's not a major story happening, they still have to kill an hour, and it's always been painful, whether it was Jane Pauley, Katie Couric, Barbara Walters, or whomever was on the show. P.S. Considering the other Nightly News's I think NBC's Brian Williams has been quite good consistent. MSNBC, you have a point, but I'm differentiating them, 'cause they're two different networks. "Dateline" sucks, I'll give you that. As to a "Central message" are you fucking kidding me!? What is the Socialist message of "The Celebrity Apprentice". Tell me that, right now! You say all the programming, okay, let's go through it....

Before I continue, after coming up with the first couple shows, I went to and clicked on "Shows" to see the entire list of TV shows on NBC, anyway, back to the post, which is still continuing.

"The Biggest Loser"
"Law & Order: SVU"
"The Office"

"30 Rock"
"Parks and Recreation"
"The Voice"
"Days of Our Lives"

"America Ninja Warrior"
"Miss Universe Pageants"

"The Tonight Show"
"Last Call with Carson Daly"

"Chicago Fire"
"The Golden Globes"

Find the rest on and click on "shows". I used to be a political science major, I've worked on multiple political campaigns and for some political organizations. I'm about as politically astute a person I know who wasn't a professor or mine. If you can look at all these shows, and actually make any claim that their programming is nothing but a tool for leaning the public towards any political opinion, with these shows? You're fucking delusional! First of all, if they are doing it, it isn't working 'cause they're in fifth place, so if failed, B. They've had dozens of network presidents over the years, even recently, so they all can't be programming the channel towards that, and C. They're not making money doing it, which they need to stay in business, so what good is a political message when no one's there to watch it? A network's job, whether it be NBC, FoxNews, or Bravo, or the Discovery Channel's job, is to make money. That's even PBS's job, that's why they have the damn pledge weeks. You wanna say it's crap, go ahead, but it isn't political. Some of it, is just crap. Get a clue before you speak again.

In case some of you are wondering, the only regret I have so far, is grammatical errors. God, I hate those. I wish I was a little more clear on my points. Anyway, you would still think that after bitchslapping this person to kingdom-come, he'd go away, but believe it or not, he immediately responded. Unfortunately, someone (Not me) has deleted his response (And subsequently I realize his previous "Nothing But Crap" statement) so, I'll have to paraphrase here, but this person, claimed that he indeed had a clue. Mentioned, as for his side of the debate, that Keith Olbermann does the NFL halftime and pre-game show, and that Alec Baldwin, made a reference to his Hanging Henry Hyde comment on Letterman,  (Which was incorrect, he said that in other countries they'd "Stone" Henry Hyde, not hang him.) claimed that my remarks regarding FOX and CBS's sportscasts were incorrect, without any evidence. (I didn't say anything about CBS, and frankly I have nothing to say to CBS's sports broadcasts, I haven't noticed anything political in them either.) He also claimed that before the Reagan '80s, NBC was fine, by his standards and was never political. Which, is probably back when NBC's only Top 20 show was "The A-Team", and it was pre-Cosby, "Cheers" and all the dozens of great shows that NBC has had since, but anyway, he also said that the left has been "batshit crazy" since the '80s.

This is how I responded to that claim:

Keith Olbermann doing a sportcast, (Who btw, is an experience sportcaster) is not a Political stance! the same reason that Rush Limbaugh on ESPN's NFL Pregame Show, isn't a political decision (Until he made it one, by being, well, himself) If i had him, or any other experienced good sportscaster on my payroll, I'd let them do the sports. He happens to do another show on their channel that is political, and is labeled, political, doesn't mean that he can't be multi-talented, and be good at multiple jobs, and be an expert on both things? Just a person's presence, is not a political. Same with Alec Baldwin, one of  the best actors alive. So he's politically active on the left? They've had two people on their network in the past ten years with regular shows, who've almost won the GOP Presidential nomination! (Remember, Fred Thompson was on "Law & Order") GE, or Universal, or Comcast, aren't political groups, they've in the business of making money. That's all they're trying to do, and they do it with politics everywhere. just because you hear one halfway-political comment during a sporting event, doesn't mean they're political. Costas, maybe he's political; it's the most political position I've ever heard from him, I'll give you that.

Oh, as to the left going batshit crazy? Since, Reagan?? You mean, when a whole population of our country was dropping dead from AIDS, and we were funding Apartheid in South Africa, and places like Pittsburgh were edging towards 20% unemployment! We weren't batshit anything, we were just ignored! The same way you're just using specific little things to justify a false opinion.. So you never hear a political opinion on a FOX sporting event! (CBS I don't believe I've heard one myself, that wasn't just them copying FOX, I'll agree with you there) Well, boo-hoo. So, what a sporting event, must deal with sports, 'cause anything else is too complicated or controversial. Grow up.

And btw I don't know about hanging Henry Hyde, but he was a hypocritical prick. Certainly not the worst opinion I've ever heard an actor have. Not even the worse I've heard on letterman.

Okay, this one wasn't as well-thought out or structured, and damn, those grammatical errors-, man I really need to spring for an editor once I start making money off of this thing. I meant to write "...they don't do it with politics..." and not "...they do it with politics everywhere." For instance. Again, when you're writing quickly, it can be tricky to organize your thoughts. That's what I do here.

Let's start again with, this person's a fucking delusional idiot, who shouldn't be talking. He knows nothing about politics apparently, or Hollywood, or in this case New York, where NBC headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Center is, and he also, more importantly, doesn't know how a network TV channel is programmed, which, something I went into deep care to explain in my "Good on TV?" blog about CBS. None of that matters to this person of course, because he just wants to waste everybody's time, (Especially my time, apparently, as I'm writing this blog) because he just wants to protest some half-ass delusional political opinion, he has, and that's what really pisses me off. Doesn't matter what my political opinions are, the reason I got out of political science, was because I was tired of having these same fights with people who were never gonna change their mind, even when, members of the opposing party who I would discuss and debate these issues with, they would just blatantly tell me that I'm correct and then do what they know to be wrong anyway. If I'm gonna have that argument, I'd rather it be arguing why "Lord of the Rings" sucks to a LOTR fan, at least none of these arguments, are the difference between whether somebody has a job or medical insurance or food to survive on that particularly week. However, I don't just spew BS either, and I made damn sure to know as much as I could about film and television, and if there's something I don't know, I continue to learn, and one of the first things I learned is that, film and television, above all is a business. To not understand that, is to not understand the first thing about film or television.

For starters, let's go through his original claim, that NBC is socialist BS, and that every show on NBC, is programmed towards a point of view. Let's just brush over how wrong that even is, like discussing how "The Apprentice" is maybe the single greatest expression of philosophical capitalism ever, but let's just start with the basics. How do you get a TV show, on a network? The simplest of beginnings. There's a lot of pilot scripts out there, and unless you have an agent, or are a really big name to begin with, the networks won't take your call. First thing one would have to do is get on the writing staff of an existing show, just to get credits, to do that, you need a pilot script and a spec script of a currently running show, preferably one you'd like to work on. (Oh yeah, folks, I've got my old "Family Guy" spec somewhere. And my old "The Office" spec, and my old, "Entourage" spec, and now I'm working on my "Parks and Recreation" and "Girls" specs.) So, presume you have all that, you ain't the only ones in town, however, good news for you, NBC isn't the only network in town, so you shop to every network that does your kind of shows, whether it be, drama, sitcom, reality, whatever. (Yes reality shows start with an idea and a drawn out concept, so essentially, a pilot sketch) Okay, so, let's go through the networks, 'cause we don't just have CBS, NBC, ABC and FOX, anymore, now there's TNT, TV Land, TBS, A&E, AMC, HBO, Showtime, Lifetime, etc. So, you have to sell that script to one of these networks. Now, two things that a Network executive can do. Either reject it, or have you film the pilot, and see if it's promising. Now if the network is the only one interested, you better hope that pilot sells. If not, you're screwed. Now, if there's multiple networks interested, then it gets interesting. So, who do you pitch to first? Who gets first chance at your script? Well, depending on the kind it is, you'd probably go to CBS, because they're number one in the ratings, therefore, you'd get paid more, and they have more money to spend. NBC right now, if they get pitched a script, they're probably the 4th, maybe the 7th network that the script has been sent to, because their shows are getting zero ratings. This is why they've held onto to the few stars they have, like when they resigned Tina Fey, for her next TV project, before "30 Rock" even finished. They want to keep her, because she's a name, and while ratings are mediocre, she has a core audience, she's a brand, and they can make money from her. Now, other than that however, to most writers in town, NBC is where you go right now, when you're their last hope to make a show go on the air. Every networks been through that phase at some point, it's nothing new by the way. ABC was that place for years, and that is a channel that tended towards a specific audience. And one could argue usually it was family-based programming like "The Brady Bunch" or "Happy Days", and in later years, "Full House" and other TGIF programming, they also went through a very strong phase of lower-class television, with shows like "Roseanne" and "Home Improvement", leading their so-called lower class sitcoms. A more conservative demographic mostly; I think you can make that claim with ABC, they're owned by Disney, their mission statement, "entertainment for the whole family", stuff that everyone from baby to grandparent would like.  However, in hard times, the Disney network couldn't stick to these typical standards, so when they were in drop dead 4th, they had to take chances on shows nobody wanted and everyone passed on, that were different than before. The big one for them like that, the most recent one anyway, was "Desperate Housewives", turned the whole network around. NBC, didn't get so lucky trying that with "Whitney" so they're trying that with "The Voice", and "Smash" and "Revolution", and whatever other show that nobody else wanted. They can't just pick and choose, they only get so many good shows to pick from. Yeah, folks, you have to understand this too, "Whitney" was probably the best thing they had, from their pile of crap that sucked. Whitney Cummings was in the middle of her fifteen minutes, she sold "2 Broke Girls" to CBS, if they didn't try to get a piece of what she was offering, they would've been fools not accept it. That's how a network, decides what makes the air. [Sorry Ms. Cummings, I don't mean to keep using you as an example, but it's just convenient in this case.] CBS, has first pick. They may still pick a bad show or two, or reject a show for content purposes (Which doesn't matter to much for  them, because they also own Showtime, so they have a place "Homeland", "Dexter", "Weeds", etc. that they can pick up and put there) because, well it happens, but that's how all the networks work. Now they work this way, because without money from commercial ad-buys, they can't stay in business. So, they need to make as much money as possible, so they can fund the TV shows, on the airwaves that the government lets them be on. So, even if you wanted to, subliminally pollute your network with political propaganda, you couldn't. You'd have to be funded by some private investor, who has unlimited funds, and doesn't care about ratings. No network channel does that, and I hate to tell people this, but no cable channel does that either. All they do, is try to garner specific subsects of the audience with their shows, many of which, are throwaways from that pile underneath "Whitney." More options, all networks are owned by corporations, and corporations above all, their objective is to make money. And BTW, the heads of those corporations. Viacom (CBS), General Electric, Comcast, Universal (NBC over-the-recent years), NewsCorp (FOX), even Walt Disney Company (ABC), most of them ain't Democrats, but they need to make money first, even before they get to their mission statement of producing quality product for the whole family. Basically, if you even remotely start trying to form a network schedule based around political preferences, you'd be fired, and pretty quickly at that, if for no other reason then the fact that, you're working for a corporation, and by leaning politically one way, you single-handedly eliminated half of you potential audience, at a time when you're trying to get as many audience members as possible. It's a balancing act running a network, and being the best at it, gives you advantages the other don't. Now, try doing that, with just members of one political party, let's see how far you get.

Anyway, nothing can be less politically-motivated than network television, and only the people with no clue how a network is run, would even think that it in any way is. "Baldwin's on NBC, they must be liberal!", wtf?   That's like saying "Walker, Texas Ranger" was on CBS, Chuck Norris is a conservative so CBS, must be conservative!" and if someone said that to me, I'd respond mockingly with something like, "No,CBS  has the Tony Awards every year, they're liberal as all hell!" This isn't debate, this is isn't criticism, this is, the exchanging of taunts on a kindergarten playground, and it sickens me to hear this childishness from adults.

Of course, this guy doesn't care about that stuff, but I do. I don't bash people and things, just to bash people things. The group we're in is called "AD's You're the Critic", Critic being a keyword. Critical, not just spewing off your own crap. It's really thinking about what people are trying to do, and how well are they achieving it. Just because it's TV and film, doesn't mean it shouldn't be taken seriously. The people who make it, myself included, take it very seriously. Frankly, this person's, for-lack-of-a-better-phrase, view of the world, is not as unusual as it should be. It's selective, it's willfully ignorant, and frankly delusional, and is representative of much of America, and nothing pisses me off more than that. I've mentioned mission statements a few times here, but I don't know how many of you have read mine, which is paraphrased on the top of my blog. "...Intelligent, thoughtful analysis of the Film, TV and the Entertainment World." Those aren't random words, I wrote that for a reason, 'cause that's what I bring to the table, and that's what I want this blog to be. If that eliminates a large portion of my potential audience, well, I'm not a network executive, I don't have to worry about that. In the meantime, I guess the real point of this blogpost, is that, in light of having to deal with this moron, I thought it time to reaffirm my mission statement today, so here it is:

"'David Baruffi's Entertainment Views and Reviews' offers/provides intelligent, observant and thoughtful analysis of the Film, TV and Entertainment World. This includes, Random Movie Reviews, Canon of Film blogs, and Critical Essays of the latest goings of the entertainment world and culture."

There. Done.

I apologize and thank you all for this indulgence. We well have discuss more important issues next time on this blog, like making fun of  this year's "American Idol" contestants or why we don't have enough people on TV getting pies through in their face anymore, or maybe we'll just dwell on the great female nudity scenes in movies. Like I said, whatever it is, it'll be something more far important than this.