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03/16/2003 Entry:
"A month of films"

One of the problems I have been having as far as updating lately, is that I always used to write these long rambling posts and I liked writing those. I kind of just let loose on a movie for a while, and I felt it was useful for me and maybe if I was lucky it was interesting to read. Now that I don't have the time to do those anymore, I find myself not updating. Perhaps I should just start doing small capsules, but some things don't work that way. I'll give it a try, but if it doesn't happen I may officially go on hiatus. You can still see what I'm watching from the Films Seen link.

One of the films most recently seen which is deserving of a long rambling post is Pedro Almodovar's Talk To Her. A film which had so much to admire, but the event that forms the basis for the film's second half was so bothersome that I just got upset for the rest of the film. Its too bad, ALmodovar handles so much with subtlety and grace, especially the relationship between the two main characters. I don't even feel bad because he portrayed Benigno in a somewhat sympathetic light and had Marco remain loyal to him, this happens in real life all the time and it was interesting to see a friendship where loyalty came first despite what has happened. I just couldn't get past what he did, plus the ending was a little too on the nose. I think that part of the problem was I was really unprepared for it, if I had known about it going in I might have been able to separate myself from it, and if I gave it a second viewing I might be able to do so too. This leaves me wondering about how I will react to Gaspar Noe's Irreversible and its infmaous ten minute long single shot rape scene. Much fo what I have read about the film is incredibly intriguing, but I'm just not sure I can sit through that (although I had originally intended to.)

Last week I went to Film Center to see three films by highly respected experimental filmmaker Robert Beavers, which really didn't do anything for me. I may have to just face up to the fact that I am a slave to narrative and experimental filmmaking is just not my thing. Which is strange, because I can think of many films I love which lack a real "plot" or whatever, but they all have an emotional thread somewhere. Beavers' images were often quite beautiful, but I felt absolutely no emotional fire from them. I still want to see some Brakhage though (R.I.P.)

As part of the Film Center's European Union Film Festival, I saw The Discovery Of Heaven from The Netherlands. The Film Center catalog claims this was their Foreign Film Oscar submission, but I have been unable to find any information to verify this. Accoridng to the ultra-useful website of Academy member Ken Rudolph the submission from Netherlands was Zus & Zo (which actually got nominated.) Anyways, Discovery Of Heaven is based on a book by Harry Mulisch in which God, disgusted with the course humankind has taken, attempts to retrieve the stone tablets the Ten Commandments are written on, breaking his covenant with man and leaving them in Satan's hands. The film was really a lot of fun and easy to watch for about the first two-thirds, but while the plot remained interesting the more and more people that got killed, the more and more dreary it became. Still totally worth watching for two amazing performances by Stephen Fry and Greg Wise as the male leads. I don't know if this is currently getting distributed or not, but I wouldn't be surprised. It has great cult movie potential.

Gus Van Sandt's Gerry is the kind of movie with no narrative which I like. Two guys wander around in the desert, and I was totally enthralled for the entire length. Gorgeous scenery, a fantastic soundtrack by composer Arvo Part, and swell performances by Casey Affleck and Matt Damon, who even managed to make me forget who he was after a while. The central portion, in which Casey Affleck tries to get down from a rock, is one of the greatest things I've seen in a long time.

In three consecutive days I saw Fritz Lang's The Big Heat, Jean-Luc Godard's Contempt, and Nicholas Ray's In A Lonely Place. That was a fucking good three days. Contempt is the first Godard that really left me awestruck, convincing me that I might have to go back and re-evaluate all the other stuff I had seen before. The Big Heat was easily one of the best noirs I've seen. In A Lonely Place was simply haunting, Bogart like you've never seen him before in an emotionally heart-wrenching film. I can't believe that was Violet either.

All The Real Girls was ten times better than everyone was saying, I couldn't be happier with it. Zooey Deschanel is a joy to watch, so natural and free. A perfect performance. The haunting score (featuring great bands like Explosions In The Sky, Mogwai and LaBradford) emotionally counterpoints every moment with just the right tone. I can't recommend this film highly enough, and if it doesn't end up being my favorite film of the year I will be pretty shocked.

So much more. The Sweet Smell Of Success was just as great as I had been led to believe, Burt Lancaster's creepy performance and James Wong Howe's stark cinematography combine to make one of the most noir films ever. Composer Elmer Bernstein still working 50 years later, having just been nominated for an Oscar for his work on Far From Heaven. Daughter From Danang is a fascinating and gripping documentary which will hopefully win its Oscar and get some exposure from it. Herzog's My Best Fiend was a great tribute to his friend and foe Kalus Kinski, even if it is probably half lies. Tarkovsky's Stalker would have filled me with joy if it hadn't lost me in its last 15 minutes. Still an amazingly beautiful film. Crimes And MIsdemeanors is easily the best of Woody Allen's post-Manhattan films. I have to face it, I've seen a lot of fucking amazing filmmaking in the last month. I hope it keeps up.

Replies: 5 comments

It sounds like you were pretty amazed by All The Real Girls.

Overall I thought it was good but there were some annoying things in it that to me made the film far from perfect. I will describe several of them here to show you the minor things I sometimes unfairly focus on.

Early on, there's a scene where Paul is walking up to his mom (that is her, right?) while she's fixing the piano outside. There's a very brief shot of his dog and I think a chicken. I swear that this shot lasts just a second, maybe less. The shortness to me was jarring and distracted me from the mood previously set. Of course I may be totally wrong here and perhaps this cutaway shot was lengthy and was edited into the scene well. But when it comes out on DVD I want to find out how short that shot is.

The other week I was thinking about how much I hate it when there's a scene of a character talking to another character offscreen and then the camera pulls back to reveal that the character is actually, har har, talking to a mirror or to a car. I then I went to see All the Real Girls. Towards the end of it we see Paul try to coax someone offscreen into the water. Noel? The retard? No, the dog! Har har. Did DGG really need to use this clichéd device? Was there any other point in the film where viewers are "tricked"? I don't think so. I'm still miffed about this part of the film.

Posted by skeeter meter @ 04/08/2003 02:53 PM CST

Talk to Her. I've actually avoided seeing any Almodovar films. It has something to do with my mostly unexplainable dislike of Italian films. But I was taking out a free dvd copy of Almodovar's Matador and so I decided to also get the (region 2) Talk to Her dvd. I was hoping to get a chance to re-watch at least parts of it before returning it, but unfortunately there wasn't time. So I don't have much to say about it now. But it was a lot better and calmer and multi-layered than I thought it would be. The "event" that you wrote of wasn't as upsetting for me, perhaps because I was expecting something bad to happen (I thought he was going to be the one that caused her to go into a coma). Is the event more troubling to a viewer due to the fact that viewers are kept in the dark about it until later? Is the end portion of the silent film funny and bizarre or is it just creepy?

Speaking of reactions, you should also queue up Allison Anders' Things Behind the Sun if you haven't seen it yet. It (unfortunately?) was shown on Showtime awhile back and not theatrically - but the DVD is now out. When I saw it at SIFF though, several people walked out in the middle.

Posted by skeeter meter @ 04/13/2003 04:37 PM CST

p.s. I meant to type "Spanish films" up there and not "Italian films" - I regret the error.

Posted by skeeter meter's Correction Dept. @ 04/13/2003 05:33 PM CST

I know you don't really care about box office performance, but the numbers on your "favorite film of the year" are depressing:

Budget $1,000,000
USA Latest gross: $422,369 (18 April 2003)


2003 Feb 14 (1)

2003 Feb 21 (2)

2003 Feb 28 (3)

2003 Mar 7 (4)

2003 Mar 14 (5)

2003 Mar 21 (6)

2003 Mar 28 (7)

2003 Apr 4 (8)

2003 Apr 11 (9)

2003 Apr 18 (10)

Posted by skeeter meter @ 04/26/2003 06:49 PM CST

Ok, I guess Greymatter doesn't like tables. Let's try this again:

Budget $1,000,000

USA Latest gross: $422,369 (18 April 2003)

Date Rank Sites Weekend/Daily Gross
2003 Feb 14 (1) 51 7 $46,791  $46,791
2003 Feb 21 (2) 56 7 $24,033  $82,677
2003 Feb 28 (3) 50 14 $48,432  $141,311
2003 Mar 7 (4) 57 18 $30,961  $190,476
2003 Mar 14 (5) 64 8 $17,689  $219,765
2003 Mar 21 (6) 65 10 $19,979  $246,806
2003 Mar 28 (7) 56 21 $50,639  $306,254
2003 Apr 4 (8) 59 24 $35,589  $358,592
2003 Apr 11 (9) 62 25 $23,134  $395,395
2003 Apr 18 (10) 68 18 $15,804  $422,369

Posted by skeeter meter @ 04/26/2003 06:50 PM CST

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